Saturday, December 29, 2012

Frozen Banoffee Cheesecake

This year's Christmas dessert was something of my own invention and was perfectly suited to the stinking hot day that was my NZ Christmas 2012. Banoffee pie had been requested, but who can really stomach such a rich dessert after a big Christmas dinner on a hot day? I've seen frozen pies and cheesecakes on other food blogs and after looking at a couple I decided that they're mostly just a normal unbaked cheesecake that's been frozen. And of course, if you don't like the idea of a frozen cheesecake you could feel free to take the recipe below and simply let it set in the fridge, as opposed to freezing it. I, for one, like it frozen and I'll be making this again.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Candy

Three days till Christma and only making the christmas pressies now! I'm back in NZ where it's ranging between stinking hot and stifling warm, except when it's raining. I'm still tired from the travelling and the torturous exhaustion that is a PhD, but making chocolatey things makes it all better. I haven't been posting recipes very frequently lately - things have just been too busy and I have been too exhausted. Most of the time I feel like my brain has turned to mush and I'm making no sense anyway so perhaps it's better that I haven't been writing. I'm not sure how often I'll be keeping up with the recipes for the next wee while either but I think I can at least keep up with once a week. And the next few weeks will all be very good ones! Today is chocolate covered cookie dough balls (we made truffles too, but I've already posted that one) and in the days following christmas there will be more spritz cookies, maybe some sugar cookies, bread and some sort of awesome cheesecake.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Yummy Vegan Banana Bread

Here is a treat for you that is surely healthy,  considering that it has no butter or eggs or milk and only a little sugar. Don't be put off because it's vegan, it was very yummy and you'd never guess the special ingredient. I didn't make it because it was vegan, I actually didn't realise that part until I was making it. I saw this on a blog hop, or maybe it was pinterest, and it was perfect timing because in my fruit bowl and home I had over-ripe bananas and an avocado that was just at the perfect level of avocado ripeness. The batter was easy and quick to mix up, the bread cooked nicely and it smelt amazing. Plus the few people I shared with said that it tasted really good. In my opinion, however, it needed a little something, so below is my adaptation of healthy, vegan, avocado banana bread. My changes were to reduce the baking soda, because the first bread I made had a funny after-taste, to reduce the salt because perhaps that added to the funny taste aswell, and to add some good vanilla bean paste just to give the whole thing a little kick. Finally, after greasing my loaf pan I sprinkled it with sugar to give the outside of the bread a little crunch. And I am definitely making this again, a lot - in fact, whenever avocados are on sale and I buy a big pile of them and then wonder what to do, I will make this. And healthy chocolate milkshakes.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chocolate Fudge Sauce

Before I get into today's recipe, I would just like to mention that my overwhelming sweet tooth does not always rule my snacking choices. Right now I'm actually craving something salty and savoury and am even considering buying a bag of crisps, even though I don't really like crisps that much. It's probably because I didn't have enough for lunch today, but it's OK because I have a yummy dinner waiting for me at home, and dessert too. Not this dessert though, this was something that I made last week - and easy chocolate brownie with frozen yoghurt and warm chocolate fudge sauce. The sauce is the reason for today's post - it's simple and so delicious. I've had the recipe for years now; in my third year of university I was living with a girl who shared some of her best recipes with me and this is one of them. She didn't like custard based sauces so this was her go-to chocolate sauce recipe. You can have it warm or cold and even use it as a base for a hot chocolate. However, you cannot use it as the surprise in surprise muffins - turns out that it's too runny and just leaks out the bottom of the muffin as it bakes. So instead pour it over some yummy dessert like this and spend the rest of your evening in a warm cosy food coma.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Easy Butter Chicken

I am finally back online, after having no opportunity to post in over a week! Seems like ages. It wasn't just that I was really busy either - blogger began telling me that I had filled up all my space for storing pictures. What a nightmare! There is no obvious solution either, because google would rather you pay them money for more space. But after scrolling around the internet for a bit I came across one blogger that said she had signed up for google plus and in doing so been given more storage space. I'm not sure if that's really true, but I signed up anyway. Today I was able to upload photos again, yay, but I'm not sure if it was on account of having a google plus account or having deleted some unnecessary images. But then there are a lot of sources that say blogger pictures are compressed and don't take up any of your storage allowance - well that's clearly not true, all it takes is a quick look to see that these photos are indeed taking up space. So I'll probably run out again soon and then I don't know what I'll do. Stupid google.

But now on to a better topic - food. Today we have a recipe for an easy approximation of butter chicken. I altered the recipe somewhat, adding ground almonds because I was sure that they were a key ingredient of butter chicken (I'm still not sure if they really are or not) and swapping the yoghurt for coconut milk. Then because I had a cold I added extra spice because apparently spicy food is good for a cold. I don't think it made a difference really but it was yummy so that's all that matters. Unfortunately I am still no good at taking food photos - it's really not helped by the short days here, taking the photos at night time leaves them looking sort of yellowish. But you can just take my word for it that the meal was good. I boiled my rice with chopped up sun-dried tomatoes (the type that are actually dry, not in oil), on the advice of a friend, and it was a really good way to make rice more interesting.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fruit and Almond Muffins

Muffins are so easy to make! They can be mixed up in just 10 minutes and baked in another 20, and you can throw whatever you have in the cupboard into the mixture. This time around I had a bag of frozen berries and some half empty bags of almonds - I think replacing some of the flour with ground almonds made the muffins a little denser, but they were also very moist and delicious. A little too easy to eat though so you will want to make sure that you have plenty of people to share them with!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mushroom Soup

It's terribly cold and wet here in Galway at the moment - I can't wait to go back to my NZ summer (and I am crossing all my fingers that the south actually gets a proper summer). Cold weather calls for soup and today I have something that was completely new to me, but will now have a regular spot in my recipe repertoire. I've never been a huge fan of mushrooms but I tried mushroom soup some time in the recent past and realised that it's actually really yummy. I had a look at a couple of recipes and liked the look of Jamie Oliver's the best, but he has a tendency to use a lot of things that I just don't have on hand all the time. So I have made up my own recipe, and it was quite good, except it was too chunky. For this soup I would really recommend using a proper liquidising blender, as a stick-blender doesn't really do the trick. A few chunks for garnish are ok but I think the soup would be best if it was mostly a puree. To serve I stirred a spoonful of plain yoghurt through and it added a nice touch of creaminess.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lots of Veggies Pasta

First of all - look, I have a new blog header! It took ages to figure out how to do. I managed it thanks to tutorials by Something Swanky and a website called Now I'm tired, blog designing is all done for the day. Now for the actual post, and the food.

Once again I have made the most of what was lying around in my cupboards by making a pasta dish. This time around I had deviated from my shopping list to buy a jar of roasted peppers, which turned out to be roasted peppers swimming in sweet vinegar, which surely makes them some sort of picked pepper? Anyway, they were quite tangy and strong tasting, and a little sweet, but I'm guessing that next time around this pasta will taste different depending on what type of peppers I use. Or you use. Because I shared this meal and it got positive comments from two independent taste testers, so I guess it worth trying. It's fast to make and full of vegetables to give you that mid-week boost.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Happy Birthday to me!

Here in Galway it is still the 5th of November and my 25th birthday, though in New Zealand it is already the 6th so technically I think my birthday is over. It's cold here and already pitch black outside even though it's not even 6 pm and I may have celebrated a little too much yesterday (I was celebrating my birthday on New Zealand time). Today I am left feeling tired and a little hungover from too many yummy cocktails, so I couldn't even appreciate the cupcakes that I made for myself. Though that might not just be the cocktail hangover - two cakes were brought along last night from two different friends so I think I'm having a bit of a chocolate hangover too. We neglected to take photos last night but here is this morning's remnants of my gorgeous candy-coated cake:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pizza-Inspired Salad

A healthy salad inspired by pizza? Strange concept I know, but true. The other night I was having dinner with friends at an Italian pizza place here in Galway, called Milano's. My favourite pizza was one my friend got, featuring rocket (which I think is also known as aragula?), proscuitto, walnuts and maple syrup. That alone may not have been enough to convince me to combine those flavours as something else, but that week I also tried a recipe that I found online for spinach and parmesan quinoa, which I ended up not really liking at all. The problem, I think, was that the spinach was added to the hot quinoa and allowed to wilt and cook, which to me made it taste sort of bitter. So I thought, how could I change that recipe to better fit my tastes? Well, by letting the quinoa cool and making a salad of course. But just spinach would be boring. Why not add rocket, toasted walnuts and crispy maple-syrup bacon? Now that sounds like a good salad. Plus some shaved parmesan, in addition to the grated parmesan stirred into the quinoa.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Frosted Cupcakes

It has been a whole week since I have posted, and just as long since I have baked! How have I continued to survive without baking I don't know. I guess for one thing, last week's flapjacks lasted all through the weekend and the beginning of this week, to satisfyy sweet tooth. Then last Sunday I was at a friend's house for dinner where I learnt that green jelly from Germany is not lime flavour like everywhere else! It is woodruff flavour and really yummy, especially when you eat it with a very generous drizzle of sweetened condensed milk! However I really can't just continue not baking, especially when a friend of mine is off to America for an exchange programme and by the time she gets back I will have gone back to New Zealand. Before she goes she had to have one last cupcake from me. So this week's creation is for Autumn and Halloween - chocolate fudge cupcakes with spiced pumpkin buttercream! Which, coincidentally, fit into this month's #chocolateparty, but I wish I could take better photos for these blog-hops and linky-parties.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Apple Pie

Last week was crazy cooking challenge time again and I completely forgot. After the woe of finding out that it was finishing the maker of the challenge relented, because nobody wanted to let it go, including herself. I missed last month because it was homemade ranch dressing, which is a very American thing and I don't know anything about it nor have an immediate reason to eat it, though I do have a recipe set aside that I'd like to try. This month, however, was something that I am interested in making - apple pie! And then I went and forgot to join in. So I am making my chosen entry a week late. Apple pie is not so common at home, or at least not for me, where it is all about the apple crumble and maybe an apple shortcake, while here in Ireland they call it an apple tart (though it has pastry on the top as well as the bottom so I think that makes it a pie). Which means I don't already have a great apple pie recipe. The recipe that I'm going to try today has been on my list for a long time. I saw it on a blog hop and now that I have Pinterest it is sitting there on one of my boards. And since I have mentioned it, I just want to say that I have very quickly grown to love Pinterest. I like it far better than twitter. Before Pinterest I had been saving links in a file to the dozens of recipes that I see online and want to try. Now all of those links have become pins and there are pictures to go with them! It makes it so easy to know what I want to make. And terribly tempting.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Stuffed Crust Pizza

Last night was a girls' night featuring homemade pizza, wine and a rom-com called Date Night. Not only was there pizza, it was a stuffed crust pizza. It's easy to make your own stuffed crust pizza and so much better than anything that you can get from pizza hut. You make a thick cheese sauce and add some mozzarella so that it's all stringy. I haven't had pizza hut in a long time but the last time I checked the cheese in the crust is sort of tasteless and congeals really quickly. This is so much better.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chewy Golden Syrup Cookies

A couple of weeks ago I was having dinner with a friend and she made this amazing cookie slice for dessert. The mixture was like a stiff dough, which was shaped into two long logs. When they were baked they flattened out and came out of the oven all golden and crispy. They were sliced into rectangles - the outside was crispy and the inside really chewy and I just couldn't stop eating them! So I asked for the recipe, which we had to translate into English as I copied it down, as my friend Salla is Finnish and this is clearly some sort of Finnish recipe. She told me they were called 'Wilhemina's' but when I googled it to double check the recipe I didn't find any sort of cookie slice with that name. So I estimated everything, on account of my scales being broken and the dry ingredients of Salla's recipe being in decilitres. Do people actually measure stuff in decilitres? Well luckily I had taken a nibble of the unbaked mixture and watched as Salla rolled the dough so I had a rough idea of what taste and texture they should have. I got my dough to the right texture and then rolled it into cookies. Then came one of my usual excessive additions to make a really cavity inducing treat - I made them into something like thumbprint cookies with a dollop of caramel in the centre. It was really not necessary because these cookies are amazing plain, but it definitely didn't do them any harm. It may do my waistline harm though.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Chocolate Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes

It's cupcake day again, and this week my excuse was a friend's birthday. I wanted to do something special, something that would taste amazing and look really pretty. So I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with strawberry buttercream, a combination I'd been thinking of for awhile. Only I wanted there to be a little something extra. So this week I bring you surprise cupcakes - chocolate cupcakes with a dollop to caramel in the centre and pink strawberry buttercream on the top. I used my large 1M frosting tip to make a flower shape by simply holding the tip straight above the cupcake, only about a half centimetre away from the surface, and squeezing until the frosting had spread out around the tip, then lifting the tip quickly to make a point. If you had something circular like decorative sliver balls or some sort of small round candy (like M&Ms maybe) you could place it in the centre to make it really look like a flower. I think I'll have to try that next time. For now I have to find people to eat these cupcakes so that they are not sitting there tempting me to have another one.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cream of Chicken Soup

Now I'm not sure if this is technically cream of chicken soup - it doesn't actually have cream in it, but it is still very creamy. Plus it's packed full of chicken and vegetables and was delicious. Exactly what I needed after catching a cold last weekend. I had nearly a full can of evaporated milk in the fridge after using some for a brownie I baked, so it needed to be used. I also had celery in the freezer, waiting to be added to a soup, because I don't like celery but it's bearable when it has been boiled to a mushy consistency and taken on the flavour of a yummy soup. The result was a moderately thick soup with lots of flavour and hopefully not too much fat, on account of using evaporated milk instead of cream. Unfortunately I once again forgot to take photos, but here is the recipe anyway:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Apple Crumble

It's been years since I have made apple crumble - partly because I have no crowd to feed it to and party because I like my mum's apple crumble best, and that one was made in a food processor. I haven't had a food processor that works in all my student years and that's a lot - nearly 8 years now! The food processor is neccessary to cut the oats up, so that they are not chewy. It's just not the same when you use whole oats. Finally I decided to have a go at processing the oats with my hand blender and it worked! I had to guess at the proportions because it had been so long, but the end product was just right. Then I proceeded to eat far too much of it, with a generous serving of custard.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Potato and Leek Soup

This weeks soup is an old classic, but a classic that I had never bothered with in the past. I mean, how exciting can potato soup be? And it surely can't be that good for you? Well, first of all, it turns out that potato and leek soup is really yummy, and if you want it to have the little something extra, you could always stir in some bacon. Secondly, it's not really that bad for you. I mean, like everything, too much of it will probably make you a bit fatter. But potatoes are good for you just like all vegetables, especially if you leave the skin on like I do. Leeks are green so they must have good stuff in them. Plus instead of using cream to make the soup creamy I used buttermilk, which gave it a slight tang as well as reducing the amount of fat in it (also, I had buttermilk in the fridge, and no cream, and I don't like cream anyway, so it was a win-win situation). Yet even without the added dairy, I was amazed at how creamy the soup got after blending together just the potatoes and leeks. This is definitely comfort food at it's best and when I look out the window and see driving rain I am very glad that I made so much of this and stored lots in the freezer for later.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Birthday Cake!

This weekend just past I got to go away for the weekend and arrange a birthday party - a children's birthday party for a bunch of adults. The masterpiece of the day was the cake:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Red Wine Cake-Cookies

This recipe is based on a cake I made way back at the start of the year, for the chocolate cake cooking challenge. One Friday night I had friends over for dinner and at the end of the night there was some red wine left over. I don't actually like red wine so I certainly wasn't going to drink it, but tipping it out would have been a huge waste. I considered making a beef stew, but then I was trying to figure out what sort of cookies to make for that week and I remembered that amazing red wine chocolate cake. So, could I turn that recipe into a cookie recipe? Well, the product was definitely cookies, but they had a sort of soft, cake-like texture, which is why I'm calling them cake-cookies. I have a couple of other recipes that also make cake-like cookies so I reckon it's definitely an apt term. These cookies were rich and the red wine added a bit of extra sweetness. They could have done with some crunch but I don't know how to fix that, so instead I'll recommend that you bake them at a time when you actually want to eat them, and serve them up warm and fresh with a glass of milk. That way the softness will really be appreciated. Leaving them to cool and eating them the next day sort of took away some of the goodness - they were still good, but not quite as good as they had been fresh. Another great thing about this recipe it will take people ages to guess that there is red wine in them, and guessing games are always fun.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Apple Swirl Bread

A while ago I decided to have a go at Amish friendship bread. I'd heard about it along time ago and then recently it came up again somehow, maybe I saw it on a blog or something. Anyway, I found a recipe and over two weeks made the starter (see how here) and then began experimenting with making the bread. First I tried the simple cinnamon bread as laid out in the recipe that goes with the starter. Then I tried it again, but after freezing my starter. It still worked just fine. So then I began mixing it up. First I made it into banana bread, which I will put instructions for below but really isn't the point of this post. It was quite good. However, this post is about my second adaptation of friendship bread, apple cinnamon bread, and it is amazing. It just gets better and better, three days after baking it's still soft and moist and the flavour is even better, it that's possible. At four days it finally started to dry out a bit so definitely share it around before then.

The inspiration for this came from a blog hop, called Chocolate Party, which this month requires a recipe that uses apple and chocolate. I already have recipes for apple cake, cookies and muffins and I was wondering what to make. Then it hit me (not literally) - make bread! But how to include chocolate? In my opinion dark and milk chocolate just don't really go with apple that well. I wanted to use white chocolate. But I didn't want too much because I wanted it to be bread-like. Ages ago I made this pumpkin swirl cake, so I decided to do the same thing, only add melted chocolate to the cream cheese before swirling it on top. The result was amazing! I could eat it all day. Everybody at work loved it, and hopefully the technicians will remember it next time I need a favour (which is most days at the moment). So the hardest part about this recipe is the starter, but that's not hard at all, you just have to get around to making it (all you have to do really is stir it once a day for 2 weeks), and then store cup-fulls in the freezer, then bring them back to room temperature and go on with the recipe.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Butter Bean & Vege Soup

I have had this particular soup sitting in my recipes list (it's a very long list) for ages because I'm always looking for ways to turn soup into full meals. This soup, with vegetables and beans, has pretty much everything you need on a cold evening, especially if you eat it with some yummy bread rolls. It is quite simple, thick and stew-like, and just what you need after trudging home in the rain. By which statement perhaps you can tell that in Galway the weather is already turning foul again, so soup is definitely called for. It's time to start increasing the intake of fluids and vitamins in order to keep colds and the flu at bay. Or perhaps I am just too lazy to cook properly and the ease of making a bit pot of soup appeals to me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Almond Chai Tea Cookies

So here is a new and very interesting sort of cookie to share. I found it on a blog-hop and was immediately drawn to the use of interesting ingredietns. The blog is called Mike's Baking and the cookies feature chai tea and almonds. Seeing as I am not a tea drinker I had to buy chai tea especially for these cookies, so it's lucky that they are yummy enough to want to make again. The flavour is subtle and interesting - the spices are not overwhelming and if you didn't know what was in the cookies you definitely wouldn't be able to guess it. Personally, I prefer to not reveal what is in my cookies, because it amuses me to make people guess when I know that the ingredient is so obscure that nobody will get it. The original recipe called for only wholemeal flour, but I used half and half. Next time I will use just white flour and one whole egg instead of two yolks, just to see how they turn out. As always, I added chocolate chips, but not too many because I could already see that they wouldn't really be necessary. I was so happy with my new cookie recipe that I could not stop eating them for long enough to take any nice photos. Sorry. You'll just have to imagine delicious, golden-brown, crispy cookies, or make some yourself.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cauliflower Soup

Soup is a great way to get lots of vegetables that you otherwise wouldn't go near. For me cauliflower is one of those vegetables. I really just can't stand it at all and I absolutely never eat it. So when I saw a recipe for a soup that disguises cauliflower with carrot in a soup. I was wary at first, but it actually worked. The soup mostly tasted like carrot, albeit diluted carrot. It was a little watery, so I have modified the recipe slightly, and added a couple of potatoes to make it thicker and smoother. It's really quick to make, incredibly simple, and it tastes good.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sour Cream Chicken

The best way to end a long day at work, that perhaps ends with rugby and rain and being soaked to the bone, is with a quick pasta meal. Today's quick pasta is something like a carbonara, with a mixture of egg and cheese tossed through hot pasta to become a sauce right before your eyes. Add to that some chicken and sour cream and you have a creamy, cheesy, chickeny pile of pasta to warm you up from the inside out. It's not really the healthiest of meals - in fact, it's not very healthy at all. That's sort of what's so good about it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Mmm, cupcakes! This is the second red velvet recipe that I have put in this blog - the first, for halloween, was very dense and cake-like (and delicious). So I wanted something a little lighter and fluffier, as cupcakes should be. Plus I wanted to make use of my new paste food colouring to make them really bright red. Only, for all the colour I put in them, they were still just a milk red colour. Which was disappointing. But the cream cheese frosting made up for it, and the cake sparkles. They were a big hit on a Monday morning when everybody needs a bit of a a sugar hit. And they make for a very pretty post to tweet about, because I am now on twitter! After a determined effort to avoid yet another variety of online social networking I decided to get on board the twitter bandwagon, for the sake of my blog and sharing the cupcake-love, however I put my foot down (for now) at making a facebook page. Isn't a blog page enough? Why does everything on the internet have to be repeated a million times? Besides, it looks to me like twitter is more popular. So now, on to the recipe! Oh, and please follow me on twitter...

Friday, August 31, 2012

Puff Pastry

So after finally making the meat pies that I was craving I found myself quite dissatisfied with the shortcrust pastry that I had used. I decided that I needed to learn how to make better pastry. I looked and looked and finally settled on a recipe that looked simple and perfectly flaky. Now, my first attempt at the pastry was only half successful so I will have to update this soon enough, but even though my pastry seemed far too soft and buttery it still cooked up just fine. This time around I made beef pasties but next time I'll be making some sort of chicken pie, and hopefully for that one I will be able to show you some perfect, golden puff pastry. For now, though, here is a photo of the one perfect pasty and the recipe. And don't forget to set aside about 2 hours for making the pastry, because there's a lot of rolling and folding and waiting to be done.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Ever Homemade Sushi

It turns out that sushi is really not so hard to make yourself, and just as delicious as the brought stuff (if not more so, because you can put whatever you like into it). I will definitely be making it again and again. On this particular occasion the fillings ranged from just vegetables, to vegetables, tuna and sweet chilli sauce, to peanut-satay chicken and vegetables. That one was probably my favourite. However, putting in pieces of fresh chilli was not such a good idea - those tiny little chunks of green packed a really strong punch. I also completely avoided the wasabi, it's really not my thing. I'd rather stick to the predominant taste of the sweet, tangy sushi rice. The hardest part about sushi is collecting up the ingredients, and that's not at all hard as all big supermarkets have foreign food sections in them now. Even here in Galway, where the supermarkets are often bereft of the most obvious ingredients. There are loads of sushi tutorials out there on the internet and now I am adding to them, with my own, that says nothing original, but for once has lots of step-by-step pictures. And writing this now is making me hungry for more sushi so perhaps I'll have to try it again this weekend.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Healthy Chocolate Mousse (in pie form)

I was scrolling through recipes the other day, looking for a yummy dessert that would satisfy my need for chocolate while not being terribly bad for me. There is a food magazine back home, the Healthy Food Guide, that is great to turn to when you need some ideas. They like to take old favourites and make them a bit healthier, so when I found a recipe for chocolate mousse on their website I had to try it! The first time I followed the recipe closely and it worked perfectly, but it was a very, very rich dessert. Which is perhaps why it is supposed to be portioned out as several quite small servings. However, it was too dark for my liking so I have altered the recipe somewhat. My first attempt to change the recipe failed completely - I think I left the gelatine for too long before adding it to everything else and it solidified on it's own, so my mousse was actually thick chocolate milk with gross lumps of gelatine! But, as they say, third time's a charm! Only mousse on it's own suddenly seemed a bit boring for a dinner party and a friend requested apple crumple, so I compromised with a biscuit base, apple filling and white chocolate mousse on top.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fresh Spring Rolls

These were amazingly easy and quick to make and really delicious. When I decided to make spring rolls for an evening of good food with my friends, I knew that I wanted to make the sort that are not deep fried and full of cabbage, but I wasn't quite sure what they would be like because I don't think I had ever eaten them before. Anyway, there are loads of tutorials on the internet and the end product tasted really good. Plus they've got to be pretty healthy and good for you, considering that all they consist of is rice and vegetables. They are made with something called rice paper, that you can get from your local asian food store. It is hard and sort of plasticy, but then when you dip it into warm water it gets bendy, then becomes soft and pliable, sort of rubbery. It's sticks to itself too, so the rolls stay all wrapped up. The noodles that you fill them with are made with the same sort of stuff - they are called rice noodles and you just dip them in hot water for a few minutes.  I would really recommend these as a quick, healthy evening meal, especially for a hot day, or for taking on a picnic, or serving up as an appetiser to impress your guests.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cranberries, Macadamias and White Chocolate

Today's cookie recipe is an idea that I've been meaning to try for awhile, and it is not overly original but definitely a winning combination. The recipe is based on my new favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, which makes me feel sort of like I'm betraying my old go-to chocolate chip recipe, but this new one really is good. I think it might be the addition of rolled oats. I will have to make both recipes alongside each other one day and really figure out what is the difference, and if I like one better. For now though, this particular cookie adaptation was a big hit, with at least one recipient insisting that these were her favourite cookie so far. Plus you could try to tell people that they are healthy, what with the oats, cranberries and macadamia nuts. You can ignore all the sugar and butter.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Another Quick Pasta Meal

Once again a day came along where I got home late, starving hungry after an hour on the climbing wall and needing sustenance to keep me awake at the cinema. Yet there was very little food in my cupboards. What to do? Make pasta of course! I had onion, a couple of slightly wrinkly peppers, butter and parmesan. Twenty minutes later and I had a delicious, relatively healthy meal (sure, it was full of butter, but peppers and onion are both vegetables, right?). Unfortunately I didn't write down the details of that meal immediately so here is an approximate recipe to make your life easier at the end of a long day.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Improvising with Peppers and Tomatoes

After making an amazing cheesecake for this month's crazy cooking challenge I was so sad to find out that it was the last one, and that the crazy cooking challenge was only a year long thing. But luckily, the improv cooking challenge seems to be a more permanent thing. This month's ingredients were tomato and peppers, and I nearly did not enter because the days have just been slipping away from me! At the start of the week I realised that I had to make something quick if I wanted to join in, and I immediately tried to think of how I could bake with peppers and tomatoes, because I really do like baking more, and I already have so many soup and pasta recipes featuring these two ingredients. I'm not sure if you can actually bake anything sweet with these ingredients and I didn't have time to try, so I'm looking forward to seeing the other entries. My entry is muffins - delicious savoury muffins to have for lunch or alongside soup.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Double Chocolate Orange Tofu Pie

What do you make for dessert when all of the evening's food has an asian theme? What began as a sushi night turned into a general asian food night, with spring rolls and satay chicken and all sorts of dipping sauces (there will be more on this in a couple of days). My plan was to make fresh spring rolls, and I saw one example on the internet that had tofu in them. However, the tofu that I bought was silken tofu and not right for frying or anything like that. So then I thought, what can I do with it? I was going to make it into a creamy sauce to combine all of the ingredients for the spring rolls, but then I found a dessert idea and there was no going back. I really, highly recommend this, it was absolutely amazing, far better than a custard-based chocolate pie.

Of course, I had heard of tofu-based desserts before, but it's just not an ingredient that I generally have lying around, so I never bothered with it. I always intended to though. There is a dessert blog that I follow that is dedicated to healthy desserts, but that chocolate pie was too healthy. I needed one with real chocolate in it, and a biscuit base. I adapted mine from two different recipes and whipped out my brand new hand blender to mix it up (I had to get a new one because the old one was really crappy and when I tried to fix it I cut my thumb to bits - not literally though, it was just cut a little). Anyway, to get back to the point, which is chocolate upon chocolate, after filling my chocolate biscuit base with chocolate-orange tofu filling I thought that it needed just a little something more, and I had some leftover cinema candy that I kept nibbling at and just had to get rid of. So I scattered it over the pie so that some mouthfuls will have a bit of crunch to them!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Spinach & Tomato Spaghetti

Sometimes, when you are really hungry, you just can't wait for a proper meal to cook, so if you can't make something quick you end up filling up on chocolate and junk food and then you are not hungry for real food when it is finally ready. But it's not really enough so then in the middle of the night you wake up hungry. It's not a good way to go about having a healthy diet. Yet it is a way of life that I am prone to slipping into, thus in order to have a healthy diet I really on quick meals or leftovers from the weekend for most week-day evenings. That's why you will find an unproportionate number of quick and easy pasta meals on this blog - pasta is my go-to when I am in a hurry, because I know that I can throw together whatever I have and make something yummy, with very little risk that it will turn out awful. So today's quick and easy pasta meal is spaghetti with fresh cherry tomatoes and spinach.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Couscous Tuna Salad

I invented this recipe on the spot to fit in with my flatmates attempt at a detox diet and it was so delicious that I had make a record of it for future attempts. This is the sort of simple meal that can be thrown together with everything that's just sitting around in the cupboard or fridge, and can be adapted in about a million different ways. It uses canned tuna and sweetcorn, to make it even faster, but I've found that some of the cheap brands really don't taste so good if they're not doused in sauces and flavourings, so watch out for that. This is mostly designed as a lunch meal but if you are a poor student like me you will find it makes a decent enough evening meal too!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Irish Car Bomb Cheesecake

Cooking challenge time again! I have had this recipe for months and been waiting for an excuse to use it, so I was very excited when this month's challenge turned out to be cheesecake! Recipes like this one were floating around the blog hops for St Paddie's this year but I have had no excuse to make such a decadent treat until now, with not only the cooking challenge to motivate me but a 30th birthday party too! This dessert is layers of richness, starting with a very heavy, chocolatey guinness brownie, covered with a thick layer of baileys cheesecake and topped with whiskey chocolate ganache. I had never heard of an Irish car bomb before (the cocktail I mean) but I've since been told that it's more an American thing and quite un-PC here - enough so that you should definitely not ask for one in a bar, especially up north. Not that I would ask for one anyway, it sounds awful! A mixture of guinness, baileys and whiskey? Bleugh. Don't let that put you off though, because in cheesecake form it's amazing! You can't taste the guinness in the brownie, I used biscotti-flavoured baileys and changed the recipe around a bit to make an unbaked cheesecake and instead of pouring the whiskey chocolate ganache over the top I swirled it through - and very glad that I did because it turned out to be incredibly rich.

Irish Car Bomb Cheesecake
Adapted from Triple Irish Cheesecake 

Guinness Brownie Base
1/2 cup stout (guinness)
70 grams bittersweet dark chocolate
90 grams butter
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and prepare a 9 inch round cake tin.

In the microwave or on the stove, melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Let it cool slightly, then whisk in the sugar and the egg.

Stir the guinness (or other stout) into the mixture, then fold in the flour and the cocoa powder. Pour the batter carefully into the prepared tin, and bake for 30 minutes. Let the brownie cool completely before continuing.

Whiskey Chocolate Glaze
85 grams bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon whiskey
1/2 cup heavy cream

Melt the chocolate and cream together in the microwave or on the stove, being careful that the chocolate does not overcook and burn. Then stir in the whiskey and set it aside.

Baileys Cheesecake
250 gram packet cream cheese
1/4 cup baileys
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 sachet gelatine (however much is supposed to set 500 mL) in 3/4 cup boiling water

Prepare the gelatine by whisking into the boiling water, then place in fridge until it is sort of thick, but not fully set.

Meanwhile, beat the cream until it is thick, then in a separate bowl beat the cream cheese with the caster sugar until the sugar has dissolved.

Fold the cream, the baileys and the gelatine into the cream cheese. If the mixture is still quite thick after this, you can immediately spread it on top of the brownie. However, if the mixture is very liquidy, like mine was, place it in them fridge for half an hour or so, until it is not runny any more, before spreading it over the brownie base.

Take the cooled chocolate sauce and drizzle it over the cheesecake filling, then use a knife or fork to swirl it around.

Let the cheesecake set in the refrigerator overnight (24 hours is best).



Monday, August 6, 2012

Lighter Bolognaise

Now, by lighter I don't mean lower in fat, I just mean that it tastes lighter, on account of this bolognaise being based on poultry and not red meat. I made it because turkey mince was on sale and I thought I would give it a go, only in the recipe below I have specified chicken mince because I like chicken better. It turned out to make a very different meal to the usual bolognaise; instead of being very rich and meaty and savoury it was - well, the only word that I currently have in my head to describe it is lighter. And chicken-y. Sort of like crossing chicken soup with spaghetti bolognaise. I served it with seasoned, breaded courgette and discovered another way that I can enjoy this particular vegetable that I have never liked much.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Eggplant Soup

Do you ever have the problem of wanting to eat lots of vegetables but not actually liking all of them so much? I have that problem quite a lot. I really like the idea of eating eggplant, and it's such a pretty colour, but I just don't like it much. I don't like the texture and I don't like the taste, but I also don't want to give up on having a lot of variety in my diet. So what is the answer? The answer to making all vegetables delicious is always soup! After turning too many courgettes into a really delicious courgette soup I saw a recipe for eggplant and tomato soup, so I just had to give eggplants another chance. However, the recipe title was for roasted eggplant and tomato soup and there was no roasting involved in the recipe, so I went back to the blogger's source, which was a blog all about soup! It is called Seriously Soupy and the website appears to have been upgraded, which for some reason means that the author's multitude of soup recipes are know very difficult to find, and when I finally did find an index list of all the recipes, this particular one was not on it! So that was weird. But I had a good browse of other soup recipes and then made the soup by my own method, simply by roasting everything first, and I gotta say that eggplant is very edible in soup form. So for any other people out there who love the look of this vegetable but not the taste, you should turn it into soup.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Coconut Cream Brownies

You know those days when you really want something rich and chocolatey but there is not much in your cupboards and it's too rainy to go to the shop? Well, I had one of those days recently. All day people had been talking about chocolate brownies (it was just one of those days) and I needed movie-watching snacks, but then come home time it was raining so hard that I just couldn't face going to the supermarket. So I improvised. Ages and ages ago I tried to make a brownie with coconut cream because I was short on butter and eggs and I've been meaning to make the recipe better all this time, but never quite got around to it. Until now. Now I have figured out a recipe for a perfectly gooey, dark, rich chocolate brownie that uses coconut cream instead of butter, which makes it dairy free, but not really any healthier. However, it was absolutely delicious and what is the point of brownie if it is healthy anyway? This particular brownie was quite good fresh out of the oven, but even better cold the next day.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies are amazing. I'm not even sure what it is that makes them so good, but there is just something extra delicious about them that may shift them into the position of my favourite cookie recipe. They might even be better than my original chocolate chip cookie recipe, and that's saying a lot. I found the recipe on a blog hop and they were called 'I want to marry you' cookies. I figured that I had to try something that is purported to be so good, but the first time I made them I screwed the recipe up and forgot the oats. They were still good, but these are better. The original recipe calls for the butter to be melted instead of creamed into the sugar and I forgot to do that this time around but I'm still pleased with the results. I swapped some of the butter for peanut butter so I still have to make this recipe once more, sticking to the original, just to see what they are like. But these have already been given a huge vote of confidence - one of my friends said that they were her favourite cookie that I make, which is odd because I had never made them before and she insists that she doesn't like peanut butter. So that's pretty high praise.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Peach Whiskey Chicken

I found this recipe on a blog hop and I am so glad that I saved it and made it - it was delicious!  It was very saucy and sort of sweet and the chicken was falling off of the bone. For me here in Ireland it really wasn't the cheapest meal to make - as well as whiskey this dish features BBQ sauce, which is not a huge thing over here, peach preserves, which were also really hard to find and quite expensive, and finally fresh peaches, which sadly are really quite pricey over here. You could probably use canned peaches, but I would rather live in a warmer country that can grow its own fruit. In fact, I would love to have my own fruit trees because summer fruits are my favourites, especially peaches and apricots. And strawberries and cherries. Although I'd probably eat so much of it that it would make me sick. Still, imagine how easy it would be to bake pies and fruit muffins and top pavlovas if you could just pop out to the garden and pick a big pile of fruit. I'm clearly in the wrong climate. But at least I have lots of yummy leftovers to get me through this cold, rainy excuse for a summer that Ireland has provided us with this year.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Maple Pecan Cookies

This recipe is my latest cookie invention. It may not be very original, but the amazing-ness that is maple syrup is new to me, and I just had to use up the rest of the bottle in some cookies. They did not have such a strong maple flavour as the maple cupcakes, but they were still really good. The addition of pecans to these cookies is on account of some ice-cream that I ate too much of over the weekend - Ben & Jerry's Vermonster, with maple flavoured ice-cream, caramelised pecans and a caramel swirl. It was so yummy! I could have eaten an entire tub of just the pecans, so when I found a big bag of them at the supermarket I had to buy them. I tried to caramelise the, but they did not turn out so well as the ones in the ice-cream. I tried too different ways and the best result was to smother the pecans in brown sugar and then heat them in a frying pan until the sugar started to melt. I also tried it with butter, but I found that with butter the nuts just got greasy and the sugar didn't really stick to them. I think next time I might just make caramel sauce, drizzle it over the pecans and bake them for a little while. Or maybe I won't - the pecans were so yummy that I used half in the cookies and just ate the rest, they're clearly a dangerous snack to have around the house.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Steak & Mushroom Pie

A couple of weeks ago the Volvo Ocean Race arrived in Galway for the grand finale and to celebrate we had a race-village set up at the docks, full of stands selling all sort of yummy food. You wanna know the one that I got the most excited about? The pie stand! It was from Pie-Minister, a UK pie shop, and the pies were amazing! I had a steak pie that was so good that I was craving meat pie for the rest of the week. I couldn't just go back and buy one though, they were way too expensive! 5 euro for a pie - that's like 8 NZ dollars, for just one pie! It was worth it, but only the once. Instead, it is time to formulate a recipe for an amazing steak and gravy pie that will leave people drooling for more. Over the weekend I stayed out of the rain and in the kitchen making a thick beef and mushroom stew and shortcrust pastry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Courgette Soup

Here in Galway we are not really having much of a summer. We had one really good week with high temperatures and sunshine, then a month or so later we had another. That was pretty much it. Through June it didn't really rain much, but now that it's July it is getting cold already and we've had a couple of weeks of really awful rain. So anyway, my point is that it's not too hot for soup. I had some courgette in the fridge that I didn't know what to do with, so I looked up courgette soup and found this one from the BBC food website. It was really yummy and is probably my new favourite way to eat courgette. Plus it was really fast to make. Soup is a great way to add more vegetables to your diet and I would recommend soup all year round, but then again, I live in a cold place. If I ever live somewhere that is too hot in the summer to enjoy hot soup, I will simply have to experiment with cold soups, like gazpacho, so that I don't have to forego my soup fix. As for this delicious green soup, the only thing that I might change next time is to use less liquid, as I generally like my soups to be quite thick.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Today I really feel like quitting my PhD and just baking all day. Unfortunately it has gotten to the point where I've come so far that I really might as well finish. Yet at the same time, what is the point, when all I want to do is bake cakes? These cupcakes were made for a friend's birthday - I doubled the recipe and then tried to stretch it to make 30 instead of 24 cupcakes. Not a great idea, some of those cupcakes were more frosting then cake. Luckily the frosting was really good. I wanted to make my cupcakes glitter, like the ones that you see in cafe's these days, but the cake decorating shop that is here in Galway did not have proper cake glitter.  I ended up with a shimmery gold dust that was not at all sprinkle-able. I have to find some real cake glitter for the next time. I already have a great idea for the next batch of cupcakes so now I just need somebody to have a birthday.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tangy Mushroom Sauce (for steak)

This recipe comes from a meal that I made for myself and my flatmate a couple of weeks ago. We both try to stay fit and get plenty of exercise and sometimes that leaves a person craving a protein packed meal - not to mention the rainy weather that we've been having lately makes warm comfort food seem very appealing. So steak and chips was on the menu, only the chips were sweet potato chips and the steak was dressed up with a creamy, tangy sauce that I found on one of the many websites that feature Gordon Ramsay. But I didn't have everything that he did, so I had to make some changes, like substituting vermouth for sherry. I have never been overly fond of red meat so I only rarely cook steak, but you know, this sauce was so delicious that I might just have to eat steak more often, so that I have an excuse to have piles of yummy sauce!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Peanut Brownies

Peanut brownies are a type of cookie from New Zealand - one of those ones that everybody's grandma makes and can be found in the Edmond's Cookbook. They're simply a chocolate cookie packed full of peanuts. They're also really yummy. So is the raw cookie dough. But that doesn't mean that you should eat a lot of it, because if you do you will end up with a sore tummy, like I did. Yet that didn't stop me from trying  the cookies as soon as they came out of the oven, and then again the next morning just to make sure they were still good. Which they were. Simple and sweet and salty. Crunchy and chocolatey (I may have included just a bit more cocoa than the recipe specified). This recipe is extremely easy to put together so I would recommend mixing up a batch right away!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Something Really Unusual...

It's cooking challenge time again! This month is savoury food instead of something baked, which I am usually not so keen on, but I was actually really excited about this month's challenge! You see, this month's challenge is fried chicken, something that is very popular in America but not really the done thing in my part of the world, so it's something that I have never made and when I first read this month's challenge topic I thought it would be a good chance to find a great recipe to fall back on when people need a treat. I always find it a bit hard to find blog recipes so I went to that old stand-by, the erecipecards website. This is the part where I got really excited about this month's challenge, enough so that I made this nearly a month before the due date. What I found was a way to turn this month's challenge into a sweet, baked treat! It turns out that in America you can have fried chicken with waffles and maple syrup for breakfast and this amazingly creative blogger turned that breakfast into a maple waffle fried chicken cupcake!! I saw it, I thought about it for maybe two minutes, and I knew that I absolutely had to try it. I mean, topping a cupcake with chicken? What sort of crazy person does that? Well, me, for one! And you know what? They were actually really good, in a strange sort of way.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Porcini Pasta

In my kitchen there has been a packet of dried mushrooms sitting in the cupboard for ages - months at least, maybe close to a  year! They have been sitting there so long because I was not sure how to use them. Finally I looked it up and it turns out that rehydrating mushrooms is a piece of cake, so I decided to turn that packet of mushrooms into a creamy pasta dish. What I created contained way more dairy than I have had in a long time, which perhaps wasn't the smartest idea because it was incredibly rich and afterward I felt like bursting. But that's not so much the dairy as the overeating, which had to be done because this pasta was delicious! The only problem with such a rich, creamy pasta was that it cooled and congealed rather quickly, so next time I should probably serve it on a hot plate!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes

Mmmm cupcakes. Cupcakes are why I love birthdays. This time the flavour was a difficult choice, but I have seen a lot of salted caramel recipes around lately, it's clearly the newest craze. In my file of recipes to try there are salted caramel brownies, cupcakes, ice-cream, even hot chocolate. So I finally decided on chocolate cupcakes with caramel frosting and more caramel on top. I forgot the salted part, but they were amazing without the caramel being salted. Baking the cupcakes really cheered me up after a long week, but probably as a result of my long week I made a few stupid mistakes. I tried a caramel recipe from The Baker Chick to begin with and I burn the sugar - the resulting caramel tasted awful! So I threw it out and tried again. The next recipe, from Bird On A Cake, was much better. However, I nearly ran out of butter by the time I got around to making the frosting and that was when I realised that I had put way too much butter in the cupcakes. That is why you should always weigh stuff. Somehow I had just gotten completely confused and forgotten how much a pat of butter weighed, for some reason I thought it was 250 grams but really it's 500 grams. So my cupcakes had twice the amount of butter than they should have. It just goes to show that while baking is a precise thing, you can also fuck it up and things will still turn out fine. The cupcakes were dense and brownie-like, the frosting was really delicious and the caramel sauce on top made them look really pretty.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Potato Curry

The other day I was very hungry and realised that instead of buying real food during my weekly grocery shop I had primarily bought baking food. My options were limited and I needed a recipe that would make me a proper, yummy meal. I knew that I had potatoes on hand, and leftover coconut cream  in the fridge that needed to be used, so I looked up a recipe for potato curry and found a basic one on the website. And you know what? It was really good! It was also completely mild, it had no heat to it at all, which for me is a good thing, but perhaps others might like to add some chilli powder or something. I had the leftovers cold the next day and if anything, they were even better. The sauce had thickened and become creamier, plus it had soaked right into the rice. So here is a yummy, filling, vegetarian meal that is easy and quick to make - perfect for the middle of the week.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Zealand Lamingtons

Lamingtons were first thought up in Australia, where cubes of sponge cake are rolled in raspberry jelly and then coconut. In New Zealand we have those, but we also have our own take on lamingtons, which are chocolate flavoured! They are so nice, my pictures really don't do them justice (largely because my sponge was way too flat) but they are really worth trying. Sponge is brought to a whole new level when it is rolled in chocolate icing, coated in coconut, split in half and smothered with cream. Especially if you jazz it up like I did, by making it an orange chocolate lamington. However, making the sponge cake flavoured means that you have to make your own and it is far easier, and more successful, to just buy a plain one. That's the way we would usually do it at home, especially seeing as you don't actually want to use fresh sponge for this but day-old sponge, because fresh, home-made sponge is too soft. Store-bought sponge is always a bit dryer so is perfect for making delicious lamingtons with!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Quinoa Salad

Now that summer has arrive it is time to eat more salad. Although looking out the window today makes me want to go home and make soup. This salad, however, could be eaten hot or cold so even on a nasty rainy day like today it will make a good meal. Quinoa is a great food to cook with - it is incredibly easy to prepare, it's versatile and it's really good for you! It's a seed so it's a protein source and not a carb, and has all of the essential amino acids. Plus it's yummy. This salad is based on a recipe that I saw on another blog but you don't really need a recipe to make a quinoa salad. You could just cook quinoa according to the packet directions and toss it together with salad vegetables and some sort of vinaigrette. My own version below is not really anything like the recipe that I based it on, it's more like a brand new recipe, and it was really yummy so I would definitely recommend it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cherries and Almonds

Today is the 3rd Thursday of the month, which means it's improv challenge day! The thing that I really like about this challenge is that I'm allowed to just make something up. Using other blog recipes is great too, because you come across all sorts of imaginative things, and I often sort of cheat with the other challenge by taking a recipe and completely changing it to make it my own. But luckily for this one I'm allowed to just make things up. The subject this month was cherries and almonds and for once I decided to not even attempt to create something sweet. I've gone with a salad, because a bit of fruit and some crunchy nuts always makes a salad better.

This particular salad also features quinoa for protein, some tangy feta cheese and spinach leaves, which are full of really good stuff like iron and folate. It is simple to make, it is really good to eat warm and it is just as good to eat cold the next day.