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


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.


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

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


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.


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:

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!


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.

Recipe Redux: Pesto Crusted Sea Bass

Grilled Sea bass with a pesto coating

I’ve made lots of different pestos over the years.   Some of them have featured on this blog, some of them haven’t.   Until now they have all had one thing in common – cheese.   This pesto is the first one I’ve made without cheese as I was aiming for a lighter and fresher pesto recipe.

The reason for that is that this is my first month taking part in the Recipe Redux, a food blogging challenge set up by dietitians where the focus is on creating delicious but also healthy dishes.   This month the theme was double dinners and we were challenged to either make a healthy meal from the leftovers of a dish on our blog or to cook a new dish but to show how the leftovers could be used to make another delicious dinner as well.

I chose to make two meals with coriander pesto but adapted the recipe on my blog to make it less oily.  For my first meal of parmesan crusted sea bass I wanted the pesto to have quite a thick consistency so it would coat the fish like a crust, keeping the fish moist but also adding lots of pesto flavour.   This meant not adding too much olive oil to it.

It worked.   The fish was moist and the pesto made it so yummy.   Avoiding adding cheese was definitely the best option for this dish.   It just doesn’t need it – the flavours from the lemon, garlic, chilli pepper and coriander are perfect for the sea bass.  Or any other white fish you choose to use.

For my second dinner we just mixed the pesto with pasta.   As the pesto was quite thick I left quite a bit of the cooking water in with the pasta before stirring in the pesto so that the sauce would be liquid enough to coat all of the pasta and although you can’t see it in the picture further down, I then topped each plate of pasta with a small handful of grated parmesan, making a slightly richer but just as delicious pesto dinner.

Ingredients – Makes enough pesto to make both meals

Large handful of coriander including stalks and leaves (approx 60g)

50g cashew nuts

1 clove garlic, roughly chopped

1 dried green chilli pepper, crumbled

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 sea bass fillets

How to Make Coriander Pesto Crusted Sea Bass

1. Put the cashew nuts into a dry frying pan and toast them until they are turning golden.  Keep tossing the pan so they don’t burn.

2. Put all the pesto ingredients into a food processor and blitz until everything is well combined.

3. Put a tablespoon of the pesto on each sea bass fillet and press it down so it coats the whole of the top of the sea bass.   Grill for 10 minutes.

Coriander pesto on pasta

Click on the link below to see what other Recipe Redux bloggers have made for their double dinners.

Beef and Egg stir Fry

beef and egg stir fry

I have the Sainsbury’s magazine and Ken Hom to thank for this recipe.   I am a recent convert to the magazine after picking up a copy at the end of last year.   I always find about 4-5 recipes I really want to make and this month was no exception.

I often make stir fries but I have to admit that I am a bit stuck in a rut.   I use the same flavours and sauces and apart from different vegetables, the basic flavour tends to be the same.   I was attracted to this particular stir fry as it had egg in as well as meat and the way it was added was some thing I’d never tried before.   Of course, I’ve made stir fried rice with egg, but never put egg in with the meat and vegetables.

I also hadn’t used  black bean sauce at home for a long time, although it is my favourite takeway choice.  The fact that you just use a tiny bit but then the jar says to use up within a certain number of days always puts me off.  We like Chinese food but we are unlikely to eat it every day!

I really liked this but did find it slightly salty so next time I wouldn’t add the soy sauce in step 5 and I would also use a smaller amount of black bean sauce.   I’d probably add a tiny bit in step 3 then just add a little more at the end if it needed it. Of course, the saltiness could be down to the particular brand I was using, but I think it would make sense to do that next time anyway.  Apart from that it was a really good discovery and a nice way of using mince rather than making it into burgers or bolognese.


For the Beef Marinade

200g beef

2 tsp soy sauce

1.5 tsp shaoxing rice wine

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp cornflour

For the eggs

2 eggs

1 tsp sesame oil

Pinch of salt

Other Ingredients

3 cloves garlic, finely diced or crushed

Small knob of fresh ginger, finely diced or grated

1 tbsp black bean sauce

3 spring onions, diced

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine

1 tsp caster sugar

1 large tomato

1 tsp sesame oil

How to Make Beef and Egg Stir fry

1. Put all the marinade ingredients for the beef in a bowl.   Mix together and then add the beef mince and mix it in quickly with your hands.   Leave for 15 minutes.

2. Prepare the eggs by beating the eggs, sesame oil and salt together in a bowl.  Set aside.

3. Add a little oil to a wok or large frying pan.  When it is hot, add the garlic, ginger, black bean sauce and spring onions.

4. Cook for about 30 seconds then add the beef.   Keep stirring and breaking up the beef as it cooks.

5. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the extra soy sauce(optional), shaoxing rice wine and sugar.   Stir in then add about 60ml of water and the tomatoes.

6. When the water has reduced and the beef is cooked, drizzle the egg in and stir slowly.   As soon as the egg is cooked, serve the mince with rice and drizzled with a little more sesame oil.

I am linking this to Bunny Eats Design’s Our Growing Edge, hosted this month by Cynthia from Eat Munch Love and also linking to Tasty Tuesdays at Honest Mum.Tasty Tuesdays

Our Growing edge