Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Challenge Update #2 ETSY time

If you haven't visited recently here's the link to my little ETSY shop. Part of me doing the #getgoodsummer challenge was to actually get round to putting things into my shop. I LOVE making and creating. It is so relaxing and after a day of running round after our toddler it allows me to have some me time. Around Christmas we have always got a few tables at various craft fairs. They are SO much fun. I love meeting people and showing them what I've been up to. Etsy is like a 24 hour global craft fair! 

Here are some photos of things that have gone in my shop recently: 

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Challenge Update

We have had such a busy few weeks. We bought a house. Actually we bought two and returned one. Long story. We've still all the paper work and boring but official stuff to do but what matters is that it is SALE AGREED. We are feeling very blessed. Our little forever home (for now) is near the sea and the things that a young family need, schools, shops, play parks and churches. It's not really ours until the keys are in our hands but we are excited!

It's fair to say I've been pretty distracted but none the less, I have been working on my challenges and have even completed one! You may remember these challenges that I set myself.

#1 is a work in progress and has been recently derailed slighting. More on that another time. 

#2 I've made a carrot cake and oatmeal cookies - a friend gave me the recipe, she's american and therefore the cookies are AMAZING. Or were. 

Some edible art work for our scrap book. Can't take any credit for this Pollock like painting. It was baby. 
I FINISHED this book. So. Good. 

#3 Read a book. I did. Done. Read. I'm not going to lie I was nervous about this one. Finding a book worth reading and the time to commit to it- nearly impossible. Turns out when you find a book worth reading you find time to read it! 

I've been inspired to read again. 

#4 scrap book purchased and the first of the summer photos in the post. This scrap book WILL happen. (this summer)

#5 still a work in progress, but aren't we all. 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Get Good Summer Challenge!

The toddler groups have finished for the summer and my sanity has gone with them. What to do with all this time between now and September?? 

I'm taking up a challenge from this lovely blog to set myself five goals to complete before the 1st September. 

And here they are: 

So. I know we are more than half way through the year but there's never a bad time to shed a few of those extra pounds. I can't really blame pregnancy. I blame breastfeeding! It's all lies that it'll help get back to your normal self. I ate to stay AWAKE to feed the wee one and I'm not talking the recommended nuts and fruit, I'm taking CAKE. 

So far this year I've lost 1 & 1/2 stone (and I've moved country during that time which is NOT conducive to dieting!). 

I'd like to lose 10 pounds this summer. It's possible.

Bake more. Now I know how this looks. I've just told you that I want to lose weight and this is the ultimate contradiction. However. My husband has been in his new office for long enough now for me to send surplus cake to work with him. I get to bake (which I love) and I don't have to eat it all. Everyone wins. 

Read a book. 
Any book. 
I enjoy reading once I get started but recently I've been let down by a number of books. If I read ANY book from cover to cover it'll be a triumph!

Make a summer scrap book. 
I've been introducing the little one to the joys of arts and crafts and so I thought it'd be nice to put his works of art (the ones that aren't framed/sent to grandparents) in a wee book with photos of our summer. Simple but it's often the simple things that get pushed back and back until they're never done. 

Do a bit of work to my Etsy shop. My little shop has so many ready-to-go items waiting to be posted in my shop and I always make excuses...mainly to do with how bad the lighting is. Not this summer. The best photos are taken in natural day light. The nights are already on the turn, time is running out! No more excuses! 

Okay. Go!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Domestic Tourist

My wee brother buying cakes @ St George's Market
I grew up in Northern Ireland. Ask me where Lurgan/Banbridge/Monkstown is and I haven't a clue. Ask me what county Aldershot is in, or where I would find Ashford and I know the answer. I doubt I'm alone in knowing other places better than I know my own home. When we are on holiday we tend to spend a bit of time researching the best museums/shops/historic homes to visit, the most awarding winning but still affordable restaurant and I can't tell you how many times I have been to the world's tallest something or other. At home I am a creature of habit and this time round I want to change that! You see our little family of three are moving to Northern Ireland. I want to say 'moving back' but only a third of our unit have ever lived there (me!). 
The lake at Mount Stewart

This time round I am gearing up with trip adviser, tourist information  maps and recommendations as to where to visit, what to eat and the tallest/largest/oldest whatsit. But I need help. Have you got any suggestions? Any favourite places, eateries or walks?

I'll make a list and blog about our visits. We move in May so you've got a bit of time to think ;-) 

Friday, 5 April 2013

Banana & Date Muffins.

I'm not going to lie. I waited until the bananas where what I would regard  as being 'beyond consumption' ie a little bit brown. I thought the only thing for it is banana bread but having packed my loaf tin I couldn't. Banana muffins it is. Husband suggested a smoothie but I had other ideas for how to squeeze in my 5 a day. 

When I'm in need of a new recipe I 'google' it first. I have a load of cook books but sometimes it's more fun going to real people for help. By real, I mean regular folk like us just wanting to make muffins, not people who are trained and whose recipes have been tried and tested by experts. And actually when I think about it we are ALL experts in taste...because we all eat. 

This recipe came from The English Kitchen. I liked the name of her blog. She sounded friendly (and like she knew what she was doing). So I went with it. The recipe is so straight forward and the results are Out Of This World. The only thing on the recipe list that I didn't have was the rum extract and because I needed* to make the muffins Then and There (they were turning brown remember) I just went ahead with it.

 *not strictly true. I could've had a smoothie...

This is The English Kitchen's recipe stolen borrowed straight from her blog (don't worry I asked her and she said it was fine =) ) 

200g of plain flour (2 cups) sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
172g of butter, softened (3/4 cup)
132g of soft light brown sugar (2/3 cup packed)
2 large free range eggs
3 really ripe bananas, peeled and mashed well
1 tsp rum extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
75g chopped dates (1/2 cup)

For the glaze:
100g soft light brown sugar (1/2 cup packed)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBS hot water

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Line a large sized muffin tins with paper liners, or butter well and dust with flour. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour and baking powder. Place the butter and brown sugar into a bowl. Cream together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the flour mixture. Stir the run and vanilla into the bananas and stir this into the batter, until well incorporated. Stir in the dates. Drop by heaped spoonfuls into the lined muffin cups filling each about 2/3 full.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until risen, lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the centre of one comes out clean!

Stir together the brown sugar, vanilla and hot water until smooth. Drizzle over top of the warm muffins, allowing it to soak in. Serve muffins warm or at room temperature. Store any leftovers in an airtight container.

Give it a go- you won't be sorry!! 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

4 simple steps to amazing muffins!

Make space in your weekend for these simple yet glorious little balls of dough. Honestly you won't regret it. 

I made these on Good Friday. I tried to think of a way of inserting a Biblical reference, a little anecdote but couldn't and so I'm not going to shoehorn one in. I was up early (6:30 am) and had already assured husband that it was HIS turn to lie in. I am so slow/unwilling to get out of bed in the morning- he deserved a lie in. Baby and I had breakfast and I made the dough for the muffins. My infant is a little man of routine- no idea how. I tried to keep Gina Ford at arms length until I eventually had to give her back to the friend who lent her (her book that is) and now I find our lives ruled by his self imposed routine. ANYWAY. After some playing he went off for his nap allowing the dough time to rise. He was due to get up just as the muffins were ready to be cooked and this is the very reason you should try making muffins (see second photo down). I was so skeptical about this bread-in-frying-pan-method working and nervous that I'd invested time and been boasting about how amazing freshly made muffins would be. The results- a dream come true. So good that I text a friend to let her know I was bringing some fresh-off-the-pan muffins round that I burnt them. Serves me right really. 

The How-To. 

450g (1lb) strong white flour
1 tsp fast-action dried yeast
1 tsp salt
25g butter, melted
25g  ground rice or semolina (we didn't have any so I just used flour)

 1. Mix, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the melted butter and 300ml  tepid water and mix to form a soft dough
2 Knead the dough for between 5-10 minutes and leave to rise in a bowl and cover in cling film. If you've never made bread before this part is important (set a timer if you think you'll cave too soon ;-) I do.)  
3 knead the dough briefly and separate into 10 balls of equal size. Spread the calls on a tea towel that has been dusted with flour to prevent them sticking. Press the dough balls gently to form a flatter shape. Cover with more flour (or semolina if you have it!) and put another towel on top -leave for 20-30mins. 

4.Now for the fun part! Heat a frying pan (one that hast a lid) there is no need for oil. Cook muffins on the pan with the lid on for 10-12 mins on a low heat. Turn over and cook for 3-4 on the other side. Both sides should be golden brown. 

(Recipe based on the one from the Dorling Kindersley book featured in previous post)

This basic dough recipe can also be used to make dough balls (with garlic butter mmm) and bread rolls. You can freeze any you don't use. 

Happy bread making!! 

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Bread is the new Cake

For a while it looked as though cupcakes were never going to go out of fashion. Well I think that time has come. That's maybe a bit harsh. Cupcakes, cake pops and macaroons are all very nice but can anything take the place of bread? I don't mean sliced bread that seems to stay fresh forever- apparently the french don't even regard that is being bread! I mean the kind of bread that you have to eat the same day it was baked. Real, amazing, probably-not-very-good-for-your-health-but-fills-you-with-joy kinda bread. 

On my most recent trip to the farmers market I swapped my normal chocolate brownie for a big bit of garlic and olive bread. This was a monumental decision. The switch from gooey chocolatey happiness to Don't Come Too Close garlicky goodness turned out to be a really rewarding one. Not good for the diet but a girl has to eat! 

Bread is so basic. But. It's one of those foods that makes you wonder how on earth people thought to make it in the first place. I'm never really sure how much to trust Wikipedia  but short of time to do any lengthy research I thought I'd chance its questionable content. Apparently the history of bread goes back some 30,000 years- but who's counting. A few of my bready favourites are mentioned on there too, chapatis, pitas and the hallowed NAAN. I'm going to give making these a go. 

 My dad, and fellow bread fan, bought me this book...
Dorling Kindersley - printing you can trust! 
I'm going to start with English Muffins. Is there ANYTHING better than an English muffin buttered hot? And these days we are using real live actual butter. None of that half fat looks like butter but tastes like yellow nonsense. It's a poor substitute and word-of-mum rumor has it that it's not even better for you. 

Have you got a favourite bread recipe?