31 People: Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver is one of the main reasons I became passionate about food!

He taught me a lot about cooking, growing my own food and how simple, delicious food can be. I have tried to implement his approach here at Captain America & His English Rose of creating simple, yet delicious dishes – that anyone can make!

Jamie Oliver taught me how to make risotto…..properly! His Pizza Dough Recipe is a staple at our house, it helped me overcome my fear of dough AND it is by far the most successful post I have ever written on this blog – so for that I am truly grateful!

I own many of his cookbooks, but rarely follow his actual recipes – yet they inspire me to create new dishes and to try out new methods. I loved his TV shows and found them to be the most inspiring. Jamie At Home was a series I particularly enjoyed as it taught me about growing my own vegetables, how simple it is and some amazing dishes I can make with the results. The summer after I watched that show I grew many vegetables and became a lifetime convert to a kitchen garden.

One of the things that inspires me most about Jamie Oliver is that his recipes are not complicated or pretentious – they often don’t involve expensive ingredients that are difficult to get a hold of and they don’t take hours. He breaks them down into simple steps that anyone can follow.

Don’t believe me – check out his Youtube channel ‘Food Tube’ or his website, jamieoliver.com and see for yourselves!

31 People: My Dad


Today is my Dad’s birthday!

What better way to honor him, especially as I am so far away, than adding him to my 31 People who Inspire, Influence, Impress list!

I love this picture of me and my Dad. It was taken (by our amazing photographer, Shauna Castaner Photography) on my wedding day.

I love the joy and pride on his face. He had waited 32 years for that moment and as his only child, and only daughter I know that moment was magical for both of us.

Growing up I was never a Daddy’s girl – even though I look more like my Dad (I have his eyes), my personality is so much more like my Mum which is the opposite of Dad. Dad is a thinker, a melancholy, a processor. He hates conflict and is a peacemaker. This served him very well in his career as a social worker specializing in fostering, but as a Dad with an incredibly verbally expressive, often argumentative, and extremely passionate (some call it volatile!) daughter it lead to my teen years having their fair share of conflict and arguments. Oh the joys of teenage angst!

Meanwhile, my Dad never raised his voice to me (even though I gave him many opportunities) instead he was constant and consistent. I ALWAYS knew I was dearly loved no matter what. I always knew he was proud of me no matter what. Those things matter so much more to me now and the frustrations of my teenage years are but a comedic and distant memory.

I was blessed with a Dad who never left me in any doubt about how he felt about me. I have met many women who have struggled throughout their lives with their identity because they did not grow up with a secure father figure in their lives. I realize the value and security his love and consistency brought me.

My Dad is one of the funniest men I know, admittedly some of the time people are laughing at him – but Dad is very aware of his idiosyncrocies and regularly makes light of them and ‘plays to the crowd’. Friends still talk about my wedding speech, partly because it was very long (by American standards not not by British standards!), full of useless details, funny memories, heartfelt moments and hilarious laughter – including the moment Dad started laughing at his own stories!! He laughs until he cries often and when you are with him you can’t help but get swept up in the hilarity!

For the purposes of these posts I interviewed some of the people I am featuring in the 31 People series so you can get a little more of an idea of who they are and what their real lives are like.

Here is a smattering of my Dad’s answers:

Describe a typical day in your life: 

Now that I am retired there is no such thing as a typical day. One of the advantages when I was working was that every day was different and now that I am retired I don’t do routine.

Having said that as I am now a dog owner he expects a degree of routine, so unless the weather is very bad he is taken out for a walk every day. Even then I try to vary the route & the time of day when we go for a walk. I go to the gym twice a week & like to go early in the morning before breakfast. I help out at a local food bank one morning once every two weeks. With my wife I go t church on Sundays and we both run a housegroup for teenagers which meets once every two weeks. I am also a member of a housegroup that that also meets every two weeks.

Who or what is the greatest influence in your life? 

As a Christian the answer should be my personal relationship with Jesus Christ and on reflection that is true because my Christian faith does influence a lot of my thinking.

However, in practical day -to-day matters my wife and my daughter are the significant influences. Both are able to provide insight and sound advice. My wife and I spend more time together now that we are both retired and for the most part this works well, but we both recognize that we also like to pursue individual interests, so we try to make sure we set aside time for them.

What is your greatest quality and why?

I cannot stand arrogance and conceit so I do not think about my own qualities. People say I am dependable, reliable and can be trusted. I like to follow through with promises I make to people and don’t like to let people down.

Tell us about a defining moment in your life: 

There are three, all related and of equal importance: when I became a Christian, when I met my wife and when my daughter was born.

I hope this gives you a great taste of who my Dad is and how proud and grateful I am to have him as my Dad!

I Love you Dad – more than you will ever know!

Happy Birthday!

31 People: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth

What a way to kick off my 31 Day series: 31 People who Inspire, Influence, Impress than with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Many of you may know very little about her and you may think my choice is strange but Her Majesty The Queen has impressed me immensely over my lifetime and it all started with a TV show about her life.

The show followed her for a few months and got a glimpse into her life behind the scenes. I was amazed by how hard she worked (for more information see A Day In The Life), the amount of tasks she undertook, the levels of personal investment she made in so many things and her passion and dedication to serve her country and commonwealth – all at the grand age of 88 years. I have had a huge level of admiration for her ever since.

Let me tell you a little about her:

Her childhood

The Queen was born at 2.40am on 21 April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London. She was the first child of The Duke and Duchess of York, who later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

At the time she stood third in line of succession to the throne after Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), and her father, The Duke of York. But it was not expected that her father would become King, or that she would become Queen.

Princess Elizabeth’s quiet family life came to an end in 1936, when her grandfather, King George V, died. His eldest son came to the throne as King Edward VIII, but, before the end of the year, King Edward VIII had decided to give up the throne in order to marry the woman he loved, Mrs Wallis Simpson.

Upon his abdication, Princess Elizabeth’s father acceded to the throne as King George VI, and in 1937 the two Princesses (Elizabeth and Margaret) attended their parents’ coronation in Westminster Abbey.

Princess Elizabeth was now first in line to the throne, and a figure of even more intense public interest.

Queen Elizabeth II was not born as an heir to the throne – it is a role she came into by pure chance. I love this statement she made on her 21st birthday,

“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

I believe that she has lived up to that statement.

Second World War

One of the most incredible things many people do not know about The Queen is that in early 1945 the Princess was made a Subaltern in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). By the end of the war she had reached the rank of Junior Commander, having completed her course at No. 1 Mechanical Training Centre of the ATS and passed out as a fully qualified driver. She does not mess around, and when she says she will serve – she actually did!

Her Accession and Coronation

On Wednesday, 6 February 1952, Princess Elizabeth received the news of her father’s death and her own accession to the throne, while staying in a remote part of Kenya. The tour had to be abandoned, and the young Princess flew back to Britain as Queen. She was greeted by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and other officials at the airport.

The Coronation took place in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953. It was a solemn ceremony conducted by Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury. Crowds of people viewed the procession all along the route, despite heavy rain. The ceremony was also broadcast on radio around the world and, at The Queen’s request, on television for the first time.

Her Marriage & Family

Shortly after the Royal Family returned from South Africa in 1947, the Princess’s engagement to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten was announced.

The couple, who had known each other for many years, were married in Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947. The event was fairly simple, as Britain was still recovering from the war, and Princess Elizabeth had to collect clothing coupons for her dress, like any other young bride. They spent their honeymoon at Broadlands, Hampshire, the home of Lord Mountbatten, and at Birkhall, Balmoral.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary on 20 November 2014. The Queen has paid public tribute to her husband on several occasions, recalling his loyal support and service to the country. They have four children, eight grandchildren and four (soon to be five) great-grandchildren.

Interesting Facts:

1) The Queen has attended every opening of Parliament except those in 1959 and 1963, when she was expecting Prince Andrew and Prince Edward respectively.

2) There have been six Archbishops of Canterbury during The Queen’s reign (Archbishops Geoffrey Fisher, Michael Ramsey, Donald Coggan, Robert Runcie, George Carey and Rowan Williams).

3) There have been six Roman Catholic Popes during The Queen’s reign (Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI).

4) In 60 years, The Queen has undertaken 261 official overseas visits, including 96 State Visits, to 116 different countries.

5) In an average year, The Queen will host more than 50,000 people at banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace. The Queen also hosts more than 8,000 people each year at garden parties and investitures at Holyroodhouse, during Holyrood Week.

6)  Since 1952 The Queen has given Royal Assent to more than 3,500 Acts of Parliament.

7) Over the reign, Her Majesty has given regular audiences to 12 Prime Ministers. They are:

  • Winston Churchill 1951-55
  • Sir Anthony Eden 1955-57
  • Harold Macmillan 1957-63
  • Sir Alec Douglas-Home 1963-64
  • Harold Wilson 1964-70 and 1974-76
  • Edward Heath 1970-74
  • James Callaghan 1976-79
  • Margaret Thatcher 1979-90
  • John Major 1990-97
  • Tony Blair 1997-2007
  • Gordon Brown 2007-2010
  • David Cameron 2010 – present

Sources: HM The Queen and Wikipedia


Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

I recently discovered that one of Captain America’s favorite dishes is homemade Chicken Enchiladas!

We set about creating a recipe, admittedly not making all the sauces from scratch, as this was our first time preparing the dish and we wanted something that was easy for you to quickly recreate at home.

I once made authentic Chicken Enchiladas with a Mexican friend – the recipe pretty much took all day, and although the taste was well worth the effort not everyone has the time or the inclination to spend all day cooking.

This solves that problem – it is a quick to prepare dish which just bakes in the oven before you are ready to eat.

We were really pleased with the results. It was delicious with just the right amount of seasoning and I can totally understand why Chicken Enchiladas is one of Captain America’s favorite dishes!

Here’s what you need to do:

In a medium bowl add the onion, chicken, corn and green chilies. Set aside 1/2 cup of mixed green chilies, corn and onion to add to the topping. Add the seasonings and stir. Set aside.

Warm the tortillas, 2 at a time, in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Place about 3/4 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of the warm tortilla. Roll the mixture so it fills most of the length of the tortilla. Wrap the mixture and fold in the edges so the tortilla makes a parcel. Place in 9 x 13 baking dish.

Repeat using all 12 tortillas and pack them tightly into the baking dish

In a bowl, add the 1/2 cup of corn, green chiles and onion mix to the cans of enchilada sauce and stir.

Pour over the entire baking dish – make sure it does not overflow. Add most of the grated cheeses over the top of the sauce – save some for later.

Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the cheese and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown (you can always cheat at the end and broil the top so that the cheese bubbles and begins to brown)

Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve.

Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly + Printable

Pillars Of Hope

What does the Lord require of you; but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God Micah 6:8

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible and it particularly spoke to me today as I was doing some administration for Pillars of Hope Inc, a local non-profit that works to stop human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking here in the Bay Area in California.

Captain America and I are both heavily involved with Pillars Of Hope Inc and the greater issue of human trafficking in this area. I feel compelled to act for many reasons; because it is happening on my doorstep, because there is something I can actually do on a daily basis and see results and thirdly, because I am called to act by God, as stated in Micah 6:8.

Pillars of Hope Inc is in the process of training volunteers, raising awareness and fundraising to open safe houses for rescued victims of sex trafficking.

To read more about them check out their new website, pillarsofhope.us for more information about how you can get involved and for general information about human trafficking.

For more information about human trafficking, in particular sex trafficking globally, check out AIM – Agape International Missions or read my previous blog posts about 3Strands and the Emmy Award winning documentary, The Pink Room

Admittedly, our work with Pillars Of Hope Inc only goes a little way into solving the problem of human trafficking and there are still many, many ways I can fulfill the calling in Micah 6:8 in my daily life but I wanted to share this with you and hope that it provokes you to act in your local community.

How do you live out the calling to ‘Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly’ in your daily life?

If you would like to print this as a helpful reminder feel free to do so!

Micah 68 B&W


Simple Chicken & Shrimp Tom Yum Soup

A friend of ours recently gave us a few Asian ingredients as she is moving house and needs to downsize!

She knew we loved to cook and would make good use of them! She was right! Our recipe for Simple Chicken & Shrimp Tom Yum Soup was created.

I started googling some of the ingredients she had given us to see how best I could put them to use. I found a few options, but nothing that was jumping out at me. I decided to take the high risk approach and create my own Asian soup recipe! Being the least Asian person I know (!) it was literal guess work and while the result was exceptionally good (even if i do say so myself!) it may not be the most genuine Tom Yum Soup recipe ever created and for that I apologize!


Every recipe I read told me how to make my own tom yum soup base….but I already had that, so I used that as a base and added to it as it was pretty bland. I wanted to make sure the chicken was thin enough and cooked in the same way I as I had eaten in other Asian soups. I turns out the method is to essentially boil the chicken – which I would never think to do usually – but it worked! The chicken absorbed all the delicious flavors of the soup base while it cooked!

This recipe for chicken & shrimp tom yum soup was a huge fluke and yet a real success – that’s the best kind!

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Simple Chicken & Shrimp Tom Yum Soup


Serves 6-8

3 quarts water

22 oz (3 packets) Udon noodles (do not use any seasoning packets that may come with the noodles)

1 can baby corn, chopped

2 C finely sliced chicken, uncooked

1 C tail-on shrimp

1 red onion, slivered

1 bell pepper, slivered

2 C mushrooms, sliced

4 tbsp Tom Yum Soup Paste

1 tbsp hot pepper paste

2 tbsp lime juice

2 tbsp thai fish sauce

1 x 14 oz can chicken broth

2 tbsp garlic salt

2 tbsp garlic powder

2 tbsp fresh cilantro


Add the water to a large pan, add the tom yum soup paste, hot pepper paste, lime juice, fish sauce, chicken broth, garlic salt & garlic powder to the pan and bring to the boil.

Add the chicken, onion and bell pepper, stir and reduce the heat to an active simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the shrimp, mushrooms and baby corn and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the noodles and fresh cilantro and stir well to break up the noodles as they cook. Cook for another 3-5 minutes until the noodles are cooked through and serve


Homemade Tomato Salsa

Everybody love chips and salsa, right?

It’s the ultimate snack, party dish, appetizer – and what better than a delicious bowl of homemade tomato salsa!

Captain America and I took a recent trip to a local Farmer’s Market and got the inspiration to make a delicious tomato salsa. We found lots of ripe tomatoes and even a stand selling all types of peppers – so we could pick the ones we wanted!


Captain America, being the lover of all things spicy, has made this before so I have to give him credit for this recipe – I made it but he directed!!

We shared the salsa at a pot-luck BBQ the following day and it went down a storm. We made a HUGE batch of it too – enough to share at the party (with about 20 guests) and we kept some at home too.

It had a great flavor and a little heat (which you could increase depending on your palate) and the best thing was that it was made with fresh ingredients and it was REALLY simple!

You know I am a huge fan of simple recipes – life is complicated enough without adding challenging recipes to the mix.

Here’s what you need:


Makes about 10 cups

1 1/2 yellow onions

1/2 red onion

2lbs 6oz tomatoes  (this amount can vary slightly depending on the size of your tomatoes)

1 serrano pepper

1 poblano pepper

2 Hungarian wax peppers

10 cloves garlic

4 tbsp lemon juice

4 tbsp fresh cilantro

1 tbsp sea salt

3 tbsp chives 

1 tbsp onion salt

2 tbsp parsley

2 tbsp oregano


Using a Vitamix (or blender/food processor) wet chop the onions and garlic and add to a large bowl

Chop the tomatoes in the vitamix and add to the bowl

Wash, de-seed and chop the peppers and add to the bowl

Add the seasonings and fresh, finely chopped cilantro to the bowl and stir.

TASTE the salsa – at this point you get to decide if it tastes good! We found there was very little heat from the peppers but the garlic heat was very intense. You may need to add a little more seasonings, salt or lemon juice. This will vary depending on the flavor of your tomatoes and heat from the peppers.

Bear in mind that the flavors develop with time – we made the salsa the night before the party and then taste tested it right before we served it in case we needed to add anything.

Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until you are ready to serve.


Blueberry Crumb Pie

I am a huge fan of desserts – especially pie!

Captain America unfortunately cannot eat many desserts as he is allergic to dairy (except cheese) and chocolate…..which rules out many desserts! He is, however, a HUGE fan of pie…..and blueberries! Needless to say, this Blueberry Crumb Pie got devoured!

It was a huge cheat dessert and SO SIMPLE to make, especially as I cheated and bought pie crust!

For the avid readers among you – you will know about my dislike for making pie crust  and my many not so successful attempts at making my own! Yes, I know it’s really easy and all you need is__________ (fill in the blank) Trust me I have tried many a ‘fail safe’ recipe and I still end up with a mediocre crust. This time I bought a frozen pie crust and it was delicious!

The blueberries were in season and exceptionally cheap so this was not only easy, but cheap!

The balsamic vinegar is a tip I read a while ago and I tried it with a few pie fillings and it was wonderful – but it MADE this recipe – it really brings out the flavor of the fruit, cuts the overly sugary-ness of a normal pie filling and added a zing to the berries! No-one could taste the difference and the few people I told were very surprised!


If you can find a small bottle of Balsamic Brandy Glaze (it is often sold in smaller foodie stores, olive oil shops etc) BUY IT! It is well worth the money, you can use it in so many more recipes than you would expect and it lasts for ages! You will not regret it!

Now onto the recipe for Blueberry Crumb Pie!



1 ready-made pie crust

32 oz blueberries

3/4 C sugar

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp cornstarch

1 tsp balsamic brandy glaze (optional)

For the crumb topping:

1 C flour

1 C brown sugar

1 C oats

1/2 C butter, melted


In a small pan heat the blueberries, sugar, balsamic vinegar and balsamic glaze for a few minutes until the blueberries become coated and start to disintegrate.



Remove from the heat, allow to cool for about 10 minutes and add the cornstarch, stirring it to thicken the sauce.

Add the mixture to the pie crust (follow the instructions on the packet for how best to handle the pie crust) and set aside.


In a small bowl, mix the flour, oats and sugar, then add the melted butter and rub together using your fingers to form the crumbs.

Gently spoon the crumb topping onto the pie ensuring all the filling is covered evenly

Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes, checking occasionally so it does not burn. Cook until the crumb topping is golden brown.


Mozzarella Stuffed Burgers with all the trimmings!

We are kicking of this new season with one of our favorite dishes of the summer – and what better day to celebrate our return but with Mozzarella Stuffed Burgers with all the trimmings this Labor Day!

Traditionally, Labor Day marks the end of the summer with the last BBQ before the Fall weather begins…..but here in California we will probably be grilling for a few more months this year and today the weather is just shy of 100°F!

This year we are praying in some rain and Fall-like weather – I long for some cozy Fall afternoons snuggled on a couch drinking a pumpkin spice latte while the rain pours outside! Please God let this be the year!

In the meantime I wanted to share this recipe for Mozzarella Stuffed Burgers with all the trimmings – this has been a regular visitor in our house this summer! We always like to find new uses for freezer staples such as ground beef and ground turkey and this was one of those perfect solutions.


Makes 2 extra-large (or 4 regular) burger patties

1lb ground beef

2 tbsp garlic salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 1/2 tbsp basil

1/2 tsp ground mustard

2 thick slices mozzarella cheese


Bread rolls or Iceberg lettuce leaves

2 oz sliced mushrooms

1/2 red onion, sliced

1 avocado, sliced

mustard/mayo/ketchup – optional


In a bowl add the ground beef and seasonings and mix well.

Divide the ground beef into 2 or 4 balls and form burger patties using your hands.

Make a small indent in the center of the burger making sure not to go all the way through the patty.

Insert the mozzarella slice into the indent (you may need to cut the cheese into smaller pieces)

Cover over the indent with the ground beef making sure the cheese is completely covered in a think layer of meat.

Place in a hot pan and cook for a few minutes and then turn over, repeat this step until cooked thoroughly.

In a separate pan, cook the onions and mushrooms until soft and set aside.

To assemble the burgers:

For a burger in a bun:

Place the cooked patty on the bread, add the onions, mushrooms, lettuce, avocado and any additional garnishes.

For a protein style burger (no bread):

Place 3 iceberg lettuce leaves on a plate so that they are overlapping, place the patty on top of the center leaf and then add the onions, mushrooms and avocado, and any additional garnishes. Wrap the patty in the lettuce and secure (if necessary) with a toothpick.


Strawberry Banana Marble Cake

I am on a strawberry kick this week! How can you not be at this time of year!

I found this super easy recipe for a Strawberry Banana Marble Cake and I just had to make it!


Thanks to Averie Cooks for the wonderful inspiration for this delicious Strawberry Banana Marble Cake – I made a few key changes to make it my own (and you know me-I can’t just follow a recipe!) and the results were wonderful.

It’s a very moist cake, slightly denser than your average cake but with a lighter finish and rich strawberry and banana flavor – a perfect combination!



Yield: one 9×9-inch pan

3/4 C granulated sugar
1/3 C liquid-state coconut oil (melt in microwave before using)
1/4 C milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C ripe mashed bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 C Strawberry puree

about 1 C powdered sugar
2 tbsp fruit juice (I used cranberry to make the frosting pink!)


Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9-inch square pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, coconut oil, milk, and vanilla.

Add the bananas and stir to combine.

Add the flour, baking powder, optional salt, and stir to combine. Batter will be lumpy; don’t overmix or cake will be tough.

Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.

Pour over the strawberry puree unevenly over the top of the cake.


Using a spoon, lightly mix the puree with the cake batter making a swirl pattern


Bake for about 40 minutes, or until center is set and slightly spring to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter.

Place pan on a wire rack and allow cake to cool fully before glazing. While cake cooks, make the glaze.

Glaze – To a small bowl, add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and juice, and whisk until smooth. Depending on desired consistency, you may need to play with sugar and juice ratios slightly.

Evenly drizzle the glaze over the cake before slicing and serving.