Tuesday 30 April 2013

Ladies' Spa Day Birthday Card

Here's an easy birthday card that looks good but took only minutes to make, as all I used was a pack of stickers and a piece of paper.
I stuck a piece of striped backing paper onto a tall, thin card blank - leaving a small white gap around the edges. I then took a packet of Jolee's spa day stickers, which include a woman in a towel sitting on a sauna bench, a basket of beauty products and some bubbles, and added them around the card.
This would be a good card to make if you were treating someone to a trip to the spa for their birthday!

Monday 29 April 2013

Meal Planning 2013 - Week 18

Another half pound off last week which is pleasing, though since my weigh-in I've eaten a lot of birthday cake as I had people over at the weekend!

It's my birthday :-) I'm spending the day doing a 'be a zookeeper for the day' experience at London Zoo, which my boyfriend got me for Christmas - I'm really looking forward to it! (And hoping it will take my mind off my advancing age...)
Breakfast Something very quick as I will need to leave home at about 6.30am
Lunch Whatever they give me at the zoo
Dinner Takeaway (probably Indian) with my boyfriend at my house. He was going to take me out to dinner in London but we decided I would be too tired and I'd need to carry a change of clothes to the zoo, so we've decided to take a raincheck on that one. Instead he took me to a nice country pub for dinner last night.

Breakfast Cereal or toast
Lunch Leftovers from the weekend or a sandwich
Dinner Salmon with hollandaise sauce

Breakfast yogurt
Lunch sandwich
Dinner Will have my boyfriend over to dinner - spaghetti bolognese

 Hopefully working from home today as I'm waiting for a new bed to be delivered but they haven't yet confirmed when it will be.
Breakfast Cereal/toast
Lunch French onion soup
Dinner If I'm at home I will do something that needs a while in the oven - maybe a mini roast

Breakfast Cereal/toast
Lunch Maybe leftover spaghetti bolognese
Dinner Homemade burger and potato wedges - we're doing a cookery class at the Aterlier des Chefs that I got my boyfriend for his birthday. We're going to learn to make this (or rather, he will learn and I will hopefully improve my technique) then we get to eat what we've made. It's going to be a fun week I hope!

Breakfast cereal/toast
Lunch chicken ciabatta
Dinner At my parents'

Breakfast At my parents' so probably crumpets
Lunch Off to Longleat with my parents for a birthday outing, hopefully the weather will be nice enough for us to take a picnic
Dinner Depends what time we get home in the evening so possibly something quick like pasta

Sunday 28 April 2013

Macaroni Cheeseburger, Cheesecake Factory-style

When I went to America last year, I was very excited to visit the Cheesecake Factory in Las Vegas, as I'm a huge fan of Big Bang Theory (the main female character is a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory) and of course I love cheesecake. But I discovered their main courses were just as good as the desserts; I had a macaroni cheeseburger, which was a burger with a deep-fried ball of macaroni cheese on top (inside the bun); when you bit or cut into it, the cheese oozed out. You can read more about it here.

Ever since I came back I've wanted to recreate the macaroni cheeseburger, but I never cook burgers at home (since I occasionally eat them when out). I decided that it wouldn't be so bad if the burger was homemade.

First I made some macaroni cheese, though I didn't have any macaroni pasta so used fusili, and made a basic cheese sauce. I left this overnight (actually, I had it for my lunch at work, and kept a small portion for this recipe).

To make the burger, I took some minced beef, and mixed it with finely chopped onion, oregano and salt.

I shaped it into patties, though they aren't perfectly round as you can see!

Next I took the macaroni cheese, which had clumped together now it was a day old

I did my best to shape the pasta into a ball and cover it with breadcrumbs then I fried it in a couple of centimeters of oil.

I fried the burgers in a separate pan

When the burger was cooked, I topped it with the deep-fried macaroni cheese

It made for a pretty big burger!

I loved the taste and texture together, but when I bit into the macaroni cheese, the cheese sauce didn't ooze out in the same way when I ate this at the Cheesecake Factory. I don't really know how you keep enough of a liquid sauce in the cheese for it to be the right consistency while at the same time make it thick enough that you can make a ball of the macaroni and deep fry it. Has anyone tried to make this at home?

Friday 26 April 2013

Restaurant Review - KitchinN1 King's Cross, London

Some of the dishes on offer

Restaurant name: KitchinN1
Location: Caledonia Street, near King's Cross station, London
Description: All-you-can-eat buffet with live cooking stations with foods from China, Thailand, India and Italy.
Reason for visit: I'd been to a Jodi Picoult book reading and Q&A nearby and we didn't know the area, and thought the place looked nice with a good choice of food.
We ate: all sorts as I wanted to try lots of different things from the buffet.

Pizza, spring rolls and pink prawn crackers. The pizza slices were very small and so were the plates so there isn't as much food here as it looks

The food was: mediocre at best. Some dishes were quite tasty, like the almond chicken curry; others were quite disappointing like some sort of Chinese style fish and a noodles dish. The pizza was actually very good. But the dishes were fairly random and it didn't seem like they had everything that you might think would go together. For instance, there was no rice in the Chinese food section and the only kind they had was Indian pilau rice; there were prawns crackers but across the other side of the room and they were pink, and there was no sort of dipping sauce that would have been nice to have with the spring rolls. It would have been nice to have naan bread to go with the Indian curries too.

Chinese noodles and spicy fish with pilau rice

The desserts were very disappointing; it looked like there was a good selection until I looked more closely. There were about three kinds if cake with icing on top cut into tiny cubes, which just tasted dry and dull. Then there was mango mousse (quite nice) and mango creme brulee (not so nice) and an ice cream machine but no sauce or sprinkles to go on the ice cream. Everything was really quite plain and didn't look like it had had a lot of thought put into it.

Almond chicken curry and tikka chicken wings with a poppadom

The atmosphere/service was: Our waitress showed us to a table, asked if we had been there before, as she was presumably about to explain how the buffet worked, then saw some more customers come in, and literally left us mid-sentence to go and show them to a table. I imagine she was overworked and didn't want to keep them waiting in the doorway but it seemed very rude and we weren't sure if she was going to come back to our table (she eventually did) or if we should just start helping ourselves to the buffet.

Dessert selection - small cubes of cake with mango mousse and mango creme brulee

After we had finished eating, we were chatting as we finished our drinks and I noticed three waiters had lined up alongside the bar just in front of us and were watching us, making me feel like they were waiting for us to leave. About ten minutes later we had and paid our bill but were still chatting when one came over and said "You have to leave, we are closing now." Fair enough, it was 10.30 on a weeknight... but as we walked out past other tables, several people were still eating. I felt like we had been thrown out because we obviously weren't going to order any more food or drink so weren't going to give any more money to the restaurant - and it wasn't like they were busy and needed the table. As we'd paid the bill we were clearly about to leave soon so I didn't appreciate being asked to leave.

Ice cream and a wafer

Price range/value for money: £14.99 for all you can eat at dinner, so you could certainly get your money's worth and more.
Would I recommend it? No, the food wasn't that good and the service quite unfriendly. It might suit big groups where people want different types of food but I wouldn't personally go back here.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Tri-colour pasta with Nigella's Yellow Spaghetti Sauce

The theme for this month's Forever Nigella cooking challenge is 'colourful', which reminded me of some tri-colour pasta I had bought recently. I believe the green pasta is coloured with spinach and the red with tomato. I thought it looked interesting and I've not had it for a long time so added it to my basket.

When I came across the theme of the challenge I had a look to see if I could find a suitable colourful pasta sauce from Nigella to go with it. I have plenty of her cookery books at home but I was thinking about this on my lunchbreak at work, so did some Googling - and found a recipe for Nigella's Yellow Spaghetti. I adapted it slightly as I didn't have any marsala, but I thought vodka would work just as well!

For two fairly large portions you need:
Half a packet of tri-colour pasta
a few saffron strands
2 tbsp vodka and 2 tbsp water
2 eggs
6 tbsp grated parmesan
8 tbsp pouring cream
A few basil leaves to serve

Put the pasta onto boil. While it is cooking, whisk together two eggs, the cream and the parmesan.

Put the saffron strands in a small bowl or jug, cover with the water and vodka and leave for a few minutes to infuse

Add the saffron and liquid to the egg and cheese mixture

Toss with the cooked pasta

Add a few fresh basil leaves and serve.

This is a tasty and quick meal that is simple but certainly colourful!

Forever Nigella is hosted by Maison Cupcake and Elizabeth at A Girl In Her Kitchen.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Food From Fiction -Practical Magic: Lime and Coconut Chicken

I'm taking part in Food 'n' Flix, which encourages bloggers to watch the film chosen for that month and cook something inspired by the story, location or characters. This month the film is Practical Magic starring Sandra Bullock and Nicola Kidman; I'd seen it several years ago but decided to watch it again. The film centres around two sisters (Bullock and Kidman) brought up by their aunts (played by Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest), who are all witches. They also live a relatively bohemian lifestyle and are something of outcasts in the community. The sisters also believe there is a family curse - that the men they fall in love with suffer an untimely death. The curse appears to be true when Sally (Sandra Bullock) is widowed at a young age, and she is wary of falling in love again. However, this is a romantic comedy and does of course have a happy ending.

When Sally is a child she makes a wish or casts a spell to protect herself from falling in love (and therefore protect anyone who might love her from dying) and makes a list of qualities her husband must have, that she thinks are too far-fetched to come true - one quality being that he will have one green eye and one blue, and also that he will be able to toss pancakes. When the investigator Gary arrives to look into a mysterious death, Sally realises he does have one green eye one blue. Soon, he seems to be falling for Sally, and there's a moment when the viewer realises he must be 'the one' as he is tossing pancakes with her children.

As pancakes were something of a motif in this film I was going to choose that as my dish to make, but I didn't think it was particularly exciting (at least, not the kind of breakfast pancakes they eat in the film) and at the same time, there was another scene I couldn't get out of my head. The sisters and their aunts are drinking and getting merry on tequila and end up dancing around the kitchen singing a song called "Coconut", with a particularly catchy line that goes "put the lime in the coconut". I had to look the song up and discovered it was by a guy called Harry Nilsson in 1972, but that Dannii Minogue also recorded a cover version, which I can't quite imagine! But I found myself humming that line over and over and eventually decided to give up the idea of pancakes and instead make something where I could "put the lime in the coconut".

I found a Delia Smith recipe online for a lime and coconut chicken curry which looked perfect. It's also really easy to make, as it only uses a few ingredients.

Chop two chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl with the zest and juice of a lime. Leave for at least an hour to marinate.

Chop half a red chilli - Delia says to use a green chilli but I only had red.

Stir-fry the chicken, adding the marinade to the pan as well, until the chicken cooked and then add the chilli. Add half a tin of coconut milk and cook for a few minutes over a medium heat.

You're supposed to add spring onions but I didn't have any and my boyfriend doesn't like them anyway. I did add some chopped coriander just before serving.

Serve with rice - and in this case broccoli and beansprouts.

Food n Flix this month is hosted by Can't Believe We Ate and the main page can be found here.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Restaurant Review- The Bridge Bar and Eating House, Heathrow Terminal 3

Restaurant name:  The Bridge Bar and Eating House
Location: Heathrow Terminal 3
Description: There are surprisingly few places to eat once you go through security at terminal 3; this pub-style restaurant seemed the best bet to get breakfast.
Reason for visit: Breakfast before an early flight
I ate: Sausage bap

My companion(s) ate: Full English breakfast with a side order of toast (which surprisingly isn't offered as part of the breakfast)
The food was: Not great. My sausage bap contained two sausages and I had to go hunting for mustard on another table. The full English was better from what I gather, but really nothing special.
The atmosphere/service was: I never understand why there are so many people drinking alcohol at 8am. Yes, your holiday has officially started and you can let your hair down, but a pint of beer or glass of wine at 8am? The service wasn't very good, and the place didn't seem particularly busy so there was no excuse. The toast we ordered with the breakfast didn't arrive and when we asked, the waiter checked his notebook and said there was no record of any toast, so we asked for some again, which was brought to us. Then, when we had almost finished eating, another waitress came by with a side order of toast, saying "you ordered extra toast?". We said no, we hadn't (as we'd been told our first order hadn't gone through, and we didn't want two portions at that price) and she tried another table without success, then took it back to the kitchen.
Price range/value for money:  With a hot chocolate and orange juice, the whole lot came to £17. I know airport eateries are expensive - probably to do with the rent they are charged - and they have a captive audience, but I would hope that the food would be better for the price.
Would I recommend it? Not really, but unfortunately if I wanted breakfast at terminal 3 I probably would have to go here again as there's little choice. We wanted a 'proper' meal rather than a coffee and croissant or bringing our own food as we thought it might be the only hot meal we would get all day, as there was no food included on our flight (and I hate paying for overpriced sandwiches where I don't like the fillings on planes) and I wasn't sure if we would arrive at our hotel too late for dinner.

Monday 22 April 2013

Meal Planning 2013 - Week 17

I'm finally back on track with Slimming World after a month that has been a write-off - after a holiday this time last month then an incredibly few busy weeks at work I stopped planning and tracking. I'm back on the wagon, lost a pound last week and currently munching on some carrot sticks as I write (sigh). But it's my birthday party this Saturday which will involve lots of cake so I don't know how the next few weigh ins will go!

Monday 22nd
Breakfast - cereal
Lunch - Baked potato with mackerel
Dinner - choir rehearsal so I will take a sandwich

Tuesday 23rd
Breakfast cereal
Lunch - Out with a friend for lunch
Dinner - having my boyfriend over for dinner - lime and coconut chicken. Intended dessert - Slimming World chocolate and apricot souffles from this recipe, but so far I haven't been able to get hold of any apricots!

Wednesday 24th
Breakfast - yogurt or Quorn sausages
Lunch sandwich
Dinner -tricolour pasta with Nigella's yellow spaghetti sauce

Thursday 25th
Breakfast toast/cereal
Lunch leftover pasta
Dinner possibly going to the cinema so will eat out

Friday 26th
Breakfast yogurt or Quorn sausages
Lunch sandwich or baked potato
Dinner quorn burger and homemade chips (I'm trying to use up things in the freezer!)

Saturday 27th
Breakfast yogurt
Lunch mackarel in mustard sauce on toast
Dinner - out with friends for my birthday/ actually it now looks like I will be doing food at my house before we go out. Either way it will involve cake.

Sunday 28th
Brunch As I will have several people staying over the easiest thing to do is sausage/veggie sausage/bacon/egg/toast/beans sort of combo
Dinner- with my boyfriend -TBA. Quite fancy a takeaway but I'm supposed to be losing weight!

Sunday 21 April 2013

Chocolate Tofu Mousse with Oreo and Peanut Butter Base

I threw this together when I hadn't planned a dessert one night when my boyfriend was coming over for dinner, and realised at the last minute he would probably ask what was for dessert... and he did! I based this on a recipe from The More Than Occasional Baker; ever since she used tofu as a base for chocolate mousse I was intrigued and wondered what it would taste like as I'm always looking for low fat dessert options. Then when I came to serve the mousse I decided it needed something extra so I gave it a biscuit and peanut butter base. In the end that was probably too much and I should have used either the biscuit or the peanut butter, not both, but the mousse itself tasted better than I expected.

Ros's recipe uses soft tofu and I'd been trying to get hold of some for months but nowhere seems to stock it - the one time I had it on an online grocery order, it turned out to be unavailable. So I gave up and decided to risk it with firm tofu instead - it worked pretty well after all!

Whisk the tofu with an electric hand mixer

Add 2 tbsp honey

Then 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Mix again and add 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter.

I decided the mousse wasn't chocolatey enough for my taste, so I melted 100g milk chocolate and whisked that in as well.

Whisk again until you have a smooth chocolate mousse.

To serve I decided to give the mousse a biscuit base. I found these biscuits called 'Domino' in Finland last month; they are very similar to Oreos but have a toffee filling.

These glass serving dishes are narrower at the bottom than the top and a Domino cookie fitted perfectly.

I then decided to add another spoonful of peanut butter on top of the biscuit, but I'm not sure this was strictly necessary.

Spoon the mousse on top.

Here's a side view where you can see the biscuit and peanut butter base:

It tasted surprisingly good (given I don't like tofu) and it's an interesting change. I'm not sure it ended up being particularly low fat given I added melted chocolate, peanut butter and a biscuit but it was worth it!

The chosen ingredient for this month's We Should Cocoa is honey, which I used as an ingredient in this mousse. The challenge is hosted by Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog and Chele from Chocolate Teapot.

I bookmarked this as soon as I saw this on The More Than Occasional Baker so I am sending this to Bookmarked Recipes, hosted by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes.