Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Get Some Zen, Make a Terrarium!


I was shopping the other day at a department store and in the home garden section I came across some stunning glass tear drop terrariums filled with all kinds of succulents and cacti. I immediately reached for one to buy until I glanced at the price tag....£150!!!! That's just a tad over my houseplant budget.

Anyway, I went home terrarium free BUT with the great idea to make my own. Below you'll see a step by step tutorial on how you can too! I made four of them which are all dotted around my home now and we LOVE how peaceful and serene they make us feel. Especially waking up and seeing a little bit of nature right next to you. Ahhhhh.....or....Ommmmm.

Constructing the terrariums was quite easy though a little messy with all the dirt and sand so make sure you do it on a covered table for easy cleanup.

Ps....I got my husband in on the action and I must say we had a ton of fun doing it together. And he's super proud of the one he made for his bedside table. 


Supplies:

- a glass or clay terrarium container. Should have no holes in the bottom and plenty of room to work with around the opening. I found a good selection on Amazon.

- a bag of smooth pebbles, roughly the size of marbles though they don't have to be perfect spheres. Sift through and choose any cool ones to set aside for the last decorating step.

- potting soil for cacti and succulents.

- decorative sand and rubble

- mini succulents and cacti, about 3 per terrarium unless yours is big enough for more.

- rubber or plastic gloves

- paper towels

- spray bottle

- big bowl of water

- kitchen scissors 

- tongs or large tweezers

- a big and small spoon


STEP 1

Make sure your terrarium is clean then fill the bottom with a layer of smooth pebbles, about an inch thick. (Below is a photo of the pebbles I used. Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of them in the bottom of the terrarium. Oopsie!)

STEP 2

Pour in a 1" layer of the soil on top of the pebbles. Pat it down gently and spray lightly with water. 

STEP 3

Choose which succulents or cacti you want to plant. Remove them from their original pots and soak the roots in a bowl of water to loosen the dirt off them. You can use scissors to cut away the really long ones to make re-planting easier. Then make a small divit in the soil in your terrarium and place the cactus or succulent inside, packing in some more soil with a spoon. ** use the paper towel and tongs to handle cacti or spiny succulents**


STEP 4 

Once all the plants are in place pour in the sand or rubble. I kind of poured mine into the middle then used the small spoon to distribute it evenly over the soil. I used my tweezers to pick away any sand or rubble that got into any of the plants. Also, be sure to lift any bottom leaves up gently and push some sand underneath to cover the soil more and make the beauty of the plant pop.

STEP 5

Finish decorating with the cool smooth pebbles you've picked out beforehand and scatter here and there. Now you're done! 

Terrariums are great anywhere in the home. We even put one in the bathroom! And there are extremely low maintenance. Just spray with water once or twice a week being careful not to over water. Also, give your terrarium some sun once in a while if it's in a room without windows. 

Hope this brings some joy and zen into your everyday life!  








Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lobster Pot Pies


I know! Two recipes in one week! Well my kitchen remodel is finally finished and I am ecstatic so I've been trying out all of my new appliances like crazy and the result is lots of new recipes to share with you fine people.

Anyway, I am a huge seafood fanatic, especially shell fish. Like, I would literally die if I found out I had a shellfish allergy. Since moving to London I've found it hard to find my ultimate fave crab legs so I tend to eat a lot more lobster these days. I know, poor me. But hey I always buy lots of it on sale and freeze whatever I'm not using. That brings me to my new recipe.... lobster pot pie!!!!

Fall/winter are well on their way and in the UK that could mean long wet and blustery months without sunshine and I'm hoping these pot pies will be my saving grace. Not only are they toasty and comforting but lobster always takes me back to beachy summer days. A nice little vacation in every bite.

Makes 8 mini pot pies or 2 large pot pies (I made minis because I'm freezing most of them unbaked for later enjoyment.)

Ingredients:

6 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 red onion, chopped

1 fennel bulb, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 c. potato, diced

1 c. carrot, diced

2 celery stalks, chopped

5 c. lobster stock (full recipe at the bottom) or fish stock

1/2 c. dry sherry

1 tsp old bay seasoning

1 c. heavy cream or buttermilk

1 heaped Tbsp corn starch, flour OR rice flour mixed with 1 Tbsp water (this is for thickening. If intending to freeze, use rice flour)

1 c. frozen peas

1 c. frozen corn

cooked meat of 2 whole lobsters or 4 lobster tails, chopped

handful fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

s&p to taste

2 sheets of pre-made puff pastry

1 egg + 2 Tbsp water

extra old bay and paprika for garnish (optional)

1.) In a large pot, sauté the onion and fennel in the butter till soft then add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Now add the potato, carrot and celery and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the lobster stock, dry sherry and old bay and let simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes. Slowly stir in the cream. Once well mixed, stir in the thickening liquid and keep string till you notice thickening. If it's not as thick as you'd like add more thickening liquid one tbsp at a time. Once it's reached you preferred thickness remove from heat and stir in the peas, corn, lobster meat and parsley. Add s&p to taste and let cool.

2.) Preheat oven to 220c/430f. Press the puff pastry dough into either individual ramekins or 2 pie pans. Pour cooled filling into the pastry then cover with another sheet, crimping the edges to seal it shut. Brush with egg wash, poke a few holes with a fork and bake for 25-30 minutes or till crust is golden.

To make these fun little lobster claw decorations just free-hand cut out the shape, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with old bay and paprika. Attach to the egg wash brushed tops of the pies.

To make the lobster stock.....

All you need is 3 Tbsp olive oil, 2 cleaned out whole lobster shells or 4 lobster tail shells, 3 chopped celery stocks with the leaves, 2 chopped carrots, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped fennel bulb, 4 halved garlic cloves, 3 litres water, 1 sliced lemon, 2 handfuls fresh whole grape tomatoes, 1 Tbsp peppercorns, 2 tsp dried thyme and 3 bay leaves. 

1.) sauté the first 6 ingredients in olive oil till everything but the shells are soft. Add remaining ingredients and let simmer uncoverered till the liquid reduces by half (up to 2 hours) Don't forget to stir occasionally to really get the flavors infusing.

2.) remove from heat and let cool slightly before straining out all the solids. Can be frozen for 3 months.

















Friday, September 16, 2016

Zucchini and Eggplant Lasagna Swirl


After a recent week in Italy and about a thousand pounds of pasta....let's just say I needed a carb break! So I started experimenting with Italian recipes that don't require pasta but still have that special oomph and this lasagna swirl DEFINITELY has it.

Constructing the swirl is very hands on and a little messy but the result is b-e-a-utiful. And let's not forget that messy can sometimes be fun.

Serves 4

prep: 20 mins   bake: 45 mins

ingredients:

1lb Italian sausage, casings removed

1/2 red onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

1/2 tsp dried italian herbs

1 tsp fennel seeds

dash of chili flakes

salt and pepper

8.8oz (250g) pack of ricotta

1/2 c. shredded mozzarella

3 Tbsp grated parmesan

1 egg

1/2 tsp dried italian herbs

2 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise

1 eggplant, cut in half then thinly sliced lengthwise

1.) Preheat oven to 375f/190c. In an oven proof skillet, brown the sausage and break up into small pieces. Remove from skillet and reserve for later. Use drippings to sauté the onions and garlic for about 2 minutes.

2.) Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste, italian herbs, fennel seeds, chili flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Stir till well mixed and remove from heat.

3.) In a bowl, mix the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, egg and italian herbs. Now, layer 3 slices of the zucchini and eggplant (as pictured below). Dollop the ricotta mixture onto the slices then top with sausage and carefully roll from the left end inward, making you spiral's center point. Carefully place the spiral into the middle of the skillet with the tomato sauce. (pictured below)

4.) Repeat step 3 with the remaining zucchini, eggplant, ricotta mix and sausage except add the strips (still in threes) to the outer layers of the center spiral. Keep building till the layers fill the skillet.

5.) Bake uncovered for 45 minutes in the center of the oven. Once done let stand for a few minutes before cutting in. Enjoy!








Saturday, April 2, 2016

Yuzu Lemon and Lavender Meringue Pie


I wasn't quite sure how to word this one but I think you get the gist! It's my own twist on the classic lemon meringue pie (MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PIE!!!) using yuzu in the lemon filling and crushed lavender in the fluffy meringue.

I also added a splash of violet food colouring to give the meringue a dreamy lavender hue but you can do without. I was inspired to try this twist after tasting a mini lemon tart at the Wynn buffet in Las Vegas. It had a lavender cream on top and the flavors paired so perfectly. I've been dying to try adding yuzu to the lemon filling for a while now so I decided to try both ideas together and BOOM! it was awesome! 

Ingredients:

1 prepared pie crust pastry

For lemon yuzu filling:

4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
3 Tbsp butter
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tbsp yuzu juice (try finding this as Asian markets if you can't find it in regular stores.)

For lavender meringue:

4 egg whites
1/4 + 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
6 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp dried lavender, crushed into a dust
1/2 tsp vanilla, I used a vanilla bean paste
3 drops violet food coloring (optional)


1.) preheat oven to 475f/240c. Press pastry dough into pie tin folding dough over the edge and bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool. Reduce oven temp to 400f/200c. Meanwhile, hand whisk the egg yolks in a bowl for a minute and set aside.

2.) In a 2qt saucepan (not on heat yet!) mix the sugar and cornstarch till well blended then slowly stir in water till well mixed. Now heat on medium, stirring constantly till it starts to boil. Allow to boil for only one minute. You'll see the mixture suddenly thicken into a thick gel consistency. Remove from heat and immediately whisk half the gel into the egg yolks then pour this mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining gel and boil for 2 minutes stirring constantly then remove from heat. Now, stir in the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and yuzu till well combined. Pour into the pie shell.

3.) With an electric mixer on high, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar together till foamy then start to add the sugar one tsp at a time while still beating. Once you achieve soft peeks add the lavender, vanilla and food coloring and keep whipping into semi-stiff peaks. Pipe or spread over pie filling and be sure not to leave any gaps around the edges or meringue might shrink away from the edge while baking. Bake for 8-12 minutes or till meringue is lightly browned. Remove and let cool then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. 











Friday, March 25, 2016

Crab Cake Scotch Eggs



I posted a delicious scotch egg recipe this time last year that used ground chicken instead of sausage so in the spirit of changing things up I have created yet another exciting variation.....(drum roll please)......CRAB CAKE SCOTCH EGGS!
The idea came to me when I was trying to think of a scotch egg recipe I could make for a friend who's a pescatarian (only eats fish FYI). I've had smoked salmon and haddock scotch eggs which are great but I wanted to do something special. That's when my love of crab cakes hit me smack in the face with the idea to wrap one around a medium boiled egg. Eureka!
It took me a couple tries to get the consistency and flavors right and the final result was superb. You follow the steps of this recipe the same way you would a regular scotch egg but it's actually a lot quicker and easier because the crab cake mix doesn't need very long to fully cook. 

Makes 6 
1 c. Coarsley crushed cracker crumbs (saltines or ritz) 
1 c. Fresh Crab meat
5 green onions, minced
1/2 c. Red bell pepper, minced
1 egg
1/3 c. Light mayo
2 tsp. Grainy mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp old bay seasoning
1/2 tsp smoked paprika 
Generous pinch of sea salt

6 medium boiled eggs (boiled for 7 minutes), peeled

1/3 c. Flour for coating
1/2 c. Finely crushed crackers for coating

3-4 cups vegetable oil for deep frying.



1.) mix all first 12 ingredients till well combined. Set aside.

2.) put the flour and fine cracker crumbs on separate plates. Construct each scotch egg using the following steps:

- coat egg in flour
- wrap egg with a flattened palm sized amount of the crab cake mix adding more till completely coated. I use a piece of cling film to help with the wrapping. See photos below.
- coat again in flour
- roll in fine cracker crumbs

Repeat with remaining eggs.

3.) heat oil till it reaches about 350f/180c (and try to keep this temperature consistent throughout cooking). Gently drop in 2 scotch eggs at a time making sure they don't touch. Cook for about 3 minutes or till golden brown, turning occasionally. Remove with slotted spoon and let rest on paper towel lined plate. Enjoy hot or chilled in the refrigerator! 

I served mine with a sriracha aioli which is super easy to whip up. 2 tbsp light mayo, 1 tsp grainy or spicy mustard, 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp sriracha.