Recent doings #31

Hello lovely readers. I don’t know how it was for anyone else, but for me August went fast! I can’t believe it’s September already and time for another round-up of what I’ve spent the past month doing. As always on the first Thursday of the month, I’m linking up with Kristen for What’s New With You? So, here’s what I did in August.

whats new with you

Eating. This is really bad, but I ate so many plain (as in just salted) crisps in August. So many. I’m not proud. Also tinned soup.

Drinking. Ice tea… the shop bought kind that’s full of sugar. Again, not the most nutritious. But it’s refreshing and it’s been too hot for normal tea. I’ve also been drinking Rhubarb juice – I found it when we went to a supermarket in Germany and I was intrigued so into the basket it went.

Reading. I read a lot in August, and managed to finish Erin’s reading challenge. The longest book I read was probably Outlander. Unnecessarily long if you ask me…

Watching. We went to the open air cinema and watched the new Jumanji film. I really enjoyed it. I liked how they made it recognisably related to the first one but a different concept so it didn’t feel too repetitive. And I thought the brief mention of Alan Parrish (Robin Williams’ character in the first film) was a nice touch.

Cross stitching. Birthday cards for my brother and my godson. Both have their birthdays in September, so their gifts needed to be sent off in August to make sure they arrived on time.

Making. A pattern I stitched in July into a birthday card for a friend’s son – sometimes I stitch things then take ages to actually do the card-making part!

bear birthday card

Seeing/hearing. The original Blues Brothers! They were at a free music festival in Basel so obviously I had to go and see them.ย  Then Jan and I went to a performance on Friday (31 August – so just about last month) featuring someone Jan is in a choir with. Even when Jan isn’t directly involved I have to go and support his choir members ๐Ÿ˜‰ It was bizarre but very cool.

Celebrating. My birthday! I was working during the day and in the evening Jan had his first choir practice after the summer break the day of my birthday so he couldn’t really miss it, but I treated myself to cake and we went out for a meal the following evening. I got some lovely gifts and enjoyed relaxing and having control of the remote for a change ๐Ÿ˜‰

Winning. At mini-golf… as you will know if you read my last post. One item off the 40 before 40 list already. Woo hoo!

Buying. All the books…. I’m so bad. And soup… I placed an order with British Corner Soup and the day it arrived I immediately had Scotch broth for lunch. YUM!

Also, a few updates ago, you may remember me hinting about something else that was going on around here that I couldn’t tell you about yet. Well, after multiple rounds of interviews with various increasingly higher up people, I can now reveal that Jan has a new job! He starts in November and it will be in Zurich, but we have no plans to move – at least for the moment. We both love living in Basel and he thinks the commute will be similar to his current one so we’ll see how it goes.

I don’t know what else to tell you about August. Jan was away one weekend for a choir practice weekend. I was pretty much just here and mostly working. As I mentioned in the intro, I feel like the entire month went by in a flash… but I’m okay with that. Next Friday we have visitors coming and I have the last two weeks of September off work so I’m very much looking forward to the next few weeks.

How was your August? I hope you all had a good one! Check out the link up to see what’s new with Kristen and all the other participants.

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35 Before 35: Bourbon Creams

I came up with the idea of attempting to bake Bourbon Creams ages ago (it’s not like I can just buy them here after all), but in typical Bev fashion took forever to get round to actually doing it. Finally, over the weekend, Iย  remembered to google the recipe. All the ones that came up seemed to be the same so I just used the first link I had clicked on, which was this one. Apparently the original came from Jamie Oliver… I should have known right then that things were too good to be true.

The recipe said that, before kneading, the mixture would be “slightly crumbly” but “show the promise of coming together”. After adding extra milk, I managed to achieve “slightly crumbly”, then had to knead separate balls for each biscuit. That was the only way I even had a chance of getting the dough to not fall apart as soon as I started trying to roll it.

The recipe said the ingredients would make “about 14”. I’m not sure whether that meant 14 Bourbon Creams or 14 biscuit halves, so 7 Bourbon Creams. After much kneading and attempting to roll, then re-kneading because the bloody thing had fallen apart again and then re-rolling, I eventually ended up with this:

biscuits

Yeah… it also turns out I don’t have a rectangular cutter. Admittedly these biscuit layers are way too thick and if I could have rolled them thinner without breaking them I could have got more out of the mixture, but there’s no way 14 would have happened!

I baked the biscuits, left them to cool, made the filling and was finally left with this:

They were very tasty, but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be making them again, at least not using that particular recipe. I think I’ll stick with Nigella for sweet treats from now on ๐Ÿ˜‰ But even if I only actually ended up with four biscuits, I still baked and that’s good enough for the 35 before 35 list!

Eight types of biscuits down, two to go. Any suggestions?

 

GBBO Bake Along: meatball toad-in-the-hole

toad-veg-gravyIf I was taking part in the actual Great British Bake Off, I would probably be disqualified for this contribution. Not following the rules at all, but meh… whatever. This week in bake off bake along, it’s batter week. My choices were supposed to be to make a batch of perfectly even Yorkshire puddings with a savoury filling, lace pancakes or churros. I don’t have any means of deep-fat frying, so initially I turned my attention to pancakes. Mine would have been filled with mince though instead of being lacy and intricate. Then I started thinking about Yorkshire puddings… from where my mind wandered to the fact that it’s been ages since we last had toad-in-the-hole. It’s basically a giant filled Yorkshire pudding, so it totally counts, right? We didn’t actually have any sausages, though… but we did have mince. Which lead me to the idea of experimenting with meatballs instead of sausages. And so meatball toad-in-the-hole was born.

I’ve had my toad-in-the-hole recipe for so long that I don’t even know who it belonged to originally, so apologies if I stole it from you! It’s pretty generic though so probably not really subject to copyright…

Ingredients

For the batter:
115g/4oz plain flour
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
300ml/ยฝ pint of milk

For the meatballs:
350g mince
1 clove garlic
Herbs (I used dried parsley and fresh rosemary)
Chilli flakes
Cayenne pepper
Salt & black pepper, to taste

You will also need some oil or fat for frying the meatballs and for the oven-proof dish. I used olive oil for the former and sunflower oil for the latter.

Start by making the batter.

  1. Sift the flour, salt and pepper into a large bowl.
  2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and crack in the eggs. Use a wooden spoon to gradually beat the eggs into the flour then beat in the milk a little at a time until the batter is the consistency of double cream.
  3. Strain and push the dough through a sieve to remove any remaining lumps then cover and leave to stand for around 30 minutes.

While the batter is standing, pre-heat your oven to 200ยฐC/400ยฐF/Gas mark 6, then make the meatballs.

mince

  1. Start by placing your mince, herbs, garlic and seasoning in a bowls, as shown above. I used mixed pork and beef mince (the standard here), but you can choose your favourite. Mash all the ingredients together really well – you want garlic and herbs to be in all the meatballs!
  2. Using your hands, form the meatballs into roughly evenly sized balls. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can in the process (yes, part of the liquid will be blood. Sorry!). As you can see below, I got 12 out of mine.
    meatballs1
  3. Fry the balls lightly in oil for a few minutes. You don’t need to fully cook them through at this point (they will be in the oven for a while), but brown the edges enough to stop them falling apart. Or you could make proper meatballs with egg and breadcrumbs to hold them together. Meanwhile, put some fat or oil into an oven-proof dish and place it in the oven to heat for 5 minutes.
    meatballs2
  4. Remove the dish from the oven, place the meatballs into the hot dish, pour in the batter and then immediately return the dish to the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes until well-risen and golden brown. Whatever you do, do not open the oven before 35 minutes is up, otherwise your batter will deflate like a punctured bouncy castle, and there’s nothing sadder than that!
  5. Serve with vegetables of your choice (in our case aubergine fried in the leftover oil from the meatballs, but you may want to go with something healthier!) and, of course, gravy. For more people you could also add mashed or roast potatoes or more veg. This served 2 of us, but with added potatoes it will stretch to 4-6 people.

toad-hole

Jan asked me, since the meatballs were clearly not toad, what exactly is in the hole. Since they are round(ish), I thought maybe frog spawn.ย  What do you think… will frog spawn in the hole catch on?

See more batter week contributions here.

Friday letters

Guuyysss… how on Earth is it Friday already?! This week has gone so fast! I was shocked when I realised it was Thursday yesterday and not Wednesday like I thought. This weekend I’m mostly going to be finishing off a cross stitch, but I’m hoping I’ll also find some time to relax since it’s the last weekend for a while that we don’t have either visitors or plans (or both!).

letter box

Dear wardrobe. We love you! It’s so nice to actually be able to find all my clothes! And that new wood smell you’re still giving off is also nice.

Dear chocolate. Stop tempting me! There’s a pretty dress I need to fit into in a mere two weeks.

Dear Switzerland. Would you like to explain to me why most supermarkets make you ask for pine nuts at the counter. Are they particularly dangerous? Addictive? What? Inquiring minds want to know!

Dear BBC Big Read books. I’ve said this before, but seriously why are most of you so long?!

Dear crumpets. I think I need to dig out the recipe I have for you and make you again. Toast just isn’t the same!

Enough for today. I need to go and drink a cup of tea on my balcony ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy weekend, dear readers!

 

Foodie Penpals April 2016 reveal

Yes, it’s that time again! In April, I was paired with two people from England. I sent a parcel to Evette who blogs at Bizzimummy and received one from Jess. I pretty much told Jess to just surprise me as long as there were no peanuts, so she put together a box of her favourite treats. The first thing I saw when I opened the box (after taking out Jess’s note, of course), was this:

Chocolate

The little After Eight chocolates were eaten as soon as I’d taken the photo!
I was happy to see Jaffa Cakes because I love them and hadn’t had any in ages. I was nice and only ate two of them, saving the third for Jan.

Next came more chocolate:

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We ate the M&Ms while watching some TV on Saturday. The Milky Way I had all to myself ๐Ÿ˜‰

The next item took me right back to my student days!

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They became my oh-so-healthy lunch on Friday.

Next up was stuff to drink:

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The Wispa Gold hot chocolate was very yummy! I may have to buy more when I’m next in the UK.

Finally, at the bottom of the box were two packet mixes:

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I can’t even remember the last time I had Angel Delight!

Here’s everything all together:

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As for what I sent… Evette told me she likes chocolate, crisps and cake and prefers ready-to-eat foods over ingredients. Here’s what she got:

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Not the healthiest of parcels, but all very yummy.

If you’re in Europe, you can find out all about Foodie Penpals and sign up here. You can see more examples of parcels that people have received in the Facebook group.

I can’t wait to see what my May parcel brings!

Foodie penpals February 2016 reveal

You may have noticed that I didn’t do a January reveal (but probably not). The reason for that was my penpal never actually sent me a package! It was okay though – I still had fun putting mine together. And I got an amazing one in February to make up for it! I’m a bit late with this reveal since I was waiting for the package I sent to arrive and then things got busy…

I was paired up with Gale, who is an American living in the UK. I basically told her to surprise me – and she didn’t disappoint. First of all, my item arrived in an absolutely gorgeous box that has now become home to some of my crafting supplies!

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I then opened the lid to find that each item had been individually wrapped in its own piece of tissue paper.

Opening the little packages was so exciting – like Christmas or my birthday!

Here’s what I found inside all the tissue paper:

delicious foods

I also took individual photos of the foods (on the table for a change – such a nice package seemed too good for my usual floor photos ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Snacks in the form of cashew nuts and flavoured corn nuts. I had never heard of corn nuts before, but now I neeeeeed to get my hands on more! They were delicious. I ate them all by myself! Jan didn’t even get a look in.

Stuff to make chicken taste good. We love both garlic and spicy stuff in this household!

Cous cous and coffee (pictured together because alliteration!). I absolutely love Ainsley’s couscous, and the coffee sounds so interesting.

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Various hot chocolates, including a Galaxy one!! Amazing! I love Galaxy!

And, finally, Gale included a non-food gift, so I have something that I can keep permanently. So thoughtful! Here it is:

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A tea towel decorated with chillis! Love it!

And now, before I publish this overly exclamation marked post, here’s what I sent to my foodie pen pal. She told me she wasn’t keen on chocolate but other than that had no special requirements, which resulted in this:

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Basler Mehlsuppe (flour soup) because it’s traditional for Fasnacht, which it was at the time. Zรผrcher Geschnetzeltes. A small bar of chocolate. Garlic sausage from Gruyeres, because she told me she loved garlic. Blevita crackers with Gruyere cheese. Jelly bunnies from the Easter selection and a Spitzbube (jammy biscuit). Fairly representative of Switzerland, I think.

I’m not doing foodie pen pals in March because of New Zealand, but I can’t wait to take part again in April.

If you too want to receive delicious foods from around the world each month, sign up for the April foodie pen pals now on the new foodie pen pals pen pals website! Everything you need to know is there.

Foodie Penpals September 2015 Reveal

My foodie penpals package for September is heeere!
I was excited to receive it this month (even more so than usual I mean) because the person sending to me is someone I know pretty well from blogging and even met once – the lovely Charlotte. This month’s parcel was a giant envelope, so on opening it I tipped it all out on the floor:

FoodCheck out those noms! Here’s a more detailed look at what my parcel contained:

Fruit bearsA strawberry bear and a raspberry bear. I’m not 100% sure what these are but I can’t wait to find out!

ChocolateBritish chocolatey goodness โค

GrazeThis is really cool! Chocolate pieces, raisins, dried cranberries and cherries in a little pack. Immediately after I finished taking the photos I ripped this open and devoured it. It was delicious – and it counts as one of my five a day!

Food mixesThe savoury stuff. A sausage casserole mixture and some Jamie Oliver stuffing mix that sounds amazing!

Skittles“The dark side of Skittles”. I’m very intrigued by these.

Green tea Finally, some fruity green tea that says it’s good for my immune system. Charlotte said she included this so I wouldn’t catch another bad cold – how thoughtful is that?

She also sent me this cute pasta postcard (the rules say you must include something written with the food – it is supposed to be “penpals” after all!).

Pasta postcardI’ve been totally spoiled with this months package. So many treats! Thank you Charlotte ๐Ÿ™‚

As for me, I was again sending to somebody without a blog. Alice, from England, told me she’s gluten intolerant, which ruled out a lot of the traditional Swiss things I usually send. This is what I ended up putting together for her:

Swiss parcelAmazingly, I managed to squidge all of that into one rather small box. Check it out:

Food parcel

If you want to take part in Foodie Penpals, you can read the rules and sign up here. (This is the European version, for those of you in the US/Canada, the original Foodie Penpals on The Lean Green Bean is here.). Matches go out on the 5th of each month and the deadline for sending packages is the 20th. It’s a lot of fun and if you do decide to sign up I promise you won’t regret it!