Meal Planning Monday- June 29th 2015.

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Morning!  Hope you are all doing well and enjoying the warm weather we’ve finally got.  I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of June already.  The weeks are flying by and it’s soon going to be the summer holidays. There will be more time to devote to my blogging and baking, well here’s hoping.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a Meal Planning Monday post.  I love doing them and as I’m such a nosy parker I love seeing what other people cook for their dinners, especially if they are busy working mums like me.  I still plan out my meals every week though things do end up changing during the week if I get busy and tired.

Last week was a frantic time in our house.  I was teaching every day, though at the last minute I ended up with Thursday off.  My hayfever which I’ve never had before in my life kicked in and I spent last week walking around like a zombie! I’m trying so hard to lose weight and go to a fantastic local Weightwatchers meeting.  Though I ended up missing my meeting last week and this week I’ve been really struggling to keep things in check. I nibble when I’m tired and I’ve eaten out twice this week. I’ve tried to be careful when I can and so far according to my scales at home I’m 12lb lighter than I was when I joined Weightwatchers 4 weeks ago. Though that might change as their scales will read differently.

Here are a couple of baking highlights from the last week or so.  I’ve been baking with French Glace Cherries who sponsored a few Clandestine Cake Club events recently. We got some lovely cherry freebies so I wanted to bake with them as soon as I could. I only ate one biscuit but I feel tempted to trough the lot!

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My Chocolate Cherry Empire Biscuits, they have a Tiptree Morello Cherry filling and are topped with chocolate ganache and a natural purple French Glace Cherry each.

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I can’t get enough of shortbread so I baked some of my special recipe and folded in a tub full of rinsed and quartered natural red French Glace Cherries.

So, what’s happening this week? Well it’s a very busy time for me and my family. There’s a lot going on in the evenings with school stuff and my hubby has meetings to go to. Anything I cook will be quick or something I can bung in the slow cooker.  Hopefully I might get chance to do a bit of baking but I won’t be allowed any or I’ll go into trough the lot mode!

Monday: Spaghetti Carbonara

Tuesday: Hopefully going to the new Nandos in Harrogate.

Wednesday: Hubby is away, daughter has to go out, I will have been working all day so I might cave in and go to the chippy!

Thursday: Beef Casserole in my slow cooker.

Friday: Chicken Curry in my slow cooker.

Saturday: Hairy Dieter’s Salmon with Chilli and ginger, love cooking this with a few new potatoes, some asparagus and some green beans.

Sunday: Not sure yet, will see what the weather is like!

Hope you all have a good week.  I’m off over to see At Home With Mrs M and link up with everyone else to have a nosy at what you’re all eating this week.

Sam xx

Baking With French Glace Cherries.

About three weeks ago I went along to Pudsey Clandestine Cake Club‘s last event which was very exciting.  It was sponsored by French Glace Cherries. Sharon the group organiser had been given lots of fantastic freebies for us all to take away and enjoy.  The event’s theme was A Kind Of Magic which to me conjured up images of the Queen song!  Though we all got our baking thinking caps on and there ended up being a little bit of cherry magic in there too!

You can find out more about the fun we had at the event here: http://clandestinecakeclub.co.uk/2015/06/18/clandestine-cake-club-kind-magic-sponsored-french-glace-cherries/

 I ended up baking a Cherry Bundt cake in the shape of a tree as I thought of  a childhood favourite storybook, The Magic Faraway Tree. Watch this space for a post about this cake coming up as soon as I have time to type it!

I was really intrigued to hear about French Glace Cherries.  They are a company I have not come across before.  The cherries themselves are grown down in the South of France (Provence, to be precise) and are completely natural in colour. Not at all like the bright red glace cherries my Nana used to buy to stick on top of her Angel Delight or trifles back in the 1970s!  I am a huge cherry fan and love glace cherries and love adding them to my baking when I can.  So I couldn’t wait to try and bake with them.  We were given a set of recipe cards but there are also loads of suggestions on the French Glace Cherries website.  I loved a lot of the ideas but I did fancy having a go at something myself.

The cherry freebies included two pots of natural coloured cherries. There was a pot of purple cherries and another one full of red ones.  I was very impressed with the quality of the cherries, round and plump and of a substantial size. I thought the purple cherries would work really well with chocolate, both with the colour and with flavour.  As I also love Empire Biscuits, I had a go at baking a chocolate and cherry version!

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A batch of chocolate shortbread cooling down on the rack in my kitchen.

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The Chocolate Empires were filled with a good quality brand of Morello cherry jam. I love Tiptree jam and their cherry jam has always been a favourite.

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The chocolate shortbreads were sandwiched together with the jam and then topped with a cream and dark chocolate ganache.

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I didn’t have enough purple cherries to top all the biscuits so had to add two more cherries to finish decorating off the batch from my own stash!

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Although I’m doing Weightwatchers I did allow myself one of these little beauties as a treat with a cup of tea!

I was thinking what I could do with my red cherries and came up with a few different ideas.  In the end I settled for some chunky all butter shortbread.  I haven’t baked any shortbread for a long time and I love it, it was always hugely popular when I ran my Sam’s Smart Cookies and Cupcakes stalls.  Trouble is shortbread doesn’t love my figure though!  The temptation was too much to bear though and I made up a batch of shortbread and added the cherries to it.  I washed the cherries thoroughly and patted them dry as well as chopping them up into quarters.  They then got pressed into the mixture hoping that they would stay intact.

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I used my regular shortbread recipe which is simply butter, caster sugar, plain flour and cornflour and then added the natural red cherries into the mixture.

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The shortbread was cut into 12 large pieces and thankfully the cherry pieces stayed intact. All it needed was a dusting of caster sugar!

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Mouthwateringly moreish shortbread. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to touch any- I’m doing Weightwatchers!

The cherry shortbread has been a huge hit with my family over the past few days.  I put the pieces into a box but when I got back in from work yesterday the box was completely empty.  My son and daughter have been eating it after school and my husband who doesn’t have a sweet tooth has been nibbling at it too!

A huge thankyou to French Glace Cherries for sponsoring various Clandestine Cake Club events over the past month.  We were all really happy with our goodies and I look forward to trying out my new kitchen timer and wearing my new apron when I’m next in the kitchen baking!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chicago Town Takeaway Stuffed Crust Pizzas.

Well hello there, long time no see! I’ve just looked through my blog and realised the last time I posted was during the Easter holidays.  All has been very busy in SmartCookieSam land.  I’ve been doing a lot of supply teaching and generally trying to juggle everything life has to offer.  I couldn’t do any blog updates over half term as I was away on holiday in a remote part of Wales where our cottage had no phone signal or WiFi.  I love to get away from things every now and again but you do need the internet for a lot of things these days.  Anyway, enough of my waffle.  Better get on with the job in hand.

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I was really looking forward to trying out two of the brand new Takeaway Pizzas from Chicago Town.

A few weeks ago I was given a couple of vouchers to try out two of Chicago Town‘s pizzas from their brand new Takeaway range. To be honest I’m a bit of a snob about pizza.  I only like thin crust ones and rarely buy them for me and my husband to eat at home.  If I do buy pizza, it’s usually as a treat for my kids.  They love deep pan and stuffed crust ones, these types just make me feel bloated up after I eat them.  I make my own pizzas sometimes during the school holidays if I have time but they always look very rustic! I’ll eat pizza if it’s really thin crust from a genuine Italian restaurant or from Pizza Express but I avoid other types.

It was great to try a well loved brand of pizza though.  I remember the mini deep  dish pizzas that Chicago Town do. I used to buy them as a student and when I was a single girl working full time who couldn’t be bothered to cook properly after a long day’s teaching.  Now I find deep dish pizzas too full of carbs for me. Since I’ve married and had kids though most of my cooking is done from scratch.

Chicago Town have brought out a new range called The Takeaway and it features several flavours on two different bases as well as side orders of doughballs.  Just like you would get in your local pizza takeaway.  The two bases included a stuffed crust one and the thin Classic one.  I also noticed there was a limited edition Pulled Pork topping on the stuffed crust base which I knew would be very popular with my 15 year old son!

This is what Chicago Town says on their website about The Takeaway pizzas: “Our takeaway pizzas are made with our unique rising dough that’s not pre-cooked to give you that real takeaway taste”.

I took the vouchers along with me when I was doing a weekly shop at Sainsburys.  It was quite a small Sainsburys so it only offered two varieties of the stuffed crust pizza.  One was the Pepperoni Plus and the other was the Four Cheese Melt.  The pizzas looked very big and would be ideal for a family to share or if you feel peckish to eat the whole one!  I didn’t measure how big the pizzas were but they looked enormous to me.

The pizza  turned out to be a godsend for me.  A couple of days later my husband had to go out to a meeting and we ended up eating separately.  I had to take my daughter to her dance class so a quick tea was needed.  Out came both pizzas, quickly popped into the oven and dinner was ready 1/4 hour later.  We shared the two pizzas between the three of us which gave us four enormous slices.

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The Pepperoni Plus Stuffed Crust pizza was enormous and had a generous helping of perpperoni and cheese on it.

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Here is the Four Cheese Melt Stuffed Crust pizza about to be put in the oven.

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The cooked Four Cheese Melt pizza was cut up into six large slices, two each for myself and my two children!

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My kids absolutely loved the Pepperoni Pizza, another two slices each for us

I tried both the Pepperoni Plus and the Four Cheese Melt varieties and I really enjoyed them. The pizza. despite being a stuffed crust one didn’t feel at all doughy to me.  The stuffed crust contained a delicious tomato sauce and the toppings showed a generous layer of cheese and pepperoni under a mouthwatering tomato sauce.

The verdict? Great tasting pizzas and ideal for those times if you are busy and want something to pop in the oven.  Tasted a lot better than the pizza I once had from a local national pizza takeaway.  Much less “doughy”, cheaper at about roughly £4 for a pizza if you bought one from a takeaway and also took a lot less time.  Would I buy them again? Well as I’ve said before I don’t really buy pizzas and haven’t made one of my own for ages.  It tends to be a treat for me if I go out for an Italian meal.  I would try them again if I knew I was in for a busy week and was pushed for time to cook.

I was sent the vouchers for free so that I could try out the pizzas and review them.  I have not been paid to write the post.

Love Sam xx

Meal Planning Monday- June 1st 2015.

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I can’t believe how long it is since I’ve joined in with MealPlanningMonday.  For those who don’t know about MealPlanningMonday, it is a great way to plan out your meals for the week and share your ideas on AtHomeWithMrsM’s blog.  We then get to look at one another’s plans and get ideas about what to cook if you’re stuck for inspiration.  As I live with a carnivore eating husband who thinks a meal isn’t a meal without meat in it, a daughter who thankfully eats the same as I do and a very fussy son who chops and changes what he likes and doesn’t like… well MealPlanningMonday is a real blessing for me.

In SmartCookieSam’s kitchen it’s been a bit strange recently.  I haven’t baked much over the past month and we have just come back from holiday for half term week in Wales. So I had to get over to the supermarket yesterday to stock up on supplies.  It’s all about healthy eating in our house this week, we all seriously overindulged on holiday.  Wine, sweets, ice cream, cake, big meals with chips, you name it- I ate it.  I could have cried when I stood on the scales yesterday. I’m itching to bake though and want to try out a couple of recipes.  Maybe I’ll take the bakes into work so I’m not tempted to scoff them myself!

Here are some of my foodie highlights from last week:

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A healthy boiled egg breakfast- the morning after I got back off holiday. Note there isn’t any butter on the soldiers!

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Had far too much wine on holiday. This rose went down far too well when my mum came across to join us for the last 3 days of our stay!

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A gorgeous Welsh cream tea served with honey at NewQuay Honey Farm in Ceredigion.

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My honey ice cream fix. Every time I go to Aberaeron I have to eat one of The Hive’s delicious ice creams. This is a coffee and honey flavour one and it is DIVINE!

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Welsh Cakes and buttered bara brith which we had when my sister in law came to join us at the beginning of our holiday/

This is what this week’s meals are going to look like, all quick and easy throw together dinners or ones I can chuck in the slow cooker when I’m at work.

Monday: Chicken Chow Mein Stir Fry

Tuesday: Spaghetti Carbonara

Wednesday: Chilli con Carne

Thursday: Beef Stew in slow cooker.

Friday: Piri Piri Pork with new potatoes.

Saturday:  Chicken with roasted Mediterranean veg  tray bake

Sunday: Not sure what we’re having, hubby is away Sunday night!

Have a good week.  I’m off now to link up  and look at what everyone else is having this week.

Love Sam xx

Bundts, Bundts and More Bundts.

I’m getting just that teensy weensy bit obsessed with collecting Nordicware Bundt pans now. I think it needs to stop or else I will need a kitchen extension!  I just love the interesting shapes that the pans come in and how you can make a cake into a showstopper bake by using one of the pans.  I still see pans I want and the wish list is getting longer and longer by the day!

This post is to share some of the more recent bakes I have made so far this year using my bundt pans.  For recipe inspiration I can recommend the fabulous website by Rachel McGrath the Bundt Queen herself.  She has lots of ideas and fantastic flavour combinations to try out.  I would recommend looking at her Bundt recipe page and also adapting and creating your own ideas from her Build a Bundt recipe.

Rachel’s feature on her blog called Bundts on The Brain is a great insight into the history of the Bundt:

http://www.dollybakes.co.uk/p/bundts-on-brain.html

Here are my new bundt pans I have been getting excited about!

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The Heritage Bundt pan. I’ve been after this for ages, such a pretty design.

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My two loaf bundt pans: a lemon loaf one and a gingerbread man one.

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A pretty rose bundt pan. I haven’t had much success with this, tried to bake a white chocolate and raspberry bundt in it a few weeks back and it just wouldn’t come out of the tin. When I finally got it out, the top part fell out leaving half of it welded to the bottom! Try and try again I suppose!

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For Valentine’s Day I baked a chocolate and chocolate themed bundt heart cake. It featured Sugar and Crumbs‘s chocolate and coconut icing sugar which worked really well in both the mixture and the chocolate glaze. To top the cake I added miniature sugarpaste hearts.

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Connected with a previous blog post written in conjunction with Sugar and Crumbs, I baked this Jaffa Orange Bundt cake. This recipe was adapted from one in the latest Hummingbird Bakery recipe book and looked fab baked in my Heritage bundt pan.

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Bundt cakes are those baked in pans manufactured by Nordicware and not necessarily a cake with a hole in the middle. This sticky lemon loaf cake baked from one of my Nana’s old recipe books went along to a Clandestine Cake Club event in February.

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I spotted the Nordicware Pineapple Upside down cake pan on Ebay in March and just had to have it. Luckily it was a Buy It Now option but I did have to send for it from the USA. It was worth it to bake one of my family’s favourite desserts in such a pretty way.  The recipe itself I used from an American website but I am not sure if I got the quantities right having to use baking cups!

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Back in January I wanted to experiment with some Monin coffee syrups I was given just before Christmas. So I used one of Dollybakes’ recipes to bake this Cinnamon and Apple Bundt Cake with apple flavour glace icing.

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For my hubby’s birthday in January I baked my usual carrot cake recipe in a traditional bundt pan and decorated it with cream cheese frosting, chopped nuts and some ready made carrot decorations.

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My heart shaped bundt pan gets used at all times of the year, not just for Valentine’s Day! I baked Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Toffee Pudding from his latest book Comfort Food in my pan instead of in a traybake tin.

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My piece of sticky toffee pudding with some sauce drizzled over. Perfect for a cold February dessert.

Keep watching this space, there will be more bundts to come in the future!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Baking With Reeses Peanut Butter Chips.

Here’s yet another blog post I’ve forgotten to write about over the past few weeks.  I had only been in my new job a couple of weeks and baking was the last thing on my mind.  Though I do like to bake a cake or a pudding on a Sunday to go with our lunch.  I don’t know how they’d managed to stay in my baking cupboard as my two teenage kids are always nicking things out of it!  I had found a large pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips back in January and sneakily hid them behind a bag of flour hoping my kids wouldn’t look behind it!  I intended to do lots of baking with these little beauties!

My family adore brownies and they always go down well for pudding on a Sunday.  I put half the packet of peanut butter chips into my regular brownie batter. What’s more is that the chips did not melt but you got an instant hit of peanuts which contrasted beautifully with the dark chocolate in the brownies.  I insisted on putting the remaining brownies in the freezer or else we would have scoffed the whole lot there and then!

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Chewy and gooey Peanut Butter brownies baked with Reeses Peanut Butter chips into the batter.

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Chocolate and peanut butter heaven…. don’t mind if I do!

If that wasn’t enough peanut butter to be going on with, I had half the packet to finish off.  So a few days later I thought about what I could bake with the remaining pieces. I adore peanut butter cookies and could eat them all day long.  So I planned to bake some cookies to stick in the freezer.  But they didn’t quite get there.. well some of them did!  I adapted a recipe I had for peanut butter and chocolate cookies but was angry to find that the bar of dark chocolate I had in my baking cupboard had now turned from a 100g one to a 50g one! So I had to add something else to the chocolate, I ended up tipping in 50g of raisins instead.

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Gorgeously moreish peanut butter and raisin cookies.

I was very impressed with the cookies.  They tasted chewy and there was a good balance of the peanut flavour against the sweet chocolate and raisins.  I ate a couple with a cup of tea and although they tasted fab I regretted it thinking of all the calories in them.  So I saved some for my family and the rest got stuck in a box and put in the freezer before I demolished those as well!

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Only half the cookies made it to the freezer!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Sticky Lemon Loaf Bundt Cake

Here is all about a cake I baked several weeks ago back at the end of February but forgot to blog all about it.  I was due to go along to the Pudsey and West Leeds Clandestine Cake Club event which was in Horsforth.  The theme for that month’s event was “Now That’s What I Call the 1980s”.

Being a 1980’s teenager I was inspired to bake and create a showstopper cake.  I thought back to all the pop groups I loved, the food we ate and what was in fashion at the time.  But all this was going to take up a lot of my time which i didn’t have much of during that week.  So something simple had to be found quickly!  Though a chocolate Rubik’s Cube cake would have been a fab idea if I’d had the time!

I phoned my mum and she thought of Pineapple Upside Down Cake which she remembered baking. Most of the things my mum and my Nana Mary (my Mum’s mum) baked were traditional things and not necessarily linked to the 1980s.  Nana’s fruitcake was legendary as she used to leave it in the oven for too long so it dried out.  Bless her.  I don’t think she ever realised that we served her fruitcakes with custard to add some moisture!

Nana and I had lots of things in common in that we both loved cooking and baking as well as sewing and knitting.  When I was 9, back in 1981 I remember Nana looking out a few recipe books for me to help me get into baking.  One was a Tate and Lyle Golden Syrup book which I still have to this day.  Along with some of her other recipe books which I inherited after she died, I treasure them.

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The Golden Syrup Cookery Book which my Nana gave to me when I was 9.

So, after lots of recipe browsing I had to bake something from of one of my Nana’s 1980’s cookbooks and the Golden Syrup one was perfect.  Not too many faffy, over fussy and complicated recipes and one I could adapt to bake with one of my Nordicware Bundt pans.  I settled for a gorgeous Sticky Lemon Loaf recipe as I remember my Nana baking lemon cake and also making delicious lemon marmalade.  Whether this was the recipe she used, I don’t know but I wanted to try it.

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A few weeks back I treated myself to two new Nordicware Bundt Loaf pans- a lemon loaf one and a gingerbread man one.

To bake the lemon loaf cake I was thankful that my scales can convert to imperial measurements as my Nana’s book showed all the quantities in pounds and ounces.  This didn’t worry me as I don’t mind what measurements I use.  I greased my new Nordicware lemon loaf bundt pan and dusted it with a sprinkling of flour.

In a bowl I sieved in 40z of self raising flour then into a medium saucepan I melted together 20z margarine, 2 oz caster sugar and 4oz of golden syrup.  Once this had melted and then come off the heat to cool down a little I mixed together 1 large egg and 2 tbsp milk in a small jug. This was then combined and mixed together with the syrup mixture.  To give the cake its lemon flavour I grated in the zest of a large lemon.  Finally in went the flour and the mixture was beaten until smooth. The mixture was poured into the loaf pan and then baked in my oven for about 160oC.  The recipe gave the oven temperature in Farenheit, my 0ven indicator only shows Celsius so I guessed!

The loaf cake stayed in the oven for about 25 minutes to half an hour.  It was a Monday morning when I baked the cake and I needed it that night for the club.  I was teaching that afternoon at a school over half an hour’s driving distance away and was panicking I would not have time to get myself sorted out and put on some sort of glaze on top of the cake to make it look spectacular. When it came out of the oven it looked a lot darker than I was expecting and I hoped it would look better with some sugar syrup on it to show off the lemon decorations of the loaf pan.

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The cake came out of the oven looking a lot darker than expected!

Almost straightaway I made up a sugar syrup using freshly squeezed lemon juice and caster sugar.  This was then poured onto the cooling cake and brushed over the top of the lemon pattern carefully so that it would be even.  It melted into the cake and was left to cool while I was out at work in the afternoon.

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I loved the lemon details on the loaf pan and was so glad that the cake came out intact!

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To “lift” the cake a bit and make it more like a lemon drizzle cake I added a lemon sugar syrup to it. It made the cake very sticky and moist.

Against all the other cakes at Cake Club this month mine looked very plain and boring but I was glad it tasted ok. There were lots of delicious cakes to try this time: from a delicious Pac Man cake to a gorgeous Blueberry Ripple Bundt cake as well as a very scrummy Marathon (not Snickers!) cheesecake!

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Just some of the delicious cakes at Pudsey and West Leeds Clandestine Cake Club event “Now That’s What I Call The 1980s”.

My friend Sharon used her gingerbread man bundt pan to bake Wham! in cake complete with Choose Life t-shirts!  I was a Wham! fan back in the day so it was great to think we were eating George Michael’s arm or Andrew Ridgeley’s leg!

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George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in cake form!

To read about the Clandestine Cake Club event you can find out more about it here:

https://humbugshouse.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/clandestine-cake-club-february-2015-now-thats-what-i-call-the-80s/

To find out more about the fun we have at Clandestine Cake Clubs in the UK and all over the world:

http://clandestinecakeclub.co.uk/

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Malteser Cake

Anyone who knows me knows I have a terrible addiction to Maltesers.  I don’t know why I do, I just love them.  These big “sharing” bags are a big joke to me as they have resealable tops.  How can this be possible?  I’ve never resealed anything that has chocolate inside it!

I can't get enough of Maltesers. Does anyone else have the same problem?

I can’t get enough of Maltesers. Does anyone else have the same problem?

Last month my baking cupboard had many packs of Maltesers in it because they were supporting Comic Relief this year with their Bake Yourself Silly campaign. for Red Nose Day 2015. I always love to get involved with Comic Relief and baking is one of my ways of doing my bit.  The Maltesers website has some brilliant baking recipes to use for fundraising and I was keen to have a go.

I’m now working as a primary supply teacher in various schools in my area.  One of the schools I work in regularly was going to have a Comic Relief bake sale on the day after I was working there.  I brought in two dozen cupcakes and a batch of Malteser Rocky Road for the stall.  The school were over the moon with them and on the following Monday when I was next teaching there, they said all the cupcakes and Rocky Road sold out.  What a relief.

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I baked two dozen vanilla cupcakes for the bake sale. The cupcake cases and toppers came in a special pack from Sainsburys.

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I used Lorraine Pascale’s fridge cake recipe which is in one of her books. Unfortunately it was meant to have marshmallows in it. I found my kids had nicked my mini marshmallow packet to use in their hot chocolate!

I also tried baking some cheeky Red Nose Day Empire biscuits, which were shortbread rounds sandwiched together with jam. They were finished off with white glace icing, a big glace cherry red nose and funny faces piped on with melted Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.

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My cheeky Red Nose Day Empire Biscuits.

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Mary Berry’s fantastic new book.

After all this baking I was still left with a whole packet of Maltesers.  Knowing me, this packet sitting there in the cupboard would be taunting me every time I went to get something else out.  What could I do with it?  I had recently bought a copy of Mary Berry’s latest book “Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites” and had already decided what I wanted to cook from it.  Although I love baking I was glad to see there would be lots of other delicious savoury recipes to try.  But one recipe I just had to try was the Malted Chocolate Cake.

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Mary Berry’s Malted Chocolate Cake was a perfect treat to serve on Mother’s Day.

I chose to bake the chocolate cake on Mother’s Day. Although I wouldn’t be seeing my Mum until the following weekend I was spending time with my own husband and two teenagers.  Normally they would bake a cake for me but both of them were busy with schoolwork so I baked it myself! After all you are meant to spend time doing things on Mother’s Day that you enjoy the most and baking to me is just that!

The Malted Chocolate Cake was very simple to bake in two 8″ sandwich tins and involves using cocoa powder and chocolate flavoured Ovaltine to get the malty taste.  The chocolate buttercream was the same.  I was also impressed that it wasn’t too sweet which both my daughter and hubby commented on when they ate some.

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The finished Malted Chocolate cake.

After the cake had cooled enough I made up the chocolate icing.  It did not need real bars of chocolate melted in the mixture but the chocolate flavour once again came from cocoa powder.  I always try to use a good brand of cocoa powder in my bakes, such as Green and Blacks.

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Oh, go on then, don’t mind if I do! The diet starts AGAIN tomorrow!

Now, you’re probably wondering what happened to the remaining Maltesers which were left over after adorning the top of the cake.  Well, I was a kind mum to my kids and shared them out equally between the two of them.  I don’t think they were expecting that to happen with my track record.  The cake itself got eaten over the next few days, it kept well in an airtight tin.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Meal Planning Monday- March 9th 2015.

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Well here’s Monday again.  It only seems like 5 minutes ago since last Monday. I keep saying I’m going to write my MealPlanningMonday post each week but I’ve not got round to it for the last two weeks.  There’s always something else to do.

Last week was a bit manic in our house.  I had a very busy week teaching and was busy at different schools every day. Even though some days I was only working a morning or an afternoon, I wasn’t very organised with lunches and ended up buying ready made sandwiches or nipping into Costa for a panini.  Not only did it cost me a bit of money I wasn’t that impressed with eating plastic sandwiches from the local garage.  This week I’m determined to have soup or a homemade pasta salad to take to work with  me.  Let’s see if I’ll be saying the same thing by Friday as it’s another crazy week over here!

I’m getting a lot of use out of my slow cooker at the moment.  Before I changed jobs at Christmas I would use it on days where I knew I’d be teaching and would be late in.  Now I’m teaching all the time instead of being a teaching assistant as well so the slow cooker has really come into its own.  It’s also been great for cooking soup in.

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On Sunday we had some Onion Soup cooked in the slow cooker using a ready prepared pack of onions and herbs from Booths.

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Sunday lunch dessert: baked a raspberry and blueberry cream tart. Hugely calorific, the leftovers are in the fridge now staring at me and begging me to have another slice!

The slow cooker is going to be useful again this week.  Here’s what’s cooking:

Monday: Sausage and Bean Casserole in the slow cooker (jacket potatoes to go with it)

Tuesday: Meatballs in the slow cooker (will cook some pasta when I get in from work).

Wednesday: Chicken Tagine in the slow cooker (with couscous)

Thursday: Steak Pie (will cook the filling in the slow cooker and then add the shortcrust top when I get in).

Friday: Not sure yet.

Saturday: Home-made burgers, chips and salad.

Sunday: Mediterranean Chicken Traybake.  I know it’s Mother’s Day but I’ll be seeing my own mum the following weekend.  Not sure what we’re doing ourselves.

Have a great week everyone.  I’m now off over to Mrs M’s blog to link up with everyone else and to have a nosey at what everyone else is having.

Love Sam xx

Celebrating Mother’s Day with Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Flavoured Cocoa Powders and Icing Sugars.

I’m always up for trying out new baking products, especially those which add an extra dimension or an extra special something to my bakes.

 Just recently I have discovered Sugar and Crumbs who make a range of natural cocoa powders and icing sugars to enhance your bakes and to turn them into something really special.  Not only this but they also sell a great range of crumbs and sprinkles to finish off the top of your cakes with a pretty touch.  Sugar and Crumbs sell their products online through their own website but they also have a really useful local stockist search facility on their website.  If you type in your postcode it comes up with who stocks the Sugar and Crumbs products nearby.  As I live in North Yorkshire I was pleased to see that Sugarcraft Supplies in Garforth sells them!  I know where I’ll be heading on my next day off from work!

I belong to to the Clandestine Cake Club and a few of my cakey friends had bought Sugar and Crumbs products to try out in their cakes from a stand at The Cake and Bake Show last year. They were absolutely delighted with them and I was intrigued to try the products out for myself.

From coconut to lime and from Black Forest to Cherry Bakewell there is a flavour to suit everyone’s taste buds.  I even noticed there is a chilli flavoured cocoa powder on the website which I would love to try out in the future! Though what I do wish to see is a mint flavour cocoa powder and icing sugar as that is my overall favourite and I would buy it by the shedload!

So when Sugar and Crumbs set me a challenge to bake with a goodie bag of their cocoa powder and icing sugars I jumped at the chance.  Mother’s Day is coming up and what better occasion than to bake a cake or something delicious for your mum?  I’m a mum of two teenagers myself but I love baking cakes for my own mum. She came to visit me when it was half term so I thought it was a great excuse to get out the cake tins and come up with some treats to share for Mother’s Day.

Sugar and Crumbs offered me a choice of cocoa powders and icing sugars from their wide variety of flavours and extensive range.  I chose to go with the Chocolate Orange Natural Flavoured Cocoa Powder which was accompanied by two different icing sugars.  One was the Jaffa Twist Natural Flavoured Cocoa Icing Sugar and the other was the Orange Zest Natural Flavoured Icing Sugar which all came in the most gorgeous pink or white resealable pouches. So pretty, just made me want to open it straightaway and get baking!   I was very impressed with the packaging and I felt you got a lot in a packet,  especially with the cocoa powder as it would last for a couple or several bakes depending on what you were making.

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My pretty goodie bag which came from Sugar and Crumbs. All beautifully packaged in a pink parcel!

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The Sugar and Crumbs products I was sent to try out. From left to right: a packet of orange natural icing sugar, a bag of chocolate orange cocoa powder and last but not least, a bag of chocolate orange flavoured icing sugars. Designed to compliment one another. All packages are easily identifiable in their pink or white colour schemes with colour coded flavour stickers so you know instantly what flavour you have.

Those of you that read my SmartCookieSam blog regularly will know that I’m addicted to baking bundts and have started collecting Nordicware bundt pans.  So my Mother’s Day bake just HAD to include a bundt cake somewhere. I adapted the recipe from the latest Hummingbird Bakery recipe book which is just out called Life Is Sweet.  On page there is a recipe for the Tunnel of Fudge Bundt Cake which I turned into a Jaffa Orange Cake instead.  Not only this but I wanted to see what else I could create with my big bag of cocoa powder and hit upon the idea of baking some chocolate orange cookies at the same time.

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Instead of the plain cocoa powder needed in the recipe I subsituted the same amount of Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Flavoured Jaffa Orange Cocoa powder. I also chopped up a large bar of orange infused plain chocolate bought in Marks and Spencer the day before to give the cake it’s huge chocolate orange hit.

The smell coming from my oven was just so enticing.  I chose to bake the cake in my Heritage Bundt pan which always produces excellent results so I thought I would try and see how the Sugar and Crumbs products worked when baked in a bundt!

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The cake batter also needed some icing sugar added to it to give it a delicious fudgy texture. Instead of plain icing sugar, the Sugar and Crumbs orange zest icing sugar went into the mix to give it an even better zesty flavour.

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The finished Jaffa Orange Bundt ready and waiting to be iced.

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The view from the top!

Meanwhile I attempted to bake some cookies using some more of the Jaffa Orange Cocoa Powder.  I adapted a recipe from a trusty cookie book I have had for a few years now, called The Genuine American Cookie and Muffin Book.  In this book there is a recipe for double chocolate cookies.  This gave me a great idea to adapt the recipe using the cocoa powder and also to sprinkle some Orange Zest natural icing sugar on top of the cookies for an extra orangey hit.  The batch baked two dozen mouthwatering cookies to complement the Jaffa Orange Bundt Cake.

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Not a very good photo of the Chocolate Orange cookies but I assure you they tasted divine!

Meanwhile I had to finish off the bundt.  This was done by creating a chocolate glace to adorn the top of the cake.  I used the chocolate orange icing sugar accompanied with some sugar and mixed it all together with a little bit of butter to form a paste.  This was then drizzled carefully in the grooves on the cake.  Before it had chance to set I sprinkled on cut up pieces of mini Jaffa Cakes and then some whole ones on top.  I used Marks and Spencers’ own ones which are retangular, not round.

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Sugar and Crumbs’ chocolate orange flavoured icing sugar ready to be turned into the glaze for the bundt cake.

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The chocolate orange glaze.

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Sneaky early Mother’s Day treats all round- some delicious Chocolate Orange cookies.

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The finished Jaffa Orange Bundt as seen from the top.

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The bundt as seen from the side. As with the cookies I put some of the natural orange flavoured icing sugar into my dredger and sprinkled some on top of the cake.

The extra flavour that the Sugar and Crumbs cocoa powder and icing sugars added to my bakes was phenomenal.  My whole family, including my mum said you could definitely taste the orange in the cake and the cookies.  We had a small slice of cake and a cookie each. They tasted absolutely delicious.  If there is cake around in my house it always disappears like lightning so I chose to take the rest into one of the schools I teach at to share out with the staff.  I hope they liked their treats!

After my Mother’s Day baking session I was pleased I still had most of one of the icing sugars left to use up and also a small amount of Jaffa Orange cocoa powder.  I ran out of time to bake more last Sunday but have earmarked  a couple of the recipes featured on the Sugar and Crumbs website.  There are numerous useful recipes including a mouthwatering sounding brownie recipe.  I am definitely going to try that one out.  There are also other recipes for fudge and for meringues amongst lots of others though I know that my mum would love a box of homemade fudge!

Here is a link to the Recipe section of the website:

http://www.sugarandcrumbs.co.uk/recipes/

So can I recommend the Sugar and Crumbs products to other bakers?  Yes I can and I can’t wait to try out the other varieties as and when my busy day job allows!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx