Recipes that are delicious and that always work!

You know these recipes are delicious because if I didn't think that they were fabulous . . . I wouldn't be showing them to you. You can also be sure that these recipes work for the same reason! The rest is simply a matter of taste.
"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon, the two most beautiful words in the English language"
~Henry James

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Crispy Chicken Salad with a Blueberry Vinaigrette

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You remember those delicious crispy fried chicken breasts I showed you yesterday?   Well I hope you cooked extras because today I am going to show you something delicious to do with the leftovers!  I told you I always cook extras and today and tomorrow I am going to show you just why I do that!  

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This is a delicious salad with crisp fresh salad greens . . .  I used baby rocket (arugula), baby gems and baby spinach . . .  crisp French radishes, fresh cucumbers from the garden,  crispy salad onions, toasted pecans, and crumbled feta cheese . . .  and yes, fresh sweet blueberries that are coming into season now!

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You top all of that with some sliced crispy chicken . . .  of course you can use frozen crispy chicken that you buy at the shops, but I am really hoping you have saved some from yesterday because that's the best.  But that's not all . . .  I have created a delicious blueberry dressing to drizzle over the salad . . . 

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Sweet and tangy with a bit of heat from the Dijon mustard, it goes so well with all of the elements of this salad.  The sweet berries . . .   bitter greens . . .  hot little radishes . . . the salty creaminess of  feta cheese  . . . those crunchy toasty roasted pecans . . .  crisp fried  chicken chunks  . . . the bland almost melon-like coolness of those crisp edged cucumbers.  

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There is nothing about this salad that isn't pleasing.   Easy and quick to make.   Pretty to look at with all of those colours and textures . . .  delicious to eat.  Plus the added bonus of being a tasty way to use up leftovers.  And pretty darned healthy if I don't say so myself.  
BON APPETITE!  (As Julia would say!)

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*Crispy Chicken Salad with a Blueberry Vinaigrette*
Serves 4
You can either make your own breaded chicken breasts for this or use frozen breaded chicken breasts that you cook at home from frozen.  Either way it is delicious.   

3 cooked breaded chicken breasts, cut into slices crosswise
4 cups of mixed salad greens
1/3 of an English Cucumber, sliced into half moons (peeled or not as you wish)
and handful of radishes, trimmed and quartered
60g of toasted pecans, broken (1/2 cup)
1 small punnet of fresh blueberries (1 cup)
115g of feta cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
a couple of tablespoons of crispy salad onions (like the durkee's)  

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For the dressing:
2 heaped dessert spoons of wild blueberry preserves (1/4 cup)
60ml of white balsamic vinegar (1/4 cup)
60ml of extra virgin olive oil (1/4 cup)
1 TBS Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste  

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Whisk all of the salad dressing ingredients together to combine.   Set aside.  

Place your salad greens into a shallow salad bowl.  Add the cucumber, radishes and blueberries, toss to combine.   Top with the toasted nuts, the chicken, the onions and the feta cheese.   Drizzle with the dressing and toss together to combine.  Serve immediately.

Alternately the ingredients can be layered into individual salad bowls and the dressing passed at the table.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Crispy Chicken with Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

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We're having a heat wave.  Normally I would like to be cooking on the barbeque, but the Toddster doesn't really "get" barbequing, and I am afraid of the barbeque.  (gas)  One of these days we will make it pay for itself, but until then I am trying my best to stay as cool as I can in the house and wishing we could barbeque.  I shall just have to overcome my fears and get with the program!

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This chicken dish is easy and quick and quite delicious.   You get perfectly moist breast meat, with a crisp and light crust . . .  and that sauce is phenomenal!  Simple to make too.

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If you can measure and stir, you can make that sauce.  It's simply apricot jam, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar and worcestershire sauce . . .  all whisked together and it is delicious.    Very very delicious.

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It makes for a quick and delicious mid week supper, served with some salad or stir fried veggies, perhaps some rice.  Why go out for something like this, when it is so easy to make at home?  

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*Crispy Chicken with Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce*
Serves 4

Panko bread crumbs work the nicest with this, although you can use ordinary dried bread crumbs.  You can find Panko bread crumbs in the oriental food section of the shops.

for the sauce:
235g of apricot preserves (3/4 cup)
3 TBS soy sauce
3 TBS tomato ketchup
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to an even thickness
salt and freshly ground black pepper
45g plain flour (1/4 cup)
2 medium free range eggs
125g of Japanese Panko, or other fine dried bread crumbs (1 1/3 cups)
60ml of vegetable oil for frying (1/4 cup)

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To make the dipping sauce, whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl.  Divide it between 4 small dipping bowls or ramekins.  Set aside.

Season the pounded chicken breasts with some salt and pepper.   Place the flour on a plate.  Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl.   Place the Panko into another shallow bowl.  One at a time, dredge the chicken breasts into first the flour, then the eggs, and finally the Panko, coating them evenly and pressing the crumbs on to adhere.  Set aside on a lined baking sheet while you heat the oil.

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Heat the oil in a large frying pan until very hot, but not smoking.   Add the chicken breasts and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook, turning once, until the crumbs are golden brown and the chicken feels firm when pressed in the centers, about four minutes per side.   Adjust the heat as needed so that the crumbs don't burn.  Transfer to a cutting board.

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Slice each breast across the grain into wide strips.  Slide a knife under the strips and transfer to warm serving plates.  Serve immediately along with the dipping sauce.

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I always, ALWAYS cook extra pieces of chicken when I do this.   You can freeze them, or keep them in the fridge ready to use for other things.  Tune back in tomorrow to see what I did with the leftovers! 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Superfoods Salad

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I contend that there is no such thing as a boring salad.   When we were first married Todd would moan when I would say that I had made a salad. He soon learned that my salads were nothing to turn your nose up at and more than a little bit interesting!

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I like to call this salad Superfoods Salad because it includes some of what are considered to be superfoods, ie.  foods that are really good for you . . .  like nuts, blueberries, grains,  greens, olive oil and citrus fruit . . . there's some cheese as well, but we won't talk about that. It is a hard cheese, so no worries, not a lot of fat in it.

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I used baby rocket for the greens today, but you could use kale or spinach or a mixture of greens.   Just be sure not to add them until the last minute prior to serving so that they don't wilt too much.

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You all know how much I love blueberries.  I eat them any which way I can.   I eat em like candy.   WE have six bushes in our garden now and I am awaiting those little berries ripening with great anticipation.  I go out and look at them every day . . .

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It's a bit like waiting for a pot to boil.   You wait and you wait and you wait and then all of a sudden, it boils!  

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I love LOVE Israeli or Pearl Couscous.  I buy the whole wheat one, toasted, by Merchant Gourmet.  It cooks up very quickly and I like to think that by it's being whole wheat, it's rather good for me.  Of course you could just as easily use cooked wheat berries or barley.  Both would be good and a bit chewy as well, which would be nice.

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I always toast my nuts before I use them.  It brings out even more of their natural flavour and adds lots of crunch. Just put them onto a baking sheet and bang them into a hot oven for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Rule of thumb for me is that as soon as I can smell them, I take them out! They're done perfectly.

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Each bite of this brings you a bit of chew from the couscous, a bit of sour yum from the capers, some sweetness from the berries, that peppery meatiness from the rocket and roasted crunch from the nuts . . .  all perfectly dressed in a tangy lemon vinaigrette dressing.   DEEEE-licious. Absolutely.  It's the perfect accompaniment to any grilled meat, poultry or fish.

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*Superfoods Salad*
Serve 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

Blueberries, toasted nuts, pearl couscous, greens, grains, olive oil and citrus.  What's not to like?  It's delicious.  Tangy, sweet, crunchy and moreish.

1 cup of pearl couscous (Israeli couscous)
2 heaped TBS of finely grated Parmesan cheese
the juice of one lemon
3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS whole grain mustard
the finely grated zest of one lemon
1 TBS non pariel capers, rinsed and drained
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a small handful of fresh parsley coarsely chopped
1 cup of fresh blueberries
1/2 cup toasted pecans
a couple handfuls of rocket (baby arugula)

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Cook your couscous in lightly salted water according to the package directions.  Drain well. Rinse with cold water and drain again.

Whisk the Cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and lemon zest together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the couscous and toss to coat.  Toss in the capers, parsley, blueberries and nuts.   You can cover and chill it at this point, until you are ready to serve.  Just prior to serving add the rocket and toss all together. Serve immediately.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Bumbleberry Cobbler

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WE do love a good cobbler in this house.   We grow all of our own soft fruits in our back garden . . .  black currants, strawberries, raspberries, tayberries, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.  We don't get a lot of anything at any one time . . . not yet anyways.  The bushes are all still young and so at best we get things in dibs and dabs.

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I tend to freeze a lot of it so that eventually I end up with enough to make a pie or some such with them.   Hopefully with each year that passes, and as we add more bushes and plants, we will one day end up with a plethora of berry goodness.  We do have a lot of strawberries now each season.  It's taken almost four years to get to that point.  The rest will eventually catch up as well, but in the meantime I make a lot of bumbleberry goodies.

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There really is no such thing as a bumble berry . . .  it's basically a name you give to a pie or dessert which has been created using at least three different berries . . . all "bumbled" together, and so it was with this Bumbleberry Cobbler which I baked for the missionaries when we had them for supper last Tuesday evening.  

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Containing random bits of all of the berries we have available at the moment . . .  this cobbler had blueberries and blackberries from last year in it (we are still waiting for ours to ripen this year) mixed with black currants, tayberries and raspberries . . . the only real requirement being that there be at least three different types of berries . . . 

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Lightly flavoured with lemon sugar and topped with a crumbly buttery, vanilla infused scone topping . . . and baked until the berries are all bubbling up and sweet . . .  the scone topping is browned and crisp . . .  and the whole thing together is one delicious mass of tasty cobbler goodness . . . 

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Served warm . . .  each bowl holding a portion of that thickened sweetened fruit, along with some of that buttery cobbler topping . . .  and topped with a dollop of clotted cream, this dessert delights all of the senses.   In short . . .  it went down a real treat and the platter was licked totally and completely clean.  I love it when that happens.  Job done.

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 *Bumbleberry Cobbler*
Serves 8 to 10

A gorgeous juicy mixed berry filling topped with a crumbly, butter, vanilla infused scone topping.  What's not to like about this?

For the filling:
850g of mixed summer berries (raspberries, blackberries, tayberries, blueberries, etc.) (6 cups)
200g granulated sugar (1 cup)
the finely grated zest of one lemon
3 TBS plain flour (all purpose)

For the topping:
158g of plain flour (1 cup plus 5 TBS all purpose)
6 TBS granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
6 TBS butter, chilled, cut into bits
1 large free range egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

To finish:
1 TBS granulated sugar
1/2 tsp  ground cinnamon  

To serve: (all optional)
clotted cream
pouring cream
ice cream
whipped cream  

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Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.  Butter a deep nine inch square baking dish.  Set aside.  Alternately you can use a 10 inch round quiche dish.

Mix together the sugar, lemon zest and flour for the filling.  Place the berries into a bowl.  Toss together with the flour mixture and pour into the prepared baking dish, spreading them out evenly and making sure all of the sugar, etc. is evenly distributed.  

Whisk the flour for the topping together with the sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Drop in the butter.  Rub it in with your finger tips until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.   Whisk the egg and vanilla together with a fork and then toss this into the flour mixture, tossing it all together until evenly moistened.  It should be clumpy.   Scatter this over top of the fruit as evenly as you can.   Mix together the granulated sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle this evenly over all.  

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Bake in the preheated oven until the topping it golden brown and the filling is cooked through and bubbly, some 45 to 50 minutes.  Cover lightly with some aluminium foil halfway through the baking time to prevent the topping from over-browning.  Serve warm with clotted cream, ice cream, whipped cream or pouring cream.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Lunettes . . .

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The rain is bucketing down today.  It's not a great day to go out and do much of anything.  How fitting for the first day of the summer school holidays. I hope it's not a portent of things to come!

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Rainy Days make me want to get in the kitchen and bake.  I had made the dough for these lovely biscuits (cookies) earlier in the week and today was the perfect day to crank on the oven and roll them out.

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Lunettes is the French word for spectacles and with their two peep holes in the centre, these lovely biscuits certainly resemble a pair of spectacles.   You will want a fluted oval cutter about 4 inches in width for these, but never fear if you don't have an oval cutter, you can use a round one as well . . . they just won't look like spectacles!

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Crisp buttery shortbreads . . .  the tops cut out with two peep holes, baked and then dusted liberally with icing sugar . . . .  tops and bottoms sandwiched together with some seedless jam and pressed together just so . . .  with some of the jam squishing up in the holes to tempt you.   Sophistic-ally moreish is all I can say.  Sophistic-ally moreish.    Perfect tea party fare.  C'est tres magnique!

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Makes 10 to 12 double
 jam filled biscuits 

If you like shortbread biscuits and jam, then you will adore these.   Lunettes is the French word for spectacles and these oval cookies resemble a pair of spectacles with their two jammy holes. You can use whichever jam you prefer to use.  Today I used seedless raspberry.  Just make sure you run it through with a fork several times to "loosen" it.  Best to dust and fill just prior to serving.  The baked biscuits will keep for up to a week in advance in an airtight container and you can make the dough a few days in advance of baking and also freeze it if you want.    

220g unsalted butter, cut into bits (scant cup)
120g icing sugar (scant cup)
the finely grated zest of one lemon
2 medium free range egg yolks
300g plain flour (2 1/4 cups)
seedless jam, worked until smooth
icing sugar to dust  

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Put the butter, lemon zest and icing sugar into a food processor.  Blitz until they are well creamed together.  Add the egg yolks and blitz to combine.   Add the flour and once again blitz to combine.  You should have a soft and sticky dough.   Shape it into a flattened block on some cling film, wrap tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least several hours, but preferably overnight.

When you are ready to bake them remove the dough from the fridge.   Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F. gas mark 4.  Have ready several baking sheets which you have lined with baking paper.

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Roll out half of the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness, using a lightly floured rolling pin.   Cut into 4 inch ovals with a fluted oval cutter.  (alternately you can cut them into 4 inch rounds with a fluted round cutter) Cut two small circles from the centres of half of the ovals to resemble glasses.  (If you are using a round cutter, you need only cut one.)  Place all the whole ovals on one baking sheet and the cut out ovals on the other, spacing them a bit apart for spreading.

Place the ones with the holes cut out on the lower rack in your oven and the whole ones on the top rack.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, just until they are beginning to colour.  Remove and allow to cool for several minutes on the pans before carefully lifting off to a wire rack to cool completely.

At this point you can store them in an airtight container.   When you are ready to serve them, loosen your jam and spread about a teaspoon into the centre areas of the bottom sides of the whole ovals, spreading it out a bit, to within about 1/3 of an inch from the edge.   Dredge the cut out ovals with icing sugar using a fine sieve.   Carefully press the dredged ovals on top of the jam covered bottoms, letting some of the jam ooze up in the cut out holes.   Serve immediately.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Thick and Chewy Triple Chocolate Chunker Bars

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After baking these delicious bars today I may never bake regular chocolate chip cookies ever again.  Seriously.  These are fabulous!

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 I was really craving a chocolate chip cookie today, but I had tons of other things to do . . . and it is stinkin' hot too.  I really did not feel like standing over a hot stove for ages.  And so . . .

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I did something really really lazy.   I just made the cookie dough and then pressed it all into a pan, crossed my fingers and banged it into the oven.   And guess what?

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I ended up with the most delicious, easiest, TASTIEST, simplest cookie bars ever!  

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I was really, really pleased with how they turned out.  So was the Toddster.  WE both gobbled up two of them right away and I have locked the rest away until tomorrow because if I dare to look at them even once more I will be done for . . . in fact I may just have to give them away coz they are that dangerous to have around.  

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*Thick and Chewy Triple Chocolate Chunker Bars*
Makes about 18 bars
This came about because I was too lazy to bake cookies.  I just spread the dough into a pan, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. They turned out beautiful.

300g of flour (scant 2 1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
172g of butter, melted and cooled slightly (3/4 cup)
200g of soft light brown sugar (1 cup, lightly packed)
95g of granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
1 large free range egg
1 large free range egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
360g of a mix of chocolate, white, dark and white, cut into chunks (about 2 cups)
60g of coarsely chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (1/2 cup)

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Preheat the oven to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3.  Line a 9 by 12 inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang to lift them out at the end.  Butter well, or spray with nonstick spray.

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Whisk the butter together with both sugars to blend.  Beat in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla, mixing all in well.  Sift together the flour, soda and salt.  Stir this in just to combine.   Stir in the chocolate chunks and nuts.
Press this mixture into the prepared pan.  I use my hands for this. They work beautifully.

Bake until the top of the bars is light golden brown and they are firm to the touch., 25 to 30 minutes.   Allow to cool to room temperature in the pan.  When cool, lift out to a cutting board and cut into bars with a sharp knife.
Note - These are fabulous with a scoop of ice cream on top and some chocolate sauce.  Just sayin'  ☺  

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I used three kinds of chocolate in these. A good dark chocolate. A good white chocolate. A good milk chocolate. Chocolate is like wine. You wouldn't cook with a wine you wouldn't be happy drinking if you were a wine drinker. and if it's not a chocolate you would eat, then don't bake with it either.