Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas Stars and Dogs!

After my first Christmas away from home in 2011, this year it was time for my return back home to England for a rowdy family holiday!  Just as when I was a little girl, I volunteered the place names for our Christmas dinner!  14 people were coming, but that didn't stop me going all out with my new machine, a try at blanket stitch and some personalised embroidery on the stuffed felt ornaments!  Here's how they turned out...

My original Etsy photo
Trying out my new camera lens, getting as close as I can!!
Inspired by the Radley dog, here's my Christmas take on this!
Thanks for the display!.... This was before this one got a little wet with red wine :-S
I saw a few of these hanging on trees or cupboard doors in the days after Christmas, hopefully everybody gets to keep their own decoration for many more years!  Happy Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Movember Moustaches

Just in time for Movember 2012 I created these moustache hair clips so all of us Mo Sistas can be a part of Movember too!

These cute felt hair clips are padded and attached with a barrette hair clip, perfect for any hair style! 

Check out my Etsy store to buy yours now!  Wear them with pride this Movember season or keep them in your hair all year around - these moustaches are everywhere right now!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Apple Picking and the yummy consequences!

After an amazing Summer together we fell into a very VERY busy September back at work and school and it took until October 13th for us to spend an afternoon together.  It was (almost) a beautiful Autumn day so we headed up to a local apple orchard for some apple picking!

A really great day out but then of course we had to get to work making use of all those apples!

Ideas we wanted to make were apple sauce, some kind of apple and cranberry chutney (we still had lots of cranberries left over from a trip to Bala, Muskoka earlier in the year) and of course an apple crisp!

Another new project for us was canning - so thank you Canadian Tire for our supplies.  Armed with lots of empty jars we were ready to go!

We were very surprised with the pink colour of the apple sauce!  Taste was great so no complaints!

Next was apple and cranberry chutney.  We had a little trouble finding a recipe that we liked all parts of.  We didn't only want a cranberry sauce to spoon over turkey, we definitely wanted to seal them in the jars as we wanted to give some as Christmas presents!  Also a lot of recipes were a bit 'spicy' for us.  I don't like cinnamon or a heavy clove or nutmeg flavour so we tried to avoid that.  In the end we found this recipe here from BBC's Good Food website.  We loved it all so off to work we got!

The hardest part was keeping these secret until Christmas!!

All of our canning complete there was the mandatory apple crumble to make (maybe definitely doubled the crumble part of the recipe - thanks Mum for that recipe!) but boo we forgot to take photos of that, sorry!

And then with a few of the leftover apples I tried out a recipe I found on Pinterest but originally came from this blog here.  Armed with our mandolin (again, thank you generous wedding gifts for supplying us with endless kitchen utensils!) I got slicing.  A little sprinkling of sugar (no cinnamon please) and baked them all afternoon.  They were ADDICTIVE!  Like seriously addictive.  Just a shame they take so long to cook meant you couldn't just cook them when you got the craving - but perhaps my teeth thank me for that.  

We'll definitely make these again!

So a rather long post but after such a great day out and lots of projects following it I just had to!  Enjoy Autumn!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Plum and Almond Thanksgiving Tart

Happy Thanksgiving!  This week I celebrated my 4th Canadian Thanksgiving!  For me I love having the long weekend in October after what usually is a crazy back-to-school time in September and by this point having a weekend off is great news!  This year we spent the dinner at Jonathan's cousins house, celebrating Thanksgiving and a birthday in one meal!

I wanted to bake something to match the season and there was something I had been wanting to try for a while.  In a small 'Dessert' recipe book from my Grandma was a recipe for Plum and Almond Tart.  I had originally wanted to make it for a church lunch event but decided it a) might not slice into small squares well, and b) would probably be better warm so I had to wait.

Living a busy life with just the two of us - it is hard to justify baking a big cake or dessert without a reason - should we REALLY finish off a big cake just for ourselves in a regular week?  Maybe yes but likely no!!

So I had to wait until now to experiment with this recipe.

As the recipe was from a book and not the internet I scanned in the original page so you can see the recipe and get an idea of what the picture looked like (hopefully the scan is okay to view).

Double click for a bigger view of this picture - hopefully
you can read the recipe - let me know if you
want more details!

This was a FUN recipe to make.  Again, as in my Cherry Bakewell Tart post I made my own pastry.  I believe ready-made sweetcrust pastry is easier to find in English supermarkets but not here in Canadian grocery stores!  And so instead of searching multiple shops I decided it probably would be quicker just to make my own.  I tried Anna Olson's method of making pastry, rubbing the butter and flour between my hands, almost flattening it to create layers of butter within the pastry.  Seemed to work really well!  Thanks Anna!

I did omit the brandy from the recipe - didn't want to include this strong flavour in my tart as I LOVE the almond flavour so wanted to make sure that shone through.

After making the almond paste I was a little worried that there wouldn't be enough to fill up around the plums which definitely seemed bigger than the original picture in the recipe book.  Hmmm.  Surprising to me was the way it did fill up and puff around the plums.  It became slightly spongey whilst still being moist.  A different texture than I had baked before but with the almond flavour it tasted really good!  


Enjoy this tart warm with whipped cream... I certainly did!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A Selection of Soups

Did I ever mention we don't like to take the easy route?  So last Saturday when we decided we wanted to make a selection of soups we didn't just choose 1 or 2 kinds to make.  We planned to make 5 soups and 1 crockpot meaty taco soup but ended up with 7 kinds in total!

We rarely get to eat dinner before 8.30pm and often it is gone 9pm by the time we're home settled and food is prepared.  Pretty late considering there are evenings where I'm falling asleep by 10pm!  So after teaching we get home, eat and sleep!  There must be a better way!  So we thought by preparing a TONNE of soups we would have lots of frozen easy to prepare soups in a short amount of time = easy dinner!  If we remembered we could take them out in the morning, if not we could do a quick defrost in boiling water.

Here are the kinds of soup we made and some photos of the day's work!

Oh, and where I'M from - tea can be called dinner!  Hence the category of this blog post!

1.  Taco Soup Crockpot - thank you Pinterest for helping me find this and especially to Crockpot365 for this YUMMY recipe.  Find it here!

Super easy to make, firstly to brown the meat - then just dumping a load of cans into the crockpot!

This was so filling and so good!  With so many beans to chew into and then the texture and flavour of the meat and the slightly spicy taco flavouring it was really good.  We ate this for about a week - and could have gone on and on and on!  We'll be making this again FOR SURE!

2.  Vanaema's Harvest Vegetable Soup - a quick phone call to get a list of ingredients and we were ready to try out Jonathan's grandmother's famous soup!  We're excited she shared her recipe with us but can't claim that ours was better than hers!

3.  Grandma's Creamy Carrot and Parsnip Soup - My Grandma's turn this time!  A really sweet soup with the carrot and parsnip but really thick and very tasty!

4.  Sweet Potato and Molasses Soup - Thank you Rose Reisman for this soup!  And it's a healthy one too!!  We loved the flavour of this soup - the molasses really brings a different taste to the soup and I LOVE sweet potatoes so what a great combination!

5.  Tomato and Basil Soup - a nice simple one with lots and lots of tomatoes (BOO on having to peel them all however!) and some fresh basil from our herb garden, yey!

6.  Leek and Potato Soup - another easy one to make one of our favourite soups.  I believe we used this recipe from BBC's Good Food, just a simple one using basic ingredients!  

7.  Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Soup - For one last soup, we had a lot of butternut squash leftover as they are SO big!  So we roasted it up with some fresh herbs and also some garlic. Whizz them up and there you have an easy extra soup with leftover veg!

*** Careful while peeling the butternut squash - Jonathan ended up with lots of little prickles but also orange fingers and hands for over a week!! ***

We cooled all of our soups down for the rest of the day and the evening was spent carefully ladling the soups into smaller ziploc portions.  We made room in our freezer to firstly lay them flat until completely frozen (some took way longer than others to freeze!) and then when they could stand up we gained some space back in the freezer as they fit nicely stacked or in the freezer door.  

I wrote the instructions for cooking, or how much cream or milk to add, or any extra seasoning required when heated up on 1 of each type and referred to that one each time we cooked a soup.

An important thing:  We did not add any cream or milk to these recipes as we weren't sure how well that would freeze and thaw.  We added milk usually to the soups, unless we had cream in from something else so save that for another day!

We ended up with a good 60 portions of soup so we're definitely ready for the Winter months of late evening piano teaching finishes now :-)