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!