Saturday, January 4, 2014

Bucket list completed and new goals for 2014!

Fourth day into the new year and we are sitting in the house with piles of snow outside warming up after the final round of shoveling. Feels like deja vu from all the storms we had last February. While my kids play bowling on the Wii and my husband is working from home, I am taking a few minutes to give you an update on my cooking bucket list of 2013...oh wait, Neil wants milk and Karina already wants a snack...So back to the bucket list...What's that Paul? You want some juice?...and this is why I haven't written a blog in a few months. If I get a chance before complete meltdowns from cabin fever occur, I also want to write my goals for my 2014 cooking bucket list and some new projects.

2013 Cooking Bucket list - COMPLETE!* (and I did 5 of them in December again)

1.  Boerevors sausage (South African farmer's sausage)
I made 5  batches of this sausage tweaking the recipe each time. Over the holidays my dad and I made the best batch so far! That recipe will be a family secret for now :) 

2.  Souffle
I made a chocolate souffle using Martha Stewart's recipe as a guide. Didn't rise as much as I wanted it to, but it was gone in 10 minutes! 

3.  Melk tert (a South African milk tart)
I used my mother's recipe and it was delicious. Instead of making a crust, I used the mini phyllo shells, which got a little soggy in the fridge overnight. Next time I would either serve them immediately or use the crust in the recipe if making ahead.

4.  Pasta 
I ended up make canneloni and filling it with ricotta and spinach and serving with tomato sauce. Delicious! Not as thin as they would be had a I used a pasta machine, but thin enough. Karina and I rolled and rolled and rolled until thin. I made a version of a dish I had last year when I went to Mario Batali's Eatly in NYC. 

5.  Carbonara
This was delicious! The whole family loved it. I mean, bacon, eggs, cheese, peas and pasta. You really can't go wrong. Traditional is with spaghetti or linguine noodles but the kids chose the orecchiette.

6.  Filet a whole fish
I cleaned and filleted a red snapper. It wasn't pretty, but I did it and turned it into the most delicious ceviche!

7.  Ceviche
This was my favorite. "Cooked" the snapper in lime juice for 4 hours and tossed it with avocado, tomatoes, a little red onion, olive oil and cilantro and ate it with tortilla chips. LOVED IT! Karina even loved it. Now that I've done it once though, I will definitely ask the fish monger to clean and filet it for me. Make sure you tell the fishmonger that you are making ceviche and want a fish that was brought in that morning. Call ahead. It is worth it!

8.  Paella
This was also a family favorite. I made some spanish chorizo from scratch, brined the chicken using smoked paprika and cumin. Everything  came out great, except the mussels. I didn't time those right and some didn't open enough. I will definitely make this again!

9.  Octopus* - Did not do this the Octopus that were available were on the "Avoid" list of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seafood Watch.

10. Jam
So I may have copped out a little on this one, but I never said I would do canning :) I just simmered a bunch of berries over the summer that were on the verge of going bad. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries cooked with a little bit of water, balsamic vinegar and sugar. It was delicious on ice cream and on toast for breakfast.

11. Yorkshire pudding
This was delicious! I will definitely be making this again. It is super easy. So much easier than I thought it would be. I looked at a couple of recipes and used this one from I didn't make a roast that night, so I replaced the beef drippings with beef stock and served it with some leftover sausage and squash.

12. Cream puffs
I used one of my South African cookbooks for this and it was fairly successful. The best discovery was the "mock" pastry cream recipe from the de Villiers, Cook it and Enjoy It. You just whip together a little butter with sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice. Amazing!

For 2014 I have created a bucket list for the year and I'm starting on an ambitious project of cooking a recipe from one of my cookbooks each week, that I have not made before. I have 50 cookbooks, so that gives me 2 weeks off :) Hopefully I will have time to blog about it. If not visit my Facebook page to get updates! 

Cooking bucket list for 2014:

1. Rusks (think South African biscotti)
2. Macaroons
3. Scones
4. Brussel Sprouts (I've never cooked them. My husband loves them, so I'm taking one for the team so my kids won't inherit my food prejudices :) )
5. Pretzels
6. Poached Salmon
7. Beef Wellington
8. Coq au Vin
9. Khachapuri (a Georgian cheesy bread)
10. Duck (not necessarily a whole duck, we'll see how adventurous I feel)
11. Tortillas
12. Chilaquiles (My favorite Mexican breakfast!!) 

Happy New Year everyone! 

Monday, August 12, 2013

I'm still here and still cooking

Hello everyone! I am still here, grilling, spending time with the family and working. I'm hoping to kick the blog up again this fall!

As we head in to the end of summer, I pledge to write again. I have been cooking and taking photos, so watch for fun school lunches, easy dinners, easy entertaining meals, breakfasts and more! I will finish my cooking bucket list, even though I haven't started it yet! I will enter new worlds (for me) of technology like instagram and ramp up my presence on Facebook and Twitter. So stay with me! If there is anything you would like me to write about or try to cook for you all, send me a an email, or like me on Facebook and tell me there!

The picture above is a pork sirloin roast marinated in an Asian-style sauce and basted each time I turned it on the grill. I served it with cooked spaghetti, extra sauce (not used to marinade) and steamed broccoli. The Asian-style sauce is a version of one of my go to sauces, but with a minced garlic clove added and a little extra brown sugar to caramelize on the outside. Make sure you keep some of the marinade aside to use for basting and for tossing with the noodles.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Getting kids into the kitchen

Finding time to blog is proving to be harder than finding time to cook lately. Whether its dealing with sick kids, sick Mamma or Daddy, long mornings playing outside, working and getting all of our chores done, there always seems to be something more to do. I am trying more and more to get the kids involved in the kitchen, so I can have time to be in there myself. Here are some ideas for how to get your kids to help you cook when you don't want to kick them out of the kitchen and be on your own :) I tell my kids there is one rule to cooking with Mamma in the kitchen and if they don't follow it, they don't get to help - "Listen and do exactly what I say." This has been surprisingly effective. Karina was kicked out of the kitchen on 2 different occasions and now does exactly what I say, in the kitchen at least.
1. Let them stand next to you and watch. This way while you are cooking, as you are about to do something think about whether or not they can try it and let them try. Even my 2 and half year olds can add a pinch of salt or sprinkle a seasoning that comes out slowly. Break an egg into a dish and let them pour it in. If you need to add water, let them fill the cup and pour it in. It does take a little longer but gives them a great sense of accomplishment.

2. Let them mix. Slowly, slowly, slowly :) Then Mamma has a turn and goes fast, fast, fast. Then its their turn, slowly, slowly, slowly. Mamma's turn, fast, fast, fast. You get the idea.

3. Let them shake. If you need to coat something, like chicken or vegetables with seasoning, put it in a plastic bag, close it and let them shake it.

4. Let them have a task all to themselves. This can be as easy as have them get their plates (non breakable ones), cutlery, napkins, cups, etc. ready. If they can use the sink without flooding the room, have them wash the vegetables, scrub potatoes or just press the spinner on the salad spinner.

5. Let them press buttons. When using the coffee grinder, blender or food processor let them press the button. Whenever I make smoothies, they know as soon as the mini food processor comes out and clamor all over me to get to press the button. Hold them up and tell them what numbers to press on the microwave.

Use your imagination or just think of things you don't like doing and realize that now you have someone who will probably love doing it :) Its not always foolproof but, if they have a hand in making it, they are more likely to eat it.

Here is a recipe for my kids' new favorite lunch or easy dinner:  

Corn pancakes, hot dogs and broccoli with peas:
1 package Jiffy cornbread mix
1 Egg
2 Tbsp of shortening, melted (I used melted butter, since that was all I had in the house)
3/4 cup Milk
Handful of Shredded carrot (or zucchini or broccoli, whatever vegetable you like or just leave it out)
Hot dogs (I use all beef hot dogs, use whatever you like)
Broccoli florets (fresh or frozen, whatever you have. Use any vegetable you like or think your kids might eat)

Make pancake mix on side according to box (or use your own favorite corn pancake recipe). You can let the kids mix it. Then add in the shredded vegetables if you are using them. Turn your griddle on or whatever you use to make pancakes and spray with cooking spray. Pour about 1/4 cup of mix for each pancake onto the griddle once its hot. Cook the hot dogs however you like to, on the grill, boiled in water, sauteed in pan. Steam vegetables or roast in oven. I like to roast the broccoli for 10-15 minutes after its been tossed in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. This even works with frozen broccoli.

I have been working on some cooking contests, trying to cook some of my Pinterest pins and fine tuning my meal planning. I'll post more about those in the next couple of months and hopefully will get further along on my bucket list. Enjoy the start of spring!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Dinner in a hurry

With our new winter schedule, like many of you, I am once again trying to get back into a menu planning groove. Dinner more often than not is a rushed affair complicated by potty training two toddlers and a 5 year old who just wants to help in the kitchen. Don't get me wrong, these are all great things, but when you are trying to get dinner on the table in under 30 minutes, spending 10 minutes in the bathroom every 10-15 minutes while trying to figure out what you can delegate to a 5 year old without putting her in danger of burning her hands or cutting off a finger, is a challenge.

One of the twins also wants to help in the kitchen, so it is taking even more planning on my part to figure out what tasks I can give them, because I really want them to be involved and interested in their food. Many nights however, I politely shoo them out of the kitchen and turn on the TV or some music and that gives me about 10 minutes to get myself organized. Why is it that they can entertain themselves fine earlier in the afternoon, but if I really need to get food on the table, they can't do without Mamma :)

My lofty goal is to take 15 minutes to plan our meals for the week on Monday nights while my husband is giving the kids a bath, since I mostly go shopping on Tuesdays. I have been writing it directly into my planner (yes, I know I'm old school and inefficient and still carry a hard copy of a day planner even though most items are on my Iphone calendar too, but I like to see it writing).

Here is an example of a week:

Tuesday: Roast chicken with potatoes, carrots and onions and spaghetti squash. I based mine on this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis but used what I had on hand for the vegetables. I roasted the spaghetti squash separately.

Wednesday: Pinterest recipe that is simple, few ingredients and tastes amazing!! Pad Thai. You can keep it vegetarian like the recipe or use leftover chicken, shrimp, steak, whatever you have. I used the rest of the roast chicken and rice vinegar instead of lime juice because I forgot to add limes to my grocery list. Still tasted great.
Thursday: What Karina calls "Eggy Pie" aka Quiche. You can make your own crust (don't be afraid! Its easy with the food processor and this recipe from Gourmet) or store bought is perfectly fine. Whip up about 5-6 eggs with about 1/4 cup milk or cream, salt, pepper, 1 minced garlic clove. I added in the leftover potatoes, carrots and onions from Tuesday night's dinner and a couple of handfuls of spinach, a diced tomato, some bacon and feta. If you don't have any leftovers to throw in, chop a jar of artichokes and you have a delicious spinach and artichoke quiche. I cook or heat up the filling (bacon, spinach, artichokes, onions, etc) first while the crust is baking. Then I take the crust out of the oven, pile the filling in it and then pour in the the egg and milk mixture. Drop some feta around the whole pie and sprinkle with mozzarella on top and bake. I can never get the timing right. It took about 40 minutes to cook. I had some hungry, grumpy kids on my hands, so fended them off with oranges :)

Friday: Take out Chinese food :)

Saturday: Shepherd's pie. Made this ahead for Tim and the kids because I had a fun girls weekend in NYC :) I made mashed potatoes with half sweet potatoes and half russet potatoes. The meat I ground myself and was a mixture of pork and beef. I LOVE my new KitchenAid grinder attachment! Ground meat just tastes so much better, more fresh when you grind it yourself, not to mention you know exactly what's in it. Take's 10 minutes and is worth it!

Sunday: Pumpkin pasta bake. I also made this before I left for my trip, since I knew I would be home just in time for dinner. I just boiled some curly q noodles according to the package, drained them. In the same pot, I added about a jar of sauce (Bertoli Tomato and Basil), 1/3 cup of chive cottage cheese, 1/2 small can of pumpkin puree (make sure its not pumpkin pie filling! just plain pumpkin. Trust me. I've made that mistake before), salt and pepper. Mix it all together and heat for about 5 minutes. Put in casserole dish, cover with shredded mozzarella.

Pastas, rice pilaf in the rice cooker, fresh fish, frozen cooked shrimp, kielbasa, frozen Trader Joe's meatballs, store bought mashed potatoes, zucchini, steak and squash that can be made in under 30 minutes are what I tend to make dinners from when I'm in a pinch. 

 Keep safe New Englanders! Here is a link to food safety guidelines if your power goes out. I have both crock pots going right now to cook a roast and sausage and potatoes so we will have some cooked food to eat, which I can store in my garage since it will stay below 40 degrees and I don't want to lose my last batch of boerewors!

Monday, January 21, 2013

100th post! Sausage done!

I have spent some time thinking about how monumental this 100th post is and thanks to all of you it follows the most successful post I've had so far! If you have been reading this blog from the beginning or just started now, you can see that I love to entertain and cook comfort food, food from my childhood and newly discovered recipes (thank you Pinterest and other bloggers!). This is why I started the bucket list last year and have a new one this year.

I love to learn new techniques and recreate (or attempt to recreate) food from my past. My family is from South Africa, so I occasionally try traditional South African foods. My husband's family is Swedish and we lived in the Scandinavian area of Seattle (Ya sure Ya Betcha Ballard!) for 8 years, so I try Scandinavian dishes from time to time. We live in Boston, so I try to add traditional New England dishes in. My family LOVES Asian food, so I also work that into our weekly repertoire. My husband lived in Mexico for a time, I have visited and certain Mexican inspired dishes are easy go to meals, so I cook them too. We are an international family, living in a world that is increasingly influenced by global trends and luckily foods! I don't shop at specialty stores, because I don't have the time. I shop at our local Hannafords (mostly) and Trader Joe's, until the convenient farmer's markets show up again :) And yes, I do occasionally shop at Target when I'm there for other things because its convenient (for those in the Seattle area, I miss Fred Meyer!).

Here is where, if you don't like meat, look away :) I'll write you a great post next week! There is a good polenta recipe below that is worth it though!

One of the first items on my bucket list for the year is making my own sausage. I can proudly say I did it!!  I based mine on the recipe my Dad used to make boerwors, a South African farmer's sausage. I used to enjoy making it with him. I did not enjoy the hand crank grinder and sausage maker, so my Kitchen Aid attachments made the work seem much lighter.

I went to Roxie's in Quincy, MA (where my dad and I used to go) and got the natural casings and the meat. That place is no joke! I got there a couple minutes before it opened one Sunday morning and the line was already out the door! The meat prices are great and it is good quality, but wow! I would have thought a rock star was inside.

natural casings (hog casings work best)
ground beef (I ground my own chuck)
ground pork (I ground my own tenderloin)
lard (I couldn't find lard, so used beef fat)
ground coriander
ground cloves
red wine vinegar

I cut the meat up into 1 inch pieces and added all the spices and vinegar and then put it through the grinder.
I cooked a small patty of the sausage to check the flavor and it was good. Then I  put the sausage maker attachment on the KitchenAid and put the casings on and started putting the meat through. It was much easier than I thought! Karina even helped.

I let it rest for 24 hours and we had a feast the next night! Next time I would use lard or pork fat which is softer and more of all the spices.

If you want more details on the amounts and process, feel free to email me,

The traditional boerwors sausage is grilled and served with "pap en sous" (corn porridge and a tomato and onion sauce).  I made the rest of the meal easy and made polenta in the slow cooker (this is a good recipe, just add more salt and cheese as its a little bland) and served it some sauteed peppers, zucchini and onions, since I was out of tomatoes (canned or fresh).
Last night I baked the boerwors with sweet potato, potato and onion with a little red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and coriander. It was a hit.

Next month I am going to tackle souffle's I think. Might be fun for Valentine's Day.

Thank you to those who read my blog and give me inspirations! Woo hoo 100th post!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year and 99th post!

Only one more post to go to my 100th post on this blog. I am excited to keep this up as long as there are readers :)  Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and have a happy new year.

I finally finished my 2012 cooking bucket list yesterday, just in time! Here's a recap:

Cooking Bucket list for 2012 - COMPLETE!
Pork Belly
Short ribs
Chocolate truffles
I got them all done, even though 5 were done in December :) The flan came out pretty good, pork belly was tasty, Koeksisters almost tasted like my mom's, the chocolate truffles were delicious and fairly easy and the mozzarella really felt like an accomplishment (even though I didn't get a great picture)!

Now, on to 2013! I got a great present for Christmas - the meat grinder and sausage stuffer attachments for my Kitchen Aid mixer! I can't wait to start! So no surprise that the first item up on my bucket list this year is...

1.  Boerevors sausage (South African farmer's sausage)
2.  Souffle
3.  Melk tert (a South African milk tart)
4.  Pasta (not sure what kind yet, maybe spaghetti)
5.  Carbonara
6.  Filet a whole fish
7.  Ceviche
8.  Paella
9.  Octopus
10. Jam
11. Yorkshire pudding
12. Cream puffs

Here's to cooking that fulfills you, whether its conquering a recipe or technique that you have always wanted or finding out how to get a healthy meal on the table in under 30 minutes. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving links

I know, I know, I have been absent for the last couple of months.I've been doing some soul searching on my next professional move, physically moving to a house down south of Boston and now moving heaven and earth to unpack with 3 kids under 6, under foot and prepare for the holidays! Lucky to have such problems though :)

We are traveling about an hour and 45 minutes north on Thanksgiving and I'm responsible for the turkey, gravy and stuffing. Luckily I have found my roasting pan and bought a large bucket to brine the turkey in. My husband's new company has a very nice perk. They give free farm fresh turkeys to each employee! When I get that turkey tomorrow I will butcher it and throw it in the brine overnight. Still haven't figured out if I should cook it at home and bring it up or cook it at the house we are going to. Nothing like the last minute. I am going to base my turkey preparation on Kate's Turkey recipe from Our Best Bites. The women over at Our Best Bites have amazing recipes. I have never made one I didn't like. Check it out. Here are a couple of my favorites that may help your thanksgiving meal:

Easy Pumpkin crumble
Pretzel Rolls  

Here is a round up of Mamma's Cooking Thanksgiving posts:

Lessons Learned from Thanksgiving
My Thanksgiving Menu
Pre and Post Thanksgiving Ideas 
Happy Thanksgiving

Have a great holiday everyone! I'll let you know when I'm going to pick up the pace again and start posting more.