Scallops with Sun-dried Tomatoes

We’re in the thick of summer with high heat and soup like humidity, my least favourite weather. I feel like we hibernate more in the summer than we do in the winter but the heat just saps all energy out of the body. This calls for quick and light meals such as Scallops with Sun-dried Tomatoes.

We should be getting a break in the weather this weekend. I really hope for once the weather people are correct. So often we are disappointed given how erroneous the forecast often is. Very rarely we are pleasantly surprised!

Technique for Scallops with Sun-dried Tomatoes

This recipe is low FODMAP as I use garlic scapes instead of garlic. Obviously if you don’t have to worry about garlic, use that instead as it gives more of that lovely garlic flavour.

Garlic scapes are in season at the moment and they do lend a fresh flavour to this dish.

Heat the oil to medium in a skillet. Start slowing sautéing the tomatoes to release their flavour and to soften them a bit. Keep frequently to keep it from catching. I made the error of getting distracted with something else and burnt the first batch of tomatoes.

Add the scapes and sauté for a couple of minutes before adding the lemon juice and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Meanwhile prep the scallops by dabbing them with paper towels/kitchen roll to dry them a bit. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Place into a skillet with the hot oil. Allow to cook for a few minutes until they freely come away from the skillet.

Turn over and cook the other side.

I roasted potatoes in duck fat, such a guilty pleasure! Place the scallops over a bed of greens and top with the sun-dried tomato mixture. As my husband and son don’t like seafood I marinated steak with balsamic vinegar, grilled it and served it with the sun-dried tomatoes.

Scallops with Sun-dried Tomatoes

A flavourful Italian summer meal with garlic scapes and sun-dried tomatoes

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Scallops with Sun-dried Tomatoes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 8 Sea Scallops
  • 2 tbsp olive oil for scallops
  • 2 tbsp olive oil for sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes 1oz
  • 1/3 cup chopped garlic scapes 2oz
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

Scallops

  1. Dab scallops with paper towel/kitchen roll to remove excess moisture. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

  2. Heat up the olive oil in a skillet. Place the scallops into the skillet. Cook on one side until the scallops freely move from the skillet. Turn and cook the other side.

Sun-dried Tomato mixture

  1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet to medium heat. Start cooking the sun-dried tomatoes. Stir frequently to keep the tomatoes from catching.

  2. After a few minutes add the garlic scapes. Sauté for a couple of minutes then add the lemon juice. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Putting it all together

  1. On a bed of greens, place the scallops. Top with the sun-dried tomato mixture and serve.

Minestrone Soup

We seem to be in a continuous cycle of warm temperature to bitter cold temperature and back again. Germs everywhere! Minestrone soup is a great antidote to fighting off all the stuff going round. As remedies go, it’s a delicious comfort food.

My husband had sent me an article from the Guardian about Ultra Processed Food. For those that follow this blog, you know we’re big on cooking from scratch and keeping overly processed food out of our diet. I found it interesting when the article mentioned that it’s a good sign to see a container of sugar in the kitchen. The reason is, it’s a sign that home cooking from fresh ingredients occurs. Which is so much better than buying boxed goods.

Technique for Minestrone Soup

While this is a very easy soup to make on a busy night, I do recommend to make it a day or so ahead for the flavours to really come out.

Heat up the olive oil in a large saucepan. Sautè the onions until they soften. Add the garlic, carrots and celery. Cook for a few minutes.

Add the mushrooms and peas. The beauty of this soup is you can add whatever veg you want. I don’t like zucchini/courgettes and the like, especially in soup, so I left those out even though they are more traditional.

For the diced tomatoes I like to use fire roasted for a deeper flavour. Continue to cook for a few minutes before adding the veg bouillon. Bring to a simmer.

Season with the herbs, sea salt and pepper. Add the pasta and bring to a boil until the pasta starts to soften. Turn back down to a simmer.

Years ago, on our honeymoon in Italy, we had taken a cooking lesson and the woman gave us a tip on how to use up the parmesan ends. Throw in the piece into the soup and simmer. It gives a really lovely cheesy balance to the soup.

Serve with fresh bread and butter. Perfect for the whacky winter evenings.

Minestrone Soup

A hearty delicous soup

Course Soup
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Minestrone Soup
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1-2 mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 14oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable bouillon
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese end
  • 1 cup rotini pasta, dry

Instructions

  1. Heat up the olive oil in a large saucepan. Sautè the onions until they begin to soften. Add the garlic, celery and carrots to the pan. Cook for a few minutes before adding the mushrooms and peas. After cooking for a few more minutes add the diced tomatoes.

  2. Add the bouillon and the pasta. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the herbs and season with the sea salt and pepper. Toss in the cheese end. Once the pasta is cooked, it is ready to serve.

Italian Potato Salad

Before I get to the Italian Potato Salad I have to say I am very excited that I’ve opened up my Etsy shop!  I’ve been working for months on researching what to do and getting my photos together.  I’m starting off with greeting cards but I’ll be adding enlargements and such as I go along.  It is call CreationsByOGP, for some reason Etsy doesn’t like spaces!

If you have a chance, please check it out at CreationsByOGP.

As we’re still battling a fierce heatwave with crazy humidity, dinners need to be easy to put together because standing over a hot stove isn’t my idea of fun in the summer.  The farmer’s market had new potatoes so I decided to make an Italian Potato salad.

Technique for Italian Potato Salad:

I prepped the dressing first so it was ready.

Italian Potato Salad 1 2018

Mix 2 parts olive oil with one part lemon juice.  Add a healthy handful of fresh thyme and season with sea salt and pepper.  Whisk the ingredients well and set aside.  Next wash the potatoes and roast them at 425F/220C until they are cooked through and the skins are a bit crispy.  Take 4-6 rashers of streaky bacon and cook in a skillet until they are done to the way you like them.  We like them slightly crispy but not cooked too hard.

Italian Potato Salad 2 2018

Dice the bacon and set aside.  Once the potatoes are cooked, slice the larger ones in half as you want them bite size.

Italian Potato Salad 3 2018

Toss in a large bowl with the dressing and bacon.  Add fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  Grate fresh parmesan to finish.

Italian Potato Salad 4 2018

For a bit of variation you can also add grilled chicken or grilled fish.  I have to say though, I’m ready for cooler weather so I can do some baking and such.  Hopefully it’s right round the corner.

Italian Potato Salad

A delicious twist on potato salad with fresh basil and tomatoes.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Italian Potato Salad
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Salad

  • 1 lb new potatoes 400g
  • 4-6 rashers streaky bacon
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, torn to small pieces
  • 1-2 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup small mozzarella balls
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together.  Add the thyme, sea salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Set aside.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425F/220C.  Roast the potatoes until the skins are crispy.  Cook the bacon until they are slightly crispy.  Cut up the bacon and slice any new potatoes that are more than bite sized.  Toss all the ingredients together and serve.  

Bacon and Chicken White Bean Soup and We Have a Houdini

Our puppy boys aren’t actually puppies, they are 11 and 8. We call them puppies as they like to act like that and occasionally they teach themselves new tricks. Guinness, our 11 year old, decided to channel Houdini this morning. Because we’re still having work done on the house we put the dogs safely in a room. It usually works. Only this morning Guinness figured out how to open our sliding doors. It got a little hairy as we corralled him. It was bit bit like a comedy of people going in and out of rooms but no one could see anyone else.

Murphy has been taking this in stride but Guinness has taken to muttering at the intrusions. Definitely put out! Fortunately it will be over soon and he’ll soon get his room back. Silly sausage.

With the cacophony going on, comfort food hits the spot. Bacon chicken white bean soup fits the bill. I added bacon and chicken to this soup because they needed to be used up. Necessity being the mother of invention and all that.

In a saucepan add a half chicken breast that has been cubed and 3-4 rashers of streaky bacon that has been chopped. Sauté on medium heat.

Slice 2-3 mushrooms and chop 4-6 cloves of garlic. Once the bacon has rendered a bit add the veg to the saucepan.

Add 3 cups/24 ounces of chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Next add 2 cans of 15 ounce cans of white beans after rinsing them. Continue to simmer until the beans are cooked through. Season with se salt and pepper. A healthy splash of white wine, ahandful of fresh parsley and 4 ounces of freshly grated Parmesan finishes off the soup.

Fresh baked crusty bread with butter is a perfect companion to this soup.

I really enjoyed this hearty soup. A nice break from all the upheaval.

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.

Slow Cooked Pork Pasta

The kids are very happy today.  There is nearly 6 inches of snow on the ground so they got a snow day.  Granted back in my day we wouldn’t have had the day off!  I literally walked up hill both ways.  Not sure if we’re getting soft or just more safety conscious.

I did take a short video of our lovely snow storm but it turns out in the past few months WordPress decided to not let the lowly plebs upload videos anymore.  But you can see it on Instagram if you wish.  I guess this means I really need to get off my duff and upgrade the site!

We’re making progress on the room we are reworking.  Got the primer on the walls and picked up the flooring this weekend.  So I needed an easy dinner to put together with the kids coming back for the week.

slow-cooked-pork-pasta-1-2016

Doing a slow cooked pork dish fit the bill.  Because of what we had going on I had time to toss everything into the baking dish and that’s about it.  If you have more time, brown the pork before you put it in the dish.  However, if you don’t have time it will still be delicious.

slow-cooked-pork-pasta-2-2016

Add a half a large red onion, finely chopped, with a few cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped to the baking dish.  Then add a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and 1/2 cup of red wine.  Season with sea salt, pepper, some red pepper flakes, and a couple of teaspoons of oregano.  Bake at 300F/150C for several hours until the pork is tender and falling apart.  Taste halfway through to adjust the seasoning.

slow-cooked-pork-pasta-3-2016

Toss in the pasta and serve.  Grate with a hard Italian cheese and enjoy.  This is a very easy flavourful dish to make when life is crazy busy.  And of course a nice glass of red wine goes nicely with this.  🙂

 

Leftover Chicken Makes a Great Crostini

When the kids came back from Florida I did up a roast chicken dinner.  I chose that because it’s a special dinner and I need the bones to make homemade stock.  I had the bad luck of picking one of the hottest days of the year so far with about 95% humidity.  The A/Cs were working overtime and not necessarily winning.

The kids enjoyed the dinner but of course we have a ton of chicken left over.  I’ll freeze some for soup later in the cooler months but I was in the mood to make crostinis for my husband and me as a light meal.  I made three toppings.  A quick one with heirloom tomatoes, red onions, and a vinaigrette to keep things nice and bright.  I also made one of our favorites, Buttery Mushrooms, that I could just eat bowls of.  For the third I did up a chicken with sundries tomatoes.

Chicken crostini 1 2016

Heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a skillet and add a handful of chopped sun dried tomatoes.  Cook low and slow for several minutes to make sure the sun dried tomatoes soften up.

Chicken crostini 2 2016

Next I sliced up about a 1/4 cup of red onion.  Add it to the skillet and allow the onions become translucent.

Chicken crostini 3 2016

Cut up about a cup of the roasted chicken.  Add that with a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme and a splash of lemon juice.

Chicken crostini 4 2016

Cook until the chicken is warmed through.

Chicken crostini 5 2016

For the bread we used the boule my husband makes which is absolutely fantastic.  I sliced and buttered it before toasting.

Chicken crostini 6 2016

Obviously this would great with a lovely bottle of wine.  But I was in the mood for a dirty martini and I have to say that worked well.  Olives go well with crostini.  🙂

Italian Salad and Being Exercised by the House

Negative space.  Great when it comes to artwork.  Not so much when it comes to a house.  Our house was built in 1895 and I have to say it was solidly built.  It’s still relatively square. But man, when we redo rooms or do projects we find some serious negative space.  While our kids are off on their summer adventures we redid my son’s floor.  Because the wood had been damaged we had to pull up the old flooring.  Which gave us a chance to put in new insulation.  And that is where we saw the latest example of negative space.  So we stuffed a lot of insulation in.  Our son will be quite toasty this winter.

Thankfully that is a few months off.  On Father’s Day we joined our friends in the traditional Father’s Day BBQ and I had made a twist on the caprese salad with bacon and lettuce.  I didn’t have the time to get stuff together for a blog post then but I thought I’d remake it for my husband and I but added chicken.  Because why not?

Italian salad 1 2016

In a skillet start cooking 4-5 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped up.  Once the bacon is half cooked add about a third of a cup of chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, chopped.  Add a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme.

Italian salad 2 2016

While this is cooking make up the dressing and grill the chicken.  I just seasoned the chicken with sea salt and pepper as it will be dressed before adding to the salad.  In a bowl add olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  The ration was about 1:3/4 oil to vinegar.  Whisk to emulsify. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Italian salad 3 2016

Cut up the chicken into small pieces.  Add the chicken and the bacon mixture to the bowl and toss in the dressing.

Italian salad 4 2016

Add to lettuce and top with chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

Italian salad 5 2016

A super easy, flavourful salad for summer nights.  Without leaving you feeling stuffed.

Italian Potato Salad

My husband and I have been enjoying exploring the bike paths that run through our area.  I’m still surprised at how much I love biking.  And it’s great along the shady paths with the little breeze we work up.  Keeps the humidity off of us.  Still tweaking the bike so it fits  me better.  I found a memory foam seat cover which eases the bumps we go over.  Today I’m bringing the bike back to adjust the handle bars.  My husband and I tried but damn if we couldn’t shift it.

Of course after doing a ride we don’t want a heavy meal and to be frank I lack the energy to whip up anything complicated.  Still building up the stamina!  We bought some lovely new potatoes from the farmer’s market this past weekend and a potato salad is an easy thing to make before the ride.  As my husband isn’t into things with mayo I decided to make an Italian potato salad.

Italian potato salad 1 2016

I made up the marinade first so the sundried tomatoes could soak a bit.  I used the ratio 2:1 for olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.   Whisk to bring the two ingredients together and add a couple of cloves of garlic chopped, a few teaspoons of fresh thyme, and sea salt and pepper to taste.

Italian potato salad 2 2016

Cook up the potatoes until soft, drain and add to the marinade.  Some potatoes will soften and fluff a bit with this, more than others.  The ones I bought definitely fluffed a bit.  Stir to coat evenly in the marinade.  Add chopped proscuitto, freshly grated parmesan, mozzarella, and fresh basil.  Chill then serve.  Though you could have it warm if you prefer.

Italian potato salad 3 2016

Prior to the ride I marinated steak with thyme, sea salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar.  Easy to grill up and dinner is ready in no time at all!

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!