Recipes that are delicious and that always work!

You know these recipes are delicious because if I didn't think that they weren't fabulous . . . I wouldn't be showing them to you. You can also be sure that these recipes work for the same reason! The rest is simply a matter of taste.
“She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head, and whispered to her neighbor . . . "Winter is dead.”
~A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Kitchen Sink Granola

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I love granola.  I have loved it since my hippy dippy days back in the early 1970's.  I loved granola way before it became cool and I have always enjoyed making my own!  I think home-made is always infinitely better than anything shop bought.

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I love cookies too and one of my favourite cookies has always been kitchen sink cookies . . . you know the kind I mean.   I don't think I've ever put my recipe on it, but basically they are a basic peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookie that has all sorts in it . . . coconut, raisins, etc.  Pretty much everything but the kitchen sink, hence the name!

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Anyways, today I got to thinking . . . what if I made a granola that was based on my favourite kitchen sink cookies . . . one that was filled with all that I love about those cookies, but was still relatively low in fat and this is what I came up with.   The only fat in this is . . . . tada!  The Peanut Butter and with only 130g of it (1/2 cup) in the whole recipe, which makes a pretty decent six cups . . . that means there is only a fraction of fat per serving.  Win!

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And it's filled with lots of goodies like peanuts, sultanas . . . coconut.  Okay so perhaps the chocolate chips are a bit naughty . . . but you know . . .  all fun and no play . . .

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Can be dull and kind of boring, and this granola is definitely not that!  I think you're going to love this.  It's great!

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*Kitchen Sink Granola*
Makes about 6 cups
One of my favourite cookies is Kitchen Sink cookies, stogged full of peanut butter, rolled oats, raisins, peanuts, chocolate chips, and coconut.  I decided to create a breakfast granola based on the same idea.  This is not too sweet.  Just right and very delicious.   


300g old fashioned rolled oats (3 cups)
150g salted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
70g savory seed mixture (with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, etc.) 1/2 cup
40g flaked coconut (1/2 cup)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
130g smooth peanut butter (1/2 cup)
115 ml of pure maple syrup (1/2 cup)
60g light muscovado sugar (1/4 cup packed)
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBS water 

To finish:
225g of semi sweet chocolate chips (1 1/4 cups)
150g of sultana raisins (1 cup)
(You can use more. It's a matter of taste)
Preheat the oven to 165*C/325*F/ gas mark 3.   Lightly butter a large baking tray.   Set aside.

Mix the oat peanuts, seed mixture, flaked coconut, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.  Place the peanut butter, maple syrup, sugar, vanilla and water into a small saucepan.   Cook over low heat, whisking constantly until the peanut butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.   Don't let it boil.  Remove it from the heat and pour it over the oat mixture.  Mix well together.   Spread it out in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.   



Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, stirring it from the edges every 10 minutes.  It should be golden brown when done.  Remove it from the oven and sprinkle 45g (1/4 cup) of chocolate chips over top.   When they soften lightly stir them in a bit.  Allow to cool completely and then stir in the remaining chocolate chips and raisins.   Store in a large airtight container at room temperature.  It will keep for several months, but I doubt that you hae it that long. It's really tasty!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Not food . . . but bathrooms . . .


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I just fell in love with these bathroom pictures. There is just  something about them. I love marble. I love pretty wallpaper.


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I love modern shapes mixed with traditional things.

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I love furniture chests used as sink counters.

But looking at these pictures now, I don't know that I could live with any of them  A bit too fussy perhaps??  I guess I really  just want something simple and clean - that doesn't look like it would take two hours to clean. What do you think? Too fussy? Or glam and fabulous?

There's no doubt about it however that mirrored furniture can make any bath look larger and more fabulous.  Mirrors just have a way of opening up a room like nothing else can.

Mrs Crimble's Oat Cookies



I was recently sent some samples of the Mrs Crimble's deliciously gluten free cookies.  I was recently sent some sample of Mrs Crimble's gluten free baked goodies to try out.  For any of you not familiar with them, the Mrs Crimble's brand has been around for over 30 years.   Initially the brand was sold direct to stores in the London area.

In recent years the company has become known for its range of cakes, biscuits, snacks and treats which are now deliciously Gluten Free. In the early days their brand was endorsed by the original TV chef Fanny Craddock and they operated a small fleet of vans.   Their two best selling lines were the plain and choc macaroons, and these two are still as popular today.

Mrs. Crimble’s was one of the first brands to be stocked on the Free From fixtures in the UK supermarkets. Before then our products had been found in specialist health shops and farm stores. Whilst today they still happily supply many of their original outlets, the proliferation of Gluten Free products means you can find Mrs. Crimble’s in all sorts of places, and even outside the UK!    


I have always loved their Coconut and Chocolate Macaroons, very scrummy.  These are their two new flavours!

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Mrs Crimbles Cranberry & Almond Oat Cookie  
A HUGE thick cookie containing oats, vegetable oils (palm and rapeseed), salt, dried cranberries, granulated sugar, soft brown sugar, nibbed almonds and natural flavourings.  

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They had a short crumbly texture, a pleasant taste with a fair amount of cranberries.  I thought they were quite good actually.

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Mrs Crimbles Choc Double Choc Chunk Oat Cookie
These also had a short crumbly texture.   Huge cookies, large and thick . . . 

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Check out the bottom and look at all those chocolate chips!  An oat-y biscuit with added dark and milk chocolate chips.  Contains Oats, vegetable oils (palm, rapeseed), salt, dark chocolate chunks, milk chocolate chunks, granulated sugar, soft brown sugar and natural vanilla flavouring.  

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This also had a short crumbly texture, with an excellent ratio of chocolate chips to cookies.

Both cookies were really hefty, large cookies, weighing in at 60g each.  They are also rather high in calories with the cranberry one clocking 335 calories per cookie and the chocolate chip one 334 calories per cookie.   So not something you would want to eat too many of at one sitting!  They were really tasty though and high calories aside made for some pleasant eating and dunking.

Priced from £1.49 each

Both cookies come individually wrapped and are perfect for staving off hunger pangs when you’re on the go.
Whether you choose sweet and chewy cranberries with the nuttiness of almonds or indulgent chunks of chocolate, is up to you, but thanks to all the healthy oats which release their energy slowly, one Cookie will keep you satisfied for hours.

Mrs Crimble’s has been determined to make it easier for people to find gluten free treats when they’re out and about – so  the new Oat Cookies will soon be available everywhere from garden centres to railway stations and motorway services.


Many thanks to Lucy from the Ideas Network and to Mrs Crimbles for sending them to me.

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Celebrating Canned Food Week 2014

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If most of us take a look in our cupboard, there's one item which we're more than likely to find: a can.   Be it a can of beans, for when you are looking to make a quick and easy meal, chopped tomatoes to make the base for a curry of Bolognese, or a can of soup to take into work for lunch . . .  the trusty can remains a store cupboard staple.  And it appears that the sales figures back this up too, with consumers having spend £2.4 billion on canned goods in 2013, a £3.2 million increase on the previous year.

To celebrate the can's popularity, Canned Food UK will be running Canned Food Week 2014 this April (14 to 20).  Now into it's second year, the week is designed to help everyday consumers to plan meals, eat nutritionally-balanced dishes and show how using canned food is a healthy, time-effective and cost-effective way to cook.

Jason Hegarty, Chairman for Canned Food UK, comments:

"The annual figures show that canned food continues to play an important role in cooking in the majority of UK households, and that is why Canned Food Week is so important to us.  Canned food clearly presents an affordable option, with convenience and nutrition playing an important role too."

Canned Food UK Promotes a healthy balanced diet, including a mix of fresh, frozen, dried and canned food  However, not many people know about the nutritional benefits of eating canned food.  Thanks to the canning process, where food is sealed and cooked in the can straight after harvesting, it means that all the vitamins and minerals are locked in  . . .  sometimes containing more than fresh alternatives.

This year Canned Food UK has teamed up with a number of partners with a series of new and existing recipes which highlight the versatility of cooking with canned food for a number of different audiences, from it's convenience and affordability for families and students, to it's health benefits for the older generation and those looking to watch their weight.  

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I was given the ingredients to produce this delicious Chicken and White Bean Salad, which has been created by celebrity chef and Canned Food ambassador James Martin.   It contains canned haricot beans, which are a good source of fibre, key to promoting good digestion, as well as chicken breast, rocket salad and cherry tomatoes.  It was delicious and quick and easy to make.  You can view that recipe here.


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This was my finished dish and I have to say it was really quite good.  I had to do a video of this dish, but I, for the life of me, cannot find it presented anywhere.

 

Here is my copy of it.  Enjoy!



Friday, 18 April 2014

An Orange and Sultana Cake for Easter

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I wanted to do a special bake for Easter this year.  Something sweet to celebrate this special holiday.  I wanted it to be fresh and different and spring-like . . .  and yet at the same time something which I could use to convey the joy that is felt during this holiest of holy holidays of the year.    

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I settled on my Orange and Sultana Cake.  I had not made this in years.  It was something which I made frequently when my children were growing up, but something which I had not made in recent years.  And I don't really know why . . . it's a fabulous cake really.   Handwritten on a yellowed piece of paper, spattered with use . . .  a tell-tale sign of it's fabulousity!  (Yes, I know that's really not a word!!)  

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Fabulous because, not only is it buttery and moist . . . but it's also fruity  and spicy  . . .  with nice orange flavours, from two sources . . . the juice from the orange, of course, which is mixed with sour milk to make for a lovely moist cake . . .  and the peel and flesh of the orange,that you chop together with sultana raisins and then fold into the batter . . . so good . . .  and the spice coming from the addition of mixed spice.  

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Almost like the flavours of our favourite Easter treat . . . the Hot Cross Bun.  The joy goes on in the frosting, which is a delicious and simple butter-cream, into which you fold some of the sultana/orange mixture which not only gives it a bit of texture, but delicious fruity flavours as well.  

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It makes a fabulous cake any time of the year, but dressed up for Easter???  Well . . .  you just can't get much better than this.  I created little Easter Egg Nests, by shaking flaked coconut with a teensie bit of green food colouring in a jam jar, which I then placed as nests over the top of the cake, filled with little candy covered chocolate eggs and guarded by llindt mini bunnies of course!  

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The end result being a moist and whimsical cake, full of the joys of Spring and Easter.  Perfect for an Easter weekend Brunch or Coffee Time, or as a dessert option after that delicious Easter dinner we will all be enjoying on Sunday.  In any case I do hope that you will give it a go.  Here, it only has Todd and I to admire it's fabulous qualities, but in your house . . . I am sure there will be oodles of kiddies and grown-ups to go gaga over it!    This truly is a special treat.

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*Orange and Raisin Cake*
Makes one 9 inch square cake

A deliciously moist and buttery cake with a fabulous fruity butter-cream icing.

For the cake:
1 orange, washed well to remove any wax
115ml sour milk (1/2 cup)
150g of sultana raisins (1 cup)
115g of butter, softened (1/2 cup)
190g of caster sugar (1 cup)
2 large free range eggs
280g of plain flour (2 cups)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp salt
For the icing:
140g butter, softened (10 TBS)
280g icing sugar, sifted (generous 1 1/3 cups)
1-2 TBS milk  

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Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a nine inch square baking pan and line with baking paper, leaving an overhang to lift out.  

Measure out the milk.  (If you don't have sour milk, add 1 tsp of lemon juice to your measure and fill with milk to the amount you need.  Let stand 5 minutes.)  Squeeze the juice from the orange and add to the milk. Set aside. Put the rest of the orange into a food processor along with the raisins and pulse several times, until you have a mixture which resembles gravel.  Reserve 2 TBS of the mixture for the icing. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.   Sift the flour together with the baking powder, soda, mixed spice and salt.   Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour, beating until smooth.   Fold in the sultana/orange mixture.   Turn into the buttered and lined pan.   Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  When done allow to sit in the pan for ten minutes before lifting out to a wire rack to finish cooling.

To make the icing, beat the butter with an electric whisk until nice and creamy.   Add the icing sugar, half at a time, and 1 TBS of milk,  Beat until creamy only adding the remaining milk if needed.  Beat in the reserved orange/raisin mixture.   Spread this frosting on top of the completely cooled cake.    

 Make Your Own Mixed Spice:You can easily make your own mixed spice: Combine 1 TBS ground cinnamon, 1 tsp each of ground coriander and nutmeg, 1/2 tsp of ground ginger, 1/4 tsp each of ground cloves and all spice. Mix well and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
  
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This post has been entered into the Easter Bake & Make Competition on The Pink Whisk as sponsored by Two Little Fleas.

A simple salad or . . . . Salade Composé

 

Sixty years ago, the English writer GK Chesterton wrote, `If an Englishman has understood a Frenchman, he has understood the most foreign of foreigners. The nation that is nearest is now the furthest away.'   We even chose to measure the distance between differently . . . for us it's miles . . . for them kilometers . . . We tend to think of them as roly poly individuals wearing berets, with ropes of garlic hanging around their necks . . . and then tend to think of us as being rather "toffee-nosed" and tasteless . . . capable only of cooking a good roast beef.



Our relationship has always been tenuous at best . . . a real love/hate kind of thing!  We noticed when on those times we have spent in France . . . you can get delicious cheeses from all over the world . . . but there are no British Cheeses, or at least we have never been able to find them.  The Toddster finds that very hard to take . . . a world without cheddar is a world that is missing something very dear to his heart!

 

I do like French food as a whole though . . . well with the exception of brains and snails . . . oh and frog's legs, that is.  (Just imagine all those poor frogs having to get around in wheelchairs!  Poor things!  It may taste like chicken . . . but . . . um . . . I'm not fond of chicken with freckles.  'Nuff said!!)

 

Anyhoooo . . . I do love most French food, and I think most Brit's do.  A lot of the higher class restaurants here in the UK carry French dishes on the menu . . . seriously.  Love . . . hate . . .



This is a delicious salad, which one might easily find in any French Bistro . . . but, when you look at it . . . it's not really any different than an English Salad . . . except that it uses a tasty vinaigrette instead of salad cream.

 

For years the English did not do salad very well . . . and indeed, it can still be very difficult to find a decent salad when out and about here in the UK.  Britain . . . a salad does not have to be just a bunch of lettuce leaves, some sliced cucumber and tomato and spring onions on a plate, with a squeeze packet of salad cream on the side (If any dressing is offered at all, it often isn't.  What's with that???).



A salad can be as diverse as the people who enjoy eating them.  To some . . . that aforementioned combination might well be the salad of their dreams!  To others . . . well, it's sadly lacking.
Early on in our marriage when I told Todd I was making us a salad for lunch, he turned up his nose and said . . . "I don't really like salad.  Salad is boring."  Well . . . he had never had one of mine and now he quite likes it, I am very happy to say!



I can say with all impunity . . . I have never served him a boring salad!!  good  A salad is only as tasty and exciting as the ingredients used, and . . . of course . . . the dressing you choose to drizzle over it.  Fresh ingredients, with a delicious combination of colours, textures and tastes . . . with an incredibly scrummy dressing . . . perhaps some crisp croutons . . .  homemade please!!  (Isn't that what stale bread is for?)  That's what makes a good salad GREAT! Nom! Nom!



 *Salade Composé*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This literally means "Composed Salad."  The ingredients are layered on top of each other rather than being tossed together.  I love the tangy vinaigrette.

For the salad:
1 small French Baguette
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
60ml of extra virgin olive oil (1/4 cup)
6 rashers of streaky bacon, rind removed
150g of salad leaves (about 4 cups)
6 ripe plum tomatoes, sliced thinly
4 hard boiled eggs, halved lengthwise

For the Dressing:
60ml of sherry vinegar (1/4 cup)
80ml of extra virgin olive oil (1/3 cup)
3 tsp of good quality Dijon mustard
1 tsp runny honey
fine seasalt and cracked black pepper to taste

Put all of the dressing ingredients into a jar with a screw top lid.  Give it a good shake.  Set aside.

Preheat the grill to high.  Cut the bread into 1/2 inch slices.  Combine the garlic and oil for the salad.  Brush this mixture onto both sides of the bread slices.  Toast under the grill until golden brown.  Set aside and keep warm.  (Don't let them burn!)

Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet until crisp.  Place onto paper kitchen toweling to drain.  Set aside.

Layer the salad leaves in top of each of 4 chilled places.  Top with the bread slices, and bacon broken into chunky bits.  Top with the egg and tomatoes.  Give the vinaigrette another shake and drizzle some over each salad.  Pass the remainder at the table.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A delicious Blueberry Cake for Easter



This is a cake that I haven't made in a very long time. I had actually forgotten all about it, but then as I was going thru the Big Blue Binder the other day, I happened upon the recipe and remembered how very good it was . . . this is the perfect recipe to make for this weekend when we are celebrating the end of Lent, and Easter.  Simple and delicious.



It's one of those delicious cakes that are simple and yet delectable. The top is a bit crunchy . . . almost like a crust . . . the cake tender and moist . . . and stogged full of lovely blueberries!



I love the sugar that blankets the top . . . sweet . . . adding that extra bit of crunch. Moreish. Scrummy. Oh so delicious . . .



You cut a square and you eat it . . . it melts in the mouth, and tastes so delicious that you just can't help yourself . . . you go back for more. It's inevitable . . .



Perfect plain, cut into squares for that elevenses treat . . . with a nice hot mug of whatever drink strikes your fancy. We do hot chocolate here, but I can well imagine it would taste lovely with a nice hot cup of tea . . .



Just look at all those berries nestled into that moist scrumminess . . . begging your fork to dig in for just . . . one . . . more . . . mouthful . . .

Oh go on . . . how about another piece, this time with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on top . . . or why not tempt the devil and have a nice dollop of clotted cream. In for a penny in for a pound . . . and why . . . not???



*Blue Ribbon Blueberry Cake*
Makes 16 squares
Printable Recipe

A delicious cake with a ribbon of fresh blueberries running through the middle. I like to serve it with some whipped cream, or not, as you will.

135g cake flour (see note*) (1 1/2 cups) sifted
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125ml milk (1/2 cup)
2 ounces butter (1/4 cup)
145g granulated sugar, plus 2 TBS for sprinkling (3/4 cup plus 2 TBS for sprinkling)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large free range egg, beaten
1 pint fresh blueberries, washed and dried (8 ounces, 2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 180*C/ 350*F/ gas mark 4. Line the bottom and sides of an 8 inch square pan with foil, shiny side up. Coat with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

Whisk the flour and cream of tartar together in a bowl. Stir the bicarbonate of soda into the milk.

Cream together the butter, 145g of the sugar (3/4 cup) and the vanilla in the bowl. Beat in the egg. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the batter in thirds, alternating with the milk, beating together until blended. Fold in half of the blueberries.

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. Level the top of the spatula. Sprinkle with the remainder of the berries. Spoon the remainder of the batter over top and smooth out. Sprinkle the top with the 2 TBS sugar.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Place onto a wire rack to cool completely. Remove from the pan and cut into 2 inch squares to serve. Store under a cake dome or covered with parchment paper at room temperature.

Note* - To make your own cake flour whisk together 175g of plain flour (1 3/4 cup) and 38g of corn flour (1/4 cup cornstarch) . Measure out afterwards as per recipe.