Monday, 31 December 2012

# 310 Resolutions

At the beginning of 2012 I decided I needed to make an effort to read more books, I used to be an avid reader and I was missing that. Of all the resolutions I made at the beginning of the year this is the one I really stuck to and although I might not have read as much as I would've liked I still managed to read over 30 books which gives me an average of 2 a month.

I plan to continue reading through 2013 and beyond. The other upside to this is that my 13-year old son has caught the bug and now spends most of his free time reading too.

These were my reads for 2012.

What are you reading at the moment and how do you go about choosing the books you want to read?


Friday, 28 December 2012

# 309 Rabanadas

No Christmas table in Portugal is complete without a dish full of Rabanadas or Golden Slices as my mum calls them.

They're made from bread a day or two old which is soaked in a sweet milk mixture, then beaten eggs and fried. The bread needs to be strong and not the fluffy kind or it will break apart during the soaking. I cut my bread slices in 3 but you can fry them whole if you want. Once fried the slices can be sprinkled with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon or soaked in syrup. This last option will ensure the slices will stay moist for much longer.


Thick slices of bread (a day or 2 old)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon sugar
450ml milk
3 eggs
Vegetable oil for frying
Sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

In a bowl mix the milk with the lemon zest and the tablespoon of sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.

Soak the bread slices in the milk mixture for a few minutes, squeeze gently to drain the excess and then dip them in the beaten eggs making sure they're well covered in egg. Fry in hot oil, turning until golden brown on both sides. Place on a  few sheets of kitchen paper to drain the excess oil and then sprinkle with a little sugar and cinnamon.

If you prefer to soak them in syrup you can make it by mixing 100g sugar, 1 cinnamon stick and 200ml water in a pan over a low to medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to the boil. Boil for a few minutes until it thickens and becomes syrupy.



Sunday, 23 December 2012

# 308 A very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013

Wishing you all a Happy, Peaceful Christmas and a Great New Year.


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

# 307 Walnut bread

This is a lovely bread and it's one of our favourites. And because it's a sort of a special bread I thought it's perfect for the Christmas table.

You can make this all by hand, use a breadmaker (if you have one) to knead the dough or combine the ingredients with the help of a stand mixer with a dough hook and then do the rest by hand.

This is how I make mine.

Walnut bread

1 teaspoon fast action yeast
200g strong brown bread flour
200g strong white bread flour
Pinch of salt
Handful of walnuts, coarsely chopped
27ml water (lukewarm if kneading the dough by hand or just combining the ingredients in the mixer)

In the breadmaker

Add the ingredients to the bread pan in the order specified in your breadmaker manual and select the Basic Dough cycle (2h 20m in mine).

When the cycle finishes, remove the dough from the bread pan and shape it so it fits in a rectangular loaf tin.

I usually shape the dough in one of 2 ways:

1 - I roll out the dough into a rectangle and then roll it up from the short end like a swiss roll tucking in the ends if necessary.

2 - I roll the dough with my hands to form a long "sausage". I then fold it in half and place it in the tin sideways tucking in the ends if needed.

Using a stand mixer

Place all ingredients in the mixing bowl in the order given and mix using the dough hook just until all ingredients are well combined.

Grease your hands with a little olive oil and rub them over the surface where you're going to knead the dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or so until it's smooth and elastic. Don't add any more flour to the dough!

Shape the dough into a ball, grease the mixing bowl with a little olive oil and put the dough in the bowl. Cover with clingfilm and prove in a warm place for about 1 hour.

I usually boil some water in a kettle and pour it into a pan. Then I place the bowl with the dough on the pan and cover with a clean tea towel. The bowl should not touch the water.

After an hour or so the dough should be at least double its original volume. Knock it down, remove from the bowl and knead for 1 or 2 minutes. Shape the dough, put it in a loaf tin and prove again for 30-40 minutes in a warm place.

Bake in a preheated oven to 180 ºC for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

I usually line the tin with baking parchment because I like to remove the bread from the tin halfway through the baking process. I find that this way I get a more even bake. To do this I set my timer to 15 or 20 minutes, remove the bread from the tin, remove the baking parchment and place the bread on the oven rack to finish baking.



Sunday, 16 December 2012

# 306 Handmade Christmas cards

I've lost count of how many Christmas cards I made so far but I think I'm almost done, fortunately the last few cards will be hand delivered or they'd never reach their destination before Christmas!

The inspiration for these came from a colouring page found online sometime ago and the baubles templates are also available online for free. The shiny, patterned card was saved from last year's Christmas crackers, I thought it was so pretty I couldn't throw it away and I'm so glad I didn't because it was just perfect to make the baubles with.

Here are 2 of the cards I made.

Are you done with your Christmas cards?


Monday, 10 December 2012

# 305 Chicken and Spinach Tart

At least once a week we have a meal made up of leftovers and this tart was the result of a fridge cleanup. I'll definitely make it again as it was delicious but next time I need to make sure I have a little more filling to fill up the pastry case!


Chicken and Spinach Tart

1 block of shortcrust pastry
Chicken leftovers (I had some of this Chicken in Tomato Sauce but roast chicken will do as well).
1/2 packet of spinach leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
Drizzle of olive oil
White sauce (recipe here)

Roll out the pastry according to the instructions on the packet. Rolll it out as thin as possible and line a tart tin with a removable base with the pastry. Cover with kitchen foil and weight it down with baking beans. Blind bake in a preheated oven to 180 ºC for 10-15 minutes. Remove the baking beans and the kitchen foil and bake for another 5 minutes or so.

Meanwhile cut the chicken into small pieces and set aside.

Put a pan over a low heat, drizzle a little olive oil and add the crushed garlic. Add the spinach leaves and cook for a few minutes until they begin to wilt.

Make the white sauce and season with a pinch of salt and ground nutmeg.

Distribute the chicken so it covers the bottom of the pastry. Add the spinach on top after you've drained it to get rid of most of its water. Top with the white sauce and decorate using any pastry cut outs.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.



Friday, 7 December 2012

# 304 Lemon Victoria Sandwich with Lemon Curd and Whipped Cream Filling

This is a light, lemoney cake. The recipe for this Lemon Victoria Sandwich is on a torn page that looks like it came from a supermarket magazine, although I can't say which one. The original recipe makes a larger cake but my tins are small so I halved the quantities as below.

The idea for the filling came about because I had a jar of lemon curd in the cupboard and a tub of whipped cream in the fridge. I thought the 2 together would work and they do making this cake even more lemoney and delicious.

Lemon Victoria Sandwich with Lemon Curd and Whipped Cream Filling

175g butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
175g plain flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling

1 tub of whipping cream
3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 180 ºC. Grease and line 3 sandwich cake tins.

In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, lemon zest and juice until well combined and then fold in the flour.

Divide the mixture equally in to cake tins and bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into each one comes out clean.

Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes or so before turning them out. Carefully peel the baking parchment and let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the filling pour the whipping cream into a bowl and whisk until it thickens. Gently fold in the lemon curd. Spread some of the filling on 2 of the cakes and make a sandwich. Spread the rest of the lemon curd and whipped cream on top.



Thursday, 6 December 2012

# 303 Photo Friday: Orderly

Here's my entry for this week's Photo Friday challenge. This photo was taken earlier this year when we revisited the Blaise Castle House Museum in Bristol.

If you've never been to this museum, it's well worth a visit plus it's free.

Also please visit the Photo Friday website by clicking the button at the bottom of the sidebar.


Monday, 3 December 2012

# 302 Decorating the library for Christmas

In our house we usually put up the Christmas decorations on the 1st day of December but this year we broke the tradition and helped decorate the library for the festive season instead.

This is my modest contribution, I spent many hours cutting things out, glueing, painting, etc. and enjoyed every minute of it. Would you like to see the result of my labour? Here it is then.

This cardboard village is a Martha Stewart's project and you can read more about how it was put together on my other blog here.

These branches were also cut out of cardboard with the holly leaves and the berries made from cardstock. This display will be added to later on when me and the children make some cute Christmas birds to perch on the branches. Meanwhile I've cut a few more leaves and berries as I think the branches look a little bare.

Most evenings for the past 2 weeks were spent folding and cutting paper snowflakes, 172 in total and I still need to cut a few more to go an a window. I really like these snowflakes, they turned out better than expected.

And finally, my book Christmas tree which looks nothing like I thought it would. I got the idea off the Internet but unfortunately it looks like it's been squashed. I'm so disappointed with how this turned out I almost feel like undoing it all.

Have you started decorating for Christmas yet?