Saturday, April 26, 2014

Microwave Chocolate Orange Cake

Have you ever made a cake in a microwave? I knew of a girl at university who made them a few times as we didn't have ovens in our student halls, but I had never tried it myself. Until recently when my boyfriend wanted dessert after dinner, I hadn't made anything and didn't particularly want to spend long making a pudding, but I didn't want him to just get a bar of chocolate from the cupboard. So I had a look online for some microwave chocolate cake recipes and as usual put my own spin on it by adding some pieces of a Terry's chocolate orange that I happened to have in the cupboard.

Microwave Chocolate Orange Cake- an original recipe by Caroline Makes

Serves one but can easily be scaled up

4 tbsp self-raising flour

2 tbsp caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 egg

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp milk

2 Terry's chocolate orange segments

You need a large, sturdy microwave-safe mug (i.e. with no gold trim!) to make this. You can mix the ingredients in the mug; it is easier to do it in a bowl but to me half the fun of this was making the entire thing in one mug.

Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder then make a well in the centre and break in the egg. Mix in as smoothly as you can then add the oil and the milk.

Insert two chocolate orange segments in the mug and push in.

Microwave on high for three minutes - that's all it takes!

You can either eat this straight from the mug or turn out (using a knife run around the sides) into a bowl. The chocolate orange melts on top and the rest of the mixture does actually turn into a cake! It's a bit on the stodgy side and certainly not the best cake I've ever had but for a dessert that you can make in less than five minutes from start to finish you can't complain!

I'm sending this to Dead Easy Desserts, the blog challenge run by Maison Cupcake and hosted this month by Michelle at Utterly Scrummy. The idea is to send in desserts that take 30 minutes or less to make; I don't think you can get much faster than this!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Purple and Pink Butterfly Birthday Card

I found some cute stickers in Paperchase recently that had butterflies and a few sequins inside a clear rigid square so the butterflies move around if you shake the card. I decided to make them the focus of this card and covered a white square blank with patterned paper then placed three butterfly stickers along the top third line of the card (if you imagine the card divided into three with a line across each third). I used several round shiny stickers from another sticker pack to make three rows along the bottom of the card, graduating the colours from purple to pink. Finally I added a happy birthday outline sticker.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Carrot Cake with Walnut and Pineapple and Fondant Rabbit decoration

It wouldn't be Easter without the Easter bunny! This is a carrot cake I actually made last year but hadn't gotten around to blogging about yet. It is decorated with a fondant rabbit and carrots, which I will explain how to make below.

You need:

2 cups soft brown sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla flavouring

2.5 cups plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 pound of carrots, grated

1/2 cup pineapple, chopped

For the icing:

1 cup soft cheese

1/2 cup butter, sofened

2 cups icing sugar, sifted

I made a rabbit from fondant to decorate but you can also decorate with extra walnuts.

Preheat oven to 180C. Mix the sugar and flour in a large bowl.

Weighing the carrots - then grate them

Mix the eggs, oil and grated carrot and add the vanilla flavouring

Mix in to the dry ingredients and add the baking powder and cinnamon

Stir in the chopped walnuts

Then stir in the chopped pineapple

Spoon the mixture into a cake tin and cook in the preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, testing with a skewer.

When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool.

I decided to make a rabbit and some carrots out of fondant to decorate the cake. First I coloured some white fondant with orange gel colouring left over from Halloween (Wilton brand) and some Sugarflair gooseberry colour for the carrot tops. I shaped the carrots and tops by hand; I used a knife to cut pieces out of the tops to make the greenery look more realistic, and used a fork to make indentations on the carrots.

To make the rabbit I followed the same principles as when I made a fondant cow. I made a large white ball for the body and a smaller one for the head, then cylinders of different sizes for the arms, legs and ears, I used some pink fondant for the centre of the ears and the nose, and a tiny bit of black fondant for the eyes. I used some modelling tools to make the indentations on the feet and also to make the mouth.

To make the frosting, carefully mix the soft cheese, butter and icing sugar until you have a suitably thick paste; if it needs to be thicker so you can spread it but it doesn't run, add more icing sugar. I spread the frosting over the top and around the sides of the cake.

Finally I placed the rabbit and carrots on top. This would be a good cake to make at Easter but it goes down well at any time of year!

I'm sharing this with Extra Veg, hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy; a carrot cake is a very tasty way to get one of your five a day!

I'm also sending this to Love Cake, hosted by Jibber Jabber UK, as the theme is "springing into Easter".

The theme for Calendar Cakes, hosted by Rachel at Dollybakes, is also Easter.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Roast Chicken with Zesty Chickpea Stuffing

This is a variation on a roast chicken recipe that you could try over Easter. The recipe comes from Franglais Kitchen, though she says to use a whole can of chickpeas and I could only get half a tin into the cavity. So once you have the chicken that you plan to roast, you need:

half a can of chickpeas

half a lemon

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp garam masala

pinch of chilli flakes

salt and pepper

Mix the chickpeas with the seasoning in a bowl

Spoon inside the cavity of the chicken and block the gap with half a lemon

Roast the chicken as normal, remembering to add on the cooking time for the extra weight of the stuffing

Carve the chicken and serve with the spicy chickpeas

I'm sending this to Bookmarked Recipes, hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Slimming World-style Apple Creme Brulee

This dessert was inspired by one from the Slimming World Love Desserts recipe book but adapted to fit the ingredients I had in the house. I made it for a food tasting at my Slimming World group and was meant to use sliced mango for the base. I thought I had a tin of mango in the cupboard but the night before found it was mango puree, and I didn't have time to go shopping again, so I decided to use apples instead! It worked fine and while it isn't my favourite dessert I have ever made, it is pretty healthy and is a nice light alternative. The recipe I used was for individual desserts but I made this in one large dish as it is easier to share at food tasting.

Serves 4

3 apples, peeled and sliced

300g fat free Greek-style yogurt

4 tbsp sweetener

a few drops of vanilla flavouring

4 tbsp caster sugar

Each serving is 3 syns on all choices

Slice the apples and layer in the bottom of a dessert serving bowl.

Mix the yogurt, sweetener and vanilla and spoon over the apple.

Sprinkle the caster sugar over the top, and caramelise using a cook's blowtorch or a hot grill.

And that's all you need to do! The caramelised sugar on top gives a lovely snap when you dig in with a spoon and it's nice to have a slightly naughty topping on what is otherwise a very virtuous dessert.

I'm sending this to Dead Easy Desserts, hosted this month by Utterly Scrummy and created by Maison Cupcake, as this dessert is very easy and probably takes no more than about ten minutes to make.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Restaurant Review - the Grapes, Sutton

Restaurant name: The Grapes

Location: High Street, Sutton

Description: Wetherspoons pub with a modern, brightly lit bar but the seating areas with the patterned carpets and heavy curtains looks a bit dark and old fashioned.

Reason for visit: Lunch with my parents while we were shopping in Sutton

I ate: Jacket potato with BBQ pulled pork which came with a small side salad

My companions ate: My mum had the cheese and tomato toastie as she only wanted a snack, whereas my dad had a hot dog will pulled pork, chips and onion rings

The food was: My jacket potato was quite disappointing as it was small and a bit dry, though the pulled pork filling was nice. My parents enjoyed their food; the hot dog looked particularly good though it was very calorific. That's one thing I like actually - Wetherspoons now puts calorie counts next to every item on the menu and there is also a section of the menu for meals of under 500 calories.

The atmosphere/service was: I felt like the pub had a bit of a dingy atmosphere which might be a bit unfair as I can't quite put my finger on why. The bar staff were perfectly polite and helpful.

Price range/value for money: Excellent - Wetherspoons is extremely good value, with lighter bites priced very cheaply and other deals like two meals for £6.99; my dad's hotdog was only about £7 if I recall and it was an absolutely huge meal with the chips and onion rings as well.

Would I recommend it? I am always happy to go to a Wetherspoons as I know there will be a huge choice on the menu with plenty of options for lower calorie meals and it's hard to find such good value for meals of this size. Having said that, I wouldn't especially recommend this particular pub as it just didn't strike me as particularly nice - it needs to be lighter and brighter somehow.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Meal Planning Monday 2014 week 15

Back to a more normal week but as we will be moving house at some point (just waiting for the completion date) I need to start using up the food in the freezer. I'm actually a bit in the dark about how far in advance you have to switch the freezer off before you move, and how long you wait before you turn it back in again. It doesn't help that I have a combined fridge freezer so could be without a fridge for several days as well! I've gone through the freezer and made a list of everything in there (and, ahem, threw away a couple of things I couldn't identify) so meals for the next few weeks will be built around using things up.

I haven't done very well at losing weight over the last month or so (i.e. I haven't) so this week I am trying to follow a Slimming World 7-day meal plan as much as I can bearing in mind I usually don't like half their suggestions and that I am trying to use up food in the freezer.


Breakfast mango puree, plain yogurt, museli

Lunch ryvita with soft cheese or leftovers from boyfriend's birthday buffet yesterday

Dinner fish pie for me, sausage and mash for him


Breakfast mango puree, plain yogurt, museli

Lunch baked potato with tuna

Dinner going to a work event in the evening and I think the plan is for the team to go for a curry afterwards


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch sandwich/bagel

Dinner burger and chips for him, vege burger (as fewer calories) for me


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch sandwich/bagel

Dinner salmon and dill tray bake with new potatoes magazine p.67


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch sandwich

Dinner SW herby crumbed fish with homemade chips - new magazine p.28


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch tuna melt bagel

Dinner SW steak bearnaise with potato bake, magazine p.56


Breakfast yogurt

Lunch beans on toast

Dinner SW coq au vin with herby mash, magazine p.54

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Psychedelic Swirls Birthday Card

This birthday card was made for a male friend who is very stylish and a snazzy dresser; I thought he would like the pattern and the colours. I simply used stickers from a pack I bought in Paperchase, which had circles of different sizes and different colours and a few swirls, and arranged them on the card in what I thought was a nice design. I then added a 'happy birthday' silver outline sticker at the bottom.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Baked Egg and Sausage Buns

This recipe was inspired by one in a Weightwatchers cookery book though now that they've changed the way the Points are calculated I couldn't tell you how many it works out as.... but it's not specifically intended as 'diet food'. Instead, this is a quick and filling brunch recipe that is easy to make but just a little bit different.

You need one crusty bread roll per person- you could make your own, but I bought these fresh from the local bakery. Using a knife, cut a circle in the top then use a teaspoon to scoop out a little of the middle. Preheat oven to 180C.

You can spread a little butter or onion chutney in the hole or leave it plain, then fill with ready-to-eat cooked cocktail sausages. You could also cook a couple of sausages and cut them into bite-sized pieces.

Crack an egg carefully into the top and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the white of the egg has cooked.

Serve and enjoy - the yolk of the egg is still runny and the egg softens the inside of the bread roll a little, and the sausages are a treat when you get to the bottom. These made a great brunch!