Posts from the “food” Category

Easter hunts and disappointments

Posted on 27 March, 2016

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If this Easter has thought me anything it’s that my toddler handles disappointment much better this 32 week pregnant woman!

Saturday’s schedule was all laid out we were going to an Easter hunt with Peter Rabbit. The build up for this hunt was epic. We were reading Peter Rabbit, watching the cartoon, talking about it daily. Ewan had a list of things he wanted to bring with him to show Peter Rabbit ( a carrot and a little rabbit light his cousins sent him!) It was all systems go on Saturday morning!

That was until they cancelled it two hours before hand because of rain!  I was devastated!  stood in the pouring rain declaring that it wasn’t bad enough to cancel. I predicted breaking the heart of our nearly 3 year old. The angst of letting him down was more than my pregnancy hormones could take! Ewan  however took it just fine. “Okay” was pretty much his response. We were convinced he didn’t understand gravity of the situation and explained again. “We’ll do a hunt at home in the garden” we promised hoping to ease the devastation he was clearly feeling somewhere deep deep in his soul. “Okay” was again response. After a beat he checked, “Can I wear my wellies in the garden?” When he got a “yeah sure”  he was as pumped about our homemade hunt as he had been about the other plan.

And so with about a five minute prep we headed into the garden to find some very badly hidden chocolates.

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We got a bout of sunshine (see the weather really wasn’t so bad!) and he was thrilled with his foraging skills!

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The chocolate covered face explains how the rest of the day went.

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My theory is proven again by this mornings venture into making hot cross buns. Last night I hastily read a recipe for hot cross buns and thought that would be a lovely thing for the 3.75 of us to do together on Easter Sunday.

This morning I went again for the big build up. I showed Ewan the recipe in the paper. I made him wait for something to eat because these hot cross buns were going to be amazing and he would need his full appetite to appreciate them. I sang the Hot Cross Bun song on loop. The whole works! Once we started into making them I discovered they have to rise for one hour. Then you shape the dough into buns, then they rise for another hour! Then you bake them for nearly an hour!

I read the recipe out loud. I read it to myself. I read it out loud again while I ran my finger under the words. Finally it sunk in.”Nearly three hours” I exclaimed! “What? These are about 20 cents each in Lidl. How can Lidl afford to charge 20 cent for something that takes three hours to make? They’re only buns, how would they need three hours!” The rant went on. Ewan shrugged his shoulder and said “We have to wait” and off he went.

After one hour of waiting I suggested a walk. It turns out no-one in the house is willing to argue with a hungry pregnant woman so despite bursts of hail stones we set out. While I managed to keep the rant to an internal one at this point I was still in shock at a few insolence of the newspaper not to highlight in giant capitals that these so called buns take three hours to make. Ewan went about his day, finding chocolate where he could. He had forgot we’d even made dough in the morning. By the oven timer finally went the hot cross buns came as a magic surprise to him!

Who would have thought toddlers could be zen? Turns out as long as there’s chocolate somewhere to be found nothing else bears worrying about. He might very well be on to something!

 

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The house of vinegar smells!

Posted on 3 December, 2015

IMG_3005Who makes chutney these day?

Surely the world of canning is reserved for wool spinning home schoolers, the frugal and maybe the occasional organic hipster. While that may be true I have added myself to that merry band of canners.

Despite (or maybe because of ) making three different lists I have spent the past two days completing a grand tour of every local supermarket. Lidl and I always been well acquainted but the staff are now becoming suspicious of my frequent visits. When I’m out of one supermarket I’m straight off to Dunnes for the things I couldn’t get in Lidl, then Heatons for the jars I couldn’t get in Dunnes. Last but not least to Aldi for an unexpected cinnamon stick emergency! Turns out Aldi don’t have cinnamon sticks so it was up to  Super Valu to complete the  full supermarket tour!!

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One word of advice would be choose your supply shop wisely, find one giant shop that has everything and save yourself a lot of rainy trips to the supermarket! (Or stick with the 4 ingredient Chilli Jam and make life yummy and simple!)

 

Once I had everything the process itself was very simple. I made three different recipes.

Christmas Ketchup,Christmas Chutney and the aforementioned Chilli Jam.

All from the lovely Nigella. We are definitely on first name terms after this pot bubbling marathon!

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I found the Christmas Ketchup Recipe in the Nigella Christmas book but I couldn’t find it online anywhere. I will admit I wasn’t too disappointed not to share that recipe with you. The end result is good but the recipe needed the most ingredients and required equipment like a mouli and funnel. While I made do with a sterlised tea pot instead of a funnel and a sieve instead of a mouli it caused me much more grief than the other two recipes and so my advise would be stick to either the Christmas chutney or Chilli Jam.

Often things don’t work out for me in the kitchen so I’m relieved to say I can confidently gift all of these I siphoned off a jar of each one for purely scientific reasons and I’m delighted with how the turned out.

The Christmas chutney is Ewan’s favourite. It has significantly  jazzed up his playschool lunches,m they look much less depresing now!

Steve and I have both voted for the chilli jam as our favourite. I will admit that my decision was influenced by the fact that it’s the easiest one to cook, 10 minutes boiling and leave it cool, ta da!

Despite it’s name it’s doesn’t send you gasping for the nearest fire extinguisher, nor would you spread it on your toast. The chillis I picked (the only ones they had in Lidl) were mild so it has welcomed warmth without leaving you short of breath.

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On downside was the house reeked of vinegar for about two days. But after plunging my family into freezing cold temperatures with all the windows open I’m glad to say I think the smell is finally gone and the jars look pretty nifty filled with yumminess even if I do say so myself! I can’t wait to dish these out to friends, family and neighbours!  In case you didn’t get the vibe from the Christmas cards, I’m loving Christmas this year!!

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Best of 100: All that glistens is not golden syrup

Posted on 7 November, 2015

Let’s start with the fact that calmly baking with a toddler is the internet’s biggest lie. So what did I decide to do with a toddler who woke up wired to the moon when I was pressed for time?

Yep, you guessed it bake a recipe that involves a half an hour in the fridge. Time which would be filled by Ewan repeating on loop,”It’s ready, it’s ready now”.

It is pretty hilarious to look at the hundred pictures now. Even though I looked at the photos a few hours after my stress levels went through the roof the pictures are already altering my memory of the event. I say event because that’s what it felt like. All looks calm and measured in the photos, it even looks fun. In real life it was a bloody nightmare. With his enthusiasm he tipped 75g of brown sugar over his head, into the cupboard and all over the ground and the chair he’s standing on. While I went to get the hoover he fueled his sugar high by stealing big clumps of butter to lick and smear everywhere.  It kept going like that until the slightly burnt male specimen made their way out of the oven. I will concede that baking with my little toddler man has occasionally gone well. We can happily make an easy bread and butter pudding together when he’s the right level of tired and I don’t try to photograph it. I have actually enjoyed doing that with him. But yesterday was nothing like our bread and butter pudding evenings!

I fear the odds were against us yesterday morning. As well as the time constraints of the morning I also decided that this would be the right time to take my 100 photos. The more I picked up the camera the greater the opportunities were for Ewan to spread the baking mess far and wide and practice his “wobbling like jelly” moves while standing on a chair . But despite the fact that I wanted a drink at 10:20 in the morning we actually ended up with something edible. And while I desperately struggle for positives in a day that went on to me getting a split lip from an accidental elbow in the mouth all I can think of was at least there were sugary treats to comfort-eat my way through the day!

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He sticks his tongue out when he's concentrating just like his Granny!

He sticks his tongue out when he’s concentrating just like his Granny!

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The high five guy in the middle and the big blobby dude at the end were my favourites!

Steve bought me back these chocolate icing pens from a recent business trip to Seattle. You heat them up in warm water and then squeeze out the coloured chocolate icing. What will these Americans think of next . Squeezable coloured chocolate, well I never!! They are pretty nifty I have to say and great for little hands to manage.

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Steve’s keen sense of smell meant he popped down just as the Gingerbread men came out of the oven and so he also had a dabble with the tasty icing.

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During the lengthy clean up I considered never ever baking again but due to a bad memory and the photo below I’m likely to reconsider. Although next time I’ll leave the camera down so I have some chance of catching dropped bowls!

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Free time

Posted on 18 September, 2015

Now that Ewan is in playschool two mornings a week I have a total of four and a half hours to myself in the day time! I have admit at first I had no idea what to do with myself.  Before he started I had great plans. I would do crafting projects, I’d blog so much the key board would break. Uncharacteristically, I even toyed with the idea of going swimming!

He has now being going for a month and I have not done any of these things. Not even once. I have done some grocery shopping, made beds, emptied the dishwasher for the millionth time and tidied up toys in preparation for inevitable destruction. But don’t let me fool you into thinking I’m a regular Cinderella, I ain’t. But finding a rhythm of something that I want to do, in a limited time-frame, which is close to home and free hasn’t been as easy as I first thought. My capacity for housework is limited and it’s not something that I want to work on developing so instead I’m flitting around the place. A few days ago I tackled the wood logs lying in our back garden. 5 years ago when we chopped down trees in our garden and stacked the resulting logs with great talk of buying stoves, cutting wood etc. Last year they acted as a table when I photographed cups on top of them and other than that they haven’t been put to use at all.

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So, I’ve started sawing them for firewood (No comments on my technique please!) . I tried to think of this as a meditative task. I told myself that you could imagine monks doing this to help clear the mind but really my only thoughts while doing it was that these better burn for longer than it’s taking me to saw them!

Having given up on the idea that sawing is meditative I took to timing myself instead. This suits my competitive self much better and now I’ve really gotten into it! When I started it was taking me nearly 10 minutes to saw one log. Shameful I know! Now, I can crack that baby in two in just over a minute. Maybe there’s a sawing Olympic I could train for, hmm!

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While it’s good to have fire wood and like any toddler I love being timed I’m still not sure that sawing is sustainable as a relaxing thing to do. So today I turned to food. I was served an amazing breakfast at a friends house last weekend and I realised I never take the time for a leisurely breakfast. Given that morning start at 7 usually I also don’t really feel like it so this lunch time while Ewan was gluing the table at playschool I took to making Eggs arnold/eggs royale (whatever you call it, the one with salmon!) and it was made me drool a little it was that tasty!

I may not have nailed down something structured to do with my time but it turns out messing around with logs and eggs has it’s charms.

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London Fog

Posted on 17 June, 2015

Recently blogs and supermarket brochures have been flooded with pictures of summer offerings of bbq food, cooler boxes full of beer ,bunting and ice creams. Despite the rise in temperature I must concede I’m not feeling the summer vibe quiet yet. This week I’m more likely to reach for a snugly cardi than I am to strip off to a bikini. I have no doubt that when my summer mood emerges I’ll throw off my cardi with great aplomb but for the moment I’ll share with you my found comfort drink.

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Last weekend we took a break to London where I ventured from my regular choices. When faced with tea options outside of Ireland I inevitably veer to the solid and trusty English Breakfast Tea. However, I am as susceptible to a catchy title as much as the next person so when presented with a tea option called “London Fog” I had to try it.

It has quickly become my snazzy warm drink of choice! I have been struggling with how to describe it and the best I can come up with is a fluffy cloud of frothy comfort. So if that sounds like something you could do with then please read on.

You will need :

A teaspoon of honey

Early Grey tea bag

Milk for frothing

Boiling water

All recipes I have found online use vanilla syrup or vanilla extract. My novice opinion is that Earl Grey tea has a delicate flavour and you don’t want to go trampling all over it with vanilla but I’ll leave that up to you.

First add your tea spoon of honey.

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Next, add the Earl Grey tea bag and boiling water. I half filled the cup with the brewing tea. The ratio of tea to steamed milk is one you can play around with but equal parts of tea and milk works well for me.

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While the tea is brewing it’s time to get steaming your milk. I used the steamer our coffee machine but if you don’t have one just warm the milk in a pot or in the microwave (don’t let it boil!) and get whisking.

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Then just  keep filling up the rest of your cup with your warmed frothy milk.

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Give a good stir to mix in the honey and sit back and be comforted!

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Straw-bee-berries

Posted on 11 June, 2015

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I will declare openly  that there is an element of trickery to this post. I will show you a few flowers and fruit which I hope will lead you to believe that my garden could be quiet nice but in truth all hope is lost. When it comes to waging war on hip height nettles I simply don’t have the will to face them. As a result I am a garden refugee.  I have evacuated 95% of the garden and focus solely on growing delicious strawberries.

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So far the yield is small (20 strawberries) but I have high hopes now that the sun has arrived. Ewan has named them straw-bee-berries which I find particularly cute. His love for straw-bee-berries knows no bounds! I have no idea how I will parent when the straw-bee-berry season is finished. At the moment any mood can be lifted with the question ” Will we go check if there are any strawberries today?”.

This generally receives an enthusiastic declaration of  “Exciting!” as he rushes off to try and put on his wellies. In truth going to check the strawberries involves me carrying him in one arm and an overflowing watering can in the other as I wade through the war torn land of nettles to the safe zone of the glass house. It all feels pretty heroic and like a big adventure into the wilderness!

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Once in the safe zone he uses the full extent of his waiting ability. Yesterday he agreed that ,yes, we did need to wait for the straw-bee-berries to go red before we could eat them. He proceeded to pace  outside the glass house for 30 seconds or so and came in to declare “It’s ready now”. This was the face I was given when I explained that they might take a day or two to go red.

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The slow pace of growth really doesn’t suit the nature of toddler life where a day may as well be a month. But despite the small yields and prickly path the quest for seeking out red treasures is one that’s still met with such giddy excitement that it makes me think gardening isn’t so bad after all. Especially if you just focus on strawberries and the occasional flower mix packet!

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Pancakes disaster

Posted on 17 February, 2015

I feel this blog is getting into a trend of calamities well today is another one!

I had a vision of how cooking pancakes with Ewan would be, let us say that reality did not live up to the vision! He missed out last year on eating pancakes and I thought this year we’ll have the works. Nutella, blueberries, sugar,lemon, bananas it was going to be smörgåsbord of tasty delights with perfect pancakes bringing it all together.

In reality this is what happened….

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Take this as a visual representation of how the afternoon went. I have no idea why it went so wrong I used the same recipe as last year, and the year before that, and I have the same child as yesterday ( oh, what a delightful day yesterday was!) but alas something went terribly wrong. Initially, I blamed the frying pan but after making a mess of three frying pans and one skillet that argument seems thin. Then I blamed Ewan for his incessant repeating of “hunnnggrrrryyyyyyyy” with a tone that could win him an Oscar for a chilling personification of starvation but once I used Fireman Sam as a babysitter and I was no longer subject to his demands that excuse failed too. Basically, I have no idea how it all went so pear-shaped, the afternoon just land slided all the way to me throwing a very private and very insane adult sized tantrum in the kitchen which actually involved me jumping up and down miming ” aaahhhhhhhhh”. After I pieced together a random selection of things for Ewan to eat instead of pancakes I decided that we both needed out of the house.

In desperation I suggested going to the park. Of course I forgot that it’s across town, in traffic. Nevertheless, on we ploughed into the traffic with Ewan alternating between saying “snacks” and “paaaarrrrkkk” all the way. We got out of the car, both of us rather cheery only to be greeted by a man approaching us with speed. “Where are you going?” He hollered at us. (I fear he is yet to gauge how close you have to be to someone before you can start talking to them). Ewan legged it off into the grass in pursuit of a stick. “What?” I replied frazzled. After much too-ing and fro-ing he informed me that the park was closing soon and if I didn’t want to get locked in I was to stay by the playground and be gone in 10-15 minutes. After my recent locked out experiences  I was not keen on an over-nighter in the park. So we hurriedly ran around the playground at toddler Olympic speed,Ewan picked a souvenir stick and we were off. So in a cruel exchange 40 minutes in the car resulted in 10 minutes in the park.

But now it’s done. At 7:27pm I’m calling this day done.

The two pancakes I braved eating are congealing in my stomach, the ones Ewan refused to eat have solidified in the bin and all is calm again. The house is quiet with Ewan asleep and I am adopting a zen-like feeling and living in the present. The tantrum filled afternoon is gone  and  tomorrow is a new day with new food that isn’t pancakes.

 

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Chocolate, Orange and Polenta Gluten Free Cake

Posted on 22 October, 2014

Yesterday I made a chocolate, orange and polenta gluten free cake. It doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, does it?  The world of people who don’t eat gluten seems to be growing and growing so I’m adapting and trying to broaden my horizons. Plus cake is always, always a good idea.

I had never used Polenta before and I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. Wikipedia kindly advised me that it’s a cornmeal boiled into a porridge. That doesn’t sound like a taste explosion but it was very cheap and  with chocolate and orange how could I go too far wrong.

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I got the recipe from Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals book. I can’t find her recipe online and I don’t want to run the risk of being attacked by her publishing company so if you’re keen buy the book or there is a different, more elaborate recipe for the same kind of thing here.

Aside from just wanting cake I had a secondary motif for my baking enthusiasm.

I also wanted an excuse to play with my aperture settings on my camera. I recently read a great blog post about getting to grips with the basics of photography. I am a fan of  Capture by Lucy’s  but this post in particular got me revved up to take out my camera and explore more. And never was there a more tempting subject than chocolate cake!

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I have learnt bits and pieces from the DIY and food styling workshops but without practice or giving myself time I seem to forget it and my patience for exploring my manual setting drops.  Well after reading her post I decided it was time to go off-piste again!

 

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Last night I photographed it by the fire with side plates and it was all a bit naff. This morning I revisited it and decided on cheery cake pictures but I wasn’t too pleased with those either. (I can be quiet the Goldilocks!)  I wanted to focus on dropping the aperture numbers, getting small details and blurring the background. I also wanted to play with the darkness of chocolate  a little so I decided to go for moody cake pictures instead!

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Sometimes I genuinely get unashamedly pleased with photos and will show them to Steve in a “look what I took” kind of way. I’m not as thrilled with these but I am proud of them and delighted to have spent so long playing with my camera. I took very mediocre shots last night but instead of leaving it at that I came back to it this morning.

Along with writing more this is one of the best gifts I have given by starting the blog. I love taking photographs and taking time to do, review it, sometimes to be unhappy with them, to start again, and to make something that I’m pleased with when it’s finished. I love sitting down to write a blog post and give it enough time to revisit it before you see it. I plan that you’ll see a lot more of these slow-process type blog posts in the future.

As for the cake itself if I had written this post last night I would have said it was very gritty. I thought maybe the polenta I bought was too coarse or the orange peel was not fine enough. However today these problems seem to have fixed themselves. The texture is still a little different from a flour based cake but the grittiness of yesterday is gone ( I’ll need a baker to explain how and why that happened!). So today’s verdict is that the cake is pretty darn good. It even got a “oh this is very special” from one of it’s recipients. So I’ll take that.

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Cupcakes

Posted on 9 October, 2014

Yesterday, I decided to have a day without biscuits. It has become quiet the cheeky habit for me to eat biscuits while hiding in a corner so that Ewan won’t try to climb me to get one. Knowing that a hard core biscuit habit is probably not the best health plan I decided to tackle it. I had successfully eaten us out of good biscuits leaving only the plain digestives.  As plain digestives are essentially a waste of a potentially good chocolate biscuit I felt they would be easy to resist and so I embarked on my own day of slight deprivation.

There was a flaw in my plan. It turns out my subconscious and sweet tooth are cleverer than I am and before I knew it I was Googling “quick cupcake recipes” and checking if the flour was in date.

The sweet tooth must be satisfied!

So with a children’s recipe for cup cakes on I went.  Supplies were low and the rain was heavy so I made a few substitutions. The caster sugar was replaced with a mix of demerara and granulated sugar. Butter was scraped from the butter dish to make up the right amounts (well close enough anyway). And maple syrup stood in for vanilla essence (a substiution I would make again).

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Ewan woke up just in time to help decorate them while missing out the cooking part. He has good timing!

(You’ll notice he’s supporting a massive bruise. I have been warned by everyone that this will be the first of many and so I should get used to it! )

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I sloshed on the lemon buttercream icing while he plopped the funny wafer flowers on top. He of course taste tested each bit of icing and seemed to think all his dreams had come true to wake up to a bowl of the stuff.

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The end result is so butter laden that I imagine a biscuit is probably much better for me but somehow baking manages to make me feel wholesome. So I’ll take a good feeling over a calorie count any day.

Plus I think the fact that there are still some cupcakes left today is nothing short of a triumph for my self restraint.

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Freebies

Posted on 15 September, 2014

While we neglect our own garden we seem to be lucky enough to benefit from the bounty of other people’s gardens.  So with freebie fruit and veg I set to work making Kale crisps . ( I say Kale knowledgeably but I had thought all Kale was curly so it took a lot of Googling before I could confirm that it was actually Kale that we had been given, it turns out it comes in straight too!) The crisps  really are fool proof and basically you add a little oil and sea salt and bake.

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The result is grand but it’s not exactly a taste explosion and really can’t compare to a good pack of Salt and Vinegar Taytos!!

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Next up were the large bag of apples that Ewan helped steal from his grandparents in the early hours of the morning last weekend.

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We have so many that we’ve decided that cider is the long term goal but in the short term I made some Spiced Apple Butter. Using Lilly Higgins guidance  it turned out yum, yum, good.

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It’s rare I make things I’m pleased with but this is one of them.  After Sunday morning was spent stirring we now have a stock pile of the Spiced Apple butter that will make some nice presents for that time of year that nobody is allowed talk about yet.

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After that kitchen marathon I’m planning to avoid that room entirely for the rest of the week (well, except to get things that I can spread Apple butter over).