Well, this is new to me. Just diving in and writing about a recipe that is barely even ready to eat. In order to do this, I had to rely on Instagram for my photos, as there was really no time to find the right spot/light/props for each photo I was taking. But let me start from the beginning.
Tomorrow we are having friends round for a barbeque. The next day, we are going to a (different) friend’s house for another barbeque. I always make stuff to take to her parties, as she likes my food and.. well, any excuse for me to make stuff. This time, she has invited around 50 people (it’s a house warming do) and that’s not counting the 15 or so kids. Yikes. My friend has it covered, she always does, as she has a talent for throwing things together that taste lovely, but I would like to help out and do something special in support! Also, my friend and her partner are fitness freaks, so I’m the one who makes the really fattening sweets that their kids are normally deprived of! (just joking… but they do get an extra hit of sugar when I visit).
So after much thought, I set about planning my 3-day weekend. This is an operation that requires much organisation and fine tuning! Today was Day 1 – Prep Day. I don’t like making things too far in advance, as I get anxious about whether they will be good enough to serve when the time comes. But there are many little things that can be done; things that help enormously when it’s time to actually make the final dishes. Here are some tips.
Plan. Make a note of what you are cooking. If you’re like me, write them down, then cross at least two off the list. Try and include some things that can be made ahead, or at least have some steps that can be completed beforehand. Check you have the recipes, and check what ingredients you have/need. Then, do the shopping list.
Next, make yourself a schedule. I am a fan of schedules, so that’s not too difficult for me. I don’t mean down to the last 5 minutes of your day. But think about all the things you will need to do, like supermarket (allow for botched credit card machines and shops that don’t have rice crispies..), other irrelevant tasks that might take time (catching up on Twitter and Facebook), and a break for lunch.
An important part of the schedule are the “make ahead” steps for each recipe. For example. Salad. You think, I can’t possible make it a day in advance. True, but you can wash the veggies. And mix your dressing and keep it in a jar in the fridge. That has just saved you more than half the prep time on the day. Are you baking? You can probably bake a day in advance, especially brownies! But if you don’t want to do that, go through the recipe and complete any steps you can. For example, measure and mix the dry ingredients and keep them in an airtight container. Measure the butter or oil, chocolate, beetroot (brownies on my mind again) and mix if the recipe tells you to. It might seem that all this is unnecessary, but I find that measuring out ingredients is the most time consuming of all stages in baking. But that’s me! Label your containers so you know what’s what.
For tomorrow’s BBQ, one of the things I’m making is a pasta salad. Again, I could probably have prepared the whole thing today, they are usually better the next day anyway, but mine will have raw courgettes (zucchini) in, so I don’t want it to get very watery overnight. So, I boiled the pasta, coated it in olive oil and it’s now patiently waiting in the fridge. The only downside to these methods, is the full-to-the-brim fridge, and the washing up of all the containers! But desperate times call for desperate measures! The dishwasher can do most of the work.
Finally, if you have a lot planned, splurge on something you wouldn’t normally, to save time and energy. For example, I am making a potato salad on Sunday. I like it with new potatoes, the little ones. My supermarket does these packets of pre-washed new potatoes that need 7 minutes in the microwave. Definitely worth the extra money. Pre-cut and washed salads are also life savers, although these can be much more expensive and not cost effective for a large number of guests. Washing lettuce though? One of my pet hates.
At this point I would like to share another couple of tips, which have nothing to do with planning. As mentioned above, lettuce. Love to eat it, hate washing it. I do however have a good method that keeps it fresh for quite a while. If you’re eating it the same day or the next, chop (after getting rid of the outside leaves), put in a colander, wash and leave in the colander to drain, shaking up at regular intervals to get rid of water. If you’re keeping the lettuce for a bit longer, peel off the leaves whole (disgard the outside ones), wash them and spread them out on some kitchen paper to dry. Try to shake as much water off first, but be careful not to bruise the leaves. Do something else for a while. When they are just about dry (don’t leave too long as they will wilt), layer them in an airtight container with kitchen paper between the layers. Yes, I use lots of kitchen paper. If you have chopped the lettuce, pop a sheet of… kitchen paper in a zip lock bag, add the lettuce and seal, trying to push as much air out as possible without crushing the salad. Gosh, how long can one talk about lettuce…?
Courgettes/zucchini. Have you ever started to wash them only to find tiny prickly invisible hairs on them? Keep a clean dish sponge (the one with the rough green side used for pots) in your draw. Use it to lightly scrub the zucchini skin. You can also use it to scrub potatoes, if you want to cook them in their skins. You probably already knew that…
And now, a recipe. A recipe I never imagined would be this good. This is my own version of Chocolate Covered Katies’s 5 Ingredient Rice Crispy Treats. They can be stored in the freezer, so I decided to make them today. They’re for the kids on Sunday. Well, they were until I tasted them. Now I think the kids can have the beetroot brownies and the grown-ups will have the Rice Crispy Treats. The Hazelnut & Golden Syrup Rice Crispy Treats. Or maybe I won’t take them with me at all…
Hazelnut & Golden Syrup Rice Crispy Treats
1/2 cup (8 Tbs) hazelnut butter (in the UK this is available at Holland & Barrett)
1/2 cup (8 Tbs) golden syrup (you could use honey, unless vegan)
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups rice crispies or similar puffed rice cereal (mine was the Lidl brand – use an appropriate version if you are vegan)
160g dark chocolate, cut into pieces
1 Tbs golden syrup
Optional: 1 Twix Xlarge bar (42.5g), cut into small pieces (I had one left over, it was either that or eat it..)
1. Place the hazelnut butter, syrup, salt and vanilla in a small saucepan and warm over low heat till melted and combined.
2. In a large bowl, combine rice crispies and hazelnut butter mixture. Stir gently and patiently with a spatula till all the rice crispies are coated.
3. Transfer mixture to a baking tin lined with grease-proof paper. Put another piece of paper over it and press down on it with your hands or the bottom of a glass. Press down well making sure you get into the corners. Put the tin in the freezer for about 20 to 30 minutes.
4. In the meantime, melt the chocolate and 1 Tbs of syrup in the same saucepan you used earlier, over low heat, stirring constantly. When it’s melted, add the Twix pieces and stir until these too have melted. You will have some lumps from the biscuity part of the Twix.
5. Spread evenly over the rice crisy base and return to the freezer till the chocolate topping sets. Use the parchment paper to lift out the set mixture, carefully cut it into pieces (won’t be very easy!) and store in the fridge (or return to freezer). They would also be fine at room temperature (unless you are here in Greece) for a few days.
Other Rice Crispy Treats from around the blogosphere
50+ Rice Krispie Treat Recipes from Something Swanky (need I continue?!)
Rocky Road Rice Krispies Treats from Brown Eyed Baker
Homemade Coconut Luna Bars from V. K. Rees Photography