Category Archives: food

Getting ready for tomorrow

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I didn’t realise it is Friday 13th until almost the end of the day. I was trying to justify why things weren’t going as smoothly as they should. Just excuses, it’s easier than say I’m exhausted, lost my focus, ran out of patience and can’t do a lot of things I am trying to do.

The girls’ party is tomorrow. It’s all sorted in my head, but truth is, I don’t know if I can put it all together in an hour. It’s how long we have in the hall before kids start arriving. And this is the UK, people do arrive on time. 

I’ve been working on everything individually, not thinking how things will look good together. I do have a rough sketch of how the main table should look like, just to help on the day. 

It will all be good, it will all be great, but I can’t wait for it to be over.

Soup season

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Winter is the best opportunity to eat soup, lots and lots of soup. And this is what we have been doing every evening in the past couple of weeks

I’m a fussy eater, so it’s not all kinds of soups I like, especially the ones with weird texture and chunky vegetables. 

A colleague from work passed on a brand new soup maker to me because he has “a pot, a blender and a sieve at home” and he didn’t want to add more clutter to his home. 

I wasn’t holding my breath to the soup made by a pot-blender-sieve machine until I made the first one. Actually, the second, as I thought that I was lucky with the first one.

The soup was quite tasty, but the best part was that the hard work was to select and finely chop the ingredients. Once you press start, you can do something else for 30 minutes and your soup will be ready, blended and sieved, all left to do is serve and eat. (And clean afterwards)

We have soup practically every evening during weekdays. My least favourite ones being the tomato soup (too acidic, maybe I should have added cream), a mix of mushroom, celery and spinach (needed to use the spinach, otherwise would go to the bin) and a slightly too sweet carrot-swede-onion-potato soup. 

The beauty of soups is that you can try all sort of combinations, really. Sometimes it might not work very well (like the spinach one, but it was still edible), most times it will. The only thing the manual doesn’t recommend is to put raw meat in it, but it doesn’t say anything about addind pre-cooked meat in the blender. I haven’t tried and prefer to add it at the end and keep the chunky pieces.

We have reduced the food wastage big time!

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The actual thing is basically a fancy blender. It boils the water first, then blends a bit, boils/cooks some more, blends, sieves while blending, until it stops.

The sieve is a small net cylinder in the middle of the cup, which holds the solids, while the water is everywhere. I find the capacity of the cylinder a bit small and our soups serve well 2-3 people. It’s ok, I guess, better finish it all and have that feeling that we want some more than to have left overs and risk throwing food in the bin.

 

the blender with just water. Can you see the sieve in the middle?

 
 

the ingredients go in the middle. Not too much space though.

 
 

In the middle of boiling and blending, half way through

 
 

You can open the lid (health&safety; it beeps and stops the process), but you can open the cup. Very hot and steamy!

 

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Some of the soups I cooked so far:

Potato + leeks + garlic + olive oil + seasoning. I used chicken broth as part of the water and added the chicken I cooked after it.

First day is always a mess. The food didn’t fit the compartment, it wasn’t enough soup, I made extra straight after the first batch and almost kissed my soup maker goodbye.
Lesson learned: the instructions say finely chopped for a reason; everything needs to be very small to fit in. And never ever repeat the procedure without cleaning it first.

  

Potato + spinach + carrot + garlic + onion + olive oil + seasoning + a tiny bit of courgette/zucchini (left over) and a few lardons on top

Learnings: potato based soups are very creamy but also seem to be the ones that accummulate more (burned) residues at the bottom, making the cleaning of the cup a bit of a mission. But they taste so nice.

  
 

Mushroom + garlic + onion + dried herbs + cream
That was probably my favourite as it was so unexpected.

Learnings: try without cream before. It might be good enough to save on the extra calories (I doubt it though). Also very easy to clean the blender, compared to previous days.

* I forgot to take photo *

Tomato + basil + celery + onion + carrot + garlic + stock cube + olive oil

Learnings: although it looks nice, I thought it was too acidic. Next time I’ll try with cream. 

  
  

Christmas came and has gone in pictures

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It was warm
The views are always stunning
I had a week off work; more work then usual at home
We went to the dentist
We went to Romania
It was warm
But then it got cold
Not enough to build up snow
But enough to ice skate. Twice
Frozen is still a home favourite. Let it go!
Santa showed up in Romania
We ate like pigs and brought lots of food in the luggage
Santa stopped at home too, but mummy forgot to take pictures
Santa stopped at mummy’s work and decided that mummy is not overweight enough and can have lots of chocolate

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We can’t stop time

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I’m a tiny bit shocked that it is getting to end of October.

I’m thinking about Christmas (because it’s too late to think about Halloween). Just thinking because probably we won’t do much about it apart from putting the Christmas tree up. (Can i say that I was thinking about putting it up now to justify the hard work it is? The longer it is up the more worth it it seems).

Beatrice is nearly 18 months old. Laura has been in school nearly two months. I’m no where near getting used to the “new” life (working full time-mother of two-big kid at school-small kid somewhere else).

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2014 has been a funny year. I can’t say it was good, because my father passed away in February and it has been harder than I thought. My mom’s sister had an emergency operation around the same time and still hasn’t recovered (actually had an accident last week) and another aunt – my dad’s sister – passed away unexpectedly (for me, at least). I do know, though, that despite these news weren’t welcome, this is life and the older we are, the closer to heaven we are.

I can’t 2014 has been a bad year either. I spent half of it on maternity leave, watching my baby Bea grow healthy and cute, watching the love of two sister develop, watching my big girl become a funny and intelligent child. We are healthy and we have a decent life. We might not be over the moon with our jobs but it might be because we rather be retired and traveling around the world to spending 10 hours a day working, even if we enjoy the work. And we have jobs, which is great. We visited friends, went to friends’ wedding, had family over, visited our home countries and had a nice summer holiday. And one of the highlights of the year: the British weather. Aaaah, what a beautiful spring, what a lovely summer and what a good autumn (at least for now) we’ve had. Thank you, Mother Nature (although it is because she is suffering, not because she is being nice, that the weather is like this).

So 2014 was a funny year. I want to say it was half full. It could be better, but it can always be better, right? Maybe 2015. Maybe we will be in the mood to make it better.

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I’m already working on my New Year’s resolution. I love lists and I love resolutions. I still have a few things to do in 2014 and I want to start some of my resolutions in 2014, but I like to plan the future (without putting too much energy into it – I rather use my energy doing something).

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We had visitors today and we cooked lunch at eight hands. We had nice grilled fish and prawns. It was the first time I bought fresh fish and the first time I bought fresh prawns with shell. It was a weird experience – in some aspects, I am one of those people that think that tuna comes in a tin. It was quite funny to see Laura’s reaction to the prawn:
– I don’t want this fish.
– This is a prawn, Laura.
– It has eyes!!
– Of course it does.
– Why?
– Because animals have eyes.
– But prawn is not an animal!!
– Yes, it is.
– Rice doesn’t have eyes…
– Rice is not an animal.
– Oh.

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People at work are pretty crap when it comes to recycling. The put banana skin in the paper recycling, bottles in the food bin… and to complicate things, whoever deals with the recycling decided to add more layers to something already confusing.

This week we found a new recycling bin in the bathroom. We were all discussing why the heck they would put a recycling bin in the bathroom if we don’t use paper towels to dry our hands. Really, what are they expecting to recycle?! Toilet paper? People were actually putting tissues in the bin. And then someone decided to have a closer look and read what was written on the bin: it is a recycling bin for bras. Excuse me?! Who the heck recycle their bras in the office?! It became a joke on our floor.

We later found out it is something for charity – but the explanation is only available in the bathrooms on the ground floor. Clever.

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After a good couple of months eating like there’s no tomorrow, I’m trying to eat better. Reducing sugar consumption, increasing greens and fruits, drinking more water, this sort of things. I’m not extremist, I don’t cut things completely, I don’t replace all unhealthy stuff with organic ones, but I’m trying to balance things a bit, because there’s just so much my body can take.

For a long time, I saw friends and online recipes talking about ganache and all cakes had this on top, and ganache this, ganache that. I didn’t like the name, so I didn’t want to try it. Until the day I made dark chocolate ganache for the first time. Hot cream + melted chocolate. Can I say? I hated it. No, really, I thought it was awful – sickening. I tried three times, following recipes. Pour it on the cake still warm. Not for me. Luckily all the three times I made too much, so placed the rest in the fridge. And now we are talking. And now I can say I like it. I like it dark, milk or white chocolate (not so much this one). I even like 1/2 chocolate 1/2 carob. But it has to be cold, after several hours in the fridge. Everyone in this house love it. It’s our desert when we don’t have a proper desert to eat. One day, I will try to use it (cold, lots) as cake filling. Until then, a teaspoon from time to time to sweeten life.

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World Cup and another simple recipe

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And the World Cup is back (well, for a long time now)! It seems like yesterday we were all in our new home, with tiny baby Laura in our arms (she was 2-3 months old in 2010) watching a few matches with us (time difference wasn’t so bad). I was on maternity leave and could follow most of the games. My maternity leave ended yesterday, but because of the time difference, I can watch most of the games, if I want to.

So far so good, the World Cup in Brazil is not bad, despite all the negative expectations. At least from what I’ve seen on TV, the stadiums are beautifully done, people are behaving ok, most of the matches are very exciting, and there are lots of goals to keep us happy. There will always be one or two boring games, so let’s hope this WC has had its share of boredom with Ian vs Nigeria and Brazil vs Mexico.

The most interesting part of the World Cup, though, is following the comments on Twitter. I don’t follow that many people, but it’s always great fun to read what the “experts” have to say about the games. It started with the Olympics in 2012 and now I’m always looking forward the next big event to be tweeted about.

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I shouldn’t need to say this, but I am supporting Brazil. Always. We might not be the favourites or the best team, but, hey, it’s my duty to support my home team. Other than that, I tend to support whoever wins. Just so I don’t have to suffer with defeats.

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Apparently this is the best World Cup ever. I can’t tell, but I’m loving all the images of Rio on the BBC and ITV during the games. Ops, I’ve just seen Spain being sent off back home. Oh, dear, well done, Chile, but not an expected result to Spain.

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I was planning to cook loads this weekend, but I just realised I have two events to go: a kids party on Saturday and a baby shower on Sunday (instead of celebrating my birthday, I’ll celebrate a friend’s baby). So I’ll have to leave all the baking for the following weekend. After that, we are off to Croatia. I can’t wait!!

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And here is another simple and quick recipe for those days that time isn’t on our side. I adapted it from one on Tesco’s website (here) and it was really good. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the pastry from scratch, which would have been healthier, but as I said, it is for days we don’t have the time.

What you will need:

  • One savoury pastry case (photo below – the one I used. it’s quite small, but was enough for one meal)
  • 1/2 onion – grated
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 45g bacon into cubes (I used smoked lardons)
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic (I didn’t have garlic gloves, which would have been better)
  • 1/2 courgette, sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75ml single cream
  • 50g Gruyère, grated

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How you prepare it:

Preheat the oven at 180C.

Fry the onion in the olive oil until brown, then add the garlic and the bacon and cook until bacon fat has melted. Add the courgettes and spinach and cook for 5 minutes. Put this mix into the case. Mix the cream and the beaten egg and season (I added a pinch of salt, as I didn’t find any pepper). Pour the mixture on top of the courgette/spinach and add the granted cheese. Bake for 20 minutes and turn the oven up to 200C and bake for another 5 minutes (check not to burn).

What I loved about this dish is the flexibility of adding any toppings I like – almost like a pizza. It’s a great way to add vegetables in our meals. For fussy children, you can even blend everything together and have a creamy vegetable topping.

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Done!

Final countdown and quick and easy food

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I’m going back to work on Wednesday.

I am going back to work.

I am.

Depressed.

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At least, we are very close to sorting out Beatrice’s childcare. My preferred option didn’t work out very well and neither did Plan B and C. Plan D might be a great option, so fingers crossed.

The plan now is to keep her at home until September and then both girls will go to the same childminder – Laura only from 3.30pm, after school. I’m still anxious about it.

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So when I’m depressed and anxious, I like to bake/cook/eat. I tend to always cook the same stuff, but my plan is to create a 4 week menu to vary what we are eating here. The “catch” is that the recipes need to be simple and quick to prepare and have “room” to to add as many veggies and fruits I possibly can. Ah, they won’t necessarily be super healthy all the time.

This week I tested a couple of recipes and the result was quite good.  I will share my experiments/experiences here and would welcome any suggestions, ideas, tips. The first one is the easiest cake in the world.

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A week or two ago, we went to a barbecue at a friend’s house and she was “baking” a cake. Well, she was putting it together, as it doesn’t require any baking. I loved the idea of having a yummy cake ready in 20 minutes, from selecting the ingredients to putting the last strawberry on top, so I decided to give it a go when my mother in law arrived. Here is the recipe (sorry, I don’t have photos of the step by step):

What will you need?

Two flan cases, similar to this one (never kind the brand, I guess, but this was the one I bought, the medium one, which is small-ish):

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1 can of caramel (I used a bit more than half, it depends on how much you love your sugar)

Lots of strawberries

300 ml of cream (or maybe less)

Caster sugar (or condensed milk, as I used) – to taste. I didn’t add much because I thought it would be too sweet

Some sort of liquid to moist the case (you can use milk, or baileys, or juice – I used orange juice and I liked it)

 

How do you put this together?

Place one of the cases on a plate or where you want to serve your cake. Pour half of the juice/milk with a spoon – make sure it is moist, because this case is dry as sand.

Cut the strawberries and place them on the case – how much is up to you. I used quite a lot. Then put the caramel on top (it doesn’t make any difference which order you put the caramel and strawberries)

Cover the cake with the other case, but this one facing down (bottom up). Pour the remain of the juice.

Now, here is a step I’m not 100% is needed: my friend covered it with foil paper and left it in the fridge until 10 minutes before serving. And only then she covered it with the cream. I did this because I prepared the cake the night before and I was scared of putting the cream straight away and not being good. But knowing me, I wouldn’t have had the patience to decorate the cake just before serving it.

The cream is also easy: using an electric mixer, mix cream until it is consistent enough to spread on the cake – but not too much or it will become butter – and then add the sugar, mixing a bit more. I used condensed milk, 1/3 of a can, and mixed by hand.

Here is how the cake looked like:

(The beauty of this cake is that you can fill it with anything you like; use your imagination and enjoy). Laura helped decorate it! 🙂

 

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Bruges, sleepless nights and banana cake

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We spent last bank holiday in Bruges (weekend of 24/25 + Monday 26) and I was hoping to write a post about it the day after we got back. As you can see, it didn’t happen.

The trip was great, the place is so so beautiful (even Laura was sad to come back home), but our accommodation wasn’t great and I ended up having a sleepless night, which ruined the following day, which ruined the rest of the week.

Speaking of sleepless nights, sleep in our house seems to be a roller coaster. Some days good, other days bad. Beatrice is not too bad, I am ignoring some of the cries in the middle of the night (because it is not a proper cry, it is more a “dream” and she falls asleep within seconds. I do tend her when she is really crying, which was the case yesterday, 1st June, when she didn’t sleep at all) and we have great nights when I only go to her once. I can live with that. On the other hand, miss Laura has been a pain, sleeping in our bed since too long now. Again, I can live with co-sleeping, BUT I cannot live with someone kicking me through the night. The night after we got home (after a sleepless night, remember?), she kicked me three times: on the face, on the breast and on my ribs. Not a gentle kick, a Bruce Lee kick, that left me in pain the whole of the following day. If you want to see me deadly angry, just mess up with my sleep.

And because I cannot return the kids to wherever they came from, what do I do? Call Supernanny? Sleep in the living room? Run away? No, I stuff my face with things that are not good for me and will make me overweight again eat. Within 6 days, we had two banana cakes (very yummy) and a creme caramel. Oh, well, I think I’ll have to resume the diet once my mum goes back, next Saturday.

So, what’s with the banana cake? We had a few bananas that were nearly going bad and I was sick of throwing bananas in the bin so I googled a banana cake recipe and found this one here. But I had to adapt because I didn’t have certain ingredients, so here is (are) my version(s) of it:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil – I quickly melted it on the microwave
  • 150g caster sugar – I also tried with muscovado sugar and the result was good
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 190g flour (2nd time I used 150g of flour and 50g of ground linseed, as I had loads at home and don’t know what to do with it)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 30g of preferred chopped nuts (I used pecan the first time and mixed nuts the second)
  • 60ml coconut milk

Method:

  1. Grease and line a loaf tin. Mix oil, sugar and vanilla.
  2. Add the mashed bananas, mix well.
  3. Add the egg, mix well.
  4. Stir in the flour and the milk. And finally add the baking powder.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin. Optional: sprinkle with a tablespoon of demerara sugar to give a crunch topping (I did that the 2nd time but didn’t like the result that much).
  6. Bake at 180 C until a skewer comes out clean. (it took me about 45 minutes)
It was the first time I  baked a banana cake and it was so yummy that I didn’t wait it cool. As a result, I had to bake another one two days later (because more bananas were going to waste and because I was stressed with something else).
Our window view in Bruges

Our window view in Bruges

The banana cake saga: the first attempt

The banana cake saga: the first attempt

The banana cake saga: the second attempt

The banana cake saga: the second attempt

Creme Caramel, beautiful and tasty after nearly 4 hours baking (it doesn't take that long though)

Creme Caramel, beautiful and tasty after nearly 4 hours baking (it doesn’t take that long though)

Who would have thought that this little angel is a Bruce Lee in the making?

Who would have thought that this little angel is a Bruce Lee in the making?