Sage pear turkey 5 2014

Turkey Day and Despite a Tough Year, Still Grateful

Thursday is the American holiday of Thanksgiving.  For those that follow me you know this is my favourite holiday.  With all the materialism built in with a lot of holidays I like we have one where is’t just family and good food.

It’s been a tough year for my family.  We have 12 round the table and we weren’t guaranteed we’d have 12 this time round.  Fortunately my sister’s neck is just about good as new and my dad’s life saving surgery went as well as it should have.  And we are fortunate my cousin in Kenya has made a near complete recovery from his car accident.  Thank goodness the two taxi drivers rushed him to hospital barely alive.  This was while others looted his car.  So you can imagine the amount of gray hair that made light of day in our family this year!

We’re very much looking forward to 2016, as you can imagine!

For this post I wanted to reshare a few of my recipes I’ve made over the years for Thanksgiving.  I figured I’d get them in before the holiday rather than after for once.  :)

Sage pear turkey 5 2014

The Sage Pear Turkey fast became a favourite of mine.  Pear works so well with the sage and stuffing the skin with butter just makes it divine.

Cranberry Raisin Sauce 6 2014

Hopefully this year I won’t forget to serve the cranberry sauce!  I made this last year with port and it was really delicious.  I like to do variations each year for something new.  I’ve done it with orange, ginger, thyme.  Surprisingly cranberry is a good match for many different ingredients.

Stuffing balls 6 2013

Stuffing balls are a fun variation.  These are made with pork.  This year I’ll be separating these out to have sourdough stuffing then pork balls as some can’t have gluten.

I was going to share a blog post of pumpkin pie.  Looks like I haven’t done a post on that!  Guess what will be coming soon?

For those that celebrate this holiday I hope it is a safe and fun one.  And may you not have to travel too far!

Jerk chicken 5 2015

Jerk Chicken and What Kind of World

Tragedy brings out the best and the worst of us.  And it was true to form this past weekend.  After the attacks in Paris I, like millions of others, added the French flag to our profile pic on Facebook.  But I also quickly, like many, realised the hypocrisy of not speaking out against the terror in Beirut and many other countries.

And that’s when it started getting ugly.  When you combine fear with bigotry some seriously hateful things start getting posted.  It saddens me no end we have a serious humanitarian situation and we have people running for president saying we should only accept Christians.  Never mind that this isn’t a Christian nation as laid out in the Treaty of Tripoli which said this was a secular nation.  And it was ratified by 100% of the senate of the time.  That concept is being lost to the mists of time.  The West has a lot of responsibility of the vacuum that keeps being created in the Middle East but yet a lot would wash their hands of the crisis.  A situation where you have children so scared they put their hands up in fear because they think the journalist cameras are guns.

I am well aware there aren’t any easy solutions laying about.  But I do wish the powers that be would start thinking of the ramifications before they keep repeating history.  I mean how many times do we put people in power to only have to forcibly remove them.  Or how many times do we change the governments or boundaries without fully understanding the region.

Because not only do I want peace and not have people living in fear, I would love to be able to not have to figure out how to explain to my kids how much humanity is still getting it wrong.

While all this was going on we were preparing for my husband’s birthday party.  The theme?  A pirate murder mystery night.  There was a lot of planning for this as I had to assign characters for our guests and get the packets ready for each person so they knew what their objectives were for the murder and investigation.

One of our friends had great fun with doing themed food of cannon balls, shark teeth, etc.  She also did a great Minecraft themed party for her son a few weeks ago.  This is definitely up her alley.

One of the dishes I made was jerk chicken.  A great time to try using our dried habaneros.  I also used some dried cayenne.  Sinuses would be cleared for miles around.

Jerk chicken 1 2015

The recipe I used as a guide was from and I followed it for the most part.  I didn’t have bay leaves but I’m not a fan of that ingredient.  I didn’t have any dried thyme either.  But I have to say the ingredients weren’t missed.

In a spice grinder, finely grind 3 habaneros and 2 cayenne peppers that have been dried.  Add that to a medium sized bowl.  Then grind rosemary and allspice so you have about a tablespoon of each.  Again add that to the bowl.  Add a tablespoon of ground ginger and a tablespoon and a half of sea salt.  Next you will need 1 1/2 teaspoons each of onion powder, black pepper, and ground cinnamon.  Add 3/4 teaspoon of each of ground nutmeg and paprika.  Finish with 1/3 cup sugar, a juice of a lime, and 1/3 cup of olive oil.

Jerk chicken 2 2015

Mix well and add about a pound and a half of chicken that you have cubed.  Make sure the chicken is well coated.  Then remember not to touch your eyes.  Ahem.  Even after washing your hands.

Jerk chicken 3 2015

Let this marinate for a couple of hours.  I chose to grill this on the stove top.  But given the potency of the hot peppers I should have done this outside.  It was like I pepper sprayed the kitchen!  What a way to welcome guests.

Jerk chicken 4 2015

I did want to do a mango dipping sauce but the mango I bought refused to ripen so it was just the chicken.

Jerk chicken 5 2015

This was a hit.  Fortunately our friends could handle the heat.  Because, while the flavours were balanced, this is not for the weak of heart.


Tarragon beef stew 4 2015

Tarragon Beef Stew to Keep You Warm

I think it is time to give up the ghost where the garden is concerned at this point.  With the exception of the hardy root veg and brussels sprouts we’re done and dusted.  A couple of weeks ago I managed to find some tarragon still green in the garden which reminded me of a recipe I had printed out from a few years ago.  Looking at it again, I realised that I hadn’t followed it completely when I made it before.  For one, it had honey.  And a few other interesting things.  But it does have vermouth which works really well with tarragon.

I love beef stews, particularly with ale, but my husband sometimes finds them too heavy in flavour.  This stew has a lot of flavour without the heaviness.  A more refined rustic soup if that isn’t too much of an oxy moron!  

Terragon beef stew 1 2015

Dredge about a pound of stewing beef in flour and season it with sea salt and pepper.  In a saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Brown the beef.  Chop a small red onion, 3-4 cloves of garlic, a carrot, and 2-3 mushrooms.  Add the veg to the beef and cook for a few minutes.

Terragon beef stew 2 2015

Cube 2-3 red potatoes depending on the size.  Add it to the saucepan.  Cook for a few minutes then add 4 cups of vegetable bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Add 1/2 cup of vermouth, 4 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce, a handful of tarragon, and a small spoonful of mustard.

Terragon beef stew 3 2015

Simmer for a few hours at low temperature until the beef is tender and the potatoes are cooked through.

Terragon beef stew 4 2015

Add some crusty bread and you’ll be warmed to your toes!  :)

Curried carrot soup 5 2015

Curried Carrot Soup

Oooh, it was very scary in town last night.  Lots of ghouls and monsters wandering about asking for candy.   And I bet most of them slept well after their quest for the sweet stuff.  It was a little bittersweet last night as our kids were off doing their own thing this year.  It’s tradition for us to gather at a friend’s house as their neighbourhood is a fabulous place to trick o treat.  We went without them to see all the kids having fun.  The best costume was a young girl who took a parasol and stringed it with lights to be a jelly fish.  You could see her journey through the neighbourhood.  A fantastic job.

The husband of the duo where we go likes to dress up as death.  He has an old sickle that was the wife’s great grandmother’s.  Once there are enough of us to hand out candy he starts slowly walking the driveway dragging the sickle.  A bit scary.  So it’s fascinating to watch the kids.  A good number, even the tiny ones, will loudly declare “You don’t scare me!”  Some keep an eye on him as they make their way to the candy.  A couple get scared but with the rest of us yelling it’s ok, there’s candy at the end, they make it as well.  I don’t think there was one child that gave up candy out of fear.  :)

Now I’m not one, when this time rolls by, to go pumpkin crazy.  Occasionally I make a pumpkin pie but that’s it.  Crikey, they put it in everything!  People go mad over it.  But I do enjoy good harvest soups.  The comfort rustic ones that take the chill off the bones.  And if they are quick even better!

A couple of weeks ago I made a curried carrot soup for the family as I had to teach class that night.  Nothing is easier to make ahead of time and just reheat.

Curried Carrot Soup

Peel and slice 3-4 carrots depending on their size and thinly slice them.  Chop up half a large red onion and coarsely chop 4-5 cloves of garlic.  Add about 4 cups of chicken stock.

Curried carrot soup 2 2015

Bring to a boil and cook until the carrots are tender.  Use a blender or an immersion blender to blend all soup.

Curried carrot soup 3 2015

Don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth, this is a rustic soup.  Put it back on the heat and bring it to a low simmer.  Now the seasoning bit is a guideline.  I used hot curry powder, curry paste, cumin, sea salt, pepper, and a bit of garam masala.  The last bit you don’t want to use a ton. A little goes along way. We really like the curry flavour and the heat so I add a good amount.  I also add a spoonful of the mango habanero sauce I made recently.  This is seriously hot so don’t go overboard with that bit!  Simmer to allow all the flavours to develop together.

Curried carrot soup 5 2015

Top with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraise.  Garnish with fresh chive.  This is a very warming soup.  Wonderful on a cold day or if you have a cold!

Lamb with pear sauce 5 2015

Seared Lamb with Pear Sauce and Not Enough Hours in the Day….

I’m loathe to talk Christmas before Thanksgiving.  Growing up nothing remotely Christmas would show up until the day after Thanksgiving.  Now?  I see stuff in September.  I mean, seriously, 3-4 months of Christmas?  By the time it rolls round, we’re burned out.   I do, of course, make an exception for the lists.  Budget wise, it’s silly to try to do it all in one month.

So we were trading lists and I asked for things to match my interests.  We don’t need stuff, per se.  Honestly, those that love shopping, where do they put it all?  But I love to get books or gadgets that match our interests of gardening, photography, beer and cidre making.  Of course cooking!  Plus, we learning (or trying to learn) different languages.  The list is long.

My mum’s response?  Fabulous, I’m amazed you find the time for it all!  And there’s the rub.  I don’t have the time needed to do all the interests.  I do hope with the physio for my neck and hips, when everything is healed I can just fill the hours with productive stuff rather than icing or heating the injuries. They have taken up way too much of my time over the past several years.  I’m trying to be patient but I’m chomping at the bit to get healed and do bunches of stuff.

In the meantime, it’s one foot in front of the other.  And try to catch up with the blog posts.  It’s not tax season, this is crazy that I’m having trouble finding time to post and read all the ones I follow.  I was reading Jovina Cooks Italian a little while ago and she mentioned trying lamb with pear.  I thought I pinned it but I can’t find that post.  So, Jovina, please feel free to put the link in the comments!  But I was intrigued and thought it would be a great pairing to try.

Lamb with pear sauce 1 2015

When I mentioned the idea I think my husband was worried it would be too sweet.  We had some dried red currants on hand that would balance the sweetness.  In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of butter.  Season the lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Brown both sides of the lamb.

Lamb with pear sauce 2 2015

Finish off in the oven at 350F/175C.  In the skillet, add half a chopped onion and two small chopped pears.  Throw in a small handful of the currents.

Lamb with pear sauce 3 2015

Cook for a few minutes to allow the onions to soften and to have the pears to start to break down a bit.  Add a cup of chicken stock and half a cup of a dry white wine.  Bring to a simmer and season with sea salt and pepper.

Lamb with pear sauce 4 2015

Simmer until the lamb is finished.  Let the lamb rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.  I also roasted potatoes and cooked up some corn for the sides.

Lamb with pear sauce 5 2015

I’m really glad I tried this flavour combo.  It is a very easy sauce to make with a great balance of tart and sweet over the lamb.  It just goes to show, you should always think outside the box!

Irish apple cake 10 2015

Irish Apple Cake

Usually when our anniversary rolls round we are up to our ears in some house project.  If we were smart we’d do a trip or something fun like we did a few years ago.  But then again the list won’t take care of itself!

A big project is to redo the wrap around porch which means pulling up boards and lay new ones down as we go.  When most of it was done it was time to get in a skip to get the trash removed.  Silly me, I thought we could work on our foyer and walk in closet.  Might as well fill the skip up!

What was I thinking?  Granted it will cross two more projects off the list.  But we’re tired!  In the days leading up to our anniversary my husband took a few days off to make a dent in the projects.  When our anniversary rolled round we hit a wall where my husband had to handle things as I was unable to.  I felt guilty!  So I thought I should bake him a treat.  It was the least I could do.

Given that we went apple picking and we have a ton of apples I had to pick something that would use some up.  I have a great book called “Irish Traditional Cooking” by Darina Allen.  In it is a recipe for Irish Apple Cake.  I mostly followed it.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

Irish apple cake 4 2015

In a medium sized bowl add 2 cups of flour, 1/3 tsp baking powder, and 8 T of butter.  You want the butter at room temperature so you can blend the ingredients.  With a pastry fork or your hands work the ingredients together until it looks like breadcrumbs or small beads.

Irish apple cake 1 2015

Mix in half a cup of sugar then add one beaten egg.

Irish apple cake 2 2015

You will need 1/2 to 2/3 cup of milk.  Gradually add a little bit of milk at a time until the dough is soft and incorporated.  This dough will be a pain to work with as it is wet and sticky.  Flour your hands and rolling pin to work with it.

Irish apple cake 3 2015

Grease a 9″ spring form pan.  Roll out half of the dough and place it in the bottom of the pan.

Irish apple cake 5 2015

There is a good chance you’ll have to patch holes with this so don’t be discouraged.  Press the dough up the sides a bit.  Slice a couple of apples and layer them round the middle.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the apples.

Irish apple cake 6 2015

Roll out the rest of the dough and place over the apples.  Brush with a beaten egg.

Irish apple cake 7 2015

Bake for 40 minutes or so until the dough is cooked and a nice golden colour.

Irish apple cake 8 2015

Good luck waiting until this cools.  Slice and serve.

Irish apple cake 10 2015

My husband did appreciate this with a cup of tea when he got a chance to take a break and sit for awhile.  :)

French baked eggs 5 2015

Finally French Baked Eggs!

There are times where you have to try, try, and try again.  Such is life.  It gets a bit annoying when that happens with a recipe.

I saw a recipe in a cookery book of Barefoot Contessa’s for easy baked eggs.  Ooh, I thought, this looks amazing.  Let’s have a go.

To start her method was to broil.  I followed it to the letter.  Three times and failed each time.  I was starting to get annoyed!  The flavours were there but the yolk would over cook and the whites would stay runny.  Not the way I wanted.

In the meantime I tried Jovina Cooks Italian recipe for Marinara Baked Eggs.  I still struggled with getting the yolks runny but it was a better result.  My husband and I talked about maybe separating the eggs and cooking the whites for a bit.  Darya on Tortore mentioned in the comments the same idea so that settled it.  I was going to give it another try.

French baked eggs 1 2015

This recipe is for one serving.  Finely chop a handful of parsley, rosemary, and thyme.  Then finely mince a clove of garlic.  Grate about a 1/4 cup of fresh parmesan.  Set all this aside.

French baked eggs 2 2015

Preheat the oven to 400F/205C.  In a shallow bake safe dish heat up 1 1/2 tablespoons of cream and a tablespoon of butter.

French baked eggs 3 2015

Separate three eggs and add the whites and half the cheese and herb mixture to the dish.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Bake until the whites are almost set, fluffing a few times as it cooks.  Add the three yolks.

French baked eggs 4 2015

Add the rest of the herb and cheese mixture.  Bake a few minutes more until the yolks are warm but still runny.  I was feeling really positive by this point!  Once the eggs are cooked, remove from the heat.  Grate a bit more parmesan over the eggs.  Toast up crusty bread to serve with.

French baked eggs 5 2015

Look at that, runny yolks!  This was easy.  :)  And oh so good.  I am so happy I figured this out.  There is an extra step but it means I get the result I’m supposed to.

Greek lemon chicken 5 2015

Greek Lemon Dill Chicken

Is it rude to want to lick the plate?  Probably, so I showed great restraint with this meal.  I got up as much as I could with the fork though.  :)

I have a cookery book called “The Foods of the Greek Islands” by Aglaia Kremezi.  All sorts of wonderful recipes to try.

This is my version of the dish.  I didn’t vary to far from the recipe but I also wasn’t in the mood to use any blender.  And I changed the amounts of the ingredients for the balance I wanted.

Greek lemon chicken 1 2015

In a skillet, heat up about a 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Season the chicken legs with sea salt and pepper.  Brown both sides of the chicken.

Greek lemon chicken 2 2015

Remove from the heat.  In the scallions add about 1/2 cup of chopped scallions.  Cook to they are wilted.

Greek lemon chicken 3 2015

Add the chicken back to the skillet.  Add a cup of dry white wine and a cup of chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes.

Greek lemon chicken 4 2015

Remove the chicken again.  Add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and about 4 tablespoons of chopped dill.  Stir well and bring it back to a simmer.  Add the chicken once more, cover, and cook until the chicken is cooked.

Greek lemon chicken 5 2015

To serve, cut up the chicken and serve with the sauce spooned over it.  We also served this with roasted potatoes and corn.

This has to be one of my favourite sauces I’ve made to date.  Very flavourful and bright.

Mango habenero hot sauce 5 2015

Mango Habanero Hot Sauce, Wowza!

I had seen, over the past couple of years, a mango hot sauce on cooking competitions.  I put it on the list in the back of my mind of things to try.  This year we were able to grow habaneros in our garden so it was time to try my hand at it.

The tricky bit is being able to taste test it as it is made so the flavours were balanced.  Habaneros are not mild!  I enlisted my husband in the tasting department.

I did a bit of research and was surprised to find, without fail, carrots were an ingredient.  To me carrots taste more earthy than sweet but I thought it was worth a try.

Mango habenero hot sauce 1 2015

In a sauce pan add 1-2 medium carrots, sliced thinly, half of a small onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.

Mango habenero hot sauce 2 2015

Meanwhile, slice up 3 mangoes and 6 habaneros.

Mango habenero hot sauce 3 2015

Add these to a blender and then scoop in the carrot mixture.  I ended up using about a cup of the carrot mixture.

Mango habenero hot sauce 4 2015

Add a tablespoon or two of lime juice and the same amount of apple cider vinegar.  Blend completely.  If it comes out too thick add water until you get the consistency you need.

Mango habenero hot sauce 5 2015

I made about 5 cups so I canned them using normal canning processing.  Process them for about 5 minutes.  This is hot enough for my husband.  It’s quite something!  I look forward to adding it to recipes.

Apple Picking 7 2015

It Was A Glorious Day….

I wonder if we have enough wood in the carriage house to build an ark.  We’re forecast to get about 9 inches of rain in our area.  Pretty much all the rain we needed this summer.  All at once.  It doesn’t have to be a big ark, mind.  Not looking to do two by two of all the animals, crikey, we have enough on our hands with our two dogs and cat!

I do worry about several neighbourhoods round here as they are prone to flood badly.  This won’t be good for them I fear.

We did, however, had an amazing weekend.  The weather was glorious for our apple picking.  It’s an annual tradition and I think we had the best weather yet.

So this is a quick post to share some photos of our day.

Apple Picking 1 2015

Apple Picking 2 2015

Apple Picking 3 2015

Apple Picking 4 2015

Apple Picking 5 2015

Apple Picking 6 2015

Apple Picking 7 2015

Now to figure out what to do with all the apples!  It was quite the crop this year with massive apples.  Definitely an apple pie will be made, but there are so many choices!