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Apple Muffins with Cinnamon Butter

Wasn't the Royal Wedding spectacular!!! It was everything I dreamed it would be and more. I even cried, I was so moved by it all. Kate was beautiful William was so handsome. The service was lovely . . . and they seemed to be so much in love.

I gave it a 15+ out of 10! I wonder where the couple are going to honeymoon??? I am sure somebody knows . . . just not me.

They are more than welcome to come to Chester and stay for a few days at Casa de Rayner! I'd even give up my bed for them. I'd break out the best towels and my extra special guest sheets and bedding. I'll even bath Mitzie, so she smells extra sweet and is extra cuddly.

Heck, I'll even bake these muffins and serve the young couple breakfast in bed . . . who could resist these!

Tender and moist apple muffins, warmly spiced with cinnamon and chock full of apple bits . . . Served up warm with a delicious cinnamon butter . . . ohhhh so scrummily melting into all those lovely appledy dappledy nooks and crannies.

Oh dear, I better go out and buy some oranges so I can make them some fresh orange juice, do ya think??? One look at these muffins and they just might be up here and knocking on my door lickety split!!

*Apple Muffins with Cinnamon Butter*
Makes 12
Printable Recipe

Faff free and oh so delicious. The butter isn't really necessary, but do make it. One of these muffins, broken open when warm and spread with the cinnamon butter is pure bliss.

300g self raising flour (2 cups)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large free range eggs, beaten
75ml of plain yogurt (1/2 cup)
100ml of milk (scant 1/2 cup)
115g of soft light brown sugar (1/2 cup packed)
6 TBS sunflower oil
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped

For the cinnamon butter:
4 ounces butter, at room temperature (1/2 cup)
60g of icing sugar, sifted (1/3 cup)
1 tsp of ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. Butter a 12 hole muffin pan, or line with paper liners. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, soda and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Whisk together the eggs, yogurt, milk, brown sugar, oil and chopped apple in another fold. Fold this into the dry mixture, mixing together only until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Lumps are ok and actually preferred. Spoon big dollops into the prepared muffin pan.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until well risen and golden. Leave to cool in the pan for several minutes before scooping out to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, beat together the butter, sugar and cinnamon for the cinnamon butter. Serve the muffins warm with the cinnamon butter for spreading. Delicious!

Marie Rayner
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Fairy Bread for a Fairy Tale Wedding

I know what you're thinking . . . She's completely gone "doo-lally" this time . . . off her nut . . . over the twist!!

I mean, come on . . . Fairy Bread??? I say why not! All over this country today people will be waving the Union Jack, cheering, and celebrating the finest piece of news and festivity since the credit crunch started 4 years ago!

We're all well overdue for a smile or two, and some royal festivities . . . so why not go a bit over the twist!

We here . . . Marie, Mitzie and the Toddster . . . will be glued to the telly all day watching a fairy tale wedding unfold . . . why not celebrate with cups of elderflower cordial and Fairy Bread, I say!!!

There are worse ways to celebrate, but I think this is just perfect! Oh . . . we may stog down a cake or two and perhaps a few sausage rolls . . . but the star of this party will be the Fairy Bread I dare say! And why not!! It's pretty. It's fun. It's whimsical and astonishingly tasty! Life is for living!

Just perfect for Fairy Tale Weddings . . . and little girl's tea parties. I think the fairies will heartily approve!

*Fairy Bread*
Servings 4
Printable Recipe

Cute nonsensical fairy bread . . . essentially just buttered bread and sprinkles . . . but something fairies, both big and small just love!

4 slices of white bread
softened butter
an assortment of candy sprinkles
a heart shaped cookie cutter
dolly mixture candies to serve

Butter your slices of bread right to the edges with the softened butter. Cut out hearts with the cookie cutter. You should get at least two hearts per slice depending on the size of your cutter. If you are using a really small one, you may even get four. Sprinkle each cut out with the candy sprinkles and a good measure of love on the buttered side of the bread. Arrange on a cake plate and scatter the dolly mixtures around! Serve to some very grateful fairies. Don't be surprised if it disappears in a twinkle and you have to make it all over again!

Marie Rayner
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Roasted Asparagus Salad with Parmesan and a Lemon Vinaigrette

One of the things I love most about Spring . . . next to the sunny days, flowers, rhubarb, bumbley bees and blue skies . . . is fresh aspagagus!!

I could eat it every night of the week and never get tired of it. I know you can get it all year round, but I prefer to only eat English Asparagus . . . in season. Nothing tastes better in all the earth.

It hasn't spent weeks being Shipped and held in warehouses before it reaches the shop shelves. In most cases it's only just been picked within a few days or so. The flavour is incredible!

Of course it would be even better if I had Asparagus growing in my back garden, but alas . . . I don't and so I buy it at the shops.

I just adore it roasted until it is crispy tender . . . the flavour is beautiful, and when you toss it with a tasty lemon, honey and mustard vinaigrette, some toasted almonds and flaked Parmesan Cheese, you have something very special indeed!

*Roasted Aspagarus Salad with Parmesan and a Lemon Vinaigrette*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

A stunning springtime favourite with a delicious honey lemon vinaigrette dressing, shaved Parmesan cheese and crunchy toasted almonds!

For the vinaigrette:
2 lemons, halved crosswise
1 TBS Dijon mustard
1 shallot, peeled and finely minced
125ml extra virgin olive oil (1/2 cup)
1 to 2 TBS liquid honey
fine seasalt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad:
2 pounds of fresh aspagarus, trimmed of woody ends and
the points on the stems trimmed off
(They have a tendancy to be bitter at times)
50ml of extra virgin olive oil (1/4 cup)
1 1/2 ounces flaked almonds, toasted
7 ounces of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved

Heat your oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7. Toss the trimmed asparagus together with the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Place into the heated oven and roast for about 12 minutes, until crispy tender.

While the asparagus is roasting make the dressing. Juice the lemons into a bowl, making sure you don't have any pips. Whisk in the shallots, honey and Dijon mustard. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the roasted Asparagus between six serving plates in a decorative way. Drizzle each with some of the vinaigrette, drizzling some on the plate as well. Sprinkle with the nuts and shaved Parmesan. Serve immediately.
Marie Rayner
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Corn Salad

I love salads in warmer weather and I love creating them out of whatever I have on hand.

This is a deliciously colourful salad that makes good use of store cupboard ingredients. In North America I would use fresh corn . . . but I hate to tell you UK . . . your fresh corn over here sucks. It tastes like what we would call cow corn back home . . . not tasty at all. That's why I have used tinned corn here . . . the Green Giant Salad corn actually tastes pretty close to fresh, so that's what I use.

I always leave my tomatoes in a bowl on the counter top at room temperature. Tomatoes from the shops might be red . . . but they are never truly ripe. Leaving them on the counter for a few days brings out their natural sweetness and they taste pretty good and not anaemic!

Avocado . . . what can I say here . . . but I love them. Their rich and buttery creaminess is moreish to me. I can't get enough of them, and their texture goes so well with the crunchiness of the corn.

I love coriander and there is a nice amount of this in the tasty lime dressing for this salad. I know that it is an herb you either love or hate . . . which I happen to love. If it's not for you, then you could certainly use some chopped flat leaf parsley, but you are not going to get the same flavour kick using parsley . . . c'est la vie!

Altogether all the ingredients are colourfully exciting and delicious! I served it with some grilled chicken and it went together very well. I think it would be very tasty with some grilled fish or pork as well!

*Corn Salad*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

Crunchy corn, creamy avocado and sweet tomatoes in a tangy lime and coriander dressing!!

3 tins of salad corn niblets, drained (about 3 cups)
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 1 cup of tomatoes before quartering)
1 firm, but ripe avocado, peeled and diced
2 TBS finely chopped red onion
a handful of chopped fresh coriander (1/4 cup cilantro)

For the dressing:
2 TBS fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp finely minced fresh garlic
3 TBS olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chopped Coriander to garnish, optional (chopped cilantro)

Place the corn, tomatoes, avocado, onion and coriander in a salad bowl and gently combine, using your hands. Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over top of the salad and gently mix. Garnish with more chopped coriander if desired. Serve at room temperature.
Marie Rayner
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Minted Watermelon Pops and Fruity Frozen Yogurt Pops!

The people from Shrewd PR representing Eddingtons sent me some of their newest summer range of goods to test out the other day. I love it when that happens! I have had a lot of fun trying everything out.

First up was a lovely set of glass cruets . . . 4 in the beautifully shaped Firenze pattern and 4 in the Venezia pattern. Both came in a lovely assortment of colours . . . ruby red, pale yellow, bottle blue and light green. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but very useful as well. They have lovely pouring spouts and seals . . . just perfect for taking cold drinks on a picnic or for use as vinegar and oil cruets on the salad table! I just love them.

Included as well was this lovely Salad Spinner by Tovolo! Not only is it quite large in size, holding 5 quarts of salad leaves etc., but it is collapsible!! Yes, you are not imagining things. I did say that . . . it's completely collapsible.

Here it is flat! Only about 3 inches tall, and very easy to store, not taking up much space at all! That means a lot to me in my kitchen as I have very little storage space, so anything that doesn't take up a lot of room makes me happy.

It very quickly pops out into a full size salad spinner! Very attractive!! Some other features are:

1. Effortlessly fast spinning - does the job efficiently and quickly
2. Pull-string handle with in-built brake mechanism
3. Bowl makes an attractive salad server, too
4. Good quality, robust item which is built to last

It is very easy to use. The pull toggle is effortless and the button for stopping the spinning works really well also. I really, really like it!! I love Tovolo everything! Real quality stuff! I like the funky green colour as well. I tried to take a movie of me spinning it, but . . . it's hard to pull the cord and press record on my camera at the same time. It just wasn't happening!

They also sent some lovely Tovolo Ice Lolly Molds.

The Jewel Pop Molds are not only cute but fun as well. They look like big diamond rings. I just know the kiddies will love iced treats made in these!

I made some little adult type of Watermelon ices in them for today. You could do any flavour you want and they are just a nice small size and so fun to wear!

*Minted Watermelon Pops*
Makes 8
Printable Recipe

Easy to make, low in fat and beautifully refreshing!

1 1/2 pound of seedless watermelon, rind removed and flesh cut into 1 inch dice
2 TBS sugar
a handful of mint leaves, minced (about 1/4 cup)
2 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
pinch salt

Place the melon and sugar into a blender. Blitz until smooth. Stir in the mint, lemon zest and salt. Pour the puree into 8 popsicle molds and freeze until hard, about 3 hours. Use within a week.

They also sent a set of Ice Cream Pops freeze molds. They are so cute! They look just like Ice Cream Cones!

I did some really fun frozen Yogurt pops in them! They turned out really nice too! I did layers with the top layer being apricot and the bottom layer, summer berries. They can be low fat as well, especially if you use the low fat yogurt.

*Fruity Frozen Yogurt Pops*
Makes 8
Printable Recipe

Creamy and refreshing and good for you too, especially if you use low fat yogurt!

1 cup of fresh ripe fruit, chopped ( nectarines, mango, pineapple, strawberries, kiwi, etc.)
12 fluid ounces of plain yogurt ( 1 1/2 cups. I like Greek)
3 fluid ounces of liquid honey (1/3 cup)
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth. Pour into 8 popsicle (ice lolly) molds. Insert sticks and then freeze for 4 hours until frozen solid.

Note: I like to use two kinds of fruit, so I divide everything in half and the fruit in half as well, blitzing twice, once with half the ingredients and one type of fruit, and then the second time with the other half of the ingredients and another type of fruit. I then layer them into the popsicle molds. Top with the lids and freeze.

I was a little concerned that they might be difficult to release, but both types released very easily and I ended up with perfect ice lollies! I was most impressed!

Each mold can be reoved separately, so you can enjoy one pop at a time, and the built in drips guards put an end to sticky fingers!

So you can see I am all set now for some summer fun! Many thanks to the people at Eddingtons and Shrewd PR for allowing me try these lovely things out! I was very impressed with everything and highly recommend!
Marie Rayner
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Mom's Baking Powder Biscuits

It is no secret . . . my mother makes the best baking powder biscuits in the world! There is no denying it.

Light, flakey and oh so scrummy . . . with soups, with stews, and on their own . . .
Served up warm with butter and honey . . . or some preserves . . . my . . . my . . . my. You just can't beat them!

There's no surprises here. They're really quite simple, nothing too out of the ordinary, but there are a few tricks to the success of them.

First, light handling. Don't be rough with them. A light touch is the secret behind the flakiness . . . too much handiwork and you get a tough biscuit.

If you want straight sided, tall biscuits . . . pat them out fairly thick, 1/2 inch will do and then cut them with a sharp tap down with the biscuit cutter . . . carefully lift the cutter straight up again. Don't twist, or you'll get lopsided.

Oh they'll still taste delicious, but aesthetically speaking . . . straight sided look oh so much better.

Yep . . . my mom does make the best baking powder biscuits in the world . . . and now you can too!

*Mom's Baking Powder Biscuits*
Makes about 36
Printable Recipe

My mom makes the best baking powder biscuits in the world. Now you can too.

17 ounces plain flour (4 cups)
8 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 TBS granulated sugar
8 ounces white shortening (1 cup)
2 large free range eggs
12 fluid ounces milk (1 1/2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. You will need several large baking sheets. No need to grease them.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl. Drop in the shortening and cut it in with two round bladed knives or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat together the milk and eggs until well combined. Add to the dry mixture and stir with a fork until you have a soft dough. You may not need all the liquid. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times. Pat out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out with a sharp 2 inch round cutter, giving the cutter a sharp tap straight down and up without twisting. (Twisting will give you lop sided biscuits.) Place onto the baking sheets, leaving some space inbetween the biscuits for crispy all around biscuits, or close together for soft sided biscuits.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until well risen and browned. Serve warm. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and reheated in the microwave for a few seconds. These also freeze really well.
Marie Rayner
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Hot Cross French Toast

Know what I love even more than Hot Cross Buns???? Hot Cross Bun Loaf!! Oh, I know . . . it's store bought and not homemade . . . but . . .

Just look at it close up. It's soft and spicy and absolutely bursting with currants and sultanas! I think it's just wonderful and so does Todd! Our local butcher had it on special last week at two loaves for 99pence, so what could I do, but buy two!

We've had it for breakfast, lightly toasted and spread with butter. We've had it for our evening bedtime snack, again lightly toasted and spread with butter. I've eaten it right out of the bag . . . it's so soft and yummy . . .

AND then I decided to make some scrummy French Toast with it . . . but not just any French Toast . . . a French Toast stuffed with low fat cream cheese and jam. Normally I would have used apricot jam for this . . . but alas . . . I had run out and so I used berries and cherries jam. It was really good too.

Oh my but it was some good. We actually had it for our tea the other night with some grilled sausages, but I reckon it would make a fabulous holiday breakfast for the children on Easter morning.

What do you think?? I'm thinking the kids would love it!

*Hot Cross French Toast*
Serves 4, but easily mulitplied to feed more
Printable Recipe

It just wouldn't be Easter without it!

8 sliced hot cross bun bread (can use raisin bread if you
can't get the hot cross bun bread)
4 ounces cream cheese
4 TBS of your favourite jam
3 large free range eggs
2 ounces milk (1/4 cup)
1 TBS butter
1 TBS oil
Icing sugar to dust (optional)

Lay 4 slices of the bread out. Spread these with the cream cheese, spreading it right to the edges, but having it a bit thicker in the centres. Spoon a TBS of jam in the middle of each one and spread it out a bit, but not all the way to the edge. Top with the remaining slices of bread. Press down slightly to make them stick together around the edges.

Beat the eggs and milk together until smooth.

Heat the butter and oil together over medium heat until the butter begins to foam.

Dip each cheese and jam sandwich into the beaten mixture, one at a time, allowing the egg mixture to soak in a bit on each side and on the edges. Fry them one at a time in the butter/oil mixture, browning them on each side and then placing into a warm oven while you prepare the rest.

Dust with some icing sugar if using, and serve hot with syrup and cooked sausages.

Happy Easter!
Marie Rayner
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