Monday, 31 December 2012

Meal Planning 2013 - week 1 (and a new year's resolution)

Happy New Year!
My new year's resolution is to stick to the Slimming World plan as best I can this year to lose some weight and do better on the plan than I did in 2012. I ended the year weighing not that much less than when I began it, which is a bit rubbish when you consider the time and money I've spent on Slimming World, but on the other hand if I hadn't been going to Slimming World I would probably be at least a stone heavier now.
I'm determined not to end another year weighing the same as I do now and I think that meal planning should help with that. It's sometimes hard to plan when I don't know what I will be doing - I usually eat out once or twice a week, sometimes do voluntary work which means eating on the go or very late, and often don't know if I will be at my house or my boyfriend's and while I guess I could still plan meals to eat at his house, it doesn't work very well in practical terms. Also, I don't want to completely stop eating indulgent desserts.... I only make dessert when my boyfriend eats at my house, which isn't that often, and I will try to make sure at least 50% of those desserts are Slimming World or low fat.

I also feel I should probably point out that the reason I am overweight is not because I bake so much.... I weigh the same now as before I started this blog, and I didn't bake much before I had this blog. I also don't eat most of the things that I bake, as I give them to other people or take them to bake sales at work then don't have any - I try not to get annoyed when people say I shouldn't bake so much if I want to lose weight as it's probably a fair assumption that if I bake a lot, I eat a lot of cake, but I can assure you that I don't!

Anyway that's enough of that.... I'm going to plough on with the meal planning and keep track separately of whether I stuck to it and how many syns I had, as you don't all need to know that :-) I will however mention at the start of each week's plan whether I lost or put on weight the previous week because if I make it public, that will motivate me to try a bit harder!
(Incidentally, I stayed exactly the same weight over the Christmas week, which I was very pleased and a bit surprised by!)

Monday: New Year's Eve - first day back at work post-Christmas
Breakfast Quorn sausages (left over from Christmas) as they are syn free
Lunch Sandwich as I've got lots of bread to use up... probably tuna
Dinner As it's new year's eve I want to make a bit of an effort: so I have chosen to make herbed cheese and bacon souffles from Slimming World Extra Easy Entertaining p84. For the main course: mixed peppercorn crusted beef with horseradish cream, same SW book p92, served with boulangere potato stacks (same book p55). For dessert I will do Nigella's Tiramisini (a sort of tiramisu served in martini glasses) from her new book Nigelissima, that I got for Christmas. And if that doesn't win over my boyfriend, I don't know what will!

Tuesday: New Year's Day; bank holiday so I'm not at work
Breakfast/ brunch with my boyfriend: Fancy French toast from Slimming World Extra Easy Entertaining p.16
Lunch will depend what time we have breakfast and may not happen at all; I have got some soup we can have as a standby or I could make the French toast into a full English breakfast.
Dinner Chunky fish pie from new SW recipe book

Wednesday - back at work
Breakfast Cereal - though I've just discovered that my Special K is not actually a free option b choice, which is surprising but may explain a little where I've been going wrong!
Lunch Home made mackarel fishcakes
Dinner Beef stew from this recipe to use up leftover steak from new year's eve

Breakfast Leftover quorn sausages
Lunch Tuna sandwich
Dinner My boyfriend and I need to go and buy some specialist clothing for our holiday in March so we are doing this after work and will get dinner from the Nando's nearby (he's a big fan of Nando's!). I've looked at their menu and plan to order the peri peri chicken which are marinated breasts and not served in a bun unlike most Nando's dishes, though I am going to have a side of chips.

Breakfast Cereal
Lunch Vegetable Soup
Dinner Was going out but then my friend cancelled so I had a pasta Mug Shot before leaving work then didn't bother having dinner by the time I got home.

Breakfast Cereal
Lunch Leftover fish pie
Dinner Will invite my boyfriend over; I'm going to do chicken in a creamy orange sauce. For dessert I am going to make honey panacotta.

Breakfast/Lunch Homemade margherita pizza (maybe with a few additional toppings for me) from an old SW magazine, or if my boyfriend doesn't stay for lunch, beef rogan josh
Dinner Roast chicken
Note to self... make macaroni cheese today for next week, using the leftover Christmas cheese

Sunday, 30 December 2012

1970s Groovy Guy Birthday Card

I'm all baked out at the moment... so I thought I would post this birthday card I made my dad a few months ago. It's a groovy 70s guy... and I think looks a bit like my dad did in the 70s (according to the photos I've seen), apart from the moustache!
It was a quick one to make - I used a ready-printed patterned card blank and thought the circles and the colours were quite 1970s. The man is from a decoupage set so I cut out each piece and layered it with adhesive foam pads. I added a 'happy birthday' outline sticker at the bottom, and that was all it took!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Cinnamon Shortbread - Low Sugar, suitable for diabetics

As you may have seen from previous blog posts in the past few days, I've been making lots of edible Christmas gifts. I found out at the last minute however that one of my boyfriend's relatives isn't meant to be eating sugar at the moment, which means the shortbread I'd planned to make him would be no good! I thought this would be a good opportunity to try out a low sugar recipe and even though the planned recipient isn't diabetic, I found what looked like a good recipe on the Diabetes UK website.

You need:

250g plain flour
175g butter or marg
grated rind of 1 orange
2 tsp ground cinnamon
to serve:
2 tsp icing sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Mix the flour and the butter until you have a breadcrumb-like texture

Add the orange rind, cinnamon and sugar

Mix everything together

The recipe says to add 2 tbsp water to form a dough but I found my mixture was sticky enough already so I didn't do this.  Next roll it out on a surface lightly dusted with flour or icing sugar and cut out Christmassy shapes.

Place on a greased and lined baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your biscuits. The recipe I used doesn't actually give the oven temperature so I guessed and did them at about 160C (fan).

Leave to cool on a wire rack then mix icing sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top.

I packaged these up in another of the cute cake tins I bought from Ikea - they were three for £5 featuring a large rectangular tin, a medium sized square tin and a small round tin.

I hope the recipient likes them!

I have already sent poor Ros countless entries for this month's Alphabakes as everything I've been baking seems to begin with the letter S... and this shortbread is no exception! Sorry Ros, you're probably getting fed up with me now.....

I expect Calendar Cakes has had a lot of entries this month too as their theme is Christmas! So I am also sending this to the challenge hosted by Laura of Laura Loves Cakes and Rachel of Dolly Bakes.

I am also sending this to the Spice Trail's cinnamon challenge.

spice trail badge square

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Stocking and Snowman Cakes

I had some chocolate cake mixture left over from making this cake, and wanted to use a Wilton Christmas stocking and snowman mini cake tin I got for only £5 at Cake International in November. 
I only had enough chocolate cake mix to make four cakes, so I did two stockings and two snowmen. You can't really see the detail in this picture but you can see some of the snowman's features on the cake itself, and some of the detail on the stocking.
As I'd only made four, and since my dad doesn't eat chocolate cake (I took these to my parents' house at the weekend), I quickly whipped up a half batch of plain vanilla sponge as well.
I forgot to take a photo of these when they came out of the pan!
I wanted to decorate them using red, green and white fondant, and to use the different colours to accentuate the details on the cake, rather than cover the whole cake. I did each one slightly differently, focusing on scarves and hats for the snowmen, and trying out different things with the stockings. I used some gold balls and a couple of edible holly decorations I had in the cupboard as well.

I made these to use up leftover cake mix rather than to enter a specific blogging challenge but they do fall quite neatly into a few challenges this month. Firstly yet another entry for Alphabakes as our letter this month is S - it's pure coincidence that my Christmas cake tin is shaped like stockings and snowmen!

Laura of Laura Loves Cakes and Rachel at Dolly Bakes have had several entries from me this month as well, as their challenge Calendar Cakes has Christmas as it's theme!

I'm also sending yet another entry to Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked for Tea Time Treats, as their ingredient this month is chocolate.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas Pudding Cake

I recently saw some cute hemisphere-shaped cake tins in Lakeland and was ordering some other things so couldn't resist buying one. I immediately had two ideas for things to bake with it, one of which was a Christmas pudding cake - that is, a cake decorated to look like a Christmas pudding!

I wanted to make a chocolate cake, as I don't really like Christmas cake or Christmas pudding, and as there is a blogging challenge featuring the recipes of Nigella Lawson - and it's been a while since I've done anything of Nigella's - I thought I would see if I could find a chocolate cake recipe of hers. Which obviously wasn't that hard! I decided to use this recipe for her 'old fashioned chocolate cake'.

You need:
200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
1 tsp bicarb of soda
40g cocoa powder
175g butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
150ml sour cream

I don't seem to be very good at making sure I have the right ingredients lately.. I realised as I started to bake that I had forgotten to buy any sour cream. Maybe I should have named this blog the Forgetful Baker.... I substituted Greek yogurt, which also means this recipe is lower in fat, and it seemed to work fine!
I creamed the butter and the sugar then added the eggs
Then I added the flour and bicarb of soda
Next I added the cocoa powder and vanilla
And finally the Greek yogurt.
I was surprised the cake tin actually stayed upright...
I sprayed the tin with plenty of Cake Release and it came out as a perfect hemisphere:

As I wasn't going to frost the outside of the cake I wanted to put something inside. I've got a cupcake plunger that is designed to remove the core of a cupcake to allow you to fill it, but it's actually quite big and a little too big for some cupcakes - but I thought it would work perfectly for this.
I used it to remove a core from the middle of the cake...
.... which I then filled with Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Frosting. I'd been baking for hours and didn't have the energy to whip up something else!
Then I replaced the section of cake I had taken out, so the filling will be a surprise when we cut into the cake!
It was quite easy to make it look like a Christmas pudding. I rolled out some white fondant and cut a wavy line around the edge, then placed it over the top of the cake.
I then cut out some pieces of green fondant using a holly leaf cookie cutter I bought at Cake International in November- I knew it would come in handy!
Finally I just rolled some little balls out of red fondant and placed them on the top.
Simple but effective! I'm taking this to my parents' house when my boyfriend and I visit them this weekend (as I am spending Christmas with his family for the first time!) and I can't wait until my mum cuts into it and the chocolate fudge filling oozes out!
I am sending this to Calendar Cakes, hosted by Rachel of Dolly Bakes and Laura of Laura Loves Cakes, as their theme this month is Christmas.
I am also sending this to Forever Nigella, also hosted by Laura of Laura Loves Cakes, as the theme is any Nigella Christmas recipe. This chocolate cake of hers isn't specifically a Christmas recipe but I hope Laura will decide it counts as I've put a very festive spin on it! This particular challenge was created by Maison Cupcake and I think this is the first time I have entered!
I am also sending this to Tea Time Treats, hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked, as their theme this month is chocolate.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas Stollen Bundt

Stollen is a fruit cake containing candied fruit, nuts and marzipan, usually dusted with icing sugar. It originally comes from Germany and is traditionally eaten at Christmas time, so I thought it would be a nice bake for several reasons. Firstly, it's a traditional festive Christmas bake; secondly, it begins with S, which is this month's letter for Alphabakes, and thirdly it's meant to keep for a few weeks and I thought it would make a good edible gift for my grandparents as they could eat it after Christmas and not need to use it up right away when there is so much other food around.

I found a recipe on the Telegraph website and though there are a lot of ingredients, it's quite simple to make, and the smell is delicious. I did adapt the recipe so this is what I used:

100g candied mixed peel
50g flaked almonds
250g raisins or sultanas
about 300ml pear cider
250g flour
50g sugar
half a sachet of dried yeast
150g butter, softened
50g marzipan
75ml milk
pinch of salt
1 vanilla pod
grated rind of 1 lemon
icing sugar to dust

First wash the sultanas in hot water and drain. I have no idea why you do this - I can't imagine it's to make them swell up as you go on to soak them overnight. Can anyone explain?

Combine the sultanas in a bowl with the mixed peel and nuts.

The recipe I used then says "cover with rum and leave overnight". However, in the ingredients list, it says you need 1 tbsp rum... which I didn't see until later and found very confusing. Are you meant to sprinkle 1 tbsp of rum over the top, or completely cover the fruit and nuts in rum, in which case I reckon you'd need about two cups? Again, if anyone knows....

I only discovered at the last minute that I didn't have any rum, which shouldn't have been a surprise as I don't drink the stuff, but I had thought I might have a bottle knocking around at the back of the cupboard but it turned out to be gin. I didn't think gin-soaked fruit would quite work for a stollen, so instead I used the best part of a 500ml bottle of pear cider. I think that's suitably festive!

Leave the fruit and nuts overnight to steep.

The next day, heat the milk until it is lukewarm and mix with the yeast. The recipe says to add "enough flour to create a mud-like starter culture". Being a bit more specific would have helped as I had no idea how much flour to use, I think I used about 80g in the end. I'm not even sure what texture mud is meant to be - having just been to Yellowstone, and seen a lot of mud pools I can verify that it's all different! You do need to keep track of how much flour you use though as this comes out of the 250g allowance - the recipe didn't spell that out which tripped me up later!

Anyway when you have your starter culture of whatever consistency you want it to be, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for about 20 mins. The volume is supposed to triple.

Next you need room temperature butter. Unfortunately my heating wasn't working that day and my house was freezing so the butter was just as hard as it was in the fridge, so I used the microwave to soften it. (You'll be pleased to hear a nice man called Frank came round and sorted my heating out so I'm nice and warm again).

Cream the butter, marzipan, sugar, salt, lemon rind, vanilla and cardamom.

Add the proven starter and remaining flour. This is the point where I realised I hadn't measured how much flour I'd used for the starter culture, forgetting it was meant to come out of the 250g, so I estimated how much I thought I'd used.

Knead the dough until it binds. The recipe says to do this on an unfloured surface but I found I could do it just fine in my mixing bowl.

Pour the fruit and rum/cider/ whatever liquid you used over the top, and work in with your hands until it is evenly mixed.

Cover with a damp cloth, put in a warm place - I had to use my oven on its lowest temperature as my house was still cold at this point - and let it rise for about 90 mins. At this point I also wondered again how much rum/liquid I was supposed to have used, as the mixture looked very wet.

The recipe I used tells you to form the mixture into a loaf - it doesn't even mention using a tin, and mine was definitely far too wet for that. In any case I'd already decided I wanted to make a bundt - since this is a German cake, and a bundt is also a German invention, and I had a silicon bundt tin I'd bought in Germany and hadn't used yet. In fact this was my first bundt!

I cooked it at about 160C for about an hour - I think I gave it a little longer as the mixture was so wet, though towards the end the raisins started to slightly take on a burnt appearance even though I had covered the tin with greaseproof paper. After leaving the stollen to cool in the tin it did firm up a lot though.

It turned out neatly, albeit slightly overdone, and I dusted the top with icing sugar.

I'm going to take this to my grandparents when I visit them this weekend. Apparently the stollen is best left for two weeks before it is eaten so maybe I should have made it last week, but I didn't know that and it's a bit late now! But people always have so much food at Christmas, hopefully they will appreciate something that will keep a bit longer and not need to be eaten right away.

I'm sending this Stollen to Alphabakes, hosted this month by my co-host Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker, as the letter we are baking with in December is S.

Calendar cakes, hosted by Rachel of Dolly Bakes and Laura of Laura Loves Cakes, has Christmas as its theme this month and a Stollen is definitely a festive bake so I am sending this their way as well.

Baking with Spirit, a blog challenge hosted by Janine at Cake of the Week, is inviting bakes using any type of alcohol this month, and since there is cider in my Stollen, I'm sending this in!

 And finally I came across a blog challenge on Nivedhanam's site and cohosted by My Cook Book, looking for vegetarian treats and eggless bakes. There are no eggs in stollen and it uses ingredients that are suitable for vegetarians so I am sending my Stollen to the challenge.