Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Spritz cookies

Last night I actually found time to watch a few bits on you tube. I saw Laura Vitale make spritz cookies.  I was pretty impressed that I had a cookie press with the same design and these looked so cute so I gave them a go.  The video and recipe can be found on Lauras web page >>>>here<<<<

These mixed up easily in the mixer and pretty much fun to be clicking these out through the press. I sprinkled on some green, red and white sprinkles and they were ready to go into the oven

And after around 8-10 minutes I was impressed with the little forest of mini trees I had :o)
If you have a cookie press/spritz gun why not give them a go? even rolled into small balls and flattened with a few sprinkles would still be good if you don't.  The recipe differs from others I have used as it has cream cheese in it and it works well.

advent 18 Marzipan

Now last week I said on twitter I was about to marzipan my cake, which lasted all of 5 minutes as I obviously got distracted and promptly forgot.. Todays advent card told Luke we were icing the Christmas cake. So instead we marzipanned it instead!

I made Dan lepard Caramel Christmas cake.  found >>>>here<<<< I did swap a few ingredients and fed the cake with brandy and whiskey (not on purpose)  and the cake fills the room with the most amazing aroma when opened to be fed.

Also I make one square cake and cut it in half making 2 cakes. One for us and one for my step dad and mum. This is a view of the inside after I cut it.  It did actually look darker and is not dry at all.

So we placed the cakes on their makeshift boards and started rolling out marzipan.  Before I had finished rolling the first bit Luke was asking about leftovers. I left Luke to brush warmed apricot jam over the cakes and I was impressed it all pretty much stayed on the cake.  Then we smoothed on the marzipan. Bumpy cake as I didn't trim it for flat edges but we did trim a slither to taste ;o) So after a few days of drying out we will ice the cakes and decorate.

Monday, 17 December 2012

advent 17 Baileys fudge

I adapted a recipe I had used last year to adapt vanilla to baileys fudge
so in a pan I put
75 ml baileys
75ml evaporated milk
100 ml milk
400 g white sugar
75g butter

Place in a largish pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved before upping the heat until it boils.  then lower the temp a little so it is not constant boiling and stir constantly until the thermometer hits 240 degrees  it starts off looking like this

Fairly pale and as it gets to the desired temperature it gets thicker, darker and the bubbles sort of turn into a more aerated mixture almost

When it's hit 240 remove the pan off the heat and leave until the temp drops to 230 degrees.  Then stir and beat with a wooden spoon for 8+10 minutes until the mixture becomes smooth and slightly grainy, half way through beating I added another 2-3 tablespoons of baileys to add more flavour and help it be a bit more creamy and not to grainy, It felt quite smooth but was getting hard to stir at this point below

I placed it into a lined loaf tin and pushed and firmed it down and left it to cool and set. Ready to cut up and package up into bags as gifts over the Christmas season.

Well it's the morning after and we have sampled a small piece :o)  This fudge is quite crumbly but still smooth if that makes sense? It's not dry and crumbly.  Came from substituting half the evaporated milk for the baileys.  Still all in all very nice to eat though :o)

advent 14, 15 and 16 War of the worlds the new generation

Advent 14 was pack a bag for going to London to visit the O2 on Saturday.
Advent 15 was drive  up to London to see Jeff Waynes War of the worlds the new generation :o)

Luke is a massive fan of the musical war of the worlds version by Jeff Wayne and when his dad told him last year there was going to be a new generation version Luke was very excited.  A friend on twitter had said how amazing the shows were and I managed to get a great deal on the tickets and a hotel so decided to surprise Luke a few weeks before with these tickets.  So we spent almost 3 hours driving up to London.  highlight of the drive up for me was going over Tower bridge!

By the time we got to the hotel we were ready to relax and rest as you can see here!

After dinner at the hotel we caught a taxi to here
The O2

Entering the O2 and going up to our seats was an experience as I am not to good on escalators as it is and these went up and up again beside great windows you could see below.  But we made it up and found our suite and seats and got settled.  We could send tweets and some were going up on screen and ours got put up much to Luke's embarrassment

Here is Luke waiting impatiently for it all the start.  Unfortunately early on it was a bit loud for him and I didn't get to take many more photos.  Not because he was upset for long but I was listening to the show and lipreading Lukes constant commentary! I Haad an amazing time as did Luke.  This was one Christmas present he won't forget in a hurry I bet 

Advent 16 involved hot chocolate and watching Elf as we were both tired and were to worn out to do much else.  Fantastic weekend all in all.

advent 13 Christmas tree

Our tree doesn't go up until 2 weeks before Christmas.  Was a superstition of my nans that it goes up 12 days before Christmas and comes down no later than 1 days after.  It's one I stick to.  Luke has been itching to put up the tree so he was pretty pleased when todays advent car announced today was the day the tree was to be put up and decorated :o)

Lots of baubles ended up in that area Luke was decorating until I started to offer some help ;o)

And Rudolph found a new home among the branches. Candy canes are a must here.  You know it's Christmas when Paul makes tea and melts the candy canes into the tea and drinks it. 

advent 12

we wrote a few card but Luke had an ear infection so we snuggled up and did not a lot so the next few days were concentrated on getting Luke well for Saturday.  You will see why soon enough.  Plus I was sneezing so badly I was wondering if I would sneeze brains out at one point!

Advent 11 Shortbread

This is the shortbread my stepdad adores and I will often make him these as part of his christmas gift or as a thank you if he does me a favour
we start with

225 plain flour
75 g vanilla sugar ( or sugar and some vanilla extract)
150 room temp butter
50 g granulated sugar for dusting 

and an oven at gas mark 4 

I put the whole lot in my mixer until it comes together as above, you could of course rub together everything by hand in a big bowl.  When it comes together roll out until it is about half a cm thick and stamp out desired shapes.  Luke chose small stars. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just starting to colour at the edges. Turning halfway though to cook evennly if needed..  When taking out the oven sprinkle immediately with extra sugar and leave to cool on baking sheet 

Advent 10 Evergreen

We explored more evergreen plants and learnt about the different kinds of holly and ivys

not to mention found a stick! and got exasperated at mum taking more pictures lol 

Advent 9 Balsamic beef and Italian market

There's no doubt this child is mine given his love of food and cooking.  Today there was an Italian market in the village. yet again we were a bit disappointed  as half the stalls that were there earlier in the year weren't here this time, but ee found some nice mini focaccias to snack on and some pasta to take home :o)

Also while out shopping we bought a Santa key and a reindeer for hanging on our Christmas tree

As the weather had turned very cold and I had visited the butcher and bought a lovely piece of beef brisket on Friday I decided to make balsamic beef today as this is a family favourite which is great for starting off and leaving in the oven on slow until needed 

Piece of brisket mine was just under a kilo
2 onions roughly chopped
head of garlic seperated into cloves and peeled
2 fluid ounces balsamic roughly
5 fluid ounces beef stock

In a pan that will go in oven I took my seasoned beef and sealed it on all sides in a few tablespoons of oil.  Remove the beef and place in the onions and garlic on still a fairly high heat until just starting to colour and at the edges and then pour in the balsamic vinegar until it sizzles almost away then pour in your beef stock and place beef back into the pot.  baste with with liquid and onions and put on a lid or tightly wrap in foil and then place in a low oven for around 4-6 hours at gas mark 1-2 is what I do with mine.  

When you are ready remove the beef to rest 

And the dubious liquid and bits don't look to appealing right?

Well all I do is blitz this up with a hand blender and it thickens up perfectly and looks like this

We usually serve this with mash and veg and it is pure comfort food.  I have had people just sit and eat the gravy out of the gravy boat out with a spoon as it was just so good :o) 

It may not look fine dining but it is a good homely tasty dish 

Advent 8 Chocolate Yule log

We had a walk on our advent card today to go out and check out the evergreen trees and plants were around.  But it was also the day my cake decorating magazines arrived and Luke latched onto the idea of making the chocolate yule log in it, so we made this as well.  Chocolate yule logs were a birthday favourite when my older son was small as his birthday is on the 28th December but haven't made one in at least 10 years so was nice to revisit it. 
we started with oven at  gas mark 6 and a swiss roll tin lined and greased 

3 eggs
100 caster sugar plus extra for sprinkling
75g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1 tbsp hot water

For the Icing

150g unsalted room temp butter
275g sifted icing sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons sifted cocoa powder plus extra for dusting
2 tablespoons hot water

using an electric whisk and bowl over simmering hot water, or a stand mixer with no hot water needed, whisk eggs and sugar until ribbon stage.  This means when the whisk is lifted the egg mix will fall in a ribbon and stay visible on the surface of the mixture for a few seconds. If whisking over hot water remove the bowl from the heat and whisk for another few minutes.

Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and fold in with a big metal spoon and then stir through the hot water.

Turn mixture into your prepared tin and even out making sure it's pushed out to edges and even.  Place in the  preheated oven for 10-15 minutes.  It should feel slightly springy when done.

While sponge is cooking place a t towel down covered with a piece of greaseproof big enough for sponge to go on top of and sprinkle with caster sugar quite generously. And when the sponge is cooked turn the tin quickly and confidently upside down onto this paper.  Cut off the very edges and score a line about 2 cm in from one short edge and using the towel to help  roll up the sponge in a tight roll with the paper inside the roll.  Leave this on a cooling rack while you prepare the filling and icing.

Whip 300 ml of double or whipping cream until it holds a firm peak

For the Icing beat the butter until it is very creamy and then slowly add the sifted icing sugar.  Mix the cocoa powder with hot water until it makes a paste and then add to the butter icing and beat until thoroughly combined.

when your sponge is cold then gently unroll but don't try to flatten it to much it will crack, but if it does don't panic you can glue it together with filling or icing.  so slather over your cream generously and try your best to roll back up as well as you can and place seam down on your serving dish.

Then slather on thickly and evenly your icing.  This can be sticky and a little awkward to get even but logs aren't even so I didn't stress over it.  I then used a skewer to draw lines and a knot into the log and dusted with cocoa powder.

This then needs putting the the fridge to set and store because of the fresh cream. Take out about an hour before cutting and serving.

View of the inside swirl :o) 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Catch up soon

Due to ear infections etc I am behind on advent posts but will try to get up to date tonight and tomorrow.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Advent 7 pizza!

We are getting into the swing of advent adventures in out house and thoroughly enjoying all the fun we are having with these.

Today Luke had a hospital appointment so we were out a large chunk of the day so I did wonder if we could fit in todays card instructions. To make a Christmas themed pizza and watch a film wearing pyjamas before bed time.

So we started with pizza dough.  I have tried a million doughs over the years and at the moment we are using half strong bread flour and have ordinary plain flour in the dough, Seems to work for us.

dough ingredients
250g strong bread flour
250g plain flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
 large pinch salt
table spoon of instant dried yeast
300ml luke warm water

you could mix and knead this by hand, put on the dough cycle of a bread machine or use a stand mixer like i do if you have one. until a soft silky elastic ball of dough.  I then leave in an oiled bowl for around an hour until doubled in size and I use a shower cap to save on cling film 

Luke was given the choice of what he wanted for topping for a Christmas theme.  About the only thing I think he did for Christmas theme was a red pepper star and used venison sausages for the meatballs. He had fun though spending time pressing the dough into the tin and decorating and arranging the toppings.

We cooked for around 20 minutes in a moderate oven and thoroughly enjoyed eating our pizza watching the journey 2 the mysterious island together.

our toppings included, chorizo, roasted red peppers, black olives, venison meatballs made from sausages and mozzarella cheese.  The tomato base is half red pesto and half tomato puree.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Advent 6 hot chocolate

Thursday nights in our house tend to be fairly quiet ones in our house. It's a non homework night on a school week so we tend to kick back and relax a little as the week does take it's toll on Luke. 

Todays advent card instructed us to make up a jar of Jamie Oliver's epic hot chocolate, recipe found >>>>>>here<<<<<<<

And then try it out.  Luke loves whipped cream straight out of a can with his hot chocolate and I love adding a mild minty flavour by stirring with a candy cane :o)  All lovely.  I made a big jar of this earlier on in the year and it's starting to run low so it was great to replenish it tonight ready to share with Luke and maybe friends over the holidays. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Advent 5

We got around to icing our gingerbread. Luke can have trouble with fine motor skills so we went for writing icing tubes as easier for him and little edible ball bearings :o) 

Here's Luke insisting he gets in on the action to show you his beautiful decorating skills. We won't mention how many balls we had to hoover up afterwards.

After posting our efforts on facebook Lauren and her Mummy wanted their own snowman :o)

I am not to clever with piping at the best of times but we had great fun so that is all that counts.

And for a very good friend and Lukes godmother this snowman was decorated specially so tomorrow he goes to his new home. Hope you enjoy him Julie x

Today was also they day Luke got to write a card to someone special and post it this evening.  Which he really enjoyed walking to the postbox and posting his card. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Advent 4

Today's card contents were postponed. Life got scary/worrying/silly. So I amused Luke and Evsr with paper chains. Big hit :-)

Miserable and medication

Well I'm self medicating with chocolate covered coffee beans I forgot I bought Sunday!

I cut a chunk out of thumb last night and it hurts and throbs. I can do basic first aid so I'm ok. My only problem being is plasters don't stick to me. So using tape for now and I look like a cartoon character with it all taped up. Going to be interesting few days working around this one. Meanwhile. Mmmmmmm coffee beans and chocolate. Marriage made in heaven :-)

What's your go to treat for comfort?

Monday, 3 December 2012

Advent 3 with gingerbread

Day 3 of of our Advent calendar was a bit quieter than the weekend.  Was still lots of fun to be had.  The card read that we were making gingerbread stars for the Christmas tree.  It's not up yet but might as well be prepared.

So we washed our hands and donned our aprons and posed for this photo :o)

I had made the dough earlier in the afternoon and used recipe in the great British bake off showstoppers book. However Luke decided he wasn't that interested in stars and was more interested in snowmen. so we started of choosing our cutters and adding a heart one into the mix too.

The dough had been rested and was probably a little cold which made it crumbly but we rolled it out in small sections and it worked well like that 

Lots of concentration and a few ripped heads off snowmen later and we had 2 trays of shapes to bake at gas mark 4 for around 10 minutes

And the first lot out of the oven looked like this 

As it was a school night we were a little limited in what we could do as homework and exercises needed to be done. Nice crunchy ginger gingerbread shapes.  Very nice indeed.  Now where did I leave my piping bag and gold ball bearings??

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Advent 2 with cheese!

Today we had a short lay in,  When I woke Luke he charged out of bed and down the stairs to open envelope number 2. Am curious to see if this will work on a school morning tomorrow though! Anyway todays adventure was to visit the French market nearby and buy a present for Ever (my beautiful granddaughter and Luke's niece) So off we went a bit tired from yesterday but still looking forward to it all..

We arrived and met a friend and started the day with a much needed coffee. We had visited another French market nearby before and were both impressed by them but this one seemed very empty and not half as big as others we had been to.  However we did get our french baguette Luke had been after and a selection of cheeses so it was a great success in that respect.  

After a bit more shopping we all decided we were all tired and had shopped enough and we all needed to say goodbye and go home and recover from 2 days of shopping. 

So after getting home it was obvious we needed some lunch, and what better than our bread and cheese? I remember Lorraine Pascal doing roasted garlic and baked Camembert before and decided to have a go without looking it up so in a baking dish I put in a little extra virgin olive oil with a squidge of honey, seasoning and a few sprigs of rosemary and just cut the tops off of garlic bulbs and placed cut side down in the dish and placed in a moderate oven while I had a quick shower. 

Around 25 minutes later I had decanted the cheese and placed back in this wooden tub minus rest of packaging and cut a cross into the top.  I placed this in with the garlic.  On the lower shelf I put the baguette to warm and go crispier for around 15 minutes.  I was a bit worried the garlic looked burnt black when I took it out of the oven but it was a sweet caramalised flavour not burnt. 

Luke had great fun squeezing garlic cloves out of their papery cases and onto his bread and dunking his bread into oozy cheese.

This was all that was left :o) We ate with Christmas carols gently playing in the background and chatting away about things we would like to do, War of the worlds the new generation, school holidays and Christmas trees.  Another delightful day where instead of just a bit of chocolate we made a few special memories and enjoyed each others company a little more than we would of done otherwise.  

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Advent calendar

So here it is 1st December and the countdown to the big day starts. This year however I decided to do things a little differently with Advent calendars for Luke.  I get really annoyed in a way at the just chocolate advent calendars. Don't get me wrong chocolate is great but I also wanted to make Christmas a little more personal and fun again.  Somehow I think some people forget there is a lot of fun to be had in the lead up to Christmas. So I hatched a plan which involved a pack of small Christmas cards, a card holder with pegs and chocolate coins.  Plus a list of fun activities ready to lead up to Christmas.

In each card I put the activities for each day and a chocolate coin and attached them to the string and pegs like so

Then when the card has been opened then I am going to simply reattach it and we still have a pretty string of cards, even if they are all similar. 

This was the card for today.  In it it told Luke we were visiting town to do a little Christmas shopping and a coffee meet up with a friend of ours :o)  Also today was the day to write out his Christmas letter to Santa and we would post it tonight when we wandered down to watch Father Christmas switch on the villages Christmas lights tonight.

So Day one is a busy one and so far we have shopped and had our coffee with a friend. On the plus side I have got quite a few of the little presents I wanted out of the way and can wrap them later.We also bought a few cheap Christmas CDs and I am singing along to it as I type, feeling that Christmas spirit has eventually landed in our house.

Last but not least we won't forget to light our advent candle tonight.  And I have swapped my tea light candles around the lounge etc with Christmas scented candles :o)

I can't wait to share rest of Advent days with Luke with the activities and treats I have planned in the run up to Christmas :o)

To finish off the day we visited the village for the tree switching on ceremony.  Santa arrived via fire engine and was manic.  The pics are a little blurry sorry.

Lukes bubble gun flashed different colours giving illusion the bubbles were all full of light and colour as they flew off :o)

The day finished with chips from the local fish and chip shop.  Luke however was more impressed he had the puzzle pages of his new paper wrappings lol