Time to Start Enjoying the Bounty of the Garden…

We were lucky to have a good friend take care of our gardens with her kids. She even sent pictures to us! I got a kick out of that. 😄

Despite seeing the photos it was surprising how well some of the plants were doing. The tomato plants and pepper plants struggled a bit when we planted them. The pepper plants didn’t seem to like the Epsom salts at first. What difference a few weeks make! The peppers are thriving and the tomato plants shot up big and strong and we will have a bigger harvest this year than last.

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I love how tomatillos look like lanterns whilst they are growing.

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I never appreciated how beautiful the flowers of vegetables can be until we seriously started growing them. Green beans have one of my favourites.

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Our son helped make a delicious black currant, gooseberry, and apple crumble. So good! Our little bushes are bursting this year much to my husband’s delight, he loves the tartness of these berries.

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Our flower garden survived the huge hacking we did to reclaim the garden. It seems counterintuitive to do that but the proof is in the pudding. The garden is happy and thriving sharing a beautiful bouquet of blooms.

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It’s turning into a great year. 😊

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.  🙂 

 

Paella with Chicken and Chorizo

One dish I didn’t have a chance to have was traditional paella on our trip to Spain last year but I did have it years ago on my first trip.  I’ve always enjoyed good food but in the past few years I’ve approached it with an eye to be able to recreate dishes.  Given all the great food on our trip I just didn’t have enough meals to get round to it.  Guess I’ll have to go back.  🙂

I found a recipe for an Easy Paella  to try with chicken and chorizo sausage.  While this wouldn’t be a traditional paella it does have a lot of the flavours and it takes about an hour to make.  Traditional recipes can take 2 hours to make.  I didn’t include the shrimp as half of us don’t like seafood but it can easily added to the dish.  I also used brown rice as that is what we had on hand, it takes a little longer to cook and doesn’t show off the saffron as much but works well.

I cubed 3/4lb of chicken and tossed it with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a tablespoon of paprika, a couple of teaspoons of dried oregano, and salt and pepper.  Chill in the fridge while prepping and starting the rice.

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In a large skillet that has a cover heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and saute the rice.  I used a cup of rice as there was only four of us.  Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic, and a teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes.  Cook this for a couple of minutes.

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Add a pinch of saffron.

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Add chicken stock in the amount that is needed for the rice you use.  For this dish I needed 2 cups of chicken stock.   Add fresh flat leaf parsley, a bay leaf, and a few squirts of lemon juice.  The recipe called for lemon zest instead and I would normally use that but I couldn’t find organic lemons at the store so I went with the next best thing.  Bring to a boil then cover and then lower the heat to a simmer.

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About 10 minutes or so before the rice is finished cooking chop up half a red onion and a bell pepper.  Saute the chicken, chorizo sausage, pepper and onion in olive oil.

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Add to the rice and finish simmering. Once the rice is cooked it is ready to serve.

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I’m curious about the root of this dish as it’s not far off from a gumbo.  I have a feeling that a cousin of paella made it’s way to New Orleans at some point and influenced the gumbo.  I find it fascinating the journey of global food.

 

 

Time to Banish the Cold with Spicy Thai Curry

We’ve been experiencing what would be in normal times unbelievable frigid temps.  But it is positively balmy compared to the Midwest.  It’s mind blowing the temps they are experiencing.  Walking our dogs in all our winter gear trying to stay warm and watching the dogs get what we call flat tyres with their paws lifted off the ground left me wondering what we would do if that type of cold made it to us. You can’t not walk the dogs.  I’m thinking we should be looking into getting coats for them but what are the chances?  I would have thought zero until this past week and the polar vortex.

I was actually wondering last night what we had for old winter coats that could be used in case the cold hits us.  I think the dogs would fight us on that one!  I can just imagine trying to zip them up.

Because it’s cold and I still have that cold going round I thought I would make a spicy dish for my husband.  A knock your socks off, make Texas stand up and take notice, evict the cold dish.  That was the plan.  I thought it was spicy while my husband thought it had a lovely mild heat.  I put a habanero and two serranos in the dish!

Before I begin the recipe please excuse the photos.  Something is going on with my camera and I have to figure it out.  Suddenly in the kitchen the camera has slowed down on the shutter speed.  When I do it manually the pictures come out dark as can be.  Plus it keeps thinking there is a memory card error or it thinks the card is full.  It works fine in natural light as I tested it this morning.  The lights in the kitchen overhead are now all fluorescent instead of a mix, could that be an issue?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Back to the food!

In a skillet brown some chicken and when they are nearly cooked add sweet pepper and garlic.  To that add about a cup of plain tomato sauce and grated ginger (about an inch square though you can add more).

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Simmer for a couple of minutes then add about 7 or 8 oz of coconut milk, a bit of lime juice, cilantro, and a couple of spoonfuls of red thai curry paste.

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While this is simmering I diced up a habanero pepper and two serranos.  I use gloves to do this as the pepper oil sticks on me for days and it burns.  Add the peppers to the dish a long with a good handful of chopped scallions.

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I let the mixture reduce a bit to concentrate the flavours.  I did add more of the curry paste to kick it up a bit.  Serve over rice of your choice.

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This would have knocked the kids back.  I felt the heat.  And my husband enjoyed it.  🙂  The beauty of this dish is you can make it as hot as you would like.  I wonder how many peppers I would have to add for my husband to go Whoa!

 

Bitter Cold So It’s Enchilada Time…

I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year’s.  We had our usual get together with our friends.  At our get together we do a potluck.  There were 8 adults and 7 kids but we always end up making enough for double that amount!  Keeps us going for our Texas Hold ‘Em, dancing, and general goofiness.  It’s always a good time.  It has been the high point of my week as I’ve struggled with a bad cold and winter is being harsh.  The past 24 hours brought us several inches of snow and tonight we are looking at a range of -15F/-26C and -22F/-30C.  At that point though, cold is cold!  The kids are enjoying 2 snow days with lots of PJ time and playing out in the snow until they can’t take the cold anymore.  Thank goodness for hot chocolate.  That will revive any child.  🙂

Because of my cold I’ve been trying to get as much spicy things into me as I can.  Though not always with success.  I tried making our spicy stir fry, which is normally a success, but not that night.  The jalapenos were mild and I screwed up the rice noodles.  So last night I wanted to redeem myself with something that actually had a bit of heat!  My kids wanted Mexican for dinner so I decided to make homemade enchiladas and sauce.

This is a very versatile dish as you make it your own.  Particularly in terms of how much heat you want in your dish.  So if you want to knock your socks off you can!

Pre heat the oven for 375F/190C.  Make the enchilada sauce first so it can simmer to give it time for the flavours to develop.

Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic and about 1/2 a cup of onion and saute in olive oil.

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Once they’ve softened a bit add a 14oz can of tomato sauce, 3/4 cups of water, 1/3 cup of salsa, dried oregano, dried basil, chili powder, ground cumin, lime juice, red pepper flakes, adobe seasoning, and salt and pepper.  I’m not giving measurements for the seasoning as you can tailor it to your tastes.  The main bit is not to have an overpowering taste of tomato.  You want all the flavours to come through.  Let this simmer while you prep the enchiladas.

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I found chicken thighs to use for this dish as they are cheaper and have a lot of flavour.  I cut them into strips and started to brown them in olive oil.

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Once they are about halfway cooked add a few cloves of chopped garlic and about half a large onion that has been sliced.  Then add chopped peppers and a jalapeno.  Go ahead and add mushrooms if you wish.  I left them out of this dish for my son.  That made him very happy.  🙂

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Add a bit of lime juice along with chili powder and cumin as well as about 1/3 cup – 1/2 cup of salsa.  I wanted to try a creamy enchilada so I added about 4oz of low fat cream cheese.

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Spoon the mixture into the middle of the tortillas.

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Roll and place in the seam down in the baking dish.

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Pour the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas and cover with shredded cheese.

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Bake until the cheese melts and starts to brown a bit.

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It is ready to serve immediately.  For the table put out sour cream, salsa, and jalapeno to compliment the dish.

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The kids loved it and I liked how the creaminess balanced with the heat.  And the jalapenos brought some heat this time round!  Just what I needed.  🙂

 

Around the World for Turkey Madras

It’s official, we’ll have a white Christmas.  Unless warm weather comes our way but given that it will be a low of 0F/-18C tomorrow I think we’re safe.  We woke to everything white with about 8″ of snow.  It happened overnight so most people were off the roads which is the way it should be.  It’s amazing that no matter how cold it is cleaning up the snow will make you hot.  I know our kids will come home today all flushed from being outside.  I fear my son may be a bit disappointed as the snow is dry so not the best for snowball fights.

For my last meal of turkey leftovers I decided to go the Indian Cuisine route and to a bit of Madras.  It’s not exact to the recipe as I couldn’t find curry leaves and also used jalapenos instead of green chilies as that is what I had on hand.

I find it interesting as I connect to people globally what is available for ingredients and what I may take for granted.  I did try with the curry leaves but it was a fool’s errand.  There isn’t much demand for curry leaves in my little corner of the world though we are pretty lucky to get a lot of things.  But when I posted about our cheesecake there were some comments about wondering what graham crackers were.  Now I wonder if a cheesecake is made in Europe what the base is.  I know I need to special order a few things from England to get my fixes and when we move back there I’ll have to do the same for some American ingredients.  As much as I am a fan of buying local I am glad we are able to get a few things here and there.  Cheese and onion crisps for example. 🙂

The base recipe for my dish came from “Best Ever Curry Cookbook” and then I made it mine.

For this dish I used our cast iron wok.  It cooks quickly especially since the turkey was already cooked.

In the wok I heated up about 3T of vegetable oil and sauteed about half an onion and a couple of chopped cloves of garlic.

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I sliced up a jalapeno, removing the seeds, and added it to the mixture.  Then I grated fresh ginger over the onion and pepper.  I put in a couple of teaspoons.

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I added about 1 1/2 cups of shredded turkey and stirred well.  Add 3T of tomato paste, a pinch of fresh ground fenugreek, 1/4 tsp of fresh ground fennel seeds, 1-2tsp of ground coriander, 2 tsp of chili powder, 1/4 tsp of ground tumeric, salt to taste, 1 1/2 cups of turkey stock (the recipe calls for water) then stir well.  I upped some of the seasoning to bring the flavours we like out.  Then add about 2T of lemon juice.

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I wasn’t make a lot of this as we were making naan to go with our mango chutney but I wanted to add a bit of colour to the dish and bump it up a little so I chopped up some yellow peppers and added it to the dish.

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Saute for a couple minutes then serve.  This dish takes about 10 minutes to cook so it’s a great dish for a weeknight when things are a bit crazy.

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The mango chutney went very well with this dish as it was a little sweet with a bit of heat.

Weather or not…

There are times when everything lines up and comes together for a flavourful experience.  And when the weather behaves so it makes sense for this meal, well life is really good.  November can be really dreary up here.  The autumn colours are long gone, the city has picked up the leaves, days are no longer crisp and clear, no beautiful snow shots at the moment to ease the cold.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anxious to start shoveling the white stuff.  But this past Saturday?  Gorgeous.  Bright sun with a warmth in the air.  Salad weather if you can believe it.

Which is just what I wanted.  I had several ingredients that would make a perfect salad but it is soup weather.  So Saturday was a real treat.  I had posted about pomegranates and two bloggers gave me a great idea to use in salads.  First Richard from REMCooks mentioned his wife likes the pomegranates in a salad and then Claire from An Eye For Food mentioned pomegranates with smoked salmon.  Plus I had figs to use up.  Perfect!  🙂

I made a quick fig jam, very rustic but very good.  I chopped up the figs and in a small saucepan heated them up.

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I mushed them as they started to heat up and added about 1/2 cup of organic apple cider.  While that was cooking I started plating the salad.  I used mixed spring greens, yellow and orange peppers, smoked salmon, goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, and then once the jam was done I spooned that round.  Finished with a lemon chive dressing.  I confess, I bought the dressing.  But it looked good and it was.  🙂

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This was the best salad I’ve made.  All the flavours came together so well.  It was, I fear, the last hooray for salads until spring now.  This Sunday we’ll wake up to temps of 10F/-12C with wind that will keep us in the negative wind chills most of the day.  I have a feeling the snow pants will be making their first appearance when we walk the dogs.

 

Jambalaya – The Cure for Odds and Sods

I usually try to be very good with using the ingredients on hand in an efficient way.  Pick a protein and do a few meals with it, that sort of thing.  Once in awhile we go overboard with different things to eat and suddenly I’m faced with several things that need to be used up if we don’t want it all to go to waste.  This week I opened the fridge to be faced with a chicken breast, some kielbasa, and rabbit sausage.  What to do, what to do.

I’ve never been to New Orleans but I love the food and music.  There is a sense that corsets were never as tight as they were up here.  There is a great spirit to the food and music.  It’s on my bucket list to swing by.  🙂  I do love a good jambalaya and thought it would be perfect to use up the different proteins in one dish.  It is also a very easy dish to throw together on a week night when there are sports and school meetings.

Our pepper plants are still going strong so I grabbed a few hot peppers to use.

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I chopped up half an onion, several cloves of garlic, the peppers, and the meat.   In a skillet with hot olive oil I sauteed the onions and garlic for a few minutes then added the peppers and the meat.

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While this was cooking I sliced several tomatoes from our garden that are in the good cooking stage.  In other words, not good and firm for salads but perfect for stewing.  Again, didn’t want them to go to waste!

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I added about a cup of chicken stock and brought it to a simmer.  Then I added a couple of teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, some oregano, and a cajun seasoning mix.  Stir and simmer.

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I cooked some mushroom and herb rice pilaf almost to being done and then added it to the jambalaya to absorb the flavours and finish cooking.  Then it is ready to serve.

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The flavours were hearty but not heavy on the stomach which was good as my son had to dash off for an evening of running round.  🙂

Meatballs! With a Chance of Clouds

My kids loved the book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.  How they have enough to do a sequel to the movie I don’t know but the book was great.  Yesterday afternoon was definitely overcast and surprisingly cool and it was time for some comfort food.  We had some tortellini stuffed with cheese and prosciutto that I wanted to use and we needed to use some of the store bought tomato sauce we got for the homemade pizzas we made earlier in the week.  But I wanted to create something and it’s been a long time since I made any sort of meatballs.  Fortunately we had some ground beef on hand from a local farm.

This is a simple recipe which is perfect now the kids are back in school.  The summer just flew by.  Both are happy with the teachers they got and while they would prefer to still be on holiday it isn’t to tortuous heading off to school in the morning. 🙂

In a medium bowl I added the beef, one egg, 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped, fresh thyme from the garden and salt and pepper to taste.

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As you hand mix this be careful not to manhandle it too much.  My mixture was quite moist so I added a bit of panko bread crumbs to bring it together better.

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To really give it some flavour I drizzled some real balsamic vinegar onto the mixture and incorporated it.

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Form into smallish balls keeping them somewhat uniform in size.  In a skillet with hot oil oil brown both sides.

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Once both sides have been browned I finish them off in the oven at 400F/205C.  This will only take a few minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.  I add them to the sauce and pasta towards the end to make sure they are warm.  You don’t want to overcook them as they will dry out.  In the skillet I sauteed peppers, onions, and mushrooms, added the sauce and balsamic vinegar.  To finish I added some fresh basil.  Once the pasta is cooked I tossed it in the sauce and added the meatballs.

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Grate some fresh parmesan over it and enjoy!  We had a lovely Merlot from Chile to pair with this dish.

Fire Roasted Salsa

As I was up to my elbows in food prep yesterday I got a little notice from WordPress saying Happy Anniversary!  A whole year has passed in a blink.  A year ago I took a deep breath, threw caution to the wind, and became an official blogger. I had no idea what to expect but I remember doing my first post and then wondering if anyone would read it.  To my surprise I quickly got a comment, and then another, and I got to discover some amazing bloggers out there and find out what a wonderful community it is.  So a big thank you to all who take the time out of your busy schedule to read and comment on my posts.  It means a lot.  🙂

We had another round of harvesting a ton of tomatoes so it was the salsa’s turn to be made.  We first made my husband’s salsa which is a raw salsa and great for a quick dish before heading to a party.  To make his we processed tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, onion and peaches.  It is seasoned with salt, pepper, lime juice, and cilantro.  For his we used the grinder on the Kitchen Aid then we drained the salsa a bit to thicken it.  It is always a hit whenever we bring it to BBQs.  Something about fresh out of the garden veg to make this so tasty.

That only took a portion of the harvested tomatoes so I wanted to try a new salsa with similiar veg but a different technique.  Richard from REMCooks posted this salsa and I thought I would take his technique and apply it to the ingredients I wanted to use.  It is not a hard salsa to make but given the volume of veg I had it took me all afternoon as I had to stage various ingredients and process them in stages but I got there in the end!

I started with the tomatoes first and instead of roasting them on the grill I had to do it in the oven as the cookie sheet was much bigger than my grill pan and even then I had to do two batches.  I heated the oven to 350F/ 177C.  On the large cookie sheet I did one layer of tomatoes and drizzled them with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

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I roasted the tomatoes until they looked like this:

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I like Richard’s tip about roasting the garlic in the skins on the grill so I gave that a shot.  Per his advice I started those first then about halfway through I added the onion.  For this I used one very large red onion.

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Remove and set aside.  While the onions and garlic were cooking I gathered the peppers from the garden and the peaches from the co-op.  Found some nice white peaches.  The peppers I used were cayenne from the co-op and hot wax, jalapeno, poblano, and sweet peppers from the garden.  I sliced the hot peppers lengthwise and cleaned them to prep them for the grill.

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While I was roasting them on the grill I got out a large bowl and chopped the onion and put that in the bowl.  I also chopped up the sweet peppers and put them in the bowl.  I left them uncooked for a bit of texture.  I then put together the food processor and put in the first batch of tomatoes, half the garlic (skins removed), a handful of cilantro and set aside for the peaches and hot peppers.

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When I went out to check on the peppers I discovered I ran out of gas.  My first thought this was now going to be a two day process but my daughter reminded me the cast iron griddle has a grill side to it.  Thank goodness!  I got that heated up and brought the peppers in to finish.

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Once they were done I took the smaller hot peppers and added them to the food processor and then chopped the rest of the larger hot peppers and added those to the bowl.  The trick is to have a bit of heat but make it so most people can eat it.  I wanted the hotter peppers to be evenly distributed through the salsa.

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The last ingredient to grill was the peach.  I love grilled peaches and will have to make some as a dessert as my daughter requested some soon.  They impart a lovely flavour.

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Add half to the to the food processor and process until it’s a bit chunky.  Repeat with the second half of the ingredients and add all to the bowl.  Then add lime juice to taste.  If it needs a bit more salt add that as well and then stir it all together.

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We like to have our salsa with lime flavoured tortilla chips.  We also had some last night with tacos.  It was pretty yummy!

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My 9 year old son’s take on this was that there was a punch of heat but it didn’t take away from all the flavours.  🙂