Beet puree 7 2014

And The Beet Goes On….

We finally got to watch our daughter’s cooking show episode last night!  So exciting.  :)  She did a fabulous job and we’re really proud of her.  And Luca does a great job with the kids.  What a wonderful way to get more kids cooking.

Here is the episode:

Kids in the Kitchen

I tried to insert from youtube but it wouldn’t do it so another thing for me to figure out!  I love technology but sometimes it doesn’t like me.  Ok, a lot of times.  Ah well.

Here are a few stills from that episode as well:

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In honor of her doing this I decided to be inspired by the dishes and make something with beets.  Now, I do not like beets.  Right up there with Brussels sprouts. But when I tasted the beet puree made in this show I liked it!  I find beets lack brightness but this was different.  Because my husband and son really don’t like seafood I decided to do roast chicken with a beet puree.  I did this with my own twist but it went very well with the chicken.  And my husband was happy because he loves beets but it doesn’t find it’s way to the table.  It will now.  :)

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The beets will take a bit to cook so I started them early.  I peeled them and cut them up into chunks.  I used three beets because I knew whatever I didn’t use for the puree would be eaten by my husband.  In a saucepan add the beets and about 2 cups of chicken stock.  Season with salt and pepper then add about 1/3 cup of white balsamic vinegar.  Bring to a simmer and cook until tender.

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Meanwhile mince some fresh garlic and slowly cook in olive oil until tender.  I used 2 large cloves.

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Once that is done set that aside.  To prep the roast chicken legs I coarsely chopped several garlic cloves.

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In a baking dish I added the legs, rosemary and the garlic.  Seasoned with salt and pepper.  I added a bit of water and some white balsamic vinegar.  I baked this at 375F/190C covered until mostly cooked then uncovered to brown the chicken. This keeps it nice and moist with all the flavours.

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To do the puree I thought I’d save on dishes and tried to use the blender we already had out.

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That failed so I switched over to the food processor.  I wanted to keep this somewhat rustic so I pulsed the beets then added some olive oil, the garlic, and a bit of the liquid from the saucepan that I cooked the beets in.  It’s not the traditional smoothness that you would call a puree but just a smidge coarse.  If you want it smoother add more liquid until you have the consistency you would like.

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I served it with roasted potatoes and parsnips with a bit of corn.  The brightness of the beets worked well with the garlic rosemary on the chicken.

It was such a fun process to watch our daughter do this show and to share it with everyone.  And yes, Luca, I will be doing a post on the grilled cheese.  ;)

Eggplant parmesan 4 2014

Eggplant-Aubergine-Al Badinjan Parmesan

Words fascinate me.  With all the different languages one thing can have many different names.  Take eggplant.  Which is a strange thing to call it as the common ones are large and purple.  But various countries in Europe called it eggplant because they used to be the size of a goose egg and even whitish.  In the UK using the word aubergine shows a bit of the French influence on our language but if you continue back the roots are found in the Arabic word al-badinjan.

Years ago when my mum and I would work together we had a little game we’d play.  This was when the internet was new to us and I would look up the word of the day and try to test her.  It would always be a big word or something really obscure and she would have to try to come up with the definition.  I think I tripped her up a small handful of times.  She has an excellent vocabulary and because she took Latin she could figure out the root of the word.  I may not have the vocabulary she does but I love the history of words.

I asked the kids what they would like for dinner this week and our daughter piped up with eggplant parmesan.  As I’ve never made it before I thought why not?  And really it’s not very difficult to make.  The only time consuming bit is the homemade pasta.  For the tomato sauce I used our homemade base and added our usual group of veg and a bit of red wine.

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Slice the eggplant about 1/4″ thick or so and remove the skin.  I then sliced them in half so it is more manageable.

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Dip them in egg and panko bread crumbs and pan fry in oil until browned then turn them over.  On the browned side I seasoned with salt and pepper and grated fresh parmesan cheese over the eggplant.

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After both sides are browned finish off in the oven to complete cooking.  Toss the pasta in the sauce.  I prefer the Italian way of just letting the sauce coat the pasta rather than have the pasta swimming in the sauce.  Grate more fresh cheese over the dish and serve.

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Super easy to put together and the kids loved it.  And hey, any time the kids ask for a veg based dish I won’t be saying no!  Though we are lucky, they love their veg.  :)

Date bars 9 2014

A Date Walked Into A Bar

The weather the past few days has been my kind of winter.  It’s above freezing and it’s melting the snow.  Yes!  Of course there is a ton of snow to go and it will be below freezing this week but progress is being made.  :)

We’ve had some lovely days with nary a cloud in the sky.  Our seed trays are set up and the seedlings are showing up to be counted.  There are a few of us in the neighbourhood that have the grow lights going now.  We give off the impression that the munchies are on their way.  But no, the wildest thing we have growing is some spicy salad mix.

The kids are on school holiday this week so I have a feeling there will be several PJ days.  Yesterday I baked some date bars for the week to give them a bit of a treat.  My mum used to make these and every once in awhile they show up as a treat for us as well.  They don’t last long!  My son got hooked on them when my mum had him help bake them a few years ago.  My kind of tradition.

Pre-heat the oven to 375F/190C.

This is my mum’s recipe but I’m not sure where she got it from.  I did increase a few things as my baking pan was a bit bigger than what she called for.  In a small saucepan combine 8oz of chopped dates, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 cup cold water.

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Simmer until it has thickened stirring regularly so it doesn’t stick on the bottom.

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While the dates are cooking combine in a large mixing bowl, 2 cups of quick oats, 1 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cup flour, 1 tsp baking soda.

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Once the dates are ready melt 3/4 cups of butter and mix that in with the oats until it is evenly distributed.  Press half the mixture into an 8 x 11 pan.

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Spread the date mixture over the oats.

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Spread the rest of the oats over the dates and carefully tamp down without squishing the dates up through the oats.  Bake for about 25 minutes.

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Try to let it cool.  :)  The warmer it is the more flimsy the bars are and it gets a bit messy!

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I should make these more often as they aren’t difficult but they taste wonderful.  :)

So a side note:  I’ve noticed on a couple of my posts I’m getting a ton of spam messages.  I block, trash, and state they are spam but any advice on how to get it to stop?  It’s annoying.

Oatmeal cookies 5 2014

Another Snow Day – The Kids Rejoice

The adults have had enough.  The kids don’t want it to end.  Not sure what age marks the switch of loving the cold and deep snow to longing for spring and warmth.  Granted some adults are in their element with skiing and winter sports.  When they were talking about the current winter storm yesterday my son was cheering and applauding.  He’s nine.  We could get 8-14 inches today and tonight.  The kids are having a PJ day and just enjoying being kids.

I’m taking this day to try to catch up with everything.  I haven’t posted in nearly two weeks and I miss it.  It will probably be like this for another two months as I get through the tax season.  The first peak is almost done so I hope to have time to actually cook different things so there is something to post about!  That was the main issue.  I’ve relied on the old tried and true recipes.  The quick things that don’t take any effort.  I did find at the co-op some pork belly so I’ll be making some soon as well as trying my hand at homemade bacon.  That’s the plan anyway.

But I do love doing taxes.  I spend most of the year nurturing my creative side but this allows me to exercise the math side of my brain.  I love numbers.  But I also find the people fascinating.  You see the whole spectrum of life doing people’s taxes.  Young people starting out not having any idea how their decisions affect their taxes, where they will go for jobs, kids having kids, the newlyweds.  My favourite clients are the elderly couples that have been married forever.  I have a few that are still sweet on each other and it’s so much fun when these couples come in.  The tough ones are when they come in and they just lost their spouse.  I wish the IRS would give them a year’s grace period but they don’t.  You have to help them find their feet.  As they continue to come in year after year you start to see them find their strength again and the smiles come a little easier.  I hear so many fascinating stories.  None of which I can share but I understand why the Humans of New York is so popular.

Even though I am not doing taxes today I’m not cooking because our daughter just turned 13 and we will brave the storm to take her to dinner tonight. It’s funny the reactions when I mention we now have a teenager.  Those that currently have teenagers or who had them are wishing us luck and those that haven’t made it to the club yet are very excited for us.  Fortunately she’s a wonderful kid.  I know there will be bumps along the way but I’m sure we’ll come out the other side in one piece.  :)

I did find the time to bake today.  My husband’s favourite cookies are oatmeal raisin cookies.  Since it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow I thought I’d make him some.  As long as he shares!

Pre-heat the oven to 375F/190C.  I used the recipe from the Pillsbury Complete Book of Baking.

In a mixture add 1/2 cup of softened butter, 3/4 cups sugar, and 1/4 cup of brown sugar packed.

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Mix together then add one large egg with a tsp of vanilla.

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Add 3/4 cup of flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of salt and mix well.  If you use 1/2 tsp of salt like I did by mistake it still comes out ok.

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Add 1 1/2 cup of quick oats, a little over 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, and a little over 1/2 cup of raisins.  The recipe calls for raisins and nuts but my husband doesn’t like nuts in his baked goods so I use chocolate instead.  So much better!

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Spoon the mixture onto the cookie sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes.  Let cool a minute or so before placing on the cooling rack.  Quality check immediately  of course.  It’s amazing the number of quality checkers that come out of the woodwork.  :)

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Here is a view from our den window with the snow coming down.  The wind has started to pick up so it could be a wild night.

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Cherry squares 12 2014

Cherries – It’s Hip To Be Square

Another week down and another weekend coming to a close in a blink of an eye.  I remember when time used to drag unbearably when I was a child.   I wish we could make time do the same in adulthood.  Or at least have more control over it.  Some things I am ok with rushing through.

I was lucky growing up, no matter how busy my mum got with work and overtime, we would have fresh baked goods.  Cookies were the main thing along with fresh bread but we got to enjoy cakes, bars, and pies as well depending on the holiday.  She would sometimes feel bad that she worked so much but I always said the time she spent with us was quality.  And we knew we were loved by the effort put into our meals made from scratch.  I equate that type of effort for your family with love.  It gives me no end of joy to see our kids grasping that and wanting to learn themselves.  I know they’ll be fine when they are out in the world and they’ll pass it on to their kids.

I had some fresh cherries left over after doing the cherry sauce for the pork and we needed to use them before they went off.  So I flipped through my baking books for inspiration and something the kids would enjoy.  I came across cherry squares in the Pillsbury The Complete Book of Baking.  It does call for the canned cherry pie filling.   No thank you!  The only pie filling I buy is for the pumpkin pie and I have to add stuff to that.  The cherry pie fillings are just sicky sweet and full of junk.  So I decided to make my own filling.  Super easy and not overly sweet.

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I should say the sauce bit is easy.  If you don’t have a cherry pitter, as we don’t, it takes awhile to get all the pits out.   I may need a new gadget!  In a sauce pan add the cherries and about a 1/4 cup of water and bring to a boil.

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As the cherries start to break down add about a 1/4 cup of brown sugar.  The ratio was about a cup and a half of cherries to 1/4 cup brown sugar.  Continue to simmer until it thickens into a jammy sauce.

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Set this aside to cool.   For the cake dough add to a mixing bowl 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1tsp salt, and a tsp of yeast.  Mix this well.  In a small saucepan warm up 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/2 cup of butter.  Don’t boil but you want it very warm, warm to the touch.  So not scalding.

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Add the warm liquid to the flour mixture then add 2 eggs and mix well.  Once it is mixed well turn the mixer to medium speed and mix for about 3 minutes.

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Next add a bit of flour at a time until the batter becomes stiff.  This will range from 1 to 1 1/2 cups of flour.

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Cover and to rest and rise until double in a warm place.  This will take 45-60 minutes to complete.

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In a greased 13 x 9 inch pan spread 2/3 of the dough out.  This is a bit tricky as it will slide about in the pan and as it is elastic it takes a bit of doing.

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Spread the cherry sauce over the top.

Cherry squares 9 2014Take the remaining dough and dollop it over the cherries in small clumps.  This leaves about half the cherries exposed.  Let it rise again for 20-30 minutes.  While this is rising preheat the oven to 350F/180c.

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Bake for 35-40 minutes until it is nice and golden.  While it is baking make the glaze to drizzle on top.  Whisk 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp almond extract, and about 4 tsp of milk.

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When it comes out of the oven drizzle the glaze over it and it is ready to serve.  We enjoyed this as the tartness of the cherries balanced nicely with the cake.  It didn’t last long.  :)


Tartiflette 6 2014

Tartiflette – And Can’t We Give Our Kids More Credit?

I enjoy having the chance to pick up my daughter from school.  Now that it is tax season I am limited to once in awhile given the work schedule but I love hearing how her day went and what’s happening in school.  She told me a funny story about math class today.  Apparently they are learning things about angles and the teacher wanted to teach them about SAS or side angle side.  She ended up with going with angle side side and didn’t realise her error until she wrote on the board ASS.  She twigged to it quickly but that just set off a bunch of 12 and 13 year olds into giggles and snickers.  Made me giggle as well.  :)

She started the health course and her teacher in that class for some reason assumed none of the kids would have heard the word wellness before.  I found this weird.  The whole class had.  But it made me wonder.  Did she assume that the kids aren’t aware of the important things, or did another class space on this concept, or is it painfully obvious that a lot of adults around us aren’t taking the time with the kids on wellness.  Part of the problem in general kids aren’t given enough credit.  I think given half the chance most kids want to make the right choices and be well.   We’re very lucky with our kids because they are aware of the importance of good food, exercise, positive choices equaling wellness.  I doubt they are in a tiny minority though.  I also think most kids are more than capable of grasping these concepts and to start a class saying this is a new word kind of dumbs it down.

In continuing my pinterest theme of actually using the recipes I have found I decided to try a tartiflette which is a French potato dish.  Kind of like mac n cheese but with potato only in a gourmet way.  But meets the criteria of being a comfort food.  Though I have to say I took a break from comfort food last night and made my husband and I a salad for dinner.  Just was in the mood for fresh ingredients and keeping it simple.

This dish has a few steps but isn’t overly complicated and lends itself easily to making it your own if you wish.  I changed it a bit, no surprise.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F/180C.

Cube 4-5 medium to large potatoes and half an onion.

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Take 4-5 slices of bacon and slice into strips and render them in a skillet with a bit of olive oil.

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When the bacon is half way cooked add the onions to soften.  Then add a cup of turkey or chicken stock and 1/2 a cup or so of marsala wine.  Add some fresh thyme.  The recipe I found said to just use it for decoration.  I wanted the flavour.

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Add the potatoes, cover and simmer until the potatoes soften a bit.  In a baking dish add half the mixture and cover with cheese.  Then add the rest of the potatoes and cover with cheese. I used Jarlsberg for this.  The recipe called for 250g of cheese.  Which my husband was kind enough to grate and measure out.  Turned out to be a huge amount.  In total I probably only used about 150g and it was a lot of cheese.  Cover and bake until the potatoes are soft and tender.  Uncover to brown.

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I found some Brussels Sprouts for my husband and daughter and sauteed in olive oil until browned a bit.  For my daughter and me, I found a fabulous piece of Scottish salmon.  I kept that simple and just used salt and pepper with some lemon and thyme.  Oh it was lovely.

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It all went down a treat and the potatoes were really good as leftovers.  Made for some great lunches this week.


Coq au riesling 4 2014

Coq au Riesling – Stepping Up Our Comfort Food

It’s hard to be a fan of January.  Dead of winter, nothing growing in the garden, and it gets dark so early.   I urge the sun to speed up and get back to us, I try to will it.  It will won’t do any good of course but it makes me happy now that it is still light out when we walk the dogs.  We’re getting there.  I don’t suffer from SAD but as I don’t do caffeine having the bright sun helps boost me out of bed.

I ordered my seeds the other day and I hope they arrive this week so we can start some this weekend.  It’s a real treat to see the little sprouts pop up and show off their green.  Another step closer to spring and away from the hibernation feel I get when the days close in.  Last winter lasted a long time and ate into the growing season.  Fingers crossed we get out of this deep freeze in a timely manner!

I’m an avid pinner on Pinterest and I realised if I’m pinning all this stuff it might be a good idea for me to go back and see what I have.  I came across Nigel Slater’s Coq au Riesling.  It was one of those pins I set aside and forgot about which is a shame because this is delicious.  I changed it of course to be more like what we enjoy and I was very pleased with it.  I’ve been finding several recipes lately that rely on an acid quite a bit and I feel that just would be one noted and overpowering in these recipes.  I will say right out of the gate, this is not diet friendly.  I think next time I’ll back off the butter a smidge.

In a large skillet melt about 50g of butter and a bit of olive oil.   When it’s nice and hot start to brown your chicken thighs.  I’ve been buying ours skinless and boneless but obviously you can use bone in and skin on.

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As they are browning, chop up several slices of bacon, half a red onion, and some garlic.  Remove the chicken and set aside.  Render the bacon for a few minutes then add the onions.  After they have a chance to soften then add the garlic.

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Slice some mushrooms and prep some fresh thyme and add it to the skillet.

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After the mushrooms have a chance to brown a bit add about a cup of riesling and a cup of turkey stock.   I didn’t want to have it all wine as I felt that would be way too much.  I picked a riesling on the dry side as I don’t enjoy really sweet wines.  Bring to a simmer and add the chicken back in.

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Let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Add about 1/2 cup of heavy cream and heat through for a few minutes.  It is ready to serve.  I served it with roasted potatoes and roasted parsnips.

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I have to say this was an amazing dish.  Worth busting the diet a bit.  I do think, as I said, I will back off on the butter as it proved to be a lot.  I’ll have to make it when the kids are around as I know this would be a hit.

Cherry and pork 4 2014

No Two Tastebuds Alike

How things taste to different people fascinates me.  For this recipe of cherries and pork my husband and I had two different reactions to it.  It makes me wonder how various foods made it on our list of ok to eat.  If I had been the first person ever to try Brussels sprouts then it would have never made it on the list.  I would have deemed it poison and moved on.  Way too bitter to me.  I’m not convinced it can have a nutty sweet flavour.  And unless an onion fell into the fire before I tasted it I would have said the same about raw onions.  Then again I love Marmite and my husband would be pleased to never have it in the house.

I was puttering about my pinterest boards and came across this recipe for pork chops with a cherry balsamic sauce.  It sounded interesting but I made some changes to it as I felt solely using balsamic to reduce would be overpowering with the cherries.  It took some tweaking to get the sauce right because the cherries were quite tart as well.  This is a quick meal that is perfect for a busy school night or you just don’t feel like cooking too much.

In a skillet with olive oil brown both sides of some pork chops that have been seasoned with salt and pepper.

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Remove and keep warm.  In the same skillet put about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan and add in about a cup of chopped cherries.  Add some fresh thyme along with a cup of turkey or chicken stock and simmer for a couple of minutes.

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The cherries were very tart and the balsamic was adding a similar note so I added a bit of honey then half an onion to counter the sweetness.  It was very much an experiment to get the right balance!  Once you have the right balance add the pork back into the sauce and simmer to cook the pork and reduce the sauce.

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We served the pork with some corn and rice pilaf for a simple meal.

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Now for the two different reactions we had.  I felt the sauce was ok but not very exciting by itself but when I had it with the pork it really came alive.  For my husband he enjoyed the sauce but felt the pork was gamey and fought with the sauce.  I know he and I taste things differently as it’s proved out time and again when I’m trying to make something spicy enough for him.  I’ll be on fire and he’ll be enjoying the mild flavour.  :)  So I think at the end of the day this was a fun experiment but I may have to revisit it so both of us enjoy it.

Madeira cake 8 2014

The Cherry Tops It – Madeira Cake

Today was an exciting day for our daughter.  She had the opportunity to be on a local cooking show done by our friend Luca.  It was exciting to watch the process as well.  I have to say I’m a bit envious of her having this chance but more than that I’m very proud of her.  And she had a blast.  When the link to the show is available in about a month I will share it with everyone. 

I can be found occasionally saying to people I take requests for my blog posts.  I say it a lot to my family as it very often sparks ideas and keeps things fresh for me.  Sometimes when it gets crazy busy as it will now with tax season my creativity gets a bit blocked.  So I ask.  And yes someone took me up on that!  Our friends up in Scotland, Dianna and Hugh, mentioned they really like baked goods with cherries along the lines of madeira cake.  Sounds good to me.  :)

To give you an idea how the cold I had muddled my brain I was thinking I needed to find the wine.  Which obviously I didn’t but man the cold just made me ditzy as can be.  Thank goodness that is passing!  But this cake goes well with the wine, hence the name, but is also a lovely tea cake.  Denser than a Victoria sponge but very light nonetheless.

There are several recipes available for this cake but I chose to follow the one from the BBC.  I added the glacé cherries.  They went very well with the lemony cake.

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C and lightly grease and flour a 8″ cake pan.

Because this is an English recipe it calls for self-raising flour, which I don’t have, so I had to make my own.  There are what seems like a million versions on how to make self-raising flour, all different mind.  Using the dart board method I went with a tsp and a smidge of baking powder and a pinch of salt to the 9oz called for in this recipe.  Definitely weigh the ingredients for this recipe.  Set this aside.

In a mixing bowl cream together 6oz of softened butter and 6oz of sugar.  While that is blending together, take about 3-4oz of glacé cherries and soak them in warm water to get rid of the excess sugar. 

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Add 3 eggs one at a time and beat until blended.  As the last egg is being beaten into the mixture slowly add the flour mixture a bit at a time until well blended.  It will be a bit stiff but then add 2-4T of milk one at a time to the mixture.  Depending on your flour you may need to add more milk.  You don’t want it runny but it needs to be smooth enough to slowly fall off the spoon or mixer paddle. 

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Take a clean organic lemon and zest it into the the batter.  Be careful you don’t dig into the pith, try to just do the yellow bit, so it’s not bitter but you have a nice bright flavour. 

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Drain the cherries and pat dry.

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Lightly coat them in flour and add to the mixture.

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Spoon out into the baking pan.

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This needs to bake 30-40 minutes depending on your oven.  I went the full 40 minutes.  Once it is nice and golden and the toothpick test comes clean remove and let cool for about 10 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

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Slice and enjoy.  It’s been a hit as there is only one slice left!  Fortunately it is really easy to make perfect for tea or wine.  Your choice.  :)

Braised chicken 4 2014

Braised Chicken Thighs with Parsnips

I was in the mood to cook!  Why?  The blasted cold is just about gone.  Now it’s down to a mild cold where I can function somewhat.  What a nutty start to the year.  It’s just as well it’s on its way out as tax season has begun and I don’t have time now to be sick.  While the kids and my husband were playing Monopoly I was scouring our cookbooks to find a dish that would let me use up a few ingredients but do something different.  Plus I was in the mood for a bit of red wine so I had to make something that would accompany the wine.

I had chicken thighs to use up and some parsnips in the veg bin.  I found a recipe in Scott Conant’s book “New Italian Cooking” that gave me inspiration.  As I didn’t have dry white wine, mint, or a tomato I had to create my own dish but I was heavily influenced by his recipe. This is a very easy dish to make but there is time involved as it needs to bake for about 50 minutes.

I took loads of photos for this and my camera has come up with another issue.  At least 12 photos aren’t on the camera at all!  So the first few steps are missing the photos.  Time I think to get it into the local camera shop to find out what is going on.  I love this camera and use it all the time.  I may have to resort to my iPhone for a bit which is passable but not what I want to use!

Pre-heat the oven to 325F/160C

The chicken thighs we had are boneless and skinless.  In a skillet heat up a couple of T of olive oil and brown both sides of the thighs.  Place in a baking dish.  In the skillet add about 1/2 cup of marsala wine and reduce by half.  Scrap the skillet to incorporate the browned bits of the chicken.  While it is reducing dice parsnips, coarsely chop about 3-4 cloves of garlic, thinly slice half a red onion, and finely chop a bunch of rosemary.  Pour the wine reduction over the chicken.  Add more olive oil to the skillet and cook the parsnips until they start browning.

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Add in the rosemary and onion.  Cook until the onion starts to soften then add in the garlic.

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Add a spoonful of tomato paste and about 4 cups of chicken or turkey stock.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for a few minutes.

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Pour over the chicken thighs.  Ideally this should only cover the chicken half way up.  Bake for about 50 minutes until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

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Serve with sides of your choice.  I served this with roast potatoes because I can’t get enough of those.

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The marsala wine is wonderful with parsnips.  I’ll have to come up with more dishes with those two ingredients.  And it was great with the red wine.  ;)