Christmas Series: Post #1 Cookies

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Hello Again!
What a way to start this Random Ss Christmas Series …it had to be with Cookies of course, what else? Nothing beats the smell of freshly baked cookies, and these ones smell heavenly when baking.
My Christmas memories are very associated with food, on the days before Christmas our kitchen became a production line with three different generations kneading and rolling dough and baking cakes and pies. The smell of cinnamon was such that you could smell it from outside of the house…and was almost a tradition to run out of it and beg to whoever showed up at the door to do a supermarket run for a couple of packs more!
Last year, when looking for some more healthy alternatives for the kids, my sister shared with me this recipe of Cinnamon and Ginger Cookies from the blog Made by Choices. We both prepared them for the family cookies bag and they where a success, and since then I have made them not only for Christmas but all year round. For the less appreciative of cinnamon (I know you are there) I have a little tip for you below.
The dough is easily and quickly prepared using a food processor and if you don’t eat the dough raw as myself and T did (is so tasty), you will have enough for around 40 cookies which will already allow for some cute nice Christmas bags to share.
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Some Christmas Ideas/Tips:

  • Use cute Christmas cookie cutters, invest in some different ones they will last you for a long time if not forever. Stars, ginger man, leaves, snowmen….
  • Make little bags of cookies to share. You can use some transparent bags (so you can see the nice cute shapes) and close with some Christmas ribbon, there are beautiful ones. When setting the table for a Christmas dinner or lunch put one bag next to everyone’s plate, people can choose to take it home or just have it with coffee or a cup of tea after the meal. If there are kids they will eat them immediately.
  • If you want to offer them for Christmas, it’s better to invest on a nice airtight container jar so they can keep nice and crispy for longer. 
  • There are beautiful bags and ribbon to make cute presents, one thing I tend to do is to always buy different ones at the end of the season when all goes on sale and keep it for the next year! 

Some links that might help you with your Christmas decorations and baking utensils:

  1. Maria Lunarillos Spain, My new find and I am in love!
  2. Docinho de Açucar Portugal, Will be love at first sight…
  3. LakelandUK, All you need for your cooking experiences 
 
And you?  What are your Christmas Traditions, what do you bake, cook, eat?
And don’t forget….
Enjoy!
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 Cinnamon & Ginger Cookies 

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If you are not a big or at all of cinnamon, here is an idea..replace it and the ginger by unsweetened cocoa and use roasted hazelnuts instead of the almonds. Chocolate taste and hazelnuts can never fail! Yummy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups (220g) oat flour
  • ½ cup (60g) raw almonds
  • 1 cup (150g) pitted dates (I used medjol dates)
  • ⅓ cup (80ml) non-dairy milk (I used almond)
  • 3 tbsp (45ml) melted coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
 
INSTRUCTIONS
  • Preheat oven to 180ºC.
  • In a food processor (normal one, a thermomix, Bimby, etc.) add all ingredients and blend until the dough begins to clump up around the blade.
  • Remove the dough out of the processor and and hand knead until smooth, you may have to use a little bit of flour.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roll the dough.
  • With cookie cutters (in whatever shape you want) cut and place on the baking tray.
  • Bake until they are golden (15 to 20minutes).
  • Let them cool and harden.
  • Store in a glass container up 2 weeks.

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The Random Ss Christmas Series …

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Hello you! 

After a busy November, we finally have our Christmas decorations on! It seems that every year people start earlier and earlier, but I confess that with T’s birthday and Thanksgiving, I cannot switch my Christmas alarm until early days of December…so when friends told me that they had it all done, including presents by the 1st of December, I think for seconds I had a panic attack!!!

For us at home, when growing up, was on the bank holiday of the 8th of December that the old card boxes would come out of the attic, garage, wardrobes and so on, we tested the lights of the year before and there was always either something baking in the oven or a Bolo Rei (a traditional season cake in Portugal) freshly bought so we could have it for tea!

This year, and totally by chance, as we had to exchange our first pine tree, we officially opened the Christmas season at the V&C’s exactly on the 8th of December, with  cinnamon and ginger cookies baking in the oven and to the sound of All I want for Christmas is you..with T jumping and dancing and fighting his dad attempts to change to his Christmas jazz playlist…So, I jumped as well and for moments I forgot the hidden mess behind this picture (vacuum cleaner included).

And as for this Random space of mine and yours…and in a season that I treasure with all my heart, I planned some posts (as random as you can expect) dedicated to Christmas which I hope you enjoy and maybe help you with some ideas!

Until then…and in the middle of all that seems we are obliged to do during this season…don’t forget to enjoy and that Presence is, more than ever, the most important thing!  

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And our Sweet November Finishes with…

…A Cold and with very (very) cold weather!

It seems that a freezing cold front is underway and finally winter hit Madrid, it is snowing in most of the cities up north and the breezy and very cold days combined with the dozen of snotty red noses in T’s classroom, that every morning come and say hello and sometimes ask for a kiss were a lethal combination…not for them…but for Me!

So, I am indeed finishing this sweet November of ours with a cold and yesterday was an evening for comfort food!

For me the term of comfort food means something that warms your body  and soul, that cooks easily  with nourishing ingredients and that you can eat with a spoon seated on the sofa with a blanket…if this is not comfort what is?

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So the only thing I wanted was T in bed, a shower, a sofa and a blanket and a bowl of this winter soul warmer Red Lentil Coconut Dahl…It also brought me memories … the first time I had a homemade Dhal was at my friends Kelly G house, I can so well remember the smell and cosiness I felt on that afternoon…and the laughs! But yesterday when cooking this recipe was my sweet friend and London neighbour E. that popped into my mind…I remember well the first time I cooked this at home, I immediately knew it had her name on it and from downstairs to upstairs I shared a picture and the recipe…Food and Memories…what a bliss!

Thank you November for all you brought us, for all the Celebrations and Happiness …may December start with the same calm and sweetness!  

If ever in need of comfort, or not…cook this!

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Red Lentil Coconut Dhal 

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I have cooked this several times and I  now do it slightly by eye, but below you have the recipe adapted from the blog The Minimalist Vegan; I use olive oil instead of the coconut oil as the coconut milk is already enough as a flavour but you can use it if wished. I also add some smoked paprika and chilli flakes and serve it with a drizzle of lemon juice which I find to combine perfectly with the coriander and light coconut silky texture of the dhal

INGREDIENTS

  • cooked basmati or Jasmine rice to serve (I had it with brown rice which is nice as well)
  • olive oil (enough cover the sauce pan)
  • 1 red or brown onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, diced and peeled (if in a rush you can use canned ones)
  • 400g split red lentils (soaked for about an hour and washed)
  • 1 can coconut milk (400ml)
  • 500 ml of warm water (may need more if too dry)
  • Salt
  • Smoked paprika
  • Chili flakes
  • Handful coriander, roughly chopped
  • Drops of lemon juice to serve

INSTRUCTIONS

  • In a sauce pan heat the olive oil, onion, paprika, chilli flakes and fresh ginger on medium heat until they soften and start slowly browning.
  • Add in the tomato and simmer for about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the lentils, coconut milk and half of the water. Simmer in medium heat and stir occasionally. Cook until all the lentils have turned yellow, softened and cooked through. You may need to add some more water if it’s getting too dry. Do this slowly so you can have a smooth dahl and not too dry or to liquid.
  • Season to taste and toss through the coriander at the end.
  • Serve with the cooked rice, some drops of lemon juice and a dash of smoked paprika.

Enjoy the Comfort

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We Call it Giving Thanks…and Pie!

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Some years ago, 5 to be exactly, life hit us with one of its tricks to make us put all in perspective. The expression “health is what matters” definitely made sense for us from then on and Thanksgiving day came by on a month of recovery and new life…our memories are somehow a bit blurry but the feelings of respect for life, family, friends and the day to day are very clear!

Since November 2012, we use every single occasion to celebrate (I am sure you’ve noticed!!) and exactly on Thanksgiving day of 2012 somehow the world turned in a way that our London flat became packed with friends, some from there, some that just wanted to go and check on us, some passing by and we finished at late hours of the day in a tiny kitchen eating turkey leftovers. Since then wherever we are, either a big party or like yesterday just the three of us we seat calmly at the dinner table and Give Thanks, to life for a before and after, for the the family and friends but mainly for our(s) Health!

And of course, we have turkey, and sweet potatoes, and brussels sprouts…and Pumpkin Pie!

So either if you are planning a weekend Thanksgiving party, a dinner with friends or just a cosy weekend at home…take advantage of the gorgeous pumpkin season and try this Pie with your cup of tea or coffee and Enjoy!

Have a Happy Weekend

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Pumpkin Pie

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I have done this pie over and over again for the last 5 years, but never had an opportunity to photograph it as normally we straight away cut a piece of it while is still warm….yammy! Finally, yesterday I managed to bake it during the day and was able to make some photos while I was alone and before T arrived from school and stuck his little fingers on the pumpkin filling!!!

These last days have not been the best to make photos as the weather is becoming darker and the days shorter and we are all still praying for raining days to stop this dry season once for all!

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After repeating the recipe many times, this is now a final version according with the V&C household taste buds. It has the perfect taste of a nutty and sweet butternut squash with a hint of orange and fresh ginger, a perfect mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg on a crunchy buttery vanilla dough base. Not too sweet…it’s just a simple but perfect pie with the right flavours for this time of the year! 

For the dough base, I use a Jamie Oliver recipe which works all the time,  easy, tasty and crunchy. The pie filling is my interpretation of Billy Law Pumpkin pie recipe on A Table for Two blog and it’s the final version so you can really feel the pumpkin and orange taste and not to be overwhelmed with spices. 

INGREDIENTS

for the pie dough 

  • 150 g unsalted butter , (cold), plus extra for greasing
  • 250 g plain flour , plus extra for dusting
  • 50 g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 large free-range egg
  • semi-skimmed milk

for the pumpkin filing  

  • 500g pumpkin, I used butternut squash cubed and cooked – If you want cook some more use it to bake some Granola check the recipe here
  • orange peel (half of a medium orange)
  • piece of fresh ginger (1 cm cube)
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 300ml thickened cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease a 25cm loose-bottomed tart tin.
  • Cut the butternut squash into little cubes and put in a sauce pan with the orange peel and the fresh ginger, cover with water and cook until it’s soft.
  • To make the pastry, cut the butter into little cubes and place in a food processor with the flour, icing sugar and a pinch of sea salt. 
  • Add the vanilla bean paste to the food processor mix and then pulse to fine crumbs.
  • Crack in the egg, add a splash of milk, then pulse until it forms a rough dough.
  • Bring the dough together on your kitchen bench, use some flour if needed, make a ball with it and then wrap in clingfilm and keep it in the fridge to cool for at least 1 hour.
  • In a clean flour-dusted surface, roll out the pastry until it’s around 1/2cm thick, then loosely roll up around the rolling pin and unroll over the tart tin, easing it in and pushing it carefully into the sides.
  • Trim off any excess pastry, patch up any holes, then prick the base with a fork, cover and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Bake blind (cover with some baking paper and put some rice or some beans to hold the paper) for 10 minutes then remove the paper and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until lightly golden, then leave to cool.
  • While the dough cools down, rinse the pumpkin mixture and blend it all (ginger and orange peel included) until a soft silky purée is obtained. Cook the purée on fry pan for 10 minutes or just enough to remove a bit of the water that stays after blending and leave it to cool.
  • In another sauce pan over medium heat, add the sugar, cream, cinnamon and nutmeg, stir well until all is well combined and bring to boil, remove from heat. 
  • In a bowl, gently beat the eggs and the yolk (I do this by hand) and slowly pour the hot cream mixture while still whisking. Add the pumpkin purée and if wanted (I always do) add another little of vanilla bean paste. 
  • Pour the pumpkin and cream  mixture into the cooled pastry tin and bake for 40 minutes. The centre should be just set. Remove and set aside to cool. We normally eat a slice while still slightly warm…Enjoy!

Notes: 

  • You can use canned pumpkin purée, but with the beautiful season pumpkin it is really worth the effort. 
  • You can also make the dough by hand it also works very well it just takes a little bit longer. 
  • If you are in for an indulgent dessert serve a piece of the pie with some nice warm vanilla custard!!

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Yes! Mummy messed up your Bday Cake…

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…because Moms get it wrong as well…more often than we would like to!

In between the plans, all the recipes checked, decorations, invitations, food, balloons…your so wanted Batman Chocolate Cake was far from perfect…but while you stood still, waiting for your Batman mask to be painted, I could see in your big little dark eyes that all was OK…and the almost panic situation the hours before on the attempts to pipe some frosting didn’t mean anything!

And by the time I tucked you in just before the long day finished, I asked you: Did you like your party? What did you like the most? ….Batman Cake, Mummy….

In a blink, the cake, my lack of a fresh manicure and the fact I didn’t even had the opportunity to take a good picture of the 3 of us…vanished! 

Bless you my Son and Happy 3rd Birthday!

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Sometimes is just too much…Keep it Simple, Smile and Enjoy!

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1 Year…12 Months and 12 Reasons Why…

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26 October 2016 

….I can now call Madrid …Home! A Sequel of  Madrid #1 – 6 Months After

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October 2017

  1. I overuse the word ¨vale¨ in replacement of OK and I consider myself fluent in Spanish although with some disagreement of the male expert of the V&C household (LOL)!
  2. I eat more eggs than I ever did in my life … Tortillas, with Aspargus, Gulas, Revueltos with Jamón, little quail ones on top of tapas…you name it!
  3. It takes me at least 10 minutes to walk down the road of our neighbourhood (20 with T to be clear)….between all the catch up with neighbours and store owners to whom T calls “Amigos” (friends)!
  4. I use red lipstick on a daily basis even to the most simple occasions…like putting the rubbish away (ahahah)!
  5. I feel slightly cold and wear a winter jacket on a 20ºC sunny day…(what??? I could wear sandals on a day like that in London)!
  6. I can now have lunch at 3pm on weekends and go out for dinner at 11pm….although it still makes me slightly nervous…and 11.30pm definitely pushes my boundaries!
  7. I may be addicted the “Siesta” …the weekend naps … (OMG…I know)…but in summer it makes so much sense…and I am now looking forward for the winter ones!
  8. I stopped with the 10 years of brain wash of British politeness and adopted the Spanish way of shouting when driving and when entering a bus with a pram and full of people not giving the way! Regarding the driving…let’s say I feel blessed every day when parking the car safely and sound….ohh and I will always refuse to cross red signal lights and park the car in random places in the middle of the road!
  9. I dream with the weekend “Aperitivo” and the expectation of which tapas will come as a complementary to my beer…although I am very happy with a bowl of crips…but a little plate of a freshly done “Paella” was the top until now!
  10. I have my very own list of favourite places….to eat, to shop, to have coffee, to buy bread, to do walks, a favourite museum (the Thyssen Bornemisza by far) and a favourite supermarket which for someone that likes eating, cooking and baking can be a good safe heaven!
  11. I have adopted the Kings Day on the 6th of January as another celebration to our year calendar….why not? Another special day to have friends, cook and eat around the table and share a little present? Yes please!

But most importantly and having been away from native Home for a while now… we have the People, the ones we call our Madrid Family, whom we can count with always, who can lean in for us…. and as for the other ones…the ones we left behind…well…lets say we have had a good amount of visits and promises of future ones, always with the same energy, friendship and dedication as we have never left!

…So today for us, is a special day, and there will be Cake…of course…what else? A Cake that came with a visit…and a couple reasons more…Keep tuned! 

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We are (fast) going…Pumpkins!!!

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The day I heard the expression “I am going Bananas” for the first time, I knew that it would remain with me forever…and believe me, I go “Bananas” more often than I would like to…although life is teaching me to just simply let go and enjoy the peace that comes with it!

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This was one of the last pictures of us three during the summer holidays. A visit we did to the beautiful and precious village of Sintra in Portugal. I so much wanted to be able to photograph and prepare a nice post for you about it, but the only thing I can say is that I did run behind T up and down the Pena Palace inside and outside and speed photos are definitely not my expertise :).

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I felt deeply frustrated but it’s just a question of managing expectations really…and in the end I gave up and enjoyed the cute  pictures (not amazing or very professional) of a very very nice day out. Eventually, he succumbed to his dad strong arms without running away and gave us a sweet happy memory of our summer holidays! 

Since then, the days passed fast…routines are settled, the house is getting cosier, the kitchen has warmer smells and the recent chilly mornings make the summer memories fade….but that’s ok with us, we are ready for the winter jackets, the warmth of the winter cooks and movies under blankets on the sofa!

We had many months of hot (too hot) sun, nights on the balcony, dinners outside with friends until early hours of the day, swimming pool play, beach with family and friends…and now the V&C household prepares for the most exciting and happy month for us 3! November month will bring us the birthday of the birthdays and our so beloved Giving Thanks dinner….so my mind is not going “Bananas” at all….but rather going Pumpkins with so many ideas…yes and as all with me always goes back to food…I also have a seasonal mind!!

Get ready to be surprised with the most amazing combination of flavours that will make your Fall Breakfasts an inspiration and of course it had to come from my beloved Pinch of Yum!

Have a great Fall…

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Pumpkin Granola

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Yes, indeed you read correctly! Pumpkin Granola….that’s right! Imagine having the crunchy feeling of a sweet spicy pumpkin pie with a last feeling of saltiness in your mouth…..Oh God!

Definitely a favourite for this time of the year…and the smell of the house while baking is to die for…thank you Pinch of Yum …you definitely know how to make comfort cosy recipes. I made some adaptations with the ingredients I had at home and it was super super yammy….so much that I had to share it with you and also did prepare some little jars for friends here!

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INGREDIENTS

  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 1 heaping cup sliced almonds
  • 1 heaping cup hazelnuts
  • 1 heaping cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (see notes in how to make your own)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup Honey
  • 2-3 tsp salt 
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • Handful of pumpkin seeds
  • Handful of linen seeds 

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Mix the dry ingredients together (oats, almonds, hazelnuts and coconut). Whisk the wet ingredients and spices together (pumpkin puree, olive oil, honey, salt, cinnamon). Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Spread the granola into a large tray with some baking paper. Bake for 15 minutes and then stir and bake for an extra 15 minutes until nice and gold. Remove from the oven and let rest – it should start to crisp up.
  • Store in a plastic zip-top bag for a week or so or on a good vacuum sealed container. Serve with yogurt, fruit or simply snack on it dry as it’s so so good!

Notes: 

  • You can use canned pumpkin puree, but with the beautiful season pumpkin you can simply boil some pieces of nice fresh squash with some orange peel until all is cooked. Drain it and blend into a nice silky orange colour puree. I always cook mine from fresh, for this recipe, for cakes, pies…it is really worth the effort. 
  • The salt seems a bit too much but as Lindsay explains in POY post it kind of mix with the sweet and you only feel it at the end and it’s very nice!

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