Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Let's Do Brunch




Thank you for joining us for Let’s Do Brunch, the recipe exchange for breakfast, lunch and brunch recipes. My co-host, Chaya of My Sweet and Savory and I always enjoy the great inspiration we find when we visit your posts!

Thank you to everyone who contributed last week. There was definitely some great brunch inspiration! 

To see last week's featured recipes, and to share your own, please click here...

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Chicken and Carrots with Olive Tapenade



I wrote recently about Made in Provence, and the wonderful authentic handmade products they offer. Christine Vidal, the owner of this lovely company, very kindly offered to share some recipes using her products. This is the first of them - a warming and delicious casserole, perfect for supper on a cold winter’s night. 
4 to 6 pieces of chicken (Christine recommends thighs)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves
100 grams (about 3½ ounces) black olives*
2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock
1 glass of white wine (optional)
1 bay leaf
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
(black olive tapenade) 
salt and pepper to taste
*You can substitute green olives and Flassanades Olives Vertes for the black olives and Flassanades Olives Noires
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. 
Fry the onion, garlic and chicken pieces in olive oil until golden brown. Add the Flassanades Olives Noires, then add the wine (if using), stock, bay leaf, seasoning and carrots. 
Cook on a medium heat for 20 minutes, and then add the fresh olives.
Cook for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until the chicken is done, ensuring the juices run clear and that no pink remains inside.
When I made this dish, I served it over some steamed couscous, with crusty bread on the side. I used chicken breasts when I made this dish because my family prefer them, but chicken thighs will give an even better flavour.

The Hearth and Soul Hop with The 21st Century Housewife

Hearth & Soul Hop


Welcome to another Hearth and Soul Hop, the blog carnival for and about food that nourishes both body and soul. 
We share links to Hearth and Soul entries at our Hearth and Soul Facebook Page and Pinterest Boards, and please do come and follow us on Twitter  @HearthNSoulHop.
Thank you to everyone who shared recipes with us last week. I enjoyed reading all the posts I visited and found some great recipe inspiration as well. 

To read more, and share your recipes, please click here...

Homemade Chocolate Chip Slice and Bake Cookies



I dream of being a domestic goddess, serving hot, fresh cookies to my guests. Truth is, that doesn’t happen very often. First of all, there’s the fact that I’m a messy cook, so if I want to impress with hot cookies, I’m going to have to sacrifice the neat kitchen I like to show my guests. Then there are those days when I just don’t have time to bake and end up serving store bought cookies. Don’t get me wrong, they can be very nice, but when people know you are a food blogger, they expect a little more. Frankly, I expect more of myself. 
What I wanted to develop was a slice and bake cookie that I could make myself from scratch, and keep in the fridge, or even long term in the freezer. I wanted to develop a dough that would roll into a nice log shape, and after chilling or freezing, slice and bake like the ones the Pillsbury Dough Boy makes. 

It was a wholly successful experiment, and led to the development of three basic cookies, all with variations. All of them can be sliced and baked from chilled or frozen.  And in one of those glorious twists of fate that makes me smile, the cookies baked from frozen taste just as good if not better than those cooked from chilled. I've already written about my Peanut Butter and Honey Slice and Bakes, and I've got another recipe to share with you shortly. But for now I'd like to share my favourite of the three - my homemade chocolate chip slice and bake cookies. You may never need to buy Pillsbury Slice and Bakes ever again! 

This recipe makes cookies with a lovely cake-y texture that keep well at in a sealed container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. The logs of dough will keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 days chilled or freeze for up to one month. If you are going to freeze the logs of dough, chill them overnight first, and then pop in the freezer. You can build up a little collection of cookie logs in your freezer and glory in the knowledge that you are never more than 15 minutes away from hot, fresh cookies. I’m still not a domestic goddess, but this recipe makes me feel like I’m getting just a little closer. 

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup white sugar 
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs, at room temperature 
2 teaspoons vanilla 
2¾ cups all purpose (plain) flour plus a bit more for rolling the dough into logs
½ teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
Variations: Substitute any flavour chip - white chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, or peanut butter and chocolate - for the chocolate chips. Or use ½ cup flavoured chips and ½ cup finely chopped nuts instead (white chocolate chips and  macadamia nuts make a fabulous combination). 
You also need waxed or greaseproof paper, or baking parchment. 


Cream the butter by hand or in an electric mixer. Add the sugar and continue creaming. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. 
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, soda and salt. 
You will need to use a wooden spoon to stir the two mixtures together. Remove the bowl containing the butter and sugar mixture from the mixer. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture all at once together with the chocolate chips. Be sure to incorporate all the flour. 
Take a large piece of waxed or greaseproof paper or baking parchment and sprinkle a little flour on it. Flour your hands a bit as well. Take half the cookie dough and put it in the centre of the paper. Using the paper to help you, shape the dough into a log about 11 to 12 inches (28 to 30 centimetres) long. Repeat with another piece of paper and the rest of the dough.


Wrap the dough up tightly in the paper or baking parchment.



Place the cookie dough logs in a plastic bag and put in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight. The next day, either freeze the dough, or bake it from chilled. 
When you want to bake the frozen or chilled dough, preheat the oven to 350℉ (about 160℃ for a fan oven). Slice the cookie logs into slices just a bit less than one quarter inch thick (about half a centimetre) and place on baking sheets. They don’t spread all that much, but be sure to space them at least an inch apart. Each log will make about 24 to 28 cookies depending on how thick you slice them. 

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes from chilled (or 11 to 14 minutes from frozen) until they are lightly golden. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and leave the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for at least five minutes. Carefully remove the cookies from the baking sheets and cool on a wire rack. 



Monday, 28 November 2011

Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls


My Mom used to make delicious cabbage rolls. They were the perfect comfort food on a cold day, steaming hot from the oven, covered in a delicious sauce. I remember her showing me how to make them one wintery afternoon well over twenty years ago, but for some reason I never attempted to make them on my own. I still haven’t actually attempted my Mom’s meaty version, but a few days ago I used what I remembered her teaching me to create a vegetarian one. It was so successful I will be attempting a version closer to hers very soon, but for the moment - and perfectly appropriate for Meatless Monday - here are my Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls.

This recipe makes about a dozen cabbage rolls, and is easily doubled. Three or four cabbage rolls will usually fill up even the hungriest of diners, so that should serve 3 to 4 people. My Mom used to make a double recipe, serve the first batch the first night, and then keep the second in the fridge to reheat over the next couple of days. Cabbage rolls require some time and patience, but they are oh so worth it!
For the cabbage rolls:
1 large, leafy cabbage (Savoy works well)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use mild olive oil)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped 
½ cup mushrooms, finely chopped 
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
½ cup couscous
½ cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
a pinch or two of freshly ground pepper
For the tomato sauce:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
1 onion, finely chopped
3½ cups passata (seived tomatoes or plain tomato sauce)
¼ cup basil pesto
1 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning blend
salt and pepper to taste
You will need a medium saucepan for the tomato sauce, and a large frying pan with a lid to prepare the filling. You will also need a large saucepan or steamer to steam the cabbage leaves. For the actual cabbage rolls you will need one or two casserole dishes (preferably square or rectangular) that you can fit the rolls in snugly. 
Heat the two tablespoons of oil in the large frying pan and sauté the onion for the filling over low heat, stirring occasionally. 
Heat the one tablespoon of oil in the medium saucepan over low heat and sauté the onion for the tomato sauce, stirring occasionally. 
Meanwhile, wash the outside of the cabbage and trim the tough outer leaves, as well as some of the core away. Gently cut the cabbage leaves at the ribs, just where they meet the core and carefully peel them away from the cabbage, keeping them whole. You will need about twelve intact cabbage leaves. (Keep any torn leaves for sautéd cabbage another day.) Set the intact leaves aside. 
Add the finely chopped mushrooms, peppers and garlic for the filling to the onion in the large frying pan. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally. 
Add the passata or tomato sauce to the onion in the medium saucepan, along with the pesto and seasonings. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, steam the cabbage leaves for 2 to 3 minutes each, just until they are soft and pliable enough to roll. You may need to do this in batches, setting the steamed leaves aside carefully on a plate. (They get very hot so do be careful.)
When the vegetables in the large frying pan are soft, stir in the couscous, vegetable stock and spices. Pop the lid on and remove from the heat. Allow to sit for five minutes. When five minutes is up, fork through the couscous and vegetable mixture. 
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC or 180ºC for a fan oven). 
Now, to assemble the cabbage rolls. Place a cabbage leaf on a bread board, and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the filling mixture into the centre. Wrap the edges of the cabbage leaf round the filling and form into a roll. Place seam side down in a casserole dish. Repeat until you have used all the cabbage leaves. Be sure to tuck the cabbage rolls snugly in the casseroles. 

Carefully pour the tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls, covering them completely, but leaving some room at the top of the dish for the sauce to bubble up a bit. If you are using two or more pans, divide the sauce between them.


Cover the casserole(s) with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until they are thoroughly warmed through and the sauce is starting to bubble. Remove the aluminum foil and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more to finish off. This dish is lovely served with warmed rolls and fresh butter. 

Friday, 25 November 2011

The Gallery of Favorites

Gallery of Favorites


Alea of Premeditated Leftovers and I want to welcome you to the fifteenth edition of our weekend blog hop, The Gallery of Favorites. 



The Gallery of Favorites is a place for you to feature favorite posts from your own blog. Although Alea and I both spend a lot of our time writing about food, we have many other interests and know that our readers do as well. The Gallery of Favorites is a place for all bloggers - not just food bloggers - to share their ideas, interests and passions. 

To read more, and to share your posts, please click here...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A Case for Thanksgiving

There is no official Thanksgiving in the United Kingdom. There is a Harvest Festival celebration here in October, but as a religious festival many people are unfortunately barely aware of it. It also focuses on the harvest, which of course benefits us all, but does not bring a broader attitude of gratitude into the mix. I think this is rather sad. In the modern world, assailed by advertising and the media, it’s easy to be swallowed up by the culture of “I want” where our day to day blessings are simply ignored.

To read more, please click here...

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Let's Do Brunch with The 21st Century Housewife



Thank you for joining us for another edition of Let’s Do Brunch, the recipe exchange for breakfast, lunch and brunch recipes. My co-host, Chaya of My Sweet and Savory and I always enjoy visiting your posts, and often discover new blogs and make new friends as we visit.
Thank you to everyone who contributed last week. I must apologise as I am still working my way through commenting on many of the posts, but I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting them all. 

To see last week's highlighted posts, and to share your recipes, please click here...

Homemade Slice and Bake Peanut Butter and Honey Cookies


Photo credit Alex J Harris

Ever had a peanut butter and honey sandwich? Remember how good they taste? Well, even they don’t taste as good as these cookies! This is the second of the Slice and Bake recipes I was working on a couple of weeks ago, and is based on a recipe my Mom shared with me when I was a little girl. 
These cookies are lovely and moist, almost cakey, with a soft peanut buttery goodness that is dangerously addictive. I used smooth peanut butter and added chopped peanuts, but if you didn’t have any peanuts to hand you could use crunchy peanut butter instead. Although I might still add peanuts, but that is because I love them. They remind me of my wonderful late Grandpa, who always had a dish of salted peanuts on the side in the living room. I was given the dish after he died, and I only ever put peanuts in it. It just doesn’t look right if I use it for anything else, and I love how it brings back my happy memories of him. 
But back to the cookies. Of the three recipes I worked on, I think these may have been my favourite. I loved my Slice and Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies , but there was something about these that I found hard to resist. Do check out the Chocolate Chip Cookie post for more helpful photographs and advice on how to roll, wrap, slice and store the cookie logs. There’s nothing like having a roll of these stashed away in the freezer and surprising everyone with home baked cookies on a rainy afternoon. With very little effort, you can make people very happy!

Photo credit Alex J Harris
This recipe makes about 3 to 4 dozen cookies from two cookie rolls.
⅓ cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar 
(I like to use golden granulated unrefined sugar if you can get it, but ordinary granulated sugar works just fine.)
⅔ cup soft peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
½ cup liquid honey
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) 
a generous pinch of salt (less generous if you are using salted peanuts)
½ cup peanuts, chopped 
You also need waxed or greaseproof paper, or baking parchment.
Cream the butter, sugar and peanut butter together by hand or in an electric mixer. Add the honey and then the egg. Mix together throughly. 
Sift together the flour, soda and salt and add to the creamed mixture with the peanuts. Mix together thoroughly, being sure to incorporate all the flour. It’s better to do this part with a wooden spoon.
Take a large piece of waxed or greaseproof paper or baking parchment and sprinkle a little flour on it. Flour your hands a bit as well. Take half the cookie dough and put it in the centre of the paper. Using the paper to help you, shape the dough into a log about 11 to 12 inches (28 to 30 centimetres) long. Repeat with the rest of the dough using another piece of wax paper.
Wrap the dough up tightly in the paper or baking parchment.

Photo credit Alex J Harris

Place the cookie dough logs in a plastic bag and put in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight. Later, or the next day, either freeze the dough, or bake it from chilled. 
When you want to bake the frozen or chilled dough, preheat the oven to 350℉ (about 160℃ for a fan oven). Slice the cookie logs into slices just a bit less than one quarter inch thick (about half a centimetre) and place on baking sheets. They don’t spread all that much, but be sure to space them at least an inch apart. Each log will make about 15 to 20 cookies depending on how thick you slice them.

Photo credit Alex J Harris
Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes from chilled (or 11 to 14 minutes from frozen) until they are lightly golden. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and leave the cookies to cool for at least five minutes before attempting to remove them. Carefully remove the cookies from the baking sheets and cool on a wire rack. Store in a sealed container for up to 4 days.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Hearth and Soul Hop with The 21st Century Housewife

Hearth & Soul Hop


Welcome to another Hearth and Soul Hop, the blog carnival for and about food that nourishes both body and soul. 
We share links to Hearth and Soul entries at our Hearth and Soul Facebook Page and Pinterest Boards, and please do come and follow us on Twitter  @HearthNSoulHop.
Thank you to everyone who shared recipes with us last week. There were some wonderful posts, including some excellent Thanksgiving recipes. 

To read more, and to share your recipes, please click here...

Meatless Monday - Vegetarian Pasta One Pot


The other day I found myself with a fridge full of gorgeous vegetables but very few ideas about what to cook for dinner, so I decided to make an old standby -  ‘Pasta Thing’.  I just start with whatever is in the fridge plus a bit of dried pasta and see what evolves. It’s usually a pretty successful undertaking, and this time was no exception. It was so easy and cleanup was a breeze because I cooked the pasta in the sauce all in one pan. Dinner was on the table in only a little over half an hour, and everyone enjoyed it so much that there were intense negotiations about who got to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day!
To serve four to six people you need:
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and finely sliced in circles or half moons
2 cups broccoli florets
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried parsley plus more for garnish
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup Madeira or sherry (optional but very nice!)
3 generous tablespoons flour
1 cup vegetable stock
6 cups milk
2 generous tablespoons Dijon mustard 
3 cups bow tie or penne pasta (about 250 grams or half a pound)
¼ cup vegetarian Parmesan style cheese 
¾ cup vegetarian cheddar cheese
Heat the oil in a large lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about five minutes or until it begins to soften and become translucent. Add the chopped pepper, carrots and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften. Stir in the oregano, thyme, parsley and pepper. 
Turn the heat up just a tiny bit and add the Madeira or sherry, if using. Stir it round and let it sizzle a bit.
Sprinkle the flour over top of the vegetables and stir through. Cook for a minute or so.
Stir in the stock, milk and mustard and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. 
Add the pasta shapes and stir them through. Pop the lid on the pan, lower the heat a little and cook for about five minutes, stirring from time to time to make sure it does not stick to the pan. (Lower the heat a bit if it begins to stick.) 
Add the broccoli and the cheeses and stir through. Put the lid back on and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. The dish is done when the pasta is al dente and the broccoli is tender. 
Taste and check the consistency, adding a tiny bit more milk if you need to. Add salt and a bit more pepper to taste.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. I reheated them in the microwave, gently stirring through a tiny bit of milk to loosen the sauce.