Monthly Archives: October 2014

Halloween!

Halloween Collage

With Halloween this week I thought I’d bring together some of my ideas from Halloweens gone by.  I usually have with er a special dinner or a big part for Halloween but this year I’m keeping it low key.  Some scary movies and spooky snacks will do me just fine, although I may have to take Darcy Trick or Treating!

I have a whole Halloween Menu here, a more grown up take on the season with seasonal squash, a delicious main and tempting dessert.

Whole Baked Butternut Squash

For baked goods how about some Spooky Butter Biscuits?

Butter Cut Out Biscuits

Or may be a Graveyard Cake?

Graveyard Cake

Or a variety of Spooky Halloween Cupcakes?

Spooky halloween cupcakes

The Carnation Milk Jelly makes the perfect colour for hands or brains if you have such a mould (also good slime or snot if you use green Jelly!!!)

Carnation Milk Jelly

 

And the Vegan Surprise Inside Cake is a lovely addition to a spooky spread and super quick to whip up!

Vegan Surprise Inside Cake

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Vegan Surprise Inside Cake

This delicious cake with a “surprise inside” wasn’t actually meant to be vegan.  I was playing around with different ideas and it was only when I came to write down the recipe that I realised that it was actually vegan!  Which was another happy surprise!

I decided to go for a simple bone shape hidden inside this cake as Halloween is so nearly upon us.  I contemplated doing a bat but unfortunately the cutter was too wide for the loaf tin!  This cake has a lovely springy, dense texture and is a brilliant option for kids as the cake doesn’t crumble when subjected to rough toddler handling.  This cake is really robust and travels well, even through the post!

Vegan Surprise Inside Cake

Makes 1 large loaf (plus a whole bunch of chocolate offcuts!)

Chocolate Cake:
2 cups self raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup of soft brown sugar
1 large tablespoon of Trex (or another solid vegetable fat, coconut oil might work well here!) 
2 tablespoons of golden syrup (I just go for one hulking great dollop!)
1 cup of soya milk

Orange Cake:
2 cups self raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup of golden caster sugar
1 large tablespoon of Trex (or another solid vegetable fat, coconut oil might work well here!) 
2 tablespoons of golden syrup (Again, one hulking great dollop!)
1 cup of soya milk
zest and juice of one orange

– Heat the oven to gas mark 3 / 170C. Line a large loaf tin with baking parchment or similar.
– Measure out the flour, cocoa, bicarb and sugar into a large mixing bowl.
– Place the soya milk, golden syrup and Trex in a small saucepan.
– Gently heat until the Trex and golden syrup are melted.
– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, mix well to combine completely.
– Scrape out the mixture into the loaf tin.
– Bake for 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
– Remove the cake from the oven, lift out of the tin by the paper and allow to cool.
– Slice your cake into thick slices the depth of your chosen cutter.
– Cut out one shape from each slice and place to one side.
Now for the orange cake!
– Heat the oven to gas mark 3 / 170C. Line the same large loaf tin with baking parchment or similar.
– Measure out the flour, bicarb and sugar into a large mixing bowl.
– Place the soya milk, golden syrup and Trex in a small saucepan.
– Gently heat until the Trex and golden syrup are melted.
– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, add the zest and juice of the orange and mix well to combine completely.
– Scrape 1/3 of the mixture into the loaf tin, level it out.
– Place your cut out shapes in a neat row along the centre loaf tin, pressing down gently into the cake mixture below.
– Carefully scrape the rest of the cake batter out on top of the chocolate cake shapes.
– Bake for 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
– Remove the cake from the oven, lift out of the tin by the paper and allow to cool.
– Peel off the paper and serve!

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Filed under Cakes, Dairy Free, Low Fat, Moderately easy

Weekly Planner

Another little printable for you guys to go along with the Meal Planner I shared the other week.  I find it very helpful to have this on the fridge along with my meal planner, it means I have a handle on what’s happening that week and can see everything nice and easily at a glance.  Having it on the fridge is perfect for me because it’s usually my first stop of a morning and therefore I have little excuse for forgetting things!

Weekly Schedule

Weekly Schedule Printable

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Nutella Braided Ring

NUTELLA!  Is there anything finer? Nutella smothered over sweet bread?  Got you covered here!  Nutella is one of the finer things in life and I thought it deserved something fun so this Nutella Braided Ring was born! Just look at it! (I kinda want to lick the screen!)

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This recipe uses about half a jar of Nutella.  You may want to push the envelope further and use a whole jar, but don’t!  Bad things will happen!  (Oozing and burning things!)

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It’s a tricky, sticky thing to get right but it tastes amazing, with each fold of bread hugging a ribbon of Nutella to it.  It is the perfect breakfast/afternoon snack type bread, just sweet enough but still nice and filling!

Nutella Braid

Serves 12

250g strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
7g instant yeast
50g unsalted butter
135ml warm milk
1 egg
1/2 jar Nutella (or own brand, who can really tell these days?)

– Take a large mixing bowl and add the flour, then add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other.
– Mix it all together.
– Chop your butter up into little bits and add this along with the milk and egg.
– Get in there with one hand and mix everything together.
– Keep mixing by hand in the bowl.  It will be sticky but keep going and after not too long it will start to come together into a cohesive dough.
– Once you have almost everything as one ball of dough you can turn it out onto a floured worksurface and really start kneading! (There will still be some sticky bits, you can take a small bit of dough and clean round the bowl to mop up stragglers.)
– Keep working it, the trick with a wetter dough is time!
– After about 10 minutes you should have a smooth, elastic dough.
– Place in a clean, oiled bowl, cover and place somewhere sheltered to rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.  I found 2 hours about perfect.
– Prepare your apples.
– Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured worksurface.  Do NOT knock it down.
– Simply start to roll it out with a rolling pin.  You want it to be about 25cm deep and 45cm long.  Try to keep it rectangular.
– Spread the Nutella in a thin layer across the dough, leaving a strip nearest you to seal it together at the end.
– Carefully roll the long end of the dough towards you, keeping the roll quite tight.
– When you have a long roll gently press to seal the dough back to itself.
– Starting about 1″ in from the end cut straight through the dough all the way along to the other end.
– Now for the messy bit!  Twist each half around the other, one over the top, followed by the next, arranging the cut side so it faces uppermost.
– Gently manoeuver onto a baking tray covered in baking parchment and bring each end round to form a circle.  Press the ends together gently to secure.
– Place in a plastic bag (bin bags work well here) and leave in a sheltered spot to rise for another hour.
– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.
– Bake for 25 minutes.
– Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire cooling rack.
– Enjoy!

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Filed under Breads, Breakfasts, Cakes, Desserts, Moderately easy

Kitchen Tour

I thought it might be time to share my chaotic little kitchen with you guys.  It’s still a work in progress but this is where I rustle up all of my culinary creations!  I only just had the dishwasher fitted so it’s still all shiny and new!  I was in the middle of a baking frenzy at the point when I took these pics, what can I say, I was being impulsive!

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It’s only a small kitchen, much smaller than my last but with about the same amount of storage when all is said and done, but my goodness have I managed to pack a  lot in!  I will never be accused of minimalism, that’s for sure!

I’ve managed to put my own stamp on what was a terribly uninspired kitchen.  I ADORE the turquoise colour on the walls, as it’s such a small space I really felt I could go for a high impact colour without it getting too overwhelming.  There were these hideous picture tiles dotted about the place but I’ve covered those with some vinyl tiles as re-tiling just isn’t on the cards any time soon!

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Every bit of space is used in this kitchen, I have a lot of gadgets and bakeware and crockery and I swear every bit of it is essential!  One day I will have a proper sort out but I confess I’m a hoarder and that day will not be soon! My favourite new addition (along side the dishwasher) is this handy pull out drawer.  We couldn’t fit a full size dishwasher in because of the depth so ended up with this leftover space that is perfectly filled by this drawer, it’s such a handy space for baking trays etc. that really don’t fit elsewhere!  Another useful item is the large wooden worktop saver that I pop on top of the hob when I am in need of the extra counterspace.  When it is not in use it slides nicely on top of the washing machine for storage.

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My Wall Of Stuff is so handy, I have two rows of pans hanging from the ceiling, then my spice racks, then knives and utensils, all within easy reach and taking up as little space as possible.  The carpet beater lives there because, well, I simply couldn’t fit it anywhere else!  (And it’s very useful indeed when you have a very fluffy dog who hates the hoover!)

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Corner countertops are always a bit of an issue in kitchens, no matter what the size, so I’ve found that a lazy susan makes perfect use of the space, nothing is inaccessible and nothing gets shoved to the back and forgotten about.  It also makes cleaning so much easier as you only have to move one thing rather than loads of small jars etc.

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I want to make a few more improvements, some shelves by the boiler, more under-counter lights and changing the cupboard knobs but first I have to find some I like!  It’s all a work in progress, like any home.

 

So there it is, my messy, cozy kitchen.  It isn’t to everyone’s taste but I love it and spend many happy hours in here messing about coming up with new ideas!

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Melt-In-The-Middle Chocolate Salted Caramel Puddings

I don’t think anyone of my acquaintance can resist those words once seen on a menu.  (If they can then we tend not to remain friends long!) Melt-In-The-Middle is always a good start.  Chocolate, sure fire winner there.  Salted caramel… SOLD!

Melt In The Middle

The best thing is that contrary to everything Masterchef, Great British Bake Off, etc have told you these are actually very easy to make.  Can you mess it up? Yes, as with everything if you’re not paying attention you just get puddings and won’t get the melt in the middle.  But we all know that you’ll be paying attention, right?

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These things are so tempting and delightful that the anticipation won’t let you stray far from the oven for the wonderfully short baking time that they have.  You’ll want to stay close, cooing at them as they rise may be… Oh…  just me then?

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How could you not want to coo at them though? Just looking at them makes me want to dash to the kitchen and whip up a batch.  And that’s the other great thing about them.  You can whip them up as a last minute dessert without any hassle at all.  You can even (if you really really must) just make these as chocolate puddings if you don’t have any toffees in the house… (what kind of house do you live in???)

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Now, if I wanted to go all Bake Off on you I could tell you to make the toffee from scratch and the same with the caramel sauce… but these are supposed to be easy!  If it pleases you, fine, knock yourself out.  But these are a quick, no fuss, high in wow factor dessert just perfect for the recent cold turn the weather has taken.  Ultimate luxury and comfort on a plate!

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Makes 4

100g plain chocolate
100g unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
150g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50g flour
1 packet toffee/treacle toffee/soft caramels (not normal Werther’s Originals!)
200ml double cream
sea salt

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/ 200C.
– Break up/slice up the chocolate and butter into a microwave proof bowl.
– Microwave for about 1 minute until all of the butter and most of the chocolate is melted.
– Stir until the remaining lumps of chocolate have dissolved and the mixture is combined.
– Set aside to cool a little. (I usually do the microwaving bit first then go get all of the other ingredients together.)
– Thoroughly grease 4 ramekin dishes with butter and place on a baking tray for easy maneuverability later.
– In a large jug or bowl thoroughly mix together the eggs, sugar and vanilla with a hand whist.
– Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, stirring constantly with your whisk.  If you can pour from a bit of a height so much the better!
– When it is all nicely combined add your flour and mix in.
– Divide the mixture evenly between the buttered ramekins.  The mixture should come just over halfway up.
– Put a toffee in the centre of each pudding.  Just rest it on the top, no need to submerge it.  Add a tiny pinch of sea salt to each toffee.
– Put in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.
– Every oven varies so you’re going to have to check them at regular intervals once you get to 10 minutes.  The time between totally molten (puddle of goo) and totally cooked (cake) is not great and you want to hit it right in the middle.  If you can see any shiny cake batter where the cap lifts then they need longer, the edges should be a matt, cooked colour.  There shouldn’t be any obvious wobble, we want a squishy middle, not a squishy everything!  If you poke the top gently the crust should hold but there should be a little bit of movement in it.  If your finger goes through the delicate crust, it’s not done!  It sounds tricky but actually its really easy to eyeball when the edges are cooked enough to hold the pudding together.  If in doubt an extra minute in the oven (with a very close eye) is probably not going to hurt it.
– Remove from the oven and gently run a thin bladed knife around the outside of the pudding to loosen it.  (Remember, sugar burns are not sexy so it’s ok to let these sit for a minute or two before serving but don’t leave them for too long as you want them warm.)
– Put the cream and remaining toffees in a small pan and gently heat until the toffees have melted and the cream is hot.  Mix together well so all of the toffee dissolves and you get a pale caramel sauce.  Add a pinch of sea salt to taste and mix well.  (Can also be done in the microwave but watch the cream, it WILL boil up high!)
– Turn out the puddings carefully onto a plate.  They should slip right out.  You may find the the toffee has sunk to the bottom and a little bit remains behind, just scoop this out and pop it back on top.
– Pour over the caramel sauce to serve.
– Luxuriate!

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Filed under Desserts, Easy, Moderately easy

Meal Planning

These days it just makes sense to Meal Plan.  No matter how large or small your family is you will save so much time and money if you have a plan.  It doesn’t have to be a rigid plan, you can change things as you see fit but I have found over the last year that it really helps me to jot down what I’m eating for the week ahead.  I used to just buy what I fancied but I always ended up buying far too much food for one person and it was wasteful (not to mention seriously damaging to my wallet!)

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Now I can plan around any events I have, if I know I will be late home and tired that day then I make sure I have something ready cooked or easy to prepare.  It helps me realistically look at what I want to cook and eat and decide how that’s going to work out across the week.  Got a good value pack of mince on sale? I can work that into my schedule with enough variation so that I don’t just end up eating spag bol every night for a week!  Got a pack of veg that needs using up? Schedule it in!

I try to sit down and make a plan at the weekend so I can look at what’s in the fridge and start from there, then if I need to I can run out and get anything extra as I need it.  Everyone’s system varies according to their own lives and needs but I thought I should share the printable meal plan I made that I’ve found works best for me.

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It has sections for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack (if I’m going to snack I’d rather be in control of it!) as well as charting how many veggies I’m getting and what exercise I plan to do.  It’s all part of keeping a handle on an overall healthier lifestyle and it has really helped me stay in control of my budget and my waistline this past year.  I hope it helps some of you too!

Weekly Meal Planner

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