Category Archives: Food

Comfort Food

I should probably change the name of this thing to “a brit indifferent”, that’s how I’ve been feeling lately about blogging, especially after my long(-winded) post disappeared.

I’ve been keeping busy otherwise, specifically with trying out new recipes.  It seems all I do these days is try something new.  I think with the never-ending nasty weather, I just have to have something comforting.  Last night, it was Chicken Tortilla Soup.  It’s true, I’d never made it, but I found a great recipe.  If I have to offer one piece of advice it’s this: make sure your tortilla chips are still in the cupboard before you start; it’s not just a cleverly-named soup.

I can’t lay claim to this recipe, I found it at recipezaar, but here it is in its glory.
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1 (46 ounce) can chicken broth
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie from the deli is fine)
2 anaheim chilies, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1/2 cup diced onion
3-4 large tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp minced cilantro
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp chipotle pepper (optional)

Garnish
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, pulled from stem
1 lime, cut into wedges
2 cups crushed tortilla chips

Directions
-Throw everything except the garnishes in your crock pot and let it cook on high for 5-6 hours.
-Dress with garnishes and give it a squeeze of lime (a must:-) and you’re good to go!
-Enjoy!
-If you are not using a crock pot, sauté the garlic and onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil before adding the remaining ingredients.
-Simmer for at least an hour so that the flavors mix together.

**  I only used 1 tsp pepper, and not quite a tsp of salt.  I used Monterey-Jack cheese on mine.  You can also see from the photo that I took the time to delicately shred the chicken like it said in the directions pahahaha!  I also accidentally picked up serrano peppers instead of anaheim, but it was still really good.

Jif Lemon Day!

If  you are American, today is Mardi Gras.  If you are Catholic, today is the day before Lent.  If you are British, today is Shrove Tuesday, better known as Pancake Day!  OK, technically the same as Shrove Tuesday, but let’s skirt over technicalities here.

I have often wondered why I have never heard the term ‘Shrove Tuesday’ here.  Wikipedia set me straight:

Shrove Tuesday is a term used in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia for the day preceding the first day of the Christian season of fasting and prayer called Lent.

The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving that English Christians were expected to do prior to receiving absolution immediately before Lent begins. Shrove Tuesday is the last day of “shrovetide”, somewhat analogous to the carnival tradition that developed separately in countries of Latin Europe. The term “Shrove Tuesday” is no longer widely known in the United States outside of Liturgical Traditions, such as the Lutheran, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic Churches.  Because of the increase in many immigrant populations and traditions since the 19th century “Mardi Gras” is much more widely-used.

The festival is widely associated with the eating of foods such as pancakes, and often known simply as Pancake Day, originally because these used up ingredients such as fat and eggs, the consumption of which was traditionally restricted during Lent.

Like most other traditions (like how Americans eat corned beef on St. Paddy’s Day, even though the Irish never have.  When the great famine occurred and they fled Ireland and landed in America, bacon was too expensive to eat with their cabbage  — known as Bubble and Squeak, btw — so they adopted the Jewish tradition of eating the beef instead.  Never let it be said you don’t learn something when you come here), protocol is dropped, and regardless of your religious affiliation or not, everyone makes pancakes for dinner tonight.

Pancakes aren’t just looked upon as a breakfast staple in the UK, in fact, you can eat pancakes anytime you want, and you don’t even have to give the excuse of having ‘breakfast for dinner’ to do it either.  I used to love stopping by the local bakery on my way to work, and ask for a buttered pancake.  It was such a good treat.

Growing up, my mum made two types of pancakes, the thinner, more crepe-like version (served with sugar and (jif) lemon juice), and the other hockey-puck thick version.  My mum’s are much sweeter than my husband is used to.

n.b.  my mum uses a coffee/tea mug to measure out the ingredients.  Aye, I know.  So, when I say cup, I mean MUG.

Pancakes

1 cup sugar
4 – 4.5 cups of flour
pinch of salt
pinch of baking powder
3 eggs
20 fl. oz milk (a British pint)

Combine everything in a large bowl, adding the flour last, gradually.

Makes: emm . . . a lot.

Here’s a great recipe for crepes:

1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine flour, milk, eggs, and oil.  Add salt.  Heat a lightly greased 6 inch skillet; remove from heat.  Spoon in 2 Tbsp batter; lift and tilt skillet to spread evenly.  Return to heat; brown on one side only.  To remove, invert pan over paper towel.  Repeat with remaining batter.  Fill with your favourite filling.

Makes 7.

A Man’s A Man For A’ That

Today is not technically a holiday in Scotland, but a night of celebration, and therefore a National Day where we commemorate the life of our beloved poet, song-writer (and flagrant womaniser), Robert Burns.  This year also happens to be the 250th anniversary of the birth of ‘The Bard’.

robert-burnsThe day is celebrated with Burns Suppers around the world, and is in fact, and still more widely observed than the official national day of Scotland, St. Andrew’s Day (or the proposed North American celebration Tartan Day).  Although the date of the original Burns Night was set on 18th July, the date of his death, and was later changed to 25th January, it’s amazing to think that the format of Burns Suppers has not changed since his untimely death in 1796 at the age of 37.

No doubts about it, tartan and kilts abound this night.  It’s a fiercely patriotic night, and very entertaining.  If there’s one thing you should know about the Scots: We know how to throw a good party.

The evening begins with a general welcome from the host and announcements followed with the Selkirk Grace.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

The supper then starts with a Scottish soup, either as Scotch Broth or potato soup (shock, horror) or Cock-a-Leekie is served.

Everyone then stands for the main course where a bagpiper heralds in the entrance of the haggis which is presented on a large serving dish usually brought in by one of the cooks (it’s all taken very seriously at this point and almost feels like a regal affair), where it is then brought to the host’s table ushered by the piper.  An appointed reciter or the host then gives Robert’s famous Address to a Haggis and the haggis is cut open with one deep cut from end to end. The haggis is served with ‘neeps and tatties’ — Swede, or yellow turnip and (mashed) potatoes shortly after the haggis is presented.

A guest then gives a short speech called the Immortal Memory, remembering some aspects of Burns’ life or poetry.  This is usually either light-hearted, intensely serious or a bit of both. The speaker should always prepare a speech with his audience in mind, since above all, the Burns’ supper should be entertaining.

Everyone then drinks a toast to Robert Burns.

After dinner, another speaker stands and gives a Toast to the Lassies. This was originally a short speech given by a male guest in thanks to those women who had prepared the meal.  However these days it is much more wide ranging, and generally covers the male speaker’s view on women.  It is normally amusing but should never be offensive, particularly bearing in mind that it will be followed by a reply from the “lassies” concerned.  The men drink a toast to the women’s health.

When I was around 18 or 19, I gave the Reply to the Toast to the Lassies.  Much the same as the mens’ toast, but can also include a satirical rebuttal to anything the other has said.  I don’t remember much of what I did say, but what I do recall is one joke:

“How do you tell the difference between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?  Well, they’re pretty much the same, except with Father’s Day, you won’t spend so much.”

If any other toasts are called upon, this is when it generally happens.

After the speeches, there’s usually a lot of singing and recital of some of Burns’ literary work.  One of my all-time favourites that I first heard from my teacher in primary school was Tam O’Shanter.  I even recall that we made a huge freeze that we displayed on our classroom wall depicting the story.

After, there may be Scottish dancing, like a Ceilidh, if time and venue permits, although this isn’t a traditional part of the evening, but still very much accepted.  Finally the host winds the night up, calling upon one of the guests to give the vote of thanks, after which everyone is asked to stand, join hands, and sing another of his well-known songs, Auld Lang Syne which brings the evening to a close.

Address to a Haggis, with some translation, thanks to wikipedia:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,           sonsie = cheeky
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,          aboon = above
Painch, tripe, or thairm:                         painch = stomach, thairm = intestine
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,              hurdies = hips
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dicht, dicht=wipe, here w/the idea of sharpening
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht,          slicht = skill
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sicht,
Warm-reekin, rich!                                   reeking = steaming

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist! on they drive,   deil = devil
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve,  wall’d=swollen, kytes=bellies, belyve=soon
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,  rive = tear, i.e. burst
“Bethankit” hums.

Is there that o’re his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,                      olio = olive oil, staw = make sick
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect scunner,                                    scunner = repugnance
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;                                  nieve = fist, nit = louse’s egg, i.e. tiny
Thro’ bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his wallie nieve a blade                 wallie = mighty, nieve = fist
He’ll mak it whistle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,     sned = cut off
Like taps o’ thristle.                                      thristle = thistle

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware     skinkin ware = watery soup
That jaups in luggies;     jaups = slops about, luggies = two-handled bowls
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

Burns was one of the very few who wrote in the Scots tongue.

Dishing it Out

**UPDATE**

BurghBaby is having a one day only contest with loads, oodles, an outrageous amount of prizes.  Back on the anniversary of the attacks, she very generously decided to donate all of the revenue from September to the Sept 11th Fund.  The revenue is accumulated through page clicks, so go do your bit for society and use your mouse!  And, all you have to do is comment and win a chance to get some great prizes, whilst helping out a very worthwhile charity.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Yesterday I awoke to a lovely brick-in-my-stomach feeling and had to cancel any and all plans I had.  I wandered around aimlessly throughout the day, just wishing I could throw up so I would finally feel better.  It never happened.  That.  End.  And don’t you just love it that even though you’re sick to the gills (and your husband is on shift), you still get to chase after toddlers brandishing plungers and huge wads of sopping wet toilet paper; all the while, your pre-schooler is experimenting with ways in which to permanently maim your puppy?  It’s fabulous.

Anyway, since I am still not feeling 100%  — I’m not even fair to middlin’ —  and can barely conjugate sentences, what better time to talk about food than now?  At least I can eat again, so that’s a relief.  I love eating.  Most of you will remember I posted a Thursday Thirteen on some of my favourite dishes to make.  You may also recall I said:

If you are interested in any of the recipes, let me know and I’ll definitely oblige. Maybe you could even return the favour…?

Yeah, I’m a deadbeat blogger.  I didn’t deliver.  So, I am hereby going to redeem myself by posting all of the recipes people made comments about.  I have transferred them in Google Docs and published it online, so if you want it, all you have to do is click and hit print.  Fancy!

1.  Macaroni and Cheese
2.  Beef or Chicken Enchiladas
3.  Barbecue Cups
4.  Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
5.  Hot Crab Meat and Artichoke Dip
6.  Thai Chicken Curry

and two not on the list:
7.  Shepherd’s Pie
8.  Margarita Bars

I never grew up with a crock pot or slow cooker, in fact, my Mum didn’t get one until long after I’d moved out.  I’ve used my 6-quart model quite a bit recently, but, my quest this autumn/winter is to find some glorious recipes that I can just throw together and be done with.  If you know of any great ones, nod me in the right direction, would ya?

Now if you’ll excuse me, the comfy chair and a tartan wool blanket are calling my name.

Floored

Any plans I had had for today were quickly pulverised around 2:30 this morning as I began a night of fraternising with a lovely bout of food poisoning.  I don’t know what I did – or didn’t do, but Ian and Cameron were also affected, although not as bad as I.  Bryan was completely fine.

It’s now 7 p.m. and I’m finally sitting upright for the first time all day.  I hope to feel completely better and visiting friends again tomorrow.

T13: You Might Be Scottish If…

1. You drive on the left side of the road and shift with your left too. You stop at red lights (even if nobody’s around), and often have to stop at green lights too. If you’re a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you will fearlessly cross the street in front of them – except in Glasgow, where the colour of the lights is of no importance.

2. You know how to use the 24-hour clock and can read train, tube and bus timetables shamelessly. And you still commute, even if you have a car.

3. Three straight weeks of horizontal rain is nothing; and a brolly (umbrella) is completely optional but generally required all year.

4. You only wear tartan at weddings, a Ceilidh, and special occasions (or even Boy Scouts), but certainly not the High Street in Edinburgh.

5. You know real men wear kilts, and if they wear anything underneath it, it becomes a skirt.

Ian in his kilt, Dec 2004

6. You know what jumble sales, wellies, pantomimes, a 99, clockwork orange, a skelf, balaclavas, Oor Wullie, midgies and a tea cosy are.

7. You’ve eaten a different meat pie for every meal. Or, you’ve had pizzas and calzones, curries, kebabs and chinese all delivered to your door. But you have to go get a chippy yourself.

You butter your sandwiches or butties, biscuits don’t come with gravy, you eat scones with jam, ask for gravy on your chips, eat French toast with ketchup, your back bacon and sausages don’t get smeared in syrup, have been known to eat a plethora of things on toast; eggs, beans, etc. and pudding is any kind of dessert.

8. You show up on a beach in Ibiza, Lanzarote, Turkey or Greece, and not only are you spankin white, you’re pale blue.

9. You know how to pronounce Crianlarach, Autermuchty, Inverary, Kirkcudbright, Wemyss Bay, Loch, Milngavie, Sauchiehall Street, Penicuik, and Ecclefechan – not to mention Glasgow and Edinburgh.

My spell check just exploded.

10. You blatantly misuse the words “how” and “they” and end sentences with “but”.
“How no? They ones? I don’t like those, but.”

11. You save your spare change in a huge water (cooler) bottle.

12. You still enjoy and watch Braveheart even though it’s more Hollywood than historical.

13. A hundred miles is a long way, but 100 years is nothing. You walk past buildings that are 200 years+ every day and think nothing of it, but have to plan a week or so ahead if you need to drive 75 miles or more.

This isn’t a complete list of course, so any Scots out there feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

Photo Hunt: Pointed

‘Pointed’ cucumber sandwiches at a recent tea party with some close friends.

This was at a friend’s house. She did everything by hand herself. Except the wee cakes.

Here are some others:

hand-made table decorations

my name is really Andrea, I’ve been fooling you all, all along

aye, it was that good

cucumber, red pepper and olive thingies with cream cheese on rice cake hingers. basically.

I had a great time. There was even scones and clotted cream. I was in British heaven.

Word of the Week

jammy dodger:

A proprietary brand of biscuit, consisting of two round pieces and jam in between. In the dialect this term is borrowed to mean someone considered very lucky:

“Big Dave won a motor in a raffle, the jammy dodger!”

You can see reference to this term in the film Flushed Away.

Deere John,

I’m in a bit of a quandary. (I’ve always wanted to say that, but really, I am). I have been thinking about Ian’s birthday for 7 months now, trying to decide if I should throw him a party for his 4th year in the world. I himmed and hawed wondering if I should wait another year.

A friend of mine threw a party for her then 4-year-old (she’s also in Ian’s preschool class) back in September, and well, you could say I’ve developed a case of stage fright about it. This friend is an amazing party planner and I wish I had half the mad skills she does to pull these things off and make it look effortless. (She recently hosted a grown-up tea party for 8 close friends, it was brilliant and jaw-dropping. Maybe I’ll post pics of it soon.)

I finally talked myself into it two weeks ago. I was doing it. I didn’t know what, but I was doing it anyway.

I’m not the head planner type. I can’t just come up with this stuff in my brain, it doesn’t happen like that for me — ever. I’m a detail-oriented person, give me a section of it and I’ll go to town and do really great with it – give me more than four options for something and I shrivel up and die. (It took me 2.5 months to pick a final photo for our family portrait.)

I’m actually doing really well with it. We have a theme: Tractors, John Deere to be precise. (And no, the fascination with said tractors materialised looooong before we ever stepped foot in Montana, but I’ll forgive you for perhaps thinking otherwise…!

So, here’s the breakdown:

1. Friends are to wear something green, yellow or brown.
2. Food: Homemade sausage rolls, chocolate crispy cakes* (made with Milkyway bars) and Sun Chips.
3. A dirt track cake with self-bought JD tractors and pickup trucks on them.
4. Favour bag: Bubbles, a punch balloon, Green homemade Kool-Aid Playdough, mini dairy milk bars, Reece’s peanut butter cups, rolos and kisses and Lego fruit snacks.

Games: Blaaaaaaaaaah.

Nothing.

I’ve went completely blank and I can’t believe it. We never gave out little party bags in Scotland when I was growing up, so the fact that I go that far is a bloody miracle! Plus, I hate the cheap weird stuff some people give out and wanted to do something a little decent.

Rather than search the ‘Net looking for stuff, I thought I’d put it out there to my friends. Any ideas?

I thought about a British game called Pass the Parcel, but I’m not sure if the kids are too young for it or not. Maybe I’m underestimating them. You wrap a small gift in a box with about 6 layers of paper (have the children all sit in a circle) and play music, stopping randomly. Each time the music stops, the child holding the gift takes off a layer of paper and then the music starts again. The one left holding the naked box gets what’s inside.

Yeah, so that’s about it. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Oh yeah, and his birthday is this Thursday.

– – – – – –

* Chocolate Krispie cakes are similar to the marshmallow ones you make here, kinda. You melt down chocolate, add a little butter and add a ton of Rice Krispies. Spoon some of the mixture into little (cupcake) cases and top with a marshmallow and pop it in the fridge to cool. I’m using Milkyway bars in mine instead.

Sausage rolls are kinda like Pigs in a Blanket, but better…IMHO…

TT: Thirteen Favourite Dishes

There’s nothing like sitting in a dentist’s chair for three solid hours to turn your mind to food (or anything other than the procedure for that matter). I think it’s no secret that I love to cook, specifically from scratch. I don’t indulge every night, I’m not that crazy, but over the years I’ve garnered some favourite things to make, all from different sources. If you are interested in any of the recipes, let me know and I’ll definitely oblige. Maybe you could even return the favour…?

1. Macaroni Cheese – Mum’s recipe (from somewhere)
Made with sautéed onion, sharp cheddar, bacon and Coleman’s English mustard.

2. Meatloaf – an adaptation of my Mum’s recipe
Made with green pepper, beef bouillon (stock cube) and tomato paste (in the mixture).

3. Mexican Style Rice – Rachael Ray
Love this, it’s filling and oh, so addictive. Plus, you can use this recipe to stuff peppers. Very versatile.

4. Barbecue Cups – from a friend
Minced beef in a rich barbecue sauce, nestled in a biscuit base, and topped with grated cheese and baked to yummy goodness. Quick, easy and delicious.

5. Beef-a-roni – Friend’s Mom’s recipe
One of the few casseroles I actually make. My Mum has her own version too.

6. Spaghetti Bolognese – Mum’s recipe from an Italian cookbook
Another old favourite, it never gets old.

7. French Bread Pizzas – Got the idea from a friend
Buy the French loaves from the wheeled metal rack at Wal-Mart that they display near the entrance. Start with a pizza sauce and top how you like. Finish it off in the toaster oven.

8. Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Casserole – Mother-in-law’s recipe
Creamy, tangy and very filling. I love this.

9. Cranberry, Apple and Sage Stuffing – Robert Irvine
Okay, so technically not a main dish, but I’d make it one if you’d let me. It feeds twelve comfortably, but I’m not afraid of leftovers.

10a.  Hot Crab Meat & Artichoke Dip – Got this from a SIL who got it from her boss
Rich, spicy and very addicting. (And since this is a dip, here’s another great one:)
10b.  Baked Artichoke-Spinach Dip – Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
Total crowd pleaser. Served with crusty bread or crackers.

11.  Beef/Chicken Enchiladas – Old Internet Friend
Although the prep time is a little longer than usual, it’s worth it. So good. I also make my own chili verde enchiladas with a different recipe.

12.  One-Pan Sage and Onion Chicken and Sausage – Nigella Lawson
This dish makes you look like a domestic goddess with very little time spent in the kitchen. It’s very tasty and so easy and hassle-free to make. All the prep is done 24-48 hours before, and all you have to do is bang it in the oven. No one will ever know you didn’t spend hours in there.

13.  Thai Chicken Curry – Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
Oh my, the first time I made this, I almost creamed it all off in the pan. I love, love this–and, you can control how hot you want it too. Excellent dish.

* * * * * * * *

Speaking of eating–get this: I got an e-mail from Bryan at work two days ago. He occasionally sends me work e-mails that I might find of interest: a colleague is pregnant, the Summer or Hallowe’en party plans, movie day…

This one mentioned that their new cafeteria was almost completed (they completed HUGE facility construction and remodelling changes about 6 months ago) and it needed a name. I read through it, mostly with half-eyed indifference. I am sure you could have heard me heave “blah, blah, blah” from your place. That was, until I got to this part:

“…As part of the preparation for opening, we are going to be holding a fun competition: Name Your Cafe! Please place your ideas in the suggestion box on the first floor of building 14 by 12 o’clock noon on April 18th! Grand prize will be the iPod Touch pictured below and 10 free meals at our new Cafe! In addition…”

Wah-wah-wah-WHAT?!  iPod Touch-whosey-who??  I read it again.  Holy cow, I love this company!  It’s a huge, multi-national company, but due to the 200+ employees at the site, it has a small company, intimate feeling.

I have made it my mission to get my creative juices flowing and I think I have some really good ideas. That iTouch is mine ours.  There.  Is.  No.  Competition!

P.S.  I promise I’ll get to that WOTW.