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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. :)

Muslim Curry 8 2015

False Advertising with Spicy and Making a Curry

Back in the beginning of November we went to Sway in Austin and had the most amazing Jungle Curry.  It was spicy!  Spicy with loads of flavour and I wanted to try to recreate it.  In “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Solomon there is a recipe for Kaeng Masaman or Muslim Curry and was classified as a very spicy curry.  Ooh, I thought, maybe this could be close to the curry from Sway.  Hmmm not so much.  The flavour was really good but I had to spike it quite a bit at the end of cooking to get some spiciness.

First up was to make the curry paste.  Given what I had in my pantry I used already ground spices, except the cardamom pods.  The only two ingredients I didn’t have was mace and shrimp paste.  And because it is hard to find galangal I substituted ginger.

In a small bowl mix 2 tsp of chilli powder (I do wonder if the book had an error and should be 2 tablespoons), 2 Tablespoons of ground coriander, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon.  Set aside.

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In a small skillet heat up 5 cardamom pods without any oil.  Shake the pan so the pods don’t burn.  You want them to be golden brown.  Grind them finely in a spice grinder.

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In a skillet saute 1 1/2 cup of chopped onion in olive oil.  Once softened add 5-6 finely chopped garlic cloves.

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Place in a food processor.  Add about an inch or so of ginger, coarsely chopped, and about an inch of sliced lemongrass.

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Pulse until it becomes a paste.

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Add the spices and pulse to blend.

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Cover and chill for a few hours to let the flavours blend.

When it’s time to make the curry gather the ingredients together.  The one thing I don’t have access to is tamarind pulp.  So I left that out.  The rest is pretty easy.  In a large skillet bring cubed beef, 14 oz of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of fish or oyster sauce, 15 cardamom pods, and a few dashes of ground cinnamon to a boil.  Then lower to a simmer.  Cook until the meat is cooked and tender.  The book did mention that you shouldn’t cover the skillet because it will cause the coconut milk to curdle.

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Remove the cardamom pods when the beef is cooked.  That way it won’t get confused with the peanuts!  Stir in a large handful of roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped.  Add all the curry paste you made earlier with 2 tablespoons of lime juice.

At this point, I tasted for spiciness.  I was already to be blown away but it was very mild!  So I added more chilli powder but not wanting that to be a dominating flavour I also added red pepper flakes until I got some heat.  The flakes are great because they don’t overwhelm the rest of the dish but brings the heat.

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Garnish with some peanuts and cilantro.  While this wasn’t close enough to the jungle curry it was a really nice curry.  And it showed me that making homemade curry paste isn’t overly difficult.  So I’ll be playing around with the flavours for my own paste.  :)

 

Spicy aubergine 7 2015

Spicy Aubergine with Roasted Chicken

I could use this hot spicy dish today given how bitter cold it is.  We’re in a deep cold snap and hopefully it won’t last long.  Guinness is not impressed at all.

Rosemary from Cooking in Sens did a post with spicy aubergine and veal a few weeks ago and I loved the flavours that were in the dish.  I had most of the ingredients and two chicken thighs to use up.  Plus our kids were coming back from Florida and I wanted to make them a nice meal to welcome them home.

Spicy aubergine 1 2015

Use a glass bowl big enough to hold the meat you choose to use.  Finely chop a shallot to give you about 1/4 cup.  Add 4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Then add 7 tablespoons of peanut oil, 1/8 cup of Sriracha sauce, 1/8 chilli garlic sauce, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Mix well.  Add the chicken and make sure it is well coated.  Cover and set aside for at least and hour in the fridge.

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When it is time to make dinner heat the oven to 350F/175C.  Bake the chicken thighs turning every 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

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While the chicken is cooking add the rest of the marinade to a skillet.  Add a cup of chicken stock and bring the sauce to a simmer.  Allow it to reduce by about a third or so.  If the sauce is too spicy add more chicken stock.  I had to do this otherwise I think I would have blown the kids out of their seats.

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While the sauce is simmering, cube a cup and a half of aubergine and slice up the cooked chicken.  Add to the sauce and cook until the aubergine is cooked.  Just at the end add a handful of sliced scallion.

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Serve with rice noodles or rice.

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This was very spicy!  This would have a great chance of curing the common cold.  :)  Which given the season, isn’t a bad thing!

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

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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.

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In a mixer incorporate the dough with the cheese mixture.

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One at a time add 4 eggs and mix well.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Cheers!