Monday, October 30, 2017

Birthday party fun! -Crepe participation party!

There is nothing more joyous than teaching cooking skills to children, they are so open to learning, experimenting with food, and with tons of positive energy to boot! That was the scene that we cast last weekend at a wonderful birthday party where I taught a group of 7 girls the fundamentals of making and creating savory and sweet crepe recipes.

Prior to the event, the host and I and the birthday girl choose the following delicious combinations to create:
Smoked salmon and dill
Thin slices of cooked gourmet ham and Gruyere/Swiss cheese.
Sundried tomatoes, cheese and herbs
Strawberry and blueberry crepes with raspberry sauce
Chocolate and hazelnut praline crepes
Lemon curd and kiwi fruit crepes
As with all events, the key to success is preparation and a clear plan of execution. Whilst it was the first time that I had done a crepe participation party with this age group ( 9-10 year olds), it worked out perfectly and the group stayed pretty attentive and focused throughout the entire event. I spoke in French and played French music in the background to bring an authentic feel to the theme and the kids loved it. Many of them had studied French or Spanish in school and very quickly picked up some key words and understood a lot! The key to successful learning of a new language is immersion!
Image result for crepe participation party

After dividing the kids into two "teams" sweet and savory, we began by prepping all of the fillings, which involved peeling and slicing kiwi fruit, cheese and ham and then we did the fun work of preparing the sweet and savory crepe batter...

 If you would like to host a birthday party for your son and daughter and ensure a fun, engaging and educational event, please email for availability and pricing! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A day in the life of a personal chef....

5.00 AM.... alarm wake up and a desire to hit the snooze button but an intense one hour workout of kickboxing gets me very very awake and ready for my day ahead... my Monday client is one of my favorite as they eat so so HEALTHY and it always feels so good to produce such nourishing creative takes on dishes that are all vegetarian.  I always said I learn the most from my clients as it is truly the case with this one  as I am now very familiar with aspect of a  rotational diet and gluten free cuisine. I love meeting people that truly raise the bar of standard in every aspect of my life and the energy of being surrounded in your work in a peaceful home, organized pantry and kitchen, no junk food anywhere is so powerful and motivational!  Since pictures speak louder than words, I have create a small collage of my work yesterday where I produced gluten free sweet potato and applesauce muffins, vegetarian fahijtas with pomegranate and mint studded guacamole, 3 bean carrots and dandelion green soup ( super good for the liver)potato, chickpea and cabbage stew with celery seed, from scratch vegetarian thai curry with broccoli, and lentil spinach "hamburger" helper.
As we all know a woman's work is never done so once I am finished at the client ( typically 4-5 hours later) I come home and think about our own family evening meal.... and usually I find myself making something I was inspired by during my work morning, in this case the 3 bean soup, the guacamole and a desert of local melons with a glass of fine white wine..
A good personal chef service requires extreme attention to detail, excellent culinary skills and of course good communication skills for correspondence with the client. In most cases, the menu is decided the week before and a complete list of every ingredient ( including salt and pepper) is sent to the client for approval before I shop for the ingredient items. The food is all cooked in a very special type of cookware called Ceramcor that is just amazing and which I have also converted to using for my own family home cooking. To find out if a personal chef service might work for you, I would be happy to talk or email with you!

Thai green curry

Carrot and leeks "sweating" out their flavor for the 3 bean soup

Fresh Dandelion greens added in to the soup

Chickpea, cabbage and potato stew with celery seed

Gluten free sweet potato muffins

Pomegranate mint guacamole

Organic tricolor of peppers for the fahijtas

My  work here  is complete!                                                                                                                             

My own family evening meal inspired by my client work

Monday, February 11, 2013

Italian cultural evening!

How do you bring a culture to life in your lives when you live thousands of mine away from that culture?  Host an Italian themed evening of music, poetry and of course food from the culture! That' just what I did this past weekend.... menu was pretty special with a variety of cuisine from different regions... Ferrara, Liguria, Emilia-Romanga, followed by a splendid slide show from the Ligurian region and some inspirational poetry by Montale. Five hours goes by very quickly when the body, mind and soul is engaged with such sustenance....
So to the menu... Asparagus wrapped with prosciutto and baked in the oven, Fava-Bean Crostini, winter salad of escarole with oranges, olives, and pecorino, pasta with pesto from the Genoa region, a delightfully delicious cappellaci di zucca from Ferrara ( stuffed home made pasta with butternut squash, Parmesan, ricotta, armaretto and ground hazelnuts, served with a brown butter and sage sauce, followed by a delightful "torta al vino rosso" red wine chocolate cake with whipped cream and macerated raspberries and a variety of gelato!
If you would like to host such an evening in your home with a food theme from Italy, France, Germany or Ireland, please contact me!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yule Log!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mixed Brushetta plate

From left - Gorgonzola and poached pear, tomato, roasted red pepper and olive tapenade....

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


lecker.. delicious, decedent... recipe to come

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Birthday cake!

Healthy cake with edible flower decorations, simple is always classic!
 Here is the recipe

1 stick of organic grass fed butter
i cup of raw local honey
2 cups of chunky organic applesauce - I made my own from some local apples
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups unbleached pastry flour- you could also use 50% wholewheat, 50% pastry but the texture will be more dense
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
optional extras include organic raisins, you could add nuts ect

Butter and flour a 10 inch  bundt pan - you can also bake this is a round or square tin but I think the bundt pan makes it look more festive and beautiful!
Cream together butter and honey
Stin in applesauce and vanilla mixing well
Sift flour, spices, and baking soda over the applesauce mixture. Stir well
Pour batter into pan and set on middle rack of the oven. Bake for 70 to 75 minutes or until the cake tester comes out clean
Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Turn onto a rack to cool.

Decorate with edible flowers such as nasturtiums, borage, calendula, apples and I put a festive vase of flowers in the center of the cake.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A quick birthday message to my neighbor who did not want his age on the plate!  Edible flowers from the garden and a quick butter cream icing made these little cakes a delight for the eyes and the senses!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Are there "GAPS' in your family diet?

Until I left home for college, the "Nourishing Traditions" approach to eating was all I knew even if I didn't even know there was a formal name for it at the time...  After all I was brought up by a very wise mother in rural Ireland who fed us primarily  raw eggs, raw milk, cod liver oil, liver and bone broths along with the best and seasonal produce and meat all produced on our small self sufficient farm.... Fast forward 20 years and having lived in many different countries and even continents and my diet had migrated towards something very different that didn't resemble the "wise " diet of my formative years.... think croissants, coffee, lean meats, still a lot of home cooking but somehow the important basis of a nourishing diet had been lost as did some of my vitality, clarity and health. In 2006 before I became pregnant with my son, I discovered the book that changed a lot of things for me and give me some " aha" moments, even then I was still struggling with all of the different diets and their approaches out there, raw, vegan, vegetarian, you name it, I read about it, tried it, developed amazing recipes for them but somehow I kept coming back to the realization that cooking the traditional way is the best, be it French, Irish, Italian or any other cuisine...

 I also was lucky to attend a conference in which Dr. Natasha McBride, author of the amazing "The Gut and Psychology Syndrome" was the keynote speaker and met an amazing women in the Ann Arbor community who had successfully implemented the "GAPS" diet to help her son overcome some health challenges. She made me aware of how challenging it can be to do this alone, without support and without general societal understanding and comprehension of this approach to eating.

 In 2011, my own family was confronted with a major health crisis in which I had to overhaul every facet of our diet, and the regiment of the implementation of the GAPS and Nourishing Traditions dietary principles became a cornerstone of our life. Happily, the crisis has subsided and the whole family feel and look healthier. I came in contact with many other people who started to make the connection between their gut health and their overall well being ( or illness) and who experienced amazing positive changes in their health status through adopting this dietary approach.

As a result of both my background and experience, I have decided to focus more of my business efforts in helping families and individuals reclaim their health through application of the principles of the "Nourishing Traditions" and or full or partial GAPS diet depending on the circumstances. The support I offer could be simply helping a family become organized in their kitchen to implement the diet, or could be more hands on though preparing the staples of the diet ( bone broths, fermented staples, condiments)  and or designing and cooking weekly, bi weekly or monthly menus that are compliant to the diet, yet innovative and seasonal.

I  plan to work in consultation with local physicians, specialists or naturopath's that are resident in the Ann Arbor area that would recommend a " GAPS" approach to a specific health concern and I am  especially interested in working with families with young children.

Contact Rita @ 734 395 2514 for further details.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Private dinner with cooking class....

Would you like to enjoy a wonderful meal in a lovely charming home or in your home and learn some cooking skills at the same time? Read some of the reviews of some of my recent clients on their experience and why they liked this so much....

"My boyfriend gave me in an in-home cooking lesson with Rita for Christmas, and it was a fantastic experience! I am a beginner in the cooking arena, and she took the time to demonstrate basic cooking skills with explanations that were easy to replicate. My boyfriend is a more experienced cook, and she was also able to show him new skills that he has found to be very useful. Rita is an excellent teacher and was very patient!

She planned a wonderful menu which accommodated my dietary restrictions, and considered some of our favorite foods, showing us new ways to incorporate them into dishes. She also provided some of the appliances that I did not have in my kitchen, which was a great help! We recently re-made the meal from the lesson, and it turned out really well! Although we didn't need to, I know Rita would have been eager to answer any questions we may have had.

Rita also shared stories of her travel, family, and how she got started in the culinary field. Getting to know her was such a pleasure! I highly recommend this experience, it was such a great gift! " Krysta, Plymouth, Jan 2012

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Calendula healing salve

Edible and medicinal flowers are ideal for creating healing salves, my favorite one is calendula, camomile, and lavender flower in a base of extra virgin olive oil and beeswax from my bees....
Method - collect about 3 cups of calendula blossoms and some lavender and camomile flowers, steep in 2 cups of extra virgin olive oil for about 1 hour which has been warmed ( don't boil). Strain out solids through a sieve and then return oil to saucepan. Add in about 30 grams of beeswax and melt over low heat. Pour in liquid into containers ( dark glass is ideal) and store out of sunlight. This salve should keep up to one year. Ideal for wounds of any kind! Just apply generously over the affected area and let its healing magic do it work!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Honey honey honey....

In my last post, I showed a picture of my first hive that has just swarmed. To make a long story short, that swarm took off over I-94 and we were not able to capture it. We then split the hive and put in some new queen cells to hatch out ( the existing queen cup cells were taken out as we wanted to change the DNA and temperament of the hive) and when we checked last weekend the new queens were laying eggs! Lots of new babies and activity in both hives!
Yesterday we did out first extraction and it was a wonderful occasion for all of us as my nearly 4 year old got to wear his new bee suit and work with the extractor machine! I have been a strong believer in raising our bees using no chemical and applying biodynamic principles of beekeeping!
For those of you interested in finding out more about the story of "real" honey and what is available in the grocery stores, please clink on the following link, it is a real eyeopener!

Now that you have some local honey, here is a fast and delicious appetizer for you to try
Cut up some sourdough or french baguette, rub both side with garlic, and then toast lightly. Once toasted and cooled, cut some slices of goats cheese and place on the toasts, then lightly pour over some honey and some lavender blossoms, place under boiler for about 1 minutes, then serve on a bed of greens for an easy salad or by themselves as a light appetizer

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The nature of bees.... swarming

Picture taken after my hive swarmed and landed up 40 feet in a tree close to the original hive, they are now at their most docile as they have neither a home or a food supply to protect. We have set up a trap hive underneath the tree where we hope they will migrate to soon before they take off somewhere we cannot locate them. Swarming is a natural healthy process of a vibrant hive, all the signs were there that is would happen and this morning it did.....

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Spring rhubarb tarts!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Classic winter comfort food

Potato thyme and chorizo tart... warm and comforting on a cold winters day!
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Is it time to become a "goddess" or "god" in the kitchen or even just learn to add some stellar, classic dishes to your repetoire?

I admit I love cooking so much but I also love even more to teach people how to cook so they become independent in their skills and can prepare a lot of tasty, healthy dishes for themselves. So many of my clients have beautiful homes that are just waiting to be filled with the humming and activity of a dinner party for friends or clients, typically most of my clients might choose to cater larger events but for smaller parties it is often much more intimate to have an interactive cooking experience in your home.
Since reviews of clients are the best source of accurate rating of a service, I thought I would post these on my website and blog so you can get an idea of what to expect in a private or group cooking class from The Sage Dish
Thai Cooking Class
"I took part in a Thai Cooking Class with Chef Rita Conroy-Martin, and had a really lovely and informative afternoon. We learned how to make four dishes and ate at the Chefs home where she had laid out a lovely table with a Thai theme. Rita was patient and gave lots of tips during the preparation and cooking, I felt I could really master the dishes at home at the end. Rita made the whole experience an enjoyable one, even though the class was supposed to last 2 1/2 hours, we over ran to 3 1/2 hours and Chef Rita did not mind one bit, her passion for food and teaching shines."
Helen, Ann Arbor, June 2011

Cooking Class in Ann Arbor
"I bought this cooking class as a birthday gift for my wife. My intention wasn't to tell her that she needs cooking lessons because she is already quite good in the kitchen. I wanted this to be an enjoyable experience for both of us. The chef (Rita) contacted me about a week before the class via email. She wanted to know what kind of cuisine I was interested in learning and also needed a few other details. I told her what I wanted and she promptly replied with a proposal of a three course meal based on my input. I thought that she did a good job of selecting the proper dishes considering we only had 2.5 hours to prepare the food and eat. Chef Rita was well spoken, very polite and professional. We went to her home and used her kitchen for this class. Normally she uses local commercial kitchens but due to the date I picked for my class, there were none available. She had us do most of the hands-on work and gave good instructions and advise along the way. Our meals came out great and we had fun cooking it. I wanted the experience to be casual and fun and it turned out to be just that. Overall my wife and I were very pleased with the service that Chef Rita provided."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Saving the fruits of your labor

Friday, September 3, 2010

The easiest raspberry tart

I had the good fortune to meet a wonderful person Barbara, who comes from Italy, through my studies last year and we both love to cook and share gardening and recipe ideas so this simple but very classic tart comes from her repetoire.... It is easy
To make the dough for 2 tarts - simply add 2 sticks of butter (cubed) to 2 cups of flour and a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt and bring to a crumble in the mixer, then add some cream ( liquid whipping cream) to bring the dough together, then remove from mixer, cut in half and flatten, wrap with some plastic and place in refrigerator for min an hour or up to two days.
Preheat oven to 350F and roll out dough and place in a buttered and floured dish. Then press in the raspberries into the dough, sprinkle over some sugar, some maple syrup and a dash of lemon juice. Then fold over the extra dough for the "rustic" look and paint on some egg wash... voila, place in the oven for 1 hour, I start by putting it in the bottom tray of the oven for 30 minutes, then at that point change it to the top tray. Remove and let cool for 15 minutes and then serve... perfect by itself or even more delicious with some whipped cream or ice cream! Variations that have worked are putting some thinly sliced apples on the base and topping them with blueberries or a combo of blueberries. raspberries and blackberries. I have to say though the crisp simplicity of the tartness of the raspberries with a little sweetener is a real winner, try it and wow your guests at your next soiree....

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Edible Flowers....

Today I decided to make cupcakes.... it has been at the back of my mind to make some for many many months and since a neighbor has a birthday we need to celebrate I though it would be fun to make some and decorate them with some edible flowers from my garden. I was always interested in edible flowers and on our farm in Ireland I would eat wild primrose and violets under the hedgerows of our boreen that went go through the fields...This year I sowed a ton of nasturtiums, and have borage and calendula scattered throughout my garden, these serve the purpose of both pest control, added interest of color in vegetable beds and of course as edible treats for salads, entrees and deserts

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crazy for Pesto

I always love to make pesto this time of year when the basil is so prolific you just have to do something before it reaches it tipping point and start to go bitter.. usually just about when the flowers buds appear on the plants. As I have stated in some of my previous posts, I am so fortunate to have an amazing neighbour Anton, who I and all of my friends refer to as the "Renaissance Man" he is such a person as he has so much knowledge in so many fields and is an amazing gardener. He is of of course much more organized than I am and has already harvested his first and second crop of basil and made amazing pesto, and he offered me the third cutting today and even sprayed it off last night so there would be no grit on it and make an easy job for me to prepare.. now that is helpful!

Since pine nuts are so expensive, I decided to make the pesto with walnuts ( Anton advised me to soak them overnight and then dehydrate them to near crispness to give a "clean" taste) and it worked out perfectly. Since I plan to use the pesto over the course of the coming months and year, I decided to freeze the pesto in zip lock bags which claim little storage space in the freezer and which are a breeze to use as you can just cut off the portion of the log of pesto that you want for the waiting culinary creation.
There are of course so many recipes out for pesto but I used a ratio of 2 cups basil to 1/2 olive oil to 1/2 cups nuts, a pinch of salt, a clove or two of garlic and processed it in my food processor. I did not add cheese as this doesn't freeze as well. Bon Courage with your pesto making efforts!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rhubarb.. oh rhubarb

As a young child growing up in a rural part of Ireland, I was fascinated by the huge rhubarb plants that grew in our garden that we revered by my mother so when I grew up I decided to grow it in my own garden and enjoy the fruit of my labor to the fullest every spring time. Of course the usual suspects of classic Irish style rhubarb tarts are always a favorite of mine but a recipe the the May edition of 'Living" by Martha Stewart caught my eye as I was browsing in a store, I though no more of it as I didn't want to buy the magazine but a few weeks later a friend of mine gave it to me and it was a sign I needed to make the delicious looking Rhubarb Upside Down Cake!

First to harvest, with the help of my little son, we went out and grabbed a few stalks from one of the plants and two stalks was all that was required as they weighted a pound! One thing I warn all children who come and play is that the leaves of the plant are poisonous but I have yet to find a child that was compelled to eat the greens....

Here is the link to the recipe...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

To bee or not to bee....a labor of love

Today saw the passing of a new milestone in my life, our bee hives are assembled and we picked up and installed our nucleus of bees! It was quite the relief after months of planning, field trips to beekeeper supply companies, bee seminars ect. Beekeeping will not be a big money spinner but will provide me with a biodynamic source of honey I can trust for sale to my customers through the farmers market in the fall of 2011. I am so excited to spend time learning more about the art of beekeeping, to spend time listening to their amazing humming and to get inspiration from the bees to be as active and devoted to their work as I want to be to mine.... Of course we also look forward to making wax candles, and maybe to some honey next year if we are lucky! To celebrate our 'bee" adventure I decided to create a warm goats cheese salad with honey and lavender for one of my friends

Recipe - Warm goats cheese salad with honey and lavender
Slices of french baguette rubbed with garlic and toasted lightly
Dried Lavender flowers

Method: Place the toasted baguette in an ovenproof dish and place disks of goats cheese on top, add some honey and the lavender flowers, place under the broiler until the goats cheese is warm and serve over greens! Simple, classic and so delicious!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cafe SELMA Irish Themed Breakfast

Cafe SELMA is an iconic place in the times we live in..... it's an amazing volunteer-run community breakfast made from entirely locally-sourced goods held in the beautiful home of Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe...... I found out about it by word of mouth, in this case, the mouth of my good neighbor Anton and I was eager to find out more and experience it for myself! I was a regular visitor in the summer of 2009 and was eager to volunteer to cook an Irish themed breakfast around St. Patrick's Day... sure enough as the date loomed closer I found myself juggling baking lots of buttermilk scones and soda bread, but only with the best local and home made ingredients of buttermilk, butter ( all made by Jeff McCabe) and wonderful Michigan flour.... these ingredients really made an outstanding difference in taste from regular store bought ingredients and the end result was truly authentic and delicious. In addition, Anton and I prepared Irish potato cakes served with Hoop House greens and rashers plus authentic "porridge" made Irish style and served with home made creme fraiche.
See review here
Apart from the wonderful food, one encounters really interesting and community minded people at Cafe Selma and the volunteers are a blast to work with. All of the proceeds go towards micro lending to local farmers who wish to commence operations or even expand to having a hoop house to enable year round food production. It was a real pleasure to work with someone like Kate Long who is starting up her own farm operations this year and I was so inspired by her work ethic and attitude at the Cafe that I wanted to volunteer at her farm as she gets it set up.

Sure enough the call came to do so a few weeks ago and I introduced my son to the world of community spirit and volunteerism, see picture below of him shovelling compost that would be the foundation of the outdoor vegetable beds. Kate and others like her are the cornerstone of the future of sustainable agriculture in Michigan, armed with academic and practical knowledge through the Michigan State Organic Farming Program, they are sure to succeed!

For more information on Cafe Selma visit
The experience at Cafe Selma inspires me to strive to have a community breakfast or dinner in our own neighborhood!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Three Kings Day Cake- Galette des Rois

Christmas Time was finally rolling to an end and I decided to celebrate January 6th in a typical French fashion by creating a Galette des Rois inspired by a visit to Paris in 2002 that left a wonderful impression on me. Why it took me 8 years to recreate this amazing creation is beyond me! Perhaps having a young impressionable 2 year old that I am trying to create traditions for is part of it, or perhaps it is just old fashioned decadence or slavery to my dormant sweet tooth!

In any case, having the recipe book ' Paris Treats" by Doris Greenspan definately helped as there within is the following wonderful recipe.... which is make by combining almond cream and vanilla pastry cream together, and baking them in a puff pastry.. yum yum

Pastry Cream is a classic ingredient one must learn to make if you want to recreate all of those yummy French tarts and it is pretty easy...
Ingredients: 2 cups of whole milk and add to this a teaspoon of vanilla essence or a vanilla pod
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (125 grams) sugar
1/3 cup (45 grams) organic cornstarch shifted
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature

  1. Bring the milk and the vanilla bean to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan, turn off the heat and allow the milk to infuse for at least 10 minutes or up to one hour. ( if neccessary, you can reheat the milk before proceeding)
  2. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and set aside a smaller bowl that can hold the finished cream and be placed in this ice bath.
  3. Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan. Whisking constantly, drizzle one quarter of the hot milk over the yolks. When the yolks are warm, whisk the remainder of the milk into the yolks in a steady stream, remove and disgard the vanilla pod (if you used this)
  4. Put the pan over medium heat and whisking vigorously, bring the mixture to the boil. Keep at the boil, still whisking all the time, for one to two minutes, then pull the pan from the heat and put the cream into the smaller bowl. Then place this bowl in the ice bath (you can add cold water to the ice now)and stirring frequently, cool the cream to 140F
  5. Remove the cream from the ice water bath and whisk in the butter. Return the cream to the ice water bath and keep it there until it is thoroughly chilled.

Almond Cream- Ingredients:6 tablespoons unsalted butter,3/4 cup confectioners sugar. 3/4 cup blanched ground almonds. 2 teaspoons all purpose flour, 4 teaspoon organic cornstarch, 1 large egg at room temperature.

Method: To make the almond cream in a food processor, fit the processor with the metal blade, add the butter and confectioners sugar and process until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Add the ground almonds and contunue to process until well blended. Add the flour and cornstarch and process. then add the egg. Process for about 15 seconds more or until the cream is homogenous.

I didn't have blanched almonds on hand so I blanched them myself by bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add the almonds to it for 1 minute, then draining and cooling them under cold water and then rubbing their skins off which were loosened by the hot water. I then "dried" them off with a towel and then ground them in the processor. Other option is to use the raw almonds with their skins and grind them skins and all in the processor, the author of the book where I got this recipe has done that and no one has complained!

Putting it all together is easy:

Ingredients,14 ounces puff pastry- Pepperridge Farms is $4.50 per packet, Dufour is more expensive at $14.00 or Trader Joes used to carry an all butter puff pastry that was very economical but I am not sure they carry it anymore...3/4 cup almond cream, 1/4 cup vanilla pastry cream, 1 tablespoon dark rum, I large egg, trinket

Whisk the two creams together and add a tablespoon of rum. Then roll out your puff pastry base for the bottom of the tart, typically the cake should be a circle but I decided to make mine a square shape as is was easier for me using some egg wash, paint a border around the edge of the pastry. Then spoon the cream onto the base and spread it smoothly over the pastry, stopping when your reach the egg painted border. You can then place a trinket or a bean anywhere on top of the cream and press it in gently. Cover the cream coated base with top portion of puff pastry , pressing it firmly around the borderto glue the two pieces together. You can then press the edges together with the tines of a fork to both decorate and seal them.

Brush the entire galette with with beaten egg. Cut a small circle of dough, a steam vent out of the center of the galette, slide the galette into the refrigerator, and chill it for 30 minutes.

Center a rack in the oven and follow the heating intruction for the puff pastry as per the package

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pasta pasta....

SOPHIA LOREN has revealed the secret behind her enduring beauty: spaghetti and olive oil baths. The 71-year-old actress was recently voted the most naturally beautiful person in the world, beating stunning stars less than half her age. She credits her love of life and spaghetti and "the odd bath in virgin olive oil". Now I didn't need that reason to propose a pasta making party for my moms group but it certainly helps validate our reason that eating pasta is definitely a good thing and especially when it is made from scratch...

Five eager friends and their toddler children turned up at my home where the pasta making fest went into full force by making home made ravioli with two different fillings, one with butternut squash, ricotta, nutmeg and goats cheese, the other with spinach and goats cheese and Parmesan. We based our pasta recipe on the simple everyday pasta presented in Jamie Oliver's book " The Naked Chef" which is just 5 eggs and 1 lb of tipo 00 flour ( if you can't find that, you can use bread flour). Combine these two ingredients in a food processor or Kitchen Aid and once they come together, take it out and work it on a surface strewn with some flour until you dough is shiny and elastic. Let it then rest in the fridge covered for one hour. Each participant was instructed on how to make the dough and made a batch for themselves so they could easily replicate this process at home. I was truly impressed with the kneading skills of some of the moms, it was clear they were bread making experts!

The fillings were also so simple to make, I made up my own recipe which goes something like this for the butternut squash filling - one roasted and cooled flesh of one butternut squash, 1.5 tubs of full fat ricotta cheese, nutmeg to taste, salt, pepper, 2 ounces goats cheese, 2 ounces of shredded Parmesan cheese, just mix it all together until it blends into a delicious mouth watering homogeneous mix!

The spinach and goats cheese filling was also very simple, take a large organic box of spinach, saute in a small amount of olive oil in a big pot and then once it is cooked down and cooled, you can push the liquid out of it, chop it finely, add it to 6 ounces of goats cheese, some grated Parmesan, and season to taste.

Then the real fun began, we worked in groups of two and using our hand crank pasta machine, we rolled out long length of pasta, then quickly moved these rolled out sheets to another assembly line of ravioli fillers and assemblers. It was amazing to watch how engaged our children were with the process and how much they wanted to observe and check in to see what was happening. We finally took a well deserved break with a lunch of our hard earned labor of pasta making which I made by cooking some of the ravioli in a pot of salted boiling water for about 6 minutes, draining them and then returning them to the pot and added 400 ml of whipping cream ( you could also use creme fraiche) about 1/2 glass of white wine, some grated Parmesan, some of the leftover sauteed spinach and let them all come together in a delicious marriage of amazing flavours, note this dish is not for those following a low fat diet....

Silence then descended on the dining room as mothers and children experienced the pasta, as you may know to have silence with five toddler in one room is no mean feat so we took that as a sign that our quest to create delectable pasta had been achieved on this wintry Midwestern morning!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Birthday cake!

Well birthday time rolled around again for my husband R and I finally gave in to his wish for a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, apparently his dream cake that brings back good memories from his childhood. I have been browsing a book from my collection for some time called 'Sky High" by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne and found a vanilla buttermilk cake with instant fudge frosting that sounded close enough to what my husband was looking for. I had a few challenges yesterday like a basement that flooded, and my nearly two year old driving me crazy that could have twarted my efforts to make this cake but I prevailed...this cake is super simple and I made just a few changes


4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
3 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat the oven at 350F. Butter the bottom and sides of three 8 inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper. Note: I didn't have three round tins, so I baked the entire mixture in a square 10 inch cake tin and it turned out fine...
Put the eggs and yolk in a mixing bo
wl , add the vanilla and 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, Whisk to blend well.
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, add the butter and the remaining one cup of buttermilk and blend together on low speed. Then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add the egg mixture in three additions, and mix until all incorporated together. Divide the batter amongst three pans if you have them or in my case in the square pan.
Bake for circa 30 minutes until the a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the side of the tin. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble the cake, once it was cool, I cut it in two and filled the center with chocolate frosting ( recipe to follow) and fresh raspberries, then out the frosting on the top and sides.
Instant fudge frosting - makes circa 5 cups
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
6 tablespoons heaving whipping cream or half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Method: Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to incorporate. Then process until frosting is smooth

Whilst on the subject of birthday cakes, I am starting to think about my sons 2nd birthday which is coming up in September. Last year I did a train theme cake that was really fun to do and although it was a last minute effort in making it, I was really happy with the creativity I found somewhere in my brain to pull it off....I hope I can be as creative this year....