How This Started and My Hope For This Experiment

My Husband and I are both big fans of Jamie Oliver. For Christmas I bought him Jamie's cookbook "Jamie's 30 Minute Meals: A Revolutionary Approach to Cooking Good Food Fast". As I read the preface of his cookbook I was inspired by his ideas. He felt that he was spending too much time cooking during the busy week and doing too much clean up. So he decided that for the week night meals there needed to be something quick and still healthy and yummy. He and his team did a lot of work and made the "30 Minute Meals". He has explicit directions for step by step getting the meal done in 30 min. He tells you what to do first, second, and third so that you have all dishes going at the same time, instead of making it dish by dish. Since we aren't doing once a month cooking right now I was captured by this idea and dying to start trying. I have been spending way too much time in the kitchen during the week and can't wait to be able to prepare good meals fast. My husband was all for it since he loves to eat great food and has a very particular palette. He will be making some of the meals on weekends when he isn't working because, this is after all, his cookbook :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls-our twice annual treat

We went away for a weekend and rented a cottage recently. We made cinnamon rolls and they were really great. We make them twice a year and they are a family favorite. I have had a request for the recipe so here it is:

This is the dough recipe I used this year. It was really good. I have tried lots of different recipes and some are more like bread or roll dough and this one is a little more eggy rather than bready if that makes sense. I recommend it. I don't use a recipe for my filling or my frosting though really. I have been doing it long enough that I just kind of know what I like and how it should look. After the dough rises I roll it out and I cover it in a layer of softened or melted butter. I put brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and nuts in a bowl together and I mix it all up and spread that on evenly. Pecans are my favorite nuts in there but walnuts are also wonderful.
Then I roll it up to look like this and gently pinch it closed across the side.

Cut into rolls with dental floss. This is the easiest and cleanest way to cut them and then you won't forget and cut on your pastry mat like I did once when making naan.

I usually flatten them on top a little to keep them holding together a little more.

With this recipe you only let them rise once and then you bake until golden brown. You can use any old cream cheese frosting recipe and then add things to make it a little more zingy. There is a recipe for the frosting on the link above but a good rule of thumb is 3/4 C. powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla for every 8 oz. of cream cheese. Some of the recipes also call for butter but I don't always put it in.

For this batch I added the juice and zest of one lemon ( I got the inspiration for the lemon from "Blokes Who Bake")- and let it sit together in the fridge overnight so the lemon flavor would be really potent. It was amazing-everyone loved it.

Last year I made the frosting into chocolate cream cheese frosting by adding cocoa powder to taste. It throws off the dry/liquid ratio so you either leave out a little powdered sugar or add a tablespoon or two of milk. Either way it is wonderful. Some people like regular powdered sugar frosting without the cream cheese but I am a cream cheese frosting kind of a girl.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup

This is the butternut squash and pumpkin soup I made with my pumpkin from the farmers market. It was lovely. It tasted so good that it was hard not to eat more than one bowl :)

I grilled the pumpkin and the squash and a few large carrots in the oven while sauteing my onions and garlic in a little butter. Then I added the pumpkin, squash, carrots,vegetable stock, thyme, salt, pepper, bay leaf, cinnamon, nutmeg, 1 1/2 pealed and cored apples and let it all cook down for 30 or 40 min. I didn't actually time it. When it was done I used my potato masher and mashed it all up. It was all so soft that it just mashed right up and didn't even need a stick blender.

To serve I put a little cream on top and sprinkled on a few pumpkin/squash seeds. I toasted the seeds in the oven seasoned with nutmeg, cinnamon and a little salt. Then I caramelized them in a pan like you would nuts. The cream went on splotchy because I was afraid of pouring too much in. To make it in a smooth spiral you have to pour in quite a bit.

Here are some directions that are more precise to make it a little easier:

1 butternut squash

1/4 chunk of a pumpkin

3 carrots

1 large onion

1 clove garlic

1 bay leaf

few sprinkles of dried thyme

salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

2 quarts of stock? (roughly I didn't measure it so you will need to watch how much you put in. You don't want it too runny and you can always add more if you need it so be careful. A good rule is to just cover the veggies with water and then add a cup or two more)

1-2 apples pealed, cored and chopped
knob of butter

Peal and chop your pumpkin, carrots, and squash, put on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Cook at about 400' F or 200' C (about) and roast until tender. You can also sprinkle these with salt if you want.

When those are about 10 min from done chop your onion and apples and add them to a hot pan with a knob of butter and a garlic clove. Add in your roasted vegetables, stock, bay leaf, dried thyme, and spices-let simmer until it cooks down-30-45min.

While that is cooking roast your squash and pumpkin seeds in the oven--put them on a baking tray, sprinkle with cinnamon, nutmeg and a little salt. When toasted put a small frying pan on the stove and melt some caster sugar. When it is liquid take it off the stove and add your seeds and toss together. Stay with the sugar when it is melting and stir-it will burn easily. If it burns-start over don't waste your seeds by putting them in the burned sugar. When they are hard break them apart and set aside.

When the soup is cooked down then mash it with a potato masher or blend. If it is too thick add cider, water, or stock to thin it out.

To serve drizzle with cream, sprinkle with fresh thyme and add a few seeds on top of the soup.

A New Vegetable

These are chokos-at least that is what they are called in New Zealand and Australia.
"The chayote (Sechium edule), also known as christophene, vegetable pear, mirliton, alligator pear (South Louisiana), choko(Australia, New Zealand), starprecianté, citrayota, citrayote (Ecuador and Colombia), chuchu (Brazil), chow chow (India) Sayote (Philippines) ,güisquil (Guatemala, El Salvador), or pear squash, iskus (इस्कुस) (Nepal)" -Wickipedia

They are native to Mesoamerica and to be honest I don't know why they have them here. Asian's use them in stir fry. They are a ground plant like a mellon or squash and I haven't eaten them before. I am going to try it though and let you know what I come up with. :)

You can read more about them here on Wikipedia-interesting.

New Town Farmers Market

These are my spoils from the farmer's market this week. I have been thinking of all the things I will make with all these fresh fruits, Vegetables, and eggs.

1/2 a squash, 2 bunches of scallions, 3 chokos, 2 heads of broccoli, 2 avocados, 4 limes, 7 tamarillos, 4 passion fruit, 5 nashi pears, 1 parsley, 3 coriander, 5 large kumara, 5 very large carrots, and 60 eggs-all for $57.20 NZD. That is $46.37 USD-amazing. The eggs were $6.50NZD for 30 eggs ($5.12 USD).It is infinitely cheaper to buy the things at the market than at the store. I forgot to add that I also bought a big bag of golden potatoes for $4 and they were WONDERFUL. I made the best hashbrowns I have ever tasted with the last 3 and they were amazing. All I did was cook them in a really hot pan with Salt and Pepper. Nothing fancy!

Here are the kumara. I will bake these for a simple, cheap, healthy dinner for the kids and I when G isn't home. A little butter and salt and they make a great meal-yum! You can also put cinnamon and/or nutmeg on them as well.

This pumpkin was made into a wonderful soup that will be posted next.

coriander: this has been good in everything :)

Parsley: This parsley is huge and it is so fragrant and tastes so good! I buy one of these every week. They usually cost me $1.50 for a bunch. They stalks are really tasty too in sauces and soups and veg. stock.

These scallions are the biggest I have ever seen-wonderful too. They usually cost $1 for one and I usually get one of these every week too. They are good in pretty much everything.

Likewise these are the biggest leeks I have ever seen as well and they made great potato and leek soup with the potatoes I bought as well. I used my homemade veg. stock for the soup and it had great flavor. I freeze and use the dark green parts of the leeks for the stock. My sister in law taught me the trick of gathering all your veg. leftovers and freezing them to make stock when you need it. Works great and tastes wonderful.
The tomatoes, avocados and tamarillos made wonderful tacos, nachos, salsa and guacamole.

The fruit is already almost gone though and it is only Wed. We will be out before the weeks end. You can't buy too much though because it will go bad before a week is out-except the apples. The produce is usually ripe when picked or a day or two out. You can't wait a week and then use it unless you like it over-ripe. So I usually pick up a little extra fruit at the grocery by TH.

The broccoli and potatoes were made into Jamie's mashy peas that goes with the crusted fish. So good. I didn't have frozen peas though so this time I just used potatoes and broccoli. The kids didn't want to eat the leftovers the next day so I waited one more day and disguised them in quesadilla's. I took a tortilla and spread the mashy broccoli mixture on and the sprinkled over a little grated cheddar and the cooked it like a quesadilla. My oldest said "mom why did you put this on here?". I said: to make it taste good (I lied). Then he tasted it and said "wow this is delicious". Whew! I thought-that was close. It could have turned out disgusting. I tried it and it actually was good-I was surprised :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cheats Chicken Korma

This is a cheat version of the real thing since chicken korma takes a long time to make.

Here is what you do: You buy the roti in the refrigerated section of the local grocery and heat in the oven without covering for crispy and cover if you like it soft.

This is brown rice which takes longer to cook so start your rice right away.

I used a korma paste packet for all the spices and after sauteing a few shallots and some garlic in olive oil I added the paste packet and cooked for a few more minutes. I cut up 3 chicken breasts and cooked the whole thing together until the chicken was almost done.

When it was almost done I added 150 ml cream and let it simmer until the rice was done. Right before serving I put in a bunch of coriander and served over rice. Delish!

When you add some fresh things like garlic and shallots or onions and coriander it doesn't have a packet taste. If you follow just the directions on the packet you will probably be disappointed. Food shouldn't taste like if came from a jar(even if it did)-it should be vibrant and fresh!

You can make lots of cheat meals this way. Just add new and fresh ingredients to your jars of sauce and bring it back to life :) That's the tip of the day!

Tasty Crusted Cod, Jamie's Mashy Peas, Tartare Sauce, Warm Garden Salad

"Tasty Crusted Cod, My Mashy Peas, Tartare Sauce, Warm Garden Salad" Serves 6-8 p. 140 This is the Crusted Cod from one angle: Jamie used twice as much fish as we did. He used 2 X 600g fillets, but that was A LOT of fish and since that was $50 worth of fish we halved that. So we used 600g total and it was 3 fillets. We had enough leftover for Garrett and I to have for lunch the next day. You rub the fish with olive oil Salt and Pepper and fennel seeds and let it cook for about 5 minutes. When I opened the oven to check on it I was blown away by how good it smelled. I would have eaten it just like that and been perfectly happy. More on the fish later-
Jamie's Mashy Peas--the name is a little deceptive. These bad boys have a whole head of broccoli in them as well. Four potatoes, a head of broccoli and 500g of peas is a healthy alternative to plain mashed potatoes that you are tempted to cover in milk, cream, sour cream and butter. These do have a knob of butter, mint sauce, and of course S&P. These were really good. The kids really liked them, but they weren't wild about having the leftovers for lunch the next day.

The salad is watercresss and rocket, pancetta, garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. It was really good and only slightly wilted which was good but by the time G got home with the boys it was totally wilted. I am not really a big fan of wilted salad and neither are my kids so I ate mine, but only made them eat a few bites. The flavor was wonderful but it turned out to be less of a salad and more of cooked greens. It is meant to be wilted-but for my family we will try to eat it right away next time instead of letting it sit.

OK More on the fish: So the stuff you see on top is a bread crumb mixture-crumbs with garlic and oil from the tin of anchovy's. Under the bread crumbs sits a thick layer of richness that was just amazing. It has anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, basil, red chili, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice, and should have had balsamic vinegar. I left that out accidentally and sprinkled it over the topping after it was spread on the fish. You put on a thick layer of the tomato mixture, sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top and then sprinkle with some fresh rosemarry and thyme. I had never cooked so much with fresh thyme before Jamie came into my life, but it was love at first taste. I use it a lot now for flavor. It is SO NICE!

On one of the master chef competitions I saw there were three sauces that the aspiring chefs had to taste and identify. They were three sauces that the head chefs said EVERY chef must master- one was a hollandaise sauce, one was a tartare sauce and the other was something I hadn't heard of that was a tomato something or other. I could identify the first two just from looking at them but one of the chefs didn't know (after looking AND tasting) what the tartare sauce was. I say-it's a sad day when you can't recognize the best fish sauce ever :)

Here is my bowl of Jamie's Tartare Sauce--It was SO GOOD! But then I love tartare sauce.

This sauce is made from Anchovy fillets in oil, lemon zest and juice, capers, parsley mayo, and cornichons A.K.A guerkins, gherkins, horned cucumbers, or crumplings. Cornichons is what the French call them. Here I think they are gherkins.

On top you drizzle a little olive oil and dust with a little sweet paprika

Here is our littlest tasters plate. She LOVED the fish and the tartare sauce. She enjoyed the mashy peas and she was sceptical of the way the watercress kept hitting her in the face when she would try to take a bite. I showed her how to bite off each leaf like a rabbit and then she did a good job with the salad as well.

Here is the finished meal. It was wonderful. It was so good that all I heard for the first 5 minutes were the moans of pleasure from my husband (Can I say that on a food blog?). Everyone else was totally absorbed in eating.

My only regret here was that I didn't serve up the fish on top of to potatoes to make it look more professional. There was very little time for plating the food because it was cooling by the time all my boys came in to eat. So we quickly plated and ate. But if you really want to food to look impressive the fish should be served over the mashy peas and drizzled with a little olive oil.
My rabbit:

So, This meal was definitely restaurant quality food, and I don't mean your $$. More like $$$ I would say. It received a 10 from almost everyone. One Boy who was too tired to eat to begin with,wouldn't give it a score. He couldn't stomach the salad after it was wilted and so would only say I hate this meal while he kept eating it the fish and the peas :)

It took me 45 minutes to make because there always seem to be some hang ups. For instance, I couldn't get the lid off the cornichons, little rabbit was under my feet the entire time emptying all my pots, pans, and large bowels out of drawers and cupboards. I kept tripping over them and her and she kept getting too close to the oven door with her forehead. I was worried she would end up with a red burn line right across the middle of her forehead. Silly rabbit.