Peanut butter caramel slices

I have still been loving the Bake Off. Yes, I love Mel and Sue and I miss them (and Mary) but Noel and Sandy are funny too. And really I watch it because I find it so relaxing- I don’t mind who goes home or who wins. I like to see them bake new things and decide that I will never attempt something that looks such a faff (mini swiss rolls) or maybe give something a go (I think the first time I tried to make a Battenberg was because I had seen it on Bake Off). Anyway, the other week was caramel week and inspired by it (because I think they made it look harder than it actually is) I have created my own recipe for peanut butter caramel slices.

Base:

150g soft margarine (Pure spread)

6 tbs brown sugar

165g plain flour

60g rolled oats

Caramel:

125g butter

1 tin condensed milk

75g brown sugar

1 tbs golden syrup

Plus 3 tbs peanut butter (to add later)

Topping:

200g dark chocolate

1 tbs peanut butter

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C

Line a square brownie tin with baking paper

Cream together the margarine and sugar for the base. Stir in the flour and oats, then press into the bottom of the tin.

Bake for around 25 minutes until golden

To make the caramel, put the butter, sugar, condensed milk and syrup in a pan. Gently heat and stir for around 10 minutes. The mixture will bubble but it should not spit. It will gradually turn darker as it thickens. I don’t use a thermometer for this bit- to test if it is thick enough put a little blob on a plate, leave for a few seconds and then push it with your finger to see if it has thickened. Once it has thickened, turn off the heat and stir in the peanut butter. Pour the peanut butter caramel over the base and leave to cool.

To make the topping, melt the dark chocolate (I have a nice thick bowl that I can use in the microwave) and then stir in the peanut butter. Pour over the caramel and leave to set again.

Once set, slice and enjoy.

Do you like caramel slices? What would your ultimate flavour combination be?

A summery salad

A while ago I was contacted by Sainsbury’s to see if I could make a visually stunning salad, as they have teamed up with food artist Amber Locke to encourage people to be more creative with their salads.

At the moment we have been enjoying halloumi cheese, often grilled with a salad and some quinoa. Then on Sunday after the 10K we went to Bill’s and I had one of their specials which was a salad with grilled honey peaches and halloumi. The sweet fruit and salty cheese went so well together, so we decided to make a similar version at home.

Halloumi and Watermelon Salad

2016-07-04 19.06.47

For two servings we used:

Watermelon, cubed (we bought a whole one, but had loads left over)

One pouch of Merchant Gourmet red and white quinoa (for extra colour although it is more black than red)

One pack of salad leaves

Half a pack of halloumi

A sprig of mint leaves

It was very quick to prepare:

Slice the cheese and put in a pan, Heat for a few minutes on either side.

Heat the pouch of quinoa in the microwave.

Slice the watermelon.

Tear the mint leaves.

Assemble on the plate.

Enjoy.

2016-07-04 19.06.18

I loved it and we both agreed that it is something we would make again. The watermelon and cheese just went perfectly together- I think the texture of the watermelon was even better than the peaches at Bill’s. It was also good to have a mixture of warm (quinoa and cheese) and cold (salad and watermelon). I don’t normally think to add herbs to salads either, but the mint just went so well and I am glad we used it. Andy did comment that we should have bought some blueberries too, and then it could have been a 4th of July salad (we had it on Monday) but we were eating it by then- maybe next time!

Do you like cheese and fruit in salads? Or salads with warm and cold ingredients?

*I was sent a voucher from Sainsbury’s to cover the cost of the ingredients. All opinions are my own.

Banana cake with peanut butter frosting

So, we are still rather inundated with bananas. Last weekend I was flicking through my new CCC book, A Year of Cake, and came across Peanut Butter and Caramelised Banana cake. It sounded good, but the ingredients list was long, and despite trying a few recipes I always go back to the banana bread from the original CCC book. So I made a bit of a recipe mash up (get it?).

For the cake:

100g butter

200g caster sugar

3 eggs

250g self raising flour

80ml milk

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla

4 medium bananas, mashed

1 tsp bicarb

3 tbs peanut butter (I used smooth, but crunchy would work too)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two 20cm cake tins with baking paper (I buy the circles now as that is so much easier). If making the icing you may want to leave out the butter so that it has plenty of time to come to room temperature before you need it.

Mash the bananas. Put the milk in a jug and add the lemon juice. Leave while you make the batter.

Beat together the butter and sugar, then add in the peanut butter and beat.

Add the eggs once at a time, then add the vanilla.

Pour in the milk (the lemon makes it curdle slightly, so it might be a bit lumpy) and bananas, and mix well. Finally fold in the flour and bicarb.

Pour into the two pans, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes, before removing from the tin (leave in the paper) and placing on a rack to cool.

Icing:

80g butter (room temperature)

250g peanut butter

150g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Possibly a tbs milk to thin

Beat together the butter and peanut butter until creamy. Slowly add in the icing sugar and finally add the vanilla. If it is really thick, add a tbs of milk to thin it out.

The recipe for the cake with the frosting also had bananas on top, caramelised with a blow torch, but I felt like it had enough banana flavour in there already. I had some of that lovely marshmallow deli vegan butterscotch sauce, so when I put the cake together I spread a bit of the sauce on the bottom cake, then half the frosting, put the other cake on top, and repeated with more sauce and more frosting.

2016-04-05 14.48.52

We had some on Sunday for tea and it was so good! The peanut butter frosting is just amazing, and luckily the banana bread-style cake is not too rich, so they go together perfectly. I normally add dark chocolate chips to the banana bread, but I think I might be converted to peanut butter instead. There was some left over so we took it home and are saving it.

To continue the peanut butter love I made some peanut butter cookies- I was visiting a friend and one of my friends does not eat gluten, so I had a quick google and found a recipe here on the Wholefoods site. I made half with white chocolate chips, and half without as I didn’t think they were gluten free. They were so easy to make- I just whisked the egg in a jug, added the vanilla and sugar, whisked again, then finally added the peanut butter. Some reviews on similar recipes said they were too crumbly, but these were perfect- nice and soft with a very strong peanut butter flavour.

2016-04-05 15.14.52

A slightly quicker recipe than the cake!

Do you go for smooth or crunchy peanut butter? I always used to prefer crunchy but because smooth is easier to use in baking I tend to go for that now.

How far is too far?

So as I have mentioned before, I am trying to imitate my long runs from last year in the build up to the Brighton half, as I felt good and strong during that race. I think often for a half I might go up to 11 miles in training, but do often struggle at around mile 8 or 9 (still too far for “just a parkrun left”), so running longer helped.

This past week didn’t have much running- I had a 5 mile club run on Tuesday, but then I had parents evenings on Wednesday and Thursday, and got a bit of a cold, then I had car troubles so had to go to the garage on Friday after work, so in the end just came home and relaxed.

2016-02-13 09.02.14

I have been sent this lovely cereal/ cereal topper, from Two Birds, so I enjoyed some for breakfast on Saturday, with an apple and muesli. It’s a mix of chia seeds, buckwheat, hemp hearts, bee pollen and cinnamon (they also do a berry one)- you can mix it with milk (like a sort of chia pudding), or have it as a topper.

2016-02-13 09.02.39

I love the cinnamon flavour and the chewy crunch that it adds to muesli.

On Saturday morning we had three house viewings booked, so I could not even parkrun, although we had a walk around town after, and I walked up to the shops later.

So Sunday came and I had not had much running, but I had planned a 14 mile run. My plan was to run out for 7, turn around and come home. I had a route in mind, but didn’t quite know where the 7 mile point would be.

After running out for nearly 7 miles, I realised I was quite close to one of the houses we had looked at, and I wanted to look at the driveway again as we were not sure it would park two cars, so I looked at maps on my phone and had a bit of a detour there (also getting lost because of not realising the map was upside down). This meant that I had done 8 miles before I started heading home again, and then my cold, which had gone, came back. I thought I knew a shortcut, although it had a bigger hill in it, but in fact looking at the map once I was home, it was no shorter, and in fact was possibly a bit longer. I had a pack of yo-yo’s with me, so at around mile 13 I walked for a bit while I ate them, and got up the energy to get home. I was so shattered when I got home, as I had ended up running over 15 miles! That may not sound like much more than what I was aiming for, but when you are running that far every mile counts.

2016-02-12 16.49.39

I found out earlier in that week that I had won a prize on Danni’s blog– porridge plus a fruit box delivery. The first fruit box arrived this Friday, and contained some blood oranges, so as soon as I got back on Sunday I had one of those- I needed something juicy right away and they fit the bill perfectly.

After a shower I had the energy to make some French toast, but pretty much felt wiped out for the rest of the day, and also really cold. It was so cold and even though I put on many layers I was shivering for a while. I did manage to make a cake (an easy one, using my food processor) this one -using more oranges (plain ones, not the blood ones) as I was seeing some friends on Monday and we needed a gluten free recipe. But that was about it. We went to tea at Andy’s parents house and his brother (who is a police officer) commented that he had seen me out running twice that morning, about 90 minutes apart! I think then I realised quite how far I had run!

So, two weeks until the half, and this weekend I don’t have to run quite as far! My legs were very sore on Monday and I did a fair bit of foam rolling, and had a bath with epsom salts, so they felt a bit better after that.

It did remind me that marathon training is just so tough- I could never be someone who runs several a year, or even one a year- I think half marathons are far enough for me right now. And on that note, I signed up to the inaugural Disneyland Paris half marathon today! I love the Run Disney medals, but the US ones are never in my school holidays, or they are the Sunday before school starts on Monday, leaving no time for a transatlantic flight, so having one in France is amazing! We had booked a hotel and train months ago, but today was the day bookings opened and we both managed to get a place- phew!

Which distance do you like to run the most? Do you plan your running routes or just head out? What sort of toppings do you like on cereal?

ComFit foods

I was recently asked to take part in a campaign to encourage people to swap comfort foods for ComFit foods.

Apparently over 70% of us will resolve to be healthier in the new year, but research from Sainsbury’s reveals that in fact two thirds of us will spend almost a full day more (22 hours) watching TV in January and 1/3 of us end up eating more comfort foods in January than any other month. Sainsbury’s recognises how important a healthy, balanced lifestyle is for their customers, without having to compromise on some of the most enjoyable things in life. So, inspired by this latest research and love of good food, Sainsbury’s is launching a campaign called ‘ComFit Foods’ – classic comfort food dishes, but with healthier twists.  

ComFit foods include one little twist to transform mid-week meals at a time where customers are striving to be more health conscious. The dishes all have elements of excitement and experimentation, but still utilise every day store cupboard ingredients in a healthy way. There’s a feeling among consumers that warming winter foods are automatically unhealthy, but these recipes show we can all still make feel-good-food without the guilt. Sainsbury’s hopes to inspire little changes which help make a big difference to overall nutritional value.

2016-01-23 19.18.26

I was sent a few recipes, and decided to cook the Pear and Coconut Crumble (see below for the recipe), as it sounded delicious. I like crumble toppings, but I like them to be super crunchy and the addition of the seeds sounded so good.

2016-01-23 19.19.54

It was simple to make- cook the pears, melt the coconut oil, mix the crumble mixture, top and bake. Just a bit of chopping and stirring. I left the skins on the pears as I like that.

2016-01-23 20.19.25

It smelled so good as it was baking- I think it was the coconut oil as well as the cardamom.

2016-01-23 20.26.29

We had some along with some custard (as I didn’t have any crème fraiche), and it was so good. The topping was much tastier than a traditional crumble mix, and the lime and coconut gave it a bit of a tropical feel.

We saved some in the fridge for another day- perfect post run food.

Here is the recipe if you fancy trying it (and I will make it again because it really was simple and really delicious):

Pear, Cardamom & Coconut Crumble

Serves 4

6 conference pears, peeled, cored and chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 tsp ground cardamom (lightly crack pods, and grind the seeds)

1 tbsp agave nectar (I used maple syrup)

Topping

3 tbsp walnuts, 1 tbsp roughly chopped (I used flaked almonds)

5 tbsp rolled oats

1 tbsp sunflower seeds

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1 tbsp agave nectar (maple syrup)

Pinch of salt

2 tbsp coconut flakes, toasted

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.
  2. Make the pear mix. Place pears, zest and juice of lime, cardamom and agave nectar in a saucepan and bring to medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to soften pears for about 6-8 minutes. They should still retain some bite.
  3. Make the topping. Whizz 2 tbsp of walnuts in a food processor (or alternatively, use a pestle and mortar) to grind. Mix together with the chopped walnuts oats, oats, sunflower seeds, coconut oil, agave and salt.
  4. Place pear mix in a ceramic ovenproof dish, followed by the topping. Place on baking tray for 20-25 minutes, until warmed through and light golden brown on top. Finish off with toasted coconut flakes. Serve with low-fat crème fraiche.

They have also produced this recipe for avocado mousse which I might try at the weekend:

Avocado, banana and cacao mousse with coconut

Serves 4

2 ripe avocados, de-stoned

1 ripe banana

2 tbsp raw cacao

4 tsp agave syrup

2 tsp desiccated coconut, to serve

Place the avocados, banana, cacao and agave in a blender and blitz until smooth and creamy. Spoon into 4 small tumblers and sprinkle over a little coconut before serving.

What is your favourite comfort food? 

*I was sent a voucher to purchase the ingredients with. All opinions are my own.