Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Cooking Things · Making things · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 23 The Christmas Elves are busy

cookies-christmas-xmas-bakingHello my little sugar cookies.

It is all on here at Hedgehog Hill. There is baking and cleaning and wrapping going on in every room. Right after Christmas last year I picked up a really cute cake pan. I have never attempted a traditional gingerbread house as I am afraid of the construction. But I though even I could do these cute cottages.

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So I have been waiting about a year to make these. Now that I think about it I could have made them anytime…with any kind of cake, but I get stuck on the rules you know?

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So I had also made a great ginger cake last year from a British cookbook and instead of the recipe on the Nordicware package I used that. What I had not taken into consideration was that the amount of batter would not be the same and I was not sure how full to make the pan….so I’ll be cleaning the oven tomorrow, had a bit of a flow over.

But I just cut the excess off and no one will ever know.

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I’ll have to post the decorated pictures on the last day of blogmas.

But those last gifts I was going to wrap the other day? Still not wrapped.  I need to get the turkey out to thaw, More baking, no more shopping, It is almost here.

I do have to say that I am amazed at how fast this month has gone. Blogmas is almost over and I have not missed a day. The next 3 days are crazy. I’ll try to keep you up to date.

 

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Cooking Things · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 18 – Christmas meat pies

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Hello my little pie crusts

So as I was making the annual Christmas meat pies today I realized that they are not really all that photogenic. Nor is there an exact recipe. My Dad was a chef. A few years before he passed away I asked him for the recipe. He wrote it out for me with no actual amounts, and no times or temperatures for baking.  But I figured it out, as he knew I would, and I even made some changes to make it mine, as he knew I would.

So to begin you need to make pastry. I make mine in the food processor – and I have to say that is the only way to make pie crust.

3 c flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup of both cold butter and shortening cubed, 1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons of vinegar – to this add ice water until it makes 2/3 cup.

In a food processor mix flour and salt, add the butter and shortening and pulse until mix becomes crumbs. With machine running add the liquid until it forms a ball. Form into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour. Then roll out on floured surface and shape/cut as needed.

I make the Christmas meat pies in muffin pans so they are single serving size, but it also works as a full pie.

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For the filling I finely chop about 1 cup each of onion, celery, and carrot and saute until soft. Remove to a bowl. in the same pot saute 3 or 4 lbs of  ground beef. Add some salt pepper and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. After the beef is browned stir in 1/4 cup of flour to absorb the excess fat, stir to cook.

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Put the vegetables back into the pot and add a carton of beef stock. stir and cook over medium heat util it starts to thicken. Add several glugs of Worcestershire sauce and two finely diced potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are tender.

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Fill your pie crusts, top with rounds of pastry cut holes to vent, and bake at 400 F …well until they look done. I guess I write recipes about as well as my Dad.

I won’t claim they are pretty, but they do taste great.

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Now I will freeze them until needed at Christmas. Warm and serve with gravy.

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Cooking Things · Random Thoughts · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 17 – Christmas food

Hello my little satsumas

I was pondering what to write about today. I thought I should stay current with how my own preparations for Christmas are going. Today I did a huge grocery shop. It was so big partly because we have been stormed in for a couple of days and there is more snow forecast for tonight,  and partly because Christmas is one week away. It got me thinking about how much food is a part of all Christmas celebrations. So I went to my trusty friend Google and typed in Christmas foods. Turns out there is a nifty list on Wikipedia  of 42 countries and the national dishes served at Christmas. No surprise that I recognized and agreed with those served in Canada. There maybe a few things missing but it is pretty accurate. Same with the list for the United Kingdom, since my heritage is British it is again no surprise that many of the dishes feature in my own holiday meals. I smiled that Australia’s list mentions cold turkey and ham, as well as seafood dishes.

I think we all look forward to the feasts at this time of year. And also to the quiet times when we stop and reflect on how grateful we are for all we have. My family’s traditional meal usually features the turkey with all the trimmings, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, and vegetables. There will also be meat pies. I am not sure when that started but usually my parents would make them prior to the big day and freeze them. My Mom was on pastry duty and my Dad made the filling. They were individual sized and served re-heated with lashings of hot gravy. Since I believe any food can be improved by the addition of pastry, these have long been a highlight of my Christmas. I’ll be making them tomorrow and sharing the process with you.

Another tradition I remember from childhood was the addition of a satsuma or mandarin orange in the toe of my stocking. I was also very fond of the bowl of nuts in the shell. These item were a treat only seen at one time of the year. But now we are so spoiled with foods available all year long (I saw fresh asparagus at the store today) that not many feel special the way they did for me as a child.

Some of the best Christmas meals for me are the leftovers. Re-warming a plate of turkey dinner on Christmas day or Boxing day is almost better than the first eating. Freezing the remains of the turkey to thaw mid winter to enjoy the festive flavours all over again is worth all of the work in late December.

mmmm can’t wait.

 

Photos today from http://www.pexels.com

 

 

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · Cooking Things · Uncategorized

Blogmas Day 9 – Not the Great British Baking Show

Hello my little Sugar Cookies

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So tonight I decided to pull out the box of cookie cutters and add the new “ugly sweater” one I bought this year.

It has been a few years since I made rolled out cookies, and now I remember why…

The recipe is pretty basic – Cream together 2/3 cup of white sugar and a cup of butter, then beat in an egg. Mix in 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 2 1/4 cups of flour. Once combined roll into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least a couple of hours. When you are ready to make them you will need to warm the dough up a bit by kneading it in your warm hands before you start to roll on a floured surface. Cut out your desired shapes and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 8 – 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them and remove before they start to brown.

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Let them cool before you start to ice them. I just made a basic butter cream icing. But then I remembered that I didn’t have much food colouring. In fact I only had red and green. Hmmm

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As I mentioned yesterday we are under a snow squall watch so a trip into town was not an option. But never mind we will improvise. Chocolate hedgehog any one?

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A little dip in melted chocolate and he is beautiful and delicious.

Then we had a whole lot of fun.

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I don’t think I’ll be winning the Bake Off any time soon. But the best part of a cookie is in the eating and I’m happy to report they are delicious. I also remember why I usually make drop cookies. A great way to spend a wintery night and perfect with a mug of hot chocolate.

 

Cooking Things · the gardens · The Great Outdoors · Uncategorized

Hedgehog Hill Coffee Cake

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As you can see we are under a blanket of snow at Hedgehog Hill. We had a green Christmas and New Years then a week of streamers off the lake that swirled around the house and yard. This means long dark nights and bitter cold days. When it has been nice enough to venture outside I caught a few images of the drifts.

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Snow is so hard to capture in a photo, it remains stubbornly flat and one-dimensional. Yet I marvel at all of the shapes and drifts it forms.

The overhang in the first picture has continued to grow for over a week, how does it just hang there?

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The winds have been fierce at times.

Earlier today I was dreaming of warmer times in the garden and remembered that I still have a lot of lovely produce frozen that should get used up before the next harvest.

Maybe it was all the swirling, but I got to thinking about a layer of sweet black raspberries in a golden, rich cake.

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See the resemblance? Is it piles of cake and drifts of raspberries? Or is it lashings of sweetness between crumbly goodness?

I posted a picture on Instagram (you can link to my account over on the side bar or simply search for Mrs Murfin) and someone – @katkommentary asked for the recipe. It is a bt long for instagram so I decided to finally dust off the blog again.

On a side note I was happy to find I could drag and drop photos….has that option always been there???

Back to the recipe. Since I did not plan ahead I don’t have cake-in-progress photos so you will have to just read about it.

First I took a healthy cup – a cup and a half of frozen black raspberries from the freezer. Any fruit will do really, or you can make the same coffee cake with just nuts and cinnamon.

I put the berries in a pot with about half a cup of white sugar and a teaspoon and a half of cornstarch. I mixed them together and put them on a medium heat, melting the sugar in and thickening as they came to a gentle boil. I turned them down and let the mix bubble for a few minutes until they were a runny jam consistency. I took them off the heat to cool. Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.

I make this cake in a ring pan, but there is no reason you can’t make it in a 9 X 13″ cake pan. It rises quite a bit so make sure whatever pan you use has room for it. I do grease and flour the pan…I hate it when things stick.

Meanwhile I made my favourite sour cream coffee cake batter. I have a real phobia about running out of sour cream at Christmas. Something about having guests in the house, I MUST have sour cream! Never mind that I am the only one who eats it most of the time. Anyway I somehow ended up with 3 – yes 3 – tubs in the fridge. This is a great way to use up the end of the tub. (I did throw out one tub that was fresh dated to last September…..yikes!) So measure out 1 cup of sour cream and set aside.

Cream 1/2 cup of soft butter with 1 cup of white sugar and 2 eggs with a mixer. In a separate bowl combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, and a 1/4 tsp of salt.

Mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture alternately with the cup of sour cream. This is where a stand mixer is really nice, or help in the kitchen because other wise you need three hands.

I like to give it a good beating so it gets nice and fluffy,and thick.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread around. It doesn’t look like there is enough, but there is. It will rise and bulk up so don’t panic, just spread it out.

If you are making a plain cinnamon nut coffee cake you can sprinkle half of it over the batter now. For that I mix 1/4 cup of white sugar, 1/4 cup of chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans), and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

I decide to add that today along with the raspberries but it could be optional.

Pour the cooled raspberries over the batter and spread a little gently with a spoon.

Drop spoonfuls of the remaining batter over the top and spread as best you can. Again it will spread as it bakes. Sprinkle the top with the remaining sugar and nut mixture.

Bake at 350 F for 35 – 45 minutes. You really have to do a poke test to see if there is any goopy batter before you pull it out.

Cool and enjoy.

I think I will make some Birds custard tomorrow to pour over and make it even more decadent.

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Cooking Things · the gardens · Uncategorized

Red Currant Jelly

You may wonder what happened to those red currants?

I did manage to save some from the birds. It was a lot of work to pick even a few.

It took quite a bit of stretching and bending to find this many on the underside of the bush where birds could not find them. Then the sorting , stemming and washing. Some recipes said you could leave the stems, but I didn’t.

Really only about 2 cups of currants which made …..

exactly one jar of jelly! This is being saved for a special occasion!

Thanks to our weird spring weather I didn’t have any raspberries or blackberries, I hope they do better next year! But I did purchase some local raspberries and made some lovely jam from those.

Mmmmmm This is eaten for breakfast most days.

I have not made peach jam in many years but tried it again. Now I remember why I gave up making it. It won’t set for me. The flavour is good so I am going to use the slightly runny peach “sauce” in tarts and muffins. But the fresh peaches, they were yummy!

Cooking Things · the gardens

Red and White Currants

It is lovely weather here at Hedgehog Hill. we had a few days that were hot and very humid, but after some much-needed cloud bursts last night we are into perfect summer weather.

I am still learning what is here from the previous owners and I have been watching some vines that are on the backside of the large compost structure.

I was hoping it might be currants, and so it is!

I think currants have gone out of fashion sadly. They are a lot of work to pick, sort and preserve. I can see why they are not available in large stores, they are not easily harvested by machines. These are the things I think we should all grow if we have the space. I have never tried to make currant jelly but I think I’ll give it a try. It is a lot of work with the straining etc. But my research says currants are high in pectin and set very easily.

I also saw these, that seem to be a separate bush. At first I wondered if they might be gooseberries. But gooseberries grow in singles and have nasty thorns and are much bigger. So I am guessing white currants.

From my reading on the internet, white seem to be less common, but highly prized. I wonder if I can combine them for jelly.

I bought some Ontario strawberries last week, they were the best berries I have had in a long time. Don’t you just want to bite that one on top? I did!

These were devoured just as they are. Then I bought more and made jam. Guess what I have every morning for breakfast?