Category Archives: Entertaining

Fancy Crumbs

At a German wedding.

Can you just imagine the slick production line for one of these fancy nibbles? German efficiency evidenced at a winter wedding. Seed bread, a cheese slice and a shaving of wurst all cookie-cuttered into submission. This German piece of art gave me all sorts of ideas for party food for the months to come. Summer soirées with heart shaped pieces of watermelon in my Sangria? Yes, please.

Bread bigger than your head at a wedding.

I have to admit I was slightly scared of this giant hunk of bread when I first saw it. The friendly waitress aka Bread Tamer was reassuring me that it was all ok when she took the ‘lid’ off and …

She offered us some yummy mini-sandwiches!

I had nothing to be worried about because clearly, Germans just know how to make the best use of bread. Efficient to the last crumb. I, of course, managed to waste a few of these fancy crumbs to the floor and fed many an unseen creature for a few days. I picked some crumbs out from my scarf for quite some time after. I would like to say that is all I lived on over Christmas but sadly I had to gorge myself on the larger crumbs offered to me.

Mouse on detox diet.

On a normal walk home recently, I spotted a tiny creature nibbling at a flower. It was a mouse! Since when do mice eat flowers?! Maybe it decided to switch to salads after the excesses of the holidays like me. Who knows. I felt like giving him a fancy crumb or two but after this experience, no way. Feed ’em once, feed ’em forever.

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Homemade Wins

As our lives get busier, eating healthily slips from the can-do pile onto the list of must-dos. Carving out time to make nutritious and balanced meals is good for so many reasons and yet I find myself resorting to pasta pesto or even worse, a kebab from a corner stand dripping with grease and things I will only regret later. There has to be a solution.

Working out a system of cooking meals in bulk and freezing them has saved us time, money and energy whenever we actually do it. Sadly, I do find myself daydreaming about what I could make for dinner on the way home from work. Organisation and efficiency can take the fun and joy out of cooking sometimes but if what you make ahead of time rocks, then you won’t miss the spontaneous creation so much.

One thing that really works is marinating meat and freezing to roast when you’re ready. I made some meatballs [500g mince, 1/2 red onion diced, 50g breadcrumbs, a squeeze or two of tomato puree, soy sauce, pepper, chilli powder and 3 cloves of garlic finely diced] for a dinner we had with friends the other day and saved the remaining mixture to enjoy another time. It didn’t make it to the freezer. Baked burgerettes with salad, leftover potato and broccoli and squash for Sunday lunch? Don’t mind if I do. Better than pub grub and better for my body by a mile.

 

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Muffin Top

I did my best TV chef impression yesterday, amazing one and all with neatly segregated ingredients ready for demonstration and my utensils all to hand. We were about to put dinner together but we needed an incentive to move from the chatter to actually doing something. Almost as if on cue, fresh blueberry muffins popped out of the oven casually spreading their aroma across the kitchen and possibly making our neighbours jealous. I set them aside saying the magic words, “For later.”

Quickly, we agreed on combining rocket leaves, mango cubes, avocado spheres (thanks watermelon scoop!), sauteed mushroom quarters, finely sliced red onion, diced red pepper, tomato and chunks of feta to top it all off with a sprinkling of chopped walnuts. That was one MEGA salad. To contrast, we had mini pizzas no more than one hand-span across made with love and the best combination of my baking supplies from various German shopping mishaps.

As you can see, I decided to go for the ‘rustic’ pizza look rather than perfect circles. I made the bases with garlic and basil so opted for a smooth slather of unseasoned tomato paste once they were part-baked. My husband finished topping them with peppers, mushrooms, the yummiest salami, onions and tomatoes and a very generous sprinkling of mozzarella so we had MEGA mini pizzas. Note to self: Take over before the cheese stage.

None of our guests complained about the artery-clogging potential this meal had when we eventually wound down to tea and muffins. I deliberately made these muffins ‘skinny’ using half the oil and sugar than a regular recipe would have called for. They were definitely subtly sweet so I might add a teeny bit more sugar next time. I remembered my mother’s trick of using yoghurt instead of milk and they turned out deliciously soft and fluffy which usually means a whole block of butter has gone in.

Here’s what actually went in:

2 large cups of plain flour, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, half a cup of caster sugar and 3 teaspoons of vanilla sugar mixed together. In another bowl, I lightly beat 2 eggs, 1 cup of yoghurt and a third of a cup of vegetable oil. I then folded this into the dry ingredients with 1 cup of washed blueberries and it went in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes at 200ºC. I think I might make a cream cheese frosting to go on top of the leftover muffins but maybe my husband should take over now and I should go swimming, whatever that means.

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Leftovers

There have been quite a few empty-fridge moments in our marriage so far. Sometimes we resort to the old pasta-pesto studenty combo (or haggis penne carbonara as shown above) but there are special days when we end up with amazing meals. Our last date-night was one such occasion. We had a scrumptious roast chicken (thank you, Freezer) stuffed with the contents of our fridge: an apple, leftover passata, a red pepper and half a bottle of pesto. I padded it out with some dried bread cubes I had in the cupboard and the result was simply fantastic. I forgot to take a photo but really roast chickens taste better than they look. Here’s one from a previous roasting adventure before it went in. You can thank my husband for this.

To follow in this vein of inspired scavenging, I gathered all the dairy our fridge had to offer, a bag of frozen raspberries and caster sugar. You can’t have a roast dinner without dessert, obviously. Out of one 250g box of cream cheese, 2 Tablespoons of plain yoghurt and 3 tablespoons of sugar, our cheesecake topping was born. We needed a base! Scavenging in the kitchen window-sill landscape aka dry goods section, showed up some Belgian cinnamon biscuits kindly left by our guests. Popped a few in a freezer bag, bashed them with a rolling pin and poured the crumbs into two ramekins. It looked a bit dry so I sloshed the remnants of some apple juice into it and patted it down with a spoon.  I made a bain-marie or water-bath out of a roasting tin and slid these beauties in at 150ºC for about an hour.

Perfection of a meal made from not much and perfection of a date-night. Great thing was that we had half of the roast left over to share with a friend the next night AND cinnamon creme caramel for dessert. Scavenging for left-overs can be a very good thing.

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Printing Party

A grey sky, nowhere to be and nothing good on TV. Conditions were perfect. The day for the printing party was here.

Cardinal rule of all successful parties is to prepare: I made tote bags out of a thrifted, bleached and washed bed sheet and ribbon from my stash. Total cost: €2! And in my book, all great parties have food to share: My husband and I made a Thai-inspired chicken broth to go with copious amounts of our own spicy potato wedges and rocket-tomato-grape salad. We had four guests from different countries and this ‘fusion’ meal went down well! I’ve bookmarked it as an easy gluten and dairy-free meal too. I wish I had a picture. We had salad in ramekins. Anyhoo..

Taking my cue from television show hosts, I quickly explained what we were about to do, the various paint options and showed ‘one I made earlier’. I then handed out paper, rainbow pens and stood back with glee as my wonderful guests doodled their designs  and daydreamed. It was interesting to see how other people settle on an idea. I tried to be helpful and offered inspiring books, pointed to fun websites and before long everyone was up at one of the tables and tracing a stencil; our chosen method for the day. Printing on fabric is approachable using the simple idea of negative space so it was great for a party where the main aim was fun rather than technical brilliance and man, we had fun.

Chic and simple stripes are perfect if you’re struggling to find inspiration. They are SO easy to make and involve no sharp objects. Masking tape to the rescue! The plastic folder dividers (a brainwave after a long hunt for acetate) were soft enough to cut through with an X-acto knife and were great for large shapes like the card suits which Steffi tried or a rotund owl that Natalie went home with. More intricate patterns like Hannah’s leafy tree were better seen with the iron-on freezer paper which stays flush with the fabric throughout and doesn’t allow any splodges of paint to seep under. We also had some free-hand painted clouds from Jess which were trés impressive so don’t be limited by your stencils. Sometimes it is better to have no boundaries.

We used cotton fabric (even better if it had a former life) because natural fibres soak up colour the best, tiny amounts of fabric paints and an iron to heat set these fab designs. We can now wash our customised reusable tote bags in temperatures up to 40ºC. Win win!

Despite the gender-equal nature of this here craft, my husband chose to play a computer game involving strategic thinking and arthritis-inducing keyboard action.

All who voted for the relaxing and productive afternoon involving strategy and nimble fingers, I salute you.

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