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

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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 … Continue reading

Cheese? Yes Please! Cooking with Pilgrim’s Choice Cheddar.

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A couple of weeks back I was contacted by Pilgrim’s Choice to see if I would be interested in trying out some of their cheeses and to use them in my baking and cooking.  I was only too happy to … Continue reading

Fragata Olives and Roasted Red Peppers.

I was recently asked by Fragata if I was interested in trying out some samples of their gorgeous olives to bake and cook with.  Fragata is a company specialising in Spanish olives from the Andalusian region and they have been going for nearly 90 years!

A quote from the Fragata  website says: “Fragata Spanish Olives can be used in hundreds of different ways to create authentic Mediterranean dishes and mouthwatering tapas. What better way to create a unique culinary corner of Spain in your own home – go on, savour the flavour of Spain!”  

 Both my hubby and I adore olives and could happily sit and trough our way through several pots of them.  They evoke happy times both on holidays in the sun and of relaxed family weekend meals preferably washed down with glasses of Prosecco or wine alongside. So to be given the challenge to bake and cook with one of my favourite foods was just fantastic. As we love all things Mediterranean and our holidays in Spain what could be better than eating food which reminds us of happy memories and special times?

Last week a box arrived at my house which contained a delicious goodie bag not only full of Fragata olives but also contained a jar of roasted red peppers.  Another food I just adore, not only in salads or anti pasti or tapas meals but cooked through in other Mediterranean inspired dishes.

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My mouthwatering goodie bag from Fragata. It contained a Snack Pack of green olives from Andalucia, a large jar of stuffed green olives mixed with pimento, a large can of green olives stuffed with anchovies and a jar of delicious roasted red peppers. I couldn’t wait to get started on creating recipes with them.

My first recipe attempt started last Monday which was during half term week.  My hubby was going to be late back from work and my daughter had been working as well. So we needed something quick and easy which I could throw together within half an hour.  I hadn’t had much chance to go out food shopping and wanted to use up what was left in the cupboard.  I had some penne left and loads of onions, tinned tomatoes and garlic as well as my favourite Spaghetti Spice made from Nigelissima. The result was quick and tasty and even my fussy son liked it.  He doesn’t normally like red peppers but he enjoyed these! Result!

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Roasted Red Pimento Piquillo Peppers. I have bought these before and used them in salads but wanted to try them out in other recipes.

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I carefully washed and drained the red peppers. They were then sliced thinly. I chose to cook them in a tomato pasta sauce.

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I fried red onion and garlic, then added the chopped and sliced red pepper to the frying pan.

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The peppers, onions and garlic was added to a tin of chopped tomatoes and a couple of teaspoons of my Nigella Lawson homemade Spaghetti Spice (see her Nigellisima book) and left to simmer gently while I cooked some penne pasta.

Last Wednesday I was knee deep in painting what with it being half term week.  My son and I had been decorating his bedroom and we needed something that was quick and easy to throw together.  Thinking of all the recipes and meals I could create with olives earlier in the week I had stocked up on some anti pasti meats, cheese and breadsticks.  I’d bought some houmous which obviously isn’t Italian but my daughter loves it.  Though when I got to get the tub out of the fridge I noticed it had already been opened!

I was a bit unsure what to do with the can of olives stuffed with anchovies.  I don’t like anchovies at all, though I wish I could eat them.  I’ve fished (sorry about the dreadful pun!!) them out of many a Salade Nicoise or pulled them off a Pisaladiere because I can’t stand them, yet I had no idea they were in tapanade!  I love tapanade too, smothered on fresh French bread. I found a recipe for tapanade and decided to have a go at my own even though I thought tapanade usually was made with black olives.  If they tasted fishy I would just leave it but I know my hubby loves anchovies.

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I don’t like anchovies much but I was keen to turn these anchovy stuffed olives into a tapanade to eat with some breadsticks bought in a local deli.

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The drained anchovy stuffed olives were put into a bowl with some olive oil, lemon juice, some more of my prized Nigella Lawson Spaghetti Spice and some ground pepper.

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Out came my stick blender to puree the olives so that it made a green tapanade paste.

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The tapanade in a bowl ready to be served at dinner with some breadsticks alongside.

I was so surprised when I tried the tapanade! It didn’t taste fishy or of anchovies at all.  I could taste the olives and the garlic and once I’d tried one mouthful then I had to have another..and another.. and another…. The crunchy breadsticks tasted absolutely divine with the tapanade.  Both my children aren’t keen on olives but my hubby and I sat there dipping away until the bowl was nearly empty!

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I just love Fragata’s pouches of olives which are perfect to carry about for a snack or are useful to serve with predinner drinks.

When I see olive pouches, such as the one which came in the Fragata goodie bag I’m immediately back in Spain.  It’s a hot, sunny evening and I’m sat by the pool sipping on a pre-dinner or BBQ drink while hubby is cooking.  I’m trying my hardest to save some olives for dinner but it’s very hard. I can’t stop at one!

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Anti pasti: the homemade tapanade, slices of buffalo mozzarella, breadsticks, salad, hoummous, salami, proscuitto and parma ham. All perfect for a quick, thrown together dinner after a busy day trying to decorate my son’s bedroom during half term week!

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Last but not least I was keen to try out these scrumptious pimento stuffed green olives. I could eat these until the cows come home but before I could lay into them I really needed to think of a recipe I could add them to!

On Sunday I wanted to bake something using olives in it.  I thought of an olive and cheese loaf but I’m hopeless at baking bread especially where yeast is involved.  I didn’t have a lot of spare time and wanted something which wouldn’t take ages to prove.  So I thought back to a soda bread recipe in The Great British Bake Off Everyday book which used bacon. So instead of crunchy pieces of bacon in the dough I used pimento stuffed green olives.  My mum was here for the day and it was a perfect lunch along with some homemade tomato and basil soup cooked in my slow cooker.  The children loved the bread even though they fished the olives out and handed them to me!

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The olive soda bread was delicious and went down well with a comforting bowl of homemade tomato and basil soup on a cold, wet February Sunday lunch.

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My slice of olive soda bread. I kept wanting to pick the salty olives off the other bits of leftover bread. I’m looking forward to eating some more another day if there’s anything left!

Gordon Rhodes’ Spice Rubs, Crumbs, Stuffings and Sauces.

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Last year I discovered the company Gordon Rhodes and their delicious range of spice rubs, crumbs, cooking sauces and stuffings when at the BBC Good Food Show in Harrogate.  I remember buying three of their cooking sauces: a chilli con … Continue reading

“Cooking On A Shoe String” Food Parcel Challenge in partnership with Zest Health For Life, Hammersons and Leeds East Food Bank.

Just before Christmas I was contacted by  Hammerson, the developers behind the new Victoria Gate retail development currently being built in the centre of Leeds. They are working in partnership with Zest Health For Life and the Leeds East Food Bank on a project which will make a huge difference to thousands of struggling families in Leeds. Zest Health For Life is a non- profit making organisation which helps disadvantaged people in the Leeds area by giving them chance to take part in activities to improve people’s social, mental, physical and emotional well being.

Over the past three or so years there has been an increasing need for food banks as families struggle to get by due to many circumstances.  As a result there are more and more food banks which are providing a lifeline for disadvantaged families.  There was also a need for providng people with help in giving ideas for nutritious, yet cheap mealthat would also be tempting to eat.  So Victoria Gate has linked up and created a fantastic cookbook which is given out at the food bank.

To find out more about Hammerson’s partnership with Zest Health For Life and the cookbook, read about it here:

The book “Simple Cooking On A Shoe String” is an ideal starter book to give beginners a start in cooking healthy meals that won’t cook the earth.  In the ingredients list against every recipe the foods that are usually put in the food parcels are highlighted in bold type. These are usually tinned or packet foods.

I was asked if I would like to take part in a Charitable Food Blogger Challenge by either using inspiration from my own recipes or recipes from the recipe book.  I agreed and was sent a food parcel full of ingredients to take up the challenge.

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These were the contents of my food parcel for my challenge: porridge oats, ground mixed spice, eggs, vanilla extract, baking powder, granulated sugar, four bananas, and some wholemeal self raising flour.

I was impressed with the ingredients I got in the food parcel.  I knew that I could bake quite a few things with the ingredients provided, they would stretch quite far and that by including oats, wholemeal flour and bananas the bakes would be healthier than, say a cupcake with buttercream. Not only were there ingredients containing the slow release carbs, such as the oats, they were also cheap ones.  I did have to add my own butter but I used Sainsbury’s own value brand of unsalted butter which at the time of writing was 95p for a 250g packet.  I also used golden syrup in one of the recipes and this is also a cheap standby to have in your storecupboard.

First of all  I chose to bake the Spicy Banana Bread in the Cooking On A Shoestring recipe book.  According to the ingredients list you might get sugar and oats in a parcel from the food bank but the other ingredients are cheap to buy and with the exception of the bananas will keep so you could make it again and again.  The recipe introduction says “bananas are a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fibre.  You can use overripe bananas for this recipe so that they don’t go to waste.  You could also use less sugar as the mixed spice already gives this recipe a delicious flavour.The bread could be eaten as a snack or at breakfast time”

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Three ripe mashed bananas were mixed with two beaten eggs and some mixed spice. Then flour, sugar, oats and vanilla essence were added to the mixture and baked in a loaf tin.

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The loaf made about 10 generous slices and tasted fab with or without butter spread on it.

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The banana kept the cake naturally sweet and moist.

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Cut up into slices, this banana bread would make a perfect lunchbox treat, or a quick breakfast on the run. It would also freeze well so you could bake in bulk if you have an abundance of bananas.

The banana loaf was simple to bake in a 24cm size loaf tin and was easily stored in an airtight tin.  It cut beautifully up into slices and tasted delicious with or without butter spread on it. My husband actually said he preferred it to other banana loaves he had tasted as it wasn’t too overpoweringly sweet.

With the remaining ingredients I had a brainstorming session and thought about what I’ve baked in the past using oats as a main ingredient and came across a wonderful recipe in another of my favourite cookbooks, one which I’ve bought for my children The Hungry Student Easy Baking by Charlotte Pike.  In this book there is a recipe for banana and chocolate chip cookies. As I had quite a bit of sugar left and one banana left in the box I thought I would adapt the recipe to suit what was in the box.  So instead of the chocolate chips in the original recipe I used 100g of oats and instead of the plain flour and bicarbonate of soda I used the wholemeal flour given to me in the food parcel.

The result was 18 deliciously chewy and moreish cookies whiche went down extremely well with the whole family.  I had to add 90g of my own butter but I didn’t need anything else to make them special.

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These oaty banana cookies may LOOK boring but they certainly didn’t TASTE boring. I had to hide them from my 14 year old son!

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I also added in a spoonful of the ground mixed spice given to me in the parcel along with the flour. It gave the cookies a lift and made them taste gorgeous.

After the cookies I realised I still had enough ingredients left to bake some flapjacks.   I combined 175g butter with 175g of the sugar in the parcel and to this I also added my own golden syrup of  about 150g.  Otherwise the flapjack wouldn’t have stuck together.  When this had melted in a large pan I then added 500g porridge oats and some ground mixed spice.  I reckon one or two of the bananas in the parcel might have worked here so long as it had been mashed in.

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Flapjack which got a bit burned at the edges!

106 Unfortunately my daughter turned the oven temperature up to well over 200oC after I had asked her to turn it up. I was refering to some music playing in the kitchen, but she thought I meant the oven! I realised when I thought I could smell burning only 10 minutes after putting the flapjacks in the oven.  So down went the temperature but they weren’t my usual chewy offerings.  Anyhow I did find one of them was delicious with a cup of coffee at breakfast the next day!

After all this I still had a tiny bit of sugar and oats, some baking powder, some of the vanilla essence, some mixed spice and some of the flour left!  It just goes to show that you can create some delicious things with store cupboard ingredients and that they don’t have to cost the earth either.  I thought I could use the remaining ingredients to make pancakes  and one member of my family could have porridge for breakfast.

You can find out about the work of Zest Health For Life at the link to their website here:

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Blondies

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Peanut and Chocolate Blondies- meant to have white chocolate in but thanks to someone helping themselves they became dark chocolate ones instead!

Last Monday afternoon I got in from work and finished my jobs.  It was one of those afternoons where I had an urge to bake something.  It had to be something quick that I could sling together and chuck in the oven before disappearing off to collect my kids from school.

Brownies or blondies work well for me as I make them such a lot, you get it down to a fine art and they don’t take long to whip up and in the oven.  So, for this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge where I am baking a recipe from every chapter of Rachel Allen’s Bake, her recipe for White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Blondies would be just the ticket.  In the recipe introduction Rachel says “Fed up of brownies? Try blondies! These little squares are great on their own, eaten with ice cream they are simply sinful!”  Well we all need a pick me up or a little treat to help us get through life don’t we?

I looked in my baking cupboard knowing that I’d bought a packet of white chocolate chips a couple of weeks back and would have enough to go in the blondies.  But when I opened the cupboard.. they just weren’t there!  I can only put it down to my kids helping themselves! So frustrating, but I couldn’t prove who had took them! Luckily though I had a packet of dark chocolate chips and they would have to do instead!

To begin with I creamed some butter and crunchy peanut butter together in a large mixing bowl. When this was done I sifted some plain flour and bakingpowder in another bowl.  To the peanut butter bowl I added soft brown sugar, egg and some vanilla extract.  Finally in went the bag of chocolate chips.

As for the tin, I used the square one I always use for my brownies.  It’s a either a loose bottomed one I bought a few years back in Lakeland or one I bought at a Jamie At Home party which isn’t loose bottomed but still worked as well. Either tin always makes either 16 small square brownie bites or 12 large ones.  No problem again here, the dough went into the tin fine and 25-30 minutes later out it came after being baked in the oven at 170oC (electric fan oven here).

After about 1/2 hour’s cooling time I attempted to cut up the blondies and quickly hid them in a box in the cupboard away from my family.  They were going into work to share with my work colleagues and I thought if my family knew there were blondies about there wouldn’t be any left the next day.

I thought I’d got away with it as it was an afternoon when I was at home and my kids were still at school.  I had hidden the evidence but when we got in from the school run my daughter started sniffing when she came back in. She said “Have you been baking? I can smell chocolate!” My kids have baking radar but I lied and said she was imagining things!

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The blondies cut up easily into 12 large pieces.

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The blondies were packed up in a box and taken into work to share with my colleagues. They all disappeared by about lunchtime and everyone said they were delicious.

Cooking The Books- Update on November 2014’s Challenge.

Once again I’ve not been able to devote much time to blogging and another few weeks have slipped by.  Though that’s nothing new at this time of year for me.  I realised I’d not been able to stick at my Cooking The Books Challenge.  It’s been getting  more and more tricky to manage much baking at all, let alone cope with a book challenge!

But we’re nearly at the end of November and I wanted to have a go at SOMETHING.  So I looked on my bookshelves and found an old favourite bought back in 2008; Rachel Allen’s Bake.  I have used several recipes from this book in the past but wanted to dig it out again and have a go at some recipes I had missed out on. All I know my family would appreciate too, which is tricky. Also I thought there is no way I’m baking something that I wouldn’t get round to eating or my family would eat, just would be a waste of effort and money.

So what am I tempted to have a go at?  Remember, to complete the challenge I have to bake one thing from each chapter of the book.  Sadly I just know I won’t have time for that but will do as much as I can.

Here goes:

Sweet Mouthfuls: Lots of yummy bakes here to choose from but I know Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Blondies will go down well.

Cakes: I’ve always wanted to try baking a Kugelhopf after seeing Luis bake one on this year’s Great British Bake Off.

Puddings:My family love Chocolate Sponge puddings so we’re going to try the Chocolate Lava Cakes for one Sunday lunch dessert.

Breads and Savoury Bites: Not a lot of spare time to devote to savoury baking this week but if I do get some time I would love to bake some Paper Thin Crispbreads to have with dips when my mum comes to stay this weekend.

Tarts and Pies: We’re going to have a Chicken and Leek Pie for Sunday lunch when my mum stays.

Breakfast and Patisserie: Patisserie is something I’ve not very experienced in and nwould prefer to try new techniques when I have mopre time.  Instead I’ll stick to the good old muffins and make up the 30 Day Muffin batter. I’ll either make the muffins into apple and cinnamon or banana and maple syrup ones.

Baked Meals:  Loads to choose from here but I reckon the Simple Sausage and Bean Bake will be perfect for a quick and easy dinner one night this week.

Holiday and Celebration: For the final chapter here there is a huge selection to choose from again but I know my family would love the Festive Jam Cookie Sandwiches.

Not really much of a challenge for a fairly experienced baker like I am but then again I don’t have much time at the moment.  Let’s see what happens- watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx