Why hello there my poor neglected blog. Yes it’s been a while… almost a year in fact. It’s been one hell of a year as well. A lot has happened and I have lots of stories to tell so do keep your eyes peeled.
I’m currently in the middle of a serious downgrading of possessions, kitchen ingredients included. Mealtimes are starting to get interesting that’s for sure. Knowing how much of a sweet tooth I have, especially whilst at work, I decided to have a play about after seeing various recipes online. I’m rather impressed if I’m honest, especially since I already had everything in and that there’s no cooking involved. Enjoy.
Coconut And Spirulina Bites
180g dates (I had dried pitted ones)
130g cashew nuts (but you could substitute these with any other unsalted nuts)
2 large tsp of coconut oil
3 tsp of spirulina powder
2 tsp of matcha tea
unsweetened desiccated coconut (I just added a bit at a time)
Firstly soak the dates in water for at least 30 minutes. Whilst they’re soaking, blitz the cashew nuts in a food processor for about 45 seconds.
Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor, except the desiccated coconut.
Rinse the dates, add to the food processor and blitz until everything is combined and essentially resembles a large sticky ball.
Fill one bowl with water and one with the unsweetened desiccated coconut. With wet hands (it stops the mixture from sticking to you), pinch off pieces of the mixture and roll into balls (about the size of an average cherry tomato).
Roll each ball into the desiccated coconut until evenly coated.
Place on a plate and then refrigerate for at least another 30 minutes before consuming. These are best stored in an airtight container and will last about a fortnight at the most.
They’re really foolproof, vegan and best of all you can add or substitute the majority of the above ingredients with whatever you have in at the time. Next time I make these I may add different nuts, dried apricots, cacao nibs, flaxseed etc. The possibilities are endless. If you try these and you come up with any awesome combinations then please let me know.
I love houmous/hummus. I can sit down with a tub of the stuff along with some pitta/carrot sticks/celery and quite happily munch away until my heart and tummy is content. It’s so bloody easy to make too that I have no idea why I even buy the stuff anymore. It works out a lot cheaper to make your own too, if you go by weight. Below is my easy go to recipe. There are no measurements as such as it’s the kind of food that everyone has different preferences for. Some like it smooth, others lumpy, some like lots of lemon juice etc etc. My advice would be to have a play and see what works the best for you. If you end up with something that tastes and resembles houmous at the end then well done.
The main ingredient of houmous is chickpeas (or garbanzo beans). I never buy tinned if I’m honest. A tin of ready soaked costs 55p. I can buy a lot more chickpeas for my moolah if I buy a 500g bag of dried for £1.10. I normally go by the 1/2 a cup of dried = 1 tin of soaked ratio too. The only downfall to buying dried however is that you need to prepare them in advance but it’s easy when you know how. I normally just measure as many cups as I can get out of a 500g bag, soak them overnight and then stick them in the slow cooker the next day. Once cooked I’ll then measure them out in equivalent of tins and freeze in individual freezer bags until required. I do the same with the majority of my dried beans and pulses too. I have heard stories of people sprouting them for additional nutrients but I’ve never tried that myself I must say.
When it comes to making actual houmous I normally grab one or two freezer bags (remember these have been measured to be the equivalent of a tin each) bring them to the boil just to defrost/make sure that they’re properly cooked, bung them in a food processor with a little bit of the water, some garlic, some salt, pepper, ground cumin, lemon juice, tahini and olive oil and blend it until it resembles the consistency/taste that you require. It keeps for a few days in the fridge and if you’re feeling adventurous you can add any extras to it, such as chilli or roast veg. In my view there really isn’t a set of concrete rules with this. I’ve used limes when I’ve had no lemons, flaxseed oil instead of olive oil etc. etc. and as long as it tastes great to you then that’s all that matters.
I hope this has helped and if you discover any good flavour combinations then please let me know. Also if you know the reason behind the different spellings of houmous/hummus then let me know too.
I was determined to make this week a week of low spendage, especially after last week but I didn’t manage, far from it in fact. Firstly my mobile phone stopped letting me make or receive phone calls unless I had the speaker on and there’s some conversations you just don’t want the world to hear when you’re in the middle of Tesco’s. Therefore I had to get an upgrade, it seems that current events have gotten the best of me as of late too…
Monday 13th January – Nothing.
Tuesday 14th January – I’ve had a lot of things going on and as a result my plate has had lots on it. As a result the emotional crutch that I’ve tried so hard to avoid has once again stuck it’s nicotine stained claws into me and I bought a packet of cigarettes which cost £7.70. I also needed a lighter 90p. Great eh?
Wednesday 15th January – Nothing.
Thursday 16th January – This is the day I finally had enough with regards to my mobile. A short trip to the phone shop and I had a brand new iPhone 5s and had to pay £49.99 upfront. I also needed a new screen protector and cover as my one from my iPhone 4 are too fat now. I bought this bling one from eBay for £5.99. Since I’m running out of ideas as to what I can make in the house and emotional drainage making me unmotivated to do pretty much nothing at home I ended up buying lunch too £4.10. A bad day really.
Friday 17th January – It’s my birthday next week and since the Kurt Geiger shoes from last week were far too high for me (I gave them to a friend who I’ll know will make them her bitch) I ended up buying a dress (£25.44) and a replacement pair of heels (£54.94 – In fairness I have wanted these FOR YEARS) for when I go out in a fortnights time. I think totally unnecessary but these are staple items that I’ll get lots of wear out of therefore feel semi-justified. Plus did I mention it was my birthday soon???
Saturday 18th January – I bought V and I a meal from M&S after work (£15.61) and some fags (£7.70). I could have probably done without but my nerves are still shot and after all the shit I’ve had to pick the scab from and go through this week I felt we both needed a treat, especially since V has proven himself a rock as of late. Plus I figured it would be cheaper than a takeaway.
Sunday 19th January – Nothing.
So yeah. Out of all the above I pretty much feel justified in buying the phone, the dress and the shoes. The fags would probably come next. I am pretty much livid with myself for letting things get to me that much but I’m sure once it’s all over as will my useage of them also. All in all a really bad week. Total Spends: £172.37. It would appear that when depressed I’m not only an emotional smoker but a shopper too. :0/
So far this year I have to admit that I’m rather liking this challenge in a masochistic kind of way. If anything I am noticing spending patterns and am acting upon them which is the whole point in this exercise after all.. A perfect example of this is my tendency to hoard stuff that I buy from work.
Anyone who’s ever been in my bathroom will testify to the amount of Lush products in it. At this moment in time I have the equivalent of over 6 litres of shower gel, a shoebox filled with soap and at least 2 carrier bags worth of bath bombs and various other bath treats in there as well as various lotions, potions, shampoo and massage bars. Safe to say I don’t think I’m going to need any of those this year. Same goes for perfume which has actually proven difficult thanks to Illamasqua who currently have a sale on. I’ve wanted a bottle of Freak for ages and it’s currently reduced. I’ve had to be a big girl and say no however because a) I must already own something like 20+ bottles of fragrance so I know I won’t need anymore for a very long time and b) V bought me a bottle of the Tom Ford perfume I’ve been lusting over for a very long time as a late Christmas/early Birthday present which to be honest is literally the best aroma that’s ever filled my nostrils and I’m really grateful for him to have spent so much money on something so decadent. Recognising what I already have/how often I use things is going to be key to this challenge I feel. So here’s a daily breakdown of expenditure for week 2.
Monday 6th January: It’s marmalade season and I need some Seville Oranges so I went to the local greengrocers to see if there were any. There wasn’t but I did need some fresh garlic so bought a bulb of that (in the past I would have bought about 3), some fresh coriander which I now regret as I already have some in the freezer from the last time I bought some (at least I can freeze this if I don’t use it however and I now know for next time) and 4 Persimmons for £1 which is a bargain and I love them. That lot came to £2.99. None too shabby but I still need those oranges.
Tuesday 7th January: I spent 87p on a load of carrots. What with the coriander I’d bought the day before I made soup which sorted me out for a few meals. I also spent £4.99 on dried dates and some dried apricots in Holland & Barrett. Not necessarily needed but I want to try and make my own version of these for after exercise etc. which I’m sure will work out cheaper in the long run. After work I went to the gym. I walked there and got the bus back which cost me £1.85. This brings the days total to £7.71
Wednesday 8th January: I admit now that the money I spent today was not due to necessity. Firstly I got my nails “did” (acrylic infills) which cost £11.25. I like getting my nails done. They’re less hassle than my real ones as they’re really low maintenance, and it’s a treat and a bit of me time at the end of the day which is always well received by myself whenever the time comes around. I work hard so why not? I then bought a lipstick (£3.01) and a new gel nail varnish on eBay for £3.99. I have the UV kit to do my own gel manicure and doing my nails myself saves me around £15 a pop so I find it well worth it in the long run. May as well be hung for a sheep than a lamb I guess. Bit of a bad day really. Total spends = £18.25
Thursday 8th January: On this day I went a bit mental. However I did buy things I actually needed as opposed to things I wanted which is always a plus. What with my going back to the gym I’ve discovered that I a) hate wearing baggy jogging bottoms as I don’t like how they flap about when I’m on the treadmill and with me wanting to start running I figured I needed some new gym clothes and £44 later I had some. Later on that day I made the mistake of going onto ASOS and ended up purchasing a pair of £140 Kurt Geiger heels for a bargalicious £13.50. I’m sorry I know it was completely unjustified but I did spend a few minutes gingerly thinking about pressing the checkout button, and well…
Friday – Nothing
Saturday – Nothing
Sunday – Nothing
So this week I’m quite please that I didn’t spend any money on lunches, or coffee for that matter whilst at work which was rather ace. The shoes and lipstick? well did I need them? Not at all but I did actually want that lipstick for ages so it wasn’t an impulse buy, the shoes? a totally different matter. The gym wear was a must however as I normally look like a tramp when I’m there and getting new gym wear has been on my “to do” list for a while. I also know that I don’t *need* the acrylic nails but I do enjoy wearing them. They make me happy and dare I say *ladylike* and so for now they stay. I may review it when they need to come off but I’ll review it then. The food items I obviously need and when the weather improves I’ll cycle to the gym and back. Total spends this week: £86.45 (eek).
Seems all I talk about on here lately is food. I’m guessing that it’s because I’m off work so I have extra time to cook up some delicious noms compared to normal. Anyway this is not only for all you coconut fans out there but also for those amongst us (like me) who still need a little gentle persuading.
Truth be told I fucking hate desiccated coconut but I don’t mind the “real” stuff which is what I’ve used in these and bloody hell they’re good. I haven’t even bothered telling anyone that they’re Vegan and well no one’s asked so shhhhh! *wink*
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup coconut milk (I used the tinned stuff as I had some in the cupboard).
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
For the icing:
1/4 cup margarine at room temperature. (I used Vitalite but I had a tiny bit of Tofutti cream cheese to use up so I added this in too).
1/4 cup coconut milk (from the same tin as above)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 cup unsweetened coconut
Preheat the oven to about 350 degrees F and line a twelve-muffin tin with paper cases and set aside. Sift together all of the dry ingredients and then add all of the wet ones and mix until everything is combined and then some. Fill each paper case to about two-thirds full and stick them in the oven for about 25 minutes. I did think I was starting to burn them as they browned but a quick prod with a skewer will confirm when the cakes are cooked. Remove from the muffin tin and place on a cooling rack.
Whilst the cakes were in the oven I made the frosting. To do so I added all of the wet ingredients together and slowly added all of the dry ones until I’d reached what I thought was perfect consistency and popped this into the fridge until my cakes had cooled down. Once they had I basically dolloped a good amount of frosting on each cake and smoothed with a palette knife.
I started a diet this week so I’ve had one which I thoroughly enjoyed and I’ve been brave and given the remaining 11 away otherwise I would have eaten them all. Seriously beautiful with a cup of tea.
I’ve been on a bit of a preserve kick as of late. In this last week alone I’ve utilised all of the jam jars I’ve collected/had donated from friends and family and am on the hunt for more (I don’t believe in buying jam jars. It’s much more environmentally friendly and cheaper to rescue those destined for the recycling bin). So far in the last week I’ve made a batch of Lime Pickle (It’s hotter than Hades, or as my boyfriend puts it “like hay fever in a jar”) and have also had a bash at making Strawberry Jam for the first time which is tasty but didn’t set properly due to a combination, I feel, of not enough lemon juice/heat. I know for next time.
Since I still had loads of limes left after I’d made the pickle (I still do actually) and since Gin and Limes go together perfectly I figured I’d conduct an experiment. I looked online and I found a lot of recipes for grapefruit and gin preserves but not one for a lime based one so I decided to have a crack at making my own. The results are fabulous even if I do say so. I have no idea if it’s safe to eat if you’re driving or not (I figured the alcohol will have probably evaporated what with the temperature of the marmalade but I’m not 100% sure and quite frankly I’m refusing to take responsibility for anything you do whilst under the influence of said preserve.
Lime and Gin Marmalade
1 kg of Limes
3 litres water
1.5 kg white sugar
100 ml Gin
This will fill about 4 1lb jars, but it is good to have a couple of spare ones just in case or a selection of big and small jars.
First of all wash the rinds of all of the fruit to remove the wax. Cut all of the fruit in half and juice them. Cut the remains into small strips and place, along with the juice, into a big pan, along with the water. Some recipes tell you to remove the pith from the fruit and to put any pips into a muslin bag (as they contain pectin) but I didn’t purely because I knew that the pith would dissolve and I only got a total of 2 pips out of all of my fruit so I decided not to bother. Bring the contents of the pan to the boil and then simmer gently for about two and a half hours. By this time the fruit should be soft and transparent and the liquid will have reduced by a third. Skim the scum from the surface every now and then.
Take off the heat and add the sugar. Stir and allow to sit for a moment to dissolve. Whilst doing this, set the oven to 150C (gas mark 2). Wash your jars in hot soapy water then rinse and place the jars upside down in the oven for 30 mins then switch the oven off (I normally leave them in the oven until it’s time to use them.
Give the fruit a good stir to make sure the sugar is dissolved, bring to the boil and then allow to simmer. You now need to watch out for the setting point. It’s difficult to put an exact time on this as it depends on the size and shape of your pan and how much you are making but if you have a sugar thermometer use this and look out for it reaching 106C. If you don’t have a thermometer just test for the setting point every few minutes by placing a drop of the liquid on a chilled saucer, place the saucer in the fridge for a moment and then push your finger through it. If it crinkles then it’s done. Once setting point has been reached, take the pan off the heat immediately and after it’s cooled for about 20 minutes, stir in the gin. Pour and seal the marmalade into the jars immediately (be careful as this will be like molten lava). Allow to cool, then store in a cool, dark place.
No idea if I’m going to keep these for myself or give them away as presents. A lot of friends have said I should sell them but I’m not sure. Any suggestions?
I’ve been going through a bit of a preserve phase as of late. In the last week I’ve not only made my own Lime Pickle (it blows your socks off it’s that hot) but have also made a batch of Seville Marmalade. I had some on toast for my breakfast today and no word of a lie it’s fucking amazing. I’m never buying shop bought ever again. I’m now demanding that friends and family save me all of their old jam jars as I can see this new past time consuming me big style. I decided against buying brand new jars as it’s much more environmentally friendly if I can just scrounge ones otherwise destined to recycling/landfill.
Traditional Seville Orange Marmalade
1kg of Seville Oranges
2kg of Granulated Sugar (You can also use the type with added Pectin if you like)
4 pints of water
You’ll also need
1 huge heavy based saucepan
Sterilised jam jars (this recipe makes around 6-8 jars)
First add the water to the pan, then cut the lemon and oranges in half and squeeze the juice out of them. Add the juice to the water and place the pips and any bits of pith (the white spongey bits) into the square of muslin (laid over a cereal bowl).
Cut the orange peel into thin shreds (this is quite time consuming and will hurt your arms after a while). Add any further pips or pith that you come across to the muslin. (The pith contains a lot of pectin which helps the marmalade set therefore is essential. Also don’t worry about any pith and skin that clings to the shreds as this will dissolve). Add all of the shredded orange peel to the pan.
Tie up your muslin so that it forms a little bag and tie this to the handle of the pan so that the bag is suspended in the water. Bring this concoction up to simmering point and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 2 hours until the peel is completely soft (test a piece carefully by pressing it between your finger and thumb). Stick 2 saucers in the freezer.
Once the 2 hours is up, remove the muslin bag and leave to cool back in the cereal bowl (or hang it from a cupboard door handle with the bowl underneath as I did). Pour the sugar into the pan and stir it over a low heat until all of the crystals have dissolved. Increase the heat to very high and squeeze the muslin bag of pips over the pan to extract all of the sticky, jelly-like substance that contains the pectin. As you squeeze you’ll see it ooze out (as gross as it sounds it’s like squeezing a huge massive zit). If you like you can do this by placing the bag between two saucers but I found using my hands worked the best (be careful not to burn yourself). Stir your pectin jelly into the pan (a balloon whisk is pretty good).
As soon as the mixture reaches a really fast boil, start timing. After 15 minutes spoon a little of the marmalade onto one of the cold saucers from the freezer, and let it cool. If the marmalade has reached setting point you’ll be able to push the mixture with your finger and it’ll go wrinkly. If it doesn’t then continue to boil the marmalade and give it the same test at about 10-minute intervals until it does. This normally happens around 220-222°F/105°C. If you have a jam thermometer then use it but make sure you stick it in the pan at the beginning. My thermometer cost about £6 from a Bargain Books store.
Once your marmalade has reached setting point, remove the pan from the heat and leave it to settle for about 20 minutes. In the meantime you can sterilise your jam jars.
Sterilising your jars is really easy. Make sure all of your jars and lids are washed and dried and then place them in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes. All thats left to do now is to pour the marmalade, with the aid of a funnel or a ladle, into the jars and seal them whilst still hot. Label when cold and store in a dry, cool, dark place until time to slather onto toast.
This song always pops in my head whenever I’ve indulged in making preserves. Weird really since I don’t really like reggae.
I spent Saturday baking my now infamous “Boozy Christmas Cake”. After 4 hours of sitting in the oven and infusing my kitchen with delicious smells, it is now living in a Tupperware box and being fed shots of booze whenever it’s feeling a bit thirsty. It’ll probably continue to live like this until a week before Christmas when I’ll get some marzipan, apricot jam and icing to finish it off. I’m actually really proud of myself and my cake so far.
I decided earlier this year that this Christmas I would be making my own Christmas Cake. This came about after I’d heard the legend of a Christmas Cake recipe that listed a whole bottle of Jack Daniels in it’s ingredients (I bloody love JD). Apparently the recipe is/was by Nigella Lawson but I’ve scoured all of her books and all over the internet and I can’t find any mention of it. Reluctantly I’ve gave up on the idea of a JD Christmas Cake but I did find this recipe by Delia Smith that I’m using instead. I started the pre-soaking stage yesterday and I do believe that once this cake is actually done and dusted, one slice will be guaranteed to give you a hangover the next day. So far the mixture smells like mulled wine. The only changes I’ve made to the recipe is that I added in some dates, sultanas and mixed spice to it (I already had them in and thought they should belong in this epic cake), I also wasn’t able to get my hands on any cherry brandy either so I’m substituting that with some Celtic Spirit Black Mountain (it’s apple and blackcurrant brandy). It’s really yummy and reminds me of Ribena and jam.
It’s been a while since I last posted for which I apologise but in between work, decorating and getting ready for Christmas I’ve had little time to indulge in blogging. I have however been wanting to make Borscht for a while and today after going to my local Tescos for some Parsnips and feeling like I’m coming down with cold thought it best to make it, especially with it being a MFM. I know a lot of wine isn’t considered vegan and it’s traditionally served with sour cream so this is one purely for the veggies I’m afraid.
Overall I’m of the conclusion that this wasn’t worth the hassle. I spilt red wine all over my kitchen, scalded my hand whilst sieving the veg and to me it tasted as if it were missing something. I normally prefer my soups to be thicker. I also found the waste of veg a bit too much so recycled it all in a broth (I just added it all into a big pot with more water, a tin of chopped tomato, a bucket load of herbs and dried chilli and two handfuls of bulgar wheat) and to be honest I prefer that to the Borscht. Maybe I’ve done something wrong but I doubt I’ll be cooking this again. I hope you have better luck with it if you do decide on trying it however.
A handful of fresh parsley
1 large parsnip
4 red beetroots
10 black peppercorns
2 grains of pimento (or allspice)
2 bay leaves
1 glass and a half of red wine
1 tsp sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
juice of 2 lemons
salt and pepper
Put a pan with 3 pints of water on the boil. Peel and chop the celeriac, carrots, leek, onion and parsnip, wash them and add to the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes. Peel and thinly slice the beetroot and place in a separate pan with the peppercorns, pimento (I had none but found this as a good substitute) and bay leaves. Simmer, uncovered, in 1 pint of water for 30 minutes. Sieve the vegetable and beetroot stocks and combine the clear liquids, discarding the vegetables. Return the borscht to the heat. Add the red wine, lemon juice, salt and pepper, sugar and garlic. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with Sour Cream.