30 March 2010

White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cookies






































Maria over at The Goddess's Kitchen first made these sumptuous cookies and I knew I had to make them too. Buttery smooth macadamia nuts and creamy white chocolate chips in a blonde cookie, mmmmmmmm! They lived up to my expectations and were handed around to much applause.

I doubled the recipe and changed it into cup sizes. You can find the original recipe here.

Thanks for the recipe Maria, it is fab!



















White Chocolate and Macadamia Cookies

250g butter, softened
½ cup demerara sugar
½ cup caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
2 ½ cups plain flour
½ cup white chocolate chips
1⁄3 cup macadamia nuts, chopped


Preheat oven to 180ºC, fan 160ºC, gas mark 4.

Beat together the butter and sugar until it is pale and creamy.

Beat in the vanilla extract and egg yolks.

Add the flour, white chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Mix until you have a smooth dough, with the only lumps being the chocolate and nuts.

Using your hands, roll the dough into golf sized ball and lightly press each one flat on to a greased baking sheet, making sure they are spread slightly apart.

Bake for 12 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and let cool for a couple of minutes before either eating or cooling completely on a wire rack.

Makes 24

22 March 2010

Jammie Doughnut Muffins

















I saw these scrumptious muffins over at Katiecakes and just couldn't resist!

Katie made these little wonders for the Sweet and Simple Bakes monthly event. I made them for us to scoff!

The only thing I would say about these muffins is eat them while they are still warm to enjoy them at their best.

I have included the recipe changed into cup measures, but you can find the original recipe here.

Jammie Doughnut Muffins

Muffins

2 ½ cups plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
¾ cup caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
75g/3 oz/¾ stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 tsp strawberry jam


For The Topping

melted butter
granulated sugar
ground cinnamon


You will need 12 hole muffin tin lined with paper cases.

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl, and stir through the sugar. In a large jug, lightly beat the eggs then add the milk, cooled butter and vanilla extract and beat together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients stir gently until just combined. (Do not over mix, its fine to have a few lumps in the mixture.) Spoon half the muffin mixture into the base of each paper case. Top each muffin with a teaspoon of jam. Now equally between each paper case, top with the remaining muffin mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes until well risen, golden and firm to the touch.

For The Topping: melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Spread the granulated sugar in a wide, shallow bowl with the cinnamon if using. When the muffins are baked, leave in the tin for 5 minutes. Dip the tops of the muffins in the melted butter and then roll in the sugar.

Makes 12

Thanks for the recipe Katie!

19 March 2010

NCR - Warming Red Lentil & Chickpea Soup




















Warming Red Lentil & Chickpea Soup


1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 large carrots, grated
2 tsp ground cumin
5 cups / 2 ½ pints vegetable stock
1 cup red lentils
2 x 400g tins chickpeas
freshly ground black pepper


Saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until the onion is soft and translucent.

Add the grated carrot and cook gently for a few minutes.

Stir in the cumin and the pour in the vegetable stock. Stir well.

Add the red lentils and allow to simmer gently for 20-30 minutes.

Lastly add the chickpeas and cook until warmed through.

Season with freshly ground black pepper.


Serves 6 - 8

I cannot believe I never tried a simple lentil soup before. It is really flavoursome and the spicy flavour of the cumin really shows through, but doesn't overpower the soup. I am looking forward to my next bowlful.


This is my entry for this month's No Croutons Required. If you would like to enter a vegetarian soup or salad containing chickpeas, you have until tomorrow evening, Saturday 19 March 2010.

17 March 2010

An Award, A Baby And Two Reminders

So first the award.

My good friend Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe has very kindly presented me with a Happy 101 Award. In return she has asked me to write about 10 things that make me happy and 10 bloggers who brighten my day. I think that is a fair exchange and it is good to take the time to think about the positive things in our lives, although I have to say my life is pretty much overflowing with happiness at the moment.


10 Things That Make Me Happy

1 My baby

My beautiful little boy Cooper. He has brought so much joy into my life and he is changing and growing so much, every day in front of my eyes. His latest thing is to give big chuckley laughs. He is a very smiley little boy.

2 Sleep

As you can imagine, I am not getting a lot of this just now, but when I do, it is delicious! I look forward to the night when Cooper is able to sleep through the night and so am I. Oh, to wake up refreshed, with a spring in my step. Hmmmmm, wait a minute, I never woke up like that pre-baby, maybe that is too much to hope for.

3 A sunny day, a good book and a glass of chilled wine

Oh, the simple pleasures in life! One of my greatest joys in the summer, is coming home after a long, hot and suffocating day at work. (Air conditioning in my building, pah, I am sure that is an urban myth and why oh why did the architects think that glass roofs would be a good feature? Yes, it looks good and let's in lots of sunlight, but it cooks us in the summer). As I was saying, coming home after a long, hot and suffocating day at work and sitting in the garden with a good book and a glass of crisp, chilled white wine. The sun will be shinning, the temperature will be up, but of course there will be a light breeze, to make it comfortable to sit in. The book will be lightweight and give me a good laugh. The wine should be a large glass of chilled Oyster Bay, served by my husband and there will be a cat at my feet, purring. Mmmmmmm, fabulous, although I will have to work a baby into this set up now and borrow a cat.

4 Salsa dancing with my hubby Graham

I never in a million years thought I would be able to persuade Graham to learn to dance salsa. In fact, if you had asked me a few years ago, I would have cried with laughter. He has always stayed clear of the dance floor at weddings, point blank refusing to dance with me. So, when I decided I would like to learn, I didn't even ask if he would like to come with me.

So how did I manage it, you may wonder?

We were visiting Graham's parents in Cyprus and what do they love to do of an evening? Yes, you guessed it! But, it wasn't that easy Oh no! He refused to let his parents show some moves. Until one evening we joined them and their friends at their salsa class. It was a very social affair, good music and dancing, the wine was flowing and there were nibbles to enjoy along with lots of chat. Well, it would just seem churlish to refuse a lesson, wouldn't it? Although he did try. And what do you know, he could do it and it was fun!

Men - skill = enjoyment, if you don't think you will be good at it, refuse to try, I am sure that is how it goes!

Now we really enjoy dancing together, there is lots of laughter, a little skill and a baby enjoying the music from the sidelines.

5 Cooking, baking, eating and blogging about it

Say no more...

6 I love taking photos.

I am the scourge of my social group. I am always popping up with my camera and it's not always welcome. You see, I do believe in candid shots. They are always the best.

I love taking photos of the beautiful Scottish countryside. I continually trail behind when I am hillwalking, because I am so busy taking in the views and snapping with my camera. Luckily my friend Alistair is usually lagging behind taking photos too.

I love taking photos of architecture.

My holiday snaps are littered with buildings and doors. Especially doors with lots of rust, graffiti or peeling paint. Don't ask me why doors, they just appeal to me. The same qualities are good on boats too.

Taking photos of food for my blog is more about trying to get the composition right and enough daylight in the shot. Not such a joy for me. Give me a rusty door or boat any day!

7 Home

This is a truly sad one, but I would be remiss, if I didn't say it made me happy. I love it, I mean I truly feel happy when I have finished all the housework and the house is neat as a pin and sparkling. There is no better feeling! I am sad, aren't I? I can't help it, it makes me happy. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't particularly enjoy doing it, but the sense of accomplishment when it is done, is great.

I never seem to get to the end of it these days. I wonder why?

8 Making lists

Graham always finds this very funny. I am often the brunt of jokes when I say, "I must make a list!". I do have to make them, as my memory is shocking at times, but I have to admit, I enjoy compiling a list. I will make a list for anything. A to-do list, a shopping list, a list of books I have read, recipes, well they are just a list with instructions, aren't they, a list of ideas for my blog or recipes I want to remember to try, lists of birthdays, of gifts given, money spent, bills paid, places to visit, a list of the dvds I have and so it goes on and on and on. At any point in the house, I can quickly lay my hands on a notebook and pen. Which leads on to my next joyful obsession.

9 Stationery

Yep, I love stationery and especially notebooks. I have spent many a happy hour in Paperchase. I was overjoyed when Borders opened in Dundee, complete with a Paperchase concession and distraught when it closed down. 5 minutes ago, I discovered, they have an online shop. Yippee! Greetings cards, gift wrap, notebooks, pens. Lovely!

10 Water

I love the sound of the sea. Waves crashing against the rocks or lapping the sand on the beach. The sound of a waterfall or rain pattering against a window. It is so mesmerising and relaxing.

10 Bloggers Who Brighten My Day

As you can imagine, it is very difficult to choose from the many great blogs and great friends out there, so I would like to say you all bring me joy every day and this is but a small selection.

1 Johanna (Green Gourmet Giraffe), not because she gave me an award, but because I enjoy the daily glimpses into her life with Sylvia. I have a similar taste in vegetarian food, so a visit is always enjoyable and lastly, I count her as a good friend in the blogosphere.

2 CC as I call her (The Caked Crusader). Who wouldn't enjoy visitng this blog and drooling over all the gorgeous cakes? They never fail to please.

3 Wendy (A Wee Bit of Cooking). A fellow scots lass, who lives in a really beautiful part of Scotland. I just love her amazing landscape photos and reading the tales of her cute little dog Marco. The food is pretty darn good too :)

4 Charlotte (The Great Big Vegetable Challenge). I so loved going on a journey through the alphabet of vegetables with Charlotte and her son Freddie. If you are suffering withdrawal symptoms, then I encourage you to buy her book Great Big Veg Challenge: How to Get Your Children Eating Vegetables Happily. It's not just for children you know. It is full of yummy recipes.

5 Beth (Jam and Clotted Cream). A light and airy blog. A happy place, with some lovely cakes and a new baby called Rory.

6 Mangocheeks (Allotment to Kitchen). I was always impressed and a bit in awe of Mangocheeks with her ability to take fresh produce from her allotment and come up with amazing and different recipes every day. She is now working from a small kitchen garden instead of her allotment, but the delicious recipes just keep coming.

7 Dana (Dana Treat). Alongside her blog, Dana has a catering business and oh what delights she cooks up for her clients. They are very lucky, very lucky indeed. If you want truly gorgeous food, that is put together with flair, then this is the blog to visit.

8 Ruth (Once Upon A Feast). Ruth created the most amazing food event, you may be familiar with it, I am sure you are, but if you have been on another planet for the last three years, it is Presto Pasta Nights, an amazing weekly roundup of pasta dishes from around the world. Friday nights just wouldn't be the same without it.

9 Chele (The Chocolate Teapot). This is quite a new blog, one that I only discovered this year, but I am glad that I did. Lots of lovely baking and chocolate. Just what I am in need of on a daily basis. It's fab!

10 Sarah ( The Ordinary Vegetarian). I only came across this blog last September, when I noticed that Sarah had linked to one of my soups. I am so glad I did. Sarah is another vegetarian who cooks the type of food I enjoy the most. I do love seeing what her next dish will be.

Now for the boring bit. For my 10 happy place bloggers, if you would like to collect your award and think about joining in and passing it along. Here are the guidelines:

1. Copy the award image into a post
2. Then list 10 things that make you happy
3. Tag 10 bloggers who brighten your day
4. Put in a link to their blogs
5. Notify the award receivers
6. Award recipients must link back to sender's blog


Now for the baby!






















Oh how we laughed as he had his first experience of a baby bouncer. One that he should be too young to go in. Someone needs to tell him he shouldn't be able to support his head without help yet. How we rolled about the floor with tears streaming down our faces as he bounced around in cicles chortling as he went.

And last but not least, the reminders.

No Croutons Required - The Chickpea Round. Soups and Salads need to be emailed to Lisa (nocroutonsrequired@googlemailcom) by the 20th March.

Hotel Chocolate Giveaway. If you live in th UK, then why not leave a comment here for a chance to win a fabulously thick easter egg. Entries must be in by the 28th March.

Sorry for such a mammoth post. Thanks for bearing with me, it sort of gathered speed as it went!

Update!!!!!

Whoops! Mummy brain strikes again! I was planning to give an award to two of the blogs that are new to me and that I love. Chocolate Teapot and Chocolate Log Blog. I somehow managed to mix them both together. So here goes, my 11th award goes to:

11 Choclette (Chocolate Log Blog), another lovely blog where I go for my fix of chocolate and cakes. I can never leave without bookmarking her latest creation.

12 March 2010

Easter Competition - Hotel Chocolat (UK only)









When Hotel Chocolat got in touch with me and asked if I would like to try some of their chocolate, it didn't take me long to consider.

....and it gets even better! Hotel Chocolat have offered me one of their Extra Thick Easter Eggs as a prize for one lucky winner. The only stipulation on this occasion, is the winner must be resident in the UK.

I was lucky enough to try their Rocky Road to Caramel Extra Thick Easter Egg and boy was it a treat. This is what an Easter egg should be!

Beautiful packaging starts the anticipation flowing, layer after layer until you reach your foil wrapped egg. None of this puny-amount-of-sweeties-in-a-nasty-plastic-dish nonsense, no, this is the real deal. The chocolates lay fondled inside the egg and what an egg it is. Thick, thick, thick, delicious chocolate. One half of the egg is 40% milk chocolate studded with chocolate chunks, puffed rice and cookie pieces and the other half of the egg is milk chocolate coated with the most gorgeous caramel chocolate. This was my favourite half. The caramel chocolate was amazing! Thick and smooth, but not too sweet. Inside the egg there are a selection of hand finished chocolates. Mmmmmmm!
























There are four ways to enter:

1. Leave me a comment telling me about your favorite type of chocolate (i.e. style of chocolate, such as milk, dark, white, brimming with nuts or dried fruits).
2. Follow Tinned Tomatoes on Twitter (leave another comment telling me this with a link).
3. Follow Hotel Chocolat on Twitter (leave another comment telling me this with a link).
4. Reblog / Retweet this giveaway (leave another comment telling me this with a link).

Yes, that means each of you may enter the competition 4 times and have a greater chance of winning.

Remember only UK residents may enter this time.

You may enter up until close of day on Sunday 28 March 2010 and the winner will be announced on Easter Sunday, which falls on Sunday 4 April this year.

Good Luck everyone!

04 March 2010

Conchiglioni Al Forno



I had to do a search for the name of this pasta dish. I knew about it, I hadn't tried it, but it was hovering there in my mind, ready to be pulled forth and thrown together.

I cannot resist trying different pasta shapes, so when I saw these giant shells, my hand reached for them even before my brain had clicked into gear. I had no clear idea of what I would use them for, I just had to have them. A bit like shoes in that respect. No snidey comments please Graham, oh husband of mine!

So these gorgeous giant shells sat in the cupboard looking pretty until one evening, when my brother-in-law was coming for dinner. I wanted to make something different, but didn't want to do a big shop (hey I have a baby now, shopping isn't such a pleasure any more).

I had ricotta in the fridge, left over from making cheesecake brownies, spinach in the salad drawer, waiting to be made into soup and I always have ingredients to hand for making a basic tomato sauce. So Conchiglioni Al Forno seemed like a good option. Of course at that point it was giant shells, stuffed with spinach and ricotta and topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

It is a great dish, but I somewhat spoiled mine. I only made one portion of tomato sauce and so when it came to layering the dish, I soon ran out and resorted to opening a carton of passata. The passata was slightly bitter and cannot be compared to a fresh tomato sauce, so I will be writing out the recipe for you with double the quantity of my normal sauce and I beg of you, do not use passata in this dish as a shortcut. Take the extra time and make a fresh sauce that will make your toes curl in pleasure (we are back to the shoes again!). Extra mozzarella on top would be nice too, but only for cheese-fiends like us.























Conchiglioni Al Forno

Pasta

350g Conchiglioni

Cook in plenty of water according to the packet instructions until al dente. Rinse in cold water and set aside until you are ready to put the dish together.

Basic Tomato Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped,
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 x 400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 handful freshly torn basil
Salt & pepper to taste


Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil, until the onion is translucent. Pour in both tins of tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes, until reduced and thickened. Season to taste, then add the basil at the last minute.

Stuffing

160g baby spinach
500g ricotta cheese
a good grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper


Place the spinach in a colander and pour over boiling water. The spinach doesn't need cooked, this softening is enough. Pour some cold water over the spinach and squeeze out as much of the water as you can before dabbing in a tea towel. Roughly chop the spinach and place in a bowl. Add the ricotta cheese and mix thoroughly. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Topping

2 balls mozzarella, grated
fresh basil leaves


Assembling The Dish

* Spread approximately one third of the tomato sauce across the base of a large ovenproof dish.

* Fill each pasta shell with the ricotta mix and place on top of the sauce until you have covered the base of the dish. Place the pasta open side up.

* Drizzle tomato sauce over the filled pasta and sprinkle with some fresh basil.

* Build another layer of filled pasta, cover with the remaining sauce and more basil.

* Top the finished dish with grated mozzarella.

* Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese has melted and turned golden.

* Serve with garlic bread and a green salad. Try not to serve as much on each plate as I did, it is far too much. This pasta is very filling.

Serves 4-6

I am entering this pasta bake into this week's Presto Pasta Night, the weekly pasta roundup that has been making us drool every Friday night for the past three years.


Happy Birthday Presto Pasta! and a big congratulations to Ruth over at Once Upon A Feast, who came up with such an excellent idea for us all to enjoy.

02 March 2010

Easy Moist Lemon Cake





























I am drooling over library cookbooks again.

This particular droolworthy book was chosen by my good friend Tanya, who grabs any new cookbooks that she thinks I might like as they arrive and puts them under the counter for me. It is always such a treat to be presented with a shiny new cookbook.

This recipe is a particularly easy one, but the resulting cake is delicious. The combination of a moist lemon sponge, with creamy lemon frosting and a snowfall of shredded coconut is a taste sensation I will be enjoying again soon and one I urge you to try.

My only advice is to set the oven temperature yourself and do not, I repeat, do not ask your husband to preheat the oven while you see to the baby, because although there are lemons and coconut standing in front of him, beside the cookbook, he still manages to read the oven temperature for the Pear and White Chocolate Cake! If you do insist on asking for his help, then do check the temperature before you put your cake in or it will be ever so slightly underdone in the centre like mine.






























Easy Moist Lemon Cake
Cakes by Rachel Lane & Carla Bardi

Cake

1 ½ cups (225g) plain flour
¾ cup (150g) sugar
3 large eggs
½ cup (125g) butter, softened
1⁄3 cup (90ml) milk
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Lemon frosting

1 ½ cups (225g) icing sugar
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp desiccated coconut


1. Preheat the oven to 350f/180c/gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 9-inch/23 cm square pan.

2. To prepare the cake, beat the flour, sugar, eggs, butter, milk, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at low speed until well blended. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until pale and thick, 3-4 minutes. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a rack.

4. To prepare the frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter in a medium bowl. Beat in enough lemon juice to make a spreadable frosting. Spread the cake with the frosting, and sprinkle with the coconut.

Serves 8 - 10

Here are a few more lemon recipes you may like to try:

* Extreme Lemon Tart - The Caked Crusader
* Lemon Curd with Nutmeg - Tinned Tomatoes
* Lemon and Lime Meringue-Less Pie - Munchkin Mail
* Triple Lemon Slice - Katiecakes
* Lemon Lust Cake - Eat Me Delicious
* Lemon Verbeba Ice Cream - David Lebovitz
* Lemon and Almond Shortcakes - David Hall