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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prawn Curry



As far as food is concerned America has ruined me. America's value for money and choice far outweighs that here in the UK and Germany, as a rule I have to travel to two or three supermarkets to get the bits I need, where as in America I could get everything under one roof. It's not just the supermarkets though. Restaurants tend to be rubbish in comparison too, whether it's pizza, Chinese or Curry for example to name but a few. The UK and Germany just doesn't compare, the question now though is where does that leave me? Well I suppose that leaves me with two options, 1) forget it and find something else, 2) Work at finding a recipe that will replicate the meals we ate and enjoyed out in America. I’ve opted for option 2 and in the long run I am saving money by not buying takeout food that I won’t enjoy.

 

Prawn Curry

 

500g raw, peeled shrimp

1 un-waxed lemon, juice and zest

4 cloves of garlic, mashed with a pinch of salt

1tsp salt

1tsp turmeric

3tbsp Olive oil

1 roughly chopped onion

½ tsp chilli powder

1tsp ground coriander

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp garam masala

400g can chopped tomatoes

1 lime, juiced

 1.       In a large bowl, combine the shrimp, lemon juice and zest, a ¼ of the mashed garlic, the salt and turmeric, gently rub the lemony mixture into the prawns and then leave to marinate a little, about 10 minutes.

2.       Heat half the oil in your wok or skillet, add the remaining garlic and the onion, cooking for about 5 minutes. Then add the spices, cook for a couple of minutes and then add the tomatoes, bring to a boil, cover (it is likely to spit) and stirring once or twice, let it boil for about 5 minutes.

 3.       In a small skillet, add and heat the remaining oil. Remove the shrimp from their marinade and using kitchen paper pat them dry, fry the shrimp over a medium heat until they turn pink, this should only take a few minutes, over cooking them will result in rubbery chewy shrimp yuck!

4.       Finally once the shrimp are cooked add them to the tomato mixture along with the lime juice, heat through and serve with boil fluffy rice.

 

 

 

Surf and Turf meatballs



In all honesty I've no idea anymore what attracted me to this recipe, nothing about half and half mince and shrimp seems at all appealing to me. I have moments where it seems like a good idea at the time, but later maybe isn't. Anyway for whatever reason I decided that this was the recipe and I set to work making it. Truth be told apart from my usual meat blunder - resulting in mini-meat toblerones instead of balls, it's actually quite delicious and the shrimp bits add an interesting texture to the meat. The chilli flakes give this dish a little bit of a kick but it's not too intrusive on the more delicate palette, although I am not to sure how willing I would be to try this out on a small child with fussy eating habits, meatballs or not.

 
Surf and Turf Meatballs in Sweet and Sour Sauce

325g half and half mince

325g raw shrimp, shelled and finely chopped                         

½ tsp red chilli flakes

2 spring onions/scallions, finely chopped

2tbsp light soy sauce

2tsp sesame oil

1tbsp corn flour/corn starch

1tbsp olive oil

For the sauce

2 cloves garlic

½ tsp ginger powder  (you can use up to an inch of peeled and grated ginger, I don’t  because I am allergic)

¼ tsp chilli flakes

100ml pineapple juice

2tbsp light soy sauce

1tbsp white wine vinegar

3tbsp tomato ketchup

2tbsp soft brown sugar

1tbsp corn flour/corn starch mixed with 2tbsp water

 Boiled rice to serve
1.       In a large bowl mix together the mince, prawns, chilli, spring onions, soy sauce, sesame oil and corn flour. Once it is mixed really well , make divide the mixture up in to chestnut sized balls.

2.       In a wok, if you have one or a skillet heat the oil and fry the meatballs until browned all over. Now from the sauce ingredients add the garlic, ginger and chilli flakes. Reduce the heat and cook for 5 more minutes.

3.       Now add the pineapple juice, soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes, then add the corn flour mixture you made, stirring continuously for about 2 minutes until thickened.

 

Serve on a bed of rice.

 

 

 

Cheese filled sausages, with creamed leeks and potatoes


I would definitely class this one as comfort food, homey and delicious. It's one of the recipes from my Anthony Worral Thompson book, I am not a huge fan of the man, for various reasons, but his book is very good. I'm of the opinion that if you only read things you are a fan of, you'll never experience anything new. Life is so short and people, I am guilty of this too, spend too much time worrying about what other people will think, or not doing something because it is unfamiliar and out of their comfort zone. I think we miss out on so many things because of this, and for what, saving face? Logically it makes no sense, to learn is to evolve, but to learn we must experience everything, even the stuff we find boring, scary and hate. 

 

Brie Filled Sausages on a Bed Of Creamed Leeks and Potatoes

 

For the sausages

 

1 tbsp. olive oil

8 of your favourite sausages

225g brie

2tbsp mango chutney

8 rashers of prosciutto

 

For the leeks and potatoes

 

450g new potatoes, 1/4

450g leeks, washed and shredded

55g unsalted butter

1tsp thyme

150ml double cream

salt and ground pepper to taste

 

 

1.       To begin with you will need to heat your oven to 180˚C/360˚F.

 
2.       In a heavy based skillet, heat the oil, then add your sausages, brown the sausages but don’t cook them all the way through. Take the sausages out of the pan and set aside to cool slightly.

 
3.       Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water until tender, then drain. Using the skillet you used for the sausages, cook the leeks in the butter and thyme, until they are softened.

 
4.       In the meantime, cut a pocket in each of the sausages and put a thin slice of brie into each pocket, and spoon a little of the chutney on top, finally stretch each of your bacon rashers and wrap them around the sausages making sure to close the open pocket, so the cheese and mango doesn’t seep out during cooking. Place them into an oven proof dish.

 
5.       Place the sausages in the oven and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the sausages are cooked all the way through and the bacon is crispy.

 
6.       When the potatoes are cooked add them to the leeks and pour in the double cream, cook until the cream has thickened this should take about 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper.

 
7.       Plate the potatoes and leeks and top with the sausages.

 

 
 
 
 


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Cook Books Galore

Blog note book (I now have a 2nd)
I have all my blog notes prepared and I am seriously behind since we moved back to England I have been finding it difficult to find the motivation to do anything, it's not been an easy year. So anyway I am very behind and because of that some of my posts are slightly too dated and I am having to alter them slightly to make them more current this one started off like this, "As I have mentioned before I am a bit of a cookbook fiend, my books are slowly taking over the bookshelf." Well that bit is dated because my books HAVE taken over the bookshelf and spilled over into a second, upstairs on the landing. I'll admit that whilst I have seen some peoples collections are far more extensive than my own, mine is probably going to be a life long hobby. A few years ago my cookbook collection was weak at best, and compiled of books which I had managed to pick up for a euro or two, or those that had been passed onto me either by my mother or grandmother. I was able to save a few but a lot got left with my ex, he has probably disposed of them by now as that's what he does with books. During that time cooking was plain, boring and a chore, stick the occasional 20 euro in my hand and I would go and buy a pair of shoes or a handbag, to cheer me up. Pointless really because I always wear the same shoes and use the same handbag. Now that I cook and I am learning all the time about new things, my money is better spent on cookbooks. As I use all of them all none of them go to waste. Unlike when I buy a pair of shoes or a new hand bag that I'll never wear or use.

95% of my books are a calculated resource, bought for one reason or another, most of my books have lots of additional information in them, about food, how to prepare it and tips and tricks. I find different books bring a whole wealth of different cooking knowledge to my table. My books are slowly but surely covering everything about cookery. When I originally wrote this blog out I had 87 including my magazine collection, that's since grown to 188, including my magazine collection - I have put most of them in folders so they are advertisement free, with the exception of a few which are advert free so although sold as a magazine, they are like little paper back books. If you are like me and like to have lots of information about cooking as well as the recipes themselves, it's worth looking around - one author is likely to give you some information you can glean from, two may give you two different opinions. Take an army of cooks and their opinions and ideas, are more likely to give you a whole wealth of invaluable knowledge, whilst I prefer the books with added text, even those with just recipes can teach you about techniques if you read them properly. For example one of the books told me that my "Baking Issues" maybe because my hands are too warm and gave me some ideas on how to rectify this, it was great to know what the problem was, I just didn't know why it was an issue. I was to later find out from Delia Smith that if the fat becomes too oily (through melting) because the rubbing takes longer and everything is too warm. What happens is that it coats more flour grains than it should. This means that the flour can't absorb enough water and the pastry will crumble and be difficult to roll out." This is just one example.

Heston Blumenthal, explained how certain flavours cut into each other and that all our senses make up the taste. It covered about 30 pages in total but was a very interesting read. I could go on for hours about what chefs like Nigella, Jamie Oliver, Tara Ramsay and Anthony Worral Thompson have taught me to name but a few but I'd be here for hours, but what I will say is that each book serves a purpose a little research and a quick flick through of the book (if you are buying in store) will help you to chose your books wisely, don't forget Amazon have customer reviews read the good and the bad to make an informed decision - I recently almost bought a book because of all the good reviews and then read the bad ones and changed my mind. You have to read the reviews and judge by what's written if it will serve your purposes. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tagliatelle with broccoli in a cheesy sauce

Jamie Oliver - My personal opinion of this man is that his heart is in the right place and I think his agenda is quit clear. He is a man on a mission and fair play to him, he's in a position to help people, advise and show. I have read a couple of his books now and can't help but feel a little sorry for him when people criticise him, because I feel these are people who make a split decision, about him and his agenda before hearing him out. He's not saying don't eat pizza, burgers or cookies - or whatever your favourite 'junk' food may be. He is saying eat healthily, in moderation and to eat fresh ingredients wherever possible and to treat yourself every now and again to the things you enjoy. He IS promoting a healthy lifestyle. I think he is wonderful and I am super impressed with his determination and resolve, the more of his books I read the more I realise that he is an advocate for good, tasty food, that's healthy.

Yes, good quality, organic ingredients play a huge part in most of his recipes, but the implication is not that YOU MUST, but the best that YOU can afford. You can't argue with that ethic! I changed this next recipe ever so slightly because I was in Germany at the time, and had to allow for the ingredients I was able to get locally, but it was very good despite my alterations.

Tagliatelle with Broccoli In A Cheesy Sauce
 
olive oil
500g fresh tagliatelle
 
for the cheese sauce
 
 
250ml crème fraiche
150g Philadelphia
150g parmesan, freshly grated plus extra for garnish
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
400g broccoli
2 large free range eggs (you want the yolks)
1tsp dried mixed herbs
 
1. First get a big saucepan of water on the hob and get it boiling, next using a bain-marie add the crème fraiche, Philadelphia and parmesan with a pinch of salt and pepper, slowly melt the chesses. While the cheeses are melting prepare your broccoli, wash it, and cut the florets into bite sized pieces.
 
2. Once the cheeses have melted remove from the heat, then put your broccoli and pasta into the saucepan of boiling water. Cook the pasta until it is just cooked through. Now is the time to whip the egg yolks and your mixed herbs into the sauce. Take a few tbsp. of the pasta water and place to one side, then drain of the rest of the water, return the pasta to the pan and add your sauce, quickly mixing it all up. If the sauce is a little too thick add some of your reserved pasta water, only a little at a time, you want it to be loose but not so loose it is watery, don't forget to taste it for seasoning and adjust it if need be. Serve and garnish with a little parmesan.
 
Jamie Oliver also drizzles a little extra virgin olive oil over his, but I am not a huge fan.. Try it and let me know what you think.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Posh Mussel Gratin

Any kind of shellfish is a winner in my book and I am constantly looking out for good recipes, that way if I happen upon some decently priced shellfish I have a rough idea of what I am going to do with it. I found this one in one of my most used cookbooks while looking for something else - I didn't give it much thought but it must have been fate or something because when I went shopping a few days later I found mussels. I admit I was a little dubious at the time of the quality but beggars can't be choosers I suppose - as the saying goes.

Whilst I am certain that the best quality ingredients are going to give you the best results I am also a firm believer in the 'It's what you do with the ingredients' theory, that counts. This recipe would be great as a starter at a dinner party, shared with friends or even with a salad as a main. It's a great recipe in my opinion, it tastes great and looks elegant without too much effort.

I used Vodka instead of white wine, mostly because I rarely have any wine in the house and almost always have Vodka, besides Vodka cream rocks. You could use either, or even try Vermouth. Vermouth is a good thing to have on hand because it doesn't go off for a few months, so keeps longer and you can use it instead of wine. I also use Port or Sherry instead of red wine.


Mussel Gratin
 
150ml Vodka
1 shallot, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
3kg large mussels, cleaned
300ml light cream
3tbsp parsley, finely chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
30g of bread crumbs
2tbsp melted butter
 
1. In a large saucepan (with a lid, which you will need later), place the vodka, shallot, and garlic bring to a boil and then gently simmer for about 2 mins.
 
2. Now add the mussels and put the lid on the saucepan, (make sure it is on properly) now return to a boil, for 5-6 minutes, shaking the saucepan often, until the mussel shells have all opened.
 
3. Using a sieve drain the liquid into another saucepan and put the mussels into a bowl, throw away any shells that haven't opened as they are no good, don't be tempted to try and open them, just get rid of them.
 
4. Bring the strained liquid to a boil, then gently simmer until it has reduced to nothing more than a few tbsp fulls, three to be exact. Now add the cream and heat through, but don't boil. Mix in half the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
 
5. Next remove and throw away the top shell of the mussels, and in a circular pattern place the other half of the shells in to an oven proof dish. Pour the sauce over the mussels, sprinkle over the bread crumbs and the butter. Cook under the grill (broiler) for about 5 minutes, or until golden which ever comes first, then finally sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

American Pancakes

When I was 12 I spent three months in America, two of those months were spent in Biloxi, Mississippi. Crayfish, fresh shrimp and catfish were among some of my favourite things to eat for dinner, they were that fresh (apart from the catfish) that when you bought them they were still moving in the bag. American pancakes though were my favourite for breakfast, sorry to any of my American friends reading this and having your pancakes branded as being American, fact remains pancakes are different to what you get over here, which are thin like crepes and probably more like 10 inches. I loved them topped with maple syrup, or blueberries, good quality bacon and scrambled egg are also good, my favourite now though would be cinnamon apple sautéed in butter and brown sugar - it may sound odd but I have also served this with bacon - I find that the saltiness from the bacon and the sweetness from the apples go really well together. I will concede that I have rather odd taste buds at times, although I do have a recipe for chocolate coated bacon - so maybe my theory isn't so wrong? Even if you don't serve bacon with this recipe it is really good, you could even just make the pancakes and make your own topping, or use the cinnamon apple topping on French toast.
 

American Pancakes
 
 
 1 1/2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients, in one bowl and the wet ones into another, once both are mixed, combine the wet ingredients into the dry ones, then ladle a 1/4 cup at a time into a hot skillet, and cook until bubbly then flip and cook until golden on the bottom - top with your favourite topping. 
 
 
For The Apple Topping
 1 medium sized apple, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter
In a small skillet, sauté the apple, brown sugar and cinnamon in the tablespoon of butter, until the apple is tender.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Italian Crusted Chicken

This is another really good chicken recipe, although warm mayo still makes me feel a little icky inside, but I still have the urge, will, need if you like to try different ingredients in ways that I haven't tried before, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. This time it was good - which is proof in itself of not giving up on something, as far as I'm concerned. I suppose it's that way with everything though. 

Italian Crusted Chicken
 
3tbsp mayo
1tbsp sun-dried tomato puree
4tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
2tbsp parmesan cheese
4 boneless chicken breasts
2tbsp olive oil
 
1.Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Mix together the mayo and sun-dried tomato puree, and in a separate bowl mix the breadcrumbs and cheese together.
 
2. Wash the chicken breasts under running cold water and then place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
 
3. Spread all but 3tbsp of the mayo mix over each of the chicken breasts, then sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over each one, pressing down to make sure they are well coated.
 
4. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and cooked through. Spoon a little of the remaining mayo over each of the chicken breasts and serve with hot Italian bread and a green leaf, tomato salad.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Caprese Chicken

I was sat reading through this recipe and thought, I really have done a lot of chicken recipes, just as well I like chicken really! I particularly like this one - fresh basil is one of my most favourite herbs, and of course put together with mozzarella and tomato, what could be better? Well I can tell you that if you add chicken and bacon you get the most delectable chicken meal - I'm not going to say EVER, because the more recipes I cook the more I fall in love with, it's all part of the growth.

Caprese Chicken
 
8 bacon rashers (strips)
4 chicken breast halves
1tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tomato, sliced
basil leaves, thinly cut
1 ball mozzarella cut into 4 thick slices (may need less depending on the ball size)
 
 
1. Place the chicken in a ungreased baking pan, brush with the oil and sprinkle over the salt and pepper, top with tomatoes, and basil then wrap in two bacon strips, per chicken breast in a crisscross pattern.
 
2. Bake, uncovered in a 400F/200C oven for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 170F/80C. Finally top with the cheese and bake again for a minute or two, until the cheese has melted.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Yummy Mixed Mushroom Puffs

This is an absolutely delicious recipe,  both Glen and I really enjoyed it but it's one of those recipes, that I have to starve myself all day to be able to eat it - I do not recommend that anyone starves themselves all day long though, it's very unhealthy. Unfortunately for me this is one of those really good recipes that leaves you craving for more but with the pastry and the double cream - not to mention the fact you can't help but eat too much it's not good on my waist line, which seems to expand in seconds and then take forever to shrink again, not ideal but equally a part of my life I have to live with. When I was younger sport was a massive part of who I was, daily bike rides, cross country running (although I was really rubbish at that, sprinting to get in front right at the start and being to tired to keep running towards the end and losing anyway) squash, hockey, aerobics, karate and gym sessions 2 or three times a week, I could eat what I wanted when I wanted and not worry about my weight. Now with my knees exercise is difficult and painful and limited to a brisk walk with the dog. At my age, and my thyroid issue doesn't help, controlling my weight is not easy without exercise - but on the other hand I am having to much fun with my cooking to eat only rabbit food all the time. Something somewhere has to give.....

Mixed Mushroom Puffs
 
 
375g Ready to roll puff pastry
1 beaten medium egg (for glazing)
 
for the filling
 
2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4oz/100g each of shiitake, oyster and button mushrooms, sliced
1tsp plain flour
300ml double cream
50g walnuts, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
 
1. Preheat the oven to 425F/220C. Cut the pastry into 8 rectangles and put onto a baking tray scoring 4 of them into a lattice type pattern on top with a sharp knife. Brush each rectangle with the beaten egg and bake for 20-25 minutes.
 
2. In the meantime, heat the oil in a large skillet, add the onions and garlic cooking for about 5 minutes, remove the skillet from the heat, pour in most of the double cream then mix the flour in with the remaining cream until smooth. Add the walnuts to the skillet and return to heat, gently bring to a boil and continuously stirring add the remaining cream mixture, simmer for about 2 minutes stirring once or twice.
 
3. Arrange the pastry bottoms (the ones without the pattern) onto four warm plates, spoon over a good helping of the mushroom mixture and top with the lattice pastry tops. 

My Three Failure Recipes

These next three recipes are my personal failures, I have included them because I think the mistake was mine and not that of the recipe. It seems a shame not to add them because of my mistake - if you have a go let me know how they went.

My risotto cakes fell apart!

Risotto Cakes with Garlicy Fried Tomatoes
 
250g pack four cheese flavour quick cook risotto
2tbsp fresh chopped parsley
3 slices prosciutto ham, finely chopped
2tbsp finely grated parmesan
seasoned flour for coating
olive oil for frying
24 cherry tomatoes
50g garlic and herb butter
 
1. Cook the risotto rice according to the package instructions. Stir in the parsley, chopped ham and parmesan, season to taste with salt and pepper. Once cooked cover and leave to cool and go firm.
 
2. Divide the mixture and shape into 8 small rice cakes and coat each one in the seasoned flour.
 
3. Gently fry them in hot oil for about 3 minutes on each side until they are golden in colour and drain on kitchen roll.
 
4. While you are cooking the rice cakes, in a separate pan, fry the tomatoes in a the garlic butter for 2 minutes.
 
5. Serve the hot rice cakes with the tomatoes and the garlic butter poured over the top.
 
 
 
I really didn't like the texture of this next recipe. It was too bitty for me, but then again I could only mash with a fork because I made this in the early days before my kitchen cupboards became full of gadgets and gizmos.
 
 
Whole-Wheat Penne with Cauliflower Sauce
 
 
salt and black pepper
1lb whole-wheat penne
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
4 fresh rosemary sprigs, you want just the leaves
3/4 cup grated romano cheese
 
 
1. Cook the pasta according to package directions until just al dente, keep a little of the pasta water after it is cooked.
 
2. While the pasta is cooking make the sauce, heat the oil in a deep heavy based skillet over a medium heat, cook the garlic for about 3 minutes and then discard. Now add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes then add the cauliflower, stock and rosemary leaves.
Cover the pan and leave to cook for 15 minutes.
 
3. Add a ladle of the hot pasta water and mush the cauliflower with a handheld processor (I forgot the name of the gadget, whoops) I googled it's a handheld blender, drain the pasta and add it to the cauliflower. Add the cheese and toss to combine with the pasta, season to taste with salt and pepper.
 
 
This next recipe was to citrusy for us, it's the one recipe we had to throw away and order pizza instead, it really was, screw your eyes up tangy.
 
 
Citrus Garlic Shrimp
 
1 package linguine
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup lemon juice
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
5tsps grated lemon peel
4tsps grated orange peel
salt and pepper to taste
1lb uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
shredded parmesan and minced fresh parsley to top
 
 
1. Cook the linguine according to package directions, while that is cooking, in a blender combine the olive oil, orange and lemon juices, garlic, lemon and orange peel, season with salt and pepper to taste.
 
2. Pour the sauce into a large skillet heat and then add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink. Drain the pasta and toss with the shrimp mixture. Serve in deep dishes with parmesan and parsley sprinkled on top.


Childhood classic.... Apple Crumble

This is a classic dessert from my childhood. My mum used to make it, sometimes on a Sunday, a fruity and  crunchy topping, served with either ice cream, cream or custard, yummy! She would use gooseberries, rhubarb, plums or my favourite blackberries and apples, sprinkle a little cinnamon over the fruit and it's delicious. The thing I like most about this recipe is you can use any fruit you like. Another recipe with endless possibilities.

Also a useful tip, you can freeze the crumble topping, so you could make an extra large batch, freeze it and because it stays crumbly, you have an instant fuss free dessert option.

 
 
Apple Crumble
 
5-6 Peeled, cored and diced apples
60g dark brown sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp butter
 
for the Crumble Topping
 
250g whole wheat flour
1tsp baking powder
90g butter
150g dark brown sugar
 
 
1. In a large saucepan, with a lid, melt the tablespoon of butter, then add the apples, sugar and cinnamon. Stir to coat the apples, cover and cook the apples until they are soft.
 
2. In the meantime make the topping, put all the crumble ingredients into a bowl and gently rub together using only your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
 
3. Put the apples into a shallow ovenproof dish and then sprinkle the topping over it, and bake in a 350F/180C oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot with cream, ice cream or custard.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fear Not Winning Through..... Mexican Food

I often wonder if the fear of the unknown stops you from doing something, such as learning to drive, travelling alone to a foreign country or even something as silly as meeting new people - for some people the possibility of failure, fear of being alone or rejection can be too intense to bare. I think that food can be quite intimidating and it results in a kind of fear especially if you have tried something before and didn't like it. My blog about frogs legs would be a classic example of what I am talking about although I have still not tried them. Mexican food I can't remember what it was I ate that put me off? Maybe the bell peppers - although occasionally I do eat them. I would pointlessly go into a Mexican restaurant and order steak and chips with a mushroom sauce because it was safe - maybe it's ignorance, I wouldn't have known the difference between a fajita, enchilada, tamales, burrito or a chimichanga - it's hard to order something if you don't know what it is you are ordering. So you end up ordering what you always order! It is that fear of the unknown though that prevents you from trying something new. At some point you are going to have to put your fear aside and try it - fact is, it probably won't be as bad as you thought it would be. With that in mind I put my fears aside and tried this Mexican dish.


Shrimp Enchiladas
 
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4lbs raw medium shrimp
chopped green chilli
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
8oz tub of Philadelphia
8 flour tortillas, warmed
1 1/2 cups chunky salsa
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
 
1. In a large skillet, sauté onion until tender. Add the shrimp, chillies, chilli powder, salt, cumin and pepper. Cook for about 2 or 3 minutes or until they turn pink, stir in the cream cheese until melted.
 
2. Place 1/3 cup of the shrimp mixture down the centre of each of the tortillas, roll up and place seam side down in a greased baking dish. Pour salsa over the top and sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese.
 
3. Bake uncovered at 350F/180C for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Some times life is just SOOOO hard!

I don't know about you but I try not to wallow too much in self pity. After all we all have woes, there is always something that is sent to try us and pain us in some way and we have to somehow get through it all.

I have certainly had my fair share of rubbish through the years with one thing or person or the other but I always seem to land on my feet, always pushing through that next issue, trial or tribulation. I try not to think about it too much which sometimes makes me wonder if I am uncaring or cold hearted? I am certainly sensitive and take everything to heart, I love easily and I get hurt because of it, but sometimes I just switch off emotionally, lately I feel my whole system shutting down, only part listening to people answering with hmmm and A-huh! Hearing certain words but not whole conversations and answering, hoping it's enough to get me through, I seem to be blagging my way through that lately too.... I feel self absorbed my issues, my woes and strife's are taking over and controlling my existence. 

These last 12 months have been so life zapping, I feel like all the fun has just got up and left the room, there's nothing to smile about, nothing to laugh at and nothing to motivate me. All the things which have defined me in the last seven years seem to be going by the wayside, which if I am honest is probably half my problem, after all if you don't do the things you love doing how are you supposed to forget the things that are hurting you?

My Mother in-law was, is, an inspirational woman someone I can look to and admire and I guess only aspire to be like, strong, kind and loving and oh so very brave, I can only tell this story from my limited perspective, because with regret and probably my biggest and most painful regret to date is that I will never know this woman the way many others have known and loved her. Let me explain.....

In 2007 Glen and I first started seeing each other, in Germany, at the time I was 28 and I guess you believe your going to live for ever plenty of time why not right? Your still young.... In 2008 we got engaged, Glen moved to America with work, 2009 I followed and we got married, late 2010 we moved back to Germany. We were both wrapped up in work and life, getting on with "important" stuff. Then in 2012 last year we moved back to England, and it took us getting a phone call from his mother to tell us she was sick to wake up and smell the roses.

The first time I met her was in a hospital room in Newcastle, six years after I had met my husband, if I am honest not a lot from that day sticks out that much, we had taken the girls up too (although we hadn't told them how sick their Grandma was) and since we weren't all allowed in her room at the same time out of respect for the rest of the family I hung back. We knew she had terminal cancer at this point, but she had gone in to have a hernia, poked back in I suppose. Not that you would have guessed anything was wrong with her at the time, had it not been for the oxygen tubes. Cracking jokes and in truth more worried about her cat Socks than she was herself. I do remembering thinking how strong and almost overpowering her presence was, not in a bad way, she made you feel loved and warm, safe. I also remember feeling incredibly sad, because on the one hand I had been blessed with MIL that was so beautiful on so many levels but on the other I knew she was going to be taken away from me and probably sooner rather than later.

Over the following months we went up to see her, whenever she was well enough which towards the end was few and far between. Even when we did go up she wasn't much up to visitors!

We took Vinny up with us and she would put Socks in her bedroom and then fuss over the dog, I think he instinctively knew where the rich tea biscuits where kept, as she made him sit and then fed him handfuls of them, he loved his Grandma straight away.

Glen would tell me stories about when he went home and his mother would make far too much food and make him eat it, I put that down to one of those half truths, you know the type of story I mean..... "Oh there was hundreds of them" when in truth it was only about 10 but felt like 100. It's true though, the first time we went she didn't have anything ready but offered us sandwiches, crisps, pizza and chips (fries) amongst other stuff, which we politely declined. The next time we went, she had laid out, sandwiches, crisps, chocolates, cakes and biscuits and wouldn't accept a polite no thank you as an answer. She broke my heart this day, this was the day when I knew that despite my attempts at remaining detached that I loved her. She wept, not a lot, just a little, she knew that her time was slipping away but it wasn't HER time she was sad about, it was for those she was leaving behind, in particular her boys. She was worried about her beautiful boys, for Wayne, Darren and Glen. She had raised them on her own a strength in it's self to admire and respect because they are smart, hard working and caring men. A credit to their mother which can not be disputed and you could tell that she was so very, very proud of them.

She took everything in her stride, I have no doubt that it must have been very difficult for her but she had everything organised, down to the very last detail. How she managed to cope with that alone is beyond me. I fear I would have fallen apart.... At the end all her boys were around her, keeping a vigil. Taking it in turns to stroke her hands and her hair, she wasn't awake, but I think she knew we were all there! Especially her boys and Jill, my sister in law who is absolutely amazing, in par with my MIL as far as strength goes, another woman in my eyes to aspire to, I really have been blessed with strong women around me. Those last few hours, quiet time to reflect and think was quite literally the hardest in my life, for me it was a different kind of pain than the others, I don't feel less than them but part of me feels as though I have less rights to pain as them, mostly I feel cheated because she was the sort of woman, the MIL I have always wanted. I have a few memories that I can hold on to and I will with all my heart.

As an after thought, if anyone is reading this and is thinking about making a charitable donation anytime in the future spare a thought for the Marie Curie charity who do an absolutely outstanding job of looking after all their patients, with the utmost care and respect. There are only 9 hospices in the United Kingdom of their kind and are incredibly expensive to run, with no NHS funding they rely on people like us to donate whatever we can.

I love you Thelma. May you be forever peaceful now. xxxxxxx

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Pasta Bakes

At the rate I am going, I am going to be able to write a book on all the pasta bakes I have tried. I could be an advocate for pasta bakes. I stand by my previous statements of "Pasta bakes are fast and convenient" if you are short on time or you want left overs for tomorrow - assuming you have leftovers, it's easy for me because we are going to have leftovers with just Glen and I. I don't know but words like low sodium, reduced fat and all those veggies make me feel good about this recipe, quite possibly a misplaced "Feel good" factor but it is what it is, personally I don't put much stock into low fat, no sugar ingredients - too much information is out their for you to read and so many people with different ideas it's hard to keep up with the latest new "Health" fad. Best example I can give of this, in my experience is low fat yogurt, I used to be quite heavy and got quite excited because I found out I have an under active thyroid - on medication I was likely (and did) lose the weight quite quickly, but I decided to eat more healthily too. I'm two things, a really bad liar, as such I don't bother, but I am also quite animated, when I get excited (basically I am trying to nicely say that at times I tend to run my mouth without thinking, usually when I get excited) yacking at work one day I was explaining about my new "diet" and these low fat, no sugar yogurts, to which I was told there is so much sweetener in them they're no better for you than if you ate a normal yogurt, so what's true? To be honest I don't know, I could go down to the library or do some research on the Internet, but to what avail? I'd end up with more information than I know what to do with, confusion? No I don't think so. I now take the moderation view, I feel this is better for me. This is not to say that at times I don't live in the misguidance (or not) that low fat, no sugar IS better for me, after all slimming world suggests using these products so there has to be something beneficial in it? And there we come full circle yet again.


Broccoli Ham Bake
 
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni (or other similar pasta)
4 cups broccoli florets
1 large finely chopped onion
1 cup cubed cooked ham
2 tbsp butter, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
4 cups fat-free milk
2 1/2 cups shredded reduced fat cheddar
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup day old bread crumbs
 
1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, meanwhile cook the broccoli until crisp tender.
 
2. In a deep skillet melt a tbsp of the butter and saute the onion and ham until the onion is softened, sprinkle with the flour, stir until well blended, then slowly stir in the milk, bring to a boil continuously stirring until thickened.
 
3. Stir in the cheese, parsley, mustard and all the seasonings. Drain the broccoli and pasta, stir into the cheese sauce and then transfer into an oven proof dish.
 
4. In a small skillet, melt the remaining butter add the breadcrumbs and stir. Sprinkle over the pasta mixture. Bake uncovered at 350F/180C for 25 minutes or until heated through.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chicken Pasta Greek Style

I am one of those weird people that loves antipasto type foods, artichoke hearts, olives, feta, sun dried tomatoes, any of those sorts of foods get my taste buds going and an intense urge to pick takes control - it's a wonder any of it made it as far as the recipe. With all of my favourite things this was always going to be a winner for me - my poor husband on the other hand, hates artichokes and isn't a fan of olives, as for feta and sun dried tomatoes, he doesn't mind either way. Oh well, this is what I wanted to make, rather selfishly I suppose.... Maybe he won't notice the artichoke and olives if I don't tell him they are in there? Yeah right, the poor man spent  more time fishing out the artichokes than eating it. At least I didn't put the devils food in it as well (sweetcorn) that really would have been incredibly cruel. Although amusing for me.

Chicken Pasta Greek Style 
 
2 cups uncooked penne pasta
1/4 cup cubed butter
1 large roughly chopped onion
1 tbsp flour
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups cooked chicken, cubed
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 cup crumbled fete cheese
1/2 cup chopped oil-packed sun dried tomatoes
1/3 cup sliced Greek olives
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
 
1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Melt the butter in a large oven proof skillet, saute the onion until tender, stir in the flour and gradually add the stock, bring to a boil continuously stirring until thickened, then stir in the chicken, artichokes, cheese, tomatoes and olives.
 
2. Drain pasta, stir into the chicken mixture, grill/broil for about 5 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top, sprinkle with parsley.