Tomato Jam with Thyme

I did this post last week, though I thought I did.  But no one saw it, so I knew something was up.  In the meantime I upgraded to the premium plan so my site is now ourgrowingpaynes.blog.  As I was doing that I asked about this post.  Turns out I created a site page instead of a blog post!  Doh.  Hopefully now I can get this back on track.  🙂

I am really regretting removing our air conditioners.  Granted, it’s nice to have a longer growing season this year, but man, the humidity needs to go!  While we don’t like it the tomatoes seem to love this.  Which means we have to be creative is preserving all that goodness!

One of our favourite restaurants has a really good charcuterie plate and they very often have tomato jam as part of it.  It’s something my husband regularly orders there and he asked if I could make some tomato jam at home.  No idea how they make theirs but here is my version.

Tomato Jam 1 2017

I have to say, prepping the tomatoes is a messy endeavor.  But it needs to be done.  Cut the tops off the tomatoes and then cut a cross into the bottom.  Prep 2 1/2lbs/40ozs of tomatoes for this jam.

Tomato Jam 2 2017

Blanch each tomato for about 30 seconds in boiling water.

Tomato Jam 3 2017

Remove and set aside to cool.  Or you can dip in cold water.  I just let them cool.  Doesn’t take too long.  Remove the skins.

Tomato Jam 4 2017

Then it gets really messy!  Remove the seeds and coarsely chop up the tomatoes and add to a saucepan.  Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and a big handful of fresh thyme.  I chopped up the thyme finely as I didn’t want large bits of herb in the jam.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Because I didn’t want a high sugar jam I just added 1 cup/8oz of sugar to start.

Tomato Jam 5 2017

Mix well and keep simmering.  I also use low sugar pectin to help thicken the jam.  I didn’t want to mask the flavour of the tomato with too much sugar.  I add a bit of the pectin at the time.  Hard to remove it if you go too far!

Tomato Jam 6 2017

This is really good with cheese and would be good with bread and butter.  It’s a nice alternative to the usual berry jam.  A reminder of summer when the cooler decides to finally arrive.

 

Mushroom Curry and I’m Getting Too Old for This!

As I sit here and write this post, I ache from the neck down.  Why?  Because my husband and I seem to really like saving money by doing house projects ourselves.  By last night we were seriously questioning our sanity.  Our current project is redoing our lounge.  We are hiring someone to do the drywall and mudding.  So maybe we’re finally learning.  Maybe.

But for three days this weekend we brought back the room to the studs. God the mess!  It gets everywhere despite our best efforts of blocking off the room.  Let’s just say me climbing in and out of the window is not the most graceful thing to behold.  But I can’t wait for the room to be finished so it’s worth the effort.

As you can imagine, not a lot of cooking happened.  No energy!  But this is a curry I made a few weeks ago when my in-laws were visiting.  This is a great dish for those that don’t eat meat.  It is also very easy to make on those busy nights.

mushroom-curry-1-2016

I made this on the mild side but you can easily turn up the heat with more chilis.  Again I used my “Best-ever Curry Cookbook” but as you know I changed it up.  Primarily because of the ingredients I had on hand.  In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Add about half an onion chopped and cook for a few minutes to soften.  Add 4 cardamon pods, 1/4 tsp of ground turmeric, 1 1/2 tsp of ground cumin, 1 tsp of coriander, 1/2 tsp of garam masala, and a few pinches of black pepper.

mushroom-curry-2-2016

Chop up 2 garlic cloves and one chili, cook for a few minutes.  If you want this on the mild side remove the white and seeds from the pepper.  Add about 10oz of chopped tomatoes.  Season with salt and grate a 1 in/2.5 cm sq piece of fresh ginger.  Bring it to a simmer.  Half or quarter (depending on the size) of about 12 oz of mushrooms.  I used white button mushrooms.

mushroom-curry-3-2016

We also had this with the peshwari naan my husband made.

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This was a lovely warming curry.  My MIL, who isn’t the biggest fan of curry, really enjoyed it.  🙂

Aubergine Quinoa and Any Time is a Good Time for a Clear Out

Every year we try to accomplish something with the house.  Some years are more successful than others of course depending on what we have going on or how expensive the next set of projects are.  This year we finished our closet and redid our son’s bedroom floor.  But the big thing done is we did a massive clear out of the carriage house and the house itself.

I am convinced stuff multiplies.  How else do we explain filling a 20 yard skip?  Granted a lot of it was from the carriage house and old odds and sods left over from previous owners, the debris from our projects, that sort of thing.  But it feels so good doing some serious organisation, rediscover what we have, and do some major recycling.  We do try to fix, upcycle, and recycle before the last resort of throwing out.  Plus we have loads of stuff for the Girl Scouts fundraising yard sale.  It’s taken us all summer but it’s a big project to cross of the never ending list.

We’re starting to get some result from our garden.  Of course it comes all at once!  Our aubergine and tomatoes are coming in fast so it’s on to preserving and eating so none of it goes to waste.  The aubergine we decided to grow this year is called fingerling, I believe, and they are small diameter and about 8in/20cm long.  Perfect size for a small family.

Quinoa aubergine 1 2016

I wanted to make roasted aubergine and roasted tomatoes with quinoa for dinner.  The longest bit of this dinner is the roasting, everything else comes together quite quickly.

Quinoa aubergine 2 2016

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  Slice the aubergine and tomatoes and place them in a single layer into the baking dish.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Roast until the veg is cooked through and begins to brown.  While this is roasting cut up some chicken and begin to brown with olive oil in a skillet.  Add about half a cup of chopped red onion and a few cloves of chopped garlic.

Quinoa aubergine 3 2016

Cook the quinoa according to directions.  It only takes about 15 minutes to cook so plan accordingly.  Once the tomatoes and aubergine are done remove from the oven.

Quinoa aubergine 4 2016

Slice up the aubergine and add the veg to the skillet with the chicken.  Add 1/2 a cup of chicken stock and about 1/4 cup of white wine.  I chopped up a small handful of fresh oregano from our garden.

Quinoa aubergine 5 2016

Add the quinoa and about 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan.  Stir well and serve.

Quinoa aubergine 6 2016

Top with more parmesan and enjoy!  This is quite filling without being heavy and perfect to throw together after a day of projects.

Greek Orzo Chicken

Finally I have a day off!  It’s been about 2 1/2 weeks straight out with the first peak of tax season so I’m in my comfy clothes relaxing and recharging my batteries.  And doing a long overdue blog post!

I was hoping to do one a few days ago but our silly dog had to be taken to the vet due to an ear infection.  The poor thing was shaking his head so much I thought he’d run out of brain cells and he doesn’t have a surplus!  He’d look at us with one ear up and one ear deflated.  Cute looking but definitely needed to get seen to.  I just wish they understood we are trying to help them.  He did not like his ear being examined and kept backing away.  I felt so bad but the meds are working and the ear is starting to be less deflated.

One of my food memories is eating orzo with chicken and green olives.  I loved that dish.  But I don’t have that recipe and since my family aren’t huge fans of olives I needed to find something different.  In my “The Foods of the Greek Islands” cookery book by Aglaia Kremezi there is a recipe for Baked Chicken with Orzo.  I changed it up a bit and did it on the stove top instead of the oven.

Greek orzo chicken 1 2016

This dish has a lot of strong flavours in this dish with the sundried tomatoes and garlic.  In a large skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Cube up about 3/4-1 pound of chicken and add to the skillet to start browning the chicken.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic and half a red onion and add it to the skillet.

Greek orzo chicken 2 2016

Once the onion softens add a cup of sliced sundried tomatoes and saute for a few minutes.  Then add a 14oz can of diced tomatoes with the juice and 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Toss in a small handful of fresh oregano.

Greek orzo chicken 4 2016

Add a cup of orzo.  All I could find was a wheat orzo and that worked well.

Greek orzo chicken 3 2016

Stir well and simmer covered.  Keep an eye on this as this can stick to the bottom of skillet.  Add more chicken stock as needed until the orzo is tender and cooked.  It takes about a 1/2 hour or so.

Greek orzo chicken 5 2016

Serve with parsley and shredded cheese.  I had a mixture of Italian cheeses on hand.  Of course there are good Greek cheeses to choose from.

This is definitely stick to your ribs dish, perfect for chilly winter nights.  This made a lot of food so we have leftovers to use throughout the week.

Italian Style Burgers

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer in the states.  Usually marked by BBQs and last trips to lakes and beaches.  And it was hot this weekend!  Thank goodness temps are looking to break tomorrow.  I’m over the humidity and heat.  I’m very ready for autumn.

Burgers was the main request for Monday night and we tossed around ideas of what to make so I could have a recipe to share.  My husband mentioned it would be fun to stuff them with mozzarella.  Sounded good to me!

Italian burger 1 2015

I wanted to use oven roasted tomatoes for this recipe and that does need to be done ahead of time as it takes at least an hour.  To prep the burger, finely chop a clove of garlic and mix with a couple of teaspoons of fresh thyme.  Add it to about a pound of ground beef.  Then add about a 1/3 of a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Mix everything together with your hands.  The trick is to not overwork the meat but get everything evenly distributed.

Italian burger 2 2015

Divide the meat into four portions and place a slice of mozzarella in the centre.  Wrap the meat around the cheese.  Do your best to seal the cheese in.

Italian burger 3 2015

Grill them on a hot grill.  While they are grilling prepare the topping for the burgers.  I had some oyster mushrooms to use up.

Italian burger 4 2015

In a small skillet heat up a bit of olive oil.  Chop up the mushrooms and a clove of garlic.  Saute for a few minutes and add the roasted tomatoes.

Italian burger 5 2015

Add a bit of balsamic vinegar and bring to a simmer.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

Italian burger 6 2015

At the end of cooking add fresh basil.  Top the burgers with the tomato mixture and grate fresh parmesan on top with a bit more fresh basil.

Italian burger 7 2015

And if all goes right, it will be nice and melty inside.  Melty, not sure if that is the technical term!

Italian burger 8 2015

Add a side of grilled corn and it’s a great meal to say goodbye to summer.  While I left off the bun, this is also good with a buttered grilled brioche bun.  But that is a lot of food!

Bruschetta Chicken Salad

It’s a lovely rainy day today.  I say lovely because we’re still not having many of them.  Optimistically we planted more seed to replace those that didn’t come up.  Right now we have one leek and one onion coming up.  Stand back and prepare to be overwhelmed!

For the life of us we can’t grow beets.  We keep trying.  In fact we had one come up a few weeks ago but it disappeared.  So did the carrots!  So we replanted and also sprinkled blood meal round the beds.  I hope we start to make some progress.

The other night I was in the mood for Italian but nothing heavy as it was hot.  I saw various ideas for bruschetta chicken which sounded wonderful.  The drawbacks to the recipes was that they called for store bought dressings.  It’s easy enough to make it from scratch.

In a bowl mix 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar.  Add fresh thyme and finely chopped garlic.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

Bruschetta chicken salad 1 2015

Add the chicken breasts to marinate for at least an hour.

Bruschetta chicken salad 2 2015

While the chicken is marinating prep the bruschetta part of the dish.

Bruschetta chicken salad 3 2015

Quarter the tomatoes and add a few cloves of finely chopped garlic in a bowl.  Toss with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and pepper.  The fresh mozzarella and basil should be added just before serving.  Grill the chicken and the slice it to serve over a bed of lettuce.

Bruschetta chicken salad 4 2015

As a side I also grilled up some veg to make a light supper.  I love this time of year with all the fresh veg.  Not so much the heat but you can’t have it all!

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?

Home Cooked Food – A Cure for Long Travels

It’s been a very busy year for my husband with business trips and he just did two weeks to close out the year.  It was a tricky time though, what with the kids’ Christmas concerts, teacher conferences, and the like.  Thank goodness for technology as I was able to record a few of the songs the kids did and we could have him on speaker phone so he could be part of the conference.  Which is wonderful as he hates to miss this stuff.

As you can imagine he misses the home cooked food as well.  Two weeks of sandwiches and so so hot food begins to wear a person down. So a special meal was called for.  I was ready for it too because the second week was a kid free week and I don’t really cook for myself so it was fun to get creative again.

For the first course I did a cheese plate and opened a bottle of a lovely red wine.  For the second I wanted to have some of his favourite ingredients.  Roasted parsnips and pan sauteed Brussels Sprouts were no brainers.

At Thanksgiving I was able to pick up beef tenderloin from the farm where I got the turkey.  I now have more of an appreciation of the labour that goes into perfect looking filet mignon.  My knife skills being what they are mine didn’t come out perfect but they weren’t too bad.  But there is definite room for improvement!

I purchased some grape tomatoes and I sliced them in half.  On a baking sheet add the tomatoes, pieces of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper then bake at 300F/150C.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 1 2014

Bake for about 45 minutes.  Unfortunately the garlic didn’t cooporate and for some reason they came out hard as rocks.  So I chopped up more garlic, added some more olive oil into a skillet then sauteed this with the tomatoes.  Meanwhile broil the beef seasoned with salt and pepper to medium rare.  For meat that is 2 inches thick do 5 minutes on each side.  Mine was thinner so I did it for less.  Then rest the meat for at least 5 minutes.  While the meat is resting, add a handful of shredded basil to the tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 3 2014

Top the beef with the tomato mixture and serve.

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 4 2014

It was such a lovely evening catching up with my husband.  I miss him when he’s gone and there is always so much to share.  Of course I had to step back to make room for the homecoming the dogs gave him!  Goodness me it was like a pair of dolphins leaping about, quivering with excitement.  He was licked within an inch of his life!  LOL.

 

Lamb and Parsnip Curry

After leaving the warmth of Texas I needed to make a warming dish.  We could see snow this week, hopefully it’s just a dusting.  With a prediction of another harsh winter, it can take its time arriving.  I wish autumn didn’t go by so fast.

A curry would do the trick. Not only did the co-op have some lamb they also had some parsnips which I thought would be a nice pairing.

Lamb curry 1 2014

I chopped up half an onion and 4 cloves of garlic.  I sauteed them in avocado oil for a few minutes to soften then added about a cup of chopped parsnip.  Cook for a few minutes more.

Lamb curry 2 2014

Add diced lamb to brown.  Then add 2 cups of vegetable bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Be careful how “hard” you simmer because you don’t want to toughen the meat.  It can be a balance depending on how much time you left yourself to cook the dinner.  Reduce the broth by at least a third.

Lamb curry 3 2014

For seasoning I added a few spoonfuls of Red Thai Chilli Paste, 1-2 tsp of ground tumeric, 1 tsp of garam masala, a bit of cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add some chopped pepper, mushrooms, and fresh cilantro.  Just as it finishes cooking add a few grape tomatoes that have been halved.  Stir well and serve over basmati rice.

Lamb curry 4 2014

It was warming and delicious, just what we needed with the temps getting lower and lower!

Chicken Avocado Salad and a Frost Advisory

Correct me if I’m wrong but it’s still summer, right?  So it was completely insane to me to find us under a frost advisory.  Sunday afternoon we grabbed as many tomatoes as we could as the plants were too tall for us to cover.  The only other veg we really had to worry about were the peppers.  So we got those covered.  Turns out the temperature stayed just high enough but we have two more evenings this week that may get close to frost.  I had to dig out my winter hat to walk the dogs!

For Saturday I wanted to do a light healthy meal with chicken and avocado.  I was put in the mood for this last week when we had some gorgeous weather.  Saturday rolls round and it’s raw and cold.  I would not be dissuaded!  I put on more layers and got on with it.  🙂

This is super simple with layered flavours and it’s quick to put together.  The longest bit was the side of roasted potatoes.

Cook up 5-6 rashers of streaky bacon.

Chicken avocado 1 2014

Set aside the cooked bacon on paper towels and pour out most of the bacon fat and save for other dishes.  You only need a tablespoon or two.  Thinly slice a chicken breast and start browning it in the bacon fat.  Add a couple of chopped garlic cloves and a couple of mushrooms.

Chicken avocado 4 2014

As the chicken cooked I made the dressing.  This was a bit of an experiment as I had an idea of what flavour I wanted as well as consistency.  But wasn’t sure how to get there.  I started with a base of mayo.

Chicken avocado 2 2014

In hindsight I should have started with half the mayo I actually used.  I added sriracha sauce, lime juice and cilantro.  The important thing is not to have the aftertaste of mayo.

Chicken avocado 3 2014

To serve I layered lettuce leaves with the chicken, mushrooms, and chopped bacon.

Chicken avocado 5 2014

Add sliced avocado and fresh tomatoes. Drizzle the dressing over and serve.

Chicken avocado 6 2014

Now the idea was to make these as wraps but I served it this way because there was a lot of food.  Kudos for my family for being game and making them into wraps.  The thing I loved about this dish was it was filling but not heavy.  I hate feeling stuffed but also dislike being hungry a short time after so this was perfect. And we had just enough room for popcorn and watching “Young Frankenstein” with the kids.