Posts Tagged With: nuts

Healthy Rice Krispie Granola Bars

Well, I think it’s about time to make my first blog post of 2017! A very belated Happy New Year to you all ūüôā

In my last post I said I wanted to try and eat healthier and shift a bit of weight, and by some miracle I’ve actually stuck to it (thus far)! I’ve not been following any kind of radical diet, just cutting down on the amount of naughty stuff and exercising more. I’ve been going to the work gym twice a week, walking to and from the office every day and taking lunchtime yoga classes on Mondays, also at work (one of the great things about being employed by a university is the access to an array of convenient fitness facilities, and at a significant discount!)

I’ve managed to lose 6 pounds so far, which I’m really pleased about as I’m not trying to lose a shedload of weight in a short period, only to pile it all back on when the urge to eat a wheelbarrowful¬†of Dairy Milk becomes too much. I want to do it gradually while still being able to enjoy my favourite treats in moderation. To be perfectly honest, I’ve not missed eating cake that much but chocolate is proving to be very much my Achilles’ heel…

The downside to this wee health kick is that I’ve not been doing as much baking, apart from¬†a few cake requests for colleagues. However, my other half bought me the latest Bake Off book for my birthday last month and it contained a fabulous recipe for ‘Posh Granola Bars’, which I knew I had to try right away. Toasted oats, Rice Krispies, nuts, fruit and honey in yummy crunchy¬†bar form and easy on the waistline to boot – what’s not to like?

They turned out delicious, but I decided to adapt them slightly in¬†subsequent¬†batches¬†by increasing the quantity of Rice Krispies, substituting the butter for peanut butter and using raisins instead of dried cranberries. I like these ones even better, and they’re easier to cut without turning to crumbs, meaning they’re perfect to take to work for a healthy and filling mid-morning snack.

If you’re not as mad a fan of Rice Krispies as me, cut the amount down to 25-50g and up the oats to 200g, although personally I love the crunch they add! Also feel free to use¬†whatever dried fruit you like, or maybe go wild and add some chocolate chips?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 12 bars

  • 150g/5 oz oats
  • 70g/2.5 oz Rice Krispies or other puffed rice cereal
  • 100g/3.5 oz mixed nuts, coarsely chopped (I used pecans, walnuts, almonds and Brazil nuts)
  • 50g/1.5 oz peanut butter
  • 160g/5.5 oz honey
  • 50g/1.5 oz raisins
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan).
  2. Tip the oats and chopped nuts into a rectangular baking tray and add the cooking oil.
  3. Use your hands to combine the mixture, rubbing the oats so that they’re lightly coated in the oil.
  4. Place the tray in the oven for around 6-8 minutes until the oats become slightly dry and golden.
  5. Place the honey and peanut butter in a mixing bowl and melt together in the microwave in blasts of 1 minute until smooth.
  6. Pour the oat and nut mixture, Rice Krispies, raisins and cinnamon into the wet ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine. If the mixture seems too dry and crumbly, add a dash more honey.20170212_122217
  7. Wipe the baking tray clean and line with parchment paper, then pour in the mixture and press down evenly with a spatula.
  8. Place in the oven for around 10 minutes until the top of the mixture is light brown in colour.
  9.  Leave to cool on a wire rack and then cut up into bars using a sharp knife.
Categories: flapjacks, Healthier, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lady Baltimore Cake

One of the few downsides of being a prolific baker¬†(apart from an ever-expanding waistline) is¬†when you really want to try something new, that’s¬†also not too complicated, but you end up skimming over the same old well-loved recipes. Chocolate cake, Victoria sponge, lemon drizzle, brownies; they’re all undeniably delicious but sometimes I find myself craving something a bit different that’s still simple to whip up.

This is particularly true when it comes to birthday cakes. I’ve made my lovely step-grandad’s celebratory sponge for the last three years and wanted to make a cake that he and the rest of the family had never tried before, but one¬†that equally didn’t involve hours of painstaking fiddling and stressing.

I was flicking through my latest cookbook bargain, The Best-Ever Book of Cakes by Ann Nicol (bought for ¬£2 from The Works and brimming with an array of fantastic recipes) for inspiration, and the Lady Baltimore cake caught my eye. I’d never heard of such a thing before, let alone baked¬†one, but it looked delicious with its snowy white and¬†unapologetically bumpy frosting.

Admittedly, I altered the recipe a bit with a couple of substitutions, but the result was absolutely heavenly. The crunch of the walnuts mixed with the sharpness of the raisins and cranberries, all contrasting with the sweet and marshmallowy meringue frosting, is divine. I would never have thought to mix lumpy things like fruit and nuts into an icing but it really works!

Oh, and if you’re a fan of dreamy, cloud-like meringue frosting, why not have a go at my Tunnock’s chocolate teacake cake?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 2 sponge layers of 8in/20cm diameter

For the cake:

  • 250ml/8 fl oz vegetable oil
  • 225g/8 oz caster sugar
  • 280g/10 oz self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Grated rind of 1 small lemon (or orange)
  • 125ml/4 fl oz lemon (or orange) juice

For the frosting/filling:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 115g/4 oz icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5 tsp cream of tartar (optional but helps stabilise the frosting)
  • 50g/2 oz mixed nuts, pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • 85g//3 oz raisins
  • 40g/1.5 oz cranberries

METHOD

For the cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line two round baking tins with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the vegetable oil, sugar and eggs together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Stir in the lemon rind and juice.
  4. Gently fold in the flour and baking powder, until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins, then pop in the oven and bake for around 25-30 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponges comes out clean.
  6. When baked, transfer the cakes onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

For the frosting/filling:

  1. Set aside 8 whole walnuts and 8 cranberries.
  2. Separate the egg whites into a clean bowl and whisk with the vanilla extract and cream of tartar, while adding the icing sugar a few teaspoons at a time, until stiff peaks form – you should ideally do this for a minimum of 7-10 minutes.
  3. Spread half of the mixture on top of one of the cooled sponges with a palette knife.
  4. Gently stir in the chopped nuts, raisins and cranberries into the remaining frosting and spread the mixture on top of the other sponge.
  5. Sandwich the sponge topped with plain frosting on top of the one with the fruit and nut frosting, then arrange the extra 8 walnuts and cranberries on top of the cake in a neat circle.

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Categories: Icing, Layer Cakes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Low Fat Christmas Pudding Brownies

I’ve recently been compiling a ring binder of print-outs of healthier recipes that I’ve found online so that I can easily look them up when I feel like cooking something that’s not too chock-full of calories, fat and sugar. One Google result that caught my attention was the¬†original chocolate version of this recipe, which I came across here: http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/1107/i-can-t-believe-they-re-low-fat-brownies.aspx. It included the genius idea of adding mushed prunes in place of butter or margarine to create a gorgeously moist but less fatty cake.

I don’t understand why prunes are¬†so neglected as a fruit. I know they’re infamous for being used as a means of ‘keeping you regular’ and carry metaphorical connotations of wrinkles, shriveling and general lifelessness, but they’re so underrated as a food in their own right. I bought some for the first time in forever recently and had forgotten what a deliciously rich, almost caramelly, flavour they have.

Anyway, I digress (I swear I’m not being paid by some kind of Prune Advisory Board) – I’m in the grip of full-blown Christmas fever at the moment as the end of November rapidly approaches, so I decided to add a festive twist to the original recipe by incorporating some extra fruit and nuts and a dash of warming winter spice. When both my dad and I sampled them, our immediate thoughts were of Christmas pudding, hence the title!

I also reduced the amount of sugar used in the original version¬†as it annoys me when recipes are labelled as ‘healthy’ due to low fat content but include an obscene amount of the sweet stuff. I wouldn’t say these taste identical to regular brownies but they’re utterly delicious – rich, moist and full of flavour – and I really don’t think people would know they were low fat and lower sugar if you didn’t tell them. I also like the fact that they’re a healthier alternative that don’t require expensive and/or obscure ingredients. I love the new wave of inventive vegan/raw/generally all-round-saintly treats but coconut oil, agave syrup and near-industrial¬†quantities of cashew nuts don’t come cheap.

The final cherry on the proverbial cake is that these brownies are dairy free so they’d be ideal for lactose-intolerant friends.

I’ll definitely be making them again very soon!

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 18

  • 55g/2 oz plain flour
  • 110g/4 oz pitted prunes
  • 130g/4.5 oz brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 55g/2 oz raisins
  • 55g/2 oz chopped mixed nuts (e.g. pecans, almonds, walnuts)
  • 1.5 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 18 pecan halves, to decorate (optional)
  • Silver shimmer spray, to decorate (optional)

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, mixed spice and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Roughly snip the prunes into pieces with scissors and place them in a separate heatproof bowl with the water, then microwave on a medium setting in two blasts of 1 minute until soft and mushy.
  4. Squish the prunes with a potato masher to form a paste and add to the dry ingredients.
  5. Stir in the cooking oil, eggs, raisins, chopped nuts and vanilla extract. Mix until well blended.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and pop in the oven for around 15 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the mix comes out mostly clean.
  7. When baked, leave to cool on a wire rack before cutting into 18 squares with a sharp knife.
  8. Push a pecan half into the top of each square and finish with a festive spritz of edible silver shimmer spray, if you fancy.
Categories: Chocolate, Healthier, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Autumn Bliss Cake

Autumn is here! Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness! I absolutely love this time of year: beautiful golden falling leaves, Halloween, fireworks, mulled cider, comforting soups and hot chocolate, warm spicy scents and a crisp chill in the morning air. The nights draw in and the cloying, sticky summer heat becomes a fading memory.

One of my favourite things to do at this time of year is to go scrumping in the fields near my house. As I mentioned in my previous post, I got a fantastic haul of blackberries this year which have been incorporated into endless culinary creations, but, for me, nothing says autumn quite like fallen apples fresh from the branch. I’ve used the ones I’ve collected for various bakes and desserts but this cake is by far my favourite. I think it’s a true celebration of the season, with the slightly sour apples marrying gorgeously with the sweetness of another autumnal kitchen staple,¬†cinnamon, and topped off with some lovely golden brown walnuts and pecans.

Although there are a few steps to it, this recipe is very simple and the result¬†is¬†stunning.¬†You could use bought jam in place of the spiced apple filling I made here to save time but making it yourself is so easy and really does taste like Autumn Bliss!¬†Why not make up some extra and put it into jars to have as a tasty treat on your toast?¬†Cinnamon granola would also work well on top of the cake if you don’t have any cinnamon biscuits.

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INGREDIENTS – makes 2 sponge layers of 8in/20cm diameter

For the cake:

  • 225g/8 oz self-raising flour
  • 115g/4 oz brown sugar
  • 90g/3 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 225g/8 oz butter/margarine
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling/topping:

  • 4-5 (approx.) green apples, e.g. Granny Smith (or scrumped ones!)
  • 4 tbsp demerara/brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¬†100ml/3 fl oz apple juice (or apple cider if you want to add a boozy twist!)
  • ¬†50ml/1.5 fl oz water
  • 5-7 (approx.) cinnamon biscuits
  • Handful of walnuts
  • Handful of pecans
  • Edible¬†gold shimmer spray (optional but looks fab)

METHOD

For the cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line two round baking tins with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the butter/margarine and sugars together in a large mixing bowl until pale, then whisk in the eggs.
  3. Fold in the flour, cinnamon and vanilla extract until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins, then pop in the oven and bake for around 15-20 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponges comes out clean.
  5. When baked, transfer the cakes (still in the tins – don’t remove them until they’re cool!) onto a wire rack and get started on the jammy apple filling…

For the filling/topping:

  1. Peel and core the apples (and remove any brown, manky looking bits if you’re using scrumped ones), then chop them into small chunks no bigger than a 50p piece.
  2. Place the chunks in a large pan along with the water, apple juice, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and mixed spice and bring to the boil.
  3. Turn the heat down a little and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apple pieces can be easily squished with a wooden spoon. If the mixture is too tart, add a bit more sugar to taste.
  4. Bring to the boil a second time, then turn down the heat as before and allow to simmer for a further 5-10 minutes, again stirring occasionally.
  5. Turn off the heat completely and allow to cool.
  6. Scoop out about two thirds of the mixture along with all of the visible apple chunks and spread it onto the top of one of the cooled sponges with a palette knife, then sandwich the second sponge on top. Scrape out the remaining smooth apple mixture and spread it onto the top layer.
  7. Crush the cinnamon biscuits with your hands until they resemble breadcrumbs, then sprinkle over the top of the cake. Add the nuts and finish off with a few spritzes of edible gold shimmer spray for a truly autumnal effect. Ta-dah!
Categories: Layer Cakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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