Irish Soda Bread

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(photo credit: Mum)

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(photo credit: Mum)

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IRISH SODA BREAD

Recipe barely adapted from the fine folks over at America’s Test Kitchen.

  • 435 grams / 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 125 grams / 1 cup cake flour
  • 35 grams / 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/ 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 30 grams / 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 25 grams / 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 360 milliliters / 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 10 grams / 1 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with rack in the center of the oven.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, wheat germ, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar.  Using your fingers, rub in the butter until thoroughly combined with the dry ingredients.  The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.  Form a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk.  Using a fork, mix the buttermilk into the dry ingredients until the everything is moistened.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it just comes together.  The dough will look scrappy and uneven, but that’s the idea.

Form the dough into a round loaf of about 6 or 7 inches in diameter and place into a large cast iron skillet (or a baking sheet lined with parchment).  Score a deep cross on the top of the loaf and place in the oven.  Bake until a nice golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes.  The bread should sound hollow when knocked.  Remove from the oven and brush the top with the optional tablespoon of melted butter.  Let the loaf cool at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.  The bread is best enjoyed fresh, but will keep up to two days in a cool, airtight container.

Makes 1 loaf

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TeenPact 2014

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(photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

To try to sum up a TeenPact four day class and political communication workshop in one post would be…  well nigh impossible.  So I’m not even going to try.

What I will say is that it was probably one of the most positively influential experiences of my life up until this point.  I loved it to pieces.

And instead of doing a journal-style post as I was originally planning, I think I’ll just do pictures and captions.  Or not.  I really don’t know.

Basically, I’m winging it.

Enjoy!

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(photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

It began as a long walk after a long drive into a building of formidable size.  There, we were all immediately greeted with bright smiles and firm handshakes from the staffers before we started to mingle and get to know each other.  Then we settled down for the class. which soon had us all laughing with the staffers’ humorous skit of how a bill becomes a law.

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(photo credit: Ross the Boss)

A skit that had Sarah taking off her shoe as she got ready to beat Zach over the head with it, while “Senator Deadman” watched in horror (don’t worry, nobody actually got hurt).

Afterwards, we all broke up into committees and I ended up on the fabulous AF committee headed by staffer Christian.

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(photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

Once we had all gotten to know each other by answering a variety of interesting questions, it was time for us to elect a chairman and clerk for our committee.  Much to my surprised delight, I was not only nominated for clerk but also elected clerk!  And before that my buddy Jonathan A got chairman!

As a committee, we got to discuss and then pass or fail bills that had been assigned to our committee during TeenPact legislation (TP Leg) first reads.  Most of the bills were of a serious nature, since all of us had been assigned to write up at least one serious bill (granted amendments could be [and were] made to add some humor).  But then there were the hilariously outrageous bills, like Kaitlin’s “All TeenPact Males (including staffers) Must Wear Kilts” bill, where lack of cooperation would result in makeup, manicures, pedicures, etc. Luckily for the men, that bill did not pass.

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(Christian acting as chairman and Sarah acting as clerk for TP Leg; photo credit: Giann)

Besides the excitement of TP Leg, we also got to listen to Senator Whatley, Senator McGillis, and Justice Moore speak!  They were all incredibly insightful, and I learned a lot listening to them talk.  And then there was the amazing fact that we got to go into the Alabama Supreme Court Courtroom to hear Justice Moore speak.  So it was majorly awesome.

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(Senator Whatley; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(Senator McGillis; photo credit: Giann)

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(the group in the Alabama Supreme Court Courtroom listening to Justice Moore speak; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(me getting to ask Justice Moore a question after his speech; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

In addition to all of that, we got to have TeenPact elections!  We were divided into four parties, and then the staffers helped the parties assess what their stance on certain issues would be, namely the coal mining industry in Alabama and the expansion of medicare under Obamacare.  Within each party, then, one person was elected to run for governor and two people were elected to run for two of the three senatorial positions.  When all was said and done, from our party, I was to be running for governor and Levi and Cody were to be running for the senatorial chairs the next day.

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(Sierra and Benjamin helping our party, the capitalist party, assess what our platform would be; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

We got back to camp and, unlike the previous day, we had a lot of free time to kill before dinner.  So what did we do?  Well, ultimate Frisbee, of course!

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(Christian in the middle of grabbing the Frisbee; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(Grayson and Levi going for the Frisbee at the same time; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(exhausted and getting ready for another round; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(tossing the Frisbee and doing some sort of strange Olympic ice skater flourish; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(the aftermath of barefoot ultimate Frisbee; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

But not only did we spend our free time over the next few days chasing a small, UFO-like disk, but we also played around on the mini golf course and shot some hoops (not that I actually shot any, haha).  And then we hung out in the game room for pool, Ping-Pong, and foosball.  One day Sarah pulled out her guitar and we proceeded to sing together!  And then we’d have good old fashioned hang out time.

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(Aimee and Kaitlin in awe; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(Kaitlin rocking at pool; photo credit: Giann)

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(guitar time; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

Sarah at the guitar

(Sarah at the guitar; photo credit: Ross the Boss)

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(Rebecca, Sarah, Arienne, and Jonathan M chilling on the fence; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

And then there was before-dinner hacky sack led by pro hacky sack player Mr. Crum.

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(photo credit: Sierra)

And then of course dinner time, which always abounded with delightful conversation!  Not to mention tasty noms!  I have to admit I was expecting some horrifying food, but it was quite good.

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(my lovely friends; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

And then sometimes we had to goof off and try to imitate Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” with our forks, because that is one hundred percent normal.

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(photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

Which was soon followed by a dart war from the other table (which apparently had been a staffer war all week according to Giann’s post, haha)!

Dart war victim number one

(dart war victim number one, Zach; photo credit: Ross the Boss)

After dinner we would head back to the cabins for worship services with Christian and Grayson leading us in song and Mr. Crum leading the service, both of which were amazing.  I have not felt that close to God in such a long time, and being there really helped to ignite my soul for Christ again, where it had been flickering dimly for far too long.  It also proved to be such an intense bonding time for us all as we were encouraged on the first day to share a moment where God had moved in our life.

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(Grayson at the guitar; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(Christian at the guitar; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(last night of worship together; photo credit: Sierra)

After session had drawn to a close, we were then free to hang out together until rendezvous.  Usually a large group got together to play “Do You Love Your Neighbor?” which would later break off into smaller games of wink, ERS, ultimate basketball (I know I got that wrong, but I can’t remember its name), more foosball, and music time with guitars.  And then, sometimes we’d just hang out and talk.

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(do you love your neighbor; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(wink; photo credit: Sierra)

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(so many smiling faces; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

And then after all the fun and games, we headed back to our rooms to get ready for bed and rendezvous.  Rendezvous was basically a time lead by two of the lady staffers where we would all talk about our day, whether it was the field experiences or Mr. Crum’s sermon or what we were looking forward to the next day.  Our rendezvous was lead by Sarah and Sierra, and I think it was definitely one of my most favourite parts of the whole event.  And what a perfect way to end the day–girl talk, prayer, and scripture.  And then the last night we had rendezvous, Sarah pulled out her guitar again and we sung our hearts out to “How He Loves Us,” “Oceans,” and more.

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(rendezvous time; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

And before I go on to talk about the gubernatorial race on Wednesday, I should probably explain the crutches in that picture.

Okay, so we were walking back to the cabin from the cafeteria for session.  It was about 6:30, so everything had gotten dark.  I had been a little behind, so I was trying to quicken my pace so I wouldn’t be late.  It was pitch black where I was walking–all I could see was the dim light several hundred meters ahead of me that illuminated the winding road–so I kept my focus on what I heard.  For a little while, I had heard a soft grunting, but thought nothing of it.  But then I stopped.  Everyone had previously told me of the wild boar that roamed the woods and warned me to not spend time outside at night alone.  My heart raced.  I had to hurry.  Within seconds, the grunting became more aggressive and the owner squealed.  I spun my head around to see a short and stocky shadow running after me.  In my fear, I tripped over my legs, twisting my right ankle.  I screamed and cried as the boar rammed into me.  My screams were heard by the group quite a ways ahead of me and the guys came running back, to beat the boar away and get me back to camp.

Not.

At.

All.

That was the story we came up with to make my clumsiness sound more exciting.

The truth?  Walking back to camp after dinner, it was dark and I tripped over some giant tree roots, bruising up my knees and twisting my right ankle in the process.  Even though that version is a lot less, well, dramatic, let me assure you that it was still pretty awful.  The pain was excruciating to the point where I couldn’t walk.  If it hadn’t been to the quick care of the staffers, parent chaperones, chefs, and my friends, I would have missed out on so much of TeenPact.

That said, I want to thank Mr. Mike, Mrs. Hill, Mrs. Peaches, the chefs (I never got their names), Christian, and Brandon for their immediate help right after the fall.  They got me water, washcloths, bandaged up my foot, pain medicine, and then a van to get me back to camp–which ended up being more work than it should have been, but that’s all right.  And then a super big thank you to Sienna for re-bandaging my foot and to Aimee for sharing her pain-away essential oils!  And then  thank you to Mr. Crum and Grayson for helping to put together the plan to take me to the doctor and to Mrs. Celeste for taking me to the doctor.  Thank you to Mrs. Roxanne for driving me to and from the Judicial building so I could still participate in the field experiences.  Thank you to Jake and Zach, and then to Benjamin and Caleb when I went and, erm, tripped again and re-smashed my foot, haha…  And then finally a huge thank you to everyone for just being absolutely amazing and so supportive–you are all the greatest!

And now on to the gubernatorial elections!

So I found them to be exceptionally nerve-wracking, but really fun at the same time.  Basically, all four of us candidates (Jonathan A, Anna Leigh, Allan, and myself) stood up on stage (well, they got a chair for me, haha), while our masters of election, Hannah and Zach, asked us questions.  The questions ranged from relatively easy, our party’s stance on the expansion of medicare under Obamacare; to humorous, Disney princess you feel you relate to most; to challenging given the timeframe, whether justice or mercy is a the better trait in a leader.  In the end, though, it was up to our constituents to decide.

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(getting back just in time for the gubernatorial elections; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(hopscotching up the stairs onto the stage; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(answering those questions; photo credit: Giann)

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(masters of elections, Zach and Hannah; photo credit: Giann)

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(the four gubernatorial candidates post election; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

So who won?

Jonathan A!  And he made an awesome governor.

But what about the senators, you say?

Levi, Jordan, and Jake!

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(Jake, Jonathan A, Levi, and Jordan; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

And each one of them made awesome speeches the next day at graduation.  I mean, wow!  In less than twenty-four hours, they were all able to pull together some poignant and personal speeches.  Pretty darn amazing.

The next day, we had the aforementioned visit to the Alabama Supreme Court, and I got to participate in a prayer walk with the AF committee again (besides all of the other activities of the day, i.e. quizzes and more quizzes)!  I was beyond happy to finally be able to participate in a prayer walk with the committee again.  The previous day, I had to sit it out thanks to my ankle, but it felt so good to be with them again, even if it was in whipping, icy wind.

Still, though, that last day of the four day class had to end.  So after all of the (really awesome) speeches from TeenPact politicians, Grayson, and Mr. Crum; after being awarded with certificates for completion of the class; after numerous pictures; and after the TeenPact store was able to sell all of its Frisbees with the prospect of Christian singing One Direction, the four day class came to a close.  It was hard to part with so many of my newfound friends, but we exchanged contact information in the hopes of coordinating attendance at alumni events (by the way, guys, I’m going to NC and so should you).

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(with Levi; photo credit: Levi)

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(with Kaitlin; photo credit: Ross the Boss)

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(with Jordan; photo credit: Ross the Boss)

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(with Sienna later that night; photo credit: Sienna)

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(with Caroline on the first day and Jonathan A photobombing; photo credit: Ross the Boss)

Finally it was political communication workshop (PCW) the next day!  This amazingly insightful class, lead by Grayson, was something I’ve really needed, but didn’t realize that I did.  I actually really love public speaking and speeches and debating and all of that goodness.  The only problem with all of that is that most of it I only know how to do in theory–debate in particular (I will finally be trying to join debate club next year).  This class gave me the perfect opportunity to do some seriously thought-provoking improv.  And it was really fun!  Especially breaking off into teams to be biased news stations, haha.

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(Baxley, Kasey, and Sienna planning something; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(liberally-biased news team planning our skit; photo credit Mrs. Peaches)

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(Ellis was a pastor with 37 kids being interviewed by Christian S. on the conservatively-biased newscast; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

When the class ended, well, it was hard to believe that it was really over.  That it was finally time to drive home and resume my normal routine.  Before I went, though, of course I had to get pictures with all of the phenomenal staffers.  Seriously, you guys were top notch. (I did forget to get a photo with Hannah, so shout out to you! I will be getting a picture with you first thing at NC!)

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(with Christian and Grayson; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(with Giann; photo credit: Giann)

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(with Sierra; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(with Benjamin; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(with Sarah; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

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(with Zach; photo credit: Mrs. Peaches)

Overall, TeenPact was spectacular–the classes, opportunities, people, and the message.  You guys are the best!

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(photo credit: Giann)

Tarte au Citron et aux Amandes

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I discovered “Tiare Tahiti.”  It was the poem that made Fitzgerald change the name of his first novel from “The Development of the Personage” to This Side of Paradise.  When I read this poem, I got chills.  It’s real, it’s yearning, it’s melancholy, it’s passionate.  Il est crudité raffinée.  And the last two lines?  Well, I’ll let you read them yourself.

 
Well this side of Paradise! ….
There’s little comfort in the wise.
“Tiare Tahiti” by Rupert Brooke
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In other thoughts, I did some more French cooking.  Today, a richly flavoured, lemon treat.
If you like lemon desserts, then this is certainly the one for you.
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It rather reminds me of a glorified lemon bar.
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(I apologize for the shortness of this post–I promise that my next one is longer!)

TARTE AU CITRON ET AUX AMANDES

From lovely Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One.

  • 1 recipe pâte sablée, baked
  • 3 lemons
  • 175 milliliters / 2/3 cup water
  • 440 grams / 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 110 grams / 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 115 grams / 3/4 cup pulverized almonds*
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • juice of 1 1/2 lemons
  • zest of 1 1/2 lemons

Remove the lemons’ yellow parts by peeling with a vegetable peeler.  Julienne the lemon pieces into about 1/16 inch strips that are about 2 1/2 inches long.  Place into a small saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 12 minutes.  Drain thoroughly and set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, combine the water and 440 grams of sugar.  Bring to a boil and heat until it reaches the soft thread stage, 230 degrees F.  Add in the vanilla and the cooked lemon peel.  Let stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Beat the eggs and the 110 grams of sugar in a bowl with a whisk until the mixture is a thick, pale yellow and falls back on itself in a slowly dissolving ribbon.  This will take 4-5 minutes.  Alternatively, you can beat it in your stand mixer with the whisk attachment until it reaches the above criteria.

Beat in the almonds, almond extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Pour this mixture into the prebaked shell placed on a baking sheet.  Place in the middle layer of the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.  The cream will be slightly puffed and golden and a needle inserted near the center will come out clean.  Slide the tart onto a rack to cool.

Drain the strips of lemon peel and artfully strew them across the top of the tart.  Boil the lemon syrup down until it is a glaze, about 228 degrees F.  Spoon a thing coating over the top of the tart.  This tart is generally served cold, but may be eaten warm if you wish.

Serves 6

*To make pulverized almonds, toss almonds into a food processor with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar until fine and crumbly.

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Pâte Sablée

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I went to camp and it was an incredibly deep and moving experience.  At the moment, trying to put together a cohesive post about it would be rather impossible.  In the interim, though, this song was probably one of the most impactful ones we sang during worship sessions.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour
I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine
Hillsong UNITED, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”
But moving away from the topic of camp and music and on to the topic of this pâte sablée, let’s just call it a precursor to my next French post.  Which is delicious.
Until then!

PÂTE SABLÉE

From Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One.  For tips on making the dough, see here; and for tips on rolling out the dough, see here.

  • 195 grams / 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 40 grams / 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 70 grams / 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 25 grams / 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, unsalted butter, and shortening in a medium bowl.  Using the tips of your fingers, quickly work the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembled fine oatmeal.  Form a well in the buttery flour and pour in the beaten egg and vanilla extract.  Using your finger tips, slowly incorporate the wet into the dry.  Turn the dough out onto a marble slab and knead until it comes together.  Form it into a ball.

Using the heel of your hand (not the palm), smear the dough out bit by bit onto the marble surface and re-form into a ball.  This is the final distribution of the fat into the dough.  Pat it out into a disk, wrap in wax paper, and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two, or overnight.

To bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly flour your work surface, roll the dough out, and place it in your 9 or 10 inch, false bottom tart pan, being sure to work quickly.  Line the tart with aluminum foil and pie weights or beans.  Place into the oven and bake for 5 to 6 minutes, until the dough is set.  Pull the tart out of the oven, remove the foil and weights, poke the bottom of the shell with a fork multiple times, and place back in the oven.  Bake again for 8-10 minutes, until the tart is beginning to pull away from the edges and is lightly golden.

Remove from the oven and unmold to cool.

Makes 1 tart shell

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Buttermilk Country Cake with Crème Fraîche and Berries

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So I am a year older today!  That’s fun, isn’t it?

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I had a wonderful birthday full of fun.  I spent the afternoon in youth symphony rehearsal with some of my favourite friends and teachers, I went out to have a lovely oyster dinner with my family, I talked with out of state family members on the phone, and I enjoyed this lovely cake.  (Which I really think you need to make now, as it is one of my favourites.)

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BUTTERMILK COUNTRY CAKE

Recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible, which is probably one of my all time favourite cookbooks.  Even if you’re not an avid baker, it is, in my opinion, an essential book to have on hand whenever you want to make a cake.  But not only cake–frostings and compotes and cremes and meringues and more.  She also spends a lot of time explaining the chemistry of her cakes and other recipes, which is a fascinating delight to read.

  • 4 large egg yolks (75 grams)
  • 169 milliliters / 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 200 grams / 2 cups cake flour
  • 200 grams / 1 cup unrefined cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 110 grams / 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • quick crème fraîche, to serve (recipe below)
  • fresh strawberries, to serve

Preheat oven to 350 degree F with rack in the center of the oven.  Grease a 9 inch cake pan, line the bottom with parchment, and grease again.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the yolks, a quarter of the buttermilk, and the vanilla extract.  Set aside.

In the large bowl of your electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds.  Add the butter and buttermilk and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase to medium speed (high if using a hand mixer) and beat for 90 seconds to aerate the batter.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.  Gradually add in the egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl once more.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with the spatula.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.  The cake should only shrink from the sides of the pan upon removal from the oven.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto a greased wire rack.  To prevent splitting, re-invert so that the top is up.  Cool completely before serving.

When ready to serve, place the cake on a platter.  Top generously with crème fraîche (you might have some left over) and sliced strawberries.

Serves 8-10

QUICK CRÈME FRAÎCHE

Also from The Cake Bible (see above for link).

  • 355 milliliters / 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 120 grams / 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 25 grams / 2 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar

In a large mixing bowl place in all of the ingredients and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.  Pulling out beat just until soft peaks form when the beater is raised, or until if forms soft mounds when dropped from a spoon.

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(Rockefeller oysters)

Champignons Sautés à la Bordelaise

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It’s about time we continued our dive into French food, no?

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These champignons are so easy to make, it’s almost criminal.

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Enjoy, lovelies.

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CHAMPIGNONS SAUTÉS À LA BORDELAISE

Gingerly adapted from the talented and enigmatic Julia Child.  Recipe can be found in her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. I.

  • 225 grams / 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered if large, whole if small
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small shallot minced, or 3 tablespoons sliced scallions
  • 1 small clove minced garlic, optional
  • 3 tablespoons fine, white, dry bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, optional

In a large sauté pan, melt the coconut oil with the butter.  Toss in the mushrooms and toss to coat.  Allow to brown.

Add in the shallots, optional garlic, and sprinkle in all of the bread crumbs.  Toss over medium heat for 3 minutes and season to taste.  You can be done with the mushrooms here and save them to reheat later by tossing in the pan.

Right before serving, toss in the optional fresh parsley.

Serves 3 as a side, or 2 as part of a light lunch

Pineapple Upside-down Cake

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The pineapple upside-down cake has long held its standing as the epitome of a retro dessert in the States.  Not only is it insanely easy to make, it never ceases to please or amaze people when you take it to soirees.  Though, as a whole, it’s generally thought of as being the cake of the fifties and sixties, it actually came to be and immediately had dedicated following in the twenties and the thirties.

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And isn’t that the perfect segue way into my continual obsession with one of the most iconic celebrities of that era?

F. Scott Fitzgerald!

 This Side of Paradise was incredible (I actually finished it a long time ago, so I apologize for it being such a long time since I discussed it last).  As much as I love The Great Gatsby, this one rivals it to extremes.

Fitzgerald’s first novel that launched him into the spotlight as one of the novelists of the decade, Paradise, was written under the circumstances that seem to always produce enduring novels–solitude, a broken heart, and mental distress.  For the past two years, Miss Zelda Sayre had been the object of his affections, but a series of tumultulous events had lead to Zelda breaking off their engagement.  Scott fell to pieces and displayed his distress by going on a drinking spree.  Finally, he abstained from alcohol and holed up in his parents’ house to write This Side of Paradise.

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Amory Blaine is a characterization of Fitzgerald himself, and the novel’s story is an almost direct translation of everything Scott had gone up against up until that point.  Mosignor Darcy, Beatrice, Tom D’Invilliers, Isabelle, and Rosalind are all characterizations of influential people he had met in his own life.  The fact that Fitzgerald drew heavily from his own experiences coupled with the manner in which the whole novel was written (beautifully original) gives the novel an incredibly lasting quality.

I would love to keep going on about the book and analyze all its little nuances with all of you, but you really need to go and read it for yourself.  To close, however, here is one of my (many) favorite quotes from the book.

“Why don’t you tell me that ‘if the girl had been worth having she’d have waited for you’? No, sir, the girl really worth having won’t wait for anybody.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise

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PINEAPPLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  Nobody in my house likes maraschino cherries, so I’ve opted to leave them out.  If you enjoy them, though, feel free to add a few!  Also, the cake is incredibly tender, so I cut up my pineapple slices so they don’t tear up the cake as you try to slice it.  You can buy pineapple chunks if you prefer, but I’m picky so I just cut my own.

  • 225 gram / 8 ounce can pineapple slices, juice reserved
  • 30 grams / 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 85 grams / 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 190 grams / 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 150 grams / 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 175 milliliters / 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 50 grams / 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with baking rack in the center.  In a square 8 x 8 baking pan, put in 30 grams of butter.  Pop into the oven and allow to melt.  Drain the pineapple slices and reserve their juice.  Cut the pineapple slices into eighths and set aside.  By this time, the butter should be melted so pull it out.  Dump in the brown sugar and add in a tablespoon of the reserved pineapple juices.  Mix together with a fork and spread out evenly on the bottom of the pan.  Layer the pineapple slices evenly and set aside.

In a medium bowl, dump in the flour, sugar, kosher salt, baking powder, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla extract.  Starting on low, mix the ingredients until somewhat combined.  Then increase to high speed and beat for one minute.

Spoon the cake batter over the pineapple in the bottom of the pan.  Gently smooth out the batter and pop it into the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Place on a wire rack and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Turn out onto a serving dish and serve warm.

Serves 8-10

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Gnocchi and Creamy Tomato Sauce

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Most all of my posts pertaining to Valentine’s Day have been unabashedly sweets orientated.  Today, though, I thought that a savoury yet romantic dish was in order, as none of us can survive on sugar alone.

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I think one of my favourite parts of making gnocchi is that it is so soulful–every step seems to be steeped in tradition and ancient love.  That’s why I think this is the perfect dish to make for your loved one this Friday.

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You were you,
and I was I;
 we were two
before our time.

I was yours
before I knew,
and you have always
been mine too.

Lang Leav, “Always”

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Special thanks to my sister Abigail for helping with the photo shoot!

GNOCCHI AND CREAMY TOMATO SAUCE

While easy to make, gnocchi dough can be temperamental, as the recipe suggests.  Don’t let that sway you, though.  You just need to keep in mind the moistness of your potatoes, the weather, the size of your eggs, etc.  Just gingerly tweak the amounts of flour and egg as necessary (beating an extra egg to pour some in if you need to, for instance).  Just go with your instinct and you’ll be good.

  • about 905 grams / 2 lbs. russet potatoes
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • about 145 grams / 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional for salting water
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Creamy Tomato Sauce, below

Begin by scrubbing your potatoes well and place them in a pot full of cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are nearly done, about 30-40 minutes, depending on their size.  A knife inserted should go in with little resistance.  Pull the potatoes out of the water and peel them while they’re hot.  I find the best way to do this is to lay a thick towel in one hand and the potato in that, and then to use a paring knife to gently peel the skin away.  Once the potatoes are peeled, place them on a plate and allow them to cool completely.

Once the potatoes are cool, using the fine side of a box grater, grate the potatoes.  By this time a bit of a “second skin” will have formed outside of the potatoes, but don’t worry about it.  It won’t grate, so you can just discard it as it comes off.  Place the grated potatoes in a medium large bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flour with the teaspoon of kosher salt and the black pepper.  Sprinkle the flour mixture over the potatoes and, using two knives, cut the flour into the potatoes.  Using knives instead of your fingers or a fork will help to keep the potatoes aerated.  Pour the beaten egg over the potatoes and use your knifes again to incorporate the egg into the potato mixture until it’s combined for the most part.  There will still be patches of egg and flour mixture, but that’s all right.  Turn the mix out onto a lightly floured surface.

At this point, your dough will probably be quite sticky, but before you add more flour, knead it a bit.  When kneading, do it with a very gentle touch, being sure not to work the dough too much.  If needed, add a bit more flour.  The finished dough should be soft and tender with a billowiness to it.

Once the dough has been kneaded sufficiently, form it into a disk and cut it into eight wedges.  Set aside seven of the wedges and work on the remaining one.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the wedge out into a length about the same thickness as your thumb.  Cut it into 3/4 inch bits and do the same with the remaining dough.  Once you have made your little potato pillows, roll them along the tines of a fork to create that famous pattern.  Once you have done that, place the gnocchi on a floured baking sheet until you’re ready to cook them.

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Preheat your oven to its lowest setting and place several plates in it.  Once the water is boiling, add in about 15-20 gnocchi, depending on the size of the pot.  As the gnocchi begin to float, spoon them out with a slotted spoon and place them on one of the plates in the oven, being sure to keep them in a single layer.  Continue until all of the gnocchi have been cooked.  Serve with creamy tomato sauce and extra parsley.

Serves 4

CREAMY TOMATO SAUCE

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 820 gram / 29 ounce can tomato puree
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • sugar, as needed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 3-4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or half and half

In a heavy bottomed medium sauce pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Add in the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds.  Pour in the tomato puree and mix well.  Add in salt, pepper, and sugar.  Heat the sauce and let simmer for about five minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.  When you’re ready to serve, add in the parsley and the cream, tasting and adjusting seasonings once more.

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Salted Caramel Brownies

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We came here on his back and we caught your eye,
The salty ocean wind made the seagulls cry…
The rocking of this house had me holding on,
And I knew I was safe from there on out…

Of Monsters and Men, “From Finner”

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And there’s no conspiracy,
Behind the way two hearts meet…
When love is a two way street.

Kimbra, “Two Way Street”

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Somebody misses you when you’re away,
They want to wake up with you every day,
Somebody wants to hear you say…
Ooh, somebody loves you!

Betty Who, “Somebody Loves You”

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Anywhere you go, let me go too…
Love me,
That’s all I ask of you…

Andrew Lloyd Weber, “All I Ask of You”

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SALTED CARAMEL BROWNIES

Recipe from Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. 

Caramel

  • 105 grams / 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 55 grams / 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons half and half

Brownies

  • 85 grams / 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 110 grams / 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 210 grams / 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaked sea salt
  • 85 grams / 2/3 cup all purpose flour

To make the caramel: Tear out a strip of parchment paper big enough to cover a large dinner plate and thoroughly grease it with butter or oil (this is where we’ll put our caramel to cool).

In a large, dry saucepan melt your sugar over medium high heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to break up clumps.  Once melted, the sugar should be a rich, coppery colour.  If it isn’t, continue to heat until it is.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter.  It won’t incorporate that well, but do the best you can.  Dump in the half and half and the salt and mix.  Return to medium high heat and simmer until the sugar clumps have re-melted.  Continue to cook a few minutes more, until the caramel has turned two shades darker.

Pour the caramel onto the greased parchment on the plate and place in the freezer to chill until firm (anywhere from 20-50 minutes).

To make the brownies: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the center of the oven.  Using two strips of parchment paper, line an 8×8 inch pan and let there be overhang.  Well grease the parchment with butter or oil and clip down the overhang with heatproof clips.  Set aside.

Place a large, heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Melt the chocolate and the butter together until just a few chunks of whole butter and chocolate remain.  Remove from the heat and stir continually with a spoon, until everything is smooth and melted.  Add in the sugar and whisk.  Then add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.  Add in the vanilla and salt and whisk again.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour until fully incorporated.

Take your caramel and cut into 1-inch squares.  If it’s super soft, that’s alright, just pull the pieces apart as best you can.  Mix about 2/3 of your caramels into your brownie batter and dump the batter into the baking pan.  Sprinkle the remaining caramels on top and place in the oven to bake.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (try to avoid the caramel when testing for doneness).  Place the brownies in the pan on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.  Pull out the brownies using the parchment paper and cut into squares or hearts to serve.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Serves 9 very generously

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DIY Flower Globe

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So a while back, some of you may have noticed that I changed the name of my blog from “happyspinach” to “happyspinach etc.”  I did that in anticipation of including little tutorials for non-edible things.  Now that’s what I anticipated, but that’s not exactly what happened…  I’ve been at a loss as to what to put on here.  But!  Recently I discovered the absolutely charming Cutiepie Marzia!  She has a variety of adorable DIYs on her YouTube, and I was inspired by her tutorial for a homemade snow globe.  With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I couldn’t resist posting this as it seems to me to be a perfectly enchanting Valentine.  So, lovelies, enjoy!

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To begin, you’ll need the following: a clean jam jar, pretty paper, toothpicks, beads, bows, glitter, melted wax (just light a candle), scissors, tweezers, and a paper sticker.

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Fold your paper into quarters and using a pencil, draw out a flower.

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Cut out your flowers, keeping the paper folded.  I decided to make two different kinds of flowers–a four-petal one and a five-petal one.

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Pour some melted wax into a disposable cap of sorts (I used the top off of a milk carton).

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Using the tweezers, dip your paper flower into the wax, being sure to cover it entirely.

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Let all of your flowers dry.  Also, if you need to, scrape the dried wax out of the disposable cap and re-melt it in the candle to reuse it.

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Stab each flower through the center with toothpicks of varying heights (be careful not to poke your finger!).

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Put a dab of hot glue from your glue gun on the tip and press a bead on.  Snug the rest of the flower up against the glue to fasten it.

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Using the tips of your tweezers, gently scrape at the wax to give the petals a crystalized look.

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Look at your lovely flowers!  I chose to do seven, because I think an odd number looks best.

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Pour some hot wax onto your lid, being sure that it doesn’t get into the seal.  Let it dry slightly.

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When the wax is almost dry, stick all of your flowers in.

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To make sure that they stay, pour some more hot wax over the spots where the toothpicks were initially stuck into the wax.  Let it dry completely.

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Put a fair bit of glitter into your jar.  I used a semi-transparent, white hexagonal glitter and a fine, hot pink glitter.

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Fill to the brim with water.

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Carefully screw the top onto the jar.  A little bit of water may leak out due to Archimedes’ principle, but just wipe it up.

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Put the paper sticker on the lid and write a little note on it for your Valentine!  Also, hot glue on a couple of bows around the rim of the lid for a cute touch.

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DIY FLOWER GLOBE

Inspired by Marzia’s video for the same thing (link below).

Because your jar may not have a super, leak-proof seal, I recommend keeping your globe somewhere where it won’t do too much damage if it leaks by accident.  Somewhere like the bathroom would be a good spot.

  • paper
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • melted wax
  • disposable cap
  • tweezers
  • toothpicks, cut to various heights
  • hot glue
  • beads
  • clean jam jar
  • glitter, optional
  • water
  • paper sticker
  • tiny bow

1. Fold your paper into quarters.  Using the pencil, draw out a flower and cut it out with the scissors.  I made a four-petal flower and a five-petal flower.

2. Pour some melted wax into the disposable cap and, using the tweezers, submerge the flowers in the wax and let them dry completely.  If your melted wax hardens before you get the chance to submerge all of your flowers, you can scrape it back into the candle and allow it to melt again.

3. Stab the centers of your flowers through with the toothpicks, being sure not to poke your finger (it’s really quite painful!).  Put a dab of hot glue on the tips of the toothpicks and secure a bead on the glue.  Push the petals up against the bead and allow the glue to harden.  Once the glue has hardened, use your tweezers to gently scrape at the wax on the petals to give it a crystallized look.

4. Pour some wax onto the lid and allow it to firm up slightly.  Stick the toothpick flowers into it and pour some more wax onto the spots where the toothpicks enter the wax.  Allow the wax to harden completely.

5. Pour some glitter into the jar.  I used about a tablespoon total–half white and half pink.  Fill the jar up to the brim with water, and carefully screw the lid back on.  Stick a paper sticker on the lid and write a sweet note to your loved one!  And then hot glue some bows around the edge.  Give the jar a gentle swirl and flip it over.

Congratulations, you’ve just made a darling snow globe!