.: Carrot Cake :.

I’ve been doing lots of cooking recently. From home-made pizza, Brownies (with 90% dark chocolate, so yum!) and today decided to try a carrot cake. I’ve followed the Hummingbird’s recipe for this one. As usual I didn’t follow the sugar quantities. For instance in the brownies I’ve used half of the sugar, this time rather than the 300g I’ve used only 200g

Ingredients

For the cake

300g soft light brown sugar (In my version I’ve used 200g)
3 eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon (plus extra to decorate) (I’ve added a bit more)
1/2tsp ground ginger (forgot to buy ginger, so used nutmeg instead)
1/2tsp salt
1/4tsp vanilla extract
300g carrots, grated
100g shelled walnuts, chopped (plus extra chopped and whole to decorate)

For the frosting (this is the official version)
600g icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter (at room temp)
250g cream cheese, cold

What I’ve used instead (pretty much replacing the butter or the cream with greek yogurt)

1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp cream cheese (I’ve rounded to 80g)
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt – (I’ve rounded to 80g too)
4-5 tbsp powdered sugar
scant 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

As you can see, it’s a much smaller quantity of frosting which only allows to cover the top of the cake. If you want to have a bigger quantity, just follow the official recipe and replace the butter with greek yogurt + vanilla extract

And here’s the result

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Since it was my first time doing this cake, I’m really happy with the result. It’s really moist, it tastes really nice and it doesn’t feel too sugary. I’ll have to do it again!

Do you like Carrot Cake? What’s your favourite version?

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.: In the Kitchen – Brownies :.

So they say, couples that cook together stay together

Photo from google

And I don’t mean one being in the kitchen to make each other’s company, I mean really doing some proper team work. We actually enjoy doing quite a lot. We just don’t do it more often because we’re both lazy, so we end up doing something in the lines of: if one cooks the other is responsible for cleaning the kitchen afterwards.

Yesterday, we were talking about childhood memories and one of his sweetest memories (literally) was to cook brownies with his best mate. He said that they had done the recipe so many times they knew the page by heart, plus the mess was so big that the page was full of chocolate! Once we’ve started living together we’ve ended up buying the book just so we could do the brownies recipe.

This is the book: the joy of cooking (available on amazon here) and you can read it all about it here.

Unlike today’s books it’s doesn’t contain pictures of how the dishes look like and the instructions follow a more classical approach. I have to admit that apart from the brownies I haven’t tried anything else yet. But have flagged a few to try in a near future.

Here’s the recipe

Preheat oven to 350 F / 180C

1/2 cup butter (around 115g of butter)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate (we’ve used 125g)
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar (400g)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted (around 136g)
1 cup pecan meats

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double-broiler (or a pot over another pot of boiling water). Let this mixture cool, or the brownies will be heavy and dry. Beat the eggs and salt until light in color and foamy in texture. Add the sugar and vanilla gradually and continue beating until well creamed.

With a few swift strokes, combine the cooled chocolate mixture and the eggs and sugar. Do this by hand instead of using a hand mixer. Before it’s well mixed, fold in the flour. Add the nuts if desired. Stir gently until mixed. Try not to beat the mixture too heavily. Bake in a greased 9 X 13 inch pan for about 25 minutes at 350 F. Cover the pan with a towel and leave it to sit between 30 and 45 minutes. Don’t cut until the brownies are cool as the interiors are still moist when fresh from the oven.

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We’ve managed to get the 3 C’s (Crunchy, chewy and creamy inside), although it could have cooked a few minutes more than the instructions said.

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I had mine with a bit of my home-made banana / nutella ice cream

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My own notes:

  • Next time I’ll actually use half of the sugar and use brown sugar instead. Although the flavour was amazing, it felt like too much sugar
  • I’ve added a small espresso into the mixture because same as the salt, it enhances the flavour of the chocolate. I could really feel it in the end result.
  • I didn’t use pecan meats but I’ve used some mixed nuts

To think that we hadn’t done brownies for almost 6 years! Last time I had replaced the nuts with pears (chopped thinly) and it was so good and so moist!

Have you done brownies before? What is your favourite recipe?

.: On a mission to eat healthy :.

Yap, this year I’ve been on a mission to eat healthy. First of all, because that’s what we all should do by default, then, because it’s no longer just about me! Then as I’ve lost a lot of wait for the last few months, trying to recover with lots of healthy food. And as I know, eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring, can be really tasty it just gives a bit more work.

Little steps I was already doing:

  • No Soda drinks – This is something I was already avoiding anyway. Even juices I tend to avoid. I rather have water with lemon and ice, it’s much more refreshing and healthier too
  • Don’t drink your fruit – eat it – As per point above, I’ve been avoiding juices. But once in a while will do a smoothy, like banana & honey and a bit of milk. So good!
  • Avoid fried stuff & avoid ready made meals
  • I don’t use salt in the food. I’m not the type that seasons everything with salt. I use herbs instead, pepper, paprika, coriander, parsley, whatever I have available. I do use the knorr once in a while for the pasta (which on it’s own has a lot of salt)
  • As I love pasta and bread, I replace white pasta / bread by wholemeal versions of it. I love wholemeal pasta, really tasty!

This year I’ve started to prepare my own soups

  • I’ve done tomato soup
  • Juliana de legumes (pretty much a portuguese soup based out of potato, and cabbage)
  • Carrot cream
  • Ramen (well this is a kind of a soup – I use Nigella’s recipe)

I had no idea how I was craving for soups until I left Portugal! Nothing is better than a good soup, seriously. It really makes you feel warm within.

I’ve started to eat a lot more fish, mostly cod & salmon. If I go out for dinner, I tend to scan the fish options and go for it. Unfortunately within UK it tends to be the classic fish & chips (so fried…) But I find that more places offer fish options these days.

A few other ideas I have tried:

  • Banana ice cream – Frozen banana is all you need to prepare a creamy banana ice cream. It’s really easy! I’ve done my version with honey and cinnamon

Photo from thekitchn.com

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  • Tuna & bean salad – This is a dish that reminds me of my childhood. We would call it “russian salad” known as Olivier salad. We would have boiled potatoes, boiled egg, tuna, olives and sometimes green beans and mix it all up with mayo. As I don’t really eat mayo anymore (something I really avoid at all cost), I did my version with boiled potatoes, boiled egg, tuna & chopped tomato topped up with portuguese olive oil. It looks similar to this italian version from Tesco’s website.

For dinner today I had water with ice, strawberries and lemon

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And prepared cous-cous with grilled chicken in parsley & honey sauce, chopped plum tomatoes & nuts in parsley, olive oil, lemon & honey. It ended up being a quite tasty and flavourful meal. For dessert fresh strawberries!

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Another ideas, pesto pasta with grilled salmon and cherry tomato.13321812_10207505053359259_4373151561322365991_n

Any good recipes that you rely on?

.: The flipping struggle – Banana Pancakes :.

How’s everyone today? I’m enjoying a relaxing weekend at home, as next weekend we are going away to Wales and the last weekends have been more social.

We had a quick breakfast in the morning, played “Trains to Europe” together and he won again

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This is such a nice game to be played together!

Then I had decided I wanted to try banana pancakes again. Last time I had attempted them, he put all the mixture straight into the pan, so forget about flipping, it was virtually impossible. This time, after checking this recipe from the Londoner, I wanted to try them again.

Look pretty delicious right? Here’s mine

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This was one of the few I’ve managed not to break. It’s really hard to flip flourless pancakes. Next time I’ll just add the banana mixture into my regular pancake recipe. They taste really well though and it’s a pretty healthy recipe.

Have you tried to make banana pancakes before? Any tips?

.: Happy Mother’s day with Apple Cake :.

Happy mother’s day! (for all Moms in Portugal)

For the first time since I remember the national workers day (1st of May) is also Mother’s day in Portugal. Since being a mom is quite hard-working (I still don’t have an idea how much this is true but will know that shortly) I would say it makes a lot of sense.

1st of May was always quite a tradition back home, it’s a day where we would always go and do a picnic somewhere nice. My grandma would cook delicious cakes for the day, being the traditional “May’s cake” always on the table (this is a corn’s cake)

(For the portuguese recipe check here.)

As I always found this particular cake a bit too strong, my grandma would always bake the orange roll which I truly love

(For the portuguese recipe check here – video included)

I really have good memories of this particular day. Me and my sister would play in the fields and then enjoy lots of our favourite cakes. Here in UK, it’s a long weekend and the sun in finally shining outside. So I went out for a brunch with friends and back at home I couldn’t resist the temptation of baking something.

As I have lots of apples available, decided to do an Apple Cake (recipe from Gennaro Contaldo’s Nonna’s Apple Cake from his Let’s cook italian book). I really love his recipes and his simple style of cooking.

Expectation vs reality

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The recipe advises for 40m baking, but I believe next time I’ll do just 35 to get it more moist. I had my cake with a bit of ice cream

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It’s actually a very easy cake to prepare and it’s not too sweet. Also, the recipe doesn’t mention it, but please add cinnamon. Apple & cinnamon is the best combo ever! I’ve added on mine and could really taste it.

What is your favourite cake? Any cake that really brings you good memories?

Have a lovely week 🙂

.: In the kitchen – Chili con Carne :.

It’s winter time and now winter is really coming as temperatures are dropping. One of the best winter foods I know is a good Chili con Carne. I had tried to do this before, but as I had to cook for 12 people it was quite a challenge to ensure it was not too spicy but spicy enough. Also, I’ve ended up using minced meat because it would be easier to cook and feed more people.

So imagine this, lazy Sunday morning, how about preparing a proper chili con carne? That’s precisely what we’ve decided to do. My favourite recipe for Chili con Carne was Jamie Oliver’s

We didn’t cook it for 7h, but rather 3h, but still the final result was really good. He was in charge of the spices so let’s just say it was the max I can normally handle. I felt crying from all over the place if you know what I mean, but really tasty.

Here’s the final result

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Really yummy! Now I feel like having a siesta!

Have a lovely week ahead

.: Sunday Brunch :.

After watching this video, we’ve decided to change the way we cook our scrambled eggs:

I actually love the chopped tomatoes with the eggs (following the indian recipe), so we did a fusion of Gordon’s recipe and our one (almost no butter and no cream). This was the result:

Really creamy!!!

How do you like your eggs? What’s your favourite Sunday Brunch?

Enjoy your sunday!

Cooking with: Barley

Since I’ve been trying to eat more healthy I’ve also been trying to discover  alternatives to my beloved pasta. I love couscous and I’m using really often.

Nutrition facts (from wikipedia)

Total fat 0.25 g 0%
   Saturated fat 0.05 g 0%
   Trans fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 8 mg 0%
Potassium 91 mg 3%
Total carbohydrate 36 g 12%
   Dietary fiber 2 g 1%
   Sugars 0 g
Protein 6 g
Vitamin A 0%      Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1%      Iron 2%

Plus it cooks really fast.

Then there’s quinoa, which is quite popular at the moment. I’ve recently discovered Pearl Barley – Barley is actually used in the production of some beers.

Per 100g Per serving % based on GDA for adult
Energy 553kJ 443kJ
131kcal 104kcal 5.2%
Protein 2.7g 2.2g 4.9%
Carbohydrate 27.6g 22.1g 9.6%
Total Sugars 1.0g 0.8g 0.9%
Starch 26.6g 21.3g
Fat 0.6g 0.5g 0.7%
Saturates 0.2g 0.2g 1.0%
Fibre 2.0g 1.6g 6.7%
Salt trace trace
Sodium trace trace

The only cons is that it takes around 50m to cook! So perfect for weekend-cooking. I’ve added 100g of pear barley + 550ml of water and half a lemon. It was really delicious. I’ve added grilled turkey with lime & herbs and I have to say I felt perfect. Actually pearl Barley is quite commonly used to prepare risotto’s, what about that?

Pearl Barley Rissotto (for the recipe visit the Hearty Food blog)

Let’s go to the kitchen

For all the know me, they know I don’t like to spend too much time in the kitchen, but I surely love good food, especially everything Mediterranean. So I’ll start a new series of recipes (maybe some can be my own), with nice and easy to do. Most probably the majority will be from Jamie’s 30 Minutes meals.

I’ve never tried this one, but I really have to, as I love to cook with Mustard.
CHICKEN

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 x 180g chicken breasts, skin on
4 teaspoons Colman’smustard powder
3 baby leeks or 1 large leek
4 cloves of garlic
white wine
75ml single cream (taken from cream
for dauphinoise)
1 heaped teaspoon wholegrainmustard


GREENS

200g Swiss chard or other greens
1 x 200g bag of prewashed baby
spinach
1 lemon


I’m not sure if I would cook the potatoes, as with so much cream and cheese, although they are delicious, it seems a bit heavy for a dinner meal.

DAUPHINOISE

1 red onion
1kg Maris Piper potatoes
1 nutmeg
2 cloves of garlic
1 x 300ml tub of single cream
4 anchovies in oil
Parmesan cheese
2 bay leaves
a very small bunch of fresh thyme


For me the star of this meal was really the desert, it seems delicious and very easy to do, especially for a coffee lover as I am.

AFFOGATO
1 tablespoon instant coffee (or you

could use 4–6 shots of espresso)
3 teaspoons golden caster sugar
4–6 round shortbread biscuits
1 x 425g tin of pitted black cherries
in juice
1 x 100g bar of good-quality dark
chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 x 500g tub of good-quality vanilla
ice cream


You can check the rest of the recipe here. Let me know what do you think 🙂