Sundried Tomato Risotto 7 2015

My Family Spoils Me with Amazing Food

Spoilt I tell you, spoilt.  Whenever I have a birthday or it’s a special holiday my family often creates lovely meals for me.  Several weeks ago I had my birthday and I was treated to a 3 course meal. Our son was up first with a fresh salad, my husband knocked it out of the park with an amazing sundried tomato risotto, and our daughter finished it off with her flourless chocolate torte.  And this is after our daughter started my day with breakfast in bed!  How lucky am I?

The other day I thought I would recreate the dish my husband made.  For the steak, I kept it simple.  While the risotto is cooking either pan sear it in butter or grill it.  All it needs for seasoning is sea salt and pepper.  This recipe is for two people.  Just double it for a family of four.

Sundried Tomato Risotto 1 2015I finely chopped half a red onion, several cloves of garlic, and a small handful of sundried tomatoes.  In a large skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil and saute the onions until they begin to soften.  Also prepare about 2 cups of vegetable bouillon in hot water.  Add the garlic and tomato to the skillet.

Sundried Tomato Risotto 2 2015After a few minutes add 1/3 cup dry white wine and 1/2 cup of risotto.  Cook for a minute or so.

Sundried Tomato Risotto 3 2015Add the bouillon 1/2 cup at a time. Bring to a simmer.  While this is simmering grate 3/4 cup of fresh parmesan and asiago cheese.  Set aside.

Sundried Tomato Risotto 4 2015When the risotto is about 3/4 the way cooked add the cheese and any bouillon left.  Continue to simmer until the risotto is cooked, keeping in mind it should be a bit al dente.  At this time cook the asparagus for the side.  I just quickly simmer them in water for a couple of minutes.  They should still be firm.

Sundried Tomato Risotto 7 2015I have to say this is my new favourite risotto, my husband really had a fabulous idea!  I could just eat bowlfuls of this.  :)

Black Garlic Sauce by Our Growing Paynes

Black Garlic and the Craziness Quiets Down

I feel like school is out for summer.  It was a long tax season inside and outside of the office.  But hey the 15th of April comes around the same time every year so I knew I’d be able to breath soon.  A woman I do Zumba with asked if I’ve been cooking up a storm.  I wish!  Well, it’s not that I haven’t been cooking and things but there just wasn’t time to actually blog about it.

I did this dish a few weeks ago.  My husband found black garlic and thought I’d have fun trying it out.

Black garlic sauce 1 2015It’s an interesting ingredient that has been fermented.  The flavour that comes through is balsamic vinegar, so much so I double checked the container wondering if anything was added.  But no that is what comes out with the fermentation.

In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add the chopped garlic.  For this dish I used two small bulbs.

Black garlic sauce 2 2015You want to cook the garlic on low to medium heat and let the flavour infuse into the oil.  After a few minutes add about 14 oz of diced tomatoes.

Black garlic sauce 3 2015While the sauce is cooking prepare the pasta of your choice.  Add it to the sauce.  Add a handful of fresh basil to the sauce.

Black garlic sauce 4 2015Serve with parmesan or asiago cheese grated over the dish.

Black garlic sauce 5 2015This simple dish has an amazing amount of flavour.  I have one more bulb of the garlic to use, oh the possibilities!

Now it’s time to catch up with all the blogs and get back into creating again.  :)

Quick Chicken Curry from Our Growing Paynes

Quick Chicken Curry

When you have to do a quick dinner be careful asking your kids what they want.  You may be tossed into the deep end!  Thursday was one of the those nights as our daughter had another concert for school.  It was also my day off so it was grocery day and I usually bring the kids with me to get their input.  Which is a safe thing because they don’t pick junk stuff.

So I asked what they would like this time.  My son piped up with Curry!  Because, you know, it’s a quick and easy dish to make.  His words.  But I do like a good curry.

And the co-op had fresh turmeric.

Chicken Curry 2 2015A sign, obviously.  What I didn’t count on was how yellow my fingers would be stained for a few days.  Very bright!

In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil and saute chopped onion and chicken until the onions have softened.  Then add a few cloves of garlic chopped.

Chicken Curry 1 2015Add a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, chopped bell pepper, and mushrooms.  Bring to a simmer. Add a few spoonfuls of red curry paste.  Grate about an inch square of fresh turmeric and the same amount of fresh ginger into the curry.

Chicken Curry 3 2015After letting the curry simmer for awhile adjust the curry seasoning to your taste.  Then add about a 1/3 of a cup of coconut milk, a splash of lime juice, and some fresh cilantro.

Chicken Curry 4 2015Serve with rice of your choice.  I’m glad our son suggested curry for dinner.  It hit the spot.  :)

Chicken Curry 5 2015And thank you to those that gave me some tips on how to handle the photo size in the posts.  I think I’ve figured it out now. Of course, it’s a hassle!  Ah well, what can you do?

Pollo a La Espanola

Pollo a La Española

If you are a parent you know watching your kids grow is fascinating, sometimes frustrating, and most of the time a wonderful thing to watch.  You also know it isn’t a continuous curve of growth.  They’ll tick a long and suddenly there is a leap forward.

Our daughter tried out for the Honors Band for our state.  They pick the best 8th graders to participate.  Last week they had the day of rehearsal and they practice all day long before the concert.  A lot of hard work went into the pieces they performed and I was blown away at how well they did.  The music was very technical and sounded excellent.  I was sitting there thinking how far she has come in just a few years.  She is really coming into her own on so many levels.  It is a joy to watch.

Our son has been making leaps of his own.  We had a great parent teacher conference last week.  He’s seeing the result of hard work in his report card and his teacher is encouraging him to speak up for the class.  Apparently a student at school was wiping the white board and posters have gone missing.  So the principal made an announcement to the whole school that the 5th grade can no longer move about the school without a teacher.  My son thought this terribly unfair so his teacher is encouraging him to meet with the principal to discuss this. What a great opportunity!  His teacher said to us that he was confused about the way the issue has been handled so we are all curious what the answers are going to be.

On to the food!  :)

I bought some chicken thighs to do a Spanish dish called Pollo a La Española that I found in a cookbook I found at our library sale.  It’s called The Complete Spanish Cookbook by Pepita Aris.

It’s a mild but flavourful dish and relatively easy to make during the week when it is hectic.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

In a large skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Rub paprika on all sides of the chicken thighs and season with salt and pepper.  Pan fry both sides to brown.

Pollo a La Espanola 1 2015

Place in the oven to finish cooking.  In the skillet add about 3/4 cup of finely chopped onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped, and a 1/2 cup of pancetta.  I use uncured pancetta and sometimes it doesn’t have the full saltiness.  Just something to keep in mind when adjusting the seasoning.

Polo a La Espanola 2 2015

Cook until the onions soften then add a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes and a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  I added this because we didn’t have any parsley like the recipe called for.

Pollo a La Espanola 3 2015

Stir and bring to a simmer.  Add about a cup of chopped bell peppers.  I love how colourful this dish is.

Pollo a La Espanola 4 2015

Adjust the seasoning with paprika and the salt and pepper.

Pollo a La Espanola 5 2015

Serve with rice of your choice and enjoy!

On a side note, it seems I can no longer do my posts in the classic mode.  Not thrilled with that and I’ve noticed that pictures I post are showing as smaller than they showed before.  The files sizes are the same as before.  Any idea on how to fix that?

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.

Asian meatballs 6 2015

Asian Meatballs and the Education System

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asian meatballs 1 2015

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

Asian meatballs 3 2015

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

Asian meatballs 4 2015

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

Asian meatballs 5 2015

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

Asian meatballs 6 2015

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

Lamb with prosciutto sauce 4 2015

Lamb with Prosciutto Mushroom Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Bacon cheese muffins 8 2015

Bacon Cheese and Chive Muffins

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

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

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

Bacon cheese muffins 1 2015

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

Bacon cheese muffins 2 2015

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

Bacon cheese muffins 3 2015

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

Bacon cheese muffins 4 2015

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

Bacon cheese muffins 5 2015

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

Bacon cheese muffins 6 2015

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

Bacon cheese muffins 7 2015

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

Bacon cheese muffins 8 2015

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

Loaded potato soup 5 2015

Loaded Baked Potato Soup to Keep Us Cosy

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

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

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

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.

 

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.

Maple miso stir fry 1 2015

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

Maple miso stir fry 2 2015

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

Maple miso stir fry 3 2015

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

Maple miso stir fry 4 2014

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

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

Maple miso stir fry 6 2015

Serve with rice noodles and chopped peanuts.

Maple miso stir fry 7 2015

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