Saturday, 25 September 2010

I'm moving!

I thought it was time to make a move... but only elsewhere on the internet! When I started this blog, I thought Blogger was the way to go but Wordpress looks MUCH better - so that's where I am... please come too : )

Friday, 24 September 2010

Appley ever after

It's been a loooonggg week.

I've been late at work a few nights (only got to ride twice) and then I had to go to a council meeting last night. That's not unusual and this one finished fairly early at 8.15pm - I've had a few major ones run till 1am! - but that means not getting home till gone 9pm : (

Luckily, I had half a butternut-prawn-mushroom-spinach frittata-thing I'd made the night before so it was easy to heat it up and steam some veg to go with it.

But another thing I do most nights is make the next morning's breakfast - porridge! There's been a slight, er, theme running through this week's bowls...

In the words of Rolf Harris: "Can you guess what it is yet?" : )

Getting warmer...

All down to this...

The first picture is what I started with and had twice but forgot to photograph till halfway through the second bowlful! Oats and oatbran, cooked with 1tsp cocoa and water with a mashed-melted banana and 2tsp hazelnut butter mixed in afterwards...

The second picture is what made the third! I had some coconut oil chocolate (coconut oil, cocoa and maple syrup) in the freezer, so I cooked the oats without cocoa, then melted a little chunk of the chocolate with the mashed banana and stirred it in - so chocolatey!

I also tried, but forgot to photograph, cooking the oats/bran with 1tbsp ground almonds and the cocoa, then adding the banana. This was definitely the most filling.

And - the little non-chocolatey island of the week - this:

I'd stewed some apples and suddenly thought that was worth trying. I made the oats plain, then stirred in a big dollop of stewed apple with some almond butter. It was very nice but did NOT cut the mustard in such an otherwise chocolate-fest of a week...

The funny thing is, even though I know it's healthy, my brain refuses to accept that anything tasting of chocolate can be good for you in the morning! But I'll soldier bravely on on the same theme : )

I'm thinking coconut/chocolate in some form next or *sudden blinding flash of inspiration* a chocolate breakfast cookie...

To be continued!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Home-grown bliss

My dad is the best. Of course, I would say that! But as well as his general amazing dadlike qualities, he loves gardening; growing food and almost ordering people to eat it : )

I've been enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of his labour for months; from asparagus to soft fruit, peas, beans, carrots, courgettes, cauliflower, you name it.

He's not into growing flowers but some of the veg, like this red cabbage and these unusual-looking but great-tasting carrots, are so beautiful, he doesn't need to!

But the part of his garden I've had my beady eye on for weeks is this...


As a serious butternut addict, this is the vegetable equivalent of some hard stuff... : ) 
And it's not just butternuts; he's sown loads of different seeds, with a "let's see what they are when they grow" approach, woop!

I don't really eat potatoes, as I can never be bothered to cook them! But recently, I've been using squash almost as a potato equivalent. This fact, and the fact there was some salmon in the freezer which needed eating, led me to last night's dinner - colouful fish pie...

350g-ish fish (I used 260g salmon and a random fillet of something white from my freezer! It was probably pollock, which is like cod, and probably about 90g at a guess. But more fish and of any type would also be great)
Few bay leaves, etc
About 450g or more veg (I used about 320g butternut and 120g carrot) cubed
Pinch of garlic powder
Plain yoghurt (I used about half a 170g pot of total 0%)
1tsp wholegrain mustard
1 egg yolk
Splash of milk
About half a leek

Preheat overn to about 180C. Spray a roasting tin with cooking spray and put the fish in, with the bay leaves. I also used some lemon thyme, given to me by my neighbour.
Cover with foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until fish is cooked.
While it's in, cook the squash and carrots until tender.
Remove fish and put on a plate. Pour any juices into a bowl with the yoghurt, egg yolk, milk and mustard and mix.
Put fish back in the pan and pour in the "white sauce", mixing it in with the fish. Sprinkle chopped leeks on top.
Mash the cooked squash and carrots with the garlic and spread over the fish. Return to the oven for about 15 minutes, then grill at about the same temperature for another 5-10 minutes.

It was so nice! It was one of those recipes I thought might not work at all, as the mashed veg was obviously a lot less "solid" than potato mash but it tasted delicious! For more substance, I think a small potato or two mashed in would be great and actually I'd use a bit more mash next time anyway, as this amount made quite a thin layer.
It might also be nice to sprinkle on some grated parmesan before it goes in the grill, or to add some prawns and chopped hard-boiled eggs to the fish. If more fish/prawns etc was added, I'd use the whole pot of yoghurt too for more creaminess.
But definitely a winner overall. So much flavour and it looked much nicer than a boring white/yellow fish pie (in my humble opinion!) especially served with a rainbow of vegetables.

And talking of vegetables and home-grown joy, I couldn't end without sharing this dude, dug up last week.

Childish - but very entertaining! : )

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Chocolate for breakfast - twice!

Last week was pretty rubbish, all things considered! I had a horrible cold/flu/weakness lurgy, which lasted from Sunday till about Friday : (

So I planned a chilled weekend, but then remembered Dave and my friend's horse were due to be shod yesterday. The farrier never gives an exact time; he just said "after 11am". So I got there at 11.15 and he turned up about 12.45pm. Grrr.
By the time he'd finished, it was nearly 3pm so my friend and I got on the school to ride - and Dave threw me off! I've never known him do anything like it but he stood right up on his back legs, jumped and spun sideways and I landed right on my backside. Not impressed.

So when I woke up today, I felt realllly stiff and bruised and, as any good doctor will tell you, the only cure for that is chocolate. And fast.

So I made chocolate pancakes.

I mixed:

2 egg whites
2 tbsp oat bran
2tbsp water
1-2 tsp cocoa powder (I only used one but two would have been better)

I just mixed it all together, then cooked them in the omelette pan, sprayed with cooking spray, over a medium heat and flipped. These quantities would have made three crepes but I forgot to re-spray the pan after the first one so the second did NOT work : )

I then filled them with my all-time favourite - a mashed, microwaved banana and 2tsp amond butter *drool*

Granted, this picture does not make them look impressive AT ALL! But just think - chocolate, with oozy, almond-buttery banana. Could breakfast get any better?!

And also, the rubbishness of Saturday doesn't really give me an excuse for that morning's chocolate breakfast - oats, cooked with 1tsp cocoa powder and then mixed with half a mashed/melted banana and 1-2 tsp hazelnut butter but hey, who's asking? : )

Have a great week.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Bean there, done that!

Let me introduce a friend of mine, the Bamix:

We've known each other a while now. It started a year or so ago, when I went through a phase of making cakes which replaced flour and butter with ground nuts. My mum kindly lent me her own Bamix but, after I'd stolen borrowed it a few times, she got so sick of it was so keen to spread the joy, she bought me one for Christmas.

Since then, I've used it A LOT. The sharp blade fits on a spike in the mill, then you slot in the handset and away you go; it grinds those nuts, ahem, like no one's business! Then, I started using it to blend more and more different things and all was rosy.

But all relationships have their downsides and my only slight issue was the small capacity of the mill. Whenever I wanted to blend larger quantities, I had to burrow deep into the cupboard and haul out my old "food processor", handed down from my mum, HUGE and very heavy : (

Then, the other day, I realised I'd been having a very long-standing blonde moment. I was at my mum's and she was using hers - but without the mill! It turns out *confession time* it's actually intended as a hand blender. The mill/blade is only for grinding and had I looked in the box and read the manual, I would have realised there are loads of different attachments, perfect for blending, pureeeing, you name it! So when my mum stopped laughing at me, I got back home, found the attachments and have since been mixin' with the best of them.

It was perfect timing too. A thought had floated into my head a while ago that blended beans would make a great porridge. As I've got a head like a sieve and couldn't be bothered with the prehistoric blender, the thought floated straight back out again but Katie's recent recipe reminded me of it. She's also currently running a giveaway of Larabars, for anyone who's interested : )

So... Into the blender went:

60g cannelini beans
Splash of vanilla extract
Splash of milk.
Half a mashed, microwaved banana
Tiny pinch salt

I blended away and then stuck my finger in. And it was really nice! Creamy, smooth and banana-y but the beans give it a great texture and kind of depth (if that doesn't sound too poncy!)

I mixed in 1tsp almond butter and a drizzle of maple syrup and it made the perfect breakfast! would have made the perfect breakfast if I had been less greedy : )

Thanks Katie!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Autumn is here


That's my reaction to the weather; I'm not impressed. After a wet and miserable August, September is proving to be, wait for it, wet and miserable! Hmmph.

But Sunday was beautiful I suppose, so I can't moan too much. I took Dave out jumping and although it was his first show inside for months and I'd hardly had time to work him last week, he was a star, only knocking down one fence in the jump-off (although I was struggling with a slight braking issue total lack of control by that point!)

There were loads of people there too so I was starving when I got home but had loads to do. First up was making something to take for lunch this week. After months of crackers, crepes and crispbreads of various types, I was struck by a craving for sandwiches. I recently made some of my gluten-free wraps but, although they taste great and have a nice chewy texture, they're a real pain to make because the dough's soooo sticky!

Then two thoughts drifted into my head. One was a fat-free banana bread I've made hundreds of times. It's gluten-free (and delicious) and, although it has the texture of cake more than bread, it holds together well, which ain't common with gluten-free loaves!

The other thought was a vision of the ridiculous size and number of courgettes taking over my dad's vegetable patch - they're HUGE!

So, I present to you.... courgette bread sandwiches!

Apologies in advance for using a nasty word but the bread is moist *shudder*, holds together and tastes nice! The only slight problem, and the reason I'm not going to put the recipe up yet, is, that is a very small side plate - the loaf is tiny!

So I'm looking on it as a "work in progress" : )  Updates to follow, if I can improve it. If I never mention it again, you know why!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Inspiration, creation, salivation!

But before that, a word about a mental week! Back to work, editing, a reporter off, a completely uninspired work experence kid... aargh! At least, I thought as I left the office on Friday, it's the weekend...

But that night, my laptop had a SECOND argument with a cup of tea (I'm such an idiot!) and it came off worse. So I had to buy another one yesterday : (

Then, a group of us went out last night for one friend's birthday and another one's "welcome back to the world" after having a baby. But the manager of the restaurant we'd picked said they couldn't guarantee anything on the menu was safe for me to eat. So I ended up with a bowl of olives for dinner! It didn't matter too much though as I made up for it when I got home. Possibly 1am wasn't the best time to shovel down baked squash custard with almond butter, followed by Cadbury's chocolate raisins but it definitely hit the spot...

Anyway - cake!

As well as my official job, my unoffical role at work is that of office cake-maker, which is fine with me!

It was our photographer's birthday at the weekend and I knew he'd be in today so I started thinking about what sort of cake I wanted to make and chocolate was the clear winner : )

I've made butter, flour and oil-free ones, using ground nuts, but suddenly wanted to see if I could make a completely fat-free chocolate cake...

And there it is!

I knew kind-of what I wanted to do but couldn't find a recipe anywhere so I guessed, estimated and hoped - and it worked...

Preheat oven to 180c and grease and line two 9-inch loose-bottomed sandwich tins

4 eggs, separated
95g flour (I used 60g rice flour, 35 cornflour and 1/2 tsp xanthan gum)
120g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder

Sift flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and cocoa powder together to make sure well blended and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks. In a separate bowl, beat yolks and sugar together till creamy. Gently fold in the egg whites, in about four goes, then gently fold in the flour/cocoa mixture, taking care not to over-mix. Pour into tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cakes are starting to shrink away from the sides. Leave to cool in tins, then gently turn out on to a wire rack.


15g dark chocolate
100g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia Extra Light)
125g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Tiny pinch salt

Melt chocolate in the microwave and beat cheese till creamy. Add melted chocolate and beat again. Add vanilla and salt and blend, then stir in sugar and blend. Spread over the top of one cake and sandwich the two together.

WARNING: I used this recipe and it was A.Mazing. But it makes much too much for a cake this size and if you can resist shovelling the rest straight from pan to mouth, you've got much better self control than I have : )
I think 3/4 or 2/3 these quantities would be plenty and still leave enough for the cook to, erm, sample it...

85g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
4 tbsp evaporated milk (I used Sainsbury's own light version)
185g icing sugar

Put milk and chocolate in a thick-bottomed pan and stir over a low heat. Once chocolate has melted, stir in icing sugar until well blended, then pour over cake. It'll set to an amazing shiny finish...

(Obviously these toppings make this gluten-, fat- and dairy-free cake not dairy free at all! But I think blended silken tofu would make a brilliantly creamy filling if used in place of the Philadelphia. Also, I think coconut milk would make a perfect, and delicious, substitute for the evaporated milk)

Well, what can I say? The boys in the office are hard to please when it comes to cake but all of them said it was the best cake I'd ever made (although that could just mean the others were rubbish!) And not a piece was left...