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!

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.  😊

Chili Mushroom Bowls

And just like that summer is over, at least for the kids.  Off to school they went yesterday.  Summer seemed like a blur for all of us.  I am ready for autumn to arrive.  I am ready to say goodbye to the humidity and heat, which has been pretty bad this year.  Bring on the crisp days!

When I was food shopping with my daughter we found large portobello caps that looked like bowls.  Which gave me a fun idea.  Instead of bread bowls, why not mushroom bowls?

Chili bowl 1 2016

To fill the bowls I made a quick chili.  Normally you cook chili over a few hours but as this doesn’t have beans, this can be made in less than a half hour.  In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or two of olive oil and begin to saute a half pound of ground beef.

Chili bowl 2 2016

Chop about half a cup of red onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add that to the skillet.

Chili bowl 3 2016

After the onion starts to soften add a can of diced tomatoes (14oz) and bring to a simmer.  Begin to season with chili powder, cumin, and sea salt and pepper.  The beauty of this dish is you decide how much seasoning to put in.  Some like it hot and some don’t.  I would say the ratio of the chili powder to the cumin should be about 4:1.  As we like it hot I added a dollop of hot sauce that I made along with chopped bell pepper.

Chili bowl 4 2016

Mix well and cook the peppers for a few minutes.  Pre heat the oven to 400F/200C.  Fill the mushrooms with the chili mixture.

Chili bowl 5 2016

Top with shredded cheese and bake until the mushrooms are cooked.  You don’t want to cook the mushrooms so much that they collapse.

Chili bowl 6 2016

Top with sour cream and enjoy!  This is a very easy meal to through together on a weeknight.  And it’s a fun twist on the whole food for a bowl thing.

 

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!

Mango Habanero Hot Sauce, Wowza!

I had seen, over the past couple of years, a mango hot sauce on cooking competitions.  I put it on the list in the back of my mind of things to try.  This year we were able to grow habaneros in our garden so it was time to try my hand at it.

The tricky bit is being able to taste test it as it is made so the flavours were balanced.  Habaneros are not mild!  I enlisted my husband in the tasting department.

I did a bit of research and was surprised to find, without fail, carrots were an ingredient.  To me carrots taste more earthy than sweet but I thought it was worth a try.

Mango habenero hot sauce 1 2015

In a sauce pan add 1-2 medium carrots, sliced thinly, half of a small onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.

Mango habenero hot sauce 2 2015

Meanwhile, slice up 3 mangoes and 6 habaneros.

Mango habenero hot sauce 3 2015

Add these to a blender and then scoop in the carrot mixture.  I ended up using about a cup of the carrot mixture.

Mango habenero hot sauce 4 2015

Add a tablespoon or two of lime juice and the same amount of apple cider vinegar.  Blend completely.  If it comes out too thick add water until you get the consistency you need.

Mango habenero hot sauce 5 2015

I made about 5 cups so I canned them using normal canning processing.  Process them for about 5 minutes.  This is hot enough for my husband.  It’s quite something!  I look forward to adding it to recipes.

Pollo a La Española

If you are a parent you know watching your kids grow is fascinating, sometimes frustrating, and most of the time a wonderful thing to watch.  You also know it isn’t a continuous curve of growth.  They’ll tick a long and suddenly there is a leap forward.

Our daughter tried out for the Honors Band for our state.  They pick the best 8th graders to participate.  Last week they had the day of rehearsal and they practice all day long before the concert.  A lot of hard work went into the pieces they performed and I was blown away at how well they did.  The music was very technical and sounded excellent.  I was sitting there thinking how far she has come in just a few years.  She is really coming into her own on so many levels.  It is a joy to watch.

Our son has been making leaps of his own.  We had a great parent teacher conference last week.  He’s seeing the result of hard work in his report card and his teacher is encouraging him to speak up for the class.  Apparently a student at school was wiping the white board and posters have gone missing.  So the principal made an announcement to the whole school that the 5th grade can no longer move about the school without a teacher.  My son thought this terribly unfair so his teacher is encouraging him to meet with the principal to discuss this. What a great opportunity!  His teacher said to us that he was confused about the way the issue has been handled so we are all curious what the answers are going to be.

On to the food!  🙂

I bought some chicken thighs to do a Spanish dish called Pollo a La Española that I found in a cookbook I found at our library sale.  It’s called The Complete Spanish Cookbook by Pepita Aris.

It’s a mild but flavourful dish and relatively easy to make during the week when it is hectic.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

In a large skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Rub paprika on all sides of the chicken thighs and season with salt and pepper.  Pan fry both sides to brown.

Pollo a La Espanola 1 2015

Place in the oven to finish cooking.  In the skillet add about 3/4 cup of finely chopped onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped, and a 1/2 cup of pancetta.  I use uncured pancetta and sometimes it doesn’t have the full saltiness.  Just something to keep in mind when adjusting the seasoning.

Polo a La Espanola 2 2015

Cook until the onions soften then add a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes and a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  I added this because we didn’t have any parsley like the recipe called for.

Pollo a La Espanola 3 2015

Stir and bring to a simmer.  Add about a cup of chopped bell peppers.  I love how colourful this dish is.

Pollo a La Espanola 4 2015

Adjust the seasoning with paprika and the salt and pepper.

Pollo a La Espanola 5 2015

Serve with rice of your choice and enjoy!

On a side note, it seems I can no longer do my posts in the classic mode.  Not thrilled with that and I’ve noticed that pictures I post are showing as smaller than they showed before.  The files sizes are the same as before.  Any idea on how to fix that?

Warming Ramen Soup

Awhile back my son and I were checking out new food shows and came across “The Mind of a Chef”.  It’s a bit dull but they did an episode about ramen in Japan.  It piqued my son’s interest so I added it to the list of things to try.

The fascinating thing about this soup is how varied it can be from town to town.  So I did a bit of research and came up with my own.  It is fairly easy to make and full of flavour.

Prep the ingredients before you begin cooking.  Do up the soft boiled eggs and set aside to cool a bit before shelling.  Also cook up some frozen corn and set aside.

For this soup I wanted to use the flank steak we had on hand so I seared both sides in peanut oil.  If you like the steak medium rare keep it on the rare side after the sear.  Cover with tin foil and let it rest while you cook the rest of the soup.

Ramen soup 1 2015

I chopped up red onion, carrots, scallions, some mushrooms, and a few cloves of garlic.  The amount depends on how many servings you are doing.  Total for the five veg I had about a cup and a half.  In a saucepan saute the onion, carrots, garlic and mushrooms in peanut oil.

Ramen soup 2 2015

Add four cups of veg bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Grate about inch or two of fresh ginger, add about a cup of mung bean sprouts, and add a couple of teaspoons of fresh cilantro.  A few squeezes of fresh lime juice brightens the soup. Meanwhile cook the noodles according the package.  Drain the noodles.

Ramen soup 4 2015

In the bowls add the noodles and layer with the sliced beef.  Add the soup over the noodles.  The broth will cook the beef to medium rare at this point.  Top with half an egg, corn, and the fresh scallions.

Ramen soup 5 2015

Omit the noodles if you need to be gluten free.  It’s a very filling soup without the noodles.  I look forward to trying different flavour profiles with different proteins.  🙂

False Advertising with Spicy and Making a Curry

Back in the beginning of November we went to Sway in Austin and had the most amazing Jungle Curry.  It was spicy!  Spicy with loads of flavour and I wanted to try to recreate it.  In “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Solomon there is a recipe for Kaeng Masaman or Muslim Curry and was classified as a very spicy curry.  Ooh, I thought, maybe this could be close to the curry from Sway.  Hmmm not so much.  The flavour was really good but I had to spike it quite a bit at the end of cooking to get some spiciness.

First up was to make the curry paste.  Given what I had in my pantry I used already ground spices, except the cardamom pods.  The only two ingredients I didn’t have was mace and shrimp paste.  And because it is hard to find galangal I substituted ginger.

In a small bowl mix 2 tsp of chilli powder (I do wonder if the book had an error and should be 2 tablespoons), 2 Tablespoons of ground coriander, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon.  Set aside.

Muslim Curry 1 2015

In a small skillet heat up 5 cardamom pods without any oil.  Shake the pan so the pods don’t burn.  You want them to be golden brown.  Grind them finely in a spice grinder.

Muslim Curry 2 2015

In a skillet saute 1 1/2 cup of chopped onion in olive oil.  Once softened add 5-6 finely chopped garlic cloves.

Muslim Curry 3 2015

Place in a food processor.  Add about an inch or so of ginger, coarsely chopped, and about an inch of sliced lemongrass.

Muslim Curry 4 2015

Pulse until it becomes a paste.

Muslim Curry 5 2015

Add the spices and pulse to blend.

Muslim Curry 6 2015

Cover and chill for a few hours to let the flavours blend.

When it’s time to make the curry gather the ingredients together.  The one thing I don’t have access to is tamarind pulp.  So I left that out.  The rest is pretty easy.  In a large skillet bring cubed beef, 14 oz of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of fish or oyster sauce, 15 cardamom pods, and a few dashes of ground cinnamon to a boil.  Then lower to a simmer.  Cook until the meat is cooked and tender.  The book did mention that you shouldn’t cover the skillet because it will cause the coconut milk to curdle.

Muslim Curry 7 2015

Remove the cardamom pods when the beef is cooked.  That way it won’t get confused with the peanuts!  Stir in a large handful of roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped.  Add all the curry paste you made earlier with 2 tablespoons of lime juice.

At this point, I tasted for spiciness.  I was already to be blown away but it was very mild!  So I added more chilli powder but not wanting that to be a dominating flavour I also added red pepper flakes until I got some heat.  The flakes are great because they don’t overwhelm the rest of the dish but brings the heat.

Muslim Curry 8 2015

Garnish with some peanuts and cilantro.  While this wasn’t close enough to the jungle curry it was a really nice curry.  And it showed me that making homemade curry paste isn’t overly difficult.  So I’ll be playing around with the flavours for my own paste.  🙂

 

Spicy Aubergine with Roasted Chicken

I could use this hot spicy dish today given how bitter cold it is.  We’re in a deep cold snap and hopefully it won’t last long.  Guinness is not impressed at all.

Rosemary from Cooking in Sens did a post with spicy aubergine and veal a few weeks ago and I loved the flavours that were in the dish.  I had most of the ingredients and two chicken thighs to use up.  Plus our kids were coming back from Florida and I wanted to make them a nice meal to welcome them home.

Spicy aubergine 1 2015

Use a glass bowl big enough to hold the meat you choose to use.  Finely chop a shallot to give you about 1/4 cup.  Add 4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Then add 7 tablespoons of peanut oil, 1/8 cup of Sriracha sauce, 1/8 chilli garlic sauce, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Mix well.  Add the chicken and make sure it is well coated.  Cover and set aside for at least and hour in the fridge.

Spicy aubergine 2 2015

When it is time to make dinner heat the oven to 350F/175C.  Bake the chicken thighs turning every 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

Spicy aubergine 3 2015

While the chicken is cooking add the rest of the marinade to a skillet.  Add a cup of chicken stock and bring the sauce to a simmer.  Allow it to reduce by about a third or so.  If the sauce is too spicy add more chicken stock.  I had to do this otherwise I think I would have blown the kids out of their seats.

Spicy aubergine 4 2015

While the sauce is simmering, cube a cup and a half of aubergine and slice up the cooked chicken.  Add to the sauce and cook until the aubergine is cooked.  Just at the end add a handful of sliced scallion.

Spicy aubergine 6 2015

Serve with rice noodles or rice.

Spicy aubergine 7 2015

This was very spicy!  This would have a great chance of curing the common cold.  🙂  Which given the season, isn’t a bad thing!

Carrot Ginger Soup

The sun will be starting it’s journey back our way today.  This makes me happy.  I’m not a fan of the shorter days.  After getting tired of not being seen walking the dogs we bought them LED lights to hang from their collars.  They are super bright so that should help with the close calls trying to get across the roads. Luckily they don’t seem to bother the dogs and they have an added benefit of lighting up the area they are sniffing so I can see if they are about to eat something they shouldn’t!

With all that has been going on the past few weeks I lost track what was in the fridge.  I have a bad habit of buying ingredients when we already have them because I don’t see them in there!  At some point we bought a bunch of carrots and I needed to use them up.  I have been wanting to try a carrot soup.  It’s funny growing up the only way I liked carrots was raw.  But tastes change.

I should say I only liked organic ones.  I don’t know what it is but conventional carrots are always dry to me and not as sweet.  I know for most things the taste difference isn’t huge between organic and conventional but things like tomatoes and carrots I find a big difference.  Organic carrots seem to have more water and sweetness to them.

I found this carrot soup recipe that looked really good and adjusted it to the number of servings we needed.  Their recipe said it would be 8 servings but I made what I thought was enough for 4 but it was really closer to 8 so who knows how much soup the original recipe would have made.

Carrot ginger soup 1 2014

Finely chop a 1/4 of a large red onion and saute in about 2 tablespoons of butter.

Carrot ginger soup 2 2014

While the onion is cooking peel and slice 3-4 medium sized carrots.  You want at least two cups of sliced carrots.  I think I ended up with nearly 3 cups.  Add them to the onion and stir well then add 2 cups of homemade chicken stock.  As it is coming to a boil grate about 2 inches of fresh ginger into the soup, season with salt and pepper, then stir well.  Simmer until the carrots are tender and cooked.  This took about 45 minutes for the carrots I had.  Then use an immersion blender or a regular blender to blend all the ingredients.  Put back on the heat and add 1/2 a cup of heavy cream.

Carrot ginger soup 3 2014

Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed and warm up as needed.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Carrot ginger soup 4 2014

Full of flavour without much difficulty.  I discovered a few days later that it was very good cold as well so I will be having this in the summer as a light meal or a first course.  If I had some I would have garnished this dish with chives and the chive flowers.  Another thing to add in the summer when the garden is flourishing.  6 more months!  Not that we’re counting or anything.  🙂