"Betty Leopard": September 2012

Monday, 17 September 2012

Homemade Nutella

To be honest, I've never been a big fan of Nutella. I'd always rather have a straight-up, no messing chocolate spread than a hazelnut chocolate spread. However, I first decided to make my own 'Nutella' a few months ago when I was reading Sarah Wilson's 'I Quit Sugar' book and cookbook and really trying to reduce the amount of processed foods and sugars in my diet.
Recently I have let things slide a bit and have been no where near as good at watching what I eat. However, I still always have a jar of this spread in my fridge for some slightly-less-guilty snack time. As it's based on Sarah Wilson's recipe it is low sugar and so much healthier than regular Nutella - not that that's hard, real Nutella is more than 50% sugar (56.7g of sugar per 100g). I am personally horrified that this stuff is advertised as a great breakfast for kids, and don't even get me started in Nesquik....anyway.

Honestly, this so yummy and really not very hard to make - I have it smothered on rich tea biscuits, often as a mid-afternoon snack :)

The recipe is based on one from Sarah Wilson's 'I Quit Sugar' cookbook, I have made some changes based on personal taste and availability of ingredients.

Homemade (Low-Sugar) Nutella

  • 1 cup nuts - I have mostly used hazelnuts (obviously), but have also tried mixing in some other nuts, particularly Brazils, but you can experiment
  • 1/4 cup cocoa (Sarah Wilson states Raw Cacao, as this doesn't have added sugar, I have used both raw cacao and regular cocoa and don't notice much difference in taste)
  • 4 tablespoons honey (Sarah uses Brown Rice Syrup as this contains more complex sugars, but I have found it really hard to get hold of and, personally, have no problem with honey!)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla 
  • 1 tablespoon nut oil (Sarah says Macadamia, I use Groundnut, but I don't see why you can't just use your own oil of choice)
  • 1/2 cup milk (again, Sarah says coconut but I use soy but regular milk, or any other milk should be fine. Amount can be increased or reduced depending on your desired final texture)
  1. Spread nuts on a baking tray and bake at 180 degrees C for 10 minutes (until browned)
  2. Rub as much of the skin off the nuts as you can
  3. Grind nuts in a blender/food processor (I only have a mini food chopper, which doesn't completely puree the nuts but I quite like the slightly rough texture it produces)
  4. Mix in the rest of the ingredients
  5. Spoon the mixture into a sterilised jar* and keep in the fridge

The latest batch that I made and photographed actually turned out a little thicker and drier than past batches, which you can kind of see in the pictures. I think I may not have put enough milk in. You can also see it's  not as smooth as 'proper' Nutella, but that's because of the limitations of my food processor, I quite like the chunks, makes it feel a bit healthier ;) It's still yummy despite all this :)

In theory, having this should help me be healthier, if I eat a couple of rich teas with this spread instead of a more calorific dessert. I'm still working on that in practise though :/

Anyone discovered any interesting or different recipes lately?


*To sterilise a jar, wash it and place the jar and lid (not a plastic lid) in the oven at around 150 degrees C for 20 minutes. Fill and seal jar straight from the oven (using oven gloves!)

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Butternut Squash Cupcakes

I like experimenting with slightly unusual recipes and ingredients. I saw a recipe for butternut squash cupcakes ages ago, but it was only a few days ago, when I had some left over butternut that needed using, that I got around to giving it a go.

The recipe is really simple and the cakes turned out really well. The final product is reminiscent of a sticky toffee pudding, sweet and sticky, dark coloured and dense but still soft and not cloying.

Butternut Squash Cupcakes
200g Butternut Squash (skinned, de-seeded and cut into cubes)
175g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
150g Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
90ml Oil
Pinch of salt

  • Place the cubed butternut into a blender/mixer and blend until very finely chopped

  • Place blended butternut into a bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients. Take care not to over-mix

  • Spoon mixture into cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees C for 20 to 25 minutes.

  • Allow to cool then decorate. I just put a simple icing on mine, but you can do a buttercream or cream cheese frosting would also work well, or, given the sticky toffee pudding like taste, a toffee sauce would be awesome!

My brown sugar was a little lumpy and I didn't take enough time to make sure it was all mixed properly, but that meant a lot of the cakes have little spots of melted brown sugar caramel in them, so that worked out ok! I might try a little less sugar next time actually, to see if I can make them a little less sticky. 
As I baked such a huge batch I had to sent half into work with my boyfriend, mostly to save me from myself as I would have eaten many more cakes than would have been good for me :/

I have a few more vegetable based cake recipes up my sleeve that I hope to be able to try out soon. It's great to surprise people by telling them that they just ate veg in a cake.

I also have a lot of posts lined up that I need to write, but so many things seem to be getting between me and blogging lately :( Hopefully I'll get a couple more in this week.

Hope you are well.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

DIY: Blackboard Jars

I actually made these jars back in July, for my birthday party. Unfortunately, I got completely sidetracked by being stupidly ill and so have only just round to posting this.

I got the idea from a couple of pictures on Pinterest; jam jars as glasses with blackboard name panels!

I liked the jam jar idea because I have tonnes of jars but never enough glasses for everyone at a party, especially not when people put their drinks down, forget which one is theirs and need a new glass. Now, I know you can get those little charms to put on wine glasses, but like I said, I barely have enough glasses to go around in general, let alone wine glasses!
So basically, this idea seemed like the answer to my entertaining related dilemma. I also liked the fact that if/when I make jam again, I can still use the jars and just write what's inside on the blackboard panel rather than making labels.

It's so simple to do and people seemed to like the novelty, although some people seemed completely perplexed by the idea of drinking out of jars.

You only really need three things: jars, blackboard paint and a paintbrush. If you want you can also use masking tape to mark out the area you're going to paint, but I decided to go freehand (I also couldn't find any masking tape in the house).

Various Jars
Blackboard paint. I bought mine on eBay but you can also get it in hardware stores.

Doing this as a tutorial seems a bit basic. Take your jar, decide where you want your panel and how big, paint it on then let it dry.
I found it was best to only paint in one direction and I they needed at least two coats and in some cases three to get a relatively even and full coat.

You can write on them with regular chalk, but I got some liquid chalk pens, like the ones they use in cafes and restaurants. The result is a lot better and it does wash of, although if you leave it on for more than day you need quite a lot of soap and elbow grease to fully shift it.

If I'd have been going completely Pinterest, I would have bought ribbon and tided it round the top if each of the jars. I settled for assorted paper straws, which still looked cute.

I was really pleased with them. I think they'd be great at some sort of casual DIY style wedding - hopefully I'll remember this long enough to use it at my own wedding, however far in the future that might be!

Shame the summer is more or less over, so the jars might end up in the cupboard until I set about jam making again. Although, they might be cute for mulled wine?

Hope you are all well.

PS. If you are a Pinterest-er, you can follow me http://pinterest.com/bettyleopard/ :)

I Want Candy

Check out this super haul of American candy that I won in a giveaway run by Sarah of Temporary:Secretary in conjunction with CyberCandy!

Twizzlers, Pop Tarts, Nerds, Jelly Belly Soda, Pop Rocks, Kool-Aid, Oh Henry!, Big Turk, The Big Deal.......plus an I Love Nerds T-shirt and Sugar Daddy Lunch box!!

Now, like most people I consider myself to be someone who 'never wins anything' - but I guess I can't really keep saying that now :/

I've been a big fan of Temporary:Secretary since I first started reading blogs, way back when. Sarah is super cute and her blog is full of great outfits, photographed superbly. If you don't know her blog, I really do recommend you check it out.
I first heard of CyberCandy through Sarah's blog, when she wrote about the Oreo Milka bar they sell - I still really, really need to get my hands on one of those :p I was trying to restrict my sugar intake when she published the post, but that has long since slipped, so I guess I can indulge my chocolate craving now.

As much as I have a major sweet tooth, I think I'm almost more excited about the t-shirt and tin lunch box that came as part of the prize! The candy is already looking a little depleted, Pete and I had a bit of a 'tasting' session last night, as we weren't familiar with a lot of what I got. Big thumbs-up for Oh Henry! (kinda like a Snickers), Big Turk (Turkish Delight in chocolate), Big Deal (Wafer, Caramel and crispy cereal in chocolate - really sweet) and Chewy Spree so far :)
Even between the two of us we couldn't have got through it all in one go though, plus I might have to pace myself on what's left or I won't fit into the awesome t-shirt :/

I just wanted to say a big thank you to Sarah and CyberCandy for the great giveaway.

Also, thank you to all my readers and followers (old and new!) for still reading even though I'm being a very bad and irregular blogger at the moment :)


PS. How the heck can there be more calories in the Blueberry Pop Tarts than the Chocolate Fudge Sundae Pop Tarts? lol