Monday, 20 October 2014

Meal Planning Monday - Week 43



Monday- I'm at a choir rehearsal so my boyfriend will  have dinner at his mum's
Tuesday- spaghetti carbonara (on the meal plan last week but we had something else instead)
Wednesday – gammon, egg and chips for him; cod, vegetables and parsley sauce for me
Thursday tacos with beef mince and potato wedges (on meal plan last week but didn’t have them)
Friday –sausage and chips
Saturday- at a choir rehearsal all day so will take a packed lunch; out with friends for dinner
Sunday – A variation on Tory Cobbler from The Fabulous Baker Brothers' Glorious British Grub

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Baked Camembert With Wine, Mustard and Honey and a Cheese Plate Review



I was sent a set of cheese plates to review by Culture Vulture Direct, a UK-based company that sells gifts and homewares inspired by traditional crafts and artisans around the world. They have a great tableware section and you can see the set of four gourmet cheese plates they sent (RRP £19.99). The plates are in an attractive presentation box so would make a nice gift.


Each one bears the name and depiction of a different cheese; the plates are what I would call quite rustic, French farmhouse in style, and the four cheeses depicted are all French. These are good quality bone china but helpfully both dishwasher and microwave save.
.
 

I decided to test them out by, well, eating some cheese! I have made a baked camembert before, where I baked the cheese in the wooden box it came in and didn't do anything to it, though I did bake my own bread sticks to dip into it. This time I decided to see if I could find anything more interesting to do with the cheese and found this recipe on the BBC Food website for a baked camembert with garlic, mustard and honey - but discovered at the last minute that I had run out of garlic. Regular readers will know I'm not very good at making sure I have the correct ingredients in advance! Still, I followed the rest of the recipe and this still turned out really well.

I have a ceramic camembert baker I was given a year or two ago which consists of a pot with a lid that you put the cheese in and put in the oven, and a wooden knife to go with it. I preheated the oven and placed the cheese in it. Cut a cross in the top of the cheese.


In a small bowl mix 1 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp white wine and 1 tsp wholegrain  mustard then pour over the cheese.


Bake in the preheated oven for ten minutes. I put the cheese still in the pot on the camembert cheese plate from the set to serve. It was just the right size and looks really good.


We ate this simply with some fresh bread dippe din. When I have baked camembert I always think it needs something either sharp or sweet to cut through the richness of the cheese - a quince jelly perhaps - so this dressing ticks both the sharp and sweet boxes. I highly recommend it!


Thanks to Culture Vulture Direct for sending the cheese plates to review. I was not required to make positive comments and all opinions are my own.

I am sending this to Speedy Suppers, the blog challenge hosted by Sarah at Maison Cupcake, as the theme this month is cheese.


Saturday, 18 October 2014

Lemon Chicken with Pasta

 

This is a quick and simple meal that I like for either lunch or dinner; the chicken with the pasta is filling and the lemon sauce is zingy. It goes well with green veg like broccoli. I used to make it a lot for weekend lunches but my other half doesn't like really pasta so I don't cook this sort of thing much any more, but coming across this recipe has reminded me of how good it is!

Cook your pasta according to your usual method or the packet instructions. I find a chunky pasta like fusili or farfalle works well with this.

Cut one chicken breast per person into cubes and fry in Fry Light or a little oil until cooked through. You can also add some chopped onion but again my other half doesn't like that so I made this without.

Add the grated zest and juice of one lemon, and 200ml chicken stock to the pan. Add 1-2 tsp sugar to taste as you don't want the lemon flavour to be too sharp.


Heat until the stock has reduced and stir in 2 tbsp low fat plain yogurt or fromage frais.


Simply stir the sauce through the pasta to serve.


Friday, 17 October 2014

Degustabox: a monthly box of edible treats (review)



I love receiving nice things in the post, who doesn't? I recently discovered a company called Degustabox that will send you a monthly parcel of edible treats - all recently or about-to-be launched products from both leading and smaller brands, but these are full sized products, not samples. The box costs £12.99 a month including delivery, or £11.99 a month if you pay biannually. It's definitely good value as the contents are worth around £20. If you want to only order one box you can cancel after that and not have to buy another.

This all sounds like I've been paid to advertise this service but I haven't - I came across it via a friend and subscribed and have had two boxes so far, both paid for out of my own money. I liked the idea - and the contents - so much that I wanted to share it with you!



The first box I received in August had a voucher for Moma Bircher Muesli - as they have to be stored in the fridge, which is good if your box ends up sitting on your doorstep or with a neighbour all day. As I had just moved house I didn't get around to redeeming the voucher however.



I also received a packet of brioche croissants and one of pain au lait; these are both ready to eat from the packet so were a great help on the first few mornings in our new house when we didn't have much in the way of fresh food and hadn't unpacked the crockery!



There was a box of apple and pear juice from Cawston Press, which was lovely:


And two pots of Schwartz Flavour Shots, something I hadn't come across before. One was for Mexican fajitas and the other Spanish paprika chicken. The little pots have a blend of herbs, spices and seasonings in a paste and oil; you heat the paste in the pan and add the oil along with your chicken; for the Spanish paprika chicken, you also add onions and a tin of tomatoes. It was delicious!

 


Dr. Oetker edible cupcake cases - I'd already found these in the supermarket and used them to make these incredible banoffee cupcakes. The edible cupcake cases aren't cheap but I recommend them for the occasional bake as they are so different and a lot of fun!


Caribbean Twist Strawberry Daiquiri- really refreshing and fruity, with an alcoholic kick that isn't too strong.


Mexican Dave's tortilla chips- handy to have something like this in the cupboard for when you have the munches, and the subtle flavour means they would pair well with salsas and dips.


Berry White fruit drinks - quite an unusual flavour and not as sweet as most other soft drinks or squashes and these count as one of your five a day.


A little heart shaped tin of Lindt chocolates which brought a smile to my face! It was a shame these were solid chocolate and not filled with caramel though...


And for my second box at the very end of September, there was an intriguing new product I hadn't seen before: Carnation 'Cook with it'. From the makers of condensed milk, this is a lighter cooking sauce for savoury dishes that resembles single cream but has less fat. I've used it in a homemade curry which worked really well and I'm planning to try it out in a spaghetti carbonara this weekend.



Burts Lentil Waves - like crisps, but made from lentils. I received three packets - sour cream and chive, lightly salted and sweet chilli. I was a bit dubious but these tasted really good; very crunchy and a healthier alternative to crisps.


Bahlsen 'Pick Up' - a chocolate biscuit with a very thick layer of chocolate sandwiched between two biscuits, these reminded me a little of Prince chocolate biscuits that I've eaten in Europe. They are really satisfying- did I mention the extra thick layer of chocolate?! - and didn't last long in my house at all!


Crabbie's alcoholic lemonade - I've seen their alcoholic ginger beer before but I think the lemonade is new. It's just on the right side of the sweet and sharp spectrum and while I don't particularly hold with the idea of adding alcohol to soft drinks directly - I was never one for alcopops even as a teenager - it tasted pretty good.


Jordan's Simply Granola - I don't usually buy Jordan's cereal but that might have to change. This granola is simply oats with a little honey - when I buy museli I often find myself picking out bits I don't like. This comes in a resealable bag that lasts ages, and tasted great layered with yogurt and fruit for breakfast.




Elizabeth Shaw dark chocolate mint thins - I don't like mint so my boyfriend will have these; which reminds me, he hasn't spotted them in the cupboard yet!


Righteous salad dressings - a new brand, I was sent three little pots of salad dressings that are made using 100% natural ingredients. It's a bit cold for salad now so I used the blue cheese dressing as part of the filling in a baked potato. It was lovely!


Little Miracles drinks - a blend of tea and fruit juice. The tea gave it a slightly odd flavour and I wasn't a huge fan of these but I think it's more of an acquired taste and can still see the brand being successful.


I'm looking forward to finding out what is in October's box -  to purchase a Degustabox yourself sign up via this link.




Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Reese's Pieces Peanut Butter Cookies

 



This month's Food 'n' Flix challenge is hosted by Evelyne at Cheap Ethnic Eatz and she has chosen the Tom Hanks movie The Terminal. The film is ten years old now but the story is still relevant now - it's about a man who is trapped in JFK airport as a revolution takes place in his home country meaning he is denied entry to the US, as they no longer recognise his nation, but he also cannot return to his home country. It is partly inspired by a true story. The man, Viktor, is forced to live in the airport and befriends various employees including an air hostesss played by Catherine Zeta Jones, and manages to get on the wrong side of a customs official played by Stanley Tucci. The way the story plays out is at times heart breaking but the ending - which I won't give away - is incredibly uplifting, and probably not what you would expect.

The idea behind Food 'n' Flix is to make something inspired by the movie. Given the airport setting I toyed with the idea of making airline food, but don't have particularly good memories of anything I've eaten on a plane! I've reviewed a couple of restaurants where I've eaten in airports and have had pretty decent meals and thought about recreating one of those, but wanted my entry to be more closely tied in to the film.

Viktor is closely attached to a Planter's peanut can in the film, which he carries around with him as if it is very valuable - for reasons that are explained later in the film. Planter's is a famous American brand of peanuts, now owned by Kraft, and even though we can't get it in the UK (as far as I am aware - I've never seen it anyway) I have heard of the Mr. Peanut character. Admittedly that's largely due to an episode in season one of Friends where Chandler and Joey discuss whether they would rather be Mr. Peanut or Mr. Salty!

Anyway, I decided to make something using that other famous American peanut brand - or rather, peanut butter brand. My boyfriend's mum recently went to America and brought me back a literal bagful of goodies (including some Grumpy Cat merchandise!), among them several bags of American candy as she knows I love to bake with it. She gave me two bags of Reese's Pieces candy - peanut butter pieces in a hard candy shell which look a bit like M&Ms.



I wasn't sure how to best use them in baking so had a look at the Reese's website, and they have loads of great recipes. I chose a fairly easy one using ingredients I already had in the store cupboard, and made these peanut butter cookies.

These make about 12 large cookies (the recipe says it makes about 30 cookies but I obviously made mine very large!)

You need:
1/2 cup margarine or softened butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup self-raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup Reese's Pieces candies


Preheat oven to 175C and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

In a bowl, cream the butter and sugars then mix in the peanut butter, egg and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and the salt, then stir in the Reese's Pieces candies.



Drop a heaped tablespoon full of the cookie dough onto the baking sheet and spacing each one well apart, place five or six balls of cookie dough on each baking sheet and press down gently.



Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes then allow to cool on a wire rack. You want to remove the cookies from the oven while they are still a little soft, as they will harden as they cool, and they are best when they are still a bit soft and chewy in the middle.



These tasted lovely and even my boyfriend, who doesn't normally like peanut butter, wanted to try them and said they were fantastic. Since I've still got a lot of the Reese's Pieces candies left, I might have to make them again!



I'm sending this to Food 'n' Flix, hosted by Evelyne at Cheap Ethnic Eatz. I think Viktor might even relinquish his hold on his Planter's peanut can for one of these cookies!


I am also sending this to Cook, Blog, Share hosted by Lucy at SuperGoldenBakes.


The theme for October's Treat Petite is 'trick or treat'. While more kids do go trick or treating in the UK now than when I was a child (we never did), it's still very much an American thing and since Reese's Pieces are a very American candy, and I think kids would be quite happy to receive these as 'treats', I am entering these cookies in the challenge. It's hosted by Kat at Baking Explorer and on alternate months Stuart at Cakeyboi.


'Comfort food' is the theme chosen for this month's Biscuit Barrel challenge by Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than. There's something about a chewy cookie with the salty sweet tang of peanut butter which means these definitely fall under that category for me!















Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Epic 5-Layer Chocolate Cheesecake, Cheesecake Factory Style



My boyfriend and I moved into our dream home in August. It didn't look much like our dream home for the first month (and still doesn't really) as we immediately undertook a huge redecorating project. We didn't like the dusky pink carpets (or the fact that they had carpeted around wardrobes so when they took the furniture, there were sections of floor in two bedrooms with no carpet at all) so decided to get wood flooring throughout the house. It also needed a fresh coat of paint and it seemed a lot easier to do that before the new floor was done, meaning something of a race against time before the floor guys started. We also realised it made a lot more sense to redecorate before we unpacked, as it was a lot easier to shift boxes. So it was only six weeks in to living in the house that I finished unpacking the kitchen and made it useable and look nice; our bedroom is almost done but the other rooms in the house are still full of boxes!

Needless to say I hadn't made any cakes while all this was going on, and hadn't even been doing that much 'proper' cooking. I always felt that the first cake in my new kitchen needed to be a showstopper and something really memorable to mark our new lives in our new home. So no pressure then!

I knew it had to involve chocolate as my boyfriend wouldn't want anything less, and I've always loved cheesecake. Since visiting the Cheesecake Factory in America (I have eaten there four times now - not all on the same trip!) I have been obsessed with recreating their particular style of cheesecake. There are various copycat recipes on the internet and I previously made this Oreo cheesecake, which was very good but it was a baked cheesecake and didn't have the same creamy texture that I remembered at the Cheesecake Factory.

This recipe is for their Godiva cheesecake, as you are supposed to make it using Godiva chocolate, though it says at the end of the recipe that it would taste pretty much the same using any chocolate such as Hershey's -I think not! Godiva chocolates are Belgian and in my opinion taste very different to Hershey's which of course is American. But as I couldn't get hold of any Godiva chocolate, I used Tesco Finest 74% dark chocolate.

This cheesecake tastes much, much better than the Oreo cheesecake I made - and that one was pretty great. In fact I think this chocolate cheesecake- which I am calling my five-layer chocolate cheesecake, due to the way I decorated it - is quite possibly the best thing I have ever baked. And that's saying something. It has a cake rather than biscuit base which works really well and is something I will do again.

It takes pretty much all day to make as you have to allow a few hours chilling layers; I actually made it over two days as I started it one day but went to bed with toothache in the afternoon so had to finish it the next day!

I altered a few of the ingredients slightly and converted the measurements from US to UK.

Here's what I did.

You need:
For the cake base:
200g plain chocolate
225g butter
125g caster sugar
4 eggs, separated

For the chocolate cheesecake layer:
400g cream cheese
3 eggs
65g caster sugar
100g plain chocolate

For the chocolate mousse layer:
100g milk chocolate
400ml double cream

For the chocolate ganache layer:
100g plain chocolate
150ml double cream
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp golden syrup

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Ingredients

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 1 cup Godiva melting chocolate
  • 1 cup sugar[3]
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 eggs, separated[4]
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Cheesecake Filling Ingredients

  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened to room temperature[5]
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Godiva melting chocolate

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Mousse Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups Godiva melting chocolate
  • 14 ounces cold heavy cream[6]

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Ganache Ingredients

  • 1 cup Godiva melting chocolate
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter[7]
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Toppings

  • 1 square of Godiva chocolate for each slice (optional)[1]
  • Whipped cream (optional)


Go to KitchenAid.com Outlet Center for the best buys in kitchen countertop appliances. Get 10% off with the code
Recipe by CopycatRecipeGuide's Food Editors

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.[5]
  2. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
  3. Melt the chocolate, vanilla, and butter for the flourless cake in a double boiler.
  4. Beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar.
  5. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.
  6. Beat egg whites until frothy. Gradually add remaining sugar, and beat to a stiff peak.
  7. Fold in the egg whites.
  8. Start the cheesecake filling by melting the chocolate in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.[3]
  9. Beat remaining ingredients together in a large bowl until smooth.
  10. Pour the cake batter into the cake pan; carefully top with cheesecake batter.
  11. Bake for 40-50 minutes until firm.
  12. Chill for at least 4 hours.[7]
  13. Make the mousse by melting the chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from heat to cool.
  14. Beat the cream until somewhat thick. Beat in the melted chocolate until soft peaks form.[6]
  15. Layer the mousse over the top of the cheesecake and chill.
  16. Start the ganache by adding the chocolate and butter to a food processor.
  17. Boil the cream with the sugar.
  18. Add the cream mixture to the food processor, add vanilla, and and process.
  19. Refrigerate until the ganache is spreadable, then spread over the cake.
  20. Refrigerate until chilled through.
  21. Slice the cake into 12 equal servings.
- See more at: http://www.copycatrecipeguide.com/How_to_Make_Cheesecake_Factory_Godiva_Chocolate_Cheesecake#sthash.aMLnmo15.dpu

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Ingredients

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 1 cup Godiva melting chocolate
  • 1 cup sugar[3]
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 eggs, separated[4]
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Cheesecake Filling Ingredients

  • 1 pound cream cheese, softened to room temperature[5]
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Godiva melting chocolate

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Mousse Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups Godiva melting chocolate
  • 14 ounces cold heavy cream[6]

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Ganache Ingredients

  • 1 cup Godiva melting chocolate
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter[7]
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Toppings

  • 1 square of Godiva chocolate for each slice (optional)[1]
  • Whipped cream (optional)


Go to KitchenAid.com Outlet Center for the best buys in kitchen countertop appliances. Get 10% off with the code
Recipe by CopycatRecipeGuide's Food Editors

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Recipe

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.[5]
  2. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.
  3. Melt the chocolate, vanilla, and butter for the flourless cake in a double boiler.
  4. Beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar.
  5. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.
  6. Beat egg whites until frothy. Gradually add remaining sugar, and beat to a stiff peak.
  7. Fold in the egg whites.
  8. Start the cheesecake filling by melting the chocolate in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.[3]
  9. Beat remaining ingredients together in a large bowl until smooth.
  10. Pour the cake batter into the cake pan; carefully top with cheesecake batter.
  11. Bake for 40-50 minutes until firm.
  12. Chill for at least 4 hours.[7]
  13. Make the mousse by melting the chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from heat to cool.
  14. Beat the cream until somewhat thick. Beat in the melted chocolate until soft peaks form.[6]
  15. Layer the mousse over the top of the cheesecake and chill.
  16. Start the ganache by adding the chocolate and butter to a food processor.
  17. Boil the cream with the sugar.
  18. Add the cream mixture to the food processor, add vanilla, and and process.
  19. Refrigerate until the ganache is spreadable, then spread over the cake.
  20. Refrigerate until chilled through.
  21. Slice the cake into 12 equal servings.
- See more at: http://www.copycatrecipeguide.com/How_to_Make_Cheesecake_Factory_Godiva_Chocolate_Cheesecake#sthash.aMLnmo15.dpuf

Cheesecake Factory Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 1 cup Godiva melting chocolate
  • 1 cup sugar[3]
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 eggs, separated[4]
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
- See more at: http://www.copycatrecipeguide.com/How_to_Make_Cheesecake_Factory_Godiva_Chocolate_Cheesecake#sthash.aMLnmo15.dpuf

Start by making the base; grease a 9-inch cake tin - the loose-bottom kind is best. I have one with a glass base which is great for serving the cake from. Preheat oven to 175C.

For the cake base, melt the butter and chocolate in a small pan over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool (though not set). Then separate the eggs and beat the egg yolks with half the sugar in a bowl.  Fold in the chocolate mixture.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff and add the remaining sugar. Fold this in to the chocolate mixture and spoon into your prepared tin and level off.



Next make the cheesecake layer. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie or microwave and leave to cool but not set. Beat the cream cheese, eggs and sugar in a bowl then mix in the melted chocolate.

Pour this layer on top of the raw cake layer in your prepared tin and put the tin in the oven for 45-50 minutes.





When baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool- do not remove the cake from the tin so it will take a while to cool down. When cold enough to put in the fridge, chill for at least two hours or overnight if desired.

To make the chocolate mousse layer, melt the chocolate in a bain marie or microwave and allow to cool but not set. Beat the cream in a bowl until you have peaks then stir in the melted chocolate. Spread over the top of the cheesecake.



To make the ganache, heat the cream in a pan until almost simmering (don't allow it to boil) then add the chocolate in small pieces. Add the butter and golden syrup as well. Remove from the heat and stir until the chocolate has melted. Allow to cool a little so the mixture isn't hot but is still a pouring consistency. Pour over the top of the cheesecake and return to the fridge to set for 1-2 hours.



I decorated my cheesecake with caramel-filled Hershey's Kisses which my boyfriend's mum had brought back from her recent trip to America, but you could use any kind of chocolate decorations e.g. chocolate curls, other chocolate candy, grated chocolate etc.



As Paul Hollywood would say, you can see the lamination!


This is up there with - if not above - the best cakes I have ever made. It's incredibly calorific but so rich you can only eat a tiny slice (unless you are my boyfriend, who can manage a bit more!) but really just amazing. I'm already planning a similar version but with a caramel layer!


I'm sending this to Cook Blog Share, hosted by Lucy at SuperGoldenBakes, as it's an opportunity to share anything you have made.



The theme for this month's Love Cake, hosted by Ness at JibberJabberUK, is 'dark'. This recipe uses dark (plain) chocolate and is also a dark, decadent dessert perfect for winter evenings.







I think the dark layers of this cheesecake would also work well for a sophisticated Halloween dinner - and if you wanted to make it a bit less sophisticated you could decorate the top with spooky decorations like bats. For that reason, I'm sharing this with We Should Cocoa, which has a Halloween theme this month. This time it's hosted by Hannah at Honey and Dough; the challenge was started by Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog.