Thursday, 24 April 2014

RECIPE: Skinny wholemeal chocolate chip banana pancakes

You may have thought that the morning after Easter Sunday we'd be chocolated-out and running from the sight of the stuff. Oh no, not the Hosie gals.

However, having had a veritable Easter feast the day before, I was after a slightly healthyish brekkie and so these babies were born. Enter: wholemeal chocolate chip banana pancakes.

How can anything chocolatey be healthy?, you ask. Well, dear reader, these pancakes don't contain any butter, oil, dairy or sugar, and wholemeal flour is not only so much better for you than white flour but it also keeps you fuller longer. Slow-release energy, complex carbs, all that malarkey, and the slight sweetness of the banana balances out the nuttiness of the flour too.

I personally really like the wholemeal flour taste and texture anyway. The awesome thing about these pancakes is that they don't even taste healthy! Srsly.

The banana is also a cheeky little energy-booster. Adding banana to the batter mainly adds sweetness and a lovely fluffy texture rather than really banana-y flavour, but make sure the bananas are well-ripe - the browner and specklier the better. And don't panic about the almond milk, it doesn't add any flavour and is just a health-booster.

Chocolate chips may not be healthy but in my opinion the little bursts of melted milk chocolate are a delight. Of course, you could switch them for chopped blueberries to make these babies even healthier.

How virtuous these pancakes are depends largely on how you eat them. Quite frankly, there's enough going on in the batter and it's wonderfully moist thanks to the banana that there's really no need to top your pancakes with anything.

However, that doesn't mean we didn't smother ours in everything we could find though, oh no. Caramel au beurre salé from Brittany, Nutella, Nutella Philly (which was actually leftover icing from these cupcakes), golden syrup, maple syrup, honey, peanut butter, strawberries, blueberries, more banana... We. Went. To. Town.

And it was a town I'd happily revisit on numerous occasions, ma friends. In fact, I think you should pay a visit to said town yourself. (Did I take this metaphor too far? I'm not very good at knowing when to stop...)

Also, just look how few ingredients we're talking here. So simple and quick, I tell ya. Being country folk, we cooked ours on a greaseproof sheet on the simmering plate of the Aga, thus doing away with the need for cooking oil, but I'll give the recipe as if cooked in a pan on the hob. Enjoy!

This serves two hungry people.


100g wholemeal flour
1 egg
150ml almond milk
1.5 large bananas (or 2 small ones), mashed
50g milk chocolate chips (or plain, or chopped blueberries)
Whatever toppings you like!


1. Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the middle and crack in the egg. Add the milk about a third at a time and whisk well between each addition.

2. Add the mashed banana and whisk until well incorporated. Finally, whisk in the chocolate chips. The batter should be thick but smooth (except for the chocolate chips).

Looks appetising, huh?
3. Heat a teaspoon of oil or small knob of butter in a large non-stick frying pan over a gentle heat and swirl round with a piece of kitchen roll to make sure you don't have too much and it's evenly distributed. Drop a large tablespoonful of the batter per pancake into the pan and watch them spread and small bubbles appear on the surface.

Cook for about 1-2 minutes over a medium heat then flip over with a spatula-thingy and cook for another minute or so until golden.

Serve hot from the pan with your choice of topping or stack 'em up high before devouring that banana-y, chocolatey, actually healthy mountain. Mmmmm...

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Easter weekend at home: Feasting and family.

I truly believe sitting helplessly on a delayed train when you know you've got a tight connection to make afterwards may be one of the most stressful things EVER. 

I should've had a solid 26 minute turnaround at St Pancras on my journey home from Brussels for Easter weekend - naturally, I thought I'd planned it to perfection, giving myself time to get an AMT coconut yogushake (SO GOOD!), collect my tickets and make my way to my train in a stress-free fashion, appreciating the sight of home comforts like M&S and Costa as I went. 

No no, that did not occur. 

My Eurostar arrived TWENTY MINUTES LATE! So I had SIX MINUTES to get off the train, race around the excited tourists and returning holiday-makers with their huge Disneyland balloons, run down the escalators trying not to knock over small children (you're cute but GET OUTTA THE WAY) with my bags, dash through customs, weave my way through the crowds and leg it (past AMT *sob*) up to the East Midlands Trains section. As I did so, I thought to myself: this is blatantly because I smashed a mirror this morning. 

Amazingly, not all my luck has been turned bad for seven years though, as there was no queue at the ticket machine. But good Lord above, they sure seem to take their sweet time to print your tickets, seat reservations and receipts (that helpfully all look EXACTLY THE SAME) when you're in a hurry. 

But guess what, I sprinted on to the platform with a solid minute and a half to spare and practically sauntered on to the train. So casual. PHEW!

It wasn't till I sat down, put my feet up (yolo) and plugged into my iPod that I stopped to breathe. According to shuffle, Westlife was the order of the day, and as I listened to their dulcet tones and gazed out the window at the Union Jacks flying in the wind off PC World, the sun of that Good Friday afternoon shining in on me, I couldn't help but grin. I was home

I went for springy pastel rainbow nails for Easter weekend
There's nothing like living abroad to make you appreciate your home country. I've realised recently that as well as being about half as far from home as Bayreuth (where I was for the first half of my year abroad), Brussels just feels a lot less foreign. It may be partly because I'm working for a British company but it just doesn't feel so far away. 

Bayreuth, on the other hand, was pretty different, and I miss it dearly. I miss my housemates, my colleagues, my pupils and my wonderful friends. I miss German people in general, German food, German ways and the German language. 

Anyway, going home for Easter weekend was a dream, and it was more-needed than I knew. I was so looking forward to watching TV on an actual TV, mama's cooking and being able to sleep without wearing earplugs. (#studentproblems)

The long weekend was spent doing all sorts of homey things:

 - Country dog walks with my family

Oh, the excitement for walkies

There's nothing like popping on your wellies and taking a stroll through the fields amongst the cows and sheep to give a girl a good dose of countryside before heading back to the city. 

Everything seems so much greener than when I was last in the green and pleasant land that is England, and with all the blossom, daffodils and tulips it was all too lovely and springy. 

One of the things I really love is that I can just go into the garden and pick beautiful bunches of flowers. As a city gal at Uni/work, I feel really lucky to have a big bountiful garden at home.

Tippy be like 'Whatcha got there? Can I eat it?'

- Chilling with my fam. And the dogs.

Tippy enjoyed The Hunger Games: Catching Fire almost as much as we did
I don't know about you, but in the Hosie household we tend to just live in the kitchen. It's absolutely the heart of our home and there are few things I love more than just hanging out with my family round the kitchen table, reading the papers, playing with the dogs, drinking tea, instagramming (on my part anyway) and generally chatting about weird things. Usually in Northern accents. Because that's just what my mum, sister and I do, much to the dismay of my father. 

- Baking and Eating. Quelle surprise.

I already told you about these cupcakes which fuelled a catch-up with one of my oldest friends ever, the wonderful Jessie, but a lot of eating occurred over the weekend. Any student will know that when back home with the parents you've just got to eat as much as you can BECAUSE WE'RE POOR (and, ironically, mostly overweight.)

There's nothing like a hot cross bun with a side of Wills and Kate to start the day.
One of the things I was most looking forward to was a hot cross bun or two. My faves are the apple and cinnamon ones from M&S. SO GOOD. They've got that sticky exterior and are full of plump sultanas and pieces of apple. Lightly toasted and then smothered in butter, they are a dream. 

The Shrimp and I also took the opportunity to whip up some pancakes for breakfast on Easter Monday. Pancakes of the wholewheat chocolate chip banana variety to be precise. And they were gooood. You'd think most people would be chocolated-out after Easter Sunday but not the Hosie gals. Recipe will be up soon, ma dears, as they were too good not to share. 

That's not to say much chocolate was not eaten, oh no. Much to the contrary, in fact. In our house, we always have an Easter basket out on the island in the kitchen, and it is always choc-full (ha!) of little chocolate eggs and other Easter goodies. I brought reinforcements from Belgium too, natch.

What's more, the Aga in the kitchen means the chocolate is always at that most delightful of temperatures - still solid, but wonderfully melt-in-the-mouth. And as I said, we're ALWAYS in the kitchen (at parties and other times), so it's terribly hard not to nibble from the basket ALL DAY LONG. 

And THEN, the Easter bunny actually brought the Shrimp and I massive Lindt Easter eggs too! That was a rather unexpected surprise on Easter Sunday morning. There's something about chocolate in Easter egg form, much like that of advent calendars, that makes it taste better, don'tcha think?

Auntie Lissie brought these and they are like HEAVEN!
And even though I ate chocolate all morning, I was still more than able to demolish my fair share of the...

- Easter Sunday lunch FEAST

It was so nice to see some of my extended famalam over the few days I was home, and having people over gave us an excuse to make more of a fuss over Easter lunch than we would've done had it just been the four Hosies. (The big brother was elsewhere. That's fine. Not offended. It's not like I live in another country and was only home for a weekend. Nope, not offended at all.)

But anyway, Mama Hosie outdid herself on the culinary front. Once the troop of rellies had arrived, we kicked off with pink Champagne (because why not?), nibbles and canapés

For the main affair, we moved into the dining room. And you know something special's going down if we're in the dining room. Having tried to make the table look a little festive, I was even more looking forward to Feaster (that's the Easter Feast, of course.)

We had a traditional lamb, sausages, cauliflower cheese, potatoes, asparagus, green beans, those adorable mini carrots, mint sauce and gravy


I'm not a lamb girl but I'm told this was crackalackin'.

And it was all really rather top notch if I do say so myself. 

As we sipped and munched and mmmed and ahhed, conversation descended into what it always does when my family get together: heated grammar discussions. Srsly. 

We talked about our language pet peeves (people writing 'on route' for me. JUST NO!), our favourite words, the difference between British and American dictionaries, and I was given the challenge of using 'eponymous' and 'apocryphal' in the same sentence on my blog. Oh yay, I just did it. (Sorry, Auntie Marg, I know that was slightly lame of me.)

But before charades could get too silly, we brought out the pudding: key lime pie and the aforementioned cupcakes. Mmm. 

Ahh watch out chicky!

Chick down! Chick down!
Chick back up, phew.
There was also a load of cheeses which don't interest me in the slightest (c'mon, is this blog called Handbags and Stilton? I think not) so I'm afraid I've no clue what they were, but I enjoyed the grapes, oatcakes and crackers anyway. 

The great thing about family is that you can be as silly as you like and no-one minds. I happen to think we are particularly nuts in my fam, but I reckon everyone thinks that about their own. You gotta let the crazy out sometimes, don'tcha?

Being the dutiful hostess that she is, Mama Hosie soon got up and asked if anyone wanted tea or coffee. After being met with a chorus of 'Tea, please,' the afternoon seamlessly turned into the evening over multiple cuppas and even more chocolate. Well, it was Easter after all. 

After the famalam left that evening, I was left with a similar feeling to that of Christmas Day evening: you've had an epic, long, family lunch (in the dining room!), eaten chocolate throughout the day, played charades, and now there was nothing for it but retiring to the sofa for your fave films. And then making a sandwich of leftovers an hour or so later for dinner. Obvs. 

Which film did I go for? The classic, the comforting, the unbeatable, Parent Trap. There's nothing like a quote-along to one of your all-time fave films, is there? Parent Trap is without a doubt the film I've seen more times than any other, and it was the perfect way to round off a day of family, fun and food. 

The trouble with having a really lovely home is that it's extra hard to leave. I'm now back in Brussels after yet another delayed train but having brought back a suitcase that was about 90% full of food. And when I say food what I really mean is chocolate. 

Well I couldn't just leave it at home now, could I? And yes, I appreciate the irony of returning to the home of chocolate with enough chocolate to feed a small army. 

Let me tell you, when you work a full-time job and get a mere one day off for Easter (yup, strangely enough the Belgians don't get as much time for chocolate egg munching as the Brits), you sure realise how indulgent it is to get a whole month as a uni student! But it's good to be back.

Easter means different things to different people, and however you spent it, I hope you had a lovely one.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Sisterly Easter baking: Simple vanilla cupcakes with Nutella icing

So, my deary dears, I am home for Easter. Yay! And when home for Easter, how could one not indulge in a spot of sisterly Eastery (that’s definitely an adjective) baking? Exactly.

Last Easter-time, the Shrimp (that’s what I call my sister although she also goes by the name of Holly) and I made a pretty cracking (HA!) simple vanilla traybake topped with chocolate buttercream and all sorts of chocolatey decorations like Mini Eggs, chocolate buttons and Smarties. And it was yuuuuummy.

We went down a similar path with these babies today: simple vanilla sponge topped with a light Nutella and cream cheese icing. Easy peasy, unfussy and super yummy. Not to mention beyond cute, am I right?

In fact, they’re so cute that I couldn’t help getting a leeeettle too snap-happy as I awaited the arrival of my dear friend Jessie for afternoon tea today. There’s nothing like catching up with old friends over a cuppa, is there?

So, back to the cakes. The Shrimp had come up with the idea of a Nutella-y icing which would then, conveniently, slightly resemble a bird’s nest. APPROPRIATE, HUH!?

With this in mind, the Hosie gals made a trip into town this fine Easter Saturday morning to pick up a packet of Mini Eggs with which to decorate our Easter cupcakes. Yeah. That was more difficult than we’d expected. It turns out the East Midlands has basically run out of Mini Eggs. I kid you not. (Easter Midlands* not so much, that's for sure.) I’ve lost count of how many shops we tried before FINALLY finding some (not even Waitrose had any! *gasp*), and I tell ya, by that point we were despairing. 

Luckily, we did get our hands on some Mini Eggs in the end and came home to whip up these babies. They are so ridiculously quick and simple to make and a lot of fun to decorate too. I think they look particularly lovely in springy yellow paper cases and with Mini Eggs on top (which just so happen to match my nails – always pleasing) but of course you could top them with whatever ya fancy. Cupcakes are for life, not just for Easter, people.

Don’t you just love decorating cupcakes though? I sure do. And eating them. But you probably knew that already.

This makes 12 eggcelent* cupcakes. Happy Easter everyone!

Ingredients – Cake:
110g self-raising flour, sifted
110g caster sugar, sifted
110g butter, softened
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

-        Icing and topping

1 tub cream cheese (we used extra light Philadelphia)
3-4 tbsp Nutella (to taste)
An array of Mini Eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a muffin tin with paper cases. Measure out all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and mix well with a handheld electric whisk until you have a smooth, light batter. 

2. Spoon the mixture evenly into the paper cases...

...and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the tops are golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes in the tin before popping the cakes on to a wire rack to cool fully.

3. Make the icing simply by mixing the Philadelphia and Nutella together in a bowl with a spoon until smooth and well-combined. If yours seems a tad runny just pop it in the fridge for a few minutes. 

Once the cakes are fully cool, spread a spoonful of icing on to each one, top with the Mini Eggs and enjoy with your loved ones.

Yes, this is my crazy cake-eating face.
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