Recipe: Blondies with Brown Sugar Frosting

Blondies

I’m not a big fan of chocolate cake so it will come as no surprise to hear that brownies don’t feature high on my list of favourite things to bake. Recently though, I’ve come across several recipes for blondies – basically brownies without the chocolate – which I had earmarked to try on a rainy day. Well, yesterday that rainy day finally materialised. It was the first day of the Easter holidays and with Clemmie still recovering from flu and the aforementioned rain pouring down outside, it was the ideal time for all of us to get stuck into some baking. With icing sugar covering every surface of the kitchen like fairy dust, we measured, poured and stirred in relative harmony.

And the end result? Well, the kids loved the frosted blondies but they were a little bit too sweet for my liking. I think next time I will omit the frosting and use the chocolate chips specified in the original recipe (we were out of chocolate chips so I used some mini fudge pieces I found in the cupboard instead). It is a great basic recipe, however, and I look forward to experimenting with new flavours. I have seen recipes for banana blondies and peanut butter or salted caramel blondies, all of which sound yummy.

I used a mix of two recipes: one for basic blondies (any recipe that has ‘no fail’ in the title gets my vote!) and another one for the brown sugar frosting. I prefer to follow Swedish or American recipes as they tend to use cup or deciliter  measurements for the dry ingredients which I find easier than weighing everything. Usually when I’m making something that I plan to post in the blog, I measure the ingredients anyway but with three kids clamouring for the same wooden spoon I just didn’t have time. The first recipe includes the weight in grams but the frosting recipe only has cups measurements I’m afraid.

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Basic Blondies:

(Makes 16 bars)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Butter or line an 8-inch by 8-inch (20 x 20 cm) baking pan with parchment paper.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup (230 g) lightly packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar which seemed to work fine)
  • 1 large egg
  • 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (140 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
Optional Extras (Add one or a combination to customize)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips (white, milk, semi-sweet, dark, etc.)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped and toasted nuts
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped dried fruit or shredded/flaked coconut
  • 1/4 cup liquor (bourbon, whisky, rum, etc.) Note: Increase flour by 1 tablespoon to accommodate
  • 1/2 teaspoon flavourings or extracts (coconut, mint, rum, raspberry, etc.)

In a medium sized bowl, stir the melted butter and sugar until smooth. Stir in the egg, vanilla, almond extract (optional) and the salt. Add flour and stir until incorporated then mix in any extras such as chocolate chips, nuts or dried fruit. Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake for around 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out relatively clean. Cool, then cut into 16 squares as they are or after adding the frosting.

Brown sugar frosting

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add brown sugar and stir until the mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Stir in the powdered sugar with a whisk. Spread the frosting on top of the blondies and allow to set before cutting into squares.
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Recipe: Casper’s Super Gooey Yummy Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake 1

I made this cake for the annual Mother’s Day tea party at Casper’s Beaver Scouts group this afternoon. It is such a lovely occasion; the boys are all dressed in their uniforms and look so proud as they show their mums to the tables and ask if they want tea or coffee, milk (skimmed or semi skimmed), sugar (how many) and what type of cake – lots of questions for a seven-year-old to remember! Casper did very well, especially as he had not only me to attend to but also his brother and sister who were both eager to get stuck into all the lovely cakes. At the end, all the mums were presented with a small bunch of daffodils and a homemade card with a picture of their son inside. So sweet!

Personally I’m not a big fan of chocolate cake but ask Casper what his favourite thing in the world is and I guarantee that he will say ‘chocolate’. So you can imagine his delight when I suggested that we make this gooey chocolate cake with a chocolate fudge topping AND Smarties for the tea party!

Gooey Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

100 g melted butter
2 eggs
230 g caster sugar
100 g flour                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  40 40 g cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
A generous handful of chopped Daim

topping:
100 ml double cream
40 g caster sugar
50 ml golden syrup
50 g dark chocolate
50 g butter
Smarties, mini marshmallows or other sweets

Turn the oven to 175 degrees. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a bowl and then add the melted butter and finally the eggs and combine thoroughly. Stir in the Daim pieces and pour the batter into a prepared loose bottomed cake tin.

Bake in the middle of the oven for around 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of the tin. The cake should not be completely set in the middle. Let it cool down completely before you make the fudge topping.

Topping:

Combine all the ingredients for the topping, apart from the butter, in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 15 minutes until it thickens (make sure it doesn’t burn!). Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the butter until you get a smooth fudge mixture. Spread the topping over the cake and let it cool slightly. Scatter Smarties, mini marshmallows or other sweets over before the topping sets completely. Put the cake in the fridge, ideally overnight, before serving.

Chocolate cake 2

 

Recipe: Butternut Squash Pasta

Butternut use2part b

Butternut  squash is hands down my favourite vegetable – I love it roasted, in risottos or whizzed up into a soup. My husband, on the other hand, is not as keen on the orange starchy vegetable but, thanks to the Jamie Oliver cookbook I received at Christmas, we have now found a dish we both enjoy.

The recipe for Squash Rigatoni is featured in Save with Jamie and I have only made a couple of small changes – I use rosemary instead of thyme as we both prefer it, gluten free pasta as my husband can’t eat wheat and I have sprinkled some pancetta fried in garlic oil over the pasta before serving.

Butternut cooked

Start by roasting a whole butternut squash in the oven (180 degrees/gas mark 4) for one and a half hours.

Butternut cut

Once it is cooked, split it in half, deseed and scoop out the flesh and either use right away or save for another day. The recipe only calls for half a squash so you can use the leftover flesh to make soup or another of Jamie’s recipes such as squash houmous or squash fritters.

Here’s how to make the pasta dish: 

(Serves 4, cooking time: 20 minutes)

Ingredients: 

320g dried rigatoni (or other pasta)

Olive oil

Dried chilli flakes

8 sprigs of thyme

2 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons of creme fraiche

40g blue cheese

1-2 tablespoons of boiling water

Parmesan cheese

Put a generous splash of olive oil and a pinch of dried chilli flakes into a large pan on a medium heat, then strip in the leaves from the thyme (or in our case rosemary) and squash in the garlic through a garlic crusher. Fry for one minute then add the creme fraiche, blue cheese and a splash of boiling water. Simmer gently while you cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, then drain reserving a cupful of cooking water. Season the squash mixture, toss the pasta through it, loosening with the cooking water if needed. 

If, like my husband you don’t feel you’ve had a proper meal unless it has some meat in it, fry some pancetta cubes in a pan until just crispy and sprinkle over the pasta along with parmesan cheese before serving.

Butternut use3

Apologies that my pictures aren’t the best – I cooked this in the evening and with no natural light it is hard to make food look appetising. But take my word for it, this recipe is definitely worth trying!

Recipe: Daim Biscuits

Daim1 - edit

You can’t beat a good biscuit – together with a nice cup of tea (or glass of milk for the kiddos) it can turn a bad day into a bearable one with the first bite. The children and I first made these biscuits over half term and then Casper and I whipped up another batch this week when he was off school with an ear infection. I honestly think that just the delicious smell wafting through the kitchen did him as much good as all the spoonfuls of Calpol put together! If you don’t believe me, try them for yourself, quick and easy to make, they are the perfect mix of soft and crunchy – what’s not to love?

Daim biscuits:

(makes around 20-30 biscuits)
100 g butter (at room temperature)
80g caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp golden syrup
150 g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 regular Daim bars (crushed into small pieces with a pestle and mortar)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and knead into a dough. Divide in two pieces and roll into two long sausage shapes. Place them on a tray covered in baking parchment and flatten with your fingers. Bake in the oven at 175 C, for 12-15 minutes. Take out the tray and cut the biscuits diagonally before they have cooled.

Enjoy! X

Daim2 - edit

Recipe: Swedish ‘Sockerkaka’ Sponge Cake

Sockerkaka

I realise this is a bit of a departure from my previous healthy living post but I just downloaded last week’s photos from my camera and wanted to share this recipe with you. Sockerkaka (meaning: Sugar cake) is incredibly popular in Sweden and it is the perfect cake to whip up when you have unexpected company as it’s so simple to make and pretty much all the ingredients are cupboard staples. I made this last week when my friend and her daughter came over, it took me no more than ten minutes to mix up the batter once the kids had gone to school and then I could get on with my work while it was baking in the oven. You could add other flavours such as cocoa powder or lemon juice and zest but this is the original (and in my opinion the best) recipe:

3 eggs
180 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
50 g butter
100 ml milk
220 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla essence until white and fluffy. Melt the butter and stir in the milk, then add that to the mixture. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and carefully fold into the batter. Pour into a prepared ring cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes.

A healthy breakfast to kick-start your day

Breakfast

I hardly ever skip breakfast and on the rare days that I do, I very quickly live to regret it when the inevitable mid-morning energy slump sets in. Whether or not you adhere to the old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, a healthy one beats a sugar-laden bowl of cereal hands down. My favourite go-to breakfast is my homemade low carb muesli but on cold mornings I often crave something warm like eggs or porridge. I found this recipe on Pinterest – it’s super simple and guaranteed to keep your energy levels up until lunch time. And if you’re not a breakfast fan, it tastes just as good for lunch, maybe with a bowl of soup.

The recipe specified Ezekiel bread but I’ve never seen that in the supermarkets here so I substituted my regular Soy & Linseed bread. Simply toast the bread, spread avocado on top, sprinkle over some crushed red pepper, season with salt & pepper and top it all off with a fried egg, sunny side up.

A delicious start to the day!

Recipe: Saffron and White Chocolate Cake

Saffron cake

Christmas for me is all about traditions – carrying on old ones from my childhood as well as creating new ones just for our family. Despite having lived in the UK since the age of ten, when I was growing up we always celebrated a traditional Swedish Christmas (with a few English twists). Much of the festive season revolves around food and in Sweden saffron is synonymous with Christmas. For St Lucia Day (read more about it here), which falls on December 13, it is customary to serve bright yellow saffron buns studded with raisins. While the buns are rather time consuming to make as the dough needs to rise (but they are oh, so worth it, I will share the recipe when I do make them), this cake takes hardly any time at all. My eldest son has inherited my love for saffron so I made it for his birthday earlier this month and I’ll make another one for the first of advent to serve along with Glögg (similar to mulled wine) and gingerbread biscuits.

Ingredients:

100g unsalted butter
100g white chocolate
0.5g saffron (if you’re near a Scandinavian food store you can usually buy the saffron powder in tiny (but expensive) bags)
2 eggs
160g sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
130g plain flour

Preparation Method:

Melt the butter together with the white chocolate in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the saffron and put to one side.Whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence until white and fluffy. Add the chocolate and butter mixture and stir until combined. Sift in the flour and carefully fold it in. Pour the butter into a prepared spring form cake tin. Bake in an oven preheated to 200 degrees for 15-20 minutes depending on the desire texture (I like the cake to be slightly gooey in the middle). Allow it to cool before serving.

Recipe: Raspberry Oat Slices

Oat bars2

My friend made these raspberry oat bars for a cake sale at my son’s school last month and, after tasting one, I immediately asked for the recipe. They’re super easy to make and the oaty crunchiness contrasts nicely with the gooey jam. If you use sugar free jam they’re not too sweet and make perfect lunch box treats.

Ingredients:

(makes approx 12 slices)

5 tablespoons light brown soft sugar

125g (4 1/2 oz) plain flour

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

a pinch of salt

100g (4 oz) porridge oats

125g (4 1/2 oz) butter, softened

250g (9 oz) good quality raspberry jam

Preparation method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/Gas mark 4. Grease one 20cm (8 inch) square cake tin and line with baking parchment.

2. Combine brown sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and porridge oats in a large bowl. Rub in the butter using your hands to form a crumbly mixture.

3. Press 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake tin, reserving the rest for the topping. Spread the jam over the base but not quite to the edges as it will spread.

4. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top and lightly press it into the jam.

5. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven until lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into slices.

Oat bars

Recipe – Lasagne without the Pasta

Lasagne 2

I hardly ever eat pasta at home as my husband suffers from coeliac disease and has to avoid all wheat and gluten. The kids will often have spaghetti bolognese or other pasta dishes for their tea and occasionally my husband will make us all a carbonara with gluten free spaghetti on a weekend (although he is not mad about the taste or texture). Over time I have got used to cooking rice, potatoes or just vegetables to go with whatever meat/chicken/fish we’re having. Sometimes though, on a chilly autumn night, I long for a bowl of lasagne with a nice glass of red wine. So I was delighted to come across a recipe which uses thin courgette slices instead of the traditional pasta sheets. As well as being great for anyone with a gluten allergy, it also works for those trying to cut down on the carbs.

I make my own version of bolognese (slightly spicy with a splash of double cream) but you can use whatever recipe you like for the meat sauce.

1 onion – chopped

garlic oil or 1-2 garlic cloves and olive oil

500 g beef mince

1 can chopped tomatoes

2-3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (or Thai red chilli paste)

1-2 tablespoons soy sauce

a splash of red wine

2-3 tablespoons double cream

1-2 courgettes – finely sliced lengthways, I use a cheese slicer (bought from Ikea) to make the slices really thin

Cheese sauce: 400-500 ml creme fraiche mixed with 300 ml grated cheese

Turn the oven to 175c. Fry the onion and garlic until softened. Add the mince, breaking it up with a fork or spatula. Let it brown then add the other ingredients and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Alternate the courgette slices, bolognese and cheese sauce in an oven proof rectangular dish, topping it with a sprinkle of grated cheese. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes and serve with vegetables or a green salad (and a glass or two of Vino Rosso for that authentic Italian taste)

My Latest TV Addiction

JamieCollage

My husband and I often have wildly different tastes in TV programmes. I like glamour and drama, with a healthy bit of cheese thrown in (think Revenge, Gossip Girl – RIP, I still miss Chuck & Blair – and Made in Chelsea) while he prefers sport, Top Gear or worthy documentaries, which I think I should watch to boost my intellect but just find sooo boring. But now and again our tastes do overlap – we were both avid followers of Homeland (starts again on Sunday, yay!) The Bridge, Borgen and The Americans, to name but a few.

Most recently, it’s TV chef extraordinaire Jamie Oliver’s (is he ever off the telly?) latest series Save with Jamie that has caught our attention. Neither of us is usually that enamored with cookery shows but we both like the idea of roasting a big joint of meat or grilling a side of salmon for a family Sunday lunch and then eeking it out to make another two or three meals during the week. Last Sunday we had roast chicken with all the trimmings and then boiled the carcass to make chicken stock which, together with the leftover meat, was turned into a stew that lasted us two days.

Of course I realise that there is certain irony in a multi-millionaire chef showing us mere mortals how to cut down on our food spend, but if it saves us money and makes meal planning that bit easier then I’m all for it. And say what you will about the ‘Naked Chef’, he is a national institution and you do get the feeling that he does really care about the eating habits of the nation, even if he is laughing all the way to the bank.

Find the chicken stew recipe here