Thursday, 31 January 2008

Little Foodies Canada

Do you see this beautiful little package of figgy, fruity, nutty goodness? Can you tell just by looking at it that it's laced with booze?

Before I tell you where it came from. I first want to tell you a little story. Let me remind you before I begin that this little package is packed full of fruit, nuts, chocolate and booze.

The story of the Canadian Boooooze Cake...
Mama Bear could smell the alcohol as she cut little slices of the cake that had travelled from a long, long way away. She handed out small slices to her family. Papa Bear tasted it and loved it, Mama Bear tasted it and loved it. Small Bear tasted it and didn't like it at all. Little Bear tasted it and loved it and wanted some more immediately. When Mama Bear said 'You can't have any more now as it has alcohol in it.' Little Bear said 'Oh, come on Mama, it's about time I tasted alcohol.' Mama Bear and Papa Bear stood open mouthed for a moment. Mama Bear exclaimed 'But you're 6 years old!' Little Bear stayed silent just long enough for Mama Bear and Papa Bear to be slightly alarmed by this outburst before his Little Bear shoulders started to shake, and a bit of a giggle escaped, 'Only joking!' said Little Bear. Mama and Papa Bear relaxed a little...
... and family therapy was averted for another time.

This Canadian Booze Cake as it has come to be known in our house is absolutely sensational. It reminds me of something from my childhood and I still can't think what it is? I want to send some to my family Up North so they can taste it and see if they can tell me what it reminds me of. Alas I can't do that, because it's all gone! If you want to find out how to make it and see some great pictures of it being made then click here.

It arrived with some other wonderful goodies all the way from..... you guessed it, Canada, from that cool Mama that I've talked about before, who resides at the very cool Under the Highchair. Aimee, thank you so very much for the wonderful things. You are one talented lady.

I've more to tell you about this Canandian package. I'll write about this jewel like jelly and some of the other things soon.
Thanks again Aimee!

Monday, 28 January 2008

EDIT: It's finished ! Little Foodies and the Daring Bakers Lemon Meringue Pie

Not sure why I felt the need to leave this to the very last minute, it's becoming a bit of a habit.....

Posting day arrived and yet again I still haven't made the LMP (Lemon Meringue Pie). I've read a few things about this LMP. Throughout the month on the Daring Bakers Blog I've seen some stunning ones, some runny ones and well to be honest... meringue scares me, pastry scares me, making lemon curd scares me!

But out of my comfort zone I come - I WILL make the LMP today and I'll post it on time too! I have just under 12 hours and counting!

EDIT: These are in the oven OKAY, OKAY, Please should I ever leave another thing to the last minute have me taken outside and SHOT! I could excuse myself and say it's because of my back and how good I am to have done it anyway, blah, blah... Please order my wings and halo... more blah. But no, it's because I'm seriously good at procrastinating.. I'm tired, can't waffle on properly... Here in pictures is what I've been doing for the last few hours... As well as juggling a few other things... Daring Bakers... sounds about right to me!

I want to say thank you to Jen at The Canadian Baker for hosting this month. Such a good choice. I know that I've learned a lot but I have to sleep on it tonight before I can put in to words exactly what it is. I was afraid of pastry, and it was my first time for making lemon curd and meringue so I was seriously out of my comfort zone today. That can only be a good thing! You can check out how all the other DB's got on by going to the DB blogroll.

I know one lesson learned before I go lie parallel and watch television/sleep... I wish I hadn't let it get so brown, I like meringue to be pearly white.

Oh... and is my lemon curd runny? Nope! ...and is it delicious? Yes definitely! Even though I like meringue more cooked than this it's still really good.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

What we actually ate... Week One

So I didn't quite stick to the meal plan every time, but when I did change things it was due to unforeseen circumstances (read that: change of mind), or I made a more frugal choice to use up leftovers or something that was on the turn. But did I manage to stick to the budget? That is the question... and what did we actually eat.

Midweek breakfasts were the same every day, cereal with milk, fruit, water.
Weekend breakfasts slight change in that we had bacon sandwiches one day (reading and writing about farmhouse breakfast week made us all crave some). The other day we had bubble and squeek haggis with a fried egg on top...

Midweek Lunches
  • Cheese rolls (on wholemeal bread made by Hubs and the boys), salad, apple juice. I had quesadillas.
  • Boys: pasta salad with boiled egg, mandarins, apple juice (Hubs & I had tuna pasta salad)
  • Ham sandwiches, cucumber, kiwi fruit, mandarin, apple juice. I used up the cauliflower cheese.
  • Hubs took a ham sandwich, salad, coffee cake and a mandarin. The boys were off ill so just picked at food through the day (bananas, blood oranges, cucumber, carrot, tiny chocolate cake).
  • Leftover chicken, cous cous and courgettes. Hubs took the leftover vegetable soup.
I totally forgot to include after school snacks in the planning: as they were only at school Mon & Tues it was quesadillas & water one day, apple juice and biscuits the next. We also made the coffee and chocolate cakes as we had young guests on one of the days.

Midweek Dinners
  • Mon: Meatballs in tomato sauce with penne pasta and cauliflower cheese. We were going to have them with spaghetti but as I needed pasta for the packed lunches the following day I didn't see the point in boiling two pans of water. The cauliflower cheese I made the night before as the cauliflower was on the turn.
  • Tue: I bumped the spicy seafood rice to Wednesday. Instead I used up the last of the jamon and the leftover vegetables from Sunday to make a big stew, also added half a carton of passata which was lurking in the fridge and a few teaspoons of chipotle paste.
  • Wed : Instead of the planned roast vegetables and fish we had the spicy seafood rice. I ended up cooking a creamy seafood risotto with a bit of a kick and some spice. I wish I'd written down how much of everything I put in because it was excellent!
  • Thu : I made the boys a quick vegetable soup, blitzing it with the stick blender. Roast chicken with couscous and roasted courgettes for Hubs and I.
  • Fri : Different again. Boys had leftover chicken and salad. I didn't feel like cooking so Hubs made us some pasta with the last of the leftover chicken and a hot creamy sauce - it was delicious! He even put the chicken carcass on to boil for chicken stock to make a soup for lunch on Saturday.
Lunch: Chicken and Pasta Soup, made from the leftover chicken carcass.
Dinner: Haggis, Mashed Potato, Mashed Carrot and Sweet Potato mix, Mashed Celeriac. It was the first time the children have tried haggis and they loved it!

Sunday: Cousin mixed up the date, it's next weekend that we are there for lunch.
Brunch: Bubble and Squeek Haggis with a Fried Egg on top.
Dinner: Still to be decided.

The organic veg box cost £44.31, it included veg, fruit, chicken, milk, eggs, butter & mayonnaise.
Extras Bought : cucumber, tomatoes, milk, bread, bacon, haggis, ham
Already had : jamon, apple juice, flour, pasta, cream, mandarins, cauliflower, extra carrots, cereal

Where we have things every week such as cereal, flour, etc. I took the monthly spend and divided it by 4 to get an approximate cost. I rounded figures up for things used every day such as apple juice. Taking this into account we spent an extra £24.13. This did not include spices and condiments. I will work on a figure for this as it's the sort of thing I buy in bulk and then we have enough to last a lifetime.

So the total was £68.44 , not including dried spices and condiments. That was eating mainly organic, and a lot of seasonal food. Anybody can do it for a week, I need to see if we can do it for the next three weeks.

Though I've thought many times about doing this it was my lovely friend Fiona over at the very brilliant Cottage Smallholder who inspired me to actually get on and do this whole budget thing. While e-mailing her yesterday I worked out that £70.00 a week saved over the year is £3,640.00 (that is approximately US$7,218.00, CAN$7,260.00, AUS$8,204.00, Euros4,915.00) Now when you think about it like that it makes it seem more than worthwhile! ... and suddenly the guilt of my other on-line shopping this week (more of which next week) doesn't seem so bad! No, I didn't order myself the F&M weekend hamper!

Friday, 25 January 2008

It's Farmhouse Breakfast Week in the UK

Sara over at Farming Friends mentioned that it was Farmhouse Breakfast Week. Farming Friends, by the way is a great blog, it's good for young ones too, you can read some of the interesting bits to them and look at the pictures together.

Farmhouse Breakfast Week is an annual campaign in the UK to promote how important it is to eat a healthy breakfast every day. The website has some great information on it such as... Breakfast means 'breaking the fast' which I never knew.
It also gives the figures for research done by Cardiff University School of Pyschology, led by Prof Andrew Smith, which is quite an eye opener. I'm sure some of us have heard them before, but here they are again. In a study children who ate cereal for breakfast were, 9% more alert, 11% less emotionally distressed, 13% less tired, 17% less anxious, 10% less likely to suffer memory and attention span difficulties and worryingly, 33% less likely to suffer from stomach complaints. Click here to check out the website for more facts and information.

I think promoting breakfast is a great idea, especially as I can't stand breakfast. I've mentioned it before, it's just too early. I think I'd like it if I could have something small and cooked at about 9.30/10.00am. By then of course the house is empty and I can't be bothered, if nobody is here I can sometimes forget about lunch too, ridiculous considering I might be reading or thinking about food for hours on end.

Come 3.30pm when the house has people in it again, I'm so hungry that I perform my 'plague of locusts have been in the fridge' trick. It is then that I understand it would have been a good idea to eat some breakfast and maybe some lunch. This is possibly one of the worst thing you can do to your body, starve it and then cram it full of food, often carb loaded and sweet!

The boys love breakfast. All thanks to my husband who is also a breakfast lover. During the week, he will more often than not get the three of them breakfast, then they sit and chat. I like to listen to them, sometimes I put the duvet over my head and pretend I'm still asleep. Sometimes I am still asleep.

The weekends are different. Now, Little and Small let their parents have a lie in (not what people without children would call a lie in mind). They make do with eating fruit and bits from the fridge, they sometimes get themselves some cereal (shockingly bad parenting). Then at a more reasonable hour we'll have something cooked - Eggs, Pancakes, or even a Full English.

During the week, this early morning breakfast hating person needs to go to bed earlier, get up to eat breakfast with her young and stop hiding away so they don't cotton on to her breakfast loathing ways. Do you eat breakfast? What's your favourite breakfast?

Another breakfast lover is Joey of 80 Breakfasts, a fab blog!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

How to drop hints to your husband, boyfriend, beloved!

Hubs and I are not overly extravagant with gifts for each other. Often Valentine's Day passes and we've forgotten to exchange cards. This happens on our anniversay too sometimes. It's not that we're not romantic it's just that we're romantic when we feel like it throughout the rest of the year. Infact if I'm honest it could be something to do with... Hubs is bad at choosing presents for me. So bad, at Christmas I buy my own and then give them to him to wrap up... It's a seriously good idea but it might have to change, he's an intelligent man and surely if I give him a list with specifics he can hardly go wrong.

I wont tell you about the year he bought me the handbag that was so dire, NOBODY would have liked it. Not even Bridget Jones' mother and we know how much taste she had... Oops, I just did tell you about the year he bought me that handbag.

That said when an e-mail turned up from Fortnum and Mason I couldn't help but send dear Hubs the following link, Fortnum & Mason Weekend Hamper,
with the title 'If you're ever stuck and you want to spoil your wife...' and a note to go with the link saying... She loves the basket almost as much as the contents.

Now I'm not expecting this hamper to turn up anytime soon but I can whisper to THE fairy, keep my fingers crossed. Possibly send another e-mail saying... Your wife more than halved the weekly food shop bill! Now blow the money saved on something extravagant to show how much you appreciate that...

I don't think I've got the whole budget ethos yet... I'm working on it!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Toffee Coffee Cupcakes... #1

Mmmmm, cake....!
Mmmmm, lots of cake....!

Toffee Coffee Cupcake

Ah, gone!

Mmmm, more...

A question for your knowledge. These were a little experiment, you can see the toffee sank to the bottom. Anybody good at the whole science thing of baking? If so, please tell me why the toffee sank to the bottom and what could I do to suspend the toffee pieces throughout the cake. Possibly sprinkle the toffee pieces on the top prior to baking?

Why did I bake these, for Quirky Cupcake's beloved Jaos' birthday of course! Quirky Cupcake runs a monthly Cupcake Hero event, this month the theme was coffee. I LOVE coffee cake, always have done, even as a child when I didn't like coffee, I loved coffee cake.

As I said they were an experiment, I wanted to make coffee cake but I wanted to do something different to my normal coffee cake. I kept thinking.... and thinking... Then just as I was stuffing another left over from Christmas toffee in my mouth I thought toffee coffee. I quickly put the rest of the bag of toffees in the freezer.... and waited.

Toffee Coffee Cupcakes
4oz self raising flour
4oz soft butter, room temperature
4oz sugar
2 medium size eggs, room temperature
1 or 2 teaspoons of instant coffee, depending how strong you like your coffee cake
Splash of milk
10 frozen toffees

Pre-heat then oven to 175C (medium heat)
Unwrap the toffees and place in a small food processor, blitz until you have small pieces, some will be like sand.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs and mix, sift in the flour and mix, add the coffee powder and mix, add a splash of milk to loosen.
Note: I mixed in the toffee pieces with the cake mixture before baking but next time I'd sprinkle them on the top just before putting in the oven. Unless someone tells me a better way - please?
Spoon into cake cases and then bake in the oven. The tiny ones take about 10 minutes, the larger ones 12-15 minutes, this will all depend on your oven.
Allow to cool and then ice as you please. We also made chocolate cupcakes as we had young guests who I didn't think should be eating coffee cake. This meant we had to make coffee icing (icing sugar, instant espresso powder and a tiny amount of hot water to make a paste) and chocolate icing, using cocoa powder instead of espresso powder. We then used both lots of icing to decorate the cakes.

Almost every morning I make a pot of stove top coffee and drink this all myself. I usually get 3 small cups out of it if mixed with hot milk. Please help me I've had 4 of these cakes this morning alongside my normal caffeine hit in liquid form - I'm seriously buzzing!

Monday, 21 January 2008

Little Foodies Budget Trial - Week One Plan

I've been sat here trying to think of some inspirational quotes, they are all evading me!

Meal Plan Week One

Midweek Breakfasts
Choice of cereal with milk, fruit, water
Weekend Breakfasts
Poached Eggs on Toast

Midweek Lunches
Cheese Roll and salad, fruit, apple juice
Tuna sandwich, salad, fruit, apple juice
Spicy rice salad (using leftovers), fruit, apple juice
Pasta salad, fruit, apple juice
Cous cous salad (using leftovers), fruit, apple juice
Weekend Lunches
Sat: Soup
Sun: At cousin's for Roast

Dinners for the week
Spaghetti and meatballs in tomato sauce
Spicy seafood rice
Roast vegetables with fish
Roast chicken with couscous & veg
Chicken and chard curry (for hubs & boys, I'm out for the evening)
Kohl Rabi & other veg stir fry with noodles

What should be coming in our trial Abel and Cole family organic box:
Bananas, blood oranges, kiwis, pineapple, broccoli, carrots, chard, kohl rabi, milva potatoes, mushrooms, white onions, there will also be 3 surprise things as I chose to forego the celery (yuk!), raddichio (not keen!) and beetroot (far too much of a good thing!).
To get a free cookbook we needed to spend over £40.00 so I also ordered an organic chicken, milk, eggs, butter and mayonnaise.

Other shopping to do:
More milk, tomatoes, possibly bread, possibly cucumber (I can't just remove cucumber from the equation, read this post, if you can't understand why. Besides Rome wasn't built in a day!).

It's 12.15pm on day one, so far okay. Hubs made some wholemeal bread rolls yesterday, they were used for the lunchboxes today.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Little Foodies set for a fall possibly?!

Before we've even started I have a feeling that I might fail with this whole budget thing. Maybe not the budget but staying away from Waitrose. That's before I even begin with the pain of meal planning. I'm the sort who likes to look at what we've got and decide on the spur of the moment what we're going to eat. With the flu and then my back, I hadn't been into Waitrose since before Christmas, infact I know the time and date that I was last there - Friday 21st December at 5pm. Saying it like that makes me think I may be some sort of addict! I've been trying to kid myself all these years that we do the right thing, but...

I'll admit that one reason I was able to commit to this whole different housekeeping trial thing is because, for now atleast, I'm not allowed to push a trolley and certainly shouldn't be carrying a basket, I thought it would be easy. However, after seeing Nan at the hospital today I popped into Waitrose (I wasn't breaking any rules - the trial starts tomorrow). My sole intention was to get some Thai Curry Pastes/Sauces (I'd like to do a taste test when we look at Thailand).

Anyway, blow me away if the whole marketing thing went and worked its magic, all of my senses were hit at once and I felt pleased to be there. Big NO NO!, I got a basket when I saw that pulses and couscous in the Wholesome range were on offer - I put a few in, it felt okay. I made my way to the eggs, I went for freerange and not organic and freerange, this was my way of trying to justify what I was doing. Onto the sauces aisle. WHAM! - it felt like I'd been kicked hard in the base of my spine. I put the basket down, quickly got the curry pastes and sauce, thought about asking a member of staff to pick the basket up for me but would have felt stupid doing that. I picked it up, trying to lift correctly (that's incase my physio or husband ever reads this!), and made my way to the cashier.

I picked up a copy of their free magazine, Waitrose Seasons January/February 2008. It still felt good to be in there, I also knew that if I was going to stick to the plan I wouldn't be going in there again for another month. (throws self to floor and sobs!)

I got home, by now sciatica running from my bum to my toes and realise that my physio talks a lot of sense. That will teach me!! I spent £10.19!! Was it worth it?! Well, I think so, as flicking through the free magazine I came across an article with the title - Waste not, want not... (I've always loved that phrase) - it continued may sound quaint but as figures show we now throw away a third of the food we buy, Fran Quinn explains how the humble shopping list could help transform the environment. It then gave a seven day menu plan for main meals and a shopping list. How could I abandon this marvellous supermarket when they were so clearly in touch... and so very, very clever? Easy! Remember the plan Amanda! Remember the plan! So fairwell my humble supermarket - I'll see you in a month - maybe?!

If I had a crystal ball, I think it would show that at the end of this trial I will be better at budgeting and I probably won't be going into Waitrose so much. But I don't honestly think I can say I will be able to preclude Waitrose from my life altogether.

Tomorrow I will post our meal plan for the week, including breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I'll list what's coming in our organic veg box on Wednesday, (we're trialing Abel and Cole as they were doing an offer of a free cookbook if you spent over £40.00. ), and note any extra shopping we'll need to do. Then a week today I'll be honest about what we actually ate and how much I spent.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Little Foodies bids farewell to the Jamon

When I wrote the post here, about the annual jamon, I wasn't paying much attention and I certainly wasn't up to researching the inside leg measurements of said pig. I'd tasted it, knew it melted in my mouth, leaving a resonant sweet and deep taste. I realise now of course that even though ONLY glimpsed at from the utility room door, the colour of the hoof should have given it away. I realise now, the hoof was unmistakably black and deserved respect. It was the hoof of a Jamón Iberico de Bellota) . So, I did indeed insult the poor thing by referring to it as mere Jamon Serrano. I am wilfully naive, nay, ignorant!

So, giving thanks to the beautiful pig that has given us many feasts over the last few weeks, here are a few ways that we could eat Spanish Jamon in our house.
  • Sliced from the bone and popped immediately into the mouth with small voices chirping in the background 'MORE' - 'I want more!' - 'He has a bigger piece than me.' 'I don't want it cooked, why can't we just eat it like this?' - 'I SAID I wanted more!'
  • Jamon and Lentil Stew with root vegetables, good stock and a big glug of sherry.
  • Jamon Croquetas
  • Jamon and Scrambled Eggs
  • Jamon and Cheese Scones
  • Jamon Tortilla
  • Jamon and Pea Soup
  • Jamon Muffins
  • Baked Jamon & Cauliflower Cheese
  • Spicy Rice with Jamon
  • Jamon & Tomato Pasta
and right now as I type the bone of the jamon is in a large pot of water, it's been on the boil for hours, hopefully resulting in a beautiful jamon stock.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Changes afoot in the Little Foodies Household

Some time ago I started a post (which I didn't publish) with the title Dashing Daddy Eco Warrior and the Frugal Mummy. It was a bit of a joke, at my husband's expense, as he'd been at the Earth Summit Conference in London for a few days. He would return home in the evenings to find the house at sub-tropical temperatures, visibly annoyed, turning the temperature down, mumbling, sometimes not mumbling, that things were going to change around here and why didn't we put a jumper on and wear slippers around the house. I got it, I really did, it's just that I don't like being cold and jumpers sometimes aren't comfortable (who am I trying to kid?!). It did get me thinking more than usual though... I want to stop this wasteful way of life that we lead and the ever increasing feeling that immediate gratification is normal. It's not normal!

This is the sort of thing I want to stop...
I'm cold - Turn the heating up.
I want chocolate - Immediately go to cupboard and choose from various bars from Green & Black's to Cadbury's.
I want fresh raspberries, even though they're not in season - Go to Waitrose and buy some. Actually I'm not too bad with this as I'm aware of eating seasonally but I do still do it sometimes!
You get where I'm going with this...

I was an avid list maker. A bit OCD at list making truth be told and I had to go cold turkey on that one. But planning is what I've had a lot of time to do over the last few weeks and for a little while (probably a month) we're going to trial a new housekeeping system to see if...

1. We can get organised in the pantry, fridge and freezer and stop being so wasteful.
2. We can meal plan and stick to it, to help keep us on track.
3. I can stop going to Waitrose and over filling the trolley with things which we dont always use.
4. I can make do with a once a month home delivery from a supermarket.
5. and this is the big one - I really want to see if we can reduce our 'keeping house' budget. Actually, let me re-phrase that - introduce a budget, as until now there hasn't been one. I want to see if I can feed all of us for £70.00 a week. That's all meals - breakfast, lunch, packed lunch and dinner. To some people that may seem like a lot of money, to others it will seem like peanuts. Based on looking through old receipts, I'm shocked to see that we often spend at least double that a week.

EDIT: I just checked the currency converter to work out how much it equates to in other countries, for our average weekly spend. So for £140.00 it's approx - US$275.00, CAN$284.00, AUS$314.00 and Euros 188.00 AND WE WANT TO SPEND HALF THAT. How does that fare with you?

Until we try it I might be being totally unrealistic but it's worth a shot. So, I'm not saying this will be easy, I'm not saying that I'll be able to stick to it but I want to atleast try and I know that if I've written it here it will motivate me to do it. All this and still keep up with our Kitchen Travels, which I'm thinking Thailand next.... AND EAT ORGANIC and LOCAL where possible - I sure know how to challenge myself.

To help with the planning I'm going to start with the veg box delivery. This weekend I will look on-line to see what's going to be delivered the following week and then meal plan. Making a shopping list of all the other ingredients needed. Trying where possible to avoid the need to visit a supermarket. Now the start is easy as the cupboards are full - they need to be re-organised but they're full! Wait until there's no chipotle paste, Lingham's chilli sauce, or my cheating ingredients or worse still, no chocolate! EDIT: Now starting to worry, panic, get heart palpitations!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Images of our favourite things in the Little Foodies Kitchen Today

The Garlic and Star hanging on the Housekeepers Cupboard

The Kitchen Wardrobe

The chillies, grown in our own garden this year.

The hanging wall unit, bagged on e-bay for £20.00,
which houses a few of our lovely white things (and a touch of blue).

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Tatooine Trifle and Jango Fetta Pies

Tatooine Trifle
(This is a cheat's trifle, very quick to make, takes minutes, and one the boys said they'd like again if they want a proper dessert and we don't have anything.)
Bought Trifle Sponges
Seedless Raspberry Jam, or whichever jam you choose.
Hot Water
Ambrosia Custard
Double Cream

It's up to you how much you want of everything in each layer.
Assemble everything you're going to need first.
In a bowl mix 2 parts jam to 1 part boiling hot water, mix together until it loosens the jam and gives a nice syrupy like sauce.
In a separate bowl whisk together equal parts mascarpone and cream.
Cut the corner of the carton of custard or open the tin.
Take sponges out of packet.

Put one layer of sponge in the bottom of a glass, pour over the jam mix, pour on custard, then pour on cream and mascarpone mix. That's it! Not a patch on trifle made with jelly, sherry and fruit but it's sweet and hits the spot if needed and it takes less than 5 minutes to make!

Jango Fetta Pies (makes 24 mini pies)
Approx 1/2 packet of Filo Pastry
Approx 100g Feta Cheese
1 medium organic freerange Egg, beaten
Half cup Double Cream
Approx 75 g Soft Cream Cheese (we used Philadelphia chives)

In a bowl mash the feta cheese, then mix in the cream cheese, add the beaten egg and cream and mix it all together.
Lightly oil your muffin tin and place approx 2 sheets of file pastry in each hole. Depending on what size your filo pastry, you may need to cut it to size. (To get an even size we cut ours to approx 6cm by 6cm by slicing through a neat stack of filo).
Then fill the filo pastry with the creamy feta cheese and egg mixture.
Bake in the oven, 175C for approximately 12 minutes.

Note: If you have any spray oil then spray over the pastry before adding the mixture, we use one that's available from Lakeland which you put your own oil into. Much better than using things like onecal and the like which I'm sure have chemicals in them. Also we made these in a mini muffin pan, it made 24.

Tomorrow in the lunch boxes I will drizzle them with some sauce, I'm not sure what yet, probably Linghams mixed with some tomato ketchup.

...and for now I'm done with Star Wars food, though at some point the Yoda's Yorkie Puds filled with Han Solo Stuffing and Padme's Pea Puree and Galaxy Gravy will be made..

Today I will post something cheerful like Tatooine Trifle

Okay, apologies, need to reduce the meds - big time, I'm spouting all sorts of stuff. I'm in danger of pulling you down faster than quick sand.... I forget sometimes that a couple of people actually read this blog. So on to something cheerful....

Tatooine Trifle - coming later...

Monday, 14 January 2008

Feeling sentimental

...possibly overly so. Today we have lots of very ripe bananas that need using up, but I don't think it was that... We also have some dulce de leche to be used up. Such a sorry state of affairs I know. I was searching the internet for cakes or puddings and then I remembered Nan's Banana & Honey Tea Bread. I wondered if the honey could be replaced with toffee sauce. So whilst I write this post for Apples and Thyme my new version of this gorgeous tea bread is in the oven. Of course I know it wont be a patch on the original recipe but you work with what you've got, right.

Apples and Thyme is a great event, celebrating time in the kitchen with mothers and grandmothers. Started by the lovely Inge of Vanielje Kitchen and Jeni of The Passionate Palate. Both blogs well worth checking out. I visit Vanielje Kitchen often, for the fabulous crockery and the images portrayed of an Africa where I'd love to be on this cold January day in England. That of course and the writing, sometimes funny, sometimes bittersweet, always worth a read though.

On Friday I went for physio and acupuncture at the hospital in our nearby town. It's not big, more of a cottage hospital and doesn't have an A & E deparment. It does however have a very good physio department, and a re-habilitation ward. I was stupidly excited to be going and not because the thought of being pulled around or having needles stuck in me was thrilling. It was because the evening before Nan had been moved there to the re-hab ward. I hadn't seen her since before Christmas when she'd been stuck in a large bug infested hospital miles away.

It wasn't visiting hours but after my treatment I went to the ward and asked if I would be permitted to see her. I could see her while I asked and if they'd said no I think I'd have cried. They said yes and as I walked up to her looking like a cowboy pigeon my heart felt heavy and light all at the same time. I can't tell you how good it was to see her. We chatted for a while, no talk of blue mice and though she's lost weight and seems weak, she's Nan, same old Nan and I just hope that she will soon be able to return to her own home and kitty cat. On a funnier note - her hair was shocking! I've since spoken to her hairdresser and asked if someone can visit her in hospital to try and sort it out. Nan's hairdresser is lovely, she's also very fond of my Nan, as are a lot of people.

As a child I found my Nan embarrassing sometimes. She always had an opinion, still does and doesn't often think to stop before expressing her opinions! Now of course I like that, wishing I could do the same without feeling guitly every time I do. She carried on working into her Seventies and still talks of the old people, often when they're younger than her. She's done some cool things in her time, from jobs that include: social work, being the warden of a home for 'naughty' children (not sure what the politically correct term would be now) to various other things. She even campaigned a few years ago for a skateboard park for the youngsters as she didn't feel there was enough for them to do to keep them off the streets.

At a time when she was nearing (official) retirement age and should have been thinking about herself and taking it easy, she took on her son, with an alcohol problem and his daughter, me. I was 8 years old at the time. Lots of personal reasons for this that don't need to be aired right now. It was an incredibly selfless thing to do. I never once felt different to my peers, this is all thanks to Nan. Don't get me wrong and let me depict her as a Saint here, we've had our moments. She can be bossy, nosey, interfere when she shouldn't and can be so overly opinionated you could scream (I know, I've done it!) but none of that matters because when you need her the most she's there, whether you're family, or a friend, or a stranger on the street.

Now then.. in the kitchen, she was an old fashioned cook. Boiled the veg until it tasted of nothing and didn't have a vitamin or nutrient left in it. The water that it was boiled in however... She did though allow me to experiment. I was given the freedom in the kitchen to gain confidence and here, she didn't interfere at all. I used to make all sorts of concoctions, earning me the name of Chemist in the Kitchen.

She could bake though and her Banana and Honey Tea Bread which I wrote about is seriously good. Having read through that post again I realise why I'm feeling so sentimental, it's because my Nan is now old, and she'd been in hospital more than once in the last 12 months. It's because I can see the end, almost touch it, and that makes me sad but I also thank my lucky stars that she found it within her to nurture me and help me grow into the adult I am now.

Sorry, I didn't mean to get so carried away. Anybody know any good jokes? Laughter, has always been very important to me and if you can just conjure up an old lady, sitting, poker straight back, no teeth in, very thin fine hair that's poker straight too and sticking out at all angles. This isn't a sad image. It's the image of a lady who has lived a very full life. She's the lady who'll give you the eyeball with a smile hiding on her face when you've been naughty or done something wrong. She's the lady who makes a damn fine trifle to be served on New Years Day who doesn't pulverise the grandaughter who returns in the early hours of the morning on New Years Eve with her best friend (both slightly the worse for a drink or two) to tuck into the delicious trifle. What did she do? We got the eyeball, a slight telling off, putting it mildly, and she made another one. Resourceful...

For the recipe for Banana and Toffee (dulce de leche) Bread, follow as per the Banana & Honey Tea Bread, replacing the honey with dulce de leche or other soft toffee sauce. It's still cooking but we'll let you know how it turns out.

Edit: The banana and toffee bread (pictured above, we always try to make in a heart shape) is absolutely gorgeous. So much so we've eaten half of it already, it was still warm while we 'tried' it. The taste of banana is really strong and you probably wouldn't be able to detect the extra taste as toffee but it gives it a wonderfully warm flavour. Really good!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Skulking, yet more Star Wars Food & a little Competition

We're going to make some muffins with the Galactic Ginger Jam, aka Orange & Ginger Marmalade (seen below). The little competition - we'd like your Star Wars theme ideas for a name please.
To enter leave a comment with your suggestion for the name of the muffins. If we pick your name as the winner you could win a little prize. This is just for a bit of fun and the prize is not going to make your day, or even your year, but it could put a smile on your face. Ideas please by the end of the month. That's midnight GMT on Thursday 31st January 2008.
The name should have a Star Wars theme and is for Orange and Ginger Marmalade Muffins, using our Galactic Ginger Jam.
Rules can be changed at the last moment and judges say is final... etc... etc...

Now on to some more Star Wars food... I can assure you that somebody was harmed and feelings were bruised in the making of one of the following...

Ewok Eggs (to serve 4 for lunch)
4 large organic freerange eggs
Large handful of chopped spring onions/salad onions
1/4 cup of double cream
salt and pepper to season
Tablespoon of oil

In a bowl whisk the eggs, double cream, add salt and pepper to season.
Heat oil in a frying pan. Add the chopped spring onions, fry lightly until softened. Add the egg mixture and cook on a low heat. Give it a stir every 30 seconds or so and cook until you think the eggs are ready. Some people like their eggs runny, some firm. I overcooked ours today - by a long way!

Ewoked Savoy Cabbage with Han Solo Jamon and Galactic Ginger Jam Sauce
Half a large savoy cabbage, finely sliced
Spanish Jamon (we used this Jamón Iberico de Bellota) rough pieces about 1cm in diameter
Tablespoon of Galactic Ginger Jam - You could always use orange marmalade & grated fresh ginger.
Tablespoon of Teriyaki Sauce
Tablespoon of Olive Oil

Heat olive oil in a wok (or ewok as we now call it). Add Jamon, cook for 2 minutes then add savoy cabbage, cook for 2 minutes. Shake it around the pan then add the Galactic Ginger Jam and Teriyaki Sauce. Cook for further couple of minutes. You might want to add a tablespoon of hot water if you think it needs it.

A bowl of Galactic Ginger Jam
as I wasn't organised with enough clean and sterlised jam jars when I made it!

While cutting the jamon off the bone I cut my hand. After crashing about and shouting at husband that he should have cut the stupid stuff, I cleaned it, sprayed it with Savlon and covered it with a plaster (a blue one so I could feel like a real cook!). I will at some point apologise to Hubs but for now I'm skulking, (not sulking). I also burned the eggs and had to scrape off the top so that nobody had to eat the burnt bits. Poor Hubs, poor children!

Anyway, changes are afoot in the Little Foodies household, more of which next week.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

More Star Wars Food

Sorry, promised these yesterday. I don't know who I was trying to kid when I thought I could get right back into cooking every day. Worse still that I'd be absolutely fine without help. I think I'll blame it on all the drugs (prescription ones!) either that or I was some kind of martyr in a previous life, an heroic one obviously! Thankfully, these were made before my back told me that the Jedi High Council needed a recess!

I haven't gone over the top about making things look like Star Wars characters. I hope nobody is disappointed, it's just that I don't want to be dressing food up everyday just so my children will eat it. Once in a while is fun but
with this I wanted to get their imaginations fired up by talking and debating about what names to give the food. Besides I'm not Annabel Karmel. Not that there's anything wrong with AK, I've got two of her books - I've got a lot of books!!

Chewie's Chocolate Chestnut Cakes
I've lost the piece of paper that I wrote everything down on as I made these... I'll find it and post at some point.. from memory I think it went like this. Working on the old 4,4,4,2 theory but scaling it up and adding more solids to make up for the addition of chestnut puree.
3 eggs
butter 5 oz
sugar 6oz
flour 6oz
cocoa powder 2oz
3/4 of a tin of chestnut puree

These need work, they're almost brownie like in texture. Some seemed to burst open while cooking, see picture, very space crater like, but they still taste VERY good!

Chewbacca's Chicken and Cous Cous (Served a family of 4 twice)
12 chicken thighs
1 very large onion, peeled and diced
1 carton of chestnut mushrooms
handful of small brussel sprouts (the last ones from the garden)
4 very large carrots, peeled and cut into large(ish) chunks
2 pints of water
1/4 bottle of sweet sherry
Very big drizzle of liquid chicken stock
Salt and Pepper to season

What follows, isn't really a method, it could even be considered quite poor form by those who love cooking, including myself. However, those who read regularly know that things are not normal around here at the moment, so Hubs decided to make this and when looking exhausted he asked if he should brown the onions and chicken first I said "No, prepare it all, throw it in the big Le Creuset pan and then heat it on the hob and see what happens, we can have it with couscous and who cares, at least it will be food..." After I'd said this I did wonder if I'd taken leave of my senses, quite possible, you try taking diclofenac, dihydrocodeine and diazapam and fire on all cylinders. Anyway, IT WAS FANTASTIC! So, out of the window goes the long and laborious ways of cooking. From now on it will be a quick prep session, all in the pan, heat on, cook for an hour or so and wham, bam, thank you Mam! Tasty dinner, hardly any work, feet up, where's the gin?

Thank you to everybody for all your kind comments, best wishes and e-mails about my back. To update: I'm having physio today. It still hurts like **** and I'm walking like John Wayne, but the pigeon version! A sight for sore eyes, I know it! Still waiting for the date to see consultant (NHS I'm afraid. I gave up my private medical insurance thinking it was a waste of money, that I was invincible and wouldn't need it! Kicking myself about that now!). Thanks again. xx

Monday, 7 January 2008

Star Wars Food

Not that long ago in a galaxy quite near, there has been some serious eating going on.

Naboo Nuggets (to serve 2 small Storm Troopers)4 chicken thighs (organic and free range if possible)
Handful of Cheerios (the breakfast cereal)
Handful of Plain Flour
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to season
1 Egg, lightly beaten in a small bowl
Tablespoon of Oil

Cut the thighs into pieces, about 2cm chunks
In a freezer bag add the flour and cheerios, seal the bag, cover with a tea towel and then bash with a rolling pin until the Cheerios are smashed to fine breadcrumb size.
Dip the chicken pieces in the egg and then add to the bag of flour/cheerio mix.
Jiggle it around to coat the chicken
Heat the oil in a frying pan and then add the coated chicken pieces. Fry gently, turning occasionally for about 10 minutes until golden and cooked through.

Galactic Ginger Jam
otherwise known as...
Cheat's Orange & Ginger Marmalade.
1 Tin of Hartley's Ma Made thin cut Seville Oranges
1 x 350g Jar of Stem Ginger in Syrup (I used Waitrose Chinese Stem Ginger in Syrup)
3/4 pint of water
4lbs /1.8kg Sugar

You basically follow the instructions on the side of the can but you add a jar of stem ginger too, to make it orange and ginger.
Empty contents of tin into a large heavy based saucepan. Add 3/4 pint water and jar or stem ginger. Stir in all of the sugar and heat until boiling, stirring continuously. Then reduce heat but maintain a gentle boil for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a knob of butter half way through to disperse the foam. Test for setting - remove from heat, put 1/2 teaspoon of marmalade onto a cold saucer, put in a cool place. After 2 minutes draw your finger over the surface if it wrinkles, it's ready. If not boil again for a few minutes and test again. When it's ready, let it stand for a little while before pouring into warmed sterilised jars.

This makes a lot of marmalade/jam and is so much easier for the lazy bird with a bad back who could not even give head space to preparing the oranges to make from scratch. It half killed me just stirring the stuff - oh woe is me!

We've also made Chewie's Chocolate and Chestnut Cakes, these were a bit of an experiment using up some tinned chestnut puree I had. They worked, I'd go as far as to say they tasted delicious but possibly need a little tweaking. Also Chewbacca's Chicken and Cous Cous, Hubby made this. Will post recipes and pics tomorrow, along with some more Star Wars Food.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Star Wars Food

We've come up with all sorts of ideas for the Star Wars Food. So much that I think we'll have a whole week of it before heading off to another country. (Forgive us the indulgence we did sort of miss out on a full blow out Christmas).

Our Empire Eaterie we will have all sorts of Tatooine Treats. Not convinced we'll be making all of these but we'll give it a go...

Galactic Ginger Jam
Ewok Eggs
Padme Amidala's Apple Puff Pies
Jango Fetta Pies
Chewbacca's Chicken and Cous Cous
Chewie's Chocolate Cakes
Yoda's Yogurt Cake
Tatooine Trifle
Hoth Hash or Hoth Hot Pot
Naboo Nuggets
Storm Trooper Souper
Boba Fett Berry Breakfast
Luke's Lentils with Han Solo Jamon
Galaxy Granola
Vader Veg Pizza
Bounty Hunter Brunch
Obi Oat Cakes
Dark Side Sundaes
Jedi Juice

and my favourite of all ... Yoda's Yorkie Puds with Han Solo Stuffing, Padme's Pea Puree and Galactic Gravy...

Back later with what we make today... We're still in discussions as to what will take priority. It's like the Jedi High Counsel no less.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Little Foodies, Star Wars & Jedi School

Little is a huge Star Wars fan and has gone to great lengths to ensure that Small is able to keep up with him on all things Star Wars. It's not really that great hearing a three year old say things like "Don't make me destroy you." So I was pleasantly surprised when it came to writing Christms Lists and Little said he had enough Star Wars things now. Shame really as there was still a present wrapped up from the year before, put to one side on the big day and forgotten about as we thought they had far too much. Present rationing, sometimes a necessity, especially when you have a family that give literally tons of presents to your children. The picture below doesn't show all of the presents for the children under the tree this Christmas.

Father Christmas is a canny old chap and his best gift this year had to be the dinosaur excavation kits. Things that looked like big eggs. You chip away at the clay/plaster for hours and eventually you get to a dinosaur or dinosaur bones or even a dinosaur nest. Ours were purchased from Hawkin's Bazaar which is one of my favourite toy shops. I could spend hours in there!

Anyway this was meant to be about Star Wars. Today Little went on a little big adventure to London with Daddy. They went on the train and while there they visited...

Little attended Jedi School - of this he is most proud! Hubby said it was really good but possibly you have to be a bit of a geek to really enjoy it. They also went on the London Eye.

Small was too small to go, or so we thought so he was taken out and had a few little treats of his own. As he missed out I've decided that tomorrow we will have a Star Wars themed feast so I'm off to put my thinking cap on and come up with some tasty Tatooine Treats. I'll post what I come up with tomorrow, possibly.


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