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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fully Loaded Chunky Cookies

Cookies are great and these, as in cookies, I CAN BAKE. I first made these with my daughter, although she is getting a little old to be baking with her Mummy now. Even so these are REALLY good and REALLY naughty. The original recipe said to use 1 cup each of the different chocolate chips. I half that, I have made this recipe five or six times now, twice according to the recipe, they are great either way, but I find using a little less of the chocolate chips, they bind a little better.

 Chunky Cookies

1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup milk chocolate chips
½ cup white chocolate chips
4 squares bitter chocolate
¾ cup English toffee
½ cup vanilla fudge

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the Vanilla.

2. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, then gradually add to the creamed mixture. Finally stir in remaining ingredients.

3. Drop a tablespoon full of the mixture 3" apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350°F/180°C for 10 or until golden. Cool for 2-3 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yield: 8½ Dozen


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Writing, Journals, and a new life!

Some of you will be aware that I am doing a creative writing course. It covers writing both non-fiction and fiction, runs for four years although if you can produce the work faster and complete the course sooner that’s fine too. I’m, loving it, I’ve always enjoyed writing, letters and kept journals over the years, rightly or wrongly I don’t have any of them anymore. Possibly had I known, I would be doing this course I would have kept them……. Hindsight and all that jazz! I may have been able to pull something from them for my writing, but my reason for throwing them away, was the personal anguish I felt when I read them.

They were journals, as opposed to diaries. I wrote when something was bothering me, which was in most cases and I wrote on the rare occasion when something good happened. After I moved out of my Ex’s house all my things were boxed up, not that I had a great deal and most of what I did have either went back to my children, my mother or charity shops. Mostly arts and crafts bits, that I had collected over the years, but I kept my journals and my books, except my books from childhood, I left those, thinking it would be a good thing for my children to have, so they could learn to also read English, 34 year old books, which have disappeared, in other words been thrown away. A total travesty and probably out of spite, because my ex knows how I feel about books.

Anyway all my boxes got shipped to America, including my journals which I sat down and read one night, before throwing them away. They made me cry, it was like I was reading about someone else. I was suddenly aware of how miserable I had been. All the guilt I felt no longer existed, these journals covered a period of 13 years on and off, most of the entries were sad, in some cases you could see where my tears had smudged the ink, or the pages were full of hatred and contempt. Situations where I had been belittled, ridiculed, undermined and lied to. I had a raw feeling of self loathing, at a miserable and failing marriage, which at the time I blamed myself for. I felt I wasn’t good enough, I was ill with depression, I wasn’t pretty enough, I didn’t work hard enough, the list of self demoralizing was endless.

I had a good cry and then shoved them down a rubbish shoot. Rather symbolic really, it was like saying “Go to hell, with the old me” welcome a better and happier one. I hadn’t really given the journals much thought until this course, to be honest I don’t know what I could have used, them for. They were very raw and emotional – Do I regret throwing them away? Not especially – I think what throwing them out symbolised was far more important for my emotional psyche, I’m better off remembering basic details of the past, than re-reading the intimate details of a life I left behind for a reason. Instead I’m able to start re-writing my life, now I write about food, or I write non-fiction articles for my course work. Now hours of my day are spent writing and instead of miserable rubbish, I’m being productive, I’m writing pages and pages of things that I know, about all kinds of things.

I am suddenly aware of my own substance and MY voice, I have something to say and I want to be heard…… Welcome the real, Rebecca Alison Dodds, wife, mother, step-mother, writer, in fulltime employment, dog owner and cook. Yes at times life can be hard, but I have it all, and I am so proud of everything I’m now able to accomplish – of which I owe a great deal to my husband, who may roll his eye balls at my latest cockamamie idea, but he loves me unconditionally, encourages me, won’t let me quit, picks me up off the floor when I am down, holds me when I cry and no matter what he ALWAYS has my back!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chicken stuffed with crab

Okay – so I have done all kinds of stuffed chicken, bacon and cheese, creamy pesto, cream cheese and blue cheese – this one though is most definitely one of my most favourite recipes. It ticks all the boxes, with a crab filling a white sauce and a cheesy topping, with the paprika sprinkled on top adding a little heat. There are moments in life, whatever you are doing, (so not just food related,) that bring sheer happiness. I have managed it several times over the past couple of years. I’m talking food specifically now, where I have cooked something really wonderful, and Glen has turned and looked at me and given me one of those looks that says it all. Those are the moments I live for, a moment when you feel complete and utter pride. You’ve done well and managed to achieve something truly outstanding.

Chicken stuffed with crab

4 tbsp butter
¼ cup flour
1 cup chicken broth
¾ cup milk
¼ cup chopped onion
6 oz crab meat, drained
4 oz chopped mushrooms
1/3 cup saltine crackers or similar (I used ritz crackers)
2 tbsp parsley
½ tsp salt
dash pepper
4 chicken breast halves
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ tsp paprika

Hot cooked rice

1. In a small saucepan, on a low heat, melt 3 tbsp of the butter. Stir the flour into the milk, then pour the broth and milk into the saucepan. Bring to a boil; and continuously stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.

2. In a small skillet, sauté the onion in 1 tbsp butter until tender. Add the crab, mushrooms, cracker crumbs, parsley, salt, pepper and 2 tbsp of the white sauce; heat through.

3. Make a horizontal cut along one side almost to the other side of each chicken breast, leaving the chicken breasts attached on the opposite side. Open each breast so it lies flat and cover with plastic wrap, then using a rolling pin flatten chicken to about a ¼" thickness.

4. Spoon about ½ cup of the crab mixture on each chicken breast half. Fold in sides and roll up. Then secure with toothpicks. Place in a greased baking dish. Top with remaining white sauce. Cover and bake at 350°F/180˚C for about 30 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.

5. Sprinkle with the cheese and paprika. Then bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Remember to remove toothpicks before serving. Sprinkle with additional parsley and serve with rice if desired.

Servings: 4

Friday, May 18, 2012

"We love Laarbruch" Facebook Group and Cabbage Rolls (Ironically a typical dish eaten by Germans)

I was a member of a group on Facebook, called “We love Laarbruch.” When I first joined, years ago, when they had as little as 50 odd members, they are now over 2000, it was with the soul intention of meeting up with old friends, and if the truth be known it served it’s purpose, all of my friends from school eventually joined the group and we are now Facebook buddies.

Quite often, people on there ask for recipes, traditional German ones, and I have a lot of those, after 24 years in Germany I have managed to collect 100’s of them, and I was sharing them. It got a little tedious though, translating and typing up these recipes. Whilst chatting to one of the other members, I mentioned my blog, and he suggested that every now and again (once or twice a month) I post my blog on the page so that he could skim though what I had posted, neither of us was really interested in becoming Facebook friends, I don’t know him, and he doesn’t know me, what was the point? So, once or twice a month, I posted on the page, this last time I posted, several people complained, moaned and groaned, about me “Spamming” I would hardly call it spam, I am not selling anything and I am certainly not forcing anyone to read something they have no interest in. I left the group after being accused of spamming, but they carried on the thread, keeping it at the top of the page, the longer it was at the top of the page, the more blog hits I got. I am a little confused to say the least. Possibly a little saddened, I am so proud of what I have achieved here, maybe they think it’s stupid, or maybe they are jealous I don’t know, but wouldn’t it have been better, to ignore or delete my post and move on rather than try and diminish something I have worked so hard to accomplish, shame on them for trashing one of their own!

Over the years I have had cabbage rolls, always store-bought with a powdered sauce – now I am not knocking either – certainly ideal for busy days when speed and ease are the name of the game, but what about those days when you do have time? What would you rather, quick store-bought or taking the time and making your own from scratch? I know that I would rather make my own and think of the pride you will feel at the end of it…..

Cabbage Rolls

4 Large cabbage leaves
¼ lb ground beef
¼ lb bulk pork sausage
¼ cup onion chopped
½ cup cooked rice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
1 egg
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)

1. In a large saucepan, cook the cabbage leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside. In the meantime cook the beef, sausage and onion over a medium heat in a skillet until meat is no longer pink, then drain and stir in the rice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and egg; mix well.

2. Cut out the thick vein from the bottom of each leaf, making a V-shaped cut. Place about 1/3 cup of the beef mixture onto each of the cabbage leaves, next over lap the cut ends of leaf. Fold in the sides, then starting from the cut end, roll up to enclose filling, if need be secure with cocktail sticks. Place seam side down in a greased baking dish.

3. Pour juice over rolls; sprinkle with brown sugar if desired. Cover and bake at 350°F/180˚F for 50 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes.

Servings: 2

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Life's little struggles and a Mexican dish!

I am so bad at the blog thing lately, I’m not getting lazy or bored, for that matter, just soooo busy, with one thing and the other, I am reading two books at the moment, one is a novel, a Jack Higgins, I’m not sure of the title, and I have just walked in front of my husbands X-box game three times, I am not about to do it again, for the sake of a title no one is really that bothered about, I am also reading a book called “Power and control, why charming men can make dangerous lovers” to be fair I am finding it hard to put it down. I can honestly say that I have been the victim, if you will, of “Woman abuse” it’s not all in my head and I can stop feeling guilty and bad about it! IT’S NOT MY FAULT.

I am also still doing my writing course, and working on assignment 5, but I have been struggling, the assignment isn’t that difficult, but with everything going on at the moment, my mind is everywhere but on my writing…. I am indecisive, scatty, all over the place, however you wish to put it. I am also trying desperately hard to lose weight and if I am honest I think I have gained this week. I feel like a heffalump and wozzle, it’s really quite distressing, because I eat very little really. I am constantly starving and for what? So that I don’t gain anymore because I am not losing any!

Anyway, enough of that. Onto some Mexican food. By the time I made this recipe, I was at a stage in my life that was all about trying new things. I’d not really had much opportunity to eat Mexican food before. I tried a little in the States a taster if you will but never made my own. Unless, you count Guacamole or Salsa?

Baked Chimichangas

2 ½ cup shredded cooked chicken
1 cup salsa
¾ tsp cumin
½ tsp dried oregano
1 Small onion chopped
6 Tortillas warmed
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup chicken broth
1/8 tsp black pepper
¼ cup flour
1 cup milk
1 jalapeno

1. In a large skillet, simmer the chicken, salsa, onion, cumin and oregano until heated through and most of the liquid has reduced. Place ½ cup of the mixture down the centre of each tortilla and top with 2 tbsp cheese.

2. Fold in the sides and ends over filling, then roll up, placing seam side down in a greased baking dish. Bake, uncovered at 425°F (220˚C) until browned, this should take about 15 minutes.

3. In the meantime, in a saucepan, heat broth. Combine the flour and milk until smooth and then stir into the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and stir until thickened. Mix in the jalapenos. When the Chimichangas are finished cut in half, top with sauce, to serve.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

100th Recipe, Garlic Beef Enchiladas

I have tried over 200 recipes – I have 200 I can share, some are brilliant some not so much, some I have just made a complete hash out of. Whatever the outcome though, even my disasters, I’m incredibly proud and grateful for them, proud because I am finally doing something I am good at and worthwhile. Each recipe is worked with meticulous planning, I’ll read and re-read a recipe to be sure I know what I am doing, then I work out which ingredients to leave out or change. For example I am allergic to ginger, it doesn’t put me into anaphylactic shock – but I do get a tickly cough, a tightness in my chest and I struggle to breathe at times. So any recipes with fresh ginger are out, that or I don’t include it, which more often is the case. It’s a pity because I love ginger.

Once I am satisfied with a recipe I write it out my way. So to cut my long and boring story short – I am proud because I can cook and I also work hard at perfecting my technique. I am grateful because, as silly as it sounds, it boosts my ego, when my husband tells me how great his meal was, or when people ask ME for advice. If you’d asked me nearly three years ago, I would have been clueless!

I was missing out on so much, Black Bean Sauce, Hoisin, Chorizo – Garlic Beef Enchiladas, well would you look at that, my next recipe.

I think this makes 100.

Garlic Beef Enchiladas

1 lb minced beef
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1 can stewed tomatoes
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 can (15 oz) beef broth
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1-2 tbsp chilli powder
1-2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 tsp salt
10 tortillas 7"
2 cups strong cheddar cheese

1. In a large skillet, cook the minced beef and onion over a medium heat, once cooked, drain. Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in another pan, sauté the garlic in the butter until tender. Mix together flour and the broth; pour into the saucepan and continuously stirring, bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in tomato sauce and the seasonings; heat through.

3. Pour 1 ½ cups sauce into an ungreased 13" x 9" baking dish. Spread a ¼ cup of the beef mixture down the centre of each tortilla; top with 1-2 tbsp of cheese. Roll up tightly; place seam side down over the sauce. Top with remaining sauce.

4. Cover and bake at 350°F (180˚C) for 30-35 minutes sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered, 10-15 minutes longer or until cheese has melted.
Servings: 5

Friday, May 11, 2012

Apple-Brie Spinach Salad with Avocado

I served this as a side dish with ribs. I really liked the warm dressing that went with it, it added a little extra depth and contrast, to an already interesting and varied salad.

I suppose I got a little excited because there wasn’t anyone saying I couldn’t. The original recipe didn’t have avocado in it, but I did because I love it, so I put it in. Glen would have preferred it with out – but you see that was part of my cunning plan……. MORE FOR ME!!!!!!!

Apple-Brie Spinach Salad with Avocado

1 Avocado, cubed
4 Large Apples, cut in 1/2 inch wedges
4 Tbsp Maple syrup - Divided
8 cups fresh baby spinach
1 8-oz Brie Cubed
1/2 cup Toasted walnuts pieces

For the dressing

1/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced

1. Place apples on an ungreased baking sheet; brush with 2 tbsp of syrup. Grill 3-4" from the heat for 3 minutes. Turn; brush with remaining syrup. Grill for 3-5 minutes longer or until crisp - tender

2. In a large salad bowl, carefully toss the avocado, spinach, cheese, walnuts and apples. In a small saucepan combine all the dressing ingredients; bring to a boil. Pour over the salad and toss again to coat and serve immediately.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Boeuf Bourguignon and a diet update

This is a traditional, French recipe – personally I am on the fence with it, I have only made it a couple of times. Glen enjoyed it and I’ve made it, so I have included it, but it’s not one of my favourites – maybe it just needs something else, I wouldn’t know what though, and with such a traditional recipe I am reluctant to mess with it.

Boeuf Bourguignon

2 tbsp sun flower oil
2 lbs boneless beef, cut into 2" cubes
½ lb bacon strips
12 shallots, coarsely chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup red burgundy
2/3 cup beef stock
A few parsley sprigs
1 thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and black pepper to taste
½ lb mushrooms

1. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish, add the beef in batches, and cook over a high heat until browned all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll.

2. Add the bacon and shallots, cook gently, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp and shallots have softened. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll.

3. Add the flour and cook stirring, for 1 minute. Gradually blend in the wine and stock and bring to a boil, stirring until thickened.

4. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole dish and add the parsley, thyme, bay leaf, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook in a 160°C/325°F oven for 1½ hours.

5. Return the shallots to the casserole add the mushrooms and cook for 1 hour more or until the beef is very tender.

6. Discard the parsley sprigs, thyme, and the bay leaf, taste the sauce for seasoning before serving.

Servings: 6

As for our weight loss this week I am not really sure that this week can really count? After a very, very heavy night of drinking last week Friday and a lot of Chinese food…. And I was really poorly Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and then of course there was the cupcake bet last night. My husband, God bless his soul, ate 10, not including the three an hour or so earlier. He won the bet. It has been an unusual week to say the least!

My Start weight on the 26.04.2012 was 77.3kg I now weigh 74.1kg = 3.2kg loss

Husbands start weight on the 26.042012 was 87.1kg he now weighs 87.3kg = 0.2kg gain (not that I really count that after last nights cupcake binge!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Diet, School or Ribs???

Ok so my diet has been going relatively well, until now, Friday night was a night of Chinese food, and A LOT of alcohol, I haven’t gained exactly, mid week I had lost another 300g not a huge amount of weight, but a little bit all the same, I have put that back on, I am not going to see this as a negative, and judging by my current inability to eat anything….. I really feel quite ill, it shouldn’t be too long until I lose it again.

Life seems to be taking on so many changes at the moment, my husband has ‘finished’ work, I have officially handed in my notice, my last day being the 6th of July and now I am looking into going back to school. I say looking into because, I really want to go back, the issue is going to be money and work, the course I want to do is possibly 2 years long, 2 years of being in ‘part time’ employment seems like a really long time. I suppose my husband and I have a high standard of living, by that I mean we don’t struggle. We can’t afford to go jet setting all over the world though, either, but we’re comfortable. With me going back to school full time, the life we are accustomed to will be no more. I could postpone school get a job and work until we are sorted, by that I mean wait until my husband is established in work again. That means holding off on what I want to do, (although, after so many years with my ex, I am used to putting off what I would like, so not really a hardship) and I am certainly not getting any younger, thinking about it I’ll be 36 by the time I finish this course if I start this year. The more I think about it the more I think it’s a pathetic little pipe dream……. I guess I am destined to be uneducated!!! With that as my final thought on the matter for today I’ll leave you with this recipe.

We bought some “fat ribs” that’s a literal translation, I’m not really sure what the proper translation would be, I’m not even really sure why I bought them? As soon as we got home I put them in the freezer along with the beef I bought, and totally forgot about them, that is until I pulled them out of the freezer by accident – oooops – I had no idea what to do with them, this is the recipe I used, I was a little worried because I wasn’t sure it would work, but it did and they were delicious!

Sweet And Sour Chinese Spareribs

1kg pork spareribs
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Scallion tassels to garnish


2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp  sesame oil
1 tbsp sugar

1. Arrange the spareribs in 1 layer in a roasting pan, season with salt and pepper and cook in a 275°F/140°C oven for 1½ hours.

2. Make the sauce: combine the garlic, soy sauce, sherry, hoisin sauce, tomato paste, sesame oil and sugar.

3. Spoon the sweet and sour sauce over the spareribs, turning them to coat evenly increase the oven temp to 350°F/180°C and cook for 25-30 minutes. Garnish with scallion tassels before serving.

 The original recipe also included 1 grated ginger root, I'm allergic to ginger so didn't include it.

Servings: 4

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The End Of A Military Era.....

Today is a somewhat monumental day. It is the last working day for my husband, the end of a long and fulfilling career in the Army. He is a firm but fair man who has the respect and loyalty from both his civilian and military staff. He worked hard and played even harder, and has always had an uncanny knack for making everyone laugh. Albeit with a little risqué sense of humour at times, if not a little wicked.

I can’t help but feel happy for us, we are moving on. Admittedly into the unknown, which is a little daunting, and it’s certainly going to be different, military life is all I know, and after 24 years for my husband, I can imagine, it’s just as daunting for him. At the same time I feel sad, sad for all the friends and co-workers he is leaving behind, he emits a certain security, when he is around, you know and feel that he will always have your back no matter, what. He is for want of a better word SAFE!

He has always put the welfare of others before his own and cares about his men and women, protective and loyal to a fault. Not only of those in his office but also the other offices within his troop. The Army is losing a good man today a legend in his own right. Whilst I am probably utterly biased, I’m also right when I say that although he has left, he will never be forgotten.

His career has taken him all over the world including Germany where we met and America where we set up our first home together. He has met some really wonderful people and made some equally wonderful friends. He has stories to tell, which will make you laugh and at times make you raise your eyebrows! But most of all he has had a life most would and could only dream about…….

It’s the end of an era and the beginning of a new one!

It’s going to hard to fill the boots of this man.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I’m not sure where this ‘diet’ is going to lead me? I love food and I love cooking – I’m certain that I will get as much fun out of the cooking part and eating as I normally do – after all it’s just a bunch of different ingredients prepared and cooked as you would anything else, just in a healthier way – but, I’ve just started to have a couple of TRUE successes with baking. I have no idea where that is going to fit in with our diet??

I’ve also come to the conclusion that I am using the word diet quite loosely as it’s more of a life style change – a permanent change to our eating habits. We’re in agreement my husband and I, that this is what we need, a positive change and outlook on life. Not that we eat badly or anything, just not enough of the good stuff.

So this is what my week has been like so far, I’ve skipped breakfast, mostly because it’s too early for me to eat, before work and also because of my medication, which has been increased by the way. My husband will have a small bowl of special K with semi-skimmed milk or two slices of toast, sometimes with scrambled egg.

By 1030 I’m starving, like tummy growling at me type hungry, so lunch at midday is a welcome treat, I normally have a really small portion of chips/fries, not very healthy I realise, but it genuinely is a really small portion, and with it I’ll have an equally small portion of coleslaw, and some lettuce. If I do have a snack before lunch, I have a portion of fruit. My husband has a portion of fruit, yogurt and a chocolate bar and sometimes a sandwich.

Dinner for the last week or so has been even less adventurous, with a green leafed mixed salad and a small portion of either coleslaw or potato salad, and then we have had either, chicken, fish or some other type of lean meat with it. It seems to be working so far.

My start weight on the 24.04.12 was 77.3kg – I now weigh 75.6kg a loss of 1.7kg.

Husband’s start weight on the 24.04.12 was 87.1kg – He hasn’t had a loss this week.