Bacon and Chicken White Bean Soup and We Have a Houdini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seafood Chowdah

Years ago, when my family had a small manufacturing company, my dad would make a fish chowder for the Christmas party.  Once he made it, that was it, I don’t think he was allowed to make anything else.  His dish was guaranteed to disappear.  I found his recipe that he used because I wanted to make a treat for my visiting in-laws.

Of course I couldn’t leave it alone!  I had to make it my own.  Good thing my dad is used to these kind of shenanigans.  It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t scarf down a bowl of his if it magically appeared before me.  It would not have a chance to get cold!

This is a very easy dish to put together, just make sure you have good quality ingredients.  No skimping!

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I found lovely cuts of salmon and cod at the co-op.  You want firm fish for this chowder.  I cubed three red skin potatoes and covered with water.  Bring the water to a boil and while the potatoes are cooking prep the other ingredients.  I chopped half an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic.  In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil and begin cooking the onion.  Once the onion is translucent add the garlic.  I couldn’t find salt pork so I chose to use pancetta instead.  If you find salt pork you do not need a lot otherwise you can overpower the chowder.  I chopped about 1/2 a cup of pancetta and added it to the skillet.

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Add a handful of fresh thyme and a 1/2 cup of dry white wine.  Cook for a  few minutes.  Once the potatoes begin to soften add the contents of the skillet to the pot.  Cube the fish and add that as well.

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Add enough water to cover the fish.  Don’t bring it to a boil!  Slowly cook the fish at a low simmer. It will gradually begin to flake without becoming tough.

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Season with sea salt and pepper.  Add a bit more wine to taste if you need to.  Wait until you are ready to serve before you add a cup of cream and two tablespoons of salted butter.  Warm through and serve.

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My husband made some homemade bread to go with this dish.  So good with butter!  And it holds up as leftovers.

White Wine and Sage for Pork

It was a fantastic weekend.  It just felt really productive and it was fun to hang out with the kids after our holiday.  The meds for the fibro have started to work so I feel like I’m on a roll now.  And gathering steam!

The weather was perfect and no forecast of frost so it was time to clear out the house of the multitude of seedlings we have growing.  It can be hard to time when to start them because we have no idea when the danger of frost has past.  It can be the beginning of April or the end of May.  We got most of it planted and we’re just left with the tomatoes.  I was playing it safe in case the weather people were wrong.  Which never happens.  Ahem.

I was also in crazy baking mode.  I found some burratta at the shops and wanted to do an Italian night with the kids so I made ciabatta and chopped up fresh tomatoes to go with the burratta as a starter.  I also made brioche and shortbread which I’ll be posting about soon.

I flipped through the cookery book that I have by Marcella Hazan and she had a recipe with white wine and sage for pork ribs.  I used it as an inspiration though the only two ingredients I used was the white wine and the sage.  I had a pork loin to cook for this.

White wine sage pork 1 2016

We have discovered that my son, who hates mushrooms, is ok with oyster mushrooms.  So we found some nice fresh mushrooms to pair with the fresh sage.   I chopped enough mushrooms to make up a cups’ worth.  I also finely chopped 3-4 cloves of garlic and a handful of fresh sage.

In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the pork with sea salt and pepper.  Brown all sides.

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Finish it off in the oven at 350F/175C.   In the skillet add a bit more olive oil and the mushrooms.  Saute for a few minutes then add the garlic.

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Once the mushrooms have browned a bit add 3/4 cup of dry white wine and 1/2 a cup of chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and add the sage.  After the sauce has reduced by a third season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

I also made a mash with potato and parsnip.  To dish up add the mash and topped with sliced pork and the sauce.

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I felt the sage was a strong flavour so I would back off the sage a bit for myself but my family all thought different.  Funny how taste buds work!

Garlic Butter Chicken and Finding Peace

A few weeks ago I got to the bank before it opened and was waiting in the foyer with an older gentleman.  As we were waiting one of the employees came through and kind of just looked at us without saying anything and closed the door firmly.  I get they have to be careful with security but I commented it would have been nice if she was friendly or said hi.

The older gentleman just said it was ok and she may be having a bad day.  He chooses to not let the negativity to affect him.  And then he just smiled.  This is how I’d like to be.  Not letting the negativity round me become internalised.  He seemed to have found his inner peace and he seemed to be enjoying life.  Have to admit I was a bit envious with that.

I hope I can find that balance!  I definitely enjoy life but it would be nice to not let myself be affected by outside forces so much.  I’m getting there.  🙂

For those of you that have followed my blog for awhile you won’t be surprised when I say one of my favourite ingredients is garlic.  We also love breaded pan fried chicken.

To bread the chicken dip it a beaten egg then panko bread crumbs.  Brown in a skillet with butter.

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I slice the chicken breasts in half lengthwise.  One because it keeps the portions sane and two it cooks more evenly.  Once cooked remove from the skillet and keep warm.

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Melt a few tablespoons of butter and add 4-5 cloves of garlic that are coarsely chopped.  Saute for a couple of minutes on medium heat.  You don’t want the garlic to get browned or burnt.  Add a 1/2 cup or so of chicken stock and a 1/4 cup of dry white wine, bring to a simmer.  Add a handful of chopped fresh parsley.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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While this part was cooking I cooked up some potatoes and parsnips to mash.  Serve with the chicken over the potatoes and spoon the sauce over the top.

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This is lovely with a glass of pinot grigio.  I don’t know what it is about panko encrusted chicken but I love it.

Chicken Leek Flaky Pies

This is just crazy.  Every single year that I’ve been doing taxes I get sick or I fall just as the office opens.  I thought not this year!  The office opens tomorrow and I’m sick.  Seriously?  What kind of “rain” dance can I do to break this streak?  So I’m trying to be very good today so it goes away and I’ll be fine for tomorrow.

I love the flavour combination of chicken and leek and I wanted to do a variation on the chicken and leek pies with phyllo dough.  This time I wanted to use a short crust for the pie.

I made the pastry about an hour before making the dinner to allow it to chill in the fridge.  Cut in 3/4 cup of cold butter into 2 1/2 cups of flour and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.  When the mixture is crumbly and sticks together add a tablespoon of cold water at a time until the pastry comes together in a ball.  Cover with cling film and chill.

You need to make enough filling to fill the amount of pastry you have.  The above recipe is enough for 2 9″ pie shells.  Which was enough to make four pies.  The ratio of ingredients is equal amounts for everything but the garlic.  That was just 3-4 cloves.  Everything gets chopped up into small pieces.  You don’t want large chunks so everything cooks evenly.

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In a large skillet start rendering the streaky bacon on medium.  You don’t want the skillet too hot because you don’t want the bacon to catch.  After about 5 minutes add the garlic.  Then add the leeks and mushrooms.

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Normally you start the chicken at the beginning but for this the chicken needs to complete cooking in the oven.  You don’t want the chicken dry and tough.   After the leeks and mushrooms have cooked for a couple of minutes add about a third of a cup of dry white wine.  Add the chicken and a bit of fresh thyme.

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Roll out the pastry.  I rolled to a thickness of about a 1/4″/6mm.  I used a 6″ plate to cut round.

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Spoon the filling onto one half of the pastry.  I used a slotted spoon because I didn’t want the filling to be too wet.  Grate some jarlesberg over the filling.

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Brush a beaten egg round the edge of the pastry.  Fold the pastry in half and use a fork to crimp round the edge.  Slice the top with three slits.  Brush the pie with the beaten egg.

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Bake in the oven set at 425F/220C for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

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Serve immediately.  The kids loved it and it is a very easy dish to put together.  And a great way to use up some ingredients in the fridge.

 

Greek Lemon Dill Chicken

Is it rude to want to lick the plate?  Probably, so I showed great restraint with this meal.  I got up as much as I could with the fork though.  🙂

I have a cookery book called “The Foods of the Greek Islands” by Aglaia Kremezi.  All sorts of wonderful recipes to try.

This is my version of the dish.  I didn’t vary to far from the recipe but I also wasn’t in the mood to use any blender.  And I changed the amounts of the ingredients for the balance I wanted.

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In a skillet, heat up about a 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Season the chicken legs with sea salt and pepper.  Brown both sides of the chicken.

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Remove from the heat.  In the scallions add about 1/2 cup of chopped scallions.  Cook to they are wilted.

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Add the chicken back to the skillet.  Add a cup of dry white wine and a cup of chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes.

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Remove the chicken again.  Add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and about 4 tablespoons of chopped dill.  Stir well and bring it back to a simmer.  Add the chicken once more, cover, and cook until the chicken is cooked.

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To serve, cut up the chicken and serve with the sauce spooned over it.  We also served this with roasted potatoes and corn.

This has to be one of my favourite sauces I’ve made to date.  Very flavourful and bright.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce

Summer, at least in relation to school, is coming to an end.  Tomorrow my daughter has her orientation for high school tomorrow and my son has his meet and greet at the middle school.  So we’ve had fun the past couple of days playing games and letting them be lazy.  Because after today we are off and running with a new year. And back to doing the school lunches.  Though with the days starting earlier as they move up schools I’ll have to do them in the evenings but that’s ok.  I’ll survive.  🙂

I’m just thrilled they are still into board games and such.  I hope they don’t outgrow that.  We have so much fun with family time.

Given that all that went on last week, quick meals were the thing.  This dish couldn’t be simpler.  But it has a lot of flavours and falls into the comfort food category.

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It’s hard to go wrong when you have sundried tomatoes and garlic.  We also had on hand some apple smoked chicken sausages.  These are fully cooked so this was added at the end.  If you start with raw sausages, brown them first and set aside to cook off near the end.  In a skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add a few cloves of garlic that have been chopped.  Also, add several chopped sundried tomatoes.

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Chop up a few mushrooms and slice the sausages and add that to the skillet.  One of the towns we went on our honeymoon was San Gimignano which is famous for the towers.  It also has very good white wine.  I wanted to use this for the sauce.

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Add about 1/2 a cup of a good white wine to the skillet. Bring to a simmer.

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While this is cooking prepare the spaghetti.  Near the end of cooking add 1/2 a cup of cream and 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Mix well.

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Add the spaghetti and a handful of fresh basil.  Toss well and serve.

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Quick and easy comfort food.  When it’s a tough week, it’s perfect.  In fact I did a similar dish at the end with tomatoes from our garden.  Seems to be my go to flavour profile!

Grilled Tarragon Chicken Salad and Radio Show

Every once in awhile you have to go outside of your comfort zone.  I had the opportunity to do that yesterday.  I’ve mentioned Luca, a chef in town and a friend of mine, who does cooking shows.  You might remember my daughter had a chance to do a show with him.

He also does a weekly radio show on our local talk radio with Dan Mitchell talking about cooking and he brings bloggers, chefs, etc on as guests.  He invited me to join him.  I had an absolute blast doing this. I was nervous about doing it but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to do something new.

Here is the podcast if you would like a listen.  But please, I know I sound American.  Every time it comes up that I’m English, without fail, I get “but you don’t sound English”.  That bothers me.  Like there is a doubt of who I am.  I came over very young and didn’t go back again until I was an adult.  The accent doesn’t start coming out much until I’m back in the UK.  It is what it is!  Other than that I do hope you enjoy the podcast.

And of course I had to show up with food.  But because the show was in the morning and there isn’t a kitchen so it had to be something I could serve cold.

I decided to do grilled chicken with tarragon.  For dinner I did it as a salad and for the show I did it as lettuce wraps.

Grilled tarragon chicken 1 2015

For the marinade I finely chopped a few cloves of garlic and a handful of tarragon.  Mix it with equal parts white wine and olive oil.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Make sure it is mixed well and then add the chicken to marinade for at least an hour.

Grilled tarragon chicken 2 2015Grill the chicken and let it cool.  Meanwhile toast half a cup of pinenuts in a dry skillet.  You want to pay attention as you are doing this. The nuts can easily burn.  Keep the pinenuts moving in the skillet as you toast them.

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Once they are golden remove and set aside.  I did try to do a wine vinaigrette but it just didn’t have any brightness to it.  So I did up a tarragon lemon dressing instead.  Do two parts olive oil to one part lemon juice.  Add a bit of tarragon and season with sea salt and pepper.  Shake it up.

To assemble, lay out the lettuce leaves and layer with the chicken, veg of your choice, and the pine nuts.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and top with creme fraiche.

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It is very easy to convert it to wraps.  Just put less into each piece and wrap it up!  Perfect for a warm summer day.  As I said this was a fantastic experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  🙂

The Lovely Yellow of Saffron…

It’s a busy week with the kids off from school.  For our daughter’s birthday we are redoing her room.  Which means lots of painting.  It’s strange because we’re getting rid of the little girl’s room and ushering in a young lady’s room.  I have to say I like her vision, it is going to look really elegant when it’s finished.

But it does put me in a position of figuring out dinner at the last minute.  I knew we had to use up some chicken but what to do?  A quick trip to the shop to pick up some saffron and paprika did the trick.

Saffron is not cheap but since you don’t need a lot in a dish it can last a very long time.

Saffron Chicken 1 2015Take about two tablespoons of hot water and steep a good pinch of saffron.  Set aside.

Saffron Chicken 2 2015Prep the other ingredients.  This whole dinner is cooked on the grill except the sauce.  For the veg I wanted to do skewers.  I brushed the veg with olive oil and white wine and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Saffron Chicken 4 2015Season the chicken with sea salt and paprika.

Saffron Chicken 3 2015Fire up that grill.  While the chicken, skewers, and the potatoes were grilling I did up the sauce.  In a small skillet I heated up a few tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 cup of dry white wine, and two large cloves of garlic finely chopped.  Slowly simmer the garlic.  Then add the saffron and a cup of chicken stock.  Continue simmering to reduce down.  Then season with a bit of sea salt and paprika.  About a teaspoon each.

Saffron Chicken 5 2015I am so happy it’s warm enough to grill.  Really cuts back on having a bunch of pots to wash!

Saffron Chicken 6 2015Once the chicken is done, slice and serve with the sauce.

Saffron Chicken 7 2015This is a case where once the components come together the balance is really good.  The sauce by itself was a little sharp but add it to the chicken it was a delicious dish.

Now off to continue with the painting!

Roast Lamb and Mint Cream Sauce

Hallo, hallo, hallo.  Been awhile since I’ve sat down and typed something other than tax figures.  It’s been crazy working a lot of hours plus I hurt my hip again so an equal amount of hours have been spent horizontal.  Boy, does that get boring!  I thought I’d complete the injuring myself by slicing my thumb.  Does that make me a real chef now?  I’m hoping my streak of self-inflicted bad luck is at an end.

But this is all peanuts compared to how yesterday went.  It ended with my sister being in a terrible accident while skiing.  Now she will be all right but she has a good 6-8 weeks to heal.  And quite frankly it could have gone in a direction that she wouldn’t be with us anymore.  So we are counting our lucky stars she will be fine in the long run.

It struck me how closely we skate to the edge.  It doesn’t take much.  Which brings me to the way the day started.  In our town it’s against the law to use skateboards, bicycles, and scooters on the sidewalk.  Common sense on why but we’re stuck with the young guys whizzing about.  I came out of a shop yesterday and almost got hit by a guy flying on a scooter.  As I was thinking that it would really hurt if he knocked me down I see him go flying over the bonnet of a car.  The driver was completely shocked, there wasn’t any way she would have seen him.  Luckily she wasn’t going very fast as she just turned onto that road.  Then he’s complaining about it being the third time being hit!  But he wasn’t hurt.  This is what drives me crazy.  My sister isn’t rash, uses common sense and gets badly hurt.  The idiot who is rash, does dumb things, and gets hits repeatedly brushes off and goes about his way.  There are times where it’s hard to not think life is grossly unfair.

Definitely looking for the luck of the Irish this week. It was just my husband and me for St Patrick’s Day and I wanted to make a special meal in honour of it.  Which means no corned beef and cabbage!  You’d think that is the only Irish food given the way social media lit up with corned beef and cabbage.  And I really don’t like that particular dish so I decided to roast lamb.  I took my inspiration from the cookbook The Irish Isle by Sharon O’Connor.  Her recipe is called Noisettes of Lambe with Sorrel-Mint Cream Sauce.  I chose this before I found out sorrel is impossible to find so I had to adjust a bit.

I found a lovely piece of lamb to roast.

Roast Lamb Mint Cream Sauce 1 2015

Pre heat the oven to 425F/220C.  In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Sear all sides of the lamb.  In the roasting pan add a few sprigs of rosemary, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a few splashes of dry white wine.

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Roast until it is medium rare or until you achieve the desired doneness.  Meanwhile in the skillet add about 3/4 cup of chopped onion.  Let the onion soften a bit then add a 1/3 cup of the dry white wine, a tablespoon of dry vermouth, and a cup of homemade chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and start reducing.  Take a handful of fresh mint and chiffonade into thin strips.  Add to the sauce.

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Allow the sauce to reduce by a third to a half.  Once the lamb is finished have it rest for about 10 minutes.  Just before the dinner is to be served add about 1/3 cup of heavy cream and the drippings from the roasted lamb to the sauce.

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Slice the lamb and serve with the sauce.  As a treat for my husband I sauteed Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes to go with the lamb.

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What a crazy week but we are so grateful that my sister will recover and for all the nuttiness that can happen in life that is the most important bit.