Saturday, 23 June 2012

BBC GoodFood Show - Guest Post - Woof, Bark, Sniff-Sniff!

Bark, Bark, Sniff, woof woof - Oh sorry I forgot I have to tell you this in English!  My name is Jonty and my human (Heidi) went to the BBC GoodFood Show last week.  She was very keen sighted (I show her how to spot things sometimes) and she found the Laughing Dog stand.

Laughing Dog dog food is made without wheat, soya or dairy products (all of these can upset my tummy) and no artificial colours or flavours either ( you should see some of the treats I got for Christmas last year, they were bright green, red and yellow - I bet they were not natural colours!) All their products are actually baked in an oven so they retain more of the goodness and none of the delicious taste is lost.

Now let me tell you that I am quite a fussy eater so I wasn't really expecting to like the treats that Heidi brought home for me (I usually don't and they get given to the local hedgehogs when the humans are sick of seeing them in the kitchen).

But these products were yummy scrummy.  My friend George, originally from Madeira, came over and we tried them together. 

First we tried the Oven Baked Dental Oaties with Parsley and Eucalyptus oil.  We loved these so much we kept looking in the grass for crumbs!!  The natural cellulose fibre helps to promote a smooth cleaning of our teeth and help to remove plaque too.

Next we tried the Oven Baked Cheesy Oaties with Lincolnshire Cheese and Broccoli (I love both cheese and broccoli so I was pretty sure I would like these).  These too help keep our teeth plaque free.  The final thing we tested was the natural complete food.  Initially I thought these were just pieces or cardboard I had chewed up but when I tasted them I really liked them too.  George and my humans were amazed because as I said earlier I can be quite fussy with my food and if it doesn't look good I just refuse to eat it.

I hope I get these products again because they seem to be good for me and taste great.  George gave them the paws up too!

If you have a furry family member try these out - I bet they will like them too (woof, woof, bark, sniff)

PS: it is my birthday and I am 5 years old (your years not mine) and I am a very lovable Bichon Frisee. If you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to ask (My humans will pass any messages on to me).


Friday, 22 June 2012

Yeo Valley Visit - Blogger Day

I was recently lucky enough to be invited by Yeo Valley Yoghurt to visit their gardens and farm in Somerset for the day.  That's a long way to go for a day so I thought I could take the train.  To get the train and be in Somerset for 10:00 am I would have to leave St Albans station about 06:30 am and change up to three times in London.  Liking my sleep as I do that plan didn't exactly appeal (up at 06:00 for Barbados but for yoghurt - perhaps not).  Mr R has a cousin who lives in Somerset and as it turns out only about 20 minutes from the Yeo Valley farm which presented an ideal opportunity to drive down the night before, stay over and have a good visit with family.

Boy do you get a lot of more house in Somerset than you do in St Albans!

Mr R's cousin in her beautiful kitchen

I left the house about 09:20 and a quick trip straight up Cheddar Gorge (!!) I arrived at Yeo Valley Farm and was greeted warmly with coffee and handmade cookies.

Gilded garden knomes make a unique frame!
As soon as everyone had arrived we got a quick talk about Yeo Valley and an outline of the day before we went off with the head gardener for an extensive tour of the gardens and grounds.  The scenery was majestic with lovely verdant green fields everywhere we looked. 
The view from the visitor refreshment centre

We even met 'the girls' who make the lovely milk that is made into the lush yogurts and rice puddings and all their other creamy products.

When we got back from the grounds tour there was a yoghurt tasting session by Ben (in charge of marketing and more - as this is a small family business everyone does their job and whatever else needs to be done!) giving us the chance to sample all the flavours of yoghurt including Raspberry and Passion Fruit, rhubarb, Blueberry, Lemon Curd and loads more and small pots of greek yoghurt with honey and rice puddings. 

Ben showed us how to taste the yoghurt hygienically

Then we were let loose to try all the flavours and varieties
Chef Jamie showed us some great recipes featuring yogurt, cream, milk etc like a homemade ricotta cheese that is simple to make and ultra useful in tarts and more.  We watched as trout fillets were tea smoked in a homemade smoker and sourdough bread was made. 

As soon as the cookery demonstration was over we sat down to a sumptuous lunch of tomato salad, mixed greens (all from the property) tea smoked lake trout, ricotta and spinach tart, sourdough bread,

and for dessert a simple yoghurt based cheesecake - absolutely yummm.

Easy cheesecakes in jars perfect for a pic-nic
A further talk about the kitchen garden,

including the perfect compost

followed by a cup of tea and then it was time to wend our way home.  I would have liked to spend a couple more days there but instead started the long 3 hour drive home.  The plus point being the very generous goodie bag we were given filled with all flavours of yoghurts.

A sample of the yoghurt we were given to take home
I look forward to visiting Yeo Valley Yoghurts again soon!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Vitamix - the machine of the future from the past!

Recently I was invited to an information evening for bloggers at the PR agency Publicasity, in London, who look after the company Vitamix. It was lovely to see other food bloggers again and to meet new ones. I was excited to see this product, having heard about it via their web site and watched a short video presentation. The feature that most caught my eye from the video was the ease at which once could make ice cream effortlessly and quickly but more of that in a bit!
Chef Bev introducing us to the amazing Vitamix Total Nutrition Centre

We were greeted by members of Vitamix who had come over from Ohio in America to introduce us to the Vitamix Total Nutrition Centre. Chef Bev took us through a series of recipes whilst ably assisted by her colleague Jenn.

The picturesque valley of Olmsted Falls, Ohio is where the founder, William G "Papa" Barnard set up the company in 1921.  Several versions later and we have the Vitamix Total Nutrition Centre (TNC). This machine replaces several of the kitchen gadgets and performs up to 50 tasks with the most amazing speed and efficiency whilst the blades can spin up to 240 m.p.h. A very impressive feature is the 7 year guarantee that covers both the Total Nutrition Centre and the Vitamix Professional Series 500.

This machine is the ultimate kitchen appliance that can blend, mix, knead, chop, make smoothies, creamy salad dressings, hot soup and even ice cream. We were treated to some great demonstrations such as a cocktail called 'Shagalicious' as we got there and finishing later with a fruity 'Margareta'! Glad I wasn't driving!

Shagalicious cocktail on arrival!

Fruity Margarita cocktail

In between Bev showed us how to produce firm favourites in minutes like a roasted red pepper hoummous, hot chocolate fondue (which started to thicken when cooling so could also become a lovely cold treat). 

Chef Bev demonstrating how to make houmus

Ice cream is the simplest thing.  You don't need to keep a large container in the freezer waiting till you want to make ice cream or heat any milk or creamy ingredients.  You just freeze your fruit such as strawberries or even slices of banana, add to the container of the TNC and presto it becomes a quick and creamy ice cream!  I am looking forward to lots of that in the coming months.

The invitation to the event stated that two lucky attendees would win a Vitamix Total Nutrition Centre to take home!  This was quite an exciting prospect as these retail in John Lewis, Harrods and other good retailers at approximately £450.00!!

We put our business cards into a large glass bowl and Chef Bev picked the first winner's name.  'Heidi Roberts' -  ooh ooh that's me I said extremely shocked, especially since Mr R had said "Hope you win one of the machines" as he left for work that morning.

The machine was delivered to my house the following week. How beautiful it looks taking pride of place in my kitchen.

I am still slightly in awe of this machine but have tried a few things already. Saturday morning smoothies in less than 30 seconds - great!

Getting ready for Saturday Smoothies

30 seconds later!

I tried ice cream and it kind of worked - not as thick ice cream as I was expecting but I will try again next weekend.  I froze blueberries, raspberries and strawberries to make a mixed fruit ice cream with double cream.  At the BBC GoodFood Show last weekend Vitamix had a stand selling the machines so I got to have a quick chat with the guys demonstrating coming away with a bit more of an idea.

Next soup - yes from ice cream to soup! Very versatile machine and coming up after the soup is a red pepper houmus.

I am only getting started exploring this new piece of equipment! I am sure I will be reporting back to you again.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

BBQ Wednesday

At a recent blogger event I learned how to make a simple, punchy Salsa Verde. Since I had some fresh basil to use I decided to make some Salsa Verde for dinner.  That was the easy decision but what to have with it took a bit more thought!

I took some chicken breasts out of the freezer and also some chipolata sausages (Mr R always has to have sausages when he cooks on his BBQ).  For Mr R's birthday in April he decided to use some of his birthday money to upgrade his gas BBQ. I must say the food seems to cook more evenly and is less prone to burning and charring on the new one.

Anyway I marinated the chicken breasts in some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and a couple of teaspoons of My Secret Kitchen Secret Spices with Wild Garlic. (The smell of garlic was mouthwatering).

For the vegetable I sliced a couple of courgettes into three thick slices and marinated in them in a little bit of lemon infused olive oil and salt and pepper. Usually I cut the courgettes into chunks for the grill but leaving them in slices meant they cooked a bit quicker  and went softer and sweeter. Add some boiled new potatoes with butter and dinner was prepared and ready to cook.

Mr R was almost finished cooking on his BBQ when his dad came to visit with my birthday present for the following day.  This was indeed a very nice surprise but it meant that dinner was late and not at it's best so I didn't take a final photo!

The dinner did taste good and most importantly of all was quick and simple to get ready in advance, leaving only the actual cooking to be done.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Simple Sunday Supper

After watching the Jubilee celebrations quite a lot of the day and a quick trip to the local pub I wanted to do an easy supper for Mr R and myself.

Quick check in the fridge and I took out ready rolled puff pastry, a package of parma ham, mozarella cheese, fresh pesto and My Secret Kitchen Tapenade with Smoked Garlic and from the cupboard a jar with one red pepper and 1/2 a jar of artichokes in oil (which I drained)

I laid the pastry on a flat Pampered Chef rectangular baking stone and scored the edges with a knife about an inch from the edge all round (this lets the edges rise up and gives a nice border).

First I smeared the base with the tapenade then sprinkled the rest of the ingredients in the following order:-
pesto, chopped pepper, artickoke, slices of parma ham and torn pieces of mozarella.

Topped the piece with fresh basil leaves rougly torn,

then into a hot oven (200oC) for about 15-18 minutes.  Serve with a crisp green salad and enjoy!