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.


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.


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.


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.


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!