Things to do in autumn / fall

Now, this isn’t so much related to cycling, but I thought I’d post it here nevertheless – and it’s also being posted on my food blog, Distracted Gourmet (check it out if you haven’t already!).

Autumn is my favourite of all the seasons – and I love all of them already! But there’s so much great stuff you can do in autumn that I can’t help but love it. In order to help me get the maximum out of the season, I’ve created a check list for myself. I’ll be heading back every now and then to check my progress, too!

New Forest Autumn 3

The beautiful autumn colours of New Forest - by stevestreet

Autumn to do list

  • Have Halloween party
  • Have Thanksgiving dinner
  • Make pinecone decorations
  • Make a leaf wreath
  • Make jam
  • Walk through the leaves
  • Gather chestnuts
  • Make Christmas pudding
  • Celebrate Bonfire Night
  • Carve a pumpkin
  • Cycle down a hill with my scarf flying behind me
  • Make the best hot chocolate
  • Make pickles

What’s on your to-do list this autumn?

Ultimate Lost Party Menus

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a loyal Lostie since the show started. While I’m sure I’m not going to love the finale (so many unanswered questions!) I’m sure I’m going to have a blast watching it – because I’m planning my very own Lost finale party! When it comes to parties, there’s only one thing I care about, and that’s the food. So here’s my lowdown on the best menus for a Lost finale party, culled from the interwebs, and in places, my own imagination. I’ve got three ‘menus’ to choose from, although in reality they are just three lists – food inspired by the show, food from the show itself, and an extra special, cos I love ya low-fat/low calorie diet menu. Plus, as an extra special bonus, a list of drink ideas!

Menu from the show universe

  • Peanut butter (Charlie’s present to Claire – bonus points if it’s in a Dharma-labelled jar!)
  • Fish biscuits (from the Polar bear cages – as eaten by Sawyer and Kate) – recipe here.
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches (brought to Jack by Juliet when he was being held captive by Ben)
  • Muffins (cooked by Juliet for her book club)
  • Mr Cluck’s Chicken (fried chicken from Hurley’s fast food chain – use generic fast food fried chicken!)
  • Foraged fruits: mango, banana, passionfruit, guava, papaya, coconut, oranges (for Locke-smiles…). Serve them whole on a chopping board with a hunter’s knife for added drama and authenticity. Or, make them into a fruit salad like Hurley.
  • Hunted meat like boar (cop out and use pork! Roasted pork tenderloin, pork ribs, pulled pork… Mmm!), rabbit and chicken
  • Grilled fish, or sashimi ala Jin
  • Dharma-labelled food, easily created by printing out labels and sticking them on pre-existing packages. Some of the most famous Dharma food includes the aforementioned peanut butter, ranch composite (ranch dressing), Dharmalars (probably a version of Mallomars), and mac and cheese. Click here for an amazing array of Lost labels for your food!
  • Apollo bars (dark chocolate and nuts)
  • Alcohol salvaged from the plane in mini-bottles, or provided by Dharma, including beer, whiskey, rum, red and white wine.

Menu inspired by the show

Low-calorie Lost menu

Lost-inspired drinks

  • Tropical fruit juice
  • MacCutcheon whiskey (stick a fake label over a bottle of whiskey to create ultra-rare Lost whiskey!)
  • Wine from Moriah Vineyards, as made by Desmond the monk (as above)
  • Zombie (2 parts white rum, 1 part dark rum, 1 part golden rum, 2 parts lime juice, 1 part orange juice, 1 part pineapple juice, half part sugar syrup, ice, shaken in a mixer)
  • Pina Colada (1 part white rum, 2 parts coconut cream, 2 parts pineapple juice, shaken and strained)
  • Banana Daiquiri (2 parts white rum, 2 parts lime juice, dash triple sec, 1tsp sugar, crushed ice, 1 ripe banana, blended until smooth)
  • Mai Tai (1 part light rum, 1 part dark rum, 1 part Cointreau, dash Grenadine, tsp lime juice, 3 parts orange juice, 3 parts pineapple juice, shaken over ice and strained)
  • Blue Devil (3 parts gin, 1 part lemon juice, 1 tbsp maraschino, shaken over ice)
  • Blue Lagoon (3 parts vodka, 1 part blue Curacao, 3 parts pineapple juice, shaken over ice and strained)
  • Non-alcoholic fruit cup (2 parts orange juice, 2 parts grapefruit juice, 2 parts pineapple juice, 2 parts apple juice)

You can find some Lost-themed menus, ideas and resources at these sites:

Have fun! And, be sure to tell me what YOUR Lost party menu consisted of…

DISCLAIMER: I didn’t create any of the content linked to here, nor can I vouch for the reliability or deliciousness of any of the recipes, save Nigella’s awesome peanut butter fudge sauce… Click and make at your own risk!

Halloween: 17 days to go…

I’m getting so excited about Halloween! Is anyone else planning a party to celebrate the spookiest night of the year? I’d love to hear your plans – what are you going to cook? What are you going to wear?! Leave a comment and let me know… I’m dying of curiosity!

You might notice that, in the spirit of the event, I’ve added a handy new link to your left, which when clicked, will lead you to all my posts with the category ‘Halloween’, so if you want to find the Halloween marshmallow recipe, my pumpkin fondant tutorial or anything else to do with Halloween, you know where to find it! Throughout the year I’ll be changing this to reflect the seasons, the holidays, and my latest obsessions!

Purple buttercream and stars

This year, my menu is nowhere near organised… but I do know what my costume will be. Thanks to a quick shop in Primark, I will be an ’80s zombie, complete with acid yellow dress, purple tights, orange legwarmers and a heck of a lot of purple accessories. I am perfecting my moaning noises every morning whilst getting up, I assure you! And I have a magic lipstick that looks green but turns pink when you put it on. Now, how scary is that?

Pst – I’m totally honoured to have been featured in Indie Fixx’sHalloween Tutes from Around The Interwebs‘ – in the same list as Martha Stewart, no less! Watch out, Mazza…

Halloween Marshmallows

This weekend I’ve had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with Life is Sweet, by Hope and Greenwood, which is, as it so rightly says on the cover, a collection of splendid old-fashioned confectionary (buy it if you get the chance! It’s very reasonably priced and ever so good). I’ve made marshmallows, fudge and cinder toffee, and although the cinder toffee wasn’t the best I’ve ever tasted, I was particularly pleased with the fudge. However, as Halloween is coming up, I thought I’d make some spooky Halloween marshmallows by colouring them purple. The vanilla marshmallow recipe in Life is Sweet is unfortunately misprinted and the ingredients list is screwed up, so I’ve adapted my own from the recipe for Mallows D’Amour. There are a few technical aspects to this recipe which might prove difficult – you need a stand mixer (although I did experiment with an electric handheld whisk, and the patient might just be able to cope like this, holding it for around 15 minutes!) and a sugar thermometer. I had to borrow both of these, but a sugar thermometer is a great investment for making fudge, toffee, caramel and jam.

Halloweeen marshmallows with black stars

Halloween Marshmallows (adapted from Mallows D’Amour, Life is Sweet by Hope and Greenwood)

INGREDIENTS

  • 450g (1lb) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp liquid glucose
  • 1 sachet powdered gelatine
  • Good dab of purple colouring paste (I used Wilton’s Violet)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Cornflour and icing sugar, to dust
  • Purple sugar/black stars or any Halloween themed decorations

METHOD

  • Line a 20cm/8inch square baking tin with baking parchment or greaseproof paper and dust with cornflour and icing sugar. I’ve found you need a heck of a lot of this to keep the marshmallow from sticking.
  • In a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan, add the sugar, glucose and 200ml of water and stir. Place over a medium-high heat and add your sugar thermometer. Keep cooking until the temperature reaches 127C or 260F. This could take 15 minutes or as long as 25, so keep an eye on it.
  • Whilst this is happening, put 100ml of boiled water in a bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Stir well until dissolved. This will really smell. Gelatine is not suitable for veggies, and from the smell of the gelatine, you will know why. Don’t panic, the smell goes away, and there is no taste of the gelatine whatsoever in the finished marshmallow. Now that would be Halloweeny…
  • When your gelatine and water is mixed well, add the vanilla and a good dab of purple colouring. For Halloween, you could also try black, orange and green – just remember that the colour will fade because of the egg whites, and the dusting of sugar and cornflour. When you add the food colouring, you should get a very dark colour. So much that you are secretly thinking ‘oh dear, I put too much in’. This will most likely give you a subtle shade…
  • When your syrup has reached the right temperature, you need to have a little panic attack and start jumping up and down and worrying you’re not ready. Don’t worry if you haven’t mixed your gelatine yet – I did this and it turned out all right. Just add it to the pan of sugar syrup and mix well. It’ll bubble, so watch out.
  • Get your stand mixer and whip the eggs until stiff peaks form. Turn the mixer down as slowly as it will go, and add the syrup and gelatine in very gently. Slow, slow. This could take a while… The heat from the syrup is heating the egg whites, so if you pour it on too fast, it’s likely the word could implode.
  • When you’ve done this, you turn the speed up to superfast and leave to beat for at least 15 minutes. The mix is ready when it holds onto the whisk well, and is thick and shiny.
  • Pour into your dusted pan. Leave it to set for a long time – the book says 2 hours, but I’ve left mine overnight before.
  • Turn the marshmallow out onto another dusted piece of parchment paper. If you’re like me, the mix will still have stuck to the bottom of your originally dusted piece of paper, so dust all sides until nothing is sticky. Then, slice and dust, slice and dust, into whatever shapes you like. Once you’ve dusted your marshmallows, you can shake off the excess coating by throwing them gently from hand to hand. Store in parchment paper.
  • Serve with edible sugar, as above, or with anything suitably Halloweeny…

Purple sugar Halloween marshmallows

How about black sugar stars, like the first photo? Or purple sanding sugar, like the photo above?Or, if you want to be more sophisticated, why not keep your mallow mix white, and then decorate with tiny gold stars? (I got mine from Jane Asher’s site.)

Starry Halloween marshmallows

These are too good to give to Halloween trick or treaters…