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.  

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!

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.

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.

 

Making Whoopie…Carrot Cake Pies That Is

The amount of chocolate our kids still have from Christmas is going to keep them going for quite awhile.  They would disagree completely with me, of course.  As scrooge like as I was being in the chocolate department I didn’t want to forego any treats.  I’m not that mean!

So what do bunnies really like?  Carrots!

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I did a search on Pinterest for fun easter desserts.  The plethora of Peeps desserts was a bit scary.  Aside from the fact none of us like Peeps, my kids aren’t little so something less sugar high inducing would do the trick.  I found this Mini Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies recipe and I thought it would be fun to make.  Not to mention easy!  And as we’re still plugging away at our renovation of the bathroom project, well, easy is key.

I will say the overall time to make this of 18 minutes is seriously over optimistic.  Give yourself an hour.  There is only so fast I can go!

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C

Begin with finely grating 180g of carrot.  This will give you 1 1/2 to 2 cups of shredded carrot.

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In a mixer add 113g/1 stick of butter (room temperature) along with 100g/1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar and 100g/1/2 cup of white sugar.

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Cream all this together for several minutes until creamy and blended well.  While this is mixing mix the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.  Add 250g/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

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Gradually add the dry ingredients to the mixer.  Once all the ingredients are mixed well add the grated carrot.

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Using a piping bag and a large nozzle pipe out the batter into circles about an inch/2.5cm onto parchment paper.  This is very sticky and they come out like wizard hats.  Don’t worry about that, it will smooth out in the oven.  Just tap down the real pointy peaks.

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Bake 6-8 minutes until set and golden.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.

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While these are baking prepare the cream cheese frosting.  I chose to use neufchatel cheese which has a 1/3 less fat.  I know, a funny time to start worrying about calories but what can you do?

In a large bowl add 8oz/226g of the cheese and 56g/1/2 stick of butter (both at room temperature).

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Using a hand mixer cream the two ingredients together for a few minutes.

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Add 187g/1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Mix well until the frosting is smooth and light.

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Pair up the mini cakes so both sides are relatively equal in size.  Spread the frosting on one side and add the other to make a sandwich.

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Keep the ones you don’t eat right away in the fridge.  Not going to lie, these were really good.  With the carrot how unhealthy can these be?  Ahem.  😉

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes with Chambord White Chocolate Ganache

Winter is back though fortunately not with the vengeance that was predicted.  At least in our area.  It was predicted we’d get 8-14in/20-35cm.  While it is still snowing we’ll only get a third of that.  Which is fine by us!

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This was our view yesterday and I felt it was a good time to bake.  The kids had early release from school in anticipation of the impending storm.  Turns out the storm took it’s time to start and they could have gotten a whole day in.

Our daughter had won a kit for a strawberry chocolate cupcake mix which she made for a class in school.  This sparked an idea for me to use real strawberries and to really make it posh I thought I’d make chambord white chocolate ganache.

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I made the cupcakes using this chocolate cake recipe.

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While the cupcakes were baking I made up the ganache.  I adjusted the white chocolate ganache I made previously as I didn’t need a lot.  I used 1/2 cup/4oz of cream, 1 tablespoon/1/2oz of butter and 4oz of white chocolate.  When the cream and butter were heating up I added 3 tablespoons of chambord for flavour.

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For the chocolate frosting I found an Allrecipes recipe.  I had to alter it a bit as I didn’t have enough baking cocoa.  So I cut the confectioner’s sugar to 2 1/2 cups rather than 2 3/4 cups as I had to use hot cocoa for the baking cocoa.  The sugar high from these cupcakes was quite something!

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Once all the ingredients are made it’s time to assemble. Cut a pyramid out of the cupcakes and insert the strawberry upside down and liberally drizzle the ganache over and around the strawberry.

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Cut the tip off the pyramid and put the top back on the cupcake and frost the top of the cupcake.

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The cupcake absorbs the ganache and makes it incredibly moist and flavourful.  The strawberry is the only healthy bit of this sweet!

Sunny Orange, Honey and Saffron to Bring in the New Year

It always amazes me how much work goes into the holidays only for it to go by faster than a blink of an eye.  It seemed this year it went by even faster.  But we had a lovely time with the kids and enjoyed a week of just hanging out with them.  I look forward to the week between Christmas and New Year’s as it’s just family time.  No where to be, perfect.

Of course, now that the holidays are over we faced with bitter, bitter cold.  So what better time to bake?  Helps keep the kitchen toasty warm.  Anything to help keep the heating costs down!  One of the gifts my husband bought me was a baking book called Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.  He had heard an interview on the radio with Yotam Ottolenghi and found him very interesting.  Particularly the flavour combinations he likes to work with.  There are several recipes I want to try.  A while back I bought a madeleine pan so the recipe I chose to try first is his saffron, orange and honey madeleines.

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This isn’t a hard recipe but it does take a little time.  It’s also not completely traditional which allows the cookie to last more than a day because let’s face it, my hips won’t appreciate me trying to eat them all before they get stale.  My taste buds will but they aren’t the ones wearing the clothes.

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In a small saucepan melt 90g of butter (6 tbsp + 1 tsp) of unsalted butter, 2 tsp of honey and 1/4 tsp of saffron threads.  The book says the saffron is optional, say what?  I’m not leaving that out!  Keep the heat low while you are doing this.  Once melted remove from the heat and bring to room temperature.

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While the butter is melting prep the next ingredients in a food processor.  Add 2 large eggs, 75g (1/3 cup + 1tsp) granulated sugar, scraped seeds of about a 1/4 of a vanilla pod and the zest of a small orange. I used a clementine for this. Pulse until it is well blended.  Sift together  90g ( 1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tsp) of flour, 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/8 tsp of salt.  Add this to the food processor and pulse again until blended.  Next add the butter mixture and blend.  Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and prep the baking pan by brushing the molds with melted butter and dust with flour.  I only have one pan so the book recommends washing, drying and reprepping between batches.

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Spoon batter in to fill about 2/3s of the mold.  This was actually harder than it sounds as the flour sticks to the bottom which makes it slippery and hard to position.  Bake 9-10 minutes until golden and sponge like.

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While they are baking chop up the pistachio nuts.  You only need a couple of tablespoons of the nuts.  Melt 3 tablespoons of honey in the microwave.  Keep an eye on this as it won’t take long to melt.

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Brush the madeleine with honey and dip it in the nuts.  This was a classic case of chasing the natural light and losing. I was hoping to get it done before it got too dark.  I didn’t win the race!  But the days are getting longer so it won’t be long.  🙂

I love how these came out, the flavours were nice and bright.  Perfect for a winter’s day.

Making a Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Mac and Cheese 

We’ve all done it.  Opened the door, peered in, shut it again.  Left to wonder what exactly is in that freezer.  Despite best laid plans it’s easy to lose the plot.  Our freezer is nearly 6 feet tall so it’s really not a good idea to lose the plot!  It got to the point where we couldn’t fit anything in and I was wondering how much money we were wasting by not using what we had.  

Off I went to get clear containers to organise the meats, leaving the baskets for all our fruits and veg we had harvested.  I did have to get rid of some things but overall getting it organised and knowing what the heck was in there was a success.  

One of my finds was a vacuumed bag of leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  So this post is either well overdue or too early for Thanksgiving.  😄.  Even though we seem to be stuck back in with the sticky heat of summer we did enjoy autumn weather for a few weeks.  It was wonderful and perfect for some comfort food.  Mac and cheese would do the trick.


Would you believe this onion was supposed to be a scallion?  We planted half a raised bed of bunching onions so you imagine our surprise to find proper onions growing.

While making the cheese sauce for this dish, cook up the pasta.  Preheat the oven to 375F/200C. In a separate saucepan heat up a couple of tablespoons of butter.   Coarsely chop half of a large onion and add it to the butter.


Sauté on low until the onions soften.  Then add a couple of cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add about a cup and a half of chopped turkey.  Season with a couple of teaspoons of fresh thyme and sage.  If you don’t have fresh sage use about a teaspoon of ground sage.  Continue to season with sea salt and pepper.  Then add a half cup/4oz of dry white wine.


To make it a roux add 2 tablespoons of flour.


Stir continuously until the flour is incorporated and cooked, about three minutes.


Next add 1 1/4 cup of milk and heat through.  Don’t boil!  Once the cheese is warm enough to melt cheese add a cup of grated cheddar and half a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Stir until the cheese has melted,


Put the cooked pasta into a baking dish and add the cheese sauce.  Mix well. Top with more grated cheese.


Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and brown the top of the dish.


Serve while hot.  Now we try to eat small portions in our house but with this dish we all had seconds and there weren’t any leftovers!  Guess we needed a break from salads.  😊

The Sinfulness of Chocolate 

Chocolate is a veg, right?  I mean it starts as a plant so it should count as part of our five a day.  Just like wine is fruit because it comes from grapes.  Hands up from those that are with me on this.  Anyone?

Because I completely forgot to do a birthday cake for our daughter earlier in the year I decided to make up for it when we celebrated a bunch of family birthdays a few weeks ago.  You know, she never said a word.  Once the lightbulb went off I felt really guilty.  A familiar feeling, I’m sure, for many parents.  Our daughter is a massive fan of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate I decided to go for a chocolate cake with ganache and raspberries.  Unsurprisingly, she was on board with this idea.

After doing a bit of research online and realising the recipes are pretty basic, making me wonder why I haven’t made it before, I used this guide from Add a Pinch to create my dessert.  I also made a chocolate cake as a base for this.  The difference between the glaze and the filling are the ratio between the cream and chocolate.  This is not a low calorie treat!


I did the filling first.  In a saucepan, gently heat a 1 cup/8oz of heavy or double cream with 2 tablespoons/1oz of butter.  Don’t boil or scald but heat until the butter is melted.


In a large bowl add 2 cups/11oz of white chocolate.  Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and everything has blended together.  If you would like you can also add a couple of tablespoons of flavouring, I didn’t to this stage because of the other flavours that I was putting together.  


Chill until it has a thick spreadable consistency.  Spread on the first layer of the cake and add a layer of fresh raspberries.


For the glaze, redo the cream and butter.  Pour it over a cup/6oz of dark chocolate along with 2 tablespoons/1-2oz of spiced rum and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.  This will be very liquid so it will need to be chilled a bit so it doesn’t completely run off the cake when you pour it on.  


Top with more fresh raspberries and serve.  I have to say this was a hit.  This will definitely be made again!