Blog on Fire award

Thank you to Lisa at La vie éclectique for nominating my blog for the Blog on Fire award. Knowing that people read and appreciate my blog makes me happy and very flattered. Thank you, Lisa! 🙂

As with all blogging awards there are a few requirements to follow for the Blog on Fire award:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link to them in your acceptance post.

2. List a number of things about yourself.

3. Link to the same amount of blogs as the number of things you divulge in step 2.

I’ve chosen to pass the award to three of my favorite blogs and so I’ll divulge three things about myself.

1. I’ve recently become interested in dystopian fiction. I blame The Hunger Games for getting me started on that one! But I don’t like dystopia which is very fantasy-like: I like my novels to have plenty of human drama in them too.

2. I sometimes dream about opening a café with an indie bookstore attached to it in a little town in Maine.

3. I miss riding horses a lot. I used to own a horse and one of my ambitions is to own one again, when the time is right.

Two Horses by Charles Rondeau

I’ve nominated:

Lulu’s Musings — I found Lulu’s blog when I was surfing different blogs for stories of life in Maine (my spiritual home). And it’s full of lovely stories and photos.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… — when I’m not dreaming about living in Maine, I’m riding horses, chasing stray cows and exploring the North Dakota prairies (also in my dreams!) Jessie Veeder’s blog is brimming with wonderful, atmospheric photos and prose. Take a look!

Finger, Fork & Knife — I enjoy browsing food blogs for inspiration and recipes and I was delighted to discover Kate’s wonderful blog. Scrumptious recipes and photos….check it out!

A culinary weekend

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen this weekend, making Italian-style pasta sauce for my eighth blog challenge recipe and traditional English barley and berry pudding for my nineth.

As well as these two scrumptious recipes, I made falafel using this recipe from Nade in the Kitchen. Nadine (aka Nade) has a fabulous food blog which I highly recommend.

And on Sunday, while the pudding was baking in the oven, I popped a loaf of bread in to bake too. For the results, see the photo below!

Tasty, golden, delicious bread — mmm!

What did you cook or bake this past weekend?

Blog challenge recipe #9: traditional English pudding

Every country has its own varieties of sweet treats and tasty desserts but baked (and on occasion, steamed) puddings are a particularly English specialty: roly-poly pudding, Christmas pudding, bread and butter pudding, bread pudding, Bakewell pudding…

The English flag

I was recently browsing The Guardian website for new recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall — I’ve introduced you to him before in my posts A cookbook review and a recipe too, Blog challenge #5: nettle soup and Beetroot and walnut hummus. He is a frequent contributor to their website and I enjoy cooking many of his recipes.

Anyhow, I digress… while I was browsing, I found this: a barley and berry pudding recipe. Since the recipe is a simple and traditionally English baked pudding, I thought it would be perfect for my blog challenge recipe number nine. And on Sunday, I made it for dessert. The verdict: delicious!

A slice of barley and berry pudding

I made a few changes to the recipe, however:

1. I used brown sugar, not granulated.
2. Also, I drastically reduced the amount of sugar from 1 cup (200 grams) to slightly less than half a cup (75 grams) because I really don’t think the pudding needs that amount of sugar. It would have been too sweet for me if I had used 1 cup of sugar.
3. I added 2 tbsp honey to the batter.
4. I cooked the pearl barley for a lot longer than the recipe states: at least 1 hour. The barley was still slightly firm even after I had cooked it for an hour. I recommend you follow the cooking instructions on the pack.

I tried eating it both warm and cold but it definitely needs to be served warm. I recommend serving with yogurt or cream.

By the way, the recipe does use UK measures so if you don’t have a digital scale, you’ll need to use a measurement converter — this one at Gourmet Sleuth is helpful. But don’t worry if your measurements aren’t exact; I often adjust quantities of ingredients and most all of my cooking is successful!

Blog challenge recipe #8: Italian-style pasta sauce

So, here is my blog challenge recipe numero otto!

You might have noticed the “-style” in the title above. Although the recipe uses ingredients commonly found in Italian cooking (eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes…) I would call my recipe inspired by Italian flavors: the recipe is one that I improvised last night.

bandiera d’Italia

Italian-style pasta sauce

Ingredients (serves 2, adjust ingredient quantities as required)

2 tbsp olive oil
½ large red onion, diced
½ eggplant, chopped into cubes
½ large zucchini (or 1 medium one), diced
½ head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
8 – 10 white/button mushrooms, chopped
4 – 5 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked for 2 hours and then chopped
½ tsp hot smoked paprika (optional)
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp oregano
Fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped (to taste)
Sea salt and black pepper (to taste)

Method

1. If you are using packaged sun-dried tomatoes (as opposed to the ones in oil in jars), you will need to soak them in hot water from a kettle for 2 – 3 hours before use.

Sun dried tomatoes, after soaking for two hours

2. Chop the red onion and crush or chop the garlic.

Red onion

3. Heat the olive oil gently in a pan and add the onion and garlic, plus hot smoked paprika (if using). Cook at a moderate heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a lid to speed up cooking time.

4. Add the chopped eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms and cook for a further 10 minutes. Be wary of the eggplant sticking to the pan. In my experience, it has a tendency to soak up the oil like a sponge. Stir often and add a little extra olive oil if necessary.

Chopped zucchini

5. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli florets, dried basil and oregano to the pan, along with a small amount of salt and black pepper. Stir and cook on a moderate heat for 10 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.

6. Add the fresh basil leaves shortly before serving and stir into the sauce. I served it with olives and penne pasta topped with goats’ cheese. Enjoy!

Olives — a perfect accompaniment to pasta

Blog challenge recipe #7: Valencia orange cake

It has been way too long since my last Blog Challenge post. Here is numéro siete. This time, I chose a recipe from Spain.

National flag of Spain

Spanish food is amazing and I love tapas dishes but I don’t have much experience with Spanish desserts. So, this past weekend, I did a little research and discovered that orange cake is a popular Spanish treat. And because orange cake sounds so delicious, I baked one using the recipe below. The cake is delicious, full of flavor, with a very rich taste. Here it is!

A slice of Valencia orange cake

Thank you very much to Erica at Comfy Belly for giving me permission to reproduce the recipe text here. I recommend checking out her site (linked above)! I found it when I was searching for an orange cake recipe and will definitely be returning frequently for culinary inspiration and healthy new recipes.

Valencia Orange Cake
(recipe source here)

Ingredients

2 organic Valencia oranges
4 eggs
1 cup of honey
2 cups of blanched almond flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Method

1. Place two whole organic Valencia oranges in a pot with enough water to cover them. Add a tightly sealed lid. The oranges will float, but they should be mostly covered. Simmer them in the pot for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. When you can easily glide a toothpick or fork through them, they are ready. You can add water to them while they are cooking, if necessary.
2. Cool the oranges for a few minutes, slice them into wedges and remove any pits or inedible parts (like the nub where the stem was).
3. Process the oranges until you have a smooth, orange paste without lumps.
4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. (I bake using a convection oven setting, so I place the temperature at 300 degrees F).
5. To get a slightly lighter cake, separate the egg yolks and egg whites, and then whip the egg whites separately until stiff peaks form.
6. In a bowl, beat eggs (or egg yolks if separated) until well blended, and then beat in the honey and dry ingredients (baking soda, salt, and almond flour).
7. Fold in the almond flour and orange paste into the egg and honey mixture and blend well.
8. If you whipped the egg whites separately, here is where you want to fold the egg whites into the rest of the batter.
9. Use a spring form pan or a well buttered baking pan. Butter or oil the
bottom of the spring form pan. No need to butter the sides of the
spring form pan.
10. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Make sure to bake it thoroughly, especially in the center, or it may settle when it cools. Even if it settles, it still tastes wonderful.
11. Enjoy!

One year ago today…

…I started blogging! I’ve had a lot of fun sharing all kinds of things with you over the past year — book reviews, movie reviews, recipes, photos and more. My blog traffic stats, although modest compared to a lot of other blogs, are continually growing. I also have an increasing amount of followers (60 in total); thank you all very much for reading. Thank you to all my readers and followers.

I have plans to make a cake to celebrate but unfortunately I don’t have time today. In the meantime, however, I made lemonade! I used the recipe from Mama’s Gotta Bake blog:

Thyme Lemonade

I highly recommend her lemonade recipe as it’s really simple and very refreshing. After tasting this, you’ll never want to drink store-bought lemonade again!

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
Public domain photo: Lemon by Petr Kratochvil