Bakewell tart 10 2016

Bakewell Tart and Delicious Traditions

Another season down and on to feeding the creative side of my brain!  I managed to end the tax season in my typical fashion of coming down with a really bad cold.  So much for hitting the ground running.  I am finally catching up with everything.  Unfortunately bills and things have to have a higher priority than blogging.  Boo.

Part of my inspiration this year for blogging is to bake or cook dishes that have a bit of family tradition.  I place a great deal of value on having a connection with the past as we go forward with the new generations.  I don’t like history forgotten.

A few weeks ago I asked my dad what treats his mum cooked or baked when he was growing up.  My Grandma is someone I’d love to go back in time and spend a day baking with.  She was incredibly smart and the ultimate multi-tasker.  I sometimes think she would read, watch telly, and do the cross word at the same time because her brain needed the high end exercise.  She passed away when I was very young but I have wonderful memories of her.

My dad responded with a list of things she would make like amazing homemade bread, sponge cake, and bramley apple pies.  She would also make bakewell tarts.  As this has been on my list for awhile I thought that would be a great place to start.

The recipe I used was from the Baking with Mary Berry baking book my sister gave me for my birthday.  It is actually pretty straight forward.

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

In a mixing bowl add 1 1/2 cups of flour and 6 tablespoons of cold butter.  You will see this is not for the faint of heart when it comes to butter!

Bakewell tart 1 2016

Using a pastry fork blend the butter and flour until well blended.  You want it to look like small bread crumbs.  I found it weird that no salt was in the recipe.  It wasn’t too bad but next time I make it I would add about 1/4 tsp of salt.

Bakewell tart 2 2016

The next step is to add a bit of cold water at a time until the pastry comes together.  This part is hard to explain as you don’t want it too dry or too wet.  So keep adding until is just comes together.  This step always brings me back to when my dad taught me how to make pastry.  He learned from my Grandma.  I was an adult when he taught me but it was still fun standing side by side learning from him.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

In a saucepan, melt 9 tablespoons (see what I mean?) and add 1/2 cup of sugar.  Cook for a minute or so.  Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Bakewell tart 5 2016

A one large egg, beaten, 3/4 cup of rice flour, and 1/2 tsp of almond extract.  Mix well.

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Set aside.  Grease a tart pan that has a loose bottom.  The recipe called for 7 1/2in/19cm diameter pan.  I don’t have one of those but I have a rectangle one roughly the same area size.  Roll out the pastry and lightly press into the pan.

Bakewell tart 4 2015

Trim the excess and set aside.  Spread raspberry jam on the bottom of the pastry.  I kept it a bit too thin this time round but I will put more in.

Bakewell tart 7 2016

Pour in the filling and then cut the excess pastry in to strips and place them in a criss cross pattern.  Brush with milk.

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Bake for about 45-50 minutes until golden brown and the filling is set.

Bakewell tart 9 2016

If you would like dust it with icing sugar.

Bakewell tart 10 2016

This isn’t overly complicated and is worth the effort to make.  The almond and raspberry flavours are a great pairing.  I hope I did my Grandma proud.  :)

Moroccan lamb soup 5 2016

Moroccan Lamb Soup

Mother Nature has been messing with us a lot this past week.  Winter had a lot of periods of spring weather and so far spring has ushered in winter weather.  We’ve had freezing temps and snow.  Not amused!  Fortunately we haven’t had anything in the garden yet and the bulbs seem to be holding their own which is good.

It did present a perfect time for baking and soup last weekend.  I found some nice stewing lamb at the co-op and I was in the mood for Moroccan flavours.  Something to take the chill off.

This is an easy soup to throw together.  In a bowl add 1/2 a cup of flour, a tablespoon of ground tumeric, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons of paprika.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

Moroccan lamb soup 1 2016

Mix thoroughly.  I got about a pound of lamb for this meal.  Cut it up in small pieces, an inch/2.5cm square or so.  Toss in the flour mixture to coat.

Moroccan lamb soup 2 2016

In a large saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Brown the lamb in the saucepan for several minutes.

Moroccan lamb soup 3 2016

Chop up a small onion and a few cloves of garlic.  Add to the pan and saute for a few more minutes.

Moroccan lamb soup 4 2016

For some reason, I spaced on taking pictures for the next few steps.  Don’t know what I was doing!  Add 4 cups of vegetable bouillon to the pan.  I use a paste mixed with water rather than the dry cubes.  For this I kept it on the light side so the flavour was subtle.  Grate a piece of fresh ginger that is about 1 1/2 inches/3-4 cm square.  Simmer for a couple of hours at a low temp.  Cube an aubergine and add to the soup in the last hour of cooking.  After it simmers for awhile check the seasoning and adjust as needed.  I added a bit more tumeric and paprika to mine.  When the lamb is tender and cooked so it’s falling apart it is ready to serve.

Moroccan lamb soup 5 2016

You can’t go wrong with lovely crusty bread and butter with this.  As warming this soup was I am looking forward to the weather behaving itself so we can get back to grilling and salads.  I am ready for spring!

Pear gooseberry cake 1 2016

Pear and Gooseberry Cake

Oh, just two more weeks of tax season and then I can get back to blogging more regularly.  Can’t wait!  Yesterday I didn’t have time to blog because I was baking and cooking up a storm.  It felt so good to be up and moving about.

The PT is working really well.  I went back to Pilates and last week after doing a forearm plank suddenly my shoulder felt fixed.  Figured out the bicep tendon had been flipped out of it’s groove for months.  Geez, if I had known doing planks would help I would have done that a lot sooner!  It’s wonderful not to feel old and infirm.  Can’t tell you how excited I am about this!

For St Patrick’s Day I usually cook something Irish.  Go figure, right?  As a treat I found a Pear and Gooseberry Cake with a Black Currant Compote in The Irish Isle by Sharon O’Connor.

Pear gooseberry cake 1 2016

It can be tricky to find ripe pears and because I only decided to do this on the day, the pears were pretty hard.  I microwaved them for a bit to soften them a little.  They were still on the firm side after baking but it was balanced with the softer gooseberries.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

Pear gooseberry cake 2 2016

This is a cake not made with a mixer.  In a bowl mix together 1 3/4 cups of self rising flour, pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of ground ginger.

Pear gooseberry cake 3 2016

Cut in 4oz of cold butter into the flour mixture.  You want to mix the butter in well enough that it looks like bread crumbs.

Pear gooseberry cake 4 2016.JPG

Add in the two pears, chopped and about 1 1/2 cups of gooseberries.  The recipe calls for 3 cups but that would be way too much and put out the cake out of balance.  Mix well.  Add a 1/2 cup of sugar.

Pear gooseberry cake 5 2016

Add 2 beaten eggs and 1/2 a cup of milk.  Mix and then spread out into a 9 x 13″ pan.

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Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Pear gooseberry cake 7 2016

While the cake is baking put a cup or so of black currants in a small saucepan.  Add about a 1/2 a cup of water.  Bring it to a simmer.  Gradually add brown sugar until you get the balance of sweet and tart you like.  Just don’t make it thick like jam.  I kept it on the tart side because my husband loves the flavour of the black currants.

Pear gooseberry cake 8 2016

This is a very moist cake with a lovely sweet and tart flavour to it.  I do apologise for the last picture.  My camera was being wonky, I think because the batteries weren’t  charged properly.  I have to say it’s nice that it is so light later now, I’m back to being able to use natural light again.

Roast chicken with bacon and leek 5 2016

Roast Chicken with Bacon and Leeks and Teaching the Boy to Cook

I have wicked spring fever!  It looks like winter is leaving early this year.  Obviously this could change but I am really hoping it doesn’t.  It is so beautiful out.  And it so nice to be out of the windowless office.

A few weeks ago my son mentioned he wanted to cook dinner for us so we had him go through our cookery books to see what he would like to try out.  He found a recipe for roast chicken that had a bacon stuffing with seaweed.  With the exception of me, no one else would want seaweed and I don’t like roasting birds stuffed.  So we brain stormed and came up with our own recipe.  We finally had time to do it last night and it was a lot of fun to cook with him.

Roast chicken with bacon and leek 1 2016

Preheat the oven to 325F/150C.  Place the chicken in a shallow roasting pan.  Add water and a bit of sherry to the pan.  Coat the chicken with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  This chicken was just under 4lbs so we cooked it for an hour and a half.

Roast chicken with bacon and leek 2 2016

Cut up 4 rashers of streaky bacon and render it into the skillet.  While I was doing this my son was working on his knife skills getting the mushrooms and leeks ready.  He’s 11 so I handled the raw meat and he took care of everything else.  I was impressed with how he did.  :)

Roast chicken with bacon and leek 3 2016

Drain excess bacon fat then add the leeks and mushrooms to the skillet.  Saute until the leeks have softened then add about a cup to a cup and a half of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Add a couple of tablespoons of cognac and about the same amount of stone ground mustard.  Stir well to blend and simmer to reduce by a third or so.

Roast chicken with bacon and leek 4 2016

I had my son taste test to see if it was balanced.  I have to say he has a really good palette.  So I had him adjust the flavours as needed.  He did really well with that!

Roast chicken with bacon and leek 5 2016

Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes before carving.  We served it with roast potatoes and parsnips.

I really enjoyed spending one on one time with him doing this meal.  He’s a neat kid.  :)

Mod podge coasters 9 2016

The Mod Podge of Life and Healing

Like millions of people in this world I find myself on a journey of healing.  Both emotionally and physically.  It’s a bumpy ride of leaps forward and backward.   I’ll be starting physical therapy again as it turns out my back is unstable enough to be reinjured by putting my little nephew to bed, sneezing, and pulling up a handbrake in my car.  That’s not frustrating or anything.

I was finally, a couple of weeks ago, given meds to help manage the fibro.  I was told today it can take a couple of months to kick in but I’m keeping my fingers crossed it will help.  It has helped with depression and anxiety which is a major plus.  So I will keep going with it in the hopes that it will tick all the boxes.

Emotionally I made a breakthrough.  Several weeks ago something happened that was like ripping off a bandaid.  For years I was always in protective mode from being under attack but not realising where it was coming from.  Now I know.  It’s both heartbreaking and illuminating which makes it hard to process.  But for the first time I feel like I’m going to get to a place where I am healed.  I’m more relaxed in a lot of areas in my life now.  I can take deeper breaths.  And that translates into my family life as well.  I feel really positive.

Now if I can just get through the day without sneezing!

Given this is March, this is obviously a late post as it’s about a gift I made for Christmas.  Been working a lot of hours this tax season!  I wanted to make gifts this Christmas, one to save money, and two to give something personal.  It’s a way I show my love.  Because I am a slow knitter and stuff with yarn work I had to branch out and pick something new.  I decided it was high time to try Mod Podge.  I just didn’t want it to look cheesy.  Let’s just say some of the projects in the introductory book are a little over the top!

I thought making coasters would be a great way to use some of my favourite pictures of flowers I’ve taken over the years.  And it is relatively inexpensive to make once you buy the basic supplies.  I bought a bottle of matte mod podge, glossy mod podge, and acrylic spray.  For this project I bought white tiles and cork to go on the bottom on the tiles.

Mod podge coasters 1 2016

Mod podge coasters 2 2016

Print out on photo paper the pics you want.  Trim to size.  Because photo paper is heavy use craft glue to afix the pic to the tile and smooth to make sure there aren’t any bubbles.  Let that dry and set for a day.  Then paint the mod podge over the pic and the sides of the tile.  Don’t put it on thickly.  It will cloud the pic but it dries clear.  This requires 3 coats but it is very important to make sure each coat dries completely before doing another coat.

Mod podge coasters 5 2016

Mod podge coasters 6 2016

Glue the cork onto the bottom of the tile.  Now the first time I did the coasters this is the point I screwed up.  For some reason I stacked the tiles and weighted them down so the cork would stick.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  The glue seeped through and ruined the integrity of the mod podge.  So I had to repeat the previous steps and start over.

To make the coasters waterproof do about three light coats of the acrylic spray, allowing it to dry completely between coats.

Mod podge coasters 9 2016

I also did up a project for each of the kids.  My son loves Minecraft so I printed out some images and arranged them in a creeper pattern on a canvas I painted green.  I used the glossy mod podge for this.  It’s a little trickier getting the photo paper to stick to canvas so I had to be really patient.

Mod podge coasters 7 2016

My daughter has done her room in greys so I printed out three pictures of our travels in black and white and mod podged them onto square canvases.   I used the matte mod podge without any sprays for this project.

Mod podge coasters 8 2016

All in all I like this technique and have a few ideas to try after tax season.  The only pain in the neck is trying to do it with pets.  You invariably find dog or cat hair in the mod podge after it dries.  Or as it is drying and trying to remove it is a delicate process!

Greek Orzo Chicken

Finally I have a day off!  It’s been about 2 1/2 weeks straight out with the first peak of tax season so I’m in my comfy clothes relaxing and recharging my batteries.  And doing a long overdue blog post!

I was hoping to do one a few days ago but our silly dog had to be taken to the vet due to an ear infection.  The poor thing was shaking his head so much I thought he’d run out of brain cells and he doesn’t have a surplus!  He’d look at us with one ear up and one ear deflated.  Cute looking but definitely needed to get seen to.  I just wish they understood we are trying to help them.  He did not like his ear being examined and kept backing away.  I felt so bad but the meds are working and the ear is starting to be less deflated.

One of my food memories is eating orzo with chicken and green olives.  I loved that dish.  But I don’t have that recipe and since my family aren’t huge fans of olives I needed to find something different.  In my “The Foods of the Greek Islands” cookery book by Aglaia Kremezi there is a recipe for Baked Chicken with Orzo.  I changed it up a bit and did it on the stove top instead of the oven.

Greek orzo chicken 1 2016

This dish has a lot of strong flavours in this dish with the sundried tomatoes and garlic.  In a large skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Cube up about 3/4-1 pound of chicken and add to the skillet to start browning the chicken.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic and half a red onion and add it to the skillet.

Greek orzo chicken 2 2016

Once the onion softens add a cup of sliced sundried tomatoes and saute for a few minutes.  Then add a 14oz can of diced tomatoes with the juice and 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Toss in a small handful of fresh oregano.

Greek orzo chicken 4 2016

Add a cup of orzo.  All I could find was a wheat orzo and that worked well.

Greek orzo chicken 3 2016

Stir well and simmer covered.  Keep an eye on this as this can stick to the bottom of skillet.  Add more chicken stock as needed until the orzo is tender and cooked.  It takes about a 1/2 hour or so.

Greek orzo chicken 5 2016

Serve with parsley and shredded cheese.  I had a mixture of Italian cheeses on hand.  Of course there are good Greek cheeses to choose from.

This is definitely stick to your ribs dish, perfect for chilly winter nights.  This made a lot of food so we have leftovers to use throughout the week.

Cognac Mushroom Pork 1 2016

Seared Pork with Creamy Cognac Mushroom Sauce

It feels good to be able to sit up at a computer and actually blog.  Which seems a strange thing to say.  The cold going round here knocks you on your backside.  There was barely enough energy to work the remote.  Forget watching anything with a plot as keeping focused was not on the cards!  Which meant silly stuff like Real Housewives.  Please, nothing real about them!  My brain may never recover.

I did find Design on a Dime.  Which is very lightweight but has inspired several ideas for our porch that I want to try out when the weather gets a bit warmer.  I’m looking forward to creating a comfy area to hang out in.

It also felt good this weekend to get back into the kitchen and work on creating dishes.  I had some pork ribs and some root vegetables to use and I wanted to do something on the French side.  There were a ton of recipes using mushrooms and cream.  A combination that I love.

Cognac Mushroom Pork 1 2016

I prepped the roast veg of potato, parsnip, and carrot first and got those cooking.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, season the pork with sea salt and pepper, then brown all four sides.

Cognac mushroom pork 2 2016

Remove from the skillet and cover with tin foil.  Finely chop a shallot (these can be potent and make you cry!) and add to the skillet.  Cook for a few minutes on medium heat.  You want the shallots to soften, not brown, then add 4-5 cloves of chopped garlic.

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After another couple of minutes add a few mushrooms that have been sliced.  Then add 1-2 teaspoons of fresh thyme, some sea salt, and pepper.

Cognac mushroom pork 4 2016

Once the mushrooms start to brown add 1 1/2 – 2 cups of chicken stock to the skillet and bring to a simmer.  Add about 4 tablespoons of cognac and a couple of tablespoons of stone ground mustard.

Cognac mushroom pork 5 2016

Put the pork back into the skillet and simmer until the pork is cooked and the sauce has reduced a bit.  Then add a 1/3-1/2 cup of cream.  Taste and add more cognac and mustard if needed.  Sometimes the cream can dampen the strong flavours.

Cognac mushroom pork 6 2016

Serve over the roasted veg and top with the sauce.  You might find you have plenty of sauce left over.  I used mine to make a creamy chicken soup for tonight’s dinner.  Too good to let it go to waste!

Chicken pastie 7 2016

Chicken Leek Flaky Pies

This is just crazy.  Every single year that I’ve been doing taxes I get sick or I fall just as the office opens.  I thought not this year!  The office opens tomorrow and I’m sick.  Seriously?  What kind of “rain” dance can I do to break this streak?  So I’m trying to be very good today so it goes away and I’ll be fine for tomorrow.

I love the flavour combination of chicken and leek and I wanted to do a variation on the chicken and leek pies with phyllo dough.  This time I wanted to use a short crust for the pie.

I made the pastry about an hour before making the dinner to allow it to chill in the fridge.  Cut in 3/4 cup of cold butter into 2 1/2 cups of flour and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.  When the mixture is crumbly and sticks together add a tablespoon of cold water at a time until the pastry comes together in a ball.  Cover with cling film and chill.

You need to make enough filling to fill the amount of pastry you have.  The above recipe is enough for 2 9″ pie shells.  Which was enough to make four pies.  The ratio of ingredients is equal amounts for everything but the garlic.  That was just 3-4 cloves.  Everything gets chopped up into small pieces.  You don’t want large chunks so everything cooks evenly.

Chicken pastie 1 2016

In a large skillet start rendering the streaky bacon on medium.  You don’t want the skillet too hot because you don’t want the bacon to catch.  After about 5 minutes add the garlic.  Then add the leeks and mushrooms.

Chicken pastie 2 2016

Normally you start the chicken at the beginning but for this the chicken needs to complete cooking in the oven.  You don’t want the chicken dry and tough.   After the leeks and mushrooms have cooked for a couple of minutes add about a third of a cup of dry white wine.  Add the chicken and a bit of fresh thyme.

Chicken pastie 4 2016

Roll out the pastry.  I rolled to a thickness of about a 1/4″/6mm.  I used a 6″ plate to cut round.

Chicken pastie 3 2016

Spoon the filling onto one half of the pastry.  I used a slotted spoon because I didn’t want the filling to be too wet.  Grate some jarlesberg over the filling.

Chicken pastie 5 2016

Brush a beaten egg round the edge of the pastry.  Fold the pastry in half and use a fork to crimp round the edge.  Slice the top with three slits.  Brush the pie with the beaten egg.

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Bake in the oven set at 425F/220C for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

Chicken pastie 7 2016

Serve immediately.  The kids loved it and it is a very easy dish to put together.  And a great way to use up some ingredients in the fridge.

 

Christmas crafts 2 2016

Yarn Crafts for Gifts

Now that the holidays have settled down and we’re not crazy busy I wanted to take a moment to share some gifts I made for the kids.  I had fun doing these projects and of course I was down to the wire.  Some day I hope to be much faster with yarn crafts but I’m not holding out much hope on that front!

I first started with my son’s project.  Like most kids his age, he is very into Minecraft.  Do you know some schools have classes on this game?  But it really does stretch the imagination.

Christmas crafts 1 2016

I found the pattern on Ravelry and I was really looking for a knitting pattern because it’s been about 10 years since I’ve crocheted and I forgot how to do it.  And I had never done anything in the round.  Thank goodness for YouTube!  I was able to relearn how to crochet and I enjoy it so I’ll be looking for more projects to try.  I also want to try my hand at granny squares.

Both kids are big fans Dr Who so I had to find something with that theme.  I found a great pattern for socks on Ravelry with the TARDIS.  I’ve never knitted socks.  Back to YouTube I go!

Christmas crafts 2 2016

I did it on the magic loop rather than double pointed needles.  The pattern was pretty good though I had to adjust how the toe was done so it decreased on the sides rather than on the top and bottom.  I was thrilled the lettering was legible.  After Christmas I found a used book that shows me how to knit two socks at a time so I’m looking forward to trying this again.

Though I’m trying to get the Aran jumper I’ve been working on for a few years for my husband.  That is taking forever!  So I need to finish that before I start anymore big projects.  Before we grow old.:)

Mushroom pasta 6 2015

Pasta with Mushroom Sauce and Saying Goodbye to 2015, Finally!

It’s been a long time since I was so looking forward to seeing the backside of a year.  I don’t like rushing time, especially as we get older.  It goes fast enough as it is.  But this year been a long stressful slog.  2016 has to be better!

I am so grateful that I have my husband and kids.  They have been an amazing support system for me.  Since the summer I’ve been struggling with my issues, whether it was physical injuries or the black dog, as Conor from One Man’s Meat so aptly called it, and I feel like I got in a rut.  It was an effort at times to get the day to day stuff done, nevermind finding creativity for blogging and other projects.  My husband never wavers and never complains.  He takes care of me and has the ability to make me laugh every day.  And kids being kids, they keep you on your toes.  They are a joy to have.  Not sure what I did to get so lucky to have them in my life but boy am I glad I did it.

But I am looking forward to 2016 and a fresh start in terms of putting this year behind me and not letting it be a millstone round my neck.  I have ideas I want to try and plan on keeping on improving with all the issues.  Onwards and upwards!

My sister got me a fabulous book on food photography for Christmas.  My family is so good about supporting my endeavors.  Last year my husband found me a photobox and a photography book which helped me dust off the cobwebs of my photography knowledge.  This book is the next step up from the previous book.  After a year of practicing I am excited to learn new techniques and continuing to improve.  I’m only into the fourth chapter and already I have a list in my head of things I need to set up.

Last night my sister and family were planning on coming so I planned Italian for dinner.  Unfortunately, the New England weather decided it was time for the first winter storm.  But I had found a recipe from the cookery book Giada at Home by Giada De Laurentiis.  So I stuck with the planned theme.

Mushroom pasta 1 2015

It is the Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Sauce.  This is my adaptation of it.  I didn’t stray too much from the original but I did make it my own.

In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Finely chop up half a red onion and begin saute the onion.  Finely chop up 3-4 cloves of garlic and add it to the skillet.

Mushroom pasta 2 2015

While this is cooking slice up a mixture of mushrooms.  I used baby bellas (cremini), shiitake, and oyster mushrooms.  You want about 2 cups sliced.  Add these to the skillet to start to brown.

Mushroom pasta 3 2015

Add 1/2-3/4 cup of vegetable bouillon and 1/2 a cup of dry white wine.  Bring to a simmer to reduce the liquid by at least a third.

Mushroom pasta 4 2015

During this time make sure you cook the pasta.  I chose brown rice spaghetti.  When the pasta is nearly done add a half cup (4 oz) of mascarpone.

Mushroom pasta 5 2015

When the mascarpone has blended in add 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan and a handful of chopped chives.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to coat.

Mushroom pasta 6 2015

Garnish with chopped chives and grated parmesan cheese.  My husband made fabulous ciabatta bread.  He used it to make garlic bread.  A serious weakness of mine!

This dish was a hit even with my son who doesn’t like mushrooms.  Fingers crossed his tastes are changing.  The rest of us love mushrooms.

Happy New Year’s everyone!