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Guest Post: Quick & Delicious Cinnamon Rolls

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*Another guest post from my one and only mom!

Time flies when you’re having fun…

It’s almost a month since I’ve set foot in Ireland and really I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown… so the old adage must be true. Even though the last dozen days have been all about baby, there has still been lots of time for renewing some old friendships and visiting family. These gatherings usually revolve around drinking copious amounts of tea, eating delicious food and having great conversations with lots of laughter.

Although I don’t know many people here in Ireland, everyone I’ve met has been wonderful! Very polite (I hear ‘thank you’s’ to the bus driver from people getting on and off the bus), friendly (when they pass you in the street they look at you and say hello or good day), kind and hospitable (a great deal like Cape Bretoners, really – no wonder I feel so much at home!).

I’m also loving the food! Since I arrived I’ve been treated to Irish lamb, fresh fish and chicken, various cheeses (Irish and otherwise), chutneys, bread – including delicious homemade Irish brown bread – and the milk (I’m a milk drinker); the milk is delicious! It’s probably the best I’ve ever had.

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At home, my favourite pair-up with an ice cold milk is chocolate cake with seven minute frosting, but that’s a day-long baking commitment. The next best thing? ‘Warm from the oven’ cinnamon rolls. I really didn’t think I’d be doing much baking here – I mean, the hostess is a trained chef – so I didn’t pack any of my recipes. However, after a search I managed to find a similar recipe for cinnamon rolls online. I made a few small changes and shortly after: yum. Cinnamon rolls and a glass of milk – or tea, if that’s your pleasure.

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Cinnamon Rolls ( adapted from a Canadian Living magazine recipe)

Ingredients:

3 cups AP flour

2 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

2/3 cups cold butter, cubed

1 egg

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Filling:

3 Tbsp softened butter

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment and pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).
  • Whisk dry ingredients together. With knives or pastry blender cut in butter until mixture is coarse and crumbly.
  • In a separate bowl whisk buttermilk and egg, then add to the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork to make a soft dough.
  • Turn out of bowl onto floured surface and knead gently for about three minutes – if  dough is sticky add more flour as you knead.
  • Roll or press out to a 16 X 12 inch rectangle.
  • Spread butter over dough leaving a half inch border without butter on one long side ( the side farthest from you).
  • Sprinkle with pecans, the brown sugar, and the cinnamon.
  • Start rolling the side closest to you and roll into an even, long log-shaped roll. Pinch the seam to seal.
  • Cut roll in half, then each half into eight even pieces in each half, using a floured knife, a pastry cutter, or pastry scissors..
  • Place on cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
  • Cool on rack, then separate…Enjoy!

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Guest Blog Post: Blueberry Homecoming Cake

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*This is my mom’s post, her recipe and her photography. Thanks for sharing, mom!

Well I knew you were coming so I baked a cake, baked a cake, baked a cake…

Baby Maeve was born on a Sunday and due to come home from hospital a few days later… what to do for such a great occasion? The baby wouldn’t notice much except maybe a different bed and quieter surroundings, but Mummy and Daddy would notice – as they were ever aware since Maeve’s birth – of the many changes in their lives. What could Nana do to make this a special homecoming?

In Ireland for just a bit better than a week before the baby came, I was still trying to familiarize myself with the many differences between living here and in Canada. Things like time zone changes, money, and driving on the left side of the road I found were not as worrisome as remembering to turn the switch to ‘on’ before my shower or figuring out how to use the oven and baking with metric temperatures. But I had been well taught by the lady of the house so all that really remained was for me to get up the nerve and make something.

At home in Cape Breton at this time of year most of the hay has been made and maybe put away, people are enjoying beach weather and the last few days of summer vacation, reaping the tasty benefits of their small outdoor garden’s crop of green and yellow beans and tomatoes, AND… the wild blueberries that grow there in abundance are ripe for the picking.

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Blueberries… to think of them brings back many, many memories of the children growing up and picking them (not always willingly), and then Grandma baking with what was left of them (strangely, some buckets would arrive home empty) and creating such delights as blueberry pie (mmmm, that would be a good recipe to post), or muffins, or blueberry grunt, a traditional Nova Scotia dish that deserves  a dog-eared place in everyone’s recipe file. And it was then I knew what I would make …

Blueberry Cake! What better way to welcome a Cape Breton girl and her husband home to their new life with baby?

This cake is not the typical Cape Breton blueberry cake, but a type of coffee cake that was often baked at the Herring Choker Deli, a local bakery in Nyanza, CB. It’s delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, but just as yummy the next day (if you have any left) served with a cold glass of milk.

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Nana’s Blueberry Homecoming Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:

2 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup milk

1 1/2 cups blueberries

2 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp grated lemon or orange rind

For the topping:

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup butter

pinch of cinnamon

Directions:

  • Blend flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Cream sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla; add milk and mix.
  • Add dry ingredients all at once, stirring only until flour is moistened.
  • Spread half of the batter in the bottom of greased and lined 9 inch spring form pan.
  • Spoon blueberries over the top; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar and orange or lemon rind.
  • Spread remaining batter over, sprinkle topping.
  • Bake 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

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Sorry I didn’t post this week, but…

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We’ve been a little busy welcoming our little girl into the world. One word: smitten.

Keep an eye out for a guest post or two from my mom and I will be back in commission shortly!

Chorizo, Roasted Pepper & Goat Cheese Quiche

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I like quiche. Like, a lot.

My first job working in a restaurant kitchen involved a lot of pastry dough. I started working during the busiest time of the summer, during the Summerlicious festival in Toronto, and my day would start around noon and end roughly 12 hours later. It was my introduction to working in a real, professional kitchen and it exhausted me completely.

It was; however, one of the best restaurants in Toronto. I got used to the hours and my feet eventually got used to the constant running around. I learned to ignore the searing pain of citrus juice and salt getting into an open knife wound and, eventually, didn’t even flinch when my skin came into contact with red hot steel or 500 degree ovens. I was just too busy.

Pastry was a great escape for me. In the pastry section of a kitchen, there is order and organization and exact measurements. You know how something is going to turn out before you even start. It’s fun. I love the chaos and hustle of the main line, but also love pastry for it’s relative solitude and peace.

That’s how I started being the quiche blind baker every night. When things weren’t too busy, just before the dessert rush came during dinner service, and when most of the other kitchen staff had left, I would methodically roll out homemade pastry dough, line the quiche pans and weigh them down before baking them in the convection oven. Then I would carefully wrap the prepared pastry with plastic wrap and leave them for the opening chef to fill the next morning.

We had a weekly quiche at the next restaurant where I worked, so filling these tasty tarts became a weekly lesson in creativity and ingenuity. What did we have a lot of? What was good right now? What cheese would work with this veggie? What wasn’t going to take a million years to prepare? These were all questions that had to be answered every Sunday evening with the chef. It became more of a fun logic puzzle than a boring, mundane, kitchen task (also, I was lucky enough to have chefs who let their cooks do a lot of problem solving, giving guidance where it was necessary – you won’t find that in a lot of kitchens).

I don’t make quiche at home very often, but when I do, I fondly remember my first days in a professional kitchen. They weren’t easy. Anyone who romanticizes about being a chef is in for a rude awakening. But if you’re the kind of person who likes the instant gratification that comes along with a busy service well-done, isn’t bothered by the prospect of self harm and has a good sense of humour (and a high tolerance for crude behaviour) it might just be the job for you.

Chorizo, Roasted Pepper & Goat Cheese Quiche

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

2 cups AP flour

1 cup cold, unsalted butter, cubed

1/2 cup ice water

Pinch of salt

For the quiche:

1/2 cup caramelized onion (homemade or jarred, whatever you have)

1 large roasted red pepper, julienned (again, homemade or jarred is fine)

1 cup (approx.) sautéed and drained chorizo (cured or fresh is fine)

1 log creamy goat cheese of your choice (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup scallions, finely sliced

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk or cream

salt & pepper

Directions:

  • For the pastry: in a food processor, using a pastry blade, add in salt, flour and cold butter. Blitz until the mixture consists of coarse crumbs (you can also do this by hand with a pastry cutter or by rubbing, but the food processor gives the best result). While the blade is still running, slowly add the ice water (leave out any chunks of ice) until the mixture begins to form a ball.
  • Lightly flour your counter and knead the pastry dough two or three times until it all comes together. Shape it into two discs, wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for about an hour, or until firm.
  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees (210 degrees Celsius). Remove one the pastry discs from the plastic wrap (the other can go into the freezer or be kept in the fridge for a few days to use for something else). On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Line a tart or pie dish with the pastry dough and crimp/trim the edges.
  • Cover the pastry with parchment and fill with pie weights or dried legumes (I used dried lentils since they were what was in the cupboard at the time). Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the bottom is cooked through.
  • Make the quiche: layer the prepared pastry shell (still in it’s pie dish) with the caramelized onion, red peppers, chorizo, scallions and crumbled goat cheese.
  • Mix the eggs and milk/cream well and season with salt and pepper (about 2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp pepper). Pour the egg mixture over the prepared cheese, meat and veggies. Place the pie dish on a baking sheet (in case of overspill) and set in a 375 degree (190 degrees Celcius) oven for about 30-40 minutes. The filling should be completely set with a bit of a wiggle in the center.
  • Serve hot or at room temperature with a side salad.
 

Waterford Spraoi Festival

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It was a great Bank Holiday Weekend in Waterford as we (Patrick, me and, now, my mom) were able to experience our first Spraoi (pronounced “spree”) Festival.

What’s the Spraoi Festival, you ask? Well, for the past 21 years the city of Waterford has been attracting street performers from around the world to come and show off their stuff over the August Bank Holiday Weekend (beginning on Friday and ending Sunday evening). It’s similar to the Halifax Busker’s Festival, which is always a great time and features some spectacular street performances every summer in Nova Scotia, where I’m from.

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

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Knowing what fun the Halifax Busker’s Festival can be, I didn’t want to miss out on the Spraoi Festival in Waterford. My mom arrived from Canada last Wednesday and I thought it would be a great introduction to Irish summer festivals and Waterford City itself, since it involved a lot of street wandering.

The city was so busy and full of life all weekend! It was a great atmosphere. If I wasn’t nine months pregnant I would have divided my time between watching street performances and sipping pints outside the pub, watching all the action unfold. Next year.

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On Friday evening, we parked down on the quay and worked our way up Henrietta Street, catching street performances all along the way. The performers worked with each other to ensure they weren’t all playing at once, which was great as you could watch one performance, move on a bit and then catch the next one from the very beginning.

The City of Waterford Brass Oompah Band was playing on the quay, so they were the first group we came across. As we walked up the hill, we came across several more artists including performers from the Dublin School of Flamenco, Hooks and Crookes (a male singing group specializing in sea shanties – they were phenomenal!) and Geraldine Dunne, a fabulous cellist. The weather was lovely and it was such a fun and relaxing way to spend a Friday evening in the city.

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There were events going on around Waterford City all weekend, but we missed out on Saturday since the weather was so sunny and warm – we took my mom around the Copper Coast Road instead of staying in the city.

The quay on Sunday night

The quay on Sunday night

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Sunday evening ended the festival with a great parade, which went straight through the city, and one of the best fireworks displays I have ever seen. It was the perfect send-off.

This year was special as it was Spraoi’s 21st birthday, but I’m sure next year’s festival will be just as wonderful. The city, although congested, was very well organized with volunteers working together with city officials to ensure things were running smoothly at all times. I never felt overcrowded or unsafe with so many people around, although finding parking on Sunday night was a bit annoying.

The annual Spraoi Festival has officially been added to my list of reasons to love my new home. Thanks to all who worked so hard to make it happen!

Oatmeal, Cinnamon & Dried Cranberry Cookies

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Things are coming together around here. My mother arrived from Canada early Wednesday morning and my house has been in ship-shape ever since. Hospital bags are long since packed, cupboards are getting organized and my house is feeling a lot more feng shui in general. I suddenly have someone to help me with things like laundry and dishes. This leaves me to focus on things like eating breakfast, blogging and sending “go into labour” vibes to my unborn child (seriously, any time now).

With a bank holiday weekend looming we have lots to look forward to indeed. Hopefully we get some sun this weekend; I’m really looking forward to the Spraoi Festival, which starts today and ends on Sunday evening with a night parade and fireworks. For any non-Irish readers, the Spraoi Festival is like a busker’s festival with street performances and workshops happening throughout the city. Great fun and a great first weekend for my mom, who has never been to Ireland (or even overseas!).

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I’ve been craving oatmeal cookies for awhile now. My grandma used to make plain oatmeal cookies all the time. They were sweet and wholesome and I loved them. Sadly, I never got her recipe (although I doubt she even used a recipe), but luckily I have a system when it comes to cookie dough (thank you, first year pastry class). My mom’s favourite kind of cookie is oatmeal raisin. I didn’t have any raisins on hand, but I did have some dried cranberries. Add a pinch of cinnamon to that and you have a soul-warming cookie, perfect for the torrential rain we’ve been having in Waterford over the past week.

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Oatmeal, Cinnamon & Dried Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 cup AP flour

1 1/2 cup rolled or breakfast oats

1 cup dried cranberries

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • In your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light, fluffy and fully incorporated. Add the vanilla, cinnamon and egg and mix until well combined.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, salt and oats. Add dry ingredients all at once to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until well combined.
  • Gently stir in the dried cranberries. Drop by the tablespoon-full onto the cookie sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Allow to cool before indulging – they will be very delicate when first out of the oven.
  • *For a chewier cookie, replace the granulated sugar with an additional 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

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