Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Thoughts and Inspiration for 2015

Wow! Another year done and dusted. It's around this time that I have that recurring "time flies" feeling and I think about everything that's happened in the past year. The ups, the downs, the laughs....everything. It's also the time that I realize just how much I've grown as a human being. The silly things that don't bother me anymore, the wealth of knowledge and culture I've gained through traveling to new places and best of all the expansion of love within my heart for the amazing people in my life. I know, I know, that sounds like a lotta cheese but it's so true! 

I feel so lucky to have such a positive outlook on life because it can be such a cruel world sometimes. I've definitely had my fair share of heartbreaks and struggles but because I'm finally understanding the healing powers of time and the strength that comes from getting back up after being kicked down, I only allow myself to push on forward and focus on what truly makes me happy. It's only when you surround yourself with goodness and cultivate that goodness within yourself that, well, good things happen to you. 

I've compiled a bunch of my favorite inspirational quotes that I think are perfect for starting off the New Year with confidence and positivity. Remember, this is your year and its up to you whether it'll be a great one or a crappy one. I'd go with great, personally. Now grip 2015 with both fists and give it all you got! 
PJJ xx






Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bourbon Honey and Orange Christmas Ham

A ham on Christmas has always been a tradition for my family. My mom would make a HUGE honey baked ham which would last us through the week, making all kinds of ham concoctions. And isn't there just something about a good ham that's not only addictive but you just never get sick of it? Ham sandwiches, ham and eggs, ham macaroni, ham by the handful.....the possibilities are endless in leftover ham heaven! 
I always go for the big one for that reason alone. This is especially helpful for the days after Christmas when the thought of cooking anything makes me want to have a nap. I've included a couple leftover ideas at the bottom of this post that will hopefully inspire you to get yourself the biggest ham you can find. 

Now, for the actual ham recipe! It's pretty much like bathing the ham in a giant Old Fashioned cocktail. If you don't know what an Old Fashioned is, it's the bourbon cocktail you'd find the characters on Mad Men sipping. Don't worry though, the alcohol cooks out so no one will be getting hammered. (Haha, get it? No? I bet Jon Hamm would laugh at my puns....ok I'll stop.) 

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 cup bourbon
Peel of 2 oranges (use a vegetable peeler)
Juice of 3 oranges
1/4 cup honey
2 bay leaves
2 Tbs whole cloves

One big ham.
Turn slow cooker on high. Add first 7 ingredients to a slow cooker and stir. Now put in the ham, cover and let slow cook for 3 1/2 hours. Heat oven to 170c or 350f. Remove ham from slow cooker and make diamond scores in the fat (if there's a fat layer on the outside). Transfer ham and juices to a roasting pan (fat side up) and place on the middle rack of oven. Bake for another hour, basting occasionally. If you want crispier fat, turn the oven's top broiler on high and broil the ham for an extra 5-10 minutes. 
Remove ham, cover with foil and let rest for at least 20 minutes. Get stuck in!

*If you don't own a slow cooker, just bake everything covered in a roasting pan at 170c/350f for 2 hours then uncover and bake for an additional 1 hour.




*Leftover Ideas*

Baked ham, cheese and apple quesadillas 
Place one seeded large tortilla on a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar, diced ham and peeled sliced green apple. Place under the broiler in the oven and bake till cheese is totally melted then sandwich another tortilla on top and press down. Bake for addition 3 minutes, remove and cut into slices!

Ham macaroni and cheese
Use any of my mac n cheese recipes and simply just add diced ham!

PJJ xx



Friday, December 19, 2014

My Idea of Christmas Table Setting Perfection

Getting friends and family together for a festive Christmas dinner is one of my absolute favourite things about the holidays. And now living in the UK I get to enjoy my beautiful set up for more than one day because we have a second celebratory meal on Boxing Day which is the day after Christmas. On Boxing Day we usually dig into any leftovers or I make everyone my special Turkey and leftover sandwiches before we all retire to the living room to watch movies. Anyway, my friends at Chairish.com have asked me to design my perfect Christmas table setting using their fabulous vintage tableware and decor. Check out all of their vintage furniture here.  And seeing as I'm a huge vintage fanatic, I gladly rose to the occasion.

When it comes to decorating (my husband and I being big time nature lovers) I like to bring elements of the outdoors in. For Christmas this year, this makes me think of deer and moose in the woods with a bit of shiny gold or bronze sprinkled in. I also love mixing in a little modern with my vintage and I am a big fan of the Conran Shop here in London when it comes to modern chic. 

We'll be spending our Christmas and Boxing Day in Wales with our family there and I think the items I've chosen to put together for the table will go perfectly with the heavily wooded forest hills that will be surrounding us. I've got my fingers crossed for snow too!


The table I've chosen is large and rustic. We have quite a few people to entertain which means A LOT of food so space is crucial. I also love the color and slightly roughed up quality of the wood so there's no need to cover it up with a table cloth. 
Antique barn WW1 era wood plank table

And now for the centerpiece....or shall I say centerpieces: 
Naturally shed moose antler, Vintage decorative leaf tray, Vintage brass deer pair.

Centerpiece accompaniments: 

Serving Dishes:

Dinnerware: 
Vintage bronze bamboo flatware, Amber glass tumbler, Jade dinner plate
Agate coasters with gold rims, Vintage green stemmed champagne glasses.

To keep the bubbly cold:
Mid century modern king teak ice bucket

And for keeping up with British tradition, CHRISTMAS CRACKERS!!! (We pull these open and a prize and paper crown pops out!)

Well, thats my ideal set up for this Christmas. Adding lots of vintage makes me feel especially warm and fuzzy inside because it reminds me of my late grandmothers and the decorations they would have put out when we visited for the holidays. I guess a big part of me wants to carry on these classic traditions while including a little bit of my own new ones. Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year! Cheers!

PJJ xx



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spiralized Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese

Everyone loves mac n cheese. I even know a few lactose sensitive people who put aside their digestive discomfort once in a while just so they can scarf down an ooey gooey dish of the good stuff. It's such a popular dish that there are now restaurants worldwide that are fully dedicated to serving up mac and cheese in all flavors and varieties (When Mac Met Cheese in London and S'MAC and MacBar in NYC are my faves!). 

I've posted a couple of my own recipes previously but now with my new handy dandy spiralizer, I've got another great one to add to my repertoire. My original experiment included parsnip which looked great and tasted ok but I found the flavor of the parsnip to be a tad too overwhelming and I want the flavors of the 3 cheese to be the stars so I've changed it to just butternut squash. This is a gluten free recipe so everyone can enjoy! 

And don't forget you can improve and have fun with it by mixing in any ingredient before baking. I tried diced ham which was fantastic but broccoli, kale, bacon or anything you love make great additions. If you don't have a spiralizer you can still do this recipe, you'll just have to peel and slice thin little peices of the butternut squash.


Ingredients:

2 Tbs olive oil
1/3 cup shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups milk (can use low fat or whole)
1 1/2 Tbs corn starch (corn flour)
2 Tbs light cream cheese
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1 cup Swiss Gruyere, grated 
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

About 6 cups peeled and spiralized butternut squash 
**Should take 2 normal sized butternut squashes to achieve. I cut the tops off then cut through just above the lower bulb of the squash to get a big round chunk of solid flesh without seeds. Peel the big round piece then cut it lengthwise into quarters making four 1" sticks of squash. Now to make individual "macaroni" peices in the spiralizer, make a lengthwise slice in each stick of squash, cutting only half way deep then crank each stick through the spiralizer with the chipper blade on. The peices will come out in funky shapes but will definitely have a macaroni feel in the final product.**

2 cups mixed 3 cheeses for topping
1 handful chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Sliced sweet or spicy peppers for topping (optional)
Spirlized parsnip and butternut squash is pictured here but I've changed the recipe to just butternut squash as the parsnip flavor was too overwhelming. 

Heat oven to 350f or 175c. In a saucepan, heat olive oil and sauté shallots and garlic till lightly browned. Stir in the milk then whisk in the corn starch leaving no clumps, turn heat down to medium. Keep stirring making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan so burning doesn't occur and once milk is hot add the cream cheese and stir till dissolved. Turn heat to low. Now, start slowly stirring in the cheese one handful at a time. Once all cheese has been added and is melted successfully, add salt and pepper to your liking.
Pour this cheese mixture over the butternut squash "macaroni" in a large baking dish and toss till well coated. Make any of you own additions is desired at this time. Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat up to 400f or 190c. Sprinkle the 2 cups of the cheeses and peppers evenly over the top, garnish with parsley and continue to bake for 5-8 more minutes or till desired melt/browning is achieved. Remove and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Dig in! 

Pj xx

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Soulfully Slow Cooked Collard Greens

When I was about 8 my Dad took me to a soul food restaurant that he had newly discovered in my hometown Las Vegas. He was so excited for me to try all these amazing southern comfort foods that he grew up on and I was even more excited! (Yes I was a foodie even back then)...I remember what he was most excited about were the Collard Greens. I watched as they ladled a big heap of the greens from a huge pot and serve them to us in a styrofoam soup container. The smell was spicy and cabbagey but that didn't scare me. I dug right in and instantly fell in love. So much so a remember begging for a second pot to take home and then asking my mom if she could try to make them too!

Collard greens are surprisingly moorish. Once you have one bowl, I guarantee an hour later you will want another, and another...and luckily they're extremely good for you. Stewing them involved throwing in a couple bones which creates a beautiful broth. Did you know bone broth has excellent health benefits including: improved digestion, boosting the immune system and even reduced stress. And don't even get me started on the health benefits of the greens themselves. That's why I think collard greens are especially considered "soul" food.

I used my slow cooker for this recipe but you can also use a big pot on the stove on low heat if you don't have one. 

Ingredients:

3 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
3 Tbs vinegar (cider or white)
1 Tbs hot sauce
1 package chopped pancetta
2 large shallots sliced
3 garlic cloves chopped
2 pork bones (spare ribs or ham bone)
 2 lbs greens roughly chopped (go for collard or delicate greens but mustard, beet and dinosaur kale greens should work too just remove any large ribs from the middles of the leaves)
Seasoning salt and cracked pepper to taste
First, heat your crockpot to high and add the first 4 ingredients. In a skillet, brown the pancetta, shallots and garlic all together till lightly brown then add to crockpot. Now add the bones and greens, sprinkle with seasoning salt and cracked pepper and stir well. Cover and let stew for 2 1/2 hours. A lot of the greens will be above the broth until they cook down so just use a spoon to push them down occasionally till completely covered. The greens can stay in the slow cooker for a few more hours if need be just switch it to low. Add more hot sauce if more kick is desired! Enjoy!

Maple Dijon Roasted Carrots

These carrots are super quick and easy to make. The longest bit is the roasting but the aroma alone is well worth the wait. I use my favorite cast iron skillet because it always gives me a perfect roasting result with root vegetables and because it's a well seasoned skillet it even adds a boost in flavor. What's a seasoned skilled you ask? It's when cast iron has been greased and used several times without being washed with soap and water. You simply wipe or scrape leftover debris and then rub some cooking oil into the cast iron to allow the flavors to cake into it and this only makes the cast iron more magical. 

Anyway back to the carrots. Yes, these carrots are so good and their touch of extra sweetness from the maple will be a hit with the kiddies too! I buy organic carrots so I can get away with just scrubbing them clean and not having to peel them. The price difference is never significant. Try it!

Ingredients:
 
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 Tbs grainy mustard
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 Tbs fresh chopped parsley
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
About 8 medium carrots, washed and quartered lengthwise

Preheat oven to 390f or 200c. Mix first 7 ingredients in a bowl. Toss the carrots in the mixture till evenly coated and place in cast iron skillet or baking dish. Roast uncovered for about 25-30 minutes or until the carrots have reached desired browning. Remove and serve! 


PJJ xx