Thursday, 27 November 2014

Oatmeal-Cloverleaf Rolls for Thanksgiving Day

Today is Thanksgiving...well, it is in the States.  Thanksgiving was a big deal when I was a kid growing up in Missouri.  It was sort of like a dress rehearsal for Christmas.  It was always exciting for me, all the food and family getting together.  There seemed to be dozens of cousins.  Now that I am living in Britain, Thanksgiving Day can go by practically unnoticed. 

I decided not to let that happen this year.  We didn't have a feast but I did make one of my favourite Thanksgiving Day foods, Cloverleaf Rolls.  

Now, these are cloverleaf rolls with a twist - the secret ingredients are old fashioned oats and soft brown sugar.   Curious?  Here's what you need to make them:

1 cup water
1/2 cup oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 heaped Tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons or one packet dried yeast
2 1/2 cups flour (I used bread flour but plain flour will do)
2 Tablespoons warm water
Pinch of sugar
1 egg

Place the cup of water into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Pour in the oats and salt and cook for a minute or two.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the brown sugar and butter.  Pour the oat mixture into a large mixing bowl and set to one side to cool to almost room temperature.

In a jug or small bowl, stir together the dried yeast, 2 Tablespoons of warm water, and a pinch of sugar.  In a few minutes you should see the yeast begin to bubble and foam. 

When the oatmeal mixture is just warm, add the egg and the yeast mixture to the bowl and stir until it is well incorporated.  

Add two cups of the flour and stir well to combine.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and knead it into the dough while it is still in the bowl.  The dough will be slightly sticky but DO NOT add more flour or the rolls will be tough.

Once the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place to rise. You will need standard muffin tins to form the cloverleaf rolls. Prepare the tins by buttering the inside of 12 muffin cups 

When the dough has doubled in size, gently knock it back.  Lightly oil your hands with vegetable oil and roll the dough into 36 small balls.  Place three balls into each muffin compartment.

Put the filled muffin tins in a warm place and let the dough rise a second time. While the rolls are rising, turn on the oven to 350F/180C to pre-heat thoroughly before baking.

When the rolls have doubled in size, bake them for 25 to 30 minutes or until the tops are a light golden brown.  Let the rolls cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn them out and serve warm with lots of salty butter. 

Oatmeal-Cloverleaf Rolls, now that's something to be thankful for!  

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Pom Pom Fork

Necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say.  So when I needed to make a mini pom pom for my tiny stocking cap Christmas ornament I improvised and used this GIANT fork I had in the kitchen drawer.  It worked a treat!

So for Almost Wordless Wednesday, here's how to make a mini pom pom using a big fork:

Wind yarn in a figure of eight and tightly tie in the middle.

Slip yarn off the the fork and cut loops with scissors.

Or NOT.. I rather like the loopy ones.  Apply to hats, parcels, or directly to Christmas tree. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Time To Make A Start

It seems like Halloween was just yesterday, but it's time to begin the preparations for Christmas.  As a matter of fact, this past weekend was Stir-Up-Sunday, the day when Christmas puddings are traditionally made.  It's official, Christmas is on the way!

I didn't make a Christmas pudding but I have begun to organise some of the decorations for the festive season.  Despite the fact we have an attic full of ornaments I couldn't resist adding a few new things.

For example, we purchased this lovely Noel while grocery shopping.... and these cute little mittens.

It's practically a tradition to have a Christmas craft project.  This year it was knitting tiny stocking ornaments.

When I saw these tiny clothes pegs I knew I had to have them too.

They will be perfect for hanging the little stockings.  I am not sure how or where these decorations will be used but I am sure they will all be very useful. When it comes to Christmas, you can never have too many ornaments.  I can't wait to begin! 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday - CRrrrrrUNCH

We have a kitchen drawer that contains all the odds and sods of baking equipment: measuring spoons, knives, unused skewers, kitchen scissors, and what used to be the most useful gadget ever! 

My poor pasty cutter, which should have parallel wires, now a casualty of the dreaded over-stuffed kitchen drawer! 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Freebee Pattern for Christmas Stocking Ornaments

I know it's obvious but I'll just say it for the record.  I am a pretty rotten knitter. Just reading a knitting pattern fills me with fear but today I saw a free pattern for tiny Christmas stockings and I knew I HAD to give it a go.

I didn't have the right size knitting needles.  All of my yarn is VERY inexpensive and I didn't have any red or green but I wasn't sure if I could do it anyway. So I just WENT for it!

Everything was going well until the part where the pattern started instructing me to 'turn the heel'!  That was when panic set in and I nearly gave up. 

I stopped, had a cup of tea and a biscuit.  I did some yoga breathing and went through the instructions step by step.  To my surprise, it worked!   

CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE CHRISTMAS STOCKING PATTERN   There are lots of very beautiful and technical designs for you proper knitters.   Have a go, you can make lots of little stockings before Christmas. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Sunshine and Showers

This morning we had torrential rain...again!  Instead of the usual grey, leaden sky the rain fell in brilliant sunshine resulting in a dazzling combination of brightly coloured leaves and sparking raindrops.  It was remarkably beautiful and impossible to photograph.  

Andy went out immediately after the storm and snapped these photos.  I think they are beautiful.

I hope you enjoy them, too.  

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Milk Chocolate Chips!

When Andy travels, and he frequently does, I give him a wish list of things I'd like him to bring back.  Usually it's things like candy corn, Gardetto's, and Toll House Chocolate Chips, things I can't find in our local shops.  

I put in my order for Toll House Chips and he came home with at least a kilo of milk chocolate and semi-sweet chips!  

We'd never had the milk chocolate chips before so a batch of cookies was required for a taste test.   I used my tried and tested FAVOURITE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE.

So far, they look good...

Of course, I had to have a little nibble of the dough before it was baked.  That's my favourite bit.  

And the final product ... you can't tell the difference by looking.  As for the taste, they are very good.  I suppose the moral of the story is -  whether semi-sweet or milk chocolate you can't beat a home made chocolate chip cookie. 

To bake a batch, CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE.  You can even go mad and use white chocolate chips! 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Luminous Leaves

I'd intended to go out today.  I have things to do, people to see, but the garden held me captive. After several grey days of rain the sun has come out to illuminate each ragged leaf and I don't want to miss a minute of their glowing display.  I apologize in advance for the quality of the photos.  The wind is working against me, but I hope you enjoy the dazzling colours. 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Slightly Tipsy Apple Crumble

Finally, after a long Indian Summer, autumn has blown in with a vengeance. Saturday was vile with gale force winds and driving rain. We added a quilt to the bed and turned on the central heating, but still couldn't get warm.  It soon became clear the solution was to warm up from the inside out...time to make a Tipsy Apple Crumble.

I have to confess I didn't start with the intention of making a tipsy crumble.  In an effort to get some warmth back into my fingers and toes, I had a little drop of calvados, for medicinal purposes of course.  

I never use perfect apples to make crumble but some of these looked particularly sad so I thought...

Why not jolly them up with a drop of calvados, too!  They seemed happy to have a little tipple.  Here's what you need to make a Tipsy Apple Crumble:

Begin by heating the oven to 180C/350F.  Butter a baking dish and set it to one side while you prepare the topping and apples.

For the crumble topping:

I must warn you, this makes A LOT of crumble topping.  We like a good crumble to apple ratio so I use all of this topping mixture.  If you prefer a higher apple to topping ratio,  decrease the amount of flour, sugar, butter, and oats to 50 grams each.  

100 grams plain flour
100 grams caster sugar
100 grams butter or baking margarine - cold and cut into cubes 
100 grams oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the flour, sugar, oats, and cinnamon into a mixing bowl.  Stir well to combine the ingredients.  Add the butter/margarine and with a pastry cutter or your fingertips work the butter into to the crumble mix until it looks like bread crumbs.  Set to one side and prepare the apples. 

For the apple filling:

5 or 6 'eating' apples - peel, core, and cut into thin slices
3 Tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-2 Tablespoons calvados or brandy

Place the sliced apples into a mixing bowl and add the sugar and cinnamon.  Stir well and taste the apples to see if they need more sugar.  I find three tablespoons are usually sufficient if the apples are a sweet desert variety.  Add the calvados or brandy and stir again to get the apple juices flowing.

Pour the apple slices into the buttered baking dish and sprinkle over the crumble mixture. 

Bake the crumble for 40 to 50 minutes or until the topping is golden and the apple juices are bubbling up around the edges.   Serve warm from the oven. Andy likes his with custard or cream.  I like mine just as it is, thank you.  I think I am feeling warmer already!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Cheat's Frothy Coffee

For years Andy has been bugging me about getting a coffee machine.  You know, the kind that takes up half the kitchen cabinet and makes that steamed milk you get in expensive coffee shops.  

Sometimes I think he does it to wind me up but I think he'd really love to have one.  The fact is, we just don't have room for anymore kitchen gadgets. Fortunately,  I've found an easy way to make frothy coffee WITHOUT the expensive machinery. 

The only equipment you need is a screw top jar and a microwave oven.   Here's how to do it.  Use a jar that is much bigger than the amount of milk you are going to froth.  Pour in the cold milk leaving 2/3 of jar empty.  Screw on the lid and shake!   Shake like mad for about 30 seconds.  The milk will become frothy and nearly fill the jar.

Remove the lid and place the jar into the microwave oven.   Zap the milk, using high power, for about 30 seconds.  You want the milk steaming hot but not boiling over.  (Yes, I took my eye off it and it bubbled out of the jar when I wasn't looking)  

Carefully pour the hot milk into your freshly prepared coffee and spoon over the fabulous froth!  

Now here's the science bit:  
Use semi-skimmed (2 percent) milk for the best froth.  Heating the bubbles stabilises the milk proteins and turns them into froth.  You can really cheat and use instant coffee...that's not science, it's just sneaky!  Enjoy! 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Yummy Yam Muffins

I have a culinary conundrum for you, when is a sweet potato a yam?  On Thanksgiving Day we always had a dish called candied yams but when the same vegetable was simply baked it became a sweet potato.  

It has always puzzled me, but in the interest of alliteration we are calling these Yummy Yam Muffins.  These little muffins are rather unusual; sweet yet savoury, with a special secret spice. 

Start by baking one fat yam.  I do this in the microwave oven.  Poke the yam with a sharp knife and nuke it for about five minutes or until it feels soft when you give it a gentle squeeze.  Wrap it in cling film or a clean kitchen towel and leave it to cool while you prepare next special ingredient - cracked black peppercorns.   

Place about 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns into a small freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin.  You want to break the peppercorns but not reduce them to powder.  I like to be able to see the pepper so I know that warm hit of spice is on its way.  

Let's get on with the recipe:

1 1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 - 3 teaspoons cracked black pepper*
2 medium eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil - I use canola oil
1 cup cooked sweet potato (yam) - cooled to room temperature

Heat the oven to 350F/180C.  Place 10 paper muffin liners into a muffin tin. 

In a large mixing bowl place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and cracked black pepper.  I like my muffins spicy so I use 3 teaspoons of the pepper.  If you'd like less heat, use 2 teaspoons of pepper.  Stir well to combine all the dry ingredients and set aside while you prepare the 'wet' ingredients.

In a second bowl, place the eggs, oil, and mashed yam.  Give this bowl a good stir.  All of these ingredients must be well combined. 

Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl containing the flour mixture.  Stir together until all the flour has been absorbed but DO NOT over mix.  

TIP: Never beat or over mix muffins or they will be tough when baked

Scoop the batter into the lined muffin cups, making sure each contains an equal amount of the mixture.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the muffins have risen and are lightly golden.

I like these warm with a bit of butter and a bowl of steaming hot soup.  They freeze well, too.  I wrap them individually in a bit of cling film and defrost a few at a time.  This way you can have a Yummy Yam Muffin whenever you like. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

All In One Pot Lunch

This is the perfect All-in-One-Saturday-Lunch kind of dish.  I saw Nigella make a version of this on one of her television programs.  I couldn't find the proper recipe but this is really an assembly job more than a recipe.

While I was preparing the vegetables it occurred to me how culturally confusing this dish is.  It  contains chorizo sausages from Spain and Cypriot halloumi cheese.  To add to the melting pot, I served it with Indian naan bread.  I know it sounds strange but trust me, it's a wonderful combination.  Here is what you will need:

1 large onion- pealed and chopped into bite size chunks
2-3 large potatoes - scrubbed and cut into bite size chunks*
Chorizo sausages - the kind you cook 
1 package Halloumi cheese
3-4 fat cloves of garlic 
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil 
Ground pepper 

Start by turning on the oven to 400F/200C  and place a large cast iron skillet or roasting tin into the oven to get hot.  When the pan is hot, pour in the cooking oil.

Add the onions, potatoes, and garlic.  Season with the ground pepper and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking,  cut the chorizo into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Remove the halloumi from it's packaging, drain away any packing liquid, and slice... I got about 9 slices from this package.  

After about 30 minutes, add the chorizo and return to the oven for about 10 minutes or until the sausage is just about cooked.

When the chorizo is sizzling, take the pan out the oven and give the contents a gentle stir.  Top with the slices of halloumi and bake for about 5-10 minutes longer. 

When the halloumi slices have golden edges the all-in-one-pot is ready.   Add some good bread for dunking into the chorizo juices and lunch is served!  

*Sweet potatoes and bell peppers were in the original Nigella recipe.  Both were vetoed by Andy and still this was a delicious dish.