Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Toffee Apple Porridge

   This has been a kind of hard few days. There are some things I've not talked about, and still don't wish to until there's anything solid, and while one in particular was moving along well a few weeks ago, a few wrenches have been thrown into the cogs and we're not sure what's happening anymore. Then there's the matter of my mother's health, which is getting worse, and is something I've not really talked about either because it just upsets me too much.
   There. How about that - an introduction about nothing! On the plus side, my book is moving towards completion (this draft, anyway), I've been listing lots of new things in my Etsy shop both from the exhibit and brand new pieces I've made, and I'm making some parsnip and chestnut soup for dinner today. It's the little things.
   Otherwise, autumn is well and truly setting in, with the temperature dropping at last into single digits! Pull out the jumpers, fill your hot water bottles and stack up the books! If The Zi'veyn isn't among them, then shame on you. And, finally, I can openly eat porridge for breakfast every day. I mean, I did anyway, but now there's no stigma. And what better way to start a late October morning?

   Toffee apple is a wonderful autumn staple. What makes it better? Warmth. What makes that even better? When you've just gotten out of a warm, toasty bed and stepped into the frigid autumn morning that lurks outside the covers.
   So, naturally, toffee apple porridge was the next step in my tangled little mind. But it has to be healthy, of course - if your breakfast is healthy, you're more likely to keep eating healthily throughout the day - and dates are the way to do that.
   Dates are a wonderful replacement for toffee or caramel sauce - but you have to pick your dates. Medjool dates, the big ones, are very caramel, whereas the smaller dates like Sayers seem to be more toffee, with a darker colour, thicker texture and not quite as sweet flavour. Most people use medjools, but I often used Sayer dates in my porridges. Mostly because that's just what I have on hand. But it works here! So instead of adding sugar to your toffee apple, add dates.
   This porridge is warm, not too sweet, delicious and two of your five a day!

Serves 1
30g rolled oats
20g protein powder
100ml water
100ml skimmed milk
30g dates
50ml boiled water
1 apple

Toffee Sauce
Chop the dates and put them in a saucepan with 50ml hot water. Bring to a boil, uncovered, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer the dates with a little of the water to a food processor or blender and reduce to a puree. Add the remaining water and continue to mix until thoroughly combined.
For thicker sauce: use less water, or soften a few more dates and puree them into the mixture.
For thinner: add more water.

Overnight Oats
1. Thoroughly combine the oats and whey, if using, in a bowl (or shaker bottle). Stirring all the while, add 100ml skimmed milk (or pour into the bottle and shake to combine, then transfer to a bowl). Set in the fridge overnight.

2. Reheat in the morning, if desired, by adding 50ml water and microwaving for 1 minute, stir, then heat for 20-30 seconds until desired texture is reached. Move on to step 4 and return to the microwave.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil 150ml water

2. Combine the oats and whey, if using, in a pan. Stirring all the while, add the milk, then 100ml of the freshly boiled water.

3. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Meanwhile, core your apple. Cut and reserve a few slices for garnish, then peel and chop the rest. Add to a second pan with the remaining 50ml boiled water. Bring to a boil, then simmer to soften.

5. Once the apple is soft and the porridge is done, stir half of your toffee sauce into the porridge pan, then add the softened apple along with any remaining water, and continue to simmer together until desired texture.

6. Transfer to a bowl, arrange your apple slices, then add your toffee sauce. Add honey if desired, and serve.

• I used Whitworth's stoned Sayer dates
• I used Pulsin Premium whey

With whey; without nuts
372 cals, 2.5g fat (0.5g sat), 61g carbs (36.5g natural sugars), 7.5g fibre, 26.5g protein, 2 of 5 a day

Friday, 19 October 2018

Friday Favourites

This week has been a busy one. There's chaos in my book right now, as the second of the trilogy is almost finished and there are a few rather serious notes to end on, and I've been working on my shop consistently, too. It's also been wonderfully cold! So it's been great to be so focused. That's one of the many things I love about winter and autumn - it's cool, even cold, so there's no excuse not to get things done! When it's hot, I tend to melt, but when it's cold, I'm a busy, busy bee!
I've been working on porridges, too - I'm so pleased, I had lots of ideas and I've managed to do them all bar one, simply because I haven't worked out what I want to do with the rest of the key ingredients once I open them. But I have two new Christmas porridges and a couple more autumn recipes that are all ready to post! I'm always so happy when porridge goes well - I'm a jinx in the kitchen, you see.

Red Dead Redemption 2 comes out one week today, and Seeg and I have been psyched for months. So much so that our Saturday night movies have taken a spaghetti western turn. First we watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which was much funnier than expected and has aged very, very well, and then we moved on to the Man With No Name trilogy - Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and, of course, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. They're all vaguely related, but there's not really any continued story. If anything, I got the sense that the final film was a prequel, purely for the whole poncho/cigar thing at the end. I have to say, though, we had low expectations and we were pleasantly surprised. The MWNN trilogy got better (and longer, oy) with each film, and we're both really glad we've seen them. Tomorrow night is True Grit, but next Saturday I have the sneaking suspicion that we will be scrapping movie night in favour of some serial gaming...
Also, how amazing is Nordic Ware?! I just discovered them, so I feel some serious baking needs coming on soon. It's expensive, but the designs are so incredible that I may have to splurge. On just one or two, of course - I never bake anymore - but I need some.
 And I loved the cocoa beans so much I had to include them in a porridge bowl, which was perfect for Chocolate Week!

Man With No Name Trilogy   ♥   Mustard Yellow jumper

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Chocolate Week - Chocolatier's Porridge

   Chocolate Week. A UK celebration of fine chocolate, not an excuse to scoff Dairy Milk, but to appreciate real chocolate - cook with it, taste a variety of bean-to-bar, and give artisanal and small-scale brands a chance to shine. My personal favourite is CoCo Chemistry, based in Lacock, and I had the pleasure to visit their store last Christmas. Their peanut and caramel chocolate salami is to die for. Try now, thank me later.
   So, in celebration of chocolate week, I decided to create a less sweet and more flavourful chocolate porridge - what else, right? - using raw cacao powder as both ingredient and garnish, the favourite cocoa nibs, some dark salted chocolate and some enrobed whole cocoa beans. This is not a porridge for your corner shop scoffer. This is dark, this is decadent - and, would you believe, healthy. Without all that added sugar, and with a focus on the actual cocoa beans and pre-refinement processes, you're getting a lot of the goodness the tabloids say all chocolate bars contain (though rarely do). And, while whole cocoa beans might sound like something you would have to source professionally and in bulk, that's not really the case anymore. Whole cocoa beans, chocolate-covered and otherwise, are becoming more common in both cooking stores and health food shops. Though I admit I sourced mine from Hotel Chocolat.

   This porridge is low in sugar, rich in antioxidants and all the good things about chocolate. It is dark, and sweetened only with that dash of melted chocolate - you can add a sweetener if you choose to, or keep it pure. It's much healthier than it looks, I promise! And the added whey - which is always optional - will keep you full for much longer and contribute to your protein needs (which should be about 1g for every 1lb of body weight). I've listed the brands I've used in the Notes section below, as always, but this post is not sponsored by any of them. You can also find the nutritional values at the bottom, too!

Serves 1
30g rolled oats
20g whey protein
100ml skimmed milk
100ml water
10g cacao powder
sweetener of choice, if desired
1 square dark chocolate, chopped
5g/1 tsp cacao nibs, for garnish
5g/1 tsp cacao powder, for garnish
chocolate-covered cocoa beans, for garnish

Overnight Oats
1. Combine oats, whey, cacao and sweetener in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and, stirring all the while, add the milk (or shake it all together and transfer to a bowl).

2. Set in the fridge overnight, then add 50ml water and heat the following morning in the microwave at full power for 1 minute, stir, and set back in for 20-30 second bursts until desired consistency is reached. Move on to step 3 below.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil water.

2. Thoroughly combine oats, whey, cacao and sweetener in a pan, then, stirring all the while, add the milk, then 100ml boiled water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes or until desired consistency is reached, stirring occasionally to keep from burning.

3. Transfer to a bowl and drop the chopped chocolate on top, let it melt and then stir through.

4. Dust with a little cacao powder (no need to use the whole teaspoon) and sprinkle with cacao nibs. Place your chocolate-covered cocoa beans in the centre and serve for rich, chocolatey goodness.

• I used Pulsin premium whey
• I used Aduna raw cacao powder
• I used 1 square of Green & Black's dark salted caramel
• I used Hotel Chocolat cocoa nibs
• I used Hotel Chocolate supermilk velvet cocoa beans (typically 4g a piece)

Without chocolate covered cocoa beans
347 cals, 10g fat (5.5g sat), 30.5g carbs (5g natural sugar, 3g added), 9.5g fibre, 29.5g protein

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Inktober 2018 - Eyila

   This week, I drew Eyila, of the Ikaheka wind tribe. She almost didn't happen, I've been so excited about my book - I'm writing some big revelations right now, and my heart's been in my throat for days over it! The second book of the trilogy is nearly finished, too - it's so close I can taste it!! Of course, then comes some final redrafting, simmering and pondering before I send it out to agents, but the longest job is almost done, and I remain confident that it's my best work yet.
   Anyway, as for Eyila, yet another character from The Zi'veyn, I think I did a great job on her - which is odd, since it was the most ambitious. I chose to colour her skin because, while you can't really see it in this scan, it is actually bronze with a metallic sheen, and is quite a striking feature, so it was an obvious choice when it came to picking just one feature to colour. That said, I did also do her eyes... I'm really pleased with how she came out ^^

Faber Castell PITT superfine pen
Liquitex acrylic ink iridescent rich bronze
ZIG Art and Graphic Twin Tip Brush Marker Pen, baby blue
Winsor Newton liquid ink, black & white & silver

Inktober 2018 Archive

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Inktober 2018 - Rathen & Aria

   This week I drew Rathen, the main protagonist of The Zi'veyn, and his daughter, Aria. This is more or less the only time you'll see Rathen smile. 'Prepare to have your heart stolen.'
   I admit, I'm not immensely proud of this one if just because there was nothing really to colour. I like to colour just one or two details, but there was nothing really striking here, which meant that if I applied any colour at all I would probably end up colouring everything, and that hasn't gone well for a long long time. So I didn't want to chance it, though I did darken belts :B I also don't think Aria came out too well, but I never draw expressions like that, and neither have I drawn kids.
   I don't think it's bad enough not to show, though!

Faber Castell PITT superfine
ZIG Art and Graphic Twin Tip Brush Marker Pen, warm grey

Inktober 2018 Archive