Over ripe bananas

Sometimes your cat likes to give you a gentle reminder to let you know you’re spending too much time on the Pinterest and not enough time with them.  First world cat problems.Elka.jpg

I dont really like to eat bananas on their own, I find them just too hard in texture. Having said that, I do like to bake with bananas. I like them to be overly ripe with black patches all over them, which is generally the state in which households let their bananas get to. I found a recipe for flapjacks that is as healthy as they come! As an American I grew up with granola bars, no such things really exist in the UK, you get flapjacks. Whats the difference? Granola bars tend to have more things in them, including chocolate and and lots of nuts, where as flapjacks tend to be more oat based with no extras. So I taken the humble version of a flapjack and utterly pimped it out!

This is a baked no processed sugar or diary gluten free vegan friendly treat that will leave you coming back for seconds or thirds, assuming you haven’t already eaten them already!

Banana flapjacks

 

Banana Flapjacks

Makes: 1 9x13in Pyrex dish   Prep time: 10 mins  Cook time: 25mins  Total time: 35 mins

Required Ingredients:

  • 3 1/3 cups (300g) gluten-free oats
  • 3 bananas
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) honey
  • 1/3 cup (50g) pecan nuts, chopped
  • 1/3 cup (50g) flaked/slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup (50g) dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup (50g) toasted coconut
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

Now how to make these pimped out flapjacks:

  1. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 350°F/ 180°C.
  2. In food processor, throw in your peeled bananas and whizz into oblivion (or until smooth), alternatively smash your bananas in a bowl. I choose the easy option as per below.

processed banana.jpg

3. In a mixing bowl, mix the processed bananas, oats, honey, oil, pecans, almonds, cranberries, coconut and cinnamon. *handy trip, measure out the oil first and then the honey and the honey comes straight out without any extra persuasion.

20170715_161816

Your mixture should look something like this.20170715_161918-e1501014014401.jpg

4. Dump the mixture into your lined pan and spread out evenly into the pan, using your spatula to evenly smooth the surface, getting a even thickness throughout. 20170715_162235

5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is lightly browned.  Leave to cool, once cooled, cut into bars.banana flapjacks.jpg

Store in a air tight container and in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. banana flapjacks.jpg

Edits: you can pimp these out even further by adding not so healthy things such as chocolate chips or you can add even more healthy things like raisins or seeds. Have fun with them and make them to suit your taste.

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!

The 2 B’s, baking and brownies

I grew up in southern America, in the mountains of North Carolina. America is incredibly diverse and every area is different to the next, even within the southern states.

I grew up with Betty Crocker. Shes amazing and knows her baking and almost always comes out perfectly! Growing up, I thought baking with Betty was baking from scratch, oh, how I couldn’t have been more wrong if I tried! Betty Crocker is a boxed baking brand, you add eggs, water and oil to the mix and TADA you’re done.  Its easy, its simple and it ultimately almost always tastes amazing. I was always told this was ‘baking’ and for years I really did think I was baking from scratch. It was only when I moved out of the states that I realised this wasn’t the case and it was a shock! I wont lie, I did get more than a little bit excited when I noticed my local grocery story started to carry Betty.  In America, Betty Crocker is one of the major baking ranges that have practically everything you could ever need, from cake mixes, brownies, and cobblers to frostings.

Living in Europe, means that I now bake from scratch! The amount of boxed items 15 years ago when I moved over were incredibly limited (maybe one or two only), where as now its better. Honestly, nothing frustrates me more than when Im looking at a cake recipe on the internets and it says in the list of ingredients ‘1 box cake mix’, you’ve got to be kidding me!

Having learnt to adapt means that Ive mastered some things and still fail at others, no matter how hard I try I am completely unable to make a white cake.

One of my wins which I am so proud of are these amazingly awesome unctuous fudgey brownies. From the base recipe, you can keep it as it is or you can dress it up and make it an adult only espresso brownie, which is my favourite! Why espresso? It doesnt taste like coffee but actually enhances the chocolate flavour, giving them a deep richness that keeps you going back for more!

Ive also made them with gluten free flour and they work just as well, still coming out fudgey.

I hope you go off and make these and enjoy them as much as I do!

Unctuous awesome fudgey brownies

Unctuous awesome fudgey brownies

Makes: 1 9x13in Pyrex dish   Prep time: 15 mins  Cook time: 25mins  Total time: 45 mins

Required Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (250g) unsalted butter
  • ⅔ cups (55g) of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups (450g) of sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup (128g) plain flour
  • ⅔ cup (115g) Chocolate chips and peanut butter chips (optional)
  • 1 shot espresso (if making the adult version of this)

Now how to make these truly awesome brownies:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line the pan with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt your butter on the hob/stove top with the cocoa powder. Once the butter and cocoa have completely melted, add in the sugar.  Put this off the side to cool down for 10 mins, sit down, have a cup of coffee, read a book, take a break.
  3. Once the butter, cocoa, and sugar mixture have cooled down, whisk  in the eggs, salt and vanilla, mixing until completely incorporated and smooth in texture. (If making the adult version add in your shot of expresso now)
  4. Add flour and chips to the liquid mixture, and stir until just combined (do NOT over mix).
  5. Pour the brownie batter into the baking dish, put in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 25 minutes. Make sure it’s on the middle rack, not the top one
  6. When the brownie cools down, cut it into squares.  Store in  a air tight container for up to 4 days.

Edits:

Do not over bake! Its so easy to over bake a brownie, they are suppose to look slightly undercooked, as they then firm up and finish cooking off as it cools down.  25-30 mins at the very most is more than enough time to cook a brownie that has been placed in a pre-heated oven.

I love that you can add anything to these brownies! As per the picture below, I made the standard brownie and then I made an adult version, in my adult version, in addition to the espresso, I chopped up a white, dark, and milk chocolate bar and put it on top for extra unctuous ooey-gooeyness and then for crunch I added ½ cup toasted coconut and ½ cup chopped pecans. They were AMAZING.

home made brownies.jpg

 

I also made them gluten free by swapping gluten free flour for plain and adding in 2 tsp of xanthan gum.

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!

No sugar, no fun?

I love the white stuff! Im not talking about a class a drug here (jeez!), Im far to boring for that(and prefer to spend my money on cats and shoes). Im talking processed sugar. Of course its not good for you but none of the yummy good things are! I grew up on Kool-Aid and know people who put in their kids bottles. It only took me living abroad to realise that this isn’t healthy or good for you.

A friends wife is avoiding processed sugar, no white stuff. She allows herself fructose (the natural sugars in fruit and in the fruit form) and honey. Fair enough a good gust of wind will blow her away but is it worth it?!?! Im going to say no and ask you to give me a massive piece of unctuous yummy cake filled with processed sugar and all things naughty.

So the challenge was set to make something sweet without using the white stuff.  Luckily I have a raspberry bush thats completely in season at the moment, hooray for fresh raspberries! Not hooray for when the kittens play in the raspberry bush and then come covered in raspberry bush, looking like they are bleeding all over.  Originally the raspberries started out as about 6 plants and now its well over 40, it offers several kilos of fresh berries each year now.

Raspberry bush  fresh raspberries

So I started to search for raspberry based recipes and came across some cookies with no white stuff! I was inspired by this recipe but changed it up slightly to suit my tastebuds.

Sadly I was on a baking spree whilst making these and just forgot to take pictures.

Raspberry Oat Cookies

Makes: 9 large cookies   Prep time: 1 hr  Cook time: 15 mins per batch  Total time: 2 hrs

Required Ingredients:

  • 1 cup scottish porridge oats
  • ¾ cup gluten free flour or plain flour
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum (if using gluten free flour)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup fresh raspberries, chopped

Now how to make these amazing cookies:

  1. Take your oats and grind them down in a food processor until they basically no longer resemble oats.  This will allow for a quicker and more even cook (cookies are  not in the oven for long).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and xanthan gum (if using).
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the honey until completely mixed.
  4. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until just combined. Fold in the raspberries. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes, I recommend 1 hour but I let mine chill for 4 hours, as I was making other things. (If chilling longer than 30 mins, cover with plastic wrap, pushing it down to touch the entire surface of the cookie dough.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 325°F, and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
  6. Drop the cookie dough into 9 slightly mis-shapen balls on the baking sheet. (If chilled longer than 1.5 hours, flatten slightly.) Bake at 325°F for 13-15 minutes.

These were an absolutely hit! Of course I could have made the cookies smaller and had more portions but who doesn’t love a big cookie? I made mine gluten free and everyone loved them, they were practically fighting over them and a load of ‘awwww’s when they had all been eaten, the irony being that I didn’t actually have one.

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!

BBQ, you say?

At work I like to get to know my colleagues on a personal level. I find often when you see someone at work its hard to then think that they are a husband or a father or even that someone might love them who isn’t their mother! I always ask about families and relationship dynamics. Its easier to understand someone and how they work when you know more about them.

I work with a guy who has 6 kids, I find this incredibly intriguing, even more so England, where there is such little space! We have become friendly over the year of working on the same project and he thinks its hilarious that I call him ‘kitten’ and bake for his family, who are all gluten free. Ive made some amazing gluten free items and Ive also had a few fails but all because of working with him. I tend to take baked goods in to work on a Monday to start the week off on a sweet note, Im adorable, I know.  It keeps me popular and colleagues as happy as they can be on a Monday.

As a thank you for all the baked goods Ive made over the months, he invited me round for a BBQ at his to meet the family. Exciting! However, any time I go anywhere, my inner American comes out and I can NEVER show up empty handed, EVER, it might as well be against the law. He did specifically tell me not to bring anything, at which I laughed and say ‘no really, thats not going to happen’. My dear Pinterest came to the rescue, followed by 2 days of baking and cooking. Another colleague joined us with his family, his wife is a veggie who eats fish and is trying a no processed sugar diet! As if making gluten free wasn’t exciting enough, now trying to come up with recipes that contain no processed sugar, oh sweet Jesus, where has all the fun gone?!?! However, Pinterest to the rescue and I had a few wins! Let me assure you its easier to be fat and have the processed white stuff! Oh sugar, how I love you!

Being a southern American means you can never show up to a picnic or a BBQ without deviled eggs and/or potato salad.  I got caught up making everything else that I forgot to take pictures of the eggs process, but I vaguely followed this recipe.  Once you go southern American potato salad, you never go back!

SS Potato Salad

Southern Potato salad

Serves: 6 (easily)    Prep time: 20mins    Cook time: 20 mins   Total time: 40mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 kilo or 4 large potatoes
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
  • 1 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 green onion stalks, diced
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 200g bacon lardons
  • 100g grated cheese (optional but worth it!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

(I doubled this recipe as I was cooking for 12 people!)

Now how to make this amazing stuff:

  1. First, peel and then boil the potatoes. In a separate pot (or in the same pot for at the last 10 mins – save yourself a pot!), boil the eggs. In a frying pan, go ahead and fry off your lardons. Drain them off on a paper towel (kitchen roll).
  2. Whilst potatoes and eggs are boiling, chop the celery and green onions, you can make them as thin or chunky as you like, I tend to go for a inbetween the two of thin and chunky.
  3. Whilst your potatoes and eggs are cooling off/down, its time to make the dressing! Mix together the vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard, relish, and sugar.
  4. Cut your eggs up and potatoes up and then add in the lardons and chopped celery and green onions(and cheese if using).  Now to add on the dressing to make it saucy.  Mix until everything is well combined and coated.
  5. Add in salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Southern Style Potato Salad

This is the final product looks like this and let me assure it tastes fantastically better than it looks! I was trying to take pictures as I went but I was making three things at the same time and kind of forgot, focusing on the sweet stuff instead.

The potato salad was a hit with kids and adults a like and really it has bacon in, whats not to like?

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!

 

DIY Lavender and Rosemary soap

DIY Lavender and Rosemary soap steps

What I enjoy most about making soap, apart from the cheating element (using a soap base),  and the great gift factor, is the aromas that filter through the kitchen and the house!

I decided that my life isn’t hectic enough recently and that making soap was something that I absolutely needed to do, forgetting that I still haven’t gifted/given away all the soaps I made in the run up to Christmas.

Ive been harvesting lavender for ages, if I see a bush I give it a good whack and then dry it out for a few days and then its ready for crafting.  Lavender is also getting very trendy at the moment and can be used in various things, even baking, thinking lavender shortbread cookies!

I took inspiration from Sisoo HOW TO: MAKE LAVENDER HONEY LEMON SOAP in making this soap.

Soap making requirements:

  • 1/2 Kilo of Stephenson’s Soap Melt and Pour Soap Base Shea Butter 1kg (you can use any soap base for this but a white base gives the best aesthetic)
  • 2-3 tablespoons dried rosemary
  • 2-3 tablespoons dried lavender
  • coffee grinder (optional but gives a finer texture)
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Lemon essential oil
  • 2 tablespoons Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil or any fine oil will work (optional)
  • Plastic jug (to melt your soap in)
  • Wood spoon (to mix your soap)
  • Moulds (any shape will work)

Instructions for making awesome soap:

I decided I wanted delicate yet chunky soap, it seemed like a clever idea at the time! So I got my coffee grinder out and managed to successfully melt/destroy it on the first grind.  18 hours later and a new coffee grinder was delivered thanks to Prime! (Oh Prime, how I am going to miss you!)  I ground up most of the rosemary, some bits refused to grind (top bag you see).  I decided I wanted the color and the aroma of the rosemary, so I ground half of the lavender (the bottom bag).  Lavender and rosemary

Now to melt the soap, chop it up soap into smallish bits, the small the better, as it melts quicker.  Put it a microwaveable safe bowl and cover with clingfilm (this is VERY important). Officially you are meant to melt it in 30 second intervals or you can be lazy like me and whack it in for 1-2 mins at a time depending on how much soap you are melting at time (I tend to make large amounts of soap).  Stephenson's Soap Melt and Pour Soap Base

Now to bring your soap together, once the base has completed melted, chuck in the lavender and rosemary, olive oil, and essential oils.  Mixed until just combined, trying not to over mix, as this adds in air bubbles.  20170627_175310

Pour the soap into your moulds.  I use two different types of moulds. I prefer the clear plastic one, as it actually gives a better and more shiny appearance to the  finished soaps. Now for the most difficult part, waiting 24 hours for your soap to set. It is a minimum suggestion of 24 hours for your soap to set before you use it.

Making soap

The finished product, wrapped in cellophane.  I also made coffee sugar scrub soaps at the same time, hence the dark soaps.  The lavender and rosemary initially looked very light/white in color but they longer they set for, the darker they became. Think of it as maturing if you will. Please note that most of the lavender and rosemary does settle on the bottom of the soap or top where you are pouring.  homemade coffee and lavender and rosemary soap

I then made small labels to go on each soap! This small detail makes a large amount of difference.

Here are some awesome tips and hints for awesome soap making, enjoy and good luck!

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!