Archives for the month of: December, 2011

When I started this blog a year ago, one of my goals – or resolutions if you will – for 2011 was to make cannoli. Originating from Sicily, they are a popular dessert in New York City.  I miss the days of being able to stroll over to Veniero’s Pasticceria and enjoy one.  So, this year I decided I would learn how to make them myself.  I ordered the tubes from Amazon, as none of my local cookshops knew what I was talking about when I asked if they carried them. I had also meant to make them long before December, but this year has flown by, but New Year’s eve seemed like the perfect time.  I have ticked all of my ‘resolution’ boxes now. Start a blog – check, maintain the blog through the year – check, lose weight – check and finally make cannoli.

So as Peter says to Rocco in The Godfather – “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

I followed Gennaro Contaldo’s Cannoli Siciliani recipe from UKTV Good Food, which worked really well.

cannoli pastry ingredients

Ingredients:

250 g plain flour

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp coffee, freshly ground

30 g butter, softened

25 g sugar

60 ml white wine

1 egg, beaten

olive oil, for deep-frying

icing sugar, to decorate

For the filling:

600 g ricotta cheese

150 g icing sugar

25 g chocolate chips

1. First make the filling. Place ricotta and icing sugar in a large bowl and whisk until creamy. Fold in the chocolate chips. Set aside.

2. To make the pastry, place the flour, cocoa powder, coffee, butter and sugar in a large bowl and mix well together. Gradually add the wine and mix well until the mixture forms pastry dough. (You may need more flour or more wine depending on how dry the flour is or the humidity.) Form the pastry into a ball and wrap in cling film. Leave to rest for an hour.

cannoli pastry

3. Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3mm. With a round pastry cutter, cut circles with a diameter of about 7.5 cm.  Roll the circles again until they are even thinner, then wrap around the tubular moulds, securing the edges with the beaten egg.

cannoli tools

Raw pastry around tube

4. Heat the olive oil in a large pan to 180°C. Fry the cannoli until golden-brown (2-3 minutes). Drain on kitchen paper for a minute then gently remove the moulds.  It’s best to remove the moulds before the shells are completely cool.  They come away much easier.

frying cannoli

fried cannoli pastry

5. Leave to cool, and then fill the cannoli with the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.

cannoli pastry tubes

filled cannoli

finished cannoli

We’ll see if cannoli are as popular in the UK as they are in Sicily/NYC… I’m looking forward to enjoying one with a glass of champagne!

champagne

Happy new year… here’s to 2012! *cheers*

Ok, in my head I’m singing Madonna’s ‘Holiday’.

It has been about a year since I started this blog and I must say it has been quite a learning adventure.  I’ve met a bunch of fantastic people and made some new (and very good) friends.  But I’m getting off the subject… this post is about Christmas and (X)boxing day.

Holiday part1

Our Christmas was a much more low key affair this year.  Mini G is now at that age where he ‘gets’ Christmas and since last year Martin and I were busy getting Christmas dinner prepared, we didn’t get to play with him. So this year, Christmas dinner was moved to the in-laws and we had a nice, relaxing and very playful morning.

Xmas lego

And playful evening – pass the parcel included.

pass the parcel moustache

But the main attraction was the Christmas pudding made by MIL. Delicious and beautifully lit, if I do say so myself!

christmas pudding

To me Boxing Day is all about food, but ever since getting our Xbox 360 and kinect, I’d been imagining a house full of family where the kids are in the converted ‘game room’ playing Fruit Ninja or Kinectimals and the adults in the kitchen/dining/converted lounge hanging out and enjoying good food.  I thought Boxing Day would be the perfect opportunity, so I deemed 26th December ‘Xboxing Day’. And although certain family members were a little less responsive resulting in less kids than anticipated, we still had a fantastic time.

mini G training Kinectimals cub

Our Boxing Day spread was more than a little awesome, if I do say so myself.  We had a whole roast ‘leftover’ Turkey, Autumnal Slaw from Leon’s book, chutneys, cheeses, homemade bagels courtesy of Nigella’s HTBADG, crisps, fruits, nuts and last but not least egg nog trifle from Eric Lanlard’s Home Bake.

Xboxing day spread pt1

Xboxing day spread pt2

His book is featured on the blog quite a bit throughout this year and this one definitely is worthy of a highlight. His recipe calls for fruit soaked in Grand Marnier, but I opted for Amaretto since I had it in the house. To create the egg nog custard, he used Advocaat. This gave me an excuse to add some to our liquor cabinet and also add ‘Snowballs’ to the menu for our day of Xboxing fun.

egg nog trifle pt1

egg nog trifle pt2

egg nog trifle pt3

egg nog trifle pt4

The key to a good Snowball is 2 shots of Advocaat, 1/4 squeeze of lemon or lime juice shaken up with some ice and poured in a highball glass then topped with lemon-lime soda (Sprite/7up) or lemonade if you are from the UK.

xboxing day snowballs

We even got Nanny & Poppy involved with the Xboxing Day activities. Poppy was a natural on Fruit Ninja. Mini G showed off his animal training skills on Kinectimals and I reigned supreme on XBox Trivial Pursuit.

Poppy playing fruit ninja

One day I’ll have my massive family Xboxing Day, but we may need a bigger house for that one.  Food and family, that is what the holidays are all about for me.  Now on to the New Year’s celebrations…

Apparently, there’s an ultimate Christmas song meme going around. I wasn’t tagged, but I jumped in anyway. We were discussing Christmas songs in the office and I heard my favorite coming from the other room, so I ran through to have a sing along. For some reason, I have always identified with The Waitresses, especially ‘Christmas Wrapping’. It’s a bit anti-Christmas, but I think that’s kinda what I like most about it. Unfortunately, there isn’t a YouTube video of the actual song, so I’ve included two versions. I’m tagging Laura,  George and Colleen in this Meme…

So without further ado, here is my ultimate Christmas song – Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses as interpreted by Lightorama:

 

And the Dog is Dead version, because they are a hip and happenin’ band (and I am trying to cling to my indie cred with both hands):

Thanks for including me Mummy-Tips!

At the end of October, we popped by my father in law’s house to pick up the ‘bushel’ of apples. Waiting with the apples outside of his house was a plastic container of what looked like batter and a recipe attached. The recipe was for Herman – The German Friendship cake.

Since the 30th of October, Herman has lived on our kitchen worktop feeding and growing, as well as feeding us and our friends. I have made five batched of German friendship cake and passed on six ‘starters’ to friends and family. Herman has served us well. Today, I say goodbye to Herman. He’s been a very good friend, so this blog post is in his honor.

If you want to make your own ‘Herman’ see the recipe below.

Starter
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 package dry yeast

Mix starter ingredients in a large bowl and let stand at room temperature undisturbed for 24 to 36 hours.

Friendship cake starter

Once the starter has, well started, the cake process takes around ten days.
Keep the starter batter on the kitchen work surface for the duration, do not refrigerate, or it will die.

On the first Day and fifth Day add:
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar

On the second, third, fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth day stir well.

And on the tenth day, divide the batter into four equal parts. Give three away to friends and keep the fourth to make the cake.

Preheat the oven to 175C/350F and grease a large roasting tray or 13″x9″ pan.

To make the cake, add the following to the remaining batter:

2 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla

The batter will be stiff, but do not add any liquid.

Optional additions:
2 large apples – cored and roughly chopped
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple , well drained
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Topping

Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of the cake batter.

1/4 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour

Spread across the lined and greased roasting tray, sprinkle the topping and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. (check after 35 minutes).

I used apples in my first go at the cake. It created a moist, cakey bread like consistency.

Friendship cake with apples

I left the apples out of the second go and it was like a dense cinnamon bread. Both are very tasty and ideal for breakfast or a snack.

Friendship cake finished

Goodbye Herman. We’ll meet again, I am sure…

Beef and Ale pie

Five years ago, Martin was making our favourite meal of grilled chicken tacos* while I watched Mission Impossible reruns on the TV. I heard a pop from inside my belly and our lives were never the same.

baba grizzlin

Watching him grow over the past five years has been an incredible journey. He gets more and more clever each day. Sometimes it’s my own mission impossible and I can’t keep up!

Clever boy

So, today is a very special day. My baby grizzlin is no longer ‘baby grizzlin’, he’s ‘boy grizzlin’ turning five. Happy birthday, Grady Joe!

Birthday boy

Lego Ninjago birthday boy

Lemon cake with marshmallow frosting

Tonight, we celebrate with hot dogs (sausages), chicken nuggets and lemon cake with marshmallow frosting!

Also, happy birthday to my Papa Joe, whom I miss very very much. Since they share the same birthday, I made sure they shared the name.

PapaJoeErica

*Martin did get to have the chicken tacos in the end since I was sent back home, but I never did find out what happened at the end of that episode of Mission Impossible… :)

Having not celebrated Thanksgiving for seven years, I decided this year was time to make a change. I booked the day off work, invited some new friends around and set out to have Team Whiteman & Team Heaps first UK Thanksgiving feast.

On the menu was, of course, turkey, candied yams, mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie and apple bourbon cake. Team Heaps brought corn pudding, green bean casserole (not the kind with cream of mushroom soup, though) and cinnamon ice cream. Needless to say, we were not going to go hungry.

Pumpkin pie, a classic american dessert, is not as widely known here making it a bit difficult to find tinned pumpkin. Thankfully, Waitrose carries it.

Classic Pumpkin

Libby’s Pumpkin Pie recipe:
Ingredients

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz.) LIBBY’S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
1 can (12 fl. oz.) NESTLÉ® CARNATION® Evaporated Milk

9 in pie dish lined with shortcrust pastry

MIX sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk.

POUR into pie shell.

BAKE in preheated 425° F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 176˚/350˚ F; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Pumpkin pie

We had an abundance of apples, and although apple pie is traditionally served on Thanksgiving, I decided to get a bit fancy. We had a surplus of Jack Daniels, so this recipe was a perfect choice.

Apple Bourbon Bundt Cake Recipe

2 sticks unsalted butter (226 grams), at room temperature, plus more to grease pan
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (315 grams), plus more to dust the pan
3 tablespoons (30 grams) plus 1/2 cup (80 grams) bourbon or rye whiskey
1/2 cup (90 grams) candied ginger, chopped
1 3/4 cup (330 grams) light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons (3 grams) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (5 grams) fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup (227 grams) sour cream
1 tablespoon (15 grams) vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon (5 grams) finely grated lemon zest
2 medium Granny Smith apples (about a pound, 454 grams), peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
1 cup (120 grams) finely chopped, toasted pecans
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon (20 grams).

Apple Bourbon Cake ingredients

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons bourbon and the candied ginger. Let stand 10 minutes.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the brown sugar and remaining butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream and vanilla. Pour in the bourbon from the ginger mixture (reserve ginger) and whisk until smooth. Stir in zest.

4. With the mixer on medium speed, add the dry mixture and sour cream mixture to the wet mixture in three additions, alternating between the two. Fold in the ginger, apples and pecans. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out dry, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool in the pan 20 minutes, then run a paring knife around the sides of the pan to release the cake; cool, flat side down, on a wire rack.

5. While the cake cools, combine the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup whiskey in a small saucepan. Over low heat, gently stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the lemon juice and take off the heat.

6. While the cake cools, make 10 slits on top with a paring knife and pour half the bourbon-sugar mixture on the still-warm cake. When the cake is fully cool, flip it and pour the rest of the glaze on the other side, then flip again to serve.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

Candied Yams

Another traditional side dish is Candied Yams or Sweet Potato Casserole. Don’t be put off by the marshmallows, as my pessimistic husband said “The combination is sublime.”

Thanksgiving sweet stuff

Now it was time to put it all together:

Carving the turkey

Hostess with the mostess

Gathering of friends

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dessert

The first Team Whiteman/Team Heaps UK Thanksgiving was a success. I’ll definitely be looking to do this again in years to come.

Now it is time to look forward as we countdown to Christmas.

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