Fathers’ Day Edible Gifts

I recently made fudge for the first time. It was my big brother’s birthday, he likes fudge and I wanted to try a new recipe so this seemed the perfect idea. I packed it in a cellophane bag* and made it look attractive with ribbon. It was greatly appreciated and I thought it would be a good recipe to make for a Fathers’ Day gift. I’m blogging this now as I had to make a trip out to buy a sugar themometer, a useful addition to my kitchen, by reading this a week ahead of Fathers’ Day it gives you time to find a sugar themometer. I picked one up for under £5 at a local cookware store.

The recipe is from a great book my husband bought for one of my many 30th birthday presents. It is a lovely book full of great recipes. You can check it out and buy it below:

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 450g caster sugar
  • 50g unslated butter
  • 170g evaporated milk
  • 150ml milk
  • 150g melted plain chocolate

Method:

  1. Grease a shallow non-stick tin approx 18cm
  2. Heat the sugar, butter and milks in a non-stick saucepan over a gentle heat, stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer gently and keep stirring for approx 20-25 mins, at this time test with the sugar thermometer, the mixtxure should have reached 116°c, boil further if the temperature needs to be increased.
  4. Remove from pan from the heat and add the melted chocolate, beat well until combined.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin and leave to cool, once cold cut into squares and package.

This recipe will make plenty, so there will be enough for Dads, Dads-in-law, Grandpas etc.

Top Tip: Instead of buying cellophane bags save the clear plastic packaging from shop bought cards, these can be reused and filled with any type of edible gift.

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Quick Cakes

Quick Pretty Cakes with Royal Icing

Quick Pretty Cakes with Royal Icing

I knocked these pretty cakes up in 20 minutes from start to finish. They are made in mini muffin cases so they only take between 12-15 minutes to cook. I had been practising decorating biscuits and I had leftover royal icing so I poured it on top of the cakes and added a few touches with glitter gold balls. They really did look sweet. Cakes these size are ideal for young kids, who want to eat lots of cake. When they’ve had several of these they’ve really only had the equivalent of one cupcake; basically it is a good way to fool them into thinking they are stuffed full of cake when you know they’ve only had a sensible amount!

Here is my basic sponge recipe, it should make around 12 mini cakes:

Ingredients:

  • 2oz soft unsalted butter
  • 2oz caster sugar, sifted
  • 1 egg
  • 2oz self-raising flour, sifted

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°c.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Crack the egg into a separate bowl and whisk.
  4. Add the flour and egg to the creamed mixture and fold together slowly until combined.
  5. The mixture should now be smooth and drop slowly from a spoon, if it is too think add a few drops of milk.
  6. Put mini muffin cases onto a baking tray and put spoonfuls of the mixture into them, filling only to half way.
  7. Place the baking tray into the oven for approx 12-15 mins.
  8. Check a cakes are cooked by inserting a toothpick into one and seeing if if comes out clean (cook longer if necessary).
  9. Remove cooked cakes onto a cooling rack.

Royal Icing

Ingredients:

  • 125g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp powdered egg whites
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Method:

  1. Place all ingredients in to a large bowl and whisk together by hand or with an electric whisk.
  2. The mixture should become smooth, lose its shine and become matt and be runny but quite thick and stiff to mix.
  3. Pour on top of cakes and decorate with edible glitter.
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Cupcakes To Your Door

About a month ago I was lucky enough to be delivered some cupcakes especially for my Royal Wedding Party from Cupcakes To Your Door. Gill, who makes the cakes, became friends with me on Twitter sometime ago; she commented on some Thomas the Tank cupcakes I made for my son’s 2nd birthday and we’ve been good Twitter friends ever since!

In the run up to the Royal Wedding I entered a competition in The Times to design a cake for a street party. I came up with my idea of a savoury Wedding Breakfast Cupcake. When Gill heard about my cupcake ideas and my Royal Wedding Party she offered to send over some of her cupcakes for my party! I was so pleased and made sure everyone coming to the party was as excited to try Gill’s cakes as I was. Opening up Gill’s cakes at the end of our buffet made the day really special and I felt as though we were really treating our guests; after all they were cakes designed and made especially for the occasion.

As you can see the cakes were beautiful. I’m not sure I can put into words how delicious the icing and moist the sponges were. They tasted like proper old fashioned homemade cakes. What I love most of all is service and quality Cupcakes To Your Door provide. Cupcakes To Your Door can deliver cakes anywhere in the country; make the cakes to your specification; provide the quality of homemade cakes with the finishing touches of professional cake making; while providing the highest customer service.

If you hop over to their website you can see that there are cakes for every occasion, but it is also possible for Gill to make something unique. If a friend sent me a pack of these cakes in the post I would be very impressed! Cupcakes To Your Door is a great, unusual way to treat somebody – send them some cake in the post.

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Easy Chicken Curry

I love curry and I wish I could eat Indian Takeaway all the time, but the cost and calorie factor are the major deteriants. Instead I try to make my own quick, healthy alternatives. Here is a recipe I made up to satisfy my cravings:

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 3 sliced chicken breasts
  • 1 finely chopped celery stick
  • 1 carrot finely chopped
  • 1 large potato chopped in small chunks
  • 1tsp curry powder
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml plain yogurt

Method:

  1. Fry chopped onion with chicken breast, garlic, chopped vegetables and spices until browned.
  2. Add tinned tomatoes simmer on low heat for approx 20 mins. Check chicken and potato are cooked through and turn off heat.
  3. Stir through yogurt.

Serving suggestion:

Rice & green beans

Added 5 a day:

Try adding a bag of fresh spinach between stage 2 & 3 or some frozen spinach at stage 2.

Ways to make this dish quicker:

– After stage 1, add the tinned tomatoes and place in a slow cooker. At the end of the day you will have a quick, tasty meal, adding yogurt to serve.

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Ainsley Harriott Guest Blog

Ainsley Harriott's Seared Chicken Salad

Ainsley Harriott's Seared Chicken Salad

I was lucky enough to be invited to write a guest blog for My Kitchen Table. They have a series of books by famous chefs that each feature 100 recipes. I was sent Ainsley Harriott’s 100 Meals in Minutes. For those of you that didn’t see my guest blog I’ve published it below:

Most Saturday evenings my husband and I try to enjoy a grown up meal together, without our 2 year old boy. With the weather turning warmer we both agreed to cook Ainsley’s American-style Seared Chicken Salad. It was good to share the cooking and spend time in the kitchen with each other.

I had ear marked this recipe as soon as I flicked through the recipe book and I was pleased when my husband also wanted to try the recipe; it turned out to be a real winner.

First, my husband prepared the marinade for the chicken, before placing the chicken in the griddle pan. Meanwhile he mixed the crème fraiche, mayonnaise, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce and the anchovies to make the fantastic dressing.

I was left with the job of preparing the salad. So, I decided to add my own style to the recipe. Ainsley wanted a simple salad with crisp cos leaves, roughly torn. I decided to add more vegetables to the dish, to up our five-a-day count, so I included radishes, sweetcorn and chopped apple.

Once the chicken was cooked we assembled the salad, adding Parmesan and the dressing. Then we sat down to enjoy, eating every last morsel of this meal. In fact, we ended up getting some extra salad leaves to wipe up any dressing left on our plates.

I have to admit I was surprised at how much my husband enjoyed this meal. I thought he would choose to try one of Ainsley’s steak recipes, but no he finished every single last bit of salad. This is definitely a salad that will fill the appetite of both women and men! Delicious!

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Quick Breakfast Pancakes

Here’s something for the weekend:

The idea of having cooking pancakes for breakfast appeals to me. Until last weekend I have not be able to find the time, I’m always really tired in the mornings and haven’t found a recipe I thought I could do quickly. That was until I started reading Darina Allen‘s Forgotten Skills of Cooking published by Kyle Cathie.

She has a recipe that she attributes to her daughter-in-law the gorgeous Rachel Allen. This recipe is for Drop Scones, but I’ve changed the name to Breakfast Pancakes and cooked them three days in a row! My husband and I love them and I can cook them quickly, then we sit together enjoying a relaxed breakfast rather than sloping off to our own parts of the house with a bowl of cereal.

George enjoyed eating these pancakes, not sure why he wanted to wear his sunglasses to the table. It is probably too small, but you can just see me taking his photo in the reflection of the glasses!

Ingredients:

  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 125ml milk
  • 50g sultanas

Method:

  1. Sieve together flour, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl.
  2. Make a well into the centre and crack in the egg, whisk together and gradually add the milk, continue whisking until it makes a smooth batter, add the sultanas and mix well.
  3. Lightly grease a large frying pan and heat to a medium temperature.
  4. Drop in three large spoonfuls of the batter, keeping them well spaced out so they do not stick together.
  5. When the batter begins to set and bubbles appear on the surface flip pancakes over to cook on the other side.
  6. Remove to a hot plate, cover with tin foil and continue cooking the batter in batches of three until all are cooked.

Serve with butter, jam, honey or lemon curd.

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Student Recipe for Exam Time

I was talking with my neighbour this week and I was reminded that it is exam time. Her daughter is in her first year at Kent University; I take a particular interest in her progress because I too attended Kent University, a few years ago, well ok truthfully quite a few years ago.

I remember at exam time being so busy studying that when it came to eating I needed something quick, but filling. Eggs are cheap and very nutritious and when at university I made up this recipe to replace the chinese takeaway I wanted but could afford. It is the perfect quick, easy recipe for students to add to their meal plan.

Egg Foo Yung or Chinese Omelette.

Ingredients:

  • 100g frozen mixed veg
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • Vegetable oil, as needed
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp five spice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

Method:

  1. Microwave or boil the mixed vegetables as per instructions on packet.
  2. Heat a large frying pan, add oil and brown the onion.
  3. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk with the water, salt, pepper, five spice and soy sauce.
  4. Add the mixed vegetables to the frying pan, stir to combine with the onion.
  5. Once the onion and vegetables are sizzling (add more oil if necessary), pour in the egg mixture.
  6. Stir the egg a couple of times, turn down the heat and allow the eggs to cook until they become firm.
  7. When the egg is cooked through remove to a paper towel, if you have any, to drain and then serve with noodles, rice or even simply with bread.

If you like this recipe please forward it on (using the share button below) to anybody you think would like to try cooking it.

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New Quick Macaroni Cheese Recipe

On my meal plan section I have a quick macaroni cheese recipe, but I’ve invented a new version, which I think may be even quicker! My good friend Kate requested the recipe and so here it is, enjoy:

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 slice granary bread or 100g breadcrumbs
  • Black pepper
  • Fresh nutmeg
  • 300g pasta (macaroni,  fussilli or penne)
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 1/2 pint milk
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 50-75g grated cheddar cheese

Method:

  1. Blitz the slice of granary bread in a food processor, mix in with the breadcrumbs some ground black pepper (to your taste), 1 tsp of the mixed herbs and grate in some fresh nutmeg.
  2. Layout the breadcrumb mixture onto a baking tray and set aside. Meanwhile pre-heat your oven to 180°c.
  3. Put the pasta on to boil, following directions on packet.
  4. When the oven is the right temperature put in the baking tray of breadcrumbs, keep an eye on them so they do not burn. They will need about 10 mins to toast*.
  5. When the pasta is ready, drain and return to the saucepan on its lowest heat and add all of the cream cheese, milk and mustard. Stir well until it combines to make a smooth creamy sauce.
  6. Add the rest of the mixed herbs and pour into an ovenproof bowl.
  7. Change the oven settings to a medium heat grill.
  8. Sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs and grated cheese over the top of pasta also grind on some black pepper.
  9. Put under the grill for approx 5 mins, but keep an eye on it to prevent it burning.

Serve with a green salad.

*I pre-toast my breadcrumbs because, after many experiments, I find it the only way to keep the pasta and sauce moist. If I add the breadcrumbs at the end of the recipe, to toast under the grill, I find they absorb a lot of the moisture from the sauce and leave it dry and dull. Pre-toasting allows a crunchy topping and a silky smooth sauce, my favourite combination for macaroni cheese.

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Potato Boats

Now I know this photograph has a picture of a Peppa Pig character, but this is a recipe for adults and children. I made these with my son, because if I can cook lunch and keep him entertained I’ve achieved two things in one go. That is why our potatoes ended up with a Peppa Pig theme, however you can, of course, serve them just as they are and still have a very tasty lunch or side dish to enjoy. If you are an adult and still want to have a boat theme with your potatoes then go right ahead!

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 large knob of butter
  • 1 sliced leek
  • 2 jacket potatoes (cooked to my quick jacket potato recipe)
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • 100g grated cheese
  • 1/2 tsp mixed herbs
  • pinch white pepper

Method:

  1. Heat butter in a saucepan and add leeks, stir until covered in melted butter and place a lid on to allow leeks to sweat down and soften.
  2. Pre-heat grill to a medium temperature.
  3. Slice jacket potatoes in half and scoop out cooked potato into a bowl. (Do not discard the skins, you will refill these later.)
  4. Add to your bowl milk, 2/3 of grated cheese, mixed herbs and pepper, then mash potato until smooth.
  5. Check the leeks, they should be soft and tender. Add these to the mashed potato and stir well.
  6. Spoon the mashed potato back into their skins, distribute your filling evenly between the potato skins.
  7. Place the potatoes onto a shallow baking tray.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the potatoes and grill until the cheese is bubbling.
  9. Serve with a salad or as a side dish to a main meal.

To make the flags:

You need:

  • Paper cut into small triangles (cut to an appropriate size for your cocktail sticks)
  • Crayons/colouring pencils
  • Stickers
  • Glue
  • Cocktail sticks

Method:

  1. Colour/decorate your paper triangles.
  2. Run a line of glue along the longest line of the triangle.
  3. Push the cocktail stick into the glue and roll along until the paper is wrapped a little around the stick.

Continue reading

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Our Royal Wedding Party

Here are a few snaps of our Royal wedding party. We had a fantastic day celebrating with family. Some of us gathered in the morning to watch the wedding together with champagne, croissants and my wedding breakfast cakes. Then later we had a buffet, where more family joined us to eat some tasty treats including our favourite Samphire pork pies and delicious Cupcakes courtesy of Cupcakes To Your Door.

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