Peanut butter & jelly bars

You know when you see a picture of some food on instagram and then you have dreams about it and just have to make your own version?  No?  You mean you’re not obsessed with food to the same levels I am?  You don’t plan pretty much every meal for the foreseeable future and read cookery books for fun?  Oh OK.  I accept it, I am a food nutter.  Anyway, I saw a friend make these bars and couldn’t start thinking about them.

My boys watch a lot of American films/telly at the moment and are just starting to cotton on to that humourous element which us Brits still have at such moments.  Americans calling things by different names.  Setting aside the ever-hilarious casual usage of ‘fanny’ which as yet doesn’t mean much to my boys (only a matter of time) the boys think it’s ridiculous that they would put ‘jelly’ on toast.  Jelly?  But it’s wobbly and would go everywhere – snarf, snarf, snarf……….

This recipe does not call for jelly my friends, it needs jam.  Of course, I could have just called it peanut butter and jam bars but then it would lose that whole yankee-cool vibe (me, affected much?!).

I am not actually a jam fan.  The band or the fruit spread.  I like making jam but, aside from on a scone with a large amount of clotted cream, I don’t really like eating it that much.  So when I was adapting this recipe I cut down the quantity a bit.  Feel free to add more if you love it although bear in mind that jam bubbles up like a bastard when it is cooked and then welds on to any cooking pan and clings on like the devil itself.  You’ve been warned.

These bars aren’t quite biscuit and they aren’t quite cake.  Somewhere in between.  The first mouthful is a bit salty and you’ll be unsure if you like them, the second mouthful gives the sweet hit and then before you know it you’ll have eaten at least 3.

Peanut butter & Jelly Bars

125g Marg or butter

150g sugar (caster or granulated)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

250g smooth peanut butter

210g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

125g strawberry or raspberry jam

50g salted peanuts crushed in a pestle and mortar or chopped roughly

Pre heat oven to 180c and grease and line with baking parchment a tin.  I use a square one that measures about 21cm x 21cm

I use my kitchenaid for this but of course you can use a food processor or mixer or even by hand.

Cream the butter and sugar in the mixer until golden and fluffy, then add the vanilla, egg and peanut butter – mix together.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined.m

Put 2/3 of the dough into the baking tray and squish down with a fork to cover the bottom.  Dollop the jam with a teaspoon over the top.  I quite like it spread not to evenly so on some mouthfuls you get more jam than others.  Then onto the top of the jam, using a teaspoon again, dollop the remaining dough and then flatten out with a fork.

Top with the peanuts and pop in the oven until golden brown.  This takes 35 to 40 minutes in my oven (which is a fast oven)

Take out and cool before cutting into squares.

I have frozen half of these to prevent myself from eating too many of them in one sitting. Be warned they’re a bit addictive.

Enjoy!

 

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Pulled pork with apple and thyme

Over on my previous blog tamsinsworld I seem to have introduced a lot of my friends to the joy that is pulled pork.  It’s porky, its’s soft, doesn’t require too much chewing, can be dumped in the slow cooker for many many hours and forgotten about, it feeds many hungry mouths and then keeps feeding many hungry mouths in the form of leftovers for days.  What’s not to like?  Well unless you’re a vegetarian.  Or Muslim.  Or Jewish.  In which case, sorry my friends this recipe is not for you.

Incidentally, it’s reasonably bizarre that lots of people seem to mainly stumble accross my blog because of this recipe as for quite a while after having Corey I couldn’t stomach pork at all.  I don’t know what it was but something about the taste of pork reminded me of giving birth.  How weird.  Even bacon was a struggle.  Utterly bonkers and then once I had Mitch it was open season on the pork front again.

The original pulled pork recipe I came up with can be found here – it’s a cracker of a recipe folks.  Spicy, bbq type taste – a sure fire hit with all I have given it to.  Except of course for my own children. They still react to even a smidgen of spice with horrified faces, lots of screams and then whimper ‘you poisoned me mumy’.  So when I cook that one I tend to just give them the side dishes instead.

But as Corey is now finally coming out of his vegetarian phase I have come up with a more kid friendly version.  I originally posted it here – but in case you can’t be bothered to click through the link here is the recipe in all it’s porky yumminess.

Pulled pork with apple and thyme 

3 x apples peeled, cored and chopped

2 x cloves of garlic chopped chunky

1 x onion chopped

fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

250 ml apple juice

zest and juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar

1.5 kg ish joint of pork shoulder – with ALL the fat and skin trimmed off.  A messy job to cut it all off but I find the end product is way too greasy otherwise.

Put all the apple, onion, garlic, lemon, herbs in the slow cooker then top with the pork joint – add the apple juice and vinegar and top with a bay leaf.  Cook away on a low setting for around 8 hours.

After that take the pork out of the liquid and shred with a couple of forks and put in a covered container to keep warm until ready to eat.

Today I am serving this as a roast dinner so I whack the slow cooker onto high – add about 400 ml boiling water and a few generous spoonfuls of gravy powder (my favourite is bisto best beef) and then stir and use my hand held blender to make it smooth. Really yum gravy.

If I was serving it as a more informal dinner I would have just blitzed it as was (ie not added any extra liquid and just made an apple/onion/pork juice sauce) that would be nice on rolls etc.

I’m hoping that this will leave loads and loads of leftovers as tomorrow I’m making it into fajitas and then the next day a pulled pork and bean chili for us all (without actual chili in the boys’ portions!’)

Enjoy – and have a great Sunday!

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Roasted beetroot and garlic soup

Cooking with beetroot is relatively new to me, but after reading a lot about its health benefits it`s an ingredient I am enjoying getting to grips with. I do have a couple of warnings for you though if, like me, you are a beetroot novice. First off, it stains like a bugger. Combine this with the fact that I am possibly the messiest eater and cooker on the entire planet and I have learnt NEVER to wear pale clothing whilst cooking, eating or even being in the same room as the stain-devil-beetroot and to ALWAYS wear a pinny. I also cut the skins off rather than peel (yes it wastes a teency bit but you can hold it a tad more gingerly so less pink fingers). You could wear rubber gloves but I hate them myself.

Secondly, and I apologise my friends for there is no way to put this politely, beetroot goes right through you with rather colourful results. A couple of years my usually stoic and healthy husband phoned me virtually in tears from whichever godforesaken business park he was working in at the time. `I think there`s something terribly wrong with me` he plaintively wailed `can you find me an emergency doctor?`. After some sympathetic phone support `what the feck are you talking about? You were fine when you left home last night? Man up you nutter` *wife of the year award goes to………* I established that his symptoms were massive internal bleeding. From the you know where. At which point I virtually killed myself laughing. And then reminded him of the beetroot gratin he had eaten for lunch the day before. He then pretended he had an important meeting to go to and hung up on me. He has lived to see another day and eat another beetroot. I can also attest to pale pink wee after beetroot. I`m not showing off. Just preventing you from potentially looking like a right dick at the dr.

Anyway, I made this soup for lunch today and it`s proper lush. Healthy and hearty and that lovely sweet/salty combination which I just can`t get enough of.

Ingredients

About 8 small whole beetroot – now these vary massively in size so use your judgement, mine were a mix of red and golden
Olive oil
6 cloves garlic
Sprigs fresh thyme
1litre chicken or veg stock
2tbsp sherry or white wine
1 chopped onion
2 sticks of finely chopped celery
1tsp fennel seeds
70g red lentils (to thicken soup)
Small amount of feta/chopped chives to garnish

Wash and roughly peel the beetroot and then chop and put on a baking tray – drizzle over about 2tsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Scatter over the garlic cloves whole in their papery skins and the thyme sprigs.

Roast in a preheated oven 180c for 45 minutes. Check after 20 minutes and remove the garlic and toss the beetroot round a bit, put the beetroot back in the oven but the garlic should be done by now so keep it out.

Take the garlic out of its skins and set aside.

Once beetroot is roasted heat 1tsp olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the onion and celery for 5 minutes or until soft.

Add the chicken stock, sherry, lentils, garlic, beetroot, fennel seeds and bring to boil – reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

I like to take my soup off the heat and puree it in the pan with a stick blender. You could do it in a blender in batches though.

Taste and season with salt & pepper. Serve in bowls with a bit of feta crumbled up over the top and maybe some chopped chives.

Enjoy!

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Keep on running

Last summer I started running. For those of you who missed it I blogged my couch-to-5k experience over on my tamsinsworld blog – click here if you want to read all about that.

So, since then I have been continuing in my quest for a less wobbly belly and an overall feeling of fitness.  It was all going really well last summer and into the Autumn.  I was running several times a week and managing 5k routinely.  I had increased in confidence to the point where I no longer minded doing the school run with a red face and in my running gear.  But then WINTER happened.  I’ve always hated rain.  I’m not particularly partial to the cold.  Add cold and wet together and, in my eyes, you have a miserable day right there.  Add running into the equation and no.  Just no.  I tried it a few times – buoyed on by my ‘real’ running friends’ proclamations of ‘oh I love running in the rain, it’s so refreshing, you can go faster’.  Again – No.  Just no.

I hate running in the rain.  I hate the feeling of a squishy foot when I’ve run through a puddle.  It’s horrible having rain run down your face and neck.  I really don’t like that ‘I’m cold because it’s pissing it down and it’s November but I am boiling too because I’ve just run 3 miles’ feeling.  So I made the executive decision that I wasn’t going to run outside in the rain – only run on lovely crisp, sunny, wintery days.  So I did that a few times – until I encountered ICE.  Imagine bambi reincarnated as a sweaty middle aged housewife with tourettes.  Skating around – swearing like a navvy.  Didn’t work for me.

So – overall what I’m telling you is that I am most definitely a fairweather runner.  BUT I haven’t been just sitting on my arse eating maltesers and watching Rizzoli & Isles whilst the boys are at school (well, shhhhhhh, some of the time I have but not ALL of the time).  For Christmas my loving husband bought me personal training sessions.  Now before you go thinking ‘well, that’s a bit rude  – did he write ‘dear fatty bum bum, lose some weight you lazy wench, love your husband’ on the gift tag? ‘ I did actually ASK for the sessions.  I’ve really loved them.  Aside from the seemingly relentless coughs and colds we have all seem to have suffered from this year I have had at least one, sometimes two, sessions a week.  My trainer is mild mannered and friendly but she has really pushed me – but in such a supportive way that I’ve wanted to do it.  Love the sessions – love far less the fact that at the moment for at least half the week I can’t sit on the toilet without wincing and walking up the stairs seems nigh on impossible without tears.  I have lost inches all over and feel generally loads better about my body.

Not a cheap way to get fit but it’s been amazing.

Now the weather has improved I have also gone back to running outside.  I’ve found that the strength training has really helped my stamina and I can run faster for longer.

Lest you think that I’m pounding the streets of Manchester like a younger Paula Radcliffe (with less poohing on the side of the road) I feel that in the interests of full disclosure you should know the following”

1. For me it’s FAST.  Like rocket-speed fast.  Super-sonic.  Crack open the bubbly fast.  For snails it is also FAST.  For anyone who actually can run, I am painfully aware, I am in fact SLOW.  Sod this 10k in under an hour.  That, my friends, is a distant dream.  I am getting faster but I am judging myself against myself.  This time last year the only thing that would have made me run would have been a sudden announcement of a flash sale at John Lewis.  Now I can run over 5 miles NON STOP.  That’s progress people.

2.  Positive mental attitude.  Easier some days than others isn’t it?  I had a dreadful run a few weeks ago where I’d barely done 2k before I felt completely drained.  I carried on and finished my 5k but then came home and wept buckets that I was ‘fat and stupid for thinking I could ever run’.  I also had a run where I was overtaken by some dick of a male runner who whizzed past me so fast, without even saying excuse me, that I nearly fell off the pavement.  Have to admit I pulled a horrible face at his back and flicked him the v’s.  This made me feel a little better until I noticed a load of college kids on the other side of the road who had seen me do it and were pissing themselves laughing.  Down side – I felt like a tit. Up side – I ran a bit faster to get away from the sound of their laughter.  But other runs are GREAT – I overtook a couple of people on a run last week.  Me – overtaking someone.  Never thought that would happen.  And at the end of my fastest to date 5k I got to the end of the drive and actually whooped out loud.  A runner going past at the time gave me a massive cheer!!

3.  Despite it, on the whole, getting easier – there is still a moment in every run – normally after about 3 minutes – when I wonder if I have had a stroke since I last tried running.  It’s as if my legs and hips  have suddenly forgotten how to walk, let alone run, and I stagger along as if I have artificial limbs.  Then I kind of get into my stride.  But I always worry I won’t and I will be left lurching along like my legs don’t belong to me.

4.  I still ache like a bastard after most runs.  I also read that ‘your pace should be one where you can comfortably hold a conversation’.  No.  I cannot converse and run even at my pace.  My chatting pace is ‘sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine’ – when I’m running I can only manage a grimace and nod of the head to on-coming runners.

And – BIG NEWS – I have entered the Manchester 10k which is on 18 May.  TEN KILOMETRES. TEN.  I am bricking it.  I am yet to actually run 10k non-stop.  I’m up to 8.8k currently and am hoping to get at least 2 10k runs under my belt before the big day.  I do have a time in mind which I am aiming for – and for me – that will be a big ask.  Mostly though I will just be so proud of myself for doing it that I will actually sob upon crossing the finishing line.

Wish me luck!!

Oh and please don’t think I’m showing off by blogging about my running *although what else is a blog really except for modern day showing off?* I just want to prove to you all out there that if I can run then so can YOU.  (Please don’t overtake me though as I will swear at your back as you leave me for dust)