Monday, July 29, 2013

What's been cooking this month? July Craft Challenge - Round-up and Vote

Thank goodness for months with 5 Mondays in them! I have had such a busy July. In fact, I can't tell you where it's gone. I have been so busy doing what seems like endless wedding administration, I feel like I have dropped off the planet a bit. I hope to goodness August will be better.

The results came in from the June Challenge to make something from the heart....and it's starting to become a recurring theme!
1st - Anja's mini-book
2nd PJ's cork keychain
3rd - Rosie's modern 'mix-tape' letter. 
(Well done ladies - great ideas again!)

We've had a month of recipes in July. From my Cheese and Chive Muffins, Anja's French Chocolate Cake to PJ's Chicken Salad. Check out the pictures below and then vote for your favourite. Once that is over and done with, why not leave your own summer baked recipe to our challenge link-up. I could always do with some more inspiration.
(Chicken Salad)
So which one will you vote for?
Now it is YOUR turn to link up? Summer is such a great time for discovering new recipes and I hope you will let us indulge in yours.

Next month we are going to be making something fantastic for the garden - or if you are without one, then the challenge is to do a bit of guerrilla craft (making sure you do not break the law....obviously). I have my materials ready to start making, but have yet to buy the dark clothing needed to install it somewhere in the public eye. FINALLY a chance to creep around like a ninja...

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Craft Challenge 2013 - Bake It: Cheese and Chive Muffins

In this topsy turvy craft challenge this month - I am presenting you with my cooking last. You very nearly had to wait an extra hour so I could bake it again (the camera wiped the original photos while on holiday camping where no starting again was possible), but like a lovely miracle worker, my fiance managed to install something on his computer to restore all of the 'wiped' photos. I will try and remember to ask him what he used as I believe it was free to do and could detect even photos purposefully deleted from a camera.

Anyhoo - I actually love baking and these muffins are one of my favourite picnic foods. They travel well, eat well and contain cheese (what's not to love about that?!?). You can also adapt them to make them a tiny bit healthier, but more about that later. Here's a pic (the only one actually) to tempt your taste buds:

There is something exceedingly good about a savoury snack, which doesn't involve potato chips or having to construct a sandwich. We ate these for breakfast and as a car snack while camping - these tasty trio were on our picnic table ourside a tent in Munich.

To make between 10-12 of my delicious (well-travelled) cheese and chive muffins you need:
270g plain flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
85g of melted, unsalted butter (cooled)
1tbsp caster sugar
100g of grated cheese (reduced fat cheddar or gouda works particularly well)
2 tablespoons of fresh or frozen chopped chives
2 eggs
175ml semi-skimmed milk (about 3% fat)
Optional: 270g of grated vegetables, such as zucchini, squash or pumpkin (not shown here) and/or toasted seeds (not shown here)

The process is really simple:
1. Pop an oven on to 190C/375F/Gas mark 5
2. Melt the butter and leave to cool
3. Beat the eggs and then add in the milk. When the butter is cool, combine it with the milk and eggs. You will end up with a lumpy omelette if you try and add in any butter that you can not stick a finger into without burning yourself (although this is really not the best method of testing....unless you're into that sort of thing....)
4. Sieve the flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl.
5. Add in the grated cheese (optional vegetables) and chives.
6. Combine the wet ingredients to form a lumpy batter.
7. Line a muffin tray with cases (mine aren't muffin cases as we didn't have any)
8. Spoon in sticky mixture and tap the case lightly on the top of the counter to remove unnecessary air bubbles.
8.5. If you are going to put seeds on top, then this is the time to do that!
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
10. You can either eat them cool or directly from the oven all molten with butter and cheese......mmmmmmm

I should not have made these immediately prior to breakfast as we have run out and I really want to eat some. If I didn't have to put on real clothes to go to the supermarket, I would probably make some right now.

Next week (as we are blessed with an additional week of July) we will do the round-up of all of our recipes so far and you can vote on your favourite. You can also add your own baked recipe to the pile in our link-up, especially the items which you made in the last month.

Next month we are going to either be making something for the garden (I can hear Anja's yelps of delight from here) OR gorilla crafting if I have no garden. Which means I will be gorilla crafting and I think I know what I would like to do.

So until then folks, I only have to say - it is so good to be back. There's lots I need to catch you up on.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

July Craft Challenge: French Chocolate Cake

While Rosie is busy, she kinda gave me the key to her apartment. Actually it's more like the password to her blog ;-) but it does feel remarkably the same. So, without further lurking around her place, here's my July Craft challenge: baking!

You all know how much I love chocolate, right? Chocolate in any form is a good idea: ice-cream, chocolate meringues, brownies, chocolate cookies, chocolate biscotti, chocolate robots, chocolate on a spoon, chocolate souffé... anything chocolate! (Granted, the only kind of chocolate usage that I am not okay with is in pollo al chocolate, but that's a story for another day...) I have told you lots of time that this or that recipe is the ultimate chocolate delight, but to be honest: I am only sharing the real deal with you today. I knew that this had to be my post for the July craft challenge: baking.

This French chocolate cake is the real deal because...
  • is an original French recipe, brought to our family about two decades ago by a French exchange student (biscuit au chocolat is what it's actually called)
  • is moist and crunchy and scrumptious at the same time
  • isn't nearly as much work as one would think
  • stores really well - even after three days it tastes almost as perfect as on day one
  • ...when I die I want to be buried with one of these cakes. That's how good they are.
  • ...even Coca approves of it:

Anyhow, enough bragging for one day, right? Here's the recipe:
  • 9 ounces of dark chocolate
  • 5 TS water
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (melted)
  • 1 cup ground almonds (or ground hazelnuts if you prefer those)
  • 2/3 cup flour
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. When it is liquid, fill it into a mixing bowl and add the water while stirring. Add the egg yolks and the melted butter and keep on stirring. Add the almonds and the flour and stir carefully.

In an extra bowl, mix the egg whites until they're stiff. Carefully fold in the egg whites.

Put the mass into a cake pan. In a 10 inch cake pan, it takes about 45 to 50 minutes at 280°F. The cake is done when it is a bit moist in the center, but crunchy at the top.

I know that this hot weather doesn't exactly call for baking and chocolate cakes, but if you try this recipe you will be happy you did!

If you like this post, I would be beyond ecstatic if you became my follower. 
That way, you won't miss any posts!

PS I know that promoting a healthy lifestyle instead of promoting chocolate indulgence should be my goal, but chocolate is just my guilty pleasure. I promise I don't eat it all the time ;-) What's your guilty pleasure?

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Hen-Do (Bachelorette) from the Heart

I was very excited to be take my friend Louise on a personal hen-do a couple of weekends ago. You first heard me talk about my idea of how to throw a super hen party or bachelorette (as my US lovelies would say) here just as I started to put together her special day.Now that she has had the big surprise, I can share it all with you! Hooray!

We started off by meeting at the train station, ready to go to London.I am sure that most people would bust out the champagne and start a day of heavy drinking....but that's not really our style. So instead I devised a little game to play on the way there....a 'challenge' without a willy in sight (THANK goodness)

My game is called 'Pimp Your Pants' and it goes something a little like this:
1. Take a pair of cheap, plain pants.
2. Use random craft materials to 'pimp' them into something quite special. Pack felt, beads, gems, sparkles, feathers, glue, scissors and some thread.
3. Wear them....preferably on your wedding day (although this is probably not enforceable)

Doesn't this look fun? Craft on trains should really become a thing. Anyone want to develop a Craft Train business with me? Trains aren't that expensive to buy, right?
What you cannot see from these photographs is the poor young man who was forced to KEEP HIS EYES ON HIS PHONE who was sat opposite us the entire way. I'm sure, being English, that acknowledging our shenanigans might have caused him to die of embarrassment...cough!

Louise loved the game, but wasn't surprised that craft appeared in her day. She believed that brightly coloured pants were going to set the wrong she was...

Our next stop was Oxford Street, with a quick look around the shoe department of Top Shop, while we killed some time before the next surprise. If you ever visit London and fancy a schmancy meal in one of the many Michelin Star restaurants that live there, then you cannot do much better than the lunch menus. If I could have captured Lou's goldfish expression on entering Jason Atherton's Pollen Street Social, then I would have done.

A three course meal from the lunch menu, set us back 29 pounds and 50 pence each with some extra spent on service and vino. I might have paid that amount just for the dessert. Look how happy she is!

After a calming meal, it was time to head outside to the massive street party that is Gay Pride. This was a fortuitous extra to the day - a bit of innocent fun, plenty of costumes, music and a great atmosphere. We followed the parade to Trafalgar Square. It was pretty hot though, so we escaped into the National Portrait Gallery to look at the Tudor portraits. Lou loves this period of history, so it was really nice and more importantly, air-conditioned!

We wandered to Leicester Square and plonked ourselves in a bar for an early evening cocktail. Being hardcore party people, this made us a bit sleepy, so we went and found some tea in Starbucks.  Luckily it wasn't too long to wait until the final surprise of the day: we were going to see Les Miserable on the West End.

Now, this was my first time at Les Mis, but for Louise it was her 5th time. It is something we always meant to share together and never quite got around too. Also....brilliant and definitely worth booking in advance if you are going to be attending. We had the nose-bleed seats, but had a pretty good view of the stage. You just have to sit forward a bit and you can see 95%* of the stage!
 * Totally estimated percentage!
A sleepy train ride home and a long wonderful day - what more can you need for a hen who means the absolute world to you...

What's the best hen/bachelorette you guys have been too? I know what I want for mine and the bridesmaids have been briefed. I'm excited to see what they come up with...
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