I’m still here *waves hello*

Hello everyone.

I must apologise for the lack of blog posts recently.

I got married in September 2016 and then promptly went to Copenhagen two days later (A blog is coming, don’t worry). Between then and now, we have had some work done on our house (that was stressful to say the least) but now all that is done I can finally concentrate on my blog and also post some recipes I have waiting for you all.

So, this is a tiny, little blog to say that I’m still here, I’ve not travelled off into the sunset and gone forever, although that does sound very nice indeed, and the first blog of my Copenhagen trip will be coming in the next few days.

So, until then, happy travelling and happy eating!

 

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Gluten-Free Cookies

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I don’t have coeliac disease, nor am I gluten intolerant, but my friend is and as I’m a keen baker I thought I would have a go at baking something tasty for her. She explained that gluten-free foods aren’t as tempting as “ordinary” foods so I set to work finding something for her… and these were the result! Even Mr Travelstodge loved them. His comments were “these are the best biscuits you’ve ever baked” … and believe me, I’ve baked many; much to his waistline’s disapproval!

The ingredients you will need are:

180g Rice Flour (I use Doves Farm)
100g Caster Sugar
100g Milk Chocolate Chips
90g Light Brown Sugar
70g Unsalted Peanuts, Chopped (or use mixed nuts or any combination you want)
60g Unsalted Butter, Softened
2 Large Eggs, Beaten
1/2 Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Always make sure you measure out the ingredients before you start, otherwise you will be back and forth across the kitchen… believe me, I’ve been there!

Start by mixing together the rice flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl. In a large mixing bowl, or a free-standing mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar, caster sugar and vanilla extract until light. Next, add the egg bit by bit, making sure it’s mixed in well each time (you don’t want it to split at this point). It will now look rather runny, which is perfectly fine, as you will now add the dry ingredients from the other bowl in to this mix. Put it in one tablespoon at a time otherwise it will end up all over the place! Once combined, add the chocolate chips and peanuts.

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Now, depending on how you want the cookies will depend on how long you leave the
mixture in the fridge. For round, crunchy cookies, leave the mixture in the fridge for an hour so it is solid. If you want large soft, floppy cookies (like the ones you get a Millies Cookies) then leave it in the fridge for about half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190˚C (170˚C Fan) Gas Mark 5. Line three baking sheets with baking paper. If they move about, dab a little butter on each corner of the tray to anchor the baking paper down.

Use a teaspoon amount for little biscuits, or a dessertspoon for larger ones. If you are leaving them in the fridge for the hour then leave a gap of around 5cm between them. If you are leaving them for only half an hour then double the gap, if not triple… they will spread out considerably and end up joining together! You can always break them apart so not the end of the world if they did.

Bake them for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Leave them to cool… but you all know that!

If you want to leave the nuts out,  just add the same amount of chocolate chips to the mix so it becomes a nut-free recipe too.

Chocolate Biscuits

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I decided that, as I had an egg left in the box, and it was up today, I had better bake something with it… well, I don’t like waste so these Chocolate Biscuits were the result! So far Mr Travelstodge’s work colleagues have given them the thumbs up along with several at my place of work, so they can’t be that bad.

The ingredients needed are:

175g (6 oz)        Caster Sugar
125g (4½ oz)     Butter at room temperature
125g (4½ oz)     Plain Flour
35g   (1¼ oz)     Cocoa Powder
1                         Egg, beaten
½ tsp                  Bicarbonate of Soda
½ tsp                  Vanilla Extract (Not the artificial suff, get proper extract!)

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F, Gas Mark 4) and line three or four baking trays. I used two square trays and one rectangular one but whatever you have will be fine. I find baking paper the best, and a smidge of butter on the tray will help anchor the paper on so it doesn’t move when you are putting the dough on the tray.

Mix together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale in colour and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth.

Next, sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa and beat together until everything is combined. (Travelstodge tip: I mix together all the dry ingredients and sift them into a separate bowl and spoon the dry ingredients into the mix. It’s easier if you are using a hand mixer and or a stand mixer too, as you don’t have to keep stop-starting to sift, it’s all ready to spoon in!)

Now, you can create the biscuits in two ways. The first is with wet hands and roll the dough to create the ball shape needed, but this is messy and I always have the temptation to lick my hands clean… or… you can do what I do and use two teaspoons. Keep transferring the dough from one teaspoon to another to make the desired shape.

The size of the dough shape now will determine the size of the biscuit. A teaspoon size will create the biscuits in the photo, but smaller or bigger will mean adjusting the time in the oven. I made around 26 biscuits using a teaspoon size amount of dough. Make sure when you put the mixture on the baking trays you leave enough room for them to expand, otherwise they will come out all joined together… or one massive biscuit, depends how big your stomach is!

Bake in the oven for 15-17 minutes, based on a teaspoon sized dough.

Once baked, take them out of the oven and leave to cool for five minutes and transfer to a wire rack to completely cool. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a wire rack, I just leave mine on the baking tray to cool completely, it just takes a little longer.

And there you have it! Scrummy chocolate biscuits that everyone will want… all because I needed to use up an egg.

Popcorn, Two Ways!

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I’ve always loved popcorn. The smell always takes me back to family nights out at the cinema, but as time has gone on the price of popcorn has gone through the roof, so I tend not to buy it anymore when watching a film at the cinema. These days, I prefer to snuggle up at home with my fiancé with a cup of tea and homemade popcorn that’s warm and sweet.

So, I have two versions of popcorn that I’m sure you will all love, but play around with the recipes and adapt them to your own taste.

Christmas Popcorn

Mincemeat Popcorn

No, before you say it, it has NO meat in it. It’s a recipe I saw on Kirsty Allsopp’s Crafty Christmas that makes good use of the leftover mincemeat from mince pies.

There is no actual measurements for this recipe I’m afraid. It’s just a case of heating oil in a large pan, throwing in some popcorn kernels and putting the lid on, and wait for the pop pop pop….. I would put in enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pan, or a couple of handfuls. Then once all popped, pre-heat the oven to 180°c – 190°c (gas mark 4-5) and put all the popcorn into a bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of mincemeat and stir it round with your hands so it’s mixed in well.

Spread it out on a lined baking tray and put it in the oven for about 6-10 minutes.

When it’s done, let it cool slightly. Remember, this will be a caramelised larva of heat! Only when it is cool enough to touch, break it all up into pieces, and there you have it!

You can also add other things into the mix like almonds, cranberries, more apple or sultanas etc, but I just love it as it comes.

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Sugar Coated Popcorn

This one is for the sweet toothed connoisseur. It’s sweet, buttery and in no way shape or form good for you, but oh my, it’s delicious!

You will need:

110g      Un-popped Kernels
225g      Sugar
2 tbsp   Butter
3 tbsp   Water
½ tsp   Vanilla Extract.

Pop your corn kernels as per packet instructions. Put in a clean large pan with a lid and set aside.

Next, melt the butter in a pan and then put the rest of the ingredients in. Bring to the boil whilst stirring with a wooden spoon. (BE CAREFUL OF HOT SUGAR!)

Leave on a roaring boil for about a minute. Don’t stir at this point.

Now, you must be very careful here, as you have to pour your sugar mix on to your popcorn. Put the lid on and shake the contents until it’s all mixed together. I prefer to use two wooden spoons and toss them like a salad bowl, but however you do it, again, please be careful.

And there you have it! You can make it less or more buttery or sugary by having a play around with the ingredients. Try using icing sugar, or for a not-so-buttery taste, use less butter.

Flapjacks

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Ahhh, sweet, gooey, crunchy flapjack.  This has become a staple in the Travelstodge household, so much so even my brothers who were helping me put up my greenhouse today asked for some, so two batches were made and I only have one left!

So, all you need for this lush treat is the following:

225g   Porridge Oats
125g   Demerara Sugar
125g   Butter
5tbsp Golden Syrup

Pre-Heat the oven to 190°c (Gas Mark 5).  I would line a 20cm round tin with baking paper, as if you just grease it the flapjack is a nightmare to get out.

Using a wooden spoon, melt the butter in a large non stick pan on a low heat. Once all melted, add in the sugar and the syrup and stir until it’s all combined to one colour.

Next, add in the oats.  Add them a bit at a time so you are sure they are all combined and covered in the sugary, butter mix.

Put the mixture into the lined tin.  I would use a metal spoon to smooth over the top as it will be easier than a wooden one.

Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes.

Once you take it out, you must leave it to cool in the tin, and I mean completely cool down.  If you try to take it out when it’s warm, it will just crumble and look a right mess!

So there you have it, You can cut it into pieces if you want to or just troff away on the whole thing.  Whichever way you decide to eat it, enjoy!

Nutella Brownies for Nutella Day!

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Apparently it’s World Nutella Day today, so here is my tried and tested recipe for quick and easy Nutella Brownies.

All you need is:

1 1/4 cup (around 400g) Nutella

1/2 cup Flour (around 63g) (plain will be fine)

2 Eggs

Put all the Nutella in a bowl and mix in the eggs.  I personally whisk the eggs together and add them in slowly, or a bit at a time, as you want the eggs combined in properly.  Then add the flour.

Grease or line a tin, square is better as you can cut them into pieces easier.  Mine is 8×8 square but smaller would be fine as they just end up being a bit thicker.

Put into a preheated oven of 350ºf (175ºc) for 15 minutes, and enjoy!

Let me know how you get on with them, I’m off to get some Nutella…

An Introduction

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Hello. I’m Claire, aka travelstodge.

I decided to start a travel and food blog as they are two of my passions in life, and I wanted an outlet to combine both of these together, so travelstodge was created.  It was actually my fiancé who suggested I started blogging and helped me come up with my blog name.

Here is a brief introduction to who I am and the places I have been to so far in my life.

I’m 34 and have always loved traveling but unfortunately I haven’t done as much as I would have liked, so I decided a few years ago that I would change that and at least go somewhere every year and experience new and exciting adventures, whilst absorbing cultures and food I’ve never seen before.  I have been to Dénia in Spain back in the 1980’s which my parents won on a KitKat competition, and Florida twice with my family, once in 1995 and again in 2007, which was superb but it was very “touristy” and whilst I loved it there, I don’t think I would want to go back again, unless I was going off the beaten track. I have also been to Rotterdam and Amsterdam in The Netherlands in the 1990’s on a school trip.

After that, I went to Paris, France to celebrate my mum’s 50th birthday, which was nice.  I didn’t get to see the Eiffel Tower (I hear you all cry out in disbelief) but vowed to return one day to see it.

Then in 2007 I did something very uncharacteristic for me, I had a phone call from a friend in the February saying he’d booked a holiday to Barcelona and asked if I wanted to join him… so I said yes!  I booked the flight and travel insurance and off I went in the April.  I had no idea what I was doing, but it was fantastic!  It was my first adventure into the unknown without the safety net of my entire family. Ever since then I’ve wanted to travel and see the whole world.

I started properly in 2012 and went to one of my favourite places, Sorrento in Italy.  It was breath taking and made me realise that traveling isn’t as scary as I thought it would be.  Sure, I can’t speak the language nor have the foggiest idea where I’m going, but I was soaking in another culture, and it was stunning.  It was also the first time I went with just my mum too, which was an adventure in itself but we bonded more in that week than we ever did living at home.

Then there was a cruise in June of 2012 across Scandinavia, namely Oslo in Norway, Gothenburg in Sweden and Aarhus and Copenhagen in Denmark.  I had always wanted to go on a cruise and this seemed perfect for me, as not only do I get to try new foods on board (different types of fish that even now I forget the name of) but I get to “try out” three new countries that I had never been to before.

I then met my fiancé in October and that was when the food part of me flourished. Being part Italian, he loved his pasta and I began to get creative in the kitchen.  Pasta turned to rice, and then turned to a slow cooker and casserole dish and now I try anything and everything as I just love cooking.  I’m also lucky that my fiancé will try anything too and is always honest if he doesn’t like something or will tell me if something isn’t quite right, as I’ll tweak it for next time. He also has a sweet tooth, and as I’ve always been a good baker, cakes and biscuits are now just the norm in our house.

My fiancé revealed to me that the only time he went abroad was to France on a uni trip, and he ended up with gastric flu, so instantly I was thinking where could I take him that would be good for us both and somewhere I think he would enjoy…. Barcelona it was!  I know I went years ago, but as it would be our first holiday together, I wanted it to go as smoothly as possible so he would want to go abroad again.  I can honestly say that was the most stressful, but enjoyable holiday I’ve ever been on as I wanted to make sure he had a good time.

So…. where to next?  Well, the world is our oyster and I have many places marked on my TripAdvisor map to visit, so we will see where the time (and money) will take us.  This year we are planning a trip to Copenhagen in Denmark, as I only spent a few hours there previously, and my fiancé is also sold on the idea.  His dream location however is New Zealand, and mine… well, I have so many but if I had to say one place it would be Japan.

Well, that is me! I would love to hear from you, the person reading this now, and let me know where in the world you are, where you have been, and where your dream location is.

So, until next time, happy travelling and eating!