Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that it's been a bit quiet around here recently. Although, those readers that also follow me on Instagram or Facebook will realise the reason for the silence.
A few months ago I decided to start a new venture, and had lots of ideas buzzing around in my head. During a half term break in Wales, with very little internet access, I took pen to paper and scribbled lots of these ideas down, whether it was on the back of an old cereal box or paper bag (the one time I needed a notebook I forgot to pack one). I scribbled and scribbled until I came up with an idea, and then a name, Cookies and Fluff.
My new venture is making and selling handmade marshmallows.
Despite already having an ecommerce business selling baby swimwear, it's not at all exciting, and it doesn't fulfil me. For a while I've wanted to have a food related business (aside from my blog), but I've lacked confidence to make the final switch. However, with the help of M&S Bank #makeaswitch campaign I was able to put my ideas into practice.
The next part of starting my business was the easy part. Now that I had my name I needed to buy a domain name, register my social media accounts and design a logo and business cards, which I did with the help of Canva, a great online design tool that's simple to use.
I then registered my new business with the environmental health department of the local council, who approved the use of my kitchen as fit for purpose. Over the following few weeks I tried out lots of recipes and made lots of marshmallows in order to find my 'perfect recipe'. At Christmas I made marshmallow and hot chocolate kits for friends and family, which proved to be really popular, and I received some great feedback about the marshmallows.
For the past few weeks, since Christmas, I've been working flat out to get different marshmallow flavours made and photographed for my website.
There's so much more to starting a small business such as mine than meets the eye, and so much to think about. I wanted to try and get it right from the start , and create something unique that hasn't been done before (to my knowledge), and that's where my biscuit marshmallows came in - they are miniature cupcake shaped marshmallows flavoured with real biscuits, in popular everyday flavours such as Jammie Dodger, Ginger Nut, Oreo, and my favourite - Lotus Biscoff!
Once I had the flavours, I needed to work on the packaging, and spent many a late night poring over the internet searching for the correct sized bags and boxes, not to mention getting lost in Etsy looking for those all important finishing touches, such as bakers twine, stickers, stamps and labels.
I had some great support along the way from friends and family, who acted as taste testers, and gave amazing feedback :
"Guys them marshmallows are to die for" (lemon meringue marshmallows)
"J said that this was amazing nothing like she tasted before" (chocolate orange marshmallow pinwheel pops) "THE MOST AMAZING LOLLY. Me & the kids absolutely loved these, I will defo be ordering some more so thank you" (chocolate orange marshmallow pinwheel pops)
"delightful! Perfect, light & fluffy bite sized pieces of heaven" (biscuit marshmallows) "As for the ginger - wow! I'm not a huge ginger fan but these were sublime!" (ginger nut marshmallows) "Can't wait to try some more flavours - they would make terrific presents for that special someone in your life!" (biscuit marshmallows) Even my non marshmallow liking husband loved them!
Despite the late nights I've loved every minute of this 'journey' so far, especially designing and building my website using the Create.net platform, which is amazingly easy and has the most efficient and friendly support team. I have my recipes finalised (with more being added as I go along), the packaging has been sourced and all the finishing touches are in place.
My website went live last month, and the orders have been rolling in, and I've been overwhelmed by the amazing reviews I've received from those that have ordered them - and been back to place further orders! M&S Bank #makeaswitch campaign enabled me to get my business online, and helped with packaging, business cards, labels, a new printer and much needed ingredients. If you fancy keeping up with my venture into marshmallow madness, you can follow me here :
A good dinner party calls for thorough preparation, and you certainly shouldn’t skimp on the starters, which can help to fuel all of the attendees’ excitement for the rest of the party. So, whether you are preparing for your own party or someone else’s, perhaps because you run a B&B that has been booked for the occasion, here are some quick recipes.
Melty onion toasts
For this gastropub-style starter, begin by adding 6 sliced onions to heated butter in a sauté pan before sprinkling 2 teaspoons of golden caster sugar on top. Keep the onions at medium heat for 20 minutes and, once they are sticky and golden, add some brandy. This is the onion topping; now, toast 6 slices of sourdough bread, spread the onions across them, and add cheese slices. Bake the toasts on a baking tray for 15 minutes.
Hot and sour broth with prawns
This takes a mere 15 minutes to prepare – ideal if you run a venue that can be readily and regularly booked for dinner parties and you are rushed off your feet. This starter involves putting 3 teaspoons of vinegar, 500ml of chicken stock, a teaspoon of golden caster sugar, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a small piece of ginger, 2 small hot red chillies and 3 spring onions in a saucepan, before simmering and cooking, then adding prawns.
Mini Swedish meatballs with cranberry sauce
Put meat, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, allspice and some seasoning into a bowl, thoroughly mix and form into meatballs, and then brown and cook those using heated oil. Serve with a bowl of cranberry sauce. The full, more detailed recipe is available from BBC Good Food.
A long-established favourite! Peel, rinse and dry 200g of cooked and peeled prawns, before chopping 100g of cucumber into small dice and tipping them into a dish. Add some vinegar, dill and pepper, then set aside before you halve, stone, peel and dice a small, ripe avocado. You can make the sauce by mixing together mayonnaise, fromage frais and ketchup; when serving the cocktail, place a spoonful of the sauce into each cocktail glass.
Smoked trout pâté and pitta crisps
After heating the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 8, halve 4 pieces of pitta bread before cutting them into wedges. Brush those wedges with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and then sprinkle with salt and chopped dill before cooking the wedges for 10-12 minutes. Once they’re crisp, serve them with flaked hot-smoked trout fillets mixed with 200ml of soured cream, a tablespoon of chopped gherkin and 2 tablespoons of chopped dill.
Salmon and prawns with dill and lime aioli
Arrange 400g of cooked king prawns - shelled apart from the tail - and 400g smoked salmon on plates. Then, mix 140g of mayonnaise, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill, before adding juice squeezed from half a lime. Place a spoonful of the mixture onto each plate, along with dill leaves, a lime wedge and a grinding of pepper.
Celeriac tartare with smoked trout
First, make the tartare dressing by combining some mayonnaise, capers, lemon juice, cornichons and parsley leaves. Then, peel and slice a small celeriac before cutting it into matchsticks. Mix and combine the celeriac and dressing, then place piles of smoked trout, celeriac and rocket onto plates. Before serving, drizzle all of the food with olive oil.
Creamy smoked salmon, leek and potato soup
Heat a large knob of butter in a saucepan, add 2 large leeks and a bay leaf, and then spend 8-10 minutes cooking over a low heat. Now, stir through 1kg of diced and floury potatoes until butter-coated. Pour over a litre of chicken or vegetable stock, simmer, gently bubble for 10-15 minutes, and then add 2 thirds of 200g of smoked salmon strips before stirring through and seasoning. Put the remaining salmon on top of the soup.
Cream of wild mushroom soup
Pour boiled water over 25g of dried porcini, heat 25g of butter in a saucepan, and then sizzle a chopped onion, sliced garlic clove and thyme sprigs until they start browning. Add the porcini to the onion with 400g of mixed wild mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes, pour over 850ml of vegetable stock, plus juice drained from the porcini, and then bring to the boil before simmering for 20 minutes. Stir in crème fraîche and simmer for a few minutes.
Classic potted shrimps
Melt 100g of unsalted butter in a saucepan over low heat, add some cayenne pepper and nutmeg, and then stir through prawns or shrimps before seasoning. Remove the prawns and press them into your serving dish. Chill until they set, then pour the remaining butter over the prawns. Leave them to set in the fridge overnight. Before serving, toast on a tray in an oven heated to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
Happy new year to each and very one of you, and welcome back! The last couple of weeks have flown by as we've spent many hours eating and drinking in the company of friends and family, but it's now time to get back into a routine, and start enjoying some healthier eating.
Before all that though, there was still time at the weekend to enjoy an ultimate toastie, which was amazing. The boys had gone to football and myself and H enjoyed a couple of hours pottering around and making marshmallows.
We love a piece of smoked cheese, especially at Christmas, and the Applewood Slices were perfect in the toasties with my home made caramelised onion jam - a little bit of sweet and a little bit of smoke, and a hell of a lot of wow! Ultimate Cheese & Caramelised Onion Toastie - serves 2 4 large slices of fresh crusty bread 1 pack of Applewood slices butter 2 spoonfuls of caramelised onion jam
heat a large non stick frying pan
make a sandwich with the bread, some of the cheese, and the jam
butter the outsides of the bread
place the sandwiches on the pan and add a little of the remaining cheese on top
cook for a couple of minutes before flipping over and again add cheese to the top
cook for another couple of minutes before flipping over again - continue to do this until the cheese inside the sandwich is gooey and melted and the cheese on the outside is crispy and golden
Families don't always get chance to spend much quality time together, and ours is no exception, but how hard can it be to set aside one hour a week to do so? Whether you're an indoorsy or an outdoorsy family, here are ten ideas to enjoy some quality family time together, and maybe even enjoy a little cheese whilst doing so :
go to the park
go for a walk along the beach or into the woods
play a board game, card game or family video game
do some cooking
play a ball game - football, basketball, tennis or golf
When we make the time to go, we really enjoy going to the forest, enjoying a ramble and a picnic together. I think we'll try and spend more Applewood hours in the forest during 2016, perhaps eating a toastie or two whilst we're there, or nibbling on a few of these morsels of perfection - new Applewood Nibbles.
The new Applewood bake might not be one to take to the forest, but it's perfect for dipping bread and crackers into whilst enjoying a game of cards or board game. Ooh, look at that gooey cheese!