Monday, 20 October 2014

Trick or Treat Bags with Gruesome Green Popcorn

popcorn covered with candy melts for halloween in fun trick or treat bags

Apologies as this is an ultra-quick post today as I have had a very busy weekend!

Getting in the Halloween spirit, I came up with these trick or treat bags which I found in my local Home Bargains.

They are made by Wilton, purveyors of all things baking, American wise. But I reckon, if you can’t get hold of these, any paper bag would do. The fun part is using stickers to decorate them with scary eyes and ghoulish mouths.

popcorn covered with candy melts for halloween in fun trick or treat bags

To fill the bags up, I made some fresh popcorn. I was going to leave it plain, but then I remembered I had a bag of green candy melts in the cupboard. They are also by Wilton (I swear I have not been paid by them for this post!) but I have seen many different makes now in shops like The Range and Hobbycraft.

popcorn covered with candy melts for halloween in fun trick or treat bags

I melted the melts, but they were still quite thick, so I added 3 to 4 teaspoons of vegetable oil to loosen the mix up. It was then the perfect consistency to coat the popcorn with. Don’t get me wrong, the popcorn is not smothered in green candy, merely tinged. It looks quite effective and is perfect for stuffing those bags. It dries hard, so doesn’t make a mess. Not fancy green? Then grab any colour you like.

popcorn covered with candy melts for halloween in fun trick or treat bags

Lastly I took some strawberry laces and other fizzy gummy sweets and added these into the bag, to sort of look like spooky hair.

And that is it! I said it was quick – and not so much a recipe, more of a craft today.

So, get popping, Halloween will be here before you know it!

I am entering these bags of popcorn and treats into this month's Treat Petite, hosted alternately by myself - and this month Kat at the Baking Explorer. The them this month is Trick or Treat.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Portugal Holiday Snaps

As you may know, I am appearing on the interview stage at the BBC Good Food Show in Glasgow today. So, as I am absent, I decided today share with you some photos from our recent holiday in the Algarve.

I often take random snaps. Things that amuse me, things I think are pretty cool, that sort of thing. So here are just a few snaps…please excuse my puerile sense of humour by the way…

The cockerel is the unofficial symbol of Portugal and is everywhere. It's better known as the Galo de Barcelos.

Another famous bird is this parrot which has been outside a bar in Albufeira forever! Capt. Jack Harkness seems to have teamed up with him now.

Sand sculptures are a big thing in the Algarve and in Old Town this year was an impressive Pirates of the Caribbean ship and crew.

Just up the road from the sculpture is a wine shop which stocks vino from Cliff Richard's Portuguese vineyard. Cliff is popular there and even had a street named after him.

Further past the Old Town in Albufeira is a shopping centre and one store there is this lingerie shop. Always makes me laugh! And this year made me think of the brilliant blog - Keep Calm and Fanny On.

Into the supermarket and I love the names for foreign products and how they translate in Engligh! Bimbo bread is a classic.

These biscuits reminded me of actress Minnie Driver!

This mosquito repellant makes me laugh too.

And Jamie's cookbook did make me giggle (see, I said puerile!)

No idea either..

When we go abroad I always try and sneak in a McFlurry from MaccyD's. My Canadian blogger friend Steph at Kitchen Frolic and I always tweet each other what random flavour they have going on. This time it was a Lemon Cornetto McFlurry - delicious!

A blast from my past - C&A is still all the rage in Europe.

And why on earth would you call your sports shoe store 'The Athlete's Foot'. I guess it gets people talking!

As I said, just a few random snaps, some of which hopefully made you chuckle a bit!

Back with more recipes soon...

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Green Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

smoothie with spinach, oat milk, pumpkin puree, banana and pumpkin spices

Yes! Another pumpkin recipe – I still have leftovers J

But I can promise you this one is healthy. It’s another of my dessert related smoothies which I have featured throughout the year. Have you not seen them?

Since I started doing them, I knew I wanted to make a Pumpkin Pie flavour. Pumpkin is everywhere at the moment – as it’s nearly Halloween of course. And to kind of tie in with that, I decided to make this smoothie a green one - all witch-skin toned.

smoothie with spinach, oat milk, pumpkin puree, banana and pumpkin spices

Green smoothies are even healthier than normal ones, lots of hidden gems in the ingredients which give them their hue. All sorts of veg can be used – such as kale or bok choy. But my green of choice is spinach. Packed full of iron and other nutrients, it also gives smoothies a deeply vert tinge.

To make this smoothie I used oat milk, which is packed full of fibre and has no dairy. You could use almond, soya, whatever you have. I used the canned pumpkin and the fruit of choice was a banana. 

smoothie with spinach, oat milk, pumpkin puree, banana and pumpkin spices

And to give it that authentic pumpkin pie taste – spice. I added cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger.
The spices too have lots of health benefits which you can read about in the Carrot Cake post.

I popped all of the ingredients in my fantastic Optimum 9400 from Froothie and let it do it’s thing.

The final drink tastes like pie, is refreshing, fills you up and gives you a great green ‘tash after you drink it…enjoy!

print recipe

Green Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Healthy green smoothie with the flavours of a pumpkin pie
  • 250 ml oat milk (or other non-dairy)
  • 100 grams canned pumpkin
  • 1 medium banana
  • two LARGE handfuls spinach leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • water
Place all of the ingredients (except water)in a power blender and blitz until smooth. If it is too thick add water until you get your desired consistency. Serve in glasses with a sprinkle of cinnamon to garnish.
Prep time: Blitz time: -Total time: -Yield: 2 glasses

Disclosure Statement: I received the Optimum 9400 free to review. Any opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

Well, my Apple Butter went down very well last week, as did my Pumpkin and Pecan mini loaf cakes. Lots of discussion on Twitter about the fact canned pumpkin is not readily available in the UK for everyone, unless your Tesco has an American section. And folk had either never heard of apple butter, or were totally in love with the stuff.

So, what to do with the leftovers?

After some research, I discovered that Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie is a ‘thing’. There were quite a few recipes for it online, but I wanted to make my own concoction using my homemade apple butter and some of the ‘gold dust’ canned pumpkin puree I had remaining. I decided not to add other spices to the mix as there was quite enough in the apple butter and I didn’t want overkill.

I used some shop bought shortcrust pastry, time-saving, but if you wanted you could make your own and I have a recipe here.

My pie filling didn’t take long to bake compared to some of the other recipes I saw. 35 minutes at 200C and it was done. When I tasted it, it was like pumpkin pie, but with a fruitier tang going on. Apple and pumpkin seem to be a great combination which I will re-visit again I’m sure.

But for now, get making that apple butter, if you want to enjoy this twist on a classic pie!

But here is how I made the delicious pie;

print recipe

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie
Homemade apple butter baked right into a pumpkin pie!
  • 1 package shop-bought shortcrust pastry
  • 225 grams canned pumpkin puree
  • 225 grams homemade apple butter
  • 80 grams light brown sugar
  • 150 grams evaporated milk
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 250 ml double cream
Preheat the oven to 200C. Unfurl the pastry and line a 9" pie dish with it. Place this in the fridge to chill until you have made the filling. In a large jug, place all of the remaining ingredients and whisk together to combine. Pour this into the chilled pie shell and place the pie into the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. The top will look dry and there will be a very slight jiggle in the centre of the pie when done. A skewer will also be clean when inserted then removed from the centre. Allow to cool fully. Whip the cream until stiff and pipe around the edges of the pie. Enjoy your pie with a cuppa.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 9" pie

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Chocolate Salty Balls for 'Check One Two'

healthy fruit and cocoa balls with added salt

A while back I was contacted by a social movement called ‘Check One Two’, asking if I would like to get involved with them, to create some ‘ball-related foods’.

'Check One Two', was set up by two sets of brothers who recognised that men are dying needlessly from testicular cancer. Why needlessly?

Because, if detected early enough, it is 100% curable. But because men can be a bit funny about health issues and are too laid back, they don’t always think to check their ‘love grenades’.
'Check One Two' aim to spread awareness and change attitudes through their #feelingnuts campaign. 

Loads of celebrities have been #feelingnuts, so check out the website for funny vines, vids and pics of folk like Hugh Jackman, Ricky Gervais and '5 Seconds of Summer' taking on the crotch grabbing challenge.

And for one day only – my little cartoon cupcake creation Cakeyboi is back and taking part in the #feelingnuts challenge.

I did think about apologising to anyone who might be offended by this sort of content on a food blog, but then I thought better. Being a male blogger, I know this is such an important topic and I personally have two friends who suffered testicular cancer and thankfully they are fine now. Any small part I can play in raising awareness is worth it.

Where does the food part come in you might be asking? Well ‘Check One Two‘ are collaborating with 'Urban Food Fest', taking place today in Shoreditch High Street in London.  They want to raise awareness through ball-related food today, and this is where my recipe comes into play.

image source
Remember the song ‘Chocolate Salty Balls’ back in the 1990’s by Chef from South Park? I always did wonder what the chocolate salty balls would taste like and now I can tell you – they are pretty tasty (and healthy too).

healthy fruit and cocoa balls with added salt

Made in my Optimum 9400 from Froothie, all with natural ingredients, these little balls pack an energy punch. Full of dates, almonds, chia seeds, raw cacao powder and so on – these really are a healthy snack. 

I added half a teaspoon of salt to the mix, but I wouldn’t use any more than that. A quarter teaspoon may be fine for those who don’t want them too salty.

Here’s the recipe.

print recipe

Chocolate Salty Balls
Healthy chocolate fruit balls with added saltiness
  • 150 grams pitted dates
  • 100 grams raw almonds
  • 30 grams raw cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa)
  • 8 grams white chia seeds
  • 50 grams coconut oil
  • 50 grams desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Place all of the ingredients in a power-blender and blitz until the ingredients come together. Take tablespoons worth, and roll into balls. Place on a plate lined with greaseproof paper and when all rolled, pop into the fridge to firm up, about an hour.
Prep time: Chill time: Total time: Yield: 15 balls approx.

Now get out there and spread the word hashtag, #feelingnuts!

Disclosure Statement: I was not endorsed to promote 'Check One Two'. I received the Optimum 9400 free to review. Any opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Easy Apple Butter

apples and spices reduced in a slow cooker to make a thick spread

I have heard about apple butter off and on over the years and never really knew what it was. It seems to be more of an American 'thing'. I wasn’t sure if it was an apple flavoured butter, but when I researched, I discovered it was actually more like an apple jam. A spreadable sweet and spicy concoction perfect for spreading on toast or, in my case, crumpets.

apples and spices reduced in a slow cooker to make a thick spread

I researched it a bit more online and to me the easiest way to make it seems to be in a slow cooker. I found a few separate recipes on-line (including the brown-eyed baker) and tweaked them to suit British measurements.

It does take a long while to cook the apples down (oh, and to peel the little buggers first off) but it is so worth it. I jarred mines up and took it along to work. My colleagues loved it. And, they all said it tasted like Christmas. That will be thanks to the spices in it – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

With that in mind, I thought I’d bring you this recipe a couple of months early so you can perhaps give it a try and, if like me, you think it’s fantastic, you could make several jars up as Christmas gifts.

apples and spices reduced in a slow cooker to make a thick spread

As I said, a slow cooker is needed, but the only elbow-grease you need to expend is when peeling the apples. I used gala apples and pink ladies, but any apple would do really. And if it has a red skin, add some of the peel to the slow cooker. This imparts a lovely russet hue to the finished butter.

Keep it in the fridge once it’s made. Mine’s has been there for a month now and it still tastes fine. I have also frozen some, as it makes a lot, and when defrosted it was just as good.

Here is the recipe;

print recipe

Easy Apple Butter
Apple Butter made in a slow-cooker
  • 3 Kilograms apples (any variety)
  • 225 grams granulated sugar
  • 200 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or paste
Peel, core and chop the apples. Place in the bowl of the slow cooker. Add the sugars, spices and salt and stir through. Cook on low for 9 hours. The apples will have reduced and become darker (and smell amazing). Put the lid slightly off the cooker to let some moisture escape and continue to cook on low for another 3 hours. After the three hours, remove from the heat and add the vanilla, stirring through. Use a stick-blender to puree the apple butter. Place in jars and allow to cool fully before placing on lids. It will thicken as it cools.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 large jars

I am entering the apple butter into the 'Slow Cooked Challenge' hosted by Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen. The theme this month is 'Open', so anything goes.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Mini Pumpkin and Pecan Loaves

spiced pumpkin cake with pecan nuts

I love the autumn – don’t you? I love the colours of the remaining leaves on the trees, the cosy nights in with the curtains shut and most importantly, the flavours of the season.

I always think comfort food at this time of year. Crumbles, pies, breads, that sort of thing. Lots of spices too like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, all conjure up the ‘fall’ for me.

Another food I associate with the autumn is that vibrant orange squash. Pumpkin is getting to be more of a popular ingredient to use in baking, here in the UK, but sadly the canned puree variety still isn’t readily available on the supermarket shelves. Sometimes Tesco has it in their US food section and I grab tins when I can. Thankfully they do last a long time.

I decided to make a pumpkin and pecan loaf with some pumpkin I had left over from last year and was languishing in the back of my freezer. I worried it may not have been unusable, but it was fine when it was defrosted.

spiced pumpkin cake with pecan nuts

I had cute cardboard mini loaf trays which I got a while back from dotcomgiftshop and decided to use these. But you could use one big loaf tin, or even turn these into individual muffins. You would need to adjust the cooking time however.

spiced pumpkin cake with pecan nuts

The loaves were moist and delicious, flavoured with those spices I mentioned at the top, and pieces of pecan throughout. As an accompaniment I had some plain whipped cream. I actually used a new gadget I had received from an on-line catering company called Nisbets. They supply all sorts of catering equipment and have next-day delivery.

The cream whipper, is so easy. Place chilled cream into the contraption, add gas to the canister (I was also sent some gas cartridges) and pull the trigger. You have instant whipped cream. Brilliant!

Here’s the recipe;

print recipe

Mini Pumpkin and Pecan Loaves
Moist, spiced pumpkin loaf cake with pecans.
  • 340 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 125 ml vegetable oil
  • 225 grams pureed pumpkin
  • 175 grams self-raising flour
  • half teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • half teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • half teaspoon ground allspice
  • 70 grams chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 180C and have your loaf pans on stand-by. In a bowl add the oil and sugar and mix until combined. Add the eggs and stir these until combined. Add the pumpkin and blend that in too. Sift in the flour and spices and stir, just until the dry ingredients have been absorbed. Split the batter into the loaf pans and place in the oven to bake. Around 20 minutes or when a toothpick comes out clean from the centre. Let the loaves cool before removing them from their baking case and serve with a little whipped cream.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3 mini loaves

Disclosure Statement: I was sent the cream whipper free to review. I Was also sent the card loaf cases free. Any opinion expressed are entirely my own.