The kids are out and about, hopefully not terrifying the neighbours too much with their Halloween antics, so I’m home alone – answering the door to a steady flow of creepy (and quite cute) trick or treaters.
I think I got the better deal. It’s a chilly night and has just started to drizzle, while I’m sat here, warm and cosy with a big mug of tea and a couple of these delicious pumpkin spice cookies. My oldest baked them today to take over to her Halloween sleepover. Her friend’s mum is vegan and she was keen to make them dairy-free so everyone could enjoy them. I’m sure they will!
Vegan pumpkin spice cookies
Makes around 15
175g plain flour 1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg 1 tsp baking powder 60g vegan spread or margarine 90g demerara sugar 1 tbsp vegetable oil 2 tbsp golden syrup (plus a little more for fixing the icing in place)
250g orange ready to roll icing
coloured writing icing (we used black, green and red)
icing sugar (for dusting)
Sieve the flour into a large bowl and stir in the spices and baking powder.
Add the margarine in small chunks and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then stir in the demerara sugar.
In another bowk, mix the oil and golden syrup together. Gradually stir this into the rest of the mixture, then use your hands to bring it all together to form a dough. Knead until smooth.
Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 170ºC / gas mark 3. Grease and line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Flour your surface, and then roll out the dough to about 5mm thick. Use a sharp knife to carefully cut out pumpkin shapes.
Transfer to the lined baking trays and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. After a few minutes, transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely before decorating.
Dust your surface and rolling pin with a little icing sugar, and roll out the orange icing until it’s as thin as you can get it. Cut out pumpkin shapes, slightly smaller than the cookies. Fix into place by brushing with a little golden syrup. Draw on your pumpkin faces and little green stalks with the coloured writing icing, and leave to dry for half an hour or so.
I’m off work this week to spend the half-term school holidays at home with the kids and – what a surprise – the weather is truly miserable. So yes, we’re resorting to our favourite rainy day activity: baking. We’ve been having fun experimenting with edible decorations from Dr Oetker and have come up with three tasty bakes you might like to try out with your gang the next time rainy day boredom sets in. Continue reading “Autumn half-term baking with kids”→
Who can resist an oatie cookie, especially one that’s crammed with gooey dark chocolate and chewy chunks of crystallised ginger? I know I certainly can’t, and neither can my children. They’re the perfect biscuit for a spot of baking with the kids on a wet Saturday afternoon and an ideal snack for when they get home after school – if there any are left from the weekend that is. Continue reading “Oatie cookies with ginger and chocolate”→
As my children grow older, so we grow more adventurous in the kitchen. From pizzas and pasta to carrot cake and chilli con carne, my kids are taking on more and more ambitious projects in the kitchen. But one thing we come back to time and time again, is this easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy recipe for good old iced butter biscuits. Continue reading “Baking with kids: iced butter biscuits”→
This post originally featured in the Wells Journal on Thursday 12 December 2013.
This can be a very expensive time of year. Like most people I am looking for ways to stretch my budget that little bit further. But I have been thinking a lot about why we put so much pressure on ourselves each year to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Why does perfect need to equate to expensive?
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has been vocal on this subject recently. Whether or not you’re religious, there is a lot of sense in his comments and we should heed his reminder that being generous at Christmas should be in a way that demonstrates our love and affection, rather than by trying to buy that love and affection.
So this year, please don’t break the bank simply to let people know what they mean to you. In my eyes, a homemade gift, particularly if it is something you can eat, is so much more special and meaningful than a hastily bought piece of tat.
These simple cookies are a perfect Christmas present. They are easy to make and beautifully festive, featuring that tried and tested combination of cranberries and white chocolate. While cardamom might make you think of Asian cookery, it is also very popular in Norwegian baking and so the Scandinavian theme I started last week with my baked ham and Finnish mustard continues…
White chocolate, cardamom and cranberry cookies
100g soft butter
200g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
150g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g ground almonds
2 tsp ground cardamom (or 1 tsp cardamom seeds crushed in a pestle and mortar)
125g dried cranberries
125g white chocolate chopped
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg and beat again, before mixing in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground almonds and cardamom.
When the dough is smooth and thick, stir in the cranberries and chocolate.
Roll pieces of the dough into walnut-sized balls and place onto baking trays lined with baking parchment. Make sure they are well spaced out.
Bake for around 10 minutes until they are a pale golden colour.
Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
As these cookies are super easy to make, they’re ideal for baking with children to give as gifts at Christmas, I’m entering them into December’s Family Foodies challenge at Eat Your Veg, where the theme is Kids Christmas.
December’s theme at Tea Time Treats is Festive Gifts and Treats, so I’ve got to enter these cookies there too. This is Kate from What Kate Baked‘s last month hosting this brilliant challenge, and Karen from Lavender & Lovage will be announcing her new co-host in the new year.
Deena Kakaya is running a new challenge called Fabulous Fusion Foods and so I thought these cookies might make a good entry, as they bring together a spice I associate with Asia, cardamom, with white chocolate and cranberries, which I connect with a very Western Christmas.
Phew! It’s been a crazy few weeks for birthdays in our family. In the last four weeks it’s been my birthday, my father-in-law’s, my husband’s, both my daughter’s and my father’s. With Easter thrown in the there too, I really have no desire to see any more cake or chocolate for quite a while. The 5:2 diet really hasn’t had a chance…
On Monday it was my husband Jason’s birthday. We celebrated with scrummy milkshakes and smoothies at lunchtime at Great Shakes in Wells and later a delicious ‘homemade’ dinner bought from COOK, followed of course by cake. I love the look of surprise on Jason’s face to see yet another birthday cake.
Yesterday it was my daughter Jessie’s go as she turned eight. Now how did that happen? It really does not seem eight years ago Jason and I returned home from hospital with our scrawny little bundle. We got home and put Jess in the middle of the living room in her car seat for a while, just looking at her, wondering what on earth we were meant to do next. And now look at her – our beautiful big girl with such curiosity, creativity and a thirst for life. It’s hard to keep up with her sometimes but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jessie’s big day involved a meal at a restaurant with her very best friends, followed by a movie. We watched Oz The Great and Powerful in 3D, thoroughly enjoyed by both the children and adults alike. The kids were especially thrilled with their 3D specs as they offered lots of opportunities for to pose for photo after photo as we attempted to get them all home after the film.
We took the children to Frankie and Benny’s for food beforehand – not normally my restaurant of choice but it happened to be right next to the cinema. I have to say though, for a group of kids, it was absolutely perfect and they had a whale of a time. Especially when our waitress switched off the lights and played Congratulations by Cliff Richard as she brought out the birthday cake. Jessie’s friends will be teasing her about how red she went for quite a while I bet!
Fortune teller (or whirlybird) kits in the party bags also went down well. Thanks to Lia at Dizzy Loves Icy for that idea. Coming up with silly fortunes kept them all entertained while they waited for their pizzas and burgers to arrive.
Jessie shares her birthday with her Grandad Chris, my Dad, who yesterday celebrated his 60th birthday. We didn’t get to see him unfortunately as he’s in London and we’re in Somerset but Sue, my Step Mum treated him to a slap up meal at Wild Honey in Mayfair, lucky thing.
As my Dad is renowned for his love of music, various members of my family have been extremely busy the last few weeks compiling a very special music compilation for him, featuring a different song to mark every year of his life, from 1953 right up to the present. We called the album Birthday Beats and the 60 tracks filled four CDs. Do you like the artwork?
Artists on Birthday Beats range from Perry Como, Elvis Presley and Dave Brubeck in the 50s; through Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins and The Beatles in the 60s; The Pointer Sisters, Al Green and The Jam in the 70s; Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Talking Heads and The Housemartins in the 80s; right through to Blur, Bjork and The Fugees in the 90s; and Taj Mahal, Ojos de Brujo and Medeski, Martin & Wood in the last decade (I hate to say noughties).
It was such good fun putting the album together and I think the final selection reflects just as much on the family that compiled it as it does on my Dad’s evolving taste in music through the last six decades.
And because this is a food blog, I really need to end this post with a recipe. So here’s a simple recipe for an easy peach pudding I remember my Dad making us when I went down to stay during the school holidays. It’s probably a bit far-fetched to describe this a recipe, as it’s simply three ingredients layered one on top of the other in a bowl. But when I was little I thought this was one of the most amazing desserts ever created and I still love it to this day.
Easy peach pud
4 digestive biscuits
Half a tin of sliced peaches, chopped
6 tbsp plain yoghurt
Break the biscuits into two bowls or glasses. Place the chopped peaches on top, pour over the yoghurt, and serve.
The perfect easy-peasy-peachy-squeezy pudding. Thanks Dad! And happy birthday Reeses and Hamers! Until next year…
The theme I set was brunch, and we received a surprisingly diverse and incredibly delicious array of not-quite-breakfast-yet-not-quite-lunch dishes, all equally perfect for this festive season when we’re allowed to roll out of bed just that little bit later than normal.
So without further ado, let’s crack on with the round-up…
Next on the menu is this Beet Greens & Red Pepper Frittata from Eleni at On Top of Spaghetti. It’s easy to prepare, healthy and tasty, and ideal for brunch or perhaps a light lunch with a side salad. What’s more, it’s a great way to use those beet greens that many people don’t even realise you can eat.
As Louisa from Chez Foti says herself, these White Chocolate & Cranberry Christmas Cookies make for a “wickedly good brunch snack with a cup or two of coffee” and are just the ticket during the festive period when sweet treats are de rigeur, even at breakfast!
I can’t believe I’ve never thought of combining beans and cheese on toast with a poached egg myself, but that’s exactly what Laura from Credit Munched has done in her Buck Rarebit. The combination sounds just so ‘right’ and perfect for a lazy brunch.
Now while these Swiss Scrambled Eggs, Croissants and Shakes from Fabulicious Food might look designed to be a hangover cure, they’re honestly not. Ren came up with this delicious breakfast-brunch to fill her family with much-needed vitamins and goodness to aid recovery from the winter flu bug. I’m sure they were fighting fit in no time…
Mushrooms on toast, especially using good homemade bread, has to be a top contender for my favourite brunch dish. And these Mushrooms on Rye Toast from The Garden Deli look simply beautiful, don’t you think?
Sometimes brunch becomes much more like lunch than it is breakfast. And in times like these, wouldn’t you love a Minestrone Soup like this one from Divine Foods Living to set you up for the day?
These Nduja Potato Cakes from Foodycat make for a hearty, grown up brunch, especially served with a Bloody Mary. I must admit to having to google nduja – it turns out to be a spicy, spreadable sausage made from pork and is a Calabrian variation of salami.
Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen describes these Christmas Breakfast Muffinsas the best tasting muffins she’s ever made, and I have to say they do look incredibly good from her photos. Made from granola, marmalade, orange juice and apricots, they are the perfect breakfast in a cake.
It might not look like your usual late breakfast dish, and indeed I did have to persuade Kavey from Kavey Eats to enter her spectacular Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cakeinto this month’s Breakfast Club, but personally I think this would make a superb, albeit slightly decadent, brunch. I also think I could gladly tuck into this amazing creation at just about any time of day…
I adore poppy seeds in any baked goods and they look particularly scrummy in these Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins from Mondomulia, and isn’t the photography simply stunning too? They’re perfect for a festive brunch, but I think they’d be great at any time of year. I might also try baking a batch for my daughters’ lunch boxes in the new year.
And last, but certainly not least, come these fantastic Brunch Quesadillas from Camilla at Fab Food 4 All. Filled with bacon, mushroom and cheese, these tasty tortillas would make an ideal brunch for New Year’s Day to help sort your head out after that one-too-many-glasses-of-fizz from the night before.
So there you have it. A particularly fine round-up of brunch recipes, I think you’ll agree. Thanks to Helen at Fuss Free Flavours for inviting me to host December’s Breakfast Club and to all you wonderful bloggers for linking up your yummy recipes.