Monday, 5 October 2015

Meal Planning Monday 2015 Week 41

I'm experimenting with something new at lunchtime: protein shakes. I've given up trying to follow Slimming World as I was failing miserably (it just didn't seem to be for me). My personal trainer has always been less than keen on SW and instead thinks I should focus on eating simple food, with lots of protein and little carbs. She recommended some protein powder you mix with milk to make shakes, which you can have as well as or instead of meals. She said it's a lot better for you than SlimFast (which I did years ago and think it helped a bit, though I wasn't actually very overweight at all at the time, despite what my ex led me to believe). So I decided to give it a shot and last Friday had a protein shake as my lunch - it did actually keep me full all afternoon and the chocolate flavour was lovely. Also, I'm so busy at work it was nice and convenient! I will have to see whether that combined with eating right does actually help me lose weight. I will probably continue having the shakes for lunch and maybe breakfast as well for this week.
Thai style sea bass based on this recipe for me; chicken fajitas for him
The other piece of fish I had to defrost yesterday as two were stuck together!
Probably working late so will grab something when I get home
Thursday – day off to start Ros’s wedding cake!
Lunch: will depend where I am as I have an appointment to try on wedding dresses at 11.30
Dinner: slow cooker venison and apple based on this recipe with mashed potato and chicken for him
Friday- another day off to do the cake and some of my own wedding planning
Dinner: mini rack of lamb with couscous for me, chicken kiev and chips for him
Breakfast: sausage sandwich as I need something filling
Lunch/dinner: At a wedding
Breakfast: French toast with maple syrup I brought back from our holiday
Lunch: Possibly the above if we don't get up in time for breakfast, otherwise I will find something else
Dinner: Old El Paso tacos

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Restaurant Review: The Mermaid Cafe, Westcliff-on-Sea

Southend-on-Sea - just up the road from Westcliff

Hen nights are a funny thing – you are bringing together several people or groups who don’t know each other, live in different parts of the country, some might have children, or be pregnant, some like to drink and others are teetotal and some are on tighter budgets than others. As a bride-to-be, what on earth are you to do? Outsource the planning to your bridesmaid, that’s what!
I don’t think I could relinquish full control and hand over planning of the day/weekend to someone with no idea even of where I was going, but that’s what one friend did recently. She was only told what time she would be picked up, nothing more.

We actually went to Southend-on-Sea, somewhere she and a few of her friends used to live, and met at a beach-front café on an unseasonably hot day in late September. We were at the Mermaid Café (which doesn’t have a website) and the waitress was more than happy to rearrange the tables and chairs for our large group and to make room for a baby’s buggy. She was also very patient when we twice said we weren’t ready to order as we were still waiting for more people and overall made us feel really welcome, which isn’t always the case when you are on a hen night!
There had been talk of having fish and chips for lunch and the menu had a lot more on it, including some salads, but the idea had been firmly planted in my head so that’s what I wanted. I had a feeling fish and chips might be a pretty large portion though so I had scampi instead; the pieces were much more manageable than the foot or more-long fish in batter than turned up on everyone else’s plates – and that was the medium rather than the large fish!

Feeling fit to burst we went off to the pier to play mini golf and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Southend has a huge amusement park area at the beginning of the pier; it reminded me of Brighton at first but I decided it was much better – even if I didn’t win the mini golf.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

The Ultimate Cheese Toastie Wrapped in Bacon

I saw this on Facebook ages ago and kept wanting to make it so one day decided we would have it for lunch at the weekend. This was before I got engaged and decided I needed to start a pre-wedding diet of course!
It’s very easy to make but very effective as my fiancé thought I was making him a bacon sandwich. Slice some cheese very thinly and place between two slices of bread.
Take some bacon – the streaky kind works best as you get long thin pieces. Wrap these around the sandwich so it is completely encased in bacon.
You don’t need much oil at all in the frying pan as the bacon releases plenty of grease itself but I sprayed the pan with a little Fry Light just to get it started (I definitely wouldn’t add liquid oil!). Heat the pan and place the sandwich in; cook on both sides until the bacon is done.
When you cut into the sandwich you will see the cheese has melted – it was awesome! I recommend having half a sandwich with some salad….


Friday, 2 October 2015

Rose Petal Wedding Cake with Sugar Flower and Brush Embroidery


Finally I can share with you this rose petal wedding cake I made earlier this year on a cake decorating course at South Thames College in Tooting. The cake itself isn’t real – we used polystyrene dummies, so we could practice the decorating. It uses a few different techniques; I’ve already explained how to make the sugar flower that goes on top and how to use an icing bead maker.
The base of the cake looks very intricate but it’s a pretty easy technique once you know how. First cover your cake board and the bottom cake.
Colour some flower paste in a relatively dark shade – that is, I think pastel colours work best, but as you can see the colour gradually becomes paler higher up the cake, so the lower petals need to be darkest. I can’t remember exactly how much we used and it does depend on the size of your cake so I’d start with about a matchbox sized amount as you will add to it as you go with white flower paste, and you can easily make more if you need to.
Use a rose petal cutter to cut out about half a dozen petals at once. Use a balling tool to curl them gently at the bottom. Use edible glue to stick a row of petals around the bottom of the cake, attaching each one by the top of the petal so the lower part of the petal stands out a little from the cake.

Add a little white flower paste into your coloured lump and work it in, so the colour becomes a little paler. Repeat with another row of petals. Stick them on so they overlap the joins of the petals in the layer below.
Repeat again and again, adding white flower paste each time so the colour becomes paler, until the top layer is almost white with a faint blush of colour. When you get to the top, bend the petals over the top of the cake and stick down – they need to be flat as you will sit your second layer of cake on top.
For the second tier, cover your cake or dummy in white fondant. Place on top of the tier that you have finished.
This layer is decorated with something called brush embroidery which again is quite easy but looks beautiful.

Before the fondant on the cake has set hard, gently press in a patchwork cutter, or any other kind of cutter which makes a pretty pattern, so you have an indent you can emboss.
Make up some royal icing according to pack instructions and with a very small piping bag with the end snipped off (so smaller than a plastic or metal nozzle) go over the outlines of your pattern. Leave to dry.
Mix 2-3 spoonfuls of royal icing with a quarter to half teaspoon of piping gel (or piping jelly as it is sometimes known – you can buy this in cake decorating shops or on Amazon). Use a brush to apply this to the inside parts of your pattern, starting from the edges and gently brushing in to the middle.
I applied little balls of pale green fondant to match the flower petals at a few intervals around this layer.
Add the string of beads around the bottom of the top tier. Take the flower you made earlier and push a flower pick into the cake. This is a plastic holder for the flower, as you can’t put the wire directly into the cake if you are eating it (if you are using a polystyrene cake dummy that’s fine). You may need to use a little royal icing inside the flower pick to keep your flower at the angle you want.

And that’s all! The techniques are not particularly hard (other than the wired flower, that is) but it does take quite a bit of time – we spend three sessions of my evening class on this cake and that was without baking it!

 I'm sharing this with Alphabakes, the blog challenge I co-host with Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker as the letter I have chosen this month is W.


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Alphabakes Challenge: October 2015

It's my turn to host Alphabakes again this month as Ros has slightly better things to do like get married.... congratulations Ros! Though my baking experiments have been somewhat curtailed of late as I'm on a pre-wedding diet - not for her big day but for my own, which is next June! Which is a good opportunity for me to remind you all that you don't have to make a cake to enter Alphabakes -the recipe can be sweet or savoury.
The letter I've chosen this month isn't too difficult I hope.... W is the one this time and as we head into winter there should be plenty of good recipes and ingredients coming to mind.
Please add your entries to the Linky by the 25th of the month and if you tweet @Caroline_Makes and @bakingaddict we will retweet all the ones that we see.

Here's a reminder of the rules:
1. Post your recipe on your blog and link it to The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes, stating the relevant month's host. If you do not have a blog, email us a picture and a brief description of your entry which we will  include in the round-up at the end of the month.

2. You can use your own recipe or someone else's recipe. The recipe can be sweet, savoury or a mixture!  Anything goes as long as the random letter is predominantly featured in the recipe as one of the main ingredients or flavours or in the name of the bake itself (i .e . not as a garnish , or using 'flour' for the letter F!)  You can also republish old posts/recipes but you must include the information for this challenge as stated in these rules. 
3. Add the logo to your post and add 'alphabakes' as a label to your post. 
4. Please add your entries to the linkup on this page. If you want to email your entries please use by midnight (GMT) 25th of each month. Please include: 
  • Your name (that you want included in the round up or we will use the name of your blog)
  • Your blog post URL
  • Recipe title
  • Photo of recipe (to be included in the round up).
5. You can submit as many entries as you like.
6.You do not have to participate every month to join in.
7. You may submit your entry to other challenges as long as it complies with their rules.
8. If you use twitter, please use the tag #alphabakes and mention @bakingaddict and @Caroline_Makes. We will retweet all those that we see.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Yellow Butterfly Birthday Card

Butterflies appear in my card making time and again. I’m not sure why – they are pretty and colourful and seem quite feminine, but younger somehow that flowers. I think a lot of people these days only send floral cards to their grandmothers!
This card was a bit of a cheat as it uses elements from a shop-bought birthday card (one I received)- but I do like to recycle! I used a tall thin card blank and covered it with a pretty yellow paper patterned with little flowers. I cut the butterflies and the flower off the other card – they are made of foam backed onto cardboard so were easy to cut out and look really nice as they are raised off the card. The ‘happy birthday’ banner is also recycled from another card!
I think to papercrafting purists this would be unacceptable but using pieces from shop-bought cards doesn’t mean you haven’t made an effort; the design is still your own idea, you can still be creative and you can still say you spent the time and effort making something yourself.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Restaurant Review: Vittoria on the Bridge, Edinburgh

Vittoria on the Bridge is in Edinburgh’s Old Town, on the George IV bridge not far from the university and many of the tourist attractions. I was in Edinburgh on business however, part of the team that was organising a conference. The night before the conference I went out to dinner with the team; it was a cold and rainy evening and we hopped straight out of a taxi into the restaurant, which had been booked by someone who had been there before.
The restaurant has an extensive menu of Italian dishes with a huge number of starters, various cuts of steak, some not particularly Italian main courses like liver and bacon and brie wellington but plenty of Italian specialities like vitello alla parmigiana and vitello alla Milanese (veral medallions in a parmesan sauce, or with spaghetti). There are separate sections for pasta, risotto and pizza – the pizza section is helpfully divided into meat, seafood, vegetarian, deluxe and calzone. There are 22 pizzas on the menu which is probably enough to rival the likes of Pizza Express – but so many other dishes besides.
I found it hard to choose so decided to try the lasagne; it’s such a traditional dish that I think you can almost judge the quality of an Italian restaurant by their lasagne. And it was delicious! Packed full of meat with the right amount of sauce (I hate lasagnes that are too dry) and really tasty.
We only had one course so weren’t in the restaurant long, but service was friendly and relatively fast given we were a large group; if you’re sightseeing in Edinburgh or indeed on business there, this would be a great place to stop and eat.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Meal Planning Monday 2015 Week 40

My post-holiday diet started well but then was slightly derailed by two days away for work, a client conference the next day and a hen night at the weekend! Still, Rome wasn't built in a day...

I'm feeling rather uninspired for breakfasts I can eat at my desk at work (we have a microwave, but no toaster) so if you have any ideas please let me know!
Breakfast: yogurt and pear
Lunch: salmon with salad
Dinner: ready meal as we have our residents association at 8am when we are usually still eating dinner
Breakfast: muesli with fat free yogurt
Lunch: chicken, salad and homemade houmous and carrot sticks
Dinner: curry to use up rest of sauce we had last week
 Breakfast: muesli with fat free yogurt
Lunch: chicken, salad and homemade houmous and carrot sticks
Dinner: mackerel with soy and ginger from Wagamama cookery book p.115 for me, chicken goujons for him
 Breakfast:  yogurt
Lunch: out with a friend
Dinner: out at a blog event
  Breakfast: yogurt
Lunch: possibly tuna sandwich depending on what is left at the end of the week
Dinner: Slimming World nacho-style feast from this recipe
Breakfast:  yogurt
Lunch: baked potato with tuna and plain yogurt for me, cheese and beans for him
Evening: at my parents for my dad’s birthday

reminder to self: bake cupcakes for work tonight
Breakfast: at my parents for my dad’s birthday
Lunch: at my parents for my dad’s birthday
Dinner: something easy from the freezer depending on what I had for lunch

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Wagamama Roasted Honey Pork Ramen

This weekend was the Japanese Grand Prix but I have to admit I didn't watch it - as I've said before, it's my fiancé who is the F1 fan anyway, though I've definitely gotten into it since living with him! I was busy today making the flowers to go on top of Ros's wedding cake (which has made me realise I won't have time to make my own wedding cake, a shame but it could be a lot of last minute stress!). I did make a Japanese meal for dinner though in the spirit of my blog challenge Formula 1 Foods.

I've had the Wagamama recipe book for several years but hardly ever used it; when I was thinking about making a Japanese meal I immediately took it from my bookshelf and was pleasantly surprised at the number of recipes in it I liked - I don't know why I never really used this book before!


I chose a dish called roasted honey pork ramen - ramen are a type of Japanese noodle. It was really easy to make though I adapted the recipe slightly to use up some vegetable stock I had in the fridge (rather than the chicken stock the recipe called for) and I left out the bamboo shoots as I don't like them. The recipe also suggested that you cook a pork fillet and then slice it but I used two small pork chops (I was going to buy fillet but they were reduced in the supermarket and I thought I may as well get a bargain) which I sliced up first and then cooked. It worked really well and the pork had a similar taste and texture as when I've had char siu pork in Chinese restaurants.

So this is my version of the recipe:
To serve one, you need

1-2 pork chops, with the bone and any fat removed and the meat sliced
1 tbsp. bbq sauce
1 tsp runny honey
100ml vegetable stock
ramen noodles
2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
broccoli to serve

Preheat oven to 200C. Place the pork slices in a roasting tin lined with foil, and toss with the BBQ sauce. Bake for 20 minutes; meanwhile start cooking the broccoli or any other veg you want with it. After the pork has been in the oven for 20 minutes, add the honey and return to the oven for five minutes. Heat the vegetable stock and cook the noodles - I used a packet of straight-to-wok noodles so they only needed a few minutes heating through. Add the spring onions to the vegetable stock and heat through.

To serve, spoon the noodles and spring onion into a bowl and add as much of the stock as you like if you want this to be more of a broth-based dish. Top with the pork and serve with broccoli or other green veg.

I'm sending this to Formula 1 Foods as the challenge this time is Japan.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

How to use a Bead-Maker for Cake Decorating

For the finishing touch on a celebration cake, a row of beads or pearls is a great idea.
I recently posted detailed instructions for how to make a wired sugar flower. I will soon be posting the full wedding cake that I used the flower on, but first want to show you another element of that cake.
You can roll individual balls of fondant and stick them in a row around the edge of your cake; if you do this the way to make sure they are all the same size is to weigh your icing. This whole process takes a long time though so I thought I would introduce those of you who haven’t come across it before to a bead maker.
I’ve tried a rigid plastic one from Lakeland and a soft silicon one that belonged to a tutor in a cake decorating class and I found the latter much easier to use.

It’s best to use a mixture of fondant and flower paste as I found fondant alone too soft, but it can work.
Open the bead maker and rub the inside with a little Trex (shortening).
Roll a fat sausage of your fondant/flower paste mix and place inside the bead maker. Squeeze it shut – there will be excess fondant that fills over the side but that’s fine – you need to make sure you’ve filled the cavity inside so this is the best way. Simply trim off the excess while still squeezing the bead maker shut.

Open it up and you should see a row of beads. Before you remove them, brush the side facing you with a little lustre powder – pearl is nice if you are making white beads but you could do them in any colour. Gently nudge the beads out of the mould so they sit in the other part of the mould and then brush the side that is now exposed with the lustre power. Carefully lift out and you have a string of pearls ready to go around the base of your cake.


Friday, 25 September 2015

New Baby Boy Card

This is a bright, fun card that has touches of blue for a boy, but to me the feeling it creates is one of joy of celebrating a birth. There is quite a lot going on in this card but I think the new parents will find there is quite a lot going on in their lives now!
I cut off the corners of a square card blank to give a curved effect and covered the card with a jazzy star-print backing paper. I did want some element of blue though and had a cloud-shaped blue card die cut which I stuck in the middle.
I had a pack of wooden card toppers for a new baby that I had used most of, but I still had the word ‘baby’, a safety pin and a baby bottle left, which were all the right colour for this card. From another pack of baby card toppers I had some pram die cuts, which were pink. I covered the body of the pram with blue paper, but thought there was nothing wrong with leaving the other parts pink!
I also wanted a couple of other elements that jumped out to create the feeling of joy and fun, so used two multi-layered flower stickers – again I was using up the odds and ends of another pack.
Finally – because there is a bit of a traditionalist in me – I took a piece of blue ‘baby boy’ ribbon and stuck it along the bottom of the card. I then took another length of ribbon and tied it in a bow, and glued that to the middle of the straight piece.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

F1 Foods: Singapore Round-up and the next challenge: Japan

Either because the linky was only open for a very short time, because I didn't really publicise it as I was away on holiday then travelling for work or simply because nobody was inspired by Singapore to cook any dish, the only entry for this round of Formula 1 Foods was my own. Still, it gives me a chance to direct you again to my Singapore Sling bundt cake if you didn't already see it.

This weekend it's the Japanese Grand Prix which may be another difficult one for some of you - though it doesn't have to be baking; you can make rice and noodle dishes too, or anything inspired by a Japanese cartoon character (Hello Kitty cake, anyone?).

This time you've got until Sunday October 4 to send in any Japanese-inspired recipes using the linky below!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread

I’ve already described how I used up some soft bananas from a fruit box we were sent at work in this banoffee pie with a chocolate cornflake base. There were actually more bananas left over and I’ve always wanted to make banana bread but never got round to it (the fact that I don’t like banana also puts me off!). As I have mentioned before, once a month I spend a day in the office of a design agency that we work with to produce a particular internal project and it’s usually a very long day.
As I spend so much time with them, and a couple of them end up having to work late due to this project, I’ve gotten into the habit of taking cake. It seemed a good idea because I have a small team at work and people don’t want to eat cake all the time, so this way I had a new audience – one who wasn’t bored of cake. They were very appreciative so I’ve now made cake every time I’ve been to their office. This time was great fun – not long after I had arrived, I overheard a conversation between two of the team that they were hungry and didn’t have any food in the office. I turned around and innocently remarked “well I did bring cake” – the look on their faces was priceless!
I knew there would be enough hungry people in the office to eat the cake that I could make banana bread and it didn’t matter if I didn’t like it. As it was, it tasted really good – I didn’t want a whole slice as the banana flavour was quite strong but it was lovely and moist and the addition of chocolate was lovely. I took inspiration from this recipe but did make it differently.
Marbled Chocolate Banana Bread – an original recipe by Caroline Makes
Makes one 1-litre loaf cake
You need:
¾ cup caster sugar
2 ripe bananas
½ cup crème fraiche
2 eggs
2 cups self-raising flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 180C.
Mash the bananas and cream with the sugar, then add the crème fraiche and eggs. Fold in the flour.
Separate the mixture into two bowls and add the cocoa powder to one bowl.
Grease a loaf tin and spoon in the chocolate banana cake mixture, then spoon the plain mixture on top. Use the spoon to swirl the two around – take a spoonful of the bottom layer and bring it up to the top, twisting as you do so. Repeat this along the length of the tin.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 50-60 minutes, testing with a skewer to see if it is cooked through. Allow to cool in the tin and then turn out.
This cake slices really well and because there is no frosting, it’s something you can wrap up and take on a picnic or in your lunchbox for work. It was really moist and the chocolate flavour went perfectly with the banana and considering that I don’t even like banana, I would say this was a success!

As I used up old bananas I'm sending this to the No Waste Food Challenge, hosted this month by Foodie Quine on behalf of Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Jareth's Temptation - Peaches, Cream, Meringue and Pomegranate Dessert

Image result for labyrinth movie

Not to be confused with Jansson's Temptation, which is something different entirely - this dessert is inspired by my favourite 80s movie.

Labyrinth came out when I was seven years old and a friend of mine had it on VHS - my family didn't even have a video recorder at that time. I absolutely loved the film, mainly for the songs - the animated characters were on the whole a bit irritating for my liking (anyone else find Hoggle really annoying?) but the idea of the quest to find the baby brother was the sort of thing I couldn't get enough of.

Best of all though were the two leads, Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie. I don't think I even knew who David Bowie was at that point but he was mesmerising (and looking back now, very overtly sexual though I was blissfully ignorant of that sort of thing at the time!).

Connelly was only 16 when she played the role and she was breathtakingly beautiful in her ball gown in the scene where Hoggle has given Sarah (Connelly) a peach, enchanted by Jareth (Bowie) so she will lose her memories and will forget she is looking for her brother. That's probably my favourite scene in the movie.
Image result for labyrinth movie

I decided to make a dessert inspired by that scene, so peaches had to be the main ingredient. I also wanted something that would conjure up the white ballgown that Sarah wore, hence whipped cream and meringue. Finally, I decided the sharpness of pomegranate would cut through in the way that Jareth's intentions behind giving Sarah the peach are malicious - and pomegranate seeds are a symbol of fertility which adds the sexual overtones. All that in a dessert!

The recipe is very simple as I bought a shop-bought meringue due to lack of time. Slice up a fresh peach and drizzle over some honey; grill or roast them until softened and slightly browned. Pile on top of the meringue, top with whipped cream and drizzle with pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds as well if desired.

I'm sharing this with Alphabakes, the blog challenge I co-host with Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker, as the letter she has chosen this month is J. I hope she doesn't mind this entry - I've given it the name of Jareth's Temptation though none of the ingredients actually begin with J! I've been away on holiday and for work for most of this month so this is the best I could do....