Sunday, 29 March 2009

bills and ben

This weekend was a busy one... Starting with a night out with the girls on Friday to see Dave - a really good local band who do the BEST covers. We planned to eat out first, then meet other family and friends at the gig. Unfortunately we then got a call to say that the band had had to cancel as the lead singer, Paul, had pleurisy... So we enjoyed our meal out and had an early night instead! We wish Paul a really speedy recovery, hopefully in time for our next girls' night out!

Saturday was a day out with the girls, this time my mum, two sisters and sister-in-law. I am blessed with a fantastic family, and like nothing more than spending time with them. Now and again, we manage to have a girls' day out having coffees and lunch, with a bit of shopping thrown in. Brighton is our usual destination and Food for Friends is a favourite for lunch.

What really made the day was the addition of my almost 5-month old nephew, Ben. He is THE most gorgeous baby ever (ok, so i may be a little biased...) and he delighted us with his smiles and baby noises all day.

The other delight was managing to get a table at Bill's for afternoon tea, and my first ever Lamington - raspberry if you will. It was made from the softest sponge cake, covered in a light rasberry jam and coconut, and topped with a white chocolate dipped strawberry. Yum!

Sunday brought the loss of an hour in bed (but yay for the lighter evenings!) and a 10-mile walk, getting into training for the London MoonWalk. I have done this fantastic 26-mile walk twice before, and am really looking forward to taking part again for this very good cause. More details to follow.

And then the weekend was nearly over, leaving just enough time for a flick through the Sunday papers, and finding a few recipes for the week ahead...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

banana smoothie

Most mornings, I start the day with a smoothie. I get up and leave home at early o'clock but have to have something to eat/drink or i end up feeling sick on the train to work. I then have a second proper breakfast at my desk, which keeps me going until lunchtime (ok then, elevensies!).

I was given a Hamilton Beach Classic Blender over 15 years ago (which has just made me think what i actually did just over 15 years ago... but that's a whole other story which i will have to come back to at some point) and it's still going strong. I know a recipe for a smoothie might seem a little simple, but this one from Breakfast Lunch Tea is my new favourite.

So here it is, and it's a lot quicker than making granola (especially for you miss baglady).

Classic Banana Smoothie - Serves 1
1 banana
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp apple juice
125ml natural yoghurt or soya milk (i use half and half)
Put all the ingredients in a food processor/blender and liquidize until smooth and frothy (does anyone remember Cresta? I can't say the word frothy without thinking about the large white polar bear wearing sunglasses)
*Add a handful of strawberries in season
*Replace the apple juice with lime juice, the honey with 1tbsp sugar and add a handful of desiccated coconut (i would have to add a shot of rum with this one to make a delicious tropical breakfast cocktail, mmm...)
*Replace the banana with chunks of ripe mango and add a dash of lime juice to the apple juice
*Use any poached fruit and some of its liquid, especially apricots, and you won't need the apple juice

Monday, 23 March 2009

rose bakery's honey granola

I have been lusting after this book for some time now... I first saw it at the top of Gemma's book list on Dressing for Dinner. I added it to my shopping basket on Amazon a good month or so ago and had resisted completing the order until last week. I knew i had been neglecting my blog and was in need of some culinary inspiration! Anyone who knows me well, knows that i would love to run a little coffe shop one day - serving the freshest, tastiest coffee, home baked biscuits and cakes and healthy quiches and tarts.

For now, i will keep attempting to write the business plan and try out as many delicious recipes as possible so when the time comes, i will be ready!

After a weekend of cake-eating, i thought I'd better start with a healthy breakfast recipe:

Honey Granola - serves 6

400g rolled oats
125g whole almonds (I used flaked)
100g sunflower seeds
100g pumpkin seeds
50g sesame seeds
1 tbsp wheatgerm
125ml sunflower oil
250ml honey (I used half honey and half maple syrup)
50g brown sugar (I left this out)
a few drops of vanilla extract
pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 handful dried fruit, such as sultanas (golden raisins) or dates
milk or soya milk to serve (i like it stirred through natural yoghurt and drizzled with honey).

Preheat oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.
Mix together the oats, almonds, seeds and wheatgerm in a large mixing bowl.
Place the sunflower oil, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan with 125ml watwe and bring up to just boiling point, stirring constantly.
Stir this into the oats and seeds and mix everything together well.
Spread out evenly onto a large baking tray (i line mine with parchment/bake-o-glide) and place in the oven for 1 hour. (i gave a little stir halfway through).
Turn the oven down to 140C/275F/Gas 1 and bake for a further hour (again, i gave a couple of stirs).
Finally, turn the oven off and allow the granola to dry out for a further hour or overnight.
Stir through the dried fruit and allow to cool completely before placing in sterilised jars (i also put some in cellophane bags to take in to work).
I have tried quite a few different granola recipes and what i like about this one is that the mixture stays quite loose rather than clumpy and it has a lovely toasty, nutty flavour.
I will try it with different combinations of fruit and nuts next time too - pecans and cranberries would be lovely.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

happy mother's day!

Remember me?? Apologies for my extended absence... life's been hectic. It started with my parents moving house after two years of trying to downsize. From agreeing a sale to moving house, it all happened in under six weeks and i was tasked with selling furniture on ebay and helping on move day. I've only just recovered...

Then i had to go to France for work and in between i've been catching up with friends and family...

Long story short, i've been neglecting my blog and my lovely readers so i now need to make amends!

To kick off with, i thought i'd share some sweet treats from our Mother's Day afternoon tea.

My sister Claire made this delicious cake from a Domestic Goddess recipe:

Cherry Almond Loaf Cake - makes 8-10 slices

200g natural-coloured glace cherries
250g self-raising flour
225g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
2-3 drops almond essence
100g ground almonds
6 tbsp milk
23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin, buttered and lined

Preheat oven to 170 C/gas mark 3.
Halve the cherries, wash them in a colander under cold water, then pat dry, toss in some flour and shake well to get rid of excess.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs and almond essence, then gently fold in the flour and ground almonds.
Fold in the cherries and then the milk and spoon the thick mixture into the prepared loaf tin.
Bake for 45 mins to 1 hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Leave in the tin on a wire rack until completely cooled.
Serve with a proper cup of tea.

And i made these yummy gluten-free brownies, also courtesy of Nigella, which has got to be the easiest brownie recipe ever:

Flourless Chocolate Brownies - makes 16 squares

225g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids (i used Green & Blacks)
225 g butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
150g ground almonds
100g chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 170 C/gas mark 3. Butter and line a 24cm square baking tin (or use a foil one).
Melt the chocolate and butter gently over a low heat in a heavy-based saucepan.
Take off the heat, mix in the vanilla and sugar, and allow to cool a little.
Beat the eggs into the pan along with the ground almonds and chopped walnuts.
Turn into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 25-30 mins, until the top has set but the mixture below is still gooey.
Allow to cool for as long as you can resist, and cut into squares.
Nigella suggests serving these "squidgy-bellied" squares with hot chocolate sauce and ice-cream, but they are just as good served on their own, minus the additional calories!