Monday, 29 April 2013

What's in my Nutribox?

I am a self confessed snacker, and pretty much have always been. Working shifts can play havoc with my appetite, which I also use as some justification to the amount of chocolate and snacky things that end up in my basket, much to the chagrin of my dentist! Despite managing to eat quite full meals I still manage to snack my way through the day happily on whatever is quick and easy, varying from rice cakes to secret stashes of fudge!

However I am always on the lookout for more healthier snacks and recently I was contacted by The Nutribox about trying one of their boxes of healthy snacks - it didn't take me long to reply yes please! Its a very easy to use site - you simply choose your box size, and whether you want it at the beginning or middle of the month either as a one off or on subscription. Each box is packed full of a mixture of fruit and nut selections, snacky bars and even treats such as chocolate! 

My box had a mix of raw chocolate bars, snack bars and dried fruit and nut mixes - and all are delicious so far!

The first product I tried was an 'Choc Crisp Energy Bomb', during a recent night shift. Normally by about 5am I feel myself flagging and the blood sugar depleting, and so I tucked into it at about 5.15am and waited to 7.30am I felt sorry for my patients because I was very perky and still full of beans! The only downside was realising I had eaten it a little too close to the end of my shift and then had to sleep...! Will time it better next time! I was surprised how much natural energy it gave me and how well it kept me alert, in comparison to my usual strong black coffee!

I've also had a few nibbles of the 'Ombar' dark chocolate, with hints of cranberry and mandarin. Its delicious, smooth but nicely bitter and despite my initial wariness following my revulsion at eating some raw cacao a few years back at a food festival, this was a very pleasant surprise! You only need a small piece to to feel that lovely chocolatey buzz, so my dentist might be more happier next time....!

One of my fruit mixes was pleasingly called 'Hot Cross Bun' and consists of sultanas, cranberries and hazlenuts, which is a delicious little snack mix.

Many thanks to The Nutribox for my box, its delicious and very useful!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Brie Stuffed Mushrooms with Balsamic Courgettes

Firstly, whilst I've been cooking an awful lot, I've not been really photographing, yet alone making notes, and so in turn the blog has become a little redundant... Over the past few months, my circumstances have evolved for the better, I have completed a course of therapy to help my understanding of me better, and as a result things I used to needlessly prioritize have changed.

I made this delicious recipe up months back, if I recall correctly after Christmas, when we had a glut of brie leftover and my dad bought me a tray of gorgeous flat mushrooms over. Its since been patiently sitting on my 'to post' list. Not sure why I hadn't gotten around to it but like life but finally it is here!

Looking back, I think my blogging became an outlet of sorts, maybe even escapism from a situation where I didn't feel my cooking was appreciated, and allowed me to vent and I suppose seek opinion and reassurance that what was I making, was infact good/ edible etc! Whereas now I know whilst its not always perfect, I can cook well, even quite brilliant at times and I am more accepting of my strengths and weaknesses. Not just in food, pretty much everything in my life really.

I can honestly say, that to anyone who has gone through the ugliness of crippling anxiety and depression - you have my upmost respect and sympathy. Its only when you look back and realise just how many corners of your life that it had crept into, how much power it had over you that you find out how strong you really are, and can start cutting back those weeds, until they eventually clear. Then its a case of the odd sprinkle of weedkiller to keep it at bay. If you ever feel like you might be in the same position - please do seek help - its nothing to be ashamed of!

So getting back to the one that has remained a passion of mine - the food - its been a love hate relationship at times but this was definitely love! The brie goes oozingly meltingly lovely against the earthy mushrooms and it makes a perfect lunch for one, two or more.

2 heaped tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
6 leaves purple basil (regular will be fine too!)
A small wedge of brie
2 large flat mushrooms
Spray oil

1 courgette
½ tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Start by preheating the grill, spay the mushrooms with generous chunks of brie, pack with breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper, and add a few torn up basil leaves.

Spray liberally with oil and grill at medium-hot for approx. 10 minutes or until bubbling and golden.

Meanwhile, for the courgettes, slice into 1cm chunks. Pan fry in a little oil over a moderate heat to get some colour on - they should still have some bite to them, season with salt and pepper, swirl in about a tbsp. of balsamic vinegar to coat, serve immediately alongside the mushrooms.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Anne's Kitchens new Cafetiere

Coffee is one of life's essentials for me! Even though I do the occasional battle with acid reflux nothing gets between me and my caffeine, I am a firm believer in everything in moderation and providing I stick to small quantities  the stomach behaves just fine! 
Whilst I normally like the higher end instant coffee's, sometimes I just like to relax back and make a proper cup of ground coffee. Previously I had a rather old cafetiere which had seen better days and I had been eyeing up smaller versions to replace it with, when Bodum gave me opportunity to try one of their models. After perusing the website for some time debating what would suit me best, I fell in love with a pretty little red number with the rather cute name of Bean!

Since Bean's arrival, it has firmly earned its place and whilst being advertised as a 3 cup - that means small espresso cup sized, alternatively I get one large one mug out of it and buzz for a few hours! My cafetiere is perfectly sized for making coffee for one and we are both very happy together!

A really great feature is the heat sealing lid, as I am rather forgetful and it keeps my coffee piping hot until I remember its sitting waiting for me in the kitchen! It also doesn't drip either, resulting in less mess, always a good thing!

Perfect coffee with a lovely slice of homemade upside down pear cake:

Many thanks to Bodum!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Coconut Buns

One of my favourite ingredients in baking, is coconut. I just adore the sweet, nuttyness and most of bakes seem to end up with a handful thrown in! These babies are no exception! Everyone loved them, to the point this is their own picture as they mysteriously vanished! They are similar in flavour to coconut macaroons but just a little more cakey, and delicious in their own right. My brother suggested rice paper for next time...trouble is I can just eat that stuff and it probably wouldn't hang around long enough!

When my beloved Nanny J passed away, I inherited some of her well worn cookbooks, and I spotted this recipe some time back within a copy of Farmhouse Kitchen, which apparently was in connection with a TV series circa 1978 and consists of recipes sent in by viewers. I love to flick through it, snagging ideas and wondering as to how much my nanny might have used the book too. There are no pictures, which sometimes isn't a bad thing as you can interpret how you like without fretting that its doesn't look like the picture does!

These buns were super easy to make, and the cherries were my addition, and a good one too as they make the buns a little more attractive and lets be honest, who can resist the lure of a sticky sweet glace cherry?

When I went to bake these, I was also mid making a lemon sponge for my mums birthday, but fancied something coconutty and quickly whipped these up alongside, they are pretty much weigh, mix, splodge onto  tray and bake!

Makes 16

100g self raising flour
100g desiccated coconut
75g caster sugar
100g margarine
1 beaten egg
8 glace cherries, halved

Pre-heat oven to 190o/ gas 5

1) Mix together the dry ingredients, using fingers rub in the margaraine to form smaller lumps, as in the style of making pastry.

2) Use a fork to beat in the egg and mix thoroughly.

3) Blob the mixture onto a baking tray, allowing a little room in between and top with the cherries

4) Bake in the top part of the oven for 10-15 minutes or until cooked and lightly golden. They took about 14 minutes in mine, be careful as they go from anaemic to sun tanned quickly!

I am also sending these lovely buns over to Bookmarked Recipes held by the Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes

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