Saturday, December 9, 2006

Christmas baking?

So far I have only heard of Sonya doing any Christmas baking. Perhaps my generation no longer bakes much. I make muffins every week or so for Ant and he requested something to take to work on Monday to celebrate a colleague's birthday. So I was happy to find a recipe on Real Simple for cookie dough that makes six types of cookies. I think that shall be my weekend project. (And of course the obligatory weekend marking.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas cake

Last week I spent an afternoon after school in the cooking classroom with some other teachers making my first Christmas cake. Today I was feeding it a couple of tablespoons of brandy, as I am meant to do a few times a week, apparently. Here it is in all its glory! Actually, I realise it is quite ugly looking. Ah well. They say it will taste good.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

shape magazine recipes

I love Shape magazine. You may have already realised this from the links bar. It's their 25th anniversary and they've published a list of their twenty-five best recipes. I may try the yogurt mint marinated chicken this weekend since I have a pot of plain yogurt in the fridge at the moment. And also the roasted herb salmon sounds within my ability range as well.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Ant and I managed to pull off a little Thanksgiving dinner last night. Ant was the impetus for it, buying us a little roasting chicken with sage stuffing. We made roast potatoes, roast parsnips, boiled potatoes, honey glazed carrots, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, and gravy. With the help of a store-bought pastry I made a pumpkin pie. We were so pleased about having pulled it all off! This was the first Thanksgiving that I have managed to celebrate away from home. It was well worth the trouble. And I took leftovers and pie to school today. Everyone in the staffroom who tried some pie liked it.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

baking muffins

My dad is a famous muffin maker. He has so many muffin cookbooks that he has an index book to help him find the muffin recipe he wants. I, however, have only one muffin recipe. I use it for everything. I like it because (a) it has hardly any sugar, (b) it has hardly any oil, (c) it contains lots of oats--and I make it even healthier by putting in oats and bran, (d) it only requires one mixing bowl, speeding up both the preparation and the washing up. Here it is.
Chocolate Chip Muffins
adapted from More with Less
makes 12 large or 18 small muffins

Mix together in large bowl:
1 1/2 c (190 g) flour
1/4 c (25 g) sugar
1 T baking powder

Stir in:
1 c (90 g) oats
1 c (180 g) chocolate chips (or 1/2 c [75 g] raisins or anything else that you fancy)

3 T oil
1 egg, beaten
1 c (250 ml) milk

Stir only until combined. Fill muffin cups and bake at 425 F (205 C) for 15 minutes.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


I demand fresh eggs. These are definitely fresh; in fact, the hen came right over to the carton and laid the last egg in it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

veg box

The contents of the organic veg box this weekend:
1 onion
2 carrots
small potatoes
4 courgettes (zucchini)
cooked beetroot
curly lettuce
2 bananas
3 oranges
1 pear

It's delivered every Friday and it's different each week. My challenge is to figure out how to use it all each week.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My new cookbook.
Yay, Bob! I can't help exclaiming this every time I think of him. After some discussion in these pages recently (see June 15), I went searching to see how he has been doing lately. He's the Surreal Gourmet who taught me how to become an A-list caesar salad maker, how to create the delicious pear and Camembert quesadillas, and how to poach salmon in the dishwasher. I ordered his third cookbook online after the previous posting. It arrived today!

And Ant already had a look at the book and when I got home, I saw that he had created Bob's better chopsticks for me. How great are they?

My new chopsticks.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

living room picnic

Ant and I found ourselves with a night to ourselves and a DVD to watch yesterday. So we went to Waitrose (a more posh grocery store than we usually shop at) and purchased really nice food for a picnic. We decided to spend up to the amount we would spend eating out at a fast food restaurant, for example. That meant we purchased a nice bottle of white wine, poppy rolls, honey roast ham, and double Gloucester cheese with chives. We also got baby spinach and rocket leaves, with marinated artichoke hearts to go into a salad with cherry tomatoes. We set it all out on the carpet in front of the TV and enjoyed it while watching Munich. A lovely date night in!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ah, Bob, wonderful Bob.


Chez Bob's Party Caesar

1/2 t salt
1 t coarsely ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovies or 1 t anchovy paste
1 T Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk, coddled
1 1/2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/3 c safflower oil (or other mild oil)
1 1/2 t red wine vinegar
1 1/2 medium-large heads of romaine lettuce, washed and dried
2 c croutons
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese

Coddle the egg by boiling a pan of water and then dunking the egg in it for about 45 seconds. Reserve the yolk and discard the white.
Add the first eight ingredients to a wooden salad bowl, one at a time. Beginning with the garlic, after adding each new ingredient, use the back of a soup spoon to grind it against the wall of the bowl and blend it with the previous ingredients into a smooth paste. It should take about fifteen seconds of muscle power to blend in each new ingredient. Yes, Caesar salad making will soon be an Olympic sport.
Add the oil and vinegar and blend well.
Just before serving, tear or slice the lettuce leaves into bite-sized pieces and add to salad bowl. Toss thoroughly with dressing.
Add the croutons and cheese, toss again, and serve.
Serves six.

The above is copied exactly from Bob's book, The Surreal Gourmet Entertains. This is the recipe that started Sonya eating salad. I used to make it when we house sat at Grammie and Grandad's.

We also made a great meal for her soon-to-be husband and in-laws, which included a cold strawberry soup.

Strawberry Soup

3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c water
4 c fresh strawberries, halved (about 700g)
1 1/2 t grated lemon peel
2 t grated orange peel
1/4 c sherry (or orange juice)
4 T whipping cream

Combine sugar and water in saucepan.
Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for ten minutes. Cool.
Combine next four ingredients in large bowl. Add sugar mixture and stir.
Process in a blender until smooth.
Strain juice into a large bowl. Discard seeds. Chill.
Garnish individual servings with cream and mint sprigs.
Makes 3 1/2 c and serves four.

The soup was delicious. The recipe came from one of Sonya's books; a Company's Coming book about cooking through the seasons. We also served a spinach salad with strawberries and salmon with a cilantro sauce. As we were sitting down we learned that Kevin's mum is allergic to salmon. We hastily changed the plan by dragging something out of the fridge. And her in-laws brought a bottle of lovely wine, but we had no corkscrew! Ah well. Good thing their marriage didn't depend on our dinner.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

My cookbook collection.

food blogs and cookbooks

I've been having quite a fascinating time today following links in a Guardian article listing interesting food blogs. Chocolate and Zucchini is one I will be going back to again. On the 101 Cookbooks site, the author has a list of all the (many) cookbooks she owns. My own collection looks modest by comparison! We only have one cookbook in common: the Joy.

Here's a list of my cookbooks (or at least the ones here in the UK; left to right in the above photo).
  1. The Vegetable Bible (Teubner)
  2. Company's Coming Appetizers (Pare)
  3. The Joy of Cooking (Rombauer; two copies: 1931 facsimile edition and 1964)
  4. Flip Cook Chicken (Wilson)
  5. Family Favourites: Voth 2000 Cookbook (a family compilation)
  6. The Essential Wok Cookbook
  7. Pass Out: 80 Cocktails to Paint the Town Red
  8. The Surreal Gourmet Entertains (Blumer)
  9. Company's Coming The Beef Book (Pare)
  10. By My Side (Eustace/Weinstein)
  11. 'Tis the Season: A Vegetarian Christmas Cookbook (Blanchard)
  12. The New Canadian Basics Cookbook (Ferguson)
  13. More With Less: Suggestions from the World's Mennonites on How to Eat Better and Consume Less of the World's Limited Food Resources (Janzen Longacre)
  14. Purity Cookbook
  15. Chocolate and Baking

Saturday, May 27, 2006

roast chicken for beginners

When I found this recipe, I thought it was perfect for people like me, who just are not sure how to tell when poultry is thoroughly cooked, but not dried out. Give this a try!

6-7 lb. chicken
1 cup melted butter
1 cup stuffing
1 cup uncooked popcorn
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brush chicken well with melted butter, salt, and pepper.
Fill cavity with stuffing and popcorn. Place in baking pan with the neck end toward the back of the oven. Listen for popping sounds. When the chicken's backside blows the oven door open and the chicken flies across the room... it's done!

Sunday, May 7, 2006

new recipe

I'm trying out a new recipe today. I got it from Sonya's preferred site: epicurious. One problem with the recipe is that I can't pronouce one of the words in the title! The other problem is that skinning chicken pieces is definitely not one of my favourite things to do. Blech. But it smells great and looks good.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Organic veg box.

organic food

For the last few weeks the issue of organic food keeps coming up around me. When visiting Jayme a few weekends ago I saw her organic veg box, delivered to her door each week. I was reading a Guardian article that same weekend about organic food. It seems to me that the most compelling reason to eat organic food is that it lessens the environmental effect. There are no laws in the UK at the moment which govern things like how close pesticide-sprayed fields can be to houses or other areas. The article said that one group is recommending a five meter buffer zone around fields, and that some US states have a 2.5 mile buffer between fields and schools.

Organic food may or may not be better for your health. The article I was reading cited lots of studies on both sides of the debate. The main problem with defining pesticides' harm to the body is that there are no human trials (understandably--who would sign up?). Several scientists interviewed said they eat organic out of a "rather safe than sorry" attitude.

Organic food is more expensive at our supermarket. It reminds me of the leaded/unleaded fuel debate of the past. My dad said that for years he bought unleaded fuel when it was much more costly than leaded out of a conviction to cause less harm. Now I am starting to feel that I may have to approach organic food with the same attitude. Organic and local, if I really want to get on the environmental bandwagon.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

dinner party

Last night I cooked for eight in our first dinner party in ages. It was awesome to have Matt and April (our perpetual guests), Matt and Bree, and Andrew and Naomi visiting for a meal. And I have found a foolproof company dish that is easy and tasty every time. Yay!

Maple Hoisin Chicken
Make a marinade with:
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 T soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
2 T ketchup
1 T minced garlic
1 T minced ginger root
Mix with eight chicken breasts and marinate for 2-8 hours.
Bake for 30-40 minutes at 200/400 degrees.

This is a wonderful dish that takes no time during the evening you are serving it. I made a couscous side dish and a fresh salad with rocket and that's it. Delicious and easy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

molecular gastronomy

Matt and April like to read NewScientist, so a copy of it pops up now and again in our flat. I was reading an interview today with a man named Harold McGee who is a food scientist and writer. He has answered such questions as does washing mushrooms make them soggy (it doesn't) and does searing steak seal in the juices (it doesn't). He and a famous chef (Heston Blumenthal) started molecular gastronomy, a process where you can add molecules of something else to your food to add a different smell or taste. Sounds bizarre--like the oyster served on a jelly. The jelly was clear but had some molecules from dirt added so that "when you put it in your mouth it had the aroma of earth." The aim is to make "the dining experience less predictable." Mr McGee says that "if you don't know what's going on, your brain works a lot harder. You're engaged in a way you wouldn't normally be.... I think that makes you a better eater, an eater capable of getting more pleasure."

This idea is true in other areas, too, I think. When you are faced with something different you work harder to understand it. Science is based on that curiosity. Also, students are bored by lessons they find easy; investigative approaches work better because the student is interested and becomes a better learner, a learner capable of getting more out of the experience.

Mr McGee advocates the Slow Food movement, which protects and promotes local and traditional food. The interviewer asked him what he would consider the healthiest diet. He responds by saying that we are continually refining our ideas, but the maxim still holds true that the more varied your diet the better off you are. The interviewer sums up by asking whether he means moderation in all things. Mr McGee makes an interesting come-back: he quotes another food writer (M.F.K. Fisher) who said, "Everything in moderation, including moderation." So he advocates some feasting and overindulgence because it is an experience that satisfies us in a different way. He says we need to consider both physical satisfaction and quality of life.

An extension of this, not made by Mr McGee, would be that fasting is an important aspect of our gastronomical life as well. I have not fasted in a very long time. Thinking along McGee's lines, you would conclude that fasting improves our enjoyment and appreciation of food. Thinking along spiritual lines, it reminds us that we have another dimension to our lives besides the physical. We need Jesus, our spiritual food, as we need physical food. And he is to be enjoyed as much as feasting is enjoyable.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

you are what you eat

There's a TV show I like to watch called You Are What You Eat. Dr Gillian McKeith is a tough love nutritionist who exposes bad eating habits that make people sick and unhealthy. She shocks the participant by lining up all their week's food to see; then she puts them on a strict diet to get their bodies functioning again.

Her recipes are mostly vegetarian. On the Channel Four website you can find the recipe for tofu and bean burgers. Sweet potato shepherd's pie sounds lovely. Often she makes her participants go vegetarian at first. Ant would never go for this. He always jokes that he is a meatetarian. He says he doesn't feel full without meat. I hope that I will find some good vegetarian meals that he likes. At the moment I am trying to incorporate more fish into our weekly menus. We've discovered that we really like eating tuna steaks, and they are delicious marinated for about 20 minutes in soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and a bit of hot sauce. I'm going to try Dr McKeith's marinated salmon on spinach and leeks, I think.


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