Pomegranate chicken 4 2015

Pomegranate Chicken and Don’t Be Cruel

If people want plastic surgery that’s their business.  Though vanity can get many into trouble.  It gets a bit obvious.  But hey if they want to muck about with their bodies regardless of the outcome that’s their business.  But I really have a problem when people extend their vanity to their dogs.

I took my goofy dogs to the vet the other day and there was this little doberman puppy with its ears taped up.  Without thinking (something I do a lot!) I asked what happened to him.  They replied that it is normal to do this.  I said if it was normal they would be born that way.  I was so disgusted!  Our neighbour did that to his boxer as well.  The poor thing was taped up for over a year.

Of course they were a bit snarky about it and while I was weighing Murphy he overturned a cookie bowl and I had to wrestle them off the cookies.  So much for keeping my dignity!

I asked the vet if he really performs these unnecessary procedures.  Being that it was his first day he said he would ask his dad who owns the practice.  Though he did say they are between a rock and a hard place because if they don’t do it and do it safely these people would go elsewhere and possibly harm the dogs more.  I really would they would ban these procedures.

I stuck with the salad theme last week as the warm weather continued.  A while back Chica Andaluza blog about a chicken made with pomegranate molasses.  It looks amazing.  But it was too hot to bake so I mixed it up a bit so I could grill the chicken.

In a bowl mix the following:

8oz of plain greek yoghurt

2 Tablespoons of pomegranate molasses

3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1″sq/2.cm of fresh garlic grated

1-2 teaspoons of chili powder

1/2 teaspoon of garam marsala

Season with sea salt.

Pomegranate chicken 1 2015

Mix well and add the chicken to marinate for at least an hour.

Pomegranate chicken 2 2015

Heat the grill to medium. I ran into a bit of trouble with the chicken sticking which was unfortunate as it left some of the flavour on the grill!

Pomegranate chicken 3 2015

For the dressing I mixed up a bit of olive oil, pomegranate molasses, and white balsamic vinegar.  I also made some croutons.  Slice some bread and butter both sides.  Season with dry rub and cube the bread and brown in a dry skillet.  Slice the chicken and top the salad and serve.

Pomegranate chicken 4 2015

Nice and light.  It was the first time using the pomegranate molasses and I really like it.  Now to figure out what else I can use it!

Bruschetta chicken salad 4 2015

Bruschetta Chicken Salad

It’s a lovely rainy day today.  I say lovely because we’re still not having many of them.  Optimistically we planted more seed to replace those that didn’t come up.  Right now we have one leek and one onion coming up.  Stand back and prepare to be overwhelmed!

For the life of us we can’t grow beets.  We keep trying.  In fact we had one come up a few weeks ago but it disappeared.  So did the carrots!  So we replanted and also sprinkled blood meal round the beds.  I hope we start to make some progress.

The other night I was in the mood for Italian but nothing heavy as it was hot.  I saw various ideas for bruschetta chicken which sounded wonderful.  The drawbacks to the recipes was that they called for store bought dressings.  It’s easy enough to make it from scratch.

In a bowl mix 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar.  Add fresh thyme and finely chopped garlic.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

Bruschetta chicken salad 1 2015

Add the chicken breasts to marinate for at least an hour.

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While the chicken is marinating prep the bruschetta part of the dish.

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Quarter the tomatoes and add a few cloves of finely chopped garlic in a bowl.  Toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and pepper.  The fresh mozzarella and basil should be added just before serving.  Grill the chicken and the slice it to serve over a bed of lettuce.

Bruschetta chicken salad 4 2015

As a side I also grilled up some veg to make a light supper.  I love this time of year with all the fresh veg.  Not so much the heat but you can’t have it all!

Rhubarb duck 5 2015

Duck a la Rhubarb and the Roller Coaster of a Garden

It’s a bit of a struggle this year.  Our garden is giving us a run for our money with it being inconsistent in deciding what it wants to grow.  Every year there is usually one or two things that are stubborn.  But with the lack of rain in May and the reappearance of rabbits this year we’re not having much luck with the eggplant, tomatillos, parsnips, onions, leeks, and beets!

I have to say though our potatoes are going gangbusters.  So far they are the best we’ve ever had.  We’re struggling to keep up with adding dirt and straw to the towers as the plants grow.  Fingers crossed we’ll get a harvest bigger than what we put in!

A while back when Johnny had the Feed the Piglet blog he sent me a link for a Rhubarb Duck recipe.  Unfortunately the link is now private, though you can see latest posts on Kitschnflavours site.  So I had to come up with my own recipe.  Gasp!

Rhubarb duck 1 2015

Rhubarb is a perfect pairing with duck with the tartness of the rhubarb and the richness of the duck.  Slice 2-3 stalks of rhubarb.  Finely chop a handful of fresh thyme and half a sweet onion.

Rhubarb duck 2 2015

Score the duck skin and season with sea salt and pepper.  Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet and place the duck skin down.  You don’t want a high heat for this because you want to render the fat without burning the duck.  Once the duck has rendered turn it over to sear the other side.

Rhubarb duck 3 2015

Because this was a big piece of duck I finished it off in the oven.  While the duck cooks add the rhubarb, onion, and thyme to the skillet.  Saute to soften the rhubarb and onion.  Grate an inch square (2.5 cm sq) of fresh ginger into the skillet.

Rhubarb duck 4 2015As the rhubarb cooks down add a cup of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  It was interesting because I didn’t add any citrus to this dish but there was a definite citrus taste to it.  Must have come from the rhubarb.

Rhubarb duck 5 2015

Once the duck is cooked to medium let it rest before slicing.  Unfortunately we had a tough piece of bird!  I cooked up some mashed potatoes and pan roasted Brussels Sprouts.  The kids enjoyed this what with their love of duck and rhubarb.  It was mine to screw up!  :)

Grilled Pork Salad 2 2015

Grilled Pork Salad With An Asian Flair

I heard from my mum this morning and she wanted to know what I was feeding my kids as they are growing like weeds!  I wish I knew!  I know it can’t just be they have a tall dad.  I have one as well but I didn’t get very far with the height thing.  And I did eat my vegetables though for all the good it did me. :)

It is strange coming into the last bit of the school year.  Both kids are finishing up at each of their schools and getting ready to move up to the next school.  Which means a flurry of celebrations and year end events.  A lot of lasts.  My son’s school has a cookout for the whole school with activities outside.  They finish off with a water balloon toss with the oldest students and the teachers.  They absolutely love that bit!

A big change from when I was a kid though would be the new tradition of having a graduation for every level of school including preschool!  At least our son’s celebration is called a recognition instead of graduation.  It’s a bit much.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m insanely proud of our kids.  I love watching them grow and becoming fabulous people.  They are really coming into their own.

The other day I planned on grilling pork in an Asian marinade to put over salad.  Great plan until I realised we had run out of gas for the grill.  Plan B was grilling on the stove top.

In a bowl mix together the following:

4 tablespoons of peanut oil

3 tablespoons of oyster sauce

3 tablespoons of rice vinegar

1 tablespoon of lime juice

2 tablespoons of amino acid

3-4 finely chopped garlic

A couple of teaspoons of cilantro

Grilled Pork Salad 1 2015

Marinate the pork for at least an hour.  Also, take some of the marinade and marinate a few mushrooms.  If you are lucky enough to have a working grill on hand, grill away until the pork is cooked.  Otherwise continue with plan b.

Grilled Pork Salad 2 2015

While the pork is resting grill the mushrooms.

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Slice the pork and mushrooms and top your salad with them.  For a dressing I quickly mixed up a bit of peanut oil, rice vinegar, and lime juice.

Grilled Pork Salad 4 2015

A great light meal for the hotter weather.  And we’ve since rectified the gas situation so no more plan b for the time being!

Olaf birthday cake 2 2015

How Many Birthdays Fit on a Cake?

Go ahead.  Question my sanity.  It was my idea to have a family get together where we celebrate 8 out of the 12 birthdays.  Given how this year has gone from on emergency to another in the family and my sister in the middle of her recovery, there hasn’t been time to get together as a family!

I am sure I wasn’t the only one wondering what we were getting ourselves into.  It’s one thing to all get together for a meal but another to get through all the presents and cake in a short amount of time. But it was a lovely day.  The weather was gorgeous and the kids had a great time running about.  I think the cutest thing was my three year old nephew getting a hold of the hose.  This little peanut hosing down his wagon.  And of course when he turned so did the water.  We stayed out of range.  :)

The tricky bit I had to sort out was the cake.  Five of the birthdays were for the kids.  Originally I planned on doing cupcakes but I just didn’t have the time to decorate individual cupcakes, it would be faster to do a cake.  But how to do a cake for kids ranging from 3-14 without making it crowded or corny?

I really wanted each of them to be represented so it took me a couple of days to figure it out.  The littlest one is majorly into Thomas the Train.  He is just enthralled with the whole thing.  My niece loves My Little Pony, my other nephew is into Pokemon, and my son thinks Olaf is the best thing since sliced bread.  And of course my daughter who is becoming a young lady so she’s not into those types of things but she had to be represented somehow.

Olaf birthday cake 2 2015

Thank goodness for the internet.  A quick search leads to ideas on how to make a character so it actually looks like it.  It’s one thing to freehand volcanoes and castles but I can’t screw up Olaf!

I also did the pokemon circle in gum paste but due to time constraints I went store bought for the rest.  I don’t think I have the skills yet to do Thomas or My Little Pony.

Olaf birthday cake 3 2015

Olaf birthday cake 4 2015Added a bit of flowers for my daughter and a bit of whimsy with yellow.

Olaf birthday cake 1 2015

We had a wonderful day of family, good food, and laughter.  The best bit was my little nephew’s face when he realised it was Thomas on the cake.  :)

Washington DC 2 2015

A Getaway to Washington DC

I can’t seem to shake the pattern of being behind the 8 ball lately.  I have been set back by a bad back, tying up loose ends with the tax season,  and the usual every day things.  We did manage a break with a long weekend getaway to Washington DC, just the two of us.  Despite the scorching heat we had a fabulous time.  A few hiccups here and there but hey that’s traveling.

The beginning of the trip sent home to me that I should listen to my intuition.  We landed at Dulles with several areas to eat. I overrode my instinct to eat there.  Bad move.  Our first stop was the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center which is the Air and Space Annex for the Smithsonian.  All they had for food was McDonalds.  And the food was bad.  We didn’t even finish.  And we had to contend with a woman who was jumping the queue which is not a good idea when I’m hungry!  I pushed back!  The poor cashier had a deer in the headlights look.  She kept yelling over me to go ahead and order while ordering her coffee.  Very strange.  I said to the cashier that at least he has a story to tell now.

The museum itself was amazing.  The amount of aircraft and engines they had was incredible.  I would not like to be the one who had to figure out the puzzle of fitting it all together.

Washington DC 14 2015

For me the coolest thing was the Discovery.  When I was little I wanted to be an astronaut.  Aside from wearing glasses and having asthma I get sick on swings so that dream died a quick death!

Washington DC 13 2015

They even had a Hurricane there.  This plane was critical in the Battle of Britain, particularly how Britain had it down to quickly replace them as squadrons were destroyed.  Noon the next day replacements would arrive.  Pretty remarkable.  Behind it is the Enola Gay.

We found a hotel near the National Mall which was perfect so we could just walk about.  It was strange though, people were fabulous and very helpful and the place was very clean.  But it was trying to hard to be hip and cool.  Which seemed to attract the young party crowd.  The second night we were woken up to a drunk guy knocking on the door and calling out “Where you at?”  He passed out in front of our door.  We did get a free bottle of wine for our troubles and a new room.

The first day we wandered round the memorials.  A few we revisited such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial.  We also checked out the WWII Memorial.  While we were there they started a ceremony where vets from that war were wheeled in and honoured.  I was amazed at how many were there.  It was quite moving.  There are several organisations that bring in veterans from the wars and bring them round to the memorials.  It was tough to see at the Vietnam Memorial because they were seeing the names of their friends and family.  I was impressed with the Korean War Veterans Memorial.  It was graceful and powerful.

Washington DC 11 2015

As we wandered we had to have some ice cream.  Medicinal against the heat of course.  There was a beautiful duck who had the begging down to a science.  And he knew when you were done eating because he would then wander to the next table looking his cutest.  He reminded us of our dog Murphy.

There were a few more memorials before lunch.  The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial was very interesting and a lot larger than I thought it would be.  Same with the FDR Memorial, which is incredibly large.  They had outdoor rooms for each of his four terms.  The thing I enjoy about most of the memorials is the quotes.

Washington DC 5 2015

Too often people forget what is important.  It would be nice to think those that visit these memorials come away reminded of what should be our priorities.  I’m afraid I’m being optimistic.

The next stop was the Botanical Gardens.  It wasn’t very big like Kew Gardens and others I’ve been to but it was very enjoyable.  Aside from the varied and gorgeous orchids they had neat flowers like the banana flower which I’ve never seen before.

Washington DC 12 2015

Washington DC 4 2015

Washington DC 1 2015

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Of course we searched for fabulous food!  Dinners went very well but with the exception of one breakfast the rest of the meals fell really flat.  Our mojo was letting us down!  The great breakfast I had was crab cake with poached egg and hollandaise sauce with old bay seasoning.  Fabulous flavour.  They just overcooked the eggs so the yolks weren’t runny.  Nuts.

Washington DC 6 2015

I did try something new which was a soft shell crab.  It was different.  Very tasty but the shells still had a bit of crunch to it.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but I’m glad I tried it.

Washington DC 8 2015

My favourite was the baked oyster dish with pancetta, pecorino, garlic, and breadcrumbs.  It was served over salt and peppercorns.  It was amazing.

Washington DC 7 2015

I had calamari sauteed in a spicy tomato broth.  The interesting highlight was the crostini with squid ink.  I have never had squid ink so I was looking forward to this. It wasn’t a strong or fishy flavour but it made for an intriguing crostini.  Very delicious.

Washington DC 3 2015

One dessert was a goat cheese cheesecake with rhubarb jam and rhubarb sorbet over a ginger strudel.  Oh my.  We need to figure out how to recreate that.  The strange but good dessert was a honey panna cotta parfait with basil gelee.

Washington DC 9 2015We weren’t sure what to make of it but we liked it.  Not sure we’ll try to recreate it though.

Our waiter for two of the nights was French.  We were enjoying cocktails and wondered how to say cocktails in French.  He said cocktails!  I may be ok on our trip to France. :)

Peanut satay chicken 5 2015

Peanut Satay and My Rain Dance isn’t Working

The dirt is dry.  Bone dry, just puffs of dust.  It does not bode well that we are struggling already and May isn’t over.  Usually we don’t have issues with rain.  But this season we desperately need some rain to fall from the sky.

This past weekend was Memorial Day Weekend in the states and that is also the start of serious planting in our zone.  It also means we have a ton of plants to get into the ground.  We are facing a semi-disaster with the peppers.  Half of the seedlings were small because I was behind the eight ball at the front end in getting them started in the first place.  I tried getting enough water into the raised bed but the small seedlings immediately went into shock and died.  We have some more to try so fingers crossed we succeed because I was really hoping for some home grown habaneros.

We’ve spent every day since trying to soak the beds.  It’s frustrating because we soak them leaving puddles and do that a few times but when we poke the soil it’s still dry!  This could be a long season.

This past Friday I wanted to make one of the dishes my family made for me on Mother’s Day.  Grilled chicken with a peanut satay sauce.  We had plenty of the satay sauce left over so it needed to be used up.

The recipe I got influence from was from the “Appetizers, Finger Foods, Buffets & Parties”.

For the satay mix the following:

2T each of smooth peanut butter, soy sauce, and lime juice

1T of sesame oil and brown sugar

2 finely chopped scallions and garlic cloves

Mix well and set aside.

Peanut satay chicken 4 2015Next the marinade for the chicken needs to be made.

Peanut satay chicken 1 2015Ignore the large onion.  I was originally going to use it because I didn’t have any scallions for the marinade.  But I felt the onion would be too much.  And I forgot to retake a photo!  Ah well.

In a bowl mix 4 tablespoons of peanut oil, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce or amino acids, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of lime juice.  Grate about an inch/2.5cm square of fresh ginger and finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic.  Next add a small handful of chopped cilantro and a chili pepper, chopped.  Deseed it for this recipe because you don’t want the heat to overpower the other flavours.

Peanut satay chicken 2 2015

I chose to use chicken thigh meat instead of breast meat.  One it’s less expensive and two it has more flavour.  Cut it so it is in cubes keeping the pieces in a similar size.  Marinate for at least an hour.

Peanut satay chicken 3 2015

Skewer the chicken and heat up the grill.  Cook the chicken while turning to cook the chicken evenly allowing them to sear on each side.

Peanut satay chicken 5 2015

Serve with the sides of your choice. I like making baked potatoes on the grill, just keep them up off the flame.

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Spoon the satay over the chicken and enjoy!  And keep your fingers crossed for some rain!

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!

Carbonara with a twist 6 2015

Carbonara With A Twist

I wish that spring lasted longer here.  Winter lasts way too long and summer is always anxious to arrive.  We have been holding off putting in the A/Cs but we might not make it until the end of June like we are hoping.  Yesterday was a scorcher!  I fear summer will be a bit much.

Needless to say my long list for yesterday didn’t get done!  Partly because I grossly underestimated how long it would take to clean out our closet.  Hours!  Just as well as it was to hot to bake.  Hopefully I’ll get that done today.  Wouldn’t want the kids to starve.  :)

And I didn’t want to be standing over a hot stove either.  We have some black garlic and proscuitto on hand and carbonara is a quick dish to make.  Time for a twist on a great dish!

Carbonara with a twist 1 2015Prep everything ahead of time as this does not take long to cook.  In a bowl whisk three eggs together with salt and pepper.  Great about a cup of aged cheese together.  I used pecorino, parmesan, and romano cheese for this dish.  Cube the proscuitto, about 1/2 -3/4 cups worth.  I finely chopped two bulbs of black garlic and garlic chives.  I love having the fresh herbs from our garden again!

Carbonara with a twist 2 2015

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and slowly saute the garlic. Don’t have the heat higher than medium.  While this is cooking, cook the pasta.  When the pasta is halfway cooked add the proscuitto and chive to the skillet.  The trick with the proscuitto is that you don’t want to overcook it or the flavour will get really strong.

Carbonara with a twist 3 2015

Add a 1/2 cup of dry white wine and lightly simmer.

Carbonara with a twist 4 2015

Once the pasta is cooked add it to the skillet and mix well.  Turn off the heat and add the egg and cheese mixture to the skillet.

Carbonara with a twist 5 2015

Toss and serve immediately.  Garnish with fresh basil and grated cheese.

Carbonara with a twist 6 2015

This is a dish with strong flavours and is great with homemade ciabatta bread.  Here is how to make the traditional carbonara dish.  Both great for when it’s too hot to be standing over a hot stove!

Chorizo risotto 6 2015

Chorizo Risotto and the Strange Priorities

I don’t like cheats.  I think those that cheat should face consequences.  But when the consequences are out of whack compared to other offences I have a problem with it.

A news story that lit up the internet this week had to do with the NFL and the Pats.  In a game at the beginning of the year there were some deflated balls.  The NFL couldn’t, to their satisfaction, get the quarterback to talk about it even though he wasn’t the one who deflated the balls.  So they suspended him for four games and took away the team’s first round draft pick.  People went nuts!  The reason?  In the past few years the NFL has been grossly underwhelming with their punishments over things like rape, domestic violence, etc.  But a ball is deflated and all hell breaks loose.

And that saddens me no end.  I keep hoping the world will move in the direction that my daughter doesn’t have to worry about these issues.  I do hope the increasing outrage over these priorities will usher in a world, eventually, that doesn’t consider women and girls as second class citizens and a woman being punched so hard she is knocked out and dragged out of the lift will prompt a more swift and complete investigation than the one that happened for balls deflated.

In the meantime we just keep moving along.

This week I had some chorizo from the co-op.  I actually like chorizo very much but I made the mistake of getting the ones they make at the co-op.  I keep trying but they are either dry or mealy.  I think I need another source!  Shame really.

This is for two so double it for a family of four.

As always do the prep before you start cooking for this dish.  I chopped up half a cup of onion, a few cloves of garlic, and a few mushrooms.  Grate about 3/4 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and prepare two cups of vegetable bouillon.  Make sure it is hot before you cook.

Chorizo risotto 1 2015

Heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil and saute the onions until they are softened.  Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes.  While this is started begin to grill the sausages.  Don’t worry about cooking them all the way through as they will be finished off in the risotto but you do want to get a sear on the sausages.

Chirozo risotto 3 2015

After the garlic and mushrooms have cooked for a couple of minutes add 1/2 cup of arborio rice to the skillet.  Stir for a minute or so then add 1/2 a cup of a dark ale.  I used our Irish Red for this.

Chirozo risotto 2 2015

Bring to a simmer and add 1/2 cup of the broth at a time allowing it to absorb before adding more.  When it is halfway cooked slice the sausage and add it to the skillet.  For this dish I added some frozen corn for a pop of colour.

Chirozo risotto 4 2015

When the last bit of the bouillon is added add the cheese to melt in.

Chirozo risotto 5 2015Once the risotto is al dente it is ready to serve.

Chirozo risotto 6 2015Grate cheddar cheese over the dish and serve.  It’s a shame the sausages weren’t up to snuff as the rest of it was quite enjoyable with the cheddar and ale.  I’ll have to try again with different brands.