Want to make Christmas cookies this year? Then this is the post for you

_DSC0414

I try not to make Pinterest bakes but sometimes the season calls for a little cheesy goodness, or in this case, chocolately goodness in the form of Christmas cookies.

This adventure all began from a vlogger who I am slightly loathed to share because she’s so down to earth and untouched by ‘vlogger fame’ and just plain wonderful that I don’t particularly want to spoil it and yet at the same time, I think she’s amazing so here goes, Rhiannon Ashlee Vlogs alerted me to the christmas pudding cookies and I knew from that instance that I just had to make some myself!

_DSC0406

Knowing the bakes that I like, I knew instantly that I wanted to make a christmas pudding cookies. To do that I wanted to use a tried and true Nigella Recipe! The only issue I hit was that it said it made 14 cookies and I was making mine for at least ten people so figured I would simply double the recipe. What should have been 28 cookies, made 64 so as you could imagine just one style was not enough, so instead I went full on Pinterest.

_DSC0408 I

Firstly I created two types of christmas puddings. One with Royal icing leaves and one with piped icing straight onto the Rolo (pushed into the centre whilst the cookies are still hot to create an xmas pudding) then I wrote on some of the plain chocolate chip and M&M cookies first with peoples names and second with ‘merry’ and ‘Xmas’. Then of course I made Reindeers…

_DSC0420

Things I’ve learnt about myself during this experience? When doubling the recipe to include 600grams of flour, know that you probably won’t just make 28 cookies.

Two packs of 365grams of chocolate drops is at least four packs of m&ms. Speaking of M&M’s, taking out just two colours makes the rest of the bag look strange and with that in mind, it made me realise I never want to be responsible for fulfilling celebrities riders, you only want red and green M&M’s? its called, you work it out.

My work counter is too short for spending ages decorating things and surprisingly I am pretty patient when dealing with three trays in and out of the oven.

Making cookies is not as messy as marmalade. Although creating holly leaves out of Royal Icing was a nightmare.

_DSC0418
_DSC0411

You’ll be glad to know the cookies went down a treat so I can definitely attest to Nigellas recipe being amazing even if it makes a regular baker like me and you into a full scale operation. Honestly if we had a serving hatch in our kitchen I would have set up a shop. Don’t ask me about how I would get customers into our house at half one in the morning, because yes I was making royal icing holly leaves well into the next morning, but it was worth it. Right?

If anything this is why we don’t use Pinterest. It makes you make weird things into the morning and creating front room bakeries.

Bake | How to make simple bakes more fun..

Baking can sometimes seem so overcomplicated that it makes more sense to just buy ready made. I certainly do that with brownies (who has the time?) but let me tell you there are cakes out there! Cakes which are both fun, relatively easy to make an awesome to look at. Enter the coffee, chocolate walnut cupcakes.

_DSC0395

These started out so differently I can’t believe it. Firstly you need to go full out Great British Bake off and use Mary Berry’s Cappuccino cake recipe then you need to mix it up a little by adding chocolate drops and finely chopped walnuts to the cake mix (I used 100g of chocolate and 50-75g of chopped walnuts). The biggest change? Put the mixture into cupcake cases instead of tins!

Cook at 180 degrees and they cook wonderfully quick! I can’t tell you exact times just wait for them to be cooked through (skewer one once the tops are tanned and springy. They are done once the skewer comes out clean – but remember chocolate drops will leave a residue.) On a side note because of the mixture its worth cooking them a little longer than you perhaps would normally. I always find Mary’s mixtures a little heavy and it seems cooking them for a little longer often helps in making them a little less dense.

Now, the fun bit? Decorating.

We forget why kids love baking, its the experimentation and fun of decorating. You could just buy a piping bag and do a basic icing but then you could do this instead.

Make a mountain.

The icing, unlike Mary’s is coffee buttercream (with a little milk for smoothness) mixed with chocolate and the kicker… once you spread a little on the top of the cupcake (although cut the very top off first to make the mountain structure.) roll the cupcake it more chopped walnuts and/or place chocolate drops onto then add a little hat & icing sugar, suddenly your bake is fun again!

My favourite part of this was just experimenting and making half of them different, it just adds to the look and makes them a little more fun and less serious.

_DSC0389

We tried to make Cocktail, Star Anise delight* and this is how it went . . .

_DSC0463

HOW TO MAKE | A cocktail with Star Anise

This season is my favourite, fall (Autumn) for fashion and as we move outside of those exciting first days of fall fashion the next thing of course is Christmas. Food and drink rich with spices and warmth if I had to choose fashion over food? I’m not entirely sure I could.

This past weekend myself and Josh made a feast of asian foods which will share with you soon! (sweet potato goyza’s, sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken and egg fried rice? yes please!) but to go with that we wanted something a little different. Wine is our fall back but it seemed fun to go with some aniseed from a little star anise!
_DSC0390

YOU WILL NEED:

  • Champagne (or we used Prosecco)
  • Grenadine (a splash)
  • Orange Juice (a splash)
  • Star Anise
  • An Orange! (in chunks)

_DSC0405

INSTRUCTION:

Being given the instruction of a splash can be difficult, how much is that actually? For me I worked it at a quarter of a shot of Grenadine (because it can be quite overpowering) then a half shot of orange juice. All in this order.

Then following this (all on ice – either cubed or broken) top up with champaign or prosecco along with a good chunk of orange! Finally, star anise! I bet you never thought you would need them but finally I have found a recipe for you to utilise their pretty star shape!
_DSC0426 _DSC0447

Overall this is a lovely uplifting drink! With its rich orange colour it feels festive but without being too heavy we have decided that we would like to have this on christmas day and honestly its worth making and trying out! Its light and refreshing and with the festive season often being so heavy its nice to have something to lighten the palette occasionally!

Even better it doesn’t require a cocktail shaker, its easy and ridiculously quick to pull together (and to top up!)
* when this post initially went out it was poorly timed with the American election 11/9/16. it is important to note that my poor timing skills are no reflection of my political ideals or that of this blog. 

Bake! | Oh Protein balls…

_DSC0410  _DSC0402

The easiest thing you’ll ever make via Pinterest? Protein Balls.

Honestly I read a lot of recipes about these little balls of joy and I came to one conclusion. These were originally created by someone very hungry who quickly resorted to pulling out their favourite things from their stock cupboard to create a treat which was more exciting than a piece of fruit.

Its like the concoctions you made as a child when your parents weren’t looking and you felt like you were starving after school. You had nothing in the house bar stock cupboard ingredients and resorted to eating Nutella out of the jar. We’ve all been there. Sorry Mum.

So how do you make these uber easy, Pinterest/Instagram ready snacks? Basically you need a few ingredients. Something to act like a binding ingredient (peanut/almond butter/Dates) something pretend healthy ( pistachios/some trendy nut or seed) and something bad, coco/cacao powder then something to roll it in (more chocolate substitute or coconut). Oh and Protein powder, if your into that.

Its the greatest thing that you can literally take anything and make these and alter them to your personal tastes as you go along. To create you ideally need a mixer so you can throw all the ingredients in and voila! Its really is that easy! In fact theres almost no point to protein ball posts because all you need is a little imagination, a bit of time and a whole load of childhood memories aiding you in creating what could be quite possibly the grossest thing you’ll ever eat!

As it is, these taste pretty good and they are, Peanut Butter, Coco Powder (for baking), desiccated coconut, dates, honey and a mixed linseed.

_DSC0400 _DSC0403
_DSC0404 _DSC0405

Baking | Wednesday, weekend baking

_DSC0392

“No more excuses for uneaten food in the bin. I’ve made muffins from nothing more than porridge oats, bananas and greek yoghurt! Granola held together with bananas alongside every seed in the house and cupcakes with only egg yolks . . . “

I can no longer leave food uneaten in our house. I dread the idea of chucking perfectly good, healthy food uneaten. So much so that I have begun a baking revolution of finding ways to use things up and banana loaf is my all time favourite example of this.

I always end up with bananas that are going more than a little brown around the edges and for me thats a no go in terms of regular eating however as a binding agent? As banana loaf I am all in.

This last weekend I decided to make a different type of banana loaf which used Maple Syrup and Cinnamon in the mix. It sounds a little odd perhaps but a little odd is always a lot better than a little common, don’t you think?

I grabbed the recipe from here+ and only changed it by using slightly less maple and more cinnamon and of course, chocolate drops. Who could say no?

_DSC0471_DSC0473 _DSC0474

_DSC0476

p.s if you received this post in error (potentially three times) You have my apologies as WordPress got in a funk and decided that the 9th was in fact last week . . . to receive day to day updates and future post apologies please find me on Twitter+

Sloe Gin update!

  
Back in September I shared the easiest thing a girl or guy could make at home for a homemade and delicious Christmas present.

You will be pleased to hear that it all went smoothly and the photo above is the end result! A beautiful rich and sweet Gin! Let me tell you you really only need a mason jar, some sugar and a cinnamon stick and let me tell you that is perfect. 

As you may read this we are currently preparing for our very first friends Christmas! We are uber excited and have made our house as festive as possible to prepare so stay tuned this week for a post on Christmas jumpers, friends Christmas and all things Christmas! 

therealjlow bakes | Golden Bites.

Golden Meringue bites.

I’ll be honest these started out as meringue kisses. The only problem? They need a piping bag and no cutting the corner off of a fold over sandwich bag is going to cut it. However these (which only need a spoon and spatular – and a little bit of creativity) look almost better. Like little chunks of gold.

My original ideas were to match the colour choices in our dining room and living room, copper/gold accents with the delicious, bitesize easyness of a sugary snack. Not to mention these look even more perfect stacked in a tall kilner jar on your table!

So what do you need? Uber simple all you need is,

3 large egg whites

175 grams of caster (or fine) sugar

and decoration of your choice! (I choose metallic dark gold food colouring and edible gold glitter) 

Method

1st – Separate your egg whites. If you are a nervous egg breaker do this into a separate bowl and empty the good whites into your mixing bowl after. Whilst warming the oven at 140degrees.

2nd – I’ll give you my grandparents Low trick to the perfect Meringue – whisk your egg whites (preferably with an electric whisk – no one needs a sore arm ok?) until stiff peeks. This means that when you gently pull the whisks free the egg sticks up (sort of like a wave) and the crest doesn’t fall over and failing that, (my grandfather was a daredevil I tell you) carefully tip your bowl. If you can hold it upside down and your mixture doesn’t fall out? You’ve got it. Perfect.

3rd – Fold or whisk in your sugar in small portions at a time. I’ve done both and both methods work perfectly! If you whisk it in however don’t whisk your egg whites as stiffly.

4th – Using a spatular or spoon, spoon your mixture on a tray lined with baking paper in whichever look you want. A piping bag means they can look uniformed when cooked and actually “kisses” will need this method instead of my slapdash one!

5th – decorate! My favourite part. I have used the end of a spoon covered in food colouring and I have also used toothpicks to draw colour through the mixture! Because these are actually also put in the killner in terms of colour (ombre) I have also steadily folded in the food colouring, making the mixture darker as I go as well. Finally sprinkle your edible gold dust across the top for that little bit of glitter!

6th – Cook! These little blighters might take seconds to make but they take far longer to bake! Between 30-40 minutes, keep an eye on them so they don’t burn and to tell when they are done, take them from the oven. Pick them up, if they come away easily and the bottoms don’t break off and you can tap them easily without disaster than voila! they are done! lay them to cool on a cooling rack until fully cold.

Quick Sloe Gin

Quick Sloe Gin.

  1. Per jar (1Litre) 225grams of Sloe
  2. 150 grams of sugar
  3. A cinnamon stick
  4. 700ml Gin

For something called Sloe, Sloe Gin is ridiculously quick and simple to make. My mum made sloe gin what feels like many years ago but it wasn’t until early this fall that we considered making it ourselves.

Thankfully nearby Josh’s mum and grandma are several bushes filled with sloes which Josh’s mum very nicely picked for us last week. So of course the weekend meant making Sloe Gin was a must.

So as you can see making sloe gin takes so few ingredients it’s insane and the rest is pretty simple to boot!

Firstly weigh out your sloes! We halved the recipe so we used 225g of sloes per jar which are then pricked (to release the juices) then decant the sloes into your jar and add 1 cinnamon stick and 150g of sugar.

The last thing is to add the alcohol, the Gin. Per jar we used roughly 700ml of Gin.

Once you’ve added all the ingredients you want to make sure that a, your jar is secure and secondly that you’ve got a firm grip and the cap on because the last stop is a lot of shaking!

This is so you mix the ingredients and bash those sloes a little to release the incredible juices! So what’s the next step? Well to make sloe gin you also need time. Ideally you want to leave it for several months whilst shaking it occasionally to dislodge those berries again! Once you’ve let it sit for several months you have to sieve out those berries and the cinnamon and decant the gin sloe gin into your chosen container where its ready to drink! Huzzah! So its key to get it done now so you can enjoy it as the festivities for Christmas begin!!!

therealjlow cooks | Autumnal (fall) Granola.

Autumnal Granola

I love a good bit of Granola it feels both like a naughty treat whilst at the same time being somewhat healthy, the perfect snack if I must say. However I didn’t want to just make your usual granola, oh no I wanted to make it fall appropriate. You see as I stopped at our local super market I had looked down at my trolly which was full of autumnal fruits and asked myself, what will go well with cooked fruits?

Well of course the answer was autumnal granola!

This is uber simple to replicate, hard to mess up and even better it is completely customisable and takes seconds to make!

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250G) Large rolled porridge Oats
  • Sultanas
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Dried sweetened cranberries
  • Pine Nuts
  • Goji Berries
  • Desiccated Coconut
  • Linseed mix
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tspn of Golden Syrup
  • Honey
  • Coconut Oil (melted)
  • 1 tspn Vanilla Extract

Directions:

Pre heat your oven to 150 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.

On a low heat place 1 tspn of Coconut Oil in a medium sized pan and melt until clear and runny. Fold in 1 Cup (250g) of rolled porridge oats until covered as well as your other dry ingredients excluding the cinnamon and desiccated coconut, combine and add 1 tablespoon of honey mixing thoroughly take the pan off of the heat and add your vanilla Extract. As the mixture cools add your golden Syrup and desiccated coconut along with a liberal (as strong as you would like) dashing of ground cinnamon.

Now spread the mixture onto your baking tray making sure not to compact the mixture (as this could potentially create flapjacks instead) and place into the pre heated oven for 10 – 15 minutes or until the sides begin to golden. Once your happy take the tray from the oven and shake up the granola (I did mine with a spatula but anything will do!) This separation makes sure you have individual pieces rather than a flapjack! Then place them back in the oven to golden the otherside.

After roughly another 10 minutes you’re done! Allow to cool and then pour into your chosen dish! I’m a big fan of a kilner jar but that’s just me!

p.s stay tuned for how you can use this Granola seasonly with mulled wine fruit & figs oh and of course a little bit of ice cream . . .

therealjlow cooks | Joshes easy Stroganoff dinner

As the nights draw in and there is a nip in the air your cooking automatically adjusts. We become less keen on the same old summer salads and instead look to baked apples. We scurry through our cupboards for cinnamon and flour and when it comes to dinner we want rich gravies and Stroganoff is one of those simple first of the season dishes.

Something I didn’t know was that this dish is ridiculously simple, something I did know is that Josh makes it perfectly. This is not overdone, its not a showstopper but its relatively easy and perfect for after work.

What you will need,

  • frying beef steak
  • soured cream
  • 1 large Onion
  • mushrooms

therealjlow cooks | Caramelised onion, Goats Cheese and Fig tarts

Cook: Caramalised Onion, fig and Goats cheese tarts

Many, many moons ago I worked at a wedding in Surbiton and they served similar tarts to these. Fast-forward four or so years and finally I have recreated these for myself and Josh.

With Autumn fully upon us (apparently we have some arctic storm approaching us?) we of course had to indulge in a little festive cooking and the call on this day was figs!

Now you must bear with me and my kitchen. We have never had the most beautiful kitchen but let me just tell you, our new one? It walked straight out of the seventies and that is not pretty so here goes.

You will need . . .

  • Goats cheese (as much or as little as you want – we used the whole pack – I live with a serious cheese addict – he even stole pieces whilst I wasn’t looking!)
  • 1 Onion per 2 tartlets (we tried to do all four with 1 and it fell short – we used pre packaged caramalised onion chutney to fill the void, yummy but not as good!)
  • 1 pack of puff pastry (I also made these the first week we moved into our doer upper – I have zero time for pastry making!)
  • Butter (I used salted but either is fine)
  • Honey (runny is best!)
  • Figs (we used three – but a pack of four (as we had) would be even better!)
  • Red wine (an additional option for drinking)

First things first you will need to make sure your pastry is at room temperature. Even refrigerated it can be too cold which when you roll it out can potentially crack. Something you don’t want! So unroll your pastry and gently use your rolling pin to make it stretch out that little bit further!

With your new, flatter pastry divide the piece into four. As a messy, fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl I haven’t minded odd shapes and uneven squares (however you can always make these perfect). I’m also the girl who always failed home economics because my counters were messy so be prepared . . .

Having divided the pastry into four pieces, now is the time to fold the corners in order to keep the filling in. I achieved this by once again roughly folding up the sides and then placing them on a baking tray. I choose to pre cook my pastry. To do this its best to place baking beads within the centre of your pastry (to minimize it rising where you don’t want it) however because we hadn’t kept ours because of the move I ended up re flattening the insides once baked. Bake this until cooked through but don’t worry about a golden sheen however you can have already baked this with an egg wash (I forgot entirely, doh.) Bake these pastry tarts for roughly 7 minutes.

Whilst cooking we need to assemble the filling. That means cutting the goats cheese into equal slithers, cutting figs into sections and frying off 1 onion per tart in a mix of butter and honey to achieve a tasty and caramelised look and taste.

Once baked, it is as simple as assembling your tarts. You can organise this in anyway you like including mixing your goats cheese with honey and smoothing this across the pastry base. I, however choose to place slices of goats cheese first before layering five to six fig slices per slice and topping off with our onion and a generous drizzle of honey.

Your final bake (or grill) can take up to ten minutes. The key is to keep an eye on your tarts, your pastry is already pretty much cooked so what you need to look for is your goats cheese melting to your ideal without the pastry burning around it (same with your figs.)

I didn’t worry about this too much since I know Josh adores goats cheese in any form (in fact he stole a lot before the process even began!) Also note that these taste great warm from the oven to cold the next day! We had ours for lunch on the Monday, cold and they were perfect! So good for easy and yet fancy work day lunches!

Make a small treat feel like a big treat!

It is now officially a year until our wedding. Cue screams you for excitement and me in horror since I feel seriously un prepared but then again maybe I’m just doing the old school wait till the night before to get everything done but lets hope not!

Anyway because of this we realised we really needed to get ourselves back onto the health and fitness track which since we were moving had gone completely out of the window!

So its clearly not enough to just join the gym (apparently you have to go to? Horror.) but we also wanted to overhaul our diets as well! So as you might not know I love myself a snack and in particular I have a hugely sweet tooth. Now if there is one thing that can derail a diet it’s a sweet tooth!

Now, I had completely forgotten this trick which I believe I stole from my grandparents and that is to use a small spoon. Who would have thought that something could be so simple but which works really well and even worked after photographing this fruit bowl!

What I love to do and what I have done above is take a smaller portion of fruit than normal. I choose four medium strawberries, six (slightly large) raspberries and a handful of blueberries and for the naughty bit a tiny amount of chocolate drops. The next thing to do to make your snack or in my case breakfast to go further is to cut any big fruit down! So each strawberry I managed to cut down into about four to five pieces which meant that four became twenty! And cut my raspberries in half! So you have immediately made your snack double in size! Then put them into a small bowl and there you have it a snack twice the size of what it actually is! Then of course I had to add a couple of chocolate drops since it was the weekend after all!

You’ve already made your snack look bigger than it is but to add to that then make your spoon as small as possible! Why does this work? Because you can’t fit as much on one spoon it takes you longer to eat. If there is one thing you are doing wrong when eating it is this, you don’t pay enough attention to the food your eating and you eat too fast.

This is pretty much the most helpful thing that you can do when you’re trying to be healthy and that is stretching out the food you want to eat. Also if you eat for longer it gives you time for your body and brain to catch up and tell you that you are in fact full! Which can take up to twenty minutes.

So there you have it! The easiest way to make a small amount of mostly healthy food go further! Another steal from my super grandparents is crumbling a meringue over fruit for an evening dessert or adding a probiotic yoghurt to the mix which is also great for those of you suffering with IBS!