Friday, 17 August 2012

Frozen chocolate banana's

I have a new food obsession, again....
These frozen chocolate banana's are too die for, honestly, I can't describe how delicious they are (providing you like chocolate and bananas?!)
I was inspired to make some after finding them on this blog 'Smile and wave' and I couldn't wait to give them a go :) Scott absolutely hates banana's so unfortunately these weren't to his taste, but if your a banana freak like me then I can guarantee you will think these are awesome! They are also dead easy to make (a little messy) and use a lot of the ingredients I used for my Dipped chocolate ice cream cones recipe!
What you will need:
Banana's (3-4 ripe ones)
lolly pop sticks/ cake pop sticks
200g milk, dark or white chocolate
nuts, sprinkles, m&m's, marshmallows, dessicated coconut etc
Divide you banana's into three parts per banana, roughly 3 inches each.
Now insert your lolly pop stick about 3/4 of the way up each banana.
Lay your banana's on a sheet of baking tray paper, and freeze for 2-3 hours (or overnight).

Melt your chocolate ( I use the hot water and stove method) until fully melted. Set aside for a minute or too to almost cool. While waiting you can start chopping nuts , or making small  piles of toppings.

Now there are two ways for the next step, you can either dunk the bananas into the chocolate, and then into the toppings, or you can spoon the chocolate on and then sprinkle to toppings over that way. I have to say either way is quite messy, but I preferred spooning the chocolate on.

Now place back onto the baking tray paper and freeze for about 20 minutes, or until the chocolate has set. And that's it! 
 This picture makes me giggle, it reminds me of Stonehenge almost?!

 I prefer the chopped coconut and dark chocolate version :)
 Here is a sneak peak of the chopping board I used to add the toppings with - As you can see  I'm a messy cook, but these were well worth the spilt chocolate for!

Chocolate dipped ice cream cones

Once again family meal night has been around, and last night I made these pretty little cones for dessert! They are the perfect thing for a quick effortless pudding, for children or sunny days outside! Adding your own chocolate and toppings changes the store bought cones into a more personal pudding that can then pass as you 'making' the dessert ;)
We had them after our main meal which was roasted sausages, tomatoes, red onions and swede. My Grandma wasn't here this week as she was at a writing course in Swanick with her friend, so it was my parents Scott , Grandad and I.

Ice cream cones - I would have preferred the thicker wafer cones, but our local supermarket only had these cheapies, but they were still lovely too (and only 15 calories each??!)
milk, white or dark chocolate. - I used milk but any variety would have worked well.
A large handful of nuts - I used Pistachio's and whole Almonds
chocolate or candy sprinkles
(Or any topping of your choice - marshmallows, dolly mixtures, seeds etc)

Melt you chocolate in your desired way, I always prefer to melt it over hot water, but the microwave works well too.
Chop your nuts and place them in piles on a chopping board or clean surface. I would advise you chop them quite well, as initially i tried to leave them quite large, but after trying to put them on the cone the heavier pieces fell off. 

Roll (or spoon) the chocolate onto the top of your cone, you could also add a little bit to the bottom of the cones (inside) like Cornetto's do, I always feel a little disappointed if their is no chocolate at the bottom of my cone, but this bit is up too you!

Get read a large try, or one that will fit in the fridge/freezer. 
Now for the fun bit - Roll your cone with the melted chocolate into your piles of goodies. For my last cone I used a mixture of everything, but the one that were either just pistachio, almonds or sprinkles looked better. 

Place them in the freezer or fridge for a few minutes after adding the toppings so that they set and the sprinkles don't fall off! - And that's it!! Now your ready to add ice cream, we had Cornish clotted cream ice cream which is so yummy. 

The only problem was carrying them too the table as they were all top heavy! But if everyone takes them as soon as they are ready then there shouldn't be a problem! :) 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Instagram Diary

Here are a few snaps from instagram over the last few weeks:

Scott and I went to Manchester for a night when he got back from the Olympics, we ate wonderful food at The Tampopo (One of my new favourite places to eat) and Yo sushi.

We shared a platter with lots of tasty dishes from the menu, then followed by a seared rare steak salad, more Goyza (pork dumplings) a diet coke and ginger beer for me, and a tiger beer for Scott. The tiger beer bottles are so lovely, and they always make me wish I liked beer more... but sadly it is something that has never appealed to me. 

While Scott was at the Olympics I went to an art gallery in LLandudno with my mum (Mostyn gallery) where they had these incredible polystyrene objects that looked like rocks, and were the result of what had been washed up on a beach and been weathered down to the size and shapes of rocks - they were really impressive.
I spent a lot of time with Alfred my kitten/Cat, and finally was reunited with Scott in Manchester :)

We went to a Chinese supermarket in China town, which I was in love with! They had such awesome food packaging, and odd little treats that I wanted to sample, but what intrigued me the most was the little shrine they had in the supermarket?! It was really pretty with little fairy lights and ornate details ( I like tacky kitsch things so this was right up my street) 
We made chocolate fairy cakes, and American style waffles with ice cream and chocolate sauce for the tearoom, and lastly took my nephew Rhun to the circus that came to town. Sadly I wasn't allowed to take pictures, only this sneaky one of Rhun holding the gigantic snake.

Here are a few shots Scott took at the Olympic opening ceremony - The lucky thing!!
A Welsh Rarebit 9Posh Cheese on toast) at the Sugar Plum Tearoom, and Me doing a spot of shopping at Selfridge's.
I love instagram, with most phone apps i get bored and move onto something new, but Instagrams is still holding my attention, I particularly like the 'Waldon' effect which adds a slight blue tinge to my photo's.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Tin Bag DIY

I love tins. My mum has always had an unhealthy obsession with vintage tins, and I think it has well and truly rubbed off on me too....
I particularly like old food tins from iconic brands like Heinz, where the paint has chipped and is peeling but is so beautiful :) I do also like a few new tins, such as the tin in this DIY.
I use tins to hold pens, paint, hair clips etc, and even just as decoration on shelves in my house.
Here I decided to utilise this pretty Cath Kidston tin from Homewoodbound collections and make it into a cute but functional bag to carry little bits and pieces in. I've always chosen and worn shoulder bags with longer straps as I find handbags quite irritating as I don''t like to have to hold things when I'm out and about (probably because I'm too busy photographing slugs and eating) and with shoulder bags your free to manoeuvre freely, or as freely as possible at least.

What you will need:
1 Tin of your choice, a suitable size for a bag/purse
two large jump rings (I cut mine from an old nag I no longer wanted)
A strap - either a tape measure like mine, a leather strap (you could use and old belt), material, or chain
A sewing machine
Drill, with a drill bit 1 mm larger than your jump ring (mine was 5 mm)

1. To make your strap, you need to measure how long you want it to be. I like quite a long strap so that the bag sits on my hips, but this is your own decision. My strap was 57inch. You need to measure 4 cm extra for seam allowance. Once you have measured your desired strap, you will need to thread each end through the metal jump ring, fold it over, and using your sewing machine fasten the ends down, just like the picture below.

2. This is where you made need some help - Scott is really good at things like this, so he drilled the holes and attached the rings for me, but know I know what to do - I can safely say it is actually quite simple to do!

3.You need to make the holes in your tin, as shown below. You will need four holes, two at each side of your tin, on the sides of your tin that are near to the lid. 
To determine where the holes will be, you need to hold your jump rings next to your tin, and measure the points it will need to be (This is easier if you open the lid and visualise the jump rings by holding them above)

Be careful when drilling! As you obviously don't want to drill through any body parts....
4. You can now attach the jump rings as shown below. I used pliers to open the rings, then threaded them through the holes, before closing them up again with the pliers. Don't worry if the ends don't meet perfectly, you may have to cross them over to keep them in place (This happened to mine)But you won't see it as the joint is inside the bag.

And that is it! I'm thinking of trying out some more tins now I've mastered this one, so I'll keep you posted on my progress.  You may want to add a fastening yo your bag if it isn't secure enough, I'm sure a simple latch/clip would hold it in place, so maybe on my next go I will post a little 'HOW TOO' of that as well :)
P.s Thanks again to Scott for helping with this one :).. He secretly loved being manly and using the drills etc.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Family meal night - Platter

For this week's family meal night I wanted to make something light and summary, as we have had quite sunny weather for the last few days. I started with this platter, consisting of prawns, smoked salami, Thai crispy thin crackers, soft goats cheese, cheddar cheese and chutney. We had had grilled mackerel and salad, with a few a crusty baguette and a few chips. 

I made tiny parcels of prawns (in a Marie rose sauce) in a small Romaine lettuce leaf topped with half a cherry tomato and a few coriander leaves. They were perfect! So simple and really tasty -
Prawn Sauce
2-3 tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
Big squeeze of lemon
A dash of Tabasco
Salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together, add the prawns and chill until ready to serve.
It was such a simple tea but full of flavour, and fun for once to mix and match little bits and pieces opposed to having one main dish. I still think it was such a brilliant idea to start family meal night (usually on a Thursday) as it brings the whole family together and encourages me to try all sorts of new foods. I haven't repeated the same dish twice, and always make sure we have home-made dessert of some description :)
We had the Panna Cotta from one of the below posts for pudding, which really finished the meal off perfectly. I recommend if you can find the time, to dedicate one night a week to trying new foods and making a bigger effort to cook a full meal , either for yourself, family or friends, as it is truly satisfying and a fun way of trying new ingredients!

Vanilla Panna Cotta

 Sometimes I make things that I intend to blog about - but I forget to take pictures......
This is one of those examples where I made panna cotta for family meal night, spent a long time researching how to make it, and making some myself, then enjoying it with my family, and then I realised DAMN!!! I forgot to document the actual thing!!!! 
So I apologise for the lack of pictures in this post, but I felt this one was a recipe worth sharing, because it was so delicious and creamy, and I also like the end picture with the vanilla seeds and bits of blueberry compote (below)
I decided to make panna cotta after I had some from the Italian restaurant 'Con amici' in Denbigh, which is actually really lovely. I went there with my grandparents for a meal and was pleasantly surprised - I had caprese salad from starters, seared tuna for mains, followed by rum and honey panna cotta. The tuna was actually perfect, and we all really enjoyed out meal. The decor leaves a little to be desired, but the food quality more than made up for that :)
Also Scott brought me back these lovely vintage jelly moulds from London, so I thought the perfect thing to do would be to make panna cotta in them....

Vanilla Panna Cotta with blueberry compote:
(recipe adapted from waitrose online)

Four leaves of gelatin
560ml double cream
200ml semi skimmed milk
180g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 small punnet blueberries
1 desert spoon balsamic vinegar
1tablespoon water
2 table spoons caster sugar (or to your own tastes)

Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for at least 4-5 minutes.
Place the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla seeds in a pan with a heavy base. Slowly bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. 
Remove from the heat then take the gelatin leaves one by one, squeeze out the excess water and stir into the cream mixture until dissolved.
Divide the panna cotta mixture between the jelly moulds . Cool and then chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours until set.
Add all your compote ingredients into a heavy based pan, and cook until almost all the blueberries have burst. Set aside and leave to cool until the panna cotta's are ready.
To serve, dip the moulds one at a time into hot water for 10 seconds, then turn out onto plates.
 Spoon over the compote and decorate with fresh raspberries.
So I do apologise about the missing pictures, but you will have to take my word on this one - Panna cotta's (especially vanilla) are wonderful.

Pond life

 Just a few little snaps of the frogs that have been in and around the pond this summer! I still don't know/ ever will know if these are the frogs from my frog spawn last year, or new frogs that have found their way to my pond form other means, but anyhow - there are fully grown big frogs in my pond!!!! This excites me way to much i think, but I love knowing that i've managed to make an environment ( I built the pond and planted the trees and bushes around it two summers ago) that actually sustains frog and newt wildlife- I'm feeling pretty nerdy now but I cant express how chuffed I get when I find them hopping around.
This little fella was really lively and wasn't a big fan of having his photo taken so I only snapped a couple before putting him back in the pond. I am already hoping that next year might be the year I have actual frogspawn laid in my pond (opposed to getting it from other ponds) but fingers crossed....
 I love this tree/plant that I planted near the pond. It has such a vibrant pink colour, and has literally tripled it's size since I first had it. It's also really good for bees as they like the pollen from the flowers, so bonus points for that too.
This is only a short post but I just like updating the ponds progress with you all, and how the froglets are getting along :)

Spagetti & meatballs with spinach

 Pasta is quite possibly the biggest life saver in most peoples kitchens! 

It can be delicious when cooked slowly with time and patience, or when whipped up quickly when your in need of something tasty FAST. 
My standard meal of choice when I'm really too busy to cook is spicy tomato and basil pasta (very simple and ready in 15 mins) but it can be adapted in so many ways to make it that little bit more interesting when you have a little more time.
Here I made spaghetti with the usual pasta sauce, but with the addition of meatballs and spinach (which was really yummy).
I usually make tea for my family and or Scott, but this night I was home alone, Scott was busy, my parents were out and I fancied a little feast for myself - so this is what I had...

Spaghetti & meatballs with spinach: ( Makes 2 servings)
Handful of spinach
Spaghetti (enough for two people)
1 Tin chopped tomatoes
Meatballs (mine were from Lidl)
Salt and pepper
Chili flakes
handful basil leaves

Place the meatballs into a heavy based frying pan. I would usually add olive oil to my tomato and basil sauce, but there is enough fat from the meatballs so you don't need too here.
Fry/saute the meatballs until cooked (about 8-10 mins). Now add your tin of chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, and chili flakes ( These are optional). Cook for another 4 - 5 mins or until some of the water from the tomatoes has evaporated, and then add your handful of spinach. Taste and check the seasoning, add your fresh basil leaves and that's it!!!  
I would usually have grated  Parmesan with my pasta, but if we don't have any I also like good old fashioned British cheddar! 

 I like to add a handful of spinach to most pasta/chili dishes as I also feel a little healthier when I see the vibrant green colour! It's an ingredient I always buy form the supermarket as I know I can always sneak it into things for the added iron without really noticing the flavour.

My standard tomato and basil recipe is even simpler :
Tin chopped tomatoes (or plum tomatoes)
olive oil
basil leaves
salt & pepper

Then you can add things like chili flakes, anchovies, olives, smoked paprika, left over chicken , anything that takes your fancy! This simple recipe is actually my life saver and always leaves me feeling like I've eaten well even though its so easy!

Happy pasta eating :)