Posted in baking, cakes, cooking, Food

Week 12 Part 1 – Baking special!

This week I have literally made so many new things I need to publish over two posts. So welcome to the first ever Kitchen Gems baking special! I baked three new cakes / cupcakes this week – and although my waistline isn’t thanking me, its been amazing!

Bake No 1: Coffee and Walnut Cake


Now I blame my parents for this but if I have a proper Sunday dinner I need a pudding of some sort. There is nothing more comforting than finishing a roast dinner off with something sweet. So as my chicken was roasting Nigel Slater style in the oven I had a bit of time to look around the kitchen to make something sweet. As I’m not eating chocolate for lent and I didn’t have any lemons for a lemon drizzle cake I decided on a coffee and walnut cake since Mr Gem is partial to a coffee and walnut slice.

For this recipe I turned to Delia – and you can find the recipe I used here. The basic recipe is for an all in one sponge – 4 oz Marg, 4 oz flour and 4 oz caster sugar, 1 tsp baking powder and 2 eggs. You mix all the ingredients together until it forms a smooth batter then add a tablespoon of instant coffee granules dissolved in 1.5 tablespoons of water. I also added chopped walnuts to the mix to add a bit of crunch. Then bake in the oven at 170 degrees for about 20 minutes. For the frosting I dissolved sugar in water and reduced until it became thick but before it turned into toffee, mixed the sugar syrup into two egg yolks then whisked in butter until it made a creamy mixture. Simple!

And delicious – the cake was really moist and the frosting was addictive – I literally had to leave the kitchen until the cake cooled down as I kept “testing” the cream! Mr Gem enjoyed it although I think my Mum does it better – but I’m young, I can improve!

Then my other two bakes came as a result of a bake-off at work to raise money for Sport Relief – this led to a very stressful evening on Thursday and a trip to the shops in my pyjama’s – read on!

Bake No 2 – Raspberry Ripple Cupcakes


These were so cute! I was literally beaming from ear to ear when I presented them to Mr Gem for inspection!

The recipe was from my Bakes and Cakes book. Starting with a standard cupcake recipe with a handful of crushed raspberries stirred in at the very end. You literally mix the raspberries in for about 10 seconds so that its not blended fully – this is what makes the ripple effect and the the mixture was a lovely pink colour by the time it went in the oven (I think I enjoyed making these because it was such a girlie bake!).

However it wasn’t all pink fluffiness at Kitchen Gems HQ on the evening of my mammoth bake – when the cupcakes had cooled I began to make my frosting and it’s at this point it all went horribly wrong for a time. I was meant to crush some more raspberries and then sieve them to make a puree – I don’t have a sieve (I know, I know but I never remember to buy one until I need it!) so I thought I’d add a bit of water to the crushed raspberries and pass it through some kitchen roll – which incidentally worked a treat. Whilst the raspberries were pureeing I began to whip some cream and icing sugar. Unfortunately I over whipped the cream so that when I added the puree it literally churned into raspberry flavoured cheese. I came up with a new plan to just make with a simple butter cream, of course I then realised I was out of icing sugar so had to trek to the Co-Op in my pyjamas covered in flour, looking like a maniac.

All in all through the cupcakes turned out really well and looked so pretty despite my trauma!

And finally for Week 12 Part 1:

Bake No 3 – Carrot Cupcakes


There were amazing – I could literally eat them every single day for ever and ever. The recipe was pretty much the same as a full size carrot cake – there are a number of carrot cake recipes online but the one most similar to the one I used is here. I didn’t put nuts in the cake though (because I’d run out and I couldn’t face another late night trip to the shops) and instead used mixed raisins. Again these were dead easy to make mix all your ingredients together and bake in the oven – they take about 20 – 25 mins at 180 degrees. When they come out the smell is fabulous. The best part of these cakes though was the frosting. I mixed Marscapone with orange juice and icing sugar – it was unbelievably good. Out of all of the cakes this week I’d say these were the best, so tasty and moist and so easy to make.

I may not have won the bake off at work – but then the lady who won made a white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake and frankly who could compete with that? Even with the best carrot cupcakes in the world!

So that concludes my sweet little post. My next post features the savoury dishes from week 12 – I know you should have savoury before sweet but I can never resist cake!

Posted in baking, cakes, chicken soup, coconut milk, cooking, filling food, low calorie, oats, rice

Week 9 – Malaysian Chicken Broth and Apricot Oat Bars

So I’m writing week 9 as I’m about to enter the 10th week of my 2012 challenge and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I was wandering round Asda today doing the weekly shop thinking about what I’ll be cooking this week and to my surprise I came away from the shop with my usual trolley load plus an aubergine and some trout fillets. I don’t even like aubergine and I haven’t the first idea of what to do with trout – but I’m going have to find something to do with both of them – although potentially not in the same recipe! By the end of this year I’ll have tried so many new foods that I wouldn’t have tried before and I just find that so exciting! Anyway I’ve digressed, you’ll have to come back next week to find out what I do with this weeks shopping, but read on to see how I got on in week 9! 
Apricot Oat Bars 
Try as I might I can never find an oat bar or granola bar that is quite how I want it to be. I came pretty close to one that I had on Sunday in Costa Coffee but although it was delicious it was tiny, had over 300 calories in it and I felt guilty ALL day afterwards. 
After a hard days house hunting with Mr Gem I needed to clear my head so headed to the kitchen to do some baking and come up with a recipe for an Oat Bar that I will really enjoy eating and won’t cause my waistline to expand too rapidly! 

I couldn’t find a recipe online that a) I had all the ingredients for and b) I liked the look of so after a bit of reading around I decided that the best way to make the bars would be to make a cake mix as a base and then add in my own ingredients – so instead of providing a link to somebody else’s recipe, for the first time in Kitchen Gems (albeit short) history here is how I made them:
Basic Mixture 
150g Self Raising Flour 
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
75g Soft Brown Sugar 
150g Porridge Oats 
2 eggs whisked
2 Tbsp Clear Honey
1 Tbsp Butter
Any fruit and nuts you want to use – I used 25g Walnuts, 25g Mixed Raisins and Sultanas, 25g Dried Apricots chopped up and half a banana mashed up. 
Mix the dry ingredients (including the nuts and fruit) together whilst you melt the butter in the saucepan. When all the dry ingredients are well mixed add the melted butter, eggs and honey and mix until all combined. 
Pour into a lined square baking tin and cook on 180 degrees for about 20 minutes or until firm to the touch. Done! 
I got 12 bars out of this recipe and they work out at about 150 calories each so as well as being very tasty they are filling and won’t break your calorie limit, but the best thing about these is, you can use whatever fruit and nuts you have in the store cupboard, add chocolate, yoghurt etc – they’re a really versatile snack. 
Mr Gem was quite fond of these as a snack and all 12 were gone before the week was out. I’d give these a 7.5 out of 10 – give them a whirl, I’d love to hear of any variations on the recipe that work well.
Malaysian Chicken Soup
My second new recipe for this week was a real winner. I found the recipe in Sainsburys free magazine – but I can’t find a similar recipe anywhere online. 
For two good sized portions you’ll need olive oil for frying, an onion (really thinly sliced) diced red chilli, 2 tsps lemongrass paste, 75g easy cook brown rice, 1/2 tin of light coconut milk, 600ml chicken stock 1 tbsp fish sauce, cooked chicken breast, shredded, 5 spring onions, 75g sugar snap peas cut into thin strips and a lime.
Fry the onions and chilli until softened and then add the lemongrass paste and stir til the onion and chilli are coated in it. Add the rice, stock and coconut milk and bring to the boil, turn down the heat and let simmer for about 20 – 25 mins. Add the chicken, spring onions and sugarsnaps and heat through for another 5 mins. Squeeze half a lime into the sauce and mix. Divide the soup between 2 bowls and serve imediately. 
It was a really fresh and flavoursome soup but with the rice and chicken it was so filling. 
This was a definite winner in the Kitchen Gems household, Mr Gem has already requested it again soon! Its also another meal that is so satisfying without being highly calorific – just 418 calories per serving. I’d give this meal 8.5 out of 10, simple but effective.