nav-left cat-right
cat-right

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!

 

Sausage Hotpot With Sweet Potato Mash...

 

Sausage Hot Pot

It has been cold, dark and drizzly here in the UK (no surprises there really!). This type of weather always makes me crave good old fashioned comfort food. Mashed potatoes had been on my mind for sometime and there was a pack of sausages in the fridge. Bangers and Mash – classic comfort food! Somehow though, it just didn’t seem right. I was in the mood for something a little bit different.

Not being sure what to make I decided to visit one of my favourite recipe websites. The BBC GoodFood website is full of great recipes and ideas. It never fails to inspire my cooking and give me direction in the kitchen.

Their recipe for Frying-Pan Sausage Hot Pot is on my favourites list. It really is an easy recipe to make and it tastes delicious. I decided to use this recipe as a base for my own sausage hotpot which would help use up some of the vegetables beginning to languish in my fridge. It also gave me an excuse to make sweet potato mash which is always a treat.

This is a great recipe to play around with so get in the kitchen and have some fun!

Luna Raye’s Sausage Hotpot with Sweet Potato Mash

Ingredients

• Drizzle of Olive Oil

• Drizzle of maple syrup OR a teaspoon of soft brown sugar to help caramelize the onions

• 2 small red onions thinly sliced

• 6 plump good-quality sausages (I used English pork and caramelized onion sausages) You can keep the sausages whole but I prefer to cut them into thirds.

• 1/3 of a glass of good red wine

• 175ml vegetable stock (My favourite is Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon Powder)

• 4-6 broccoli spears chopped into halves

• 1 large carrot chopped

• 1 can of cannellini beans

 

For the sweet potato mash

(I like to use a mixture of sweet potatoes and white potatoes for this mash – I find it has a nicer texture)

• 4 small russet potatoes

• 3 large sweet potatoes

• 2 cloves of garlic minced

• Knob of butter (approx ½ Tablespoon)

• Freshly chopped parsley (about 4 Tablespoons)

• Season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

 

Directions

1. Heat the olive oil in the pan and add the sliced red onions. Add a pinch of salt and either a drizzle of maple syrup OR a teaspoon of soft brown sugar

2. Cook over a medium heat until the onions are nice and soft. Once soft remove them from the pan and set aside

3. Get your sweet potatoes and russet potatoes on the boil so they will be ready when the hotpot is under the grill

4. Place the pan back on the heat and start cooking the sausages. It’s up to you if you want to keep them whole or cut them into pieces. Just make sure they are thoroughly cooked. Usually 8 – 10 minutes is enough

5. Prepare your grill and turn it to medium / high

6. Add the following to the pan with the cooked sausages:

• red wine

• vegetable stock

• caramelized red onions

• chopped carrot

• broccoli

• drained and rinsed cannellini beans

7. Gently stir and allow the mixture to bubble away for about 5 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken

8. Remove from the hob and place under the grill

9. Check to make sure your potatoes are done. Drain and place back to the pot with a knob of butter and the minced garlic

10. Mash until smooth. Add salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper and the freshly chopped parsley. Stir everything in well to make sure the mash is seasoned throughout

11. Remove the frying pan from under the grill. The carrots and broccoli should be softened and not overdone

12. Spoon the sweet potato mash onto plates and serve up the bubbling hotpot!

Enjoy!

The Autumn Harvest: Last Tomatoes Of The Year...

Well it’s that time of year again. The nights are drawing in. There’s a noticeable chill in the air. Leaves are falling from the trees. Chestnuts are strewn along the ground. Birds and squirrels are busy fattening themselves up for the winter months. All of nature is readying itself for winter.

My garden is beginning to show signs of the cooler days and nights. Leaves are turning brown and my once prolific tomato plants are no longer producing the lovely juicy tomatoes that we enjoyed so much these past few months. This is what I believe to be my final tomato harvest of the year and I would like to do something special with them.

When I was younger I had an allergy to tomatoes. Fortunately this was an allergy I ‘grew out of’ because I adore tomatoes. I have a few favourite recipes for fresh tomatoes.

One is a simple – VERY simple pasta sauce that I sometimes make for lunch when I feel the need for a Mediterranean boost.

Luna Raye’s very simple tomato sauce for one.

Ingredients

A handful of cherry tomatoes (approximately 8-9).

1 clove of minced garlic.

Drizzle of olive oil.

Pinch of salt.

Directions

Heat a drizzle of olive oil (about 1- 1 ½ tsp) in a pan over moderate heat.

Add the tomatoes. You can put them in whole or chop them in half if you prefer.

Turn down the heat, add the salt and allow the tomatoes to reduce (10 minutes or so).

Give them a stir every so often and about half way through add the minced garlic.

It will smell fantastic!

Meanwhile put on some water for pasta – Penne is a good choice for this sauce – and cook the pasta according to packet directions.

Once the pasta is cooked drain it and add it to the pan with the tomatoes and garlic and give it a quick mix on the heat.

Season with black pepper and more salt if desired.

Tuck in and enjoy!

Tomato Sauce Extras

The thing about this sauce is that you can keep it very simple. However you can also add some extra ingredients such as caramelized onions, a splash of red wine, fresh basil leaves or parmesan shavings. It does work extremely well though with just the fresh tomatoes and garlic.

Another dish I like to make with fresh tomatoes is a chunky salsa sauce for corn chips. This is a great Happy Hour snack. It is tastier (and healthier) then store bought brands and is once again a very simple recipe.

Luna Raye’s very simple chunky salsa served warm (for two).

Homemade Chunky Salsa and Tortilla Chips

Homemade Chunky Salsa and Tortilla Chips

Ingredients

A handful of cherry tomatoes chopped in half (approximately 8-9).

½ Spanish onion chopped in long thin strips.

1 tsp brown sugar.

1 pepper chopped in bite sized chunks. (green or orange peppers are great for added colour)

½ fresh chilli (or a pinch of dried chilli flakes).

1 ½ Tbsp of frozen sweet corn.

1 clove minced garlic.

Drizzle of olive oil.

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Directions

Heat a drizzle of olive oil (about 1- 1 ½ tsp) in a pan over moderate heat.

Add the onions and the brown sugar. Mix well and allow the onions to caramelize. Make sure the heat isn’t too high.

Once the onions have softened gradually add the minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and the chilli.

Stir until mixed in and then add the tomatoes and pepper.

Cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

At the last moment add the frozen sweet corn and mix in well.

Season with salt and pepper is desired.

Turn off heat and cover the pan.

Allow the mixture to rest while drinks are prepared.

Serve on individual plates with a side of plain salted corn chips.

Enjoy!

I am still undecided as to what to create with this final harvest of tomatoes! Sometimes however, it is nice to just enjoy the simple flavour of something as beautiful and perfect as a tomato grown in your own garden. I may just eat them exactly as they are while dreaming of what next year’s harvest will bring!

I wish all my fellow Canadians a happy, peaceful and abundant Thanksgiving weekend.

Final Tomato Harvest of 2010

Final Tomato Harvest of 2010

Focaccia Bread With Tomato, Basil, Avocado and Moz...

The other day the urge to bake struck again. This time I wanted to make some focaccia bread to have alongside a Jamie Oliver recipe for Chicken with Basil and Sweet Tomatoes. I thought it would be just the thing to mop up any flavourful juices (it was!).

I have baked focaccia bread before and it is relatively simple to make. The recipe I have used in the past calls for a bit more seasoning in the mixture and I have always enjoyed adding some extra toppings to it; olives, sundried tomatoes and caramelized onions being among my favourites. Here is the recipe courtesy of Terri McCarrell and All Recipes that I have used many times before.

Since the Jamie Oliver recipe had so many wonderful flavours going on, I decided to make a simpler focaccia (Focaccia alla Ligure) and garnish it with some sea salt. I sourced a different recipe for this bread from the brilliant site Rustico Cooking and although it turned out very well there was cause for concern. I activated the yeast according to the packet instructions but it called for slightly more water than the recipe needed. The result was very sticky dough. I kept adding a bit more flour but honestly I think I could have added the whole bag. So I left it to rise and waited to see what would happen.

What happened was that it rose successfully and I had twice as much of the sticky dough as before! I somehow managed to get it in the pan where it was left to rise for a further 45 minutes. (cat lovers may appreciate this – but at the precise moment my hands were completely and hopelessly covered in goo, Nutmeg decided she ‘wanted’ things. Water, food, cuddles, specially designed tents made from my collection of sarongs that I drape over cushions for her– you name it she wanted it. Patience is not her strong point and I got in trouble for making her wait! By the way ALL her food and water bowls had been cleaned and replenished before I started making the bread – she just enjoys being cheeky!)

Anyway I wasn’t able to ‘dimple’ the top of the bread because it was just too sticky. It actually didn’t look that bad and when it came out of the oven it looked, smelled and tasted fantastic! Although I had made it in anticipation of my chicken dish I couldn’t resist having a slice or two for lunch. I was in a Mediterranean frame of mind and so I decided on a simple open faced sandwich with tomato, basil, avocado and mozzarella.

It was simple, delicious and healthy. It was raining outside (finally some much needed rain!) so I sat indoors by the window and ate my lunch – it was like I had my very own plate of sunshine. These simple beautiful flavours just can’t help but put you in a good mood. It was just what I needed on a rainy Wednesday afternoon!

Luna Raye’s Recipe for Focaccia with Tomato, Basil, Avocado and Mozzarella

Ingredients

Focaccia bread, large piece sliced lengthways. (You can use store bought but if you decide to make your own even better! Try either recipe I have mentioned above – they are both delicious!)

Drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.

1large vine tomato sliced

½ avocado sliced

5-6 good sized slices of buffalo mozzarella

Handful of basil leaves, roughly torn.

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Directions

If you’ve made your own bread, allow it to cool slightly on a wire rack, about 20 – 30 minutes.
Once cooled cut a generous sized piece and then slice that in half lengthways.

Brush lightly with some extra virgin olive oil and place under a medium grill.

As the bread starts to brown slightly (about 5 minutes) add the slices of mozzarella and place back under the grill.

While the mozzarella begins to melt slice the tomato and avocado.

Once the cheese has melted (about 3-5 minutes, but keep an eye on it) take the focaccia bread out and put it on a plate.

Add the sliced tomato and avocado and season with salt and pepper.

Tear the basil leaves and scatter them over top.

You can finish with an extra drizzle of olive oil if you choose.

It’s best to use a knife and fork as it’s a messy one to eat – but often the messiest food is the tastiest.

Enjoy!

Focaccia with Tomato, Basil, Avocado and Mozzarella

A Very Trying Week But We’re Finally Feline Fine...

The past 10 days has been a very trying time for my husband and I. We noticed our beloved moggy Nutmeg was drinking much more water then usual. We also thought she was sleeping more then normal and wasn’t her usual busy body self.

I took her to the Vets where they did some tests and after a few days it was confirmed that she has diabetes. Over the next few days I brought her back for more tests and to be shown how to inject her with insulin. At this point I want to give a big shout out to the wonderful veterinarian who has made time for all my many questions, who has helped ease my worries and anxieties and who patiently showed me how to handle the medication. The vet visits are only just beginning as we need to get her stabilized but after 2 days on insulin she is already showing huge improvements.

Diabetes has affected many members of my family so although I wasn’t overly thrilled with the news about Nutmeg, I did take some comfort in the fact that it is something I know a bit about. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t cry or have moments of complete despair and fear, but once I calmed down and spoke to my mom and sister (who by the way has been successfully managing her diabetes for over 30 years), I felt much more positive. There are many great websites with lots of information on the subject of feline diabetes as well as supportive forums where you can go when it all gets a bit too overwhelming. At this point I would also like to thank the lovely Jules who has been working with me on this site, as soon as she heard about Nutmeg she sent me the following link to this very helpful website. Another site I found has a great forum and I have been getting some good pointers there.

It is still early days with Nutmeg but I am feeling much more hopeful about things. She is such a special little girl and we immediately fell in love with her the moment our local Cats Protection League brought her into our lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the Universe for sending her our way. If you notice your animal companion acting strangely then please don’t wait – go the vets immediately.

Things to look out for are:

• Excessive thirst.
• Excessive urination. They may urinate outside of their litter box.
• Weight loss. Going off their food.
• Extreme lethargy.
• Eating more than normal.
• Any behaviour that seems out of character.

Well during this time I must confess that cooking and eating were not really top of my list of priorities. This was a mistake as by not eating properly I wasn’t able to handle stress effectively. I know that in order to properly care for Nutmeg I need to properly look after myself. Tonight was the first night we actually felt like eating a meal. We hadn’t been shopping for ages so the cupboards and fridge were pretty barren.

Fortunately we had some turkey mince in the freezer which I defrosted. I then put it in a pot with a few other ingredients I found and made a very warming and comforting chilli. In honour of everything we have been through these past few days I have called this recipe Luna’s Finally Feline Fine Chilli. So here it is:

Luna’s Finally Feline Fine Chilli

Ingredients

1 package of turkey mince (500 grams)
½ Spanish onion chopped finely
1 drizzle of maple syrup.
2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
4 cloves of garlic.
1 pinch of salt.
½ teaspoon of oregano.
½ teaspoon of thyme.
½ teaspoon of chilli flakes.
1 pinch of Nutmeg (the spice not the moggy!)
1 ½ cups of vegetable stock.
1 can organic plum tomatoes.
1 can organic cannellini beans, rinsed.
Parmesan cheese.

Directions

Sautee the chopped up onion in olive oil and maple syrup, until soft and translucent.

Add the turkey mince and mix in with the onions until the mince is completely cooked.

Add the garlic. You can mince the cloves but I like to chop them in chunkier pieces. You also don’t have to use as many cloves but as we were feeling run down we thought we would give ourselves a boost of garlic power!

Once garlic is mixed in add the herbs, salt and pinch of nutmeg. Mix well.

Add the vegetable stock and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes.

Then add the can of tomatoes and mix in well, adding the beans at the end.

Allow everything to simmer and stir occasionally. I let mine bubble away for 45 minutes.

Grate some parmesan cheese over top.

Serve with steamed rice or crusty bread and enjoy!

Luna's Finally Feline Fine Chilli

Luna's Finally Feline Fine Chilli

A little pinch of Nutmeg.

I also just wanted to say that if you are considering welcoming an animal companion into your home please do think about adopting from a local shelter.

Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Caramelized Onions...

Cooking really changed for me when I finally mastered the fine art of caramelizing onions. Although it may seem like a simple thing to do I usually ended up with charred bits of onion stuck to a heavily smoking pan and lots of little burns on my hands and arms. I think the main culprit in this was my love of cooking everything in butter (and lots of it!). Apparently the dairy solids in butter have a tendency to burn which I didn’t realize. You can use clarified butter but using olive oil seemed a much simpler (and healthier) solution. So I made the switch and the rest is history.

My onion of choice is the large yellow Spanish onion which has a beautifully sweet flavour when cooked. However I personally like to add a sprinkling of brown sugar or for a special treat, a drizzle of maple syrup, which gives the onions a deep rich colour and really brings out the smoky sweetness in flavour. By cutting the onion cross wise in large round slices you get lovely long strands of onion which look quite elegant. To caramelize them add to a pan with some olive oil and a sprinkling of brown sugar or maple syrup. Cook over a moderate heat until soft. It’s as easy as that!

I am very proud of the fact that I can now easily whip up this tasty delight adding a whole new dimension to a variety of dishes. No more charred onions or smoking pans for me, although I still burn my hands from time to time, but then again I can be a real klutz (I am an Aries after all)!

Caramelized onions are a fantastic condiment and can be added to:
• Burgers
• Hot Dogs
• Sausages
• Steaks
• Sandwiches (grilled cheese is especially good)
• Salads (they work really well with hummus or goats cheese)
• Mashed, Scalloped or Jacket Potatoes
• Salsas, chutneys and gravies

You can also add them to:
• Pasta sauces. (my favourites are tomato or carbonara)
• Quiches or vegetable tarts.
• Omelettes.
• Soups.

Here is my recipe for Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Caramelized Onions.

Ingredients
1 large yellow Spanish onion, cut crosswise in large round slices.
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced.
2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil.
1 (28 ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes.
2 teaspoons of dark brown sugar or pure maple syrup.
3-4 Tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Directions
1. Add olive oil and chopped onions to a large skillet and stir to coat onions in the oil. Sprinkle the brown sugar or drizzle some maple syrup over the onions and continue to cook over a medium heat until the onions become soft.

2. Once the onions have been cooked set them aside on a plate. Don’t wash the skillet!

3. Add the tomatoes and minced garlic to the unwashed skillet (there will still be some lovely flavours from the onions lurking there). Cook over a low heat stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.

4. While the tomatoes and garlic are cooking get a pan of salted water on the boil for the pasta. You can use any kind of pasta but I love using spaghetti or linguine for this dish.

5. Once the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, add the caramelized onions back into the skillet with the tomatoes and garlic. Gently stir to mix the onions, garlic and tomatoes together.

6. When pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to bowls.

7. Generously spoon the sauce and top and grate some Parmesan or Romano cheese on top.

8. Serve on its own or with garlic bread and enjoy!

Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Caramelized Onions

Caramelizing Onions

French Onion Soup A Delicious Vegetarian Version....

French Onion soup has to be one of my all time favourite lunches. It has everything you need; sweet caramelized onions in a rich broth, crispy garlicky croutons and lots and lots of Gruyere cheese. Comforting, nourishing and flavoursome – it always scores 11 out 10 with me!

It’s the perfect meal for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Check out this great recipe for the vegetarian version I used.

The only changes I made to the recipe was using 1 cup of grated Gruyere cheese rather then the Swiss cheese she used. I also used a small baguette and cut 3 pieces for each bowl of soup. I lightly grilled them with a garlic butter mixture before placing in the soup and topping with the cheese.

Delicious!