Saturday, December 31, 2011

Favourite Cake Recipes of 2011



It’s New Year’s Eve, and what better way to celebrate than with a wonderful, homemade cake? Well, other than champagne of course! Actually, I’ve always had a penchant for a glass of champagne with a piece of cake on very special occasions, and New Year is definitely one of those. 
Need some inspiration? To see some of my favourite cake recipes from this year please click here...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A New Year's Edition of The Gallery of Favorites

Gallery of Favorites


Alea of Premeditated Leftovers and I want to welcome you to a very special edition of our weekend blog hop, The Gallery of Favorites. 
The Gallery of Favorites is a place for you to feature favorite posts from your own blog. Although Alea and I both spend a lot of our time writing about food, we do have many other interests and know that our readers do as well. The Gallery of Favorites is a place for all bloggers - not just food bloggers - to share their ideas, interests and passions. Of course, recipe and food posts are very welcome too!
This is our New Year’s edition, and we would love for you to share your favorite posts of the whole year from your own blogs. 

To read more, and to share your posts, please click here...


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Enjoying New York City


Photo credit Alex J Harris

We are having a wonderful time here in New York City, watching as the city celebrates Christmas and gets ready to welcome the New Year. Walking is definitely one of the best ways to get around. I always seem to find taxi drivers who either haven’t been in New York very long or think I don’t know the city very well - like the one the other night who had no idea where the iconic Russian Tea Rooms were (or so he said). Luckily I have eaten there so many times I know the address by heart. He was very disappointed, and kept mumbling ‘never heard of it’! Then there was the taxi driver who pulled away from our hotel after my husband and I got in the taxi, but before our son did. I’m not sure who that was more scary for - my husband and I in the car, or for my son with his toes just inches from virtually spinning taxi wheels. Maybe I’m just ‘lucky’ with New York taxi drivers, but seriously, I’d much rather walk! 

To read more, please click here...

Let's Do Brunch with The 21st Century Housewife


Thank you for joining us for Let’s Do Brunch, the recipe exchange for breakfast, lunch and brunch recipes. I’m sorry, I am late posting this week due to my family holiday - the time keeps slipping away on me! 
Thank you to everyone who contributed last week. Chaya and I always enjoy visiting your posts and trying out the wonderful new ideas you share. My co-host, Chaya of My Sweet and Savory will be choosing some of her highlights from last week’s hop, and this week I want to highlight some of the wonderful cookie recipes that were shared last week. This is usually the time I am beginning to run out of cookies, and need some more ideas for holiday entertaining. 

To read more, and share your recipes, please click here...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Very Special Visit to Windsor Castle

As regular readers will know, my family and I are celebrating the Christmas season in New York City at the moment, but a few days before we left London we were able to take a smaller exclusive evening tour at Windsor Castle. It was a wonderful experience, and I’d like to share it with you. 

To read more, please click here...

Christmas Day in New York City



This was the first time we had been in New York City for Christmas Day, and I was amazed by how busy it was. Although Fifth Avenue was fairly quiet first thing (and we got a fantastic view of the shop windows) as the day wore on, things got seriously crowded. This was a huge change for us. If you do leave your home on Christmas Day in England, you are unlikely to see  more than a handful of people. In the UK, Christmas Day means deserted town centres, with nearly everything except restaurants and pubs closed. That is definitely not the case in New York.
After a lovely breakfast at our hotel, and a bit of a wander around by the shop windows in Fifth Avenue, it was time to head over to Radio City Music Hall.

To read more, please click here...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!



From my family to yours, wishes to you and yours for a Christmas full of blessings, joy and hope. 

Christmas Eve in New York City



New York is one of our favourite cities, so it was a real pleasure to find out we would be spending Christmas here this year. We’ve had a number of really wonderful trips to New York City, visiting at least twice a year, but New York is always extra special at Christmastime.
To read more, please click here...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Making a Christmas Wreath at Green Parlour



Having already attended one flower arranging class at Green Parlour’s Flower School, I knew that I would enjoy their Wreath Making Class. I never thought I was particularly good at flower arranging, but Emma’s classes are so wonderful, even I can do beautiful things with flowers.

To read more, please click here...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Let's Do Brunch with The 21st Century Housewife



Thank you for joining us for Let’s Do Brunch, the recipe exchange for breakfast, lunch and brunch recipes. We always enjoy visiting your posts and trying out the wonderful new ideas you share. Thank you to everyone who contributed last week. My co-host, Chaya of My Sweet and Savory has chosen some of her highlights from last week’s hop, and this week I have chosen to highlight two lovely quick breads. 

To read more, and share your recipes, please click here...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Marzipan Dates



When my husband was little, his Granddad Pip made Marzipan Dates every Christmas. They became the stuff of memory, and every year my husband makes a big batch in honour of his Granddad and those days gone by.
Like my husband’s Granddad, these treats were Victorian in origin. They would have been referred to as ‘sweetmeats’ when he (Granddad) was growing up, and were often eaten at the end of a meal. Sweetmeats originally referred to offal, but from the Victorian era the word came to mean sweet, candied or glacé fruit.
Marzipan dates could not be easier to make, and packaged in pretty containers they make a lovely gift. 

To read more, please click here...

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Gallery of Favorites #18

Gallery of Favorites


Alea of Premeditated Leftovers and I want to welcome you to the eighteenth edition of our weekend blog hop, The Gallery of Favorites. 
Before I share our featured post from last week, I want to let you know that the Gallery of Favorites will be taking a short break for Christmas, so there will be no Gallery post on Friday December 23rd. We will return on December 30th for a special New Year’s Eve edition of the Gallery, when we will be encouraging you to share your favorite post of the year from your blog, in addition to a more recent post you are proud of. 
Thank you to everyone who shared posts last week. 


To read more, and to share your posts, please click here...

Traditional British Christmas Cake



Ever since the Victorian era Christmas cake has been a big part of British holiday celebrations. We had our Christmas celebration with my husband’s family last Saturday and our nephew Ashley had made the cake from his paternal Great Grandmother’s recipe. (We all knew her as ‘Nana’. You may remember I wrote about her Christmas pudding earlier this year.)
Both Ashley and his twin brother Connor are great cooks (Connor made a wonderful pear trifle for our holiday celebrations). The thing was, I’ve eaten the cake made from Nana’s recipe many times before, but this time it was extra delicious. I asked Ashley what he had done to make it so exceptional. Turns out the original recipe only calls for a tablespoon of rum, but Ashley soaked the fruit overnight and used ‘about a quarter of a bottle’ (about ¾ cup). As a result the cake was much moister than I ever remember it being and not surprisingly, the rum gave it a wonderful boozy hit that really enhanced the flavour.  To read more, please click here...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Having Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Advertisers would have us believe that we are all meant to be sailing serenely through the holiday season, joyfully celebrating a Hallmark-style Christmas and New Year, looking flawless and feeling great. The reality is that most of us have to do lists that have taken on lives of their own. We are overstretched, overtired, and prone to hysterical laughter when someone asks us to do ‘one more thing’. 

To read more, please click here...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Let's Do Brunch with The 21st Century Housewife



What have you been cooking for breakfast, lunch or brunch this week? Share it with us! Any dish that would work for any of these three meals or as part of a brunch buffet is welcome at Let’s Do Brunch, the recipe exchange for breakfast, lunch and brunch recipes. 

To see last week's featured recipes, and to share yours, please click here...




Ecover News!



For the second year running, eco-friendly cleaning brand Ecover has been awarded the prestigious Prima Baby Platinum Award. The readers of Prima Baby magazine, have now chosen Ecover as the best green brand in both 2010 and 2011. Awarded best buy because “the products work really well, while being kind to the environment” and best value because “the products help make ‘going green’ easy and affordable” – the readers of Prima Baby use Ecover’s plant and mineral-based products to help make their lives that little bit easier. 

To read more, please click here...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Moroccan Vegetable Tagine



Before I start, allow me to confess that I have a) never been to Morocco and b) do not own a tagine. However, while this recipe may not be authentic in its preparation or the length of its ingredient list, it is definitely reminiscent of the dishes I have eaten in Moroccan restaurants. The subtle, warming spiciness of harissa lifts the roasted veggies to new flavour heights and has made this dish an overnight family favorite. 

To read more, please click here...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Coconut, Date and Cherry Christmas Squares



The Christmas season inevitably brings back memories of loved ones who are no longer with us, and I often think of my lovely Aunt Irene. Auntie Irene was one of my Dad’s sisters. A tiny lady, not much more than five feet tall, she had sparkling eyes and the most remarkable, joyful laugh I have ever heard. She was vibrant, vivacious, and she had the coolest floral bathing caps this side of, well, I don’t really know where, but trust me, they were cool. The family often gathered at her house, which was beside the rather aptly named Paradise Lake. My Dad and Grandpa taught me how to swim there, and we’d have campfires in the evening. Auntie Irene was always in the background - getting people drinks, sitting by the lake and laughing. 

To read more, and for the recipe, please click here...

Friday, December 09, 2011

The Gallery of Favorites #17

Gallery of Favorites


Alea of Premeditated Leftovers and I want to welcome you to the seventeenth edition of our weekend blog hop, The Gallery of Favorites. The Gallery of Favorites is a place for you to feature favorite posts from your own blog. Although Alea and I both spend a lot of our time writing about food, we do have many other interests and know that our readers do as well. The Gallery of Favorites is a place for all bloggers - not just food bloggers - to share their ideas, interests and passions. Of course, recipe and food posts are very welcome too!

To read more, and to share your posts, please click here...

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Cafédirect Coffee Matching Champion Announced




Recently, I attended a coffee matching event hosted by Cafédirect with some of my fellow London bloggers, where we learned how the type coffee served with a dessert is just as important as the wine chosen to serve with the starter and main course. It was all part of an initiative by Cafédirect to encourage the British public to explore coffee in much the way a sommelier does wine.  Just as different wines have distinctive regional characteristics dependent on factors such as soil, climate and altitude, the same is true for coffee. 
Cafédirect then opened a competition to the public, challenging them to create the perfect dessert recipe to pair with one of their single origin coffees, for the chance to win the dream foodie prize of £500 to spend at celebrated gourmet cookery school L’atelier des Chefs and feature in a limited edition recipe book. 
I was asked to go along to Cafédirect’s London headquarters to help judge the competition, along with the Head Chef at L’atelier des Chefs, Andre Dupin and Cafédirect coffee expert Thierry Akroman. We were presented with a wonderful array of desserts to sample, alongside the coffees the entrants had matched them with. 

To read more, and see the winning recipe, please click here...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Let's Do Brunch



Thank you for joining us for Let’s Do Brunch, the recipe exchange for breakfast, lunch and brunch recipes. We always enjoy visiting your posts and trying out your tasty offerings. Thank you to everyone who contributed last week. My co-host, Chaya of My Sweet and Savory has chosen some of her highlights from last week’s hop, and here are some of mine. 
To read more, and to share your recipes, please click here...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Hearth and Soul Hop with The 21st Century Housewife

Hearth & Soul Hop


Welcome to the Hearth and Soul Hop, the blog carnival for and about food that nourishes both body and soul. 
We share links to Hearth and Soul entries at our Hearth and Soul Facebook Page and Pinterest Boards, and please do come and follow us on Twitter  @HearthNSoulHop. Alea has also created a new Hearth and Soul Paper.li for us on Twitter as well. 
Thank you to everyone who shared recipes and posts with us last week. 

To read more, and to share your recipes, please click here...

Monday, December 05, 2011

Stress Free Holiday Entertaining

This is the time of year we all love to entertain, but with mile long to do lists and lots of pressures, it’s also the time we get most worked up about it. So how to give a holiday party without breaking the bank and exhausting yourself? It’s  easy when you know how. 
My husband and I have always loved to entertain, and have given loads of parties over the years, both at home and in larger outside venues. One of our favourite things is to do is invite people to our home for cocktails - or what we like to call our ‘drinks and nibbles’ parties. We generally host about 30 to 40 people at a time, but with a bit of advance planning and just a tiny bit of organisation, we both enjoy ourselves just as much as our guests do. Here are some of my top tips and suggestions to help you enjoy holiday entertaining as much as we do.

To read more, please click here...

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Gallery of Favorites


Alea of Premeditated Leftovers and I want to welcome you to the sixteenth edition of our weekend blog hop, The Gallery of Favorites. 
Thank you to everyone who shared their posts last week. I was really pleased to see posts on so many different topics, and I enjoyed reading them all. This week Alea and I are featuring

To read more, and to share your favorite posts from your own blog, please click here...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Very Versatile Slice and Bake Cookies



I’ve been playing around with slice and bake cookies recently, so you may already have seen my Peanut Butter and Honey Slice and Bake Cookies or my Chocolate Chip Slice and Bakes. Based on an old family recipe my late Mom shared with me, this recipe is just a plain cookie, but it has loads of room for variations, and you name it, I’ve tried it! The version I make most often is vanilla nut because it has a chewy butterscotch-y flavour I can’t get enough of. However, the possibilities are endless. 

You can use any flavouring you like - vanilla, almond, maple, anise, anything else that tickles your fancy

You can add half a cup to 1 cup of any kind of chopped nuts or dried fruit - walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, raisins, apricots, dates - the only limit is your imagination

You can add 2 to 3 teaspoons of any sort of spices - cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg all work really well


To read more, please click here...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let's Do Brunch with The 21st Century Housewife




Thank you for joining us for Let’s Do Brunch, the recipe exchange for breakfast, lunch and brunch recipes. My co-host, Chaya of My Sweet and Savory and I always enjoy the great inspiration we find when we visit your posts!

Thank you to everyone who contributed last week. There was definitely some great brunch inspiration! 

To see last week's featured recipes, and to share your own, please click here...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Made In Provence



Made in Provence is a delightful company that provides everyone with the chance to experience a little taste of Provence. Offering traditional and authentic handmade specialities, the Made in Provence range includes jams, chutneys, honey, nougat, and other treats, as well as beautifully scented soaps, lavender bags, organic shower gels, natural candles and home fragrances. Their products are sourced from small established artisans in Provence who believe in traditional craftsmanship and are passionate about their culture and history. 
I met Christine Vidal, the owner of Made in Provence, at Masterchef Live and was interested to learn more about her very interesting business. To read more, please click here...

The Hearth and Soul Hop

Hearth & Soul Hop


Welcome to another Hearth and Soul Hop, the blog carnival for and about food that nourishes both body and soul. 
We share links to Hearth and Soul entries at our Hearth and Soul Facebook Page and Pinterest Boards, and please do come and follow us on Twitter  @HearthNSoulHop.
Thank you to everyone who shared recipes with us last week. I enjoyed reading all the posts I visited and found some great recipe inspiration as well. 

To read more, and share your recipes, please click here...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Creamy Stuffed Leeks



I saw a recipe similar to this in BBC Good Food’s Christmas Vegetarian issue and could not resist trying it. We love leeks, and they really are much easier to prepare than many people think. 
Good Food’s recipe was presented as a vegetarian main course for one, so I increased the quantities to serve 2 or 3 and got a bit more imaginative with the filling (the original main ingredients were simply couscous and leek). The recipe did suggest that you might be able to push the middle of the leek out and stuff it without making a vertical cut in the leek, but one attempt at this convinced me that life is definitely too short! Making and a vertical cut down the length of each leek makes this dish much easier to prepare and when the dish is cooked you honestly can’t see how you stuffed them. 
This time of year, the outer leaves of the leeks can be quite tough, so I recommend you remove the outer two or three layers. I didn’t do this the first time round, and I had to use a steak knife to cut into the leeks! Subsequent versions of the recipe were much more tender with the outer layers removed. 
Adapted from BBC Good Food Christmas Vegetarian December 2011
3 to 4 large fat leeks, trimmed and washed
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped mushrooms (about two large mushrooms)
2 tablespoons butter
1 small clove garlic
2 tablespoons white wine
¼ cup couscous
¼ cup vegetable stock
½ teaspoon dried oregano
a pinch or two of freshly ground pepper
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetarian Parmesan style cheese
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons double (heavy) cream 
Preheat the oven to 400 F or 200 C. 
Wash the outside of the leeks, remove the very bottom and cut the dark green part off the tops. Make a vertical cut halfway through each leek from top to bottom. Rinse between the layers, but keep the leek together. Drain slightly and pat dry. 
Discard the two or three tough outer layers of the leek, leaving enough layers to stuff. Remove the very centre layers of the leek, leaving a good few layers to make the outer tube. Finely chop the inner layers of the leek. 
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC) or 375ºF or 180ºC for a fan oven.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan with a lid over medium heat. 
Add the finely chopped inner layers of the leek to the pan together with the chopped red pepper and mushrooms. Sauté gently for about 10 minutes until everything is nice and soft. 
Add the garlic, oregano, pepper and the wine and cook for one minute more. Stir in the couscous and the stock, remove from the heat and cover with a lid. Let sit for five minutes. 
Fork through the couscous and vegetable mixture. Still using a fork, stir in the 2 tablespoons of cream and the one tablespoon of the parmesan style cheese. Taste for seasoning and add salt and more pepper if necessary. 
Carefully open the whole leeks and stuff them with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the filling.  Shape the outer layers back around the stuffing tightly. Cut each leek in half and place in a large casserole dish. Fit the leeks in snugly, so they help hold each other together. 
Pour the ¼ cup cream over top of the leeks and sprinkle the ¼ cup Parmesan style cheese over the top. Bake the leeks for 25 to 30 minutes, until the leeks are tender and the sauce is bubbling. 
Serve with a lightly dressed salad and warm rolls. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Gallery of Favorites #15

Gallery of Favorites


Alea of Premeditated Leftovers and I want to welcome you to the fifteenth edition of our weekend blog hop, The Gallery of Favorites. 



The Gallery of Favorites is a place for you to feature favorite posts from your own blog. Although Alea and I both spend a lot of our time writing about food, we have many other interests and know that our readers do as well. The Gallery of Favorites is a place for all bloggers - not just food bloggers - to share their ideas, interests and passions. 

To read more, and to share your posts, please click here...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Case for Thanksgiving


There is no official Thanksgiving in the United Kingdom. There is a Harvest Festival celebration here in October, but as a religious festival many people are unfortunately barely aware of it. It also focuses on the harvest, which of course benefits us all, but does not bring a broader attitude of gratitude into the mix. I think this is rather sad. In the modern world, assailed by advertising and the media, it’s easy to be swallowed up by the culture of “I want” where our day to day blessings are simply ignored. Without some sort of official corporate non-denominational celebration of gratitude for our blessings, there is a risk people rush discontented through their lives completely oblivious of all the things we have to be grateful for. 

To read more, please click here...