Halloween Crafts: ‘Pumpkin’ Carving

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Sometimes, I actually have to remind myself that I’m not 10 anymore, but I can’t help it, I still get ridiculously excited about the holidays.  With Halloween fast approaching, I’m trying to find the time to put together a costume (so much more important than uni work and making money), which I will be sharing once finished.  In the meantime, I figured I’d share a cute little Halloween project I made a couple of years ago.

It’s a cheap alternative to a pumpkin and also makes the room smell really nice!

What you need:

  • An orange
  • A small, sharp knife
  • A tooth pick and green sharpie
  • A small tea light

How to: 

1.  Cut the top off and hollow out the bottom part of the orange, keeping the top for the lid.

2.  Carve your design into the orange.

3.  Colour the toothpick with the green pen and stick into the lid to create a ‘stalk’.

4.  Light the tea light and ta-da, a super quick and easy ‘pumpkin’.

(Just as a safety precaution, it’s probably best not to leave the lid on while the candle is lit in case it sets your house on fire – mine seemed fine while I took the pictures, but I wouldn’t risk a whole night)

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Hummus and Spinach Melts

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I’ve got a confession to make.  While I enjoy cooking, I’m not particularly great at making myself consistently healthy meals.  To change this, I’ve been searching for quick, easy (and somewhat healthy) recipes to try out and came across this recipe for Hummus Melts which turned out great.  To save time I didn’t make my own hummus, but the shop-bought seemed to work pretty well.

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Ingredients:

  • A wholegrain bagel (the original uses an English muffin, but surprisingly we don’t actually have those in the UK)
  • Several handfuls of spinach
  • 1 cove of garlic (crushed)
  • Olive oil
  • Grated cheese (the original uses mozzarella, but the cheddar I used seemed to work nicely)

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It’s as simple as toasting a wholegrain bagel, sautéing some spinach in olive oil with a little garlic, topping with hummus and grated cheese and grilling in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

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I even served it with some salad – aren’t I doing well?

BBC Good Food’s Chorizo & Apple Sausage Rolls

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Not everything I bake is covered in frosting or sugar!  These sausage rolls (featured in BBC Good Food Magazine, June 2013) caught my eye.  I love most combinations of savoury ingredients and fruit (pineapple BELONGS on pizza – don’t argue with me) and these do not disappoint.  The chorizo gives them a spicy kick and goes nicely with the sweet apple.

Ingredients: 

Knob of butter

1 eating apple (peeled and diced)

6 chorizo-style cooking sausages (skins removed)

Handful of parsley (chopped)

375g pack of puff pastry

3 tbsp apple sauce

1 egg (beaten)

Poppy seeds (for sprinkling)

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Recipe:

1.  Cook butter and apple until apple is soft and set aside to cool.

2. Put sausage meat, apple and parsley in a bowl and mash together.

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3. Heat oven to 200c.

4.  Roll out pastry (mine was pre-rolled, I just cut it in half) into a large rectangle and cut in half so you have two, thin strips of pastry.

5.  Spoon the apple sauce down the middle of the  two strips.  Lay sausage meat on top.  Brush egg on the edges.

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4.  Fold over the pastry to enclose the filling.  Seal by pressing with a fork.

5.  Cut into smaller rolls.  Brush with egg and sprinkle with the poppy seeds.  Cut several small slashes into each roll.

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6.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Can be served both hot and cold.

These disappeared so quickly! They would make a great Father’s Day treat as well.

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Patchwork Strawberry and Rhubarb Pie

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I may have lied just a little when I said I was back to blogging.  I’ve since turned in my final essay, so I will keep my promise from now on.  I’ve been trying to catch up with all the things I didn’t have time for when I was writing my dissertation, including baking, and thought I would give this recipe that I found in Good Food Magazine a try.

The recipe called for making the pastry from scratch, a step which I decided to skip, as I am much too lazy for that.  I also decided to switch the gooseberries for rhubarb because, as you might be able to tell from my Rhubarb, Apple and Blueberry Crumble, I’m a huge rhubarb fan.

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Ingredients:

500g short crust pastry

500g strawberries (halved)

500g rhubarb (chopped to same size as strawberries)

100g golden caster sugar (and an extra tbsp for the top)

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp of semolina

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Recipe:

1.  Heat oven to 200c.

2.  Cook fruit and sugar in a pan for 5 minutes until syrupy.

3.  Once cooked, drain liquid from the fruit and put both aside.

4.  Roll out half of pastry to line and line the tin.  Prick base with fork.  Chill until firm and then line with tin foil and fill with baking beans.

5.  Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

6.  Roll out the other half of the pastry and cut into squares.

7.  Scatter the semolina on the pastry base.

8.  Add the fruit to the base and top with 2 tbsp of the extra syrup.

9.  Arrange the squares of pastry over the top of the fruit.  Brush with an egg white.

10.  Mix cinnamon and the extra 1 tbsp of sugar and scatter half of the mixture over the top of the pie.

11.  Cover the crust with a collar of foil and bake for 30 minutes.

12.  Sprinkle over the rest of the sugar/cinnamon.

13.  Serve with the extra syrup and yoghurt or ice cream.

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Christmas Countdown 7: Candy Cane Truffles

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In case you were wondering what I did with the rest of the giant packet of candy canes, here’s what I used them for: white chocolate and candy cane truffles.

The original recipe is from Your Cup of Cake, but as it is my nature to meddle with things and ignore instructions, I made some changes, which I think turned out pretty well.

making trufflesI followed the original recipe for the most part, but instead of immediately rolling the truffles in the candy cane pieces, I chilled the centres and dipped them in an additional layer of white chocolate before sprinkling with the crushed pieces of candy cane.

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Once I ran out of the melted white chocolate I began to make the truffles as the original instructions suggested.  Although these look much more professional (they actually stayed round), I have to say I do prefer the ones dipped in chocolate.  I also think it might be a fun idea of experiment by dipping these centres in dark or milk chocolate as well.

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Christmas Countdown 4: Homemade Mince Pies

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It doesn’t feel like December until my mum has made her mince pies.  Apparently some people aren’t familiar with mince pies in the States, some of my friends actually thought they had meat in them.  Basically, mincemeat is a mixture of dried fruit, alcohol and spices.  It smells amazing and you get to make a wish when you stir it.  This is always a family thing, but I figured I would share my mum’s recipe with you.  It is loosely based on a mincemeat recipe from Delia Smith’s Christmas recipe book and the pastry is store-bought, but you could make your own if you can be bothered.

Here’s what you need:

supplies for mince pies

225 g Bramley apples (chopped into small pieces)

112 g vegetarian suet

400 g dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, currants)

120 g dried apricots (cut into smaller pieces)

175 g soft dark brown sugar

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon

25g pecans (chopped)

2 teaspoons mixed ground spice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Nutmeg (grated)

3 tablespoons brandy

Ready rolled sweet pastry

Mincemeat:

1.  Combine all ingredients (apart from the brandy) in a large bowl and mix them together.

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2.  Cover bowl with a cloth and leave in a cool place overnight.

3.  Pre-heat oven to 120 c, cover the bowl with foil and put in the oven for 3 hours.

4.  Stir occasionally as the mixture cools down.

5. When cool, add the brandy and stir.

6.  Store mincemeat somewhere cool if not using it immediately – it should keep for a long time.

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Mince Pies:

1.  Roll out pastry and using a cookie cutter cut out circles for the bases and stars for the tops.

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2.  Grease muffin tin and press the pastry bases to fit.

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3.  Add a couple of spoonfuls of mincemeat (make sure not to overfill them).

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4.  Cover with pastry stars.

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5.  Separate an egg and brush the yolk over the tops.

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6.  Bake in a 200 c oven for about 15 minutes or until the tops are golden.

7.  Sprinkle with icing sugar.

These taste especially yummy if you eat them warm with a dollop of cream.

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Christmas Countdown 1: Primrose Bakery Maple Pecan Cupcakes

I love the holidays, but as I’m now living in Scotland I don’t get to properly celebrate Thanksgiving anymore.  To get in the spirit, I decided to do a bit of baking.  These Maple Pecan Cupcakes with maple syrup buttercream icing and caramelised nuts are another recipe from the Primrose Bakery (see the vanilla ones I made here) and are amazingly tasty.  Definitely a good replacement for traditional pecan pie.  The recipe was the winner of a competition to raise money for the bakery’s Wellbeing of Women charity and you can find it here.