Sunday, 22 March 2015

Eight Of my Favourite Things

OMG as the teens would say - today my little food blog turns eight! Eight! How on earth did that happen? What originally started as a way to find an easier way to share recipes with family and friends, I started realising that people were actually looking at my blog and now here I am, eight years later still writing up recipes but now with pictures and actual text and joining in all sorts of blogging challenges for all sorts of foods with people all over the world! I love finding new recipes and making them, I think that remains my main reason to keep on blogging! I've also had such amazing opportunities along the way and met some great people, and mainly ate some amazing food!

So much has changed for me personally during my eight years of blogging, I've moved house erm four times, changed jobs five times, went through a nasty bout of depression, went back to college, cancelled an engagement, fell in love with someone new, got pretty unwell, developed chronic pain, lost loved ones and also lost but gained new friends - some through my love of food and blogging! The food blogging community has grown so fast during this time I have struggled to keep up sometimes but we are all individuals and I think the more the merrier! Stumbling across a like minded person always makes me feel that little bit less alone too!


Blogging has become a real hobby to the point pretty much everyone knows I am a food blogger now, and I love learning new recipes from the fellow food blogging community and whilst I am not overly happy with my blog design, and a million times a year I think of changing it I just can't quite do it. I have bought several domains over the years and then pulled the plug I just can't seem to commit to it, I suppose I am quite sentimental and I am not too good with change but this might just be the year it happens...!

I spent all week trying to decide how to celebrate as such, spurred on by the lovely Camilla who blogs at Fab Food 4 All - who turned 3 this week too! In the end I went the '8' theme and took it from there really! In eight years I've managed a slightly scary 591 blog posts, scaling down to my favourites was very hard, especially as some of the older, and loved recipes have some ghastly photo's long before my DSLR (that I still don't really quite know how to master!) and put it out to vote to my boyfriend in the end combined with new skills I have also learned along the way!

So that was four of my favourite new skills I learned in the eight years- working with different dough's including wholemeal flours, baking with soured cream (its amazing, weirdly!) and surprisingly time consuming but delicate macarons, which added a whole new meaning to the term having patience!

My final four took a bit more thought - what four things have inspired me or kept me going during my blogging journey? It was actually the hardest part of this post!

First, well technically fifth is definitely one of the main blogging challenges I participate in - The Monday Meal plan hosted by At Home with Mrs M - which happily feeds my planning geek side when faced with doubtful looks from colleagues who discovered I did this recently... meal planning keeps me sane, cuts food waste and even occasionally prompts me to write an accurate shopping list!


Next up is most definitely a recipe we have fondly in our hearts - a gorgeous Banana Bundt from the fabulous blog Asian in America - it plays host to those sad, neglected bananas and gives you a lush, bananary cake that works well from breakfast through to pudding! The blog host is such a lovely lady too and finding her blog was a good day and recipes like these keep me inspired!


So onto number 7 - decisions decisions! I decided to keep it simple - afterall what is the most important meal of the day? Breakfast of course! I am not a cereal kinda gal... and this is the boss of breakfast! This was a combined meal of my favourite foods from my favourite people! Garlic and soya sauce fried rice - taught by one of my best friends who is from the Phillipines, runny fried eggs as they are my boyfriends favourite and one of my favourite veggies - the superfood Avocado, the toasted sesame seeds simply completed the breakfast feast!


Last but by no means least - if I hadn't of stumbled into blogging, discovered new communities, not just food related but also of life - and after all food to me is my life - its brought me joy when its been in abundance, challenging when less so, and I love constantly discovering and learning new things and I want to thank every one who has inspired me, taught me to love again, stuck by me through the less than great times - I know I've not been the easiest of persons to be with - but I am sure I made it through because of every single one of you! Its a big old world out there - thanks for being part of it. I can't choose just one image to finalise this post and these are all my favourite things:


Cheers to another eight years!
Anne 
x

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Courgette and Mozzarella Piadina

This recipe is one that's been loitering for the past few months - I think I made it even last year but had for some unknown reason not blogged it! The original recipe was taken from a Waitrose freebie magazine, no idea which one though as it was torn out a few months back! I've since made it a couple of times, changing the fillings each time and the base piadina is so easy to make its a handy standby!

Piadina meant absolutely nothing to me prior to making this but fortunately the picture helped to show us a nice, neat bread kind of thing stuffed with nice things. Frying bread is not something I regularly dabble in but I have made the odd doughy thing over the years that way.. and as our oven, is well temperately challenged and this recipe appealed as it didn’t involve it at all!

The piadina were fairly quick and easy to make and assemble, though having a second pair of hands also helps! Also reading the recipe from start to finish… Probably the best way of describing it is that its a cross between a pizza and pitta bread ! I didn't quite fully understand some of the instructions in the original recipe and I have changed it to how it worked for us. 

Serves two:
Ingredients:

2 courgettes
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 small garlic, crushed
½ red chilli finely chopped
1 lemon, finely grated zest only
250g self raising flour
125g mozzarella, drained. Torn into small chunks
20 basil leaves
Salt
Spray oil

Cut the courgette length ways into thin slices. Heat a frying pan and gently saute the courgettes until softened and golden. Remove from the heat and add the vinegar, garlic, chilli and lemon zest, season to taste.

Meanwhile place the flour in a large bowl, a pinch of salt and stir in 6-7 tbsp of cold water. Use a fork to mix it in and bring it together, then knead lightly until you have a soft dough.

Divide into two balls, lightly flour the worktop and roll out to form an 18 cm circle. Repeat with the other ball.

Heat a large heavy based frying pan, spray with oil and place on of dough circles. Gently fry on both sides, greasing as needed for 2-3 minutes or until lightly risen. Remove from the pan and repeat with the other circle. If the pan gets too hot just remove for little bursts to stop it burning.

With the removed circle, carefully use a sharp bread knife to make a large pocket, fill with half the courgette mixture, chunks of mozzarella and basil leaves. Repeat with the other one. Return to the pan, place a heavy saucepan on top to weigh it down and cook for a further 3-4 minutes or until cooked and lightly golden. Repeat with remaining piadina.


Slice into quarters and serve with a nice dressed salad and sauteed tomatoes.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Meal Planning Monday and Embracing Happiness

Since posting the last recipe, last Tuesday I had planned to write another up for you but the evenings ran away with us and with getting ready for Mother's Day, it seemed there was little internet time! I am also trying to not go the internet as much, as I think its far too easy to sit and play on my phone or iPad and not actually communicating with those around me, which is both a little bit rude and not always very productive either!

We don't really get enough time on earth and having human contact is a basic necessity, not a luxury for happier living. So I am trying to be a little more conscious of my loved ones and also shake of the blues that have hung around my moods, for far too long really, though I suspect one of my meds is also part of the cause, something I am slowly adjusting... I think I am also rather pessimistic which doesn't help! One of the tools I am using to try and erode the pessimism is something called Embrace Happy - you can read more about it here on Karins' fabulous website! Every day (well mostly!) I list 3 things that have made me happy - big and small things. I will keep you updated accordingly! Also a big shout out to the wonderful Embrace Happy facebook group - you have all pulled me through the less happier times!

So yesterday was Mother's Day - I am fortunate to have a loving, supportive mum who I cherish, and also a close aunt who is second mummy! Sadly though both my mum and 2nd mum no longer have their mums with us, both who I also miss dearly and we made our way to the crematorium yesterday to pay our respects with prayers and pretty flowers. Nan L loved freesias, and whilst I had left it a bit last minute I managed to luckily find a bouquet with some pink freesias in! We also said prayers for my boyfriends gran, who we also sadly lost earlier this year. 

However it wasn't at all a sad day - okay there was minor sniffles but I remembered everything we cherished about our lost loved ones, and also was thoroughly reminded how lucky I am to still have loved ones in my life - our flat is tiny but we squeezed 7 in our lounge yesterday and we had roast lamb with all the trimmings, then tiramisu, chocolate orange gateaux, a box of ferrero rocher and my home made Sticky orange, almond and honey cake - oh and we started with a mountain of cheesy nachos, cocktail sausages baked in honey and sesame seeds-which were devoured super fast too! It was a joy to host a houseful, even though it was a juggle between chairs, footstall's and the floor but I wouldn't change a thing - yes nothing matched, and we had to wash one plate up before a later guest could eat but material things don't matter - the love in the room cannot be bought, and that's why it was perfect. Nothings better than a room full of genuine laughter!

Sticky Orange, almond and Honey Cake
We stuck mostly to last weeks plan and had some really great dishes - the sweet potato bean bake thingy came out as one of the surprise highlights!

So this week, cooking is going to be challenging - unfortunately whilst rushing around yesterday getting the food ready yesterday... I also managed to badly slice my index finger, so typing is extra fun at the moment, yet alone preparing food for the next few weeks! I have put together a rough plan, which is a bit more simple as my lovely boyfriend will be doing the majority of it!




Garlic Sausage noodles 
Pork & Aubergine fajitas, rice n beans 
Veggie burgers, Cavolo nero and sweet potato wedges
Sweet chilli grilled Salmon, bubble n squeak 
Bacon and Butternut squash Mac n Cheese 



Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Kale and Almond Pesto Spaghetti

Oh how I love thee Kale, I am sorry all those years I dismissed you..casting my beady eye across your green spiky leaves like you were something the cat dragged in... all that changed when I realised the magic was to cook it properly made all the difference! And it was love ever since! However this recipe turns that theory completely on its head in the fact the kale is not actually cooked! I was a little dubious prior to making it what it be like but it turned out rather delicious and made for a very tasty bowl of spaghetti! Make sure you don't eat it on date night unless you both like raw garlic - it can be a little pungent but maybe add less cloves if love is in the air!

The only real problem I encountered making this was lacking a actual food processor to grind and chop everything together. As much as I would love one again, I lack space in our stupidly tiny flat and manage to make do with a chopper thingy and a spice grinder and between the two of them I managed to succeed in turning it into pesto, so the moral of the story is don't be disheartened if you don't have the exact equipment - quite often other things will do the job too!
Serves 2

Ingredients:

50g whole almonds, toasted
25g parmesan cheese, grated (or a veggie version) + extra to serve
75g kale, leaves picked and stalks discarded
2 cloves garlic
160g spaghetti
100g sliced artichokes, from an antipasti jar - save the oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Method:

Using a mini chopper/ food processor blend the kale with the garlic, lemon juice, parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile  boil the spaghetti in salted water as per packet instructions, when cooked reserve a cupful of the liquid and drain well.

If your machine is not up to the job grind the toasted nuts separately in a spice grinder and add to the kale mixture along with roughly ten tablespoons of the liquid from the artichoke antipasti and a good splash of the reserved pasta water to make the mixture slightly loose.

Gently toss the prepared pesto and artichokes with the kale mixture, serve in bowls topped with a little more grated parmesan.


Enjoy you glorious garlicky green bowl of goodness!

I am rather naughty at picking up random ingredients, and I had added a jar of Artichokes antipasti to the trolley at least six months ago with no specific intent other than to use in something at some point. Possibly I had seen something online or on tv that triggered me to buy them but I  don't have the foggiest now as to what it was! As they had hung around so long and I only found them having a root through the cupboard trying to find something else I am sending these into the No Waste food Challenge held by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary:




Monday, 9 March 2015

Meal Planning Monday

Well, well its Monday again! After the past 7 weeks juggling Monday's work, a 3 hour pain clinic and my Pilates class finally I am down to just work and Pilates. I love going to my pilates class and tonight's is well needed, after the left side of my neck being problematic thanks to the class and physio its finally behaving..and right side has decided to become jealous and also play up! I can't win sometimes it seems but on a brighter note the past few months of a black cloud hanging over me has started to disperse a little at least! 

Last week we had some really good meals - the first picture below was Friday nights Pasta with sausage, oregano and cream, adapted from a Waitrose magazine recipe -it was easy, a little bit different and most importantly delicious! The second was Saturdays' breakfast - which  will perhaps be now forever known as 'the breakfast' consisting of leftover rice, fried with garlic and our favourite Filipino soy sauce, topped with diced avocado, limed up and a sprinkle of chilli, plus two fried eggs topped with toasted sesame seeds! It may sound a little hmm okay but oh my it was simply perfect! Tasty, nourishing and it scored a 9 out of 10 the only comment was it would be a 10 if there was toast! A keeper me thinks!


And if that wasn't good enough we also ate this and more!

From Left to right:

My very first ever cooking of Salt n Pepper Crispy Squid 
Garlicky cheese stuffed mini peppers
A mountain of slow roasted Pork leg bathed in Star anise, soy and honey


We stuck fairly well to last weeks plan though some meals moved to others night and the salmon didn't get cooked as I basically forgot to thaw it, oops! This week I did a big shop, restocking the fridge and cupboards and now faced with the dilemma of what to make first! I had a root through the culled recipes from the last few months and was reminded of a lovey baked aubergine dish, so that's back on the menu after getting 3 in the market on Saturday! The gratin  thingy lists spinach but I bought cavolo nero on a whim, so will add that instead! I hope its nice!




Thursday, 5 March 2015

Spiced Kiwi and Apple Jam

My jam and preserve making tends to follow a slightly erratic randomness with no fixed rules other than the sugar to fruit ratio and this batch of Spiced Kiwi jam made no exception! My late and beloved Nanny J was a fabulous jam maker and queen of the marmalade and I take pride in keeping her memory alive with my somewhat experimental jam making and hope I can do her memory justice! I sadly have none of her actual jam or marmalade recipes other than a couple of random cookery books with notes and clippings but I hope she is looking down with happiness at my feeble attempts with some pride!

What triggered this particular batch of jam mostly was that I had bought the preserving sugar on a whim, reduced to 50p a bag (how could really I not resist!) and whilst I had offered some to my aunt, she politely declined and it left me with my 4kg of preserving sugar to play with! It was something quite new to me – I am lazy and have always got away with using regular sugar with the odd apple for luck but as the kiwi fruit were packing their bags and about to make their final bid for bin bag freedom, it was time to see if they could make a harmonious match….so other than a brief amount of stirring the pan into the night I really didn’t have much to lose..

It was quite a frugal jam – as well as the sugar being reduced the kiwi also were purchased yellow stickered, weirdly I have found I can’t tolerate kiwi eaten raw anymore – my mouth goes painfully fuzzy but fortunately the jam is edible and doesn’t affect me and I was glad not to have thrown the poor little kiwi away!

Fortunately despite the jam initially smelling slightly overwhelming spicing wise and had me slightly doubting if my brain was wired correctly it was in fact the perfect amount when finished – its fragrant, a little punchy and makes for excellent hot buttered toast or muffins, or crumpets ..or whatever you want to toast or bake really!
 
Here it is adorning my recent batch of Banana Pancakes:
 


Makes 2 standard sized jars

Ingredients
5 kiwi fruit, ripe, peeled and cut into chunks
3 small eating apples, peeled and cored, cut into small chunks
420g preserving sugar
1 tbsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp ground ginger root
Method:

Place everything in a large heavy based saucepan and gently bring to the boil.
 
Then gently simmer for an hour or so, or until the mixture has broken down and thickened nicely. Use a hand blender to reduced to a more smoother jam if preferred.

Pour into the prepared sterilised jars, put the lid on and allow to cool. Store in the fridge once opened and it will keep for a while - mine is still going strong!
 

Easy as that!
 
As my jam used up the sad, neglected Kiwi I am sending this recipe over to Elizabeth's Ktichen Diary No Waste Food Challenge
 
 
 
If you fancy even more jam do check out these fabulous jam recipes:
 
Plum and ginger Jam from Emily's Recipes and Reviews
Prize winning One Punnet Strawberry Jam from FabFood4All
Secret Raspberry Jam from The Crafty Larder
Rhubarb and Ginger Jam from Farmersgirl Kitchen
Blueberry and Chia Jam from Rough Measures
Blackberry Jam from Citrus Spice and all Things Nice
Chilli Jam from Happiness is Homemade
Apricot and Vanilla Jam from Chocolate Log Blog
Speedy 10 minute Strawberry Jam from Little Sunny Kitchen
 

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