Tag Archives: seasonal

Halloween Eyeball Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

These spooky eyeball chocolate chip cookies are great easy Halloween cookies! I bought a packet of these sugar eyeballs ages ago but never really found a need to use them until now! These cookies are a great Halloween treat and you can use the technique with your own favourite cookie recipe if you prefer, no need to follow this one (though it is great!) You simply press the eyes into the cookie when it comes straight out of the oven and then leave to cool.

Makes 18 cookies

200g melted unsalted butter
220g light muscovado sugar
100g caster sugar (If you like the grainyness of the M&S cookies feel free to use granulated, I don’t like it so I use caster)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
350g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
200g chocolate chips (I use one bag of dark and one bag of milk for variety)

One pack sugar eyeballs

– Heat the oven to Gas mark 3/170C and prepare two baking trays.
– Melt the butter, I put it in the microwave for 1 minute but microwaves vary so be careful!
– In a large mixing bowl mix the melted butter with both sugars until smooth.
– Beat in the vanilla and egg until smooth.
– Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until it forms a dough.
– Mix through the chocolate chips.
– Divide the dough in to generous balls, slightly larger than a ping pong ball is best. Roll briefly in your hands to make a round ball and place 6 on a baking tray. Make sure they cookies are well spaced apart as they spread.
– Bake one sheet at a time in the top of the oven for about 15-17 minutes. The cookies will still be soft but the edges should be a little brown.
– As soon as they come out of the oven press the sugar eyeballs randomly into the cookies. Leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely/eat.
– Repeat with the remaining trays of cookies.

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Filed under Cookies and Biscuits, Desserts, Easy, Halloween, Sweets, Teatime Treats

Easy Christmas Dinner

This is going to be an odd year for many. May be you’re going to be tackling a smaller Christmas Dinner for the first time. May be you’ve decided to go all out now you don’t have to trek round to Auntie Sue’s because it’s “what you always do”! May be you’ve never cooked more than a fried egg but think this is your time to shine!

Whatever your situation, I thought it may be timely to do a little example of how to do a low effort Christmas Dinner as guidance for those that need it. Remember, Christmas Dinner is just a roast dinner but with cranberry sauce and crackers! Don’t let the weight of expectations get you down, this can be as simple or as complicated a meal as you want to make it!

You can look at the Christmas tag for some older recipes and round ups that are more comprehensive but I wanted to highlight some really simple recipes here. Whether you’re on your own or just a smaller family gathering this should hit the spot!

Canapés

We like to have nibbles to tide us over from noon to 3pm when we have our Dinner. If you want to keep it super simple just grab some party food from the freezer section. These days they almost all cook at 180°C for around 15 minutes. Any leftovers are also great for grazing at!

Starter

In my family the Prawn Cocktail is king. (Well, for me it is, mum does try to do fancy smoked salmon thingies!) This is not only traditional but super simple. Finely sliced iceberg lettuce, prawns, cocktail sauce (Iceland’s is my favourite!) and a twist of lemon on top to look fancy. Less than 5 minutes and you’re done!

The Roast

Turkey is, of course, traditional and if you want to keep it super simple I recommend a frozen Turkey crown. They’re about £10 and you can pick one up in almost any supermarket.

However, a large roast chicken will also do very nicely! I love to do a one pot chicken dish where you simply get a Really Big Pot, put in new potatoes in the base, add your chicken (put some herbs, garlic and half a lemon in the cavity), and scatter with bacon lardons. Drizzle with a little olive oil and cook according to the time on the packet (or 25 minutes per lb + 20 minutes in 180°C oven) Add a cup of frozen peas 30 minutes before the end. This also works well in a slow cooker on high for 3 hours if you need the space in the oven or even if you don’t have an oven! You can find the more detailed recipe here.

A roast dinner is all about timing. If you figure out your timings then it’s plain sailing. You can prep all of your veg in advance, even the night before, so all you have to do on the day is put dishes in the oven on time or you can get the roast in and then do your veg prep. I have a post outlining some of the timings for veg here.

For example:

2 hours before: Roast In

45 minutes before: parsnips in (I like them crispy.)

30 minutes before: leeks in cream sauce, stuffing balls & pigs in blankets in

25 minutes before: Brussels sprouts and carrots in steamer on the hob. Check the sprouts after 15 minutes by poking with a sharp knife. They should be soft but not soggy.

Serving Time: Remove the chicken from the pot and place on a serving board. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes and peas and bacon. You can make gravy with the juices. I explain how here.

Pudding

Christmas pudding is traditional, easily available from the supermarket, and I hate it. So I have a couple of other seasonal options that you can make the day before:

Clementine Syllabub

Cranberry Fool

Leftovers

If you’re on your own do not let this stop you from having a full roast! The leftovers are the best bit! From this dinner I will be able to make sandwiches, soup, risotto and may be a few other dishes as takes my fancy! I basically won’t have to cook again for the next week, which is exactly how I like it!

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Filed under Canapés, Christmas, Desserts, Easy, Mains, Sides, Slow Cooker, Starters

Japanese Simmered Pumpkin (Kabocha no nimono)

1/2 Japanese pumpkin (kabocha)

3 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp soy sauce

– Deseed the pumpkin and roughly peel (leave some bits of peel there). Chop into large chunks.

– Place skin side down in a large pan and just cover with water. Bring to a boil.

– Add the sugar and salt and simmer on a low heat until the liquid is half reduced.

– Add the mirin and soy sauce and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced in half again.

– Either serve warm or leave to cool completely.

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Filed under Dairy Free, Easy, Japanese, Mains, Sides

Christmas Round Up

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope that if you celebrate you had a great day and that Santa brought you everything you wished for!  I got loads of kitchen stuff  including a brilliantly coloured set of Laguiole cutlery, some silicone bakeware and the cutest mini ramekins.  Now I just want to get in the kitchen and use some of it.  Alas for that plan we are on the traditional post-Christmas turkey sandwich diet.  It just wouldn’t be Christmas without it.  One year my mum tried buying a smaller turkey so as not to have so much left over and we very nearly had a riot!  Since for me a huge part of Christmas is the food I thought I’d do a little round up of what Christmas eating entails in our household. 

Let’s start with the main event:  The Turkey.  We do our turkey very differently from everyone else I’ve met.  We barbecue it.  We have a big kettle barbecue and you put a really big roasting pan in the bottom  to catch the drips and arrange the charcoal either side of that.  Then you pop in the barbecue rack and once it’s up to temperature (Something about ash on the coals, who knows?  That’s my dad’s job!) you pop in the turkey (ours is usually 15lbs) for 2 1/2 hours.  Not only is this brilliantly fast but it keeps the oven free for veg and other things.  That and my dad can escape outside when the relatives arrive! 

My mother does obscene things with bacon and stuffing the night before and although putting the bacon between the skin and the breast is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen it is delicious!  The stuffing this year was made with chestnuts grown by our friend in Italy so sort of homegrown there!  Along with the turkey we serve the usual veg: carrots, brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, peas, sweetcorn and parsnips etc.  As well as bread sauce, gravy, cranberry sauce and mayo for us kids. 

For the starter mum usually does something fancy with salmon and other seafood but for us kids it’s the traditional prawn cocktail or nothing!  Simple but always a pleasure.  My sister doesn’t eat green things except spinach so she has hers on spinach and I have mine on lettuce.  Other than that it’s prawns and seafood sauce.  This year it was garnished with a home grown lemon slice as the lemon tree we’ve had in the conservatory for 20 years is finally producing fruit!

Pudding is always Christmas Pudding with cream and mum works very carefully to make sure there’s a 5p in each portion.  We’d never think to deviate from the traditional Christmas meal as it’s Tradition.  There’s something very comforting knowing that every year without fail this will be what you eat on December 25th.  And since I’ve now gathered the recipes together here if mum gets struck by lightning or something then I can now step in and continue in her footsteps and there’s something extremely reassuring about that.

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Christmas Pudding

As with the Last Minute Christmas Cake I don’t get to participate with this more than the traditional stir and wish.  However it’s another recipe that doesn’t need to mature or need constant feeding.  You can make it up on Christmas Eve if you want to or in September, it’ll still be great.  In fact I think we’ve been known to make up the 3 puddings and then eat one the next year! I can’t even claim the words for the recipe as my own here so think of it as a guest post from my mum.

Makes 3 average pudding basins

225 g dark brown sugar
400g white breadcrumbs
225g suet
half tsp salt
1 tsp mixed spice
1 kg mixed dried fruit
50g chopped blanched almonds
2 large cooking apples peeled, cored and grated
zest and juice of half a lemon
2 beaten eggs
300ml Guiness/milk stout/dark beer
150ml approx milk

 – Mix all dry ingredients together.  
– Mix in apple and lemon, eggs, beer and anything else in the list and enough milk to make soft dropping consistency.
– Put into pudding bowls with a circle of baking parchment in the bottom of each.
– Cover with greaseproof with a pleat in the centre. 
– Steam for 4-5 hours.
– Leave to go cold and store in a cool place. (I make up the full quantity and freeze the spares.)
– To reheat thaw, if frozen, and microwave for 6 minutes, with a pyrex lid to keep in moisture, or if you are a traditionalist steam again for 2 hours.

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Christmas Sweets

LAST WARNING DO NOT READ THIS POST IF YOU ARE ON MY CHRISTMAS LIST!!!  (Alex, that means you too.)

Are you gone?

Ok, on with the recipes!

Sorry about that anyone who’s still around but I know that my friends and family read this so I don’t want to spoil any surprises for them but I do want to share these ideas with anyone still searching for inspiration.  This year I’ve decided to do a mixture of token bought prezzies and homemade gifts.  Theoretically this will save some money but the initial outlay for jars and baskets and other things has been a bit steep but I really enjoy making things for people.  I hope that the fact that I’ve spent hours and hours of my life finding things I think they’ll like and then making them myself will be appreciated.  And failing the “made with love” reason everyone likes gifts you can eat, right? 

So far I’ve made:

Peppermint Puddings:

Hot Chocolate On A Stick:

Fruit and Chocolate Drops:

And finally Sweet Chilli Jam:

I’ll be adding more things as I do them over the next few days.

Fudge:

Cranberry Loaf:

Next  there’s Condensed Milk Cookies made to individual preferences:

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Christmas Treats

As of tomorrow I am going to start posting recipes for things I’ve made for christmas presents.  I’m doing a mixture of bought and home made, edible and not.  So if you know me in the real world this is your cue to stop reading this blog until after christmas… or start working on your surprised face! 

Tonight’s offering is Christmas Cupcakes!  Same basic cupcake recipe as usual made into 1/2 plain and 1/2 chocolate.  The christmas cupcake cases are slightly smaller than normal muffin cases so I ended up with 15 cupcakes rather than the usual 12.  Some are iced with buttercream, sprinkles and EDIBLE GLITTER! My life has not been complete without edible glitter.  I love the stuff! The candy cane ones are chocolate cupcakes with mint fondant icing (fondant icing sugar, peppermint essence and water) and sprinkles. 

I have run out of sugar, icing sugar, vanilla essence and other necessary supplies so the holiday baking is on hold for now.  Tomorrow I start again!

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Spooky Halloween Cupcakes

I am planning a big Halloween feast tomorrow night but to keep us going during the day I made these spooky halloween cupcakes.  The cupcakes were made to my usual cupcake recipe.  I made half chocolate and half vanilla by making up the whole batch plain, spooning out the 6 plain into their cases then stiring in a large spoonful of cocoa powder and mixing it well, then spooning the remaining mixture into the remaining 6 cases.  I made sure to well fill four of the cases that were to be the owls so they would form peaks. 

Spooky halloween cupcakes

You will need:
Giant Cadbury’s Buttons
Mini Cadbury’s Buttons
Malteasers
Chocolate Eyes (available nearly everywhere aroung Halloween)
Orange and Lemon Jelly Slices
Thick Glace Icing (Icing sugar and lemon juice mixed to a paste)
Buttercream Icing

– First trim the peaks off the cupcakes and retain 4 of the chocolate peaks. 
– Then ice the cupcakes with buttercream using a large nozzle or spread carefully using a flat bladed knife. 
– Melt a handful of the Giant Buttons in a small ziplock freezer bag (1 minute in the microwave) then snip a small corner off. 
– Put your glace icing in another freezer bag or a cone of baking paper with the corner snipped off. 

For the Owls:
– Take the 4 retained peaks and slice them in half. 
– Place the two halves in a V on the cupcake. 
– Place a malteaser on either side for the eyes.
– Squeeze a good blob of glace icing on to each malteaser and place a mini button on top. 
– Place an orange or lemon slice at the tip of the V for the beak. 

For the Eyes:
– Place an eye at the centre of the cupcake. 
– Take the bag of chocolate and ice eyelashes on the cupcake. 

For the Sipders:
– Place a Giant Button at the centre of the cupcake. 
– Ice legs on with the chocolate. 
– Ice on the eyes with two blobs of glace icing and a dot of chocolate for the pupil.
– For smiley spiders finish by icing on a smile with chocolate.

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Christmas Muffins

It may seem a little early to be starting on Christmas baking but there is a very good reason for this.  My nextdoor neighbour and I were talking and she mentionned that she needed a baking project for her class to do for the Christmas fair to raise funds but that there were a number of criteria that needed to be met, no boring fairy cakes, for example!  I thought I’d seen a recipe somewhere about that would work but it proved to be a figment of my imagination.  So I decided to invent something that would, hopefully, work.  These are the delightful result!

They have all the tastes of Christmas but not in an overwhelming way.  I have to confess I don’t usually like Christmassy flavoured things, I eat Christmas pudding after Christmas dinner because it’s traditional not because I like it.  However, I really liked these muffins.  They had all of the flavours but lacked the heavy, stodgy feeling I usually associate with Christmas foods.  All in all a great experiment and come Christmas I shall certainly be making these again. 

Christmas Muffins

Makes 6

150g mixed dried fruits
zest and juice of 1 orange
50g dark muscoavdo sugar
125ml milk
1 egg
2 tbsp sunflower oil
150g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
pinch of salt
100g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Holly berry and leaf decorations (I made leaves out of white icing and green colouring and berries out of glace cherry bits)

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and prepare 6 holes of a muffin tin. 
– Combine the fruit and orange zest and juice in a microwavable dish and microwave for 2 minutes.  Alternately leave them to soak for an hour. 
– Beat together the sugar, milk, egg and oil.   
– Sift the flour, baking podwer, nutmeg, mixed spice and salt into the mixture.
– Fold in gently. 
– Add the mixed fruits and stir in. 
– Divide the mixture evenly between the six cases. 
– Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Mine took 25)
– Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little in the tin then place on a wire rack to cool completely. 
– Mix together the icing sugar and the lemon juice until smooth. 
– Once the muffins have cooled spoon a little of the icing over each muffin. 
– Add the holly decorations and leave to set.

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Filed under Christmas, Cupcakes and Muffins, Easy