Monday, June 29, 2015

Living away - Pros and Cons

So another week has passed and I have done little to no baking. It's just been a crazy busy couple of weeks and there is a lot of 'healthy eating' buzz around me right now, which means that people don't want piles of cookies or cakes to tempt them over to the dark side. So lets do a little life update instead -

You may remember that I moved to the UK a while ago and since then a lot has changed. Around here in particular, I've had a few posts featured in Food Gawker and Tastespotting as well as in a few other wonderful people who have seen the baking and chosen to feature it on their websites; something for which I am always grateful for - isn't the internet community a lovely group!! You may have noticed that I am making a concerted effort to upload more regularly and despite a few slip ups every now and then have been keeping to a once a week schedule. TVandCookies got a twitter, although I don't update that half enough (bear with me working on it), and a Pinterest where you can pin some of the pictures. I have changed the layout of the website slightly in order to show you some of the older posts that might be interesting. I realize that all of this is basic blogging stuff but apparently I learn very slowly :- / ; )

So personally I have been working on a doctorate and getting to know England and it's wonderful eccentricities. For example I have no been here for the Queen's two previous birthdays and I find the celebrations absolutely bizarre and amazing. The march of the army and the effort and precision that goes into said march, it is amazing, beautiful and truly deeply bizarre to someone from a country without a monarchy. The traditions and the grandeur of things is amazing like the beautiful parliament buildings that look like a castle.


I have been having a wonderful time here, going to markets and interesting little shops and restaurants. Moreover I have been meeting wonderful people, some of whom I would hope to remain friends with for the rest of my life. There is such a wonderful mix of people here. People from all over the world who come together and bring different cultures and traditions. Within this country that has such a focus on traditions (the queen's b-day par example) it seems that there is an interesting space to cultivate traditions and micro-cultures within the large diverse capital. There are issues, of course, including backlash against immigrants and a movement towards UK independance from the EU. However these are issues for another post, or moreover another blog. My experience is of diversity and inclusion, of restaurants and shops from all parts of the world and friends from other countries who have had such interestingly different and sometimes strangely similar upbringings to my own.

Yet there are difficulties about living away from home. A lot has been happening in Ireland and there have been a number of important changes; positive (legalizing gay marriage) and negative (results of economic difficulties) that make it feel as though I am very far from home. Living away from your home town is strange. There are many positives; there is so much to see, England is very similar to Ireland but I always find myself getting surprised by differences that I didn't expect. There are experiences and opportunities that would never be available in one's hometown, well not in mine anyway. Since living here I have been to theme parks, stately houses, to a ski center that is like a football pitch sized freezer and full of real snow -

Yes this is the Smiler, where that awful accident occurred



 However there are genuinely difficult parts; even in England, which is at most a 90 minute flight from Dublin, the distance can feel huge at important times at home. I have lived in the states twice and know the experience of even greater distance. I cannot begin to understand the feeling of being a day's journey away (like living in Australia, like so many young Irish people). There are places that you miss. For me those places are almost always outdoor places; mountains where I walk with my friends; parks that I have been to with my partner with markets and cafes; bays and beaches. This weekend past I have been back to the powerscourt waterfall a beautiful waterfall within a lovely park and near an amazing stately house in Wicklow.


Standing there, staring at the waterfall, I was struck by the significance of the moment. I have been to this waterfall countless times before but in essence I had never actually seen this waterfall before. The water is constantly moving, different each time you see it, changing the rocks and the pools beneath. This is a place that I have thought about and longed to see again, missed if you will. Missed, in the same way that I often miss places from home. Sam Phillips has a song called Taking pictures that has the line 'The places I go are never there.' It says a lot to me about how I remember the places I love and the nature of memories. So without getting too too philosophical - it's something to think about! Anyway that's it for this week. Net week I will be back with an eciting project. Until then =)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Orange is the new Black season 3 review *Spoiler-free*

So season 3 is upon us and...... erm it was good, mostly. Like any good Netflix-aholic I, plus my enabling partner, binge watched the entire season 3 this weekend. So straight out of the gate I must admit that it was interesting enough to lose chunks of my weekend. (Although like any true Netflix-aholic I had planned for it and it appears that I am not alone).



So what did we think?

Triple Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars

So this week we are eating healthy. Last week with all the wedding cake making and devouring, well lets just say it felt like it was time to do a bit of a sugar detox. So all week we have been avoiding sweets and treats. The only problem being that it can leave one feeling quite deprived, and that my friends is the key to failure in any diet! So I decided to explore how to introduce a little treat in a healthy, no added sugar especially, way.



Can you tell that I've missed chocolate this week??!

This chocolate is dark (50-70% cocoa) chocolate so it has less sugar than most and as you can see, we have used it sparingly but appropriately. The idea being that this is a little bit of what you want with a whole lot of healthy and delicious stuff that will keep us full and feed our muscles post workout. *Just a little note about dark chocolate, be careful selecting your dark chocolate, higher quality does not always equate to better outcome baking-wise. I have never had much luck with Lindt 70% for example. So sometimes it's better to go for a lower percentage but guaranteed results.



So what's inside  - Oats for digestion
                            - Almonds for protein and vitamin E
                            - Chocolate Protein powder for obvious reasons
                            - Flaxseeds for those Omega 3s
                            - Hazelnuts for linoleic acid and folate
                            - peanut butter for flavour and protein
                            - cashew butter for texture and creaminess
                            - milk
                            - optional agave nectar for sweetness
                            - Delicious Dark Chocolate for cancer fighting anti-oxidants!!



So as you can see these babies pack a powerful nutrient punch and are absolutely scrumptious to boot. My ones are vegetarian but not vegan. However they could easily be made vegan with a brown rice or other vegan protein powder and a nut/soya milk instead of the cow's milk.

So what will you need - Food processor or nutri-bullet/other blender that can mill
                                     - saucepan
                                     - bowl and spoon.

Ingredients

100g/ 1.25 cups Oats
20-30/  1/4 cup Almonds
10-15/ 1/8 cup Hazelnuts
2 tbsp brown and golden flaxseeds/linseeds
2 Scoops Chocolate protein powder ( I used whey)
2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tsp cashew butter
optional tsp agave nectar
100ml/ 1/3 cup milk

1 - Using a food processor or appropriate blender, mill your oats, then nuts, then flaxseeds into flours.

2 - Add to a bowl and mix together well

 

3 - In a small saucepan heat your milk, peanut butter and cashew butter (with your agave nectar is
     you want) and mix continuously until smooth. Let cool slightly



4 - Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add chocolate chips and mix
     through.

5 - Line a bread pan with clingfilm and then pour in the mixture. it will be sticky but a silicone
      spatula will help. Flatten it out and cover with the clingfilm before chilling in the fridge.



6 - Remove from the fridge and cut into pieces of your chosen size. I would advise smaller rather
      than larger as these pack quite the protein punch and are therefore quite filling. Then place in a
      freezer, if possible or back in the fridge to chill further.

7 - Melt your remaining dark chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave in careful bursts of 20
      seconds, with a drop of milk, stirring between each blast. Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract to your
      chocolate and stir through. Temper if you want by melting 2/3 and then finely chopping last and
      adding and stirring through to melt.

7 - Remove one bar from the fridge/freezer at a time to dip into the dark chocolate and place on a
     wire rack to let excess drip off.

8 - Let your chocolate set, store in the fridge and then enjoy; after a workout or anytime =)



So the nutritional info on these. If you make 22 then each piece contains:

Calories - 77
Protein - 5g
Fat (mostly healthy) - 4g
And a whole lot of vitamins and minerals and anti-oxidants as discussed above. 

I will also being doing a review of 'Orange is the New Black' season 3 over here so check it out if you're interested

Monday, June 8, 2015

Wedding Cake course

This past week I had an amazing opportunity. My wonderful bf and parents gifted me with a tiered wedding cake course at Fair Cake London and it was the most enjoyable week. The course included three tiered cakes, as well as flowers and decorations. We learnt amazing techniques and tricks from professional cake bakers and decorators. The instructors were incredibly kind and approachable, willing to discuss anything regarding cake decorating, working with cakes, and wedding cake essentials etc. The pace of the class was intense as we were learning a lot in a short period but yet the instructors were willing to slow down at certain points and help each student with any part they may have been struggling with. So enough gushing, let me show you some of the cakes I made this week -

The Pink Ruffles Cake





The square base provides a nice contrast to the softer ruffles and rounded tiers. The powdered pink finish also softens the look.

The Four-tiered Simple Elegance Cake



And a better look at the rose -



I liked the simple elegance of this, with gold highlighted dots and then the golden rose

The School Board Character Cake

The lesson for the class ;)

The side of the cake tells a story

Love and love and love leads to wedding cake ;)

Large cake decorating is completely new to me and, there was definitely a bit of a learning curve. It was absolutely amazing to have instructors to facilitate the learning process and be there to ask little questions or address little problems. I will definitely continue working with larger cakes and improve my skills and gather new techniques. In the mean time I hope that you enjoy these photos.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Molten chocolate cake with caramel center

This weekend we had some of our lovely friends over for an awesome dinner party. We were so excited to have them over because they are new friends but absolutely awesome people. Dinner parties are such a wonderful way to spend time with friends. Since moving here we haven't had many, as I use our dinner table as a desk, so it was exciting to break out our dinner party stuff. It is just so nice to get quality time to sit and talk while having good food and drink. Great nights with great friends, which I have been incredibly lucky to have a good few of over the last few weekends, deserve a great dessert. I think I'm in something of a chocolate mood this month so like the brownies last week this dessert had to involve chocolate. Cue the photos -

Chocolately enough?
You may notice that the center of the molten part is a different colour. That is not a trick of the light, that is a delicious gooey river of caramel. The best part is that these beauties are so, so simple to make and will finish off a meal perfectly.

Molten chocolate and caramel cakes (makes 4-5) (adapted from BBC good food recipe)

100g Dark Chocolate
100g Butter
100g Muscovado sugar
50g White sugar
3 Eggs
50g Flour
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
8 Rolo chocolates

1 - In a deep bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate together

2 - Add the sugars, white first and melt completely, then remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

3 - Add the muscovado sugar and beat well

4 - Now add beaten eggs and vanilla and beat everything together.

5 - Finally fold in the flour until just fully combined.

6 - Butter and flour 4-5 ramikins or you can use cupcake cases and fill most of the way up.

7 - Just before serving, place two rolos back to back and insert into the center of the each cake

8 - These need to be baked just before you serve, so if you want to eat them immediately put into a
     200' oven for 10 minutes. However if you are having a dinner party, then just store them in the
     fridge, covered well in cling-film (to avoid absorbing tastes/oders) and then bake for 15 minutes
     before serving.

9 - Serve with ice-cream and berries and enjoy!!


And when you break into it ............



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...