Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chocolate Cup-cake for Chocolate cake day

In 2004/2005 I was living in France in a beautiful big house with a extravagant french kitchen, unfortunately I was not allowed to use that kitchen. I was renting a room in this house and as part of the package students renting in this house were allowed use of a separate student kitchen. This was useful on many levels as it gave us a place to keep our food away from the main kitchen and a place to hang out together, which we did and I spent many memorable nights in that kitchen chatting with my friend and drinking tea or water. The down-side of the kitchen however was the fact that it had no oven, or hon, or anything other than a microwave! You can only imagine how difficult this was for a baking fanatic like me!

Never one to let circumstances prevent me from getting what I want I became an expert in microwave baking. I made everything in the microwave, from bread to cakes to scones. Don't get me wrong, microwave baking never replaced traditional baked goods in my heart and my friends who were there can attest to the fact that I jumped at any opportunity to use the real oven and make proper Irish scones. That said there is a great deal of fun and convenience in making cake in the microwave and since it's become popular recently I decided to share one of my favourite chocolate cup-cake (or cake in a cup) recipes. This time picture tutorial style, it's my first time so excuse the roughness.

Chocolate cake in a cup recipe

4-5 pieces of milk chocolate, or dark choc if you prefer
50ml milk
2 tbsp white flour
pinch of baking powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk

First choose your mug. I like to pick something tall and slim in shape to make the process fast and ensure the cake cooks evenly, remember a microwave cooks from the middle and you will not be able to mix this once you start. I choose this elegant white mug and buttered the inside -

Just like a traditional cake I like to flour the butter to give the cake a nice outside. I used a chai coco powder for a little bit of a spice kick -

Then prepare the cake mix. Many cake in a cup recipes prepare the cake mix in the cup used to bake. I know this saves on washing up but honestly I've found that it can lead to a improperly combined mix and lumps of flour where you do not want them so I mix in a cereal bowl, something most students have, and then put it into the mug.

Break the chocolate into the bowl and add the milk. Melt the chocolate and milk together in the microwave for approx 30 seconds - 1 min. Whisk together the mixture and you can add more milk if it is not runny in texture. To this add the flour, pinch of baking powder, coco powder, sugar (can be removed if using hot chocolate powder instead of cocoa powder) and egg yolk. Then beat the mixture until it is smooth. Pour your mixture into the cup but leave space at the top for rising -

Microwave this on 50% power for 2 and a half to 3 minutes, going one minute at a time with a pause between them. Do not mix and don't panic if any mixture spills over the edge. The mixture will rise over the top and make a lovely little muffin top. At this point you can dig straight in or you can let it cool and ice it

I attempted to make mine look like a cappuccino or some coffee drink using plain and chocolate icing. The cake is delicious and fluffy with lots of chocolate goodness. Hope you enjoy

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Suits - quick witted comedy or re-hashed legal garbage?

I must admit I was intrigued by the trailers for the pilot of 'Suits,' the characters appeared to be interesting and the dialogue fast and witty. The basic premise appears to be that a highly intelligent but under-achieving young man, Mike Ross (Patrick J.Adams) somehow finds himself in an interview for a law associate and using his superior memory skills and knowledge of the law to impress his employer, Harvery Spektor (Gabriel Macht) and talk his way into the position. The only problem is that he is not a qualified lawyer, in fact he is a college drop out! As you can imagine hyjinx immediately ensue!!

There is no question that the pilot was fast paced and entertaining. The relationship between the main characters is dynamic and is a perfect example of the mentor style relationship that many people may have experienced or wished they had in their twenties. The scenario is also appealling to a generation of people who are coming out of college and stuck working jobs that neither satisfy them nor often relate to their training. The idea of getting an oppertunity to turn everything around, get the dream job and be appreciated is the perfect escapism for the recession generation. So what's the problem, perfect show right?!

Well I've only two main problems, the first is the legal aspect of the show. The legal scene was done to death in the nineties with dozen of shows revolving around the lawyers offices and their court dates. I can honestly say that these shows also painted a vastly unrealistice view of the life of a lawyer, hinting at the long hours and piles of paper work but focusing on the court-room drama. If you were to ask a lawyer I know you would discover that the majority of time is in fact dedicated to the endless paperwork.

Which brings me to my second problem - the lack of paperwork. The first quarter of the pilot repeates ad nauseaum the fact that this enormous law firm 'only hire from Harvard,' Then we see that Harvey Spektor will lie for the young man and send him to Harvard while he works there, but Mike Ross doesn't even get into Harvard he appears to use his fast wit to sneak in somehow. All-in-all it doesn't sit right with me. I understand that this is a fantasy world in which everything is beginning to fall into place for young mister Ross but somehow this top legal firm and the admission board in one of the top schools in America will ignore the neccessary paper-work and let him in on the basis of his winning charm? It's too good to be true.

However that said the good in this show cannot be ignored. I thoroughly enjoyed the pace, humour and bare-faced cheekiness in this show and will continue to tune in, but possibly have to turn off my brain slightly, to be entertained by this witty and fantastical show. I'd recommend you try it and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January Blues Beaters part 2

It's that time of the year again; the time to set in motion plans for the year ahead, get back to the routine after the holidays and, for most of us, to work off those extra pounds that the Christmas period bestowed upon us. I sometimes find this time of year a tad depressing and I don't think I am alone. It's all too easy to set your goals, set out full steam ahead and then find that you are not achieving them at the rate you had intended. It's difficult to get back into healthy eating and active living when the holidays were so enjoyable and the weather is still wintery. Last year I attempted to bake my way out of these blues with cookies that can be consumed after a workout. This year I'm upping the anti and baking blues busters that will not bust your trousers, your pockets but which you will very much want to eat (at any and all times of day)


These double layered peanut and almond cookies are delicately drizzled with 70% dark chocolate. They are Gluten free, low in fat (fats used are good fats, in moderation), almost guilt free and high in protein and fiber.
The base is made somewhat similar to the cookies I made last year and the almond layer is made using a method similar to macaroons. The affect of all this is a simultaneously crunchy and chewy cookie that hits all the chocolatey and sweet notes that we continue to crave after the holidays but achieves these without all the refined sugars and unhealthy fats.

Chocolate, Peanut and Almond Protein cookies

100g Organic smooth peanut butter
50g Agave Nectar
1-2 scoops Organic Rice Protein Powder                              
100g Steal Cut Oats
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tbsp organic brown sugar

Mix together the peanut butter and agave nectar then add the vanilla extract and sugar. Mix the powder into the wet ingredients and mix until smooth (a small amount of fat free milk can be added here to create the smooth texture). Add the oats to the mixture and mix until smooth and slightly sticky and then spoon out into 1 inch balls and par-bake for 5-8mins  or until the tops appear slightly browned.

Almond Layer
3 egg whites - 1 day old if possible
250g ground almonds
1 scoop organic rice protein powder
1 tsp caster sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
1-2 tsp icing sugar

Beat the egg whites until frothy, add the cream of tartar and continue to beat, add the teaspoon of caster sugar and beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Sieve the ground almonds, icing sugar and protein powder together and then fold into the egg white mixture. Pipe small rounds onto the bases and cook for another 5-8mins. 

Let the cookies cool and meanwhile (attempt to) temper 100g of 70% dark chocolate. Then when the cookies are cool drizzle the melted chocolate over the cookies, let them dry and enjoy after the gym, or whenever the mood strikes!

So.........that went well......but I'm back with a bang!

At the start of the year I said that I would try to post more regularly and......yeah....that didn't happen =/ Finishing this doctorat...