Thursday, 28 February 2013
I think sometimes that we try to complicate things too much . . . tis the simple things that often seem to bring us the most pleasure.
Things like these scones . . . simple ingredients, easy to make . . . and even easier to eat.
Not much to look at . . . but simple things seldom are . . . there is a beauty in their simplicity that is somewhat mystical . . . and hard to put your finger on.
You only know they work in the most magical way, and bring joy to all those lucky enough to partake of them . . . no matter what or who they be.
These are lovely served warm from the oven . . . split and spread with lots of cold butter and honey . . . or with a nice slab of cold Cranberry Wensleydale Cheese.
Yummo! This is bliss. Just perfect in the late afternoon with a nice hot drink of whatever plucks your heart strings!
Sometimes the simple things are the best things of all.
6 1/2 ounces flour (1 1/2 cups)
1 ounce bran cereal, ground fine (1/2 cup)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 TBS caster sugar
4 TBS butter, cold and cut into bits
1 large free range egg
4 fluid ounces milk (1/2 cup)
2 TBS milk
2 TBS soft light brown sugar, packed
Preheat the oven to 220*C/450*F/ gas mark 7. Line a baking sheet with some baking parchment. Set aside.
Whisk the flour, bran, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Beat together the milk and egg. Add all at once to the crumb mixture, stirring it together with a fork. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead about a dozen times. Pat out into a 9 inch circle, about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 12 equal wedges. Place onto the prepared baking sheet.
Stir the milk and sugar for the glaze together until the sugar is melted. Brush over the tops of the scones, without letting any drip down the sides. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until well risen and nicely browned. Serve warm.
Wednesday, 27 February 2013
Every so often some friends and I get together to host our own poker party. Realistically, none of us are that good and our basic consists of trying to not look like a total idiot at the tables. Women are not good in playing poker according to most guys. With that said, the games are still a ton of fun.
The game was really more for the social interaction and for me to try out a couple of simple poker party themed recipes on my friends. Buffalo chicken dip was one option that I provided for those looking to eat a bit healthier but didn't want to be stuck with tofu or the like.
The biggest hit happened to be my "Whiskey Wieners." I actually had to wind up making a second batch of them because they liked them so well. You know that food is enjoyed when it actually becomes part of the currency. When the amount of wieners started getting low, they started playing for the right to eat them. Maybe next time, I will just use them instead of poker chips.
Buffalo Chicken Dip
· 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
· 1 cup ranch dressing
· 3/4 cup red hot sauce
· One 10 ounce can of chicken, drained (or equivalent freshly-cooked or rotisserie chopped chicken)
· Shredded cheddar cheese (you can determine how much)
Fritos corn chip (scoops)
Fritos corn chip (scoops)
1. Mix ranch dressing, cream cheese, and hot sauce.
1. Mix ranch dressing, cream cheese, and hot sauce.
2. Fold in shredded chicken.
3. Take a pie plate, spray with Pam, and spread mixture into plate.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
5. Add cheddar cheese on top.
6. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
· 1 cup whiskey
· 1 cup ketchup
· 1 cup brown sugar
· 2 lbs hot dogs, cut them into 1-inch pieces
1. Mix together ingredients and let simmer for approximately 1 to 2 hours.
2. While cooking, the sauce will thicken
3. Serve in a crock pot to keep warm and provide plenty of toothpicks!
One of my children's favourite meals when they were growing up was enchiladas. It was not something we had very often, but a rare Tex Mex treat. I always made Turkey ones after Thanksgiving and Christmas and occasionally I would make these delicious beef ones. They loved them both.
I have seen a lot of recipes through the years for beef enchiladas which use ground beef, but this tasty recipe uses cubed stewing beef, which makes it that little bit different. The beef is browned on top of the stove and mixed with a variety of spices, onions, garlic and tomato passatta (tomato sauce) and then roasted in a slow oven until the beef is meltingly tender . . . so tender you can tear it apart with a couple of forks.
You then remove all of the cooked beef from the sauce and shred it. Mix it with a few spoonfuls of the sauce and some cheddar cheese, and you have your delicious enchilada filling. Very easy and very tasty.
The remainder of the sauce can then be strained if you wish a smoother sauce. I don't bother to do this as I don't mind the bits. Sometimes if it is too thick I think it a bit with some boiling water. You want the sauce to be thick, but also pourable.
I always use soft corn tortillas because I like them, but you can use the regular corn tortillas if you like, but you will have to soften them before they can be easily rolled. Just use the directions on the packet. Filled and topped with the sauce and then baked, these are like a tex mex version of Italian Cannelloni.
I think it's so fascinating that most cultures have their own form of rolled and stuffed things . . . and they are all tasty. The Italians have their Cannelloni, the Chinese have their duck pancakes, Europeans have stuffed cabbage and strudels . . . and then there are these lovely Tex Mex Enchiladas.
As a North American/Brit . . . I embrace them all quite happily. I think our cuisine here in the UK is becoming a happy fusion of the traditional and the not so traditional. It matters not what you bring to the table as long as it looks and tastes good . . . and these certainly fit the bill on all counts.
*Granny's Beef Enchiladas*
I'm not sure whose Granny this recipe belongs to but they are delicious. I've been making these for years. They are a bit time intensive, but worth every minute. Do plan ahead as you will need to start the beef filling about 3 hours or so before you need it.
3 pounds well trimmed stewing beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
salt and black pepper
2 TBS vegetable oil
2 medium brown onions, peeled and minced
3 TBS mild Chili Powder (I think the chili powder over here in the UK is ultra strong, so I only use about half that amount or even less when
I am reduced to using it. Normally I bring North American Chili powder back with me when I return from visiting there, and that is what I use.)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
900ml of tomato passata (30-ounces tomato sauce)
60ml of dry red wine (1/4 cup)
1 TBS brown sugar
250g of medium cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)
12 (6-inch soft corn tortillas)
Preheat the oven to 160*C/300*F/ gas mark 3. Pat the beef dry with paper kitchen toweling. Season well with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 TBS of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add half of the beef and brown it well on all sides. Scoop out and set aside. Add the remaining oil and beef, and repeat. Add the onions to the pot along with 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they have softened. Return the beef to the dutch oven, along with any juices which may have gathered. Add the spices along with 1/4 tsp of black pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mixture becomes very fragrant and the spices darken slightly. Stir in the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the tomato sauce and the wine and bring to the boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cover tightly and roast in the heated oven until the meat is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours in cooking time.
When the meat is very tender, remove the casserole from the oven. Scoop the meat out of the sauce to a large bowl and shred it with two forks. If desired strain the sauce, discarding any solids. I don't mind the bits myself. You should have about 500ml (2 cups). Add a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce to the beef. If you think the sauce is too thick you may thin it a bit with some boiling water.
Increase the oven temperature to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5. Spoon a large dessertspoonful of the sauce into the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish. Spread it out to cover.
Stir half of the grated cheese into the shredded beef. Spread the tortillas out on the counter. Spoon 1/12 of the beef filling down the centre of each tortilla. Roll them up tightly and place them seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Once all of the filled tortillas have been put into the dish, spoon the remaining sauce over top to cover. sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, uncover and bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer, until the cheese is melted and they are well heated through. Serve hot, with or without sour cream for topping.
I like to serve this with a mixed salad.
Tuesday, 26 February 2013
The cat was away in town today so this mouse thought she would take advantage of his absence and make herself some Pasta that she doesn't get to indulge in very often. (I am not really a mouse actually and if I was I am a mouse that roars, so no worries on that front!)
I took a boo in the refrigerator and decided to make myself a dish that used up some of the bits and bobs that I had hanging in there . . . some spinach, a few TBS of sun-dried tomato pesto, a handful of button mushrooms, some leftover seasoned tinned chopped tomatoes and a rather tired looking banana shallot in the vegetable drawer.
This is the type of cooking that I really like to do most of all . . . being inventive with what I have on hand. When I first moved over here to the UK there used to be a show on every afternoon at about 4 pm called Ready Steady Cook.
There would be two guests and two celebrity chef's, a moderator/presenter and a studio audience. Each of the guests would give their chef a bag filled with a few ingredients and the chef would then have to live up to the challenge of creating as many tasty dishes as they could with these ingredients in 20 minutes of cooking time.
Oh how I loved that show. I was always so amazed at what the chef's came up with and in such a short time. Truth be told, they probably had somewhat of an inkling ahead of time what was going to be in the bag . . . but it made for interesting viewing at any rate!
Anyways, that is what I like to do here at home. Take what I have and then try to create something tasty out of it. I also like it to look good. Sometimes I am successful, and sometimes I am not.
Today I think I was. I loved all of the colours and flavours of this dish. It was simple and yet it tasted divine . . . and I got to indulge in a a tasty rare treat of pasta. I called it Kitchen Sink Pasta because it has a bit of everything in it . . . all but the kitchen sink!
*Kitchen Sink Pasta*
One of those quick and easy meals for when you are short on ingredients, except for little dabs of this and little dabs of that. Quick, simple and delicious.
130g (6 ounces) dry pasta (1 1/3 cup)
1 TBS olive oil
1 banana shallot, peeled and chopped
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1 handful of fresh button mushrooms, sliced
1 TBS sun dried tomato pesto
370g of chopped tomatoes with oregano and basil (a generous cup ful)
1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a couple handfuls of baby spinach leaves
Finely grated Parmesan Cheese to serve
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Add your pasta and cook as per package directions. (Today I used a cup shaped pasta that would hold the sauce well.) Drain well. Rinse with hot water. Drain again and keep warm
Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring until golden brown. Add the mushrooms and garlic, Cook until the mushrooms begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in the pesto, tinned tomatoes and vinegar. Bring to the boil and cook rapidly until the sauce reduces substantially. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the spinach leaves allowing them to just wilt. Add the cooked pasta and toss together. Divide amongst two serving bowls, topping each with a grating of cheese.
Monday, 25 February 2013
Once again the people at Lindt sent me some chocolate goodies to try out and I must say I was very impressed with what arrived in my post box the other morning! These are a part of their new Hello Range and I was quite quite delighted with them! These would make the perfect gift for Mother's Day and that special mom of yours, or for any other occasion. I know the gift of good chocolate always sweetens my day!
First up was the Hello Chocolate Bits, which came in a really cute box. I loved the colours and the presentation. "Nice to Sweet You!" You just got to love that! So adorable . . .
And the cuteness didn't end with the outside of the box, look at the sweet adorable colourful liner . . . and then the best bits of all . . .
Those delectably adorable little bits of chocolates! Nine in all . . . three each of three different designs. I loved them! It was so fun popping up behind Todd and passing him a Hello! The Hello's were Caramel Brownie flavour (Slurp!), the Nice to Sweet You were Nougat Crunch (Scrummo!) and the sweet little two toned hearts were Cookies & Cream (Faint!). All were of the usual high quality you would expect from the Lindt Chocolatiers. We quite quite enjoyed!
The other little box was quite cute as well . . . called Mini Chocolates with Nougat Crunch.
It opened up like a little cardboard envelope, and inside were six lovely mini bars of chocolate with nougat crunch. Also very, very moreishly delectable. We quite enjoyed these as well.
They are also very reasonably priced and would make nice surprise gifts for someone you care about or someone you want to pass on a little cheer to. The Chocolate bits sell for £4.99 and the bars for £1.99.
Clever packaging, containing the high quality one would expect from Lindt Chocolate!
They got a ten out of ten from both of us!
Many thanks to Lindt and Kia for sending it to me!
I was sent this chocolate for free to try out, but the opinions are my own.
True Confessions time here people. The whole time I was growing up I would never touch a slice of cheese any stronger than a Kraft Singles slice . . . tis true. I turned my nose up at anything else other than plastic cheese. My mother would buy some cracker barrel around the holidays, but for the most part only plastic cheese existed in my childhood, or processed cheese. You know Velveeta and the like.
I think the only macaroni and cheese I ever tasted as a child was the stuff from the box. It just wasn't something which got made or eaten in our home. As a result I was very suspicious of any cheese that wasn't bright orange or mildly flavoured.
That all changed somewhat when I grew up and started cooking for my own family. I got a bit more adventurous and sometimes bought real cheddar to make homemade macaroni and cheese for my family and slowly but surely other cheeses crept into my palate. For a while I had myself convinced that I only liked cheese when it was cooked . . . and perhaps that was true for a time . . .
Then one day I had a chance encounter with blue cheese salad dressing when served some hot chicken wings at a restaurant and I fell in love with blue cheese . . . I liked the richness and the slight tang of it . . . it didn't taste mouldy at all. I had grown up thinking it would taste a bit like the smell of mildew . . . but it didn't!
And I know it was only Salad Dressing . . . but to a girl who had only ever eaten processed cheese, this was a life changing revelation! I got braver and braver . . . and even went so far as to buy blue cheese and make my own blue cheese dressing. I loved it . . .
And then I started shopping and cooking for rich people. It's a well known fact that rich people like stinky things to eat . . . they like their game almost rank . . . and their cheeses the same. They would call it well aged . . . it's kind of hard to cook for people unless you are willing to taste what you are cooking . . .I had to branch out. I finally learned what I had been missing all those years . . . stinky cheese tastes good, really good!
It also goes very well with fruit . . . and fruit goes really well with pork, and so that makes these pork chops here today a fabulous combination. You get the rich almost sweet flavour of the pork, combined with the sweet caramelized pears . . . and that wonderful tangy and creamy blue cheese. A wonderful trinity of fabulous flavours. I do hope you will give them a try!
*Pork Chops with Pears and Blue Cheese*
Browned chops served with caramelized pears, pungent and creamy blue cheese and a flavorful sauce. They all work beautifully together.
4 bone in pork chops, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
(Use a pair of kitchen scissors, to cut nips along
the fat side of the chops. This keeps them from curling up
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large, firm pear, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
1 tsp brown sugar
6 fluid ounces of chicken stock (3/4 cup)
2 TBS unsalted butter
1 TBS good quality Balsamic Vinegar
4 TBS crumbled blue cheese
Pat the chops dry and season them well on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 TBS oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and brown the chops on both sides, about five minutes per side. Remove, tent with foil and keep warm. (The juices should run clear.)
Toss the pears with the sugar, and a light seasoning of salt and pepper. Add them to the pan, cut side down. Cook, turning, until golden brown. Scoop out and lay on top of the chops.
Add the broth to the pan. Cook, stirring up any drippings, until the sauce thickens somewhat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Balsamic vinegar and the butter ( a little bit at a time.) Taste and adjust seasoning. Spoon sauce over pears and sauce. Sprinkle with the cheese. Serve immediately.
Sunday, 24 February 2013
I actually made this the other day to take to our Relief Society Activity last Thursday evening and am only getting to show them to you now. They were stuck in the queue!
They went down a real treat with the girls and I brought home an empty plate. I like it when that happens, don't you? That means they are winners.
I got the recipe from out of one of those baking books you pick up in the magazine section at the grocery shops. It is in the Best Baking Series, Volume 7, Tasty Traybakes. I adapted and converted the measurements for my North American readers and I did not use the frosting recipe which was given with the recipe as it didn't look that good.
I made a chocolate buttercream icing. I am a big fan of buttercream icing. It went very well on these delectable little squares . . . it really did.
It's a good thing that I was taking them to church for the ladies as they would have been far too dangerous for me to keep in this house with a chocolate cake hating husband around. They would have been too, TOO tempting for me.
That layer of raspberry jam in the middle is a nice touch and helps to make what's moist and delicious, even moister and delicious. You can easily see why they would have been too dangerous for me to have here all on my own. I could not risk eating them all myself . . . I'm fat enough already!
These are perfect for sharing though. Your friends and chocolate loving family will love you to bits if you bake them a pan of these! Trust me on this! Mine did!! Go on . . . make them. You know you won't regret it! (Well, your hips may not thank you on this one, but . . . meh!)
Makes one 9 inch square pan
Try to let these sit overnight. They become even moister if you can resist them!
4 large free range eggs
300g caster sugar (1 2/3 cup)
150g unsalted butter, melted (2/3 cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
150g of plain flour (1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
75g cocoa powder (not drink mix) (2/3 cup)
100g of finely chopped toasted walnuts (3 12 ounces, 14 TBS)
3 TBS seedless raspberry jam
Chocolate buttercream frosting to cover
(A tub of prepared or your own recipe)
Preheat the oven to 165*C/325*F gas mark 3. Butter and line a 9 inch square pan with baking parchment. Butter the paper. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and frothy. Whisk in the sugar and then slowly whisk in the melted butter and vanilla. Sift together the flour, cinnamon and cocoa powder. Gently stir it in and then stir in the nuts. Spread the batter in the prepared pan, level the surface and bake for 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely in the tin,
Once they are cold, carefully remove from the tin and cut in half horizontally with a sharp knife. Warm the jam and spread it onto the bottom half of the brownies. Sandwich wih the top later. Frost with some buttercream frosting. Cut into squares to serve. Delicious!
Saturday, 23 February 2013
I do fear I am awfully fond of cake. Just like Paddington cannot resist a jar of marmalade and Pooh cannot resist a pot of honey . . . I cannot resist a tin containing a cake.
A week without at least one cake in it . . . is a week with something special missing. An empty cake tin . . . just doesn't bear thinking about, truly.
This week it was this delightful Glazed Coffee Crunch Cake. Back home there is a candy bar called Coffee Crisp . . . and it is one of my favourite candy bars . . . and this is one of my favourite cakes.
Deeply flavoured with strong coffee . . . it is a moist cake, with a beautiful crumb . . . and indeed you will find yourself collecting the crumbs on the tips of your fingers to eat because you will not want to waste even the tiniest scrap of it.
There is a fabulously moreish streusel topping stogged full of lovely toasted walnuts, and chocolate chips and delicately flavoured with cinnamon . . . and as if that is not enough . . .
It's crowning glory is . . . a sweet coffee drizzle. flicked all over the top. Altogether this is a wonderfully delicious cake and one which is very hard to resist.
In fact, I think I'll cut myself another slice now and sit back and enjoy it . . . that is if there is any left. I do hope the Toddster hasn't been raiding the tin.
Cake . . . it is truly my only weakness. Shhh . . .
*Glazed Coffee Crunch Cake*
Makes one 9-inch round cake
A deliciously moist and beautifully flavoured cake topped with a walnut and chocolate chip streusel.
For the topping:
60g plain flour (2/3 cup)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
40g soft light brown sugar (1/4 cup packed)
40g cold butter, cut into bits (3 TBS)
90g chocolate chips (1/2 cup)
60g chopped toasted walnuts (1/2 cup)
For the cake:
170g unsalted butter, softened (3/4 cup)
170g golden caster sugar (3/4 cup)
3 large free range eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
60ml strong espresso or instant coffee, cooled (4 TBS)
100g ground almonds (1 cup plus 3 TBS almond meal)
100g self raising flour (9/10 cup) sifted
with 1/2 tsp baking powder
For the coffee drizzle:
130g of sifted icing sugar (1 cup)
strong coffee (cold) enough to make a drizzle
Preheat the oven to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3. Butter a 9 inch round loose-bottomed baking tin and line with baking paper. Butter the paper. Set aside.
To make the streusel topping measure the flour, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl. Rub the cold butter in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. Set aside.
Cream the butter for the cake along with the sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, a little bit at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and cold coffee. Stir in the almond meal. Sift together the flour and baking powder and fold this into the batter. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing over the top. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over top of the cake.
Place onto a baking sheet and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean and the streusel is golden.
Remove from the oven. Allow to sit in the tin for 10 minutes before carefully removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Once the cake is completely cooled, whisk together the icing sugar with enough strong coffee to make a thick drizzle icing. Flick this over the top of the cake in a decorative manner. Allow to set completely before cutting into wedges to serve. Store in an airtight cake tin.