Thursday, April 24, 2014

Memories of a picnic...a long time ago.
Nigel Slater’s Chicken Salad with asparagus and cucumbers

It’s that time of year we want to go outside and enjoy a picnic. Unfortunately the weather here in north Florida has not been cooperating as of late. Usually we have warm mornings but lately it’s been in the low 50s. Crazy. The evenings have been better and we’ve been able to eat dinner outside quite a few times, so that’s been nice.

Since the theme this week at IHCC is "
What's in Your Picnic Basket" I prepared a standby: chicken salad. But not any old chicken salad! I made Nigel Slater’s Chicken Salad with asparagus and cucumbers.

One memorable picnic I enjoyed was right in our front yard; this was about 20 years ago. My son was in kindergarten and he was sequestered from other people when he developed chicken pox. Doug and I would take turns picking up some groceries as Tristan couldn’t go inside the markets. He had little red marks all over his face and arms – if you’ve ever had a small child afflicted with that awful chicken pox, you’ll know it’s hard to keep them from scratching.

Well, just because we couldn’t go to a playground that was no reason to limit fun activities. We live in a rural area and our front yard has a park-like setting. We spread out a couple of blankets and took our lunch and lemonade outside. We had some books and games and best of all, enjoyed sandwiches and cookies sitting under a shady tree, listening to the birdsong.

(Seriously, reading over that paragraph made me think of Little House on the Prairie. We never have been like the Ingalls family :-)

While I don’t recall the type of sandwiches we had, I do remember it being a fun afternoon. Yeah...that was about 20 years ago. Things sure have changed. This time we didn't use bread to make sandwiches but placed the salad right onto lettuce. We were able to use butter lettuce straight from the garden. How cool is that?!

In the spirit of picnicking, I turned to Nigel Slater’s recipe from The Observer, July 2011 issue. This is a gluten free dish.....yum yum.

Chicken, tarragon and asparagus salad
The Observer, July 2011 issue

(This was taken straight from the Observer so, get your Brit fix in this version)

chicken thighs or breasts (about 4)
olive oil a little
lemon ½
asparagus 250g (about 8 oz)
cucumber 250g (8 oz)

For the dressing:
egg yolks 2
Dijon mustard ½ tsp
groundnut oil
olive oil
lemon juice of ½
tarragon 2 tbsp, chopped
parsley 2 tbsp, chopped
gherkins 6 small

Place the chicken pieces in a roasting tin, add the oil and juice from the lemon, massage in a little salt and black pepper, then roast at 200C/gas mark 6 for about 30 minutes, till the skin is golden and the juices run clear.

Meanwhile cook the asparagus in boiling water or steam it till tender. (I prefer to keep it a little on the crisp side for this recipe, about 6 minutes.) Drain and set aside.

Remove the chicken from the oven and leave to cool. Peel the cucumber, remove the seeds with a teaspoon and cut the flesh into small chunks, then put it into a sieve or colander over the sink. Grind a little salt over the cucumber, toss gently, then leave it for 30 minutes, until some of the juices have run out. (If you skip this point, your salad will be "wet".)

Make the dressing by putting the egg yolks in a mixing bowl with the mustard and a little salt and black pepper. Add the oils, starting with a drop at a time then slowly increasing to a trickle, beating firmly with a large whisk as if you were making mayonnaise. Add the lemon juice, chopped tarragon and parsley. Roughly chop the gherkins and stir them in. If the dressing seems a little thick or "claggy" (much will depend on your oil), then whisk in a little hot water till you get it to a consistency you like.

Tear the chicken into big, meaty pieces, but small enough that you can eat with a fork, then gently fold in the cucumber with as much of the dressing as you need to make a creamy salad. You want enough dressing to bind the salad, but not to swamp it, so use about half of it then add the rest a little at a time till you get the ratio of chicken to dressing as you like it. Keep any extra dressing in the fridge for a day or two.

Join in at IHCC, just click on the icon below and transport over. Guaranteed there will be other yummy offerings.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wine Wednesday - Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet

Penfolds Koonunga Hill (2008) is a deep crimson, full bodied beauty of a wine. This was our first experience with a Penfolds wine and it certainly did impress. I was after a bottle of Bin 407 but the shop was out. This one caught our eye and so happy it did.

Think chocolate, spice and plums. The chocolate lingers after you sip. 13.5% alcohol, a 71% shiraz and 29% Cabernet blend. It won't break the bank at under $15 a bottle. I want more of this wine from South Australia.

By the way, we did manage to find a bottle of Penfolds Bin 407. Stay tuned......

Friday, April 18, 2014

An education in Gluten-Free cooking and experimenting with kicking Prilosec:
Healthy Living Project #1

Good morning! We are embarking on a new culinary path I have dubbed Healthy Living Project. I hope you'll come along and see the results of our experimentation. As we adapt our cooking and eating style I wanted to journal the results. Naturally we are hoping for success. Let's get started with the back story and initial stages.

Last month my husband decided he’d wanted to get off Prilosec. Actually, he’s been wanting to get off that OTC drug for quite some time but acid reflux can make your life miserable if left untreated. Prilosec and it’s kindred drugs such as Nexium and Prevacid are pump inhibitors and assist with that terrible acid that causes so much pain. But it has drawbacks such as causing headaches, depletion of B-12, fatigue and much more.

After doing some research he found other people who had been on a pump inhibitor and successfully kicked the Prilosec by using DGL (which stands for deglycyrrhizinated licorice). I can’t pronounce it. I can pronounce licorice.

He’d take the DGL about 20 minutes before a meal and that helped with the acid. Lots of times it worked well but on occasion he’s had to take another acid controller (Tagamet).

The Tagamet wasn’t a daily need and we figured, this still is better than taking a Prilosec every single morning. Further exploration led him to folks who mentioned wheat and/or gluten was their issue. When they went gluten free, their stomach acid issues went away along with fatigue, headaches and joint pain. Could he be afflicted with a wheat intolerance? How simple would that be to alter our diet and eliminate that as a possibility.

So, now I am getting to the gluten-free part. Saying it out loud – gluten-free….. It’s an odd clumsy word that doesn’t roll off the tongue smoothly. Gluten…awkward sounding. I imagined gluten free cooking/baking as being difficult. Oh no! Gluten and wheat are in most of our simple indulgences! It sounded like we were headed for deprivation, that is until I started reading about gluten free cooking.

Fortunately for us, we don’t buy many convenience foods so adapting to foods which don’t have wheat flour isn’t as challenging as I thought. We don’t buy the packaged mac and cheese mixes, Hamburger Helper and rarely buy a cake mix. That part is super easy as we didn’t load our shopping cart with prepackaged foods before this little experiment.

We do buy boxed cereals and so, that part changed a bit. I love Special K, but alas, it has wheat flour so we ditched it in favor of Chex cereals. The rice, chocolate and honey nut varieties have been very tasty, especially with the addition of strawberries or blueberries. Low calorie too. Other breakfast items are eggs, bacon/sausage, grits, fried tomatoes and potatoes…….no deprivation there and no changes needed. Toast is a different issue (I will get to that).

If you have been reading my site for the past several years you’ll know we rarely eat meals out and we have a very basic cooking style. It’s a blue moon if we fry something. All meats are roasted, baked or grilled. We eat fresh vegetables, fruits and I have been making my own bread for years.

Other than the bread, I guess we have been eating gluten free about 90% of the time. (I am really bad at math so that percentage may be off). The foods I need to modify immediately are pizza and bread. We ate bread every day, freshly baked every couple of days. Now the experiments with gluten free bread will begin. (Saving my first attempt at GF loaf for another post :-)

Pizza – I will miss Oscar’s pizza in Havana. They have a wonderful pizza and I love the people there. But there are GF baking mixes for breads and pizza so – let’s get that stand mixer working and start the bread trials!

Tracking Results

While I thought we may only be tracking Doug’s progress with kicking Prilosec as well as the ebb and flow of the pain he experiences with acid reflux, I am realizing there may be other possible benefits. What if eliminating gluten from our diet and bodies results in weight loss, fewer headaches, less fatigue, less brain fog? I started a journal to keep track; we will see. Maybe his reflux is from a wheat intolerance and if that’s the case, we should find out soon as we modify our diet.

Ok, so it’s been a month since his last dose of Prilosec. In a nutshell:

* There were good and bad days the first month, but more bad than good. It was almost two weeks into quitting Prilosec that he took the occasional Tagamet. He did take DGL before each meal (for a while)

* 10 days after quitting wheat he’s had two good days in a row and, for the first time since quitting Prilosec, has not needed Tums, Tagemet or DGL. Coincidence? We will see.

*As of this date, he has not taken any Tagemet or DGL to assist with reflux. Good days so far.

* Over a two week period he’s dropped 3 pounds. I got on the scale Wednesday and I had lost 1 ½ pounds.

This is an experiment in progress so all I can do is record the results. I wasn’t devoted to writing this down when we started but I am now. Hopefully the good results will continue.

Since this is a new culinary road for both of us I have dubbed this Healthy Living Project and will number my updates. I hope you'll come along and see how our experimentation proceeds!

Coming up will be more Nigel Slater recipes and photos of meals we've prepared in our quest to eat gluten free.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wine Wednesday - Nuits-Saint-Georges

Burgundy’s Côte de Nuit offers us a favorite wine. This one is a treat. Plums and dark fruit, a hint of pepper…you can’t cork this bottle. It’s meant to be shared over a long leisurely dinner.

Rich and deeply ruby in coloring, you can enjoy this with chicken, grilled steak, pork chops or duck. Wish we had some duck but…..hard to find around these parts.

Even sans duck…..we had a very pleasant meal. Wish we had another bottle.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Roast Chicken with Cheese Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

It's Potluck at I ♥ Cooking Club! This week, I am sticking with Nigel Slater and prepared a roasted chicken with cheesy mashed potatoes and thick gravy. Look at this beauty coming out of the oven. The crisped brown skin of a chicken straight out of the oven is a lovely site, to me it is.

Plated up. This gravy was a snap to make and gave an extra creaminess to the cheesy potatoes.

For the cheese we ventured over to Whole Foods. They have a fantastic cheese counter and gave samples of the ones we were interested in. That's a good thing to do, sample it first, as cheese can be very expensive and it's awful to be stuck with a large wedge you can't abide.

Nigel recommended a Wensleydale, Lancashire, cheddar

Here's what you'll need to prepare this feast:

1 large chicken
5 springs of thyme
2 heads of garlic
*2 medium to large potatoes
3 large carrots, chopped in 1 ½ inch pieces

For the gravy:
A small onion halved
A carrot
A couple of bay leaves
2/3 cup white wine

For the cheese mashed potatoes:
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup hot milk
Mature cheese such as Wensleydale, Lancashire, cheddar

Set the oven to 400F. After removing giblets from bird spread butter and add salt, pepper and thyme. Shove a few sprigs of thyme inside the chicken cavity. Place bird breast side down in pan.
Cut heads off garlic horizontally and tuck under the bird. Place in oven to roast.
*Note: This recipe calls for chopping and boiling potatoes, then placing in the roasting pan with the chicken. I love potatoes, but since we were having the cheese mashed potatoes I didn’t want the extra roasted ones as well. I omitted that step but I did add carrots.

Ok, once you’ve boiled the potatoes for the mash and they are done, drain and add to hot milk and butter. Use your mixer or potato masher. Add cheese. Keep warm while you carve the chicken and make gravy.

This is what I am bringing to Potluck at I ♥ Cooking Club. It's most likely a weekend meal or any day you have a bit of time to cook. It doesn't need too much tending though so we do have this during a weeknight. It's a feast. Join in at IHCC, just click on the icon below and transport over. Guaranteed there will be other delectable offerings

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What's your Small World Story?

I was chatting with my friend Debbie who writes`at The Friday Friends about chance encounters that make you say, what a small world. That led me to thinking of other stories I've heard as well as bizarre moments in our lives.

OK, my best Small World story. I tagged along on one of my husband’s business trips which was in Ocala Florida (that is 185 miles south of our home). Sitting at the hotel bar was another couple who nodded at us as we took our seats and ordered. The TV flashed up some baseball scores and I asked, to anyone in general, “Did anyone see the score for the Phillies game?”

The lady across from me looks up and asks, “Are you from Philly?” I say, “Well, a very small suburb south, you wouldn’t have heard of it. Brookhaven.”

She says, “Brookhaven?! I am from Upland!” This is amazing because it’s where I tromped around, my Nana lived there, I went to school in the attached borough, know the place very well.

“I am doing genealogy research there,”she says.

‘Hey, I have loads of info on Upland,” I volunteer. My cousin still lives there, and blah, blah blah.”

Then the lady says, “My cousin Gail lives there too.” I say, “Gail….my cousin’s name is Gail. Gail XYZ.”

Turns out – me and the lady at the bar are cousins! She calls our cousin Gail and we are passing the phone around. We have the same great grandfather and start comparing notes. Wild! A chance meeting because neither of us were in our home city. She lived further south, just staying one night from her home 200 miles south of Ocala. Truly this is a chance encounter.

We exchanged email addresses as we both want to compare notes on our genealogical pursuits but alas, we are not in touch.

That's my small world story.

Do you have one? I'm listening........

Monday, April 07, 2014

Rather Good Mince, Nigel Slater Style

The theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is Fit for a Brit!

I’ve only been to England once but foodie images that pop up for me are Shepherd’s pie, toad in the hole, cream tea and a good roast beef dinner. As I didn’t have any of the makings for the aforementioned, but I did have a pound of good quality ground beef, this Nigel Slater recipe called Rather Good Mince was quite appealing.

It’s very good and next time I make it I am using ground lamb. It’s similar to Nigella Lawson’s Rapid Ragu but without the pancetta or Marsala. This is most assuredly a dish that will be repeated in our home. Easy and delicious. Ok, here is the recipe....

Rather good mince
Serves 4 with potatoes, crisp polenta or pasta
(From The Observer, Saturday 18 October 2008)


butter – 1 ½ ounces (50g )
cubed bacon – 2 ½ oz. (70g)
a medium onion
garlic - 2 fat cloves
celery - 2 stalks
mushrooms - about 3 ½ oz. (100g)
bay leaves - 2
minced beef or lamb – 1 pound or slightly less (400g)
canned crushed tomatoes - 1 pound or slightly less (400g)
stock – ¾ cups (200ml)

Here's how you do it.....

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based pan then stir in the bacon and let it cook for five minutes or so, without coloring much.

Meanwhile peel and finely chop the onion and garlic and stir it into the bacon, followed by the celery, finely chopped. Lastly, finely chop the mushrooms and add to the pan, then tuck in the bay leaves and leave to cook for 10 minutes over a moderate heat, stirring frequently.

Turn up the heat and tip in the meat, breaking it up well with a fork. Now leave to color without stirring for a good three or four minutes, then, as the meat on the bottom is starting to brown, stir again, breaking up the meat where necessary and leave to color.

Mix in the tomatoes and stock and a grating of nutmeg, and some salt and black pepper, letting it come to the boil. Turn the heat down so that everything barely bubbles. There should be movement, but one that is gentle, not quite a simmer. Partially cover with a lid and leave to putter away for a good hour or so, stirring from time to time, regularly checking the liquid levels.

Serve with pasta, potatoes or crisp polenta.
Surf over to I ♥ Cooking Club and get your Anglophile culinary fix.

Friday, April 04, 2014

White bean and ham soup

Let us say goodbye and good riddance to the cold and dreary days of winter. It's finally Spring weather and yes, I know my buddies in the southern hemisphere are having different weather conditions, but here...I am celebrating the last of the chilly weather with a hearty soup.

I surely won't have this one once it's hot and humid. Inspiration is from my friend in Carlucet France who, along with her lovely daughter, sent me a French care package.

Go pilfer your pantry and fridge and combine white beans, ham, onions, carrots, green beans and more. Obviously you can adjust ingredients according to taste. Make it hearty :-) It's getting warmer but our office conditions are still chilly so this makes a wonderful lunch. We bring along a bit of baguette and a yogurt - all set for the afternoon.

We are working in the garden and plan to replace some tomato plants that, unfortunately, died during a very unexpected frost. Here's to raising the glass for warmer weather that stays around.

Sharing with Deb at Kahakai Kitchenfor her Souper Sunday event.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin