Forever Nigella: Packed Lunch Stars!

Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”–Joe Fox from You’ve Got Mail.

While I don’t live in New York, I do love fall. And, though I’ve been out of Academia for eight years, fall still reminds me of school supplies, back-to-school clothes, and packed lunches. In honor of this month’s Forever Nigella, I thought it fitting to make Nigella’s rocky road crunch bars. Nigella herself says that “No one is ever going to complain about having one of these in their lunch box.” The recipe can be found here or in Nigella Express.

This month’s Forever Nigella host is Nazima at Working London Mummy. Forever Nigella is a cooking group created by Sarah at Maison Cupcake.

Forever Nigella: Halloumi with Peppers and Sausage

For my “Sizzling Summer” submission, I made a version of Nigella’s halloumi with peppers and spicy sausage that can be found in Nigella Express or here. Instead of the spicy sausage, I used slices of Johnsonville chicken sausage with apples. My plan was to use Spanish chorizo, but my week’s been so busy with visitors and work that I didn’t get a chance to swing by Fox & Obel. I also avoided turning on the oven to bake this dish by making everything over the stovetop in a large skillet pan. This dish was really tasty. It was like eating pizza toppings without the crust!

This month’s Forever Nigella host is Amy at Cooking, Cakes & Children. Forever Nigella is a cooking group created by Sarah at Maison Cupcake.

Forever Nigella: Chocolate Macaroon & Strawberry Ice Cream Sandwiches

After weeks of patiently waiting, Chicago’s farmers markets are in full swing! And with them comes the region’s abundant strawberry crop. The fragrant smell of the berries is so enticing that I cannot pass up buying at least two quarts every Thursday. I’ve been eating strawberries with just about every meal, and I had a hankering for strawberry ice cream.

This ice cream is a twist on Nigella’s “no-churn” pomegranate ice cream, which can be found in Nigella Express on page 132 or on her site here. To substitute for the pomegranate juice, I pureed about 2 cups of strawberries with a splash of whole milk in my Magic Bullet. Although Nigella provides a “no churn” recipe, I do own an ice cream maker and subsequently churned this thick cream for 10 minutes.

The ice cream itself was delicious, but since this month’s theme is Afternoon Tea, I made ice cream sandwiches! The cookies are also a Nigella recipe, chocolate macaroons!

These tasty frozen bites were a perfect afternoon pick-me-up, especially in this heat, and a surprisingly appropriate alternative to the traditional afternoon tea dessert fare!

This month’s Forever Nigella #16 is being hosted by Fleur of Homemade by Fleur. If you can’t make it in time to join us this month, feel free to join us next month! Forever Nigella is organised by Sarah at Maison Cupcake.

Forever Nigella: Naan Pizza

For those of you following along in your “everything British” playbook, this year marks Queen Elizabeth’s 60th year as Monarch. In her honor, all sixteen sovereign states of the Commonwealth realm are celebrating the Diamond Jubilee with festivities culminating this upcoming weekend. That being said, it is rather apropos that this month’s Forever Nigella challenge is to prepare and blog any Nigella recipe that would be eaten during the Diamond Jubilee.

Now although India declared its independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, it can’t be denied that Indian influences still exist in the British food conscience. For instance, Nigella herself relies on “shop-bought” naan as the delicious crust for a quick and easy homemade pizza, which is what I made for this month’s submission!

Surprisingly enough, I had homemade naan, canned mushrooms, thyme and tomato sauce on hand. All I had to buy was smoked fontina. I’ll definitely be including this naan pizza in my regular rotation because it was an extremely satisfying lunch, and now I have a new found preference for fontina! If you’d like to make this recipe, it can be found in Nigella Express or online here.

This month’s Forever Nigella #15 is being hosted by Nelly of Nelly’s Cupcakes. If you can’t make it in time to join us this month, feel free to join us next month! Forever Nigella is organised by Sarah at Maison Cupcake.

Forever Nigella: Marsala-Honey Pears with Bleu Cheese

After going on hiatus for the unlucky thirteenth installment, this month’s Forever Nigella #14 is back and hosted by Lucy at Vanilla Frost Cakes, with the challenge of preparing any Nigella Lawson recipe that is reminiscent of springtime. For me, spring means fresh fruit and fresh salads. Since I couldn’t shake the thought of fresh pears this weekend, I made Nigella’s marsala-honey pears with bleu cheese.

Actually, Nigella’s version is made with Gorgonzola and whole walnut halves and seems to be served as a dessert platter. I ate it more like a salad, incorporating bleu cheese crumbles and chopped walnuts instead. I also used red pears instead of the traditional green. This salad was pretty tasty. The softened, honey-slicked pears paired nicely against the crunch of the walnuts and the creamy tartness of the bleu cheese. After I took the photos, I tossed in some herbed salad greens as well, which became tender from the syrupy Marsala sauce.

Forever Nigella is organized by Sarah at Maison Cupcake. You can still post for April’s Forever Nigella until the 28th. See the (very few) rules for participating at this month’s announcement post here.

Forever Nigella: Herbed Oeuf en Cocotte

After the great week I had blog-wise, I wanted to celebrate with a special breakfast this weekend. Enter Nigella Lawson’s oeuf en cocotte, or baked egg. Nigella’s version involves an organic egg baked in a buttered ramekin with cream for 15 minutes in a water bath. The decadence comes from a few droplets of white truffle oil (Nigella’s recommendation), but I used black truffle oil instead. I also added chopped organic thyme and rosemary during the last five minutes of baking and used one piece of multigrain toast for delicious and healthy “spoons” to scoop out the velvety, aromatic egg. This recipe can be found in Nigella Express.

You can still post for February’s Forever Nigella until the 28th. The format each month is “choose-your-own” recipe. See the (very few) rules for participating at the official Forever Nigella page at Sarah’s Maison Cupcake, who is also February’s host!

Forever Nigella–Potato & Mushroom Gratin

I can’t believe it’s already the last week of January! Time has flown by this month, and I wanted to squeeze in my post for this month’s Forever Nigella.

Chicago was hit by another winter storm at the tail end of last week, so there was no way I was braving the wind chill temperatures and blowing snow to pick up groceries. Luckily, I had everything I needed for Nigella’s potato & mushroom gratin, which can be found here or in her Nigella Express cookbook.

I made half the recipe, used skim milk, and added just a bit of chopped up rosemary. This dish was perfect for hunkering down inside and out of the harsh weather.

There’s still time to post for this month’s Forever Nigella. The format’s changed a bit so that each month is a “choose-your-own” theme. See the (very few) rules for participating at the official Forever Nigella page here.

Forever Nigella: Christmas Presence

It’s great to be back with Forever Nigella! It’s been awhile since I participated regularly, and even longer since my surgical oncologist friend (Codename: Candelabra) could join in! We were excited to choose a Christmas-themed Nigella recipe because we both have signed copies of Nigella Christmas. After flipping through the entire cookbook, we decided to make Nigella’s cranberry & white chocolate cookies.

Now, most of the regular readers of this blog know that I’m not particularly fond of dried fruit. However, it would be pointless to make this cookie recipe without dried cranberries, so I bit the bullet and included them. But, I couldn’t bear to buy a whole bag of just dried cranberries and settled instead for purchasing a package of dried cranberries and pecan pieces marketed for use in salads rather than cookies. But, in cookies they would go.

Candelabra, on the other hand, immensely enjoys dried cranberries (and even those craisin things!), so she didn’t mind the dried fruit. However, she’s allergic to nuts, so she made her cranberry & white chocolate cookies pecan-free. Be warned: Candelabra was rather tired when she made her cookies, so she could only muster so much energy to take a nighttime photo of her cookies.

If you want to join us next month for a new year (and newly formatted!) Forever Nigella, check out Sarah’s blog at Maison Cupcake or check out the current post here!

Forever Nigella: Halloween Horrors

After having a month off from Forever Nigella, I was excited to get back to this cooking group in time for Halloween! However, this month’s theme requires that a scary twist be added to any submission. Two of the suggestions were scary pea soup with cobweb cream or eyeballs in trifle. I knew that I wanted to use Nigella’s Butterfly Cupcakes recipe from Nigella Express, but I needed to do some research on how to make the cupcakes spooky-looking.

My co-worker (Codename: Metiche) showed me the October issue of Martha Stewart Living, which featured bleeding cupcakes with shards of clear, caramelized “broken glass”. This sounded too fun to pass up. I was all ready to do this but The Peach Kitchen beat me to it (and in a really creative way)! So instead, I took a page from my own blog and resurrected the “eyeball” look onto my cupcakes. I think it worked!

"I always feel like somebody's watching me!"

If you want to join us next month for Forever Nigella, check out Sarah’s blog at Maison Cupcake for the rules! (Trust me, they’re easy and not that many!)

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Forever Nigella: Picnic Pleasure

Helen at Fuss Free Flavors is hosting this month’s Forever Nigella theme: Picnic Pleasure. I originally wanted to make a finger food dessert that would be easy to pack. But after consulting with my surgical oncologist friend (Codename: Candelabra), we changed direction when Candelabra surprisingly suggested Nigella’s sesame peanut noodles. (FYI, Candelabra is allergic to nuts!) She stated that the noodles sounded delicious even without the peanut butter, so we decided to make a peanut version and a peanut-free version!

My noodles coated with the peanut butter sauce

Candelabra's peanut butter-less noodles

I took the liberty and made this dish even speedier by using a bag of frozen “Asian stir fry” vegetables, which included sugar snap peas, bell pepper strips and water chestnuts. I also used chow mein noodles even though Nigella’s recipe calls for egg noodles. As you can see, Candelabra followed the instructions a lot better with all the tasty herbs in her dish. These noodles were pretty delicious. I can definitely imagine myself eating this noodle dish warm or cold at a picnic. If you want to join us next month for Forever Nigella, check out Sarah’s blog at Maison Cupcake for the rules! (Trust me, they’re easy and not that many!)

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