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Brussel Sprouts with Caramelized Onions and Pecans...

Brussel Sprouts with Caramelized Onions and Pecans

 

Ode To The Sprout

Loud and clear you’ll hear me shout

about my love of the Brussel sprout.

So this day I will give thanks

for a veggie that tops the ranks.

Like wee, tiny cabbages green and bright

every mouthful a sheer delight.

Those who hate them don’t know ‘owt’

about the lovely Brussel sprout.

©2012 Luna Raye

 

As much as I would like to say I was a perfect child, I wasn’t. I was naughty, had tantrums and caused my parents all sorts of grief. However, I always ate my Brussel sprouts. That probably isn’t much of a consolation but that’s all I’ve got.

For years I was content having sprouts boiled and served up with butter, salt and lots of pepper. Now I have discovered there are other ways to prepare these magical veggies. This particular dish has come my way via the GE Healthahead website which has a huge range of delicious and healthy recipes. I think even those who aren’t keen on Brussel sprouts will be converted once they give this a try!

One new thing I have learned about Brussel sprouts is that they are also known as ‘Brussels sprouts‘. Apparently spelling them either way is fine – they still taste wonderful.

 

Brussel Sprouts with Caramelized Onions and Pecans

Ingredients

1 large sweet onion

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

400g fresh Brussel sprouts

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted

 

Directions

Prepare the Brussel sprouts by cutting them in half and then into shreds

Set sprouts to one side

Melt butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat

Add the onion and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until onions have softened

Stir in brown sugar and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring frequently

Add the shredded sprouts to the pan and 3 Tablespoons of water to the pan

Saute with the onions for approximately 10 minutes or until tender

Add pecans and serve immediately

Enjoy!

 

Baked Grapefruit...

Baked Grapefruit

My memories of grapefruit involve a whole lot of fuss over something bitter and unpleasant. There were of course the special spoons needed in order to separate the tart flesh from the rind. Then there was the necessary addition of sugar (and lots of it) in order to make it palatable. A few years ago, after reading about it’s many health benefits, I decided it was time to give it a second chance. Sticking my special spoon in, I was promptly treated to a large of squirt of juice directly into my eye.

In that moment I gave up on having anything to do with this citrus beast ever again. Well that’s what I thought until I watched Sunny Anderson make this incredible dessert. O.K O.K – there was peeling and segmenting and cutting involved but this time I wore goggles.

Luna 1 – Grapefruit 0

Of course this dessert doesn’t shy away from the fact that grapefruit does need a bit of sweetening up. The brown sugar, ice cream and meringue are (in my mind anyway) cancelled out through the healthful benefits of the grapefruit – so this is a perfectly healthy and delicious treat. It is also unbelievably easy to make. I whipped this up last night at 8pm. When I say whipped – I mean it. I don’t have an electric whisk so the meringue was all done by hand. This (also in my mind) makes it ‘cardio friendly’.

Sunny Anderson’s Baked Grapefruit

Ingredients

3 grapefruits

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg whites

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream

Special equipment 6 (4-ounce) ramekins

Directions

Heat oven to 450F / 230C / Gas Mark 4

Remove the ends of the grapefruit to stabilize them on the cutting board

Using a sharp knife, remove the skin and bitter pith from the flesh

Over a small bowl, hold grapefruit in 1 hand and carefully remove the segments by sliding the knife between the flesh and the membrane

Toss grapefruit pieces with brown sugar and vanilla and divide among 6 ramekins

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until light and fluffy

Add sugar and beat until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks

Top each ramekin with 1/4 cup of ice cream

Cover with meringue and bake until golden brown, about 7 minutes

Enjoy!

Simple Tomato Chutney...

I always knew my summer holidays were coming to a sad end when my grandparents began their laborious preparations for making chutneys, relishes, jams and pickles. The process always seemed so complicated with sterilizing jars, tongs, gloves, large pots of boiling water, copious amounts of paper towel, cling film, gauze and of course the occasional swear word.

The end results were always fantastic but for many years I suffered from ‘preserve angst‘.

This year we had a huge glut of tomatoes from the garden. Bored of using them in salads and pasta sauces I decided it was time to face my fears. Fortunately I found a simple tomato chutney recipe by Christina McCloskey courtesy of Jamie Magazine. It was so easy I didn’t even have to use tongs or swear words. Now that’s my kind of chutney!

Easy Tomato Chutney

Ingredients

250g red onions, finely sliced

500g mixed tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 red chili, deseeded and sliced (I used a green chili)

75ml red wine vinegar

140g brown sugar

Directions

Put everything in a pan and season to taste (I used lots of freshly ground black pepper and about 1 teaspoon of specially seasoned salt)

Stir well to combine

Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until ‘jammy’ (I needed approximately 25 minutes more)

Pour into a sterilized jar and leave to cool before transferring to the fridge

The chutney will keep in the fridge for up to 4 weeks

Enjoy!

It is especially delicious with vintage cheddar and oat cakes.

Strawberry, Feta and Bacon Salad...

Strawberry, Feta and Bacon Salad

The other day my Aunt Ellen sent me photos of some beautiful strawberry tarts she had made. Just seeing pictures of them was enough to get my taste buds going. Sadly the distance between Kent and Toronto is too great and I was denied a taste. She mentioned having an abundance of leftover strawberries and was unsure as to what to do with them. Immediate thoughts turned to smoothies, ice cream and jam – but surely there are other ways to use strawberries? A quick search uncovered this recipe for Strawberry and Arugala Salad.

I happened to have some spare strawberries so thought I’d give this salad a try myself. I wasn’t able to get a hold of prosciutto so used smoked, back bacon from the local butchers. For the salad leaves I opted for baby spinach, lamb’s lettuce and red chard with slivers of beetroot. It was amazing and definitely my kind of salad. The combination of sweet, juicy strawberries with salty bacon and creamy feta is to die for. This is the perfect summertime dish.

Here is the original recipe with my changes in paranthesis.

Strawberry And Arugula Salad With Crispy Prosciutto

Ingredients

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons honey (I used Canadian maple syrup)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered

1/3 cup sliced red onion (I used shallots)

Olive oil cooking spray (I don’t use cooking spray)

4 thin slices prosciutto (about 2 ounces) (I used 4 slices of smoked back bacon)

6 cups baby arugula (about 5 ounces) (I used about half this amount of salad)

2 ounces goat cheese or feta, crumbled (I used feta)

Directions

Whisk together first 5 ingredients (through to the black pepper) in a large serving bowl.

Add berries and red onion; let stand 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly coat a seasoned cast-iron skillet or nonstick pan with cooking spray, and heat over moderately high heat.

Add prosciutto in one layer, and cook, turning, about 5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a plate to cool; crumble and reserve.

(What I did for the above step was to cook the back bacon, removing it from the heat once it was cooked through. I then trimmed the rind off the side in one long strip, putting it back into the pan, on a high heat, to help crisp it up – it curls up nicely too! I sliced the back bacon into bite-sized pieces and returned in to the pan for a further 5 minutes once the rind had crisped up slightly.)

Place the baby arugula in a large serving bowl with the cheese; add the strawberries, red onion, and balsamic dressing, and toss gently until just coated. (I added the bacon pieces at this stage and tossed everything together. I reserved the curly rind for a garnish at the end.)

Divide the salad among 4 serving plates, and top evenly with the cooked prosciutto.

(This made enough salad for my husband and I to have a lovely dinner with NO leftovers!)

Enjoy!

It wants brains….....

Nemesis....

Obviously not content with having eaten half my garden, the snails want in! I can say with some authority that it is more than a little disturbing to see snails gradually covering all the windows of your home. Of course I don’t mind snails per se and I certainly wouldn’t kill them, but some sort of action needs to be taken. In a previous blog post about Natural Ways To Control Slugs And Snails I listed a few ‘Gastropod Friendly’ solutions. None of them has worked. Not even the fancy snail tape I bought from The Green Gardener. Not that it’s the Green Gardener’s fault – in fact for a few of my friends it has been extremely helpful. I think the snails in my garden are made of sterner stuff.

In my efforts to lesson the damage done to my plants I tried:

Coffee Grounds – the snails, hyped up on copious amounts caffeine, ate double the amount of plants. It was a bad idea.

Porridge Oats – the slow release of complex carbohydrates meant that the snails had more energy and therefore ate more of my garden. I also discovered that oats are good for the libido – maybe that’s why I kept finding so many snails laying eggs in my pots. Ugh!

Beer – I would rather drink it myself.

Dried Egg Shells – I have a feeling they enjoy the irony of ‘walking on eggshells’ around me. I can appreciate that.

Snail Tape – aside from the fact that I cut my fingers on it and it kept sticking to my hands, shoes, trousers and face (don’t ask) this tape had some sort of magnetic draw which resulted in large clusters of snails congregating for impromptu ‘mollusk parties’. Although I provided the nibbles I was not invited.

At the moment I am still picking them off the pots, plants, walls and ground and chucking them into the far hedge. Eventually they make their way back. A few weeks ago I bought 19 marigolds which were completely decimated in 2 days. One marigold seems to have survived but I am not sure for how long. They say April showers bring May flowers, but in this case all the April showers have done is bring snails. We have had an enormous amount of rainfall in the UK over the past few months. My garden is behaving differently as a result – my sweetpeas have barely grown and my pepper plants aren’t doing anything either. Of course the snails haven’t helped.

If anyone has any advice or suggestions on how to humanely get rid of snails I would be eternally grateful. Otherwise I may scrap the garden and just open a snail safari instead.

WARNING! The images below are not for the faint hearted.

The gallery of sadness

Marigold Sadness

Another Sad Marigold

It makes me weep

It hurts....It huuuuurts!

The one that got away

Spaghetti with Crab, Tomatoes, Chilli, Garlic, Lem...

Spaghetti with Crab, Tomatoes, Chilli, Garlic, Lemon and Basil

O.K let’s get straight to the point. I have been remiss in my blogging duties. To be fair I was battling chicken pox amongst other various lurgies. Thankfully I am better and have been cooking up a storm in the kitchen as well as organizing my garden – I just haven’t been writing about it. On my desk sits a very precarious looking stack of notebooks and important bits of paper. My SD card is full of images of baked treats, wholesome meals and new additions to the garden. There is much work to be done.

Whilst languishing on the couch in full pox delirium I decided to have a rummage through one of my old recipe binders. Tucked in between a Jamie Oliver recipe for Beautiful Zucchini Carbonara and a Nigel Slater recipe for Pasta with Spicy Sausage, Basil and Mustard, I found what I was looking for. Lovingly titled ‘pasta w/crab’, the recipe was handwritten on the back of an envelope.

Unfortunately there is no reference as to where this recipe came from, but I do remember making it a few years ago and thinking it was rather yummy. This dish didn’t disappoint the second time around and it will grace our table again. Next time, however, I will use fresh crab (a visit to the Whitsable Fish Market will be in order) and also add a Tablespoon of capers (because they make everything taste just that little bit more fantastic). In any case this is easy to make, perfect for lunch or dinner and goes very well with glass or two of wine.

Luna Raye’s Spaghetti with Crab, Tomatoes, Chilli, Garlic, Lemon and Basil (serves 2)

Ingredients

Spaghetti (or any other type of long-strand pasta such as Linguine, Angel Hair or the fabulous Fusilli Lunghi)

1 good sized glug of olive oil

12-14 Cherry tomatoes quartered (you can always add more if you wish)

1- 3 cloves of garlic (I love garlic and have no social life so I happily used 3 cloves)

2 fresh chillies (if you want it really hot – keep the seeds!)

1 unwaxed lemon (all you need is the peel so use a peeler to create lovely long strands)

1 tin of crab meat – 170g with drained weight of 121g (next time I will use fresh)

Salt and pepper to taste

A handful of fresh basil leaves roughly torn

Directions

Cook the pasta according to the package directions

Add the olive oil and quartered tomatoes to a pan and cook over moderate heat

When the tomatoes begin to soften (after about 3-4 minutes) add the garlic, chillies, salt and pepper

Give everything a good stir and add the lemon peel

Leave the peel to soften for 1-2 minutes then add the drained tinned crab (or fresh crab)

Stir every so often until it’s heated through (approximately 5-7 minutes)

I added about 3-4 Tablespoons of the pasta cooking water during this time as the mixture was looking a bit dry

Add the cooked and drained pasta to the pan and toss everything together

Just before serving add the basil leaves and give it all one final toss

Enjoy!

Note: My husband isn’t overly enthusiastic about tomato skins. This didn’t put him off his dinner but he suggested that it might be worthwhile exploring recipes that do NOT include tomato skins. The thing is – tomatoes are great for you and it is recommended to use the whole tomato whenever possible in cooking. Here is a very interesting website on the many health benefits of tomatoes and a quote from their website.

Whenever possible, try to develop recipes that make use of the whole tomato. We’ve seen research showing higher lycopene content in whole tomato products. For example, when the skins of tomatoes are included in the making of the tomato paste, the lycopene and beta-carotene content of the paste is significant higher according to research studies. – courtesy of www.whfoods.com

Sorry Hubby – the tomato skins stay!

My Grandfather’s Classic Caesar Salad...

Caesar  Salad

My Grandfather is a pretty good cook. Actually giving it a bit more thought I will say he is a very VERY good cook. He has a few stand out dishes and this Caesar Salad is one of them. Always a treat, I can’t think of anyone in our family who doesn’t look forward to tucking into it.

Perhaps my favourite memory surrounding this dish is of my Grandmother who sadly passed away a few years ago. She was in charge of washing (and drying) the Romaine lettuce. With no salad spinner in sight the leaves were dried on separate bits of paper towel carefully spread around the kitchen. I loved helping her with that task. Although time consuming it was an important part of the ritual in making this incredibly delicious salad.

This is perfect on its own or as a tasty side with fillet steak and frites or a piece of grilled chicken.

My Grandfather’s Caesar Salad (serves 4)

Ingredients

1 large head of Romaine lettuce

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 strips of bacon cooked until crispy and then chopped or crushed finely

1/2 cup plain croutons

* * The ingredients below should be added in order to create the basic dressing * *

2 garlic cloves

1 anchovy fillet or 1 Tbsp of anchovy paste

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 egg yolks slightly beaten (If you prefer not to use raw eggs because of salmonella concerns then substitute about 2-3 Tbsp of plain Greek yoghurt which will give the dressing richness)

3 Tbsp “Maille A L’Ancienne” mustard (a Dijon type of mustard with seeds) This is a very important ingredient

Juice of 1/4 lemon

1/2 cup of olive oil

1 dash of Worcestershire sauce

2 dashes of Tabasco sauce

3 Tbsp of Parmesan cheese

Directions

Wash the Romaine lettuce and dry it thoroughly

Shred or chop it into bite sized pieces

Add the basic dressing ingredients together and toss the Romaine lettuce with it

Add the 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and toss everything again

Just before serving add the chopped crispy bacon bits and croutons

Toss once more and serve immediately

Enjoy!

A Caesar Salad wouldn’t really be a Caesar Salad without croutons – so why not make your own. It’s a great way of using up stale bread and aside from putting them in salad they are also really yummy when added to soup (perhaps with a bit of Gruyere cheese on top)

Here is a quick simple recipe for making your own croutons

Luna Raye’s Quick And Easy Croutons

Ingredients

Approximately 4-6 slices of stale bread (fresh can also be used but stale is much better)

A good glug of olive oil

Seasonings are optional and can include; garlic, rosemary, thyme, chili flakes, lemon myrtle, salt, pepper, marjoram, sage etc etc – be creative and have fun

Directions

Cut the bread into nice bite sized chunks

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat

Don’t let it get too hot – after about 30 seconds add the bread chunks and give everything a good stir

You may need to add more more oil – I like to make sure the bread is well coated but not drenched – go with your kitchen witch instincts on this

Once the bread is nicely coated it’s time to add whatever spices or herbs you have chosen

Sprinkle them on top and give everything a good mix around

Keep an eye on the heat as you don’t want the bread to burn

When the croutons are nicely browned and a bit crisp remove them from the pan

Add to soups, salads or even munch them on their own as a snack

They will keep in an airtight container for about 2 days

Tagliatelle With Prawns, Bacon and Courgette...

Tagliatelle With Prawns, Bacon and Courgette

Yesterday there was a lonely courgette in the fridge and a bag of prawns defrosting on the counter. I was unsure of what to make for dinner, but bringing these two ingredients together seemed like a good plan. With plenty of pasta in the pantry, I was thinking along the lines of a big bowl of penne or linguine in a rich creamy sauce.

Looking for inspiration on the Internet I came across a fabulous site called Drizzle and Drip. Sam’s recipe for Chilli and Garlic Prawn Linguine with Bacon, Zucchini and Lemon caught my eye straight away. Of course I needed to pick up some bacon but as our local butchers has the best smoked bacon I have ever tasted, I was more then happy to make the journey. The fresh air made me even hungrier (I must confess one of their freshly made sausage rolls found it’s way into my belly).

I didn’t follow Sam’s recipe exactly but it still tasted great. This is a recipe I will make time and time again. It is light, refreshing and makes a nice change from the heavy cream sauces I tend to favour (butter, cream and cheese are the holy trinity of my sauce making).

What also appealed to me was the way the courgette / zucchini was prepared. I have grated it in pasta before but the long ribbons worked really well with the tagliatelle. I was also skeptical about adding the courgette ribbons to the pasta water toward the end of cooking fearing they would be extra watery and bland. They weren’t.

So here is my version of the recipe but please do check out Sam’s website, she has a wide range of yummy looking recipes I can’t wait to try.

Tagliatelle With Prawns, Bacon and Courgette (serves 2 with enough left over for a tasty lunch the next day)

Ingredients

350-400 grams of tagliatelle

225 grams of frozen king prawns

3 rashers of smoked streaky bacon (and one sausage roll to eat on the way home!)

1 medium sized courgette / zucchini

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 tsp of crushed chilli flakes

2 Tbsp of double cream

2 Tbsp of lemon zest

Juice of 1/2 a lemon (you might want to do this to taste)

3 Tbsp of chopped flat leaf parsley

Splash of olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste (I only salted the pasta water – the bacon is quite salty)

Directions

Cook the tagliatelle in salted water according to the directions on the pack (go for al dente)

Using a peeler, peel the courgette into ribbons

When the pasta is almost done, but not quite, add the courgette ribbons to the water and cook with the pasta for 1-2 minutes before draining

While the pasta is cooking cut the bacon rashers into small bite sized pieces and add to a pan

Cook the bacon through and then add the drained, frozen prawns and mix well so the prawns soak up some of the bacon fat

After 2-3 minutes when the prawns are heated through and the bacon is crispy, add the crushed garlic, 1/2 tsp of dried chilli flakes, lemon juice and zest

Mix everything together well before adding a splash of double cream and the chopped parsley

The pasta (and courgette) should be cooked and drained at this point

Simply add the pasta and courgette to the pan with the bacon and prawn mixture

Toss well and serve immediately

Enjoy!

Apple Seedlings On The Rise...

A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible

Welsh Proverb

Apple Seedlings

Hurrah! My apple orchard is finally taking shape – although it is still very early days. I guess it may be another 10 years or so before I can walk out into the garden and pick fresh apples for a pie, but my dream is becoming reality.

These wee seedlings got their start by being lovingly placed in a Tupperware box filled with soil. They were then positioned near the back of the fridge where they were pretty much left to their own devices. Every few days or so I would take them out and open the lid to let some fresh air in. It was August 19th 2011 when they went in and on Dec 28th 2011 I planted them out. So they were in the fridge for roughly 4 months.

This is not my first attempt at growing apples from seeds. Everything had gone to plan with my original batch of seeds until I planted them out and put them in the greenhouse. Small and weak they didn’t stand a chance against the cruel Kentish winds and terrifying snail infestation. The day I went out and saw their withered forms was a day of sadness and bitter disappointment… (sniff sniff)

Never mind it was a lesson learned!

These sweet little beauties are staying in the house. Under my watchful eye I trust they will thrive, blessing me with many beautiful apples in the hopefully not too distant future. I will of course have to source apples from elsewhere until that magical moment arrives – but hey I live in Kent, also known as ‘Apple Central‘.

It feels good seeing the seedlings everyday. It’s a reminder of all the things I hope (and intend) to accomplish this year. So it’s kind of a New Year’s thing too I guess. Like my teeny apple seedlings I will nurture and nourish my dreams until they become strong enough to stand on their own.

More updates will follow as they grow! You can read about my first attempt here.

Christmas Cookies: A Success Story...

When I was a little girl I remember spending magical Christmases with my extended family in New Hampshire. My great grandmother would make ‘hard sauce’ for Christmas pudding. Hard sauce is basically butter, sugar and a whole lotta brandy. Needless to say my great grandmother was usually in good spirits! I also remember making sugar cookies with my sister, mum, aunt and grandmother. I loved these cookies that would be cut out in the most wonderful festive shapes: bells, angels, wreaths and Christmas trees. Special care would be taken in decorating them with silver bells, chocolate bits and hundreds and thousands.

Of course some cookies would be left out for Santa, along with the smoked oysters and 12-year old scotch that my father convinced my sister and I that Santa would appreciate. I remember one year we decided Father Christmas would like a generous amount of Heinz ketchup poured over top of the smoked oysters – to this day I am sure I saw my dad cry….

Anyway it has been years since I have had sugar cookies but I still think of them fondly. Last year my grandfather sent me the recipe we used, however my cookies puffed up and morphed into hideous shapes. Definitely not festive looking although they tasted good. This year I have been on the hunt for a recipe that works – I am still not sure what happened with last years batch – but I sense self raising flour may be the cause. I have seen other recipes that use it but i have avoided them for fear of a repeat. This is the year for properly shaped cookies and I managed to get them!The decorations are a bit iffy but it’s my first time with a piping bag. My husband had a go and managed to completely ice the front of his trousers…..

Next year my cookies will be even better but this year I am just delighted that they look like cookies!

I want to thank all the wonderful bakers and chefs on Twitter who helped me: special mentions to Lisa at ParsleyNSage and Carolyn at AllDayIDreamAboutFood

In the end I found an easy to follow recipe at the BBC Food site

Here is their recipe for Christmas Biscuits

Ingredients

100g / 3.5 OZ unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

100g / 3.5 OZ caster sugar

1 free-range egg, lightly beaten

275g / 10oz plain flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the decorations

400g / 14oz icing sugar

3-4 Tbsp water

2-3 drops food colourings

Edible glitter

Directions

Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F / Gas 5

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale, light and fluffy

Beat the egg and vanilla extract, a little at a time, until well combined

Stir in the flour until the mixture comes together as a dough

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of 1cm / 1/2in

Using biscuit cutters or a glass, cut the biscuits out of the dough and carefully place onto the baking tray

To make into Christmas tree decorations, carefully make a hole in the top of the biscuit using a straw

Bake the biscuits for 8-10 minutes, or until pale golden-brown

Set aside to harden to harden for 5 minutes, then cool on a wire rack

For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a large mixing bowl and stir in enough water to create a smooth mixture, stir in the food colouring

Carefully spread the icing onto the biscuits using a knife and sprinkle over the glitter

Set aside until the icing hardens

Enjoy and have a lovely holiday! x

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