“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
"Winter is dead.”
~AA Milne, when we were very young
NOTE: I am away at the moment helping my mother with her treatment for lung cancer. I have set up a few posts to post whilst I am away as a special surprise. Some are new and some are reposts of old favourites that you may have forgotten, or if you are a new reader may not even have seen. I'll be back at the end of May, but in the meantime . . . Enjoy!
PS - I will only have sporadic internet use, so if you ask a question and I don't get back to you . . . it's not that I don't want to. It just may take me a while.
Thursday, 31 January 2013
I think that the one protein we eat most of all in this house is chicken, followed closely by fish and then only rarely do we eat red meat. Quite the opposite of when I was growing up where beef was the protein of choice and fish and chicken only rare treats.
I can still remember how excited we would be when my mother would make us Maryland Fried Chicken Breasts for supper, an occasion which happened at the very most possibly twice during the year. Oh my, how delicious it was . . . she would dip the chicken breasts into egg and cracker crumbs and then fry it until it was golden brown and oh so tasty. We always had it with mashed potatoes and gravy. Luvy Jubbly, as Del Boy would say.
I think chicken is much more affordable now than it was when I was growing up. I believe it was Herbert Hoover who promised Americans that if he became President there would be a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. This was back before the Great Depression. I know not if he succeeded in putting a chicken in every pot . . . but he did become President. I strongly suspect that he didn't, as the great Stock Market Crash of 1929 plunged the world into financial chaos just seven months later, and he was not elected for a second term. Oh the fickleness of politics.
I do so love chicken though . . . It's incredibly versatile and so easy to prepare. It lends itself to a multitude of flavours and methods of preparation. Most of all I love it roasted . . . so that the skin gets all crisp and somewhat sticky . . . whilst the meat inside stays moist and tender.
This is a fabulous method of roasting chicken quickly. It involves removing the back bone and flattening it prior to roasting at a high temperature. The lemon flavour comes in via a rub of lemon zest, sugar and salt which you gently rub beneath the skin of the breast and the thigh . . . and in the delicious braising liquid which is poured around the chicken as it roasts.
The braising liquid is then defatted, reduced and slightly thickened to produce a delicious sauce which is spooned over this tender chicken to serve. Do not mistake it for gravy. Gravy it is not. It is a rich and luscious sauce which just makes something which is so very simple . . . extraordinary!
*Roast Lemon Chicken*
Serves 3 to 4
Bake this in an enamel roasting pan, as using an aluminum pan may cause an off flavour from the lemon juice. Deliciously tender chicken with bright fresh flavours.
1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) whole chicken, giblets removed and discarded
the finely grated zest of 3 large lemons, plus 80ml of lemon juice (1/3 cup)
1 tsp sugar
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500ml of low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp corn flour
3 TBS butter
1 TBS finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 230*C/475*F/ gas mark 8. Have ready a large enamel roasting tin.
Pat the chicken dry and then using sharp kitchen scissors, cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it. Flatten out with the palm of your hand, pressing it down firmly, and tucking the wing tips behind the back. Using your fingers, very carefully loosen the skin covering the breast and thighs. Combine the lemon zest, sugar, and 1 tsp of salt in a small bowl. Rub 2 TBS of the zest mixture beneath the skin of the chicken. Season all over with salt and pepper on the outsides and transfer to the roasting tin.
Whisk the broth, 1 cup of water and the remaining lemon zest mixture together in a beaker. Pour into the roasting tin around the chicken. If the liquid doesn't reach the skin of the thighs, then add a bit more water. Roast in the heated oven until the skin is golden brown and the meat juices run clean when gently pricked with a fork. This will take 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
Pour the liquid from the pan along with any chicken juices into a saucepan. (you should have about 375ml/1 1/2 cups) Skim off any fat and discard. Cook over medium high heat until it reduces to about 250ml/1 cup. Whisk the corn flour together with 1 TBS of water and whisk into the saucepan, whisking constantly and simmering until it thickens slightly. Remove from the heat, whisk in the butter and parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Carve the chicken and serve, passing the sauce at the table.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
Prior to Christmas I was sent the nicest cookbook to review. It is called Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever, of the popular dessert blog, Piece of Cake. I just love Vanilla. If you were to ask me what is my favourite flavour of ice cream, I would say Vanilla Bean . . . I just love the one which is filled with lots of flecks of vanilla. I love Vanilla anything and so I was really happy to get this cookbook.
This really is a beautiful book, just filled with everything you could ever possibly want to know about this most favourite of flavours . . . from it's history and origins, the many kinds of vanilla which are available, how to make your own extracts and liquers, to how to substitute the different varieties for each other in recipes.
And what a fabulous lot of recipes there are!! Sorted into 6 chapters:
1. Breakfasts (Honey Vanilla Granola Clusters, Vanilla Stewed Fruit, Light, Crisp Vanilla Waffles, to name just a few of the 15 Breakfast recipes on offer)
2. Cake and Pies (11 delicious recipes including Vanilla Cloud Cake, Twinkie Bundt Cake, Tres Leches Cake. etc.)
3. Cookies and Bars (Big soft Frosted Vanilla Sugar Cookies, Mini Vanilla Eclairs, Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies along with 12 tasty other recipes.)
4. Candies and Confections ( 12 scrummy recipes including Vanilla Lollipops, Golden Pear-Vanilla Jam, Vanilla Butter Mints, Vanilla Bean Sea Salt Caramels) There is also a Throw a Vanilla Tasting Party section in this chapter.
5. Custards and Creams (Creamy Vanilla Rice Pudding, Folating Islands, Favourite Vanilla Ice Cream, Coconut and Vanilla Bean Ice Pops . . . just four of the 19 recipes on offer in this tasty chapter.)
6. Drinks (Vanilla Italian Soda, Vanilla Almond Milk, Malted White Hot Chocolate, etc. 9 recipes in total.)
As well, there is a very well written resource section and a handy dandy Vanilla Lover's Cheat Sheet just inside the cover.
It is well written and beautifully photographed. (photographs by Leigh Beisch) and very adaptable to use in the UK, with the exception of very few ingredients which would be difficult to obtain. A lot of times these American Cookbooks ask for a lot of ingredients we just can't get over here, or are unable to find suitable substitutes for. Happy to say that is not the case with this book.
Today I decided to treat Todd and myself to a nice hot drink from the book . . . Malted White Hot Chocolate. This is the picture from the book, along with homemade Vanilla Marshmallows on top . . .
It looked really tasty, and it's been really cold and windy and wet today . . . perfect hot drink weather.
Mine turned out just lovely. I was able to make it low fat as well, by changing some of the higher fat ingredients for low fat ingredients and it was absolutely gorgeous! We loved it! I also made a few other recipes before Christmas from it (Vanilla Creme Cookie Sandwiches, Cherry Vanilla Shortbread Cake Squares, and Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes), but I can't find my photos for them! They were all fabulous recipes though!
All in all I would highly recommend this book, giving it a resounding 10 out of 10! If Vanilla is one of your favourite flavours as it is mine, you will just LOVE LOVE this book!
*Malted White Hot Chocolate*
Oh my goodness. This is decadently delicious. You can make it lower in fat though by using 2%milk and low fat evaporated milk instead of the half and half cream as well as using light malted milk powder. I did and it was still fabulous!
1 cup whole milk (I used 2% milk, 250ml)
1 cup half and half (I used low fat evaporated milk, 250ml)
3 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup malted milk powder (I used 2 dessertspoons of Horlicks light)
1 tsp pure Vanilla extract or Vanilla bean paste (I used the paste)
Mini marshmallows optional
Combine the milk, half and half, white chocolate bits and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir and heat over medium heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is become just hot to the touch. Transfer the mixture to a blender and add the malted milk powder. Cover tightly and blend for 60 seconds. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and reheat just until hot. Do NOT let it boil. Stir in the vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste and serve immediately, with or without some marshmallows on top
irresistible recipes and essential techniques
by Shauna Sever
- Book Dimensions:7½ x 8½
- Page Count:180
- Release Date:November 6, 2012
- Book Price:$22.95/£15.99 UKPublished by Quirk Books.Many thanks to Mat from PGUK and Quirk Books for having sent me my review copy.
Tuesday, 29 January 2013
I was given a nice bunch of really tasty looking cherry tomatoes the other day, baby plums to be exact and I knew just what I wanted to make with them! It's not really salad season at the moment, but I really fancied a salad. I thought to make a heartier type of salad though, heartier than the usual salad leaves and cucumber/radish combinations. A meal type of salad . . .
I wanted something robust enough to keep Todd happy, and yet salady enough to fool me into thinking I was eating healthy.
I also had a ciabatta loaf that I needed to use. Not quite at it's best, but not at it's worse either.
The best way to bring a tired old loaf back to life is to heat it, or grill it. By slicing the ciabatta into thick slices and brushing them with some olive oil, a light sprinkle of salt and and then grilling it, I brought a tired ciabatta deliciously into the present. Oh my . . . I could have eaten this all on it's own. Especially after I rubbed some tasty raw garlic over it's golden surface.
Grilling it gave the bread some tasty looking toasty grill marks. The olive oil, a wonderful depth of richness, nicer even than butter. The salt and garlic made it just perfectly tasty all round.
Cut into cubes and tossed with the ripe tomatoes, some basil and some cheese, and then dressed with a red wine vinegar dressing, this went down a real treat!
Kinda like pizza in the raw . . . but shhh . . . don't tell Todd. He's not overly fond of Pizza, but he thought this was deliciously different.
To quote him . . . "It made a nice change." I'd happily call that a great result!!
*Grilled Bread Salad with Basil and Cherry Tomatoes*
Toasty bread, tossed together with cherry tomatoes, basil, and mini mozarella cheeses in a red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing. So delicious!
1 medium ciabatta loaf, sliced lengthwise into
1 inch thick slices (about 1/2 pound)
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil (1/2 cup), plus
extra for oiling the grill pan
fine sea salt
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and halved
1 pint of cherry or baby plum tomatoes, halved
(I keep mine on the counter, where they ripen really nicely)
8 spring onions, trimed and thinly sliced (both the white and green parts)
12 large fresh basil leaves, torn into bits
2 ounces good quality red wine vinegar (1/4 cup)
8 ounces fresh mini mozzarella's
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a heavy grill pan over medium high heat. Brush with oil. Lightly brush the bread on both sides with some of the olive oil, and season lightly with salt. Place into the heated grill pan and cook until it gets nicely browned, and gets some good grill marks all over. Turn over and grill the other side. Remove from the pan and rub all over on both sides with the cut side of the garlic. Discard the garlic when done. Set the bread aside to cool.
Place the halved tomatoes into a large shallow bowl along with the spring onion and basil. Cut or tear the bread into one inch cubes. Add to the bowl along with the tomatoes. Whisk the remaining oil together with the vinegar. Sprinkle over the bread mixture and toss together well. Let sit for a time at room temperature before serving. (Can allow to sit for up to 2 hours) Just before serving add the mini cheeses and season all with a bit of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Monday, 28 January 2013
I picked up a package of already cooked ham hock bits in the grocery shop the other day. I was really excited when I found them because this is the type of ingredient I just love to discover . . . something which is tasty, versatile and something I just know that I am going to enjoy using.
Best of all, it was separated into two smaller portions, so I knew I could use one and freeze the other for another time, and it was inexpensive . . . another bonus! Ham hocks are actually quite a wonderful ingredient. They give you a lot of tasty bang for your pound/buck. You can buy them either already cooked or ready to cook yourself, the end result being lots of tender meat that comes in handy for making casseroles and the like.
Delicious and economical meals like this tasty Ham Hock, Peas & Creamy Noodle dish which you can have on the table in approximately the time it takes you to boil some noodles! Seriously! Cheap, easy, quick and tasty! What more could you want in a weeknight supper dish!
I used Malfalda noodles the other night, because I love their crinkly curly edges, kind of like tiny bite sized lasagne noodles. They are perfect for this dish because they let all off that delicious sauce nestle into all those little crinkles . . .
I always have frozen peas in the freezer. I prefer the petit pois, because they're smaller, more tender and tastier/sweeter in my opinion . . . and I am a frozen pea snob. Peas are not my favourite vegetable really, and if I am going to eat them, I want to eat the tiny ones. I hate overgrown starchy peas. UGH!
The peas add a nice touch of colour and some extra texture, which goes very well with the ham hock bits and the sauce. I'll be honest that this wasn't Todd's favourite meal, but that is because he SAYS he hates pasta. He always eats it though . . . and sometimes even goes back for seconds, which he did when I served this . . . probably because he does love peas and ham.
The sauce is simple and easy to put together, and very tasty. Ham hock, tender and juicy. Frozen petit pois. Tender noodles . . . and a delicious sauce, all put together and on the table in literally minutes. Win/win/win/win/win!!! I do hope you'll give it a try!
*Ham Hock, Peas & Creamy Noodles*
Serves 4 to 6
In the time that it takes you to cook some pasta, you can have a delicious and filling supper on the table. Your family will love this.
2 TBS butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup of chicken stock
1 cup of single cream
16 ounces of cooked and coarsely shredded ham hock
1 mug full of frozen petit pois, thawed
1 TBS lemon juice
the finely grated zest of 1/2 un-waxed lemon
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 pound of your favourite pasta, uncooked (I like to use malfalda because it has lots of curly edges)
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Tip in the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet. Cook, stirring frequently until they are beginning to turn golden brown. Tip in the broth and single cream. Bring to the boil then reduce to as quick simmer and cook until it begins to thicken up somewhat. Tip in the ham hock and peas. Season to taste with some salt and pepper. Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Stir in the pasta. Stir to combine and heat through. Serve immediately.
Sunday, 27 January 2013
I had some puff pastry in my refrigerator which needed using up today. I had in mind to make some Portugese Custard Tarts, but I didn't have enough eggs and actually, in all truth . . . I was feeling more than a little bit lazy. What's a gal to do.
I always love those little puff pastry creations you can buy at the grocery shops over here. They call them Danish Pastries, but really . . . they are not like any Danish Pastries which I am well acquainted with. They are basically just puff pastry re-interpreted in a variety of tasty ways . . . like spread with custard and raisins or rhubarb and rolled up, or folded over custard and raspberry jam with little slits cut into the tops, etc. You get the picture I am sure.
I am a sucker for anything in pastry . . . especially sweet things in pastry, but you know . . . those fancy pastries don't come cheap! You pay a lot for them, and you only ever get two or at most three in a pack. If you have a hungry family breathing down your neck, you would need to buy two or three packs to have enough for everyone and please them all.
The truth is that, for probably not much more than the cost of a packet of puff pastry, you can actually get multiple tasty treats, which are not only delicious, but very easy to make as well.
Today I just simply spread it with some softened butter and sprinkled it with brown sugar and cinnamon. Then I sprinkled milk chocolate chips over top, rolled it up, cut it into slices and then baked them.
Easy peasy, lemon squeasy! But there are so many other things you could do to jazz it up even more, like adding some toasted and chopped nuts, or bits of dried fruit. You could do white chocolate chips, dried cranberries and pistachios! Orange zest and dried dates and toasted walnuts. Butterscotch chips, lemon zest and chopped sultanas. The possibilities are positively endless!
This is a simple idea that you can grab and run with like the wind. Your imagination is your only limit! mmm . . . dried blueberries, lime zest and chopped almonds . . . you see . . . my imagination is STILL running wild!
Food is supposed to be fun and inspiring, and so is cooking! Enjoy it! Life is too short not to.
*Easy Cinnamon Puffs*
Nothing could be easier. A lot cheaper than buying the ready made ones in the shops! So tasty too! In fact, downright delectable!
1 packet of ready roll all butter puff pastry
(One sheet, about 15 by 12 inches, thawed if frozen)
100g soft light brown sugar (1/2 cup packed)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
90g of milk chocolate chips (1/2 cup)
1 egg yolk beaten with a touch of water
130g icing sugar, sifted (1 cup)
few drops vanilla
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Line a large baking tray with some baking paper, or two smaller ones.
Unroll your puff pastry. Spread it all over with the softened butter. Mix together the cinnamon and brown sugar. Sprinkle this evenly over top. Sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips. Roll up from the short end, pressing all together tightly. Using a sharp knife cut into 1 inch slices. Carefully slide them onto the prepared baking tray. Flatten each one slightly with your hand by pressing down gently. Brush each with some of the beaten egg. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Some of the filling will ooze out, but that's ok. Immediately upon removal from the oven scoop them off onto a wire rack to cool completely before proceeding.
Whisk together the icing sugar, vanilla and enough milk to give you a thick drizzle. Drizzle this decoratively over top of the puffs. Enjoy!
Note: You can go whole hog with these and add chopped toasted pecans or walnuts, chopped raisins, or cranberries. Make them your own!
Saturday, 26 January 2013
We have two young Missionary Sisters here now in our Ward area and they were coming over the other day to spend some time sharing with us and so I decided to bake them a little treat. We don't very often get girl missionaries here and so it was really fun.
Not that the guys aren't fun. They are. But I can hug the girls, and do fun things for them like give them cakes of Cath Kidston soap, just because they are so sweet and I admire the service they are doing for the Lord. I have never had a guy get ecstatic about a bar of soap.
And to be honest I've never had them get ecstatic about a cake either. Although their lack of enthusiasm has never stopped them from enjoying my cakes or having more than one piece! That makes me happy, even if they aren't jumping up and down.
The girls are different . . . they only had one piece each . . . but they were definitely ecstatic about it. Makes me smile.
And really, no wonder they were thrilled. This is a really fabulous cake, really. It's moist and warmly flavoured with lovely ground cinnamon . . . mmm . . . I do love Cinnamon, don't you?
Oh, and it has cute little apples nestled in amongst that lovely moist batter . . . apples that are slivered and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar . . . and baked in the oven along with the cake. Then the whole thing is glazed with apricot jam.
I love it when that happens. Dust with icing sugar or not . . . as you wish. Do serve with lashings of softly whipped cream. You won't regret it. You hips might, but you won't . . . I dare say . . . you may even get a little bit ecstatic!
*Apple and Cinnamon Tea Cake*
Makes one 9 inch cake, serving 8 to 10
A deliciously moist cake, filled with lovely apples and cinnamon flavours. Serve warm with softly whipped double cream for a real treat!
185g of unsalted butter, softened (3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
126g of golden caster sugar (2/3 cup)
3 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
150g of plain flour (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp baking powder
78ml of whole milk (1/3 cup)
4 small Granny Smith Apples, peeled, halved and cored
1 tsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
a heaped dessertspoon of apricot jam, gently warmed (about 1/4 cup)
Softly whipped double cream
Preheat the oven to 170*C/325*F/ gas mark 3. Butter a 9 inch round spring form cake tin. Line the bottom with baking paper. Butter the paper. Set aside.
Cream together the butter, cinnamon and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, a bit at a time, mixing well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the creamed mixture, alternately with the milk. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Cut little slits in the apples almost all the way through working from the rounded top down, taking care to leave them intact on the flat side. Place the apple halves evenly spaced around the cake on top of the batter. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over top.
Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven. Gently brush with the apricot jam. Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until the cake tests done when a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Serve warm, cut into wedges along with some softly whipped double cream.
Be sure to check out the Interview I did on Piggy Fair. I really enjoyed doing it! It's nice sometimes to be able to slow down and reflect on things, on the whys and wherefores. Thanks Miss Piggy!
Friday, 25 January 2013
I don't think anyone would argue the fact that it is becoming more difficult as each day passes to make our food budgets stretch as far as we would like them to. I know for myself, I have had to make quite a few adjustments in order to make ends meet. It's hard, but it's not impossible to do. It just means eating a bit differently, and relying more on store cupboard essentials . . .
One thing we are doing here is stocking up on tinned fish and the like when it is on special. We don't mind tinned salmon or tuna . . . and we don't mind tinned corned beef either. Truth is they are often on offer and you can make some very tasty and nutritious meals for your family by using them. No, you would not want to eat them every day of the week, but one or two meals a week made using these staples can cut down one's budget quite sustantially.
One thing which I like to do with tinned salmon is to make this Crustless Salmon Pie. It's a pretty delicious way to stretch a tall tin of salmon, or two smaller ones (they are usually on special offer more than the tall ones) to into a substantial meal large enough to feed four to six people!
You don't need any fancy ingredients to make it . . . just tinned salmon, milk, soft bread crumbs, an onion, eggs and some dill, salt and pepper. Nothing outrageous there! I often make a delicious Lemon Butter Sauce to spoon over top of it, but in truth my children used to like ketchup on theirs. (There is NO accounting for taste!)
To round out the meal I serve it quite simply with some cooked baby peas and pan fried new potatoes. (Also from a tin. They are quite a lot cheaper than the fresh ones and come in really handy to have in the cupboard for something like this.) Delicious!
*Crustless Salmon Pie*
Serves 4 to 6
Delicious, quick and economical!
1 tall tin of red or pink salmon (439g or 15 1/2 ounces)
60g of soft fresh bread crumbs (1 cup)
1 medium onion, peeled and finely minced
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried dill leaves
the juice and finely grated zest of one un-waxed lemon
2 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
2 TBS butter
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Taking a glass pie dish, put the butter into it and place it in the oven to melt. Swirl to coat the interior of pie dish and set aside.
Drain the juice from the salmon into a measuring beaker. Add milk to make up 250ml (1 cup).
Pick out any skin and bone from the salmon. Mash well with a fork and then stir in the remainder of the ingredients. Mix well together to combine. Spoon into the butter coated pie dish and press down to smooth over the top.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Cut into wedges to serve. I like to serve this with baby peas and pan fried potatoes. I also make a delicious lemon butter sauce which I spoon over top of each serving.
*Lemon Butter Sauce*
Makes 1 cup
Beautiful when served with Fish and vegetables. It's not too tart, but if you find it is you can add a bit more sugar to balance it out. Tartness depends on the size and strength of your lemons.
the juice of one large lemon
125ml of cold water
2 ounces of butter (1/4 cup)
1 1/2 TBS plain flour
1 TBS sugar
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Whisk together the lemon juice and water. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and sugar. Cook, stirring for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the water/lemon mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture boiled and thickens. Season with some salt and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust sweetness if necessary. Serve warm.
For sure, I wish that I could eat fresh salmon and other fishes or meat or poultry every day of the week, but we just can't afford to do that anymore now that we are retired and living on a fixed income, and I know familys are also feeling the pinch.Using things like this for meals two or three times a week makes Cent$ and is a lot better for you than stuffing yourself with cheap sausage rolls and meat pies.