SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE . . . a decadent holiday food gift

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Sometimes when one is bombarded daily with food recipes one forgets the one that transcends all others.    This  splendid sauce is the perfect food gift.  It is  decadently deliciously down-right lip-smacking, please can I have some more.  Portion it into small jars(it is very very rich).  It makes a memorable hotess gift.

It is the attention to detail.  The little extra that pushes something over the top.  That take it from very good to extraordinary.    And when that extraordinary itself is truly magnificent you have pure gold.

During our restaurant years every evening I made a gorgeous caramel sauce.   We would pour it liberally  over our house-made ice cream.  The recipe was time consuming and demanding.  So I started  the hunt for a caramel sauce that one could whip up quickly and without too much stress.

Making caramel sauce is rather like the fairy tale Brothers Grim Rumpelstiltskin.  You turn water and sugar into a deep burnished rich golden colour.  And you do not have to give up your first-born child to do it.

This caramel recipe has just the right balance of caramelized sugar to butter and cream.  The recipe is easy.  You put water and sugar into a pan.  Watch it turn a deep golden brown.  Whisk in butter.  The aroma smells like McIntosh Toffee.    Add a little cream.  Cool.  Taste.  Sprinkle in  flakes of  fleur de sel  and faster than you can say Rumpelstiltskin you have the most decadent salted caramel sauce.

Pour it over ice cream or a slice of cake.  Add a generous dollop of whipped cream and you have a dessert worthy of a four star restaurant.  The very best part of this recipe for caramel sauce.  It refrigerates beautifully.  I must admit I occasionally remove the chilled sauce, dip a spoon into its silky goodness and swoon over this stealthy treat.  The sauce will keep two weeks refrigerated.  Unbelievable but this has kept more than the specified two weeks when I hid it behind the mustard  and totally forgot about it.  It was still good almost a month later.

SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE  – is pure gold!

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CHRISTMAS DECOR INSPIRED BY MY LITTLE HOUSE IN PARIS

I’ve been away.  Traveling to my fantasy little house in Paris.   Heavy green velvet curtains cover the tall windows.  They keep out the cold wind that whistles and tugs at the window panes.  The house is snug and warm and I’ve filled it with treasure from the Christmas markets.  The flea markets have been scoured for bits of Christmas pasts.   I’ve wrapped fat white candles with brown paper tied with twine.    Angel wings hang from coat hooks  and the kitchen is rich with the intoxicating aroma of a welcoming holiday feast.   My Paris friend, Theadora, and our worldly traveled Tin Man  will dine tonight.  Joyeux Noel we shout from the balcony to the street belong.  Joyeux Noel!

Joyeux Noel!  Merry Christmas!  The perfect words to welcome dear friends and family to our house in the country.  I’ve brought memories of Paris home.  I shall wrap candles in brown paper.  I will conjure up golden angel wings.  And I will paint the words Joyeux Noel. There  is only a few short street of stores in our tiny  Ladner village.   It’s a charming , calm place to shop.  Far away from hustle and bustle of malls.   Quite by chance  I found these  letters on unpainted blocks of wood.   The perfect do-it-yourself project.  A little dark paint.  A little white paint.    Voila!

My slow and happy enjoyment of this season continues.   There are presents to be wrapped.  More decorations to make to adorn our home.  A Christmas tree to decorate, but all in good time.

 

(If you visit TripSavy you will discover the Christmas markets and other magical places to visit during the holiday season.  Photo of a Christmas market by TripSavy.)

 

 

 

THE BEGINNING OF A SLOW CHRISTMAS

 

My Christmas begins the third week of November.    I appreciate the rituals of Christmas.   Decorating our home.  Baking traditional Christmas treats.    The wrapping of presents.  Life is to be enjoyed and I remove the pressures of the season by starting early.  Armed with secateurs and large wicker baskets I prune  the  row of cedars across from the cow barn.  I  snip the fragrant cedar branches accompanied by the gentle mooing of cows.  A perfect start to my slow Christmas.

It is my tradition to make the front door Christmas wreaths for our home and for my good friend and neighbor.  Every year it is different.  We live close to the ocean so this year it seemed appropriate to embellish the wreath with  shells I have collected.

The music of Charlie Brown’s Christmas plays in the background as  I brush the shells with glue and then sprinkled them with fairy dust.   It gives the shells a frosty glitter of snow.  To fasten these treasures from the sea I hot-glued florist wire to the backs.

Add a white satin bow and voila!!  Christmas begins at our front door.

In the early weeks before Christmas I polish the silver and lovingly  wash the crystal.  Everything must be shiny and bright.  Then I create more magic with lights.

It gives me pleasure to celebrate the season in this quiet, calm way.    There is much history in this display.   The crystal and silver is a collection of gifts and family treasures.  It is important to me honour them in this manner.  My last task –  fill the crystal decanter to welcome guests into our home.

 

 

 

REMEMBRANCE DAY . . . We Remember

 

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If I should die, think only this of me:

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England.  There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed:

Gave,  once,  her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home

 

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And think, this heart,all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given,

Her signs and sounds; dream happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends;  and gentleness,

In hearts at peace,  under an English heaven.

 

 

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My father-in-law World War Two.

 

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My uncle,  Bertram Henry Henderson.  Killed in action October 27, 1944.

 

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My older sister and myself with my Uncle shortly before he was shipped overseas.

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Our Uncle’s grave continues to be looked after by the Belgian Family entrusted in their care more than 70 years ago.  Members of that family continue to maintain contact with our family.

 

My Father – World War One.

 

( The Soldier – Rupert Brooke)

THE TOP BANANA CAKE . . . a delicious doodle to make!

Cakes lavished with icing appear to be attending a party.    They sashay onto your plate with a come-hither look, and you swoon with delight.  There’s banana muffins. There’s banana loaf.  But the top banana is this old-fashioned banana cake by my favorite cook-book writer, The Barefoot Contessa.

This is a no nonsense, never fail type of cake.  A doodle to whip up even if you don’t have a mixer.  It has a fine, moist crumb flavoured with orange zest and studded with walnuts.    And the icing is definitely “the icing on the cake”.   Cream cheese frosting  and banana cake is a marriage made in kitchen heaven.

This is the cake I make when bringing a dessert to a pot-luck supper.  It travels well.  It keeps well.  You can whip it up a day or so before serving.  And it slices beautifully.  Pop over to MRS.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen for the recipe.   Bon Appetit, dear friends.

 

 

 

THE SECOND COMING . . . W.B. Yeats . . . an anthem to our age

 

Almost a hundred years ago the Irish poet William Butler Yeats published a poem  that  references Armageddon and political upheaval.   It is a message of hope.  It is a message of warning.

THE SECOND COMING

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

(GYRE:  A gyre is a spiral that expands outward as it goes up.  Yeats used the image of gyres to describe the motion of history towards chaos and instability.)

(William Butler Yeats   1865-1939 –   Irish poet, dramatist, and prose writer.  Yeats is widely considered one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th Century.)

(Falcon Photograph  Smithsonian Magazine)

 

 

THE MAGIC OF OVEN ROASTED TOMATOES . . . Capturing the joy of summer all winter long.

Through the halcyon days of summer I plundered the garden for the fattest, juiciest,  reddest of red tomatoes.  The days shortened.  Marine fog drifted across the fields poking destructive fingers into the garden.    Time to harvest the tomatoes, ripe or green.    The heady fragrance of tomato leaves surrounded me as I  filled my basket with these last jewels of summer.

The green tomatoes were tucked single layer in closed cardboard boxes.  As they changed colour out they came to sit in a bright window.  Taking the sun.    I had already frozen tomatoes for soups and stews.  These tomatoes were to be oven roasted and frozen.

I cut the little cores out.   Sliced the tomatoes in half.  Placed them in parchment lined pans ( saves scrubbing pans ).   The tomatoes were sprinkled with a little coarse sea salt and freshly ground black paper.  Then  with a breeze  of olive oil and graced with whole sprigs of fresh thyme.

Roast the tomatoes at 275F for about five hours.  Then increase the oven temperature to 300F for the last hour.  Watch these little darlings.  The smaller tomatoes will brown faster and should be removed.  You don’t want them to become dry and brittle.  Toss the dried thyme.    Store the tomatoes in plastic freezer containers with layers of parchment papers between the slices.  Five pounds of fresh tomatoes will reduce down to about one pound.

It really is like magic!   Oven roasted tomatoes on pizza are  nothing short of divine.     Tossed in pasta dishes they are brilliant shots of colour and flavour.      Roasted tomatoes in the humblest of sandwiches takes the sandwich to delicious heights.  Or try coarsely chopped roasted tomatoes  and goat cheese on a baguette.

Bon Appetit dear friends.