Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Just Say Yes

Picture by Karen Kearney

A few weeks ago I was in the car with Lulu to buy her birthday present (more of that later) when we passed the official Yes bus. She looked at me and asked me how I was going to vote in the upcoming Marriage Referendum on Friday. I was a bit taken aback that she even knew there was a vote and turned the tables, asking her how she thought I should vote. Straight away, she said “you have to vote Yes, why on earth would you vote No?”. If a 9 year old girl can grasp the importance of marriage equality, then it’s pretty simple.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Apple Salted Caramel Blondies

Yes, it's another one of my freezer finds.  Last summer, my parents gave me a huge bucket of apples from the trees in their back garden, some of which went into my Hit The Floor cake and I decided to make puree from the remainder which I put into ziplock bags and into the freezer to be used at a later stage.  It's actually getting rather ridiculous because there's apple puree, pear puree, frozen cherries and raspberries, all waiting to make a star appearance in a cake.  We haven't been to France for almost two years so I'm at almost at the very end of my stash of fleur du sel caramel.  I sacrificed some of it for this decadent dessert and it was worth it.  A blondie is a chocolate-less brownie where the gooeyness comes from melted butter and dark brown sugar for lovely toffee flavours.

Monday, April 27, 2015

While The Cat's Away

Myself and the little fluffy dog have been abandoned while The Hubs heads off on his annual Jolly Boys trip.  But we're not sitting on the sofa pining away for him, oh no...  Firstly, I decided to get stuck into a bit of spring cleaning and dust off the power washer to scrub the patio and the drive.  It was exactly like the TV ad as our green and grotty granite slabs were transformed into a pale gleaming vision of beauty.  The same went for the driveway which wasn't looking too pretty after an unexpected application of gunge from a leaky radiator being loaded into the plumber's van.  Once the toil was completed, it was time to think about dinner. Myself and the dog have similar taste in food. We're not vegetarians and we are exceedingly fond of a bit of steak so I decided to create a little French-inspired feast for us to share.  As we're on countdown to our holidays, I'm really getting into the mood!  Apologies in advance for the photos - it was late, we were hungry so hunger won over food styling...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Speculoos Brownies

I have a friend, let's call her Dawn, who absolutely loves those little speculoos biscuits you get with your posh coffee.  When we got samples of speculoos spread in work, she was in seventh heaven and every so often you'd hear a plaintive cry of "get these things away from me".  She didn't really mean it though... A while ago I saw a jar of the spread and bought it with her in mind but then she was in wedding preparation mode and nothing but dust and carrot sticks passed her lips, so the jar stayed in my cupboard.  Until now.  You see, she's now a very happily married pregnant lady and the new cry is "baby wants cake" so I had to oblige! These are very indulgent brownies, made with some exceedingly high quality chocolate, crushed speculoos biscuits and giant dollops of the speculoos
spread on top for added decadence.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

West Waterford Festival of Food 2015

Yes, it's that time of year again.  The West Waterford Festival of Food kicks off on Thursday 9th April in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford.  Now in it's eighth year, this year's festival is themed around celebrating Generations of Food Stories and there's heaps of activities for people of all ages to enjoy.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Double Spud Topped Cottage Pie

This week has been a flipping disaster.  Firstly, poor Sandie the fluffy dog ended up at the vets where we found out she has an ulcer on her cornea.  The poor little mush is not a happy dog at all with eyedrops being administered by Little Sis and Lulu forming a two man headlock team every few hours and painkillers hidden in pieces of chicken.  She's feeling very sorry for herself indeed.  Then the next day, I hurt my eye.  Nothing major, I thought.  Just whip out the contacts, stick on the (hated) specs for a day and all will be well. Eh, no.  A visit to the chemist turned into an immediate visit to the GP which transformed into a "get to Casualty in the Eye and Ear hospital.  Now".  After having my eyelid turned inside out twice - as gruesome as it sounds - and dye drops into my eye, I also have an ulcer on my cornea.  Nice.

So this means no driving for a week, lots of eyedrops every few hours, avoiding bright light, splitting headaches and rummaging through the freezer for dinner as quite frankly, I'm not in the humour to cook.  This is the time I'm grateful for batch cooking because I unearthed two portions of special cottage pie that I froze before Christmas.  In foil dishes too, so no washing up necessary.  In fact, had I been alone, I possibly would have eaten it straight from the container.  But decorum called for a plate, extra veggies and cutlery.  Can't let standards slip just because I'm like One Eyed Jack.  This makes 4-5 decent portions which you can eat straight away or freeze for up to 6 months.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Protecting Your Financial Future

Something that has only dawned on me with wisdom is the importance of protecting our financial future.  When I started working, I was paid an absolute pittance but managed to have a pretty decent life with my meagre earnings.  Of course it was because I was spending every penny and not saving anything at all. As I got older and started thinking about buying a house, my financial behaviour had to change enormously to make this happen.  Loans had to be cleared, credit card balances paid off and a lovely healthy credit rating established.  It took time and a second job in the evening at one stage, but I eventually got there.  A bit like Monica Galetti from Masterchef who had some pretty tricky financial issues when she first moved to London.

Monica Galetti talks about becoming a chef

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cherry Amaretti Muffins

During the summer, I buy cherries when they're in season and cheap and spend a happy half hour pitting them before eating some and freezing the rest for baking later in the year.  One of the best investments I've ever made is a cherry pitter which makes short shrift of taking the stones out of the cherries without mangling the delicate fruit.  According to The Hubs, it sounds like a machine gun as I "phut phut" my way through a few punnets but it makes life so much easier and for a tenner, it's definitely worth the investment.

This is a great recipe when you've forgotten to take the butter out of the fridge but want to bake something lovely - buttermilk and oil work together to create a really moist muffin, while cherries straight from the freezer and a handful of amaretti biscuits from the cupboard bring flavour and crunch to a regular run of the mill bake.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Marvellous Ideas for Mother's Day

What do you mean, you've forgotten?  Mother's Day is this Sunday, March 15th and I've a list of lovely things which would make perfect gifts for your Mum.  Actually, it's also Little Sis's birthday so Lulu was planning to consolidate the two events into Happy Mother's Birthday but I think I've persuaded her that she needs to make two cards instead of just the one!

Mother's Day at Marks and Spencer

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Comic Relief Cupcakes for Red Nose Day

Friday 13th doesn't all have to be doom and gloom, especially this year, when it's time to get your bake on for Red Nose Day.  I picked up a great cupcake kit in Sainsburys last week for £2.50, with half of the proceeds going directly to Comic Relief who fund thousands of projects helping millions of people worldwide. There's nothing more appropriate for a cupcake than a Red Velvet Sponge and I ramped it up by adding some Raspberry flavouring to my basic cake batter for a moist chocolate raspberry sponge with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream icing. Lucy has volunteered to eat all of the cupcakes herself and she might even donate some pocket money too.  She's a generous soul...

So, are you planning to bake cakes or make your face funny for money?  Tell me all about it!

Comic Relief Cupcakes for Red Nose Day