Sunday, May 1, 2016

Malibu Farm Cookbook


It has always been a dream of mine to own and work on a small farm. We would have a big vegetable garden and flower beds that had flowers so big they would have to be propped up on one side. All the animals would be pets but at the same time have a purpose. Goats for their milk, chickens for their eggs, sheep because they are sweet and friendly.

This is what the Malibu farm cookbook is all about. Helene Henderson a Swedish native came here with $500 to her name and big dreams. She worked in various occupations but in the end found herself working in restaurant kitchens. She met and married her surfer husband who wanted to be near the beach. Together they found a 2 acre piece of land and eventually started gardens, vineyards and bee hives. They also acquired an assortment of farm animals.

Helene eventually opened the Malibu Farm restaurant. It is located at the end of the pier in Malibu, California. Her restaurant has endless views of the Pacific ocean and serves fresh seasonal food. The recipes from her cookbook come from here as well from her catering and private chef jobs. As you page through her cookbook you come across recipes like coconut granola, farm chickpea hummus, broccoli mashed potatoes, shrimp with farro and white beans and various simple cakes. I prepared the rosemary whole wheat olive oil cake that was topped with whipped cream and black berries. The cake was moist and not too sweet. I was surprised how well rosemary and blackberries tasted together. They complimented each other perfectly. It was delicious!


The recipes in this book are easy to make and are Helene’s “tried and True”. Recipes that you would expect coming from the California coast from someone who really cares. The story behind it all is very inspiring. Malibu Farm is an amazing cookbook and would make a wonderful addition to any cookbook collection.

“I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.”

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cottage Cooking Club Last Month, Three Recipes


It's time once again for the cottage cooking club to come together and posts our thoughts and experiences for the month. We are a group of international blogger's bound together by our love of fresh seasonal veggie dishes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's cookbook, "River Cottage Veg". Our group is meant to be a project aimed at incorporating more vegetable dishes in our everyday cooking, and is and has been inspired by our dedicated leader Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness. Each month Andrea picks one recipe from each of the 10 chapters and then we pick and choose as many as we have time for. Sadly this is our last month of cooking from this wonderful book as we have completed the 220 recipes in “River Cottage Veg”.

But never fear in May our little group will start two more of Hugh’s books. One is titled "River Cottage Every Day" and the other one is "Love Your Leftovers". Please join us! Our motto for the month of April is: “Last but not least”.

The first recipe I prepared was the roasted potatoes and eggplant. Roasting vegetables in the oven helps them to caramelize just a little and gives them extra flavor. The potatoes were nice and crisp and the eggplant was soft and silky. Garlic was added at the end and roasted 10 more minutes. When removed from the oven the veggies were given a squeeze of lemon. Hugh also recommends freshly grated lemon zest, hot smoked paprika or chopped herbs. I will be preparing this dish often as I loved the combo. Also this was simple and easy to prepare.


The second dish I prepared was the Various rarebits. Welsh Rarebits is a dish of savory cheese sauce served over toast. In this version Hugh had us make a simple béchamel sauce with cheddar cheese. Bay leaf and onion are infused with milk to give the sauce even more flavor. I first toasted the bread then added the sauce, topped one sliced with celery slices that had been sautéed in butter until tender but still crisp. The other slice was prepared with leftover zucchini that I had grilled the night before. I thought the flavor was delicious but both of my toast were a little soggy in the middle. Not sure how everyone else did at this point.


The third and last recipe was Linguine with mint and almond pesto. Here the pesto is made out of toasted almonds, mint, garlic and lemon zest. Notice there is no cheese, the cheese is added as a garnish at the end. The pesto is then given a good squeeze of lemon and a little salt and pepper. This was easy to put together. The cooked pasta is tossed with pesto and half of the tomatoes. The other half is added to the individual serving bowls with the Parmesan cheese shaving when ready to serve. This was light and refreshing. Hugh also recommends using this pesto for salad dressing, just thin with a little olive oil.


These recipes have been slightly adapted from the "River Cottage Veg", by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. First recipe; from the chapter "Roast, grill and broil” Roasted potatoes and eggplant (page 351). Second dish from the chapter "Bready things" Various rarebits (page 209). Third recipe; from the chapter “Pasta and rice” Linguine with mint and almond pesto and tomatoes (page 266).

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the LYL post for April 2016 on the CCC website, by clicking here.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Insulated FreshyBag


What a great little bag this is. My husband takes his lunch to work a couple of days a week. I usually pack him leftovers or a sandwich of some kind. This is where Freshybag comes in. It is made out of a sturdy and non-toxic material and is machine washable. The bag we had before was not. I would spot clean it and it looked like I did, needless to say I was buying a bag almost every year.

This bag is well made, check out my pics and you can see the piping along the edges and the handles. The two spacious zippered compartments are insulated with a foil like material. The insulation keeps food fresh longer than the typical lunchbox. The compartment at the top is the one that has a sandwich, water, cheese stick, granola bar and apple, as you can see there is plenty of room to spare.


The bottom compartment is big enough to hold a couple of waters, ice pack, or food item of your choice.


This bag also comes with a lifetime warranty and is FDA approved. We try not to eat many processed foods so I make most of our meals from ”scratch”. Having a bag like the Freshybag is a great way for us to travel and eat well. When empty the bag can be folded completely flat and does not take up much space. It is reasonable priced and certainly the best out there that I have tried. I would definitely recommend this bag to family and friends.

Disclaimer: I was provided a sample of this product in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Baked Eggplant Parmigiana, Dinner for Two


Dinner for two can be hard to accomplish after cooking for a growing family, but it can be done. There are plenty of websites and cookbooks available for recipes and inspiration. Here are a few tips that I have learned; bulk bins are a great way to pick up just what the amount of grains, flour, seeds, nuts and granola that you may need. Meat can be purchased in smaller amounts from the market butcher and freezer bags will be your best friend.

Take this eggplant dish for example, my first inclination was to pick up at least two when I only needed to purchase one (they were exceptionally large). I’m constantly having to retrain myself, sometimes I’m successful, sometimes not. In this recipe the eggplant is roasted in the oven then stacked into stacks starting with the largest pieces on the bottom to the smallest on the top. Parmesan, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce and placed in between each layer.

Ingredients:

1 to 2 eggplants (depending on the size)(you want about 4 to 5 slices each)
6 ounces mozzarella (shredded)
1/3 cup Parmesan (shredded)
2 cups marinara sauce
Basil leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut eggplant into ½ inch slices. Salt both sides and let sit on a wire rack for 1 hour. This will help draw out the liquid and bitter flavor. Wipe salt off and pat dry with a paper towel.

Roast eggplant for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven.

Spread a ladle of tomato sauce around in the bottom of baking dish. Select the two largest slices and place them side by side. Layer with mozzarella, Parmesan and marinara sauce. Take the next two largest slices and do the same until you have a stack of five layers. Finish with another layer of marinara sauce and cheese.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until cheese is golden and melted. Serve with a small salad or some roasted greens. Enjoy!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Citrusy Shrimp with Couscous and Asparagus


The lemon tree in our backyard has just a few lemons remaining. It is a small one but always yields a ton of fruit. Having such a tree at our disposal means having a supply of fresh organic lemons when in season. I recently discovered that the lemon leaves have a place in the food scene as well with teas or when grilling meats. The leaves themselves are not edible but can impart a lemon like flavor, much like kaffir lime leaves.


I decided to combine a few of my favorite ingredients together with two of the lemons for a flavorful bright meal. I love the wonderful zing and brightness that citrus brings to food. Here shrimp and asparagus are drizzled with fresh lemon juice, honey, olive oil and parsley and served on a bed of whole wheat couscous.

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 cup dried whole wheat couscous
8 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 2 to 3 lemons)(divided)
1 pound raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1 tablespoon shallot (minced)
1 pound asparagus spears, cleaned and trimmed
1 tablespoon honey
¼ cup parsley (chopped)

To prepare:

Couscous:

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in medium-sized saucepan. Remove from heat, add couscous, 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper, stir quickly, cover with lid and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork and 1 tablespoon lemon juice, set aside.

Quick Marinade for Shrimp:

Combine 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, olive oil, shallots, 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper. Add shrimp. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Shrimp and Asparagus:

Preheat a grill pan or grill. (I used a grill pan that covered two gas burners).

Toss asparagus lightly in 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add to grill and grill until your desired tenderness. (I like mine crisp-tender) Remove from pan, set aside.

Grill shrimp, turning in 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp.

Citrus sauce:

Whisk together honey, parsley, remaining lemon juice and olive oil.

To plate:

Place a scoop or two of couscous on each plate, add asparagus and shrimp, drizzle with citrus sauce. Enjoy!





Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Eating In The Middle, A Cookbook


Sometimes you come across a story or an event that really resonates with you. There is something about someone who comes across honest and vulnerable. Andie Mitchell, author of the cookbook, “Eating in the Middle” is one of those people. In her introduction she talks about weight loss and how she lost 135 pounds 10 years ago. Since then she has kept the weight off but also had to deal with the emotional side of her relationship with food. She turned that relationship into a positive one by experimenting in the kitchen, and so began her trials and tribulations.

The recipes that you will see in this cookbook are mainly a balance between wholesome and healthy with a little sweetness sprinkled in. What I enjoyed most was the way she lightened up the classics. I baked the banana nut donuts and loved the cream cheese frosting with maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon, it was perfection. I practiced my own self-control by preparing only half of the recipe and only frosting part of the donuts, both ways were delicious.


“I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.”

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Halibut En Papillote


I’m not sure if I know how to pronounce the title of this post correctly. But En Papillote is a method of preparing fish, chicken or beef in sealed up little packages so they can steam in wine or another flavorful liquid of your choice. It’s a healthy and delicious way to enjoy your meal, perfect for entertaining and a great way to reduce calories. I am sure this would work well with a little butter and cream too.

This was so delicious and easy to prepare that I decided I need to go out and buy more parchment paper . Many more dishes will be prepared in these little packets. For today’s recipe; fresh wild halibut was baked and steamed in parchment paper with white wine, lemon juice, asparagus and fresh thyme. The end result was soft and buttery; every bite melting in your mouth. When serving be sure to open packets at the table to allow everyone to smell the aroma, they will be in heaven.

Ingredients:

3/4 pound fresh wild halibut (cut into 2 pieces)
8 stalks asparagus, (cleaned and trimmed)
1/2 leek (cleaned and cut into small ribbons)
4 fresh lemon slices
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme (dill or basil would be nice too)
¼ cup white wine (1/8 cup for each packet)

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 °.

Take 2 pieces of parchment about 12 inches long. Set halibut in the middle of the parchment, season with salt and pepper. Place asparagus, leeks, lemon slices and your choice of fresh herb.


How to create your packet:

Overlap parchment paper and then fold tightly around the food to create a seal. Add wine before sealing pouch completely. 

Add parchment packets to a large cast iron skillet and place in oven. Bake until firm to the touch, about 6 to 12 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove from oven. Be careful of the steam when opening. Remove lemon slices and herbs.