Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cajun Potato Wedges

When it's cold and grey outside, like today, I tend to want spicy things to eat.  I don't like 'Phone the Fire Department' hot but it's nice to have a bit of extra flavour and spice sometimes.  That's why I made Cajun Potato Wedges for lunch.  

These chunky chips are baked rather than deep fried so you get even more comforting heat from the oven as they cook.   They are easy to make, you don't even have to peel the potatoes!  Simply wash, dry and cut several medium size potatoes into quarters.  You decide how many Cajun Wedges you want to make.  It's all about the technique rather than a recipe.  

Heat the oven to 200C/400F and place a heavy roasting tin or a large skillet into the oven to get hot.    When the pan is warm, pour in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil and return the pan to the oven to heat the oil. You want the potatoes to sizzle when they hit the pan. 

To make these Cajun Potato Wedges you will need Cajun Seasoning.  There are lots of them ready made in the shops but I like to make my own Cajun Seasoning.   You can find my recipe HERE.

Carefully remove the hot pan with the hot oil from the oven.  Place the potato wedges into the hot oil, turning them with a large spoon or fish slice to coat the potatoes with oil.   Sprinkle  Cajun Seasoning over the potatoes.  Start with a teaspoon or two of seasoning, you can always add more if you want your wedges to be spicier.

Bake the Cajun Potato Wedges for about 30 - 40 minutes, turning them every 10 minutes so they brown on all sides.  When they are golden brown on the outside and tender in the middle they are ready to eat.  

We had roasted carrots and veggie sausages with our Cajun Potato Wedges.  I always put out a bit of BBQ Sauce,  Honey Mustard or Creamy Herb Dressing for dipping.  Cajun Potato Wedges are great way to spice up a grey day.  

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A Chili Kind of Day

It's wordless Wednesday so the photos have to speak for themselves.

This is vegetarian chili I used Quorn mince, but if you are carnivorous, use ground beef or ground turkey.  Shhhh.. no talking.

Onion goggles!   Shhhh.... quiet!

Homemade Chili Seasoning Mix, get the recipe HERE

Serve with Corn Bread Muffins and butter.   Corn Bread Muffin recipe is HERE

Monday, 25 February 2013

Homemade Marshmallow Creme

I said it before and I'll say it again, I am a Marshmallow Fluff addict.  Being an imported product, it's very expensive to purchase here in Britain.  So, in the spirit of economy, I have been trying to find a recipe to fulfil my Marshmallow Fluff needs. 

From the look of that marshmallow wave, I may have found the secret recipe!
Actually, it's not secret, I found it on the Internet.  It's very easy to make, but you do need a candy thermometer and a very good electric mixer.  This isn't a recipe you can beat by hand.

Here are the ingredients and the technique required to make your own Marshmallow Creme:

3/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup, if you are in the UK, use golden syrup
1/4 cup water
pinch of salt
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, syrup, water and salt.  Heat the mixture over a medium heat , stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the temperature reaches 240F/115C. 

While the sugar syrup is boiling, place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  

When the syrup had reached the desired temperature, remove it from the heat.  Turn the mixer on low and pour a few drops of the syrup into the beaten egg whites.  Try to pour the syrup down the side of the bowl to avoid splattering the hot mixture.  Continue pouring the syrup into the bowl very slowly, continuously beating the egg white mixture.  When all the syrup has been added,  increase the speed of the mixer up to medium-high and whip the marshmallow until stiff, glossy peaks form.  It may take 8-10 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract, beating to incorporate it into the marshmallow creme. 

That's it!  You are ready to top cupcakes, make a marshmallow ice cream sundae, fill whoopee pies or just eat your marshmallow creme with a spoon!  Float a spoonful on your mug of hot chocolate......

You can even top a tart with marshmallow creme!  I bet it would be good on waffles, too.   If you have any left over, refrigerate it and it will keep for two weeks.  I am sure this jar of marshmallow creme won't last long at my house.  

Friday, 22 February 2013

Apricot and White Chocolate Flapjack Tarts

OK, I will confess this is a recipe for flapjacks that I have tarted up.  To 'Tart Up' is a British phrase meaning to embellish, decorate, or improve.  It has other implications too, but we needn't address that right now.  

This is a good recipe to make with children and these individual flapjacks make great tea party treats.  Decorated with white chocolate or a dusting of icing sugar, they look pretty enough for an adult afternoon tea.  When it comes to chocolate and flapjacks we are all kids right? 

The first thing you need to do is cut 250 grams of dried apricots into small pieces.  This task should be performed by a child with good scissor skills.  I left a few apricots whole to decorate the top of the flapjack tarts, but you don't have to. 

Cover the chopped apricots in VERY hot water and leave them to re-hydrate while you or a helpful child measure out the following ingredients:

150 grams golden syrup
250 grams butter
175 grams light brown sugar
300 grams porridge (rolled) oats

Place the golden syrup, butter and brown sugar in a large saucepan.  Place the saucepan over a low heat and gently stir until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and stir to incorporate.  

Drain the water off the apricot pieces. Add the chopped apricots and oats to the sauce pan and stir well.  Make sure the apricot pieces are evenly distributed in the mixture.

In the mean time, have another willing child place paper liners into a muffin tin or tart pan, you will need 22-24 paper liners.  Divide the batter evenly among the paper liners and top with a slice of apricot.   Bake in a preheated oven at 180C/350F for about 15 minutes or until the tarts are golden brown and the edges are slightly firm. 

Leave the flapjack tarts in the tins to cool completely. If you remove them while they are warm, they could break apart.

While the flapjack tarts are cooling, have a very careful child grate a little white chocolate to sprinkle over the warm tarts for decoration.   This step can be omitted if you have run out of white chocolate or children. 

When the flapjack tarts are completely cool, it's time to make some tea and have that party.  Any left over tarts would be great packed in a school lunch.  Just don't mention that part to the children!

This recipe was adapted from Jo Wheately's  book, 'A Passion for Baking'.   Visit her website for more baking inspiration.   Jo's Blue Aga

The C.A.R.E. Package

Writing a blog makes you think 'outside the box', always looking for a way to present a recipe, or tell a story.  Today I was going to write about a box filled with cookies or cake and call it a C.A.R.E. Package.  

Curious about the origins of the C.A.R.E.  Package, I went to Wikipedia to read up on the subject.   Now I don't feel like being glib about one of the biggest and most important Relief Programs in modern history.  Please take a moment to read about C.A.R.E.   It is modern history in a brown cardboard box.

CLICK ON THIS LINK   The C.A.R.E. Package  

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A New Addiction - Mustard Mashed Potatoes

Here in Britain we have a special dining culture.  Some of the best food is served in Pubs.   The really great food is served in Gastro Pubs where the emphasis is on fresh local food, cooked simply but very well.   This Pub Grub often includes Bangers and Mash, that's sausages and mashed potatoes to us Yanks.  

Often the mash isn't just plain old potatoes, but potatoes with an additional ingredient for extra flavour, like whole grain mustard!    Mustard Mash has become a new addiction for me.  I can't get enough.  

Fortunately for me, it's easy to make great mustard mash at home.   Here is an easy recipe from the experts at Waitrose:

900 grams Maris Piper potatoes - peeled and cut into chunks
50 ml milk
20 grams salted butter
2 Tablespoons whole grain mustard - Grey Poupon Old Style Mustard

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes until tender.  Drain well and return to the pan.  Add the butter, milk and Old Style mustard.  Mash until smooth. 

I must confess, I  used a bit of heavy cream instead of milk and added a good grind of black pepper and a pinch of sea salt to my mustard mash.   Serve with sausages, ham or even veggie sausages.  A splash of onion gravy makes it all even more delicious.  Give it a try and see if you don't love Mustard Mash, too.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Celia's Fabulous Fried Jam Sandwich

It's the same all over the world, I suppose.  Children come home from school   'starving' hungry and have to have a snack.  Some grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some get a bowl of cereal.  For me, it was usually a bologna sandwich which was mostly consumed by Chuckie, our big grey and white cat.  Chuck and I would sit in Dad's big reclining chair,  munching away and watch cartoons.  

Meanwhile in England, a little girl named Celia, would come home from school starving hungry.  Her mother would make her a fried jam sandwich and she would watch cartoons cheerfully munching away.  I don't know if she shared her sandwich with her cat, we didn't really discuss that part.

Celia's description of a fried jam sandwich intrigued me, so I had to try to make one for myself.   Here is how I did it:

Make a jam sandwich in the usual way,  using a big spoonful of jam.  Celia's was raspberry jam but I prefer strawberry.   

In a wide bowl, beat one egg.  Dip the sandwich into the beaten egg, allowing the egg time to soak into the bread.

Place a frying pan over low to medium heat and add a knob of butter or a little vegetable oil.  

When the oil is hot, gently place the sandwich into the pan and fry on one side until golden brown.  Turn the sandwich over and cook the other side.  

Place the fried jam sandwich on a plate and dust with icing sugar for an extra treat.  Serve immediately, cartoons are optional.

Thanks to Celia Hart for sharing her favourite childhood snack and a lovely memory.  

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Look what I found blooming in our garden....TULIPS!

I am no Horticulturalist, but even I know these are opening REALLY early.

As you can see by the nibbled leaves, slugs are coming out early too.  

There are a few other signs of life in the flower beds...

But the brightest blooms are from the tiny daffodils.  They always try to steal the show!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Handmade Muffin Liners

I love collecting and using different coloured cupcake liners.   Nothing is more cheerful than a tiny cake encased in a bright paper cup with a great swirl of coordinated frosting.  But today I felt like baking something a bit more subtle.

So I decided to try to make my own muffin liners.  I think they look rather nice and all you really need is a roll of baking paper!

You can be as casual about the measurements as you like, but I found that a square of paper measuring about 5 inches was perfect for a standard muffin tin.

Fold the paper square in half and then in half again, to mark the centre of the square and make the baking paper a bit more malleable.  

Open the paper square and place it into a section of the muffin tin.  Take a small glass or jar and gently press down, folding the edges of the paper up and around the glass.  

Repeat until you've constructed the required number of cake liners.

OK, this is just me playing around now... Fill your cake cases and bake.  I used this recipe for Lemon Drizzle Muffins ....YUM!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Hearts and Flowers - Part 2

OK, they aren't perfectly decorated.

But what I lack in skill...

Is,hopefully, made up in enthusiasm! 

I hope you have a Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Hearts and Flowers Valentine's Cookies

Today is Shrove Tuesday, that means everybody in the world is making pancakes except me!  I am baking hearts and flowers Valentine cookies.

I've used this very easy Chocolate Cut Out Cookie recipe.  Here's how to make  this sweet treat for your sweethearts.

1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup butter - softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.  Sift together the cocoa powder, flour and salt.  Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and sugar mixture to make a soft dough.   Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about two hours.

Place the chilled dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and roll it out  to about 1/8 inch thickness.  Dip your cookie cutter into a little flour before cutting out the cookies.  Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.  Be sure to leave space for the cookies to spread while baking.

Bake the cookies for about 8-10 minutes at 375F/190C.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before placing them on a wire rack to cool completely.  Decorate as desired!  That's for later, right now I have to tidy up this kitchen and maybe make some pancakes.  It is Shrove Tuesday, after all!

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Pepper Pot Posy

Nature is amazing.  In the coldest, gloomiest time of the year she will surprise you with a tiny touch of Spring.  Early this morning I was filling the bird feeders when out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of bright blue.

One little frost covered Forget-Me-Not was twinkling away in a crack of the garden path.  Last summer a minuscule seed found it's way into a broken bit of concrete and germinated.  I should have pulled it out as a weed but thank goodness, it was ignored.  

The petite Tete a Tete daffodils are beginning to bloom, too.  I couldn't resist picking just one to make a miniature posy.

But what could I use for a vase?  These are such tiny, delicate flowers they would be lost in the smallest bud vase.  What is the smallest container in the house....  the pepper pot!

With the addition of a new garden plant and my recycled...upcycled pepper pot, I have a miniature Spring garden on my kitchen window ledge.

Of course, Forget-Me-Nots shouldn't be in bloom for months.  Nature is amazing.  She has sent this one fragile blue messenger to remind us that Spring is on it's way.