Since we're still in the process of moving, Dave and Carla are coming, and we have no internet at home, I'm going to take a brief blogging vacay.
For now I'll just say we had a great time in Fort Wayne with my parents and the dogs. They have tons of snow (London still basically has none) and lots of good food.
That's my parents' dog, Toby, who clearly never misses a meal.
Anyway, this blogging break is going to be a lot more painful for me than it will be for you, so I'll be thinking up new posts to share with you in the coming weeks. I hope you had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year!
It's the perfect time to shop with my mother for things like spices in a grocery store I normally couldn't afford (Fresh Market) and make food I only make on special occassions.
Sweet potatoes aren't so fancy, but they complimented the meal well. I'll give you some steps, since this was kind of shot from the hip.
I love sweet potatoes. They're my new favorite thing (besides molasses and the butane torch).
We skinned 'em, boiled 'em, and mashed 'em.
And then we made scallops!
After we broiled them, we topped them with a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
We even at the table like civilized people.
These bacon wrapped scallops are one of the best things we've made this year, especially in proportion to how totally easy they are. I'll share a "recipe" or at least steps for each.
Mama Shupe's Sweet Potatoes
At least one sweet potato per person (more, if you want left overs).
2 tbs brown sugar*
3/4 stick of butter
salt and pepper to taste
Peel and cube the sweet potatoes, then boil them until they are soft.
Mash them and then whip with a fork to make the fluffy. Add 3 tbs (or more) of milk, half and half, or buttermilk, to make them creamy. Stir in butter and brown sugar until incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste
adapted from All Recipes
16 sea scallops (we did 4 per person)
8 strips of bacon, cut in half
tbs brown sugar
juice from one lemon
1/4 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Wrap each sea scallop with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick. Sprinkle with brown sugar.
Broil 4-6 min. per side,** or until bacon is crispy.
Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. When scallops are done, brush or spoon the lemon and olive oil mixture on top of them. Serve immediately.***
*We sort of ran out of this. I added some maple syrup (Canadian trick!).
**We found 6 minutes was a little long and cut it to 4 minutes on the second side. But I'm sure it depends on your broiler.
***Make these last. We served them within moments after they were out of the oven, and they were so good.
This is a small portion of their 3 walls of cookbooks.
Like any good used bookstore, it's a place to get comfortable and really dig to see what they have.
This was intriguing; it's divided into regions of the country and has an essay about the locals in the beginning of section.
One of the employees got a grant to paint a mural on the outside of the building with various scenes of Fort Wayne.
Below is the one of Safety Village!
We used to go there on field trips in kindergarten to learn about traffic rule and...you know, safety. We could ride around on little cars (kind of like power wheels) in a miniature version of Fort Wayne with little houses and businesses, changing lanes without looking and running mini stop signs. It was the best.
More on our baking and cooking adventures in my mom's kitchen to follow.
Things at the new place didn't exactly start of well...
After a marathon of finishing finals, packing, and moving everything we owned in a span of a week, John and I settled in for our first night in the new apartment. While I was drying my hair, the lights dimmed a little bit, though I thought nothing of it. Sometimes that happens, and everything goes back to normal.
Then I came into the kitchen that smelled distinctly like smoke. Not just like hot metal, but burning wood. In our house. We noticed that there was smoke coming from the fuse box and that it was kind of popping. John called 911 while I tried to find a fire extinguisher in the building where we'd lived for approximately 3 hours. 911 told us to get out of the apartment, and then the firemen came!
I thought about throwing a fist into the air Dwight-style when they got there, but I was too distracted by the possible electrical fire in our apartment.
The firemen assured us that there was no fire. They shut the power off in the unit, let us up to find a change of clothes, and sent us away for the night. They also said, and I agree, that this was the best way for this to have happened; John and I were going to run the space heater in our room over night and probably wouldn't have noticed anything was wrong.
Here's the good part: our landlord has handled the whole thing really well. She offered to pay for a hotel, called every day before we left for Fort Wayne to see if she could help us in some way, and had her own electrician come inspect it to make a plan for repairs on Sunday, even though the official fire department inspector couldn't come until Monday. I believe her when she says it will be fixed. I feel like we finally have a landlord who acts like an adult and takes responsibility, even when it's not her fault. It sucks that this happened on our first night there, but she seems to be using it as an opportunity to show us that she means business.
So there you have it - our dramatic flee from the new apartment. Now we're in Fort Wayne for Christmas, where we can just sleep, cook, eat, sleep, cook, eat, and walk the dogs.
Right now I'm considering a few different things:
* Red velvet cake, pictured above. I made that one (only partially finished in the photo) last year for John's birthday (or was it something else?) from the Martha Stewart Cupcake book. One of the elves let it slip that Santa is getting me that book for me for Christmas, so I know I'd have the recipe on hand. I love red velvet cake, and the color is certainly Christmasy.
*Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting
As I've shared before, sweet potato is my current favorite food, and I could use the torch to toast the frosting. I'm hesitant only because these sort of say "Thanksgiving" to me more than anything, and since we'll already have cookies (it's Christmas after all), I think it'd be nice to have a dessert that was one big thing that has to be cut, instead of individual servings.
*Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake
This one looks a little more intense, but it's from Smitten Kitchen, so I trust that it would turn out well. Gingerbread definitely says Christmas to me, but I have one reservation about this one - it doesn't have chocolate in it. Still, it does have molasses, my 2nd favorite ingredient of the moment...
...but what I really want is bread pudding. So far I haven't found many recipes for it, let alone one that seems Christmasy/has chocolate on it. Even if I could find a basic recipe that I could add chocolate, I'd be satisfied.
So please help! I'd welcome your opinions on the recipes above and others like them. Do you have a favorite Christmas baking recipe? Or just a dessert recipe that you swear by? I'd love to hear about! Please leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll be sure to give you a shout out if you send me something.
It's really cold here this week. In order to use up some of our food before hauling it a mile to our new place, and to have something warm waiting for us for breakfast, I decided to make a breakfast casserole.
[I bought long johns this week and started to feel really Canadian.]
This is probably the first of several, since I found lots of great recipes. My friends were ready to supply me with enough breakfast casserole ideas that could last for a month. A couple of honorable mentions that I may make in the future:
Dave and Carla's Crustless Bacon and Cheese Quiche
Eggs Florentine from Pioneer Woman, suggested by Kira at Food alla Puttanesca.
And of course, Sarah Gibson's mom's breakfast casserole (sorry, no link yet) with sausage, grits, cheese, and everything wonderful. I may give that one a try in Fort Wayne, as we're almost out of grits, and they are little harder to find in Canada than I'd hoped.
The on-hand ingredients were what made me choose this recipe. We had a bunch of eggs that I didn't want to drive over with our loads of stuff to the new place. We had lots of milk, and a pound of sausage in the freezer. The recipe calls for 8-10 strips of bacon, but the sausage worked really well. I also added two chopped green onions that needed to be used up.
This recipe is from my friend Mark's mom, Mrs. Chilla. Last year during the holiday break we went to visit Mark and Sarah, two of our friends who are originally from Atlanta. During the two days we stayed at Mark's house I probably gained 20 pounds from all the delicious food we ate.
Here's a picture of the four of us at the World of Coke. Can you even stand how wholesome this picture is?
Anyways. Mrs. Chilla was kind enough to send me one of her delicious breakfast casserole recipes. It's easy and so, so good.
from Gae Chilla
Assemble this casserole the night before and refrigerate.
4 cups cubed day old white or French bread
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
10 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups milk
1 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp onion powder*
Dash of freshly ground pepper
8-10 slices of bacon, crumbled**
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes
Generously butter a 9x13 baking dish.*** Arrange the bread cubes in the dish and sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Beat together the next 5 ingredients with pepper to taste and pour evenly over cheese and bread.
Sprinkle with bacon, mushrooms, and tomato. Cover and chill over night.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. If you use a glass or pyrex dish, don't put the dish into the hot oven. Instead, put it in the oven as it's pre-heating.
Bake for 1 hour, or until set. Check periodically and tent with foil if the top starts to brown. Enjoy!
*Mine was already packed, so I omitted this. **As I mentioned, I used a pound of hot Italian sausage because that's what I had on hand. It would go well with breakfast sausage, or bacon, of course. ***I totally forgot about this until it was already done baking. Luckily nothing stuck, and the whole thing came out fine. But it'd be better if it was buttered.
It's not hard, and the results are incredible. They're also somewhat idiot-proof. I've made several mistakes with this recipe before, including leaving the egg out accidentally, and they were still good. Of course, the recipe is best when I make it correctly. But it's nice to know you have a cushion.
Today I left out the peanut butter chips (I'm out), but added another 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to make up the difference. I often say these are "laced with crack" because every single time I've made them, it goes the same way:
- Person takes cookie, eats it quickly.
- Person reaches for another cookie, saying, "Oh man...These are really good..."
You cannot eat just one, it's been proven over and over again. These cookies will make people think you work at a bakery. I highly recommend them.
Peanut Butter Cookies
from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth is what we used, but I am pretty sure they use chunky at the bakery)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips
For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies.** Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.
Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
*"Laced with crack." **I've never really done this. I'm just not impressed by it.
This came together easily and tasted great. I think it might not even be so bad for you, if you use low sodium chicken broth. I'm basically in love with anything that includes a sweet potato at this point.
This soup has so many flavors! Curry, sweet potato, ginger...and then you add cilantro and it starts to really taste like Thai food. I give it four stars, on my arbitrary and inconsistent rating system. It's good for vegetarians and if you don't add the sour cream, it would be vegan, too.
We made 1 and a half times the recipe so we could use up more of the carrot and more sweet potato, etc. Left overs are perfect for our Perfect Storm week of moving and finals.
Sweet Potato Curry Stew
from Cheap Healthy Good
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup carrot, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 bay leaf
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups sweet potato, peeled, cubed
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth (or veggie)
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (didn’t drain them)
1/4 cup brown lentils*
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
plain yogurt of sour cream
1) Sauté onion, carrot, celery, ginger, bay leaf and pepper flakes in oil in a pot over medium-high heat until soft, eight to 10 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and curry powder; sauté one minute. Add wine; simmer until almost evaporated, then stir in broth, tomatoes and lentils. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until lentils and sweet potatoes are tender, 30 minutes or so. Off heat, stir in 2 Tbsp. cilantro, lemon juice and salt. Garnish with sour cream and remaining cilantro.
Approximate Calories and Fat
408.3 calories, 14.8 g fat.
*I used red because I could buy a small, dried amount of them at the store. They hydrated quickly and were really easy to work with.
The honey and the butane torch are staring at the ham in this picture.
I saw some kind of "how-it's-made" type show on Food Network where they filmed people making honey ham - though not the brand name, Honey Baked Ham.
The show naturally inspired me to try it myself. How hard could it be?
First we squirted honey all over it.
And then we did it again.
I rubbed it with brown sugar, and then we torched it!!!
The glaze it made was really similar to the sweet, heavenly glaze on a Honey Baked Ham. The over all taste wasn't quite the same, but it was close! I love ham, so I was easy to please.
I don't really have a recipe for this, just a few ingredients.
Honey, and a lot of it. Coat the ham with it.
Brown sugar (maybe a 1/2 a cup, maybe 3/4). Try to pat it evenly on the ham.
A butane torch (from the creme brulee set my mom gave John a few years ago for Christmas...maybe his favorite ever Christmas present from her - the torch, not the rest of the set). Torch the ham and caramelize the sugar.
*Unrelated to ham: I'm on the hunt for a good breakfast casserole recipe. If you have one, please leave a link in the comments, or send me an email at email@example.com.
John and I have a new favorite restaurant in London: Jambalaya!
I can't help by compare it to Veg Out, since we just went there recently, but it's so.much.better.
Jambalaya serves a combination of Cajun, Thai, and Caribbean food. I highly recommend checking out their website, especially the Cuisine page. They explain in depth the history of food in the regions listed above. It's a perfect combination for me - history and food. That should be my next themed vacation!
I digress. Jambalaya is owned and run by nice people. The service was pretty good, and now that we've been there twice I can say that both times the food was fantastic.
I like this picture of John because it looks like the eye of the painting behind him is looking right into his head. He's making that face because this is the first food we've had in Canada that reminded him of actual Southern food.
The smell of the place reminded me of food I used to get at Dats, a Cajun/Creole restaurant in Bloomington - maybe the restaurant I miss the most.
I ordered the Jerk Pad Thai, which was served in a sort of mini wok. It was delicious! When these people say they like to combine unusual flavors, they really mean it. This dish was everything you'd expect in pad thai, but with a jerk sauce instead of the peanut or sriracha sauce. They have regular pad thai, as well, but I'm glad I tried something different and got this.
John got the Gumbo Ya-Ya - "The best meal I've eaten in London." He seemed especially excited about the okra, since he loves to eat fried okra in Tennessee. We described to our waitress, the chef's wife, that in the South people bread and fry it, and she was really surprised. This also came with corn bread, which he noticed was different from the "normal" kind. I tasted it and I think it had probably half the butter that we're used to. My finger tips weren't buttery after holding it, either. But it was still good.
I give Jambalaya an A+. I can't wait to go there with Carla and Dave.
It has everything I love in Thai food: coconut milk, cilantro, green onions, curry paste...Ok, so no peanut butter, but it was still delicious.
It made enough for both of us to have generous portions, and we had enough to eat it again as dinner the next night.
Thai Style Chicken Soup
from The Way the Cookie Crumbles
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 stalks lemon grass, tough outer leaves removed, bottom 5 inches halved lengthwise and sliced thin crosswise*
3 large shallots, chopped
8 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves, chopped coarse
3 tablespoons fish sauce
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk, well-shaken
1 tablespoon sugar
½ pound white mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise and sliced on bias into ⅛-inch-thick pieces
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
2 teaspoons red curry paste (Thai)
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 serrano chiles, sliced thin*
2 scallions, sliced thin on bias
1 lime, cut into wedges*
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until just shimmering. Add the lemon grass, shallots, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon fish sauce; cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are just softened, 2 to 5 minutes (vegetables should not brown). Stir in the chicken broth and 1 can of the coconut milk; bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the flavors have blended, 10 minutes. Pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids in the strainer. Rinse the saucepan and return the broth mixture to the pan.
2. Return the pan to medium-high heat. Stir the remaining can of coconut milk and sugar into the broth mixture and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, add mushrooms, and cook until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until no longer pink, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove soup from heat.
3. Combine lime juice, curry paste, and remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce in small bowl; stir into soup. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro, chiles, and scallions. Serve immediately with lime wedges.*All asterisks are by ingredients that we omitted. John and I went to two grocery stores to find lemongrass and still couldn't find any - even though it was there the week before! We used the zest of a lemon instead.
The good news: we get to move in a week or so to an apartment that is managed by a woman who seems to have herself together, and where there is no blood thirsty dog.
The bad news: my blogging is going to be really inconsistent as we pack, finish finals, finish grading, and actually move.
I've got some great recipes and a restaurant to tell you about, and I'll try to keep posting as much as I can. We'll be in Fort Wayne over Christmas, where I hope to have plenty of time to bake, sit, and blog.
Until then, happy finals and happy holidays!