Chewy Monkey Bars, Cake Days, Hummingbird Bakery

Melting honey, butter and marshmallows in a saucepan was the highlight of my day today. I haven’t had a particularly bad day but there’s something about warm sugary goo that helps lift the spirits.

These bars are so easy to make. Apart from melting some ingredients, no cooking time is required. They reminded me of Mars bar or toffee and marshmallow crispies we used to make as children. This recipe does attempt to be healthy, adding rolled oats, Rice Crispies and coconut, but I did mention the butter, honey and marshmallow didn’t I…? Oh, and then you mix in some chocolate chips.

My husband is fighting in a boxing match tomorrow night so because he’s been trying to lose a couple of pounds to qualify for light middleweight status, I’ve been dragged into eating healthily this week also. So when he went to bed early tonight, I made a bee line for the fridge and took five big mouthfuls. I might take some in a tupperware box for him as a treat after his bout tomorrow, if there’s any left.

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Mediocre muffins, Pea, Ham and Feta Cheese Muffins, Cake Days, pg.122

I don’t know if it was the fact that I had to use skimmed milk instead of full fat or that I had to make up 50g of the flour quantity with self raising rather than plain, but these muffins are quite bland and dry. I have eaten 2, I know.

You can’t really taste the ham, feta or peas, just floury muffin sponge. I ate my second with some salad cream, which made it a bit more bearable.

I was really looking forward to these and can’t help thinking that they’re missing something…

Moroccan Spaghetti (without the spaghetti), The Accidental Vegetarian, pg.80

I didn’t have any spaghetti or enough tomatoes. The former wasn’t too much of an issue as I had plenty of pasta, but I would advise that having the correct amount of tomatoes is pretty crucial unless you’re happy with a dry, thirst creating pasta-nut-chickpea meal!

I love north African food – hearty meals packed to the brim with meat, spices, vegetables, rice, cous cous…mmm-hmmm! The aroma raising from the frying pan during creating this recipe was incredible and took me back to a holiday I once took in Tunisia (not Morocco!)

I didn’t have any proper tomatoes and had to make do with around 12 of the cherry variety. It was better than nothing but it did result in a drier than probably intended meal.

The pinch of turmeric I added was more like a fistfull…

…but luckily it didn’t ruin the taste.

A very hearty meal, just a tad dry (my fault, not Simon Rimmer’s!). But as my husband said: “Do you know what would be nice in this…some sausage.” Most of his comments on these dishes tend to begin with the same line!

Banana Dhal, The Accidental Vegetarian, Simon Rimmer

A dish that combines the meat of the fruit world with the meat of the pulses and grains world…

Bananas
My mam used to discourage us from eating more than one banana a day. I don’t know why but I must make a confession here, now – there have been a few times in my adulthood when I have eaten two. Not straight after the other, maybe one in the morning and one in the evening.

Lentils
Love them with sausages or bacon. Sometimes in soup, blended. That is all.

After paying for a wedding, a honeymoon and an upcoming trip to the South Pacific to visit family, this week we are what is known as broke. Between us, we don’t have a penny in our personal accounts so the big weekly shop had to be postponed. Panic.

I don’t mind trying to be creative with storecupboard ingredients, but my husband gets very nervous about it and I’m worried it might slow down the progress I’m making with my challenge. But tonight it’s a matter of ‘so far so good’.

This…

turned into this…

The only tweaks I had to make were to use puy lentils instead of red ones (I had the former, not the latter), and use three bananas rather than four (not my mam’s influence, just ran out of bananas). To be honest, I think another banana would have been overkill.

I boiled some basmati rice just to bulk up the dish somewhat and, wait for it, we actually have some leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch! Result!

We both enjoyed the dhal, but my husband is sat here now eating cereal. It’s becoming a habit…

The finish line…

…as if! I really do hope none of you thought that since my last post, I had actually gone through all 34 cookbooks. In fact, I have finally finished the two batches of cakes I was preparing for my sister in law’s 30th birthday.

I love birthdays. My husband isn’t bothered (this is down to them not making much fuss of it as kids apparently) but I love them! You get to see family and friends you don’t see often, you get to eat out at least once, have at least one birthday cake and presents (even if it’s mainly money now I’m into my 30s).

We’re off out in Bournemouth tonight to celebrate – the theme is masks and luckily my husband and I got to the fancy dress shop just before it closed. He chose a bear mask and I chose a feathery one that looks a bit like a half bear, half wolf. We’re pretty sure no-one else will have the same ones.

Now on to the food – I had baked both batches at home before travelling to Dorset for the birthday celebrations, and they were pretty straightforward apart from the fact that both mixtures made more than the recipe stated…so today I iced my banoffee cupcakes from Cake Days, Hummingbird Bakery and they look great. But not quite as they should…

Banoffee goodness

The dulce de leche custard for the top (yum, amazing!) was a bit runny even though it has been in the fridge for 2 days. I’m worried I may have used to much cream in it (but pretty sure I didn’t). So just beware, maybe add the cream a little at a time until you have the desired consistency.

My husband was my tester and he ate one in two bites. He loved them.

Next was creating my chocolate and peanut butter whoopie pies. Ready to be stuck together, I mixed the butter, icing sugar and marshmallow fluff and I think you should keep this recipe as a quick topping for any cake! It tastes of ice cream.

You will remember in an earlier post, I complained at length about not being able to source certain ingredients where I live. Well, I wasn’t even going to bother looking for marshmallow fluff, because in the past, the only places I’ve come across it is in America and Selfridges, London. But I was in Morrisons the other day looking for peanut butter, and lo and behold, what was on the next shelf but not only marshmallow fluff, but marshmallow fluff on offer. I nearly passed out!

Now, I didn’t enjoy creating the filling – the butter, even though it was soft, didn’t want to mix with the icing sugar so it was just in large clumps and when I added the fluff, it would just ride up the whisk! Anyway, we got there in the end and here is the result…

The result is amazing – they taste incredible and they have this texture where they just stick to every corner of your mouth. Maybe one to eat alone…

Happy birthcake!

My husband and I are currently down in Dorset for our sister in law’s 30th birthday celebrations this weekend. We had a 5.5 hour drive this morning, and because of the limited space in my father in law’s kitchen, I had to prepare my baked offerings at home last night. In fact, I didn’t finish baking until 2.30am, then started exercising, had a shower, packed and we were off at 5am!

I won’t ruin the baked surprises until tomorrow when I put the finishing touches to them, so here are a couple of teasers…

Delicious dulce de leche custard and…

…chocolate and peanut butter mounds.

Slacking – patatas bravas pg.20 and griddled aubergine salad with nuoc cham pg.34, The Accidental Vegetarian

Wow – considering I haven’t been tackling these cookbooks for a fortnight yet, I’ve already fallen behind with my blog posts. I sincerely apologise to those of you who check in regularly as I really do appreciate your support, and I’m about to get my blog back on track. Promise!

You’ll be glad to know that despite my writing tardiness, I have been persisting with working my way through the recipes, and earlier this week, I killed two vegetarian birds with one stone – patatas bravas and griddled aubergine salad.

The first thing to note is that I was seriously craving blood, I mean meat! So had defrosted two juicy steaks to serve with these vegetable dishes. I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into the largest of the two (my husband would have to make do with the smaller cut.)

Patatas bravas
One of my favourite types of cuisines is tapas. Mainly because I’m one of these people who likes everything so can never pick one dish off a menu and either has to wait until the very last minute when it’s just you left to order, or you persuade your husband/sister/dad/friend to share two dishes. Therefore, tapas is a dream to me – you can order around half a dozen dishes (more if you’re with someone) and have a taste of everything. And no matter which tapas dishes I order, be they meatballs, calamari or scallops with chorizo, I always have to have patatas bravas. Considering this fact, I don’t know why I haven’t attempted to cook them before now.

Note, that the 600g of potatoes recommended by Simon Rimmer to feed 6 people would be ok for 3 if serving a number of dishes, but only 2 as a main meal! Also, from my experience of making crispy wedges and roast potatoes, I wasn’t sure about putting the potatoes in the oven wothout at least blanching them in boiling water first, but I was determined to follow the recipe. Unfortunately I was right and even though I left the potatoes in the oven longer than suggested, they weren’t as crispy as they could have been. The sauce on the other hand was delicious.

I never used to be bothered about chillies – I didn’t mind them but I always felt that they overpowered the taste of a meal if they were too strong. However, since I had really bad food poisoning a month ago, I can’t seem to get enough of those bad boys so I loaded the tomato sauce with them. Very much recommended if you can take the heat!

Griddles aubergine salad with nuoc cham
I don’t have a griddle so the first part of recipe was doomed to fail from the beginning, but I soldiered on with a frying pan…I love aubergines when they’ve been fried (don’t even get me started with tempura aubergine!) and the yoghurt with roasted cumin seeds plus the chili-fuelled nuoc cham not only went well with them but with the patatas bravas and steak as well.

This was pretty much a perfect meal – the kind of food my husband and I really enjoy, just a pity that the potatoes weren’t crispier…