Friday, 22 February 2013

Counting Down...

Only one more week until 1st March and the Fragrant Freebie Giveaway...don't forget to mark your diaries and let your blogger friends know...entry will be open to all and I have some really lovely goodies for the winners!

Cinnamon Rock Cakes...

Since it's almost the weekend, I think we need a little treat, don't you?  Picture this:  slightly warm cinnamon rock cakes, a hot mug of tea or coffee and the Sunday newspapers.  Ok, maybe you won't have time for the papers but these little fellas on the right will only take half an hour from start to finish. And I hope that the smell of cinnamon and freshly baked goodies will put a smile on your face even after the busiest of weeks.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Of horses, ready meals and proper food

I thought I'd give you a little update on the horse meat scandal that I wrote about a little while ago (please click here if you missed it).  Companies in Germany, France and the UK have withdrawn further products from sale, either because they have already tested positive for horse meat or as a precaution (the majority of further products tested negative).  Worryingly though, some hospital and school food has also been found to be containing horse.  I would have thought that a weakened or young body needs the best nutrition but maybe that's a lot to ask when the money just isn't there (as is the case in UK hospitals & schools).  What a shame that it all boils down to money in the end :-(

Talking of money, I had to laugh the other day when I saw the TV advert of a fast food company.  Here they were, shouting about the great value of their family meal for £19.99.  It was pizza, potato wedges and a large bottle of soft drink - all for four people (I am assuming 2 adults and 2 kids).  I am sorry but you can cook a perfectly lovely meal for 4 people for far less than that!  I'm not sure if I am angry, frustrated or just bemused by the ad - maybe a bit of everything.  How do you feel about this?

Fish pie...
So, in order to prove my point, here is today's recipe - a yummy fish pie!  I reckon you can make this for four people for half the price of the fast food meal, even when buying sustainably sourced fish.  Plus, it'll be nutritious and tasty!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

From the garden into the pan (hopefully)...

Roasted vegetable pasta with chorizo & feta
Good morning!  Brrrr - it's cold today!  But the sky is blue and I think it is going to be another beautiful sunny day.  I did a little bit of tidying in the garden yesterday and am getting excited about planning my vegetable garden for this year.  When I say vegetable garden, I mean my one raised bed and containers - small but I think just right for a beginner like me.  I grew dwarf peppers last year (indoors) but this time, I am going for the larger ones.  And I will definitely grow more cherry tomatoes - I love those!  Both would go perfectly in today's recipe...roasted vegetable pasta.

This dish is a great "fridge cleaner" - you can use up leftover vegetables, slightly bruised tomatoes,...

For this version, I used chorizo sausage and feta cheese together with roasted vegetables but anything goes really.  I roasted peppers, red onion, garlic and cherry tomatoes in the oven with a good drizzle of olive oil, salt & pepper and some Italian herbs for about 20 minutes at 180c (fan oven).  Whilst they were sizzling, I cooked some dry pasta according to the packet instructions and set that aside.  Once the vegetables were done, a few bits of chorizo sausage went into my wok (no need for any oil) and fried for a couple of minutes before I mixed in the cooked pasta and vegetables, heating everything through.  And just before serving I added a bit of crumbled feta cheese.  Quick and easy and ever so tasty!

I love how you can just amend it to whatever you like and have to hand - you may not have feta but want to grate some hard cheese over the top.  Or maybe you want to keep it vegetarian and leave out the sausage, giving extra flavour by adding a couple of spoons of pesto.  I think this makes a lovely lunch or quick dinner for during the week.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Of famished food bloggers and muffins

Now, this will make you laugh:  yesterday was a busy day with one thing and another - so busy in fact that in the afternoon I started to feel sick.  What happened?  It turns out that I had forgotten to eat!  How silly is that - a food blogger who forgets to feed herself? :-)  It did make me laugh (once I felt a bit better).  I think it was because I spent most of the morning in the kitchen, preparing food, having little tastes here and there and I just didn't feel hungry when it came to mealtime.  I won't let that happen again!

One of the reasons I was busy was that I was making a batch of muffins for our local community centre.  I think you will like these too - they have been inspired by the German cake "Donauwelle" ( = waves of the river Danube) which is normally baked as a tray bake.  It's a lovely mixture of marble cake, cherries, cream or cream patisserie (basically custard) and chocolate.

I needed the cakes to be portable and easy to eat, so I chose to make muffins and instead of a thick layer of whipped cream, I dug a little well into the muffin and filled it with creme patisserie.  A cherry on top, a light sprinkling of melted chocolate and a dusting of icing sugar...job done!

I'd probably call these "Black Forest Muffins" as they remind me of a Black Forest cake - what do you think?

Monday, 18 February 2013

Fragrant Freebie Giveaway and an award...

Maybe you need cheering up?  Maybe you have never won anything in a raffle?  Then you might just love what The Happy Larder has in store for you:  the Fragrant Freebie Giveaway!  On Friday, 1st March I will be starting what will hopefully be a regular feature on this blog: a giveaway of goodies.  I don't want to let slip too many details now, so please mark the date in your diaries, visit the Happy Larder and be ready to win!

The other thing I wanted to mention is that the lovely Jan at Softiesplace has nominated The Happy Larder for an award :-)  Thank you Jan!  Softiesplace is a lovely blog that is beautifully written from the heart - I hope you will go and check it out.

leibster“The Liebster Award is for bloggers with under 300 followers and the rules of the award is that the nominee must link back to whoever awarded them, write 11 random facts about themselves, answer the 11 questions from the award giver, and then nominate another 11 bloggers and make up 11 questions for them to answer. It’s a great way for new and undiscovered bloggers to meet new people, get more followers and find some blogs that they want to follow.”

So, here are the 11 random facts about me:
  1. I have now lived longer in the UK than in Germany, the country I was born.
  2. I only have one kidney.
  3. My favourite food is mango (or maybe avocado).
  4. I hate wearing long-sleeved shirts under a suit jacket (luckily, no longer required since I quit my office job).
  5. I am one of five siblings.
  6. I don't know how to drive a car (never took lessons or a driving test).
  7. Eating cold sausages gives me the hiccups.
  8. I first came to the UK as an aupair & looked after three children.
  9. I cry when somebody wins something, especially in sports (happy tears).
  10. I ran two marathons (one in London, one in Paris).
  11. Our house was built in 1962 and is full of original furniture which luckily has now become fashionable again.
1.Where would you travel to for your dream vacation?  
Makuleke in the north of Kruger National Park in South Africa.  It is a place of stunning natural beauty, peace and wilderness.
2. What is your favorite dessert?  
Mango sorbet...yummy!
3. Do you prefer mountain views or ocean views?  
I was brought up by the sea and live close to it now, so I guess it would have to be the ocean.
4. In how many different places have you lived?  
11 (most of which were in different parts of London though).
5. Which do you prefer a wedding band or wedding set?
Wedding set.
6. Did you have any input in choosing your wedding ring or was it a surprise?  
We chose it together but my engagement ring was a surprise and it was perfect.
7. Saver or spender?  
Oh, difficult one...I'd say saver as I hate shopping.
8. What is your favorite film or movie?
Oh, another difficult one...I love "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" but it depends on my mood really (I could watch "Hitch" any day).
9. Vintage or Modern? 
Vintage (see random fact #11)
10. Do you have a favorite quote?  
Not as such but I love the poem "Lost" by David Wagoner
11. What made you laugh or smile the most this week?  
Keith the dog - he always does the funniest things and puts a smile on my face every day of the week.

I would like to nominate the following blogs - some I have been reading for a while, some I am new to but enjoy what I have read so far...:

At My September Cottage
Rock Cottage Year
Welsh Hills Again
Cabbage Tree Farm
Dreaming of a Simpler Life
Anglesey Allsorts
Mrs Dishpanhands 
Eco Footprint South Africa
Sincerely, Emily 
Suburban Digs 

Apologies if you have already received a nomination for this from another blogger or if you have more than the 300 followers - if you have time, it would be lovely if you took part (but no one will be offended if you can't or don't want to).  So, here are my questions for the nominees:

  1. Why do you blog?
  2. What makes you happy?
  3. Marmite - love it or hate it (or don't know it)?
  4. What was your first pet?
  5. Starter or dessert?
  6. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
  7. Red wine or white wine?
  8. Running or cycling?
  9. Are you left-handed or right-handed?
  10. Would you describe yourself as an optimist or pessimist (and why)? 
  11. What is your favourite fruit?

Spring in my step...

The new week has started and having had some sunshine over the weekend, I feel energised and ready to go.  It's amazing just how much nature is starting to change now - in our park, the azaleas are starting to bloom and there are tiny buds on most of the trees now.  I wonder what it is like in your part of the world now?

I am excited about planning what will go in the vegetable patch this year.  Last year was a bit of a disaster but ever the optimist, I am hoping that this year's crops will be better.  So, today will be busy with planning and organising my seed collection.  And there will also be more baking and cooking - that goes without saying.  Which brings me to the latest recipe I have tried - chicken kiev.  I have had the ready-made version of this before but not made it at home, so another first for me. 

The first one I made was a bit fiddly but by the second one, I had got to grips with how to fold the meat.  We really enjoyed this one and I hope you will too.  With hindsight, I probably didn't add enough of the garlic butter filling (see photo) but it was tasty nonetheless. 

I will be back in a little while with a separate post with a couple of announcements...uh, sounds exciting :-)