The Grand Canyon to Clear the Mind

After several days in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon proved to be the salve we needed.  We needed a break from the craziness, not to mention all the cigarette smoke.  My poor asthmatic lungs were gasping for fresh air.  The hire car was a convertible Mustang, which by the way, is probably the most popular hire car there.  You’d of thought a giant convertible Mustang car club had taken over the southwest.  They were everywhere!

Our first stop was the Hoover Dam.  What a crazy feat of engineering in the middle of nowhere.  It’s just massive.  We knew we were getting close with all the electric lines snaking their way across the sky.  In order to get a proper picture of the dam we had to walk along the Memorial Bridge, which is freaking high up.  I hate heights, well more of a fear of falling, so anything to do with bridges, cliffs, etc really doesn’t sit well with me.  At all.

Hoover Dam

View from the Hoover Dam

Time for the trek to the Grand Canyon.  It’s amazing how far you can drive and see nothing except road.  A great swath was like a moonscape.  Luckily we got to the Canyon before the sunset.  After we checked into the hotel we headed up to the South Rim.  On the way we saw the first of the elk.  Beautiful animals but I was saddened to see the people who were trying to distract them and getting too close.  There are only signs everywhere saying not to do that.  We stayed on the road as it’s not our home.

Years ago I visited the Canyon for a few hours with my dad but I was excited to see it again and as it was the first time for my husband, the sunset was the perfect first impression.

After the long drive it was wonderful to just walk around in the gorgeous weather.  A perfect end to the day.  Of course we wanted to see the views in the sun rise as well.  So a few hours later we were back on the rim to watch the sun come up.  99% of the people were great, enjoying the quiet and taking loads of pictures.  But there was a couple going right out on an outcrop to do their own “photoshoot” but essentially inserting themselves in everyone else’s pictures.  I mentioned outloud how selfish that was and there were a few people within earshot nodding their heads in agreement.  Not to mention they were awfully close to the edge.  I mean, is taking a picture of your feet over the edge really worth the risk of falling?  On average 12 people die each year due to risks being taken.  The next day were a couple of people barely keeping their balance in the wind, holding up a huge flag near the edge.  I couldn’t watch.

But I digress.  Soon it was time for the sun to come up.  A glorious sight.

Sunrise

Sunrise

After breakfast we went back up to the rim and took advantage of the shuttle buses to check out several points along the way.  We also decided to walk between points for awhile.  Boy was I nervous, we were now away from the protective railings.  I said as long as I’m a distance that matches my height away from the edge I’ll be good.  So if I trip I’m far enough from the edge.  Which worked until we came to a short section that was only a couple of feet from the edge.  There was an old tree that was well polished from people gripping it on the way by.  I did get some strange looks as I would brace myself when people passed.  At one point we went to I was less than relaxed and a woman just looked at me and said something in Spanish.  It was pretty clear she had a mixture of pity and wondering why I was there!  🙂  A couple of times on the hike we came across benches where we would sit.  It would be dead quiet as if we were the only two people on earth.  It was incredible.

As we were pulling into our hotel we saw a couple of bucks just eating along.  We stayed in the car while I took a photo but there were two guys behind him getting closer and closer.  Honestly what they were thinking, I don’t know.  The buck comes equipped with several knives on its head!  In the park, while we were on the bus, the driver yelled out the window to a young woman to get away from a buck.  He said one step and it could kill you.  She seemed surprised at that.

A young buck

The last day was spent going up to Desert View before the long drive back to the airport.  Point after point had amazing views.  The average width of the Canyon is 10 miles though the brain can’t wrap itself round that fact.  It’s just so vast.

We would go back in a heartbeat.  It really clears out the cobwebs in the brain.

Las Vegas Observations

Las Vegas is a hell of a place.  I’m not sure I mean that in a good way.  The word my husband and I used most frequently was surreal.  We had an opportunity to go as my husband had a conference to attend so we figured we’d make a holiday of it.  I mean, it’s one those places you visit at least once.

We all wish for flights to be boring and once we were in the air it was but the nuttiest thing happened on takeoff.  We were first in line to barrel down the runway, we’ve been told to stay seated and now they mentioned to the crew to buckle up.  Just as the pilot “hits the gas” a woman stands up in the aisle to remove her jumper.  The flight attendent was yelling at her to sit down and she wouldn’t listen.  We were all watching in disbelief.  How she wasn’t hurt is beyond me.

The trip out gave us some incredible views once we got to the Rockies.

Amazing how the Rockies suddenly rise up.

Best view of Lake Mead!

As I heard it was crazy expensive (shocker, I know) I did a lot of research to see what I could do on the cheap.  Not easy!  A small bag of snack mix was over $7!

If you aren’t into gambling, which I’m not, it can get a bit tricky finding things.  But I did go to the Bodies exhibit and the Titanic exhibit.  Aside from spending time with my husband, these were the best bits of Vegas for me.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take any pictures, they ask you turn off mobile phones, etc.  I can understand with the Bodies as they are actual humans but definitely a shame about the Titanic exhibit.

I did try to see daylight at least once a day because this was the round the clock ambiance:

Yes, they do this on purpose to keep the gamblers at the slot machines but add this to the awful cigarette smoke it got a bit much. The pool area was my refuge in the morning while the shade lasted.

I did explore the strip, thank goodness for the bus system as the strip is 5 miles long!  It doesn’t seem it as all the resorts are massive.  You’d be amazed at the miles you can walk just staying in one resort.

I headed to the Bellagio as I heard they had a flower conservatory and a blown glass ceiling display.  Not only did it not disappoint, it was free!  The conservatory wasn’t massive but they are really creative with the display.  Well worth stopping by.

Their lobby ceiling was full of colour.

This made me want to hop a plane to Paris.

My husband was invited to an event at the top of Mandalay Bay and what a view!  I have to say that was quite something.  We chuckled as we had to go through security and they took my popcorn I got at dinner.  Because it was free I was saving it!  But I was out of luck.

To close out our stay before we headed to the Grand Canyon we headed to Fremont St and the surrounding area.  I enjoyed it much more.  No one seemed intent on emptying your bank account on a bag of crisps but you got to see the old casinos and they have the Container Park where all the shops and restaurants are made from shipping containers.  Plus you have the Preying Mantis out front.

Fremont St

At night flames come out of the antennae.

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit Las Vegas but I can honestly say once was enough.  Everyone was extremely nice but the felling of a vacuum sucking the money out of my pocket got old and stressful.  I can also honestly say it was quite the experience!

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Quick as a flash we are firmly in soup weather.  Last night we had a frost and surrounding towns had a dusting of snow.  I am so not ready for winter but Mother Nature doesn’t want to listen to me.  She doesn’t want to listen to the pepper plants either.  I will be pickling and preserving as much as I can this week so they won’t go to waste.  My Hot Pepper Jelly is first up.

At the end of my in-laws visit we did a tapas night and I planned way too many dishes, enough for an army, so there were many mushrooms leftover and I needed to use.  I thought cream of mushroom soup would fit the hearty bill for the cold weather.  This is so incredibly easy to make and the flavours are so good!  Perfect to have in your dinner “toolbox” when life gets crazy.

Technique for Cream of Mushroom Soup:

Prep all your ingredients before cooking.  Slice the mushrooms so that they are somewhat chunky.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and begin to brown the mushrooms.  Do this for several minutes, the longer you do it the more flavour you will get.  Once they start to brown add the onion.  Allow them to become translucent.  Then add the garlic and fresh thyme.

Cook for a couple of minutes.  If the mushrooms have sucked up too much butter add a bit more to make a roux with the flour.  Add the flour and cook for another couple of minutes.

Slowly add the beer as it can get really fizzy.

Add the veg bouillon and bring to a simmer.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Simmer until just before dinner.

Add the cream and serve immediately.

My husband made delicious Ciabatta to go along with it.

 

Cream of Mushroom Soup

A hearty soup for the cold nights.  Perfect when you are having a busy week.

Course Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword Cream of Mushroom Soup
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

  • 2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup onion, sliced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 2 heaping tbsp flour
  • 1 cup wheat beer 8oz
  • 2 cups vegetable bouillon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the mushrooms and cook for several minutes to brown the mushrooms.  Then add the onions.  Cook until the onions are translucent.  

  2. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for a couple of minutes.  If the mushrooms have soaked up too much butter add a bit more before adding the flour.  Cook again for a few minutes then add the beer.  Bring to a simmer.

  3. Add the vegetable bouillon.  Season with the sea salt and pepper.  Simmer until it's near dinner time.  Add the cream then and bring back up to a simmer.  Serve with crusty bread.  

 

Pork Pie with Apple and Thyme

Those that have followed my blog for awhile know I have a list of food I like to eat when we go back home to the UK.  Fish and chips, sausage rolls and pork pie.  Obviously I don’t eat them the entire time we’re there, I have to fit in the plane seat on the way back.  But I do get through the list!

It’s been on my to do list to make homemade pork pie for quite awhile now.  When my father in law mentioned that he loves pork pie as well I decided now was the time.  They’ve gone home now and it’s strange not to have them here.  We really enjoy visiting with them.  Holidays seem to go by way too fast.  We are already planning the next few visits and the way time flies, well it won’t be long.

Technique for the pork pie filling:

Now, I won’t lie, this is a time consuming dish.  Worth it, but yes it will take awhile.  Mainly because of finely chopping the meat.  I didn’t want to use mince for this.

The recipe I used as a guide was from the BBC for Raised Pork Pie but with my twist.  As it is apple picking season, any excuse to use up the apples will do.  Pork goes really well with sage, thyme and apple.  Finely chop the meat, apple and garlic. When you chop the meat remove any hard fat.  You do want a balance of fat but you want that fat to render into the meat when cooking.  Add the herbs, sea salt and pepper.

Mix well and set aside.

Technique for pastry:

Next prepare the baking tin.  I used an 8″/20cm springform pan and lined the bottom with parchment paper.  In a saucepan melt the butter in the water.  Bring it to a high simmer but don’t boil.

In a large mixing bowl add the flour and make a well.  Carefully pour the liquid into the flour.

Mix well with a spatula or wooden spoon.  When it becomes cohesive turn it out on a floured surface.

This will be fiddly!  Make no mistake.  Knead for a minute or so then divide it 1/3 and 2/3.  Cover and set aside the 1/3.  Flour the rolling pin to minimise the stickiness.  Roll out the pastry out thinly.  Fold it into a quarter.

This helps get it into the pan a bit easier.  Gently unfold it and press it up the sides.  Make sure there aren’t any holes or cracks.  Use your knuckles as nails are not your friends here!  Add the filling pressing it firmly into the pastry.

Roll out the remaining pastry then lay it on top of the pie.  Pinch the ends together and take a wooden spoon and poke the end in to make a hole in the top.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350F/180C.  Reduce the heat to 325F/160C and bake for 90 more minutes.  Beat the egg and brush the top of the pie with the egg.

Bake for 20 more minutes.  Let cool.  In a small saucepan add the chicken stock and thyme.  Bring to a boil and add the gelatin.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Remove the thyme. Using a funnel, gradually add the stock liquid to the pie.  This takes awhile as you don’t want the liquid to overflow.

Allow the whole pie to chill in the fridge overnight.

Serve with a side salad.  On the table we had salad cream, brown sauce, coleman’s mustard and branston pickle.  Can’t get more English than that!  🙂

 

Pork Pie with Apple and Thyme

A classic English dish with a twist of apple and thyme

Course Main Course
Cuisine English
Keyword Pork Pie
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings 8
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

Filling

  • 2.25 lbs pork shoulder/butt 1000 grams
  • 1/2 lb pork belly 200 grams
  • 1 large apple
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp fresh sage
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Pastry

  • 575g all purpose flour
  • 200 grams salted butter
  • 220 ml water

Remaining ingredients

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 packets gelatin a packet equals 3 leaves
  • 300 ml chicken stock
  • handful thyme sprigs

Instructions

  1. Finely chop the meat, apple, garlic and herbs.  Mix well and set aside.  Make sure you remove the hard fat.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.

    Heat the water and butter until a high simmer.  Add the flour to a mixing bowl and create a well.  Pour the hot liquid into the bowl and mix well.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or so.

    Line the bottom of an 8"/20cm springform pan with parchment paper.  Divide the pastry in a 1/3 and 2/3.  Cover the 1/3.  Roll out the rest thinly and place into the pan.  Press the pastry up the sides, make sure there aren't any holes or cracks.  Press the filling into the pastry.

    Roll out the remaining pastry and place it on top of the filling.  Pinch the ends together.  Use a wooden spoon end to create a hole in the top.

  3. Bake for 30 minutes then reduce the temperature to 325F/160C and bake for 90 minutes more.  Brush the beaten egg over the top and bake for 20 more minutes.  Let cool.

  4. Bring the chicken stock and thyme to a boil.  Add the gelatin and let cool.  Using a funnel, carefully pour the gelatin liquid into the pie.  Chill overnight in the fridge.  Serve with a side salad.  

 

New England Clam Chowder Brings Back Memories

New England Clam Chowder, or Chowdah if you want to get it right, brings me back to our family trips to the seashore in New England.  There is nothing like the sound of the sea and the smell of the ocean.  We would spend a day wandering round and it would invariably include a lobster meal with New England clam chowder.  Back when a lobster dinner didn’t require a mortgage to get!

With my in-laws visiting, I try to make meals that are a treat for them so when my father-in-law mentioned how much he loves New England clam chowder I knew I had to make it for him.  It’s been years since I had it so it was a treat for me as well.

Technique for New England Clam Chowder

As this doesn’t take long to cook, prep the ingredients up front.  Finely dice the potatoes and onions.  If you can find a large onion, you only need one.  For some reason we’re still getting tiny onions.

Coarsely chop the salt pork and brown in a saucepan.  Do this on medium heat as you want to render the fat a bit but don’t want to burn the meat.  After a few minutes add the chopped onion with the butter and bay leaves.

Cook until the onions start to become translucent.  Then add the flour to make a bit of a roux.  The goal is to have a hearty soup, not a watery soup.  Then add the potatoes and sautè for a minute.

Add 2 cups/16oz of chicken stock and 10oz of clam juice.  Bring to a simmer.  Add the fresh thyme and season with sea salt and pepper.  Add the clams.

At this point, if the soup is still watery, make a slurry of flour and water and add that to the pot.  Later when you add the cream and white wine it will thin it back out so it’s ok to go thick here.  Allow this to simmer for about a half hour to reduce a bit and to get the flavours going.  Just before you serve remove the bay leaves and add a cup/8oz of heavy/double cream and a third of a cup/3oz of dry white wine.  Don’t bring it to a boil but rather allow it to simmer.

Perfect with crusty bread

Serve it with some fresh baked bread.  Not surprisingly this was even better the next day.  It was very much enjoyed and it did bring back some lovely memories of when I was a child.

 

New England Clam Chowder

A delicious stick to your ribs soup for the cool nights.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup salt pork, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped or two small onions
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 large potato, cubed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 10 oz clam juice
  • 28 oz clams
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • sea salt
  • white pepper
  • 2 cups heavy/double cream
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Instructions

  1. In a sauce pan, brown the salt pork on medium heat.  Add the butter, onions, and bay leaves.  Cook until the onions are translucent.  Add the flour to create a roux.  

  2. Add the potatoes and cook for a minute then add the stock and clam juice.  Bring to a simmer.  Add the thyme and season with the sea salt and white pepper.  Add the clams.  Cook for a half hour.   Add a slurry of flour and water if the soup needs to be thicker.

  3. Just before serving add the cream and wine.  Bring to a simmer but don't boil.  Serve with crusty bread.  

Kai Phat Khing (Chicken with Ginger) and Will There Be Progress?

Once again the world watches.  Watches while a woman testifies about sexual assault in front of powerful men whose first reaction is to say boys will be boys.  When I was my daughter’s age I remember the world watching as well.  The message was the same then as it is now.  That breaks my heart.

I want better for my kids.  It seems a reasonable ask to for those who have been assaulted to heard and to raise boys to men who know “boys will be boys” is outdated and dangerous.  I’m inclined to believe Dr Ford, given the timeline of who she told.  Whether or not it’s true, I believe a proper investigation needs to be done.  I’m surprised things were delayed and today they are hearing her given how many have seemed to come to a conclusion already.  I don’t believe the proper venue is in the senate.  I’m curious what the result will be but I’m doubtful as much hasn’t changed since Thomas was confirmed 27 years ago.  On the flip side, Cosby has been sentenced so maybe, just maybe the tide is shifting.

Thai Food:

It is a quiet week as my in-laws drove to New York to visit old friends.  I don’t envy them doing the 8+ hour drive.  It is not a very exciting highway, straight and dull.  Hopefully they will have a good trip.

That leaves just my husband and I.  I’ve gone to cooking up a storm for 6 people to 2.  You wouldn’t think it would be difficult to adjust but I always find it hard to do that.  I either end up making too much or too little.  Because we did a traditional roast this past Sunday I had leftover chicken to use up so I thought it would be great to make a Thai dish.  We are both fans of the cuisine and luckily it’s very easy to cook.

Kai Phat Khing (Chicken with Ginger) Technique:

I have a cookery book called The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon.  In it, there is a recipe for Kai Phat Khing (Chicken with Ginger) that was a great choice to use up the chicken.  The interesting thing is the first ingredient in her recipe was wood ear fungus.  But the directions never mentioned putting it in the recipe!  At any rate, I used it as a light guide so I could use what I had on hand.

Hen of the Woods and Chicken of the Woods are great meaty mushrooms.

The co-op had hen of the woods and chicken of the woods mushrooms and I wanted them to be the highlight the dish.  Because I wasn’t sure when my husband would be home I prepped all the ingredients first as it only, when using leftover chicken, takes a few minutes to cook.

You can make this in a skillet but it’s better in a wok if you have one.  Heat the peanut oil.  The 2 tablespoons may sound like a lot but when the mushrooms get tossed in, it’s needed.  But first cook the onions for a few minutes.  When the onions start to become translucent add the garlic.

Keep an eye on the garlic!  The oil is very hot and you want the garlic to be golden, not burnt.  If you are using uncooked chicken, start cooking it now.  Add the mushrooms to the wok.  This needs to be cooked for a few minutes given how hearty the mushrooms are. While this is cooking add the ginger and stir well to coat the mushrooms.  The book mentioned making the ginger less “pungent”.  No way!  The ginger is a great flavour, I have no desire to dull it.

Allow the mushrooms to start to brown a bit.

Add the soy sauce/vinegar mixture along with the leftover chicken.

Near the end of cooking add the scallions.  I don’t like them full on raw but you don’t want these mushy or overcooked.

Garnish with a bit more scallion and serve right away.  As per my usual, I asked my husband how he liked it.  He really liked it but then said though you’ll probably not make it again.  Not true, but someone needs to remember and request.  Fingers crossed one of us doesn’t brain cramp.  🙂

Kai Phat Khing (Chicken with Ginger)

A flavourful Thai dish with chicken, ginger and mushrooms

Course Main Course
Servings 2
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Mushrooms, coarsely chopped I used Hen of the Woods and Chicken of the Woods
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup cooked chicken If using raw, use about 1/2 lb cubed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 scallion, sliced

Instructions

  1. Mix the soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar and brown sugar together and set aside.  

  2. Heat the peanut oil in the wok.  Cook the onions until they start becoming translucent.  Add the garlic.  Cook for another minute before adding the mushrooms.  If you are using raw chicken, add it now.  Add the ginger and stir to coat the mushrooms.  

  3. After cooking for a few minutes add the soy sauce mixture.  Stir well.  Allow the mushrooms to begin to brown a bit.  Near the end of cooking add most of the scallions to cook a minute or so.

  4. Serve immediately and garnish with the remaining scallions.

Sticky Toffee Pudding and Visiting In-Laws

Sticky Toffee Pudding!  There that should give me a green light on SEO scale.  Why the sudden abrupt start?  Well, I’m figuring out the new plug ins to improve the SEO.  Apparently they recommend using the focus keyword right out of the gate.  Yeah, I won’t be making a habit out of that.  It seems the equivalent of a brass band starting this off.  And I don’t have the lurgy so I’m just trying it out once to see what happens. As for this plugin, the proof will be in the pudding.

Pudding you say?  Well let’s get on with the reason we’re here.  Food!

Treating the In-Laws:

As many of you know we’ve been working on redoing our bedroom.  We had a definite deadline as my in-laws arrived this week.  Down to the wire but they were pleased to know they had a guest room to stay in!  We always have fun when we get together and this weekend we start it off with glassblowing.  Thank goodness the weather has turned cool as it’s a very hot activity.  Hopefully we’ll get some hiking in but the remnants of Florence will be blowing through next week.  I really hope their holiday isn’t rained out.

My mum-in-law runs a B & B so she looks forward not to have to do anything in the kitchen.  I try to treat them with meals and good desserts. I picked sticky toffee pudding as it’s a traditional pud.  Turns out my mum-in-law has never had it as she tries to be good.  Ah well, it’s holiday!

I did research the recipe online and for the most part it’s straight forward and relatively the same.  Unless you are Martha Stewart.  She made it weird.  As I have the “Baking with Mary Berry” book I decided to use that.  But while I was at tax class I looked her recipe up online to double check my ingredients.  Wouldn’t you know it, they were two completely different recipes!  The book uses dates and the online used black treacle.  I mean, really.  I chose the book with a little variation.

The Technique for Sticky Toffee Pudding:

I decided to use the recipe with the dates as I love that fruit.  Her recipe calls for walnuts but enough of my family members really don’t like nuts in the baked goods so I just increased the dates called for.

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C

Coarsely chop the dates.

Instead of a cup of dates, I increased it to 1 1/2 cups of coarsely chopped dates to make up for the removal of the walnuts.

In the mixer, cream together 6 tablespoons of softened butter with 1 cup of lightly packed brown sugar.  Then add 2 beaten eggs with a tablespoon of coffee.  Mix well.

Now if you have access to self raising flour, use 1 1/2 cups of that.  If you don’t, take 1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, add 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.  Gradually add this to the mixing bowl and again mix well.  A note on the flour.  There are times the flour can be really drying with the ingredients.  I’ve had trouble with it this week.  I’m not sure if the co-op changed vendors or what but unbeknownst to me it was affecting this dish.  More on that later.  Add the dates and 3/4 hot water (not boiling).

Lightly grease an 8″/20cm square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Spoon the mixture into the pan.

Bake 45-50 minutes.  However, due to the flour issues, I should have checked it at 40 minutes.  But you get chatting and catching up and well, life happens.  Mine came out a little dry so thank goodness for the sauce.

Don’t do the sauce for the sticky toffee pudding until you are ready to serve.  If you do make it ahead of time, just microwave it to make it runny.

In a small saucepan add 9 tablespoons of butter (how isn’t Mary Berry massive) with 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar.  Heat on low-medium until the sugar is incorporated and dissolved in the butter.  Keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.

Add 6 tablespoons of heavy/double cream.  Be careful doing this as it will sizzle and you don’t want to be splattered with hot sugar.  Also add a tablespoon of brandy.

The best part!

Not going to lie, I think the best part of sticky toffee pudding is the sauce.  I could just have a bowl of it.  I don’t think I could handle the full on sugar rush though!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

A delicious pudding with dates and a toffee sauce

Course Dessert
Servings 8 people
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

Cake

  • 6 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups self rising flour
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup hot water

Sauce

  • 9 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp heavy or double cream

Instructions

  1. To make the cake:

    Cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the coffee.

    Gradually add the flour until well blended.

    Add the dates and water.

    Bake at 350F/180C for 45-50 minutes in a lightly greased 8"/20cm square baking pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.

  2. To make the sauce:

    Melt the butter with the sugar until the sugar is dissolved.

    Carefully add the cream and brandy.

    Drizzle over the cake when serving.  

Pork Belly and Who Are You Calling a Witch?

Sometimes distractions can be really fun.  Last Friday I hosted a lunch to meet distant cousins that I connected to through the DNA on Ancestry.  Which meant I needed to get our shared branch in order.  For me, that means going straight down the rabbit hole to find out more and more.  I completely lose track of time.  However, I’m really glad I did as I found a connection to the Salem Witch Trials.

A horrible time in history of hysteria which largely started because of a fungus on the rye grains.  I got my ancestry back to Esther Elwell neè Dutch and the trials suddenly popped up.  I found a deposition accusing her and two other women of pressing, choking, and squeezing a Mary Fitch who died.  A seventeen year old girl was witness to this.  I’m thinking holy moly.  Until I did more digging.  The witness had visions, Mary Fitch just had an illness.  The stroke of luck for my ancestor was that the court was dissolved a few weeks before her arrest because more and more “reputable” people were getting accused so the court finally thought, hey maybe we shouldn’t be using visions as evidence.  Esther wasn’t the only one I found, a Rachel Vinson neè Varney was also accused.  Scary times.  If they had been charged, it would have been a death sentence.

It made for a very interesting lunch!

Recently I’ve seen a few blogs using pork belly and I thought it was high time I took the pork belly out of the freezer and create something.  I’ve just added a WP Recipe Maker plugin to, hopefully, allow for a printable recipe below.  Please let me know what you think and if you have any issues.  I’m starting with the free version so I can’t include unit conversion but I should be adding that down the road.

Pork Belly How-To

Preheat the oven on convection/fan to 425F/220C.

It looks like a lot of mustard but it will not overpower the flavour.

In a roasting dish add the pork belly that has been scored, seasoned with sea salt and pepper, and rubbed down with brown mustard.  Roast for up to 30 minutes.  Keep an eye on this!  You want the skin crispy but not burnt.  Then turn the oven off of convection/fan and set the temperature to 300F/150C.  Bake for another hour or so.

Normally at the co-op the red onions are massive but suddenly they fit neatly in the palm of my hand and I have small hands.  In a skillet, take a couple of tablespoons of the drippings from the roasting pan, heat up the skillet.  Finely chop a small onion and two cloves of garlic.  Sauté on medium heat.  As the onions become more translucent chop up a mushroom or two.  Add them to the skillet and stir well.

When the mushrooms start to brown add 1/2 cup/4oz of vegetable bouillon along with 2 tablespoons of brandy.  Add a dollop of brown mustard.

Yes, more mustard! But it works. 🙂

Stir well and let simmer.  In the meantime cook up 1/2 cup of quinoa.

To serve, place a large handful of lettuce greens on the plate, add a few spoonfuls of quinoa then top with the pork belly and sauce.  It’s the kind of dish that straddles the hot and cool of the beginning of autumn.  Getting tired of salads but not quite ready for stick to your ribs food.

 

Pork Belly with a Mustard Garlic Sauce

A flavourful recipe by Our Growing Paynes that highlights the pork belly with a mustard garlic sauce.  

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 2
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb pork belly 227 grams
  • 1/3 cup brown mustard 3 oz
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 white button mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup vegetable bouillon 4oz
  • 2 tbsp brandy 1oz
  • 2 pinches sea salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • lettuce
  • 3 tbsp pork belly drippings 1.5oz

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven on convection/fan to 425F/220C.

    Score the pork belly with a diamond pattern through the fat but not the meat.  Season with sea salt and ground black pepper.  Rub brown mustard all over the meat.  Place in a baking dish and roast uncovered for up to 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it!  You want to crisp the skin but not burn it.

    Reduce the heat to 300F/150C on regular bake.  

  2. Take the pork belly drippings and add to the skillet.  Heat up.  Finely chop the small onion and sautè in the skillet.  Finely chop the garlic and add that to the skillet.  While the onion is becoming translucent chop up the mushrooms and sauté. 

  3. Once the mushrooms begin to brown add the bouillon, brandy and mustard.  Stir well and let simmer.  

  4. Cook the quinoa according to the instructions.

  5. Add lettuce greens to the plate, top with quinoa, pork belly, and the sauce.  

Basil Wine Sauce Over Grilled Salmon

It’s been a very interesting week getting the new business off the ground.  Aside from opening up the Etsy shop I also did a local art show called Art in the Park.  It was a great experience as I was able to get advice from fellow artists and everyone was so positive.  In addition to getting a few sales I also got great positive feedback which lets me know I’m not tilting at windmills.

I also upgraded this site to the business level and spent quality time with the “happiness engineers” to get a shop set up on my blog.  It took several hours as I seem to have a knack to ask for stuff that require special coding.  I still have a few more things to do but it’s all a go now!

Earlier this summer, when we were in Swanage, we took my in-laws out to dinner to thank them for putting us up and putting up with us.  We tried an Italian restaurant in town which wasn’t too bad.  The highlight of the meal was for my daughter and I as we ordered poached salmon with an amazing basil sauce.  She and I raved about it.  Once all the summer adventures were over I knew I needed to make this again as a treat.

I will admit, using fresh basil in it’s prime is best.  Our basil in the garden is a bit past it’s prime but the flavour was still there.

Making the Basil Wine Sauce

Prep the salmon first.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Slice a lemon to grill the salmon on.

Basil Sauce 2 2018

Grilling over lemons gives it a great flavour.

Pick a bunch, about three handfuls.  Wash and blend with a third a cup of dry white wine.

Basil Sauce 1 2018

In a saucepan melt 3-4 tablespoons of butter.  Add 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, along with the basil and wine.  Sauté on low to medium heat.  The goal is to have a hint of the white wine come through with the basil being the highlight.  If need be, add more butter to get the right balance.  Sometimes the wine can be a bit harsh.

Basil Sauce 3 2018

While this is cooking, grill up the salmon.  I also grilled chicken for my husband and son. Do up a fresh salad and top with the salmon and the basil wine sauce.

Basil Sauce 4 2018

I was hoping this meal was the swan song of the summer but the summer just won’t quit!  My daughter enjoyed this and was happy I can recreate the dish for us.  I think the best trips down memory lane are food related.

 

Grilled Salmon with Basil Wine Sauce

A delicious sauce of basil and wine drizzled over grilled salmon.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 2 people
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

Salmon

  • 1/2 lb wild sockeye salmon
  • 1 lemon
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch freshly ground pepper

Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 3-4 tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Season the salmon with the sea salt and pepper.  Slice the lemon about 1/4"/.6cm thick.  Heat up the grill and grill the salmon on the lemon slices.

  2. Blend the basil and wine together.  Melt the butter in a skillet.  Add the basil and garlic and sautè.  Add more butter if needed to keep a balance of flavour with the wine.  

  3. Make a salad, top with the salmon and basil wine sauce.  

Italian Potato Salad

Before I get to the Italian Potato Salad I have to say I am very excited that I’ve opened up my Etsy shop!  I’ve been working for months on researching what to do and getting my photos together.  I’m starting off with greeting cards but I’ll be adding enlargements and such as I go along.  It is call CreationsByOGP, for some reason Etsy doesn’t like spaces!

If you have a chance, please check it out at CreationsByOGP.

As we’re still battling a fierce heatwave with crazy humidity, dinners need to be easy to put together because standing over a hot stove isn’t my idea of fun in the summer.  The farmer’s market had new potatoes so I decided to make an Italian Potato salad.

Technique for Italian Potato Salad:

I prepped the dressing first so it was ready.

Italian Potato Salad 1 2018

Mix 2 parts olive oil with one part lemon juice.  Add a healthy handful of fresh thyme and season with sea salt and pepper.  Whisk the ingredients well and set aside.  Next wash the potatoes and roast them at 425F/220C until they are cooked through and the skins are a bit crispy.  Take 4-6 rashers of streaky bacon and cook in a skillet until they are done to the way you like them.  We like them slightly crispy but not cooked too hard.

Italian Potato Salad 2 2018

Dice the bacon and set aside.  Once the potatoes are cooked, slice the larger ones in half as you want them bite size.

Italian Potato Salad 3 2018

Toss in a large bowl with the dressing and bacon.  Add fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  Grate fresh parmesan to finish.

Italian Potato Salad 4 2018

For a bit of variation you can also add grilled chicken or grilled fish.  I have to say though, I’m ready for cooler weather so I can do some baking and such.  Hopefully it’s right round the corner.

Italian Potato Salad

A delicious twist on potato salad with fresh basil and tomatoes.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Italian Potato Salad
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Salad

  • 1 lb new potatoes 400g
  • 4-6 rashers streaky bacon
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, torn to small pieces
  • 1-2 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup small mozzarella balls
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together.  Add the thyme, sea salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Set aside.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425F/220C.  Roast the potatoes until the skins are crispy.  Cook the bacon until they are slightly crispy.  Cut up the bacon and slice any new potatoes that are more than bite sized.  Toss all the ingredients together and serve.