Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Daring Bakers #23 Walnut kidney bean chocolate brownies...

Ruth from Makey-Cakey was our March 2013 Daring Bakers’ challenge host. She encouraged us all to get experimental in the kitchen and sneak some hidden veggies into our baking, with surprising and delicious results!
I was quite excited by this month's challenge. Having two 'little ones' at home I know how important it is for the kids to eat plenty of fruit and veg. Luckily I don't have to 'sneak' anything as my girls like fruit and veg (well fruit more than the latter but still I don't have a big problem when it comes to dinner times). This recipe was quite simple and I was pleasantly surprised by the result! Nice, moist, but not dense, brownies! I also planned making courgette cupcakes but ran out of time. Nothing lost tho - as I'll be making them later on! I am definitely more encouraged to experiment with 'veggie cakes/sweets' more now and I'll definitely be making more of those kind of bakes in the future :)

Tried this cake on few of my friends and no one had any idea that they are beans inside it - unfortunately when some of them learned the truth they stopped eating the brownie all together... Well - more for me! :)

How to make it...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Easter hot cross buns... recipe by Paul Hollywood...

I'm always looking for Easter with anticipation.... It's a great time of the year and more so there are few dishes/foods that we would enjoy only around that time. My "affair" with the cross hot buns is like the one with the mince pies during Christmas - I just love them and can't get enough of them! It's the first time ever tho that I was able to try the home made version, and as with everything - way better than the shop bought one! Those little sticky buns are sweet and just loaded with sultanas, mixed peel and cinnamon - oh sooooo good! :) I admit that there's a bit of work involved in making them, but nothing too complicated, and the result is well worth it!!!

"A hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top, traditionally eaten on Good Friday. In many historically Christian countries, buns are traditionally eaten hot or toasted during Lent, beginning with the evening of Mardi Gras (the evening before Ash Wednesday) through Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of the Crucifixion. English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or mold during the subsequent year. Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover. Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if "Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be" is said at the time. Because there is a cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten. If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year." - by

How to make it...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quinoa -> facts...

I'm quite intrigued by Quinoa. I've discovered it only recently but I already love it and it seems I'm not the only one! Internet is full of recipes (some better than others) but there's little known about Quinoa itself, despite the fact that it has been known to people for few thousand years now... So, to find out more about this fantastic ingredient I've done some research and decided to put it all together for you (something similar I've already done in the topic of FLOUR).

2013 has been declared International Year of Quinoa by the United Nations.

The year 2013 has been declared "The International Year of the Quinoa" (IYQ), recognizing the Andean indigenous peoples, who have maintained, controlled, protected and preserved quinoa as food for present and future generations thanks to their traditional knowledge and practices of living well in harmony with mother earth and nature.
The International Year of the Quinoa (IYQ) was proposed by the government of Bolivia, with support from Argentina, Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Georgia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay, and FAO, and approved by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011. The Conference took note of the exceptional nutritional qualities of quinoa, its adaptability to different agro-ecological floors and its potential contribution in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

1. It’s not a grain
While Quinoa is often referred to as a grain, it is in fact a seed.  Botanically it’s related to spinach, beetroot and chard, and like it’s relatives, in addition to the edible seed, the leaves can be eaten as well.  Quinoa grows on stalks of between three to nine feet tall. The large seed heads can vary in colour, from red, purple and orange to green, black or yellow.  Having said that, I’ve only ever seen white for sale in Ireland (would like to buy red or purple quinoa - as it would look great in any kind of dish!).

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Daring Cooks #23 Yogurt cheese (labneh)...

Sawsan from chef in disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our own homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!
We used Greek yogurt to make the cheese and it turned out very creamy and rich, just beautiful and very delicious! It's so simple to make and quick to make. I've never heard of yogurt cheese before so it was nice to learn about it and it's definitely something that we will make over and over again!
This month I didn't attempt any other cheese recipes provided, as we already make our own ricotta and Polish style cottage cheese. Also - it was my 30th birthday 2 days ago so I was really cut for time. ;)

How to make it...

Monday, March 04, 2013

Quinoa/Pearl barley with courgettes and onions...

I bought 4 nice courgettes (zucchinis) recently and didn't feel like making "fritters" out of them - AGAIN! So a quick flip through my cook books and I've found a perfect recipe. Perfect because it meant something different, something new and I thought (how I was wrong!) that I have all the ingredients at hand.
Book on the counter, pan ready on the stove, time to gather all the ingredients and get cooking. First courgettes - washed and cut, onions - thinly sliced, time to cook the quinoa - NO quinoa! Not even cous cous! Panic! But... think, think, think - have some pearl barley, that should do :) Next herbs, thyme and parsley - again nada! Some dry thyme but NO parsley at all... Well, will have to do without it. Going through the rest of the list... Garlic - chopped, pine nuts - NOTHING, again... At this stage some would already give up - NOT me :) Lemon juice - well, if you consider moldy half of lemon proper for consumption... Fortunately had some lemon juice (in a nice plastic lemon shaped bottle) in the fridge.
With slightly altered ingredients' list I've actually managed to cook a great dish! Nice flavours and will definitely have to try it next time AS IT IS in the recipe ;) If you happen to have ALL the ingredients I hope you'll give this one a go! :)

Recipe comes from a great book "Veg Everyday" by River Cottage.

How to make it...

Friday, March 01, 2013

Chocolate Guinness cake...

I'm not a huge fan of Guinness, it's way to heavy and too bitter for me to just drink it but... baking and/or cooking with it is completely different story. I like it's "caramely" flavour, it goes well with many dishes. As the St. Patrick's Day is approaching again I thought I finally give this cake a go - was planning on baking it for over a year now...! This cake couldn’t be easier to make — you toss it all together, in one big pot on the stove. The result was delicious, moist but not dense or heavy cake, with that slight beery flavor at the end.

Recipe by Nigella Lawson - don't think that any of her recipes failed me before, this one was a success as well!

How to make it...