Jam – tastic!

Hooray!

First of all thanks for all the wishes in my last post- I am off work all this week to hopefully get better. I am trying very hard not to get frustrated with the system (as I do love our NHS) but it seems getting hold of doctors is very hard work. After my scan Friday I was told someone would be up shortly to discuss the results. Well I waited all Friday and also all Saturday (the lovely nurses did keep chasing it up for me) before deciding to come home as I was feeling worse in hospital (those 6am wake-ups and noises in the night were not the most restful plus I know I bring it on myself by choosing to be vegetarian but the meal choices were starting to get a bit samey). I was told to call today, which I did- left several messages before eventually (late this afternoon) being told that the doctor I need is now on annual leave for 2 weeks, and that anyway I need to discuss the results with my GP and they will book the op. Well, no-one told me that before! Anyway, onto better things:

After the jam-tastrophe a few weeks ago I was a little apprehensive ( although it did make nice coulis…) about making some more jam. But I was determined to have jam in the little hampers for our parents, and a few other people. Plus you know you have to get right back on the saddle when you fall off! I really loved the sound of apple and mango jam (also from superjam ) but this time went for the sugar instead of the grape juice (all the recipes have the sugar in them if you want to sub it in).

So into the pan went 4 bramley apples and 2 large mangoes (the recipe said I might need more, but this came to 1kg fruit, half each) with a tsp lemon juice.

After a while (20 mins?  ) it went all mushy. I then turned on the oven to sterilise the jars.

Then in went the sugar (I used 1kg jam sugar with added pectin as I was taking no chances!).

It boiled for a while (I checked on the thermometer but also did the test of putting a bit of it on a cold saucer and checking that it wrinkled). It also bubbled and spat at me so I stood well back here- boiling sugar burns!

Then I poured it into the jars – even though I use a jam funnel this still makes a mess!

I tried the bit on the saucer and it is delicious- really sweet and tropical. Plus it has set really well. Phew!

Now I want to make some more! 🙂

What is your favourite jam flavour?

Secret Santa

Hello everyone.

This is what was waiting for me when I got home last night! How exciting!

Rewind- First, thanks for the comments (a few of you noticed that I did not post/comment this week)- on Tuesday I ended up in hospital. Skip the next bit if you get queasy. I thought it was another UTI as it was the same pains, but after being taken in an ambulance to another hospital, having loads of exams, waiting for scans (got the final scan on Friday) it turns out I have a big cyst  (about the size of an orange) which will need to be removed. I actually signed myself out last night as I was getting rather stir crazy waiting around to see the doctor, as they said it would not be an emergency op but a routine one in the new year sometime. I am hoping that I can go on a plane as we are meant to be going on holiday on Friday night. No use worrying about that now. Anyway, I won’t go on about it- I will know more when I ring the hospital tomorrow. Seems like the UTI’s this year were perhaps this cyst instead.

Onto exciting things- I unwrapped the pretty presents and the lovely card, to find out they were from the lovely Jemma:

How nice does Gingerbread spice tea sound???? It was very exciting upwrapping all the presents- some chocolate munchy seeds (looking forward to trying these), some mini luna bars (I love mini things), some packets of Justin’s nut butter (we can’t get this in the UK which makes it even more exciting!), a yummy looking Clif Mojo bar (Jemma must have known my clif bar obsession!) and a delicious looking Kashi granola bar (which again I have not seen in the UK and am really looking forward to trying).

Thanks Jemma– these pressies were perfect- tea and snack bars must make up half my diet haha! 🙂 And you know how much I love gingerbread men too! Just need to find space in my tea cupboard!!

Anyway these gifts were perfect- thanks so much to Laura for organising the secret santa swap- it has been fun. I noticed that Jess posted about the bits I sent her- it was fun putting that package together too. I will be spending some time over the next few days catching up and seeing what other lovely gifts everyone sent/ received.

Bye for now.

Best Brownie recipe ever!

I have tried other brownie recipes (normally when I get a new recipe book) but nothing matches up to these. They are chewy, gooey with a crispy top, have a really rich chocolate flavour and take hardly any time to make (and hardly any mess too- just a pan to clean- no bowls or anything).

They are based on a recipe from a really old recipe book called “Greatest Ever Cookies” which I got from one of those discount book shops. I can never find it on amazon or anything like that.

I use it as a basis for any brownie recipe- add in anything you fancy.

Ingredients:

100g butter/ Pure spread

175g caster sugar

30g dark brown soft sugar

120g dark chocolate

1 tbs golden syrup

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g plain flour

25g cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

Line a brownie pan with baking paper, and preheat the oven to 180C.

In a medium saucepan melt together the butter, chocolate, sugars and golden syrup. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

Weigh out the flour, cocoa and baking powder so it is ready (I put it in a cup).

Beat in the eggs and the extract (quickly as you do not want the eggs to scramble), then gently fold in the flour mixture.

If you are using any add- ins then add them in now.

Pour into the brownie pan and bake for 20-25 mins- they will have risen a tiny amount and the top will look shiny and a little cracked. They will be soft when you take them out of the oven, but they will firm up as they cool.

Leave them to cool completely before slicing, otherwise they are really hard to cut. Then try not to eat them all at once!

See how gooey they are in the middle- Heaven! 

Variations that I have tried:

Double chocolate– add some chocolate chips into the mix/ sprinkle chunks of chocolate over the mix in the pan.

Mint chocolate– swap the vanilla for peppermint extract, and / or add some chopped minty chocolate.

Chocolate cherry– soak some dried cherries in warm water (this plumps them up a bit) before adding to the mixture.

Ginger and orange chocolate– Use orange extract and add some chopped crystallised ginger, and 1/2 tsp ginger/cinnamon.

White chocolate and raspberry– Mix in some white chocolate chips and sprinkle with frozen crushed raspberries.

Chocolate pecan– mix in some chopped pecans.

Coconut chocolate– take out some of the mixture and mix with dessicated coconut, swap the vanilla for coconut extract, then pour the coconut mix on top of the normal mix.

I keep meaning to try out a vegan version with flax eggs instead, but have not had the courage yet. If anyone tries it out, let me know!

Which would be your favourite brownie flavour?

Also I got an email today saying that a shoe designer (Patrick Cox?) has launched a cupcake book, called Cox Cookies and Cake , and they are having a competition to win a signed copy of the book, here. If you fancy it 🙂

PS I would love it if you would “like” me on facebook- there is a link on my home-page now. Cheers 🙂

Festive cupcakes!

My day started with pumpkin baked oatmeal from the lovely CCK website- recipe here– while listening to Hard Fi as we are off to see them tomorrow- woo!

I used one packet of gingerbread porridge, more spices, a big dollop of pumpkin puree and 1/2 cup coconut milk and baked for 25 mins. It filled 2 ramekins, and I had them both. Yum! I will be having this again for a weekend breakfast 🙂

Then I was off to the course run by Sweet and Floral (for anyone vaguely local).

I did one before and this one was a Christmas cupcake one.

We made:

A present wrapped in a bow, and a snowman.

A bauble (with glitter!!!).

We used a knife to create stitching detail on the bow- how clever.

I think the snowman is my favourite- so cute.

We also made a cheeky elf and a Father Christmas.

All of them together. It was such a relaxing way to spend Sunday morning/ lunchtime. There were only 6 of us, so we all sat around a big table. Rolling out the icing, colouring some of it, cutting it out…. it is all just really enjoyable.

After that I went on a quick run (4 miles- trying to get up to the 60 mile challenge- I think I have done 35 miles now) in the freezing cold! Then it was a quick shower before dashing over to Andy’s parents.

Doing the course reminded me of when we used to do art at school or uni- I always found it so relaxing. I was always al-right at art, not brilliant but it is always something I used to love (even though I am not that good with the really fiddly bits)- something about the colours, cutting, just doing something physical which you don’t have to concentrate too hard on, but at the same time your mind cannot wander to other things (work!)- I just love it- the three hours whizzed by. I loved science lessons too (for the opposite reasons- so interesting and they were so logical) but art somehow is just so relaxing.

What was your favourite lesson/ subject at school?

Expanding my hummus-orizons

That makes sense, right?

I never used to like hummus much at all- too garlicky and lumpy. But I had eaten a few nice (ready made) hummus sandwiches, and after reading about how smooth Sabre hummus is, I tried it and loved it.

This weekend I popped to Waitrose and noticed a little stack of hummus pots on offer.

Slow roasted tomato, roasted red pepper and lemon and coriander. I deliberated for ages over buying these, how silly! Mainly because I don’t like coriander.

Anyway, they are so tasty! I had the red pepper hummus for lunch one day with a food doctor pitta and a red pepper for dipping.

I had the most delicious dinner- some rocket, roasted sweet potato/carrot/butternut (so loving this right now) topped with some goats cheese, and a toasted wholewheat tortilla to dip in the roasted tomato hummus. Amazing. My best dinner for ages and ages and ages! All I do with the tortilla( you know the flour wrap things) is put it on a baking tray, heat it in the oven for 5-10 mins (the longer the crispier) and then slice with a pizza wheel.

I had the lemon and coriander hummus for lunch and actually liked it! I surprised myself. Nice and lemony, not too much coriander.

Following on from my excitement that I might like other types of hummus, I bought some red pepper hummus from Sainsbury’s too. I had it with some quinoa beetroot and squash risotto, goats cheese,more roasted orange veg and some pumpkin falafels. These were not as good as they sound, tasted like normal falafels for me. But the hummus was another success!

Finally, I don’t think I have put a picture of some tea on here for a while. What is going on??? I have been really tired this week- my run was hard work on Monday, we got worked like crazy at aerobics on Tuesday and I was soo soo tired! Last night I had a short run which turned out to be pretty speedy- 3.5 miles in 35 mins, and I had to wait at road crossings for a while. Any sub 10 min miles for me is good 🙂 So today I am having a cup of tea (Teapigs chocolate tea) and a Christmas almond bar thing to give me some energy for body pump later. I hope I don’t chop my head off with the bar.

So what is your favourite type of hummus?

And anything you tried recently to expand your horizons?