Crunchy Oat Breakfast

As a huge fan of everything oats, it’s fun for me to experiment with the many ways they can be transformed into a tasty breakfast or dessert. Particularly fond of the topping on my Apple & Strawberry Oat Crumble, I thought why not cook the topping on it’s own to eat as a crunchy oat cereal (much cheaper and healthier than shop bought), or use as a topping for yoghurt or ice cream.

Crunchy Oat Breakfast

I ate a bowlful this morning with fresh blueberries and milk. Here is the recipe –

Crunchy Oat Breakfast

Recipe Serves: 4 bowlfuls (smaller than photo above)

INGREDIENTS
• 1 cup jumbo oats
• 1 cup rolled oats
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 2 Tbsps honey
• 1 – 2 Tbsps mixed spice
• 1/3 cup raisins
• 1/3 cup sunflower seeds

METHOD
• Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
• In a large bowl add the oats, oil and honey and stir well. Then add the mixed spice, raisins and sunflower seeds, and stir until evenly combined.
• Transfer to a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking paper, and cook in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes, stirring half way through.
• When the 20 minutes are complete, turn off the heat, but leave the oats to cool in the oven to crisp up.
• Store in an air tight container until ready to eat.

 

Carrot & Potato Soup

With the carrots and potatoes from our homegrown kitchen garden I decided to make a soup. It already feels like winter is here, and this warming recipe is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Spicy Carrot and Potato Soup

Recipe Serves: 3

INGREDIENTS
• 1 Tbsp olive oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped into chunks
• 2 large potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped into chunks
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp ground corriander
• 1 tsp hot chilli powder
• 800ml veg stock (I used 2 knorr veg stock cubes)
• 1 tsp celery salt

METHOD
• Heat oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion for 5 mins or until softened. Stir frequently.
• Add the raw chopped veg and fry with the onion for another 3 minutes.
• Add the cumin, coriander and chilli powder and stir until evenly coated.
• Pour the vegetable stock on top, stir, bring to the boil, then add the lid and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes until the veg is tender.
• Blend the mixture to desired consistency (I used a hand blender and left a few vegetables whole).
• Season with celery salt. Stir, and serve.

The original recipe can be found at BBCgoodfood.com.

Homemade Flour or Polenta Play-doh

Yesterday I made something I have been planning to for ages – Play-doh.Homemade Play-doh

I first tried it with some polenta flour that was out of date and needed using up.

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It worked alright, but wasn’t real play-doh texture or consistency, though I was able to model a duck with it.

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I next tried the recipe with plain flour, but made it too sticky.

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To fix this I just added more flour and kneaded it in well.

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We used it to pretend bake, rolling out the dough with our mini rolling pin and cutting it into shapes with our cookie cutters. Ana was much more interested in that than modelling with it.

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This is the recipe, modified from one found in Birth to Five – the NHS booklet given out to new mums.

Homemade Play-doh Recipe

INGREDIENTS
• 1 cup flour
• 1 cup water
• 1 Tbsp oil
• 1/3 cup salt
• 1/4 cup cream of tartar
• (optional – food colouring)

METHOD
• Mix all of the ingredients together in a saucepan over a low heat until the excess moisture has dried up and the required texture is achieved. Add more flour if too sticky, or a little more oil if too dry.
• Allow to cool before playing.
• Afterwards store in a large container or freezer bag.

Optional – Separate into three batches and knead in yellow, blue and red food colouring to make coloured play-doh, if required.

 

NOTE – I found when storing my play-doh it became sticky again quite quickly. This may be because it’s summer and hot outside; because I made my play-doh too sticky to begin with (I used the original recipe as a rough guide rather than an exact copy); or because that’s what happens to homemade play-doh – I don’t know as this is the first time I have attempted to make it. Whatever the reason, I found that storing it covered in a layer of extra flour, and then adding yet more flour when playing with it, helps to keep it going longer. It also apparently keeps longer stored in an air tight container in the fridge, but I have not tried this myself.

Quinoa (better than pancakes) Cakes

Today, to use up some vegetable stock from a homemade soup, I thought it would be a good idea to cook some quinoa; which would also go nice with some sausages we had no other plans for.

Like the numpty I am, I left them cooking too long and all the water had gone – It was seconds from the bottom burning black. I added more water to avoid this, and surprise, surprise, we then ended up with quinoa mush. I ate it for dinner anyway, but my husband had his sausages with a roll instead.

As I don’t like waste, the next challenge was to find a way to save the rest of this mushy quinoa…

My husband suggested quinoa cake. I googled it, found a recipe ( at the organicatoz.com), I made some, and they are deelish!

Quinoa Cake

I’ve called these ‘better than pancakes’ because you cook them the same way once you have your batter, but they are so much easier! They stay together much better when you flip them, they work with any flour, they don’t require milk, and I’m sure the quinoa makes them healthier too. But like pancakes, they taste great and are versatile enough to easily customise into a dessert or savoury dish. Or, as I did; eat as they are.

Quinoa (better than pancakes) Cakes

INGREDIENTS
• 3 cups (over)cooked quinoa (mine was already flavoured with vegetable stock)
• 2 large eggs
• 2/3 cup flour (I used spelt whole-grain)
• 1 tsp oil (I used stir fry oil)
• (optional – agave syrup to serve)

METHOD
• Combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl and stir until they form a mixed batter.
• Heat the oil in a pan on a medium heat, then add a heaped Tbsp off batter. Allow to brown and cook on one side for 4 minutes.
• Flip the cake over and cook on this side for another 4 minutes.
• Repeat with any remaining mixture until it’s all used, then eat warm. I ate mine as they were, but with a drizzle of agave syrup.

 

There is still a lot of mixture left, so I am thinking about cooking the rest as a cake in the oven as an experiment… I may attempt this tomorrow. Or I may just make more of these!

Celebration Spelt Flour Fruit Cake Recipe

For every cake I have iced (at least so far), I have one recipe that I use, and one recipe only – A Celebration Spelt Flour Fruit Cake recipe.

Celebration Spelt Flour Fruit Cake Recipe

Why do I always use this recipe?

  1. Despite their high calorie content, to me, fruit cakes are really healthy, and I like to eat healthy. They may be high in sugar and fat, but they are more of the good sugars and more of the good fats than an average cake. No need for any refined ingredients in a fruit cake. I don’t like refined ingredients.
  2. I love fruit cake! Especially this fruit cake. From a selfish point of view, I’d like a taste of this cake myself after all this effort please. Eating a slice of this cake is like a reward for all the love and hard work put into it. I really look forward to it.
  3. As I cook more with the artist, rather than the scientist, side of me (‘let’s just throw this in, change this, oh we don’t need that I’m sure! Skip that step…’), it is safer to use a more forgiving recipe like a fruit cake, than many others I could dare try. If I am making a cake to ice for a special occasion, I want more than a hope that the cake itself will be a success, and not an un-risen squidgy mess.
  4. Equally, although I know other cakes can be iced, I would panic that even if I did manage to make a perfect sponge cake, that it may not be sturdy enough to cope with me icing it. In contrast I have a lot of confidence in the structure of a fruit cake.
  5. And from a sanity point of view, I always use this fruit cake recipe because I can make it well head of the time I will be icing it (usually 2 or 3 months). I can make this when I have the time,and then apart from feeding it every fortnight, I can just forget about it and dedicate my energy to how I am going to decorate it instead. I would panic if I had to leave it all to the last minute (baking and icing), so a fruit cake keeps me calmer, and is a much safer option.

Special Occasion Spelt Flour Fruit Cake

Recipe Makes: 1 cake. I use a 17 cm cake tin

INGREDIENTS
• 200g butter (just under 1 cup), softened (plus extra for greasing)
• 175g (1 cup) soft brown sugar
• 1Tbsp Honey
• 4 medium eggs
• 200g glace cherries
• 1 Tbsp mixed spice
• 450g dried fruit
• Juice and zest of 1 lemon and/or 1 orange
• 225g (1 cup) whole grain spelt flour, sifted
• 50g (1/4 cup) ground almonds
• 50g (1/2 cup) mixed chopped nuts
• 50ml (3 or 4 Tbsp) dark rum or brandy – and extra for feeding

METHOD
• Pre-heat the oven to 150C
• Grease and line a 17cm round deep cake tin with treble thickness baking paper.
• In a bowl beat together the sugar, honey and butter, until soft and combined.
• Beat the eggs, then add to the mixture.
• Chop the cherries (into quarters), then add to the mixture with the mixed spice, mixed fruit, and zest. Stir until evenly combined.
• Fold in the flour, almonds, chopped nuts and rum/ brandy.
• Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and level off the top to create a flat surface.
• Wrap a band of brown paper around the outside of the tin and secure with string. Bake in the centre of the oven for 2-3 hours. If it’s browning too quickly, cover the top of the cake with double thickness baking paper.
• After 2-3 hours, reduce the temperature to 140C and cook for another 1 & 1/2 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
• Leave to cool in the tin for 1 hour, then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.
• When cool, prick the surface of the cake with a skewer to create holes in which to spoon over 2 Tbsp of dark rum or brandy. Repeat every two weeks until ready to ice.
• Wrap the cake tightly in grease-proof paper and foil. Store in a cool dry place for at least a week before icing or eating.

 

I use the above recipe as guide only. I change the ingredients slightly every time I make it, depending on what is to hand in the kitchen. The quantities also vary because as I’ve mentioned before, I do tend to use my eye as a measurement guide, rather than weighing scales. Not very accurate. This recipe is an amalgamation of several Christmas cake recipes that I have tweaked over time with my personal addition of spelt flour and chopped nuts, for example. I have planned to soak the dried fruit in the rum the night before I make the cake, to make it extra special like my Aunty does, but I have so far not been that organised. Maybe next time…

Sausage, Spinach & Pasta Recipe

I have made recipe before, though I had managed to record only a list of ingredients – no method, and no photograph. This time around I have all three; assuming I’ve made it the same as last time…

Sausage, Spinach Pasta

Sausage, Spinach & Pasta

Recipe Serves: 3 or 4

INGREDIENTS
• 3 or 4 servings of Pasta (340g)
• 450g spicy Italian pork sausage, sliced
• 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
• 1 small onion
• 4 garlic cloves
• 1 tin tomatoes
• 1 chicken stock cube
• 40g Spinach (fresh or frozen)
• 1 Tbsp dried basil
• Handful of Parmesan Cheese
• Salt & Pepper to taste

METHOD
• Cook your pasta in accordance to the instructions on the packet.
• Thinly chop the onion and garlic and sweat on a low heat for at least 5 mins until soft and tender.
• Add the chopped tomatoes to the saucepan and stir.
• Dissolve the stock cube in a small amount of water, add to the saucepan and stir.
• Add the basil and spinach, stir until the spinach starts to wilt, then turn down the heat. Replace the saucepan lid and leave to heat through until the pasta is ready.
• Plate up, serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan and add salt and pepper to taste.

White Chocolate Covered Rice Cakes

Having never been a fan of white chocolate, I was surprised when introduced to Natures Store White Chocolate Rice Cakes, that they quickly became one of my all time ‘must have’ favourite snacks. Sharing them with my toddler, they didn’t last long, and we definitely went through more packets than we should have in a short space of time.

The ingredients are essentially puffed whole grain rice, with a layer of white chocolate on top. After the umpteenth packet I decided it was time to stop buying them. Then I had a brain wave – Why not make them myself!? So I did. I had the necessary ingredients already, and this way is cheaper; I can make as few (or as many) as I require without the temptation to eat the whole packet; and the extra effort of making them makes me think twice about whether or not I really want them, or whether I’m just craving them because they are there. They really are (surprisingly) that moreish.

White Chocolate Rice Cakes

White Chocolate Covered Rice Cakes

Recipe Serves: 3

INGREDIENTS
• 3 whole grain plain rice cakes (I used Kalla)
• 50g white chocolate

METHOD
• Bring a pan of water to a simmer and melt the white chocolate on a plate above, stirring frequently. I used a plate because it is easier to coat the rice cakes in white chocolate this way.
• Take your rice cake and coat one side in white chocolate by rubbing it in the melted chocolate, then leave on a clean plate to cool and set.
• Repeat for the remaining rice cakes.
• Chill in the fridge for a while so that the white chocolate reaches the right consistency. (I however ate mine straight away).

 

It’s so simple, it’s not even a real recipe. I did not make the rice cakes, nor did I make the white chocolate. I have since found a link describing how rice cakes are made at Eat.Live.Travel.Write, which I found very interesting, and I’ve also found a recipe for making white chocolate from scratch at CupcakeProject, but I have not attempted either. For now I’m quite happy with my method. It wont get me my ‘made from scratch’ badge, but it is more frugal than before, and that’s what I was going for.

 

Dark chocolate covered rice cakesNB: I also tried this with dark chocolate that we had, but the results are not a patch on the white chocolate.

Orange Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting – Gluten Free

My Dad was very kind to recently help us in our garden by removing weeds, turning over the soil and mowing the lawn etc. I wanted to make him something nice to say thank you for all his hard work, and so began thinking of what I could bake for him.

Not long previously, out of nowhere, my husband said to me ‘You know what I really fancy and think would taste really nice? An orange flavoured cake with white chocolate frosting…’. ‘Yum!’ I thought, ‘What a great idea!’, and so I looked online for a recipe. (He’s since told me that it was an orange flavoured flapjack, not cupcake, that he was thinking about, but that’s beside the point). I found one at MyFoodTrail.com and decided that I would attempt these as a Thank You gift to my Dad.

As always with recipes, mine has changed from the original a little bit (I can’t help myself!) but the general gist is the same. The author of MyFoodTrail.com states that she got the recipe from The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook by Jennifer Graham.

White Chocolate, Orange Cupcakes

Orange Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting – Gluten Free

Recipe Serves: I made 12 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS
• 1 Orange (sized medium to large)
• 1 and 1/3 cup Ground Almonds
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 40g unsalted butter, softened (I used Anchor spreadable butter)
• 1 cup Golden Caster Sugar (I used Billingtons)
• 5 eggs (medium)
■150g White Chocolate for the topping

CUPCAKE METHOD
• Cut the orange into quarters and remove the seeds and excess pith. Place it in a saucepan of boiling water that just covers the quarters. Bring back to the boil, then put the lid on and simmer for an hour until completely softened.
• Let the mixture cool slightly, then pur√©e, water and all, with a hand blender. Leave to one side.
• Pre-heat the oven to 160C and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake cases.
• Cream your butter, then add the sugar, a third at a time, blending as you go until it is light and fluffy.
• Put the eggs into a bowl and beat with a blender or fork. Add to the mixture.
• Add the almond flour and baking powder to the mixture. Fold all the ingredients together, until combined.
• Finally add the pureed orange and mix until well combined.
• Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases 2/3 full. Bake for 45 minutes until dry to touch and lightly browned. Allow to cool before frosting.

FROSTING METHOD
• Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring often. When the cupcakes are cool, use a spoon to pour white chocolate over each cupcake. I had just enough white chocolate to cover each cake sufficiently.
• The cupcakes taste best from the fridge, when the white chocolate has fully set.

 

The almond flour makes these cupcakes really moist, and with the hard white chocolate topping this recipe was a hit with me, my mum, my husband, and of course the main recipient – my Dad!

The only thing I would change next time (and I’m sure there will be a next time) was the orange. I may have had the misfortune of using a bitter orange, or it may be because I didn’t quite blend the orange into a complete pur√©e, but one or two cupcakes tasted a little bitter. Next time I would check the pur√©e first and perhaps sweeten it with honey before adding it to the mixture, to make sure that didn’t happen again. It wasn’t a real problem though as none of the cupcakes lasted long!

Carrot Cake Inspired by Cake Decorating Magazine

Being a huge fan of carrot (and all veggie) cakes, I am really proud of my latest attempt, complete with cream cheese frosting and marzipan carrots 🙂

Carrot Cake

It’s not my own recipe, but one from Cake Decorating Magazine, a weekly published magazine full of cake ideas, inspiration and recipes. I look at it as a sort of beginners ‘teach yourself’ course. Which is great for me as baking, being an exact science, does not gel naturally with my haphazard ‘throw everything together and see what happens’ style of cooking. I do however, enjoy making cakes, but most of all I enjoy my attempts at decorating them. These marzipan carrots are really simple and cute, but make the cake so much prettier than just plain cream cheese frosting.

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

Recipe Serves: 10

INGREDIENTS
• 225g unsalted butter, softened
• 225g light brown sugar (I used Billingtons)
• 4 medium eggs
• 1 orange, juice and grated zest
• 175g wholemeal flour (I used Spelt)
• 2 tsp baking powder
• Pinch of salt
• 2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp mixed spice
• 50g ground almonds
• 110g walnuts, chopped (I used mixed nuts)
• 350g carrots, grated (I used closer to 500g)

Cream Cheese Frosting and Marzipan Carrots
• 125g unsalted butter, softened
• 50g icing sugar (I used Billingtons Golden Icing Sugar)
• 250g Cream Cheese
• Marzipan
• Orange and Green food colouring

METHOD
• Preheat Oven to 180C and grease 20cm round cake tin (mine was slightly smaller).
• Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until soft, light and creamy.
• Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the mixture, then stir in the orange juice and zest.
• Stir in the dry ingredients – the flour, baking powder, salt and spices – and fold into the mixture. Add the ground almonds and chopped nuts and gently stir.
• In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites (I used a hand blender) until stiff, then fold into the mixture.
• Stir in the grated carrots until everything is mixed together, then spoon into the cake tin.
• Hollow the mixture in the centre a little and bake for 75 to 90 minutes (mine took about 120 minutes because I used a smaller cake tin, hence there was a greater depth of cake to cook) until golden and firm to the touch. Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.
• To make the cream cheese frosting, beat 125g softened unsalted butter and 50g icing sugar until well mixed, then mix in 250g cream cheese. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes, then spread it generously all over the top of your cake. ( I found leaving the cream cheese frosting uncovered in the fridge overnight gave a better texture and nicer bite to the frosting as I used too much cream cheese in relation to butter and icing sugar in my version).
• To make the mini carrot toppers, colour some marzipan with orange food colouring and knead well. Separate into 10 balls, and roll these into a sausage shape, pinching one end to make a carrot shape. For the leaves, colour a small amount of marzipan with green food colouring and roll 10 small balls, flattening each with your thumb. Score lines on the carrots and leaves to add detail using a cocktail stick. Press the leaves into the wide end of the carrots and arrange evenly around the border of your cake.

 

After making this cake, I can see how people in the past would have eaten less cake than we do today. This wasn’t even a particularly difficult one, in fact as I cooked it well that proves it was positively easy, but if every cake we ate was made from scratch using arm muscle, rather than an electric blender for example, you really do deserve the cake and extra calories afterwards due to all the hard work put in to creating it. It takes a good few hours to make with all bought ingredients, but imagine grinding the flour, and making the marzipan from raw ingredients too. I think it would all be too much work for most people to bother. Cooking is so easy these days. We really don’t know we are born in that respect!

Hot and sour veg broth

This recipe was inspired by the need to use up leftovers, and the original can be found on lovefoodhatewaste.com.2013-02-14 18.17.56

Hot & Sour Veg Broth

Recipe Serves: 2

INGREDIENTS
• 2 Tbsp Thai curry paste
• 250ml boiling water
• Leftover or frozen vegetables (I used frozen peppers, shredded carrots, shredded kale, leeks, peas and sweetcorn)
• 2 servings rice noodles
• 400ml coconut milk
• Lime juice to flavour
• Coriander to serve

METHOD
• Dissolve the curry paste in water, add your leftover vegetables, and gently simmer for 10 minutes, adding the coconut milk at the end to heat through.
• Meanwhile cook your rice noodles in a separate saucepan.Add the coconut milk, rice noodles and season with lime juice.
• Combine the rice noodles and vegetables in a bowl, season with lime juice and serve with coriander.