Friday, May 27, 2016

More Experiments with my Slow Cooker

I still use my slow cooker a reasonable amount. Usually for curry, stew or the occasional soup. I'd still like to use it more though so here I am again after a 2 year hiatus. This is what I made last time if your memory isn't so good -

I felt it was about time I made a slow cooked pud so I had a go at this recipe for Slow Cooker Gooey Brownie Cake.

You line your slow cooker with foil (hopefully better than I did!!) and pour the cake batter in. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.

My cake took more like 5 hours so maybe it depends on the slow cooker and I'd recommend putting a tea towel under the lid to soak up condensation or it drips on to the cake.

It was pretty easy to make and was great to make ahead ready to serve after our main meal. It made a lovely gooey cake that we all enjoyed. Success!

Next I thought I'd try jacket potatoes in the slow cooker.

Prick the potatoes all over with a fork, sprinkle with salt and pepper then coat in olive oil. Wrap each potato tightly in foil and place in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 7 hours.

When I opened the foil I was really surprised how crispy the tops of the potatoes were. The insides were lovely and soft although the potato had taken on a reddish brown colour from the skins which was weird. Tasted great though, Leigh ate two!

The next recipe isn't a new experiment as we've had it a few times now. But I really love it, so here's a great recipe for Slow Cooked Meatloaf

Mush together a packet of minced beef, an egg, a handful of oats (or breadcrumbs or broken up Ritz crackers) salt and pepper. Form it into a log shape and put it into the slow cooker. Using a strip of foil under it will make it easier to lift out when it's done.

Then I use a cheap can of tomato soup and mix in a tablespoon of brown sugar, a squirt of mustard, 2 squirts of tomato ketchup and a tablespoon of honey. Pour this over the meatloaf log, cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. The tomato soup sauce will thicken leaving you with a meatloaf you can slice but with a tasty soft tomato layer on top. Delicious!

I've got a few more recipes to experiment with, including a slow cooked pizza. Watch this space!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Eating More Vegetables

One of our goals this year has been to eat more veg. We eat a resaonable amount already, plenty of salad and vegetable sides with most meals. But we want to try eating vegetables in different ways to make it more interesting.

We've swapped our regular potato mash for sweet potato mash for a change. We've made more of some old favourites we don't have that often like cauliflower cheese and broccoli casserole. We've made soups, stews and curries mainly out of vegetables. So far we've eaten more veg than usual but I'd still like more ideas of unusual ways to eat them.

Here are a few things we've tried recently:

Beetroot chocolate cake - recipe!

Adding beetroot makes for a moister chocolate cake with a lovely depth of flavour. Cooking anything with beetroot is hazardous though because of the risk of staining everything red. :D It's not really a great way to eat more vegetables but I've always wanted to give it a try anyway!

Pea fritters - recipe!

We're already fans of sweetcorn fritters so I decided to give peas a chance. They're pretty tasty, especially dipped in mayo. I wonder what other veg can be frittered? Watch this space!

Mushroom Quesadillas - recipe!

Now, I hate mushrooms but JD really wanted to try these so we made them and I womaned up to give them a try! As we sauteed the huge pile of mushrooms they gave off a not horrible smell, so I felt optimistic that they might not be awful. Turns out, they're OK. Not delicious but not completely un-delicious either. The cheese helped but it was still the texture of mushrooms that put me off. I feel good about giving mushrooms a try, though I doubt it'll be a regular thing for me.

I've got more recipes to try but I still need more ideas. What's your favourite way to eat vegetables?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Saturday Sandwich 100: Broodje Haring

Another sandwich we've been putting off. JD once bought some rollmops in Lidl and declared them one of the most disgusting things he'd ever eaten. Now here we are years later having to eat more pickled herrings in a Saturday Sandwich, life is cruel.

We scoured Harrogate for some different pickled herrings and found some in Waitrose. We reluctantly bought them and took this picture of them looking malevolent.

Ingredients: bread buns, pickled herrings, dill pickles and onion.

Put 2 herring fillets in a bread bun with sliced dill pickles and chopped raw onion.

Suprisingly not disgusting! The herrings combined with the strong flavours of raw onion and the pickles made for a sour tasting, sharp sandwich. It was hard to identify the herrings in amongst the other flavours. It's not a sandwich we'll ever eat again but it wasn't as bad as we thought it'd be. What a relief, we've eaten it at last and now there's only one sandwich to go. :D

Ratings: JD - 1, Emma - 2

Not sure when we'll be making the last sandwich. JD is currently in America spending time with his family. So you're left with an exciting cliffhanger wondering what the last sandwich will be. Tantalising, eh? ;)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Which Fast Food Fries Are The Best?

My daughter Erin LOVES fries! And no, we haven't been Americanized. I consider fries to be thin cut fried potatoes as opposed to thicker cut fried potatoes which are chips.

Anyway, Erin and I set off to Leeds to test 5 different fast food fries and find out which are the best. Reasonable people might have tried fries over several weeks at different places, but not us.

We decided to test the fries on cost, temperature, crunch, saltiness and size of portion.

First up was Burger King.

Cost: (99p) 4, Temperature: 4, Crunch: 3, Saltiness: 3, Size: 3

These fries were pretty good, served quickly and had a nice saltiness to them. Plus they were the first fries we ate, yay fries!

Overall score:  17/25

Next came McDonalds fries.

Cost: (£1.09) 3, Temperature: 3, Crunch: 3, Saltiness: 1, Size: 4

These fries were also served quickly but lacked the crunch and temperature we'd experienced at BK. They come unsalted but you can add salt from a sachet, we decided to rate them as served. Still quite enthusiastic about eating fries.

Overall score: 14/25

Time for Five Guys fries.

Cost: (£2.75) 3, Temperature: 4, Crunch: 4, Saltiness: 4, Size: 5

A bit shocked at how pricey these fries were but when they came the quantity made up for it. We had a longer wait for our fries than most other places but they do fry them to order. The freshness gives the fries a great temperature and crunch. The fries have some skin left on and together with the seasoning makes for fries you can't stop eating. Also the server came over to talk to us while we ate and gave us what felt like Five Guys life history, she was friendly though and gave Erin some peanuts to take away with her. The fries came in a plain brown paper bag which was nice, JD will approve! Left the restaurant feeling a bit full.

Overall score: 20/25

Chicko's (Independent chicken fast food place)

Cost: (£1.30) 3, Temperature: 2, Crunch: 2, Saltiness: 1, Size: 4

These fries weren't that great, they didn't seem as fresh as others we'd had plus they had little crunch. They weren't salted and there was no salt available to use either. Pretty tired of eating fries now, even Erin didn't want to finish these ones.

Overall score: 12/25


Cost: (99p) 4, Temperature: 3, Crunch: 2, Saltiness: 1, Size: 3

These are usually Erin's favourite but after sampling other, fresher fries she wasn't as impressed. The price and quantity are quite good but again saltiness and crunch were a let down. Bleurgh, fries :(

Overall score: 13/25

So, Five Guys lives up to it's hype. It's worth paying more for your fries if you agree that freshness, saltiness and crunchiness are the best characteristics of the fast food fry. I'm usually not a lover of fast food fries, I can take them of leave them but Five Guys fries seem to have some kind of suspicious addictive quality to them. I should have saved one for chemical testing. :D

Eating 5 half-portions of fries in a day is a terrible idea, don't try this at home! Or at least if you do, have plenty water at hand.

Final Scores:

Five Guys - 20
Burger King - 17
McDonalds - 14
KFC - 13
Chicko's - 12

P.S. Great news! Five Guys is opening a restaurant in Harrogate (where we live), hurrah :)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Saturday Sandwich 99: Student's Zapiekanka

This Polish open-faced sandwich is usually made up of mushrooms, cheese and meats on bread, served toasted. This student version has no restrictions and is much like the refridgerator buffet sandwich we already had.

Ingredients: baguette, cheese and whatever is available in your fridge.

 The suitable foods of our fridge laid out.

Half the baguette and then layer up with a sauce, some meats and vegetables then cheese on top. Grill until the cheese is melted on top.

It's tasty, there's no denying that but is it a sandwich? It's more like a pizza to be honest. We enjoyed the Zapiekanka anyway, it's great to tailor it to your own tastes after months of eating other people's sandwich combinations. Also not pictured we put tomato ketchup on the top as the recipe suggests which was nice. I don't know what else to say, this sandwich was a confusing time. It's behind us now at least. :D

Ratings: JD - 2, Emma - 3

Next Saturday - Broodje Haring

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday Sandwich 98: Shooter's Sandwich

This sandwich is basically a beef wellington in sandwich form made portable for shooters out on the hunt to take with them for lunch. It's traditionally chilled and pressed overnight to be ready for the next day but we decided to eat it still hot when it's just made.

Ingredients: small loaf, steak, mushrooms, butter, onion, garlic, horseradish sauce and mustard.

First off, you make the duxelles (who even knew that was a thing)!

Chop up the onion and mushrooms as finely as you can. Then saute them in butter with garlic, salt & pepper. Also season and cook the steaks according to your preference of done-ness.

 Hollow out the loaf and then spread horseradish sauce on the bottom.

Fill with a layer of steak, then a layer of duxelles and then another layer of steak. Top with some mustard and then cradle it lovingly in your hands.

I loved the flavour of this sandwich, horseradish sauce and mustard are competing to see which can be hottest in your mouth. Horseradish wins, but only just. It's not an easy sandwich to eat, steak in a sandwich never is in our experience. We'd cut the steak up against the recipe's advice but it was still hard to take a bite. Nevertheless, this sandwich is delicious hot and likely more delicious served cold after the sauces have chance to soak in even more. It almost makes me want to go out shooting animals but not quite!

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 4

Next Saturday : Student's Zapiekanka

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Family Game Review : Escape, Curse Of The Temple

JD got this board game for Christmas and we've played it several times since then. It's kind of like a cross between The Crystal Maze and Yahtzee. One of the best things about the game is that it only lasts 10 minutes (and often less). Another best thing about it is that you work together to beat the game cutting down on board game rage!

Anyway, let me explain how you play it.

The object of the game is to find jewels and then escape the temple. All players must escape together in 10 minutes to win. The game comes with a soundtrack with music that becomes more tense as time passes (handily also on Youtube in case you don't have a CD player). You start off at the door to the temple and you have to roll dice to open up temple tiles and move around.

The symbols on the dice are a key, a torch, a running man and black or gold masks.  There are no turns and all players must frantically roll dice at the same time. Two running men dice rolled lets you add another tile and each tile has two symbols you have to roll to move onto it. Some tiles have a chance for you to earn jewels by rolling certain symbols. Rolling isn't that easy though, if you roll a black mask, that dice is cursed until you roll a gold mask to release it (one gold mask can release two black masks). You can end up with all 5 dice cursed and in need of rescue from another player (if they are on the same section as you they can roll gold masks to un-curse your dice).

Five minutes in a gong sounds and you have to race against a countdown clock to get back to the starting tile. If you get back too late you lose a dice. Then it's back to exploring to find more jewels. Once you have enough jewels (it's a different amount depending on how many players there are) you want to try uncover the exit tile. Then it's a matter of rolling enough keys to escape the temple and bask in the glory of shared victory.

The game also comes with an expansion pack with extra tiles containing purple curses to make the game harder and golden treasures to make it easier.

Escape takes a minute or two to set up and only 10 minutes to play. It's fast paced and exciting to play with the soundtrack adding extra tension. Each time you play the game is different based on what order you reveal the tiles and what you roll with the dice. It's a cleverly made game that's fun to play and encourages co-operation between players.

Ratings: JD - 5, Emma - 5

Leigh and Erin have played it a couple of times each but JD and I are the main board game players of our house. We try to get the kids involved but they're not too keen on board games. It's a constant disappointment to us. :D