Saturday, 7 December 2013

Slow cooker recipe: Braised Ox Cheeks

If you are looking for an economical recipe, then we all know that the slow cooker is the way forward for really getting the best out of lesser used cuts of meat. We saw 2 ox cheeks in the supermarket reduced to £1 (from about £4) and decided to try them, as we had not cooked with them before. It was an awesome surprise just how delicious it is! And the meat went really far, we stretched it over loads of meals. So if you're unsure about cheeks, nows the time to dive in and give it a go. It's a truly delicious winter food.

Braised Ox Cheeks

Ingredients

  • 2 ox cheeks
  • Water
  • Beef stock cube
  • Splash of red wine
  • Squeeze of tomato puree
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • cornflour slaked in water
  • 2 tablespoons plain greek yoghurt
  • spoonful of thyme leaves
  • twist of pepper

Method
  • I'd looked around the internet and read all about removing excess sinew and any silver skin. It sounded hard, so I sharpened my knife and dove in. It was easy. And as I cut the cheeks into cubes I realised that there were lovely fatty layer running through the meat that should stay.
  • Once any really tough looking bits were trimmed from the exterior, I left it at that and whacked it in the slow cooker.
 

  • I added a splash of red wine, some water and a stock cube, a squeeze of tomato puree and about three garlic cloves. 
  • Then I put the slow cooker on high and ignored it. I suppose you could brown the meat beforehand, it would probably give extra flavour, but I didn't bother and I didn't feel like I missed out.


  • After about three hours cooking, the stock had gone lovely and dark and the meat was starting to tenderise. I turned the bits which were not immersed in the liquor and left it to do its thing.

 

  • After about 6 hours, it was tender enough to shred with a wooden spoon. Delicious. I gave it another hour.

  •  With an hour to go I thought it would be best to add a bit of cornflour slaked with cold water to thicken the stock a bit. During the last half hour before serving, I also worried I'd added to much stock and that it was overly salty, so I added a couple of tablespoons of Greek yoghurt and simmered for another half an hour.
  • Before serving I added a twist of pepper and a handful of fresh thyme leaves.


  • And there you have it. I served it with baby corn, mashed potato with carrots and some oven warmed soda bread. It was phenomenal.


 The rest of it we had with pasta, with chips and also put through a sort of vegetable risotto. It stretched over a load of meals and was fabulous. Don't just order ox cheeks because you see them on an expensive menu. Make them yourself. It's the right thing to do.


Crafty Christmas Crackers

Making your own gifts and decorations is now an absolutely fundamental part of my Christmas preparations. This year I have been crocheting up a frenzy, creating gifts for friends and family. We will be staying at home this year, so I will have less time travelling and more time to spend in the kitchen cooking up some unusual Christmas treats for us and our guests, which I am looking forward to.

So when Cartridge Save invited me to take part in crafting my own Christmas crackers, naturally I couldn't resist. I've made crackers once in the past, but I bought some little party treats to put inside them, so they did not feel as authentically home made as they could do. So this year I have gone out to do something special. I also experimented with different materials, to try and find the 'perfect' cracker. I'll report back on the snaps and bangs after Christmas!!

You can find full instructions on making crackers on the Cartridge Save Crafty Christmas page. They also have some other lovely little crafty ideas, such as making adorable mitten cards and a paper wreath, which I am thinking of having a go on later. 

(ANYONE COMING TO MY CHRISTMAS II PARTY, PLEASE STOP READING THIS NOW!)

In simple terms though, you select some pretty paper, then score a line with scissors along one side to help the cracker pull properly.

 Next, put in your snap and put on a dab of glue to hold in place. I tried this, and putting the snap through the middle but it was more inclined to fall out this way, so it would seem Cartridge Save has the best method, but we'll see how it goes when they are pulled!

Next use a toilet roll and one cut in half (I've used quarters here as we didn't quite have enough toilet rolls saved up!) and glue along the top edge to secure. At this stage I was starting to think that the paper I had was a little too thick as it was quite resistant to the process. It is a lovely pattern and double sided though, to keep the inside edge of the cracker looking neat.


While that was drying, assemble your cracker treats. I used some tissue paper to create my own paper crowns. This was great because every Christmas some of the males in our group tear their hats on account of their massive heads, so I was able to create some extra large sizes to accommodate the super caputs in our midst. It's the little touches that really make Christmas special I think (especially as the person who wears their hat for longest always wins a prize at our house).
 

Next I wrote some jokes. I've deliberately left this out of focus. You'll have to find your own.
 

For the special treat, I create mini origami delights - I told you this year I wanted to make my crackers much more homemade through and through! I am looking forward to the hopping frog making an appearance, he can go quite far! They have all been decorated with glitter glue accessories to make them a bit more Christmassy!
 

Finally, since it's Christmas you've got to have some sweets in there really, haven't you?


You roll up your cracker, glue the edges down, then twist the paper and secure at one end. Fill with your treats and secure the other end similarly. The first cracker was EXTREMELY difficult - the paper I was using was definitely not up to the job, it was far too thick. I got there in the end though and added some Christmassy ribbon and this super adorable wooden reindeer to decorate. I knew there was no need to go over the top with such pretty paper!
 

For the next cracker I used some thin wrapping paper. This twisted really nicely, but perhaps is too thin, and doesn't feel as nice a quality. You can just make out in the picture though that I also added little bells to the ribbon, so now we have sleigh bell crackers of which even Saint Nicholas himself would be proud. The final touch was an iridescent snowflake (to offset the footballs - my crackers have no gender based predispositions.) You can see that I folded the edge of the paper in to neaten the edges and to stop you from being able to see the loo roll lining!
 

The next experiment was a slightly thicker wrapping paper. This was perfect and worked really nicely with my jingle bells. The final decoration is a simple flock Christmas tree. I think this is my favourite of the crackers I made, the paper is really pretty and it's very festive.


Finally, I thought of trying the thin paper again, but folding it double to create more strength. This was definitely an effective method, so great to employ if you just have budget paper in the house (nothing wrong with that, good to watch the pennies at Christmas too).


Can't resist those reindeer
These are my little crackers. I'm really pleased with them and have another two left to make when I've got a minute. I hope my friends like them! We'll be doing Christmas II again on 28th December when we recreate Christmas in full for our friends, so these will be a key feature on the table. I even downloaded Vine for the first time, so hopefully you can hear their pretty jingling noise for yourselves! What do you reckon?

video

Cartridge Save are running a competition for the best crackers made from their guide - I've got my fingers crossed as I would use the prize, Amazon vouchers, to make Christmas II even more special this year!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

LivingSocial and Red Magazine Competition

Head's up everyone - I've just got word that at 10am, 4 December 2013, LivingSocial in association with Red Magazine are doing a grand giveaway to celebrate their latest deal with the magazine, only £23 for a year's subscription. They are giving away 100 Ritual Gift Sets worth £38 each

The sets will include Magic Touch Ultra Rich Whipped Body Cream, Sakura Scrub Organic Sugar Body Scrub and Rice Scrub Calming Shower Cream Scrub. All products are enriched with rice milk and cherry blossom.

Inline image 1

That's a pretty generous offer... All you will have to do is follow LivingSocial UK on Twitter and retweet the competition tweet they post in the morning! Let them know @Morrighani sent you - and good luck! Hope we see a lot of winners here.


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Recipe: Soreen Layer Cake

I got sent a tonne of stuff by Soreen this week. It was a great box of goodness, with their new toastie loaf and lunchbox loaves, as well as their banana, festive and chocolate malt loaves. There was also a recipe book with loads of interesting ideas for baking and creating with Soreen products and some fun puzzles and stickers, which myself and The Boy had a fun half hour playing with (I guess they were supposed to be for kids, but I'm no Mummy Blogger.)


I have waited until the weekend to start testing them out as it's been a busy old week, but it turns out I waited a bit too long... The lunchbox loaves were all gone. That's OK I guess, The Boy is the real banana fan in this house and I would guess that what was left is nothing if not a positive review. He seems to have snacked his way through them in record time.

Signs of a Soreen Snaffler

So instead I flicked through the recipe book and found something that took my fancy - the Soreen Layer Cake. I decided to pimp the recipe a little, adding amaretti biscuits in to the biscuit base and using the Soreen chocolate malt loaf instead of the banana loaf as per the recipe, for that extra chocolatey hit! 


I also used a flan tin that was somewhat too big, and didn't have enough icing sugar and so made a little less buttercream, but it all seemed to work out in the end, so there are no complaints for me. That's the great thing about this recipe, that you can adapt it to what you have in the cupboard. This is roughly the recipe I ended up with.... (If you want the proper recipe, you'll just have to get the proper book from Soreen!)

Soreen Layer Cake

Ingredients
  • 175g digestive and amaretti biscuits
  • one packet of custard mix
  • one loaf of Soreen chocolate
  • 100g butter 
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 60g cocoa
  • couple of drops vanilla extract or essence

Method

  • Bash up the biscuits into rough crumbs and sprinkle over the base of a flan tray


  • Make up the custard as per the packet instructions and pour over the biscuits


  • Clear a big space, then put into the fridge to set
  • Once set, cut the Soreen chocolate loaf into 1cm slices and create a layer of it on top of your custardy biscuit

  • Mix up the butter, icing sugar, cocoa and vanilla to create a thick buttercream and spread evenly over the Soreen


  • I added hundred and thousands to decorate, because I've got class when it comes to food presentation



  • Chill a little longer
 
  • Eat
  • Eat a bit more
  • Pretend you're just making a brew and sneak back to the fridge to eat a little bit more

#SilentSunday


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

RECIPE: Duerr's Baking for Boys and Easy Berry-Orange Jellies

Duerr's resident master bakers, Richard and Paul, have created their own YouTube miniseries, called Baking For Boys. They've been keeping it in the Duerr's family, one of the oldest jam making business in the world, ever, ever! These short films are full of great recipe ideas and hints and tips on how to create your own baking masterpieces.

I particularly liked the recipe for Chocolate Orange cake. Have a look for yourself below, it's a pretty easy recipe to follow. I must confess that when Duerr's sent me some of their lovely jams and marmalade's through to try for myself I went for something even easier to start with! In this cold weather, I found there was nothing more satisfying in the morning than having a bowl of steaming porridge with a dollop of beautiful Duerr's strawberry jam in the centre. I stirred it through for a ripple effect and a delicious sweet strawberry hit in every mouthful. This really set me up for my cycle to work, but as I say I'm not really sure if that counts as a recipe! I would definitely recommend it though!



Today we're having a lazy day in the house and there is no flour in, so baking is out the window, but luckily I rummaged through the store cupboard and found a few packs of trifle sponges just begging to get the Duerr's treatment, so I decided to make the ultimate lazy pudding - my totally made up Easy Berry-Orange Jellies.

Easy Berry-Orange Jellies




Ingredients


Method
  • Make up the jelly as per the instructions. I used slightly less cold water to dilute and added the frozen blackberries instead so they could release their water as they thawed and help to set the jelly more quickly.

  • Generously smear the trifle sponges with Duerr's Fine Cut Seville Orange Marmalade.

  • Break up the sponges and press into a jelly mould, adding some of the blackberries in each layer. 
  • Pour over the jelly. 

  • Put into the fridge to set.

I used my lovely little rabbit mould for the first time, and also made a smaller portion in a lunchbox so I can take some to work for a nice treat over the next couple of days!



Once the jelly has set firm, turn it out and serve with whipped evaporated milk with a little icing sugar for a delicious creamy topping that goes really well with the sweet, sharp flavours. Easy, but delicious! The rabbit shape looks like it'll be more visible with an opaque jelly, but I still liked the way it turned out.

What do you use your Duerr's jam for?

Monday, 25 November 2013

REVIEW: Matey Bathtime Book

My bubble bath as choice as a young 'un was always Matey, so it caused a great deal of nostalgia when they sent me one of their limited edition bathtime books to have a look at. I seem to remember I was quite jealous of friends who had a character on their bubble bath, until one day my mum got me one of the talcum powders with a ghost character on it and I thought it was ace. Easily pleased, but there's nothing wrong with that.

But enough about my memories of bathtimes gone by. According to Matey, 60% of parents believe bathtime is one of the most important times of day where they bond with their children, but a quarter of parents sadly don't make it home from work in time to enjoy it. Also, the research revealed that bathtime can be stressful, with worries of tantrums, baths that are too hot, or bath water being generally inhaled, ingested and otherwise taken on board by the little mites.


This is why they decided to produce a bathtime book to make the experience more chilled, enjoyable and relaxed for everyone involved. Written by mum of two, Emma Greaves, the book features the Matey characters Max, Molly and Peg Leg. A limited edition run of these hard wearing yet foamy and soft books has been produced .


I passed the book on to a friend with a three year old to road test and they told me that it had become a regular part of the bathtime routine in their house. Waterproof, but colourful and interesting the simple poem narrative held the children's attention and the illustrations stimulated further discussion and enjoyment. All in all, a great success and rated an impressive 9 out of 10 Mummy Points!

The books have been released at a recommended retail price of £2.37 (so you might be able to pick them up for even less!) and are available from Asda and pharmacies. At that price these are super cute little stocking fillers that will become a regular addition to your little ones ablutions.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Campaign For Real Salad: US Walmart Ceaser Salad Comparison

I thought it was time the Campaign For Real Salad hit international waters and made a comparison of the UK Chicken Caesar Salad with it's American counterpart. I picked the Ready Pac Foods Bistro Chicken Caesar Salad 6.25oz which is available at Walmart, although I do not know the price as the fresh produce is not available via there website.

On first glance, I was pretty impressed with the nutritional information that was available on the website. It looked clear and easy to understand.


Then I realised that Walmart too are doing the cheeky thing of making their labelling confusing so that it is hard for customers to easily check what they are eating. The product is advertised by weight in ounces, but the serving size is given in grams. Now in this case it doesn't really matter because the product is single serve, but they do offer a lot of salads which serve up to four people, so this could be really hard for people to portion up correctly. The same way that Brits really don't get ounces as a measurement for drinks or pre-packed products, I'm pretty sure Americans are not au fait with grams.



So, the comparator. How do our American cousins fare when it comes to the great Campaign For Real Salad dressing overkill issue? Well, according to my previous calculations, Tesco's Caesar Salad offers 190kcals, 3.9g sugar, 14.5g fat and 2.3g sat fat per 144g serving. Walmart-owned Asda's 108g serving has 196kcals and 15.5g of fat while Sainsbury's full fat take on this salad was 223kcals, 3g of sugar, an eye watering 17.6g of fat of which 2.4g is saturated fat per 133 grams. The Ready Pac version contains 230g calories, 16g of fat of which 4.5g is saturated fat. If we work these figures out per gram then we'll get a level playing field for comparison:

Tesco: 1.3 calories and 0.1g fat per gram of salad
Asda: 1.8 calories and 0.14g fat per gram of salad
Sainsburys: 1.68 calories and 0.13g fat per gram of salad
Walmart: 1.3g calories and 0.09g fat per gram of salad

Interestingly, the Walmart version is therefore the healthiest out of all those compared, just about - Americans are getting a larger portion size, but slightly healthier ceasar salad than the Brits, but overall we're all getting around 200 calories or more and an average 16.1g fat per bowl of salad. This remains too much. I thought it was really interesting that the Walmart version highlights its 230 calorie content on the packaging as an enticement to portray it as a 'healthy choice' - I do not consider 230 calories to be appropriate for a salad and neither should you. The packaging is tellingly silent about the fat content as well. 

To put these stats in context, a hamburger from McDonalds, according to their US website nutritional information, contains 250 calories and 9g of fat. That's 20 calories more than the salad, but 7 grams of fat less. The salad contains 78% more fat than a hamburger. If you think this is wrong, then sign and share the petition to support the Campaign For Real Salad.

#SilentSunday



Sunday, 17 November 2013

Bloggers Christmas Slimming Club

I have been terrible at blogging my progress here, so I thought I'd get on it while it was on my mind. I haven't weighed this week yet (will do so after step tomorrow) but I did the last two weeks and then didn't write it up!!

The 28th October, I stayed the same and last week I had lost a grand 100g! But overall that puts me at 2.2kg down, which is really an achievement with Christmas (apparently) rapidly approaching. I have a swank, but local awards ceremony to attend in 10 days so I am hoping to get into a beautiful dress my mum picked up for me from a charity shop last time she was in the UK, so I would really like to do it justice. Another 0.5k would be fantastic.

Saturday night's in like this may not help!

6.3k before Christmas is probably outside of my reach because I haven't been exercising as much recently with work and excuses and other excuses. I did Step on Monday and as always I am cycling everywhere it isn't the end of the world, but now bootcamp has ended I'm hoping to get back into the pool this week and also get along to aerobics on Tues and Thurs, other commitments permitting. We shall see. Let's hope for a loss tomorrow (may be optimistic) and see if I can shift that last little bag of sugar before the awards.

And after that? Onwards directly towards Christmas, hopefully looking better and feeling better to match.

How did the rest of you do?





Edit 19/11/13 - I went to the gym tonight and weighed myself and I stayed the same - woop!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

'The Tea Picker' - Sugar cube mosaic

My latest mosaic has just been unveiled at the Experimental Food Society Spectacular. She was made to complement the breathable tea bar at the exhibition. I was invited to become a member of the society just over a year ago and it is rather exciting to be in such a select group with great artists like Bompas and Parr and Blanch & Shock.

The workspace (the floor)
The piece is called The Tea Picker and is made out of 4220 sugar cubes. Each has been individually handpainted and then fixed in position. It has taken me about two months to construct and she will be getting another airing at the Experimental Food Society Banquet on 14th and 15th November, so if you would like to see her in the flesh, the chance is still there to buy tickets!







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