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Cheese Swirls

At work this week we celebrated a Macmillan Coffee Morning.  Because I am lucky enough to work in a generous and perhaps greedy office, we actually did a weeks worth of cakes and savouries with people donating food, time and money to raise money for Macmillan nurses.  I am fortunate enough not to have experienced the work of Macmillan, but recent years have brought me closer to the effects of cancer upon people and their families so the cause which has always been extremely worthy has become increasingly poignant for me.

I am not a baker and am definitely not capable of baking a cake (although my new friend at NR11 Blog has inspired me to try…soon!) so I did a quick cheat and made my team some cheesy pastry swirls.  Dead simple and I didn’t use shop bought pastry because I am incapable of making my own, but because all the TV chefs have said that it’s okay and they do it too.  I believe that they were a success, all gone by tea break in the morning, so I thought I’d share the recipe!

Cheesy Pizza Pastry Swirls

1 roll of puff pastry

1/2 an onion, chopped finely

100g grated cheese

50g tomato puree

Herbs and seasoning for the tomato base, I used some fresh thyme, black pepper and a little bit of dried basil as that was what was within easy reach!

First, take the pastry out of the fridge and let it reach room temperature.  While it’s warming up a little, use the time to finely chop the onion and grate the cheese.  Now’s also the time to preheat the oven to about 200C.  Make sure you eat the bit of cheese that won’t grate because you are fearing for your finger tips.  No one wants fingertips in their swirls, so you’re doing it for the greater good.

Put the tomato puree into a little pot.  Add your herbs and seasonings, plus a tiny bit of water.  Mix it so that it’s all well incorporated and at a consistency that is thicker than your standard pasta sauce but that you’ll be able to spread.

Once everything is prepped, now’s the fun part.  Unroll the pastry, but keep it on the little bit of plastic so you don’t have much washing up.  Take your tomato paste and spread it across the pastry.  I made sure to cover the whole area right up to the edges, but left about 2cm on the far end.  This means that when rolled, you can use the ‘dry’ part of the pastry to finish the seal at the end.  Now take the onion and cheese, sprinkling it across the tomato base.  Make sure it’s even and not too thick in any place.  Once you’re happy everything is spread nicely, it’s time to roll!

The joy of buying shop bought pastry is that once you’ve unrolled, it’s really easy to roll it back up again.  Make sure that you keep it even and fairly tight as you go, you don’t want the cut pastries to fall apart in the oven!  Squish (technical term) the dry part against the roll to be sure to close it all up.  Slice your nice swiss pastry roll up, about a finger width per slice.  Pop the pieces on a baking tray, making sure to leave a couple of centimeters between each one.  This is puff pastry, after all, and it will puff.  A quick glaze with some milk (an excuse to use the pastry brush you have in the back of that drawer!) then put it in the oven and – ta-dah! – about 20 minutes later you’ll have a house that smells of pastry and cheese and anyone who popped over for a cup of tea will be bitterly disappointed that they don’t get to eat the tasty treats.

Well, unless you are nicer than I was at least.  Dead easy, still a bit homemade, and delicious all within 30 minutes.  What more can you ask for?

There would be countless variations on this theme too.  Feel free to add other bits (maybe some chorizo? Peppers? Fresh tomato?) as you fancy but make sure you don’t over-fill it.  If you do, they may fall apart which would be a disaster.  They wouldn’t be suitable to serve for any charity bake, you’d have to eat them all and start again.  And no one wants that, do they?!

Have you ever been on holiday on your back doorstep?

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Like, not literally to the garden (although, that sounded pretty convenient to me with the weather we had this summer) but to the places that you could go to if you just gave yourself the time for a 30 minute drive?

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To celebrate my dad’s birthday, mum organised a surprise holiday to Norfolk and brought the Costa Del… weather with them. I got to spend a few days in a cottage near the coast with them and together we enjoyed exploring my adopted home county.

Norfolk Vay-cay 3You know how they say New Yorkers have never been up the Empire State Building?  I spent so much time wishing that I could explore the world…

Norfolk Vay-cay 17..it’s really easy to forget the wonderful things about where you spend the bulk of your time and wonder why on earth other people come on vay-cay to your home.

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One of my favourite things on a summer Monday is telling colleagues in London where I got to go over the weekend.

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I loved driving around North Norfolk and showing my parents my favourite villages and beaches.

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We walked many, many miles with the two dogs.  Probably would have broken weaker spirits with all the excercise, except for the fact they are dogs and always up for more.

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We got to eat fish and chips, ice cream, Cromer Crab.  We got to drink local ales.

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We watched people kite surf, jet ski, sail.  We mercifully didn’t get rained on.

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It was pretty much a perfect way to celebrate my dad’s birthday together.

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Can’t wait to do it again.  And of course, I would love to hear about your favourite places and what you love about where you live!

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If I was going to write a post about all things that are sweet and sour I think that blackberry vodka may well fit the bill.

While walking Pepper the other day I saw that the hedgerows were filled with ripe, juicy, jewel like blackberries.  Hundreds of them.  They looked amazing.  So yummy.  I could make any number of things, but of course my mind went straight to the vodka that was laying in the wine rack feeling a bit sorry for itself as September officially became The Month We Weren’t Drinking.  (Yup, another story entirely.)  Rather than going straight out to gather the bounty nature offered, I decided to procrastinate for a week.  Then the weather started to turn and I was left with no more excuses.  It was actually really nice, there had been a particularly miserable rainstorm during the day but the sun was out, the air was fresh and I had tupperware and a boy willing to go blackberry hunting with me.  We were off!

Blackberry 1

After collecting as many berries as we could before the sun set (autumn is drawing in, ahhhhh….sad to see summer go but excited about curling up on the sofa again) it was a fairly straightforward plan.  A slight surplus of vodka following an August bank holiday party meant we had a few options and we settled on three separate recipes:

Bottle 1 – Sweet Vanilla Blackberry Vodka

  • 300g blackberries
  • 300g sugar
  • 500ml ‘student’ vodka
  • 1 vanilla pod

Bottle 2 – Fancy Vanilla Blackberry Vodka

  • 300g blackberries
  • 200g sugar
  • 500ml ‘grown up’ vodka
  • 1 vanilla pod

Bottle 3 – Grown Up Blackberry Vodka

  • 300g blackberries
  • 200g sugar
  • 500ml ‘grown up’ vodka

All ingredients were put into their separate kilner jars.  They looked really pretty.

Blackberry 2 Blackberry 3 Blackberry 5

And then we shook them like the proverbial polaroid picture.

Blackberry 6

Now they look dark and juicy and …. okay, a little sugary.  But a bit more agitation over the next few weeks will hopefully do wonders and there will be a tasting session to see which recipe is the winner…once the Month of No Drinking has passed by and it’s well into curling up on the sofa season.  Ahh, Autumn, you’re pretty cool!

 

 

 

Recently I began a relationship with The Tidiest Man Ever.  He hates clutter.  Fortunately for him I am a Queen of Projects and thanks to him, I am actually now completing them.  This is nice for several reasons – I am less cluttered, with unfinished projects dotted around the house, I am less cluttered, because my projects are set to make life neater and more organised, and he is happy with the fact I feel accomplished, and am tidy. All round winning, I say!

So, in my hallway downstairs I had a big old bamboo coat and umbrella stand.  It was retro chic if you liked big, dusty old bamboo furniture.  It does serve its purpose very well, don’t get me wrong, I could hang a dozen coats on it and still have space for more.  Except for the fact I only really wear about two different coats and sometimes struggled to get past it to go up the stairs.  Of course, Pinterest had the answer: a pallet coat rack!

Of course I wanted it.  So clean, so fancy…so organised!! I needed it in my life.  Fortunately I am able to find things like pallets fairly easily so I got one home and set to work painting.  In an ideal world I would have spent the time to sand it down and remove any of the giant splinters I found, but we all know this world is not ideal, I am a little lazy and next time I would invest in an electric sander because elbow grease and paper just weren’t going to cut it.  A few coats of white paint did the trick though to cover up the worst of the splinters and my pallet looked like this:IMG_3846

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Which was nice, but a little bit of colour was needed to brighten it up (too much white never works for me, remember, I am a chaotic mess sometimes!) so a few tester pots later, along with some bargain hooks, this was the end result:

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It is now hanging in the hallway with fairy lights, a special spot for keys and every time I walk down the stairs I feel a little bit proud of myself.  The only problem is, the weather has changed and the need for coats has diminished…so it may be a few months before my handiwork is put to its final test! But that’s okay.  All I need now, is a new pallet project…

(my target and my actual….not so bad really!)

Pinterest Pallet Coat HooksFinished Pallet (full credit for the pallet hanging apparatus goes to the Domestic Doozie at – you can order the french cleats online and they arrived in the UK in just a few weeks!)

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