Archive for Food

Thanksgiving Feast

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, events, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , on November 23, 2010 by helenphillips

So this Thursday is Thanksgiving, and as we have only been in the US for 7 months, it’s our first.

New England,  Autumn 1621 – the early settlers that had managed to survive the first harsh year (as a whole, they had arrived unprepared) gathered together for a celebration that was to consist of 3 days of eating, drinking, dancing and playing games. They were joined by their neighbours, the Wampanoag tribe, who had dropped by to see what all the shooting was about. However, Thanksgiving didn’t become an annual tradition until the 1780s, and became a national holiday in 1863. And now Thanksgiving is the day of the year (always the last Thursday in November) dedicated to eating copious amounts of food, and settling down to a game of football.

Thanksgiving is also a time for parades, the most famous (and largest) of which is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in Manhattan. Here in Minneapolis, Friday sees the start of the annual Holidazzle celebration, which will continue every weekend through December.

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. As gloomy as it sounds, it actually marks the start of the Christmas shopping season, and is famous for it’s sales madness (people have been know to be trampled in the rush to get to the bargains). One chain of stores has been advertising that they will open at 3am on Friday, but I am determined to stick to internet shopping.

Our Thanksgiving Day will be spent with just the two of us eating and drinking more than is usually sensible. Having done some research into traditional dishes (most of which seem to involve copious amounts of butter and/or cream), I think it’s safe to say that the most traditional part of our feast will be the Turkey and the Cranberry Sauce. The trimmings are mostly influenced by our own British Christmas favourites – for this year at least. So here’s what’s on the Menu –

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The tomato soup recipe comes from Gordon Ramsay’s Secrets, and is the first of his recipes I ever tried. I remember being quite intimidated by the book back then, but excited by the beautiful and colourful images. Over time I have gained more confidence (and a roomier Kitchen), and the recipes don’t seem so daunting now. The soup has already been made, making life a tiny bit simpler on Thursday.

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The Turkey will be roasted – I’m not inclined to try the other method that is traditional in the US, which is deep frying. As there are only 2 of us eating on the day, we bought the smallest crown / breast we could find, which is still around 5lbs. I expect to be making lots of use of leftover turkey recipes in the months to come.

The Cranberry Sauce will the same that I’ve made for the previous 2 Christmas dinners. This year, we’ll also have Lingonberry sauce. Lingonberries come from Sweden, where Eddie spent most of his working life before we moved to the US, so an extra sauce was his suggestion after spotting the berries in the supermarket.

The Chestnut Stuffing will be based on a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Feast. Unfortunately I am currently having difficulty obtained canned puréed chestnuts, so some modification may be required!

The rest of the accompaniments will simply be roast potatoes (the American favourite seems to be creamy mashed), parsnips, savoy cabbage (this at least will be buttery), peas, and pigs in blankets. For those not familiar with the term, these are sausages wrapped in bacon, and the omission of these would cause great consternation.

Finally (possibly after a break, and a walk), dessert will be Crème Brulee (Aha! There will be a creamy dish). This will be the most challenging dish of the day for me, as it is my first attempt. If it’s a success, maybe I’ll even blog about it….

Happy Holidays!

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Summer Pasta

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , on May 17, 2010 by helenphillips

What’s this? A food post? It’s been a while, but it’s about time this blog returned to it’s roots. Unsurprisingly, moving across the Atlantic has taken over everything. My cookbooks and kitchen equipment are all in a container waiting to be shipped across the ocean, so I’ve been pretty much sticking to well known recipes. But today I fancied something different. The sun has made a comeback to Minnesota, so something summery for dinner was called for. We had roast chicken for dinner yesterday, so the other requirement was to use some of the leftovers. Beth at Jam and Clotted Cream blogged a fantastic looking Lemon Carbonara a few days back, which obviously planted some seeds in my mind, and I was fancying pasta. I don’t often do pasta with chicken, as it usually means a creamy sauce, and I’m not a huge fan. My husband is even awkwarder, and doesn’t do cream or cheese! I also had some asparagus, which always goes nicely with chicken. I’m going to leave quantities to viewer discretion, as I didn’t measure anything as I threw in ingredients, so please, adjust to your own tastes!

First off, I pre-cooked the asparagus. I would have steamed it, but my lovely silicone steamer basket is in the aforementioned container, so they were boiled.

The other ingredients included sliced onion, and sliced mushrooms, which were sautéed until soft. The next additions were a jalapeño pepper (which actually failed to give the dish any heat), and garlic. These were followed by halved cherry tomatoes (to make the sauce a bit juicier), and then basil and seasoning.

The final additions to the sauce were the cooked chicken and asparagus. The pasta only took 5 minutes to cook, so just enough to make sure the final ingredients were heated right through.

For the past few years I have always bought fresh pasta, rather than dried. I haven’t seen any here yet, so may have to make my own once my pasta machine makes an appearance with the rest of our goods. The pasta of choice today was Angel Hair, and a low carb product which I haven’t seen before. Dreamfields make a range of pasta which are low in carbs, lower GI, and higher fibre. And it tastes great! Bargain. The second photo shows the cooked pasta shortly before I dropped the fork in the boiling water. And then on my bare foot.

To make this dish perfect, add some parmasan. Then pour yourself a glass of white wine (Pinot Grigio?), and take your plate outside and dine alfresco.

Pan Fried Salmon with Vegetables

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , on January 12, 2010 by helenphillips

Salmon is a rare treat for me, because my husband really doesn’t like fish. At all. So, whilst he’s away, I like to sneak in a portion and enjoy it all by myself.

I added a bit of an oriental twist by using soy sauce & oyster sauce, along with stir-fried vegetables, including some Choi Sum. I’ve never come across this before, but it’s a relative of Pak Choi, and can be used stir-fried or raw in salads. I found it had a stronger, more peppery taste than Pak Choi.

Recipe (for 1)

  • 80ml dried basmati rice
  • Fry Light Oil
  • 1 Salmon Fillet
  • 2 Spring Onions, chopped
  • 1/4 courgette, sliced
  • 1/4 red pepper, sliced into strips
  • 2 medium sized mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 head of Choi Sum (about 5/6 stalks). Remove the leaves, and chop the stalks into bite size.
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce

Start the rice first, I usually find it takes around 12 minutes, which should time well with the main event.

Heat a frying pan, and add a few squirts of fry light when hot. Add the Salmon to the pan, and gently cook for a few minutes. Add the vegetables, with the exception of the Choi Sum leaves. Stir the vegetables occasionally, and turn the Salmon to cook evenly.  When the vegetables start to soften, stir in the Oyster & Soy Sauce. The last step is to add in the Choi Sum leaves, which will only take a minute or so.

Throw* the rice into a bow, and stir in the veg to coat with the sauce. Serve with the Salmon on top. Scoff.

*not literally!

January 11th 2010 - Pan Fried Salmon

Retro Snacks

Posted in Food with tags , on January 10, 2010 by helenphillips

So, the food delivery people managed to battle their way through the snow, and they brought pretty much everything I ordered, so the store can’t have been badly ransacked!

I have heard many people complain that Monster Munch, like many childhood snacks, are not as big as they used to be. Presumably, in this case they are right, because the monster munch that came in my shopping today claims to be ‘Old’ Style.  Eddie wasn’t sure, but this one pretty much filled out my mouth! Pickled Onion flavour btw, definitely the bestest flavour.

January 10th 2010 - 'Old' Monster Munch

The Countdown Begins

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, general, Home Cooked Food, Photography, recipe with tags , , , on January 8, 2010 by helenphillips

Yesterday I did a Very Scary Thing at work. I handed in my resignation. And if all goes to plan, we will be doing a Marginally Scary Thing in April. We’ll be relocating, approximately 4000 miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean to a new continent. Minneapolis in fact, described by Stephen Fry as the coldest city in the USA!  Britain is in the grip of a ‘Big Freeze’, with local temperatures tonight expected to be -14°C (6.8°F), but this is nothing to what we can expect next winter. Today’s temperature is -23°C / -9.4°F, gulp!

Disappointing, I haven’t been able to get out and about to take any snow photos yet. But tomorrow is Saturday, so hopefully I can wander around locally and make up for it.

So, thus far this week, my photos have mostly been of food (surprise, surprise!).  One of my favourite things to do after having roast chicken on a Sunday is to make stock from the carcass, and (among other things) then to make soup. This week’s was a bit of a variation on the usual, but consisted of chicken(!), mushrooms, carrots, spring onions, sweetcorn, and teeny bit of ginger. A glug of sweet chilli sauce adds a bit of tang, and some tomatoes thrown in near cooking completion adds to the flavour.  Served with some wholemeal rolls, it’s delicious, warming and pretty healthy. And yet another opportunity to make sure I’m getting lots of veg.

Chicken Soup

A few days I posted my recipe for Tagliatelle al Ragu and tonight we had the leftovers, served with a rather delicious (and healthy!) salad, consisting of mixed leaves, cherry tomatoes, celery and spring onions. I was sadly excited to discover Balsamic Glaze a few months ago, because now I can make my dishes look pretty as well as tasty!

January 8th 2010 - Salad!

Getting your 5-a-Day!

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2010 by helenphillips

Today was a day of a few missed photo opportunities. This morning, I braved the chill to return to work after a 2 week break. Not fun. After scraping the ice of the car, I finally pulled off. And then stopped. I had noticed the temperature on the dashboard display. Minus 6.5 °C. I can imagine in some other countries you will scoff at this, but it’s the coldest reading I have ever seen here. I whipped out the camera, only to get the frustrating ‘change the batteries’ message. I suspect the poor little thing was objecting to the cold. The drive to work was atmospheric, with the area around work submerged in a good old-fashioned pea-souper. This cleared through the day, and blue skies emerged.  Then at around 4.15, I noticed a glow in the reflection of the building opposite. It seemed that a beautiful sunset was developing behind us. Of course, I still didn’t have any batteries, so did my best to ignore it.  The weather predicts 2 more weeks of the ‘deep freeze’, so I’m not too disappointed. I’m sure I’ll get another chance soon!

My own obsession is to take a Photo A Day, but no-one can have failed to notice the general obsession to eat 5 portions of fruit & veg each day. In fact, some advice now has been modified to 7 portions a day. Generally I don’t do 2 badly at this – today’s count consists of a banana, rocket salad with cherry tomatoes, 2 satsumas, 1 strawberry yoghurt, and tonight’s dinner, which was Tagliatelle al Ragu, aka Spag Bol.  If I had children who didn’t eat veg, then this dish is perfect for ‘stealth vegetables’. As it is, I don’t have children, let alone fussy ones, but enjoy using vegetables to bulk out the meat sauce. My recipe has evolved over the years – it’s still based on the recipe I used as a student, but now I get more vegetables use. My version uses mushrooms, red pepper and aubergines, as well as onion, garlic and tinned tomatoes. This is basically what I do, giving around 4 good portions.

  • 250g minced beef
  • 100g diced pancetta
  • 1 onion (white or red), diced
  • 1/2 large aubergine, diced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 150g mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (a good glug, probably around a tablespoon)
  • Red or White Wine (again, a good glug! Maybe 3 or 4 tablespoons….)
  • 400g tinned tomatoes (preferably chopped)
  • Herbs & Seasoning

Dry fry the minced beef and pancetta in a non-stick pan until the beef is browned. Drain into a bowl through a colander to remove the fat.

Use the same pan to sauté the onion and aubergine for a couple of minutes, then add in the sliced pepper and sliced mushrooms.  Add the chopped or crushed garlic. Stir well, and cook for another few minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Stir in the tomato purée to coat the vegetables, then add in the L&P sauce, and then the wine (de-glaze the pan if necessary).  Bung in the meat, add the tinned tomatoes, refill the tin half-way with water to rinse, and then add to the pan. Bring to the boil, and use any seasoning or preferred herb (generally I use salt, pepper & basil).

Serve with Pasta of your choice – I prefer Tagliatelle or Penne – and top with grated Parmasan.

January 4th 2009 - Tagliatelle al Ragu

Chicken Fried Rice

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2009 by helenphillips

This is a wonderful dish – it sounds bad (but isn’t) and tastes delicious. According to the Food Focus website, it’s 422 calories per portion, with 6g of fat, 64g of Carbs, and 26g of Protein – I wasn’t very strict about weighing stuff (maybe that’s part of the problem), but having gone back through the ingredients, I’d say it’s pretty close.

So, the ingredients (per person):

  • 1 chicken thigh (skin and bone removed if necessary, and chopped into small chunks)
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 large spring onions, chopped
  • 50g mushrooms, sliced
  • 90g bean sprouts
  • Tablespoon of Soy Sauce (I use reduced salt)

The rest is easy.

Use the stock to cook the rice, adding more water if required. I find that 2 portions takes around 10 minutes, so adjust time accordingly.  Do this first to ensure that it’s ready in time – it doesn’t matter if it goes cold as it will be added to the rest of the dish later.

Brown the chicken pieces (I find that by using a non-stick pan there’s no need to use any oil). Next add the mushrooms, spring onions and red peppers. Fry until soft (around 10 minutes), giving it the occasional stir. Finally stir in the bean sprouts, rice and soy sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes until the remaining ingredients are warm right through, then serve.

Shovel down with spoons in the smug knowledge that it’s much better than the pizza you had last night.

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