Sunday, March 10, 2013

Egg Free Biscuits

Looking for something to prepare for my (egg allergic) son, I came across a recipe that is as easy and tasty as can be.

These biscuits remind me of pasticcini, a kind of biscuit in Italy is usually served with coffee after a Sunday meal.

All together, it takes around 1 hour of time, and if you make the dough and then don't have time to bake, not a problem.


200 grams of flour
200 grams of soft cheese (such as Philadelphia)
100 grams of vegetable spread or butter
4 grams of dried yeast
a bit of jam

Work together, in a mixing bowl, the soft cheese, the vegetable spread, the flour and the yeast. You will obtain a ball of sticky soft dough which has to be wrapped in cling film and placed in the fridge.

Let the dough rest in the fridge for as little as 30 minutes or as long as 2 days. When you are ready to bake, turn on the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and take the dough out of the fridge.

With a rolling pin, evenly work the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut out your biscuits.

You should aim for a 3 millimeters thickness.

Move the cot outs on to a sheet of baking paper and add the jam on the top of each biscuit.

Place the biscuits in the oven for about 20 minutes. They will be  light and yummy :)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Oil Bread, or the soft dough bread

Bread, the staple food that we used to buy at the "end of the day" reductions. Problem is, is full of anti fungal, alcohol, weird kind of fats and other stuff you would not really want to eat, I think.
Now, I bake my own bread in the electric oven, and we always have it in the house to accompany our meals.
The recipe I use now will give you an elastic dough that is easily stretched to make focaccia, which is a kind of pizza, filled with mozzarella and ham, usually, and covered with another layer of dough. It is lovely to eat, it keeps for a few days and is good eaten hot or cold. My husband takes it to work for his lunch almost every day.
Now for the recipe and procedure.


500 grams of plain flour
300 ml of water
60 ml of olive oil
1 sachet of dried yeast
salt to taste

Mix everything together, adding nuts, olives, turmeric, anything you fancy really in your bread. Or just stick to the basic and enjoy :)

I let the bread-maker do this part of the work for me, I've already said my bread machine is worth her weight in gold and I'm not exaggerating.

Anyway, once you have a nice soft ball, place it in a bowl and cover it with a clean tea towel. I place it then in the cold oven, so it is away from temperature change that may occur in the kitchen.

After about 2 hours you will see the ball has almost doubled in size and so is ready to be baked. Take olive oil and brush your loaf with it. Now, if you are lucky enough to own a cast iron pot, place it in the pot with the lid on and in the oven. 

Switch the oven on to 200 degrees Celsius and let cook for about 30 minutes, or until you see the crust is starting to form.
At this stage, take the loaf out of the pot and place it on the oven rack and let cook until you are satisfied with the crust outside.
And here it is:
Baking your own bread will save you about 30% on the shop bought one, and most important, will spare your body the added crap ;)

Sweet and Sour Sauce

Chinese... we love Chinese! My only problem is the Mono sodium Glutamate, or MSG, abundant in all Chinese food we can purchase at any take-away.
I wrote about this scary "ingredient" before, here. I have since learned how to make at home two of our favorite sauces, the Lemon Sauce, and the Sweet and Sour sauce. They have entered now our regular menu and my son jumps around and celebrates every time I make it :) He is an easy please child, I admit it!

Now, the Sweet and Sour sauce I've made many times, hence I have found a beautiful balance with the ingredients to make it just as we like it best.


60 grams of tomato sauce

200 grams of water
120 grams of white vinegar (I've used the Apple vinegar and the Pineapple vinegar I made myself)
90 grams of sugar, possibly brown
1 tablespoon of corn starch, not essential but it will thicken the sauce if you like
1 slice of pineapple if you have, cut in small chunks, it gives it a superb twist

There are no pictures for this because it's so easy to make.

Add all the ingredients to a small pot and bring to the boil. Turn the heat to a minimum and simmer for 10-15 minutes.


Rice Krispies "Bars"

Wondering the aisles of a supermarket, I see so many "products" ready made, full of sugar and preservatives that, inevitably, damage our bodies (and I believe our souls as well).
Having a child in school age, means everyday I must fill his snack box with... something!
I used to buy for him the puffed rice bars, more than 3 Euro for a pack of six. Money is not the issue here, but reading the ingredients label I was quite amazed. They are supposed to be made with rice krispies and chocolate, but the ingredients list goes on and on... That's not good.

So yesterday I made my own puffed rice bars. The result was very good, although I will need to increase the chocolate part so the rice can stick together.

200 grams of chocolate: white, milk or black depending on your taste
50 grams of butter: it can be replaced with vegetable spread as well
125 grams of puffed rice
3 tablespoons of honey

Melt separately the butter and the chocolate.
To the melted chocolate, add the honey, then the butter.
 In a large bowl, mix the puffed rice with the melted mixture and make sure it is evenly distributed.
Place everything in a tray lined with oven paper and level with a spatula or a spoon. I have added some coating sugar on top, because my son loves it, but it is not essential.
Place the tray in the fridge for a few hours and then cut out the bars with a good knife.

This is what mine look like, cut and wrapped in film:
Today is test day, my son took one of them to school along with other things... Let's see if he will eat it ;)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New Life

I have not touched this blog for a very long time. I've missed it, I must say. We have a new baby, a girl. I am happy and all my energy and time I dedicate to my children. But I miss writing, I miss having the time to do something just for myself :)

Well, in the last 3 months I've gone through a lot, emotionally speaking. We were told we were going to have another boy, and I was really really happy about that. But I must confess, when I saw my little girl emerge from behind the curtain in the surgery room, I was overwhelmed, I felt over the moon. We now have a wonderful 5 year old boy and a little girl of 3 months. They are everything to me and I am focusing on their well being from the moment I wake up until I go to bed in the evening. As any other parent in the world does :)

I have not stopped cooking for a minute, I have been trying many new things and I want to share these new recipes on the blog as soon as possible.

My son liked the sausage rolls some dear friends brought here one day, so I made him something similar the very next day. That means I've learned to make a sort of puff pastry, it's a version that only takes 5 minutes to prepare and needs to sit in the fridge for 2 hours. It was my first try at puff pastry, while everyone tried to scare me away from it! The results were amazing and today I will make a lighter version of it, substituting the butter with a vegetable spread.

I have finally managed to get my hands on a cast iron pot, it was on good offer at a supermarket and I just could not miss the opportunity to have it for less than half the normal price. I bought it mainly for one reason: baking bread!!! It is a magical pot, because it turns my electric oven into a real oven where the bread cooks slowly and does not dry too much. I've baked bread loafs since I got the pot and I've added to it seeds and nuts of all kinds, olives, turmeric powder... My creativity is exploring all the possibilities and I really want to share the recipe for this wonderful bread as soon as I can.

My mother, 2000 kilometers away, saw the picture and immediately inquired about the pot :) This week I'll buy another one for her and take it with me when we will go visit them in less than 20 days. I am amazed that I will be teaching her how to make that bread loaf.

I've also been making marmalade, or better, jam. Every time I had some fruit too ripe to eat raw I turned it into a jar of sweet goodness. It's easier than I thought and I froze the extra jars to make sure they do not go bad. There is no artificial preservatives in my jam, such as pectin: only sugar, fruit and a secret ingredient that gives it a completely unexpected twist.

Let's say my main efforts have gone towards the baking, lately, as I bought a bread machine that is worth her weight in gold: she will make the dough and I turn it into pizza, bread, focaccia, panini rolls and the like.

This post is just an update to myself, mainly, to look back a few months and see all the important things accomplished so far and the new challenges ahead. I just want to remind myself to take 5 minutes for me every now and then and write. It's my medicine for the soul and it makes me feel good.

The little one is already 3 months old, I cannot believe it. My son will be 6 years old in no time and I look back these years and I say to myself: wow! you've come a long way!

The changes that happened in my life thought me a lot and I am grateful I have been able to adapt to all the good and bad things life threw in my direction. I can't wait to start cooking for this new baby too! And that is something I would never have imagined myself doing only 7 or 8 years ago.

She is so much part of this family already, she will happily sit in her baby chair and just look at us moving about all day. When we eat, she will be in her chair, "talking" to us. We are now a complete family, we will not have any more children for many reasons and I am loving each and every second of this slow, strange life I am living at present, where my whole world starts and ends in my house, with plenty of things to do, nappies to change, bottles to boil, meals to imagine and prepare, homework to do.

I am grateful for all I have, I believe we all build our lives with our actions and decisions, even with the wrong ones.

This is a promise to myself to get back to writing, one way or the other. This is a pin pointed on my imaginary board reminding me to make room in the daily routines for me, me and me.