Chocolate mouse cupcakes

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I absolutely love giving people cakes on their birthday, especially if I have time to make them myself. This weekend was one of D’s best friend’s birthday celebrations so I decided to take some cakes along to the event. Unfortunately, after one too many libations on of the cupcakes met a very sad ending in York station. Alas, such is life.

Anyway, these chocolatey cakes are so easy to make and taste just wonderful. These bring you back to your childhood as soon as you see them as white mice were always a pick n’mix staple. I miss pick n’mix so much!). You can make these in the food processor, but I used my electric whisk. Realising I can use the electric whisk to make my butter cream was something of a game changer. It took literally 2 minutes to mix it all together.

To make your own mouse cupcakes you will need:

For the cupcakes

85g self raising flour

4tbsp cocoa powder

2 large eggs

110g caster sugar

110g softened butter

1tsp baking powder

2tbsp milk (I used coconut milk)

To decorate

120g softened butter

220g icing sugar (approx.)

2tbsp cocoa powder

1tbsp milk (again I used coconut milk and it was fine)

2 packs white mice (or your favourite sweets)

Makes about 12 cupcakes

Preheat your oven to 170°C and line a muffin tin with cake cases. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and cocoa into a large mixing bowl (or your food processor). To this, add your softened butter, milk and eggs. Either mix by hand with a wooden spoon, use your food processor or mix using and electric whisk until all the ingredients are fluffy and the mix is consistent.

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Spoon this mix evenly between your cupcake cases. Bake the cakes for about 20 minutes until springy to the touch.

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Leave the cakes to cool before decorating, otherwise your butter cream will slide off.

To make your butter cream whisk (or beat using a fork) together your butter, cocoa powder, milk and 3/4 of the icing sugar. Gradually add the rest of the icing sugar to taste (different people like different amounts of sugar in their butter cream).

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Using a flat knife, such as a butter knife, evenly spread the butter cream onto your cupcakes. If you have too much (like I did) this can be kept in the freezer for another time.

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Top with as many white mice as you think the recipient deserves (if you have any left over feel free to eat them).

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These cakes would be the perfect thing to make for a kid’s party, or for any chocolate lover. Betty Crocker eat your heart out.

Parmesan crusted baked turkey

I rarely think to cook turkey. I don,t know why really as its lower fat than chicken and is really versatile (turkey burgers can be amazing, for example). However, I do think you need to cook it with something tasty as it can be pretty bland on its own (except in Christmas dinners obviously). This recipe is an absolute dream midweek. It tastes lovely and is a dieters dream. I barely used any oil in this (just a drizzle) but even though this dinner is low fat and high protein it really packs a punch in the flavour department.

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For baked turkey you will need:

Turkey breast steaks (1 per person)

1 red onion

1 clove garlic

1 tsp sun dried tomato paste (or sun dried tomatoes)

20g parmesan

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Basil leaves

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Place your turkey on a baking tray and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle your parmesan, sun dried tomato paste, salt and pepper evenly over the turkey. Slice your onion and garlic clove. Pur this in the tray with the turkey and finish by tearing up a couple of basil leaves and adding this to the mix. (As a side note I bought a load of basil last week and this recipe would also work with something like dried chives, or mixed herbs if you have them in instead.)

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Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through.

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I served mine with roast vegetables (no point wasting a hot oven). But this would literally go with most things. I think I will cook turkey a bit more often in future.

Courgette and pecorino meatballs

Sometimes cohabiting has made me learn far more about myself that I actually realised. One of the things I have learned is when I am determined to do something I eventually do it. So when D admitted to me that he used to regularly eat meatballs from a tin before he had me bossing him about. I was absolutely insistent that freshly made meatballs would blow his mind and I set about proving this, despite never having made a meatball in my life prior to our meeting last year.

These meatballs are the absolute one on days when you’re really hungry. It tastes fantastic and you prepare the meatballs a few hours before cooking them so they are perfect when you know you’re going to have a busy day. In an attempt to increase our vegetable intake I use a potato peeler to make fine pieces of courgette to cook with the spaghetti while it is cooking. If you want to make this recipe gluten free take the breadcrumbs out of the mix as well as one of the eggs and serve with rice.

To make your own meatballs and sauce you will need:

For the meatballs (Makes enough meatballs for 4 very hungry people, or 5 normal people)

750g mince (I used pork and beef mince)

1 slice stale bread

1 small onion (or half a larger one)

2 eggs

1 courgette

Salt and pepper

100g pecorino cheese, grated (Use parmesan or grana padano if you wish)

For the sauce (I froze half of our meatballs so the sauce serves 2-4)

1 small onion

1 clove garlic (add more if you wish)

500g passata

1 small glass red wine

Olive oil

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

Salt and pepper

2 handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved

1 handful basil leaves

100g buffalo mozzarella

Place your mince in a large mixing bowl. Using a food processor blitz your bread until it forms breadcrumbs, Place this with the mince, pecorino and salt and pepper. Add your courgette, onion  and egg to the food processor and whizz up until the courgette and onion are finely chopped.

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Put the courgette mix into the bowl and use your hands to mix it all together evenly. Roll this mix into the meatballs, just over an inch in diameter and chill for several hours (or overnight). If you don’t want to cook all your meatballs this is the ideal point to freeze some of them.

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When you come to making the sauce; finely chop your onion and crush your garlic. Fry these over a low heat until soft. Add your meatballs and cook until all sides are lightly browned.

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To this add your passata, wine, chilli powder and salt and pepper. Cook over a gentle heat for around 10 minutes.

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Add your cherry tomato halves and cook for another 5 minutes.

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Break your mozzarella into the tomato sauce and top the whole thing with fresh basil. Allow the cheese to thoroughly melt into the tomato sauce and serve with spaghetti.

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Apparently serving meatballs with pasta is actually an Italian American thing rather than an Italian thing? Either ways it’s a comforting meal that we can both get on board with.

Oh and the tinned meatballs? Hopefully a thing of the past.

5 ways to make yourself a bit happier this Spring

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I must admit I am feeling decidedly unsparkly tonight. I have the sort of cold that has exhausted me and left me with a comically squeaky voice to boot. However, I had a lovely weekend in which D and I spontaneously went to Country to Country (a country music festival) in London. Which got me thinking, while watching literally thousands of people having a whale of a time, of small things to consider doing to boost your happiness over the next few weeks.

1. Sing. There has been much research into the impact of singing on your mental health and happiness. I started doing musical theatre again a couple of nights a week and my mum has joined a community choir in my home town. More than once we have discussed how singing is relaxing and makes you think of something beyond the stresses of work and daily life. So sing your heart out, even if it’s just you when you’re home alone in the living room dancing to Taylor Swift.

2. Go to some form of live entertainment. Whether it’s a gig in the back room of a pup, a festival, theatre show or whatever; look into going. If you see your favourite musical touring, or that your favourite band is playing, bite the bullet and book tickets. It gives you something to look forward to and once you’re there the atmosphere is wonderful. There’s something wonderful about hearing something you love live on a stage. So get it organised, rather than wishing you were going.

3. Take up a new form of exercise. Release those endorphins and make yourself feel great. There’s something so great about how fantastic you can feel after a great workout. If you’re feeling daunted about going to a new class or joining the gym, try to remember that everyone in the class has been the new person at the class once. As a lazy participant of several exercise classes I have never once observed people eyeballing a new person.

4. Invite your friends to your home. Going out with friends is nice, but there is something lovely and cosy about sitting on the sofa (or in the garden on a nice day) drinking a glass of wine and having a great catch up.

5. Make the most of where you live. Go on walks in the local countryside, go to the beach or just go to the local beer festival or food festival. It’ll make you feel fortunate to live where you do and you’re likely to randomly bump into people you know while doing it.