Monday, 26 November 2012

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix In A Jar

I'm a big fan of giving and receiving Christmas gifts that can be used up, whether that's eaten, drunk, poured into a bath or spent.  Unless I know someone wants something very specific, I always try to give them something I know they will be able to use up and won't have to keep lying around the house for years to come.  Last year, I gave several friends and relatives homemade jars of cookie mix as part of their present.  They went down really, really well so I'm doing a few more this year.

After trawling the Internet for hours last year trying to find the perfect cookie-in-a-jar recipe, I ended up combining a couple and adjusting the quantities to perfectly fit the 750ml jars I had.  The recipe below will fill this size jar perfectly and you can easily increase the quantities of each ingredient by, say, 25% to fit litre jars.

Of course, you have to do a trial run of the cookies, just to make sure they're good enough to give out as gifts...that's my excuse, anyway.  I don't like 'hard' cookies, so when I sampled the recipe, I baked the cookies for 10 minutes which gave a lovely, soft chewy texture.  If you like them more crunchy, bake for a few minutes longer until they're just right for you.

Triple-Chocolate-Chip-Cookie-Mix-In-A-Jar Recipe

Fills one 750 ml jar

60g white chocolate chips
60g dark chocolate chips
60g milk chocolate chips
15g Rice Krispies 
150g plain flour
Half tsp of bicarbonate of soda
Quarter tsp of baking powder
80g dark brown soft sugar
75g caster sugar
30g porridge oats

Layer the ingredients into your jar in any order you like, but see the tip below on the brown sugar.

Attach a label to your jar with the following instructions:


Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 24 small or 12 enormous cookies

1. Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas 4. 
2. In a large bowl, cream 75g of butter or margarine until light and fluffy. Mix in 1 egg and 1 additional egg yolk. Add the contents of the jar and stir until well blended.
3. Dollop spoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking tray.
4. Bake for 10 minutes for a soft, chewy cookie, or a couple of minutes longer for a crunchier cookie. Remove from baking trays to cool on wire racks.

Tips on filling your jar

Obviously, you want the jars to look pretty but I found it a lot harder than it looks to get perfectly neat layers!  I just spooned the different ingredients into the jar and levelled them out as best I could.  

One thing I do recommend, is to mix the brown and white sugars together before adding them to the jar.  

Dark brown sugar has a tendency to harden and I read lots of comments on other cookie jar recipes from people who found they had to hack away at the brown sugar layer to get it out the jar!  Mixing the two certainly worked for me, and a jar I kept back for a couple of months was fine when I came to use it. 

Decorate your jar any way you like - I keep things simple with a length of ribbon and a customised gift tag.  Those retro style card luggage tags you can buy in stationery shops for pennies are perfect as they're big enough to write the baking instructions on!  

P.S How cute are my Santa and polar bear?  We had an almost identical Santa when I was a toddler in the 80s and I loved him. I was delighted when I saw this 2012 version in M & S and had to have him and his polar bear friend. Tacky, you say? Absolutely :-)


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Cruelty-free hair!

Hello! It's been way too long since my last post but I wanted to share my latest cruelty-free finds with you.    I wrote a bit about my quest to only ever buy cruelty-free products back in May and thought it was time for an update.  And as we can't talk about cruelty-free without a gratuitous cute bunny shot, here you go:

Cruelty-free make-up and, increasingly, toiletries are fairly easy to find but I've always struggled with quality hair-care products.  Supermarket own-brand shampoos and conditioners (see Co-op and Sainsbury's own labels for super-cheap cruelty-free products) tend to be cheap and relatively low on quality.  While these are fine for 'normal' hair, my long, heat-damaged, dehydrated hair doesn't do well with these basic products.  Step in, Liz Earle

For some reason, I'd never purchased any Liz Earle products until a few months, ago.  I have to be honest and admit that this is partly because I vaguely remembered Liz as a reporter on GMTV in the 90s and I found her intensely irritating at the time.  Well, I decided it was time to forgive and forget and I finally lost my Liz Earle virginity by heading into John Lewis and purchasing this shampoo...

Liz Earle Botanical Shine Shampoo £8.50
this conditioner...
Liz Earle Botanical Shine Conditioner £8.50
and this shine treatment...
Liz Earle Botanical Shine Treatment £14
My verdict?

The shampoo = awesome.  Liz has a customer for life there. You only need to use a teeny, tiny dollop and it lathers up beautifully, leaving your hair feeling squeaky-clean and happy.

The conditioner = awesome.  Again, you don't need to use all that much compared to other brands and although it doesn't feel that 'conditioning' while you're applying it, your hair will feel lovely and soft once you've rinsed it off.  

The Shine treatment = meh.  Maybe it just wasn't a good match for my hair but this was the only product I didn't love.  It's OK, and I'd consider buying it again to use on a beach holiday, maybe, or if my hair was looking particularly dull.  I didn't actually find this did much more for my hair than the conditioner did so it wasn't worth the £14 to me.

At the cheaper end of the market, Superdrug have recently expanded their hair-care range and now offer shampoo and conditioners which are their version of Pantene Pro-V.  Pantene is made by the most definitely NOT animal-friendly Proctor and Gamble so I was pleased to try a similar product from a kinder company.

Superdrug Pro-Vitamin Conditioner £2.29

I was pleasantly surprised by this shampoo and conditioner.  It left my hair nice and soft and the scent is lovely.  Proper old-school clean hair smell!  I bought the Thermal Protect  shampoo and conditioner but they also offer 'Normal', 'Extra- Shine' and 'Volume'.  I will definitely be buying this again and thoroughly recommend it if you're on a budget as the bottles are BIG and it lasts for ages.  I also recommend it if you  want to instantly be transported back to your childhood, sitting on the sofa on a Sunday evening, smelling of shampoo and bubble bath, full from a roast dinner and waiting for You've Been Framed to come on.  Or Songs of Praise if you were more highbrow than I was.

Last, but not least, my final cruelty-free hair care find is Tara Smith.  I'd never heard of Tara but on a recent trip to the ginormous new Marks and Spencer near Cheshire Oaks on the outskirts of Chester (if you're in the north-west and haven't been yet, go. Even if you don't like M & S, just go.  It's amazing.  Even my retail-therapy-hating boyfriend loves it) I spied a display of her pretty bottles.  I was so excited when I picked up one of said bottles and it turned out her products were BUAV approved and 100% cruelty-free *squeal*.

I thought I'd just try the serum to start with, reasoning that if I liked it, I would simply HAVE to come back to the world's greatest M&S to buy up the rest of the range.  I've only used the serum twice so far and I like it very much.  A little goes a very long way and it leaves my hair looking smooth and healthy.  It feels very  rich and luxurious and not at all sticky like some serums tend to.  The bottle is pretty funky too:

Tara Smith Base Coat Serum £14
The full range includes shampoos, conditioners, styling products and some nifty little kits, each designed for a specific hair type.  I will be dropping some heavy hints and hoping to find a selection of Tara Smith goodies in my Christmas stocking this year.

Have you tried any of these products, or do you know of any other cruelty-free hair-care ranges?  If so, I'd love to hear from you, as would my parched locks :-)