Raspberry and Coconut Bites

Raspberry and Coconut Bites

I’ve got a jammy treat for you all today!

My husband loves these!  And what’s great is that they are so easy to make.  You only need 7 ingredients and you can have a tasty treat knocked up in less than an hour.  These would be perfect to make with the kids as they can get involved at every stage and will love eating them afterwards.

Follow these steps to jammy heaven!

Ingredients:

150g plain flour

60g caster sugar

125g butter, melted

Topping:

240g raspberry jam

170g desiccated coconut

60g caster sugar

2 eggs, whisked

Method:

1) Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 16cm x 16cm baking tin with non-stick baking paper, letting the paper hang over the sides.

2) Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and mix until well combined.

3) Press the mixture firmly over the base of the tin.

4) Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden, and then set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.

5) Once cooled, spread the jam evenly over the biscuit base.

6) Mix the coconut, sugar and eggs together in a bowl. Spoon this mixture over the jam, pressing down slightly.

7) Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden.

8) Set aside in the tin for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

9) Cut into squares to serve.

Review: Healthy Snacks

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One of my goals for 2016 is to get fitter, and, inevitably, because I am trying new things to up my fitness, it makes me review my diet and whether I can be doing things better.

I don’t think I have a particularly bad diet at the moment.  I don’t eat huge meals because I just can’t eat big portions, I don’t eat a lot of bread or fatty foods and having a takeaway is a rarity now.

The one thing I have a weakness for though is snacking.  And they’re not healthy snacks either.  I love a good bag of crisps or bar of chocolate, and over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking that I should probably start replacing these with healthier substitutes.

So, I’ve done a bit of looking around at alternatives, and I came across two snacks that I thought I’d try.  Below are my reviews of both.

Nakd Bars (Cocoa Orange and Banana Bread)

These are snack bars made from raw fruit and nuts and 100% natural ingredients.  A great alternative to a cereal bar or chocolate bar, these bars are sweet and satisfying, especially as you know that they’re doing good things for your body.  They kept me going for the same amount of time as other less-healthy snacks, if not longer, and I really liked them. I have ordered the Cocoa and Apple Pie bars for this week, and there are plenty of other flavours to try.  They are more expensive than some of my normal snacks (£2.75 for 4 bars), but I don’t mind paying more if I know they’re going to be better for me.  These are a winner!

Whitworths Fusions (Bountiful Coconutty)

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I’ve always been a fan of dried fruit and nuts for snacks, but often when you buy these in packets you get one or two different things in the packet and it gets a bit samey after a while.  Step up Whitworth’s Fusions.  These come in 4 different variety packs, and I initially bought the Bountiful Coconutty ones which contained almonds, brazil nuts, flame raisins and dark-chocolate covered coconut pieces.  I had some of these after work to tide me over til dinner and a handful was all I needed to keep me going, and they were really nice!  I have bought the Berryfruit Madness and the Cinnamon Apple Jumble to have a try of next, and I’m looking forward to seeing what these are like.  These are £1.50 for a 90g bag which is not too bad if you only need a handful at a time – I’ve still got some left from this week!  A definite game-changer for snacking!

Let me know if there are any other healthy snacks that I should try – I’d love to try more out.

Comforting Cottage Pie

Today’s post is all things comfort – a warming cottage pie, nonetheless.

One of the things I love about this meal is that I don’t need to worry about extras.  The potato is on top, the vegetables are in the middle and it creates its own gravy – brilliant.

The other thing that makes this great is that there are two portions – one for tonight’s dinner and one for the freezer, a real bonus.  We always try to make one dish every week that means we have extra left over for another midweek meal.  Food is so expensive, and with prices only seeming to go up, we try to be as careful as possible with what we buy and how far it’ll go.

So this cottage pie fits the bill nicely for lots of different reasons.  Top of the list, though, is its hearty, satisfying effect.  Truly scrumptious, especially on a wet and windy day.

Cottage Pie

Serves 4

Preparation time – 35 minutes.  Cooking time – 1 hour 50 minutes.

Ingredients:

3 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tbsp plain flour

1 tbsp tomato puree

300ml beef stock

150ml red wine

2tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp dried herbs

For the mash:

6 potatoes, chopped

150ml milk

25g butter

100g cheddar

Method:

Heat 1tbsp oil in a large saucepan and fry the mince until browned.  Set aside.  Put the rest of the oil into the pan and add the onion and carrots; cook on a gentle heat until soft.  Add the garlic, flour and tomato puree, increase the heat and cook for a few minutes.  Return the beef to the pan and pour over the wine.  Boil to reduce it slightly before adding the stock, Worcestershire sauce and dried herbs.  Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes.  By this time the gravy should be thick and coating the meat.

Meanwhile, bring the potatoes to the boil in salted water and simmer for 25 minutes.  Drain well and allow the potatoes to steam-dry for a few minutes.  Mash well with the milk, butter and three-quarters of the cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas Mark 7.

Spoon the meat into four individual dishes or one square dish.  Spoon over the mash to cover the meat and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the topping is golden.

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Cranberry and Pistachio Cookies – Nom Nom!

Today was a baking day.  A day for making something yummy and enjoying it with a cup of tea on the sofa.

I’ve been looking for a good cookie recipe for a while, one that I can adapt and put different things in.  Today I finally found it, courtesy of The Hummingbird Bakery.  I’ve had their first cookbook for a while and made quite a few of their recipes, with their chocolate brownies a firm family favourite.  I really must visit one of their bakeries – New Year’s Resolution?

Cranberries and pistachios were the optimum choice for these cookies today. Not only did this combo go down well in biscotti a couple of months ago, but these flavours also remind me of Christmas, and it’s comforting to look forward to all those nice things that Christmas always brings.

These cookies are soft and chewy, and the recipe makes a big batch of at least 24, meaning hubby and I can enjoy them every day after work this week. Perfect!

Cranberry and Pistachio Cookies

Recipe adapted from ‘The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook’

Makes 24

Ingredients:

250g unsalted  butter, at room temperature

100g caster sugar

200g soft light brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

400g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

100g dried cranberries, roughly chopped

100g pistachios, roughly chopped

Method:

Put the butter and sugars into a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and cream until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.

Turn the mixer down to a slow speed and beat in the vanilla extract.

Add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix well until a smooth dough is formed.

Stir in the cranberries and pistachios until evenly dispersed through the dough.

Divide the dough in half and shape each half into 2 equal rolls measuring 15-18 cm in length.  Wrap the rolls in clingfilm and put them in the freezer to set completely for a couple of hours.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3.

Remove the clingfilm and cut the dough into discs about 2-3 cm thick.  Arrange each disc onto 4 baking trays, lined with greaseproof paper.  Make sure that the cookies are spaced apart to allow for spreading during baking.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown around the edged and quite flat.  Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the baking trays, before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

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Hearty Food for the Autumn Chill – Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce

This week, there’s been a noticeable drop in temperature, and I’ve found myself bundled up in my dressing gown, socks and slippers with a hot water bottle on my lap to ward off the chills of Autumn in the evenings.

Of course, the heating cannot be switched on til November, a mantra to live by if you don’t want a sky high gas and electricity bill in the months to come.  Even with the energy companies telling us that prices are being kept as low as possible, it’s absolute sacrilege to think that your bill won’t go up.  When my husband and I first moved to our current house, our combined bill was £99.  A few months later this was put down to £55 a month, and then a few months later was increased to £85 a month.  I guess as we’ve only been here for a 14 months, EDF are still trying to work out the amount that works for us.  The mystery continues…

With Autumn in the room, and Winter flying in shortly, the mind turns to meals that will fill our bellies and warm our soul.  And what better meal to do this than Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce.  This is a recipe that I’ve been cooking for the last two years and it is a definite cold weather favourite.  The beef is slow cooked, making it tender and melt in the mouth.  The gravy is made with red wine, making it rich and full of flavour.  Served with mash, roast potatoes or suet dumplings this satisfies the appetite and makes you feel good inside.

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce

Recipe adapted from Great British Food magazine

Serves 4

Preparation time – 30 minutes.  Cooking time – 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients:

175g streaky bacon, chopped

900g braising steak, cut into 4cm cubes

2 tbsps sunflower oil

12 small shallots, peeled

4 carrots, chopped

1 tbsp flour

300ml red wine

300ml beef stock

2 tbsps soy sauce

100g button mushrooms

1 tsp dried herbes de Provence

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3.  Fry the bacon, remove and transfer to a large casserole dish.  In the same pan, fry the steak briskly in batches, transferring to the casserole pot as it browns.  Add more oil if needed.

Lower the heat and fry the shallots until golden.  Add the carrots and cook for a further two minutes.  Transfer to the casserole dish.

Stir the flour into a little of the wine, then add to the pan with the remaining wine, stock and soy sauce.  Bring to the boil, stirring until thickened, and then pour over the meat and vegetables.

Add the mushrooms and dried herbs, cover tightly and cook in the oven for 2 hours, until the meat is soft and tender.

Serve with mash, roast potatoes or dumplings.  If serving with dumplings, put these on top of the stew 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time and return to the oven to finish off.

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