Thursday, December 31, 2009

Where Did 2009 Go??

Where does the time go?? It's always hard to believe that another year has blown by. Well it has happened again, and here are a few photos from this past year to say goodbye to 2009. We are very lucky to have such a wonderful life........ to get the opportunity to see and do the things we do, and to know the people we know. Sometimes life happens so very fast, and it is good to take a moment to slow down to reflect and remember the good things, and the beautiful things that we so easily forget about in our daily rush.
We've had quite a few nice trips this year with the 'new to us' Westfalia which does lend itself to a meandering and slow holiday....hopefully next year it will see even more use.......before Ike gets old enough to think it's not cool to travel with us:) I think the plan is to travel through Vancouver Island or the Oregon coast, maybe we'll do a bit of both......
We are having such lovely winter weather now...............we really aught to get out and enjoy it more. This thought has prompted snowboarding lessons for Ike and a new set of cross country skis for me.
Christmas Holidays saw us driving through some gorgeous scenery with ample time to spend time with friends and family. When we complain that those darned mountains are in the way.....we need to remind ourselves that many people travel 1000's of miles just to see and experience them......
Goodbye to 2009..........I hope to make even better use of 2010. Best Wishes to everyone for a Happy and Healthy New Year:)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Ginger Bread House

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes. To see some beautiful Gingerbread Houses go to the Daring Kitchen Blogroll and check some out!
This month's challenge had to be done on the road as we were away for the Christmas holidays. After reading numerous comments concerning difficulties with the recipes provided I started to worry about a failed attempt. As it turned out, Lee had a recipe and pattern already tucked away from making Gingerbread Houses with her kids when they were younger. I decided immediately that I would use her recipe and pattern rather than taking any chances. I really liked how her pattern had next to no waste. I also liked that the cookie was baked in one piece, and the house pieces were cut out immediately after removing the cookie from the oven. No worries about pieces shrinking in the oven and not fitting properly. Although this recipe is very similar to one of the provided recipes....I liked the scaled back size of the recipe as I was not so interested in using 8 cups of flour. It all worked perfectly....thanks to Lee! I used only the royal icing to glue the building pieces together and could have made a 1/2 batch and it still would have been plenty......and I let Ike do the really this is part Ike's challenge too:) He had a lot of fun!!

Auntie Lee's Gingerbread House

2 3/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
2/3 cup molasses
1/8 tsp cloves
1 egg
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamom
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oil

Mix thoroughly and chill for several hours (overnight or longer). Roll dough onto an oiled piece of foil to fit the pan. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 300F for 20-30 minutes. Place pattern pieces on hot bread and cut immediately. Lift out carefully and cool on a cake rack. The gingerbread should be very hard when cool (if necessary, the pieces can be laid back on the cookie sheet in the oven for five or ten minutes longer). The roof sections will break off if the dough is not thoroughly baked.

Royal Icing

3 egg whites at room temperature
1 lb (4 cups) icing sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Beat thoroughly in a mixing bowl until the icing stands in peaks, then keep the bowl covered at all times with a damp cloth, as this icing dries very quickly and becomes very hard.
Decorate with a variety of hard candies.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Make Salt Dough Ornaments With the Kids

Earlier this year Ike made a batch of salt dough ornaments to enter into the local fall fair. They turned out to be a perfect addition to the packages of homemade candy and baking mixes that we had prepared for family and friends. This year we made up Ginger Sparkle Cookies, Almond Roca, and Ike's Special Brownie Mix. I found these cute gift bags and the ornaments were perfect to finish them off. The salt dough ornaments are a nice easy craft for the kids to cut out and paint. They make a nice gift for teachers, and family too. Ike brought in one of these bags with a dozen Ginger Sparkles and his favourite ornament to gift to his teacher before Christmas break.

Salt Dough Recipe

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
3/4 cups water

Mix all ingredients and knead to make a pliable dough. If the dough is too sticky...add more flour. If it seems crumbly....add a few more drops or water. Roll dough to desired thickness and place on cookie sheet to bake. I found it helpful to put a layer of parchment under the cut outs. Push a wire loop into the top of the ornament to use for hanging. We took a paper clip and cut it into a U shape 1/2 inch long to make the hanging loop.

Dry in oven at 170F. Allow one hour or drying time per 1/4 inch thickness of dough.

Once cooled, paint and varnish.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Knitting To Go

Since the weather turned cold this season.....I've had the urge to knit. To knit something......well to knit anything. So after quite a bit of internet searching for just the right pattern......I found this cozy looking knit cowl pattern........ And decided that I would crank out copious amounts of this pattern. I liked that it was quick......because I have limited attention span for projects that might take too many days to finish, and I liked the overall squishy softness of with the cold weather we've been having....there have been quite a few days where I would have enjoyed one myself. So for this project, you can top it all off with fabulous practicality. Not too much better than that! You will require one ball of Lion Brand Wool Ease to make this project or any other soft to the touch bulky class yarn with 98m. I end up with less than 10m left in the ball. It's a very quick knit which you can easily finish in an evening of tv watching. The pattern is repetitive and easy enough to memorize after your first you may as well keep making more:) The perfect quick knit gift. I'll be knitting up a few more on our drive home for the holidays......Who might be getting one.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

You Really Can't go Wrong with Christmas Baking

Baking is always a reliable Christmas Gift. Almost everyone appreciates the time and hopefully quality of home baked goodness. Especially for those friends that would never make it for themselves. This year I ended up making a ridiculous number of Ginger Sparkle cookies for gifting and for donation to our school bake sale. They are generally well liked and even by kids which surprised me as I don't know if I would have liked them as a kid.........You know what.....I take that back......I must have liked them when I was a kid because I asked for the recipe from my friend Luanne's mother when I was growing up. I went through quite a few years of not making them and then a few years back now....I had a craving for them and made them again for the first time in a long time. Now it seems I make them through the fall and winter every year. The recipe is enormous in that it makes about 100 cookies. Well at least it does if you make them with a #60 scoop like I do. That makes each ball a little over 1 1/4 inches in diameter. I found the dough scoop to be an invaluable time saver when it come to cookie baking. Who has the time to roll 100 balls of dough???? So if you know someone who likes to bake....get them a few dough's a perfect stocking stuffer.
Another old reliable recipe for Christmas Gift giving is Almond Roca. I've made three batches so far this year and it is another recipe of universal yumminess. It's quick to make up and requires few ingredients.......most of which you probably have on hand. You can find the recipe in this post along with a few others.
Package it all up in a gift tin or on a pretty thrifted plate with paper doilies and cellophane and you are good to go. Easy Peasy!
Wishing you all a very sweet holiday:)

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Wellington Challenge

The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute (or alternative recipes for Beef Wellington or Vegetable en Croute) from Good Food Online.

It should be no surprise at all that this month I chose to make the alternate Beef Wellington. Although I do have a whole salmon sitting in my freezer right now.....I also have several hundred pounds of beef and just last month I had noticed one small brown package labeled 'tenderloin'. When I noticed that package....I decided immediately that it would be set aside to make the Wellington. The tenderloin package contained three pieces of tenderloin weighing in at just over 500g in I made three small packets. With left over puff pastry, and a freezer full of beef this Challenge turned out to be not that intimidating at all. And I must mention that making a Beef Wellington has also been on my to do list for many years. I'm pleased to say that now it can be crossed off my list........and even more please to tell you that it was OMG delicious. That was a remarkably tender piece of 4H beef.

I followed the recipe as outlined below using herbs de Provence in the crepe, adding some minced onion and garlic to the pan fried mushroom filling as well as some thyme. I also did not have any English I used some Dijon which is always a nice pairing with thyme. It was ridiculously delicious. So much so that I will most definitely be making it again. Again I used my meat probe to measure the temperature of the meat while it cooked....LOVE that tool! It would be a wonderfully dependable recipe to serve for company, and I would have no reservations trying to make it for company. The recipe lends itself well to preparing ahead. If you think you'd like to try it yourself.........wait no was dead easy! I hope you'll try it. It would make a beautiful holiday meal.
Instructions for Beef Wellington (serves 4)

Button mushrooms - 17.6 ounces/500gr (stalks removed and finely chopped)
Olive oil - 2-3 tbsp
thyme - 1 sprig
Beef fillet, center cut piece - 21.16 ounce/600 gr
English mustard - 1 tbsp
puff pastry (all butter pastry pack) - 17.6 ounce/500 gr
parma ham (prosciutto) - 3 slices
egg yolk - 1 pcs, beaten

For the herb crepes:
plain (all purpose) flour - 0.3 cup/1.76 ounce/50 gr
milk - 0.5 cup/125 ml
mixed herbs - 1 tbsp (chopped, use herbs such as cervil, chives and tarragon
butter - 0.5 tbsp

1. To make the crepes, whizz the flour, egg and milk with a pinch of salt in a blender or processor until smooth. Pour into a jug and stir in the herbs and some seasoning. Leave to rest.
2. Fry the mushrooms in a little oil until they give up all their moisture and it has evaporated, leaving you with a thick paste. Add the thyme leaves and some seasoning and keep cooking for a few minutes. Cool.
3. Stir the melted butter into the crepe batter, heat a 15 cm crepe pan and oil it lightly. Pour in enough batter to make a thin layer on the base of the pan, cook until the top surface sets and then turn over and cook briefly. Remove and repeat with the rest of the batter. This will make a couple more than you need so choose the thinnest ones for the recipe.
4. Sear the beef all over in a little oil in a very hot pan. Brush with the mustard, season and allow to cool.
5. Lay a large sheet of cling-film on a kitchen surface and put two crepes down on it, overlapping a little. Lay over the parmaham (prosciutto). Spread the mushroom mixture over the ham and put the beef in the centre. Roll the cling-film up, taking the crepe with it, to wrap the beef completely into a nice neat log. Chill for 1 hour.
6. Heat the oven to 200°C/390F. Roll out the pastry, remove the clingfilm and wrap the beef in the pastry like a parcel, with the ends tucked under. Trim to keep it nice and neat. Brush with egg, score with shallow lines across the top and chill for 20 minutes.
7. Cook for 20 minutes. The best way to test if the meat is done to your liking is to neatly and carefully stick a skewer into the beef, count to three and then test it against your inner wrist. If it is cold, the beef will be raw, if it is warm then the beef will be rare and if it’s hot, it’ll be cooked through. Leave to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

For a look at some more Daring Wellingtons look here. Thanks for stopping by:)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Handmade Holiday Gift #2 Knit Cloth

Knitted Dish cloths can be the perfect quick make for the holidays. If you know of someone who likes to use them, there is an abundance of free patterns available over the internet. I was looking for a holiday themed pattern and liked this one so much that I broke down and purchased the pattern here. It was quick (I received the PDF file within a minute) and pretty inexpensive (only $2) After I got into the payment process, which was very simple, I discovered that the pattern was coming from my home town across the country and from a woman whose husband had cousins that I grew up going through grade school with. It is amazing how small the internet makes the world isn't it? If you can knit, even a bit, these knit up pretty quick (two lazy evenings watching tv) and even if you chose to purchase an online pattern like I did you could be knitting away in just a few moments.
If you have only 20 minutes to spare, you could make some of these swirl scrubbies in a festive green and white mix or an equally delicious looking red and white mix. I have listed the link for the swirl scrubbies pattern on knitability on the older post as well.