Monthly Archives: November 2014

MY NEW HASSLE OF LIVING WITH A VEGETARIAN DAUGHTER and A Sort of Shrimp Chowder (serves 4)

My teenage daughter made the announcement the other day that she was going to begin the transition to vegetarianism. I knew this day would come and really I should have been happy. I mean, she did not tell me she wanted a tattoo of a butterfly on her ankle or to divorce me as a mother because I failed to understand her. All she wanted to do was not eat meat! I was once standing in her alternative leather shoes so I could really see her point of view, but for now all I could think was: great, just what I needed –ย  one more thing to add to the never-ending list of things I have to think about on a daily basis! This was going to be a bigger adjustment for me than for her.

My version of Shrimp Chowder

My version of Shrimp Chowder

And, it’s not like we are a household of carnivorous beasts either, we tend to choose poultry and fish over beef and pork. My problem is a threefold hassle; (1) I am already eating a specific diet (Read about my Blood Type A diet on the link in the header) and now I am going to have to consider not just my needs but also satisfy my daughter with a vegetarian option while not overlooking my son’s crazy craving for all kinds of sausages! (2) I know there is a solid argument against this, but I told her she would have to allow fish in her diet and to not go down that particular ethical road until after she left the house. But my options for her to have her protein fix for at least our main meal were greatly diminished. Now gone are the days when I can satisfy the entire house by throwing a chicken in the oven surrounded by a scattering of vegetables!

cubed tofu

cubed tofu

The other part of this is that this is the girl who never warmed to tofu (which I love and cook regularly) and is also not a big fan of beans! Will I be reduced to fish dishes and toasted cheese sandwiches?? I am a very capable cook and I pride myself in the fact that my kids grew up immersed in my little foodie-world, but this certainly will cramp my cooking style, which generally consists of rooting in the fridge and coming up with something on the spot. Also, my quick fix for lunch is a tin of sardines with a smear of mustard (which I eat right from the pretty little tin!) but she cannot stand these smelly little fish!

diced red potatoes

diced red potatoes (for my Chowder recipe below)

In a way it is funny that the most unlikely candidate for a vegetarian diet is the one who does not naturally gravitate towards vegetarian food. As I begin right now to lay this all out it makes me wonder if I should even allow this? I will be the one cooking and shopping and planning, so should it be my decision as to whether she is a vegetarian or not? She is a 13-year old who can fend for herself of course but my kids cook when it is necessary or when they want to. She is far too busy doing all the things young people do for me to make it obligatory that she cook on top of that. I am between a rock and a hard place as I respect her decision, but I also don’t need to complicate my life any more than it already is.

the ingredients..

Fresh Trout (check out some of my trout recipes by writing trout in the search box to the right of my blog)

I had better move on to my third concern as I could talk about number 2 all day long! (3) Fish is more expensive by far per pound than most cuts of meat. Take a chicken for example that could feed my family of four. I can buy an organic chicken on sale for between $7 to $10. The same amount of fish is twice the price. When I buy fish I choose fish that is sustainable (check out a great list you can put in your purse from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch ) which is why it is sometimes a treat to have a dinner which is centered around this delectable protein. For example the price per pound of rainbow trout is about $8, and it’s the same for a fish like cod or haddock. And, that’s only if you are lucky to find it for that price and for it to be fresh and ethically caught. My daughter is going to have to learn to love tofu or this foray of hers is going to cost me a fortune.

time for dinner

Fish lasagna – amazing

I wish I could say that money doesn’t matter and cook all kinds of oceanic delights every evening but the cold hard fact is that most people, including me live on a budget. I don’t think this is a bad or shameful thing and in more ways than one am grateful that I am compelled to thinking about certain things in monetary terms. I simply hate where I hear a kid ask his or her parents for things in a way which disregards how much that thing cost or has no clue or concept whatsoever about where their money comes from. Oops, looks like number 3 is also in danger of getting away from me….so yes, fish is more expensive, which is a hassle.

The biggest tuna fish I have ever seen 9The English Market, Cork)

The biggest tuna fish I have ever seen (The English Market, Cork)

Here is what I have decided: I am going to do what I can for now to satisfy my family but I if I start pulling my hair out or resort to looking for pennies under couch cushions, I will call a family meeting to implement change. Or perhaps my daughter will tire of her life choice before I have to look like the bad guy…one can only hope.

beautiful, but pricey greens

beautiful, but pricey greens from Eataly NYC

This is what I made for my daughter the other night, and thankfully it was a dish that everyone could enjoy (save for me because of the shrimp!). I called it a “chowder” because that is what it most resembled. A New England Clam Chowder has clams, cream, corn and potatoes and that had commonality enough for me to merit the title. I don’t really like the over-abundance of cream so I cut the cream by using a higher ratio of vegetable stock. It was truly scrumptious.

Asian-Style Fish Sliders

Asian-Style Fish Sliders (recipe HERE)

Now I’m just praying that my son doesn’t decide fruitarianism is his dietary destiny!

๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿ 

You will need:

1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic – peeled and finely chopped

2 medium potatoes – skin on and small dice (any potato will do)

1 cup sweet corn kernels (I used frozen corn – handy & quick, but of course fresh is great too!)

1/2 lb shrimp – peeled and de-veined (buy the 31-40 count size if you can)

2 cups chopped spinach

3 cups veggie broth Or bullion cube and water (I use the Rapunzel Brand with herbs and sea salt – really good)

1 cup heavy cream

freshly ground black pepper

salt (use a good quality salt if you can)

2 cups cooked warm basmati riceย 

Method:

1 – Pot medium soup on low/medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring frequently.

saute onions and garlic

saute onions and garlic

ย 2 – Add the chicken stock to the pot, along with the potatoes and sweet corn. Turn heat up and when it comes to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about 10 minutes, after which time the potatoes will have just about cooked through.

Add liquid, potatoes and corm

Add liquid, potatoes and corm

ย ย  3ย  – Add the cream, several good grinds of black pepper and about a 1/2 tsp salt. Bring back to a simmer. When it begins to simmer, add the shrimp and the chopped spinach. Cook until shrimp have cooked (about 8 minutes). Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Add cream and shrimp

Add cream and shrimp

ย  Scoop a nice mound of the rice into the bottom of shallow plates or soup bowls and top with chowder.

Serve with basmati rice in warmed bowls

Serve with basmati rice in warmed bowls

 

MY MOST SEARCHED WORD: GIGOT! And a new Gigot Chop Stew: Australian Lamb Shoulder Chop Stew (serves 6)

I got a stat report from WordPress (my blog server) at the beginning of this year and it was an interesting read. It was nice to see how over the past several years the visits to my blog have grown by the thousands. However, the most amazing fact to me is how many times a day GIGOT CHOP RECIPE is searched! This dinner was made in Ireland in August 2012 and has been made by someone other than me every day since!

Gigot Chop Lamb Stew

The most in demand recipe on my blog – Gigot Chop Lamb Stew

Gigot is a term I grew up with in Ireland and refers to a cut of meat from the forequarter (shoulder side) of a lamb, but here in the United States the word is pretty much unknown. That does not mean that a gigot doesn’t exist. I have found two explanations for why this chop is called a gigot that I am satisfied with: 1) the word is taken from the french word gigue which means fiddle (fiddle used for gigs) and suggests that the shape of the fiddle is similar to the shape of the leg of a lamb, and 2) it could also have come from the french word giguer which means to hop or jump, which conjures up an image of a little lamb frolicking in a green pasture! Of course this would suggest that the “gigot” comes from leg chops but as far as I know this is not true (at least for big lamb-eating places like Ireland and Australia) – all very confusing indeed!

a peak at the view

a peak at the view from The Rock of Dunamace, County Laois, Ireland (these are the kinds of fields Irish sheep graze in!)

The trick now, being in the United States, is where to find a good lamb chop that is the equivalent of the gigot chop? This is easy enough if you have a real honest-to-goodness butcher behind the counter, but sadly these days one is hard-pressed to find someone in the meat department in a supermarket in most places around here who really know their meat. Of course it is possible, but I find for something like this, it best to do your own research so you know exactly what to ask for.

Typical selection of cheese at any supermarkert in Ireland

Typical selection of cheese at any supermarket in Ireland

Go into any (almost any anyway!) supermarket in Ireland and there are four things you can count on; great bread, cheese, fish and meat. There is always someone working there who knowsย  a great deal more than you which helps enormously when deciding on certain cuts of meat or what kinds of fish can stand up to stewing or frying etc?

Woolly sheep happily grazing in County Wexford

Woolly sheep happily grazing in County Wexford (as seen from my train window on the way to Dublin)

The supermarkets in Ireland of course have those same aisles of sterile-y packaged meat and fish but there is always a meat or fish counter where someone is working on filleting fish or frenching chops, to answer any questions you might have. The supermarket that is closest to where I live now has a buzzer in the meat section that says “press if you need help” which I have pressed a few times but invariably no one shows up or they think I’m mad to even ask about say grinding some lamb so I can make burgers. This would mess up their pork and beef grinders I’m afraid. Most of the meat comes in prepackaged, so changes are a little difficult. Nowadays this service is only available in more upscale supermarkets which to me is such a strange thing. Why should it be a luxury to ask someone to cut a piece of cheese or butterfly a roast, but that’s the way it is I’m afraid. We are making progress with the “slow movement” and the Farm to Table trend, but while this is a good thing, it also makes ordinary food seem so complicated and exclusive.

Ide having a chat after lunch

Beef also makes a tasty Irish Stew (Ide having a chat after lunch in Tipperary)

Back to my Gigot Chop quest! I decided to make a Gigot Chop stew here in the United States so that at least when this recipe was searched I would have two to choose from; one from Irish Lambs and now one from Lamb I bought the other day in my favorite “upscale” supermarket. I could have gone to a Butcher Shop (now another Trendy way to buy your meat here!) but I wanted to find this elusive piece of meat in a more general location. Most people do their entire shopping in one place so that was where I was determined to find it.

This is the Forequarter of a lamb where the chop for lamb stew typically comes from and where the "gigot" comes from

This is the Forequarter of a lamb where the chop for lamb stew typically comes from and where the “gigot” comes from. This diagram comes from a fantastic Australian website; Beef and Lamb.com.Au that you should most certainly put into your favorites if you want to find out more about meat cuts. It even has an app you can download for beef, lamb and goat meat cuts! By the way, they do not call any chop from the forequarter a “gigot chop” so I’m guessing this is strictly a European term.

I’m afraid when I mentioned the word “gigot” to the guy behind the counter he was dumbstruck and headed off to find a guy “that really knew the product” and I could ask him. As helpful as he was, he hadn’t a notion and never heard the word before in his life. Of course this was understandable and after we talked about the cut of meat coming from the shoulder and I was going to stew it, he directed me towards the piece of meat he was sure that if it wasn’t a gigot exactly, it would make a great stew! Well if this was my choice I was going to go with it and see how it fared.

lamb shoulder blade chop

Lamb shoulder-blade chop. This is a lovely looking chop! (there is a small bone but no marrow bone)

The lamb chops he recommended were labeled Lamb Shoulder Arm Chop and Lamb Shoulder Blade Chop, the latter being $1 more per lb. The arm has a little bone with the marrow which seemed more similar to my gigot chops, but the blade had a nice bit of fat going through it so I couldn’t decide. In the end I bought both kinds and would cook them together and see if one ended up tasting better than the other? I thought that at least now there were more choices for anyone who could only find one kind wherever they shopped. I know, this seems all so nit-picky but when I am hellbent on cooking a specific dish I do like to use the right ingredients. So this post is for all those nit-pickers out there like me. And the people who are only interested in the recipe can skip all of this foody-nonsence and go straight to the recipe!

lamb shoulder arm chop

Lamb shoulder-arm chop – also a beautiful looking cut of meat (has a marrow bone and is slightly fattier than the blade chop)

These chops are organic (I figured that would put them in a similar category to the grass-fed lamb that I used for the stew in Ireland) and are actually not from the United States. It is near impossible to find lamb that is from hereย  unless you seek out a boutique organic farm or specialty butcher shop. These chops are from a country with as strong a lamb tradition as Ireland; Australia.

ulhl

The most amazing Lamb Stew

It was an amazing stew, and I would go so far as to say that this may even have been a better dish than the one I made in Ireland. It is a different style of Irish Stew in that I didn’t pan sear the meat or sweat the base vegetables. I layered the ingredients into a heavy casserole with a dredge of flour on the meat and a little salt and pepper on the veggies and let the oven do the rest. I did make sure there was also some fresh thyme in the mix as lamb without thyme just wouldn’t be the same!

My lovely layered lamb stew just out of the oven

My lovely layered lamb stew just out of the oven

After an hour in the oven I layered the top with some par-boiled potatoes and put it back into the oven to finish cooking. I used what is traditional, regular white potatoes, but also added some sweet potatoes with them. I had one on hand and I thought the sweetness would pair great with the flavor of the lamb. It was a good decision!

This was one of those dinners where the whole table was in absolute reverie, too busy sopping up sauce and getting the marrow out of bones to even talk. All I could here was the sound of food being lapped up.

The River Barrow (10 minutes from our house)

The River Barrow (the river flowing through County Carlow where I grew up). Cooking this lamb stew last night brought back some lovely sense memories as the aroma from the oven permeated my kitchen. Yep – now I’m homesick!

So if you are curious about Gigot Chops and think you cannot find them here in the United States (or you are in a place where that’s what they are called and you are still craving a dinner like this!), go out and grab any kind of lamb shoulder chop you can find and you will have the right cut of meat to make this superbly unctuous dinner. This will be a great dish to have in your repertoire to warm cockles and hearts on those long wintry nights in your future.

Also worth mentioning is that this recipe could be made by a 5-year-oldย  –ย  super simple!

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“Australian” Lamb Shoulder Chop Stew (serves 6)

You will need:

2 1/4 to 2 1/2lbs Lamb Shoulder Chops (6 in all – blade or arm chops Or gigot chops)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 medium onions (yellow, white or sweet onions)

2 cups baby carrots or 3 carrots peeled and thickly sliced

fresh thyme – about 4 or so individual sprigs (or bunch of little sprigs)

salt and pepper for seasoning

4 med potatoes (white or red skin unpeeled or mix with some yellow or white sweet potatoesย  – peel the sweet potatoes) – cut into thick rounds

2 cups (approx) of chicken broth

2 tbs unsalted butter

Method:

Preheat oven to 350*

1 – Place flour on a dinner plate and add several grinds of pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pat the chops with a cloth or paper towel to dry them and dredge in flour. Lay half of the chops in the bottom of a heavy-duty casserole dish. Sprinkle half of the thyme over the meat.

Dredge chops in seasoned flour and layer into casserole dish

Dredge chops in seasoned flour and layer into casserole dish

2 – Add the onions and carrots in an even layer and add the rest of the fresh thyme leaves. Top with the remaining chops and add the broth. Only add as much as it takes to get to the beginning of the top layer of chops. If 2 cups is too much, then use less, or more as the case may be. Cover tightly with lid and place in oven and cook for 1 hour.

Add layer of veggies and top with remaining cops and add broth

Add layer of veggies and top with remaining cops and add broth

3 – In the meantime, parboil the potatoes by placing in pot, cover with cold water and place on high on stove top. Cover with lid and when the water is boiling, time potatoes for about 5 minutes. Drain gently into a colander and set aside until ready to use.

prep and parboil potatoes

prep and parboil potatoes

4 – Remove casserole from oven and remove lid. Layer the potatoes on top and dot with the butter. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and return to the oven for about 35 minutes. If the potatoes are cooked but not browned by the end of the cooking time, turn on the broiler and brown the potatoes (looks much better on presentation).

top with potaotes and dot with butter before placing back in oven

top with potatoes and dot with butter before placing back in oven

Serve into warmed shallow plates and dig in! I had bread and a salad on the table to go with this hearty meal.

Serve in warmed shallow plates or bowls

Serve in warmed shallow plates or bowls

Roasted Vegetables 101 – Learn how to do this right every time!!!

I made this big sheet pan of roasted vegetables the other night simply because I had not enough of any one thing to make a complete side dish. However, when I threw everything into one big bowl and tossed with some olive oil, salt and pepper it transformed into a robust feast for a crowd!

A visually

A visually mouth-watering dish! (roasted red potatoes, crimini mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and baby carrots)

I am posted this to demonstrate what you can do withย  odds and ends and how you can feed a crowd without too much effort. Roasting vegetables bring out their sweetness and imparts great depth of flavor. You can roast most any vegetable.

roast cherry tomatoes (and hot peppers if you choose to use them)

roasted cherry tomatoes and hot peppers

All of these accompaniments can be used in a myriad of different ways. Sometimes (like the other night in the top photograph) I simply serve alongside the protein (which can be anything: chops, chicken or fish!) or I add it to pasta which makes a lightning fast dinner.

kuglyg

Green beans are fabulous when roasted!

ย The only thing you have to be careful about is to select vegetables that have roughly the same cooking times. In other words: don’t roast zucchini with potatoes or you will end up with zucchini mush! AND size matters: always cut your vegetables approximately the same size or some will cook faster than others!

As are asparagus!

As are asparagus!

Now that we are hurdling towards colder weather, my oven will be busy roasting up all sorts of vegetables to bolster the flavor of our evening meals, not to mention keeping my kitchen toasty warm!

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You will need:

choose up to three or four of the list below:

2 to 3 tbs olive oil to coat (use more oil for porous veggies such as mushrooms and less for roots veggies)

Salt and pepper for seasoning (start with a teaspoon or more of salt and several grinds of pepper – this bit is very personal so if you like more seasoning add according to your tasteย  – or less for that matter)

4 medium potatoes – large dice (no need to peel – just washed and dried)

1 large sweet potato or yam – peeled and large dice

1 lb baby carrots

12 oz to 1 lb cherry tomatoes (any color!)

1/2 lb (more if you like) mushrooms – quartered (any kind you like or have on hand)

3 parsnips – sliced into 1 inch pieces and quartered (or halved depending on the size)

1/2 lb green beans – left whole

Below are other veggies with different cooking time instructions!

Method:

Preheat oven to 450*

1 – While oven is preheating, prepare all of your selected veggies and place in a very large bowl or container. Add the oil and mix it through the vegetables until everything is coated. Add your seasonings and mix it in.

Roast Veggies

Roast Veggies

ย 2 – Place vegetables on large baking sheet in an even single layer without “crowding the pan! Place in the oven. Cook for about 18 minutes before removing. Wait for about 30 seconds before turning (waiting gives the vegetables time to release a little moisture and thereby makes them easy to toss). Return to oven for 12 minutes and then check for doneness by tasting. Remove if ready or return for another few minutes checking often.

I served in a large warmed bowl

I served in a large warmed bowl

ย A nice (and easy) way to serve these is in a large warm serving bowl with a big spoon, or of course you can serve onto the plates right from the sheet pan (or toss straight into the dish you are making).

prep asparagus

Asparagus roasting time: about 25 minutes, turning after 15 or so minutes.

roast  set aside

ย I roast cherry tomatoes very often on their own. I use them on grilled sandwiches (cold or hot), omelets and toss them into pasta dishes. They roast quickly on their own – about 10 – 12 minutes total, turning halfway through the cooking time.

sweet potatoes done

sweet potatoes fries are delicious – recipe HERE

French Fries..

Simply the best French Fries. Hand cut, toss in olive oil, season with salt and pepper (definitely salt, and maybe pepper) and cook for 18 minutes, turn and cook for another 12 before checking for doneness.

saute onions

Pearl onions are great roasted – especially alongside root veggies such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips – they cook in the same time frame as root vegetables.

add spices, then cauliflower

Cauliflower is also fantastic when roasted – will post my favorite roasted cauliflower recipe soon!

Fry Zucchini & squash

Zucchini & squash are best roasted in halves

roast eggplant

Eggplant can be roasted in rounds or cubes (recipe for cubes HERE)

Delicious roasted vegetables..

Delicious roasted vegetables..

Chocolate Toffee Pudding with Warm Toffee Sauce and Fresh Cream (serves 6-8)

When I want to have friends over for a little dinner party my night of choice is Friday.ย  By the end of the week I am always itching to have a bit of fun and Friday is the beginning of my weekend so why not jump in feet first!

Our splendid dessert

Our splendid dessert

If I lived in a place where I could walk to a decent restaurant and sit with friends over some good foodย wine then that would also be part of my weekend agenda. Alas this is not the case, so I have learned to create an intimate restaurant atmosphere in my house and, sometimes that includes serving a luscious dessert that I imagine being brought to my table by some white-aproned waiter.

Small Friday night Dinner Party

Small Friday night Dinner Party

This past Friday was one such evening in my little pretend Chez Tess bistro and I made a dinner that allowed me to sit like one of my customers and enjoy the atmosphere along with everyone else. This dessert was something I could prep ahead of time and then pop in the oven while we were eating dinner. It is based on a great Jamie Oliver recipe but I did change some of the ingredientsย  both out of a desire to make it my own, as well as for some practical reasons: I didn’t want to tromp off to the supermarket to get self-rising flour for one!

Medjool dates

Medjool dates are prized for their sweet flavor and large size (also full of fiber!)

He also used ovaltine which is an instant sweet malted-milk powder and I didn’t have it, or care to use it so I went with unsweetened cocoa powder instead to give it a deeper chocolate taste (it would also curb the sweetness). The thing that would have been a sin to mess with was the addition of dates. He used fresh fruit but I had some unctuous dried Medjool dates that I knew would work the same if not better.

This was part of our main course - truly scrumptious

This was part of our main course – truly scrumptious

Dinner was amazing but the dessert is how I will remember this evening. Making the effort to create an intimate relaxing atmosphere and cooking dinner for my friends is worth mustering up that last ounce of energy I have left by Friday. I hope you are inspired.

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You will need:

8 oz dry medjool dates (about 2 cups) – pitted

1 tsp baking soda

6 tbs unsalted butter – room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp pumpkin spice (found in spice aisle)

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tbs plain yogurt or sour cream

for Toffee Sauce:

8 tbs unsalted butter

1/4 cup soft light brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cram

Whipped Cream:

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tsp confectioners sugar

Method:

Preheat oven 350*

1 – Put pitted dates in a bowl and sprinkle with baking soda and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 5 minutes and then drain. Pop into your food processor and blend until you have a nice puree. Set aside.

Pulverize in blender

Pulverize in blender

2 – Place dry ingredients in a small bowl (flour, spices, baking powder and cocoa powder) and mix together with a hand whisk. In large bowl cream the sugar and butter together until it is pale and smooth (about 3 minutes). Add eggs one at a time and whisk. Add the flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Fold in the yogurt (or sour cream) and then the date puree. Place in a buttered oven proof dish (I used a loaf pan but any dish will do) and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

make batter

make batter

3 – Place on a wire rack to cool (remembering to serve while still warm!)

bake pudding

bake pudding

4 –ย  Make toffee sauce by placing the toffee ingredients into a small bowl and heating on low heat until everything is melted and smooth and has taken on a darker, richer color.

Make Toffee Sauce

Make Toffee Sauce

5 – Next add the heavy cream to a bowl and add 2 teaspoons of confectioners sugar and whip until nice and thick.

whip cream

whip cream

Place pudding on the bottom and spoon some toffee sauce over top and a dollop of whipped cream. I added a little flourish of grated chocolate to finish it off!

Chocolate Toffee Pudding with Freshly Whipped Cram and Toffee Sauce

Chocolate Toffee Pudding with Freshly Whipped Cream and Warm Toffee Sauce

BAKED ASIAN-STYLE SALMON WITH LOADED RICE (serves 4 or 6)

This style dinner is the one dish that all of us in the house love equally, and if you make it, you’ll see why!

Look how wonderful this salmon dish is and it takes less effort and time than you think!

Look how wonderful this salmon dish is and it takes less effort and time than you think!

It is what I made for dinner last night because I needed to be efficient as time was not on my side. We had all sorts of commitments however I still wanted to squeeze in a good dinner for everyone, which would also give us a chance to sit together for a few moments before scattering. I think forgoing dinner to spend more time on the computer or doing your hair is a mistake. After all, I am the one who decided to have children and so I feel it is my responsibility to show them that you can still manage to cook an evening meal in the fast-paced techno world we have become.

I also served this with avocado slices, which gave everything a lovely creaminess

ย Avocado adds a creaminess to so many different kinds of dishes and is a great substitute for a dairy product such as sour cream or yoghurt.

So, if you know ahead of time that you are going to be strapped for time in the evening, buy some salmon on your way home and make this dish. The salmon is baked so you don’t have to watch it on a pan and the rice dish can be made with whatever veggies you have in your fridge or pantry. There is always a way to figure something out and there is no recipe in the world that cannot be altered for taste and convenience, so no excuses!

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*This is the perfect Blood Type A Diet dish – just omit the hot sauce!*

You will need:

4ย  6oz pieces of salmon (6 pieces if you are cooking for 6 people)

3 tbs soy sauce

3 tbs mirin

1 tsp sriracha sauce (optional)

a variety of vegetables such as (use up to 3 or 4 of the suggestions below):

2 tbs olive oil

1 cup carrots – grated or matchstick style

4 cups chopped fresh spinach

1/2 lb mushrooms – sliced (any mushroom you like)

1 medium onion – small dice

2 cloves garlic – finely chopped

1 or 2 medium zucchini diced

1 or 2 medium squash – diced

1 small/medium red, green or yellow pepper – small dice

1 jalapeno pepper – diced (if you want to add some heat!)

4 to 6 cups cooked basmati rice (use your rice cooker or for stove top use two cups of rice and follow instructions)

1 to 2 avocado – quartered and sliced (optional)

Drizzling sauce for rice and salmon when serving:

mix together in a little bowl:

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 tbs mirin

1 tbs fresh lime juice (if you don’t have a lime, don’t worry about it)

a dash of hot sauce (if you like)

Method:

1 – Cut salmon into 3 oz pieces and place in a shallow dish in a single layer. Mix the soy, mirin and sriracha (if using) together and pour over salmon. Mix it all together and turn over to coat the salmon completely. Leave in fridge until ready to bake.

Marinate salmon first thing!

Marinate salmon first thing!

2 – Put rice on to cook. While rice is cooking put large saute pan on medium heat (large enough to hold the complete rice dish) and when it is warm add the oil. Fry the veggies. If using onions and garlic, put them on the pan first for about 5 minutes before adding the mushrooms, peppers, carrots or jalapeno. If using squash or zucchini, add this 3 minutes before you are done. If adding spinach, simple stir in at the same time as you add the rice. Cook until the veggies are done and then add the cooked rice. (You may have to turn off the pan if the rice is not cooked when the veggies are ready. The rice will warm up the veggies when you add it)

Make rice dish

Make rice dish

3 – Preheat oven to 450* when you start sauteing the veggies. Rub some olive oil in the bottom of a baking sheet (I used a cookie sheet pan) and place the fish on the pan. Place in the oven for 6 to 7 minutes – no need to turn!

Bake salmon and serve with rice

Bake salmon and serve with rice

Serve two pieces of fish with rice to each person or place fish on a platter and rice in a serving bowl and let everyone help themselves. Serve avocado slices and drizzling sauce on the side.

This would also make a great easy dinner party meal!

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I LOVE Chicken Thighs but HE CRAVES Chicken Breast; This ONE Dish works for both! (each dish variation serves 4)

This is a dilemma in my house; myself and my daughter love the leg and thigh of chicken, while my son and husband prefer the breast meat! It is not really a problem when you roast a whole bird, but when you want to make anything else it can turn into a problem.

Chicken baked in a mudhrrom cream sauce and topped with a cheddar dough crust

Chicken baked in a mushroom cream sauce and topped with a cheddar dough crust

One could argue that whatever I serve up for dinner should be eaten with very grateful hearts, and I have certainly gone down this road many times, but other times, when I’m feeling particularly generous, I what to give whomever I am cooking for exactly what they crave.

Two dishes, I method!

Two dishes, one method! (Read all my these super enamel dishes designed by Timo Sarpanevaย  HERE!)

This is a fantastic solution and takes no more time than if you made one dish! The idea came to mind when I happen to be cleaning my kitchen and I saw my two identical baking dishes buried under some other pans. They screamed “USE ME!” and so I did, placing chicken thighs in one and chicken breast in the other, thereby satisfying us all without having to fish out the various parts for each plate.

you do have thyme to cook!

The thyme in my garden is still going strong!

This is a recipe you have to try if you are in the mood for true comfort food.

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You will need:

4 tbs olive oil or safflower oil

3 med/lrg chicken breast fillets

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs

1 1/2 lbs mushrooms – diced (white or cremini will work equally)

2 medium onions – diced

4 garlic cloves – peeled and finely chopped

fresh thyme springs (if large use two, if very small use four)

freshly ground pepper

good quality salt (I used Celtic sea salt and Maldon salt to finish)

2 tbs unsalted butter

2 tbs all-purpose four

2 1/2 cups chicken broth (or water and 2 good quality bouillon cubes – I recommend Rapunzel brand)

1 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups peas (this is optional and also if you don’t plan on making some greens to go with this – Frozen peas work great)

Dough Crust:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp salt

several grinds black pepper

1 cup strong cheddar cheese – grated (optional)

8 tbs cold unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

* you will need two dishes – glass baking dish, cast iron, enamel shallow casserole or your favorite pan you use for the oven*

Method:

Preheat oven 425*

1 – Season the chicken with some pepper and salt. Put a saute pan on high heat and when it is hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Sear the chicken on both sides until browned. Do this in batches (in other words: don’t crown the pan or your chicken will steam and not crisp up!). Add more oil as needed. As you finish the chicken place the thighs in the bottom of one baking dish and the chicken in another. *When the chicken breast is cool enough to handle, slice into thick pieces and place back into the dish*

Season and sear the chicken

Season and sear the chicken

2 – Turn heat down to medium/low and add about 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes before adding the diced mushrooms. Turn heat up and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and butter and continue to cook until the mushrooms are nice and soft (about 8 more minutes).

saute onions, garlic, add butter and thyme

saute onions, garlic, add butter and thyme

3 – Add the flour and sir into the mushroom mixture and cook for about 1 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the broth one cup at a time stirring continuously. The mixture will start to thicken and get hot. Add the cream and stir. Cook for a few minutes until the sauce is thick and creamy. Taste for addition of salt and pepper and add according to your taste. *Add peas at this time if using*

Add mushrooms, make sauce

Add mushrooms, make sauce

4 – Pour equal amounts of the sauce over each dish and place in your preheated oven for 20 minutes.

divide sauce between the two pans

divide sauce between the two pans

5 – While chicken is cooking make the topping. Put flour along with the other dry ingredients into a big bowl and stir everything together with a whisk. Cut the butter into the flour and knead the butter into the flour until you have a fine rubble. Add the cheese (if using) and toss it in with your hands. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon (work from the outside scraping into the center). Add more milk if there are still dry pockets of flour. The mixture should feel slightly sticky. Set aside until ready to use.

Make dough and top the chicken halfway through cooking

Make dough and top the chicken halfway through cooking

6 – After 20 minutes, take chicken out of the oven and dot the dough over each in irregular mounds. Do this with your hands (it’s the easiest way) Place back into the oven for another 15 minutes or until the crust in a nice golden brown.

Remove when dough is golden brown and let rest for five minutes before serving

Remove when dough is golden brown and let rest for five minutes before serving

Remove and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve as is or with veggies: boiled carrots and peas, sautรฉed spinach or other hearty green OR a big green salad!

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QUICK Spaghetti with Garlicky Olive Oil & Mortadella (romantic dinner for 2)

There was a very strange and unusual occurrence this past Saturday evening at my house: we were without children for the night! They each had impromptu sleepovers with friends and so at about 7.30pm on Saturday, I found myself in the kitchen, alone.

Our quick and romantic dinner for two

Our quick and romantic dinner for two

My man Dave was not home yet and all sorts of thoughts about what we should do with this precious time popped into my head; go to the movies, play music really really loud in the house, order takeout for dinner, read a book, have a party??? None of the above really appealed (except the bit about playing music loud, which I did before Dave came home!), to me so this is what we did. We both sat in the kitchen drinking wine and chatting while I made us dinner. I made something that was un-fussy but still managed to make the house smell wonderful. That’s one of the reasons I hate takeout: no good kitchen smell lingering in the air as you eat!

Mortadella from Bolonga

Mortadella from Bologna. Mortadella hails from Italy and is a large finely ground heat-cured pork hash that is compressed into a large sausage shape. It has added cubes of pork fat and spices. It can also contain things like black pepper, berries or pistachios. I like the pistachio version the best. You can find it at really good delicatessen counters or Italian grocery stores. It’s great thinly sliced on sandwiches or used like I did: chopped and added to a pasta dish.

The thing I didn’t want to do was shop for ingredients, so I made do with what I had. I had lots of garlic, and there is always olive oil and pasta in my pantry so that settled it. I wanted to make a simple garlicky oil that my spaghetti would lovingly cling to. I also had a few ounces of mortadella (read about it above) that was on the verge of expiring so I decided to fry it with the garlic. Mortadella has good fat content so I knew it would add to the oily sauce in a yummy way.

The Ultimate Cheese!

The Ultimate Cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano

The reason this was a “romantic” dish is simply because we were alone! But, I do think there is something romantic about pasta. It is so instantly satisfying and appreciates olive oil and garlic the way I do. Pasta like spaghetti, is also fun to eat right out of the pan while the person you love twirls their fork next to you. The other love affair I have is with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.ย  I adore this grainy, strong and heavenly cheese with a passion – surly that merits romance!

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Dave add some fresh crunchy spinach to his plate before helping himself to mounds of pasta.

ย We ate heartily until there wasn’t a stand of spaghetti left. It was true pasta love!

*Of course you can double this recipe if it is for 4!*

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*To make this a Blood Type A Diet Recipe simple omit the mortadella and chili. If you want to add some protein, try throwing in enough good quality canned sardines for two right before you toss the pasta into the pan. Also don’t forget your spinach!*

You will need:

4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

4 med/large cloves garlic – very finely chopped or minced

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (chili flakes) – optional

4 oz mortadella – medium dice (pancetta or diced bacon will also work here)

1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese – grated

1/2 lb good quality spaghetti (barilla is easy to find)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1 – Put pasta water on the stove top immediately with a good teaspoon or two of salt and a little olive oil. Cook according to instructions making sure to not over cook. Scoop out a cup of the hot pasta cooking water right before draining and set aside.

Cook Pasta in water with some salt and a drop of oil

Cook Pasta in water with some salt and a drop of oil

2 – Put large saute pan on medium heat and when it has warmed add the oil. Add the garlic to the pan and stir it into the oil. After about 2 minutes (don’t have the heat so high as to allow the garlic to burn or brown!), add the cayenne pepper flakes (if using) and the chopped mortadella. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes stirring frequently.

fry mortadella with garlic and olive oil

fry mortadella with garlic and olive oil

3 – Have this timed so the pasta is cooked at the same time (in other words, start your garlic and oil about 5 minutes before the pasta is ready to be drained) and add immediately to the garlicky oil. Add a little pasta cooking water (about a 1/4 cup) to loosen it up if it needs it. Add the cup of grated cheese and stir it into the pasta dish. Taste for addition of salt and/or black pepper. Remove from heat.

Add cooked spaghetti and mix in parm cheese

Add cooked spaghetti and mix in parm cheese

ย Serve in warmed bowls with drizzle of extra-virgin oil and some more cheese (if you have a really good quality oil that you save for special occasions, now is the time to break it out!).

Serve in warmed bowls (or eat straight form the pan with a couple of forks!)

Serve in warmed bowls (or eat straight from the pan with a couple of forks!)