No Bake Coconut and Peanut Butter Bars

Coconut and peanut butter cereal bars

It’s time for this month’s Recipe Redux post.   The theme for May was DIY Kitchen Essentials with the aim being to show off healthy basics, the type of recipes that in the past you bought but you now make yourself.

Well, I have 2 young children and they both need a snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon. It can be hard to offer them healthy things all the time, especially when they both love the snacks you can buy, especially cereal bars.   I don’t always have time to make my own toddler snacks but when I do, I like to experiment with different flavours and combinations, often adding blended dried fruit and sometimes just a mixture of whatever we have available.

Dessicated coconut is very popular and coconut oil adds a lovely flavour and helps the bars stick together and hold their shape as it sets hard in the fridge.  This time I experimented with adding a  little peanut butter too and because I wasn’t using any dried fruit, I added a little agave nectar.

The finished bars are really tasty – nutty, coconutty and just slightly sweet.  They are a little crumbly though so need to be taken out of the dish very carefully.

peanut butter coconut bars

Ingredients – Makes about 18

40g coconut oil

45g peanut butter (unsalted and unsweetened)

30g agave nextar

100g dessicated coconut

50g oats

How to Make No Bake Coconut and Peanut Butter Bars

1. Put the coconut oil, peanut butter and agave nectar in a large microwave-proof bowl.   Heat for about 40 seconds and then stir them together until they are fully combined.

2. Add the coconut and oats and stir well.  At this stage you could add extra nuts, seeds, dried fruit or chocolate chips if you wanted.

3. Line a square dish with cling film and press the mixture down well using the back of a spoon.

4. Put in the fridge to harden up.

5. Take the dish out of the fridge and cut into bars and gently ease out of the dish.   I found the first couple crumbled up but after that the rest came out fine.

6. Store the bars in the fridge.

To see what other people taking part in the Recipe Redux have made, click on the link below:

Duck Birthday Cake

Duck pond kids birthday cake

It was my daughter’s 3rd birthday recently and as Little Miss Spice is still obsessed by ducks, there was only one possibility for the cake.  Not Peppa Pig.   Not princesses.    It had to be a duck cake.

I came across this cake in Cakes and Cake Decorating by Angela Nilsen and Sarah Maxwell and knew I had to copy the way it was decorated.   Once I’d shown Little Miss Spice the picture, there was no backing out.    Although it looked impressive in the book, it was basically a matter of just assembling the individual parts.   I liked the look of the jelly – it made the cake more interesting and just a little bit different to many of the other birthday cakes I’ve seen.

I made the cake (using my own recipe) and prepared everything the day before.   I thought I would just put it together quickly on the morning of the party.   The night before I’d whipped up some cream with a little green food colouring and icing sugar till it stood in fairly stiff peaks, the perfect consistency for spreading on the top and sides of the cake. What could go wrong?

The next morning I took it out of the fridge, expecting it to be exactly the same as when I’d made it.   I held my palette knife in one hand and tipped up the bowl above the cake with the other hand, thinking I might need to help the cream out of the bowl when instead it all plopped out and ran down the sides of the cake.   What had started as double cream appeared to have returned to being double cream, albeit with a greenish tinge.   This was not how the cake decorating was supposed to go.

As I complained about it, Little Miss Spice piped up with, Why is my cake not good enough?  Arggh.   Do you mind if it doesn’t look perfect? I asked her.   Yes, she replied.  Arrrggggghhh again.

Could I scrape it off and rewhip it?  Would it work or would it just be full of crumbs?   I didn’t want to risk it.   There was no time to go out and buy more cream before the party.    It would just have to do.   I sprinkled on the green dessicated coconut and most of it just slid down the sides of the cake too.    I put the green jelly in the middle and another landslide began.  I really should have stuck to fondant or buttercream.  I was fearing this cake was not going to be remembered for the right reasons.

I didn’t risk adding the fondant ducks and grass or the marshmallow flowers in advance.   The last minute decorating was going to have to happen at the party.

Later, as a room full of three-year-olds looked on, I hastily finished off the cake.  After telling everyone it was a disaster, it actually looked quite good.   It cut well, no more of it had collapsed and it tasted great.   The lime jelly on the top was a really good addition.   If you’ve never tried jelly on a cake before then try it, it may look a mess but it went really well with the cream and the coconut.

Now, I know I may have scared you off by telling you this cake was a disaster but really, don’t let that put you off.  With just the small tweak of not  adding food colour to the cream I’m sure it would be perfect, and even if you have the same near disastrous adventure that I had, it will still be worth it for the taste of the finished cake.

duck birthday cake 1

Ingredients for the cake

300g butter, at room temperature

300g sugar

5 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

350g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Ingredients for the buttercream

125g butter, at room-temperature

250g icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients for the cream

300g double cream

2 tbsp icing sugar

Other Ingredients

250g dessiccated coconut

Green food colour

Marshmallows

Green fondant icing

Yellow fondant icing

Black fondant icing

Green Lime jelly

How to Make Duck Birthday Cake

How to Make the Cake

1. Grease and line a deep 20cm cake tin.  Heat the oven to 140C.

2. In a food mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until they are light in colour.   Beat in the eggs, one at a time then the vanilla extract.

3. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture.   Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for about 1.5 hours. Test the cake with a skewer to see if it’s ready. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

How to Make all the Elements to Decorate the Cake

1. Make the jelly according to the pack instructions and put in the fridge to set.

2. Make the buttercream by beating together the butter, icing sugar and vanilla.

3. Whisk the cream until it hold stiff peaks and then beat in the icing sugar.  Note: I added some green food colour but I think this is what caused the cream to go runny again so I would omit it in future.

4. Using a fork and your fingers, mix the green food colour into the dessicated coconut.

5. Dust a work surface with a little icing sugar and then roll out the yellow fondant icing till it is about 7mm thick. Cut out duck shapes using a cutter or just a knife.  Use a little black fondant to make the eyes.  Press the ducks onto cake pop sticks and leave them somewhere flat to dry out and go hard.

6. Using a garlic press, fill it with a ball of green fondant icing and push it through the holes to make the bits of grass. Leave them to dry and go hard.

7. Using a rolling pin, flatten the marshmallows and then using some scissors, snip them about five times around the edges so they look a little like petals.

How to Put the Cake Together

1. Using a bread knife, slice the cake into 3 layers.   Spread the buttercream on the bottom and middle layer and stack the layers back together again.

2. Spread the cream over the top and sides of the cake.

3. Cover the sides of the cake and the outside of the top of the cake (going about 3-4cm in) with the green dessicated coconut.

4. Spoon some of the green jelly into the middle of the cake.

5. Put some of the fondant grass on the dessicated coconut, around the edge of the green jelly.

6. Stick the ducks into the cake.

7. Put some marshmallow flowers around the bottom of the cake.

I am linking this to Love Cake at JibberJabberUK.   The theme is Colour Me Pretty.  I am also linking it to Honest Mum‘s Tasty Tuesdays, hosted this week by Misplaced Brit.

 

 

Lemon, Barley and Basil Salad

Lemon, pearl barley, sunflower seeds and basil salad

Pearl barley is thought of as a winter grain, a grain for bulking out soups and stews.  It’s not considered to be one of the most exciting ingredients but that really is a shame as it can be fantastic in salads too, as I found out when I made this pearl barley, lemon and basil salad.

I found the recipe on the blog, Goodie Godmother, which was my Secret Recipe Club assignment this month.  I adapted it slightly, adding sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts (as I couldn’t find them at the last minute) and serving it cold rather than warm.   I ate half and then finished it off the next day and it kept really well in the fridge.   The lemon and basil go really well with the slightly chewy pearl barley and crunchy sunflower seeds, giving it a great texture as well as taste.

I have to admit I hadn’t planned to make this salad initially.  I’d seen it but didn’t think it sounded as tasty as it turned out to be.   I was hoping to make some of the easy appetisers using wonton wrappers, but couldn’t get hold of any of the wrappers and I also really like the sound of the chicken pesto slow cooker soup.   Both of these are things I’m still hoping to make and the soup will give me another chance to use pearl barley.

And if you don’t like pearl barley?   I’m afraid you’ll just have to learn to.

Ingredients – Serves 2

100g pearl barley

50g sunflower seeds

2 tbsp basil, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Black pepper

How to Make Lemon, Barley and Basil Salad

1. Rinse and then boil the pearl barley.  It will take about 30 minutes.   Drain, rinse and leave to cool.

2. Toast the sunflower seeds in a dry frying pan.   When they are golden, take them off the heat and leave to cool on a plate.

3. Mix all the ingredients together.  Add extra lemon, olive oil or black pepper according to taste.  Serve immediately or keep in the fridge and serve later.

To see what other Secret Recipe Club participants have made, click on the link below:

I am also linking this to Tasty Tuesdays at Honest Mum, Meat Free Mondays at Tinned Tomatoes and No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen and on alternate months by Tinned Tomatoes.

Tasty TuesdaysNo Croutons Required

Chorizo Cheese Straws

Chorizo cheese puff pastry straws

I have made puff pastry in the past.   It was lovely and I got a real sense of achievement from making it.  I possibly even enjoyed it more, knowing that I’d made it myself.  If only there were still time to get lost in pastry making.   These days if something is not quick and easy it just doesn’t get made.

These easy cheese and chorizo cheese straws contain just three ingredients and are perfect to make for yourself, for a picnic, for a party or even with children, which was how these were made.   Now you’ve seen the picture and you should have worked out the ingredients, you don’t really even need a recipe, but because that’s what I do, I’ll give you one just in case, minus the quantities, because really that’s up to you.  Just don’t make the filling too thick because then they won’t stick together.

Ingredients

Ready to roll puff pastry

Slices of chorizo, chopped

Cheese, grated (I used a mixture of Cheddar and Red Leicester)

How to Make Chorizo and Cheese Straws

1. Roll out the puff pastry.   Sprinkle the cheese and chorizo pieces evenly over half of the pastry.    Brush a little water over the side of the pastry that doesn’t have the filling on.

2. Fold the pastry over to cover the filling.    Roll out to flatten.  Cut the pastry into straw shapes.

3. Bake on a baking tray at about 180C for about 8 minutes.   Cool on a wire rack.

I am linking this to Fiesta Friday, to Recipe of the Week at A Mummy Too and to Cook Blog Share at Supergolden Bakes.

recipeoftheweekCook Blog Share

Degustabox Review March 2015

Degustabox March 2015At the end of March I received my last Degustabox.   I’ve really enjoyed trying these over the past four months, each month trying new things and especially things I may not have come across otherwise.   Life is quite hectic at the moment looking after Little Miss Spice and Master Spice so I am going to take a break from receiving them so I can concentrate more on recipes for the time being.  However, if you are interested in receiving a Degustabox then I do have a discount code which is at the end of the post.

Bassetts Jelly Babies Berry Mix

It was a long time since I’d had Bassets Jelly Babies so it brought back memories to try these fruity berry flavoured ones in blackcurrant, raspberry and strawberry. They are made with fruit juice and contain only natural colours. £1.48Cranberry Juiceburst

When people first started drinking cranberry juice a few years ago I couldn’t understand why they liked it.   It just tasted artificial to me.   Over time it’s grown on me.   I’ve even been known to choose to drink it so I was quite happy to find two bottles of Cranberry JuiceBurst in my box.  If you like cranberry juice, you’ll like this.  JuiceBurst comes in 14 flavours with 3 skinny drinks too. £1.25

jordans lighter granola I like to have porridge for breakfast sometimes and always add lots of dried fruit and nuts.  I enjoyed mixing things up by adding some of this Jordans Lighter Granola with dried strawberry and blueberry pieces.   It was a really tasty way of adding some extra crunch and it’s 30% less fat too. £3.69

Kents kitchen posh noodles spicy szechuan I had this small pot of Kents Kitchen Spicy Szechuan noodles for lunch one day.    I have to admit that I can’t give a completely honest review as I thought they were a bit tasteless but then at the end I discovered a lot of the flavouring stuck in a clump at the bottom of the pot.   If only I’d scraped the bottom and mixed the pot really well I would probably have enjoyed it more.  Even so, I can’t quite see why they are called ‘Posh’. £1.75

Lindt Lindor eggsThese Lindt Lindor chocolate filled eggs have to be one of my favourite items in the box.   They are a mixture of dark, milk and white chocolate and I was soon wishing I’d hidden them from my husband!  As the packet says, they are irresistibly smooth. £2.00

Maynards sour patch kidsI don’t really eat sweets so it shouldn’t be my opinion you listen to about these Maynards Sour Patch Kids but my husband’s.  He loves sour sweets and claims that these are the best thing he has ever tasted from any of the Degustaboxes we’ve received.  £1.00

Natvia sweetenerNatvia is a natural rather than an artificial sweetner.   It contains no calories but can be used in exactly the same way as sugar.   I don’t take sugar in hot drinks so I have to admit to not having tried it yet but I am planning to use it in some baking soon. £2.00

Original Bayrische Bbque sauceThis BBQUE original Bavarian barbecue sauces was one of my favourite items in the box. I used it on some ribs baked in the oven and also on some done in the slow cooker. Both worked really well and although I like to make my own barbecue sauces, this is definitely one that I would happily use as well.  £3.99

Pasquier baked bread bites bacon flavourWho doesn’t like croutons?   Perfect in soups and on salad and even on their own.   These Brioche Pasquier baked bread bites are bacon flavoured and just so morish.   It’s hard to stop yourself from eating them just like crisps. 50p crabbies

I also really enjoyed these Crabbies Alcoholic Fruit drinks.   They come in raspberry and rhubarb, black cherry and zesty lemon.  They contain no artificial colours or flavourings and I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually drinking an alcoholic drink!  £1.50

If you try a Degustabox then do let me know if you enjoyed it, and if you use the discount code 56BFH you can get £3 off the cost of box which normally costs £12.99.

You can also follow Degustabox on Twitter or Facebook.

Spelt and Lentil Caprese Salad

spelt and lentil tomato, basil and mozzarella salad

I have a cupboard full of half-eaten bags of grains, rice, pulses and lentils. Bags are piled up on top of each other as there is just no room to put things in neatly.   I’m always thinking I should sort through it and methodically eat up all the half-started bags but I need a bit of a push to actually do that.

This month the push came when the #RecipeRedux challenge was to discover one of those ingredients hanging around at the back of the cupboards and to give it a little attention by transforming it into a delicious healthy meal.  I picked out a bag of spelt which had probably been siting there for about 4 years!

Now, I love caprese salad but for me it’s not filling enough to eat for a meal, not even a light meal.  I decided to use the spelt to bulk out the salad and make it both healthy and filling enough to stop me reaching for the snacks half way through the afternoon.  I added lentils to the caprese salad too to make it a little more interesting.

Even when properly cooked spelt can be quite chewy, but with the lentils the overall texture is just right.   I ate this for lunch two days in a row and it kept really well in the fridge.   The flavours became even better overnight.

The one problem with spelt is that it does take quite a long time to cook.   However, I’ve discovered you can pre-soak it to reduce the cooking time so next time that is something I’m going to do.  I loved the chewy texture and slightly nutty flavour in the salad. Now I’ve rediscovered spelt, I only hope that bag of spelt will not still be there next year because without this challenge I am sure it would have been.

Ingredients – Serves 2

50g dried spelt

50g dried green lentils

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 ball mozzarella, pulled apart

Handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Black pepper

Salt

How to Make Spelt and Lentil Caprese Salad

1. Cook the spelt and lentils according to the pack instructions.   I needed to boil the spelt for just over an hour and the lentils for about 25 minutes.  Drain and leave to cool.

2. Mix all the ingredients together.  Add extra oil, vinegar or seasoning if necessary.

Vegetarian Quinoa Patties

quinoa patties

It’s that time of the month again.   Time for another Secret Recipe Club assignment.   This time I was assigned to cook and blog a recipe from Colleen at Secrets from the Cookie Princess.  Well, with a name like that I really should have chosen to make some cookies but I was feeling in need of something savoury and when I came across these quinoa bites they seemed like the perfect thing for me, my husband and the children to enjoy.

If you do want to make some cookies though, I would seriously advise you to visit Colleen’s blog as she probably has the largest number of cookies in her recipe index that I have ever seen.

If however, you are here because you would like to know how to make some savoury vegetarian patties, then read on.

I had cooked with quinoa a few years ago but it was a long time ago and I felt like it was time to try it again.   I loved the idea of these crispy little bites but I’m a bit heavy handed and so couldn’t really call them bites any more.  They had morphed into patties.  Besides, I wanted them to be part of a main meal, not just an appetiser as they were originally.

I wasn’t feeding a large crowd so I cut back on the quantity by about half and changed it from cups.   I tried baking the first few in the oven but they didn’t crisp up as much as I wanted and so I fried the rest which worked much better for me.   They had crispy bits on the outside but were still soft in the middle.  They don’t have a strong flavour so go really well with a good hot or spicy dip.  If I made them again I might add a finely diced chilli pepper or two to give them a bit more character, but of course, it depends on who you’re making them for.

Ingredients

100g uncooked quinoa

1 egg

1 carrot, grated

3 spring onions, finely sliced

1 clove garlic

Large handful of coriander (cilantro), chopped

50g parmesan, grated

1.5 tbsp plain flour

Black pepper

How to Make Quinoa Bites

1. Cook the quinoa according to the pack instructions and then leave to cool.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.   If it’s too dry add another egg or if it’s too wet, add a little more flour.

3. Either put tablespoons of the mixture on an oiled baking tray and bake in the oven at 180C for about 20 minutes or heat a little oil in a frying pan and when it’s hot, put tablespoons of the mixture into the pan.  Fry on each side for about 3-5 minutes depending on how large they are and how hot your pan is.

4. Serve with bread, salad and ideally some spicy sauce or dip.

To see what other Secret Recipe Club bloggers have made, click on the link below:

Lindt Gold Bunny and Story Book

Lindt Gold bunny and story book

Every year around this time of year I enjoy more chocolate than at any other time of year and every year I just cannot resist a few chocolate eggs, chicks and bunnies.   One of my favourite brands is Lindt and as a Degustabox blogger I was delighted to be offered a Lindt Gold Bunny and Gold Bunny Story Book to review.

Just like the reindeer at Christmas, the Gold bunny comes wrapped in gold paper with a red ribbon and bell around its neck.   The bunny is made with the same creamy milk chocolate and is just perfect as an Easter treat for adults or children.   It also makes a lovely change from a traditional Easter egg.

The gold bunny story book reminded me of a chocolate advent calender but without the numbered doors.  There’s a little story about the gold bunny one one side of the page and on the opposite side there is a countryside picture with eleven golden bunnies to find.   Each one is on top of a door which you can open to find the Lindt chocolates –  small gold bunnies, lambs, chicks, hollow eggs and solid mini eggs.

I haven’t actually opened any of the doors yet but I have been enjoying some of the same chocolates at my birthday recently and so I know that Little Miss Spice will be in chocolate heaven when she receives this on Easter Sunday.

Lindt gold bunny story book

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary Lindt Gold Bunny and Story Book to Review but all opinions are my own.

Easter Simnel Cake

Simnel cake

The best thing about certain cakes is the marzipan.   At Christmas I’m indifferent to the icing but I love the marzipan layer below it.  The more marzipan the better and if there’s some left over to eat by itself that’s even better.

If that’s how you feel too then a simnel cake has to be the perfect cake.  Not only does it have a layer of marzipan on the top, that marzipan layer is topped with eleven large balls of marzipan as well as there being a layer of marzipan in the middle of the cake.  You can’t get better than that.

Simnel cakeIf only my lovely husband agreed with me, then this would not have been my very first simnel cake.

As a simnel cake can look really impressive too with the toasted marzipan balls on the top, I was pleased to have a chance to use my new VonShef ceramic cake stand with its glass dome which I got from Domu.  I’d wanted one of these for a while as I always struggle to put cakes in tins and then take them out to slice them.   This is perfect as I can just leave it out on the sideboard, although it does encourage me to keep taking a slice!

Ingredients

175g margarine or butter, at room temperature

175g soft brown sugar

3 eggs

175g self-raising flour

2 tsp mixed spice

100g sultanas

150g currants

100g raisins

55g chopped mixed peel

2 tbsp apricot jam

500g marzipan

How to Make Simnel Cake

1. Cream together the butter and the sugar.

2. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

3. Fold in the flour and then the dried fruit and mixed peel.

4. Take a third of the marzipan and roll it out into a circle the same size as the cake tin you are using.

5. Put half the mixture into a greased and lined 20cm cake tin.   Put the circle of marzipan on it and then cover with the rest of the cake mixture.

6. Bake the cake at 140C for 90 minutes.  It’s ready when a skewer comes out almost clean.

I am linking this to Love Cake hosted by JibberjabberUK.  The theme is Step into Spring. This is also my Bake of the Week, hosted by Casa Costello.

Love CakeBake of the Week

Disclosure: I received the VonShef Cake Stand for free but the views about it are my own.

Black Cherry Cheesecake Topped with Kirsch Soaked Black Cherries

Black Cherry Cheesecake

There are some desserts that I just cannot resist and cheesecake is one of them. Maybe it’s because it’s something I’ve grown up eating or maybe it’s just because cheesecake is the best dessert ever.

Not only is cheesecake the best dessert ever, this cheesecake is the best blackcherry cheesecake ever.   The secret is all down to some natural flavoured black cherry icing sugar from Sugar and Crumbs.

sugar and crumbs black cherryI tasted a little before mixing it into the cheesecake mixture and it had a lovely intense black cherry flavour – I could have eaten it in spoonfuls out of the pack!  Even when mixed with the cream cheese and cream there was still a very definite black cherry flavour.  It would have been hard to find black cherry flavouring so using flavoured icing sugar was a perfect way to get the taste I wanted.

The finished black cherry cheesecake was delicious, not too rich and perfect as an adult dessert, although you can omit the kirsch soaked black cherries and the extra juice if you want.

This icing sugar would be perfect to make a black cherry flavoured buttercream icing too and so I may use the rest to decorate some little cupcakes.  There’s a recipe on the pack if you’re not used to making buttercream.  The icing sugar is white but if you wanted it to look more like how it tastes, you could easily add a little food colour.  If you have a look on the Sugar and Crumbs website there are so many delicious flavours – pineapple, peach melba and pistachio are just some of the ones I am tempted by at the moment.

Sugar and Crumbs flavoured icing sugar comes in 250g or 500g resealable bags and costs from £2.99.

black cherry cheesecake 3

Ingredients – Serves 10

8 digestive biscuits (120g approx)

75g butter

300g cream cheese

60g black cherry flavoured icing sugar

250ml double cream

Jar of black cherries in Kirsch or something similar (optional)

How to Make Black Cherry Cheesecake

1. Crumble the digestive biscuits between your fingers to make crumbs.  Alternatively blitz them in a food processor or put them in a food bag and bang them with a rolling pin.

2. Melt the butter in the microwave or a small saucepan.   Pour it over the biscuit crumbs and stir till them are all coated in the butter and the mixture is clumping together.

3. Put the crumbs into the bottom of a 20cm springform or loose bottomed cake tin.  Press them down with a spoon.

4. In a food mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and creamy.   Beat in the icing sugar.

5. In another bowl, whisk the cream until it stands in soft peaks.   Fold the cream into the cream cheese mixture then spoon it on top of the cheesecake base.

6. Smooth the top and put it in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours.

7. To serve, remove the cheesecake carefully from the tin and top with some of the cherries.   When you serve, drizzle with some of the liquid from the jar of cherries.

Disclosure: I was sent some sample packs of Sugar and Crumbs Flavoured Icing Sugar but the views here are my own.