Category Archives: I love to cook

It Takes five (ingredients that is)

I love cooking and baking and although not trying out too many recipes from my vast book collection, my love of food is still there. I am probably still a person who is a traditionalist with her meat and vegetable meals but have made Mondays a meat free day. I have to work hard on remembering this when making my sandwich for work.

Another thing I do tend to do is follow recipes very closely and rarely deviate from them. I’ve surprised myself recently by actually coming up with my own Monday night recipe. This one is quick and easy and contains just five ingredients; three of which are my favourite foods of the moment.

5 ingredients

The ingredients are (first three are my favourites):

  1. Cauldron Lincolnshire vegetarian sausages – I love sausages and wanted to find a vegetarian sausages. The reviews were very good for these and I can confirm that they are lovely. They do a few varieties and whilst normally I would go for a Cumberland, they are not as good as a Lincolnshire.
  2. Spinach – I just so love this. Why does it disintegrate so much!
  3. Goats cheese – Chris has raved about this for years but I’ve only just started enjoying it. My favourite cheese (other than cheddar) at the moment. I will still eat Camembert, Brie, Wensleydale with cranberry, etc!
  4. Baked potatoes – I forgot; I love potatoes in any form – mashed, roasted, chipped, baked and let’s not forget the plain boiled new potato.
  5. Peppers – any colour will do.
Colourful Dish

Tina’s method

  1. I allow 2 sausages per person and whilst I could fry this, I tend to stick these in the oven for 20 minutes whilst preparing the rest. The great thing about these sausages is that you can actually cook them from frozen so I don’t have to remember to get them out of the freezer.
  2.  I put the potatoes in the microwave allowing one per person.    Whilst these are cooking, I slice two peppers (any colour but red and yellow give a wonderful colour to the dish).
  3. Once the potatoes are cooked, (I always over cook but it still works) I slice each one into wedges. My lovely red pan is put onto heat with a squirt of oil. I add the potatoes to this and fry until turning a golden brown. Then add the peppers and continue frying for a few more minutes.
  4.  I then chop the cooked sausages up, add to the pan along with a bag of spinach and continue cooking until the spinach has wilted. It might look like a lot of spinach but it isn’t when this process has completed.
  5. Add the goats cheese and the dish is ready to be served. Once upon a time, I would have made sure Chris has the most of everything. I realise now that life is too short; I go for lots of goats cheese!
Tina’s Veggie Sausage and Goat Cheese Delight

New potatoes can be substituted for the baked potatoes.

The sausages are also great in a toad in the hole (another favourite dish).

Toad in the Hole

Hope you enjoy this dish.

It’s Hard Work But It’s Good For Me

Thursday was the big weigh in. After following normal weighing procedures (and yes I did try it three times!), I had lost 3 and a quarter pounds in 8 days. I don’t expect to see these results again but the first week of reducing calorie in take does result in a bigger loss. I have seen people lose a lot more than this but I was overjoyed with this.

This result was due to the fact that I cut down on all that extra rubbish I had been eating; crisps, chocolate biscuits, chocolate and all the food that I put in my mouth when I am cooking! I am still eating normal dinners; curry with onion bhajis (a weakness this week), homemade pizza (I will share this later) and a toad in the hole made with my favourite vegetarian sausages.

So, as I am doing this as part of a challenge on Rosemary Conley Online, I was so pleased to find myself 13th in the league table on Thursday. There is currently 164 people in the “lose a stone” category; they are so honest. They record their gains too!

I thought that as I was 13th (don’t expect to be that next week but I am still competitive) I would try to come up with 13 items that have helped me lose weight this week:

Pizza Trays
  1. Planning dinners – this helps a lot. As I knew what I was having for dinners, I wasn’t tempted to have a takeaway
  2. Cutting out on a biscuit with my tea at elevenses at work. I had my pot of grapes if I needed something
  3. Making lunch last. I did find that if I didn’t have grapes at 11 a.m., I did want my lunch at 12.30. When I am at work, lunch is always the same; sandwich and a yogurt. I try to make this last over 90 minutes. That way I don’t feel overfull either.
  4. Letting Chris cook me breakfast most mornings. Okay I have to ignore the fact that he puts butter in to the scrambled egg. Yes there is a slimmers version of scrambled egg but it is so delicious and most of the time I walk 2 miles to work!
  5. This is more of a Tina’s tip – on the first week of a new eating plan, don’t also be too ambitious with your exercise. I always think that on the first week, eating less can take a bit of getting use to so if you are adding lots of exercise that you normally wouldn’t do, you can feel quite drained.
  6. Doing the couch25k with Chris. So I have run 10 miles before but as I have had an injured foot, I haven’t been able to run. I have found that getting back into running hasn’t been so easy so starting at the beginning this week has been very good and having a running partner is a good incentive
  7. Telling family that you are going to be good in your eating. Okay,Kathryn did say that I am better when I am eating everything but she is encouraging too. I did try one piece of her Montezuma white chocolate bar;it was delicious but I didn’t have a second piece
  8. Not telling work colleagues. I do the tea run at 11 so they don’t need to know I’m not eating the biscuits! It is amazing the opinions of others on this subject so I find it best not to talk about eating habits.
  9. Sticking with my normal meals. I have had what I actually want to eat including my favourite food ever, chips! I do have oven chips served with my own healthy turkey burgers.
  10. Wearing clothes that make me feel good. I did admit defeat a few weeks ago and bought some work trousers in a size 12. I found some cheap trousers in Asda’s George range which look good too.
  11. Treating myself. How many times do I say I need a treat and it will be a bar of chocolate or a cake. This week I had a shellac manicure and really love seeing my lovely nails. Surprisingly if I bought chocolate or biscuits regularly it would be the same price as having my nails done so if I can keep off them, my nails will be done regularly. Another treat; a food one. I bought four individual pizza trays from Marks and Spencer’s. Maybe not a treat in other people’s books but I was so excited to find them. We did have a lovely pizza using them.
  12. Dancing to George Michael’s Fantasy helped me this week. I have always liked this song and now it has had a bit of a Nile Rodgers touch, I certainly enjoy dancing around to it.
  13. Staying positive and not letting any problems encountered make me reach for chocolate and crisps.
My nail treat

If I follow these again I am hoping that my next weigh in will be successful.

 

It only takes a minute girl!

Well I’ve been away from blogging for a while now. In fact, I have been avoiding a lot of things for a while. I’m not going to blame anything or anyone but myself for this negativity. I haven’t been idle for all this time and whilst one of the activities I have chosen to do can be attributed for this post, I have also started a Christmas stitch a long and am actually managing to keep up with it.

Christmas Stitch-a-Long

Last Tuesday evening, after finally accepting that I have a wardrobe of beautiful clothes that seem to have shrunk, I decided to visit Rosemary Conley online site. I have been a member for years and actually used the site to lose weight 5 years ago when I got down to my target weight. I had stayed within 7 lbs of this weight for quite a while. My love of cooking, which is an activity I have been doing a lot of recently along with my lack of exercise has contributed to a bit of excess flab around the waist.

50 and trim

Do we need diets? Well, I don’t think we necessarily do if we accept the reason we weigh a bit more (or a lot) than we should is the result of overeating and/or lack of exercise. There are medical exceptions to this; something I can’t put my weight gain to unfortunately. I think diets do give you a purpose to lose weight and whether you go alone in reaching your goal, or find other people to go along the journey with, they are certainly worth trying. It is important to learn how to eat correctly and the importance of exercise whilst doing it.

Which diet do you choose? I think you choose one that suits you. Personally, I do not like fad diets at all. All this do not eat after 7pm, this food group is not good for you or calorie counting is not what I’m all about. As for liquid diets; I would never go there. I still believe that is everyone’s choose though; just don’t try telling me I am wrong in my choice when you decide you are not going to eat bread!

So why have I been a member of Rosemary Conley? I have found her books and exercise DVDs very useful. The DVDs could be described as low impact but if you haven’t exercised for a long time, they are perfect. I love the music in them too although sometimes Steps can get on my nerves. The recipes in her diet books are brilliant; so much flavour and for someone who likes to cook homemade food, perfect. For my weight loss 5 years ago, whilst keeping an eye on what I ate, I did the Lifestyle Plan which wasn’t a diet as such but made me think about what I ate and gave me guides to aim for each week. The first week, I learnt to put a number on my rumbling tummy. I soon learned that my rumbling tummy did not mean I was hungry at 10 a.m. so my lunch could wait until lunchtime. Just following it meant I chose wisely when going out for a meal at a restaurant the day before my birthday, ate fish and chips on Brighton pier in the rain for my birthday and had a slice of homemade birthday cake. I still managed to lose 2lbs that week! On this plan, I gave up on a guilty pleasure, eating Pringles. Pringles were only something I bought at Christmas but once they were open, I had to eat them. I have been Pringles free for 5 years. Since then, I have given up on chocolates in tins; roses, quality street,celebrations. I would eat them without tasting and enjoying. This worked for me although it might not work for everyone.

On Tuesday, when I visited the website, I hadn’t stood on the scales for months. I had decided I didn’t want to be ruled by dieting. After cutting back on exercise but eating too much chocolate, crisps, biscuits and lots of homemade cakes (could you resist these?)

So yummy
A favourite
Do I need to say more!

I really needed to get back in to control. I just went to look at the diet plans and ended up signing up for their winter challenge; lose a stone in 8 weeks. I needed now to make the brave mood to weigh myself.

Wednesday morning, I woke to start the routine of weigh in. I am very particular on this routine. It has to be done first thing in the morning before any liquids or food passes through my lips. First of all, I like to be in the lightest clothes as possible; pyjamas are perfect for this. A visit to the bathroom is then necessary then I make my way to the kitchen. I weigh myself in this room because the floor is more level. I knew the result is not going to be good and I do the best of three. They are all the same; I have to lose a stone. Now I know, I feel a bit more motivated to try to lose it. I can do this one step at a time.

Evil numbers

First step is to give up eating in between and to stop picking at food whilst eating. A week later I have been okay with this. I have made Thursdays my weigh day so I will let you know if I have lost anything soon! Hopefully it will be a lighter me writing the next post.

What’s in the Box, the Cardboard Box?

My favourite time of the month is when I get my e-mail to say that my next baking box is on its way and what ingredients I need. This month’s e-mail came through on Friday 14 July. I needed to buy medium eggs, unsalted butter and double cream. I added the eggs and butter to my shopping order but decided against the cream. I could buy that when I decided to do the bake.

I didn’t have a clue what it would be. Most bakes need eggs and butter. Double cream didn’t help at all.

My box was delivered on the following Monday when I was in Cardiff for Kathryn’s graduation. After having a fantastic afternoon tea, I couldn’t even think about baking cakes. It really was a lovely tea, mini carrot cakes (I am going to find a recipe), apricot frangipani tarts (must make these too), milllionaire shortbread, macaroons, scones and welsh cakes (not to forget the sandwiches and lemon posset with raspberry coulis), I couldn’t think of eating anything for a couple of hours.

Graduation Afternoon Tea

I did open the box as soon as I got home, and maybe it was because I was still full by the lovely tea, but I didn’t get so excited by what I saw.

What’s in the Box?
Rocky Road Brownies Box

I think the reason I wasn’t so keen was because I have found the perfect brownie recipe. It is a Mary Berry recipe which I bake in my traybake tin; an all in one method with lots of cocoa powder and chocolate chips added. The cake has just the right amount of squidginess about it and is lovely served warm. When you find the right recipe, why change it? As for rocky road: never appealed to me at all. That said, I think the recipe is still brilliant and I think it comes at the right time. I belong to the Facebook group and a lot of the people there bake the boxes with their children. With summer holidays here, this is so ideal.

As I had both Jordan and Kathryn home at the weekend (my grown up children), I thought I would get this bake made. I decided to bake on Saturday and started early. The bake needed an 8 inch (20cm) tin. I had one of these. It is actually a freebie I got when buying lurpak butter a few years back. I got a great loaf tin on one of these offers too so they are really worth looking for. Oven on, tin prepared and I just had to measure out the butter. As well as the bagged ingredients, greaseproof paper and recipe, the boxes always include a butter measure and a skewer. Even though butter comes with a measure along the side, I still get out my trusty scales out to weigh and have never used the butter measure. I thought I would this time. I still had the scales and I don’t know why I should have been surprised to find that the measure was correct!

 

Now for what was in the bags. The first step was making the brownie mixture and there was three bags for this:

Bag 1 – caster sugar
Bag 2 – self raising flour and cocoa powder                                                        Bag 3 – dark chocolate chips


This process was very easy. I just needed to cream the soft butter together with the caster sugar. I opted for my wooden spoon and used a bit of muscle here. Next was to add bag 2 and 3 plus three eggs and mix until combined. As the recipe said pour the mixture into the tin I needed to get a good dropping consistency. My normal recipe is an all in one method so I normal use my food processor. I have got an electric hand whisk and think if I were to make this again, I would use this to get a quicker result. Recipe said that it would take 35 – 45 mins to bake and that the skewer should come out nearly clean as they should be gooey inside. I was satisfied with the cook after 50 minutes so I set about making the topping.

Cooked Brownie

I had the following bags for this:

Bag 4 – caster sugar
Bag 5 – marshmallows
Bag 6 – chocolate malt balls


First of all, I had to make a caramel sauce. This is something that I had done before when making eclairs and I had been quite successful. I had to heat the sugar on a low heat, stirring continuously until the sugar is smooth and light brown. Next step is to move from the heat and add double cream and unsalted butter. The sugar did not cook as smoothly as the last time as making them but I did carry on and managed to save enough caramel to pour over the cake. The pan did take a bit of scrubbing! Last steps were sprinkling with marshmallows and bashing up the malt balls before sprinkling on top too.

Very pleased with the result and 11.30 a.m. on a Saturday morning found myself and Jordan tucking into a slice. Well it was the weekend!

Can’t wait to find out what’s in the next box.

I Quite Like Mondays

Most of my meals have always consisted of some sort of meat. Breakfasts are sometimes a healthy cook up, lunch for ease will probably be a ham sandwich and there is always some sort of meat/poultry for my dinner. As a child I was never forced to eat vegetables and I was never so keen. All that green on my plate did not appeal to me. Pregnancy made me realise that I should eat more plus when I actually cooked my own,vegetables were cooked with a little more bite. Whilst I would still prefer meat to veg, I am certainly trying a lot more.

I have therefore decided to make Mondays, meat free Mondays. The last four weeks I have been having boiled eggs or porridge for breakfast, a cheese sandwich for lunch and then having meat free dinners. Looking through my books, it is amazing how most of the books main courses all have fish or meat in and the vegetable section is mainly accompaniments. All of the recipes I have made are from my Rosemary Conley books. We have had a spinach and ricotta cannelloni and a pizza which I was a bit heavy handed with the passata. This week I bought Cauldron Lincolnshire sausages, added peppers, new potatoes, spinach and goats cheese (my new favourite) and within no time I had cooked a very tasty dinner. These sausages will replace my normal pork sausages.

If you ask me what is my favourite food, I will have so much trouble answering and it does change year by year. Among my favourites are lasagne, bolognese, toad in the hole, stew (chicken with dumplings is a big favourite at the moment and so quick) and of course, roasts. I also have a thing about macaroni cheese. It was a dish that I made a lot when the children were small; tinned was never served in my house. Now macaroni cheese sounds like it’s vegetarian but no it wasn’t. The first one I made had bacon and mushrooms in and was delicious. The family macaroni cheese had cooked turkey in and was topped with breadcrumbs. A very filling meal. My cheese sauce was always made with butter and I used the traditional method; melting the butter, adding the flour to form a smooth glossy paste then adding milk gradually stirring all the time. This sauce was a favourite to make as a cauliflower cheese for roasts too. As I became more health conscience, I did find an all in method without butter and the use of cornflour. It took trying a few different recipes before I found the perfect one to make the consistency I wanted.

Rosemary Conley Books

I decided to try a new recipe from Rosemary Conley’s Ultimate Gi Jeans Diet, cider and leek macaroni cheese. I have to say that at first the idea of cider in my macaroni cheese did not appeal to me. With the exception of baby leeks and cider, everything else needed for the recipe where my normal “store cupboard” ingredients. The recipe actually said that preparation time was 10 minutes; with only baby leeks to finely chop, garlic to crush and cheese to grate, I actually did it in this time.

Preparation in any dishes really should be done before starting any cooking; I can sometimes fail here particularly if I am trying to hurry a dish. I am trying hard to get better at this. This sort of dish requires everything to be ready as it is one of those meals that need to be served straightaway. I started cooking the macaroni then started frying the leeks and garlic. Now here I think I chose the wrong cooking pan; my lovely red frying pan (well a saute pan but it is my favourite pan ever). It was perfect for frying the vegetables but I then had to make the sauce in the pan and I think it was the wrong size. The actual smell coming from the kitchen was delicious but the sauce didn’t thicken the way I would have liked it to. When assembling it together, I didn’t really feel it looked like a macaroni cheese so I was a bit disappointed serving it up.

Sauce cooking
Cider and leek macaroni cheese

Chris and Kathryn were very generous with their praise and it did taste very nice. I will cook again and try harder with the sauce.

With some cider left over, I was keen to try another dish with it in. I found a cider cake recipe from Paul Hollywood’s British Baking book and thought I would give it ago. I did look at the ingredients and feel that it sounded a bit bland. I also think that by the time I did bake it, the cider did go a little flat. I was intrigued with the science of the ingredients; the raising agent used was bicarbonate of soda and Paul explains that you need an acidic ingredient to activate it. In this case the cider does the job perfectly. My cake did turn out like the picture but it won’t be one that I will make again although I think if I had served it with hot custard, it would have been delicious.

British Baking
Cider Cake

 

As Macaroni cheese is one of my favourites, I think I will try a few more recipes out to find my perfect dish.

We Need The Perfect Tin But They Come In Different Sizes

Along the top shelf of my special corner, are books by very well known food writers plus a lot of Rosemary Conley books. I don’t think she would approve of Gary Rhodes and his little bit of butter, the amazing croissants and pastries, all using so much butter by Paul Hollywood but she might approve of some of the Jamie Oliver’s recipes. I do think that she would forgive me for my passion of books by Delia Smith and Mary Berry. I am trying very hard to do without diets for keeping trim and try to “keep everything in moderation”. Not working yet but there is hope.

I decided on Delia for the next recipe. My first book by her was my very tatty and well used Compete Cookery Course. Her first edition was published in 1978; my omnibus edition was published in 1983. I have used it for finding out so much; how to cook eggs, the most perfect roast potatoes ever (adapted now to be more healthy although mine were never that bad!), make a wonderful Christmas cake, perfect sauces to make her wonderful lasagne and her many macaroni cheese recipes, enjoying a lovely cottage pie with leek potatoes and not forgetting the leftover chicken curry which was always known in our house as the green curry. Not sure why!

In 1998, Delia was given a new TV series with her new (or maybe updated book for young cooks) and brought out Delia’s How To Cook Book One. Poor Delia come under fire by the likes of Gary Rhodes and my brother because she dedicated a section on cooking eggs. I actually think that this is one of the most important parts and was invaluable to me. I have revisited in the last few months and if you follow the instructions step by step, you will make the most wonderful boiled eggs and as for the scrambled eggs; delicious. Whilst I do my own version of the poached egg and omelette, I do plan to take some time to revisit these pages. I thought I would look through this particular book for the next recipe and found what Delia calls a low-fat moist carrot cake. Carrot cake is a great favourite when going out and I actually thought this would be one that would be one I try for my 50 recipes.

Delia’s How To Cook Book One

Carrot cake comes in so many different shapes, ingredients and icings so this won’t be the first recipe I try but I thought it was a good start. This recipe called for a cake tin measuring 10 x 6 inches and 1 inch deep (metric sizes 25.5 x 15 cm with depth of 2.5 cm). Now Delia has set 5 rules for cakes and biscuits for beginners:

  1. It is absolutely crucial to use the correct sized tin
  2.  You must have a reliable recipe
  3. You need to weigh the ingredients correctly
  4. Once the cake is in the oven, don’t open the door
  5. Make sure your oven is functioning correctly

Brought up with Delia’s cooking book, I do try to follow these rules. Over the years, I have collected a lot of tins but did I have a 10 x 6 inch tin; the answer was no. However, I did have an 8 x 8 inch one so I thought this might be perfect.

I carefully did a check of my ingredients in the larder and placed an order for everything I needed. In my larder I had all sorts of sugars; light brown soft sugar, dark and light brown muscovado sugar, demerara sugar, jam sugar, caster sugar, icing sugar and even bulk standard granulated sugar. I needed dark brown soft sugar and I didn’t have this so that was another ingredient put on the order.

Carrot Cake Ingredients

Delia said that this was one of the quickest, easiest cakes to do and I would have to say I agree apart from the first hurdle; recipe said dark brown soft sugar, sifted. I gave 5 minutes of attempting and gave up. I do plan to ask if it would have made my cake lighter but thought I could cope with the whatever the results. In no time, my cake was in my incorrect sized tin and in the oven which had already preheated because I had already made a Victoria sandwich. I was working hard this particular morning.

Kathryn’s Degree Victoria Sandwich
Prepared mixture in wrong tin

One of the other vital points of cooking in general is to read the recipe fully. This recipe called for the topping to chill for an hour or two in the fridge before using. A syrup glaze also needed to be made to spoon over the cake when it came out of the oven. Important stuff to know before the cake can be completed.

Ingredients used in the cake that were a little bit different were wholemeal self raising flour, quite a lot of mixed spice (smells wonderful) and sultanas. Walnut pieces were not used. The topping used quark. Now I have tried one with mascarpone cheese which is heaven to me and first impressions was I didn’t like the taste of the topping at all. I hoped for a miracle and that once it had been given chance to chill, it would appeal to me.

Cake did bake very well and I quickly spooned over the syrup glaze and left to cool completely. Once it was cold, I took it out of the tin and spread over the topping. What appealed to me about this cake was it was a single layer cake and I cut it into 12 small pieces; perfect size when you are having a cup of tea. One of my pet hates when going out for tea is the enormous slices of cake you get. I know that customers might moan if the slices are too small but, to me, there is nothing worse than feeling sick because you have eaten a cake that is far too big. Some say leave what you don’t want but that seems a bit criminal!

Carrot Cake with syrup glaze
Iced Carrot Cake
Finished Low-Fat Moist Carrot Cake

The most important bit of baking is the tasting and now was the time. I was still worried by the topping but I found the best way to eat the cake was with a fork and to make sure you had a piece of cake with the icing. The combination was perfect. This version of the carrot cake tasted Christmassy and was very moist. I will be baking this again but have three others to try:

  1. Mary Berry’s Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Topping – single layered again but with the addition of walnuts and ripe bananas
  2. The Great British Book of Baking Carrot Cake – a layered cake with walnuts and a filling and topping made with full fat cream cheese, butter and icing sugar
  3. Carrot Cake on the back of the self raising wholemeal flour packet – made in a deep 8 inch tin the cut in half and topped and filled with a marcarpone topping

It will be interesting to see if we have a favourite. Delia’s recipe did not disappoint though even without the perfect tin!

This Girl Just Wants To Bake Cakes

Going back to work after a holiday is always a bit of a comedown. When Chris asked me if I was looking forward to it, it was a big fat NO and a comment that I just wanted to cook!  First day back and it was so hot.  I was greeted back home with a welcome delivery on the doormat; this month’s baking box.
The Baking Club delivery
Aaron had bought me a subscription to the Baking Club from BakedIn for my birthday last year.  Each month you receive a box with a recipe and all the dry ingredients you need for the recipe all weighed, numbered and bagged up for you to start baking.  You have to add a few ingredients depending on the recipe eg. milk, eggs, butter plus the baking tins.  I have baked delicious chocolate cakes, eclairs, whoopie pies, biscotti, hot cross buns and many more.  Once tried, you can bake again and again.  The great thing is if you don’t like something, you don’t have to buy the ingredients that you might never use again.  I thought that my subscription might finish after 3 months but it continued.  Aaron hadn’t even noticed the money coming out of his bank account!  I had enjoyed receiving the boxes and wanted to continue so took over the subscription in February. Now they have my e-mail address, I receive an e-mail telling me that it is dispatch day and letting me know what ingredients I need to buy.
Chocolate Honeycomb Cake
Almond and Apricot Biscotti

BakedIn was formed from an idea by two work colleagues, Joe and Anna on a car share to work in 2013. After getting a prototype kit together with another friend, and testing on friends and colleagues, they got a start up loan and whilst working, expanded the business.  Further investment in 2015 meant that Joe could quit his job and work in the business full time.  An introduction from one of the shareholders to Michael Roux gave them the opportunity to have their recipes exclusively developed by him.

So on to June’s bake. I had already added the additional ingredients for this month’s box to my shopping order so they were in the fridge waiting to be used; sour cream, unsalted butter and 2 large eggs. I was all prepared on Monday but it was actually too hot to bake. In the end I found some time on Wednesday to try the new bake, cinnamon and pecan loaf.

My box contained the bagged ingredients :

Bag 1 – Pecan nuts

Bag 2 – Caster sugar

Bag 3 – Self raising flour and salt

Bag 4 – Demerara sugar and cinnamon

Bag 5 – Icing sugar

First job was to prepare a 2lb loaf tin with the baking paper provided.  The loaf tin is one of my essential tins; I make a lot of cakes in this tin.  Step 2 was using bag 1;  you are told clearly which bag is needed. I had to chop the pecans and toast them in a small frying pan for 4-5 minutes.  It did state quite clearly that I should be careful not to let them burn.  Let me tell you that you really need to be careful at this stage.  Not too much of a disaster though!

Toasting pecan nuts – be careful
The next three steps, using bag 2 and 3 and ingredients I had to provide, were quite straightforward although it needed gentle mixing.  A separate bowl was needed to mix bag 4 with the toasted pecans.  Step 7 was transferring the mixture to the tin which was a bit different to a normal cake.  Half the cake mixture was put into the tin followed by half the cinnamon and pecan mixture.  This was repeated then I had to swirl round with a knife.  Each recipe has a top tip from Michael Roux; his tip was to swirl the mixture a little more than you think it needs.  This would ensure a good marbling of cinnamon mixture throughout the loaf.  Well I swirled and swirled and had this pretty effect before putting in the oven.
Preparation mixture
Swirled mixture
The actual smell of the cake whilst it was baking was amazing.  It took all my willpower to allow it to cool down and add the icing before cutting in to it.  I have to say that I have enjoyed lots of the bakes and it is so hard to come up with a favourite, but the taste of this with a cup of tea put this in the top three of my favourites.  It might go to the top even.  I belong to the BakedIn Facebook group where we share our pictures and thoughts of the bakes. Every time I saw a new picture of this one come up, I could just taste the flavours again and was so jealous I had already baked mine.  I will bake again!
Cinnamon and pecan loaf out of the oven – very tempted to eat
Cinnamon and pecan loaf

I love my subscription and to some, it may seem pricey:

Yes, you can buy recipe books for £10 and cheaper but you get the dry ingredients so you don’t end up buying banana chips to find you don’t like the recipe and will never use  them again.  I actually bought them again to make the very delicious banoffee cookies again.

Banoffee Cookies

Yes, you can buy cake mixes and again so much cheaper.  Believe me these are different. You don’t just add eggs and water to a mix and it’s ready.  There is a bit more involved which is what any baker would like.

My £7.99 a month gives me so much pleasure that I find it is a worthwhile spend.  I love the excitement of not knowing what is coming through the door.  My anticipation starts when I receive the e-mail that tells me the ingredients I need and I am trying to guess what I will be baking; not got it right yet! I then have to wait for the postman to deliver.  I then am excited before opening, again when I open the box and then I can’t wait until I bake it.  I haven’t had total successes; normally the bakes that require a little more skill are my downfall but I will try them again.

As well as the baking club subscription, Bakedin do sell cake mixes and mug mixes too.  I had not been tempted before but did put an iced cinnamon bun kit in my shopping basket so will review soon! I think if I worked for BakedIn I would have been happy to go back to work!

It’s a Family Affair

I have been back from my holiday for over a week and have been trying to get back into the flow of things. I actually did very well in the first few days and made a great start on my new 50 challenges of this year. Just to recap, I plan to cook 50 recipes from all the lovely cookery books I have in my special corner.

Recipe Books

So I made lots of hints before my birthday and was delighted to receive the new book by Joe Wicks (the Body Coach), Cooking for Family and Friends. Joe has three other books out and whilst Jordan has cooked a few lovely recipes from them and I have cooked a few, I have not followed as a healthy eating plan. What I like about him is he does make food sound like a friend and not an enemy. He takes away the calories as most of the recipes are higher in calories than the normal diet books but he encourages you to exercise. I am a great believer in eating and exercising although I have to confess I am doing far much of the eating and not enough of the exercise lately.

Once I had my holiday washing sorted, I sat with the book and looked for a recipe to try for my first week. There was so many recipes that I wanted to try and I was drooling looking through. As Jordan was going to be home for a week and also Kathryn was around too, it was a good week to be cooking something from the book. In the end, I decided on Baked Chicken Sausage Risotto but before this was cooked, I couldn’t resist trying something from the sides section, Hassleback Potatoes. I know that I shouldn’t be surprised but I was amazed when I finished cooking and the completed dish looked like the picture in the book!

Joe Wicks Hasselback Potatoes
Tina’s Hasselback Potatoes

Now for the baked chicken sausage risotto. I am trying to plan my meals so I have a category for each day. I remember when I was growing up, we had certain food each day of the week. I didn’t have healthy foods but I thought that the they could be incorporated into one day of the week and I would call it “Comfort Tuesday”. It will include all the foods I love to make me feel better about life; simple egg and chips were Monday’s meal, a mince dish for Tuesday (who doesn’t love cottage pie on a cold day) and sausages on a Wednesday. Confession time here; I didn’t like Wednesdays. Rupert was on the TV (I don’t know why I didn’t like him and his checked trousers!) and the sausages were never nice. I love sausages now and always go for healthy ones. I often make meatballs with them and whilst tomato ketchup isn’t a favourite of mine, one of our favourite sausage recipes is sausages marinated in tomato sauce, honey and mustard. So to get Comfort Tuesday started, this was a perfect recipe.

Whilst I think I might have made a risotto before, rice isn’t something I have mastered. I tend to stick to bags otherwise I end up with a sticky mess. The recipe stated that baking risotto is much easier as it only requires a few stirs and the oven does the rest of the hard work. Sounded like my kind of recipe.

Most of the ingredients needed were ingredients I always have in the cupboard or fridge so I didn’t need to buy too many extra bits. I did buy some fresh herbs but think I might actually start growing my own. I am inspired by one of my 50 birthday challenges to grow vegetables that I think growing herbs would be a wonderful thing to do. Although the day I chose to cook this was a particularly hot June day, I did actually enjoy the process of getting the ingredients prepared. The recipe stated 10 minutes preparation; Tina’s time was around 25 minutes! My normal plodding time. The ingredients certainly looked good.

Prepared ingredients

I needed a large hob-proof casserole dish or ovenproof saucepan that I could use on the hob then put in the oven. The pan I used was one that I bought 7 years ago from Lakeland. I have used it quite a lot and it cooks and cleans very well. The only disadvantage is the handles do get very hot so you have to be very careful when cooking with it. I will replace it sometime but it does the job for now.

I had to start with frying the ingredients in coconut oil. As a bit of a Rosemary Conley fan, I don’t tend to use oil but my new attitude to cooking and eating is enjoy the food so I am open to most things now. The frying up didn’t take long and I did manage to cook the dish in the 35 minutes, the time stated.

Stir Fried ingredients
Ready to go into oven

On a warm June Tuesday evening, we were able to sit down to a very tasty meal. It is one that I will make again and hoping to share it with some of my friends.

Joe Wickes Baked Chicken Sausage Risotto

It was a family affair and recipe one completed.

I’ve Got The Recipe And It’s Called Teen’s Magic

50ticks came to an end on 6th June. I had a great birthday followed by a lovely holiday in Gran Canaria again. It has given me a chance to recharge my batteries: the last two weeks of the challenge were very intense and I really didn’t know if I was coming or going! I already had an idea of what I would do with my blog so here is the big reveal.

Puerto De Mogan

Whilst completing the challenges, I certainly found a lot of things I enjoyed and also found I needed to cut a few things down to fit everything in. My completion of my cross stitching kit renewed my love of the hobby and I am planning on spending two hours for five days a week, stitching. Reading has probably been a bit of a casualty. I am still enjoying reading but probably being a bit more select now. I will hopefully get through the library on my Kindle sometime.

Gorjuss Puddles of Love – next project

The challenges that stretched me sometimes were the cooking and baking challenges. I have a pasta machine which I do plan to use regularly. I realised that choux pastry was quite easy. Even when things went wrong, I did find that it was “fun” trying to correct it.

These challenges made me realise that cooking and baking is my release from life’s daily routine and stresses. I might have found making croissants a little bit stressful but it was a good feeling when the family tasted them and said “they were just like croissants” ! Making jammy dodgers were so much fun on a beautiful winter’s day.

I decided to keep with my 50ticks for my theme of my blog but this year it will be around cooking. I have shared my wonderful cookery book selection and have to admit that some of the books haven’t been used. I am going to try to cook/bake 50 different recipes using the books I have. Along the way, I want to try different recipes and methods to find the best Victoria sandwich(I actually do like the one I use but different methods do change the texture), try to perfect pastry, create a set weekly menu (meat free Monday and maybe fishy friday) as well as trying 12 dishes I would like to cook (I love lemon meringue pie but I have tried twice unsuccessfully to make this). A bake from my past and one I remember my Grandad baking was cream horns. I was reminded of these by my uncle a few weeks back and thought these would be great to share with my own family. A lot of jam will go in mine!

Recipe Books
Lemon Meringue Pie

I have carried on with my baking club subscription so will also share the boxes I receive.

Baking Subscription

I have thrown away the scales (well I refuse to get on them anyway), and know that I have increased my weight because my trousers are a bit tight so to begin with I plan to find some healthy recipes. Eating sensibly along with a good fitness routine should be all I need.

I did have two recipe books for my birthday:, one is about the Ritz teas. Kathryn bought me that as it was a challenge to go there. The price was a problem there but this little book tells me about the history of the Ritz teas plus different afternoon teas . I will try some in a few months. The other book, which should be very useful at the moment is Joe Wicks new book, Cooking for Family and friends. Joe is the big name at the moment to tone up and lose weight. Jordan has all his other books and recipes are good so I am looking forward to trying this one.

Book of Afternoon Tea
Joe Wicks Cooking For Family and Friends

I’m looking forward to taking on this challenge and hopefully will be able to share lots of successful cooking and eating experiences over the next year.

Bake Yourself Happy
Bake Yourself Happy

With A Little Help From My Friends

40 out of 50 ticks completed!!!

I have only got 4 days left until deadline day. In my job, I often have deadline day, and whilst my new job still has deadlines, I don’t have anywhere near the pressures of my last job. The day I left my last job wasn’t just a day of bringing a cake in and saying goodbye; I worked until home time (actually I think I worked later), with the added pressure of a power cut thrown in. A little bit of pressure makes you stronger, right?! So midnight on June the 6th (or should I say 12 a.m. on June the 7th), I will hopefully have completed 50 challenges.

Leaving cake

So what have I been up to the last 5 days. Well I would love to tell you I had completed most of the challenges but that would be fantasy. I have been exhausted but it is time to get on with the show! Actually I had spent most of the bank holiday weekend cooking for one of the challenges I have made a little harder on myself. Challenge number 8 was to host a MacMillan Tea Party. I did make a lovely cake for Macmillan coffee morning and take it into work. We raised £11 but I didn’t think that was good enough for the challenge.

There are so many charities that I would love to raise money for but I do think it is hard to ask for people to part with their money. Charity runs etc are brilliant but sometimes I think if a person is actually taking part in the event, and charged for it, it is a bit easier. Kathryn and I paid £10 each to do a 3 hour zumbathon in April; got fit, had fun and helped raise £1,000 for 2 charities on a Saturday morning.

Our local radio station have a special charity called Cash for Kids to “support local children under the age of 18, who are financially, socially, emotionally or physically disadvantaged”. They hold auctions, collect Christmas presents, wrap and present to the less fortunate, hold quiz nights, take part in local event etc. One of the fundraising events I wanted to take part in was the 1,000 faces where you have to raise £100 in whatever way you want. You have to do it by December. I decided to change challenge 8 a little bit, signed up and instead of going out with family and friends, invite them round and ask them to donate something to cash for kids. The grand total so far is £75 (would love to have made £100 by D day but it will be a great excuse to continue). Here are some of the things I have done so far:

Mother’s Day breakfast prepared by Jordan

Breakfast with Jordan

Lunch with Leanne and Kelly (first try of cheesecake. Dessert of 2017)

Kelly and Leanne

Tea with my sister to celebrate what would have been our mum’s 75th birthday

Chocolate Honeycomb Cake

Tea party with Ellis

Scones for tea

Early birthday celebrations with Joan and Lyn. Vegetarian food with 2nd outing of yummy cheesecake)

Yummy Cheesecake

I do plan to continue having people round; it is hard work but so worth it. My food is made with love so hopefully it tastes as good as what we would have in the pubs, restaurants and cafes. Everything I have done so far has been relaxed (once the cooking is done that is!) and I am enjoying it.

With a little help with my friends, we can hopefully raise a bit more than £100 whilst gaining a tick for the challenge. Tomorrow is the 10k run; I have a poorly foot but if I can’t run it all, I will walk it.

P.S. Kathryn let me have the course challenge.