Make your own decorations

Happy Christmas Eve everyone. I hope everyone is having a lovely relaxing day.

It started with a cranberry cinnamon roll and some pumpkin spice rooibos tea.

Like my new tablecloth and mats? 

This was delicious! Years ago we went to Disney World for Christmas and on Christmas morning had a cinnamon roll for breakfast at the main street bakery. I wanted to try and receate that, as it was going to be our plan for this year. I used this recipe, only I left out the pecans (because I had none) and only made 1/4 of the recipe- I thought that 16 between the 2 of us might be excessive? Anyway it was so easy to make- last night I mixed up the dough (I used almond milk so they are also vegan), left it for an hour and a half, and then rolling it out and spreading with a little pure spread, brown sugar and cinnamon took another 5 mins. Into the oven they went this morning for 15 mins while I made the tea (in my Disney cup just to help with the theme).

Before being topped with a little maple icing.

Anyway, I thought they would be much harder to make but they were super easy, plus the cinnamon smells so good.

I have not done much today- I made my lunch for tomorrow (a sort of veg and lentil/ tofu bake topped with sweet potato mashed with some almond butter), and we managed a bit of a longer walk this afternoon. We have put up a few decorations (my paperchase reindeer, some nice candles and a ceramic tree with lights) so my gingerbread house is one of the few festive items! So here is the making of my gingerbread house.

Mix flour and spices etc together.

Melt butter (pure spread), brown sugar, golden syrup and treacle.

Mix together. At first it looks all wrong, but keep mixing.

Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for a bit/ overnight/ however long you would like.

In the meantime, decide on the design of your house. Cut out templates with baking paper. When you roll out the dough, place the templates on top and then cut around them.

Once they are cooked, leave them to cool for a bit before you make the house. They are soft when they come out of the oven so this is when I cut the door and window, but you need them to be hard before you build it.

While you wait for them to harden, use the left over dough to make cookies for gifts.

Then it is onto construction time. Royal icing is the best because the egg whites make it stick. In previous years I have made it from scratch, and also used the powdered egg white. This year I cheated further by buying a tub of royal icing- it was only 99p in Julian Graves so I thought I would try it.

I covered a cake board in silver foil so I could use the cake board again. Use the icing like glue to stick the bottoms down to the base as well as the sides.

I do the front and one side, leave it for a bit and then do the back and the other side.  Then leave for a good 30 minutes.

The roof is the scary bit (especially this year as it turned out to be quite a steep angle). The icing does dry quickly though so do not worry. Of course then the fun begins. I was lucky enough to be sent some vegetarian sweets from Jealous so I decided (after sampling them) to have them as part of my decorating kit.

So get all your sweets together:

I also had jelly tots and some milky bar buttons, and the roof pebbles I made (but I did not use them as I was worried they would be too heavy for the roof).

Let the fun begin! Use the royal icing as glue again and decorate away.

I use the gummy bears as visitors to my house 🙂

A jelly tot for the door handle, plus to decorate the front. Milky bar buttons for the roof.

And some of the jealous sour sweets to frame the window at the back.

I love a gingerbread house as a decoration (read more about my obsession here) – they are different every year, plus they smell so good too. Anyone else with me on the gingerbread house love? I have seen loads of pre-made ones in shops this year, which look so pretty, but for me the fun is in the decorating! Ikea always did a kit too (with the pieces for the sides and roof etc ready baked) but I didn’t go to one near Christmas this year.

The Jealous sweets are really tasty- I got to try gummy bears (yummy), sour sensations (lovely and soft- a bit like the Goody peaches) and the cherry Kola (not my kind of flavour so much, but nice) and the best thing is they are all vegetarian, gluten free, with no artificial colours or flavours. Some of them are vegan and some are organic too so check out their website for more info. Plus they come in the pretty boxes so they are nice for gifts I think.

Right, I am off to have a Christmas Eve tea (salad, bread, wenslydale with cranberries, grapes, clementines, and maybe even a slice of Christmas Cake) and then hopefully to watch The Snowman , AKA the best Christmas film of all time.

Have a lovely Christmas everyone!

Maria  🙂

Mincemeat madness!

Hooray! First up, I managed to track down some lovely Meridian mince pie filling- in the end I went to the health food shop in Welwyn and got the last jar!

So today started with mince pie porridge! Hooray! I made it super liquidy with almond milk (I much prefer it runny- when it gets all thick I find it hard to swallow and I think that is why I didn’t like it in hospital- you could have stood up a spoon in it!) and then added a spoonful of the filling after it was cooked. So good 🙂

As an aside I am feeling much better at the moment- not much paracetamol needed at all, and I can strand up straight and walk normally- phew. (Have no idea why, as nothing has physically changed, but I won’t complain).

Then I realised we had guests this afternoon (Andy’s parents and Grandad) so after thinking about it for ages, I decided to make some sort of mincemeat slices.  I based the recipe loosely on CCK’s crumble bars.

For the base mix 1.5 cups flour (I used wholegrain spelt), 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon,1 tsp mixed spice, 1/4 cup melted coconut butter and 2 tbs milk (I used almond milk so these are vegan so long as the mincemeat is vegan).

For the filling mix a jar of mincemeat, 2 small peeled and chopped pears (you could use apples) and a sprinkle of dried cranberries.

Spread the base into a lined pan (I used my brownie pan which is about the size of a 6 hole big muffin pan) and press it down. Bake 180C for 10 mins.

Then spread over the filling.

And top with some marzipan stars (roll it out and cut them out with cookie cutters).

Return to the oven and bake for about 35 mins.

Then dust with icing sugar (or sugar mixed with cinnamon on something).

I used normal mincemeat (which turned out to taste very alcoholic when we had a little piece this afternoon!) but if you used the meridian stuff then that would lower the sugar content etc.

Anyway, I am not a fan of mince pies as I don’t really like pastry, so this is ideal as the base in this is lighter than pastry, plus you get more filling to base ratio. And of course anything with marzipan wins in my opinion!

I also had the most amazing hummus at lunch! Yum!

Yesterday I went to Waitrose (because it has free parking and I wanted to visit the health food shop to look for the mince pie filling, but also because Andy wanted one of their pizzas) and I noticed caramelised onion hummus reduced. I had some today with a lot of cucumber, the rest of the roasted tomato hummus and some little ryvita chilli crackers for dipping, and the hummus is amazing. It goes off tomorrow so I might actually have to eat the rest in one day. Pity. It was a delicious lunch anyway, finished off with some red grapes and clementines. Yum.

The other day (they all merge into one, not sure which day!) I started on my gingerbread house. I only wanted to make a small one, so had loads of dough left over which I made into cookies- gingerbread men and hearts. I also made some pebbles for the roof, but in the end I didn’t think they suited it (I will save that post for another day). Anyway, to make them special (and for gifts) I dipped them in chocolate.

I scooped them back out with a fork, and left them to cool/ harden on baking paper.

Then once they are dry/ hard, gently peel them off and bag them up for gifts.

Dark chocolate and gingerbread just go together so well. 🙂

To bring it back to the mincemeat, I was thinking that a dollop would go rather well on top of pancakes? That may be my boxing day brunch 🙂

Mincemeat- yes or no? And if yes, how do you eat yours? (I know I know it’s not Easter time but I just have it in my head now).

Have a lovely Christmas eve! 🙂

Spiced nuts with cranberries and coconut, and smelling like Christmas

Hey all

As I am rather confined to home at the moment I have been passing a lot of the time watching the food network/ good food channel. I keep seeing loads of Christmas specials (although have not seen the comedy gold that is Fanny Craddock yet this year) and have been recreating a few recipes at home to add to our gift hampers. I saw a version of this recipe, but forgot to write it down/ record the programme/ and could not find it on the internet.

Anyway, on with the recipe:

Mix 3 cups raw almonds, 1 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup coconut in a bowl. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a tray with baking paper.

Then in a small pan gently heat 3 tbs butter (I used Pure spread so they are vegan also), 3 tbs light brown soft sugar, 3 tbs dark brown soft sugar and a squirt of maple syrup.

Let it bubble away for a few minutes, then add a drop of vanilla, a drop of orange extract, a tsp cinnamon and a tsp mixed spice.

Pour the mixture over the nuts and dried fruit, and mix mix mix. Mix until they are all coated in the mixture. It gets very sticky!

Pour it onto the baking tray and spread it out.

Bake for 15-20 mins until they have darkened slightly (but not burnt). Some of the sugars will have gone hard when you take it out. Then leave to cool on the tray for a little bit before breaking it up.

Bag it up ready for gifts, and of course keep some for yourself!

Yum! They smell like Christmas 🙂

As well as giving gifts I was lucky enough to receive one this week- a few friends have popped over this week to keep me company, and one of them (who is the most amazing baker/ sweet maker) made me some salted caramels as a get well gift- in the prettiest bag too!

Seriously, how cute is this bag? Apparently it is for cupcakes but I think caramels are a much better filling!

I also ordered some rawr chocolate- they do Christmas chocolate with is flavoured with orange oil, cinnamon and nutmeg. Again- amazing- tastes like Christmas. 🙂

The only smell that tops it is a gingerbread house. I have made the pieces but not yet stuck it all together/ decorated it yet. I love it so much when we have one for decoration because the smell just drifts through the house the entire time. Mmmm.

What smells do you associate with Christmas? What are your favourite edible gifts to give/ receive?

WIAW- getting better edition

Morning peeps

It just does not feel like a Wednesday here- not sure it feels like any day at the moment. Having no routine just means all the days merge. But hooray because thanks to Jenn it is time for the midweek party to celebrate/ be nosy about what everyone has for their food.

I think (because all the days merge) I chose last Monday, a couple of days after I got home from hospital. Sadly porridge is not agreeing with me right now- I should not have had it in the hospital as now it reminds me of that. Hmph. Hopefully in a few days I will be back to it. I also had a bit of a dodgy tum my last day in hospital so was wanting more crunchy foods. Plus I get really full really quickly at the moment, but then hungry soon after- think when my stomach gets full it might press on the cyst? Anyway, less rambling, more food pictures!


Seedy toast with rainforest nut butter and blackcurrant spread.


Tomato soup (good old Heinz not home-made!) and some tomato and goats cheese flatbread.  Plus 2 clementines- so delicious.

Afternoon tea! My favourite!

Gingerbread spice tea! So yummy!


Pasta with red pesto, veggies and cheese (I did not manage all of this as I got so full though).

Dessert: A bit later on.

Baked apple with raisins and caramel alpro.

Do you have foods that remind you of being ill or foods that you feel make you feel better? For a long time, weirdly, tomato soup reminded me of being ill so I would never eat it when I was not unwell, but now it makes me feel like I am getting better.  I always feel that citrus fruit help me with a cold- a bit late with the vitamin C once you have the cold but it helps my brain believe I will get better- placebos are proven to work even when people know they are placebos after all!

Christmas Pudding Fudge recipe

I have become a bit of a stalker of The Pink Whisk website. Ruth has so many amazing looking ideas, and when I saw her idea for Christmas pudding fudge I knew I was going to make it as a gift.

Ruth included a fudge recipe on her site, but I decided to use the one that I know works for me (from Rachel Allen Home Cookingfor white chocolate fudge) and just adapt that instead.

As with all fudge recipes, get all your equipment and ingredients ready before you start- you don’t want your fudge to burn because you are plugging in the electric whisk or lining the pan.

So, line a pan (I use my brownie pan which is 10×6 inches and line with greaseproof paper), plug in the electric whisk, and get your fudge flavourings ready. This time I chopped up a small ready-to-microwave supermarket Christmas pudding- I think it was 80g?

Sorry it is a bit blurry but you get the idea.

Then in a large pan heat together 100g butter, 450g light brown soft sugar (or caster sugar) and a tin of light condensed milk.

Gently melt the ingredients, stir to stop it burning to the bottom. Then let it bubble away until it reaches the soft ball stage (113C). At this point turn off the heat and add in the Christmas pudding crumbles.

Then get out the electric whisk and beat away. (Traditional recipes seem to say to put the pan in some cold water and beat by hand, but this way always works for me).

Keep going until it gets harder to whisk. If you take the beaters out the fudge will drip off in a sort of stalactite way. Then pour into the lined pan.

Leave it to cool- I leave it at room temperature as I find it much easier to slice when it is still a little soft- in the fridge it goes too crumbly and can snap when slicing. I left this for maybe 2 hours and then it was super easy to slice.

Then bag it up ready for giving as gifts. (I had a friend visit me yesterday so she got the first bag).

Bag up the rest (and optional- keep a little pot for yourself).

It makes loads and loads- as it is so rich you need only put a dozen or so cubes in each bag and I think you could get 6 or 7 bags worth from one batch. Pretty good and a lovely gift idea I think.