Nearly Lost the Battle with the Charcoal….

So apparently chickens are flammable.  I found out the hard way last night while cooking chicken for the non fish lovers in the family.  I’m still getting used to cooking with charcoal and I made the mistake of walking away after I put the chicken thighs on the grill.  I had other parts of the dinner to prepare.  The grill didn’t think that was a good enough excuse.  When I checked the chickens were balls of flame.  I removed the grill part with the chicken from the heat and started blowing the chicken out like candles.  Oops.  Fortunately they weren’t flaming chickens for long and they turned out ok if you ignore the blackened outside.  Forgive me but I was too busy to take a pic. 

Luckily everything else went smoothly.  The other day a few of us popped down to Saumur to check out the market.  It was a lot of fun and quite large.  It wanders through a lot of streets but we found the food side and found some wonderful ingredients.  One was selling fresh mushrooms including pink ones.  I have no idea what they are called but he also had shiitake mushrooms so I got a bit of both.  I also found a lovely piece of salmon.  There was a bit of language juggling as we sorted out I wanted the skin on but the scales off.  But we got there in the end.  

  
 Following the suggestion from the mushroom man, I minced up some fresh garlic, sliced the mushrooms, and prepped the basil to sauté.  

  
In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Once it is hot add the mushrooms and garlic.  Stir as it begins to cook so the mushrooms are evenly coated with the olive oil.  The mushrooms will shrink a bit.  As they begin to brown add a bit of lemon juice to taste along with salt and pepper.  Near the end add a healthy handful of the basil.

  
Once they have browned nicely they are ready to serve.

  
In addition to setting the chicken on fire I also grilled salmon.  I was much more successful with that.  I added a bit of lemon juice and thyme along with salt and pepper to the salmon and cooked it medium rare.  

 
Yesterday we went to Fontevraud Abby which was very interesting.  The scale of it is immense.  It has been sanitised quite a lot and almost looks brand new in some areas.  Still I was glad we went.  

   

  

  

I’m not sure what rose this was but it was stunning.  It was like it was lit from within.  The gardens were lovely though in the cisterns I thought ducks were stuck given the sounds.  Turns out to be two frogs.  Not sure if there was a massive argument or one of them was hoping Barry White music would break out.  But one was running and one was chasing!

Roger from Food, Photography, and France was kind enough to email me about Les Halles in the towns.  So I went back today as I didn’t know what market was on and this one came recommended.  It had some amazing cheeses to chose from.  And there was a fresh produce stall.  So thank you Roger!  

We found a bistro to have lunch.  They seriously know how to do cheese plates here.

  
I also spotted pork belly on the menu.  The flavour was really good.  I think they should have slow cooked it more as it was pretty firm though.

 
As you can see, I’m still having loads of fun.  It’s going to be hard going home.  Tomorrow I’m taking an art lesson so I’m excited for that.  Life is good!

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Bruschetta Chicken Salad

It’s a lovely rainy day today.  I say lovely because we’re still not having many of them.  Optimistically we planted more seed to replace those that didn’t come up.  Right now we have one leek and one onion coming up.  Stand back and prepare to be overwhelmed!

For the life of us we can’t grow beets.  We keep trying.  In fact we had one come up a few weeks ago but it disappeared.  So did the carrots!  So we replanted and also sprinkled blood meal round the beds.  I hope we start to make some progress.

The other night I was in the mood for Italian but nothing heavy as it was hot.  I saw various ideas for bruschetta chicken which sounded wonderful.  The drawbacks to the recipes was that they called for store bought dressings.  It’s easy enough to make it from scratch.

In a bowl mix 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar.  Add fresh thyme and finely chopped garlic.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

Bruschetta chicken salad 1 2015

Add the chicken breasts to marinate for at least an hour.

Bruschetta chicken salad 2 2015

While the chicken is marinating prep the bruschetta part of the dish.

Bruschetta chicken salad 3 2015

Quarter the tomatoes and add a few cloves of finely chopped garlic in a bowl.  Toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and pepper.  The fresh mozzarella and basil should be added just before serving.  Grill the chicken and the slice it to serve over a bed of lettuce.

Bruschetta chicken salad 4 2015

As a side I also grilled up some veg to make a light supper.  I love this time of year with all the fresh veg.  Not so much the heat but you can’t have it all!

Black Garlic and the Craziness Quiets Down

I feel like school is out for summer.  It was a long tax season inside and outside of the office.  But hey the 15th of April comes around the same time every year so I knew I’d be able to breath soon.  A woman I do Zumba with asked if I’ve been cooking up a storm.  I wish!  Well, it’s not that I haven’t been cooking and things but there just wasn’t time to actually blog about it.

I did this dish a few weeks ago.  My husband found black garlic and thought I’d have fun trying it out.

Black garlic sauce 1 2015It’s an interesting ingredient that has been fermented.  The flavour that comes through is balsamic vinegar, so much so I double checked the container wondering if anything was added.  But no that is what comes out with the fermentation.

In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add the chopped garlic.  For this dish I used two small bulbs.

Black garlic sauce 2 2015You want to cook the garlic on low to medium heat and let the flavour infuse into the oil.  After a few minutes add about 14 oz of diced tomatoes.

Black garlic sauce 3 2015While the sauce is cooking prepare the pasta of your choice.  Add it to the sauce.  Add a handful of fresh basil to the sauce.

Black garlic sauce 4 2015Serve with parmesan or asiago cheese grated over the dish.

Black garlic sauce 5 2015This simple dish has an amazing amount of flavour.  I have one more bulb of the garlic to use, oh the possibilities!

Now it’s time to catch up with all the blogs and get back into creating again.  🙂

Home Cooked Food – A Cure for Long Travels

It’s been a very busy year for my husband with business trips and he just did two weeks to close out the year.  It was a tricky time though, what with the kids’ Christmas concerts, teacher conferences, and the like.  Thank goodness for technology as I was able to record a few of the songs the kids did and we could have him on speaker phone so he could be part of the conference.  Which is wonderful as he hates to miss this stuff.

As you can imagine he misses the home cooked food as well.  Two weeks of sandwiches and so so hot food begins to wear a person down. So a special meal was called for.  I was ready for it too because the second week was a kid free week and I don’t really cook for myself so it was fun to get creative again.

For the first course I did a cheese plate and opened a bottle of a lovely red wine.  For the second I wanted to have some of his favourite ingredients.  Roasted parsnips and pan sauteed Brussels Sprouts were no brainers.

At Thanksgiving I was able to pick up beef tenderloin from the farm where I got the turkey.  I now have more of an appreciation of the labour that goes into perfect looking filet mignon.  My knife skills being what they are mine didn’t come out perfect but they weren’t too bad.  But there is definite room for improvement!

I purchased some grape tomatoes and I sliced them in half.  On a baking sheet add the tomatoes, pieces of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper then bake at 300F/150C.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 1 2014

Bake for about 45 minutes.  Unfortunately the garlic didn’t cooporate and for some reason they came out hard as rocks.  So I chopped up more garlic, added some more olive oil into a skillet then sauteed this with the tomatoes.  Meanwhile broil the beef seasoned with salt and pepper to medium rare.  For meat that is 2 inches thick do 5 minutes on each side.  Mine was thinner so I did it for less.  Then rest the meat for at least 5 minutes.  While the meat is resting, add a handful of shredded basil to the tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 3 2014

Top the beef with the tomato mixture and serve.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 4 2014

It was such a lovely evening catching up with my husband.  I miss him when he’s gone and there is always so much to share.  Of course I had to step back to make room for the homecoming the dogs gave him!  Goodness me it was like a pair of dolphins leaping about, quivering with excitement.  He was licked within an inch of his life!  LOL.

 

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

Got caught out with a summer cold today.  Miserable thing.  When colds come round it’s much preferable to be cosy but in the summer that’s hard to pull off.  Ah well, the dogs are keeping me company while I watch Bleak House.  Cheerful show, ahem.  I’m behaving myself so we can go out tonight to see the movie “Chef”.  It will be a quiet date night but that’s ok.  🙂

When I made the Crêpes with Roasted Vegetables I really liked the taste of the oven roasted tomatoes and planned on making a sauce once we had a few ripened tomatoes from the garden.  This week I was able to get enough off the vines to do up a sauce.  This is an easy sauce that is packed with loads of flavour.

Slice the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper.  Slow roast in the oven at 300F/150C for about an hour.

Oven roasted tomato sauce 1 2014

If you are making homemade pasta, prepare it before making the sauce.  In a skillet heat up olive oil.  You want enough to create enough sauce to coat the pasta.  Saute 2 cloves of garlic, chopped.  The heat should be medium low so the garlic doesn’t burn but softens instead.  Then add the tomatoes.

Oven roasted tomato sauce 2 2014

Add a 1/4 cup of white balsamic vinegar and a handful of chopped basil.  Toss the cooked pasta and serve immediately.  I also did up some parmesan toast to accompany this.

Oven roasted tomato sauce 3 2014

As I said to my husband “not to toot my own horn” but I loved this dish.  It’s hard to beat fresh ingredients from the garden.  Love this time of year!

I Love the Colours of Summer Food!

We were spoilt when we were in England with the summer weather. My kind of summer weather where I don’t feel like I’m about to melt and I start to wonder if there is room in the fridge for me.  My husband heard a report on the BBC talking about how muggy the weather was.  Ha! I’ll take their version over the mugginess we get here any day of the week.  It was fabulous sleeping weather.  Right now there is a wall of humidity waiting for us just outside the door.  Ugh.  Thank goodness for A/C.

Of course this time of year comfort food is right out the window.  At least the heavy stick to your ribs kind.  Yesterday I reached back to one of my earlier cookbooks that I got when I moved out on my own to make a corn dish that is packed with flavour but is light and easy to make.  I drew inspiration from “Skillet Suppers” by Andrea Chesman.  It was published back in 1994.  I haven’t opened it in years so it was time to dust it off.  This is my version of their Cajun Macque Choux.  Their version has evaporated milk and prawns.  I took out the milk and replaced the prawns with chicken.

I also love this dish for all the bright colours of the ingredients.

Corn bacon 2 2014

This is a one skillet meal which makes for very easy clean up.  Chop about 5-6 slices of streaky bacon depending on how thick they are and cube a breast of chicken.

Corn bacon 1 2014

Start cooking the bacon in the skillet to render the fat.  Once it’s about half way cooked add the chicken in. 

Corn bacon 3 2014

Thinly slice a quarter of a red onion and add it to the bacon and chicken.  When the onion begins to soften add the chopped jalapeno and a cup of chopped pepper.  Any colour you wish.  Stir well as this cooks.

Corn bacon 4 2014

Add about 10oz of frozen corn, 1/3 – 1/2 cup of chopped scallion, and a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme. Have this on medium heat.

Corn bacon 5 2014

Once the corn is about half way cooked add a handful of chopped fresh basil and a chopped tomato.  I used about a cups worth of tomato.

Corn bacon 6 2014

Season with salt, black pepper, and white pepper.  Stir well and cook until the corn and chicken are finished. 

Corn bacon 7 2014

This is a very simple but flavourful dish.  I only used one jalapeno in this dish but you could use hotter peppers or more hot peppers if you wish.  My son and I liked the mild heat in this dish but my husband would have loved more omph.  🙂 

 

A Short Stack of Grilled Deliciousness…

My husband came home after a 2 week trip for work.  I thought our two dogs were going to burst with excitement.  Leaping about like dolphins.  Needless to say my husband was missed.  By all of us.   The kids will be back today and we get to have our family dinner before a school concert.  It’s nice to get back to normal.  And to have help walking our Murphy dog during the walks.  During his anxiety he got a bit much the other day and I had to carry him for a distance.  When he gets picked up he calms down immediately but I must have been quite the sight carrying a 50lb dog down the street.  Such a dope but he’s our dope.

Earlier this week I wanted to make a light dinner for the kids and I.  As my husband wasn’t here I thought I’d do some eggplant as he’s not the biggest fan of it.  But the kids and I enjoy it particularly on the grill.

Grilled chicken and eggplant 1 2014

I did up a quick marinade for the chicken using olive oil, lemon, and garlic with salt and pepper to taste.  I drizzled the eggplant with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Fire up the grill and cook both ingredients until done.

Grilled chicken and eggplant 2 2014

While this was cooking I did up the dressing with the lemon and olive oil.  Stack the chicken on the eggplant then add tomato and basil.  Add the dressing and some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Grilled chicken and eggplant 3 2014

It looks like a small meal and it is but it was surprisingly filling.  And we enjoyed it.  🙂

Wine, Cheese and the PTA

I sometimes, ok a lot of times, put my foot in it.  I’m good at saying the wrong thing.  I think I offended the cheese guy at our local grocery store yesterday.  I was looking at the cheeses, most of them generic and mass produced, and he asked me if I was finding what I was looking for.  I said yes though I lamented the fact it is so hard to find a large variety of cheeses.  I mean go to Europe and they all have personality and variety.  Of course he said we have lots of cheeses.  I paused and said yes for America I suppose we do.  He got huffy and said well we’re in America.  Yes, yes we are.  I quickly moved on.

I was able to find a few good cheeses for our PTA meeting of the officers to go with the wine we had.  Had a lovely bottle of Cotes de Rhone.  There were a few tomatoes in the garden ready to be picked so I grabbed a few with some basil to balance it all out.  Pleased to say the meeting went well and the cheeses were left with huge dents!  🙂

Wine and cheese 1 2013 Wine and Cheese 2 2013

Grilled Tomato Avocado Cheese Sandwich

Yesterday I mentioned having a chef’s equivalent of writers block.  Finding grilled cheese recipes cured that malaise.  I made my husband the roasted jalapeno grilled cheese and made myself a lovely grilled tomato avocado cheese sandwich.  I’ve seen several variations on Pinterest so I came up with my own as well.

To start I used some of the cooked bacon I used on the other sandwiches and sliced up some mozzerella.  You want this to be a bit firm but still creamy.

Grilled tomato avocado cheese 1 2013

Slice some tomatoes and shred a bit of basil.  I can’t wait for fresh tomatoes from the garden to make this.  It will be amazing!  These organic tomatoes weren’t too bad considering the season but fresh off the vine is hard to beat.  🙂

Grilled tomato avocado cheese 2 2013

Top with some bacon.

Grilled tomato avocado cheese 3 2013

I was lucky to find some organic avocado tucked away at the store.  All I could find at first was regular and they were all rock hard.  You could do some serious damage with those!  Fortunately I kept digging and found some of the good stuff.

Grilled tomato avocado cheese 4 2013

Butter the outside of the bread.  The bread I used for these sandwiches is our sourdough bread we make every week for the kids lunches.  Grill to brown both sides.  As this is a soft cheese you don’t need to keep it on the skillet for too long.  You want it melty, not soupy.

grilled tomato avocado cheese 5 2013

Serve with soup or salad and enjoy!

Sausage Rolls

Whenever we head back to England for a couple of weeks I always have a list of food to eat.  All the foods we can’t get stateside.  Fish and chips, cornish pasties, chocolates, pork pies, and sausage rolls!  Not to mention the crumbles my MIL makes.   Surprise, surprise I usually gain a few pounds and then have to Zumba like crazy.  But it’s worth it.  🙂

We had friends over a few nights ago and I made sausage rolls as finger food.  I don’t make it often because there are only so many Zumba classes I can take!  But these are super easy to make and very yummy.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

To start with chop half an onion and saute in melted butter.

Once the onions are soft let them cool a bit.  In a mixing bowl add about a pound of ground pork, some fennel seeds, salt and pepper, oregano and basil.

Freshly grate parmesan cheese.  About 3/4 cup will do and add to the bowl.

Add the onions then mix.  Don’t be shy dig in with your hands!  They will clean up.  🙂

Roll out some puff pastry.  One of these days I’ll learn how to make it from scratch but until then store bought it is.  Place a line of sausage onto the pastry.

Roll it once to surround the sausage and then use a knife to cut the pastry.  Cut the roll in half and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and flaky and the sausage is cooked through.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

I’ll be on the road this week so it will be a bit before I do my next post.  See you soon!