Archives for the month of: November, 2011

Not so silent sunday


SIlent Sunday Lego Car

This weekend, we wanted something a bit different to accompany the chilli that Martin whipped up. I instantly thought “Cornbread!”. I couldn’t remember where I put the recipe I last used, so I headed over to Allrecipes. I came across a recipe for Buttermilk Corn Bread by Elizabeth Cooper that had nearly five stars, so I decided to give it a go. I read through a lot of the comments to see what other people thought of the recipe or modified along the way and kept them in mind. Although the original recipe is baked in a cast iron skillet, I wanted individual portions – like cupcakes, but savory and with vegetables – so I could freeze to eat later.

Corn cakes fresh from the oven

My version of Buttermilk Corn Bread goes something like this:

2 cups cornmeal or coarse polenta
1/2 cup plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon melted butter (cooled)
1 cup frozen corn

Preheat the oven to 175˚. Line 12 cup muffin tray with cases.
In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal/polenta, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl, beat 2 eggs, then add the yogurt and buttermilk. Whisk until thoroughly mixed. Add the melted and cooled butter and mix again.
Add the egg/buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and fold in until just combined. Then add the corn, gently folding again. Do not over beat the mixture.

Pour into the muffin cases just over 3/4 full.

Place into the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. To test, insert a skewer – if it comes out clean, the cakes are done.

Corn in the mix

The corn adds moisture to what can be a dry muffin. These make a great accompaniment to chili, or just on their own warmed up with a bit of butter.

Corn cakes with chilli

I Love Cake

Mini G Silent Sunday

Christmas has come a bit early this year with the arrival of Hotel Chocolat’s ‘Christmas at Santa’s House’ – a cute little house shaped box filled with individually wrapped milk chocolate Santas, reindeer and penguins.

Hotel Chocolat review

These went down a treat (pun might or might not be intended) with my family. We love chocolate in our house. Mini G even tried to sneak some behind my back! He had a different favourite each day and enjoyed choosing between the penguin or Santa or a reindeer. The fact that they are individually wrapped helped with keeping us from just eating them all in one go.

Individually wrapped

The box design is so festive, it makes a nice decoration even after the chocolates have disappeared. I foresee it sitting on my dresser throughout the Christmas season. A few of these would make ideal Christmas gifts for kids of all ages.  Hotel Chocolat have a fantastic selection of festive edible goodies from stocking fillers to extravagant hampers.

Christmas decoration

*This competition is now closed* For your chance to win a ‘Christmas at Santa’s House’ Hotel Chocolat gift box of your own, just leave a comment below saying which Hotel Chocolat Christmas treat is your favourite, as well as your favourite Christmas song.

Christmas gifts

Christmas at Santa’s House is new to the Hotel Chocolat Christmas range – available for £12 on the website.

You can find Hotel Chocolat on Facebook and on Twitter – @HotelChocolat

** I have been sent ‘Christmas at Santa’s House’ from Hotel Chocolat for review. I am not being paid to do so. These views are my own. **

I love banana bread. It is a versatile bread that’s more like a cake. You can have it for breakfast – toasted with a bit of cream cheese spread over it or as a tasty snack.

Recently, I received the latest Leon cookbook – Baking and Puddings as a gift and came across their version.  I had to give it a go!

In the past, I have generally gone for a straight up banana bread, no additions like nuts or chocolate, but I was intrigued with the inclusion of pecans in this recipe.



You should always use ripe bananas in a banana bread. Under-ripe ones just wouldn’t taste right.


This recipe uses spelt flour, which gives the bread a really nice hearty texture.

Banana bread batter

This recipe recommends slicing a banana in half, lengthwise, and placing it on top of the batter just before it goes in the oven. As the bread bakes, the banana sinks to the middle.

fresh out of the oven

sliced banana bread

I have to say, this is the best banana bread recipe I have come across. The whole banana running through the middle of the bread added more banana flavour and texture and the addition of pecan nuts gave the bread a slight maple-y flavour.

This recipe will definitely be in heavy rotation in our house. YUM!

Bonfire night is an event, specific to England, to celebrate the failure to assassinate King James in 1605. Like a lot of observed ‘holidays’, the historical meaning gets lost, but the tradition still lives. Families get together around a bonfire in the garden and let off fireworks or go to local fireworks displays, similar to how Americans celebrate 4th of July. As an American expat, I much prefer bonfire night for a couple of reasons. Reason 1 – see earlier blog post. Reason(s) 2 – I love autumn, I love the crispness in the air, bundling up around a bonfire, and especially the traditional food involved.

Since moving to the Market Harborough, we started a tradition of spending bonfire night at my in laws. Sausages are always incorporated into the dinner menu somehow, this year was no exception. I was in charge of dessert and didn’t really know what would be ‘bonfire-y’. My colleague, Keredy, suggested Parkin, which is a Yorkshire cake traditionally enjoyed on bonfire night. My 2nd cousin – once removed – Jack suggested marshmallows, which got me thinking… what goes with bonfires or campfires? S’mores! Here’s how it went…

I researched some Parkin recipes online and came across one from Delia Smith. She’s a trustworthy source, so I went with it:

Traditional Oatmeal Parkin
8 oz (225 g) medium oatmeal
4 oz (110 g) self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
7 oz (200 g) dark syrup or golden syrup
1 oz (25 g) black treacle, plus 1 teaspoon
4 oz (110 g) margarine
4 oz (110 g) soft brown sugar
2 level teaspoons ground ginger
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C).

Parkin key ingredients

Parkin ingredients

First weigh a saucepan on the scales, and weigh the syrup and treacle into it.

Then add the margarine and the sugar to the saucepan and place it over a gentle heat until the margarine has melted down – don’t go away and leave it unattended, because for this you don’t want it to boil.

Butter brown sugar treacle

Parkin melted treacle

Meanwhile, measure the oatmeal, flour and ginger into a mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt, then gradually stir in the warmed syrup mixture till the mixture is all thoroughly blended.

Next add the beaten egg, and lastly the milk. Now pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 1 hour 45 min.

Parkin batter

Then cool the parkin in the tin for 30 minutes before turning out.

finished parkin

Parkin should be made a few days before it is intended to be eaten. This is one bonfire tradition I can get behind. It is one tasty cake with flavours of dark treacle and ginger. Best served while sitting around a fire.

Bonfire fire

Parkin in front of fire

S’mores are an American dessert traditionally eaten around a campfire. Since we have not yet gone camping, a bonfire is the closest thing. The origin of the s’more (short for Some More, because they are so good you always want some more) is unknown, however the first printed recipe dates back to 1927 from ‘Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts’ by Loretta Scott Crew. There are three simple ingredients in a S’more – marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers. Graham crackers are not native to the UK, so I used digestive biscuits as a substitution. Desperate times call for desperate measures… it works.

Mini G Marshmallow

How to make S’mores on bonfire night:

Step one – take a large marshmallow, place on the end of a long stick – we used bamboo skewers – then place the marshmallow dangerously close to the flames of the bonfire. It’s ok if the marshmallow catches fire, just blow it out – it adds to the experience/flavour.

Step two – take a digestive biscuit and place a piece of chocolate on it. The best sort of chocolate would be the flattest bar you can find. Hersheys is traditional to the US, but Sainsburys own will work fine too.

Step three – place the marshmallow – still on the skewer – on top of the chocolate piece and digestive biscuit. Then place a second digestive biscuit on top of the marshmallow creating a marshmallow and chocolate sandwich. Gently remove skewer, stick (whatever you might be using).


Step four – squash a bit so that the marshmallow goes a bit oozey, then put it in your mouth and eat it.

These were a hit with the fam.

The rest of the evening was spent burning things, as you do on bonfire night.


Nanny and Mini G

Bonfire night sparklers

Fun for the whole family…I love bonfire night.

Silent Sunday - Loads of Eyed Monster

Mini G made a special request for Halloween cupcakes, which I was all to happy to oblige. His cupcake of choice was carrot cupcakes, but they had to be spooooky. We picked out a recipe together – we used Eric Lanlard’s Carrot Cake recipe from Home Bake.

G and I gathered the ingredients.



We grated the carrots.

Grated carrots

Mini G helped by stirring the eggs into the sugar and the oil.

Mini G helper 1

And then he added the flour into the mixture.

Mini G helper 2

Mini G helper 3

Mini G helper 3

Then he added the carrots, folding them into the mixture and got the batter ready to go into the cupcake cups.

Mini G helper 5

We used spooky spider cupcake cups for the Halloween treats.

Carrot cake fresh from the oven

More carrot cakes

The cake texture was fantastic. This recipe is a keeper!

Carrot cake texture

We decorated the cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting and added some special toppings to create a creepy crawly spider:

Place half a prune in the center of the cake, then cut a cola flavoured sour spagettini into 1 1/4 inch lengths and arrange like spider legs around the prune. Spooooky!

Spooky Spider cupcakes

Spooky halloween cupcakes

Then watch the cupcakes crawl off the plate… YUM!

I Love Cake

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