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.  


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 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.


Pasta with Mushroom Sauce and Saying Goodbye to 2015, Finally!

It’s been a long time since I was so looking forward to seeing the backside of a year.  I don’t like rushing time, especially as we get older.  It goes fast enough as it is.  But this year been a long stressful slog.  2016 has to be better!

I am so grateful that I have my husband and kids.  They have been an amazing support system for me.  Since the summer I’ve been struggling with my issues, whether it was physical injuries or the black dog, as Conor from One Man’s Meat so aptly called it, and I feel like I got in a rut.  It was an effort at times to get the day to day stuff done, nevermind finding creativity for blogging and other projects.  My husband never wavers and never complains.  He takes care of me and has the ability to make me laugh every day.  And kids being kids, they keep you on your toes.  They are a joy to have.  Not sure what I did to get so lucky to have them in my life but boy am I glad I did it.

But I am looking forward to 2016 and a fresh start in terms of putting this year behind me and not letting it be a millstone round my neck.  I have ideas I want to try and plan on keeping on improving with all the issues.  Onwards and upwards!

My sister got me a fabulous book on food photography for Christmas.  My family is so good about supporting my endeavors.  Last year my husband found me a photobox and a photography book which helped me dust off the cobwebs of my photography knowledge.  This book is the next step up from the previous book.  After a year of practicing I am excited to learn new techniques and continuing to improve.  I’m only into the fourth chapter and already I have a list in my head of things I need to set up.

Last night my sister and family were planning on coming so I planned Italian for dinner.  Unfortunately, the New England weather decided it was time for the first winter storm.  But I had found a recipe from the cookery book Giada at Home by Giada De Laurentiis.  So I stuck with the planned theme.

Mushroom pasta 1 2015

It is the Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Sauce.  This is my adaptation of it.  I didn’t stray too much from the original but I did make it my own.

In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Finely chop up half a red onion and begin saute the onion.  Finely chop up 3-4 cloves of garlic and add it to the skillet.

Mushroom pasta 2 2015

While this is cooking slice up a mixture of mushrooms.  I used baby bellas (cremini), shiitake, and oyster mushrooms.  You want about 2 cups sliced.  Add these to the skillet to start to brown.

Mushroom pasta 3 2015

Add 1/2-3/4 cup of vegetable bouillon and 1/2 a cup of dry white wine.  Bring to a simmer to reduce the liquid by at least a third.

Mushroom pasta 4 2015

During this time make sure you cook the pasta.  I chose brown rice spaghetti.  When the pasta is nearly done add a half cup (4 oz) of mascarpone.

Mushroom pasta 5 2015

When the mascarpone has blended in add 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan and a handful of chopped chives.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to coat.

Mushroom pasta 6 2015

Garnish with chopped chives and grated parmesan cheese.  My husband made fabulous ciabatta bread.  He used it to make garlic bread.  A serious weakness of mine!

This dish was a hit even with my son who doesn’t like mushrooms.  Fingers crossed his tastes are changing.  The rest of us love mushrooms.

Happy New Year’s everyone!


Curried Carrot Soup

Oooh, it was very scary in town last night.  Lots of ghouls and monsters wandering about asking for candy.   And I bet most of them slept well after their quest for the sweet stuff.  It was a little bittersweet last night as our kids were off doing their own thing this year.  It’s tradition for us to gather at a friend’s house as their neighbourhood is a fabulous place to trick o treat.  We went without them to see all the kids having fun.  The best costume was a young girl who took a parasol and stringed it with lights to be a jelly fish.  You could see her journey through the neighbourhood.  A fantastic job.

The husband of the duo where we go likes to dress up as death.  He has an old sickle that was the wife’s great grandmother’s.  Once there are enough of us to hand out candy he starts slowly walking the driveway dragging the sickle.  A bit scary.  So it’s fascinating to watch the kids.  A good number, even the tiny ones, will loudly declare “You don’t scare me!”  Some keep an eye on him as they make their way to the candy.  A couple get scared but with the rest of us yelling it’s ok, there’s candy at the end, they make it as well.  I don’t think there was one child that gave up candy out of fear.  🙂

Now I’m not one, when this time rolls by, to go pumpkin crazy.  Occasionally I make a pumpkin pie but that’s it.  Crikey, they put it in everything!  People go mad over it.  But I do enjoy good harvest soups.  The comfort rustic ones that take the chill off the bones.  And if they are quick even better!

A couple of weeks ago I made a curried carrot soup for the family as I had to teach class that night.  Nothing is easier to make ahead of time and just reheat.

Curried Carrot Soup

Peel and slice 3-4 carrots depending on their size and thinly slice them.  Chop up half a large red onion and coarsely chop 4-5 cloves of garlic.  Add about 4 cups of chicken stock.

Curried carrot soup 2 2015

Bring to a boil and cook until the carrots are tender.  Use a blender or an immersion blender to blend all soup.

Curried carrot soup 3 2015

Don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth, this is a rustic soup.  Put it back on the heat and bring it to a low simmer.  Now the seasoning bit is a guideline.  I used hot curry powder, curry paste, cumin, sea salt, pepper, and a bit of garam masala.  The last bit you don’t want to use a ton. A little goes along way. We really like the curry flavour and the heat so I add a good amount.  I also add a spoonful of the mango habanero sauce I made recently.  This is seriously hot so don’t go overboard with that bit!  Simmer to allow all the flavours to develop together.

Curried carrot soup 5 2015

Top with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraise.  Garnish with fresh chive.  This is a very warming soup.  Wonderful on a cold day or if you have a cold!


Carbonara With A Twist

I wish that spring lasted longer here.  Winter lasts way too long and summer is always anxious to arrive.  We have been holding off putting in the A/Cs but we might not make it until the end of June like we are hoping.  Yesterday was a scorcher!  I fear summer will be a bit much.

Needless to say my long list for yesterday didn’t get done!  Partly because I grossly underestimated how long it would take to clean out our closet.  Hours!  Just as well as it was to hot to bake.  Hopefully I’ll get that done today.  Wouldn’t want the kids to starve.  🙂

And I didn’t want to be standing over a hot stove either.  We have some black garlic and proscuitto on hand and carbonara is a quick dish to make.  Time for a twist on a great dish!

Carbonara with a twist 1 2015Prep everything ahead of time as this does not take long to cook.  In a bowl whisk three eggs together with salt and pepper.  Great about a cup of aged cheese together.  I used pecorino, parmesan, and romano cheese for this dish.  Cube the proscuitto, about 1/2 -3/4 cups worth.  I finely chopped two bulbs of black garlic and garlic chives.  I love having the fresh herbs from our garden again!

Carbonara with a twist 2 2015

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and slowly saute the garlic. Don’t have the heat higher than medium.  While this is cooking, cook the pasta.  When the pasta is halfway cooked add the proscuitto and chive to the skillet.  The trick with the proscuitto is that you don’t want to overcook it or the flavour will get really strong.

Carbonara with a twist 3 2015

Add a 1/2 cup of dry white wine and lightly simmer.

Carbonara with a twist 4 2015

Once the pasta is cooked add it to the skillet and mix well.  Turn off the heat and add the egg and cheese mixture to the skillet.

Carbonara with a twist 5 2015

Toss and serve immediately.  Garnish with fresh basil and grated cheese.

Carbonara with a twist 6 2015

This is a dish with strong flavours and is great with homemade ciabatta bread.  Here is how to make the traditional carbonara dish.  Both great for when it’s too hot to be standing over a hot stove!


Asian Meatballs and the Education System

Mind boggling.  That is how I felt last night when we were talking about school.  Both kids had tests yesterday.  Both mentioned how they had to finish them today.  I asked what they meant finishing it a day later.  Apparently that is the norm in our school system.  If you don’t finish it in time that is ok.  This just blew my mind.  Growing up if I didn’t finish a test in the set amount of time that was on me.

This really concerns me because as a parent I want the best education for our kids.  I don’t want education to be a limiting factor to whatever progress our kids make.  Last year the US was ranked 14th in the world when it came to education.  The past couple of years think tanks have mucked about with different ways the kids should be taught without really vetting the programs.  Common core has been a nightmare.  I’m sorry 2+2 does not equal 5!  I get that kids should learn to think through the process and understand how they got to the answer but it is not ok if the answer is wrong.

It is hard for me to understand the overall disconnect between what I see our teachers doing locally and how our students stand vs other countries.  The teachers our kids have, bar one, have been amazing.  They are dedicated to our kids, they work long hours, they work to try to tailor lessons for each student, and communicate with us.  So I have to think our system is held back at the higher level.  For example there is an OK senator who wants to cut funding to the AP History classes because it “teaches students what is bad about America”  It doesn’t promote “exceptionalism”.   Constantly chanting “We’re #1” isn’t leadership, it’s insecurity.

To rise back up the ranks, kids need to have positive learning experiences while being prepared for the real world.  They need to stop being let down by those who forget separation of church and state actually exists, to be allowed to actually learn science and the truth about history, and to know that 2 + 2 doesn’t equal 5.

We are fortunate that our kids love to learn and seek out ways to learn new things.  But not all kids have that support.

We did have a nice meal to go along with the enlightening conversation.  I was in the mood for meatballs and wanted an Asian flair.  And guess what my husband found at the co-op?

Asian meatballs 1 2015

Galangal!  How cool is that?  In a bowl I mixed up a half pound of beef with a few tablespoons of freshly grated galangal.  I found it to be very dry and flaky.  I also added chopped chives and couple of teaspoons of amino acids.  Otherwise known as gluten free soy sauce.  Then roll the meat into meatballs about an inch to an inch in a half in diameter.  In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of peanut oil.

Asian meatballs 3 2015

Brown the sides of the meatballs then finish off in an oven heated to 350F/175C.  Meanwhile, saute chopped veg of your choice.  I did up peppers, scallions, garlic, carrots, and mushrooms.

Asian meatballs 4 2015

I messed up on the portion of sauce vs the portion of rice noodle.  I made enough sauce for two people but enough noodles for 4.  So I would double what I’m putting here.  Otherwise the dish ends up bland and trust me, the sauce wasn’t bland!  I added 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, a couple of teaspoons of amino acids, a few splashes of fresh lime juice, and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer and add a cup of homemade chicken stock.  Reduce down a bit then add the meatballs.

Asian meatballs 5 2015

Cook the rice noodles per the directions then serve with the meatball sauce.

Asian meatballs 6 2015

Next time I make this I will definitely increase the sauce because the flavour was amazing.  Just wish the rice noodles hadn’t dulled it down.


Bacon Cheese and Chive Muffins

In the interest of avoiding a rut with breakfast I asked if the kids wanted something different from the mini quiches and waffles for breakfast.  The answer was yes so I had to find something different that was easy to make and would get them through the morning without having a sugar dump.  It’s hard for our daughter as this year her lunch period is the last one of the day.

I thought muffins with bacon would be fun.  This recipe is part Pillsbury’s The Complete Book of Baking and part my own.  I used them for a base with the basic ingredients and added my twist.

Slowly render about a cup to a cup and a half of bacon with a lot of the fat cut off.  You don’t want greasy muffins.

Bacon cheese muffins 1 2015

While the bacon is cooking mix the dry ingredients together.  You need 2 cups of all purpose flour, 3 teaspoons of sugar, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a handful of chopped chives.  It’s a good idea to actually read the recipe properly.  I thought it said 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Oops!  Fortunately it didn’t ruin the muffins.  I did forget the baking powder and I had to carefully add it afterwards.  Honestly, where was my head?  At this time grate fresh parmesan and jarlsberg cheese to make 3/4- 1 cup of cheese.

Bacon cheese muffins 2 2015

Add 1 beaten egg, 1 1/4 cup of milk, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Bacon cheese muffins 3 2015

Now with muffins you don’t want to overwork the batter.  Gently mix the dry ingredients and wet together.  It’s ok if the batter is a bit lumpy just as long as the ingredients are incorporated.  It will be very wet.

Bacon cheese muffins 4 2015

Fold in the bacon.  This is the part where I forgot the baking powder so I had to sprinkle it over the batter then carefully fold that in.

Bacon cheese muffins 5 2015

Pre-heat the oven to 400F/205C.  Spoon the batter into muffin cups, about 2/3 full.

Bacon cheese muffins 6 2015

Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are golden in colour and the toothpick test comes out clean.

Bacon cheese muffins 7 2015

Treat yourself while they are still warm and have some with butter.

Bacon cheese muffins 8 2015

Not only are these good for breakfast but they would be good with stews and chilli as well.


A First Crack at a French Omelette…

Well it’s back to reality now.  We came back on Thursday from a fabulous trip to England to see friends and family.  Thursday was a 21 hour day so I barely avoided going face first into the pillow when we made it home.  A friend of ours asked me what I missed when we were gone and it was a bit erm ketchup?  Seriously, when we move back we’ll be asking any visiting friends to bring us ketchup.

Of course I missed our kitchen.  My husband and I got a bit of cooking in, there was an amazing leg of lamb, but it’s hard when it’s not your kitchen.  Not knowing where things are slow you down!  And if you are trying to cook to allow your mother-in-law to relax, it’s hard for her to relax if you are asking where things are.  But we did our best.

After doing a few travel and train posts I was anxious to get back to recipes though the jet lag held me back a bit but today was better.  I thought I’d be bold and go for a French omelette.  The fluffy, creamy, make in a few seconds but has a high level of technique kind.  And as it was my first time, take pictures!  Hmmm.  Maybe the jet lag hasn’t worked it’s way through yet.  But I did it anyway.

I used Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking for this.  It highly recommends a non stick omelette pan.  Which I don’t own.  I own a crepe pan.  I think I upped the level of difficulty right there as it is helpful to have some sides to the pan.

Omelette 1 2014

The cooking of the eggs is very quick so prep the ingredients beforehand.  I chopped up fresh thyme and chives from the garden and grated a 1/4 cup of fresh parmesan.  In a bowl beat 2-3 eggs until blended.  Don’t whip them just get them integrated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Omelette 2 2014

Heat a tablespoon of butter in the pan you are going to use, moving it about to coat the sides and the bottom.  The book says that once the foam subsides and just before the colour changes it is hot enough.

Omelette 3 2014

Add the eggs and slide the pan back and forth.  The book recommends using a fork but as I don’t want to scratch the pan I used a silicon spatula but you want to stir the eggs quickly as the eggs thicken.  Not scramble them mind but keep the egg moving as it spreads out to cook.  This only takes a few seconds.

Omelette 4 2014

As it begins to fluff up and starts to look like a broken custard add your fillings.  And when they said in a few seconds they weren’t kidding.  I could have used three arms for this with taking photos!

Omelette 5 2014

Gently move it about folding it over itself by bringing the pan to a 45 degree angle.  If it sticks whack the handle a few times.  However you do this you don’t want the eggs to stick.  They’ll start overcooking.  Roll it onto a hot plate.

Omelette 6 2014

Add a bit of butter to melt over the top and serve.  I was quite pleased with this being the first attempt but I can see I need some practice.  I don’t mind.  🙂

PS, I see coming back to the PC that the website changed.  Anyone know how to preview before publishing?  I can’t find it.


Jarlsberg and Chive Souffle

Cheese souffle is one of those dishes that is considered difficult enough to use as tests on cooking competitions.  Contestants dread them.  So I thought it was high time to try one.  And I stressed through it enough that my husband thought I was being a bit nutty.  🙂  The result is that it is time consuming but not overly difficult.

I found a recipe on for this and used Jarlsberg and some garlic chives that are just starting to come up on our garden.  Easy to follow but why does it have to be another recipe that uses 4 egg yolks but 5 egg whites?  Tiny pet peeve of mine.  The first part of the recipe through adding the egg yolks can be made a few hours ahead of time if need be.  Helpful when the dogs need to be walked.  🙂

It called for 1 1/2 quart dish, which I used, but I think in the end it was too big so next time I’ll try something a bit smaller.  Butter the dish and then coat with finely grated parmesan cheese.  A tip from Alton Brown is to freeze this for about 5 minutes to set it.

Cheese Souffle 1 2013

To start warm a cup of milk in a small sauce pan.  Warm it to steaming but not boiling.  Their recipe called for whole milk but we used 2% and it was fine.  Also all we had.  In a larger sauce pan melt 2 1/2 T butter.

cheese souffle 3 2013

Once the butter is melted add 3T of flour and whisk it all together.  Cook this roux until it isn’t raw anymore.  Don’t brown it.  Mine turned beige but it was ok.

cheese souffle 4 2013

Remove from the heat for about a minute then whisk in the warmed milk.  Whisk until it is blended.

cheese souffle 5 2013

Put it back on the stove and reheat on low to medium while whisking the mixture.  You want to keep stirring until it thickens.  This will take a few minutes.  And when it thickens it happens quickly.

cheese souffle 6 2013

Remove from the heat once again.  Add 1/2 tsp of paprika and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Just a sprinkle of nutmeg then blend it all together.

cheese souffle 7 2013

Add one egg yolk at a time and blend well each time.  Again this calls for 4 egg yolks.

cheese souffle 8 2013

Set this aside to come to room temperature.  Then coarsely grate a cup of Jarlsberg.  Like brown sugar this should be a tightly packed cup.  And chop the chives.

cheese souffle 2 2013 cheese souffle 9 2013

When you are ready to do the second part of the souffle pre-heat the oven to 400F/204C.  I did it on convection but I don’t recommend it as it browned the top well but the very centre of the souffle was a bit undercooked.  So next time I will do it regular to the browning and the centre will finish together.

Take 5 egg whites and use a mixer to whip them until “stiff but not dry” according to the recipe I was following.

cheese souffle 10 2013 cheese souffle 11 2013

Take a 1/4 of the egg whites and gently fold into the souffle mixture that has cooled.  For these final steps you don’t want a heavy hand.

cheese souffle 12 2013 cheese souffle 13 2013

Gradually add the cheese, chives, and the egg whites gently folding as you go.  You want a light airy mixture.

cheese souffle 14 2013 cheese souffle 15 2013

Pour it into the dish and place it into the oven.  Turn the temp down to 375F/190C.  Set the timer for 25 minutes.  As the recipe states “Do not open the door for at least 20 minutes!”  That is really hard for me not to do!  🙂  When it is golden brown remove from the oven.

cheese souffle 16 2013

Again I would use a smaller dish for this.  Also as I did it in convection I removed it a few minutes before the 25 minutes was up so the centre was just undercooked a bit.  This recipe served 4 of us and we served with salad.

cheese souffle 17 2013

It was a delicious light meal.