Monday, July 22, 2013

It’s a Prince!

For days, much of the world has been waiting for the Royal baby to arrive.  Baby Cambridge was born today, and it’s a Prince! His name has not been revealed yet, and may not for days. Sophie is hoping for Ryland, but I’m with all those who think George is a nice name.  We shall see eh?

What better way to celebrate the royal baby’s birth than with cake?  Not just any cake though, we need a Chocolate Biscuit Cake. 

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Chocolate Biscuit Cake will not be new to any Royal Watchers.  It was the cake William chose to be his Groom’s Cake.  In his book, Eating Royally, Darren McGrady, former chef to Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana, relates that this is the Queen’s favorite tea cake.  I’ve also read somewhere that she would have it served when William visited from Eton and it is his favorite too! 

Click here for the recipe!

Here is a little video from 2011 with McVitie’s on making the cake for the Royal Wedding.

The Royal Wedding Cake

Eating Royally is an excellent book. The majority of the book is McGrady’s memories taking you from his life as a chef on the bottom rung of the ladder, to serving the Royal Family.  His adventure takes us around the world and through the seasons.  The book visits the different palaces, castles and country houses the royals call home, and the dishes served there.  His touching story includes his time at Kensington Palace as Princess Diana’s chef.  The book includes over 100 recipes that are mentioned in his stories.  Some of my favorite recipes are:

Chocolate Biscuit Cake, of course, it is a chocolate lovers dream!

Iced Coffee straight from the Ascot Races

Vanilla Ice Cream, so rich and creamy!

Cheese Soufflé, I haven’t made this yet, but it is on my list!

Jam and Cream Sponge, a classic

Cottage Pie, another classic, and very kid friendly

Scottish Thistle Shortbread, makes a great gift!

Those are just a few of my favorites. I’ve made several recipes from the book, and they all deliver.   

Congratulations to William and Kate on the birth of their son, as all children are a heritage from the Lord, (Psalm 127:3).

Friday, June 28, 2013

Classic French: Fruit Tarts


This month’s Classic French challenge was Fruit Tarts.  I keep forgetting that I do not own a normal sized tart pan, but I do have four small individual sized tart pans.  I had never used them until the other day.  Yes, this is my 3rd CF challenge, and my 3rd first time making said challenge dish. 

Trying to decide what tart to make took a while.  I searched my cookbooks for the best recipes, and settled on a pâte sucrée, (short crust pastry), blind baked, and filled with crème patissière, (pastry cream) and topped with fresh peaches. 


This is peach time in my neck of the woods.  I love a good peach.  Early in my pregnancy with my son, I craved a good peach. The kind that you can taste the sun in it.  You know what I’m talking about.  I wanted a peach I could bite into and the juice would drip down my chin.  Soft and sweet, with just a hint of tang.  But it was January.  I could have cried.  The really sad part is that when summer finally rolled around, I was not interested in peaches anymore.  BUT right now I can get those delicious peaches at our neighborhood produce stand.  Linda’s Produce is the best place in our area to get produce.  I just walk in and pick out which fruits and vegetables look good to me and then plan meals and snacks around them.  It’s a good plan.  


Peach Tart

This recipe will make 4 small tarts or one large one.  Buy enough peaches to spread over the tart, about 1 per person, but make sure you have more, just because. 

Pâte Sucrée
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, (I used vanilla sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I prefer fine sea salt)
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3 teaspoons water

Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a food processor.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter crumbles look like peas.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla and 1 teaspoon of water. Add the egg mixture to the food processor and pulse until is starts to clump.  It should not be crumbly, add a little more water until it is nice and smooth and not crumbly.

Press the dough into the tart pan.  Try to keep the dough even and pretty. It’s all about the details from here on out.  Stick the pan(s) in the fridge for an hour or the freezer for 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Blind bake by covering the crust with foil and lightly pressing it down. Fill the crust with dried beans or rice that you don’t plan on eating at this point, (keep them around for more blind baking later.) Bake for 20 to 22 minutes.  Peel back the foil, if it doesn’t come off easily, bake for another 5 minutes and try again. Take the foil and beans off and bake the crust for another 10 minutes until golden.  Allow to cool outside of pan on a rack.  Once cool, return to pan to be filled. 

Crème Patissière
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar (vanilla sugar again!)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

In a saucepan, heat the milk to just below a boil.  In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar for a couple minutes until it is lighter in color.  Add the flour and whisk.

Add the milk to the egg mixture, whisking quickly.  Keep whisking until all is smooth. 

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat to a boil, whisking the whole time.  If a lump appears, remove from heat and whisk until smooth.  Continue cooking and whisking until flour is cooked (a couple minutes), and everything is smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in extract.  Cover with cling wrap, pressing to the surface of the cream to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely cool and ready to use.

Filling the tart
1/8 cup apricot jam
teaspoon of water (or so)

Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 10-30 seconds.  Remove to cold water bath.  Peel the peaches starting at the stem end and working down.  Thinly slice the peaches and set aside.

In a small heat proof bowl, mix the jam and water together.  Heat for 30 second in the microwave then stir until smooth, add more water or heat for longer if needed. You want a smooth but not runny glaze. Brush the inside of the crusts with the glaze to protect it from getting soggy.

Fill the crust to almost the top with the cream.  Leave room for the fruit! Arrange peach slices in a pattern to cover as much cream as possible.  Brush the tops of the peaches with the remaining glaze to make them glisten.  You can place the tart pan on top of a tin can.  Carefully pull the sides of the pan down to leave the tart hovering above.  Remove the bottom of the tart pan if you are brave, or just serve the tart as is. 

The tarts can be refrigerated for a short time, but plan on eating them the day they are made.  Cream and crusts can be made ahead of time for stress free entertaining.  Always hold the tart pan from the sides and not the bottom, you don’t want to destroy the tart!

I’m also linking this to Simple And In Season.  I’ve just learned of this and look forward to getting new ideas for eating what is in season!

Simple and in Season

Monday, May 27, 2013

Classic French: Macarons


Earl Grey Macarons

We had been wanting to go on a picnic recently, but the weather was not cooperating.  Finally, Brian had a day off that also promised nice weather. We jumped at the chance!

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As I’ve said before, picnics should be relaxing and fun, so keep it simple.*  I did want to make it a pretty picnic, so I went with a blue/white theme.  It was as easy as going through my linen closet and kitchen cabinets.  I have a lot of blue and white things, so this was no problem to put together.  I have to say it was genius of me to think of the coasters, they gave our cups a level-ish place to stand.  My 2 year old had absolutely no trouble keeping his cup upright this way. 

Since I knew that we were having our Classic French Macarons for dessert at this picnic, we decided to have something of a French picnic with a baguette, a selection of cheeses, deli ham and some gorgeous purple grapes, with lemonade to drink. Aside from the pre-chilled lemonade and macarons, everything else was picked up at the grocery store on the way to the park. Super easy prep!

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Sophie enjoying her bread.

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Daddy dressed Liam as a pirate, in hopes he would keep something on his head.  Great idea Dad!

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Our Earl Grey Macarons!  I packed them in a small metal loaf pan and kept them chilled with the lemonade during transportation.  I didn’t have to worry too much about melting because the filling is ganache, much more stable than buttercream in the heat.

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Liam kept reaching for these; he knows a good thing when he tastes it.

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Unplugging from the world and just spending time together as a family in nature is good for you.

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It brings calm and happiness.

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It makes memories.


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So, in keeping with my Classic French experience so far; here is my first time eating and making macarons.  I think, for my first time, they turned out pretty well.  I know they are not perfect, but they could be worse!  Anyway, they tasted fantastic, and that’s what they are for!

I followed the recipe and advice from Stella Parks of  She is a macaron master, and I learned so much from her posts about macarons.  You can find her basic recipe HERE!  I adapted her recipe by adding the contents of 3 Twining’s Earl Grey tea bags (1 Tablespoon of dry tea) to the dry ingredients.  Earl Grey has such a lovely fragrance!  For the filling, I made an Earl Grey infused chocolate ganache.  This ganache is crazy good!  It was actually the basis for this whole Earl Grey macaron concept.  I first encountered Earl Grey truffles at Claude’s Chocolates in St. Augustine, Florida.  And they are amazing!  I don’t know why it has taken me so long to try this. 

Earl Grey Ganache


8 ounces good quality milk chocolate chips

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional for normal truffles, but good for a smooth filling.)

1 Earl Grey Tea bag or 1 teaspoon of loose Earl Grey in a diffuser


Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl.  Place the cream, butter and tea in a small saucepan.  Heat on medium low to allow the cream to slowly warm and the tea to infuse it.  Allow the tea to steep for about 5 minutes after the cream is good and warm (you should gently stir it often), then turn up the heat to medium and bring the cream just barely to a boil. Remove the tea and pour the cream over the chocolate.  Stir the mixture until it is smooth and shiny.  Allow it to cool to room temperature before piping into the macarons.

A note on macarons.  Stella Parks mentions that macarons get better with age.  You just stash them in the fridge.  I have to tell you that when I first made these, I had one to test the flavor.  They were too sweet!  Not the ganache, but the shells.  So sweet I didn’t think they were very good.  But I put them in the fridge and left them for 5 days until we could have our picnic.  Something magical happened during 5 days of refrigeration.  The sweetness mellowed somehow.  They are still sweet, of course, but just right.  And the Earl Grey really shines.  So, please, send your macarons on refrigerated vacation.  It’s the right thing to do.

*My philosophy of picnics is that they should be relaxing and stress-free.  Too much work will not allow that, so that’s why I keep things simple.  If you, however, can pay someone to do all the work for you, then you can throw an elaborate picnic like the olden days. BBC Food has an excellent article on picnics, and how you can enjoy a traditional picnic.  But, no matter how you picnic, make sure it is enjoyable, and spend time with people you love. 

Thanks to Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes for giving us the Classic French Challenge and Victoria at A Kick At The Pantry Door for hosting this month.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Forever Nigella #25 Roundup



It was so fun to host Forever Nigella for April!  I loved seeing all the colorful entries.  I also enjoyed getting to see some blogs I haven’t visited before, and getting to virtually meet some of you on twitter and through comments.  Foodie bloggers are some of the best!  And we excel at trying new things, so these monthly events are exciting and fun. I hope some of you  that are not yet taking part will jump right in with the rest of us. 

Here are our lovely, colorful entries this month:

Naomi from It’s a fine, fine life adapted Mauritian Prawn Curry for the Slow Cooker, which she used daily for the month of April in her own Month of Slow Cooking.  Beautiful and a time saver!


Sally the Recipe Junkie (who has challenged herself to make everything in How to Be a Domestic Goddess) made this Raspberry Polenta Cake, loosely based on Nigella’s Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake.  And then she poured cream on it, which means we were destined to be friends.

Sally also made Chicken Under A Brick for her entry in a Random Recipe Challenge, so fun! 

Caroline from Caroline Makes…. made Nigella’s sauce for Yellow Spaghetti with gorgeous saffron.  So simple and pretty.

Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen made this showstopper cake.  Flora's Famous Courgette Cake (Courgette = Zucchini if you didn’t know.)  Since it is made with a vegetable, it must be healthy, right?  Elizabeth’s lime curd is made with local eggs which gives the curd its sunny hue.


Speaking of sunny hues, here is Caroline from Cake, Crumbs and Cooking and her Sunrise “Rainbow” cake using Nigella’s Buttermilk Birthday Cake recipe.  I want to eat this cake!  This was also my 5 year old’s favorite entry.

Lastly, here is Risotto alla Milanese from Sam of Smart Cookie Sam.  Her risotto was something she just happened to pick up on an Italian holiday.  It looks delicious!

Many thanks to Sarah at Maison Cupcake for creating Forever Nigella and allowing me to host this last month.  Now on to Forever Nigella #26 with Mimi at Chef Mimi Blog.

Winners of the two drawings:

1) The winner of the Forever Nigella participants drawing is

Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen

2) The winner of the Followers drawing is

Jenn Price


Friday, April 26, 2013

Classic French: Madeleines



I sit here with a cup of tea and a freshly baked Madeleine.  In Proust approved fashion, I dip my Madeleine into my tea.  The spongy cake absorbs the tea in a flash.  One bite.  I’m hooked. 

I am a daily tea drinker.  But I would never have dunked a cake into my tea before now.  The thought of crumbs in my cup really turned me off, but I need not fear with a proper Madeleine. 

I’ve just recently stumbled upon the blog Blue Kitchen Bakes and blogger Jen’s monthly Classic French Challenge.  Classic French is an opportunity and motivator to “explore and celebrate the joys of French patisserie.”  April’s challenge is Madeleines.  I, sadly, had never even tasted a Madeleine before this challenge. I’m confident I have not even been in the same room as a Madeleine.  So this was a completely new experience for me.  Step one was to order a Madeleine pan.  I bought this one. Step two was to open up my gorgeous copy of Anne Willan’s Country Cooking of France.  This book is exquisite.  I brought this book home from the library and devoured it.  I read it from cover to cover and was so sad when it was time to return it.  So, when I received it at Christmas, I was thrilled.  Anne’s book takes us across France and through its many pays, that is, specific regions in France and their produits du terrior, (products from a very specific area.) 


Not only does Anne’s book give you authentic French recipes, but it also delights with beautiful photos, superb commentaries on regions and towns, descriptions of local foods, and what and who make French country cooking so enticing.  It is a massive book, and I have not even begun to describe how wonderful it is.  It will give you daydreams of France.

Here are a few photos I took of this book to tease you into wanting your own copy.


First Catch Your Snail—best recipe title ever!




La Truffade—Potato Cake with Cheese and Bacon, what is not to like?


“No two French markets are alike.”




Fruits Glacés


So, what have I learned from my first encounter with Madeleines?  First, I believe that the double buttering of the pan is not optional.  I would not have trusted this pan, nonstick though it may be, to have parted with them as willingly if not for the double buttering of the pan.  It’s kind of fun anyway.  Second, refrigerating the dough is a must.  Although I did not document it, my Madeleines had the coveted hump on the underside.  So how do they taste?  Honey sweet with just a hint of lemon.  Buttery.  Crispy and soft at the same time.  Anne’s recipe makes 18, my pan is for 12.  I filled them just a little too full, but not by much, I think they may have spent a minute or two too long in the oven as well.  With time and practice, I will be turning out even lovelier Madeleines.  Being my first experience, they did turn out nicely and I look forward to trying different recipes.  But I think I will always come back to this one; my children loved these.  Sophie said they were “too good.”


Click here for the delicious recipe for Honey Madeleines from The Country Cooking of France.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Forever Nigella: Colourful



Admission: I have only ever had pasta sauce in the colours of red, white, or yellow.  Is that sad?  I don’t know.  Well, today that changed.  The ushering in of Spring and its parade of colours has inspired me to name this month’s Forever Nigella #25, (which I am hosting), “Colourful”.  Thumbing through Nigella’s recipes I came across a beautiful pasta dish with green sauce!  My attention had been captured.  It was lovely, colourful, fresh, and inviting.  And it’s a relatively easy and quick recipe too! 

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Pasta Alla Genovese

Click here for the recipe.

So what gives this its gorgeous green hue?  Basil!  And it smells divine.  This was a beautiful switch from my normal sauce.  The basil and parmesan give the sauce a classic Italian taste, while the potatoes and beans add texture to the dish. 

Next time I make this, (and there will be a next time), I may put the beans in at the same time as the potatoes.  Although I found the beans just perfect, my family prefers longer cooked beans.  I’m ok with that.  I may also not allow the potatoes to cook as long as I did this time.  Perhaps it was my choice of potato, (Idaho), or the size of the chunks, but they cooked quite quickly and started to turn to mush.  It was still delicious, but I may have lost some of the potato when I drained the pot, I should have trusted my instincts on this one. I also would add a pinch of salt to the pesto next time, just to boost the flavor a little. One more thing:  the recipe calls for both olive oil and extra virgin olive oil.  I thought I had both, but only had the extra virgin olive oil.  So that’s what I used.  Brian said it was ok as long as I didn’t use olive oil with a questionable reputation. Sound advice.

Note for American readers: Silly me. Of course I would choose a theme word with a different American English spelling. Don’t freak out! I decided to spell it the British English way in this post, (since Nigella would spell it that way, of course.) If you don’t like it, just blame Noah Webster for making things terribly confusing for us all. Also, the recipe calls for “fine beans”. The all knowing internet told me that’s just green beans. Skinny ones perhaps work the best for this recipe, but use whatever fresh you can find.

A big thank you to Sarah at Maison Cupcake for organising the Forever Nigella blogging event, and allowing me the opportunity to host this month.  We would love for you to join us this month by whipping up something colourful from Nigella Lawson’s recipes and then blogging about it, (see rules below).  Please link up to your post using Linky Tools below.  All entries will be eligible for a drawing to win one of these colourful beauties:


The winner will choose the colour of choice.  The second scoop goes to the winner of the raffle below.  International entries are allowed.

Link your Forever Nigella blog post here: 

Enter here for the Ice Cream Scoop Giveaway:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click here for the round-up and winners!

Forever Nigella Participation Rules

How it works:

Events run 1st to 30th unless otherwise stated.

Events are to be announced on host’s blog on the 1st with round ups on 1st of the next month signposting the next host and theme.

Blog checking lines:
Forever Nigella #[number] is being hosted by [name] of [blog]. This month’s challenge is to prepare and blog any Nigella Lawson recipe [describe theme]. Forever Nigella is organised by Sarah at
Maison Cupcake.

1. Blog by the deadline showing:
a) current Forever Nigella badge
b) link to the current host’s announcement post
c) link to Forever Nigella page:

Entries should have been published during that month.

2. Remember copyright.
Please do NOT reproduce Nigella’s recipes verbatim. Say which book it was and/or link to it online (see likely places below). If you’ve adapted the recipe i.e. changed at least two ingredients or amended the method then it’s ok to publish the a recipe in your post but you MUST write directions in your own words.

3. Submit your post via the linky tool – if there is no linky being used email the host cc’ed to sarah AT maisoncupcake DOT com. Tweet posts using #forevernigella and @maisoncupcake and Sarah will try to RT all those she sees.

The Forever Nigella page has a list of Nigella resources, future hosts and links to past themes and round ups.

Nigella Resources

No Nigella books yet? Search these resources online:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Green Eggs and Ham


Since Saturday was Dr. Seuss’s birthday, we celebrated at home with a little whimsy.

First, since I couldn’t find our copy of Green Eggs and Ham, I had Brian show this to the kids while I made brunch. 

I used an obscene amount of green food coloring to produce our green eggs and ham.  Anything for the kids, right?  So, to make green eggs is kind of obvious.  Drip the food coloring into the scrambled egg yolk mixture before cooking.  For the ham, I melted a little butter in the pan and then added the food coloring.  Mix it up then add the ham, stirring around till the ham is nice and green.  I used deli sliced ham, but I would so much have rather used some spiral cut ham.  I can honestly tell Sam-I-Am that I do not like THAT kind of green ham.  Sorry, it’s the truth.  I don’t like fried baloney either, that’s just the way it is folks.



Sophie was hilarious. She saw the green eggs and ham and freaked out!  She told me she did NOT like green eggs and ham.  She was not going to eat it.  I asked her some of the questions from the book, (in a box? with a fox?)  If I remember correctly, there were even tears.  But eventually, she did try it.  And she liked it.  She ate it all, (even though it was probably cold by then.)  Liam did too, but without the drama.

Celebrate Read Across America every year to promote reading and celebrate the life of Theodore Geisel.  But don’t wait until March 2nd to enjoy some Seussical fun!  See my board on Pinterest where I will continue to add great Seuss ideas, (feel free to link to your favorites in the comments below.)

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