Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Goody Good Stuff

What would you say if I told you that you could give your kids candy and feel good about it? Well, thanks to the nice folks at Goody Good Stuff, now you can. They have created an alternative to traditional gummy gelatine based candy that is gelatine free, fat free and uses only natural fruit juices and extracts for colour and flavouring.

I discovered Goody Good Stuff at the BBC Summer Good Food Show where Managing Director Melissa Burton and Sales Manager Daniel Stott were handing out samples of their yummy sweets and answering all sorts of questions from interested shoppers. Daniel explained to me that all Goody Good Stuff candies are not only made as naturally as possible, but that all their products are dairy free, nut free, suitable for vegetarians and Halal, Kosher and Vegetarian Society certified. Four of the flavours are actually suitable for vegans as well. I was extremely interested in the gelatine free part. I've never liked the idea of meat gelatine in anything - after all it is made with the kind of animal parts we don't normally eat (skin and bone) so it is kind of nasty. Sadly its gelling properties mean that it is widely used in food products like candy. But by using food technology that has taken years to perfect, Goody Good Stuff have been able to completely eliminate the gelatine from their sweets.

Launched on 1st June this year, Goody Good Stuff is a product I am really excited about because not only are they made so that they are better for you, they taste really, really good. In fact, in my opinion they taste better than traditional sweets. I bought some Goody Good Stuff at the Good Food Show (purely for research purposes of course) and have been sharing them with colleagues, family and friends, all of whom agree that the fresh fruit flavours and refreshing not too chewy but just chewy enough texture make them absolutely scrumptious.  With eight flavours to choose from - from Cola Breeze and Cheery Cherries to my personal favourite, Summer Peaches - there is something for everyone, even the fussiest of candy connoisseurs.

Don't get me wrong, Goody Good Stuff are not low calorie. They are candy after all. What they are is a naturally delicious alternative to traditional sweets with none of the worrying ingredients traditional sweets so often have. Eaten in moderation these delicious treats are as good for you as a candy can possibly be and when it comes to taste, I think they are some of the best sweets on the market. I highly, highly recommend them.

For where to buy information please click here.

The 21st Century Housewife was not paid for this post.  When I find something this cool I like to share it!

Monday, June 28, 2010

My Kind of Weekend

This weekend was just that - my kind of weekend.  We spent time in the garden, we barbecued and ate virtually every meal outside, I spent some time baking and gardening and we got a few of those niggly jobs we had been meaning to do at home done. We even slept in on Sunday.  It was idyllic.  
I’m thrilled at how the flower gardens are coming together.  

I’ve still got tons of space to fill in the beds of our very large L shaped garden, but it’s slowly coming together and really taking shape.  I’m also really excited about our vegetable beds which are growing like crazy.   Perhaps my thumb is a bit greener than I thought!

I cooked with peas from the garden this weekend, and today I’m about to use my first zucchini in Roast Vegetables.  And if all the blossoms turn into beans on my bean plants, I’m going to be able to feed the whole neighbourhood!  

Sadly we also watched England lose the football and get sent home from the World Cup, but the rest of the weekend was so lovely, it didn’t seem to matter.  (Well, at the time it did, but we are over it now!!)
I’m the kind of person who loves to keep very busy and my family have a lot of exciting things to look forward to over the next few weeks, but every once in a while I love a quiet weekend like this to regroup, relax and spend time just being at home.  It was wonderful.  I hope you had a wonderful weekend too!

Meet Me On Monday Number 3

Every week at Meet Me on Monday, Java asks five questions and folks link up with their answers.  If you want to join in, click on the linky at the bottom of this post.  If you are visiting from Meet Me On Monday, I'm April Harris and I've been blogging at The 21st Century Housewife since 2002.  This blog here is kind of a mini version of that main site.  I also blog at The 21st Century Housewife's Kitchen, my food and cooking blog.  Anyway, here goes with the questions:-

1.  Are you a collection of anything?
I’m not actively collecting, but I have a large collection of antique china, teacups, silverware and crystal.  With a couple of exceptions, all the pieces have been given to me and most have been in the family for years and years.  

2.  Do you have any tattoos or piercings?
Only my ears, and I had those done when I was about twelve.  I’m pretty conservative!  

3.  What’s your favourite salad dressing?
I love salad dressings with balsamic vinegar.

4.  What was the last thing that you ate?  
I had this Balsamic Apple and Walnut Salad for lunch.  (Click here for the recipe.)

5.  What was the last movie that you saw?  

I watched “It’s Complicated” on the plane on our way to San Francisco in May.  I really enjoyed it!

Meatless Monday - Cherry Tomato and Shallot Salad

When most people think of cherry tomatoes, they picture sweet red baby tomatoes, the ones that you see most often in supermarkets. However, there are a large number of breeds of cherry tomatoes available, all different sizes, colours and flavours.
Cherry tomatoes, so named because they are roughly the size of cherries, are usually sweeter than larger varieties of tomatoes. They are not all round; some are oval or have a shape more similar to a small plum tomato. They also come in many different colours, from the bright red of the most common kind of cherry tomato to yellow, orange and even the streaky green colour of heirloom tomatoes.
This recipe is best made with at least two different types of cherry tomatoes. I used red ones and “Sungold” ones for the recipe in the photograph. Sungold cherry tomatoes range in colour from yellow to a more orange shade; these ones were definitely heading towards the orange! However it you only have red cherry tomatoes, do still make this salad. It is too delicious to miss out on, and even though a variety of flavours enhances this salad, it is very nice made only with the red cherry tomatoes as well. 
You definitely need shallots for this recipe. Their strong deep flavour is the perfect foil for the sweetness of the tomatoes. Do please use a good Balsamic vinegar for the dressing. It really does make a difference, and as most recipes only call for a small amount of this tangy yet mellow vinegar it is worth buying a more expensive bottle if you can. Also, the better the Balsamic, the less of it you need to get a good flavour.
This recipe is delicious served alongside just about anything and provides a lovely shot of colour on a buffet. It is best stored in the fridge, but please bring it to room temperature before eating as tomatoes really do not taste their best icy cold.
Obviously these quantities are flexible - you can make as much or as little as you wish. However I generally follow the rule of one shallot for every two cups of tomatoes.
About a cup red cherry tomatoes, washed, dried and sliced in half
About a cup of any other colour cherry tomatoes, washed, dried and sliced in half.
1 shallot, peeled and very, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil, Extra Virgin if you have it
1 teaspoon good Balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
a generous pinch of black pepper
Prepare the tomatoes as directed and place in a medium bowl. Add the chopped onion. Shake the olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper together in a small jam jar. Pour over the tomatoes and shallots and mix very gently. Cover and set aside for at least an hour before serving to allow the flavours to mellow and blend together. (If you are not going to be serving the salad for a few hours, it is best to put it in the fridge to mellow and then remove it about an hour before serving.)
Gently stir the salad and serve it in a pretty bowl.
Happily shared with:-

Meatless Monday

My Meatless Monday

Friday, June 25, 2010

The 21st Century Housewife's Arabian Nights Cake

Rosewater has been used in Middle Eastern cooking for centuries, but it is relatively new to us in the west.  This cake is my homage to two pastries from the famous Ladurée in Paris.  One is called L’Ispahan and uses raspberries and rosewater, the other is their iconic Pistachio macaroon - I adore them both.  I also love their Rose Religieux, but that is another story...
½ cup butter, softened
¾ cup white sugar
2 eggs
½ teaspoon rose water 
(Don’t be tempted to use more, it’s strong stuff - but if you don’t have any the cake still tastes lovely if you use 1 teaspoon vanilla instead)
1 cup low fat raspberry yogurt
¾ cup ground almonds
1½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
1 cup raspberries, washed and drained thoroughly
additional raspberries and roughly chopped pistachios to decorate
Grease and flour (or line) an 8 or 9 inch square pan.  Preheat oven to 350℉ or 170℃ (160℃ if you have a fan oven).  
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Beat in the rosewater and the yogurt.  
In s separate bowl, combine the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and pistachios.  Stir thoroughly to mix.  Gently fold in the raspberries.  
Add the flour, nut and raspberry mixture to the bowl containing the wet ingredients all at once.  Fold through gently but thoroughly.  
Put the batter into the baking pan and bake for 25 to 40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for a bit before removing it to a wire rack to cool completely.  You can then frost it.   
Just cream ¼ cup softened butter with 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar) and then add ¼ teaspoon rosewater - or 1 teaspoon vanilla - and enough cream (usually about 2 to 3 tablespoons) to make a soft, spreadable icing.  Thinking about it, it would be so pretty if you used a bit of food colouring to tint the icing the palest shade of pink.  I’ll do that next time!   Sprinkle with the extra pistachios and pop some of the additional raspberries on top. 
Linking up today Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum, Food on Fridays at Ann Kroeker's Blog, The Grocery Cart Challenge, Momtrends, Friday Firsts at Dinner at Christina's, I'm Lovin' It Fridays at Tidy Mom and Home and Family Friday at Home is Where My Story Begins.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Ten Unexpected Delights in NYC

Going on holiday this summer?  A number of people I know are planning a visit to New York City - including my family and I.  Nicole Feliciano of Momtrends - the site to visit for trends and tips for living a fashionable and fabulous life - has very kindly done a guest post for me on some great places to visit with your kids.  Read on for her great insider tips! 

So you’re bringing the kids to the Big Apple. Bravo, this city is packed with adventures perfect for your pint-sized crew.  Instead of FAO and a Disney Broadway show, might we suggest a few inspired things to do?

1.  Victorian Gardens in Central Park. Each summer something magic happens to the ice in Central Park’s Wolman Rink—it’s transformed into an amusement park. Geared specifically towards kids 8 and under, this mini park has rides and games the perfect complement to a morning of museums. Park admission is $6.50 and you can either pay for rides as you go or buy an unlimited pass.

2.  The HighLine is NYC’s coolest new green space. The elevated garden is located on Manhattan's West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues. The park opened last year and offers stellar views of the Hudson. Go here for details about events.

3.  Our all-time favorite museum with the kids is MoMA—its got an amazing collection that even includes a helicopter. Plus, it’s 100% stroller friendly and they sell ice cream in the sculpture garden. And here’s a tip: Admission is free for all visitors during Target Free Friday Nights, held every Friday evening from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Tickets for Target Free Friday Nights are not available in advance.

4.  Bloomingdale’s offers moms a shopping mecca. Bribe the kids to behave as you slip on a dress or two with a treat from Dylan’s Candy Bar. This sweet shop has it all and is located right across from Bloomies. Buy candy to go or visit the café upstairs for sundaes Rice Krispy Treats, frozen yogurt and Ice cream available in flavors aside from the ordinary, such as Cotton Candy, Ruggelah, and Candy Bar Blast.

5.  Ever had a hankering for a "grown-up grilled cheese" sandwich or a "vanilla rice latte"?? How about eating (or drinking) those yummy treats while creating some beautiful artwork? The Momtrends team headed over to cafe Moomah in Tribeca to see what all the buzz is about. After reading this, you'll want to know, too. Everywhere I looked there was some kind of original artwork, either already framed and hung or in progress. Towards the front of the cafe, there is a wall comprised of several projects for sale. Complete with all the supplies you need to create these specific crafts, you can purchase one to work on right in the cafe!

6.  China Town is always a hit. We love peering into the fish stalls (not for the faint of heart on a hot day). Sample some dumplings and shop for inexpensive NYC gear. If you are looking for trinkets with an Asian flair we love Pearl River.  Pick up slippers, lanterns, Hello Kitty chopsticks and more at this inexpensive gift haven. 477 Broadway, NYC. Tel: 212-431-4770.

7.  Curl up with a good book. NYC is quite the literary town—that goes for kids too. Free children’s book readings are easy to find at Books of Wonder. Books of Wonder 18 West 18th Street (212) 989-3270. Be sure to pick up an NYC classic like Eloise or Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Brooklyn’s Mo Willems.

8.  Since we are Brooklyn-based, we have to include a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge. The best views are had by starting in Brooklyn (take the A/C train to High St. stop in Brooklyn) and walking over. You’ll have to ascend a flight of stairs with the stroller, but it’s worth it for the views.

9.  Children’s Museum of the Arts encourages touching! This spot is all about getting the creative juices flowing with hands-on art experiences for children with artists, in a vibrant art-filled interactive museum. There are drop in classes most days and a fun ball pit and dress-up room downstairs—call ahead for the schedule. 182 Lafayette Street (212) 274-0986.

10. is the spot for insider scoop. Be sure to check my local’s only blog before your trip to find a specific event that coincides with your trip. And the best news? Many of my listing are for FREE family fun. You can’t beat that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My New Waffle Iron

CSN Stores - who sell everything from furniture and lighting to cookware - asked me to choose a product from one of their many stores to review.  I decided to go for a waffle iron from their cookware store as it is something I have always wanted to add to my collection of kitchen appliances.
I must say that CSN’s website is very easy to negotiate as is their ordering process and in my experience their delivery is very prompt and efficient too.    

I chose a Cuisinart waffle iron in the end because I know from experience that they are a good brand. I was also attracted to this model because it makes four waffles at one time instead of just two like many of them do.  I was very pleased to find when I received it that despite this, it does not have a large footprint so not only is it easy to fit on the worktop, it is also easy to store.  

You’ve probably noticed by now that I don’t have any photographs of waffles in this post, and there is a reason for that!  You see, although the waffle maker performed beautifully, the cook had never made waffles before - ever.  So it was kind of trial and error, and although the waffles tasted AMAZING, they were not pretty.  Not pretty at all.  I definitely need to experiment with various waffle recipes and get my confidence up before I start photographing any waffles I have made!  
In my defence, the waffle maker has settings from 1 to 6 for done-ness, and the only direction Cuisinart give regarding that is to experiment until you find a setting that suits you.  Well, I’ve only made waffles the once so far, and as we can only eat so many of them, I’m still working on finding the perfect one.  But it is a great appliance and I have every confidence that before long I’ll be turning out waffles worthy of a professional - but if I’m not it certainly won’t be the fault of the waffle iron!
I also liked that the non-stick coating on the waffle iron meant that just a light spray of olive oil kept the waffles from sticking and they were pretty easy to remove.  It’s an appliance I am very pleased to have in my kitchen.  
Disclosure:  CSN Stores gave me a £40 gift certificate towards the purchase of anything on any one of their sites.  I used it towards a product which cost more than that, so I paid the remaining balance.  This is an honest review and has not been influenced in any way by their generosity.  

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables

I love the taste of Mediterranean vegetables.  Their rich, bright colours and delicious, fresh flavour just personify summer.  At least once a week, I roast a big pan full of multi-colored peppers, zucchini and red onions.  It is such an easy thing to do, and yet it is the foundation for countless meals and snacks.  Cooled and refrigerated, roast vegetables will keep for at least three days and they are the most natural, healthy fast food I know.  
This is more a guide than a recipe, as the quantities and ingredients are very flexible.  It is well worth making plenty as you can do so much with the leftovers.  I tend to use more peppers than zucchini because I like peppers more (although I rarely leave out the zucchini as it brings a great touch of green, along with good flavour to the dish).  I like to use red onions for their colour and flavour, but if you only have white or yellow onions there is no reason not to use them.  To make a large pan of Roast Mediterranean Vegetables I would use two red onions, two red peppers, one yellow pepper, one orange pepper and two small to medium zucchini.  Of course if you can’t get multi-colored peppers, you can use different quantities of different colours.  I do avoid green peppers though as they tend to be very bitter in England where I live – but if you can get lovely sweet North American bell peppers, feel free to use those too.  If you like garlic, peel a few cloves to taste – I would use five or six in a big pan - and toss them in with the vegetables.  They will roast to a soft, creamy deliciousness, adding flavour to every vegetable they touch.  
All you do is de-seed and cut the peppers into chunks (about an inch square, but don’t panic, no one is going to check the sizes!), slice each zucchini in half lengthwise and then chop the halves into half inch thick half moons, and peel the onions and cut them in about eight pieces each.  Basically I cut each onion in half and then cut each half in quarters.  Put all the vegetables in a large roasting pan. Now mix two tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar together.  You can use whichever sort of olive oil you prefer.  If you like a strong flavour, go for Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but if you prefer a milder flavour, use ordinary olive oil.  It is worth buying good Balsamic vinegar as there really is a difference in flavour.  You don’t have to buy the really expensive stuff if it is cost prohibitive, but I would urge you to choose a mid-price, properly aged version.  
Now pour the oil and vinegar over the vegetables, tossing them with your hands to coat.  You want the vegetables to be shiny with the mixture, but not dripping.  If you do not feel they are coated well enough, feel free to add a bit more oil, or mix up a bit more oil and vinegar if you like.  Go easy though; you don’t want them to be greasy.  If you want to toss in some dried Italian herbs at this point (about one teaspoon of thyme, oregano or basil, or a mixture of the three), this makes a very tasty addition.  Spread the vegetables out over the pan as evenly as you can. 

In terms of oven temperature, I don’t think it has to be screaming hot to roast vegetables.  (Potatoes, yes - vegetables, no.)  I preheat my oven to about 200℃ and then turn it back to 180℃ when I put the vegetables in.  (That’s about 400℉ for preheating, and 375℉ when you put the vegetables in.)  With the amount of vegetables I have described, you can count on about thirty to forty minutes roasting time, but you do need to keep an eye on them.  I stir them round at least once during the cooking time , usually about half way through. You want them to be just beginning to brown up on the edges, but you definitely do not want them burned.  If you want to make extra-special roast vegetables, toss some pieces of asparagus in with the vegetables twenty minutes before the end of the cooking time or add some sugar snap or snow peas ten minutes before the end of cooking time. When the vegetables have cooked, remove them from the oven.  
Now the fun begins!  There are so many great vegetarian recipes you can make with roast vegetables.  I’ve listed some ideas below:

Make up couscous according to package directions.  I recommend adding a vegetable stock cube to the water that you use to make the couscous for flavour.  Now toss the couscous with some of the roast vegetables and a drizzle of olive oil. Adding some pine nuts and chopped fresh basil gives the dish an Italian flavour.  You can either serve this dish hot, or allow to cool, pop in the fridge and use as a cold salad. 

Stir the vegetables into cooked rice along with a bit of butter and salt and pepper to taste.

Cook some pasta according to package directions and add the vegetables along with tomato or pesto sauce.

Layer the roast vegetables with ready-to-cook lasagna sheets, tomato sauce, béchamel or cheese sauce and grated vegetarian mozzarella cheese to make lasagne.  Bake for forty minutes at 170℃ or 350℉ until the top is golden brown.

Slice a piece of French bread almost in half, and fill with roast vegetables and your favourite veggie cheese.  Wrap the sandwich in aluminum foil and pop in the oven for about ten to fifteen minutes on medium heat to warm through. 

Stuff toasted pita bread with hummus and cold roasted vegetables.  

Place warm roasted vegetables on a plate and top with a poached or fried egg (or two).

You can use roasted vegetables as a filling for omelettes.

Make fajitas by tossing the roasted vegetables in some Mexican seasoning (you can buy packets in the grocery store), and wrapping them in warmed tortillas.  Top with guacamole, grated vegetarian cheese, salsa and/or sour cream to taste. If you prefer your fajitas mild (as my family do) just take it easy on the seasoning, or leave it out altogether.  Roast vegetables can also be used in enchiladas, burritos and quesadillas.  

For a quick and easy eggplant-free ratatouille, warm a tin or two of drained chopped tomatoes (reserve the juice) in a saucepan and add some of the roasted vegetables.  Cook together until warmed through, adding a bit of the reserved liquid if you feel it needs it.
Making a big pan (or two!) of roasted vegetables can be your ticket to several days of delicious, nutritious and easy meals.  These ideas are only a beginning.  Served hot or cold, Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables are an easy, nutritious and delicious way to serve your family a variety of healthy vegetarian meals.  
Linking up with Meatless Monday and My Meatless Monday.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Few of My Favourite Things

A lot of our furniture has been in my family for a very long time, and has a lot of meaning to me.  One of our favourite pieces is a ‘secretary’ or desk with a china cabinet on top.  It belonged to my paternal Grandpa and he left it to my Mom when he died.   I always remember seeing it when we visited him, and it was a very special piece in our home as I grew up.  
In the desk portion there are loads of little cubby holes, and over the years I have found various bits of paper and business cards tucked away - even one from the 1930’s for a hotel in New York State, with various sums scribbled on the back.  It makes me smile because even after all these years when I open the china cabinet it still smells vaguely like my Grandpa’s furniture polish and cigars, bringing him immediately back to mind in an almost tangible way.  
When we decorated the entry foyer of our home last week I changed round the china and glass I had in the cabinet on top of the secretary.  I chose pieces that are almost all from the same era - circa 1920 - 1940.  They all have meaning and a story behind them.      

These Cauldon coffee cans and saucers are part of a set that was given to us as a wedding present by my cousin Noel and his late wife Barbara. They came in a fantastic case containing the six cups and saucers plus matching spoons with green beads on the ends.  They were made in 1935.  It was such a thoughtful gift from two very special people.

Bordered with gold leaf, these liqueur glasses were hand gilded by my maternal Grandma.  When I was quite young, on special occasions my Dad used to fill one with tiny pieces of crushed ice and trickle the smallest amount of Creme de Menthe over it for me when the grown ups had a cocktail.  It made me feel so grown up!       

These glasses, which are also for liqueurs, used to belong to my maternal Grandma before they belonged to my own Mom.  Mom gave them to me when I first had a house of my own.   I’m not positive about the year on these two different designs, or whether they belonged to anyone before my Grandma, but research I have done leads me to believe they are from the late 1920’s/early 30’s.  I know my Mom told me, but I didn’t listen carefully enough and  never wrote it down.  I’m making a point of writing the history of our family things down for my son as well as telling him the stories behind them that I know.  It’s so important to share family history with our kids!  

Originally meant for champagne, the glasses below are 'cross and olive' crystal.  They belonged to my Mom, but I don’t remember the story behind them.  When I was a little girl, she used to let me serve jello and puddings in them - they make fabulous serving dishes.  

The only pieces I know are not from the era I mentioned are the brandy glasses in the photograph below, but I thought they looked so nice with everything else I included them anyway.  These are three sets of two glasses each given to my husband and I as wedding presents.  Two of them are Royal Doulton, two Edwardian Crystal and two are Crystal D’Arques.  They were all given to us by some very special people. 

I love the secretary’s new look.  The green and gold colours in the china and crystal are the perfect foil for the cream coloured walls in the entry foyer and I’m so pleased with how it all looks as you walk in through the front door.