“The Violet Butterscotch Blondie” from “The Violet Bakery Cookbook”


This picture doesn’t do the Blondies justice,                                                                                      but they disappeared so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to take another one. 

What’s not to love about a Blondie? Essentially, it’s a chocolate chip cookie in square form. I’ve never actually made one, until now. Believe me, I’ve eaten *plenty* of Blondies. (I love them.)  As chocolate chip cookies are essentially a separate food group in this house, I knew it was time I made a Blondie.

I was not disappointed. Nor was the rest of my family.

However, in the interest of full disclosure, it was not completely plain sailing. When I first read the directions that told me before I made the Blondie I would have to make “caramel shards,” I had thoughts that can’t be repeated verbatim here. But essentially I thought that this was yet another example of a good chef getting too cheffy with a home recipe, as I’ve had plenty of blondies without caramel shards and they were delicious.

“Bleurgh,” I thought to myself. “Making something relatively simple into something complicated.”

If I were just making this on my own, I probably would have just skipped this step. But as I was testing the recipe for the blog, I persevered with the caramel shards. Guess what, dear readers? They were worth the trouble.

When the Blondie is baking, what happens to the caramel shards is they either stay on the surface or sink down to the bottom. Either way, when you’re eating the Blondie and you stumble upon some caramel shard in your bite, you probably will think, “Delicious!” At least I did.

So yes, this recipe is slightly more difficult to make than your average Blondie recipe. But the extra step is definitely worth the trouble.

Want to make this yourself? The Happy Foodie has the recipe on its website, which you can read by clicking through this paragraph.

“The Violet Butterscotch Blondie” from “The Violet Bakery Cookbook”

“Egg yolk chocolate chip cookies” from “The Violet Bakery Cookbook”


Kirstin: I made these one blustery Sunday afternoon. Having read the introduction to this book, I was wary of the whole butter/egg whisking and so didn’t cream the mix too much. They came out perfectly. And yes, the egg yolks made them creamier. I don’t have a favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, but I would be very happy to make this my go to recipe. Love.

“Egg yolk chocolate chip cookies” from “The Violet Bakery Cookbook”

Cookbook of the Month, February 2016, The Violet Bakery Cookbook

Maureen: A month of baking has got to be our response to all the clean eating and healthy living cookbooks that are currently crowding the bookshelves.

Kirstin: Sign me up.

Maureen: She came to London from California after working in Chez Panisse. She also worked at a bunch of restaurants here before she started baking for the market in Hackney. The rest is history.

Kirstin: The photography is beautiful.

Maureen: I like that she has an American sensibility but lives in London. I can relate.

Kirstin: We should probably take a trip to the bakery in Hackney.

Maureen: Excellent idea.

Cookbook of the Month, February 2016, The Violet Bakery Cookbook

Our Verdict – “A Year of Good Eating: Kitchen Diaries III”



Kirstin: This is one of my Nigel favourite books for awhile.

Maureen: I agree

Kirstin: I can’t see what’s different about this one that makes me like it.

Maureen: We both have the first Kitchen Diaries, but that’s from several years ago, even before we started this blog. That was OK, but not as good as “Real Cooking,” which I still have on my high rotation cookbook shelf.

Kirstin: We reviewed “Eat,” which I really wanted to like, and that was rubbish.

Maureen: “Eat” was so disappointing because it seemed to promise so much and didn’t deliver it at all.

Kirstin: But this cookbook was a return to form. I don’t know if I liked this so much because we’ve done so many healthy eating books.

Maureen: This was good because it was different enough to be interesting, but not so different as to be weird.

Kirstin: The one thing that bugged me was how the seasonal eats section was hidden.  I found them by chance, and they were really good.

Maureen: I made a few things from there and they were all good. The thing that bugged me was how the cookbook was organised. It felt more like a book that needed to be read from start to finish, rather than a cookbook that you would dip in and out of. It needs a better index. It would have been nice to have a list of types of food grouped together so you could easily find a vegetarian dish or a fish dish, rather than having to wade through the whole book.

Kirstin: This is a good book to give people. It’s much more like his older things.

Maureen: Maybe that’s why we liked it so much because it was a return to form.

“A Year of Good Eating: Kitchen Diaries III”
Overall Grade (A- F): B (Kirstin) B+ (Maureen)
Best recipes: Kirstin: Pork Chop with Mushrooms Maureen: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Grade for Photography (A-F):  A
Any disasters? No
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf  Maureen: Bookshelf


Our Verdict – “A Year of Good Eating: Kitchen Diaries III”

“Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake” from “A Year of Good Eating”

IMG_8147As soon as I read the title of this recipe, I knew I would be eating this in January.

What better way to cheer up a drab month with atrocious weather, grey skies and no holidays to celebrate? For what it’s worth, I’ve dubbed this month my Not Dry January. Unlike the legions of others who’ve decided that this will be the month they give their liver a rest and try to eat more healthy, I’m doing the opposite.

An American by birth– though not by location at the moment– I absolutely love the ambrosia that is the chocolate-peanut butter combination. After all, I was raised thinking that when it came to candy, there was nothing better than a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. In fact, I still think that.

I made this for a dinner party where we would be joined by fellow expat Americans (and a few random Brits). I made it the afternoon before, as per the instructions, as it needs an overnighter in the refrigerator to set.

It did not disappoint. In fact, the only disappointing thing about the experience was because I wanted to be a polite and thoughtful guest, I left behind the remaining 1/4 of the cheesecake to my hosts. But I certainly missed not being able to have seconds the next day.


If you’d like to make this yourself, click through this sentence to find the original recipe in The Guardian.

“Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Spiced Chicken and Noodle Soup” from “A Year of Good Eating”



Peter: Well this has a bit of tickle.

Anna: Pretty spicy for sure. This is great.

Peter: You can make this again.

Anna: Why thank you. I definitely plan to. It would have been quick too, had I not had that purge of the spice cupboard at Christmas. Thank you for the emergency dash to the Coop for tumeric, by the way.

Peter: So are we thinking this is Thai?

Anna: I would say so. Coconut milk, lemongrass, chilli, lime, fish sauce… seems pretty Thai to me. It would be good with leftover roast chicken too.

Peter: So when are we having this again?

“Spiced Chicken and Noodle Soup” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Pork Chops with Mushrooms” from “A Year of Good Eating”


So it turns out that when you’re choosing a recipe to cook from this book, there are these extra colour insert sections that you also need to have a look at before making your decision. This particular recipe was chosen from the Autumn Eats section. I rather like these sections as the pictures are all in glossy colour and there is less rambling about the recipe, and more getting straight to the details.
Anyway, let me get back to the recipe. I made this on a cold night, just for me. Frying the pork chop in butter gave it a wonderful slightly nutty taste. And the mushrooms and shallots were delicious (I’d use less anchovies than he said to be honest though). I used thyme instead of flat leaf parsley because I’m a rebel like that. And I opened a bottle of red wine because it would have been rude not to have a glass to go with the food. Perfect cold weather fare. Cheers Nigel!

“Pork Chops with Mushrooms” from “A Year of Good Eating”