Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Last Birthday Present

Since I'm around the computer any how, I thought I'd come here and let you all know what this special last birthday present I got my parents was.

I had hoped to of used it by now, done a 'I got this' type post and then make a post about how to use it, make things with it and perhaps even a recipe or 2 to go with it from trial/error with it but sadly the day yet to come but I hope it comes soon! Perhaps I'll make some for over the Christmas/New Year holiday... hubby always has that entire week off.

Anyhow, my wonderful parents... my mother especially really does listen to a lot of my rambling and babbling when we're out shopping or just bumping around. This year they saved and saved and manage to buy me that very very much wanted pasta maker! Yes you heard it, although I thought it'd easily be next year at the earliest that I'd get it, I got it for my birthday!

Sadly though as I said it has still sat mostly in it's box since that time :( Due to the current surgery and then all the end of the year stuffs, I just haven't had the time to give to experimenting with it yet. Soon though! VEEERRRRY soon! I did get to making a bolognese sauce recipe though when I had intended to try the machine out but ran out of energy and want for cooking by the time I made a 4 quart soup pot of the sauce LOL. Next time I'll make sure it's not 2pounds of meat and lots of other things.

Anyhow, my new pasta maker. Only thing I am missing now is that I want *1* additional attachment to it and that is one that will help me make gnocchi and a few other types of pasta and I need some mineral oil for maintenance on it. But over all it looks like a VERY good machine and I very much look forward to experimenting with it!

And yes every one... it is actually imported from Italy! There are *some* advantages of being located in the EU... some really nice imports happen to be one and a very loving and dear family happen to another!

Recipe - Cream Seafood & Corn Chowder

I have to admit I started writing this entry about 2weeks ago, it really never seems to amaze me how fast time flies. The first part of the post doesn't even follow a time line any more so I just deleted about an hour worth of typing I had done! Oh well... today is another day and another recipe. I'm sorry to all that are watching my blog that I haven't been here posting but I will try to be here more often and perhaps I'll even be able to bring you new photos/posts while I'm on the go as I also just got a new little 'toy' yesterday and that is a new cell phone... the Samsung Galaxy Y s5360... ok ok specifics but basically it's a smart phone with Android which is needed to run stuff flash based. It is also run/own by Google itself so I can even blog from it with patience.

For today I have this wonderful recipe that I also made for the time my husband had off for his birthday in late October. With all the wonderful seafood that I had bought for the Posh Fish Pie at that time too, I had lots of fresh crab meat left and decided on a soup that looked rather yummy and the end result was really nice... creamy crab and corn chowder... a perfect soup for a small starter or even with a nice piece of salmon next to it as a main dish! This recipe didn't make *huge* amounts or anything but since I made this with our meal instead of as our meal, I had enough left over to send a nice helping with my parents when they came to visit the next day... they liked it too!

 1 small onion, finally chopped
 1 clove garlic, finally chopped
 2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
 ♥ 1 red pepper, seeds removed and cut into small pieces
 ♥ 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
 2 1/2 cups low fat or skim milk
 1 cup canned corn or around 2 ears of fresh corn cut from it's stalk
 2 tbs fresh parsley, finally chopped or 1 tbs dried

This soup is actually rather easy to make I think. Actually most soups I've made are pretty easy I think. Start off by making sure your potatoes and bell pepper are chopped into small pieces. Place in a 2 quart pan and add the 2 1/2 cups chicken stock. I usually end up using that amount of water and adding stock cubes instead.

Once the bell pepper is tender and the potatoes cooked through, remove half the mixture to another bowl and set aside for a moment. The other half that should still be in your pot, you need to puree either with a stick blender or if you don't have one, a standing blender will do just as well.

Pour reserved mixture back into puree'd mixture and stir. Bring back to a low simmer and add the milk, crab and corn. When warmed through, add parsley and serve.

It's a wonderful soup if you like crab. The stuff I had was a bit too fine for this dish though so it kind of got lost texture wise so if you can get chunked crab meat then do so, it'll be well worth the cost to have bigger pieces. You could of course also choose to buy fresh crab and do it that style. I do plan to show you how to boil crab and lobsters at some point in my blogging future!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Newest Kitchen Toys - Birthday Presents

It's been a nice birthday despite the fact of surgery having to happen just before it. I got a few very nice gifts and ones I really did want! I know we've all had those 'you really shouldn't have' type gifts for any occasion really and I've certainly had my fair share as well. I have to admit though when it comes to the present my mother gets me, she really listens to what one wants and find the perfect present to go with it!

This year I got 3 kind of major presents from every one as well as a couple of 'get well soon' presents from my hubby but since this is a cooking/food blog above anything, I'll make mention of the gifts I got that are related to that!

The first one was a present to myself a bit before my birthday... ok a couple weeks before but oh well! It is something I've been dabbing a bit in because these are made entirely of almond flour in their original form but getting the batter right can be quite a science! This present should help me a great deal though because it's a French Macaroon Kit. And not I'm not talking about the coconut style macaroons that most people seem to know all too well (although those aren't half bad either and I have made them, have eaten them and will no doubt before the winter is over make them again LOL).

It includes a recipe/instruction booklet, a silicone mat with all the markings on it needed to make the prefect shape/sized french macaroon from where you should stop with adding batter to where they should spread out to in the 'wait time' before baking and this odd looking but wonderful device also made of silicone to help squeeze the batter out in the right amounts. I know this little device already because I have a smaller one meant for thinner sauces like home-made chocolate sauce or other type sauces. It comes with a couple different tip pieces and even one to keep it closed between batches.

I look forward to getting enough energy back (and time) to attempt these again. I attempted them once and they were SOOOO runny. They were good tasting but they didn't fluff up, they spread out all over the pan and just so many things went wrong with them that they weren't even suitable for a 'first attempt' here on the blog. Heck the cookie part wasn't even good enough to bother making a filling of any kind for them.

I hope this kit will help me with this adventure. Don't even feel as though you have to do cooking completely on your own! There are so many things out there now a days to help you along your way, to help save you time and over all to help save your patience level! Home-made down to earth cooking does NOT have to take forever! If you can afford kits like this, DO IT! They are a life saver in the kitchen and will make you look like a gourmet cook on top of it all!

I'll include my next gift which was from my dear husband... it was a kind of didn't know about it type gift but sometimes those are the best ones! We went to do a bit of shopping after I got my stitches removed the day before my birthday and came across a rather nice and very heavy duty type roasting pan. Non-stick and made of a heavy metal... not cast iron but next best thing I would say.

There were 2 types though and although the main dish of it was the same, the tops were different. They cost almost 40euro and when we saw the very first one, we thought it wasn't worth the cost because I could get a good heavy glass roasting pan with a very similar top  for quite a bit cheaper or borrow my mothers (it's not like I use a pan like this more then a few times a year any how) but then we as we stood there in line to check out, we saw the 2nd one. This is what made it a deal breaker... the first one had a glass lid that could only handle something like a 160c (320f) or so. 40euro for a pan that couldn't promise that it's own lid can't handle the higher temps needed for roasting, nah. But this 2nd kind had a lid made of the same material as the pan itself... heavy, non-stick and on top of it had a 2nd purpose, it's a grill pan on top of it! Oh yea baby! I've wanted a grill pan for quite some time now but the really good ones always cost so much and I did kind of want a roasting pan of my own as well. Now that we found this one in this all-in-one kind of pan, I was sold.

We bought it and my first dish is going to be made in it either tonight or tomorrow and that will be attempting roasted fall/winter veggies in it. The next dish is already planned for it too and that will be on our 10year anniversary November 23rd (next week!!! *BOUNCE*) and that will be grilled duck breast slices and grilled veggies to make some sinful duck fajitas which I'll also make some home-made cranberry sauce with rum in it to go with! Just going to go with the flow of what I know goes well with stuff like duck/wild game and take my chance at making things for it... no recipes, no looking things up, just going with it all.

I have a 3rd present for my kitchen that I got my folks but I will wait for another entry to write about that one because I'm not really ready to reveal it yet. The time will come though! It's something I've wanted for a very very long time now (we're talking years here btw) so once I get the energy and motivation again to start diving into my kitchen work, I'll reveal this last present. For now though, I want to concentrate on what I'll be making for my wonderful husband for our anniversary dinner and what to make the rest of the time he's off. He only works for another 2 days, has the normal weekend off, works 2 more days and then has another 5 days of of vacation! He's gonna be so sick of my clean then dirty then clean then dirty kitchen by the time he is done with all of his vacation/holiday days off that I think he'll be ready to go back to work just for a break from it all! I mean this month is only just going to end nicely with days off and then he'll have a few weeks of normal work but then his normal week long vacation time will have to hit yet too for Christmas through New years... yep, he'll be tired of it all by then I'm sure!

Whats To Come

With every thing that has been up, down, sideways and every other direction you can think of, I thought I'd drop in with a short message to let every one know what kind of recipes I have made lately as well as some of the other things I am preparing to post about. And you know it all takes time to get up and on a blog, especially when one's life is jam packed with so many things one can't keep track of it all.

Although I might not be able to post as much as I want to lately, I am sure as heck not avoiding my kitchen! Recipes I have made lately, have photos of and will be posting (will also add a link to the new post as I get it posted! Got to love editing abilities!).
 ~ Creamy Mussel Soup
 ~ Egg Foo Yong w/ Sauce
 ~ First Attempt - Baked Apples (yea I messed it up but it was still yummy!)
 ~ Spinach & Artichoke Dip (with artichoke bottoms instead of hearts)
 ~ Toll House version Chocolate Chip Cookies (large style!)
 ~ Chocolate 'Lava' Cakes w/ Raspberries
 ~ Pouched Quince Pears
 ~ Cinnamon & Sugar Roasted Nuts
 ~ Loaded Baked Potato Soup (made easy!)
 ~ Egg Drop Soup (1-2-3 style)
 ~ First Attempt - Roasted Fall/Winter Veggies

Some ideas/thoughts and what not that will be coming as well.

I'm sure there are other things floating around that I just can't find atm but that is at least a start. This is all the stuff that is still going on behind the scenes so to speak that I just haven't had the time to edit and post about... it'll be coming though I promise!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Recipe - Posh Fish Pie

This is one of the recipes that I made for my husband's weekend birthday feast and boy did I make it ever so posh! From fresh salmon to fresh tuna. Even buying 100% fresh crab meat and tiger pawns.

I can't take all of the credit for this one though! This recipe first was brought to my attention by one of my beloved chefs which I think is some where around my age roughly, perhaps that is why I adore him so much but some how I think it's the way he cooks and the way be brings the best things to us as simple as possible while still being healthy... that is none other then Jamie Oliver!

I have his series 'naked chef' on DVD and that is where I first got the idea for this recipe. That one how ever had a cream based sauce. I had made the version he did in that series a long while ago but sub'd the cream for my alpro soya 5%. It was indeed a very good 'first attempt' so was something to make again.

This time though, instead of going through to figure out which part on which DVD had the recipe, watch the recipe, copy the recipe and what not, I simply looked online for the recipe. I came across something from his Ministry of Food series that made the dish 100% healthier as it didn't call for cream at all. I've linked the video here but have also made my recipe with all my wonderful photo below it.

If you like healthy, you want something full of wonderful fish, something wonderfully sinful but still good... this is certainly something to try out. And how much better can you get for a gluten free diet then something that one makes it's own sauce and two uses home-made mashed potatoes to top it all off?!

Ingredients - Main Dish
 2 celery stalks 
 2 carrots 
 150grams (5oz) yellow cheddar
 ♥ 150grams (5oz) white cheddar
 1 small tomato or a large handful of cherry tomatoes, cut into small chunks
 2 to 4 cups fresh baby spinach 
 300grams (10oz) white fish such as cod cut into small chunks
 300grams (10oz) sturdy fish such as salmon or tuna cut into small chunks
 4 to 8 large raw tiger prawns, deveined and shelled
 150grams (5oz) fresh crab meat (canned works too but will add unneeded salt)
 ♥ juice of 1 lemon
Ingredients - Mashed Potatoes 
 ♥ 4 to 6 large russet potatoes, cut into small chunks
 2 or 3 good size nobs of butter
 splash of a good virgin olive oil
 salt/pepper to taste

This dish despite all of the ingredients is really easy to make since it only really requires you to 'cut' 2 items... potatoes and some tomato. The rest should be done already for you by your fish monger.

I would first start out by getting your potatoes onto boil. Always start your potatoes in cold water. You want them to cook evenly and tossing them into hot water right at the beginning causes the outside to cook faster while leaving the inside under cooked in the end. I suggest either boiling them in salted water or to do as I do and add some chicken broth cube/s to the boiling water. Let this boil away until the potatoes are tender and you go about putting together the main dish.

The main dish should be pretty straight forward. Grab you trusted shredding unit be it a food processor with a large grate attachment, a hand shredder or my personal favourite, a box shredder. Shred the carrots, celery and both cheeses all right together and place into a 13x9 baking pan (I used my large lasagna pan for this and it worked perfectly). If you want extra cheese to put on top of the final product before baking, this is the time to make sure it is shredded, just remember to reserve it for later and not accidentally add it to the pan.

Cut up you choice of tomato. Small chunks if your using a whole tomato or cut in half to quarters if using cherry tomatoes. Use your judgement on this, you simply do not want huge chunks of tomatoes. You want them to meld into the dish, not over power it. Toss them into the same pan with the shredded veggies and cheese.

Add the spinach to the same pan. It will look like a lot but once you start to toss the final product before baking the spinach will break down a bit just by the process and also by the weight of the fish.

Toss in all of the wonderful seafood. Making it this time for me meant it was to be sinful and price was of no worry for it so I indulged in expensive fishes such as tuna but this dish does NOT have to be expensive as it will be just as good with only using one type of fish such as just cod or salmon. This was meant to be a special birthday celebration dish this time so it also called for the more plush fishes.

Reminder at this point to not forget about your boiling away potatoes, yes you want them soft but you don't want them water logged either. Check them and see if they are ready to be mashed. When they are simply drain and set aside for a moment.

Pre-heat your oven to 200c (400f). Pour the lemon juice over the mixture in your baking dish. Now take all of those wonderful ingredients that and give them a good old mixing up with your hands (remember my beloved item in my kitchen, a box of powder free vinyl gloves... this is yet another place to use them to make your life easier).

Mashed Potatoes - If you don't have a potato masher (see photo or Jamie's video above) then a fork will do, you'll just need to put a bit more effort into it. Give your boiled potatoes a good mashing up. Add the couple nobs of butter and the splash of olive oil and keep mashing until smooth. Taste and see about adding salt and pepper. You don't want it over powering but poorly seasoned mashed potatoes are awful. Also please do NOT short-cut this part. Use HOME-MADE mashed potatoes and do NOT use 'instant' mashed. You know the crap I'm talking about.. the 'powder' form. I have tried both now and I can tell you from those experiences that the instant stuff does NOT work! It does not brown nicely, it doesn't help steam the dish properly and just over all does not leave this dish nearly as good as if you were to make your own!

With the mashed potatoes made, dump them on top of the mixed up fish and veggies in your baking dish. Use a fork or spoon and spread them out over every part possible. You want to create a bit of a seal over the dish so that the potatoes act as a steaming agent. Drizzle the top with some olive oil and this is also the point that if you are choosing to use extra shredded cheese that you want to sprinkle it over the entire top.

Put the entire dish in your pre-heated oven and bake about 40minutes. It will be dark golden brown if you used cheese on top or a nice 'peaked' golden brown if you didn't (browning the highest parts of the mashed potatoes). Inside the spinach will have cooked down, the flavours of the fish will have melded and your dish will be simply prefect.

Hubby loved this dish and we had enough for two meals with it while still indulging in a good amount each meal but we also had extra veggies on the side. ENJOY!

October 4th, 2013 - Post updated because for some reason the original youtube video I had posted was no longer posted. I now have one posted from Jamie Oliver's official YouTube site.

Life In General

Hello my sweet little get-away from the real world. Life has not been kind to me over the past few months and it always seems to happen over the months that I really wish it would just settle down, spring/summer. But with all that life throws at us some how we manage to keep going.

We all know about the stuff with my mother in law yet again and worse this summer... well my mind and body out lasted what needed to be done and then fell apart. I don't often get sick but man oh man when I do I *DO*. For a while now (year or longer) I have been dealing with what was thought to be an ovarian cyst that was measured at 8cms (a bit over 3inches) round on my left side. Now I'm not by any means a small woman and so the first steps to try to rid my body of this was hormone pills which didn't work, next was a medical drainage which worked for about 2 or 3 months and then the last which no one was looking forward to was key hole surgery. This last step was waiting for one of two things to happen... either I would lose more weight or the thing would twist. Unfortunately, the later happened.

A couple of weeks ago, I landed in the ER twice within 12hrs with horrible lower stomach pains. First time they were mild compared to when I returned the next morning. I was NOT pleased with how I was treated I have to say in the ER this time around. The first time they did blood and urine work, both came back clear. They also did a CT of my lower/mid section and that looked 'ok' with the exception that it showed the mass I TOLD them about before even running that test. They sent me home telling me every thing to them looked 'fine', to take over the counter pain control and call my GYN in the morning. I slept okish and as soon as I started to move again the morning the pain was back full force times about 10. Back to the ER... asked to take more blood and urine for testing (mind you that I only just had this done *12hrs* before and all was normal) and we questioned why more blood work if the first was fine.... they took that as I refused to give to their testing instead of it being a question. After sitting/pacing/crying due to the pain, it was finally time that the doctor offices were opened (my gyn doc is a specialist in the hospital that I was in through ER) and *I* called him directly to ask if he even 'knew' that I was sitting down in ER with the pain and problems he himself warned me could happen. Well of course he didn't and instantly ordered the ER doctor to send me to his office where he preformed my ultrasound (which the ER didn't do even though I told them it was needed, but of course don't listen to the patient that knows what is going on with her insides... nah would make to much sense after all) and saw that the mass has/is moving around now and has lodged itself behind my uterus which is putting strain on it and even more on my bladder. He suspected that it was twisted but that you can't fully know with anything except surgery which by the location of the cyst, ultrasound findings and the sure amount of pain I was in was scheduled for Friday November 4th, 2011.... 1 week after the pain started.

So, in I went and out it came. It in fact was not attached to my ovary but actually to my left tube. I got rid of the cyst but have now also lost the left tube due to it as well. I don't want kids so this is of no concern to me really, I'm just glad to still have the ovary which I could have lost if that was where it was attached. It was not cancer, just nasty and needed to come out. It had twisted but in the way that it had made a complete 180-360 rotation around my tube and twisted the tube... this and the fact that it was strangling it's blood supply is what caused all the pain. Less then 24hrs in hospital and I was home though... surgery now a days is getting so good isn't it??

I'm now just a bit over a week post-op and I've had my stitches removed (yea got the old fashioned kind cause I don't react well the external dissolving style ones). A few more war battles on my tummy (got my first with the ER admitted removal of my gall bladder about 4years ago now) and a little better feeling. It's been a long battle but with any luck the wonderful miracle we call the human body will correct itself now, heal itself and will return me with a sense of what it is to be a woman and not be afraid of even making love to my husband due to worrying if something might go wrong.

Needless to say, I haven't cooked really anything special since this started but I still have a LOT of really nice stuff on stock that I made before that and quite a few things from my husband's birthday. Oh yea, all of this happened just before *my* birthday which was November 11th... turned 34 that day... came and went uneventful, even the weather sucked. I was just happy to get my stitches out the day before and not have to wait for a long holiday included weekend to go by until they did!

So on to some more yummies... it was just too hard to just sit here typing like this but I'm feeling better now and can get back to giving you more good stuff to go off and try! Oh and through out all of this I got a couple of brand new goodies for my kitchen in the way of cooking items, I'll be posting about them soon!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Meat Talk - Mussels

Yes, mussels! What lovely wonderful little pieces of joy. If you have only ever had these little bits of seafood heaven in pre-made dishes like frozen paella or some other sadly cooked dish and disliked them, you have every right to! However, if you have never had them other then in dishes like that, you are sadly missing out!

When made in those pre-made BS of things they go hard or rubbery. Worse yet, they aren't the best of the best. Now normally I'd suggest going to a well know seafood restaurant but you and I both know that is not the best suggestion for someone having to live gluten free. So instead I give you the suggestion that you get up the nerve to do something you might not normally do and go down to your well known fish monger and ask for a couple pounds of fresh mussels. I like the smaller French mussels myself but the type of mussels you will be able to get will depend on where you live in the world. If you are just going to steam mussels and eat them that way, any will do but the smaller ones have a much more intense flavour while the larger ones have more meat to bite so the pick is yours.

Today I'll be picking myself up a kilo of both. For today I will simply steam the larger Holland ones in white wine with garlic and then tomorrow I shall use the smaller French ones to make a wonderful cream soup that has a bit of onion and curry powder. I've made it before but it's been a while.

I have to admit the first time I bought mussels, I was intimidated by them. These hard shelled little annoying  things but once you do them for the first time you start to get a feel for them and what you should do with them. I find there is only one 'hard' thing about making fresh mussels but all in all the results are worth it. That would be the cleaning/prep part of it all. When you have 1 kilo (2.2pounds) of them, especially of the small ones, this can get rather boring and annoying while the larger ones are a little less of a pain. You need to do 2 things to 'clean' them and those are namely remove the 'beards' which they don't always have but you'll find along the flat side of the shell, just grab hold and pull in a downward direction (toward the point of the shell) to free it and then scrape off any barnacles or other stuff from the shell with a dull knife.

Most suggest using a towel to help clean mussels but if you've been following my blog since the beginning you'll remember that I have a best friend in my kitchen when it comes to pre-paring food.... powder free vinyl gloves (kind of like you'd find doctors using). These are a life saver of time when it comes to cleaning mussels and will save your towels and hands smelling of sea water. While cleaning your mussels you'll also want to pay attention to open ones. If you have some that are open, tap them with your cleaning knife on the shell.. if they are still alive, they should close up but if they don't respond, they are dead or dying and you should toss them out before even cooking them.

If you were smart while preparing these, you will have taken them from the container you were holding them in while cleaning and placed them in another clean bowl... with or without water, doesn't matter. What you don't want to do is clean your mussels, placing them back into your original bowl and then at the end 'pour' them into another bowl. Instead if you choose to do this, hand place the mussels into your clean bowl because if you just simply pour them into the new bowl, any pieces from the shells or sand that have fallen to the bottom will come with and end up right on top of your freshly cleaned mussels.... mussels + sand = gritty/poorly cooked mussels = YUK!

After this annoying and time taking task of cleaning, mussels are down right easy to prepare! Especially if you plan to eat them from the shell while only slightly more work to be had if you need the flesh only from them. Cooking is simple as what you really want to do is steam them. For this I use 1 cup dry white wine and a teaspoon or so of dry garlic granules (not garlic powder but a bit bigger pieces and still dry) or you can I suppose use garlic puree as well for every kilo (2pounds roughly) of mussels. Carefully add the mussels to the wine/garlic, cover and simmer for about 10mins. You'll know when they are done when the shells all open completely. This is also a stage where you want to be watchful and pick out any shells that have not opened and throw them out.

Most soup recipes will ask for the broth from the mussels to be kept and used.... DO THIS! It's fresh mussel juice, wine and garlic! It's a wonderful seafood broth. I wouldn't keep it more then 1 day though and most of the time I use it for my soup right away as I'll be using the mussels themselves for the soup too.

For now though, I'll leave you with some wonderful images that my husband took of the last batch of mussels we bought, steamed and turned into a different cream soup then I'll make this weekend (I've got a few of them). They look so wonderful don't they? And yes this is something that you won't be able to resist tasting as soon as they are ready to drain and personally I would even suggest you do!

Recipe - Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

It's recipe time again!! *ok, down Missy...DOWN!*. I've been cooking up such a storm these last few day that I am feeling just free and lively. Good food, home-made, knowing that it's as low in processed stuffs as possible and that it's all gluten free *yum*.

Today comes cookies! I don't bake cookies too often because of 2 reasons really and they both tie into each other... cookies are a food I can not resist even if my life depended on it there for reason 2 for not making cookies too often is the fact that it has 1 or 2 full sticks of butter in them some where. 1 or 2 sticks of butter + no control = uhoh + gone in 24 to 48hrs... not a good combo!

But this is birthday weekend.... 4days of it and although hubby doesn't have to eat gluten free, an entire batch of cookies is still too much for 1 person so I took advantage of making a batch of my favourites. Believe it or not though, I was up until 1am making these. *shrug* strange schedule I guess. And would you believe it, this batch still didn't last longer then 48hrs. I had the last 3 this morning.... ummm is there such a thing as breakfast dessert??

Tip #1 - Having not wanted to wait for cookies to cool at midnight when making these, I choose to switch between my silicon lined baking sheet and a dark non-stick sheet. This brought to light a tip to share. If you use a light pan or lined pan such as I started with, the directions will work just fine below. However, if you use a dark non-stick pan you will want to turn down the heat a bit, lower the baking time and keep an eye on them. I don't know what does it exactly besides perhaps that dark colours cause heat to stay better but what ever it is, I just barely saved my 2 batch of baked cookies from the really done to over done mark by seconds.

 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour
 1 tsp baking powder
 1 1/2 sticks butter at room temp
 1 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky is up to you)
 1/2 cup granulated sugar
 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
 1 large egg
 1 tsp vanilla
 1/2 to 1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

This is a fairly straight forward recipe. Preheat oven to 180c (360f) (see tip#1). In a large mixing bowl put both sugars, peanut butter and butter and with a mixer, mix until well combined and has turned to a light brown colour.

Add eggs and vanilla and give another quick mix to combine and return to it's light brown colour.

Now by hand and I suggest with a wooden spoon, add realizes just now that she didn't add her baking powder baking powder and flour to the peanut butter mixture and combine well. I tend to bounce depending on the time of day and what kind of weather it is as to how much flour I seem to use each time I make this. This time it was 1 1/2 cups, other times it is as much as 2 cups. Your looking for a batter that will stick to your spoon and stay together when placed on your cookie sheet but you will not get to a good batter like gluten filled cookies will have in order to make the old fashioned fork marks I'm afraid. I've tried a number of times and no go... the batter just doesn't hold up to it.

Final stage to batter, add your chocolate chips. I use dark chocolate chips and this one if up to you. Do you want a really load peanut butter cookie? Add 1 cup or more. Want a subtle hint of chocolate? Add a 1/2 cup. Mix with your spoon. 

Ditch the wooden mixing spoon and grab yourself 2 normal every day teaspoons like you'd eat your bowl of cereal in the morning with or stir your coffee (and no I'm not talking about the little itty bitty spoons meant for tea time!). Take a rounded spoonful of batter and transfer it to your baking sheet using the 2nd spoon to remove the batter from the first, leave 2 inches of room all around each spoonful as these cookies will spread out as they cook.

Bake for 15minutes for a light coloured pan or silicone lined pan. Remove from oven and let rest at least 5minutes. You NEED to let them rest in order to reclaim their firmness or you'll end up with peanut butter sand on your cookie sheet instead of a nice round cookie in your bowl.

Once cooled, transfer to some paper towels to sit until the next batch is ready. Store in an air-tight container for up to 4days (if they last that long!).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

General Talk - Next Major Project

Another season is upon us and with that comes another selection of fruits and veggies along with some of my husband's wonderful friends at work having quite a surplus of end of season style stuff. Not long ago it was zucchini, then after that was fresh figs. Of course there were also a couple of squashes in there too but I am not (yet) overly found of squash so I didn't take any or do anything with any of them. Although I do hope this fall/winter to get my hands on some acorn squash, those I have a weakness for seeing as they were something I grew up with my mother making and it just reminds me of some nice times with her such as making a big Thanks Giving meal with them on the side *happy sighs* . And now just last night came a half dozen VERY large quince pears.

I've NEVER had a quince pear before and don't know the first thing about doing anything with them. My husband has shown me a few web sites and I have been reading up on them. The first thing is that they are 100% a COOKING pear! They are very tart and very hard. So hard in fact that people all over the web warn you to be very careful when preparing/peeling/coring and what not as it is not hard at all for a knife to slip when doing this. So if you go with me on my journey into this unknown realm of quince pears in the near future, I will do the same, BE CAREFUL WHEN CUTTING THEM! I know I know, 'but you haven't even prepared them yet, how can you be sure we need to be that careful??'. I have them in hand already without any photos yet as I just took them out of their bag a couple of hours ago plus I want to wait until I start to pre-pare them tomorrow to take my photos but I can tell you now, only 6 large ones of these pears weigh almost 3kilo (about 6 1/2pounds) easily and the fact that I can feel how hard they are without even getting close to cutting it tells me that it could be dangerous with sharp knives.

So, my first intentions are to go about pouching them. From what I've read so far, even though the flesh starts out as white as most pears, something that is in this pear when it is cooked causes them to turn very pink... the longer the cooking, the deeper they become. I'm looking forward to photographing this part of it! What I will do with them after is a whole nother story though. I do have plans though to make some of them into a chutney with some fresh cranberries that I bought yesterday to go with a duck breast that I have stored carefully away in my freezer for this weekend.

You see this weekend is my husband's birthday... well actually Friday is. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that it's impossible to buy for your mate when they don't give you any ideas what you should get them or even what they 'might' want. So this year, with my new oven in place, I decided I would cook yummy things never made before all throughout the weekend. Not only does it give him something wonderful to give him comfort over the change in weather that comes with his birthday but I know I'm cooking 100% gluten free and 100% good for you foods. The start of that was last night with the new soup posted before, tonight will be a new fish pie recipe that calls for a mashed potato topping along with a crab/corn chowder for a soup side and some fresh steamed cauliflower to go with it for veggies. And I suppose to a typical Belgian (not sure on that one yet) my husband in all my cooking abilities and glory has requested eggs, fries and pea/carrot mix for his actual 'birthday meal'.... so eggs it shale be but the then Saturday comes right after (gives off that evil witch type laugh) and then I plan to make duck fajitas with the home-made quince/cranberry chutney and home-made (my style) tortilla shells. I'm pondering on if I should just make a simple rice dish to go along with it or if I should think about something more rich like an au-gratin potatoes or mac & cheese, not sure yet. And of course I can't forget that there is Sunday to think about something to make too.

Some where in between all the 'main meal' type things, I've also planned some breakfast items if I manage to get my lazy butt out of bed in time to make them but I have french toast planned (made with a gluten free bread that I found that has some hold to it) and at least some home-made waffles made in the still brand new still in it's box completely unopened waffle maker that I got at least 3months or more ago... *sigh* where did my summer go??

So that is my most recent cooking challenges and plans for this coming next few days at least....
 ~ Exploreing/cooking/pouching/creating things with Quince Pears
 ~ Quince & Cranberry chutney
 ~ Duck Fajitas with home-made GF tortillas
 ~ Au-Gratin Potatoes or maybe white cheddar mac & cheese or new basmati rice dish
 ~ Posh Fish Pie with mashed potato top made with white cheddar for it's cheese part
 ~ figure something else to do with the other part of the pouched quince pears
 ~ French Toast (easy one as the bread is already cooked!)
 ~ Waffles (a bit more of a task but I LOVE waffles! I'm starting to wonder how warm quince pear jam/jelly might taste on them too)

Geee's what a weekend hey? And still have to make sure some where in between that I do up all those dishes I'll end up making a mess out of while I do this! The things us woman do for our loved ones isn't it? But hey, at least I know he's getting good food, good for him, no 'added' crap to it all and made with the all the love in my heart for his special weekend. This will be 10years of his birthdays we'll spend together.... it has to be special. In fact this year brings a lot of 10year occasions... my birthday, our anniversary, christmas, new years.... aaa so many wonderful winter ideas coming to me! And I'm sure some where in there, a night or 2 will be spent with candle light dinners to top it all off.... I think especially with the duck dinner.

Oh and BTW some of those other 'winter' ideas...
 ~ apple/cinnamon sauce
 ~ spiced apple cider (non alcoholic)
 ~ apple butter (think I found a 'smaller' recipe then 4pounds worth of apples... I'd be eating apple butter til next winter if I did that)
 ~ attempting to make granola without oats but with buck wheat & quinoa flakes along with all sorts of other yummy/good for you stuffs like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and more

There are more in my head some where but those are the ones that spring to mind when I think fall/winter. This year we're also going to get a nice fresh ham from the local butcher and have a nice christmas meal together. It's been a couple of years due to all the things going on with my mother-in-law so this year it's time to show some attention to my own parents before time runs out.

Recipe - Creamy Garlic Potato Soup - Version #1

You know the only thing about making all these new recipes and 'playing around' in my kitchen? *sigh* all the darn cleaning up afterwards! I can't wait until hubby and I are able to move and have a place we can trust to hook up a dishwasher too.

So yesterday started out a lot like today did... it feels cold (actually it is cold at only 47F (8C) at just past 11am) and raining. Yesterday it rained on and off until past noon but today, not sure. It wants to rain but then the sun comes out and then it rains some more so yea odd weather again. With the weather starting the way it did yesterday I set out to make soup this week. This one I take some pride in as I didn't follow a recipe at all, just a gut feeling of what would be good in it and went with it.

This is also a low cost/low budget type soup. Most soups are if you stay clear the say the seafood style ones like clam chowder or others that call for expensive cuts of meats. Soups are a wonderful way to get your daily dose of veggies too without breaking your budget or causing unwanted calories. Take into mind how you make them though. Such as this recipe, it calls for cream but if you choose to put in a tiny bit more money to get the light or low fat version of it since it doesn't need to be whipped, your waist line will thank you as well! Most 'cream' soups like this work VERY well with light creams and unless you go side by side with a full cream based one you won't notice the difference either. You'll also have the enjoyment of being able to sit back and enjoy your soup in almost any amount you want without the worry of it being 'bad' in any way, shape or form! And while I'm posting this, you can even make soup so hearty that you don't even need anything but it for your main meal. Adding beans and even lean ground meat to a soup will make a wonderful main dish all on it's own and still not being a burden on your budget.

Only tip I have for this recipe is cut your potatoes into small cubes/pieces about 1/2inch to 1inch pieces because it will reduce cooking time and it will also make the addition of reserved potatoes much nicer for eating.

 4 to 6 large starchy potatoes, skinned and cut into small chunks
 4 cups chicken broth
 1 cup light/low fat cream (I again use my ever loved Alpro 5% cream)
 2 TBS garlic puree or 3 to 4 garlic cloves very finally minced
 3 TBS fresh parsley finely chopped or 2 TBS dried
Salt & Pepper for seasoning (optional) 

Make sure that you have your potatoes chopped correctly. This is most likely the only real make or break part of this dish. Cut them into 1/2inch to 1inch pieces.

Boil your potatoes by themselves, do not boil them in the broth you'll be using for the soup. You want the creamy texture the potatoes will give without all the added starch from the water they boil in.

Drain the potatoes, put about half to 2/3rd of them into the 4 cups chicken broth (making sure your pot is big enough to do some blending work and addition of the left over potatoes and cream), add the garlic puree (or cloves) and use a stick blender to puree the entire mixture together. If you don't have a stick blender, a normal blender will work just as well... just transfer the ingredients into the stand blender first instead of your cooking pot.

Once well mixed, put back on stove top and add 1 cup light/low fat cream and parsley. Heat through again to warm the cream. I suggest not putting it higher then a low heat. It takes a little more time but you won't have a chance of burning the potatoes/cream this way.

Taste and season to liking. We found it to be a wonderful filler to our meal yesterday while still being light and low in fat. The addition of the left over potato pieces left whole were very needed but if you just want a nice creamy potato soup, perhaps a bit thicker, add all of the potatoes at the blending period instead.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meat Talk - Salmon

Lets start the ball rolling with talk about some more yummy foods before I go into more recipes. Just to get things started here again properly after my mind break down of not having a functioning oven!

If you are like me who has had to turn to this life style not having known much about it at all, not having grown up having to eat this way or some other reason that you had to start eating gluten free then most likely in the beginning you also had a 'down spell' as well. What do I mean by that?? Simple, I want all the things I can not have any more... worse though is that I know for a fact that if I even slightly ingest something with gluten, I will have some nasty and very unwanted effects from it.

You know, I've started to learn to live with this but not with the thoughts of 'oh I just can't have that any more so I won't and I won't think about it again' but now with the mind set of 'I want that, I know I want it, I know it being made the normal way I can't eat it so now how do I make it and make it so I can eat it?!' mind set.

I have yet to find a task that if I really want it that I can't hit head on and in full force. But that takes me back to why I choose to talk about salmon... it's simple, it's fresh, it's 100% gluten free if you buy fresh (no deep freeze, no pre-herbed/processed or what not. If you choose to buy frozen or seasoned READ THE LABEL! There are hidden things in processed foods even as simple as being processed in a place that makes other wheat/gluten items!). Today's photos show that I even have a piece from a fresh fish monger that he has prepared with white pepper corns and parsley.

There are so many countless ways to prepare salmon in the form of dishes that you can make, ways to seasons it, ways to cook it. It's an untamed piece of meat that is just waiting for your creative juices to flow! What about a lightly fried piece with just a light sprinkling of fresh (or dry) dill added just at the end? How about cutting it into fine chunks, flash fried to cook it and add a crunchy texture so that you can add it to a gluten free pasta dish with cheese sauce? What about thinly sliced (paper thin mind you, ask your fish monger about this) pieces marinated in a citrous mixture and placed on top of gluten free toast or crackers spread with cream cheese? Key thing here is that citrous (lemon, lime, grapefruit ect) will cook the salmon! Ever bought a piece of fish that is still fresh that day but pre-wrapped like you would buy say beef or such from the local grocery store and it have a lemon piece resting again the fish? Remember pulling that lemon piece away to see that the fish under has changed colour? Yep, you guessed it, the lemon piece has started to cook that part of the fish.

Ok so I'm getting all over the place. Simply put, salmon is healthy, again full of the Omega 3 fatty acids that we are all told we should have more of and there are just so many ways to prepare it. This is also a fish that if prepared properly, the skin (as long as it has been scaled) can be eaten and should be as it also contains a number of good for you things!
A tip for all that like to pan fry... use a pan fit to what you are making. Don't use a pan overly small for your item/s but also don't use a pan that is overly big for it either. The reason for this you ask? Simple, the more area you have to heat in your pan, the more the heat will spread out and not centre on cooking the meat that is in the pan. Same thing for too small of a pan, your meat will either not sit against the bottom so it doesn't cook properly all over or it'll stick to the sides where you don't want it cooking either. You wouldn't put a pan that is too big on a small burner or a large pan on a burner too small would you? The same goes for the meat that you add to your pan. Make sure there is enough room to let the meat rest completely on the pan bottom. If you are frying more then one piece at a time, make sure you don't over crowd the pan because then some pieces will cook/brown quicker then others and they will stick. Just a tip, you'll find that it works well. Another small tip on preparing meat... if you are preparing a meat where you will want to de-glaze the pan afterwards (in cases where you want to make gravy lets say) use a pan that does not have a non-stick coating. You will want to 'scratch' at the bottom of the pan in order to get all the wonderful meat pieces and flavours off of it and no matter what you go scratching with, you'll end up marking your best non-stick pan so go for a good ol' favoured, old fashioned steel pan with no coating. They can also handle a much higher temp and deal with de-glazing better too.

The best way to prepare a piece of salmon... that is really up to the person I think but here is what I do. The piece I have shown in this entry has skin. When you cook it with skin, you want to start cooking it skin side down, this one is never up for discussion if you are looking to present this as a beautiful piece of art to the mind and taste buds. If no skin then it doesn't matter which side you start on.

Simply pre-heat a pan to a medium-high heat, use only a VERY small amount of olive oil in the pan as the salmon will release it's own fats/oils almost as soon as it hits the pan and drop the salmon (skin side down if you are using the skin) carefully into the pan as it will start to spit. LEAVE IT ALONE for at least 3 minutes. Do not turn it, do not move it, do not flip it, do not 'peek' under it or anything... simply leave it to be for 3minutes. The reason for this is if you start to wonder and mess with it, the more chance you have that it'll either stick to the pan or not cook evenly across the skin for that golden finish you want. Once you see the salmon start to change colour about 1/3 to 1/2 the way up, this is the time that you want to flip it. Again, leave it alone. I can't stress how much you should just leave your meat alone and either use a timer or your normal gut feeling on when to turn it. Meat loses a lot and you can cause a lot of un-wanted damage to it if you start to do more then 'wonder' about it.

Remember salmon if fresh from a well known fish monger can be and is eaten raw... so you don't want to over cook this meat. It's like pre-paring fresh tuna. You want seer the outside while leaving the middle hot, moist and even a bit more pink then the outside.

Go on now... go find your local trusted fish monger and ask him/her for a wonderful fresh piece of fresh salmon. Come back to me and tell me what you've done with it! I would LOVE to have some suggestions or ideas on what to do with it! I'll get to posting some of my own recipes but for now, I just wanted to share a wonderful piece of meat that is at least a bi-weekly if not weekly meal in this house.