Christmas cranberry cookies

As if Christmas wasn’t busy enough with things to do, not to mention already overflowing with nice things to eat, something (usually ‘I have eggs needing used’ ;)) makes me want to bake.

My first thought was a batch of these oatmeal raisin cookies, but in honour of the season I made a few changes. First, swapped out the raisins for cranberries, and soaked them in a bit of (ahem) cointreau for that festive orange zing. I also upped the spice content: a bit more cinnamon, a little nutmeg.

As ever, I started baking and regretted the effort needed almost immediately. Creaming butter and sugar is tough on the wrists! Still, I think the end result was pretty much worth it 😉

cranberry cookies

Tomorrow: fruit loaf!

For other inspiration, why not check out these boozy fruits and marzipan, or add festive flavours to a batch of muffins? 🙂 And of course, can’t not mention the recipe that gets me 99.99% of my hits – the infamous and inexplicable over-popular jaffa cake trifle!

What are your go-to festive recipes?

Boozy fruits and marzipan

boozy fruits

Many Christmases ago we had a bit of a homemade theme, and I made chocolate truffles and shortbread, and these, choc-dipped ‘boozy fruits’ and marzipan. I’ve never bothered with the massive effort of the truffles again, but these have become a Christmas tradition, always appreciated and a nice change from all the regular chocolates that are about at this time of year.

I’ve given some instructions here, but a lot of it is a matter of choice: take your pick of fruits (and if you come up with any good ones I’ve not mentioned, let me know!) and combine with whatever alcohol you like – this is an excellent way of using up the tail end of a bottle (hic!).

My recent batch was:

  • 12 dried apricots soaked in honey-whiskey liqueur, a new favourite!
  • 12 dried plums (in case the word ‘prunes’ puts anyone off – they are lovely!) in cherry brandy
  • a pack of dried mango slices soaked in vodka
  • half a pack of marzipan, rolled and cut into stars

All of the above half-dipped in melted Cadbury’s Dairy Milk – I do suggest using a nice chocolate you enjoy eating, it’s very noticable.

All that’s left after that is to present them in a nice box, and enjoy a few bits when the thought of another Quality Street is just a bit much 😉

Oatmeal raisin cookies

Everyone should have a cookie recipe to call upon, and oatmeal raisin are the best kind of cookies! My recipe is here.

photo of cookiesI’m offering these as a ‘sorry I haven’t posted in so long’ sort of thing – and come on, who doesn’t like a nice cookie? 🙂 (yup, feeling pretty confident of forgiveness… lol!)

I’ve actually made these three times recently, for different people (and some for me each time, of course – quality control is a must! Ahem). Attempts one and three saw me make a half-batch – nice and easy to halve all the quantities in the recipe, apart from the egg. First time, I used the other half of the egg in a different cookie recipe (choc chip, weren’t nearly as good), and today I saved the other half to make egg-fried rice as part of my dinner.

Making the full recipe, I was actually quite amazed at just how MUCH dough I had, and how many cookies that translated to – I’ve said 24, but it felt more like 94 (I wish?!) with the endless batches going in and out of the oven! Fortunately, the dough keeps really well in the fridge, sealed in tuperware, for a few days. Doing it this way means you get lovely, freshly-baked cookies (the best kind!) several times out of the same initial work making the dough.

Nom! 🙂

In Season: rhubarb

rhubarb photo

Cooking in season is something I’d love to do more of. It’s a difficult thing these days, though, with everything available all year from supermarkets. Even with the best intentions, it can be a case of trial and error to discover that, ew, cucumber (for instance) is pretty nasty out of season!

One way around the confusion is, of course, to grow your own – something else I’d love to do more of! Right now, however, I’m happy to help my dad use up the surplus from his garden, and the one thing he has in abundance at this time of year is rhubarb!

My usual method for dealing with this glut of rhubarb is simply to chop – top tip, use scissors instead of a knife! – it into a big casserole, add a couple of peeled and sliced apples (of the sweeter eating variety rather than cooking apples – there’s enough tang from the rhubarb already!) and stew it in the microwave – my 850W takes 10-12 minutes depending on the amount of fruit.

This mixture, cooled, keeps in the fridge in a sealed tub for up to a week. Or, it can be frozen and defrosted for later use.

What use? Well, anything you like! Pie or crumble, anyone? In an attempt to be healthier – not to mention lazier 😉 – I tend to just reheat a portion in the microwave and serve with yogurt. For a little more indulgence, I’ve taken to adding a sprinkle of Dorset Cereals’ Honey Granola, with pecans and almonds, inspired by a colleague treating us all at work to some amazing Rhubarb Squares (donating the stalks I can’t use has major benefits!) – not exactly healthy, but they were gooey and rich and utterly amazing! 🙂

What are your favourite uses for rhubarb? Please do share in the comments! 🙂

Banana oat bars

As requested (hi, Karen! 🙂 ), here’s a super-easy recipe that you can modify to suit your own tastes.

I love this as a way to use up over-ripe bananas – the riper the banana, the sweeter the recipe. It also feels super-healthy, as far as snacks go, and can be made with as little as two ingredients: oats and banana. Easy to remember, too: 1 cup oats for every banana! The size of the banana is important, of course: if it’s large then add a little bit more of the oats, until the mixture is quite stiff (why does this post feel like a Carry On script!?!).

That seems a little dull, though, so I tend to add chopped dried apricots – tip: ‘chop’ the apricots with scissors, much easier than a knife – sultanas (slightly juicier than raisins) or dried cherries (goes really well if you add a smallish amount of ground almonds).

My last batch also saw me experiment with adding golden syrup. The extra sweetness isn’t really needed, but it’s a nice addition if you’re willing to forego a little of the healthy feel.

In the pic above, I should point out that the baking tray used is super-tiny: about 6×4 inches, I think. Line it well with greaseproof paper, as the mix does stick quite a lot!

Alternatively, when I’ve done a double batch (2 bananas), I get enough mix to use a bigger tray and a silicone sheet – this is perfect, as the whole result just peels off! For that, I use a normal-sized baking sheet and don’t try to push the mix into the edges (see pic below). If doing this, it’s important to keep the mixture as non-runny as possible, and don’t press the edges down too thin, or they’ll burn before the middle is cooked.

I would recommend keeping the mix reasonably thin – about half an inch? – to stop the middle feeling a little gloopy. That’s matter of taste, though, as I got complaints with that batch about the edges being a little chewy! You can’t win, but at least this recipe is easy enough for repeat trials!

Enjoy 🙂