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.

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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!

 

New Years Eve 1 2014

Let’s Be Radical and Say Down With Resolutions!

New Years Eve 1 2014

Ah the time of year where resolutions fly willy nilly dooming their proclaimers to failure.  I used to be a big fan of resolutions.  It’s a rookie mistake and after a few years (ok several) I realised I was following the definition of insanity.  If you keep doing the same thing expecting different results….

I suppose, as I get older (not old), I’m less worried about what needs to be fixed.  And I am lucky as there isn’t much to fix.  It’s been another wonderful year with my husband and kids.  They are healthy, happy, and doing well.  What more could I wish for?

Hopefully 2015 will be just as good.  I do know one thing for certain.  I won’t make the year without my daughter passing me in height and my son is hot on her heels!  I’m destined to be the short one in the family.  :)

I wish everyone a very happy and healthy 2015.  And cheers to a fun night tonight!

Garlic chicken 6 2014

Bring on the Garlic, Thai Style

I love garlic!  Any dish that calls for a lot of garlic is ok by me.  Just make sure your date eats it too otherwise you are out of luck.  :)

My lovely husband bought me “The Complete Asian Cookbook – Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & Burma” by Charmaine Solomon.  There are some amazing recipes in this book but the tricky bit is finding ingredients for some of them.  I have absolutely no idea where to find galangal, couldn’t find tamarind in any store, but I won’t be deterred!  No sir.  That’s what the internet is for.  In the meantime I’ll either adjust where I can or use the recipes in the book that have easy to find ingredients.

And we can get garlic so that was our first choice to try.  I’ve bookmarked several I can’t wait to try but this is our starting point.  It is called Kai Yang or Garlic Chicken.

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I adjusted the recipe to make two portions rather than the 4-5 it mentioned.  I didn’t back off the amount of garlic though.  :)

In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken add 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarsely ground black pepper, 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, 1 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice, and a teaspoon of chilli powder.  Mix well.

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I chose to use chicken thighs, bone in, for this dish.  Add the chicken to the bowl and make sure the chicken is coated with the garlic mixture.

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Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour.

When it is time to cook the meal preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  The book said to serve with rice and fresh tomato sprinkled with chilli powder.  I wasn’t in the mood for rice so I prepped sweet potato seasoned with the chilli powder and roasted it.  I also thought bok choi would be a great base to the chicken.

When the oven is ready roast the chicken, turning it every 5-10 minutes until it is cooked.  Take the rest of the garlic mixture that was left in the bowl and heat it up in a skillet with some olive oil.  Saute the bok choi as you take out the chicken.  You don’t want to cook the bok choi too much.

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Slice a fresh tomato and season with chilli powder and a bit of sea salt.  This was a new idea for me and I love it.  I’ll be having fresh tomatoes out of the garden this summer with this.  Fabulous!

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I loved this dish.  I was worried that it would be too strong with the pepper and garlic but it really worked.  I already have a few recipes from the book lined up to try.  :)

Photo light box 10 2014

Oooh I Got a Photo Light Box for Christmas!

On my Christmas list was a tripod for my camera because once winter comes and the dark night starts way too early my photos start getting bad.  I’m faced with countless photos ranging from way out of focus to just on the shaky side and I’m stuck trying to pick the best ones.  Forget natural light because it’s dark by then.  I did have one person say just turn out the lights you’ll be fine.  It was dark.

My lovely husband went a step further and bought me a light box kit!

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I was so excited to try this out and got the chance to yesterday.  My goal is to improve my photography skills so I can hold my own with Roger at Food, Photography, & France and Stefan at My French Heaven.  Their styles are what is in my head when I envision what I want my photos to look like.  My plan, once the tree is removed is to set up a mini photo studio in the round part of the parlor so when the natural light is available I can use it and when it’s not the box will be set up.  For the photos I took, the light is as it is shown above.

I took a few pictures in the window as finally we saw some sun!  The first one is in direct sun which can be very harsh but works for some things and the second in indirect light for comparison.

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With experimenting I found it to be very interesting.  One, because I’ve never actually taken a course, I have a steep learning curve.  Not surprisingly my best photos are outside where it is hard to screw up nature.  Right now using automatic settings worked best.

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But I played around the manual settings to see what happened.  I find I need to be more patient as the longer exposures came out blurry.  Turns out I’d set it up and click the remote without letting the camera stop moving.  I may have to get a sturdier tripod but I want to see if I can make this one work first because it is a good size.  So many photos were deleted in this experiment!  One thing that threw me was that on the manual settings the crystal was showing up yellow.

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So with a bit more mucking about I found in the white balance menu a tungsten choice.  I clicked that and the yellow went away.

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Obviously it is high time I downloaded the manual, ahem.  :)  Just playing with it a bit yesterday showed me that this kit will be a huge help to me and I can’t wait work on the set ups for the photos for my posts.  Now perhaps I can translate what is in my head to the camera!

Christmas 2014 1 2014

Christmas Traditions As The Kids Grow

It’s official, our kids have aged out of believing in Santa.  I have mixed feelings about that.  On the one hand I’ll miss them wanting to put out carrots for the reindeer, cookies and milk for Santa, and glitter to guide in the reindeer.  But then again we have a closet full of secret Santa paper that we’ve kept hidden.  We would wrap our son’s gifts in different paper from our daughter’s so no handwriting would be on the gifts to give away the magic.  That’s how I figured it out when I was a kid!

Because my husband had to travel half this month we got our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving which is really early for us but we lucked out with amazing weather.  We go to a local farm where they have horse drawn carriages and pick out a tree.  Afterwards we have free homemade donuts and hot chocolate.

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I had a Griswold moment as we were picking out a tree.  As we found one I saw across the way The Tree.  I told the family to stay put, to hedge our bets, and took off running.  Now I don’t run.  There was a foot of snow and I’m in my winter boots huffing and puffing going as fast as I could.  Which isn’t very fast.  I got passed by the guy with a saw and a dolled up woman who laid claim to the tree.  I did a “Noooo!” and fell to my knees gasping.  The nice man said to me but there is another one right over there.  Before I could raise my hand and say “Yes!” the woman whipped round and claimed that one too.  I nearly did a faceplant in the snow.  So I trudged back to the family and claimed the one we hedged our bets with.  Actually it’s a gorgeous tree, just a bare spot in the back but we put that against the wall.  :)

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We do have fun decorating the tree with our favourite ornaments and Christmas music is put on.  Guinness could care less but Murphy is always willing to be in the way.  He generally curls up right at the tree looking up to see what we are doing.

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I was way behind with things this month.  I only made the Christmas cake two Sundays ago!  The recipe is here part 1 and part 2.  I thought, because we are obviously not having a white Christmas, it would be fun to decorate the cake with the three stages of the snowman.  I had in my head how I wanted to do the snowman and knew I had to head to the local candy shop.  And right there were snowman done out of marshmallow!  Perfect so I was able to recreate using what they did.

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Today we’ll be playing games and watching Christmas movies in our PJs.  After we bake mince meat pies and sticky buns for tomorrow’s breakfast.  And it’s tradition to order Chinese food for dinner tonight.  We eat it next to the tree with the fire going.  And can’t forget the Christmas crackers!

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Guinness and Murphy are taken care of with big bones for them to entertain themselves with.  :)

For those that celebrate Christmas, have a very Happy Christmas.  May it be safe and fun.  :)