Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Better Banana Bread

When I say that this banana bread is better, what I mean is that it is better than the other recipe that I have posted, a long time ago, for hazelnut-banana bread. That recipe was good too, it was really yummy, but for one thing I did not keep track of the ingredients so well because I was lazy. Namely, I did not weigh the banana and when I tried to make it again I think I used way more and the bread was really gooey. Also, it has loads of different ingredients because I was simply emptying my cupboard of all my leftover baking ingredients, but that makes it look rather complicated. Finally, it was based on my soda-bread recipe. This following recipe, on the other hand, is more based on banana cake, but with less sugar, butter and eggs (though not by much, if you want healthier, try the other recipe!). It is soft and moist and really banana-y. Not only that, but instead of butter I used up the last of my peanut butter, and you can never go wrong with adding some chocolate. It is really easy to make, it's a simple recipe that comes together really quickly. Finally, instead of a loaf of bread you could of course pour this into muffin tins and have banana muffins!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chocolate Truffles

Every year for Christmas I make a big batch of chocolate truffles to give to friends. This year the truffle making has occurred early and I am posting early, even though there will be more truffle making later, because the recipe was requested from my little brother (I guess he did appreciate some of my cooking after all!). I used to have other recipes, for instance I remember making white chocolate truffles once, they had honey in them. So when I go home I will have to hunt through my old recipe books to find that one, because I remember it being really good. However, the recipe below is the most simple truffle recipe ever and is the standby that I go to for every special occasion. It's really just chocolate, cream and flavouring of some sort, it's pretty much the same as a chocolate ganache, but with less cream and more chocolate. I use biscuits in my truffles, to add a bit of crunchy texture and flavour. Over here in Ireland you can get these cookies called jaffa cakes, which are a soft biscuit with a layer of orange jelly, covered in chocolate. Chop a packet of those up into your truffles and you have the most amazingly orange-chocolate flavoured treats. Of course, you could also use fruit essences, chopped up dried fruit, liqueurs or just leave them plain.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Really Chocolate Brownies

It's a cold Friday evening, it's chocolate brownie time and again I have no camera! How can I publish pictures of  seriously rich, home-made heart-attack inducing chocolate brownies to tempt everybody into breaking their diets if I don't have my camera? I guess I'll have to make them again sometime soon! It's OK because the recipe needs one last trial anyway, the brownies are a little too dense, they should be gooey-er, so they need less flour I reckon. The recipe below already has the amount of flour reduced and I can guarantee that they will be really good if you follow this recipe, but I must try it myself again and maybe reduce it further before they are absolutely perfect. However, they are of the type of perfection that can only be handled in small portions! I recommend a small piece, heated up a little in the microwave, served with natural yoghurt. It sounds like a bit of an odd mix but is really good. This is how they served the brownies at my favourite cafe from my undergrad years, it was just down the street from where I lived and we would go there on a cold (and sometimes hungover) Sunday to defrost and fatten ourselves up in preparation of impending hibernation. Perhaps you would rather have them with cream or ice-cream but that would be adding even more fat and sugar, the yoghurt is really yummy and it mellows them out a bit so that you can get more in before you go into a food-coma.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jam

Peanut butter and jam, or jelly if that's what you call it, is a great mix and everybody should try it. I love mixing sweet with salty and of course I absolutely have to transform all the flavours that I love into baked goods. I fist made peanut butter and jam muffins when I was going through a muffin phase in my second year of university and back then I thought I was being quite original. Turns out that recipes just like mine are in existence all over the internet and probably in muffin cookbooks everywhere too. But what does it matter whether an idea is origninal or not so long as you get peanut buttery, jammy goodness? I'm posting below my recipe for muffins, they're actually a bit more like cupcakes but I'm gonna let that slide this time round and call them muffins. I forgot to take a picture and this latest batch were actually really different because I had my head in the clouds and forgot to add nearly half of the flour! So they were very dense, moist little cupcakes and the jam sank to the bottom. They were really sweet too, probably because I topped them with raspberry frosting! My spellchecker just informed me that I've been spelling raspberry wrong all this time (I was writing rasberry?!). Woops!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cookies and Cream Fudge

More fudge! I hope all the recipients of this year's Christmas goodies like sugar because this batch is just as sweet as the last. Once again I have based my fudge idea on ice-cream but this one turned out so much better than the extremely rich brown-sugar fudge that I made the other week. Back when I was a kid I remember going to the shop that was across the road from my school, where they served up the biggest ice-creams possible, and while sometimes we would try new flavours we would more often stick to the tried and true - a scoop of Goldrush and a scoop of Cookies and Cream. Goldrush is hard to properly describe and my fudge didn't do it justice. The cookies and cream fudge, however, is really, really good. Most recipes I found for it were actually white chocolate fudge with oreo cookies, but that was not what I was looking for. The ice-cream is vanilla flavoured, with broken up cookies. So I used a recipe for vanilla fudge that I found on another blog, this one here, and simply added broken up oreo cookies. This fudge took longer to set than the brown-sugar fudge but I like it better.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Custard Creams

I think it is time to admit that I have been for a long time now surpassing my self-imposed limit of baking only once a week. It's not my fault - people keep having events and celebrations that need to be baked for! Besides, Christmas is coming. So this week I baked for a small afternoon tea on at work and I made a recipe given to me by a friend. However, my biscuits turned out completely different, hers were flat and crumbly and soft while mine were small and harder. Thus, I cannot guarantee that your cookies will turn out like the ones below. I can guarantee that they will be delicious, no matter what. I actually prefered my friend's soft, crumbly ones.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sweetcorn Chowder

This week has been awful and rainy, winter is finally catching up to Galway, so a nice pot of soup was really needed to keep the cold at bay. This week I made sweetcorn chowder, because what could be better than a thick, creamy soup full of yummy sweetcorn and bacon. Of course, the bacon could be left out if you are vegetarian, but for the carnivores amongst us it just wouldn't be the same without it. Hopefully there will be no need for soup soon enough, it will be off to NZ, summer and lot's of ice-cream! Until then, however, I will be busy making sweets to give to all my friends and colleagues as early Chrismtas presents before I leave, so the next few posts are going to be sugar, sugar and more sugar. Just to warn you. Not to mention chocolate! For now, however, perhaps there are others out there who need soup so I would strongly recommend reading on and making sweetcorn chowder.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Brown sugar fudge

This weekend I brought a kitchen thermometer and made what was not only my first batch of Christmas treats for the year but was also the first successful fudge that I have ever made. I haven't actually tried to make fudge since I was a kid, but it turns out to not be difficult at all, but a little time consuming and if it were to splash or boil over you'd have an awful mess. So the reason for making fudge is because the next blog cooking challenge I am doing is to find a great fudge recipe. This one was good, but not amazing. I decided that I wanted to make something with the same flavour as Goldrush ice-cream, something that I intend to have plenty of when I'm back in NZ. It is honeycomb flavour and full of pieces of chocolate-covered honeycomb. So it's sort of like a Cadbury crunchie bar. What you see below is brown sugar fudge, also called penuche fudge, and honeycomb is made with golden syrup, which is like brown sugar, so I figured it might be similar, or perhaps like caramel or toffee. It turned out very strong and sweet, with a soft, moist texture.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Best Pumpkin Soup

This was definately the best pumpkin soup that I have made. I have just one more serving of it left in the freezer but luckily it's gotta be the simplest soup I have ever made, so I can make more in pretty much no time at all! I saw a recipe on a blog and once again did not take down the details of it but I didn't really follow it anyway, just the rough idea, which was to use pumpkin that was already pureed, add barley and season it with sage. It worked out great and was fast, there was no peeling chopping pumpkin involved. Of course, in the first place there was actually a lot of preparing pumpkin, but now that I have lots of puree stored in the freezer it's all as easy as pie. So for a really simple and fast but really delicious soup to get you through cold, lazy weekends, you should definately try this one.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lasagna With a Difference

I love lasagna. You can't really go wrong when you have a meal with layers, that shifts from rich and meaty to mild and creamy. Not only that but ir's incredibly adaptable. First of all, everybody has their own recipe for the usual lasagna, which are always totally different. Secondly, you can get creative and turn it into something entirely different by changing the type of meat (or vegetables) that you use, the herbs and spices, even the white sauce. So this week's lasagna is chicken and butternut in a slightly tangy tomato sauce, with a white sauce made with only a little cheese, half normal milk and half buttermilk. However if you're a stickler for the traditional I have another lasagna recipe for you to try right here. I have also learnt this week that both 'lasagna' and 'lasagne' are correct: the word refers to the sheets of pasta and the last letter changes to an 'e' to indicate plurality. My spellchecker wants to change it to end in an 'e' but I really would rather to stick to the way that I have always spelt it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Really Easy Bread

I used to think that making bread would be too difficult and time consuming so it wasn't until earlier this year that I really gave it a go. In the past I had made a couple of attempts that didn't go so well but now I'm really on to it and it turns out that it is so easy! That is why today I am posting the most basic bread recipe I have (I actually thought I had already put it in here but I guess not!), which is made even easier and completely foolproof by using instant yeast. The recipe came from another blog (which I actually still have the details of for once, it's called Farmgirl Fare), but I have changed it slightly since then. I have only just started using the instant yeast because the only store at which I could find the fresh stuff in the city centre has closed down. It seems to work so much better that I think I will stick to it. Sure, maybe it has improvers in it but why should that matter? I often add my own improvers, like vitamin C, so I don't mind that it is already in there. The dough of this bread is amazing to knead, it is so soft that you could just keep going all day (only you shouldn't because that is not so good for the texture of the final product!). Everybody should have a go at baking bread so I hope my recipe might inspire somebody at some point!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mashed Potato Challenge

So awhile ago I came across a blog that had been a part of another blog's group challenge, at which time I found out about all these other blogs that have little link-up parties everyweek, so that everybody can share recipes and get more traffic at the same time. So the most of them you just post something once a week, anything, but there is this one that is a set challenge, a monthly challenge to find a recipe that is somehow really new, make it and post about it. So I joined up!


Friday, November 4, 2011

The Most Amazingly Chocolatey Biscuits in the World

These biscuits are from a recipe that I first found in a recipe book that belonged to one of the girl's that I lived with in my second year of university. I can't remember what their original name is but I call them brownie cookies because they are just like chocolate brownie, in biscuit form. I had to change the recipe a bit - the original was mixed together in a very odd order and the batter was a bit too runny. It is still a very soft cookie mixture, more like batter than dough, so for this post I have included pictures so that it is a proper how-to guide. Now it turns out that although I was baking amazingly chocolate cookies because I have a friend who loves chocolate as much as me, he is not at work to share with today. Not only that but I forgot all about the time difference and have just realised that it is already my birthday in New Zealand! So I guess these can be my birthday treat for the day, which gives me an excuse to eat too many of them!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Warming Winter Meals

This week I am surviving on pasta bake and vegetable soup, both of which I made enough of over the weekend to keep me going for awhile. I had a lot of pumpkin to make use of (and I have still more!) so I am very vegetarian this week, and below I will try to approximate my vegetable pasta bake, although I can't quite remember what proportions I used. I tend to just add stuff until no more will fit but I know a lot of people are not comfortable with just making it up as they go along. It's a great sort of thing for the winter, pasta bakes are sort of like stews and lasagne in that they are warm and filling and more-ish; perfect for the end of a long day at work. They are very re-heatable as well, so you can put portions in the fridge or freezer and have a ready-made meal waiting for you when you get home. Not only is it choc-full of a variety of vegetables, but it's topped off by a creamy cheese sauce, which is what one of my flatmates used to do in my second year of uni and we would always be fighting over the leftovers, it was just so good!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More halloween food!

Well halloween and the long weekend is over, but I made the most of it and finished it off in the best way possible, which is with food! I first made pumpkin pie a few years ago, in my 3rd year of university I think. I had a friend that loved to cook and bake, just like me, and she had some great ideas. This was one of them, I don't know where her recipe came from but it was so amazing that it converted me into a promoter of adding pumpkin and spice to everything imaginable! I tried to make it here in Ireland once before and it didn't work that well but now I have the trick of working with these bland Irish pumpkins - mash them and strain all the water out! I wasn't sure if it would work but the pie turned out well so I reckon I'm on the right track. All the recipes for pumpkin stuff on the internet call for cans of pumpkin puree, or even pumpkin pie filling, spice included! This is very different to how things are done where I am from, where we generally make everything from scratch, so my recipe includes how to make your own puree, and I have included my recipe for sweet pastry as well.