Peanut butter bites

I have to admit, I am not a fan of peanut butter.  Peanuts are ok, but when they’ve been made in to a spread, I’m not keen.  My husband and eldest son, on the other hand, love the stuff.

Several months ago, I tried out a recipe for peanut butter truffles, but they just weren’t the same as a regular truffle should be, so I changed the name to peanut butter bites.

This recipe is SO simple, and can be made using vegan friendly products (if you are a vegetarian / vegan).

There’s no baking involved, and very little “heat” needed, so give it a go.  I think it took me about an hour to make them – from start to finish; and the whole outcome cost less than £2.

If you have any fancy boxes, you could even pop a few of the bites in to a box, tie a ribbon around, and you have an amazing, homemade, frugal gift.

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Ingredients

270g (9.5oz) peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)

40g (1.4oz) unsalted butter

140g (4.9oz) icing sugar

Chocolate (I used 300g / 10oz, but I had some left over)

Sprinkles (optional)

Method

  1. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
  2. Ensure that you have enough room to fit the baking sheet in to your fridge – this is very important!
  3. Put your peanut butter and butter in to a microwavable bowl, and heat on full power for 15-30 seconds.  I checked after 15 and 20 seconds, but needed longer, so I allowed for the full 30.
  4. Transfer the butter mixture in to a mixing bowl, and mix thoroughly, until the butter and peanut butter have combined.
  5. Carefully sift in the icing sugar, bit by bit, and mix well.  I used about a third at a time.  Ensure that you have thoroughly mixed in the icing sugar to the butter mixture.
  6. Using your hands, break off a little of the peanut dough, and roll quickly in between your palms to make a ball, approximately 1 inch in diameter, and place each ball on to the lined baking sheet.  If, like mine, towards the end of the dough, it stops wanting to stick together, squeeze it a little in your palms to soften, and roll into a ball again.
  7. Place the baking sheet in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
  8. After about 20 minutes, break up the chocolate in to small pieces, and place in a glass bowl – be sure that the glass bowl can sit on the top of a pan of water.  The base of the bowl should not touch the water.
  9. Bring the pan of water to the boil, and allow the chocolate to melt completely.
  10. When the chocolate has fully melted, switch off the heat, and bring out the peanut butter bites from the fridge.
  11. Roll each bite in the melted chocolate, allowing any excess chocolate to drip off.  I used two forks, and gently tapped the fork on the edge of the glass bowl to allow the excess chocolate to come away.
  12. Place the now chocolate covered bites back on to the baking sheet, and repeat until you have covered all peanut bites.
  13. When you have completed covering the bites, if you wish, you can cover them in sprinkles, or (as I did) just sprinkle a couple on the very top.
  14. Return to the fridge for approximately 20 minutes, or until the chocolate has set.

Enjoy!

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20 ways kids make Christmas magical

It’s easy for Christmas BC (Before Children) to feel more about our hangovers and expanding waistlines (not to mention our overdrafts) than any real festive spirit. Then you have a child and all that changes. Not since you were a nipper, anxiously listening out for Father Christmas in your PJs, have you felt so infused with joy and enchantment.

Here are 20 ways that Christmas becomes magical when you’re a parent …

1. It used to drive you bonkers that Christmas started pretty much in October (oh, yes it did…) but now you can’t wait for the shops to bust out the Christmas lights and to hear Noddy Holder’s dulcet tones. Ooh, and the advent calendars, and the ads and the Christmas lists…  How many times have you rewritten yours?

2. Nothing can prepare you for the heart-melting sweetness of watching your little one in their very first Christmas nativity or school play, whether they have a starring role or not (it’s Gning’s first Nativity on 7 December).  Don’t forget your tissues!

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3. Kids make it OK to sport clashing decorations and an OTT Christmas tree.  In fact, the more of mash-up of colours and styles of baubles, the better.

4. It’s FINALLY acceptable to buy chocolate decorations again. Just remember to leave a few for the kids, eh?

5. Their Christmas list to Santa reads like a stock-taking sheet of ToysRUs and Smyths combined.  But it’s the ‘and I’ve been soooo good’ line that really makes you smile.

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6. Thank goodness this year you’ve got a good excuse for the misshapen mince pies.  All your toddler’s own work, yes?

7. You love channelling your inner-storyteller with stories of Father Christmas and seeing your children’s eyes widen with delight.

8. Creating your very own traditions is something you’ll share for a lifetime.  Maybe you write a Christmas poem together, or put on a little festive play for the grandparents?  Or leave one more present in the garden to be discovered – “Oh look!  Santa must have dropped it!”

9. Leaving a glass or milk (or something stronger) for Father Christmas, and a carrot for Rudolph, never loses it’s charm.  And neither does…

10. …drinking that something stronger on Christmas Eve, when the wee ones are safely asleep.

11. Nothing beats that amazing feeling of satisfaction on Christmas Eve when everything is wrapped and ready for the next day.  Savour the scene – because the next day it’s carnage!  Hope your recycling bins are empty…

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12. Not to encourage your inner bah, humbug, but it’s a great time of year to dodge any tedious social engagements: honestly, babysitters are so unreliable…

13. Family films are no longer an indulgence, they’re mandatory.  From the Muppet’s Christmas Carol to Home Alone, it’s the perfect season to snuggle up on the sofa.

14. Talking of which, make your brood hot chocolate with marshmallows. And have one yourself.

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15. Place your bets on what time Christmas Day officially starts.  And yes, it feels magical even though it’s 5am.

16. As you watch them open their pressies, you remember the fizzy feeling of thrill and excitement you had as a child.  And seeing the joy your children bring to their grandparents is priceless.

17. Eating together as a family is something to take time over and savour.  Who cares if the potatoes are a tiny bit burnt, or the sprouts a bit hard?  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated.

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18. Snow is what dreams are made of when you’re five.  And snow at Christmas…  Cue delirious children and giggling parents!

19. The pleasure of tumbling back into a warm and cosy house after a good old stomp outside brings the colour to everyone’s cheeks.

20. Knowing at the close of Christmas day that the hard work is over for another year – and despite the odd flurry of tears and tantrums – they’ve had a pretty wonderful day.  Well done, you.  Only 365 days to go…

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Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart

This, was rather an easy make, and I am VERY impressed with how it turned out.  For one full tart, it cost me about £3 to make…  I suppose you can say that this was a frugal make, because the richness of the chocolate and caramel meant that you can only have a small piece!  Ha ha.

I had my little Gning help me make this…  He broke up the chocolate for me, and because the final result had lots of chocolate, he loved eating it afterwards!

Pastry Ingredients

225g plain flour

100g butter

pinch salt

2-3 tbsp water

Caramel Ingredients

210g caster sugar

112.5ml (or there abouts) water

112.5ml (or there abouts) double cream

70g butter

1tsp salt

Chocolate Ingredients

112.5ml (or there abouts) double cream

120g dark or milk chocolate (dark works best, but it’s up to you)

Sea salt crystals

Method

  1. Make your pastry by sifting the flour in to a large bowl.  Add the butter, and rub in with your fingertips, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Stir in the salt, then add a little water at a time to mix in to a firm dough.
  3. Knead the dough slightly, on a floured board, wrap in cling film, and place in the fridge for half an hour or so.
  4. Roll out the dough to a size to fit your tart tin, and about a pound coin thickness.  Place in your greased tin, with a slight overhang on the sides…  Don’t bother to trim, as the pastry will shrink a little when in the oven.
  5. Lightly prick all over the bottom of the dough with a fork, and line with baking / greaseproof paper.  Add baking beans, and “blind bake” on 170C (fan assisted) for 20 minutes.  After this time, remove from the oven, remove the beans and paper, then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes, or until the pastry is a golden colour.
  6. Wait until the pastry has completely cooled before turning it out on to a serving plate.  Place this out the way…  You won’t need it for a little while now.
  7. To make the caramel, add the caster sugar and water to a heavy-bottomed pan, and slowly bring to the boil – WITHOUT STIRRING.  When the sugar water has started to boil, turn the temperature down a little, and “swirl” the pan around – still without stirring.
  8. Now it is time for a fair amount of patience…  You have to wait for the sugar water to turn in to a caramel colour…  This can take 10-15 minutes.  Do not stir!
  9. When the sugar water has turned in to a lovely golden colour, remove from the heat, and stir in the cream.  Return to the heat for a further 2 minutes, constantly stirring.  Be careful at this point, as the mixture will bubble up and may “spit” when you add the cream.
  10. Remove from the heat again, and stir in the butter until fully melted.
  11. Allow to cool slightly (about 5 minutes), before pouring in to the pastry that you made earlier.
  12. Place the caramel tart in the fridge for about 3-5 hours, or so, until the caramel has ‘set’.
  13. When your caramel has set, it’s time to make the chocolate!  Break the chocolate up in to a bowl, and leave to one side.
  14. Place the cream in a heavy-bottomed pan, and slowly bring to the boil.  Allow to simmer gently for about 2 minutes or so…  You don’t really want to ‘cook’ the cream, so don’t have a high temperature.
  15. Pour the cream over the chocolate, and leave for about a minute.  After a minute, stir the cream and chocolate together…
  16. Allow to settle slightly, then pour over the top of the caramel tart.  You may need to scrape, and smooth out the chocolate.
  17. Return to the fridge for a further 1-2 hours, or until set.  Please be aware that the chocolate will NOT fully set.
  18. Before serving, sprinkle a small amount of coarse sea salt on the top of the tart, and serve any which way you like.  Good enough to eat on its’ own, or with a strawberry and mint leaf!

Enjoy!

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Lush Fudge – Pic heavy

This is a very easy recipe, but can be rather tricky to master (as you can see in the photo documentation!!).

**WARNING – NOT recommended for diabetics!**

Ingredients:

397g can of condensed milk

150ml full fat (blue top) milk

450g brown sugar

115g butter

Optional –

Flavouring of your choice

Chocolate chips

Fruit of your choice

Nuts of your choice

Method:

1.  Line a 20cm square tin with baking / greaseproof paper.

2.  Put the condensed milk, milk, sugar and butter in to a large pan, on a low heat.  Stir constantly until all the sugar has melted.  (It doesn’t look very nice at this point, but don’t worry).  Blue nails are optional in this recipe 🙂

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3.  Turn the heat up and bring to the boil…  Do not stir at this point.

4.  Turn the heat down, so the mixture is now simmering, and stir constantly for 10 – 15 minutes.  Make sure that you are constantly scraping the bottom of the pan, as you don’t want the sugar mix to burn.DSCN0383

***WARNING – This mixture can be VERY hot, and WILL burn you if it touches you when it spits.  I speak from experience***

5.  If you have a sugar thermometer, test the temp for 118C.  If you do not have one, it’s still easy to check.  Simply put a drop of the mixture in to a jug of ICE COLD water – a soft ball of fudge should form.

6.  If you want to add any of the optional ingredients, do it now.

7.  When it’s ready, remove from the heat, and beat constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens and begins to set.  This should take approximately 10 minutes.

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8.  You now have to work VERY quickly, and pour the mixture in to the prepared tin.

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9.   Leave to cool before cutting in to squares.  The cooling and setting should take approx 1 hour.

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As you can see, mine didn’t turn out quite as I would have liked it to.  However…  It still tasted nice – the hubby and the Gning certainly like it – and it was my first time!

30 Day Writing Challenge – DAY 6

Write 5 ways to win your heart

1.  Bring me a big bar of chocolate, and do not be judgmental when I sit there and scoff the whole lot in one go.

2.  I can be quiet and shy.  I can be loud and brash.  I don’t know when I will be either, so this is basically an “accept me as I am” point.

3.  Have an interest in something I am interested in.  It could be something small, like a love for a particular TV programme, or something huge, like a shared obsession.

4.  Be nice to my children.  My boys are everything to me, and no one is allowed to be horrible to them.  That means ignoring them too.

5.  Don’t take advantage of me.  Yes, I have a car.  No, I am not a taxi.  Yes, I have a (secure) job.  No, that doesn’t mean I have money to give away.  They are just a couple of examples of how I have been treated in the past.

30 Day Writing Challenge – DAY 1

List 10 things that make you happy

1.  My husband.  Of course he makes me happy…  I wouldn’t have married him if he didn’t make me happy!

2.  Gning.  My eldest son.  His sparkling eyes, handsome face and beautiful personality.  He never fails to make me smile and / or laugh…  He is so intelligent too.  I have a feeling his intelligence is going to be his downfall when it comes to schooling; but that’s another topic.

3.  Donut.  My youngest son.  He may only be a baby (5 weeks and 2 days old), but he can already light up a room when entering.

4.  Chocolate.  I’m a woman…  What woman doesn’t love chocolate?

5.  Camping.  I mean real camping, in a tent – not caravanning, which some people say is camping (by the way, that’s called caravanning, NOT camping *rolls eyes*).  I’m talking about real camping too…  No electricity hook-ups, no laptops…  Believe me.  I used to know someone who took their laptops camping, and they had a blow-up settee and ‘port-a-loo’.  There’s just something about being under canvas in the middle of nowhere.  I guess it’s because it’s something that I have done since I was a baby (I was 3 months old when I first slept in a tent).

6.  Scotland.  It’s true that Scottish history is full of tragedy, but there is a certain romance to it too.  History, the clans, the music (especially bagpipes), the scenery of the Highlands…  People have said that I do have an obsession.  To be honest, I can’t deny that I have.

7.  Ancient Egypt.  It’s the Gods, Goddesses, culture, architecture…  I’m fascinated by the meanings behind the temples and tombs…  I would love to be able to read hieroglyphics too.

8.  Stonethwaite.  For those of you who are not in the know, Stonethwaite is a tiny hamlet, in the district of Borrowdale, in the Lake District.  The Lake District is a National Park in the county of Cumbria, in the north-west of England.  Stonethwaite valley campsite was the first place where I crawled.  The campsite is set on farmland, next to a wonderful stream, which is amazing to listen to when you’re drifting off to sleep.  Follow the water upstream, and you will eventually come to a little known secret…  The stream becomes surrounded with rocks, and if you are brave enough, the water is certainly deep enough to swim in.  I have done it many times, although I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have an immunity to cold water.

9.  Birds.  I am an Ornithologist.  To a certain extent.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not Bill Oddie, but I do know a tad about those feathered creatures.  I’ve kept birds all of my life – primarily zebra finches.  I have successfully bred them, and I did actually write a “keepers guide”, several years ago.

10.  Writing.  Whether it’s a short story, poem, review or blog post, writing has always made me smile.  The only problem I have (which long-term Insanely Normal followers will know) is that I suffer horrifically with writers block.  Meh.

So there’s my 10 things.  What are yours?

Custom Chocolate Slabs – Pic Heavy

This is certainly one of the easiest recipes ever!!!  They are so simple to make, and take about 15 minutes to do (apart from the cooling time).  Just imagine the possibilities…

I am also pleased to announce that making these 2 chocolate bars in to 4 extravagant chocolate slabs cost me about 90p in total!!  Much cheaper than buying a bar of Dairy Milk, or a Mars bar…

Ingredients

Chocolate (white, milk or dark) – I used 2 bars of Asda’s own brand dark chocolate

Toppings (sugar sprinkles, hundreds & thousands, raisins, nuts, chilli flakes, mini marshmallows, etc.)

Method

1.  Place a glass bowl on top of a pan filled with water.  Ensure that the bottom of the glass bowl does NOT touch the water.  Line a baking tray, or somewhere flat (I used a glass cutting board this time around) with baking / greaseproof paper.

2.  Break your chocolate in to small pieces, and place in the glass bowl.  Turn up the heat.

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3.  Using a metal spoon, constantly stir the chocolate until it is fully melted.  **You need to keep stirring, as the chocolate can, and will burn if you leave it to its’ own devices.  **The glass bowl will get VERY hot, so ensure that you are using an oven glove / tea-towel to secure as you stir.

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4.  Once fully melted, using the metal spoon, scoop out the melted chocolate on to the baking / greaseproof paper in to slabs…  Try to ensure that the slabs are not too thick, as you don’t want to wait around forever for them to set afterwards.

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5.  As soon as you have used all of the chocolate up, get the glass bowl in soak, quickly…  Trying to wash dried on chocolate is not as fun as it sounds.

6.  Decorate your chocolate slabs as you see fit – whether you use dried fruit, nuts, sprinkles, chilli flakes, etc.

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(the sweet mixed spice was being mixed gently in to the chocolate here)

7.  Allow the slabs to cool for a minimum of 30 minutes…

8.  Peel off the baking / greaseproof paper and enjoy x

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