Italian salad 5 2016

Italian Salad and Being Exercised by the House

Negative space.  Great when it comes to artwork.  Not so much when it comes to a house.  Our house was built in 1895 and I have to say it was solidly built.  It’s still relatively square. But man, when we redo rooms or do projects we find some serious negative space.  While our kids are off on their summer adventures we redid my son’s floor.  Because the wood had been damaged we had to pull up the old flooring.  Which gave us a chance to put in new insulation.  And that is where we saw the latest example of negative space.  So we stuffed a lot of insulation in.  Our son will be quite toasty this winter.

Thankfully that is a few months off.  On Father’s Day we joined our friends in the traditional Father’s Day BBQ and I had made a twist on the caprese salad with bacon and lettuce.  I didn’t have the time to get stuff together for a blog post then but I thought I’d remake it for my husband and I but added chicken.  Because why not?

Italian salad 1 2016

In a skillet start cooking 4-5 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped up.  Once the bacon is half cooked add about a third of a cup of chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, chopped.  Add a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme.

Italian salad 2 2016

While this is cooking make up the dressing and grill the chicken.  I just seasoned the chicken with sea salt and pepper as it will be dressed before adding to the salad.  In a bowl add olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  The ration was about 1:3/4 oil to vinegar.  Whisk to emulsify. Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Cut up the chicken into small pieces.  Add the chicken and the bacon mixture to the bowl and toss in the dressing.

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Add to lettuce and top with chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

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A super easy, flavourful salad for summer nights.  Without leaving you feeling stuffed.

Shortbread 5 2016

Shortbread for Not so Short

My son has taken to calling me shorty.  Sigh, problem is that he isn’t wrong.  But he thinks it is hilarious that he keeps growing like a weed and he is pretty much out pacing me in any high heels I may have.  This ship has sailed.

Even though we are in the throes of a hot summer I wanted to bake for the kids so they’d have a treat after they came back from camp.  In keeping with the shorty theme and trying not to overheat the kitchen I decided to make shortbread.  I had made this before but my camera setup wasn’t working, turns out I needed to change the batteries on the remote.  That was easy to fix but I may be facing bigger issues with the camera.  Fingers crossed I’m not but it’s been acting very strange.  I love the camera so I want it to behave!

Years ago my parents gave me a cookery book called “Cape Breton Pictorial Cookbook” and it was edited by Yvonne LeVert.  It is a collection of recipes from the area and the influences from immigrants.

I used my hand mixer for this to cream the butter and sugarShortbread 1 2016

In a medium mixing bowl cream together a cup of softened butter and a 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

Shortbread 2 2016

This will take a few minutes.  Add a teaspoon of vanilla and gradually add two cups of flour, mixing a bit in at a time.  Tip out onto a floured surface.

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Knead to form a ball.  Now the recipe said to roll out.  Which seemed weird but hey I tried it.  Wrong!  You definitely need to chill for at least a half an hour.

Shortbread 4 2016

Preheat the oven to 300F/150C.  On a well floured surface roll out the dough with a well floured rolling pin.  Roll it out to about an 1/8″ of an inch.  Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes you want and prick the tops with a fork.  Bake 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown.

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Let cool and enjoy.  We’ve been enjoying it with the rhubarb ginger jam I made recently.  The tart and sweet go really well together.

Rhubarb ginger jam 3 2016

Rhubarb Ginger Jam

As anyone with a garden knows, you have some great successes and some disappointing failures.  Up until this year we have done really well with rhubarb.  This year they are very anemic.  We were able to freeze a few stalks but to do this jam I had to make a trip to the co-op to get more rhubarb.

When I made the Victorian Sponge in England this year I used my MIL’s rhubarb ginger jam.  It was absolutely delicious.  I couldn’t wait for rhubarb season.  Didn’t realise it wasn’t worth the wait.  So we will have to figure that out for next year.

Rhubarb ginger jam 1 2016

I had about 6 stalks.  Slice the rhubarb and add it to a saucepan.  Add about a 1/4 cup of water and a tablespoon of lemon juice.  Bring it to a simmer.  I wasn’t sure how much ginger I should use so I started with a piece about 1 1/2in/4cm by 1in/2.5cm.  Grate into the sauce pan.

Rhubarb ginger jam 2 2016

As the rhubarb starts breaking down start adding brown sugar.  To get the right balance with the heat of the ginger, the tartness of rhubarb, and the sweetness of the sugar, you need a lot of sugar.  I used about a cup and a half for this.  But add the sugar a bit at a time until the balance is right.  The heat and tartness of the ingredients will be different each time.  Simmer until the jam begins to thicken.

Rhubarb ginger jam 3 2016

This isn’t lasting long.  By the time the weekend was over there was just enough left to process one jar.  Guess I’ll be going back to the co-op!

Peach bourbon pork 5 2016

Peach Bourbon Grilled Pork

I’ve been trying this week to figure out video editing and the open source software.  No success yet. I’m trying not to get frustrated but it drives me batty when my love of technology runs into the wall of not knowing how to make it work for me.  So it may be awhile before I get this up and running.  Annoying since I have a few ideas and I can see it in my head.  Just need to get it through the keyboard onto the screen.

Peaches are in season and they have been showing up at the co-op, yay!  And they had pork on sale. I know, I know, meat on sale?  Can’t be a good idea.  Usually I would agree but I’ve had success with the sales at the co-op.

Peach bourbon pork 2 2016

In a small bowl mix up a dry rub.  I used a tablespoon of brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper,  1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon of ground cumin and dried cilantro, and sea salt and pepper.

Peach bourbon pork 1 2016

Mix well and rub on both sides of the pork.  Set aside to “marinade”.  For the peach bourbon sauce chop up an onion to make about 1/2 a cup and finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic.  Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and start cooking the onion and garlic.

Peach bourbon pork 3 2016

Peel and dice one peach.  Add to the skillet. Simmer until the peach starts to soften.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of bourbon.  I used Gentleman Jack but use whatever one you enjoy.  Then add brown sugar.  I started with a tablespoon but added more as it cooked to balance it with the bourbon.  I also seasoned it with a teaspoon of cayenne, sea salt, and pepper.

Peach bourbon pork 4 2016

Continue to simmer until the peaches soften and the sauce reduces a bit.  Grill the pork and a peach cut in half.

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I could do without the stifling heat of summer but boy do I love the flavours.

Leek Bacon Burger 4 2016

Leek and Bacon Burgers

When I started blogging I was nudged by a friend to just go ahead and do it.  Instead of just thinking about it and worrying whether it could be successful or not.  For a few months now I’ve been wondering about starting a YouTube channel.  Of course I have been trying to figure out if I could pull it off, what would I do, how would I do it, that sort of thing.

I’ve been inspired by Stéphane of My French Heaven who has started his channel.  He has already uploaded a few videos and he is doing a great job.  It’s a bit of a learning curve for me as I don’t have a Mac and we don’t use Windows.  So I found an open source video editor Kdenlive to try out.  I took a few videos to practice and boy did I feel silly!  It’s one thing to have in your head what you want to do and another to actually press record and do it.  So I’ll do a bit of practicing and see what I can sort out.  I have iMovie on my phone but that screen is too small for me and I don’t have enough space on my iPad.  Then I have to figure out camera set ups.  I think this could be fun, once I learn the ropes.

This past weekend was absolutely gorgeous so we did a lot of outdoor projects.  Which meant easy dinners was the name of the game.  My husband wanted burgers.  I wanted to do them with a twist.  For the actual burger I did the same ones as I did in my gourmet burgers.  Though instead of goat meat I used beef.

Leek Bacon Burger 1 2016

Instead of buns I bought large portobello caps to grill.  Just prep them with sea salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Set aside while you prep the burgers.  Slice about half a cup of leeks and a few button mushrooms.  Cut up a few rashers of streaky bacon.

Leek Bacon Burger 2 2016

Start cooking the bacon in a skillet.  Once it is half cooked add the mushrooms and leeks to the skillet.  While this is cooking grill the burgers and portobello caps.

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Stack the burger on the mushroom caps, add goat cheese, and top with the leek and bacon mixture.

Leek Bacon Burger 4 2016

For this you can pick just about any cheese you like, my husband likes jarlsberg. You don’t need much more than this as it is quite filling.

Please let me know if you have a YouTube channel or any advice on having one.

Italian potato salad 3 2016

Italian Potato Salad

My husband and I have been enjoying exploring the bike paths that run through our area.  I’m still surprised at how much I love biking.  And it’s great along the shady paths with the little breeze we work up.  Keeps the humidity off of us.  Still tweaking the bike so it fits  me better.  I found a memory foam seat cover which eases the bumps we go over.  Today I’m bringing the bike back to adjust the handle bars.  My husband and I tried but damn if we couldn’t shift it.

Of course after doing a ride we don’t want a heavy meal and to be frank I lack the energy to whip up anything complicated.  Still building up the stamina!  We bought some lovely new potatoes from the farmer’s market this past weekend and a potato salad is an easy thing to make before the ride.  As my husband isn’t into things with mayo I decided to make an Italian potato salad.

Italian potato salad 1 2016

I made up the marinade first so the sundried tomatoes could soak a bit.  I used the ratio 2:1 for olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.   Whisk to bring the two ingredients together and add a couple of cloves of garlic chopped, a few teaspoons of fresh thyme, and sea salt and pepper to taste.

Italian potato salad 2 2016

Cook up the potatoes until soft, drain and add to the marinade.  Some potatoes will soften and fluff a bit with this, more than others.  The ones I bought definitely fluffed a bit.  Stir to coat evenly in the marinade.  Add chopped proscuitto, freshly grated parmesan, mozzarella, and fresh basil.  Chill then serve.  Though you could have it warm if you prefer.

Italian potato salad 3 2016

Prior to the ride I marinated steak with thyme, sea salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar.  Easy to grill up and dinner is ready in no time at all!

Baby blanket 2 2016

New Beginnings and What the Hell Just Happened?

For millions of people, waking up on Friday was quite the shock.  It was frustrating in the lead up to the vote for me because not living within the border meant I couldn’t vote on my future.  I’m one of those people that will plan years in advance for certain things, particularly big things.  Moving back to the UK is pretty big, especially with finances.  I knew if the vote swung Leave it would really upset the pound and markets.  Despite what Boris claimed.

Because of the time difference my husband and I were glued to our iPads refreshing the vote counts on the BBC website until after 3am Greenwich time.  The writing was on the wall but I’d hoped something would change while I slept.

While I applaud the attitude of respecting how people voted, I find it disturbing the trend of googling after the vote ended asking what the EU was or what could happen if the vote was Leave.  I don’t care what you vote for but I do care if you understand the ramifications.  And the videos of interviews of people saying they didn’t understand or didn’t think their vote mattered when they voted leave and they wish they could change it bothers me.

I hope cooler heads prevail when the discussions on how the UK exits happen.  I do think the EU should have a do over with a healthy dose of hindsight.  There are a lot of benefits to having a single block but there needs to be more cultural sensitivity.  Whether it has to do with the pint or trying to regulate a cheese made in France for centuries, these things should be allowed to thrive.

But since we’re not invited to the table we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

In the meantime I got to meet my newest nephew.  He is just over three weeks old and a little peanut.  His only worries are sleeping and eating.  Now I know how long pregnancies last, do you think I planned ahead to crochet something for him?  Alas, no.  So once he was born I went into a bit of a panic and rushed out to buy yarn.  I managed to get the blanket and the little beanie done quickly.

Baby blanket 1 2016

I had bought a book, Crochet Step by Step by Sally Harding, to relearn crochet.  When I was a baby my aunt had crocheted a blanket using a shell pattern so I wanted to do a similar pattern.  The book gave me the stitch count and I came up with how many I needed to do the size I wanted.

Baby blanket 2 2016

The little beanie was very easy to make.  I used a pattern from Mango Tree.  It is a free pattern and she gives instructions for sizes from newborn to adult.

So even though the world can still turn upside down, life goes on.  And that’s ok.

Rosemary lemon chicken 4 2016

Rosemary Lemon Chicken Kebabs

Tomorrow is a big day with the vote in the UK.  It’s surreal because, like for a lot of people, this vote can directly effect how we transition in a few years to move back.  But I can’t vote as subjects of the crown can’t vote if they don’t live in the UK.  So I just have to wait and see.  It will be nice to see the propaganda from both sides to die down.  Talk about muddying the waters!

In the meantime I’ll just keep cooking along.

We didn’t just have a Dalek cake for the small family gathering.  To avoid a sugar high I cooked healthy food as well.  I kept it very simple with grilled veg and chicken kebabs.  I grilled up mushrooms, peppers, onions, scallions, and aubergine.

The inspiration for the chicken came from a restaurant chain, Bertucci’s, where they have a spicy chicken wing with lemon and rosemary.  No idea what the recipe is but I figured I could get close to the recipe.

Rosemary lemon chicken 1 2016

I popped into my local store (my garden) for fresh thyme and rosemary.  I do wish there was an easy way to prep thyme, so annoying, but what can you do?  Finely chop a small handful of each.  In a bowl add a ratio of 2:1 of olive oil and lemon juice, the herbs, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped, sea salt and pepper to taste.  Then add cayenne pepper to the level of spiciness you want.  I kept it on the mild side as my aunt isn’t a huge fan of spicy food.

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Mix well and add chicken to marinate.

Rosemary lemon chicken 3 2016

When you are ready to grill add the chicken to the skewers and cook until the chicken is cooked through.  Turn a few times so the chicken is cooked evenly.

Rosemary lemon chicken 4 2016

It was a lovely relaxing lunch with family with plenty of room left over for cake!  And any left over chicken and grilled veg is perfect for a salad later on.  Which is handy after a bike ride and you aren’t up to cooking!

Dalek cake 7 2016

Marshmallow Fondant and Exterminate!

We just had a very busy few days with celebrating Father’s Day and my son’s birthday.  We did a small family gathering on Saturday and our friends have a tradition of hosting a BBQ at a local lake.  It was perfect before the kids are off on their summer adventures of camp and making the rounds with the grandparents.

My husband and I also got bikes!  Turns out the kids were thrilled as they love the bike paths round here so we’ll have plenty of fun with this family activity.  Though could someone please, please invent a more comfortable bike seat?  Yikes.  We’re lucky that there are many places to bike round town.  This town used to be a hub for the railways, even building the steam locos here.  When the rails were pulled up the lines became trails for bikes and walking.  Miles of them!

As some of you know we are fans of Dr Who and I wanted to do a Dalek cake for my son.  The thing is store bought fondant is, to put it mildly, awful tasting.  Not something you can really truthfully call edible.  While watching the Great British Bakeoff awhile ago we saw one of the contestants make a marshmallow fondant.  Of course the recipe wasn’t disclosed, probably something about editing and not enough time!  Excuses, excuses.

Thank goodness for the intertubes.  There are a few versions on how to make the marshmallow fondant.  I decided to go with the Wilton version as it was pretty simple.  When you have loads going on, simple is best!  Wilton is a cake decorating brand stateside.

The fondant needs to be started the day before.

Dalek cake 1 2016

In a large microwavable bowl add 16oz of good quality marshmallows and a couple of tablespoons of water.  Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until the marshmallow has melted.

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As you can imagine this was an extremely sticky enterprise.  Better than superglue!  Add 1 1/2 pounds of confectioner’s sugar.  You will need an additional half pound of the sugar set aside for the kneading.

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Now if you know what you are going to do and know you just need one colour, add your colourant at this step.  It will be much easier to incorporate.  However, I was still figuring out how I was going to decorate this cake.  Start incorporating the sugar into the melted marshmallow.  If you want any flavouring this is the step you add it.  I added a teaspoon or so of vanilla. Once the sugar is incorporated tip the mixture out on a greased counter.  And when I say greased, I mean greased.  I used vegetable shortening.  Not only do you need to grease the counter you need to grease your hands as well.  Sounds messy but trust me, it is much needed.

Knead like you would knead bread adding in the extra half pound of the sugar a bit at a time.  You may not need all of the sugar.  I had about an eighth of a cup left after the fondant came together in a smooth ball.

Dalek cake 4 2016

Store in an airtight container or bag and place in the fridge overnight.  In the morning let it come to room temperature.  Add the colourant and then knead until the colour is uniform throughout.  Be patient as this can take awhile and be careful of your wrists as it is a bit of a workout.

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I layered the cake and shaped it.  Then coated it with buttercream.

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Roll out the fondant until about 1/8″/.3cm thick.  Drap the fondant over the cake.  The mistake I made here was not to keep the fondant cool enough.  So it began to rip as I was doing this.  And because it came into contact with the buttercream I couldn’t roll it up again and chill it.  So the Dalek looked a bit injured.

For the grey parts I used rice crispy treats and gum paste.  I also found edible adhesive.  That was a cool find I must say.

Dalek cake 7 2016

The cool thing about this is I managed to keep this a surprise from my son.  So when I brought it out after the lunch he was very surprised.  That was the best.  And it is wonderful, despite him growing so fast, he still loves stuff like this.

Moroccan chicken 5 2016

Moroccan Chicken and Couscous

Spring seems to be back!  The air is fresh and the days are beautiful.  I hope it lasts awhile.  I wasn’t ready for summer and the sticky heat.  It was lovely being in the garden yesterday getting in the last of the tomatoes.  If only we can get rid of the rabbits.  They are back!  Which means putting more bloodmeal down around the veg so they stay away.

Because it was so cool I took the opportunity to make a warming dish while I still had the chance.  My first Moroccan meal, years ago, was a dish similar to this.  We ate it with our hands round a coffee table, sitting on the floor, in the traditional way.  It was delicious.

Moroccan  chicken 1 2016

Heat up several tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Season chicken thighs with sea salt and pepper on both sides.  Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  Brown both sides of the thighs then transfer to the oven to cook through.

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In the skillet cook about 1/2 -3/4 cup of chopped onions and 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped until the onions have softened.  Add a few sliced mushrooms.

Moroccan chicken 3 2016

Add a cup of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  I didn’t have any fresh ginger (forgot to put it on the list!) so I used ground ginger.   Start with a 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1-2 teaspoons of ground tumeric, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, and 1-2 teaspoons of paprika.  Allow to simmer for a bit.  Taste the broth and adjust the spices as needed.  At this point I added more tumeric and paprika.  Everyone’s tastebuds are different.  Moroccan chicken 4 2016

Dice up half of a red pepper, a great colour to go along with the tumeric, and add the pepper and the chicken to the broth and simmer for a few minutes.  While this had been cooking I cooked up the couscous according to the instructions on the package.

Moroccan chicken 5 2016

Layer the ingredients and serve.  Make sure you put enough of the broth on the couscous as couscous can be a bit dry.  Which isn’t good for a nice meal!