Thursday, 31 May 2012

Baked by me - Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies

It's been a tough couple of weeks for me, so I have been spending a lot of time in my kitchen. I have about 12 blog posts waiting to be written, that is how much time I have spent baking recently! What can I say? It's therapeutic! Thankfully for my waistline I haven't been eating everything I've baked, the boyfriends colleagues have been very well fed this week!

One of the most well received things I baked this week was actually from a premade mix! Not you every day Betty Crocker supermarket mix, but a wonderful jar mix from Baked by me.

Baked by Me is a company based in the North East of England which specialises in cookie/biscuit mixes. Their lovingly prepared mixes are made from the finest of ingredients and would make the perfect gift for someone special (who loves to bake).

I ordered the Oatmeal and Raisin cookies, as they are a particular favourite of the boyfriend. He has been very patient and understanding of my bad mood recently so deserved a special treat.

Making these biscuits could not be more simple, all you need to do is add a little softened butter and an egg, mix it all together and chill, even at this pre-cooked stage it smelled amazing. There is something so comforting about the smell of cinnamon isn't there?

Once the mixture had chilled in the fridge for 30 minutes, I simply shaped them into walnut sized balls and place them on a lined baking tray.

12-15 minutes later my house smelled like pure happiness and these little beauties were ready.

They were very soft when they came out, but I was patient as the instructions suggested and once they were fully cooled we tested them...

They were just perfect, a good crunch on the outside, soft and ever so slightly chewy in the middle, the plump raisins were studded throughout and the cinnamon flavour was perfectly complimentary.

An added bonus to this lovely cookie mix, the great quality jar you are left with! Mine is now sat proudly on a shelf filled with ground almonds! So very useful.

I would highly recommend these mixes if your looking for a lovely gift for someone, they have a lot of great flavours like, toblerone, malteaser, caramel mocha, white choc chip... to name but a few. To see their full range do check out their website here.

I recieved my cookie mix for free for the purposes of this review

Sunday, 27 May 2012

One year.

A Year ago today.

I lost my inspiration, my best friend, my Mum.

This last year has been the hardest imaginable, but I wanted to say thank you.

One of the things that has really made me happy this year has been baking, creating things from scratch, focusing on perfecting a recipe, and sharing my creations with everyone. So, a great big cake-shaped thank you to everyone who has tasted and (hopefully) loved my baking, commented on my blog, tweeted, facebooked, emailed etc...

Now when I look back on 2011/12 I hopefully won't just have bad memories and sadness, but it'll also be the year I found something I was really passionate about.

To laugh often and love much
To win respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And endure the betrayal of false friends
To appreciate beauty
To find the best in others, To give one's self
To leave the world a little better, Whether by a healthy child
A garden patch, Or redeemed social condition
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
And sung with exultation
To know even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived...
This is to have succeeded.
Emerson

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Russian Roulette Revel Brownies

I am in the midst of a fairly passionate love affair with chocolate brownies. I had never had much success with them in the past, they never quite reached the perfect ideal I had in my mind; fudgy, cripsy topped chocolate haven - so very rarely bothered to bake them. Then I was introduced to Nigella's fabulous brownie recipe and BOOM! I make them at every opportunity.

Last week I was feeling particularly hormonal and NEEDED chocolate, the thought of the various things I could pick up from the corner shop just didn't thrill me, so I decided to whip up a catch of brownies to satiate my PMT monster.

Anticipating my chocolate craving the lovely boyfriend had brought home a couple of bags of revels, so I decided to chuck them in the batter, the mini eggs had worked so well, so why not eh?

For those not familiar with Revels, they are a bag of chocolates of different varieties, so you have a malteaser (honeycomb) one, a raisin one, a caramel one, a coffee one (bleugh), an orange one and a pure chocolate one. The perfect treat for the indecisive chocoholic...

Monday, 21 May 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 21/5/12

This weeks meal plan is pretty basic, you'll probably recognise most of the meals as I've made them a lot recently. I might be in a little bit of cooking rut but we like what we are eating so... Who cares!

This weeks shopping came to £36 in total, including cat food, cleaning products, and things for lunch and snacks. I didn't buy a lot of fruit or veg so may pop to Grainger Market this week to grab a few bits, much fresher than the supermarket fayre.

This week I have experimented with down-shifting, swapping my usual brand names with supermarket own brand. Tesco has a new "everyday value" range which I wanted to try out and see if we could save some pennies.

Here is my meal plan;

Monday:
Beef stew.
I'll pop this in the slow cooker ready on Sunday night, lets hope I remember to turn it on this week!

Tuesday:
Pasta Bake
I have a few cooked meatballs, some smoked sausage and chorizo in the fridge, so will throw them in.

Wednesday:
Garlic chicken with homemade wedges
Roasted chicken legs and thighs with homemade oven baked potato wedges, might make the wedges sweet potato.

Thursday:
Chilli and Brown Rice.
A simple beef chilli with nice nutty brown rice, will make enough for leftovers too.

Friday:
Chicken Kievs with mash potato and leek and cabbage.
Just tesco value chicken kievs (trying to see how they are) with a simple mash potatoe and some cabbage and leeks.

I have to say I am massively impressed by this range, My favourite things that I bought were the mozzarella (44p), diet lemonade (17p), orange juice (62p) and the margarine spread (1.69). I honestly couldn't tell they were "supermarket own brand".

Tesco are not the only supermarket relaunching their own brand, I have seem that Morrissons is also getting in on the act. I might try to get a few products from there to compare.

Would you be interested in a full review of these basic ranges? Maybe with tips on how to make the most of them in recipes?

I bought these items myself, the opinions are my own, I was not paid in any way for this post

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Awesome Choc 'n' Raisin Oaty Biscuits

I don't know if I mentioned it but... I started a new job two weeks ago, it has been pretty exciting so far and I am SO much happier than I have been for the past few years. It is amazing how feeling valued and part of a team boosts your work performance, it is an absolute revalation to work in an office where someone isn't constantly questioning your work and micro-managing you into a blubbering wreck.

Although, as a result my kitchen has been neglected, my beautiful Kitchen Aid is sitting redundant on the bench, my baking cupboard remains firmly closed and I swear I saw a teeny spider web forming on the handle *sob*, I may be being slightly dramatic as it's only been two weeks...
There has been lots of celebratory nights out, social events and excitement, so I haven't found time to squeeze in much baking; when I do find the time, or get the uncontrolable urge to bake it is quick and simple bakes.

On Sunday night I got the urge to make biscuits, something easy to whip up and pop in packed lunch boxes through the week. I spent a good hour flicking through my favourite cookbooks searching for something I had the ingredients for...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 14/05/12

I have seen a lot of wonderful frugal cooking posts this week. One that caught my eye was the wonderful Mike's Baking, he has been living Below the Line and raising money for charity. He had to basically live for a week with only £5 to spend on food, at first I really didn't think it could be done, but hats off to him!

I have broken down my meal plan this week and tried to work out the exact cost of each meal, its pretty eye opening...

Monday:
Smoked Sausage Pasta Bake.
This is quick becoming a favourite meal, cheap and delicious with plenty of leftovers for lunches.
I worked out that this meal costs roughly £1.73 for 4 portions, so 43p a portion.

Tuesday:
Cod Fish Cakes and boiled potatoes
Just store bought fish cakes, easy and delicious for a mid-week meal.
I worked out that this meal costs roughly £2.40 for 2 people. (£1.20 per person.)

Wednesday:
Beef Stew.
Just diced beef and root veg, slow cooked in stock and thickened with cornflour (seasoned with salt and pepper)
I worked out that this meal costs roughly £3.40 for 4 portions, so 85p a portion.

Thursday:
Sort yourself out night.
More than likely to be left over stew, possibly with a jacket potato or slice of bread.
The stew is still 85p a portion, add 17p for the potato, or a couple of pence for bread.

Friday:
Spaghetti and Meatballs with Garlic Bread.
We use store bought sweedish style meatballs, they are delicious!
The spaghetti and meatballs costs roughly £1.95 for 2 portions, so 97p a portion. The garlic bread baguette is a tesco basic one which is 36p, so takes it up to £1.15 per portion.

The total for this meal plan is £9.66 for two people. For lunches I will be having Jacket potatoes with either coleslaw or cottage cheese and leftovers, for breakfast I will be having porridge and bananas.

So the total for the whole week is £14.21

Obviously I have a few treats thrown in, baking ingredients, cat food and litter, cleaning supplies etc...

Breaking it down to this level has really opened my eyes though, do I need to be spending £40 a week? Can I cut down even more? Or is that just ludicrous? What do you think? As usual I have entered this meal plan into Mrs M's Linky.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Meal Planning Monday - 07/05/2012

Last weeks meal plan went great, having it up on the white board in the kitchen really helped me stick to it. Although it didn't have the same effect on everyone in the house, even though there was a reminder in big black letters on the wall, we had a few issues with people remembering to get things out the freezer.
This week is pretty boring really, it is starting on Tuesday, since Monday was a Bank Holiday in the UK. I have a lot of stuff in the freezer to use up so I only spent £15 in the supermarket this weekend; mostly on sandwich stuff, cat litter/food and wine. essentials, you understand.

Tuesday:
Sausage and Mash or Toad in the Hole
depending on if we can be bothered to make Yorkshire puds when we get in, both will be served with sweet potato mash.

Wednesday:
Chicken Kievs and homemade wedges with salad.
The kievs are bog standard supermarket ones, we are a bit addicted to them at the minute, plus so easy for a mid week meal!

Thursday:
Smoked Sausage pasta al forno.
One of our favourite things at the moment is Mattesson's smoked sausage, love it chopped up in pasta.

Friday:
Chilli with brown rice.
We were suppose to have this last Friday but didn't, so we'll have it this week instead.

Breakfast will be toast/cereal and coffee.

Lunches will be sandwiches, or leftovers.

As usual I have entered this meal plan into Mrs M's Linky.

I know I mentioned last week I would include a shopping list this week, but I haven't actually been shopping so... Will do one next week, promise.

In other news, I started my new job this week. I absolutely LOVE it so far, it is so great to have things to do and lovely co workers to chat with. The downside is less time to blog and tweet. I shall have to get used to blogging in the evening and at weekends. So please do bear with me while I adjust to the change.

If you fancy guest blogging for Nelly's Cupcakes, to help me out while I adjust, then do drop me an email.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Chewy, Gooey, Flapjacks

I have had some issues with recipes recently, books and reputable websites have been letting me down. I have found myself more and more turning to bloggers for the best recipes. Recipes on blogs tend to be much more detailed, bloggers share their development, their errors, their secret hints and tips, all of these things together make me trust that what I am about to embark on will actually work; plus, if you get stuck or confused you can leave a comment or tweet them and they will answer! You don't get that from Delia!

I read a hell of a lot of blogs and find them a constant source of inspiration, if you'd like to see some of my personal favourites than do check out my blogroll page. Or if you have a blog you think I might like, leave the link in a comment below and I will check it out.

As I was working my way through my extensive blog list in my RSS reader the other day I stumbled across this drool-inducing flapjack post from A Little Loaf. - a brilliant blog, well worth a read.

Flapjacks are a bit of a nemesis of mine...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Forever Nigella #15 - Jubilee-tastic!

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to be hosting this month's Forever Nigella for Sarah at Maison Cupcake. I am a huge fan of Nigella's work and use her as my yard stick to measure how much of a domestic goddess I am. Don't get me wrong, I am a 0.2 to Nigella's 10, but I try.

I am also excited about the theme this month which is centered around the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. I am not ashamed to say I am a fan of the Royal Family. I know a lot of people see them as a drain on the economy or an outdated institution, but I love em! Give me a bit of pomp and ceremony and I am a happy girl. One of my happiest memories of last year was spending the weekend of the Royal Wedding with my Mum, baking cakes, eating cucumber sandwiches and laughing at the fact she cried throughout the whole ceremony.

Forever Nigella is the only regular blogging event to share your culinary moments dabbling with the domestic goddess.

You can bake, make or cook absolutely anything from any of Nigella's books, or if you don't happen to own one (gasp!) then do check out these online resources;

Nigella’s official site: http://www.nigella.com/
BBC Food: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/chefs/nigella_lawson
Channel 4 Food: http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/popular-chefs/nigella-lawson-recipes
UKTV Good Food Channel: http://uktv.co.uk/food/chef/aid/530864/
Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/nigella-lawson/index.html
Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?s=y&authornamef=Nigella+Lawson

I will be blogging my regal recipe shortly, I had hoped to have it ready by today but with starting a new job this week I have been super busy.




To enter this month's Forever Nigella, prepare and blog one of Nigella's recipes, relevant to the theme of The Jubilee, then submit it to the linky below. I will post a round up of all the entries on 1st June.

The rules are as follows:

1. Blog your entry by 28th of the month showing:
a) the current Forever Nigella badge
b) a link to this announcement post
c) a link to the Forever Nigella page at Maison Cupcake: http://blog.maisoncupcake.com/forever-nigella

n.b. posts must have been published since the announcement post. Archived posts need to be re-published afresh if you wish to submit.

2. Remember copyright.
You must NOT reproduce Nigella’s recipes verbatim. Tell us which book it is from and/or link to it online. If you’ve adapted the recipe in some way i.e. changed at least two ingredients or amended the method then it’s ok to publish the a recipe in your post but you MUST write directions in your own words.

3. Submit your post
Email me the link to your post (nelly AT nellyscupcakes DOT co.uk), copying in Sarah (sarah AT maisoncupcake DOT com).
Also please do enter the linky below. 

 You can also tweet your post quoting #forevernigella. I am on @nellyscupcakes and will retweet any that I see. You will find Sarah at @MaisonCupcake.

As an added bonus, 5 random participants will get a Montezuma's British Pudding bar like the ones shown!

I can't wait to see all of your fabulous regal entries!

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