Trail Mix Picnic Bars (aka Trail Mix Stay at Home Bars)

When I originally created this recipe for trail mix picnic bars it was for those days when you’re getting ready to head outside for a  weekend full of adventures; these days, it’s more a case of trying to make days at home seem fun, interesting and different!

Whatever the scenario, these bars  are always perfect. They’re bursting with all the energy giving goodness (and fun) of trail mix packed into gooey chocolate crispy bars, perfect for sustenance at home or on the go. I’m thinking of serving these after a good hour or so in the garden to make it feel like we’re having an outdoors adventure!

The pretzels add a salty, savoury note to the biscuits and cereal. You could almost say these along with a large drink of water could replace the sugars and salts lost during strenuous exercise (which right now might just be the daily Joe Wicks morning PE class!) – then again you could just say they’re yummy!

The great feature of this recipe is that the bars are fun and exciting, don’t need any flour (as that’s currently like gold dust round here), and the recipe can basically be adapted to use up the contents of those half bags and packs of biscuits, cereal and pretzels that are lying around in the larder! Perfect when you can’t leave the house 🙂

Ideally made the day before, these bars can also be made at the last minute as long as they have some setting time in the fridge or freezer.

Trail Mix Picnic Bars (aka Trail Mix stay at home bars!)

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 16 small but perfectly sized bars

40g salted pretzels, roughly crushed

30g biscuits, roughly crushed (I used Lotus Biscoff)

60g cereal of choice

30g dried fruit of choice (optional)

100g golden syrup

50g Lotus Biscoff spread

25g sugar

85g dairy-free dark chocolate

Handful of sprinkles

  1. Line a 2lb loaf tin
  2. Melt together the syrup, sugar and biscoff spread until it’s a smooth caramel consistency
  3. Mix in the crushed biscuits, 30g of the crushed pretzels, the cereal and any dried fruit
  4. Tip into the lined loaf tin and press down, making the mixture nice and level. Place in the fridge to set.
  5. Melt the chocolate and spread over the set mix. Sprinkle on the extra pretzels and a handful of sprinkles. Return to the fridge. When the chocolate has fully set, cut into 16 even sized bars.

Decadent Chocolate Braid

With days starting to merge into each other in Coronavirus lockdown (and it’s only day 9!) I’m determined to somehow make each day different and special.

It may be an annoyance , a bit scary and frankly a bit like living through a disaster movie, but there are also positives we need to focus on to stop feeling overwhelmed by the situation. It’s an enforced opportunity to take a pause, to reconnect as a family and focus on the simpler things in life: I’m really enjoying seeing my mum and brother on ‘Houseparty’ a few times each day, being creative with the food and resources we have in the house and trying to make our food as exciting as possible.

This chocolate braid is a fabulous recipe – it’s quick and easy but looks impressive and tastes totally luxurious. It would make a very indulgent breakfast if you’re missing pain au chocolat, a seriously good pudding with cream or ice cream, or just a naughty work from home snack!

Decadent Chocolate Braid

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

serves 4-6

1/2 pack of puff pastry, ready rolled is easiest as it’s nice an rectangular!

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine

50g dairy-free chocolate, finely chopped [optional]

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade and line a baking sheet with baking paper
  2. Mix together the caster sugar, margarine, cocoa powder to form a soft paste. Set aside.
  3. Roll or unfold the pastry. Imagine it is 3 columns and spread the chocolate paste over the middle column leaving a little gap at each end. Sprinkle over the chopped chocolate
  4. Cut the edge columns with diagonal slices, 1cm apart the whole way down. This should mean you get to remove a triangle at the top.
  5. Fold over the top flap of pastry and then alternating sides, cross over a pastry ribbon from each side until you get to the bottom
  6. Brush with dairy free milk and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and puffed up
  7. Cool and then dust liberally with icing sugar

 

Cucumber and Rice Noodle Salad

I don’t know about you, but when we’re all at home (and obviously thanks to Covid-19 that is ALL the time right now) I struggle with lunch ideas the most. The other meals and snacks I find I can think up ideas, be creative and non-repetitive, but for some reason lunches often stump me. I guess it’s just one meal too many each day.

However, as I now have plenty of time to get creative with the contents of my fridge and pantry I’m trying to have at least part of each lunch as an exciting, fresh, healthy new idea.

This rice noodle salad is loosely inspired by an Ottolenghi dish; it’s fresh, tasty, easy to make with mainly store cupboard ingredients. Perfect for these days when popping to the shops is a dim and distant memory.

Cucumber Rice Noodle Salad

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

100g rice noodles

1 tbsp olive oil

30ml vinegar

15g caster sugar

1/2 shallot, finely chopped

thumb size piece of ginger, julienned

3 mint leaves, finely shredded

1/4 red chilli, finely chopped

small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

1 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)

1/4 cucumber, sliced in half, seeds removed and cut into half moons

  1. Place the noodles in a bowl, pour over boiling water and leave to sit for about 15 minutes
  2. In another bowl combine the sugar, vinegar and shallot. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add the julienned ginger and finely sliced shallot to the vinegar mix and leave to infuse
  4. Drain the noodles once soft and mix with the olive oil so they don’t clump
  5. Add the chilli, cucumber and noodles to the vinegar mix, stir well and leave for 10 minutes for the flavours to mix
  6. Add the herbs and poppy seeds if using, toss and serve

Savoury Scones

I don’t know about you but rather than stockpiling I’m just trying to have enough food in the house at all times to cover all meals and snacks everyday (wow, there is a lot of cooking and eating going on!) as well as having some essential free-from ingredients available should we go into a two week isolation. There are a few products such as dairy-free milks and margarine that we would really struggle without, so I’m making sure I’ve got a few on standby.

It really is amazing the difference it makes with all family members eating all meals in the house everyday. I normally make most things from scratch, but I’m still finding it hard to keep coming up with interesting and exciting free-flowing meals, snacks and puddings!

Snacks are always difficult when living with a restricted diet, there are so many everyday items that are out of bounds and you can’t just live on crisps! These tangy scones are deliciously savoury and are perked up with marmite, nutritional yeast, and herbs. Pow! Flavour punch. Need a savoury bite fill empty tummies or to accompany that steaming bowl of soup? These fit the bill nicely.

Savoury scones

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan) NB Contains gluten.

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makes 10

200g plain flour (1 3/4 cups)

1 1/2 tsps baking powder, levelled off

40g dairy-free spread

1 tbsp marmite mixed with 1 tbsp boiling water

1 tsp oregano

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

120 ml oat milk

glaze: 1 tsp marmite mixed with 1 tsp boiling water and 1 tbsp oat milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 6. Oil and flour a baking sheet.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in the oregano and the nutritional yeast.
  3. Rub in the margarine with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Pour in the dairy-free milk and watery marmite mix. Bring together to form a soft dough.
  5. Turn out and very lightly knead. A light touch is essential for light and fluffy scones.
  6. Press out the dough to 2 inches high and cut out circles with a cookie cutter.
  7. Place on the baking sheet and brush with the glaze.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes until the scones have risen and golden.
  9. Cool on a wire rack.

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Chocolate and Vanilla Yo-Yo Cookies

What crazy and unpresidented  times we are living through! I don’t think that even a few weeks we could have imagined lock down, and certainly not lock down for 1/4 of the world’s population. We didn’t know what social distancing meant, loo roll and pasta shortages were something we couldn’t imagine and coronavirus was nowhere near home. At times it seems like we’re living through a badly written disaster movie, if only a super hero would come and save us all. Although on this occasion the super heroes will be the medical staff who are looking after the sick and putting their own health in danger.

A few days ago I was reading the news all the time and feeling pretty anxious, upset and overwhelmed about the whole situation. It all looked so bleak. Now, I’ve decided to step away from the news, just dip in occasionally and instead focus on cooking. I’ve certainly got enough time to develop those recipes that have been on the back burner! I also have lots of ideas for using simple store cupboard ingredients to make delicious tasty meals, so keep tuned for some exciting cooking and baking ideas.

But first, I think we need some sweet luxury, something pretty, tempting, and delicious to add a ray of sunshine into the otherwise bleak outlook.

These Chocolate and Vanilla Yo-yo cookies are not only as pretty as a picture, but sweet and crumbly with a super rich chocolate filling. The sort of cookie to give a metaphorical hug (just what we need right now) whilst having a hot drink. Do be careful with Bird’s custard powder, some is safe and some contains milk. If you can’t find the safe one just sub for cornflour.

Stay safe everyone x

Chocolate and Vanilla Yo-Yo Cookies

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegan and vegetarian)

makes about 20 sandwich biscuits

150g dairy-free margarine

65g icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp vanilla essence

pinch of salt

55g custard powder or cornflour

175g plain flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 4
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment
  3. Beat together the margarine, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  4. Sift in the flours and salt to form a very soft, but not sticky dough.
  5. Make large marble sized balls and place on the baking sheet (try to make an even number). Flatten with the back of a fork.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes until only a hint of colour on the edges
  7. Cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before moving to a wire rack.
  8. Once completely cool, sandwich together with the chocolate cream.
  9. Dust with icing sugar if desired

Chocolate Cream

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, gluten-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

60g dairy-free margarine

200g icing sugar

1 tsp dairy-free milk (if needed)

25g melted dairy-free chocolate

    1. Whisk the margarine  with the icing sugar until it is all incorporated, adding the milk if the mixture is too stiff. Stir in the melted chocolate.

Fudge

Now that worthy January is out of the way I can start posting my backlog of recipes, and what better day to make fudge that when storm Ciara is battering the country.

Fudge is such a naughty sweet treat, utterly delectable and rather moreish, but it certainly didn’t fit into the clean living start of the year! Little S had been badgering me to make fudge for ages – it had featured at a school charity sale and all her friends swooped onto the bags of fudge like a flock of hungry seagulls. Obviously she couldn’t have any 😦 but she couldn’t fail to notice how much the others were enjoying it.

So here is my friendly fudge recipe – it doesn’t make huge amounts (which is probably best with a sweet but naughty treat!) and when I’ve tried to increase the amounts the texture hasn’t been as good, so I definitely recommend sticking to the stated recipe. The basic recipe can carry any traditional fudge flavour but I have tended to opt for chocolate because not only do we all love chocolate but also the resulting colour is the best – the dairy-free margarine can otherwise give a yellow fudge which is far less appealing!

I have to say, now that the girls have tasted fudge it’s a recurrent request!

I would recommend using a kitchen thermometer is essential – you can make fudge but he using the old school soft set test but with a thermometer you’ll get it right every time 🙂

Dairy-free Fudge

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

150ml dairy-free milk

175g caster sugar

50g dairy-free margarine

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

50g dairy-free dark chocolate (optional)

pinch of salt

  1. Place the milk, sugar and margarine into a deep saucepan and melt together
  2. Once the sugar has dissolved increase the heat to a rolling boil. Boil for 10-15 minutes stirring regularly. You will notice the bubbles change as the temperature increases and continue until you reach 115 degrees Centigrade
  3. Turn off the heat, add a pinch of salt and leave to cool for a 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the vanilla and/or chocolate if using. Pour into a lined tin and leave to set.
  5. Once fully set cut into squares and enjoy