Quinoa aubergine 6 2016

Aubergine Quinoa and Any Time is a Good Time for a Clear Out

Every year we try to accomplish something with the house.  Some years are more successful than others of course depending on what we have going on or how expensive the next set of projects are.  This year we finished our closet and redid our son’s bedroom floor.  But the big thing done is we did a massive clear out of the carriage house and the house itself.

I am convinced stuff multiplies.  How else do we explain filling a 20 yard skip?  Granted a lot of it was from the carriage house and old odds and sods left over from previous owners, the debris from our projects, that sort of thing.  But it feels so good doing some serious organisation, rediscover what we have, and do some major recycling.  We do try to fix, upcycle, and recycle before the last resort of throwing out.  Plus we have loads of stuff for the Girl Scouts fundraising yard sale.  It’s taken us all summer but it’s a big project to cross of the never ending list.

We’re starting to get some result from our garden.  Of course it comes all at once!  Our aubergine and tomatoes are coming in fast so it’s on to preserving and eating so none of it goes to waste.  The aubergine we decided to grow this year is called fingerling, I believe, and they are small diameter and about 8in/20cm long.  Perfect size for a small family.

Quinoa aubergine 1 2016

I wanted to make roasted aubergine and roasted tomatoes with quinoa for dinner.  The longest bit of this dinner is the roasting, everything else comes together quite quickly.

Quinoa aubergine 2 2016

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  Slice the aubergine and tomatoes and place them in a single layer into the baking dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Roast until the veg is cooked through and begins to brown.  While this is roasting cut up some chicken and begin to brown with olive oil in a skillet.  Add about half a cup of chopped red onion and a few cloves of chopped garlic.

Quinoa aubergine 3 2016

Cook the quinoa according to directions.  It only takes about 15 minutes to cook so plan accordingly.  Once the tomatoes and aubergine are done remove from the oven.

Quinoa aubergine 4 2016

Slice up the aubergine and add the veg to the skillet with the chicken.  Add 1/2 a cup of chicken stock and about 1/4 cup of white wine.  I chopped up a small handful of fresh oregano from our garden.

Quinoa aubergine 5 2016

Add the quinoa and about 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan.  Stir well and serve.

Quinoa aubergine 6 2016

Top with more parmesan and enjoy!  This is quite filling without being heavy and perfect to throw together after a day of projects.

Jumper 2 2016

Jumper of Love

Those of you who read my blog know I have a huge amount of love for my husband.  I couldn’t have found a better guy.  And trust me, before I met him, I was looking!  But I was lucky to finally find him.  Several years ago I finished an Aran jumper for my mum and he asked if I would knit him one.  Of course I would!  I was thrilled he liked my knitting enough to want one.  What I didn’t realise was how freaking long it would take to complete this.

One of the problems I was having was with my hands.  It would be very painful if I did more than a few rows at a time.  Being a slow knitter this  was taking several years.  What I learned after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia was one of the symptoms is very painful hands.  I knew I had arthritis and just thought it was that.  But the meds I started this year, while not perfect, do make it easier for me to knit longer and faster.  There has to be some perks right?  So it took me several years to do just under 2/3s of this project and this summer to do the rest.

Jumper 1 2016

The Aran jumper had moss stitch, basket cable, banded cable, and the six knot cable (pictured above).  So I had a legal pad to keep track of all the rows and various patterns.  I always stress about this and like most of my complicated projects there are a few errors here and there but I’ve gotten to the point where I consider them my signature if you happen to notice them.  I’m not pointing them out!

Jumper 2 2016

I spent most of today sewing the seams and weaving in all the ends.  I can’t wait for my husband to get home and try this on.  Fingers crossed it fits!  And he’ll be doing this in front of the air conditioner as it is very toasty today.  :)

Chili bowl 6 2016

Chili Mushroom Bowls

And just like that summer is over, at least for the kids.  Off to school they went yesterday.  Summer seemed like a blur for all of us.  I am ready for autumn to arrive.  I am ready to say goodbye to the humidity and heat, which has been pretty bad this year.  Bring on the crisp days!

When I was food shopping with my daughter we found large portobello caps that looked like bowls.  Which gave me a fun idea.  Instead of bread bowls, why not mushroom bowls?

Chili bowl 1 2016

To fill the bowls I made a quick chili.  Normally you cook chili over a few hours but as this doesn’t have beans, this can be made in less than a half hour.  In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or two of olive oil and begin to saute a half pound of ground beef.

Chili bowl 2 2016

Chop about half a cup of red onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add that to the skillet.

Chili bowl 3 2016

After the onion starts to soften add a can of diced tomatoes (14oz) and bring to a simmer.  Begin to season with chili powder, cumin, and sea salt and pepper.  The beauty of this dish is you decide how much seasoning to put in.  Some like it hot and some don’t.  I would say the ratio of the chili powder to the cumin should be about 4:1.  As we like it hot I added a dollop of hot sauce that I made along with chopped bell pepper.

Chili bowl 4 2016

Mix well and cook the peppers for a few minutes.  Pre heat the oven to 400F/200C.  Fill the mushrooms with the chili mixture.

Chili bowl 5 2016

Top with shredded cheese and bake until the mushrooms are cooked.  You don’t want to cook the mushrooms so much that they collapse.

Chili bowl 6 2016

Top with sour cream and enjoy!  This is a very easy meal to through together on a weeknight.  And it’s a fun twist on the whole food for a bowl thing.

 

Chicken crostini 6 2016

Leftover Chicken Makes a Great Crostini

When the kids came back from Florida I did up a roast chicken dinner.  I chose that because it’s a special dinner and I need the bones to make homemade stock.  I had the bad luck of picking one of the hottest days of the year so far with about 95% humidity.  The A/Cs were working overtime and not necessarily winning.

The kids enjoyed the dinner but of course we have a ton of chicken left over.  I’ll freeze some for soup later in the cooler months but I was in the mood to make crostinis for my husband and me as a light meal.  I made three toppings.  A quick one with heirloom tomatoes, red onions, and a vinaigrette to keep things nice and bright.  I also made one of our favorites, Buttery Mushrooms, that I could just eat bowls of.  For the third I did up a chicken with sundries tomatoes.

Chicken crostini 1 2016

Heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a skillet and add a handful of chopped sun dried tomatoes.  Cook low and slow for several minutes to make sure the sun dried tomatoes soften up.

Chicken crostini 2 2016

Next I sliced up about a 1/4 cup of red onion.  Add it to the skillet and allow the onions become translucent.

Chicken crostini 3 2016

Cut up about a cup of the roasted chicken.  Add that with a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme and a splash of lemon juice.

Chicken crostini 4 2016

Cook until the chicken is warmed through.

Chicken crostini 5 2016

For the bread we used the boule my husband makes which is absolutely fantastic.  I sliced and buttered it before toasting.

Chicken crostini 6 2016

Obviously this would great with a lovely bottle of wine.  But I was in the mood for a dirty martini and I have to say that worked well.  Olives go well with crostini.  :)

Peanut chicken 8 2016

“Anybody Got a Peanut….” Chicken

Who doesn’t love a good classic?  My family loves The Princess Bride.  Though I’m not sure I’m ok with a movie I grew up with being called a classic.  To me those are the black and white films from another era.  I know it’s denial!  But I’m sticking with it.

It’s a film that we love to watch with popcorn reciting the quotes as they come up in the film.  Well to be honest we throw out the quotes even if we aren’t watching the film.  Get to the food you say?  “As you wish….”

Because it’s just been my husband and I for the past month (our kids come back tonight!) we had two chicken thighs left over from the four pack that needed to be used.

Peanut chicken 1 2016

I wanted to go with Asian flavours for this dish.  Prep the marinade for the chicken thighs first.  In a bowl whisk peanut oil and soy sauce (we use gluten free amino acids) in a ratio of 3:1.  Finely chop a clove of garlic, some scallion, and grate about a teaspoon of fresh ginger.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Mix well and coat the two chicken thighs.

Peanut chicken 2 2016

Set aside for at least a half an hour.  While you make the sauce, cook the rice noodles to the package instruction and grill the chicken.  In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil.  Chop 3-4 cloves of garlic and saute them on medium heat.  You don’t want to brown the garlic.

Peanut chicken 3 2016

After a few minutes add about half a cup of chopped scallion.

Peanut chicken 4 2016

Add the leftover marinade from the chicken and 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce.  Bring to a simmer and add a tablespoon or two of lime juice.  Stir in a large spoonful of peanut butter.  I chose chunky to save me a step of chopping up peanuts.

Peanut chicken 5 2016

Add more peanut butter as needed to get the right the balance between the sweetness of the peanut butter and saltiness of the soy sauce.

Peanut chicken 6 2016

When the chicken is nearly done add about a cup of chopped red bell pepper.

Peanut chicken 7 2016

Add the rice noodles with 1/2 a cup of the hot water the noodles were cooked in to thin out the sauce.  Toss to coat.

Peanut chicken 8 2016

Top with the chicken and serve as soon as possible.

I have to say even though our food bill was much lower with the kids off on their adventures I am so excited they will be home.  With huge appetites and all.  :)

 

Orzo lemon chicken 6 2016

Orzo with Lemon Chicken and New Tools

Some learning curves can be exciting.  Some not so much, like my learning curve with statistics in college.  Loved the subject but come test time it was always like I’d never been to class.  Never got far on that curve, bell or no bell.  But now I’m liking my learning curve.  Because there are a few projects I want to do, such as start a YouTube channel, and I was in the weeds with Unix, much to my chagrin, I needed tools that I could make headway on my own.  I.e not bugging my husband/IT guy all the time.  He has always been good about helping me but I hate not knowing how to do something!

So I am now a proud new owner of an iMac.  And I’m loving my new setup.  One, I can find and set up software I need, that is a big step in getting things done.  Though if it heads into Unix territory like GIMP then I have to ask for help there but for the most part it’s been good.  And it’s pretty easy to get an apple person on the phone if need be.  I’m quickly collecting senior tech phone numbers.

I do like the iMovie on the desktop, much easier than the iPad.  So watch this space as they say, I hope to have something soon.  The big thing I need to figure out is the uncopyrighted music so I don’t get slapped by YouTube.

Going through our cupboards I realised we had orzo still so I thought it would be nice with lemon, yoghurt, and oregano. Orzo lemon chicken 1 2016

I also wanted to grill up some chicken thighs.  Prep these ahead of time with a marinade.  With a ratio of 2:1 mix olive oil and lemon juice together.  Season with sea salt and pepper. Finely chop a couple of garlic cloves and a small handful of fresh oregano.  Mix well and coat two chicken thighs.

Orzo lemon chicken 2 2016

Set aside for about an hour.  In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and start softening about half a cup of chopped red onion.  Once the onion starts to become translucent add 3-5 cloves (depending on size) of garlic, chopped.

Orzo lemon chicken 3 2016

At this point start grilling the chicken on medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 2 cups of chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a medium simmer.  It’s important to stir frequently as orzo has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the skillet.  Add more liquid as necessary because you want to make sure there is enough for the sauce.

Orzo lemon chicken 4 2016

When the orzo is half cooked add a few sliced mushrooms and another small handful of oregano, chopped.  Stir well.  Near the end of cooking add a third of a cup of plain yoghurt and about a cup of chopped red bell pepper.  This gives the dish a nice pop of colour.

Orzo lemon chicken 5 2016

Serve once the chicken is cooked.

Orzo lemon chicken 6 2016

The flavours of this dish are very bright with the yoghurt and lemon.  It’s a great dish if you are getting tired of salads!

Quinoa 5 2016

Grilled Pork, Quinoa, and Eddie Izzard

Sometimes it’s good to be lucky.  I was scrolling through Facebook, as you do, and saw something about Eddie Izzard coming to New Hampshire.  I thought I wasn’t reading that right as why would someone who did Wembley do a small theatre?  But lo and behold, it was true!  And it was brilliant.

He has always done really funny stuff but he has definitely progressed into a much more thoughtful dialog while using history to illustrate his point.  In a hilarious way of course but he got his view across.  And he did Q & A afterwards.  It was a fabulous evening.  My favourite quote was “I believe in human beings”.  What a lovely sentiment.

I did find time to cook this weekend.  When I went food shopping I found some quinoa on sale (who doesn’t like a sale?) and bok choi.  I also found some pork ribs which would go great with homemade mustard.  I recently made some without the chili so it would go well with this dish.

Quinoa 1 2016

The quinoa itself is really easy to make, only takes about 15 minutes.  Make it according to the package.  Thinly spread mustard on both sides of the pork ribs.  You don’t want it too thick otherwise it can overwhelm the dish.  If you think it will you can always mix the mustard with some olive oil and white wine vinegar. Set the pork aside. In a skillet, heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil and add a few mushrooms that have been chopped and a couple of garlic cloves that have been finely chopped.  Add some fresh thyme and season with sea salt and pepper.

Quinoa 2 2016

Once the mushrooms start browning add a quarter cup of dry sherry and half a cup of chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer.

Quinoa 3 2016

Chop up the stems of the bok choi and add it to the skillet.  Add the quinoa.  Allow the stems to cook for a minute or so.  Then add the leaves.

Quinoa 5 2016

Top with the grilled pork and enjoy.  There were enough leftovers that I changed it up with bacon, sausage, and white wine.  Quinoa can be surprisingly versatile.

Italian salad 5 2016

Italian Salad and Being Exercised by the House

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

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

Italian salad 1 2016

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

Italian salad 2 2016

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

Italian salad 3 2016

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

Italian salad 4 2016

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

Italian salad 5 2016

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

Shortbread 5 2016

Shortbread for Not so Short

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

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

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

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

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

Shortbread 2 2016

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

Shortbread 3 2016

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

Shortbread 4 2016

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

Shortbread 5 2016

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

Rhubarb ginger jam 3 2016

Rhubarb Ginger Jam

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

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

Rhubarb ginger jam 1 2016

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

Rhubarb ginger jam 2 2016

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

Rhubarb ginger jam 3 2016

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