Spiced Candied Bacon

The inspiration for Spiced Candied Bacon struck as we were on a little escape to see Mumford and Sons in Providence, Rhode Island. I was at a loss of what to blog about this week as the show was this past Wednesday night, the night I usually cook something up for my blog. The bar at the hotel came to the rescue! We ordered a charcuterie plate that had some candied bacon. It was so good with a hint of spiciness. I just had to make it.

For my husband’s birthday, our kids bought him a ticket to Mumford and Sons. The band is amazing live. Great harmonies, fantastic music and they just interact with the audience really well. A fabulous break from the dull winter.

Technique for Spiced Candied Bacon

Mix the dry rub ingredients together. For this recipe I used 2 tablespoons of brown sugar but if you want it less sweet, you can reduce the sugar by up to a tablespoon. Or increase the spices. You just need to make sure you have enough rub for the bacon.

Evenly coat the bacon and then bake on convection/fan. Keep an eye on this as you don’t want it suddenly to get overly crispy. It takes 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness. Set aside when done.

As it’s probably not a good idea, though they wouldn’t protest, to just feed your kids bacon I made a southwest veg topping with panko crusted chicken and pepper jack cheesy potato and parsnip mash. I cooked up corn, mushrooms, onion, garlic and pepper with a bit of chicken stock, habenero flakes, lime zest, chili powder and cumin.

Layer the mash, chicken, veg and the bacon and serve. I’ll definitely be making this bacon again. It’s so easy to do and would go with so many different kinds of dishes. Thank goodness for inspiration!

Spiced Candied Bacon

A quick and easy recipe balancing heat and sweet for entrees and starters.  

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Southwest
Keyword Spiced Candied Bacon
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 4
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

  • 8 Streaky bacon rashers
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • zest from half a lime
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1 tsp habanero flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven on convection/fan to 350F/175C.

  2. Mix the dry ingredients well then coat the bacon rashers.  Lay out the bacon on a metal cooling rack and place that onto a baking rack.  Bake for 5-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t crisp up too much.  

  3. Serve with entrees or starters, or by itself!

Blood Orange Jaffa Cakes

Unlike these Blood Orange Jaffa Cakes I made, blogging consistently the first few months of the year doesn’t seem to be my jam! With the craziness of tax season and the inevitable germ fest I get caught up in, life just gets nutty and I always seem behind. I realised it had gotten bad when I had only managed one journal entry for this month in my bullet journal.

I had this past Sunday off and it was time for grooving to good music and bake in the kitchen. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was wonderful to take a break from the stress and just enjoy myself. On deck was the Fruit Cake that my husband loves. But I wanted to make another treat for him. He loves Jaffa Cakes and it’s one the of treats his mum packs when she visits. I get the McCoys and he gets Jaffa Cakes, it’s lovely! His mum had clipped a recipe for Jaffa Cakes from the iNews paper for us. I made a few adjustments to the recipe because I wanted to use blood oranges and it calls for 40g of butter, which is great except it said to set aside 30ml for the recipe and use the remainder for greasing the muffin tin. There wasn’t any extra butter so I used spray oil.

Technique for Blood Orange Jaffa Cakes:

This is not a difficult recipe to make but it is time consuming so it’s a perfect weekend bake.

The Jelly:

Such a gorgeous red.

Squeeze the two oranges and set aside. Combine the water, sugar and orange peel in a saucepan.

Bring to a boil and then simmer until the liquid has reduced about 50%. This will take 10 or 15 minutes.

Strain the mixture into a bowl.

Add the gelatin powder and stir until fully incorporated. Make sure the syrup is still quite warm. I found it cooled off too quickly and didn’t incorporate fully. It still worked but at the end the centre was more set than the edges. So make sure you can keep it warm enough.

Pour then orange juice into the syrup and mix well.

Line a 18cm/8in square pan with cling film and strain the mixture into the pan.

Chill in the fridge for at least two hours so it sets properly.

Baking the cake:

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

Brown the butter in a small saucepan.

This part can be tricky. The butter can quickly go from a golden colour to full on brown. Don’t panic, as long as it doesn’t taste burnt and keeps the toasted, nutty flavour. Let the butter cool while getting the other ingredients together.

Sift the sugar and flour together.

Using a whisk, incorporate the almond flour and orange zest into the flour and sugar.

Lightly beat the egg whites. Add that along with the salt and butter. Mix well with the whisk.

Spoon the batter into a 12 hole muffin tin that has been lightly greased. Bake 9-12 minutes until golden round the edges and is springy to the touch. Cool completely before turning the cakes out.

Place the jelly with the cling film on the counter and using a 4cm/1 1/2in cookie cutter. Place the cut jelly onto the centre of each cake.

Melt the chocolate and spoon it over the top of the cakes.

Let the chocolate set and enjoy! The only bad thing about this recipe is that it only makes 12 cakes!

Blood Orange Jaffa Cakes

A traditional recipe with a twist.  

Course Dessert
Cuisine English
Keyword Blood Orange Jaffa Cakes
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 12 minutes
Servings 12
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

Blood Orange Jelly

  • 60 grams caster sugar
  • 120 ml water
  • orange zest from 1 blood orange
  • 1 packet powdered gelatine
  • 100 ml blood orange juice

Cake

  • 40 grams browned butter
  • 60 grams icing/powdered sugar
  • 20 grams all purpose flour
  • 40 grams ground almonds or almond flour
  • orange zest from 1 blood orange
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • a pinch of salt

Chocolate to top the cake

  • 120 grams dark or semi-sweet chocolate

Instructions

Blood Orange Jelly

  1. Bring the water, sugar and orange zest to a boil.  Simmer until the liquid has reduced 50%.  Takes about 10-15 minutes.  

  2. Strain the syrup into a bowl and add the gelatine.  Mix until dissolved.  Add the blood orange juice.  Line a 18cm/8 in square pan with cling film.  Strain the mixture into the pan.  Chill for 2 hours.  

Making the cake

  1. Preheat the oven 190C/375F.

    Grease a 12 hole muffin tin.

  2. Brown the butter and let cool.

  3. Sift the sugar and flour together.  Whisk in the almond flour and orange zest. Add the egg whites, salt and browned butter.  Using the whisk, incorporate the ingredients well.  

  4. Spoon the batter evenly between the 12 muffin holes.

  5. Bake 9-12 minutes until the edges are golden and the sponge is springy to the touch.  Allow to cool completely before turning out of the muffin tin.

Assembling the Blood Orange Jaffa Cakes

  1. Using the 4cm/1 1/2in cookie cutter, cut out the jelly and place on the cakes. Melt the chocolate and spoon over the cakes.  Let set and serve.  

Cider Sage Pork

Just like any food blogger that has been doing this for several years, I find inspiration and motivation for new recipes ebbs and flows. I love it when it flows, no surprise there but when life gets crazy the brain cramping definitely increases. When the imagination is sparking I make lists but sometimes ideas show themselves when you aren’t paying attention.

I was in the queue waiting to pay for my weekly food shop and I spied a magazine with a pork dish on the cover. The title for it said Cider Sage Pork. If the magazine wasn’t $10 then it would have left the rack and been perused. But it stayed. I figured I could come up with my own recipe and keep the $10!

Sweet apple is lovely with garlic and sage

We’re lucky that our co-op carries delicious sweet apples like gala or pink lady. First thing is to prepare the marinade so the pork loin can marinate for several hours. If you don’t have the time, try to marinate for at least an hour. Give the pork a chance to take on the lovely flavours. The cider I used was apple cranberry as there was a special on and I’d thought it would be fun to add the tang of cranberry to this dish. But obviously regular cider works. I should also note, the cider is non-acoholic, not the hard cider.


When it is time to cook dinner, finely chop the apple, onion, garlic and sage. Set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 350F/175C. In a skillet, heat up the olive oil and brown all sides of the pork loin.

Finish off the pork in the oven while making the sauce. Add the onion, garlic and apple to the skillet. Cook for several minutes until the onion starts to become translucent.

Add the remaining marinade and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and add the mustard, sage and thyme. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Simmer the sauce to reduce by a third. When the pork is cooked, remove from the oven and let is rest for 8-10 minutes.

To serve, slice the pork loin and top with the sauce. To keep the dish light we had roasted potatoes and corn as sides.

I was very happy to find this inspiration while patiently waiting in a queue. I’m definitely keeping my eyes open!

Cider Sage Pork

A flavourful pork loin with apple cider, onion, and sage.  

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Cider Sage Pork
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 2
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

  • 1 pork loin (about a pound/16oz

Marinade

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup apple cranberry cider 4oz
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (used to brown the pork)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock 4oz
  • marinade used for the pork
  • 2 tbsp brown mustard
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1-2 tsp fresh sage, chopped
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Marinade

  1. Mix the ingredients together and marinate the pork for several hours in the fridge.  If you are pressed for time, marinate for at least an hour.  

Pork Loin

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet and brown all sides of the pork and finish cooking in the oven.  Once cooked, rest for 8-10 minutes before slicing.

Sauce

  1. In the skillet with the olive oil used to cook the pork, add the onion, garlic and apple over medium heat.  Cook until the onion starts to become translucent.  Add the marinade and chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the sage, thyme and mustard.  Season with sea salt and pepper. Simmer until the sauce reduces by a third.  

Serving

  1. Slice the pork and top with the sauce.  

Beetroot Raita

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a great year. I always try to start out positive as you never know what is going to be thrown at you. At the very least, start on a high note! After the bustle of the holidays it’s time to reconnect and get back to sharing good food. I’m starting with an easy and healthy side dish given that people’s resolve to be healthy is still going strong 4 days into the year. Beetroot Raita fits that bill. It’s an easy dish to compliment those spicy curries.

Technique for the Beetroot Raita.

The red of this beetroot is absolutely stunning.

Some may choose to roast the beetroot, which is perfectly fine. I chose to boil the beetroot to cook. I peeled and coarsely chopped the beetroot into small pieces before cooking. It will cook faster that way.

Mix the spices together and toss the cooled beetroot into the mixture until the beetroot is evenly coated.

Add the plain yoghurt and stir well. Chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

It’s a pity that the beetroot couldn’t keep it’s colour. It does work as a nice counterbalance to the heat of the curry and we do love our spicy curry!

Beetroot Raita

An easy accompaniment to spicy curries with beetroot and yoghurt.  

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Keyword Beetroot Raita
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped beetroot
  • 4-6 oz plain yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp ground chili
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, torn
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Boil the peeled and chopped beetroot until tender.  Just make sure you don’t let it get mushy.  You want the beetroot to hold its shape.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

  2. In a small bowl add the spices and juice together.  Toss the beetroot in the spices until well coated.  

  3. Mix in the plain yoghurt.  Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.  

Apple Brie Chicken

“Out of the mouth of babes” is a very apt phrase.  Obviously it’s important to listen to your children.  Aside from the fact it’s healthy for them and can be a lot of fun for all, you never know when they will be a source of inspiration.  

One of my son’s chores is to help me walk the dogs.  It’s my favourite “task” to have him do as it means one on one time with him.  I get to listen about his day, find out how things are going for him, etc.  We also, surprise, surprise talk about food.  He mentioned trying a frozen stuffed chicken with apples and brie/camembert.  Ooh, I said, that sounds really good.  It promptly went on my list of thing to make.

Technique for Apple Brie Chicken:

This is a quick easy meal to put together with breaded chicken and a mushroom garlic sauce.

Sweet apples with brie is a lovely flavour combo.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

Slice pockets into the chicken breasts and fill with the apple and brie.

Coat the chicken with beaten egg and dredge in panko bread crumbs.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Brown the chicken on all sides.

Finish cooking the chicken in the oven.  In the same skillet add the mushrooms.  Sauté for a few minutes before adding the garlic and rosemary.

Add the butter and wine and simmer for a few minutes.  Once the chicken is finished cooking serve with the mushroom sauce spooned over the chicken.

I served this with corn and roasted potatoes.  See, it does pay to listen to the kids. 🙂  

Apple Brie Chicken

A quick meal with apple and brie. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Apple Brie Chicken
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 6 slices brie or camembert
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Mushroom Garlic Sauce

  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine 3oz
  • 1 tbsp butter

Instructions

Chicken

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

    Slice pockets into the chicken and stuff with the brie and apple.  Dredge in the beaten egg and Panko bread crumbs.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet.  Brown all sides of the chicken and finish cooking in the oven.

Mushroom Garlic Sauce

  1. Sauté the mushrooms in the olive oil in the skillet for a few minutes.  Add the garlic and rosemary.  Cook for a few more minutes.  Add the wine and butter. Simmer for a minute or two.  

Serving

  1. Slice the chicken and spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.  

Cheesy Pasta with Pan Seared Filet of Beef

I’ve been in a definite comfort food mood this week, what with winter settling in and the holiday season having started.  Now that Thanksgiving has passed I’m well into the Christmas mood.  We had the perfect day this past weekend to find our tree.  Just above freezing with gorgeous blue skies.  Our daughter will be heading off to university next year so the traditions are a bit poignant this year. She just got her first notice of acceptance to the University of Manchester and we are very proud.  We just need to hear from all the ones she applied to then we’ll know where she ends up being.  It is an exciting time but it will be good to have it all sorted.

I did a rummage through our freezer and found a filet of beef that was the perfect size for my husband and I.  I’m getting ready for a craft fair this weekend so I needed an easy meal to make.  I came up with a cheesy pasta to go along with the pan seared filet of beef.

Technique for Creamy Pasta and Pan Seared Filet of Beef:

Cooking the Beef:

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

Melt the butter in a hot skillet.  Season the beef and brown on all sides.

Cook in the oven until it is the desired doneness.  We prefer it medium rare on the rare side.  Cover and let the meat rest.

The Pasta and Sauce:

Prepare the pasta according to instructions.

In the same skillet used for the beef, sauté the onions, mushrooms and garlic.

Once the mushrooms begin to brown add the brandy and the beef stock.  I took a page from Conor Bofin and had reduced my beef stock and created “ice” cubes out of them.  Certainly does save space.  Bring the sauce to a simmer.

Add the rosemary and cream.  Once that is heated through add the grated cheese.

Add the pasta.  Slice the steak and grate a bit more cheese over the dish and serve.

Perfect for when you need a fix of comfort food.  Makes getting snow a lot easier!

 

Cheese Pasta with Pan Seared Filet of Beef

An easy and flavourful comfort food with cheese and filet of beef.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 2
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Filet of Beef
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 cup pasta, cooked
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp brandy
  • 1/2 cup beef stock 4oz
  • 1/3 cup heavy/double cream 3oz
  • 2 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 cup equal part cheddar and jarlsberg
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch freshly ground pepper

Instructions

Cooking the Beef

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

    Melt the butter in a skillet.  Season the beef with sea salt and pepper.  Brown all sides of the beef.  Finish cooking in the oven until desired doneness.  Cover and rest before slicing.

Pasta Sauce

  1. In the same skillet you pan seared the beef sauté the mushrooms, onions and garlic.  Once the mushrooms start to brown add the brandy, rosemary and beef stock.  Simmer for a few minutes then add the cream.  Once it is heated through add the cheese.  Add the cooked pasta once the cheese is melted.  Stir well.

Putting it together

  1. Serve the pasta and sauce onto the plate.  Slice the beef and place on top of the pasta and grate fresh cheese over the dish.  

Italian Meatball Skewers

Winter has rolled in uninvited.  Unfortunately it hit on my husband’s birthday so he wasn’t overly impressed to be snow blowing that day.  Something tells me it’s going to be a rough winter but hopefully I’m proved wrong.  Normally I hate being wrong but I’d love to be in this case.  Fortunately the storm was through and done before we had our annual potluck game night to celebrate his birthday.  Though I have to say, we have hearty friends, they would have come anyway. You can’t stop fun! Because it was game night, finger food was a must so I made Italian Meatball Skewers.  Tasty and easy to eat.

This is also super easy to make!

Technique for Italian Meatball Skewers:

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

The key for this dish is to use fresh ingredients.

In a mixing bowl add all the ingredients and combine them with your hands.  It’s always a weird feeling but it’s the best way to get everything incorporated without overworking the meat.

Roll the mixture into 1in/2.5cm balls.  Place on a baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes.  For the last few minutes put the oven on convection/fan to brown the outside.

Slice the grape tomatoes in half and layer the meatballs, tomatoes, cheese and basil onto the toothpicks.

Serve immediately.  And let the games begin!

 

Italian Meatball Skewers

A flavourful party food.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Italian Meatball Skewers
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 8 people
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 small handful fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Remaining ingredients

  • grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • small mozzarella balls
  • fresh basil, torn into pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

  2. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with your hands.  Roll the mixture into balls 1in/2.5cm in diameter.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.  In the last few minutes change the oven over to convection/fan to crisp up.

  3. Layer the meatballs, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil onto toothpicks.  Serve immediately.  

Apple Tart with Crème Pâtissière and Toffee Sauce

The wind has been howling this week, getting as many leaves as possible off the trees and wreaking havoc with the existing leaf piles waiting for pickup.  It’s nearly Guinness cold where our old pup starts getting a pep in his step on the way back from our walks.  A salve against the cold is baking.  As we still have apples to use up I thought it would be fun to make a decadent Apple Tart with Crème Pâtissière and Toffee Sauce.  If you are going to go the guilty pleasure route, you might as well go all the way!

Technique for the Apple Tart:

There are a few steps to this dessert but it’s worth it.

Tart crust:

I used the basic recipe from “Baking with Mary Berry” with the addition of a pinch of salt.  Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

Butter needs to be quite chilled!

Use a pastry fork or your fingers to blend the butter into the flour and salt.  Try to keep your fingers on the cool side if you use your hands.

Once the mixture becomes like fine bread crumbs and they stick together when gently pressed.  Gradually add a bit of water, using your fingers to incorporate the water into the mixture.  Be careful not to overwork the dough.  When it comes together turn it out onto a floured countertop.

Roll out thinly and place into a 9″/23cm tart pan.  Allow the pastry to be higher than the tart pan as the pastry will shrink during the blind bake.  Lightly prick the base of the pastry.

Line with tin foil and fill with dried beans or baking beads.

Bake blind for 10 minutes.  Remove the tin foil and beads.  Trim the pastry edges to the height of the tart pan.  Pop back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes until golden and flaky.  Set aside.

Fillings:

Prepare the crème pâtissière as I did in this Merinque Nests recipe and let cool a bit.

Peel the apples and slice them thinly.  Melt the butter and begin to sauté the apples.  Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Cook until the apples have softened but still hold their shape.

Make the Toffee Sauce but half the recipe as you don’t need too much for the tart.

Putting it together:

Spoon the crème pâtissière into the pastry.  Top with the apple mixture then drizzle the toffee sauce over the apples.

Remove the tart ring, slice and serve!

Decadence is served.  🙂

Apple Tart with Crème Pâtissière and Toffee Sauce

A decadent dessert to use up all those apples from apple picking.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword Apple Tart
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 8
Author Our Growing Paynes

Ingredients

Pastry Tart

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 6 tbsp chilled butter
  • pinch salt
  • 3-5 tbsp cold water

Crème Pâtissière filling

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups boiling milk (don't scald!)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

Apple Filling

  • 2 apples
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar

Toffee Sauce

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp brandy
  • 1 1/2 tbsp heavy/double cream

Instructions

Pastry Tart

  1. Preheat oven to 400F/200C.  In a mixing bowl add the flour and salt.  Mix then add the chilled butter.  Using your fingers or a pastry fork work the butter into the flour.  Work it until the mixture is like fine bread crumbs.  Then gradually add the water a bit a time while incorporating it into the pastry.  Don't add it all at once!  You might not need all the water.  Stop once the pastry becomes a ball.  

  2. Turn out the pastry on a floured surface.  Roll out thinly then place into a tart pan 9in/23cm.  Gently press the dough into the fluted sides.  Allow the dough to be higher than the sides as it will shrink while baking  Prick the bottom with a fork.  Line with tin foil and fill with dried beans or baking beads.  

  3. Bake blind for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and remove the beads and tin foil.  Trim the sides to the height of the tart pan.  Bake for 10-15 minutes more until golden and flaky.  Set aside.  

Crème Pâtissière filling

  1. Add the egg yolks to a mixer with a whisk.  Beat on medium.  Gradually add the sugar.  The colour will change to a pale yellow.  Once the sugar is incorporated, beat for another 2-3 minutes and it forms "the ribbon".  Don't go past this point as the sugar will re-granulate.  

  2. Boil the milk.  While this is coming to a boil add the flour to the egg mixture.  Then gradually add the milk while beating on medium speed.  

  3. Add the mixture to a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Keep whisking through this step!  It will thicken up quite a bit but then it will smooth out.  Once this happens cook for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour.  

  4. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla.  Stir well and set aside to cool.  

Apple Filling

  1. Peel and thinly slice the apples.  Melt the butter and sauté the apples in the butter.  Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar.  Cook the apples until they start to soften.  Remove from the heat.

Toffee Sauce

  1. In a saucepan melt the butter.  Add the remaining ingredients and heat thoroughly until the sugar is incorporated.  

Putting it together

  1. Spread the crème pâtissière into the tart, top with the apples.  Drizzle the toffee sauce over the tart.  

 

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!