That time I made Welsh Rarebit

I love food with a story.

I have had this recipe for Welsh Rarebit printed off and in my binder for a long time (I’m not going to PROJECT RECIPE it, though, since it wasn’t from a food blog). I don’t know what caught my eye about it when I first found it. It just sounded weird, I guess. So, I printed it, and I started wondering what the back story was. Where did it come from? Why did it have such an odd name?

It’s basically toast with cheese sauce over it. And this is a real thing. I mean, I’m sure college kids eat stuff like this all the time. But this is a real thing. This isn’t your ordinary cheese sauce, though. It has dijon mustard and porter in it, along with cheddar cheese. The flavors were so complex. And even though there’s only a little bit of mustard, the taste is so prominent. It goes great with the bite of rye bread.

Welsh Rarebit (2)

Apparently, the dish was originally called Welsh Rabbit, and was an English tavern dish. It has always been simple toast with cheese sauce–there has apparently been rabbit in it, ever. It dates back to the early 1700s, and somewhere along the way, the name transformed into “rarebit” instead of “rabbit”. One theory is that peasants were not allowed to keep rabbits killed in the forest, but instead had to turn them over to the lords who owned the land. So, they used a little cheese stretched into a creamy sauce instead. But I doubt this is true. I suspect rabbit morphed into rarebit by people who simply didn’t get the “joke” that there was no rabbit in this dish. It became a cheeky term that seems to make as many people mad as those who like to call it this. But everyone knows what it means.

This dish was a great quick and easy dinner perfect for a cold winter night. I bought the fancy rye bread and really good sharp cheddar. With such a simple dish with few ingredients, it’s important to use quality ingredients.

I would definitely make it again because it’s one of those things that you can probably whip up if you happen to have rye bread and porter on hand.

If you’re down with cheese (hello? who isn’t) and some quick and easy food you can say is a fancy British dish (say with with the accent and it sounds better) you should definitely try this.

Welsh Rarebit

British Curry Chips

If I had to pick my favorite type of cuisine, it would be tough. I love Asian food. And I love Italian. But, I think my favorite type of food has to be bar food. Hands down. I love wings. Potato skins. Nachos. And a nice spicy IPA to go with it, or a hearty toasted porter.

While, really, the best part of bar food is the ambiance, in my opinion, sometimes the Hubs and I like to make pub grub at home and stay in. Particularly if there’s a game on. It’s almost like we’re there. Except my bathroom is a lot cleaner than the bar. That’s a good thing.

Last summer, when we were in Niagara Falls, we went up to Niagara On The Lake for the day, and we ate at an Irish pub before leaving town. We got burgers and fries, but you could substitute poutine (it was Canada, afterall) or curry fries for regular fries… Er, I mean chips. The Hubs got poutine, which was amazing, and I got the curry chips.

I never heard of them before, but they were really, really good. I figured they were fries with curry seasoning on them, but no. These were crispy and greasy fries with curry SAUCE over them. It was weird, but amazing.

Wintertime is the perfect time for bar comfort food like curry chips. Last Sunday, I decided to try and make them myself.

My first attempt wasn’t too bad.

curry fries (2)

British Curry Chips (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 4 to 6 medium thin-skinned potatoes (I used kennebec)
  • 2 Tb cornstarch
  • 4 Tb olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 3 Tb olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tb all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 Tb curry powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp corriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped

Cut the potatoes into sticks for fries. Soak in a bowl of cold water for 15-20 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a clean dish towel. Place potatoes in a large bowl and toss with cornstarch. Drizzle with 4 Tb olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt. Toss to coat. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil (the dull side). Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Turn and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the 3 Tb oil in a large sauce pan. Add the diced onion, and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir to keep it from burning. Add the garlic after about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir for a few minutes. Slowly add the stock, and whisk to combine. Add the spices. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then reduce heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and add the cream. Stir to combine. Keep warm until the potatoes are done. When the potatoes are brown and crispy around the edges, they are done. Serve with the curry sauce poured over them and sprinkle parsley on top.

Of course, fries are better, if they’re well… fried. But I don’t have a fryer, and these are healthier. They were almost as good as the fried ones I had at the Irish pub.

Curry sauce on fries might seem weird, but Great Britain has a strong Indian culture–and of course, a great pub culture. So, really, curry sauce and chips go together perfectly. There was even a short-lived tv show in the Sixties in England called “Chips and Curry”.

If you like curry sauce, you def need to try this. It’s definitely an interesting take on bar food–and went great washed down with an IPA.

PROJECT RECIPE: Indian turkey with chickpeas and spinach

I love Indian food. I love cooking it almost as much as going out to have it at an Indian restaurant.

For the longest time, I was solidly against Indian food. I chalk it up to a bad experience the first time I ever tried it. So, I thought I didn’t like it for a long time. I’m glad I gave it another chance. I can’t get enough of the exotic spicy food nowadays.7:007

I had a couple wild turkey breasts in the freezer from last spring season. Fresh turkey breast is great when its lightly breaded and fried. But I think, when its frozen, it gets tough. So I thought this recipes would be great since it braises slow and low in the oven for about an hour–the best way to cook tough cuts of meat.

I think I must’ve stumbled on this recipe for Indian turkey with chickpeas and spinach on pinterest. I can’t remember.

indian turkey and chickpeas (2)

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Eh. I wasn’t “wowed”. The best part of the recipe were the chickpeas because they got nice and soft braising in the pot for so long. It was better leftover, like some stews usually areIt seems like it is probably relatively healthy. It was absolutely full of spinach, mushrooms and chickpeas–a great way to get your fill of vegetables.

How I changed the recipe: I mentioned I used turkey breast instead of turkey thighs. I love dark meat, so that might have been better. But I didn’t have any turkey thighs. Also, I didn’t have quite enough curry powder, so I just added some tumeric and cumin to make up the difference. I thought it was a little bland. Looking back, maybe if I’d actually followed the recipe, this might have been better. Maybe I wasn’t fair with it. I do have another turkey breast in the freezer, so maybe I’ll give it another try.

indian turkey and chickpeas

PROJECT RECIPE: Roasted Carrot Soup with White Miso

Soup recipes always get my attention because I eat it for lunch about everyday. Year-round. The best thing about eating soup year-round is using what’s in season. Tomato soup in late summer. Adding greens in fall and spring. I like to make a big pot on Sunday afternoon to take for lunch all week. This carrot soup with miso was a nice recipe for winter.

I have been following the {never} homemaker blog for a while. The recipes are solid healthy fare, and she sprinkles in stories about running and fitness, and sometimes it motivates me to hear about how other people exercise. Sometimes.

The recipes are always simple and straight forward. I’m a big believer in that. The best recipes, in my opinion, just let the ingredients be the star, not super-fussy techniques. This recipe for Roasted Carrot Soup with White Miso measures up.

carrot miso soup (4)

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper. Carrots and miso are such an interesting combo. I honestly had no idea what this would taste like, but it was really good. Miso is so salty, and roasting the carrots and onions made them nice and sweet. It was that really good combo of salty and sweet like bugles in vanilla ice cream. Well, maybe not, but it was really, really good. Plus, it was really, really easy. It took about 45 minutes or an hour total, but most of that was the time the vegetables were in the oven roasting.

carrot miso soup (2)

How I changed the recipe: I didn’t. But this soup is a little thin. I think next time, I’ll roast a big potato in the oven along with the vegetables and toss it in the blender to mix in the soup and mix it up a little. Or maybe a couple tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken it up. I like my soup with a little more body than this.

But, it’s pretty yummy like it is. It has such an interesting taste from the miso. Definitely not my same ol’ soup every day.

carrot miso soup

It’s worth checking out through the links above. And checking out some of the other recipes while you’re on the blog taking a peek.

PROJECT RECIPE: Super bowl snacks edition

The best part of the Super Bowl this year wasn’t the football. And it definitely wasn’t the commercials. Katy Perry WAS pretty kick ass, but in my opinion, the food was pretty hard to beat.

The last couple years, we’ve hosted my brother and my dad for the game and a spread of snacks. This year, my brother is on a paleo diet kick, and I’m trying to stick with my New Year’s resolution, so we needed some healthy fare. It seemed there was no shortage of yummy recipes that were fairly healthy this year for the Super Bowl on pinterest.

I’ve had these recipes printed for a long time and in my binder, but I hadn’t ever tried them. I decided the Super Bowl was the perfect time to try them both.

bean dip

The Sundried Tomato spread is from Thug Kitchen. If you aren’t familiar with that website, please, please go now. But only if you don’t mind profanity and like vegetarian recipes. I’m down with both. They even have a cookbook out now, which I’m dying to get.

This is definitely a keeper. It’s super healthy since it is made from white beans, garlic and sundried tomatoes. It would be so good in a wrap with some veggies or on a sandwich. But it disappeared pretty quickly with homemade baked tortilla chips.

I found this recipe on Katie’s Cucina. I met her at Mixed Con a couple years ago. Spicy baked corn chips are right up my alley since I love tortilla chips with just about anything. Using corn tortillas and baking them makes them healthier. Once they cooled, they were really crunchy. They were so easy to make, too.

Click through these links to get the recipes, and while you’re at it, order a cookbook from Thug Kitchen. These are two recipes that you don’t need to wait for the Super Bowl for.

PROJECT RECIPE: One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese

I usually try to put myself out there like a sophisticated foodie, but I have a confession to make. I freakin’ love chili mac. It’s basically Hamburger Helper, but something about it just says comfort food to me. It’s quick and easy and hearty and satisfying. A total package.

When I saw this recipe for one pot chili mac and cheese from Damn Delicious, I knew it would be a winner. I found it on Pinterest, but I’ve been to her blog before. She was actually at Mixed Con one of the years I was there, and her site has tons of really yummy quick and easy recipes for busy weeknights. Who doesn’t need more of that in their life?

chili mac

Here’s the thing about this dinner. The Hubs had it ready for me when I got home from work Friday.This is the time of year I get super-busy at work, and I stayed until about 6:30 Friday evening, just to get some work done after everyone else left. It was one of those days when things kept popping up and I couldn’t seem to get any tasks completed. I walked in the door and smelled this delicious smell and it was hot and ready to scoop into bowls and enjoy. I’m a lucky gal, I know.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Definitely a keeper. Since I didn’t have to cook it, that might have helped this one score some points. But nonetheless, the Hubs attests this one was quick and easy to make, and I can speak to how delicious it was. It’s different than other chili mac I’ve had since it used turkey (or chicken stock). It gave it a nice richness and deep flavors. Chili mac is such a hearty meal, perfect for busy winter evenings–when you end up working late.

The Hubs said he didn’t change the recipe at all, except for using turkey stock in place of chicken stock. In my book, that doesn’t really count.

Click through the link above to get the recipe yourself, and maybe find some other yummy recipes from Damn Delicious. This recipe is going to make regular appearances on my menu, especially this time of year when I have to work late.

PROJECT RECIPE: Shrimp Pad Thai on the Lighter Side

I’ve never actually had pad thai before. So I have nothing to compare it to. But, it’s noodles, shrimp, egg and Asian spices, all things I love, so I figured what the heck? It had to be good, right? Of course it was.

I found this recipe for Shrimp Pad Thai on pinterest, like I find most of my recipes these days. When I started this series, it was as an effort to cut down on some of the recipes I had piled up from beautiful food blogs. It was before I was on pinterest. And now, I’ve only piled up more recipes with beautiful and interesting pictures that I want to try. At least now that pile is digital, and not taking up space on my shelf with cookbooks.

shrimp pad thai

The recipe is from Skinny Taste, which has a ton of healthy, quick and easy recipes. This is perfect for January, if you’re still trying to stick to your New Year’s Resolutions, like me.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper. This was quick and easy, healthy and tasty. That’s a grand slam. You seriously don’t even think of it as being healthy, it’s so yummy. You’re too busy slurping down those noodles.

How I changed the recipe: In the interest of saving money, I bought whole wheat spaghetti instead of soba noodles, since they are about a third of the price. There wasn’t really a noticeable difference. I also didn’t have crushed peanuts or bean sprouts, but those two things are kinda garnishes. Because peanuts (I’m guessing) are important to pad thai, I didn’t leave them out all together, I used a tablespoon of natural crunchy peanut butter, to at least give it the flavor. It was pretty good.

shrimp pad thai (1)

This is definitely a recipe to pin (click through the link above) for busy weeknights. You can skip the calories and fat from ordering takeout and have this dinner on the table is pretty much the same amount of time with little effort.

Maybe I’ll order it sometime just to see how close I got here. On a “cheat” day, at least.

Charleston Restaurant Week is back!

I am so thrilled to be a part of Charleston Restaurant Week this year. Last year, I missed out. I waited too late and couldn’t get a reservation at any of the participating establishments. This year, I got in early and got my reservation.

image credit: Charleston Restaurant Week Facebook page

image credit: Charleston Restaurant Week Facebook page

The main reason I’m thrilled to be eating out during restaurant week this year isn’t the fabulous food that I’m sure I’ll have. That’s definitely a reason… But the main reason is because of the story behind the concept.

This time last year, we had just gotten cleared to flush our pipes by the local authorities following the water crisis that hit Charleston and the surrounding areas when a chemical spill contaminated the water source for 300,000 people. It was awful, but we didn’t have it as bad as some. My mom’s water was unaffected forty miles away, so I was able to do my laundry. The Hubs hauled a five gallon jug of water home that he filled up at his office thirty miles away, also unaffected. We used it to brush our teeth with, cook with and drink. One day during that week, it rained pretty hard, so I sat some empty coolers and a big tub out in the driveway to collect rainwater to wash my dishes. Cases of bottled water were sold out everywhere. I didn’t get to wash my hair one day that I would have liked to before work, but really that was about the worst of it. I can’t even imagine what families with small children that didn’t have family to lean on nearby did.

It wasn’t only residences affected by the chemical spill. Many local businesses such as hotels, bars and restaurants were forced shut their doors until the water was safe to use again. Employees didn’t get to work, and as a result, didn’t collect any pay for the week or so during the time the water was contaminated.

In order to restore the public’s enthusiasm for eating out at our local restaurants, a local food distributor, Buzz Foods, came up with the idea for Charleston Restaurant Week. Last year, only a handful of establishments participated, but the response was beyond anyone’s expectations. All the restaurants offered a prix fix menu, with the idea to get people interested in eating somewhere they might not have tried before, or bring people in who hadn’t been there in a while.

The turnout was so great, there was a lot of momentum to have restaurant week again this year. And the number of restaurants participating has more than doubled. There is a Facebook page promoting the event: http://www.facebook.com/eatlocalcwv.  You can check out all the menus at the participating restaurants, as well as see pictures of some of the dishes and get more details.

This year, I got a reservation at South Hills Market and Cafe, a place right in my neighborhood I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never eaten at. I did pick up breakfast for take out one morning the Hubs and I were home. It was fantastic, but I decided I needed to support my neighborhood eatery with a butt in a chair during restaurant week (and probably frequently thereafter). I’m trying to decide if I want to make another reservation, but honestly, I can’t decide where to go there are so many fantastic choices.

You might still have time to get a reservation, but you better get on it. It was wildly popular last year, and this year it’s only going to grow, I imagine.

PROJECT RECIPE: Mushroom. Lemon and Lentil Salad

I found this recipe for Mushroom, Lemon and Lentil Salad on pinterest. Seriously, pinterest hasn’t made Project Recipe easy. I’ve only amassed a larger collection of mouthwatering recipes to try.

I’m always looking for vegetarian recipes for Meatless Monday. I try to make a vegetarian dinner once a week. Meatless recipes are by and large easier on the grocery bill, not to mention healthier. Pinterest has been great for that. I’ve found so many blogs dedicated to vegetarianism with beautiful pictures of food, that I’m good to go on Meatless Monday pretty much from now on out.

I thought this one sound easy and delicious, a win, win in my book. It was.

mushroom lemon lentil salad

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper. This was so easy. I really read the recipe a couple of times thinking “Is that really all there is to this?” Even though it was a simple recipe, the flavors were big and bold and worked so well together. It was pretty hearty, but low in calories. This is perfect since I’m still living in New Year’s Resolution mode.

How I changed the recipe: Instead of cooking the lentils in water, I used about 1 1/2 cups of vegetable stock because I had some opened in the fridge. I made up the difference for two cups with white wine. This amped up the flavor a bit. Also, I didn’t have arugula because the grocery store was cleaned out of it I bought some mixed greens instead, which had arugula in it. I could see why using straight arugula would be really tasty in this salad.

This is definitely a recipe to keep on hand for busy evenings when you need to get something together fast. I was late getting home from work today, and was starving. It’s a good thing this was pretty quick. I’m guessing it was pretty healthy, too, with the greens and lentils. I’ll definitely make it again, maybe in the spring when I have arugula from my backyard.

Dr. Bronner’s prescription for winter blahs

I used to hate this time of year. The holidays are over and it just seems like the remaining winter months would stretch on with no end in sight. I would vow that I was moving someplace with warm weather year round when I was younger.

But the past few years, I’ve really started to appreciate this time of year. I don’t know why I had a change of heart, but I can point to a few things I think swayed me. I try to eat locally and in season more now. That takes some planning for the long dark months of winter. I really appreciate all those jars of summer vegetables I canned. Also, I think it’s because the more I garden, the more I notice little changes outside. Like how the frost sparkles on the grass by the mailbox or the way the sun shines through the trees in my backyard when they don’t have any leaves. Even though it’s not my favorite time of year, I find something to appreciate in each season. There are plenty of things to love about this time of year, like being curled up by the fireplace with a cup of tea on a snowy Saturday afternoon. Or taking a walk in the woods this time of year. It’s so quiet and peaceful. And who doesn’t love the food we eat this time of year like big pots of chili and hearty casseroles right out of the oven?

For all the wonderful things about winter, there are always going to be the things about that aren’t as fun. Cases of the sniffles going around my office is one thing I can always do without. Another annoying thing about winter is how dry my skin gets, particularly my hands. This year, I found some things that make the bad parts of winter a little easier to live with. The fine folks at Dr. Bronner’s sent me a package of goodies that are perfect to brighten the winter blahs.

Dr Bronners (2)

If you’re not familiar with Dr. Bronner’s, it’s a soap company that’s been around since 1948. The high-quality liquid soaps really took off as people began to become environmentally conscious in the 1960s and 1970s, because the company was absolutely committee to using the most sustainable and fair sources of ingredients to formulate its soaps. Today, there are a number of other soap and personal care products that maintain the same integrity to their ingredients that are part of the Dr. Bronner’s family. All of their products are organic, fair trade certified, and come in post-consumer recycled packaging to the extent possible.

Dr. Bronner’s sent me a bottle of their 18-in-1 castile soap, which I absolutely love and already use all over my house. I also got two tins of organic body balm and a bottle of organic hand sanitizer. I’d never used either of these products, but I knew if they were anything like the castile soap, I would love them. I’ve been using the body balms on my hands and elbows, and any where else that gets dry and scaly this time of year. They are absolutely wonderful for softening my hands. One is the “naked” version, which is unscented. I even use this one on my lips since they get really chapped no matter how much you try to prevent it this time of year. I have them on my nightstand, so I get a good coating on my hands and lips right before turning out the light each night. This allows it to really soak in while I sleep so I wake up with less scaly skin on my hands and lips. The other tin is lime patchouli scent, which is really nice and not too strong. Dr Bronners (5) The hand sanitizing spray is really nice, too. It is made with organic alcohol to kill germs, and also with organic glycerin, which keeps it from being so drying. I had stopped using other types of hand sanitizer because they dry your hands out so bad, it seems like they do more harm than good. There are tons of people at my office every day this time of year, touching door knobs, the coffee pot, and everything else. And my office isn’t safe from the run-of-the mill colds and viruses that are going around this time of year, not unlike any other public place. Washing your hands with soap and water is the best thing you can do to keep from getting sick, but this hand sanitizing spray is another layer of defense in between those times.

I’m a long-time fan of the 18-in-1 castile soap. I might not use it for 18 different uses, but it’s pretty close. I have been using the tea tree scent to clean my bathroom for about a year, since tea tree oil is a natural anti-fungal agent. I have a bottle of the lavender-scented version in the shower that I use as body wash and to shave my legs. It’s the best stuff ever for shaving your legs, and I figured it out on a whim one time when I ran out of shaving cream. I have made foaming hand soap with the peppermint scent they sent me with this package. The scent is perfect for this time of year–minty and invigorating. Dr. Bronner’s actually hand soap, though, if you wanted to go that route. I’ve never tried it, since I always have a bottle or two of the castile soap around my house, I just use that.

The thing I like about Dr. Bronner’s is that all the products are completely free of nasties like parabens and sulfates that I’ve mentioned on this blog before. We’re learning more and more about how those things interact negatively with our bodies, and thankfully many companies are starting to reformulate their products.

I can find Dr. Bronner’s at my grocery store, drugstore and at my health food store. But you can also order it on their website, Drbronner.com. You can peruse the products and learn more about how they source their ingredients. Also, if you are a devoted Dr. Bronner’s fan, (or if you’re new and decide you just love ‘em) be sure and “like” them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/DrBronner. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, I’m just over here enjoying my goodies from them and making my winter blahs a little less blah.

The legal jargon: This is a sponsored post. The opinion, photos and text are all mine.