chocolate course

Little hidden fact about me: I love chocolate. A slightly less well-known fact: I enjoy making chocolates almost as much.

The problem I have had with making chocolates is the variability in quality (a lot of quality control has taken place) that nearly always boils down to the tempering of chocolate to get it in the correct state to make the chocolates or the environment in which they are made. Often they are too: soft, dull, strange textured, or I run out of chocolate (not a tempering problem). On rare occasions they have worked beautifully, but not always.

To learn more, I enrolled on a one day beginners chocolate making course run by HB Ingredients. It is here that the expert and lovely Jayne took me and 6 novice chocolatiers through their paces teaching them how to fill truffle shells, pipe decoration, and create and fill our own chocolate shells with insanely good fillings (all products available at HB Ingredients).

I took my camera, although didn’t manage to take any pictures as I was up to my elbows in chocolate for the entire day, filling, dipping, piping, rolling and nibbling. NB//Jayne, being the pro that she is, didn’t get a smudge on her. What can I say, impressive!

At the end of the day, all chocolates were boxed up and taken home (there were some casualties on the way).   Here are some of the goodies that made it home (they took a little shaking on the journey home hence the slightly battered look… still tasty though):

Dark chocolate bars with purple glitter powder. Dark chocolate rules, and although we were supposed to make and decorate milk chocolate bars, Jayne helped me make mine dark chocolate (thank you!!!).


Milk chocolate caramels: First the polycarbonate moulds are coated in chocolate to make the shells, then the filling piped in, finally topped off with some more milk chocolate. Yes, these do have a bit of shiny bling powder on too! They are also afflicted with air bubbles, a result of me not vibrating them for long enough to get them out. Time was short, there were chocolates to make!

In a similar way these milk chocolate pralines were made. Not only that, but all my chocoholic questions were answered. Basically, I need to take tempering chocolate more seriously! Also, got to be cool, the room that is… Got to be dry also, again the room, also your tools and hands should be dry. Generally water is not good around chocolate. Finally, if I want any consistency in my chocolates I need a thermometer and to use it. Monitoring it as it melts is the only way to get consistency, shine, and snap in your bite.

A tasty day out!

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fridge horror

It is there.

Lurking.

Lurking the way only something so small and quite can lurk.

My yoghurt tub snack.

Must have been in the fridge at work for, what, 3 weeks now. I swear it starts to bubble menacingly when I open the door and let light in. It’s not that I don’t like yoghurt. I eat it everyday for either breakfast or a snack. Just this snack, as unlikely as it sounds, somehow slipped under the radar.

It is just a matter of time before one of my colleagues knocks on my door and asks why the fridge got up and scuttled away.

I think it has gone too far. It is time for me to (wo)man up, and reclaim my tub!

If I don’t post again, I have most likely been struck down by a new disease that was slowly mutating in my snack tub.

Wish me luck.

diet?

I mean diet is just what you eat, right? Sometimes people ask me what I eat.

Easy, food! From my shopping bill, lots of it…

Over the last year or so, me and food have taken a bit of a journey.

I am quite lucky in many senses that I naturally love vegetables and fruit. Raw crunchy carrots, broccoli, beans, fresh home-grown tomatoes, apples, mini oranges… list goes on and on. In fact, till about a year ago, I always thought I had quite a healthy diet (chocolate and brownies excluded).

From my long distance running background, I found that pasta was my all time favorite carb, closely followed by bread (although I do prefer wholemeal to white, bread that is. Wholemeal pasta is the stuff of nightmares).

There had been a lot of buzz about the Paleo diet, and after reading about it, the principles, the benefits and general rules, it sparked my curiosity. Maybe this way of eating was worth a gander.

I always thought I was a bit cavegirl anyway.

Last summer, I rid my cupboards of bread, pasta, sugar and all things un-caveman. I will admit, that chocolate (70% and over) remained in my diet. I am an addict, remember. Oh, also honey. My father keeps bees as well as chooks, and the honey is divine. I figured there were bees in caveman times, so used sparingly would be ok.

So it passed, that I started eating caveman like.

The first week or two was pretty hard. Mostly getting used to not having bread and pasta to fall back on for a quick dinner when coming home late after climbing. Also, social occasions and eating out became tricky.

Gradually I got into the swing of things, and to keep me sane, one day a week I allowed myself a treat day (eat what you like). Treat days were bad, as I did tend to eat rubbish, but good as I felt so awful from all that junk, I couldn’t wait to get back on it the next day! Mostly, I ate whole unprocessed foods, and felt pretty good on it.

The result, not much changed! I felt amazing. My weight stayed the same (maybe due to the cheat days), I looked a little leaner, but since I hadn’t had my body composition measured before I started, it is hard to put a figure on it.

After a few months, life got super busy. It is a strict diet and I had been making all my own meals at home. Slowly I started slipping back into my old way of eating. Not terrible, but not great.

And so it continued.

Over the last month I have been trying a more softly softly approach to the paleo diet. Basically, in moderation. Sticking to the paleo diet 95% of the time, but still allowing myself a piece of cake once in a while, and bread and pasta, maybe once a week.

This style of eating is much easier for me to stick with rather than the all or nothing approach and having treat days. I can fit it into my lifestyle while still getting the benefits of all that lush wholesome food.

Find out what works for you. What makes you feel good inside and full of energy?

mmm, broccoli…

super-choc brownie

I should tell you now, so there are no miss-understandings; I am a chocolate addict.

It started in my childhood, I blame my parents.

Dark, rich, bitter-sweet, only the good stuff. These brownies have it all.

Don’t think too hard as you watch the butter (250g)  and chocolate (70%, 250g) slowly melt in a warm pan. Enjoy the glossy shine as it melts into one and breath in the aroma as it cools down.

Enjoy the arm ache as you beat the eggs (3) into the dark soft muscovado sugar (170g) till it is light and fluffy, and swirl in the glossy melted butter and chocolate to form a rich goo.

Sift in the snowy plain flour (100g) with cocoa powder (28g) and instant coffee (2 tsp) for extra umph!

Once all that is mixed in, it is time for the chunky pieces! Dark and white chocolate chunks (100g of each) and pecans (100g). No nibbling… Oh go on then!

Now, I could eat all this raw, but that usually ends in a tummy ache, so spread it in a slice tray and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending how gooey you like it) at 180 degrees.

 Enjoy!

cheeky chooks workout

These are my Dad’s chooks. They are funny endearing creatures and enjoy grass, corn, cuddles and go totally insane for a crust of brown bread.

Added benefit to keeping chickens, super fresh large eggs! Tastey and healthy (the eggs, not the chickens).

I think everyone should keep chickens.

I really do.

Today is gonna be tough. 20 minutes of toughness to be exact!

Part 1: HIIT – 3 rounds of the following 2 exercises, with 10 seconds rest, 30 seconds maximum reps

  • High knees skipping
  • Jump lunges

Part 2: HIIT – 3 rounds of the following 4 exercises, with 10 seconds rest, 50 seconds maximum reps

  • Reverse push ups
  • Sandbag swings
  • Hands up push up, then elbows down and up
  • Single leg toe touches, alternating legs

Part 3: HIIT – 3 rounds of the following 2 exercises, with 10 seconds rest, 30 seconds maximum reps

  • High knees skipping
  • Jump squats

Don’t chicken out!

mexican breakfast

In my world, mexican food is happy food.

Down in the dumps? Grab a fajita! Feeling a bit blue? Tacos watch out!

Now this meal is not strictly Mexican. But, it is tasty. It is fast. Yes, you can have it for breakie. It is also another fast yet satisfying post climbing meal. Inspired by a brunch at Giraffe, I put together my own version at home.

Let’s break it down!

  1. A pre-heated tortilla wrap, just till it’s warm. Pile it up with the following toppings:
  2. A layer of tomato puree mixed with a dollop of sun dried tomato paste and a healthy spash of tabasco and a dash of water
  3. Sprinkle over a combo of black beans (tinned) and sweet corn (also tinned). I go for as much as I can get on… but I would!
  4. Cheese. In this case some mature cheddar, coz it is the best! at this point throw it in the oven to melt the cheese and get nice and hot
  5. In the mean-time scramble some eggs! 1 per person is enough. Weird? Maybe, but when it is going down, it is like someone gave you a big hug. Dump the egg on top when you plate up. 
  6. To go with it, avocado salsa. It is lush. Diced avocado, celery, lemon juice or vinigar, olive oli, pepper, salt. Sorted
  7. What is this? It isn’t… Oh yes it is! Sneck in some jalapenos, I know I did.

That’s basically it! I suppose it is more like a pizza than anything else, but what’s in a name, when it is sooooo good?

mmmmmmm…

p.s. I know the picture is rubbish, but I was super hungry and couldn’t wait to tuck in. my bad!

mackerel in minutes

10pm. Home from a super evening climbing. Something is making some noise. I suspect it is my tummy. It needs filling and fast. It won’t be with the tempting take-away down the road (although, it is a close call).

A quick, tasty, satisfying, and dare I say it, nutritious, meal in under 10 minutes, is smoked mackerel pate on toasted soda bread with a side of lightly boiled broccoli with oyster sauce. I don’t make the soda bread. Any bread will do!

Shred the smoked mackerel (after taking out the bones) and pop it in a bowl. Then dollop a couple of spoon of something gooey, like sour cream, cream cheese, even yogurt! Squeeze fresh lemon to taste and grind fresh black pepper on top… can’t have too much pepper…

Mix it up!

While all this is going on, the broccoli can be gently cooking and the toast, toasting.

Tummy full and happy.