Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thai Chicken Larb

Back in Australia, I used to have my favourite hole in the wall Thai restaurant and they served a wicked chicken larb. It's not that common over here, or I'm just not going to the right Thai restaurants to find it, so I was excited a couple of years ago to find this Larb recipe in Cooking Light. The first time I made it, it was OK, a bit bland, so I didn't make it again for ages. When I was cleaning out my recipes the other day, I rediscovered it and made it again with a few significant changes.

Instead of just cooking the chicken and then just coating it with the dressing mixture at the end of the cooking, I marinated the chicken overnight in the mixture. I'm really happy with the results, it tasted spicy and yum! I served it in crisp iceberg lettuce cups with sides of rice noodles and a cucumber/cilantro salad which I drizzled with a couple of squeezes of lime juice.

2 teaspoons grated lime rind
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chopped serrano chile
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
12 oz ground chicken
Iceberg lettuce

Combine the first 7 ingredients, stirring with a whisk until until sugar dissolves. Pour over chicken, marinate overnight or for a couple of hours.

Heat 1tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken mixture and saute until done. I drained off the juices and served the chicken a bit drier. Divide chicken mixture up into about four lettuce leaves and serve with rice or rice noddles and a side dish if desired. This would also make a nice appetiser.

All the news that's fit to eat....

Yesterday was a big day for food in the newspaper. First of all it was reported that Nigella Lawson is going to make her kids bring home their own bacon. Apparently Nigella herself is worth about $36 million and her husband about $200 million. Nigella thinks that she won't be doing her kids any favours by leaving them enough to live off without having to work. She's probably right, look what it did for Paris Hilton. Anyway, Nigella is adamant about this. The kids can relax though because I'm sure she'll pack them a fabulous lunch everyday to take to work with them.

The Washington Post Food Section had a couple of good articles yesterday. One was that we the consumers are becoming the new Food Inspectors, reading labels, insisting on organic where possible and shopping at more than one supermarket weekly to make sure that we are purchasing the best food possible. I shop at more than one place and I know plenty of people that do the same thing. I use Giant for my regular shopping basics like cream cheese, bread, canned tomatoes etc, Costco for all the bulk stuff, which includes milk, eggs, cheese and frozen meats and seafood, Trader Joes for all my kids snacks for school, and some of my basics like Pizza Sauce and Wine (haha), and then Whole Foods or Wegmans for a couple of speciality items for the kids, like Yoghurt in a tube that does not contain high fructose corn syrup. (I buy Horizon Organic Yoghurt Tubes Strawberry and Blueberry) . I cannot believe the garbage they they put in kids yoghurt and then have the nerve to call it healthy. Tons of high fructose corn syrup, food colourings, sprinkles, M&M's the list goes on.

I'm also amazed at the schools. They are passing a bill in Virginia about banning trans fats in the food at schools, which is great, but we still have a long way to go before these school lunches are actually good for the kids. My 7 yr old used to buy chocoalte milk three times a week to have with his lunch, which I pack for him everyday. On the first day of school this year he came home and one of the first things he said was "the chocolate milk has high fructose corn syrup in it". The school district changed milk vendors and now the milk has HFCS. Last year it was regular sugar and cocoa. I just don't get it. The school district makes a huge fuss about fat content and balanced diet (that's why they have blue ice cream and huge chocolate chip cookies for sale), and yet they buy milk with HFCS because it's cheaper. I would be happy to pay more for organic chocolate milk and I'm sure that many other parents would be as well, or at least have the option of buying organic milk at school.

Last but not least,the Washington Post gave two different guacamole recipes which looked good, but neither of them looked half as good as the recipe that I use!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Braised Chicken Curry

For the last two nights I have made dishes that I have found on some of the fantastic food blogs that are out there, and so far I have not been disappointed. Friday was the Scallops with Sweet Chili Vanilla Dressing and last night was Braised Chicken Curry with Yams from Sunday Nite Dinner.

We really enjoyed it, and it was a one pot dinner, which means easy clean up, and there was enough left over to freeze and have for another dinner.

I'm going to try and do a whole week of menu planning from recipes that I find from other food blogs. I'm sure it will be a huge success. There is some really great stuff out there

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cappuccino Cupcakes

These little mouthfuls of joy are from Nigella's Domestic Goddess and are SO easy.They are a coffee sponge cake with a white chocolate icing and a dusting of cocoa powder. You just throw everything into a food processor and then drop the mixture into the cupcake tray and bake for 20 minutes. I also love them, because I love things with a coffee flavour, and don't they just look like little mini cappuccinos?


3/4 cup self-rising cake flour
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter (1 stick)
7 tablespoons of sugar (I actually used 8 after testing the batter)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 heaped tablespoon instant espresso
2-3 tablespoons milk (I used 3 for the right consistency)


5 1/2 Ounces white chocolate (Bakers brand is really good)
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream
1 2/3 cups confections sugar, sifted scant teaspoon cocoa powder**

** just means slightly less than a teaspoon.

Preheat oven to 400F

Put all the cupcake ingredients except for the milk into the food processor and blitz to combine. Pulse again, adding milk down the funnel to form a batter with a soft dropping consistency. Spoon into the baking cups in their pan and then cook for about 20 minutes. When done, leave in the pan to cool for 5 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack.

When the cupcakes are completely cold, make the icing. Melt the chocolate ad butter in the microwave or a double boiler, and after it cooled a little, stir in the sour cream. Gradually bet in the sifted confections' sugar. If the consistency isn't right or the icing, add either hot water to thin or more sifted sugar to thicken. spread roughly and generously over the top of each cupcake, and then dust sparingly with cocoa, but pressing a little through a small sieve, so that they look like little cups of cappuccino.

Makes 12.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Scallops with Sweet Vanilla Chili Dressing

Tonight I made Steamy Kitchen's Scallop Salad with Sweet Vanilla Chili Dressing . It was a huge hit. We loved it!! (well, the kids didn't eat it, but that was to be expected)

I didn't have any Asian style greens for the salad, so I just used Romaine lettuce, which I tore up and sprinkled a little bit of lime juice and some cilantro. Then I put the scallops on top of that and then added the dressing, which was totally delicious. I also just used a couple of drops of vanilla in the dressing, not the pod.

After I finished my salad, I stole some of my sons rice and put the left over dressing over that and ate it up in about two seconds flat!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Good for a Cold Night!

I was supposed to be snow flurries tonight, but we are spared the snow and it's just really, really cold, so I thought that the Braised Short Ribs would be good for tonight. I changed the recipe up a bit by adding about 1/4 bottle of Merlot, which I haven't done in the past even though the recipe calls for it, and serving it over rice (as I had lots of left over).

It was perfect for a winters night!


This is 100% Organic Fair Trade Coffee that my husand brought home for me on the weekend (to go with the pie). I'm lucky enough to have my own espresso machine, so I had a capuccino made with this at breakfast, and I also felt good because it was fair trade coffee. He bought it here and it's their house blend!

Trader Joe's also has lots of organic and free trade coffee!

I'm such a mean Mother!!!

Would you push this around your plate for 45 minutes and then cry and go to bed on an empty stomach if I served it up for your dinner?

My 7 yr old would, and did. The dinner consists of chicken thighs roasted and then I cut it off the bone and cut it up, one very small piece of roasted sweet potato , roasted potato and six french cut green beans (from Trader Joe's - best frozen green bean ever!!) He hadn't eaten a thing since lunch at school (they sit down to eat at 11:25), so he must have been hungry by 6:00pm. We had to fight to get him to eat about three quarters of the chicken and one green bean.

My 5yr old did a bit better, eating half of a piece of sweet potato, all her green beans and 1 bite of chicken. Still took her forever.

Consensus from the kids at the end of the meal - I am really mean for cooking this for them!!

I feel like I'm hitting my head against a brick wall!!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fruits of the Forest

I cannot tell a lie.
I did not make this pie.

But it is almost home made! It's from the fantastic Hepburn Orchards Bakery in Hancock, MD. They have 34 kinds of regular pie, 6 kinds of "no sugar added" pies (not sure I want those ones!) and 6 kinds of meringue and cream pies.

We have bought pies from them quite a few times over the past 10 years. This last weekend my husband took the kids to see his parents in Pennsylvania, and he kindly stopped on the way home in Hancock to get me this Fruits of the Forest pie. I love berry pies and desserts, even though I'm not a great pie lover in general.
Highly recommended if you are ever passing through Maryland on Rt 70!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Devil is in the Details!

Disaster!!!! I made this Devil's Food Cake today, which I saw Martha make on a re-run over the holidays. It looked so easy! And so delicious! And so impressive!

Not. Don't know yet. And not.

I did all the prep. With Martha recipes it's always very important to prep exactly as the recipe states otherwise you are going to get to somewhere in the middle of the instructions and want to plunge a serrated knife into your heart.

This cake is supposed to be 3 eight inch layers, but I only have 2 eight inch pans and 1 ten inch pan, (you can already see where this is going), I made it in the three pans I have with clever plans to cut the 10" one down to size when it had cooled. As you can see by the two layered cake in the picture, the cutting down didn't go that well. The kids are eating that "layer" after dinner tonight.

Then the frosting. 1 quart of heavy cream, 24oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips - cook over medium high heat for 30 minutes until thickend. 45 mins later, still not thickened enough. So I thought that it would probably stiffen up in the fridge while it cooled down, also you add 1 teaspoon of light corn syrup. I couldn't be more wrong. Runny, runny, runny.

Anyway, I assembled the cake, the top cracked, I iced it anyway and I'm going to eat some after dinner while I watch the finale of the Amazing Race. I'll update on the taste later.

Here is the recipe if you want to give it a try. I'd love to know if anyone has success with the frosting!

UPDATE: It's OK. I'm not blown away by the taste - although I think if I'd gotten the icing to really thicken up it would have made a huge difference.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chunky Guacamole

I had a Tupperware party last night!! Don't laugh, it was a total blast, and cooks need Tupperware!! I'm getting a container that holds a 10lb bag of flour!!. There were about 16 of us and plenty of wine and some snacks. I made Ina ">Ina's Guacamole and served it with blue and yellow corn chips. I also made the Pan Fried Onion dip, which is essentially homemade French Onion. Also delicious.

4 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons lemon juice
8 dashes of Tabasco sauce (it's really important to only do 8 - anymore and it's too much)
1/2 cup small diced red onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 medium tomato, seeded and small diced (I usually use 2, I think it makes it better)

What I usually do it prepare everything but the avocado and lemon juice, and put it in a bowl and mix it around.

Then you cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells. Then I roughly chop the avocado and put it straight in the bowl with the other ingredients. With the avocado sitting on top, pour on the lemon juice and then gently mix it all in together.

Try and make it as close to the time you are going to serve it as possible, but if you have to make it ahead, cover the guacamole with plastic, putting the plastic directly on the guacamole and sealing to the sides of the bowl. This combined with the lemon juice will help stop it going brown. And then refrigerate until you want to serve it.

New Home!

Thanks for checking out my new blog page. I had some limitations over at Wordpress (eg. absolutely couldn't get my FoodBuzz Featured Publisher widget to work), so I've moved over here to Blogspot. I'm keeping my blog up at the Wordpress address for a while with all my posts on it, as I've only moved over my "greatest hits" to the new address.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Overly Ambitious?

I just got out my folder where I stash all the recipes that I take out of the newspaper or magazines, all the ones that I'm "definitely" going to try. hahahah. I'm never going to make even half of these, so I went through them this morning and most of the time I couldn't even remember why I cut out the page or kept the newspaper, so I just ditched all those, and the 10 almost identical recipes for some combination of lemon/blueberry muffins. Never even made one of those. I did keep one recipe for the muffins, and I'm going to make them today, although I only have raspberries not blueberries, so we'll see how they turn out

Unfortunately, I didn't even find a little bit of inspiration in all those lose papers flying around. I'm still stuck in the slump!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The War Against High Fructose Corn Syrup

Mrs Names sent me this great blog post about what we are actually putting in our mouths, and how making stuff from scratch is so much better for us in so may ways. One of the biggest enemies in the food wars is of course High Fructose Corn Syrup. It's in everything and is super hard to avoid, because let's face it, I'm not going to bake my own bread for a family of four, I'd never get any laundry done.

I've completely cut out buying cookies at the store, cakes, pastries or pies. If we want to eat that stuff I make it myself along with all the pizza dough we eat. It sounds like a huge drag, but in fact, once you start eating homemade and made from scratch treats, you'll never be able to go back to store bought again. You really have to want to eat it to make it, so generally you don't have a lot of sweet snacks lying around the house. I was in Costco the other day, and one of the sample ladies was giving out some muffins. Of course I took one, and I couldn't even eat the quarter she gave me. It had the total made in a factory taste that you can immediately identify if you haven't eating that type of stuff for a long time.

I was so happy about that! I'm no longer tempted to buy anything like that! Of course my family doesn't agree with me, and they get really unhappy with me if I try and buy any kind of bread that that is remotely brown and good for you. Everyone here likes the Arnold WholeGrain Oatnut Bread. I've had to totally cave on this and just give them what they want. You have to pick your battles. I try not to eat it, but sometimes I just have some. As far as other bread goes, I try and buy fresh bakery stuff from the supermarket and Trader Joe's.

Arnold's are smug about the fact that they have 0g trans fat and 13 grams of whole grains per slice, but they still insist on putting in High Fructose Corn Syrup in their bread. It's the 6th ingredient listed, and then a bit further down they have also added sugar. I'd rather just have the sugar.

Now that the trans fat war has been fought and the consumer seems to be winning, we need to start fighting the High Fructose Corn Syrup War - we can win that too. Read labels religiously and don't buy things if at all possible with HFCS in it. Or better yet, make as much from scratch as possible, it will also help the environment, with less trash to throw out.

I really believe that High Fructose Corn Syrup is really bad for us, and who knows how it's going to affect our organs in 20 years. Time will tell. Hopefully by then, the manufacturers will be back to using ingredients that might be a bit more expensive, but are not toxic.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Nitrate Free Pizza

Now that I'm rid of my sickness, I took my daughter out last night for pizza (my son was at a birthday party), and we went to Fire Works Wood Fired Pizza. I thought it was delicious.

We had a 14" pizza, half Six Cheese and Herbs (Mozzarella, Provolone, Asiago, Parmesan,Fontina, Gruyere, Organic Tomato Sauce) and half Quattro Carni (Nitrate Free Pepperoni, Salami, All Beef Meatballs, Nitrate Free Italian Sausage, Organic Tomato Sauce and Cheese). I bought the meat half home for my husband, and he also declared it great. Fire Works try and use as much food as they can from local growers, which I like and I also like the nitrate free meats.

It wasn't quite as good as the Flatbread Company in Portland, Maine, where all the food is organic and free range and nitrate free, but it was still very good.

I really prefer to go to the one off restaurants around here, not the big chains, but sometimes they are really hard to avoid, because where we live the chains are EVERYWHERE.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Culinary Slump

I haven't really made anything worth noting for about a week. I did menu plan and wrote it all down and bought the stuff, but didn't end up making anything on my list. We had a lobster tail and crab legs on New Years Eve, and then the rest of the crab leg in rolls the next night, then we had some vietnamese, last night was baked veggies and chicken and tonight is left overs. So very exciting.

However, I did have a fantastic lunch experience today. I met my husband and we went to Five Guys and had burgers. They were excellent! Fresh, simple and yummy. I had a Little Bacon Cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and onion. The fries aren't fantastic, but that didn't stop me eating them!!

The burger was great - but still not as good as an Aussie Hamburger from a milk bar - if that even still exists!


Photo from