Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cookbook Review ~ The Macaroni's in the Basement by Fran Claro

When I was given the opportunity to review The Macaroni’s in the Basement I couldn't resist. The name alone sold me on this book so I was really excited when it arrived. The book is a collection of stories and recipes from author Fran Claro involving four Italian-American grandmothers who lives in post-WWII Brooklyn revolve around  family, church events and of course food.

The book is divided into Seasons and accompanying each reminiscent story is a traditional Italian recipe courtesy of one or more of the Nonne. As you would expect from 4 opinionated, no nonsense Italian Grandmothers (Maddelana, Giuseppina, Concetta and Aniella) there are many disagreements as to whose recipe is the best but it is accompanied by wit and charm that makes you instantly feel right at home with them and more so eager to pull up a chair in their kitchens and fill your plates with their wonderful food.

Within the book there are 66 recipes and out of those I tested 5.

Tested Recipes:
Fig Pizza (From ‘Covering a Fig Tree’)
Chicken Milanese & Salad (From ‘Fire Hydrant Days’)
Sausage and Peppers & Bread Salad (From ‘Hurry Up…. The Bride’s Getting Out of the Car’)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Meal Planning Mondays Sept. 29th ~ Oct. 5th

Well Autumn/Fall is officially here and with it comes comfort food! I know I mentioned last week that I love the transition from lighter Summery meals to more warming comforting Autumn dishes but I really do! For about 3 days last week it absolutely poured with rain but since we were tucked up nice and warm inside (for the most part!) it was actually really nice to watch. When you have had an amazing Summer there is something very relaxing and enjoyable about watching rain lash against the windows, curled up with a hot cup of tea or even better a big bowl of steaming hot homemade soup. I absolutely love soup so it will start to feature pretty regularly in my meal plans, whether for lunch or dinner, I love how easy it is to make and the variations are endless! It's also great for using ingredients you have in the fridge that otherwise you are unsure what to do with, which brings me to my Meal Plan for this week. I am excited to be taking part in the Glad Fresh Food Challenge which starts on Wednesday October 1st. The challenge is to not waste ANY food at all - nothing, not even a piece of lettuce, for 2 weeks. I'm not going to lie, after just throwing away the remains of our Bread Salad that we had last week I am happy to be accepting this challenge because I really hate to waste food which is something that I know the majority of us do. I'll write more about the challenge on Wednesday and I'll be updating on my Facebook page daily with how I am getting on and will honestly report any food that I need to throw out with the reasons why.... In the meantime though here is this week's meal plan!

Tonight is good old leftovers - my new favourite for Mondays! Tomorrow is once again about using up leftovers but this time I am taking them and transforming then into a new meal. Last night we had Barbecued Pork Chops so I'm going to take the leftover Pork and make my Pork & Udon Noodle Soup. Wednesday (and the start of my challenge) and we have a very busy day so it has to be something quick and easy so I'm making my Leek Carbonara. Thursday isn't so busy so I am going to make Chicken Korma, a favourite in our house. Again I'm using up what I have so that I don't need to buy anything but more so so that I don't waste anything. Friday and it's back to Slow Cooker Friday's and this time I am putting my chilli to the test by making it in the Slow Cooker which I have never done. Here's hoping it goes according to plan but I see no reason why it shouldn't work! Saturday and I'm excited as we are hosting Cook Club. As of now the theme is a surprise but I'll update once it's done. Finally Sunday is our usual undecided meal for now as it really depends on what we decide to do! As for now I'm off to experiment with a new recipe for soup! (I told you soup is going to feature a lot!) I have a beautiful yellow courgette needing used as well as a leek. I could make Nigella's Happiness Soup but I am in the mood for something smooth and creamy... I'll let you know how I get on!

So there you have it! Have a great week everyone with family, friends and of course, lots of good food! x

 Monday September 29th ~ Oct. 5th

                                  Monday  -       Leftovers 
                                  Tuesday -       Pork & Udon Noodle Soup
                                  Wednesday -  Leek Carbonara Tomato & Pea Pasta
                                  Thursday -     Chicken Korma with Basmati Rice
                                  Friday -          Spaghetti Bolognese  
                                  Saturday -      Cook Club 
                                  Sunday -        Barbecue Beef Stew with Fresh Pasta

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Meal Planning Mondays Sept. 22nd ~ 28th

Well today is officially the first day of Autumn and it certainly feels like it! After the most amazing send-off to Summer at the weekend (temps of 27C and nothing but clear blue skies) the clouds rolled in yesterday and today it hasn't stopped raining! Still no complaints here (other than I couldn't find ANY of my umbrellas this morning!) as it really has been the most amazing Summer ever. So now I am caught between using up the last of the best Summer ingredients and starting to edge more towards warming Autumnal Soups, Stews and Roasts. I'll be honest I like this time of year and I love the food so I'm looking forward to making the transition.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Meal Planning Mondays Sept. 15th ~ 21st

This week's meal plan is more than a little late to say the least! The reason being that I actually wasn't going to do one... Initially I had no links so it seemed a little pointless but then as the week went by things changed and in a bid to completely clean out my fridge I found some great new recipes to try which do have links! (Thank you BBC Good Food!) The downside to that is that I am desperate to try some new recipes from books that I am meant to be reviewing so unfortunately they have been postponed another week, however I will have the reviews up soon!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kale, Tomato & Bean Soup

Normally when I post a new recipe on my blog I like to try it several times first to make sure everything is just right, however this is a new recipe for both you and I! I've been watching a lot of Nigel Slater recently and I love his relaxed approach to food and cooking and just using what you have and what's available, so perhaps he inspired me because the other day a friend came round to visit with her kids and they brought a huge bag of Kale and Tomatoes that they had grown in their garden. They were so amazing and I couldn't wait to use them in something, but since I had my meal plan done for the week (and was desperate to finish all of the curries from the weekend so I had some room in my fridge!) I thought how about a delicious, healthy soup! So that's what I did. I knew before I made it that it would taste good and it did - it was so good and even Ben absolutely loved it! 

The quantities for the tomatoes and kale are approximate since it just depends on what you have and your own tastes. I had more of both but felt that the amounts below were perfect for this batch, plus it means I still have enough kale leftover to enjoy a bowl of Spaghetti with Kale, Garlic & Lemon for a quick Saturday night supper after a day on the boat - double bonus! 

This soup is what cooking (and growing your own vegetables) is all about - using what you have at the right time of year paired with a few pantry staples and ending up with something so simple and easy to make but full of wonderful fresh flavours. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Meal Planning Mondays Sept. 8th ~ 14th

Well I survived the Birthday weekend and I have to say, it was great although I did spend 3 days cooking and baking for it! Still it was well worth all the effort! On Saturday we had a lovely time with friends and all of the kids so it was a great catch up with lots of good company and tons of great food! As I posted on last week's meal plan we had Burgers and I made a giant batch of Coleslaw for everyone as it also disappears so fast. There were so many other salads that had been made (Pasta Salad, Bean Salad, Tomato & Cucumber Salad) as well as lots of fresh, local Corn on the Cob and roasted potatoes and vegetables! It was a true feast and it was finished off with lots of Cupcakes (Vanilla & Mint Chocolate), Top Hats, Krispie Cakes and 3 delicious cheesecakes! You certainly can't complain about that!! The weather was absolutely beautiful and it really was just a perfect party.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Pork & Udon Noodle Soup

I’m not going to lie – this recipe was the result of a rainy, cold day and me needing and craving a satisfying but light soup to warm me up. Since I had some leftover Chinese BBQ Pork in the fridge and am currently addicted to Udon noodles, this soup was a natural choice. I hadn’t made this version before but being a lover of Pho I used that as inspiration and simply used what I had in the house. Even better I had homemade chicken stock in the freezer just waiting to be used in a dish just like this. I have to admit there is something really satisfying about using what you have and creating exactly what you were craving. This soup took no time to make at all and was absolutely perfect….The perfect pick-me-up for a rainy, cold September day.

Serves 2 generously (easily doubled)

750ml chicken stock (homemade or the best quality you can get)
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
3 slices of ginger
1 star anise
1 red chilli, sliced (remove the seeds for less heat)
2 or 3 lime leaves (fresh if possible but dried is fine)
1tsp fish sauce (or to taste)
½ lime
200g packet of udon noodles
Leftover pork, shredded (or other meat of your choice) – as much as you have or want in your soup
Handful of sugar snap peas (approx. 100g), cut in half diagonally
Sprinkling of fresh coriander (optional)

Put the stock into a medium sized pan then add the garlic, ginger, star anise, red chilli, lime leaves, fish stock and a good squeeze of lime juice. Bring it to a boil then leave to gently simmer for about 5-10 minutes to let the flavours infuse the stock (you can leave it for longer if you like, it’s more about how much time you have, just don’t let it reduce too much).

Add the udon noodles and cook for a couple of minutes (or according to the time on the packet). For the last minute add the pork and the sugar snap peas and cook just long enough to warm the pork and slightly soften the peas. Taste to check the balance of flavours and adjust if necessary adding more lime or fish sauce as needed, then ladle into deep bowls and serve at once. Chop sticks are optional but they are perfect for slurping up the noodles!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Meal Planning Mondays Sept. 1st ~ 7th

I love long weekends.... In fact I think that Monday's should always be a holiday!! Although with it being Labour Day I don't like the idea that Summer is now technically over.... I'm hopeful that Mother Nature thinks otherwise and we see a final burst of sun before Autumn takes over!

Last week once again saw a few changes to our meal plan... The Nicoise Pasta made so much (and that was with me messing up and putting in 50 grams less pasta than suggested!) that it pretty much lasted us for 3 days! So the Risotto was pushed to Friday, Pizza was Saturday and once again Burgers were kyboshed!! This week however we are absolutely having Burgers! Seriously!!

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