As we begin to wake up to brisk mornings where even the sun isn’t up quite yet, and our morning cups of coffee have become warming and soothing, instead of just a caffeine boost, the desire to feel the warmth of the oven and the scent of spices in the air, burns bright.
A switch is flipped when the cool mornings set in and the chilly nights fall upon us. All of a sudden, the bananas ripening on the counter become crumbly muffins or a rich cake in your eyes, the peaches are bubbly cobblers dripping with melted ice cream and the apples turn to a buttery and flaky pie. All of a sudden, no fruit or vegetable is spared, all can be baked into a seasonal treat.
We don’t stop at fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry inspire pies, slow roasts and braises. The aroma of a piece of slow roasting meat with fragrant spices is just as enticing as the smell of cinnamon rolls baking for a weekend treat.
Hello my lovelies! How have you all been? I hope you are reading this in your inbox because it’s been so long since I last wrote anything, I’m not sure if my post was even sent out! It’s a bit rusty from the under use. This post was written right after Thanksgiving but as you can see, it’s been languishing in my drafts for over 10 days now. I’m going to go ahead and just post it, even though Thanksgiving is old news.
So, how was everyone’s Thanksgiving? Well, by everyone, I mean all the Americans. We had a very wonderful and quiet one. This year we opted out of the friendsgiving. My husband was off for four days and so were the older girls who work for a daycare/school. The children didn’t want me to host and they didn’t want to go anywhere, but of course, they wanted me to cook. And here I was thinking I’d escaped the cooking. No such luck. They all handed in their food requests: creamed corn, sweet potato casserole, cauliflower and broccoli casserole, pumpkin pie, and pecan tart. We didn’t do a turkey because we’re not huge fans so I roasted little Cornish hens, one for the each of us.
The snow fell outside all day Thursday. It was a lazy sort of snow fall, it wasn’t in a hurry, it took its time drifting merrily down from the frosty skies. It echoed the mood of the house, where we lazily shuffled about in our fuzzy slippers and socks, furry hoodies and jumpers. We lit a roaring fire and listened to the crackly sounds of fire wood; splitting and burning, fill the family room. The warm glow of the fire and family, spread over our faces, bodies and hearts. It was just a lovely day.
I had prepped much of the food the day before and all that was needed was a quick few minutes to bake off the casseroles. It took 30 minutes to stuff and prep the Cornish hens and then they were placed in the oven. In the meantime, the children enjoyed doing their thing and my husband and I spent all day watching football. We snacked on spring rolls and satsumas and sipped mulled apple cider in between yelling at the TV screen for some ridiculous referee call or play.
Those four days off sure went by in a blur but they were the best four days of the year. It is so nice to have to do nothing and to have special people to do nothing with. Two of my daughters have birthdays back to back around Thanksgiving break, so two of the days were celebratory with special breakfast one day and dinner the next. Present buying and giving, and of course, a bit of Black Friday deal shopping was also done.
I was going to post before Thanksgiving but I really have enjoyed doing nothing. I decided that I’d wait to get through the holiday and then try and get back into the groove of posting regularly and visiting my friends who I have sorely neglected. I have come to the conclusion that cooking for a living and then turning around and writing a good, food blog is quite difficult. I have 4 weeks to get some sort of plan in place before my work stuff starts again. I’m hoping to find a balance, and some time to do what I do but still post regularly with some good content and not be tired of the whole cooking and baking thing!
How has everyone been? I have visited some of my blog friends and am making my rounds and hope to get to all of you very soon.
My second week off from work, I ventured into the kitchen. My mind was beginning to churn out a few ideas and once I was in the mood to get knee high in flour, I jotted down a few ideas and armed with my trusty pink notebook, iPad and wooden spoon, I got to work.
There are a few Madeleine recipes on my blog; it’s because I adore them. I love how they’re easy to make, I love their beautiful scalloped shape, their versatility and how they make everything look fancy.
These are chocolate ones with a floral under note from lavender. Lavender and chocolate go really well together and how much you want to add is up to you. I didn’t want to confuse them with bars of soap! I used some fresh lavender from my little pot on my porch and a tad bit of dried. The White chocolate glaze with a few sprinkles of dried lavender leaves adds the perfect little floral punch as you daintily nibble them.
These are perfect for your holiday table because they instantly add a touch of sophistication. They are also great for a Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day breakfast or brunch. Like I said, versatile.
I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season. It definitely feels like the holidays here in Coloardo. The weather has been beautifully chilly and the snow has dusted everything like a gingerbread village. I know snow and cold weather is not for everyone and even though it can really stop me in the tracks especially with my joints, I absolutely love this weather. I am the happiest when there’s snow falling softly outside, and the oven is on baking up warm and gooey delights, filling the house with the aromas of sweet spices.
Last Friday, I had huge baking plans for the weekend. I was going to make panettone, bake cookies, replenish my blog back up with new recipes and photos and get a head start with the cooking and photography for this chilli for the Improv Cooking Challenge this month. I had done the shopping, I was pumped and totally organised.
Saturday morning rolls around and I cannot move. I cannot walk two steps to my bathroom let alone climb down a flight of stairs. UGH! I was so mad. This is the reality of my Rheumatoid Arthritis; stuff like this happens and I have no control. Goes to show that my body has its own mind and what I plan doesn’t always pan out. There is no point in getting frustrated, mad or anything else. I just take it as a day or two days where I do nothing but ice my knee, take pain medicine and watch TV.
So, last Saturday, my youngest daughter took care of me since my husband was working. She made me breakfast, got me lunch, snacks and tea. All the while keeping me company as we watched bad Christmas TV. When my husband came home he ordered pizza for dinner.
Sunday rolled around and I still can’t move. My husband and I had to miss our weekly date at our favourite coffee shop for Sunday coffee. Instead, I lay in bed again and watched football. Dinner was takeaway again.
I didn’t set a foot downstairs the entire weekend. Monday morning, I could hobble a bit so I limped downstairs to pack lunches and get breakfast. Oh, the horror! The state of my kitchen, the family room, the breakfast table! Every knife from my knife block was in the sink along with every spoon and glass! It was horrible. Now, my husband is very good with the dishes and cleaning up for me, but he’s not good with washing up knives, serving spoons and miscellaneous bits and bobs. Those bits and bobs filled my sink. I asked him why my knife block was empty and he claimed that he was having problems cutting the rotisserie chicken and apparently, used every knife to find one that worked! Hmmmmm, rotisserie chicken is usually so tender you don’t even need a knife. Oh, well.
So, this weekend, I went gluten free because this pain in my knee and the more crushing pain of seeing my kitchen in such a state, needs to stop. I have been going a bit overboard with my gluten intake lately and I think it is bringing on the flare ups regularly and more frequently.
I had planned to make this White Chicken Chilli as soon as I found out the Improv Cooking Challenge this month was white chocolate and lime. I did have a short list of dessert ideas too, but a weekend of eating crappy takeout was all the motivation I needed to make a decent dinner for Monday night.
A plus for me is that this chilli is gluten free and absolutely delicious. It, also fulfils the Monday Night Football requirements; chilli, chips and sour cream 🙂
The Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly challenge hosted by Kristen Baker of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. Every month we’re given two ingredients/combinations and we come up with a recipe that uses both the ingredients. This month it is white chocolate and lime; a wonderful pairing.
This White Chicken Chilli with White Chocolate and Lime is a variation on the Cooks Illustrated white chicken chilli recipe. Of course, you have to pay mega bucks to subscribe to their site to get the recipe and then have the whole day to prepare it the way they want you to. This is easier, has white chocolate and lime and tastes just as good.
A delicious white chilli made with chicken, chiles, white beans, white chocolate and lime.
Shredded Chicken and Broth
1 4-5 pound/2kg, whole chicken
10 cups/2.4L water
1 onion, quartered
3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves
tops of the anaheim and poblano peppers
White Chicken Chilli
6 cups/1.4L broth
6 Anaheim peppers, roughly chopped
5 Poblano peppers, roughly chopped
4 cups/3 cans organic white beans (I used organic northern beans)
1 jalapeño, optional
1 large onion, roughly chopped
5 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
4-8 tablespoons white chocolate chips
4 tablespoons olive oil
tortilla chips for serving along side
sour cream for topping
Start by making the broth for the chilli.
Place the whole or pieces of chicken in a big pot, cover with water, add the onion, carrots, garlic and pepper tops and bring to boil.
Cover and simmer until chicken is tender.
I use my pressure cooker to make the broth, it takes 20 minutes.
Follow your pressure cooker instructions.
Once the chicken is cooked, lift out of the broth and allow to cool before deboning.
Strain the broth and put aside.
You should have about 8 cups of broth.
Using a food processor, finely chop the anaheim chiles, poblano chiles and the onions.
Don't puree, you want some texture.
Once each of the peppers are chopped, add them to a large pot with the olive oil and sauté.
Add the garlic and sauté a minute or two, till fragrant.
Add the cumin and coriander, mix well.
You want the peppers and onion soft but not browned.
Add 6 cups of broth and bring to a simmer.
Add the beans and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Take out 2 cups of the mixture and puree, carefully, in the food processor.
Add back into the chilli to thicken a bit.
Add the shredded chicken and heat through.
Add more broth or water if needed to loosen up the chilli (I usually add another cup or so of broth)
Check for salt and spice and season accordingly.
You can add the jalapeño if you don't feel the chilli is hot enough or add hot sauce on the side.
Start by adding 4 tablespoons of the white chocolate chips.
Stir them through and allow them to melt and blend in.
Check the sweetness.
If you don't taste it, add by tablespoons until it suits you.
I added the whole 8 tablespoons and it had a nice hint of sweet flavour.
Turn off the heat and then add the juice of 3 limes.
Add the chopped cilantro and mix through.
Taste to see if the balance of sweet and tart is to your liking.
You don't need to add too much lime juice to the pot but allow extra lime to be served along side.
The lime juice is more effective added right before eating.
Serve in bowls with extra lime, a dollop of sour cream, extra cilantro and tortilla chips for dipping and crushing into the chilli.
The spice level of the chilli can be controlled by removing ribs and seeds from the chiles, especially the jalapeno and anaheim. I didn't use the jalapeño because my chilli was quite spicy with just the poblano and anaheim chiles. The consistency of the chilli is up to you. I like to make ours a little loose so when we add our tortilla chips, they have something to soak into. But if you like your chilli thick and scoop able, just don't add any extra broth or water. Now, some might say that the chicken is probably not worth using after boiling, but here, the flavours are so strong that its just a texture and bulk thing. You can always use poached chicken breast or roasted chicken breast and chicken broth. I have made it both ways with very little difference in flavour.
Only a few more days till Christmas! Hope you guys are all ready. I am going to be hosting a dinner, not a Christmas celebration, probably more like Festivus 🙂 , for my friend’s family. It is also a bit of a bittersweet holiday for me this year because my nephew is getting married and I won’t be there 🙁 . I was 15 when he was born and I would get up when he would cry, always in the dead of night, and fetch him for my sister so she could nurse him. He would then fall asleep with me. I am very close to both my nephews and I am beyond thrilled for his big day but very sad I won’t be there. But he called me yesterday before heading off to Pakistan for his wedding and it took everything I had to not break down on the phone. Tears will pour come Monday when he is officially married.
Please check out my fellow Challengers below and their delicious contributions.
I would like to wish all my readers and friends a very Happy Christmas! I hope you enjoy your time with family and friends and may all the blessings of this season be with you all.
I’m done with pumpkin, I’m pumpkined out (note: it only took 3 recipes to do that!!) I got on the bandwagon, I drove it for a while and now, I’m done. Did I change my opinion and become a pumpkin loving convert? Um…no. I don’t dislike it, but I just don’t love it like some people do.
Now, once again, this is only the Jack O’Lantern/sugar pie pumpkins, I still enjoy butternut, acorn and other winter squash. But, I’m done with pumpkin; until next fall when I will give it another go.
So, onto other delicious things that are available now; chocolate, for example. I find that I make very few chocolate desserts during summer. I think the delight of seeing so many fresh, summer berries and fruit just draws me to them and imagination runs wild. Come winter though, I really begin to crave chocolate. I’ve already made chocolate cake, brownies and cookies for us over the past few weeks, basically as soon as the weather turned cold and has remained cold, I’ve been cranking out chocolate confections. There is something instantly warming and comforting about gooey chocolate desserts whether they are served with ice cream or warm custard.
This isn’t a warm chocolate dessert though but its incredibly good. Once again, it came about because I needed to use up egg whites that were left over from my pecan tart. I originally wanted to make macarons but was plain out of nut flour of any kind and making my own just seems too much work for that day!
Taking the easy way out and working with what was in my fridge that day, I decided to make these White Chocolate Mousse Meringues. Ok, so it’s not a true mousse but it sounded better than white chocolate cream, and as food bloggers we know that coming up with fancy names makes the dish even more delicious ;). These can be considered mini pavlovas, I suppose, since I did use a pavlova base. But, whatever you want to call them, all I know is that they are pretty darned good.
They are also way easy to make and pretty stunning on a plate for a fancy dinner or even a buffet. They hold up remarkably well in the fridge for a few hours and so, can be made ahead. The topping I used is some very good quality French preserves. My thinking is that if you have some of your fruit preserved from the summer, you can whip it out now and enjoy it atop a creamy and crunchy base. The homemade preserves will add a personal and seasonal touch. I didn’t get to make much jam this year, except for a few jars of peach jam, so I used a four berry preserve (Dalfour). I wanted a more berry flavour, but you can use whatever jam you like.
If you are looking for inspiration, here are a few that my friends have made over the past few weeks: Bam’s Kitchen has this perfect quick and easy Bammer’s Jammers made with cranberries and strawberries which would be a perfect sweet tart addition to the sweet white chocolate mousse, The Bartolini Kitchens just posted a very seasonal Quince Jam, which many would use on savoury dishes, I think it would work nicely here too, and Sugar et al has a gorgeous Rhubarb, Orange, Ginger Jam you can try, especially if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere and your spring/summer fruits are coming in.
The meringues take a couple of hours at most to bake and the mousse takes only a few minutes, but it does have to chill. They can be assembled ahead and they will still be crispy when served.
I wanted the meringues to be a pink hue with the white cream but since I’ve stopped using food colouring, and I was all out of my natural colours, they’ve stayed a white with a cream hue. You can add a touch of colour for some festivity. I’m sure they’d look very pretty in pink and white.
crisp and crunchy meringues filled with a creamy white chocolate mousse and topped with berry fruit preserves.
5 egg whites, organic
1¼ cups/250g granulated cane sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar, organic
2 tablespoons cornstarch, organic
2 cups/475mL heavy whipping cream, organic
6oz/170g white chocolate, good quality bar or chips
6 tablespoons or more good quality preserves
Preheat the oven to 300℉/150℃
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and draw a 6 4"(10cm) circles on the underside.
Whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
Add the sugar and beat until glossy and thick.
Add the cornstarch and the vinegar and blend until just incorporated.
Dollop the egg whites onto the parchment paper using the drawn circles as a guide or can pipe the egg whites to make a basket/nest to hold the mousse.
Turn down the oven to 250℉/120℃
Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Turn off the oven and allow the shell to cool completely in the oven.
White Chocolate Mousse
Take ⅔ cups/160mL of the heavy cream and melt it with the white chocolate in bowl over simmering water or in the microwave, at 30 second intervals.
If using the microwave, after each 30 second interval, take out the bowl and stir to mix and melt the mixture together.
It took 90 seconds for me, but your microwave might take more or less time, as microwaves are all different.
One the mixture is melted and homogenous, let it sit on the counter for about 20-30 minutes until slightly thickened and cool.
Meanwhile, whip the remaining 1⅓ cups/315mL of heavy cream to stiff peaks.
Once the white chocolate mixture is cool, fold it into the whipped cream.
Blend carefully but thoroughly and then chill for at least 2 hours before spooning into meringues.
To serve, spoon about ¾ cup mousse into the middle of the cooled meringue shells and add a dollop of fruit preserve on top and garnish with a sprig of mint.
My meringues shells were a good size and if you prefer smaller ones, just pipe or dollop onto smaller circles. My husband was able to finish one off with no problem but my children and even I struggled to finish one. They were bigger than I anticipated. I thought that my white chocolate mousse was a bit sweet but the others didn't seem to have a problem. I would go easy on the fruit topping if you don't like yours too sweet. I haven't adjusted the recipe because my husband and children didn't find it sweet and so, maybe it's just me.
I’ve been enjoying everyone’s Christmas cookie and biscuit posts thoroughly, who knew there were so many different types of cookies?! I don’t know how I am going to be able to try and bake them all. It will take me at least a year!
Happy baking everyone! I hope everyone is keeping warm (at least in the Northern Hemi), we’ve had such frigid temperatures these last few days that I don’t even want to crawl out of bed let alone drive and run errands in below zero temperatures. I’m surviving on tea, coffee and my warm, fuzzy socks. Have a great weekend everyone!