Spicy Summer Grilling

Unlike last year, we aren’t dealing with dusty drought conditions so our garden has taken off and going like gangbusters.  Except the parsnips.  We planted that twice and not a sausage.  Not one seed sprouted.  But given that this is the only failure we are in great shape for the most local shopping of all, just outside our door.

By the time autumn comes, I’ll be tired of salads but I do enjoy the quick summer meals with fresh veg.  For this meal I sautéed swiss chard from our garden in lemon juice and olive oil.  I also roasted potatoes as they needed to be used up.

I think one of my favourite ingredients is garlic.  And it works really well with spicy dishes.

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In a bowl big enough to hold the chicken thighs add about 1/3 cup of olive oil or peanut oil and a 1/4 cup of lemon juice.  Finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic and add to the bowl.  Here is where you get a bit free style.  Because everyone’s taste is different when it comes to spice you want to add sriracha sauce until you find the balance you want.  We like it spicy so I added a lot.  Make sure you do adjust the lemon juice as needed so you don’t drown out that flavour.

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Season the chicken with sea salt and pepper then add it to the marinade.

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The longer you marinade the stronger the flavour will be when cooked.  You can do this quickly but the flavour will be much more subtle.

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Grill on medium heat until the chicken is cooked through.  If it is a bone in chicken keep in mind that the meat will take longer to cook.

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This would work with any sautéed veg or a salad.  Thank goodness for the grill, I’d be lost without it!

The Sinfulness of Chocolate 

Chocolate is a veg, right?  I mean it starts as a plant so it should count as part of our five a day.  Just like wine is fruit because it comes from grapes.  Hands up from those that are with me on this.  Anyone?

Because I completely forgot to do a birthday cake for our daughter earlier in the year I decided to make up for it when we celebrated a bunch of family birthdays a few weeks ago.  You know, she never said a word.  Once the lightbulb went off I felt really guilty.  A familiar feeling, I’m sure, for many parents.  Our daughter is a massive fan of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate I decided to go for a chocolate cake with ganache and raspberries.  Unsurprisingly, she was on board with this idea.

After doing a bit of research online and realising the recipes are pretty basic, making me wonder why I haven’t made it before, I used this guide from Add a Pinch to create my dessert.  I also made a chocolate cake as a base for this.  The difference between the glaze and the filling are the ratio between the cream and chocolate.  This is not a low calorie treat!


I did the filling first.  In a saucepan, gently heat a 1 cup/8oz of heavy or double cream with 2 tablespoons/1oz of butter.  Don’t boil or scald but heat until the butter is melted.


In a large bowl add 2 cups/11oz of white chocolate.  Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and everything has blended together.  If you would like you can also add a couple of tablespoons of flavouring, I didn’t to this stage because of the other flavours that I was putting together.  


Chill until it has a thick spreadable consistency.  Spread on the first layer of the cake and add a layer of fresh raspberries.


For the glaze, redo the cream and butter.  Pour it over a cup/6oz of dark chocolate along with 2 tablespoons/1-2oz of spiced rum and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.  This will be very liquid so it will need to be chilled a bit so it doesn’t completely run off the cake when you pour it on.  


Top with more fresh raspberries and serve.  I have to say this was a hit.  This will definitely be made again!

Danish Comfort Food with Frikadeller

Our experience with our Danish exchange student is coming to an end, it went by too quickly, but overall it’s been a wonderful experience.  When she first arrived at our home I was more than ready to explore Danish food.  She is not a fan!  What?!?  But I had plans!  I wasn’t ready to give up.

I went through the various recipes I had pinned with her and chose to try Frikadeller which are Danish meatballs.  These can been eaten stand alone or as part of the Smørrebrød, which are open faced sandwiches.  This past weekend we had a large family get together and because of all the different dietary needs I thought it would be perfect to do a meal of Smørrebrød.  I originally made the meatballs at the beginning of her stay with us.  It was part of a light supper with BLTs and both “sandwiches” used romaine lettuce as the bread.

I found a recipe for Frikadeller on Dieplicious.com that our exchange student said was authentic.  These are very easy to put together though it is very different from most meatballs I’ve made.  It’s a very wet mixture.

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Use a large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon to blend everything together.  Start with a pound/500 grams of ground pork and 1 1/2 teaspoons of coarse sea salt.  The reason you need a large mixing bowl is the pork is very slippery and trying to get the salt well blended is tricky.  Because you are going to add milk the better blended the salt the better the milk will incorporate.

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Next add 3/4 cup/150 grams of onion, finely chopped.  Mix well.  Add the rest of the ingredients, which are 3/4 cup/85 grams of oats,  2 tablespoons of flour, 1 egg, not quite 3/4 cup/150 ml of milk.

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Season with fresh oregano and ground pepper.  This is a very sticky mixture but hand shape the meatballs in an egg shape.  To fry you can use oil or butter but because I had cooked up streaky bacon I chose to fry the meatballs in bacon fat.

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To serve I mixed up plain yoghurt with fresh oregano, sea salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Spread that on the lettuce, top with the meatballs and pickles.

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At dinner I was proud of myself for giving her a taste of home, then she mentioned each host family had chosen to do a version of Frikadeller for her.  So much for pride!  She did love my version and all of us really enjoyed this dish.  I think we will continue to make this.

Scallops in the Shell

Does anyone have the cure for jet lag?  As we get older it seems to keep a hold on us longer and longer.  It didn’t help we came back to dreary rain.  Good for the garden, not so good at getting us going!  I do hope it means our garden will do better than it did last year.  Last year was a very dusty growing season.

Being back in the UK was wonderful, we had incredible weather and did loads of walking.  We had to walk off all the lovely meals my mother-in-law cooked up!  Of course we like giving her a break from cooking, she runs a B & B so she welcomes the break!  Last year we did a curry night as my father-in-law is a big fan but my MIL isn’t so this time round we did a tapas night.  Which I love doing!  So off we went to the shops to get ingredients.

Aside from the usual dishes that are easy to throw together I found some scallops on the shell, which is near impossible to get stateside, never mind getting scallops with the coral still attached.  So I couldn’t pass this up.

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Heat up the broiler/griller to medium.  Season the scallops with sea salt and pepper, thyme, olive oil, and rosé wine.  I had some of the wine from our France trip and while it turns out it’s not a favourite of mine I knew it would work well with this dish.

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Broil/grill until the scallops are cooked.  Be careful not to overcook the scallops, you still want it tender.  This will only take a couple of minutes.

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Serve on the shell.  This is a fun and quick dish to make, I just wish I could get this round here! It was a great night with good food, good company, and good wine.

Caprese Stuffed Chicken

Battle with the garden has commenced.  We may be winning but I’m not sure yet.  I find it ironic that the stuff we don’t want growing in the garden are the toughest to get rid of.  They are tenacious.  Our grass never grows as well on the lawn as it does in the flower beds.

Some of it is our own doing and not understanding how invasive something can be.  A few years ago, because we like to brew beer, we planted hops.  One was very lackluster while the other is determined to take over the world.  The first season or so wasn’t too bad, the hop plant just grew like gangbusters.  Hops can grow a foot a day, which is crazy.   But last year the hops broke the lattice that sort of held them and crawled across the rest of the flower bed.  It wasn’t pretty.

This year we’re rethinking the hops.  Not to get rid of them but we definitely need to put them elsewhere.  In the meantime we are being brutal with them.  The root system snakes everywhere under the soil.  We were taken aback by the length and thickness of those suckers. They were like tree roots.  I have a feeling there will be more battles with the hops.

Along with the work in the garden that comes with the warmer weather, the lighter dinners start up again.  Which I am very ready for!

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Recently I thought it would be fun to do a pan seared caprese stuffed chicken over salad. In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Add about a cup of sliced sun dried tomatoes and cook on low to medium heat for a few minutes.  Finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic, depending on size, and add to the skillet.

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Saute for several minutes until the garlic is nearly cooked and then toss in a handful of shredded fresh basil and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.

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Slice 4 chicken breasts 3/4 the way through lengthwise.  Evenly distribute the caprese mix between the chicken breasts.  Season with sea salt and pepper and brown on both sides.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and add fresh mozzarella cheese inside the chicken and bake until the chicken is cooked through.

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Serve on top of a salad.  A dish light enough for the warm weather but gives you enough energy to conquer the garden.  Which we definitely need!

 

Catching Up With a Dublin Coddle

This a long over due post!  I cooked this meal for St Patrick’s Day weekend.  So yes, I’m behind in my posts.  Tax season is over once more and I’ve been doing a lot of catching up and getting things organised.  It was so nice to have time to be outside and see sunlight.  My office is windowless and joyless.

Since I last posted we’ve been enjoying hosting our exchange student from Denmark.  Who isn’t a fan of Danish food.  What are the chances!?  She loves Italian food but is willing to have me cook some Danish food here and there.  She also fits in at our house very well.  Very smart and a great sense of humour.  It’s turning out to be a fabulous experience for all of us.

Our student arrived on St Patrick’s Day weekend and I wanted share some of our traditions.  But I also needed something that was easy to put together because I was working 6 days a week.  The Dublin Coddle fit the bill.

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Of course I changed the way to do it a bit.  Mainly to make this even easier and quicker to make.  If you are inclined you can cook the bacon prior to assembling but it also works if you don’t.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C.

In an oven proof dish begin layering potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic, all thinly sliced.

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Then layer thinly sliced sausages and bacon.  I chose chorizo sausage for a bit of heat.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

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Repeat the layers.  Add beef or vegetable broth.  At this point you can have it more stew like or not.  I wanted it to have a more soup consistency so I added about 4 cups/32 oz of vegetable broth.

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Cover and bake until the vegetables soften.  Remove from the oven and grate fresh cheddar cheese over the dish.  Leave the cover off and bake until the top browns.Dublin coddle 5 2017

Of course I completely forgot to bake the soda bread to go with this.  Only remembered as I was serving the meal.  That would have been a nice pairing.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have a lot of blogs to catch up on.  🙂

 

 

Lemon and Garlic Chicken and the Importance of Having a Great Team

If you have the bad luck of falling and injuring yourself over the years more than once it is very important you don’t wait years to fix yourself.  If I could go back in time I would do so many things differently.  Aside from trying to avoid falling in the first place I would get help.

Which means finding a great team and I have been very lucky in that respect.  I have Pam, my exercise guru, who is very knowledgeable with body mechanics and takes the time to make sure those of us in her pilates and TRX aren’t doing nutty things with our alignment.   I have Christine, who is an amazing massage therapist that battles my knots and tension.  And Maria, my physical therapist, spent nearly two years helping me get strong and healed.  I just finished my last appointment with her and fingers crossed I don’t do anything stupid and lands me back in PT!

Of course I’m seriously grateful that my husband supported me through all this.  I really couldn’t have done it without him.  There have been some painful and tough times and he never wavered.  He’s my rock.

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For Christmas my dad found some really cool cookery books for us.  The one for my daughter is called “150 Mediterranean Recipes” by Jacqueline Clark & Joanna Farrow.  Loads of delicious recipes in the book and I chose to make the Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Garlic.   I mostly followed it so here is my version.

Prep the lemon by peeling it and then thinly slicing it.  Set aside.

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In a small saucepan bring to a simmer about 14oz of chicken stock.  Add 8-10 garlic cloves cut in half.  Simmer while you cook the chicken thighs.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet.

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Season 4 chicken thighs with sea salt and pepper and begin to brown the chicken.  While the chicken is cooking, preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

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Once browned, transfer to a baking dish.  Spoon out the garlic from the stock and add it to the baking dish along with the lemon slices.  Set aside.  Add 2 tablespoons of flour or corn flour to the skillet, use a whisk to scrape up the browned bits of the chicken.  Cook for a minute or so to cook the flour.  Then add 6oz of dry white wine.  Keep stirring constantly.  Pour in the stock.

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Stir until the sauce thickens.

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Add the sauce to the baking dish and bake until the chicken is cooked through.  Meanwhile cook up some rice pilaf.

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Once the chicken is cooked, top the rice with a chicken thigh and pour sauce over the dish. Add some fresh chopped parsley and voila!  Dinner is served.

I look forward to trying more recipes from the books we were given. 🙂

Lemon Leek Pork and Not So Sweet 16

Milestones are supposed to be fun and celebrated.  Our daughter turned 16 this past weekend and there were a few fun things planned.  Unfortunately the plague is still upon this household!  Poor thing woke up on her birthday with the stomach bug.  Day canceled!  Of all days.  We’ll have to do a proper celebration when we have them back again.

That is if it doesn’t keep going round this house.  I had it last week and now my poor husband is knocked down with it.  The puppies are keeping him company, too bad their licking isn’t the cure!

With all the germs, not a lot of cooking is going on so creating new dishes has been put on the back burner.

I did make this dish a few weeks ago on one of my few days off when I had some boneless pork ribs and leeks on hand.

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For this dish, I sliced the pork ribs lengthwise and browned them in butter in a large skillet.

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Once both sides have been browned remove the pork and cook off in the oven at 350F/175C to cook off.  Just make sure you don’t overcook the pork.  Chop about a cup and a half of oyster mushrooms (12oz) and saute them in the butter.  Cook until they start to brown.  As they brown add a few cloves of garlic that are finely chopped.

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Slice about half a cup/4oz of leeks and add to the skillet.  As that cooks add about two tablespoons of lemon juice.

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Next add 8-12 oz of cream and about 1/2 a cup/4oz of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Toss in cooked spaghetti and serve with the pork.

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It goes without saying this would be great with a nice white wine and some garlic bread.

Fingers crossed we can all get germ free and take our daughter out to celebrate.  🙂

Perfect Bread for Mini Sliders

We’ve all had days where we get to the end of it and wonder if the moon was out of alignment.  Yesterday was like that for me.  Lots of wacky stuff seemed to happen and it was highlighted by two encounters with two gentlemen around 80 years old.  Maybe highlighted is too positive a word.

It started just before work when I was dashing across the street to get breakfast and the first guy stopped his little transit van, rolled down the window, and yelled out that I was a beautiful lady.  Since he didn’t say I was a broad or chick or something I smiled and said thank you.  As I was waiting for the bagel I started texting my husband about it.  Then I looked up.  There was the guy, arms wide, beaming at me.  He calls across the store how beautiful I am.  Things are starting to get awkward.  But I figured be nice because maybe he’s not all there.  I smiled again and said thank you.  He took my hand and started kissing it.  Oh boy.  I wished him a nice day and headed out.  But he followed me.  Kept saying over and over I’m beautiful then he started saying he loves me.  Hell of a way to kill a compliment.  As I pulled out in my car I looked across the street and he was still there waving!  He literally parked his car and followed me into the store.

A few hours later I was up front at work and another guy comes in wanting to have a walk in appointment.  He looked at the photos on the wall. Now admittedly I have a photo up there that was done by a professional that is several years old.  It still looks like me though.  He declares he wants to sit with Virginia Payne.  Keep in mind I have a name tag on plus that is a picture of me.  I said that is me and unfortunately I don’t have time for a walk in.  He said that’s not you.  Yes it is.  Not it’s not, it doesn’t look anything like you.  Well thanks, I said.  Then he doubles down and said the photo looks better you should keep it.  What on earth?

And that was my day in a nutshell.

A few weeks ago we were having a potluck with friends and I made mini sliders with my pulled pork recipe.  My sister gave my husband a book for Christmas called “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”  I found this really intriguing.  How can you have decent bread?  The five minutes is a bit of a misnomer but not far off.  The cool thing about this book is that there are a lot of recipes that take minimal effort for decent results.  And if you are wary of trying to bake bread, this would be a good place to start.

I chose the master recipe for the boule.  In a clear container that has a lid add 680 grams of lukewarm water and 10 grams of yeast.

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Add 20 grams of kosher salt.  Then add 910 grams of all purpose flour.

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Mix the ingredients until the flour is completely incorporated.

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No kneading required!  Goes completely against everything I believe with bread making.  But I was trusting the recipe.  Cover loosely with the lid or with cling film.  Set it on the counter for a few hours to rise.  It needs to rise then begin to collapse.

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Pop it into the fridge at least 3 hours though you can have in the fridge overnight.  Preheat the oven to 450F/230C.  Shape the bread into balls about 2in/5cm in diameter.  The trick here is not to overwork the dough.  This takes 20 to 40 seconds. Snip a cross into the top and let rest 30-45 minutes.

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Because these are small rolls they only need to be baked 15-20 minutes.  When you put them into the oven add about a cup of ice to a cast iron container that is below the baking sheet.  This will add the steam necessary for a nice crust.

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Slice in half, add the pulled pork with shredded cheese and red onion that has been marinated in apple cider vinegar.  These are a little messy so not for dressy parties but for casual get togethers these are perfect.

 

Using the Carrot and Keeping Things Positive

Yesterday was a much needed day for so many people.  There has been so much rhetoric and hatred that seemed to have been winning out and leaving a lot of us feeling adrift and shocked.  But yesterday was an historic day.  It was a day that millions across the world stood up peacefully and said we don’t accept that.  The reports today are estimating that nearly 3 million in the US alone showed up which made it the most represented protest in US history.

I know it was called the Women’s March but it was inspiring to see that men and children joined in as well and that we are standing up together and rejecting the hate, rejecting the notion that we are going to be dragged backwards.  I’m afraid we will for awhile but I hope that we will not be silenced and we will fight to move our rights forward for all.

In our little town we had a turnout of about 500 people.  It was fabulous, though as I looked round you could see people of my parent’s generation and all I could think was that they must be so irritated they have to march for this again.  Signs around the world definitely bore this out.

Here are some of my photos of yesterday to share with you.

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I think if we can keep this positivity and using the carrot instead of the stick we can do so much.  Well, except voting.  That’s going to be a very big stick.

In the middle of tax season starting and standing up for ourselves I am finding time here and there to be creative in the kitchen.  Not as much as I’d like but it’s that time of the year!

We had great success with the carrots in the garden.  They came out massive but very sweet and tender.  There was the last large one to use up and because the kids love soup this time of the year I made a carrot ginger soup.  There are a lot of recipes out there with orange juice but that would that would make this soup super sweet so I went the savory route.

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In a saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Chop up about half a red onion.  You want to end up with a 1/2 cup/4oz or so.  Finely chop a couple of garlic cloves.  Begin to saute while you cube the carrot.  Obviously if you don’t have a massive carrot, cube 4-6 of them depending on size.  Add the carrot to the saucepan.

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Add enough chicken stock to cover the carrots and bring to a simmer. Grate fresh ginger into the pan. I did about an inch/2.5cm square. Then add a small handful of fresh tarragon.

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I seasoned this with sea salt and pepper.  I wanted a little kick to this so I added a bit of red pepper flakes.  Once the carrots are cooked through puree and add back onto the heat.  Add a cup of cream and slowing heat that through.

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Add a dollop of sour cream and enjoy with your favourite bread.

I sincerely hope that yesterday is the beginning of hope and positivity where we find our strength to stand up against the drumming of fear.