Last year our Thanksgiving was slightly depressing. We didn’t really celebrate it at all. In fact we ate traditional British food instead. You can read about it here. This year we’re celebrating it twice, I guess, in part to make up for last year. On Thursday we’re having the missionaries from our church over. We’ll throw another Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday with a couple of Trent’s school mates, neither of whom have ever celebrated Thanksgiving. It should be fun to introduce them to one of my favourite bits of Americana. On almost every table across America on Thursday there will be the same dish. Green bean casserole will be there among many other star favourites. Green bean casserole was never something that we had to have on our Thanksgiving table. We always had green beans in some form, but they weren’t often in the traditional casserole form. Trent, however, has insisted that we have it on ours.
Not long ago I received Thomas Keller’s cook book, Ad Hoc at Home. My favourite of the recipes we’ve tried has been his beef stroganoff. What is so great about this recipe is that the sauce is so versatile. I make it at least twice a month, but we rarely have it for beef stroganoff. I’ve discovered that with subtle changes, it makes a great replacement for any recipe that calls for cream of mushroom soup. In my version of green bean casserole, I’ve made a few changes to Thomas Keller’s sauce and use it to coat the green beans. You can top it with the traditional French’s French Fried Onions, or since you’re already going all out, why not do those homemade as well.
This recipe is adapted from Thomas Keller’s, beef stroganoff and Alton Brown’s, green bean casserole.
For the mushroom sauce:
1 lb mushrooms, finely chopped (this can be done in batches in a food processor)
1 Tbs butter
1 onion, sliced
3 cups half and half (I used 1 1/2 cups almond milk and 1 1/2 cups cream – I like the nuttiness the almond milk gives.)
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
3 Tbs soy sauce
salt and pepper
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms, increase heat to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid has evaporated, 10-15 minutes.
Add the half and half, bay leaf, nutmeg and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until sauce has reduced by one-third.
Transfer sauce to blender and blend until smooth.
2 medium onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbs bread crumbs
1 tsp kosher salt
Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Toss the onions 2 to 3 times during cooking. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F
For the casserole:
1 lb fresh green beans, stems removed
2-3 cups of the mushrooms sauce, depending on how saucy you like it.
1 lb mushrooms (I like chestnut), sliced, and browned.
While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain.
Combine mushroom sauce, green beans and browned mushrooms, and 1/4 of the onion topping. Top with the remaining onions. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
We finally ordered some Christmas presents for little G. I’m getting so excited to play Santa for the first time. last year we didn’t really have much to spend on presents. In fact, I think the only money we spent for gifts was money that my parents gave us. (That Christmas was one of my very favourites though.) I have noticed as I have spent time cooking our meals, that G loves to mimic his parents. He will go and grab (the ever so fantastic Williams Sonoma) measuring cups and a little spoon out of the drawer and start using them as baby size pots. So for Christmas we bought him a play kitchen. I can’t wait for him to walk into the room on Christmas morning and see it. I can just imagine him pretending to cook while I’m making dinner. It makes me so happy to think that he’s a budding food connoisseur.
I know that the Olive Garden gets a bad wrap in the food world. In all honesty I’m not such a fan of it myself anymore. I remember loving it as a kid. As the years have past I have found myself enjoying most restaurant chains less and less. Anyway, I digress. The point here, is that no matter your opinion on the matter, their soup, Zuppa Toscana, is good. It has been a long time favourite soup of mine. My mother started making it for us years ago. In fact, I have thought that her version, the homemade version, trumps the Olive Garden. So, if, like me, you find yourself turning snobbish when this Italian restaurant chain is mentioned, do yourself a favour and bury those inclinations deep for just long enough to make this soup and give it a big slurp. Your mind, at least when it comes to Zuppa Toscana, will be changed.
1 lb. Italian sausage
2 large baking potatoes, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 cups kale, stems removed and chopped
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup cream
Brown the sausage in soup pot, breaking into pieces as you go.
Add chicken broth and water to pot. Stir. Add the onions, potatoes, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender.
Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Turn heat to low. Add the kale and the cream. Heat through and serve.
Right now my kitchen is a complete disaster. Little G has recently decided that any food he does not eat should go on the floor. I don’t always catch him in time to stop him. This morning was one of those times. We made muffins. My favourite recipe. (I will share it another time though because today we’re talking about bread.) I have no energy to clean up. Trent is in Paris for a couple of days and little G has used up all of my energy. I could honestly spend the entire day on the couch and not feel bad about it. If only…
My mother in law is one of those women who lives to be a mother. She is the epitome of a homemaker. When her children are there she immediately opens up the cupboards in her kitchen, intent on filling any and all empty stomachs. She is a woman who seems to feel truly fulfilled when she is serving and taking care of family.
She even makes her own bread a few times a month. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a store bought loaf of bread in their home. Trent always says that soup or pasta is not complete without a nice loaf of bread to go along with it. This idea of his comes from his mother always having fresh baked bread with these kinds of meals. Unfortunately for Trent, many of my meals have been and will continue to be incomplete because of this. I have never been much of a bread person. (Gasp!) It’s not something that I crave, ever. So I will most likely continue to forget freshly baked bread to go with our soups and pastas and poor Trent will continue to have incomplete meals.
One day, I did remember bread. I’ve made this recipe a few times. It’s easy. It’s relatively quick, for bread. (I’ve seen quite a few crusty bread recipes that take 12+ hours to rise. I’m hardly that on top of the ball for those.) I’ve adapted this recipe and it has been a hit with my two bread lovers (little G seems to take after his daddy in that regard.)
1 cup warm water (100-110 F)
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped (or 2 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning (or pinch of each ground garlic, dried oregano, and dried basil)1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups white or whole wheat flour + extra for kneading
1 egg, whisked + 1 Tbsp. water, for egg wash (from time to time I forget this step. It’s not critical.)
dried rosemary, for sprinkling
In a large bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit 10 minutes to proof.
Stir in the salt, rosemary, seasonings, olive oil, and 1 1/2 cups of the flour. Add remaining flour until it forms a ball. Knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to prevent sticking, until smooth. (If you have a mixer with a kneading attachment it can also be done in that.)
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl; cover; and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough and form it into a round loaf. Place it on a cornmeal dusted pizza peel or parchment paper; cover; and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven (and pizza stone) to 400 F. Once the dough has risen, gently brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with dried rosemary.
Bake on preheated stone for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Makes 1 round loaf.
A few weeks back I did some photos for my friends, Clare and Arthur, in Utah who are starting a new business. It was under wraps for the last little while and I was itching to be able to show the images. Their business, Duchess Hot Chocolate, is up and running now and I am so excited to share the photos I took for them.
Their hot chocolate is unlike any I’ve ever had before. It is velvety, smooth and rich. It has a hint of cinnamon, not too much to overpower the chocolate flavour, just a note to add to its symphony of chocolately goodness.
They are part of the food truck scene of Utah and Salt Lake counties, but they’re not a food truck, they’re a food trike. Yes, that’s right, a food trike. Clare makes the hot chocolate right there on the cutest wooden trike you’ll ever see. I only wish the trike had been finished being made before I left for London so that I could have photographed Clare in action.
If their hot chocolate doesn’t win you over 100%, Clare and Arthur’s charm will. Clare is from the UK. So, if you’re like most American’s, you’ll swoon over her accent; not to mention, she’s just as sweet as her hot chocolate. You’ll be coming back for your chocolate fix as well as for a chat with this delightful Brit.
Follow them on instagram and Facebook to know where they’ll be next. You won’t want to miss out on this. I wish I were in Utah this winter so I could snag some Duchess Hot Chocolate.
Happy Halloween. I hope you have a fun filled day planned. We’re just taking it easy, exploring our lovely city a little more.
We’ve had a few fun days this week. I feel like the first few weeks we were here were permanently cloudy and rainy. This week we’ve had some sunshine and warmer temperatures, and it has been lovely. At first I was a bit shocked when we arrived at how many parks, green spaces and woods there are here in London. Some of them are truly massive as well. I thought that was bit odd since it’s such a big city. Coming from America, I thought they could use that land; that it would be worth so much. I never knew how stressful city living can be. After living here a year, I understand why. Having some space, away from the hustle and bustle and the noise of a city, without having to leave the city is priceless. Having that sanctuary away from the streets is so important for your sanity.
This week we went on two play date outings with some friends from our ward. First, we played in some ancient woods near our home. These woods are gorgeous and look like they’re right out of a Robin Hood film. You feel like you’re miles away from the city and there isn’t a car to be heard, only birds chirping and the occasional dog chasing a squirrel. Yesterday we went to Hampstead Heath. I had been there once before, but it’s so large it is impossible to explore the whole thing in one go. You must conquer it in small sections. We ventured around the Kenwood House, which is actually where a scene from Notting Hill was filmed. Every part of the Heath I’ve explored is simply picturesque. I’m certain I will find myself craving to be there in the spring, which has been my favourite time of year in London.I used to feel that cooking should be something elaborate, complicated, and time consuming; that a good meal should have several ingredients, many spices, and I constantly found myself seeking strange and exotic recipes with ingredients I’ve never heard of. Now, I’ve realised that your ingredients just need to be a good quality and you can prepare them quite simply and end up with something delicious.
I’d like to start sharing some of my go to meals. These are meals that we make often, in a midweek, when there might not be lots of time on hand, but like always, we still need to eat. These are meals that we have loved and have made it into our usual repertoire. They are tried and true. However, they are meals that I’ve made so often, I don’t measure ingredients, so feel free to adjust to your liking or add or take away any of the ingredients. Play around with them and make them your own.
We make curry often. I am partial to Thai curries. I love the sweetness of the coconut milk playing with the spices. To change it up a bit and in honour of Autumn I added pumpkin puree, and chicken stock to make it more of a soup.
1 tbs. coconut oil, or vegetable oil
1 small onion
1-2 bell peppers
2 garlic cloves, minced
Thai red curry paste (amount will very depending on brand of curry paste you buy. Start with a small amount, like 1 tsp. and add more as needed.)
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup rice
1 can coconut milk
salt and pepper
Heat oil in a frying pan. Add onion, peppers, carrot, and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes. Stir in the curry paste.
Add pumpkin puree, chicken stock, and rice. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender.
Stir in the coconut milk. Heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.