Project Blogging 101 with WordPress

Here's-Looking-at-You-(130218)

I have been running Chorizo & Thyme (also affectionately known as C&T) for almost five years now and I loved every minute of it.  I still do mind you, although these past two years have been a bit of a hit and miss. Especially this past year I would say. There have been a lot of changes in my life and some major ups and downs, as most of us that actually live experience. I have been very regular in my posts on the whole and I am so pleased with that, but I feel I need to push myself some more to get even more motivated.

So I decided to register for Blogging 101 with WordPress. From what I understood before I took this on was that it’s primarily for those who want to start blogging but haven’t started yet for whatever reason. I have been doing this for quite a while I know, and having said that I felt a bit awkward at first, not out of pride mind you, because I am always up for new learning experiences and I learn from everyone. I think it’s because I am not confident enough my blog could actually be something really good, something which people like to read. Does anyone out there feel the same?

When I read yesterday’s task, which of course I’m tackling this morning (cue: this Maltese heat is killing me) I thought, “Wait…isn’t this what I did in my About page? Why should I give my readers another introduction? Wouldn’t they find it boring?” And I guess that the answer is yes, I think they would. And then I realised that this kind of reasoning was totally wrong! What about new readers and bloggers? What about discovering all those fantastic aspiring writers out there who are really into what they do and do it with passion? And what about connecting with them and catch up on what they’re doing and what they like to write about? This is important for me.

I started C&T primarily because I wanted to share my love of baking with my friends and family. It was a little project, which turned into my hobby, then it became my baby, and now it’s what I want to do in life. In the process I became interested in photography and I started taking the pics myself, instead of repeatedly relying on my husband every single time I cooked something. And that felt good.  Four years and a few months ago this space was nameless. Now it has an identity, of which I’m proud. I’m glad I stuck around. C&T is not perfect and never has been, but it’s mine and it’s totally me!

As all things in life that evolve, C&T has featured a number of non-food posts. One of the questions I get asked quite a lot is: “Why don’t you post solely on food and post your non-foodie posts elsewhere?” I do get where this is coming from, really, but my answer is always the same. I have other interests and my days don’t solely revolve around food. I don’t have the time to keep another site up-to-date as I do with this one, so I decided early on that this is how I was going to do things. It was a choice, and it still is. You see, most of you don’t know this but it was a choice between a beauty blog or a food blog. The food won but it was never a simple black and white pick. I love reading both and I do have some favourite beauty people whose blogs I devour and hang on to!

This turned out to be a long-ish post, and that’s how most of my ramblings are on here. Thanks for sticking around till the end. I’m truly honoured and grateful. And don’t hesitate to send me links to your blogs. I would love to read them. Also feel free to browse around here and send me your messages!

Enjoy!

Rob x

Avocado Wrap with Crispy Egg and Chorizo

Avocado Wrap with Crispy Egg and Chorizo (0232)

Some people ask me what are my go-to things I make when I’m hangry. This is not a typo, it’s a word apparently, though my search for it in the dictionary was unsuccessful. It’s a mesh of two words: hungry and angry. It wasn’t on Merriam-Webster, but boy have I experienced this before! And I’m guessing that you have too! It happens when I want to eat but I’m pressed for time or when I really want to munch on something but I just don’t want to be bothered. Especially when it’s a scorchio.

The following recipe is what I go for when I want the kind of lunch that doesn’t necessarily make me crave anything else as a snack. See what I did there? On a serious note though, I do make this very often, that is, whenever I have an avocado or two in the house. I seem to buy my local greengrocer’s weekly summer haul of avocados. I must ask for a discount next week. I also need to remember to make a bowl of guacamole. Tomatoes and chili peppers are now at the top of my shopping list.

You could leave the egg out if so you fancy, but I think it goes so well here. It turns the meal into the once-really-fashionable brunch, which I still love the idea of. Recently I read a couple of interesting blogs about the crispy egg and I was hooked. There are countless ways of cooking eggs. Just browse through Smitten Kitchen and The Kitchn. Or just Google “how to cook an egg”. Just don’t be overwhelmed!

  • 1 tortilla wrap or Italian piadina
  • a handful of mixed salad
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and scooped
  • juice of ½ a small lemon
  • drop of rapeseed or vegetable oil
  • around 6-8 thin slices of chorizo sausage
  • pinch of salt
  • pepper
  • 1 large egg

Fry the egg on a clean flat non-stick pan or griddle, using just a drop of rapeseed oil spread around the pan. Make sure that the egg turns golden brown at the edges. Set aside but keep it warm.

In the same pan, brown the slices of chorizo sausage on both sides. Keep an eye on them to avoid burning. Set aside when they’re done.

Place the tortilla wrap on a plate. Top it with the mixed salad, avocado, a few drops of fresh lemon juice, chorizo, salt and pepper and finally add the crispy egg.

Wrap and eat, or just pick from the tortilla as you go! Your choice.

I could make this at any time of the day. It really is a gorgeous, quick and simple meal. Enjoy!

Rob x

Browse through C&T to find out what I was doing…

One year ago: Fusilli with Mandarins and Basil

Two years ago: Blueberry Muffins

Three years ago: Stir-fry

Four years ago: Penne with Chorizo

White Chocolate and Strawberry Muffins

White Chocolate and Strawberry Muffins (0218)

I cannot really remember the day I baked these lovely goodies. Most probably it was sometime around mid-June, but somehow I never managed to write about them until now. Things recently have been busy and complicated, and now I’m dealing with grief. I wish the temperatures were still in the decent 20s. Celcius that is. It would have been easier to bake because I know that being in the kitchen often is good for me. If you set aside the eating part, which is something I love most obviously, the act of measuring out the ingredients, putting them all together and waiting patiently for the result takes away a big load of stress and anxiety which unfortunately has lately become part of my life. I am still cooking, well, somewhat; I don’t really know if making myself a green salad is actually cooking but baking is another matter and it’s what I like to do best.

White Chocolate and Strawberry Muffins (0216)

I planned to post this recipe during those two magical tennis weeks, a.k.a. Wimbledon but I spent most of those days in hospital. I feel as if I ran out of time now because strawberry season in Malta is almost gone, if not totally gone, but here it is anyway. I found it to be very similar to an Eric Lanlard’s recipe I posted a year or two ago and was almost going to leave it for next year but I just cannot see the point in that. It is unfortunate but summer here starts really early. Fig season is gone too! What the….! I found myself buying boxes and boxes of strawberries at a time. Four, five, even six boxes once. I buy them, head straight back home, wash the lot, hull them (and here my patience would be truly tested), macerate some with lemon and orange juices, chopped basil leaves, sugar and pepper, yes, pepper and leave some washed and hulled but still whole in a container, covered of course. Then I go ahead and freeze the rest. These are handy for my morning smoothies. And there goes two hours of my time. Icy-cold strawberry beverages make getting out of bed worthwhile!

White Chocolate and Strawberry Muffins (0221)

So if you’re in a cooler part of the world right now and you feel like making these, I can tell you that you can get 12-14 muffins with these quantities. Which is quite the recipe I tell ya! It’s not the first time I come across one that I like the sound of, then try it, then finding out that 10 muffins is all you get. But the baking team at Delicious Magazine sure know what they’re doing. Keep me posted and good luck.

  • 375g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 150g sugar
  • 250g white chocolate, cut into chunks
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150g butter, melted
  • 200g plain yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 12 fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
  • demerara sugar, for sprinkling
  • icing sugar, to decorate after cooling

Line a 12-hole baking tin with muffin cases, and preheat the oven to 200°C.

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and chocolate. In a separate bowl, tip in the beaten eggs, melted butter, yoghurt and milk. Give these a mix and add them to the dry ingredients. Combine all the ingredients but do not overmix. A lumpy batter is what we should be aiming for.

Distribute the mixture as evenly as you can between the 12 cases, and push one strawberry into each muffin. If you can cover them completely with the batter but really it’s no biggie if you don’t. I didn’t bother with some of mine and they turned out ok. Sprinkle the muffins with demerara sugar or light brown sugar if you prefer, and bake them for around 20 to 25 minutes until the tops are nice and golden. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then place them on a wire rack to cool completely. Sprinkle the muffins with a thin layer of icing sugar and serve.

I inserted a few photos for this recipe instead of just one, but they were too pretty and I couldn’t resist! Enjoy!

Rob x

Recipe is adapted from the Delicious Magazine website.

The Creative Blogger Award

Good morning everybody! I hope you are having a good start-of-the-day. I have been up early and just finished some house chores, but decided to take a break and talk to you about something really sweet that helped cheer me up today. Yesterday evening I was catching up on C&T’s admin stuff and as I was reading up on a few comments, I saw that one of my very favourite foodie bloggers Stephy from stephysweetbakes has nominated me for a Creative Blogger Award. I cannot explain how honoured I am for this. Being acknowledged by your fellow bloggers is an amazing thing. I really mean it. There are many fantastic people out there working hard at something they started as a hobby, posting great content and fantastic recipes. Some of these blogs have grown so much that they have managed to make a living out of it. But most of all they love what they do.

When you’re a blogger you know that if you want to be good at what you do you have to put yourself out there and sometimes it gets personal. That almost goes without saying. Colleagues and readers alike give me the incentive to keep going, especially during those times when I feel as though I have nothing interesting to say or cook. So thank you Stephy for nominating me and thanks to all those who take a little chunk of their time to pop by this little blog of mine.

The Rules:

  • Nominate 15-20 blogs and notify the nominees;
  • Post the link for the person who nominated you;
  • Share 5 random facts about yourself.

Five facts about me:

  • I love dogs – my current favourite is my cousin’s terrier who goes by the name of Cookie! She just turned 1.
  • I’m into science and sci-fi. Yes, I *am* a Trekkie. Please don’t judge.
  • I like to think I’m a citizen of the world.
  • I’m an avid reader and an Agatha Christie fan.
  • I’m a tennis nut. Back in the day I had Sampras and Becker posters on my walls.

(Writing those was fun!)

And now to the nominees (in no particular order):

Massi from Massi’s Kitchen

Wendy from La Phemme Phoodie

Sabrina from The Bee’s Kitchen

lovefromitaly

Katie from Mix It Up and Make It Nice

Karen from Lavender and Lovage

Emily from Jelly Toast

Felicity from Gin and More Cake

Freda from Aromatic Essence

Linda from Fabulous Fare Sisters

Smiling Notes

Deena from Deena Kakaya Vegetarian Cooking

Anna from The Proof of the Pudding

Tassy from Tassy Bakes

Kelsi from The Sunny Cook

I hope you enjoy all these blogs as much as I do! Good luck!

Rob x

Fried Courgette recipe and a Life Update

Fried Courgettes (7373)

Not writing anything on C&T for these past two weeks has been a strange experience. Last year I took a month-long break during all of August to focus on moving and trying to settle back in after the UK. This time things are very different and difficult. To say that these past few days have been tough doesn’t even begin to describe it. My maternal grandmother passed away early Sunday morning. Her funeral was held last Monday, giving us almost no time to process this loss. My grandma had been sick for 13 years – in fact, the last time I remember her being ok was at my wedding. I remember my mum asking me to go hug her before my going away. For some reason that comes to mind every time I think of her. Somehow I managed a reading during the service and kept calm, but I couldn’t help feeling upset by the end of it. What I can say for sure is that I feel deeply thankful for being able to be there during her last days with us. She is now at peace.

I have always linked my love of food to my grandmother. I know I’ve mentioned this before somewhere on this blog, but it’s only appropriate I do so now once again. One of my early memories of her was being in her large blue kitchen (does my kitchen being also blue have anything to do with this? I wonder…) frying some whole lampuki (dorado) and giving me one on a plate. I was, what? Four? Five? Something like that. I just ate using only my hands, no fork, no nothing. I just remember pulling apart the bones and licking my fingers after gobbling the whole thing up. My grandma wasn’t usually easily impressed but she gave me this huge smile when I was done. I was so happy! And it was so good! Even now I don’t mind using my hands to eat.

My mum is going through a rough time of course. I cannot imagine how she’s feeling, but I feel honoured to be able to spend time with her. The only thing I can do is to be there for her whenever she needs me, something of which I felt continuously guilty during the years I’ve been away. Now I’m back I feel I must make up for lost time. I’m partly writing this post/recipe for my mum because she’s the one who’s been asking me “Rob, when are you going to write next? Why don’t you post something this week?” I can understand why she’s asking and I appreciate that. So just to get me going again on my at-least-one-blog-post-a-week timetable here’s one which I wanted to publish for ages. (I know you will forgive me for sounding so negative, but here I am being honest.) My mum is a brilliant cook and this simple recipe reminds me of her a lot. A few weeks ago, when the temperatures were already going through the roof, I found my mother in the kitchen, by the flaming stove, frying thickly sliced courgettes like there’s no tomorrow. I was like “Ma, you’re nuts! This is taking so long…and…in this heat??!” She just shrugged her shoulders and said something like “But there’s so good!” And that’s a fact. This is how I do it. My take isn’t remotely the same as my mother’s and if she were here that’s exactly what she would say, but I’m sure she won’t mind.

  • 2 large courgettes, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • splash of fresh lemon juice

Even though I admire that kind of patience I know I wouldn’t be able to spend so much time faffing about next to the hob. Especially right now. So what I do is slice a couple of courgettes as thinly as I can manage, throw them in a hot non-stick pan with a tablespoon or so of regular olive oil or rapeseed oil, with a pinch of salt, pepper and chilli for some heat. Sometimes I add a sliced clove of garlic and a splash of fresh lemon juice. The courgettes are done once they turn golden and are easily pierced with a fork.

This recipe can be easily scaled up and is a perfect side with meat or fish. Also makes for a great snack with drinks.

Hope everyone’s having a good week. I’ve decided to take it one day at a time.

Rob x

Photo Diary: Gozo

The Azure Window (0188)

I thought it was time to post some non-foodie pics once again. As some of you may know, a friend of mine came over to Malta from the UK for a short visit. It was a real whirlwind and I tried to show her as many interesting places around the island in five days. She just started working as a travel consultant so would it be needless to say that she prepared a serious list of things she wanted to see? That was a bonus because she gave me a clear idea of the places she was interested to visit.

The Azure Window (0184)

Fungus Rock with Shore in the Foreground (0192)

The first thing on her list was a day in Gozo, and we did just that on her first full day here. It was as hot as hell but we managed to pull through. I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked. That happens to me often, for whatever reason, so I had to make do with the few adequate snaps I managed to take. When we came back home in the evening I realised that I didn’t even take some of the beautiful Gozitan ftira we ate for lunch! I might have taken a shot with my phone but the camera on that is, very mildly put, complete rubbish. A good excuse for another trip.

Fungus Rock (0182)

Fungus Rock and Heart (0194)

I usually divide these kinds of posts into two, mainly because I don’t like the clutter with too many pictures, but as I said before, there aren’t that many. I’m including everything for this one though, since most are of Fungus Rock and the beautiful Azure Window – *the* sights to see in Gozo. I had to include the one with the heart. I guess someone loved the views as much as we did! And the ice cream we had to cool ourselves off in the shade made things even better! I cannot remember whose idea that was but there was no question as to whether we needed one.

The Inland Sea (0180)

We Heart Fungus Rock (0196)

We also went to The Cittadella a.k.a. the Citadel (Iċ-Ċitadella), in the middle of the city of Victoria (or Rabat). The view of Għasri from the top of the Citadel made the uphill climb worthwhile (for which sadly I have no decent photos).  Restoration works started on this fortified city a few years ago. It’s still quite chaotic in there but we managed not to trip over various construction contraptions in the quaint narrow streets. Some tourists were not so lucky.

Balcony Pots (0199)

Citadella (0201)

Citadella (0202)

A View from the Fort (0204)

Citadella (0203)

Just take a moment to appreciate that gorgeous blue sky. And yes, it was as hot as it seems! (A great ending to C&T’s 300th post.)

Enjoy!

Rob x

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Squares

No-Bake Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars (0209)

A few weeks ago I was invited to a friend’s house. It was already sweltering hot but the day before, as a result of my Facebook status at the time, and a special request for it, I baked some chocolate chip cookies. I never ever regret baking, especially for others and it’s only good manners to take something with you when someone welcomes you to their home. And you know the drill, for good friends I would do that and more. Another friend of ours made the most delicious rice salad I’ve ever had, with the freshest mozzarella and seafood. Bringing dessert was the least I could do.

No-Bake Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars (0208)

So I made the cookies. By the end of the last batch I was a mess. Having every imaginable window open plus my BFF at the moment, a.k.a. the fan, on at maximum, wasn’t enough. Apart from that, the oven takes a long time to preheat and that doesn’t help my sanity at all. But the cookies tasted great…and we had ice cream with that. Do I need to say anything else?

No-Bake Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars (0211)

That day I promised myself and everyone else who follows me and/or reads C&T that I wouldn’t touch the oven again until the arrival of the colder months. Well, I lied. Why? Because at the time I said that, it was a fact, something set in stone, but I think I must have missed baking so much that I completely turned my resolution upside down on its head. Did I learn my lesson by now? Nope. I had people round for tea a little while ago and I made not one, not two, but three cakes. Well, two cakes and a batch of brownies, which doesn’t make things any better! It’s only the start of July now, so I cannot imagine what will happen by the end of the year.

No-Bake Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars (0210)

However, you might be please to know that on the same cookie-baking spree, I also made this recipe. I had not touched one of Nigella’s books for ages. This is a good thing actually. I still love Nigella, but I am trying newer things at the moment. I’m spreading my wings a little bit more. I found this really easy no-bake recipe in How To Be a Domestic Goddess. I tried it with the ingredients I had and it worked, although I would have liked to add a packet of crushed digestives or Marie biscuits to the base. I think the recipe would have worked better, but at the end it didn’t matter too much. The squares can be cut to any size but in this case I would dare to say the smaller, the better. Trust me on this one. These babies are very rich, but make lovely little treats.

For the bottom layer:

  • 60g dark brown sugar
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 200g crunchy peanut butter

For the top layer:

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Grease a 23cm square cake tin and line it with parchment or baking paper. Make sure to overlap the sides of the tin. This will make it easier to unmould the square when it is set.

In a large mixing bowl mix all the base ingredients together. (I just use a wooden spoon for this, but you could use a mixer with a paddle attachment if you like. I just don’t bother as one bowl and spoon makes the cleaning up much easier!) Press the mixture onto the base of the lined cake tin and set aside.

For the topping all you need to do is to roughly chop the chocolate into chunks. Place it into a heat-proof bowl together with the butter, and melt it over simmering water. When the chocolate has completely melted, spread it evenly all over the base.

Put the tin in the fridge and leave it to set.

Slowly unmould the contents of the tin very very carefully (I mean very carefully!) and cut it into small squares.

Enjoy!

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, Chatto & Windus, 2003.)

This is what I was doing….

One year ago: Photo – Fresh Herbs

Two years ago: Smitten Kitchen Strawberry Fools

Three years ago: Burgers

Four years ago: Tea Time Cakes – Banana Nut Loaf

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