Friday, 25 July 2014

Homemade Sticky Toffee Cooler

I recently had a sticky toffee cooler from Costa Coffee and it was amazing, creamy, icy, sweet cinder toffee goodness in a tall plastic cup with a fat straw - bliss. I also love the caramel Frappuccino's from Starbucks both of the icy drinks are a special treat, at over £3 a pop they are expensive and the sugar content is high, very high.

Homemade sticky toffee cooler 

I wanted to recreate the coffee drink at home and it was while I was searching for a recipe that I discovered the Costa medio semi skimmed cooler has 61.6g of sugar and 480cals the Starbucks grande caramel Frapucinno with 2% milk has a whopping 63g of sugar 400 calories.

I'll forego the whipped cream but it's all that sugar I really need to ditch.  I know dates make a great toffee sauce and that's where I started my experiments.

I tried soaking dates to make syrup

I tried to make my own date syrup but even after soaking, the skin on the dates doesn't completely break down meaning that there are tiny flecks of date skin in the your sticky toffee cooler. I could have lived with that but as an alternative I've recently discovered Crazy Jack's organic date syrup which is rich, glossy and most importantly smooth and bit free.

I used frozen milk cubes to keep the drink thick and creamy and it means that there is no water diluting the flavour as your sticky toffee drink melts. You could go for semi skimmed milk but I don't think it gives the same creaminess, almond milk works great too.

Ingredients (serves 1)
Full fat milk cubes
50ml milk
1 Shot of Espresso
1 Tablespoon of date syrup

Blitz all of the ingredients in the blender until you have a thick slushie drink.

Do you have a hack for your favourite coffee shop drink?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Black Currant Coridal

Our allotment came with heaving bushes of ripe black currants. I made it a priority to strip them off the bushes but when faced with several kilos of black currants I was at a bit of a loss. There will be jam this weekend but I wanted to make something as soon as I got the first haul home. I decided on cordial, simple, fast and it meant we were enjoying the fruits of our allotment the very same day we took it over.

Black Currant Cordial

I really did not want to add sugar to the black currants, I'd hoped if I reduced the currants enough there would be enough sugar in the black currants to get a nice thick syrup and then I could boast 100% blackcurrant syrup. The reduction was thick but it was sour, super sour. The black currants weren't sour when I was eating them off the bush but when you reduce them the flavours intensify and the sour notes were very strong.

I received some Natvia sweetener at a recent food blogging conference and hadn't used it, it mellowed out this cordial nicely and the result was a rich fruity cordial with a light tang, that wasn't overly sweet. I'll have to keep working on a no added sugar/sweetener recipe.

This cordial will only keep for a couple of weeks because it doesn't have any preservatives in it. The recipe makes a small bottle so I'm sure you'll soon drink it up. I've been serving it diluted with sparkling water.

Black currants in the pan

Ingredients (makes 200ml)
500g ripe black currants
200ml of water
2 Tbsp Natvia natural sweetener

Rinse off the black currants and pick out any large bits of stem. If you plan to use the remaining pulp you may also want to discard the the dried base of the black currant that used to be it's flower.
Simmer the black currants with the water and sweetener for about 20 minutes. Until they become thick and sticky.
Strain the mixture through a muslin bag into a bowl. This takes about an two hours. You can squeeze the bag to get the juice through more quickly but black currant juice stains so be prepared for purple hands.
Transfer the juice into a sterilised bottle with an air tight seal.
When diluting use a ratio of 1 part black currant cordial to 8 parts water.

This cordial will only keep for a couple of weeks because it doesn't have any preservatives in it. The recipe makes a small bottle so I'm sure you'll soon drink it up. I've been serving it diluted with sparkling water.

What's your favourite black currant recipe?

Introducing Our Allotment

Back in April we applied for an allotment and this week we were offered one.
Cooking and gardening go hand in hand and I'm very excited to start planning what we want to grow. For now there's a lot of work to get it tidied up but it's a lovely time to take it over as there is also fruit on some of the fruit bushes that we can enjoy right away.

The great part of vlogging the process is that next year we'll be able to look back and see how far we've come. Even after just the first day at the allotment we could see some progress in clearing the weeds which was great because when I first went down there the size of the task seemed pretty daunting.

Do you have a garden or an allotment? I'd love to hear your tips.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Sweet Potato Mini Muffins I Cooking With Kids Under 2

I've been wanting to bake with my niece since she was born, I know, probably a bit over eager but the introduction of her retro alacart toy kitchen (that made me very nostalgic) and her disappointment that the used spice boxes I gave her to go with it were empty made me decide at 19 months old it was time to give it a try.

Sweet Potato Mini Muffins

Yesterday, we spent a gloriously messy morning mashing sweet potatoes and sampling cake batter. The recipe was an adaptation on my sweet potato and pumpkin muffins and I picked it because there's no sugar added to it, all the sweetness comes from the sweet potato. I switched the pumpkin seeds to sultanas because they are less of a choking hazard and added a bit of Lindwoods milled flax and seeds because it's lovely and colourful with pretty goji flecks. I added the egg at the end after we'd had our "mix mix" fun. Oh yes, there was a song to go with this recipe, more of a chant really "mash, mash, mash" followed by "mix, mix, mix".

My niece enjoyed the muffins warm from the oven and was very interested in watching them rise. Later in the day she favoured picking the sultanas out of the cake and just eating them but even if she hadn't eaten any of them it was worth it just for the process of getting stuck in and baking them together.

Ingredients (Makes 30 mini muffins)
250g cold skinless roasted sweet potato
75g sultanas
2 tablespoons Lindwoods milled flax, sunflower, sesame and goji berries
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 large egg
150ml milk
100g strong brown flour
100g plain flour
30 ml of oil

The mini muffins are freezable

Pre heat the oven to 180c.
Mash up the sweet potato. Mash, mash, mash.
Add the dry ingredients. Mix, mix, mix.
Add the wet ingredients saving the whisked egg until last. Mix, mix, mix.
Divide the ingredients between 30 paper mini muffin cases, around 2 teaspoons in each.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned on top. I found a bit of a conga while waiting went down well.

The mini muffins are freezable and make handy little snacks because they are so small they defrost really quickly.

What's your favourite kid friendly recipe?

Friday, 11 July 2014

BBQ Ribs Hambassador Delivery

For my hambassador pork delivery this month I requested ribs, a lot of ribs because it's barbecue season and you just can't beat ribs.

Sexy pork ribs on the BBQ

These were hands down the meatiest most tender ribs I have ever tasted. I didn't trim down the skirt on the ribs, just pulled off the membrane to let the marinade soak in and left them as they were. These two mammoth racks of pork ribs fed six of us (with leftovers) including Trevor, my brother in law and my Dad and believe me these guys can put away ribs!

I love this picture because you can see Trevor's shadow
 holding his bay leaf brush

I had to cut the racks of ribs in half to get them into the over night marinade and even then I had to use a drawer as I didn't have any other vessel that could accommodate the 4kg of red tractor pork rib goodness.
The marinate was very close to DJ BBQ's rad rum ribs which is in his new book and he also just happened to share it in a recent Food Tube video. After the charcoal on the barbecue had turned mostly white I added armfuls of rosemary and bay leaves (courtesy of a good pruning in my Mom's garden) to the coals to get a fragrant herb smoke going before adding the ribs.

As if BBQ didn't already smell amazing enough
we added a whole load of herbs

I doubled the recipe for our beastly racks of ribs. I also switched the maple syrup for a mix of agave nectar, date syrup and pomegranate molasses. I'd like to say this this was all planned to give it an extra fruitiness but actually I found my maple syrup had gone mouldy. I didn't even know this could happen, I thought maple syrup was like self preserving or something. Fortunately, I have a bit of syrup collection and the marinate was divine with the fruity substitutes.

There were plenty of ribs to go round

I have to give a special mention to Trevor and his BBQ belt, he lovingly basted the ribs on the barbecue for over an hour to keep them moist and he carried the ribs in their bright pink marinating drawer for the one stop on the train to my sisters house.

The BBQ in action

It was a special kind of effort to prepare the ribs and get them to the table and I have a new found respect for the professional barbecue competitors that camp out all night to baste their money muscles. It was worth the effort, we had a perfect family afternoon socialising (and drinking) in the sun around the smoking barbecue and were rewarded with a bounty of sticky smoked ribs.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Zoku Slush And Shake Maker Refreshing Summer Recipes

If you saw my video review of my new Zoku Slush and Shake maker you'll know I'm in love. In the hot summer weather nothing is more satisfying than a slushy iced drink. The best thing about the Zoku Shake and Maker is that you have 100% control over what goes your drink.

These recipes are a few of my favourites although I think an all encompassing call to just freeze any liquid you like in it would also suffice here. If it can be drunk, it can be slushied -that's my new motto.

I've been pondering over what to call these drinks. To me a slushie conjures an image of a heavily coloured neon blue Slush Puppie drink from childhood. It's not a snow cone, kakigori or shaved iced. I think granita comes closest to describing this iced drink, it does sound a bit more grown up than slushies. Whatever you decide to call these drinks, here are a few of my favourite recipes.

Caramel Coffee
1 shot espresso
150ml mill
A teaspoon caramel syrup

Lime Blast
1 Shot lime cordial
175ml sparkling water

Pineapple Paradise
200ml of pineapple juice
Yes, it's a simple one but it tastes like summer time and try adding a shot of coconut rum to it.

rose lemonade slushie
Rose Lemonade Slushie

Refreshing Rose
Remember back when I was getting all excited about rose flavoured everything? Well, I still adore the Fentimans rose lemonade. If you want a no fuss slushie drink pour the rose lemonade straight into the Zoku slush and shake maker straight from the bottle.

If you want some grown up Zoku fun any (or all) of these drinks could take a shot or two of your favourite alcoholic tipple.

Monday, 7 July 2014

All Bran 5 Day Challenge

I do believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I recently decided to start Instagraming my breakfast to keep me from skipping it, a kind of Instagram breakfast accountability. Then Kellogg's asked if I'd like to take their five day All Bran breakfast challenge.

"Try the cereal for 5 days
and see if you notice a difference
 in your general digestive well being"

After eating All Bran for breakfast for five days Kellogg's said I could feel more energised and revitalised. That sounded good to me so I decided to give it a go. I don't suffer with bloating or other digestive complaints that eating fibre everyday can help with but despite being an early bird I'm often sluggish and don't feel like eating until I've been awake for a couple of hours.

I'm not much of a cereal fan because I generally find it bland and crunchy. While there aren't any foods that I don't like, I'm not so keen on dry crunchy textures which is why I rarely choose cereal for breakfast. If I am having cereal I like it drowned in icy milk.

Day 1
Golden Crunch. 13g fibre per 100g. 21g of sugar per 100g
I like a bright vibrant breakfast and the dull colours of this cereal weren't inviting. Neither were the added salt, flavourings, emulsifiers or dextrose (sugar). I decided to add yogurt and fresh raspberries and layer it into a parfait with some chia seed gel. The Golden Crunch was certainly crunchy and I was full until lunch time.

Day 2
Chocolate Wheats. 10g fiber per 100g. 19g of sugar per 100g
Chocolate for breakfast is always dangerous for a chocoholic like me. Of the three cereals All Bran sent I was most excited about these. The bits of chocolate are quite small and they don't turn the milk chocolatey. There is 10g fibre per 100g not as much as the other cereals but still enough to be consider high fibre. I tossed a banana on top of the cereal and really enjoyed this one.

Day 3
Red Berry Crunch 13g fibre per 100g 21g of sugar per 100g.
I started work at 6am today so I needed a filling breakfast to keep me going. I weighed out the 45g serving size because I know I have a tenancy to be over generous and surprisingly it's a fair amount. As usual I don't feel like eating this early, the last couple of days of fibre haven't done anything to wake my digestive system any earlier.  I don't really enjoy the sweet clusters which I also add fresh raspberries to but I don't think I'd enjoy anything at this hour.

Day 4
Usually we have fruit pancakes on a Saturday morning so I eye my bowl of Red Berry Crunch with a little resentment.  I grumble about the unnatural shape of the clusters before tucking in. The freeze dried raspberries are great now that I'm awake enough to enjoy them and it's got me thinking I should buy a dehydrator so I can enjoy some fresh raspberry goodness into the winter.

Day 5
I go back to the chocolate wheats today as they have been my favourite All Bran cereal. I think a handful of these would also make a lovely TV watching snack.

After taking the All Bran 5 Day Challenge I'm not sure that I've seen any changes in my digestive well being and it still takes a while for my appetite to catch up with me up in the mornings.
My biggest concern with these cereals is the sugar. More than 6g of  fibre per 100g is considered high fibre which all these cereals are but more than 15g of sugar per 100g is considered high sugar and unfortunately all these cereals are also all very high in sugar too.

This post is an entry for the Real Mums of All Bran Linky challenge, sponsored by Kellogs