On the menu: A Modern Way to Eat and some comfort from Jamie and Jane Brocket

Sunday

Unfortunately I can’t be baking cakes all the time, so some healthier food this week. I often feel like encouraging my vegetarian tendencies by looking more into vegetarian cookbooks, after all I always moan there’s far too much meat in normal recipe books. So I had a look at Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Eat (Anna is one of the original Fifteen graduates), which has some fantastic dishes in (and all vegetarian).

The first one I tried was kale chips, I realise they’re all the rage now, particularly in the States, but I’d never tried them before, as to be honest I’m not a great fan of those sort of vegetables but all the name of being healthy, I gave it a go and omg I’m hooked!

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I went for the sesame miso option (but I will so try the tarragon and mustard dressing to and I’ve been busy pinning loads of other variants on Pinterest to) and the dressing added a whole new layer of sweet and sour flavour on top of the savoury kale. I love the texture of the kale to, it’s like eating highly savoury paper (weird I know). One thing though, that I’ll remember next time, I didn’t realise exactly how much the kale would shrink down, so I could have added a lot more to my baking trays with no problem. Reading about the superfood benefits of kale, kale is now going to be in my shopping basket far more often!

Tuesday

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Lunch today was a Maple Peanut California wrap, again from the Anna Jones book and it was delicious! I had to substitute the tempeh with tofu as I couldn’t find any (will have to go looking) and to be honest, I would have been perfectly happy with the wrap just with the other ingredients! The tofu is marinated but it’s not massive on flavour, whereas the salad, carrot and seeds on top, that have been covered in the peanut butter dressing (and I don’t even like peanut butter!), are completely overpowering in delicious flavour!

Later on Tuesday

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I think sales of Red Leicester (is that cheese known outside the UK? It’s sort of orangey red and a little bit like cheddar but quite mild tasting, but it melts very well) must have rocketed this morning after the nation watched Jamie Oliver make the no.1 toasted cheese sandwich on TV last night. We haven’t had Red Leicester regularly in the house for years, as opposed to when Mr. Lacer was living a more bachelor lifestyle and always had Red Leicester in his fridge because he reckons it makes the best cheese on toast (and Mr. Lacer’s cheese on toast is to die for, although as he makes a pretty good cheese on toast with just cheddar – the secret – way more butter than I would ever put on cheese and toast if I were making it, so we dropped the Red Leicester in favour for things like nappies and baby wipes). Anyway you can make Jamie Oliver’s no. 1 toasted cheese sandwich with any hard cheese but watching Jamie make it with a mix of cheddar and Red Leicester, well I just had to.

The resulting sandwich is delicious but completely rib sticking, it undid all the good work on my healthy lunch and then some and I think I used less cheese than Jamie. It was lovely but I’ve now got the urge, once my food has gone down, to go and refresh my palate with lots of green stuff. It’s a useful trick to know but definitely only once in a very rare blue moon.

If you fancy the recipe it’s here until 22nd September (2014) or you could go and get the Comfort Food book, it’s very good!

Wednesday

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More Anna Jones extreme goodness, this one is pan dressed noodles with crunchy cabbage and was absolutely gorgeous!

Thursday

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I can’t go through the week completely bake free, so some rock buns from Jane Brocket’s wonderful Vintage Cakes were in order. I grew up eating rock cakes (as we knew them) – my mum’s baking repertoire was limited (she made a mean marble cake, in a manner which so would not be made today because of all those artificial colourings) and sometimes I just crave them again (and at least the dried fruit makes them ‘sort of’ healthy). I often crave coconut ice (another artificial food dye laden goody) for a similar reason, my gran was not much of a cook either (although she cooked, my grandad was a great vegetable gardener and it was her job to deal with the produce) but she did make a mean coconut ice, yum. Anyway these rock buns are quite different (in a way) from the encased in little paper cases rock cakes of my youth, I don’t want to say mine are better, I think each have their merit, but mine are a bit less rock like ……

(As an aside, it was so good baking these with the dried fruit, nutmeg and brown sugar, it may only be September but the smells ….. they kick started the ol’ Christmas gear!)

On the menu: Fun with Maltesers

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Sunday

Me and Boy Lacer have been talking about ‘future cake’ for the last few days, he reckons I haven’t made enough cake recently, stuff with blueberries in obviously don’t count. I asked him what ‘future cake’ would have in it and he said Maltesers, I may be biased because he’s my son, but that boy has good taste (at least when it comes to cakes anyway, if I could get him to eat grainy food as easily as he eats chocolate, that would be a big blessing). So Boy Lacer had been thinking about Maltesers and I’d been thinking about chocolate cake, so the two merged together into the idea of Malteser Brownies. I did think about adapting one of the many brownie recipes I have in my collection but then I thought someone on the internet would have written a recipe already and they have! I had to adapt the recipe slightly because I didn’t have enough chocolate (and what I had was only milk chocolate to), so I only put in a 100g of milk chocolate and to make up for the reduction in chocolateness I substituted 25g of the flour with 25g of cocoa powder. I also only had 50g of Maltesers but that was a fine amount.

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The resulting brownies were delicious, best brownies I think I’ve made in a long time, crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle, with random extra chewy malty bites, absolute heaven! The reduction in chocolate was actually both good and bad, I’m not that keen on extra chocolate-y intense brownies and these brownies were just chocolatey enough for me and only have one large 100g bar of chocolate in instead of nearly two makes it cheaper and slightly healthier (two big bars of chocolate are surprisingly expensive), however because they’re so eatable, I’ve eaten three slices in the space of an hour (and slightly regretting it now, but definitely only slightly), whereas I wouldn’t have done that if the brownies had been very chocolatey.

Out of curiosity for my US readers, I had a quick google to see if you could get Maltesers over in America and apparently you can’t! You’re missing out America! They’re really nice! They’re little chocolate covered malted honeycomb balls, I think the closet US sweet by the sound of it is Whoppers but without the honeycomb which is I think probably the crucial component in this recipe, to give he extra chewiness. I thought maybe I could suggest substituting with crushed up Crunchie bars but a quick google and you don’t have those either! (They’re not as nice, a bit too sweet for my tastes and I’ve got a sweet tooth!) I’m not sure if you have any honeycomb (also known as cinder toffee) sweets over in the States but they are so worth putting into these brownies and Maltesers don’t just work well in brownies, they work well with other chocolate cakes to (specially as toppings, they’re also good crushed up a la Jamie Oliver on ice cream or crushed up naughtily in milk shakes). If you’re completely honeycomb devoid, it’s apparently quite easy to make, I’m not sure if Sweets Made Simple is showing over in the States (if it is check it out, presumably on BBC America) but they made cinder toffee (honeycomb) in the latest episode and you can find the recipe here.

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Thursday

It didn’t take long before the talk turned to ‘future cookies’ and as I was still on a Maltesers kick and Jamie’s Comfort Food had just happened to join my collection *ahem* and the book just happened to have a Maltesers cookie recipe (Devil’s Double Choc Malt cookies to be precise), well they just had to be made.

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It was an interesting cookie method, most of it was done in a saucepan but it obviously worked because the cookies were lovely!

Whose been watching the new Jamie’s Comfort Food show? I caught the first episode recently and loved it, it was much more like Jamie of old, as opposed to his 15 minutes stuff which to me seems to be the quickest way to stress yourself out and wreck your kitchen. Comfort Food is very much cooking for pleasure, finding comfort in the cooking as well as the eating. I loved the burger he made and this is someone who doesn’t like burgers! But if Jamie had reached through the TV and handed me one, I’d have eaten it there and then, just watching it made me literally hungry (you can check out the recipe for the burger here). The book generally is lovely, not sure how often I’m going to cook from it, it’s quite meat heavy for this almost semi vegetarian but the dessert sections are gorgeous!

Finishing #Spoonchallenge

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So I finished #spoonchallenge yesterday (or should I say in the early hours of this morning – what can I say, I was having too much fun). For someone who is not really that into challenges, I had such fun doing this and I think I really benefited from it. When I look back at the sort of very simple pieces I was doing at the beginning of the challenge and compare it to what I was confident enough to do at the end, then wow. It goes to show that regular practice really does help. Here are some of my favourites out of the pieces I did in the last week or so.

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Shard

me

On the menu: more blueberry goodness

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Tuesday

Blueberry loaf from Ruby Tandoh’s column (recipe is second one down) in The Guardian. It’s a healthyish cake (although as I’m calorie counting my bakes, heck everything at the moment, interestingly this cake is 6 calories more per portion than those divinely delicious and naughty tasting Friends blueberry muffins I made last week, the Friends muffins are much higher in fat though). This cake is healthyish because it uses yoghurt and oil instead of butter, the oil is meant to be almond oil (couldn’t find it anywhere) and although Ruby does suggest sunflower oil as an alternative, I used olive oil as it’s healthier and well I didn’t have any sunflower oil anyway. Consequently the cake does taste a bit of olive oil, which isn’t too bad, after all there is such a thing as olive oil cake but it is a bit of an acquired taste. The cake also has a bit of an oily texture to. But it was easy to make, satisfied my blueberry cravings and is edible but not so edible I’d eat four slices at once (*ahem* last week), which is actually a good thing really.

A London Day Out

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It’s nearly the end of the summer holidays, we’ve had a lovely break and it’s (almost) over way too quickly. We haven’t had many days out because we’re a bit broke and well, having lived in London so long (well the kids have been born and bred here), we pretty much exhausted the normal kiddy options ages ago (we have been to Kew though and will be doing so again – the joys of annual membership and free kid entry – which is always fun, despite the expression on Boy Lacer’s face most the time – except when ankle deep in mud or clambering along an obstacle course). But I couldn’t let the summer holidays past without one proper excursion, so we did a bit of a two in one (which is not really that advisable, specially when it’s so easy to get into London from where we live on the outskirts, so it’s much more kid friendly to do smaller trips, but the kids are getting older, so I thought I’d stretch their stamina a bit). In the morning we went into Shoreditch to have a look at some street art, we didn’t do an organised tour (that would have been stretching Boy Lacer too much) but I remembered most of the route I took when I took a tour a couple of years ago. We also stumbled across quite a few street art tour groups, so I have to admit if we saw a group down a particular alley, we did go and see what they were looking at! I do think though that bored younger kids aside, a street art tour is the best way to go, as I know I missed bits from the tour I remembered going on, as I couldn’t remember where the streets were and also the street art is changing all the time, so it pays (and it is always worth supporting) to go around on a tour with someone who really knows the area.

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August street art 1

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We then made our way to the Felt Cornershop, which is about a 5-10 minute walk from the edge of Shoreditch in Bethnal Green (or 15-20 minutes if you’re on the wrong side of Shoreditch as we were). It was worth the walk (although if you want to see it hurry, it’s only there until the end of August).

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We then got the bus back towards the river and headed for the Tower of London. I wanted to see the Tower principally because of the poppies  (see getting my art in even with my history) but as we were there and I owed Girl Lacer a trip into the Tower from about two years ago, we went in to see the Tower as well.

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We did the kids activity trail in the Tower, which was quite good, it made the Tower fairly manageable (you don’t see everything on the trail, but we had been before) and we got to see and learn about bits which I wouldn’t have necessarily picked up otherwise. My favourite bit was in one of the towers were they held posh prisoners, there was beautifully intricate and neat graffiti on the wall, you’d have thought being held in a tower with direct views over the lawns where people got their heads chopped off would be inspiring some more desperate and scrawly graffiti, not something so neat. But as Girl Lacer (who’d read more of the labels than me) pointed out, apparently the prisoners would sometimes hire expert stone masons to do it for them!

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As well as the trail we also went in to see the Crown Jewels, which had been updated a bit since I last saw it. The queue to get in was very long (about half an hour) and really, once in the building, it still effectively is a queue, you’re just slightly more entertained. It reminded me of the entrance to a theme park ride, you know how you queue up for ages outside it, get inside the ride and still queue up some more whilst looking at some ride related stuff and then the actual ride, once you get to it, is over quite quickly? Well the Crown Jewels are like that, they even have a travelator (quite slow) which takes you past the crowns, so everyone gets a chance to see them and you’re not trying to peer over a crowd. I did quite like the films and stuff you see before the actual jewels, as they feature the jewels filmed in quite stunning close up, which, when you actually get to see them, is in more detail than you actually see. However, warning, I’d recommend a toilet break before you get in the queue if you’re with an eight year old who has already drunk two bottles of water….

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Fox and sunflower

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I was feeling a bit under the weather recently and I thought a nice bit of crafting would help make me feel better, unfortunately my go to when feeling poorly project, my blanket, wasn’t then an option, as I was out of yellow wool (that has since been remedied) and none of my other on the go projects or projects lined up in my head seemed simple enough. So I had a look through my far too extensive embroidery pattern collection and found a couple of patterns from Cozy Blue that I’d bought ages ago, so decided to do those. Now as I was feeling a bit poorly and my second packet of Sulky Solvy had finally arrived (had waited 2 months for that as the original package never turned up) and I didn’t fancy transferring the pattern by hand, I printed them out on Sulky Solvy (shrinking them a bit, as I wanted them to fit 10cm hoops). Now my instant love affair with Sulky Solvy has waned a bit whilst I was waiting for that second package, I don’t like using stuff that means I’m going to have to get my embroidery wet, due to the risk of my *ahem* supposedly water safe embroidery floss dye running, particularly when using reds, which is one of the reasons why I don’t like using water soluble pens either. I’m also not keen on Sulky Solvy as it can make my stitches look loose and it tends to make the fabric feel stiff after washing BUT it is great for transferring complex designs (or less complex designs if you’re feeling poorly), it is also great for transferring designs onto coloured fabric, which is why, much to my whinging, on finishing this project I’ve just spent the last hour fiddling with my printer (much to the annoyance of Mr. Lacer, who is trying to tidy his desk, which the printer is on), making sure the scale is right for my next project, which would have been a hell of a lot more tricky without Sulky Solvy. BUT back to the fox and the sunflower, I have a new nitpick about Sulky Solvy now, Sulky Solvy is sort of beige colour, not that much different from white I know but it has made a difference with the colours in this project, whilst stitching these with the Sulky Solvy on I was happy with the colours I was using, once washed of though and I was seeing the colours against the white background, not so happy. It’s that yellow really, I’m not sure it goes with anything but it looked a lot better against beige than it does white.

Owl

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Over on Feeling Stitchy, Flor has written a review of the new book, Sew Cute to Cuddle. I stitched a pattern from it to, the cute and cuddly owl above. It was great fun to sew (the only minor niggle being no seam allowances, but at least the patterns were full size, which is always much worse if they’re not!) and there are so many lovely patterns in the book I will most definitely be making more! If you fancy a chance at winning a copy, head on over to the link above to enter.