Apple and cheese please doggie biccies

These were so good I’ll admit to eating a few myself…. Made of nothing more than porridge oats, stewed apples and grated cheese, you could pass them around with the tea rightly (just maybe don’t cut them out with a dog bone shaped cookie cutter).  Recipe below, treat your furry friends!

 

Biscuits on wood Biscuits on white

Ingredients

 

400g oat flour or finely ground porridge oats

100g porridge oats

150g grated cheddar, mature works well

150g eating apple

2 tbsp vegetable oil

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan.  Peel core and chop the apple and stew in a little water in a small saucepan.  When the apple has softened and broke down, set aside to cool.  Once cooled, mix with all the other ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Add enough water to bind everything together to form a soft dough (about 150ml).  On a floured surface roll out the dough to about 1cm thick (I did this in batches as there is a lot of dough).  Cut out the biscuits into any shape (I used a small bone shaped cutter).  You could use a bigger cookie cutter for bigger dogs.  Lay them out on a lined baking sheet (they wont spread so I didn’t leave that much distance between them) and bake until golden brown.  This will take about 15-25 minutes but keep an eye on them and swap the trays around in the oven from bottom to top to even out the colour.  Leave to cool for a bit in the oven then take them out and leave to coolcompletely and firm up before lifting them from the baking tray.  Store in an airtight container.

Recipe from Marvellous by Kate Bendix.

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Healthy Eggnog Smoothie

I know eggnog isn’t something we are overly familiar with here in Norn Iron but I’m sure you have heard of it at some point in your life.  Traditionally it’s made up of eggs, milk, cream, sugar and rum with the addition of a few spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.  It’s a calorific catastrophe if you’re counting them!  More of a USA tradition, they enjoy the tipple from Thanksgiving through to New Year, probably much in the same way we neck the Baileys this festive season.  I stumbled upon this healthier version on my interweb travels lately, it was labelled an Eggnog Smoothie but has neither eggs nor nog involved!  I tweaked the recipe a little and added coconut whipped cream as a twist and actually it was rather delicious!  I slurped my ‘Eggnog’ safe in the knowledge my hips wouldn’t explode out of my jeans anytime soon.  I’ll save that for Christmas day!

 

Eggnog Smoothie with coconut whipped cream

Healthy Eggnog Smoothie

Eggnog Smoothie with Coconut Whipped Cream and Pomegranate jewels

Ingredients

Serves 2

750mls Almond or Coconut milk

1 banana

2 pitted dates

1 tbsp almond extract

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

 

Topping

1 can of full fat coconut milk (chilled upright in fridge)

1 tbsp sweetener or icing sugar

2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

pinch of dessicated coconut

 

Method

Throw all the ingredients (except the topping ingredients) into a blender and blend for about two minutes or until everything is combined nicely.  Pour into glasses.  Take the can of coconut milk and try not to to shake or tip it.  You want the all the thick cream to have separated from the liquid so you can scoop it out of the can.  Scoop it out into a bowl and whisk with a handheld beater for about 2 – 5 minutes until it has started to thicken (it won’t go as thick a s double cream but if you add icing sugar it helps to stabalise it).  Add icing sugar or sweetener to taste and pour over eggnog.  Finish with pomegranate seeds and dessicated coconut.  Try it with a frozen banana for a different texture or throw in some ice cubes for a slushy!

 

 

 

I believe in miracles…since you came along, you sexy thing!

Yes, you too will believe in miracles after tasting this amazingly rich hot chocolate that is (here’s the miracle) healthy, skinny and good for you!  Grab your jingle balls because it’s that time of year again, Christmas! I love the festive season but it doesn’t half reek havoc with the old diet and healthy eating habits that you’ve worked so hard to establish all year.  Of course it’s fine to indulge once in a while, hell we’re only human but if you want to enjoy the festivities at a more frequent rate it doesn’t do any harm to shave off a few calories here and there if you can.  Whilst trawling the internet for a few healthy hacks on the old favourites, I found this recipe for a skinny hot chocolate and needless to say my attention was most certainly drawn!  Using a combination of skimmed milk, no added sugar cocoa powder and hazelnut spread for extra nuttiness and flavour, this hot chocolate recipe will make you feel naughty but oh so extremely nice 😛 Enjoy!

Hazelnut Hot Choc

 

Mug close up

 

 

Ingredients (serves 2 decent size mugs)

1 liter of skimmed milk

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (Green and Blacks works a treat)

2 tbsp Keen Hazelnut extremely dark chocolate nut butter (Nutella will do but we’re going all out healthy here)

2 tbsp preferred sweetener ( I used Canderel but honey, agave syrup or similar would work perfectly also)

 

Toppings

Marshmallows (Sainsbury’s do sugar free ones), hazelnuts, dark choc cocoa nibs and anything else you like on your hot chocolate!

 

Method

Heat the milk in a saucepan over a medium to high heat until steaming and just starting to bubble.  Add all ingredients apart from the toppings and simmer for a couple of minutes, whisking until everything is combined smoothly.

Take off the heat and pour steaming hot into Christmas mugs (that’s a must), plop in as many marshmallows as you can fit, sprinkle with chopped roasted hazelnuts, cocoa nibs or dust with a little cocoa powder, freshly grated nutmeg or cinnamon.  A masterpiece of chocolatey pleasure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishy Scales and Waggy Tails Round Two…

So the other week I received a jar of Armstrong’s Twisted Fish salmon treats for the canine members of the house, and boy were they excited!

Twisted Fish jar Twisted Fish open jar

Molly was especially keen as she has already had the pleasure of knowing what this little jar of goodness contains having been my taste tester for my earlier blog post.  I gave them one each at the time to stem to relentless jumping and scraping of my legs to get at what was in my hand – this proved only to encourage more jumping, scratching and so forth with a little competitive growling thrown in (the dogs, not me!).  Basically they went mad for them, and as I put the jar away, their little faces and ears seemed to drop!  A few days later  I began to organise getting a few pictures of the pair of them enjoying their treats.  Arnold in particular LOVED this portion of the task as he scrambled around, sniffing like a truffle pig, looking for more and more treats! I think he messed up the first few shots on purpose to get more…

Arnold eating treats Arnold with jar

As we grow increasingly aware of the additives and preservatives in our own food, so we should pay more attention to what we feed our beloved pets – they are after all an extension of our own family and I love to try and feed my two the most wholesome, natural food and treats that I can.  Armstrong’s Twisted Fish are a no brainer, you can’t get any more natural!  If Molly and Arnold are extra good doggies from now until Christmas, they could be finding Twisted Fish treats in their Santa stockings (yes, they have proper Santa stockings at Christmas and yes, Santa Dog visits too you know!) 😀

Arnold and Molly

You can purchase Armstrong’s Twisted Fish through their website http://www.armstrongstwistedfish.com, for news and events updates they also have a Facebook Page  and can be found stocked at The Salty Dog in Bangor.

 

What to do with your Flesh at Halloween…mwahahahaha!

As an 80’s kid growing up, Halloween was all about cheap plastic face masks, a bowl of nuts in their shells that would take a jack hammer to crack the damn things open and my favourite memory of all?  Carving a turnip into something more gruesome than the turnip itself… ahh and sparklers out in the garden while dressed in a bin liner – great fire safety Mum and Dad! Only kidding, love you…

Anyway, nowadays Halloween has turned into something much bigger as we follow more and more trends from the USA – trick or treating, costumes and decorations have taken on a whole new level.  Food at Halloween seems to be ranking higher in importance in recent years (chucking monkey nuts in a bowl no longer cuts it), especially as the popularity of the pumpkin grows and grows with people turning their flesh (pumpkin, don’t freak) into many a marvellous thing!  I myself have jumped on the pumpkin bandwagon and managed to whip up three delicious dishes from one humble pumpkin so here are a few ideas to get you thinking when you start scooping!

Pumpkin and Apple Loaf

Pumpkin Loaf sliced

 

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger Snap Crust

Pumpkin Cheescake Slice

 

Healthy Thai Pumpkin Soup (no pic, sorry)

 

Ingredients

300g roasted pumpkin flesh

1 onion, chopped

2 tbsp water or oil

350mls chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 chilli, chopped with seeds if you like a bit more heat

1/2 tsp each of chopped thyme, sage and rosemary (I used a bouquet garni from Sainsbury’s or Tesco)

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 tin of reduced fat coconut milk

Sweat the onion on a medium heat for 10 minutes in water or oil (I used water to keep calories low) in a large saucepan, add more if the onion starts to catch.  Chop the roasted pumpkin roughly and add to the pot along with all other ingredients except the coconut milk.  Simmer for 20 minutes, take off the heat and blend until smooth (I used a stick blender but use whatever blending methods you have).  Stir in the coconut milk and bring back up to a simmer.  Serve with crusty bread, a spud (yes Mum used to chuck a spud into soup, 80’s kid remember) or just on it’s own in all its orangey gorgeousness! Soups are hard to fail on, these are just guidelines so feel free to throw in anything else you fancy that will enhance the flavour.  Go for more pumpkin, less stock if you like a thick soup or omit the chilli and add a tbsp of curry powder for a twist.  Experiment my friends!

 

Pumpkin and Apple Loaf

makes 2 loaves, because you will want to eat the first one all by yourself

 

Ingredients

425g pumpkin puree (I roasted the flesh at 220°C for 30-40 minutes and used a stick blender to puree)

4 eggs, beaten

450g of plain flour

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

pinch of salt

2 tbsp of mixed spice

450g light soft brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

250mls vegetable oil

150ml of water

1 medium to small cooking apple, grated

 

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C and grease and line two 2lb loaf tins.  Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Grate the apple and toss into the dry mixture, coating the apple pieces.  Meanwhile, once you have roasted, pureed and cooled your flesh, let it drain over a fine sieve for 10 minutes to release any extra liquid, you don’t want the puree to be too watery but it will will retain a little water.  Place the puree in a bowl, add the beaten eggs, vanilla extract oil and water and combine well.  Fold this into the the dry mixture with a large metal spoon until there are no traces of flour.  Divide the mixture into the loaf tins, it will come up just over half way but the loaf rises quite well.  Place in the middle of the oven (make sure you turned it down after roasting your pumpkin) and bake for 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.  If you feel the loaf is browning too quickly cover with tinfoil.  Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then remove and finish cooling on a wire rack.  It will slice better when cooled completely if you can contain yourself until then!  Feel free to invent a topping for the loaf, cream cheese whipped with some icing sugar and vanilla would go lovely, or heat some orange juice in a pan, stir in some sifted icing sugar to make a glaze and drizzle over the loaf while still slightly warm.  Yum yum!

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger Snap Crust

 

Method

225g ginger biscuits

60g butter

juice and zest of 1 lemon

340g cooked pumpkin, blended to a puree

225g soft light brown sugar, (take out any lumps)

450g full fat cream cheese

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

4 eggs

Topping

 

90mls double cream

90mls natural plain yoghurt

 

Method

 

Preheat oven to 170°C.  Grease an 8inch loose bottomed cake tin.  Bash biscuits or process in a blender to a fine crumb.  Melt butter in a saucepan then add crushed biscuits and the lemon zest and combine well.  Press mixture into the cake tin, pushing it up the sides slightly and set to one side.  In a large bowl mix together the cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Beat the eggs and fold into the mixture.  It will be quite runny but this is right so don’t panic!  Pour into the cake tin on top of the biscuit base and bake for 90 minutes in the middle of the oven until the surface is set but underneath will still be a bit squidgy.  Take out of the oven and cool completely in the tin, do not be tempted to remove the cake until it’s totally cooled (I put mine in the fridge overnight as I was in no hurry for it).  Remove cake from tin onto a serving plate, wrap in clingfilm and chill until you are ready to top it and serve it.  For the topping beat the cream until thick, fold in the yoghurt and lemon juice and spread onto the cheesecake.  I sprinkled mine with a little cinnamon to finish but icing sugar or lemon zest would also work, be creative!  Some sugared pumpkins possibly???  Slice and tuck in!

 

Happy Halloween Everyone!

James Street South Bake Off

I have a whole new appreciation for those souls competing in the Great British Bake Off!  A couple of weeks ago I got word that I had made the final of James Street Souths Bake Off competition with my Beetroot and Guinness Chocolate Fudge Cake.  I entered my recipe as part of Belfast Restaurant Week, a great initiative encouraging people to get out and sample the glorious tastes, produce and culinary hot spots of Belfast.  I had a mixture of emotions upon reading the email, fear and anxiety being the main two that featured throughout that whole week!  With little more than seven days until the bake off which took place on Sunday 5th October,  I practiced my fingers to the bone. Quite literally, as I grated the thumb almost clean off myself whilst preparing the damn beetroot to go into the cake.  With bandaged digit, I ploughed on grating, sifting, folding, melting (chocolate, not my brain)  and waiting what seemed like an eternity on the oven as it takes two hours to bake the thing.  As you might of picked up from my tone, I am slightly at odds with beetroot chocolate cake after my ordeal, and the Guinness?  Well lets just say for the moment I am now more of a Guinness drinker than a chocolate cake eater…..

 

To be fair, the whole experience was great.  After the initial panic of making sure my cake was suitable for those of refined taste buds to judge, I stepped back a little and enjoyed myself.  In the cookery school where the bake off took place, there was just myself and two other bakers which eased some of my nerves as I didn’t fancy baking amongst a large group.  However I still found my palette knife shaking slightly as I pasted on the chocolate icing (that thankfully didn’t burn, congeal or separate) and, as I sprinkled over a few petals for the finishing touches I breathed a sigh of relief – it was done, I was done and there was nothing more that could be done!  No Mary Berry or handsome Paul Hollywood (unfortunately), but waiting on the judges final call was excruciating. Thank God there were no video cameras to capture for all eternity my agony!

 

I didn’t win, a carrot (cake) pipped my beetroot to the post.  I have to say I genuinely did love the experience and the chance to be there, taking part in what will probably be the closest thing I’ll ever get to Great British Bake Off! (or Paul Hollywood for that matter….)

 

chocolate beetroot guinness cake

The Salty Dog

A little while back I was asked along to The Salty Dog in Bangor to shoot some of their delicious recipes using the wonderful Keen nut butters.  I almost got too distracted by the task at hand to take in the beautiful surroundings but I made sure to take a minute and soak up the atmosphere of this lush little seaside retreat.  When the food came out for me to shoot, it was all I could do to not allow myself to unceremoniously tuck in!  Of course that’s not why I was there and so I gathered my thoughts, put my tongue back in my mouth and carried on!  Below are the beautiful creations put together by the talented chefs using only the finest local ingredients – if you wish to taste as well as look, get your butts over there 😛

 

AG8A3921 AG8A3933Keen Almond Butter Hummus

AG8A3946Choux Keen Hazelnut Butter and chocolate bun,

banana sorbet, milk chocolate mousse and nut brittle

AG8A3959Cocktail using Keen Macadamia and White Chocolate butter

AG8A3936Selection of butters available to buy in the restaurant