Toffee Apple Cookies

Finally! Happy “Fall” Y’all
Toffee Apple Cookies

It’s officially the first day of Autumn, and officially – in my book anyway – the start of the best season of the year.  One of the best bits about coming home from holiday (aside from being reunited with my favourite fur-ball, obviously) was the thought of coming home to chunky knits, boots (ones that are perfect for stomping on perfectly crunchy leaves), cold air and lots and lots of baking involving apples.  I say that not because apple pies and crumbles and muffins are quintessentially autumnal (blimey, that’s a big phrase for a Monday afternoon…), but because I’ve actually got a tree full of the things for the very first time.

Back when Sunny and I moved into our house here in Cardiff three years ago, we bought a pair of apple trees (well, they were more like a couple of twigs really) for a couple of quid each.  And this year – almost as if by magic (because God knows what we did differently) – one of them is full of apples!  I’m going to be baking this Apple Pie Cake ten times over, I think! As well as these Toffee Apple Cookies.  I tried something similar whilst I was out in the States on holiday (controversial opinion, but America does “Fall” Baking so much better than we do) and had to come up with my own version, and here it is: a lovely soft cookie full of spiced apple pie filling and toffee chunks, and drizzled with a salted caramel sauce.  Once baked, warm them up in the microwave for thirty seconds for oozing toffee that won’t play havoc with your fillings! 😉 Just make sure you use a type of apple that doesn’t go too soggy and holds its shape when boiled – like pink lady or braeburn!

Toffee Apple Cookies
Toffee Apple Cookies
Toffee Apple Cookies
Ingredients
  • 150g of apples, diced into small pieces
  • 250ml water
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 50g of toffee, cut into small pieces
  • 125g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • salted caramel salt to serve (buy it in store, or try this recipe)
  • sea salt to serve
Toffee Apple Cookies
Method
  1. First things first, whip up the apple pie filling. Chop up your apples into small, cookie-sized chunks and pop them into a saucepan. Boil up in the water, along with the light brown sugar and cinnamon for about 20 minutes. The apples will be ready once they’ve softened, but still have a little bite to them.
  2. Set the oven to 180°C. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, cinnamon, caster sugar and dark muscovado sugar. Stir in the egg, then mix in the apple pie mix and toffee pieces. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough, then spoon small blobs onto a lined baking tray – making sure they’ve got plenty of room to spread.
  3. Bake the cookies for twenty minutes, then transfer them onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  4. To serve, warm them up in the microwave for thirty seconds and serve drizzled with caramel sauce and sprinkled with sea salt. Yum! 🙂

Have a lovely week! 🙂

“On The Go” Huevos Rancheros Wraps

“Ten Minutes to Get Out The Door” Breakfasts Wrapped. Phew.
Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Wraps

Happy September! Can you believe it? Tell you what – and brace yourselves because on the list of unpopular opinions this one’s right up there – I’m so relieved that it’s September. I mean, who the hell would take the September chill over those sticky (or soggy, this is Wales after all…) August afternoons? Me, that’s who. I’ve always loved that fresh September air; there’s something really exciting about that seasonal shift and the whole “back to school” vibe that swings around this time of year. I’ve got plans, man. This year though, I’m just feeling relieved that the summer’s over; I ended up having to take a bit of a break from everything due to some health stuff that’s been going on in the background (you’re probably wondering why I spontaneously dropped off the planet at the start of July, well, tada!). I’m fine now, and I might tell you a bit more about what’s been happening soon, but right now I can’t wait to just pack Summer away with my flip flops, move onto Autumn and get back to shoving a weekly helping of food porn in your face. 😉

Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Wraps
Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Wraps

Speaking of which, I don’t know about you but I could eat Mexican Food every day of the week, any time of the day – including for breakfast. If you’ve never tried Huevos Rancheros before, it’s basically a “Rancher’s Breakfast” of fried eggs, spiced tomatoes, peppers and onions all served up on a tortilla with a hefty helping of refried beans and sometimes a few breakfast potatoes. Yum. I LOVE it; I first tried it out in Arizona before I’d really got a taste for Mexican food and just fell in love with the flavours. Plus, anything with fried eggs is good in my book. Nowadays I like making it at home for brunch on the weekend, but it’s just too much faff for the middle of the week when I’m rushing out the door. Except *drum-roll please* when it’s in wrap form. These Huevos Rancheros Wraps involve a little prep ahead of time, but once they’ve been made up they’ll keep in the freezer or the fridge until you’re ready to heat them up, scoff and go. The only thing they’re missing from the usual list of ingredients are the fried eggs which I’ve swapped out for a smoked paprika omelette. Obviously I’d prefer them fried, but I’m not about getting runny egg all down my outfit just as I’m heading out the door. No thanks.

Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Wraps

“On The Go” Huevos Rancheros Wraps (makes 6)

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Ingredients
  • 400g potatoes, skinned, diced, boiled (until soft but still formed) and drained
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 200g roasted red peppers, diced
  • 50g fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce (Let’s be honest, it’s got to be Cholula!)
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 600g refried beans (I really like Lunchito’s Refried Beans)
  • 6 tortilla wraps
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 100g of finely grated cheese (Cheddar works, but Manchego rocks)
  • A good, non-stick frying pan – lightly greased with a little olive oil
  • 6 sheets of foil to wrap
  • 1 large avocado blended with sour cream
Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Wraps
Method
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the diced potatoes, onions, red peppers, coriander, hot sauce, chipotle paste, tomato paste and salt – then mix until everything’s coated and well-combined.
  2. Get your production line set up! In a fresh bowl, whisk together the eggs and smoked paprika and get your frying pan greased and on the hob on a medium heat. Pile up your tortillas, then heat up the refried beans as per the pack instructions – pouring them into a bowl.  On the other side of the hob, have your foil sheets ready to wrap.
  3. Pour a little (1/6th) of the egg mix into your frying pan and swirl it around to coat it (as you would if you were making an omelette).  Scatter a couple spoonfuls of the filling mix on top, then leave to cook for a minute.  Spread one side of one tortilla wrap with some of the refried beans, then place it face down on top of the egg and filling – press until it sticks.
  4. Flip the tortilla in the pan so that the egg side’s on top, then sprinkle with cheese. Slide the tortilla out of the pan and onto a foil sheet, then wrap it! Make sure not to let the tortilla cook for too long otherwise it’ll be way too crispy to wrap!
  5. Leave the wraps to cool, then store in the fridge or the freezer until you’re ready to heat them up and eat them (make sure to remove the foil if you’re planning on using the microwave!)
  6. Garnish with the Avocado Cream and some extra hot sauce, then scoff! 🙂

Have a great weekend! 💚

*Strawberry and Gruyere Summer Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

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So here’s the thing.  I’m not a massive fan of salads – in fact, I’m not really a fan AT ALL(Great start, I know…)  I’m a big kid at heart, I need to be tricked into getting those greens; I’ll eat them, but there’s got to be a lil’ something-something tossed between the leaves to bring me to the table.

This (kind of Wimbledon-inspired!) Strawberry and Gruyere Summer Salad is really easy to make and really hits the spot served up for an al fresco lunch or alongside a barbecue.  Fresh, sweet and creamy – with a sour, zingy edge thanks to the added raspberry vinaigrette – the strawberries really steal the show on this one, provided you pick the best the season has to offer.  British strawberries really are in their peak season at the moment and these “Red Diamond Strawbs” from my friends at Marks and Spencer are quite possibly the juiciest I’ve ever tasted; their sweet scent filled my car on the short drive back from my local M&S Food and perfumed my fridge and kitchen all weekend!  Get them while you can! 🙂

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Strawberry and Gruyere Summer Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 150g Strawberries, sliced
  • Italian Peppery Leaf Salad (spinach, lettuce, rocket)
  • 50g Gruyere Cheese, shaved (use a potato peeler 😉 )

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 150g raspberries (I used M&S’s Sapphire Raspberries)
  • 25ml balsamic vinegar
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • a handful of basil leaves
  1. To make the vinaigrette, blitz together the raspberries, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and basil until smooth.
  2. Assemble your salad, then drizzle the vinaigrette over the top and sprinkle with the shaved gruyere. Easy!

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Have a great week! 🍓🍓🍓

*This post contains gifted items from Marks and Spencer, to find out more about what that means click here to read my disclaimer.

Mirror, Mirror

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When do you feel that you look most like yourself?  For me it’s about twenty minutes before I fall into bed when I’m in my bathroom and about to take my makeup off (on one of the days where I’ve actually done my makeup – that’s very important; I don’t count the other days).  That moment before I scoop my hair up and run the tap, I lean on the sink and look into the mirror and actually recognise the reflection staring back as most like “me”.  Or maybe the more accurate way of putting it is that I actually like the reflection staring back.  I mean sure, it’s not as polished as the 10am version – but that’s okay and I kind of prefer it that way; it’s more realistic, less maintained (but at the same time not the horror show that is the 7am version).  I’m slobbing around in my pyjamas, my makeup’s worn in, I’ve shed my glasses, the curl’s mostly fallen out of my hair and I’m about to get into bed (the best time of the day, I think you’ll agree) so I’ve usually got a happy little grin going on.

That slightly dishevelled, chilled out and cheerful reflection is what I expect and hope to see in every mirror I come across day to day – not just in my bathroom one – but also in changing rooms, hotels, other people’s houses, the windows I walk past when I’m out and about, in photographs and in the eyes of everyone I know.  Kind of like the evil step mother in Snow White (Mirror, mirror on the wall…).  So, how come I NEVER do!  That bathroom reflection never bloody leaves the house and I feel like I’m constantly being pounced on by other reflections of myself that I don’t recognise AT ALL.  Like the one lurking behind me in that long, tilting mirror you get in every H&M fitting room that lets you see what you look like from a horrible backwards angle (“Jesus christ, is that what my nose looks like from the side???  That’s not me!”).  Shudder.  The horror at seeing a photograph of myself on a day where I thought I was walking out of the house looking absolutely smokin’ in that new skirt when actually – turns out – it makes my thighs look massive.  Yeesh.  Then there’s that weird moment where I try and correlate those two very different images of myself and work out which one is actually real – because there can’t possibly be two.  I’m just one person after all, I don’t have two sets of thighs.  So which is the liar: the camera or the mirror?

mirror mirror

We’ve all experienced those surreal moments when people actually voice how they see you.  The first time I became aware that other people might see me differently to the way I saw myself was when I was about seven.  I was in school, queuing up with the rest of the kids to go to assembly and one of them suddenly turned around in the line and gave me a long, hard look.  “…It must be really strange having one eye bigger than the other,” they said, then shrugged and went off to assembly without realising that they’d just performed the equivalent of a hit and run on my appearance, and man was it a kill shot.  I remember being simultaneously confused and completely horrified, because firstly I’d never noticed anything different about my eyes, and secondly – hold up – “is that what everyone thinks I look like!?  Am I a monster!”   Thinking about that now makes me laugh out loud (kids are dicks, aren’t they?) – I mean, how ridiculous!  But I never forgot it and – you know what? – there might actually be some truth to it because to this day I can never seem to apply my eyeliner evenly.  Oh well.

Why is it that criticisms of our appearance – however wide off the mark and ridiculous – are so easy to believe, but compliments aren’t?  There are some observations that we want to believe, but flat out refuse to – like a mirage.  For example, my husband is always telling me that there’s nothing of me – that I’m stick thin.  I know he’s not lying, but I’m convinced that he sees me as skinnier than I actually am because he’s taller than me and so he’s always looking at me from a slightly skewed angle (isn’t that mad?!).  A few weeks ago my sister-in-law turned around, pointed to my eyes and said they were “quite stunning” because apparently they’ve got a darker ring around the outside of the iris.  Excuse me, what?  Looking at my eyes in mirrors all my life I’d never once noticed this mythical dark ring – but she’s right, it’s there.  How the hell did I miss that?  Why didn’t I see it?

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It’s a kind of weird, daily challenge that we all face, isn’t it?  Gathering up all these different versions of ourselves and trying to marry them up with the one we accept as the “real” us (and that’s without adding that impossible bar set for us by the media, fashion and beauty industries).  I’m 33 and I still haven’t figured out which is the real one, or whether I care.  Is it that bathroom version?  The skinny one with the stunning eyes my husband and sister in law see?  Or the sloppy one my neighbours see at 7am when I walk the dog?  Or are they all way, way off?  Are my thighs big?  Are my wrinkles easy to spot?  I can’t for the life of me work out how I can look in a mirror and love my appearance one minute and then take a photograph two seconds later only to stab furiously at the delete button.  I have absolutely no idea.  There’s no easy answer except that I’m probably all of these different versions of myself and none of them at the same time – and that mirrors are very, very strange objects.

Fun fact, every time you see your reflection in a mirror it’s out by about 10 nanoseconds – so it’s a slightly younger version of yourself.  *eye roll* In case you wondered, that’s probably the real me – the one who has to punctuate everything with a nerdy fact. 😉

Chilli Mac & Cheese

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Happy Monday (and Happy 1st of July!)!  Here’s a recipe to bookmark for later, because – well – firstly, Mac & Cheese isn’t exactly the kind of thing to be scoffing in the middle of summer, is it?  It definitely falls under the category of cold weather comfort food; it’s perfect for gloomy, November night’s in rather than a sticky, July suppers scoffed alfresco – right?  (Although, honestly my appetite knows no season, and – besides – you never know when the Welsh Weather’s going to trip you up…) And secondly, it’s two recipes in one!  Definitely one to keep up your sleeve. 😉

Chilli is one of my absolute favourite meals to make because it’s a one pot wonder that’s easy to whip up mid week when I’m feeling too tired to cook and tempted to reach for that takeaway menu.  It’s also perfect for batch cooking; the recipe makes more than enough to sort both one dinner and a couple of lunches for the week.  Make it meaty with beef mince if you like, but I actually prefer the veggie version using Quorn Mince.  I’ll usually serve it up with some rice, grated cheese and sour cream (my husband likes to add a couple of crushed nachos to his too for some extra crunch), but it’s also pretty fabulous served up on a bed of gooey, super-cheesy Mac and Cheese.

I feel like Mac and Cheese gets a bit of a bad rap from all those cardboard microwave versions (bleugh!).  I mean it only takes a little extra effort to make it yourself, and it tastes so much better!  Especially if you use the right kind of cheese.  Lucky for me, the guys from Dragon Wales (who make my favourite vintage cheddar – my fridge is always stocked with a block!) sent me a lovely little hamper full of their brand new range of cheeses, including a Maple Smoked Cheddar that was born to make the smokiest, creamiest cheese sauce for Mac and Cheese. 👌

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Chilli Mac & Cheese (serves 2 – with plenty for leftovers!)

Ingredients

For the Chilli:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 350g mince (sure, beef’s traditional, but I personally love Quorn mince)
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • 500g tomato passata
  • 225g black beans
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ancho chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • chopped fresh coriander
  • salt and pepper to season

For the Mac & Cheese:

  • 100g macaroni
  • 100g cheddar cheese, grated (I really like Dragon’s new *Maple-Smoked Cheddar)
  • 100g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 200ml milk
  • salt and pepper to season
  1. To make the chilli, heat up your olive oil in a deep pan – then add the diced red onions and fry on a medium heat until they’re glossy.  Add the garlic and fry for one minute.
  2. Next, add the mince and fry it for a couple of minutes until brown, then add the bell pepper and black beans.  Add the chipotle paste, honey and passata and stir until combined.  
  3. Season the chilli with the paprika, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and chilli flakes – then turn down the heat, whack on the lid and allow the chilli to simmer for twenty five minutes.  If it’s looking a little dry, pour in a little cold water.
  4. Once it’s cooked, you can stop there, season it with salt and pepper and serve it up with some fresh coriander, rice and sour cream… or you can keep the lid on and whip up some Mac and Cheese to scoff it with! 😉
  5. To make the Mac and Cheese, first get your macaroni boiling with some salt.  While it’s cooking, grab a fresh saucepan and gently heat the butter until it’s melted.  Next, add the flour and whisk to make a roux (fancy-pants term which basically means a sauce base). 
  6. Keeping the heat down low, slowly pour in the milk and whisk until everything’s combined.  Add the grated cheddar, season and stir to make a lovely, thick and cheesy sauce. 😉
  7. Stir in the cooked (and drained!) macaroni, then serve up with the chilli and fresh coriander.  Yum!

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Have a great week everyone!  And thanks to Dragon Wales for the lovely cheese!  💛💛💛

*This post isn’t sponsored, but contains gifted items.  To find out more about what this means and to read my disclaimer, click here.