Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Baking over Christmas

 
I did a lot of Baking in the run up to Christmas and Nathan and I were tasked with providing the puddings on Christmas day. I also made some holiday treats for people at work. My favourite was the cookie punch that Nathan bought me in New York. You can write any message you want.... I went for cleaner messages than Nathan suggested! I loved the way they looked although this recipe wasn't the best gingerbread I have tasted!
  
 Happy Holidays!
 

  
The best recipe I made all Christmas was Nigella Lawsons Christmas Rocky Road. I had watched her preparing it on her show just before Christmas. It went down a storm at work and Nathan LOVED it! See recipe below. I sadly didn't take any photos but it looked great!

This recipe appears in Nigella's book Feast, published by Chatto & Windus.

Christmas Rocky Road Ingredients

250g/9oz dark chocolate, chopped
150g/5oz milk chocolate, chopped
175g/6oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
4 tbsp golden syrup
200g/7oz amaretti biscuits
150g/5oz shelled Brazil nuts
150g/5oz red glacé cherries
125g/4oz mini marshmallows
1 tbsp icing sugar
edible glitter, to decorate (optional)

Method

1. Place the dark and milk chocolate pieces into a heavy-based pan. Add the butter and golden syrup and cook over a low heat to melt and combine.
2. Place the amaretti biscuits into a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin to make crumbs of various sizes.
3. Place the Brazil nuts into another freezer bag and bash in the same way.
4. Take the pan of melted chocolate mixture off the heat and add the crushed biscuits and nuts.
5. Add the glacé cherries and mini marshmallows. Fold the mixture carefully to coat all of the solid ingredients with the syrupy chocolate mixture.
6. Pour the mixture into a 25cm/10in x 30cm/12in greased and lined baking tray and smooth the surface as much as possible (although it will look bumpy).
7. Refrigerate for two hours, or until firm enough to cut. Dust with icing sugar, then sprinkle with edible glitter if you wish.
8. Remove the block of rocky road from the tray and cut into 24 rectangles.

  
Another success was Nigella Lawson's Christmas Chocolate Biscuits/Cookies. Very crumbly but great with a glass of milk- or a Bailey's.Online I can only find the American recipe- although my recipe I used was much simplier. 

Christmas Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4 sticks (18 tablespoons) soft butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • For the Festive Topping:
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup boiling water, from a kettle
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Christmas sprinkles 
Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl and when you have a light, soft whipped mixture, beat in the 1/3 cup cocoa powder (sifting if it is lumpy), and when that's mixed in, beat in the flour with the baking soda and baking powder. Or just put everything in the processor and blitz, if you prefer.

This mixture is very soft and sticky and I find it easiest to form the coolers wearing my disposable vinyl gloves, so pinch off pieces about 1 tablespoon in size, roll them into balls, then slightly flatten into fat discs as you place them well spaced on your cookie sheet; you should get about 12 on at a time.

Back each batch for 15 minutes; even though the cookies won't feel as if they've had enough time , the will continue to cook as they cool. They will look slightly cracked on top and it's this cozy, homespun look I love.

Remove the cookie sheet to a cold surface and let it sit for 15 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack, with a sheet of newspaper under it to catch drips while topping them.

To make the topping, put the cocoa powder, confectioners' sugar, water and vanilla extract into a small saucepan and whisk over a low heat until everything is smoothly combined. Take off the heat for 10 minutes.

When the cookies are cool, drizzle each one with the tablespoonful of chocolate glaze, to glue the sprinkles on in a minute, using the back of the spoon to help spread the mixture, though an uneven dribbly look is part of their charm.

After you've iced six cookies, scatter with some of the Christmas sprinkles and continue this until all the cookies are topped. "If you ice them all before sprinkling, you will find the cocoa "glue" has dried and the sprinkles won't stick on.

 
And last but not least I made our Christmas Pudding with the same recipe as last year- although sadly not leaving it enough time to mature. I should have really done it before we went to the States... but you live and learn! 
 
 I love all the citrus that goes into it and the whole almons and whole glace cherries- yum!
  
 The end result on Christmas day! It looked great.

Christmas Gifts

 
I am about to ruin some Christmas surprises for some of my friends.... yes it's February and I still haven't mailed out all my gifts! I am not quite sure what has happened to me in the last 3 months.... work, wedding planning, work, wedding planning and more work is pretty much the summary!
  
Each year I try to do a wee Christmas Elf workshop and hand make about 12 gifts for girlfriends.  Last year I made recipe books, the year before it was baking sets. I have done dinner party kits, Christmas baskets and who knows what next year will be! 

This year I was so bad. We didn't do Christmas cards apart from close family and friends that we handed gifts to and there was no international shipping... next year I will do better! I did however manage to do the homemade gifts. 
 
I had seen this idea on a website I LOVE called not on the high street. See here for a similar idea.
  
  1. I bought a heart shaped punch at Michaels in the States. I LOVE Michaels and would spend all my money there if I could. In the UK you can find a similar item at Hobby Craft. See here. 
  2. I then asked my lovely girls to send their (and their partners) top 9 places in the world. The answers I got were so interesting and most seemed to be holiday destinations, childhood home addresses and places people had lived. There were a lot of similar answers too. I asked for them to be as specific as possible. ie. West End of Glasgow City Centre etc.
  3. I then used google maps and typed in the locations and dropped them into a power point presentation.
  4. I printed off the 9 pages for each person in colour.
  5. Then using the heart punch. I punched out the 9 hearts with their location in the middle. 
  6. I then punched out 9 sky blue hearts per person and backed these (using spray glue) onto the map hearts. 
  7. I then got a peice of white paper the size of the frame and worked out how to lay the 3 x 3 hearts. Ideally I wanted a square frame but when we went to IKEA they didn't have any! You can see the frame I wanted here. The Ribba frames are great and come in all sorts of sizes. 
  8. I then backed each heart with four craft foam pads. The ones I used were 3mm thick but see here for 2mm thick ones. When I layed the hearts backed with the double sided pads onto the white paper it made them raised above the paper and gave a 3D effect. 
  9. I then popped the white paper into the frame and viola! Easy peasy! 
  10. I think they would definitely look better 3 hearts x 3 hearts in the square frame but I think it still gives a good effect. 
It was a very personalised, quick and inexpensive gift that all my friends have loved!
  
Hanging on our wall. I am sure it will be a great talking point in people's houses. I can imagine guests asking why they have the places they do and what meaning they have to them.
 
A wee close up. So many of my friends had New York as one of their favourite places to be- me too!

Christmas Tree Hunting Dec 2009

 
 Nathan screwing up his face as Becky and I look at a number of trees to find the 'best' one.
  
Becky tying the trees onto the roofrack. We got a tree for us and a tree for my Dad's house. He was in Spain that weekend so as a wee suprise we wanted to get it put up for when he came back.
  
What is it with people trying to lift me up?! I am too heavy people- put me down! 
 
Nathan and I after Christmas tree hunting was done for the day. I think Becky and I were much better than we have been in previous years- much more decisive! (Can you believe I am blogging about pre Christmas in February- almost March!!)

Thank you!

 
  
The next day after we had both celebrated with our friends we opened all our lovely cards and gifts. It was so lovely reading all the great messages that people had written! We felt very loved and overjoyed that everyone was so happy for us!  As you can see we didn't get out of our jammies and sweat pants all day- I blame the jet lag! (This time it took me ages to recover from my jet lag) 
 
Thank you to one and all for all your cards and gifts. 

Engagement Drinks- 5th December 2009

 
Becky and I


As sad as we were to finish our holiday and say goodbye to friends. Nathan and I were so excited about coming home to our friends and family especially as we hadn't seen any of them since we got engaged. Nathan already had a boys night planned for the night of the 5th so as soon as I phoned up my sister at the airport to tell her we were engaged she was firing e-mails around about hosting a girlie engagement night. It was so good to have something to look forward to and she did such a good job of getting everyone together.
 
Nathan and I sadly missed Becky and Dougie at the airport first thing in the morning when we flew back. They had brought balloons, flowers and a big banner to greet us at 7.30am but our flight got in early and we never saw them :-( Such a lovely idea.
  
Zara and Becky looking very glamourous
  
Corinne and I in our blue. 
  
 Emma Greaney, Corinne, Hannah and Becky
  
Emma, Me and Hills
  
 Corinne and Amber
  
 Emma and Renee
  
 The Accies Girls- Wendy, Leona, Loreen, Me, Lorna, Emily and Zara.
  
 Becky made loads of tasty treats for us to eat. By the time I took this shot they had pretty much disappeared.
  
Look at all these beautiful girls! I have very pretty friends! (l-r) Hillary, Leona, Renee, Zara, Amber, Hannah, Lorna, Loreen, Emily, Becky, Wendy and Emma. Sadly there were a few people who had prior commitments who we missed having there but they all sent lovely messages.
  
I am definitely on a diet before the wedding! There was all sort of hilarity when the girls tried to lay me across their arms... mmm... not sure that's a good look for me!
  
I love this fun photo! 
  
 Becky, Hannah, Me and Hills.
  
 Me with my sister- the best maid of honour to be in the world!
  
 After the party at Becky's a few of us headed into town to Lulu to dance the night away on the multicoloured floor. Renee, Becky, Zara and Leona.
 
Hannah and I. As you can see I clearly had a great night!! 

Friday, 19 February 2010

Hill Country BBQ

 
What better way to end our American adventure then with Texas BBQ with a country band playing in the background.

Kristin has a great choice in New York restaurants and on Thursday night we went to Hill Country BBQ, 30 West 26th Street, New York 10010. They had won me over as soon as we recieved our drinks in jam jars! I loved this fun little difference... brilliant!
  
We each got a ticket from our server and then had to go up and order. We got two of the Pitmaster (for 1) for $25 1/4 lb Lean Brisket, One Pork Spare Rib, One Beef Rib Quarter All Natural Chicken (white or dark meat), Any Two Good Eatin’ (8oz) Sides.... it was AMAZING!
  
Me chowing down on ribs! I love food like this where you can nibble away at it and get mucky whilst eating.
  
Kristin posing for the camera.
  
Nathan (have you noticed there is no more moustache! Hooray!)
  
Kristin and I at Hill Country BBQ.


Kristin, Me and Nathan. This was our last night in New York and when we got back Nathan went out with Nelson for a few drinks. I was exhausted and suffering from the night before. 

We had such a great trip to the States and I loved seeing all my friends and Nathan really enjoyed meeting everyone. We had some amazing hosts whilst we were there and thank you to one and all. Terri and Hugh, The McDaniels Family, The Stansbury Family, The Russell Family, The Wilson Family and last but not least San and Nelson... who got engaged on San's 30th Birthday in December. Nelson had apparently told Nathan of his plans when we were there! (but he didn't tell me!) 

So Congratulations to San and Nelson the future Walters Family. 

 

Rockefeller Centre

 
On Thursday I managed to drag myself out of bed- eventually- what I night we had on the Wednesday. 

Kristin suggested we meet her after work at the Rockefeller Centre and so we waited by the ice rink for her. Whilst we were there a guy got down on bended knee and poposed to his girlfriend right there in the middle of the ice- I was just about in tears. So cute. And so funny as I had spotted them before this, looking very much in love. She was also dressed beautifully in a short navy dress with tights and I thought she looked like she was in a movie (maybe she knew!)
  
We didn't go for a skate as the line was long but it was fun to watch everyone and we felt in the Christmas spirit! The decorations were beautiful and I loved the large tree.
  

  
The above picture is looking away from the Rockefeller Centre to a Sax department store on 5th Avenue. They had the snowflakes look like the were falling and every so often music would play and there would be a mini light show. It was so beautiful. 
  
Looking from 5th Avenue down to the Rockefeller Centre.
  
Kristin, Nathan and I. Nathan had bought me a lovely red rose as we waited by the Ice Rink.
  
I loved the tree and the Angels.
  
  Kristin and I.
  
We walked down 5th Avenue and took in all the beautiful window displays. This one took my breath away! Just gorgeous! All those mirrors and sparkle!

I also liked the display below. Each window was different scences from Fantastic Mr Fox- which had just been released at the movies. You can see the little characters at the bottom of the fruit baskets.