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The World’s Best No-Bake Chocolate Cake

Posted October 17th, 2011

Tasted this AMAZING chocolate cake at a party, and had to get the recipe. This is the rough translation from the Dutch original. A better translation is coming:

No-Bake Chocolate Truffle Cake

600g good, bitter chocolate
6 dl whipping cream
3 tbsp fine white sugar
1 ‘borrelglas’ of cognac or amaretto
1 package bastogne cookies
150g butter
cocoa powder

Cover the bottom of a 27cm springform pan with baking paper.

Whiz up the cookies in a food processor. Melt the butter and mix the two together. Sprinkle this over the bottom of the pan. Press flat and put in the freezer.

Whip the cream and sugar together until stiff.

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt slowly in a double boiler or the microwave.

Put the melted chocolate (not too hot!) in with the whipped cream, in one go, with the mixer still running. Add the liquor and keep beating until everything is mixed together.

Put in the pan and then put it in the freezer overnight. When it’s ready to serve, take it out and dust with cocoa powder.

Posted in Personal Events

Li’s Awesome Salsa

Posted August 29th, 2011

This is an awesome salsa recipe from our equally awesome friend Li.

  • 8-10 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 fresh, hot chiles (1 to 1 1/2 ounces), stems removed
  • Half of a small white onion (2 ounces), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and hard base removed
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (*I NEVER use the stems, just the leaves. the stems are too hard and detract from the flavor in my opinion)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • Salt optional (I usually skip this unless the tomatoes are extra sweet)

Set oven to broil. Half the tomatoes and remove top stem. Roast tomatoes (10 minutes normal oven, about 20 in my combi oven) until skins are blackened. Remove from oven and roughly chop in a food processor/or mini-chopper.

While tomatoes are roasting, place chiles and garlic in a hot skilled – roast on high heat until skins start to sear. Garlic will start to go a little translucent – it will change the flavor and sweeten it up a bit. Remove from heat and finely chop. Add to tomatoes. I do not seed my chiles, but you can to reduce the heat if you like.

Finely chop the onion and cilantro. add to mixture.

Finish with vinegar and optional salt Let stand, uncovered, to cool. This evaporates a some of the tomato water and gives it time to thicken.

Good in refrigerator or two weeks. Can be frozen, but I doubt it will last after you make it – mine never does. Better 2-3 days on, where flavors can well blend. Li.

Posted in Personal Events

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Posted August 16th, 2011

In a quest to find the best ever chocolate chip cookies, here are the recipes we’ve tried so far. It’s a work in progress:

 

 

Posted in Personal Events

Easy and Very Spicy Habanero Sauce

Posted August 12th, 2011

Habanero Peppers - Burn Baby Burn!A few weeks ago, we found ourselves with a pound of fresh habanero peppers to use up. Hot sauce seemed the obvious solution, so we doubled this recipe and modified it slightly.

We started with these ingredients:

  • 40 Habaneros
  • 1-2 heads garlic
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp sugar

To make the sauce, we simply chopped up the habaneros (removing most of the seeds) and roasted them with the garlic and a bit of oil at 180°C for about 20 minutes. We let them cool, squeezed the roasted garlic out of the cloves and threw everything in a blender (including the rest of the liquids and spices). Blend until smooth. That’s it!

A few weeks later, we decided to try making a sweeter version. That recipe goes like this:

For the basic hot sauce -

  • 1,200 grams Habaneros
  • 3 heads garlic
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 4 tsp white sugar

For the sugar syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

Cut the tops off the habaneros and slice them in half. Remove the seeds from two-thirds of the peppers. Roast the peppers with the garlic in a bit of oil at 180°C for 20-30 minutes (until the peppers just start to blacken and the garlic is soft). You may have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your oven.

Let the peppers and garlic cool. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the cloves. Throw the peppers, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar and spices in a blender and blend until smooth.

Separately, put the water, brown sugar and ketchup in a saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened. Mix in the cornstarch, and then add it to your blended peppers at a ratio of 1/2 cup sugar syrup to 1 cup hot peppers.

How easy is that? And it’s seriously one of the best hot sauce recipes we’ve made yet. We’re taking a little along on our weekend bike tours now, to make our normal meals even spicier!

Thanks to KDavidClark on Flickr for the photo

Posted in Personal Events

The Process Of Writing A Book: Creating And Gathering Content (Part 2)

Posted July 31st, 2011

This is the second in a series of articles about how my husband Andrew and I wrote the Bike Touring Survival Guide. See the other parts here.

When we decided to write a book, we had no idea how complicated the actual writing stage would be, and how many different components it would have. Here are the various stages we went through:

Creating A Table Of Contents – This was a crucial first step. By creating a solid Table of Contents (ToC) we were able to weed out exactly what did and didn’t belong in the book, and we had a plan for which chapters to write. Without a ToC or draft outline, it would be too easy to get distracted, writing things that weren’t really necessary. Drafting a ToC took about a week. Every day we would come back to it, change a few things, compare with other books, and then step back and take a break from it again.

Writing Chapters – With a ToC to work from, we were ready to start writing. Whenever we had time to write, we picked a topic from the ToC and focused on that section. We didn’t write the book in order, but chose chapters as we felt inspired to write them.

Soliciting Additional Content – As we wrote, we were constantly on the lookout for writing by other people that fit the same themes in our book. When we found a quote or story that was particularly good, we would write the person and ask permission to quote them in the book. We did the same for photographs. In all cases, we promised full credit, including a link back to any relevant website. No one ever declined our requests and most people openly expressed willingness to help. By gathering so much content from many different voices, we felt we were building a much stronger book.

Content Review (stealth) - Inspired by Nina Simon, we often used our blog, Facebook and Twitter groups as a sounding board for ideas or chapters that we were struggling with. We would post about the topic, and see how readers reacted. This helped us decide which topics were particularly important to readers and often a reader would offer a tip, angle or situation that we hadn’t thought of.

Content Review (solicited) – No good book is written by the authors alone. Behind the book is a whole crew of editors, graphic designers and publishing professionals. As self-publishers, we didn’t have the muscle power of a big organisation behind us but we did approach other people who we respected to review the book and share their thoughts. Even though some of these people could be considered as competitors, they were all incredibly helpful and in all cases we felt people went further than we expected. Often, we would ask them only for feedback on one specific aspect of the book, but they would read the whole thing and return to us with many helpful tips and suggestions for improvements.

Finding Photographs – In most cases, we had enough photos from our own bike touring stash that we could use in the book but occasionally another photo would speak to us, or there was a topic we couldn’t illustrate on our own. In this case, we once again turned to the power of the internet community. We used Flickr and the Compfight tool to identify relevant Creative Commons images with a license for commercial use. If we wanted to use a photo that didn’t have the appropriate license, we contacted the photographer and asked for permission. Sometimes we also wrote companies and asked permission to use a corporate photo or diagram that was particularly helpful. These requests were almost always granted.

Editing - Editing was almost as challenging as writing the book. Chapters that we thought were perfect seemed full of errors and loose writing when we returned to them weeks later. It quickly became clear to us that editing our book would take a significant amount of time (about 3 months as it turned out).

As we edited, we tried to question everything we had written to make sure we had examined all the angles, and that we hadn’t written anything based purely on our own assumptions, rather than fact or experience. We also tried to read the book out of order because by this point we were so familiar with that it if we read a section from start to finish, the reading process was too automatic – we didn’t see the errors.

Sometimes it helped to read the book out loud to ourselves because this forced us to think about every word. Editing also meant shortening several paragraphs, and making sure we hadn’t said the same thing in two different places.

General Writing & Editing Tips

As we wrote, we learned a few things about the writing process that helped us to be more efficient and write better. If we could give you some advice about writing, we’d tell you to:

1. Set Aside Special Writing Time – To write well, you have to make time to do just that. This means getting away from Facebook, Skype, Twitter, screaming kids, television and anything else that might distract you. Have a day where you only write, and if people ask you to do other things on that day, tell them you’re booked. Otherwise, your book will keep getting pushed to the back burner and never be finished. On writing days, Andrew often fixed up Friedel’s computer so it couldn’t connect to the internet. The distraction was gone, and a lot more got done!

2. Get A Notebook – Ideas will come to you at the strangest moments, and usually not when you are at the computer. Keep a notebook handy and write them down as they pop into your head. If you don’t have a place to write them down, you’ll lose them by the next time you sit down to write.

3. Don’t Edit As You Write – Leave any editing work until you have a complete draft of the book. It’s more important at first to just get your ideas down. When you have all the gaps in the book filled in, you can then start to rearrange content, cut down certain chapters and add things like bold titles or bullet points.

4. Save, Save, Save Your Work - It should almost go without saying but a book is a huge undertaking and you don’t want to lose it! Save your work constantly and back it up somewhere other than on your computer (we used Dropbox and our own server as two back-up places).

5. Stay Organised – As you gather more and more material, it’s easy to create a little pocket of chaos on your computer, with photos, half-finished chapters and outlines of ideas. Be religious about organising these things into folders. We had one for each chapter, with a subfolder for images related to each chapter. Staying organised doesn’t only help while you are writing. It also become critical during the layout process.

6. Have A Firm Date As A Goal – Decide when you want to finish your book and circle that date on the calendar. This will help keep you focused. Of course, you don’t want to be so rushed that you do a poor job of writing but without a date, a book is likely to drag on forever. Having a date also allows you to plan other things around the book launch (promotions, reviews, etc..) and forces you to think if a certain time of year might be better than another to launch your book. For example, we choose April because it is the time of year when a lot of people are getting ready for summer bicycle tours.

Posted in Personal Events