Thursday, 31 March 2011

Devilish Peanut Butter Cake



I made this cake for my husband’s birthday this year. It is an homage to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups - which my family and I love - but which are incredibly hard to get in the UK. At least you can get them some places now, not like when I first came to England and folks over here didn’t even know they existed. I know, how can you not have Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?

I was craving them when I made this and was unable to get them - hence the Terry’s Chocolate Oranges decorating the top of the cake. Actually, they were a really tasty addition, but if I could get hold of some Peanut Butter Cups I would quarter them and use them instead - sort of studding them over the top of the cake, pointy side up. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I used my own Devil’s Food Cake recipe for the cake (hence the ‘Devilish’ in the title) and found an amazing recipe for Peanut Butter Icing at All Recipes. Seriously, if you like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, you need to make this cake!

For the cake:-

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cups white sugar (caster for preference, but granulated will do)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs, preferably free range
2¼ cups all-purpose (plain) flour
½ cup cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking soda
2 generous pinches of salt
1⅓ cups milk

Preheat the oven to 350 (about 170).

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together into a bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter until it is light and fluffy.  Add the sugar and vanilla and cream together. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Fold in the flour mixture. Add the milk and beat until you have a smooth batter.

Divide the mixture evenly between the cake pans and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until a skewer or piece of raw spaghetti inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pans for about twenty minutes before turning out. Cool on a wire rack. 


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk, or as needed
(I used about 2 tablespoons and that was plenty)

Place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl, and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the sugar, and when it starts to get thick, incorporate milk one tablespoon at a time until all of the sugar is mixed in and the frosting is thick and spreadable. Beat for at least 3 minutes for it to get good and fluffy.


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Hearth and Soul Blog Hop

Hearth and Soul Hop at the 21st Century Housewife


Please visit my main blog The 21st Century Housewife to check out the wonderful Hearth and Soul blog hop - ‘Food from the hearth to feed your soul’.

Easy Vegetarian Risotto



Although risotto has a reputation for being a bit of a fiddle to make, it’s actually only the stirring that requires any real effort, and you really don’t have to stir for all that long. In fact, I can have a delicious risotto on the table in not much more than thirty to forty minutes. It’s a great dish for using up leftover veggies, and the only limit to the flavours you can create is your own imagination.

For the best risotto, you need to be sure to use a rice specifically made for this dish - a high starch medium or short grain variety as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialoni Nano is best. I get the best results with the latter, but it can be more expensive, and the others do work very well. It’s hard to be really specific about the quantities of liquid, as the amount you need is affected by the vegetables you use, the exact type of rice, and even the weather. You can tell when you have got the correct amount because the rice will be swollen, your risotto will look creamy and when you taste it the rice will be al dente - firm, but soft with a creamy mouth-feel.

This is the vegetable risotto I made the other night, using some vegetables I had that were starting to get a bit past their best. It’s amazing how you can transform them with a bit of stock, flavouring and stirring!

To serve four people

1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 red pepper, de-seeded and chopped in small pieces
1 zucchini, sliced in half moons
1 cup risotto rice
about 4 cups vegetable stock
1 glass white wine
(or about ½ cup more stock if you prefer to leave out the alcohol)
1 to 2 tablespoons basil pesto
½ cup vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese plus more to serve

Melt the butter over medium to low heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and sauté gently, stirring often, until it begins to become translucent. Add the red pepper and zucchini and cook gently for a few minutes.

Stir in the rice, and allow it to get coated in the buttery vegetable mixture. Stir in the white wine until it is absorbed. Now begin adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition until it is absorbed.

When you have about a cup of stock left, add the pesto and the cheese and stir through until the cheese melts. Now gradually add the remaining stock, stirring after each addition until it is absorbed, and tasting from time to time until the rice is al dente and tastes creamy.

Serve in warmed bowls, with extra cheese to garnish. Although the rice has plenty of carbs all by itself, if you are feeling indulgent, a basket of warmed rolls is really nice alongside! 

Friday, 25 March 2011

Feed Me Tweet Me Follow Me Home Friday



Once again, I’m very pleased to be co-hosting this foodie blog hop with Alex of A Moderate Life and Hella D of Helladelicious.

The linky is called Feed Me, Tweet Me, Follow Me Home and it is a true blog hop. This means, that if YOU wish to run the hop on your blog, all you have to do is get the linky code from the bottom of this page and put it on your blog for your readers to join in.

Hopefully this will help us all gain new visitors to our blogs and expand our audiences while giving us new places to explore and making the bloggiesphere a more friendly place!

The rules are very simple, because it is a “follow me” linky.

Just enter your link to your blog below (you can link to your home page or to any particular page you like), Follow me on Twitter and ‘Like’ The 21st Century Housewife on Facebook. Or you can follow me here or at The 21st Century Housewife on Blogger. If you drop me an email or comment letting me know where you have followed or ‘liked’ my blogs, I will follow you back in all those places. You can use your blog badge - or any other photo from your blog that you like - as your thumbnail and you can link up any time during the week.

It’s that simple! Visit as many other blogs as you like, to make new friends and follow their blog, grab their tweets and RSS feed if you do not already. If you do grab their info, please leave them a comment so they know they have a new friend. If someone visits you from Feed Me, and grabs your info, please return the favour. This is a great way to increase your followers and promote your blog, so please pass the word around!

Have a wonderful weekend!




Thursday, 24 March 2011

Nigella Lawson's Maple Pecan Bundt Cake



This is another recipe from Nigella Lawson’s new book ‘Kitchen, Recipes from the Heart of the Home.’ I am so pleased with how this cake turned out! In terms of flavour, texture and sheer appeal, this cake is wonderful. Admittedly, Nigella has a fancier bundt cake pan than I do, but I was very pleased with how it looked nonetheless. The cake is a tiny bit fiddly to make, especially in terms of trying to spread part of the cake batter up the sides of the pan before adding the filling and the remaining batter, but it is worth it. This was the perfect cake in the afternoon with a cup of tea, for dessert with coffee, or even as an extra special breakfast treat. It also looked wonderful sitting on the side in my glass domed cake keeper although it wasn’t there for long!


If you haven’t already, I highly recommend purchasing ‘Kitchen’. It’s a wonderful cookbook and a really great read. I’ve tried several recipes from it already - including No Churn Pina Colada Ice Cream, Venetian Carrot Cake and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake and and they have all turned out beautifully.

I do worry about re-printing recipes without permission, but if you have yet to purchase this excellent cookbook, you can find a the recipe for Maple Pecan Bundt Cake on the Canadian Parents website by clicking here.


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Let's Do Brunch



Please click on over my main site to link up with Let’s Do Brunch – Come share your favourite breakfast, lunch and brunch recipes!

Easy Omelettes



Eggs really are one of ‘nature’s perfect foods’. These nutritional powerhouses got a bad reputation a few years ago, but it was incredibly undeserved. Like everything else, they are best eaten in moderation, but they are an important part of your diet - and in my opinion one of the most delicious was to serve them is as an omelette.

I used to struggle to make omelettes as I’m not terribly good at complicated flipping manoeuvres, but I’ve found another method that works for me.  Instead of trying to turn the omelette, I cook the top under the broiler or grill and then all I have to do is fold it in half, which even I can manage! 

Most kids love omelettes, particularly if you let them choose what goes in them. Typical fillings of ham, cheese and chopped tomato are all kid friendly. That is the beauty of omelettes; they can be so simple, or they can be really special.  The other night I made roasted vegetable omelettes for dinner and I got tons of compliments. I already had the roasted vegetables on hand and served them with hash brown potatoes, but you could serve them with a nice big salad if you prefer.  Either way there is very little effort involved.

If you need to make several omelettes, they will keep warm in a low oven so you can serve them all at once, although they taste best served immediately.  It all depends on how many oven-safe frying pans you have. I find my ten-inch frying pans work really well, and the omelettes I make in those using the recipe below will serve a hungry adult or two children. 

Filling suggestions are below the main recipe. I highly recommend adding just a pinch of fresh or dried oregano to the basic mixture. I would never have thought about using it, but on our last visit to Cyprus the chef made omelettes to order in front of us at the breakfast buffet and he made a big deal about always throwing a bit of  oregano in the mixture before he cooked it. It makes the omelettes taste really wonderful.

To make one large omelette you need:-
2 to 3 free range, pastured or organic eggs
1 tablespoon milk
a handful of grated cheddar, Gruyere, Swiss or Monterey Jack cheese
(raw cheese works beautifully in omelettes too)
other filling ingredients*
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of good dried oregano (optional)

*       see below

Heat a small oven safe non-stick pan on the stove top.  Turn the broiler/grill portion of your oven to medium. 

Lightly beat the eggs and milk together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the egg mixture into the hot non-stick pan.  Gently pull the edges of the egg mixture towards the centre of the pan with a non stick egg lifter (often called a ‘slice’ in England) so that you get a nice flat omelette.  Now put your choice of filling ingredients on half of the omelette and then sprinkle cheese over the whole thing.  Let it cook for a couple of minutes. 

Lift a corner of the omelette and have a peak at it.  If the bottom is nice and brown, it’s time to transfer it to the grill.  If not, watch and wait for a couple more minutes until the bottom of the omelette is a nice golden brown colour. 

Transfer the pan from the stove top to under the grill.  Watch the omelette carefully.  When it starts to brown and puff up, remove it from the oven and fold it in half using the egg lifter.  Serve and enjoy!

*Fillings

ham, chopped tomato, niblet corn, any frozen vegetable (including mixed vegetables), thawed

canned artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped or frozen artichoke hearts thawed and cut in bite size pieces along with canned or bottled roast peppers

roasted vegetables – I almost always keep roast vegetables in the fridge.  They are so easy to make.  Simply cut up a red onion, two or three multi-coloured peppers and a zucchini (courgette).  Toss them in about two tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and roast in a hot oven for about thirty to forty minutes - stirring occasionally - until the vegetables are softened and golden, but not charred.  You can read my previous entries about roast vegetables by clicking here.  These can be used immediately or cooled and stored in the refrigerator for three or four days. 

Asparagus (use frozen out of season)

The only limit is your imagination! Enjoy!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Monday, 21 March 2011

Basil Cheese Strata from Lorri at Hennessey House



The other day on The 21st Century Housewife I blogged about our wonderful stay at the beautiful Hennessey House, and promised to share one of their recipes with you. The breakfasts we had at Hennessey House were wonderful, and the lovely cakes, cookies and treats that were always available on the antique sideboard in the dining room were just delicious. Lorri and her team are amazing cooks, and I’m grateful that she is also very generous about sharing her recipes.

The first morning we enjoyed sliced pineapple with a light and beautiful red wine sauce, followed by Eggs Florentine with fried potatoes. We were also offered delicious banana and chocolate chip muffins. The following morning, we began with lightly warmed brown sugar glazed grapefruit with a sherry sauce, followed by Basil Cheese Strata with asparagus, and blueberry muffins. Now I didn’t think I was a huge fan of grapefruit, but believe me, I am now. And as for Lorri’s Basil Cheese Strata, well, as I said yesterday, it is one of the tastiest breakfast dishes I have ever had. The other guests agreed and there were clean plates all round. We were all offered seconds, but the ‘firsts’ had been so generous only one chap accepted - and he cleaned his plate the second time too!

The wonderful thing about this recipe - which is vegetarian if you use vegetarian cheese - is you make it the night before and refrigerate it overnight so that you can cook it the next morning. As you can imagine, Lorri’s recipes are made to serve a number of people, but I don’t think I would be at all upset to have leftovers of this dish, which I am sure tastes very nice re-warmed. I have to say, I loved the asparagus served on the side, it was a wonderful compliment to this delicious dish.

Remember, you need to start the night before! To serve 10 people you need:

2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes, chopped
½ cup artichoke hearts, chopped
1 tablespoon dehydrated onion*
1 - 4 ounce can mushrooms*
2 cups grated Swiss cheese (or use a combination of 1 cup grated Swiss cheese and 1 cup grated cheddar)
10 eggs
1½ cups milk
¼ cup pesto
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon white pepper
8 - 10 slices sourdough French bread, crusts removed
(enough to cover the baking dish in two layers)
*Fresh onions and mushrooms are delicious in this recipe. Sauté in olive oil before placing between layers of bread.

You also need one 9 inch x 13 inch Pyrex baking dish.

Spray the Pyrex baking dish with PAM spray (I will have to grease the pan with butter as I can’t get PAM in England) and arrange one layer of French bread in the bottom of the baking dish. It should be a tight fit, all spaces need to be filled by French bread.

Sprinkle the first layer of bread with the cheese and vegetables, alternating layers of cheese and vegetables. Add the second layer of French bread slices.

In an electric mixer, whisk eggs on high speed until frothy (about 5 minutes). Add the milk, pesto, Tabasco sauce and pepper and mix until well blended.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread.

Cover with foil that has been lightly coated with PAM spray and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 (about 175). Place the foil covered Pyrex dish in the oven and cook for about 1 hour until puffy and lightly browned. Remove the foil during the last few minutes of baking to brown the top of the bread.

Cut in slices to serve.

For more of Lorri’s wonderful recipes, please click here.


Friday, 18 March 2011

Feed Me Tweet Me Follow Me Home Friday



Once again, I’m very pleased to be co-hosting this foodie blog hop with the Hella D of Helladelicious and Alex of A Moderate Life.

The linky is called Feed Me, Tweet Me, Follow Me Home and it is a true blog hop. This means, that if YOU wish to run the hop on your blog, all you have to do is get the linky code from the bottom of this page and put it on your blog for your readers to join in.

Hopefully this will help us all gain new visitors to our blogs and expand our audiences while giving us new places to explore and making the bloggiesphere a more friendly place!

The rules are very simple, because it is a “follow me” linky.

Just enter your link to your blog below (you can link to your home page or to any particular page you like), Follow me on Twitter and ‘Like’ The 21st Century Housewife on Facebook. Or you can follow me here or at The 21st Century Housewife on Blogger. If you drop me an email or comment letting me know where you have followed or ‘liked’ my blogs, I will follow you back in all those places. You can use your blog badge as your thumbnail if you wish and you can link up any time during the week.

It’s that simple! Visit as many other blogs as you like, to make new friends and follow their blog, grab their tweets and RSS feed if you do not already. If you do grab their info, please leave them a comment so they know they have a new friend. If someone visits you from Feed Me, and grabs your info, please return the favour. This is a great way to increase your followers and promote your blog, so please pass the word around!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Thursday, 17 March 2011

Let's Do Brunch



Please do join in on Let’s Do Brunch, Chaya from My Sweet and Savory and Bizzy B. Bakes’ recipe linky which she has now asked me to co-host with her.  Please pop by and link up your favourite breakfast, lunch and brunch recipes!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Escalopes Milanese



This is actually my husband’s recipe - one of the first meals he made for me when we met back in 1989. It had become a family favourite, and this year we even had it for Valentine’s Day dinner. 

Up until very recently, we always used turkey for this recipe for both economic and ethical reasons, but now we can buy humanely raised veal in the UK, so we often use that.  Both taste great, and for that matter there is no reason why you could not use pork escalopes, or work out your frustrations by pounding chicken breasts very thin (or ask your butcher to do it for you if you do not feel the need to vent!).  I also developed a vegetarian version of this recipe not long ago - Eggplant and Zucchini Milanese - if you would prefer to enjoy something meat free instead.

I love using matzo meal for this, but if you can’t get it there is no reason not to use bread crumbs.  Both work, I just like the flavour and texture of matzo meal.  I’ve also mixed matzo meal with bread crumbs with a very satisfying result.  You can even grate a bit of lemon rind into the matzo meal/bread crumbs if you are feeling so inclined, although that is my addition - my husband is not really so sure about it! 

Admittedly this is not a low calorie recipe, but I like to think that using mild olive oil makes it healthier, and the hotter you get the oil the less is absorbed into the escalopes.  Do take care when shallow frying though - more than once I’ve nearly forgotten about the oil while heating it with close to flaming results! 

As for the spaghetti, my husband and son like it best with butter, garlic and seasonings.  The pesto and/or tomato sauce were my idea, and when we have this as a family I sometimes divide the spaghetti up and put tomato sauce on mine and buttery garlic on the other two portions - but sometimes I have the buttery garlic too - it really is scrumptious.

4 turkey or veal escalopes – about a quarter to a half inch thick
1 egg
Matzo meal (available in many supermarkets, but if you can’t get it, just use breadcrumbs)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup of mild olive oil (not Extra Virgin)
enough spaghetti for four (as a side dish) usually 4 to 6 ounces will more than cover it
¼ cup melted butter, 1 teaspoon Very Lazy Garlic and 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning OR ½ pesto OR about 1½ cups of tomato sauce

Mix the Matzo meal with the salt and pepper and place on a plate.  Break the egg into a large bowl and beat lightly.  Heat the oil in a large shallow frying pan until it is very hot, taking care not to burn yourself.  When the oil is hot, dip the escalopes first in the egg, and then in the matzo meal mixture.  Place them straight into the hot oil.  Cook for about three minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the escalopes, until no pink remains inside. 

Meanwhile cook the spaghetti in boiling water according to package directions.  Drain and toss with EITHER the melted butter mixed with the garlic and seasoning OR the pesto OR the tomato sauce. 

Serve each escalope with a side of dressed spaghetti and either a salad or some green vegetables. Buon Appetito!


Monday, 14 March 2011

A Delicious Way to Use Vegetable Preserves and Chutneys



I’m thinking about salads a lot at the moment. I’m not sure if it’s because I want it to be spring or because the sun is out a lot more recently, but salads are definitely on my mind. The only thing with salads is that it is possible to get bored with them, particularly if you get into a rut with dressings, which is an easy thing to do.

Salad dressings can be a minefield. The manufacturers of store bought dressings alternately push “low fat” dressings (which are often high in sugars and artificial ingredients) or “high fat” dressings (which are very high in calories) because they allegedly help us to absorb nutrients better. I’m a big fan of making your own salad dressings (for one of my ‘go-to’ recipes  with lots of variations please click here), but I also use something else to dress salads that you may not have thought of before - preserved chutneys and vegetable jams. They work incredibly well and its a great way to use up those jars and bottles you have hiding in your fridge. 

Here’s a recipe for a fantastic salad using one of my favourite chutneys, which will hopefully inspire you to try some delicious combinations of your own, using your favourites. This salad will serve two as a light lunch and you can make one of two variations - apple and onion chutney or apple butter with apples, or tomato jam with cherry tomatoes. I can never decide which variation I like best! And yes, I know the idea of apple butter on a salad is a little radical, but seriously, trust me on this one!

Delicious Cheese and Chutney Salad

4 cups mixed lettuces
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced (don’t peel) OR
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
about 4 generous tablespoons apple and onion chutney or apple butter (if using apples) OR tomato jam (if using cherry tomatoes)
1 cup grated vegetarian (or vegan) cheddar cheese

Toss the lettuces and cherry tomatoes or apple slices together in a large salad bowl. Divide between two plates and serve topped with the cheese and a couple spoonfuls of the chutney or apple butter (if using apple slices) or the tomato jam (if using tomatoes). Serve with a basket of hot rolls on the side if you wish.

Let this be a springboard for your own ideas with savoury preserves and chutneys - it will bring new life to your salad bowl!