Monday, October 23, 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 Week 43

Monday
smoked haddock with crème fraiche from this recipe for me, chicken chargrills for him

Tuesday
macaroni cheese with bacon and sausage

Wednesday- chicken pie and mashed potato

Thursday something from the freezer with chips

Friday probably at yoga though haven't booked it yet

Saturday
Lunch bacon sandwich for him, sardines on toast for me
Dinner chicken schnitzel in katsu spices from Waitrose

Sunday
Lunch fresh filled pasta
Dinner pan-fried hake in lemon butter sauce

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Mini Trick or Treat No Bake Lemon Cheesecakes for Halloween Party

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Banoffee Tool Box Birthday Cake


We had a family barbecue for my father-in-law’s birthday in August and I wanted to make a cake that would stand out. I tried to think of things I associated with him – my father-in-law is really handy, at everything from fixing fences to building a child’s ride on car from scratch so I had the idea of a tool box cake.
 
Looking at Google Images I realised there were some incredibly detailed, realistic tool box cakes and figured I wouldn’t have the time or skill to do anything like that. Rather than make something else altogether, I decided to make a simple rectangular red toolbox, with a separate lid, and make some tools separately to pull the whole thing together.
 
 

My father-in-law really likes banoffee pie so I decided that would be a good flavour for the cake and found a recipe in Fiona Cairns’ Birthday Cake book. The recipe in her book is designed to make cakes in the shape of a pair of dice – for someone who likes a game of chance perhaps – but it was easily adapted to a loaf tin shape. You can find the recipe online at Cooked.

 
I decided to make the lid separately and as I didn’t want it to be too heavy, I thought rice krispie cakes would be perfect. I’ve seen cakes where all sorts of parts were sculpted from rice krispies – like an animal or person where the limbs were made from rice krispies. I wasn’t sure what consistency to make my rice krispie cake so took the easy way out and (kind of) cheated by using Kelloggs Rice Krispie squares. I sandwiched 6 – a mixture of chocolate flavour and plain – together with melted chocolate, in a block the length of my loaf tin, and put them in the fridge to set.

 
For the cake, I followed the recipe, mixing butter, sugar, mashed banana, eggs, vanilla, milk, flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. The mixture baked nicely in my loaf tin – it did create a bit of a dome which had to be sliced off to level the cake. I also cut some corners – because I had a lot of other food to prepare for the barbecue as well – with the frosting. Fiona Cairns gives a recipe for toffee buttercream which sounds really nice, but as I had a tin of Carnation Caramel I decided to make some regular buttercream and add that.
 
 
 
After filling the cake I covered the whole thing plus the rice krispie cake block in red fondant, and made a handle out of fondant for the lid and some black panels for the front of the box. I wasn’t that confident at making tools even if I drew a template and followed it, so I bought some cookie cutters from Amazon and cut out a saw, pair of pliers, hammer and spanner, then did the same again in coloured fondant to make the handles. I think they worked really well, what do you think? These are the ones I used:

 
 
Finally I placed the tools on or around the tool box, secured the lid with a couple of cocktail sticks in an open position and the cake was ready to be presented. The cake itself was moist and delicious – I do recommend checking out Fiona Cairns’ recipe!


 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Restaurant review: Rocksby's, Portsmouth

My sister and I wanted to take her baby daughter to the Portsmouth Aquarium a few months ago. I’ve realised it’s difficult to make an early start when you have a baby to get ready – by the time we arrived in Portsmouth it was already late morning, and we had decided on a quick trip to the Pyramids Centre soft play centre first.
 
 
My niece seemed to have a great time with the foam shapes and ball pond, but was most interested in some noughts and crosses on the wall which spun around as she touched them. I was quite tempted to get into the ball pond as well but it wasn’t big enough!
Baby had her lunch at the soft play, then my sister and I wanted to find somewhere to get some lunch ourselves. The Pyramids had two small café areas – one is right next to the swimming pool (and open plan) so noisy and steamy and the other was outside the main entrance by the turnstiles, but only had a couple of tables – so we decided to find somewhere else.
 
Walking along the sea front on a fairly dull day we decided not to go too far, as we still wanted time to go to the Aquarium. We found ourselves outside Rocksby’s, a fish and chip restaurant with a fairly broad menu of other dishes as well. I liked the décor, with seaside and fishing paraphernalia strung up from the ceiling and on the walls; the cheap white plastic chairs were comfortable enough and we were offered a high chair as well. They were busy but there was still plenty of room for the buggy.
 
I had mac and cheese, a bargain at £7 for a huge dish (and I mean huge), with an extra £1 for crayfish tails. It was delicious – I couldn’t even finish it! Definitely a dish I would recommend here.
 
 
When we left it had just started raining so we pushed the buggy up to the Aquarium, about a ten minute walk away. We were a bit concerned that we hadn’t left ourselves enough time in the afternoon, with my sister wondering when her daughter would want a nap as she hadn’t had her usual one that morning – only to find that as we arrived at the aquarium, baby was sound asleep. Rather than wake her – or spend money to go around the aquarium ourselves with her oblivious to the fish – we decided to go back to the car and head home. So our day out in Portsmouth consisted of soft play, lunch, and a brief walk along the seafront – but nonetheless a good time was had by all!
 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 42

Posting this a day late because I forgot on Monday night!

Monday
pork chop with sweet potato for me, peppered beef steak with mashed potato for him

Tuesday - working from home - have invited my mother in law around for dinner.
Fish in lemon cream sauce from this recipe, with hasselback potatoes

Wednesday
something easy from the freezer as we have a heating engineer coming this evening

Thursday
My husband is out at a work event so I'll have spaghetti Bolognese with Quorn mince

Friday
Out with a friend

Saturday
lunch TBA maybe cheese toasties
dinner - steak and chips at my husband's request

Sunday
lunch bacon sandwich
dinner giant filled Yorkshire puddings we didn't have last week

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Curly Whirly Cream Cheese Brownies and my new Ozeri kitchen scales


One day at work I spotted a sign advertising a Macmillan charity bake sale. The thing was, the bake sale was in two days time, meaning I didn't have very much time to shop for ingredients and bake something, as I'd already decided I needed to bake my dad's birthday cake at the same time so it was ready for the weekend!

I didn't want to miss the Macmillan bake sale since a recipe I devised appeared in the Macmillan Little Book of Treats, which came out in 2013. You can see that recipe, for toffee popcorn cupcakes, here on my blog or on the Baking Mad website.

Since I didn't have much time I went to a failsafe recipe: chocolate brownies. They are so easy to throw together and everyone loves a chocolate brownie. I chose the Curly Whirly Brownies from the Konditor & Cook book Deservedly Legendary Baking as they looked a bit different but still quick and easy to make.

At the same time I decided to make a start on my dad's birthday cake - unfortunately it was a bit of a disaster! The cake tasted great and was really moist, but that was part of the problem -so moist that it broke apart across the top while in the oven, then broke more when I was putting it into a cake tin, then by the time I reached my parents' house the cake was pretty much in three separate pieces!

I used my new Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scalewhich I was sent by the company to review. At only £8.99 currently and with free delivery on Amazon they are a real bargain - compact enough to not take up much room in the cupboard but the weighing plate is big enough for almost any bowl or plate, or you can put food directly onto the scales. If you're using a bowl, the 'tare' button allows you to subtract the weight of the bowl. The chrome weighing platform looks good and is easy to keep clean as well.

 
You can weigh in pounds, ounces, grams or kilograms and can change from one to the other by pressing a button - I found the scales very precise and as good as much more expensive ones. What's more the two AAA batteries you need come included.


So disregarding the cake which didn't quite work out, I also used the scales to make the chocolate brownies. Here's the list of ingredients from Konditor and Cook's recipe and then in my own words a bit about what I did:

To make about 16 brownies, you need:
3 eggs
275g caster sugar
175g salted butter
200g 54-60% dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
100g 70% dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
175g plain flour

for the topping:
200g cream cheese
75g icing sugar, sifted
seeds from 1/4 vanilla pod
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 20x34 cm tin with baking paper or greaseproof paper.

Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl.


In a saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat until it is melted and just starting to bubble. Remove from the heat and stir in the 54-60% chocolate and a third of the 70% chocolate until melted.

Add the chocolate to the egg mixture and mix well then fold in the flour. Stir in the remaining chunks of chocolate.

Pour into the prepared tin and level the top with a knife.


In another bowl, bbat the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla until smooth then mix in the egg yolk.

Using a piping bag or a teaspoon drizzle or pipe the cream cheese mixture in swirls over the top of the brownie mixture, using a fork or the tip of the teaspoon to drag across the lines.


Bake for 22-25 minutes in the preheated oven then leave to cool in the tin. When cool cut into squares.

The brownies were lovely and fudgy and the cream cheese topping had a slightly sharp contrasting flavour, a bit like sour cream; it made the brownies look more interesting as well and they disappeared very quickly at the bake sale!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Restaurant Review: Crate Brewery, Hackney Wick

The Olympic Park in Stratford, London, is home to the London Stadium, the Aquatics Centre, the Lee Valley VeloPark and other venues that were used for events at the London 2012 Olympics. I’d never been there before – I did manage to get tickets to one Olympic event, but it was elsewhere – the beach volleyball on Horseguards’ Parade near Westminster.
 
I was at a work event nearby recently and my colleague had booked a pub restaurant for us to have some dinner afterwards – the Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick.
 
It’s a surprisingly long walk across one side of the Olympic Park to the other so I was pretty thirsty by the time I got to the pub. It’s right next to the river (or canal? I wasn’t sure), with big wooden tables outside (with benches, sharing style); inside is fairly industrial-looking with big beer crates and seats made from wooden pallets and a bar made of railway sleepers. They are a brewery as well as a pub/restaurant, and you can book brewery tours, hire the space for an event and buy their beer online.
 
 
Their food menu seems to consist entirely of pizza (with a few salad and bar snack options) – all made from scratch and with some quite unusual toppings like sweet potato, stilton and walnut, Kashmiri dahl or Middle Eastern lamb, along with more traditional margherita and salami.
 
We went at the end of summer and sat outside enjoying the last of the nice weather, sharing several pizzas between our group. Unfortunately at this stage I hadn’t quite announced my pregnancy so none of my colleagues knew – which meant I was very limited in what pizza toppings I could eat, but couldn’t explain why!
 
The pizzas had a thin, flat base, and weren’t that gooey – good if you like the drier-style pizza though I’m quite partial to a deep-pan myself. I’d recommend a whole pizza or equivalent per person – they cost around £9-£11 each- but it’s definitely the sort of food you can share between friends while enjoying a beer (or something non-alcoholic otherwise!).
 
This place is quite out of my way so I’m unlikely to come back but it made for a nice end to the evening with a nice view of the river and being a stone’s throw away from the Olympic park.