The Pantry

i haven't been blogging much lately. i haven't had much time. i've had a cold, my children have had a cold. we've had lots of extra activities going on because of christmas. dinner has been quickly made in between planning and making batches cookies. there hasn't been time to look for and try new recipes and definately not any time to take pictures of the food before eating it. so we've eaten lots of old standbys like baked chicken and pasta with alfredo sauce. and the blog fast will probably continue a bit longer because we're moving back to philadelphia next week. so this weeks menus consist of trying to eat up all the stuff that is in the pantry. this sometimes makes for creative and interesting meals, however by the end of the week i think we might be tired of trying to eat all the pasta. friday evening we're going into the city one last time to finish up some christmas shopping and have to have dinner one last time in central london. then the packing starts...


Salmon Packets

we had this for dinner tonight and it was really good. i love finding new ways to cook salmon! i found the recipe the other day at messy cucina while i was reading food blogs. you can find the recipe here. the only think i did differently is i baked the salmon packets at a lower temperature for about 20 minutes, because i like my salmon a little more well done. also my pictures turned out horrible, so'll you'll have to check out the picture over at messy cucina.


Gingerbread Muffins

i always start to crave gingerbread around christmas time. i made these muffins for moms and tots this morning. they were easy to make and really good. here's the recipe...

...recipe from Feast: Food to Celebrate Life by nigella lawson
250g flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg
50g dark muscavado sugar
50g light muscavado sugar
150 milliliters full fat milk
1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons golden syrup
4 tablespoons black treacle

Preheat oven to 200 C. Line 12 muffin tins with papers.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk egg in a large measuring jug then add the sugars, breaking up any lumps. Add the milk and vinegar then measure in the oil with a tablespoon. Use the same oily spoon to add the syrup and the treacle so they don't stick to it. Whisk the mixture to combine and add to the flour and spices. Stir until mixed but still fairly lumpy.

Spoon or pour the mixture inot the muffin papers and bake for about 20 minutes until the tops are dry. The muffins with still feel squidgy when you take them out to put them on a rack to cool.

Peppermint Bark

i have been wanting to try and make this ever since i got addicted to the stuff that willams-sonoma makes, last christmas. i ran across this recipe the other day when perusing a few food blogs. the original recipe is here at the domestic goddess. i made a few changes to the recipe and would probably make a couple of more the next time. here is the recipe slightly adapted...

1 pound dark chocolate, broken into pieces
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 pound white chocolate, broken into pieces
3/4 cup chopped candy canes (about 12)

Line an 11 x 17 inch baking sheet with foil.

Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave until smooth. Stir in the peppermint extract. Pour onto the lined baking sheet and spread to cover. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave until smooth. Stir in the chopped candy canes. Pour over the set dark chocolate and spread to completely cover the dark chocolate. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or over night. Peel off the foil and break into pieces. Store in the refrigerator.

for next time...
i would try to find only red and white candy canes, rather than the red, white and green. i just like the way it looks better.
i would also not stir all of the chopped candy canes into the chocolate and sprinkle some of them on the top at the end. i like to be able to see them a little bit more.
also i didn't use a big enough baking sheet so my bark is a little bit too thick, which just makes it really hard to break into pieces.

i liked these so much that i decided to make them up into gifts for all of the staff at the center. i just placed a pile of them in the middle of a big square of parchment paper and tied them up with gold ribbon. we had our staff christmas lunch today. we all went out for chinese. i gave these out to everyone at lunch. here's the picture...


Small Mushroom Tarts

i made these for dinner tonight. they were really yummy. the crust was a little flimsy and i couldn't get it to firm up. maybe i rolled it too thin? or maybe i should try pre-baking it next time? anyway, i did like the cornmeal in the crust. it sort of gave the crust a crunchy feeling even though it wasn't very crunchy. here's the recipe...

...recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by nigella lawson
for the crust
125g flour
60g fine cornmeal
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
115g butter
25g vegetable shortening
40-50 milliliters iced water
for the filling
10g dried porcini, soaked in warm water
550g mixed mushrooms
75g butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 large field mushrooms
juice of 1 lemon
75g parmesan, shaved
4-6 tablespoons chopped chives
8 teaspoons creme fraiche

Preheat the oven to 200 with the baking sheets in the oven.

For the crust: Mix all the dry ingredients together. Cut in the butter and vegetable shortening until the mixture looks crumbly. Gradually mix in the water to bind the pastry. Divide the dough into 2 discs and wrap in clingfilm. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out dough and line 8 4-inch tartlett pans with loose bottoms. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

For the filling: Dice the mixed mushrooms and porcini mushrooms and saute in half the butter with the garlic until the mushrooms are soft. Remove from the pan to a bowl. Thinly slice the large mushrooms and saute in the remaining butter until soft. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble put a few tablespoons of the mixed mushroom mixture into each tart shell. Then layer with parmesan shavings. Arrange large mushrooms over the top. Sprinkle with chives and spoon on creme fraiche.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the creme fraiche has melted. Leave to stand a few minutes before unmolding.