Easy Pasta Bake

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Going to University means (unless you are in catered accommodation) that it is time to learn to cook! Here’s a quick and simple recipe I created by experimenting with leftovers from the week 🙂

Ingredients (serves 4)

12 oz pasta (I used Farfalle but any pasta shape will work)

1 packet cooked ham (the sandwich type)

2 handfuls spinach (frozen or fresh)

4-6 mushrooms (optional)

200 ml semi-skimmed milk

1 tbsp butter/margarine

Flour (ideally plain but you can get away with SR)

Black pepper

Cheese

Method

  1. In a pan cook the pasta as stated on the packet.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the spread in a second pan on a medium heat.
  3. When the spread has melted and the milk and stir well.
  4. Add a 2-3tsp of flour at a time to the milk/spread mix and stir well. Keep adding flour until the sauce is at your desired thickness (remember the sauce will thicken further in the oven)
  5. Chop the ham and mushrooms up into small pieces.
  6. When the pasta is cooked; drain and add to pan with the sauce along with the ham, spinach and mushrooms and mix together. Season with black pepper to taste. 
  7. Transfer the mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle the top with a generous helping of your preferred cheese (I used Parmesan)
  8. Cook for 25-30 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.
  9. Enjoy! If there are any leftovers, simply put them in an airtight container in the fridge and eat within 2 days.

Mocha Brownies

 

brownies

Ingredients

  • 55g butter (+ some for greasing the tin)
  • 115g plain chocolate
  • 175g brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder or granules
  • 85g plain flour + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (or just 85g self-raising flour)
  • 55g chopped peacan nuts
  • Cocoa powder (optional)

Method:

  1. Make up the coffee with 1 tbsp hot water and leave to cool.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm-square cake tin.
  3. Gently melt the butter and chocolate together, then leave to cool.
  4. Cream together the sugar and eggs, then fold in the cooled butter/chocolate mixture and cold coffee. Sift the flour (and baking powder) and fold into the mixture, before folding in the peacan nuts.
  5. Pour the mixture into the tin and cook for 25-30 mins at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
  6. Run a knife around the tin edge and turn the cake onto a wire rack, then peel off the lining paper and leave to cool, before lightly dusting with the cocoa powder and cutting into squares.

Christmas Activity Ideas

I’ve just finished planning the evening I’m going to be running at Cubs in December, the theme being Christmas crafts. So I thought I’d share with you some fun, quick and simple Christmas activities for children:

Baubles

Baubles are cheap to buy if you purchase the undecorated matt or shiny finish ones. They are also easy to make yourself by using paper mache to cover a balloon. Then once you have your plain baubles, let your child go wild with glitter glue, sequins, ribbon etc to create a funky and original ornament. They also make great gifts for your child to give to family members!

 

Cake Lollipops

For this quick and easy recipe, all you need is some cake (chocolate brownies or golden syrup cake work best as they’re quite moist), some chocolate (and cream if you want a creamier coating), some lollipop sticks and some sprinkles to decorate.

  1. Cut the cake into squares and roll each square into a ball about the size of a truffle, and insert the lollipop stick. (Cocktail sticks or coffee stirrers also work just as well)
  2. Melt approx 100g of chocolate (or 50g of chocolate in 100ml warm single or double cream) for every 300g of cake.
  3. Dip the cake balls into the chocolate and twist as you do this to get a nice, even coating.
  4. Decorate with sprinkles (or grated chocolate) then leave to set. (Punching small holes in an egg box and putting the sticks in these holes will ensure they set without the chocolate becoming stuck to anything).
  5. Enjoy!

Stand up Ornaments

You could use an old jam jar to create a snow globe by using a hot glue gun to stick a plastic Christmas figurine to the lid, then fill the jar with water and glitter, then simply screw on the lid and shake!

Alternatively, you can make paper or cardboard stand up snowmen, stars and trees by decorating two identical shapes, then cutting a slit in one from the top to the middle, then a slit in the other from the bottom to the middle – you’ll then be able to slot the two pieces together. They can be made by simply colouring the designs in or by using glitter, sequins, felt etc. depending on what you have spare at home. You can find the star design here and the Christmas tree and snowmen templates here.

 

Christmas Quiz

There are lots of fun facts you can find out about Christmas. For example, did you know Christmas pudding originates from a soup-like medieval Celtic food called frumenty? However the questions don’t have to be based entirely upon Christmas; you could include a general knowledge round, or a riddle round;

e.g. “My first is in last, but not in first, My second is in best, but not in worst, My third and fourth appear in tree, My fifth appears twice in Jubilee, My sixth is in Churcher but not in Hall, The catch is, I could be in them all! What am I?” (For the answer, click here)

If you would like a copy of my animated PowerPoint Christmas quiz send an email to rebeccacdenyer@live.co.uk 🙂

Let me know if you have a go at any of these things – I’d love to see the results!

Chocolate Orange Bakewell Tarts

Not everyone likes cherries and almonds so this is my take on the classic bakewell tart – enjoy!

Ingredients

1 block of Shortcrust Pastry (alternatively you could make your own pastry by mixing 55g margarine with 125g flour, then add a pinch of salt, as well as a couple of teaspoons of water if needed to hold it all together)

50g soft margarine

50g sugar

40g self raising flour

10g cocoa powder

1 egg

Marmalade

Icing sugar

Orange essence

Chocolate flakes or sprinkles to decorate

 

Method

1. Set oven to Gas Mark 5 (electric 190ºC)

2. Roll out the pastry to an even thickness and cut into circles using an 8cm cutter (a cup will work just as well)

3. Line the tart tins with the discs of pastry

4. Put about 1/2 teaspoon of marmalade into each tart

5. Make the cake mixture using the all in one method

6. Put a teaspoon of the mixture into each case making sure the jam is covered

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cakes are springy to touch

8. Cool on a wire rack

9. Mix icing sugar with small amounts of water and a few drops of orange essence and stir to make it the right consistency

10. Spread a bit of icing on top of each tart

11. Sprinkle a few flakes of chocolate (or sprinkles) on top of each tart to finish