Friday, 24 October 2014

Pumpkin Spice M&M Halloween Cookies

Halloween candy is much more prevalent in the US and I received quite a haul of it when my boyfriend’s mum visited the States last month. I didn’t want to just eat the chocolates and sweets and prefer instead to bake with it (though we did already demolish a bag of caramel Hershey’s Kisses!). That has left me needing to do a lot of baking in the run-up to Halloween however!
After the success of my Reese’s Pieces cookies I decided to make something similar using these pumpkin spice flavour M&Ms.
They are not strongly flavoured and without reading the packet I wouldn’t have been able to tell the taste was pumpkin – so I decided to boost the flavour of the cookies with some extra canned pumpkin. I found this in the American foods aisle of my local (small) Tesco; you can use it as a pumpkin pie filling or for all sorts of other things.
The cookies are very simple to make, and since I used my American measuring cups I didn’t even need to find a recipe.
Makes 10-12 cookies
You need:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup soft brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 tbsp canned pumpkin puree
½ cup pumpkin spice flavour M&Ms
Preheat oven to 175C.
Mix the butter, sugar and egg in a bowl then fold in the flour and nutmeg. Mix in the canned pumpkin then stir in the M&Ms.
Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper and place a heaped tablespoon of the mixture on the sheet per cookie. Press down a little to flatten the cookie. In retrospect I would flatten these quite a lot as mine didn't look all that much like cookies!
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes then allow to cool.
These cookies were delicious – quite soft with a melt in the mouth texture. The M&Ms are like little hidden surprises, though the overall flavour of the pumpkin in the cookie wasn’t strong at all. Which might be a good thing as I’m not sure how I feel about cookies that taste too much of pumpkin!

I am sending this to Cook Blog Share, hosted by Lucy at SuperGoldenBakes, to share this recipe with other bloggers.
I am also sharing this with Let's Cook for Halloween, hosted by Simply Food.
These cookies are also perfect for the Treat Petite challenge, hosted by Kat at Baking Explorer and Stuart at Cakeyboi, as the theme is trick or treat.

To me, biscuits and cookies are comfort food, so I'm sending these to the Biscuit Barrel challenge, hosted by Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than.

The theme for this month's Tea Time Treats is cooking or baking with vegetables, and since there is pumpkin in these cookies I'm sharing this with Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Jane at The Hedgecombers.

Halloween is the theme for We Should Cocoa, but the recipe also needs to involve chocolate. Luckily these pumpkin spice M&Ms are chocolate! So I am sending this to Hannah at Honey and Dough, who is hosting the challenge on behalf of Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Meal Planning Monday - Week 43

Monday- I'm at a choir rehearsal so my boyfriend will  have dinner at his mum's
Tuesday- spaghetti carbonara (on the meal plan last week but we had something else instead)
Wednesday – gammon, egg and chips for him; cod, vegetables and parsley sauce for me
Thursday tacos with beef mince and potato wedges (on meal plan last week but didn’t have them)
Friday –sausage and chips
Saturday- at a choir rehearsal all day so will take a packed lunch; out with friends for dinner
Sunday – A variation on Tory Cobbler from The Fabulous Baker Brothers' Glorious British Grub

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Baked Camembert With Wine, Mustard and Honey and a Cheese Plate Review

I was sent a set of cheese plates to review by Culture Vulture Direct, a UK-based company that sells gifts and homewares inspired by traditional crafts and artisans around the world. They have a great tableware section and you can see the set of four gourmet cheese plates they sent (RRP £19.99). The plates are in an attractive presentation box so would make a nice gift.

Each one bears the name and depiction of a different cheese; the plates are what I would call quite rustic, French farmhouse in style, and the four cheeses depicted are all French. These are good quality bone china but helpfully both dishwasher and microwave save.

I decided to test them out by, well, eating some cheese! I have made a baked camembert before, where I baked the cheese in the wooden box it came in and didn't do anything to it, though I did bake my own bread sticks to dip into it. This time I decided to see if I could find anything more interesting to do with the cheese and found this recipe on the BBC Food website for a baked camembert with garlic, mustard and honey - but discovered at the last minute that I had run out of garlic. Regular readers will know I'm not very good at making sure I have the correct ingredients in advance! Still, I followed the rest of the recipe and this still turned out really well.

I have a ceramic camembert baker I was given a year or two ago which consists of a pot with a lid that you put the cheese in and put in the oven, and a wooden knife to go with it. I preheated the oven and placed the cheese in it. Cut a cross in the top of the cheese.

In a small bowl mix 1 tbsp honey, 2 tbsp white wine and 1 tsp wholegrain  mustard then pour over the cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven for ten minutes. I put the cheese still in the pot on the camembert cheese plate from the set to serve. It was just the right size and looks really good.

We ate this simply with some fresh bread dippe din. When I have baked camembert I always think it needs something either sharp or sweet to cut through the richness of the cheese - a quince jelly perhaps - so this dressing ticks both the sharp and sweet boxes. I highly recommend it!

Thanks to Culture Vulture Direct for sending the cheese plates to review. I was not required to make positive comments and all opinions are my own.

I am sending this to Speedy Suppers, the blog challenge hosted by Sarah at Maison Cupcake, as the theme this month is cheese.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Lemon Chicken with Pasta


This is a quick and simple meal that I like for either lunch or dinner; the chicken with the pasta is filling and the lemon sauce is zingy. It goes well with green veg like broccoli. I used to make it a lot for weekend lunches but my other half doesn't like really pasta so I don't cook this sort of thing much any more, but coming across this recipe has reminded me of how good it is!

Cook your pasta according to your usual method or the packet instructions. I find a chunky pasta like fusili or farfalle works well with this.

Cut one chicken breast per person into cubes and fry in Fry Light or a little oil until cooked through. You can also add some chopped onion but again my other half doesn't like that so I made this without.

Add the grated zest and juice of one lemon, and 200ml chicken stock to the pan. Add 1-2 tsp sugar to taste as you don't want the lemon flavour to be too sharp.

Heat until the stock has reduced and stir in 2 tbsp low fat plain yogurt or fromage frais.

Simply stir the sauce through the pasta to serve.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Degustabox: a monthly box of edible treats (review)

I love receiving nice things in the post, who doesn't? I recently discovered a company called Degustabox that will send you a monthly parcel of edible treats - all recently or about-to-be launched products from both leading and smaller brands, but these are full sized products, not samples. The box costs £12.99 a month including delivery, or £11.99 a month if you pay biannually. It's definitely good value as the contents are worth around £20. If you want to only order one box you can cancel after that and not have to buy another.

This all sounds like I've been paid to advertise this service but I haven't - I came across it via a friend and subscribed and have had two boxes so far, both paid for out of my own money. I liked the idea - and the contents - so much that I wanted to share it with you!

The first box I received in August had a voucher for Moma Bircher Muesli - as they have to be stored in the fridge, which is good if your box ends up sitting on your doorstep or with a neighbour all day. As I had just moved house I didn't get around to redeeming the voucher however.

I also received a packet of brioche croissants and one of pain au lait; these are both ready to eat from the packet so were a great help on the first few mornings in our new house when we didn't have much in the way of fresh food and hadn't unpacked the crockery!

There was a box of apple and pear juice from Cawston Press, which was lovely:

And two pots of Schwartz Flavour Shots, something I hadn't come across before. One was for Mexican fajitas and the other Spanish paprika chicken. The little pots have a blend of herbs, spices and seasonings in a paste and oil; you heat the paste in the pan and add the oil along with your chicken; for the Spanish paprika chicken, you also add onions and a tin of tomatoes. It was delicious!


Dr. Oetker edible cupcake cases - I'd already found these in the supermarket and used them to make these incredible banoffee cupcakes. The edible cupcake cases aren't cheap but I recommend them for the occasional bake as they are so different and a lot of fun!

Caribbean Twist Strawberry Daiquiri- really refreshing and fruity, with an alcoholic kick that isn't too strong.

Mexican Dave's tortilla chips- handy to have something like this in the cupboard for when you have the munches, and the subtle flavour means they would pair well with salsas and dips.

Berry White fruit drinks - quite an unusual flavour and not as sweet as most other soft drinks or squashes and these count as one of your five a day.

A little heart shaped tin of Lindt chocolates which brought a smile to my face! It was a shame these were solid chocolate and not filled with caramel though...

And for my second box at the very end of September, there was an intriguing new product I hadn't seen before: Carnation 'Cook with it'. From the makers of condensed milk, this is a lighter cooking sauce for savoury dishes that resembles single cream but has less fat. I've used it in a homemade curry which worked really well and I'm planning to try it out in a spaghetti carbonara this weekend.

Burts Lentil Waves - like crisps, but made from lentils. I received three packets - sour cream and chive, lightly salted and sweet chilli. I was a bit dubious but these tasted really good; very crunchy and a healthier alternative to crisps.

Bahlsen 'Pick Up' - a chocolate biscuit with a very thick layer of chocolate sandwiched between two biscuits, these reminded me a little of Prince chocolate biscuits that I've eaten in Europe. They are really satisfying- did I mention the extra thick layer of chocolate?! - and didn't last long in my house at all!

Crabbie's alcoholic lemonade - I've seen their alcoholic ginger beer before but I think the lemonade is new. It's just on the right side of the sweet and sharp spectrum and while I don't particularly hold with the idea of adding alcohol to soft drinks directly - I was never one for alcopops even as a teenager - it tasted pretty good.

Jordan's Simply Granola - I don't usually buy Jordan's cereal but that might have to change. This granola is simply oats with a little honey - when I buy museli I often find myself picking out bits I don't like. This comes in a resealable bag that lasts ages, and tasted great layered with yogurt and fruit for breakfast.

Elizabeth Shaw dark chocolate mint thins - I don't like mint so my boyfriend will have these; which reminds me, he hasn't spotted them in the cupboard yet!

Righteous salad dressings - a new brand, I was sent three little pots of salad dressings that are made using 100% natural ingredients. It's a bit cold for salad now so I used the blue cheese dressing as part of the filling in a baked potato. It was lovely!

Little Miracles drinks - a blend of tea and fruit juice. The tea gave it a slightly odd flavour and I wasn't a huge fan of these but I think it's more of an acquired taste and can still see the brand being successful.

I'm looking forward to finding out what is in October's box -  to purchase a Degustabox yourself sign up via this link.