First Flat Cookbook by Tiffany Goodall

First Flat Cookbook by Tiffany Goodall is a fantastic book. When I first opened the book I was really impressed. I think this is a book which stands out against its contemporaries; it is new, refreshing and delicious. This is not just a regurgitation of the classics but easy modern recipes that will inspire young cooks. Recipes are set out in useful sections such as 10 minute meals, food to share and weekend brunch. Every single recipe is accompanied by a series of helpful photos, turning this into more of a manual than simply a cookery book. This layout gives a whole different feel to the recipe book and I really like it – in fact I don’t own any other cook book set out using this concept, but I’d like more in this style.

Tiffany designed her book for anyone setting out in their own home and getting started on cooking for themselves. The blurb says “this book is perfect for busy lives and small budgets”, here lies the reason I love this book; I am busy and I have a small budget! This book is packed full of delicious, easy recipes, ideal for busy people like me and who isn’t busy?

Now, this book is aimed at the generation straight from college, busy with a new job, a new home and for this it fits its brief perfectly. However, I have one complaint, I am a young mum with a family to feed and I adore this book, my husband raved about it – this is not a book just for those with their first home – no way! These recipes need to shared by us all.

When it came to cooking some of the recipes there was much debate between my husband and I because there were too many recipes we wanted to eat! In the end we chose the Danish Frikadellars, which are little pork meatballs served with creamed cabbage.

Wow! We enjoyed this meal so much, it was easy, quick, delicious and it was good to try something we’ve never cooked or eaten before. Just right for a cold night and a meal by our fireplace. We’ll be making this again. In fact there are a lot of recipes that will be making their way onto my regular weekly meal plans.

So if you love food, enjoy cooking and like delicious, easy recipes buy this book. This is a recipe book for everyone.

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“I made it from scratch!” by Katharyn Barrett (nee Wood)

I’m welcoming my friend Katharyn Barrett to my blog as my first guest blogger. Katharyn moved to California a few years ago and last year married an American. Here she shares some of her food experiences and a favourite recipe. Enjoy…..

Before I moved to California in September 2008 I didn’t think it important to announce to people when I cooked something that I had ‘Made it from scratch’. However here, it is important to do so as it seems that making something to eat that involves more than opening a packet and simply adding water, or placing it in the microwave is quite rare! I exaggerate to make a point, but convenience in every area of life (I discovered a drive-thru dry cleaners the other day!), ‘food’ and ‘eating’ included, does seem to be a high priority in the States. Of course, my experience is limited and I know there are people in California who love to cook and are great at it, but it does appear to me, that in every day Californian life it is not as common to cook a meal or bake something ‘from scratch’ as it is back home (England).

I didn’t used to think of myself as much of a cook, my repertoire was fairly limited and most weeks my meals would revolve around salmon, chicken, minced beef, rice, pasta and vegetables. None of the meals I made were out of the ordinary but they were fairly healthy and they tasted ok which were my main concerns. Until now.

I got married in December and my American husband (not a convenience eating American) has introduced me to a greater appreciation for cooking. He has taught me the importance of seasoning and that you should taste as you go, and that although chicken should be cooked thoroughly it should not be over cooked! Slowly but surely I am improving, but he remains chief Chef in our home at this point in time.

Although I enjoy cooking, my main love is baking. I would bake all day every day if I could. Cakes, bread, cookies I love making (and eating!) them all. I somehow feel like I can be more creative and more relaxed as I bake, so for me, it is definitely a better fit. Something I have wanted to master for sometime is the cupcake. I have tried many recipes but I did not find what I was looking for until recently. I love to make cupcakes because like I said they unleash my creative side. If you make a basic, white vanilla cupcake you can top it in 100 different ways to suit your mood or the occasion. So, I will leave you with this. My favourite vanilla cupcake recipe, adapted from www.joyofbaking.com. Enjoy!

Vanilla Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Ingredients:
Vanilla Cupcakes:

  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (130 grams) caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) self raising flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk

Buttercream Icing:

  • 2 cups (230 grams) icing sugar sifted
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp milk

Method:

  1. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (a food mixer is good for this job).
  2. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well each time, mix in the vanilla extract and lemon juice.
  3. Take a separate bowl and sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Slowly beat in the flour mixture and the milk, in three additions: flour, milk, flour.
  5. Fill the muffin cups with the mixture, bake for approx 18-20 mins or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven, place on a wire rack to cool.
  7. Decorate cupcakes when they have completed cooled.

For the Icing:

  1. Cream the butter until smooth and well blended (it is best to do this with a electric whisk or food mixer).
  2. Add the vanilla extract and with the mixer on a low speed, gradually beat in the icing sugar.
  3. Add the milk and beat on high speed until icing is light and fluffy approx 4 mins.

Makes about 12-16 cupcakes

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Lemon & Five Spice Chicken

I love this recipe because it is an easy way to eat a lot of vegetables, which is especially good if you’ve got kids to feed. It’s quick to make and the cornflour coating of the chicken makes it super tender. You have to try this, it is yummy.
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp Cornflour
  • 2 tsp Five Spice
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
  • 4 sliced chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 Spring Onion, sliced
  • 2 Celery Stalks, sliced
  • 1 Pepper, sliced
  • 2 Carrots, sliced
  • 50g Green Beans
  • 100g Peas
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • 1tbsp soy sauce
  • 400 ml liquid (chicken stock, wine, water or a combination of these)
  • 2 tbsp runny honey

Method:

1. Pour cornflour, five spice and ginger into a large bowl, add the chicken and stir until coated.
2. Heat oil in a large frying pan, add the chicken and keep it moving until coloured.
3. Put all the sliced vegetables in with the chicken and stir for a few minutes.
4. Add all of the liquid ingredients and stir again. Place a lid on the frying pan (or a plate).
5. Turn the heat to lowest setting and cook for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked all the way through.

Serving suggestions:

Rice or noodles, top with fresh coriander.

5 A Day Addition:

This meal is already full of tasty veg, but if you want more, try broccoli florets or baby sweetcorn.

Ways to Speed up this Meal

– Substitute the chicken for cooked prawns as they take only moments to cook. This means you can miss out the whole of step 1 and 2, just heat oil in a pan and then add the spices along with the vegetables. You can add the prawns to the pan a few minutes before serving.
– I buy frozen tiger prawns from Iceland (the supermarket). They are not expensive and are surprisingly juicy.
– Opt to serve with rice noodles they normally take around 3 minutes to cook, now that’s fast food!

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Hale & Hearty Rich Chocolate Brownie Mix – Free Giveaway

Here is your chance to win a packet of Hale & Hearty Rich Chocolate Brownie Mix. A big thank you to the lovely people over at Hale & Hearty who kindly provided their Brownie Mix as a giveaway in conjunction with my own Chocolate Cheesecake Brownie blog post. It is great to present you with an alternative brownie recipe because this is a gluten free cake mix. In fact it is a good job I managed to control myself from ripping open the packet and baking it myself – this cake mix really does look delicious!

All you need to do to enter this competition is to sign up to my newsletter. Type your email address into the newsletter box in the right hand column of my blog and you will be entered into the competition (if you have already subscribed to the newsletter you are automatically entered, no need to resubscribe). The winner will be selected at random from the mailing list on the closing date of 31 October 2010 and the winner will be announced: 1st November 2010.

If you’d like to read a bit more about this brownie mix there is a review and pictures of the brownies being made on glutenfreemrsd.blogspot.com

Good Luck!

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How To Meal Plan

A few months page I posted this blog on How To Meal Plan. I’m revisiting it today to help all those who are interested in writing their own meal plans. Hope you find this useful!

Here are 5 steps to create your own meal plan:

  1. Find out the weekly schedule for everybody in your family; see who will be eating at home on what days; see which days are busy and plan an easy meal to prepare.
  2. Look through the fridge/cupboards and see what there is to use, this will prevent duplicates being bought and keeps costs down.
  3. Write a list of 7 meals and, if lunch planning too, write a list of 7 lunch meals (or use an ilovemealplans.com meal plan from the meal plan page).
  4. Write a shopping list including all the things you need for your 7 meals plus extras such as cleaning products.
  5. Do one big shopping trip* and get everything you need, or make an online grocery order and have it delivered to your door.

*As a stay at home Mum I do one big weekly shop but leave some fresh items, such as salad, to bought throughout the week. Then later in the week I plan into my routine a trip to a local shop when it is convienent to buy a few fresh ingredients. If you plan ahead this can fit into an routine such as a trip to a shop on the way home from work, rather than arriving home and realising it is necessary to go out again to the shops.

If you use my 5 steps to meal planning you may find it helpful to use a meal plan chart and place it somewhere that everyone can see it. I have found an attractive free meal plan at this website: OlliBird.com

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Chocolate Cheesecake Brownie

Thank you all for voting! It’s finally here, my chocolate cheesecake brownie, it turned out well and is oh so indulgent!!! The brownie went off to my husband’s workplace today, so I’m hoping they are all enjoying the brownie.

Asking everyone to vote on my recipe choice was great for me because I was forced to cook something that, not only had I never made before, but something I would not personally choose to cook. I was able to push myself to learn something new in the kitchen which is very important for a food blogger. I’ll be featuring more voting blog entries soon also look out this week for my free giveaway – 1 packet of Hale & Hearty’s Rich Chocolate Brownie Mix.

Here is the recipe:

Makes 16 slices

Ingredients

  • 185 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 30 g  cocoa powder, sifted
  • 220 g caster  sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150 g plain flour, sifted
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 100g milk chocolate chopped into small chunks

Cheesecake:

  • 285 g full fat cream cheese, softened and chopped
  • 4 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • few drops of vanilla essence

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a greased baking tin (size roughly 25 x 25cm) with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Place the butter, cocoa, sugar, eggs and flour in a bowl and mix well until smooth, add in chocolate chunks and stir.
  3. Spoon mixture into baking tin and spread out evenly with a pallet knife.
  4. For the cheesecake, whiz the cream cheese, sugar and eggs in a food mixer/processor until smooth.
  5. Pour the cheesecake liquid on top of  the brownie mixture. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until cheesecake mixture has set and lost its wobbly quality.
  6. Cool in the tin, cut into 16 slices.

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay, Chocolate.

Serving suggestions:

These can be eaten just as they are but they are great as a dessert warmed through and served with vanilla ice cream.

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The News

A quick catch up on some food items I found interesting in the news of the pass couple of months:

British food prices rising twice as fast as in Europe: According to a study by Defra over a three year period until June 2010 of European food prices British prices have risen the most. The rise in price was linked to global harvest failures. However, this does not explain why Britain should be worst affected than Europe? I found this article interesting as I regularly shop at Lidl, a European supermarket, where most brands are European and my shopping bill is significantly lower than when I shop elsewhere. Where do you shop and do you think it is cheaper to buy food on the continent?

Read this article at the Telegraph.

Fruit and vegetables are the most wasted food items: A study by myvouchercodes.co.uk reported that of all food items fruit and vegetables are the most likely to be binned rather than eaten. Shoppers explained that they bought too many of these items as they hoped to achieve their 5 a day target, but often failed and did not feel guilty about throwing away unused products. Myvouchercodes.co.uk said “Shoppers should try to limit excess wastage by taking a list to the supermarket and sticking to it, or planning weekly meals in advance.” This is great for ilovemealplans.com – this blog is designed to help people buy less, eat more and get organised in the kitchen! If this article interested you why not try one of my free meal plans to stop wasted food (and money) in your kitchen.

Read all about this survey here.

Government voluntary ban on food colourings: At the start of October the Government announced 9 more companies that have signed up to the voluntary ban on food colourings found to cause hyperactivity. These are: Brakes, Devon Rose Ltd, ehl Limited, Morrisons, Organix, Pizza Hut, Pudding Pie Cookery School, Tate & Lyle and Tropical Wholefoods.

The voluntary ban followed researched by  Southampton University funded, in November 2008, by the Government. This research into food colouring identified 6 colourings that are linked to hyperactivity in young children.

  • sunset yellow FCF (E110)
  • quinoline yellow (E104)
  • carmoisine (E122)
  • allura red (E129)
  • tartrazine (E102)
  • ponceau 4R (E124)

You can view the complete list of companies who adhere to the voluntary ban on the Government’s Food Standards Agency Website here.

Please comments I’d like to hear what you think about these articles!

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A Feast of Photos No.4 – Flower Festival

Earlier this year, when staying at our family cottage in Norfolk, we visited the local church’s Flower Festival. I’m not sure if a Flower Festival is an English tradition or whether other countries have a similar events; but here in the UK many churches have an open weekend with beautiful flower displays for visitors to enjoy.

Where I live I see less and less Flower Festivals, but out in the countryside these events are still going on at smaller parish churches and they are a fantastic celebration of the beautiful flowers that we have from Spring to Summer. Often these events also coincide with raising money for charity. At our North Norfolk village the festival was beautiful and I wanted to share these photos with you. Enjoy!

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National Chocolate Week – Vote Now For My Chocolate Recipe

This week is National Chocolate Week. To mark this important occasion I’m going to bake some chocolate cakes – but what chocolate cakes I will bake I will leave up to you. My husband will be taking the cakes to work for his lucky colleagues, all NHS workers who deserve a treat for all the hard work they do.

Please get involved. Choose an option from below, leave a comment telling me your selection and then this week I will bake the most popular choice. This means that the recipe you want with accompanying photographs could be featured next week on the blog. Get voting…

Here are the options:

  1. White Chocolate and Lavender Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Icing.
  2. Chocolate Tiffin (no bake chocolate cake with crunchy biscuit and dried fruit)
  3. Chocolate Cheesecake Brownie
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Kitchen Disasters & Non-Stick Pans

On our wedding list we had a set of very expensive non-stick dishwasher proof saucepans. I cook a lot and 5 years on the frying pan in my set is not holding up so well. Recently I tried to cook a Tortilla, the spanish version of Frittata. The difference was that the tortilla required me put a plate over my frying pan turn out the nearly cooked contents and then slide it back into the pan to cook the underside. This was easier said than done and my frying pan let me down, hence the reason I have not blogged on this topic and no pictures of the finished product have appeared! It’s a shame as I cooked the recipe to the instructions of Miriam Clegg, our Deputy Prime Minister’s wife, who is Spanish and sent her recipe into the Times a couple of months ago. I thought a recipe from the Deputy PM’s wife would make an interesting blog and hope to try again soon.

Now, the reason I’m sharing this kitchen disaster is to ask for your thoughts on non-stick pans. Can anybody recommend an excellent non-stick frying pan which is also a reasonable price? Please leave your recommendations by commenting below. I look forward to your advice!

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