Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Countdown to Christmas

As we have done the last few years, hubby & I have decided to have a sensible Christmas. Making presents, not spending a fortune, and generally trying to be thrifty. But I love Christmas - and am excited, so will try to post an update every day to let you know how our countdown to Christmas is going.

So, on Sunday (28 Nov) we bought a Christmas Tree - pre-lit! It's great. I put it up on Monday (30 Nov), which took 15 minutes rather than the usual 2 hours finding the right parts, clipping it all together, arranging the branches and then dancing round and round and round the thing to put the lights on! Anyway - here it is:


Then today I have started with phase 1 of decorations. This photo is taken with my new favourite app for iPhone : instagram.


I also have a bit of a thing for snowmen. Have been collecting them for a while, so here's a few of my favourites.



Fibre optic snowman

Snowman tree ornament


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

You shall go to the ball...

OK, so, here's the deal. I am going to a charity dinner on Friday. it's black tie & there are going to be lots fo fabulously dressed ladies. I am not going to buy another dress to only wear once but can't decide on the ones I have - so it's over to you! :)

What do you think I should wear & how can I bling it up?

I will apologise for the very dodgy photos, but have loads to be getting on with tonight and you should be able to get the general idea from the pics.

Outfit #1 : Red dress from coast with embroidery detail.


Outfit #2 : Purple dress from Per Una

Outfit #3 : Black & White dress from New Look (Bargain - cost £3!!)

Outfit #4 : Skirt from Warehouse - not sure what top to wear with it.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Meal a Week: Spicy Chicken Curry with Spinach


After seeing Atul Kochhar on TV, I bought hubby his book Simple Indian: The Fresh Tastes of India's New Cuisine. It's excellent. We have made lots of the recipes and not one of them has disappointed. Some of the ingredients may need a bit of searching (or online shopping) but it's definitelty worth it. The recipes are easy to follow, the pictures are great and there are sample menus and ingredient descriptions.

Last night I made Palok Diye Tikha Murghi Kalia from the book. Translated as Spicy Chicken Curry with Spinach.

With it we had basmati rice & homemade chapatis. And it was gooood!


The chapatis were delicious and easy to make - just chapati flour & water, mix to a dough, leave for 10 minutes, then roll out & dry fry. Mmmm. Just buy some chapati flour and follow the recipe on the packet. :)

Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding

I have a real issue with soggy bread. I can't touch it or look at it - let alone eat it. Makes me shudder just thinking about it... bleuch. This means I have never tried bread & butter pudding. I imagine it's much nicer than it sounds and isn't really just bread soaked in milk.....I hope!

My husband really loves bread & butter pudding, so being the good wifey that I am, and in the spirit of trying new things I made it for pudding. Hubby is on the Weightwatchers plan, so I found this recipe and thought I'd give it a go. However, I'm a bit of a bugger for changing recipes to suit, so while my pudding is based on the weightwatchers recipe, I have made a few changes to create one 'normal' pudding with vanilla & nutmeg and 1 chocolate version with Baileys. As baby puddings this recipe is ideal for trying new combinations without having to make one huge one that may not taste right.

Here's how I did it.

Get  2 ramekins and cut 6 circles of white bread using a patry cutter so that they fit nicely inside the ramekins.
Line the ramekins using fry-light butter spray (or real butter if you're not concerned about the calories!).
For  the normal pudding, lightly butter one side of 3 of the bread rounds.
For the chocolate pudding, spread chocolate spread on one side of the remaining 3 rounds.
Put the chocolate rounds in one ramekin, all chocolate spread side up.

Chocolate rounds in ramekin
 Put the buttered rounds in the other ramkin, butter side up, but put a few sultanas between each layer (I used 12g for one pudding).

Buttered rounds & sultanas in ramekin

Put 250ml skimmed milk (again, you could use semi-skimmed or whole milk, even a mix of milk & cream) into a saucepan with 1.5 tablespoons of vanilla sugar & bring to the boil.
Remove from the heat & allow to cool a little.
Beat 1 medium egg, then add the warm milk, and beat together.
Split this mix bewteen the 2 ramekins, making sure it goes down the sides of the dish.
Optional - add 1 tablespoon of baileys to the chocolate pud & sprinkle nutmeg on top of the normal pud.
Leave this to soak in (so you get really soggy bread) for a minimum of 3o minutes (I left mine for a few hours & it was fine.)
Heat overn to Gas Mark 5, 190 degrees C, 375 degrees F.
Put the ramekins into a roasting dish filled with hot water, so it comes about 2/3 of the way up the side of the pans.
Cook for 20-30 minutes until risen & golden brown.
Leave to stand (coz it'll be very hot!) and eat.

Blurry pic of Vanilla Bread & Butter Pudding

Finished Chocolate & Baileys Bread & Butter Pudding

My verdict? Well, it wasn't as bad as I expected! :) It tasted lovely and it definitely wasn't soggy bread. But there was just something not right about it. Having said that - I would try it again and the possible flavour combinations could definitely be interestng.

Hubby's verdict - It did taste nice, but wasn't as rich as a full-fat version! For those on the WeightWatchers plan, the Vanilla pudding worked out at 8 ProPoints.

Let me know if you do try these, especially with any other flavours. :)

Edited, 2nd December 2010: Oh my, have just found out that this post was a winner in the Beckicklesie Oui Chef Competition for November!! Am SOOO very excited. Thank you so much to Beckicklesie for selecting it!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chocolate Cake Pops & a Cupcake Tower

On the weekend I was asked to make a cupcake tower & cake pops for a friend's son's naming ceremony. The civil ceremony version of a Christening. So I made 50 each of chocolate fudge and vanilla cupcakes and cake pops, with a blue & white colour scheme. Although a little stressed (beacuse I left some of it til the last minute) I was really pleased with the way it turned out and had lots of compliments - which is always nice! Not many people in this part of the country (Swansea, South Wales) had come across cake pops, so it was very much a novelty and very well recieved.

This was a first for me in a few ways (hence worthy of a blog post!).

1. My first naming ceremony/christening cupcake tower.
2. My first cake pops order.
3. My first chocolate cake pops.

Cupcake Tower & Cake Pops

Vanilla & Chocolate Fudge Cake Pops

Close up of Cupcake Tower

Close up of Cupcake Tower

Top of Cupcake Tower with Personalised 'S' toppers.



November is full of chocolate!

This month over on the Beckicklesie blog, the Oui Chef Challenge theme is - Chocolate!

Wonderful! :) I bet there's a few things I can write about on this, so there's likely to be a few blog posts.

My husband has told me that I am a snob. And I'm quite happy with that in some ways. I like to own nice things, (can't always afford to, but I'd like to!) I like to eat good food, drink nice wine....but I also LOVE a bargain. Chocolate, I think, is a luxurious product, and one that doesn't always come with a high price tag!

I am a fan of chocolate, and am a bit of a sucker for packagaing, gimmicks, brand, marketing etc, so anything new or different I am more than happy to try out. Like the recent 'Screme Eggs' - Halloween themed Cadbury's Creme Egg, with a green 'yolk'.

I read a book called The Chocolate Connoisseur: For Everyone with a Passion for Chocolate which discusses how chocolate is made, types of chocolate, even how to taste it. In this book it mentions that one of the top chocolatiers in the world is based in Pisa, Italy - something I happened to find out just before going to Pisa!

This chocolate is made by Amedei and I made it my mission to go and find some of this chocolate. Which I did. And it was gooooood!

Now one thing the book says is that 'Chocolate Purists' only accept bars of chocolate as chocolate. Truffles etc, are not the same. And apparently white chocolate is not chocolate either - but I can't remember why right now...

This has turned into a bit of a rambling post, but I'm hoping it'll set me up for a few posts to follow.

To include (hopefully):

- My first chocolate cake pops
- My favourite chocolate bars
- Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding (recipe) (Added 21/11/2010)


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

vlogging

Vlogging or Video Blogging means using a video as a blog post. It intrigues me. I am a big fan of social media, social networking, social marketing - whatever you want to call it - and really wish I had the time to really understand it. I love Twitter and Facebook, have finally set up a You Tube account. I'm on LinkedIn, goodreads.com, I have a digg and StumbleUpon account - but don't use them enough to really 'get it'.

I'm going off on a tangent a little bit...

Vlogging has been around for a while, but it's not something I've particuarly followed until recently. And I quite fancy having a go. There are a lot of people doing it, and I've done a bit of research looking at different styles, etc. I'd also like to do some quick videos for the web design company I work for.

My problem is this - will people be interested in what I have to say? What do I talk about? In some ways I figure if people are reading my blog (and yes, I do have the odd visitor every now and then) then there's not much difference between what I write about and what I'd vlog about. Right? Alternatively, if people aren't insterested then no one's going to watch them anyway, so I still have nothing to lose, right?

I guess it's going to come down to just doing it, have a go and see what happens.

Watch this space guys - you never know what may happen! But if you do have any advice on how to get started, or examples of your first vlog I'd love to see them! Post a comment below or send me a message on Twitter (@rhiandaniel)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Supporting TREAT Trust Wales

In June of this year I recieved a phone call in work from a lady called Melanie who wanted me to do some work on a website for free. I admit that at first I was not overly impressed and didn't really want to get involved. We had already sponsored websites for Llys Nini, a local animal centre, Waunarlwydd RFC and The William King Educational Trust (of which my parents are patrons) and didn't feel we had time to get involved with another project.

However, Mel explained about TREAT and what their aim was and told me a little bit about herself, so I had a chat with my boss and we decided that if the time we could spare was enough to help them achieve what they wanted, then we'd go from there. So we arranged a meeting with Mel and Mike of TREAT and myself and a designer from work and off we went for lunch.

I spent a few hours with Mel and Mike and couldn't help but be impressed by Mel's drive and ambition. Despite being in a wheelchair following a motorbike accident when she was 15 and surviving cancer Mel was completely focused on raising £10 million to build a therapy centre in Swansea. Mel is an amazing woman, and an inspiration to many. She has written a book (Never Say Die
) and won a bronze medal in athletics for Wales.

Over the last few months working on the website with Mel, I have come to fully understand the project and the need for a centre like this in Wales. It is not aimed just at people with disabilities, it's for everyone and their families. For people living with cancer, for injured soldiers and sportsmen, for people suffering with diabetes, for anyone with - or without - a health issue. It is intended to provide a space that everyone can use regardless of ability, offering treatments that may not otherwise be available and providing support where NHS care finishes.

This is just a quick snapshot of what TREAT wants to do and there's plenty more information on their website: www.treattrust.org.uk

Mel's drive is contagious & has definitely rubbed off on me. Life is too short to not do what you want, to not have something to aim for. So - go for it, dudes!