Definitely Time for Comfort Food

A week ago I was filled with such anticipation of being on the cusp of history.  Since then I’ve been in complete shock, along with a lot of the world.

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I wore my version of the pantsuit.  I don’t actually have one so a suit coat would have to do!  I also wore white and purple for the colours of the suffragettes.  I was excited!  But after the evening wore on I could see the writing on the wall.  Going to sleep that night I was hoping beyond hope that the numbers would be wrong. The first thing I saw in the morning was a message on my iPad from a friend in Scotland asking what the hell did this country do.

Clinton wasn’t great shakes but I am having trouble wrapping my head round the fact that so many people accepted the sexism, the racism, the ego, the inciting of violence, and outright lies of Trump.  It pains me that these weren’t deal breakers and in fact celebrated.  I don’t know what is in store in the next few years but I can’t say my normal optimism is in play.

It was also difficult talking about it with our kids.  Fortunately they are old enough to recognise what is right and what is wrong.  Let’s just say my daughter can’t wait to be old enough to vote!

In the meantime we have to get on with our lives.  Given we had another weekend of home improvement and how the week went, comfort food was definitely in order.

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Because we still have a ton of apples from apple picking I thought a pork hand pie with apple and sage would do the trick.

For the pastry I cut in 1/2 a cup of butter into 1 1/2 cups of flour and a 1/4 tsp of salt.  When the mixture is reduced to the texture of bread crumbs and they stick together, gradually add cold water until the dough comes together.  It doesn’t take much so add a bit at a time.  Cover and set aside until it’s time to fill the dough.

In a skillet heat up about two tablespoons of olive oil.  Add about 1/2 a cup of finely chopped onions and begin to cook.  Once the onion starts to become translucent add a pound of ground pork.  Finely chop 2 large cloves of garlic and mix in.

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When the pork is half cooked add a small handful of chopped fresh sage and a small handful of sliced fresh cranberry.  Then add a spoonful of mustard and about a 1/4 cup of dry white wine.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Roll the dough out thinly and cut out circles.  I used a bowl for this.

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Fill one side of the dough with the filling.  I had filling leftover because I only needed one pie but that would be good for a later pasta dish!   Brush beaten egg round the edge of the pastry and fold the pastry in half.  Pinch with a fork round the edge and then put 3 small slashes in the top. Brush with the egg and bake at 425F/220C for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

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My husband made a fabulous dessert with apple and frangipane so it was a lovely meal.

Now that a week has passed I hope the grass roots efforts that are springing up to hold on to the progress we’ve made for equality and to make this place better continue.  It won’t be easy but we do have a voice.

A Gooseberry and Apple Pork

Things have been very hectic this past week.  My in-laws arrived this Wednesday so no more doddling!  The list had to be done!  Well as much of it we could do at any rate.  Not only are my husband’s parents visiting from the UK but his brother is visiting from the west coast.  Which means our nutty dog is on the max chill pill we can give him.  Hasn’t stopped from doing the I love you, I hate you switch back and forth as they come into different rooms.  I love him to bits but he is a handful.

Last night I cooked a special dinner to celebrate everyone being together.  I did up leeks with mushrooms and garlic in butter and a cheesy chive mashed potato.  For the main event I had a nice piece of pork shoulder to use.  As I am trying to make space in our stuffed freezer I thought I would try a gooseberry and apple sauce to go with the pork.

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I will tell you how I made it so you too can have loads of leftover sauce.  I’m trying to figure out what to do with the leftover sauce but I may just freeze it for the next time we have pork.

About an hour before you begin cooking rub olive oil, cumin, sea salt, and pepper over the pork.  Cover and let it sit.

I found some pink lady apples at the co-op.  Peel and dice three of them.  Chop about a cup of red onion.  While you are doing this heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and begin browning the pork.

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Remove the pork and add the apple and onion to the skillet.  Cook on medium heat until the apple and onion begin to soften.

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Add about a cup of gooseberries and cook for a few minutes then add a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.  Pour in 4 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  I also added a few splashes of dry sherry.  Simmer for several minutes and taste to make sure the flavour balance is right before adding the pork into the skillet.  It’s easier to adjust at this point.   Put the pork back into the skillet, cover and simmer until the pork is cooked.

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Once the pork has rested, slice and serve.  I really liked the tartness of the gooseberries with the sweetness of the apple.  It is a very light sauce but holds its own if you know what I mean.

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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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!

Cheesy Canapés to Ring in the New Year

Well 2014 is done and dusted.  They go by faster as we get older.  I do wish I can figure out how to slow it down a bit.  Ah well, I’ll just have to enjoy the ride at the speed it goes.

As usual we had a lot of fun with our friends for New Year’s Eve, letting our hair down probably more than is good for us.  And as usual we had a lot of good food, enough for an army!

A few weeks ago apointgourmet posted about Thyme and Gruyere Canapés and I thought they would be perfect for the party.  I could make them earlier in the day and them warm them up at the party.

I decided to use the cheeses I had on hand for this dish which was jarlsberg and parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C

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It’s a good idea to prep the ingredients prior to starting the recipe.  The amount of cheese needed is about 1 2/3 cups with half a cup of that being parmesan and the rest jarlsberg.  Grate the cheese and set aside.  Finely chop fresh thyme to give you two teaspoons and set that aside with the cheese.  Add a pinch of sea salt and a few dashes of cayenne pepper to the cheese.  In a sauce pan bring a cup of water and 4 tablespoons of butter to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add a cup of flour.  Mix well until the dough becomes smooth.

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In a mixer incorporate the dough with the cheese mixture.

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One at a time add 4 eggs and mix well.

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Scoop into a pastry bag with a tip that has a large hole.  This is my least favourite bit as the dough is thick and sticky and likes to find it’s way out the top of the bag.  So annoying!  And it’s hard on my hand squeezing all the dough.  Create dollops about an inch in diameter and place them about 1/2 an inch or so apart.  Beat one egg and egg wash the dollops without letting the egg drip down the sides otherwise the egg can prevent the puffs from rising.

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Bake 25-30 minutes until they are golden brown.  Now the recipe I followed said 20-25 minutes but mine weren’t golden in that time frame, I suspect because of different ovens.  At any rate bake until golden.

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I had also come across an idea to do apples with cheese and pancetta.  So I used that for inspiration and decided to use fontina and prosciutto.  Very easy, just wrap the apple and cheese and bake until the cheese is melted.

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I really liked the balance of the sweetness of the apple and saltiness of the prosciutto.

Cheers!

 

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!

Such a Lovely Day to Pick Apples…

The past two weeks have been go, go, go.  My husband took a week off so we can do home improvement projects.  On the list was to completely redo our small bathroom and replace the floors of the back two porches.  I’ll follow up with a post on before and after photos but I am so excited about getting these projects done.  And I’m exhausted!  We both are.  I went about two weeks without doing much cooking and no time to post.  Things are starting to get back to normal now thank goodness.

We went yesterday on our annual apple picking outing with our friends.  Couldn’t have picked a more gorgeous day to get together.

I was worried if there would be much to pick given how harsh the winter was.  The two trees in our front garden gave us a grand total of 2 apples and our peach tree never flowered.  Usually this time of year the trees are groaning with all the apples at the orchard and a lot of trees looked very bare.

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We had to go deep into the orchard to find apples.  I even found an optimistic apple flower.

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Because the pickings were so slim they had bins set up with apples so you could just fill your bags.  We did it the “hard” way keeping up with the kids running through the trees.  Much more fun that way!

I always enjoy the colours on display around the small shop with the flowers, apples, and pumpkins.

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The displays wouldn’t be complete without the giant pumpkins, some of which I’m sure, will find their way to the Pumpkin Festival in a few weeks.

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When we got married four years ago we considered this place for our wedding.  The costs were a bit much but it is such a beautiful spot.

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We now have enough apples to sink a ship.

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The kids are looking forward all the baked goodies.  Can’t let them go to waste after all.  I will have to come up with gluten free dishes as I am doing a month long experiment eating gluten free.  More on that later!

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.

Ale chutney 1 2014

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!  🙂

Hot Italian Sausage with Apples and Sage

It’s been a fun week so far.  Last night a few of the ladies from our PTA decided we needed a girl’s night out.  It was a lot of fun and we stayed out past 10 on a week night!  LOL.  Today our school put on a volunteer tea for those of us that have been volunteering with the PTA and other school activities.  It was lovely with iced tea and baked goods.  A treat in the middle of the week and I got to see the kids on an off kid week.  Bonus!  Now if the pending thunderstorms hold off until we get the dogs walked, well, we’ll just be riding high.

At our farmer’s market I bought some ground hot Italian sausage and I wanted to do some meatballs.  I saw an idea for using apples and sage.  Once again though the pin was considered spam and didn’t give me a recipe.  That’s ok though, I was able to come up with something.  🙂

I made our homemade pasta first so it was ready to go.

I was pleased to see our sage was doing well again this year so I had some fresh sage at hand.  The plants only last about three years or so.

Apple Sage Sausages 1 2014

Peel and chop about 1/2 a cup of apple.  Give the rest to the optimistic dogs at your feet.  I swear the mantra is “drop it, drop it, drop it”.   In a small bowl mix about a pound of the sausage, the apple, chopped sage, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Form the sausage into balls and heat up olive oil in a skillet.  Brown both sides.

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Bake the meatballs at 375F/190C until cooked.  In the meantime prepare the sauce.  Chop up some onion and a couple cloves of garlic and saute in the pan that browned the meatballs.  Slice up mushrooms and add to the mixture and saute for a few minutes.

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Add a cup of reisling and a cup of chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Reduce about a third.

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Add about 3/4 cup of milk or cream to the dish.  Bring to a low simmer but do not boil.  Add the meatballs and the cooked pasta.

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Grate fresh parmesan cheese over the dish and serve.  I do like the pairing of sage and apple and it went well with the spice of the sausage.

Picnic Perfect Chicken Salad

Sunday we had a wonderful crazy day of celebrating 5 family birthdays with a family get together at the lake.  The only thing wrong with the day was that my husband is travelling for a couple of weeks so he couldn’t be with us.  The kids had fun swimming.  I thought they were nuts given how cold the water was!  But hey, they had a blast so who am I to argue.  It took them a long time to actually get in though.

We planned a potluck and I wanted a light dish without mayo as it was going to be warm.  I came across an idea to use slices of apple instead of using crackers with chicken salad.  The chicken salad they had was mayo based so I used my own but I loved the serving idea of fruit.

I marinated chicken breast in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper then grilled the chicken.

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Let the chicken completely cool.  Chop up the chicken into small pieces and toss with olive oil and lemon juice.

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Finely chop a shallot and add a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.

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I got all excited when I saw the co-op was selling individual celery stalks.  I only need two so it was perfect!  Thinly slice the celery and mix in with the chicken and then season with salt and pepper.  I made this the day before which allowed the flavours to meld together.  Slice the apples and top with the salad and then add a nut of your choice.

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Easy, delicious, and fun!  And perfect for a picnic.  🙂

 

Cranberry Apple Sauce

A week has passed since our large Thanksgiving dinner and we’re slowly finding space again in our fridge.  I think our puzzle skills have greatly improved this week fitting everything in.  There has been a large dent made in the turkey with dishes created to used up the leftovers.  There was the basic repeat Thanksgiving dinner but you can’t do that all week long so there has to be some creativity.  I made my chili and just added turkey.  I did add the roast potatoes and parsnips to that but that inched the dish closer to the weird side.  But hey it cleared some valuable real estate.  Last night I did a dish with leeks and tonight I think I’ll do up a curry dish.  And don’t forget the sandwiches!  It’s tradition to make turkey sandwiches.  I made mine with homemade rosemary bread, melted cheese and the leftover cranberry apple sauce.  So good I was a bit sorry the sauce ran out.

I found a tip about cranberries from Jovina Cooks Italian which was to use some baking soda to dial down the tartness of cranberries so you use less sugar.  Which in my family is perfect.

I made this cranberry sauce last year and wouldn’t you know it I forgot the orange juice again!  On to plan B.  Apples were one of the ingredients tying the whole meal together to I decided to use a bit of apple cider for this sauce.

Again about 1 1/2 – 2 cups of cranberrys whole into a small sauce pan.

Cranberry apple sauce 1 2013

Add about 1/2 cup of apple cider and bring to a boil then let it simmer for about 10 minutes.   Jovina recommended 1/4tsp of baking soda but I tried 1/8 tsp first as I wasn’t making much and that worked well for this recipe.  It will get all fizzy and bubbly.

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I added about 1/4 cup of sugar, which is such a small amount for cranberries, and stirred well.  Cook until it thickens a bit and then let cool.

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It still had the cranberry flavour but the tartness wasn’t the strong note of this dish.  It was much more mellow without being overly sweet.