Everything is tickety-boo

Here is this week's list of things that made me feel like everything is tickety-boo:


  • I saw the movie About Time and so got to watch Bill Nighy for two hours!  I  love Bill Nighy- definitely something about him - but I also enjoyed the movie.  The conclusion of the movie is that everything is tickety-boo.  It is my perfect movie!
  • I bought a new coat and absolutely love it.  Really unusual.  Not really practical at all - its linen, not that warm, not waterproof - but just one of those items that you love :-D
  • the Northern California fall - we are still in the mid 70's in the afternoons, the rains haven't started, the vineyards are golden and red and brown and it is just gorgeous.  I'm making the most of it as next week I go back to England.
  • laughing at Harold, our pet parrot, who has had trouble adjusting to the clock time change this week.  His "cocktail hour" - when he gets a cashew nut everyday and we come in to be with him - is always at 5pm and he just didn't get why we were keeping him waiting an hour!  We've had a few noisy hours between 4 - 5pm this week but hopefully he is slowly adjusting!  His internal clock is just too good!!!!
  • Having a great final Food as Medicine class with lovely ladies.  We've been meeting for 9 months and its been wonderful to get to know them and see the amazing changes they have made.  I'll miss them - we've had a lovely time.  They are all inspiring.
  • having the neighbors round - albeit for a "water" meeting as we share the same well - but still, it was nice for us all to get together and catch up on more than our water system!
  • eating gnocchi for the first time and loving it
  • the smell of roasting quince and cloves permeating the house
  • eating the last of this years pears...they've lasted so well and are still so delicious.  Only one left..
  • enjoying a new truffle recipe - rosehip truffles.  

 I hope your week has been tickety-boo too.  Keep looking for those positives!

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Spicing things up

I held two spice classes this week for my food as medicine groups, looking at what benefits certain spices have to our health and how we can incorporate them into our daily lives.

Photo From Wikimedia commons

As well as tasting individual spices, we created a variety of blends from different countries and then tasted them in either applesauce, butternut squash or sweet potato - as vehicles for the spice, so you could get the true flavors.

Tasting stations at the ready!

The key spices we focused on were

  • cinnamon - great for diabetes
  • turmeric - anti-cancer and anti- inflammatory activity
  • black cumin - immune system boosting
  • cloves - toothache, mosquito repellent, anti-infection
  • cocoa - great source of flavonols which increase nitric oxide production, and help heart health
  • Plus we looked at those spices that can affect the Cancer "Master Switch" - NFkB
The blends we made we:
  • Chai tea - India - we actually made a tea-less version
  • La Kama from North Africa
  • Garam Masala - India
  • Golden Milk -India
  • Panch Phoron - India
  • Chinese five spice - China
  • Colombo Powder - Latin America
  • Quatre Epices - France
  • Hot Chocolate - Mexican
We then ended up with a chocolate tasting of 6 chocolates with cocoa contents of >75%.  I'll tell you more about that another day!


It was a great class.  People really started to focus on tasting carefully and identifying different flavor and whether spices predominated or harmonized. 
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Spice Cake

For Christmas Day, I made myself a spice cake instead of having a rich Christmas pudding or cake.  I've made it since too - as I really like the recipe.  It's only small so you don't end up eating it every day for a week as desserts are meant to be treats!

It's gluten free (using GF oat flour), has no refined sugar (using low glycemic load coconut nectar instead), fat free (using applesauce instead), dairy free (using homemade almond milk instead) and full of lovely anti-oxidant spices.

I made it in a small half dome cake tin - so it looked a little like an English Christmas pudding.  You can, of course, add frosting/icing - but I like the spices so don't add anything.

If you don't have a half dome tin, bake it in muffin tins or a small square tin.

It was adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie's recipe for Egg Nog Spice cake.


Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup GF oat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tablespoon coconut nectar
2 tablespoons almond milk or other nut milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 cup organic raisins

Combine all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients, then pour the dry into the wet.
Stir until just combined, then pour in your selected baking tin.
Cook at 350 F for 20 - 25 minutes, depending on the tin.
Remove, let cool if you can - and enjoy.

You'll also enjoy the lovely smell it gives to your home.
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Truly scrumptious - Clove and raisin raw fudge

Gosh - I've had so many truly scrumptious delights this week...but one taste that will stay with me was a clove and raisin raw fudge that I made.


When I started out, I was not making fudge at all, so it was one of the recipes where a failure led to an even bigger success.

I was going to make some raw clove chocolate and added some of my new clove liqueur.  However the chocolate didn't quite set properly - I added 2 tablespoons of the liqueur and probably should have stopped at 1!!!

So I decided to gently re-melt the chocolate - again not going above 110F so it remains "raw" and full of nutrients and anti-oxidants....and I added a little bit of coconut cream and also a few of our own homegrown and dried raisins, and then let it set as fudge!


Yum!  The clove is a great strong flavor but not too overpowering and the raisins gave a nice change in texture.  It is rich.  One square is extremely satisfying.

I made it as part of a goodie bag for my friends, but luckily saved some for a bag for my hubby, so I got some of that!!


What was truly scrumptious in your holiday week?
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Truly Scrumptious - Quince and clove sour

I've decided that my regular blog post of my favorite taste each week should now be entitled "truly scrumptious".  As I was browsing in a children's toy shop in the UK last week, they played the song "Truly Scrumptious" as background music and I realized that I knew all the words!

Truly Scrumptious, if you didn't know, is a fictional character in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  Here's the song:


Isn't it so sweet!  It seems appropriate that tickety-boo should have a truly scrumptious regular blog post, don't you think!

I ate quite differently in England from how I normally do at home, but one flavor combination really sticks out for me from that visit. My most truly scrumptious taste in England was actually a cocktail - a quince and clove sour!  It was made with quince puree (you know how I've been looking at ways to use up all our quince!) plus a clove liquor and gin.  I think it is the nicest cocktail I have ever tasted.

I actually had two - one with gin and one without the gin!  Both were wonderful and it was definitely the cloves that made it.  They were so warming and the combination of flavors seemed so wintery and spicy.


I had to buy a bottle of Pink Cloves to bring home with me.....In fact, I think I'll have to start experimenting with it tonight.... I can imagine using it in desserts too...

What was your most truly scrumptious taste this past couple of weeks?

Update: Just poured out my pink cloves and it is really pink!  A little like mouth wash or something, and a tad off putting.....but it does taste delicious.   It wasn't that pink in the version I had.....!!!!!


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Tastiest food of the week - Chai fudge

I've never had anything "chai" before.....mainly because Chai normally has something to do with  tea and dairy milk - neither of which I like!!! But when I read a recipe for chai fudge it sounded so good with all those spices in it, that I had to give it a try.  It was a friend's birthday so it seemed like a good reason to make a treat for her.


The fudge is gluten free, refined sugar free and dairy free - and raw, so keeps those wonderful nutrients of the raw cacao bean.  There is homemade almond milk in it, plus cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  It really is the spices that make it, oh, and the chocolate!!!

It was a little bit squishier than you would normally think of for fudge and in fact it turned out to be a lovely thick dipping fudge for some dried apples I had...but for my friend's birthday, I rolled it in crushed pecans so you could eat it without getting your fingers dirty!


The texture is divine!  So smooth and creamy yet light and kind of fluffy in a way.... I wish you could try some!

Then when I had a friend over for dinner this week, I used the same fudge inside some gluten free profiteroles I made!

I will have to experiment more with this combination of chocolate and spices.  Definitely my tastiest food of the week!...maybe month.....maybe.....
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Quince spice balls

With my vast quantity of quince sauce (see yesterday's post!), I thought I'd make some yummy quince balls today, with autumnal spices.


Here's the recipe.  Instead of quince, you can use any pureed fruit, such as apple sauce, or pumpkin puree or pear puree...but when you have a tree full of quince, you use quince puree!

Quince spice balls
Ingredients: - makes 20 balls

8 dates, pitted
3/4 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup unsweetened fruit puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Add the pitted dates to a processor and process for a minute or two.  Add the walnuts and process again.  Add the fruit and spices and mix again.  Finally add the coconut and mix thoroughly. At this stage you could also add one of the following optional extras, stirring in by hand, rather than processing. I didn't - and just used the above ingredients.

Optional extras:
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 goji berries

Use a small cookie scoop to scoop the mixture into approximately 20 balls. If it is too sticky, add some more nuts or coconut. If it's too crumbly, add a little more puree.

The balls can be rolled in additional coconut or crushed walnuts.

Place in the refrigerator until chilled and a little firmer.  They will keep for a week, chilled.


The spicy flavors are what make these balls.  Spices are powerful foods and too often neglected in cooking.  When using spices, a combination tends to work better than an individual spice.



The health benefits of cinnamon include:

  • 1/2 teaspoon a day can lower LDL cholesterol
  • cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels and increases insulin production in the body
  • it has anti-fungal properties
  • it has anti-clotting effects on the blood
  • cinnamon added to food is a natural food preservative
  • just smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory
  • cinnamon is a natural remedy for headaches and migraines


The health benefits of cloves include:

  • cloves contain eugenol which has been seen to be effective in dentistry as a mild anesthetic as well as an anti-bacterial agent
  • eugenol is also anti-inflammatory and a great addition to an anti-inflammatory diet
  • cloves are an excellent source of manganese, omega-3 fatty acids, and very high levels of anti-oxidants


The health benefits of nutmeg include:
  • can have a blood pressure lowering effect
  • can soothe an upset stomach and stop diarrhea
  • can be stimulating to the brain and improve mental function
Culinary spices are also important with cancer as they can inhibit the "master switch" for cancer genes. They do this by blocking a signaling molecule called NF-kappa beta. NF-kB makes cancer cells resistant to treatment or prompts them to behave in a more aggressive manner, so using spices to turn off this molecule can be powerful in cancer treatment.  

Pharmaceutical companies are in the process of developing drugs that are effective NFkB inhibitors, but nature has supplied us with spices that do the same thing.  So look in your spice cupboard and spice up your life.

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