Keeping up with the Italians

 

Retirement was always something I dreaded.
It meant I was getting old.
Only two weeks ago I was in my sixteen! Now I’m in my sixties.
Last year we bought a home in Abruzzo, Italy. It changed my whole prospective on retirement and now I think about long lazy days in Colledimezzo with a goofy smile on my face. I have a few years to go yet, time to practice my cooking. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to compete with the fabulous traditional dishes that have been passed down from mother to child, but I can start with the sweet treats. So far these have been a success. On the left, Almond cookies, on the right, Italian breakfast cookies, which are very good to dip in your morning cappuccino.

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Gluten Free January!

January has both flown and lasted FOREVER! Christmas seems so long ago, but only yesterday. Is this what happens when you get older? Or maybe its just peculiar to January. Both myself and my son-in-law had a Birthday smack bang in the middle of the month. Nice for my son-in-law, but not for me. I’ve never liked my Birthdays for reasons I’ll not bore you with, but I put on a brave face and get through them.

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I know just how he feels!

I found this photo on Deserts with Benefits and had to share it.

If you follow my blog, you’ll remember I haven’t been well. I got tired of CT scans, needles and being prodded and poked so after talking to a very matter-of-fact gastroenterologist I decided to give up gluten. Since January 1st, I’ve been completely gluten-free. After a few days I felt better, much more awake. I was both thrilled and excited at the difference and expected miracles to follow. The miracles never happened. Another two weeks passed and I wondered if I’d willed myself to feel better because I wanted an instant cure.

Then early last week I realized that when I touched my stomach in the places that had been tender, it didn’t hurt anymore. It didn’t feel uncomfortable and bloated. I looked at my reflection in the mirror (not a pretty sight), but prettier than it looked a couple of months earlier. My tummy was no longer swollen.

Maybe gluten is the problem, I know I have a long way to go before I know for sure, but one month gluten-free has certainly made me feel better. My energy is returning.

I haven’t bought ‘gluten free’ breads, crackers, cookies etc. I gave up processed food a long time ago. Instead I’ve eaten much more fruit and veg, baked with almond, coconut and semolina flour and bought rice noodles instead of pasta. It hasn’t really been a hardship. When I used semolina and almond flour to make my husbands favorite cookies I didn’t tell him. He took a bite and looked at me.

“These taste good,” he said, “what did you do different?”

I think cutting gluten from my diet has been a good thing. Not out of the woods yet, but I can see the sun piercing the trees. I’ll give you an update one month from now. Fingers crossed I’ll be healthy and full of energy. New lifestyle for 2016!

 

Goulash, Dirty Rice and Pouilly Fume

Very cold day in Colorado, but I didn’t let it beat me, I wrapped up in several fleecy layers, and went for a walk.  So glad I did. I enjoyed the lovely winters day.  A couple of miles was all the temperatures would allow.  My face was frozen by the time I got home, but I felt better for being outside in the fresh air.

I started cooking when I got home, it’s a cooking sort of day. Hazy sunlight outside now as the sun tries to pierce the freezing mist. Quite lovely to look at.

The rice, mushrooms and french beans are in the pan along with the rice. To heck with healthy, I’m cooking them in bacon fat. Goulash is simmering and smelling fantastic. I should drink beer with this, or red wine, but there was a bottle of Pouilly Fume in the wine fridge calling my name. Who was I to argue? Happy Saturday everyone.

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A Very Fine Restaurant and Wine Bar – Sketch

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Last night I tried this restaurant for the first time, but it won’t be the last. It was a very friendly, European style restaurant. It was extremely busy, even at six o clock. The food was excellent. We started with a shared platter of antipasto, deliciously fresh olives, prosciutto, aged gouda as well as many other tasty treats. A great way to start the meal.

The Service was a little on the slow side, but I believe they were training new staff, and did I mention how busy it was? We were in no rush, and ate a leisurely dinner, enjoying each others company.

For my main course, I had home-made gnocchi. It was to die for. The tagliatelle also looked good, as did the risotto. We shared a salad of shredded brussel sprouts. Everything was cooked simply and to perfection.

I can’t believe we drank two bottles of champagne. It was one of those nights. We wanted to celebrate life. I highly recommend this casual, friendly restaurant. If you are in the area, give it a try. If it is a Saturday night, I suggest making a reservation.

http://sketch-restaurant.com/

 

Sandra’s Kitchen – Chardonnay Chicken

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Time for another recipe from Sandra’s Kitchen. I hope you like it.

Chardonnay Chicken

One medium-sized chicken

2 tbsp coconut oil

3 carrots

½ green pepper

1 Serrano pepper

½ cup onion

3 tomatoes

5 cloves garlic

½ bottle Chardonnay

2 cups chicken stock

1 tbsp flour

2 ozs butter.

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the coconut oil. Chop carrots, green pepper and Serrano pepper and cook for around five minutes. In the meantime blend together onion, garlic and tomatoes and then add to the vegetables already in the pan.

Simmer for about five minutes before adding the chicken (whole). Grind salt and pepper on top of chicken, add a knob of butter and bring liquid in pan to boil. Put lid on pan and turn down to a simmer.

Simmer for an hour before adding chicken stock. Replace lid and leave to simmer for another hour.

Heat oven to 350 and place pan with chicken and liquid, in the oven for 30 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Remove chicken from pan and put on a warm plate. Using a slotted spoon, arrange the veg (cooked with the chicken) around it. Keep warm.

Thicken the sauce with 2 ozs butter, mixed with 1 tbsp flour. Add salt and pepper to taste.

I served with Italian Farro and broccoli, but rice and a green vegetable would work too.

If you haven’t heard of Farro, see below.

Grano Farro has a long and glorious history: it is the original grain from which all others derive, and fed the Mediterranean and Near Eastern populations for thousands of years; somewhat more recently it was the standard ration of the Roman Legions that expanded throughout the Western World. Ground into a paste and cooked, it was also the primary ingredient in puls, the polenta eaten for centuries by the Roman poor. Important as it was, however, it was difficult to work and produced low yields. In the centuries following the fall of the Empire, higher-yielding grains were developed and farro’s cultivation dwindled: By the turn of the century in Italy there were a few hundreds of acres of fields scattered over the regions of Lazio, Umbria, the Marches and Tuscany.

 

COLORADO CORN CHOWDER – WITH CHEESE SCONES

MY COLORADO CORN CHOWDER
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 12 ozs slab salt Pork
  • 1 lb andouille sausage
  • 1 cups diced  onion
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 lb potatoes diced
  • 1/2 lb sweet potato diced
  • 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups corn (from about 6 ears)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper

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It is a very cold day in Colorado today. I hope there is plenty of action to keep everyone warm during the Bronco’s game.  Soup is one of the best things to chase the cold away, so I made my own recipe of corn chowder, accompanied by cheese scones. I have to say, it was pretty delicious.

Soup

Cut the rind off the salt pork and dice the pork into very small pieces. Slice the andouille sausages and throw all of these ingredients (including the rind) into a large (5 quart) heavy bottomed pan. Fry for around ten minutes, until pork is crispy and saussage is cooked. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and put to one side.

Put two tablespoons of olive oil in pan and when it is heated add onions, carrots, celery, bell pepper and potatoes. Cook for around ten minutes until they are nice and soft.

Add chicken broth and allow to simmer for approx fifteen minutes.

Add corn, salt pork (not rind), and sliced andouille sausages and simmer for a further ten minutes until corn is cooked and sausage is warmed through.

Add heavy cream and simmer very gently for five minutes.

Add Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with Cheese Scones taken from (http://allrecipes.co.uk)

  • 7 oz self raising flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 oz butter
  • 2 oz grated strong Cheddar cheese
  • (3 1/2 fl oz) milk

Prep: 15 mins | Cook: 10 mins

1.
Heat oven to 220 degrees C / gas mark 7 and lightly grease a baking tray.
2.
Sift flour, mustard powder, cayenne pepper and salt into a mixing bowl.
3.
Cut the butter into small pieces and add to flour.
4.
Rub the butter into the flour with fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in grated cheese.
5.
Add the milk gradually, stirring well with a knife until the mixture begins to stick together.
6.
With your hands, knead the mixture gently to form a soft smooth dough.
7.
On a floured surface flatten or roll the dough to about 3cm thick round.
8.
Use a 5cm round cutter to cut out individual scones.
9.
Place scones on the greased baking tray. Brush with milk and sprinkle some extra cheese on top.
10.
Cook for about 10-15 mins until golden. Cool slightly before serving.
 Saturday has become ‘Soup Day’ in the Thompson house. Soup is good for the soul. I hope you enjoy this recipe and…………………………….

GO BRONCOS

Soup and Snowboarding

Seems like they should go together doesn’t it!  I just made a delicious pan of black eye pea soup from a recipe I found on a blog I follow.  The Cooking Bride : A Food and Cooking Blog This soup was delicious. Truly! I will make it again. I know it’s traditional to have black eye pea soup on New Years Day. So I missed the boat a little, maybe next year.

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There is absolutely nothing like a bowl of soup at the end of a long day on the mountain, whether it be skiing or snowboarding. Well maybe there is, an ice-cold beer is pretty good too. I had hoped to snowboard tomorrow, but unfortunately it is not to be. Just not feeling great. Maybe next weekend. Missing the mountains so badly.

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Not an excellent fast, or very brave snowboarder, but I do enjoy the view. Who wouldn’t? I will rest today, because my body is telling me to, but the mountains are calling. Keystone, I will see you soon.

Check out my other blog – STOP TALKING TO ME for updates on my upcoming novel ‘Dead of July’ and my short story ‘Girl on the Beach’.

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Dead of July (Small)

I LOVE SOUP!

I write and I cook, so I decided to write about my cooking this week. Every Sunday I make a big pan of soup to eat during the week. My schedule is always crazy so soup works great. My husband can heat it up during the day (he works from home). I can take it to work with me. It is nutritious and good. Do I ever use a recipe? Seldom!

I will call this soup Curried Sweet Potato and Chicken although it contains many more ingredients.

Ingredients

1/4 of a medium onion (chopped)

3 Serrano peppers (Chopped)

1 tbsp coconut oil

2 large sweet potatoes

4 carrots (Chopped)

3 tomatoes (Chopped)

1 cup of dried large lima beans (previously soaked, boiled and rinsed)

2 cooked chicken breasts (I used leftovers from the previous evening’s dinner)

32 ozs of Chicken stock, home-made or bought. (I like the cartons from Sprouts Farmers Market)

Curry powder/salt and pepper.

Heat the coconut oil in a large heavy based pan and add onions and Serrano peppers, cook for about five minutes until are soft. Add chopped sweet potatoes and carrots and stir in 2 tablespoons of curry pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Mix all ingredients together so curry powder evenly coats everything. Add chopped tomatoes and stir everything together well.

Add chicken broth and allow mixture to simmer until the carrots and potatoes are soft ( 15 – 20 mins). Remove from heat and using a hand blender, blend all ingredients together. (I prefer doing it this way, but you can pour into a separate blender) You should now have a nice smooth mixture.

Add beans and chopped chicken breast and stir. If you want a thick soup, no need to add any more liquid. For a thinner soup add more chicken stock or water.

Allow to simmer for another 20 minutes allowing all of the flavors to mix.

You now have a delicious wholesome soup. Because I hate waste, my soups are made from leftovers and the contents of my refrigerator. I always keep cartons of chicken stock in the cupboard (never tins) because you never know when you will need them.

You could put a swirl of half and half or double cream on the top of this if you want it to look ‘fancy’. I also make all of my own bread and would serve this with butter rolls. Crackers would go just as well.

I never buy any canned soups because I don’t like the extra ingredients they add. I am not retired, or a stay at home mum, I work a full-time job, write fiction novels, work out three times a week after work and manage my husband’s IT Security business. The reason I am telling you this because I want you to know that making your own soup, sauces, puree is easy and more beneficial for your health.

This was my first attempt at recipe sharing, so I would love feedback, criticism or whatever else you would like to share with me.

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Gordon Ramsay – Maze

Scary but GREAT

You may look at this photo of Chef Ramsay, and be a little afraid. He looks like a manic version of Edward Scissorhands, but he is a culinary genius and I never tire of watching his kitchen nightmares.

Gordon Ramsay creates delicious works of art.

At last, I am going to eat in one of his restaurants. I am pretty sure he won’t actually be there, but his influence will. I am looking forward to a relaxing evening of good food and good wine.

Next time I see his wonderful London Restaurant on television, I will be able to say with great pleasure…..I have eaten there!

Mr Ramsay, on Saturday June 4th, the Thompson Family are having dinner with you, our trip from the US back to the UK will be much better for having visited your restaurant.