Sugar & Spice & all things Very Sweet!

I have to admit that I am the worst when it comes to my sweet tooth. Everything from my sweet Chai Latte to the most amazing moist chocolate cake. Now you all know that I do like my chilli. I have been known to mix the 2 together, achieving amazing results. But sometimes I just want the sweet without the spice. Lately I have been working on my deserts and sweets, seeing as Christmas is just 16 weeks away.

That would ordinarily send shivers down my spine but this time it has sparked a need to create goodies for my Christmas hampers. I have just one word for you … Fudge! who does not like fudge? it is so delicious and fun to make. I have been making fudge all this week and the kids have been sneaking pieces when I am not looking. My vanilla fudge is just so simple and melts in the mouth just the way I like it.

Check out my recipe at the bottom, give it a try and post your results at the bottom of this blog share your results . I would love to hear and see what you all come up with.

Easy Peasy Vanilla Fudge

  • 450g (1lb) granulated sugar
  • 85g (3oz) butter
  • 150ml (¼ pt) milk
  • 175g (6oz) evaporated milk
  • Few drops of vanilla extract
  • A little vegetable oil

Method

  1. Tip the sugar, butter, milk and evaporated milk into a heavy based pan and heat gently, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Bring to the boil and as the temperature rises, stir the fudge occasionally (be careful as the mixture is very hot) so that the sugar doesn’t stick and burn.
  3. Continue boiling until a temperature of 116C is reached on a sugar thermometer. If you don’t have one of these, you can test if the fudge is at this temperature by spooning a small amount of the syrup into some iced water, it should form a soft ball.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Pour into an 18cm shallow square tin brushed with a little vegetable oil, and leave for 10-15 mins or until almost set. It will set quicker in the fridge.
  6. Mark the fudge into 36 squares with a sharp knife and leave to cool completely.

ENJOY!!!!

Vanilla fudge (9)

Fancy Dinners…

I love  fancy dinners in fancy restaurants. My favorite places to go are in Mayfair London, but these places come with some pretty fancy prices too. How wonderful would it be to recreate these meals in your own kitchen? Impress the kids with some very pretty food.   As you know I do like to experiment with flavours and mix it up in the kitchen, but today I have decided to do something that looks complicated but couldn’t be simpler.  I will leave to recipe at the bottom of this post.

whether it is left over chicken or turkey or even fish I will always try to find new exciting ways to use to the left overs without worry of waste. So… how about Filo Pastry Parcels? it’s so easy my 9-year-old daughter can do it. It’s safe to say that chicken is firm favourite in my house, and im always looking for ways to use the leftovers. Just add some fresh herbs and your favourite cheese to the mix and you have the beginnings of a delicious meal that the kids will think is super fancy. vegan parcels 500

This will serve 6 people

ingredients

450g cooked cold turkey or chicken whatever you have left over cut into chunks

115g diced Brie cheese

2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce

2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley

9-10 sheets of filo pastry each measuring 45×28 cm

50g melted butter (melted)

salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Pre-heat your oven to  200c. Place the cooked meat, Brie, cranberry sauce and chopped parsley into a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut the sheets of filo in half widthways and trim to make about 18 squares. Keeping the remaining filo covered in cling film to prevent it from drying out. Layer 3 pieces of pastry together , brushing each layer with the melted butter, repeat with the remaining filo squares to give you 6 stacks of filo.

Divide the meat mixture evenly among the stacks, making neat piles in the centre of each. Gather up the pastry to enclose the filling in neat bundles. Place onto a baking sheet, brush with melted butter and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. I love to eat these with some of my homemade mango chutney and a little side salad.

Enjoy.

Whats for Lunch?

Sick of the usual tired lunch options? I know I am, but then we can’t always be bothered to cook something different. We end up with tired sandwiches with the usual fillings and sides, or even boring shop bought pasta in a box!. Well not for me, not today!. My husband is always trying to keep his food habits healthy and I have to say some of what he cooks up is pretty delicious. Always full of vegetables and gorgeous flavours. I have been lucky to have his creation recently. Whole salmon fillet with an array of well seasoned vegetables. It was amazing. But I cant tell him that and have him think he is a better cook then me. And  I would never hear the end of it. So what do you say to a nice salmon lunch once in a while?

Making it up as I go…

There have been many times I have just been so busy that I have forgotten all about what I’m doing for dinner. I’m embarrassed to say it happens a lot. I instantly hear that pain of forgetting, when I hear the chorus of ‘I’m hungry‘, from the kids. So with after school activities looming and no time to go the shop, I am forced to try to make something amazing from the contents of cupboards. Lucky for me I always have rice, pasta and pulses in the kitchen along with lentils and a very well stocked seasoning cupboard. All  that is needed is a prayer that I have some sort of meat in my freezer. Well this time I was lucky to have chicken legs and thighs, which meant I could  whip up a Piri Piri marinade. Put these on the barbecue, and have them cooked  in no time at all. All I need to do is make some gorgeous seasoned rice and they will be happy with that.

To make up for my absent-mindedness I decide I should try to make a desert for them, and I promised just that. But without checking if I had what I needed to even make anything, it was too late. I had to deliver on my promise of a desert. All there was, was a carton of chocolate milk, a few eggs and left over chocolate brioche rolls and cinnamon rolls. I had no clue what to do with it. So I cut up the brioche and cinnamon rolls and laid them in a buttered dish and thought I would just make a chocolate custard using the chocolate milk in the fridge. Poured it in the dish and pressed down so that it will be absorbed as much as possible added cinnamon and chocolate drops then placed it in the oven. The smell coming from my kitchen was simply divine. So after 45 minutes I can only hope that what I have created has turned out to be as edible as it smells. When I opened the oven door it looked glorious and yes it tasted absolutely amazing. The kids were needless to say very happy with their desert and full from their dinner. Yet another successful dinner executed. But just my the skin of my teeth. I’m not always that lucky.

DSCF5688

Beans & Pulses…

Since having children I have really struggled to keep my weight in a steady place. Life always gets in the way, be it the school run, work or any other commitments. I am not ashamed to say that I have pretty much tried every diet program there is and they are all pretty much the same. I have found over that last  year or so that it’s really up to me to make my own weight loss tasty and enjoyable, without the shakes and pills!.  But anyone that knows me, knows that i love my food! Keen baker, breads, cakes well anything, I will make it. And in pretty much all cases even eat it. You hear people say a lot these days that it important to eat healthier to eat cleaner, but for the most of us it simply isn’t that easy. we all have something going on in our loves that will dictate to us.

Over the last week I have been cooking up some soups and vegetarian curries and I have to say they have been very successful in the house. Beans and pulses are usually something my children will turn their noses up at. I am finding that the key to having them eat them is to make it as tasty as possible but also appealing to the eye. In past I have made lentil soups, vegetable soups, chunky chicken soups, even vegetarian curries, and it has been successful so far. So last night I decided to make a chickpeas curry, it is not their favorite at all, but I truly do believe its important to have them try anything, I cant handle fussy eaters. So to make it more appealing to them i slow cooked a turkey leg over 8 hours, once ready, the turkey meat just fell off the bone. This was then added to the curry. I served it with long grain rice and coconut and raisin Nann bread. Well… it was a hit the children  ate everything. Which always makes me happy. For me to be able to add something new to the list of things my children will eat makes my life easier at meal times, it doesn’t have to be a case of ‘what do i feed the troops tonight?’ it can be simple. so when it comes to trying to eat cleaner and healthier you can all do it together. The children will benefit from different foods and flavors.

DSCF5678

The Sunday Feast…

For as long as I can remember the Sunday feast has always been the long anticipated meal of the week. A delicious roast with all the trimmings. Roast potatoes an array of vegetables with cauliflower cheese, the perfect stuffing and lets not forget the all important yorkshire puddings for dipping into that luxurious thick gravy.

My mouth is watering just writing about it. Yes it is one of my favorites meals. But sometimes I need to have something different especially in the warmer months of the year, and what better way then to drag the barbecue out. All you need is your favorite meat and you’ve got the makings of an alternative Sunday feast. Today we did just that, a big fat chicken splayed out on the barbecue cooking away over the hot coals. As an accompaniment we just had to have our favorite, whole plantain coked slow, a parcel of mixed chopped peppers and onions, with corn on the cob. And for those of you who need to have their carbohydrates all you need is a pot of very well seasoned brown rice and the feast will be complete.

All that is left to do now is to find yourself a nice comfy place in the garden, and enjoy this Sunday feast in the sunshine. Gravy not needed because if you have cooked that chicken well the juices flowing from it will be all you need.  Now you tell me that this is not the best alternative to the traditional roast that you are use to having!

Simply the Best Southern Fried Chicken…

OMG… when the kids want to eat something other than what you want to cook, you just have to find a way to change their mind. Tonight the kids were wanting to eat from KFC. Well that was just not an option. I am more cautious these days about fast food places, there have been far too many reports of un-sanitary fast food places and I just don’t trust them. So tonight I made them all very happy. They wanted KFC, so they got just that but mummy’s style. It was so delicious, I did it all… hot and spicy southern fried chicken with chicken gravy and instead of the fries I decided on the seasoned brown rice. It was such a hit that even my daughters cleared their plates and there was no rice left over! I am more shocked at the rice purely because every time I have made rice in the past they have either not eaten it or there has just been too much left over on the pot.  Well… tonight for the first time they had not only had seconds of rice and chicken but thirds it was such a joy to see.DSCF5657

I am glad that I am able to produce something that they enjoy, but also it is a much healthier option then just giving in to the easy choice of a drive through. There was no frying involved at all, the chicken was very well seasoned and baked in the oven. The rice was brown rice something I had never given them before, and they loved it. Homemade crunchy coleslaw.

I challenge you all to take your favorite fast food and make it yourself I guarantee you’ll never look back. I also promise that you’ll children will prefer it.

 

Old School Favorites…

When I was at Primary school my favorite time of the day would always be recess. I would have my 20 pence ready for the tuck shop. Many of my friends would go for the crisps or even the tuck biscuits but not me. I loved the rock buns. Crispy sugar on the outside and soft sultanas in the bun itself. I have to say that even to this day it is still my favorite thing to eat. I enjoy making them with my children, there have been so many different variations of the rock bun over the years from the classic rock cakes to Jamaican rock buns. Now of course I am biased and have to say that mine are to die for. I love to mix all types of fruit through mine from mango to coconut, pineapple and even adding spices to it can give it that extra special flavour.

rock buns

I could sit here all day and talk about all my favorites growing up, another would have to be the Gypsy Tart. Just the other night I was at a friend’s house for coffee and she bought out that tasty treat, the look of it has never changed and neither has the taste. Buttery crust with a really hard to describe filling. It is definately a conversation stopper. I would love to hear about your favorite old school treats!

 

Sweet & Spicy…

I am a sucker for anything sweet, I love to make a rich chocolate cakes with many layers of fillings. An absolute favorite amongst my children is my rich and decadent mud cake, this cake is so rich you simply can’t each too much, but the best part is that keeps for a long while, and very versatile. I have used this cake mixture in the past for making cake pops and I have also found this to be the best mixture for carving cakes. All it needs is a generous coating of Ganache and it is just simply perfect. I do sometimes find myself needing to try something different with chocolate cakes. We all know that coffee is chocolates best friend it will simply intensify the flavour of any chocolate cake. Now what about chilli? I have to admit I came across this recipe a few years ago and thought I would hate it, but it was just divine! I have since adapted it to my own taste and I feel have made it perfection. A subtle hint of heat blended with the rich dark chocolate…this cake will have you converted in the first bite. This cake is perfect even for those who are not fans of chilli at all. Dont just take my word for it go and try it I can promise you’ll love it.

chilli-chocolate-cake-1-3.jpg

When nothing is hitting the spot…

There is nothing  worse than feeling hungry and not knowing what to eat! Even with an immense choice from a well stocked fridge and cupboard there is nothing throwing itself at you. We have all been there, we want to eat something that will not only cure that hunger pain but will leave us feeling satisfied after. I would love to tell you I have always found it easy to achieve the above, but I am one of those girls that is never satisfied with what she has made to appease her hunger! I find myself feeling like I have let myself down. So what would be the best thing to do? it would be to just wait til your next meal and hope you get it right the next time. Right? well… like I said I’m not like that, I will find myself on some kind of invisible Yo Yo going to the kitchen over and over and before I know it I have eaten all the chocolate in the cupboard and snacked on all the kids treats. Now this is not something that happens to often but it is at least once a month I have to deal with this particular demon. I’ve become so good at convincing myself that its my body’s way of telling me I need all that sugar, and the fat from the crap I just ate.

I am pretty sure im not alone in this situation. So like a good girl, after the guilt has settled and I have replaced all the kids treats and put everything back, and no one is ever the wiser for it, I make up for it and cook something amazing. So more recently my make up dish was so simple I wish I had thought of it before consuming the contents of my baking cupboard! There had been some puff pastry sitting in my fridge aching to be used, along with left over roast chicken and homemade tomato sauce. All these together had the makings of an amazing chicken tart.  In 25 minutes I had not only managed to please the eyes but satisfied my hungry for something real to eat, something tasty and more importantly something the kids loved. It was so simple and delicious.