Saturday, 30 June 2012

1950's Cookies- Brown Sugar Drops

Recently, I purchased a copy of 'Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook'.  Published in 1950, it is the only cookbook I remember my mom using when I was a little kid.

I think it's time we begin to explore this great old cookbook.  The Dust Bunny and I thought we'd start in the cookie section and make a batch of Brown Sugar Drops.

I am going to give you the recipe exactly as it is written in the book we go!  

Mix together thoroughly:
1 cup soft shortening
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs

Stir in:
1/2 cup sour milk* or buttermilk

Sift together and stir in:
3 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt

Chill at least 1 hour. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls about 2" apart on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until set...just until, when touched lightly with finger, almost no imprint remains. 

TEMPERATURE: 400F (mod. hot oven)
TIME:  Bake 8 to 10 min.
AMOUNT: About 6 doz. 2 1/2" cookies.

The cookbook describes these cookies as 'soft, chewy. Wonderful brown sugar flavour.'  Yep, they are right!  As, you can see, cookbooks weren't as wordy as they are now.  Do get that, I like their style.

Here's something interesting, a list of some of the most important historical events in 1950:

The first modern credit card was introduced.
The first organ transplant took place.
The first Peanuts comic strip was published.
The Korean War began.
Harry Truman, US President, ordered the construction of the Hydrogen Bomb.
McCarthy started his Communist Witch Hunt. 

No wonder they needed to bake cookies!  Enjoy!

*I did make one small substitution.  I used my homemade yogurt in place of the buttermilk.   If you don't have buttermilk or the sour milk,  just stir one teaspoon of white vinegar into 1/2 cup regular milk and use that.  

Friday, 29 June 2012

Pain Perdu- A Continental Breakfast

Early this morning I was surfing the net, looking for something new to make for breakfast.  I accidentally landed on a French cookery website...Meilleur du chef.  My French language skills were acquired from two years of high school French classes taught by a lady with a VERY Southern accent.  As a result, I don't speak French but I can read a bit.  So when I saw this recipe I thought...there's breakfast!  

Ingrédients pour Pain perdu :
1/2 litre de lait
2 œufs
50 g de sucre
2 cuil. à soupe de sucre vanillé
100 g de beurre
6 tranches de pain de mie ou de pain rassi
cannelle (facultatif)
sucre poudre

Pain Perdu is French Toast or Eggy Bread as some Brits call it.  It's one of those universal dishes. Everyone claims to have invented it and everyone loves it.  It's so easy to make.  So why am I giving you a recipe to follow?

Because I think Pain Perdu is a perfect recipe for young and beginner cooks.  If you've never made it before you might need a few instructions to get you started.  Experience cooks, look away now or supervise your children as they make their first French dish.  

You will need the following ingredients:

4 slices of day old or older bread- thick slices of homemade bread are best but any sliced bread will do 

2 Eggs

1/4 cup milk

Syrup or Powdered Sugar

Butter or Oil for frying

That's it! C'est tout! The whole list of ingredients.  I told you this was going to be easy!

In a bowl big enough to dip your bread in, beat together the eggs and milk. 

Dip the bread in and let it absorb some of the egg mixture. Now turn the bread over and let it absorb the mixture on the other side.

Heat a frying pan to medium high heat and pour in a tablespoon of oil or butter. When the oil is hot, carefully place the eggy bread in the pan and turn the heat down to low.

Let the bread cook for a few minutes, until it starts to turn golden brown. Take your time and cook it slowly.  Turn the bread over with a spatula to cook  on the other side for several minutes. The egg mixture needs time to cook so the French Toast isn't squidgy in the middle.  

When the Eggy Bread is golden brown on both sides you are ready to serve it. I like mine with maple syrup.  It's also good with a dusting of icing sugar.  I have been told that some people like to eat it plain or seasoned with salt and pepper and a bit of  tomato ketchup.  That just seems weird to me but it might be worth trying.  

So that's the end of your first class in French cuisine.  You more experienced cooks might like to visit the Meilleur du chef website for more sophisticated French recipes.  Right now, I am just going to enjoy my Pain Perdu!  

Thursday, 28 June 2012

A Natural Beauty - Still Life of Fruit

Today has been one of those 'catching up on the chores' kind of day.  I am sorry, there isn't any new recipe for you to try.   I can't take you on an arm chair journey to an old market town or to any other destination.  I've stayed at home, done the laundry and a few other tasks that I've been putting off.  

 While washing the dishes I noticed something.  Lined up on the window ledge were some berries I'd brought in from the patch and they looked so pretty.

There was even a little bit of garden soil still stuck to the tiniest berry.  

The tomatoes looked luminous and nearly perfect.  I wish I could say I'd grown them.  

Even the lemons looked an especially bright sunshine yellow.  

It all reminded me of a still life painting.  Then I realized, this isn't getting the chores done!  Back to work!   

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Fresh From the Patch - Strawberries!

How do you decide when it is officially Summer?   Is it the solstice, the longest day of the year?   Is it when you turn the page on the calendar and it says 'June'?   I think it's when you eat your first home grown strawberry.

Yesterday I had my first full bowl of strawberries from my little patch.  They were lovely, not just because I grew them myself.  Of course, that helps, but when you pick them and eat them immediately, they are sweeter and juicier than anything you can buy in the shops.  

I love them sprinkled with a little icing sugar and a splash of cream but they are delicious with a bit of our homemade yogurt, too.  Here is how I do it:

Remove the green 'caps' from the berries and slice them into a bowl.

Sprinkle over enough icing sugar to make the juice sweet and syrupy.  Add a drop or two of good vanilla - let them sit for a minute or two to macerate.

 Spoon into serving bowls or pretty stemmed glasses if you feel fancy.  Pour over a big dollop of homemade yogurt.  Decorate with one perfectly formed berry if you feel really, really creative.  Usually I am too greedy to decorate and just dive in!  

I encourage you to try growing a few strawberry plants.  You don't even need a garden, just a sunny spot big enough for a large plant pot.  I get a generous crop of berries from my container grown plants.  

If you grow your own strawberries, you can decide when it is officially Summer at your house! 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Daddy's Favourite - Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I am going to share with you a very special recipe.  This was my Dad's absolute favourite cookie in the world!  If you asked him what cookie he would like you to bake for him he would say 'Oatmeal Raisin'....Every time!

Yes, that fat baby is me.  I know, the cars are really old I giving my age away?  Probably.  But we are here to make cookies so here are the ingredients you will need to make Daddy's Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup soft brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter - softened
1/2 cup white sugar
3 cups old fashioned oats

Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover them.   Leave them to rehydrate  while you make the cookie batter.  

Place the brown and white sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Add the butter and cream them together until they are fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, vanilla, salt, baking soda and baking powder.  

Drain the water off of the raisins.  Stir them into the batter to distribute them evenly.  

Add the flour and mix until well combined.  Stir in the oats.   Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours before baking. 

To bake the cookies:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/ 180 degrees C.  Grease baking sheets. 

To form the cookies, take 2 Tablespoons of the dough and roll into a ball.  Place the ball on to the baking sheet and flatten to a 2 inch diameter cookie.   When all the cookies have been formed, bake for 15 - 18 minutes until the cookies are light gold but still soft in the centre. 

If you like smaller cookies, drop heaped teaspoons of dough on to the baking sheets.  I use a small scoop.  Bake the smaller cookies for about 10 minutes. You will need to check them frequently since they will cook faster than the large cookies.  

 Completely cool the cookies before putting them in an airtight container for storage. 

My dad taught me how to eat cookies properly.  You must always take two at a for each hand!  What I wouldn't give to be able to raid the cookie jar with my Daddy!

Monday, 25 June 2012

A Day Trip to Sherborne Dorset

Sherborne in Dorset is a jewel of a market town.  It was the capital of Wessex, the Saxon Kingdom of King Alfred the Great.  Today it is a busy community famous for it's Abbey, two castles and excellent schools.  

We arrived on Saturday morning, in time to visit the market stalls.  Markets like this have taken place since medieval times.  That's the charm of Sherborne, you are transported back in time.

Sherborne Abbey contains the graves of two Saxon Kings and is composed of Saxon, Norman, Early English and Perpendicular styles of architecture.

St. Johns' Almshouse still provides accommodation for pensioners as it has done since 1437. 

When you've taken in all the sights and sounds of the Abbey Close, you can head to Cheap Street.  

There are lots of great shops and lovely places to eat....

It's so difficult to choose where to take tea.  And we still haven't visited the castles or Sir Walter Raleigh's home.  Oh dear, I suppose we will have to come back for another visit.  I hope it's soon!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Upcycling, It's a Green Thing

I am good at recycling.  I love antique furniture so I've been re-using old and pre-owned items to decorate our home for years! Now I have to develop a new skill, UPCYCLING.

Upclycling is using old things to make new things, like this suitcase chest of drawers by James Plumb.   Upcycling isn't a new idea.  Our grannies used to do it when they made pieced quilts out of old clothing.  

But granny never thought of making a pet bed out of an old suitcase!  Ok, some of the upcycled creations are bit too whimsical for my taste, but I think it's a great idea.

This lovely bicycle combines recycling and upcycling.  Even the box is handmade from reclaimed wood.  For more upcycling ideas and tips on how you can be more 'Green' visit  Start.  They have lots of easy suggestions on how you can make small changes that will make a big difference environmentally.  Who said it isn't easy being green!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Stop! Thief!

Every morning I fill the bird feeders in the garden.  Every evening they are practically empty.  Now I know why! 

The squirrel waits for me to fill the feeder and in he sneaks, looking for that little black cat.  He doesn't like the Dust Bunny but he isn't afraid me!

It's like watching a trapeze artist.

He eats his breakfast, lunch, and dinner hanging up-side-down.

I have to say, I love the squirrel shaped shadow on the opposite side of the fence.  When he's eaten his fill, it's back over the fence and into the allotments.  Tomorrow morning, we will do it all over again!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Tea with Lily - Red Velvet Cookies

This afternoon I am invited to take tea with my newest and youngest friend, Lily.   Lily is the granddaughter of my good friends, Eilean and Leslie.  You may remember them from the Pub Quiz post.  Lily is visiting them for a few days so am baking some Red Velvet Cookies to take to the tea party.

Everyone knows about Red Velvet Cake so when I saw this recipe for Red Velvet Cookies I knew I'd have to give it a try.  Here is what you will need if you want to try them, too:

1 1/3 cup plain flour
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons plain yogurt
2 teaspoons vinegar, apple cider or white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1Tablespoon red food colouring

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F/ 190 degrees C.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda and baking powder.  

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions.  Beat in the yogurt, vanilla, food colouring and vinegar.  

Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until all the dry ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Wow.... the batter looks a bit scary but be brave and carry on.

Drop the batter on to the lined baking sheets. I used my handy scoop which holds about a tablespoon of batter, but I heap it up to get nice big cookies.  
Bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies are baked through but still cake-like.
Let the cookies cool for a few minutes before carefully removing them from the parchment. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely.  

Once the cookies are completely cool, make the Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/2 cup cream cheese, near room temperature
1/4 cup butter, near room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 - 2 cups icing sugar

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter.  Beat in the vanilla and add 1 1/2 cups icing sugar.   Whip until the frosting is light and fluffy, adding more icing sugar if you want a stiffer frosting.  

Choose two cookies of a similar size and shape, spread about a tablespoon of frosting on one cookie and top with the second cookie.  Continue until all the frosting is used and you have lovely Red Velvet Cookie sandwiches!  (I got 12 sandwich cookies from this batch)  

Store the cookies in an airtight container.  I've popped mine in the fridge to keep me from eating them before tea time and to firm up the frosting.  I think Lily is too young to have a Red Velvet Cookie.  She is at the crawling and investigating stage, but I hope the adults will enjoy them.  I hope you enjoy them, too!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The East Budleigh Scarecrow Festival

East Budleigh is famous for being the birthplace of Sir Walter Raleigh.  Every June, Raleigh takes second place to some special temporary residents.... Scarecrows!  Like this proper chap!

The Scarecrow Festival is a charitable event and the whole community participates.  Everywhere you go you will find scarecrows like this diver....

Or these flowerpot men.

I saw a Mexican musician playing his guitar.

An Olympic torch bearer was there....

and a cyclist.

Batman was sitting in his garden having a cool drink.

But the very BEST of all was this ROBOT with his little scarecrow friend....

complete with an umbrella! Well you wouldn't want him to rust in the rain, would you!  

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

An Ill Wind and White Roses

Most of the United Kingdom has had unseasonably wet and windy weather this summer.  It plays havoc with the garden, the strawberries are late and it's nearly time for Wimbledon! The delicate flowers are beaten and battered.  My climbing roses have given it their all but some just couldn't stand up to the gales.  

There is an old saying, 'It's an ill wind that blows no man to good'.  I think it comes from a Shakespeare play....anyway....

When the winds brought down some of the white roses, I cut them and brought them into the house to enjoy.

I would never have the courage to cut these flowers for a bouquet.  It wasn't an ill wind after all.