Monday, 24 September 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Dark Chocolate Pecan Pomegranate Clusters

It's time for another Secret Recipe Reveal Day. I love this group as each month I get assigned a blog which I usually spend many happy hours stalking before choosing a recipe to make and post on the same day as all the other SRC members.  This month I was assigned to Jeanette's Healthy Living. She had my blog on a previous reveal day so I'm pleased to return the favour. Jeanette is a stay at home mum looking after her 4 boys after working 17 years in corporate finance.  She developed a passion for cooking that is health focused but never compromising on flavour. She says she started her blog becasue she was spending a lot fo time making meals for family and friends with special dietary needs due to illness including her youngest son who has been diagnosed with multiple food allergies.  In a nutshell, her recipes are healthy, delicious and adaptable to suit different dietary needs. 

Her blog is beautifully laid out and easy to navigate.  I went straight to the recipe index and unsurprisingly chose 'Desserts and cookies'.  Recipes on my shortlist were Gluten/Dairy/Egg/Soy Free Vegan Quinoa Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies, Oatmeal peanut chocolate chip cookie, Vegan Mango Panna Cotta with Kiwi, Mango and Strawberries and  Gluten Free Double Chocolate Fudge Brownie. In the end, I chose her  Easy Dark Chocolate Walnut Pomegranate Clusters which she made for a Valentine's treat. I was intrigued as I've never used fresh pomegranate before (I made these at the same time as the pistachio and pomegranate pitstops but had to wait till reveal day to post this recipe) The only change I made was to substitute pecan nuts for walnuts as that was what I had in my cupboard.  They were really easy to make and tasted delicious! Everyone enjoyed these treats especially those with gluten intolerance.
As Jeanette says, this is more of an idea than a recipe. I didn't weigh the ingredients but essentially toasted some pecan nuts in the oven whilst melting dark chocolate over a pan of simmering water. I then mixed the toasted pecan nuts and pomegranate seeds into the melted chocolate and placed clusters into a mini cupcake case. Sprinkled a few pomegranate seeds on top, refrigerated for a few hours until solid and voila - quick and easy, delicious and healthy treat!  
 only 3 ingredients required!

 mix everything together

 love the pomegranate seeds on top!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Peanut Butter Popcorn Treats

This is a really quick and easy, no bake recipe which is also gluten free. They were a real hit at work and would be great for parties too. As it contains popcorn and peanut butter, both of which start with the letter P, I'm entering them to AlphaBakes which I co-host with Caroline from Caroline Makes who is hosting this month.

 popcorn, dark chocolate peanut butter, peanut butter cups

 freshly popped corn (in the microwave!)

1 packet of microwaveable popcorn
110g sugar
185g honey
150g dark chocolate peanut butter
peanut butter cups

  • Pop the popcorn in the microwave according to the instructions on the pack.
  • Melt the sugar and honey in a pan over medium heat. 
  • Stir in the chocolate peanut butter (or regular peanut butter).
  • Pour the mixture over the fresh popcorn and mix well.
  • Add peanut butter cups to the mixture.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

I'm sure you can tell my love for banana and peanut butter on this blog. I wanted to make use of my Reese's peanut butter cups and came across this recipe online. It's a basic banana bread with peanut butter and peanut butter cups mixed in. The bread was slightly dry but the chocolate bits were really good. It's a quick, mix everything together recipe and kept well for a few days.  I think I'll add some yoghurt next time I make this.

I'm entering this to AlphaBakes, a monthly blogging challenge that I co-host with Caroline from Caroline Makes who is the host for September. The letter is P for peanut butter.

I'm also entering this to United Bakes of America hosted by Gem from Cupcake Crazy Gem. These miniature peanut butter cups came all the way from America!

 peanut butter, peanut butter cups and brown bananas

 adding the peanut butter cups 


3 ripe bananas
150g peanut butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
100g sugar
50g brown sugar
185g flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1.5 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
225g Reese's miniature peanut butter cips (approximately 24 pieces)

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients except the peanut butter cups.
  • Do not over mix.
  • Stir in the peanut butter cups by hand.
  • Pour into a loaf tin and bake for approximately 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Bacon, Brie and Fig Muffins

I've been on a muffin spree lately. They are so easy to put together and are great for breakfast on the go. As part of my baking for my birthday last week, I wanted to make something savoury as some of my colleagues have less of a sweet tooth than me and I often get requests for savoury bakes.  I came across these bacon, brie and fresh date muffins and decided to give them a go. I changed the dates to figs so I could enter them into the one ingredient blog challenge hosted by Laura from How to Cook Good Food and co-hosted by Nazima from Working London Mummy.

My colleague who requested savoury bakes described these as the "bee's knees" and declared them the best thing I'd baked all year! I have to say that I was really impressed with the muffins - the flavours worked well together and it required no additional seasoning.  They were best eaten warm but still delicious at room temperature. Would you believe this is my first time cooking bacon and using fresh figs? 

I'm also entering this to Simple and in Season as figs are in season. I got mine fresh from the market and I really like the colour of the fruit inside. Simple and in Season was created by Ren from Fabulicious Food and this month is hosted by Katie from Feeding Boys and a Firefighter 

As figs are fruits, I'm also entering them to the Breakfast Club where the theme this month is fruit. This challenge was created by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and this month is hosted by Urvashi from The Botanical Baker.

 figs, brie and bacon

 bacon fried to a crisp and cut into small pieces

 mash the brie into the milk 

 adding the gorgeous figs to the flour mixture 

 end result 

 my new muffin cases 


225g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon caster sugar
3 fresh figs (or 12 fresh dates, pitted)
2 tablespoon olive oil, for frying
15g butter, for frying
12 rashers smoked, streaky bacon
75g brie cheese, diced
150mls milk
50g butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. 
  • In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar and set aside.
  • Using a knife dusted with flour, chop the figs (or dates) into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. 
  • In a frying pan, heat the oil and butter over a medium heat and fry the bacon until crisp. 
  • When it's cool enough to handle, cut the warm bacon into small pieces and stir it back into the warm juices in the pan.
  • Cover with foil and set aside. 
  • Mash the brie into the milk, then mix it into the dry ingredients along with the melted butter, eggs, fried bacon and any juices from the pan. 
  • Mix lightly until just combined. 
  • Fill the muffin cases and bake for 18-20 minutes until risen and golden. 
  • Best served warm. 

Friday, 14 September 2012

Pistachio and Pomegranate Pitstops

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to cookbooks. This time, I'm going to blame Choclette over at Chocolate Log Blog. She wrote an excellent review on Honeybuns gluten-free baking and I just had to buy one! Her custard creams alone were enough to win me over :) 

I was browsing through the book and with this month's blog challenges in mind, I stopped at these pistachio pitstops.  They are really easy to make and they are gluten free and dairy free! Perfect for the recipient I had in mind. I modified the recipe slightly to include pomegranates (the recipe suggested freeze-dried raspberries) Mine don't look anything like the picture in the book but they were absolutely delicious! This is my first time using fresh pomegranate and I had real trouble getting the fruit out. Does anyone have any tips? I love the bright colour of the pomegranate seeds and will be looking for recipes featuring pomegranate in the future.  

I'm entering this to AlphaBakes, a month blogging challenge that I co-host with Caroline from Caroline Makes who is the host for September. The letter is "P" so this is perfect. 

I'm also entering it to Made with Love Mondays hosted by Javelin Warrior where the idea is to cook from scratch using fresh ingredients. 

I've also discovered that pomegranates are in season from September to February in the Northern Hemisphere so I'm entering them to Simple and in Season.  This fabulous challenge was created by Ren from Fabulicious Food and hosted this month by Katie from Feeding Boys and a Firefighter.

 pistachio, fresh pomegranate, honey 

 blitz the pistachios, sugar, salt and honey 

 my mixture was a little crumbly but there were a few reasonable looking ones 

 how cute do they look? 

100g pistachios, toasted
20g light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 teaspoon honey
Fresh pomegranate seeds 

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. 
  • Toast the pistachio nuts - approximately 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
  • Blitz the toasted pistachios, sugar, salt and honey until they resemble fine crumbs. 
  • Scoop out the mixture into balls using a small ice cream scoop. Flatten the mixture slightly before baking.
  • Bake for 5-6 minutes until golden.
  • Immediately sprinkle fresh pomegranate seeds on top of each cookie, pressing them on gently. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Baker Days Letterbox Cake

I was contacted by Baker Days asking if I wanted to review one of their letterbox cakes.  As mentioned in my previous post, it was my birthday last week and it's always nice having someone else make the cake so I thought yes please!  

The team behind Baker Days are Ben the master baker, Andrea the computer whiz and Alan the business and design expert. The concept is really simple - choose a cake, personalise it and it's posted to the lucky recipient.  They are currently offering personalised cakes, photo cakes and cupcakes. 

I got to try one of the personalised cakes which comes in 5 different flavours - plain madeira cake, carrot cake, fruit cake, gluten and wheat free cake and double chocolate chip cake. I'm sure it's no surprise that I chose the double chocolate chip cake! There are over 300 designs to choose from including a photo upload category for the ultimate personalisation.  All their cakes are fresh and will remain in good condition for 14 days from dispatch if stored correctly.  Delivery is free within the UK unless you require an urgent delivery.  It is sent by Royal Mail first class and mine arrived the day after it was posted. 

The cake comes in 2 sizes:

  • Letterbox cake - 12cm diameter, 2.5cm thick; 4-5 portions; £14.99
  • Medium Party Cake - 16cm diameter, 3cm thick; 8-16 portions; £26.99

My Verdict - The cake was moist and delicious! You can taste the real chocolate chips in the cake.  I loved the presentation and style of the cake especially the cake tin. The extras (balloons, candles and party horn) were a really nice touch. I really liked the fact that it can fit through your letterbox and that you can choose a dispatch date when you order. No more waiting for the postman or trekking to the royal mail delivery office. 
It's perfect for family, friends or even yourself if you don't want to make your own cake! I've never posted a birthday cake before so this is a great idea for friends/family who live further than hand delivery distance to me.  I also think it's good value for what you get and the cake definitely tastes better than shop bought cakes which are probably a little cheaper but you get the added extras and free delivery with this. In my book, cake is perfect for any occasion and it looks like they have everything covered with their choice of designs. 

 letterbox cake - easily fits through the letterbox and the cake arrived in perfect condition. 

 Each cake comes with its own party pack - candles, gift card, balloons and party horn! I love the cake tin! 

 The cake is well packaged and has a helpful tab to ensure you lift the cake out without damaging it. 

 My personalised birthday cake :)

 Double chocolate chip cake 

Disclaimer: I was provided a sample letterbox cake free of charge for review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Extra Moist Blueberry Muffins

This month, 2 of my favourite blogging challenges have combined to form Tea Time Random Recipes. It's such a brilliant idea and I love it! Dom has been planning world domination for months and I'm sure this is a small step towards that goal ;-)  It's going to be a massive month of glorious, random tea time treats and I can't wait to see the round up! The challenge was simple. Put together books that would have tea time recipes and randomly select one then randomly select a page. I dutifully did as I was told and came up with Scrumptious Muffins by Marc Grossman. It's a lovely little book full of scrumptious muffins as the title suggests!

I decided to use a random number generator to pick a random page - the book has 69 pages in total excluding the index and it came up with 16 which is extra-moist blueberry muffins. Yum! This is a great recipe for blueberry muffins and one that I will definitely be using again. It has a crumble topping which was delicious and the best part is that the berries didn't sink! The secret is to push the berries in after filling the mould with batter. Next time, I would fold half the berries in the mixture and then add the other half on top. The result was a really juicy, moist muffin bursting with blueberries! 

As mentioned I am entering this to Tea Time Random Recipes hosted by the Tea Time Babes Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Kate from What Kate Baked and Dashing Dom over at Belleau Kitchen, creator of Random Recipes.

I'm also entering these fruity muffins to Breakfast club run by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and hosted this month by  Urvashi from the Botanical Baker. The theme of course is fruit and there's plenty of that here!

 make a crumble topping  with butter, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon

 I decided to try out my new petal muffin cases which I couldn't resist buying

 The recipe says to add the blueberries at the end, sinking it into the mixture - this is the fail proof method of preventing berries sinking that I have been looking for so take note everyone! 

 sprinkle the crumble on top before baking 

 juicy, plump muffins 

 Extra moist muffin indeed :) 

I will post the recipe if I get permission from the publisher