Sunday, 31 August 2008

An August Daring Baker's Challenge

Do you know what day this is? Not only is it the 31st of August and a Sunday, but it is also the day I get to reveal to you, my darling readers, the Daring Baker's Challenge for this past month and how I did with it!

Yes, not only am I a Dorieite, but I'm also a Daring Baker . . . a member of that wonderful group of bakers that rise to a SINGULAR baking challenge each month and when I say challenge I truly mean challenge for it has presented me with some of my greatest baking challenges ever. With the Daring Bakers I have been able to face many of my baking fears and conquer some of them if not all.

I'm afraid due to work commitments, weddings and vacations I have been a very bad Daring Baker for the past several months, but I'm happy to say that I am back this month having conquered one of my all time fears, and successfully too, I might add! Yes, the dreaded Choux Pastry! Our challenge this month was chosen by MeetK and Tony Tahhan , who chose a lovely recipe Pierre Hermé from a cookbook written by Dorie Greenspan: Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé . I have long wanted this cookbook, but sadly have never been able to procure a copy. Never mind, I have finally been able to bake something from it and SUCCESSFULLY! (Did I happen to mention that I conquered choux pastry!)

As some of you may know, Choux pastry is an enemy to me. Something that I have struggled with from the time I was a tentative teen up until just recently when I tried to make a Choux pastry ring for my other baking group. I was not looking forward to this challenge and, indeed, if I hadn't already missed three (count them one, two, three) Daring Baker's Challenges, I would have chosen to skip this one as well. But since I love the group and I had no desire to be booted out I rose to the challenge and am I glad I did, because I finally managed to make some Choux pastry SUCCESSFULLY! (you better get used to that word!)

I have to say that the recipe was a very good one and quite easy to follow, but then that's no surprise considering that Dorie wrote it, and as you know I am a fan of hers. Anyways, I followed it step by step meticulously as I didn't want yet another choux pastry failure under my belt. I'm happy to say that I did it! YES!! I did manage to make some eclair shapes SUCCESSFULLY!

This eclair recipe had three elements to it. First there was the choux pastry of course (SUCCESS) and then there was a chocolate pastry cream and a chocolate glaze. However we were given a bit of leeway in order to enable us to show some creativity with the recipe:

1. The dough used for the eclairs must be a pâte à choux from the given recipe.
2. Keep one chocolate element in the challenge. The recipe below is for a chocolate glaze and a chocolate pastry cream. You choose which chocolate element you want to keep. Then feel free to mix and match flavors to the base recipe.
3. Everything else is fair game. Enjoy!

I chose to keep the chocolate glaze and decided that I would turn them into profiterole eclairs and use an ice cream filling instead of the chocolate pastry cream. I hope that this was ok and within the standards of the challenge, but let me tell you I was just so darned happy that I had managed the pastry that I couldn't think straight! (Not to mention time and me running out of it being a large factor!)

I had some delicious raspberry ripple ice cream leftover from one of my Dorie Challenges that I needed to use up so that was my filling of choice.

My chocolate glaze ended up being very shiny and I don't think it photographed very well for me, but that could be because I was not patient in waiting for it to set up.

The fabulous thing was that the making of these delicious delights coincided with the visit of my Visiting Teachers for the month so I was able to treat them, which they were quite happy with! Usually they feed my spirit and it was so nice for me to get to feed them for a change!

All in all I would have to say that I was quite happy with my results for this challenge, even if I did cop out and not make the pastry cream. I have always wanted to have a profiterole and never have so it was a first for me, and to have one that I baked myself and that was the size of an eclair . . . well . . . that was the icing on the cake for me! Oh, I do love a challenge and I do love belonging to this group. It enables me to stretch myself, and tread in places only Daring Bakers dare to tread!

Hop on over to the Blog Roll and see all the other delicious creations for the month! I am sure MeetaK will have the recipe posted on What's For Lunch Honey at some point today, but if not you can access it HERE !

Saturday, 30 August 2008

A Hair Raising Tale . . . and a Rice Pudding Reward

My goodness what a time we had here last night at Oak Cottage!!! I think Todd thought I was imagining things here yesterday when I told him there was a bat flying around the kitchen yesterday morning. In fact I almost had laryngitis all day yesterday and a hoarse voice because of all the squealing I had done yesterday morning, all to no avail I might add, because it certainly hadn't awakened Todd to come to my rescue. He may have done had he heard me, but our bedroom is upstairs on the exact opposite side of the house and well, to be honest . . . his hearing ain't what it used to be!!! (there, I said it!)

He spent most of yesterday looking for it, to no avail. Upstairs, downstairs and everywhere in between. I told him they were very ingenuous and that my mother had once gone to pick a dead leaf off of one of her plants only for it to end up being a bat and scaring the daylights out of her. (I think she ended up smucking that one with a fly swatter . . . and probably screamed herself hoarse the whole time!! ) Anyways, I think he thunk I was making up porkie pies or something and had just got done telling me so last evening, when the unthinkable happened. We were sitting there after I got home from work, just getting ready to watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie (the one where Mary goes blind, no less . . . *sniff *sniff) when I happened to look up the stairs and I saw it again . . . yes . . . the bat! Because we have an open staircase it's very easy to see up stairs, and I could definitely see the tell tale swooping black shadow of this creature swooping around at the top of the stairs, quite near to the floor.

Now, bats over here are a protected species. There are no less than 17 species here in the UK and you are not allowed to harm them as their numbers have been decreasing rapidly and they are protected by law. Apparently this is Bat weekend here in the UK, so this incident was very timely to say the least! Yes, thousands of people throughout the UK shall be celebrating this very auspicious event this very weekend and enjoying a variety of special event throughout this celebratory weekend!

Dozens of bat walks and talks have been arranged by local Bat Groups, Wildlife Trusts, countryside rangers and other organisations up and down the country to bring people a little closer to bats and to celebrate the contribution bats make to biodiversity in the UK.

"Bat walks offer people a truly magical way of seeing and hearing bats in their natural environment. The Bat Conservation Trust is happy to be able to share this experience with so many people." ~ Amy Coyte

Those taking part in the bat walks will be using devices called ‘bat detectors' which enable people to hear bats as they fly by. Bats use a sonar sense called echolocation to find their way around at night. With bat detectors, people can tune into the sounds they make and determine what species of bat are present.

Well, there was one present in Oak Cottage last night and much to Todd's distress we had to find it and dispose of it without harming the little dear. I think he still thought I was imagining it as we put the show on pause and he went upstairs. I told him to open all the windows and turn all the lights on because I mistakenly thought if we did the bat would be afraid of the lights and fly right out one of those windows. NOT!!

Todd was upstairs with a feather duster knocking all the picture frames and such to get it out of it's hiding place (all the while thinking it was his wife that was batty I am sure!) while I sat down here looking up on the Internet about how to get a bat out of your house and reading about how they can carry rabies and bite you in your sleep and getting more worried all the time. Then . . . I heard some rather high pitched squealing coming from up the stairs! (the bat, not Todd!) Yes!!! My fears had been vindicated! My imagination had not been playing tricks on me! He had found it.

Apparently it had flown all the way down to our bedroom and he had managed to chase it out of there (thank goodness! the mind boggles at what would have happened if he hadn't been able to chase it out of there!). He had cornered it in the small hallway outside out bedroom door and trapped it under the feather duster. He said it was only a tiny one, even though it had looked quite large as it was flying around. I went and got a towel and we managed to trap it in the towel and shake it out the window, where it flew off, hopefully never to be seen again! Whew!

I then, dashed around the upstairs shooing out all the moth's that had come in, having been attracted by the lights, and shutting all the windows durst another bat attempt to enter our home, which, while quite friendly and welcoming to humans, gerbils and little boys, is not a place that I want to encourage bats to roost!

We then settled in and watched the Little House program whilst eating bowls of rice pudding . . . me, happy and content to know that my fears and imaginations had been vindicated and Todd . . . just happy and content to be tucking into rice pudding, and feeling secure in his position as the hero of our home! Yes . . . he is my "super" man!

This rice pudding has long been a favourite of mine. It speaks of home and comfort and cosy evenings in. The recipe comes from an old hand written pink notebook that my ex mother in law gave me back when I was a young bride. Sometimes I think that old things are the best things of all.

*Creamy Rice Pudding*
Serves 4

This lovely pudding is easy to make and so very delicious. You can add the raisins if you like, which I sometimes do, or you can just opt to serve it warm and topped with a bit of fruit jam as I have done here.

1 ½ cups cooked rice
1 cup whole milk
2 slightly beaten eggs
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup heated whole milk
1 TBS butter
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup raisins (optional)
Grated nutmeg
Red fruit jam, such as cherry, raspberry or strawberry (Optional)

Place the cooked rice, 1 cup of milk, beaten eggs and the sugar in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Cook stirring until the mixture coats the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the heat immediately. Add the ½ cup of heated milk and the butter, vanilla and raisins if using. Let stand for 30 minutes. Spoon into bowls to serve. Grate some fresh nutmeg on top and serve with a spoon full of fruit jam on top if desired.

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Friday, 29 August 2008

The Power of Smell . . .

"Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived." ~Helen Keller

There is something really special about smells. They have the power to grasp your mind and instantly take you back to any memory in your experience . . . to make you feel really safe, or afraid, or comfortable or sad.

My mother's old wooden cooking spoon has absorbed the smell of many a year . . . and many a pot!! No matter how many times it has been washed and scrubbed, time's compelling odour abounds. The smell of garlic, onion and tomato paste permeates it and whispers golden memories of evenings shared with loved ones . . . now miles apart.

The smell of molasses cookies always takes me back to my grandmother's ample lap and the feeling of warmth and love as I cuddled there . . . the creak of her rocking chair as she held me close, and her soft voice singing "you are my sunshine" . . .

One time, when my own children were babies, I opened a bottle of gripe water and was instantly transported back to a time that was long hidden in the recesses of my mind. I can't describe the sensation, but I felt instantly comforted and safe . . .

Occasionally when I am in a chemists, I will encounter a smell that in my memory reminds me of being a teenage girl and getting ready for Saturday night . . . washing my hair and rinsing it with this pink hair conditioner . . . Lady Patricia's I believe it was called . . . it's a smell that makes me feel 16 again and full of excitement and anticipation . . . and very nostalgic.

The smell of Ma Griffe perfume always takes me back to my mother's bosom and the memory of watching her as she got gussied up to go out for a night on the tiles with my dad. She always looked so pretty and my dad looked so handsome and I knew we children would have to be extra quiet the next morning as they recovered in bed . . .

The top dresser drawer of the old white dresser in the spare room at my mom's still smells like a combination of leather, tobacco, cork grease and butterscotch wafers, or, in other words . . . my dad. He was a consummate clarinetist and used to keep a hidden stash of butterscotch wafers in that drawer along with his cork grease and wallet. He's not been there in that room for a very long time, but the smell lingers on and makes me think of my secret forays into his forbidden stash of buttery sweetness . . .

Holidays have certain smells . . . Hallowe-en smells like a combination of rotting leaves, frost and burnt pumpkin . . . Christmas, it is the smell of pine mixed with ginger, cinnamon and log fires . . . Thanksgiving smells like roasting turkeys and the spice of pumpkin pies . . . Easter smells like chocolate, lilies, and ham and eggs . . . as for your birthday, well . . . that smells like excitement, cake and melting wax candles!!!

Evening in Paris, burning leaves, a freshly sharpened pencil, a wood fire, musty moth balls, dusty attics . . . these smells and others all hold the keys to magical moments in time, known only to me. Little treasures and gems hidden in my mind just waiting for me to take them out and hold them in my hands again, if only for a moment . . .

I must offer my heartfelt thanks for all your lovely comments yesterday and your encouragement, and e-mails. They all meant the world to me and brought a little pitty pat to my heart . . . speaking of which I am pretty certain now that my heart's in quite good condition for just when I sat down to write this morning the tell tale black shadow and silent swoop of a bat's wings brushed over my head and let me tell you this ample figure hasn't moved so quickly in a long time. My heart raced, as I crawled across the kitchen floor to turn on all the lights and I am now sitting in bright daylight as every single light is on here downstairs, and they're going to stay that way until we find the offending creature . . . I confess . . . there may have been a bit of squealing involved as well . . . poor Jess did not know what was going on . . .

Speaking of making your heart go pitty pat . . . here's some lovely squares that also do it to my heart . . . not to mention making my taste bud's tingle!

*Chocolate Tiffin Squares*
Makes 15 to 24 pieces, depending on how greedy you are. :-)

4 oz butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons drinking chocolate
5 ounces good quality milk chocolate (I like Green and Black's organic)
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 tablespoons sultana raisins
1 TBS glace cherries, halved
8oz Rich Tea or shortcake biscuits

Line a 7 X 11 inch shallow Swiss Roll tin with some parchment paper, lightly grease the paper, and set the pan aside.

Melt the butter and sugar with the syrup in a large pan over medium heat. Add the sultanas, cherries and the drinking chocolate. Bring to the boil. Allow to bubble gently, over low heat, for two to three minutes to thicken the mixture up a little. Stir in the milk chocolate and let it melt, mixing it in thoroughly.

Meanwhile,crush the biscuits with a rolling pin. Alternatively, you can grind them in a food processor to give crumbs, depending on whether you prefer a smooth or chunky effect. I like a mixture of both. Try not to leave the crumbs too large though or the cake won't hold together very well.

Mix the crumbs well into the chocolate mixture, coating them thoroughly. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and level it out, pushing down the mixture well. Leave to set in a cool place. Once solid, lift out the parchment paper and cut into 14 to 24 pieces with a sharp knife.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

The Ten Commandments of the Modern Woman . . .

My ex mother in law always kept scrapbooks. She probably had about half a dozen of them the last time I was at her place, all filled and finished, and, as always, one in progress. They were always really fascinating to look through and read. In them would be interesting newspaper articles that she may have clipped from out of the local paper, small souvenirs from evenings out she had had or perhaps even special trips she had gone on, all complete with captions and her own special thoughts written down along side. Through the years, all of us, her four children and various daughter's and son's in law had clipped out things we might have thought she would be interested in reading and sent them along to her, and they would be in there as well. I always enjoyed going through them and had always planned on starting one myself. They were like a running history of the times of her life . . .

One time she had the following clipped out and pasted inside and I remember copying it out onto a piece of paper. I found this yesterday when I was going through my Big Blue Binder and decided it was too good not to share. It is from a Church Girl's paper and dated the year 1927, and there is no author attributed to it.

The Ten Commandments of the Modern Woman

1. To be as true and clear as a drop of dew.
2. To be as strong as a thread of silk, which may be stretched, but will not break.
3. To be as upright as a palm tree in the fields.
4. To be as simple as the lark, which only has one song.
5. To have an ideal which will be a shield.
6. To be as active and hard working as the bee.
7. To be as generous as a ray of sunshine.
8. To accept life with serenity and joy.
9. To rise above the bitterness of unhappy hours.
10. Not to fear sorrow.

These may have had a lot of meaning to a young girl growing up into womanhood in the 1920's, and after reading them through, I think they have just as much relevance for today. The things of the world, well . . . they change from day to day and vary from one year to the next . . . but truth that speaks to the heart . . . that never changes and stays true forever more.

I reckon if I get a chance I will try to bake both versions of those Friands. A Friand, for those of you who asked, is a small light oval shaped cake, delicate and sweet and quite lovely. There is a special pan that you bake them in, but I reckon a muffin tin works just as well. A change of shape can't possibly alter the flavour much!

Many thanks to you all for your love and support yesterday. I had gotten quite a negative comment earlier this week, which I deleted of course. This person had also flagged my blog as being objectionable. It really took me aback a bit, as it came from out of the blue. Todd said not to let it bother me overmuch. In the past three years I have been blogging, (including on here and on my former journal) my format has always been the same, a bit of food for the soul and for the tummy. Out of the hundreds of thousands of hits I have gotten, to only have ever gotten one negative comment, I was doing really well. I know that I don't cater to everyone's tastes, but I like to think there is a little something here for most people. If you are not inclined to be spiritual, you can always scroll down and find a tasty recipe to try. Perhaps you just like looking at lovely pictures, and there are certainly a few of them, and if you do like inspired writings, well there's plenty of that as well. If you like nice music, I have some of that to listen to, and if you don't like it, well, you can turn it off. I suppose that old idiom is true . . . "You can please all of the people some of the time, and you can please some of the people all of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time!"

I love this delicious version of hot dog. I believe it's German in origin, and almost certainly European. In any case it's mighty tasty!

*Hot and Crusty Franks*
Makes 6

These make a great lunch or even a lovel light supper with some salad and oven chips on the side. You can make them as spicy or as mild as you like by varying the amount of curry paste. Myself, I like them with a little bit of a bite! These are not only quite tasty, but also very quick and easy to make!

6 large slices of white bread, quite thin, with the crusts removed
honey mustard
1/4 cup of tomato ketchup
2 tsp curry paste (as hot or as mild as you wish)
6 frankfurters
6 tsp of sweet pickle relish
2 ounces of melted butter

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Mix the tomato ketchup and the curry paste together in a small bowl and set aside.

Take your sliced of bread and flatten them with a rolling pin so that they are more pliable and easy to roll up. Spread each flattened slice with the following: A bit of honey mustard, some of the curry ketchup, 1 tsp of the sweet pickle relish. Lay a frankfurter on one edge of each and roll it up in the bread quite firmly. Secure the edges with toothpicks to help keep them shut.

Place them on a shallow baking tray and brush each one all over with the melted butter. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown all over. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 or 10 minutes before serving. You don't want to serve them really hot as the sauces inside can burn the mouth quite easily when they are hot. Warm is just nice, and a lot safer!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

A Moment In Time . . .

"He climbed onto the seat and positioned his feet on the pedals, his hands on the handle bars.
"Don't let go," he ordered.
"I'll be right next to you," I assured him. "I won't let you fall . . . "
I thought of the days ahead . . . of times when I would show my son balance, when I would run along side him, when I would be there to hold him, and when I would have to let go again . . and again."
~Matthew Norquist

Back in 1999, I gave my children a gift I had never wanted to give them . . . the gift of a broken home. Your father and I will never get divorced . . . I can't remember the number of times I had said those words to them through the years, and believed them myself, and there I went and then, for whatever reasons . . . we did. Since that time I have not been allowed to be a mother, not really, except from afar. These babies that I had held in my arms and my heart for every day of their lives, were scooped away . . . there would be no more Christmas's spent together, no more birthday celebrations with cakes and candles and hugs . . . no more of those special moments that make memories and lives as wonderful as they are. It all changed and would never be the same again . . .

Life is like that.

It can change in a moment . . . in an instant . . . and never be the same again . . .

On Monday my youngest son was in a car accident, through no real fault of his own. His car was hit and driven through an intersection and turned around by 180 degrees, written off. Thanks be to God that he walked away without a scratch . . . except for some whiplash. This story could have had such a different ending, and I am ever mindful that it didn't, and I am so very grateful that we still have him with us.

Take time to hug a loved one today. Hold them closer, hug them a little tighter, and tell them that you love them. Let them know how special they are to you. Whether they be close in distance, or they be far away, say the words you need to say and let them know you care, that they are important, that they are in your hearts. Mend those fences . . . build those bridges . . . climb those mountains. Don't let another moment pass . . . don't let pride, or fear, or anything else that may be blocking your path stand in the way. I have a daughter that hasn't spoken to me in several years . . . it's time I worked that out, and made that better . . . in whatever way I can.

Your life can change in an instant, and then it may be too late . . .

We have a tie with the Make Me Bake Challenge this week . . . it's a toss up between Lemon Cranberry Friands, or Coconut Pineapple! Tell me in your comments which one you would prefer and then I'll bake whichever one you decide on! They're both delicious so it doesn't really matter. I'll put a new poll up later today.

Here's a lovely way to use up some of those tasty leftovers from your Sunday lunch.

*Bubble and Squeak Fritters*
Serves 6

With there only being the two of us I invariably have vegetables leftover from our Sunday lunches. It's the same story when we have the missionaries over for their tea. I always cook enough to feed an army. This is a tasty way to make sure none of those leftovers go to waste!

1/2 cup leftover shredded and cooked savoy cabbage (I like to chop it up)
1 1/2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
4 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 large egg, beaten
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a bit of cooking oil

Mix together the cabbage, potatoes, cheese, Dijon mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste, then taste it and see if you need any more. Adjust as needed. Beat in the egg.

Scoop out handfuls of the mixture and shape into flat patties, then coat them completely in flour, shaking off any excess.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add some oil and when it is hot add the potato patties and brown them for 3 to 4 minutes on one side before flipping them over to brown on the other side, another 3 to 4 minutes.

Serve hot!

*Note - you can add a couple of chopped spring onions if you like, which is a very tasty addition.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Chocolate . . . Ice Cream . . . Raspberries . . . Bliss . . .

"Failures are a normal part of life. They are not disasters."
~author unknown

Welcome to Tuesdays With Dorie, the August 26, 2008 edition, the one day a week I get to play with a wonderful Dorie Greenspan recipe along with a bazillion other baking kooks the world over. Yes folks, this is the one day a week all us baking nutters bake the same recipe, from her gorgeous book, "Baking, from my home to yours," and then post our successes and failures on the world wide web for all to see and enjoy! Quite obviously there are a heck of a lot more successes than failures and any failures are usually down to the engineer of the project, not the book.

You may be wondering why I am speaking about failure here. I am wondering the same thing. What you see before you is my interpretation of this weeks recipe . . . Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte on pages 288-289, as chosen by , Amy of Food, Family and Fun . What a lovely choice Amy, and a project that I really enjoyed, but that didn't actually turn out the way I had envisioned from the onset.

I wanted to do something a little bit different and more exciting to look at than just a plain torte in an ordinary spring form pan. I had this picture in my mind of lovely little oval shaped tortes with a raspberry ripple ice cream and delicious bands of chocolate running through the middle . . . all sitting in a pool of raspberry coulis with some lovely frozen raspberries on the side.

The only oval shaped receptacle I could find was my friand pan, but no worries, I would just line it with plastic cling film and then the finished babies would pop right out . . . easy peasy, lemon squeasy! Right???

I looked high and low for frozen raspberries in syrup here, but could only find frozen raspberries, period . . . end of . . . no syrup. So I had to make my own syrup and raspberries, which were then not frozen, but more like a coulis, which is what I wanted in the end anyways to sit the little tortes on. I swirled some of the coulis into the vanilla ice cream and got the exact effect that I wanted which was a lovely rippled ice cream. Oh, how pretty that was going to look!!!

The little friand pan was very easy to line and get ready. Nothing too hard or difficult about that. I used a separate piece of cling film for each one.

There was some concern voiced about the use of raw eggs in the chocolate ganache, but I decided if I used the freshest eggs possible that should be a problem. The ganache was lovely and thick and glossy when I was finished and began to fill the pans. Only one problem now and that was that I could see that there was not going to be any room for a band of chocolate through the middle. Oh well . . . we would just have to live without a band in the middle for I was a woman on a mission now and I am so stubborn that having envisioned little oval tortes there was no way I was going back to a round one!!!

I decided they just would NOT have a band in the middle. Into the freezer the pan went with the first layer of chocolate ganache and I popped up to the shower. I am not the most patient person in the world and if I had not busied myself with doing something else, I would have been peeking in the freezer every five minutes to see if they had set up yet. (I know, me bad)

Once I had finished my morning ablutions I came down and took my ice cream out of the freezer to soften for a bit before I continued. Once I checked the friand pan and saw that the chocolate ganache was indeed solid I went on and topped it with a couple of lovely spoonfuls of my ice cream and then a final layer of the ganache went on top. Back into the freezer it went.

Tick Tock, Tick Tock . . . Tick Tock. I passed the hours by doing a bit of this and a bit of that, but mostly editing my cookbook. (That takes a lot of time you know! I hadn't realized how much before. I have to make sure that all the recipes start and end in proper places so that it flows easily and that the pictures are in the right places, that all the font matches, any spelling mistakes are corrected, etc. I am about halfway done!) I did a few sketches for my chapter pages, just some doodles and Tick Tock, Tick Tock . . . Tick Tock . . . finally the time came that I could have a peek at my finished labours!

You know that idea of plastic cling film making it easier for them to pop out???? WRONG! They did not easily pop out. I had to place the pan in some hot water to loosen them and then they came out, but then the bottom layer of ganache was starting to melt, so back into the freezer they went for it to solidify again . . .

Then . . . once they were sufficiently hardened, I couldn't get the plastic cling film off!!! It came off in little bits, not like a full sheet as I had envisioned beforehand. Never mind . . . in the end it did come off. I couldn't find my squirt bottle to put the coulis onto the plate decoratively . . . *grumble *grumble . . . and so I ended up having to use a spoon and it ended up less than perfect, again not what I had envisioned . . . and horror of all horrors . . . my lovely little oval shaped tortes were full of wrinkles from the plastic cling film . . . grrrrrr . . .

Not only that . . . but you couldn't really see the raspberry ripples in the ice cream, oh . . . woe . . . is . . . me!

Oh well, rant over, I ran my finger tips over the top of the torte for a few minutes to smooth out the top wrinkles anyways and I popped it onto the coulis, downside up (because the topside looked like crap to be blunt! haha) and I spooned a few extra raspberries on the side and then I snapped the pictures you see here, which didn't turn out all that badly, but not exactly what I had wanted either, but what the hey . . . they tasted delicious anyways and went down a treat!

"If your life is free of failures, you're not taking enough risks!"
~author unknown

Next time I make it, I'll do it Dorie's way, and it will probably be a lot more esthetically pleasing, but in the meantime, it was a delicious little mouthful and we did smack our lips in pleasure! It wasn't such a failure after all, even if it wasn't how I had envisioned it to be from the start . . .

If you'd like the recipe hop on over to Amy's page now, (my goodness but hers turned out to be a beauty! Well done Amy!), and be sure to check out the blog roll to see some of the other tasty entries for today. I am sure there are some more really lovely ones, much nicer than mine!

Next week's recipe is going to be Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters on page 73, as chosen by Stefany of Proceed with Caution ! Ohhh Y-U-M-M-O!!!
Me and Peanut Butter = Best Friends!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Best Shot Monday

I love Sweet Peas. They are my absolute favouritest of all flowers. They smell heavenly and look like lovely little ladies purses to me. They are one of the best things about summer. Every year we plant them just under one of the windows in our kitchen. That way when they really get going in late summer I can just look over at my window and see their pretty little blooms dancing in the breeze, and when we open the windows of a warm summer evening, the scent wafts in and gifts us with it's presence. They're just so lovely . . . simple blooms, for a simple girl. If I had to pick a wedding bouquet now that I'm older, it would be sweet peas . . .

This is my entry in this weeks, Best Shot Monday. Now hop on over to Mother May I and see some of the other wonderful entries for this week!

A Simple Woman's Day book . . .

FOR TODAY August 25th, s008 . . .

Outside My Window . . .

It's still very dark, the sun is just beginning to raise it's head above the horizon, or at least the light is. I still can't tell if it will be sunny or not. The weather machine, which sits on our kitchen window sill has a great big sun on it, so . . . maybe we'll get lucky!

I am thinking . . .
About the wonderful conversation I had with my mom yesterday afternoon. It's hard to believe she is 76 now. Her voice is still so lively and vibrant on the telephone, but I know if I were to see her today, I'd notice that she seemed much older and more frail than she did the last time I saw her. That's the way it was the last time I was home to Nova Scotia, which was two summers ago . . . it suddenly hit me how tiny she was and she looked so much older . . . she hasn't been very well this year. She caught the shingles, for the second time, and it has really affected her. She had it on her head and in one eye and down one side of her face this time and is still suffering with it. It sure takes a long time to go away! I try to call her every second week and my, oh my, we talk for ages and it's hard to hang up at the end of it, as I could just talk to her for hours, it's so much fun. I wish I could call her every day . . .

I am thankful for . . .
A husband who loves the Lord as much as I do, and who loves me as much as I love him. I never had that for so many years. It's hard to share your life with someone who doesn't understand your faith. I guess that's what the scriptures mean when they tell you not to be un-evenly yolked with someone. Your faith and spiritual leanings are such a large and important part of who you are, well at least they are for me . . . and to not be able to share that part of you with the one you love . . . lets just say, a huge chunk of who you can be together is missing. I'm just so thankful now that Todd and I share this major part of who we are and what's so important in each of our lives with each other. It's pretty special and wonderful.

All my life all I ever wanted to feel was to feel loved . . . I never, ever felt like my ex husband loved me. I know Todd loves me and I feel it every day. It's an incredible feeling.

From the kitchen . . .

I have apple pie muffins sitting in a tin on my counter. I made Texas muffins this time and also a small loaf. It's nice to do that sometimes, make a small loaf with your muffin mixture . . . something tasty to put in the freezer and then bring out one day when a friend drops by that we can enjoy with a hot cup of cocoa and great company!

I am wearing . . .
I'm splashing out this time and I'm actually wearing a nightie instead of my pajamas!! It's white cotton and has lovely little pleats all across the front and a band of pretty embroidery, and I feel like a woman . . . all dainty and pretty in it . . . oh, I know the mirror tells a different tale . . . but that's not what counts, is it? It's how you feel inside, and when I wear this nightie . . . I feel pretty.

I am creating . . .
I'm still finishing that cookbook. I didn't get quite as much done on it last week as I had wanted to. My talk kind of got in the way, as well as the lesson I had to teach the young women on Sunday, which was on changing your heart. I am thinking now I should do some little sketches for the chapter dividers as well as including some of my tastier recipe photos . . . and I am thinking of doing a daily inspirational book as well . . . but I must reign myself in . . . one project at a time, or I'll never finish any of them.

I am going . . .
If it's nice and sunny today I might drag Todd down to Scotney Castle. It's not that far away and it's so pretty and peaceful there. We have been several times and we really should try to get some more this year out of our National Trust membership than we did last year . . .

I am reading . . .
I'm still working on "Breaking Dawn" by Stephanie Meyers. I read every night when I go to bed, the problem is that I am so tired by the time I go to bed that after about 15 minutes, I end up reading the same line over and over again!! It's a very thick book, but so very good, just like the other three books in the series were, or at least how they were to me at any rate! Who'd a thunk I'd ever be so interested in reading a book series about Vampires and Werewolves!!!

I am hoping . . .
To get some e-mails answered today. It's a bank holiday and I don't have to go to work until tonight, and may not even have to go then, so I really have no excuse today not to get it done! I think when I get to the other side one day (And I must say here, I'm in NO particular hurry to get there!) I am going to let them know that they should have put more hours in each day . . . as there just never seems to be enough!

I am hearing . . .

The quiet hum of the refrigerator and Jess's soft sighs as she lays next to my feet, and missing the sound of crickets and frogs that I used to ear in the dawn and dusk back home. I wonder why there are no crickets here, or at least not that I can hear . . . that's such a comforting sound, the sound of crickets . . . never mind, Jess is a comforting sound too. We watched a new telly show last night called "Martin Clunes: A Man and His Dogs." Martin Clunes is exploring the ancient history of dogs and it was ever so interesting. The conclusion is next week and I can't wait! (Something else Todd and I love together . . . documentaries, especially on nature and animals!)

Around the house . . .
Are all the things I love and that mean the most to me . . . photos of my much loved children and grandsons sit in frames here and there, and remind me that although we may be miles and miles apart in body, we are never more than a heart beat apart in thought . . . small mementos and nic naks remind me of all the special experiences and friendships I am so blessed to have enjoyed and to still enjoy . . . the pictures of the Saviour which are in every room, remind me of who I am and how much I am loved, and of my eternal goals . . . Todd's jumper, folded neatly and laying on the back of his chair reminds me again of how blessed I am and how very sweet life can be . . .

One of my favorite things . . .
Is sitting here each morning and putting my thoughts down. As I do it I think of each one of you and how much each one of you touches me in a special way, and how this blogging has added such a wonderful dimension to my day and my life. Todd often asks me why on earth I get up at five o'clock every morning , and I can't answer, and then . . . I get another e-mail from one of you and I say . . . that's why . . . I'm touching people's lives and they are touching mine back, and it's a pretty special and awesome thing . . .

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week . . .
Ohhh . . . I haven't gotten that far yet! I do have a Birthday Party to plan for Todd which I am having on the 6th of September. It's hard to believe he will be 70! That's truly a milestone. His birthday is on the 7th, which is also the anniversary of the day we actually met in person! It's funny how that worked out. When I got my plane ticket to come over here, that's the day the plane was landing! I hadn't planned it or meant for it to happen that way . . . it just did. All the more proof that it was meant to be! He says I'm the best Birthday Pressie he ever got!

Here is picture thought I am sharing . . .
How can you not love this face . . . we have a birdbath in the back garden and Jess is always drinking the water out of it, even though we tell her not to. (she snuffles up the crumbs we put out for the birds too if we don't see her and stop her!) She was keeping me company in our garden last evening and I caught her doing it again, and had just told her it was naughty . . .

Don't forget to click on the Simple Woman's Day Book to go and see all the other lovely entries for today!

What lovely smells we had in the kitchen late yesterday afternoon. In fact when I was out in the garden with Jess I could still smell them as they were clinging to my clothes and in my hair . . . the lovely smells of brown sugar and cinnamon . . . and nutmeg. Yes!!! I finally got around to making last week's Make Me Bake poll challenge. (Check out the side column to vote on this week's challenge . . . you still have one more day left to vote!) Todd sat there munching on one of these delicious muffins lat evening in front of the telly. Mmm . . . he said, this is one of the best muffins I've eaten here in a while . . . and he was right! Another delicious recipe from my Big Blue Binder . . .

*Apple Pie Muffins*
Make 18 medium muffins, or 6 Texas size and a small loaf

These muffins are moist and fragrant and full of lovely little chunks of apple. The cinnamon streusal on top actually sinks a bit into the muffins when they are baking and makes a lovely gooey centre and crunchy topping. I always like to pop a walnut half on top of each before they go into the oven for that extra special Marie touch.

1/2 cup firmly packed soft light brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups firmly packed soft light brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups diced peeled apple (I like to use Granny Smith. They hold up and keep their shape and are nicely tart against the sweetness of the muffin)
18 walnut halves

First make the streusel. Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl together until nice and crumbly. Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Lightly spray your muffin tins with some non-stick vegetable oil spray or butter them well. (Or line them with muffin papers.) Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, soda, salt and spices in a large bowl.

In another bowl whisk together the brown sugar, oil, egg and vanilla until smooth.

Stir the oil mixture into the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, until all are combined, without over mixing. Stir in the apple chunks. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them no more than 3/4 full. Sprinkle the streusal evenly over all and press a walnut half down on top of each.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and the top springs back when lightly touched. These smell heavenly when they are baking and are awfully hard to resist!

Sunday, 24 August 2008

A Peek inside My Fridge

Good morning everyone. It sounds like a beautiful day out there this morning. The birds are singing happily away, even though it's a little bit dark out still. My goodness, but the days seem to be drawing in now, and getting shorter, and it seems to be happening very quickly! It feelslike just a few days ago it was still light outside when Todd and I were going to bed, but now, it's dark . . . and it's dark now when I get up as well . . . soon we will start noticing that the leaves are changing colour I am sure.

You have probably wondered why I have a picture of two children peeking into a refrigerator at the top of my post this morning???? I thought I'd do something quite different today and give you all a peek into . . . my refrigerator! Not only will it be fun, but it's a darn good excuse to clean out the fridge!

One of the first things I wanted after I moved over here, was a decent sized refrigerator. The one Todd had was very small, about the size of a bar fridge, and a good portion of that was the freezing compartment. For a person who loves to cook as much as I do, it really wasn't adequate enough. I longed to have something that held at least half of the ingredients that I wanted to use, if not all! It took me about six months, but I did finally convince him that we really needed one, and we went to Iceland (which is a shop over here that sells frozen goods etc.) and bought a lovely Bosch Refrigerator/Freezer, with the freezer on the bottom, which is something I had always wanted. Oh what a difference!

Todd said, "You'll never fill it, it's so large!"

I said, "Watch me!" and then I filled it.

I won't bother to show you the freezing compartment. It is only three deep drawers behind a door on the bottom, and it is filled with a variety of meats, fish and leftovers, ice cream, vegetables and of course frozen oven chips . . . McCains Rustic ones, that are chunky and less than 5% fat and still have the skins on! They are the closest thing to homemade oven chips that you can buy, and let's face it, sometimes you just don't have the time or inclination to do it from scratch! (let's be honest here!)

This is the inside of the door. It's nice and large and holds quite a bit. I have maple syrup (you can't be a Canadian and not have that!) and salad cream, mayonnaises, shortening, cream cheese, Sweet chili sauce (A MUST!), tomato paste (two kinds . . . regular and sun-dried with garlic and herbs) . . . juice, butter (soft and regular) grainy Dijon mustard, Hoisin Sauce (another must) and a delicious bar of Green and Black's Organic Milk Chocolate for . . . I am a woman after all . . .

Shame of all shame, I see a can of squirty cream . . . I can't think of what that's for . . . probably a leftover from Christmas and it's about time I got rid of it! (being honest here!)

Now in the fridge proper, you see two lovely vegetable bins on the bottom, one of which is cracked, alas. I was pulling it out once and it was overfilled and I actually pulled a piece out of the plastic! (I was so annoyed with myself!) There's lots of salad stuff in there . . . a few different lettuces, cucumber, radish, spring onions . . . and some lovely un-waxed lemons. There's also a few fresh herbs like flat leaf parsley and coriander. I love, Love, LOVE using fresh herbs. There's just no comparison!

On the next shelf up, you will see a lovely variety of cheeses. I don't know how anyone can live without cheese. I always have several different kinds around . . . usually a cheddar or two, strong and mild, feta, a blue (stilton or Danish, or both!) a good emmental and of course Parmesan! (and not the pre-grated stuff either, a nice big block that I can grate myself, with my micro-plane grater of course!) There's some celery that didn't fit into the bottom and some fruit, which is good for you, and, shame of all shames, a packet of puff pastry. (I am blushing here.) Let's not forget the packet of fresh bread crumbs, invaluable for making stuffings of any kind . . .

Next shelf up, there are an assortment of olives . . . green and black, and those lovely little black Spanish salted and dried ones, that have so much flavour. I just adore them! They are just wonderful on pizza's! There's more butter (for baking of course) a jug of cheese sauce . . . or is it custard . . . some more veg that didn't fit in the bottom drawer, (broccoli, I think) and my prized can of A & W rootbeer, that I am saving for a rainy day and nobody better touch upon pain of death!! Rootbeer is not all that common over here and I have been saving it to make myself a rootbeer float when I can't stand to be without one any more, and yes . . . I will probably share it with Todd! . . . . maybe . . . . if he's really, really good.

Top shelf . . . mind your step as you alight . . . cream, buttermilk, pickle (Branston's, a must have in a ploughman's lunch), relish ( a much coveted jar of American sweet relish!) and in behind more of the same . . . sour cream, gherkins from France, capers . . .

There is also a compartment under that first inside shelf that I showed you, that contains meat. Right now it's some lovely fresh filet steak and diced shoulder of lamb that is destined for a stew pot soon. There's also some dry cured streaky smoked bacon, a few sandwich meats (turkey and Todd's favourite Corned Beef) and a nice smoked sausage, which I don't have any plans for yet, but was craving last time I was at the shops.

And there you have it, my fridge . . . well the big one at least. I also have a smaller bar sized one that is stogged full of milk and eggs and other essentials and a smaller bar sized freezer and yes . . . a medium sized chest freezer. Not to mention a larder full of a cooks essentials and potatoes, onions, shallots and squash . . . butternut, not the kind you drink, although there are drink mixes and water in there as well. I have three wheelie trollies, with several drawers in each, that contain in one, all my baking goodies (chocolate, flavourings, etc.) another, all of my nuts, dried fruits, etc. and the last one all my extra spice mixes etc that won't fit on my spice rack!

I guess one could say, I'm rather a serious cook!

Speaking of serious, I made the most awesome Guacamole yesterday!! I just love a good Guacamole. It's the that stuff dreams are made of . . .

*Marie's Guacamole*
Makes about 1 cup

You just can't beat a good quacamole. This recipe is a combination of my favorite versions all rolled up into one. It's so easy to make your own and wait til you see what I did with it after I made it . . .

3 ripe Haas Avocado's
1 to 2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and minced (it all depends on how much garlic you like)
1/2 a lime, cut in half again
1/2 of a small red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
salt to taste
chopped fresh coriander to taste (cilantro)
1 small green chili, seeded and finely diced (optional but gives it a nice bite)

Cut the Avocado's in half. Remove the pit and then using a spoon remove the flesh and put it into a mixing bowl. Add the minced garlic and the juice of one piece of the lime. Mash it all together to your desired consistency, using the back of a spoon. I prefer mine to be a bit chunky.

Stir in the diced tomato and onion, a good pinch of salt and the juice from the remaining piece of lime. Stir in the coriander and chili, if using. Taste and adjust as needed.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 to 45 minutes before using, in order to allow the flavours to meld.

This is great on tacos, enchiladas, burritos and of course with lovely homemade Tortilla chips! Or, you can do what I did and use it in a delicious Turkey Club sandwich bun . . . no recipe, just plenty of sliced turkey, crispy fried bacon, some lettuce and sliced tomato . . . . ahhh . . . . bliss!

PS - I'm giving a talk in church today, wish me luck!