I’m Still Baking!

Hello Cakers Bakers & Beauties!

With all of this hair and travel talk you would be forgiven for thinking that I’m not baking anymore,  I am ALWAYS baking…lol

I just don’t always remember to take photos or blog about everything I cook, life has been so hectic lately…Arghhhh!

This weekend I remembered to take a few pics before everything got eaten and it was too late…

Friday night I made a pizza from scratch, we used to get a takeaway every Friday but it’s a waste of money and most of the time it doesn’t even taste that nice. We live 3 minutes away from an amazing Italian deli so I was able to pick up authentic ingredients on my way home from work.

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My Mum also asked me to make her a Banoffee Pie, these requests come about every couple of months and it’s a bother dragging my pie tin around London, so I bought a stack of disposable pie tins from Lakeland, I’ll leave the stack at my Parents’ house so I can just rock up and bake on demand. I made the base with crushed biscuits, butter oats and sunflower seeds, it had a fantastic texture…Yummy!

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I forget to take a pic when it was whole, sorry!

Last week my dear friend CeCe had her 4th baby, I wasn’t able to attend the baby shower as it was the day before my birthday and I was in Vegas so I promised myself I would go and see her while the little bubba was still tiny. I decided to make my own “congratulations it’s a girl” gift, I saw some gorgeous baby socks with a touch of sparkle, one foot has “little” on the sole and the other one has “princess” on the sole, so adorable. I made a balloon bouquet from assorted pink balloons in my decorations box, pink hydrangeas from my garden and the first lily that bloomed in my garden this summer.

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I actually made 12 cupcakes because I wanted to try different toppings and piping effects.

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Then I picked the best 6 to bring to CeCe and her family of 6 (including CeCe and partner.)

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For some reason I decided to be “clever” and I cycled from London Bridge to Croydon on my “new” bicycle to deliver this gift package. I got into a spot of trouble along my way and every single cupcake got flipped upside-down! Luckily nothing else got damaged including me, the balloons and my beloved bike!

CeCe loved her gifts and the cupcakes were still delicious!

Thanks for reading.

Luv

Sian

x

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Birthday Holiday Part 1. New Orleans – Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Hello My Cakers Bakers and Beauties!

This is the first post about the (birthday holiday) I took with my Husband to the United States in May 2014-  we went to 4 different cities/towns in 3 different States, so since I’m prone to writing long posts anyway I decided to split the trip into 3 posts and try to keep each post relatively short and sweet. *Someone* forgot to bring the memory card for our proper camera and decided not to buy one while we were away so all of my photos/videos were taken on my Samsung Galaxy S4. I would apologise for the picture quality but I think that my little phone did really well!

I know that the title of this post is not grammatically correct, “proper French”, it is Cajun French phrase which has been literally translated from the English  “Let the Good Times Roll!”

In this case “roll” is quite literal…

If you haven’t figured it out already our first stop was the Crescent City  aka New Orleans!

We arrived in the dead of night and the first thing that hit us was the heat and humidity, I wasn’t complaining though!

For the duration of this holiday my Husband (who shall be also referred to as “H”or “Hubby”) happened to be in a wheelchair, a manual collapsible wheelchair that he was not able to operate alone which meant that I was pushing him in the wheelchair for the majority of the time.

We stayed in the Crowne Plaza Astor Hotel on Canal St which is on the edge of the famous French Quarter,  the hotel is actually on the corner of Canal/Bourbon street so we had an interesting view in the evenings from the balcony in the hotel.

View from hotel balcony

View from hotel balcony

On our first full day in N’awlins we discovered that the French Quarter is not really wheelchair accessible, the paving is atrocious! The Paving slabs are not at an even height and in some places the paving slabs were not present! Instead there were large holes full of broken glass and murky liquid from the previous night’s activities, it was very, very difficult for us to navigate the streets of the French Quarter and we often had to cross the street because of hazards and obstacles on our side of the street, on Bourbon St particularly we had to cross back and forth about 12 times, because of this we did not experience any of the night life the FQ has to offer, the pavements and roads get very crowded with rowdy and often roaring drunk tipsy tourists at night so we decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle.

Despite only venturing out during the day we had an amazing time in New Orleans and we will definitely be going back.

Just in case you are new to my blog I have to mention that I  love food, not just baked goods but practically everything (except cheese)

Without further ado I present to you a small selection of the best food we ate in NOLA (New Orleans, LouisianA) and some of the places we visited during our 3 day stop over.

We had beignets and chocolate milk/ Café au lait in Café du Monde on Decatur Street,

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I was enjoying my choccy milk until… I read the ingredients and discovered it had High Fructose Corn Syrup in it, I can’t get into why HFCS is so bad for you but Google it if you don’t believe me. HFCS is evil and I avoid it like the plague.

We listened to live Jazz in Jackson Square.

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We visited St Louis Cathedral  the oldest (active) Cathedral in North America,

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We went on the Riverside Walk beside the Mississippi River

 (This was the most accessible part of the FQ the paving was smooth and even)

The Mighty Mississippi

The Mighty Mississippi

Frozen Chocolate dipped Bananas from a street vendor. Yummy!

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We ate a Seafood Platter at Deanie’s Seafood and had cocktails including NOLA’s most famous cocktail, the Hurricane.

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I wanted it grilled, hubby wanted it fried – guess who won? At least I got my veggies even though they were not even on the menu & I had to make a special order!

My "Ice Cream Martini" to the left Hubby's "Hurricane" to the right.

My “Ice Cream Martini” to the left Hubby’s “Hurricane” to the right.

Crawfish Boil! @ The Original French Market Restaurant and Bar,  the ground floor is accessible but the toilets are on 3rd floor !!!(another Hurricane – this one was better I suspect the Deanies one had HFCS & E numbers in it!)

We did try to shop in the actual French Market but I was disappointed in the stalls. On the 3 separate occasions we visited the market not one vendor was selling locally made/crafted souvenirs, everything was made in China or other Asian countries,  I have nothing against China and when I visit there I will be happy to purchase souvenirs made there.

So tasty, boiled in a seasoned and peppery hot base.

So tasty, boiled in a seasoned and peppery hot base.

We also visited the beautiful and historic Louis Armstong Park,

the park was also wheelchair accessible with lots of smooth flat surfaces but there was also a lot of gravel.

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PicMonkey Collage

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We also took the streetcar out of the FQ to the Garden District, the streetcar wasn’t really accessible at all, but H could walk a little bit so the streetcar operators helped me fold the wheelchair and stow it behind the driver’s seat.

The streetcars were quite  slow, obviously I know they are old and I think they are mainly for tourists (kind of like the Emirates cable car in London) because they don’t seem an efficient mode of public transport at all, especially as there are buses everywhere that travel much faster.

If I thought the paving in FQ was bad, Magazine street in the Garden District was even worse, there are a lot of old trees in the GD and the trees roots cause the paving slabs to break up and become uneven and quite frankly dangerous I saw many able-bodied people tripping up on this “crazy paving”  even the dropped curbs were useless as they had been raised by tree roots, I mainly ended up pushing the wheelchair in the road. Yes we could have taken Taxis everywhere but I love walking, pushing the wheelchair was great exercise for me and we were able to spend more money on FOOD!

Lunch at the Rum House

PicMonkey Collage (2)

To be honest our trip to the GD was a bit of a waste of time, yes the lunch was nice but none of the shops/restaurants were immediately accessible, they all had narrow doors and you had to step up or down into the establishments, very few of the places had portable ramps but I had to leave my husband outside in the baking hot sun and go inside the shop to ask if they had a ramp and it felt like such a long process just for a bit of window shopping, if a sales assistant took the hassle to drag the ramp out I felt really bad for not buying anything. Of the few places that had portable ramps we always had to use the side/back/service entrance which really made me feel like we were 2nd class citizens.

I did find a lovely shop called Fleurty Girl which was full of locally made garments and items designed by locals,                                     so I bought his/hers New Orleans t-shirts mine has a design that was  a doodle from a napkin and H’s shirt is a voodoo skull which includes  a lot of  NOLA imagery including the po’boy (sandwich), streetcar, voodoo symbols, fleur de lis, crawfish, alligators, oysters, and many more.

Thanks to hubby for modelling, you can't see my design properly when I'm wearing it.

Thanks to hubby for modelling, you can’t see my design properly when I’m wearing it.

All in all we really enjoyed our time in NOLA despite most of the city not being wheelchair friendly. This was not the first time I’ve visited “The South”  but NOLA has it’s own unique charm and style, for the most part the natives of the city were friendly and helpful. We even met a retired guide called Dave who gave us a map and instructions on how to experience the best parts of the city cheaply/free, we didn’t get to do half the things Dave suggested but we still have that map and we will bring it with us next time.

In many ways New Orleans reminds me of the Caribbean, there is a laid back – easy going vibe, local music is ALWAYS playing when you’re out and about, the people and food are a delicious melting-pot of Cultures and Ethnicities and of course the hot and humid weather.

The Crescent City has much more for us to discover, there was so much local food we didn’t get to try like muffalettas, po’boys, gumbo, jambalaya and anything with gator in it. There are also many, many things we didn’t experience, horse and carriage tours, steamboat rides, cemetery tours and so on.

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I’d also like to learn more about Voodoo (‘Voudou’ is the preferred spelling of some) and Spiritual side of the city but I understand that many aspects of Voodoo have been appropriated by store keepers looking to make a quick buck from gullible tourists looking for love potions and fake “Voodoo Dolls”. Voodoo is a religion and  should be respected in the same way that people respect Christianity, Islam and other “Major” religions. Having Jamaican ancestry I know a bit about Obeah and Myal other Religions that have some similarities to Voodoo and Hoodoo beliefs and practices. Contrary to popular belief Voodoo isn’t a cult, black magic or worship of the Christian devil.

People who practice Voodoo are not witchdoctors, sorcerers or occultists. Voodoo isn’t a practice intended to hurt or control others.

Unfortunately Racism clouds people’s view of Voodoo, it is rooted in slavery and intricately connected to political and social evolution. Voodoo was first practised in America and the Caribbean by slaves of African descent, whose culture was both feared and ridiculed. Slaves were not considered fully human. Their religion was dismissed as superstition, their priests were denigrated as witchdoctors, their Gods and Spirits were denounced as evil. As usual people fear what they do not understand.

Mosaic on the floor of a corner shop

Mosaic on the floor of a corner shop

Anyway as per usual I’ve gone off on a tangent and this post has ended up being way too long, please forgive my digression…

 Until next time don’t forget to Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Our next stop is Las Vegas, I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed putting it together, it has taken a week to get this post up!

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Thanks for reading, Luv Sian x

Sources: The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook by Kenaz Filan (btw a very interesting read)

             What is Voodoo? Understanding a Misunderstood Religion – Article by Saumya Arya Haas on HuffingtonPost.com

 

Crystallised Ginger -Easy Recipe no Thermometer needed.

Hello my Cakers Bakers and Beauties.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, (if you celebrated it in any way) and Heri Za Kwanzaa!

Today’s Principle is : Kujichagalia (Self-Determination) -To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Now on to the recipe!

I made this Crystallised Ginger as a present for my Grandad, he really enjoys Crystallised Ginger and every year some one in the family buys some for him, but this year I decided to make it myself!

This recipe is so easy, you don’t even need a set of scales or a sugar thermometer. I know some people think that making sweets is hard or complicated and some recipes are, but trust me this one is very simple and worth the time and effort, plus Ginger is really good for you, even though it’s going to be covered in sugar you still get the healthy benefits. Ginger is known as a natural treatment/cure for nausea, loss of appetite, flatulence, motion sickness and stomach upset. Personally I have used it to help with my frequent chest infections, coughs and colds. Ginger has also been known to help ease the symptoms of arthritis, menstrual cramps and muscle pain.

Disclaimer: I am not a Healer, a Doctor, a Herbalist or anything like that, I’m not telling you to eat Ginger instead of going to your GP or Physician, I’m just letting you know that it has helped me and people around me with the above issues.

Ginger is Yummy and that is why you should try this recipe.

All you need is:

Fresh Ginger

Chopping Board

Sharp Knife

Spoon

Sugar (or crystallised sugar substitute such as Xylitol)

Large Saucepan

Water

Measuring Jug

Wire Rack

Large plate or bowl

1. Buy fresh ginger. The roots should be firm. I froze my ginger first, it makes it easier to peel and cut up but you don’t have to freeze yours, you can do it from room temperature or chilled, up to you.

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2. Peel the ginger. It’s easier if you use the side of a spoon to scrape the peel away and you don’t waste any ginger going around the knobbly bits.

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3. Chop the ginger–in chunks or slices, it’s totally up to you. I cut mine into different sized chunks that way the heat would be different in each piece.

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4. Put the ginger in a saucepan. Use the measuring jug to measure the amount of water you put in. Put in enough water to cover the ginger.

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5. Put an equal amount of sugar in the pan, literally add the sugar to the same level the water was in the measuring jug – that’s why you needed to measure the water you added.

6. Boil for 45 minutes or so. The ginger will shrink at bit and deepen in colour as it cooks, mine deepened a lot as I used half Muscavado Sugar and half Golden Caster Sugar. Keep an eye on your Gingery goodness as it can boil over if left alone, also it will be very very hot once the sugar/water starts boiling.

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7. Drain the syrup off the ginger. Save the syrup! It’s very hot, but once it’s cooled down you can use it for so many things, alcoholic or non alcoholic ginger beer, pancakes, fruit salads, cocktails, ginger tea, cakes, etc.

8. Lay the hot ginger pieces onto a wire rack and let it dry for several hours or overnight. Make sure the pieces aren’t touching as they dry.

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9. Once your ginger is dry (it will not be bone dry it will still be slightly sticky) put some more sugar in a bowl or on a plate and toss the ginger pieces in the sugar. Mine was still too wet the first time round so I had to lay them out to dry again.)

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Once they are dry you can eat them or store them in an air tight container.

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Luv

Sian

X

Grandma Shelia’s Rhubarb Meringue Pie!

Hello My Lovelies!

This is a post about one of  my favourite desserts Rhubarb Meringue Pie, this is my English Grandma’s recipe and I can’t give the recipe to you…. sorry it’s a family secret 😉

This rhubarb came from my Parent’s garden, but you can buy it in the supermarket and from grocers.

I will share the method and ingredients with you, if you are a keen baker you can probably work it out…

SONY DSCThese are the only ingredients…

SONY DSC Wash & chop the rhubarbSONY DSC Scald the rhubarb, before cooking it gently

Crush your biscuits and then mix with melted butter.

Crush your biscuits and then mix with melted butter.

SONY DSC press the moist mix into your tinSONY DSC  Prepare your meringue toppingSONY DSC

Layer your rhubarb on top of the buttery biscuit base, then spread your meringue on top, use a knife or a spoon to create swirled patterns and extra crispy bits!

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Bake in a moderate oven until it’s golden brown and crunchy on top, delicious!

If you like Lemon Meringue pie you have to try this, there are plenty of recipes on line and in cookery books and it’s really easy to do.

Happy Baking!

Luv

Sian

xxx