Orange Thyme Grilled Chicken

On Sunday, the day I made this meal, we were faced with how surreal life is.  It was a gorgeous day and we were tackling the hops (seriously never plant those!).  We were struck by how busy the fire and police departments were.  While we were planting some veg in the back we realised the current set of sirens didn’t go past our house.

Out of curiosity we wandered out front to see 5 cop cars, 2 ambulances, and various other vehicles.  Something was definitely up.  A few minutes later an ambulance went tearing up the road.  The initial report was someone shot himself by accident and he was belligerent which caused the cops to be called to hospital.  Unfortunately the real story was worse.  The man died and the guy who shot him is in jail for felony manslaughter.

It’s a bit shocking in our small town.  What made it all surreal for me was as they were putting up the crime tape I noticed how life continues on.  The next door neighbour to the crime scene was mowing the lawn, people were walking their dog and we’re were putting about in the garden.  I know it’s how life works but I found it jarring.

After all the work in the garden we wanted a light dinner.  I had seen a few recipes involving orange juice and mustard, orange juice and thyme or orange juice and garlic.  I thought I could come up with a recipe involving all of it.  Lots of flavour and still keeping it light.

In a bowl add equal parts orange juice and olive oil.  Finely chop a few cloves of garlic and add it to the bowl with a handful of fresh thyme.  Add a dash of lemon juice and a good heaping spoonful of stoneground mustard.

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Season with sea salt and pepper.  Add the chicken breast to marinate for a couple of hours.

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When it’s time for dinner fire up the grill.

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I did up a fresh salad with avocado, tomato, cucumber and carrot.  I do love salad season!

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Here’s hoping the upcoming weekend is a lot quieter for all.

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Custard Biscuits with Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

With the spring properly here now we are enjoying the fresh flavours that come with the warmer weather.  Our garden is coming along with the busy bees arriving to enjoy the blooms.  Our gooseberry and black currant bushes are a hive of activity which is wonderful.  The garden makes a happy place for the bees and butterflies.  Need to work on plants to invite along the hummingbirds.

One of my favourite flavours growing up was strawberry and rhubarb.  My mum would make a divine strawberry and rhubarb pie that I loved.  I wanted to bake something that would include that delicious combination.  I was flipping through the “Sweet” book by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh and found a recipe for Custard Yo-Yos that had a rhubarb icing.  I thought I would do a strawberry and rhubarb jam instead for the filling.

Custard biscuits 1 2018

Make the jam first to give it time to cool.  Use a ratio of 1:1 for the strawberry and rhubarb.

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In a small saucepan add the fruit and a bit of water so the fruit doesn’t catch as you bring it to a simmer.  Add brown sugar a bit at a time until you get the flavour and thickness desired.  You do want this on the thick side so it doesn’t drip too much out of the biscuit sandwich.

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C

In a mixer bowl sift together 175g/1 1/3 cups of all purpose flour, 65g/1/2 cup custard powder, 65g/1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.  If you don’t have custard powder ( 😦 )  you can use cornstarch (cornflour) but it won’t be much of a custard biscuit without the custard!  I like using Bird’s custard powder.  One because it’s good and two it’s what we can easily find.  Cube 170g/3/4 cup of unsalted butter that is at room temperature.  Add it to the mixer bowl.

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Blend on low until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Next add 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  If you had to use corn starch then make it 1/2 a teaspoon.  At this point you will probably be wondering, as I was, how on earth was this dry mixture going to come together.  Have no fear!  The butter starts it’s job with the vanilla.  Start on low then speed up to medium to bring the dough together.  It will take 30-60 seconds to happen.

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Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll balls of dough of about an 1 inch/2.5-3cm.  Place the balls about 1 1/2in/4cm apart.

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Dust a fork with flour and press into the tops of the balls.  Don’t go all the way through!  Just go about halfway.

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Bake for 25 minutes.  If you use more than one baking sheet, rotate them halfway through.  You want the biscuits dry on the bottom and slightly golden.  Leave them on the sheet for a couple of minutes then transfer them to a cooling rack.

When the biscuits and jam are cool make sandwiches.

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There is nothing like custard with strawberry and rhubarb.  Definitely flavours of the beautiful warmer weather.

Brussel Sprout Sliders

A quick post today as we’re getting ready to hit the road for university tours.  It seems so surreal that our daughter is old enough to be thinking about university but it’s here!  She’s ready for the next chapter and excited about it.  I look forward to see where her journey takes her.

This past weekend I made a dinner for my husband as a thank you for holding down the fort during tax season.  It’s a lot of extra work for him for which I am grateful he takes on.

One thing he loves is Brussel sprouts so that definitely had to be on the menu. Just for him mind as I can’t stand the stuff!  I came across an idea on Pinterest for vegetarian Brussel sprout sliders with tofu, I think plus there were asian flavours.  I thought it would be a fun idea with streaky bacon and french flavours.

Brussel sprouts sliders 1 2018

In a small bowl add two parts olive oil to one part champagne vinegar.  Finely chop 2 small cloves of garlic and add a healthy dollop of brown mustard.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Mix well and coat the sprouts.  Reserve the remaining mixture.

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Roast in the oven at 350F/175C.  Cut 3 rashers of streaky bacon into squares.  Cook them up in a skillet, slowly rendering them.

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When the bacon has been cooked remove from the skillet and set aside.  Drain the bacon fat until you have a couple of tablespoons left in the pan.  Add to the skillet thinly sliced onion.  I was only making 4 sliders so I did a half a cup.  Cook slowly to soften and caramelise.

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When they are halfway cooked add the remaining mustard mixture to the onions.  Continue to caramelise.

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Once all the ingredients have been cooked assemble into sliders.

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My husband really enjoyed these so I’ll be making these again.  Just a small way to show my gratitude.

 

Who Doesn’t Love a Tart? A White Wine Mushroom Tart…

See, when tax season ends it is supposed to be spring.  Normally I can get outside in the fresh air and putter about in the garden.  Mother Nature did not get the memo this year!  On Monday we had a two hour delay for school due to snow and ice.  It’s just been cold this week.  The strong winds took down a large tree in town.  She is being cruel!

I really hope the warm weather shows soon because it would be nice to have a spring longer than a couple of weeks.  Summer likes to show early here.

Every Tuesday night we have pizza and sometimes I buy a phyllo dough mushroom tarts with white wine.  It’s been on my list to recreate it but I decided instead of fiddling round with the phyllo that I would make my short crust pastry.

Mushroom tarts 1 2018

In a skillet melt 3 tablespoons of butter.  Finely chop shiitake mushrooms to give you a cupful.  Finely chop shallots until you have about 1/3 cup.  Sauté the mushrooms and shallots on medium heat.  Chop up fresh thyme and rosemary, about a small handful total and add them to the skillet.  After cooking for several minutes add a 1/4 cup/2oz of dry white wine.

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Grate about 3/4 cup of jarlsberg and put it in a medium bowl and set aside.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/175C and prep the pastry.  Technique to do the pastry is here.  For this recipe I used 1/2 cup/70g of flour, a pinch of salt, and just under a 1/4 cup of butter.  When the butter is fully incorporated into the flour gradually add cold water a bit at a time until the dough comes together.  Roll out thinly.

Add the mushroom mixture to the cheese and mix well.  Add a dollop to the pastry.

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Pinch the dough closed and slice three vents into the top.  Brush with a beaten egg.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

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These are great for a cheese and wine night or if you have a potluck to go to.

 

Making Whoopie…Carrot Cake Pies That Is

The amount of chocolate our kids still have from Christmas is going to keep them going for quite awhile.  They would disagree completely with me, of course.  As scrooge like as I was being in the chocolate department I didn’t want to forego any treats.  I’m not that mean!

So what do bunnies really like?  Carrots!

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies 1 2018

I did a search on Pinterest for fun easter desserts.  The plethora of Peeps desserts was a bit scary.  Aside from the fact none of us like Peeps, my kids aren’t little so something less sugar high inducing would do the trick.  I found this Mini Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies recipe and I thought it would be fun to make.  Not to mention easy!  And as we’re still plugging away at our renovation of the bathroom project, well, easy is key.

I will say the overall time to make this of 18 minutes is seriously over optimistic.  Give yourself an hour.  There is only so fast I can go!

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C

Begin with finely grating 180g of carrot.  This will give you 1 1/2 to 2 cups of shredded carrot.

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In a mixer add 113g/1 stick of butter (room temperature) along with 100g/1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar and 100g/1/2 cup of white sugar.

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies 3 2018

Cream all this together for several minutes until creamy and blended well.  While this is mixing mix the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.  Add 250g/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

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Gradually add the dry ingredients to the mixer.  Once all the ingredients are mixed well add the grated carrot.

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies 5 2018

Using a piping bag and a large nozzle pipe out the batter into circles about an inch/2.5cm onto parchment paper.  This is very sticky and they come out like wizard hats.  Don’t worry about that, it will smooth out in the oven.  Just tap down the real pointy peaks.

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Bake 6-8 minutes until set and golden.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.

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While these are baking prepare the cream cheese frosting.  I chose to use neufchatel cheese which has a 1/3 less fat.  I know, a funny time to start worrying about calories but what can you do?

In a large bowl add 8oz/226g of the cheese and 56g/1/2 stick of butter (both at room temperature).

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Using a hand mixer cream the two ingredients together for a few minutes.

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Add 187g/1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Mix well until the frosting is smooth and light.

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Pair up the mini cakes so both sides are relatively equal in size.  Spread the frosting on one side and add the other to make a sandwich.

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Keep the ones you don’t eat right away in the fridge.  Not going to lie, these were really good.  With the carrot how unhealthy can these be?  Ahem.  😉

Do’s Cake and Family Traditions

Does tradition make things taste better?  Not sure with this cake as it’s so delicious but it is very much tied into childhood memories.  It was a cake my mum would make for birthday parties and special occasions and it wouldn’t last long at all.  It’s really the family cake.

My mum got the recipe from our Aunt Do, who is married to our Uncle Bob.  They’ve been married for over 65 years and they are literally the sweetest people you would ever meet.  Do got the recipe decades ago, from a neighbour she thinks.  A recipe from the mists of time!  My sister did say she saw something similar in an old Fanny Farmer book called Mix in the Pan cake.  Could be a variation on that.

This is a very easy cake to make and the cake itself is vegan and the icing could be made vegan without too much trouble.

Preheat the oven at 350F/175C.

In a large mixing bowl sift together 3 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cups baking cocoa, 2tsp baking soda and 1 tsp of salt.  Flatten the mixture and put 3 large holes in it.

Do's cake 1 2018

In one hole pour 2 tsp of vanilla, in another put another 2 tsp vanilla, then spread between the three holes a cup of vegetable oil.  The oil might not fit into the three holes and it will spread out, that’s ok.  With a spoon or spatula mix it all together.

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Next add 2 cups of cold water gradually while mixing until smooth.

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In a lightly greased 13″ x 9″ pan, pour the cake batter into the pan and bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

While the cake is baking make the frosting.  In a small saucepan add 2 1/2  tablespoons flour and 1/2 cup milk.  Cook on medium low heat until the flour and milk thickens.  Whisk continually while it cooks.

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Let it cool.  In a medium bowl add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, 1/2 cup of butter and 1 tsp of vanilla.  Add the cooled flour milk mixture.  If you want this vegan use vegetable shortening and a milk alternative like almond milk.

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Using an electric hand mixer, beat on med high until it is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

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Add any food colouring and beat for another minute or so.  Spread on the cake.

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I tried, quickly, to do a shamrock as a design.  If you squint you might be able to see it!

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This is so good that it will definitely continue as a family tradition.  I probably should ask Aunt Do if she has any other recipes to pass down!  😉

Pork Loin with Mustard Garlic White Wine Sauce

With this week’s nor’easter we weren’t sure if the kids would be at school to participate in the national walkout to protest the mass shootings that keep happening in this country.  We had a snow day on Tuesday but only a delay yesterday.  Both kids at each of their schools joined in and I couldn’t be prouder.  It’s so important for people, kids in particular, to find a way to get their point across in a mindful way.  May they bring about the change that is so needed.

I’d love to say that this storm was the last but we’re not going to be that lucky.  Another one coming next week!  So over this winter.

I wanted to treat the family to a nice Saturday meal this past weekend that would have a side of Brussel sprouts as it’s a treat for my husband.  I was puttering about on the Pinterest site and I saw many recipes for mustard and garlic pork and then white wine garlic pork and I thought, why not do it all?

Mustard garlic pork 1 2018

A couple of hours before dinner I did up the marinade for the pork loin.  In a bowl that would fit the loin add a 1/3 cup of olive oil and 1/4 cup of white wine.  Finely chop 4-5 cloves of garlic and a healthy handful of fresh thyme.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Score the pork loin, season with sea salt and pepper and add it to the bowl and make sure the marinade coats the pork well.  Set aside in the fridge for a couple of hours.

When it was time to cook everything up I prepped the potatoes and parsnips for roasting.  I really like them cut into disks.  I find I get a lovely golden roast on the veg.  Brush them with olive oil and season, again!, with sea salt and pepper.

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Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.  Take the pork out of the fridge and put on a sheet to roast.  Mix 2 tablespoons each of brown sugar and brown mustard and brush it onto the pork.

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Pop it into the oven along with the potatoes and parsnips.  In a skillet add the remaining marinade and mustard mix.

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Bring to a low simmer and add a cup/8oz of chicken stock.  Simmer slowly while the the pork cooks.  As it reduces add more chicken stock if needed to balance out the flavours and to make sure you have enough sauce.  You don’t want a watery sauce but you want enough to go round!

As I mentioned my husband loves Brussel sprouts so I pan seared a bunch for him and our daughter.  Our son and I don’t like them so I did up some green beans for us.

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When the pork is done let it rest for several minutes then slice and layer over the potatoes.  Spoon the sauce over the pork and serve with veg and parsnips.

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This had so many delicious flavours that worked together.  We all really enjoyed this meal.

 

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes with Chambord White Chocolate Ganache

Winter is back though fortunately not with the vengeance that was predicted.  At least in our area.  It was predicted we’d get 8-14in/20-35cm.  While it is still snowing we’ll only get a third of that.  Which is fine by us!

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This was our view yesterday and I felt it was a good time to bake.  The kids had early release from school in anticipation of the impending storm.  Turns out the storm took it’s time to start and they could have gotten a whole day in.

Our daughter had won a kit for a strawberry chocolate cupcake mix which she made for a class in school.  This sparked an idea for me to use real strawberries and to really make it posh I thought I’d make chambord white chocolate ganache.

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I made the cupcakes using this chocolate cake recipe.

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While the cupcakes were baking I made up the ganache.  I adjusted the white chocolate ganache I made previously as I didn’t need a lot.  I used 1/2 cup/4oz of cream, 1 tablespoon/1/2oz of butter and 4oz of white chocolate.  When the cream and butter were heating up I added 3 tablespoons of chambord for flavour.

Chocolate strawberry cupcakes 4 2018

For the chocolate frosting I found an Allrecipes recipe.  I had to alter it a bit as I didn’t have enough baking cocoa.  So I cut the confectioner’s sugar to 2 1/2 cups rather than 2 3/4 cups as I had to use hot cocoa for the baking cocoa.  The sugar high from these cupcakes was quite something!

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Once all the ingredients are made it’s time to assemble. Cut a pyramid out of the cupcakes and insert the strawberry upside down and liberally drizzle the ganache over and around the strawberry.

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Cut the tip off the pyramid and put the top back on the cupcake and frost the top of the cupcake.

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The cupcake absorbs the ganache and makes it incredibly moist and flavourful.  The strawberry is the only healthy bit of this sweet!

Garlic and Herb Sauce with Pork and Pasta

It’s common for people to lament the fact the younger generation will never make something of themselves.  Every generation does it.  They don’t work hard, they feel entitled etc.  But then something happens and you can’t deny they are a force to be reckoned with.

When I was in high school the district was doing the usual layoffs but just using the seniority system rather than getting rid of teachers that weren’t good.  The students including me were not pleased.  There was a public meeting where students gave impassioned arguments saying we wanted teachers that would give us a good education. One of the maths teachers had to be constantly corrected by the students and she would get all flustered and it would get worse.  She had seniority so she would stay.  Hence the displeasure of those of us who were heading to university.  We didn’t get very far but we showed the higher ups that we should have a say in decisions that would affect our future.

We’re seeing the power of students now for a much more serious reason.  This country is plagued with school shootings but nothing has been done about it.  Well the ground swell that is happening now is completely down to the students.  Rightfully so they say enough is enough.  They are using their voices for change.  On the 14th of March there will be walk outs across the country and I’m proud to say my kids are going to be part of it.  I really hope change will happen.  It shouldn’t be a dangerous thing to send your kids to school.

Here is to positive changes with the students leading the way!

And now onto the cooking portion of this programme.

I came across a recipe for pork chops with a creamy garlic herb sauce by What’s In The Pan that looked good.  I hope you enjoy my version.  🙂

Pork with garlic herb sauce 1 2018

We had 4 boneless pork ribs to use so I didn’t bother buying extra pork chops.  I prepped the pork first so it could be finished off in the oven.  Mix a 1/4 cup of flour, a teaspoon of dried oregano, 1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground pepper on a dish.

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Season the pork with sea salt and pepper then dredge them in the flour mixture.  Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.  Brown all sides of the pork until they are nice and golden brown.  Finish them in the oven at 350F/175C.  I’ve no picture of this step as the one I took came out really blurry.  No idea why I only took one!  While the pork is cooking prep the rest of the ingredients.

Slice 4-5 mushrooms and chop 5-7 cloves of garlic.  Add two tablespoons of butter to the skillet and add the mushrooms and garlic.  As the mushrooms begin to cook add another tablespoon or so of butter.  Also add small handfuls of fresh thyme and rosemary.

Pork with garlic herb sauce 3 2018

Pork with garlic herb sauce 4 2018Take about a tablespoon or so of the flour mixture and add it to the skillet.  To this add a heaping spoonful of brown mustard.  Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes to cook the flour.  To create the sauce add 1/2 cup/4oz of dry white wine, 1/2 cup/4oz of chicken sauce and 1/4 cup/2oz of lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer to reduce down by a third.

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Once the pork is nearly cooked along with pasta add 1/2 cup/4oz of heavy cream.  Heat through and toss in the pasta.

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Serve with a bit of parsley.  I have to say one of my weaknesses is a cream sauce with lots of garlic.  I could eat that all day!

 

Mushroom Apple Thyme Sauce with Panko Crusted Chicken over Parsnip Mash

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Mother Nature spoilt us yesterday.  While we are getting snow today we had a lovely break from winter with incredible warm weather of 70F/20C.  It was wonderful to be out and about walking downtown.  The only downside are the guys that suddenly walk round with their shirts whipped off.  Let’s just say, ahem, not always a good thing.  But I loved not having to wear a coat and the dogs had a great time sniffing about on their walk.

I was in the mood for some autumn flavours this past weekend and as it is still tax season it needed to be easy.  I thought it would be fun to do a sauce with apple and mushroom over chicken with a parsnip mash.

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Start by prepping the parsnips.  Peel and cube.  Put it into a saucepan and cover with chicken stock.  Bring to a boil then simmer until cooked through.

Coat chicken breasts with egg and panko bread crumbs.  I usually don’t have an issue with the panko falling off but if you do, dredge the chicken in flour first, then the egg and panko.  Heat a couple of tablespoons olive oil and brown both sides of the chicken.

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Finish off in the oven at 350F/175C.  Meanwhile slice 4-5 mushrooms, finely chop 4-6 cloves of garlic, and chop about 3/4 of an apple.  It helps to have dogs to eat the rest of the apple!  They are so spoilt.  Add more olive oil to the skillet and begin to sauté the mushrooms, garlic and apple.

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Add a healthy handful of fresh thyme.  Cook until the mushrooms start to brown.  Add a tablespoon of butter, a 1/3 of a cup of dry sherry and a cup of chicken stock.

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Simmer the sauce until the chicken is cooked.  Once the parsnips are cooked, drain most of the stock but leave about 1/2 a cup in the pot.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter and about 3/4 cup of jarlsberg cheese.  Mash it all together.

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Place the chicken on the mash and top with the mushroom apple sauce.  A very easy but tasty meal after a long day of house projects.