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Lemon Drizzle Loaf

My favourite lemon drizzle traybake is here, however, it's not the right bake for a loaf tin. This recipe is slightly denser and therefore much easier to achieve lovely, thick, tasty slices.

175g self-raising flour
1 tsp. baking powder
175g butter or margarine (the cake in the picture used Lurpak spreadable as it was on hand)
175g  caster sugar
3 medium eggs
2 tbsp. milk
Grated rind of 2 lemons

1. Prepare your loaf tin (pop in a liner wins my vote) and set the oven to 180 C. Mine is a 1.5lb tin.
2. Pop the flour and baking powder into a bowl and mix, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth
3. Pour into the loaf tin, about 3/4 of the way up the sides if you want a flatter, less domed top. Who doesn't love a spoon of cake mix...Fill her up if you don't mind a craggy muffin top! 
4. Bang the tin on the worktop a couple of times to release any large air bubbles
5. Bake for 50 mins to an hour - until a skewer comes out clean and the top springs back when you press it. Take it out of the tin as soon as you can
6. Gently stab the cake a few times with a skewer or slim knife to allow space for the topping to sink in - don't over do it - you need the cake to stay in one piece
Cake with skewer holes ready for drizzle
7. Dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice over a low heat in a pan and spoon over the cake whilst it's still warm. If it dribbles down the sides use the paper liner to encourage it to squeeze back up the sides and soak into the cake

This keeps for about 4 days in a container if not at out house.

Tomato Soup Pasta Bake

Simple, filling, make ahead - tick, tick, tick! Perfect for Sunday lunch after Rugby practice. Easily serves 4 with leftovers for lunch.

500g pasta - the more complicated the shape the better as it holds the sauce, stopping it from sinking to the bottom
1 tin of cream of tomato soup
1 diced onion
4 bacon rashers - we prefer unsmoked
150g of cream (left over from a 300ml pot if you make the cheesecake). You could use milk and thicken it with corn flour, however, it won't be as rich a dish overall
Handful of grated cheese
Black Pepper

1. Saute the onion until soft then put to one side and cook the bacon to just done, chopping it into 1cm strips (before or after doesn't make any difference)
2. Whilst sorting out the bacon and onion cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Slightly underdone is perfect - overdone leads to a soggy bake which isn't as nice
3. Mix the onion bacon, soup and cream together, season with black pepper
4. Put the drained pasta into a large ovenproof dish and pour over the sauce giving it a bit of a mix
5. When you are ready to bake sprinkle on the cheese and pop in the oven for 30 mins at 180 C or until hot all the way through

No Bake Lemon Cheesecake

A simple, easy to make with the Junior Gingerbreads, recipe. What's especially lovely is you can use this as a base and change the flavour and presentation. Go for 6 (or 4 nom nom nom) small bowls to create individual portions instead of one large cake. You can swap the lemon flavour for whatever you have to hand - a few crushed chocolate chips or fudge pieces. Change the lemon for lime or leave it plain and smother in sauce.

200g digestive biscuits (chocolate digestives and oaty biscuits also work well)
80g butter
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
300g cream cheese
75g icing sugar
150ml double cream

1. Place the biscuits into a food bag, crush into crumbs with a rolling pin
2. Pop the butter in a pan large enough to hold the biscuit crumbs and melt it over a low temperature on the hob. Remove the pan from the heat. You could also do this in the microwave in a suitable bowl
3. Add the crushed biscuits to the melted butter and stir with a wooden spoon until completely mixed
4. Tip the mixture into a 20 cm springform cake tin. The bottom of a glass is helpful to flatten the base out evenly and chill in the fridge for around 20 minutes
5. Wash the lemon and grate the zest into a bowl. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze out the juice
6. Place the cream cheese and sugar into a mixing bowl and mix together. Then whisk in the double cream. Pour in the lemon juice and zest, whisk until creamy
7. Remove the chilled biscuit base from the fridge. Spoon the cream cheese mixture on top of the biscuit base and spread it out evenly
8. Cover and put the cake in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight
9. Unclip and carefully remove the cake tin  - decorate the top with a few zest pieces or fresh fruit if you fancy - and now it is ready to eat

Confession time - we ate this one for breakfast the next day as the kids couldn't wait

Chocolate Loaf Cake

A new loaf tin and lining papers for £2 lead to the disposal of my silicone loaf tin which kept spreading and not forming a nice shape. I do like the silicone cake tins, just not the loaf shape. Paper tin liners are super, speeding up the tin prep and reducing the clean up - although the loaf doesn't look as nice to my eye as the finished article. Still tastes amazing though.

This chocolate loaf cake can be made by my kids it's versatile and works cupcakes or mini loaves, just reduce the cooking time. If you want it even richer then fold in 200g of choc chips before pouring it into the tin.

175g butter, room temperature
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs - these are best at room temperature for this if possible
200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
110 ml of milk
4 tablespoons coco powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Optional -  200g chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 160 C  prepare your loaf tin - loving being able to just drop a lining paper in
2. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Sift in the flour then add the baking powder, milk, coco powder and vanilla extract. Beat until well blended and light
3. If using the choc chips add them now with the minimum stirring possible. Pour into the prepared loaf tin and smooth the top
4. Bake in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and remove from the tin and place onto a cooling rack

Power Balls - Growth Spurt Hero's

Looking a bit like meal balls here - oopsy!
I've been browsing to find a high protein snack for our family as Junior Gingerbread is having a growth spurt and most days needs a top up before bed. A large glass of milk and a couple of digestive biscuits, golden syrup and date flapjack or an extra bowl of Weetabix were getting boring. These 'power balls' from Trisha Yearwood are a step up in utrition and quite filling  - 4g of protein and 132 calories according to the source recipe.  Varying the fruit keeps them interesting - the original has cranberries which I have successfully swapped for raisins, apricots or a mix (depending on what's open and needs using in the cupboard).

2 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of extra crunchy peanut butter - I've settled on 'Meridian Extra Crunchy' after some research this seemed a quality one with no hidden 'extras' and use a whole 280g jar
1/2 cup honey - a bit less if you don't have a sweet tooth
1/2 cup choc chips
1/2  sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons of flax seeds (thanks Auntie Bec)

Pop everything into a food processor and whizz together to get a crumb mixture. Chill for 30 mins then roll into 30 balls. Roughly 2 flat tablespoons per ball. This is a bit fiddly and they crumble to start with! Then chill for a further 30 mins before eating - this really helps them keep their shape. Store them in the fridge in an airtight container.

From the original - can't vouch personally
for the values, but, looks good

Paella la Familia

Letting the side down - no decoration
of peppers
Mr Gingerbreadman is Spanish, as you can imagine paella features high up on his list of favourite food. Junior Gingerbread isn't keen on seafood and Princess Gingerbread loves it. The answer for us is a chicken and chorizo paella which pleases everyone with a side dish of prawns or calamari.

I've learned that paella is a bit like a British roast dinner - the main concept is the same but everyone's Mum makes it slightly differently and that's what that Spaniard recognises as the ultimate version. My mother in law taught me how to make this, in turn I've customised it for us. So hers is the best according to Mr Gingerbreadman, my kids love ours.

It's worth noting that the sauce takes the longest to do - it needs to be packed with flavour to make the dish amazing rather than average. My 'cheat' is to make a double batch and freeze one. 'Made ahead' sauce works great as a 'we've got guests and nothing sorted meal' as you can cook it whilst they socialise or Sunday lunch.

You don't need a paella pan  - a large shallow pan will do the job. Serves 4 (2 adults, 2 kids), with salad.

Bell peppers x3
Tin of chopped tomatoes or fresh tomatoes (skin removed by blanching and chopped)
2 onions
Garlic 2 cloves
Chicken - allow a breast per person or two thighs
Chorizo - handful, cubed
Stock - chose one that matches the protein element - fish, chicken, or vegetable all work nicely. Chef's note - either follow the instructions on your rice or work on 1 cup of rice to 3 cups of stock
250g Paella or short grain rice - if 4 adults increase, work on 75g to 100g per person depending on appetites and second helpings
Paella seasoning mix or saffron, paprika - I use smoked paprika or hot paprika if you want to really pep the flavour up - it's all down to your own taste

1. Cut the bell peppers into quarters, turn in a little olive oil and roast off on a tray in the over until the skins lift. Leave to cool and then peel the skins off and discard. My mother in law does this in the pan and removed the skin whilst they are hot - impressive heat handling skills!
2. Chop the onions and fry them off gently until they are soft, if using fresh garlic add this in at the end to cook through quickly
3. If using fresh tomatoes blanches these remove the skins and chop - or open the tin! IF using fresh tomatoes feel free to fry them in the pan to produce a puree
4. Pop the peppers, onion and tomato into a blender and whizz up to make a course sauce - don't over do it  - you want a bit of texture not soup

1. Cube the chicken breasts, or flatten out the thighs and fry them gently in the paella pan - getting all that flavour into the pan. This is different to a seafood paella where that is precooked and goes in towards the end
2. Once cooked put the meat to one side
3. Put a glug of oil in the pan and add the rice. Toast the rice in the pan a little to warm through and coat in the meat juices. Set the rice to one side
4. Add the stock to match the amount of rice you are using to the pan - either follow the instructions on your rice or work on a 1 cup or rice to 3 cups of stock
5. Stir in the vegetable sauce
6. Add the seasoning - I bring  'el Aeroplano' back from Spain for the colour, however, a generous pinch of saffron to gives the famous yellow colour, with a teaspoon of paprika, salt and pepper or even a supermarket seasoning kit. Adjust the smokey taste and spicy heat to match your palette as you go
7. Sprinkle the rice evenly across the liquid in the pan
8. Cook it on a medium to low heat - slow and steady! Its takes 45 minutes to an hour. Once the rice has started to absorb the stock, add the chicken and chorizo. The paprika and chorizo will make it a deeper colour
9. DO NOT STIR the paella if you can help it - you want to avoid making the rice gloopy. Sort of redistribute the rice if you see a patch of sauce with out any
10. If the rice is still crunchy and it's looking a little dry top up with a glug of hot water as required - resting it for a few minutes before serving helps the rice absorb the sauce - less is more if you do this
11. Serve with a salad and if really going for Spanish style sliced fresh crusty bread. Squeeze some lemon juice generously over the paella

The crunchy bit from the bottom of the pan is considered the best bit!
Fail at making a tidy plate for a picture - too hungry!

Pearl Barley, tomato and Coriander salad 'Southwestern Barley Salad'

I'm so excited by this salad - I just can't get enough of it for lunches at the moment. It is soooo good. I take this to work - two large portions to keep me going all day or three smaller ones. Its great as a bring along at a BBQ or family gathering and super as an alternative side dish to fish or oven baked chicken.

1 cup uncooked barley
1 cup cooked sweetcorn (I use frozen, tinned is fine)
1½ cup cherry tomatoes (about 12), quartered
¼ cup chopped fresh coriander
4 thinly chopped spring onions
Juice of 2 large limes
¼ cup olive oil (or a bit less, see how you get on)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste - I put quite a lot in to give an extra peppery heat

Cook the pearl barley according to the instructions on the packet and let cool (I rinse mine under a cold tap)
Cook the sweetcorn if you are using frozen and cool
Chop the coriander, tomatoes and spring onions
Mix gently together all the ingredients in a large bowl
Add the olive oil and lime juice

Recipe based on this one - actually almost the same just 'anglicized', without the sugar and more pepper.