Saturday, 31 October 2009

The Simple Woman's Day Book

FOR TODAY, November 1st, 2009 ...

Outside My Window...

It is dark and very, very still. Jess is laying over on the carpet in front of the fire snozzing away. After a very windy and rainy day yesterday, the sky looks to be clear this morning, but I noticed that it was very chilly when I put Jess out when I got up, but then . . . it is November and that is to be expected.

I am thinking...
About all the lovely comments you left for me yesterday and how kind and loving they were. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and to Lura who called . . . what special friends you are. I truly felt upheld and uplifted. You all did make what was a rough day, so very much better.

I am thankful for...
Each of you and the technology that has brought you all into my life. You all are just the best and I hope that you know that!

From the kitchen...
There'sa couple of those custard tarts left and some tasty cookies that I made yesterday, and that's it! I know!!! I'm slipping!

I am wearing...
Black and white jammies and my new slippers. Comfy and warm am I.

I am creating...

I did some work on my art course this past weekend and that was good. I think I am really going to enjoy it. I also have all my printed Christmas Cards ready to go, so will be doing a post about them soon, and this little lady is what has kept my fingers busy for a week or so now. She's finally finished. Everyone meet Emily.

She's all dressed up in her Christmas finery, including her best dress, striped socks, little black shoes, pantaloons and red crinoline to hold her pretty beribboned and lace trimmed dress up just right. She has her best friend with her, a teddy bear, who is also fully jointed, poseable in his own right, and wearing a pretty red ribbon.

My camera ran out of power right when I was in the middle of photographing her so I don't have the best pictures yet. I'm hoping to get some better ones today, and yes . . . she is for sale.

I am going...
I had a really busy week last week at work and this week doesn't promise to be any quieter. I have to get my grandson's Christmas presents wrapped and in the post as well. I should have done it already, but with all the mail strikes have been a bit afraid that they might get lost. I have Seminary on Thursday evening, but other than work, that's pretty much it . . . oh . . . darn I just remembered. I have the Dentist on Friday. I hate going to the Dentist. This will be a whopper of an appointment. He has to undo some damage done by my previous Dentist and drill out an old filling that was improperly done and replace it with a crown. I am not looking forward to any of it!!!

I am reading...

This is another book that I had previously read a very LONG time ago. Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor. I think I first read it back in the late 1970's when I was a very young bride. It was one of the first Historical Romance novels I read and it was pretty tame compared to some of the others that came afterwards. I used to really love reading Historical Romance, but to be honest they started becoming soooo smutty that I stopped reading them.

I am hoping...
That I do well on my Art Course. It has been a lifelong dream of mine and I can't believe I am finally doing it. I have a very short attention span and I have a tendancy to want to rush through things, so I am trying hard to pace myself with this so that I get the most out of it as I possibly can. I don't know why my attention span is so short. I am always doing several things at the same time, reading half a dozen books, etc. I get bored really quickly.

I am hearing...
I am hearing nothing but the ticking of the clock, the humming of the refrigerator and the clicking of my keys. It is so very quiet in here. There is peace in the silence. Remember that old song, Silence is Golden? I used to love that song, still do! I should go back and listen to it again sometime and re-hear the words. I am quite sure that I would get a very different feeling from the words now as an adult than I did as a teenie bopper! Funny how that goes!!

Around the house...
I have almost finished doing my Art Studio. I better finish it up this week or Todd will be getting annoyed with me! I have the usual other sundry things to get done of course. What's that you say??? No rest for the wicked???? Oh man . . . I must be really bad!!!

One of my favorite things...
is YOU!

Your loving comments, your heartfelt prayers, your friendship. You all are so very special to me and have enriched my life in so very many ways. Thanks so much!! ☺

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Work, scripture study, my art course and hopefully a bit of play! Sounds like a good mix to me!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Remember the surpise Teasel plant I had growing in my garden??? This is how the seed heads look now, that autumn has it in it's firm grip and all the colour had gone. I think they are still beautiful in their own unique way. Kind of like us I guess, when the flush of youthful beauty is gone . . . tis replaced with a beauty all of it's own, the type that shows from the heart.

And there you have it, my Simple Woman's Day Book for today. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!)

*Leftover Meat Casserole*
Serves 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

This is a most delicious way to use up all those leftovers from your Sunday lunch. It's an old fashioned recipe that I have had in my Big Blue binder for many years. It's really good, quick and very easy to put together. It also uses up all the little bits that you have leftover, including the vegetables. It comes from the days when nothing was wasted. It's an oldie but a goodie!

2 cups cooked lamb, pork, beef or poultry, cut into smallish pieces
1 cup diced celery
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 cups leftover vegetables, diced
1 tin of condensed cream of tomato soup, undiluted
1 tin of condensed mushroom soup, undiluted
3 cups cooked egg noodles
salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup of stock (the kind you use depends on which meat you are using)
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated strong cheddar cheese

Pre=heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Lightly grease a casserole dish and set aside.

Put the onions, celery and garlic into a microwave safe dish along with 1 TBS of water. Cover with cling film, prick a hole in the top, and microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes, or until they are crispy tender. Remove and drain.

Mix the onion mixture together with the chopped meat. Place the meat, vegetable and noodles together in layers in the buttered casserole dish, ending with noodles on top, seasoning each layer lightly with some salt and black pepper. Blend the soups and meat stock together and pour this over top of the noodles.

Combine the crumbs and cheese and sprinnkle this evenly over top of the dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until nicely bubbling and lightly browned in top. Delicious!

There's a Rack of Pork roasting over in The English Kitchen today. Yummy, with fennel and potatoes and a honey mustard glaze!

Sunday thoughts . . .

"My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane."
- Robert Frost, My November Guest

Ahhh . . . November, November . . . it is hard to believe that we are already in the month of November. Where has the summer gone . . . can it be that autumn is already halfway through? And yet . . . as I look around me the evidence is there, plain for me to see . . . the quickly emptying branches of the trees . . . ground sodden with fog and rain . . . dry seed pods of the summer's plants, the only evidence that they once were . . . nights that come dark and early . . .

This is the month that I started my journey of living over here in the UK, some nine years ago now. I landed on these green and verdent shores on Halloween and was married on the 11th of November. (I thought that would be a hard anniversary to forget!) I have had ever so many blessings heaped upon me these past nine years, and I am truly grateful for each and every one of them. I do live in a lovely place, with a warm and comfortable home, a loving husband, an adoring dog and a very satisfying job. It is good to dwell on all that is good in my life . . . I know the fleetingness of happiness . . . and the solidness of joy . . .

Sometimes my heart lays heavy like a stone in my chest, though . . . and I need to turn to my Heavenly Father and ask for him to heal the hurt that lays there, seemingly unmoveable. It would be wrong of me to pretend that all is light and gay in my life, for that is not always true . . . I, too, have my sorrows and regrets.

Today I am feeling them . . . my baby boy is off to bootcamp and I was not able to really speak to him before he left . . . and share my heart and feelings with him, and he has requested that I not contact him whilst he is there, so I don't even have an address to contact him on . . . it makes me sad. Divorce is a nasty thing . . . it destroys families in the worst possible way. It puts walls between people who should love each other, no matter how hard you try to prevent that from happening . . .

I have one son who hates my faith . . . who sees that as having been the reason for his parents breaking up, even though nothing could be further than the truth. He doesn't understand that when he hates my faith . . . he hates the very essence of who I am. That bruises my soul in untold ways.

I have a younger daughter who, for whatever reasons . . . they are her own . . . has chosen to cut me out of her life completely, and so I wait and devour every scrap of information about what is going on in her life . . . and pounce upon even the briefest message she deigns to send my way on facebook, holding any and every word close to my heart, and wishing it could be different. Praying for a way to break down the wall that seems immoveable and solid between us, but not knowing where to begin tearing down the bricks that built it . . . because it is all a deep mystery to me, this unwillingness of hers to forge any sort of relationship between us . . . and I don't know where to begin . . .

Even my oldest daughter no longer wants me to call. Her life is too busy and full . . . she says. She has no time to talk on the telephone . . .

I can feel them all beginning to pull away from me, and I am at a loss as to how to prevent this from happening. It rocks the very core of me from time to time . . . times when I can't push it down and away . . . times like now . . . this morning, when my feelings seem raw and tender and it feels like even the briefest touch upon them will break my heart open like a melon that falls to the floor, and the tears come, and my soul aches.

My oldest son is the only one that really seems to care, but then . . . he is the one who is most like me. Sentimental and caring, with a heart as big as the world, and vulnerable to all the slings and arrows that would try to penetrate it. I know he has been hurt too . . . with the splitting apart of this family . . . but he is too kind to want to bruise me with his thoughts, and so he keeps them to himself.

I know this is deep this morning, and not my usual Pollyanna self . . . but this is me keeping it real. This is why my faith is so important to me, why I need my Heavenly Father and His healing touch so very much. He is the God of healing hearts and new beginnings, the source of comfort and joy and truth and light. When I feel bruised to the very core of my being . . . it is in His arms I seek my comfort and it is in His arms my soul finds rest . . .

It will be ok tomorrow . . . after all . . . this is the month of Thanksgiving . . .

*Boeuf Aux Carottes*
(Braised Beef Brisket with Carrots)
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

THis is a lovely meal that requires very little effort. You end up with meltingly tender beef in a rich broth, all sweet and buttery from the carrots. I served it with a celeriac/potato mash and some lightly steamed haricots verts. (green beans, lol)

2 TBS extra virgin olive ioil
1.5 kg rolled beef brisket
1/2kg of carrots, peeled and trimmed
150g bacon lardons
1 onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 fresh bay leaf
1 spring of fresh thyme
1 small leafy celery stalk
2 cups dry white wine or unsweetened apple juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 150*C/300*F.

Heat 1 TBS of the oil in a large roaster on top of the stove. (Use one that has a lid) Add the brisket and brown it slowly on all sides. Once browned, remove it to a plate and seasont it generously. Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the roaster and add the carrots, 1 tsp of salt and cook, stirring them occasionally, until they are browned. This will take 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Put the lardons and onions into the roaster and cook them over high heat until nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf, thyme, celery, beef and carrots. Pour in the wine or juice and add water almost to cover. Bring to the boil, skimming off any foam that may surface. Top with the lid and then pop it into the heated oven and r5oast, covered, for 3 hours, turning the meat at least once during that time.

Remove from the oven and take the meat out of the liquid. Let reast for about 15 minutes, before cutting into thin slices to serve, accompanied with the carrots and lovely juices spooned over top. Delicious!!

In The English Kitchen today . . . Portugese Custard Tarts.

Halloween This and That . . .

Five white ghosts and seven goblins,
Go parading down the street,
Boys and girls with funny faces,
Asking for a treat.

If a goblin rings my doorbell,
I will say "I'm not afraid!"
I will light my jack-o'lantern,
For the Hallowe'en parade.

I will give these scary people,
Apples, candy, cakes to eat;
Then I'll wave goodbye and watch them
As they march off down the street.

Happy Halloween! This was always one of my favourite nights of the year when I was growing up! It was always the day of the big Halloween party at school. My friends and I would spend hours together in the weeks leading up to it planning our costumes and getting ready for it. It was a very exciting occasion!

I dressed up as many different things through the years, and it was always so much fun!! Most of the time, it was something that my mother threw together, and occasionally I would have a boughten mask. I can't recall ever having had a store bought costume, and I used to envy those children who did, although now, as an adult, I am grateful for a mom who knew the value of homemade memories.

We'd have a Halloween parade at school in the afternoon once the party started, where we'd visit all the other classrooms and march around each room to music, showing off our creativity to the other students. It was always so much fun. Prizes would be given for the best costume and there were always loads of treats and snacks to feast on at the end!

We'd rush home afterwards, and it was all my mother could do to pin us down and get us to eat some supper. We'd be so excited that none of us were really hungry at all, and we were all afraid that if we were late in getting out that doorway to trick or treat . . . we'd miss out on all the goodies! I can remember feeling quite panicked sometimes over this, especially once the other trick or treaters started to arrive at our own door. My mom wouldn't let us out though, until we'd eaten and it was getting dark outside. I don't remember anyone ever taking us around to the different doors. We usually went on our own, but then again . . . it was a small community and we all knew everyone in it.

The ground was always partially frozen and hard beneath our feet, and the air quite cold and smelling like rotting leaves and burning pumpkins. Some people went all out decorating their homes and approaching their doorways was quite scary . . . as spooky music greeted us from inside and boney hands reached out the door to give us our treats. There was always a smart ass or two in the crowd that wanted us to sing or tell a joke in order to get our treat, and always more than a few spoil sports that pretended they weren't home . . . but we knew they were . . . they just didn't want to give any candy out.

We'd race around the houses, knocking on each door, our voices ringing out the words . . . "Trick or Treat!" Halfways through the evening, our faces would be all sweaty from the masks and our legs would be getting tired, but still we went on . . . we dare not stop until every house had been visited or most of them had posted "No More Candy" signs on their doors.

Back home we would go when we were exhausted and done . . . where my mother made us dump everything out onto the living room carpets to be gone through and checked to make sure all was safe and not tampered with. Ohh the boodle we would get . . . bb bats, molasses candy kisses, chocolate bars, suckers . . . apples . . . and our favourite treats of all . . . potato chips! We'd then be allowed to choose several items for a bedtime snack and it would be off to bed where we'd lay beneath the sheets, with satisfied smiles on our faces . . . our little minds already planning our costumes for the next year!

We don't get many trick or treaters where we live. I suppose because we live on the Estate where I work, we are too far out of the way and so, Todd and I have never experienced this treat together! I always make up a little bag of goodies for the little fella next door . . . but he is gone away this year so we won't even see him. But . . . rumour has it that a few children that are visiting up at work this weekend may be down to pay us a trick or treat visit, so I'm really excited about that! I can't wait! I'm going to decorate the door this afternoon and maybe even carve a pumpkin or two in anticipation! What fun it will be!

I know I posted this recipe on Halloween last year, but I just can't resist posting it again! I hope you all enjoy!!! The picture's not that great, but what the heck! My heart's in the right place, and that's all that counts!!

*Spooky Shepherd's Pie*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

This tasty recipe came from out of one of those Grocery Store counter magazines. The picture on this recipe is really cute. This is a real winner to make for the kids on halloween. It looks positively "spooktacular!" If yours are like mine were, it was a nightmare getting them to eat any supper at all on Halloween, so this should help!

1 pound of extra lean ground beef
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 (14 1/2 ounce) tin of Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (12 ounce) jar of beef gravy
3 cups mashed potatoes
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Spray a 12 inch skillet with some cooking spray and brown the ground beef and onions over medium high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain if necessary.

Setting aside 12 peas from the mixed vegetables for the garnish, add the remaining vegetables, tomatoes, and gravy to the ground beef. Heat to boiling. Reduce to medium low, cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables are crispy tender, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mix together the mashed potatoes, Parmesan cheese and egg. Season to taste with some salt and pepper.

Spoon the ground beef mixture into an ungreased 8 inch square bakiing dish. Top with mounts of mashed potatoes, to resemble ghosts. Place 2 reserved peas on each mount to resemble eyes. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are set and the meat mixture is heated through and bubbling.

The perfect steak is cooking over at The English Kitchen!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Friday morning this and that . . .

Do little things to brighten up

The spot on which you're standing
By being more considerate
And a pickle less demanding.

Our dark old world would very soon
Eclipse the evening star,
If each of us would brighten up
The corner where we are.
~author unknown

What a delightful little poem and so very true too! I'm doing my bit, how about you??

It's really wierd this morning. I seem to have forgotten how to type. I keep pressing the wrong keys and getting the wrong letters, so it's taking me a bit longer than usual. I hope that this is not a portent of things to come and that I'm not becoming all doo lally!!!

Mayhap it's the result of a bit of a sugar rush yesterday afternoon. I received the most delightful package in the post yesterday, all the way from California. It was quite a surprise! I have a wonderful friend over there, Kim, that has a blog called Gerushia's New World. She's a very talented artist and does the most wonderful little pieces created out of old photographs, new bits and scraps and paint.

I think she calls it anthropomorphic art. Whatever it is called, it's delightful and I am so lucky to own a couple of her pieces that I purchased some time ago! I hope she doesn't mind me showing them to you. Anyways, I got this package from her and what do you suppose I found when I opened it up??? This will show you just how thoughtful she is.

Sometime ago I must have posted a comment on her blog about how much I loved Candy Pumpkins and how we couldn't get them over here. It is completely true, but just something I have had to learn to live with over here. I'd buy some when I go home to visit my mom . . . but it's always in July and there is not a lot of Candy Pumpkins or Candy Corn (another of my loves) around the shops in July. Well, lo and behold, I open this package yesterday and hidden in it's depths is a lovely big bag of Candy Pumpkins and two sweet little Halloween Pez dispensers!

I had so much fun yesterday afternoon, introducing Todd to Pez and Candy Pumpkins! He'd never tasted either one! Thanks so much to my dear friend Kim for her heartfelt thoughtfulness and this wonderfully kind gesture! (Thanks also to Todd for letting me take this silly picture of him. I did take another one where he has a Candy Pumpkin Mohawk, but he won't let me show you that one, lol)

I just had to use the pumpkins right away and because it was Seminary Night, I baked a sweet little cake to take along to treat my students with. Since it was not for home, I even got away with baking a chocolate one as well! It went down a real treat with them and, I confess to having a bit of a nibble as well! (Did you know that smarties taste like the colour that they are? It's true! Orange ones taste like orange, and green ones taste like green!)

This has to be one of the easiest chocolate cakes in the world to make and it always turns out moist and delicious! It makes two layers, so I used one for my Seminary Students and the other one I am taking in to work for a few children that will be visiting up there this weekend.

Isn't it wonderful how small kindnesses and bright spots work? Kim's kind gesture has not only brightened my day, and Todd's, but also my Seminary Student's and several other children's as well. Thank you Kim!!!

*One Bowl Chocolate Cake*
Makes 2 9-inch layers
Printable Recipe

This is a rich and moist chocolate cake which goes together in a jiffy, all in one bowl. Frost as desired with your favourite frosting.

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 2ggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sunflower oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Grease and flour two nine-inch round cake tins. Set aside.

Place all the cake ingredients,except for the boiling water into a large bowl. Beat for 2 minutes on the medium speed of an electric mixer. Stir in the boiling water and divide the batter amongst the prepared cake tins. The batter will be thin. Don't worry, this is normal.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to wire racks to finish cooling.

Frost and decorate as desired.

There's another little treat posted for all your little Goblins over on The English Kitchen this morning. It's called Ballpark Pizza!

See you tomorrow! Happy Friday!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Thursday ponderings . . .

Alone, I sometimes pause and say,
"You're in my loving thoughts today."
It seems there's no one there, and yet
I speak to those I can't forget;
Lest, being gone, they do not know
I think of them, and want them so!

I've always made it a habit, that . . . whenever a person's name pops into my head, I immediately say a little prayer for them. I don't know if it helps or not, but I reckon everyone can use a little prayer once in a while, and if the spirit is in tune enough to prompt me to think of them . . . then my heart must be in tune enough to speak a few words on their behalf.

Likewise, late at night, when I am in bed and either cannot fall asleep, or have been asleep and have awakened and then am having problems falling back asleep . . . I begin to pray for all those that I know, beginning with those whose names begin with the letter "A". I never get much further than "G" or "H" and I am off into dreamland again. I find it helps to focus on others and what may be happening in their lives than to dwell on my own. Looking at what I have just written though, I reckon next time I better start with the letter "Z" and work my way backwards, as those at the end of the alphabet are being left out!

I don't mind praying for other people. I quite enjoy it actually. I have often heard people say that they will pray for others because it is the least that they can do . . . but really it is one of the greatest things that you can do for others.

"It is the Discipline of prayer that brings us into the deepest and highest work of the human spirit." ~author unknown

Just my thoughts this morning.

Sometimes Todd and I like to have gammon steaks for our tea. We try not to eat preserved meats very often as they are not supposed to be all that good for you, but gammon steaks make for a quick supper and sometimes they are a real treat. All you need with this dish are a few boiled potatoes on the side to help soak up the sauce and perhaps a green vegetable or two. mmm mmm good!

*Gherkin Sauced Ham Steaks*
Serves 2
Printable Recipe

As the butcher explained to me, gammon is ham before it's cooked. It only becomes ham afterwards. The gherkins in this recipe are not the sweet and bright green pickled ones we get in North American, but the small and slightly sour ones we get over here, which are what the French call Cornichons, so be sure to use the right ones. They go perfectly with the saltiness of the ham. A dollop of sharp and tangy English mustard on the side also goes very well.

2 large gammon steaks (each aout 7 to 8 ounces)
1 cup dry white wine
6 small gherkins, finely chopped
1 TBS butter
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped (I like to use the long French ones)
1/2 TBS flour
1 TBS chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a knob of butter for cooking

Melt the first amount of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and then add the chopped shallot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, until the shallot is nicely softened without having browned. Stir in the flour and mix it in well. Whisk in the wine slowly, a little at a time, until you have a smooth sauce. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for about ten minutes while you cook the gammon steaks.

Remove the rind from the gammon steaks and clip the fat at half inch intervals all around. This helps to keep the steaks from curling up when you cook them. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the knob of butter and heat until it strarts to foam a bit and sizzle. Add the gammon steaks and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until they start to brown slightly and the fat on the edge gets a bit crispy. Turn the heat out and finish the sauce.

Stir the chopped gherkins, parsley and lemon juice into the sauce. Season to taste with some salt and pepper and heat through. Serve the steaks with a bit of the warmed sauce spooned over and then the rest in a dish on the side so that people can help themselves if they so wish.

Note - if you don't do wine, you can use 3/4 cup of apple juice and 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar with good results.

I made this very tasty Salmon Cobbler for our supper the other night and it was totally delicious, even if it did spill out over on to the base of my oven! (Next time I'll put a baking tray underneath it!) If you'd like this scrumptious recipe hop on over to The English Kitchen.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Words for a Wednesday . . .

Once upon a time a man named Bill was on his knees in his garden weeding, as a friend passed by.

"Why don't you take the hoe to them, Bill?" His friend called out. "It would be a lot less work."

Bill looked up, gave him a wave, and replied. "Weeds are like bad habits, " he called out. "You've got to pull them right out by the roots. Leave anything of them and they'll soon grow again worse than ever!"

With that, he held up a weed, root and all. "Look," he said. "That's the only way to treat a weed . . . or a bad habit."

Wise advice today from a gardening friend.

What a beautiful day we had down here in Kent yesterday. The sun was shining and the temperatures were soaring. I do believe we are having Indian Summer. It is hard to believe that we are almost at the end of October and in to November. They were just saying on the telly last evening that normal temps for this time of year are closer to zero than the 20's that we are experiencing. I have a feeling though that it won't last for long, so we'll just enjoy it whilst we can!

My son . . . my baby . . . he leaves on Sunday for Basic Training for the Canadian Military. This is a picture of Bruce being sworn in yesterday afternoon. This is a tender sweet time for a mama. On the one hand . . . I am so very proud of him and his desire to serve his country . . . and yet on the other, he is my baby and I am a bit afraid of what the future may hold for him . . . Afghanistan? Iraq? I'll just have to keep him upheld in prayer and the Lord's hands as I have had to do these past ten years. It was ten years ago this Halloween, that I was able to take him "Trick or Treating" for the very last time. I can remember that it was a very cold night, and the ground was frosty and hard beneath our feet. His father and I had only recently separated, and this was one of the last few things his father let me do with him. Since then, he has grown into a fine young man and my moments with him have been few and far between. I hope that he knows that I love him very much, and that I wish things could have been different for him and me. I never got to finish bringing him up, and my heart aches for that loss at times. Most of the time, I am able to put it out of my mind, but it is at times like these that I find it a bit hard . . . oh well, we do our best and all that we can, right?

My Todd loves fruitcake. If you bake a cake and fill it with raisins, he is right there. This recipe is an oldie from my Big Blue Binder. I am going to have to do a volume 2 one day soon as I have ever so many more recipes to share. It's called a Cut and Come Again cake . . . and I expect that is because it is so good that you will want to cut a second piece and devour it soon after the first!!! It's that good!!

*Cut and Come Again Cake*
Makes 1 9-inch round cake
(Use a deep pan)

This is much lighter than a fruit cake and filled with a variety of delicious fruits and nuts. It's like what they would call a farmhouse fruit cake over here I suppose. This is an oldie from my Big Blue Binder. You can vary the fruit. Today for instance, I used a mixture of dried cherries and cranberries instead of the candied fruit, and most of the currants. (I ran out of currants)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 TBS molasses
1 rounded tsp baking powder
1 cup hot water
1 cup raisins
1 cup currants
1/2 cup mixed candied fruit (cherries, pineapple, etc.)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon extract
1/4 tsp almond extract

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Grease and flour a 9 inch round deep cake tin very well. Set aside.

Cream the butter together with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, molasses and extracts. Stir together the flour, baking powder, fruit and nuts. Fold this mixture into the creamed mixture along with the hot water, until the batter is smooth. Spread into the prepared pan.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until risen, golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Let sit in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling. Store in a tightly covered container. This is one of those cakes that tastes better as each day goes by!!

I'm baking bread today over in The English Kitchen.

Psst - I had my sewing machine out yesterday afternoon . . . I'll have something real pretty to show you on that front real soon! Oh, and my rubber stamp should be out within the next week as well! (exciting times!)

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Small and simple things . . .

The other day as I was sitting in the Dentist's office, I overheard a woman say to someone else . . . "I'd love to do some real good in the world, but the chance to do so never seems to arise."

I suspect that this is a way that most of us have felt on one occasion or another. How wonderful it would be, we think, if we had the time, or the means, to be able to make a grand gesture that would change everything in the world for the better. Sounds great on the surface, and it would be pretty wonderful, but alas, the thought can also help to give us a good excuse not to do anything at all, and to miss out on the smaller opportunities to make things better that present themselves to us, each and every day.

When we look at the world as a whole, the task of creating change for the better can seem somewhat daunting and very overwhelming, somewhat like trying to eat an elephant.

I am reminded of the story about the two friends who were walking along a beach that was strewn with starfish that had washed and were dying in the sand. As they walked along, one of the friends periodically would reach down to pick up a starfish and throw it back into the sea. The other friend remarked about how futile a gesture that was. and how little a difference it made, when the beach was filled with dying starfish. The saviour of the starfish simply looked at his friend and remarked, as he picked up another starfish and threw it back into the sea . . . "It made a difference to that one."

We might be tempted to save our efforts and means to try to save or change something that is deemed important, but I like to believe that it is in the smallest things, and simplest of gestures, that great change can be brought about.

"Do not wait for extraordinary circumstances to do good; try to use ordinary situations."
~Jean Paul Richter

I would rather do something small, than do nothing at all . . . change can indeed begin with baby steps and small and simple things . . . change begins with one . . and you can eat an elephant by taking just one bite at a time . . .

I'm afraid that there's no Tuesdays With Dorie here again this week. This week April of Short + Rose chose the Cherry-Fudge Brownie Torte, on pages 284-285. Whilst this sounds quite, quite delicious . . . my Todd doesn't do chocolate and I'm not doing it right now either . . . so I gave this week a miss. You can check out April's page though, if you would like to see it and perhaps try it out yourself.

There may be no chocolate here today , but there is a tasty little Spaghetti Pizza Pie. I know, pasta is not a favourite of Todd's either, neither is pizza . . . but once in a while I do like to indulge myself in the treat of both and so, I did. He doesn't actually hate it per se . . . it's just that it's not one of his favourite things to eat. I'll make up for it today by cooking him something meaty and potatoey, but in the meantime let's indulge.

*Spaghetti Pizza Pie*
Serves 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

The kiddies are going to love this one, even the BIG ones! I have given the basic version here, but you can dress this up with additions of pepperoni slices if you want, or roasted peppers and olives. Any pizza topping works well. Use your imagination and go wild!!

8 ounces spaghetti noodles
2 TBS olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
3/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2 cups tomato passata
(seived tomatoes)
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup chopped sweet green peppers

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/375*F. Lightly grease a 9 inch pie dish and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti in it for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender, but still firm. (al dente) Drain well, rinse and transfer to a bowl. Toss with 1 TBS of the oil and let cool.

Meanwhile, heat the other TBS of oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, basil and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add the tomato passata. Cook, stirring from time to time until thickened.

Mix the beaten egg and the parmesan cheese into the cooled spaghetti. Press this mixture into the prepared pie dish, making a shell shape. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Spoon the sauce evenly over top. Sprinkle on the rest of the mozzarella, the green peppers and any other toppings you desire. (Here I have used salami and dried black olives) Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust is just beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for about five minutes before cutting into wedges to serve.

A tossed salad goes very well with this as well as some Garlic Bread.

Not in the mood for pizza or pasta?? Here's a delicious Tomato and Chick Pea Soup that I cooked yesterday my The English Kitchen. It's hearty, delicious, quick and economical too!