Sunday, 30 November 2008

My Sunday Six

I forgot to do this last week, but I'm sure I've been forgiven. I got this idea from my wonderful friend Lura, and she was so very kind enough to make this tag for me. I think it's a wonderful thing, to pause for a few moments on Sunday morning and think about six particular blessings you've experienced from the week before, things that made your lips curl up in that very special way we call a smile and that tugged on your heart strings!

1. We had snow here for a few hours last Sunday. No, it didn't last for long. It was soon washed away by the rain, but my oh my . . . those few hours where I was able to watch those fluffy white flakes fall were pure magic to me. Where Todd's daughter lived they had a whole lot more than we did, enough to make a snowman! It's been a very long time since I have experienced enough snow to make a snowman, so here's hoping!!!

2. I've been taking care of a puppy for some people whilst they've been away for the Thanksgiving holidays. He's such a sweet little thing and so full of energy. Every time I look at him I smile. He watches everything I do with this curious look on his wee little face and I just want to pick him up and cuddle him to pieces. He's small enough to sit on my lap and fall asleep there. I never got to experience the puppy stage with Jess, so it's nice being able to experience this, and also kind of nice to know that I can hand him back at the end of it all . . .

3. Getting to spend Thanksgiving with a lovely group of people. The food, the laughter, the wonderful spirit that was present . . . it all made for a really special experience and I shall be thinking about it and remembering it with fondness for years to come. It's been a long time since I have had the joy of experiencing Thanksgiving in that special way and I was truly blessed this week to be a part of this lovely day in such a wonderful way. It was really nice for Todd to be able to experience the pleasures of a true Thanksgiving as well. He also really enjoyed himself!

4. Even though she has been away visiting her family this past week, just about every day I have gotten a lovely message from Lura. Every time I see her name in my e-mail box, my face breaks out into a smile and my heart into song. She is such a dear sweet friend and I am touched that even though she is spending precious time with her loved ones, she takes the time out in her day to remember me. (I hope she doesn't mind me scooping this lovely picture of her from off of her page!) It's rare that one finds a special friend like Lura in life, and even rarer when that person lives thousands of miles away, and you still manage to connect and feel that wonderfully special bond of close friendship. We have never touched in person or been able to look each other in the eye, but our hearts have touched and our souls have mingled and we have recognized kindred spirits in each other. It's all very wonderful! God's special magic!

5. I received a whole passel of awards this week from my blogging companions. I can still remember the first time one of these lovely symbols of recognition came my way and how chuffed I was to receive it. I still feel dead chuffed when I get one of them and they still make me smile in a huge way:

This lovely award came from my good friend Miranda who writes the blog "A Duck In Her Pond," and the lovely Marthe, who has the blog "Culinary Delights."

I was so surprised to get this lovely award from my friend Hannah, who writes on Hannah's Country Kitchen .

I also recently was blessed to receive this lovely Inspiration award from the delightful Bellini Valli who writes at the blog *More Than Burnt Toast.* Thanks so much and for reminding me of who it was who so generously passed me this award! Bellini has a wonderful phrase at the top of her page that I just love . . . "Be yourself . . . everyone else is taken."

This one came from my lovely friend, Jeanie, who writes Genii In The Lakes . I've known here for quite a while, back when we were both journaling on AOL. I just missed the chance to meet her in person this past summer when we were up travelling her way, but alas . . . for some reason it never happened . . . next time, Jeanie, next time!

One thing about awards is you get to pass them on. That's the part I have a hard time with because I love each and every one of you. I have decided that I will pass these on to each one of those blogs that I regularly read, so if I'm one of your fans, grab one of each of these if you wish. I wouldn't be reading you unless I thought that you were already special in every way!

6. I did one final Christmas drawing this week, of a really special little girl. She will grace all of my personal Christmas Cards this year I think. I thought she turned out really well. Todd said that she was his favourite one yet, but then again, he says that every time. He has to love me, he's stuck with me for time and all eternity!

So there you have it, my Sunday Six Smile makers for this, the last week of November, 2008!

I joined another cooking group recently, called Craving Ellie In My Belly . Once a week we each cook something from the lovely book, The Food You Crave, Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life, by Ellie Krieger. This weeks recipe was a delicious recipe for Macaroni with Four Cheeses, as hosted by Mrs Bethorama of Supplicious. The recipe called for using cooked squash in the sauce mixture, which served to give it a lovely colour, thicken it up and add some much needed fibre to my diet, and also give it an additional flavour, so that you really didn't miss all of the cheese that normally resides in Macaroni and Cheese recipes. I had to fiddle a bit with the ingredients as not all of them are available over here, but the end result was truly delicious!

*Macaroni and Four Cheeses*
Serves 8

I cut the amounts of everything in half coz, well there are only two of us and Todd hates pasta. This was really, really good!

cooking spray
16 ounces of macaroni (I used malfalda)
two ten ounce packages of frozen pureed winter squash
(we can't get that here, so I used freshly cooked and mashed acorn squash)
2 cups low fat milk
1 1/3 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
2/3 cup grated Monterey Jack Cheese (2 ounces)
(I couldn't get this either so used some extra strong process cheese spread)
1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 TBS dry bread crumbs
2 TBs freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Coat a 9 X 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Drain well, rinse and drain again, then transfer it to the baking dish.

Place the frozen squash into a saucepan with the milk. Cook and stir over low heat, breaking up the squash with a spoon until it is completely defrosted. (I just heated up the milk with my cooked squash) Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheddar, Jack cheese, ricotta, salt, mustard and cayenne. Pour this mixture over the cooked macaroni and stir to combine.

Combine the dry bread crumbs with the Parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over top of the macaroni and cheese mixture. Bake until the cheeses are bubbling around the edges, about 20 minutes, then pop under the grill for another 3 minutes, until the top is crisp and nicely browned!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Pat A Cake, Pat A Cake

Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake,
Baker's Man!
Bake me a Cake
As fast as you can!

Pat it, and prick it,
And mark it with D,
Put it in the oven
For the Daring Baker's and me!

Yes, its THAT time of the month again! Welcome to the November, 2008 Edition of The Daring Bakers! The once a month baking group that challenges itself to . . . once a month . . . stretch their baking skills and go beyond the limits of their comfort zone, baking a different, luscious and demanding creation each time. I've belonged to this lovely group for over a year now, and during that year I have seen myself bake some lovely things such as Baby Boston Cream Pies, Yule Logs, and even Pizza. (You may recall my All Day Breakfast Pizza from last month!) This month's challenge was no less delightful. Our hostess has been Dolores of Chronicles In Culinary Curiosity, and the recipe she chose to challenge us with was a delicious caramel cake by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater, with an optional challenge of Alice Medrich’s Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels.

One of the first things we had to do in order to make this cake was to make our own caramel. Caramel has always scared me a bit. Anytime you are working with HOT sugar you should be a little bit afraid. Hot sugar sticks to the skin and really BURNS!! I still have visions of Home Economics back in Grade 10 when we were making divinity fudge and a pass of my spoon through the sugar mass, found my fingers getting a bit too close to the hot mixture and some getting caught between the end of my finger and my fingernail . . . an excruciatingly painful experience! You need to have a lot of respect for hot sugar syrup. But, that's not what scares me most about making caramel . . . it's the fact that it can turn from caramel to burnt sugar in a matter of seconds! I usually have to do it more than once, but I'm happy to say that this time I managed it in one try!

The cake itself was a bit of a doddle, as long as you had all your ingredients at room temperature. I decided at the outset that I was going to do cupcakes, and the recipe yielded 12 medium cupcakes, that took about 35 minutes to bake to a lovely golden brown.

The icing was really different. It required browned butter. I'm a bit of an expert at burning butter, but browning butter I had not really done . . . another step up on the learning curve.

I kept the burner on high under the butter, and kept a close watch on it the whole time. As soon as I saw the slightest hint of a brown colour appearing in one corner I turned the burner off and slowly swirled it over the heat until it was all evenly golden brown, and once that happened, I immediately removed it from the burner all together. I then strained it through a fine tea strainer and into a small bowl to cool.

The icing went together like a dream and my . . . oh my . . .
D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S doesn't begin to describe it. This Caramelized Butter Frosting is to die for!!!

I piped the frosting on top of each cake, and then used some of my precious gold glitter and golden dragees to decorate the tops of each baby cake, giving them a wonderfully festive and glittery touch. (I had orignally thought to fill each one with some delicious Dulce De Leche, but will have to save that trick for another time. )

All in all, my cakes were a huge success and a delight to all who got to savour them! I managed to master several new baking techniques and had a lot of tasty fun in the process. That's what being a Daring Baker is all about after all, growing your skills and having fun along the way!

Be sure to check out DARING BAKERS BLOG ROLL to see all the other completed challenges! There's bound to be some really lovely creations. It always amazes me to see just how creative and innovative some of these lovely gals can be!


10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.Sift flour and baking powder.Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water1
cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}**Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup.

Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

**Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

I didn't get around to making these, but for those who are interested, here's the recipe for the Caramels:

- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels -

1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

EquipmentA 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.)

Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305*F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305*F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245*F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265*F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm. Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.
(recipe from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert)

Friday, 28 November 2008

A Half Full Glass . . .

How many people do you know that are *Half Glass Empty* people??? You know the type of people I mean . . . the ones who always look at the gloomy side of life.

Thankfully, most of my friends do not fit that description, but sadly enough, there are many in this world who do. For them, whenever a small cloud passes by overhead in a summer sky . . . it heralds an impending thunder storm. If they sneeze . . . well then, they must be getting a cold. A partly used bottle of anything is always half empty instead of half full. They never look on the bright side of things, but always the dull . . .

Pessimists are folks who say to themselves (and unfortunately to a lot of others also) "What do I have to smile about today??? The cost of living has gone up again, crime is on the rise, nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I'm going to eat some worms . . . "

That kind of negative attitude clouds all the enjoyment there is to be found in life, the simple pleasures that are free for the asking, the small joys that colour each one of our days. There's actually a verse in the bible that sums it up all nicely.

"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drieth the bones."
~Proverbs 17:22

Me . . . I'm a half glass full kind of person! I like to look on the positive side of most things and I'm very lucky in that I'm usually able to see the silver lining in every cloud.

I got my first rejection letter yesterday from the card company I had sent some samples off too. Unfortunately my art does not fit the image that they are presently using for their line of cards. It got me down for a couple of minutes, and I had a little boo hoo, and then I pulled my boot straps up and went searching online for a few other companies. I have sent letters and samples off to each of them. I'll not give up. I know my work is good and that someday, somehow, someway, sombody will want to use it. After all, if I can't believe in myself, then how can I ever expect anyone else to. You've got to have a dream before you can have a dream come true . . .

Here's a delicious muffin that is sure to please your family. Light and fluffy they go great with soups, stews, chili, baked beans, or even just on their own with a nice warm drink.

*Marie's Delicious Corn Muffins*
Makes 12

I have a fondness for corn muffins. I could eat them every day, but instead I reserve them for special occasions. They are so lovely when eaten with stews, soups or homebaked beans. These ones are my absolute favourite recipe. I have tried many others but always come back to this one. It's the best!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, such as crisco, Trex, or White Flora
1/2 cup sugar
2 extra large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 200*C/400*F. Line 6 Texax size or 12 regular muffin tins with paper liners or spay them with Pam.

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together in medium-sized bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and shortening together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high for 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar and then eggs, one at a time. Continue beating until the batter is creamed and light yellow colored, and then add the vanilla.

Slowly beat in half of the flour mixture, then half of the milk, beating about 1 minutes after adding each. Repeat, beating in the rest of the flour mixture, then the rest of the milk.
Beat the batter until well blended, about 1 minute more.

Spoon into muffin tins, almost up to the top. Bake at 200*C/400*F for first 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 190*C/375*F for about 15 minutes or until golden and toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, before serving warm with lots of butter for spreading.

We had a lovely time last night. Todd really enjoyed his first American Thanksgiving. We ate far too much, and rolled back home quite late, stuffed to the eyeballs with great food and best of all wonderfully warm feelings of having spent a delightful evening in the company of some great old friends, some lovely new friends and the beautiful spirit that was present throughout the whole evening. I hope that your celebrations were as blessed as ours were. The evening ended with the son of our hosts playing the piano for us and singing some beautiful hymns. It was just wonderful. I could have stayed and listened forever . . .

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Over the River and Through the Woods

"Over the river and through the woods
Trot fast my dapple gray.
Spring over the ground
Like a hunting hound
On this Thanksgiving Day, Hey!
Over the river and through the woods
Now Grandmother's face I spy.
Hurrah for the fun,
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie."
~English folksong, It's Raining, It's Pouring

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends out there in blog land!! Thanksgiving is one of my favouritest times of year. (And yes, once again, I know that's not really proper English!) Of course in Canada we celebrate it in October, but I have to say right up front, that I love the American way of celebrating it in late November. Having it then truly helps to usher in the Holiday Season in a wonderful way, so the American Thanksgiving to me symbolizes the gateway to Christmas, and Christmas is my very favourite time of year!

Thanksgiving has always been very dear to my heart, and I've cooked many, many Thanksgiving dinners through the years. None so special as the very last one I had with my family altogether just prior to the breakup of my last marriage. I believe that was the very last time we were all together as a group and as a family. There was lots of delicious turkey and stuffing and all the other fixings to go with it, such as sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.

My oldest son makes the best gravy in the world. It must be that extra special touch of love he puts into it. Oh my, but there was lots of noise and laughter. My three sons have always battled with each other to be the "mashed potato kings", but that year I think my daughter in law, Anne, was vying for the title as she kept warning my son not to take them all so that there would be plenty left for her!

There can be no more special feeling on earth than that of sitting down to eat dinner together as a family, looking around the table and seeing all the faces of your loved ones so dear, and then holding hands and saying a prayer of thankfulness together. It's like the Waltons, Little House on the Prairie and All in the Family rolled up together into one happy conglomeration. Coz that's what life's all about, and that's what we're here for, to be a family, and whether your family consists of a whole passel full of children and grandparents and aunts and uncles, or of just you and your partner/loved one, or even just you and a houseful of animals . . . today is the one day a year when we pause to reflect on all that is good about our lives and to give thanks for our many blessings, both big and small . . .

Later today Todd and I will be travelling to our Bishop's home where we will be sitting down in Thanksgiving with dear friends. There will be the Bishop, his wife and son, a young couple, the wife of whom is from America, another young man the Bishop works with and the two missionaries that are serving in this area right now, one of whom is from Southern California. I'm in charge of all the side dishes and I have pots of peeled vegetables waiting on top of my stove right now, all ready to go. There'll be mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole (complete with praline and marshmallows, not for the faint of heart!) my Gorgonzola parsnips, a carrot swede mash and of course green beans and another Thanksgiving Twofer Pie for dessert. But the food is not the best thing . . . the best thing will be that we are all together and that we all care about each other and that we are thankful for our many blessings . . . blessings of home . . . blessings of family, both near and far away . . . blessings of friends, love and good health . . . blessings of employment . . . blessings of the Gospel in our lives . . .

Your life can change in an instant, and you never know what the next year, day, or moment will bring . . . so for now, we are thankful and mindful of all that is good in our lives, and the great giver of all good things . . .

After all the turkey and fuss of today here's a hearty brunch/breakfast to further tempt the palates and appetites for tomorrow morning . . .

*Morning After Breakfast Waffles*
Serves 8

Cheese on toast has always been the ultimate comfort food for me. How about an oozing cheezy waffle topped with bacon, egg and lovely grilled tomatoes? Mmmm . . . the perfect way to get your day off to a great and hearty start!

180g flour
120g fine cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, separated
225ml milk
200ml sour cream or yoghurt
2 TBS olive oil, plus extra for roasting
120g strong cheddar cheese, grated
2 TBS freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
2 TBS snipped chives

To Serve:
20 cherry tomatoes on the vine
16 rashers of streaky bacon
8 large free range organic eggs (If I'm going to eat an egg like this,
I want it to be the best!)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Grease a baking sheet. Lightly grease and heat the waffle iron.

Put the vine tomatoes onto the greased baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil and then season with some sea salt and black pepper. Set aside for the time being.

Sift the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Beat together the egg yolks, milk, sour cream and olive oil. Whisk this mixture into the flour mixture. Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl, until stiff peaks form. Fold the stiffly beaten egg whites into the batter with a metal spoon, along with the cheeses and the chives.

Spoon 1/8th of the batter into your heated waffle iron, adjusting the amount of batter according to the size of your iron. (I have one that makes heart shaped waffles!) Cook your waffles until nicely crisp, at least 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside and keep warm until all are baked.

Place the vine tomatoes into the oven and roast for 5 minutes, until their skins begin to split and blister. Remove from the oven and keep warm.

Brush a small frying pan with olive oil and heat. Add the bacon and fry until crisp. Remove from the pan and drain on paper kitchen toweling. Brush the pan with some more oil and then crack in 2 eggs. Place 4 rashers of cooked bacon on top and cook the eggs gently until they are cooked to your preference. Set aside and keep warm while you cook the rest.

Place a cooked waffle on each of 8 heated plates. Slide the bacon and eggs on top along with some of the roasted tomatoes and serve immediately!

Many, Many thanks to all of you for your continued prayers for my Daughter in Law Kayla. She had an ultrasound yesterday and everything looked quite good so they may be allowing her to come home from the hospital today, but she will still be on bedrest. My son, Doug, is still concerned about her being home alone while he is at work, but we shall just have to leave it in the Lord's hands for now.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

When the Frost Gilds the Pumpkin . . .

"A tingling, misty marvel
Blew hither in the night,
And now the little peach-trees
Are clasped in frozen light.
Upon the apple-branches

An icy film is caught,
With trailing threads of gossamer
In pearly patterns wrought.
The autumn sun, in wonder,

Is gayly peering through
This silver-tissued network
Across the frosty blue.
The weather-vane is fire-tipped,

The honeysuckle shows
A dazzling icy splendor,
And crystal is the rose."
- Evaleen Stein, November Morning

As I walked home from work, quite early in the wee hours of this morning, I could see it all around me . . . the magic of Jack Frost's brush had painted everything high and low, under a crystal clear night sky full of the magic of starlight, icy crystals twinkling and adoring all the hedgerows and grasses . . . the first heavy frost of the year.

The air almost tinkled and rang with the magic of it all and I tarried down the lane, breathing it in and basking in the wonder of it all, and thought about what a gift it was. Most nights I would miss this, laying upstairs in my warm bed in the cottage, sleeping . . . totally unaware of the wonder weaving it's way through branch and on leaf. I breathed in the air and felt it's cold sting in my my nose and down in my lungs . . .

I am so thankful for a heart that has passion enough and the will to take the time to soak it all in, the wonder of life and the joy that it brings, blessings both great and small . . . sometimes I think that the smallest joys are the greatest blessings of all . . .

I had a quiet afternoon yesterday before I left for work. I was able to do a new painting. Todd says she is his favourite one thus far . . . but then again we both say that every time. I just love the magic that springs from the end of my paint brush, not quite as beautiful as the magic from Jack Frost's brush, but I hope that what comes out weaves a spell over the viewer just the same . . .

I cooked us the Irish Stew from my Cookbook challenge of last week for our tea. It was lovely, comfort food, stick to the innards food . . . just what the body is wanting on a cold autumnal day. We sat at the table, enjoying our meal together as we looked out at the darkening sky . . . the blanket of night fell down upon us, the firelight from the flames in our fire flickered against the walls as Jess lay hopeful upon the mat in front of it. This is what life is all about, what more could a body want or possibly need . . .

*Irish Stew*
serves 4 to 6
(I cut the recipe in half quite successfully)

Apparently there is no definitive recipe for Irish Stew, each family placing layers of their chosen vegetables and lamb in a pot, seasoned with salt and pepper, covered with water or stock and stewed gently for several hours. Searing the meat and vegetables first adds a lovely depth of flavour to the stew.

3 pound 5 oz of mutton chops from the neck or shoulder,
still on the bone, cut about 3/4 inch thick
(I used lamb chops cut from the loin)
3 TBS olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and cut into
thick slices at an angle,
(or 12 small baby carrots, scrubbed and left whole)
12 baby onions, peeled, or 3 - 4 medium onions,
peeled and cut into quarters through the root, which
should keep the wedges intact
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks (my addition)
1/2 of a small swede, peeled and cut into chunks (my addition)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
14 fluid ounces of lamb or chicken stock, or water
a large sprig of thyme
8 to 12 potatoes, peeled and cut in half if very large
to finish:
1 TBS chopped fresh parsley
1 TBS snipped fresh chives

Pre-heat the oven to 160*C/325*F.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and then add the chops, cooking for a minute or so on either side until nicely browned. Remove and set aside. Add the carrots, swede, parsnips and onions and cook for several minutes, allowing them to brown in places. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

Place all the vegetables into a deep casserole dish with a lid. Lay the chops on top of them, seasoning them with some salt and pepper as well. Scrap the leaves from the spring of thyme and sprinkle it over top. Place your peeled potatoes on top and then pour the stock over all.

Place the casserole in the oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is very tender and the vegetables are nicely cooked, and potatoes just beginning to brown. Pour off the cooking liquid and allow it to sit for a minute and then skim off any fat. Pour the juices back over the stew and serve hot, sprinkled with the parsley and chives.

A nice crusty roll to mop up the juices is nice along side.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Merry Christmas Giveaway

It's hard to believe but Christmas is exactly one month from today!!! I know, it's crazy. The time since last Christmas has just flown.

I meant to have a giveaway to celebrate my 365th post, but because of my computer downtime etc. and all the excitement around here with me getting a new kitchen and all I didn't get around to it, so I am combining a celebration of my 377th post (this makes 378) and my love of Christmas, and I am doing a Merry Christmas Giveaway. (Or as they say it over here, Happy Christmas!)

I just love the idea of spreading a little Christmas Cheer, especially to you, my much loved readers. To get in on a chance for some Christmas Goodies, all you have to do is leave a comment at the end of this post. If you would like an extra chance, spread the news about my Giveaway on your own blog and then let me know.

Here's what you have a chance to win. I just love giving presents and there is nothing nicer to give away than something you would love to have yourself!

First up is a lovely Christmas Cookery book, "Women's Weekly Christmas Cooking." These Women's Weekly books are lovely and I just know you are going to love this one, as I already do. Full of lots of lovely Christmas goodies to make and bake!

Next is a wonderful Scented Candle from Lily Flame Candles, called Whispered Wish. Ohh, but it smells delicious . . . all spicy and Christmasy! Just for you!

I'll also include an assortment of five of my Christmas Cards, for you to fill in and give away to the ones you love.

Finally some Mistletoe Kisses Chocolates put out by Galaxy. Once there was a Gnome who had to get rid of all the leftover kisses. One year he decided to make them into Mistletoe kisses, or so the story goes . . . lucious little bites of chocolate filled with an indulgent mousse and caramel centre!

You only have five days to get in on the giveaway as I will be drawing it on November 30th so that I can have it into the post in plenty of time for Christmas!

If I have a chance to finish it in time, I may even throw in a secret Christmas Craft Surprise!
I'm so excited! I wonder who the lucky winner will be!!! You just never know . . . it could be
Y O U !!

Peter, Peter . . .

Pumpkin Eater!
Had a wife and could not keep her!
Put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well!

Welcome to Tuesday's With Dorie, the November 25th, 2008 edition of that wonderful baking club of fantastic bakers that get together every week and bake one decadently delicious recipe from the splendiferous baking book, Baking, from my home to yours, by the greatest cookbook author of them all, Ms Dorie Greenspan! Yes, people, each week the group, which numbers well over 300 bakers, gets together and bakes the same recipe from this book, and then we reveal our results in unison each

This week Vibi from La Casserole Carrée chose the recipe Thanksgiving Twofer Pie, from page 321.

Now, I have to admit upfront I am not a real pumpkin pie lover. When I was a kid this was the kind of pie that I hated most of all. I'm not sure what exactly it was about it that I hated so much, but hate it I did. As an adult I have come to like it somewhat, but it's still not the one pie I would choose given a table full of a variety of pies to choose from!

I have to say though that this pie was S-P-L-E-N-D-I-F-E-R-O-U-S!!! I think it has made a pumpkin pie convert of me . . . yes . . . I have gone over to the pumpkin side! This is not just any old pumpkin pie, but a pumpkin pie mixed up with a pecan pie in a glorious combination that has your fork digging in for more, and your brain thinking about the last piece sitting in the fridge at two 'clock in the morning. In other words . . . THIS PIE IS TO DIE FOR! In face I think Dorie should have named it Thanksgiving Diefer Pie!

Pecan Pie has always been one of my favourite pies. Back when I was younger and had not yet really honed my baking skills I used to splurge once in a while and buy a Mrs Smith's Pecan Pie. I remember buying one when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter. My then husband was away on a course and so there was just myself and my oldest son, who was a toddler of about 18 months at the time, in the house. I remember buying this pie and taking it home. I ate one piece and then was so worried that I'd eat the whole pie I threw it into the garbage . . . and then because I was still worried that I'd be tempted to take it out, I dumped an ash-tray of cigarette butts on top of it. I was uber worried that I would gain too much weight with my pregnancy and Pecan Pie was too much of a temptation for me.

Happy to say . . . I now don't have that problemo. If I had to do that to everything that was a temptation to me, we would have to have the hugest garbage bin in the world and it would always be full. I just love food, but I digress . . .

One of the weird things about England is that they don't really have ordinary pie shaped pie dishes over here. I have two Pyrex ones that I brought over here from Canada, but they were eight inch and ten inches in size. The only nine inch one I have is a stack of aluminum ones I brought back the last time I was in Canada some two years ago. I think I freaked the shop keeper out because I must have bought about 50 of them, not to mention Todd when he saw me coming through the door of my mother's house with them!

I also didn't have pecans . . . . I have a hubbie I sent to the store for pecans . . . but he brought back walnuts, so my pie was not a pecan pie in every sense, but umm . . . err . . . a walnut pie, but then again this was not a pecan pie at all was it? It was a Thanksgiving Twofer Pie!

The recipe called for a pumpkin pie mixture, flavoured with rum, and put into the bottom of the pie shell and then, topped with the nuts, and finally the pecan pie mixture. For some reason I thought that they would lay there in layers, and I admit I panicked a bit when I went to pour the syrup mixture over top and it sunk down into the pumpkin mixture. I thought it was ruined, but I baked it anyways. Rum is not something we have in our home, so I used a tsp of rum extract in the pumpkin filling instead.

This pie is gorgeous. It called for light or dark corn syrup in the pecan filling, which of course we don't have over here. We do have a glorious thing called Golden Syrup though, which works very well as a replacement, and I used a bottle I have of special Limited Edition Golden Syrup that I have been hoarding for just this type of thing. Lyle's Golden Syrup with Rum and Festive Spice. Wowser, Wowser!!! It said on the bottle, Perfect on Christmas pud & Mince Pies. I'm here to tell you that it's fantastic in Thanksgiving Twofer Pie!!! It imparted a delicate rum taste with just a hint of spice that was just a wonderful combination!

We liked this pie soooooo much that I am going to bake another one tomorrow to take to our Thanksgiving celebrations on Thursday. I just KNOW it will wow everyone there!

Run, Run as fast as you can to your local shops and pick up some tinned pumpkin today so that you can make this pie yourself. You will not regret it! If it could make a pumpkin pie lover of me, you just know it has to be one of the best pumpkin pies ever!

If you would like this delicious recipe pop on over to Vibi's page, and make sure you check out some of the other Dorie Bakers as well on the Tuesdays With Dorie Blog Roll. There's bound to be some delicious concoctions there to oggle/drool/salivate over! In the meantime I think I'm going to go over to the counter right now and inhale another piece, coz pumpkin is a vegetable and veggies is good for you!

Next week's recipe is Linzer Sables on pages 134-135 as chosen by noskos of Living the Life. Yummo, that will get us all in a Christmas mood for sure!