Valentines Candy Cane Pops

I love Valentines Day. Not because I like to make a huge deal and spend a lot of money – I absolutely don’t. Every year Hubby and I say that we’ll get each other something small – a token – and leave it at that. Maybe a card, a nice letter, a small box of chocolates… A token.

No. I love Valentines Day because it’s a holiday. I love holidays. Any holiday. I love having an excuse to celebrate. And a holiday based around love? Even better!

I wanted to take a small token to my girlfriends at church today, and I’d come across this idea on the Internet this past summer. Absolutely genius, and so simple!

Valentine candy caneWhen I found this recipe last summer and decided I wanted to make it this year, I thought it was going to be a nightmare getting hold of the mini candy canes. I’d just never seen them over here in the UK. I kind of put the idea to the back of my mind, and had almost forgotten about it until Shaun and I were shopping in York just after Christmas and I spotted some on sale. I was practically giddy. Naturally, he couldn’t understand all the fuss.

But he did admit that once these little guys are all put together, they are darn cute!

Also, he wasn’t complaining when he got to lick the bowl that held the melted chocolate.

And when I gave him the piping bags after I was done. Poor guy practically went into a sugar coma.

Fancy a little Valentines Day trivia? Did you know that around 1 billion cards are sent to people around the world each year on Valentines? Also… The city of Verona, Italy (setting for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”) receives around 1,000 cards every year addressed to Juliet. Awww.

But, if you don’t feel like sending a card this year – or you want a little somethin’ somethin’ to go along with it without breaking the bank, how about giving one of these cute little fellas a try? You won’t regret it.

And yes. I said “fellas”. Anything this good looking has got to be male, right?

P.S. Please excuse the lack of “finished product” pictures. It was dark by the time they had set, and I don’t yet have either the photography equipment or know how (or both!) to make pictures look good in nighttime situations. But I assure you, they looked very sweet all bundled up and ready to go with their little bags, tags and ribbons!

Valentines Candy Cane Pops

24 mini peppermint candy canes

3 small / 1 medium bar white chocolate

3 small / 1 medium bar milk chocolate

Sprinkles (for decorating)

2 disposable piping bags (or ziplocs)

12 4″ lollipop sticks

12 small cellophane bags

Ribbon

Tags (if needed)

Baking paper

Arrange the lollipop sticks in two rows on a sheet of baking paper, leaving about 3 inches between each.

Lay mini candy canes in a heart shape around the top of the sticks, making sure that the canes are touching each other at the top and the stick at the bottom (to create a seal for the melted chocolate). Make sure that the lollipop sticks reach about 2/3 of the way into the centre of the heart – it will give your finished pops more stability.

Melt the chocolate separately in a double broiler or zap it in the microwave until pourable. Scrape melted chocolate into two separate piping bags (or ziplocs) and secure.

Make a very small (couple of mm) hole at the bottom of each bag. By making a smaller hole, you get more control over where your chocolate goes. Pipe the chocolate into the centre of your hearts, and turn the lollipop sticks 360 degrees once done so that the stick is covered in chocolate all the way around. Again, this step will make sure your pops have a little more stability. They can be a little heavy in comparison to the sticks, and you don’t want them falling off after all your hard work!

Immediately top with decorative sprinkles and leave to cool completely before packaging (around 2-3 hours).

And there you go – the perfect little sweet for your sweetie this Valentines Day!

Salt & Pepper Spare Ribs

I’m on a bit of a low-carb kick at the moment, trying to shift some of the ever-lingering baby weight that seems to have taken up permanent residence about my person! I’ve got to be honest, it’s not altogether a bad thing – I’m a total carb junkie. Sugar, potatoes, rice, pasta, I could eat it all until it comes out of my ears. And I have done. Often.

Which probably hasn’t helped the situation.

Anyway. I have this one pair of jeans still hanging in my wardrobe that I’ve not even got close to being able to fit into since the beginning of 2010… I am determined that they will fit before this year is out! It’s utterly depressing to go clothes shopping and have nothing fit properly.

So I’m looking for low-carb recipes to try out at the moment. I love ribs. The problem is that they often come covered in this absolutely gorgeous, sticky, sweet BBQ sauce, something that is a complete no-go for me at the moment. It probably doesn’t help that I made this amazing vanilla pudding cake just the other day.

I remember having salt and pepper spare ribs at a local Chinese place once or twice, and they were really good. So I started clicking around online looking for a recipe, and every single one had some sort of sugar or honey or something in there that wouldn’t work for me.

Spare ribsI thought about it a little more, and figured that as long as there were some nice flavours there, they should be good. Right? Especially if they were really slowly cooked. So in the end, all I used was salt, pepper and Chinese five spice powder. That’s it.

And they were fabulous. Because they were cooked at a low temperature and slowly in a foil packet, the meat was literally falling off the bones and so tender.

I really didn’t miss the BBQ sauce. Not one bit!

So all in all, I’d say this recipe was a raving success. I honestly can’t remember when I last managed to make anything meat-based as nice as this. I served them with some fries – and I did make some BBQ sauce – for my boys, and I made some swede salad (or rutabaga for you guys on the other side of the pond!) as an accompaniment for me. Beautiful.

And after these babies were in the oven for a couple of hours, my house smelt gorgeous. Bonus!

Salt & Pepper Spare Ribs

2.2 lbs / 1kg spare ribs

1tsp Chinese Five Spice

2 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Put the ribs into a large bowl.

Method:

Mix the Chinese Five Spice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl, and then pour over the ribs.

Mix well with your hands, and cover the bowl and leave to marinade in the fridge for a couple hours. When you have around 20 minutes left in the fridge, preheat the oven to 250F/120C.

Put a large piece of aluminium foil in the bottom of a large casserole dish (mine was 13 x 9 inches). Lay the ribs on top, meat side down, and pour over any juices left in the bottom of your bowl.

Seal the package tightly and put into the middle of your oven for three hours.

Take the dish out, open the foil and carefully turn over each rib so it is meat side up. Leave the package open, and raise the oven temperature to 350F/180C and bake for a further 8-10 minutes, just to crisp up the tops slightly.

Enjoy!

Vanilla Pudding Poke Cake

Yesterday afternoon, because I obviously thought I didn’t have enough to do with the laundry and housework and toddler wrangling and meal preparing and Christmas present making, I decided to bake a cake.

I’ve seen this kind of recipe popping up all over various blogs and Pinterest, and although by this point I’m a little late in joining the party I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Side note: if anyone from the UK is reading this, do you know where to find pudding mix? I’ve looked everywhere. I have access to all the Angel Delight I could ever eat, but cannot find one single pudding packet. The one I used in this recipe I brought back from America when we visited last October. My suitcase was stuffed with American grocery products, I’m sure Shaun and my parents thought I’d gone crazy. But the stuff keeps forever and I like to use pudding to add to cake mixes, although I’m now down to my last packet!

Vanilla Poke CakeI digress. Oh wait – actually. I’m going to digress a little further. The cake mix I used was a Duncan Hines “Butter Golden” – I’ve never used Duncan Hines before (we only usually get Betty Crocker over here, this one particular box was on clearance at my local JK Maxx), and noticed this little tidbit on the back, underneath the various cooking times.

Who knew that “Bundt” was a registered trademark? Am I the only ignorant person that just thought it was the name of a type of cake pan? You learn something new every day!

Anyway. This cake. I love this cake. What’s not to love? It’s pudding, it’s cake, it’s buttercream frosting and just because this is a fun kind of cake I added sprinkles, too!

And I don’t know whether it was the type of cake mix, or the fact that there was pudding in there too (maybe a bit of both?), but this cake is so unbelievably moist. And light. And sweet. Oh, and it’s incredibly addictive.

I literally had to remove myself from the room to stop myself eating it. I couldn’t resist a little piece, but unfortunately for me gestational diabetes and a truckload of pudding cake do not mix. So the husband and the kid are going be disposing of most of this for me.

I’m sure they won’t mind!

Vanilla Pudding Poke Cake

Ingredients:

For cake:

1 boxed cake mix – any white/yellow/butter variety will do fine

Whatever your box mix says you need to make it – mine was 7 tbsp butter, 3 eggs and ½ cup water.

For pudding:

1 packet vanilla pudding mix

2 cups milk – to mix

For buttercream frosting:

6 tbsp butter

1 tsp vanilla

1¾ cups powdered sugar

⅛ tsp salt

1 tbsp water

Method: 

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Grease a 9″ square cake pan (or something of equivalent volume) with butter.

Prepare box mix according to directions and scrape batter into pan, evening the top before baking.

Bake for between 25-35 minutes until lightly golden brown on top or a wooden toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean (mine was perfect at 30 minutes). Make sure you have a large bowl and electric whisk or mixer on standby with your pudding mix and milk for when the cake is done.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, grab the stick end of a wooden spoon and poke holes into the top, going almost all of the way through to the bottom (I spaced mine around 1½” apart). Then, quickly mix your pudding milk together on high until the mixture just starts to thicken a little – you are looking for a thick syrupy consistency.

Pour the pudding on top of the cake (it should still be hot), making sure all the holes get filled. Spread any excess evenly across the top of the cake, and then put in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours.

To make the buttercream frosting:

In a stand mixer or using an electric hand mixer, combine butter, water and vanilla until well mixed.

Add salt and sugar, and mix on low until combined. Turn mixer to the highest speed and beat for around 5 minutes (or longer, if you have the patience! The longer you beat the frosting, the fluffier it will be!).

Take the cake from the fridge, spread the frosting evenly over the top and then if the mood strikes, add sprinkles, nonpareils, Oreo crumbs or any other form of fun, pretty little decoration.

Slice, and enjoy!

A cake this size will serve around 10-12 people depending on your appetite – I find you only need a little as it is quite sweet!