Greek lamb burgers 4 2015

Greek Lamb Burgers and Going Batty

We were destined not to have a good night sleep the other night.  There is the usual noise of the dogs shaking at times and our cat sleeping by my head. She has an incredible talent for purring.  Loudly.  But you get used to the normal noises.  We weren’t getting the normal noises this night.

In the fog of my brain I heard what I thought was one of the dog peeing by the side of the bed.  Which didn’t make any sense at all.  So I dismissed it but then I realised Guinness was sniffing around the window by my side of the bed pretty intently.  At the same moment I remembered the craft bag with the jumper I’m knitting for my husband so I leapt out of bed (not a good idea for my back) and felt round and found everything dry.

So what was the sound?  The window is about 6 feet by 4 feet and has the winter plastic still on it because the window is a bit drafty.  Guinness kept alerting and sniffing at the window.  I hear what sounded like wings at first.  I was thinking a bird but there isn’t anyway for a bird to get in.  Then it sounded like a bug buzzing.  Then I heard the wings again.  So something got in.  A tiny bat.  Though big enough I still can’t figure out how it squeezed through.

Then we were stuck with how to get it out without killing it or it getting into the room past the plastic.  The end result was my husband going out through the guest room window and along the porch roof to our room to remove the screen. I sliced the plastic to unlock the window.  At this point the bat was up at the top of the window and still as could be.  I honestly thought it might have died.  Of course I was keeping my fingers crossed that his little friends wouldn’t join him and we’d wake up to a crowd of bats.  Luckily he eventually left.

We were so exhausted!  So I needed a quick meal because I just didn’t have the energy to do anything complicated.  I had some ground lamb and I was in the mood for some Greek flavours.  A burger and a salad would do the trick.

Greek lamb burgers 1 2015I’m so proud of myself.  Well I should say ourselves.  We grew herbs in pots.  Inside.  And they lived.  My skill set for gardening definitely lends to the outside bit of gardening.  One of the herbs we grew is oregano.   In a bowl chop a few cloves of garlic and add a teaspoon of fresh oregano.  Then add a couple of teaspoons of red wine vinegar and olive oil, a tablespoon or so of panko bread crumbs, and half a cup of feta cheese.  Season with salt and pepper then mix well without overworking the meat.  Form into patties.

Greek lamb burgers 2 2015While the grill is heating up mix up the tzatziki sauce and greek dressing.  Grill the burgers until they are done making sure you get a nice sear on them.

Greek lamb burgers 3 2015Throw together a quick salad and serve with the dressing and sauce.

Greek lamb burgers 4 2015

This was really good with a cabernet.  And gratefully last night was uneventful.  No more uninvited guests!

Jalapeno poppers 4 2015

Don’t Judge the Heat by It’s Cover…

Who brought the heat?  I would love to find away to know how hot a hot pepper is by looking at it.  Because boy oh boy it can be quite the surprise!  One of the jalapeños I bit into for this dish set steam coming out of my ears and my good husband went running for the milk.  I hate milk but when your mouth feels like it is on fire you take what you can.

I was digging round in my pins to try something new with bacon and I came across BBQ Jalapeño Poppers from Country Wood Smoke.  I didn’t have the supplies to smoke them so I grilled instead.  Aside from the tear inducing pepper these are delicious and easy to make.

Jalapeno poppers 1 2015

I mixed cream cheese, asaigo cheese, and parmesan cheese together.  The ratio is half cream cheese and then half the hard cheese.

Jalapeno poppers 2 2015

Mix well and add either fresh sage or oregano.  Set aside.  When handling hot peppers I wear gloves because otherwise my fingers burn for days.  Carefully deseed the peppers then stuff with the cheese mixture.

Jalapeno poppers 3 2015

Put the cap of the pepper back on then wrap with bacon.  I recommend toothpicks if your bacon is thick cut so it stays on.  Plus it helps keep the caps on. I found the caps didn’t “glue” on as I had hoped.  I really need to make more of my BBQ sauce but since I’ve been slacking I had to use store bought.  Gasp!  Brush all sides of the poppers with the BBQ sauce.

Jalapeno poppers 4 2015

Place on the grill.  Try not to have the grill too hot because you want the cheese to be hot when finished without the bacon turned to a blackened mess.  Turn the poppers a couple of times as it cooks.

Jalapeno poppers 5 2015

I served these with a fresh salad so the meal wouldn’t be too heavy.  But these are perfect for grilling and summertime meals.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 7 2015

Roast Lamb and Mint Cream Sauce

Hallo, hallo, hallo.  Been awhile since I’ve sat down and typed something other than tax figures.  It’s been crazy working a lot of hours plus I hurt my hip again so an equal amount of hours have been spent horizontal.  Boy, does that get boring!  I thought I’d complete the injuring myself by slicing my thumb.  Does that make me a real chef now?  I’m hoping my streak of self-inflicted bad luck is at an end.

But this is all peanuts compared to how yesterday went.  It ended with my sister being in a terrible accident while skiing.  Now she will be all right but she has a good 6-8 weeks to heal.  And quite frankly it could have gone in a direction that she wouldn’t be with us anymore.  So we are counting our lucky stars she will be fine in the long run.

It struck me how closely we skate to the edge.  It doesn’t take much.  Which brings me to the way the day started.  In our town it’s against the law to use skateboards, bicycles, and scooters on the sidewalk.  Common sense on why but we’re stuck with the young guys whizzing about.  I came out of a shop yesterday and almost got hit by a guy flying on a scooter.  As I was thinking that it would really hurt if he knocked me down I see him go flying over the bonnet of a car.  The driver was completely shocked, there wasn’t any way she would have seen him.  Luckily she wasn’t going very fast as she just turned onto that road.  Then he’s complaining about it being the third time being hit!  But he wasn’t hurt.  This is what drives me crazy.  My sister isn’t rash, uses common sense and gets badly hurt.  The idiot who is rash, does dumb things, and gets hits repeatedly brushes off and goes about his way.  There are times where it’s hard to not think life is grossly unfair.

Definitely looking for the luck of the Irish this week. It was just my husband and me for St Patrick’s Day and I wanted to make a special meal in honour of it.  Which means no corned beef and cabbage!  You’d think that is the only Irish food given the way social media lit up with corned beef and cabbage.  And I really don’t like that particular dish so I decided to roast lamb.  I took my inspiration from the cookbook The Irish Isle by Sharon O’Connor.  Her recipe is called Noisettes of Lambe with Sorrel-Mint Cream Sauce.  I chose this before I found out sorrel is impossible to find so I had to adjust a bit.

I found a lovely piece of lamb to roast.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 1 2015

Pre heat the oven to 425F/220C.  In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Sear all sides of the lamb.  In the roasting pan add a few sprigs of rosemary, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a few splashes of dry white wine.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 2 2015

Roast until it is medium rare or until you achieve the desired doneness.  Meanwhile in the skillet add about 3/4 cup of chopped onion.  Let the onion soften a bit then add a 1/3 cup of the dry white wine, a tablespoon of dry vermouth, and a cup of homemade chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and start reducing.  Take a handful of fresh mint and chiffonade into thin strips.  Add to the sauce.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 4 2015 Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 5 2015

Allow the sauce to reduce by a third to a half.  Once the lamb is finished have it rest for about 10 minutes.  Just before the dinner is to be served add about 1/3 cup of heavy cream and the drippings from the roasted lamb to the sauce.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 6 2015

Slice the lamb and serve with the sauce.  As a treat for my husband I sauteed Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes to go with the lamb.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 7 2015

What a crazy week but we are so grateful that my sister will recover and for all the nuttiness that can happen in life that is the most important bit.

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.

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 1 2015

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.

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 3 2015

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

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 4 2015

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.

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 5 2015

Spring can’t come soon enough this year!

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.

Loaded potato soup 1 2015

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.

Loaded potato soup 2 2015

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.

Loaded potato soup 3 2015

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

Loaded potato soup 4 2015

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

Loaded potato soup 5 2015

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.

 

Cheese puffs 7 2015

Cheesy Canapés to Ring in the New Year

Well 2014 is done and dusted.  They go by faster as we get older.  I do wish I can figure out how to slow it down a bit.  Ah well, I’ll just have to enjoy the ride at the speed it goes.

As usual we had a lot of fun with our friends for New Year’s Eve, letting our hair down probably more than is good for us.  And as usual we had a lot of good food, enough for an army!

A few weeks ago apointgourmet posted about Thyme and Gruyere Canapés and I thought they would be perfect for the party.  I could make them earlier in the day and them warm them up at the party.

I decided to use the cheeses I had on hand for this dish which was jarlsberg and parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C

Cheese puffs 1 2015

It’s a good idea to prep the ingredients prior to starting the recipe.  The amount of cheese needed is about 1 2/3 cups with half a cup of that being parmesan and the rest jarlsberg.  Grate the cheese and set aside.  Finely chop fresh thyme to give you two teaspoons and set that aside with the cheese.  Add a pinch of sea salt and a few dashes of cayenne pepper to the cheese.  In a sauce pan bring a cup of water and 4 tablespoons of butter to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add a cup of flour.  Mix well until the dough becomes smooth.

Cheese puffs 2 2015

In a mixer incorporate the dough with the cheese mixture.

Cheese puffs 3 2015

One at a time add 4 eggs and mix well.

Cheese puffs 4 2015

Scoop into a pastry bag with a tip that has a large hole.  This is my least favourite bit as the dough is thick and sticky and likes to find it’s way out the top of the bag.  So annoying!  And it’s hard on my hand squeezing all the dough.  Create dollops about an inch in diameter and place them about 1/2 an inch or so apart.  Beat one egg and egg wash the dollops without letting the egg drip down the sides otherwise the egg can prevent the puffs from rising.

Cheese puffs 5 2015

Bake 25-30 minutes until they are golden brown.  Now the recipe I followed said 20-25 minutes but mine weren’t golden in that time frame, I suspect because of different ovens.  At any rate bake until golden.

Cheese puffs 7 2015

I had also come across an idea to do apples with cheese and pancetta.  So I used that for inspiration and decided to use fontina and prosciutto.  Very easy, just wrap the apple and cheese and bake until the cheese is melted.

Cheese puffs 6 2015

I really liked the balance of the sweetness of the apple and saltiness of the prosciutto.

Cheers!

 

Carrot ginger soup 4 2014

Carrot Ginger Soup

The sun will be starting it’s journey back our way today.  This makes me happy.  I’m not a fan of the shorter days.  After getting tired of not being seen walking the dogs we bought them LED lights to hang from their collars.  They are super bright so that should help with the close calls trying to get across the roads. Luckily they don’t seem to bother the dogs and they have an added benefit of lighting up the area they are sniffing so I can see if they are about to eat something they shouldn’t!

With all that has been going on the past few weeks I lost track what was in the fridge.  I have a bad habit of buying ingredients when we already have them because I don’t see them in there!  At some point we bought a bunch of carrots and I needed to use them up.  I have been wanting to try a carrot soup.  It’s funny growing up the only way I liked carrots was raw.  But tastes change.

I should say I only liked organic ones.  I don’t know what it is but conventional carrots are always dry to me and not as sweet.  I know for most things the taste difference isn’t huge between organic and conventional but things like tomatoes and carrots I find a big difference.  Organic carrots seem to have more water and sweetness to them.

I found this carrot soup recipe that looked really good and adjusted it to the number of servings we needed.  Their recipe said it would be 8 servings but I made what I thought was enough for 4 but it was really closer to 8 so who knows how much soup the original recipe would have made.

Carrot ginger soup 1 2014

Finely chop a 1/4 of a large red onion and saute in about 2 tablespoons of butter.

Carrot ginger soup 2 2014

While the onion is cooking peel and slice 3-4 medium sized carrots.  You want at least two cups of sliced carrots.  I think I ended up with nearly 3 cups.  Add them to the onion and stir well then add 2 cups of homemade chicken stock.  As it is coming to a boil grate about 2 inches of fresh ginger into the soup, season with salt and pepper, then stir well.  Simmer until the carrots are tender and cooked.  This took about 45 minutes for the carrots I had.  Then use an immersion blender or a regular blender to blend all the ingredients.  Put back on the heat and add 1/2 a cup of heavy cream.

Carrot ginger soup 3 2014

Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed and warm up as needed.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Carrot ginger soup 4 2014

Full of flavour without much difficulty.  I discovered a few days later that it was very good cold as well so I will be having this in the summer as a light meal or a first course.  If I had some I would have garnished this dish with chives and the chive flowers.  Another thing to add in the summer when the garden is flourishing.  6 more months!  Not that we’re counting or anything.  :)

Deviled eggs 8 2014

Put the Devil in the Eggs for the Holidays

Every year I worry there is enough food for the holidays then I end up being confronted with a stuffed fridge.  And coming up with many ways to creatively empty said fridge.  But as the family’s dietary needs change there is a challenge of making sure everyone has something they can eat without making them ill.

One has to follow the fodmaps diet and she loves eggs so I thought it would be fun to dust off a classic and update it a bit.  We used to love the deviled eggs that mum made when we were growing up.

I had to make sure that at least one of the ways I made them didn’t have any garlic.  Because I planned on using my homemade mustard I had to make another variation.

After doing a bit of research on the internet, because it’s been years since I boiled an egg, I got to it.  I did the eggs the day before so they were chilled completely when it was time to peel and make up.

Various sites gave me the following steps to take to cook the eggs.  First place the eggs in an empty pan.

Deviled eggs 1 2014

Fill with cold water until the eggs are covered.  Add a bit of salt and white vinegar.  This helps contain any egg whites that might leak if the shell breaks.  Bring to a boil and turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the water for 10-12 minutes.

Deviled eggs 2 2014 Deviled eggs 3 2014

Place the eggs in cold water to cool down.  When it is time to put it all together, peel the eggs.  I found it worked best for me by whacking the eggs round to crush the shells a bit then peel.  Slice the eggs in half.

Deviled eggs 4 2014

Scoop out the yolks into a bowl.

Deviled eggs 5 2014

For the fodmaps version I added a couple of spoonfuls of plain greek yoghurt, a few teaspoons of horseradish, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

Deviled eggs 6 2014

Mix well and adjust the ingredients as needed.  Some of us like the punch of horseradish!  Fill in the egg whites with the mixture.  For the second version I added a few spoonfuls of the plain greek yoghurt, a few dollops of mustard, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

Deviled eggs 7 2014

Again mix well and add it to the egg whites.  For the mustard deviled eggs I dusted them with cayenne pepper to give it a bit of a pop.

Deviled eggs 8 2014

This starter was a simple way to add a ton of flavour to the menu and make sure it met all the various dietary needs without a lot of effort.

Sage pear turkey 5 2014

Sage Pear Turkey

How did it get to Saturday already?  Where did this week go?  My husband is travelling for two weeks and I’ve had the kids this week.  It’s been a whirlwind of band practice, concerts, tennis practice, and herding the pets.  Plus the tax office is starting up with some things and suddenly it’s Saturday.  I hope next week goes by just as fast because then my husband will be home. :)

We had a lovely Thanksgiving but we delayed it a day because a snow storm blew through the night before the actual holiday.  We were lucky because we didn’t lose power but a lot of people did and they were stuck with all that food and no way to cook it.  Some got creative and fired up the old grill.

As usual we order our turkey from a local farm.  Usually we order it from Mayfair Farms a few towns over.  When we don’t it’s because I flaked and waited too long.  This year I didn’t, I ordered early and asked for a small turkey, about 12-13lbs.  Yes, that won’t be a problem, I am on the list!  Pat on the back and all.  Well, best laid plans and all that because the turkeys turned out to be even healthier and hungrier than planned.  Our turkey ended up being 17.56 lbs!  Holy moly.  So I quickly put out the word to my family members to bring containers.  Did any of them do that?  Absolutely not.  Sigh.

As I drove out into the woods to pick up our bird it started snowing and by the time I got to the farm it was really pretty.

Sage pear turkey 9 2014

Craig and Sarah, who own the farm, have been here for a few years now and have really made it into a growing concern which is wonderful.  And I was greeted by the “guard” dog who definitely had to check me out.

Sage pear turkey 8 2014

Each year I try to do the turkey a bit differently from the last to keep it fresh so I thought I would do a sage and pear roast turkey with butter.

Sage pear turkey 1 2014

I softened 1/2 cup of butter and worked in a handful of chopped fresh sage.

Sage pear turkey 2 2014

Luckily the turkey still fit into the roasting pan.  Not the lid though so I had to use tin foil to cover.  Murphy was really hoping I’d screw up somehow and the turkey would magically fly out of the pan and onto the floor.

Sage pear turkey 3 2014

I’ll admit I don’t like this next step of mucking about with raw poultry.  I stuffed most of the butter under the skin and what little was left rubbed into the outside of the skin.  Season with salt and pepper.  I used white pepper because we ran out of regular pepper.

Sage pear turkey 4 2014

In the basin of the pan add a peeled pear, chopped, half a red onion, a few cloves of garlic, a handful of sage, and a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  Add 1/2 cup of dry sherry, and a couple of cups of water.  Cover with tin foil or a lid and begin roasting at 325F/160C.  If the turkey is less than 15lbs, cook it 15 minutes per pound, if more than than, then drop it to 12 minutes.  This is per the Fanny Farmer cookbook.  So our turkey was about 3 1/2 hours.  An hour and a half in I basted.  When there is an hour to an hour and a half left remove the cover.  Normally I wait to the last 45 minutes but because I added so much butter I knew this wouldn’t dry out.

Sage pear turkey 5 2014

Now I love turkey skin and let me tell you this was amazing.  Crispy and full of flavour!  And because I put in all the ingredients for the gravy at the beginning it is just about made.  I put it on the boil and add dissolved corn flour a bit at a time to get the thickness I want.  Stir constantly.  I usually add a bit of Gravy Master but not too much because I want the subtle flavours of the pear and sage to come through.

Sage pear turkey 6 2014

We did our usual roast veg and I made the stuffing balls I did last year.  I also made a fabulous cranberry port sauce.  That I forgot to serve. Honestly, all that effort.  All well I’ll serve it at Christmas.

Sage pear turkey 7 2014

Of course we had way too much food.  I always stress about making sure we have enough food though logically I know we’ll have leftovers taking over the fridge.  But it was wonderful to have family together for my favourite holiday.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 6 2014

Snow Delay and Cranberry Raisin Sauce with Port Wine

Ah the best laid plans.  My favourite holiday, Thanksgiving, is tomorrow but Mother Nature has different plans for us.  Because we have family coming from different states we decided, to be safe, to have Thanksgiving on Friday after the storm has passed through and the roads are clear.

It’s our first proper snow storm of the season, I think the most we’ve had is a dusting, and we are looking at 8-12 inches when it’s all finished.  Problem is, despite most of us living here for years, a lot of people suddenly act like they have never seen a snow flake and don’t know how to drive in it!  So I am glad to be tucked away at home for the rest of the day.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 7 2014

It is a very pretty storm with all the trees and shrubs outlined in snow.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance tomorrow to take some pictures.

Just because there is a snow delay doesn’t mean I don’t have a load of food prep ahead of me so I decided to make the cranberry sauce today.  I got my inspiration from Chef Mimi and her Cran-Cherry Chutsauce.  A fun name, isn’t it?  What I loved about it was that it had port wine in it.  Ooh, I thought, that’s a lovely idea.

My version is with raisins and a Late Bottled Vintage port.  This took less than 15 minutes to make and homemade is so much better than the canned sauce.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 1 2014

In a small saucepan I added about 1 1/2 cup of whole cranberries and 1/3 of a cup of the port to start and brought that to a simmer.  Chop a quarter of a red onion.  Make sure the onion is finely chopped for this.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 2 2014

Add 1/4 – 1/3 of a cup of seedless raisins.  I added more than that forgetting the raisins will swell up so I removed a bunch.  Then add the onion.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 4 2014

Keep simmering until the cranberries start to burst.  You’ll hear a popping sound.  Once they have started to burst add brown sugar a tablespoon at a time.  All told I probably used 2 tablespoons added a bit at a time.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 5 2014

If it starts to get too stiff add more port a bit at a time.  While this starts to thicken add a teaspoon of fresh thyme and stir well.  Once you get the consistency and flavour you desire remove from the heat.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 6 2014

I love the silverware from the Victorian era.  This spoon was specifically made for jellies and cranberry sauce and has been in my family for several generations.  They certainly knew how to lay a table.