Today was one of those serendipitous days where I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. These things don't happen to me very often, but fate sure shined on me today!!
I happened to stop by TJ Maxx on my way home from work today, with the hope of perhaps finding a t-shirt for my summer wardrobe. As I always do when I go to TJ Maxx, I stopped by the cooking aisle just to see if there were any books that were on sale. Usually they only have some Williams -Sonoma books and other non-descript titles. But this day was different. When I glanced at the shelf, I couldn't believe my eyes. In fact, as some of the shoppers there will attest, to my great embarrassment, I yelled out "no way"!!!! Right there, in front of my eyes was the Bill Granger cookbook I have been coveting for ages and haven't gotten around to getting yet. Every time I go to the book store, its a constant battle against my cook book collecting sickness and to date I had been successful with the Bill Granger Books. They are on my Christmas/Birthday wishlist this year for family and friends, but now I could take it off.
Gingerly, I took it off the shelf and turned it over to see what the price was. And, to my disbelief, the tag read $4.99! Could this be possible? This was a book that retails for $24.95 and here it was for $4.99. Was there something wrong with it? I checked it thoroughly for defects (not that that would have swayed me from purchasing it, at that price) but it was in perfect condition. No tears, no stains...perfect. This was truly my lucky day!
Then it got even better. As I tucked the book under my arm, ready to take it to the cash register before anyone could steal it from me, I glanced down at one of the lower shelves....and there was another one from Bill Granger!! Unbelievable. This one too, was only $4.99. I could barely believe my luck. I kept waiting for someone to come over and tell me that they were sorry. That the books were put there by mistake. Or that when I got to the cash register, it would really be $19.99 or something like that. But no, they let me escape from the store with my two precious purchases, for just $4.99 each. I love a bargain, but this went beyond even my wildest expectations!!
And yes, I am aware that its a little weird to be so excited by a cookbook...but hey, every girl loves a bargain and all food bloggers love a great cookbook.
So, of course the first thing I did when I got my purchases home was to sit on the couch, cross legged and pour over every glorious recipe. Trying to decide which I could possibly make first. Everything looked great, but the desserts looked especially yummy. When I saw the recipe for scones with jam and cream, I knew I had found my winner. I had all the ingredients and this brought back so many great memories of tea with my family, that I just had to make them.
If you have never been to Miss Marples teahouse in Sassafras, in the Dandenong mountains, just outside of Melbourne, Australia....then, you simply must go if you have the opportunity. This place does the greatest afternoon tea that I have ever experienced...its really out of this world. The scones are enormous and they are served with lashings of whipped cream and fresh strawberry jam. The other offerings there are also fabulous, but you cannot go there and not get the scones. I have very fond memories of going there with my mum and also with both my parents. We love this place and this is not something I have had since I moved to the US 4 years ago.
I also have never made my own scones before, but this recipe was very easy, had few ingredients and once paired with whipped cream and jam, were truly like heaven on a stick.
I had these for dessert tonight, but this truly makes for a high tea fit for a queen! Make these for afternoon tea and your friends will swoon with pure joy at such a simple, yet sensational snack.
This recipe comes from Bill Granger's Bills Food. I should say that these are not the scones that are found in the US, which are more like cakes. These are a traditional English type scone, a scone that imagine Queen Liz would enjoy on a regular basis....and if not, then she should!!
1 tbs icing sugar
2 1/2 cups of plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup of milk
1oz butter, melted
1. Pre-heat oven to 425F. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the milk and butter and stir to combine with a knife. Knead quickly and lightly until smooth and then press out onto a floured surface.
2. Use a glass to cut out rounds roughly 2" in diameter and 1 1/2" deep and place them close together on a greased baking sheet. Cook for 8-10 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve with jam and whipped cream.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Tonight's dinner was shrimp, which can only mean one thing!! Hubby has class and its seafood city for me :) This dinner was nice. Aside from the marinating it was really quick and tasty. The recipe however only allows 3 shrimp for each person, which seems like slim pickings to me. As a main, I doubled the number of shrimp for myself and that seemed to be a suitable number. Obviously if you made it, you could have however many you wanted.
The only changes I made to this recipe (from Cooking Light Grilling) were the marinating and the mango. It called for 2 hours in the fridge and I just didn't have the time for that today, as I got home later than I thought. I left it in there for an hour and that seemed fine to me. Its only in some oil, pepper and coriander, so I don't think another hour would have improved the flavor any....but that's just me. Also, I didn't have any mango chutney, so I just added some fresh mango.
This was a low calorie, low carb meal and left me feeling not too guilty about the dessert to follow (see above).
Black Pepper Shrimp with Cilantro-Coconut Chutney
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp canola oil
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs fresh lime juice
1 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbs flaked sweetened coconut
2 tbs fresh lime juice
1/2 cup mango
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp minced fresh green chili
1/4 tsp salt
2 cloves of garlic
1. To prepare the shrimp, combine the first three ingredients in a ziplock bag and add the shrimp. marinate in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
2. Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Remove shrimp from bag, sprinkle with salt and then place on the grill which has been coated with cooking spray. Grill for 3 minutes on each side or until done, then drizzle with lime juice.
3. To prepare chutney, place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
4. Serve shrimp over chutney.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
One of the things I love about summer is the fact that you can have lovely light meals for dinner and feel comforted. In winter, comfort food is a lot heavier, with dishes like casseroles, roasts, tagines etc. Summer you can get by with just a salad....and its great!
I saw this recipe in Cooking Light and thought it would make a lovely summer dinner and it was pretty good. I have never added flour to an omelet before and this recipe called for it. I don't think I would add it again, as it made more like a pancake on the outside. I also decided to add some leftover danish blue cheese to this and I think it gave it a much more interesting flavor. It would have been good without, but I think it definitely added a tang that was much tastier. However, having said that, it was too much for hubby and he ended up eating the salad and then a bowl of cereal. I guess you can't win them all. I was happy to eat his left overs :)!!
So here is the recipe, adapted from this month's Cooking Light magazine.
Onion and Fresh Herb Omelet with Mixed Greens
1/4 cup fat-free milk
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp fresh minced thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 cup plain flour
2 cups sliced onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
2-3 tbs blue cheese, crumbled
3 cups loosely packed salad greens
1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbs crumbled goats cheese
1 1/2 tsp sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
1. To prepare omelet, whisk together the first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Add flour and mix well.
2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray, add onion to pan and saute for 7 minutes or until browned. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Pour in egg mixture, reduce heat and cook until almost set Sprinkle over blue cheese, then fold omelet in half. Place half on each plate.
3. To prepare salad, combine ingredients and toss well.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
When I saw the picture of these spicy chicken and corn parcels in Vol 31 of Donna Hay magazine, I had to make them! They looked so cute and elegant, I thought it would make a great meal. But to my dismay, when I started assembling them, I started to think that maybe they might look great, but the taste could be a little lacking.
Too late to turn back though, I plunged ahead and finished the parcels...all the while worrying that dinner was going to be a big flop. I wanted to serve these with a salad and in an effort to make something a little different, I made the watermelon-feta salad with fresh herbs, from this month's edition of Cooking Light.
When the meal all came together, it turned out quite well....better than I had expected. The salad was actually very refreshing and very tasty. A definite keeper. The chicken parcels were tastier than I expected, but not a flavor sensation. After it was cooked, the chicken came out of the parcels almost like little sausages. However, the addition of tomato and corn was not enough to make this dish really sensational. Putting them together was very fiddly and I don't think I would bother again for this particular recipe. Its still a neat presentation idea though and would perhaps be good with a different type of filling.
Not a disaster, but not one of my better efforts...however in fairness, I think the recipe was a little bland, even with the addition of a red chilli.
Spicy Chicken and Corn Parcels
1 cob corn
1 tbs olive oil
1 red onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small red chilli, chopped
1 vine-ripened tomato, chopped
2 tbs cilantro, chopped
8oz chicken, minced
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1. Carefully remove the corn husks and discard the silk. Place the husks in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 1 minute to soften. Drain and pat dry. Slice the kernels from the corn and set aside.
2. Heat a large pan over high heat. Add onion, garlic and chilli and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Place in a bowl and mix with cilantro, salt, pepper, chicken and corn. Reserve one husk to cut into long strips for securing the ends of the parcels. Spoon tablespoons of the mixture into the husks and roll to enclose the filling. Pre-heat the grill and cook parcels for 2-3 minutes on each side or until firm.
Watermelon-Feta Salad with Fresh Herbs
6 cups of cubed seedless watermelon
2 cups chopped watercress
3/4 cup crumbled, reduced fat feta cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
3 tbs thinly sliced fresh mint
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to combine. Serve immediately.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Souffle's are notoriously difficult to make, so I am not sure why I decided to take on this project tonight. But I guess its because the photo in April's Delicious magazine looked so good. To be fair, I think mine turned out pretty good, but there were a couple of little problems with them.
The end result was that they definitely tasted good. The article accompanying this recipe suggests to serve these as an appetizer or light meal, but I thought it would be ok to serve for dinner. I halved the recipe (which was originally for 6) and thought I would get 3 out of it. It ended up giving me four though, so I served 2 each. However, they were very rich and I struggled through my second one and hubby couldn't eat his. So, if you are going to try this recipe, I would probably only serve one and also would probably serve this for brunch or an appetizer, like the recipe stated.
It wasn't too difficult to make and mine rose as it should. However, it did stick to the ramekin a little bit and was hard to get out, even though I had greased them thoroughly. The recipe called for Roquefort cheese, which I couldn't get a hold of, so I used some Danish Blue cheese which worked fine. Also, the recipe was supposed to contain hazelnut meal, which I also couldn't find, so I used almond meal. This gave my souffle's a paler appearance than the one in Delicious magazine, but it did not affect the taste at all.
This would make a lovely brunch for something special like a Mother's Day or Valentine's Day, however it was a little fiddly, although not really difficult.
Twice Baked Souffle
1/4 cup hazelnut or almond meal
1/2 cup plain flour
90g blue cheese
60g gruyere cheese, chopped
3 egg yolks
7 egg whites
Slices of pear and bitter salad leaves (such as frisee or raddichio)
oil and balsamic to dress
1. Butter 6 or 8 ramekins, then dust with almond or hazelnut meal, tapping to remove excess. Refrigerate until needed. Gently heat milk until just warm and set aside. To make a roux, melt butter over low heat, then gradually add flour, stirring constantly until it bubbles and forms a paste. Gradually add warm milk to the flour mixture until it is fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
2. Remove from heat, then stir in cheese and stir until combined. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Stir in egg yolks, then season with salt and pepper.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Use a spatula to fold in half the mixture to the cheese mixture until well combined. Gently fold in remaining egg whites, being careful to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
4. Place moulds in a roasting pan, then fill 3/4 full with egg mixture. Fill pan halfway up the sides of the mould with boiling water. Place pan in the oven and cook for about 10-12 minutes, or until the tops are golden and firm to touch. Remove moulds and allow to cool for 10 minutes, then turn souffles out onto a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper. Bake for a further seven minutes or until lightly golden.
5. Serve over salad of lettuce, sliced pears and oil and vinegar.
Last night's dinner was a good one, from this month's Cooing Light. It was super fast....about 10 minutes....and was very tasty and healthy. The steak was tender and pairing it with the nectarine, arugula and parmesan was genius. Very yummy! Also great for summer, as it is definitely getting into salad season.
Steak with Nectarines and Arugula
2 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/4lb flank steak, cut into strips
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
3tbs balsamic vinegar
2 medium nectarines, sliced into wedges
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 oz parmesan cheese, shaved into thin strips
1. Place oil and garlic in a pan over medium heat and cook until garlic is lightly browned. remove garlic and discard. Increase heat to medium-high. Season steak with salt and peppers, then add to pan. Saute for about a minute, or until done as desired. Transfer steak to a bowl, top with arugula and toss well.
2. Wipe pan with a paper towel and then coat with cooking spray. Reduce heat to medium and add balsamic and shallots. Cook for about 2 minutes until shallots are soft. Add nectarines and saute for 30 seconds. Add nectarine mixture and lemon juice to salad and toss gently. Add shaved parmesan and serve.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
The weather here in Maryland is finally starting to feel like summer and that means tomatoes!! I have been seeing tomato plants for sale everywhere recently and usually I would be picking some up to plant in my little garden. There is nothing better than fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes. However, this year I have refrained, as the CSA I have joined and that I spoke about a couple of days ago, specializes in tomatoes and in particular, heirloom varieties (at least 12). Therefore, I anticipate getting a lot of tomatoes in our weekly share!! At least, I hope so....love 'em!
I stumbled on the recipe for this bread a week or so ago when I was idly scrolling around on the Cooking Light website....well, to be completely honest, I was dying for this months magazine and was trying to see if it had come out yet. Anyway, I saw a page devoted to tomatoes and checked it out. The recipe sounded so amazing, I knew I just had to try it...and soon. I know most people do not bake bread in the summer for fear of heating up their homes, but I have no such qualms. I love the heat and am perfectly happy to swelter in the kitchen in return for some yummy bread. And let me tell you....this bread is out of this world!!!
Wow...the aroma, the color and last of all the delicious taste of this bread makes it a total winner. This will definitely be made again (multiple times I imagine). It was very easy, which is great for a bread beginner like myself, although as with most breads you need to be able to have time to let it rise etc. However, seeing as my Sunday mostly consisted of chores and reading a great book (Eat, Pray, Live by Elizabeth Gilbert if you must know), the addition of some baking was definitely within the realm of possibility.
This bread smelled so wonderful while it was baking...but really, is there anything better than the smell of fresh baking bread?? I could not help myself. I couldn't wait for this loaf to cool before I hacked into it....so I waited about 10 minutes after it came out of the oven to cool slightly, before I cut of the end piece (my favourite piece of the bread!) and slathered on some goat's cheese I had in the refrigerator and then just savored the wonderful smooth taste of the cheese and the lovely tangy bite of the tomatoes. This was truly heaven....you can't buy that kind of flavor from a store. I encourage everyone to try this bread. It really is amazing.
The only changes I made were to use a whole jar of sundried tomatoes in oil (I couldn't find the ones without oil). I just drained them into a sieve and rinsed thoroughly in water. I also added some dried basil flakes to the top of the bread before the last rise, to give a nice herby flavor.
Rich Tomato Bread
(Adapted from cookinglight.com)
1 cup boiling water
1 jar sundried tomatoes packed in oil
1 packet dry yeast
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp dried basil
1. Combine water and tomatoes in a bowl, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
2. Strain tomatoes, reserving liquid and finely chop. Heat reserved liquid to 110F, transfer to a large bowl and add yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes.
3. Add 3 cups of flour, chopped tomatoes, oil, salt and egg to yeast mixture and stir until a soft dough forms.
4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding the remaining flour a tbs at a time to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes or until double in size.
5. Punch down the dough, cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a 14"x7" rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Roll up the rectangle, starting with the short edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets. Pinch seam and ends to seal, then place in a loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Lightly spray the dough with cooking spray, sprinkle dried basil, then cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
6. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Uncover dough and bake for 40 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
This recipe comes from David Lebovitz's new book, The Perfect Scoop. I picked up some fresh strawberries at the Farmer's Market this morning and decided to use some of them to make some ice cream.
I would never have thought to put sour cream in ice cream and certainly not in combination with Strawberries, but the flavor is really delicious and fresh. This was a fabulous ice cream and I don't think it will last long!! This is the first recipe I have made from my new purchase and I can't wait to try the some others. This is truly a great resource for ice cream recipes.
Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream
(Makes about 1 1/4 quarts)
1lb fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1. Slice strawberries and toss in a bowl with sugar and vodka, stirring until sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring every so often.
2. Pulse the strawberries and their liquid with sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor until almost smooth but still slightly chunky.
3. Refrigerate for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Tonight's dinner was supposed to come from Donna Hay's Flavours, however due to a dubious bunch of Basil from my local grocery store and the lack of other pertinent ingredients, it morphed into something else.
I had initially planned to make salmon with crusted chilli salad, but alas, it was not to be. I am actually quite miffed that the bunch of hydroponic basil I bought at the grocers this week had already decided to turn into a rotted mess. I am so glad the farmer's market season is finally here, because I am very sick of the rubbish that some of these supermarkets try to palm off as good produce. Anyway, I digress. As I slowly realized that I did not have all the ingredients for my intended dish...that I had been looking forward to all day, mind you....I became horrified that I had no idea what to do with my piece of salmon, that was sitting there just waiting to be turned into a culinary masterpiece.
I admit, I am not that inventive or inspired when it comes to cooking fish. I like it well enough, although its not my favourite thing in the world, but I know its good for me, so I try to have a crack at it at least once every week or two. Hubby, however, hates it with a passion, so it is not something I cook often. Especially salmon, which to him it is like being made to eat monkey brains or some other gross thing from a Survivor episode. So I started scouring my cook books for something to do with the Salmon, that I actually had the ingredients for. Unfortunately the fridge was looking a bit bare, not a lot of options. Salmon Nicoise salad...umm, no. How about Salmon Caesar salad...again, no. Salmon with maple glaze, salmon with asian marinade...no, no , no. I didn't have the ingredients for any of these things.
Finally, I broke out my new grilling book, which doesn't have an author, but I think is written by one of these companies that actually makes grills. Its called Modern Grilling by Vermont Castings, but its actually very good. Lots of pictures, just as I like it (Sorry Bobby Flay, I wanted to buy your books but alas, no pictures!).
Anyway, I found a recipe for lemon butter Salmon that I had the ingredients for and it was nice and simple. You take a large piece of foil, layer lemon slices over enough area to cover the bottom of the fish. Lay the fish on top of the lemon, season with salt and pepper, add a sprig of rosemary and two knobs of butter. Wrap it up and place on a medium grill for 15-20 minutes.
I have to say I am quite proud of myself with this dish. I lamented on my poor grilling abilities the other day, but today...I actually turned the grill on all by myself!! Now to some, this is not much of an accomplishment at all. But to me...one who has never even turned on the grill before...it was definitely a step in the right direction to becoming a grill master!! I am home alone this weekend (hubby has gone racing), so I managed to tame the grill all by myself.
**Yes, I can hear the roar of my adoring fans now :)**
My only problem then was what to serve with the salmon. Again, there was slim pickings, but I managed to throw together a salad of baby spinach, grape tomatoes, onion and some goat cheese. Oh, and a killer glass of wine :) !!!
To be honest, I didn't hold high hopes for this being the tastiest of meals, but it was pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. The salmon was very tender and quite tasty. It may not have been Donna Hay, but it worked out alight. Catastrophe (or at least a run to the Chinese take out store) successfully averted!!!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Dinners and is in the section I spoke about the other day called Family Tree. This section was based around Jamie's Basic Tomato sauce and was very yummy.
Jamie's Tomato Sauce is not that different than how I would usually make a tomato based pasta sauce, except that where I would normally use crushed canned tomatoes, he uses whole canned tomatoes. His reason being that he says the seeds should not be released from the tomato until near the end of cooking, as they impart a bitter flavor to the sauce. To be honest, I didn't find his sauce much sweeter, but it was still very tasty. He also adds a dash of red wine vinegar at the end of cooking, whereas I would usually use red wine if I have it. The vinegar gave the sauce a nice little kick.
The goat's cheese that is added at the end also imparted a lovely flavor to the overall dish. This is not an ingredient I have ever used in pasta, but it is one that I would definitely use again!
Jamie's recipe for the tomato sauce is quite simple. Finely chop 2-3 cloves of garlic and saute in some olive oil for a few minutes. Then add either some dried basil or oregano and a whole chilli (Jamie takes this out later, but I love spicy food, so I chopped mine and left it in). Then add 2 large cans of whole tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 30 minutes. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon, then cook the pasta. As the pasta cooks, add a handful of spinach and let it wilt. Drain pasta, toss with the sauce, then add some parmesan cheese and sprinkle with goat's cheese.
Easy peasy, as well as healthy and delicious. I had enough sauce left over that I could freeze it for later use as well...yum!
I am sure some of you are asking "What the heck is a CSA?". Well, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is a wonderful way to help out your local farmers and receive wonderful fresh produce at the same time.
I am so excited about this and I have been counting down the days until June 7th, when I receive my first box. I never really knew these programs existed until earlier this year when I read an article in Cooking Light about what they were and how they worked. Basically, a farm (or sometimes groups of farms) will create "shares" in their produce and sell them to the community. You buy in to one of the shares (usually about $25-30 a week for the period of the share) and this way, the farmer has guaranteed income for the period of the share, usually one season. The farm I have joined has a summer and a winter season, although most farms will generally only do the summer shares....just depends on the farm and what they produce. There is some risk to the consumer, in that if there are harsh conditions or the crop is not great, be it through drought, hurricane, frost, whatever, then you may not get as much produce than if the weather is perfect and everything goes to plan. This definitely gives the farmer some piece of mind and ensures that they get some money for the season, no matter how poorly their crop yield is. Given that I live in the relatively mild Mid-Atlantic region, where severe weather extremes are not all that common, I think the risk for us is fairly minimal.
The benefit to the consumer of course, is that you get fresh, usually organic produce direct from the farm with no middle man and no freezing etc. Most of my grocery bill goes towards produce, so for me, this was a no brainer. It would also give me a chance to cook with some fruits and vegetables that I may not be familiar with, as I don't have a say in what I get. I know the farm I have signed up with grows okra and this is not something I have ever cooked. So I am looking forward to trying some new things.
Also, I want to try and cook with more seasonal produce that is at its best and freshest, rather than using fruits and vegetables that are available at the supermarkets year round and taste terrible. There is nothing better than freshly picked, vine/tree ripened produce that has never been frozen. Most produce at the supermarkets is grown for aesthetic appeal and lacks any kind of flavor. I am looking forward to receiving fresh heirloom tomatoes, greens, herbs, flowers and vegetables.
If you want to find out if there is a CSA near you, just go to the Local Harvest website and search using your zip code. It is a wonderful site and couldn't be easier to use. I will definitely be posting about the shares I receive from Even Star farm in Southern Maryland, but for now I have posted a picture of some of my culinary herbs that I planted this year and some that require planting this weekend.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I have a confession to make. Although I feel pretty competent around the kitchen, I am terrified of the BBQ (or grill depending on how you like it)! Its silly I know. This is just another cooking device that is not in the least bit scary...unless you have an unfortunate accident combining the gas with an open flame....however, I always defer to my lovely husband when it comes to cooking on it. I marinate the meat and when the time comes, dutifully turn it over with instructions on cooking time. He trots outside to become one with the BBQ for a few minutes then brings the meat back in when its done. Not that he really knows what he is doing either. I am by no means calling my hubby incompetent, its just that we don't tend to grill all that much and I think he knows about as much as me.
I don't know where my fear comes from. I suspect that it is an eagerness to please and I am afraid that the meat I cook out there will be tough and rubbery, rather than tender and juicy. This summer however, I am determined to overcome my fears and become master of the grill....well, I'll settle for being halfway competent...but you get the point.
I went out and purchased a book on grilling with loads of pictures and recipes (I am sure you'll be seeing a lot from there over the summer) and also found the Cooking Light Grilling magazine at the supermarket, which I also purchased. I pledge that our BBQ will not be just for steaks and chops any longer.
So tonight's recipe comes from the aforementioned Cooking Light Summer Grilling magazine and it is the cover recipe. In fact, the cover recipe was one of the reasons I purchased this magazine, because it looked really delicious....and, I am happy to say, it was really delicious. The recipe was for grilled pork with grilled peaches and it was very tasty. It would probably be even better if we were in peach season and I guess that is why everyone advocates seasonal produce...but I couldn't wait until the fall to try this. Even with the out-of-season peaches, this recipe was really great and very healthy, with each serve coming in at only 216 calories. You can't beat that!!
Grilled Peaches and Pork
4x4oz boneless center cut pork loin chops
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, divided
2 tbs fresh lime juice
3 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
4 large peaches, peeled, halved and pitted
6 cups arugula
1 tsp turbinado (raw) sugar
1. Pound each piece of pork to 1/4 inch thick, using a mallet or skillet.
2. Combine 2 tbs vinegar, juice, thyme, salt and pepper in a bowl. Reserve 1 tbs of vinegar mixture. Pour remaining vinegar mixture in a large zip-lock bag. Add pork, seal and marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour, turning bag occasionally.
3. Prepare grill to medium heat. Place peaches, cut side up on a plate and drizzle with remaining 2 tbs balsamic vinegar.
4. Place pork on grill rack coated with cooking spray, grill for 3 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer registers 160F. Set aside.
5. Place peach halves, cut side down on grill rack and grill for 4 minutes. Turn and cook a further 2 minutes or until heated through. Cut each into 4 slices. Slice pork into strips.
6. Drizzle arugula with reserved vinegar mixture, tossing to coat. Divide arugula among 4 plates. Top with pork and peach slices, then sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
I don't really want to use my blog for standing on a soap box and preaching about political or environmental issues. After all, it's supposed to be all about the food. But I wanted to make a quick post about a great website call reusablebags.com.
The overuse of plastic bags is such a huge problem to the environment and if each one of us decided to stop using them when possible, then this would truly make a great difference in saving the planet. At Reusable Bags, they sell a variety of different bags, mostly made from organic cottons or hemp, that you can take to the supermarket when you do your groceries to reduce the number of plastic bags in circulation and their impact on the environment.
Some facts from reusablebags.com
- Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year.
- According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.
- According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion)
- Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.
- Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
The solution would appear to be simple: Stop using the bags. However they are such an ingrained part of society, that this seems unlikely to happen. However, in Ireland, the addition of a plastic tax (or Plastax) caused a 90% reduction in the use of plastic bags. So, it can be done. We just need to change our habits.
I know all the food bloggers take great joy in going to the supermarket and farmers markets and I think if we all tried to reduce the number of plastic bags we consume, then it would be a start. I am a culprit too, but have just purchased a bunch of string bags, so that I may so no to that cashier when she asks if I want paper or plastic. I feel terrible that I fell into such bad habits, as when I would go shopping with my parents at a young age, they would always take along their reusable bags. After moving to the States, I became part of the great machine that thrives on the consumption of plastic bags, but I feel great that I can do my small part in changing the world, simply by "byob" or bring your own bag.
OK, I'll hop of my soap box now. But I encourage everybody to check out the facts at reusablebags.com and even go that little extra mile and purchase some reusable bags. They even donate 1% of their profits to saving the environment. Its easy to believe that one person can't make a difference, but one person can become many and together we can make a huge difference to the fate of our planet.
Plastic bags consumed this year:
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The recipe for these calzones comes from Jamie Oliver's "Jamies Dinners". It is a section of the book called Family Tree, which is really fabulous. Jamie basically gives you a recipe for something like pesto or basic tomato sauce and then follows with a bunch of different ways to use it. Very useful.
These calzones are in the section on puff pastry, however Jamie does not endorse making the pastry yourself and suggests using store bought. This is fine by me, because I would never be able to attempt anything with home-made puff pastry on a weeknight!! Not too many folks out there could pull that off, I think.
So, these were super simple to make, taking only a few minutes....lucky for me I actually remembered to take my puff pastry out of the freezer the night before, so that also cut down on the time, as I did not need to defrost it. These little beauties also used up stuff that I already had, so were handy little fridge cleaners as well. I am sure you could add whatever you liked, but for my first time around, I decided to go with Jamie's suggestions for the filling.
I served these with a side salad that I whipped together with greens, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, walnuts, crumbled feta and the leftover low-fat Caesar dressing from last week. Yum! This was a winner of a meal and hubby agreed :)
Calzones with Prosciutto, Mozzarella and Tomato
Frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1-2 slices of prosciutto per calzone
thumb sized piece of fresh mozzarella per calzone
2-3 cherry tomatoes per calzone
a few basil leaves
salt and cracked black pepper
1. Roll out puff pastry to about 1/4" thick. Using a plate or bowl as a template, cut out 7" diameter circles. On one half of each circle, place a piece of prosciutto, followed by a piece of mozzarella and a couple of tomatoes, halved. Add a few basil leaves, season with salt and pepper, then wrap the prosciutto around the filling to hold it together. Egg wash the edges of the circle, then fold in half and press the edges together, so the filling can't come out.
2. Bake at 425F until golden and crisp on the outside.
Note: I got two 7" circles from half a packet of frozen puff pastry with a little left over, so I suggest you should get about 4-5 from a full packet. Jamie calls these mini, but they seemed large enough to me that we only needed one each. He must be a very hungry boy!
Monday, May 21, 2007
Tonight's dinner comes from the May edition of Cooking Light. They suggest that it is to be served as an appetizer, but it was definitely enough for dinner. Also, this was super easy, very tasty and really low calories....only 103 per serving.
I couldn't find any cremini mushrooms, so used button instead, but this didn't seem to effect the taste. I also forgot to add the water chestnuts, but again, I didn't notice until I was writing out the recipe. They would have given a nice crunch though.
Chinese Chicken and Mushroom Lettuce Cups
(Serves 8 appetizers, approx 4 for a main)
1 tsp sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups minced cremini mushrooms
1 cup minced shiitake mushrooms
1lb ground chicken breast
3 cups shredded napa cabbage
1/4 tbs kosher salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
1 can whole water chestnuts, drained and minced
1 cup minced green onions
2 tbs oyster sauce
2 tbs soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
24 Boston lettuce leaves
1. Heat sesame oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add cremini and shiitake mushrooms and chicken. Cook for 8 minutes, then add shredded cabbage, salt, crushed red pepper and water chestnuts. Cook for a further 5 minutes or until cabbage wilts.
2. remove from heat and stir in onions, soy sauce, oyster sauce and cilantro. Spoon about 3 tbs of mixture into each lettuce cup.
This months Sugar High Friday is being hosted by Tara at Seven Spoons and she chose "Shades of White" as the theme.
This SHF was posted a little late this month, so there wasn't a lot of time to work out what to do. At first I thought it would be cool to do a white chocolate lamington, but that turned out to be a total disaster, so I decided instead to do a white chocolate coated ice cream bombe. This too did not go as planned, but time has run out, so I will post it anyway.
This recipe takes a few days, as you need to freeze each layer in between and make sure the bombe is really solid before pouring the chocolate over. But it is pretty basic and you could do it with any flavors you like. I would have liked to do it with home made ice cream, but I didn't have time for that, so I just used Haagen Daaz light in vanilla bean and cookie dough.
To make the bomb, line a bowl with plastic wrap and then alternatively layer the two flavors of ice cream. I did 2 layers of each. In between each layer, I put in crushed twix bars, roasted pecans and nutella, again you could put whatever you wanted.
I tried to coat the bombe in caramel, but it just seemed to slide right off the ice cream and was not particularly successful. I then coated the entire bombe in white chocolate and coconut.
Not my finest effort to date, but hopefully it will be acceptable for SHF #31. It is certainly white !
Sunday, May 20, 2007
What does one do on a lazy Saturday afternoon, with not too much to do and yucky weather outside?....bake of course!!
Whilst visiting the in-laws this weekend, we decided that we felt like a pie or cobbler or something yummy with peaches. So after going onto the Taste website and finding a recipe for peach and blackberry crisp, we ended up with afternoon tea of this lovely, fresh dessert.
The fruit was sweet, with a tang coming from the lemon juice, whilst the crisp on top was lovely and buttery. Just the thing for a dreary Saturday afternoon!! This recipe was actually supposed to be for 8 individual serves, which would usually really appeal to me. But I was not in my own kitchen and thus decided to make 2 large, 8" pies. This still worked out great and everybody absolutely loved this dish.
Peach and Blackberry Crisp
8 large peaches
3 punnets of blackberries
2/3 cup plain flour
2 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup pecans, roasted and chopped
125g unsalted butter, chilled
1. Pre-heat oven to 380F. Blanch peaches in a large saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water and leave to cool. Drain peaches, then peel and discard the skin. Cut in half and remove the stones. Then cut each half into 4 and place in a large bowl. Add blackberries, 1 tbs flour, lemon juice and sugar. Toss to combine.
2. In another bowl, place remaining flour, cinnamon, brown sugar, oats and pecans. Using a fork, stir to combine. Grate butter over, then using fingertips, rub butter in until fine clumps form.
3. Spread berry mixture into 2 large pie dishes or 8 individual ones. Sprinkle generously with pecan topping. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
This round of Hay Hay it's Donna Day is hosted by Katie over at Other People's Food, after her triumph with the Le Kit Cat Mousse in Round #11. Congrats Katie and thanks for picking this rounds challenge of "Caesar Salad".
To be perfectly honest I am not a huge fan of Caesar salad. I may be the only person on earth but I tend to find it bland, claggy and calorie loaded. For those who are not familiar with clag, it is an Australian glue that is non-toxic and paste-like and is usually given to small children for arts projects, but tends to end up in their stomachs, rather than on their art. This is what Caesar Salad conjures up to me, especially here in the US, where it seems to be served at almost every chain restaurant in the country and consists of some limp romaine lettuce, a few stale croutons, some parmesan cheese and a heavy helping of the most calorific dressing you can find. No thanks!
Suffice it say, that when I saw Katie's choice, I was none too pleased. What the heck was I going to do with a Caesar Salad. Clearly my disdain for this dish means that I do not make it at home, so what was a girl to do....especially when she so desperately wanted to contribute to HHDD #12.
So, I wrote down what a Caesar salad was to me...from home in Melbourne, where I must say they are marginally better than what I have found over here....but not by much. Romaine (Cos) lettuce, parmesan, anchovies, egg, croutons, Caesar dressing and sometimes bacon and chicken. Hmm...what to do???
And then it hit me!! I love chicken and even more than that, I love stuffed chicken. Or chicken rolled around yummy, cheesy ingredients. And so the parmesan crusted chicken Caesar involtini was born. This is a chicken rolled around Caesar salad ingredients, roasted and served with a low-fat Caesar dressing.
I made this on a night that hubby was not home, as there is no way I could get him to eat something with anchovies and if the meal was a disaster, I didn't want him to go hungry. So, when he was at class tonight, I got to cooking up my chicken Caesar concoction...and the outcome??
Amazing!! Wow, this was so yummy. The chicken was delicious, with the prosciutto, parmesan cheese and anchovies complementing wonderfully. The low-fat dressing was lovely and tangy and really made the whole dish. I encrusted the chicken in croutons and parmesan that had been processed in the food processor and served it all over a bed of lemon risotto. You could serve it with anything you like...roast veggies would be great and healthy, however for this challenge I wanted to use one of the ingredients in the Caesar salad, and lemon is a big component of Caesar dressing. Everything worked together beautifully and now I wish that hubby had have been here to enjoy it with me. It felt very decadent and something I would be happy to serve to guests.
So, maybe my views on the old Caesar salad were a bit harsh and I may need to revisit this staple found on nearly every restaurant menu. However, I think this take on an old favourite was really something special and I have to thank Katie for making me think outside of the box and come up with something that I would absolutely make again.
Parmesan Crusted Chicken Caesar Involtini
4 chicken breasts
4 slices of prosciutto
1/2 cup of romaine, chopped
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 egg, beaten
flour for dredging
1 cup of Caesar salad croutons
juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbs white wine vinegar
1/2 cup fat free natural yoghurt
2 tbs low fat mayonnaise
1 tbs grated parmesan
1. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
2. To make dressing, place ingredients into food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Pound chicken breasts until flattened. Lay 1 slice of prosciutto on each breast, followed by some romaine, anchovies (broken into small pieces and scattered) and grated parmesan cheese. Roll up chicken breast and secure with toothpicks. Process croutons and 1/4 cup grated parmesan in a food processor until it resembles bread crumbs. Dredge chicken roll in flour, then coat in egg. Roll in crouton crumbs and then spray with cooking spray. Bake in the oven for approximately 20-30 minutes.
4. Remove chicken from oven when cooked through. Cut into slices and serve on a plate with desired side dish and drizzle with dressing.
Lemon risotto: If making lemon risotto, prepare risotto base as usual with onion, arborio rice and chicken stock. Just before serving, stir in the zest of one lemon, juice of one lemon and 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Season with salt and cracked black pepper.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
I am very excited to be posting this recipe tonight, as I finally managed to lay my hands on some passionfruits last week!! I have lamented in previous posts about the difficulty in getting these delicious little morsels in the States, so when I saw some at Wholefoods on Friday, I basically cleaned them out! Then I went hunting for something interesting to do with them and found this recipe on the Taste website.
The original recipe was for one large pudding, but I decided to see if it would work as individual ones, as I find these much more fun and interesting to serve. Thankfully, they did work out very nicely, so I am posting the recipe below. The passionfruit gave such a nice tartness to the lovely coconut pudding. Yummy!! I should mention that I forgot to add the icing sugar just before serving, but it didn't really matter. Probably would have made for a nicer photo, but I was too busy trying to tuck in to remember such a minor detail!!
Individual Coconut and Passionfruit Self-Saucing Puddings
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
2/3 cup light coconut milk
80g butter, melted, cooled
pure icing sugar, to serve
1/2 cup caster sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup milk
2 small lemons, juiced
3 passionfruit, halved
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 6 ramekins and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
2. Sift flour into a bowl. Stir in sugar and coconut. Whisk coconut milk, egg and butter together in a jug. Pour into flour mixture. Gently stir until combined. Spoon into prepared dish. Smooth surface.
3. Make sauce: Combine sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Sprinkle over pudding. Combine milk and 1/3 cup lemon juice (don't worry if mixture curdles) in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until mixture comes to the boil. Remove from heat and stir in passionfruit pulp. Pour hot lemon mixture over the back of a large metal spoon, over pudding.
4. Bake for approx. 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted halfway into pudding comes out clean. Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.
Tonight's dinner would have been perfect for a taste of yellow! It comes from Weight Watcher's Cook It Quick, which is actually a really good book for fast, healthy meals. Everything I have made from here so far has turned out very tasty and is pretty easy to make. Great for weeknight meals.
This recipe was also easy and only took about 15-20 minutes. It was creamy and tasty and nice and light for after the gym. The original recipe said to use Fusilli, but I only had cavatapi. I'm sure you could do whatever pasta you liked.
Cavatapi with Pureed Yellow Pepper Sauce
3/4 cup water
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tomato, chopped
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
cracked black pepper to taste
2 cups pasta
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta
2 tbs minced parsley
4 tsp grated parmesan cheese
1. Combine water, pepper, onion, tomato, oil, salt and pepper in a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender and the liquid evaporates, 15-18 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta and drain into serving bowl.
3. Transfer vegetables to a blender or food processor. Add ricotta and puree. Pour over pasta and toss to coat. Sprinkle with parsley and parmesan and serve.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Ugh, tonight was one of those nights that we should have got take away! I had seen some lovely looking spring rolls on the blog Definitely Not Martha and wanted to make them. I am not very savvy when it comes to asian food, as we never had it growing up (mum is not a fan), but this looked fairly straight forward....and it would have been, had I not thought that egg roll wrappers were the same thing as rice paper wrappers. Oh well, you live and learn.
When I opened up the package I thought the wrappers looked distinctly doughy and upon closer inspection of the ingredients, there was no mention of rice. So, I quickly realized that they needed to be fried. I was not happy. I don't own a fryer...we never fry food in our house. So, I pulled out the wok, poured in some canola and fried my little spring/egg rolls. Then I drained them on some paper towel and served with a peanut sauce.
The verdict:...They weren't horrible. In fact, some might say they were even pretty good, but I wasn't too happy about the fat content of tonight's dinner as this was supposed to be a really healthy meal.
No point dwelling on it though.....tomorrow is another meal. I am not posting the recipe of this, but if you want to check out the spring rolls on Definitely Not Martha, then click here.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
I haven't started the week off well, with tonight's dinner coming yet again from Donna Hay's Flavors, however this tart needed a little extra time then what I would usually have during the week, so for me, it was definitely a weekend meal.
It was very easy though and quite tasty. I only made half the recipe as I didn't think this would be very good reheated or frozen. I served with a quick salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, mung bean sprouts, goat's cheese and sunflower seeds. This was a very nice, light dinner....great for summer.
Tomato, Basil and Ricotta Tart
4 tomatoes, halved
2 tbs olive oil
cracked black pepper
12 oz ready-prepared puff pastry
6oz fresh ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup shredded fresh basil
1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Place the tomatoes on a baking tray and sprinkle with the oil and pepper. Bake for 50 minutes or until soft and slightly dried.
2. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until 3mm thick. Cut the pastry into a 20cmx30cm rectangle and place on a baking tray lined with a non-stick baking paper.
3. Place the ricotta into a fine sieve and press to remove any excess liquid. Process the ricotta, parmesan and eggs in a food processor until smooth, then stir through the basil. Spread ricotta filling over pastry base, leaving a 2cm border, then press tomatoes into the filling. Bake for 30 minutes or until the filling is set and the pastry is golden.
I almost feel like a proud parent today, as my first ever attempt at baking a loaf of bread worked!!
I made some focaccia bread the other week, which was good, but never have I attempted to bake a true loaf of bread from scratch. I have had a couple of yeast disasters in the last few weeks, so I was a little nervous, but I am pleased to say that the resulting bread looked exactly like the picture in the May edition of Cooking Light and it was delicious to boot.
You could really taste the honey when you bite into it, but are left with a peppery, but not overpowering, aftertaste. The crust is slightly crunchy and the inside lovely and soft. I really love seedy breads, so I am pleased as punch with this one.
Cracked Pepper-Seed Bread
(Approx. 8 servings per loaf, 2 loaves)
1 package of dry yeast
2 cups warm water (110F)
1/4 cup honey
1 tbs canola oil
1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
5 1/4 cup bread flour, divided
1/2 cup wheat bran
5 tbs sunflower seed kernels, divided
5 tbs sesame seeds, divided
2 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper, divided
2 1/4 tsp cracked green pepper, divided
1 egg, beaten
1. Dissolve yeast in 2 cups of warm water in a large bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add honey, oil and 1/2 tsp of salt, stirring with a whisk. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups, leveling with a knife. Add 3 cups of flour and bran to yeast mixture, stirring until combined. Cover and let stand in a warm place free from drafts, 1 hour or until small bubbles appear on the surface.
2. Add remaining 1 tsp of salt, 2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, 1 1/2 tsp of cracked black pepper and 1 1/2 tsp of green cracked pepper; stir until dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of the remaining flour, 1 tbs at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from draughts, for 45min or until dough is doubled in size.
3. Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough. Punch down dough, cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Divide dough in ha;f. Place each half in an 8x4 inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 45 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
4. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Brush loaves with egg and sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 tbs of sunflower seeds, 1 tbs sesame seeds, 3/4 tbs black pepper and 3/4 tbs of green pepper. Bake at 400F for 35 minutes or until loaves are browned on the bottom and sound hollow when tapped.
5. Remove loaves from pans and cool on wire racks.