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.


Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Wine Wednesday - Estancia Pinot Noir

Estancia Pinot Noir blends well with a variety of meals. If your menu choices require you to be versatile, then grab a pinot. If you want a full bodied wine that won’t break the bank this wine is a nice choice.

The aromas we noticed are raspberry and earthy smoke, if that makes any sense. Complimentary blend of flavors, not too dry and very smooth.

Pinots are a go-to for such a wide variety of foods but honestly, they are not all created equal. Who hasn’t poured a glass to find a watered down, pale colored, limp handshake of a pinot? Hey, it happens, and then I note to avoid that label I the future. You won’t have that disappointment with Estancia. I'm buying more of this one for evenings when the dinner menu isn’t planned because Estancia can stand up to a roast chicken, pork, a ribeye steak and even Chinese take away. 13.5 % alcohol volume, under $20.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Welcome Nigel Slater! I made you Chicken with Garlic and Lemon.

Six months rolls by so quickly...for me anyway. The I ♥ Cooking Club has been hosting Donna Hay for six months and it's now time for a change of the guard in the kitchen. Welcome Nigel Slater!

For our opening dinner I have prepared broiled chicken with garlic and lemon from the book Real Fast Food.

Easy as you please....a light meal to be had on the patio listening to the birds sing their evening songs. I used a potato ricer for the boiled red creamers. It gives the illusion I have rice on my plate. A ricer gives potatoes such a light angel hair texture.

Broiled Lemon and Garlic Chicken
Use 8 pieces of chicken: a mixture of legs and thighs
2 juicy lemons
1 plump clove of garlic, finely sliced
4 tablespoons live oil
salt and ground pepper

Put the chicken pieces in a baking dish. Squeeze over the lemons, add garlic and olive oil.
Set aside while you prepare the rest of the meal and when you are close - put the chicken under the broiler.

(Now, because my oven has one foot in the grave we can't prepare the chicken this way. I roasted the pieces and it turned out very well. Definitely one we will be having again and again.)

As you can see from the photo above we had freshly baked bread, steamed pole beans and red creamers run through a ricer. A bottle of crisp Nobilio Sauvignon Blanc complimented the crispy skinned, lemony taste of the chicken.

Welcome Nigel....I predict good meals in our future using your cookbooks.

Check out the other welcoming posts at I ♥ Cooking Club.
Coming up next is Wine Wednesday!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Between a rock and a hard place - Farewell to the vexing Thunderbolt

Woo Hoo! I have less than two weeks to deal with this horrific excuse of a smart phone called Thunderbolt. Only a former owner of the HTC Thunderbolt will be able to empathize with me on this issue.

Verizon and HTC put us between a rock and hard place……and then both companies abandoned us. Let me tell you what happened. (Oh, and by the way, this happens to all of us smart phone users whether you like it or not.) Sooner or later your phone magically receives an update. It installs without option to decline and is meant to enhance your phone’s operating system. Unfortunately for us Thunderbolt owners, the “upgrade” was more of a corruption to the phone.

Naturally I called Verizon and asked if they could help with this issue; perhaps getting us into another phone of equal value or repairing the problems this upgrade triggered. My answer from Verizon was no, they could not help. It wasn’t anything they had control over as HTC pushed the upgrade through. They did give me the phone number for HTC and I called immediately, hoping for resolution.

The lady I spoke with was very nice, however, when she asked what model phone I had and I stated ”a Thunderbolt” I heard, (for the first time of many, many utterances regarding this phone) “Ohhhhh” in that tone you use when you hear someone’s dog died. The “I’m Sorry” is implied but never verbally follows the ohhhh.

“We are still working on a patch for that model. Just keep checking your phone for updates.”

Silly me, Polly freakin’ Anna, I actually thought they may give us an update. No. No, that never did happen. So I call Verizon again. And again. And again. They all but shake their non-caring corporate head at me and tell me when I am out of contract I can buy another new phone. Thanks, thanks a lot. We had already spent good money on phones which weren’t performing so thank you so much for the offer to purchase another device you may or may not back up!

My point here is, we make monthly payments to Verizon so one would think they have a contractual obligation to be sure we are receiving the product and services we are paying for.

As for HTC, they pushed through an upgrade and one of their products didn’t take kindly to it. You would think HTC could furnish us with another model in their smart phone lineup. Evidently they abandoned repairing the Thunderbolt model. Unfortunately for us, we had purchased these new phones just a few months before the problems started. This has been the longest 2 year contract we have ever been in with Verizon and we’ve been customers for years. We are actually Alltel carry overs.

So, coming up soon, very soon, both of us will be rid of this doorstop that sometimes functions as a phone. The daily exercise in frustration and feeling of abandonment will fade. This experience has soured me on android phones. But change is around the corner! Who knows, maybe we will switch cellular companies too- change all the way around! Can’t wait.


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