Tag Archives: Fantastic Food

Random Acts of Kindness

Cherry, Pineapple & Banana Cake

We recently had a meeting to begin the 2020 (yes really!) Dairy Diary project. As I’m sure you know, the front of the diary is packed with information and inspiration. One of the subjects we discussed for inclusion in the diary was how to be happy – the meeting was held on International Happiness Day!

And it was really interesting to see the differences in what evokes happiness in different people.

For me, being outdoors is essential to feeling happy and well. But also, giving, I find that giving just a little something gives me a real sense of wellbeing.

And this giving doesn’t even have to be a ‘thing’. I often give compliments, even to people I barely know, if I think they have on a lovely coat or do something really well. It brightens everyone’s day.

I also try to help if I see someone struggling with something, such as a heavy basket or a stubborn door. Today, I was on my phone whilst choosing a bunch of daffodils (checking on ingredients at home and not concentrating on the job in hand) and I picked up a broken bunch. A complete stranger, who noticed what I had done, brought over another bunch and swapped them for me. What a lovely thing to do! It really made me smile and I’m sure it gave her a moment of happiness too.

We recently moved into a brand new house, and gradually, the houses around us are becoming inhabited too. After the removal vans pull away, my children sneak up and post a ‘new home’ card through the door introducing ourselves. The next day, they then arrive with a freshly baked cake to make the arduous job of unpacking a little happier. I love the fact that the children too, spread a little cheer.

But, don’t get the wrong impression – as much as I would love to devote hours of my time to good causes and baking elaborate creations for charity bake sales, my life is far too busy. 

This  Cherry, Pineapple & Banana Cake is my current go-to recipe for a very speedy gift.

It literally takes me 10 minutes to prepare and I usually have all of the ingredients to hand – it’s a great way to use up bananas slightly past their best too. Have a go – this could be your random act of kindness for the week – it’s sure to be appreciated.


Cherry, Pineapple & Banana Cake

  • Servings: 10 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Calories 305 per portion
Fat 10g (6.1g sat) per portion
Suitable for vegetarians
Suitable for freezing


  • Self-raising flour 225g (8oz)
  • Butter 110g (4oz), diced
  • Caster sugar 150g (5oz)
  • Eggs 2
  • Ripe bananas 450g (1lb), weighed in their skins
  • Glacé cherries 150g (5oz)
  • Pineapple chunks 227g can, drained and chopped
  • Few sugar lumps roughly crushed to decorate (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas 3. Grease an 18cm (7in) deep round cake tin and line the base with a circle of greaseproof or non-stick baking paper.
  2. Put the flour and butter into a bowl and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and then beat in the eggs one at a time.
  3. Peel the bananas and mash on a plate with a fork then beat into the cake mixture. Halve 8 of the cherries and reserve for decoration, then cut the rest into quarters and add these to the cake mixture with the drained pineapple pieces. Gently stir the cake until just mixed then spoon into the prepared tin.
  4. Spread the top level and decorate with a ring of the reserved cherry halves and a few crushed sugar lumps, if using. Bake the cake for 1–1¼ hours or until the top is golden and slightly cracked and a skewer comes out cleanly when inserted into the centre.
  5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then loosen the edges with a knife and turn out on to a wire rack. Leave to cool before peeling off the lining paper. Store in an airtight tin for up to 1 week.

Cook’s tips

If you have some sugar lumps at the back of the cupboard, then break up a few with a rolling pin and use to decorate the cake. If not, simply leave them out. Any leftover cherries can be used to top fairy cakes.


Fantastic Food For Less cookbookFantastic Food For Less

This recipe is taken from Fantastic Food for Less – one of my favourite cookbooks of all time!


Have fun and exercise your mind

Have fun and exercise your mind


Have fun and exercise your mind

We’ve started a new regime, my other half and I, where on our Friday ‘date’ nights, one of us is totally responsible for choosing what we eat, drink and do.

Mwhahahaha, now’s my chance to dust
down the board games (all in the spirit
of the Dairy Diary of course!)

In our Brain Training feature, in this year’s Dairy Diary we talk about the benefits of keeping our brains active so it has given me the perfect excuse to sneak out the Crossword game.


Brain training

The ability to think quickly, clearly and creatively, and to concentrate better, can be cultivated. If you have the motivation, and are prepared to put in a little effort, it seems to be entirely possible to improve your mental capacity, whatever your age. The key is to keep challenging yourself – giving your brain a gentle workout will strengthen it and improve its power.

Messages are passed through your brain via neurons, using chemical and electrical reactions that travel with mind-boggling speed. Part of each neuron is insulated with myelin, a fatty substance that helps electrical transmissions. The thicker the insulation, the speedier and more accurate your thinking and the better your memory. Learning increases the density of neuron connections, and repetition increases the thickness of the myelin. Bingo!


What can you do to boost your brain power?

Anything that engages different parts of the brain at the same time is especially effective. The left side is concerned with logic, sequential thinking and decision making; the right side with creativity, imagination and random ideas.

Tackle crosswords, sudokus, quizzes and puzzles, or take up bridge. Solving cryptic puzzles involves several parts of your brain – logic, recall, creative thought, analysis, deciding on likely options, dealing with frustration – and the benefits increase if you do it with someone else.

Learn something new and challenging e.g. chess, crochet, a musical instrument. Learning another language may seem ambitious but is especially good because it forces your brain to switch tracks continuously, which is one of the most mentally demanding things you can do. It helps hone the frontal lobes, the brain’s mind managers, which tend to shrink as part of the ageing process.

Study a subject that you find interesting e.g. botany, nutrition, a specific era of history.

Read, and maybe join or start a book club. Discussing books with others hones your critical/analytical skills.

Make up brain games to play with friends e.g. think of an animal or food for every letter of the alphabet. Focusing on simple tasks helps to improve concentration as well as boosting brain power. Include memory games, so that each person has to repeat what has already been said.

Listen to music. Listening to Mozart has been shown to improve spatial and mathematical reasoning.

An exercise to help improve your concentration is to spend a few minutes every day emptying your mind and thinking of nothing but your breathing. Practising focusing on one thing will help you to de-clutter and calm your thoughts, so you can concentrate better the rest of the time.


As working parents with several young children, it’s pretty impossible to find the time to take up a new language or join a book club. We can, however, squeeze in the odd board game or two when the children are asleep (the games that we play with the children are not particularly intellectually taxing just yet!)


Here’s my menu for Friday evening:


Smoked Mackerel Pate

Smoked Mackerel & Dill Pâté

Time 10 mins plus chilling. Per portion: 185 Kcal, 8.4g fat (1.3g saturated). Serves 4

Smoked mackerel 225g (8oz), skinned
Chopped dill 3 tbsp
Lemon juice 2 tbsp
Garlic 1 clove, peeled and crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
Double cream 150ml (¼ pint), lightly whipped
Egg white 1, whisked
Lemon wedges to serve (optional)
Melba toast to serve (optional)

1 Place the mackerel flesh in a bowl. Add the chopped dill, lemon juice, garlic and pepper and mash together well or blend in a food processor.

2 Fold in the cream and egg white; chill.

3 Serve with Melba toast and lemon.


Cheddar Cheese Risotto with Bacon

Cheddar Cheese Risotto with Bacon

Time 30 minutes. Per portion: 478 Kcal, 23g fat (12g saturated). Serves 4

Butter 25g (1oz)
Risotto rice 225g (8oz)
Spring onions 8, trimmed and chopped
Hot vegetable stock 900ml (1½ pints)
Smoked streaky bacon 8 rashers, de-rinded and halved
Frozen peas 200g (7oz)
Freshly ground black pepper
Mature Cheddar cheese 110g (4oz), diced

1 Melt the butter in a large non-stick saucepan and add the rice, coating it well in the butter. Stir in the spring onions and about 150ml (¼ pint) of the stock and simmer until almost absorbed. Pour in more stock, a ladleful at a time and each time waiting for the liquid to be almost absorbed before adding more, simmering until the rice is almost cooked. The mixture should not be dry.

2 Meanwhile, grill the bacon rashers until crisp.

3 Add the peas and season well with pepper. Heat through, then stir in the Cheddar cheese. When the cheese starts to melt, serve with the bacon rashers piled on top.


Raspberry Syllabub Trifle

Syllabub Trifle

Time 20 minutes plus chilling. Per portion: 395 Kcal, 27g fat (15.1g saturated). Serves 6

Trifle sponges 4
Raspberry jam 110g (4oz)
Lemon 1, grated zest and juice
Caster sugar 50g (2oz)
Dry cider with elderflower 120ml (4fl oz)
Double cream 300ml carton
Mixed frozen fruits 200g (7oz), just defrosted

1 Slice each sponge cake in half horizontally. Spread jam over half of the slices, then cover with the remaining slices, cut to fit and place in six individual glasses in a single layer. Spread any remaining jam over the top of the sponge cakes.

2 Place most of the lemon zest, the lemon juice and sugar in a bowl. Add the cider and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Drizzle a little of this liquid over the trifle sponges until just moist.

3 Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Gradually whisk in the remaining cider mixture.

4 Spoon the fruit over the sponge and then cover with the flavoured cream. Top with any remaining lemon zest. Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.


Accompanied by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and
followed with a couple of games of Crossword.


Dairy Diary 2015 collection

The 2015 Dairy Diary is still available and if you like the look of the recipes above, they are taken from our cookbook, Fantastic Food for Less.

You can buy both books with FREE DELIVERY throughout January!


I would love to know what activities you participate in to expand and exercise the mind.








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