Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cheesy Ham 'Gratin' Bake

With over 3lb of our Honey Baked Ham left (even with the best efforts of my family) I decided to take half home to our house after cooking Thanksgiving for everyone at my Mother in law's house...normally I'd leave all the leftovers, however this year there was so much meat (smoked turkey and ham) that I decided to purloin half a turkey breast and the ham, and today I've been thinking up recipes....tonight a ham, cheese and potato looks delicious going into the oven, so as I type my fingers are crossed for something yummy and totally satisfying....enjoy!


For 2 people
2 gratin dishes

  • 1 cup cooked ham, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated aged swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup romano cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup mixed grated Italian cheese
  • 1/2 medium onion sliced
  • 1 large potato, peeled and thinly sliced ( I used side of grater)
  • 4 sprigs of Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Approx 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

  1. In a frying pan add the potatoes, thyme, onion and garlic - cover with water and a teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. You are looking for the potatoes to be just cooked. Drain
  2. Wash the frying pan as the potatoes drain and add a tablespoon of butter. Once melted on a low-medium heat gently fry off the potato mixture (remove the thyme springs now)
  3. In a saucepan melt the other tablespoon of butter, then add the flour, cooking for about 2 minutes on a low/medium heat. Add 1/2 a cup of milk and keep stirring, once thickened add another 1/2 cup, contunue until you have a thick sauce. Add the swiss and romano cheeses, the mustard and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In a large bowl combine the cheese sauce, the ham and the potato mixture.
  5. Add to two gratin dishes
  6. Sprinkle with the Italian cheese mix
  7. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and cook at 400 F for 20 minutes until bubbling and brown.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Smokey Cauliflower & Bacon Soup

It's winter (78F outside today) and I'm in soup mode. We're trying to eat lighter and we love soup & salad combos, or today, soup and sandwich. I like to make my own soups, normally vegetable based, and always looking to tweek my existing recipes. Here I've edited my normal cauliflower recipe to give it a bit of a kick..Hubbie loved it....Enjoy!

Enough for 4 large bowls

  • 1 large cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1 large potato peeled and chopped into 2" pieces
  • 6 rashers of smokey bacon
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 green (spring) onions finely chopped
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup (4oz) shredded Italian mixed cheese
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablspoons butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Saute the onions and garlic over a medium heat in a large saucepan in the butter.
  2. When translucent push the onions and garlic to one side of the pan and add 2 rashers of the bacon that have been diced.
  3. Once the bacon has cooked add the cauliflower, potato, cumin and paprika.
  4. Saute for 2 mins.
  5. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil and then reduce to a low-medium heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes
  6. Remove from heat and hand blend or liquidize until required smoothness
  7. Add the milk and cheese, heat through to melt the cheese, then taste and season with salt and pepper. I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper ( I didn't have any white pepper here, but it would probably work better).
  8. Fry off the rest of the bacon, drain and serve on top of the soup

Sunday, November 8, 2009


OK so not really a restaurant review, but these cupcakes are to die for. We discovered Camicupcakes yesterday evening and we have to admit to going back today to try some more. The moistest, most delicious heavenly little cake I have ever put in my mouth, this girl knows her cupcakes.

Yesterday we had the Chocolate Raspberry Almond Cream (I know sounds yummy right?!) and hubbie had the Elvis (click on the pictures for the description). They were gone in about two seconds flat and left us desperate for another one!...We decided that what made them stand out from other cakes was that as well as the cake being super moist the icing was not overly sweet, so there was no point where you said, I can't eat any more as it's too sickly...clever.
So today we went to Mellow Mushroom for some pizza ( review follows) with alterior try another Camicupcake...

Oh I thought I'd gone to heaven when I tasted the Pineapple Toasted Coconut and the speed at which hubbie downed his Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream ( it didn't make it home) seemed to indicate that he was pretty happy too...
Please try them if you can, they have two locations in Jacksonville and one in me they are sublime.
P.s. they are only $2.50 each....

My cupcake just before I devoured it!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Brass Monkey, Jacksonville, Florida

Brass monkeys in the UK means freezing cold...not exactly how I'd describe our barmy November visit to Brass Monkey in Southside, Jacksonville. We were looking for an early dinner somewhere and had intended to go to Mellow Mushroom, but being a Gator game night, it was rammed and we looked for somewhere we could get in without waiting ages for a table. The other end of the strip to Mellow Mushroom we found Brass Monkey . It was quiet when we walked in (6.30pm) but soon started to fill up, and as a bonus we had view of the large screen that was showing the football, so we wouldn't miss the start.

It's a tapas restaurant, with an extensive drinks bar, and I have since read that they have live music and other special nights. It's modern inside with low lighting and plenty of booths (our favoured seating). It was nice to have cloth napkins and a very attentive waitress.
We picked a few small plates of Tapas raning from $6 to $9 each to share and some were better than others.
Asparagus wrapped in Serano ham, with pesto sauce - you can't really go wrong here and they didn't, crunchy asparagus with crisp ham and a delicate pesto, very nice
Garlic Prawns - Disappointing, some of the garlic had been burnt and it made the sauce bitter, and the prawns were a little tasteless
Gruyere Macaroni & Cheese with truffle oil - I want more ! absolutely delicious, melty and with a little crunch from the panko topping, perfect.
Cagney Fries - Too big, not crisp, a sin if you are doing fries in my opinion. The taste was right but spoilt by the greasy texture
Chicken Empanadas & Avocado sauce - Pretty good, hubbie reckons that the pastry should have been more crispy and the chicken spicier, however I enjoyed them, and the sauce was super tasty.

It was very reasonable, and my Merlot was very nice and smooth for $6 / glass. We'd go again, but maybe a little later when the bar has heated up a bit.

Autumn Crumble Crisp

I was watching Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa, the other morning ( I have to admit that the food network is normally on at some point during the day), when she gave me a great idea for that eveings dessert. It is autumn and we should be celebrating the fall fruits and she made a delicious looking pear and apple crisp. Ok, I can do something like that, I'll just have a look what looks good in the supermarket and take it from there. I couldn't find any nice pears, so I bought a tin, and used Gala apples as I had some in the fridge. Five for dinner needed a 10" pie dish, and there was one portion's delicious and so easy it crazy..Enjoy!

for the filling
  • 1 tin of pear halves, drained and each halve cut in 6ths ( I had 6 halves in my tin)
  • 3 apples, peeled and cut in the same size chunks as the pears
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
for the topping
  • 1 cup of old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1 stick of butter melted (1/4 lb)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  1. Heat overn to 400F
  2. Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and put into a pie dish.
  3. Combine all the topping ingredients in a bowl and then sprinkle over the filling 
  4. Cook in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, you are looking for a crispy light brown topping
serve with some vanilla ice cream

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Store Cupboard Tomato & Oregano Soup

The other evening I was faced with either take-out, getting in the car and going to buy some food, or making something from the meagre options I had in the cupboard and fridge...ok, so I'm not a huge take-out fan and could not be bothered to get in the car, so initiative was required. I didn't have much, but I had a tin of tomatoes, pasta, chicken stock, a couple of fresh tomatoes, some fresh oregano and cream and parmesan from yesterday's pasta dish and some onions and celery....hmmm..I'm not having pasta again, so it looked like soup..I could definitely conjure one up from these ingredients...the finished article - husband said he'd eat it every night of the week (well it did have a tasty grilled cheese with it too!) Enjoy!

  •  1 x 14oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 fresh plum tomatoes chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery finely chopped
  • Salt & Cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup oregano finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  1. Saute in a deep saucepan (we will be hand blending the soup later - you can use a blender for this too) the onion and garlic and celery on a medium heat
  2. Once softened add the fresh and tinned tomatoes, oregano, sugar and stock. Cook, covered on a low heat for an hour ( this should break down the tomatoes completely). Remove from heat
  3. Cool a little and then blend by hand to required smoothness
  4. Add back to a medium low heat and add the cream and parmesan cheese and season with salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 5-10 minutes until cheese melted.
  5. Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sun Choked Chicken Penne

I've said before that my husband would eat pasta any night of the week, however it will never be my favourite. With guests coming around this evening I was looking for something other than the regular tomato based sauce that we normally have. This is super quick and makes use of that store time saver, the pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. We'll be having my Garlic bread and some salad. Enjoy!

Serves 4-6


  • 1 rotisserie-cooked chicken de-skinned and shredded
  • 2 green onions finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 jar (8oz) sun-dried tomatoes drained and chopped
  • 1 jar (12oz) marinated artichoke quarters, drained
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1lb favourite dried pasta

1. Heat oven to 350F
2. Cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente and drain
3. Whilst pasta is cooking gently fry the green onions and garlic until softened in the olive oil in a large frying pan.
4. Add the chilli flakes, orgegano, sundried tomatoes and artichokes and cook for a minute
5. Add the shredded chicken and cook until heated through
6. Add the chicken stock and heat through
7. Add the Cream and heat through
8. Add the chopped parsley and 1/2 cup of parmesan and cook until the cheese has melted.
9. Season with salt and pepper to taste
10. Combine with the penne and then put into an oven proof dish. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top
11. Cook in the oven for 20 mintutes.

Serve with some salad and garlic bread


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