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Delicious and easy to make quesadillas and guacamole

Hello fellow bloggers and readers over here on Leanne’s blog!  This is A from Taxi20, a foodie-oddity-decor-history multifaceted blog (find us here: http://taxidermy20thcentury.wordpress.com/ ), and I’ve been invited here to give to you a tasty alternative to the regular posts here. Having lived in America for some time, I’ve collected some delicious American and Mexican style dishes that are a quick and easy fix for hungry mouths. The best part? This specific dish can be made from a variety of leftovers, making it the perfect lunch or light dinner alternative.  Let’s start with the centre of the meal: Basic Quesadillas.

A very Tex-Mex American dish, don’t be too shy to try this out.  Get yourself some leftover meat and “flour tortillas.”  Although most any type will work, these seem to be the easiest to get your hands on, especially if you’re across the pond where these ingredients may be a little sparser. On a skillet or in a large pan, heat the tortilla. Cover one half in cheese, such as a preshredded Mexican Assortment or similar orange cheese. Don’t choose anything too pungent your first time.  Place slices of chicken, beef, pork, or seafood over the cheese, and garnish with hot toppings, ones that can stand the heat of the skillet.  These may include lime juice, salsa, chipotle sauce, tomatoes, green onions, etc.

Using a spatula, take the uncovered side of the tortilla and flip it to enclose the chicken and cheese.  Press firmly to “glue” the hot cheese to the other side of the tortilla, flip the entire quesadilla, and cook until slightly browning or hot all the way through.  Then, remove from the skillet, chop into 3 triangles from a central point along the flat edge, and garnish again with cold toppings, such as arugula, sour cream, pine fruits, lettuce, etc.  This makes 1 portion.  Repeat according to individual tastes.  For an alternative style, use chicken, mozzarella, basil, and lemon juice.

Next is Classic Guacamole.  This side dish is a particular favourite of American West-Coasters, and in-season avocados are becoming much easier to locate and identify. When in the store, select several (2 avocados feeds 3 people) dark green, slightly soft avocados.  If they are all hard, take some and feel them every few days.  Once they feel ripe, cut them in half with a knife and spoon out the pit. Using the same spoon, scoop out all tasty green fruit from the vegetable, omitting any dark bruises.  Smash the avocado into a rough paste using the spoon.  Some people prefer creamier guacamole, while others prefer less ripe, chunkier guacamole.  The guacamole shown here is very creamy.

Next, dice a tomato and some cilantro or green onions and throw them in.  You may want to mince garlic and add it too, if your avocados are not very flavourful. Sprinkle salt and pepper, or, if you can get your hands on it,  Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.  Squeeze a lime over the top and mix with that same spoon.  Serve in a small bowl with tortilla chips.

And finally, something for just the adults.  Having taken up so much of your time, I’m going to redirect you to Martha Stewart for this one: http://www.marthastewart.com/334097/wat … margaritas

Whether you’re entertaining for friends or in need of a light, tasty lunch, try out this exotic combo next time you’re lost for some new ideas!  If you like what you’ve tried, check out my own blog and have a great time hunting for new recipes!  Cheers!

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Growing our own (so we can eat our own)

It was such a sunny day today that I couldn’t resist getting outside and planting vegetable seeds with my daughter.  

I wish I had the skill, time, inclination, space and weather to grow all the vegetables we eat ourselves, but I’ll just have to make do with growing a few of our favourites.  

I’ve still got courgette, tomato and lettuce seeds from a couple of years’ ago so we’ve started off with those to see if they germinate.  I also want to get basil, cucumber and pepper seeds to give them a go too.  I think we might be a bit late for potatoes – but I really love growing them as it’s so satisfying when you harvest them 🙂

We haven’t got a very large garden so I am planning on growing the veggies in pots rather than in the ground.  I’m hoping this might deter the slugs too!

So here is propagator number one ready to go into the cold frame.  

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I find it amazing that a tray of seeds in soil will (hopefully) turn into loads of tomato, courgette and lettuce plants!

As you can imagine, a 22 month old only has a short attention span so she soon got fed up and we played with boxes instead … can you spot her?!

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I’ll let you know how the vegetables (although I just realised that tomatoes are officially a fruit!) come along.

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One month of tasty blogging

I just realised its been exactly one month since my friend Zoe (www.mummykins.co.uk) introduced me to the world of blogging. And I am well and truly hooked!

I’ve been reading so many blogs written by so many interesting people all over the world. I still find it amazing when I get an alert saying a new person is following mine. I think, “really, that person wants to read what I write!”. It’s such a great community to belong to!

It’s a week for marking important milestones this week as it’s also my birthday this Sunday.

I have been wondering if anyone will be making me a cake. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am some sort of high maintenance, ‘it’s all about me’ diva who expects this kind of thing from friends and family. It’s just that as my 2012 mission is to bake cakes for all my close family and friends for their birthdays, I’m somewhat worried they might all take it upon themselves to return the favour and I’ll have a dozen cakes to eat!!

Mind you, would that be so bad!? I can hear the scales shouting at me already, “don’t do it”!! If anyone has a great low fat cake recipe please let me know 🙂

I have a feeling my second month of blogging may be dedicated to salad recipes …

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Mother’s Day Cupcakes

As I continue my 2012 mission of baking cakes for all my close family and friend’s birthdays, baby showers, special events, etc. I mustn’t forget my lovely mum and lovely mum-in-law for Mother’s Day tomorrow.

I seem to be making a lot of cupcakes lately, I just love decorating them and practising my piping skills!  So I’ve made two very different types of cupcake to cater for each mum’s taste.

As we were seeing my husband’s mum today, I made her cupcakes first.  I used a Mary Berry recipe, but adapted it to put chocolate chips in the cake mix and used dairy free spread instead of butter and soya milk.

Ingredients:

100g softened butter

150g self raising flour

150g caster sugar

3 tablespoons milk

2 large eggs

half tsp vanilla extract

2 handfuls of milk chocolate chips

For the icing:

100g softened butter

200g sifted icing sugar

25g cocoa powder

chocolate chips/other swirls etc to decorate

1) Pre-heat oven to 180°C.  Put muffin cases into a 12 hole muffin tin.

2) Measure all cupcake ingredients into large bowl and beat until blended and smooth.  Spoon evenly between paper cases.

3) Bake in pre-heated oven for 20-25 mins.  Make sure completely cold before icing.

4) For butter icing, beat together all ingredients for thick, creamy icing.  Pipe or smooth over cupcakes and add decorations.

Here are my finished articles!

The chocolate chips made the cake really indulgent with all the chocolate butter icing too – just what my mother-in-law loves!

I used the free cake stand you get with this lovely new magazine – I wish I could afford to subscribe to receive this each week but will just stick to buying it once a month or so!

The next cakes I made today are ready for my mum tomorrow.  They are apple crumble cupcakes.  I saw this recipe on a friend’s blog and thought they looked delicious.  My mum loves apple crumble so I thought these would be perfect.

You can find a brilliant step by step guide of how to make this on my friend’s blog here which I found really clear and easy to follow.  I used non-dairy butter and milk, and had to add a bit more flour to the crumble topping due to the slightly wetter consistency of sunflower spread.

Here they are:

They’re so delicious with the fruity texture inside and the crumble topping.

It’s a bit unfair that I won’t be getting cakes made for me on Mother’s Day (unless my 22 month old daughter suddenly becomes a baking prodigy!) but I’ve already eaten one of each kind I made – just to check they tasted ok, so that will have to do!

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Hey Pesto

As spring has sprung and the weather is so sunny at the moment, it’s time to start making one of my favourite dishes again: bruschetta.

It may be just a personal thing, but I feel the fresh, crisp flav0ur of bruschetta is more suited to warm weather than cold, rainy days.

I’ve only gone as far as buying a basil plant and making the key ingredient so far – green pesto.

I used to buy pesto from the supermarket, but a) it’s fairly expensive and you don’t usually need a whole jar at a time so you end up wasting some; b) my husband and I are intolerant to cheese so the parmesan is an issue for us; and c) making it yourself makes the flavour so fresh and delicious.

The ingredients are very simple:

3 garlic cloves (or more or less according to taste)

handful of pine nuts

1 tbsp olive oil

15 large-ish basil leaves

salt and pepper to season

then you just throw them all into a food processor and – as I punned nicely in the title of the post – hey pesto!  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

I’m planning on making bruschetta at the weekend so the pesto’s all ready for action.  I’ll chop up lots of cherry tomatoes and red onion, place them on top of toasted ciabatta, spoon the pesto on top then drizzle some balsamic vinegar.

I made the pesto yesterday because I used a couple of spoonfuls on home made pizza – it added a really nice flavour when sprinkled on top of the chicken and vegetables.  Not really as satisfying as melted cheese on a pizza, but it was delicious nevertheless.

I also use it as a stir through sauce with pasta for a quick meal.

Once I know the frosts are definitely over, I’m going to plant some basil seeds in pots in the garden.  I love the smell of basil!  A couple of years’ ago my husband and I grew some but it had a lemon flavour which I found a bit too sweet-smelling and tasting so we’ll go for ‘normal’ basil this time.

My daughter has just started to like cherry tomatoes so I’m hoping she’ll learn to love bruschetta as much as my husband and I do … it’ll be her first time trying it this weekend, wish me luck!

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No cows allowed

My husband has just drawn my attention to something I’ve forgotten to mention so far in my recipe posts … none of them contain ‘actual’ milk.  So I thought that might be worth writing about.

I suffer from various food intolerance and my husband’s stomach can’t seem to tolerate any dairy products so we use alternatives in our every day lives: soya milk and vitalite are the main ones.

Most people turn their noses up at soya milk, but it’s usually because they’ve had the sweetened type rather than the non-sweetened.  We like any supermarket branded value/smart price ‘Unsweetened Soya’ at 59p a litre.  You can stock pile it in your cupboards and never run out!  And it has plenty of calcium and vitamin D so your bones will be happy too 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my Dolce Gusto coffee machine which uses cow’s milk, and a hot piece of toast with real butter on top is delicious (even if it gives me a rash!), but for cooking purposes – whether it’s for cakes or white sauce for lasagne – vitalite or dairy free sunflower spread works just as well.  I use it to grease the cake tins and for the ingredients themselves.  I guess butter icing should be called ‘vitalite icing’ in our house!

So if you look back at my 5 recipes so far, whenever I’ve listed milk or butter, I’ve always substituted them for the soya or sunflower alternative and the results are just as delicious.

When I’ve made birthday cakes for friends and I know we are going to be eating some of the cake with them, I don’t tell them it’s dairy free until they’ve eaten a slice – they always say they never would have known as there’s no difference at all in the flavour or texture of the cake.

When we first started using soya milk I was frightened that I’d never be able to have my favourite yorkshire puddings any more as I didn’t think soya milk would work the same magic as cow’s milk – making them rise and go crispy on the top yet be nice and stodgy at the bottom.  How wrong I was: just look at this picture of when I made us a roast dinner last Sunday:

A trick I learned from a friend of mine is to use a deep muffin tray.  This seems to keep them stodgy.  And they rose really well – always have a very hot oven and use very hot oil my husband’s always telling me.  I’d better not put the rest of my husband’s Yorkshire pudding tips or he’ll tell me off for giving away his family secrets!  I don’t think generations in the past would ever have used soya milk but it really works if you can’t tolerate milk.

I hope this post is useful both to those who struggle with dairy products like us; and for those who are lucky enough to eat everything with no problems, this may be helpful if you have any ‘dairy intolerant’ friends or family if you never know what to make for them when they come over for dinner.  The answer is to make exactly the same as you, just with a couple of alternative ingredients, safe in the knowledge they’ll work the same way as the real thing.

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Party cupcake time

My best friend and her husband often have parties/gatherings/soirees at their house and always provide lots of delicious nibbles for us all. So instead of ‘bringing a bottle’ I decided to bring some cakes. I dipped into my new Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book and found these indulgent looking chocolate cupcakes too tempting to ignore.

These are very rich and went down very well at the party! In fact, my best friend is coming over this weekend so we can make them together as she liked them so much 🙂

Ingredients for the sponge:

80g unsalted butter

280g caster sugar

200g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

1tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

240ml whole milk

2 large eggs

Ingredients for the frosting:

400g icing sugar

100g cocoa powder (I only used 50g as thought 100g was a bit excessive!)

160g unsalted butter

50ml whole milk

Chocolate stars, sprinkles, shavings etc to decorate

Instructions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 190° C and line a muffin tin with muffin cases

2) Put the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric mixer) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

3) Whisk the milk and eggs together in a bowl then slowly pour 3/4 of this mixture into the flour mixture, beat on medium speed to combine, and add the remaining liquid mixture in continuing to beat at medium speed to get rid of any lumps but do not over-mix.
4) Spoon the batter into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted into the center should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
5) To make the chocolate frosting, whisk the icing sugar with the cocoa powder and butter on low speed until the mixture is a sandy consistency. Pour in the milk, then increase to high speed until soft and fluffy.
6) When the cupcakes are cold, pipe or spoon the chocolate frosting on top and decorate with sprinkles.
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