Yes, today is the obligatory pumpkin post that every self respecting blogger must publish every autumn.
As the wind picks up and the days are more blustery; ripping the last remaining leaves off the trees and forming swirling, golden whirlpools on the ground, one might think these are the signs that autumn has arrived. No. The signs of autumn are the pumpkin recipes on websites, the horrible PSL at Starbucks and Pinterest. Continue reading →
I may have disappeared again. In my defence, I tried really hard to not only get this post out earlier but to visit as many of you as I could. I didn’t get to post this last week and I missed many of you. It was just a very hectic week.
My daughter graduated on Saturday and it was a lovely ceremony and a bit bittersweet and emotional. This was my first graduation as far as my children go. My eldest didn’t walk and so robbed me of my proud mommy moment.
In England, we don’t have all this graduation business. We sit our exams, we enjoy our summer as much as we can, and in August nervously await with baited breath for the postal flap in our door to fly open and letters to drop on the floor, hoping one of the envelopes is from the Examination Board. Then we squeal with excitement or moan with regret, either way, that’s it, that’s our graduation pomp and circumstance.
I may not have all the hullabaloo at my “graduation”, however, it was still very nice to be a part of daughter’s big day. I tried to hold back the tears when we walked down to greet her after the ceremony. A few photos and then our moment was done. She waved to us as she disappeared into the sea of blue clad graduates to enjoy the day and the many parties. I anxiously hoped she remembered that we also had a party going on later that day and she needed to make an appearance!
Saturday was also my son’s 10th birthday. He was such a great brother and made way for his sister to own the day. He graciously took a back seat so she could be the star.
We had a lovely BBQ with many of our good friends. It has been raining here for a good two weeks with really cold temperatures and Saturday was no different! It poured down! Thankfully, we have a huge front covered porch and we do most our cookouts under the porch. We had two grills going, a gas and a charcoal. We grilled burgers, chicken kebabs and vegetables. I made a quinoa salad with fruit, a Caprese pasta salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, grilled vegetables with a Herbes De Provence vinaigrette, and tangy, South Indian lemon rice.
Chips, salsa, Feta dip and a spicy black bean dip with assorted olives and vegetables rounded out the savouries. Dessert was a blueberry cobbler, grilled nectarines and pineapples with pound cake and ice cream, and assorted fruit. A wonderful friend made a beautiful cheesecake. We had plenty of sweets! Sweet ice tea, Southern style, and lemonade quenched our thirst. I think everyone enjoyed themselves!
One thing about cookouts is they don’t really allow you to sit for too long with your guests. I was running constantly from the grill to the food tables. Once the food was done though, I had a chance to sit and converse.
In the U.S. it was Memorial Day weekend so my husband and I were off from work on Saturday, but what did I end up doing on my day off from cooking at the store? Cooking for an even bigger crowd. I’m a glutton for punishment.
Were any of you aware that last week was National Vegetarian Week? I stumbled upon it while I was reading some article but then decided to run with it! It’s the excuse I used to cook vegetarian all week long. My eldest loved it because for once, she could eat everything and wasn’t relegated to the sides!
I loved it too. Dinner was uncomplicated and easy to throw together. It took me only an hour each day to get dinner on the table. No dealing with cleaning meat or chicken, waiting for it to defrost, soften, and so on.
This Mac and Cheese was dinner one day along with sautéed baby broccoli and baked kale chips. I jazzed it up a bit by using Pepper Jack since I love Pepper Jack cheese. It added a little kick without too much heat.
I also didn’t use macaroni but pasta shape known as pipe, Whole Foods has an excellent organic one I like to use. I just think they look cool and I’m like a little kid when it comes to pasta shapes.
So, yeah, this isn’t a very original post because there are a million mac and cheese recipes out there! But hey, it’s a post and it really was quite tasty with the creamy, spicy cheese, the funky pasta and the crunchy croutons on top. But I am slowly getting there and back in the kitchen. The mind has been a bit slow churning and I finally figured out that it may have been the new meds I started. Well, my job revolves around cooking and so does this blog, if I can’t be creative and motivated then where will I be? So, I stopped taking the new meds. I hurt a bit more but my mind is my own now.
Did any of you cook vegetarian food last week? It’s been really fun to see all the fresh, spring flavours on the blogs and then the autumn flavours coming from the Southern Hemisphere. Y’all are definitely inspiring! Can’t wait to see more seasonal goodies!
We may not have awakened to a winter wonderland on Christmas morning but as the day progressed, the heavens opened up and unleashed copious amounts of sparkly glitter, and very soon we were blanketed in the festive, white stuff. It’s funny how that on most days, snow is an inconvenience, a mess to drive in and the constant shovelling of driveways and footpaths isn’t the kind of exercise we enjoy on a wintry morning. However, I love it and during the holiday season, so does everyone else. True, driving can be treacherous, it’s freezing and the car never warms up, but I love winter, and I enjoy everything that comes with this season.
I would have preferred a more leisurely start to Christmas morning but since we do not partake in the traditional festivities of Christmas, our early start is usually, what has become our tradition now, a harried trip to the theatre to catch the first showing of a film. This year it was “A Night at The Museum 3” I really enjoyed this one because it is set in my hometown of London (and could possibly also, have a lot to do with the fact that Dan Stevens is playing Sir Launcelot).
As we left the movie theatre, the blue skies that had accompanied us earlier that morning, had all but disappeared. Muslin like layers of white, wispy clouds, tightly interwoven, were pinned to the once blue sky. The sun lay hidden behind its white veils, nudging the mercury to plummet 20 degrees.
We drove home in a popsicle mould that seemed to be happily chilling in a freezer drawer. Back inside the confines of our toasty home, we lit a crackling fire and attended to some slightly, mundane household tasks that needed to be addressed.
Christmas movies on the telly, a roaring fire, a belly full of comfort food, and a cup or two of soul soothing tea and I found my eye lids getting heavier by the minute. All in all, it was a day filled with precious family time, good food and snuggle time in front of a very, crackly fire.
I hope all of you had a wonderful day as well. What did you all do for Christmas?
Unfortunately, in all the lazy hubbub of the day, dessert was sorely neglected. We managed to scrounge up some ice cream and gelato, greedily scraping up every precious spoonful, and some imported English fruit cake to satisfy our cravings but I sure could have managed a slice or two of this very, delectable Roasted Banana Cake. I made this a few weeks ago with some bananas that looked like they were past their prime but on peeling them I discovered they were perfectly ripe. They made an excellent cake.
I’m not a big banana muffin, bread or cake fan. I think it’s something to do with the strong ethylene gas/musky aroma that bananas emit. I like bananas just fine to peel and eat, or throw in some ice cream or banana splits but I don’t like them baked into things. I find that cooking them a little bit, gets rid of that strong “fresh banana baked into things” taste. I make crepes with lightly sautéed bananas and I love them. So, with that theory in mind, I figured that if I roasted the bananas, then maybe that taste would not be apparent. I was right.
This could be considered an alcohol free Bananas Foster cake, I suppose. When I make my banana crepes, they’re always drizzled with a toffee sauce, as is this cake. The lovely thing with this cake is that all the toffee sauce gets absorbed into the cake as it sits and this lends great moistness and a melt in your mouth quality. It’s quite the celebratory cake. Don’t forget the crystallised ginger on top, it adds a wonderful sharpness to the rich flavour of the cake. Everyone who tasted the cake, loved the ginger.
I cannot believe 2014 is coming to an end. I have no idea where the year went. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride this year and looking back on it, I don’t know how I did what I managed to do this year. In the midst of the craziness we persevere somehow.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all; my readers, my friends, my family and fellow bloggers who visit my site regularly and leave such thoughtful comments, I thank you for your friendship and your support and look forward to another year of reading, cooking, baking and friendship!
Have a wonderful New Year and I will see you in 2015!
It has been quite magical not having to hustle and bustle around because of some impending deadline. I am finally allowing myself to fall asleep on the sofa without a care or a worry of having to get up and finish something. Last night, I fell asleep half way through Monday Night Football and because it wasn’t the Broncos, I continued to sleep. I only got up on my husband’s insistence that I couldn’t sleep out there all night and stumbled upstairs to my own bed.
The fog seems to have lifted from the dark recesses of my mind as well. The glowing embers of what were once my creativity and inspiration have been fanned into life and the flame is beginning to burn bright once again. I will capitalise on this rejuvenated spirit lest it flicker and die away.
The last few months have taken my energy, there is no doubt, but it only takes a few days of a clear and rested mind to be fully recharged again. I love my job and I love the flexibility and the freedom I have to create at will. I love the camaraderie and support of the people I work with and the lip smacking of the clients who try my creations and the sunny, smiles of the excited kids biting into a warm, gooey cookie.
But I won’t lie, all the praise and compliments in the world can only keep you on an adrenaline high for so long! That’s why, this last week has been pure heaven. After the major Thanksgiving production was over, we celebrated the birthdays of my two daughters who were born a day apart, We ate out, we ate too much, we shopped, we slept in late, we lounged around in our pyjamas; it was what I needed. A moment to do nothing.
The funny thing about doing nothing is soon you begin to crave doing something. My something has always been a mind that’s constantly in flux; whirring, scurrying, restless and impatient. Of late, the thoughts have been a lot about life, and food and how to implement these thoughts into a productive life and creative food.
Well, I still have to work but because I have my thoughts and my inspiration back, I’m looking forward to going to work on Saturday. I am looking forward to getting my hands dirty in the kitchen over the next few weeks and then getting busy on the computer telling you all about it. Or I may just have another cup of coffee and linger by the window seat a bit longer.
Talking about having coffee, this Sweet Potato Tea Bread, goes perfectly with a steaming cup of tea or coffee. I made this with the leftover sweet potato casserole from Thanksgiving. I think I made almost 6 pounds of the stuff and though we finished most of it, there was a bit left; great for experimenting. If you have leftover sweet potato to repurpose, make this! This bread lasted a day, it’s SO good. The casserole I make is my husband’s family’s recipe; a Southern style with a pecan streusel on top. Deliciously and conveniently, the pecans were also included in the bread. The recipe below is for the version with the sweet potato casserole, so if you make some for Christmas, you can conveniently make this tea bread for Boxing Day or the New Year’s. I have also included, in the notes section, the amounts needed for making this from fresh, roasted sweet potatoes.
A moist and delicious bread made with leftover sweet potato casserole is perfect with tea or coffee.
¾ cup/110g spelt flour
¾ cup/110g whole wheat pastry flour
2¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
2 cups/455g sweet potato casserole
¼ cup/59ml oil
½ cup/100g brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼-½ cup/59-118ml milk
Preheat the oven to 375F/180C
Grease or line with paper a medium size loaf pan.
Mix the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together in a bowl.
In another large bowl, add the leftover sweet potato casserole.
Mix in the brown sugar, the eggs, oil and vanilla.
Add the flour mixture to the sweet potato mixture and mix.
Add ¼ cup milk to loosen up the mixture.
Add the remaining ¼ cup milk if the mixture still looks to dry or thick.
The mixture should be medium consistency, like a thick pancake batter.
The flour can be a bit dry depending on the humidity of your location
I always need more liquid because it's really dry in Colorado.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and place in the oven
Bake for about 50-55 minutes.
Check to see if it has risen and has browned on the outside and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the loaf.
Allow to cool on a rack for 10 minutes and then remove from pan and cool all the way.
If you don't have leftover sweet potato casserole, you can still make this delicious bread using fresh roasted sweet potatoes or tinned sweet potatoes (drained) Use the following ingredient amounts and follow the instructions above. ¾ cup/110g spelt flour ¾ cups/110g whole wheat pastry flour 2¼ teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons cinnamon 2 cups/455g sweet potatoes (1 or 2 medium sweet potatoes) ¾ cup/150g brown sugar ½ cup/118ml oil 3 eggs ¼-½ cup milk ¾ cup roasted and chopped pecans, optional
And HIGH ALTITUDE bakers: Reduce the baking powder to 2 teaspoons.
I know for many of you, the upcoming holiday season is as stressful as it is fun. Know that I feel your pain! Yes, there is still work, and deadlines and commitments, but in the end, it is a time to relax and enjoy time with family. I wish you all the same euphoria I have felt this week 🙂
The holiday season officially starts next week with Thanksgiving kicking it off here in the US. Thanksgiving also happens to be, I think, the most anticipated and biggest holiday for food inspiration, new and traditional cooking and baking, and of course, let’s not forget the eating.
I did not grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, obviously, because England doesn’t have that holiday. However, I believe that Thanksgiving is truly a foodie holiday. The whole day is centred around food, family and football, with a bit of thankfulness thrown in.
I really took to Thanksgiving! Now, sometimes when I feel like holding back a bit, I can’t. My children and my husband, are crazy about the food. It’s the one holiday they really look forward to for the particular food that’s served.
Last year we did a potluck with our friends and a 40 pound turkey, 30 side dishes and 12 desserts. We were very thankful and incredibly full. This year it’s the same group but I hope the turkey is smaller!
So, onto this recipe. As you know, I rarely do any kind of sponsored posts on my blogs. It’s not that I’m not open to them, it’s just that I’m very particular about product I endorse. It has to be all natural, preferably organic and even better if it’s Colorado local. I’m a big supporter of small farms and local businesses.
So imagine my excitement when I received an email from MM Local, a Colorado based, organic company that specialises in preserved and pickled fruits and vegetables, and fermented sauces and pickles. I knew about them from the farmers markets and had tried their jarred fruit.
What I love about MM Local, besides the fact that they are from Colorado and use organic ingredients, is that they source their produce and ingredients from local Colorado farms. These are farms whose stands I visit in farmers markets and whose produce I buy.
They were kind enough to provide me with a few jars of my choice of fruit or vegetables. Since Thanksgiving is next week, they were interested in the stuffing/dressing recipe I mentioned. I asked for some of their delicious jarred Paonia pears with rosemary for the recipe. The rosemary and pear combination is fantastic.
I used a hearty, peasant bread from Whole Foods, leeks for a mild onion flavour and some beautiful, crimson pomegranate arils for that burst of sweet tart flavour. Of course, you can use whatever bread you’d like including a good quality dried bread stuffing cubes. If MM Local pears are available in your area, please seek them out and use them! They are of excellent quality and so much better than any tinned pear.
I made the dressing in a pan and this quantity will make enough for a 9 x13 pan. I made a bit extra to stuff some under a chicken I was roasting for dinner so I could taste them both ways.
They are both excellent. Of course, the stuffing had all the chicken drippings so it did have extra flavour from the chicken fat and spices. The dressing in a pan can be drizzled with the turkey juices and some turkey fat to get the same flavour. The dressing by itself has a lot of flavour as well, the sweetness of the pears, the saltiness of the bread, the crunch of the toasted pecans and the tartness from the pomegranate all add great layers of flavour and texture.
If you’re looking for a new stuffing/dressing recipe, I hope you’ll give this one a try. If there is one new recipe I try every year, it’s the stuffing recipe. A new one every Thanksgiving 🙂
To make your holidays sweeter or more savoury, MM Local is giving away a sample (it’ll probably be a MM Local gift card or promo code) of their delicious jarred fruit or vegetables to two lucky people (US only at the moment) All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me your favourite Thanksgiving dish. Is it the stuffing? The sweet potato casserole smothered in marshmallows or the green bean casserole? I want to know (really, I just want ideas for new side dishes) I’ll pick a winner by Thanksgiving and announce by the end of the month.
So, onto this Pear Stuffing recipe, hope you get a chance to try it.
Hope everyone’s Thanksgiving prep is well underway. I just finished a big event last night and I can now start my planning. It hasn’t helped that I’m still not better. I have a sinus and ear infection and I pretty much can’t hear anything but buzzing in my right ear. My husband is pretty thankful that I can’t talk either.
The giveaway is now over! Winners announced in the new post.