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Monday, 27 July 2015

Cocktails, Cocktails, and yet more Cocktails!

I've noticed recently that everyone seems to be going mad for cocktails - they're all over social media, and it seems that my friends just can't get enough.

A couple of weeks ago myself and a few friends attended a cocktail making masterclass at The Post House in Stafford. It was a great evening, and we picked up a few tips on how to make some popular cocktails and shooters, including Amaretto Sour (my favourite), Porn Star Martini, Lemon Cheesecake, Mojito, Buttery Nipple (another good one) and the perfectly layered B52. We staggered out of that ninety minute session barely able to remember our own names, let alone any tips, but thankfully I made a few notes ready for my next cocktail session. I think the best tip that I walked away with was to add a little egg white to the Amaretto Sour, which gives a frothy, almost meringue like, head.

With my newly acquired cocktail knowledge I was well equipped to make a Ciroc Summer Punch with ingredients provided by World Duty Free for their Summer Drinks Festival, including the very unique looking 1 litre bottle of Ciroc Pineapple Vodka.

Ciroc Pineapple Vodka.

The plan for the latter end of the week and the weekend was to enjoy a few cocktails out in the garden, however the weather had different ideas. The only day that we didn't get rain was Saturday, which actually worked out ok as it was the day of the annual music festival in our village, however I spent the best part of eight hours serving behind the bbq stall. I still managed to enjoy a Summer Punch, but in typical British summertime style, I had it indoors.

Ciroc Summer Punch Ciroc Summer Punch

If you fancy giving this sweet refreshing cocktail a try, then just follow the recipe from mixologist Charlie McCarthy below.

Ciroc Summer Punch

Post House Stafford Cocktails
Masterclass cocktails & shooters

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Strawberry & Banana Iced Lollies

I often go through phases of cooking and baking where I make the same thing over and over again, over a period of a few weeks. Recently it was flapjacks but at the moment it's iced lollies. 

Homemade lollies are great if you have kids, as it means you can add their favourite fruits and know exactly what's gone into them. It's also a great way to use up fruit that's perhaps past its best, that nobody wants to eat. Of course, you could just make a smoothie, but where's the fun in that. Just take it one step further and pour your smoothie into an ice lolly mould. It means that portions can be easily controlled, as well as preserving the fruit that little bit longer.

These are simply made by blending strawberries and bananas together. I had some strawberries in the freezer that I'd frozen when one of our allotment friends gave us two punnets a couple of weeks ago, and the bananas were looking a little ripe.

Strawberry & Banana Iced Lollies

Strawberry & Banana Iced Lollies - makes approx 8 lollies

handful of fresh or frozen strawberries
1 banana

  • add ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth
  • pour into ice lolly moulds and place in the freezer for a few hours until frozen solid

Strawberry & Banana Iced Lollies Strawberry & Banana Iced Lollies

Where Will Your Family be Cruising to This Summer?

Once thought of only as the remit of the elderly cruises have long been written off people's holiday lists, however, they are a great option for families to explore lots of new destinations without the stress of negotiating public transport with the little ones in tow. Let alone having to pack and unpack time and time again. Not only that but they have plenty of activities on board to keep children of all ages entertained, and with all your meals and drinks included, you may find the initial outlay is well worth your while. So when  booking your  next holiday why not consider a cruise? The only difficult part will be deciding where to go. Here are some top destinations to help you narrow it down.

Panama Cruise
Cruises around Panama are great for squeezing in destinations from North America, South America, and the Caribbean. Imagine being able to squeeze in Panama, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Colombia all in one trip. There is only one way to describe it — paradise, especially with on-site babysitters to keep the little ones entertained and you free to dance the night away. Offering great value for money leave the ship behind for the night and dine in one of Panama’s many restaurants.

 photo 14600473332_9194ab4e9a_k_zpsvcin1gms.jpg 
Image by Keith Cooper used under the Creative Commons License.

Spain and France
Who wouldn’t want to sun themselves around Spain and France? They are some of Europe’s most popular destinations for a reason. Soak up all the best that the Cote d’Azure has to offer. Then browse the shops in Palma and top up your tan on the beach in Alcudia. After all that rest and relaxation then take in some history in Carcassonne, wander around the old town and the castle — a great place to get the little ones interested in history, this medieval city is truly breathtaking and definitely worth a trip off the boat. Back to the French riviera. The playground of the rich and famous forget your budget for the day and have an unforgettable experience and maybe even spot a celebrity!

Spain and Portugal
Gibraltar is the perfect place for the reluctant traveller, long known as a home away from home for Brits, apart from the climate you couldn’t be blamed for feeling like you’ve never left the UK. Go underground and explore the stalagmites and stalactites in St. Michael’s Cave, or if you’ve got an evening to spare why not take in a concert there in a one of a kind venue. When in Lisbon head to the local market and grab yourself a deal. You’ll wish you’d brought another case with all the bargains to be had. If you’re looking for a bit of culture head to the Colecção Berardo and see original works by the likes of Dalí, Picasso, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon, all free of charge.

 photo sunset pic_zpsu3bwzcg0.jpg

Head to the sunshine state for a trip to the Magic Kingdom — roller-coasters, wildlife, waterparks, not to mention Mickey Mouse’s autograph up for grabs there’s something for all the family. So whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or a sun worshiper Florida will not disappoint. If Walt Disney World is a little bit out of your price range then head to Pier 60 for a great day out, filled with fun festivals and performers; you won’t be at a loss for things to do here.

So wherever you decide to take your cruise you’re guaranteed to have a hassle free holiday without breaking the bank .

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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Quick & Easy Family Desserts

If your kids are anything like mine, they always ask for pudding after their dinner (they usually ask for pudding after their lunch too, and have been known to ask after breakfast). If they're lucky enough they may get something freshly home baked, but mostly I send them to the fruit bowl. There's only so much fruit they can eat though, so I like to have these essential ingredients in the fridge, freezer and cupboard to enable me to rustle up a quick dessert.
  • cake
  • ice cream
  • frozen berries
  • squirty cream
  • double cream
  • mascarpone
  • cream cheese
  • biscuits

These layered chocolate desserts are based on my Baileys Chocolate Lasagne, and are put together in mixer glasses (or empty Nutella glasses work well), using chocolate milk instead of Baileys. You could make a citrus or berry version by changing the swiss roll, and adding lemon zest to the mascarpone, or a layer of berries. 

layered chocolate pot

Layered chocolate pot - makes one dessert

1/4 jumbo chocolate swiss roll
2 tbsp chocolate milk (can be replaced with Baileys)
60g mascarpone
10g caster sugar
tbsp double cream
grated chocolate or milkshake powder to finish
  • unroll the swiss roll carefully
  • cut out 3 discs of sponge with a circular cutter, just a touch smaller than your straight sided glass (or you could cut thin slices of roll if the roll is the approx same diameter as your glass)
  • brush the side without cream filling with a little chocolate milk - you want them to be moist but not soggy
  • set the remaining chocolate milk aside
  • beat the mascarpone with the caster sugar until smooth
  • add the cream and beat again, and then the chocolate milk
  • place a sponge disc into the base of the glass
  • spoon a third of the mascarpone on top and smooth over
  • repeat with the remaining sponge & mascarpone
  • finish with some grated chocolate or a sprinkle of chocolate milkshake powder
layered chocolate pot

Sundaes are another favourite quick and easy dessert, which I make with whatever fruit and ice cream I have at the time. I add either a layer of crushed biscuits or cake at the bottom, and then layer up ice cream and berries (or tinned fruit) and top off with some squirty cream. Both of these desserts can be made with (or by) the kids too.

Strawberry & Chocolate Sundae

Strawberry & Chocolate Sundae

chocolate brownies
frozen strawberries (thawed)
vanilla ice cream
chocolate ice cream 
squirty cream
  • Layer up the ingredients in a sundae glasss
  • Finish off with some crumbled brownie on top

Another favourite is the cheesecake, and individual desserts can be made quickly by mixing a little cream cheese with lemon zest and caster sugar and spooning on top of a digestive biscuit, and popping some berries on top. Alternatively try mixing chocolate spread with the cream cheese and spooning on top of a chocolate digestive biscuit.


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