Peanut Butter Pretzel Popcorn

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I'd like to consider myself a bit of a cinephile, a total homebody who's idea of a perfect night is spent on the sofa, curled up in front of a great film with a cat on my lap.  Those who follow me on Twitter probably already know that my genera of choice is horror, I was brought up on scary movies and it's an obsession that has only grown bigger with age. Now, if there's two things that go hand in hand, it's a great horror film and a overflowing bowl of popcorn.  It even works as something to hide behind if you're of the more squeamish natured.  Popcorn will protect you from Jason, I promise.


I always pop my own corn at home, store bought just doesn't cut the mustard with me. It never has the flavour punch I need, and don't even get me started on that awful sickly caramel number. Gross!  Not only is it super cheap to make your own popcorn but it's fast and the flavour combinations are endless.  One of my favourites is this peanut butter pretzel number. It's moreish, sweet and the pretzels add just enough crunch to stop you getting bored.  Perfect.

What is your favorite movie to enjoy with a big old bowl of popcorn? Any other horror addicts out there?


Peanut Butter Pretzel Popcorn


Ingredients:
  • 60g popcorn kernels, popped in hot oil.
  • 200g salted pretzels
  • 150g honey
  • 60g golden caster sugar
  • 125g creamy peanut butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 226g bag of mini Reeces peanut butter cups
Cooking Directions:
  1. Place your popped popcorn and pretzels in a large bowl, mix them together and set aside.
  2. Heat the honey, sugar, and vanilla extract in a large, heavy bottomed pan. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir through the peanut butter until melted and runny.
  3. Pour the melted peanut butter mixture over the popcorn and stir to combine ensuring all of the kernels are covered. Stir through the Reeces Cups, season with a sprinkling of salt and serve.
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Fully Loaded Nachos

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Isn't it just the worst when you're sat in a bar, waiting for a huge plate of nachos to arrive? Dreaming of lashings of fresh guacamole, mountains of melted cheese, cascading mounds of pico de gallo.  You're drooling right about now, aren't you? You're so ready for this meal, you could burst, then the waiter plops down the saddest plate of crisps you've ever seen. Store bought guac, jarred salsa and woe betide, disgusting gritty cheese sauce.  What's the point in life, why would you do something like that to the majestic nacho?!  Well, screw that, make your own and never be disappointed again.


It might seem like a lot of work, making your own guacamole and pico de gallo but trust me, it's worth it and hardly takes any time at all.   Plus, did I mention it's delicious and a million times better than store bought?



For some strange reason some people aren't big fans of coriander or jalapenos, Weird right?  So don't feel like you have to cover your nachos in the green stuff.  I absolutely love it so added a tonne at the end. Not only does it taste freaking amazing but it makes your nachos look bloody mouthwatering!

P.S. little tip, never EVER put lime in Blue Moon. I learned that the hard way, orange slices only. 



Fully Loaded Nachos


Ingredients
  • For the Pico De Gallo :
  • 3 tomatoes deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 red onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1tbsp chopped coriander
  • salt & pepper

  • For the Guacamole :
  • 1 large, ripe avocado
  • 1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1tbsp lime juice
  • salt & pepper

  • To Assemble the Nachos :
  • 1 bag lightly salted tortilla chips
  • 150g grated cheese (your choice)
  • 1 tin black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 150ml sour cream
  • 1tbsp chopped coriander
  • 1 jar pickled jalapenos
Cooking Directions
  1. First of all, make the pico de gallo but mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. For the guacamole, place all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Check the seasoning and set aside.
  3. To assemble the nachos, spread half of the bag of tortilla chips over a large ovenproof plate or tray and sprinkle with half of the grated cheese and half of the black beans. Top with the remaining nachos, cheese and beans, place into a preheated oven (170°C) for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Dollop spoon fulls of the pico de galo, guacamole and sour cream on top of the nachos and sprinkle with chopped coriander and pickled jalapenos.
  4. Serve with an ice cold beer and a good film.
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Wagon Wheel Brownies

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Were you even a British child in the early 90's if you didn't open your lunchbox to reveal a delicious chocolate Wagon Wheel sitting beside your sweaty cheese sandwiches?  They were the golden child of the school diners, kids would try and swap their whole lunch for a Jammy Wagon Wheel. Who wants a pink wafer when you can have the bad boy of the biscuit world.  Fast forward 23 years and I'm still partial, even though I'm pretty sure they have gotten significantly smaller. That or it's just my hands have gotten bigger, who knows.

Chocolate brownie swirled with marshmallow fluff, raspberry jam and studded with chunks of jammy waggon wheel.
 
After the success of my Jammy Dodger Blondies I've been on the lookout for more treats I can splice up into my baked goods.  When I saw the recipe for Wagon Wheel Brownies in Olive Magazine I just had to give it a go and cursed myself for not thinking of it first.  

Chocolate brownie swirled with marshmallow fluff, raspberry jam and studded with chunks of jammy waggon wheel.

Chocolate brownie swirled with marshmallow fluff, raspberry jam and studded with chunks of jammy waggon wheel.

Brownie batter, swirled with lashings of marshmallow fluff and raspberry jam with the periodic hunk of Wagon Wheel. What could go wrong?!  This is a brownie fit for a queen. Turn up anywhere with a tray of these babies and you'll make friends for life. Just don't blame me when they follow you around demanding more.

Chocolate brownie swirled with marshmallow fluff, raspberry jam and studded with chunks of jammy waggon wheel.


Wagon Wheel Brownies
( Based on a recipe from Olive Magazine)

Ingredients:
  • 375g unsalted butter
  • 375g good quality plain chocolate
  • 6 large, free range eggs
  • 350g golden caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 5tbsp marshmallow fluff
  • 5tbsp raspberry jam
  • 3 Wagon Wheel biscuits, roughly chopped
Cooking Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 170°C and line a 33x23 brownie tin with baking parchment.
  2. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan melt the butter and chocolate together over a low heat. Allow to cool slightly. Mix the eggs and sugar together in a large jug and pour into the melted chocolate, mix till combined. Add in the flour and stir until just combined, take care not to over mix at this point.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out. Spoon blobs of marshmallow fluff and raspberry jam over the brownie batter and marble with a knife. Poke chunks of Wagon Wheel throughout the brownies. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until there is just a slight jiggle in the centre of the pan. Leave to cool completely, preferably overnight in the fridge. Cut into squares and enjoy.
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Newcastle Eats - Zucchini Pasta Bar

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There's been a wee bit of a buzz about Newcastle newcomer Zucchini since it opened a few month ago. Normally, I'm not one to give into blogger hype, despite being one myself.  I tend to rely on word of mouth, or simple proximity to where I am, at the moment hunger strikes.  For Zucchini, I had to make an exception as it just looked too good to ignore.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

I dragged Kris for a blustery walk into Newcastle after work one Saturday, with the lure of all the pasta he could eat and if he was good, a cake and beer too.  Zucchini is located on the 55° North roundabout, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Newcastle City Centre. 

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

The restaurant has a wonderful chilled-out vibe. Minimal decor with clean open spaces gives Zucchini a total relaxed atmosphere. I could very easily see me whiling away a couple of hours with a selection of nibbles and a chilled bottle of wine without a care in the world.  It's been a long while since I dined alone but I could absolutely see myself feeling very comfortable as a solitary diner here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

We started out with a few sides, a beer and a glass of white wine.  In my humble opinion every meal should be accompanied by some sort of bread and oil, and this sourdough was just the ticket.  The thick, chewy crust was a thing of wonder. I would have liked a trickle of balsamic but that's just me being a bit finnicky.  I chose the Grissini nduja with creamy Gorgonzola, I mean do I even need to say anything more?! I have the biggest soft spot for nduja and if I see it on any menu, I just have to order it.  Many times I've been disappointed by my choice, faced with either low quality or chilli flakes masquerading as nduja (I'm looking at you, Zizzi) but not today.  Look at that hunk of sexy, spicy sausage hiding under the crisp grissini. I was on cloud nine!  The best part about it, the sides were all a mere £2 each. I'm kicking myself for not ordering more.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

On to the star of the show, the fresh pasta; which is made and hand rolled on site, may I add.  I went for the Pappardelle Amatriciana (Guanciale, tomato, white wine & pecorino) which was delicious.  The pasta was perfect, with just the right amount of bite. The chunks of Guanciale hidden within the folds of pasta made a wonderful change from the usual piggy suspect, pancetta. 

Kris chose the simple Tagliatelle Cioa E Pepe (parmesan, pecorino & black pepper).  It was rich, creamy and deliciously decident.  I love pepper and it really was the star of this dish, adding a slight heated punch to every bite.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Newcastles finally has a decent pasta bar, read all about my visit here.

Despite being absolutely fit to burst, I just couldn't turn down a desert. At just £3 a pop, I'd be daft not to indulge.  I've heard amazing things about their Tiramisu, but sadly it sits right atop my most hated sweets list, so that was out of the question.  Instead I opted for the chocolate mint truffles which came with a cute little hairpiece, which upon closer inspection turned out to be a chocolate mint candy floss.  What a neat little addition.  

All in, our bill came to £22.80.  I simply cannot believe the amazing value that Zucchini is knocking out.  If you consider that only a few days previous I was in Unos (out of necessity, I was on the quayside and hungry for pasta) and paid £25 for two bowls of pasta and two Pepsis. Needless to say, I'll be back to Zucchini, time and time again.  Mine's a white wine and a chunk of nduja, if you please.

Zucchini
55° North
Pilgrim Street
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE1 6BL









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Confetti Birthday Cake

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One thing about being a baker is whenever a birthday or special occasion arrises, all eyes fall on you. Not that I don't love showering my loved ones in sweet treats, there's nothing more satisfying that watching someone you love enjoying something you've created. Ocassionally, it becomes a bit of a chore, a busmans holiday if you will. Then you remember you bloody love making cakes, and making people happy is awesome, so you whip up a ridic cute and ridic easy confetti cake. Take a bow, you're the confection queen (or king) once more.

This super cute confetti cake will be the belle of any ball.

Confetti cakes are so easy to make, it's simply a vanilla cake with a tonne of rainbow sprinkles baked into the batter to give a glorious, speckled surprise.  Sadly, the majority of British rainbow sprinkles are a bit rubbish, we can't use all the fun colours found in American sprinkles you see.  If you can, get your mitts on some super bright confetti sprinkles. TKMaxx is a great place to find imported ones.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get my little hands on any pots of fun so my cake is a little subtle. The brighter the sprinkle, the brighter the final result.

This super cute confetti cake will be the belle of any ball.

If you're feeling super lazy, or super chill, you can always utilise a box mix and stir in a few handfuls of sprinkles.  I promise I won't tell.


This super cute confetti cake will be the belle of any ball.

This super cute confetti cake will be the belle of any ball.


Confetti Cake


Ingredients
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 350g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 6 large, free range eggs
  • 350g self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 4tbsp whole milk
  • 150g rainbow sprinkles

  • For the frosting :
  • 250g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 450g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 4tbsp whole milk
  • rainbow sprinkles to decorate
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C and line 3 9" cake tins with baking paper. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on a medium speed for 5 minutes until the butter is light and creamy. Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside. Turn the mixer down to a low speed and crack the eggs in one at a time. Once the eggs are fully Incorporated add half of the flour and mix to combine, add the milk and vanilla extract followed by the remaining flour and mix again. Stir through the confetti sprinkles.
  2. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tins and bake for 35 minutes until golden brown and the cake springs back when you touch it. Allow to cool in the pans for 20 minutes before removing them and placing on a baking rack to finish cooling.
  3. To make the frosting first mix the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and soft. Add the icing sugar, vanilla and 2tbsp of the milk. Turn the mixer on low and gradually increase the speed. Whip for 5 minutes, if the frosting looks too stiff add the rest of your milk. You may find you need a little more, just go steady until you reach a nice spreadable consistency.
  4. Spread the frosting on top of your first cake, top with the next cake and repeat. Pop your top layer on and spread the remaining frosting on top and bring the excess down the sides of the cake. Once you've covered the cake in a layer of frosting, grab a bench scraper and hold it against the cake, pressing firmly drag the scraper around the cake to remove the excess frosting and reveal the cake layers for a semi frosted look. Pile a little more frosting on top of the cake and make a nice little swirl. Sprinkle with a few more confetti sprinkles and enjoy.
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