Baking Christmas cookies

Baking Christmas cookies

Christmas is always a great time for baking and for get-togethers. So here are a few good recipes to get you into the mood.

Funky Christmas Cookies:

This is a very easy recipe and ideal for baking with children. First, make the dough and then get various cookie cutters and cut out the shapes you like. Finally decorate with tubes of edible writing gel, chocolate or other decorations. The more organic and well-sourced ingredients you can use, the better.

Ingredients: 120g butter, 120g plain flour, 60g semolina, 60g caster
sugar, 100g icing sugar.

1) Take a big bowl and put in the butter (leave outside for a few hours before use, so it is soft) and the flour. Then rub both together with your hands. If your hands get very messy and sticky, add some flour to your hands to make it less sticky.

2) Once the mixture resembles lots of little breadcrumbs, add the semolina and caster sugar. Then squash everything together until you have a firm ball of dough.

3) Set the oven to 150degrees/300F/or Gas Mark 2. Get out a baking tray to
place the cookies on.

4) Sprinkle some flour on a big wooden chopping board and then roll out the
dough with a rolling pin, make it quite thin, but not so thin that it breaks
easily.

5) Now use the cookie cutters to cut out various shapes and place them carefully on a baking tray. Once the tray is full put it in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Then take them out and leave them to cool. Whilst the first lot of cookies bakes, take the rest of the dough and repeat the step for another 4 to 5 times until there is no more dough left.

6) Add the icing sugar together with a tiny bit of water and mix together
until you have a gooey paste. Then add some natural colour and flavour (you can
find them in the baking section) and decorate your cookies.

Chewy Winter Chocolate Bites

These chocolate fudge pieces make a great Christmas present and you don’t
even have to bake them!

Ingredients: 200g/8oz plain chocolate, 50g/2oz butter, 1 tbsp cocoa
powder, 50ml double cream, 250g/9oz icing sugar, 8 glace cherries

1) Put the chocolate, butter and cocoa powder into a glass or ceramic bowl. Then take a saucepan and put some water in it and gently place a ceramic bowl over the saucepan, so that the water heats up the chocolate and melts it.

2) Stir everything together and pour the mixture into a plastic mixing bowl
and add the cream and beat in the icing sugar.

3) Chop the cherries into small pieces and fold them into the mixture.

4) Spoon the mixture into a shallow tin and smooth the top. Then chill the tin in the fridge until it is set. Once it is solid, cut it into small squares and put them into little muslin bags with ribbons. That makes a great Christmas gift.

Christmas Stollen

This is a German Christmas recipe and it is a sweet bread that contains
sultanas, nut, orange peel. This recipe makes roughly 30 portions.

Ingredients: 175g/6oz blanched almonds, 175g/6oz blanched sultanas,100g/4oz
currants, 100g/4oz finely dices glacee lemon peel, 100g/4oz finely dices glacee
orange peel, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar, grated rind of 1 unwaxed lemon, 3 tbsp of
rum, 500g/1lb 2oz plain flour, 20g/3/4 of oz dried yeast, 90g/3oz sugar,
125ml/half pint of lukewarm milk, 1 pinch of salt, 250g/9oz butter/ flour to
roll out the dough, 150g/5oz of melted butter, 100g/4 oz icing sugar to dust.

1) Grind half of the almonds and roughly chop the other half. Then combine
with sultanas, currants, glacee peel, vanilla sugar, lemon rind and rum. Cover
the mixture with cling film and leave overnight.

2) The next day put the flour into a large mixing bowl, make a dent in the
middle and add the yeast. Sprinkle some sugar over the yeast and then add the
lukewarm milk and dissolve the yeast This will take a little while.

3) Once the dough has risen add the marinated fruit mixture.

4) Sprinkle some flour on a board and spread the mixture to form a rectangle of roughly 40x 30cm/16x12in.
Brush it with water and place the stollen carefully on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise for a further 20min.

5) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/390 F/gas mark 6.  and bake the stollen in the center for around 40minutes.

6) Take the stollen out and check if it is well baked.Then brush it wih melted butter and dust it with icing sugar. Keep repeating this process until all the butter and icing sugar are gone. Wrap the stollen into an aluminum foil and leave at least for 3 weeks until it is ready for eating, because only then all the full flavours will develop.

Happy baking and eating!

Spices of Life – nutmeg

Spices of Life – nutmeg

Nutmeg is the ground pip of the nutmeg fruit growing on the evergreen nutmeg tree. When you open the fruit you will find the dark brown seed and woven around a bright red material called mace. This is also used in baking and other dishes, as it is less spicy than the actual seed, which is gourn into the wellknown nutmeg powder.

The nutmeg fruit, mace and nutmeg seed

The ground nutmeg spice is predominantly used as kitchen spice and it is rich in magnesium, vitamin B6, calcium and iron.

Today nutmeg is grown in Indonesia, Malaysia, Grenada and India where it flavours a lot of their traditional dishes. Nutmeg came to Europe when the Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish started to travel the world and brought exotic spices back from far away land.
During Elizabeth’s I reign nutmeg was said to ward off the plague and the price skyrocketed.

Nutmeg should be used sparingly, as excess intake can cause allergic reactions.

Recipes:

  • Carluccio’s Spinach ball pasta  
  • You will need:
  • 500g/1lb 2oz spinach washed thoroughly, tough stalks removed
  • 2 free-range eggs, beaten
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 garlic clove, blended to a purée with ½ tsp water
  • 110g/4oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 50g/2oz parmesan or similar vegetarian hard cheese, freshly grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil

For the courgette pasta sauce

  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 chili finely chopped
  • 2 courgettes, trimmed, finely grated
  • 60g/2¼oz parmesan or similar vegetarian hard cheese, freshly grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 400g/14oz rigatoni or similar pasta cooked according to packet instructions, drained (reserve a few spoonfuls of the cooking water)
  • How to cut your vegetables 

Method

  1. For the spinach balls, blanch the spinach leaves in a pan of salted, boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then drain well and refresh in cold water.
  2. Using your hands, squeeze out as much water from the blanched spinach leaves as possible, then finely chop the spinach.
  3. Transfer the blanched, drained spinach to a bowl, then stir in the beaten eggs, nutmeg, garlic purée, breadcrumbs and parmesan. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well until the mixture binds together, adding more breadcrumbs or more water, as necessary, to bind the mixture.
  4. Roll the spinach mixture into walnut-sized balls and place onto a baking tray.
  5. Cover the base of a frying pan in a thin film of olive oil. Heat gently over a low to medium heat.
  6. When the oil is hot, add the spinach balls, in batches if necessary, and fry for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until crisp and golden-brown all over. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. Keep warm. Repeat the process with the remaining spinach balls.
  7. Meanwhile, for the pasta sauce, heat the oil in a separate frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until softened but not coloured.
  8. Add the courgettes and continue to fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the courgettes have started to soften.
  9. Add the parmesan and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix until well combined, then stir in the reserved cooking water from the pasta and the cooked, drained rigatoni.
  10. To serve, divide the pasta and sauce equally among four serving plates. Place the fried spinach balls on top.

Home-made skincare using nutmeg

  • Reduces pigmentation and dark spots
  • Lightens skin
  • Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, fights spots and acne
  • Stimulates hair growth

and these are just a few

Recipe to lighten your skin:
Combine 1/4 tsp of nutmeg powder with 1 tsp of fresh lemon juibe and 1 tbsp of yoghurt in a bowl. Apply this mask to your skin (avoid the eye area and mouth) and rinse off with lukewarm water. Then apply a good moisturiser. If you have sensitive skin I would recommend a patch test, where you put a small amount onto your arm to see if it provokes a reaction. Do this 24 hours before applying the mask. Once you know you are fine, use this mask consistently 3-4 times per week to notice a difference.

Nutmeg Spot Treatment:
Add a pinch of cinnemon powder and a pinch of nutmeg powder into a small bowl. Add a few drops of fresh lemon juice to it and add 1/2 tsp of honey. Put this mixture onto your spots and leave on them for about 20minutes before rinsing this mixture off.

Youthful nutmeg skin mask:
Mix 1 tsp of honey, 1/2 tsp of nutmeg powder, 1 tsp of Greek yogurt to form a paste. Apply to your face and leave for about 10 min( as always avoid the face and mouth and do a patch test 24 hours before applying for the first time). Wash it off with lukewarm water and make sure it does not get into your eyes as nutmeg does sting!

Nutmeg toner:  
Use 1 tbsp of coconut milk and a pinch of nutmeg. Stir well and put into a small bottle, then apply on a cotton ball on a clean face.

Spices of Life – Cayenne Pepper

Spices of Life – Cayenne Pepper

Spices of Life – Cayenne Pepper

By Jutta Russell

Founder of Living with the Moon

Cayenne Pepper is an ideal spice for weight loss and that is why I have chosen it for January. It is a medium hot chili pepper, mostly red in colour. Like most chili pepper it grows on a bush and the ripe fruit is then harvested, dried and ground to a cayenne powder, which is used to flavour dishes. It originates from South America and was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 16th century. Here are the main benefits of cayenne pepper:

The capsaicin in cayenne peppers may help boost your metabolism. This can help people who suffer from a sluggish metabolism, but unfortunately, the body gets used to this effect. So this method is only to be used as a short-term boost rather than an everyday effect.

Cayenne Pepper/lemon and maple syrup cleanse: 

DAY1

I would say it is rather a cleanse than a diet. Start on the first morning (you need to start on an empty stomach) with the salt cleanse. 1 tablespoon of high-quality salt (like Himalayan salt) dissolved in a 1litre of warm water. Sip this and make sure you stay near a toilet for the next few hours, as you will have strong bowel movements.
Next-  prepare the Cleansing lemonade consisting of: 

  • 2 tbsp of organic lemon juice that must be freshly squeezed, no substitutes
  • 2 tbsp organic maple syrup, again strive for the best quality here
  • 1/10 tsp (so very small amount) of cayenne pepper (powdered)
  • 300ml (10 oz.) of filter water.

Drink as much you want over the course of the remaining day.

Just a word of warning: Choose a weekend or holiday for this, as many people are feeling headachy, light headed and you really want to stay in bed, relax, read and should not have a hectic day. Besides, you will need to visit the toilet on a fairly regular bases, so I advice you to call any social engagements off for the day.

DAY 2

If you still feel bloated repeat DAY 1 as above otherwise start with eating soups (home-made broth with vegetables) and drinking home-made smoothies or home-made fruit juices. Avoid anything commercially made as it invariably contains sugar and some form of preservatives.

DAY 3

Introduce solid food again. Today have some steamed green vegetables with a poached white fish or pieces of fruit.

Summary

Over these 3 days the only food intake allowed is 

DAY 1: The cleansing lemonade (drink as much as you want),

DAY 2: homemade soups and juices (broth with vegetables) – or just repeat Day 1.

DAY3: Steamed green vegetables and carrots, no potatoes and steamed white fish. No meat, dairies, sugar, anything preprepared, all juices and soups have to be home-made. If you opted for a 2 day cleanse, then start you liquid day on day 3 and go back to solids on DAY 4.

After you have finished the cleanse add some probiotic to you diet and start to eat as healthy as you can for as long as possible, but definitely stay off alcohol, tea, coffee, meat, dairies and anything process for at least a week to get optimum results.

Spices of Life – Cinnamon

In Europe cinnamon is the spice of Christmas and mostly used in Christmas decorations and for baking. The evergreen cinnamon tree grows predominantly in Indonesia and China and its fragrant bark is rolled up and left to dry. Then it is cut up into pieces known as...

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Spices of Life – Cinnamon

Spices of Life – Cinnamon

In Europe cinnamon is the spice of Christmas and mostly used in Christmas decorations and for baking. The evergreen cinnamon tree grows predominantly in Indonesia and China and its fragrant bark is rolled up and left to dry. Then it is cut up into pieces known as cinnamon sticks. Alternatively, it is available as a ground down mid-brown cinnamon powder.

Nowadays it is a must for every kitchen cupboard, but when it first entered the history books around 2500 B.C. it was so expensive that it was only used as an offering to kings and gods.  The Egyptian used it as part of the concoction in the mummification process and Pliny the Elder wrote that a Roman pound of cinnamon (roughly 320 pounds or 11.5 oz.) was worth the wages of fifty months’ of labour and therefore unimaginable for daily use.

From 1600 onwards the Dutch started to import cinnamon to Europe and later the British took over Ceylon from the Dutch and with it the cinnamon plantation. Then the East India company imported cinnamon together with tea and made it more accessible for the European taste.

Health benefits: It has anti-inflammatory properties and has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Adding a small amount of cinnamon into your daily diet can help people with type 2 diabetes. 

Cinnamon also helps to fight fungal and bacterial infections, helps with insulin resistance. So, all in all, it has many vital health benefits.

Cinnamon in the kitchen:

Cinnamon rolls: 

This a recipe from Sweden and makes wonderful pre-Christmas treats.

Here is what you need: 3/4 cup milk – 1/4 cup margarine or butter, softened – 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour  – 1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast – 1/4 cup white sugar – 1/2 teaspoon salt – 1/4 cup water – 1 egg – 1 cup brown sugar, packed – 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon – 1/2 cup margarine, softened,  1/2 cup raisins (optional) 

How to do it: 

  1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in margarine/butter and stir until melted. Let cool the mixture until it is lukewarm.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 1/4 cup flour, yeast, sugar and salt; mix well. Add water, egg and the milk mixture; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has just pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.
  3. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, softened margarine.
  4. Roll out dough into a 12×9 inch rectangle. Spread dough with margarine/butter/sugar mixture. Sprinkle with raisins if desired. Roll up dough and pinch seam to seal. Cut into 12 equal size rolls and place cut side up in 12 lightly greased muffin cups. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until browned. Remove from muffin cups to cool. 

Cinnamon and apple tea cakes

Ingredients: 75g/2¾oz butter, melted, plus extra for greasing – 100g/3½oz self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting – 100g/3½oz caster sugar – 1 free-range egg, beaten – ½ tsp almond extract – 60g/2¼oz Bramley apples, peeled and thinly sliced – 15g/½oz flaked almonds – 1 tsp of ground cinnamon – crème fraîche, to serve (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.

  2. Grease a cupcake tin or add muffin paper into each tin

  3. Pour the melted butter into a large bowl. Add the sugar, flour, egg, cinnamon and almond extract and mix together until combined.

  4. Spoon a little bit of the mixture into each paper and cover a layer of thinnly chopped apple pieces, then add some more batter and repeat the process finishing with a small layer of batter.  So batter – apples – batter – apples- batter

  5. Scatter each cake with flaked almonds. Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until well risen and golden-brown.

  6. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.  Serve warm with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Plum and cinnamon compote: 
500g of sweets plums, washed, cut in halves and stones taken out, juice of half a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.
Place the plums into a saucepan and cook until they have dissolved into a compote/jam-like consistency. Then fill into sterilized glass jars and add to your breakfast cereals or use neat with bread or croissants. This is a sugar-free recipe. If you want it a bit sweeter add a touch of Algave honey to it.

Cinnamon recipe for health and beauty: 

Cinnamon & sugar lip balm/scrub: 

This is a great recipe for the cold winter month. I found it in an old book the other day  and thought I use it on myself and absolutely loved it. It tastes nice, the sugar gently scrubs off any flakey bits and the olive oil and honey nourish the lips. If your lips are very chapped you can keep it on for a little while until it has soaked in.

Here is the recipe which takes a few minutes to make:

1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of raw honey, a small pinch of cinnamon.

Mix all ingredients into a paste and let it all settle a bit. Then rub it gently onto your lips. If your lips are very dry and cracked,  please make sure you don’t rub too much, instead let it this mixture soak in and then gently take off with a damp cotton.  If your lips are not cracked, then you can rub this mixture over them to achieve a peeling effect. Blot dry with a tissue.  The rest of the mixture you can fill into an empty pot or jar and repeat the appliation when required.

 

 

Spices of Life – Turmeric

Spices of Life – Turmeric

Following on from my popular blog series

Cooking with herbs

I have decided to start a new series, called Spices Of Life. Over the coming month I will introduce you to the many benefits and recipes. I hope it will help you to discover a world of flavours out there and best of all most of them come with added health benefits.
Bon appetit !

We are kicking this season off with

Turmeric, the spice of good health

fresh turmeric flower

is part of the ginger family and predominately cultivated in India and Southeast Asia. The fresh turmeric plant has pretty flowers and the fruit is ginger- like.

In order to make the fresh turmeric last longer, the plant is first boiled for 40 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, finally it is ground into the orange-yellow powder that most of us know as turmeric. It has a warm, pepper-like earthy flavour and it an essential part of many curries. Its vibrant colour is also used as a fabric dye.

Turmeric’s best known health benefits are that it is anti-flamatory and a potent antioxidant.  

Read more about tumeric’s health benefits and supplements

Turmeric in the kitchen:

So here are easy to cook and tasty recipes:

Scrambled eggs with turmeric:

A great way to start the day. You will need:

½ garlic clove, finely chopped – 100g spinach leaves -4 large eggs – 50ml coconut milk- 2 tsp grated turmeric –  2 slices sourdough bread, toasted

    1. Put the coconut oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat. Lightly fry the garlic, add the spinach leaves and wilt for a few mins – add a splash of water if they stick.
  1. Whisk the eggs with the coconut milk and turmeric. Season well. Add to the pan with the spinach and stir continuously for 5-8 mins until the scrambled eggs are at the desired consistency. Serve on slices of toasted sourdough.

Chicken Biryani:

300g basmati rice – 25g butter -1 large onion, finely sliced -1 bay leaf -3 cardamom pods -small cinnamon stick- 1 tsp turmeric- 4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into large chunks -4 tbsp curry paste – 85g raisins – 850ml chicken stock- 30g coriander (½ chopped, ½ leaves picked) and 2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds to serve.

    1. Soak 300g basmati rice in warm water, then wash in cold until the water runs clear.
    1. Heat 25g butter in a saucepan and cook 1 finely sliced large onion with 1 bay leaf, 3 cardamom pods and 1 small cinnamon stick for 10 mins.
    1. Sprinkle in 1 tsp turmeric, then add 4 chicken breasts, cut into large chunks, and 4 tbsp curry paste. Cook until aromatic.
    1. Stir the rice into the pan with 85g raisins, then pour over 850ml chicken stock.
    1. Place a tight-fitting lid on the pan and bring to a hard boil, then lower the heat to a minimum and cook the rice for another 5 mins.
  1. Turn off the heat and leave for 10 mins. Stir well, mixing through 15g chopped coriander. To serve, scatter over the leaves of the remaining 15g coriander and 2 tbsp toasted almonds.

Turmaric for Health and Beauty:
Surprisingly turmeric is also a fantastic skin cleanser and should be used by anybody who suffers from psoriasis, dry skin, dark circles under the eyes and wrinkles.

Here is a face mask I found that will help you with a clear complexion

Turmeric Face Mask for Glowing Skin compiled by Dr. Axe

Total Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 1–2 applications

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon organic apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of organic, raw, local honey
  • ½ teaspoon milk or yogurt
  • [optional] 1 drop lemon essential oil or fresh lemon juice for additional skin brightening

Directions:

  1. Wash face and hands first to remove impurities and any make-up.
  2. In a small bowl or jar, mix the turmeric powder with the honey, apple cider vinegar, milk or yogurt and optional lemon oil. Try to get a consistency that will stick to your face. Be careful not to make it too thin as it may drip.
  3. Apply the mask carefully avoiding your eyes.
  4. Allow the mask sit on your face for 15–20 minutes then rinse with warm water.
  5. If you have any leftover, you can cover and leave in the fridge for your next application.
  6. Apply twice a week for best results.
Cooking with herbs – winter rocket

Cooking with herbs – winter rocket

Welcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog series

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being. To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.

Winter rocket – barbarea vulgaris winter rocket

This herb grows about 30 to 60cm (12-24 inches) tall and has shiny, dark green leaves. Between April and July  it displays clusters of bright yellow flowers.

This herb shows a particular tolerance to beetles and moth and is the home of choice for many butterfly species. It is often planted on the side of a vegetable patch to encourage pollinators and to make sure the ‘ordinary crop’ is left alone.

Because of the superb flower display, this herb is often sown as a decorative plant and only few know that it is very useful in the kitchen.

How to cultivate it
Winter rocket is easily grown and the leaves are usually harvested before the flowers come out, so up until April. Add these aromatic leaves to your normal salads or steam them with a knob of butter and garlic as a side dish.

In late winter/early spring your body needs vitamins and winter rocket provides you with lot of vitamin C. In fact together with sloe and rosehip, winter rocket is one of the great, home-grown providers of vitamin C. Other health benefits include: blood cleanser and helps to maintain a good functioning digestion.

Here are a few recipes how to use winter rocket

1.  Mixed leaf salad bowl 

Ingredients: A small head of lettuce (chopped), two handfuls of winter rocket, 2 fresh carrots (cut into small pieces), 4 medium sized tomatoes and a few radishes. Wash and cut to size and then put them into a large salad bowl.
For the dressing: 6 tbsp olive oil, 3 tbsp wine or apple vinegar, salt, pepper, 2 glove of garlic and a bunch of parsley. 

Make the dressing in a separate jar and keep it apart. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and mix it in with two folks, so the salad is well-covered in dressing.

Tip: Only use as much salad and dressing as you will eat. If you keep them apart, this salad will keep well for a day or two. If the salad leaves start to wilt, then soak them for an hour in vinegar water (a bowl full of cold water and add a tbsp. of cider of wine vinegar). In an hour, the salad will be crisp again.

2. ‘Pick me up’ – tea 

Boil 3 cups of water and put them into a jug, then add a handful of winter rocket and leave to steep for 10 minutes. Drain the herbs and fill the tea into a thermos flask, sip throughout the tea. This is a great vitamin C booster and will help you with your concentration, so a ‘must try’ for everybody in the need of a natural boost.