Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Breaded Chicken Cutlets

This is the chicken fingers recipe that I made for my girls when they were toddlers, but really they are what grown ups like to eat (at least in my house). The only difference is I used chicken tenders for the little ones and dipped them in ketchup and for the adults I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a side salad.  I might add that all the objections of  "oh no, not chicken again" melt into silence when these are produced. 

I hesitated to put this recipe on the blog because it's so "everyday" and seems a bit dull, but it's what I do with chicken when I can't think what else to do.  Then when I've made it, I can't think why I don't do it more often - everyone loves it.

I hope it comes in handy for you.

Here's what you'll need for your breaded cutlets,

1lb of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup of dried breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1 handful of minced fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, sage or oregano would be fine.  If you don't have fresh on hand, use a teaspoon or two of dried - Herbs de Provence works well)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil and a tablespoon of butter

On a large plate beat the eggs together

On another plate mix together the dried breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and herbs. 

If the chicken breasts are thick, more than about 1/2 inch, you can lay them between two sheets of parchment paper and bash them with a rolling pin until they are nice and thin.  Curiously I seem to find this quite satisfying.  If you don't feel like chicken bashing, once they have been browned in the pan, you can transfer them to a baking sheet and pop them in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes until cooked through.

Dip the chicken breasts in the egg wash and then roll them in the breadcrumbs.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan until hot and bubbling and lay the chicken breasts in the pan, saute until golden brown.

Remove to a serving platter (unless finishing in the oven), squeeze over some lemon juice and serve with a nice fresh green salad for adults or baby carrots, cucumber spears and ketchup for children.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Roasted Chickpea Salad

Couscous, let's be honest, is a lifesaver.  It's not really cooking, just boiling a bit of water.  I use wholewheat couscous now and I must admit it needs a bit of jazzing up.  That's where the chickpeas come in.  I roast them in Harissa Spice which gives them a lovely kick and add some sharp feta (I actually found some goats Gouda for this - which I had never heard of before but it was delicious).  If you can't find Harissa spice, mix together a small amount of cumin, sea salt and chili powder. Then just go chopping mad - cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers - all your favorite raw vegetables. Douse the whole affair in a tangy vinaigrette (I like balsamic vinegar with this as it really has some punch to it) and strew with handfuls of fresh herbs.  A final squeeze of a lemon (and plenty of zest of course) a sprinkle of sea salt and you're really for action.

Here's a what works for me;

1, 14 oz can of chickpeas
1 tablespoon of Harissa spice
1 cup of wholewheat couscous
6 oz of feta cheese (or goats Gouda if you can find it!)
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and chopped (skin left on)
1 small carton of cherry tomatoes, halved
A couple of large handful of fresh herbs (basil, mint and parsley are great with this)
1 red pepper, diced
1 zest and juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper 

Heat the oven to 400F

Empty and rinse the can of chickpeas.  Pour them onto a baking sheet.  Sprinkle the Harissa spice over them roll them around in the spice.  

Bake them for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Cook the couscous according to the package instructions. 

Chop all the vegetables, herbs and cheese and place in a large bowl.

To make the vinaigrette whisk together the mustard, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, juice and zest of the lemon and the olive oil.

When the couscous is cooked, fluff it with a fork and add to the vegetables.  Toss to combine.  Before serving add another handful of finely chopped fresh herbs (it can't hurt), one more squeeze of lemon and a few grains of sea salt.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chicken and Shrimp Soup with Vermicelli Noodles, Sweetcorn and Cilantro and passing on Awards

In a vain attempt to be super organized and get ahead of the game, last night I roasted two chickens, after all two is better than one.  This strategy worked nicely, one and a half chickens being demolished immediately and the remainder made into this soup.

As with any soup, don't be constrained by the ingredients list. The broth has a great flavor and provides a good base, but if you have any mushrooms that need using up they would work very well, snow peas would be great too.  If you don't like cilantro, try thai basil - that would be lovely.  As far as the noodles are concerned, I used vermicelli here, as I had them sitting in my cupboard, but often I use wholewheat soba noodles.  I firmly believe that with soup you should take liberties and use the ingredients you love.  

Here's what you will need for the simplest supper that packs a protein punch.

1 lb of cooked chicken
32oz carton of organic chicken stock
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of sucanant sugar (or regular brown sugar)
a handful of chopped cilantro
2 ears of corn (nibblets cut off the cob)
A good handful of cooked shrimp (I keep a packet of frozen for just this sort of occasion)
A good handful of baby spinach leaves
Juice of a lime
Half a packet of Vermicelli (or Soba) noodles

In a large pan add the chicken stock, sugar, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and carrots.  Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer.  You want the carrots to have quite a crispness to them, so don't cook more than about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile boil the water in another pan for the noodles and cook them according to the package instructions.

Add the sweetcorn to the chicken stock mixture and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat and add the cooked chicken, shrimp and spinach leaves.  Add the cooked noodles, squeeze in the lime juice and stir gently to combine.

Just before you serve add another sprinkling of cilantro.

I also want to THANK


for handing on some awards to me.  Please click on the link above and visit her blog - I PROMISE you will become a follower asap.  The blog is very special, delicious, funny and I always feel uplifted after I visit.

I would also like to pass on the awards to blogs I love and who have been very kind and encouraging to me.


















Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Slice of Summer Berry Tart

Here's a little tart that just shrieks "summer."  It's one of those wonderful, rare examples of very little effort = maximum effect.  I try hard to find as many of these examples as I can.  The crust is a baked graham cracker base, so no fiddling around making pastry, just a bit of stirring.  The filling, I think is the magic ingredient here, it's basically mascarpone cheese with a few flavors mixed in.  The topping is of course the best that summer can offer. Fresh organic berries, free of any sugary glaze, just sitting proudly on top in all
their glory.

It's a wonderful tart if you're out to impress but can't really be bothered to put the effort in.  It can be made ahead of time and assembled in a flash just before serving.  No real artistry is required, the berries do all the work.

Here's what you'll need for a slice of summer;

1 1/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup of melted butter
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 lb tub of mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar
Zest and juice of a lemon

Heat the oven to 350F

Melt the butter in the microwave

Mix the crumbs and sugar together in a bowl.  Add the melted butter, stir together until combined. 

Pour into a tart shell and press carefully into the corners.

Put into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool.  If you're in a rush (as I always am) pop it into the fridge to hurry it along.

Meanwhile make the filling by whisking together the mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract, confectioner's sugar, lemon zest and juice. 

When whisked, taste it, if you feel you need it a tad sweeter, then add a further 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar.

Spread the filling into the thoroughly cooled tart shell.  Scatter the berries on top.  Add a couple of mint leaves if you like. 


Monday, May 23, 2011

Fisherman's Tales

Once a year my husband escapes to the wilds of New Hampshire for a little "man time".  This is entirely understandable. Everyday he negotiates his way around a bathroom full of hair straighteners, curlers and dryers, not to mention baskets overflowing with pink shimmering body lotions and a spectrum of nail polish colors from florescent lime green to dark fuschia.

Poor man, a weekend in the woods with his best pal was called for.  He dusted off his fishing pole and hauled out his tackle box, being careful not to twist his ankle tripping over the Barbie accessories and headed for the door.  He waved goodbye and shouted his farewells over the pounding refrain of High School Musical III.  While he headed off to the wilds of NH (White Mountains), the older girls and I headed off to engage wildlife of a different sort, at the mall, prom dress shopping.

A few days later he arrived home with a cooler full of brook trout (also known as "speckled" trout) and a large rainbow trout.  They were beautiful fish.  My first instinct was to stuff and bake these little beauties, but I ended up breading and frying them and I'm glad I did.  They were delicious.

When you're lucky enough to come across some gleaming fresh trout, here's a srumptious way to deal with them.

Brook trout
1 cup of dried breadcrumbs
a large handful of fresh herbs, such as parsley or oregano
2 eggs
salt and pepper
olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter
2-3 lemons

Pat the fish dry with paper towels.

Dip in the egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs.

Heat the oil and butter in a large saute pan, when hot and bubbling place the fish in the pan.

Saute for about 4-5 minutes on each side until the breadcrumbs are golden and the fish is just cooked through.

Remove to a warm serving platter, squeeze over lemon juice and sprinkle over fresh herbs.

I served this with roast potatoes and green beans drenched in butter and lemon.
I really think I'm going to have to ask him to go back next weekend for more.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Quick Fix Roast Lemon Chicken Thighs with Garlic, White Wine and Fresh Herbs

This roast chicken is the first dish I taught my older children how to make.  It's delicious and it's foolproof. The chicken is succulent, the skin is golden and crispy and it's bathed in a wonderful garlicky, lemony glaze. It's perfect for a crowd as there's no fussing or last minute panic with the sauce.  It's also a VERY economical dish, I like using the dark meat thighs and legs for this as I think it has more flavor.  If you only eat white meat, just go for split breasts and cut them in half. 

Here's what you'll need for your easy crowd pleaser;

1 1/2 - 2 lbs of chicken (thighs or legs - or both) bone in and skin on.
2 onions, quartered
4 - 6 lemons zested and juiced
2 cups of white wine
1 bulb of garlic, cloves separated on skins left on
olive oil
salt and pepper
a couple of handful of fresh herbs (I used oregano here)

Heat the oven to 425F

Whisk the lemon juice, zest, chopped herbs and olive oil together.

Rub the lemon juice mixture all over the chicken pieces.  You can leave them in the fridge to marinate overnight  if you want, or just go full speed ahead and cook them immediately.

Place the chicken pieces in a roasting pan.
Cut up the onions and place in the pan.

Pour the wine into the pan.

Roughly chop more herbs and tuck them around the chicken. Do the same with the juiced and zested lemon skins.

Break the garlic bulb into cloves leaving the skin on, rub well with olive oil and place around the chicken.

Season with more salt and pepper.

Put in the oven, uncovered and roast for about an hour or until the chicken is golden and cooked through.

Remove from the oven, cover and let rest for approx 10-15 minutes.

Before serving, add more chopped herbs and a further sprinkle of salt.  Serve with a nice green, such as broccoli rabe, or green beans.  Don't forget to squeeze the garlic out of their skins and smear onto the chicken, it will be a lovely sweet flavor. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Wonderful Award!!

I had the most wonderful surprise last night.  To my utter surprise and delight, a very lovely lady, Laurie, offered me an AWARD!! for my blog!!

You should click here, immediately if I were you, to visit Laurie's very special blog, how my time flys.  I love visiting and I know you will too. She has been an inspiration in all sorts of ways and I am honored to have got to know her through blogging.
I am instructed that there are rules to this award, as follows;
You thank the person who awarded you - THANK YOU AGAIN LAURIE!

Tell seven things about yourself! Well, here goes;

1. I'm actually rather shy - I  just hide behind my computer.

2. Even though I'm shy I can be VERY bossy (did you notice this?)

3. I do my best thinking while walking the dog  (a rather naughty little Jack Russell Terrier) which I try to do most days.

4.  I tried to be a vegan for 1 year, 2009.  It was a rough year.

5.  I love living the US but of course really miss England.  When I fly back to England I always cry when we break through the clouds and I see it again!  Then I cry when we take off to come back to the States - I must be a crier.

6.  My absolute favorite spice is CUMIN, especially when added to hot olive oil - it sends me to the moon and back.

7.  I'm SO very proud and yes, overprotective of my daughters - (ok, you might have guessed that one)

That's enough about me. 

Then you pay it forward and award a new blogger you have found and enjoyed with the Versatile Blogger award.  I will post them shortly!

Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Raspberry Fool

This is a very old fashioned English dessert dating back to the 16th century. There are many variations on the theme such as possets, flummery's and syllabubs, most recipes call for egg whites, milk or a large amount of heavy cream.  In these days leading up to bathing suit season, I thought I should perhaps create a somewhat lower fat, slightly more up to date version.  I substituted non fat vanilla Greek yogurt instead of the more full fatted heavy cream 16th century number.  I must say I rather prefer it to the original.
My grandmother used to make "fools" ALL the time, usually with gooseberries which grew in her garden (she was a brilliant gardener).  I've used her blueprint for the recipe but changed the fruit to raspberries because where on earth do you find gooseberries around here?  I've also slipped in a tablespoon of Creme de Cassis, which I'm sure Grandma would have fully approved of if she had only thought of it.  

This is a lovely summer time dessert but if you omit the Cassis it's a super wake up breakfast treat.

Here's what you'll need for your raspberry fool.

12 oz of raspberries
juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 tablespoon of water
1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
8 oz of non fat Greek vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon creme de cassis
mint sprig and a few raspberries for decoration

In a pan place the raspberries, lemon juice and zest, water and sugar.

Gently simmer until sugar is dissolved and berries are very soft - about 5-8 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree in a blender.

Sieve the blended raspberry mixture into a bowl so you don't have any seeds.  The mixture should look something like this.

Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Place the vanilla yogurt into a large bowl.  Gently fold the raspberry mixture into the yogurt.  Turn into serving glasses and chill.

Decorate with a sprig of mint and a few raspberries.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stuffed pasta shells on a wet and miserable night.

It was a very wet, miserable night, I was a woman without a plan, everyone was hungry.  I was tempted to dial for pizza, I wondered if the number was still on speed dial, but then the 13 year old spied the jumbo pasta shells.  They were empty of course and would need filling, but with a slight cheat and some ricotta cheese, all would be well. 

Here's what worked in my moment of panic;

This makes a HUGE amount, halve the recipe if it sounds like too much of a good thing.

2, 12 oz packets of jumbo pasta shells
2 lb tub of ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
A large handful of fresh herbs such as oregano or parsley
2 eggs
Zest of a lemon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
2, 24 oz jars of your very favorite pasta sauce

Hear the oven to 375F

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the pasta shells. 

Cook until al dente (they will continue to cook in the oven).

Drain and leave until they are cool enough to handle.

While the pasta is cooking, get on with making the filling.  In a medium bowl mix the ricotta, eggs, minced herbs, lemon zest, black pepper and nutmeg.  I do not add any salt as the Parmesan does the trick.

Add about a tablespoon of mixture into the shells and line up in a very lightly greased ovenproof dish.

Here's the cheat.  Pour the pasta sauce over the shells.  Of course you can make your own, but remember I was down to the wire last night.  Sprinkle a few more herbs over the top.

Cover with aluminum foil and put into the oven for 45 minutes.  Take off the foil, sprinkle with Parmesan and pop under the broiler to bubble and brown.

Serve to your ravenous crowd with a nice fresh side salad and a lovely lemony vinaigrette.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sunday Night Dinner of Roast Pork and Succotash

Every Sunday night we try to all sit down and have a family dinner.  We attempt this in the week, but it never seems to quite work.  There's always lacrosse practice, a singing lesson, or a catch up session with the math tutor that sabotages my efforts.  So Sunday it is. If we're lucky Grandma comes to join in, but she's a busy lady so we have to book her in early.  These dinners can of course dissolve into chaos but I try to set a tone, so that at least they know what fork to use and remember to keep their elbows of the table. 

Yesterday morning I visited the local farmer's market.  They're just getting going for the season and I purchased a beautiful looking pork loin from Nellie who runs a local farm producing pork, chicken and a limited amount of beef. 

The vegetables I have to admit were not from the market but I thought the combination was a nice one and it certainly seemed to go down well at the dinner table.  To be fair anything with corn is a winner with my children.

Here's what worked well for our Sunday Dinner.

1, 2lb boneless pork loin
1 lemon, zest and juice
A large handful of fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano or sage work well with the pork)
salt and pepper

For the Succotash

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1 large gulg of olive oil
1 large onion
1 tablespoon of fresh herbs (same as above)
3-4 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of edamame beans (frozen)
Good splash of white wine (optional)

Heat the oven to 350F

Wash and pat dry your loin of pork

Squeeze the lemon juice all over the pork and season with the zest, chopped herbs, salt and pepper.

Put into the oven and roast until the internal temperature is 150.  Don't go any higher otherwise the pork will be dry. 

While the pork is roasting, make the succotash.

In a good sized saute pan heat the butter and the olive oil. 

Add the diced onion, minced herbs, season with salt and pepper and saute gently for about 5-6 minutes until soft but not browned.

Cut the corn by standing the cob up straight and slicing downward cutting the kernels off.  Add to the pan and cook for another few minutes.  Add the wine if using.

Add the frozen peas and edamame beans. Saute on a low heat until thoroughly cooked through.

Remove from heat, check seasonings and add a squeeze of lemon.  Pour into a warm serving dish.

When the pork is cooked, removed from oven, transfer to a warm serving dish, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board, slice and return to the serving dish along with juices. 

Enjoy with a green salad and perhaps a warm loaf of ciabatta.

My girls decided to make a batch of cupcakes for dessert.  Here are some of them rather intently frosting and taste testing.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Salad Nicoise

This always makes me think of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in "To Catch a Thief." I don't remember them tucking into a Salad Nicoise together, but it is rather South of France don't you think?

It really is more of an assembly job rather than requiring any complicated cooking skills, but it looks like you've gone to enormous trouble.  If you don't feel like springing for fresh tuna, it can still be lovely with good quality canned.  Just drain, fork into good sized chunks and toss gently in the vinaigrette below.   

If you are using fresh tuna, buy the best you can afford.  Serve it with a lovely glass of chilled dry white wine (pretend you're Grace Kelly or Cary Grant) and think of it as a bit of a treat.

Here's what you'll need to get started:

2, 3/4 inch thick best possible quality tuna steaks (NOT previously frozen)
1 lb of haricot verts
1 carton of grape or cherry tomatoes
a generous handful of fresh herbs (basil or oregano)
3/4 lb of baby new potatoes
3/4 cup of nicoise olives
3 hard boiled eggs, quartered

For the vinaigrette
2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
juice and zest of a lemon
10 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

In a medium pan boil the water for the potatoes.  Add the potatoes and cook until tender.  Drain, put back in the pan, add 2-3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette.  Place a CLEAN! dish towel over the pan and put the lid on.  Make sure the pan is off the heat.  This will help the potatoes absorb the flavors from the vinaigrette.

Cook the eggs, peel and quarter.

Meanwhile boil the water for the haricot verts.  Place them in the pan boil until the are bright green and tender, about 2 minutes.  Drain and immediately put into a water bath. 

Remove and dry with a dish towel. Put aside.

To cook the tuna, heat a grill pan until it's really hot, don't use any oil or it will smoke and set off all your alarms!  Sprinkle the tuna with salt and pepper.  Place on the pan and cook for about 2 minutes each side.  Don't overcook, make sure it's nice and pink in the center.

Assemble the dish, let your artistic talents take flight! 

Drizzle more of the vinaigrette over the fish and vegetables and serve the rest in a bowl on the side of the salad.

To make the vinaigrette mix the vinegar, lemon juice and zest, mustard, salt and pepper together.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion.  Check the seasonings as you go along. Set aside.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Springtime Minestrone

With so many delicious spring vegetables to choose from and a desperate need to get ahead of the game, a pot of soup is always a winner.  I had a handful of the sweetest new potatoes, a beautiful bunch of asparagus and a very busy afternoon and evening.  Soup, accommpanied with some warm, crusty ciabatta bread and a sprinkle of parmasan should please any hungry soul.  This works well in my house, I hope it helps in yours.

Here's what you will need for a pot of Springtime Minestrone.

A good gulg of olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
2-3 leeks, sliced thinly
Fresh herbs, chopped, (I used thyme and oregano)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
A handful of the smallest new potatoes you can find (or slice a couple of medium ones)
32 oz carton of organic chicken stock
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends discarded and chopped into spears about 1 inch long.
1 bunch of Swiss chard (washed, storks removed and cut into ribbons)
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of pasta (I used Messo Ditale)
Parmasan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion and saute on a low heat for about 5-8 minutes.

Add the leeks, carrots, garlic, potatoes and herbs.  Continue cooking for a further 5-10 minutes until soft but not browned.

Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and partially cover the pot.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the pasta.  I usually cook the pasta seperately as I find it can get a little soggy if cooked in the soup and left for a while.  Cooked seperately I can add how much I want and keep a more al dente feel to it.  When the pasta is cooked, drain, toss in a little olive oil to avoid it sticking, and set aside.

When the vegetables are tender, add the asparagus and Swiss chard, cook for a couple of minutes and then add the frozen peas.

When the vegetables are cooked through, set the soup aside for 10 minutes or so to rest.  This just gets better as the flavors are allowed to meld.  When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parmasan cheese.