Foodie Friday – Chocolate Brownies

So today I am going to share one of my never fail recipes: Chocolate Brownies. Chocolate Brownies are always popular. I suggest that if you are going on a picnic then you make them the night before then you must test one warm out the oven with ice cream. – yum yum yum. The rest once cooled are great little picnic treats, or great to bribe work colleagues into liking you. Or just making friends in general!

Makes around 10.
Ingredients
75g Mixture of milk and dark chocolate (whatever you prefer, I use about half and half, all dark is too bitter for my sweet tooth!)
75g Butter
2 Eggs
Splash of Vanilla Essence
250g Caster Sugar (no one said these were healthy!)
100g Plain flour
½ teaspoon Baking Powder

Method
Melt the chocolate with the butter over a pan of simmering water. Meanwhile switch the oven on to warm up, 190c Gas mark 5.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is pale and creamy. Add the vanilla essence and stir in the melted chocolate into the egg mixture.
Grease a tin. I suggest a 20cm square tin. Line the tin with baking paper. Our the brownie mixture into the tin and smooth so it is roughly even, remember the corners.
Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes until the brownies are firm on top and a skewer into the centre comes clean. I like my brownies slightly gooey but if you like them firm leave them a bit longer, but keep an eye on them so the don’t burn.
Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before cutting into pieces – the size is up to you!

I don’t have a photo, by the time I remember they have all been eaten. Oops! I don’t have much more to post today as it is way too hot for my brain cells to work. I long to be by a pool with an icy drink, alas I’ve spent all week in front of a computer and my eyes hurt, my brain is sweltered and once again the sun is supposed to go over the weekend when I’m off to enjoy it, typical!

Have a good weekend folks!

Merry

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Thursday Thoughts – Journeys and 8 Legs.

The events that have gone on throughout the world in the past week have been very sad. It makes you pause and think about how lucky we are.

Watching the news and seeing terrible images of war and destruction across the world has made me stop for a moment this week to look around and really appreciate all that we have and that in the UK our children are not growing up in fear of bombs or gunfire. I know we have problems here and that poverty is a very real issue for many but at least we live in a democracy and most of us sleep in a safe home, or in the knowledge that safe home is possible.

Aeroplane travel has become a common everyday thing. When booking a holiday I will think about the cost, the length of flight, what the food will be like, how terrible my skin feels after a long haul flight. I think about the films on offer and whether I’ll have enough leg room. I certainly don’t think of it as dangerous or that it could be a last journey. Indeed until I lived on the other side of the world I used to get positively excited about the actual plane journey. Travelling backwards and forwards from Hong Kong over two years took away that bit of enthusiasm for me but of course I still get excited about the destination. We make journeys all the time and we think nothing of it. All forms of travel do have dangers, today we on the radio that an entire family were killed in a car accident yesterday. I am not trying to fill us with fear about travel, rather what I am saying is that we should pause a moment and really reflect all that we have. I am guilty of rushing about, travelling about here and there without really pausing to think. It is fantastic that we can travel about so easily and in so many different ways we just need to remember sometimes to slow down and appreciate all that we have as we never know which journey might be our last.

In order not to finish off this post on a sad note I thought I’d give you a little home update.

We have well and truly settled into village life. So much so that we definitely do intend to buy in the area once we have the savings and job contracts etc. The house we are renting just now is fantastic and definitely feels like home but there are a couple of things we might be looking for in a house we buy that this house doesn’t offer at the moment. But as I say for the next year at least this will be our home.

One big problem I’ve had is to do with the 8 legged creepy crawly visitors. Whether it is because the house was empty for a year, or that we live in the country or because there isn’t plasterboard (painted brick walls in most of the house) for them to hide behind we have noticed (well I have screamed) spiders daily. The last straw was the other evening when we encountered 3 MASSIVE buggers without 15 minutes. I was on the internet the next day looking for solutions.

We are dealing with the problem in 3 ways.
Firstly I have de-cluttered all the windowsills where they like to build webs. This will make it easier to do frequent dusting to keep cobwebs at bay and it will also be easier for me to spot any that attempt to invade.

Secondly last night we got the pressure hose out and cleaned all of the windows, doorways and steps. Hopefully we blasted them away, especially any around our bedroom window. The Boyo is getting rather fed up with me waking him with nightmares and switching lights on in the middle of the night.

Thirdly I did what many librarians do, I went to Google and researched. I ended up buying 2 sprays. One from Amazon that is bit more hardcore and leaves a slight residue to discourage them building cobwebs and the second is from Betterware and contains horse chestnut which apparently they do not like and it will hopefully send the message that they are not welcome in the house. I have sprayed them around doors, windows and some nooks where I have seen them.

 

So here we have a three pronged attack on them I do feel a bit guilty but as long as they stop freaking me out completely by coming in the house then our lives will be a lot happier.

Tomorrows Foodie Friday will feature my very popular Chocolate Brownies and little bread rolls, perfect for any weekend picnics.

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A week of tasty grub.

(note my phone is being a pain at the moment so photos are delayed, for the moment!)

Well I have to say it has been a good week food wise. For my tea break today I have Twinnings salted caramel green tea and Abernethy biscuits. So a little bit good and a little bit naughty. Something I realised a long time ago is that I have a sweet tooth and trying to cut out all the naughty things I love always backfires. The Boyo sincerely hopes that any future children of ours do not inherit this, however it runs through the whole of my Mums family and I’m not nearly as bad as I used to be! When I was leaving school we had a yearbook made up and a wee blurb was written about all of, mine included ‘emergency dashes to the vending machine for chocolate’. Not much has changed!

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So this week as part of my attempts to become motivated and enthused again I decided to resume the challenge I set for myself in 2012. The challenge: I have to attempt one new recipe a week. It can be anything, cakes, treats, main meals etc. but I found it very enjoyable, it makes use of my large recipe book collection, I gain skills by experimenting and practicing and most of all I get to try new things. This included salmon and spinach as well as a lot of cake in 2012 so it isn’t all unwholesome.

So last week I tried out a recipe from BBC Good Food. It wasn’t the usual magazine; it was a Healthy Eating spin-off. I won’t copy the recipe here as that would be a breach of copyright (I am a librarian!). But it was a healthy chilli chicken recipe. If you do find the recipe then I found chipotle paste in tesco but I used a lot of the small jar they sell so I would look for a larger alternative so it would last longer. I made a slight alteration to the recipe; I used passata as both Boyo and I prefer that to chopped tomatoes and it worked out great. Follow BBC Good food on twitter @bbcgoodfood and find other tasty Mexican recipes on their website.

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I also cooked a semi healthy curry using the Hairy Bikers Eat For Life Book. I really like this book, it has so many tasty things in and I plan to use it a lot more. My curry was only semi healthy as I added a chicken pakora, an onion baji and a bit of naan bread. In our defence we have not had curry for ages (apart from one night when we were on holiday) I had a day I was working at home and really enjoyed preparing something properly. It was a Madras recipe, I used beef and I had two alterations, firstly I cooked it nice and slowly, over 7 hours in the slow cooker. I had discounted beef and I find that using the slow cooker gets the best result with the meat ending up lovely and tender. Not dry and chewy. The other alteration was that I added spinach towards the end of cooking time. Just trying to get some extra nutrients in. The only other suggestion I have is that if you cook it like me with a slow cooker you may want to use a little cornflour (mixed into a paste) at the end to thicken the curry if necessary.  The Hairy Bikers are also on twitter @hairybikers and their website has a nice selection of recipes (but not this one – get the book!)

On Friday we had a proper treat, I often make something a bit more naughty on a Friday, such as my smoked haddock pasta. This time it was enchiladas. Please note this is my version, I know it is in no-way authentic and it does contain cheats (oops!) BUT it is tasty and my sister demands I cook this every time she visits, in fact sometimes she visits not to see me but just to get fed, nice to know my food is loved.

M’s Chicken Enchiladas

For 4 People.

Ingredients

6 soft  flour or corn tortillas. (I get whichever is cheapest but for this it is often the corn tortillas)

1 500g tub of passata (very cheap in Lidl or Aldi)

3 Chicken breasts, cut into small chunks

Cheese grated up (however much you desire, but basically enough for a sprinkle in each tortilla and some for the top)

Mexican spices. (Buy when on special offer, I got a big tub of fajita spices in The Range)

1 packet of Uncle Bens Mexican style rice. (very often on special offer, this stuff is great!)

About 150ml of boiling water.

You will also need:

a large oven dish, one such as this. I have a big glass one I use. You basically want it big enough to fit the rolled tortillas in but small enough that they will be slightly squashed together as this stops them from unrolling.

A frying pan.

And 2 bowls.

Method

1. Put the oven on to warm up at around 200c.  Cut the chicken into smallish chunks. Warm a little oil in a frying pan over a medium flame. Cook the chicken and sprinkle over the spices. Remember the more you use the spicier the final result. I often add a few chilli flakes as well and if you wish look at the ingredients on the packet of spice and add more of the individual spices to add more flavour if you have them (eg. Garlic, chilli powder, cumin etc.) As you cook the chicken break it into even small chunks. It is a good way of checking to see how cooked it is and for the wraps later you want small pieces.

2. Pour the passata into a bowl and add some hot water. You don’t want it too thin so add the water slowly, stirring until the sauce is a nice consistency. Then add spices, the same rule as the chicken. The tomatoes neutralise the spices a bit so I’d add a fair bit. I’d say the whole sachet if using one of the sachets of spices (Old El Paso for example) or the equivalent. I know this isn’t very exact but for this you have to go with instinct and play around until you get it right according to your tastes. It is kind of fun, just be confident and go with it. Stir away until spices are mixed throughout.

3. Once the chicken is cooked get a ladleful of the sauce and a sprinkle of the grated cheese. Pour this over the chicken and leave to simmer on a low heat as you prepare the rest – think sticky sort of consistency for the sauce and chicken. Most of the sauce is for the top later.

4. Cook the rice according to instructions (usually 2 min), once it has cooked swap and put the tortillas on a plate and microwave for about 30 seconds. Meanwhile put the rice into a bowl.

5. Now we have all the components we are ready to construct. In a tortilla put a tablespoon of rice, then a spoonful of chicken, a sprinkle of cheese. Wrap then place into the dish, nice and firmly at the end. Repeat until the dish is full.

6. Pour over your sauce. Then as much cheese as you like over the top.

7. Place in the oven for 15-20 min, until the cheese has melted and you can’t wait to eat any longer! Everything has been cooked so it really is just about your patience at this point.

8. Serve. 2 tortillas each person. You will be stuffed at the end.

Other notes: This also makes super tasty leftovers. I always make one extra each for the Boyo and I and we have it next day for lunch. It feels like a real treat. You just microwave a portion for 2-3min.  For vegetables I usually quickly fry some onions, peppers and mushrooms in a bit of the fajita spice to have at the side. There is no room for them in the wraps. The Boyo really likes some jalapeno peppers with his.

 

Thinking about them makes me hungry! Enjoy.

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A weekend of wandering

I wrote the last time about my lack of motivation thanks to a big bad migraine but I am very pleased to report that a 3 day weekend has well and truly restored that motivation.

On Saturday we had some errands to run in our nearest town. Our car had not been cleaned properly for a very long time and we decided it was seriously overdue. So we opted to go for a bit of a cheat, we paid to have it valeted and washed. It was really worth it, it is like a brand new car. At the garage I also saw a lovely red mini. I can drive but only automatic so at some point in the next 6 months we hope to get a car that we can both drive but the Boyo is not convinced that a mini would be practical. L The funny thing is that although we live in the countryside and not a town anymore I can actually get to work and out and about by public transport easier than before so the car hunt isn’t as urgent. That afternoon we went wandering one of our nearby paths, a little bit in the woods and a little bit through the fields. We are lucky to live where we do.

Sunday was forecast to be a nice day but we didn’t expect it to be as nice as it was, it was a lovely sunny day. We went for a big wander around Crieff in Perthshire. The first half was around ‘The Hosh’, this was mostly a walk through woods and you go past the Glenturret distillery. Before attempting the second part we called in at Crieff Hydro for refreshments. We were very impressed with the hotel, so much so we’d like to save up and splurge on a weekend there. We were able to sit on a balcony and I enjoyed a delicious scone with cream and jam. One of things that impressed us was the amount of things going on in and around the hotel. On the lawn outside the bistro they had a trampoline, mini tennis, giant connect 4 and people were enjoying lunch outside and children were happily playing on the lawn. For a place that seemed rather posh it was wonderfully welcoming and friendly feeling. Around the hotel we saw big tennis courts, a horse riding centre, golf, a woodland treetops adventure course, and signs of lots of other activities. With the hotel being right on the edge of Crieff surrounded by beautiful Perthshire countryside it seemed like a terrific place to go on holiday. They had villas so perhaps it would be worth clubbing together with friends or family for a holiday. The second part of our walk was up and around ‘The Knock’. A short steep climb leads you to the top where you get magnificent views. I have problems with my knees so I can’t really do proper hill climbing, this was manageable and the walk was in splendid sunshine. It was such a lovely way to spend Sunday.

Yesterday we took advantage of an extra day off and after my hypnotherapy appointment we went to Inverkeithing where we walked a small part of the Fife Coastal path, over the Forth bridge and then down into South Queensferry. Walking over the Forth Bridge is something I have wanted to do for a while. I love the Forth Railway Bridge – to me it is such a magnificent icon of Scotland. As a teenager I kayaked under it, one of the great activities part of a Guide camp. From the road bride you get a brilliant view of the railway bridge. Walking over the bridge made me appreciate a little bit more the amazing architecture and volume that the bridge deals with everyday. Very clever people design these things! The new crossing is well underway and looks like it will be very big as well. I don’t know why I like bridges so much but I find something very interesting about them. It is probably because my brain is not mathematical in the slightest so comprehending how someone can actually design them is awe inducing then the feats of engineering as well.Forth

On Sunday it was also the final of the football – at long last! I am not interested in football in the slightest but I had said that I would make tea according to whatever two countries were in the final. So for Argentina we had a mixed meat grill including peppered beef steaks, chorizo and thin garlic rubbed minute steaks. For Germany we had some frankfurters and a cheese noodle baked dish. I had misgivings about the noodle dish but according to the Boyo it was just like the dish he had when he was in Germany last year. It actually tasted nice. All together a very random dinner!Football food

Now for the motivation, the theme of this blog is a Merry and healthy lifestyle so that is what I really am focusing on.

I have started taking my vitamins again.

I am working hard on eradicating my migraines and not taking painkillers unless absolutely essential.

I am consciously thinking about food again. This means not just cooking stuff on a whim but thinking about being good 5 out of 7 days. This means I will try to have 1 veggie day a week. I am reading about 5:2 and paleo diet principles again. I am unlikely to adopt either wholeheartedly but some of the principles are excellent.

I am working on tasks my hypnotherapist has given me.

And I am starting up a proper exercise routine combining walking, swimming, cross trainer and cycling.

And finally I am also thinking about what I am spending. For the future I need to save more and learn how to budget properly. There is an excellent post by blogger Still Being Molly that I’m using for inspiration with this.

So in short some sunshine and wandering can do wonders for your motivation!

Merry

 
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Foodie Friday – weekend roast

When the sun is shining I tend to crave lighter foods. Picnic teas with a variety of cold meats, cheeses, nuts (pistachio or cashew are my favourites), crusty bread and pesto are ideal but after nearly 2 weeks away the Boyo was craving some slightly more traditional food. We had such amazing food when we were away in Hong Kong, so full of flavour and the variety of food you can get over there is phenomenal. A week home and I definitely feel like we should pop (haha ‘pop’ doesn’t really apply to a 24 hour journey!) over this weekend and get some Thai food this weekend, well a girl can wish!

I wanted to make a roast because it usually results in at least a couple of meals worth. I didn’t feel like cooking beef or lamb and instead decided to make roast chicken.

To zing up my chicken and make it a little summery I made a paste to both stuff and baste it with. I used butter, a squirt of fresh lemon juice, juice of half a lime, fresh coriander, some chicken season all, and a few drops of Heinz Tangy Jalepono sauce. I whizzed all of this up in a blender until it was a nice thick paste then using a sharp knife to make a little opening I stuffed inbetween the skin and the flesh with the paste then smothered the chicken in the rest. Whilst cooking I scooped the liquid from bottom of the roasting dish to pour over the chicken. The result is a nice tasty juicy roast chicken. We had ours with some steamed veg and potatoes. I also made a gravy, enriching it with some of the juice from the roast and fresh coriander.

Now the great thing about roasting a chicken is that it can go quite far. So I shredded up the leftover chicken and this time marinaded in some spices and soy sauce to have with stir fry noodles the next evening. I also used the carcass to make tasty chicken stock. For this I had a root around to see what veg I already had, this time, 2 small carrots, 2 sticks of celery adn an onion. I roughly chopped the veg into large chucks and put this along with the carcass into my slow cooker. I covered with hot water, added some black pepper and a little bit of thyme and let this cook for 12 hours overnight. The next morning I awoke to very tasty smelling stock which is now in little pots in my freezer ready for more meals.

Other foodie finds this week have been the delicious Laimon Fresh juice. We found it when we were out wandering the Fife coast at the weekend. If you are in the area then the Elie Deli is definitely worth checking out. I even liked it more than the ice cream I was eating which is syaing something for me! I just have to find a stockist closer to home. It is a wonderful fresh drink, it tasted a bit like a mojito but tastier. Really perfect for the summer. I might even have to order online if I can’t find it nearby.

Tonights tea will be burgers with halloumi, spicy tomato rice and roasted pepper. I just pan fry the halloumi for a couple of minutes and find it goes perfectly with the meaty burgers and the rice. For the rice I cook the rice in stock, passata and add garlic, Nandos Piri Piri sauce and black pepper. The trick is to cook it at a low heat slowly so it doesn’t stick and it is very tasty. I usually add some chorizo to the leftover rice for another slightly lighter meal.

I am sorry I don’t have any photos this time, my phone really is a bit decrepit now and there is something wrong with my camera – I’ll try and get my technology sorted out asap!

The Hong Kong guide will likely be up on Monday and it will be photo heavy! You have been warned!

 

Have a good weekend everyone!

 

Merry

 

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Back to reality… and my head doesn’t like it!

There is nothing like a holiday away from everything to reenergise you and help find that motivation that has been hiding whilst you have been enduring long working hours. Well my holiday did do this and so much more but I had only been back at work for a day and a half when a nice big migraine zapped me and my mojo was once more running out the door. It always takes me at least a day to recover from a migraine. The following day I always have a fuzzy stuffy head and my brain just takes longer to get into gear. I forget words, I’m tired and I’m irritable – none of this is a good formula for feeling positive and happy.

However this wee blog is helping me to get back on track. I really want to achieve my goals and be Merry.

I absolutely 100% believe happiness isn’t about getting something or targets (of course those things can momentarily give us a happiness boost or help us to keep on track… mmm cake!) but to be happy you have to embrace positive thinking and just be happy right here and now. Believe me I know how hard that is and I know it isn’t always possible – my episodes of depression mean that I have first hand experience that sometimes no matter how much we want to be content and happy our brains malfunction and we end up in the depths of despair. The depression taught me that in order to keep me on the right track I need to challenge myself, find the positives, appreciate all that I have around me and give myself health and wellbeing goals.

So today now my head has finally cleared I could be grumpy because I am stuck in my greenhouse of a library when the sun is shining or I could think about how truly lucky I am. There has been a little thing on facebook encouraging people to think of 3 positive things for 5 days so here are my first 3:

  1. I have a good job, a permanent contract which is elusive these days and I appreciate that days in my library working pay for all my other fun things I do outwith the library and actually my job is pretty good. So I might be working today but it means I can get ice cream with my Boyo later.
  2. I have just been on a most wonderful holiday to a place that I used to live, I am not yet 30 but I really have had a pretty good life and experiences thus far. I’m wearing a gorgeous turquoise stone necklace from my holidays today, a nice wee reminder of Hong Kong.
  3. I enjoyed a lovely 20 minute walk this morning to my bus. It was a lovely sunny morning, I live in the countryside, those 20 minutes allowed me to chat away to my Boyo and for us to appreciate our surroundings.

So now I’m all happy again (and thinking about ice cream later) I can once again think about ebing postive and think about my  little (big) targets for the next few months:

  1. Start planning meals again. I don’t do a weekly plan but a little forward thinking will help me to be a little more economical and healthier and get back into the habit of cooking everything from scratch again.
  2. Exercise everyday, walking, swimming, the cross trainer and cycling all need to become part of weekly routine. I need to lose weight and think about my long term health. If it becomes a daily habit it will be a lot easier to stick to it.
  3. Start taking my vitamins again. This is just me being tired and forgetful in the mornings – the ironic thing the vitamins help me from feeling so lethargic!
  4. Work harder with the hypnotherapy in order to really work on this vegetable & fruit aversion. Again this is important for my long term health.
  5. Find a hobby or a class or some sort of activity where I can meet new people. I love my Boyo but having some other friends nearby would be nice and maybe help my social awkwardness improve
  6. Finish cataloguing my recipe folders at home (such a librarian)
  7. Do something about the garden. It is only small and it could be so nice.
  8. Show my Boyo that I appreciate him a little more. When you live with someone it becomes all too easy to take things for granted a little bit. I still get wee moments where it hits me how truly lucky we are and how amazing it is that he loves me just as much as I love him, I hope these wee moments never stop.
  9. Stop buying clothes and start exploring my own wardrobe a bit more. I was looking back at some older photos and saw things I had completely forgotten about, granted my weight gain means a lot of things don’t fit me but even with the stuff that does I could be a bit more adventurous.
  10. Save my pennies more. We hope to buy a new home in 2 years, this really should be all the incentive I need, I just forget and live in the moment a bit too much, but saving will mean that more extra special moments – like houses and holidays – will be possible.

So there we go, 10 goals for me to think about and hopefully I will actively pursue them!

That will all for today folks – coming up a little guide to holidays in Hong Kong and of course a Foodie post won’t be far away!

Merry

 

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