Afternoon Tea

The other day, I was delighted to have afternoon tea with a friend who lives gluten-free. Most days I just have a cup of tea as “pick-me-up”  when I get home from work, before preparing supper. It is so nice to have a reason to make it more special. In the morning I baked a loaf of “tea bread” – Irish Soda Bread and cooked up a small batch of lemon curd to spread on the bread. It was a good way to use up a couple of lemons that had seen better days.

My favourite Irish Soda Bread Recipe:

3 3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour*

2 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 cup Thompson raisins

1/4 cup white sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (roughly)

1 1/3 cup milk that has been soured with 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Simmer for 5 minutes then drain and let cool somewhat.

In a large bowl, stir the dry ingredients together until well combined. Add the butter pieces and blend into the flour mixture with your fingers until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Mix in the drained raisins. Add the milk and stir in with a fork to form a slightly sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and shape into a mound. With a sharp knife, cut a cross into the top of the dough about 1/2 inch deep. Brush the loaf top with milk and bake for 50 – 60 minutes. The loaf crust should be golden and firm. Remove the loaf from the oven to a cooling rack for the first ten minutes. Then take the loaf off the baking sheet and let it cool completely on the wire rack.


To my vegetarian friends: I suppose you could try this recipe  with coconut oil, but I don’t know what you could use in place of the milk.

*Gluten -free all-purpose flour used in this recipe: 2 cups brown rice flour, 1 cup millet flour, 1 cup sorghum flour, 1 1/3 cup tapioca starch, 1 1/3 cup potato starch mixed together. This makes more than is needed for this recipe.

Part 2 of afternoon tea to come…


Cooking Comfort

Home cooked soups and stews are the ultimate comfort food especially when the weather outside is cool and damp. I particularly like making soup because  it allows me to be creative with whatever ingredients are on hand. Yesterday I needed to empty the fridge of leftovers, so out came my favourite crock pot. I love this crock pot because of its shape (tall and thin) and it doesn’t overheat or overcook food, and it was a gift from a very special person.

After doing the breakfast dishes, I put the following leftovers into the crock pot :

1 cup steamed cauliflower florets

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 carrot chopped

1 leek chopped

1 handful of chopped spinach

1/2 pint stewed tomatoes

1/2 a  yellow onion, peeled and chopped

1 not-quite-full quart of chicken stock

To this I added 1 quart of water, and 3 small russet potatoes cubed.

I turned the crock pot on high for the first hour, then let it cook the rest of the day on low.


About 1 hour before supper, I added 1 leftover chicken-turkey sausage, sliced. I tasted the soup at this point and decided it needed a dash of Kosher salt. Perfect!


What a comforting meal to end a busy, blustery day. Nutritious and delicious.

This made about 2 quarts of soup, enough for two generous servings (and more leftovers).

Note: For vegetarians: use vegetable stock, omit the sausage.


Where has THIS been all my life?

When I was a child, I spent quite a bit of time at the home of one of my closest friends. Taking up a fair lot of floor space in their kitchen, stood a foreign-to-me contraption. Curiosity of course got the better of me, so I had to ask what it was. My friend informed me that it was a “mangler”* and its purpose was to iron table cloths, sheets, towels etc. She removed the cover to show me the machine. Wow! It looked like the wringer on my mother’s washing machine, but on steroids! Actually the rollers were encased in cloth unlike the rubber wringer rollers.

Apparently machines similar to this are still available under the name “mangle” and “rotary irons”.

Having suffered the chore of ironing my entire life using a hand held iron, I have often skipped the chore entirely. Really, who has the time? But I certainly don’t want to give up the floor space that a mangle needs. Then, quite accidentally while googling a place to repair my sewing machine (which is another story) I discovered that a solution exists: a steam press. While it doesn’t work quite the same as a rotary iron, it accomplishes the job of pressing in half the time and doesn’t take up much real estate.

A search on You Tube and then on Amazon led me to the “Magic Steam Press” by Singer. It arrived on my doorstep two days later. (Free shipping with Amazon Prime).


I am in love with this. Being a sewer , the steam press is particularly useful. I can now quickly and efficiently press wrinkly pre-washed fabric.

For our Christmas dinner table, pressing the linen table cloth and napkins was so much fun!

Tip: My mother-in-law told me to dampen linen, put it in a plastic bag, and then chill in the fridge for 10 – 15 minutes before ironing. It really makes it easier to get the wrinkles out.

Now, what needs pressing?

*Further note: Until I googled looking for a royalty-free image to use in this entry, I really thought the machine in question was  called a “mangler”. Well, that just shows that you can learn something new everyday.

Happy New Year-2017

“What will this year bring? I wonder…”

New Year’s Day in our house marked the end of another Christmas season. Much of the day was spent packing away the decorations, lights, garlands, linens and dinnerware. totes-1As these tasks were dealt with, we took time to reflect on the highlights and lowlights of the past year. Using  a large white cardboard and markers, we drew up  a 2016 balloon chart with various categories as a challenge to our memories.  This chart was placed on the dining room table and added to as memories came flooding back.  It’s a fun activity that brought with it moments of sadness as we recalled those who are no longer with us; lots of joy as we recalled funny things, friend and family events, and travels. The categories of weather and current events had an extraordinarily large number of memories!

Now that Christmas has been packed away, both of us are preparing to indulge in “binge reading”.


book_stack-1                              Hubby’s stack of books to read is 2 feet (60cm) tall!

I have been saving Patrick Taylor’s latest book “An Irish Country Love Story” just for this time when I can savour every word. If you are not familiar with the Irish Country Novel Series, I highly recommend it for a joyous escape. It is also a good teaser for my upcoming trip to Ireland!