Would you be wonderful if it wasn’t for the weather?

I do like a positive thought on a Monday evening to kick start the week. My Monday has been a little challenging with certain things at work and then, when cooking dinner, my result:

Spaghetti a la cremation!

Spaghetti a la cremation!

So I figured I needed to focus on some optimistic thoughts (and put my culinary skills firmly away for the evening). And don’t we all need to focus on the good things in life? All the time? Look on the bright side, look for that silver lining…. to add another cliché…. this sometimes is like ‘looking for a needle in a haystack’ but it is vital that we do.  My title for this post Would you be wonderful if it wasn’t for the weather? are lyrics to a Corrs song Would you be happier? It draws on the ideas that if one thing was different/better/improved then would we be happier? My conclusion, and the song’s is the same: no. Life is never perfect. So we can’t have a perfect life. One of my favourite quotes on this subject:

postive

Something is always going to wrong and there are going to be things to face. Your day may be punctuated with annoying little chores; it doesn’t mean it can’t be a good day. You’ll look back in twenty years’ time and not remember that tedious form you had to fill in, but the great joke you heard at lunch. Or even remembering the negative things in a positive way. E.g. my spaghetti incident above. It was a bit scary at the time and it was quite worrying that I froze in the midst of the emergency blaze… but as soon as my boyfriend got home, it was a joke; a funny story and one to be shared.

The irritating things in life aren’t going anywhere, unfortunately. We have to co-exist and rise above them. I’m in a quotey mood:

happy

We all have the same shit thrown at us, but it how you deal with it that affects your happiness. Would I be happier if the weather was better? I am the first to say that a little sunshine makes you feel better, but all in all, I wouldn’t. My day would be the same whatever the elements decide to do. Sorry, I can feel another quote  resurfacing… just call me a walking quote dictionary:

rain

So some positive quotes for a Monday evening and also some tough love; just get on with it and make the best of it! Causing a small kitchen fire this evening, hasn’t made my day worse. It has actually given me something to laugh at and something to blog about 😉

Keep looking for the positives!

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More Cheese Please!

I don’t know if any of you out there have heard of raclette? I only ask because I never had until we moved into our house and were given a Raclette grill. Raclette is the type of cheese. The grill and way of eating it seems to come from Germany/France/Austria. My boyfriend first had it when he was snowboarding in France and Austria and when we were offered this grill he was most excited! It is quite good actually and a very social way of eating.

Ours is like a teflon, round grill plate (some are made of marble/stone) – this is where you cook meat. Raw chicken, beef, pork etc. I know it is a bit weird to have raw meat on the table but the idea is to cook it together. Then underneath you have these heat elements and you put in little triangle trays full of the hard cheese and it melts. You then serve the melted cheese with your meat and we usually have cooked meats like salami, chorizo, parma ham etc with small, salad potatoes, salad and french stick. Yummy. If you break it down, I guess it is just potatoes, meat salad and melted cheese! But is the idea of cooking together and keep eating little bits. My boyfriend has boy’s nights and they get through nearly a wheel of cheese and have various rounds. They claim to get the cheese sweats! My boyfriend also claimed to have cheese ‘giggles’ once and he came to bed giggling uncontrollably…. it was the cheese, no not the beer of course 😉

This is the picture I found that is most similar to ours. Meat on top and cheese below!

 

You can be more adventurous too. I actually bought my boyfriend a Raclette book, which has ideas for social gatherings and different ways to use your grill. You can prepare vegetables/mushrooms/prawns and cook certain things in a pan before so they are a little cooked and finish them off with the cheese in the little trays after. Last night, I put some potatoes onto the grill to brown them and also peppers. So you can do what you like really.

We had Raclette on our French holiday in the summer. It was a little different though. you get a stand that holds the cheese (below) and then you scrape the cheese of either side. You get the cooked meats, potatoes, salad and bread but don’t cook raw meat. So not sure if that was something they added when they made these grills or what. It was still good though and nice to try it in a restaurant.

The raclette in France…. the cheese comes off either side….

The reason we had one last night, just us two, was that my workmate’s husband had been to France and bought us a pack of Raclette cheese back. So we thought it would be nice for a Friday evening. Sounds like we are getting old….. having a cheese evening! Haha. The cheese can actually be quite difficult to get. We have arranged to have 8 people come for a raclette evening before and then not been able to buy the cheese! Once, I was running round Lidl (who only seem to have it certain times of year), Sainsbury’s (who seemed to suddenly stop selling) and Aldi who didn’t have it at all! This may have been the time my friend bought some back that evening from a bigger Sainsbury’s in Conventry so the party could go ahead! At times. my boyfriend has gone to a cheese shop in a town 40 minutes away and then to Waitrose in another city! We are dedicated to our cheese!

You can actually use different cheeses in the grill and the book I bought shows this. But we just think that for how often you use it, you might as well use the proper stuff!

Hope, I’ve given you some new ideas for your Saturday tea. A tip: if you have a teflon one like ours, make sure you use plastic cutlery to put the meat on/take it off.. (my girl mates love making fun of my boyfriend who is the ‘fun police’ with his plastic on teflon!) Haha

Have a good day,

XSXS

A Cake of Cheese (Part 2)

Afternoon everyone. You may remember a while ago that I posted a recipe for a cheese cake in A Cake of Cheese. I have also shared with you, my love of chocolate in Sweet like Chocolate. I mentioned that I have a recipe for a dark chocolate cheesecake too….. one to take you to the dark side. 😉

It’s been a busy week with the Aussies. Tomorrow, we are having a huge family party and me and my Mum are sorting the food. This is where my cheesecake comes in. I am making one for tomorrow. The white chocolate cheese cake that I posted about previously is a recipe off my Aussie aunty, so it’s only right that I share my recipe in return right?

In the last few years, I have made this cheesecake probably ten times. I got the recipe from a Sunday magazine and it is a recipe of Tana Ramsey (Gordon’s wife). It requires a bit of messing and a lot of different bowls but it is so worth it! After making it so many times though, i still haven’t learnt that my cake tin is smaller than the one in the recipe so I always end up with too much! Hence, I make two mini ones too 😉 A happy mistake then really.

So without further ado… here is the recipe:

Chocolate Cheesecake

Preparation time: 15 minutes (though I swear it always takes me longer… must be the licking out the bowl!)

Cooking time: 45 min to 1 hour.

  • 300g of sweetened oat biscuits (they work well but I also use digestives a lot as some prefer them.)
  • 75g butter
  • 150g of good quality dark chocolate
  • 750g of mascarpone or cream cheese (Philadelphia or supermarket alternatives work well.)
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • 3 beaten medium eggs
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 (160C if fan oven). Line a 23cm nonstick springform tin with greaseproof paper (I just grease my tin with butter and it comes out fine.)
  2. Put your biscuits into a food processor until they are crumbs (or if you are unlucky like me, put them into a plastic bag and bash with a rolling-pin – another reason it takes me longer!) Then melt your butter, mix with the crumbs and press firmly into your tin to create the base. Put in the fridge for 10-15 min.
  3. Meanwhile, melt your chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water and set aside to cool (but not too much because i find it separates otherwise.)
  4. Beat you soft cheese and add the sugar and beat again. The stir in the beaten eggs and the chocolate and pour onto the chilled biscuit base.
  5. Put the cheesecake in the oven for 45min – 60 min (I find mine always needs the full hour.)
  6. When it is ready it will still have a wobble to it if you shake it slightly. It will continue to cook as it cools.
  7. Let it cool and refrigerate until ready to serve! Yummy.

You can add grated chocolate to the top too to make it really calorific! I put white chocolate onto mine once when it went wrong. This was when the dark chocolate separated from the cheese and it went speckly! So it was a hiding aid… but it makes it look pretty as an added extra.

My next challenge is to get the cheesecake to my Gran’s house without dropping it! 😉

Enjoy your chocolately treat this weekend!

XSXS

Come Wine with Me

I am very lucky to have not one, but two, groups of very close girly mates.  And guess what? They ply me with wine and cook for me sometimes too! I love having different groups of mates. last friday I had a girly night out with one group and we went to a Rock club (see Not Sloshed enough to Mosh?) Last night, I spent it with my other girly group (who are ex-colleagues and we have stayed close friends). We sort of do a Come Dine with Me evenings… you must have seen the programme Come Dine with Me? Each of us take a turn to cook….. except it doesn’t happen within a week but normally months apart and we don’t particularly score each other but I think we should! I then started doing this with my rocker friends girl group and I am going to one of them next weekend. So yes, all yummy food and wine and chatter… Mmmmmm…

Last night, my friends did tapas and a paella. We try to do a theme each time. No prizes for guessing that last night’s was Spanish. It was yummy and much wine was drank. The chatter focussed around our friend who is engaged (see Two hearts, Two rings). She even tried on our host’s wedding dress from years ago in between the main course and dessert! See, just ike the programme where they nosey round each other’s houses and  try on random outfits!

One of our most memorable Come Dine with Me’s was a few years ago and we went to one friend’s flat and she cooked us a Mexican menu. It was great, we had fajitas, enchiladas, nachos etc. We even had creme caramels and we had a game to see if anyone could suck a whole one up in one go! I failed miserably! We even made our clothes match the food that night and we came dressed Mexican themed! We had plastic toy guns,  a sombrero (borrowed from the Language department at school!), some tequila (for prop use only of course!) and moustaches to add a final touch. We all looked hilarious! Too hilarious to stay in a flat all night. After much wine and few tequilas, we decided that our outfits had to be shared with the world (well in our little town) so we went out to a bar. We got much attention as we were really five women dressed as moustached men! I tell you, I have never had so much male attention on my life!! I think it was the whole ‘up for a laugh’ attitude we clearly had and we clearly couldn’t care less what people thought of us! The alcohol helped with that though. I may have cared a bit if I was sober or in day light! It was a very funny night and one of those nights that are so brilliant just because it wasn’t planned and totally spur of the moment (well the bar bit!)

so don’t just come dine with me. Come and wine with me. Dance with me. And be a drunken Mexican with me!

See you tomorrow,

XSXS

Trip to the Orient

Afternoon people,

I went for a Chinese last night. That phrase always makes me laugh when people say that or: ‘I’m having an Indian tonight.’ An Indian or Chinese what? Obviously, with the restaurants and takeaways so popular, we mean a meal. But I still think it sounds like you had a Chinese/Indian man or woman in another way 😉 Probably my rude mind!

We went to one of those Chinese buffet ‘all you can eat’ restaurants, which quite frankly are more like canteens. Me and my boyfriend went with some of his rowing buddies to celebrate two of their birthdays. It surprised me as we ate that a few of them said that they didn’t even like Chinese food. It made me think that actually you didn’t need to in a place like that.  As I looked at the trays of food I saw that there was chips, chicken nuggets, a BBQ section (who knew the Chinese were good BBQers?) and also samosas, which I swear are Indian?! So yes, you can easily get by and not eat Chinese! I, myself, had some of the starter foods like spring rolls, satay chicken, crab claws – but you find it is all deep fried! I also had sushi, which I love, but again I thought that was not Chinese but Japanese?! I normally, for my main, visit the Teppanyaki section, where they cook to order for you. As much as I love food that has sat there for hours, I thought I would have some freshly cooked! I chose raw prawns, chicken, beef, veg and noodles and they cooked whilst I watched. One man asked them what their secret was and the big, Chinese chef joked that he couldn’t tell. It made me laugh because all the ingredients they were using to cook it with seemed to be labelled anyway. So I think I cracked the secret code – he used some onion water (whatever that is!), something labelled as ‘spring’, which I am assuming is also water… some wine and some oyster sauce. Right, I’m off to set up a Teppanyaki bar now…..

The meal was nice but not amazing. A highlight for me was the chocolate fountain, but again not very traditionally Chinese! Very nice over some ice-cream and other tasty bits though. I drank water with me meal, mainly because Chinese food always seems salty and I get quite thirsty. It reminded me when I went to the same restaurant with friends a few years ago. They didn’t seem to understand the concept of a ‘jug’ of water and kept bringing it by the glass. We ended up with ’22’ glasses of water on our bill, which were free because it was from the tap but it still showed up. 22 glasses for them to wash up… which I guess they wtill would have had to be fair and they saved on the jug 😉

 

I like Chinese in my house and not just the kitchen. I love all the symbols and any decor relating to it. When I lived with my parents, I had a chinese bedroom. Now it is our dining room!! I have pictures on the wall, candle holders, cushions, dinner sets etc. Love it. It always makes me wonder why I am so obsessed with it all. I have a secret thought… which I have only ever shared with certain people when drunk or feeling particularly honest…. but I think I may have been chinese in a previous life 😉 Yeh, yeh go on laugh!! Do any of you believe in that? I just seem to have some stong feelings towards the Chinese culture and I have never even been. Very weird. Shame I can’t remember how to use chop sticks though 😉

I’ll leave you with that thought as you enjoy your Chinese takeaway tonight 😉

See you tomorrow,

XSXS

A Cake of Cheese

Evening folks….

My bank holiday startedwith a walk this morning and then, with a worry that I had minus calories for the day,  I decided to make a cheese cake! It is my favourite thing to make and I like to think of it as my ‘signature’ dish. I always make a chocolate cheesecake for special occasions…or just a Friday night haha…. I actually ripped the recipe off Gordon Ramsey’s Wife as it was in a magazine. It is made with the best dark chocolate and is ooh so calorific and gooood! But that is not what today’s blog is about. Oh no. Today… I decided to go over to the not so dark side and make a white chocolate cheesecake, which is in fact a recipe off my aunty in australia…or whereoever she ripped the recipe from 😉

It got me thinking why is it called cheese cake? I used to think the whole ‘cheese’ thing was a myth but yes it does in fact have cheese in it of the soft variety. But why cake?! To me cakes are spongy and I have never met a cheesecake like that. The reason I tend to make cheesecakes is because they can rarely go wrong. Cakes can fail to rise, be too dry, taste too eggy etc. Cheesecakes may not set that well but this will not take away from the taste. A few of mine have decided to combine base with mixture when the base hasn’t set (this was the time I used Oreos) or they have been all gloopy or sometimes patches have chocolates have shown when the chocolate had started to set before the cheese part. But it still always tastes amazing. So yeh why is it called ‘cake’ when it is so different? If anyone knows then do tell. I started thinking about Jaffa Cakes and how even though the name they have always been debated to be either cakes or biscuits. I can understand this as they are dunkable like biscuits and a similar size and shape yet they are spongy like cake. But no, cheesecake I just don’t get.

So this afternoon I set to work on my cheesecake. The trouble is that there are always extra biscuits and chocolate that I tend to munch my way through as I cook; meaning the last thing I want to do with the end result is eat it!!! Sure I’ll have a go though later 😉 I love melting chocolate and mixing the soft cheese, condensed milk and cream… oh so good. All these lovely sweet liquids. Anyway before you dehydrate from dribbling too much, I’ll share the recipe with you and a pic from today’s attempt. (Hopefully my aunty won’t tell me after this that the recipe is a family secret and one I was meant to take to my grave 😉 )

White Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients

185 g of crushed plain chocolate digestives (or any you prefer – I don’t recommend Oreos!)

90g butter, melted

500g cream cheese, softened

400g condensed milk

200g white chocolate, melted

300ml single cream

1 tablespoon of gelatine (you can get sachets)

1/4 cup of boiling water

100g dark chocolate, melted

Method

  1. Crush the biscuits (in a food processor if you are lucky or I just bash with a rolling pin for 20 min!)
  2. Add the melted butter to the biscuit crumbs and mix. Press into a 23cm springform tin and refrigerate.
  3. Beat cream cheese with the condensed milk (put white choc to melt as you do this)
  4. Add melted white chocolate and then beat in to the mixture with the cream.
  5. Mix the gelatine with the boiling water and stir until dissolved. Mix it to the cheesecake mixture.
  6. Take the base out of the fridge, which should now be firm. Pour the cheesecake mixture onto it.
  7. Melt the dark chocolate and with a table spoon, mix it through your cheese cake to create dark chocolate swirls.
  8. Put into the fridge to set for a few hours
  9. Eat… after a healthy dinner… because it all balances out then right and you can eat guilt free?

Mmmmmmm….

 

So, I hope you enjoy and maybe another day I’ll take you over to the dark side and share my other chocolate cheesecake recipe with you 😉

Have a good evening, hopefully with some form of cake – preferably the cheese variety!

See you tomorrow,

XSXS