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Monkey Face Cookies

Monkey Face Cookies

This happens to be one of our favourite cookies and I can't believe I have never showed it to you before today!  I went to bake them this morning, and was looking for the recipe in my online recipe file, only to  discover that it wasn't there, which meant I had never baked them for the blog.  I had to rifle through my big blue binder for the recipe, which was so not a problem, because I love rifling through my big blue binder!

This is a very old recipe which has a story attached to it.  I love old recipes, and I especially love old recipes with stories attached! Don't you???  Apparently the original recipe was found pasted on a piece of paper pasted into the drawer of an old table, hand written in fading ink, in an old fashioned script . . . "For Ella."  I don't know how true the story is, or who Ella was, but the story certainly has its charm, and I never fail to think about Ella and her charms whenever I bake them.  She must have been very special indeed to have someone want to bake these cookies for her!!

Why are they called Monkey Face Cookies?  Because of the raisins which you apply to the tops of them prior to baking.  Two eyes and a mouth, which settle themselves into cute little droll expressions during baking, each one seeming to say something different!

Some looking surprised  . . . others sad . . .  some angry, and still others very nonchalant . . . or even mischevious . . . .  kind of like monkeys!

Children love them.  Partly because of the name, and partly becaus they are delicious!  Its fun to pick the raisins off and eat them separately . . . its fun to eat them all together.  Its just fun to eat them!

They go down really well with an ice cold glass of milk, be you a child or a grown up!  Molasses cookies always taste wonderful with cold milk.  That is my considered opinion at any rate!

See that one with the little sticky brown sugar nugget in it?  I call dibs on that one!  Its mine! Yum!  Slightly chewy, and lightly spiced, these Monkey Face Cookies are good old fashioned pleasers.  There's no denying it!

*Monkey Face Cookies*
Makes about 4 dozen 

Children love these. The name comes from the funny expressions that the raisins make on the cookies after they are baked. This is a very old recipe. 

110g of white vegetable shortening (1/2 cup, Crisco or in the UK Trex)
200g soft light brown sugar (1 cup, packed)
120ml molasses (1/2 cup)
120ml sour milk (1/2 cup)
1 tsp vinegar
350g plain flour (2 1/2 cups)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
raisins for decorating (a large handful)

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.  Line two large baking sheets with baking paper. Set aside.

Cream together the shortening, brown sugar and molasses until light and creamy. Beat in the milk and vinegar. Sift together the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger.Stir this into the creamed mixture, mixing it in thoroughly. Drop by heaped teaspoons onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 1/2 inches in between each to allow for spreading. Place 3 raisins on each for eyes and mouth.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until set. Let sit on the baking sheets for several minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Oh this one does look rather sad doesn't he?  I think I will gobble him up and put him out of his misery.  Bon Appetit!

Note - there are no eggs in this recipe, don't worry I have not left them out. The recipe is exactly as written.

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Marie Rayner
Malvern Apple Pudding

Malvern Apple Pudding

I decided to spoil Todd yesterday and made him a Malvern Apple Pudding. This is an old, old recipe which I got from a small booklet entitled Favourite Shakespeare Country Recipes.  It differs from most of the recipes for Malvern Pudding out there in that it is a steamed pudding. Most of the recipes I discovered when researching it were actually baked and included stewed apples and a kind of custard.  I even found a few that didn't have apples in them at all but berries.

Malvern is a spa town in Warwichshire, in an area which is known for its great beauty at the foot of the Malvern hills. At its centre, Great Malvern, is an historic conservation area, which was very popular during Victorian times due to the natural mineral springs in the vicinity.  I am not sure entirely as to the history of this dish and which is even the proper way of preparing it, the baked or the steamed.  Todd loves a steamed pudding however and I knew he would really enjoy this one as it is stogged full of lovely bits of apple and currants, or sultanas.  Whichever you happen to have in the cupboard will work.  I dare say dried cranberries would also work well.  I used sultanas today.

I think these steamed puddings take Todd back to his school boy days and his school dinners.  I know they get a bad rap, but he never minded school dinners.  With meat, two veg and a pudding, he quite enjoyed them, especially the puddings, and the stodgier the better!

This actually isn't that stodgy. Its a bit like a steamed apple cake, moist and filled to the brim with lovely bits of apple and studded with sweet sticky sultana raisins.  It is also flavoured with apple brandy. (Calvados)  You can use ordinary brandy if you want.  I happen to always have a bottle of Calvados in the larder, so that is what I used.

The serving suggestion was to serve it warm with either pouring cream, custard or brandy cream.  Of course my custard loving husband chose custard.  He loves his custard. You can find my recipe for that here.

Its not that difficult to make and is not at all overly sweet, so it goes very well with this pudding. Myself, I would probably like vanilla ice cream. But that is the North American in me coming out!  And I guess ice cream is really frozen custard after all, so its not that different, and the hot pudding melts it so you get a bit of hot and cold, altogether very scrummy to my way of thinking!

I did taste a tiny corner of this and I have to say it is really delicious.  It smelled heavenly when I tipped it out of the bowl, with all of the apples.  There is a slight lemon tang as well, from the use of lemon zest and a tiny bit of juice. Simple and uncomplicated, I just know your family will love it as well.  Also, there is no need to buy a special pudding basin to steam it in. Today I used my medium sized tempered glass mixing bowl and it worked just fine!

*Malvern Apple Pudding*
Serves 4 - 6

This is a simple steamed apple pudding, flavoured with lemon, currants and apple brandy. You can use normal brandy if you can't get the apple. 

125g butter (1/2 cup)
115g sugar (2/3 cup)
2 medium free range eggs, beaten
140g flour (1 cup) sifted together with a pinch of salt
4 eating apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
the grated zest of one lemon
1 tsp lemon juice
30g dried currants or sultanas (3 TBS)
2 to 3 TBS apple brandy
To serve:
Brandy cream, custard or pouring cream

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs a bit at a time. Stir in the flour to mix thoroughly.  Stir in the apples, lemon zest, lemon juice, currants and brandy, mixing well together. (Make sure you cut your apples in a fine dice so that they will cook through!)

Butter a 2 1/2 pint pudding basin really well. (5 cup)  Place a small square of baking paper in the bottom to allow for ease of unmolding when done.  Spoon the apple mixture into the basin, smoothing over the top.  Lay a sheet of baking paper over a sheet of aluminium foil. Pleat in the centre and spray the paper with oil spray  Place on top of the pudding basin and secure around the edges, sealing well, with some kitchen twine.  Place onto a trivet in a large saucepan (with a lid) and fill the pan to halfway up the side of the puddig basin with boiling water. Cover and steam for 1 1/2 hours, topping up with boiling water as necessary. When done a skewer inserted into the pudding should come out clean.   Unmold onto a warm serving plate.  Serve warm, cut into wedges with pouring cream, brandy sauce or custard.

Note - for a trivet I use a large metal canning jar ring, which works very well

It won't be long before Spring will be here and we won't be wanting these winter desserts, so I thought I would get in one more before we move onto other things.  If you are looking for a tasty, yet simple dessert to feed your family this weekend, look no further. This one is all that and  more!  Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Lemon Sauced Salmon Cakes

Lemon Sauced Salmon Cakes

These salmon cakes are one of our absolute favourite suppers.  They are very quick and simple to make and don't use anything out of the ordinary. In fact I am betting you have everything in your larder and refrigerator to make these for your tea tonight!

These crisp tender little salmon cakes are made using tinned salmon. You could also use leftover poached salmon as well if you wanted to.  But the tinned salmon is very convenient.  I always keep several tins of the boneless skinless salmon in the cupboard to use for things like these cakes.

I use minced red onion in mine, (for a bit of colour), but you can just as easily use plain brown onions or even spring onions, which also add a bit of colour.  Other than that, you need nothing more than a bit of cornmeal, some flour, eggs and cream. I use no-fat evaporated milk instead of the myself. It helps to save on fat and calories, which works very well, but if you aren't bothered those things, go ahead and use the cream!

I have cut down on some of the fat for frying them as well.  The only way to get that crisp exterior is to fry them, baking doesn't cut it.  But with only a tsp each of butter and olive oil, its not too bad altogether.

The lemon sauce is luxurious.  No two ways about it.  With butter, flour, lemon juice, water and a bit of seasoning and some sugar, it is exellent spooned over the cakes.  The sauce is so flavourful that a little bit goes a very long way.

These salmon cakes are crisp and flavourful . . .  the sauce rich and luxurious . . .  the two together are quite heavenly.

They go very well with steamed new potatoes and a green vegetable.  If you didn't want to make the lemon sauce, you could also make  creamed peas to spoon over the cakes.  I can promise you thugh, however you choose to make them, you are sure to enjoy!  Who says delicious needs to be complicated!

*Salmon Cakes with a Lemon Butter Sauce*
Serves 4 

These are delicious and very easy to make.   

For the salmon cakes:
2 large free range eggs
60ml of heavy cream (1/4 cup)
45g of cornmeal (1/4 cup)
4 TBS minced red onions
2 TBS plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 large can of salmon, drained, skinned and boned or two smaller ones
(I buy the boneless, skinless salmon.  It comes in a 125g (6-oz) tin.  I use two of those)
1 tsp each butter and olive oil for cooking
For the Sauce:
the juice of one large lemon
120ml of cold water (1 cup)
65g butter (1/4 cup)
1 1/2 TBS plain flour
1 TBS sugar
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

First make the Sauce.  Whisk together the lemon juice and water.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Whisk in the flour and sugar.  Cook, stirring for about a minute.  Slowly whisk in the water/lemon mixture.  Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture boiled and thickens.   Season with some salt and pepper to taste.  Taste and adjust sweetness if necessary.  Keep warm.

To make the Salmon Cakes, beat the eggs.  Beat in the cream, cornmeal, minced onions, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.  Flake the salmon into the mixture.  heat the butter and oil in a large non-stick skillet, over medium heat.  Once heated, shape heaped dessertspoons of the salmon mixture into a ball and then flatten out.  Place into the hot fat. Cook for about five minutes per side, until golden brown.

Serve the warm salmon cakes with the lemon sauce for spooning over top.  Delicious!

Its also very easy to cut the quantities for the salmon cakes in half to serve fewer people. I do it all the time, as there are only two of us.  I have never cut the sauce recipe in half, but I dare say it wouldn't be that difficult to do so.  In any case you are sure to enjoy!  Fish for Friday, Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich

I have always loved sandwiches.  Put  a tasty filling between two pieces of bread and I am all over it like a rash. I am like my Aunt Freda in that respect. She also loved sandwiches and watching her enjoyment in eating one was an experience in pure and utter joy. Having been diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic several years ago, I had thought that sandwiches would be off the menu for me forever.  I recently discovered the joys of sandwich thins however and I am back enjoying what I have always loved!  Yay!

They come in several flavours . . .  white, brown, seeded, and high protein whole meal. You can also get gluten free ones. 

 This is the nutritional values of one of the High Protein Whole Meal Sandwich Thins, so as you can see, they get the green light in sugars and saturates and are very low in calories as compared to two slices of bread, with only 14.8g of carbohydrates per sandwhich thin, which is adequate for one sandwich. A slice of wholemeal bread has 16.9g of carbs and weighs in at 99 calories per slice, so double that for a sandwhich and you will see why I am now taking the sandwich thin route.  They are also great toasted so instead of my usual two pieces of toast that I was having in the evening, I am now having one of those toasted and thinly spread with sugar free peanut butter, fulfilling my desire to have peanut butter toast before bed.  I am hoping that in making small changes like this day by day I will be making a difference.

Today I used a brown one because I was all out of the protein whole wheat ones. (Actually I haven't been able to find them lately in my shops)  There is an additional 4g of carbs in a brown one, about the same as a white one.  Did you know that the only difference between white and brown bread is the colour?  Yep!  Brown bread is simply white bread with brown colouring added.  It is not any better nutritionally than white bread.  If I continue to have a hard time finding the whole wheat ones, I am going to have to figure out a way to make my own . . .  sigh . . .

This Curried Chicken Salad filling is delicious and very low in fat.  Using both low fat sour cream and a tiny bit of low fat mayonnaise, it is filled with flavour.  The Curry powder adds some lovely spice, and there is a bit of sweet from some chopped raisins and crunch from the use of celery and spring onions.

I like to add a hefty layer of salad greens to the middle of mine, which adds plenty of colour and additional nutritional value.  (Crunch too!)

Today I used superfood salad greens, which includes baby kale, spinach, rocket, peppercress, beetroot and baby chard.  Lots of colour and lots of crunch.  I love them!

You don't need to worry about the bread getting soggy if you are eating this right away, which is usually a problem with sandwiches that are going to be held for a long time prior to eating. If this is the case, and you are wanting to take this to work, I recommend bring the filling separately in a small container and spreading it onto the bread just before eating. That way you can get around the added fat and calories of adding a bread spread.

Altogether this makes for a very satisfying and delicious sandwich. with plenty of flavour, colour and crunch!  I hope you'll want to try it out. You could leave out the raisins and add the equivalent in chopped dry roasted nuts, but I like the little hint of sweetness from the raisins myself.

*Curry Chicken Salad Sandwich Filling*
Makes 2 sandwiches

This delicious filling features the crunch of celery and spring onions, along with the spice of curry and a tiny bit of sweet from some chopped raisins. 

30g reduced fat sour cream (1/4 cup)
1 TBS reduced fat mayonnaise
1/2 tsp curry powder (you can use less if you want less heat)
250g cooked chicken breast meat, cubed (2 cups)
1 stalk celery, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
1 spring onion, washed, trimmed and finely chopped
2 TBS raisins chopped coarsley
salt and black pepper to taste

Blend the sour cream, mayonnaise and curry powder together.  Stir in the chicken, celery, onion and raisins.  Taste and adjust seasoning as required with salt and pepper.  Use to fill your sandwiches. 

As a Diabetic I like to use whole wheat sandwich thins.  I put half of my serving of chicken salad on the bottom sandwich thin, and the other half on the top sandwich thin.  I add a hearty layer of salad greens and then put the two sides together, with the filling sandwiching the greens in the middle.  Yum!

Todd had his on a long buttered Brioche torpedo roll, without the salad. (He is not a salad lover.)  I didn't feel hard done by with what I had, in fact, truth be told I felt I had the more delicious of the two sandwiches!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Winter Vegetable Gratin

Winter Vegetable Gratin

Oh, how I do love Gratins . . .  who wouldn't with their creamy well flavoured base . . .  spread out in shallow dishes to maximize all of the golden deliciousness of a crisp topping.  I have never met a Gratin I didn't fall in love with, but they can all too often be quite high in unhealthy fat and not needed calories!!  It doesn't have to be so however, and I am going to prove this to you today with a fabulous vegetable gratin, that is not only low in fat, but also healthy, Diabetic friendly, contains several of your five-a-day, as well as being deliciously filled with plenty of flavour to boot!

I found myself at the end of last week with some vegetables that needed using up before I went for my next grocery shop, and I wanted to do something that I could use them all up in . . .  half a bag of Brussels sprouts, half a savoy cabbage and a couple of lone leeks.  Typical vegetables that are abundant at this time of year.  Lovely and green and filled with fibre and lots of vitamins.  It is common knowledge that vegetables from the Brassica (Cruciferous) family (Sprouts and cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) are filled with anti-oxidents, and plenty of Vitamin C and Folic Acid.

Leeks on the other hand, a member of the allium family, with their unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients, belong in your diet on a regular basis. There is strong research evidence for including at least one serving of an allium vegetable in your meal plan every day.  Not a problem as I love all of the members of the onion family . . . leeks, onions, shallots, garlic . . .

I think it is safe to say that this lovely gratin is a powerhouse of all things that are good for you!  Rather than using fatty cream and whole milk for a sauce . . .  I have mixed 2% (semi skimmed) milk and water, along with a stock cube and some flour. Mixing the milk, water, stock cube and flour in a blender, made for a smooth lump free mixture that only needed heating, whilst stirring to thicken up nicely.  A smidgen of cheese  is added to help create a lovely creamy sauce that is filled with plenty of flavour.

I have used only 6 TBS of cheese for the whole dish, including the topping. I used three different kinds, strong (sharp) cheddar, Parmesan and Swiss . . . all cheeses that are packed with flavour.  The more flavour a cheese has, the less of it you will have to use.  Fact.  I also made good use of some grainy Dijon mustard to impart even more flavour to the sauce along with  some black pepper.   I found that the sauce was so tasty, that I didn't need to add salt at all, bonus!

Four tablespoons of the cheese go into the sauce, and the remaining two are combined with some whole wheat bread crumbs for the topping.  Whole wheat bread crumbs give a lovely nutty crunch.  All in all this is a really fabulous dish.  I could eat a plate of this and nothing else!  I was more than pleased with the results! 

*Winter Vegetable Gratin*
Serves 6
This is a fabulous side dish, filled with lovely vegetables and a low fat, diabetic friendly, delicious cream sauce.

250g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (1/4 pound)
1/2 of a Savoy cabbage, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 - 3 fresh leeks, trimmed, well washed and cut into thick slices
3 TBS flour (use white whole wheat if you can get it)
240ml semi skimmed Milk (1 cup)
(You can use skimmed and decrease the fat even further)
240ml water (1 cup)
1 vegetable stock pot or cube
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 TBS whole grain mustard
2 TBS each grated Parmesan Cheese, Strong cheddar cheese and Emmenthaler cheese (swiss cheese), divided
4 TBS soft whole wheat bread crumbs

Prepare your vegetables and then bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil.  Add the vegetables and then blanche for 4 to 5 minutes.  Drain well and then refresh in cold water.  Drain well again.  Set aside to finish draining.

Put the flour, milk, water, stock pot, nutmeg, and pepper into a food processor.  Blitz until smooth.  Pour into the saucepan you used to cook the vegetables in.  Cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat  until the mixture bubbles and begins to thicken.  Cook, stirring, for several minutes.  Mix together the cheeses. Remove 2 TBS and mix into the bread crumbs. Set aside.  Stir the remainining cheese into the sauce, whisking until it melts.  Whisk in the mustard.  Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Spray a gratin dish lightly with low fat cooking spray.  Layer in half of the drained vegetables, half the sauce (making sure you drizzle it evenly over all) the remaining vegetables and then finally the remaining sauce.  Sprinkle the breadcrumb cheese mixture evenly over top.

Bake in the preheated oven fore 30 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.  Serve hot.

I am enjoying this challenge of healthier eating.  It doesn't have to be boring if you use a bit of ingenuity.  We had this with some steamed salmon, and Todd had some baby potatoes with his. It all went down a real treat!  Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner

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