Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Simple Woman's Day book

FOR TODAY, November 23rd, 2010...

Outside My Window...

It is dark and very, very cold. I noticed when I put Mitzie out for her morning abolutions that some more snow had fallen through the night. Not a lot, mind, but some.

I am thinking...
I am going to the Doctor this morning at 9. The pain in my right knee is becoming quite debilitating. Surely to goodness they can do something for it. It is crippling. Todd and I went in to town yesterday and the whole visit was coloured with the pain. I am literally hobbling. I can't walk very fast and by the time we had walked through town to Wilkensons it was all I could do to hobble back to where the bus station was. I could not face the pain of having to hobble anywhere else. It hurts to just lift my leg a few inches off the ground. It is excruciating if my leg gets jarred in the least. I lay in bed at night and I am in pain the whole time. My sleep is sporadic and interrupted because of the pain.

I am thankful for...
I am pretty thankful that it is not both knees!

From the kitchen...
There's some cake and nut brittle! Yummo!

I am wearing...
My pale blue nightie with the pink rosebuds pattern, very pretty and feminine. Also my blue robe and slippers. Comfy and warm!

I am creating...
I have all sorts on the drawing board at the moment. I'm working very hard on a big, but still very hush hush project. Only a few weeks to reveal time! I can't wait!

I am going...
We're invited out for dinner on Thursday evening and then on Friday evening we have our Ward Relief Society Christmas Dinner. Saturday morning is the Relief Society Breakfast and then a morning of crafts and devotionals. I am really looking forward to it all. For the past seven years I could only very rarely attend any of the Relief Society activities because I always seemed to be working when they were being held! It is such a blessing to be able to go to them now!

I am reading...

Spoken From The Heart by Laura Bush

In this brave, beautiful, and deeply personal memoir, Laura Bush, one of the world's most beloved and private first ladies, tells her own extraordinary story.

Born in the boom-and-bust oil town of Midland, Texas, Laura Welch grew up as an only child in a family that lost three babies to miscarriage or infant death. She vividly evokes Midland's brash, rugged culture, her close relationship with her father, and the bonds of early friendships that sustain her to this day. For the first time, in heart-wrenching detail, she writes about the devastating high school car accident that left her friend Mike Douglas dead and about her decades of unspoken grief. When she left West Texas in 1964,she never dreamed she would end up in the White House.

With deft humor and a sharp eye, Laura Bush lifts the curtain on what really happens inside the White House, from presidential finances to the 175-year-old tradition of separate bedrooms for presidents and their wives to the antics of some White House guests and even a few members of Congress. She writes with honesty and eloquence about her family, her public triumphs, and her personal tribulations. Laura Bush's compassion, her sense of humor, her grace, and her uncommon willingness to bare her heart make this story revelatory, beautifully rendered, and unlike any other first lady's memoir ever written. A very engaging read!

I am hoping...
That they can sort this knee out and that the hearts of my errant children soften . . . my heart is still breaking over recent events . . . to be told that the stepmother is more of a mother than you are is almost more than I can bear. What happened to all the years I spent raising them . . . counts for nothing now apparently.

I am hearing...
Early morning sounds . . . clocks ticking, early morning cars, the honk of a taxi picking up one of the neighbours, and Mitzie snozzling next to me. Oh how I love that sound. So sweet. I can also hear the floor upstairs creaking, which means Todd is getting up!

Around the house...
I still have a ton of ironing to do! It it like I have a magical ironing basket that, no sooner do I empty it, but it fills up again with more ironing!!! Now, if only I had a magical money basket that did the same thing!!

One of my favorite things...
is reading my Scriptures. I always learn something new and I find great comfort on it's pages.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
I am working hard to finish my secret project as the deadline for finishing it is looming in just a few weeks now, so I'll be spending most of my time on that, plus of course the Relief Society fun and the dinner on Thursday evening!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, aren't you? I just love this group of white on white Christmas decorations that I found. I can't think of any more magical combination for Christmas Decorating. There is a new White Company Store in Chester city now. Their Christmas window is utterly magical. Oh how I wish I had the money to go inside and splurge! (Don't we all!!) Nevermind . . . one can but dream! If you never have a dream . . . you can never have a dream come true!

And just as a closing thought for today . . .

Angels are visible to those who accept the light and break the pact made with darkness.
~Paulo Coelho, TheDevil and Miss Prim

A thought to inspire for today.

And there you have it . . . my day book for this week. 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!)

Here's a recipe for a cake that we just love, Chocolate Chip Cake. I got the recipe many years ago from a good friend of mine, Leona. My goodness but she was a great cook. I learned a lot from her. I never make one of her shared recipes but what I don't think of the good times and happy moments we shared together. We used to be great Bingo Partners as well! We met at a Bingo Game for Service Wives the night before my middle son was born and he just turned 29, so we have known each other a long, long time! She is a golden friend.

*Chocolate Chip Cake*
Makes one 8 inch square cake
Printable Recipe

This is a tasty and moist white cake, stogged full of delicious chocolate chips. If you are feeling really indulgent you can replace the chocolate chips with the same amount of good quality milk chocolate cut into small bits. The icing calls for raw egg yolks, so if you are making this cake for the elderly or the very young, I would replace it with a plain vanilla butter cream icing.

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg whites beaten stiff with 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
3 ounces milk chocolate chips (or an equivalent amount of good quality milk chocolate, such as Green and Black’s, chopped into small bits)

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Grease an 8 inch square pan and then line it with parchment paper. Grease again. Set it aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add them to the creamed mixture, alternately with milk, beginning with dry and ending with wet. Carefully fold in egg whites. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and then bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the centre springs back when lightly touched, or a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake it.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup icing sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla

Cream the butter until light. Beat in the remaining ingredients, beating until light and fluffy. Spread on top of the cooled cake.

In The English Kitchen today, delicious Cashew Nut Brittle!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow . . . food for thought

“During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much, could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, "Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow."
(Linn, Dennis et al, Sleeping With Bread, p.l)

It occurred to me as I read this passage that these orphans were able to sleep, only because they were able to hold on to something that would nourish them. This is what brought them enough peace of mind that they were able to let go of the cares and woes of their life for a moment, a moment long enough to be able to fall asleep in . . .

I have been really and truly blessed in my life. I have never had to go to bed hungry, unless it was by choice. I have always had a roof over my head, be it small or large, humble or luxurious. I have always had a coat to keep me warm and dry, and shoes to keep my feet in the same manner. I have always had the luxury of being able to take a bath or a shower with warm running water, with soap and shampoo, and other luxuries that I often take for granted. When I go to the “loo” I sit on a porcelain throne and not a hole in the ground.

I fall asleep at night with the comforting hum of the fan running in the background in the summer, and of the electric alarm clock radio in the winter . . . with the comforting warmth of my husband laying next to me. I have experienced no fear of a bomb dropping on my house during the night, and I have never had to listen to the sounds of distant shells going off and fear them getting closer.

Yes . . . I do live in relative comfort compared to 90% of the world at large, and yet . . . there are times when even I cannot sleep. Nights where I lay there and toss and turn, unable to let go of my thoughts or worries of the day that has just passed, my mind mulling over things again and again. Perhaps I have some important event looming in the day to come, a talk to give at church or a huge dinner to cook for. Or maybe my thoughts are turned to things of the past that I cannot change no matter how much I wish that I could . . . but that still cause me grief. How many of us are like this?? I would wager more than just a few . . .

Sometimes when I find I cannot fall asleep I pray for others. I start with the letter A and I pray for everyone I know, individually, whose name starts with the letter A. And so it goes, down through the alphabet until eventually I do fall asleep. Somehow focussing on the problems and needs of others is quite helpful in helping me to forget my own. In many instances, my own needs pale in comparison. I rarely ever get more than halfway through the alphabet though, before I am gone, sailing away in a pea green boat with winkin and blinkin and nod . . . so if your name starts with anything much past an "M", you'll have to wait for my wakening prayers . . .

It occurs to me that at times like those, with my mind full of my own cares and woes, that I need to let go and let God. I need to hang onto the nourishment of the knowledge that He is and He cares and what will be will be . . . and in faith, just hand all my thoughts and woes over to him for that moment . . .

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? "Therefore do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?' or "What shall we drink?' or "What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” ~Matthew 6:28-34

Let Go . . . Let God. It’s so simple, and yet, it works . . .

Here’s something quite delicious that I made for supper last night. I better get it written down before I forget completely what I did!

*Twice Baked Butternut Squash*
Serves 2
Printable Recipe

I have long been a fan of twice baked jacket potatoes and I thought hmmm . . . why not try the same thing with a butternut squash? This turned out to be a wonderfully delicious experiment in taste that I hope you will find the time to make and enjoy yourself! The recipe is written as for two, but will very easily multiply to feed more, just use a larger squash and double the stuffing ingredients!

One butternut squash, about 2 pounds in weight
½ cup of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed completely dry
1 TBS butter
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp white pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
½ cup toasted walnut halves, chopped coarsely
3 ounces gruyere cheese, grated
Olive oil to drizzle

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds and fibrous bits, and discard. Place the two halves on a baking sheet and bake in the pre-heated oven until quite tender, approximately ½ hour to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside for a few minutes until cool enough to handle.

With a metal spoon, carefully scrape out the flesh of the squash, leaving about ¼ inch border around one of the halves. (You will only be stuffing one half. Discard the skin from the other half.) Mash the flesh until fairly smooth, along with the 1 TBS of butter.

Squeeze as much water as you can from the spinach leaves and then chop them coarsely. Stir them into the squash along with the seasonings, thyme, walnut pieces and the gruyere cheese. Pile this stuffing into the remaining squash shell.

Increase the oven temperature to 200*C/400*F. Place the stuffed squash half on a shallow baking tray and pop it back into the oven. Bake it for about 15 to 20 minutes until it is completely heated through and starting to brown a bit on the top. Remove from the oven, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and serve. Delicious!!

Over in The English Kitchen today, Open Minced Pies.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Marie's Sunday Six

Welcome to my last Sunday Six for November 2010! It's hard to believe that we are already at the end of the month oncer again. My goodness but the time has passed so quickly, it's a wonder our faces aren't all distorted from G force! Is it just me, or is time passing faster and faster?? I have had a lot of smiles this past week so without further adieu lets get to them!

For the past couple of months, Todd and I have been going with the missionaries periodically to help to teach a female investigator about our church. What a lovely lady she is and so humble and keen to learn. Last evening she was Baptised and what a wonderful evening it was. This Baptism was so very special. It was something we thought would not happen for a long time due to her fear of water. Thankfully she was able to get over that fear long enough to be Baptised, praise God! It was such a spiritual and beautiful Baptism. It took me back to when I was able to finally be Baptised myself and all the wonderful feelings associated with that occasion. It made me smile in a very big way. (Grr. . . I can't believe that I forgot my camera! I had really wanted to take a picture of her afterwards with the missionaries!)

I had been asked to give a short talk on Faith prior to the Baptism. I was very honoured to have been asked and this made me smile in a very big way! It was a great priviledge to have been able to serve this woman in such a special way and I enjoyed every minute of it. Faith in the Saviour is one of my favourite topics and it was my very first time to ever have been asked to give a talk at someone's Baptism! Oh how very happy I was to have been able to do so last evening! It has been such a blessing to us to have been able to help to teach this woman and to have helped her to take this very important step back on her journey back into her Heavenly Father's presence!

We have had one of the coldest endings to a November in a long time over here in the UK. I think snow in November, especially in the more Southern Regions, is practically unheard of, but we do have snow. It may not be a lot where I live in Chester, but it is there and it is coooooold!!! This week, mittens and hot chocolate and central heating have made me smile! Well, maybe not earlier this week when our boiler wasn't working, but let me tell you . . . once they got it going I was smiling, smiling, SMILING!!!

Being able to send my grandchildren a special Message from Santa on the PNP (Portable North Pole) once again this year has made me smile. I hope that they enjoyed receiving it as much as I enjoyed sending it!

The Portable North Pole(PNP) is a free video message from Santa for kids (and adults). It brings the magic of Christmas to a computer near you! Users can have Santa say their child’s name, open a book with their child’s photo, trace the route from the North Pole to their child’s home and let them know what Santa will be putting under the tree at Christmas. All with a few mouse clicks!

The video is magnificent. Your children and Grandchildren will honestly believe that Santa is talking directly to them! I raced through the process with my grandson's details, and less than 5 minutes later I had a fun, personalized message from St. Nick himself - irrefutable evidence that there is a Santa Claus! I love that there are different messages tailored to children of all ages . . . and even grownups . . . making it fun and relevant for everyone in your family.

This little lady makes me smile big time! Here is Mitzie's latest photo. It is hard to get a decent picture of her these days. She usually gets all excited when she sees the camera and starts moving about and all I end up with is a blur!! I was lucky to get this one the other day. She is such a little dear and so very loving. She gets very excited when the doorbell rings! She knows that we will probably have a visitor and she is very sociable! She doesn't bark, but she goes to the hallway door and stands there looking at it, practically willing it to open and allow the person into her presence! We are still trying very hard to train her not to jump up on people. It's slowly getting better. Like anyone she has good days and she has bad days! She is huge joy to us both.

I got a package in the post this week all the way from Sweden. Inside was this beautiful red tin Moose along with some very pretty traditional Swedish Straw ornaments. My friend Marie from Sweden had sent them to me. Oh, how I love them! It was such a kind and generous thing for her to do and I was just thrilled! It really made me smile. He is adorable and I have christened him Merry Moose. He is sitting on our mantle just waiting for me to decorate for Christmas! It won't be long now!

I had a lot of smiles this week, far too many to show you here . . . these are just the highlights. I am so blessed to live a life that is filled with abundant joy. Yes, there are sad times too, but I am so very lucky that I have the faith and strength to pull myself through them. Life is a truly wonderful gift and we should never take any of it for granted.

"When every day seems the same, it is because we have stopped noticing the good things that appear in our lives." ~Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I hope you are able to notice some good things in your life today and in the week to come!

I have been struggling for months to get a decent photo of Roast Chicken. It is really quite hard to get a nice photo of this. Poor Todd has had to sit through one chicken dinner after another in my quest for the perfect photo, thankfully not without abreak in between and something else to eat, for I’m afraid if I served roast chicken to thiskind and gentle man my husband is, even he would rebel after a time! Yesterday I cooked yet again, another Roast Chicken and I didn’t get what I would consider to be a decent photo of the whole thing. I did, however, get a pretty tempting photo of it on my plate . . .

*Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Nothing is more comforting than a delicious dinner of Roast Chicken and vegetables. Crisp skin on the outside, and succulent, flavourful, tender and juicy meat on the inside. This is my way of achieving just that. Lemon and Garlic bring out the best in chicken. The three just go together like peas and carrots!

1 medium sized roasting chicken, about 2 kg in weight
2 unwaxed lemons
3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 TBS butter
3 sprigs of thyme
Sea Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
A drizzle of olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Take one of the lemons and slice very thinly. Place half of the slices in the bottom of a heavy roasting pan along with half of the sliced garlic. Set aside while you prepare the chicken.

Wash the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Season it well inside with salt and pepper. Loosen the skin over the chicken breasts with your fingers, being very careful not to tear it. Push a few slices of the sliced lemon in under the skin on each side along with some of the remaining garlic slices, 1 TBS of butter and a sprig of thyme. Put the rest of the lemon, the last TBS of butter and a sprig of thyme into the cavity of the chicken. Place the whole chicken on top of the sliced lemon and garlic in the roasting pan. Dust the whole thing with some salt and pepper and drizzle with some olive oil. Place in the heated oven.

Roast, uncovered for approximately 45 minutes per kg, or until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Baste the chicken every fifteen minutes after the first half hour has passed with the pan juices.

Remove from the oven and let it sit to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving. If you wish you can skim off all the fat from the pan and make a delicious gravy with the juices that are left behind.

To make a gravy: Skim off all the fat from the pan, except for about 2 TBS. Add several TBS of flour to the remaining drippings and any juices from the chicken. Stir until smooth, and cook over medium heat for about a minute. Slowly pour in 2 cups of heated chicken stock, stirring until it is thickened and smooth. Taste for seasoning. Serve.

And over in The English Kitchen this morning, you'll find a delicious recipe for the Classic Sunday Morning Brunch Cake

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Saturday Prattle . . .

"At every moment in our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss."

~Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes

Good morning! I am rather late getting started this morning. I wasn't very well through the night. I kept thinking that I was going to get sick and so didn't sleep very well. I didn't crawl out of bed until gone 7:30, which is very late for me!! I will be playing catch up all day as that is some 2 1/2 hours later than I usually get up!

We had the missionaries here last night along with an investigator who is being Baptised tonight. It was a fun evening. One of the things we did was an activity that was really fun. I thought it would be a great Family Home Evening activity as well! They had five sheets of paper with each person's name at the top of one page. Then they passed the sheets around to each of us and we had to write down our description of that person whose name was at the top of the page. Each description then got folded under before we passed it on to the next person so that they could not see what we had written. (not sure if I made sense of those instructions or not!) Anyways, the papers eventually made their way back to the person whose name was on the paper and then we got to read out loud all the descriptions! Here is what my paper said about me:

*A very good cook and Christlike woman. You are a good example to others in the way you like. Also you are Canadian which is a big compliment! (This had to have been the Canadian Missionary!)

*I think you are swell because you are always happy! I think that you can see only good in people and that shines through in the warm way that you treat all of us.

* A loving and sensitive person, very helpful and charitable. She is a wonderful cook and very talented with art and crafts. She is a first class partner in my life. (SO long as I can keep her in check!) (This had to be Todd, lol)

*I have found her to be a very warm and loving person although I have only known her for a short while. I feel that goodness surrounds her.

I'm not sure that I deserve all of those kind words, but I'll take them gratefully and try to live up to them!

I'd like to be able to stay and play a little bit longer this morning, but alas, I have a talk to write for tonight and a bazilion other things to get done today. I leave you all with my love and a recipe! Happy Saturday everyone!

Have you ever seen the book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat, The secret of eating for pleasure???” Well, I don’t want to get in a debate about whether French women get fat or not (let’s just say I have been to the continent, and um . . . I did see a lot of fat women, and they weren’t speaking English) but anyways, this salad could have something to do with the reason they may or may not get fat. Oooo la la . . .

*The French Wedge*
Serves 2
Printable recipe

It couldn’t be simpler and you can have it on your table in less than 10 minutes. What can be tastier than a crisp wedge of Iceberg lettuce, sliced avocado and baby plum tomatoes with a tasty French vinaigrette? One with the addition of toasted walnuts and crumbled Roquefort cheese, that’s what!!!

¼ cup walnut pieces
1 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
1 TBS sherry vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
½ head of iceberg lettuce
4 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled
½ haas avocado, peeled and cut into ¼ inch slices
8 baby plum tomatoes, cut in half

Heat the oven to 180*C/350*F/gas mark4. Place the walnut pieces on a small baking tray and carefully toast them in the oven, tossing them regularly for about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn. Set aside.

Whisk together in a small bowl the mustard, sherry vinegar and the salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, while whisking to emulsify the mixture.

Cut the lettuce half into two evenly sized wedges. Place each quarter on a chilled salad plate. Arrange the avocado slices next to the wedge and scatter the plum tomatoes over top of the avocado. Rewisk the dressing and drizzle it over top of each wedge. Sprinkle on the walnut halves and the Roquefort cheese. Enjoy!

In The English Kitchen today, Applesauce and a delicious Applesauce Tea Bread!

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Golden Eagle Story . . .

I'd like to share a little story with you all this morning that I read a few days ago and which really inspired me. I like to call it The Golden Eagle Story.

Once upon a time, far, far away . . . there was a chicken farmer who had found an egg which had rolled out of an eagle's nest. He knew that if he put it back into the nest, the mother would probably reject it and push it out . . . he also knew that if he left it where it was, it wouldn't develop either, and so he did what any caring person with a barn full of chickens would do . . . he took it home and popped it under a sitting hen.

Eventually all the eggs in the chicken's nest hatched out. The young eagle found itself scratching around in the dirt, daily . . . with a family of chickens. He may have been a bit larger than the others, and even a bit uglier . . . but he felt quite comfortable with them as it was the only home he'd ever known, and they were his family.

One day he looked up and saw a great eagle soaring in the sky. What's that he wondered? How majestic. He asked his mother chicken.

"Why that's a golden eagle." she replied. "Monarch of the birds."

Oh, he thought, and then he returned to scratching in the dirt, satisfied with his mother's reply . . . and content with being a chicken, for that's what he thought he was. Little did he know that he, too, could have soared across the sky, like the eagle he was born to be . . .

Isn't that true of many of us? We remain earthbound, scratching in the dirt, instead of realizing our full potential and flying high. I believe that each of us have been given great talents and that we should develop and use them whenever we can. We each have the potential to soar across the sky.

No, they may not be magnificent talents like painting Mona Lisa's or singing wonderful songs . . . it could be something as simple and yet as great as being able to help other people feel better about the world and themselves . . . the talent to bring a smile to another's face and a song to their heart, but it is a talent all the same.

Today it is my prayer that we will all find the means, and discover our ability to soar across the sky, like the eagles we were born to be . . .

We finally have heat and hot water again. The boiler man came and fixed our boiler yesterday! (Fingers crossed!) Brrr . . . it has been a couple of cold days with no heating or hot water! It sure is nice to be warm again! I am so grateful that I live in a country with central heating!

I had such a nice surprise yesterday evening. The telephone rang and it was my friend Lura from California (Grammy's News). She and the whole family were calling to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. I was so touched by their love and thoughtfulness. Lura and her husband John had to say goodbye to their dog Heidi earlier this week. It was very sad for them. She had been their beloved companion for 12 years. I know how heartbreaking that is, having gone through it myself earlier this year. Why not pop on over to her page and give her a hug. I just know she would appreciate it. She's that kind of gal. She's a special person, a truly special person.

This is one of my favourite ways to cook sweet potatoes. Not only are they quick to do but very delicious, and sweet potatoes are very good for you. They are known for being one of the “super foods”, full of vitamins and goodness.

*Sweet Potato Oven Fries*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

These are so quick to make and so full of goodness. You can vary the spices if you wish, but this is the combination we love. It’s a great combination of sweet and savoury. I could eat a whole plate of these and nothing else!

4 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and dried well
2 TBS olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp of mild chili powder
½ tsp of garlic powder
½ tsp of onion powder

Pre-heat your oven to 205*C/425*F/ gas mark 6. Lightly grease a shallow baking tray and set aside.

Take your sweet potatoes and cut them into medium wedges lengthwise. There is no need to peel them. I think the peels give them even more flavour. Put them into a bowl along with the olive oil and all the spices. Give them a really good stir, making sure they are coated evenly. Scatter them onto the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.

Pop the baking sheet into the heated oven and bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes until they are tender and starting to brown, turning once, halfway through the baking period. Remove from the oven and serve right away. They will not be as crispy as regular potatoes would be, but they sure are delicious!

In The English Kitchen today, a delicious Pork and Mushroom Casserole.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

And so it starts . . .

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers! I hope that you all have a wonderful and blessed day with your loved ones, both near and far and that you stay safe, warm and well fed, wherever you are!

It is hard to believe, and it seems to have rather snuck up on us again, but . . . exactly one month from today it will be Christmas!! Already the airwaves are filled with Christmas commercials cajoling us into buying this thing or buying that thing . . . trying to entice us to part with our hard earned cash to make sure that this year, our Christmas is the best holiday ever! There is never a mention of Christ, who is the main reason for the season. It's all mince pies, turkeys and the latest electrical gadgets and newest fashions and cosmetics! I do admit to loving the beautiful Christmas Music which accompanies some of them though . . .

I do think we rather over complicate things though . . . Christmas should be simple. Indeed, our everyday lives should be simple . . . but we tend to make them ever more complicated, and in doing so . . . erase much of the joy that is ours for the taking. We rush around buying things we don't really need, and make elaborate stress filled arrangements . . . all the while losing sight of just why we have a Christmas in the first place.

This year I would like to challenge you to have fewer unnecessary complications in your daily lives in the run up to Christmas . . . to slow down and enjoy all the beautiful things that this coming holiday season has to offer. Perhaps by December 25th we will all have learned how to keep things just that little bit simpler and even more beautiful.

I always have felt that there is something about this time of year that defies all definition. It is a plum pudding mixture of anticipation and reflection! One might be hard pressed to explain to an outsider all the things that this season can encompass . . . all the things that make it so joyful and wonderful. I found this quote though, that makes a good attempt at explaining it. I'd like to share it with you in closing . . .

"What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is the fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace."
~Agnes M Pharo

In the coming weeks may your cup truly overflow with all of these things and many, many more . . . and may you be able to find the joy and peace that comes from the spirit of celebrating and experiencing the true meaning of Christmas.

One thing my mother always made for the holidays when I was a girl that I loved, was lovely meat pies, called Tortiere. They were a holiday traditionhaving come from my Father's French Canadian heritage. We would have them every year on Boxing Day. Although I was never fond of any kind of ground meat, my favourite part of these being the pastry on the outside, I always found that if I doused it with loads of catsup I could manage it quite well, and it was really rather tasty once I got past the thought of it being ground meat. My sister makes really lovely ones too. I have always really enjoyed hers. I do make it on occasion as well. Todd really enjoys them. I prefer mini ones myself, more pastry less meat, but they are quite good anyways. I made one last Saturday supposedly for this Christmas, but what the heck we ended up digging into it anyways. I’ll have to make another one for Christmas it seems . . .

Serves 6
Printable Recipe

Tortiere is a meat pie originating from the Quebec (French) region of Canada. It is traditionally served on Christmas eve in French households and on New Years Eve but it is also found and enjoyed in grocery stores all year round. As with anything though . . . Homemade is the best of all!

Meat Filling:
1 ½ pounds ground pork
1 onion, chopped really fine
¼ cup celery, chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp summer savoury (if you can’t find this, you may use a mixed herbs)
1/3 tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp allspice
1 bay leaf
½ cup boiling water
1 small potato, peeled and finely grated

2 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
½ cup vegetable shortening
¼ cup cold butter, cut into bits
5 to 6 TBS ice water

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 TBS water

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the ground pork. Cook, stirring to break up the larger chunks until it is completely cooked through and all of the liquid has evaporated. (I like to use a potato masher as it cooks, to help break it up into small even pieces)

Stir in the onion, celery, garlic and grated potato. Cook until the onions and celery are tender, but not browned. Add the salt, savoury, pepper, allspice, bay leaf and the boiling water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes.

Remove the lid and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes longer until most of the water has evaporated, but the mixture is still quite moist. Set aside to cool while you make the pastry.

Place the flour and salt in a large bowl, mixing it well. Add the shortening and butter and cut it in with a pastry blender until it resembles very fine bread crumbs. Add the water a little bit at a time, stirring with a fork until the mixture forms a soft dough that holds together well. (Try not to overwork it) Gather it into a ball and wrap it up in plastic cling film. Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 205*C/425*F/gas mark 7.

Divide the pastry in half. Roll one half out on a well floured surface, with a well floured rollingpin, to a size that will fit into a 9 inch pie round pie dish with about a one inch overhang all around. Transfer it to the pie dish.

Remove the bay leaf from the filling and spoon it evenly into the pie dish.

Roll out the other half of the pastry to fit over top of the pie dish with the same amount of overhang. Trim and seal the edges by either pressing it together with the tines of a fork or fluting it with your fingers. Cut a few vents in top for steaming and brush it with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 to 50 minutes, on the lowest oven rack, until it is golden brown on top and crisped on the bottom. Serve warm with mustard pickle or catsup on the side.

Over in The English Kitchen this morning, I'm mastering the basics by sharing with you my foolpoof way to make Perfect Mashed Potatoes and Perfectly Mashed Butternut Squash!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Much ado about nothing . . . .

One little unshed raindrop

May think itself too small,
Yet somewhere a thirsty flower
Awaits it's fall

One little word unspoken,
May seem too small to say,
But somewhere for that one word
A heart may pray.
~Helen Thomas Allison

It is wise never to dismiss the small things in life. They are often the things which make the most impact on people. I could be a small deed of kindness for someone, taking very little effort on your part, but it could make a world of difference for the recipient . . . likewise, you could make a small mistake and it could be the only thing you are ever remembered for, forever. I know what that feels like!

We finally have heat and hot water. It took most of yesterday before we had it going. Can you believe that the cowboys that put the boiler into this place originally allowed some of the cement and brick dust from when they were drilling when they put the boiler in originally, to fall down inside the boiler pipes, and it had hardened finally to the point where the boiler couldn't work! All that had to be cleared out and now it's working like a charm! Another example of something small that had long reaching implications. Something perhaps that on the day might have taken a few extra minutes of time to clear up . . . but ended up taking hours of work to fix and several days of us freezing!!

I have always taken the stance that, any job worth doing at all, is a job worth doing well . . . sure there are times when the lazy side of me just wants to take the shortest route possible, but then as I ponder the implications, I just put my shoulder to the wheel and do it properly to begin with. A shortcut taken is never worth the trouble it may cause in the long run!

I've been asked to speak at a Baptism this weekend. This is the first time I've ever been asked to speak at anyone's Baptism. It is an honor indeed! I shall be working hard over the next few days to make sure I have a speech worthy of such an important event! Whoever said there is no rest for the wicked must have been talking about me!

It is hard to believe but from tomorrow there is exactly only one month left until Christmas!! How did that sneak up on us! It seems like only yesterday we were complaining about how hot it was and now we're almost to the end of the year. Time seems to fly by ever so quickly and I am not the only one that has noticed that. Everyone I speak to seems to say the same thing! Thankfully I took all the grandson's Christmas Gifts over to Canada when I was there in July so I only have my mom's and dad's to mail out now, and my Eileen's. I better get cracking and get them into the post before it's too late!

I was sitting here reading Winnie the Pooh last night while Todd watched a cowboy film on the telly and it was the one where they had had a lot of rain and piglet was stuck in the tree as the land all flooded around them. It took a while for him to think of it, but he finally put a note into a bottle and sent it off in the flood waters asking for help. I thought to myself that is a bit like prayer isn't it. We find ourselves in a sticky patch and try to get ourselves out, and then when we can't get out of it, we usher up a prayer for help . . . a message in an invisible bottle sent out on the waters of faith! I wonder sometimes why we often use prayer as a last means of resort . . . surely it should be the first!

Well, now I am just prattling on, so I will draw this to a close. I wish you all a very happy middle of the week, and to all you Americans out there, a Very Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!

This is a recipe I adapted from one I saw Giada de Laurentis make one day. She called it Vendure Al Forno I think. I call it Cheesy Baked Courgettes. No matter what you call it, it's delicious! I love her recipes, but I am always left scratching my head and wondering how she stays so thin???

*Cheesy Baked Courgettes*
Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main vegetarian
Printable Recipe

I absolutely love this way of cooking courgettes. They are able to retain some of their bite without going soggy and the flavour of the cheese and the cream really make them quite delicious. Indulgent, yes, but once in a while you owe it to yourself to be a bit over the top!

2 tsp extra virgin olive oil. (does not have to be best quality as it is only for greasing the dish)
5 medium courgettes, washed, dried and cut crosswise into 1 inch slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup double cream
4 ounces good mozzarella cut into fairly thinish slices
4 ounces medium cheddar cheese, grated
6 TBS freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup dried bread crumbs (I use Italian seasoned ones. If you are using plain add some oregano and basil and garlic just for spice)

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F/gas mark 4. Lightly grease an 8 inch baking dish with the olive oil.

Arrange some of the courgette slices in the bottom of the dish to cover. Season generously with salt and pepper. Pour 1/3 of the cream over and then top with 1/3 of the mozzarella and 1/3 of the cheddar cheeses. Sprinkle with 2 TBS of the Parmesan and 1/3 of the bread crumbs. Repeat the layers twice more, ending with bread crumbs.

Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake in the pre-heated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until nice and bubbly and lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Baking in The English Kitchen today, a Maple Pumpkin Pie!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Simple Woman's Day book

FOR TODAY, November 23rd, 2010...

Outside My Window...

It is dark and cold, and supposed to get colder as the week progresses. Winter is here, it would seem. Areas of the country are expecting anywhere's up to 6 inches of snow! That is indeed very early. We don't expect any here in Chester though. Actually we're quite protected here by the Welsh mountains, so I guess we are lucky!

I am thinking...
We were at some friends' home last evening for Family Home Evening and we had such an enjoyable time that the feelings are still with me this morning. It is an extra special blessing to be able to share and ponder these most precious things of the heart and spirit with good friends.

I am thankful for...
Last week I said my central heating. This week I am saying I will be thankful to have it fixed! Yes, our boiler has failed. We have had no heat or hot water for 2 days now, so it is a might bit chilly in here. It is no problem boiling the kettle to have hot water to wash dishes with or have a sponge bath at the sink . . . but brrr . . . it's rather a bit on the cool side in here and I am longing for my bath in the tub! Hoping to have it fixed today!

From the kitchen...
There's leftover marmalade cake and sour cream apple squares . . . sigh . . . oh and a few cupcake madeleines! I'm really enjoying giving my new cooker a workout!

I am wearing...
Flannel Jim Jams! Soft and a lot warmer than my usual ones! I also have my big furry blue robe on as well as my slippers! Mitzie is laying right behind me so she's helping to keep me warm as well. I think I may also be warming her up! We're warming each other up!!

I am creating...
I have all sorts on the drawing board at the moment. I'm working very hard on a big, but still very hush hush project. Not long now before I can reveal all, hopefully!

I am going...
As soon as we get the boiler working and the water has heated up, I am going to jump into the bath!!

I am reading...

Miss American Pie by Margaret Sartar

Like all good Southern writers, Margaret Sartor sets the scene in her introduction to her memoir, MISS AMERICAN PIE: "Montgomery, Louisiana, isn't a very small town, but it's small enough. In the 1970s, the divorce rate was nonexistent, church attendance was roughly 100 percent, and the rules of proper behavior were generally agreed upon, if often ignored . . . We purchased cigarettes from vending machines, rode bikes without helmets, and thought seat belts were for wimps . . . On the whole, I would say my hometown was entirely typical of its time and place, more confused than reactionary, a sort of stranglehold of befuddlement." Having been a teenager myself in the 70's , I am really enjoying this!

I am hoping...
I hope all sorts . . . I am just a hopeful kind of person. Without hope where would any of us be?

I am hearing...
Early morning sounds . . . clocks ticking, early morning cars, the honk of a taxi picking up one of the neighbours, and Mitzie snozzling next to me. Oh how I love that sound. So sweet.

Around the house...
I still have a ton of ironing to do! It it like I have a magical ironing basket that, no sooner do I empty it, but it fills up again with more ironing!!! Now, if only I had a magican money basket that did the same thing!!

One of my favorite things...
is going for long walks with Todd . . . preferably in the sun and on a nice warm day!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
I am working hard to finish my secret project as the deadline for finishing it is looming in just a few weeks now, so I'll be spending most of my time on that, plus the usual church meetings and of course some cooking too!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

This is a picture that was taken of the dining room table just before one of the dinner parties at the Manor I used to cook at. Look at all that silver and crystal! All polished by moi. The dinner parties always used to be a lot of work, with all the shopping, table setting, cooking, serving, and cleaning up afterwards!! (Whew!!) I did love doing them though. It all was a wonderful opportunity to stretch my abilities and I always enjoyed watching the guests enjoy their dinners! I kinda miss them!

And just as a closing thought for today . . .

Our minds like houses shabby grow.
A sudden flash of truth will show
How much we need to sweep away
The dusty thoughts of yesterday . . .
~Patience Strong

A thought to inspire for today.

And there you have it . . . my day book for this week. 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!)

I promised someone that I would post my famous Corn Chowder recipe, and not being one to dissappoint here it is! (I used to make this every Sunday after church when my kids were growing up. It was quick, easy and delicious. With a crusty roll, some gently heated scones or just crisp buttered slices of toast it's a meal even HRH would approve of!)

*Corn Chowder*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This has always been a family favourite. Quick to put together, you can have a delicious and satisfying meal on the table in about half an hour give or take a few. Wonderful!

4 slices smoked rindless streaky bacon
½ leek, cut in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced into half moons
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 bay leaf
½ tsp summer savoury
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (425ml) tin creamed style corn*
1 cup whole full fat milk
1 knob butter

Heat a heavy bottomed medium large saucepan over medium heat and toss in the bacon. Fry until crisp. Add the slices of leek and cook for a few minutes longer until tender. Add the potatoes, bay leaf, herbs and boiling water to cover. Bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the creamed corn and the milk. Gently heat until heated through. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Add a lump of butter and serve hot with buttered crispy whole grain toast.

*Note- You can get the creamed style corn in the vegetable aisle of most grocery stores here in the UK.

Cooking in The English Kitchen today, Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Shallots!