Oh my goodness, it’s Christmas next weekend. How did that happen? I feel like I’m not entirely ready for it yet so want to get a move on with planning my recipes for the festive period. I shared a round-up of my previous Christmassy recipes last week (including 2 types of gingerbread, coffee shop hacks and some Christmas cake ideas) but my favourite part of Christmas cooking is preparing snacks. I love to have hot crunchy savoury treats in the oven throughout the holidays (and mince pies too, of course) just in case a guest arrives. Surely, there’s nothing better than being welcomed into a home with a big plate of nibbles and treats, is there??I’ve made star tarts, pastry rolls, pizza twists and leftover pasties in the past but never have I attempted to make my own crisps. While I loooove crunchy crisps, I do worry about how healthy (or not!) they are, and I know that I’ll be tempted over Christmas. So when I began craving fried snacks I started to do some research into healthier ways to make my favourite treat. Let’s face it, I’m going to want to eat them all month long, and will definitely be dishing out bowls of crisps on New Years Eve too!It turns out that it IS possible to make crisps without a deep fryer, and all you need is a microwave. Considering that I got a new Panasonic steam combination microwave about three months ago, I was feeling very confident that I’d be able to pull off making my own crisps. It’s got a great range of power settings so knew I’d be able to adjust the power accordingly to get that perfect crunch. Well, noone wants a soggy crisp, do they? Here’s how I got on and the recipe for (wait for it…) parmesan and smoked paprika potato chips.Ingredients: Potatoes (1 ‘jacket’ sized potato will make a small bowlful of crisps), olive oil (or you could use Fry Light for an even healthier version), salt and pepper, dried parmesan and smoked paprika.
Yes, I still have an advent calendar every year, even at my age. I’ve had chocolate calendars to countdown the days until Christmas for as long as I can remember. And I probably had a printed cardboard calendar even before then. I love opening a door every day, bring me one step closer to the big day with every chocolate treats I eat. Even my cats have advent calendars so that every member of the household can join in with the festive fun.And no, it’s not just for kids – you see, advent calendars have grown up. I can’t walk into a store or browse online without seeing calendars for adults too; mini bottles of booze, candles, jams, beer and (my favourite calendar idea of all) beauty. So this year I chose to plump for a slightly more grown-up countdown to Christmas with a calendar from The Vintage Cosmetic Co. Of course, I still have my Father Christmas chocolate calendar to enjoy too (!) but this beauty countdown is an extra special treat just for me.Once I started looking for a beauty calendar I found many different options. Some focus on nail polishes, some offer ‘seasonal specials’ from a cosmetics range, others have bath bombs, lip balms or skincare. Considering that I’ve got sensitive skin, a difficult-to-shop-for pale skin tone and will only buy 100% cruelty-free cosmetics, many of the beauty advent calendars weren’t right for me. Luckily I did find one that was perfect for my needs – and just in time for the start of December too!I picked the 12 Days to a Beautiful Christmas advent calendar for a number of reasons. Firstly, The Vintage Cosmetic Company is a cruelty-free producer – brushes are made from super-soft synthetic hair and their products are accessories rather than make-up. Secondly, there were items in the calendar that I actually needed, such as tweezers, make-up brushes, hair styling equipment and a foundation sponge. I didn’t have to worry about make-up shades not matching my skin tone or skincare products causing a reaction on my skin because each item in the box was a practical accessory, not a cosmetic product. Thumbs up so far…
A slightly different take on the classic festive gingerbread man, this cookie dough contains cocoa powder so it produces a dark, crisp biscuit. When cut out with a gingerbread cutter they’re the perfect shape for icing a skeleton design for Halloween. The darker colour biscuit emphasises the spooky shape and tastes even better than normal gingerbread thanks to all the chocolate in the recipe!I think that these homemade biscuits would be great to give out to trick-or-treaters or could be the dessert for your spooky Halloween party. Here’s how to make the dough and bake the perfect chocolate gingerbread skeletons:Ingredients for around 18 biscuits (depending on the size of your cutter): 300g plain flour, 50g cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 120g butter, 120g brown sugar, 140g golden syrup, icing sugar for icing the skeleton shape.Step 1: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Mix flour, cocoa, ginger powder and butter together in a bowl. Either use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour, like a crumble recipe, or put into a food processor and pulse together until it forms a crumbly consistency. Drizzle in the golden syrup and continue pulsing the processor until it forms a dough, or mix with a knife if you’re doing it the manual way.Step 2: Divide the dough into quarters and place between two sheets of greaseproof paper. Roll out the dough then peel away the top layer of paper. Step 3: Use a gingerbread man cutter to press shapes into the dough. Peel away the excess dough, leaving the gingerbread man shapes on the greaseproof paper.
It’s all about love this Valentine’s weekend and I wanted to do something special for my husband. We’re being especially frugal this year (saving for a home of our own) so there won’t be any lavish nights or holidays to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year. But that doesn’t mean it will pass by unnoticed. Instead, I’ve made my own Valentine’s card for him (see my easy card-making DIY post here) and I created a memories box packed full of photos last week (see the making-of video here). I still wanted to celebrate the occasion so I surprised him with an “I Heart NY” party!I wanted it to be a ‘big’ night in without spending a fortune so I decided that the best way to surprise hubby was to bring a party into our living room and get everything ready while he was at work this Friday. I put up USA flag bunting and a string of light-bulb fairy lights, then sprinkled red-white-and-blue star confetti everywhere. New York is somewhere that my husband and I have always wanted to travel to but have never found the spare cash to be able to go yet, so I thought it would be the perfect Valentine’s treat to bring The Big Apple to him instead. Plus, there’s hearts involved (okay, an I Heart NY t-shirts to be exact!) so that make’s it romantic too.I gathered together all our favourite films set in New York, such as You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally and, of course, all the Sex and the City films. I wonder if I could have got away with putting on the SATC box set?? On the TV is Sleepless in Seattle, when the Empire State Building lights up with a red heart on Valentine’s Day. What a moment! All I needed was a big tub of popcorn and some US candy bars (oh yes, those are pretzel M&Ms, hurrah!) and we were all set to enjoy a romantic film night.
This would also be a great night-in with the girls, especially with all the chick-flick movies I’ve got lined up! So consider throwing an “I Heart NY” party for your friend’s hen party or birthday too! And don’t forget it’s “Galentine’s Day” tomorrow too! Check out my blog post about hosting a Galentine’s party for your besties, plus some delicious flavoured hot-chocolate recipes.
In terms of eats, I cooked up Continue reading “Party ideas for a big night in – I heart NY” »
Whether you’re loved up or single, why don’t you treat yourself to a lovely lie-in this Valentine’s Day? Seeing as V-day falls on a Sunday this year, it’s the ideal day of the week to spend some time chilling out at home and lounging around in bed for just a little longer than you usually would. One of my favourite stress-free activities is having breakfast in bed. Okay, it doesn’t happen very often in the Fairy household because we’re always so busy working. But that’s precisely the point; breakfast in bed should be something special. A treat. Something that tells you it’s time to relax and that you’re not getting out of that comfy bed anytime soon! It puts me in mind of Mother’s Days past, and I remember trying to make mum a tea-and-toast breakfast in bed while I was still in the single-figures age bracket. I even do it now as an adult, and occasionally hubby will get a tray brought to his lap with a coffee and cereal. Okay, that’s usually on his birthday, but that’s what I mean about breakfast in bed; it’s a special event. It’s completely out of the ordinary, yet it would be a lovely start to any day.Even if you’re going to be making breakfast for yourself and taking it back to bed, it’s the fact that it symbolises the non-rushed nature of your morning that makes it so enjoyable. You’ll probably even Continue reading “Enjoy breakfast-in-bed this Valentine’s Day… & all year round!” »
What better time to celebrate your best friends than on Galentine’s Day? Yes, that’s right, I said GALentine’s Day. If you’ve not heard of it yet, it’s simply putting a name to what we’ve all being doing for years; celebrating our friends. I’ve seen so many more Galentine’s-related treats being shared on Pinterest this year; in fact, I’ve hardly paid any attention to Valentine’s Day at all. Whether or not your pal is loved-up or single, I’m sure you have a wonderful friend who deserves a bit of extra love this February. I certainly welcome the chance to celebrate my girl friends and thank them for all the support they give me throughout the year. And what better way to show them you care, than by throwing a cute Galentine’s party? Today I wanted to share my ideas for a cosy hot chocolate party; a night in with your pals, scoffing all the naughty treats you usually resist during the rest of the year. I know I waffle on about eating healthily, but enjoying a little of what you fancy every now and again is just as important as eating the good-for-you things. Your Galentine’s Day get-together is the ideal time to indulge and provide some tasty treats for your favourite peeps. So here’s a couple of new hot chocolate flavours that I’m adding to my Galentine’s menu:
Salted caramel: Make up a steaming mug of hot chocolate and add a splash of caramel syrup. I had a set of 5 small syrups that I was given as a birthday gift a while ago, but you can buy a similar set at Amazon (such as these Monin Syrups for Coffee). Add one crunch of sea salt (don’t go crazy with the salt otherwise you’ll end up with a savoury hot chocolate). Next is the fun part; stir in chunks of caramel chocolate bar and let them melt for a really indulgent treat. Top with whipped cream, marshmallows and crumbled up flake. Mmm.
Cherry bakewell: There are two options for this hot chocolate flavour – saintly or boozy! Add a splash of vanilla syrup to a mug of hot chocolate and then decide whether you add a splash of amaretto-flavoured syrup or a shot of Disaronno! Stir it into the hot chocolate to get that really cherry-marzipan flavour before topping with cream, chocolate and cherries. If you have a bakewell tart hanging around you could crumble some of the cake onto the cream too. Yum!
How cute are these smiley mugs? I got them from Continue reading “Galentine’s Day party & flavoured hot chocolate recipes” »
I’ve got a big Christmas party taking place at the weekend and my sisters and I have taken over the food preparation for our annual family gathering. As much as I love sausage rolls and frozen party snacks, I wanted to create something a little bit special this year so this week I tested out a recipe for cheesy Christmas stars. Well, I say recipe but really it’s just a matter of constructing the stars rather than cooking them; here’s what I mean… The ingredients comprise of 1 roll of ready-made, ready-rolled light puff pastry, deliciously flavoured Primula (I chose cheese with ham and cheese with smoked salmon – yes, real chopped salmon!) and a grating of mature cheddar. How cute are these limited edition Christmas tubes of Primula?! I’ve stocked up the fridge with them, ready for cheese ‘n’ cracker occasions over the festive period. So, as you can see, all I needed to do was put the cheese stars together, rather than mix up a recipe. Of course, you can make your own puff pastry for the stars if you wish, but I’m short on time and want to make the preparations for the Christmas party as easy as possible. Here’s how to do it: Roll out the pastry and cut into squares. I managed to get 24 squares out of my roll of pastry and cooked them in two batches. Use a sharp knife to cut into the corners of the squares, leaving space uncut in the centre of each square for the cheesy filling. Squeeze some tasty Primula into the centre of each square before folding in the corners to create a star shape. Take each alternating corner and bring them together into the centre of the star. Pinch them together in the middle to seal the tips of pastry together. Brush with a little milk and grate over a sprinkling of mature cheddar. For my second batch I also sprinkled the stars with paprika at this stage to add colour and even more flavour. You could also add diced ham into the cheese centres or sprinkle on chopped chives to create a range of different flavours.Put the stars in the oven at 200 degrees for around 15 minutes or however long your packet of pastry recommends! Some of my centres popped open during the baking process but you can easily press them back together into the centre of the stars while the pastry is still warm. What do you think? I can tell you now that these little cheesy stars taste delicious and I’ll definitely be making them again this weekend for the party! Continue reading “Pieday Friday recipe – Cheesy Christmas stars & party snacks hacks with Primula” »
This week I’ve been rushing around, working hard and getting ready for a special occasion so I’ve barely had time to sit down, let alone prepare a proper meal. We’ve been grabbing food on the go and I’ve been avoiding the kitchen but yesterday I came home at a reasonable time and managed to drag myself off the sofa for long enough to make a treat for my husband and I. Okay, it’s still not a ‘full evening meal’ but it’s a tasty evening snack and something that I’ll eat often now that I’ve tried out the recipe! The treat that I rustled up was loaded potato skins and I made them two ways – one with smoked salmon Primula and sweetcorn (which hubby loves!) and smoked Primula cheese spread with ham (my favourite combination.) I recently got all of the special festive tubes (available in Asda) and I wanted to try out the different flavours in my recipes this month. I’m getting ready for a family Christmas party in December so I’ve been making a few recipes that I’ve never tried before in order to pick my favourites and get my snack-baking up to scratch before then! The loaded skins recipe is great for a quick evening snack (or indeed a savoury party treat) and we already had some left over baked potatoes from the day before so it was simply a case of scooping out the soft middles into a bowl, leaving the potato skins intact. For the first recipe I used a big dollop of the real cheese spread in smoked cheese flavour and diced up some ham. Mix these together along with a little salt and pepper before spooning the cheesy mash mixture back into the potato skins. Arrange them in an oven-proof dish and sprinkle over crushed tortilla chips and a grating of cheddar cheese. Continue reading “Pieday Friday – Easy cheesy evening snack: Loaded potato skins recipe” »
This week’s recipe was inspired by one of the gifts that my husband and I received for our 10th wedding anniversary. Ten years is traditionally “tin” so we received quite a few items made from tin (lovely cake and biscuit tins, metal jug and even a wall clock!) and we were especially excited to be given this lovely baking tin by my brother and sister-in-law for creating invidividual chocolate brownies. This tin would also be good for flapjacks and I’d like to have a go at making mini toad-in-the-hole with chipolatas!
So, it inspired me to get baking and make some chunky chocolate brownies. I used the following recipe and added extra chunks of white and milk chocolate to the centre of each brownie – and with this tin, it was good to know that every brownie will have the sneaky treat inside! If you don’t have a tin like this, add the chunks of chocolate and mix to distribute throughout the mixture.
Ingredients: 185g unsalted butter, 85g plain flour, 40g cocoa powder, 185g dark chocolate, 50g white chocolate, 50g milk chocolate, 3 large eggs, 275g golden caster sugar
- Put the cubed unsalted butter into a medium bowl and break up the dark or plain chocolate into the bowl. Either melt over a pan of boiling water or as I did, heat in the microwave on high for a minute or two – keep checking it regularly until the butter and chocolate have melted and stir occasionally to mix them. Leave the melted mixture to cool to room temperature while you whisk the eggs.
- Break 3 large eggs into a bowl and add the golden caster sugar then whisk with an electric mixer on maximum speed, until they look thick and creamy, which can take up to 8 minutes – the mixture is ready when the it is around twice its original volume and leaves a trail on the surface of the mixture in the bowl for a second when you lift the whisk out.
- Pour the cooled chocolate mixture over the egg and sugar mixture, then gently fold together with a rubber spatula until the two mixtures become a mottled dark brown.
- Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the chocolate mixture and gently fold in but don’t overdo this mixing! Finally, stir in the white and milk chocolate chopped into chunks (or drop them into individual brownie squares, as I did.)
- Pour the mixture into the tin (any tin will do, just grease it first!) and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes. To check if the brownie is cooked, shake the tin a little and if the brownie wobbles in the middle, it’s not quite done!
I found that cooking the brownie in the smaller portions meant that the cakes cooked a lot quicker – about half the time of making one big brownie! I also found out that the mixture above filled my brownie tin AND a second square cake tin – so I had more bonus brownies for the following day 😉
My fairy-friend Aimee introduced me to making this pretty cake-batter fudge with pockets of yummy white chocolate. I gave it a go, and wasn’t disappointed, apart from by the fact that I couldn’t possibly eat it all at once because it was just too sweet! Here’s the recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction which makes approx 36 fudge squares:
- 2 cups + 2 Tbsp packet cake mix (any brand white or yellow instant cake mix)
- 2 cups icing sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2/3 cup white chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles
- Spray 8×8 baking pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- Mix together cake mix + powdered sugar in a large bowl. Add milk + butter (do not stir them in) and microwave for 2 minutes. Once done, immediately begin mixing everything together. The batter will be very thick. Fold in white chocolate + sprinkles. Stir gently. You do not want the sprinkles to leak their color too much!
- Spoon into prepared baking pan, making sure it is level and smooth at the top. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Cut into squares and enjoy!
- Store fudge in the refrigerator
I hope you enjoy this ‘instant fudge’ as much as I do, its super-easy to make, über-cute looking and the most tasty treat I’ve had in a long time! Let me know if you give it a go 🙂