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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