Strawberry cream puff 9 2014

Strawberry Cream Puffs

And poof!  Summer is over.  The kids were off to school today.  Both are in the final years at their prospective schools.  Our son is in 5th grade and our daughter is in 8th.  Seems like we were just bringing our son to kindergarten.  It can be bittersweet.  We are so proud of the people our kids are becoming but childhood just flies by.

I wanted to make a summer dessert as a special treat for their last day of “freedom” and we had some fresh strawberries on hand.  I thought cream puffs with a strawberry sauce would do the trick!

Choux pastry is easy to make, you just need a bit of elbow grease to make it happen.  I referenced Julia Child for this recipe.

You will need:

1 cup water

6 Tablespoons of butter

a pinch of salt

a pinch of nutmeg

1 tsp of salt

3/4 cups of flour

4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C

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In a small saucepan combine the water, butter, salt, nutmeg, and sugar.  Bring to a boil to melt the butter.

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Remove from the heat and add the flour stirring very well and continuously until the flour is incorporated.

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Put it back on medium high heat, mixing the entire time, for a couple of minutes until the dough starts to leave a film on the pan.

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Remove from the heat again and add the eggs one at a time.  For the first egg you’ll need to move quickly so you don’t end up with cooked egg so stir fast.  After the first egg is absorbed add the next one and so on.

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Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag with a tip that is large enough for the size pastry you want.  For example if you want 3″ pastry use a 3/4″ tip.  Squeeze the pastry onto a greased cookie sheet.  I made the mistake assuming that our baking sheet was nonstick enough.  Don’t do that!  Space the pastry dollops the same distance as the diameter of the dollops.

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Beat one egg and dab the tops of the dollops without letting the egg drip down.  You don’t want the egg to pin the pastry down.

Strawberry cream puff 7 2014If you are doing small pastries that are about an 1 1/2″ or smaller bake for 20 minutes.  If you are doing larger pastries about 3″ then bake for 20 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 375F/190C for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  For both sizes put an inch slit in the side of each puff and put it back in the oven with the oven turned off and the door ajar for 10 minutes.  Julia Child did mention that if the dough in the larger puffs are still moist in the centre to scoop it out.

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The strawberry sauce is super simple.  In a small saucepan add strawberries, grated ginger, a bit of lemon juice, and 1/8 cup of brown sugar.  Bring to a simmer for a few minutes to soften the strawberries and melt the sugar.  Because I didn’t grease the baking sheet properly I ended up with puff cups rather than puff balls.  So I turned them upside down and put in fresh whipped cream and topped with the strawberries.

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A nice way to end the summer before getting back into the routine of school and the coming fall.

Spicy ketchup 10 2014

Kicking Ketchup

When I was little I was told the corniest joke but it cracked me up and I still remember it.  A mama tomato and a baby tomato were walking along but baby tomato kept lagging behind.  So mama tomato stomped on baby tomato and yelled “Ketchup!”  Told you it was corny.  :)

It was high time I tried making my own ketchup.  Given that we are currently being overwhelmed with fresh tomatoes we had enough to make some.  With the experiment using the Epsom salt for the tomatoes this year I have some results.  We have a crazy amount of tomatoes this year and very little cracking which has been an issue in the previous years.  On the flip side the fruit are ripening in a weird way.  Not sure if it’s because the season is cooler than normal.  They fall off before they are ripe and then they are going off a lot faster so we are struggling to keep up with it.  I will try this again next year to see what is what.

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I did a bit of research on ketchup recipes and figured I could come up with my own recipe without too much trouble.  I estimate we had about 6-7 pounds of tomatoes which we chopped and added it to a large pot.

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In addition chop 1 large red onion, 1 medium white onion, a jalapeno, 2 Ring O Fire peppers, and 2 cloves of garlic.

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Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, 2-3 tsps of sea salt, 1-2 tsps of pepper, and a handful of celery leaves.  Bring to a simmer stirring well.

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Simmer until the sauce reduces by about a third.

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Let it cool and then use a hand blender to process the ingredients.  Press the sauce through a sieve to remove the remaining solids into a clean pot.

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Bring back up to a simmer.  Add a cup of red wine vinegar and 3/4 cup of brown sugar.  Simmer until the ketchup is reduce by another 1/3 and is the consistency you want.  I like it on the thicker side so it reduced a bit more than a 1/3.  If you want it thicker add a bit more brown sugar.

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Can in sterilised jars and process for 10 minutes.

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I am really pleased how this came out.  Certainly makes me want to whip up some burgers and fries!  Maybe some onion rings.  :)  This has a lovely heat finish to it.

Ooh, as I write this I got a little trophy thing saying it’s my two year anniversary!  Woot!  :)

Frangipane 15 2014

Pear Frangipane and Getting In My Own Way…

This was three days in the making.  Yes, three days.  Not because this an elaborate recipe, there are several steps, but because I was my own worse enemy this weekend.  Normally this is a few hours of work but I started it on Friday and finally finished it yesterday afternoon.

My husband and I were struggling with a summer cold on Friday.  So we were dragging.  But I figured I’d be ambitious and bake a frangipane.  My sister had made this a few times before and it’s delicious.  I finally remembered to buy pears and they were ripe and ready to go.  I got the butter and the flour in the freezer then went to get out the food processor and dropped a pasta attachment on my toe.  Fortunately it only dropped a few inches because that solid steel really hurt!  So off I went to elevate it and ice it. That day was done.

Saturday just got away from us.  We were finding storage solutions for our son’s room so he can organise the crazy amount of Lego he has acquired.  Shopping takes a lot out of you so that day was shot!  Yesterday was the day to make this happen.

This is the recipe I used.

For the pastry you will need:  9T butter, 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/3 cup of water.  Cut the butter in 1/2″ slices and place in the freezer for 1/2 an hour.  Chill the water in the fridge.

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In a food processor pulse the butter, flour, and salt together until the flour and butter are incorporated in a crumbly mixture.

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Slowly add the water while pulsing the food processor.  Stop pulsing when all the water has been added.  You want the pastry to feel dry still.  Tip it onto the counter.

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Press the pastry in a kneading fashion to bring the pastry together.  This will take a few minutes.

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Roll out the pastry until it is about 1/2″ thick and cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.  It can be chilled for up to 24 hours.

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For the Frangipane you will need: 1 cup of almonds, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 T of flour, 1 egg, 5 T butter, 1 tsp of vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp of almond extract, pinch of salt.

In the food processor pulse the almonds and sugar together until you get a fine meal.

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Add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse until blended.  I put in the butter in one lump and it took awhile to blend so I recommend cutting the butter first into small pieces.

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For the pears you will need: 3-4 Bartlett pears, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 T flour, pinch of salt, zest of one lemon, 1T of lemon juice.

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As my pears were really ripe this part was very messy.  But peel and slice the pears.  In a bowl add the sugar, salt, flour, and lemon zest.  Mix well then add the pears and lemon juice.  Set aside.

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Pre heat the oven to 425F/220C.

Roll out the pastry to about 16″.  If the pastry is too hard let it warm up a bit.  In the centre add the frangipane.

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Layer the pears over the frangipane and fold the pastry over the top.

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Beat one egg and add about a tablespoon of water to the egg.  Brush this over the pastry and sprinkle with sugar.

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Lower the temp to 400F/205C.  Bake for 40 minutes.

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Let it cool before serving.  Serve it with whipped cream.

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It was a long weekend but this was a great treat to end it.  My husband made a fabulous cheese souffle for dinner so we had an excellent meal all round!

I noticed halfway of writing this post that I was back to the new style but it gave me the chance to go back to classic.  Luckily I copied what I wrote before I switched back because when you do that it erases any work you have done.  I’d like it to stick to classic!

 

Ale chutney 5 2014

Ale Chutney

One of the things I have on my list when we go home to England is getting a ploughman’s lunch at the Red Lion in Swanage.  It’s a pub that is still an English pub with the old beams, back garden, and amazing ciders on tap.  And they are willing to do their best at making a black velvet for me.  They also do a fabulous ploughman’s with ale chutney.  It’s one of my favourites.

As we’re getting into the season to make chutneys I thought I’d give it a go.  There really isn’t a lot of choice for ale chutney recipes but I figured I could make up my own.  It didn’t come out like the Red Lion’s but it came out really well with a bit more heat to mine.

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Chop about 350 grams of onion and 300 grams of apples.  This equals about 3 apples.

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Next chop 3 cloves of garlic, 60 g of dates, and 60 g of dried apricots.  In a large pot add the chopped ingredients with a 1/3-1/2 cup of malt vinegar and bring to a simmer.  As it begins to simmer add 1 heaped tbsp of mustard powder, 3 tsp of ground nutmeg, 1-2 tsp of sea salt, and pepper to taste.  Add 350-400g of demerara sugar or brown sugar and stir well.

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As it simmers add the zest of one lemon as well as the juice.  For me I found it to be a bit sweet so I added 2 tsp of red pepper flakes to balance the sweetness.

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Simmer until the apples have broken down and the chutney starts to thicken.  Remove from the heat and add 12 oz of ale or stout.  I used our oatmeal stout.  Bring it back up to a simmer to thicken. I found it wouldn’t thicken as much as I wanted so I added pectin rather than sugar which would make it sweeter.  The next time I make it I’ll back off a bit on the sugar and add more pectin.

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The great things about chutneys is you make it your own.  Adjust as needed to your tastes.  Perfect!  Now I just need to make a ploughman’s.  :)

PS, there must have been enough people disgruntled with the new wordpress site when writing posts as they are now giving people a choice to revert.  Excellent!  :)

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Nothing Beats Family Time!

It’s hard to believe it is that time of year again. We pack up the kids and head to Lake Champlain to celebrate my dad’s birthday. It’s been a whirlwind summer for the kids so it gives us a few days of downtime. This year we had my sister and her family join us so it was a treat for our dad.

The tricky part was there were 11 of us at the RV during the rainstorm! Fortunately the weather improved and it was absolutely gorgeous! Plus my dad got a large new grill and I got to break it in. What fun!

Per tradition we usually do something with the kids on our way back. Because we didn’t have a lot of time we decided to check out the rail trails in Burlington along the lake.

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Along the shore they have placed carved stones showing dragons, mermaids, roller skates, and the like.

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We walked about 3.5 miles round trip. It was so refreshing with the wind blowing the cobwebs away. There was even a pseudo stone henge!

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Of course we worked up an appetite so we found a restaurant that played really cheesy island music. Who knows why when there is some great music out there. Thank goodness the food was very good! And we got to enjoy the boats coming in and out. I miss the sailing my family did when I was a kid. So many memories. For now I get my fix boat watching.

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After lunch we drove to another park that led to the beach so the kids could dip their toes in and practice stone skipping.

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It was a wonderful weekend catching up with family and hanging out with the kids. Hard to believe school starts next week and then we’re back into a routine again. Wish we could slow summer down!

Apricot chutney 7 2014

Apricot Chutney

My husband and I joke about hoping the mould was broken when Murphy was born.  I mean he’s a wacky dog.  It looks like the mould wasn’t broken!  I have started volunteering at the local humane society by walking dogs and playing with them.  There is one puppy, a very large puppy, that is just all over the place. Reminded me of how Murphy was when we first got him.

It is fun volunteering there as I get my fix for the dogs and cats without actually bringing them home.  Our house is full enough! 

It’s apricot season!  So it’s time to make our apricot chutney.  It was a shorter season than normal this year, I think because of the harsh winter.  There are rumblings that we are facing another harsh winter.  My tolerance for this is getting less and less!

This is done over two days, nothing too difficult but it is time consuming on some of the steps.  I have no idea where we got our recipe.  We have a print out but it doesn’t say who’s it is.  This is our version of it.

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Dice 3 1/2 pounds of apricots, 3 small onions, 5-6 garlic cloves, and 4 ounces of dates.

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Place these ingredients into a big pot.  Add 3 inches of fresh ginger grated, 1 1/2 teaspoons of whole cloves, 1 teaspoon of whole allspice, 1 1/2 teaspoons of black peppercorns, 2 teaspoons of tumeric, and 2 teaspoons of mustard powder.

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Add two cinnamon sticks and 1 chopped hot pepper.  We used Ring O Fire from our garden.  Also add 2 teaspoons of sea salt.

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Add 4-6 oz of malt vinegar and bring the heat up to medium.  Once it gets to a roiling simmer lower the heat to medium low.  You want to stir frequently because you don’t want it to stick on the bottom.  If it is dry add a bit more vinegar.  Once the apricots have broken down a bit and softened add 7 oz of raisins along with the zest of 3 lemons and their juice.  Our chutney got to this point at about 45 minutes but it can take up to an hour. 

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If the apricots are pulpy enough add 8 oz of brown sugar.  Stir well and bring back up to a simmer.  Once it thickens like a jam cover and remove from the heat.  Allow to sit overnight.  The next day add 4-6 oz of brown sugar and simmer until the sugar is dissolved.  If the chutney is too stiff add a bit more vinegar.  Sterilise the jars you need and then spoon in the chutney.

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After hand tightening the lids on, process the jars for 10 minutes.  Allow the chutney to be stored in a cool dry place for a couple of months to allow for the best flavour. 

This is great on naan, over rice, or with a cheese plate. 

Mexican street corn 4 2014

Mexican Street Corn

I wonder sometimes about how bad my “senior” moments might get when I am actually a senior. We all have them.  But there are times where I just want to do a facepalm.  The gas for our grill ran out this weekend so we had to go to the home improvement store to switch out the tanks. And we figured we’d get a couple of things while we were there. 

Off we went.  We could remember the couple of things but we knew we were forgetting something.  We racked our brains all the way to the store, finally it came to me.  The gas tank!  Honestly, the whole reason we were going there in the first place.  And being used to grilling in the summer it was weird the past few days not having that tool to use.  But we’re back in business!

I’ve been wanting to try to make Mexican street corn for a few months after my husband had tried it during a trip to Texas.  I was surprised it had mayo as my husband generally avoids mayo but he said it really worked with this dish.  After checking many recipes I realised that it was pretty basic across the board but I chose this recipe as a reference. 

The queso was very expensive and I couldn’t find cotija cheese.  So I did a bit of research at the store, isn’t technology wonderful?  Parmesan is a good substitute for aged cotija cheese and you can use it for this recipe.  For the softer cotija cheese a good substitute is feta so I bought that.  Buy the crumbled version as it just takes out a step. 

Fire up the grill and once it is very hot start grilling the corn in the husk that has been soaked.  In the meantime prep the ingredients.

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Finely chop a good handful of cilantro.  I was only doing two corn cobs so I did about 2 tablespoons worth.  Also prep about 1/2 a cup of the feta making sure the crumbles are small and fine.  After about 10 minutes on the grill remove the husks and put them back onto the grill to roast.

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Remove once the corn is cooked and spread butter around the corn so it melts in.  Then spread mayo over the corn.

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Sprinkle the corn with chili powder and the cilantro.  Press the cheese around the corn.  Sprinkle more chili powder to taste.

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Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over the corn.  I have to say the mayo really works with this.  I’ll have to make this for the kids when they get back from camp.  With putting the salad together and doing the corn it took about a 1/2 hour to make so it’s a great dish when you are busy. 

Gooseberry shortcake 4 2014

Gooseberry Shortcake

Gooseberry season is too short!  So we have to make the best of it when we can.  We do the usual crumbles which my son loves because he gets to make the topping.  :)

For our last batch of gooseberries I thought I’d do something different.  I’m a fan of the good old strawberry shortcake but I thought I’d mix it up and do a gooseberry shortcake. The tartness would be perfect with the whipped cream. 

I got lucky with the shortcake as I didn’t follow the steps in this shortcake recipe.  I was rushing about and just threw the ingredients in.  Oops.  It came out a bit denser than usual but still tasted good. 

What I did was mix 2 1/4 cup of flour, 4 tsp of baking powder, 2 T of sugar, 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/3 cup of vegetable shortening, 1 beaten egg, 2/3 cup of milk in a bowl. 

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You are supposed to cut in the shortening into the dry ingredients then add the milk and egg.  Which I know to do!  You would have thought this was my first rodeo.  Bake the dough in an 8″ greased and floured pan for 15-20 minutes in a 425F/220C oven. Meanwhile make the gooseberry jam sauce.

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Add about a 1/4 cup of water to the gooseberries and bring to a simmer.  As the gooseberries start to burst add a 1/4-1/2 cup of brown sugar, stir well, and simmer until it thickens.

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When you are ready to serve slice the shortcake and layer the gooseberry and whipped cream.

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A super easy dessert to make when you want a delicious treat.  :) The plates were cleaned pretty quickly!

Roasted tomatillo salsa 8 2014

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and Tacos with a Cuban Flair

Our tomatillos are coming along like crazy so it is time to pick them and make delicious food.  There isn’t any way to use them all at once so I’ll be freezing a bunch this week to keep up with it all.  We had roast pork left over as well as the marinade from the Cuban sandwiches I made so I thought with these ingredients and a tomatillo salsa we’d have a delicious dinner.

I enjoyed puttering about the kitchen making the various components to this dish.  First on the list were the easy tortillas.  Though it is hot work in the summer!  I found this tomatillo salsa recipe that was easy to make and needed some hot peppers.  Which are ready to pick in our garden!

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Remove the husks of about a pound of tomatillos, rinse and slice them in half.  Place them face down on a baking sheet.  Add two jalapenos and two cloves of garlic with the skins still on.

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Broil until the three ingredients are charred.  Keep an eye on them while broiling as you don’t them to be charcoal!

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The original recipe calls for using a mortar and pestle.  One I don’t have one and two I’d rather have this quick and easy.  I do have, however, a blender!  Top the peppers, skin the garlic, and remove the toughest char on the tomatillos.  Add this to the blender.  Slice about 1/4 of a small onion and two tablespoons of fresh cilantro.

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Add the juice of half a lime.

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Season with salt then pulse in the blender.

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The hard part is over!  Not that it’s been that hard up to now.  :)  For the tacos prep the veg you want in the dish.  In addition to the mushrooms, onions, and sweet pepper I picked a Ring O’ Fire pepper and a poblano pepper.

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I sliced up the remaining pork and sauteed it with the onion in a little bit of olive oil.

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Add in the peppers and mushrooms and saute for a couple of minutes.  Then add about 3/4 cup of the marinade and simmer until the sauce reduces by more than half.  Spoon some down the middle of the tortilla.

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Sprinkle shredded cheese over the filling and spoon the tomatillo salsa over the cheese.

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Add the sour cream and enjoy!

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The tomatillos worked really well with the citrus of the marinade.  A bit messy to eat though!

 

Cuban sandwiches 10 2014

Cuban Sandwiches and Getting Introduced to Parenting

Watching the movie Chef reminded me of how much our daughter loves Cuban sandwiches.  It also brought me back to her seventh birthday party.  My kids were the first kids I met in a relationship, a whole new ball game. 

They always say that you should wait to meet the kids but we didn’t.  My husband and I knew right away we had something and I met the kids pretty quickly as a friend.  Though we have very bright kids, they knew I wasn’t fly by night even though our son was 3 1/2 and our daughter was just shy of her 7th birthday.  Aside from the fact that I didn’t want things screwed up because I recognised I found the one, I really didn’t want the kids to get screwed up if the adults went south.  Obviously it didn’t play out that way.  :)

I was very lucky I met them at that age, I still got to do story time at bedtime, fort building with pillows, and the kids birthday parties.  The first birthday party was about 6 weeks into the relationship so I was nervous.  Do I get her something, what do I get her, small gift, big gift? I found her a craft sewing kit that allowed her to make dolls clothes.  She loved it.  :) Plus we weren’t at the drop off phase of birthday parties so there was going to be a boatload of people to meet.  I had met a few people in my husband’s circle but with parents and kids we probably had about 30 people in the house. 

When I got to the party I asked what I could do for help and I was tasked with making the Cuban sandwiches.  Great, never made them before and these were my daughter’s favourite.  No pressure!  I managed it and we all had fun with the party, along with many more.  We did have some trip ups with birthday parties.  We made the mistake having 8 girls sleepover for our daughter’s 8th birthday.  Don’t ever do that.  Ever.  Luckily our windows didn’t crack with the continuous high pitched screeches. 

For old times sake I wanted to make the sandwiches for the kids before they went off to overnight camp.  Had to get good food into them!  Normally we buy roast pork along with the other ingredients but I wanted to make it special.  I used this roast pork recipe as the base with slight adjustments. 

This is a good recipe for the weekend as it takes a bit of time. 

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For the marinade I mixed 3/4 cup orange juice, juice of half a lime, 1/2 a tablespoon of ground cumin, 1/2 tablespoon of dried oregano, a tablespoon of olive oil, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes, 1/2 a cup of chicken stock, and half a small onion finely chopped.  Mix well.

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I bought a pork shoulder that was just over a pound.  Season with salt and pepper and pierce the meat with a knife on both sides to allow the marinade to really flavour the meat.  Marinate a half hour on each side.

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I don’t know that we can get Cuban rolls round here, I’ve never seen them but my husband made ciabatta bread for this.  This was the best batch so far that we’ve baked.

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Roast the pork at 325F/165C.  Keep it covered for 45 minutes than uncover and continue cooking until the internal temp is 150F/65C and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.  Then it’s time to assemble the sandwiches.  Slice the ciabatta and lay it out.  Spread mustard of your choice onto the bread.  I like using the garlic stone mustard.  Layer the ingredients starting with swiss or jarlsberg, then the roast pork.  Then spoon some of the garlic and onion from the cooked roast over the pork.  Add pickle then the ham.

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Butter the outside of the sandwiches and either cook them in a panini press or on an iron cast griddle using and iron cast press.  Press down on the sandwiches as they cook.  Cook until the sandwiches are about half the starting size, they are golden, and the cheese is melted.  Serve immediately.

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After making this I don’t think I can just buy roast pork again.  It is so much better homemade and the citrus with the garlicky heat is wonderful with the rest of the ingredients.