Whirlwind Trip to the UK

This has taken much longer getting back into posting after our busy holiday than I imagined it would.  Before I get to our amazing holiday I wanted to share a PSA with everyone.  Our trip was 3 weeks long but it’s been another couple of weeks since and I haven’t posted.

I had decided a few months ago I would come off my fibro meds once we were back from holiday because I still had the fibro symptoms plus some awful side effects.  Including a brain fog that was something else!  Now I spoke with doctors beforehand and the only thing they said was to step down the dose carefully.  I did it nice and slow.  It went better than I thought it would.  But once I finished the fun really started and they never mentioned anything about this which is why I’m sharing this with you.  I know I’m not the only one going through this.  The withdrawal after the meds was horrendous and I could barely get out of bed.  I did some research and found that people can end up having seizures or have to be in hospital.  Luckily I didn’t have that but I was really upset that I wasn’t told of this prior to going on the meds and not being told this when I said I was coming off!  So if you are going to be dealing with this, do research and really push your doctor to give you proper support, otherwise it can get really miserable.

That’s the end of the PSA and on to the fun stuff!

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This year we took the kids with us to the UK, one because we were due for a family trip and two because our daughter is touring universities this year.  Surreal that she is beginning this new chapter!  We had so much to fit into this trip and hit the ground running by taking a day trip to Cardiff.  We were all pleasantly surprised at what a fabulous city it is.  The university was right near the town centre and we were fortunate to be able to speak with a senior professor who is part of the admissions.  It was a well spent half hour.  Crossing the Severn was quite the treat as well.

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Without much of a break we headed to our next adventure.  My husband’s family planned a day coach trip to the Somme because his great great uncle was killed in action 100 years ago to the day.  The cemeteries take your breath away and they are immaculate.

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Thiepval was very powerful.  73,000 names of people of unknown burial.  73,000 families had the heartbreak of not knowing what happened.  It was overwhelming for me.  I was struck by the inability of humans to learn from history and the current climate doesn’t hold much hope that we won’t see another Thiepval.

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We were treated to a gorgeous view back across the channel with the sunset.  Hard to beat the sun going down over water.

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We realised that the kids had never been to Stonehenge so it sounded like a perfect day trip.  I really like how they’ve changed the area by moving the visitor centre a mile and a half away.  It really opens up the surrounding area so you see how it was in ancient times.  It was really lovely to walk in the countryside seeing all the barrows.  We also went to Avebury which is a village smack in the middle of a very large stone circle.  A fascinating place.

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After a couple of days puttering about it was time to head north.  I couldn’t wait to show the kids the countryside up north.  University of Manchester was on the list to tour and my friend works there.  Which was fabulous as she actually gave us a much better tour than the official one.  Including getting into the Rutherford Room where the atom was split in 1911.  That was so cool.

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The next day was a gorgeous trip into Yorkshire with Skipton Castle and Bolton Abbey.  I hadn’t been to the Abbey before and I loved it.  The whole area includes the Abbey, the current church in use and the village.  Loads of walking to be done.

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The next day was a great mix of geeky stuff.  We went to see the Lovell Telescope which is an incredible bit of engineering.  You have to have your phones off or in airplane mode as you can interfere with the telescope.  The telescope can pick up a single mobile phone signal from Mars.  We also enjoyed the diesel gala at the East Lancs Railway.  We rode the rails for bit.  The door windows were popular as it was the best way to cool off on the trains!

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It was time to head to London, no rest for the wicked!  Our daughter wanted to visit the Tate as some of the art work was in her image set from her AP Art History course.  I’ll admit, I don’t get the Tate.  At all but to each their own.  It was this afternoon that our daughter got her results for her AP Art History and AP Bio.  She achieved a 5 in both, we are so incredibly proud of all her hard work.  She worked so much with the studying.  It took a lot of time after school and weekends for the heavy coursework.

My husband noticed before our trip that the London Transport Museum was having an open day at Acton.  Our kids weren’t overly impressed but he and I loved walking round all the old stock, maps, signs and artifacts.

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We spent the rest of the day wandering round Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square.  I have to say by this time I was tired of the sun and heat.  It wasn’t so bad in the countryside but London was pushing it!

For the last full day we headed to Cambridge for the last of the university tours.  We loved being able to walk in the footsteps of Darwin.  His room is still used by students.  Can you imagine being assigned his room?  Because most of the colleges own the river banks they charge you to walk through to the River Cam so we decided to do a punt tour down the river.  So much cooler on the river!  We got a great view of the Bridge of Sighs, named because Queen Victoria thought it looked just like a bridge in Venice.  It doesn’t but who was going to argue with the Queen?

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After a week straight of walking 4-8 miles a day, we were done in but what memories.  It was amazing to do all the exploring with the kids and spending the time with them before they went off on their next summer adventures.

 

 

Peach and Jalapeño Grilled Steak

While I’m not a fan of the heat of summer I do love the flavours of summer.  The shops are starting to have peaches and other stone fruits which means light delicious meals and desserts.

It’s been a busy week but I wanted to make a nice meal for my husband and myself last night.  Peaches sparked an idea and jalapeño is one of my husband’s favourite hot peppers.  A match is made!

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I prepped the corn by soaking the ears before grilling and dusted the steak with chili powder and cumin.

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Slice up a quarter red onion.  Begin to sweat them in a hot skillet with olive oil.  Slice the jalapeño.  I removed the seeds because sometimes the pepper can be very hot and I didn’t want to overwhelm the peach.  I also started with half a pepper.

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Sauté the pepper and onion for a few minutes.  I sliced up three small peaches.  You can tell it’s the beginning of the season as the peaches were quite small.  Add the peaches.  Cook for a few minutes.  Fire up the grill to start grilling the corn.  I grill the corn, unshucked, 5 minutes a side.  Season the peach with chili pepper and cumin.  Add a splash of lime juice.  After tasting I added the rest of the pepper as there wasn’t much heat.

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Grill the steak to the desired doneness.  We like ours on the rare side.  Once cooked, rest the steak for a few minutes then slice.  Shuck the corn.  Place the steak on salad greens and spoon the peach over the steak.

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Bring on summer flavours, just not the heat.  Unless it’s in the food.  🙂

 

White Chocolate Muffins for a Sweet Treat

Oh blogger’s block!  We’ve all been there.  This week, with us getting ready to go across the pond and the school year coming to a close, my mind was blank.  Crickets!  I try to plan a week ahead but nothing came to me.  The other night we were watching the Great British Bake Off.  Sadly not the one with Mary Berry.  Sorry to say but Pru is not Mary Berry! But it finally sparked inspiration.

I have one of Mary Berry’s baking books, “Baking with Mary Berry”.  She has a recipe for white chocolate and strawberry muffins which calls for strawberry jam.  I had my strawberry rhubarb jam in the fridge so I thought this would be fun to make for the kids.

This is a very easy recipe to make, in fact most of it’s done by the time the oven is preheated at 400F/200C.

The recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of self rising flour.  If you don’t have that it is easy to make it.  Add 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp of salt per cup of flour.  Sift all together and you are off and running.  I had to prep this and also melted 7 tablespoons of butter.

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In the mixer bowl add 2 large eggs, beat them.  Then add the butter, a cup/8 oz of milk.  I used full fat milk here.  Next add 2 tsp of vanilla and 2/3 cup of sugar.  Tip in the flour mixture then blend everything until it’s smooth and incorporated.  Once it’s mixed add 100g of white chocolate chips.  Mix well.

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Line a 12 well muffin tin with paper cups.  Spoon in half the batter divided equally between the 12 cups.  Spoon in a bit of jam in each cup.

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With the remaining batter cover each muffin evenly.

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Bake 25-30 minutes until they are golden and pass the toothpick test.  Allow to cool then dust with confectioners’ sugar.

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I found this in the breakfast chapter but I think this would be a bit sweet to start the day with.  After school snack?  Perfect.  🙂  This would also work with a variety of fruit jams so the sky is the limit.

 

Easy Homemade Granola

We’ve all done it, keep meaning to make something homemade to save money but never getting around to it.  Then thinking about it all over again as you scoop the expensive stuff into a bag at the shop.  My husband enjoys having granola on his yoghurt in the mornings.  For at least a year I’ve been meaning to give it a try but something always distracted me.

The other week https://frugalhausfrau.com posted about making granola.  She made it look so easy and delicious I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer!  And quite frankly, with two teenagers in the house, any way I can save on the food bill is a good thing.

My husband loves raisins/sultanas and currants so I thought I would keep it simple with the addition of almonds.

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Preheat the oven to 300F/150C.

In a bowl add a cup of oats, a handful of almonds (chopped), a pinch of salt, a tablespoon or so of brown sugar, half a teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground nutmeg.  Mix well.

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Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add this and a teaspoon of vanilla to the bowl.  Mix thoroughly.  Taste to see if you need to adjust the seasoning.

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Spread out evenly on parchment paper over a baking sheet.  Bake 30-40 minutes.  This is a wide range because you don’t want to bring out a burnt taste to the granola and every oven is different.  Stir the granola twice during the baking.  Once it’s a light golden colour it should be done.

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Once it’s baked, let it cool before adding the raisins/sultanas and currants.  I added a healthy handful of each.  If you find the raisins are on the sweet side you can back off on the sugar to keep it balanced.

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I enjoyed it over yoghurt but this is great as an on the go snack or over ice cream.  As we ended up with nearly 3 cups of mixed granola store it in an airtight container.  This is so easy and the variations are endless, there isn’t any reason to buy it anymore!

Creamy Lemon Bacon Chicken Pasta

It was a rite of passage this past weekend for our daughter with the high school prom.  She’s been to friends proms in the past but this was the first for her high school.  I have to say, proms have come a long way since I last had to worry about prom.  It’s much more inclusive and more often than not, groups of students go as friends rather than missing out because a date couldn’t be found.  Way better!

My daughter had a few friends over to get ready before her date showed up.  I did my first ever updo.  It came out ok, phew!  It was lovely to see that all the girls dressed in elegant dresses, no hoochie mamas.  Some of the dresses I’ve seen in the past few years leave little to the imagination.  Thankfully that trend wasn’t to prevalent this time round.

Unfortunately the weather was very rainy so we just did photos round the house.  The weather did bring in some cooler weather which called for comfort food!  I saw a recipe calling for bacon and mushroom in a cream sauce.  That sparked an idea.  Lemon and grilled chicken would be a great addition.

I kept the marinade for the chicken very simple.  With a ratio of about 2:1 olive oil to lemon juice, whisk those together with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Add the chicken and marinate for a couple of hours.

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When it’s time to cook up the dinner, grill the chicken and cook up the pasta.  Cut into small squares, 3-4 rashers of streaky bacon.  Start cooking the bacon in a large skillet.  Slice a few mushrooms and finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic.  Sauté the ingredients with the bacon.  Add a handful of fresh thyme.

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When the bacon is nearly cooked add 1/2 cup/4oz of chicken stock and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice.  You want this to be really lemony at this point so the brightness isn’t lost in the cream and pasta.  Bring this to a simmer then add a 1/3 cup/3oz of heavy cream.  Cook on low until the chicken and pasta are done cooking.

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Slice the chicken and add that and the pasta to the skillet and stir well.  Right before serving add a bunch of arugula or spinach and let wilt.

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Serve and grate fresh parmesan cheese over the dish.

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Comfort food with the lightness of lemon, great for a cool spring night.

Orange Thyme Grilled Chicken

On Sunday, the day I made this meal, we were faced with how surreal life is.  It was a gorgeous day and we were tackling the hops (seriously never plant those!).  We were struck by how busy the fire and police departments were.  While we were planting some veg in the back we realised the current set of sirens didn’t go past our house.

Out of curiosity we wandered out front to see 5 cop cars, 2 ambulances, and various other vehicles.  Something was definitely up.  A few minutes later an ambulance went tearing up the road.  The initial report was someone shot himself by accident and he was belligerent which caused the cops to be called to hospital.  Unfortunately the real story was worse.  The man died and the guy who shot him is in jail for felony manslaughter.

It’s a bit shocking in our small town.  What made it all surreal for me was as they were putting up the crime tape I noticed how life continues on.  The next door neighbour to the crime scene was mowing the lawn, people were walking their dog and we’re were putting about in the garden.  I know it’s how life works but I found it jarring.

After all the work in the garden we wanted a light dinner.  I had seen a few recipes involving orange juice and mustard, orange juice and thyme or orange juice and garlic.  I thought I could come up with a recipe involving all of it.  Lots of flavour and still keeping it light.

In a bowl add equal parts orange juice and olive oil.  Finely chop a few cloves of garlic and add it to the bowl with a handful of fresh thyme.  Add a dash of lemon juice and a good heaping spoonful of stoneground mustard.

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Season with sea salt and pepper.  Add the chicken breast to marinate for a couple of hours.

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When it’s time for dinner fire up the grill.

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I did up a fresh salad with avocado, tomato, cucumber and carrot.  I do love salad season!

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Here’s hoping the upcoming weekend is a lot quieter for all.

Custard Biscuits with Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

With the spring properly here now we are enjoying the fresh flavours that come with the warmer weather.  Our garden is coming along with the busy bees arriving to enjoy the blooms.  Our gooseberry and black currant bushes are a hive of activity which is wonderful.  The garden makes a happy place for the bees and butterflies.  Need to work on plants to invite along the hummingbirds.

One of my favourite flavours growing up was strawberry and rhubarb.  My mum would make a divine strawberry and rhubarb pie that I loved.  I wanted to bake something that would include that delicious combination.  I was flipping through the “Sweet” book by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh and found a recipe for Custard Yo-Yos that had a rhubarb icing.  I thought I would do a strawberry and rhubarb jam instead for the filling.

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Make the jam first to give it time to cool.  Use a ratio of 1:1 for the strawberry and rhubarb.

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In a small saucepan add the fruit and a bit of water so the fruit doesn’t catch as you bring it to a simmer.  Add brown sugar a bit at a time until you get the flavour and thickness desired.  You do want this on the thick side so it doesn’t drip too much out of the biscuit sandwich.

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C

In a mixer bowl sift together 175g/1 1/3 cups of all purpose flour, 65g/1/2 cup custard powder, 65g/1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.  If you don’t have custard powder ( 🙁 )  you can use cornstarch (cornflour) but it won’t be much of a custard biscuit without the custard!  I like using Bird’s custard powder.  One because it’s good and two it’s what we can easily find.  Cube 170g/3/4 cup of unsalted butter that is at room temperature.  Add it to the mixer bowl.

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Blend on low until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Next add 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  If you had to use corn starch then make it 1/2 a teaspoon.  At this point you will probably be wondering, as I was, how on earth was this dry mixture going to come together.  Have no fear!  The butter starts it’s job with the vanilla.  Start on low then speed up to medium to bring the dough together.  It will take 30-60 seconds to happen.

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Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll balls of dough of about an 1 inch/2.5-3cm.  Place the balls about 1 1/2in/4cm apart.

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Dust a fork with flour and press into the tops of the balls.  Don’t go all the way through!  Just go about halfway.

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Bake for 25 minutes.  If you use more than one baking sheet, rotate them halfway through.  You want the biscuits dry on the bottom and slightly golden.  Leave them on the sheet for a couple of minutes then transfer them to a cooling rack.

When the biscuits and jam are cool make sandwiches.

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There is nothing like custard with strawberry and rhubarb.  Definitely flavours of the beautiful warmer weather.

Over the Rainbows at Niagara Falls

We’ve had a great week away.  It started off by doing a couple of university tours for our daughter.  The tradition of saying “we’re the best ever!” is still alive and well though the young gentleman at Cornell was funny and probably answered the most honest I’ve heard on any tour.  While our daughter went back home with her mother, my husband and I headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario for a long weekend.  A break was definitely needed!

The weather was just gorgeous though it was quite cold on the Sunday, particularly with the wind.  It was lovely to get out in fresh air and do a lot of walking.  We also went to Bird Kingdom which was fascinating.  The birds fly around free in the aviaries with trees, waterfalls, etc to keep them happy.  I liked it because if any human bugs them they can get away.  We went to a greenhouse floral show but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was called.

I wanted to share with you some of the photos I took on our trip.

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Given the gorgeous weather the rainbows were out in force.  Just incredible.

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Here are some videos of the falls.  The power of the falls is so mesmerising.

This video is behind the falls in one of the two portals.

Bird Kingdom didn’t just have birds, there were reptiles and tortoises.  I have to say this guy could hustle faster than I thought they could.  Headed right for us.

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I just love birds and all the colours they come in.  It’s remarkable how varied and bright they can be.

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I was surprised how many there were pure white.  Against the backdrop they were beautiful.

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The greenhouse didn’t have as many flowers as I had hoped because they were redoing a significant portion of the greenhouses.

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We had a wonderful time recharging our batteries and spending time together.  I loved how friendly everyone was across the border.  It made for a great experience.

 

 

Brussel Sprout Sliders

A quick post today as we’re getting ready to hit the road for university tours.  It seems so surreal that our daughter is old enough to be thinking about university but it’s here!  She’s ready for the next chapter and excited about it.  I look forward to see where her journey takes her.

This past weekend I made a dinner for my husband as a thank you for holding down the fort during tax season.  It’s a lot of extra work for him for which I am grateful he takes on.

One thing he loves is Brussel sprouts so that definitely had to be on the menu. Just for him mind as I can’t stand the stuff!  I came across an idea on Pinterest for vegetarian Brussel sprout sliders with tofu, I think plus there were asian flavours.  I thought it would be a fun idea with streaky bacon and french flavours.

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In a small bowl add two parts olive oil to one part champagne vinegar.  Finely chop 2 small cloves of garlic and add a healthy dollop of brown mustard.  Season with sea salt and pepper.

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Mix well and coat the sprouts.  Reserve the remaining mixture.

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Roast in the oven at 350F/175C.  Cut 3 rashers of streaky bacon into squares.  Cook them up in a skillet, slowly rendering them.

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When the bacon has been cooked remove from the skillet and set aside.  Drain the bacon fat until you have a couple of tablespoons left in the pan.  Add to the skillet thinly sliced onion.  I was only making 4 sliders so I did a half a cup.  Cook slowly to soften and caramelise.

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When they are halfway cooked add the remaining mustard mixture to the onions.  Continue to caramelise.

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Once all the ingredients have been cooked assemble into sliders.

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My husband really enjoyed these so I’ll be making these again.  Just a small way to show my gratitude.

 

Who Doesn’t Love a Tart? A White Wine Mushroom Tart…

See, when tax season ends it is supposed to be spring.  Normally I can get outside in the fresh air and putter about in the garden.  Mother Nature did not get the memo this year!  On Monday we had a two hour delay for school due to snow and ice.  It’s just been cold this week.  The strong winds took down a large tree in town.  She is being cruel!

I really hope the warm weather shows soon because it would be nice to have a spring longer than a couple of weeks.  Summer likes to show early here.

Every Tuesday night we have pizza and sometimes I buy a phyllo dough mushroom tarts with white wine.  It’s been on my list to recreate it but I decided instead of fiddling round with the phyllo that I would make my short crust pastry.

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In a skillet melt 3 tablespoons of butter.  Finely chop shiitake mushrooms to give you a cupful.  Finely chop shallots until you have about 1/3 cup.  Sauté the mushrooms and shallots on medium heat.  Chop up fresh thyme and rosemary, about a small handful total and add them to the skillet.  After cooking for several minutes add a 1/4 cup/2oz of dry white wine.

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Grate about 3/4 cup of jarlsberg and put it in a medium bowl and set aside.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/175C and prep the pastry.  Technique to do the pastry is here.  For this recipe I used 1/2 cup/70g of flour, a pinch of salt, and just under a 1/4 cup of butter.  When the butter is fully incorporated into the flour gradually add cold water a bit at a time until the dough comes together.  Roll out thinly.

Add the mushroom mixture to the cheese and mix well.  Add a dollop to the pastry.

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Pinch the dough closed and slice three vents into the top.  Brush with a beaten egg.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

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These are great for a cheese and wine night or if you have a potluck to go to.