Sunday, January 27, 2008

February3rd, 2008

I am really sorry for not updating sooner. But I have been a bit busy and in a bit of a slump in cooking. I haven't really had alot of time to try out any new recipes, so I have been making some of my old standbys lately. While there is nothing wrong with old standbys, some of which are recipes you use over and over again because they are good and you have perfected it to just how you like them to taste.
Tuna Casserole is one of my fav standbys for when I am busy doing other things or when I don't feel much like cooking. It is a recipe that will change with my mood and the ingredients on hand.
The basics for this dish is Tuna. Every other ingredient may well change like I said according to my mood or what is on hand. Most often than not I use pasta for the casserole, but sometimes it may contain rice. Which ever you use it will need to be cooked first.
So start with the pasta or rice in a large bowl, followed by the drained tin of Tuna, (you could make it with Chicken if you like and sometimes I do, but then it becomes a Chicken casserole. I guess even the Tuna isn't the main ingredient!!! hmmmmmm)
Then in go the other ingredients.....
A tin of Cambells Cream of mushroom soup(could use Cream of chicken, celery, etc)
Rinse tin out with 1 tin of milk
Chopped Celery, and chopped onion and mushrooms (these can either be sauteed first or if you like a bit of bite then as they are)
The next is peas or sweet corn or a bit of both. Or you could even use some broccoli florets.
Cheese is next, and inside the mix I usually use cubes of cheese. In the US I enjoyed Colby cheese, but here in the UK I either use Cheddar or Red Leister. Lancashire might also be nice.
Give a good mix and season with herbs...... Again your choice. Usually mine will contain a mix of thyme, oregano, and garlic, salt just a pinch and some fresh ground black pepper.
Place into your baking dish and then top with some crushed up potatoe chips (crisps for the Brits) and some grated cheese. Into a 180 C oven for about 30 to 45 minutes. Then enjoy!!!!

I would be interested in finding out what you put in your Tuna/Chicken Casserole that makes it your special comfort dish.

Brussel Sprouts.... This has been the year of the sprout in our household. Usually I am lucky to get poor Brian to eat even one and this year he has had them every conceivable way I could think of to cook them. (I haven't done a dessert with them and don't think I will be going there either.) The latest recipe using the nutritious sprout was a soup. You start off sauteeing some chopped bacon until crisp and set this aside. In the drippings left from the bacon you then sautee some thinly sliced sprouts and onion just until transparent. (Don't let it go further and ignore all phone calls at this time as if you don't they turn bitter. Yes I have learnt my lesson!!!!)
Next goes in some chicken stock or you could use vegetable stock. And a chopped up potatoe to add body. Once the potatoe is cooked then blitz with a hand blender and add some double cream. Season to taste. Heat just through and serve with the bacon and possibly more cream.

Another of my stand bys lately is how I cook fresh fish. Since I am trying hard to help Brian and I to eat more fish, this recipe is always yummy and quick to do.

First skin and de bone the fish. Could be cod, plaice, Halibut or our latest find Haddock. Place some olive oil into your baking dish and then the fish.

Next sautee off some onions just till translucent in a bit of olive oil along with some chopped rosemary(I have two rather lovely bushes growing in the garden so always have plenty of fresh rosemary to use) and some chopped garlic. Add some Bread crumbs and sautee just a bit longer. You can add some lemon zest to this mix too or some oregano and some juice of the lemon.

Now spread the crumb mix over the fish and bake in the oven at about 180 for 20 or so minutes till the fish is how you like it cooked and the crumb is just browned.

Another fav is chunky oven Chips that Brian likes to have on occasions. Take some olive oil into a baking tin. Then add some chunky potatoe chips. I coat the potatoes in the oil. Bake for about 20 minutes then take out and turn the chips. Add some rosemary and some garlic cloves. These can either be whole or sliced depending on how strong you want your garlic. Then back in the oven for another 20 minutes. This is when I put the fish in. And there you have A little healthier version of Fish and Chips.

And you can't have Fish and Chips without Tartare sauce!!! Well I ran out of my fav storebought stuff the last meal we had with fish and chips so I thought why not try to make some. I had all the ingredients for a change. Capers, Gherkins etc.......


I took 1/2 cup mayonaise and added about 4 teaspoons of chopped rinsed capers, and about the same amount of chopped gherkin. Then added in some dried dill weed and chopped parsely. And a splash of my homemade tarragon vinegar (this is dead easy to make yourself and oooooooo so yummy) and a pinch of sugar. That is it. And Brian gave me the thumbs up and said it was much better than the stuff we buy in the jar. So guess I will be making my own Tartare sauce from now on.
Tarragon vinegar.
Take a clean bottle and fill with white distilled vinegar. (you can add a splash of white wine if you like for added flavour)
And then add some clean fresh tarragon leaves. Let sit for at least a month. Strain off and replace the vinegar to the bottle and add some more fresh tarragon leaves.
This vinegar is really lovely in vinegrettes and just sprinkled on salads and such. I even add it to potato salad.
You should try your hand at making flavoured vinegars as they are easy and add so much more depth to your recipes.

Friday, January 11, 2008

January 11th, 2007

Winter seems to be well and truely here as I am suffering from the winter blues at the moment. Hate getting those. Must make sure to get one of those special daylight bulbs for the computer or the craft room to help combat that blue mood.
The holidays were a bit rushed so I didn't get the chance to take alot of photos while I was cooking. I did however manage this one of my Poached pears using David Hall's recipe from Book The Cook. They came out really lovely and spicy and not too heavy for a refreshing dessert that Brian and I had the next day. We were just too stuffed to eat another bite on Boxing day.

I do wish to apologise as I have no idea whose blog I got this recipe from. I forgot to put the url down with the recipe. It is for Prawn Cigars with a Honey Mustard Apricot dipping sauce.
I did alter the recipe the second time I made these over the holidays. Just slightly and think I may have to do a little more, but they were really yummy!!!

First start out by toasting a 1/4 cup sesame seeds in a frying pan. Be careful and don't let them burn. Take some cleaned peeled cooked prawns and place in a food processor. I used a bag of frozen prawns. Add the sesame seeds, and here is where I made some changes as I like things with a bit more umph and flavour. Add 1 tablespoon of chopped ginger, 2 cloves garlic, zest and juice of 1 lime, 3 chopped green(spring) onions, 1 tablespoon each Sesame oil, and soy sauce and a tablespoon of cornstarch. I added some finely chopped red chilli too. Blitz all together in the processor till it makes a nice paste like mixture. It may well be similar to how you make prawn toasts. I will add a whole chilli chopped next time and maybe even more ginger.
Then with your phyllo dough under a damp cloth work with three sheets at a time. Brush each with either melted butter or olive oil. I brushed the top sheet then flipped and brushed the next sheet and finally the bottom sheet. Cut these in half lengthwise. So you have two rather long sheets... Now place the prawn mixture down the side of the sheets in a long narrow strip. Brush the pastry with a beaten egg wash and roll up to form cigar shapes. Cut each into half and then half again. Brush with egg wash and dip in sesame seeds. Place on a baking tray.

Bake these at 200 C for about 15 minutes. It makes alot!!! These can be made a day ahead and kept covered before baking.
The dipping sauce I changed slightly too as by the second time I made them I had ran out of Apricot preserves and just used a tin of drained apricots.
Put either 1/2 cup apricot preserves or drained tin of apricots into a blender (here again I think you might also add a few chopped dried apricots if you have them about)
1 tablespoon water, if using the tinned ones, omit this
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh peeled ginger
Again you can add some chilli's chopped fine to the sauce.
Blend until smooth.
These were so easy to make and made a great starter on both occasions that I made them. I will be playing around with the phyllo pastry more making canapes. Maybe mini spring rolls or how about pizza rolls.... Hmmmm definately like this recipe. Again I want to apologize to the person whose site I got it from I did desperately try to search for it again to give you credit. So if anyone runs across it please let me know so I can edit this post. Thanks!!!

Well the holidays are all about feasting and friends. My family and friends know I am a bit of a foodie and usually I end up with foodie type presents. My dear friend Marc, sent us a fab Christmas present of Stilton and port. I have never had a piece of stilton that large before in my life!!!! It was and is (yes we are still eating it) lovely!!!! Boxing day we had Ham, and it was a gorgeous ham!!! One that I won't forget the flavour of for some time. (I still have the bone out in the freezer waiting for a nice pot of soup.) So I decided to create a lovely dish using both gorgeous ingredients together and one that my husband would love for me to forget to use. But this has been the year of the Sprout in our household. I am determined to like them since they are supposed to be very very good for you. So here is my dish....

First take and put on a pan of boiling salt water and cook some pasta. I am also one of those that puts a bit of oil in the water. Not necessarily to stop the pasta from sticking, but to keep the pan from boiling over. The oil seems to keep the starch bubbles from forming. (Test it!!) You will still need to turn it down once it starts boiling. But you don't get the white foaming that sometimes occurs with pasta.
Okay back to the recipe.
Clean a couple of handfulls of sprouts and cut into thin slices. Chop one onion and if you have some mushrooms slice those too. Now stir fry for a few minutes in a large wok or frying pan. Toss in some chopped ham and the cooked pasta. Now add a couple tablespoons of either double cream or cream fraiche and some crumbled stilton. Once heated through serve up with some tomato wedges and more stilton crumbled over the top. YUM!!!!

I think I need to start working on my presentation skills.

So if anyone has any tips or hints I could sure use them. This dish may look a bit sloppy, but the flavours were out of this world!!!
First I started off braising some red cabbage with a chopped apple and some chopped onion. Bit of red wine, cider vinegar, brown sugar and some left over cranberries. Simmered for about 1 hour.
While that cooked I then cut in half and cleaned a butter nut squash. Using the bowl and about an inch of the squash neck (the rest of the squash I will use in another recipe). Clean out seeds and prick the skin all over with a knife. Now place in a baking tin cut side down with about 1/2 inch of water in the tin and bake for about 1/2 hour at 190C. Once baked take out of the oven and turn over. So the cavatiy is upwards. Now in this you put 1/2 chopped apple per half, some chopped pecans, some sultanas, sprinkle over some cinnamon and brown sugar. Dot with butter and pop back into the oven for another 1/2 hour. Making sure there is water in the tin. The last 10 minutes take out and top with some mature cheddar, red leichester or as I used some goats cheese. (this was a mild firm goats cheese not the soft one with the rind). It is finished when the squash is tender and the cheese has melted. I will use the goats cheese more often as this complimented the flavour of the other ingredients.
And to finish off the meal I pan fried two pork chops with some onions and mushrooms. Once cooked I added a bit of cider to reduce down to make a quick sauce. All of these went well together and complimented each other....Now if I could just make it look a bit better...

Also this month I fixed a Beef and Beer stew. I was wanting the rest of the beer to make some sourdough beer rolls with. So here is the stew....Which was quite yummy!!!!

Heat a large dutch oven with a bit of oil and fry off some braising steak that is cut into cubes. Fry about 5 minutes and then add a chopped onion and some chopped red pepper, sliced carrots, sliced mushrooms and sliced celery and fry for another 5 minutes. Just till softened. Sprinkle on some flour about 1 tablespoon, salt and pepper to taste. Chopped herbs of choice I used thyme and herbs de Provence add 1 cup beef broth and 1 cup Newcastle Brown ale. ( I think any ale or beer would work). Heat to boiling. Now I added about 4 to 5 rather thickly sliced potatoes to the top and then popped the lid on and into the oven for about 1 hour at 180C. Take lid off and let potatoes brown for about 20 minutes at 200C.

I served with a side salad of round lettuce leaves, chopped apples, pecans and crumbled stilton with a ceasar dressing.

We have been trying hard to have more fish in our diet here. And on the way home on Wednesday I stopped by the farm shop. The Fish monger is there on Wednesday's and Thursdays. So I checked to see what he had on offer. And bought some Haddock and some Cod.
The Haddock was about 1/2 the price of the cod and after the recipe I made we will definately be eatting more Haddock in our diets.

It is a recipe from a very old cook book I have by Robert Carrier
Take and skin and debone the fish. If you like the skin, then leave it on. We don't.
Butter a casserole dish.
Take and chop some onion and mushrooms finely and some chopped parsley about 2 tablespoons. Quickly sautee the onion and mushroom in a bit of butter or olive oil.
Spoon 1/2 of this mixture into the casserole dish and top with the fish. Sprinkle over the parsley salt and pepper. Then the other 1/2 of onion mixture. Top this with some white wine or double cream (I used wine) and pop into the oven till the fish is cooked. 180C for about 20 to 30 minutes. I served this along with some baked potatoes topped with mild goats cheese and a side salad and some microwaved cabbage. Very nice!!!
Another Christmas present this year was a cook book from my step son and partner called Fish by Hugh Fernley Whittingstall. I think this is to help us with our attempt to eat more fish. They also gave me the Auto Biography "RAW" by Anthony Worrall Thompson. And they found me a package of Orzo in a Greek shop in London!!!!!! And my friend Linda gave me another foodie gift...... one of my favs...... Hershey bars!!!!!

Jingles is desperatley trying to see what it is I am cooking now!!! I know he wants to become a chef!!

My dear friend Fiona at Cottage Smallholder has tagged me again with a meme...
8 Random Facts about myself.....
The rules: Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog. Share 8 random or weird things about yourself. Tag 8 people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs. Oh this is gonna be tough.....

1. I am an American living in Britain. I was born in Indiana and lived there most of my life with a few months here or there in Texas and Oklahoma. But technically I am a Hoosier.
2. I am a grandmother!!! My first granddaughter was born last May 8th. And yes I am very very proud of her as I am of both my Twin sons and daughter in-law and my Stepson and his partner too.
3. I have alot of intrests...... Mainly cooking, collecting recipes and cook books (well over 400)and desperately trying to be a foodie, but I also love my crafting as much as my cooking. So much so, that I have commandered the spare bedroom for a craft room and filled it to the ceiling with rubber stamps yarn and paper and even a spinning wheel.
4. I love animals almost more than people sometimes. I have always had an animal in my life and I would feel totally lost without them. Since moving here to Britain I haven't had a dog in my life and I do find that hard, so really enjoy visiting my friends dog Ben. And yes I spoil him rotten just like I spoil my cats. I believe animals have feelings and an intelligence about them like we have.
5. My husband and I are bird watchers. We aren't in the category of twitchers. We don't go rushing off to see a rare bird. If it should happen to be in one of the places we visit all the better, but we don't go to the other end of the country to see it. We enjoy nature and all the things in it.
6. I also enjoy physics. I like reading and studying Einstein and Stephen Hawking who amazes me. And I enjoy having coversations with Brian about things like Schrodinger's cat and what if, all sorts of things like that. Keeps me thinking.
7. And to go along with 6. I am a sci fi nut. I like Star Trek, Star wars, and all those types of movies. And reading Asimov and others too. But I tend to scare myself sometimes thinking about other life on other planets. So try not to watch movies that have alien Abductions in them.
8. I guess I am a hoarder.... Like I said earlier, I collect recipes and cookbooks. I collect craft supplies, clothes, plants, food, animals(when Brian lets me). This may come from when I was a kid. I am not sure. But it is one tough habit to break.

Okay shhhhheesh that was hard. :)
Now I am supposed to tag 8 more people so what I will do instead is the first 8 to visit are tagged. So please leave a comment and let us all know 8 random facts about you on your blog.