Archive | October, 2016

Salted Caramel Popcorn Balls

23 Oct

Hello
Do you say kaa-rahh-mell or kar-muhl ? Either way, this sugary dessert item has recently regained popularity in combination with salt. I love sweet and salty, in fact I often crave it. I find it calms 2 beasts in one shot, it achieves true satisfaction. Yummm…

Righto. My sister loves popcorn quite a bit. She especially loves adding flavours to it; white cheddar, sour cream, chocolate and so on. A couple of years ago, I received a photo from her via whatsapp. It was a plastic crate not unlike those cupcakes and muffins are sold in, but this one housed popcorn balls. They were massive, covered in drizzled chocolate both dark and white and topped with the tiniest chocolate wafers (think super mini candy melts). They looked delicious. And they were expensive. I mean like unreasonably so.  Needless to say she never bought them. Since then I kept telling myself I should have a go at making popcorn balls. And that day finally came.

Like so many things I make , I initially wing it. I don’t look up recipes BEFORE I attempt something,  that’s not hardcore. So this is my way of making popcorn balls and I am well aware that there may be far more effective ways but this one was fairly simple and very affordable so keep on reading.

In this recipe I use marshmallow as the binding ingredient similarly to making a rice crispy treat and I also make my own caramel to top them with.

WHAT YOU NEED

1) Popcorn  (plain, air popped)- 4 cups (popped)

2) Marshmallows- 1 cup

3) Granulated sugar-1 cip

4) Heavy cream/evaporated milk- 1/3 cup

5) Salt (preferably large crystals)

6) Spices- I used cinnamon, nutmeg and pumpkin spice ( why not)

6.5) Patience
WHAT TO DO 

1) Pop popcorn and set aside.

Air popped popcorn 




2) Dissolve sugar in approximately 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil in a saucepan then add milk/cream and allow to boil for a few more mintes. – It won’t be as dark or as thick when you first make it. It needs time to cool.
Note : My caramel measurements were fairly arbitrary as I was experimenting,  however you may vary your measurements depending on how thick or how runny you want your caramel. You can also just melt down caramel candy 🙂

Evaporated milk and granulated sugar 


Bring sugar to a boil



Completed caramel




3) Melt Marshmallows in microwave in 15 second intervals until soft and goopy. 

Marshmallows,  salt and spices 

4) Combine marshmallow, popcorn and spices together.

Mixture of ingredients 




5) Let the mixture sit for approximately 30 minutes. (Trust me it saves you a few grey hairs) The marshmallow begins to set up a but and the mixture is way easier to handle cimparted with when it’s very warm and the marshmallow is stringy and sticks to everything. 

6) Mold into balls the size you desire and let firm up for a few hours (at least 2) in the fridge.

Popcorn balls
7) Once firm, take caramel mixture and Drizzle over the balls. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt. Let firm up overnight.

 

Finished product 




These were moorish. This recipe made eight balls approximately 3 inches diameter. Popcorn is extremely inexpensive and the remainder of ingredients are likely found in your cupboard making this an affordable treat for a movie night or other get together. The caramel combined with salt creates a complex flavour that foodies will love but is so tasty that everyone else will adore.

I hope you try these out and habe an awesome day!

Aside

Champagne mouth but Prosecco pocket- Fine dining on a budget

18 Oct

Hello

So the saying goes :”champagne mouth and beer pocket” or in my homeland  Barbados : ” champagne mouth and mauby pocket”. Mauby is a drink made from the bark of the tree with the same name. It is fairly popular throughout the Caribbean and like beer, is very inexpensive compared to champagne.   I drink neither beer nor mauby, but I do drink Prosecco which I often refer to as Champagne’s cheaper Italian cousin so this is the drink I use for comparison.  

I digress…

The point I’m making is this post is about enjoying something very pricey without spending all your savings at once.

A couple nights ago I had dinner with family and friends at a fairly upscale osteria. The ambience was gorgeous with glass light shades housing Edison bulbs and tall glass vases with sheaths of wheat inside them not to mention an open faced floor to ceiling shelf housing an eclectic array of items from metal colanders to cook books reflecting the Italian cuisine they serve.

As we sipped and supped, and believe you me, we did, I thought to myself about the fact that I love food and love fine dining but my entire life mantra is to stick to a budget. I basically assessed the entire experience along with other previous similar ones and came up with some tips that a budget savvy individual might want to use.

The point of living life on a budget isn’t to always choose the cheapest option and deny yourself of enjoyable,  meaningful experiences but rather to achieve what you want in the most cost effective way.

TIPS



1) Eat the bread

Most dine-in restaurants will offer a complimentary bread basket. It can be as basic as sliced french bread or as varied as olive bread, cheese crusted bread etc. A few restaurants will devitae from bread and offer things like popcorn. But the point is…EAT IT. 

Many times most persons will nibble at a piece and leave the rest behind, hoping not to ruin their appetite with empty calories but trust me the bread will fill you up and decrease the need for extra food. You may be able to skip an appetizer or avoid having to order a soup or salad if you fill up on that bread.

Olive bread- came with balsamic  vinegar and olive oil to dip.
2) Make the most of appetizers


If you decide to order appetizers this can be where more savings come in. Most appetizer servings are now as large or in some cases larger than mains. You may want to order an appetizer and eat it as your main since it will be cheaper.

Another benifit to appetizers is the ability to share. For example our dinner party was comprised of eight persons and we had 3 appetizers between us. The combination of the bread and the appetizers left most of us almost full.

Tempura fried portobello mushrooms


Bruschetta with: tomato, prosciutto and pear with gorgonzola cheese



Tagliere with Prosciutto, salami, olives and cheeses.
3) Share your food

This was touched on in the previous tip but to reiterate the point, ordering something that can be spread among two or more persons is almost always more cost effective. This means selecting dishes that are easily shared such as pizza or large pasta dishes.

Pizza



Seafood soup, easy to share 


Meatballs 

Ravioli 
4) Have water


Just like the bread basket, most respectable restaurants offer complimentary,  refillable glasses of water. DRINK IT! Ordering a fountain drink or juice will cost you especially if you go through more than one drink per meal. Just stick to the water.

5) Order the bottle

Most “fancy” meals are never complete without a glass of wine. We all know the alcohol sold in restaurants is always ridiculously marked up, however the wine gets cheaper with increased volume. If eight persons were to order a glass of wine each, it would have easily added up to more than an entire bottle from which you can get multiple servings.

 

6) Skip dessert

This is not a hard and fast rule (none of these are). If for example the restaurant is known for it’s desserts then it’s different, or if you are like my close friend Mark and totally addicted to sweet treats then go ahead. 

I personally have found that no matter how good a restaurant is, the desserts are often just okay. There are usually limited to just 4 or 5 options and it’s either some kind of cake or some kind of ice cream. When I go to a fine dining restaurant I am going for the appetizers and mains. If I want desserts I go to a bakery.

Dessert- Ice cream with espresso 




I hope my tips are useful to anyone planning a fine dining dinner experience and I hope you have an awesome day! 

Potato Soup

5 Oct

English potatoes and french bread

Hello

As the end of the year draws closer I am always more inclined to eat/make heartier foods; roasted meals, denser salads and thick flavourful soups.I suppose it’s because that’s what  all those home and lifestyle magazines splash on their covers-it’s all subliminal. ..

Anyway,  today I am sharing a recipe that was born out of desperation for something to eat back when I was a student. I remember mixing it up pretty much out of the blue and my flatmates and I completely demolished it. This is only the second time I have done it since then and I can barely remember what I put in it, so we’ll see where this goes. I have also paired it with some garlic bread.

POTATO SOUP 




WHAT YOU NEED 

1) Potatoes (I used Irish/English)- 450grams/1.1lb

2) Milk (I use Almond milk )- 3 cups

3) Cream cheese-  150g/4.5oz

4) Seasonings -black pepper, rosemary, basil, red pepper  and oregano flakes. 

5) Blender/nutribullet 

6) 2.8L/3 quart saucepan 

WHAT TO DO 

Prep -step: Remove cream cheese from fridge and allow to soften.

1) Bring water in saucepan to a boil then add potatoes (skin on)
2) Remove from pan allow to cool off (I pour off the hot water and add fresh cool water to expedite this) then peel.

Boiled and peeled potatoes



3) Mash potato along with cream cheese and seasonings- I added my seasoning to taste.

Softened cream cheese



4) Add the almond milk (or whatever milk you prefer) and blend until preferred consistency – I like mine smooth.
Plate and serve!

This can make about  4-6 servings (250mls or 8.5 oz each) but would also be excellent as appetizer shots.

To go along with this delectable soup I made an old faithful : garlic bread. Growing up we always had garlic bread with any kind of Italian style dinner (mostly lasagne and spaghetti ) and it is one of the first things I learned how to make. It is the combination of some firm (1-2 day old) French bread and garlic butter. My mother once told me people made it because their bread was going stale but they didn’t want to waste it. I don’t know if that’s true or not as she can sometimes tell tall tales…Hello mummy;) but it can be a good way to salvage bread that’s about to go.

GARLIC BREAD 

WHAT YOU NEED

1) French bread(a.k.a baguette)- I used about 1/3 of a loaf  which was about 12 inches of bread.

2) Butter- approximately 3 tbsp

3) Garlic clove

4) Seasonings/spices- black pepper,  garlic powder,  oregano.

WHAT TO DO 

1) Slice bread at a diagonal going about 7/8 way through so that the bread is held together just along the bottom.

Sliced bread




2)Dice garlic clove then  mix together with butter and seasonings.

Butter and seasonings 



Butter mixture 




3) Using a bread knife, place butter mixture between each slice and then over the top of the bread- you likely won’t need all the butter mixture so save it for later. 

Bread with garlic butter mixture




4) Place in foil with top exposed and bake until golden.

In foil 

Golden

Once done separate and enjoy! 

Finished garlic bread
This potato soup is creamy and tasty. The cream cheese makes it smooth and more full bodied while the natural potato flavour keeps it earthy. The golden garlic bread has a crispy outer ring with a moist garlicky centre. They go well together but stand alone as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe and try it out for yourself. Have an awesome day!

Potato Soup and Garlic bread

Drugstore Makeup Review-Maybelline Fit Me Stick Foundation

2 Oct

Hello 

Today I will be reviewing a drugstore find : The Maybelline Fit Me Shine Free + Balance Foundation stick . As I mentioned in my previous post “How to start a Drugstore Makeup Collection ” I am a recent drugstore makeup convert. I have been so impressed with the improved formulas and expanded lines and I am excited to try out anything they churn out these days.

Maybelline Fit Me Shine Free +Balance Foundation stick 

 
Foundation Sticks

Foundation sticks are becoming increasingly popular. Company after company are adding them to their repetoire from high end names like Anastasia Beverly Hills and Hourglass to out more affordable ones like NYX and of course Maybelline. The stick foundation is touted to be great for combination to oily skin and good for blending.
Maybelline Foundation Stick

This Maybelline Fit me foundation stick boasts to be shine free thanks to an antii-shine core in the centre of the stick. It comes in eight shades which go from ivory to coconut which is a nice deep shade and goes for under $10 US for a 0.32 Oz stick.

Foundation Stick with “shine free” core

Packaging

The packaging is fairly basic, in what looks like a chubby black lipstick container with the signature “Fit Me” lettering .

The stick itself has an obvious lighter coloured core which is meant to be the shine fee aspect of the formula. I’m not sure why this couldn’t just have been incorporated into the overall stick but it’s neither here nor there to be honest.
Application

The foundation is easy to apply, it’s creamy and can be put on in large swipes. It is easily blended with a brush. I saw some users were saying that blending sponges do not work well with stick formulas so I didn’t try.

It blends like a dream. It gives medium coverage and to be honest looks like a second more flawless skin. It also feels very lightweight. 

I chose to set mine with the Maybelline Fit me pressed powder as I was also trying this product for the first time.

Maybelline Fit Me Set +Smooth Pressed Powder 
Wear 

I wore it for 4 hours on a fairly warm relaxed evening and found that it stayed put. I didn’t get oily or cakey in any way. I cannot say what would happen if it was worn for longer or if you were very active. I suspect you might have some breakdown and movement however because the foundation just sits on the skin.
Overall Impression 

PROS 

Easy to apply and blend

Easy to travel with

Keeps you shine free (combined with setting powder)

CONS

Cost: similar cost of drugstore liquid foundations but for what appears to be a good deal less product (difficult to compare volume and weight ) . Additionally the stick seems to wear down pretty quickly.

Not suitable for all skin types- stick foundations are recommended for oily to combination skin not so much for normal to dry, although I personallybelieve anyone can use them.

Limited shades- I think they could have not only added some darker shades but added some more in between the lighter ones.
I am overall pleased with this purchase. I still remain more of a liquid foundation girl myself but I think this is a cool version to try that’s great to travel with and easy to use.

I hope this review will help anyone considering dipping into the sea of stick foundations. Have an awesome day!

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