Cheat’s Chocolate Brownies

When my oven broke  a couple weeks ago, it took a while to get it fixed (it turned out that it was only the fuse, but I kept forgetting to buy a new one!).  Anyway, due to it not working, and having no cakes in the house, I turned to a recipe that a lovely work colleague gave me, which makes no-bake cakes… and they’re super yummy!

I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit, as I wanted it a bit more chocolately, so used dark chocolate for the topping, and added some oreos into the biscuit base…

There’s no measuring scales required, so it’s a useful recipe to have to hand (plus the ease of no baking!)

 

Ingredients

  • 20 digestive biscuits
  • 10 oreo biscuits
  • ¾ block of butter
  • 2 teaspoons of hot chocolate powder
  • 1tbsp of golden syrup
  • 300g of dark chocolate (Tesco value or whatever does the trick)

Recipe

  1. Crush the biscuits in a bag / bowl.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the chocolate powder and golden syrup. Stir. Add the biscuit crumbs and mix.
  3. Pour the content into a baking tray and put to set in the fridge for 30 m – 1 hr until firm.
  4. Melt the dark chocolate over boiling water and pour over the base once it’s set.
  5. Return to the fridge to set for 1 – 2 h. (* tip – it’s better to cut the cake at room temperature rather than straight out of the fridge as it will crack! – I made this mistake because I was too impatient to taste it).

Enjoy and try not the think about the calories!!

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Magic Carpet

Apologies, I’ve been a bit lax writing posts recently… That’s not to say that I’ve not been a busy bee though!… I’ve got lots of yummy recipes that I’ll be posting in the next couple of weeks, and a couple of fun ideas for little decorations and things to make for Valentine’s Day.

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I’ve been living in my flat for seven months now, and I’ve been looking for carpets for the living room since I moved in.  I’ve got a large living room area, and the teeny tiny rug that was in there (inherited from my student days) has been almost completely covered just by the coffee table.

Before

I’ve been postponing the purchase because the size of the rug needed meant that it would be – probably – a sizeable amount of cash that would be leaving my bank account to cover it.  I was also quite indecisive about the colour… I didn’t know whether to go for a neutral colour, or whether to go for a bold statement (dark green rug anyone?!), plain or patterned.

In the end, I decided – pretty spur of the moment whilst walking through IKEA (we were buying other things for my flat, and we just happened to walk through the rug section and notice some discount prices) – to go for a plain, neutral rug.  Boring I know.  BUT.. it’s an investment, and I know that whatever house I buy, I’m going to be painting those future living room walls some lovely bold colour, and the rug will look fabulous and neutral and balanced in comparison.  I made sure that the rug wasn’t too big either, as I have no idea what house I’ll end up in, in the next year or so, and so wanted a big enough rug to feel homey and cozy, but a small enough one that I’ll be able to fit in potentially a study or small living room down the line.

Here’s the before and after pictures to give you an idea of how the rug has made the living room feel more like a cozy spot to curl up in (the rug, although a shorter pile than ones I’d originally looked at, is gorgeously soft and I’m loving walking barefoot on it!).

After

When you compare the two photos, it’s a massive improvement on the living space, and is just one extra thing (along with the curtains and frame wall) that make this space feel like a lived in and cosy home now.

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PS – you’ll notice that this was a few weeks ago, as you can see Sherlock on my TV screen… Wasn’t the finale something and a half?!… I nearly cried (but then I found out that there’s to be a third series, so I’m now not so upset by the ending, and more “so HOW did they do that???!” Can not wait till the next series airs… Hurry up 2013!)

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 PPS – The rug is from IKEA, £49.99, down from £80.68.  Yay for waiting to buy the rug and getting £30 knocked off the price!

Ham and Cheese Savoury Muffins

These are really simple savoury muffins, which make for a great and different lunchtime snack.  They go well with a light salad, but are just as fantastic on their own as a snack.

These didn’t bake without mishap for me however… Just as I was finishing putting the muffin batter into the cases, BAM. My oven broke. It didn’t go up in a puff of smoke or anything (now that perhaps would’ve been a better story…), it simply made a small clicking sound, and then powered down, light, heat and all.  So I had to quickly run down to the flat below mine, and beg the owner to use his oven (luckily we get on well, so he agreed, on condition he have one muffin – I gave him two!)

They turned out really well, and had a fantastic flavour to them, so I’ll definitely be cooking them regularly, and encourage everyone to give them a go!*

* They work just as well as Cheese and Onion savoury muffins, simply omit the ham…

Ham and Cheese Savoury Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 280g self raising flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (yes, you read right!)
  • 1 tsp mustard (this brings out the cheese flavour, so don’t leave this out, even if you’re not keen on mustard, you can’t taste it at all by the end!)
  • seasoning (I used 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper)
  • 7 fl oz. milk
  • 3 fl. oz. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 50g cheddar cheese
  • 50g soft goats cheese / brie
  • 50g ham
  • 1 onion

  1. Preheat the oven to 200’C.
  2. Dice the onion finely.
  3. Cube the goats cheese (or brie), and finely grate the cheddar.
  4. Measure flour, seasoning and baking powder into a bowl and mix.
  5. Measure milk, oil and mustard into a jug, and add the egg, then beat the mixture.
  6. Add the liquid to the flour mix, and stir a couple of times.  Add the diced onion, goats cheese / brie, and all but 1 tbsp of the grated cheddar (leave this little bit for sprinkling on the top!).  Add the chopped ham.
  7. Mix together carefully, making sure not to over-mix.  It’s easy to do this with muffins, but they only need a couple of stirs (even though they look all floury and messy).
  8. Divide up into muffin cases, sprinkle the leftover cheese on top, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes. When taking out of the oven, leave to rest for 5 minutes in the muffin tin before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool.

These were really yummy hot as well – I had a couple for tea with a small rice salad and a large helping of lettuce and tomatoes!

These will keep for 2 – 3 days out of the fridge, but make sure you keep them in a cool place.

Healthy Eton Mess

So one of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to be more healthy.  I’m pretty good at eating the 5-a-day of fruit and veg (I sometimes eat up to 7-a-day without noticing, as I use fruit as a snack through the day).  However, I’m fond of nice desserts and cakes… I don’t have them often… But they call my name in supermarkets (and I ignore them to the best of my ability).  I recently craved an unhealthy dessert – Eton Mess – so instead of giving in to it, I decided to make my own healthy version, which would take the edge off the craving.

Healthy Eton Mess (makes 1 serving)

1 digestive biscuit

1 small meringue nest

handful of raspberries / summer berries

125g natural yoghurt

Recipe

  1. Crush the digestive biscuit, and place in the bottom of the bowl (I used a wine glass because it looked prettier!).
  2. Crush the meringue, enough to create small chunks, but not too small, as they will dissolve in the yoghurt otherwise.
  3. Mix the berries with the yoghurt, and at the last minute, add the meringue pieces.
  4. Spoon carefully on top of the biscuit base, and serve immediately, with a garnish of berries on top.

This was super easy and quick to make, and I felt much better afterwards for not eating quite so much fat and calories as a normal Eton Mess would’ve served me, through all that thick cream.

The yoghurt goes well with the meringue, and the sweetness of the berries and meringue will hopefully curb any cream craving you have!

Enjoy!

Leek, Spinach and Potato Bake

Last weekend I didn’t go food shopping… and so I was stuck on Saturday night at 7pm as to what to cook for my dinner.  After rifling through my kitchen cupboards, I found some old potatoes, an onion, and a little bit of leek and broccoli hiding away in my fridge.

So I pottered about by my hob, and made this up as I went along.  It turned out really well though, and was a good hearty, very easy – and cheap – meal to cook in the evening.

Leek, Spinach and Potato Bake

2 leeks, chopped diagonally
200g fresh spinach (or use frozen as a cheaper option)
500g potatoes, cut into smallish cubes
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
Handful of grated cheese for topping
100ml milk
Several small sprigs of broccoli (I added quite a lot as I like broccoli, but this could easily be replaced by frozen peas, cauliflower or left out if you wanted)
Seasoning

1) Brown the diced potatoes with a little oil, pepper, salt and rosemary in a pan.

2) place onion, leek and garlic in a separate pan and fry in a small amount of oil (you can avoid the oil if you use a nonstick pan).

3) Once leek an onion have browned, tub down the heat and add the broccoli, and spinach.

4) combine potatoes and vegetables in an oven-proof dish, add the milk, and sprinkle the grated cheese on top.  Cook at 200’C for 20 minutes. Serve immediately with a side salad.

This dish provided me with 4 meals, and didn’t cost me a penny due to me having leftovers in the fridge and old potatoes in the cupboard. However, if you bought the ingredients from the supermarket, this meal would cost you approximately £1.60 for 4 portions (which makes each serving only 40p!) Ah if only I could make meals that cheap all the time…

A New Year, A New Start

And that’s why you have new year’s resolutions.  In all honesty, I end up breaking mine a month or so into the year, so they’re pretty useless to make in the first place…

However this year, I am making resolutions (albeit a little late uploading them to here!), and they are manageable ones that I will be able to keep.

So with no further ado, my resolutions for 2012:

1) To be more organised – I’ve realised that this is one that I really need to make an effort at sometimes.  On the weeks that I’m working 50+ hours between my two jobs, it’s easy to not tidy up at home when I get back from work, as I’m often too tired.  However, if I can organise things well, it will be easier to keep things tidy on a day-to-day basis.  It’s not just that though, it’s getting rid of clutter and items that I no longer use, as inevitably I’ll have to pack up my belongings once more when I move to a new house, and I don’t want to have to box up things that I won’t use.

*This has already began:  I spent my Saturday morning going through my wardrobe and chest of drawers, sorting out my clothes… I’ve already put aside a substantial amount to sell via eBay (yay, extra cash!), and sent 4 bags of clothes to the charity shop.  I’ve tidied both wardrobe and drawers, and organised them.  I took my summer clothes out and stored them in a box under my bed, so that there’s more room in the drawers for my winter jumpers, and I can look forward to swapping my clothes around come April time.

2) To reprioritise my life – say yes to the right things, and not be afraid of saying no when I’m overworked and when I don’t want to do something.

3) To make a profit doing the things that I enjoy; blog, crafts, baking and composing.  Even if it’s starting a small shop on Etsy for Christmas crafts, or going to a couple of farmer’s markets with my cupcakes.  It can be as little as making birthday and Christmas cards more regularly, to save money in the long run, and making Christmas decorations again for next year.

4) To be more healthy, to be more fit, and be happier in myself (and maybe even lose a bit of weight whilst doing so).  I’m already pretty good at being healthy, but I’d like to think I could be even more so, and will be more aware of what I cook.

5) To make more of an effort to save money for important things. I need to think more when doing a food shop sometimes, especially after watching Extreme Couponing!  I’ll definitely be featuring a couple of easy, quick, healthy and cheap meals on the blog this year!  (Starting with a yummy and cheap Leek, Spinach and Potato bake, and a healthy version of Eton Mess this week, once I have a card reader to upload the photos from my camera!)

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Savvy Shopping – How to shop for Christmas in the January Sales

 

The January sales are all a-go-go, and it’s easy to forget all about next Christmas in the rush to get cheap clothes and cute things in the massive sales.  However, it’s a great idea to do some shopping now, for the Christmas next year (I know, I know, biiiig planning ahead, but seriously, it’s worth it!… You can get decorations half price at this time of year, and you can even bag a fake Christmas tree for under £30.

I’ve compiled a short list of things to keep in mind when shopping the January sales, specifically for the next year’s festive season:

  • Christmas pudding will keep – a rich pudding is full of sugar which means that in spite of it maybe saying ‘Best Before July 2012’, it will keep until next year.
  • Mincemeat does not seem to be in the sale in January, but keep an eye out if it is reduced.
  • Start your Christmas shopping for next year – January sales are full of nice items, that you will be paying full price for again if you leave it until next winter.  I now have a ‘present box’ in my study, which is full of presents that I can give J or friends and family for their next birthdays / Christmas.  Stationery is always useful, and will again be reduced in the January sales.
  • Likewise, jewellery and small gifts can be bought now and kept in a box until birthdays and Christmas next year.
  • Store your current Christmas decorations carefully, so that none break.  It’ll save you having to buy more decorations when you realise there’s some broken ornaments in the box next year.
  • Christmas Candles will obviously keep – if yours have been getting low due to using them this year, buy your new ones now, and save some money.  Same with christmas cards and wrapping paper – they can store easily in a cupboard somewhere until you need them next year (and you can get an early start on writing those Christmas cards; if you’ve got them in the cupboard, you can write and send them in November – plenty of time before the last postal dates!)
  • If you need to buy a new (fake) Christmas tree, now’s the time, the price is much much lower than they are before Christmas, as the old stock needs to be got rid of.
  • Christmas lights are also half price at this time of year – LED ones are usually expensive, but I managed to grab a couple of sets for £7.50 each instead of the £15 that they were before the sale.

Top Tip:  I tend to avoid the high streets, but shop online instead.  Most shops offer free delivery around this time of year, and generally all offer free returns.  It’s far more relaxing to browse a website with a cup of coffee in hand, rather than fight through a swarm of rushed shoppers in order to grab that last Christmas ramekin!