Wednesday, 28 September 2011

New Beginnings!

So I have very exciting news about the future!  I am embarking on a new business and will become a work from home mum!  No longer will I just be cooking and going crazy for the family, but I will also be creating and going crazy for accessories!

I am really excited about the future and the possibilities that lie ahead.

I shan't say too much just now though as will make a big announcement when things are in a better position to move forward.

On the home front; Bob continues to love school, although on our way in today he had a nasty fall off his scooter and his knees are in a shocking state.  As soon as Miss Boo saw her brother with plasters over his knees, however, she demanded she have plasters too and so we have had a stick-a-thon in our house today.

The long days at school are beginning to take a toll on young master Bob and he comes home very tired and over-emotional.  A lot of wailing goes on, and by the end of the day I am right there with them.  Who knew bath time could be such a stressful time?  Long gone are the leisurely soaks in the bath, listening to soft music and reading a book.  Now all baths remind me of are tears before bed and being soaked with an avalanche of water as little people giggle in their over tired state.

Still, these times fly and before we know it they will be gone for good.

Sadly on the cuisine front I have been uninspired and got into a rut of making safe dishes.  Firm family favourites that I know will be eaten without said tears or recrimination.  This must, however, change.  As must our table manners.  I was mortified today when Bob's teacher informed me that he s the messiest eater she has ever seen.  Time to instill some proper eating etiquette and a reward chart me thinks! Thankfully she hasn't seen Miss Boo eat - that might just make her socks pop off!

Still, nothing, not even cheek rouging embarrassment can remove the spring in my step that comes with the excitement of new frontiers to be crossed.

It's all about to get very exciting indeed!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Personality

Miss Boo is developing a personality.  This is adorable.  It is also exhausting.

She is:

Independent, confidant, demanding, funny, determined, adventurous, sociable, gregarious, fearless and insatiable.

In the Night Garden has become an addiction.  As has "Brown Bear, Brown Bear".

When she wants something she goes and gets it.

This morning she demanded the TV be turned on before breakfast.  When this was not forthcoming, she climbed onto the TV table, turned on the TV, placed the remote in my lap, picked up my hand and started jabbing the buttons with my fingers.

She is also adorable.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Summer is Over - Autumn is here

It has been a crazy, busy summer for us at the Weaners to Screamers household. 

First we had Master Bob's Peter Pan Party!



Then we had long lazy days in the garden



And then we had getting ready for school!

Yes, that's right.  We are now a school attending family.  Getting ready in the morning is now done with military precision.  There is a strict routine of breakfast, loo, teeth and getting dressed before grabbing scooters and pushchairs and marching up the road to get to the classroom for 8:30 sharp.   There is homework and class notes and snacks and water bottles that need to be made ready and names to remember.  Oh my, all the names that you have to remember.  Mums and boys and teachers and teaching assistants and administrators and more and more and MORE!

I don't know who was more exhausted at the end of his first week, him or me.

But here we are, two weeks in and we are back online and back to a routine.

Miss Boo has been enjoying the walks although wishes she could do more of the walking, but if that happened we would be taking 3 hours instead of 30 minutes to get there.  She is speaking more and more and her favourite phrases are, "I can do it" and "No", which we hear quite a lot.

The food front has mainly been salads, fish fingers and BBQ's, but now that autumn is upon us and the apple tree at the bottom of the garden s good for harvesting, I shall try to update with more recipes soon.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Orange Jelly Boats!

It is wonderfully easy to make your own jelly.  Most supermarkets stock gelatin leaf and they store for ages in your cupboard too.  If you wish, you can use store-bought jelly, just use a little less water than the instructions intend (approximately 4/5 water) so that the jelly will set firmly.



What you will need

4 large oranges, cut in half
4 leaves of gelatin
200 ml cold water
2 - 4 tbsp sugar, depending on how sweet you wish your jelly.  I used 2 tbsp.
A small glass bowl
A muffin tray
Cocktail sticks
Paper for sails, or cocktail sticks with flags.

How we did it

Using a citrus squeezer, squeeze the juice from the oranges, being careful not to break the skins.   Set aside 200 ml of the juice (you can drink the rest - yum!)
Cut up the gelatin leaf into small pieces.  Using 50 ml of your 200 ml of cold water, pour it into a small glass bowl and place the gelatin in the water and allow to soak for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a spoon, careful scrape out the flesh from the orange halves.  Being careful to ensure that you don't make any holes in the orange skin.  Remove the segments and pith and if you have a hard pith from the middle of the orange, gently snip this away with some kitchen scissors.


Place the remaining 150ml of water into a saucepan and add the sugar.  Stirring over a low to medium heat, slowly dissolve the sugar in the water.  Allow the water to warm up but not boil.
Keep the water on a low heat.
Take the bowl of gelatin and water and place it over a gently simmering saucepan of water.  Stir this until the gelatin dissolves.  Be careful to make sure the water doesn't boil as this will spoil the setting later.
Pour the orange juice into the warmed sugar water and heat through.
Finally, add the gelatin and stir through, keeping warm and ensuring everything has dissolved.
Place the orange halves on a muffin tray.  This will keep them steady as they cool.
Place a sieve over a jug and pour the jelly mix through.  This will get rid of any remaining pith from the orange.

Slowly pour the jelly into the orange halves and then place in the fridge to set for 4 hours.
Once set, remove the orange from the fridge and carefully cut each slice in half.  Trim any rind so that the "boats" are uniform.

Decorate small paper squares with whatever images or stickers you so wish. You can use wrapping paper or printed off images if you wish too.  Carefully pierce the paper with the cocktail stick so as to make a flag.  You can cut the sail to a more rounded shape if you wish, or leave it square.


Place the flags in the boats and away you go!

Ahoy me hearty!

How to Make a Paper Butterfly Display

I love summer.

The flowers that bloom brightly in the garden.  The sound of the kids laughing as they splash in the paddling pool and run around the garden in nothing but their birthday suits and sun hats.  I love the clear blue skies and the beautiful butterflies that float in the air.

When I was younger I had the most beautiful cat, called Lady C, who was all white, with long, thick fur and a personality like no other.  She was born deaf, as a lot of white cats are, and so she never mastered the skill of catching birds or other such creatures, as she would plod along loudly, unaware of her complete lack of stealthlike features.

What she could catch, however, were butterflies.  Or flutterbys, as we used to call them.  She would spring around the garden until she managed to trap one under her paw.  Then, slowly, she would peer down at her captive. Being a creature of a curious nature, she would ever so hesitantly lift one claw at a time to see her prey, only for the flutterby to flitter and flutter up in the air, carrying on, unharmed, on it's merry way and so the chase would begin again.

Capturing these beautiful creatures would be a travesty to me.  The only place for butterflies are in the skies, but sometimes you can do the next best thing with a little but of arts and crafts.  I was inspired, once again, by my incredibly talented and clever old school friend, Tessa, from Down That Little Lane, in making this.  She made one for her daughter's bedroom a long time ago and said it was incredibly easy, and it was.

This was a really fun project that the kids and I did together, and the results are fantastic.  I hope you have as much fun making it as we did.



What you will need

A butterfly stamp (We used a 2" stamp, bought from a craft store)
Paint or Crayons
A deep recessed picture frame
A glue stick

How we did it

We took full advantage of the beautiful weather and I rolled out some paper and Miss Boo and I poured paint into a dish and got busy with the paint brushes.


Sometimes Boo got a little bored of paper and decided to paint the toys.....


We hung up the paper on the washing line to allow it to dry.



Once dry, Master Bob got busy with the butterfly stamp.



We made sure we had lots of different cut outs to choose from.



We then mounted the chosen butterflies onto some cream paper using our glue stick. I folded them ever so gently, without creasing the paper, so as to give them a slightly rounded look.  I then glued them down through the centre, leaving the wings free.



And finally placed the mounted butterflies into the frame.

Wonderfully easy and really pretty.

Cook's Staple - Bolognese

This is a classic bolognese sauce - serve with pasta of your choice.
450 gm minced beef
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stick of celery, cut into small slices
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 beef stock cube
400 gm tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
300 ml boiling water
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
2 bay leafs.
Olive oil

In a large saucepan, cook onion until soft (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and stir.
Add minced beef and cook until meat has turned brown.
Add carrot and celery. Stir.
Add chopped tomatoes and tomato puree.  Stir in the herbs.
Dissolve stock cube in boiling water and add to pan.
Bring to boil, place a lid on saucepan then lower heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, stirring often.
Remove lid, stir and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Serve with  pasta.
Can add grated Parmesan according to personal preference.

How to make a Chocolate Birthday Cake

This is a fabulously easy cake to make.  I made it for a friend's 11 year old daughter, and it went down a treat.

For the Cake
5oz/ 140gm Self Raising Flour
6oz/ 170gm Golden Caster Sugar
6oz/ 170 gm Butter, softened
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Baking Powder
1oz/ 25gm Cocoa Powder
3 Eggs (large)
For the Icing
3.5 oz/ 100gm Milk Chocolate
3.5oz/ 100gm Dark Chocolate
150 ml Double Cream
To Decorate
Chocolate rolling icing
Mini Marshmallows
Giant Chocolate Buttons
White Chocolate Writing Icing
Set the oven to 170C and grease and line two 8" round cake tins.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.
In another bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together.
Finally, beat the eggs and add the vanilla extract and mix.
Slowly add a little egg to the creamed butter and sugar.  Add a large spoonful of flour and mix well.   Continue alternating between the egg and flour until all mixed together to form a smooth batter.  If needed, add a tablespoon of cold water to ensure a smooth mix.
Spoon the batter between the two lined tins until it is evenly distributed and fills the tins smoothly.
Tap the tins gently before putting in the oven to make sure the batter settles smoothly and place in the oven on the centre shelf.
Cook for 25 minutes, or until the cakes are cooked through and spring back when touched gently on top.  If you insert a skewer into the centre it should come out clean.
Remove from oven and and allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.
Once the cakes are nearly cool, start making the icing.
Break the chocolate into a glass bowl and place over a saucepan of boiling water, being careful to ensure the water doesn't touch the bowl.
Add the cream and stir gently until all the chocolate has melted.
Roll out the chocolate fondant icing over a cake board. (I used a 12" x 14" cake board and used  a small flower cutter to decorate)
Place one of the cakes on the board and spoon over half of the melted icing.
Add the other cake on top and spoon over the rest of the icing, gently pouring the melted chocolate over the sides until it is completely covered.
Drizzle any remaining icing around the cake.
Decorate with the mini marshmallows and chocolate buttons.
Write your birthday message and you are done!

How to make a child's wig-wam


My son, Bob, is about to turn 4 years old.  FOUR YEARS OLD!!!
If you had told me straight after his birth that the time would fly, I would have laughed maniacally in your face.  His was not an easy journey into this world and the start of parenthood seemed to slow time down, not speed it up.  And yet here we are!  Four years down the line and the little man is a walking, talking dream.
For his birthday party we decided to go with a Peter Pan theme.  What better place to escape to than Neverland?  Pirates, Lost Boys, Indians and Fairies!  A plethora of possibility for fancy dress and decoration.
For the Indian area I decided that we would make Wig-Wams out of card and stick them on the wall, but I also wanted a real Wig-Wam for the kids to run in and out of and enjoy.
How to make a wig-wam?  I searched the internet high and low until I stumbled on the wonderful world of Cherry Menlove.  She is an amazing, inspiring and truly beautiful lady who blogs about her life, her home, her love and her crafts.  She is going through a really tough journey at the moment and so any thoughts and well wishes are gratefully received her end.
I pretty much decided to follow Cherry as near to the letter as I could.  My fabric sizes are different and where I didn't have the same materials I had to 'make do and mend', but the result is great.  A home made Wig-Wam for the party and beyond.

You will need:
3 Broom Handles (120 cm long)
2 pieces of fabric measuring 150cm x 112cm (or up to 130cm if you can find it) - these are the walls
2 pieces of fabric measuring 100cm x 112cm (or up to 130cm if you can find it) - these are the doors
1 piece of fabric 50 cm x 25 cm
1 hot glue gun (or in our case, a tube of 'Hard As Nails')
1 metre of 1.5 inch ribbon
Twine
Firstly, double hem all the material, all the way around, to a 2 cm hem.
Asking someone to give you a hand and then set the broom handles together and tie with twine.  When you have got the handles tied securely, use either a hot glue gun (or superglue of some sort) to keep the twine in place.  Allow to dry.

Place the fabric along the floor, door to wall, wall to wall, wall to door.
Using a pair of scissors or a hole punch, cut or punch ten holes down the sides of the hems of the door to wall, wall to wall and wall to door hems.   Don't go all the way to the bottom of the hem as you will want to leave some room for the fabric to flow.
Cut 30 pieces of twine, around 5" long.
Tie the the twine through the holes.
Take the piece of fabric that is 50cm x 25cm and fold in half.  Sew along the hem, leaving a 1.5 cm hem, all around, leaving a small gap to turn the fabric inside out.  Close the gap once reversed and sew shut.  This your ribbon for the top of the wig-wam.
Take the fabric and slowly bunch it up at the top, pleating the material until it goes around the wig-wam.  Use the ribbon to tie off.

Take some of the bows out from the holes and tie around the broom handles, and re-bow.  This makes the material more secure.
Cut the 1m ribbon into 12 equal strips.  Fold in half and sew onto the bottom of the wig-wam walls.  These are for tent pegs when out in the garden, to avoid any fly away wig-wams!
You can use additional twine to tie the doors back if you so wish.
Enjoy!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

When life gives you lemons.....make lemonade!

Continuing on my quest to rid myself of this summer cold, I have decide to fight fire with fire and raided the fridge for my stock of lemons.  I am never without a bag of lemons - they are so versatile and wonderful for you.  Hot lemon and water first thing in the morning, adding a slice to any cold beverage and a squeeze over your salad and fruit salad is divine. 

Here is a simple recipe that is so easy to follow, you could almost do it blindfold.  (Except for the heating hot water bit - I wouldn't do that blindfolded.  That would just be plain silly)

Easy Peasy Lemonade

There are so many wonderful things about summer, but for me the best part is the excuse for tall glasses of refreshing drinks.  And none is more refreshing than home made lemonade.  This recipe is so simple and truly delicious - you will be keeping stock in your fridge before you know it!




Makes just over 1 litre.

Juice of 4 lemons
100 gm sugar
600 ml water (plus an additional 400 ml of water for later)

Simply add the sugar to the 600 ml of water and heat over a low heat, stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring near to the boil and remove from the heat.

Add the lemon juice and remaining 400 ml of water.

Allow to cool and then serve in long tall glasses with ice.

NB:  You can sieve the lemon juice first to remove the pith if you wish for a smoother drink, or keep the pith in the mixture for a more authentic, cloudy lemonade drink.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Summer Colds and Mini Burgers

It is a well known fact then when you send your children out into the big wide world of playgroups and nurseries, that they bring home with them a myriad of germs and diseases, the like of which you have not seen since your own youthful days.  Most of the time, a parent's immune system will be hearty enough to fight off these dastardly blighters, but every so often, the late nights, disturbed sleep, early starts and general ageing will get you and you will be wiped out by that little chap - the common cold.  Now is such a time for me.  Summer colds are rotten.  A mix between hayfever and flu, I seem to be endlessly wiping not only my children's noses, but my own too.

So as to fight off my desire to lie on the sofa all day and do some arm-chair parenting, I decided to cook up something new for dinner.  I grew up in the Far East and absolutely love Asian food.  Anything with even a hint of it and it feels like comfort food to me, so for dinner I dug out the Teriyaki sauce, a few simple vegetables and herbs, and came up with the following delightful treat.  it even contains Ginger, which is a great healing food.  Yum!



Makes 4 Mini Burgers


200 gm Chicken fillet
2 Spring onions, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp Teriyaki sauce
1/2 cm Ginger, skin sliced off.


Whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor, until thoroughly blended.


Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a frying pan at a medium heat.


Dust your hands with a little flour and then make up 4 mini burger patties out of the mix.


Place in the frying pan and cook for 15 - 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes so as to cook evenly throughout.


Serve with a side salad, cooked vegetables or with a little cheese in a mini bap.


Enjoy!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Big fish, little fish, cardboard box

The plans for the party continue apace and recipes are being tried and tested.  So far the menu is as such:

Sandwiches - I find with such young palates the oldies are the best - ham, cucumber and cheese. I don't really want to do jam as there will be enough sugary treats anyway, so sticking to savoury seems best here.  My plan here is to cut the sandwiches into circles, using cookie cutter, and then serving them up in a cardboard treasure chest. I will fill it with popcorn string and gold chocolate coins as well as the sandwiches, served with jeweled cocktail sticks and sword cocktail sticks, making it a real treasure chest of food. 


Honey glazed cocktail sausages - I plan on serving these with cocktail flag sticks, so they look like individual boats on a plate.

Pirate Cake Pops

Sugar cookie wands

Pirate boat birthday cake

Fish shaped cheesy biscuits.  Keeping with the sea theme.

Batons of carrots, celery and cucumber with home made houmus

Home made sausage rolls.

It's a simple enough menu, but I think these always work best at parties.  Usually the excitement keeps kids from eating lots anyway, so it can also be wrapped and popped in party bags afterwards too.

I have been practising making the fish shaped cheesy biscuits this weekend, to some success but I still think there is some tweaking that can be done.

I found a recipe online from Cooking in Montana, and this did make a lovely biscuit, but I think I will adapt it some more with a few herbs and see how it turns out.

For my current batch I adapted the original (I used different flour and lowered the salt content) and cooked as follows:

75gm Strong Wholewheat flour
75gm Strong Plain flour
56 gm cold unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
225 gm cheddar cheese, grated
3 tbsp water

In a food processor, blend the flour, salt and butter until you have a coarse grain texture.  Slowly add the cheese, a handful at a time and keep blending.

Finally, add the water a tablespoon at a time and blend until it comes easily off the blade.

Remove from the food processor, it will probably feel a little sticky from the heat and water, and wrap in clingfilm for at least 20 minutes, or up to 24 hours (perfect for party planning as can be made ahead of time!)

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 190C (350F) and lightly flour a clean working surface and rolling pin.  Roll out the dough until about 1/8' thick and cut shapes with your cookie cutter.

Place on a greased baking tray and cook for about 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.

Absolutely delicious!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Accidents and Emergencies

We have had more than the odd bruise here in the Weaners to Screamers household.  My children, it is safe to say, are not the shrinking violet types.  Clambering on anything and everything has led to crashes, falls, bumps and bruises.  Miss Boo's was the worst, falling hard and banging her head on the corner of a chest of drawers, leaving a large egg like lump on her forehead and us wondering whether it was of the serious type that required a visit to Accident & Emergency or not.  Thankfully the very fact that she decided to get straight up, after a tear or two, and continue clambering, left us feeling that she would be all right (and a little proud of my little trooper - straight back on that horse! So to speak). Master Bob has grown somewhat in the last few months but sometimes forgets to compensate for this fact, so walks into objects he had hereto been able to duck under with ease.  Like car doors opening!

So I walk around with my beautiful, if somewhat bruised children of late.

I have been continuing on the plans for the big party. 4 years old!  Quite unbelievable how quickly that time has passed. Our neighbours have been having a clear out of their children's toys and have kindly passed along a huge pirate ship and western fort.  Bobs is in heaven.  Boo is also delighted as she has inherited a number of Barbies and enjoys throwing them around the room.

The pirate ship gives me a template for the party cake.  I think I will use paper and skewers for the masts and decorate with Kit Kat fingers for decking and chocolate drops as cannon balls.  I will do a 'How to Make' as soon as I do my practise run.

Our plans for the Bank Holiday weekend have been somewhat marred by dubious weather.  Plans to take Picnics to Hampton Court Palace may be put on hold until blue skies return, but the idea of running around outside, free of chest of drawers and car doors seems like the safest way of keeping bruises at bay.

At least that's the plan......

Friday, 27 May 2011

Picture Perfect

Miss Boo has had her first nursery report!  She has a "Learning Journal" which is essentially an over-size exercise book, filled with her assessments, photos and pictures that she does when she is at her nursery.  It is a great way of knowing what she is up to, what she is achieving and chronicling her development.

One of the entries says that she was looking through the photos, saw herself, pointed to the photo and then to herself and smiled.  It is so amazing how quickly our babies grow and how amazing their developmental journey is.  Each day she recognises more and more and has more and more words.

Unfortunately, at home most of our photo albums have either had to be put up high or away as Miss Boo, who also goes by the nickname 'Shiva - the Destroyer' has pulled them apart, ripped out treasured memories and tried to chew her way through others.  I thought I would have to keep them away for at least another year or so, which is a great pity as the best way for her to learn about what shes sees and who her family are is through picture recognition, but then I found these fabulous photo albums!  Some clever Mum in the USA created them for her little daughter, to make them baby safe and accessible.  Perfect!

There are so many fabulous features that make it perfect for kids.  From the easy page turning notches to the top load inserts, keeping photos safe, to the thick card pages, meaning it can stand alone and the pages wont get bent out of shape.  I love the scrapbooking ideas too - anything crafty and I am hooked.  Seeing as son many of my friends seem to be having babies at the moment, this is the perfect gift for me to send and I managed to find out through Broadcast Bloggers that if you enter the code 'Lucky10' in at checkout you get a discount!  Brilliant. 

Definitely worth checking out!

Creative inspiration

I love being inspired by others.  My sense of style always seems a little lost to me.  My mind gets jumbled with a myriad of ideas and the result always feels cluttered.  My sister-in-law is an Art Director and has the most beautiful home.  So flawlessly decorated.  It is a real gift to be able to make a room seem like a journey.  Each corner telling a story.  Each story drawing you in.

I have, for some time, loved Matthew Mead's blog and work. His latest 'bookazine' is as fabulous as his winter holiday edition and well worth purchasing.  He so generously provides templates for some of his ideas on his website and it really is inspiration stuff.

Another great inspiration is my friend Tessa at Down That Little Lane.  Her home is breathtaking and her ideas so utterly gorgeous I am drawn into every post.  Beautiful.  Go have a visit.  Tell her I sent you. Indulge.

A little closer to home, the weather has turned cold and so has been the perfect excuse to make some soup.  This goes down well with the whole family.  From Weaner (although at 16 months we are past most of the weaning stage I think!) to Screamer and beyond (a firm favourite with the husband!)

Smoked Haddock Chowder

Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

New Season - New Wardrobe

Now that it seems that summer is well and truly here, I have been sorting through my wardrobe and trying to be as strict as can be as to what stays and what goes.  Sadly most goes.  I have come to make peace with the fact that two children later, my rear end will never be what it once was and my tummy will always be that little bit podgy.  Jeans I have desperately been holding onto in the hope that I would one day fit into them, have been flung because whilst I can get my thighs in, my muffin top makes them just unwearable.

So what to do?  I feel I need a wardrobe update anyway.  Mid-thirties, two kids and staying at home means that my wardrobe needs have changed somewhat.  But I don't want to look too housewife-ish and I don't want to look like mutton dressed as lamb, dressing for a decade gone by.

I was perusing the web when I came across this lovely lady, who has been struggling with the same problem and has found a fab company called NoVae Clothing.  Seems to be perfect and with their spring sale, I can grab a bargain and not break the bank.

Now just to sort out the old wardrobe and upload to Ebay so I can buy even more.  Hooray!

Onto the party preparation front - having conquered Pirate Cake Pops, I am moving on to fairy cookie wands.

A little bit of fairy dust and a few happy thoughts and we will be flying.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

How to make a cake pop pirate


Following on from yesterday's recipe, I thought I would set out how to decorate your cake pop as a pirate.  Perfect for Pirate and Peter Pan parties!



You will need:

Your cake pops
Pink candy melts, melted
Red candy melts, melted
Red mini candy drops
Red, white and black writing icing

First dip your cake pop into the melted pink candy melts until fully covered.  Lift and allow any excess to gently drip off before placing in a polystyrene mould to keep upright and allowing the candy to dry.

Repeat until all cake pops are covered.



Then dip the top end of your cake pop in the melted red melted candy melts.



Add a small candy drop to the side of the cake pop, this looks like the knot in the pirates head scarf.  Add the candy drop before the candy has dried as it will stick on firmly this way.

Repeat on all cake pops.



When dry, use the black icing to draw on an eye and eye patch.  Use the red icing to draw a smile and use the white icing to decorate the head scarf.

And the final result!  Arrrrrrrrr!

Perfect party pirate cake pops.

Enjoy!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Thought of the day.....

I love magnets.  I don't know why but I do.  I found this little gem and thought it too apt and too funny to not bring home. Makes me smile everytime I look at it. 

Pop Up Pirates!

So I have been busy trying to make Pirate Cake Pops.  My decorating skills still need some perfecting, so I haven't taken any photos of them yet, however I thought I would share just how simple it was for me to make these fabulous little treats.  Perfect for parties and so inventive.

These are so simple to make and a great addition to any party.  You can get truly inspired on the decorating front and the fabulous Bakerella shows you so many wonderful ideas.

You use a basic fairy cake mixture and blend it with a cream cheese frosting.  Simple.




Cake Mix

4 oz (125 gm) Self raising flour
4 oz (125 gm) Caster sugar
4 oz (125 gm) Butter, softened
2 large eggs, beaten

1-2 tbsp Cocoa powder

Turn the oven on to 160C.  Grease and line a round 8" cake tin.


Beat the softened butter and sugar together until well creamed and light and fluffy.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder together. 

Slowly add the flour and eggs, alternating between the two and mixing well to avoid any lumps.

Pour mixture into the cake tin and cook for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

Leave to cool on a wire rack until completely cooled.



When cooled, break into another large bowl and crumble well.


Frosting

80gm Cream Cheese, softened
150gm, Icing sugar
1 tbsp milk

Blend the cream cheese and icing sugar together, adding the milk slowly until you have a creamy smooth consistency.

Mix the crumbled cake and frosting together and cool in a fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When ready to make, roll the cake mix into walnut sized balls and insert a lollipop stick.  Cool in fridge again for about 10 minutes to keep shape.

Melt some candy melts in a bowl in the microwave or in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water (make sure the water doesn't touch the bowl).



Dip the pop into the melted chocolate until it is fully covered.  Allow a little excess to drip off and then insert into a polystyrene mound until set.





Enjoy!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Preparation, preparation, preparation

What with Bob's birthday party being a mere month and half away, I thought it best to start preparing for the big event.  Mentally I am ticking off sandwich fillings, hot foods, cold foods, which drinks to make.  What to buy.  how to present.  I can't seem to make my mind up as to whether I make fish and chips or just provide sandwiches.

I also need to get a start on decorations.  With a Neverland theme I thought it best to decorate the hall we have hired with some home made features.  The plan was to create a big sea to go on the wall, and I can attach card board mermaids.  I bought a large roll of banqueting paper to paint with the kids, but the paper was too thin and despite the best efforts from my two and the little boy next door, all we managed to do was paint the grass blue as we tore through the paper.

A serious set back me thinks.  Time to go for plan B.  Crepe paper.

Moving on from decorations, I am wanting to make some cake pops for the party too, so have been busy making cakes and frosting and allowing them to set in the fridge over night.  I shall decorate and upload photos tomorrow with the recipe, if they turn out successfully that is.

As for today - we had a lovely light supper.  Something to complement the beautiful weather we have been having.  Lamb with rosemary grown in our own garden followed by home made ice-cream. Delicious!

Grilled Lamb Steaks

This is a really simple dish that can be cooked under the grill, or on sunnier days, perfect for the BBQ.

Serves 4

4 Lean lamb steaks
3 sprigs of Rosemary
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp Olive oil

Turn the grill on to a low-medium heat.

Remove the leaves off one sprig of Rosemary and place in a pestle and mortar.  Add the garlic clove, crushed and the olive oil.  Crush well, releasing the flavours.

Place the remaining two sprigs on a piece of foil and brush the lamb steaks, both sides with the oil and herb mix.

Place under the grill and cook for 15 minutes, turning halfway through.

Allow the meat to rest before serving.

Serve with steamed vegetables and mashed potatoes.

Strawberry Ice Cream

For my birthday my husband bought me an ice-cream maker for my Kenwood Chef.  This recipe is from their instruction booklet, so isn't my own, but it was so good and simple it was worth sharing!

400 gm strawberries.  Husks removed.
3 oz caster sugar
200 ml double cream
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Puree the strawberries.

In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, lemon juice and cream together.

Add to the pureed strawberries and place in a fridge to cool for 30 minutes or so.

When cold, make in ice-cream maker as per manufacturer's instructions.

Enjoy!
 

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Moving forward

I have enlisted the wonderful services of LeeLou Blogs to help design a logo for my website.  I am hoping that I can bring in some new ideas to take the site forward and now that winter has passed and a new season is upon us, that I can come up with some more inspired recipes. 

I am particularly excited that the edlerflowers are now in bloom - time to make some Elderflower cordial!  Yum!

In two short months Master Bob will be turning 4!  My little baby boy is very much a little man.  In September he starts school and I am already steeling myself against the tears that it will bring when I drop him off for his first day.  Note to self: wear waterproof mascara!

The next plan for the upcoming birthday is to chronicle the journey and create a helpful 'how to' booklet around a theme.  Bob's party is going to be a Peter Pan themed party.  There will be cake pops, biscuit wands, Pirate birthday cakes and much more.

Watch this space!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Ice-Creams and Sorbets!

I have been given an Ice Cream maker for my birthday!  This has happened to coincide nicely with my new diet regime that I had forewarned the husband about but seems to not have been registered. 

However it has also coincided with the weather getting warmer and being able to make our own varieties of ice cream for Bobs will be a welcome relief to whenever we go out and he wants some but there is always the inevitable nut warning. 

Also, I can make sorbets!  Corn syrup is about to become my new best friend.

We will start with a relatively simple strawberry ice cream and then build up to something more substantial.  As an added gift I also received the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and Sorbet Recipe Book.

Looks like that diet of mine is going to go nowhere fast!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Vive La France!

I went to Paris!  Yes I did!  I left the children with their father on a Friday morning and headed over to the most enchanting city in Spring.  It was amazing.  Two and a half days of not changing nappies or being whinged at by small people.  Hurrah!

My friend Jan and her partner Andrew were kind enough to put me up, or put up with me, which ever is more appropriate, and took me to see a little snippet of their life in France.  We had picnic's in parks and dinner in funky French restaurants.  The food, needless to say, was amazing and I had one dish of fish wrapped in filo pastry that was so simple and delicious that I am going to try and recreate it for the kids, so hopefully a new recipe to come soon.



I am also going to start collating my recipes together to create a recipe book.  Exciting times.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

My mother told me.....

There is a competition on Uber Kate to win one of her 'to die for' necklaces.  All you have to do is write some great piece of advice your mother told you, or worst piece of advice, and maybe, just maybe, you will be lucky enough to walk away with some amazing jewelery.  Well,  never one to say no to more glam, I thought I would add my snipet.

I thought long and hard.  Looked at the other entries 'love yourself', 'be kind to others', blah blah blah.

Truth is, I don't remember my mother giving me such advice.  I do remember, 'don't be so selfish', 'don't eat so fast', 'wear a bra or your boobs will be down by your knees', but the other bits of sage advice I think I gleamed from the never ending playing of Anne of Green Gable.  I am thinking this was probably her way of imparting advice.  Through the medium of TV classics.  I still get told to play the 'Glad Game' at times.  This results in me biting my tongue, counting to ten and almost glad Pollyanna felt out of that damn tree in the first place.....*and breathe*

No, my mothers pearls of wisdom usually came along the lines of:

Me: Mother, am I adopted?
Mother: Don't be so silly dear.  If you were, we would have taken you back by now.

Or the time I trilled down the phone to her after seeing my first baby scan:

Me: (singing) You're going to be a grand-ma!
Mother: (singing): You're going to lose your fig-ure....

Hmpf.

Still.  That didn't stop me from writing in her Mother's Day card:

Dear Mum

Thanks for all that you have done for me.  As my children grow up, each and every day all I can think of is 'dear God, I am so sorry for the nightmare that was raising me".

Much love

There truly is no harder job and all the times I railed against her and the restrictions imposed on me as I grew up all seem to make sense now.  Typically it has taken 30 *ahem* years to grasp this fact, but hey - at least it is learned, right?

I don't know what advice I will pass on to my children.  I hope they learn from my actions to love deeply, forgive wisely, learn diligently, act truthfully and live honourably.  I hope they always know that to be a first rate version of themselves is always infinitely better than being a second rate version of somebody else.

One thing my mother did always say was that my education was my inheritance.  Whether this is to cushion the blow of her leaving all her worldy assets to a cat home or not, I don't know.  But I do know, now that I am in the midst of selecting a school for Bob, that this was probably the best thing she did tell me.  Nothing in this world is impossible if you have a good foundation within yourself to work hard and learn well.  Money can be earned or even won.  Possessions can be bought. But you can't reach your true, full potential if you don't have the roots beneath your mighty oak to hold you up.

Trying to choose the best school for my son is such a daunting and over whelming task. Where will he be happy? Will he have friends? Will he be sociable?  Will he learn well? Mixed schools or single sex? State school or private? What suits him best?

So many decision, but at least I know one thing to be true.  The best thing I can leave my children with in this world, when I am long gone, is the knowledge that have had a good education and can think for themselves. 

Maybe Mum was full of the best advice after all?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Bongo Madness and Mothers Day

This weekend marked the celebration of Mother's Day in the UK.  I say 'celebration' but it really is just another day of the week where demands are made of you, but there is likely to be some form of recompense in the shape of chocolate.

True to form, my promised lie-in was interrupted by shouting children and an ever-increasing-in-stress husband.  Cuddles were had and presents received.  I got a cook book from the kids.  I am trying not to read too much into that .......

Most of the day was spent with a lot of noise, whining and moaning, and a general feeling by me that for Mother's Day what I really wanted, was not to have to mother for an hour or so.  But truth is, I wouldn't change it for the world.

We also decided to go an look at a few Bongo's this weekend.  Not the drums that you beat at hippy festivals, but the type that you turn into campervans, so you can go to hippy festivals.  We are in two minds as to whether we should purchase such an extravagance.  Will the long term benefits of having an instant holiday maker pay off? Or will it just be a ludicrous flash in the pan idea that we will be desperately trying to sell on Bongo Fury in 12 months time?

Either way, we knew that we couldn't make any decisions without actually having seen one close up and in person.  My son was in heaven!  Jumping in and out of various conversions and telling us which colours he thought was best. (Red, apparently).

The gentleman selling them said that he and his family used their camper a lot.  It was great to get away one weekends and more importantly, it meant that you did more as a family as a consequence.  And that can only be a good thing.

Unless you are stuck in torrential weather with a snoring fart monster that takes up all the bed space.

Hmmm, maybe I need to get a separate one for the husband?

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Steak and Orzo Casserole

This is a fabulous dish, inspired by my Greek neighbour and her amazing cooking!

500gm Braising steak
500gm Passata
1 Onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp Olive oil
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 good pinch Mixed Spice
500 ml water
250 gm Orzo
grated parmesan to serve


Over a medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in a large, heavy based saucepan until soft and translucent.

Add the beef and seal the meat.

Add the spices and stir well to release them.

Add the passata and water and cook, covered for 20 minutes on a low to medium setting.   Do not bring to the boil too hard as this will toughen the meat and you want it to be nice and soft.


Whilst the meat is stewing, turn the oven on to 180C and place a layer of Orzo in a deep, large casserole dish (25cm x 30 cm).

Pour the warmed stew over the Orzo and place in the oven.  Cook for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure the Orzo doesn't stick and the meat doesn't burn.

Serve with a little grated parmesan on top.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

I haven't forgotten!

I haven't forgotten about my blog!  Honest, I haven't.  Life has just been one big ride for the last few weeks and it feels as if getting the chance to come on here and report back has been sidelined for other adventures.

But return I have! 

New Year came and went in a sea of snores.  With Miss Boo being tricky at night times I was fast asleep in bed by 10:30pm on New Year's Eve and the husband wasn't long far behind me too. 

Next year, this year (!), we shall be more adventurous and see if we can stretch it to the heady delights of midnight.  But I'm not making promises!

And as for resolutions......

Well I never like make resolutions whereby I give something up.  I always like to take something on when I make a new year's pledge.  This year my pledge is to be disciplined.  Sadly, lack of blog posts in evidence, my newly hoped for self discipline has yet to kick in, but 'slowly, slowly catchy monkey' as the saying goes.

On the food front:  My husband has been more than a little helpful in creating some fabulous toast toppers.  These have been great for using up any leftovers and make excellent lunches.  Enjoy!


Curried Cod Toast Topper (covers 2 pieces of toast)

Flake half a fillet of cooked cod
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp cooked peas
1 tbsp mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients together and serve on freshly made toast.


Rosemary Chicken Melt
(Serves 4)

1 cooked chicken fillet, diced
1/2 tbsp dried Rosemary
1 - 2 tbsp Mayonnaise
1 Mozzarella ball, sliced

Toast 4 pieces of bread

Mix the chicken, rosemary and mayonnaise together. 

Spoon the mix evenly on to the toast, covering all of the toast so none can be burned by grilling.

Cover with sliced Mozzarella.

Cook under a medium grill for 3 - 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted.