Monday, 30 April 2012

What's for Breakfast? Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes!

By now you have probably guessed that breakfast is my favourite meal of the day.  My recipe binder contains almost any many breakfast recipes as it has cookie and cake recipes....and I have LOTS of those.  This recipe reminds me of an old fashioned cookie recipe, Cinnamon Oatmeal, but these are pancakes!

You will need the following:

1 cup flour
2-3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and the oats.   Whiz these ingredients together to combine them and grind the oats at bit. 

Add the milk, egg and oil.  Whiz again until the dry ingredients are JUST incorporated.  Don't over process.

Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium heat, grease the pan with a small amount of oil or butter.  I use a paper towel dipped in a little oil.Wipe the pan with this before adding the batter.  Using a big spoon, pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the hot pan to make a pancake.  Let this cook for a minute or two. When bubbles form turn the pancake over and bake for a couple of minutes more  until lightly browned.  You may have to turn down the heat to avoid the batter browning too quickly.  You want the batter to have time to cook properly.  Repeat the oiling, batter, frying process until all the batter is cooked.  I usually get about 10 pancakes.

    These pancakes are a bit more substantial than regular pancakes and are very filling.  If you have left- overs, wrap them in plastic wrap or place them in a freezer bag and freeze for another day.  Pop them into the toaster for a minute or two and they come out warm and delicious.  I like them with butter and maple syrup but I have been know to eat them just as they are.  Well, they ARE made with oats, I feel almost virtuous! 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Cockle Sands, the Exe Estuary

From the air, southwest England looks like a patchwork quilt.  One of the brightest colours in this patchwork comes from fields of  rapeseed plants in full bloom. The vivid yellow flowers appear almost luminous against the lust green of pastures. 

Add the deep blue of the sea and you have a stunning combination.

This is Cockle Sands, part of the Exe Estuary, where the sea meets the river Exe.  It is a favourite spot for Wind Surfers.......

Kite surfers.......

and Dog Walkers!

It is also home to the Exmouth Sailing Club

Andy and I like Cockle Sands, too.  We have been known to eat a few fish and chip suppers here.   I think it looks best this time of year, when the rapeseed fields are in bloom.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Chocolate Vanilla Cream Sandwich Cookies

Here is a recipe that has three of my favourite things all rolled into one; chocolate, cookies and creamy vanilla frosting.  When I say frosting, think Twinkies*, that light, fluffy, vanilla goo.

To make the cookies you will need:

1 1/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons butter or margarine (room temperature)
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F or 190 degrees C.  Line two cookie sheets with baking paper. 

You can use a food processor or an electric mixer to make the cookie dough. 
Put the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda in the bowl of the food processor.  Give it a good whiz around to mix all the dry ingredients together.  Add the butter and pulse the machine to incorporated the butter, you should get a sort of crumbly looking mix.   Add the egg and let it all whiz around until the dough comes together and you don't see any dry, floury bits. 
Using a small scoop or teaspoon, drop the cookie dough on to the lined baking sheets.

 Leave a good bit of space around each bit of dough to give the cookies room to spread out during baking.  Try to keep the cookies as round and equal in size as possible .  You are going to pair them up to make the 'sandwiches'  later.  Bake for about 8 or 9 minutes, turning the pans half way through to assure evenly baked cookies. 

Cool the cookies on a rack while you make the Cream Filling.

For the filling you will need:
1/4 cup room temperature butter or margarine
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Put the butter and shortening in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Gradually beat in the icing sugar and add the vanilla.  If the filling is too stiff you can add a teaspoon or two of milk VERY gradually.  You do not want to make the filling too wet.   Turn the mixer on HIGH and beat, beat ,beat the filling for at least three minutes.  You want it to be light and fluffy, think Twinkies! 

Spread a good spoonful on a cool cookie and top it with a cookie of equal size.  Very gently press the cookies together to smush the frosting to the edges.  Continue icing and smushing until all the cookies have been made into sandwiches. 

Make a hot cup of coffee or tea, or a cold glass of milk and enjoy!  If you have any left, be sure to store them in an airtight container. 

*Twinkies are a snack cake made in the USA.  They are a light sponge finger filled with very fluffy frosting and are a lunch box staple for children and a guilty secret for adults. 

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Absent Auntie

I started this blog with my young, American nieces in mind.  I want show them some of the special places and things we enjoy here in the United Kingdom.  This is the perfect forum for doing that.  I hope it helps them feel closer to their absent auntie and uncle.

I am new to this blogging thing, so I am keeping it very simple. I have to learn as I go. In some of the posts you will see words that are a different colour from the rest of the text.  These are embedded links that will open a new window to display a website, video or extra information on the main topic.   Click on these coloured words and see where they take you. 

In four weeks, we have gained a slightly larger and slightly more mature group of readers.    I am so flattered that you take the time to visit us.  I hope you continue to visit us and recommend us to your friends.    It's been great fun.  We look forward to sharing lots more food, photos, and adventures! 

P.S.  We'd love it if you'd like to share some of your favourite things, too. 

Puppy Dog Tails

The rain it raineth every day.... at least it feels like it.  We have been going through a wet patch for the past week.  The garden looks better for it but it means that I haven't been getting out and about much.  So, to take our minds off the weather, lets look at some of Andy's photos taken on a sunnier day.

Anytime you go down to the beach, you will find people walking their dogs, winter or summer, rain or shine.

A few people keep their dogs close to them, but most let their dogs off their leads to greet one another and play. 

These dogs are 'regulars' at the seafront. Their owners bring them to the beach almost every day. They play tag, fetch driftwood sticks, and swim in the sea.  Sometimes they chase the seagulls or dig big holes in the sand.

Now there is a new puppy to join in the fun.  He has a lot of growing to do before he can keep up with the big dogs, but he is doing his best!

I guess you could say it is the beginning of a new tail. 

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Original Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake is trendy.  It's everywhere and in many forms, Red Velvet Cup Cakes, Red Velvet Cake Lollipops..... I've even found two recipes for Red Velvet Cookies! The bright young things doing  professional baking today probably think it's something new. 

Adam Extracts gave out these recipe cards to promote their food colourings and flavourings.  This recipe card is from 1969 but it wasn't the first appearance of Red Velvet Cake.  Some say it is from the days of the Great Depression, some say it comes from the early 1900's. It's probably even earlier than that, when there weren't any artificial colourings and beets were used to moisten cakes and give them vibrant colour. 

I have several different recipes for Red Velvet cake and I love them all.  But I have one very special recipe, it's handwritten, dog-eared and discoloured and  I've NEVER made it.  It's my Grandmother Selph's Red Velvet Recipe. 

There are some things that you can't duplicate.  Some things are best remembered.  I think Grandma's Red Velvet Cake might be one of those things. 

This cake was made for special occasions.  One of them being when our family would visit during the school holidays.  We lived in Missouri and Grandma and Grandpa lived in Tennessee.  We only visited once a year, for five days and every aunt, uncle and cousin would gather at Grandma's house for a very special dinner.  We were a large family then and there were adults and children everywhere! 

It wasn't just dinner  more of  a feast!  Southern people love food and can cook!  Grandma was one of the best!  I don't remember her ever using a recipe but she must have because I have this one.  It's different from most Red Velvet Cake recipes.  She always used a cooked frosting, one with coconut and chopped pecans in it. 

The cake would look HUGE to me... three layers of brilliant red cake on a glass cake stand, topped with that lovely rich frosting and very carefully decorated with cherries cut in half and pecan halves arranged around each cherry forming daisy-like petals... it was lovely! 

Maybe I'll make that recipe one day.... but not yet.  It is going to require a very special occasion.  For now, I'll munch the modern adaptations with gooey cream cheese frosting and savour the childhood memory that is Grandma Selph's very special Red Velvet Cake.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Brownies vs Blondies - Round Two

Are you ready for round two of the battle of the brownies?  We've baked the Blondies now here is your chance to bake the Brownies.  Fire up the oven, get out the wooden spoons, let's do it!

To make the batter you will need:

1/2 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar (caster sugar)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups regular flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C.  Grease a (13x9 inches) baking pan.  I like to put a bit of baking paper in my pan - make the paper big enough to come up over the sides. (see the photo on the Blondies  page) It makes washing up easier and you can lift the brownies out of the pan easily- but you don't have to.

Mix together the vegetable oil , eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Into this mixture, sift all the dry ingredients and mix well.  Stir in the nuts .... I don't do nuts, but some people LOVE 'em.

Pour the batter into the greased baking pan and spread it out to the edges.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until the brownies are as fudgy or as cake-like as you like them.  There is only one rule for baking brownies DO NOT OVER BAKE!

Let the brownies cool, yeah right- like that ever happens at my house. Cut into serving size squares.  I leave it up to you to determine what size a serving is.

Here comes the science part.... taste and see which you prefer... brownies or blondies? I'd really like know - you can leave a comment or email me.  Consider it a research project.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Lunch at Greendale Farm Shop

Here in Devon we have a lot of farm shops.  They range from HUGE complexes like Dart's Farm to tiny hole-in-the-wall shops tucked in a corner of an old out building.  They are fascinating places to visit and offer some of the best local food you can imagine. 

One of the very best, in my opinion, is Greendale Farm Shop. It's my 'local' and I refer to it, affectionately, as the Chicken Ranch.

The place is hopping with free range chickens.  Hundreds of them provide the freshest eggs.

And sheep.....

I was lucky enough to get to help bottle feed some of the very young lambs. They were adorable!  The farm dog might greet you when you arrive. There are so many animals to visit.

But it's lunch that I look forward to most!  This was a bacon and brie toasty made with  Hobbs House bread. (Sound familiar, it's made at TVs Fabulous Baker Brothers bakery!) The side salads are works of art and I won't even tell you about the cakes, pies, ice cream, candies, cheese counter, fish monger, butcher shop, fruit and veg .......

Great food and you can even talk to the animals....that's my kind of farm shop!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Blondies vs Brownies

Everybody loves brownies.  When I ask friends and family what they'd like me to bake for a teatime treat, the reply is almost always 'BROWNIES'.  I like them too but there are so many lovely things to bake why restrict yourself to one type of brownie?  I was thumbing through my big binder where most of my favourite recipes are kept and I found a long forgotten favourite, Blondies.

As with most of my recipes, you will probably already have the ingredients in your store cupboard:

1/4 cup butter or margarine - room temperature
1 cup soft brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 chopped pecans (optional)

Cream together the margarine/butter, brown sugar, and egg. Stir in the salt, pecans, and vanilla.  Sift the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture and stir until all the flour has been incorporated. 

Pour batter into a buttered 8 inch square pan (baking paper lining is optional) and spread evenly to the edges of the pan.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F/180 degrees C for about 25- 30 minutes, more or less depending on your gooablity rating.

Here comes the hard part, try to let the Blondies cool before cutting into squares to serve.  But we both know the best you can hope for is that you resist until the Blondies are still warm because there isn't anything much nicer than a warm blond brownie!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Traditional British Sunday Roast Dinner

We just got home from having a traditional Sunday Roast Dinner at my mum-in-law's house.  It was delicious!  Maggie is a great cook and puts lots of love into her Sunday lunches.  Roast dinners are mini versions of Christmas dinner and take as much skill and almost as much effort to prepare as the full-size seasonal feast.

Every Sunday, the great British public dine on roast dinner prepared at home or in pubs and restaurants all over the country. These restaurant meals are called Carveries and reputations are made and lost on the quality of the roast dinners on offer.  Roast meat is so integral to British society, such an institution, that the French refer to the inhabitants of these islands as 'Les Rosbifs' - the roast beefs!

So, I wondered how this tradition started... cue Wikipedia :
There are (at least) two opinions on the origins of the Sunday Roast. One holds that, during the industrial revolution, Yorkshire families left a cut of meat in the oven before going to church on a Sunday morning, which was then ready to eat by the time they arrived home at lunchtime.[1] The second opinion holds that the Sunday Roast dates back to medieval times, when the village serfs served the squire for six days a week. Then on the Sunday, after the morning church service, serfs would assemble in a field and practice their battle techniques and were rewarded with a feast of oxen roasted on a spit.

Today's Sunday lunch was as traditional as you can make it.... up to the dessert course.  Our pudding, the British word for dessert, was New York Cheesecake!  Who knows, we may be on the verge of a new tradition. 

Thank you, Maggie, for a delicious lunch!

Henri - Part 2

Ah oui!  Henri est ici à nouveau avec son ennui et sa philosophie!  Sorry, playing with the translator, it's Henri's fault!

If you enjoyed the first Henri video, you will LOVE this one!  All you have to do is click on Henri 2, Paw de Deux

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Existential Chat Noir

Here is a very clever video recommended by our Chat Noir.  Hope you enjoy it too!

Just click on 'Henri' and voila!


Letters from America - Part 2

The arrival of the postman always causes a flurry of activity in our house.  It is a race to see who to gets to the mail first.  I don't know why, it's usually just junk and bills.  Today was different, the mail contained two very colourful letters from America!

Our nieces have been on Easter holiday and wrote to tell us what they had been doing.  One day out was to Chicago to see the Sears Tower, 103 floors of metal and glass. You get a panoramic view of the city from the Skydeck after a ride on one of the fastest elevators in the world!

You feel like you can step out into the sky!

It was lovely to hear about their trip to the big city but what I enjoyed most in the letters were their wonderful drawings!  Look at Jessica's yummy ice cream..... 

and her excellent robin.

Here is a brilliant fish and flower, too!
Sara's letter includes some special greetings.....

But what our little Dust Bunny liked most ........

was seeing his portrait!  Thank you for the lovely letters!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Celebrating at Combe House

To celebrate our anniversary, we decided to push the boat out and go somewhere special for lunch.  You can't find any place more special than the Elizabethan manor house at Gittisham, called Combe House.

Set in lush Devon countryside, you travel through the picture book village of Gittisham, through the deer park to arrive at the beautifully preserved manor house.

Upon entering, you are greeted by welcoming staff and a roaring fire. Plush over-stuffed sofas and chairs create an environment that is elegant but comfortable.

  We had drinks and hor-d'oeuvres in the Library before being shown to our table in the Green Mural Dining Room.  The food was beautifully served and delicious.  The staff was kind, attentive and made us feel very special.

The large stone window casements framed the view of the rolling hills of the Devon countryside.

I must confess, I enjoyed my meal so much that I forgot to take photos to show you.  But dessert was a show stopper!

I'd like to say 'Thank you' to everyone at Combe House for a delicious anniversary celebration!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Today is the 10th anniversary of our wedding day! 


I've enjoyed every day we've shared.  I hope we have many more anniversaries to celebrate.  Thanks for such a lovely ride!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Big Cat Photographic Safari

Have you ever tickled a tiger's ears or stroked a lion's mane?  I have, really, I have.  It all took place on a special photography day at Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent.  This wildlife charity is dedicated to the preservation of endangered species of big cats.  They offer a variety of special activities to the public including Ranger Days and Photographic Days.

Andy and I had the privilege of attending a photographic day and had the big cats all to ourselves! Since we were a party of two, the keeper granted us special access to the animals. While Andy took hundreds of intimate photographs, I was free to simply enjoy the cats.

This tiger was particularly friendly with me.  He enjoyed having his back stroked. 

Tigers make a Pfffffffft sound when they like you. It is a form of greeting they use with other tigers. If a tiger says that to you, you are accepted as a friend.

Tiny, the lion, was a  real softy.  Bottle fed as a cub, he loves humans and having his ears and mane stroked.  But make no mistake, these are not pets.  We were constantly warned by the keepers that these big cats are still wild animals. 

This Snow Leopard was very affectionate with our guide but terrifyingly aggressive with other keepers. 

We were warned not to turn our backs on this puma, Valentina.  Even the keepers are cautious of her. But the cats that keepers fear most....are most wary of... is the tiny, little Pallas' Cat!

Pallas' Cats are about the size of a house cat and don't look much different.  They are fast, brave and totally unpredictable!  I LOVE them!  It's like my mom used to tell me,  it's the little ones you have to watch out for!

Thanks to Andy for the use of his fantastic photos.  This post was composed with a special young Zoologist in mind, Jessica!