Archive for the ‘Christmas food’ Category

Sonoran DogWe’ve tried a Sonoran Hot Dog or two in the Phoenix area before but after seeing all the tv shows on El Geuro Canelo, I made it part of my mission to check it out while down in Tucson.
What I like about this place is that they have a small menu that focuses on a handful of items that they do well.  Carne asada burritos/tacos/tortas/caramelos, Sonoran Hot Dogs, and some Mexican-style beverages (aguas frescas, horchatas, cane-sugar Coke bottled in Mexico, that sort of thing).
I stuck with the Sonoran Hot Dogs and got a few to go for myself, including their Sammy, a Sonoran Hot Dog but with 2 bacon-wrapped hot dogs instead of just one.  Without diving in too much on what’s in a Sonoran Hot Dog, just keep in mind that it’s loaded… kind of like a Chicago-style dog.  Bolillo roll instead of a hot dog bun, hot dog wrapped in bacon, then filled with a ton of condiments including beans, mayo, mustard, tomato, and green salsa.
What makes El Guero Canelo great is their condiment/salsa bar.  Cebollas (grilled green onions), grilled jalapenos, red salsa, green salsa, pico de gallo (solid), avocado crema, radish, and limes.
The verdict – this place is solid.  Cheap dogs (a little more than $2 each, a little more than $3 for the sammy) and a quality condiment/salsa bar.  If they were open 24 hours a day, they’d make a killing with the drunk food crowd on weekends.
What am I trying next at this place?  Their carne asada burrito.  I saw someone take it back to their table and it looked like a nerf football.  You think Chipotle makes big burritos… that’s childs play.  I can put two of them down as a snack.  The burrito from El Guero Canelo looked significantly larger than what you get at Filiberto’s as well.
Until next time, do yourself a favor if you’re in the Tucson area to grab a dog from this place.  Especially if you need it to soak up some of that booze in your belly.

Prosciutto Salad.jpgNow that I am working I am finding less time to blog so I am still filling you all in on the wonderful food we ate in Australia back in December and early January. I am hoping I will get into a better blogging routine once I am used to working again! In the mean time I wanted to share a great salad we ate Christmas Eve in Australia.

This salad is a meal on its own but we were lucky enough to have it with some delicious Moreton Bay Bugs. These are a type of crayfish found in Queensland. They are one of my favorite types of seafood and something we traditionally have at Christmas time. We eat these plain… they don’t need to be boiled in spices or anything just cooked simply, cut down the middle and this time we served them with a mango chili mayonnaise. (Recipe for the mayonnaise to follow later).

Back to the salad.

In a large (and I mean LARGE!) salad bowl put a mixture of salad leaves. You can choose any kind you like, we did a mix of my parents’ home grown lettuce. Drain around 270 grams of semi dried tomatoes, make sure you keep the oil though because this becomes part of the dressing. Add the tomatoes to the salad leaves.Moreton Bay Bugs.jpg

Next, slice up 1 bunch of asparagus into about 1 inch lengths. Blanch these for a few minutes, but make sure they are still crunchy. Set them aside to cool.

Add to the salad bowl ¼ cup of pine nuts and 1 thinly sliced red onion. Finally add in the cooled asparagus and toss all the ingredients together.

Now the thing that makes this salad more like an entire meal is the topping. On top of the tossed ingredients the deliciousness is layered. First, pan fry 6 large slices of prosciutto. Break these up when cooked and layer them over the salad. The shave large pieces of fresh parmesan cheese over the top of the prosciutto and salad. I like to use a vegetable peeler to get the big chunky shavings of parmesan. Now, I know some people don’t like parmesan so you could use pecorino or even a mild Mango Chilli Mayonnaise.jpgcheese like swiss over the top.

The final part of this salad is the dressing, quite possibly the simplest dressing ever. In a bottle mix the drained oil from the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Shake this well and then drizzle over the salad.

Serve and eat… It is such a delicious, hearty salad and I could eat it as a meal all by itself. The bugs were just an awesomely delicious bonus. The saltiness of the prosciutto and cheese with the crunchiness of the pine nuts is so yummy! The bugs dipped in the mayonnaise on the side was a perfect warm summer’s day lunch!

Cake tins.jpgWe are back from Australia… exhausted, back at work but relaxed after a fantastic trip to Australia. I will be back to blogging next week and will share all of our food adventures. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and 2013 is starting fabulously!

Now that I am back I just wanted to share the cooking related gifts J. got for me. We exchanged Christmas present a week before Christmas. We just couldn’t cart the presents to Australia and back, didn’t seem to be a great idea.

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First he got me the cake tins I need to make the Mum’s Sticky Chocolate Cake correctly… He also benefits from this one.

Next he got me a contained that was big enough to store the cake in. When I have made this recently we have just had to cover it as best we could since we had nothing big enough to store it in.

My last food related gift were some Paula Deen measuring cups. J. and I obsessively watch her show… mainly because the food is so delicious and she is completely crazy! Anyway, I have Measuring cups.jpgbeen pining after her measuring cups for a good 4 years now. They are made of pewter and are incredibly heavy but oh so pretty. Lucky me, J. got be a set with dragonflies on them.

I was very spoiled before Christmas and also at Christmas. I am looking forward now that I am back being able to bake up a storm and use my new cooking stuff!

Chicken Club.jpgLast week I finally got my work visa which means that I am allowed to start working at the job I got all the way back in August. This is a huge thing for me and I am excited and am looking forward to getting back to work. To start off my time at my new work I attended their Christmas lunch on Tuesday and have now set off on a two week vacation to Australia. Not a bad way to start a new job, with some very understanding bosses.

Anyway back to the food. On Tuesday we went to lunch in Scottsdale (near the new office) at a place called Cask 63. There were only 5 of us in attendance but we had a great time. J. and I as always looked at the menu on the weekend before trying to decide what I should eat when I got there. I had planned on having the Redbirds Farm Grilled Chicken Club. I do like a good club sandwich and being new I didn’t want to go the most expensive thing on the menu or the largest, most decadent thing.

No surprises, I ordered the club… even though there were lots of other delicious things on the menu.

This club was tomato, lettuce, Nueske’s bacon, Chipotle aioli on a brioche bun. Now I didn’t know what Nueske’s bacon was so I had to Google it. Apparently they are famous for being the original apple wood smoked bacon… You learn something every day.

It was a huge sandwich with a massive side of crisp parmesan fries. It was quite delicious. I must admit I probably enjoyed the fries more than the sandwich. The bacon and aioli were really yummy but the chicken was a little plain and dry… it wasn’t bad, just not the best club sandwich I have ever eaten…

The fries however were a different story. Beautifully crispy, they were covered in parmesan, yet weren’t too rich or cheesy to devour. I do like a good fry and they did a great job at this place. There were so many of them, I couldn’t even finish them.

Overall it was a fun and yummy lunch… I would go back just for the fries. What a great way to start off my Christmas vacation… not to mention my new career! Merry Christmas to me!

P.S. I am on vacation so won’t be posting as much until I get back to the US in January.

Marinated Lamb.jpgThe center piece of our early Christmas celebration was a de-boned leg of lamb. I wanted to do something different with this rather than my usual lamb roast. Not that there is anything wrong with a roast leg of lamb, it is one of J’s and my favorite roasts to make. However being already de-boned the lamb had me thinking a little out of the box.

On Thursday when the lamb had defrosted I decided I would marinate it for a couple of days and then just roast or grill it on Saturday night. I put the lamb into a ziplock bag and just threw all the marinade ingredients into the bag.

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First I peeled and roughly chopped 1 red onion, throwing it into the ziplock bag. Next 5 peeled cloves of garlic and5 sprigs of rosemary went in. I put in some salt and pepper and drizzled in some olive oil. Last thing to go in was 1 cup of red wine and a 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. I then just closed the bag and mixed everything around, pressing the marinade into the lamb.

This just sat in the fridge for the next 48 hours and I would turn it and mix it around whenever I opened the fridge.

Saturday afternoon I brought the lamb out of the fridge and let it get to room temperature for cooking in a few hours time. It’s pretty cool in our house so I wasn’t worried about leaving the lamb out.

Grilling lamb.jpgJ. and I discussed how to cook it and since it was raining outside we couldn’t cook it on the bbq/grill so we decided to cook it on our grill pan on the stove. I put J. in charge of this because I was cooking our ridiculously delicious potatoes.

First thing he did was heat the pan until it was nearly smoking hot. He put a little olive oil onto the pan and let that heat for a short time too. While this was happening he removed the lamb from the marinade (setting it aside for gravy later) and used some of the garlic from the marinade to push into the lamb.Carving.jpg

In total he cooked it on the grill pan for 25 minutes, searing each side to create a crust. Doing this on the stove was difficult since the grill pan got way too hot very quickly and we had to turn it off to cool it down. J. did a great job though cooking the lamb and after the 25 minutes we put it into a 350F degree oven for 10 minutes just to finish it off.

We like our lamb medium rare and this came out perfectly. If you like your meat a little more done than we do I suggest leaving it in the oven at least 20 minutes to help cook it through. We however we incredibly happy with the lamb when it came out. J. sliced it up and we were ready to eat out delicious Christmas meal!

Christmas Dinner.jpgWhile J. had been cooking the lamb I had made a gravy out of the leftover marinade, straining the juices first and then heating over a high heat. The only things I added were some freshly ground pepper and some corn starch to thicken it a little. This was a pretty delicious, though slightly strange in colour, gravy.

We served everything up and the lamb was delicious. The flavors from the marinade had really come through in the lamb. Garlic and rosemary were there but the balsamic and red wine added a richness to the meat. The gravy was just a nice little addition.

As you can see above the entire meal looked delicious and tasted pretty amazing too. I know Christmas is still over a week away but J. and I have definitely started our celebrations already! This was a great way to start.

Bacon Potatoes.jpgIn yesterday’s post I wrote about J’s and my early Christmas celebration and how we had decided to do something different with our roast potatoes for dinner. This inspiration had come from my grandmother’s potatoes. Her “roast” potatoes were my favorite thing she would make growing up… always so crunchy on the outside and salty… completely delicious. Of course this is because instead of roasting them she actually had shallow fried them in canola oil in her electric frying pan. Our version was a little different but definitely inspired by Grandma.

This isn’t the healthiest version of potatoes and we will probably never make them this way again (I can here J. crying as he reads this) but oh my were our potatoes on Saturday night the most delicious thing ever!

On Friday night I peeled 3 really large russet potatoes and then cut them into medium sized pieces. After washingRosemary and Garlic in oil.jpg them I put them into an air tight container and covered them in salted water. I wanted to brine them for 24 hours just to make them extra crispy when we cooked them. I am sure an hour would have been enough but I wanted to do some prep Friday night so J. and I didn’t have too much to do come Saturday evening.

Saturday night I took these out and dried them. I then put them into the microwave for 8 minutes to start the cooking process. I didn’t want them to take too long to cook in the oil. While these were in the microwave I prepared the oil… this is where it gets yummy…. We had saved some bacon grease for this very reason and pour it and a similar amount of olive oil into a frying pan. To the oil I added 2 sprigs of rosemary and 2 garlic cloves. I let the oil heat up until the rosemary started bubbling.

When the oil was nice and hot I added half of the potatoes (carefully). The cooking was easy, every two minutes I Turn regularly.jpgturned the potatoes to another side browning and crisping up all sides. Then when they were ready, I just tested them using a fork, I took them out and put them on some paper towel to get off any excess grease. I then put the second half of the potatoes into the oil.

I changed the rosemary and the garlic in the oil with the second half of the potatoes, I didn’t want them taking on a burnt garlic or rosemary flavor. While the second batch were cooking I salted the first batch and put them in the oven to keep warm.

These were so easy to make, you just really need to keep an eye on the oil so that it doesn’t get too hot. I adjusted the temperature a few times throughout this process. J. thought they were quite scrumptious. The bacon flavor wasn’t too evident but as J said, there was a richness to the potatoes not to mention a crispiness.

Surprisingly these weren’t oily or greasy at all. They were delicious and incredibly crispy and crunchy. J was kind of addicted to them and would have eaten them all except I cut him off. He will thank me later when we have the leftovers but he was none too pleased at the time. I enjoyed these for a special occasion, though I can’t see us doing this again anytime soon… they aren’t a potato for everyday.

Roasted tomatoes and mushrooms.jpgJ. and I decided we would have our own little private Christmas celebration yesterday. This way we didn’t have to cart presents to Australia and we get to continue some of our own traditions.

As part of our early Christmas celebration J and I wanted some roasted vegetables with our lamb (post still to come). Usually when were are having a roast dinner, whether it is chicken, pork, beef or lamb we go with the traditional roast veggies, pumpkin, sweet potato and potatoes. We had already decided to do something different with the potatoes (again, stay tuned for that delicious entry!) so I had to come up with something new for our other vegetables.

Now, I love J. and he eats pretty much anything I put in front of him but when it comes to vegetables he hasn’t really progressed in the last thirty years. Sorry, that may be a little unfair, he eats salads now if we drench them in dressing and I have also convinced him sweet potato is delicious when covered in gravy… it’s all about small steps.

So in the endeavour to make something he would happily eat I really had to think. In the end I made Roast Tomatoes with mushrooms and red onion.

First I cut 7 delicious red roma tomatoes in half length way, laying them skin side down in an oven proof dish. I peeled, quartered, and then quartered again a large red onion. While wiping away the tears (I react really badly to cutting onions) I scattered them around the tomatoes. I then washed and dries a small container of button mushrooms and scattered these around the tomatoes and onions.Onions and rosemary on top.jpg

That is all the vegetables so now for some additional flavor. I peeled and halved 4 cloves of garlic and put these into the dish. I broke up 2 large rosemary sprigs and scattered those across too. Lastly I seasoned with salt and pepper, quite generously before drizzling olive oil across everything.

I put these into a 420F degree oven for 30 minutes.

When these came out they smelt delicious. The tomatoes had somehow become sweeter and more tomatoey. The onions though softened had held their shape and taken on the tomato and rosemary flavor. The mushrooms were juicy and delicious. Then it was the critics turn to try them.

J. thought they were excellent and really enjoyed the medley of vegetables. I like this recipe because compared to other vegetables it is quick and doesn’t take hours of peeling… I really hate doing that sometimes. I was happy with the outcome and now have another type of roasted vegetables I can make that J. will love!

Chutney Gift.jpgThis is just a quick post about the other edible Christmas gifts I gave to friends. A while back I made giant pot of spicy tomato chutney. Being who I am I shared it with a bunch of people including my two soon to be bosses. Both of them took a strong liking to it. Using it with cheese, fish and chicken.

I decided as a Christmas gift for them I would bottle up some of the chutney. I bought some nice decorative looking pickling jars… they only cost $1.50 each so what a bargain is that! I filled both jars up with the yummy delicious chutney, sealed them and decorated them with blue bows.

I played Santa on Tuesday and delivered these yummy gifts. They were so excited and happy to receive them, not to mention surprised. Both of them had plans for the chutney and I am pretty sure it won’t last long. I might have to make a new batch in the New Year when I start my new job.

What an easy, affordable and cute gift… one that was so well received!

You can check out my original blog post here or get the recipe here.

Baileys Chocolate Balls.jpgEvery year for as long as I can remember my mother would make rum balls for Christmas. I would even spend hours in the kitchen helping her make them… getting my hands all sticky rolling the balls and covering them in coconut. When I was young I was never tempted by them and then when I got to an age where things with alcohol in them were mighty attractive I found out I had a bad reaction to rum… (not just from drinking too much). So even after all these years I hadn’t ever enjoyed these delicious bites. This year I thought I was going to make rum balls but make them so I could eat them.

I started this process by checking out what alcohol we had in Fruit in baileys.jpgthe house… bourbon, whiskey, vodka and Baileys… the obvious choice to me was the Baileys, plus it is really the only one J. would like. Yes, I drink the other things. I also had the challenge of replacing weatbix, which mum uses in her recipe, that I can’t find here in the US. I decided to use a plain cookie as a substitute for these. I just picked up some plain butter cookies from Cost Plus World Market

Cookies.jpgNow the problems have been solved… time to cook.

In a sealable container I put 2 cups of mixed dried berries, I used cherries, cranberries and raisins. To this I added 1 cup of Bailey’s Irish Cream and mixed everything together. I then refrigerated this for 24 hours…

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I took the berries out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. In a large bowl I put 2 tablespoons of cocoa, 1/2 cup of shredded coconut and 1 packet of plain cookies that I had already blitzed in the food processor so it was a chunky crumble. I added the berries and Bailey’s mixture to the bowl and mixed everything together Condensed Milk.jpguntil it was all combined.

Last thing for the mixture was to add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and stir everything together. This is of course where it gets very sticky and quite difficult to mix together. If necessary get in there with your hands to make sure everything is evenly combined.Ready to roll.jpg

Now it gets really messy. I had to roll teaspoons of the mixture in my hands and then drop them into a bowl of chocolate sprinkles and cover them completely. I found the trick to rolling these successfully was to keep a bowl of hot water next to me that I could regularly dip my hands in to clean them Rolling.jpgoff. So I rolled and rolled and rolled and 70 balls later, yes 70, I had finished.

I put them into the refrigerator to harden and sat down and relaxed! J. was my guinea pig and I gave him one to try. He really liked them, he is not a big alcohol person so this was a success. If he didn’t think they were too boozy then everyone, including people at his office, would be fine with them. I must admit they were really tasty… just tiny, single bites Chocolate Sprinkles.jpgof boozy, chocolaty goodness! These got added to my little boxes and bags of goodies for friends, something decadent and a little different too.

So I finally tasted rum balls, well kind of… I am calling these Bailey’s Chocolate Balls… my favorite new invention!

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