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A Gooseberry and Apple Pork

Things have been very hectic this past week.  My in-laws arrived this Wednesday so no more doddling!  The list had to be done!  Well as much of it we could do at any rate.  Not only are my husband’s parents visiting from the UK but his brother is visiting from the west coast.  Which means our nutty dog is on the max chill pill we can give him.  Hasn’t stopped from doing the I love you, I hate you switch back and forth as they come into different rooms.  I love him to bits but he is a handful.

Last night I cooked a special dinner to celebrate everyone being together.  I did up leeks with mushrooms and garlic in butter and a cheesy chive mashed potato.  For the main event I had a nice piece of pork shoulder to use.  As I am trying to make space in our stuffed freezer I thought I would try a gooseberry and apple sauce to go with the pork.

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I will tell you how I made it so you too can have loads of leftover sauce.  I’m trying to figure out what to do with the leftover sauce but I may just freeze it for the next time we have pork.

About an hour before you begin cooking rub olive oil, cumin, sea salt, and pepper over the pork.  Cover and let it sit.

I found some pink lady apples at the co-op.  Peel and dice three of them.  Chop about a cup of red onion.  While you are doing this heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and begin browning the pork.

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Remove the pork and add the apple and onion to the skillet.  Cook on medium heat until the apple and onion begin to soften.

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Add about a cup of gooseberries and cook for a few minutes then add a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  Pour in 4 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  I also added a few splashes of dry sherry.  Simmer for several minutes and taste to make sure the flavour balance is right before adding the pork into the skillet.  It’s easier to adjust at this point.   Put the pork back into the skillet, cover and simmer until the pork is cooked.

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Once the pork has rested, slice and serve.  I really liked the tartness of the gooseberries with the sweetness of the apple.  It is a very light sauce but holds its own if you know what I mean.

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Tomatillo Steak Salad

Autumn may be flowing in, thank goodness, but I’m not above having a nice salad.  Even though it wasn’t intended.  How would a salad happen accidentally?  It’s easy when you are having a flighty moment.

I definitely knew I wanted to do grilled skirt steak with a tomatillo sauce.  I was thinking a rustic type of sauce to act as the veg portion of the dinner.  That didn’t work out as you will see.

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We didn’t have much luck with growing tomatillos the past few years so we didn’t attempt it this year but luckily the farmer’s market had some.  Our garden has produced a bumper crop of hot peppers.  I just wish tomatillos weren’t so sticky once you peel the papery covering off.  Cut the tomatillos in half and keep the pepper whole.  Fire up the grill and roast the tomatillos and pepper until they start to char.  You don’t want charcoal veg as a result so keep an eye on this as it will cook quickly.

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As I said my plan was to have a rustic meal but I realised a grilled potato and a bit of steak wouldn’t cut it.  When I did up the sauce it became more of a dressing rather than a veg side.  So salad it was!  Using a food processor add the tomatillos and pepper.  I kept the seeds to give it a kick.  Throw in a couple of cloves of garlic, a teaspoon or so of cilantro, and a few splashes of lime juice and olive oil.  Blend.

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I kept the steak simple seasoned with sea salt, pepper, and worcestershire sauce.  Because it is grass fed be careful on how hot you cook it.  Sear then lower the heat.  Keeps it tender. Slice the steak and top with the tomatillo sauce. Any leftover sauce can be frozen for later.

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Curry Inspired Couscous

We still have tomatoes and aubergines coming out of our garden at a great rate so it is time to get creative so they don’t go to waste.  It was a crazy week last week with my husband traveling and with the kids schools stuff so I only got round to cooking a meal for the kids on Friday.  Well, I did feed them the rest of the week, not that much of a slacker!  But I stuck with the easy stuff I could do with my eyes shut.  I was in the mood for something curry flavoured and we had chicken on hand.  This could be done!

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I thought it would be a fun twist to use the Israeli Couscous I had on hand.  Cook that using the directions on the package.  First I prepped the chicken with a marinade paste.  I mixed a tablespoon of olive oil with a tablespoon of red curry paste, a teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 a teaspoon of cumin, and a bit of sea salt and pepper.  Mix well and spread it on the chicken thighs.

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Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and brown both sides of the chicken.

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Finish off the chicken in the oven.  Chop up a small onion and a couple of cloves of garlic.  Add them to the skillet and cook on medium low temp.

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Slice up the aubergine and several tomatoes and bring the temp up to medium to saute.

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Add 1/2 a cup or so of chicken stock.  Add 2 tablespoons of red curry paste, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, a teaspoon of chili powder, a few dashes of garam masala, and a sprinkle of asafoetida.  As it simmers also add a few splashes of lime juice.  Stir in the couscous.

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The kids came into the dining room and said how wonderful it smelled.  I was a little jealous as I don’t have a sense of smell and the spices that go into curry can be wonderful.

 

Quinoa aubergine 6 2016

Aubergine Quinoa and Any Time is a Good Time for a Clear Out

Every year we try to accomplish something with the house.  Some years are more successful than others of course depending on what we have going on or how expensive the next set of projects are.  This year we finished our closet and redid our son’s bedroom floor.  But the big thing done is we did a massive clear out of the carriage house and the house itself.

I am convinced stuff multiplies.  How else do we explain filling a 20 yard skip?  Granted a lot of it was from the carriage house and old odds and sods left over from previous owners, the debris from our projects, that sort of thing.  But it feels so good doing some serious organisation, rediscover what we have, and do some major recycling.  We do try to fix, upcycle, and recycle before the last resort of throwing out.  Plus we have loads of stuff for the Girl Scouts fundraising yard sale.  It’s taken us all summer but it’s a big project to cross of the never ending list.

We’re starting to get some result from our garden.  Of course it comes all at once!  Our aubergine and tomatoes are coming in fast so it’s on to preserving and eating so none of it goes to waste.  The aubergine we decided to grow this year is called fingerling, I believe, and they are small diameter and about 8in/20cm long.  Perfect size for a small family.

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I wanted to make roasted aubergine and roasted tomatoes with quinoa for dinner.  The longest bit of this dinner is the roasting, everything else comes together quite quickly.

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Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  Slice the aubergine and tomatoes and place them in a single layer into the baking dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Roast until the veg is cooked through and begins to brown.  While this is roasting cut up some chicken and begin to brown with olive oil in a skillet.  Add about half a cup of chopped red onion and a few cloves of chopped garlic.

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Cook the quinoa according to directions.  It only takes about 15 minutes to cook so plan accordingly.  Once the tomatoes and aubergine are done remove from the oven.

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Slice up the aubergine and add the veg to the skillet with the chicken.  Add 1/2 a cup of chicken stock and about 1/4 cup of white wine.  I chopped up a small handful of fresh oregano from our garden.

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Add the quinoa and about 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan.  Stir well and serve.

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Top with more parmesan and enjoy!  This is quite filling without being heavy and perfect to throw together after a day of projects.

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Jumper of Love

Those of you who read my blog know I have a huge amount of love for my husband.  I couldn’t have found a better guy.  And trust me, before I met him, I was looking!  But I was lucky to finally find him.  Several years ago I finished an Aran jumper for my mum and he asked if I would knit him one.  Of course I would!  I was thrilled he liked my knitting enough to want one.  What I didn’t realise was how freaking long it would take to complete this.

One of the problems I was having was with my hands.  It would be very painful if I did more than a few rows at a time.  Being a slow knitter this  was taking several years.  What I learned after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia was one of the symptoms is very painful hands.  I knew I had arthritis and just thought it was that.  But the meds I started this year, while not perfect, do make it easier for me to knit longer and faster.  There has to be some perks right?  So it took me several years to do just under 2/3s of this project and this summer to do the rest.

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The Aran jumper had moss stitch, basket cable, banded cable, and the six knot cable (pictured above).  So I had a legal pad to keep track of all the rows and various patterns.  I always stress about this and like most of my complicated projects there are a few errors here and there but I’ve gotten to the point where I consider them my signature if you happen to notice them.  I’m not pointing them out!

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I spent most of today sewing the seams and weaving in all the ends.  I can’t wait for my husband to get home and try this on.  Fingers crossed it fits!  And he’ll be doing this in front of the air conditioner as it is very toasty today.  :)

Chili bowl 6 2016

Chili Mushroom Bowls

And just like that summer is over, at least for the kids.  Off to school they went yesterday.  Summer seemed like a blur for all of us.  I am ready for autumn to arrive.  I am ready to say goodbye to the humidity and heat, which has been pretty bad this year.  Bring on the crisp days!

When I was food shopping with my daughter we found large portobello caps that looked like bowls.  Which gave me a fun idea.  Instead of bread bowls, why not mushroom bowls?

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To fill the bowls I made a quick chili.  Normally you cook chili over a few hours but as this doesn’t have beans, this can be made in less than a half hour.  In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or two of olive oil and begin to saute a half pound of ground beef.

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Chop about half a cup of red onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add that to the skillet.

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After the onion starts to soften add a can of diced tomatoes (14oz) and bring to a simmer.  Begin to season with chili powder, cumin, and sea salt and pepper.  The beauty of this dish is you decide how much seasoning to put in.  Some like it hot and some don’t.  I would say the ratio of the chili powder to the cumin should be about 4:1.  As we like it hot I added a dollop of hot sauce that I made along with chopped bell pepper.

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Mix well and cook the peppers for a few minutes.  Pre heat the oven to 400F/200C.  Fill the mushrooms with the chili mixture.

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Top with shredded cheese and bake until the mushrooms are cooked.  You don’t want to cook the mushrooms so much that they collapse.

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Top with sour cream and enjoy!  This is a very easy meal to through together on a weeknight.  And it’s a fun twist on the whole food for a bowl thing.

 

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Leftover Chicken Makes a Great Crostini

When the kids came back from Florida I did up a roast chicken dinner.  I chose that because it’s a special dinner and I need the bones to make homemade stock.  I had the bad luck of picking one of the hottest days of the year so far with about 95% humidity.  The A/Cs were working overtime and not necessarily winning.

The kids enjoyed the dinner but of course we have a ton of chicken left over.  I’ll freeze some for soup later in the cooler months but I was in the mood to make crostinis for my husband and me as a light meal.  I made three toppings.  A quick one with heirloom tomatoes, red onions, and a vinaigrette to keep things nice and bright.  I also made one of our favorites, Buttery Mushrooms, that I could just eat bowls of.  For the third I did up a chicken with sundries tomatoes.

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Heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a skillet and add a handful of chopped sun dried tomatoes.  Cook low and slow for several minutes to make sure the sun dried tomatoes soften up.

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Next I sliced up about a 1/4 cup of red onion.  Add it to the skillet and allow the onions become translucent.

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Cut up about a cup of the roasted chicken.  Add that with a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme and a splash of lemon juice.

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Cook until the chicken is warmed through.

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For the bread we used the boule my husband makes which is absolutely fantastic.  I sliced and buttered it before toasting.

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Obviously this would great with a lovely bottle of wine.  But I was in the mood for a dirty martini and I have to say that worked well.  Olives go well with crostini.  :)

Peanut chicken 8 2016

“Anybody Got a Peanut….” Chicken

Who doesn’t love a good classic?  My family loves The Princess Bride.  Though I’m not sure I’m ok with a movie I grew up with being called a classic.  To me those are the black and white films from another era.  I know it’s denial!  But I’m sticking with it.

It’s a film that we love to watch with popcorn reciting the quotes as they come up in the film.  Well to be honest we throw out the quotes even if we aren’t watching the film.  Get to the food you say?  “As you wish….”

Because it’s just been my husband and I for the past month (our kids come back tonight!) we had two chicken thighs left over from the four pack that needed to be used.

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I wanted to go with Asian flavours for this dish.  Prep the marinade for the chicken thighs first.  In a bowl whisk peanut oil and soy sauce (we use gluten free amino acids) in a ratio of 3:1.  Finely chop a clove of garlic, some scallion, and grate about a teaspoon of fresh ginger.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Mix well and coat the two chicken thighs.

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Set aside for at least a half an hour.  While you make the sauce, cook the rice noodles to the package instruction and grill the chicken.  In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil.  Chop 3-4 cloves of garlic and saute them on medium heat.  You don’t want to brown the garlic.

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After a few minutes add about half a cup of chopped scallion.

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Add the leftover marinade from the chicken and 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce.  Bring to a simmer and add a tablespoon or two of lime juice.  Stir in a large spoonful of peanut butter.  I chose chunky to save me a step of chopping up peanuts.

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Add more peanut butter as needed to get the right the balance between the sweetness of the peanut butter and saltiness of the soy sauce.

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When the chicken is nearly done add about a cup of chopped red bell pepper.

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Add the rice noodles with 1/2 a cup of the hot water the noodles were cooked in to thin out the sauce.  Toss to coat.

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Top with the chicken and serve as soon as possible.

I have to say even though our food bill was much lower with the kids off on their adventures I am so excited they will be home.  With huge appetites and all.  :)

 

Orzo lemon chicken 6 2016

Orzo with Lemon Chicken and New Tools

Some learning curves can be exciting.  Some not so much, like my learning curve with statistics in college.  Loved the subject but come test time it was always like I’d never been to class.  Never got far on that curve, bell or no bell.  But now I’m liking my learning curve.  Because there are a few projects I want to do, such as start a YouTube channel, and I was in the weeds with Unix, much to my chagrin, I needed tools that I could make headway on my own.  I.e not bugging my husband/IT guy all the time.  He has always been good about helping me but I hate not knowing how to do something!

So I am now a proud new owner of an iMac.  And I’m loving my new setup.  One, I can find and set up software I need, that is a big step in getting things done.  Though if it heads into Unix territory like GIMP then I have to ask for help there but for the most part it’s been good.  And it’s pretty easy to get an apple person on the phone if need be.  I’m quickly collecting senior tech phone numbers.

I do like the iMovie on the desktop, much easier than the iPad.  So watch this space as they say, I hope to have something soon.  The big thing I need to figure out is the uncopyrighted music so I don’t get slapped by YouTube.

Going through our cupboards I realised we had orzo still so I thought it would be nice with lemon, yoghurt, and oregano. Orzo lemon chicken 1 2016

I also wanted to grill up some chicken thighs.  Prep these ahead of time with a marinade.  With a ratio of 2:1 mix olive oil and lemon juice together.  Season with sea salt and pepper. Finely chop a couple of garlic cloves and a small handful of fresh oregano.  Mix well and coat two chicken thighs.

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Set aside for about an hour.  In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and start softening about half a cup of chopped red onion.  Once the onion starts to become translucent add 3-5 cloves (depending on size) of garlic, chopped.

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At this point start grilling the chicken on medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 2 cups of chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a medium simmer.  It’s important to stir frequently as orzo has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the skillet.  Add more liquid as necessary because you want to make sure there is enough for the sauce.

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When the orzo is half cooked add a few sliced mushrooms and another small handful of oregano, chopped.  Stir well.  Near the end of cooking add a third of a cup of plain yoghurt and about a cup of chopped red bell pepper.  This gives the dish a nice pop of colour.

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Serve once the chicken is cooked.

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The flavours of this dish are very bright with the yoghurt and lemon.  It’s a great dish if you are getting tired of salads!

Quinoa 5 2016

Grilled Pork, Quinoa, and Eddie Izzard

Sometimes it’s good to be lucky.  I was scrolling through Facebook, as you do, and saw something about Eddie Izzard coming to New Hampshire.  I thought I wasn’t reading that right as why would someone who did Wembley do a small theatre?  But lo and behold, it was true!  And it was brilliant.

He has always done really funny stuff but he has definitely progressed into a much more thoughtful dialog while using history to illustrate his point.  In a hilarious way of course but he got his view across.  And he did Q & A afterwards.  It was a fabulous evening.  My favourite quote was “I believe in human beings”.  What a lovely sentiment.

I did find time to cook this weekend.  When I went food shopping I found some quinoa on sale (who doesn’t like a sale?) and bok choi.  I also found some pork ribs which would go great with homemade mustard.  I recently made some without the chili so it would go well with this dish.

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The quinoa itself is really easy to make, only takes about 15 minutes.  Make it according to the package.  Thinly spread mustard on both sides of the pork ribs.  You don’t want it too thick otherwise it can overwhelm the dish.  If you think it will you can always mix the mustard with some olive oil and white wine vinegar. Set the pork aside. In a skillet, heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil and add a few mushrooms that have been chopped and a couple of garlic cloves that have been finely chopped.  Add some fresh thyme and season with sea salt and pepper.

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Once the mushrooms start browning add a quarter cup of dry sherry and half a cup of chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer.

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Chop up the stems of the bok choi and add it to the skillet.  Add the quinoa.  Allow the stems to cook for a minute or so.  Then add the leaves.

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Top with the grilled pork and enjoy.  There were enough leftovers that I changed it up with bacon, sausage, and white wine.  Quinoa can be surprisingly versatile.