Sunday, 17 August 2014

Easy Rock Cakes

Z wanted to make some rock cakes after watching Junior Bake off. I'd never baked or eaten rock cakes before, and to be honest they'd never really appealed to me, but they were delicious, especially when fresh from the oven, the texture was lovely and they were just sweet enough.

We made half a batch of fruit and nut flavour and half a batch of white chocolate flavour. They were very simple to make, perfect for young children wanted to try their hand at baking.

Ingredients

225g/8oz wholemeal self-raising flour
75g/2½oz caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
125g/4½oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes
A couple of handfuls of crushed nuts and raisins or chocolate chunks
1 free-range egg
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract


Method 

Preheat oven to 180C and line or grease a baking tray.

Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the butter till the mixture looks similar to breadcrumbs.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg, milk and vanilla extract.

Add the egg mixture to the dry mix and stir well. It should look like a thick lumpy dough, you can add more milk if needed.

Add your nut or chocolate, and stir again.

Split the mixture up into golf ball sized pieces and place on the baking tray, leaving a good space between them.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden-brown.



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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Top 3 recipes to keep you warm this winter

I know it's still Summer, but Winter will be here before we know it, so I'm very happy to be sharing these 3 great winter warming recipes today in this fab guest post. All the recipes sound delicious, especially the hot chocolate.

Even though we’re in the midst of summer, it’s never too early to restock your trusty recipe book with a series of winter warmers. From wholesome cottage pies to Sunday dinners, there are various taste tantalising dishes to choose from.

Muffin-topped winter beef stew

On a cold winter’s evening, there’s nothing more inviting that a warm winter stew. It’s also a great dish to make if you’ve decided to invite a small gathering of people around to your McCarthy and Stone, house as it’s a recipe designed to feed many mouths. It’s also a healthy option that uses a number of seasonal vegetables.

Ingredients (makes enough for 2 adults and 2-3 children)

For the stew

500g braising steaks, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned with pepper and a little salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
450g carrots cut into chunks
2 large parsnips cut into chunks
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp sundried or regular tomato paste
300ml extra stock
450ml vegetable stock

For the topping

     225g plain flour
     3 tsp baking powder
     140g low fat cheddar, coarsely grated
     2 tbsp olive oil
     150ml low fat milk

Method

Heat the oven to 150°C. Toss the beef in seasoned flour and heat a little oil in a casserole dish. Brown the beef in batches and set aside.

Add 2 tbsp of water and the onion to the pan, stir well and lower heat, frying gently for ten minutes.

Add the carrots, parsnip and bay leaf, fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the beef and the tomato paste then bring to the boil. Cover and cook for 1-2 hours or until meat is tender.

For the topping, sieve flour and baking powder into a bowl and add half the low fat cheese. Mix milk and olive oil and add to flour to make a sticky dough. Spoon over meat and vegetables and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake until golden (around 15 minutes).

French Fish Pie 

A fish pie is an alternative to a meat dish, yet still makes a great warming winter dish.


Ingredients (serves 4)

1kg trimmed leeks
40g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 fillets of skinned haddock loin
150ml dry white wine
300ml low-fat crème fraîche
50g fine white breadcrumbs without crust
2–3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

Method

Halve the leeks and finely slice into half-moons. Soak them in cold water, then drain. Heat the oven to 200˚C/gas mark 6. Melt butter in an ovenproof pan to fit the fish fillets snugly, stir in the leeks, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.

Add the wine and simmer briskly until the leeks are juicy but not wet. Pat the fish dry and lay it over the leeks. Cover the fish with crème fraîche then breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is crisp.

Caribbean hot chocolate

This recipe will instantly warm the cockles and when using dark chocolate, it boasts a number of antioxidant benefits.

Ingredients (serves 4)

800ml almond milk
125g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
3 tbsp soft dark-brown sugar
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick
approx ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
4 tbsp grated plain chocolate

Method

Place 200ml of the milk in a saucepan with the cream, chocolate and sugar. Slit the vanilla pod along its length and remove seeds. Add the seeds and pod to the milk. Heat, stirring a little until smooth. Add the cinnamon and the rest of the milk and bring to the boil. Add the nutmeg, remove from the heat and allow the flavours to meld together (approx. 20 to 30 minutes).

Whip the cream and stir in the dark-brown sugar. Reheat the chocolate milk then remove the vanilla pod and cinnamon stick. Pour into glass mugs or heatproof glasses and top with grated chocolate. 

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Friday, 18 July 2014

Yummy Singapore Noodles

In celebration of the Commonwealth Games starting next week we're creating a series of recipes from Commonwealth countries, starting with Singapore. We probably won't get through all 71 countries taking part, but we're going to try as many as we can!

Everyone in our house loves a good noodle dish and they're usually a great way to get lots of colourful fresh veggies into the kids.

Ingredients ( makes enough for 2 very large portions )

  • 100g cooked and peeled prawns
  • Half a pak choi, ends chopped finely leaving the leaves whole
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped at the green end, split in half down the white end
  • Half a red pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli finely sliced
  • Thumbsized piece of ginger peeled and grated
  • Half a courgette, finely sliced
  • 100g beansprouts, washed
  • 50g tender broccoli stalks, washed and sliced in half
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp medium curry powder
  • 2 portions of fine dried egg noodles
  • Handful of Coriander leaves
  • 1 lime




Method

  • Boil some water and add the egg noodles, cook for 1 minute then turn off the heat.
  • In a wok or large frying pan add all of the vegetables (apart from the ends of the spring onion) and fry for about 4 minutes
  • Add the curry powder and fry for another minute
  • Add about 1/2 a cup of water from the noodles then drain the noodles
  • Add the noodles to the wok and mix very well before serving into two bowls
  • Sprinkle coriander leaves  into each bowl and squeeze the juice of a lime over your noodles.
  • For variety you can substitute prawns for other meat or fish or more vegetables.
  • Delicious, fresh and very quick.



Which country should we do next?

Are you excited about the Commonwealth Games? We definitely are, I always think it's such a great way to get kids enthusiastic about sports and maybe even inspire a love of a new sport. All my children do gymnastics so we always make a special effort to watch it at big sporting events, as they find it so inspiring to see what they may one day be capable of if they work hard.


A food shopping voucher was given to my costs for this recipe
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Sunday, 13 July 2014

No Place Like Home

I thought a lot about which quote to use to enter this competition, but in the end decided on this from The Wizard of Oz, one of my favourite childhood books and movies.

It's a bit messy because my 7 year old did it, I can't tell you how much he loved getting messy with spaghetti!



There really is no place like home.



We are new fans of Alphabetti, so much fun to have at dinner time.

This blog post is an entry into the Tots100/Heinz competition to support Children’s Book Week
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Thursday, 3 July 2014

Stuck in a Tree

Childhood toys star in funny bingo lingo video

Children’s toys are designed to fuel imaginations and encourage creativity, but sometimes they manage to do more than that. Sometimes they even become the stars of stage and screen…


This great video clip is part of an ongoing campaign which is documenting all 90 bingo calls in 90 videos. The aim is to crack the bingo lingo once and for all – giving us all the chance to join in with bingo calls rather than just sticking with the ones we know (two little ducks, anyone?)…

All of the 90 videos are going to go live on YouTube with the campaign currently at its half-way point and that means there is plenty of potential to see fantastic clips from people like you and me.


Number 53: stuck in a tree is naturally a favourite with childish toys making their way into the limelight and we can’t wait to see what else these videos teach us about the world of bingo and their distinctive calls.

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Friday, 27 June 2014

First day at school

I cannot believe that I now almost have THREE children at school. I'm quite sad thinking that my days with a preschooler are almost over, but at the same time looking forward to watching how they grow and change over the next few years.

When Z started school almost three years ago I was in complete denial, and didn't buy any uniform till the week before, with the girls I've been much more organised and much happier with the thought of them starting, knowing how they will thrive in their new environments. 

This September I have Z starting a new junior school and little H starting infant school, she is beyond excited at the thought of seeing her big sister everyday, I am a little anxious, but holding it together. I finally made the decision to start her on half days, but just really hope that this doesn't stop her making friends.

This is S last year when she started, I can't believe how much she has learned and grown in less than a year, that cardigan that looks too big is now on the small side. My girl is growing up.



Lots of people have asked me about uniform recently and where is best to buy from. I have to admit that at first I did buy all the school branded stuff, but S doesn't like the way the stitched on logos itch her, so I've found supermarket branded tops much better. This year I've bought just one school cardigan and then cheaper ones for other days, it's just not worth spending more than I need to as she either loses them or destroys them, I've never known a child get so dirty at school, I don't know how she does it! 

Did you know that George School Uniform has a100 day no quibble satisfaction guarantee? You can't ask for much more than that can you? They also have a great range of lunch bags and bottles too.

Where do you buy school uniform from?

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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Celebspiration: The best celebrity family travel spots

Holiday season is well and truly upon us, have you booked a summer holiday yet? If not, how about one of these fantastic destinations in this great guest post.

As Beyoncé and Jay Z post images of themselves flitting around the Caribbean and the likes of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt seem to be constantly travelling with their huge brood, it’s easy to imagine that holidays to the same destinations as the A-listers head to are beyond reach for mere mortals. But, while we may not be able to hire a super yacht or stay in 5* penthouse suites wherever we go, it is possible to take some inspiration from celebrity destinations if you haven’t yet booked your family break for the summer holidays or October half-term. Here are a few of the British destinations where you might spot a star or two.

Brighton



Singing superstar Adele loves Brighton so much she has snapped up a pad here while author Peter James has been so inspired by Brighton’s attractions that he set his Roy Grace novels there. He recommends exploring the South Downs national park and taking in the Regency and Victorian architecture in the city centre. For families, the Brighton hop-on, hop-off red tour bus is one of the best ways to see everything because you can get off as many times as you want to see attractions like Brighton Pier and the Sea Life centre. The beach is pebbly, but if you bring diving shoes or jellies, the kids will still have fun splashing about and throwing stones into the water.

Cornwall



Britain’s south-western tip is one of the most popular destinations for tourists across the globe, and celebrity travellers aren’t immune to its charms either. Daytime favourites Richard and Judy have a second home in Cornwall while Harry Enfield has also snapped up a property here. The Brangelina clan have also spent a holiday sailing around the Cornish coast. Rock is a particular celebrity hotspot, along with being one of the most expensive places to buy property in Britain. And, just around the coast, Parkdean’s St Minver site offers accommodation which is a cut above the norm. Its lodges have bedrooms with en suites and a separate living area, so there’s plenty of space and you’re within reach not just of Rock beach, but also Polzeath and Daymer Bay.

London



The capital is, of course, the most likely place to spot the odd celeb, with A-listers a plenty flocking to its clubs and restaurants. But, it’s also the perfect place for a family holiday, with a wealth of attractions to keep all ages occupied. The Natural History museum has a new attraction for summer all about Ice Age giants, while the London Eye offers a bird’s eye view of the city and the London Dungeon is perfect for fans of the Horrible Histories series.

Anglesey, Wales


Anglesey was, of course, home to one of the world’s most famous couples. Prince William and Kate Middleton made the island their home while the future king took on search and rescue duties as a pilot. And, it’s easy to see what attracted them. There are chocolate-box pretty villages and a stunning coastline, which has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You can take a boat trip to see the clown-like puffins which make their homes on the cliffs, or take a trip to Benllech on the east coast, a long sandy beach which is a firm favourite with families.

Cotswolds



For lots of celebrities, the Cotswolds are the perfect place to get away from it all. The countryside here attracts the likes of Kate Moss, Lily Allen, Kate Winslet and Stella McCartney. It’s not all glitz and glamour though. There are plenty of child-friendly attractions, including Cotswold Water Park, where you can swim, boat or cycle, and the Prinknash Bird and Deer Park, where the deer are so tame you can stroke them while they eat food from your hands.


They’re all stunning destinations that are just as appealing to families as they are to A-listers. 

Which would you like to visit??
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