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Irish Whiskey and Ginger Cake

Irish Whiskey and Ginger Cake

 I had my DNA done several summers ago and when I got the results, I was surprised and very pleased to discover that I was 27% Irish. It brought a whole new meaning to Saint Patrick's Day because now I could actually participate in the wearing of the green with pride in my ancestry and where my roots came from.   Happy Saint Patrick's Day and what better way to celebrate than with a delicious cake!  And not just any cake, but an Irish Whiskey and Ginger Cake!

This is a dense and moist cake that is really filled with lots of ginger flavours!  Almost like a ginger pound cake, it goes really well with any hot cuppa.  You get a real ginger whammy from the abundant use of ground ginger along with crystallized ginger. I love ginger of any kind, but I adore crystallized ginger! 

Crystallized ginger is sometimes known as candied ginger or ginger chews. With its soft, toothsome texture and sweet, spicy taste, crystallized ginger can be added to cookies and cakes, as well as eaten on its own. You can buy crystallized ginger in some grocery stores, and health food stores and Asian grocers often carry it. Chewing on a piece of it when you have an upset tummy or are suffering from motion sickness is usually a huge help.  I always have a large container of it in my cupboard. It is rather high in sugar however, so don't overdo it! 

It really shines in this beautiful cake however . . . moist, dense and buttery, and studded throughout with golden jewels of the crystallized ginger.

Most of the ginger gets soaked in some warm Irish whiskey for a time before you fold it into the cake.  Its a very pleasant addition, however if you didn't want to do that, you could just marinate it in some flat gingerale. This ginger gets folded into the cake batter.

The rest gets scattered across the top of the cake prior to baking, like little gold glistening stones.  It doesn't sink down too far, thankfully . . .

It just sits there on top, like shiny gold pebbles in a brook.  This cake is beautiful with hot drinks. I can imagine it would go down really well after a meal with an Irish Coffee, cut into thin slivers.  Oh, I am thinking a nice sliver of Cashel Blue would be really nice served with this.  I will have to bake another one now, just so I can see.  The thought of that combination has my tastebuds tingling!

*Irish Whiskey & Ginger Cake*
Serves 8 to 10
This is about to become your favourite teatime cake.  It is fantastic, with a warm golden colour and a pleasant sweet spicy flavour. 

250g crystallized ginger, diced (approximately 2 cups)
3 TBS Irish whiskey
150g butter (2/3 cup)
100g caster sugar (1/2 cup)
3 large free range eggs
70g ground almonds (1/2 cup)
2 TBS ground ginger
150g plain flour (1 cup plus 1 1/2 TBS)
50g self raising flour (1/3 cup)

Place the 3/4 of the crystallized ginger into a bowl. Reserve the remainder for later. Warm the whiskey and pour over top of the ginger in the bowl. Let sit for fifteen minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 150*C/300*F/ gas mark 2. Butter and line a 7 inch round baking tin with baking paper.  Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir together both flours the ground almonds and the ground ginger. Stir this ito the creamed mixture along with the soaked ginger and the juices from the soaking bowl.  Spoon into the prepared baking tin, smoothing over the top. Sprinkle the reserved ginger over top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 80 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  This cake keeps well for 7 to 10 days in a tightly covered container.

This is a farmhouse type of cake . . .  the kind of cake that keeps well in the larder and the kind of cake you will find yourself thinking about in the middle of the night.  Perfect for elevensies, coffee break, tea time . . .  well anytime, but especially nice on this special day when we celebrate everything Irish!   

May the road rise to meet you,
may the wind be ever at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! 

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Marie Rayner
Mom's Tuna Casserole

Mom's Tuna Casserole

 I was feeling very nostalgic today, thinking back on the days when I was raising five children. Some days I didn't know whether I was coming or going. It was a very busy hectic time. It seemed like I had a bottomless basket of laundry to wash, fold, dry and put away. I never seemed to be able to keep ahead of it. Then there was the house work, making beds, hoovering, dusting, etc. and of course cooking.  I did not mind the cooking part.  In all truth I didn't mind any of it.  Being a mom and housewife was all I had ever aspired to and I was living my dream.

With five children, three of them boys, I spent a lot of time cooking. And I had to be economical with my cookery also, as there was not a lot of dosh available to be spent. Food took up a large part of our budget after the rent. Here is a funny (now) story. (It wasn't so funny back then.)

My ex-husband was a Military Police Officer, in the Canadian Military, and at one time we were stationed at the British Army Training Unit Services in Suffield, Alberta.   This was the major training area for the British Army in Canada at the time.  The Brits would be going out into the "field" on exercises all the time and when they came back in from the "field" all the unused rations would be dumped. (I know what a gross misuse of government money)  Some of the boxes would have only a few things missing and some would have not even been opened at all. There would be tins containing stewed meat, cheese, vegetables, chicken, fish, crackers, candy, chocolate, apple pie, fruit, etc.

My ex used to retrieve them from the dump and we would clean and sterilize them. We had a nice cabinet filled with them down in the cellar.  Somewhat of a surprise as well, as we never knew what was in what tin until we opened it.  It was always a bonus day when it ended up being a sweet tin! One day a friend was asking me where we did our grocery shopping and my oldest son piped up, "We get our food at the dump! (He was about 4 at the time.)  Talk about being embarassed. Kids, they'll drop you in it every time!

Anyways, I digress.  This tuna casserole was a real favourite that I used to make back in the day, and that my children loved. It uses things I always had in my cupboard, and that were affordable,  boxed macaroni and cheese dinner, tuna, tinned soup and tinned tomatoes.  OH, and some extra cheese, which, when the kids were growing up  was more than likely Velveeta or cheese whiz. Now I use real cheddar, and while I was not afraid to use butter or potato chips to top it back then, I now use crumbled crackers and cooking spray.  Even so, this is some good.  All you need on the side is a salad and perhaps some bread and butter.

*Mom's Tuna Casserole*
Serves 4

This is something I used to make when my children were growing up. (I had to double it back then!)  Its a bit of a cheat in that it uses some convenience foods, but it is delicious, so I hope you will forgive me for that!
1 box (4 serving size) macaroni and cheese dinner
1 (295f) tin of condensed mushroom soup (10 3/4 oz tin) undiluted
1 (400g) tin of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped(14 ounce tin)
1 (170g) tins flaked tuna in water, drained ( 2-6oz tins)
1 small onion, peeled and finely minced
1/2 tsp each oregano, basil and parsley flakes
181g grated strong cheddar cheese (1 1/2 cups) divided
salt and black pepper to taste
cracker crumbs
spritz of cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Spray a 7 by 11 casserole dish with cooking spray.  Set aside. 

Cook the macaroni from the dinner mix according to package directions.  Drain well. Return to pan and stir together with the cheese powder from the box, undiluted soup. tomato pieces, onion, herbs, seasoning, drained tuna and 120g (1 cup) of the cheese. Mix together well and then spread in the prepared casserole dish.  Top with the remaining cheese and a handful of crushed cracker crumbs. Spritz a couple of times with cooking spray.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.  Serve hot.

Our Spanish daughter Ariana happened by not too long after we had eaten and happily took home the leftovers to enjoy with her husband Jose. I might be able to get Todd to eat it once, but eating it twice is really pushing it for my pasta hating now- husband.  At least I am lucky enough that once in a while I can get it past him at least once!  He's a sweetiepie.  Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
 Baked Potato Wedges

Baked Potato Wedges

We love potatoes here at our house, in any way shape or form. I may have told you this already or at least in any case I don't think I've ever made a secret of it! My man is a meat and potatoes man and I am a potato woman . . . a day without eating a potato in one way, shape or form is just a day that is sadly lacking for me!

I think my oldest daughter is very much like me.  Most days when I am talking to her I will ask her what has she had for her lunch and she will say potato wedges.  She will be the first one to say that she doesn't really like potatoes, but what she really means is that she isn't fond of mashed potatoes, or baked potatoes, or boiled potatoes, but fry them and she is quite keen. (Who isn't?)

The frozen food aisles of the grocery store are filled with bags of frozen potato wedges. You know what I mean . . . right next to the chips, but cut into chunky wedges with the skins left on, and soaked in artificial flavours, trans fats and colouring agents.

A lot of people like to serve their wedges with a dip of some sort, usually a sour cream dip. Even that golden arch establishment sells their wedges with a sour cream dip. You know why that is???  It's bedause they are a sadly lacking in flavour and texture.

 At least that's my opinion! These are infinitely better and you won't be looking to mask the lacklustre flavour with a dip of any kind, although in all honesty for presentation purposes I have shown them with dip. 

They are not the most attractive pencil in the box and just looked rather sad sitting there on the plate all on their lonesome.

These tasty little wedges are very simple to do. The hardest part will be slicing them down through without going all the way through the skin, but never mind if you miss a few times . . . those extra little bits get nice and crispy and extra delicious if I don't say so myself!

This time I made a few using sweet potatoes also because sweet potatoes are low GI.  They worked really well, and I confess, I liked them even more than the regular ones. There is a picture of them right at the very bottom of my post.  They cooked a tiny bit quicker than the regular potatoes did.

They probably aren't something that you would want to have really, really often because of the butter, but as a once in a blue moon treat they go down really well.

*Baked Potato Wedges*
Serves 4 to 6

These delicious potato wedges are a bit more trouble to put together than others, but trust me, the end result is well worth the effort.  Crispy edged potatoes, with a combination of delicious flavours that go right down to the skins. 

4 TBS butter, melted
2 fluid ounces of tomato ketchup (1/4 cup)
1 tsp prepared french mustard
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshy ground black pepper
4 large baking potatoes,unpeeled 

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Combine the melted butter, ketchup, mustard and seasonings.

Scrub the potatoes and dry well.  Cut each into 4 wedges. lengthwise.  Slash each wedge crosswise at 1/4 inch intervals, but don't cut all the way through the skin.  Place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Brush with 1/3 of the butter mixture.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender, with crispy browned edges.  Baste periodically with the remainder of the butter mixture.

Serve hot.

Note - Sweet Potatoes are also done nice this way.

Oh boy but these were some good. I hadn't made them in a really long time so they were long overdue. We had them with some rotisserie chicken that we had picked up at Costco and some broccoli.  I hope you will give them a go!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken

 Shopping at Aldi recently I saw that they had Blood Oranges. I had never tasted a blood orange and so, although they were a bit more expensive than the other oranges, I bought a bag. I have seen photos of them and they look so pretty, with their reddish hue.

I had one that very first night. It was delicious, although in all truth I didn't notice any appreciable flavour difference in it to that of a regular orange. I think probably the only real difference is in the colour, which is caused by the presence of anthocyanins, a family of antioxidant pigments common to many flowers and fruit, but somewhat rare in citrus.

I used two of them in our favourite chicken dish, which I normally use ordinary oranges in, but these blood oranges were lovely and sweet, and I loved their colour. I thought they would be perfect for the dish and I was not wrong!  They provided a beautiful contrast in colour and flavour to the spring onions and feta cheese.

The recipe itself is a very simple one, as well as being quick to do and quite delicious. Its a recipe I adapted a while back from one I found in cookbook I have which is filled with recipes perfectly sized for a small family of two. We are two. Its an America's Test Kitchen Book. Those books are the best. The recipes always turn out fantastic.

We eat a lot of chicken in our house and I am always trying new ways to cook it. . .  so that it doesn't get boring.  This recipe definitely is NOT boring!

Seasoned, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are lightly dusted with some plain flour and then browned in a skillet on both sides.  The topside is browned at a much higher temperature so that it gets truly golden brown, then you flip them over and brown the bottom side at a lower temperature.  This technique is supposed to keep them nice and moist.

It does keep them nice and moist.  Proper timing also prevents them from drying out too much. You want the juices to run clear, but you also don't want them to be dry.  Nice and moist is the key.

The sauce is flavoured with some garlic and fennel seed.  Fennel goes very well with oranges and garlic goes very well with chicken.  Altogether this is a winning combination.

The sauce is not sweet in the least, but has a lovely orange flavour, which is balanced nicely with the addition when you go to serve them, of a sprinkle of salty feta cheese and the sharpness of sliced spring onions.

We both enjoyed this chicken a lot.  I served it with brown rice and English Petit Pois.  It went down a real treat!

*Blood Orange & Feta Chicken*
Serves 2
This is quick and delicious. Feel free to substitute ordinary oranges or even mandarines for the blood oranges. 

2 blood oranges
45g plain flour (1/4 cup)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to same size
fine sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 TBS light olive oil
1 small clove garlic, peeled and  minced
1/8 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1 TBS water
2 TBS crumbled feta cheese
2 spring onions, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced

Trim away the pith and peel from the oranges, cut into quarters and then cut the quarters into chunks.  Season the chicken breasts lightly with salt and pepper.  Dredge in flour, shaking off any excess flour. Discard any leftover flour. 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet until the oil begins to shimmer. Add the chicken breasts, presentation side down first. Cook for approximately 6 minutes, until golden brown. Reduce the temperature to medium and flip them over.  Cook on the bottom sides for an additional 6 minutes or until the juices run clear.  Remove to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add the garlic and fennel to the pan.  Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the oranged and water. Cook just until the oranges have softened, a few minutes longer.  Stir in any accumulated chicken juices from the plate, season to taste and then pour the sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle the cooked chicken with the feta cheese and sliced spring onions.  Serve immediately.

If you are looking for a way to cook chicken breasts that is delicious and just that tiny little bit different look no further!  This recipe fits the bill perfectly!  Let me know what you think if you try it. I think you are going to fall in love!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Muesli Bread

Muesli Bread

I have never been highly skilled at baking bread, but this is one loaf that works out for me every time I make it. I love breads like this, filled with lots of goodness and good things.  Dried fruits and nuts and oats . . .  its pretty wonderful sliced and served plain with butter, but how I really love to eat it is toasted, so that the edges get all golden brown and the nuts crackle and toast.  Oh boy, but it is some good that way. When I saw the contents of the February Degustabox I immediately knew it was time to bake one of these delicious loaves!  I am the lucky recipient of one of these delightful boxes each month and each month I challenge myself to come up with at least one recipe using one of the products from the box.  Its not always an easy task, but I do enjoy a challenge.  This month the challenge was very easy indeed!


I love these boxes. Opening each one is tiny a bit like opening a Christmas box. Always a surprise and always filled with things I want to try. Degustabox is a monthly foodie subscription service that sends out a range of specially selected foodie products. There's always a great mix of new products that I haven't tried before, as well as plenty of treats from more established brands. Quite often you will have the opportunity to try new products before they arrive in the shops, so it can be a bit of a sneak peak! Each Degustabox costs only £12.99, delivery costs are included in the price, and there is no fixed contract involved - you can cancel at any time. I love getting these boxes!

The February box, called the Cinema Box was filled with healthy snacking goodies just in time for the Oscars!  Here is what I got.

True Nopal Cactus Water (£3.49) is a 100% natural blend of prickly pear cactus puree and filtered water with no added sugar. The flavour has berry undertones, making it a light and refreshing alternative to fruit juice or flavoured water drinks.

 Emily Crisps (£0.99) are a range of premium fuit and vegetable crisps. I received the Crunchy Pineapple flavour in my box, which is made with just pineapple and sustainable palm oil. They also come in Crunchy Fig Banana and Crunchy Red Apple.

Indie Bay Snacks Pretzel Bites (£2.49) are little baked pretzel snacks made with interesting ingredients like spelt and quinoa.  I received the Sunflower Superseeds flavour bites, which are made with baked spelt, wheat and sunflower seed topped with sesame and poppy seed. I loved these.

Tootsie Roll Midgees (£2.50) were in this month’s box. Exciting stuff to a North American! Candy doesn’t get more North American than a Tootsie Roll, and the tiny ‘midgees’ shapes are the most classic version of the nostalgic treat.  These are an ever-so-slightly chocolate flavoured chewy sweet that I grew up with.  Chewy Chewy Tootsie Rolls last a long time. (That was the advertising jingle from my childhood.)

Haribo Fruitilicious (2 x £1.29), a new range of sweets with 30% less sugar than regular fruit gum sweets. Coming in a variety of fun fruit shapes, these are a yummy alternative to the full sugar version.

 KitKat Chunky New York Cheesecake (£0.65) is a chunky KitKat with an extra cheesecake flavoured layer on top of the wafers, all coated in milk chocolate. The ‘cheesecake’ layer is firmer than I expected, sort of like white chocolate with an extra bit of tang, but it works. Todd really enjoyed this, whilst I enjoyed a tiny nibble so that I could write about it. YUM!


The Protein Ball Co. Cherry + Almond (2 x £1.99). Each pack holds six little balls made with dates, almonds, cashews, egg white protein, sultanas, cherries, and a few other natural ingredients. These were quite tasty with a prominent cherry and almond flavour that’s delicious. They also have a nice texture with the perfect amount of chewiness.

 Dr Karg’s Organic Emmental Cheese & Pumpkin Seed Crispbread (£2.00) is made with whole grain flour and no additives. This is a product that I buy all the time anyways. It’s a fairly thick and super crispy slice with a light flavour of emmental and lots of crunchy seeds including sunflower seeds, linseeds, and sesame seeds. This is a tasty and substantial crispbread. I have also bought it in bite sized bits in the past. Its really yummy! 

The Product of the Month this month was Primrose’s Kitchen Raw Beetroot and Ginger Muesli (£4.99). The vegan and gluten free muesli is made with fresh beetroot, ginger, raw nuts and seeds, oats and virgin coconut oil, all air-dried at lower termperatures. This is high quality stuff, with the earthy beetroot and zingy ginger flavours really shining through. The packaging is also really cute!

This is the product that I chose to highlight with a recipe this month. I thought it would work perfectly in my muesli bread recipe and I was right! 

I did have my doubts early on as the beetroot content dyed the dough a lovely shade of pink and I wondered how that would translate once it was baked, but I went with it anyways, fingers crossed.

This really is a lovely bread.  Its really easy to make, especially if you have a stand mixer as the stand mixer does all of the work for you.

You can pay an awful lot of money for an artisanal Muesli Loaf in the grocery shops and I can tell you it is not half as filled with goodness as this homemade loaf is.

This mueli is filled with lots of gluten free oats and lovely bits of raw dried beetroot, ginger, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, linseeds, coconut pieces, chia seeds, almonds and psyllium husks, and it worked up beautifully in this delicious bread.

I added more almonds, pecans and dried apricots, cranberries and blueberries.  There is no other way to describe this than D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!  Nom Nom!

*Meusli Bread*
Makes 1 loaf

This is a recipe that I have been using for years. Its an easy to make loaf, crusty on the outside, and stogged full of nuts and fruit. It is great sliced and buttered but popping it into the toaster really brings it to life.  Its incredibly moreish! 

120ml warm water (1/2 cup)
120ml warm milk (1/2 cup)
80g muesli (1 cup)
1 tsp honey
420g strong bread flour (3 cups)
1 1/2 tsp salt
75g dried apricots, chopped into bits (1/2 cup)
40g each dried cranberries and dried blueberries (1/4 cup each)
30g whole pecan nuts (1/4 cup)
45g whole almonds (1/4 cup)
2 tsp instant yeast, softened in 1/4 cup warm water
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp water
rolled oats for sprinkling

Put the water and milk into a bowl  along with the honey and the muesli.  Leave to stand for 15 minutes.  Add the dissoved yeast and water. Stir to mix.  Stir in the salt and flour.  Using a stand mixer or by hand knead until you have a smooth, slightly tacky dough. (If using a stand mixer this will take about 3 to 4 minutes, if by hand longer.  What you are doing is developing the gluten in the flour.) Pat out on a lightly floured surface to a large rectangle. Sprinkle it with the nuts and fruit. Fold it over on itself to enclose the fruit and nuts, then knead gently until all are incorporated.  Place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and then set aside in a warm place to rise for about an hour until doubled in size.  At the end of that time, tip the dough out onto a baking sheet you have lined with baking paper.  Pat the dough gently out into a rectangle which is about 1 inch in thickness. Gently push back in any fruit or nuts that have popped out.  Brush with the beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with some oats.  Cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven.  Once the oven is hot, place the sheet pan with the bread into the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool on a wire rack.  Slice to eat or toast.

Every box does include an information card, along with some other bits, recipes, etc. from the brands included.  I find it really handy to have, to know about the products a bit more and to also know how much the products would cost if I went on to buy them, and also for ideas on how to use some of them.

So, that was the February  Degustabox - a nice selection of products as always. We loved it. The price of each Degustabox is £12.99 (including delivery). To order your box, visit 
 Many thanks to Degustabox UK for sending me this box. I have to say I really look forward to getting my box each month. There are always lots of things in it to enjoy and new products to try out. I highly recommend. You can also tailor the boxes to your own likes and dislikes by filling in your own Taste Profile.  Do you like the sound of this box? Why not sign up now! I find them to be really good value for money spent and I really enjoy trying out new products that I have not tried before.  

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Note - Although I was sent a box free of charge any and all opinions are my own.
Bon appetit! 

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Marie Rayner

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