Remember that episode of Friends where Chandler and Rachel steal and scoff a doorstep cheesecake from one of their neighbours? It’s one of my favourite episodes, firstly because it’s the season where Jen got the chop and her hair all season is PERFECT (…when wasn’t it? Also, as soon as the lockdown gets lifted, the first thing I’m doing is hightailing it straight to the hairdresser’s…), but also because – ugh, didn’t that cheesecake look just as perfect? I’d never been a cheesecake fan, but I was determined to give it another go after watching that episode. Still, every one I tried just didn’t leave me bowled over and filling to scrape it off the floor with a fork if it fell off the plate. And then I worked it out; all that time I’d been trying chilled, no-bake cheesecakes, whereas the heavenly-looking one in that episode of Friends was one of the baked variety – The Classic New York Cheesecake – which has a completely different taste and texture.
It’s also – apparently – much more difficult to make. There are literally thousands of “no bake” cheesecake recipes out there – all blasting how easy they are compared to the baked version. To that I say, bollocks; they’re not that difficult at all – they just take a little bit more time before you can stick your fork in there. I think they’re worth the wait; especially if they’re crammed full of cream eggs… just sayin’.
My husband went to Costco to pick up a few “lockdown essentials” a couple of weeks ago (we usually buy a lot of our tins and freezer stuff there in bulk anyway), and as well as bagging the last pack of eggs (they’re almost impossible to find here at the moment), he came home with a massive box of cream eggs – which I love, although a box of thirty is perhaps pushing it just a little. I knew a good handful were going to have to be used for baking – especially since Easter is just around the corner (check out theCream Egg DoughnutsI made last year 😉 ). This Baked Cream Egg Cheesecake has a soft and crumbly Bourbon Biscuit base (no digestive biscuit bricks here – bleugh!), a light and creamy filling (that sets with a slight wobble), and is crammed full of cream eggs. It’s easy to make and easily adapted, so if cream eggs aren’t your jam swap them out with something else. 🙂
Baked Cream Egg Cheesecake
200g Bourbon Biscuits
360g Full Fat Cream Cheese
100g caster sugar
2 Large Eggs
1 Packet of Mini Cream Eggs
2 Cream Eggs
First things first, whack your oven on and set it to 180°C. Break your biscuits up into smaller chunks, then blitz them in a food processor until you get a fine, sand-like crumb.
Pour the blitzed biscuits into the bottom of a 20cm loose-bottomed baking tin. Lightly press down to create a smooth base – but don’t pack them too tightly otherwise your base will come out of the oven like a brick and will be too hard to cut. 😦
Next, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the cream cheese, yoghurt, caster sugar and eggs – mixing until you get a smooth and airy mixture. Roughly chop the mini cream eggs and stir them into the cheesecake mixture.
Pour the cheesecake mixture into the cake tin over the top of the biscuit base.
Slice the other cream eggs and scatter them over the top.
Bake the cheesecake for 40 minutes. Leaving the cheesecake inside, turn off the oven and open the door slightly – allowing the cheesecake to slowly cool (this should stop it from cracking).
Once the cheesecake has reached room temperature, pop it in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours. Bring it out about half an hour before you fancy scoffing a slice! 🙂
Have a great week everyone (Happy Easter for the weekend ahead!). 💛
What are you eating for lunch these days – now that popping out of the office for a Pret baguette or a cheeky Nandos is off the cards? Are you skipping off to the kitchen and raiding the cupboards excited to get cooking, or dragging your ass from your sofa office despairing over the fact that you’ve actually got to make something to eat and “Oh my God, I can’t be arsed, but I can’t have beans on toast for the third day in a row…”? (I mean, if you can even get your hands on a tin of beans because when I was in Tesco last Tuesday the only tins I could get my hands on were reduced salt and sugar spaghetti hoops, and I don’t think I’ve reached those levels of desperation just yet…).
I’ve been in the swing of working at home and sorting myself out for lunch for a few years now, and even though I sometimes go a bit green when my husband comes home and lightly informs me that he walked to Cardiff Market and got takeaway Thai Food for lunch – I actually really enjoy lunchtimes at home. I always work best when I stick to a routine – and stopping to have lunch is massive part of that routine, breaking up my morning session and afternoon one. But it can take a bit of time to go from “What am I going to eat that doesn’t involve toast?” to simulating the all choices you’d normally get heading out of the office to your favourite coffee shop relying on just your own kitchen cupboards and fridge freezer.
Obviously I have days where spaghetti hoops on toast for lunch is literally heaven, but because I Meal Plan(which I’d totally recommend now more than ever since we’re all ideally restricting how often we pop to the supermarket), I tend to factor in a few dinners each week that’ll supply me with some leftovers for lunch. I make Halloumi Hash from any potatoes and vegetables I’ve got leftover from roast dinners, a dollop of my Ultimate Veggie Chilli can be eaten on toast with some fresh avocado, and you just can’t go wrong with leftover veggie pastas and risottos that can be nuked in the microwave and brought back to life with some fresh leaves (…and PLENTY of cheese).
I’ve had trouble making risotto in the past (they’re either too gloopy or not creamy enough), but I think I’ve cracked it with this very Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto. Bulk it out with leftover veg if you’ve got any, and then enjoy it all week. It’s also easy to bring back that fresh, creamy texture once you’ve microwaved by stirring in a little bit of butter (or cream, if you’ve got it). 🙂
Easy Leek and Mushroom Risotto
1 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, sliced
250g mushrooms (use whichever type you fancy)
1l chicken stock(switch to vegetable stock if you want to make the risotto 100% veggie)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 a tin of butter beans
handful of spinachleaves
300g arborio rice
150ml dry white wine
50ml single cream
lots of parmesan to serve
salt and pepper to season
First up, pour the oil into a deep frying pan and warm on a medium high heat. Throw in the minced garlic and sliced leek, and fry for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Slice up your mushrooms, then throw them in – cooking until they’re nice and soft. Add the butter beans and spinach.
Add the risotto rice and stir it around the pan for a couple of minutes – ensuring every grain becomes coated in the oil and appears slightly translucent. Pour in the wine and leave the rice to soak it up.
Next, turn down the heat to a simmer and gradually add the stock – a small amount at a time, stirring frequently until the rice drinks it up. Keep going until all the stock has been added, and the rice is soft and creamy.
Finally, stir in the cream, season and serve with plenty of grated parmesan cheese. 🙂
Have a lovely week! Let me know what your favourite working from homelunchtime meal is below! 👇👇👇
So, hands up if you’ve spent a good deal of your self isolation so far stress baking. Yup, I can’t seem to stay out of the kitchen. Aside from needing far more snacks than usual to bring to the office (upstairs – what a commute) to feed my coworkers (…my husband and Bungle…), at this point I’ll do pretty much anything to keep my mind off the news for ten minutes. Baking’s always been one of my favourite ways to fill a bit of free time (…and if you come out of it with something delicious to fill your stomach with then even better!) and to be honest, if doing more of that means that I emerge from self-isolation in a few months happy and healthy, then I’ll take that as a win… even if it means my jeans start feeling a bit snug.
There is absolutely nothing fancy about this Chocolate and Banana Traybake. The ingredients are minimal (you probably won’t even need to go shopping to make it), there are no special moves involved, and you can whip it up in under thirty minutes (perfect if you fancy baking a little something during your lunch break). It’s also easily adaptable; so if you fancy throwing in a blob of peanut butter, or some walnuts, or adding a sticky caramel layer (see my Banana and Caramel Upside Down Cake) – then go for it!
Chocolate and Banana Traybake
150g milk dark chocolate (plus extra to decorate)
150g plain flour
50g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
…That’s it! Feel free to mix things up and add some walnuts, chocolate chunks or peanut butter into the mix. 🙂
First things first, set your oven to 180°C and line a deep, rectangular cake tin. (TIP: If you always struggle to get your baking paper to sit flat in the tin, rinse your baking paper under tap water for a couple of minutes until it becomes soft and pliable 😉 )
To make the batter, pop the butter and chocolate in a bowl and melt them together in the microwave for about a minute. Set the bowl aside to cool.
In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and eggs. Take one of the bananas and mash it, and then add it to the mix.
Next, pour in the chocolate and butter mix, followed by the flour and baking powder. Stir to combine, but don’t over mix the batter.
Pour the batter into the cake tin. Slice the two remaining bananas length-ways and arrange them on top.
Bake for 25 minutes, then leave it to cool before decorating with chocolate and then slicing into squares to scoff. 🙂
…because we all need a bit of positivi-tea right now…
(Don’t worry, that God awful pun will become clear in a mo…) How are you? No really, how are you? Because in between all the terrifying news updates, social isolation and uncertainty about what the next few months are going to bring, we really need to keep checking in with each other and helping out whenever and in whatever way we can. If you’re like me then you’re probably feeling absolutely fine one minute and plodding along like nothing’s changed, and then staring into space for twenty minutes after tuning into the news for two minutes. I’m feeling angry, sad and overwhelmed all at once sometimes – and helpless; I mean, how the hell am I supposed to walk the dog, do the shopping, see my favourite people, take my car in for a service and MOT (grrr, why is that ALWAYS due at the worst possible moment?!)… I feel robbed of all the things I usually enjoy doing this time of year with my family, and all the daily things I do that I suppose I normally take for-granted.
But, like everyone else, I’m also trying to spot the silver linings in all of this – and they are there if you look for them. My husband’s lucky, he gets to work from home from time to time anyway and so we’ve kind of set up a co-working space in our tiny home office (we’ve NEVER worked together before, so it’ll either be a disaster or a dream…) – and Bungle is always on hand to cheer us both up when we need it (plus, he needs a walk every day – so we’re never short for fresh air). I’m also used to being stuck indoors for long stints as I’m home most of the time anyway – in fact, I LOVE it; I rarely get stir crazy, and so being given the go-ahead to be antisocial and binge on boxsets for a few months is a-ok with me!
Keeping well in every sense of the word is going to be absolutely key to getting through the next few months; not just in protecting ourselves and others against Covid-19, but also when it comes to Mental Health. Not being allowed to go about your usual routine and do the things that you normally love to do is going to be tough-going for a while – so finding small pick-me ups where you can and things to enjoy around this altered (and alien) state will help to keep things in balance when the world seems like it’s flipped completely upside down.
Anyway, here are all my recent pick-me-ups…
Finding new ways to get out and about
The week before last Sunny and I enjoyed what was to be our last day out before we dove into full-on isolation last Monday (surreal). We took Bungle down to Jackson Bay for a swim in the sea (he absolutely loves swimming!) and then walked around the clifftops to Whitmore Bay for a portion of chips each from O’Sheas. Obviously we had absolutely no idea how much everything was about to change – but I’m so glad we got out and enjoyed ourselves before getting sick ourselves and having to stay indoors (we both developed a nasty cough a couple of days later – still have no idea whether it was actually Coronavirus, but if it was, it was a relatively mild strain).
Obviously, once our isolation is over we’ll be out and about again – but definitely in a more mindful way. I couldn’t believe the pictures from Snowdon and Pen-y-Fan over the weekend of people out and about enjoying the sunny weather in big groups, as well as caravaners and second-homers opting to leave their homes and self-isolate in rural Wales. It’s not okay, and if either you or a member of your family is in the “at risk” category then I’m sure you were as similarly horrified as I was. I really hope people start taking the rules on social distancing seriously.
(All I need is for someone to explain what “social distancing” means to my over-friendly floof-ball…)
Loose Leaf Tea
It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of a good ol’ cuppa, and in times like these there’s really nothing better than a steaming cup of the good stuff to pull you through. Until recently, I was all for the ease of a plucking a tea bag out of the jar and popping it into a mug first thing in the morning – but when push comes to shove, I actually tend to prefer the taste of loose leaf tea. The problem is, it’s usually a bit of a faff; I find infusers (you know, reusable tea bags) don’t allow enough space for the tea leaves to brew properly, and loose leaf teapots I’ve tried in the past are either too big (so the second cup is cold by the time you get around to drinking it), or too difficult to clean.
A couple of weeks ago all my tea dreams came true when Adagio Tea sent me a box full of loose leaf tea to try, along with their IngenuiTea Teapot – which I have to say has been an absolute game-changer for me first thing in the morning! It’s very, very clever. Not only is it dishwasher and microwave safe (no more faffing around trying to unhinge stubborn tea leaves, or “ugh, my tea’s gone cold” face), but the brewed tea is released through the base – you just pop it on top of your favourite mug and – thanks to the nifty base mechanism – the tea flows straight down into it. Not a stray tea leaf in sight – and NO LEAKS.
Not only is the teapot an absolutely genius bit of kit for tea lovers, but Adagio Tea’s loose leaf blends are gorgeous too. From their dreamy Moonlight Earl Grey to their delicate and sweet Butterscotch Flavour(my favourite by far!) they’ve got a lovely selection of black teas – which are my go to every day – but they’ve also got a selection of special ImmuniTEA Booster blends like Turmeric Bliss and Chamomile.
Thank God for Boxsets, amiright? I mean, I’m boxset mad at the best of times so I don’t need to be sold on the idea of staying in and binge-watching my way through all seven seasons of Mad Men – which I totally did a couple of weeks ago (it’s brilliant, by the way – absolutely well worth a watch). Other box sets I’d recommend are Succession, Billions and The Newsroom if you’re looking for smart and snappy dialogue (let’s add Madmen to that pile too)The Witcher, True Blood(…even though it loses the plot somewhere around Season 5) and Penny Dreadful if you’re looking for monsters and magic. And, Outlander, Vikings, Peaky Blinders and The Crown if you’re a history nerd like me. Oh, and if you’re looking for a fresh take on Superheroes, then I can’t recommend The Boys more – seriously good.
I’m also making my way through some of my favourite comedies, from The Office(Micheal Scott never fails to make me smile during “OH MY GOD IT’S HAPPENING” moments) and Parks and Rec, as well as old Britcom faves like The It Crowd, Blackadder and The Vicar of Dibley(which is coming to Netflix – rejoice!).
Beating Boredom with Creativity
I doubt anyone’s missed the memes going around over on Twitter and Instagram about how Shakespeare wrote King Lear when he was holed up during The Plague etc. And while – yeah – not everyone’s about to be handed a free pass to pen a masterpiece, and no one should feel pressured to emerge from self isolation with something to show for all that time spent indoors, there is something to be said for killing boredom with bouts of creativity. If you’re a creative like me then it’s likely to be your modus operandi during times of stress and anxiety anyway – but for everyone else who’s never had to stay indoors for long stretches of time, then creativity can be great for keeping your mental health in check.
Me? I’m going to be writing a lot and baking a lot. If you’ve ever fancied trying your hand at writing a book and communicating with other writers, then I can’t recommend Camp Nanowrimo enough. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book then you’ve probably heard about National Novel Writing Month – where writers pledge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days during the month of November. Well, there’s also Camp Nanowrimo, which happens a couple of times through the spring and summer where writers pledge a month of non-specific writing related work – whether that’s editing, rewriting or starting something from scratch! You can do as much or as little as you want, but the best thing about it is that you’re in it with other writers who you can communicate with through the website – which makes social isolation a little more social and a little less isolating. 🙂
I’ll be signing up and trying to write a 70,000+ word historical novel from April 1st (nope, not an April Fool’s Joke, I really am going to do this) – so if you’re interested in joining me or hearing more about my slow descent into madness – then let me know.
Crafty Cupboard Meals
I don’t know about you, but my kitchen cupboards have been begging for this moment for years. They’re stuffed with so many tins and ingredients that almost never get used, and all because I’m one of those “ooh, I’ll use that at some point” shoppers – you know, a curry jar here and a tin of chopped tomatoes and peach halves there. If there ever was a time to use up what I’ve already got, then it’s now – and actually, that might be kind of fun.
Take care everyone – and have a lovely week, whether you’re self-isolating or going about business as usual.Let me know what you’re doing to beat the boredom as well as your favourite boxsets and pick-me-ups in the comments below…
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As with most things right now, it feels like Mother’s Day is on hold – indefinitely. And since it’s usually accompanied by lots of blossom on the trees and those first couple of warm, sunny days – it also kind of feels like Spring itself is on hold for the time being too. My Mum sent a little message on our family whatsapp group the other day telling me and my brother to forget about cards and presents this year – that she’d much rather see us anyway, but can’t. She and my Dad went into isolation on Monday – since they’re both in their sixties (sorry Mum, but the jig is up!) and I’m honestly not sure when we’re all going to be able to crowd around a table together again. It’s all so sad and uncertain – but necessary, of course. I’ll still get to see her from the street, I guess! Plus, I think we’re planning on having a family Facetime on Sunday evening so we can all watch Race Across the World together (have you been watching it? I want the Mum and son team to win!).
Anyway, the good thing is that for a lot of us the enforced isolation doesn’t mean separation from our family – but a hell of a lot more time spent together! So, even if you’re Mum’s already driving you mental from all the extra time spent together – here are five sweet bakes to surprise her with this Mother’s Day. 💛
Pineapple and Coconut Traybake
Quite possibly one of my favourite bakes ever, this Pineapple and Coconut Tray-bake is minimum effort, maximum impact – and tastes lovely too. The pineapple cake looks nothing special when it comes out of the oven, but gets a serious glow-up with a thick layer of creamy, coconut frosting, and yellow flowers made from dried coconut rounds.
I’ve even got a video of me making this cake (and Bungle scoffing half of the pineapple used to make it…) over on my IGTV.
Perfectly Gooey Chocolate Brownies
Who can resist a plated pyramid of Perfectly Gooey, Chocolate Brownies as big as Duplo Blocks? Not I. There are a tonne of chocolate brownie recipes out there – and I’ve tried a fair few myself – but this is my go-to. If you like your brownie with a slightly molten middle, then this is the one for you and yo momma.
Lemon and Rose Drizzle Cake
Everyone loves a good lemon drizzle cake; they’re a guaranteed crowd-pleaser and they’re pretty difficult to cock up. This Lemon and Rose Drizzle Cake gets a slight floral pick-me-up from some dried rose petals. The rose takes the slight bite out of the lemon – so if you’re a fan of a drizzle cake on the sweet side rather than the sour side, then this one’s for you.
Coffee, Maple and Walnut Cake
Yep, that’s a Father’s Day card in the shot – but this Coffee, Maple and Walnut Cake is perfect for Mums too. A hefty glug of maple syrup and some brown sugar gives it a slightly sweeter, vanilla latte kind of taste.
Strawberry Picnic Cake
Another one of my favourite easy bakes – this Strawberry Picnic Traybake divides up perfectly into sweet, snack-sized pink cakes. Perfect to share out between the family with a blob of whipped cream and tea and coffee after a bang-up Mother’s Day Roast. 🙂
Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing Mums, soon-to-be Mums and should-be Mums out there, but most of all to my lovely mama. Stay safe everyone x