social spark Aisling Beatha: February 2012

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Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy your stay, however short, and find something that interests and blesses you.

The tabs just below will take you to posts of particular topics. So if you are looking for my posts on food, fitness or creativity, you will find them there. You will also find my posts on thankfulness or other more contemplative posts, as well as a set of posts with traditional blessings from a number of different cultures.

You can find posts with labels not included in that list via the labels list over in the sidebar.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fat Free Banana Ice Cream

Nothing but bananas, and maybe a little something to slightly sweeten, and you can make your own fat free banana ice cream.  You can use any sort of blitzer but I find this stick hand blender that I use here makes just enough for one person.


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Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Toffee Apple Pudding


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Continuing the series of Traditional Pudding Recipes, today we have Toffee Apple Pudding and a warning for you.
ALWAYS CHECK the temperature you have put your oven on at!  I put mine up to 200c every time I switch it on, to get it warmed up.  This recipe cooks at 190c and I forgot to turn it down when I put the pudding in the oven.  Ooops!
After baking the Sticky Toffee Pudding a few weeks ago, I was not pleased with the date flavour as they are not something I particularly enjoy, and asked friends on facebook how they would improve it.  Someone suggested apples instead and this recipe was born.
You will need dark brown sugar for this recipe.  I have a favourite dark brown sugar, in fact I call it my secret weapon in my gingerbread recipe.  A molasses unrefined sugar.  HOWEVER, if you read my tasting notes at the end you will see that I suggest you don't use this unless you like a really treacly taste to your toffee sauce, and go instead for a standard dark brown sugar.  Or if you don't like it treacly at all, go for a light brown sugar, I am sure it would still work.


For 8 portions

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE:
100g dark muscovado sugar
175g self-raising flour
125ml full-fat milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g unsalted butter, melted
150g dried apples, cut into pieces

FOR THE SAUCE:
200g dark muscovado sugar
Approx. 25g unsalted butter in little blobs
400ml boiling water  (I used 500ml which was the amount in the sticky toffee pudding but I forgot I had added moisture to the pudding in soaking the apples.  I suggest you use the lower amount of 400ml)

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5 (375f for my American friends) and butter a 1 ½ litre capacity pudding dish.  This time I did remember to butter the dish but I really don't think it made the slightest difference to how the pudding turned out or came out of the dish.  Use your sense on this one, you know your pans and baking dishes, you know whether you can get away with not buttering the dish.

 Weigh out your first 100g of the sugar


This particular sugar does have a tendency to harden when stored for a while , if yours is the same you might want to crumble it up between your fingers.


Add the self raising flour and mix together.


Measure out your milk, beat 1 egg into it and add the vanilla extract.  


I use the cap of the bottle to measure my vanilla as I know that these caps happen to hold 1/4 tsp.


Melt the first 50g of butter and add that to the milk mixture.



In the sticky toffee pudding you add the dates AFTER you have added the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, but the dates were rolled in sugar.  The apples have no coating and have now been soaked.  You don't want them to sink to the bottom of the pudding, so add the apples to the dry ingredients first, mix those in, then add the liquid ingredients and stir until mixed together.


Then scrape into the prepared pudding dish.


Take the 2nd lot of sugar and spread over the top of the pudding.  Take the 2nd lot of butter and in small pieces dot the top of the pudding.


Now take 500ml of boiling water.  YES, boiling water.  And pour it all over the pudding.  


Transfer that to the oven and bake for 45 minutes.  You may need 5 to 10 minutes longer.  The top of the pudding should be springy and spongy when it is cooked.  With the sauce having formed in the bottom of the baking dish.


REMEMBER your oven should be on at 190°C/gas mark 5 (375f for my American friends) not any higher like I did.  Then your pudding might not burn a bit like mine did.

Although you can see that the most burnt sections are where the apples were sticking through the top and it is the edges of the apples pieces that burnt.  Maybe covering it with foil for part of the cooking would help.


Let's get a portion out and see . . . .


Well, other than being a bit burnt it looks good!  It tastes good too, better for me than the sticky toffee pudding, although a bit too treacly still.  Next time I would use ordinary dark brown sugar rather than that molasses stuff.  The molasses sugar is excellent in Gingerbread and really MAKES that recipe, but not quite right here.

You could serve it with custard, cream, ice cream or just as it is.  Eldest son is home from university and he just had a piece for breakfast and says it was really good.

This is not the first time a recipe has ended up not quite looking the way it should.  Check out how I ended up making Lemon Surprise Dessert.

If you're after a more summery dessert, why not check out Nigella's Pomegranate Ice Cream.

So far in the Traditional Puddings recipes I have done

  1. Gingerbread
  2. Eve's Pudding
  3. Sticky Toffee Pudding
  4. Jam Roly Poly
Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page where you will find savoury recipes as well as these puddings, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Quick Coq Au Vin

Well, when I say QUICK, I mean quicker than a proper French Coq au Vin cooked low and slow.

Hubby and I celebrated our wedding anniversary at our favourite French restaurant as part of the year of dates gift I gave him for Christmas.  I had Coq au Vin and decided to reproduce it at home this week.
This is what I ate at the restaurant:


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And this is what we came up with at home


Now I admit that my presentation skills leave a little to be desired but it tasted good.

Amounts needed will be in the text only instructions at the bottom of this post.

You will need:
Chicken portions  (A traditional Coq au Vin would use a jointed chicken but I found the breast in the one I ate at the restaurant a bit dry, so I suggest using drumsticks and thighs)
1 oz butter + a knob of butter for the end


Red wine
Balsamic vinegar
chicken stock
crushed garlic
baby button mushrooms
shallots


flat leaf parsley
fresh or dried thyme
bacon lardons (or thick sliced streaky bacon which you will dice)


Marinade the chicken portions in the red wine.  I only did mine for about 2 hours, I would suggest doing it for longer if you can.


Melt the butter in a heavy based pan.


Fry the shallots until browned.


Add the garlic, bacon and thyme.


followed by the mushrooms.


Add the red wine and chicken portions, balsamic vinegar and the stock to the pan, bring to a boil then simmer for 25 - 30 minutes with the lid off.


Remove the chicken from the pan after that time and keep warm.


Meanwhile turn the heat right up and reduce the liquid in the pan.  I gave mine a good 5 minutes or more.

Return the chicken portions to the pan and add the knob of butter and the parsley.

Serve with Buttery mashed potato or crusty French bread.


You can find the sites that I link up to, over in my sidebars.  Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Coq au vin

Ingredients

  • 25g Butter (plus a knob for near the end)
  • 200g shallots, peeled, but left whole
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed (I use 3 decent tsp from a jar of crushed garlic)
  • 150g bacon lardons or thick cut streaky bacon, diced
  • sprig of fresh thyme or a good pinch of dried
  • 150g baby button mushrooms
  • 500ml (2/3 standard bottle) red wine
  • 250 ml chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 8 - 10 chicken pieces (thighs and drumsticks, if using larger pieces such as whole legs, you will need less portions)
  • small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
Preparation method
  1. Heat a thick bottomed pan on the stove.  Melt the 25g butter and add the shallots.  Cook until browned, then stir in the garlic.  Add the bacon and thyme and cook for 2 - 3 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat and add the red wine, chicken stock and vinegar.  Add the chicken portions to the pan.  
  3. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 25 - 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  4. Remove the chicken once it is cooked, and keep warm.  Transfer the pan to a high heat and cook the sauce for at least 5 minutes, until the volume of sauce decreases.  Return the chicken to the pan.
  5. Add the reserved knob of butter and the parsley to the pan.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Serve with buttery mashed potatoes, or crusty French bread.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Herman Pear & Apple Cake


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Last week a friend gave me a portion of Herman.  From my research online opinion is divided on whether it is the SAME as an Amish Friendship bread starter or just the same kind of idea.  I received my portion of starter with a set of instructions on when to stir it, when to feed, and when to bake.  It even came with a recipe for baking it.

But being me, I went looking for another recipe to use when baking it and even ended up changing that recipe because I didn't have everything it called for.

Amounts needed will be in the easier to print section at the bottom of the post.

Pear & Apple Herman Cake

You will need


Sugar,
Plain flour (all purpose)
Oil
Bicarb of soda (baking soda)
Vanilla
Cinnamon
Eggs
Salt


The original recipe called for 3 cups of chopped apples, you can see I only had 2 apples in the house, 1 eating apple and 1 cooking apple, so I added the 1 remaining pear from the fruit bowl too.

Finally you will also need 1 cup of starter.


See those bubbles?  It's nice and healthy.

The original recipe also called for chopped nuts, but we were out of those, so I just left them out, although you could add some back in if you had them.

Grease and sugar your baking tin.  The recipe called for a 9" x 13" tin, this was the closest I had.


Normally I would use a silicone liner rather than greasing but I know the sugar is going to give an extra texture to the outside of the cake so this time I did grease and sugar.

Preheat the oven to 190c, 375f, Gas 5

Beat the eggs and vanilla into the oil.


Sift all the dry ingredients together then peel, core and chop the fruit and mix it into the dry ingredients.


Add the oil and egg mixture and the Herman starter to the bowl.


And stir until thoroughly mixed.

Transfer this mixture to your prepared cake tin.


And bake in the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre (missing bits of fruit obviously) comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes.


Then run a knife around the edges to loosen the sides and turn onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.


And there you have it, Pear and Apple Herman Cake.  Excellent with cream, custard or ice cream, or just as good on its own.


If you like apple cake recipes, why not try the Eve's pudding I made a few weeks ago.  Or if you prefer a bit of a denser cake, maybe my Secret Weapon Gingerbread would suit you better.

You can find the sites that I link up to over in my sidebars.
Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Herman Pear & Apple Cake Recipe
1 1/2 cups     Sugar
3/4 cup         Oil
1tsp              Vanilla
2 cups           Flour
2 tsp             Cinnamon
2                   Eggs
1 cup            Herman Starter
1/2 tsp          Baking Soda
1tsp              Salt
3 cups          Peeled, cored and diced apples and pears

Oven temp ~ 190c, 375f, Gas 5
Baking Time ~ 45 - 55 minutes
Pan Type ~ greased and sugared 9" x 13" cake tin



  • Beat the eggs and vanilla into the oil.
  • Sift all the dry ingredients together then peel, core and chop the fruit and mix it into the dry ingredients.
  • Add the oil and egg mixture and the Herman starter to the bowl.
  • And stir until thoroughly mixed.
  • Transfer this mixture to your prepared cake tin.
  • And bake in the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre (missing bits of fruit obviously) comes out clean.
  • Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes.
  • Then run a knife around the edges to loosen the sides and turn onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hanging Jewellery Storage

Did you see my post yesterday about storing kitchen tools by hanging them from a rail across a window?  Today I am sharing a similar idea for storing longer pieces of jewellery.

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So my jewellery storage became this, 

when it had been this:


In this case I COULD have used a normal tool rail that attaches to the wall behind it, BUT I really don't like drilling through tile or where there are possibly pipes.  I know there are ways of locating the pipes to ensure you don't drill through them, but I just didn't fancy that risk.

So I chose to use a tension rod, that is usually used for hanging kitchen or bathroom curtains across smaller windows.

I slipped a couple of packs of curtain rings onto the rod before putting it up and slipped a curtain hook through each ring.  The jewellery then hangs off these hooks.  Smaller items are displayed on the rotating jewellery storage unit standing on the shelf below.


Check out yesterdays post on kitchen tool storage if you want something more secure than a tension rod.

And if not, why not check out my other craft projects, or my recipes page before you leave.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kitchen Tool Storage


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I like kitchen gadgets, tools, etc, but I'd been having a problem with storing them in easy access. So far I had two of these absolutely jammed with stuff. this photo is of one of them AFTER the other stuff has been dealt with so you can imagine how full they both were before:



I saw something in a cookbook I had recently bought. It wasn't a "how to do this project" thing, just an illustration used in the book. And I knew I was onto something. So I bought a short piece of wardrobe rail, and the fixings for that, and I put it up (well, my husband did it for me) across the kitchen window. And now all my lovely tools hang from butchers hooks, slung along the rail.



I LOVE it. I can quickly and easily grab anything I need, without having to dig around in the drawer or the containers.
If the window frame recess was larger than the actual window itself, then I would have been able to use ordinary kitchen tool rails, BUT because the upvc window goes the full width of the space, and those normal kitchen tool rails attach on the back to the wall, rather than at their ends, it wasn't possible.

Using the wardrobe rail and fixings meant we were able to attach it to the side walls of the recess.

Come back tomorrow and see how I adapted this idea for jewellery storage.

But while you are here today why not check out my other craft projects, or my recipes page.
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