Thirty before 30: Update

It’s been a while since I started 30 before 30 and I’ve recently been asked how it’s going so I thought I’d write a quick update.
It’s fair to say I haven’t achieved anything from the list in full yet but I have at least started the following:
*Learn how to make cocktails – I’ve got a couple of cocktail recipe books and I’m being sent some very cool cocktail equipment from Vacu Vin so after that I’ll be set to go!
*Write a book – Actually I have three on the go at the moment! I still have my NaNoWriMo novel that I’m working on, plus I have two ‘lifestyle’ books started. Now I just need to make a bit more progress…
*Be vegetarian for a month – I have decided to do this in May and have already planned most of the recipes I will be trying out. Far too organised…
*Make an item of clothing – I’m going to keep this one under wraps for a little while longer but I know what I’m making and I’m currently sourcing the right fabric :)
*Watch all of the Star Wars films – Yesterday I watched The Phantom Menace (and dare I say, enjoyed it :S) and I’ve already got Attack of the Clones on DVD ready to watch next. Controversially I’m watching them numerically in order rather than chronologically.
*Finish all the books on my bookshelf – Last week I took a week off from reading but I’m doing well on this front and have read 3 books already. I’m trying to get into a routine of reading every night for around 45mins.
*Restore something vintage – I struggled to find something to begin with and had my heart set on a fabric screen that I wanted to re-cover but it was so big I would have nowhere to put it :( I also thought about clothing, furniture and jewellery boxes before I found two piece of jewellery that needed some work; a pin from the 1930’s and a ring from the 1960’s. Both are quite dark and need stones replacing and the pin needs the clasp replacing so I may turn it into a hair barrette. Currently I’m sourcing some stones and hope to have this one ticked off fairly soon!
So that’s my update for now. How are you getting on with your goals for 2012? Are you still keeping up with your new years resolutions?

Valentine’s Baking – Triple Chocolate Fudge Cookies

Valentines heart triple chocolate fudge cookies recipe

At the end of last month I signed up to take part in a competition over on and on Feb 1st found out I was one of the lucky 15 bloggers who had been shortlisted to take part. Initially I was sent a baking hamper containing 10 items from Silver Spoon and Nielsen-Massey and was asked to make something for Valentine’s day that I myself, would like to receive. The ingredients were: Silver Spoon Mini Fudge Chunks, Milk Chocolate Cake Covering, Vanilla Paste, Lemon Icing Sugar, Easy Melt Milk and White Chocolate, White Chocolate letters and numbers, White Chocolate Stars, Jelly Dots and Nielsen-Massey Almond Extract.
decorated icing valentines cookies
The rules were to use at least three of the ingredients we were sent and to make whatever we wanted. It was at this point my mind went blank. There was too much choice! After a long brainstorm I decided to use my favourite ingredients – chocolate and fudge – to create 12 chunky cookies (because I love the flavour and 12 because it was relevant for Valentine’s). I then decided to decorate them using Valentine’s colours (because I like attention to detail and things which are visually gratifying!) I also made some chocolates (first time I’d ever done this!) and chocolate dipped strawberries to carry on the ‘romantic’ theme and I’m really pleased with the results of both :)
Here’s how to make:

Liz’s Triple Chocolate Fudge Cookies (my own special recipe created especially for Valentine’s day!)

175g unsalted butter, room temperature
100g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
2 egg yolks (medium)
25g ground rice
1/2tsp almond extract (Nielsen-Massey)
25g dark chocolate, chopped
50g white chocolate, chopped (Silver Spoon)
75g milk chocolate cake covering, chopped (Silver Spoon)
75g mini fudge chunks (Silver Spoon)
200g self raising flour
splash of milk
To Decorate:
Regalice in assorted colours
Assortment of chocolate and coloured sprinkles (Including: Silver Spoon white chocolate letters, Silver Spoon white chocolate stars)
Icing sugar
triple chocolate fudge cookie preparation dough
Preheat the oven to 160c/Gas Mark 3 and line two baking sheets.
Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
Add the egg yolks and almond extract.
Now stir in the ground rice, chocolate, fudge and lastly the flour until combined. (I found it helps to get your hands in at this point – add a splash of milk if the dough seems a little dry).
Set aside the dough, cover with cling film and chill for 20-30 minutes.
Place the dough between two sheets of cling film and roll out to about 1/8th inch thick. Cut out 12 heart shapes using a knife or cutter (these do not have to be a neat as the mix will spread – it’s just a guide for size).
triple chocolate cookie dough rolled out
Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes until light golden brown. Quickly use the cutter to re-shape the cookies into hearts.
triple chocolate cookies valentines hearts
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Eat the offcuts (chef’s perk!)
triple chocolate fudge cookie hearts ready for decorating
close up valentines cookies decorated iced
When the cookies are cool, decorate using icing and sprinkles of your choice. Here I used pink and red regal ice, melted chocolate and various sprinkles to create these effects.
decorated valentine's cookies
For the chocolates: I melted milk and dark chocolate buttons to create chocolates, adding some cocoa butter to create a softer and smoother consistency. I used strawberry shaped moulds for the dark chocolates and dessert cup moulds for the milk chocolates and filled them with dark chocolate ganache (chocolate and cream). Add in a glass of champagne and I would definitely be a happy girly on Valentine’s Day if I received these!
dark and milk chocolate strawberries filled with ganache

What would be your perfect Valentine’s Day treat?


Top Ten Food Predictions For 2012

top ten foods prediction list for 2012


Money will be a key factor in the food trends for 2012:

1 Price Increases on food – At the back end of last year the manufacturers supplying the retailers realised that they needed to force the raw material increases through the chain if they were going to survive and understandably so. Anything grown in the ground has increased, especially the basics so the expectation is people will think even more carefully about what they put in their shopping basket.
2 Granny’s cooking – Retro was big in 2011 and the desire for security and safety in an uncertain environment will steer cooking towards old family recipes. People still have egos and pride and what better way to show off than by resurrecting that old recipe that was handed down through the generations? – Could there be a rise in dumplings, suet puddings and the like?
3 More of the Grain – Home baking and cooking is a hot trend and people want to know more about what they are eating but without spending a huge amount. Whole grains are great value for money and the likes of Quinoa, oats and cornmeal could see a surge in 2012.
4 Forage, forage, forage – we predicted hedgerow flavours for 2011 and this will continue but expand into the general wild. Expect to see a rise in types of mushrooms, herbs and berries in people’s diets. Wild garlic anyone?
5 Whatever Twitter says – As social networking becomes viral, people want to share the good and bad things in food. In the past it was all about what Delia said but going forward it will be a lot more about that latest blog report, those Twitter comments and that facebook photo. And we can’t predict what ‘that’ will be.
6 The rise of the minor celebrity chef – following on from the previous comments, there will be a big rise in passionate cooks moving into doing video blogs on recipes, and these will become so much more accessible through the social media movement. So it won’t be Delia’s goose fat as the big thing next year, it will be a Youtube special chef. Both My Secret Kitchen and Tasty Gorgeous will be jumping on this trend with a new video blog starting soon.
7 Moroccan – Full of Spices and flavours and a healthy diet with grains and greens, Moroccan is a little different with not too many expensive ingredients and has been hovering around for a while. Expect 2012 to see a full blown launch of all things North African.
8 South American – We were wrong last year. We stuck our neck out with predictions that this continent would be big in 2011. It grew but not how we thought. Peru is widely predicted to be the big flavour country in the ‘States for 2012 so we expect this to jump over to the UK along with Brazil for 2012. And if the food goes superbly with Caipirinhas (Brazil’s national cocktail) we won’t be complaining.
9 French Macaroons – 2011 was the year of the Whoopie Pie, an attractive and fun filled cake. One of the key reasons for it’s popularity was it looked cute. We think French macaroons will be big for 2012 for a similar reason, so expect to see gaudy shop windows full of ‘em. Whoopie pies will also get a makeover and remain popular but with alternative flavours and styles becoming big.
10 Back to the Dinner Table – As family values become ever more important, there will be a push to get more social interaction into the family dinner table which has declined over recent years. More family get togethers and more group meals will mean recipes involving more members of the family. What better way of bring a family closer together than cooking?
Information sourced from

I’m certainly looking forward to a year filled with home cooked, satisfying food and many macaroons if these predictions are right! Will you be making any food changes in 2012? Which predictions do you agree with?