Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Blogger's Disease

There is a serious disease going around and I've caught it.  It's brought on by over exposure to social media and an obsession with food...

I don't know what the technical name is.  I am sure there is one.

I just call it 'Blogger's' Disease.  The symptoms are obvious to the casual observer:  

1. When dining out, all food must be photographed before being eaten.

2.  All household storage space is filled with 'props' which include chipped china, rusty baking tins, and Bakelite handled forks and knives. 

3. Food is purchased for it's attractive appearance rather than taste or seasonality.  (Please note the beautiful white peaches purchased out of season)

4.  All food prepared in the home kitchen is blog fodder and may be subject to the same photographic treatment as restaurant food. 

5.  The blogger is unable to pass a charity shop, yard sale, or car boot sale without turning in to 'look for stuff to use on the blog'.

6.  No scrap piece of paper can be thrown away because it may have a hastily scribbled recipe on it and be needed for the next blog post.  

I am sure there are many more symptoms but these are the one's I experience the most.  To those of you who are annoyed by my erratic behaviour, I sincerely apologize.   To those who are kind enough to say they enjoy visiting my little corner of cyber space I wish to express my gratitude.  It's an absolute delight sharing with you.  

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

You know how it is when you get an idea in your head and it sort of takes over your life?  It started out when I bought a whack of vanilla pods to make my own Vanilla Extract.  This led to making Vanilla Sugar, which lead to baking these.... Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies.

Actually, this is an old family recipe with a tiny twist.... vanilla sugar.

You can buy vanilla sugar in the supermarkets but it costs a small fortune.  All you need to do is put a cup or two of sugar into an airtight container.  Split a vanilla bean in half, scrape out the seeds, and stir the seeds into the sugar.  Add the vanilla bean to the jar and seal it up.  In a few days the sugar will be vanilla infused and ready to use.  Top up the jar with a bit more sugar and the vanilla bean will continue to do the job.  They are powerful things, vanilla beans.

Mix up a batch of Old Fashion Sugar Cookie dough.  CLICK HERE for the recipe. 
Roll the sugar cookie dough into small balls or use a small scoop.  Place some vanilla sugar in a small bowl and coat the dough balls with sugar.  Put the sugar coated cookie balls on an ungreased baking sheet.  Leave a inch or so between them so they can spread while baking. 

Using a fork, gently smush* the dough down until it is about a quarter of an inch thick... OR ...

Make bigger cookies and use a cookie stamp! 

When your cookies are baked and completely cooled, store them in an airtight container to keep them soft and fresh.  It's really not so bad being taken over by  vanilla beans. 

*Smush is a technical baking term... at least it is at our house. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

An Autumn Visit to RHS Garden Rosemoor

When it comes to gardens and gardening, the official authority in Britain is The Royal Horticultural Society and RHS Rosemoor is practically on our backdoor step.  So on Sunday we visited the garden for a bit of lunch and a look around. Rosemoor has every kind of border and garden imaginable but the star of the show for me, was the Veg Patch!

This time of year the borders seem slightly overgrown and the roses are a bit bedraggled but the veg garden is at it's bountiful best!

There was every kind of squash and pumpkin imaginable ...

And lots of luscious pears.

But best of all were all the espalier apples!  They surround the vegetable garden and were loaded with fruit.  

It's a well known fact that I am in love with trained fruit trees and this garden has everything... fan trained pears, step-over and cordon apples and this...

An arched apple gate!  Every garden should have one of these!  Oh and one of these, too- a thatched summer house.

If you are wondering what they do with all those apples visit the gardens on October 5 for  ROSEMOOR APPLE DAY and find out.  I am sure there will lots of delicious apple treats to enjoy.  

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Lighter Brighter Blog

Throwing caution and habit to the wind I've lighten and brightened my blog post. Did you notice the difference?  It was an accident really... clicking too fast and furiously on the Blogger dashboard.

I was trying to change the header photo and couldn't get the title to show up properly.  

I couldn't change the text colour or the font and in my rage and frustration...

I accidentally changed the template.  So we have a 'new look'.  Let's just give it a trial run and see how we get on.   I think it's growing on me.  What do you think?  

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Applesauce Spice Muffins

OK, I'll be the first to admit these aren't the prettiest things I've ever baked. Frankly, they look pretty basic but, boy, are they good! 

I made a batch of applesauce this afternoon and decided we needed to try a new muffin recipe.   A quick search on Google lead me to this....


Well, I thought, if the title says they are the ABSOLUTE BEST APPLESAUCE SPICE MUFFINS then I'd better give them a try. 

And I have to confess, they are pretty darn good!  I followed the recipe exactly ...EXCEPT,  I dredged the tops of the muffins in the caster sugar and spice mix after they came out of the oven and were still very warm.  

If you'd like to give these muffins the taste test, CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Sign of the Times... Pumpkins!

So many people say they hate to see autumn coming in.  I can never understand it... of course, autumn is my favourite time of year.

How can you not enjoy the warm days, crisp nights, and all the bounty the harvest season brings?

Most of all, I love the colours of autumn....

And wearing warm wooly-pully sweaters....

And pumpkins!  

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Pottery Project Progress Report - Bigger Bowls

Finally, after months and months, I've had a chance to return to my potter's wheel. When I first started trying to throw pots I set myself a goal to make a big mixing bowl.  

It doesn't have to be gigantic, just large enough to use to make bread.  I figure it will take at least 5 or 6 pounds of clay to make a bread size mixing bowl.  

Five or six pounds of clay doesn't sound like much but when you start to move it on the wheel it can get to be a bit physical... especially for a runt like me.  

Today I screwed my courage to the sticking point and threw a bowl using four pounds of clay.  I puffed, panted, and had to stop once to catch my breath, but I did it. Hurrah!  Only two additional pounds of clay to go ... but that's for another day. Now I need a cup of tea and rest. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Apple (Cinnamon) Cookies

I've been doing some apple recipe research to find new ways to use our apple crop.   We haven't baked cookies for a long time so that's where my search began. 

I must confess, this is an old Betty Crocker recipe slightly altered to meet my cinnamon and vanilla requirements.  Here are the ingredients you will need to bake a batch of Apple (Cinnamon) Cookies:

1 cup soft brown sugar - lightly packed
1/2 cup butter or baking margarine 
1 egg
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (you can use nutmeg if you prefer) 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 medium apple - peel, core, and finely dice

Heat the oven to 375F/ 190C.  Grease or line cookie sheets with baking paper.

Place the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.  Stir to combine all the dry ingredients.   In a large mixing bowl,  beat the brown sugar and butter until they are light and fluffy.  Add the egg and the vanilla extract and beat the mixture until the egg is incorporated.  

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and stir until all the flour has been absorbed.  Then, fold in the diced apple.

Using a small scoop or a teaspoon, drop the cookie dough onto the baking sheets.  You should space the cookies about two inches apart to allow the dough to spread during baking.

Bake for about 8 - 10 minutes or until the cookies are a light golden brown. Leave them on the cookie sheet to cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.  Of course,  I like to enjoy one or two while they are still slightly warm... well maybe three.....  

*The apple in this recipe makes the cookies soft and moist so store them loosely covered.  Thanks Betty!  

Monday, 8 September 2014

He's SO Fluffy!

Andy got a new camera so of course he had to take a photograph of the little Dust Bunny -  who, amazingly, sat still!  

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Pink Apple Sauce

Sometime being lazy pays off.  I didn't peal the apples before cooking them and look what happened......PINK APPLE SAUCE!

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Flowerpot Tomatoes

Here in Devon growing a good crop of full sized tomatoes seems to require a greenhouse.  In my tiny garden a greenhouse is NOT an option. Fortunately I have found a way to grow a crop of tomatoes in a flowerpot.

These are TINY tomatoes, just the size you can pop into your mouth and eat like a grape.  I'll never grow a Beefsteak but these are sweet, juicy, and home grown....in a flowerpot.

I think they are rather pretty, too.  Best of all, these little Tumbler Tomatoes may be bullet-proof.  Snails and slugs don't seem to like them and they don't appear to be prone to the usual tomato diseases. All you need to do is remember to give them a daily drink and a little plant food every once in a while. 

Most people grow Tumblers in hanging baskets but using a large plastic pot has helped to retain the moisture in the compost.  I find it easier to water a ground level pot rather than lifting a heavy watering can over my head.  It's the curse of a short gardener.

And just look at all the tomatoes yet to ripen!  I'll be picking fresh Tumblers well into the Autumn.  

Monday, 1 September 2014

Apple Picking Time

Isn't it strange how quickly things change.  One day it feels like high summer and the next day you feel autumn coming in.  It's overnight really, just that fast. 

It was that 'feeling' of change that made me think I should check to see if the apples were ripe.  When an apple just came off the tree and settled into the palm of my hand I knew it was time to harvest my little crop. 

I have a thing for apples.  I grew up in the part of Missouri where you could drive for miles and miles and see big apple orchards on either side of the road.  When the apples were ripe, we'd go to the fruit stands and buy pecks and bushels of apples. I'd eat one or two on the way home...Golden Delicious were my favourites. 

The larger orchards would have warehouses filled with apples ready to send to market.  The scent of all that fruit was intoxicating, so beautiful.  It all seemed rustic and romantic but apple farming is a serious industry.  Missouri's apple orchards yield about 46 million pounds of apples each season.  

Now I live in the Southwest of England.  In some parts of the county there are big apple orchards running along the side of the road.  These apples are for the cider industry.  When the cider apples are harvested there is an intoxicating scent in the air....even more intoxicating when the cider is pressed.

And my little crop...well, it wasn't as good as last year's.  We had a bit of a drought, a small problem with spider mites, and something kept pecking holes into the apples as they were ripening on the trees.  There are some good apples and some with blemishes that will need using immediately. Every apple smells delicious.  They all smell a little bit like autumn.