Thursday, 28 January 2010

Baking Ban Lifted...for a very worthy cause!

Last week I felt the need to bake desperately, and over the past few days I have really begun to struggle again.  Today, however, the ban was lifted. 

While you might think that I am overjoyed by my return to baking...I am actually breaking my ban to help one of my really close friends.  She's recently become single again and I'm heading down to sotuh London to spend the weekend with her...

Of course this calls for the creation of something sweet and soft and chewy and fattening!

Earlier this week Karen at Food Gourmand had me salivating over her Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies and on closer investigation I saw her link to an earlier post for Peanut Butter Brownies


This afternoon (when the butter was finally soft) I dusted off the Kitchen Aid and gave the bowl a good wipe out and got down to business!

oh wow!

mix mix mix

PB in...Kraft all the way from Canada!

et voila...

Soft, chewy and peanut buttery!


In Karine's recipe she adds chocolatey ganache over top but I am just not ready for that much sweet!

Brownies? Blondies? You decide!

I am still here...

I have been wedding crafting like crazy the last couple of days...leading to lame-o dinners (pasta with vegetables and a frittata) but lots of excitement too!!

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Meatless Monday...Little Golden Parcels of YUM

How gorgeous do these look? These beautiful dumplings are called Piroshki and hail from the Ukraine.  Filled with chopped mushroom, spring onion, hardboiled eggs, sour cream and dill, these parcels are a little bit fiddly to put together...but worth the effort. 

The recipe comes from the World Vegetarian Classics cookbook, which I have just RENEWED at the library.  There is no picture in the book, and originally I thought that these Piroshki were more like Polish Perogie (yum yum yum) but they aren't...

The dough is made with sour cream (I used plain yoghurt) and is slightly sticky, making the assembly of the Piroshki a bit messy...but it ends up rolling out smoothly with an extra dash of flour! Baking powder is added to the dough (making it definetly NOT a Perogi) helping it to puff up in the oven...

After filling and assembling the dumplings, they are brushed with eggwash and baked until puffy, golden and slightly crispy. 

Traditionally these are served as an accompaniment to Borscht, but I think that they are lovely as the centre of their own meal. YUM! The recipe made 16 dumplings...I actually had to take the dish off the table to stop David gobbling them all up!! Ok ok ok, not just too!

Monday, 25 January 2010


After a  long walk through the fields

What could be better than this?

French Onion Soup

A wonderful part of my fantastic weekend!

Thank you Annalisa from Cooking Easy and Rita from Sage Cuisine for this beautiful award! My first x 2!!!
It makes me think how wonderful this blogosphere can be...I really enjoy sitting down with my tea in the morning and having a look at what these inspirational people have been up to! Annalisa and Rita are both fantasticly amazing home cooks who share their wonderful recipes and pictures practically on a daily basis. I love looking at and reading their posts, but most of all I really appreciate their support and comments on my own adventures...THANK YOU BOTH!

These blog rules comes with this award. Hope you enjoy.
1. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
2. List who gave the award to you and use a link to her blog (or hyperlink).
3. List 10 things that make you happy.
4. Pass the award on to other bloggers and visit their blog to let them know!

Ten things that make me happy

My morning cup of tea with David before he goes off to work.
Welcoming friends to our house with homemade goodies.
Loving words and thoughts from family and friends across the pond.
Daily conversations with my mum.
Exploring my new community and the countryside.
Listening to the rain while trying to get to sleep.
Watching fabulous British Dramas as they are produced (not 3 years later).
Flowers and vegetables sprouting on my allotment.
Getting ready to marry David.


I'd like to pass the award back to Annalisa from Cooking Easy and Rita from Sage Cuisine...I would have awarded it to both of them anyway!

And I'd also like to give it to

LeeM from The Adventures of a Young Food friend experiencing Israel and all that goes with living far from home.

Moogie from Moogie&Pap...Moogie's dessert creations are to die for and making my baking ban more and more difficult everyday! 

Tamara from Mad Boastings of a Cheapskate Mom...who is in the process of moving her family to a new state...hang in there!

Carrie from Carrotspeak...a really sweet gal in the States at University, planning a wedding to her fiance in the US Army stationed in Germany and writing about all the adventures that comes with that!

Karine from Food Gourmand...a fantasic cook who is trying all sorts of new cooking ingredients and totally inspiring me. 

and finally

Girl cook in and working cooking and teaching cooking in Paris...siiiiiigh

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Friday Night Meal for Two

Two fantastic ingredients are FINALLY back in season here in the southeast of England...

Flat Leaf Parsley and...

Beautiful Mussels from Norfolk!

A perfect combination for a romantic meal for two and an excellent start to the weekend! David and I have been so busy the last few weeks with friends and the wedding and recovering from the holidays that we haven't really had much time to hibernate and just hide away from the world. We've both agreed that this weekend will be the weekend for that...come straight home after work on Friday and enjoy our own company for two whole days!!! 

I am so happy that I bought these mussels from the fishmonger at the market, instead of at the grocery store.  They weren't very beautiful on first sight...being FRESH FROM THE SEA Friday morning...but once the barnacles and beards and sand were scrubbed off...they were looking fabulous!

David's fondness for mussels is relatively new so he's mostly happy with a simple tomato based broth (besides he's not a wine white wine broth is a bit much for him...wimp).  I,  on the other hand am a mussel pro...I don't even use a fork....just dive right in with my fingers and use the shell as an aid and just work my way through...

To keep us both happy I steamed the mussels in a mixture of white wine and a tin of chopped tomatoes...with LOTS of shallot and celery and a few gigantic cloves of garlic.  I don't use a and steaming mussels is like second nature to me...just whack all the ingredients for the broth in...let it boil away and then in go the mussels...stir them around, put on the lid and the pot a good shake every once in a while....

Seriously...I could sit down and eat that entire bowl of mussels, and drink all the broth.  Luckily for David I don't mind sharing with him. 

When I was wandering around the market I was so close to picking up something for dessert....something to round out the romantic meal...I ALMOST did it...I actually picked up a little sponge cake....but then something in my head (guilt) made me stop...

So no dessert for us. 

Walking home with my 3 lbs of mussels and gigantic bunch of parsley I thought...wait a minute...Moules de Frites! Mussels and Fries! Mussels and Fries....WITH MAYONAISE! what an fantastic Belgian make my mummy proud (she grew up in Belgium). 

A wonderful romantic start to the weekend.  Couldn't get much better than that! did...

Thank you David!!! xo

Friday, 22 January 2010

Quick freezer fix...meat is served

A Wedding EXPLOSION happened yesterday...I seemed to have about a million and one things to do, including picking up our wedding notices (wedding license) in Colchester...30 min drive, park, walk, wait, walk, pay for parking, drive...

I had thought ahead before I left the house in the morning...busy day = quick dinner...but with no food in the fridge and the irregularity of my veggie deliveries on Thursdays due to weather I was in a fix...

I broke...well not entirely, but sorta....I defrosted a container of Bolognaise Sauce that I made at the beginning of the month....for Pasta Bolognaise last night.  I say I broke because we have gone 2 whole weeks without buying/cooking meat in this house....David managed KFC and BURGER KING when he was in London last weekend...but needs must eh?

Anyway, after a busy day and no desire to stock up on anything at the grocery store I was happy to return home to my defrosted sauce.  All I had to do was boil some water and cook the tagliatelle...oh and heat up the sauce...easy peasy!

To make the meal less like an out of the freezer and on to the table kind of deal I served it in some of my bowls that were shipped from Canada.  And you know what? That in itself made my quick meal that much more special!!

Did you know that Bolognaise suce is apparently traditionally paired with Tagliatelle? I just learnt that recently...

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Fa-LEE-fel....or....Falafel...a meal for Lee (hurry up and get here!)

One of my bestest friends just booked a ticket to come and visit me for a few days at the beginning of February!!! In preparation for her visit...from Israel...I thought that I would try my hand at a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine...Falafel!

Falafel are gorgeous little deep fried balls of chickpeas combined with herbs and spices...served hot in a warm pita with yummy yummy salad toppings.  Depending on where you go and where the falafel-style hails from the toppings vary...but in general the taste of the falafel balls themselves are pretty uniform. 

I've had falafel in a few different cities...mostly in the Jewish quarter and sometimes in the Middle Eastern hub of larger cities, hands down the BEST falafel I have had was in the Marias in Paris at a place called L'As du Fallafel...but I have never been to the Middle East so I am sure that there are rivals somewhere...although I have it on very good authority that Lee's dad actually makes the BEST falafel...

So yesterday afternoon I embarked on my own Falafel making adventure...something that is not too hard if you have a food processer...which I don't....but my trusty Handblender did the trick with a little coaxing! The mixture is so easy (you can also buy it premade as a floury mix in supermarkets....just add water) just blend up chickpeas and parseley and garlic and some spices and baking powder (for oomph). 

Traditionally these little jewels are deep fried, but I have yet to buy any oil this week and well....there is always that health kick thing looming in the back of my I thought...Hey! those Onion Bhajis were awesome baked earlier this week...why not these falafel??

Employing the same method as with the Bhajis I oiled a baking sheet and baked the falafel for 10 mins and then brushed olive oil over top and baked a further 10 mins until golden and crispy! Such a fantastic method!

Served hot in a warmed pita with shredded redcabbage dressed in olive oil and lemon juice, grated carrot, hot chili sauce and raw onions sprinkled with paprika...oh and don't forget the HUMMOUS!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Indonesian Streetfood...comfort at its best

Wow, I think that Tuesday might be the new Monday! I was so bummed yesterday, it felt like a Monday...I supposed my only solace was the fact that it was actually less day till the weekend!! Oh dear!

Actually, now that I think about Tuesday blues stem from a very busy friend filled weekend tumbling into our wonderful intimate farewell meal for Mike on Monday, leaving me and David with absolutely no time alone...hence the blues....and top it all off...Tuesday is soccer night for David followed, this week, by beers and soccer on tv at the pub with the guys for a FINAL farewell for Mike...No girls allowed!!! What a bummer of a few days!!!

I literally did nothing yesterday...that's not entirely true, I did manage to go for a walk and to the grocery store and iron some shirts for David...but other than that...nothing.  So when it came time for dinner I needed comfort, I needed warmth, and I needed to use up the left over rice and veggies in the fridge. 

What better to tick all those boxes than a fantastic Indonesian meatless fried rice dish called Nasi Goreng!! This is traditional Indonesian streetfood at its best (according to friends who have actually travelled Indonesia!) and no two people make it the all good traditional recipes! (Funny that...)

In its purest form it is an onion, carrot, chili sauce with some spices thrown in....all simmered and thickened...and then you stir fry the pre cooked and cooled rice....topped with scrambled eggs, green onion, chilies, corriander or watercress....anything you want really.  I also added thiny sliced mushrooms and zucchini when making the sauce. Alternatively you can buy the stir fry sauce in a jar and just sautee some veggies, add the sauce and then the rice. 

Regardless, it is spicy, warm and filling...perfect comfort. 

David managed two helpings before being rushed off to soccer.  Judging by the state he was in when he came to bed at 2 this morning...I am not sure it was filling enough to counteract the amount of beer he drank last night....but for made my Tuesday Blues fade enough!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Meatless Monday Indian Feast for Mike's farewell :(

This week's Meatless Monday was a very special was also our last alone time with one of David's closest friends...Mike...before he leaves on a 6 month adventure in South East Asia and Australia/NZ!!!  All weekend we've been saying goodbye to Mike with other friends and I was so happy that he agreed to come over for some dinner and to hang out before he heads off on Wednesday. 

What do you make for a fairwell meal for a guy who is going to go traveling in South East Asia? I mean...thai noodles? That's all he will be eating for the next month at least...and then what? David once told me that when him and Mike were traveling around Europe one of the things they missed most was a "traditional English curry"'s what he got last night...An Indian Vegetarian Feast!!! not really a hard thing to accomplish as there are sooooo many amazing vegetable dishes in Indian cuisine. 

Last night's feast was a mixture of recipes from different people, I can only take credit for the finished product, and the fact that the boys hoovered every last bit up! 

It has taken me a few years to really start to explore Indian food.  I used to be perfectly happy with tandoori chicken, rice and some naan....more recently I have been ordering only vegetable side dishes....but I also have a fondness for a really good chicken biryani.  Mostly I like anything that has eggplant that has been slowly stewed to buttery mush in it.  With 3/4 of an eggplant lounging in the fridge I thought that Mike's farewell would be a good time to try something new....

I found a recipe guessed it...World Vegetarian Classics...called Baigan Aloo Charchari or Charcrusted Eggplants and Potatoes, which has its roots in Bengal.  It was very easy to make and the best bit? To get the CHAR-CRUST you just put everything in a pan turn the heat on and leave it to stirring no nothing.....great (actually pretty difficult when you are used to stirring)...

I was definitely apprehensive about the no stir aspect of the recipe and took it off the heat too soon, so it wasn't really charcrusted...but some bits were crispy and next time I will know.  Regardless, the eggplant was melt in your mouth good. 

Because the Baigan Aloo Charchari was a dry curry I really needed to serve something wet with it.  I searched though a few of my cookbooks, but couldn't find much in the way of vegetable based curries so I went on line and decided to use Nigella's Spicy Spinach and Chick Pea Curry recipe. 

The recipe calls for Harissa Paste...which I didn't have and couldn't find in the supermarket, so I just used 1/4 of a jar of Balti curry paste we had in the fridge.  Possibly not the most traditional recipe, but quick and yummy. 

Rounding off the Indian feast were some fantasic BAKED Onion Bhajis from Jeena's Kitchen.  If you follow the link she gives a step by step guide with pictures (and a video).  These Bhajis were much better than the fried ones I tried to make a few months ago...and I guess healthier? I also made a Raita...plain yoghurt, cucumber, tomatoes, corriander, onion, chili and some lemon juice. And of course....bought some Naan bread. 

All in all a wonderful feast complimented by wonderful company. 


The RSVPs are starting to roll in....

I thought that I would post some pictures of the invitations I made for our wedding since they took up a HUGE chunk of my creative life the end....I am actually pretty proud of them! Because we had to wait until my visa was granted to set the wedding date in stone, but also had to give overseas guests a long window in which to organise flights etc.  there was relatively little choice in terms of having invitations made for us.  We saw some really nice printed invitations in the few wedding magazines I picked up, but they mostly all had a wait time of 2-3 months...which was totally not possible for our situation.  So, we hijacked a format we liked from the magazine and recreated it Windows Publisher and then bought some really nice cards and a glue stick and a paper cutter and....

We had the David & Victoria stamp made and bought the tree stamp separately.  I also bought a paper punch in the shape of the heart, and I am planning on punching a whole bunch of hearts to put on the tables and around the bar.  The ribbon...To Have and to Hold...was probably the most expensive item other than all the paper, but from all the comments I have is the extra special touch my guests have commented on the most. 

This Saturday will mark the beginning of the 6 week countdown...I still feel like there is tonnnnnnnes to do, but in the end I know it will all come together!! 

Friday, 15 January 2010

Canadian-flavoured Mushroom Burgers

What a great way to get a little taste of home! I found this totally tempting recipe in the World Vegetarian Classics cookbook I have been obsessively flipping though this past week or so and just HAD to try it. 

Maple Mushroom Burgers! How amazing does that sound???  I managed to smuggle a gigantic bottle of maple syrup back from Canada in Novemeber and have been rationing it slowly ever since...and this recipe is totally deserving of some of that sweet amber goodness. 

I don't normally post recipes, mostly because I like to pull apart other recipes to create my own, but THIS is totally worthy of sharing and I URGE you to try them out!

Maple-roasted Mushroom Burgers
from World Vegetarian Classics
Serves 4


4 large flat field or portabello mushrooms
4 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tsp cider vinegar
Large pinch of dried thyme  *** I totally forgot to add the thyme!
Salt and freshly ground pepper

 PRE HEAT oven to 200 C/ 400 F

Wipe the mushroom clean and cut out the stem
Mix the oil and sliced garlic together in a small bowl or cup
Brush some of the oil over the mushroom caps
Lay the mushrooms gill side up on a baking sheet
Score the mushrooms by making a grid pattern with the tip of a sharp knife, being careful not to cut all the way through the cap.
 Drizzle maple syrup and vinegar over the mushrooms, then sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper
Lay the oily garlic slices over the mushrooms and drizzle with remaining oil
Roast in oven 15-20 mins until soft, juicy and sizzling.
Serve on toasted buns with trimmings of your choice (traditionally paired with Oka or Port Salut cheese)

The mushrooms were juicy and tasty, and the texture was pretty meat-like.  I served these fantastic burgers with some homemade chunky cut spicy fries

Cable Cuffs

In the 16 boxes of "stuff" that arrived last weekend I found a bag full of odds and ends of yarn and wool...YIPPPEEEEEEEEE more wool!!  And just in time....because all I have left in my old stash is cotton....and I just LOVE knitting with 100% wool. 

It is so so so hard to find 100% wool here in Chelmsford...mostly it is either Acrylic or a I was really happy to see the Pattons Merino wool sitting in my boxes for me. 

Over this week between unpacking and ironing and laundry and tiding and cooking and everything I have been able to enjoy a little bit of my lovely wool and have knit these beautiful cuffs for my friend Hannah's birthday pressie. 

Perfect for keeping wrists warm on cool days...if you are stuck at a desk....typing all day....or just hanging out grabbing a coffee!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Redemption in the Kitchen!

Before I get all gushy over my wonderful and non-disaster-like kitchen sucess last night I HAVE to say a big thank you to those who commented on the Mushroom/Spaztle incident yesterday...thank you for your lovely words and encouragement...funny how Blogland works eh?

Tuesday morning we woke up to a completely green lawn and no ice to be seen on the street..."what a great day this is going to be" I thought to myself as I managed to complete my morning walk without slip sliding my way through the park. know what? It turned out to be a pretty good day of wedding preparations, a bit of cleaning the house...and the slightly labourious production of a comforting and satisfying Eggplant Parmesean for supper.

Last week I was totally drooling over Annalisa from Cooking Easy's Melanzane Alla Parmigiana White, and although Eggplants aren't exactly in season here in England the thought of soft, squishy and tomatoey eggplant parmesean for last night's dinner was just the ticket to redeem myself in the kitchen!

On the one or two previous occasions when I have made Eggplant Parmesean I just sort of winged it...I is basically layers of eggplant and tomato sauce with mozzerella cheese and loads of parmesean.  Yesterday, however, I thought that I would use the recipe in my go-to vegetarian book at the moment (I am thinking about buying it)...In this recipe you slice the eggplant thinly and then layer it with some salt in a colendar to extract the bitterness and ultimately letting the fluffy inners of the eggplant absorb some flavour...once that is done and all the pieces have been dried, they are dredged in flour and then fried until golden....then cooled....and then, after the sauce is made it is all assembled and baked....

Not really THAT difficult, but slightly time consuming...anyway, while I was slicing the eggplant and salting it I was listened to a call-in show on the radio.  The topic was packed lunches for children...having worked in a school here in the UK I was interested in listening...other than the obvious picky eater business what was really interesting was that a number of parents mentioned that because THEIR food interest was limited their children's likings were limited as well.

I am not going to get all psychological or whatever...BUT it made me think about growing up and my own food likes and dislikes...any adult who knew me when I was growing up will know that there weren't very many dislikes when it came to food...

The funny thing was, as I was slicing up the eggplant, I realised that eggplant is something that I have only really started eating over the past 8 or so years.  I remember when I was younger that my mum HATED eggplant...and was something that I wasn't exposed to...although I was exposed to lots of other things....Anyway, my mum has mellowed a bit in her attitutude towards eggplant and while I am not entirely sure when I started to like it...I know now that I love it.

When David came home from work and said "Dinner smells awesome" I was so happy....and then I thought...OH MY GOD! I DON'T EVEN KNOW IF HE LIKES EGGPLANT! hahahaha I can't remember him ever ordering anything with eggplant in it and I have never made any dish with eggplant for him.....

You know what? He gobbled it all up! To be honest, it was so yummy and perfect that even if he hadn't liked it that wouldn't have changed how happy I was with my sucess in the kitchen! The moral of the story? Stick with what you know....Italian cooking is in my blood...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Meatless Monday Mushroom Disaster!

Monday night's dinner was a full blown thumping D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R...and TRUST me!  I am NOT over exaggerating...

Over the weekend the 16 carefully packed and labelled boxes I had shipped from my parents' house in Toronto FINALLY arrived...leaving our front room looking like a cargo hold.  Boxes, paper and styrofoam chips EVERYWHERE.  Ideally I would have left the boxes until David was at work during the week to systematically tackle them....unfortunately the recylcing pickup due on Tuesday was for cardboard and paper (not that the cans, bottles and plastic that were supposed to be picked last week have been)...and due to the temperamental weather I couldn't be sure what would be picked up (if anything) or when the recycling men would be back Saturday was largely spent unpacking boxes...filling bookshelves and dressers..leaving all the boxes and paper to be sorted and organised on Monday in preparation for recycling pickup on Tuesday morning.

Whether I was just too excited by the arrival of my "stuff" or totally in good-housewife overdrive...I made a fatal error...Saturday afternoon I ALSO decided to wash all of David's light coloured shirts, along with my gigantic table cloth and 12 matching napkins, new duvet cover and pillow cases, AND two bed sheets...not to mention various socks, undies and soccer stuff.....leaving a HUGE pile of ironing for Monday!!!

During the cold months and living in a DAMP country, with NO dryer and LIMITED space to hang up laundry means that EVERYTHING needs to be ironed after being hung for one day to dry...or risk smelling like damp dog....ick

So basically Monday I spent HOURS and HOURS ironing and HOURS uncrumpling paper and dismantling boxes for the recycling...totally losing track of time and was completely surprised when David's came home after work...I was totally frazzled by the time it came to make dinner....ending in a DISASTER to the nth degree. 

Over the weekend I had decided that for Meatless Monday I would make a Hungarian feast of Mushroom Paprika with Spaztle...two delicious looking recipes from the World Vegetarian Classics book I got from the library. 

Mushroom Paprika is similar to a stroganoff...except that there is a deep paprika flavour in the sauce...It is made by sweating chopped onions and mushrooms chopped quite chunky together in butter until the mushrooms lose all their moisture...then you add paprika and cayanne and cook until the oils are relased from the paprika....THEN...IF YOU ARE ME YOU CREATE A DISASTER WORTHY OF A TOM CRUISE are supposed to add either sour cream, creme fraiche or natural yoghurt....I opted for yoghurt as we had bought a huge tub for our veggie curry over the weekend....WHAT I DIDN'T NOTICE WAS THAT IT WAS LOW-FAT......NO NO NO!!!!!   When I added it to the pan it immedietly split and all the HUGE amounts of water totally evaporated leaving a total mess, which looked like (I am sorry to say it) a pile of sick....WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

So after a mild breakdown and the reassuring words of calming David...through sobs and sniffles and "Dinner is completely ruined" and "I can't eat that shhhhhh**"....I managed to make pretty decent looking and tasting Spaztle, which are like a cross between noodles and dumplings made by pushing a thick batter through a colendar over simmering slated water.  It took FOREVER...but definetly saved the day!

Please ignore the disgusting looking mushrooms...They actually tasted really good...but I can imagine they would taste WAY better with the creamy sauce! I just wanted to show you the funny little Spaztle!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Shakshouka baby!

When David and I decided to limit our meat and fish meals I borrowed a gigantic book from the library called World Vegetarian Classics by Celia Brooks Brown.  This past week I have literally drooled over most of the pages and pictures in the book and have devised a sort-of cunning plan...I do wonder if I could actually go 100% veggie....I don't think I could...I really love bacon, and pancetta and meat sauces and big roast dinners...not to mention roast pork with crackling.....but for health and environment we are going to try as hard as we can to limit those foods in our diet. 

On Friday night (after finally using up the bacon and chicken and other left over meats in the fridge) I attempted my first fully fledged veggie meal...Shakshouka...or Baked Eggs on Bell Peppers. According to the book this recipe originally came from Tunisia and is now found all over the Mediterranean and Middle East. 

It is basically fried/stewed onions and red bell peppers with a couple of cans of chopped Italian roots would then tell me to add some balsamic and oregano and maybe some chilli pepper flakes...but THIS version from Tunisia uses brown sugar, vinegar, mint, mixed spice and chilli flakes. 

Once the pepper mixture has reduced enough you put it all in a baking dish and then break some eggs overtop...pop it in the oven and leave to set (I left it about 2 mins too long....but still delish!)

For me, the dish was too sweet.  The combination of the sweet bell peppers AND brown sugar was a bit too much for me.  I would try it again though...either following my Italian instincts...or just omitting the sugar. 

Friday, 8 January 2010

This made my WEEK!

This past week I have been struggling with the return to reality after what seems like a very long holiday period...and yesterday the decorations came down, and the tree found its way out the door waiting to be recylced.  Spending the whole day alone after being surrounded by friends and family for the last 2 weeks has left me lonesome this week (not to mention the constant snow, ice and deep freeze leaving me feeling more isolated than ever). 

But then, through the post slot this morning came a bright yellow sunny envelope containing a card from my Aunt Sandi....that looked like this

And inside it said


Totally made my week!! Thank you Aunt Sandi! xo

K1, P2...cup of tea for me and you!

Months ago I posted about the masses of yarn I bought in the January Sales at John Lewis in 2009 (gosh! a whole year ago)...and over the last couple of weeks I have been busy trying to find ways to use it up (still).  If you remember I was working on sampler squares to stitch together in a sort-of patchwork blanket...well...I just don't have the patience to wait until about a billion squares are done...

I borrowed two books from the library, which have patterns for projects that use two balls of wool (or less)...but wasn't really wowed by any of the patterns I saw...sigh

Recently I've become obsessed with tea pots and tea cosies and tea cups and saucers longer all the goodies that go along with them (one day soon I can love that again).  There is just something so wonderful about small sandwiches and little tarts and hot steaming tea and lovely company. 

David and I have tea together every morning before he goes off to work...and I don't just meant boiling the kettle and plonking a tea bag in a mug...we have a proper pot of tea (complete with tea cosy) on the table, and our glass milk bottle.  It is the part of our morning ritual that gets me ready for the day and gives us those few settled minutes in the morning...together...

Anyway....the combination of an overflow of yarn, the desire to keep busy knitting, and my fondness for tea cosies lead me to click click click click the evenings away over the last couple of days...producing two cute, but simple, knitted tea cosies. 

Dusty Rose

Purple Pieman

Here in the UK there is a online craft network similar to etsy, called Folksy, which I am thinking about joining somewhere down the road.  Maybe these two tea cosies will be the start of an empire?? 

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Thai heat for a cold day

I've never been to Thailand...I'd love to go someday...but I can definitely say that I absolutely LOVE thai spices, heat, flavours and oodles of noodles!!!

I feel like a bit of a failure in this less-meat thing that David and I theory...making a good go at.  I suppose, though, part of this change is also watching our waste and using up every last bit of what be buy.  So...I also suppose that eating the remains of the roast chicken will take up most of this week....meaning more than one night eating meat. 

Last night I used a good handful of shredded roast chicken to make this 5-minute Thai inspired warm noodle dish (plus the time it takes to boil the kettle). 

I bought a package of thin Thai rice noodles, which are simple to make...just place in a pyrex dish and cover with boiling water for about 5 mins. 

In the meantime in a small saucepan on the stove I warmed 3 Tbsp of dark brown sugar, fish sauce and soya sauce...with the juice of 1 1/2 limes, 1/2 a sliced red chili, 1/2 a small red onion finely chopped, chopped corriander stalks and about 2 spoonfulls of smooth peanut butter. 

After the noodles were cooked and drained I assembled the dish...

Rice Noodles
Grated Carrot
Shredded Roast Chicken
Chopped Corriander
Chopped Spring Onions
Chopped Roasted Salted Peanuts

At the table I poured the sauce over the noodle dish and tossed to combine...I absolutely LOVE corriander and chopped peanuts so I added another handful to my bowl and don't forget about a squeeze of lime over top!

Quick, simple and totally the warm SE Asian escape we needed last night to get away from this cold snap!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Get Stuffed!

DCI Gene Hunt this one's for you!

I couldn't help but attempt my best Gene Hunt impression yesterday as I was preparing dinner.  Not the most attractive accent or person in the world...but...I couldn't help myself. 

Before Christmas Marks & Spencers ran a series of commercials themed "Christmas isn't Christmas without"...and a slection of celebrities said what they love about Christmas: dinner with family, warm sweaters etc....and then Phil Glenister his Gene Hunt manner:

a big juicy bird

And a BIG JUICY BIRD is what we dined on last night! Because of the commercial and my pure love of Gene Hunt I couldn't help but saying things like "You're nicked Sunshine" to the poor bird or telling it to "Get Stuffed"....hmmmm stuffing what a great idea!

I know I said that David and I are making a conscious effort to be aware of what we eat and eat less meat and so perhaps it might seem a bit weird that I decided to make a BIG JUICY STUFFED BIRD last night.  I am happy to say that I "picked the bird up" when it was on sale a week or so ago (free-range east anglia chicken, but not organic) and popped her in the freezer until a night just like last night!

Due to the baking ban I thought that I would try a couple of new things last night to keep my mind off the sad sad sadness of  not baking.  So I thought...HEY! I have never stuffed a bird...let's give it a go!!

In my few cookbooks here at the house there were a number of different suggestions for stuffing a bird, but the most imporant difference seemed to be stuffing the neck (to reduce the risk of salmonella poisoning) vs. stuffing the cavity (living on the edge). 

Well...I live on the edge! Plus, I am a self-confessed Stuffing-aholic...there is no way that stuffing JUST the neck would produce nearly enough stuffing for me...let alone to SHARE with David! Seriously...I would be perfectly happy if Christmas dinner consisted purely of stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy...with the odd bit of potato.  Personal opinion! But...saying that...I am not a stuffing snob.  I am just happy with any stuffing, it makes a bird just that little bit more special. 

Surprisingly, stuffing is actually really easy! Who knew? If it is so easy why aren't birds always stuffed???

The bird was on the petite side so I only used 1-1/2 pieces of bread (the bum pieces) from a nice wholemeal seeded loaf, which I cut up into cubes and then ended up ripping up about half of the cubes.  In a frying pan I melted about 2 TBSP of butter and softened about 1/2 a white onion, chopped, 1 rib of celery chopped, 1/2 an apple, peeled and chopped, some fresh rosemary and abuot 1 tsp of mixed dried herbs.  When that was all softened I added it to the breadcrumbs and mixed together then got ready to STUFF!

Stuffed and roasted for about 1 hour and 45 mins (she was 1.5 kg pre-stuffing).  I used some rosemary sprigs to seal the cavity (can't have her just lying there exposed can we?)...and basted as much as I could...

Yum yum yum! You might veggies....oopsie! to be reality all I wanted was the potatoes, stuffing and gravy....the bird was only a vessel through which scrumptious (and not too wet) stuffing, tasty gravy and gorgeous roasties were produced! Chicken? huh?

Oh...and to round the night off......after David left me for football I settled in and attempted another FIRST for me.....CHICKEN STOCK! It seems to have gone alright...

Lunch was good today!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Meatless Mondays begin!

David and I have made a decision to become more aware about the food that we eat.  We have decided to limit the amount of meat, fish and dairy that we purchase and try to our best to buy ethically reared and sourced goods.  It isn't going to be easy based on the limited availability here in Chelmsford, but we are going to try our best!

For our first Meatless Monday I roasted a bunch of root vegetables and a head of garlic in a Moroccan Spice Mix, tossed the veggies in some couscous with a squeeze of lemon and some chili infused olive oil, and filled out the meal with some Naan bread. 

It was a simple and rather tasty meal to make.  I've borrowed a great book from the library...World Vegetarian Classics by Celia Brooks Brown...and I've already chosen about 50 recipes to keep me busy (especially as the Baking Ban has gone into effect)!

January 4th...the real start to a new year!

After new years eve David and I had a few social engagements left to attend meaning that the ever popular new year diet regieme was put off "till tomorrow" and then "till the 4th"...which was back to work for David and back to wedding planning reality for me!

Only two short months left until the big day! Some of you will remember that I had my dress made when I visited my parents in October...meaning that all those shortbreads and mince pies and bevvies and potato chips and cakes and bacon wrapped sausages and stuffing and...and...and...(well you get the picture) it has all added up and I don't want a disaster in March!

And is with saddness and disbelief that I announce

A Baking Hiatus

I am not just talking baking here at home...but also the purchasing and consuming of any baked goods.  I am a little bit concerned about it...I mean I don't know if I can actually STOP baking...but I am going to give it a go.  There are a couple of exceptions to this break...c'mon you can't imagine I would be able to quit cold turkey do you?

1. Birthdays...I can't not bake a cake for a birthday...that would just be rude.
2. Out for dinner....while I would almost always choose appetizer over dessert...but just incase there is something killer on the menu (and if I go out for dinner!)

Bye bye beautiful mixing bowls and stand mixer...I will find wonderful ways to use you over the next two months I promise...

Friday, 1 January 2010

2010 chocolate whipped cream marshmallow cheers!

Martha Stewart's Dark Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting is a relatively easy to make and easy to assemble cake...and a perfect WOW factor for any get together! The recipe calls for over a POUND of dark be warned!

I added a little extra new years cheer factor with whipped cream and mini-marshmallows

Seriously decadently moorish and over the top chocolatey!

Semisweet Chocolate on Foodista