Thursday, 26 February 2015

Mexico - Live It to Believe It: Interactive Pop-Up Pavilion

For the next two weeks you can be transported to Mexico without leaving sight of London's South Bank. To help celebrate Year of Mexico in the UK, Mexico has launched an interactive exhibition near City Hall on The South Bank.

You enter a pop-up dome which features Mexico's story told through art and interactive culture. You can feel like you are there, riding rapids, travelling in a hot air balloon or exploring some fascinating Mexican cities.  Experience interactive touch screens and with state of the art technology and try on virtual Mexican fashion or sit on virtual beaches.  Hear all the sights and sounds of busy, bustling cities or white water rapids.
A central feature and treat is a real VW Beatle which has been decorated with more than two million beads and took 8 artists over 9,000 hours of hard work to design and decorate.
Mexico is also proud of it's status as the only nation to have its cuisine designated by UNESCO as of 'Intangible Heritage of Humanity.  Whilst you visit the pop-up dome you can also get some authentic Mexican street food prepared by the acclaimed Mexican street kitchen Wahaca.
I had a delicious marinated grilled steak Burrito ...
The pop-up pavilion will be open to the public from Wednesday 25 February 2015 - Wednesday 11 March 2015 from 10:00am to 20:00pm. It is located next to City Hall on the South Bank and is free entrance for adults and children.

Watch this blog for more events to celebrate Year of Mexico in the UK.

I was not paid to attend this event. As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Juicing My Way Into 2015 With Philips Real Juice Reboot

There has been a lot written lately about the benefits of making and drinking fresh juice every day.  One of the things that you need to watch out for though is that if you only use fresh fruit you may end up consuming quite a lot of sugar (fruit is full of natural sugars). The way around the sugar thing is also a great way to ensure you are getting quite a good amount of your '5 A-day' as well.

Adding vegetables such as kale, beetroot, carrot, celery, cucumber can help you get the vitamins and fibre you need without overdoing it on the sugar.

I was sent a Philips juicer to join their 21 day juicing challenge called 'RealJuiceReboot'. This challenge is based on the premise that you need to do something 21 times to make it into a habit.
I set about on day one, with the fruit and vegetables that were sent with the juicer to make some combinations I had never tried before.  I have tried juicing before and had some of my favourite combinations but I was willing to try the suggestions that Philips sent.
I tried combinations I wouldn't have thought of using like watermelon, mint and lime - boy was it refreshing and good!
This juicer from Philips is quite small in size but powerful with it's large motor and very fine filter. The container for collecting the spent fruit holds quite a lot, it is surprising to see how dry the waste is meaning all of the juice has been whizzed out!

The one thing that is not a positive point for me is that the container that collects the juice is rather small and I need to empty it into a larger jug about halfway through the juicing.

I missed my juice for a couple of days during this 21 day juice challenge and have paid the price by getting a head cold so I am back on the straight and narrow and today enjoyed a large glass of carrot, apple, celery, ginger and beetroot
I have loads of recipes yet to try and really exciting juices yet to come. Looking forward to this week's shopping order arriving - get those beetroot ready for my juices this week. Beetroot is one of those super foods along with blueberries that should go in juices and smoothies for added vitamins and anti-oxidants.

Thanks Philips for the juicer - I know we will have a long and happy relationship making up different combinations all the time!

I was not paid to write this review and as usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Sourdough Pancakes for Pancake Day

Pancake Day - I bet most people in the UK have the thin 'crepe' like pancakes with lemon and sugar. I have never had much luck with these and combined with being American I tend to make the thicker American style pancakes for Pancake Day. (Secret: they are appropriate for any day!)

I decided to spice up my usual pancake batter and add some of the sourdough starter I keep in the fridge and see what happened.
After mixing all my ingredients I added the sourdough starter, mixed well and left to stand 5-10 minutes.
The trick it to let them get loads of bubble on the surface before you flip them over and you only need leave them 30-40 seconds before serving.
Serve with lashings of real maple syrup (mine comes from Vermont, as do I), Moose Maple Butter and a sprinkling of icing sugar and Enjoy
American Pancakes

In a large bowl mix:
200gm Self Raising Flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg
300ml milk

Mix well then add:
3 large tablespoons of sourdough starter and mix again

Leave to stand 5-10 minutes

At this point you can add 200gm blueberries if you want.

Drop large spoons of batter onto a griddle or large frying pan that has a know of butter and a tsp of sunflower oil heated leaving space between the spoonfuls.

Cook until the surface has lots of bubbles (see photo above) then flip and cook a further 30-40 seconds to brown the underside.  

Serve on a warmed plate and garnish with a knob of butter, either unsalted or maple butter, pour over real maple syrup and sift a little icing sugar on top.

I was not paid to write this review and as usual all photos and opinions are my own.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

In My Veg box - Sweet Potato Roundup

In January I hosted 'In My Veg Box' and the subject was sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes are so good for you and it's so interesting to see the different ways people use sweet potatoes in their meal plans.

I want to thank all those who entered with their great recipes.

An InLinkz Link-up

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A Valentine Cake with Betty Crocker & The Little People

When I was growing up in America the baking culture was moving away from weighing and measuring ingredients to make a cake and welcomed ready to make cake mixes such as Betty Crocker.

Although trends have now swung back to weighing and measuring ingredients there is still a time and a place for Betty Crocker such as when you are in a hurry and when you want a quick cake to make with the help of The Little People.

I was visiting my daughter and The Little People who are always keen to help in the kitchen. I had a couple of silicone, heart shaped baking shapes so when sent a selection of Betty Crocker products The Little People and I set about making a cake.
There was no differing of opinions, we would make the Classic Vanilla and use the Vanilla Icing with Sprinkles. Sprinkles!! How exciting - Small kept asking when we would do the sprinkles!
Big had some television to finish watching so Small and I got on with our task.
Big popped in to help with a bit of stirring
and of course some spatula licking!
Cakes into the oven to bake and then left to cool completely.
The icing is ready to spread and normally I would have but in honour of Valentine's Day I added some red food colouring and mixed thoroughly.
I spread the icing between the layers and on top of the cake. Although it doesn't look like much icing when in the container but it is enough to sandwich the two layers and cover the top and sides with a nice thick layer of icing.
Small was so keen to put the sprinkles on top!
And the finished cake. If you look really closely you will also see the bit in the middle where Small had a taste of the sprinkles!

I was sent a selection of Betty Crocker mixes. I was not paid to write a positive review and as always all opinions and photos are my own.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Kung Hei Fat Choi at The Chinese Cricket Club

Chinese New Year is a time of celebration for Chinese people all over the world. It is a time of dragons, street parades and lucky red envelopes given to family and friends.

Each year "Kung Hei Fat Choy" or Happy (Chinese) New Year brings good fortune and guidance for the year ahead. Celebrated this year on 19thFebruary 2015.  

I was invited to the Chinese Cricket Club, Blackfriars, as it opened its doors to welcome the Year of the Sheep, with four weeks of fun festivities until 19th March 2015.

Delving back to his roots, Head Chef Ken Wang aims to put a modern spin on rustic, rural-style dishes.

I was invited to join a select group to sample the two menus that will be available at a price of £48 and the other at £68.  We were treated to a mixture of dishes from both menus and had such tasty treats like:

Vibrant green dumplings full of chicken and spinach, duck, scallops with caviar all presented beautifully in a bamboo steamer.
The lamb dumplings (which were one of my favourites) were crisp and tasty.
Crispy lettuce leaves filled with a chicken mince mixture which tasted sweet with a little chili hit.
There was a plate of lamb on mini bamboo skewers, lightly flavoured with cumin but lovely and tender.
Whilst my favourite (and quite a popular dish amongst the others) was the Lobster & Chinese New Year Rice Cake, stir-fried with ginger and spring onion sauce.
The main courses followed with tempting, mouthwatering dishes like Red Chili Sea Bass. This was really firery and a tad too hot for me but I did appreciate the taste.  A few diners mentioned they would have preferred to have the sea bass served with the head as is traditional in China but Chef Ken Wang told us they had taken the head off as most British diners would prefer it that way. Would you?
And the food still kept coming! Iron Sizzling Lamb with Black Pepper Sauce,

Braised Lamb Rack with Chinese Dates, so tender and full of flavour and texture,
And finishing off with Chinese New Year rice cake with prawns.
Get ready to flock to Chinese Cricket Club (opposite Blackfriars Station) for an evening full of feasting, fortuity and fun.

Best to book your table to avoid disappointment telephone 020 7438 8051.

I was a guest of The Chinese Chricket Club at The Crowne Plaza Hotel - London The City. I was not paid to write a review and as usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Giveaway - Edible Garden Show Tickets

Displaying TEGS & GLL Logos.jpg
Last year I attended the Edible Garden Show at Alexandra Palace in North London.  I am an avid gardener and love having my allotment nearby our house.

The Edible Garden Show is a showcase for some fantastic gardeners, producers, celebrities and it's where I met some great like minded people.

The show has something for all the family and is packed with not-to-be-missed exhibits featuring a broad range of outdoor living activities and experiences. In addition to famous chefs, visitors will enjoy an incredible line-up of gardening experts including TV presenter James Wong and admired gardening guru Paul Peacock, who will be providing new ideas to novice gardeners and seasoned growers alike. 

The show is a great family day out and under 16's go free.

It's where I discovered the Grow Rings that helped me have the best carrots I have grown on the allotment.
And where we discovered Wolf Garten Tools with their interchangeable system.
This year the show will again be held at Alexandra Palace on 21 and 22 March 2015.  I will be attending and really looking forward to getting some great inspiration for this year at the allotment.

Want to come too? I have a pair of tickets to give away.  Just follow the Rafflecopter instructions below to enter and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is open to people in the UK and the tickets will be posted by The Edible Garden Show.  I was not paid to offer this giveaway.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Greener Cleaner Tackles 2015 - A Giveaway Too!

New Year New Broom is the expression I think.  Although my life revolves around food sometimes I get the inclination to do a bit of cleaning and the early days of the new year are a good time to start. 

I have been sent a selection of brushes and cleaning items from Greener Cleaning to help me make a start.  Their products are all made from recycled plastic and the cleaning solutions are kind to the environment and to the user.

Greener Cleaner is a range of cleaning utensils, cloths and liquids which are kinder to the environment, eco friendly with sustainable ingredients and packaging.  They are made from a unique 100 % recycled Eco-Flek material which is 60 % recycled plastic and 40 % sustainable wood pulp.

I was pleased that the washing up brush came to me in red because I had only a week or so earlier bought a new red washing up bowl for the kitchen sink.

A new dustpan and brush is always welcome too.  I usually have an inside one and an outside one and god help the person that takes the inside one out!  Now I have a new green set so I will put the old set outside and throw away the old outside one (or maybe take it to the allotment – they come in handy).

Their super size squeegee will be a great help cleaning my double glazed windows, long panes of glass which are hard to get all the smears off when cleaning.

The range includes dustpans and brushes, scrubbing brushes, brooms, window wipers, pot & pan brushes, dish brushes, utility brushes, dishcloths and dusters,

and a collection of chemical free cleaning liquids. 
So let’s get cleaning!! Happy 2015!!!!

You can also win a selection of Greener Cleaner products by entering this giveaway!

I was sent a selection of Greener Cleaner products to review.  I was not paid to write a positive review and as usual all opinions and photos are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 2 February 2015

My Banana Bread With a SourdoughTwist

I seem to really be stepping out of my comfort zone and adding the spent sourdough starter from keeping my sourdough starter alive, to my baking since I attended Vanessa Kimbell's sourdough course at the beginning of January. For years I have made my grandmother's banana bread recipe and never changed anything. I have found it works well like a formula and I have never changed it. The only thing that was subject to change was whether to make it original, walnuts, dates or raisins or a combination. This little change would not affect the final banana bread.
The recipe as I have changed it is:-

Preheat oven to 180oC Gas 4, prepare two 2lb loaf tins. (This recipe will make two loaves)

Mash 6 bananas (7 if small). Add 2 large eggs and 1 1/3 cups of castor sugar and mix really well. Mix in 1/2 cup porridge oats and 1/2 cup of the leftover sourdough starter. In the original recipe I use 4 cups of Self Raising flour but because of the oats you only need to use 3 1/2 - 3 1/4 cups of flour depending on the consistency.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 55-60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes then remove the loaves from their tins.

When cold, slice and I serve with a little butter but this is an American thing and optional! Enjoy.

This is an adaptation of my original banana bread recipe. All opinions and photos are my own.