It’s beginning to smell a lot like Bakemas…
This is my favourite time of the year, all twinkly lights on the tree and curling up under a soft blankie to watch Love Actually for the 100th time with a Snowball cocktail and binge eating M&S party food. And Hubby baking up a storm! There really is nothing quite like the smell of gingerbread cookies in the air on Christmas Eve to make you feel properly festive 🙂
That said, what he bakes is mostly gifted away to family in pretty jars or festive little bags of delicious. These are my Dad’s favourites and “better than anything shop bought!” (how’s that for a five star review!). Hubby swears they’re incredibly easy to make. I swear they’re incredibly easy to accidentally eat a ton of!
Sugar & Spice Candied Nuts
Moreish nuts that make a great wee homemade gift, that is, if you can resist eating them all yourself...
- 1 egg white
- 1 tsp water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 4-6 cups of mixed nuts (try pecans, walnuts, cashews and macadamia)
- Preheat the oven to 175C (not fan).
- In a small bowl, add together the sugars, spices and salt and mix well.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the egg white, water and vanilla extract, and whisk until frothy. Tip in the nuts and mix well until the liquid mixture coats all of the nuts.
- Next, add the sugar and spice mix and stir well, until the nuts are well coated.
- Tip it all into a roasting tin (or equivalent sized baking tin) and pop into the oven for 45 minutes, giving the nuts a good shoogle about every 15 minutes.
- When cool, store in an airtight tin. Keeps for about 2 weeks (if they last that long!)
- We like pecans making up at least half of the nut mix, they just seem to take to the spice mix best, but go with whatever nuts you like most 🙂
Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod
Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod
And now for something sweet! Sweet… and a little salty, because, you know, grown ups need treats too 😉
This is an adaptation of something a work friend, @emmypelle, rustles up that makes any store bought sweet treats taste like runners up!
My plan was to make it exactly as @emmypelle does but I got Hubby involved, and when Hubby gets inovlved nothing is safe from his tampering and tweaking (honestly, he’s a menace!). This time in the form of marshmallows, a very American ingredient when making rice krispie cakes apparently, which just made the bars EVEN gooier still! This is not a bad thing…
He also decided to get his artistic hat on with some white chocolate marbling which I have to say is really quite pretty! The salt was my single contribution in this whole thing, an attempt to give these delicious treats a bit of a grown up spin. Also, who doesn’t love a little salt with their chocolate or caramel these days!
These are so easy to make that I think they’d be great for getting small kiddies into the kitchen to help. I have plans to make these with my 3 year old nephew at Christmas, he’s already dubbed them ‘Oncle Heath’s chochocs’, which I fully expect to be as messy as it’s going to be fun 🙂
Gooey Grown Up Salted Mars Bar Rice Krispie Cakes
A classic kid's sweet treat, given a bit of a grown up spin.
- 75g salted butter
- 4 mars bars, chopped
- 200g marshmallow
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 150g rice krispies
- 300g milk chocolate, chopped
- 100g white chocolate, chopped (optional)
- sea salt (optional)
- Chop up all of the chocolates. Butter a deep baking tray (we used a 24x24 one) and then line it with parchment to make it super easy to get your chocolate treats out of the tray!
- Set a saucepan half-full of water over a high heat. When the water is boiling pop a mixing bowl on top and add the butter and golden syrup and leave to melt.
- When the butter syrup mixture has melted, add the marshmallows and chopped mars bar and melt that too, making sure all the nougat in the mars bars has melted.
- Take the bowl off the pan, add the rice krispies and mix well. You're looking to incorporate all of the melted mixture. Top tip from @emmypelle, the more krispies you add the less gooey the bars are, so you might want to experiment with different amounts of krispies to get your optimum level of gooey!
- Tip the krispies mixture into a buttered baking tray and spread it all out, aiming for a flat surface.
- Pop another heatproof bowl over your pan of boiling water, break up the milk chocolate into the bowl and get that all melted down. When it's ready, pour it over the rice krispies in the baking tray and spread it all out so that it's good and even and you're covering the entire surface.
- You can stop here and just pop it straight into the fridge, the white chocolate and sea salt are entirely optional (but very very delicious!).
- Do the same again with white chocolate, only when you pour it over the milk chocolate do it in as haphazard a fashion as possible so that there's patches of white chocolate rather than an even spread. Take a toothpick and just drag the tip of it all through the milk chocolate to create a marbling pattern.
- When you're happy with your marbling, add a couple of pinches of rough sea salt over the top and then pop it into the fridge overnight to cool.
- It all gets quite solid, so take the tray out of the fridge about half an hour before you're going to eat it and you'll find it much easier to cut the krispie treats up.
- Keeps for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge, if you manage not to eat them all before that!
Adapted from @emmypelle
Adapted from @emmypelle
I have distinctly Northern Chinese food tastes, despite being Hong Kong born and bred, and always make a beeline for the fried noodles and fried dumplings first. That said, I won’t say no to a soupy bowl of wonton noodles if there’s a bottle of Chinese vinegar nearby to douse it in… But at home there are only a few noodle recipes that I dare to cook myself, and I’m always on the look out for new ones to try. When I saw this on the frankly quite awesome The Woks of Life blog, the noodles looked too tasty to be true… (where true = easy!)
So so wrong that this is already become my favourite home-cooked noodle dish, hands down 🙂 It really does taste as good as it looks – slick, chewy udon noodles, loaded with satisfyingly savoury mushrooms that go perfectly with sweet bites of pork, and bak choy to round everything out. Seriously, what’s not to love? A quick marinade and quick cook time means you can be tucking into a bowl of these in about 20 minutes!
This recipe didn’t need any tinkering, it really was perfect as it was and the only changes I made were to ‘Britishify’ some of the ingredients. The real trick to this dish, for me, is slicing the pork nice and thin so that it doesn’t need much cooking and avoids getting all tough and chewy. The noodles, however, I just can’t resist leaving in the wok to get a little bit of char on them, because who doesn’t love that ‘breath of the wok’ flavour 🙂
The recipe uses a few store cupboard staples rather than needing a spoonful of something you have to buy especially, and then will forget to use again before it rots in the back of the fridge, which just makes it even better still. And the marinade is so simple but so flavoursome that I’ve even started using it with some old mum-taught Chinese recipes… shhhh! Don’t tell her!
Shanghai Fried Noodles
These delicious wok fried noodles are satisfyingly savoury and, with just a handful of ingredients, ridiculously easy to rustle up.
- 1 lean boneless pork chop, thinly sliced
- 3/4 tsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1/8 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp shaoxing wine (or sherry)
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 packet of fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 packet of Amoy's straight to wok udon noodles
- 2 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 1/2 tsp soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1 small bunch baby bok choy, roughly chopped
- In a small bowl (soup bowl size is perfect) mix together the marinade ingredients before adding the sliced pork and giving it all a good stir about to coat. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- In a wok heat 1 tbsp of oil on a high heat. Add the pork stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until browned, before removing to a plate.
- Turn the heat down to medium and heat another tbsp or two of oil before adding the sliced mushrooms and stir-frying for about 2 minutes.
- Next add the noodles to the wok straight from the packet and gently break up with chopsticks. Once the noodles are 'free', add the soy sauces and sugar.
- Toss the pork back in and stir-fry everything together until the noodles are an even, deep brown colour.
- Add the bok choy last and mix in with the noodles until they have wilted right down.
- A few generous splashes of Chinese vinegar goes great with this dish! If you don't have any, good old British malt vinegar is a very acceptable substitute.
- Ditch the pork for a veggie friendly version.
- Throw your whole pork chop in the freezer for about 30 minutes and it should slice thinly more easily.
Adapted from The Woks of Life
Hubby is the king of sandwiches (or, as he likes to call them, sammiches…). I suspect this is an American thing – I’ve yet to see anyone in an American show or film make a sandwich with less than what looks like the entire contents of their fridge! He also has a bit of a condiment fetish (understatement!) which means it’s rare for him not to have some flavour or other lurking in the fridge that is a must for the sandwich he’s making. Not that I’m complaining! Not when his sandwiches look, and taste, like this!
I will admit to being a little sceptical (understatement again!) when he said he was putting grapes in a sandwich, but they totally work with the chicken and their sweetness is a lovely compliment to the slightly smoky roasted pecans.
The other thing I love about this sandwich filling is that it’s not the laden with mayo version. Thanks to a clever substitution using 0% greek yoghurt this is actually a relatively healthy sandwich filling, honest!
And if you’re a packed lunch person then this is a great night-before make 🙂
Chicken Salad Sandwich
A fully loaded sandwich filling with sweet grapes and roasted pecans, made healthier by subbing greek yoghurt into the dressing.
- 1/2 cup 0% fat greek yoghurt
- 1 tsp dijon mustard (heaped if you like mustard!)
- 1 tsp salad cream, optional
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 chicken breasts (pre-roasted if not poaching)
- 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
- 1 cup roughly chopped pecans
- salt and pepper to season
- Start by preheating your oven to 180C (160C if fan-assisted).
- Poach the chicken first (if you're making to eat straight away then allow at least an hour for this). You can poach in white wine, white wine or cider vinegar, lemon juice etc. Top up with water to cover and then bring to a low boil. Boil, uncovered, for 15 minutes and then remove heat. Cover and set aside for 40 minutes.
- While the chicken is doing its thing, spread the pecans out on a baking tray in one flat layer and pop in the oven for 7 minutes.
- When the pecans are roasted, remove them from the tray and give them a few minutes to cool. Once cool, roughly chop (or place in a bag and lightly smash with a rolling pin), keeping the pieces big.
- When the chicken has had its 40 minutes, lift out of the poaching liquid and dice into medium-sized cubes.
- In a mixing bowl, mix the greek yoghurt, dijon mustard, and honey. You can add a teaspoon of salad cream here for a rounder flavour, but it's completely optional.
- Add the diced chicken to the yoghurt mixture, season with salt and pepper and stir until well coated. Now add the halved grapes and the roasted pecans. Give everything a good mix and refrigerate for a few hours, or ideally overnight. This will allow the yoghurt to soak into the chicken and the flavours to mingle and settle.
- Serve on a nice bread with some leaf lettuce and a few slices of tomato.
As the weather finally hots up (and not before time!), mealtimes start to be less about comfort and more about avoiding spending much if any time near a hot flame, but without skimping on taste. This old favourite ticks ALL of those boxes and is relatively well behaved to boot! It’s also a one pan cooking dish which always makes me happy 🙂
To be honest, there isn’t much that’s Mexican about this recipe… The only thing it has in common with actual fajitas is that they are both wrap based and hand held… There’s not even any guacamole or salsa in sight! But don’t let that dissuade you from trying this because what it lacks in Mexican authenticity it more than makes up for in tastiness.
The trick to this dish is to get that chargrill thing going. It might look like it’s never going to happen, but have faith and persevere (and drain off excess liquid if you have to!). The rewards are a sticky charred deliciousness of big big flavours thanks to the lime and chilli flakes, which marries perfectly with the sweetness from the peppers.
Chicken & Lime Fajitas
Wok charred chicken and peppers with zingy lime, all wrapped up in warm tortillas, that taste far more sinful than they actually are.
- 2 large skinless boneless chicken breasts, sliced into 1cm strips
- 1 yellow pepper, cut into 1cm lenthways strips
- 1 red pepper, cut into 1cm lengthways strips
- 1 red onion, cut into thick strips
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp crushed chillis
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 limes, 1 zested and juiced, 1 quartered for serving
- 4 flour tortillas
- 150ml 0% fat Greek yoghurt
- salt and pepper
- Coriander for garnish
- Start with a large mixing bowl, into which place the chicken strips, peppers and onions, oregano, chilli, vegetable oil, and the lime zest and juice. Season well before giving everything a good toss-about until the chicken and veg is well coated with the herbs and lime.
- Place a wok (or large non-stick frying pan, the deeper sided the better!) over a high heat until its just starting to smoke. When it's good and (fiercely!) hot, tip everything out of the bowl into the wok and cook for about 6-8 minutes, turning only occasionally until its looking cooked through - this is to ensure that everything gets good and brown with a lightly charred effect.
- If there's too much lime juice or liquid, you might need to drain some of this off otherwise the chicken and veg will broil rather than char.
- Turn the heat off and let the chicken rest in the work while you warm your tortillas in the microwave, or in a dry frying pan.
- Pile the chicken and veg in the middle of your tortilla, top with some coriander (if desired), a dollop of yoghurt and a squeeze more lime juice if you like it properly zingy, and scoff!
Adapted from Low Fat Meals in Minutes
Adapted from Low Fat Meals in Minutes