Christmas flapjacks

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Two of my most favourite things in the world are Christmas and flapjacks, so imagine my delight when a friend passed this recipe on to me years ago. It has become a firm Christmas staple in our house, with friends and family alike reveling in the novelty of the fact they’ve not been served yet another mince pie, but yet they’re still experiencing those lovely warming Christmas flavours. What I find even more appealing is the fact you can knock them out in 45 mins including the half hour cooking time. Perfect for last minute guests.

Here’s what you’ll need:

8oz porridge oats
6oz soft brown sugar
3oz pain flour
6oz butter
1lb mincemeat
1/2 tsp bi-carb
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Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl.
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Melt the butter and mix into the bowl of dry ingredients to form a sticky flapjack.
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Press 2/3 of the mixture into a greased shallow baking dish.
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Spread the mincemeat on top. I make no apologies about using shop bought mincemeat for this as, let’s face it, who has time to make their own at this hectic time of year? I certainly don’t.
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Sprinkle the rest of the flapjack mixture on top and bake at about 180oC for half an hour.
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Ignore the baking potatoes... An accompaniment for dinner tonight.

Now, you could serve this straight away as a pudding with custard or cream, almost like a Christmas crumble, but if you want it to hold its form and be able to cut it into squares then let it cool in the tin before removing.
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And there you have it. Super easy Christmas flapjack in a flash. Delicious!
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Meat free Monday… The Best nut roast you’ll ever taste.

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Let’s face it, the humble nut roast has become somewhat of a joke between us non-vegetarian types. Perceived as being as outdated as a black forest gateaux or prawn cocktail, and as dry as the Sahara, I for one was not in the slightest bit interested in trying one.

Despite my carnivorous tenancies, I ended up marrying a pescatarian (love must really be blind!), and soon realised if I wanted him to last into old age I’d have to broaden his culinary horizons, gently weaning him off processed meat substitutes, breaded fish and pizza.

My mum gave me this recipe and it’s a definite hit with the hubby. Moist, textural, and delicious, this is a far cry from nut roasts past. In fact, I will happily go so far as to say this is the best nut roast you’ll ever taste! Plus I can rest easy knowing exactly what’s in it, and knowing he’s getting a good dose of protein.

Here’s what you need:
1 medium onion
8oz mixed nuts
4oz wholemeal bread
1/4 to 1/2 pint of vegetable stock
1 large teaspoon of marmite (for all you marmite haters out there please don’t omit this. It adds a depth of flavour like nothing else can)
Large handful of fresh herbs (parsley or coriander (cilantro) work really well)
Knob of butter and splash of olive oil for frying.
Freshly ground black pepper (doesn’t need salt due to marmite and veg stock)
3oz grated cheese (I used an extra mature cheddar)
Couple of cloves of garlic
5 or 6 mushrooms, optional.

I made a double batch so doubled the quantities.

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I like to use the nuts in the picture above from Lidl as they’re exactly the right amount and very good value to boot.

Finely dice the onion and chop the garlic. Fry until softened in the butter and olive oil.

Put the nuts into a food processor and pulse until they’re chunky, not powdery or too small.
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Remove the nuts and put the bread through the processor too until you have a fine crumb.

Heat the stock and add the marmite.

Combine all the dry ingredients.
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Add the stock a little at a time until you get a moist yet stiff consistency. If it’s too sloppy it won’t hold its form once cooked.
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Spoon the mixture into greased individual loaf tins, or one large tin of you prefer.
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Cook for about 30 minutes at 180oC. Leave them in the tin for at least ten minutes before turning them out.
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These freeze beautifully and heat up in the oven really well. I tend to wrap them in tin foil, put them in the oven frozen for about 20 minutes then remove the foil for another 10 minutes until they crisp up again.

White Ribbon Day

Today, 25th November 2013, is White Ribbon Day. A global event highlighting and trying to prevent domestic violence against women committed by men.

Sadly, domestic violence is all too common, and often times goes unnoticed by the family and friends of the abused. White Ribbon Day is about taking a stand, and becoming more aware of the horror that so many people face each day. My friend, and domestic violence survivor, shares her story here.

Itches that need scratching

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take”

I don’t know who said that (I literally just saw it on Pinterest), but I love the truth it speaks. Sadly too many people approach their twilight years wishing they’d done more to make their dreams and ambitions a reality. I’ve seen it time and time again, friends, and even family members, wishing they’d persued ventures and not been hindered by their own insecurities or other people’s negativity. I really don’t want to end up in that boat.

I have itches that need scratching. I have dreams and goals that I’m literally chomping at the bit to launch. It’s frustrating! 

Thankfully, I was brought up in an environment that embraced and encouraged risk taking and boundary pushing. I’m quietly confident in my own abilities (not because I’m pompous or proud, but because I know my standing and inheritance as a child of the Lord, and trust his provision whole heartedly), and I’m not easily swayed by others negativity (if anything it drives me). I’m acutely aware that no one else is going to make my dreams happen for me, and although it’s not quite the right time yet, I should prayerfully be getting things in place, so that when the time is right I’m ready to go.

It’s important to remember that God gives us dreams and ambitions. It is not selfish to have goals, more often than not those goals will be intertwined with the gifts and abilities God has blessed you with. On the contrary, it could be argued that if we don’t pursue our dreams we’re not honouring God by using the abilities and gifts he has given to us. I’m not one of those Christians who will sit and wait for God to put things into my lap. I don’t believe it works like that. If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat. The onus is on us to step out in faith believing that God will either open or shut each door we push.

I guess I’d just like to encourage you to prayerfully scratch that itch!

Tinkerbell birthday cake

Not only am I blessed with a beautiful daughter, I’m also blessed with a beautiful goddaughter, and it’s her fourth birthday party tomorrow. I’ve made her a tinkerbell cake for the celebrations but I have to admit the perfectionist in me is not all that happy. It has a fair few flaws, but I’m sure she’ll adore it and it was made with love. It’s a three layer pink sponge inside with buttercream under the fondant icing. Here’s the decorating process in pictures.
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Personalised bunting

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I’m a big fan of handmade and personalised gifts, not least because it reminds the recipient that you had them in mind as you were making it. There’s much more sentiment there than just walking into a shop and picking something up off the shelf, and that appeals to me. My very best friend had her second baby girl earlier this year and I wanted to make her something for her first Christmas that she could keep for years and look back on saying, “my Aunty Han made that for me”! I want her to know that I was thinking of her beautiful face and big munchy cheeks as I was making this, and that she really is very special to me.

There are a lot of photos in this post as, in this instance, I think it’s easier to see it rather than just read instructions.

Firstly cut out coordinating materials into triangles. This is double sided bunting so bear in mind when you’re cutting that you’ll need double the amount of triangles. I have 8 flags on this string of bunting so needed 16 triangles.
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Cut out the required name in felt and hand sew onto the front of the flags.
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Once they’re all sewn on, place another triangle right side down on top of the triangle with the letter sewn on.
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Using a machine if you have one, sew a straight seam down one of the edges (not the top of the flag) and when you get to the bottom point, pivot the flag with the needle still in the fabric, so you can sew up the other side, back to the top of the flag.
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Do this for all the flags with the letters on plus another four blank flags, two for either side of the name. Trim the bottom of the flags so that when you turn them the right way around you get a fairly defined point at the bottom.
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Once they’re all trimmed and turned the right way around you should end up with something like this:
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It’s really important to iron the flags now. Trust me they look way better for it. Once ironed, trim the little excess triangular bits of fabric from the tops of the flags to make them straight.
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Now get an inch or so wide length of ribbon and find the mid point by folding it. Press with the iron. This is your starting point for positioning the flags. Fold the ribbon in half lengthways and press along the entire length of it. Once you’ve done both these things you should have ribbon that looks a bit like this:
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Now this is where iron on hemming tape becomes your best friend.
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Tear a little piece off, put it into the folded ribbon starting in the centre of the length, and follow with a flag.
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Press with the iron. You should now have a flag that is fixed between the two sides of the ribbon. Carry on doing this working from the centre outwards until all the flags area stuck. You could leave it like this but I prefer to finish it off with a long stitch all the way along the ribbon to secure.
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Et voila! There you have it. Personalised double sided bunting for just a couple of hours work. Lovely!
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Frankincense and cinnamon winter balm

I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan of natural or organic skin care, but oftentimes I’m not a fan of the price. I like to know what I’m putting on my skin, or at least be able to pronounce all the ingredients.
I love coconut oil and use it all the time be it in cooking, on my face, in my hair or even in place of Sudocreme on my daughter, so I was a tad excited to find a balm recipe that used it as one of a handful of ingredients. I made the balm for the first time in 2013, but found it a little too waxy, so after several test batches I’ve adapted it a bit and come up with this.

This recipe will make a lot (48 50ml pots to be precise), so if you’re making this for yourself at home I suggest starting with 1 tablespoon of shea butter (or cocoa butter) and 1 scant tablespoon of beeswax and two tablespoons of coconut oil, plus frankincense and cinnamon oil to your liking.

For my large batch I used:

1kg organic coconut oil

500g organic shea butter

400g beeswax

2 tsp of frankincense oil

1/4 tsp cinnamon oil

Put the shea/cocoa butter and beeswax in a large saucepan and melt gently stirring periodically until they’ve melted, then add the coconut oil. Once the coconut oil has incorporated add the essential oils and stir. Drop a couple of drops onto a ceramic plate (it’ll set quicker due to the plate being cool) and leave to set for a couple of mins.  Test this out on the back of your hand.  Are you happy with the consistency and aroma? If not just adjust according to your preferences (adding more beeswax will make it more waxy, whilst adding more coconut will lead to a softer consistency and lower melting point.

Pour or ladle into containers of your choice. I bought some little metal jars with screw on lids from eBay. Be careful, hot oil burns!

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As it cools it’ll start to turn from a clear liquid into an opaque solid. Once they’re completely set they should look something like this:

Print or order some labels to finish them off nicely, and you have a perfect little homemade Christmas gift.

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They’ll keep for months and months and you can use them as lip balms, dry skin balm or regular moisturiser, although because of the high oil content it can be a bit greasy for a day cream, but it is lovely all the same and has got to be better than the shop bought chemical infused options.

If you live in the UK the balm is now available to buy here.
If you liked this post, you might like my super easy head lice repellent, Naff off Nits.

Plus, did you know we have a Facebook page? Check us out! Search for Teacups and Pearls and check the ‘like’ button.

Cinnamon swirl scones

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With friends coming round for a play date this afternoon, I wanted to treat them to something tasty and freshly baked, but I knew I was going to be pressed for time having spent the morning in the gym (having a preemptive calorie burning session!). These cinnamon scones were just the thing, being incredibly fast to make and utterly delicious.

You’ll need:
550g self raising flour
110g salted butter
50g caster sugar
300ml milk

A couple of tablespoons of soft dark sugar, caster sugar and two or three teaspoons of ground cinnamon to taste, and a large knob of butter for melting.

Plus icing sugar and water to glaze.

Here’s how to do it:
Dress sous chef in appropriate attire…

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Chip the butter into the flour and rub together until you have a fine crumb.

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Add the sugar and milk and mix to firm a dough. Roll the dough out into a rough rectangular shape on a floured surface. You’re looking for a thickness of about a centimetre.

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Sack the sous chef on the grounds of inappropriate conduct…

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Melt a knob of butter and spread over the dough.

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Then mix brown sugar, caster sugar and the ground cinnamon in a bowl.

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Sprinkle the mixture over the butter drenched dough being sure to leave a gap on one of the long sides of about an inch.

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Roll up, sealing with the edge that’s still bare.

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At this point, if you have time roll the rolled up dough in greaseproof paper and chill in the fridge (or freeze for use at a later date). Doing this won’t affect the taste but will give you a more circular shape when you come to slice them. On this occasion I didn’t have time, so just went ahead and sliced them immediately.

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You will always end up with a runt of the batch from either end,  but that’s ok… Chef’s treat!

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Look at those swirls of cinnamony goodness! Yum!

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Bake at 180oC for approximately 20 minutes or until golden.

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Leave to cool for ten minutes or so before transferring to a cake stand and drizzling with icing. Invite a few friends over and enjoy!

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Steph's never far from a baked good!