Berry Crumble Bars

As I type I’m struggling to think of what to write tonight. I’ve only been at work for the afternoon but I didn’t get home until 7.30pm. The traffic was absolutely awful. Now I’m sat on the sofa, with a cup of tea and my iPad balanced on my lap. I don’t think it’ll be long before I’m in bed tonight.

This morning I had a few jobs to catch up with at home. I also had to sort out some notes from a teaching course I was on recently. This week I have been covering some shifts in a day nursery and have to be at work early. I love it but it is exhausting work looking after under fives and I’m always hungry. At 4pm when I have my ten minute coffee or tea break I always have the munchies. With that in my mind, I thought I needed something filling that contained fruit, sugar and carbs!

Looking through all three of my Eat Well For Less books I found a recipe for Berry Crumble Bars in the most recent copy. Using frozen berries is a much cheaper way of baking with fruit and also they don’t go as soggy when cooking. I remembered having some berry fruits in the freezer but I couldn’t remember what. When I looked, I found half a bag of frozen raspberries and another half bag of mixed summer fruits. There was also a whole bag of frozen blackberries but I only needed 500g for the whole recipe.

The Summer Fruits bag contained a mixture of raspberries, blackberries, black currants and redcurrants. I’m glad there weren’t any strawberries in the bag. Not that I don’t like them, far from it but they are very watery when frozen. The original recipe suggested using all frozen blueberries or even adapting the recipe to put apple in the filling.

To make the filling I weighed out rolled oats, brown sugar, plain flour and some cinnamon into a large mixing bowl.

Next, I needed to add some oil in order to bind the oat mixture together. The recipe was meant to use a mixture of coconut oil and rapeseed oil but I just used rapeseed. The rapeseed was a cold pressed type which is locally made.

After I poured in the rapeseed oil, I used a spatula to combine it all so it resembled a crumble like mixture. It didn’t seem to be as sticky as a flapjack or regular crumble meeting.

I greased my 30 x 23 cm traybake tin with some Cake Release and then put half of the crumble mixture into the bottom of the tin. I used the back of a spoon to press the crumble down so that it was evenly spread.

Now it was time for the fruit layer. I tipped the berries on top of the crumble layer and spread them out evenly so there were no gaps.

Finally I put the remaining crumble on top of the fruit. I could have done with a couple more tablespoonfuls extra just to cover up one of the corners and that was even with scraping the mixing bowl clean.

The crumble bars were meant to be a lot softer than a typical cereal or flapjack type bar. They were baked in the oven (an electric fan oven) for 40 minutes at 160oC and needed a few minutes longer than the recipe suggested.

When the bars had come out of the oven, I put the traybake tin on top of a wire rack and left them to cool. This was for about an hour while I was finishing off a few jobs. Then I got ready for work and had my early lunch. By this time the bars were ready to be cut up and taken out of the tin. They cut up fine which was much easier than expected.

I was so glad I took a bar with me to work this afternoon. By the time it was my break I was in desperate need of a drink and a sugar hit! The tart berries contrasted really well with the oats and the sweetness. The rest of the bars went in a plastic box and in the freezer so I can get one out for the odd tea break as and when needed.

Happy baking.

Love Sam xx

Puff Pastry Pesto Pizza Slices

Tonight’s offering chez SmartCookieSam was meant to be a filo pastry topped chicken pie. Only the chicken I’d got out of the freezer was still frozen solid in the middle. That’s tomorrow night sorted, then. I had to think of something else instead.

It had to be a quick trip down to the local petrol station which has a Co-op attached to it. I had a sheet of ready made puff pastry in the fridge so I bought pesto sauce, a ball of mozzarella and some cherry tomatoes. I never make puff pastry as it’s so time consuming.

The pastry sheet was ready rolled and in a perfect rectangle for me to bake some pesto pizza bites. In Eat Well For Less there is a recipe for some mini puff pastry pizza bites using two sheets of pastry. There are two types of topping in the recipe, the other being one using prosciutto. I definitely didn’t have any prosciutto in, so I just stuck to the pesto topping suggested.

Instead of cutting the pastry sheet into 36 squares, I used a pizza cutter to make 12 slices. This would be better to go with some wedges, salad or veg to make a complete meal.

When I had cut the pastry into 12 pieces, I spooned some pesto sauce on top of it. I used two tablespoonfuls for the whole base but eked it out and made sure the pesto was spread evenly. Cherry tomato quarters were put on each piece, along with little chunks of mozzarella.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any more photos as my phone ran out of charge. I was very impressed with how quickly the puff pastry pesto pizzas cooked. They were baked for about 20 minutes at 200oC but half way through the cooking time I turned the baking tray around so that it baked more evenly.

I made salt and pepper wedges and cooked peas and sweet corn to accompany them and everything disappeared quickly, along with the remains of the coleslaw from Monday night.

I will definitely make this recipe again as it is so versatile. Two different toppings and could be adapted to be buffet style canapés or bigger pieces for a main meal.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Soda Bread

I’m not experienced at making bread and would love to learn more. Recently I’ve come to realise that if I eat bread bought from the supermarket I feel bloated. I’m not gluten free but I feel as if there’s a lot of unnecessary additives in bread. I just wish I could bake my own all the time. I don’t want to cut out bread completely from my diet but I don’t have much time when I’m at work to bake bread on top of everything I do. I have a bread maker but my husband hates it out on the work top so it has to be put away in a cupboard when I’m not using it. Because of this, sometimes I forget it’s there!

This morning I wanted to have some bread to go with lunch that wouldn’t take ages to make. Soda Bread fits the bill perfectly when you are pushed for time as there is no need for yeast as a raising agent in the dough. Instead, the bicarbonate of soda does the job. It can be adapted to add flavourings to turn the dough into a sweet one by adding dried fruits and spices like cinnamon. Or you can add nuts and seeds to a savoury loaf.

The latest Eat Well For Less book: Eat Well For Less Quick And Easy Meals has such a recipe and this is the recipe I used for my soda bread today.

The recipe suggested using wholemeal flour and natural yoghurt. I didn’t have these but I had some spelt flour and some Skyr. I wasn’t sure whether they would have the same effect but it was worth a try.

The flour, seeds, salt and bicarbonate of soda was weighed out and added to a large mixing bowl. I mixed them together evenly.

To the dry ingredients I then added the natural Skyr and some milk.

When making up the bread dough, you have to get your hands into the dough to work it up into a ball. The dough was quite sticky!

The dough was gathered up into a ball and put on a baking sheet covered in baking parchment.

Then, I got a sharp knife and scored the top of the bread into quarters. As well as doing this, I sprinkled the top of the loaf with some left over flour before baking.

I was disappointed with how the bread turned out. The oven was put on at the specified temperature and was even baked for longer than the 20 minutes that was required. I am not sure if my oven isn’t working effectively any more. It is nearly 13 years old and has been in constant use for all that time. I bought an oven thermometer but forget to put it in the oven sometimes. The bread appeared to be hollow when I tapped it after 30 minutes so I took it out of the oven. When I cut the bread in half it looked stodgy in places. It tasted better when I toasted a couple of slices which I ate with some Allioli (Spanish Garlic Mayonnaise) spread on it.

Having said that, even though the bread looked under done, it tasted lovely and both my husband and daughter enjoyed some at lunchtime. I will try and bake some more again and see if I can improve!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Oat Cookies

Here I am only four days into the New Year and I’m baking cookies. Somehow, these little moreish beauties found themselves being put in the oven. How did that happen?

I’m cooking recipes from the three Eat Well For Less books this month as a basis for my blog. This recipe from the first Eat Well For Less book is so easy to make and can be adapted to use up whatever ingredients you have in your cupboard. You can use dried fruit, nuts and chocolate chips so long as the quantities remain the same. The original recipe also uses peanut butter but you can substitute other nut butters or even use all butter if you can’t have nuts.

I chose to use peanut butter and raisins in my cookies and put them straight into the freezer so I wasn’t tempted to eat them straightaway.

1. Cream butter, brown sugar and peanut butter together in a large bowl.

2. Add eggs to the creamed butter mixture and beat them in.

3. Weigh out plain flour, baking powder and porridge oats and mix them into the butter mixture.

4. Fold in the dried fruit, nuts or chocolate of your choice and form into a dough.

5. Heap teaspoonfuls of cookie dough on lined baking trays. I had to bake the cookies in two batches as I wanted to keep them well spaced apart.

6. Cool on a wire rack.

Will definitely bake these again although I felt the dough was a lot wetter than the cookie dough I usually use. Also the cookies looked rather untidy and rustic. When I get them out of the freezer, I’ll have to eat one to see if tastes better than it looks!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Leftover Mince Pie Ice-cream.

First of all, I’d love to say a massive Happy New Year to all of you. I hope that you had a great Christmas. I know that some of us have a rough ride over Christmas and New Year, not to mention through the winter months but I hope that my little blog helps to cheer people up in a small way. The past few months chez SmartCookieSam have been very hectic, hence me being very quiet on here recently. I really miss blogging and sharing tips but I’ve really struggled.

I’m determined to be kinder to myself in 2019, although I’m not one for making resolutions. This includes having some time to myself and finding ways to de-stress which don’t involve comfort eating and putting my mental health at risk. One way of making myself organised and to get myself back into blogging is to set myself an achievable challenge. I would love to be one of those bloggers that bakes something everyday but that is just not going to happen. So instead I found a 30 Day Cooking Challenge image from Google and thought I would use this to base my blog posts, baking and family meals on. Each month I’m hoping to choose a theme/ chef or book to concentrate on. Whether this will work later on in the year, I don’t know but I’m going to start the year on a positive note.

This is an example of a 30 Day Cooking Challenge template which I’ve found on Google Images.

For January, I am starting off by using the three Eat Well For Less books. I love these books and enjoy watching the TV series. Although a few of the participants do make me want to scream at them as well as it being blooming obvious that the families know they are being filmed walking around Tesco. But having said that, the books have some fantastic recipes in. My job can be hit and miss being a supply teacher, so at leaner times of the year the Eat Well For Less books have been an enormous amount of inspiration to me. As January is usually a time when I do cut back after the excesses of Christmas, I am looking forward to seeing what I can make fitting into the 30 Day Cooking Challenge. As January is a 31 day month, I will simply choose another savoury recipe to add to the challenge.

The three Eat Well For Less books. I’ve used the first two a bit, but the latest one which is the yellow one is new to me!

Day one for the challenge is meant to be soup. As it is New Year’s Day we are still in family meal mode and we usually have a roast dinner with leftover Christmas Pudding. Any New Year’s Eve leftovers get eaten today, too! For lunch we have had what was left of the antipasti with Italian meat and olives, as well as doughballs and garlic dip. In a little while I will be putting on the oven for a roast pork dinner with all the trimmings with Christmas pudding to follow. Instead we are swapping and having Day 2, which is dessert on Day 1 in the challenge.

Only there will be something else to go with our Christmas pudding leftovers. Mince Pie Ice cream! This is really a cheat’s recipe but a fantastic way of using up leftover Mince Pies. I’m really surprised we have any left to be honest, but this idea from Eat Well For Less is so versatile. In fact “you can do this with whatever you fancy- leftover Christmas Pudding, chocolate cake, cookies, shortbread or even a jar of Dulce de Leche to make your own caramel swirl.”

All you need is a 500ml tub of plain vanilla ice cream. I used Mackies Ice Cream which is one of my favourite vanilla ice creams. And what is more, it was on special offer in Morrisons when I bought it. But you can use any brand you like. All you have to do is to take the ice cream out of the freezer and let it soften for 15-20 minutes. When it is soft enough, tip the ice cream into a bowl and squish it slightly. Then add in your leftover mince pie pieces all crushed up. I used 4 of my leftover mince pies, leaving 2 left for Mr SmartCookieSam to have with his cup of tea. Fold in the added mince pie pieces, put into a freezerproof container and return to the freezer until you need it.

One of my favourite vanilla ice creams- Mackies.
I used four mince pies to flavour my ice cream.
Softened up vanilla ice cream.
The chopped up mince pies were stirred through the softened ice cream.
Perfect accompaniment to left over Christmas Pudding as a New Year’s Day treat.

Payday Millionaire- Cheesy Potato Pie.

img_0903A few weeks ago  PaymentSense  approached me,  along with several other food bloggers to see if we could help.  The idea was for us to come up with a recipe to serve four people that would cost £5 to make. It could also be a meal which was able to be divided up and either serve 2 people over 2 days or be ideal for eating as four individual portions. asked some food bloggers if they would like to share their favourite go-to recipes. These had to be created with a budget of no more than £5 for 4 people in mind, Payment Sense  provide card payment services benefitting small businesses with their special rates and better customer services. We were not paid for our contributions.

 On their website PaymentSense also have some interesting and thought provoking articles. One article which is very relevant to my post is this one:

10 Truths About The Rise And Fall Of A Payday Millionaire

A few weeks ago  PaymentSense conducted some research into looking at how fast people are spending their disposible income once they have been paid and what their own situations can be like as they get closer to the end of the month.  The term “payday millionaire” means that once you are paid, people tend to act like money is no object, going around splashing the cash on unnecessary purchases and buying rounds of drinks.  I’m guilty of this, how many times have I gone out and bought a new pair of shoes or treated myself to a new Nordicware Bundt tin when I’ve just been paid. What was interesting was that the research showed that about one third of the people changed their eating habits in order to help budget their money until payday. So they would scrimp and scrape cooking on a budget or some may even attempt a diet!

I was approached, along with several other food bloggers to see if we could help.  The idea was for us to come up with a recipe to serve four people that would cost £5 to make. It could also be a meal which was able to be divided up and either serve 2 people over 2 days or be ideal for eating as four individual portions.

It didn’t take me long to choose which meal I would submit to the campaign. My Cheesy Potato Pie has been a firm favourite for many years.  I first started making it as a student about 25 years ago.  I also cooked it frequently for my own family as my two children were growing up. Now it has turned full circle and my daughter is now making the pie at uni.  Money was tight at home when my children were very young and I often behaved like a payday millionaire.  I still do but nowadays I have to be more careful.  I work as a supply teacher in my day job and the money comes in dribs and drabs according to when there is a demand for a supply teacher.  When it is the school holidays when I don’t have money coming in or when it is close to payday I rely heavily on meals like this.

My Cheesy Potato Pie is simple and quick to make.  It is served with a layer of baked beans on the bottom of the dish. The baked beans don’t have to be an expensive brand like Heinz. I only had Heinz in the picture as I’d bought a pack of 4 cans which were on special offer in the supermarket a couple of weeks before.  The same goes for the cheese topping. I  sometimes use the budget cheese or whatever’s on special offer at the time. To add a bit of  extra something to the pie, you can serve it with a side of bacon or sausages or even veggie burgers which my daughter prefers.  I even like eating the pie on its own and it’s a perfect choice of comfort food.  I know I’ll be making this lots once all the Christmas food has been eaten up, until our bank balances have had a chance to recover!

CHEESY POTATO PIE

Ingredients:

5-6 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks

1 x400g can of baked beans

100g grated cheddar cheese

butter and/ or milk to mash the potatoes with

8 sausages/ rashers of bacon or other accompaniment.

  • Put a large pan of water onto boil.
  • Peel and chop the potatoes and put into the pan of boiling water. Boil until soft.

  • Mash the potatoes with a knob of butter or with milk if you prefer. Or even use both!
  • Put the baked beans into a large ovenproof dish and spread them around, covering the bottom of the dish.
  • Preheat the oven to 180oC or Gas 4.

 

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Put the baked beans into an ovenproof dish.
  • Spread the mash evenly on top of the baked beans.
  • Grate the cheese and sprinkle it on top of the pie.
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Here’s the pie ready to be popped into the oven.
  •  Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the topping is crispy and golden brown.
  • While the pie is in the oven, cook the bacon or sausages in your preferred way.
  • Serve immediately.

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I chose to cook some sausages with my cheesy potato pie. The ones featured in the picture are frozen Slimming World ones which I found in Iceland a few weeks back.  I tend to get the best quality sausages I can find for the cheapest price but these were bought while I was following Slimming World leading up to Christmas.  Back to it in the New Year!

This pie could be made in four individual dishes or in two smaller ones which serve two people. It keeps well in the fridge overnight and can be frozen.

The cost of this dish is roughly about £4.00 including the sausages which makes this a very economical meal.