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Kids Handprint Cookies For Mothers Day


I learned to bake when I was a kid, back in the day before there were blogs and celebrity chefs.  Like many young girls, I learned to bake from the women in my life – my mom and my mom’s mom.  I loved helping out in the kitchen whenever I got a chance.  I learned how to bake cinnamon buns, donuts, cookies, chocolate truffles, and the most amazing cakes ever.  Many of my fondest memories happened (and still do happen) in the kitchen.  

I can only hope that Jayden will enjoy helping me out in the kitchen as much as I enjoyed helping my mom out.  But for now I’ve got him practising his “mixing skills” with a wooden spoon and a soup pot.  And he’s doing a pretty good job if I so say so myself! 

Although he can’t officially help me out with my baking yet, he did play a crucial role in these funfetti sugar cookies.  I used his little hand as a template and then cut out the dough around the template using a sharp knife.  

The idea for these cookies actually came from my mom when she forwarded them to me in a Martha Stewart email last week.  You see, a couple of weeks ago we were supposed to fly home to Canada to visit our parents.  It had been over a year since Jayden last saw his grandparents, but unfortunately some dishonest and manipulating people ended up preventing us from taking our trip home to see them.  It still amazes me how certain people can live with themselves despite the promises that were previously made.  

In the end my mother in law ended up making the trip over to the UK to see us instead.  I figured since my parents couldn’t see how much their grandson had grown since they last time they saw him, I’d send his little handprint to them in cookie form.  I made these at the last minute, the night before my mother in law left so I only managed to take a few pictures on my iphone.  Apologies for the poor photographs.

Seeing as today is Mother’s Day in the UK, I figured what better way than to celebrate with these fun and creative cookies that you and your kids can make together.

Although the idea for these cookies came from Martha Stewart, I used Peggy Porschen’s trusty sugar cookie recipe which is the only sugar cookie recipe I use.  I’ve had nothing but success with it.  I don’t even bother trying new recipes, especially when they call for baking powder which causes the cookies to rise and loose their shape.


Mummy’s Little Helper Handprint Cookies

1.  Start out by tracing the outline of your child’s hand on a heavy piece of cardstock – I used the back of an old cereal box.  Cut out the handprint and set aside.  

2.  Make one batch of Peggy Porschen’s sugar cookie dough – recipe here.  Add in 1 – 2 tablespoons of coloured sprinkles to the cookie dough near the end just as the mixture is forming a dough.  Chill for at least an hour.

3.  Roll the dough out according to the directions in my original sugar cookie post here.  Place your child’s handprint template on the dough, and trace around it with a sharp knife, and repeat with the remaining dough.

4.  Chill the cookie cutouts in the freezer for 10 minutes, before baking in a 350ºF (180ºC) oven for 8 – 10 minutes.   

I packaged Jayden’s little handprint cookies in a plastic container with lots of bubble wrap, so I’m hoping they made it home to my parents safely with all 5 fingers present and accounted for!


Foodie Penpals April Reveal

If you follow me on Twitter you may know that some days I’m on there no stop. Just tweeting away about anything and everything.  And then other days I’m not on there at all. With an eight month old and a full time day job, finding time to tweet can be hard!  One of my favourite things about Twitter is that I get to know so many wonderful people – both bloggers and readers that I wouldn’t have ever interacted with otherwise.  

About six weeks ago I came across a tweet from Carol Anne aka @ThisIsRockSalt talking about Foodie Penpals.  I was intrigued…. I’d had a penpal when I was younger and loved writing letters to her, and sending and receiving packages.  It’s always nice to receive packages in the mail rather than the boring bills and junk you normally get.  I immediately tweeted her back, and just like that I had signed up to become a Foodie Penpal.


Let me give you a bit of background info – Foodie Penpals was started last year by American food blogger The Lean Green Bean.  Since then Foodie Penpals has grown from about 30 participants in the US and Canada, to over 600 participants in the US, Canada, the UK and Europe.  Carol Anne from the blog This Is Rock Salt now organises the UK & European side of Foodie Penpals.  So what is a Foodie Penpal you ask??  Well, let me tell you!  Basically, bloggers (and readers if they wish) are matched up together each month.  At the beginning of the month everyone is notified as to who they are matched up with (it’s someone different each month), and then they’re responsible for putting together a little foodie package for them.  How fun!

My first Foodie Penpal package was sent to me by Jules at Good Gobble Blog.  I had never “met” Jules before (ie: in person, twitter, or the general blogosphere), so before she put together my package we sent a few emails back and forth so she could get a feel of what types of things she might want to send me.  I told her that I liked “snacky” type things and things that I could use in my baking.  


Jules put together a fantastic package for me, and I was so excited when it arrived.  The first thing she included were some Caramel Callets from Slattery’s Parissiery and Chocolatier in Manchester.  I first read about Slattery’s on Jule’s blog post here when I had just found out that she would be my foodie penpal. This place looks seriously amazing!  You’ve got to check out the Chocolate Challenge dessert that her friend Doyle ordered!! OMG! Seriously drool worthy.  I have to go to this place when I’m in Manchester.  Actually – I have to go to Manchester just so I can go to this place!   I sampled a few of the Caramel Callets and they are delicious.  I’m still not too sure what I’m going to make with them, but when I do you can be sure to read about it here!

Jules also sent me shortbread mix in a jar.  All I have to do is add butter to the mixture and bake.  Simple!  I had planned on baking the shortbread on Saturday, but I was starting to come down with a cold and couldn’t muster up the energy to even attempt to bake anything. Next weekend!

She also included some sweet plantain chips – something I’d never had before, but were a favourite snack of hers while she travelled through Peru.  She just happened to find them here in the UK!  Jules recommended eating them with a salsa recipe that she included on the back of the package, but my husband and I just snacked on them straight outta the bag.  Yum!


Jules was also kind enough to make some things for me to snack on.  She made individual rocky road bars fully loaded with chocolate and marshmallows and as well as some delicious walnut free granola (I’m allergic to walnuts).  The rocky road bars were absolutely delicious and the fact that they were individually wrapped meant they were the perfect thing to throw in my lunch bag for an afternoon snack at work.  The granola was also just as delicious.  I’ve been munching on it by the handful rather than eating it with milk because I rarely have milk in my fridge unless I’m baking with it.  I haven’t been online much in the past few weeks, so I’ve not really been able to catch up on my blog reading.  I’ve just noticed that Jules has posted the recipes for the rocky road bars and the granola, so if you’d like the recipes please check them out on her blog.  I also must apologise for the complete lack of photos in this post – my camera was on the wrong setting and pretty much all of them turned out blurry except for a few.  **Smacks head!  Doh!**  I did manage to take a picture of a rocky road bar with my iPhone before I gobbled it all up!  You can also see more pictures of the rocky road bars and granola on her blog.


My Foodie Penpal for this month was Helen from Aardvark Cakes.  I have to be honest and say that I was a little intimidated at the fact Helen was my foodie penpal.  After all, she runs her own cake decorating business so she’s bound to either have everything or seen it before.  I had recently made a trip back home to Canada and the US just after I signed up for Foodie Penpals, so I bought a bunch of different things specifically for my future FP’s.  Whenever I go on holiday, and even when I’m shopping here at home I’m always on the lookout for different foodie things that I don’t see every day and can’t buy regularly.  I picked out a few things for Helen that I thought she might like, so hopefully she enjoyed them!  


I sent her a cute box of Lemon Whoopie Pie Mix, some buttery microwave popcorn (one of my favourite snacks from back home – traditionally popcorn here in the UK is either salty or sweet – not buttery), some maple flavouring for cakes and icing, a little packet of powdered cinnamon bun icing flavouring that I came across while in the US, and a Coffee Crisp Easter Egg – coffee crisp is a Canadian chocolate bar that as far as I know isn’t sold outside of Canada.  

Hopefully Helen liked my foodie penpal package as much as I liked the one Jules sent me.  If you’d like to become a foodie penpal you can sign up and find more information about it here if you’re in the UK & Europe, or here is your in the US & Canada.

Snickers Brownies


A few months ago I was at my local grocery store, and noticed that multi packs of Snickers bars were on sale.  I bought some.  Not because I was craving one, but purely because they were a good deal. I’m a sucker that way.  I know – BAD!  

It’s rare that I actually decide to munch on a candy bar, so it wasn’t surprising that the pack of Snickers sat on my baking shelf forgotten and unopened for weeks.  It wasn’t until I started tiding up that I found them, and figured I should bake something in order to use them up.   Alongside the pack of snickers, I found a box of brownie mix from a previous trip to the States. I figured I might as well use that up as well.  So, a bag of Snickers + a box of brownie mix = Snickers bar brownies!  Why the heck not!?


I’m going to be honest – I wasn’t sure I was actually even going to like these brownies.  Why?  Because when it comes to baked goods, there’s two things I hate – nuts and raisins.  Don’t get me wrong – I love nuts (and sometimes raisins), but there’s just some things that don’t need any added extras.  Like brownies and cookies.  Ok, I take that back – added chocolate is definitely allowed!  But yeah, nuts and raisins – those are a no no in my books.  

Haha – I found this on Pinterest

Anyways, I figured that since I like Snickers bars, and since the peanuts were accompanied by a good portion of chocolate, my brownies would probably turn out just fine.  And they did.  I really liked them.  And I think you’ll like them too.



Snickers Brownies

Ingredients:

8 Snickers bars, full sized
1 Box of Brownie mix, plus required ingredients (or your favourite brownie recipe)
Caramel or Toffee dessert sauce

Instructions:

These are super simple to make.  Start off by making the brownie batter according to the directions on the box (or your recipe).  Pour half of it in an 8×8 square baking pan that has been greased or lined with foil, and then place the Snickers bars on top of the brownie batter so they’re spaced evenly apart.  You may need to cut a few of them in half so they all fit.  Next, pour a generous dose of caramel/toffee topping over the Snickers bars, before pouring the other half of the brownie batter on top. 


Bake according to the instructions on the box or your recipe.  I prefer my brownies to be extra gooey, so I usually take them out about 5-10 minutes early.


Ta-da!  A simple twist on the regular chocolate brownie!

English Cheesecake Company Review


Way back in July I was contacted by the lovely folks over at the English Cheesecake Company, wanting to know if I’d be interested in trying out one of their cheesecakes. Um yeah!!!  How could I turn down cheesecake?  Is that even possible?  Especially considering I was 8 months pregnant at the time.  I had arranged for the cheesecake to be delivered to me in August so I could share it with my friends at my baby shower (I’ve still got to get those posts up btw!).


I couldn’t wait to try one of the cheesecakes from the English Cheesecake Company, as I’d heard a lot about them before over the past few years.  One of my blogging friends Gem, from Cupcake Crazy Gem even works there – how cool is that!!  They’ve got some pretty cool flavours with some pretty inventive names like Cookie Dough Collision, Choccy Woccy Doughnut Cheesecake (yes, it has doughnuts inside the cheesecake!) and Alphonso Mango Coconut Cabana, just to name a few.


Despite a bit of a hiccup with delivery (due to a fault by the courier, not the English Cheesecake Company) I received an absolutely delicious cheesecake just in time for my baby shower.

The cheesecake I was sent was called Honey I’m Comb Golden Nugget (HICGN), and as the name suggests it was loaded on top with chunks of honeycomb candy and even more chocolate covered honeycomb pieces.  The inside of the HICGN cheesecake is studded with pieces of chocolate covered honeycomb and has a delicious biscuit base that was much thicker than found on any cheesecake before.  The staff at the English Cheesecake Company were even nice enough to personalise my cheesecake with a chocolate disc that read “It’s a Boy” (something you can request to have done for birthdays, etc). 


So what did I think of my first cheesecake from the English Cheesecake Company (ECC)?

Well, lets start from the beginning with delivery.  Like I mentioned before, there was an issue with delivery.  Basically the courier failed to deliver my cheesecake on the day it was shipped (a Friday), but luckily my baby shower was on the Sunday so I still had another 2 days before I needed it.  I had been in contact with the ECC to let them know that the cheesecake hadn’t been delivered, so the next day they promptly sent out a new one for me which arrived a few hours later.  Talk about great customer service! A few hours later the original cheesecake also arrived, but it had been sitting in the couriers warehouse overnight and arrived smooshed and inedible. Thank goodness for that second one!

This was the first time I had ever had a frozen food item shipped to me, and I was really impressed by how well it was packaged.  The cheesecake was shipped in an insulated styrofoam box with a few packages of dry ice to keep it frozen.  My only gripe was that although there was a tall plastic sleeve around the outside of the cheesecake, there was nothing covering the top of it, so some of the honeycomb pieces on the top of the cake had shifted and some had been shaken off into the box, so I had to replace them as best I could when I unpacked it.


The instructions that came with the cheesecake said to keep it in the freezer, and then take it out of the box and thaw a few hours before serving, but I didn’t have enough space in my freezer to do that so I kept it in the fridge overnight.  Unfortunately because I did this, when I took it out of the box to display the next day condensation had built up in the box as well as on the chocolate disc which slightly discoloured it (you can see this in the photos).  I don’t think this would have been a problem if I didn’t have the chocolate disc on top, so if you plan on ordering a cheesecake without a disc then I really wouldn’t worry too much.

As for the actual flavour and texture of the cheesecake, I thought they were terrific.  One thing I didn’t really realise until a couple of years ago is that unlike the North American cheesecakes I’m used to, UK cheesecakes are not baked so they have a slightly different texture, and often aren’t as tall.  This cheesecake was light and fluffy, and I really loved the added crunch of the honeycomb pieces inside.  Normally I’m not a fan of really thick biscuit bases, but this one was really nice.  It wasn’t too crumbly, which meant I could easily get it onto my fork and into my mouth.  My guests also thought the cheesecake was delicious, and when my husband got home and had a slice he couldn’t stop raving about it.  


So would I order another cheesecake from the English Cheesecake Company?  Yes!  I would, as I thought it was really delicious and I honestly think that the delivery mix up was a one of.  The English Cheesecake Company has so many delicious flavours to choose from, that I’d have a hard time picking which one to get.  They’re also a good size, and would accurately serve the 12 people stated on the website.  


New flavours are constantly being developed and introduced, as well as seasonal flavours and ones special occasions.  With Valentines Day and Mothers Day quickly approaching, one of these cheesecakes would make the perfect dessert to serve. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies YOU Don’t Have To Bake

It’s Christmas party season at the moment, and if you’re looking for the perfect hostess gift baked goods always seem to go down well.  They’re thoughtful and homemade, but sometimes – especially around Christmas time, we literally just don’t have the time (or energy) to sit around baking.  If this sounds like a dilemma you have, then these cookies my friends are for you!  They look amazing, taste delicious, and only take about 5 mins to make – not bake!  That’s because you don’t do the baking, they do!  Just include a little card with the baking instructions so the recipient knows what to do.  


I had actually made these cookies in a jar way back in the summer as a hostess thank you gift, which is why they don’t exactly look very Christmassy.  I’d used a spring mix colour blend of M&M’s and some fun white and dark chocolate swirl chocolate chips I picked up in the States – why don’t we get these cool things in the UK?!?!?


I love these cookies because not only are they easy to make, but they just look so pretty in the jar, especially with seasonal coloured M&M’s, and a nice bow tied around them.  For some strange reason here in the UK M&M’s do a Christmas blend of red and green M&M’s, but they’re only available in peanut flavour, and in a little 125 gram tube.  BUT – the good news is, if you’re looking for fun and seasonal colours of M&M’s, they are available at the M&M store in Leicester Square (I bought a variety of blue M&M’s for my baby shower there).


To make these Cookies in a Jar, you’ll need a jar (duh!), chocolate chips, M&M’s (or other candy coated chocolate candy – you could also use raisins or nuts, but those aren’t nearly as fun) and then the usual ingredients flour, sugar, oats, etc, and then layer them neatly in the jar.  Include a little instruction card letting your friends know they’ll need to add in a bit of butter, an egg, and some vanilla to the mixture before baking.

Cookies in a Jar
Adapted from All Recipes

Ingredients:

1 1/3 Cups (166g) Flour 
1 1/3 Cups (120g) Rolled Oats  
3/4 Cup M&M’s, Chopped Nuts, or Raisins 
3/4 Cup Chocolate Chips 
1/2 Cup (100g) Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 Cup (112g) White Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder 
1 tsp Baking Soda 
1/4 tsp Salt

Instructions:

1.  Layer the ingredients in a 1 quart jar (I think I got my jars from Ikea) in the order given above. Make sure to press each layer firmly in place before adding the next layer, otherwise it may not all fit. 

2.  Include a card with the following instructions: Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix in a Jar: 
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Grease cookie sheets.  2. In a medium bowl, mix together 1/2 cup (115g) melted butter, 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Stir in the entire contents of the jar. You may need to use your hands to finish mixing. Shape into walnut sized balls. Place two inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. 3. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes in the preheated oven. Transfer from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.


And there you have it!  A delicious home prepared Christmas (or anytime) gift that tastes amazing, and takes virtually none of your time!