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Emigrated from America to New Zealand and never looked back. Couldn't have asked for a better husband, family & life!

GINGERBREAD CHRISTMAS TREE COOKIES



GINGERBREAD TREES



It's been a while since I last added any content to my little bubble of cyberspace here, but I have not forgotten my poor little collection of goodies here. Although the photos might leave something to be desired these days, I am still creating in the kitchen every chance I get.

This latest creation came as a fun little experiment. A mate of mine sells Avon, and in the Christmas catalogue, there were kitchen goodies. Normally, I don't buy much Avon...I have been using the same cosmetics and skin care line since I was...well, it's been 22 years and I still don't have wrinkles yet! Anyway, in this catalogue there were star shaped cookie cutters...okay, nothing so grand about that...but wait, there's more. The sizes ranged from very small to almost dinner plate sized and the photo in the book was quite impressive. You basically make 2 sets of each size gingerbread cookie and stack them into a tree shape. The icing helps to hold the stack together, and I bought little shiny sugar ball decorations to emulate Christmas bobbles.



If you really want to try this though, bake the cookies the day before, and ice them the next day. Allow them to begin to set before stacking and you should get good results.

So...here is a basic gingerbread recipe with a solid drying icing to decorate with.



INGREDIENTS:

425 Gm Plain Flour
2 ½ Tsp Baking Powder
2 Tbsp Ground Ginger
1 ½ Tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ Tsp Ground Nutmeg
¼ Tsp Salt
125 Gm Unsalted Butter
155 Gm Light Brown Sugar
1 ½ Tsp Vanilla Essence/Extract
1 Large Egg
125 Gm Dark Molasses


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 180° C / 350° F.

In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt and set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy.

Add vanilla and eggs and mix well until smooth.

Blend in the molasses and mix well.

Slowly add the flour and spice mixture about ½ to 1 cup at a time until fully incorporated.

Press the dough into a mound and wrap in plastic wrap to store it in the fridge for 2 hours.

Remove from the fridge and roll out flat (about 3-4 mm thick) and cut shapes to bake about 8-10 minutes.

Cool cookies on a rack and ice when cool.

SIMPLE ICING FOR GINGERBREAD:
Beat 3 Egg Whites with 1 Tsp of Cream of Tartar and 500 Gms (1 Lb) of Icing Sugar / Confectioners Sugar until very stiff. OPTIONAL - Powdered food colouring is best, but liquid can also work.


PISTACHIO COOKIES

Well, here's my second attempt at a mobile blog entry (myapologies for the lack of decent photography). ;o) I am planning another trip out to J&L's farm this weekend, so I wanted to bake some treats to bring along as I hate arriving anywhere empty-handed. I was just itching for an excuse to open up a new packet of pistachios so I looked all over for a decent looking recipe to try.

When I came upon this recipe, I just knew this was the one, as I had 2 boxes of my favourite American custard powder (Jello brand instant pudding - pistachio flavour) so I just had to try it out... I have never made cookies with any sort of custard powder before, but it sounded like it might be okay.

I do have to say though, that these are sort of a light & fluffy type cookie, not the typical crunchy, crumbly biscuit that so many Kiwis seem to prefer. Now, if you are keen to give this one a go, but cannot imagine where you'd begin to look for Jello pudding, you can talk to your local importers (like Davis Trading Company, for example), or purchase it through www.expatexpress.com. Either way, you should have access to the right stuff.

So...here we go!

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 Cup Butter (200 Gm)
1 Box Instant Pistachio Pudding Mix
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Pistachio Kernels

DIRECTIONS:
First, Preheat oven total 180 C/350 F.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter with the pudding mix.

Next, add in the egg and combine well.

Now, sift the flour & soda in and mix well.

Finally, add the chocolate chips and nuts and mix until well incorporated into the dough.

Roll into balls and flatten out onto a lined baking pan and bake at 180 C/350 F for about 10 minutes. Make sure to remove cookies before they begin to brown.

This will make about 2 dozen small Cookies...Mmm Enjoy!

TAMARILLO TART

Sorry I have been away for too long. Unlike some folks, I can't bring myself to blog at work whilst getting paid to do my job, so I just run out of time altogether. Here I thought I might try mobile blogging since it seems like I might be more apt to keep up this way. We shall see! :o)

In any case, tamarillos are a sort of tree tomato grown here in NZ and many other similar climates. They are similar in taste to a tomato...with a deep rich red colour and highly concentrated somewhat tart tomato flavour, which has most Kiwis using them more like a sour fruit and adding sugar, which is what I tried here.

This is a very simple recipe using only blanched, peeled, and sliced tamarillos and sugar on a round of puff pastry.

INGREDIENTS:

7 Lg Tamarillos, peeled & sliced
2 x 20 cm Rounds of Puff Pastry
1/2 Cup Sugar (more or less)

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

You simply boil a pot of water, add the fruit and allow them to cook just long enough to loosen the skins for peeling.

Lay the rounds of pastry onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Cover each pastry round with a single layer of tamarillo slices, then sprinkle generously with sugar and bake 15-20 minutes.

I must admit that I wasn't sure about this one, but it was not bad... I will even have another piece! Not sure I'd make it for guests though...unless they were particularly keen.

That's all for now. Happy cooking!

FEIJOA CAKES




Hello again - long time no write! Well, I have been super busy, and I do have a few goodies to post, so I am back at the keyboard again.

Okay, first off, my North American family & friends are going to be looking at this sideways asking, "what in tarnation is a feijoa?"...my Kiwi mates will be asking, "what is tarnation?" Hehe - anyway, here is the low down on the feijoa. They are everywhere right now and yet the groceries want nearly ten bucks a kilo for them right now - luckily, we knew someone with a fertile tree willing to share their spoils (no, not their spoiled!). The feijoa is also known at a Pineapple Guava or a Guavasteen (soft inside like mangosteens) and originated in South America (Brazil, Columbia, Argentina, etc.). The fruit pulp is a little gritty (a bit like guavas or like some pears can be) and they are sweet and tangy with an almost floral aroma of ester (methyl benzoate). Very tropical tasting in my humble opinion. The skin isn't really edible...or if you do eat it I suspect it wouldn't be very pleasant. Normally, people here cut them in half and eat the flesh inside with a spoon. However, the feijoa is also popularly sold and consumed in smoothies, baked goods and in chutneys (chutneys are like heavily spiced sort of chunky fruit and onion salsas or jams).

That's about it for the educational portion of this post. Now on to the really cool stuff - baking feijoa cakes. If you are able to buy guavas in your local markets, then there is a distinct possibility that you could also find feijoas there too. They are cultivated in California and Louisiana among other areas of North America and, of course, they are everywhere right now in Australia and New Zealand.

Now...into the kitchen, yes?...

INGREDIENTS:

½ Cup Milk
2 Eggs
1 ¼ Cups White Sugar
1 ½ Cups Feijoas, peeled & mashed
1 Tsp Vanilla Essence/Extract
75 Gms (~5 Tbsp) Butter, softened
2 Cups Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
½ Tsp Salt
½ Tsp Cinnamon


DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, combine the Milk, Eggs, Sugar, Feijoas, Vanilla and butter, then blend together with an immersion/stick blender (alternatively, use a food processor) until you have a smooth mixture.

Set aside the fruit mixture, and in a second bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Now fold the dry ingredients into the fruit mixture about a cup at a time until all of it is well incorporated. You will have a thick and smooth batter.

Scoop/pour the batter into a lined muffin tin or a greased/paper-lined 20cm cake tin. For muffins/cupcakes bake at 180°C for about 17 minutes or for a full-sized cake about 40 minutes.

These cakes need no toppings, as the feijoa essence is very delicate, but a light and creamy, slightly flavoured vanilla and lemon icing is nice. It’s also good with plain unflavoured yogurt or a cream cheese frosting. I made a basic butter cream frosting with a few drops of vanilla essence and a few drops of lemon essence and it was yummy, but the feijoa can get lost with too much...you can still taste feijoa, but it’s no longer the “star of the show”.



Choose your own preference and enjoy!





COMING SOON...

My apologies for the lack of new posts of late, as I have been very busy (yes, even in the kitchen). I promise you I do have some yummy new treats to share and here are a few of them (photos coming soon):

Homemade Tomato, Basil & Bacon Soup
Basil Tuna Potato Bake
Feijoa Cakes
Crock-pot Pork Chops

and, much more...

Stay tuned!

TAPIOCA PUDDING
Dad’s Double Batch


Well, it’s Queen’s Birthday weekend and it appears the only folks working today are in retail. That’s right...one more Kiwi holiday to add to the (seemingly never-ending) list. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have one more day with my family at home, and a short week at that, so I am not really complaining.

This recipe is a family favourite as far back as I can remember. My Dad always made double batches because it never lasted more than 24 hours (if even that long). Mom sometimes made peach cobbler to eat with it and we almost never waited until it was properly chilled before devouring it. I must admit though, I did have to ask Mom & Dad to send me some of the Minute Tapioca (made by Kraft), as the tapioca “down under” appears to be very large pearls akin to Sago (assuming there is truly a difference between sago and tapioca). The pearls here resemble the “bubbles” in Thai desserts and “bubble teas”.

In any case, this is a luxurious treat that certainly reminds me of home. I hope you enjoy it as well.

INGREDIENTS:

3 Eggs, separated
12 Tbsp Sugar (or half sugar, half Equal/Splenda)
6 Rounded Tbsp Minute Tapioca (small pearls)
4 Cups Milk
2 Tsp Vanilla


DIRECTIONS:

First, mix the t
apioca, ½ of the sugar, milk, and egg yolks in a saucepan (do not use aluminum unless it is non-stick, make sure it is large enough as the mixture will increase in volume at the boil).

Next allow this mixture stand for 5-6 minutes and, whist waiting, beat the egg whites until stiff – slowly adding the remaining sugar.

Now place the tapioca mix over medium heat and stir constantly (trying to prevent sticking). Don't allow it to burn, but if it should burn a little be sure not to scrape it when you pour it out.

As it comes to a full boil it should start to thicken and rise. This thickening should take less than a minute after it boils.

Remove it from the heat and and pour just a little into the egg whites and stir in to temper them. Not too much or they will cook.

Whilst stirring, slowly fold the remaining mixture into the egg whites then, when fully incorporated, add the vanilla.

At this stage you can serve, cover and chill in individual servings if you have nice dishes to serve it in, otherwise, try to chill it in a large wide bowl for quicker temperature change.

I love this with peaches or strawberries, but just about any fruit with tapioca is a real treat!

Enjoy!




HEARTY BEAN & BACON SOUP


With winter in the air down here in Kiwiland, and colds, flu and potential sports injuries lurking around the corners, we are trying to keep our strength and immunity up with warm and hearty nutritious meals that aren’t too difficult to prepare.

This is my slow-cooker crock pot version, but if requested I can also provide the stovetop method for you. (Just let me know, no worries!)

Yesterday I was an ugly day outside, but I had a wonderful birthday. We began the day with our daughter’s hockey game, followed by a movie with a friend (we saw The Reader and I think we both really enjoyed it!), and the grand finale was my wonderful husband preparing dinner for us. I even received text messages from my closest mates, flowers from my friend & neighbour and even a lovely inspirational gift & message from another friend.

I should have photographed my hubby’s gorgeous meal of roasted leg of pork with roasted pumpkin, potatoes, and carrots. He even made broccoli to balance out the colour palate a little. I was only allowed minimal access to the kitchen and the smell was driving me crazy...in a really good way, of course! I was allowed to make a simple white wine gravy to go with his lovely meal, but it certainly could have stood on its own without my sauce.

Anyway, another week begins and I am very happy and grateful for the amazing people in my life. I am happy to be healthy (other than the annoying remnants of a cough/cold) and beginning another year here in paradise.



INGREDIENTS:

3 Cups Haricot Beans (White Navy Beans)
1 Cup Milk
30 Gm Butter
8 Rashers Bacon, finely diced
1 Onion, finely diced
3 Stalks Celery, finely diced
2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
4 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup Corn Kernels
1 Small Handful Parsley, chopped
*Salt & Pepper

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.

DIRECTIONS:

Soak beans overnight in cold water.

Drain well and pick out any small stones and/or organic material that may have made their way into the packaging.

Now, place the beans with the chicken stock in a slow cooker/crock pot set on high.

Melt the butter in a pan and quickly sauté the celery & onion with a little salt and cook until they start to soften – do not brown these veggies. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Add the softened celery, onion and garlic to the pot and quickly brown the bacon and add that to the pot as well.

Leave to cook on high for about 6-8 hours (I cooked mine from 10am until 6pm and it was perfect). If you work all day and want to set it up to begin cooking at 7 or 8 am then eat around 6pm...you can cook it on the low heat setting instead.

About 30 minutes before dinner time, scoop out about 2-3 cups of beans (drain as much of the liquid from that as possible), and add the milk before pureeing with an immersion/stick blender and returning that puree to the pot.

Now add the corn and stir to combine, allow this to cook another 20-30 minutes before cutting off the heat and stirring in the parsley.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and/or pepper if needed...I found I didn’t need any additional seasoning at all.



FRENCH ONION SOUP
Serves 4



This delicious recipe is one I adapted from one of my Dad’s family favourite dishes. He always made it with Gouda cheese and so this is how I like to make mine. Traditionally, I think Gruyere is the cheese used in most French Onion Soups, but I imagine a mix of these two might even be a nice option. Gruyere is a milder Swiss-style cheese on the slightly sweet & nutty side, whereas Gouda is a tangier and slightly drier/firmer cousin. Either way, choose what you prefer. I found some lovely Gouda this weekend at the Wellington Food Show, so we sampled it on our soup tonight! Mmmmm.... Wish my folks were here already to share in this one with us!

Despite the fact that this is “just a bowl of soup”...and a clear broth-like soup at that, it is actually quite filling. I was prepared to make some venison sausages or a veggie gratin type casserole to “help fill in the gaps” but, as fate would have it, this was our hockey practice and gymnastics day and I ran out of time. It was a good thing too – we were all quite well satisfied after polishing off this lovely rich meal.

Here we go...



INGREDIENTS:

5 Tbsp Butter
4-5 Med Onions (sweet onions, if you can get them), thinly sliced
½ Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Sugar
2 Cups Water
2 Cups Beef Jus, Stock, or Consommé
½ Tsp Thyme
2 Bay Leaves
2 Tbsp of Sherry Wine
2 Tbsp Cider Vinegar
1 Small Handful Parsley, finely chopped
*Sourdough or French Bread, 2 cm thick slices
*Gouda and/or Gruyere Cheese, thinly sliced or grated

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.


DIRECTIONS:

In a large stock pot, heat butter and sauté onions with salt and sugar over medium heat until they caramelize and begin to go golden brown.

Next, add water, jus/stock/consommé, thyme, bay leaves, sherry and vinegar before bringing this to a boil.

Reduce the heat and allow this to simmer over low-med heat for about 30 minutes (toss in the parsley after you turn the heat off and give it a good stir).

Whilst the pot is still simmering, toast a few slices of bread for the soup topping. One modification I have made, is that I cut the toast into bite-sized pieces to make it easier fit across the entire top of the dish and to make it easier to eat with molten hot cheese on top.

Now, spoon soup evenly into ovenproof bowls, adding the toasted bread on top (pushing it slightly into the soup).

Next, add cheese slices/sprinkle cheese over the toast to cover the tops of the soup bowls, then place them onto a baking tray.

Now you need to place the tray of filled soup bowls under the grill/broiler (med-high heat) to melt & brown the cheese for about 5 minutes or so or, until the cheese on top is bubbly and golden brown.

Serve immediately, with caution, as the soup bowls will be very hot.


Bon appetite!


CREAMY CHICKEN WITH CORNMEAL DUMPLINGS


Here’s a twist on the same old chicken & dumplings that will still be fairly easy – especially for anyone who works all day and needs to have a nice meal ready at the end of a hard day of work and perhaps shuttling kids to hockey, soccer, ballet, or gymnastics. Whew, I know I will try all sort of things in the crock pot slow cooker myself. It’s such a wonderful invention and irreplaceable kitchen tool.

As you may have read already, my normal chicken & dumpling recipe is a family favourite with flat noodle-like dumplings rather than lumpy dough balls. I am not a huge fan of gummy, gooey dumplings, so this recipe offers yet another option if you, like me, prefer a “pseudo noodle”.



CHICKEN STEW ~ INGREDIENTS:

2 Large Potatoes, cubed
2 Large carrots, sliced or chopped
1 Large Onion, chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
1 Tsp Thyme, dried is fine
1 KG (about 2 Lbs) Chicken Breasts and/or Thighs
3 Bay Leaves
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup (I prefer Campbell’s brand)
1½ Cups Chicken Stock
*1 Tbsp Corn Starch/Flour
*¼ Cup Cold Water
*Salt & Pepper to taste

*Amounts vary to individual preferences; these will be added at the end of the cooking process.

DUMPLING ~ INGREDIENTS

¾ Cup Flour
½ Cup Cornmeal
2 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Butter, melted
1 Egg
¼ Cup Milk

DIRECTIONS:

First, spray your crock pot with cooking spray and preheat on high for about 15 minutes.

Next, put all of the chopped veggies into the pot.

Rub the chicken pieces with the garlic and thyme and put them on top of the veggies followed by the bay leaves, soup, and chicken stock. Make sure to move the ingredients around in the pot to ensure some liquid gets to the bottom.

Adjust the heat to low and proceed to cook for 7-8 hours.
Now, about 1 hour before dinnertime, switch the heat to high and mix the water & corn flour together well before adding it to the pot and stirring to combine.

Season to taste with salt & pepper

About 30 minutes later, mix the dry ingredients for the dumplings together in a medium bowl.

In a smaller vessel, mix the wet ingredients together and then add them to the flour mixture and stir just enough to mix.

Drop small flattened spoonfuls of the dough into the pot one at a time, being careful not to allow them to stick together. (Makes about 30 or so small blobs, more or less) You may decide not to use all of the dough, and that's okay. Do NOT stir!

Cover the pot again and leave on high setting for about 25-30 minutes to cook.

This dish can be served up in a number of ways. Since you already have dumplings, rice or noodles might be a little starch overkill, but some nice steamed veggies or fresh salad might be a nicely balanced choice.

Bon appetite!

HAPPY MUM’s DAY!


I just wanted to wish all of you mums (and moms) out there, a very happy Mother’s Day.

My own morning began with a personalized song for Mother’s Day, written by my beautiful little loving 8-year old angel. She proudly sang me her song in a tune that varied from a cheerful melody to a very sincere ballad from her lovely little heart. I know she usually sings slightly off key when emulating her radio favourites, but this little original was the most beautiful gift she could have given me. How lucky am I?... Wow.

After her lovely song, my daughter brought me her handmade cards and drawings (she is becoming quite a talented artist and writer, by the way), and a little book on the beauty of motherhood. I just hope this lovely little person will still love me this much when she is a teen wanting to date too young, wanting to wear too much make-up, and dress more “grown up” than mummy & daddy will allow. I hope we can always say, “I love you” no matter what we disagree on, and I wish so very much happiness for her. I want her to become the best grown woman she can be and for her to know the pure joy of having a daughter like herself.

Well, what else did I do on Mum’s Day? I went to High Tea with a few other Mum and daughter friends (part of my extended NZ family) at the
James Cook Hotel Grand Chancellor, after making brownies for my hubby and daughter to enjoy at home whilst I was gone – of course! It was a really relaxing and enjoyable afternoon with some people I really enjoy being with.

Live your life to the fullest...don’t let your worries take over your life...and stay strong in the face of adversity. Share your wisdom with others who need it, and hold your tongue when they don’t. :o)


Have a wonderful week!

AMERICAN BROWNIES



One thing I have noticed here in New Zealand is that there is a huge cafe culture. Unfortunately though, in my opinion, there are too many cafes and not enough fresh and tasty menu items. Many of the almost innumerable number of cakes, slices, tarts, and biscuits are quite dry, floury, and under flavoured. The names sound great; poppy seed lemon cake, raspberry tartlets, and even brownies. How can you get brownies wrong??? Well, most of them do! As a matter of fact, I have yet to taste a decent brownie down under that didn’t come from my kitchen (or my neighbour's). How’s that for modesty, eh? Hehe...

Brownies are one of those really quick & easy treats, but yet somehow they either skimp on ingredients or try to “make it their own” and manage to truly kill the essence of what a brownie is supposed to be. Brownies should be almost crunchy on the outside, but very moist and nearly chewy inside. They can be made with or without nuts, chocolate chips, or marshmallows, but the key is that they CANNOT be dry and crumbly – dry and crumbly NOT a brownie make, folks! There are even caramel or peanut butter swirl brownies that are incredible and so easy to make really.

So, in the interest of offering a truly lovely chocolate treat that can be modified in any number of ways dependent on one’s tastes...I give you here, the authentic/unadulterated American Brownie!



INGREDIENTS:

*1 Tbsp Flour
*1 Tbsp Coca Powder
¼ Cup Butter
6 Tbsp Cocoa (unsweetened baking cocoa powder)
1 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tsp Vanilla
1/3 Cup Flour
¼ Tsp Salt
**Roughly 1 Cup of nuts or other additives, optional
*Mix together to dust the baking dish
**Amounts vary to individual tastes.


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to about 160°C (325°F).

Spray cooking oil on a small shallow baking dish (approx 6 x 10 inch or so – small casserole dish) and dust the bottom and sides with a combination of a Tbsp each of flour and cocoa powder (mixed).

Melt the butter and combine it well with the remaining cocoa powder in a medium bowl.

Now, add the sugar, eggs, vanilla, remaining flour and the salt and combine together well. The batter will be quite thick – this is perfect!

This is the stage where you add in the nuts, chocolate chips, or whatever you want in your brownies. Traditionally Americans usually go for walnuts, peanuts, or more chocolate! Personally, I like mine plain or maybe with pistachios or peanuts.

Next, pour the batter into the baking dish (as evenly as possible – but don’t try to smooth it as the batter will spread and even out on it's own). The brownies should not be too deep as the middle will "puff up" and it will take longer to cook...about 1.5-2 cm is about how deep the batter should end up - we aren't making chocolate cake here.


Cook for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick/skewer comes out clean.

We like to serve them slightly warm with vanilla ice cream on top...or just eat them as they are.

Enjoy!



TJ's LASAGNE EXTRAORDINAIRE



An old friend from years gone by recently reminded me of an old favourite I used to be “known for”. She wanted to know how to make my lasagne as she remembered that I did not boil the noodles first, nor do I use ricotta cheese in my lasagne, which seems to be a common way of preparing it. I always preferred to eat my own lasagne due to the fact that is stayed together well and it was rich & cheesy with a certain zing.

Now, sometimes I would add spinach to the sauce or add layers of micro planed slices of courgettes (zucchinis), grated carrot, or fresh basil leaves, etc., but this basic recipe is pretty much a no-fail for any lasagne lover out there.

Obviously, with this much cheese and meat in one recipe, this is going to serve several people or provide a few leftovers for lunches or, at the very least, another dinner (Mine ended up being about 12 servings). This is perfect for refrigerating; portioning into foil parcels, and freezing for lunches later on too, so keep that in mind when reaching for your wallet to purchase all of the ingredients.


Here we go...

INGREDIENTS:

2 Large Brown Onions, finely diced
2 Large Red Capsicums (Bell Peppers), finely diced
400 Gm Ground Beef
400 Gm Ground Pork
3-4 Cloves Crushed Garlic
2 Tsp Dried Oregano
2 Tbsp Fresh Basil, finely chopped
*Salt & Pepper
1-2 Tbsp Tomato Paste (I use double concentrate)
1 Can Chopped Tomatoes with Basil
1 Can Italian Crushed Tomatoes
1 Cup V8 Vegetable Juice (**Spicy, if available)
**If Spicy V8 is not available, add a few dashes of Tabasco Sauce or ¼ Tsp Cayenne Powder
1 Box Dry Lasagne Noodles
1 Tub Spreadable Cream Cheese
2 Cups Tasty or Cheddar Cheese, grated
2 Cups Edam or Jack Cheese, grated
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated or sliced very thin

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.


DIRECTIONS:

Firstly, you need to make your sauce.

Start by browning the onion and pepper together in a large pan or stock pot.

Once the onions begin to go translucent, add in the beef and pork (you can use one or the other if you don’t want to combine them – or, substitute with, chicken, turkey, or other protein of your choice).

Now, add in the garlic, oregano, basil salt & pepper and brown the meat so that it is completely cooked through.

Once the meat is cooked, add in the tomato paste, tinned tomatoes and juice. If you cannot find Spicy V8 Juice, then also add in the Tabasco or cayenne pepper now. This is not going to make it very spicy, it only adds a little bite to the sauce...kicks it up a notch without burning your mouth!

Now, you want your sauce to be a little on the thin side because you are not pre-cooking the noodles. The pasta will soak up the extra liquid and make the lasagne more firm and easier to cut and serve.

Preheat your oven to about 200-220°C (400-425°F) and get out a large lasagne pan.

Spread cream cheese on several noodles, to prepare them for layering, and mix the grated tasty & edam (cheddar and Jack) cheeses together.

Begin with a thin layer of sauce to cover the bottom of the dish, then add a layer some of the cheesed noodles to cover the sauce.

Next is another layer of sauce then a layer of the mixed grated cheese.

Continue layering until you end up with the last of the sauce and cheese on top...I ended up with 3 layers of noodles in mine.

Add the parmesan cheese at the end to top it off.

At this stage your dish may be close to overflowing, so I suggest putting it onto a baking sheet before placing it into the oven, just in case it bubbles over.

Finally, bake the lasagne in the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the top is nicely browned and the lasagne is bubbling on the sides.

Allow this to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving and savour every bite!




GRILLED LAMB KOFTA KEBABS WITH PISTACHIOS
AND SPICY SALAD WRAP
(Serves 4)



I decided to try a new recipe last night for my brother & sister-in-law. We had invited them out for dinner and games for a bit of weekend family fun and we certainly had a blast. This was a recipe I borrowed from one Jamie Oliver as I had just seen him do this one on the Food Channel recently. I could almost smell it through the television, it looked THAT good! Now, I am not normally a huge lamb fan, but I am learning some fascinating new ways to prepare the different cuts and I have to say that it is growing on me…in a good way.

Living in New Zealand, one must learn how to cook lamb as it does represent a significant proportion of our national exports. Everyone raves about how great New Zealand Lamb is from Mr. Alton Brown or Jamie Oliver, to the average Kiwi cook down under. I even think a few Aussies will admit that our lamb is of exceptional quality…then again, they may try to claim they originally brought the sheep here in the beginning. Hehe.

Seriously though, this recipe is one that I just couldn’t resist trying and it will, in fact, make it into my book of favourites. I believe this combination would also work well with pork or beef too, so don't write it off just because you can't get lamb mince or you might not be fond of the way lamb tastes. Trust me - this one doesn't have a pungent "lamb/lanolin" odour. Here we go…



INGREDIENTS:

500 Gms trimmed shoulder or neck fillet of ground lamb mince
2 Tbsp Thyme
1 Tbsp Chilli Powder
1 Tbsp Ground Cumin
4 Tbsp Sumac, or finely grated zest of 1 lemon
*Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper
1 Handful Pistachios, shelled & roughly chopped
4-5 Cups Mixed Salad Leaves, washed, spun dry and shredded
1 Large Carrot, grated
1 Small Bunch Fresh Mint Leaves
1 Red Onion, peeled and very finely sliced
1 Lemon
1 Bunch Parsley
*Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Large Flatbreads or Tortilla Wraps
4 Tbsp Natural Yoghurt or Tzatziki

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven grill/broiler or BBQ. If you are cooking indoors, use the highest heat available.

Combine the minced lamb with most of the thyme, chilli, cumin and sumac (reserving a little of each for sprinkling over later), a little salt and pepper and all the pistachios.

Divide the meat into four equal pieces and get yourself four skewers and shape the meat around and along each skewer, leaving little indents in the meat with your fingers as you go – this will give it a better texture when cooked (according to Mr. Jaime Oliver).

Now, in one bowl, mix the salad leaves, grated carrot, mint and parsley.

In another bowl, combine the sliced onion with a pinch of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice (the acidity will take the edge off and lightly pickle the raw onion – another Jaime Oliver tip).

Now, grill the kebabs until nicely golden on all sides. This is about 20-25 minutes total…turning once or twice during the cooking process.

Next, dress your salad with a splash of extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, warm your flatbreads for about 30 seconds each side on a skillet or griddle pan, then divide between plates and top each with some dressed salad leaves and onion.

When your kebabs are cooked, slip them off their skewers on to the flatbreads – you can leave them whole or break them up on top of the salad in your wraps.


We topped ours with a bit of natural yogurt tzatziki sauce (cucumber, mint & garlic with yogurt) before sprinkling with the rest of the sumac, cumin, chilli and fresh thyme, and a little salt and pepper.

I think Mr. Oliver also drizzled his with a bit of EVOO at the end, but we didn’t and it was still a gorgeous treat!!! I think I may be becoming a lamb convert. After eating chicken and beef as our primary sources of protein most of my life, I am discovering some brilliant new options that stray a bit from my traditional comfort zone. Yea!

FETA CHEESE SOUFFLÉ


A few days ago I decided to try something totally new for me – soufflés. I had never tried them before, but I can certainly see how one could get carried away experimenting with them. They are a bit rich, but very light and just the right tangy cheese flavour to satisfy... I have to say too, that these were much easier to make than I had originally anticipated. They took about 35 minutes, more or less, from start to finish.

I recently saw an episode of Iron Chef America where the secret ingredient was ham...the challenger made a twice baked ham soufflé and it looked REALLY good. My soufflés aren’t quite that sophisticated or fancy, and they are only once-baked, but they were quite tasty. I didn’t need my "Plan B" after all! Hehe.

My own humble opinion of this particular recipe is that the pepper and the cheese in the soufflé were really complimented well by the creamed spinach sauce that I made for a side. This was inspired by a tiny cookbook “The Fast Egg” that I recently acquired from a local book shop. I thought it might have some interesting new ideas and I was in need of a bit of inspiration lately.

Anyway, now that I have the gist of it, I think I can come up with a few new flavour combinations to impress lunch or dinner guests in the future. So long as the experimental creations turn out as nicely as these did, I will be more than happy. So...watch this space for future soufflé ideas.


INGREDIENTS:

Cooking Oil Spray
¼ Cup Bread Crumbs
30 Gm (2 Tbsp) Butter
2 Tbsp Flour
1 Cup Milk
4 Eggs, separated
¼ Tsp Cayenne Pepper
150 Firm Feta Cheese, crumbled


DIRECTIONS:

First, preheat the oven to 200° C/400° F.

Next, spray your soufflé dishes (6 one-cup capacity dishes or 3 two-cup capacity dishes or mugs), with cooking spray and coat in bread crumbs then place them onto a cooking tray.

Make a roux by melting your butter in a small saucepan and adding the flour to cook for a minute or so.

Once the roux paste is ready, add the milk and bring to a gentle boil just briefly and remove it from the heat once it has thickened.

Pour this hot mixture into a large bowl and quickly stir in the egg yolks (barely beaten), the pepper, and the cheese – allowing it to cool for approximately 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. (You can add a tiny amount of cream of tartar or white vinegar to stabilize the whites if you wish).

Next, you gently fold the whites into the yolks mixture in two batches.

Now, divide the mixture amongst your prepared soufflé dishes and bake about 15 minutes or until they are puffed and lightly browned on the tops.

I served mine with a creamed spinach sauce that was a fantastic compliment to the slightly spicy and cheesy soufflés.

Here’s how:



INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Baby Spinach Leaves, wilted (steamed, boiled, micro waved, etc.)
(Alternatively, thaw out a half cup or so of frozen spinach)
⅔ Cup Cream or Evaporated Milk
*Salt

*Amounts vary to individual tastes


DIRECTIONS:

To make a quick creamed spinach sauce, just steam a good bunch of fresh leaves or thaw out a portion of frozen spinach so that you have about a half to a cup of wilted leaves, give or take.

Blend or otherwise puree the leaves whilst slowly adding the cream/milk and return this mixture to heat in a small saucepan. Add a bit of water or regular milk if the consistency is too thick for your liking.

Heat until warmed through and salt to taste.

Bon appetite!

REESES PIECES COOKIES


One flavour from home that I sometimes miss down here in Kiwiland is the Reeses brand peanut butter flavoured treats. I have found though, that both the Reeses Pieces and the Peanut Butter Cups (chocolate covered peanut butter) are both available at Kmart and sometimes at Woolworths. Yes, I do check out the local Kmart once in a while...it is one of the few places I can find certain American items that I like.

The Kiwis and Aussies are always commenting on the American love affair with peanut butter and even my loving husband cannot bring himself to eat it with jam (jelly to my American mates). When they see TV programs talking about the "peanut butter and jelly sandwich" they literally cringe...I can actually understand that one now, because "jelly" here is "Jell-O" to us 'Yankee Doodles'. Yes, I am referring to the gelatanous quivery, wiggly, jiggly, semi-solid food stuff that I never could stand the texture of in my mouth. Luckily, our daughter doesn't care much for it either, so I am pardoned from having to make any of the horrible concoction myself!

This cookie/biscuit recipe is loosely based on the Mrs. Fields chocolate chip recipe (from the good ‘ole homeland) with a few little adjustments to suit the Kiwi kitchen. I assisted my daughter in making this batch, so I will give her the credit for this post. ;o)

Here we go...


INGREDIENTS:

2½ Cups Flour
½ Tsp Baking Soda
¼ Tsp Salt
1 Cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
½ Cup Molasses
1 Cup Butter, softened
2 Eggs
2 Tsp Vanilla Essence/Extract
2 Cups Reeses Pieces Candy


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 150° F/300° C.

First, combine the flour, soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Next, cream the sugars, molasses and butter together in a large bowl. Blend these together until it forms a thick and grainy paste.

Now, add the eggs and vanilla to the creamed sugar mixture. Blend well with an electric mixer until it starts to get fluffy.

Slowly add about a half cup to a cup at a time of the flour mixture into the wet mixture and thoroughly combine before adding the Reeses Pieces. Be careful not to overmix.

Once the cookie dough is ready, drop rounded spoonfuls onto a silicone baking mat or non-stick baking tray about 2 inches apart from each other and bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Once cooked, transfer them immediately to a cooling rack or other cool surface for a few minutes before tucking in.

Enjoy!

NU°KIWI°KITCHEN
UPDATE



Firstly, I must apologize for being a bit lax with my posting lately. School has been out since just before Easter and hubby took a week off to have some fun with us. Unfortunately, he spent much of that week fighting off a chest cold and I have played nursemaid, among other things.

Friday night we did go to the rugby game (thank goodness the Hurricaines had the decency to beat the Stormers for us)...you see, our Canes haven’t been performing so well lately and I though it just might make hubby feel worse and set him back a few days...luckily, that wasn’t the case!

Yesterday our friends next door invited us on a little runabout on their new boat and, of course, hubby felt good enough to go out again (probably still on a high from the previous night’s game). So, out we went with our fishing gear in hand. You see, we bought a fishing rod & reel for our daughter last year and kept waiting for a good time to take her out, but we always seemed to find other things to do. Well, it turned out to be a lovely day and we did indeed get to fish a little around Mana Island. Our little girl was also lucky enough to be the first to catch a fish! She was SOOO excited and it was great to see her so thrilled with herself. Unfortunately, it was a smallish perch and it had to go back. Shortly after that, Daddy caught his first fish too! Probably the same one... Hehe

However, I have managed to dig out a few new recipes for this blog, but it will just take a bit of time to get them up with photos for you. I haven't recently made anything new and exciting but I did help my daughter make cookies with some Reeses Pieces we found by accident in a local shop (not a regular offering here), and I found some lovely locally grown red/purple cauliflower (photo above) which was delightful. I am also going to soon attempt a goat’s cheese soufflé with creamed spinach...so...watch this space. I always do better when school is in session.

More coming soon!!!

Cheers.

PIEROGIES
(MADE WITH POTATO, ONION, CHEESE AND PORK)



So, some of you might be thinking, “What the heck is a pierogi?”, well, I guess I like to describe it as a Polish dumpling something akin to raviolis...large raviolis.

When I was in high school, my friend’s dad used to make these and, later on I would buy frozen ones (not this good though) when they were available through
Schwanns if they came through my neighbourhood in California or Oregon. I could also sometimes find them in grocery store frozen sections, but they would usually be disappointingly lacking in flavour.

Traditionally, I believe the most popular type of pierogi is simply mashed potato, cheese and sautéed onion. I like mine a little more substantial, so I usually add minced beef or pork and mushrooms (if I can get away with it, as my daughter has not yet learnt to appreciate them). These dumplings are usually served with a side of sour cream and a serving of some sort of veggie. Pierogies are great as a snack or as a meal and you can make them pretty much any size you like. These little beauties can also be refrigerated (uncooked) for several days or, frozen for up to several months.

If you make the dough ahead of time, the rest sort of falls into pace and really takes about the same amount of time as any other dinner might. The pierogies can be eaten as they are after boiling them or, fry or bake them afterward to give them a lovely crispy crunch. Whichever preparation you prefer, these will be a nice treat.


DOUGH ~ INGREDIENTS:

2 Cups Flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling dough
½ Tsp Salt
1 Lg Egg
½ Cup Sour Cream, plus extra to serve with the pierogi
¼ Cup Butter, softened (or oil)
1 Tbsp Butter

DIRECTIONS:

To prepare the pierogi dough, mix the flour and salt in a medium bowl.

Next, beat the egg in a separate bowl or mug and then add it to the flour mixture.

Now, add the sour cream and the softened butter and combine well. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon or so of water (I used the water reserved from boiling the potatoes).

You will need to work the dough approximately 5-7 minutes, or until it is no longer overly sticky – adding spoonfuls of additional flour one at a time, if needed (I don’t usually need to).

Wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate it for a minimum of 20-30 minutes (overnight is good); the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.


FILLING ~ INGREDIENTS:

1-2 Tbsp Butter
2 Med Onions, finely chopped
2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
4 Lg Potatoes, boiled and mashed
500 Gm (1 Lb) Pork Mince (Ground Pork)
*Salt & Pepper
1 Cup Colby Cheese, grated (just about any cheese works in these)

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.

DIRECTIONS:


First, heat the butter in a large pan and sauté the onions in it until they begin to soften then add the garlic, continuing to cook until the onions become clear.

Set aside the onions and cook the pork, seasoning with salt and pepper and cooking until the meat is cooked through.

Lastly, add in the onions, mashed potatoes and cheese and mix well before setting the filling mixture aside to cool.


ASSEMBLING THE PIEROGIES:

First, roll the pierogi dough on a floured surface until about ¼ inch thick, or thinner (like a ravioli).

Next, cut ovals or circles of dough (similar in size to a CD). Use whatever you are comfortable with – cookie cutter, drinking glass, Tupperware lid, or just use a knife. You may opt to make larger or smaller pierogies, if you wish.

Afer tasting the filling for seasoning, place a small amount of filling (roughly 1-2 tablespoons or so, depending on the size you cut the dough into) onto each piece of pierogi wrapping and fold it over, forming sort of a semi-circle, pressing the edges together and pinching with your fingers or with the tines of a fork. If the edges do not stick together well, slightly moisten them with water and try again. I don’t have trouble unless I get the filling mashed into the seal. :o)

A few at a time, cook the pierogies in a large pot of boiling water. They will be done when they float to the top (about 8-10 minutes). Rinse in cool water and allow to dry – I lay them out n a baking rack over a baking sheet and they dry pretty quickly.


Next, sauté a bit of chopped onion in butter (to season the pan) until the onions are soft, before adding the pierogies and pan frying them until they are lightly crispy. Alternatively, you can put the butter and onions onto a baking sheet to crisp them in the oven instead (about 180° C for 8-10 minutes).

We love pierogies and hope you will too.

ENJOY!



SWEDE (RUTABAGA) IN CREAM



The first time I purchased “swedes” here in New Zealand, I was asked by the gentleman at the checkout counter, “How do you eat those?...I thought they were only good fodder for the cows and horses.” I was a little astonished, actually, as I had used them in soups, and stews (as rutabagas) in the States. I had also eaten them mashed along with potatoes at holiday time when visiting friends. It was interesting to see that even with the Kiwi ingenuity and general “green” attitude so prolific ‘down under’, that they would have overlooked such a versatile veg that is so inexpensive to buy, healthy, and downright tasty.

The stereotypical Kiwi will proudly value their resourcefulness and green thumbs. They try to save the planet, save the whales, and hang their clothes on a line in the garden to save electricity rather than using the dryer in their laundry (apparently dryers are only for rainy days and Americans – hehe). So, how is it that the poor swede has been overlooked as a good source of nutrition – especially in such a challenging economic era...where a block of cheese can cost, at it's worst, about NZ $10-12 and a dozen eggs or a loaf of bread can easily be over NZ $5-6???

Well, no matter the reason, I will introduce a few ways to bring this poor little root to the forefront again and give people a few options to try and really enjoy this ‘darlin’ for what it can be.

Here is the first, but certainly not the last, recipe for the swede.


INGREDIENTS:

1 Swede (Rutabaga), approx 1.5 kg (3 Lbs)
2 Tsp Salt
1 Cup Cream
1 Tbsp Flour
1 Tsp Sugar
*Pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp Parsley, finely chopped


*Amounts vary to individual tastes.

DIRECTIONS:

The first thing to do, is to cut up and boil the swede/rutabaga. They are tough, so the easiest way is to quarter them before peeling with a vegetable peeler, then cut it into bite-sized cubes before carefully dropping them into boiling salted water about 1 inch deep. Use about 1 teaspoon of the salt in this water.

Boil the swede/rutabaga for about 15-20 minutes or, until fork tender (much like boiling potatoes).
Move your oven rack to a position about 6 inches from the top and preheat your oven grill (broiler).

Next, drain the pieces well, and then return them to the saucepan.

In a separate bowl or mug, combine the cream, remaining salt, flour, sugar and pepper before pouring it over the swede/rutabaga in the saucepan and cooking over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to thicken slightly and heat completely.

Now turn this mixture out into a shallow baking dish and place into the oven under the grill/broiler to brown slightly. The cream will puff slightly and turn a golden brown.

Once it has been removed from the grill/broiler, sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.

This is a lovely alternative (lo-carb option) to potatoes as a side dish as well!

Bon appetite!

MARMITE CHICKEN WITH BACON


For some reason, last week I was watching The People’s Cookbook on UKTV and this cute little old lady, Flossie Squires, came on. Now, I probably need to explain what this show is all about. Well, here is the abbreviated summary...there are two professional chefs who choose recipes sent in by viewers. These chefs each choose one viewer’s recipes (usually a main and a dessert each), and then bring in the people who sent the recipes to demonstrate and cook them together. The idea is that the chefs are competing against each other and cook the recipes for a panel of judges (ordinary people like you or me) and whichever recipes are chosen, will eventually be added to The People’s Cookbook when it is published.

Now, going back to the cute little old lady, Flossie (what a great name too!). Well, her recipe for a main was quite simple really. It was basically a roasted chicken...with a twist though. She stuffed her chicken with lemon wedges and herbs, saving two wedges at the end to cram under the wings...then she smeared Marmite all over the chicken before covering it in bacon.

I know – my American friends are saying, “what the hell is Marmite?” Marmite is the Kiwi/British version of Vegemite and it is a very pungent yeast spread that Kiwis, Aussies, and Brits like to use for making sandwiches with or to spread (very sparingly) on toast. It is also good, in moderation as a soup stock flavouring as well. I know I had seen Marmite (and Vegemite) in American groceries on the west coast, so I know it is available if you want to give this recipe a try. (Otherwise, perhaps I can “hook you up” with some...) The folks out here don’t get the American fascination with peanut butter, yet this yeast spread stuff is far more potent than any peanut butter I have ever come across. So – remember to use it sparingly if you plan on eating it straight or adding it to your soups!!!

Anyway, I have changed the recipe just a little, but it was absolutely fantastic and the whole house smelled gorgeous!!! We have a lemon tree in our garden, but I wanted to try this with an orange because I find that lemons are pretty strong when used with chicken. Oranges seem to lend a little citrus without overpowering the other flavours like lemons sometimes can. This recipe is certainly a must try if you like roasted chicken and/or bacon. I have to say also, that no salt is needed due to the saltiness of both the spread and the bacon, so really, garlic and pepper are the only seasonings required! Let’s get this started!



INGREDIENTS:

1 Roasting Chicken (I think mine was about 2 kg, that’s roughly 4-5 Lbs)
1 Large Orange
2-3 Tbsp Marmite or Vegemite (not much flavour variation between the two, really)
2-3 Cloves Garlic, crushed
1 Tsp Black Pepper (more or less)
200-300 Gm Streaky Bacon (about 8 strips or so of American-style Bacon)
½ Cup Chicken or Vegetable Stock


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 190° C (375° F).

First cut your orange into several wedges and squeeze just a little juice into a small bowl (perhaps a teaspoon or less – only to help thin the marmite a bit)

Next, add the marmite and garlic then mix thoroughly together.

Now, rinse and pat dry the chicken before sprinkling a bit of pepper inside, and then stuffing all but 2 small wedges of the orange in too.

Next, you will spread the garlicky marmite mixture all over the chicken – top, bottom, sides – before placing the chicken, breast side up, in a shallow roasting dish.

Now, tuck the last two thin orange wedges under the wings before covering the chicken with bacon rashers.

Lastly, you pour the stock (or water, if you don’t have stock) into the bottom of the pan and cook the chicken for about 20 minutes per 500 Gm (per pound) or until the internal temperature is 82° C (180° F).





The bacon can be removed after the first hour if you desire. I cooked my chicken for 2 hours and left the bacon on. It was moist, tender and absolutely fantastic! Now...if you want gravy, you can pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and heat to a boil, and then add a bit of corn flour (corn starch) pre-mixed with either cold milk or cold water to thicken it. Season if desired, and voila!

I par-boiled then roasted potatoes and carrots to accompany our chicken, but you can fix whatever you like as a side accompaniment.

Good health and enjoy!

ROASTED SOUTHERN-STYLE PORK TENDERLOIN


Well, winter is coming...we can all feel it now and I am reluctantly putting my summer clothes, swimming togs, and sandals away and pulling out the warmer jerseys, gloves and coats. I have even draped a scarf or two on my coat rack for easy access in the weeks to come. Although this may be a depressing time for some, I quite enjoy the winter here as it lends so many opportunities for really hearty meals and lovely aromas from the oven cutting through the crisp air.

An absolute MUST TRY if you like lean pork is this genuine American, southern-inspired, makes your mouth water, tenderloin recipe. Even with a touch of seasonal allergies flaring up, I could still smell the wonderful aromas from this one wafting from my oven. I was drooling long before the meat ever made it out of the oven! This is a seasoning combination that I have mucked around with a bit and I think this is perhaps as good as it gets.

Even though I am using (Mexican) chilli powder, it is not “hot”. If you think you’d prefer a bit of bite, you might try adding a hint of cayenne to this mix, but it is very flavoursome just the way I have written it below. The measurements are more “best guess” really and any leftover spice mix was added to a wild rice pilaf cooked in beef broth, which was nice as well.

In any case, let’s get down to it, shall we?


INGREDIENTS:

500 Gms (1 Lb) Pork Tenderloin
¼ Cup (more or less) Olive Oil
2 Tsp Cumin
1 Tsp Chilli Powder
2 Tsp Garlic Powder
1 Tsp Onion Powder
½ Tsp Thyme
1 Pinch Allspice
2-3 Bay Leaves, finely crushed
½ Tsp Oregano
*Sea Salt
½ Cup Dry White Wine
½ Cup Chicken broth

*Amounts vary to individual tastes.

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to about 220° C (425 ° F).

Line your baking dish or roasting pan with stalks of celery and/or carrots to use as a rack to keep the meat from submerging in the pan juices whilst cooking. (A cool trick I think I learned from Alton Brown.)

First, trim any thick fat if necessary and rinse/dry meat before rubbing with oil and placing into a shallow baking dish or roasting pan.

Mix spices together in a small bowl and rub them over the oiled meat evenly – top, sides and bottom.

Next, pour wine and broth into the bottom of the pan.

Now, put the pan into the oven to roast for about 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meat is between 65 and 70° C (150 and 155° F).

Remember to tent the meat with foil and leave it to rest 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Also, the pan juices can be used to make thin gravy if desired, or simply used as-is to spoon over the meat. This is a nice dish to have with mashed swedes in cream (rutabagas for my fellow Yankees out there) and/or with rice and steamed veggies.

Enjoy!

CHICKEN & DUMPLINGS


This is a really good one...although, half the family claims this style of dumplings to be German, and the other half say it’s French (Joie, any opinion?). These dumplings are made more like a sort of noodle rather than an American biscuit or doughy spoonful of half-cooked goo. I think this is what I like so much about my dumplings as opposed to anything you can get in a restaurant or at a friend’s house for dinner.

I thought this would be a good down-home comfort-food style recipe to post in honour of my late Aunt Ruth. She passed away this week after an awful struggle with diabetes and associated complications. She was a real countrified lady who knew her way around a kitchen. I remember her house was always full of music, laughter, and usually a pot-luck style feast for about 20 people or so! She was a real biscuits & gravy, country fried steak, deep fried southern-style chicken, Johnny Cash & Loretta Lynn lovin’ woman.

Aunt Ruth raised some great kids with the help of her husband, my late Uncle Lew, despite not having much in the way of money much of the time. They were never short on love. Her family have all had great faith, strength, and now a knowledge that their Mom is in a far greater place...with the man she loved for most of her life, and the daughter she had recently lost to the angels. Aunt Ruth was a kind and thoughtful wife, mother, aunt, and granny.

The weather is chilling down here now...not much like the heavenly warmth of Hawaii over the last couple of weeks...and I am hankerin’ for some real comfort food, so I hope you try and enjoy this family favourite that my folks shared with me and, that I am now passing on to you.

SOUP ~ INGREDIENTS:

500 Gms (1 Lb) Chicken Pieces, with skin preferred (I use boneless thighs and/or breasts)
*Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, paprika to taste
½ Cup Flour
1 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp Butter
2 Carrots, roughly chopped
2 Celery Stalks, roughly chopped
1 Med Onion, roughly chopped
1-2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
4 Cups Chicken or Veggie Broth
1 – 2 Cups Hot Water - optional


*Amounts vary to individual tastes.



DIRECTIONS:

First lightly season and flour the chicken pieces, and then lightly coat with flour.

Now, in your soup/stock pot, heat oil and quickly brown the coated chicken pieces then move them onto a separate plate to the side for a moment.

Next, add the butter and quickly heat the carrots, celery and onion before adding the garlic and cooking an additional minute.

Return the chicken and add the broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Add hot water if you like more broth in your soup, otherwise this will become quite thick and gravy-like.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer.

Now it’s time to make the dumplings...


DUMPLING ~ INGREDIENTS:

1 Cup Flour
1 Tsp Salt
½ Tsp Pepper
½ Tsp Garlic Powder
2 Tbsp Chicken Fat, skimmed from soup (or oil)
1 Egg
**1 Cup Milk
2 Tbsp Parsley, finely chopped

**Only add a bit at a time, enough to bring dumpling dough together into non-sticky firm ball for rolling flat.

DIRECTIONS:

Sift all dry ingredients together into a medium bowl and slowly mix in the fat/oil and the egg.

Carefully add the milk in just a bit at a time until the dough is fully combined and the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, but dough is not sticky. (If the dough becomes sticky, just add a spoonful of flour at a time until the consistency is right.)

Now add the parsley and knead gently on a floured surface.

Roll the dough into a rectangle only about ½ Cm (¼ In) thick and then, using a sharp knife, slice into ribbons and then again crossways into little squares.

Carefully drop the dumplings into the soup and allow the soup to simmer for about 30 minutes before serving.

Enjoy this one – it’s simply delicious.

CHICKEN & PRAWNS WITH VODKA SAUCE


Well, in less than 24 hours now I will be in Waikiki, Oahu with my lovely family and I will be relying primarily on other cooks' creations for several days. Do not be surprised to see a post or two on Hawaiian fare if I get the chance!


Luckily, I have a good friend to stay and cuddle our needy little cat, Polly, whilst we are away. Things have been hectic lately with all of my daughter's activities, homework and school projects, but I have managed to provide a few tasty treats for the family on minimal time allowances. This, and the fact that hubby loves my cooking, makes me VERY proud of myself.

I borrowed this lovely sounding recipe from Katherine at Smoky Mountain Cafe and I have to say, it was just as good as I thought it might be. I made a few minor adjustments to suit my own tastes (and to feed an extra dinner guest) and it was, in my opinion, a good choice. Oh, yes...those ARE Artichokes in the photo background...and from our little veggie patch in the back garden...just gorgeous!

Thank you Katherine, for the inspiration!


INGREDIENTS:

1 Med Onion or 3 Lg Shallots, finely minced
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Good EVOO
3 Cups Diced Tomatoes
1 Tbsp Fresh Basil, chopped
1 Cup Cream (I used canned evaporated milk to lower the fat content)
¼ Cup Vodka
½ Tsp Red Pepper Flakes, crushed
300 Gms (½ Lb) Prawns, peeled, tails off & deveined
300 Gms (½ Lb) Chicken, cut into bite-sized cubes
*Salt & Pepper

*Amounts vary to individual tastes


DIRECTIONS:

First, heat the butter and oil together in a skillet over medium heat.

Next, add the minced onion to skillet and saute until transparent.

At this point, I quickly brown the chicken for a few minutes then add the prawns and brown those for an additional minute or so...then, I removed the chicken and prawns and set them aside to add back in later.

Now, add the diced tomatoes and cook over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes or until almost no liquid remains in skillet, stirring frequently.

Next, increase heat and add the basil, cream (or evaporated milk), vodka and crushed red pepper flakes.

Just bring to a light boil then reduce the heat to add back in the chicken and prawns (or whatever seafood you plan to use).

Now, boil this for about 2 minutes until the sauce thickens up a bit.

Lastly, season to taste with salt and pepper.

There you have it. A flavourful and creamy tomato sauce with depth. I added veggies at the last minute and served this with vermicelli noodles, but it would be tasty with other pastas or even rice too.

Enjoy!