Friday, 28 August 2009

Daring Bakers

Just a quick note to say my daring bakers challenge won't be up for a while, I have my masters dissertation due in 6 days! eeeep! then I will be finished uni, probably forever! So I haven't had time to make the challenge yet and last night my oven broke!! unlucky! hopefully I can get it fixed before Thurs when the work is due and make it on Friday cause everyone's look great and I can't wait to make mine!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Daring Cooks August Challenge

Rice with mushrooms, tofu and artichokes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

  • 1 Chopping Board
  • 1 knife
  • 1 medium saucepan
  • 1 Paella pan (30 cm/11” is enough for 4 people. If not available, you may use a simple pan that size)
  • 1 Saucepan


Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped (optional) - used red pepper
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional) - used
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Salt
  • Touch of ground cumin
  • Touch of dried oregano


  1. Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
  2. Taste and salt if necessary (maybe it’s not!)

gratuitous close up!

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available) - used marinated as couldn't find any others
  • 12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
  • 1 or 2 Bay leaves (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh) - tofu, just patted dry to soak up the flavours, this worked really well
  • “Sofregit” (see recipe above)
  • 300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices. - used brown pudding rice
  • Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice) - veg stock
  • Saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder) - used turmeric, poor student over here!
  • Allioli (olive oil and garlic sauce, similar to mayonnaise sauce) - optional - I ran out of time and added some garlic to some store bought so I could taste it together..


  1. Cut the cuttlefish in little strips. Tofu into triangles
  2. Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan. missed step to add tofu later so it didn't break apart
  3. If you use fresh artichokes, clean them as shown in the video in tip #7. Cut artichokes in eights.
  4. Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
  5. Add a bay leaf and the artichokes and the mushrooms.
  6. Sauté until we get a golden color in the artichokes.
  7. Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
  8. Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit. - more like 4-5
  9. Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
  10. Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
  11. Add some saffron thread to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
  12. Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”) - mine took a lot longer cause it was brown rice
  13. Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.
Cooking away..steamy!

almost done!

plated up, see tub of sofregit in the background, this recipe made far too much which is a bit annoying cause I don't have any room in my freezer or any other use for it...

little close up

Hope everyone enjoyed this months challenge.. to my blog readers, sorry I've been so inactive lately I still have tonnes of uni work and 20,000 words to finish before September, thanks for being patient, I'll try and update more regularly when the dissertation is a bit more on the way... it's going very slowly at the minute.. stress!!!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Daring Bakers: The good, (the bad) and the UGLY!!

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Milan Cookies

For the Milan cookies I used a the DB recipe with a few aterations.

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

(I halved the recipe)

• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (oil)
• 1 cup and 2tbsp powdered sugar (xylitol + 2 tbsp cornflour)
• scant 1/2 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs) (egg replacer)
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1 tablespoon lemon extract (orange extract)
• 3/4 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour (W/W pastry + 2tbs cornflour to make 3/4 cup)
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/4 cup heavy cream (soy milk)
• 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (bitter chocolate)
• 1 orange, zested (1 tsp orange extract)

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.


I quite liked how these turned out but I would add less xylitol next time as they were a bit overly sweet.

Chocolate covered mallow cookies.. except mine weren't mallow!

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 1.5 cups all purpose flour (W/W pastry flour)
• 1/4 cup white sugar (xylitol)
• 1/4 teaspoon salt (accidentally omitted)
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (omitted)
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3 tbsp oil, 3 tbsp blended silken tofu)
• 1.5 eggs, whisked together (flax eggs)

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

For my mallow alterantive I made a tofu type mousse with agar flakes, I didn't have half the equipment needed to make vegan marshmallows or the money to buy any so.. make do! I used most of a packet of silken tofu, blended it then heated up some soy milk, about half a cup and dissolved 3 tbsp agar flakes.. this took a while.. when they were almost disolved I sweetened the mixture with xylitol. I halved the tofu mixture and added a strong espresso shot to one half and some peppermint extract to the other half the mixed half the soy milk mixture to each bowl. I set them in silicon bread tins.. I tried to cut star shapes out to match my biscuits but it wasn't terribly succesful, hence the ugly!

peppermint flavour

Mocha money shot!

3 mocha flavoured biscuits

I much prefered the mocha flavour biscuits, the peppermint ones were a bit too.. er.. pepperminty... ohh well! fun challenge though, I sent most of the milan cookies to my brother and he liked them, as did my dad, my mum thought they were a bit rich like me.. must be girly looking manly tasting cookies haha.

I'll try and do a fitness update soon, I joined a boxing gym last week, I'm pretty sore but it's a really good workout and I'm enjoying learning all the technical moves, I'm off there now on my bike with my boyfriend :-)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Strawberry picking

I was going to bake some lovely strawberry cupcakes... but we just ate them all!! Maybe next time!

fitness bits!

Finally I've got round to writing a workout update! I've been doing my usual running intervals, taken my boyfriend's sister's dogs out a couple of times which is loads of fun, I'll try and remember my camera next time! The best (or worst..) workouts I've done lately have been the jokers from the crossfit hopper deck of workout cards! We had to slightly modify them to be able to do them in the flat with the equipment we have here but they were still really tough, don't worry!! The first one was the 'filthy fifty' - appropriate name! I finished this in just over 20 minutes - ouch!
  • 50 box jumps
  • 50 band slams
  • 50 dumbell swings (10kg)
  • 50 lunge jumps
  • 50 v-ups
  • 50 pushpress (used 12-15kg sandbag)
  • 50 medicine ball slams
  • 50 burpees (HELL)
  • 50 double unders
This workout was really tough, but I love tough workouts, definately going to get my time under 20 mins next time!

The other joker workout was 'fight gone bad' we modified this quite a lot as we did this workout the day after an impromptu run with the dogs - it's amazing how much difference good footwear does! I was wearing flat plimsole converse type shoes and I was on the way to developing shin splints but luckily I took it easy and didn't do too much leg work the few days after and it subsided... anyway.. the workout!

You do three rounds with a minute on each station and the idea is to beat your score next time... I tried to beat Mike but he beat me as usual.. I did unintentionally do a harder move for the push press.. I was only supposed to take the sandbag to my chest but I did it above my head each time.. that was tough!
  • Burpees 19 18 18
  • High Pull 23 24 29
  • Crunches 50 49 50
  • Push Press 11 10 15
  • Shadow Boxing -- -- --
  • Totals 105 103 112 320
So next time I need to beat my scores! And maybe Mike... although as he scored 395 that is doubtful, but I always try, he's very fit so he's a good marker to aim for even if the only thing I ever beat him on is out sitting him on a wall sit!

We've been doing some fun static hold finishers lately, we both hold a position for as long as we can, wall sit, plank, bear hold, weights etc... The person who drops the hold first has a punishment from the other person, so when I dropped the plank first Mike gave me 50 crunches to do.. But when I beat him on a wall sit I gave him 50 lunge jumps... had to get him back for the crunches!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Daring Bakers Bakewell Tart

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Oh dear.. I'm a day late! Better late than never eh! I wasn't terribly excited by this challenge, I wasn't feeling too creative so I went down the traditional route, I also went down a less traditional route but they didn't work out so well!

The Challenge

Rough Durations: Please see individual recipe elements to see how much time you’ll need. You may pull it together in more time or less—it all depends upon your kitchen’s pace. You can complete the tart in an afternoon, or break it up into a couple of days by making the pastry one day in advance.
Measurements: These recipes were developed using weight and not volume metrics, so for better results, pull out your scales. We’ve done our best with the Metric to Imperial conversions.
A giant tart, medium tarts or little tartlettes: We’ll leave that to you.
Mandatory and Optional Elements
Mandatory element 1: Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
Yes, it’s a pie pastry. Don’t look at us like that. It’s sweet and tender and it’s not scary…and we’re encouraging you to do it by hand and put the food processor away (but if you really want to pull out the gadget, go ahead).

Mandatory element 2: Frangipane
We love onomatopoeia of frangipane: it’s rich, sweet and feels slightly luxurious, and can be used in several confections.

Optional element: Home made jam or curd
We know several amongst us are rather jammy with making their own jams and preserves. Go ahead get wild and creative or simply showcase whatever’s local and in season. If you haven’t jammed before and want some hints or recipes, take a look at Bernardin’s If you want to just make some jam for this challenge and not go through sterilising jars and snap lids, you can try a pan jam, similar to Jasmine’s Blackberry Pan Jam. If you do use homemade jam, please include your recipe or the link to the one you used in your post.

Bakewell Tart…er…pudding

Makes one 23cm (9” tart)
Prep time: less than 10 minutes (plus time for the individual elements)
Resting time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes
Equipment needed: 23cm (9”) tart pan or pie tin (preferably with ridged edges), rolling pin

One quantity sweet shortcrust pastry (recipe follows)
Bench flour
250ml (1cup (8 US fl. oz)) jam or curd, warmed for spreadability
One quantity frangipane (recipe follows)
One handful blanched, flaked almonds

Assembling the tart
Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it's overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out. Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll. When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base. Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the tart is done, the top will be poofy and brownish. Remove from oven and strew flaked almonds on top and return to the heat for the last five minutes of baking.

The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.

When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

Jasmine’s notes:
• If you cannot have nuts, you can try substituting Victoria sponge for the frangipane. It's a pretty popular popular cake, so you shouldn't have any troubles finding one in one of your cookbooks or through a Google search. That said, our dear Natalie at Gluten a Go Go has sourced some recipes and linked to them in the related alt.db thread.
• You can use whichever jam you wish, but if you choose something with a lot of seeds, such as raspberry or blackberry, you should sieve them out.
• The jam quantity can be anywhere from 60ml (1/4 cup) to 250ml (1cup), depending upon how “damp” and strongly flavoured your preserves are. I made it with the lesser quantity of home made strawberry jam, while Annemarie made it with the greater quantity of cherry jam; we both had fabulous results. If in doubt, just split the difference and spread 150ml (2/3cup) on the crust.
Annemarie’s notes:
• The excess shortcrust can be rolled out and cut into cookie-shapes (heck, it’s pretty darned close to a shortbread dough).

Sweet shortcrust pastry

I didn't use the challenge recipe, I decided to use a low fat vegan pastry as I felt the recipe already had much more fat in it than I would normally use in a recipe. The recipe I used can be found here, I added 2 Tbsp of xylitol to the pastry, it worked really on the big tart but not the little ones, I think that's because I made the small ones from the offcuts.


Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Equipment needed: bowls, hand mixer, rubber spatula

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened (soya marg)
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs (3/4 cup blended silken tofu)
2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour (wholemeal)

Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle. In the words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. Really. It’ll be fine. After all three are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again. With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Annemarie’s notes:
• Add another five minutes or more if you're grinding your own almonds or if you're mixing by hand (Heaven help you).

The finished product!

I wish I had put more cherry jam in! I also put some whole cherries in which was really yum!

I made a few mini chocolate tarts too, these ended up too dry but the flavours worked well.. again didn't put enough in the bottom and a chocolate sauce or ganache as well as the chocolate chips might have done the trick!

Workout post is next, I promise! I'd completely forgotten about the DB challenge until I saw them all appear the other day!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Allergy free cinnamon buns and other bits 'n' bobs

It's bin a while! I was so tired after I finished all the uni work I had due a earlier this month I haven't really been up to much but I have been in the kitchen doing some nice relaxing baking! I decided to try Angela's Skinny Mini Glo-buns last week. Oh yum! They were so good my cinnamon hating boyfriend smelt them cooking and asked me to try making him a gluten free, soy free, sugar free version... I'm always up for a challenge so I had a go, to my surprise, my first attempt was pretty much the same as the wheat version I'd cooked up for myself, and if you're not worried about being sugar free you can always ice them up! Here's my recipe which is based on Angela's... These would be cool for a children's party as they go a wierd green colour from the avocado!

Green Cinnabuns
1 medium banana
1 small avocado
1 T rice milk
1/4 t apple cider vinegar

1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 T baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt

  1. pre-heat the oven to 205c/400f
  2. blend the wet ingredient (should come to around 7 tablespoons)
  3. sift the dry into the wet
  4. form a dough and roll out onto a floured surface (I like to roll it onto parchment which I then use to roll it up as the dough is fragile)
  5. take a third of a cup of date paste (made by blending dates with just enough water to cover, hot water helps them blend quicker) mix a generous half tablespoon of cinnamon into the date paste and spread on the dough.
  6. roll up using the parchment and chop into slices
  7. for extra sweetness sprinkle with xylitol
  8. bake for 16 minutes
  9. Enjoy!

Green cinnabuns and skinny mini glo-buns in the background

skinny mini glo-buns with green cinnabuns in the background

green cinnabun

Skinny mini glo-bun

If you like the look of these desserts Sweet Freedom would be a great cookbook for you, I'm really hoping to get a copy soon but I'm short of money at the moment. :( sadface! Anyway if I'm lucky I will win a copy! Check out Shelly's blog, to win a copy and you can also be in with a chance of winning the book over at The Healthy Green Kitchen, fingers crossed!

Here's some yummy pasta I made by reducing lots of cherry tomatoes with garlic, mushrooms and spinach, I then added mange tout, green olives which were stuffed with sunblush tomatoes, sweetcorn and fresh basil, yum, yum, yum! The pasta is wholewheat with extra protein from ground lentils and chickpeas. Fairly simple but really tasty!

Stay tuned for a workout post soon.. I did an absolute killer of a workout on Tuesday!