French Onion Quiche and the Walls Come Tumbling Down Again…

They say wisdom comes with age. When it comes to house projects, my husband and I finally got wisdom! We’re redoing our bathroom and bedroom and instead of slogging our way through the demo we saved up and got our contractor to do it. What a difference. I can breath, we’re not exhausted and not filthy.

Our puppies, on the other hand, are less than impressed with the cacophony going on. I wish I could make them understand what’s going on but I can’t. So all I can do is give them loads of cuddles. Fingers crossed this project goes quickly.

Because we were facing a potential few hours of laying insulation (way too much fun, I know!) I made dinner during the day so we wouldn’t starve afterwards. Turns out, it was a quick job, thank goodness. As we also got several inches of snow to clear it was nice to have dinner ready.

I was inspired by a pin I saw for a French onion tart with bacon and I thought it would be fun to use my French Onion Soup in a quiche. This is easy to put together but just don’t rush it.

To begin cut up about seven rashers of streaky bacon and slowly render them on medium heat. Cook until about 2/3s done.

While the bacon is cooking slice a half an onion thinly. Finely chop two cloves of garlic and coarsely chop a couple of mushrooms.

Remove the bacon and set aside. Pour out the bacon fat until you only have about two tablespoons of fat left in the pan. Add the onions and cook slowly. Once they begin to soften add the garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for a few minutes. Add a cup of veg bouillon, a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and two tablespoons of brandy. Stir in a healthy dollop of stone ground mustard.

Bring this to a medium simmer to reduce the broth. Meanwhile prepare the pastry using half the recipe I used in the pie. Grate half a cup of Jarlsberg and half a cup of smoked Gouda. In a bowl beat three eggs together then had a half cup of cream and 3/4 cup of milk.

Once the broth is nearly reduced add back in the bacon. Continue until the broth is nearly gone. Spread it into the bottom of the pastry.

Sprinkle the cheese over the mixture then pour the egg and milk into the dish.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425F/220C then bake for about 30 minutes at 300F/150C. Remove once the quiche is set and golden.

Either serve it right away or save and heat up later.

Quick question, I’ve suddenly gotten a lot of followers from outlook mail accounts. While I’m grateful for followers I’m concerned there maybe something else going on.

Sunny Orange, Honey and Saffron to Bring in the New Year

It always amazes me how much work goes into the holidays only for it to go by faster than a blink of an eye.  It seemed this year it went by even faster.  But we had a lovely time with the kids and enjoyed a week of just hanging out with them.  I look forward to the week between Christmas and New Year’s as it’s just family time.  No where to be, perfect.

Of course, now that the holidays are over we faced with bitter, bitter cold.  So what better time to bake?  Helps keep the kitchen toasty warm.  Anything to help keep the heating costs down!  One of the gifts my husband bought me was a baking book called Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.  He had heard an interview on the radio with Yotam Ottolenghi and found him very interesting.  Particularly the flavour combinations he likes to work with.  There are several recipes I want to try.  A while back I bought a madeleine pan so the recipe I chose to try first is his saffron, orange and honey madeleines.

Saffron Honey Orange Madeleines 1 2018

This isn’t a hard recipe but it does take a little time.  It’s also not completely traditional which allows the cookie to last more than a day because let’s face it, my hips won’t appreciate me trying to eat them all before they get stale.  My taste buds will but they aren’t the ones wearing the clothes.

Saffron Honey Orange Madeleines 2 2018

In a small saucepan melt 90g of butter (6 tbsp + 1 tsp) of unsalted butter, 2 tsp of honey and 1/4 tsp of saffron threads.  The book says the saffron is optional, say what?  I’m not leaving that out!  Keep the heat low while you are doing this.  Once melted remove from the heat and bring to room temperature.

Saffron Honey Orange Madeleines 3 2018

While the butter is melting prep the next ingredients in a food processor.  Add 2 large eggs, 75g (1/3 cup + 1tsp) granulated sugar, scraped seeds of about a 1/4 of a vanilla pod and the zest of a small orange. I used a clementine for this. Pulse until it is well blended.  Sift together  90g ( 1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tsp) of flour, 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/8 tsp of salt.  Add this to the food processor and pulse again until blended.  Next add the butter mixture and blend.  Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Saffron Honey Orange Madeleines 4 2018

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and prep the baking pan by brushing the molds with melted butter and dust with flour.  I only have one pan so the book recommends washing, drying and reprepping between batches.

Saffron Honey Orange Madeleines 5 2018

Spoon batter in to fill about 2/3s of the mold.  This was actually harder than it sounds as the flour sticks to the bottom which makes it slippery and hard to position.  Bake 9-10 minutes until golden and sponge like.

Saffron Honey Orange Madeleines 6 2018

While they are baking chop up the pistachio nuts.  You only need a couple of tablespoons of the nuts.  Melt 3 tablespoons of honey in the microwave.  Keep an eye on this as it won’t take long to melt.

Saffron Honey Orange Madeleines 7 2018

Brush the madeleine with honey and dip it in the nuts.  This was a classic case of chasing the natural light and losing. I was hoping to get it done before it got too dark.  I didn’t win the race!  But the days are getting longer so it won’t be long.  🙂

I love how these came out, the flavours were nice and bright.  Perfect for a winter’s day.

Steak and Mushroom Pie

It’s time to get in the festive mood! It’s the fun month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Though I’m already over the cheesy modern Christmas music. Just not the same as the standards. My husband and I had a quiet Thanksgiving as our kids were in South Carolina. My aunt very kindly invited us to her place for Thanksgiving dinner. We had a lovely meal and a lovely time. She is an awesome aunt and she’s very good to us.

Even though the weather can’t decide to be warm or cold this season there has been been opportunity for comfort food. And you can’t go wrong with steak and mushroom pie.

In a small bowl, add about 3 oz of flour and season with sea salt and pepper. Mix well. Take a half pound/8oz of stewing steak and cut it into small cubes. Toss in the flour until well coated.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and start browning the steak.

Coarsely chop a shallot and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add to the pan.

Cut up enough mushrooms to make half a cup/3-4oz. Sauté in the pan then add about 2 1/2 cups/20oz of vegetable bouillon. Bring to a simmer. For seasoning and flavour I added a half cup of dry sherry and a small handful of fresh oregano, chopped. Slow cook on low for a few hours until the steak is tender and falling apart. To thicken the broth, add either a couple of teaspoons of flour or corn starch(flour) to a couple of tablespoons of water to make a slurry. Add this to the saucepan and bring up to a boil to cook the flour and thicken the broth. Adjust the seasoning as needed as sometimes the flour can dull the flavours.

Split the stew between ramekins. I made enough for two. Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush individual layers of phyllo dough to top the ramekins. Broil/grill til the top is nice and golden.

Perfect with a nice deep red wine on a chilly night!

Parsnip and Roasted Mushroom Soup

I have to hand it to our son, he had his wisdom teeth removed yesterday and he did really well. Me?  Didn’t sleep the night before.  It’s so much easier when stuff is done to you rather than your kids.  Now he gets to hear his parents telling him to eat his ice cream.  Think he’ll be ok.  😊

Woke up being very happy for fuzzy socks with freezing temperatures and gusting winds.  Definitely soup season!  On one of our date nights, my husband ordered an amazing mushroom soup and it sparked an idea for a mushroom and parsnip soup.  Their soup just had mushrooms in it with Gorgonzola cheese.  Well I shouldn’t say just as it was delicious.  But I went off on a tangent.  


As luck would have it, the co-op had a great selection of mushrooms.  Including a Japanese mushroom called maitake.  Slice up the mushrooms and toss them in olive oil.


Roast them at 350F/175C until they are nicely browned.  In the meantime, peel and dice 1 to 2 parsnips depending on the size.  Finely chop a couple of garlic cloves.  Sauté the parsnips and garlic with olive oil in a saucepan.


Add a amall handful of fresh thyme, sauté for another minute or so.  Add about three cups of chicken stock and half a cup of dry sherry.  Bring to a medium simmer.  Once the mushrooms are roasted, add them to the soup.


Season with sea salt and pepper.  Cook until the parsnips are soft and the broth has reduced about a quarter.  Remove from the heat and purée until reasonably smooth.


Top with a dollop of sour cream and a bit of chive.  This could easily be made vegan with a veg broth.  The parsnip makes it very creamy so I didn’t have to add any cream.  

Tomato Jam with Thyme

I did this post last week, though I thought I did.  But no one saw it, so I knew something was up.  In the meantime I upgraded to the premium plan so my site is now ourgrowingpaynes.blog.  As I was doing that I asked about this post.  Turns out I created a site page instead of a blog post!  Doh.  Hopefully now I can get this back on track.  🙂

I am really regretting removing our air conditioners.  Granted, it’s nice to have a longer growing season this year, but man, the humidity needs to go!  While we don’t like it the tomatoes seem to love this.  Which means we have to be creative is preserving all that goodness!

One of our favourite restaurants has a really good charcuterie plate and they very often have tomato jam as part of it.  It’s something my husband regularly orders there and he asked if I could make some tomato jam at home.  No idea how they make theirs but here is my version.

Tomato Jam 1 2017

I have to say, prepping the tomatoes is a messy endeavor.  But it needs to be done.  Cut the tops off the tomatoes and then cut a cross into the bottom.  Prep 2 1/2lbs/40ozs of tomatoes for this jam.

Tomato Jam 2 2017

Blanch each tomato for about 30 seconds in boiling water.

Tomato Jam 3 2017

Remove and set aside to cool.  Or you can dip in cold water.  I just let them cool.  Doesn’t take too long.  Remove the skins.

Tomato Jam 4 2017

Then it gets really messy!  Remove the seeds and coarsely chop up the tomatoes and add to a saucepan.  Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and a big handful of fresh thyme.  I chopped up the thyme finely as I didn’t want large bits of herb in the jam.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Because I didn’t want a high sugar jam I just added 1 cup/8oz of sugar to start.

Tomato Jam 5 2017

Mix well and keep simmering.  I also use low sugar pectin to help thicken the jam.  I didn’t want to mask the flavour of the tomato with too much sugar.  I add a bit of the pectin at the time.  Hard to remove it if you go too far!

Tomato Jam 6 2017

This is really good with cheese and would be good with bread and butter.  It’s a nice alternative to the usual berry jam.  A reminder of summer when the cooler decides to finally arrive.

 

Gochujang Chicken Wings and the Folly of Sticking our Heads in the Sand

On my sister’s suggestion, I have decided to try bullet journaling.  I needed help with getting better organised and following through with projects and ideas.  Including getting back on a schedule for blogging.  So I bought a journal and got the supplies to start it this month, which I did on Sunday.  I designated Mondays as blog post days.  That was the plan, but when the first thing you hear when you wake up to the radio is about the massacre in Las Vegas, the joy goes out of the day.  A cheery post seemed too jarring as the news unfolded.

It’s a sad state when you start losing track of how many times you sit down with your kids and discuss these tragedies as they occur.  When your kids realise that probably nothing will be done as these get worse and worse, you start wondering what the tipping point will actually have to be.  To not be able to reassure your kids that this will stop is depressing.  It seems mind boggling to me that common sense doesn’t prevail and have this country follow the rest of the developed world.

I just hope some day soon this stops.

Gochujang chicken wings 1 2017

Awhile back Chef Mimi of chefmimiblog.com mentioned using an ingredient called gochujang which is a fermented chili paste.  It sounded really interesting and lo and behold our co-op had some.  When I cleaned out the freezer I realised there were a lot of chicken wings to use.  I kept putting it off because my husband isn’t a fan of wings but neither of us like to waste food so I thought it would be a good time to try out gochujang.

Gochujang chicken wings 2 2017

This is a very easy dish to throw together.  In a bowl add a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil and a tablespoon or so of lime juice.  I finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic and snipped 3 chives.  Add a couple of large dollops of the gochujang.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Gochujang chicken wings 3 2017

Taste and adjust the flavours as needed.  The more of the gochujang you add the more heat there will be.  Pour the marinade into a large ziploc bag and add the chicken wings. Toss to coat the wings.  The longer you marinate the more intense the flavours will be.

Gochujang chicken wings 4 2017

Grill on medium heat until the chicken wings are cooked through.

Gochujang chicken wings 5 2017

Because we were still in the middle of a heat wave I served the wings on top of a salad to keep things light.  I really like this ingredient.  I did use it again for a quick stir fry as my husband had a bad cold.  I added a habanero pepper to it.  Let me tell you I may never have a cold again given the heat of those two ingredients!  Wowza.

Making a Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Mac and Cheese 

We’ve all done it.  Opened the door, peered in, shut it again.  Left to wonder what exactly is in that freezer.  Despite best laid plans it’s easy to lose the plot.  Our freezer is nearly 6 feet tall so it’s really not a good idea to lose the plot!  It got to the point where we couldn’t fit anything in and I was wondering how much money we were wasting by not using what we had.  

Off I went to get clear containers to organise the meats, leaving the baskets for all our fruits and veg we had harvested.  I did have to get rid of some things but overall getting it organised and knowing what the heck was in there was a success.  

One of my finds was a vacuumed bag of leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  So this post is either well overdue or too early for Thanksgiving.  😄.  Even though we seem to be stuck back in with the sticky heat of summer we did enjoy autumn weather for a few weeks.  It was wonderful and perfect for some comfort food.  Mac and cheese would do the trick.


Would you believe this onion was supposed to be a scallion?  We planted half a raised bed of bunching onions so you imagine our surprise to find proper onions growing.

While making the cheese sauce for this dish, cook up the pasta.  Preheat the oven to 375F/200C. In a separate saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of butter.   Coarsely chop half of a large onion and add it to the butter.


Sauté on low until the onions soften.  Then add a couple of cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add about a cup and a half of chopped turkey.  Season with a couple of teaspoons of fresh thyme and sage.  If you don’t have fresh sage use about a teaspoon of ground sage.  Continue to season with sea salt and pepper.  Then add a half cup/4oz of dry white wine.


To make it a roux add 2 tablespoons of flour.


Stir continuously until the flour is incorporated and cooked, about three minutes.


Next add 1 1/4 cup of milk and heat through.  Don’t boil!  Once the cheese is warm enough to melt cheese add a cup of grated cheddar and half a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Stir until the cheese has melted,


Put the cooked pasta into a baking dish and add the cheese sauce.  Mix well. Top with more grated cheese.


Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and brown the top of the dish.


Serve while hot.  Now we try to eat small portions in our house but with this dish we all had seconds and there weren’t any leftovers!  Guess we needed a break from salads.  😊

Getting My Husband to Like Aubergine 

We all have a veg we’re not a fan of but the rest of the family likes.  I hate Brussel sprouts, our son isn’t a fan of asparagus and mushroom, and our daughter finds celery particularly weird.  Aubergine is what my husband would be happy to avoid.  I have made the Moroccan Lamb Stew that he likes but as we like to grow the veg I need to come up with more recipes to use up the harvest.


When we were in Little Italy our daughter ordered a starter that layered aubergine, tomato, prosciutto, and basil.  She loved it so this was the inspiration for dinner.  I wanted to use the strong flavours of sun dried tomatoes and garlic for this dish.  I wanted it to pop!  I also used chicken thighs as it is a less expensive cut of meat to use.  

For this dish I used a little more than half a pound/10 oz of chicken.  Cut the chicken into small cubes and finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic. Slice a large handful of sun dried tomatoes while heating up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Toss in the three ingredients and sauté on medium low to pull the flavours of the garlic and sun dried tomatoes into the oil.  


Once the chicken is halfway cooked add the aubergine.  We grew small Italian finger aubergine which get to about 5in/12.5cm long.  For this dish I used four of the veg, sliced.


Cook for a few minutes then add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.  Because we ran out of our chicken stock (gasp!) I used veg bouillon instead.  It worked really well with the strong flavours.  Use about a cup/8oz of the bouillon and simmer to reduce slightly.  For once we did really well growing basil this year.  Let’s face it, gardening can be a bit of a crapshoot.  But I tossed in a handful of the fresh basil.  Once the dish is nearly finished cooking add a handful of chopped prosciutto.  You don’t want this ingredient cooking too long as it can get tough and overpowering.


While all this was going on I oven roasted potatoes that I sliced about a 1/4 in/.625cm thick, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.  Lay out the potatoes and top with the aubergine dish.  Grate fontina cheese over the dish and garnish with fresh basil.


Our daughter said it wasn’t exactly like the dish she had, which was fine as I wasn’t reproducing it, but that she loved it.  My husband’s response? “Congratulations on making aubergine edible!”  😄.  I do love cooking for my family.

New York in August

This month has been a bit of a whirlwind.  My friend,  whom I’ve been friends with since I was about 15 months old, came to visit with her family for a couple of weeks from the UK.  With the distance between us, we obviously don’t see each other often so I was really looking forward to this.  I am very fortunate to have her friendship, she is one of those people that are true friends.  Never any judging, just complete acceptance and support.  She is just a lovely person.  I also count her wonderful husband as a very old friend.  The funny thing is our children share the same names so you can bet it got a little confusing having everyone together!

We packed in loads of adventures into the two weeks they were here.  The kids were introduced to the massive sized ice creams, root beer floats, and New York style pizza.  I fear there was a withdrawal from the newfound root beer habit.  

The highlight of the visit was the trek to NYC.  Given the time of year I do wish that we had portable air conditioning units to carry with us.  The concrete jungle definitely gives off the heat waves!  This visit was a whirlwind tour of the more popular sites. Good thing we had excellent trainers!  


Grand Central is a great place to start the adventure.  It’s such an amazing building and thankfully it was restored rather than suffering the fate that Penn Station had.  Their son is a massive train fan so this was such a treat for him.  



We started in Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty.  Apparently you have to book tickets 3 months in advance to go up it.  To be honest I remember doing that as a child and the time it takes to get up to the top doesn’t make it worth it.  We wandered to the World Trade Center and the memorial there.  The memorial was incredibly moving, they really did it well.  Despite the crowds it’s a peaceful spot.  What got me the most was that they put a white rose on the names when it is the person’s birthday.  

My son, who had visited there with school, said we had to go straight up to the new World Trade Center building.  Then look straight up.  A very cool view.  The way they designed it, looks like it goes on forever.

As this was proving a very hot afternoon I suggested the next stop be Little Italy for refreshments.  


Cannoli and cocktails are very restorative don’t you know.  There is nothing like a well prepared cannoli.  This gave us enough energy to get through the queues to the top of the Empire State Building.  We timed it so by the time we got to the top the sun was going down.  It was insanely crowded at the top but we were able to get some great views.


Not bad for a first day.  The next day was museum day in a bid to keep cool.  For some reason I had yet to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I’m really glad we went, what an amazing museum.  There is something for everyone and their collections are extensive.  Because we didn’t have an endless amount of time we had to pick and choose what we wanted to see.  I would love to go back again.


We ended up spending most of the day there so we had to briskly walk across Central Park as we had promised a visit to the Natural History Museum.  


I hadn’t been in this part of the park before and the flowers and pond were really pretty.  As luck would have it, we emerged from the park right at the museum.  Unfortunately we discovered we only had two hours before it closed.  We were impressed by the greeters, though I wouldn’t mess with them, given the size of their teeth!


Because of the movie “Night at the Museum” we had to go see Dum Dum.  For those that haven’t seen the movie, it is a large Easter Island head.  I asked a guide where the Easter Island head was and he looked confused until I said Dum Dum.  So you can imagine how many parents are dragged there by their children!  Though given the cool stuff there it’s not much of a hardship.

After including Times Square, cheesecake and Gulliver’s Gate, we were very tired on the trip back.  All in all it was a very successful trip and loads of fabulous memories were made. 

Spicy Summer Grilling

Unlike last year, we aren’t dealing with dusty drought conditions so our garden has taken off and going like gangbusters.  Except the parsnips.  We planted that twice and not a sausage.  Not one seed sprouted.  But given that this is the only failure we are in great shape for the most local shopping of all, just outside our door.

By the time autumn comes, I’ll be tired of salads but I do enjoy the quick summer meals with fresh veg.  For this meal I sautéed swiss chard from our garden in lemon juice and olive oil.  I also roasted potatoes as they needed to be used up.

I think one of my favourite ingredients is garlic.  And it works really well with spicy dishes.

Spicy grilled chicken 1 2017

In a bowl big enough to hold the chicken thighs add about 1/3 cup of olive oil or peanut oil and a 1/4 cup of lemon juice.  Finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic and add to the bowl.  Here is where you get a bit free style.  Because everyone’s taste is different when it comes to spice you want to add sriracha sauce until you find the balance you want.  We like it spicy so I added a lot.  Make sure you do adjust the lemon juice as needed so you don’t drown out that flavour.

Spicy grilled chicken 2 2017

Season the chicken with sea salt and pepper then add it to the marinade.

Spicy grilled chicken 3 2017

The longer you marinade the stronger the flavour will be when cooked.  You can do this quickly but the flavour will be much more subtle.

Spicy grilled chicken 4 2017

Grill on medium heat until the chicken is cooked through.  If it is a bone in chicken keep in mind that the meat will take longer to cook.

Spicy grilled chicken 5 2017

This would work with any sautéed veg or a salad.  Thank goodness for the grill, I’d be lost without it!