Happy New Year!

December 31, 2010

As I won’t be here at midnight…

I wanted to share some lovely blogs I follow and their new year updates… these are so good and really made me think about what I want from the coming year…

First from Poppytalk lots of lovely resolutions like be more positive (mine last year, carry it over every year, makes for a very happy life)

From Design for Mankind some non-goals, rather than making goals you can’t stick to, reflect on 2010 and think about what you have achieved, this is a great idea…

From Maquette, lots of great ideas from a few bloggers;

This is one I really like; I resolve to only purchase items that I truly love and that compliment my life, and not just products that fill the space or because they have a small price tag.

I also love Erin’s “Be a Mary Bailey sort of wife (from It’s A Wonderful Life)” my top movie of ALL TIME… an amazing resolution, I am not a wife but this is a nice thing to want to be.

Mine so far;

To stop worrying about what other people think (this is going to be tough)
To release those who treat me badly from my life
To continue being the most positive person I can be (going to try harder at this!)
To continue to cook lots, and develop my craft loving ways even further (that’s home-made gifts coming your way people!)
To read more books (Would love to be more specific but I promise to start in January!)

And to follow in Erin’s footsteps I am proud of…
How I have become a positive person
How I have really valued all my friends and family and worked hard at seeing as much of everyone as I can (though never as much as I would like)
How I have become an avid thank you letter writer
I have worked hard to give all my friends and family lovely gifts this year (I hope!)… I promise to continue to make this a priority, I love to give presents.

I hope everyone has a great night tonight, whether you’re staying in (I’m a little jealous I could do with a night in) or going out… D I S C O… like me!

I will also be celebrating two whole years with Adam tonight! My Big Love!

Wish I had these shoes for tonight, although not very Victorian horror, they are very New Year! Couldn’t resist sharing xx

Advertisements

So Christmas, my favourite time of year, is done and dusted (boooo!) but I also love new starts… a new day, a new week, a new month but best of all is a brand new year.

I will be offline for a few days as the Boy and I are involved in a New Years Eve party at our friends pub… The White Bear we have already sold out and the pub needs a lot of dressing before we’ll be ready as the theme is Victorian Horror!

Although not everyone will be dressing up I probably should as a host!

Here is my inspiration…

I need lots of lace, feathers, some kind of head-wear… I probably won’t be strictly victorian… or horror!

Or maybe I could go as a vampire!

There will be no food as the event starts at 10, but we have agreed there should definitely be an absinthe bar, the only taste I have had of which has been in chocolate… dangerous, but very Victorian horror!

So this is coming a bit late as I didn’t realise I hadn’t published it, apologies for the very Christmasy post… post-Christmas!

This year I decided to make my own Christmas cards…

I stole this design (opps!) from my Mum’s friend Valerie, who gave this card to my Mum a few years ago with the plan to copy it one day and this year I finally got round to doing so.

It’s very simple…

First put some Christmas music on, or find a film you love to watch then get yourself lots of card, some scissors, green and gold paint…

Oh and don’t forget most importantly a glass of something warming (I am loving amaretto right now) and a mince pie or 3…

If you want to make this, all I did was cut a triangle shape with two thinner triangles either side to stand it up (I hope that makes sense!) fold into shape…

Then paint a green tree in the middle of the front leave to dry before painting the baubles on (I used bronze, copper, silver and gold on my trees so I had lots of slightly different ones)

Although this is a simple idea, if you have to make a lot it still takes time… but I loved seeing them all finished, like a little forest of Christmas trees right in my living room!

And now the mince pie recipe… I have never made my very own, and wanted to make something a little different and since I adore franzipan and had found a simple recipe in Ideal Home decided to give it a go so when last Sunday my friend Rachel came over, we drank mulled wine and made mince pies… best Sunday activity ever!

This is also when we remembered how yummy amaretto is… like liquid marzipan.

I made them again for my Christmas party and they went down a treat!

You need;
For pastry
150g chilled butter, cubed (plus extra for greasing)
300g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
For filling
150g seedless grapes
300g mincemeat
1-2 tbsp amaretto
For franzipan
125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
125g ground almonds
pinch ground cardamom
25g flaked almond

1. To make the pastry, rub the butter lightly into the flour by hand, add just enough cold water to bind the mixture with a cold knife, put in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour

2. Cut the dough in half and roll it out on a floured surface to around 4mm thick, touch the pastry as little as possible and roll it very lightly, then cut out circles about 1 cm larger than your tin holes
Pre-heat the oven till 180c, and then press the circles into the tin holes and put the in the fridge

4. Make the filling by finely chopping the grapes and mixing with the mincemeat and amaretto

5. Make the franzipan by creaming the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs, followed by the ground almonds and cardamom then fill your pie cases with mincemeat mix topping with a tsp of the franzipan, then topped with flaked almonds and bake for 20 minutes until golden.

I love Christmas…

I love my new wreath…

With added fairy lights…

Mostly I love our tree… I like having a real tree, despite the needles, and I like having lots of mis-matched decorations… no stylised tree for me… I think they are for offices and shops, not my house… I like growing my collection of decorations each year…

I love my snowflake lights…

This year I have added the blue and white baubles which are from the Tate from my birthday visit… and the gingerbread man and toy soldier are from Georgia Brown on Park Row in Bristol I had previously banned myself from this shop but someone tweeted this little man and I had to have him!

The porcelain decorations are from a Christmas craft market, they are very delicate!

These lovely stockings are from White Company (who do amazing christmas decorations) were my secret santa gift at work, result!

Biggie the cat loves it too, he is very good though and doesn’t play with the decorations, he just looks…

I made a little pom pom garland too…

I also treated us to some lovely bunting from Toast… it goes well with our new picture and might well stay up all year round… we have one set each side…

I love the bunting so much and had so much card and paint left over from the Christmas cards I decided to make some more!

I also have some holly and random leaf garlands going up the stairs with red and green ribbon… love this!

And finally tissue paper pom poms!

I got instructions from Martha Stewart and the idea from a shop on Etsy, mine were not as perfect as them but they looked great above the dining table!

Anyway enough with the decorations… what you really want to hear is what I made to eat!

Here is a cute cookie recipe I got from another blog I love With Style and Grace, which I made as party favours for my guests… so I made the teeny so I got lots from the recipe!

You need;
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 3oz package of cream cheese
2 eggs
2 Tbsp grated orange peel
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate pieces – Often times I just throw in the whole 11.5 oz bag of the semi-sweet chocolates.

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using either a hand mixer or Kitchen Aid, cream shortening, sugar and cream cheese. Add eggs, one at a time, orange peel and vanilla. Mix well. In a separate bowl, sift flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix well. Carefully stir in chocolate pieces.

Using an ice cream scooper (or a spoon), drop one scoop at a time and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Enjoy!

I had to work out measurements using the internet as ‘cup’ is actually a measurement… so I think mine may have been a bit off as they turned out very soft, and I added more orange zest to the quantities so yours can be more orangey!


I gave these out as favours at my party…

And I put them under the tree for people to take home!

However once everyone was here I completely forgot they were there!! Only a few people got one, sorry party guests, the thought was there!


A quick little post with a quick little recipe… I made these in a last minute attempt to ahve something to great the Boys parents with… although they are supposed to be filled with lemon curd I couldn’t find any on North St (even in the deli, same!) so mine were not…

You need;
250g butter , softened
140g golden caster sugar , plus extra
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest 2 lemons
300g plain flour
100g ground almonds
a little milk , to seal
about 3 tbsp lemon curd
flaked almonds , for the top

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C.

Beat the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, zest and a pinch of salt in a large bowl until smooth, then fold in the flour and ground almonds. Shape into 2 rounds, flatten them, then wrap in cling film and chill until firm, about 30 mins.

Roll out 1 piece of dough on a floured surface to about £1 thickness, then stamp out rounds with a 7cm cutter. Brush all over with milk, then spoon 20p-size blobs of lemon curd into the middle of half of the rounds.

Carefully lay the remaining rounds on top of the lemon curd, then gently press around the edges with your fingers to seal. Scatter with a little caster sugar and the flaked almonds. Bake for 15 mins until light golden. Repeat with remaining pastry, then squish any offcuts together and re-roll. You can freeze the biscuits before baking, but add up to 5 mins more to the cooking time.

As I had no lemon curd, I just stopped at stamping out the biscuits and baking… they were great, I even had enough to take quit a few to work on Monday too.

 This salad is so good, I want all of you to make this, tonight!

Too demanding? Okay make it this week, promise? You won’t regret it.

You need;
dressing…
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
100ml oz olive oil
100g walnuts, toasted and chopped
plus
75g rocket leaves
75g chicory leaves
1 tsp sesame seeds
75g (the best you can get) bacon, fried until crisp

In a bowl whisk together the mustard, vinegar, sugar and parsley. Gradually add the olive oil, whisking all the time, until an emulsion is formed

Add the chopped walnuts to the bowl and mix together. Season, to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To serve, place the rocket and chicory onto a plate, sprinkle with sesame seeds and spoon over some of the dressing, then place the crispy bacon on top.

This was the last batch of bacon we got from the butchers on North St which ahs now sadly closed down, a massive loss as they were so lovely and they had the best meat!

I need a new butchers in Bristol now… so if you know any good ones let me know, I know G Road has nice ones but without a car this is no good without forward planning! No more Saturday morning trips for bacon sandwiches… gutted!

Toad in the Hole…

December 17, 2010

It is freezing right now and I keep getting colds, which sucks… *sniff*

So I decided I need a major comfort dinner, a big hug in a meal… toad in the hole!

I called the Boy to check he liked it, I got  ‘Hell Yes!’ so off I went to buy sausages on my lunch break…

From the sausage shop in St Nicks Market…

This shop is amazing… always have a queue, and sell much more than sausages…

They also have chutney, sauces, Carmel puddings (try their sticky toffee chocolates AMAZING!)…

And the sausages… they are B I G and so so good, I followed the recipe and brought 6, but I really should have just got 4 as this was too much!

Having never made it before (or Yorkshire’s!) I turned to Delia for some help… using this recipe as my guide

6 sausages
1 tbsp oil
75g plain flour
1 large egg
75ml semi-skimmed milk
sea salt and black pepper
55ml water

Gravy;
225g onions
2 tbsp oil
1 level tbsp caster sugar
1 dessert spoon Worcestershire sauce
425ml vegetable stock
1 dessert spoon plain flour
sea salt and black pepper

heat the oven to 225c

First we need to make the batter,  sieve the flour into a large bowl, holding the sieve up high to air the flour.
Make a well in the centre, break the egg into it and add some salt and pepper.

Measure the milk and 55 ml water in a measuring jug and then with an electric hand slowly whisk the egg into the flour.
Then add the liquid gradually, stopping to scrape the flour into the mixture, keep going until the batter is smooth.  Pop to one side…

Chuck your onions into a roasting tray with the sugar and a light coating of oil, shake around to coat evenly.

Place the sausages in the dish you will use to make the toad in hole and place in the oven on a low shelf, with  the onions on a high shelf and bake for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes remove the sausages from the oven but leave the onions in for a further 4-5 minutes so they go nice and crispy. When they are ready, remove them and leave to one side

(Here I fried my sausages a little longer in a frying pan, purely because they were so huge I wanted to make sure they were cooked and nice and crispy)

Now place the dish containing the sausages over direct heat turned to medium and, if the sausages haven’t released much fat, add the tablespoon of oil.
When the tin is really hot and the oil is beginning to shimmer – it must be searing hot – quickly pour the batter in all around the sausages, keeping your dish very hot is the secret I am told!

Immediately return the roasting tin to the oven, this time on the highest shelf, and cook the whole thing for 30 minutes.

When the toad is ready, it should be puffed brown and crisp and the centre should look cooked and not too squidgy.

Gravy…
I know most people have their way of making gravy but it’s not something I normally do, as the Boy’s gravy is great so I have no need!
So I carried on following Delia…

First add the Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder to the stock, then add the onions from the baking tray to a medium-sized pan (I didn’t have any mustard powder but I did add a large splash of red win)

Add the second teaspoon of oil, then, using a wooden spoon, stir in the plain flour.

Stir all this together over a medium heat and then switch to a whisk, then gradually add the stock to the pan, whisking all the time, until it’s all in.

Then bring it up to simmering point and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Taste to check the seasoning, then pour into a warmed serving jug.

 My plate is not very pretty, but this was so yummy!

I served with pan-fried Cavalo Nero, with garlic and shallots, and the Skillet Carrots I blogged last week too… YUM!