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

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

 

Brandy Snaps

Brandy snaps are an essential part of Christmas – i can’t imagine eating them at any other time of year! They’re also a perfect easy recipe to make in a rush, or with the children to keep them entertained in the days running up to Christmas. We’re going to fill them with dairy-free whipped cream and devour them for a special pudding.

Sweet crunchy exterior filled with soft cream, what could be more indulgent!

 

Brandy Snaps

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

Makes about 16

75g dairy-free margarine

80g light muscovado sugar

70g golden syrup

80g plain flour

1/2 tsp ginger

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tbsp brandy

  1. Melt together the margarine, sugar and syrup until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Place the flour, spice and lemon zest in a mixing bowl. Pour in the meted sugar mix and add the brandy (or use apple juice instead). Stir well to form a very sloppy dough.
  3. Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment and preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  4. Place teaspoons of the mix onto the lined sheet, and spread into a thin circle
  5. Bake for 7-8 minutes until turning golden. Cool on the sheet for one minute and then loosely wrap around a wooden spoon handle to form a tube. Leave to cool. Repeat with the rest of the mix.
  6. Serve filled with cream (just before serving) and dusted with icing sugar
  7. These snaps keep well for a few days in an airtight container as long as you only fill them when you’re ready to devour them!

Biscoff Chocolate Truffles

I can’t think of a better time to make homemade chocolates than Christmas. They’re little cosy luxuries that fit perfectly with the festive season; either as an edible gift or simply a after-dinner (or anytime) treat.

You know, I do get my inspiration from funny places! The other week I was going out at lunchtime at work and walked past a doughnut shop. To be honest, they didn’t look too appealing, just over the top super sugary giant confections, but the chocolate and Biscoff variety caught my eye. I know it’s a winning combo and suddenly the idea of Biscoff flavoured chocolate truffles, rolled in Biscoff biscuit crumbs came to mind. I immediately started planning my experiments, working out the exact details of the recipe. I was correct, it’s a fabulous and rather morish combination. The mix of dark chocolate with sweet spicy Biscoff gives a wonderful warm hug of wintery spice in a luxurious chocolate truffle case.

It’s not easy to find nice dairy-free chocolate truffles, so I’m planning on making boxes filled with these, original and lemon truffles as Christmas gifts – i reckon they’ll go down a treat 🙂

Biscoff Chocolate Truffles

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

makes approx. 15 truffles

110g dairy-free dark chocolate

2 tbsps dairy-free cream

1 tbsp golden or maple syrup

1 tbsp Lotus Biscoff spread

6 Lotus Biscoff biscuits, crushed

  1. Melt the chocolate over a bain marie, or in a microwave. Stir until silky and glossy with no lumps.
  2. Stir in the dairy-free cream, syrup and biscoff spread.
  3. Leave in the fridge for at least half an hour to partially set.
  4. Pour the crushed biscuits into a shallow bowl.
  5. Roll into grape sized balls and coat in the biscuit crumbs.
  6. Keep covered at room temperature until ready to eat!