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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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Good luck waiting until this cools.  Slice and serve.

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

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

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Apple Picking 6 2015

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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!

Bacon Leek Quiche 6 2015

Bacon Leek Quiche

The air is crisp and you know what that means!  Baking!  It’s been gorgeous this week with lovely breezes and fresh air.  There is something about baking with the windows up and and the trees rustling.

Because I have classes to teach two nights a week I try to get dinner sorted for the family.  I also wanted something for the school lunches.  Quiche fit the bill as it can be served cold and would be a nice twist for the kids.

For the pastry make one half of this pastry recipe I do for my apple pies.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C.

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In a mixing bowl beat 4 eggs and add 1 1 /2 cups of milk.  Season with sea salt and pepper and a bit of cayenne pepper.  Mix and set aside.  Grate just over a cup of jarlsberg cheese and set that aside as well.  Chop up 4 rashers of streaky bacon and start rendering in a skillet.  While this cooks add a few chopped mushrooms and leeks.  Add a few splashes of sherry.

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Spoon the bacon and leeks into the pastry shell.

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Sprinkle the cheese over the mixture.

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Pour the egg and milk mixture into the pastry.

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Bake for 15 minutes then lower the heat to 350F/175C and bake for another 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven when the eggs have set.

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I do like the combo of bacon and leek.  They go very well together!

Gooseberry muffins 5 2015

Gooseberry Muffins

I am a happy camper.  We had a decent storm blow through last night.  As it pushed through it took the humidity with it.  Ahhh.  We turned our air conditioners off and threw open the windows.  Fingers crossed the worst of the summer heat is behind us.

I was saying to my husband this morning that I am very ready for cool weather comfort foods.  Though in about 5 months I’ll be dying for a salad.  And the cycle continues!

A few days ago as I was cooking the Italian Burgers I realised I hadn’t set up the breakfasts for the week for the kids.  So I needed something quick.  We had frozen gooseberries to use and the kids love muffins so I whipped up a batch.  I did defrost the berries and let them drain so the muffins wouldn’t get soggy.

I used the recipe for the base of the muffin that is in the Pillsbury’s Complete Book of Baking.

Preheat the oven to 400F/205C.

In a bowl add 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.

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In a separate bowl, mix 3/4 cup of milk, 1/3 cup of oil, and 1 beaten egg.

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once.  Add the fruit and mix well.  The trick is not to overwork the batter.  It will be lumpy.  That’s ok, just make sure the ingredients are incorporated.

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Spoon it evenly into 12 muffin cups.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the tops of the batter.

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Bake for about 25 minutes, until the they are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when it you test the muffins.

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Delicious warm or for breakfast before school.  And perfect for when you forget to make the school breakfasts in a timely manner!

Olaf birthday cake 2 2015

How Many Birthdays Fit on a Cake?

Go ahead.  Question my sanity.  It was my idea to have a family get together where we celebrate 8 out of the 12 birthdays.  Given how this year has gone from on emergency to another in the family and my sister in the middle of her recovery, there hasn’t been time to get together as a family!

I am sure I wasn’t the only one wondering what we were getting ourselves into.  It’s one thing to all get together for a meal but another to get through all the presents and cake in a short amount of time. But it was a lovely day.  The weather was gorgeous and the kids had a great time running about.  I think the cutest thing was my three year old nephew getting a hold of the hose.  This little peanut hosing down his wagon.  And of course when he turned so did the water.  We stayed out of range.  :)

The tricky bit I had to sort out was the cake.  Five of the birthdays were for the kids.  Originally I planned on doing cupcakes but I just didn’t have the time to decorate individual cupcakes, it would be faster to do a cake.  But how to do a cake for kids ranging from 3-14 without making it crowded or corny?

I really wanted each of them to be represented so it took me a couple of days to figure it out.  The littlest one is majorly into Thomas the Train.  He is just enthralled with the whole thing.  My niece loves My Little Pony, my other nephew is into Pokemon, and my son thinks Olaf is the best thing since sliced bread.  And of course my daughter who is becoming a young lady so she’s not into those types of things but she had to be represented somehow.

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Thank goodness for the internet.  A quick search leads to ideas on how to make a character so it actually looks like it.  It’s one thing to freehand volcanoes and castles but I can’t screw up Olaf!

I also did the pokemon circle in gum paste but due to time constraints I went store bought for the rest.  I don’t think I have the skills yet to do Thomas or My Little Pony.

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Olaf birthday cake 4 2015Added a bit of flowers for my daughter and a bit of whimsy with yellow.

Olaf birthday cake 1 2015

We had a wonderful day of family, good food, and laughter.  The best bit was my little nephew’s face when he realised it was Thomas on the cake.  :)

Rhubarb ginger tart 5 2015

Rhubarb Ginger Tart

As I suspected I was spoilt for Mother’s Day.   Saturday night they made me a wonderful meal of tapas from around the world.  My husband was thinking light and Spanish but the kids had other ideas!  My husband made a potato and swiss chard souffle and it was accompanied by mushrooms cooked in butter, chicken satay, and spring rolls.  Delicious all of it!  To finish off the meal they made me a pavlova which was decorated by mangoes spelling out MUM.  That was my daughter’s idea. :)

For the gift I was presented with the largest gift bag.  So either it was going to be a large gift or a small gift with lots of packaging.  After removing about a year’s supply of tissue paper I found a new tripod.  A much more sturdy tripod.  The other one, while a major help, would wobble and it made us nervous my good camera would tip over.  The lovely weekend was finished off by playing games with the kids.  My favourite way to hang out with them.  :)

I did manage to fit in some baking.  Our rhubarb isn’t quite ready but the co-op had some so I thought I’d do a treat for our kids.  My son really loves rhubarb so I couldn’t resist.  For the pastry I used the same recipe as my apple pie.  Only make one batch as you would for a pie without a cover.

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I love fresh ginger in jams and I thought it would be great with the rhubarb.  I had three stalks of rhubarb for this recipe.  Slice the rhubarb in small slices so it cooks down faster.

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Add a tablespoon or so of fresh lemon juice and begin to simmer.  If the rhubarb is on the dry side just add a bit of water while it simmers.  Grate a piece of ginger about an inch/2.5cm square.  This needs to be finely grated so it incorporates fully.

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As the fruit softens and becomes jam like add 1/4 cup of maple syrup.  The real kind.  Do you know there was a poll done and a large percent prefers the fake stuff?  Shows how sad the state of our food has become.  Allow it to cook some more and add more maple syrup if needed.  While this is cooking preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Spoon the mixture into the pastry.

Rhubarb ginger tart 4 2015Bake for about 25 minutes until the pastry is flaky.  Let them cool completely so you don’t risk burning yourself.

Rhubarb ginger tart 5 2015The kids loved these.  Our son says he could eat rhubarb all the time so it was a fun treat.  And on a hot day a quick thing to bake without bringing the kitchen to tropical temps!

Bacon cheese muffins 8 2015

Bacon Cheese and Chive Muffins

In the interest of avoiding a rut with breakfast I asked if the kids wanted something different from the mini quiches and waffles for breakfast.  The answer was yes so I had to find something different that was easy to make and would get them through the morning without having a sugar dump.  It’s hard for our daughter as this year her lunch period is the last one of the day.

I thought muffins with bacon would be fun.  This recipe is part Pillsbury’s The Complete Book of Baking and part my own.  I used them for a base with the basic ingredients and added my twist.

Slowly render about a cup to a cup and a half of bacon with a lot of the fat cut off.  You don’t want greasy muffins.

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While the bacon is cooking mix the dry ingredients together.  You need 2 cups of all purpose flour, 3 teaspoons of sugar, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a handful of chopped chives.  It’s a good idea to actually read the recipe properly.  I thought it said 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Oops!  Fortunately it didn’t ruin the muffins.  I did forget the baking powder and I had to carefully add it afterwards.  Honestly, where was my head?  At this time grate fresh parmesan and jarlsberg cheese to make 3/4- 1 cup of cheese.

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Add 1 beaten egg, 1 1/4 cup of milk, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil.

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Now with muffins you don’t want to overwork the batter.  Gently mix the dry ingredients and wet together.  It’s ok if the batter is a bit lumpy just as long as the ingredients are incorporated.  It will be very wet.

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Fold in the bacon.  This is the part where I forgot the baking powder so I had to sprinkle it over the batter then carefully fold that in.

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Pre-heat the oven to 400F/205C.  Spoon the batter into muffin cups, about 2/3 full.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are golden in colour and the toothpick test comes out clean.

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Treat yourself while they are still warm and have some with butter.

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Not only are these good for breakfast but they would be good with stews and chilli as well.

Ginger snaps 5 2015

It’s an HISTORICAL Snow Sto…I’m sorry?…Oh, It’s a Normal Snow Storm…

This was supposed to be an historical storm, in our area they were predicting over two feet.  Which some areas will see that but the storm shifted so most of us will see about a foot.  Not too bad.  I mean it is New England, we get snow but of course people went crazy with shopping for supplies.  How much they are planning to eat today, I have no idea.  People are funny.

My husband is travelling this week.  He was able to fly out before the flights were cancelled, fortunately.  So Sunday we made sure I can get the snow blower going and we had working shovels.  And thank goodness he thought of the oil!  We were on empty so we were able to get some delivered.  I am very lucky I have him, he takes good care of us.  :)

Sunday we did our usual puttering about the kitchen making things for the kids’ lunches and breakfasts.  I really enjoy that time with him.

I was flipping through the “The Complete Book of Baking” by Pillsbury and came across the recipe for Ginger Snaps. Boy did this bring back memories.  My mum would make these when we were growing up.  I love them but it was something that had faded away in the brain so I hadn’t made them before.

In the mixer cream together 1 cup of sugar and 3/4 cup of butter that has been softened.

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Add in 1/4 cup of molasses and 1 large egg.  Mix until incorporated.

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Add 2 1/4 cups of flour, 2 tsps of baking soda, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of ground ginger, 1/2 tsp of ground cloves, and a 1/4 tsp of nutmeg.

I’d have a photo here but after about ten tries to get it to upload I’m giving up.  Took me long enough for the photos I can show!  Internet is being wonky today.

Chill the dough for at least an hour.  Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

Roll the dough into 1 inch diameter balls and roll into some sugar to coat.  Space the balls about 2 inches apart.

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Bake 8-12 minutes.  If you want them to stay chewy then pull them out by 10 minutes otherwise they start getting crunchy.

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They are so good right out of the oven!  And they go well with hot chocolate. :)

Salted caramel apple bars 12

Salted Spiced Rum Caramel with Apple Bars

I have always said I couldn’t give up bread amidst the whole gluten-free fad.  I say fad because I don’t think everyone who gives up gluten needs too.  I have no doubt that once the dust settles only those who have gluten issues will stick to it.

However I had been doing research because of chronic pain and inflammation which I’ve had enough of.  I did get bloodwork done but I have the family trait of not presenting the normal way for medical issue so they came back negative.  My doctor, who is normally really good, said that some people are just built this way and are weaker.  Given that I was a 3rd degree black belt I don’t accept that.  So I am on a 30 day experiment to go without gluten to see what happens.  I’ve done it for a week now and I think I’m making progress but it’s too soon to tell.

Right now because I am being strict with it I have to be creative with the recipes as I don’t want to do two sets of meals for all of us.  Someone I know who loves to bake has also gone gluten free and she suggested finely processing oats and use that as flour as a substitution for certain desserts.  I thought this would be perfect for my date bars or this week apple bars given that we have a massive amount of apples.

And because I was baking with apples I thought I would try my hand at salted caramel.

For the caramel you will need:

2 cups sugar

12 T butter

2 tsp sea salt (some recipes call for fleur de sel but that’s crazy expensive)

A cup of heavy cream

Spiced rum to taste

Brown sugar to taste

This will make a lot so you can half the ingredients.  In a saucepan heat up the sugar.

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You need the heat to be medium, medium high and stir constantly while the sugar melts.  It will get chunky then will smooth out.

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Turn off the heat when the temp reaches 350F/175C and add the butter a bit at a time.

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Stir until the butter is fully incorporated.  Then add the cream and stir well. This is where it almost went wonky for me.  When you are cooking the sugar you have to be very careful not to burn it. I had a slightly burnt taste so I needed to fix it.  I incorporated some brown sugar and a couple of tablespoons of spiced rum while adding the sea salt.  Turned out to be similar to toffee flavour and everyone gave it a thumbs up.  A happy left turn!

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Let that cool while working on the apple bars.

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Cut up 4-5 apples into smallish pieces and start to heat in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of apple cider.

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Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste and simmer until the apples soften.

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Pulse enough oats to give you 1 1/2 cups of oat flour to replace the flour.

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Mix this with 2 cups of oats, 1 cup sugar, and 1 tsp of baking soda.  I added 3/4 cup of melted butter like the original recipe but I think next time I would add a cup to keep it moist.  Spread out half in a 8 x 11 pan then spread out the apple mixture.

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Top with the rest of the oats and bake for 25 minutes.  Drizzle with the caramel and serve.

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The caramel can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks.  To soften just microwave for 10-15 seconds.  I’ll have to come up with a few more desserts to use up the caramel!

Strawberry cookies 7 2014

Lemon Cookies with Strawberry Mint Ginger Jam

Stateside we just had our Labor Day Weekend.  The last hurrah of summer.  Best thing about it?  We had the kids!  Saturday was gorgeous so we took advantage of it and spent most of it outside.  Our daughter is trying out for the school’s soccer team and she wanted to practice her shooting.  Off we traipsed to play a bit of footie at the local playground.  Nearly did a split trying to get the ball!  Not a good thing.  Still it was a blast running round with the kids.

And the holiday weekend is never complete without our annual trek to the go-carts.  But dang it if I didn’t get the slow car again!  It was like a Sunday drive.  I want a car with oomph!

The weekend was topped off with marathon sessions of Settler’s of Catan.  That game is seriously addicting.

I came across a delicious recipe for lemon cookies with strawberry jam that looked super easy.  And if you are going to have marathon sessions of games with the kids there needs to be treats available!

First I made the jam.  I usually do the jam with ginger but I wanted to add another layer of flavour.  We have a ton of mint in our garden and I thought it would give a nice balance to this cookie.

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In a small sauce pan add about 1 1/2 cup of chopped strawberries, 2T of lemon juice, and a small handful of mint.  Grate fresh ginger over the strawberries to your taste and bring to a simmer.

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Remove from the heat once it gets to the jam consistency.  Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C

For the cookie dough you will need:

1 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

zest of 1 lemon

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Cream the butter and sugar together and add the lemon zest.

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Add the flour and mix well.  If the butter is cold like mine was because I spaced on getting the butter out of the freezer in time you may find it crumbly but that is ok.  The cookies may not spread out as much as warmer butter but it will still be delicious!

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Roll the dough into 1 inch balls.  Use a finger to make dents into the dough and fill with a small amount of strawberry jam.  Bake for 9-11 minutes.

While it is baking mix up a glaze of 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp almond extract, and 2T of milk.  Mix with a whisk.  If it is still too thick add more milk.

When the cookies are still warm drizzle the glaze over the cookie.

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Not only these really easy to make they are fabulously delicious!  And it was a great way to use up some leftover strawberries.