If you have some leftover Easter egg chocolate hanging around, and fancy making some treats with the children, I guarantee these mini nests will be a great hit. I like to pop little decorations into each one, but if you prefer they can be filled with mini eggs or jelly beans.


Chocolate Coconut Nests

Ingredients
200g white chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g Rice Krispies
25g desiccated coconut

Method
1. Add the chocolate and coconut oil to a microwavable bowl and gently melt together, on a low heat in the microwave, removing the bowl every 20 seconds or so to give the mixture a stir. Once melted, add the vanilla extract and stir well to combine.
2. Place the Rice Krispies and coconut into a large bowl. Add the melted chocolate mixture. Stir to combine.
3. Line cupcake tins with 18 cupcake cases. Add a spoonful of the mixture into each case and carefully make a little indentation in the centre to create a nest shape.
4. Place in the fridge for 1 hour to set. Decorate with mini Easter decorations or eggs, and serve.

Like most children, my four get more Easter eggs than they need, and as much as I try to somewhat limit how much chocolate is consumed, there always seems to be a few tummy ache sufferers each Easter Sunday night. I suffer from migraines, and one of my triggers is chocolate so, as a rule, I stay clear of it, but my vice would certainly be cake. So much so that I could easily be joining the tummy ache parade from overindulging. During the holidays, if you've had your fill of after-dinner chocolate, try out a batch of my lemony Easter muffins. The cake mixture is spongy and fluffy, while the frosting is luscious, but surprising light, due to the addition of the cream cheese. Also, as these muffins are like mini cakes, and the portion size is in place, the chances of feasting solely on cake is just a tiny bit less likely. Happy Easter!



Lemony Easter Muffins

Ingredients
225g Flora Buttery or butter, softened
225g caster sugar
Zest of one lemon
3 free-range eggs
280g self-raising flour, sieved
1 pot (125g) of lemon flavored yogurt

For the icing
75g full fat cream cheese
75g butter, softened
300g icing sugar, sieved
1 tsp lemon extract
drop of yellow food colouring

To decorate
16 mini chocolate eggs

Method
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C(fan)/gas mark 6.
2. Divide 16 muffin cases between two bun trays.
3. Place the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest into a bowl, and cream together until it is a pale yellow colour, which takes about 5-7 minutes.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a little flour- to prevent the mixture from curdling. Mix well.
5. Add the remaining flour then combine well. Fold in the yogurt.
6. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases.
7. Bake in the oven for about 20 mins, or until golden brown in colour and a skewer comes out dry. Cool on a wire tray.
8. To make the icing; Place the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar into a bowl and beat together until smooth and creamy. Stir in the lemon extract and add a drop of yellow food colouring.
9. When the muffins have completely cooled, either pipe or spread approximately a spoonful of the icing over each bun and decorate with some mini chocolate eggs.
My children love meatballs, and one of their favourite dinners would have to be a mountain of mini meatballs with spaghetti, all smothered in a rich tomato sauce. For a quick dinner option, or supper, meatballs make a great pitta-filler, especially when lots of lovely fresh salad leaves are added and a good dollop of your favourite sauce. I've included an easy to make tzatziki recipe here, which pairs deliciously with the meatballs, but a little mayonnaise or, better still, garlic mayo would be perfect in its place.



Meatball-Stuffed Pittas with Tzatziki

Ingredients

Meatball Mix
450g good-quality minced beef
Few sprigs of fresh chives, finely snipped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 large egg, free-range or organic
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Tzatziki
200g Greek yogurt
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and grated
Squeeze of lemon
1/2 clove garlic, finely grated
1tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

To Serve
4 pittas, lightly toasted
Salad leaves

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°fan/ 180°C/gas mark 6.
  2. Add the minced beef, chives, mustard, tomato ketchup and smoked paprika to a large bowl. Crack in the egg and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. With clean hands, scrunch and mix all the ingredients well.
  3. Using wet hands roll the mixture into about 16 meatballs. Place them in an oven-proof baking dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and place in the preheated oven, for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown and cooked through. Check by cutting one in half to make sure there are no signs of any pink meat.
  4. To make the tzatziki, combine the Greek yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic and mint in a bowl and season with a little salt and pepper.
  5. To assemble, slit open the lightly toasted pittas. Slather a good sized spoonful of the tzatziki inside. Add a handful of salad leaves and stuff in four meatballs to each pitta. Wrap with a napkin and enjoy straight away.



Stuffing greatly benefits from cooking within a turkey or chicken, but the results can be almost as tasty when the stuffing is cooked in a greased casserole dish. Sage, date and pistachio is one of my favourite stuffing combinations; herby, sweet and crunchy. To make a plain herb stuffing simply omit the date and pistachios from the recipe and add an additional 2 tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped parsley, thyme or chives.

Sage, Date & Pistachio Stuffing

Ingredients
75g butter, plus a little for greasing
1 large onion, finely diced
225g white breadcrumbs
2 tbsp freshly chopped sage
8 dates, finely chopped
50g pistachio, shelled & roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C /fan 180°C/gas mark 6. 
  2. Melt the butter in a pan, and add the onions. Reduce the heat to low and cook for five minutes, until the onions are softened but not coloured. 
  3. Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl and add the cooked onions. Combine well and then add the sage, dates and pistachio. 
  4. Mix well to combine and season to taste. 
  5. Grease an oven- proof dish with a little butter and add the stuffing. 
  6. Place in the pre-heated oven for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to get all the stuffing nice and crispy.


As Christmas approaches, many thoughts are fixed on what to cook over the festive season. As much as I love fresh cream desserts, their limited shelf life can sometimes steer me away from them, and in turn encourages me to opt for a few baked goods in their place. Ones that can be served as a dessert, or pair equally well with a cuppa, are most ideal. These carrot cake muffins work as a nice alternative to Christmas pudding. Crystallised cranberries and mint leaves make for a festive topping but, alternatively, the upside-down muffins can be topped with chopped nuts of your choice. These festive muffins can be thrown together with ease, making them a great option when you've a few little helpers in the kitchen.

Ingredients

125g wholemeal flour
125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
250g light muscovado sugar
200g grated carrot
75g dried prunes, finely chopped
4 free range eggs, lightly beaten
200ml sunflower or rapeseed oil

For Icing
150g mascarpone cheese
50g butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
300g icing sugar, sieved

To Decorate
1 egg white
125g cranberries
18-25 mint leaves
50g caster sugar

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6.
2. Place the wholemeal flour in a large bowl and sieve in the plain flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar.
3. Add the carrots and prunes. Stir well, with a wooden spoon, until they are thoroughly combined with the dry ingredients. If the chopped prunes are in clumps disperse through the dry ingredients using your hands.
4. Add the lightly beaten eggs to a jug with the oil. Pour the eggs and oil into the bowl and stir well until all the ingredients are combined together.
5. Divide the mixture between 18 muffin cases.
6. Bake the muffins, in the preheated ovens, for 25 minutes and they are risen and golden.
7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire tray.
8. While the muffins are cooling make the creamy topping. Put the mascarpone, butter, vanilla extract and icing sugar into a bowl and beat together until smooth and creamy.
9. To prepare the cranberries and mint leaves for decorating; in a bowl gently whisk the egg white with a fork. Brush the cranberries and mint leaves with a little of the egg white. Roll the cranberries in the sugar. Then place the mint leaves flat on a plate and generously sprinkle over the remaining caster sugar. Leave to dry for at least 15 minutes.
10. When the muffins have completely cooled, take each from their paper wrapper. The muffins will be decorated upside down to give the ‘pudding’ look.
11. Spread a large spoonful of the icing over each muffin and smooth, using a palette knife.
12. Decorate with the crystallised cranberries and the mint leaves, or else a generous sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts.


These ghoulish cookies would make an interesting centrepiece for any Halloween feast. The recipe is quite simply one for shortbread cookies, but by carefully moulding and decorating each one they can be made to resemble fingers. Happy Halloween!

Ingredients
100g icing sugar
200g butter, softened
300g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
16 blanched almonds

Icing
250g icing sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tsp red food colouring

Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/gas mark 5.
  2. Using an electric mixture beat the icing sugar and butter until soft and well combined. This should take about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and with the mixer on a low speed gradually add the flour. Don’t over beat and once combined bring the dough together into a ball, place it on a sheet of greaseproof paper, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes, to harden slightly.
  4. Take from the fridge and with a tablespoon of the dough at each time, with your hands, roll into a shape of a finger. Squeeze the ‘finger’ to give the impression of a knuckle. Make indentations with a knife to represent knuckle ridges. Prepare two tins with a sheet of greaseproof paper on each. Careful transfer the raw cookies to the trays. Add a blanched almond to the tip of the finger to look like a fingernail. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-14 minutes, depending on their thickness.
  5. While the cookies are cooking prepare the icing. In a medium sized bowl combine the icing sugar with the water and food colouring. Add a few more drops of water if required, or add some more icing sugar if the mixture appears too thin.
  6. Take the cookies from the oven and place them on a wire rack. Immediately after taking them from the oven lift the almond, place a blob of the red icing and then firmly stick the almond back on the cookie. Dot about half a teaspoon of icing at the base of the cookie, as seen in the photo.
  7. Allow to set before serving.

We love a good Halloween party in our house. This ghoulish feast is one of the easiest parties to cater for, as really anything goes, and the gorier the food can look, the better. When there are faces to be painted and a house to be decorated, I never put myself under too much pressure where the food is concerned. Once there are a few spooky looking treats, which I generally prepare a day or so in advance, and a large bowl of some kind of punch, for the children to self-ladle into goblets, the party is in full swing. This could be why Halloween is my favourite holiday; with a little imagination, and even less expense, an evening filled with magical memories is ever so easily achievable.

Halloween is quickly approaching so, over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to share with you some of my favourite Halloween treats to make with little ones. First up, Mummy Cookie Cake Pops!


Mummy Cookie Cake Pops

These Mummy Cookie Cake Pops are so visually impressive that you’d be forgiven for thinking that they are simply for show and may not deliver on taste. I must tell you, however, that even the adults fight over these when I make them. Using just a few simple ingredients, there is little to do to create these wonderful treats. The method is straightforward, however, I must stress the importance of refrigerating the pops in between each step, to ensure they set properly. The white chocolate sets perfectly over the refrigerated pop, giving a satisfying crunch of thick chocolate when bit into, before being met by the soft truffle-like centre. They are deliciously irresistible to both children and adults alike.


Ingredients 
Makes 20 
300g Oreo biscuits
150g cream cheese
20 cake pop sticks or wooden sticks
Sprinkle of icing sugar
50g ready-to-roll icing
200g white chocolate
40 candy eyes

Method
  1. Using a food processor, blitz the Oreos for a few minutes, until they resemble crumbs. Add the cream cheese and continue to blend for a minute or so. The Oreos and cream cheese will combine to look almost like a ball of dough.
  2. Scoop out into a bowl, cover with cling film and pop into the fridge for an hour to stiffen up.
  3. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Take the Oreo mixture from the fridge. Take a spoonful of the mix and quickly mould into a ball using your hands. Insert a stick into the top of the Oreo ball and place on the prepared tray. Place in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
  4. Meanwhile, sprinkle a little icing sugar on a worktop and thinly roll out the piece of ready-to-roll icing. Cut into small thin strips, which will act as the mummy’s cloth wrapping. Place on a plate along with the candy eyes, ready for assembling the pops.
  5. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of just boiled water. Take the pops from the fridge and dip each one into the melted chocolate. Allow excess chocolate to drip off. Then immediately stick on the two eyes and add a few strips of icing. Place upright to set, possibly in a glass filled with sugar. They will set in a few minutes. Once the chocolate is hard, place the decorated pops back onto the greaseproof paper lined tray and refrigerate for a further few hours before serving.
  6. These pops can then be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Don’t leave these pops sitting out of the fridge for too long, as they may begin to melt a little.