Quick banana and chocolate cookies

In some ways this cookie might be considered dangerous – it took me less that 20 minutes to whip up a batch. However, being able to create something so delicious in such a short time makes me feel something of a domestic goddess – these are perfect for those times when you need to produce baked goods at short notice (think work charity bake sale or mum’s coffee morning). They are also made from ingredients most people have in their cupboards – bananaphobes please note that you can substitute the banana chips for raisins should you wish to do so.

Anyway, the key with these cookies is to be cautious on the timing. Once the edges of these go golden brown remove them from the oven and allow them to cool, rather than letting the whole cookie brown, that way you have the nice contrast between crispy and soft in the cookie.

To make approx 26 cookies you will need:

1 mug soft brown sugar

125g salted butter, softened

1 egg

1 mug self raising flour

50g banana chips

2 tablespoons chocolate spread

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line 2 baking trays (you will probably still need to take the cookies in batches). Using an electric whisk, wooden spoon or food processor beat together the sugar and butter until it is thoroughly mixed. Beat in the egg. Add the flour and crumble in the banana chips. Last, whisk in the chocolate spread so that it has a marbled effect.

Using a teaspoon place small amounts of the cookie mix onto your lined trays. Make sure you leave room for the cookies to spread; even if you have to bake in batches.

Bake for around 11 minutes, until the cookies are golden. They will come out of the oven very soft so be careful removing them from the baking tray. Allow to cool so the cookies can harden.

These cookies can be kept for several days in an airtight container.

Why you should consider joining Bone Marrow Register

This is one of those posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while but I could never quite articulate my feelings on it. Even now its a struggle. But I know there are even now people fighting blood cancers and lymphatic cancers who are desperately hoping for a tissue match and realistically the more people who are eligible to join the register that do drastically improves both the quality of life and survival of patients.

I consider myself extremely fortunate, neither myself or anyone I have been close to in real life has been so poorly to require a bone marrow transplant. However, D has, and when he was interviewing Andrew McMahon in 2014 (of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate) it made me fully appreciate how important it is to get involved when you can. Here was a man who had nearly 10 years previously received a stem cell transplant from his sister following treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and was in great health and had just become a parent. As there was somebody at the gig from the Dear Jack Foundation we both joined the register that evening.

Considering I actually did my Masters in Cancer Biology and Therapy, I am as squeamish as a lot of people can be when discussing medical treatments, needles etc. One of the questions I got asked around the time I spoke to my friends and work colleagues about this was “won’t it hurt a lot if you have to actually make a donation”. The answer is yes and no, if you have to make a peripheral donation (which is most common) it will be similar to a blood donation. The actual bone marrow transplant is done under general anaesthetic and donors typically do experience bruising and side effects. However, I think its worth rationalising by remembering I’ve probably injured myself more when I’ve been drunk and fallen off bar stools. Also, that chemotherapy itself is pretty gruelling both physically and emotionally for the patient and their families; so if it helps someone out for the rest of their life, I can probably cope with some bruises (possibly with some moaning, I might be happy to donate but I’m not a saint).

Its worth noting that whether you join the Bone Marrow Regiaster through the Dear Jack Foundation or the Anthony Nolan Trust you end up on the same register so you don’t have to do it through both charities. Its your choice who you support or whether you wish to support another charity entirely).

I know this is more serious than most of my blog posts, but this is something I feel is important and I have been thinking about how to phrase this for a while. But the bottom line you will potentially be doing something wonderful and saving a life – basically the best gift you can ever give.

Information on who is eligible to join the register.

More on why your should join

Oh and in case I was a bit too serious, here is Andrew McMahon’s new single.

 

Banana and pineapple loaf

I’ve really started enjoying fruit recently. I have a (somewhat deserved) reputation as a chocoholic within my friendship group, but I feel my fruit consumption of late might have redeemed me. I got sent a selection of Nature’s Finest fruit pots a little while ago and it was just a bit too easy to take the majority of them to work for lunch. I also appreciate anything that stops me having to wrestle with a pineapple, or decipher when a mango might be ready.

Anyway, we always have a stash of bananas in the house and I sometimes think simple is best I made a more tropical themed banana loaf (especially in time for the first week of the Great British Bake Off cake week). It turned out pretty beautifully because the banana and pineapple kept the cake soft, even after 40 minutes of baking. I made this last night and D has been eyeing it up for hours while he was waiting for me to get in from work.

To make a banana and pineapple loaf you will need:

140g butter

140g caster sugar

2 large eggs

2 bananas (slightly over ripe is best)

140g self raising flour

200g pineapple chunks (keep back the juice)

50g icing sugar

Approx 20g dessiccated coconut

Heat the oven to 180°C. Line a loaf tin. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the bananas and eggs (if doing it by hand mash the banana first). Once the wetter ingredients are mixed beat in the flour to form a creamy mix. Finally, add the pineapple chunks.

Add to the loaf tin in a smooth layer. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes, until a skewer comes out of the cake cleanly. Allow the cake to cool.

To prepare the icing add about a teaspoon of the juice the pineapple came in to form a smooth paste and thinly cover the loaf with this. To finish, sprinkle over the coconut.

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Usefully, this cake keeps for several days in an air tight tin, if you can keep the people you live with’s hands off it for long enough!

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Natures’ Finest fruit is available in most big supermarkets. It comes in coconut water or fruit juice, rather than syrup so it makes it a preferable baking ingredient and a healthier snack when you’re on the go. I was sent samples of this to try. For more recipe suggestions visit here.

Sausage, sweet potato and spinach lasagne

This recipe is one for those days when only something a bit more carb heavy and comforting will do, but at the same time you don’t want healthy eating to go completely out of the window. It was actually born because me really really craving lasagne but only having sausages in and not really being entirely enthusiastic about the whole rigmarole of making bolognese and bechamel sauce on a Thursday night. Still out of laziness comes a lot less food waste and overhearing D telling his friend about a really night lasagne I had made for him, so the recipe seems to have been successful in our house.

To make enough lasagne for 4 people you will need:

1 red onion

1 clove garlic

400g pork and leek sausages removed from their skins

3 large handfuls sweet potato chunks (I used frozen sweet potato)

3 large handfuls fresh spinach

1 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

150ml creme fraiche (I used low fat but all types work)

20g parmesan (plus extra for the top)

Salt and pepper

Approx 230g passata infused with herbs

125g buffalo mozzarella

4-5 lasagne sheets

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel and chop the onion and peel and crush the garlic. Fry on a gentle heat until soft. Add the skinned sausages and sweet potato chunks and season with the salt, pepper, marjoram and chilli. Cook over a medium heat, breaking up the sausage to smooth out, until the sweet potato has started to soften and the sausage is cooked.Add the spinach, creme fraiche and parmesan and stir until the spinach has wilted and the parmesan has melted into everything.

In a medium casserole dish make a smooth layer of this mixture. Top with your lasagne sheets (no need to pre cook). Pour over your passata. Break your mozzarella over the passata and grate over more parmesan and pepper.

Cook for about 20-25 minutes until the cheese on the top is golden.

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I think this will become part of our regular repertoire.

Seamore pasta. Sustainable. Gluten free.

The other week we got sent some Seamore seaweed pasta to try. Although excited to try out a new recipe, I must admit I was a bit dubious to try this one. I am happy trying new ingredients but I was a little wary about how this one would taste and what the texture would be like (I think I had had a stressful week, it always makes me wary about my cooking skills). However, this was a dream to cook (I just followed the instructions on the pack), the texture was good, it had a slight bite to it and it wasn’t overpoweringly seasidey tasting. I think it would be a great alternative for people with coeliac disease as I am aware gluten free pasta can get quite soft.

Now the benefits of Seamore are so numerous they provided me with this helpful inforgraphic for you. After all a picture paints a thousand words.seamore infographic

Anyway, as a sea themed meal, I served my Seamore pasta up with baked seabass for a quick weeknight meal.

For baked sea bass and Seamore pasta you will need:

1 sea bass fillet per person

1 preserved lemon

Olive oil

Chilli Flakes

1 handful cherry tomato halves per person

1 serving Seamore pasta per person

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Boil your kettle and start cooking the Seamore pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Place your sea bass skin side down on a baking tray. Sprinkle over the chilli, chop your preserved lemon and tomatoesand disperse evenly over the fish. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for approx. 15 minutes until the sea bass is opaque.

Serve the fish, lemon and tomatoes on a bed of your seaweed and enjoy!

We both really enjoyed this recipe and trying something new. Sometimes its good to get out of your comfort zone.

Seamore pasta is available to buy online and at Wholefoods stores. For more information click here.

Afternoon Tea at Blackpool Tower Ballroom

Visiting Blackpool always gives me a lot of Nostalgia. While it wasn’t somewhere my family visited as frequently, I have very specific memories of the place. Getting stuck on top of the big wheel on the pleasure beach in the pouring rain with my mum, windy games of crazy golf and going on a school trip to the tower as a very little girl. Part of the school trip involved us eating our packed lunches in the ballroom so you can understand why I jumped at the chance of reviewing their afternoon teas on here.

I brought my lovely friend Mrs E with me for this trip. As as being a fellow Yorkshire resident; she also comes from Lancashire, so she also has memories of the place. We both wholeheartedly enjoyed eating sandwiches and cake watching different couples dancing. As somebody who has never properly learned how to dance with a partner apart from the odd waltz around the living room with her father, I was impressed by the couples gliding gracefully across the dance floor. Forget Strictly, I was imagining a time when young couples met up in that very ballroom in the not too distant past.

While this wasn’t the most luxurious afternoon tea I have ever eaten, it ranks pretty highly in both taste and atmosphere. The ballroom itself is beautiful and the music from the Wurlitzer organ was very pleasant (and no, there was no rendition of “I do like to be beside the seaside). In fact, we were so distracted by the scones and tea we stropped noticing the music being quite as loud. I think its good to note that while most of the visitors were older, it is something that is lovely for all younger people too and is especially suitable for families (you can buy Slush Puppies at the bar which are a personal favourite!) For those of you who don’t know; in the Tower at Blackpool there are several attractions including the Blackpool Tower Dungeon, the Circus and the Eye at Blackpool so the Ballroom afternoon tea is an ideal place to chill out in between these and would also make a more tranquil setting for an afternoon tea for those of you considering a girls day out in Blackpool (as we were).

For those amongst you wanting finer details of the food – you could tell everything was freshly made. I don’t know what brand the tea was but we both liked it. The sandwiches were made with a pleasant variety of fillings. The scones were sultana scones and were pleasantly soft rather than crumbly. The jam provided was in those little jars and was a high quality conserve and the clotted cream was also excellent. I particularly liked the variety of little cakes (although we saved these for later as we were both too full to properly enjoy them). We had tiffin, a fruit meringue, a freshly baked miniature apple pie and a miniature cheesecake. The cheesecake was so creamy! (D’s reviews of the cakes were also very positive).

I think from this post you can tell we really did have a wonderful time and appreciate being invited to visit so much. The staff were very kind and boxed up uneaten cake for me to take home (which D enjoyed later). The only downside of the entire trip was that I happened to pick a Saturday when the weather was so horrible and stormy we were completely soaked by the time we reached the Tower. (That’s weather in the North West for you!)

For full details of Afternoon Tea and the Blackpool Tower click here.

For further details of the attractions of Blackpool Tower visit here.

We followed this visit with a trip to the Sea Life Centre and a game of crazy gold. Which I lost. Spectacularly.

Our visit to Afternoon Tea in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom was a press trip so everything was complimentary, but all views are my own. Thank you for inviting me!

Walkers Bugles (playing with my food)

Bugles

As I child I was frequently told off for playing with my food (its probably why I started enjoying baking to be honest!) Anyway, the rerelease of Walkers Bugles allowed be both to appreciate some fine crisps and also the above image of a 5ft 8 dragon and castle structure. That’s certainly impressive given that it is 5 inches taller than me! Made with 21500 Walkers Bugles and taking over 200 hours to make, I do marvel at the patience that went into making this.

We got sent some Bugles and while I attempted to make my own structures, I will wholeheartedly admit that I was even more impressed given that I had trouble stacking more than 2 of the things together.

Anyway, here are some fun pictures I created (I decided to give up and go 2D). Massive thanks to D for his Lego Avengers Crisp village suggestion!

Also, you just can’t eat Bugles without making your own claws! (I am the bad influence on my friend’s children).

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Walkers Bugles are available to buy in all good supermarkets. I was sent some Bugles to create these images but all opinions are my own.