Thursday, 28 March 2013

Easter Excitement

Sorry I have been absent for a while, but I have been so busy! Good busy though, as I am home for Easter and we have been doing lots of nice things... Including going to Carluccio's for lunch. I will say nothing more except look at the menu. It will speak for itself.

First... Easter cross stitches. On one of our many excursions, we went to Hobbycraft, and they had several mini Easter cross stitches. My mum chose three, and I have done them to use as Easter decorations. We only got them Saturday, and I finished them today- but honestly, they are little!

Second, and perhaps the most surprisingly... I have made a trailer! Yes, a proper trailer to go behind a car. Well, I helped my dad make it. I cut some pieces out with a jigsaw, painted, and screwed in some nuts and bolts. I was so strong, I even managed to snap a bolt in two! It is very cold outside today so my outfit might look rather odd, but it kept me warm so I don't care.

Next, a lovely lasagne. I made Nigella Lawson's Calabrian Lasagne for tea, which is traditional in the sense that it has tomato sauce and beef. However, it also has mozarella, ham and boiled eggs within the layers! My family really like it, and even if you're not sure, I strongly urge you to try it! You might be surprised.

Last, but by no means least, a birthday card. This card was for a 40th birthday, so I made it lovely and sparkly and bright so it was a little bit more special. I have to say, I am very pleased with it, Nd I think it is the best card I have made in a while.

I hope this selection has made up for my absence... Look out for Easter baking in the next few days!

I left my camera at university, and as my phone seemed to be uploading photos I didn't use my parent's camera... But they didn't! I swear I will do a massive post with ALL the missing photos as soon as I figure out what is wrong with it!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Filling Fiery Beans

Even though I obviously chose it, I was a bit (just a teeny bit!) concerned that what I had chosen for tea tonight wouldn't be filling... I needn't have worried! After just under half I was getting full- but I finished it of course, it was too good not too. And happily, I even have it again tomorrow!

The recipe in question is Curried Beans. I have had ones out of a tin before, so I wanted to see how my culinary skills would match up! I rather liked mine acctually... When I was looking at the recipe, I saw the words curry and raisins, and thought, yep, gotta have it. And I'm glad I did. The beans I used were cannellini, althoug the recipe also suggested haricot. As well as the raisins, it also had apple in it, so it was nice and sweet, but the hot curry paste stopped it being TOO sweet. When the whole mmixture was simmering, the raisins plumped up beautifully, and I do like a plump raisin. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I can't wait to have it again tomorrow. This one got a big tick next to it!

See, here the raisins are just starting to plump up...

...Now they are really chubby!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Quick Curry Conundrum

There is one Quick Chickpea Curry that I make quite a bit, but I came across another recipe when I was flicking through my recipe books, figuring out my menu for this week. I thought I'd give it a go, as it used some ingredients that I was getting anyway, and it also gives me great satisfaction to tick off recipes that I haven't done before! It was fairly similar to the other one, except that this one had spices and spinach in. Apart from that they were, honestly, pretty much identical. My dilema now is, which one do I make next time? I like to be fair, so I will probably end up alternating between the two!

The recipe also said to serve with naan if you like... If I'd have thought about it I would have saved the half a naan I had for lunch the other day (I had the other half with the Dum Aloo, which you can read about here, and as it was from frozen I couldn't refreeze it). But, my lunch was very very nice, so to be honest I'm not complaining!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Nearly Frozen Frittata

I always plan my meals a week in advance, and tonight I had planned to have Pasta Frittata. A few days ago, considering the large amount of spinach I have, I decided I would try a spinach smoothie. I have seen them mentioned in quite a few places, and just wanted to give it a go! I also have lots of milk that needs using by Friday, and quite a few bananas, so it seems it was meant to be. I was going to have it for lunch one day this week, but not sure I will be able to now. I considered having it for tea tonight, but after a lot of careful thought, I went with the frittata after all!

I thought pasta was a bit of a strange ingredient for a frittata, but I needn't have worried, it went very well. This is a speedy supper you can whip up in a hurry, and you will most likely have the ingredients to hand as well, which is always a bonus- a garlic clove, an onion, cheese, eggs and pasta. That is all. The pasta does need to be cooked before you add it, but it can be cooking while you prep the onion and garlic, so it works out quite well acctually. It said to serve with any green vegetable, so of course you know what I went for... spinach of course!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Pots and Pans and Random Recipes

Quite a random collection of things this evening, but that's the way it goes sometimes!

To start off, birthday cupcakes! I am the self-appointed birthday baker of the flat, and this time around I made Lemon Cupcakes. I liked the recipe because it was just a bung everything in the bowl and mix like mad! Sometimes I like doing something more involved, and having a good potter round the kitchen, but this time I appreciated the 'bung and bake' method. The icing was the same, so quite a quick recipe all in all. Although I made the cakes yesterday and iced them this morning, they could be done fairly quickly if you wanted. The decoration was silver balls, which was perfect because I already had those!

Now, tea yesterday and lunch today. My dinner yesterday was simply a crusty roll and garlic and herb soft cheese, which I had with some spinach due me buying a rather large bag! But anyway. That isn't the story... I didn't know whether it would be nicer toasted or untoasted, so I did both! I cut the roll in half and toasted one half, whilst leaving the other untoasted. And I have to say, they were equally nice! On the toasted half, the cheese melted a little bit into it, and the untoasted half was lovely and soft and light. There were two rolls in the pack, so I had the same sort of thing for lunch today. Half toasted and half untoasted, with spinach, but also with a few raisins, brazil nuts and a boiled egg! It was a really nice weekend lunch, and didn't take long to prepare at all, as I did most of it while the egg was boiling.

And lunch- not  a pretty picture I know, but never judge a book and all that...

A little roll I made with a giant spinach leaf, a bit of egg white, some roll and cheese, dipped in egg yolk!
Breakfast today... This was my mum's made up recipe, and I have to say, it was delicious! It is plain yoghurt, banana, blueberries and oats. I wanted to layer it in a glass, but mine aren't big enough! I tried to layer the fruit and yoghurt in a bowl, with the oats on top, but you couldn't really see it... never mind, it didn't affect the taste at all.
I think tomorrow morning I will layer the oats in as wel...

See, there is fruit in there!
Bit of everything. Yum.
Home run! Well done to those of you who have managed to stick it out this long, I promise this next recipe is worth it! Let me start by saying I am a big fan of Indian food. And spinach. And potatoes. This recipe is all three. And I got to use my slow-cooker. Even better. I made Dum Aloo (spinach and potatoes) and served it with half a naan bread and mango chutney. I have never had a Dum Aloo with tomato in before but I really liked it- how could I not!- and will definitely be having it again. One thing though. The temperature. The recipe book said high. I thought this was a but strange, but went with it as I had never done the recipe before. It definitely did not need high! Even after me turning the temperature down to low after a few hours. it still burnt a little around the edges! I don't think it impeded the taste though, it just meant I had to eat tea an hour earlier than I wanted to. But it was nice enough that I have forgiven the recipe book... I have however made a note for next time. LOW. Definitely low. The stress of this made me forget to stir in the spinach and let it wilt, so I had to add it separately to the portion I ate, and put some in the freezer bag with the other portion. It didn't mix in as well, but I microwaved my portion for a minute to wilt it a little bit so it wasn't so bad. Full of ideas, me...

I think I need a bigger plate...


Friday, 15 March 2013

Freestyle Friday #9

I had sort of planned in my head to do a hotdog, as I had sausages and a bit of baguette in the freezer, but I had specifically been wanting one with onions... which I didn't have! I didn't want to buy one as that would defeat the object of Freestyle Friday, so the hotdog will have to wait.

I had quite a lot of carbs today, which isn't a bad thing, but it meant I really wanted something spicy and fresh. In the end I just cooked some frozen sweetcorn in a pan with a garlic clove and spices. Extremely random, but it was just what I wanted! So, here's what happened...

 First I fried the garlic in a smidge of oil...

Then added these...

Then I let it cook over a low heat...

Then I ate this!
Just before I left it to cook, I had a little taste, and added some ground allspice, just because I thought it needed something extra and ground allspice would go well. It did, I was much happier with the dish after I'd added it. I topped it with some more chilli powder and some pickled jalapenos... I seem to be adding them to everything lately. Like this pizza I had for tea last night...

Tomato pureé, jalapenos and cheese. Simple, but OH SO GOOD.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Ratatouille, the Right Way

My tea I had planned for today was Instant Ratatouille Supper, but the problem was, it only used half a can. I didn't want to waste it, so I had it for lunch with a poached egg and toast! A bit random, but it was nice, and filling.

The other half of the can sat happily in the fridge until tea time. This was a really quick tea, hence the name! I just had to prep some instant mashed potato, put it round the edge of a plate and grill it, while the ratatouille was heating. Then I put the ratatouille in the centre, grated some cheese on top and grilled until the cheese was melted. This didn't take very long because I used the finest grater, and the ratatouille and potato were already hot. Even though I love proper mashed potato, I am developing something of a taste for instant as well! I would definitely have this again, if only to have that lunch again!

My flatmate commented that it looked like a pizza, and I see what he means... what do you think?

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Banana for Butter!

I have read in quite a few places about substituting banana for butter in recipes. I had bananas. I had ingredients for fairy cakes. I was curious... So I gave it a go! I decided to go for the plain fairy cakes as I have never done this before and thought it would be a good starting point. And... It worked really well! You could only taste a hint of banana so would be good for recipes where you don't want to taste it. The consistency was fine as well, the icing also worked well with banana instead of butter.

Good luck little cakes...

There are a few things I would mention. The cakes didn't rise as much as usual so I would maybe add extra baking powder or bicarbonate of soda... I will have to have a fiddle with quantities! Also, I would reduce the cooking time a little as they were quite well done- but still tasty (as my six flatmate taste testers will verify!). I am looking forward to experimenting more with other recipes with this!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Freestyle Friday #8 and Failed Photos

I had hoped to show you the pictures of the Rancheros Pie from last night, tonight's tea, and my porridge from this morning... But my photo uploading service on my phone still isn't working! I will use my camera tomorrow though until it is sorted, and hopefully get the missing photos on at some point.

Anyway, tonight's Freestyle Friday also had a Mexican theme (you can read about last week's Tex-Mex meal here.). I tried something I had been wanting to try for a while, which is shaping a tortilla wrap round a glass (although you could use anything that is the right shape that will go in the oven) and baking it to make an edible bowl! It worked very well. The edges were a little burnt, so when I do it again I will know to bake for less time. I toyed with quite a few idea of what to fill it with- polenta, rice, minced beef... I went with the rice in the end. No real reason, I just fancied it. I mixed the rice with sweetcorn and fresh coriander. There was also a lone carrot in th fridge, so I peeled it into thin strips with a peeler, stuck them in the microwave until they were soft, and then made a little patty in my new mini frying pan from Ikea... It is so cute! Perfect size for one egg, a scotch pancake, and of course, carrot patties as well ;-) all I did was sprinkle it with some chilli powder and put it in the bottom of the bowl. The rice went on top, and the whole thing was garnished with some pickled jalapenõ slices and more fresh coriander. Just what I needed to spice up my Friday!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Rumbling for Rancheros!

I got to use my slow cooker today! I try to use it once a week at least. This is the recipe I was going to make last time- Rancheros Pie- but didn't have the sweet potato... which is kind of vital as you will see. I like that I can put it on early as I can also get most of the washing up done and not have to do it later!

I say rumbling for Rancheros because the smell in the kitchen was just fab. The mixture of spices in the air really made my stomach rumble! I buy the cheapest meat I can, but you really can't tell after it has been cooking for eight hours. It goes deliciously tender, and with the soft sweet potato topping, juicy sultanas and spicy juices... perfect for a rainy March day!

This is where you would expect to see photos... and I would love to show you some but they are being very stubborn in uploading! I will get them to you as soon as possible though.

And I also realised I left a flavour off the Green and Black's list last night- white... Strong tea. I know it's random, but it works.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Gorgeous Green and Black's and a Simple Supper

I really love Green and Black's chocolate. Just thought I'd get that out there. I have quite few mini bars from Christmas, and I have them as a dessert sometimes. After tea I always have a hot drink as well- one of my many teas! Some of the combinations I have happened upon (I pick a bar at random) went really nicely, so I started thinking about what would go with the other flavours. I have made a little list of what goes nicely, in case you wanted to try it! I have only included the flavours I have tried, but will blog others when I try them... which won't be for a while, as I still have an extremely large chocolate stash from Christmas and my birthday! If you have any suggestions, let me know :-)

Creamy milk- real hot chocolate (As in when it is made with cream and melted chocoalte!)
Milk- Chocolate tea; it is made just like normal tea, there is such a thing as chocolate teabags!
Butterscotch- Warm milk and honey... something children might have, I know, but delicious all the same!
Almond- Disaronno amaretto... cheeky treat in there ;)
Maya gold- mexican hot chocolate (made with cinammon, vanilla and almond extracts)
Cherry- Strawberry and raspberry tea
Ginger- chai tea
Espresso- black coffee
Mint- peppermint tea
70% and 85% dark- black coffee would again go well here!

My simple supper tonight was a grilled chicken breast, brussel sprouts and mash. That is all, no sauce or anything. I got to use my new griddle pan and new scales, which made it even better!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Lucious Lemony Pasta

As you have probably guessed, I am a big Nigella Lawson fan, and last night I had another one of her recipes. It is from the Nigellisima book, which I don't have, but my mum sent me a photocopy of the page a while ago. The recipe was Spaghetti with Tuna, Lemon and Rocket. What it says on the tin, plus a little bit more... the flavours worked well together, even though they are all quite strong. Very refreshing and tangy, just what I wanted. Even though I was certain I would enjoy this dish, it was even nicer than I expected, and I will definitely have it again.

Look at the tiny garlic clove I used compared to a medium one, compared to the oversized one!

The sauce before it was mixed... with a slightly yellow spring onion!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Freestyle Friday #7

This Friday, I went for a Tex-Mex theme. The main thing I wanted to use up was some orange and yellow pepper. I originally wanted to make fritters, and add some frozen sweetcorn to them, but I needed my egg for something else! So I then decided to make some polenta, set it and was then going to cut out circles and grill them. But I didn't get the consistency quite right, so ended up with a sort of mash! Which was not what I wanted, but nice all the same.

To accompany the fritter-mash, I cut a chilli-jalapeño tortilla into triangles, and baked it so it went and and crispy. Finally, I made a barbecue sauce with tomato ketchup, pinch of cinnamon, ground allspice and tiny bit of light brown sugar. It was good, but there was a little something missing, and I realised afterwards it was that it wasn't smoky like barbecue sauce usually is. When I spoke to my mum she suggested something like smoked paprika... Which I have in my cupboard! Never mind, next time!