Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from London

My kids were all ready to go trunk or treating. We were kindly invited to an American Women's club event where it was like a little slice of the states. It was funny because there was some British kids in the mix, and they didn't know what to say. They tried though, they wished us a Happy Christmas, Happy Diwali, I think I even heard a Happy Easter in there somewhere lol.  It was good fun.

Since it was an organized club, they told us to bring snacks for the adults. I made some pumpkin muffins which were a real hit. It was pretty easy to make. Just mixed some bisquick, canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and a little milk and fried them. I baked it a little more because the pumpkin wasn't fully done. The glaze is powered sugar, cream cheese, and water.

As for my kids costumes....Neil is Steve from MineCraft - some online game where everything is in 8-bit graphics so its all pixelated. Lexi is a goth pirate, and Misty is Minnie Mouse. I wish the pics of Misty's costume came out better, but she just loved being Minnie she wouldn't hold still.

Tonight I'm curious if we will get any trick or treaters.
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Healthy Soup and Salad Challenge: Mexican Salad

I was hoping to make tortilla soup today, but I didn't have everything I needed. So I made a mexican salad. I have lettuce, sautéed onions and bell peppers, tomatoes, and topped with ground beef. The dressing is made from lemon juice, olive oil, salt, garlic, and coriander (cilantro). 
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Treats of the Week: Witches Hats, Cupcakes, Swiss Roll, Sundaes, and White Chocolate Ghosts

I decided to consolidate the treat of the day posts to a once a week entry. It seemed silly to just post a picture and a few every day.

Chocolate Swiss Roll
My friend said it looked like the side of a skull, but I was really just going for the dark color of the chocolate roll contrasting with the the orange colored cool whip.

Monster Sundae
I made some delicious homemade ice cream that was honeycomb flavored. Then I made some waffle cones. It reminded me of the Happy Ending Sundaes I used to get at Friendly's as a kid.

White Chocolate Ghosts
This was a last minute treat. I got caught up with other things during the day so when I looked at the time I realized I only had 20 minutes to make something. I decided to make some white chocolate ghosts and they turned out pretty cute.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Witches Hats
This was probably the favorite treat of the day this week. I put the cookie dough in a jelly roll pan (i.e. a cookie sheet with a lip), and then I cut out the hats with a cool Wilton grippy cookie cutter. I used to collect them, but I gave them all to my sister after my older kids got too big for shaped sandwiches.

Chocolate Smores Cupcakes and Sponge Cupcakes
Ok, not Halloween themed, but Neil had a bake sale I needed to make 20 cupcakes for and this was what I came up with. The Chocolate Smores Cupcakes are chocolate cake that I dug a hole out of the center and shoved a huge marshmallow. Then I topped it with vanilla icing and then I dipped it in graham cracker crumbs and put a hershey bar square on top. The sponge cake cupcakes are filled with a rich chocolate ganache and topped with a caramel flavored marshmallow icing.

If you guys prefer, I can go back to doing it daily where I post pics of what I used to make the treats. Just let me know.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Healthy Soup and Salad Challenge: Moroccan Chicken Soup

I've been meaning to make Moroccan Chicken Soup for awhile. So this challenge was the perfect opportunity for me to try to come up with a good recipe for it. 

Here is my recipe: 

2 teaspoon oil
1 onion diced (or 1 cup frozen chopped onions)
1 pound chicken 
1/2 teaspoon cayenne 
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large squash chopped
2 zucchinis chopped
3 small tomatoes diced
3 carrots sliced
1 can of chickpeas
1 cup of water
chicken stock

It starts with left over chicken and stock from our roast last night.

These are the spices I joined together to make the Moroccan spice blend.

And then I have the chopped up vegetables and a can of chick peas.

It starts off with a drizzle of oil and about 1 cup of onions. I cheat and use frozen onions because I can't stand to chop onions. My eyes just water up too much. The idea here is to sweat the onions rather than sauté them.

Then add the chicken and spices. You cook this for only about 2 minutes, just to cook the spices into the meat.

Next add the stock, vegetables, and chickpeas. Also add about 1 cup of water at this point too. Cook it for about an hour with the lid on.

When it was all done I took half of the soup and blended it because I don't like really large chunks of veggies, but I like some to give it texture. Once your return the blended soup to the pot and mix it all together, I like to serve it with some couscous. You can just put some uncooked couscous at the bottom of the bowl, and as it cools down enough to eat it cooks the couscous in the yummy soup.
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Healthy Soup and Salad Challenge: Oriental Salad

The other day I made a salad, but it was not that great so I will spare you the details of what was in it. Yep, even I come up with disasters. It happens more than you'd think, that is the thing about experimenting in the kitchen: not everything is going to be awesome. But like anything in life, if you don't go beyond your comfort zone then life would be very boring.

Today I have a super yummy salad. It is kind of like the Oriental Chicken Salad that was popular awhile ago, but this one is made without mayo. 

The salad itself is simply just lettuce, bell peppers (slightly sautéed), pomegranate, and chopped almonds. I must say, the type of pomegranate I got from the store was very different from the the POM Wonderful pomegranates I used to get in the states. The seeds were very light in color, some even clear, but it was fully ripe. The flavor was much sweeter as well, almost like eating candy. I found this odd because typically American produce is breed to be sweet, but British produce tends to be more bland.

Here is my dressing recipe:

3 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup tahini
1 tsp mustard
1/8 tsp sesame oil

I basically substituted mayo for tahini. My sister says tahini mixed with greek yogurt makes an excellent mayo substitute.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Healthy Soup and Salad Challenge: Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

My sister and I are always trying to challenge ourselves to eat healthier. So we decided it was time for a new challenge. This week we are to come up with a new soup or salad recipe everyday. The definition of healthy is simply is nothing processed, but we can use low fat cheese if we'd like.

So for my first day of the challenge I made a creamy butternut squash soup. I am a big fan of creamy soups, but the challenge was to make it creamy and healthy. Check out the ingredients to see how I did it:

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup yellow split peas after they have soaked in water overnight 
1 can coconut milk
coriander (cilantro)
Thai spices blend
cayenne pepper 

I added most of the spices to taste, so I can't really help you with the exact amounts. I'd start with a teaspoon of each.

I mixed all the ingredients into a big stock pot and let it simmer for awhile. Then I pureed it in the blender.  It turned out pretty good. The cumin and cayenne pepper really help balance out the sweetness of the coconut milk. 

Now if this wasn't a health challenge I'd probably recommend serving it in a bread bowl...yummm.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Vegetarian Moussaka Recipe

Moussaka isn't just some funny world Mickey Mouse says to open his playhouse. Moussaka is a greek dish that mixes eggplants, tomatoes, and lamb. I'm not a big lamb fan, so I thought I'd make a vegetarian version of Moussaka. 

After looking at several recipes online, I combined a few to make my own version. Most Moussaka recipes are for a casserole, but I wanted to serve mine with rice to make it more filling. I combined all the ingredients into a large stockpot and cooked it for about 45 minutes. At the same time I made some brown rice (1 cup of dry rice) to mix in with it. Finally, I topped it with some cheddar cheese.

Angie's Veggie Moussaka

3 large eggplants
6 small tomatoes
3 small onions - or 1 large onion
2 chili peppers
handful of fresh parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 can chickpeas
1 can kidney beans
1 small can of tomato paste
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp all spice
salt and pepper to taste

Start by adding the olive oil at the bottom of your stock pot. Then chop up all the veggies and herbs and toss them in the pot as you go. Then add the can of chickpeas, tomato paste, and kidney beans, making sure to rinse the chickpeas and beans before adding to remove any unnecessary sodium and gunk they are canned with. Then I add the spices and stir well. I cooked it on a medium heat stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes until everything looks combined and cooked throughly. When it was done I added the rice. This is a great lunch to reheat throughout the week. I like to serve it with a handful of cheese, but you could leave that out.

Enjoy :)
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Friday, October 14, 2011

Treat of the Day - Death by Minions Cake Ball

I went on a big cleaning spree today, so I made some little minions to help me out. Unfortunately they just sat there staring at me with their big eyes and goofy smiles. 

To make these I took left over chocolate pound cake, mixed it with some icing. Just enough to make it all stick. Roll it into balls and put in the fridge for a few hours until they firm up. When you are ready you can dip them in melted chocolate, or as I did ganache. To decorate I used chocolate jimmies for hair, mini marshmallows cut in half for eyes, and I cut strips of fruit by the foot for the mouth.

To be honest this was a bit of a death by chocolate taste, so perhaps next time I would make them with a white cake next time.
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

KCWC - Day 3 and 4

I was under the weather yesterday, so I worked for two hours tonight to make something for Misty. Tonight I offer you a cute fleece outfit. This is designed to be worn over her clothes in the winter. The shirt has a wrap neckline so that it fits well over her big head and other clothes. The whole outfit was made from a pattern for pajamas (pyjamas here in the UK). I think it will work nicely when we have to walk a ways outside. It fits nicely over her clothes, but it isn't so baggy that we couldn't put a coat over it if we had to.
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Treat of the Day - Homemade Candy Corn

I have a bag of individually wrapped candy corn in our mud room waiting for Halloween. The whole family loves candy corn, but we can only get it at the base that is 2 hours away. We picked some up for trick-or-treaters, but I forgot to get some for ourselves. I've thought of opening the bag and using some of the candy corn for decorations for my treat of the day, but I knew that the rest of the bag would slowly disappear if I did that. So, the next best thing is homemade candy corn. I got the recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network's website
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Goodies from the Garden

Here are some of the goodies I just picked from my garden. At the top we have Welsh onions and a chili pepper. The greens are the tops of the onions, and then cherry tomatoes. I grow cherry tomatoes because I am the only person in the house who will eat tomatoes. My husband and one of my daughters have problems with the acidity of them.

After I chopped up all my veggies, I sprinkled some sea salt, cilantro, and a squirt of lime juice for a nice homemade salsa. As embarrassed as I am to say this, I ate this on with my fish sticks. Not that fish sticks are that bad, but it seems silly to waste such a yummy salsa on a lunch I'm sharing with my 2 year old.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Frankenstein Petit fours

So I had bit of fun today with these treats. I started off with chocolate pound cake. I cut it up into chunks, and put it in a yellow cake bater that I dyed orange. From there I cut the cake up into cubes. I then took white chocolate dyed green and spread that on the cake cubes, which was a bit challenging. Then I decorated it with white chocolate for eyes and chocolate jimmies for the stitched mouth look. 

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KCWC - Day 2 Flannel Dress/Tunic

Yesterday's project was this adorable flannel dress/tunic. The flannel material is really too warm for her to wear around the house because she is natural warm all the time. So if she wears this then she will be out of the house, which is when we always want our kids to wear the cutest things we can find.

For that reason, I made it so that it could be worn with leggings and dressed up to go to church or somewhere nice. Or it can also be paired with jeans and worn as a tunic for a fun trip to downtown London. Living in a big city means we walk everywhere, so it is nice to know that she will stay warm on our walk to the Tube station even in the winter.

Oh and ignore the camp stove on the ground, my husband has yet to put that up since his last campout with the boy scouts lol.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jack-O-Lantern Cookies

I was in the mood to make something with a jack-o-lantern theme today. 

I thought cookies would be fun, but I didn't want flat sugar cookies. So I decided to make cake mix cookies where you add a stick of butter and two eggs to your favorite cake mix. In this case I also added some orange food coloring. The cookies turned out perfect, they were nice and fluffy which gave them an almost dome shape. To make the faces, I took the last remaining writing chocolate. If you recall I just mixed some chocolate chips with a bit of oil to make it smooth enough to write.
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KCWC - Kids Clothing Week Challenge Accepted!

The mission, should you choose to accept it, is Elsie Marley's Kids Clothing Week Challenge...

Seriously though, one of the blogs I follow, Craftiness Is Not Optional, said she was going to do this kids clothing week challenge. Having a pile of fabric that I intent to make clothes for my little one, I was interested. So I went to the website and got all the details.

Basically the challenge is to commit 1 hour of your time every day for a week to making clothes for kids, presumably yours but it could be someone else's kids. Then when you complete a project you post it on Elsie Marley's Flickr Group. (Technical side note: to add a photo to the Flickr Group you must first add yourself to the group and then the group page will let you add a photo from your Flickr account).

So for day one, I created this thermal shirt. It is pretty basic, but it is still cute. It reminds my husband and I of a shirt I made Lexi when she was this age. I modified a pattern to make the V-neck, but other than that it is just a basic shirt. I'm just glad she already had a pair of pants to match it :)
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Monday, October 10, 2011

When Green is Purple - Collapsible Reusable Bag

I have been overdue for making a collapsible. I never came across a pattern I liked, and I was too lazy to make a pattern on my own. Then I bought the One-Yard Wonders book, which offers project ideas and patterns that require only one yard of fabric! 

In turn "green" fashion, I made the bag out of the bag out of a purple sheet I found at a jumble sale. I was able to turn the matching pillowcase into a cute pillowcase dress, which I will post a pic of later.

Here is the bag collapsed

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Treat of the Day - Spider Web Cookies

I was flipping through my recipe cards and came across this spider web cookie. It was actually junk mail from several years ago trying to get me to sign up for some cookie recipe card of the month club or something. The recipe said to do smaller individual cookies, but I remembered when I made them a few years ago they just fell apart in your hand. The cookies are good, but the delivery system was not. 

I decided to make a giant spider web this time, and it turned out great. The kids just pull off a section at a time to eat them. To make the spider I used a peanut butter M&M and I reheated my chocolate from yesterday. I drew all the legs and eyes with a toothpick because I was too lazy to put it in a piping bag for such small details. 

Since I don't have any packaging to show you, I thought I'd type up the recipe for you in case you want to duplicate it. I tried to find it online, but I guess with the invention of high speed internet this company no longer found a market for cookie recipe cards (yes it was that long ago lol). 

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1 tbsp lemon or orange zest

M&Ms and chocolate for decoration

Cream the butter and sugar together until it is smooth and creamy. Then add the flour, egg, and zest. You will then need to fill a piping bag (or zip lock with a hole cut out at the corner) and pipe the design. The way I did it was make an X and then an additional line. Then connect the ends in a drooping line, and if you have enough room do the drooping line in the middle of the web. 

As I mentioned before the M&M is the spider and the chocolate you use to decorate the spider...and if you are lazy you can pull it off with a tooth pick.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Treat of the Day - Brownie Graveyard

There is a bunch of different brownie graveyards floating around on the internet, but here is my version. Alright, when I say "my version" it really means this is how I came up with it given the random food floating around my house.

I made brownies...duh, and the graves are ginger snaps that I cut off the side. I used a steak knife and it worked well. I thought a small serrated edge would do the job just right. Then I took some chocolate chips and melted them down and used that for the writing. The trick here is to add a little bit of oil to it so it is smooth and won't get stuck in your piping bag (or ziplock with a pin-hole punch at the bottom).  To get the dirt effect, honestly I had this on hand. I think I made it awhile ago by putting some chocolate chunks in the food processor for a few seconds. That helps give it that rough look.
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Monday, October 03, 2011

Treat of the Day - Ghost Bite Size Cakes

I've been waiting for October, so I can start making some Halloween treats. I see so many good ideas, but without a big Halloween party to plan there is no reason to make any of them. So I decided for October I'd make the Treat of the Day to have a Halloween theme!

I made these with a British cake mix, that would be the box that says Greens on it. Their box cake has a different texture which I thought would be better for making these. I have a brownie pops mold which I used to bake the mini cakes. 

Next to cover the cake I melted half a bag of white chocolate chips with 1 1/2 tbsp-ish (ok honestly I didn't measure) of corn syrup. This makes a chocolate clay which can be done with almost any kind of "chips" that you find in the baking isle. Once it has melted stir it really good and let it cool. Since I knew I was going to need these rolled out, I divided the white chocolate clay into 8 balls (the number of ghosts I was making). Once they cooled I flatted them with a tortilla press and laid them onto of the bite size cakes.

Finally to give it the details, I used mini chocolate chips for eyes. In order to get them to stick I made a thick paste from powdered sugar and water. I then used some extra chocolate chips to melt down and paint on the mouths. I have a paint brush just for food! I am not sure if you can see it very well, but I took the back of a 1/8 teaspoon and made an impression on the white chocolate. This gives it more of a mouth effect and tells you where to paint the chocolate in.
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