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Spicy Ginger Crackles

All this gloomy weather makes one long for comfort don't you think? Today I had a hankering for some homey biscuits, something all spicy and warm, something that would go down a real treat with a hot drink.

I love ginger biscuits, but I don't like it when they are really hard. I don't mind a bit of crunch on the outside, but I want them to be soft and chewy on the insides.

These delicious biscuits fit the bill perfectly.

They are wonderfully spiced!! With a full 1 1/2 TBS of ground ginger and a further 2 tsp of ground cinnamon, they smell absolutely heavenly when they are baking. Chopped candied ginger adds another depth of sweet heat.

The demerara sugar coating on the outside gives them a wonderfully sweet crunch. The original recipe called for rolling them in icing sugar before baking, but I found that it virtually melted into the biscuits and so I have always just rolled them in demerara sugar. It looks great and tastes great!

Crunchy on the outside yes . . . but nice and chewy on the insides. Just the way I like them. Of course you could bake them for a few minutes longer if you want crunchy, but I like chewy. It is my bliss. 12 minutes gets you chewy bliss. 15 minutes gets you crunch.

Truth be told, they are gorgeous either way. Almost too gorgeous! I think I'll have to put them under lock and key, and give the key to Todd. It will probably be the only way I'll be able to leave them alone!

*Spicy Ginger Crackles*
Makes 3 dozen
Printable Recipe

A deliicous ginger cookie that is nicely spiced and coated in crunchy demarara sugar!

4 ounces butter, softened (1/2 cup)
7 ounces caster sugar (1 cup)
2.4 ounces molasses (1/3 cup)
1 large free range egg
1 1/2 TBS ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
8.5 ounces plain flour (2 cups)
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
2 ounces chopped candied ginger (about 1/3 cup)
Demerara sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Berat in the egg. Sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, soda and a pinch of salt. Stir this into the creamed mixture, combining well. Stir in the candied ginger.

Place some demerara sugar in a bowl. You will only need a couple tablespoonsful. Shape spoonfuls of the dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in the demerara sugar and place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are lightly browned and crackled. Remove from the oven. Let cool on the baking sheet for several minutes, and then scoop off to a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Store in an airtight container.

Note - the original recipe called for rolling the cookies icing sugar, but I found it didn't work well. The icing sugar disappeared on baking. Demerara sugar gives a much nicer finish.
Marie Rayner
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Morello Cherry, Oat and Buttermilk Muffins

Every once in a while I like to bake us up some tasty muffins for breakfast. Not only are they quick and easy, but they make a nice change from cereal and toast.

Most times, I measure out the dry ingredients in a bowl the night before, and whisk them together before I go to bed. I cover them and then the next morning all I have to do is to whisk together the wet, combine the two, spoon them into the tins and in less than half an hour we have some nice warm muffins ready to eat. They go down a real treat in the morning, served warm with a nice cup of cocoa. (or tea or coffee if that is your choice.)

These delicious muffins are one of our favourites. Wholesome with oats, and with a moist buttermilk batter, they have the added surprise of a centre filled with morello cherry preserves.

Sometimes I top them with flaked almonds before baking, but more often than not, I sprinkle a bit of demerara sugar on top, which gives them a nice crunchy topping.

They freeze really well too. You can just pop any leftovers into a zip lock baggie and the take one or two out as you need them, warming them up in the microwave for about 35 to 40 seconds. Delicious, and nice to have on hand when you get a bit of unexpected company!

*Morello Cherry, Oat and Buttermilk Muffins*
Makes 12
Printable Recipe

Delectably moist and wholesome. with a surprisingly scrummy centre of Morello Cherry Preserves!

8 ounces of plain flour (scant 2 cups)
2 ounces of porridge oats (not instant) (scant 3/4 cup)
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/8 tsp salt
4 ounces caster sugar (scant 2/3 cup)
2 medium free range eggs
250ml of low fat buttermilk (9 fluid ounces)
3 ounces butter, melted (6 TBS)
1 tsp almond essence
4 TBS morello cherry preserves
3 TBS demerara sugar for sprinkling on top

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

Measure the flour, oats, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Beat together the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and almond essence. Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir together only to moisten without over mixing. Spoon a dollop into the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Drop 1 tsp of preserves into the centre of each and then cover with a dollop of the remaining batter. Sprinkle the tops with demerara sugar.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until well risen and the top springs back when lightly touched. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Marie Rayner
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Chocolate Chip and Cream Cookie Brownies

Chocolate Chip Cookies? Check! All buttery and stogged full of semi sweet chocolate chips!

Double Stuff Oreo Cookies??? Check!! All dark chocolatey and crisp . . . and filled with lots of creamy middle stuff!

Chocolate Fudge Brownies???? Check!!! Rich and dense and oh so fudgy!

The three all together in one tray bake??? Could this really happen??? Do my eyes deceive me???

It's true! You are not imagining these. They are the ultimate in chocolate brownies, but it doesn't stop there. I have used Double Stuff Oreo biscuits here today, but you can choose to use any cream filled biscuit that you want. Custard Creams? Bourbon? The world of cream bixcuits is your oyster! Pick your own poison!

I don't dare hazard a guess as to how many calories is in one of these. It probably doesn't bear thinking about . . . just look and drool.

As a once in a blue moon treat for a room full of teenagers that are going to burn it all off later on??? Perfect!!

Me? I only dared have a bite and let me tell you now. It was heaven. I know a group of men at my church later today who will likely concur. ☺

*Chocolate Chip and Cream Cookie Brownies*
Makes one dozen
Printable Recipe

Oh so decadent, with each mouthful bringing you all the deliciousness of a chocolate chip cookie, a cream cookie and a brownie!

For the Chocolate Chip Cookie base:
4 ounces of softened butter (1/2 cup)
3.5 ounces caster sugar (1/2 cup)
3.5 ounces soft light brown sugar (1/2 cup)
1 large free range egg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 ounces plain flour (1 1/4 cup)
6 ounces of semi sweet chocolate chips (1 cup)

For the Brownie part:
3 ounces continental style dark chocolate (at least 70%cocoa solids)
3 ounces butter (1/4 cup plus 2 TBS)
2 large free range eggs
1 TBS vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
12 ounces of sugar (1 1/3 cup approx.)
6.5 ounces plain flour (1 1/4 cups)

You will also need 12 cream filled cookies (custard creams, oreos, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/gas mark 4. Butter a 9 inch square baking pan, line with parchment and butter the parchment. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugars for the chocolate chip base until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Whisk together the soda, salt and flour and then stir this into the creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Using floured hands, press this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, smoothing it over as best as you can.

Place the chocolate and butter for the brownie base in a saucepan and melt together over low heat. Once melted and smooth, stir in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour.

Crumble the cream cookies over top of the chocolate chip cookie base. Pour the brownie mixture over top of this.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is shiny and set and a knife inserted near the centre comes out with only a few crumbs attached. Try not to overbake. Allow to cool completely in the pan before removing. Lift out by the parchment paper when cool and cut into squares.

Note: You may ice these if you wish, but I don't think it's really needed.
Marie Rayner
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Honeyed Tomato Soup with Cheddar and Onion Marmalade Panini

The weather really has been miserable this past week . . . cold, showery and windy! Mind you, we do need the rain. Our garden is simply gasping for it!

One isn't really inclined to eat warm weather food on this rainy cold days though. One wants comforting sustenance . . . rib sticking, tummy warming, soulful food.
A nice warming soup always fits the bill perfectly. Especially soups such as this tantelizingly delicious Honeyed Tomato Soup here today! It's simple, easy, quick and fantastically tasty!

Rich and herby with just a hint of sweet . . . your guests will wonder what your secret is. It tastes like it should have a bazillion calories in it, but guess what?? THERE IS HARDLY ANY FAT! It's just tomatoes, herbs, love fat milk . . . and that incredible richness comes from tinned skimmed evaporated milk.

Oh sure . . . you could use cream, but it's not really needed. You get all the deliciousness of a full cream soup, without any of the fat or calories!

I like that. Of course, one cannot say the same about the accompanying sandwich, but then . . . you can't have it all can you?

*Honeyed Tomato Soup*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

A deliciously simple tomato soup, slightly sweetened with honey. I find the honey helps the tomatoes from being too acidic. It just tastes wonderful. Who would guess that is is low in fat!

2 (390g) pouched of chopped Italian tomatoes with onions and garlic (about 4 cups)
2 ribs of celery chopped
splash of white wine
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 TBS runny honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
250ml of skimmed evaporated tinned milk (1 cup)
250ml of 2% milk (1 cup)

Place the tomatoes, celery, white wine, sage and rosemary into a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Immediately reduce the heat to a low simmer. Stir in the honey and season to taste with some salt and black pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the celery is soft. Blitz until smooth with a stick blender if you have it, or very carefully in a regular blender. Alternately you can put it through a moulee. Return to the heat. Whisk in most of the tinned milk, reserving a bit for a garnishing. Whisk in the milk. Heat through. Ladle out into 4 heated soup bowls. Drizzle a bit of the reserved tinned milk on top and drag through it with a toothpick to make a lovely swirl.

These are quite simply one of my favourite ways to make a grilled cheese. Simple and yet filled with wonderfully rich flavours! The tanginess of the strong cheddar cheese, combined with the sweetness of red onion marmalade, tucked inside a sturdy loaf and grilled until it is scrummily oozingly delicious! If you can't find Onion Marmalade, you could use a good chutney, and then again you could make your own.

*Cheddar and Onion Marmalade Panini*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

These are soooo good!! The perfect "go with" for a cup of soup!

8 thin slices of a sturdily rustic white loaf (I used a French Boule, which
I sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices)
4 generous tablespoons of onion marmalade
8 ounces of a good strong farmhouse cheddar, sliced
softened butter for buttering

Heat your panini press. Lay out 4 slices of your bread. Spread 1 TBS of onion marmalade onto each. Top with a generous amount of cheddar, dividing it equally amongst the bread. Top with the other 4 slices. Butter each sandwich lightly on each side and place into the Panini press. Grill until the cheese is meltingly scrummy and the panini have nice grill lines. Serve immediately.
Marie Rayner
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Oven Baked Chicken and Broccoli Risotto

I love risotto, and I totally adore oven baked risotto's. Why???

Because essentially I can be a bit lazy sometimes, and these are risotto's that basically cook themselves. There is no standing over the stove, babying them along, adding ladles of stock, one . . . ladle . . . at a . . . time.

You just add all the ingredients to a casserole dish . . . and bake!

Easy peasy, lemon squeasy! Nothing could be simpler.

I have a fantastic recipe for a delicious Baked Risotto with Courgettes, Tomatoes and Parmesan Here. And I have another delicious recipe for a Meatball Risotto Soup Here. Both delicious, both easy, both very popular!

This one is today is very colourful and very tasty. Creamy,rich and just stogged full of tasty bits of chicken and crunchy green bits of broccoli. Of course you don't have to use broccoli if you don't want to . You can choose to use another green vegetable such as asparagus, or green beans or even peas. All are equally as delicious! (Not to mention easy!)

I love easy food, especially when it also happens to be delicious! Don't you?

*Oven Baked Chicken and Tender Stem Broccoli Risotto*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

The best thing about this dish is that it practically cooks itself. You can sit back and enjoy a drink while it is baking. It's also really quick!

2 TBS olive oil
500g (1lb 2 oz) boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
250g (9 ounces) arborio rice
750ml (3 cups) chicken stock
1 bunch of tender stem broccoli, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 1 inch pieces
35g (1/3 cup) grated parmesan Cheese, plus extra to serve
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Heat 1 TBS of the olive oil iin a large flameproof casserole over high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently until golden brown. Remove from the casserole and set aside.

Add the remaining olive oil and the onion to the dish. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. Add the garlic and lemon zest and cook for about 30 seconds longer. Add the rice and stir to coat evenly with the oil. Add the stock and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Cover the casserole and bake in the heated oven for 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken and the broccoli and recover. Bake for an additional 5 minutes until the broccoli is bright green and just tender. Stir iin the Parmesan cheese, season with salt and black pepper, and serve. Have extra Parmesan ready to spoon over individual servings. Delicious!

Note: If you don't really like broccoli, you can substitute it with an equal amount of asparagus.
Marie Rayner
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Almond Gingerbread

If I had to pick a flavour I love above all else, I would have a very difficult time doing so. I just love sooooo many flavours . . . and a lot depends on what type of mood I am in, or the weather, or even what's in the refrigerator. I guess you could say I just love food, full stop!

I do have a serious thing for ginger though . . . I love it's warmth and spice . . . that peppery heat, that goes so very well with lots of things . . . tart lemons, sweet fruits and berries, nuts, breads, chicken and pork! Dark Chocolate!! (ohhh . . . I am hungry now! Dang!!)

I do love a good gingerbread and I have some great recipes for quite a variety of them. The ones I've already posted you can find here. I have many, many more, trust me . . . but they will be revealed to you one at a time as time goes by, and according to my cravings. (I am such a glutton and a tease!)

I just adore this particular gingerbread. It's light . . . and moist . . . and mild. Just perfect for those times when I am craving a gingerbread, but not looking for anything too heavy.

There are more almonds in this than there are flour, which makes for a very light cake, and also a very moist cake. It's also chock full of lovely little bits of preserved stem ginger. I use Opies, which I like. If you are so inclined you can even get it steeped in a whiskey syrup. Just sayin is all . . .

Anyways, this cake is lovely. You get a fabulous crunch on top from the flaked almonds, all toasty and nutty, and then brushed with some of the ginger syrup when warm, giving them a bit of sweet heat. Moist cake, with tangy little spicy sweet bits of ginger throughout. All in all . . . F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S!

Trust me. Have I ever lied to you? I thought not!

*Almond Gingerbread*
Serves 8 to 10
Printable Recipe

A gently flavoured gingerbread, moist and topped with the wonderful crunch of flaked almonds and ginger syrup.

3 1/2 ounces butter (7 TBS), softened
5 1/2 ounces dark brown sugar (3/4 cup packed)
4 large free range eggs
2 ounces of stem ginger in syrup, plus 4 TBS of the syrup (2 1/2 knobs)
7 ounces of almond flour (2 cups)
3 ounces self raising flour (3/4 cup)
1 ounce flaked almonds (scant 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5. Butter a 9 inch square baking pan and line with baking parchment. Butter the parchment. Set aside.

Whisk together the butter and brown sugar until light and creamy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each one is added.

Finely chop the stem ginger. Add to the butter mixture, along with 2 TBS of syrup. Fold in the ground almonds and flour. Spread in the baking tin, smoothing the top over. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the cake is firm to the touch and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. (If the almonds begin to brown too much, cover lightly with a sheet of foil.)

Remove from the oven when done. Gently heat the remaining ginger syrup and brush over top of the warm cake. Leave to cool, then cut into slices to serve.
Marie Rayner
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Spam Fritters

I know . . . I can see you wrinkling your noses, and I can't say that I blame you, but hear me out. Loathe it or love it, Spam has been around for a very long time. During my husband's WW2 and Post War childhood, it was often on the menu in the family home, along with tinned corned beef, and it has long been a staple of school dinners. It's a cheap alternative when it comes to meat, and in lean times has been a real mainstay for a great many families.

One of the ways it is often served over here in the UK, is as a tasty fritter. Indeed, you can buy Spam Fritters in lots of chippies (What we call a fish and chip shop over here. Generally speaking, they are a fast food place, without seating, where people line up to buy cones of chips, pieces of fried fish, meat pies, sausages, burgers, fritters, curries, kebabs, etc.)

You can even buy them already prepared in ASDA, one of our top grocery store chains. A lot of people eat them with mushy peas and chips, but it's also quite acceptable to have them with hot mashed potatoes and English peas, which is how Todd likes them. But then again . . . he is a real lover of mash.

They make a very filling and economical supper for today's family at a time when the cost of groceries is rising and rising and family's are having a difficult time making ends meet, and they need not be considered all that unhealthy and full of fat. Make sure your fat is hot enough will help to keep down the absorption of oil, and of course draining them well on paper towelling once they are cooked also helps to absorb any extra oil.

My Todd just loves these. I have to admit they are rather tasty. Of course, you could do the same thing with tinned corned beef and they are pretty good also. Whilst I wouldn't recommend eating these every night of the week, they do make a delicious addition once a fortnight, and go a long ways towards keeping down the food costs.

*Spam Fritters*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

These may not be to everyone's tastes, but they have been around for a very long time and are a very quick and economical family meal.

1 340g tin of Spam (12 ounces)
For the batter:
125g (1 cup) plain flour
pinch of salt
4 fluid ounces of milk, milk&waterm, water, or beer (1/2 cup)
cooking oil for either shallow frying or deep frying
To serve:
mashed potatoes
mushy peas, or regular peas

Sift the flour into a bowl. Whisk in the salt and liquid. You will want to have a thick batter in order to coat the spam properly.

Carefully remove the Spam from the tin in one piece. (I take a sharp knife and carefully slide it into the tin between the meat and the tin all around and then holding the tin upside down, gently shake and the meat slides out.) Cut the Spam into 8 slices.

Heat 2 to 3 TBS of oil in a frying pan, or heat a depth of oil in a deep fryer to 170*C/350*F, or until a cube of bread turns golden brown in 1 minute.

Coat the Spam slices with the batter and then carefully drop them into the hot oil. If shallow frying, allow two to three minutes per side. If deep frying, allow a total cooking time of three to four minutes, turning the fritters over as needed. Drain well on paper towels.

Serve hot with buttery mashed potatoes and peas.
Marie Rayner
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On a Stick, a book worth biting into

Quirk Books recently sent me one of their newest cookbooks to review. I was thrilled to do so . . . a gal can never have too many cookery books! (Contrary to what Todd may think. What does he know. He's a man who doesn't cook!)

Matt Armendariz is a man who cooks however! Writer and photographer of the popular food blog, Matt Bites, he has recently published his first cookery book, On A Stick! A witty, beautifully photographed and tasty little book which dares to answer the question, which must be on everyone's lips . . . "Why do the world's most delicious foods taste even better served on a stick?"

It's a book just filled with dozens of delightfully tasty recipes for party/street/junk food and more . . . all served on a stick. Hors D'Ouvres, nibbles and every day fare for even the most discerning tastes . . . it is a happy and witty compilation of quite a variety of foods and tastes, with recipes for everything from tasty salad skewers to scrummy dessert kabobs, as well as a delicious variety of sauces and dips to go with them! (I hope he doesn't mind me borrowing this picture of him from off his page. I thought you would enjoy it and it might give you a taste of the flavour of this lovely book!)

Deep Fried Pickles served with some tasty Ranch Dressing anyone???

How about some delicious Chicken and Waffles skewers??? Tasty chicken tenders in a buttermilk marinade, coated in a waffle batter, deep fried and served with a scrummy maple butter syrup!

Or maybe some tasty Coconut Shrimp with a yummy Mango Salsa is more to your taste???

It's not all fried though . . . there's also tasty offerings such as Panzanella skewers with a tasty Sherry Vinaigrette! Those intrigued me and so I made my own version with what I had on hand in the kitchen . . . A Greek Version, with cucumber, Kamata Olives, Cherry Tomatoes, Green Peppers and Feta Cheese, drizzled with an Oregano Vinaigrette and they were really good too.

How about a Fruit Salad Skewer with a tasty Sweet and Fluffy Dipping Sauce???

But do you want to know which recipe really caught my eye and had me totally intrigued????

It was the Spam and Pineapple Skewers. I don't know why? I was not even sure that I liked Spam . . . but I did wonder . . . was it possible to make tinned mystery meat taste like something you might want to serve to a guest???

I made a smaller version as there are only two of us here in this house.

Know what?? They weren't half bad! I rather enjoyed them and I can tell you, if that man can make Spam taste this good . . . then this book is a winner! I can't wait to try out more of the recipes! There is a little bit of something in this book to please just about anyone's tastes. I highly recommend. Thanks so much to Quirk Books for having given me the opportunity to test it out, and thanks to Matt for having written a book that is not only colourful and fun, but also very tasty!

*Spam and Pineapple Skewers*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe
I wasn't sure about this, but went for it. They were incredibly tasty!

4 wooden skewers
spray oil
2 (12 ounce) tins of Spam. each one cut into 2 inch cubes
(You'll get about 4 cubes from each tin if you cut it this size)
2 cups of fresh pineapple cubes, cut the same size as the spam
3/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce (6 fluid ounces)
1/4 cup pineapple juice (2 fluid ounces)
1/2 cup soft light brown sugar (3 12 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar (2 ounces)
1 TBS peeled minced fresh ginger root
2 spring onions, thinly sliced

Soak the skewers ino water for about 30 minutes.

Whisk the soy sauce, pineapple juice, brown and white sugars and ginger root together in a saucepan. Simmer and stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens into a glaze. Let cool and then stir in the spring onions.

Preheat your grill or grill pan and spray with oil.

Thread the spam and pineapple onto the skewers, alternating them. Grill the skewers for about 6 minutes per side. Brush with the glaze and grill for an additional 2 minutes, turning over once. Serve warm.
Marie Rayner
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