Asian meatballs 6 2015

Asian Meatballs and the Education System

Mind boggling.  That is how I felt last night when we were talking about school.  Both kids had tests yesterday.  Both mentioned how they had to finish them today.  I asked what they meant finishing it a day later.  Apparently that is the norm in our school system.  If you don’t finish it in time that is ok.  This just blew my mind.  Growing up if I didn’t finish a test in the set amount of time that was on me.

This really concerns me because as a parent I want the best education for our kids.  I don’t want education to be a limiting factor to whatever progress our kids make.  Last year the US was ranked 14th in the world when it came to education.  The past couple of years think tanks have mucked about with different ways the kids should be taught without really vetting the programs.  Common core has been a nightmare.  I’m sorry 2+2 does not equal 5!  I get that kids should learn to think through the process and understand how they got to the answer but it is not ok if the answer is wrong.

It is hard for me to understand the overall disconnect between what I see our teachers doing locally and how our students stand vs other countries.  The teachers our kids have, bar one, have been amazing.  They are dedicated to our kids, they work long hours, they work to try to tailor lessons for each student, and communicate with us.  So I have to think our system is held back at the higher level.  For example there is an OK senator who wants to cut funding to the AP History classes because it “teaches students what is bad about America”  It doesn’t promote “exceptionalism”.   Constantly chanting “We’re #1″ isn’t leadership, it’s insecurity.

To rise back up the ranks, kids need to have positive learning experiences while being prepared for the real world.  They need to stop being let down by those who forget separation of church and state actually exists, to be allowed to actually learn science and the truth about history, and to know that 2 + 2 doesn’t equal 5.

We are fortunate that our kids love to learn and seek out ways to learn new things.  But not all kids have that support.

We did have a nice meal to go along with the enlightening conversation.  I was in the mood for meatballs and wanted an Asian flair.  And guess what my husband found at the co-op?

Asian meatballs 1 2015

Galangal!  How cool is that?  In a bowl I mixed up a half pound of beef with a few tablespoons of freshly grated galangal.  I found it to be very dry and flaky.  I also added chopped chives and couple of teaspoons of amino acids.  Otherwise known as gluten free soy sauce.  Then roll the meat into meatballs about an inch to an inch in a half in diameter.  In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of peanut oil.

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Brown the sides of the meatballs then finish off in an oven heated to 350F/175C.  Meanwhile, saute chopped veg of your choice.  I did up peppers, scallions, garlic, carrots, and mushrooms.

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I messed up on the portion of sauce vs the portion of rice noodle.  I made enough sauce for two people but enough noodles for 4.  So I would double what I’m putting here.  Otherwise the dish ends up bland and trust me, the sauce wasn’t bland!  I added 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, a couple of teaspoons of amino acids, a few splashes of fresh lime juice, and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer and add a cup of homemade chicken stock.  Reduce down a bit then add the meatballs.

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Cook the rice noodles per the directions then serve with the meatball sauce.

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Next time I make this I will definitely increase the sauce because the flavour was amazing.  Just wish the rice noodles hadn’t dulled it down.

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 4 2015

Lamb with Prosciutto Mushroom Sauce

Every once in awhile we’re confronted with how fast life really moves.  This weekend our daughter had her semi-formal at the middle school.  It was a masquerade ball which was a fabulous idea.  I wish we had that theme in one our school dances.  I had a great time help our daughter get ready.

It was striking to us though as it was obvious that she is no longer a little girl but a wonderful young lady.  I kept thinking back to the first time I helped her do her hair and makeup.  It was seven years ago for Halloween and she wanted to be a geisha girl.  She was small enough I had to have her on the bathroom counter so I could do her face.  Not being used to make up she kept twitching as I tried to do her eyes. :)

This time, as she is nearly as tall as I am, I had to reach up to curl her hair and do her eyes.  It seems like the past seven years have gone by in a flash.  And, if you don’t mind me saying so, she was stunning.  We are just so proud of how she is turning out.  Beautiful inside and out.

I was able to find time earlier this week to do some cooking and wanted to play around with prosciutto.  I thought prosciutto with mushrooms would be a lovely pairing.

In a skillet melt a few tablespoons of butter.  Season the lamb steak with salt and pepper and sear both sides of the lamb.

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Finish off in the oven at 350F/175C to be medium rare. In the same skillet melt a little more butter and add a cup or so of sliced shiitake mushrooms and saute until they start to brown.  Then add a few cloves of garlic that have been finely chopped with a teaspoon two of fresh thyme.

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 2 2015

Allow this to cook slowly to soften the garlic.  If the mushrooms soaked up a lot of the butter then add a bit more.  Add 1/2 a cup of dry white wine and let it slowly simmer and reduce down.  As the lamb is resting add about 1/3 cup of chopped prosciutto and stir well.

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As a side dish I roasted golden beets, parsnips, and potatoes.

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We need the good food to distract us from this crazy winter.  We got another 6 inches or so dumped on us this weekend.  We’re running out of places to put it!  Some spots in our garden are about 4 feet deep.  The actual snow fall is now mid-thigh to me.  We have a slight problem of our greenhouse being snowed in and we can’t get the door open.  Unfortunately our potting soil and pots are in there!  Our seeds have arrived so we need to get this sorted out within the next week.

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Spring can’t come soon enough this year!

Bacon cheese muffins 8 2015

Bacon Cheese and Chive Muffins

In the interest of avoiding a rut with breakfast I asked if the kids wanted something different from the mini quiches and waffles for breakfast.  The answer was yes so I had to find something different that was easy to make and would get them through the morning without having a sugar dump.  It’s hard for our daughter as this year her lunch period is the last one of the day.

I thought muffins with bacon would be fun.  This recipe is part Pillsbury’s The Complete Book of Baking and part my own.  I used them for a base with the basic ingredients and added my twist.

Slowly render about a cup to a cup and a half of bacon with a lot of the fat cut off.  You don’t want greasy muffins.

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While the bacon is cooking mix the dry ingredients together.  You need 2 cups of all purpose flour, 3 teaspoons of sugar, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a handful of chopped chives.  It’s a good idea to actually read the recipe properly.  I thought it said 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Oops!  Fortunately it didn’t ruin the muffins.  I did forget the baking powder and I had to carefully add it afterwards.  Honestly, where was my head?  At this time grate fresh parmesan and jarlsberg cheese to make 3/4- 1 cup of cheese.

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Add 1 beaten egg, 1 1/4 cup of milk, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.

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Now with muffins you don’t want to overwork the batter.  Gently mix the dry ingredients and wet together.  It’s ok if the batter is a bit lumpy just as long as the ingredients are incorporated.  It will be very wet.

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Fold in the bacon.  This is the part where I forgot the baking powder so I had to sprinkle it over the batter then carefully fold that in.

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Pre-heat the oven to 400F/205C.  Spoon the batter into muffin cups, about 2/3 full.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are golden in colour and the toothpick test comes out clean.

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Treat yourself while they are still warm and have some with butter.

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Not only are these good for breakfast but they would be good with stews and chilli as well.

Loaded potato soup 5 2015

Loaded Baked Potato Soup to Keep Us Cosy

We’re in the first peak of tax season so quick meals are key.  And given how cold and snowy it’s been, comfort food is a definite must.  We’re lucky it’s not as bad as the winter in the midwest last winter but you get to a point that cold is cold.

I’ve seen several pins and references to loaded baked potato soups.  The idea really sang to me so I thought I’d come up with my own recipe for this soup.

I cubed up a couple of red skin potatoes and covered them with homemade chicken stock.  Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are tender and cooked.

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In a separate skillet cook up some streaky bacon, scallions, garlic, mushrooms, and thyme.  To hold up in the soup the bacon needs to be on the crispy side.

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Once the potatoes are cooked through use an immersion blender to blend the potatoes until they are smooth.  Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of red pepper flakes into the soup.

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Add a cup of cream and the bacon mixture and warm through again.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Top with shredded cheese, sour cream, and some chives.

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A good stick to your ribs soup!  It was even better the next day with the flavour of the red pepper flakes really coming through.  And it did the trick for pushing back winter.

 

Maple miso stir fry 7 2015

Maple Miso Stir Fry

Well we weren’t lucky enough for the storm to shift this time.  Nothing historic but we got what they said we would.  Fortunately it was the dry fluffy stuff so it’s not hard to shift.  It was the bitter cold this morning that was a bit much.  It was -8F/-22C.

You get warm shovelling!  There was an article last week that suggested exercises to do while shovelling.  I’m guessing the author has never shovelled in their life.  Never mind they suggest people over 60 be careful because it increases your chance of heart attacks.  Simple shovelling raises the heart rate and it’s hard work!  I’m not doing deep knee bends and lunges while I shift the stuff.  I mean, really.

Here is our front garden after a week of snow.

Maple miso stir fry 8 2015

In one of the cooking competitions some one mentioned a maple miso glaze which intrigued me.  The problem with these competitions they throw out ideas but don’t tell you what they do so with just the inspiration I thought it would be fun to try with a stir fry and roasted chicken.

In a dish mix about 2 tablespoons of maple syrup with miso.  I used about 4 tablespoons of miso but it was incorporated about a tablespoon at a time.  Add a teaspoon or two of amino acids and a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil.

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Add a handful of chopped scallion and 3-4 cloves of garlic finely chopped.

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Stir well.  Marinate the chicken for at least an hour.

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Roast the chicken in an oven at 350F/175C until done or mostly done.  When the chicken is on the bone it might not be cooked all they way through once the glazed skin is done.  That’s ok because the chicken will be stir fried.

Maple miso stir fry 4 2014

Heat up a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok.  Add the chicken first to cook through.

Maple miso stir fry 5 2015Then add the chopped veg and the rest of the marinade.  Add a few splashes of lime juice and some chopped fresh cilantro.

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Serve with rice noodles and chopped peanuts.

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This is a mild stir fry but full of flavour.  And perfect for bunking down during a storm.  :)

Rosemary garlic pork 5 2015

Rosemary Garlic Pork

Apparently we missed one hell of a game last night.  We don’t have cable any more so I started the day checking out the ads from the Superbowl.  I’m guessing the game was way better than the ads.  I made the mistake yesterday of going to the grocery store to pick up a few things.  It was mobbed.  Not only was the “big” game last night but we are also now in the middle of yet another big snow storm.  So there was game shopping on top of the panic shopping people do before a storm.  This storm didn’t shift to the east this time so we’ll be getting a lot of snow today.

My husband lucked out with the travel and was able to come home safely.  I had a good time with the kids last week but it’s great to have him home with us.  I was struck the other day how much our kids are growing up.  After taking them out for a light meal we drove back and bad music was playing on the radio.  Our daughter decided that we needed to listen to some real music.  So she put on Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and she and I belted out the song.  Slightly to our son’s dismay!  She took us through the 80’s and we ended with the Cupid Shuffle dancing in the kitchen.  Then we topped it off watching Master Chef Junior.  Those kids are incredible cooks.  We are just blown away that an 8 year old can do restaurant quality dishes and an 11 year old did up a branzino.  It’s insane.

To welcome home my husband I decided to make a pork loin with garlic and rosemary.   I found this recipe from Daily Dish Magazine to use as an inspiration.

Rosemary garlic pork 1 2015

Coarsely chop the rosemary and garlic.  This recipe takes a lot of garlic which is fabulous.  I used almost a whole bulb of garlic.  Place in a bag and add about 3/4 cup of dry white wine, 1/2 a cup of olive oil, and a few squeezes of lemon juice.  Season the pork loin with sea salt and pepper and marinate for at least an hour.

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In a skillet heat up olive oil and pan sear the pork loin on both sides.

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Finish in the oven at 350F/175C.  In a small skillet heat up the marinade and begin to reduce down.

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Add butter a tablespoon at a time until there is a nice balance of the wine, lemon, and butter.  While the pork is resting saute some swiss chard with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Slice the pork and serve over the chard.  Top with the sauce.

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It goes very well with roasted potato and parsnip.  It was wonderful catching my husband up with how our week went and listening to him tell us about his.  :)

Ginger snaps 5 2015

It’s an HISTORICAL Snow Sto…I’m sorry?…Oh, It’s a Normal Snow Storm…

This was supposed to be an historical storm, in our area they were predicting over two feet.  Which some areas will see that but the storm shifted so most of us will see about a foot.  Not too bad.  I mean it is New England, we get snow but of course people went crazy with shopping for supplies.  How much they are planning to eat today, I have no idea.  People are funny.

My husband is travelling this week.  He was able to fly out before the flights were cancelled, fortunately.  So Sunday we made sure I can get the snow blower going and we had working shovels.  And thank goodness he thought of the oil!  We were on empty so we were able to get some delivered.  I am very lucky I have him, he takes good care of us.  :)

Sunday we did our usual puttering about the kitchen making things for the kids’ lunches and breakfasts.  I really enjoy that time with him.

I was flipping through the “The Complete Book of Baking” by Pillsbury and came across the recipe for Ginger Snaps. Boy did this bring back memories.  My mum would make these when we were growing up.  I love them but it was something that had faded away in the brain so I hadn’t made them before.

In the mixer cream together 1 cup of sugar and 3/4 cup of butter that has been softened.

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Add in 1/4 cup of molasses and 1 large egg.  Mix until incorporated.

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Add 2 1/4 cups of flour, 2 tsps of baking soda, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of ground ginger, 1/2 tsp of ground cloves, and a 1/4 tsp of nutmeg.

I’d have a photo here but after about ten tries to get it to upload I’m giving up.  Took me long enough for the photos I can show!  Internet is being wonky today.

Chill the dough for at least an hour.  Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

Roll the dough into 1 inch diameter balls and roll into some sugar to coat.  Space the balls about 2 inches apart.

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Bake 8-12 minutes.  If you want them to stay chewy then pull them out by 10 minutes otherwise they start getting crunchy.

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They are so good right out of the oven!  And they go well with hot chocolate. :)

Ramen soup 5 2015

Warming Ramen Soup

Awhile back my son and I were checking out new food shows and came across “The Mind of a Chef”.  It’s a bit dull but they did an episode about ramen in Japan.  It piqued my son’s interest so I added it to the list of things to try.

The fascinating thing about this soup is how varied it can be from town to town.  So I did a bit of research and came up with my own.  It is fairly easy to make and full of flavour.

Prep the ingredients before you begin cooking.  Do up the soft boiled eggs and set aside to cool a bit before shelling.  Also cook up some frozen corn and set aside.

For this soup I wanted to use the flank steak we had on hand so I seared both sides in peanut oil.  If you like the steak medium rare keep it on the rare side after the sear.  Cover with tin foil and let it rest while you cook the rest of the soup.

Ramen soup 1 2015

I chopped up red onion, carrots, scallions, some mushrooms, and a few cloves of garlic.  The amount depends on how many servings you are doing.  Total for the five veg I had about a cup and a half.  In a saucepan saute the onion, carrots, garlic and mushrooms in peanut oil.

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Add four cups of veg bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Grate about inch or two of fresh ginger, add about a cup of mung bean sprouts, and add a couple of teaspoons of fresh cilantro.  A few squeezes of fresh lime juice brightens the soup. Meanwhile cook the noodles according the package.  Drain the noodles.

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In the bowls add the noodles and layer with the sliced beef.  Add the soup over the noodles.  The broth will cook the beef to medium rare at this point.  Top with half an egg, corn, and the fresh scallions.

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Omit the noodles if you need to be gluten free.  It’s a very filling soup without the noodles.  I look forward to trying different flavour profiles with different proteins.  :)

Lemon Thyme Cheese 11 2015

Losing the Battle with Ice and Lemon Thyme Cheese

It’s become a bad joke that something goes wrong right when tax season begins.  Usually my back goes out, once I was really ill, and this year I was up against the ice.  And I lost.

Temps were hovering round freezing this weekend and it rained.  Not a good combination.  I tried to get my son to his snowboarding lessons only a couple of miles away.  There were detours and accidents and we never got there.  We had to turn round and make our way back.  We were lucky.  We weren’t in the numerous pile ups and we weren’t stuck for hours.  Just a miserable day.

The next morning it was sunny and the ice was glaring.  We have stone steps off our porch.  The top step was clear.  As I took the next step I started to say to my husband that it was good when suddenly I found myself flipped up in the air like Charlie Brown when Lucy takes away the football.   Two things happen.  First time speeds up and there is nothing you can do.  Second, time slows down.  Enough to think of every curse word ending with the thought “this is really going to hurt” before landing.

I landed on my back hip and arm.  On the plus side, nothing broke and I didn’t crack my head.  Thank goodness my husband was there.  He was able to get the dogs, though Guinness took the opportunity to lick me, a lot.  Dog slobber cures all.  I was on the right side and I realised how cold it was so I carefully rolled over onto the left to let the ground ice the hip.

It is absolutely fascinating how colourful bruises can be.  Ah well, it will heal. Maybe next tax season I’ll have better luck!

The other weekend we were on a cheese making kick.  My husband made more camembert and I wanted to make a quick cheese.  I chose to make a lemon cheese with thyme.  This is super easy to make and a great beginner cheese to try.  Again we use raw milk.  Flavour is better and the proteins are still in the milk.  Ultra pasteurized kills the protein.  And we have a local source that is safe.

The recipe I use comes from Home Cheese Making from Ricki Carroll.

Lemon Thyme Cheese 1 2015

In a large heavy bottom saucepan heat the milk to 185-200F/85-93C.  Keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.

Turn down the heat and add about a 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.  You should see the separation of the whey and curds starting.

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Cover and leave be for 15 minutes.  Then check to see how separated it is.

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You want the whey as clear as possible but I’ve found that sometimes the whey will stay milky.  Add a bit more lemon juice and set a few minute more if it is too milky.

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Once you get as much curds as possible spoon the curds into butter muslin and drain.

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Wrap up and drain over the sink or large pot until the whey stops.

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Break up the cheese and add cheese salt and fresh thyme to the cheese to taste.

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Serve over salads or fresh bread like ciabatta.

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This will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.  And better than store bought.  :)

Ricotta pasta 3 2015

Ricotta Pasta – Gluten Free and All

Back in October I mentioned trying out a gluten free diet because I was looking to alleviate the chronic pain I was having.  It didn’t really help with the pain but it did let me sleep better which has been a major problem.  So I do gluten free or very low gluten.  I find now my body can’t handle too much gluten.

I did finally get answers, though, about the pain last week.  I have fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.  What a relief it was to get answers.  And to now know what to fight against.  Before I hadn’t a clue and it was really beginning to get to me.  I need to learn how to manage the pain and make sure my diet is such that helps me manage the symptoms.  Fibromyalgia isn’t an inflammation disease but something that affects the brain and nervous system.  They react to various stimuli with pain. Funny I was really glad to find it wasn’t chronic inflammation!  Won’t always be easy but it will get better now.

Part of changing my diet with gluten free is to try to find a decent substitution for pasta.  Not easy because it’s hard to beat good homemade pasta.  I’ve been trying various rice pastas to see what I like.  They aren’t horrible but I’m not a huge fan.  But they’ll do.

We made some ricotta cheese the other day and I wanted to do a pasta dish with the cheese.  Poking about on the internet I saw references to using the ricotta cheese as the sauce.  I think it was from Bon Appetit.

Ricotta pasta 1 2015

In a skillet saute sliced mushrooms, chopped garlic, and fresh thyme.  Cook slowly until the mushrooms brown.  Add equal part fresh ricotta and fresh grated parmesan cheese.

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Cook slowly until the cheese becomes creamy.  Add the cooked pasta and serve.

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Perfect comfort food for the chilly nights and super easy to throw together on a week night. :)