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Food, general thoughts, food…

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Vietnamese Pork Chops

Looking at how regularly I post, you would be forgiven for thinking that I rarely cook. Thing is that I cook every day but I only post things that are new and that are good. No point telling you about all the things that didn’t quite cut the mustard.
Last night it was pork chops and they definitely made the grade.

They were messy to prepare and my hand smelled like the rub for quite some time (which is okay by me, my family is used to me sitting on the couch sniffing my hands) they turned out sweet and spicy with a tiny bit of heat, just to get your attention. I poured the resulting ‘gravy’ over the rice also where it made a fantastic spicy sauce. Of course I chopped the green onion, all ready for the big photo and to garnish and improve my meal and then left it on the chopping board while I ate my dinner, to be discovered upon returning the plates to the kitchen. It astonishes me how often I do things like that. Like always, I will blame it on lack of sleep and an overabundance of distractions in the form of study.

As well as being fantastically tasty, these were super quick to make (the rice took longer) and were made of things that I just have in the house so no special shopping required. Got to love that!

Vietnamese Pork Chops

4 pork chops
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon bottled minced ginger
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
Cooking spray
Sliced green onions

Lightly score a diamond pattern on both sides of pork. Combine sugar and
next 6 ingredients (sugar through garlic); rub evenly over pork.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high
heat. Add pork; cook 4 minutes on each side or until done. Garnish with
sliced green onions, if desired. Makes 4 servings.


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Mars Bars Muffins

Needed sugar today after a really bad night.
I am alone this week and studying almost constantly, this is great for my study regime but terrible for my sleep patterns. I fall right asleep when my head hits the pillow but unfortunately as the night goes on my mind drifts back into my study and I end up spending sometime between midnight and 3am tossing and turning while my mind chews on my study and incorporates it horribly into my dreams making for restless nights and eye bags I could pack luggage into. I currently have a tissue soaked in lavender oil tucked into the neck of my shirt trying to ward off a headache and a rich chocolaty muffin digesting in my tummy. As I reach for another to nibble with my latest cup of tea I thought I should share the recipe.

Mars Bar Muffins
Serves: 6

125 g butter
¾ cup brown sugar
3 x 60 g Mars bars, chopped
½ cup cocoa
2 eggs
¾ cup self-raising flour
½ cup plain flour
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease muffin tin.
Place butter and sugar into a medium sized saucepan and melt, stirring, over a low heat.
Remove from heat and add 2½ of the chopped Mars bars and cocoa, stir until combined
and let mixture cool for 5 minutes.
Whisk in eggs, flour and vanilla. Drop spoonfuls into muffin pans and
place a reserved piece of Mars bar on top of each muffin.
Cook for 20 minutes, or until muffins are tested when a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Muffins can be drizzled with chocolate or caramel sauce and served with ice cream but they are great just as they are.

Recipe notes
These muffins freeze well. I put the Mars Bar pieces on as soon as I removed them from the oven, they melted on nicely (blame this on sleep deprivation, I just forgot them beforehand)

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Cappuccino Crinkles

I have been getting into the coffee biscuit thing lately. So here is another one that my daughter particularly liked, she described it as turning into coffee chocolate mousse in her mouth. Maybe she had been up too long but they were nice biscuits and quick to make.

Cappuccino Crinkles
Makes about 32

1/3  cup butter, softened
1  cup packed brown sugar
2/3  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1  tablespoon instant coffee granules
1  teaspoon baking soda
1  teaspoon ground cinnamon
2   eggs
1/3  cup plain yogurt
1-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1/4  cup granulated sugar

Heat oven to 180C.
Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar, cocoa powder, coffee granules, baking soda, and cinnamon.
Beat until combined, scraping sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and yogurt until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour with a wooden spoon.
Place granulated sugar in a small bowl. Drop dough by heaping teaspoons into sugar and roll into balls. Roll again in sugar. Place balls 5cm apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm.
Transfer cookies to wire racks and cool.

Make-Ahead Tip: Place in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature up to 1 week or freeze up to 3 months. (hahahaha as if!)

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Blue Cheese for everyone!

Adding to my, harassment by a hyperactive cat, woes my internet keeps crashing and not just a couple of times a day, more like a couple of times every 5 minutes. It’s driving me justifiably crazy as I try to both study and update here.

So before the cat returns and in between the frantic clicking of my modem as it desperately tries to connect and reconnect I will try to post you a new recipe.

This one was born of a great deal of odd circumstances falling together in a happy coincidence that made these little bundles of heaven achievable. I had bought a leek (can’t remember doing that in the last 7 years, so that was odd circumstance 1) and I had just made chicken pies for the freezer out of the left overs of an acceptable but not fabulous chicken crockpot recipe. This left me with scraps of puff and short pasty that were not worth keeping nor was I happy to throw them away (odd circumstance 2). I also had some gorgonzola in the freezer from a recipe a few weeks ago (odd circumstance 3).

And so was born

Blue Cheese and Leek Tarts

Serves: 12

15 g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, halved lengthwise, washed and sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 sheets puffed pastry, thawed
100 g blue cheese, crumbled
2 eggs
½ cup cream

Melt butter and oil together in a frying pan. Gently saute leek and garlic until leek is very tender. Allow to cool. Cut 8 cm circles in pastry, ease each circle into a shallow oiled muffin tin.
Place an even amount of leek into each case and crumble cheese on top.
Whisk eggs and cream together, pour even amount of mixture into cases.
Bake at 180°C for 15-20 minutes or until puffed, firm and golden.

You could use feta or goats cheese if you preferred.

I kneaded the puff and short pastry together and cut into 12 pieces, rolled them into balls with my hands and then used a rolling pin to make them into rounds. I managed to use up all my scraps which pleased me immensely (I am pretty easy to please) and these were really really really good!

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Coping with learning or cats or both…

The course is going okay, it has its frustrating times but I seem to be coping. It takes up a lot of time and I haven’t been doing much of anything else. Of course I still cook and I still photograph my meals (and my photography is still crappy) but I don’t seem to be getting around to sharing it with you as often as I’d like. And then I get days like today when I intend to study all day as I am alone, then I think, I’ll blog first, which goes well for about 10 seconds until Fubar the cat realizes that I am in the office ON A SUNDAY and comes to make my life hell.

Earlier I was trying to type and he was laying on my mouse trying to get something under my keyboard which kept selecting parts of my document randomly and editing them in weird ways. Now he is killing a business card on the floor which lets me type a bit more successfully.

Ok, he’s back. He has a  dislike for my iPhone and steals it and chews it constantly. That is his destruction of choice right at the moment. I swear my cat has ADHD, he cannot settle to one mode of destruction for more than a minute at a time. Thankfully this also means that he wanders off and finds something better to do periodically, like steal the bath plug and stash it on top of the dryer or raid the chamber of new toys (better known as my daughter’s bedroom) for feminine hygiene products to scatter through the house.

While he is giving me a break here is a tasty biscuit slice that I made yesterday. This was one of those, take your rings off and get your hands into it kind of mixes, you would never get it together otherwise. It has sugar, coffee, choc chips and nuts in it (I used pecans because I had some), how can it be bad?

Coffee Toffee Bars

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 180C degrees. Grease a 33x22cm pan.
Cream together butter, brown sugar, coffee granules, and vanilla extract.
Mix flour with baking powder and salt. Stir dry ingredients into creamed mixture.
Add chocolate chips and nuts. Spread dough in prepared pan.
Bake for 18 – 20 minutes. Cool and cut into bars.

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Mediterranean Spaghetti

I made this a few weeks ago. I didn’t post it because I had a bit of a ‘meh’ moment with it. It was good but not great. It was certainly a tasty and filling meal but then so are lots of spaghetti recipes, there was just nothing special about it and it was more time consuming than I like for nothing special.

Feeling very uninspired and digging through the chest freezer yesterday I found a nice chunky package of Mediterranean Spaghetti and though it would do just nicely for dinner, time it was eaten anyway. Well knock me down with a handful fresh baby spinach, but it was fantastic!

Remembering my ‘meh’ moment I reheated this for a bit in the microwave, stirred in a good  of tablespoon of feta, and heated it for a bit longer. Maybe it was the extra feta, maybe it just improves with freezing, maybe I was just ravenously hungry because I somehow missed lunch but anyway this was just a smashing meal. So here it is, freeze it, add more feta and be really hungry, you’ll see what I mean.

Mediterranean Spaghetti

250g lean ground beef
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1x 400g can stewed tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup (125g) crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs, divided
Cooking spray
4 cups cooked spaghetti (about 225g uncooked pasta)
Fresh oregano sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 180C
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the first 4
ingredients and sauté 5 minutes. Add the wine and next 6 ingredients
(wine through tomatoes). Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat, and
simmer 10 minutes or until thick.

Combine the flour, milk, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg in a medium sauce-pan,
and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and cook for 7 minutes or until thick,
stirring constantly. Remove milk mixture from heat. Stir in feta cheese,
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, and egg.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs in a 2L casserole coated with
cooking spray. Place 2 cups spaghetti in casserole, and top with 2 cups
beef mixture and 1 cup sauce. Repeat layers. Combine 1 tablespoon
Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs, and sprinkle over the
casserole. Bake casserole at 180C for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Let stand for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh oregano, if desired.

Makes 6 servings. Needless to say, it freezes well 🙂

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Try the sheep’s cheese, it really is good!

You can tell if I am cooking just for myself when I whip up a concoction like this for dinner.

I am the only person in my entire family that likes couscous and not in that, yeah I can eat it if its put in front of me kind of way, I really like it. Unfortunately I live in a household of couscous haters, they really DON’T like it in that, put that in front of me and I’ll drive to KFC for something decent to eat, kind of way. So when I am alone I have a little box of couscous that comes out to satisfy my cravings.

Tonight it contained many things that no one else really likes and I really love so it was a win win win kind of night for me and a win win win kind of night for everyone else who wasn’t home.
I really just grabbed whatever I had in the fridge and bunged it in, it went a little something like this…

Couscous with lime and sheep’s feta

½ cup couscous
2/3 cup boiling water
1 Tbls butter
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of ½ lime
Salt to taste
Handful of baby spinach leaves
2 generous Tbls sheep’s feta (cow is fine, I just have some sheep cheese lying around)

Place couscous in a bowl, pour over boiling water. Grate in lime zest and squeeze in juice.
Mix in butter, salt and spinach and cover with plastic wrap for 5 mins.
Toss the lot in a bowl and mix through the feta.

Takes all of 5 mins to be sitting on the couch with dinner. What’s not to like about that?