HonestlyLucy – Hitting the Market?

baking, blog, career, childline, cookies, cooking, cupcakes, doughnuts, festivals, lifestyle, naughtiness, naughty recipes, nottingham, wellbeing

Recently I’ve been having a think about my career, and whether or not I’m on the path I want to be on. Not headache inducing at all, she says, words dripping with the thickest sarcasm known to man. The thing is I do enjoy my job. I like the team I work with and I’m pretty lucky to be given some quite cool opportunities. I’ve been working in my role for about 2 years and I like to think I’m pretty damn good at it. It’s taught me an awful lot about working in an office and at events, the importance of details and the art of juggling professionalism with a ‘quirky’ personality; and I’m really grateful for all of that. The thing is, as much as all of those statements are true, my job is largely an admin role, and it’s not really what I did my degree for. At uni I studied Psychology with English Literature, whilst volunteering as a counsellor at Childline and an assistant at The Stroke Association’s weekly group meetings; whilst also being a programme rep for both the Psychology department and the English department. It was hectic but I really, really loved it. I’m used to having a billion and one things to juggle, and right now I only have a couple, and it’s starting to make me itch. So it’s time for a new challenge.

The idea of selling the things I bake has been loitering around the jumble sale that is the back of my mind for months now. I’ve even got a food standards agency certificate for my kitchen to prove it – 5 stars I’ll have you know! I just haven’t known where to start. The closest I’ve ever got to studying business is watching The Apprentice, and I’m fairly confident that Sir Alan has no interest in my cookie topped brownies. I’ve had fleeting thoughts about maybe applying for a stall at Summer food festivals, which I’ve then shooed away. I’ve attended enough of those to know that they get busy as all hell, and I don’t know that I’m quite ready for that yet.

I’ve worked enough manically hectic Christmases in a discount store to know how to handle a queue of customers – I ain’t scared! The retail side of things I can solidly say, I have down – references upon request. It’s more the production I’m concerned about. How much of everything do I need to bake? Do I buy boxes to put customer’s stuff in, or are bags better? Do I need an adapter for my phone so I can take card payments? I have been knocking around good old planet Earth for long enough now to know that these are the kinds of questions that can only be answered with experience. I’ve also picked up and dropped enough hobbies to know that it’s all too easy to end up severely out of pocket with not a great deal to show for it if you move too fast, too soon. And hello, I’m a broke millennial, I ain’t got time for that!

When I first moved to Nottingham, Andy discovered a company called Phat Doughnuts (which swiftly changed to The Nottingham Doughnut Company after a few name related legal implications). Their premise was essentially: doughnuts on delivery. We ordered from them for my birthday one year and fell in love. In addition to the delivery service, they traded at local markets. That company eventually grew into a pretty massive business success story. Within about 18 months, they went from delivering doughnuts by hand, to running a hugely successful store and having several employees. These days I am 100% convinced that they are the sole reason I will never be a size 8. Seriously. If you’re ever in Nottingham you absolutely NEED to track them down and try one. Anyway, I find their story really inspiring. They really did start from nothing and build what has the potential to be an empire. Far be it for me to assume that every story will be as successful as theirs – this much I have learned from Sir Alan. But it certainly gives me food for thought – no pun intended. Ok, pun definitely intended.

So I had a think about the local markets they used to trade at, and paid a visit to the vegan version of Sneinton market which takes place on the first Saturday every month. I imagine the vegan market is a bit smaller than the regular market, but visiting helped me to realise that it’s not out of my reach. With all of that in mind, I’ve just submitted my application to trade there, which feels very bizarre. I’ll have to wait to hear back of course – maybe they have no use for yet another baked goods stand? But if they do, I shall be sure to blog about it.




Halloween Cupcakes

baking, cupcakes, halloween

Ok so I have to admit, in comparison to the cute pinterest ghost meringues or pumpkin shaped rice crispie treats, my humble little cupcakes aren’t going to win any points for innovation in baking, but still. Who’s going to complain about a good cupcake, right? Certainly not the people I work with, that’s for sure.

On Thursday night, I set about baking some halloween cupcakes for my office buddies. My baking cupboard is looking a bit sparse at the moment, and I don’t like to spend extra cash on ingredients if I don’t have to. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m scrooge – If I’m baking somebody a birthday cake I don’t mind, but for a general Halloween treat? Nah mate. So, collecting the remnants of my bakers stash I found I had all the ingredients for some chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting, dyed purple and orange to make them a bit more festive.

I used Sally’s Baking Addiction for the cupcake recipe. I swear, I’ve never had a bad bake out of her recipes. I really love that she translates all of the ingredients into grams for us British folk who have weird sized cup measures and aren’t really sure what a stick of butter is. If you want to try your own, the recipe is here. I can whole heartedly confirm by the way, that the Nutella frosting that goes with that recipe is worthy of its own religion. But alas, I didn’t have any Nutella in. Which begs the question, is a house really a home if it doesn’t contain a jar of Nutella?

Whilst contemplating my empty shell of  Nutella-less house, I set about making some regular vanilla buttercream frosting, which I split into two bowls – one to dye orange and one to dye purple. Now. This is where things went a touch pear shaped. I used Dr Oeteker’s gel food colouring, and got through an entire tube of each. I was expecting a neon orange (as the packet declared) and a deep purple. What I actual got was a mid tone orange and a slightly post pastel purple. Suffice to say, Dr Oeteker and I are no longer mates. Still, in spite of the buttercream not exactly being the shades I’d hoped, I have to say, I think the finished product still looked pretty good.

To ice, I used a standard disposable piping bag with metal nozzle I bought in a pack of two on amazon for about £5. I don’t have a dual piping bag yet, although it is on the ‘to buy’ list. Instead, I lined one crease of the piping bag with orange butter cream and the opposite with purple, which created a slightly more blended swirl effect, but a swirl effect all the same. To be honest, after the Dr Oeteker beef, I couldn’t really be bothered to spend much time on the icing. Such a defeatist. So yeah, perhaps not as neat as it could be, but hey! It’s Halloween, things aren’t supposed to be pretty and perfect, right? Right?! Moving on. The decorations came courtesy of Asda and Aldi. Asda for the plastic spiders and aldi for the black/silver/orange sprinkly bits. One of my favourite things about Aldi is that every ‘holiday’, they seem to have special baking bits in, and they’re all at such reasonable prices it’s basically impossible to say no.

So, the fruits of my culinary labour? See below:

Healthy Junk Food: Banana, Oat and Peanut Butter Cookies

baking, cookies, healthy

My relationship with bananas is a bit unfortunate really. As a person who is quite into fitness, I come across approximately 832 recipes a week for post workout smoothies, oaty breakfast bakes etc; all of which are laden with banana. I’m not a fussy eater at all. In fact I’ll pretty much eat anything you put in front of me. Unless it happens to have the faintest trace of banana. I literally can’t bare it, and that fact irritates me. I want to join in on the one ingredient banana ice creams of the world. The sliced banana sandwiched with peanut butter dunked in chocolate. Oh cruel world, why did you curse my taste buds like this?!

With that in mind, it probably seems a bit odd that I’m posting a recipe for something with a banana base. This is explained by the simple fact that my boyfriend loves bananas, to the extent he buys 14 a week, and inevitably realises 5 days into the week that 2 bananas a day, every day, is a bit much even for a banana lover. Underneath bananas on my list of things I hate, is food waste. Overripe bananas shall not escape from this household regardless of my dislike for them.

Previously I’ve used leftover bananas to make a delicious chocolate and banana loaf cake, laden with cocoa powder, brown sugar, melted dark chocolate and an array of chocolate chips. But alongside my cursed taste buds, I was also gifted with a snail paced metabolism and an intense love for food, meaning the battle to not look and feel like a beached whale is quite the bloodbath for me. To combat my ‘cuddliness’, I try to eat healthy most of the time (she says, with a duck slow roasting in the oven). So instead I had a search for healthy banana bakes, and came across a recipe for oaty banana cookies. One of my favourite things about this recipe, is it only contains ingredients which you’ll probably have in the house anyway, so no going out to buy any ingredients especially. Yay!

The recipe and method are simple:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
  • Use a fork to mash 2 very ripe bananas into a large mixing bowl
  • Stir in half a cup of peanut butter
  • Add a cup and a half of oats and a teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Mix together until combined, then use a spoon to form ‘cookie dough’ balls
  • Bake on 180 degrees for 12-15 minutes (until firm)
  • Leave to cool on tray, et voila.

As a side note, I decided to whizz up a cup of the oats in the nutribullet to make a sort of oaty flour. I wanted these cookies to veer more towards the cookie side of things than the flapjack side, so I figured the smoother blitzed oats would help to achieve this. I also used 2 different types of peanut butter. Not might I add, before having to hoist myself onto our kitchen counter and clamber without the merest hint of elegance to my feet, in order to reach the peanut butter at the top of the cupboard. And here lies the problem with having a 6’6 boyfriend when you are 5’3. Anyway, once I finally reached the peanut butter, I decided to use a mixture – quarter of a cup of cinnamon and raisin flavour, and quarter of a cup of mighty maple. I’d come across a few recipes which called for cinnamon or maple syrup, so this was a handy shortcut. The peanut butter I use by the way (if you’re interested to know where such magical flavours come from), is Peanut Butter & Co .*

Obviously, my banana aversion means I can’t tell you from personal recommendation whether these were good or not, but given I was only able to photograph 4 of them (the others had mysteriously disappeared), I assume they’re pretty tasty. As a bonus, nutritionally the ingredients all point towards a great post workout treat. Oats contain carbs, peanut butter contains protein and banana has lots of potassium, so your torn muscle fibres will thank you for munching one or two of these after a heavy gym sesh. Winner winner, chicken dinner!

*Fun fact – I met my boyfriend online. When we met for the first time in person, he bought me a jar of their dark chocolate dream flavour peanut butter. A bit different to flowers, but it’s a year and a half later and we’re still together so…

Jamie’s Superfood: Sweet Potato Breakfast Muffins

baking, Breakfast, cooking

Last Sunday I went back to the humble abode of my parental figures for dinner. As I’ve mentioned before, the best thing about moving out is that when you go back home, you’re parents treat you like you’re a guest. I mean, I offered to help my mum with dinner but she insisted that she’d got everything under control. So with that out of the way, what else was I supposed to do, if not recline on the sofa with a cuppa and watch Jamie Oliver’s Superfood? Exactly. So that’s what I did.

On the show, he made some breakfast muffins, but not your typical English muffins, not even your good old crumbly blueberry treat. This show is all about getting the most health wealth out of your food without compromising on flavour. This recipe has a sweet potato base with chilli, spring onions (scallions if you’re American) and parmesan, to name but a few of the other ‘slap you around the face’ ingredients. My boyfriend’s eyes basically lit up like the Eiffel Tower at night when he heard Jamie say that for 400 calories, you could have not one but two of these bad boys for your brekkers. So I decided to give them a try. Pictured below is everything I used. You can find the link to the exact recipe here (link).

So to start with, can I just point out that grating 600g of sweet potato by hand is a workout and a half? Seriously, brace yourself! Once that horrendous task was out of the way (oh the drama), the recipe was a cinch. It’s just a case of putting everything in a bowl and mixing together, with the exception of a bit of half time slicing of the spring onions and chilli. Although actually, Nigella Lawson once kindly taught me* that kitchen scissors are much less strenuous way of slicing spring onions, so I just used those and snipped them directly into the bowl. Simples. I mean maybe it is actually quicker to use a knife, if you have knives that are actually decent, sharp kitchen knives, and not ones you bought just because they came in a cool little ‘man shaped’ holder so it looks like you’re stabbing him….but anyway, I digress.

The only thing I changed about the recipe is that Jamie asks that you reserve some of the chilli to sprinkle on top of the raw muffin mix once it’s in the cases. I mean, I don’t hate spicy food, but I’d never order anything above a medium heat if I went to an Indian restaurant. As you might imagine, the thought of my breakfast being topped with big old fiery chilli slice waiting to burn my lips into oblivion just wasn’t doing it for me; so I just finely chopped the whole thing and whacked it into the mixture. I know technically it’s the same amount of chilli, but I’d just rather have it evenly dispersed in little flecks, so it’s more of a subtle ‘hummy’ heat, rather than a big intense hit. But each to their own. I actually really wish I had a higher tolerance for spice. One of my friends from university, Simon, once said with my personality it doesn’t seem quite right that I don’t eat raw chillies for dinner every night. I’m not 100% sure that was a compliment, but either way I like it.

The recipe says to cook for between 45-60 minutes. My oven is fan assisted, so things tend to cook on the quicker side of things, so 45 minutes was enough to make sure everything was cooked, firm and smelling bloody incredible. Another thing to note, I used muffin cases for my muffins, rather than squares of baking parchment, and found that the mixture actually made 16 muffins rather than 12, so yay that.

I’ve just realised I’ve written this whole blog post about muffins that I’ve not actually tasted yet….

Ok, I’ve just tried one (all in the name of truthful and accurate blogging). Can confirm that they are indeed very tasty. I think they are something I would rather eat as an afternoon snack – maybe at like 3 o clock as some pre gym fuel, rather than as a breakfast; but that’s just because I love the more traditional breakfast foods so much. I think it will be a long time before I swap out my morning porridge or eggs; but you never know!

*note: Nigella Lawson didn’t just pop round to my house to teach me that kitchen scissors are a handy alternative to a knife – it was on her tv show. Although if this blog ever takes off and Nigella reads this – you’re welcome to pop round any time!

Chocolate, Coconut and Walnut Cookies.

baking, cookies, food, recipes

I have a half enforced rule in my house that we don’t buy junky snack foods. Crisps, cookies, chocolate bars – all the processed treats of my youth – banned. Between me and my boyfriend, who both have a tumultuous relationship with food, it’s just better to not have it on hand; that way if a craving occurs, there’s no instant gratification option available. However, on occasion my sweet tooth rules the roost so much so, that when there is nothing in the house to satisfy it, my mind assumes that the only logical solution is to bake something. And that my friends, is how today’s chocolate, coconut and walnut cookie creation was conceived.

I used this recipe:

¾ cup of plain flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

113g unsalted butter (room temp)

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large, free range egg

¾ cup desiccated coconut

½ cup chopped walnuts

The original recipe (link) asks for ½ a cup of chocolate chips too, but alas, my cupboards could not stretch to such luxury, so there’s a good chance this batch weren’t quite as delicious as they could have been, but still…

To make:

First and foremost, I set the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and lined two baking trays with greaseproof paper. As a child, I always neglected this step, my eager little head in too much of a rush to get to the good bit – the mixing and sieving and making a mess for my poor mum to clean up. As you might imagine, this lead to some pretty damn poor baking creations. Take it from Lucy (age 8), always get the boring bits out of the way first.

Next, I mixed the flour, cocoa, bicarb, baking powder and salt into a Barbie pink bowl. (Barbie pink colour not necessary.) At this point I also combined the ingredients with a fork – handy, as I also forgot to sieve my cocoa – the fork technique breaks up a lot of the bigger lumps.

I then added both types of sugar and the butter (cubed) into the bowl of my standing mixer. My mixer is by Andrew James – I’m a recent graduate in my first post uni job – my KitchenAid dreams will have to wait until my bank balance has recovered a little. I then used the whisk attachment to beat these on mid/high speed until the ingredients were soft, fluffy and smelling like heaven.

At this stage, I added the egg and vanilla extract to the sugary buttery mix, and then whipped the whole lot together using the stand mixer again. Just a little tip, it’s always worth cracking your eggs into a separate bowl before you add them to any other ingredients. This way, if you’re unfortunate enough to come across a bad egg, or even if you just drop a bit of shell, you haven’t wasted any other ingredients.

Next, I added in the flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Once everything in this bowl was combined, I used a big spoon to mix in the coconut and walnuts. Don’t bother trying to use the mixer to mix these in – the walnuts will cause havoc and it’s just not worth the fuss. A bit of elbow grease is all you need.

Now for bake. I found this recipe to be quite unusual, because it didn’t require the cookie dough to be chilled. It’s usually cookie baking 101 to chill the dough, at least for a little while before baking. As I once read – it helps the flavours get to know each other. Both cute and disturbing imagery depending on how you think about it. I decided to do a bit of ‘sperimenting. I baked half the cookies straight away, and chilled the other half of the dough overnight and baked the next morning. I suppose it depends on personal preference, but the cookies baked straight away were a lot more thin and chewy, whereas the chilled dough gave a more soft but crunchy cookie. I definitely preferred the latter. To each their own though.

Left: chilled. Right: baked straight away.

Either way, the end result kind of tasted like a cookie version of a Bounty bar. I’m sure that will divide opinions, but for me, not a bad little bake considering it was derived purely from ingredients I happened to have in the house.

White  Chocolate Oreo Fudge

baking, cooking, food, naughtiness, naughty recipes, recipes

This is my idea of perfection because a) white chocolate and Oreos, duh; and b) it consists of 3 ingredients and requires precisely zero faffing around. 

You melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water, add the condensed milk, add the crushed Oreos, flatten into a baking pan and Bob is your proverbial uncle. All you have to do from there on out is resist the urge to cram the whole pan into your face before it has set into delicious, delicious fudgey goodness. 

Here’s how I set about creating the best treat in the world:

Melt 500g white chocolate in a bowl, above a pan of simmering water. Don’t let the bowl touch the water!

When the chocolate is melted, add in one tin (approx 400ml) of condensed milk. I used the lighter version, but to be honest I kind of felt like I was applying a barbie plaster to a severed leg. 

Once mixed together, add in your broken/crushed Oreos. I like mine to be chunkyish, but you could play around with a blender to get different consistencies if you prefer.  
If you manage to complete this step without snaffling a square of chocolate, then you are a better person than me.   

Load your mixture into a baking tray or Pyrex dish lined with grease proof paper, and spread out. Pop in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours. 

  I’m particularly fond of the way that the condensed milk sort of semi seizes the chocolate so that if you only have enough ingredients to make half a pan, you don’t have to worry about making the world’s thinnest fudge. Also, very much enjoy feeling like Moses parting the sea. 

 Remove form the fridge and cut into chunks. Above you can see the finished product. Filthy, isn’t it?

Choccie Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting and Cookie Crumbs

baking, cupcakes, food, naughty recipes

Yup. I went there.

I’ve been feeling SO tired lately. Not in a sleepy sort of way, more in a ‘it’s been 6 months since I had a break from work and if I don’t inject a hit of something different into my life soon I’m going to fall apart and it won’t be pretty’ *sharp intake of breath* sort of way. And in the most minor of ways, these cupcakes are that hit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still counting down the days until my week of annual leave starting August the 3rd; but I think this will keep me going until then. Also see: Lucy, disperse your annual leave more wisely across the year.

It might seem a bit bullshit-esque for somebody who predominantly blogs about food and baking to describe baking cupcakes as something different, but actually, I can’t remember the last time I baked cupcakes. For a long time I had a bit of an axe to grind with them. I kind of just saw them as sponge cake with a fancy hat on, and I’ve never really been a hat person. However, nutella hats are quite a different beast.

This recipe is from sallysbakingaddiction, a blog I am ridiculously late to the party on. I love it though! I love that she ‘translates’ her ingredients list for us UK folk who are too lazy to download a conversion app. The only things I changed were swapping out granulated sugar for soft light brown sugar – just a preference, I think it adds more depth of flavour to chocolatey cakes; and skipping the double cream in the frosting recipe – because I forgot to buy it. The cookie crumb was my own little ‘sod the diet it’s a Sunday’ addition. I’m quite looking forward to taking these into work tomorrow. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it but I’m currently on a temp contract but will be interviewing for permanency this Summer. Our business manager has a sweet tooth. You connect the dots. Anyway, here is a 3 part architectural journey of these delicious little treats:

Slutty Naked Cakes:

Showing Off My Limited Skills with a Piping Bag

Hiding My Limited Skills with a Piping Bag in the Best Way Ever  

In other news, I still haven’t ran since I felt my ankle start to weaken. I’m supposed to have a 3.5 miler tomorrow, but I think I’m going to walk it instead, to test the waters. Ohhh I don’t know though. Maybe I could walk a mile, run a mile, walk a mile, run half. From a mental health perspective, I’m finding that I’m really missing the benefits that regular cardio brings. Dilemmas, dilemmas. I wish I had a little Personal Trainer Fairy hovering above my right shoulder at all times, telling me what the best thing to do is.  I now have images of my old PT, Will, who is heavily tattooed, shaved headed and very much PT looking, wearing fairy wings, a wand and a tiara with his sports gear. I think he would look fabulous.

WELL. That took a turn I was not anticipating when I began writing about cupcakes. I think I’ll go now, but enjoy the food porn!