Sunday, 29 January 2012

Chocolate cake: an obsession

Chocolate cake by me and my Kitchen Aid.

I had been obsessing about getting a Kitchen Aid. I must watch too much tv. I had been saving for ages - birthday  money, christmas money etc etc. It's not a cheap purchase but as him indoors kept saying, better get the one you really want. Besides, I had the KA toaster and liquidiser already !!! 

It arrived last week and I have been desperate to get going with it. I made a couple of soda breads during the week and a lemon drizzle loaf both of which were pretty good. But I really wanted to have a bash at a proper cake cake. You know what I mean.

Then Delicious Magazine announced their #deliciouscooks challenge - chocolate cake. Well, I couldn't resist and put the new purchase to work.....

The machine is wonderful to use - switch on and leave.... The cake mix was sooooo creamy. There is no way I could have done this with my hand mixer.

I was even lazy and made the frosting in the thing. This was wonderful. The frosting was beaten to a pulp and was lumpless. I must admit to being rather pleased with the result.

Suffice to say, one of the little people in the house thought it looked good enough to eat !

Silent sunday: Chocolate cake !

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A wee bit obsessed

OK so I admit it. I am obsessed. I am a virgo and therefore as far as I'm concerned there's not a lot I can do about this tendency.....

So what is the subject of this week's obsession. A mixer.

Not just any mixer. The Kitchen Aid Artisan stand mixer. You know, the one you see on all the cooking programmes- from the Great British Bake Off through Lorraine Pascal to The Fabulous Baker Boys.

And I am going to buy one. I am. In Metallic Pearl.

Just as soon as John Lewis get it in stock.....

I have been waiting since before Christmas with my little pile of JL vouchers. Loving saved from birthdays and christmas'. Waiting to spend. I'm not going to obsess about the free glass bowl offer the wonderful JL had on before christmas.... but they didn't have it in stock. No, now I just want it. I know I should make do with my £4.99 argos hand mixer purchased to keep Toots happy, but I can't. I obviously watch too much TV!!!

I could go for a pink one but the other half would kill me. I could go for a red one but it would class with my kitchen. And after all, I have the metallic pearl Kitchen Aid toaster and blender so I really shouldn't go for anything other than metallic pearl.

I have a space in my kitchen ready. And a cupboard full of flour, sugar and other goodies for baking madness. I got an email yesterday saying it was in stock. Got very excited, then discovered it was in stock in every colour except the one I wanted. There must have been a run on them as other obsessed wannabe bakers got their hands on them. Damn you all.

Just. Need. The. Kitchen. Aid. In. Stock. Now. So. That. I. Can. Obsess. About. Something. Else.

Yours from the nuthouse.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Tea Time Treats: The Great British Bake off has a lot to answer for !

OK so I have been watching too much tv.  Damn you Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. You make it sound so damn easy !

My first Iced Finger

I've tried Mary Berry's roulade and had a reasonable success with it but it's too easy to make huge cake and then feel you have to eat it all. Not great for the old waistline. And with two hungry, sweet-toothed girls I was looking for something a wee bit different.

Step up to the oven Paul Hollywood and your iced fingers. More bread than cake (ok the cream and jam and icing besides). Sounds easy on the BBC website. Let's give it a go.

And it was easy. Thankfully I had had the heating on and they got two good rises.

My daughters thought they were wonderful but they were absolutely huge.

I think next time I will make them into little round buns rather than huge fingers. As Toots exclaimed "They are fingers from a giant".

Teat time treats indeed....

Thanks to Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked for suggesting Tea time treats as a January baking challenge.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

A trip to the ballet

Toots has been going to dance class with the wonderful Nicky Pyrah for almost a year. This is a really modern dance class and combines tap with ballet and Toots absolutely loves it ! It has really helped her coordination, confidence and social skills. I didn't really want her to go to a very formal ballet class - she isn't even four yet and I didn't think she needed the added pressure of ballet buns and uniform checks.
The Sleeping Beauty

Given her interest in dance I thought I would see if she was ready to go to see a ballet - especially as Scottish Ballet were touring with Sleeping Beauty - a story I know that she knew. I was 20 when I saw my first ballet and I wouldn't call myself a connoisseur but I do like the spectacle of ballet and wanted to give her that awe and wonder.

Scottish Ballet have a brillant range of materials on their website and events for younger children to give them a taste of ballet without them feeling overwhelmed by it. The 'Forty Winks' resource pack for 3-5 year olds is good and it was really helpful to talk her through the story so that she knew what to expect. I think I will have to print out another one so that she can do more colouring in having been to the real thing now.

There were also events at the Museum but unfortunately we were unable to go to any of them but I can see how they would help if you had a little one who wasn't sure of the full thing but given Toots spent the last week asking to listen to the ballet music she would hear, I wasn't worried about her lack of interest.

As it was, I was a bit apprehensive at the length of the performance - 2hrs 40mins is a long time for an almost 4 year old. But she took it in her stride and it was only the last 20 minutes of so that she struggled with. But then so did the 9 and 10 year olds we were sitting beside.

The synopsis on the website really helped me explain the story to her and Scottish Ballet have worked really hard to make themselves accessible. They should be applauded for that - it really made it easy.

The performance itself was magical - it was captivating and thoroughly enjoyable. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end as the Overture began. I looked at Toots as the curtain rose and her eyes were out on stalks.  She sat and watched, and clapped and asked questions. She was mesmerized.

She lasted right until the end and came out singing bits of the music and skipping all the way home. Guess you can't get a better thumbs up than that.

And Nicky must be doing something right in Dynam-nic Dance as Toots exclaimed 'I can do all those things already mummy'. No comment
sparkles1Here's the review from Toots herself:

Wisdom-Fairies-girlI really liked it when they skipped around and got faster and faster. The dresses were lovely and I thought the Lilac Fairy was really beautiful. I didn't like the nasty sisters with the piggy noses. I liked the bad fairy because she was sorry and was good in the end.

We had seats very near to the stage and I even got to see the orchestra. I bought a poster with my own money and I will put it on my wall in my bedroom so that I remember all about it.


Tickets for the Scottish Ballet performance at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh were provided free of charge.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Alcohol free January

New year - new me.

This isn't about giving my liver a rest - I didn't drink that much over the holiday season - but more about me taking stock of what I eat and drink and trying (where I can) to be a bit healthier.

So I am partaking in alcohol-free January. No wine, gin or beer for me until the end of the month. Or at least until Burns night!!

I'm now on day 12 and have lost half an inch from my waist. Just shows the calories in the odd glass of wine can make quite a difference ! I feel really good, really energetic.

I have also tried to eat a bit more healthily - more fruit and veg, more fish, less carbs.

Let's see if I can keep it up until the end of the month - and then I can open that bottle of prosecco that is in the fridge !

Monday, 2 January 2012

Menu planner w/c 2nd January

There have been many posts about menu planners and I guess I am feeling that I need to run a more organised ship (so to speak!)

The girls went back to nursery today and so I spent the time with their dad restoring order and then a little self indulgence with Tom Cruise.

Anyway, back to the job in hand. I don't need to worry about lunches as the girls have a hot meal at their nursery and I tend to reply on soup to see me through the day.

The challenge for next week is reduce the carbs but I really need to get back in the saddle before I do that !

Monday: bbq pulled pork and leftover veg. Basically, we are using up as much of the leftovers as we have.

Tuesday: haggis, neeps and tatties. I only ever buy haggis from MacSween's. They used to have a shop just up the road from where I live and I think they are the best. I also tend to buy my neep ready mashed from Mash Direct. It's not the cheapest of options but I find it a real pain to do a turnip and often they are very watery. These guys do a twin pack of neeps and tatties which does the four of us perfectly and makes this a really easy winter meal.

WednesdayDelia's paprika chicken although probably with less sauce, more paprika cooked in the slow cooker. Served with SpƤtzle (eggy noodles from Germany. These are difficult to find - try a french deli and look for product from Alsace. We always have some in the cupboard and they are great at this time of year). I like this because it uses chicken on the bone and is therefore tastier than breast and is cheaper into the bargain !

Thursday: smoked haddock and leek risotto (I tend to use this one as a good base and then adjust dependent in what I have in). The smoked haddock comes from Delish Fish in Peterhead and because it comes individually vacum sealed I just put it in the freezer until I need it. Then I take it out in the morning and leave it to defrost naturally.

Friday: Quesadillas, refried beans, soured cream and home made guacamole.

Saturday: Asian style salmon with pak choi and chinese greens (bought from the local Chinese supermarket!)

Sunday: Roast chicken, potatoes and greens from the local veg shop (so whatever looks good) and panettone bread and butter pudding with custard.

I will also try to do a batch of Delia's ragu which is one of my freezer staples and perhaps some flapjacks which might be useful as my breakfast bites.