Food Challenge Recipe 26: Easy Baked Churros

And just like that, we’re over half way through the challenge! I must say, so far, I’ve not had a huge amount of trouble finding a new recipe each week. I think because foods are seasonal (obviously) and I’m picking things that I know I’d love to eat, it’s made this an enjoyable challenge!

This week we picked another theme park food. It will probably be our last since I can’t think of any more that we love and we haven’t tried yet! We decided to make Churros – but bake them in the oven!

I’m not a fan of fried foods and the idea of deep-frying anything at home gives me hot sweats, so I found a decent looking recipe on Pinterest and away we went.

You start off with a preheated oven 160c (fan) and a couple of lined baking sheets.

Then you add 1/2 cup of unsalted butter (I used Vitalite), 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tbsp granulated sugar and 1 cup of water to a medium saucepan.

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You pop this on the hob on a medium heat until the butter has melted and the water has started to boil.

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Then you add 1 cup of white flour all in one go, still on the heat, and beat it fast to make a dough. Once the dough has formed you keep beating for another 30 seconds, so the flour all cooks out.

You then remove this from the heat and add 3 large eggs, one at a time. You have to work fast mixing each egg into the dough, to ensure the eggs don’t scramble!

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It was at this stage I realised I was making choux pastry. Yes, I know I’m slow on the uptake, but I didn’t realise that was what churros were made of!

I then added 1 tsp of vanilla extract and mixed this through, then added the mixture to a piping bag with the largest star tip I owned. Which wasn’t big enough so I had to pipe two strips on top of each other for each churro but it worked!

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I began piping and left 1 inch between each churro. Then I piped on top again with what was left. I had way too much mixture for two trays but I made it work!

These then went into the oven for 22 minutes.

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You know they’re done when they’re golden and crispy. I left these on the cooling rack to completely cool.

Then I melted 1 tbsp of Vitalite in a pan. I added 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon to a ziplock and shook the mixture together. Then, in batches of two, I brushed the churros with the melted butter and popped them into the bag, shook them around and made sure they were all coated with sugar.

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The result was this lovely looking pile of goodies!

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The verdict:

The churros were baked so were a lot lighter than the fried equivalent I’m used to. They were light and airy in the middle, and I kept thinking they needed something inside them like cream or chocolate.

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They were very Eclair like, which makes sense since it’s the same pastry, however they had a very eggy flavour to them which I didn’t expect.

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On trying them straight away they were lovely. I packed some in a tin to take to a friend’s house and they were eaten again about 2 hours later. By this point they’d lost their crispness and were starting to go a little soggy, which was a shame. They were still all eaten though!

I think these were a nice little treat. They take a little effort, and would need to be eaten right away. They would be lovely dipped in caramel or chocolate sauce, and were a nice light equivalent to the fried version.

I give this recipe 7.5/10

 

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

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Last week Gary and I took our first week off together since last October when we went to America. Somehow all our plans to take time off together before now have fallen flat. We weren’t going away anywhere, but we wanted to keep ourselves occupied, and we definitely did that!

My holiday started on the Friday night, after work, having dinner at my Mum’s with my sister to celebrate my Mum’s birthday.

I made her a card, using my new calligraphy skills, and I had a bookmark made for her, with some of the lyrics from When I’m 64 on them, since she was turning 64 and she loves the Beatles!

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The next day Gary and I headed to London, for brunch at one of our favourite places, Balthazar in Covent Garden.

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I love the decor and atmosphere inside. The weather was hotting up so I chose poached eggs on avocado toast and an orange Julius (non-alcoholic).

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All delicious! We then headed off for some shopping and by the end of the day we were shattered!

We headed to Thorpe Park on Monday, with some family, for a very fun but very hot and tiring day. It was really busy considering it was a Monday and the schools hadn’t broken up yet, but there were a ton of school trips there. We ended up getting unlimited fast track bands so we could ride the rides without having to wait too long and it was SO worth it!

Tuesday I had a friend visit for lunch and then Gary and I headed to the cinema to see Hereditary. It was very relaxed going in the middle of the day and in the week! The film wasn’t worth the ticket price though, unfortunately!

Wednesday we headed out for lunch to a new BBQ place called Craft and Cleaver. I’ll post a proper review of our experience shortly.

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And then we headed to a new crazy golf place, not to far from there. It’s called Mr Mulligan’s Lost World, and we got a great deal and ended up playing 3 courses with drinks in the middle.

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We had great fun!

Thursday and Friday were fairly low-key. On Thursday morning we both woke feeling a little shattered, and wondering if we were coming down with something. So much doing stuff combined with the heat and random relaxing periods was knackering us out! We needed to pop to Bicester Village to their Samsonite store, as we need a couple of extra cases for an upcoming trip.

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We managed to pick some cases up at a great price, had a little mooch around the other shops and then headed home for naps and films.

On Friday evening I visited a friend. There were a few of us, we got the chance to catch up and I met some new kitties!

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I know how you feel kitty cat!

We had been so lucky with the weather. I even managed to get some of my Florida tan back!

It really was a lovely week off, filled with a great mixture of busy and relaxing. Now I need another holiday to recover…..

 

 

 

9 Things for 9 Years – Things I’ve Learned on Musings’ 9th Birthday!

Oh yes, Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug turned 9 this past week! How exciting is that?

Despite having been blogging for 20 years this year (omg!), this particular little home-of-my-thoughts has been going for 9 whole years. Other than my marriage I think this is the longest I’ve ever stuck at anything!

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To mark this momentous occasion, I thought I’d share 9 important things I’ve learned during this time!

  1. No one will understand what Blogging is or why you do it, unless they blog themselves or read blogs. Even if it’s friends and family you’re talking to, they just won’t ‘get it’. You can say it’s your hobby until you’re blue in the face but unless you’re telling them you’ve taken up martial arts or cross-stitch, you’re going to be talking to a brick wall. If they read blogs or blog themselves, on the other hand, then you’re golden.
  2. Blogging isn’t for fame or free stuff. There are mega downsides to both of them. You get fame and you get bashed for being fake (there are plenty of big bloggers giving the honest ones a bad name), you get trolled and you find yourself having to make a choice between staying true to yourself or getting the big deal and engagement. And then if you’re getting loads of free stuff you feel like you’re working all the time. You might get to go to great places but it’s not to relax, it’s to work and portray the perfect perspective for the brand, or try out 50 face creams in one week and still try to keep your skin feeling tip-top.
  3. You have to write for you, and only you. I don’t have the biggest readership (HI!) but I appreciate each and everyone who does read (HI again!). But I can’t focus on engagement stats or let them get me down if they’re not what I expect. Sure it can be hard to put your heart into an article for it to be swept away in the masses of mediocre new Urban Decay palette reviews, but I always remind myself, I’ve written everything I write just for me.
  4. Blogging can be daunting. From month to month you can be posting away and all of a sudden you can get contacted by 5 or 6 different PR companies all asking you if you’d like to post for them. It’s fantastic to be wanted, but the pressure can be huge, especially if the what you’re receiving in return is hefty. My aim in writing a blog isn’t for money, however when you’re representing a brand in what you write, you want to be as honest and professional as you can be.
  5. You can start to see things a little skewed. I’m constantly seeing people talk about spending money on props for photos, going to specific cafes for brunch because it’s the place all the ‘bloggers’ hang out. I always keep it real with my blogs. If I blog about a place I’ve been it’s because I was going there for some reason anyway, not just to blog about it. I don’t think I’ve ever bought something for prop’s sake, so I can photograph it.
  6. Never under-estimate the power of community. About 2 years ago, I jumped into the blogging twitter community. It’s changed a lot since then, but back then the sense of support and community was epic. I’ve met some amazing people through it, and even though we all seem to have drifted from twitter slightly, I still check in with them from time to time.
  7. Don’t feel you have to utilise every single platform out there. I dabbled with YouTube and though my most popular video currently has 5.2k views and counting (what?) I felt like it wasn’t for me. It was forced, and doing it for the sake of doing it. I enjoy watching my Disney World video, but at the time I was too self-conscious to film properly, and I never felt like it was worth my while to overcome that. I do quite enjoy instagram stories though, and who knows what will occur with IGTV!
  8. If you get writer’s block, don’t force it. Sit that one out. Only write when you have something worth writing, otherwise you’ll fall into that trap of putting out content you’re not 100% happy with. It’s not worth compromising!
  9. And I’ll finish with the most important one: I’m still into blogging for the reason I started. I wanted to write and put my thoughts out. Again, I feel like sometimes it’s more valuable to me if I think no one has actually read what I’ve written, since I’m such an introvert. But it’s nice to know it’s out there!

So those are my 9 things for 9 years! Who knew I’d continue to have the momentum to keep it going for all this time?! Not me!

If you’ve been reading for a long time, short time, or this is your first time here, Thank You so much for popping by! And I hope you’ll stick around 🙂

 

Food Challenge Recipe 25: Oven-Baked Quesadillas and BBQ Seasoned Rice

This week I really fancied something Mexican but didn’t know what. I actually gained some inspiration from a Gousto box recipe on their website. I didn’t feel the value in buying the box for the recipe, and I could pretty much work out what to do from their description so I went for it!

Because I basically made this whole thing up, I didn’t really measure anything. I’m awful for doing that, but a lot of it is adding ingredients to personal taste anyway, so you’ll see you can wing it too! This recipe was for 2 people, but can easily be sized up for more.

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I started off by putting the oven to 180c (fan) and brushed a little olive oil over a baking sheet. I then took a 400g tin of kidney beans, drained and rinsed them and then mashed them in a bowl, with a potato masher. I mashed it so it was 75% mashed with a few chunkier bits.

I then added in about 1/2 cup of grated mature cheddar (adjust to taste) and some Wahaca Chipotle sauce. I mashed this all together too until I had a very rough paste. I then tasted, added a little more sauce and some salt, until I was happy with the flavour.

I placed a single soft tortilla on the baking sheet and then spread the paste over the top.

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As you can see, I didn’t spread it to the edges. I then topped it with a second soft tortilla and drizzled a little olive oil on the top. I sprinkled with sea salt flakes and then popped it into the oven for 15 minutes.

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At this point I began making the rice. I put some olive oil into my frying pan, heated it and added some chopped onion and peppers. I used the frozen ones I had in my freezer. I’d say it was about one pepper worth and half an onion I used, but you use however much you wish.

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Once these were softened (and defrosted!), I added some sweetcorn, from a can. You can use fresh or frozen if you wish.

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I tossed these about in the pan for a few minutes. Meanwhile I microwaved one pack of basmati rice. I can’t cook raw rice, it always burns, so I buy the microwave packets.

Once the rice was hot, I added it to the frying pan, and then I sprinkled about 2 tsp of BBQ seasoning. You can feel free to use fajita, cajun, peri peri or bbq seasoning. We used BBQ because it fit with the flavours we like. I added a little of the powder, stirred around, tasted and then added a little more until I was happy.

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I like to spread the rice across the whole pan, and leave it, in the hope it’ll create a little additional texture in the rice.

I cooked this until the quesadilla was done.

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When it came out of the oven it looked a little unappealing and dry. But I knew what was inside was yummy so it didn’t matter!

I cut this into 6 triangles and served out the rice.

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I left a little space on the plate for condiments. You can have soured cream, garlic mayo, ketchup, salsa, quac – whatever you want! I had garlic mayo, but to be honest, despite it looking a little dry, it didn’t need sauces.

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Inside, the quesadilla was seasoned well, tasty with the cheese and beans and a slight chipotle kick. The top was crunchy and salty and the bottom was warm and unctuous.

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The rice was also delicious. The seasoning had added a lovely warm, sweetness to the rice and the vegetables were lovely and fresh. A perfect accompaniment!

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All in all I think this recipe was a success all round. I’ll definitely be making this again, and probably very soon!

I give this recipe 10/10!

Screen Time and Awesome Things I’ve Seen!

It’s great fun to book an awesome holiday. It’s great fun to book awesome holidays for the next two years running…. but that also means you have to save up to pay for all that awesomeness…. which results in a A LOT of Netflix time.

I don’t mind this. I’m a self-confessed homebody and since I love my house, there’s nothing I like better than the idea of staying inside it for days on end.

So, I wanted to share with you some great TV and Films I’ve seen over the last few weeks, that you might want to watch too.

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The Staircase, available on Netflix, is a true-crime documentary and is apparently the doc that inspired the creators of Making a Murderer. Originally made as an 8 part series for the BBC in 2003 it follows the crime and trial of a man accused of killing his wife, who was found at the bottom of a staircase in their home. There were then 2 more episodes made in 2013 and then 3 more for Netflix have just been released along with the episodes prior. It’s a gripping series and if you like crime documentaries then you should definitely watch it. I have since found out, a whole strand of theory has been removed from the series by Netflix, which was originally shown and is now not there. Apparently a separate episode dedicated to this theory will be released at some point by Netflix. A strange move, I think, but I’ll be interested to see that, as and when it emerges.

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I’ve been enjoying watching new films, recently. Since I don’t often go to the cinema, I have been waiting for a whole bunch of films to arrive on streaming services so I can finally watch them. Mother! is one Gary didn’t really want to see but it intrigued me so much. I wouldn’t say the film is enjoyable, but it’s entertaining. I think it’s clever, others feel it’s self-indulgent of the director and egotistical. It reminded me of classic horrors of the 1970s. Frightening but not because something has been put in front of you. Comparisons with Rosemary’s Baby are probably the closest you’ll get to knowing what you’re getting into if you are deciding to watch this. It’s intense, and stressful and echoed anxiety dreams I used to (and still sometimes do) get when I worked in retail and dreamt I couldn’t get customers out at the end of the night, and somehow they kept coming in. It’s not for you if you’re easily stressed out. A lot of the reviews I read after watching the film were from people who were angry at the film. I guess it stirs up emotion and I think that’s exactly its aim.

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Having just said I never go to the cinema, I’m going to contradict myself now. I saw Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in 4DX at our local cinema. We’re really lucky to have a 4DX screen as I believe there’s only 2 in the UK and only 1 in the US (that might be wrong, but I know there’s only a handful in the world). I love watching action films in 4DX. It feels like you’re on a theme park ride for the full length of the movie. I saw the first Jurassic World in 4DX and I’m pretty sure that was my first 4DX experience, so I had to see this one in the same way! I really enjoyed the film. It was suspenseful, exciting, good storyline which followed on well from the last. No Jurassic Park film will be as good as the original, but they’re doing pretty well with these last two!

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And to finish, I’ll talk about a show that’s completely blown me away. I’d avoided watching The Handmaid’s Tale because I was concerned I’d be upset due to the subject matter. But then a colleague said she’d been watching it and was enjoying it so much that I just had to try it out. I already knew Elisabeth Moss from The West Wing and then Mad Men, but she’s so incredible in this. The show took my breath away to the point that I binged the whole first season in a single weekend, and managed to catch up with the second season that has started week by week. There are points in this show that are so powerful that I’m sad I’ve seen it because I want to watch it for the first time again. One of the scenes in the first episode of season 2, along with the music choice they made, was SO powerful I could have sobbed. I’m so glad I started watching!

So, those are the things I’ve been enjoying watching of late. I’m sure I’ll share more with you as time progresses – it’s a great way to save on those pennies! What have you been watching, that you’ve loved?

Food Challenge Recipe 24: Succotash

This week’s recipe is Succotash, which I’ve only ever know as a Sylvester phrase ‘Sufferin’ Succotash’ or a lyric from Groove Is In the Heart by Deee-Lite. I never really knew what it was until I stumbled across the recipe in my trusty America: The Cookbook.

As huge fans of sweetcorn, I was Deee-Lited (geddit) to find out that succotash is a skillet corn side dish, and interested to learn that the word succotash actually comes from the Native American word for boiled corn. This is a West Virginian recipe, and is so simple to make. We made enough for 3-4 people as a side.

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You start off with 1 1/2 cups of fresh sweet corn kernels. I used this natty little corn stripping device I picked up off Amazon for G-Man’s birthday. It’s fairly effective, but feel free to use a sharp knife to trim your corn cobs. I used two, which gave us a little more than we needed but we used it all anyhow.

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I like to buy our corn cobs from Costco because you get these lovely colour variations in the kernels, and therefore variations of flavour. I can’t buy anything like this locally, and I wish I could because I know there are so many different types and colours of corn, I’d love to try.

Anyway, I digress. I chopped a small shallot and added this to a large frying pan (the recipe calls for a cast-iron skillet but I don’t have one of those) which already had warm olive oil in it.

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These were fried over a medium heat until translucent, for about five minutes. Then I added the corn, and cooked for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently.

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Next I added 3/4 cup of halved cherry tomatoes, a small can of drained butter beans (1 cup) – on this note I’ll mention this should be lima beans but I can’t find those anyway, and I’m assured that butter beans are the equivalent and though they don’t have the same green colour, should work as an alternative – and 90ml of hot chicken stock (use vegetable if you want to keep this vegetarian).

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All stirred up, I left this to simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point the tomatoes should be starting to break down.

I then removed the pan from the heat, and this is where the magic happened.

I stirred in 1.5 tbsp of butter (I used dairy-free Vitalite), 1/2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper (the recipe calls for a heaped tbsp of fresh chopped parsley, but I detest the stuff so left this out). I added the butter and lemon and tasted so I could compare flavour for the seasoning. The dish tasted nice, but didn’t wow me. But as soon as I’d added the seasoning and tasted again – pow! What an amazing flavour! It once again points out the importance of correctly seasoning your food!

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Despite it looking very ‘yellow’ toned, and this being due to the lack of real lima beans and parsley, to add some green colour, the flavour of this dish was incredible.

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It’s a bit like stew, but without the sloppiness but also had a grilled or charredness to it. The flavours all marry wonderfully and the tomatoes added some needed freshness. Everyone knows butter and corn goes wonderfully, but the shallots added some savoury notes which just worked so well.

I didn’t know what to serve this with. Ideally it would have been nice with a roasted chicken, I think, but I served it with breaded chicken steaks and roasted potatoes. This was mainly because I had been craving roasties and I’m pretty sure I would have had them with whatever I was cooking on this day…… Not the greatest combo. The succotash was definitely the star of the show.

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I’m certain this would have been the perfect accompaniment to a BBQ, so if you’re invited to one and need to take a dish, maybe consider this?

What’s perfect about this was that it was crazy easy to make, used some great ingredients, and packed an amazing flavour punch. I’ll definitely be making this again!

I give this recipe 10/10

Checking in With my New Year’s Resolutions!

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I set myself the New Year’s Resolution this year of learning new skills.

I set two very specific new skills, a food challenge where I was make 52 new recipes over the course of the year, and to learn modern calligraphy. And I’m very pleased to say I’m now half way through the year and I’m STILL DOING THEM!

I’m really very pleased with myself!

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The food challenge has been great. It’s hard sometimes to find a recipe or fit it into the week, but that’s the part that makes it a challenge, right?

I’ve already gone out of my comfort zone with methods, pushed myself to use ingredients I wouldn’t usually use, and try different combinations.

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It’s also allowed me to find meals and treats I know I’ll be making again! I’m away later on in the year, so instead of doing one recipe a week, when I can I’m trying to fit in a couple so that when it’s impossible for me to be in the kitchen, I know I’m not lagging behind.

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Not all of the recipes have been as successful as I’d hoped, but that’s all part of the process! I’m loving completing it, and next year I’ll have a whole handful of recipes I will have found and hopefully will feature in our staple list of loved meals.

Follow this link if you want to see all the recipes I’ve made so far!

The second challenge I set myself was to learn modern calligraphy. It’s something I’d wanted to learn for years, and then when I saw a friend learn last year via The Happy Ever Crafter, I knew I wanted to go for it, for real.

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The first month was practicing the shapes and strokes that would eventually make up individual letters (known as Drills), the second month was learning the lower case letters, third was upper case, and now we’ve just finished learning how to correctly connect them together to form words.

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It’s amazing how quickly you learn and gain confidence, but a lot of practice is needed to actually get good at it. The online community surrounding the course is incredible and we’re encouraged by each other, mentors and Becca who runs it, via instagram and a FB group.

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I was also given, as a very early birthday present, an iPad and Apple Pencil to use with the Procreate app, so I can learn iPad lettering too. Again it’s tricky and I’m going to be spending a lot more time practicing and watching tutorials on what you can do with the apps, but it’s been so much fun so far!

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I can see my progress improve week to week. It’s amazing looking back at what I wrote even only a month ago, in comparison to now. The improvement is steady and vast. I can only get better!

If you’d like to take a look at my progress, and track future improvement, you can follow me on my dedicated calligraphy instagram account.

I’m really pleased I’m sticking these resolutions out, and I’m enjoying them so much!

Are you still working on your New Year’s Resolution? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear what it is, and how you’re getting on?!

Food Challenge Recipe 23: Barbecue Spaghetti

Today’s recipe is called Barbecue Spaghetti, though I have decided to rename it Buddy the Elf’s Spaghetti. If you can’t guess why, you’ll see soon enough….

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First of all, let me introduce you to my new friend, America: The Cookbook. This tome is home (ooh that rhymed) to an epic amount of regional recipes spanning the length and breadth of the American states. It’s almost 800 pages long, contains very few pictures and a hosts a whole lot of yummy goodness. I’ve already been through it and tabbed all the recipes I want to try. So expect to see a fair few dishes from this book, in the coming weeks.

I decided to try something simple for this week’s recipe, and barbecue spaghetti fit the bill – I had all the ingredients already and it looked easy and quick.

This recipe hails from Memphis, Tennessee and usually has pulled pork added to it, but as semi-vegetarians we decided to skip the meat.

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I started off by gathering my dry ingredients. 25g sugar (!), 1 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 paprika, 1/2 dried oregano.

Then I started my linguine (we don’t like spaghetti so we went with linguine, which I’d snapped in half before boiling, so it’s easier to eat) by adding it to a large pot of well-salted boiling water. You need to cook this according to the instructions on the packet.

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In a large frying pan I heated some olive oil and added 80g chopped frozen onions (I had these frozen ones left over from a previous recipe) and 75g sliced frozen peppers (again left over from a previous recipe) and cooked these down until tender.

I then added 1 cup (125ml) of barbecue sauce – now here’s where you need to choose your sauce wisely. I happen to live in a house which holds at least five or six different types of barbecue sauce in the pantry at any one time, so I was able to make a choice. Since this recipe already has chilli powder in it, I didn’t want a sauce that was too spicy, but this left only one sauce, which was already quite sweet. I would suggest going for something with mild spice (unless you like things very hot) and one that’s more on the vinegary side. This sauce was not, and I could tell we were basically cooking dessert at this stage….

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Nevertheless, I added the sauce along with the spices and sugar (eek!) and, after mixing, I left this to simmer and reduce for 10-12 minutes. I tasted this towards the end of the cooking time, and decided to add some more seasoning and more oregano to try to create a further savoury lift to the sauce.

At this stage you would add your pulled pork. I think adding some meat would have helped us along with the savoury notes it needed, but alas we skipped this step.

I added the cooked linguine and stirred it all up.

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In the photo it looks nice and almost Bolognese, but in reality it was spicy dessert. It was so sweet I needed to brush my teeth afterwards. The peppers and chilli did help a little, but still. I couldn’t even finish it all, which is very unlike me!

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Even if you have a very sweet tooth, you might still find this too much. Although, feel free to add some pulled pork to this and let me know otherwise. Or if you’re a Memphis native and love this dish, please let me know where I went wrong (other than leaving out the meat!).

I give this recipe 3/10

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

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Another catch-up post? I know – this is a good thing. It means things have slowed down to the point, where I have some time to reflect on what I’ve been up to, rather than just go with it!

I have been LOVING this warmer weather. I really do feel like we’ve gone straight from Winter to Summer, leaving Spring behind. I also love thunder storms, and we’ve had a few corkers! I’m enjoying seeing all the plants coming up in my garden – so many different colours and shapes popping up out of nowhere – I have no idea what any of it is!

I’ve been busy planning things for my upcoming holiday to Florida, in September. We’ve booked in some really fun things, lots of places to eat, and my shopping list is well under way. We’re there for two weeks this year, and I’m pretty sure we’ve already filled each day!

I’ve also got my Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party costume sorted, for this year. Even though this isn’t a Disney World holiday (same as last year) we’re still going into the Magic Kingdom park for one evening, for the Halloween party.

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Can you guess who I’m going as? Hmm….

Aside from this, I’m still really enjoying my calligraphy course, and have started doing a few mini projects. I’m not pressurising myself to get them done in a certain time frame or in a certain way. I’m letting them happen organically, which works well for me.

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They mainly happen to be Disney themed, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone really….

I’ve also been adding art to my office walls. Again, I want this to happen organically, and we visited Homesense recently, and their selection of framed art was really great. We ended up getting three pictures for my office, and two for around the house. I happen to have chosen all illustrated pieces for my office, and these two look great on my wall.

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Lastly, I’ll just mention that the jewellery making masterclass I attended with the MK Bloggers group earlier in the year, was featured in the events supplement of Blogosphere Magazine this quarter. It was fun to see my face in print!

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So that’s it for now. I have a week off coming up, and some fun things planned for that, and stay tuned for more recipes too. Are you enjoying seeing my 2018 food challenge recipes each week? Let me know what your favourite recipes have been so far – I’d love to know!

Until next time….

Food Challenge Recipe 22: Soft Baked Pretzels

I hadn’t deliberately set out to make theme park food so much, during this challenge, but when you’ve got 52 recipes to make and you love eating park food, then why not?!

Gary and I decided we wanted to make pretzels a while back, and found a recipe (they’re all about the same anyway) but we saw it takes a long time to make them so decided to wait until we had a whole day free. Which was a good thing. Pretzels are HARD.

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You start with the dry ingredients

  • 600g of strong white flour (sifted)
  • 1 level tsp of fast acting yeast
  • 2 tbsp of soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

You mix this together. Then create a well and slowly add liquid (375ml warm water, with 1 tbsp of vegetable oil mixed into it)

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Mix this together to create a dough that’s not too dry and not too sticky. I had to add more flour as mine was way too sticky.

You knead this for 10 minutes by stretching it out and folding it back on itself.

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After the 10 minutes your dough should spring back when you push a finger into it.

The dough goes into an oil lined bowl and has to prove in a warm, dry place for 1-3 hours, or until it’s doubled in size.

We left ours near the airing cupboard, with clingfilm over top and a towel loosely wrapped around the bowl. After 2 hours it was almost spilling out of the bowl!

I lined two baking trays and set the oven to fan 210c.

Next the dough has to be split and shaped. I removed it onto a lightly floured surface and punched it down, and then knead lightly. I then divided it into 10 pieces which I covered whilst I shaped each piece. I think I should have cut it into 14 bits though, to make the pretzels a little thinner.

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To shape, you roll the piece into a long snake, no thicker than a pencil (I found this really hard because the dough kept springing back…)

Then you twist it around and stick the ends to the shape using a little water.

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Not the easiest task. Once they were all shaped, I had to leave them for 10-20 minutes (I think I went for 15!) sat on their tray and covered.

Next is a step I’m assured you must not miss out, because this is what gives the pretzels their shiny brown crust.

You bring 1 litre of water to the boil in a large pan, add 75g of bicarb and dissolve it. Then on barely a simmer, you carefully place up to 3 pretzels into the water for 30 seconds on each side, before removing to their tray.

This was really hard. The shapes fell apart on moving them, and then flipping them in the water. They looked like poops when they came out of the solution….

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Two trays of wet pretzel-ish shaped lumps later…. I sprinkled salt on top of one tray and left the other plain for sugar and cinnamon afterwards.

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The recipe said to bake for 8-10 minutes. My oven runs hot, so I always go for the shortest time and then test. The recipe also said to turn half way through, but this was impossible…..

After 8 minutes I could see the pretzels were mostly cooked, but still had a little raw dough in the very middles, so I carefully flipped them over as much as I could and left them back in the oven for about 2-4 minutes. I kept testing them until I got bored and decided they were cooked enough.

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As much as they had lost their shape somewhat in the dipping stage, they actually looked okay when they came out of the oven. Nice and brown, with a lovely crust.

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Somewhat thicker than we’d hoped though. We sprinkled the cinnamon sugar on top of the second batch and moved the whole lot to the cooling tray.

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We left them to mostly cool, and then both decided to try a sweet pretzel.

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The inside was soft and light, and it tasted like a pretzel! I was kind of impressed!

We left them to cool before putting them in tins, but here was where we discovered that these have absolutely NO shelf life. Even before we got them in the tins, the tops of them looked like they were wrinkling, almost curdling. It was so strange.

I took one to work the next day to eat as a snack, and it was definitely not the same as it had been the day before.

My verdict is, if you want a pretzel, pay the money for a pretzel. These are time-consuming and difficult and need a very specific level of skill to make them correctly. I don’t think we’ll be making them again, but I’m glad we tried even though they went weirdly bad very fast.

I give this recipe 6/10