The Crazy Kitchen: December 2012

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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Simple Home-made place card holders & sweetie trees

We've got 11 for Christmas dinner this year so instead of paying out for 11 place card holders that I probably wouldn't use again for a long time, I decided to make some. They're very simple and all you need is some binder clips and spray paint.

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I used silver spray paint to match our Christmas table and sprayed the black part of the clip whilst holding onto the other end, and then hanging them on a skewer held between 2 surfaces whilst they dried.

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You can then use the clips to hold a name card, or an envelope containing a scratch card as I've done here.

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If my colour scheme changes the next time I have 11 for dinner I can just re-spray them...simple.

I have also been inspired by a friend who has been making sweetie trees on the lead up to Christmas and selling them at her local school Christmas Fair. Whilst I was in Hobbycraft a couple of weeks ago I had a look to see what I could use to make one or two for our Christmas dinner table. I picked up some floral oasis balls, a block of oasis, some cinnamon sticks and small buckets.

I covered the oasis ball with foil, stuck one end of the cinnamon stick into it and the other end into a piece of the oasis in the bucket. I inserted one end of a cocktail stick into a sweet (Quality Street) and the other end into the ball, and repeated this until the ball was completely covered. I covered over the oasis in the bucket with a piece of coloured card cut to size, which also helped steady the ball as it was quite top heavy once covered in sweets.

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I'll be placing two of these on the dinner table for guests to graze on.



Gingerbread House Christmas 2012

I finally got around to making my gingerbread house today after a false start last night. The odds were stacked against me when I looked in the golden syrup tin to find only a small amount at the bottom, and the plain flour jar didn't look much healthier. Thankfully a friend came to my rescue bringing me a bag of flour in my hour of need and I could finish making my gingerbread. After we chatted for a while over wine I suddenly lost the will to bake the house though and put the dough in the fridge until the next day.

The following day the dough resembled a large lump of toffee but after a quick burst in the microwave and much kneading it returned to it's soft state.

I used the Tesco recipe and template that I've previously used, and remembered to add boiled sweets to the windows to give the stained glass effect (thankfully there was a few leftover lollipops from trick or treat).


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I again used chocolate cake covering to 'glue' the walls & roof together, which I find to be really easy as it hardens in seconds (as well as tasting better than royal icing).

This time I went for the theory that 'less is more'....translated as 'I never got round to buying sweets' and 'I couldn't be bothered', but the kids were pleased with my efforts nonetheless 
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If you've made a gingerbread house this Christmas please come and link it up below. If you're thinking about making one then it really isn't that difficult, honest, you just need to spare a few hours to make it without attempting to rush it, or it will just end in tears.

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I am also linking this up to Nazima & Laura's One Ingredient challenge

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and also Angie's linky & competition

Christmas with Boursin

In my opinion, above all else, Christmas is about the cheese. It's the one time of the year that we buy enough to feed an army, in all different varieties, including the creamy and delicious garlic & herb Boursin.

Boursin is a soft and creamy combination of cream and soft cheese, and the original garlic and herb flavour has been around since 1963.

They have recently introduced a new Fig & Nut flavour, combining bitter and sweet, soft & hard. It's a deliciously sweet cheese, which I've found to be perfect with spiced gingerbread biscuits.



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If you're looking for an easy recipe for over the Christmas period here's a nice one using new Boursin Fig & Nut, a great way to use up any leftover pigs in blankets.

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 Boursin fig & nut is available online at Ocado or in most Asda stores.

I was sent some samples for the purpose of this review

Festive Ideas with Aunt Bessies

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a day cooking with the team at Aunt Bessie's, along with a few other Bloggers. Whilst we ate a lovely Christmas lunch we also learnt that Yorkshire Puddings don't just have to be eaten with a roast dinner, they make a really tasty snack or starter.

Mini Yorkshires with a festive stuffing - serves 6

2 tsp olive oil
knob of butter
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 celery stick, finely chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper
100g bvaby chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
50g cooked chestnuts, finely chopped
Aunt Bessie's Yorkshires
Brie
Cranberry chutney

  • Heat the oil & butter in a pan & cook the onion & celery for around 5 minutes until softened, Season well
  • Stir in the mushrooms and chestnuts and continue to cook for another 5 minutes until the mushrooms are softened and starting to turn golden
  • Spoon into the Yorkshires.
  • Slice the Brie and put a little in top of each
  • Bake in the oven until the cheese has melted & the yorkshires are crisp
  • Garnish with cranberry chutney & serve

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I'm serving these on Christmas Eve along with some butternut squash soup, and I've prepared my filling ready and popped it in the freezer to save time on the day.

You can find more Aunt Bessie's meal ideas and recipes on their website.



I was sent a few Aunt Bessie's products to re-create the recipes at home.



Christmas Dinner is served with Dunelm

It's not long until the big day now and I feel quite prepared, although I have that same feeling at the pit of my stomach that I have whenever I go on holiday, the feeling that I've forgotten something, and something big.

With the help of Dunelm's Christmas range I know I've got the dinner table covered though (no pun intended), and have been sent a few items to make it look pretty. I've decided to go with a silver colour scheme this year, with silver charger plates, silver holly tablecloth and matching napkins and silver crackers. 


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As I'm catering for 11 of us this year all I need to do now is make sure that I can find 11 plates and 11 sets of cutlery and glasses that (hopefully) match.

The charger plates are priced at just 99p each, tablecloth £8.99, napkins £3.99 (for 4) and crackers £4.99 (for 12).  The machine washable holly print tablecloth and napkins are part of a range that also includes table runner and placemats. The reasonably priced deluxe crackers have gifts such as pens, nail clippers, tweezers, dice and marbles in, perfect to keep the adults and kids entertained whilst they're waiting for dinner to be served.


I was sent the above items as part of being a Dunelm Blogger.


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Monday, 17 December 2012

Home-made Christmas Wreath

After being inspired by Mum in the Madhouse to try drying my own orange slices I thought I would have a go at making a Christmas wreath like hers too. It wasn't until I'd hacked a few branches off the Blue Spruce in the back garden and checked the post for instructions how to make the branches into a wreath that I realised Jen had used a pre-made wreath, whoops. 

Determined that somehow I was going to make the wreath I turned to Google, and the legendary Martha Stewart for help. Unfortunately the advice there was to buy a frame to attach the foliage. I then remembered that there was a hideous wire coat hanger in our bedroom that the husband had acquired when he recently had his suit dry cleaned. I'd kept the coat hanger even though I can't stand the things as you just never know when something like this will come in handy. I shaped it into a circular shape and located some wire and pliers, along with cinnamon sticks and ribbon.

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I bent strips of wire into hairpin shapes and used them to attach the foliage to the coat hanger by twisting the ends together tightly, and then did the same with the dried orange slices and cinnamon sticks. I used needle & thread to attach the ribbon bows.

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As the coat hanger already had a ready made hook I used that to hook over a wreath hanger.


I was really pleased with the result and hope that it survives the next couple of weeks with the wind and rain battering it against the front door.


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Handpicked Collection - review

If you're stuck for ideas for some last minute Christmas shopping then check the Handpicked Collection out. They have some some great ideas for stocking fillers as well as gifts for the home. Best of all there is still time to receive your order in time for Christmas - you have up until 20th December to order using Next Day delivery.

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I was sent a gift for Jack from their collection, which included personalised scooter plates, a handlebar bag and light.

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The plate comes with sets of letters to enable you to personalise it with your name, along with attachments to fix it to the scooter. The bag is big enough for a few bits and bobs and is easily attached to the handlebars with the shoulder straps and additional velcro strap. The light is attached to the scooter by means of a silicone strap and can be used as a flashing or constant light, perfect for being seen on dull mornings or evenings.

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excuse the muddy state of the scooter!


I was sent the above items for the purpose of this review

Friday, 14 December 2012

Foodie Foto Friday - Week 14

It has been another manic week this week but I have not forgotten to post this weeks Foodie Foto Friday, even though it's a bit late - hopefully I won't get a telling off by Elaine! 

Speaking of Elaine, the photo for this week is of my Mincemeat Scones that I made after she commented that she'd seen some in a shop and I should make some with my chocolate mincemeat. They didn't rise as much as my chilli cheese scones, but they did still rise. The taste was quite mild so next time I think I'll add some additional cinnamon or mixed spice, although they had a hint of mince pie in them and weren't too sweet so I think they would be perfect with a slice of Christmas cheese.... recipe coming soon.

The style of this photo was inspired by the lovely Emily from A Mummy Too, who I met for the first time earlier in the week and was trying to give me some tips on photographing food, which went straight over my head, apart from the bit about photographing from above - more practice needed!


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Come & join in and show me your food pics.


Monday, 10 December 2012

Quick & Easy Home-made Ice Cream

I've mentioned recently about a very easy ice cream that I made just using condensed milk and double cream, and then adding other ingredients. The one I made previously contained chocolate mincemeat and is a great flavour for Christmas to go with mince pies and Christmas pudding.

With a few guests to cater for on Christmas day I thought I would offer a couple of varieties of ice cream to accompany the desserts, and I got a bit carried away and made 3 more. These weren't as soft as the mincemeat ice cream, possibly due to the mincemeat ice cream having alcohol added to it.

Caramel Ice Cream

300g Condensed milk Caramel
300ml Double Cream
approx 10 individual Cadbury's Caramel chocolates

  • Whisk 200g of the caramel with the double cream until it forms soft peaks
  • Chop the caramels - I cut each into 3 pieces - and stir them into the mixture
  • Spoon into a 1 litre lidded tub and stir through the remaining caramel - don't over stir as you want the sauce to stay separate.
  • Freeze until set.
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After Eight Mint Chocolate Ice Cream

200g Condensed Milk
300ml Double Cream
Few drops of green food colouring (optional)
300g box of After Eight mints

  • Whisk the condensed milk with the cream and food colouring until it forms soft peaks
  • Chop the After Eight's roughly and stir into the mixture - reserve a few for the top
  • Spoon into a 1 litre lidded tub and freeze until set
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Chocolate Oreo Ice Cream


200g Condensed Milk
300ml Double Cream
3 tbsp Cocoa Powder
150g Mini Oreo's

  • Whisk the condensed milk with the cream and cocoa powder until it forms soft peaks
  • Add the mini Oreo's - reserving a few for the top
  • Spoon into a 1 litre lidded tub and freeze until set
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Gluten Free Pizzas at Domino's

If you suffer from any kind of foot intolerance or allergy eating out can often be a chore, or even impossible. Recently Domino's Pizza introduced their new Gluten Free base which is also suitable for those allergic to dairy or lactose intolerant. As their pizzas are all made to order they can be made without cheese to provide a completely dairy free pizza.

We were invited to try out the new pizzas along with other products in the Domino's range to see what we thought of the new gluten free base.

Nanny & Pop Pop agreed to join us for the feast, along with a friend of Hanna's. In total there was eight of us and we shared 3 pizzas, sides, dessert and drinks.

Unfortunately, although Domino's offer a pizza delivery service, they don't deliver to us out in the sticks but it's only 20 minutes drive away to collect. The online order system is really easy, with the ability to select the size of the pizza, type of base and toppings and customise as required. Once your order is placed you can keep an eye on the progress of your order using the pizza tracker. When we ordered there was a 50% off pizzas special offer, which was a bit of a bonus and meant we could have more ice cream!


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We ordered a gluten free half and half pizza with half hot & spicy and the other half pepperoni, along with a gluten free ham and pineapple and a non gluten free pepperoni to compare the bases. The gluten free pizzas are marked on the side of the box so there's no mix up if you're also ordering regular bases too.

Both of the pizzas were really nice, not too thick and not too greasy. They were both crispy, but not hard and the gluten free didn't have any kind of after-taste. The conclusion was that the gluten free base was just a little drier than the regular base but had we not ordered the regular base as well we don't think anyone would have noticed any difference. The only downside is that the gluten free base is only available in small but maybe that's something that will change in the future if they prove to be popular.


We also tried wings, chicken, wedges and boneless ribs from the sides menu and Ben & Jerry's ice cream and cookies from the dessert menu. Everything ordered was really nice & still hot by the time we got it home (apart from the ice cream obviously).


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Additional information regarding Domino's can be found here : http://www.takeafreshlook.co.uk/standards.htm


We were allowed to choose items from the menu to a certain value for the purpose of this review

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Tortilla Mince Pies

After seeing Elaine's mince pies made with pieces of bread I thought I would see how they turned out with flour tortilla's instead of pastry - it's a very quick way of making them if you have unexpected guests over Christmas as they only take a few minutes to make and ten minutes to bake. They may not be the prettiest mince pies and they lack that lovely crumble of buttery shortcrust pastry, but they're quick, crispy and still very tasty!

Tortilla Mince Pies

3 large plain flour tortillas
50g butter, melted
200g mincemeat*
  • Cut 12 large and 12 smaller rounds using cutters
  • Brush each side of the tortillas with the melted butter
  • Press the larger tortilla's into a bun/muffin tin
  • Spoon approx 1tsp of mincemeat into the tortilla
  • Press the smaller tortilla onto the top of the mincemeat, sealing the edges as firmly as possible
  • Bake in a 180 C oven for approx 10 minutes, until golden
  • Cool on a wire rack
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Serve warm or cold


*if you're using store bought mincemeat check to see if it has visible suet pieces, if it has you will need to warm it through first to make sure that it is fully melted as the short baking time of these mince pies may not be long enough to melt the suet - see my recipe for mincemeat here to see how to do it

Christmas Gingerbread House Linky

I haven't got around to making my gingerbread house yet but I know others have so I'm opening up the linky so everyone can add theirs as and when they make them

I made a Christmas Gingerbread house last year and Susan commented that she would like to give one a go this year, and so began our year of making Gingerbread houses in preparation for 'The Big One'.

We made houses for Valentines, Easter and Halloween to work on our techniques and find out what worked best for us, in the hope that our Christmas creations will be perfect!

There is another Linky being hosted by Angie at Cakes Photos Life as well as a competition, and you can also join in with the One Ingredient Challenge with Laura & Nazima too, as the ingredient is ginger.

If you're looking for a good gingerbread recipe then Tesco have one on their website that I always use, and they also have a downloadable template. Angie used the Baking Mad recipe which you could try out instead.

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Gingerbread House 2011

Friday, 7 December 2012

Foodie Foto Friday - Week 13

I've been so busy with Christmas orders the past couple of weeks that I didn't get around to posting the linky last week. It's very late this week but it's here.....

My picture this week was taken on Tuesday just before the weekly #BoothsCheers twitter party, as I was challenged to make gingerbread men by the lovely people at Booths. I made a few regular sized men, a few tiny ones and one big one.

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Please come and join in and show me what you've been making, eating and drooling over this week.


Chilli Cheese Scones with Garlic & Basil Butter

I'm a big fan of anything that makes my life in the kitchen easier, be it gadgets or ready chopped and frozen vegetables. I'm always adding herbs to cooking but I often buy cut fresh ones and then freeze them as I'm not great at growing and looking after them myself. Recently I've discovered Gourmet Garden herbs and spices which are in a squeezable tube and can be kept in the fridge and used in recipes where needed.

They come in a wide range including some of the everyday favourites such as garlic and basil, as well as the new blends that include Thai, Moroccan, Mediterranean and Indian.

I chose to use Chilli, Garlic and Basil to spice up my scone recipe.


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Chilli Cheese Scones with Garlic & Basil Butter

Scones
350g SR Flour
1 tsp baking powder
85g Butter
100g Mature Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 tbsp Gourmet Garden Chilli paste
175ml Milk

Butter
100g Butter, softened
1 tsp Gourmet Garden Garlic paste
1 tsp Gourmet Garden Basil paste

To make the scones
  • Rub the butter into the flour & baking powder until it resembles breadcrumbs
  • Stir in the grated cheese & chilli paste & mix well, making sure there are no lumps of chilli paste
  • Add the milk, a little at a time, mixing well until it starts to come together - don't add all the milk if it becomes too sticky
  • Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to approx 1-1.5cm thick
  • Cut circles out with cutters and place spaced apart onto a lightly greased baking sheet
  • Brush with milk
  • Bake in a 200 C oven for approx 7-10 minutes until golden brown
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To make the butter
  • Beat the garlic & basil into the softened butter
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Serve the scones warm with a generous spreading of garlic & basil butter


This is my entry into the Gourmet Garden Blog/Cook Off

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I was sent a selection of herbs & spices to use in my recipe



Thursday, 6 December 2012

Parsnip & Apricot Roast

A few days ago I posted a recipe for Cranberry & Chestnut roast which I absolutely love. I wanted to try making it with other ingredients and so, basing it on the same recipe as before, I switched a few of the ingredients to see how it would taste, and the result was even better than the original!


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Parsnip & Apricot Roast


50g Butter
2 small onions, chopped
200g Cooked parsnips (soft but still with a bit of a bite), chopped into bitesize pieces
75g Brazil nuts, chopped
75g Almonds, choppd
75g Dried Apricots, chopped
85g Wensleydale (it was supposed to be 125g but someone *glares in the direction of the husband* ate some! so I added more cheddar)
140g Mature Cheddar cheese
2 tsp dried rosemary
pinch of nutmeg
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan
  • Add the onion & fry for 4-5 minutes to soften
  • Stir in the rest of the ingredients and combine, adding 1 tbps water if it looks too dry
  • Spoon into a greased loaf tin and press down - it may look like it's not all going to go in but if you press down it will
  • Cook in a preheated 180 C oven for 20-25 minutes

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Lovetub Puddings

I recently ran a competition for Lovetub and they promised to send me some of their lovely puddings to try out. This week they arrived and we couldn't wait to get stuck in.


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They need just 30 seconds in the microwave and can be eaten straight from the tub. They come in four delicious flavours : Chocolate, Chocolate Orange Volcano, Sticky Toffee and Merry Mince Pie.

Well, what can I say....I tried the Merry Mince Pie Pudding and I have to say it was gorgeous - a cross between mince pie, sticky toffee pudding and Christmas pudding and brandy butter! It was very sweet so I had some Greek yoghurt with mine to counteract some of the sweetness. The kids tried the other flavours and loved all of them. They received comments such as 'WOW', 'Mmmmm', 'Beautiful' and 'Mwaaaah' so I guess you can say they were a big hit. 

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I am so impressed with these that I'm seriously considering buying some of them for Christmas day desserts. They retail at £1.29 each but I noticed that Sainsbury's has the chocolate orange flavour for 2 for £2 at the moment. You can also head over to Lovetub's Facebook page for the chance of winning a free pot, or money off vouchers.



I was sent a selection of Lovetub puddings for the purpose of this review

Jordans Super Berry Country Crisp

When I receive the offer of food to review it's more than my life's worth to turn it down. When Jordans Cereals contacted me to ask if I would like to receive a box of Country Crisp in their new Super Berry flavour I snapped their hand off, as I knew my kids would love it.

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We get through boxes and boxes of cereal in this house, with all three of the kids (4 if you count the husband) eating at least one bowlful for breakfast and often after school too. Country Crisp is made from wholegrain oat clusters mixed with blackberries, cranberries and blueberries. 


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They are great straight from the box, although the fruits are a bit sour this way so they're best eaten with ice cold milk, and best of all the cereal doesn't go soggy and stays nice and crispy.


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I also made some chocolate clusters by mixing the Country Crisp with melted chocolate and a few raisins, which the kids loved and also went down well at the Pre-school Christmas Fair.

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Whilst everyone loves the cereal it's probably not one I would buy every week as, at over £2.50 per box, I couldn't imagine it lasting longer than 2 or 3 days because it's so nice!


We were sent a box of Jordans Country Crisp for the purpose of this review

Monday, 3 December 2012

Cranberry and Chestnut Roast

Whilst I like turkey, I'm not keen on hot turkey and gravy and all the trimmings, I much prefer to eat my turkey cold in a sandwich or salad. Ever since my brother went out with a girl who was a vegetarian back in the late 80's I've really enjoyed a nut roast with my Christmas dinner when I can. 

A couple of years ago (maybe more) I saw a recipe for Cranberry & Chestnut roast on ITV's This Morning programme, made by Lisa Faulkener. It looked really nice so I gave it a go, and it was gorgeous. Nut roasts I've had previously can sometimes be a bit too 'nutty' but this is nutty, fruity, crispy and cheesy all in one bite. It can be eaten as a vegetarian main course or a side to accompany the turkey, instead of a traditional stuffing. I've adapted it slightly here but you can find the original recipe here. You can use any combination of your favourite nuts and could also substitute the cranberries for other dried fruits, I'm going to try apricots next.

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Cranberry and Chestnut Roast

25g Butter
2 medium onions, chopped
150g cooked Chestnuts, chopped
75g chopped cashew nuts
75g chopped brazil nuts
75g fresh breadcrumbs
40g dried cranberries
125g Wensleydale cheese, grated
125g Mature cheddar cheese, grated
2 tsp dried Rosemary
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan
  • Add the onion & fry for 4-5 minutes to soften
  • Stir in the rest of the ingredients and combine, adding 1 tbps water if it looks too dry
  • Spoon into a greased loaf tin and press down - it may look like it's not all going to go in but if you press down it will
  • Cook in a preheated 180 C oven for 20-25 minutes

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Win an INDESIT Fridge with ARGOS

If you're anything like me then there's never enough fridge space at this time of the year, as I stockpile the Christmas food and drink. It's going to get much worse as we near the big day, but thankfully it's colder in the garage than it is in the fridge most of the time so the husband's beer can be kept in there, to make more room for my bottles of fizz the family Christmas food.

If you have the same problem then there is a huge variety of fridges from Argos at the moment and you have the chance of winning one right here.


Indesit TFAA10 Under Counter Fridge 

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Featuring a reversible door, the Indesit under counter fridge will neatly fit into your kitchen space. The fridge has an automatic defrost, which will help to prevent frosty edges or water pools forming to ensure your food quality is kept at a premium.


Fridge specifications:

  • 2 glass shelves.
  • Bottle rack in door.
  • 1 salad crisper compartment.
  • 9 hours power failure safe storage.

Freezer compartment:

  • Reversible door.
  • Manual temperature control.

Key specifications:

  • Energy efficiency rating: A+.
  • Energy consumption: 181kWh per year based on standard test results for 24 hours.
  • Storage capacity 4.17 cu ft.
  • Net fresh food storage volume 111 litres.
  • Climate class N.ST.
  • Noise level 38dB.

General information:

  • Size H85, W55, D58cm.
  • Ambient temperature 10 to 38°C and therefore not suitable for use in garages.
  • Boxed size H88.5, W57, D58.8.
  • Manufacturer's 5 year parts and 1 year labour guarantee.
  • EAN/MPN/UPC/ISBN: 8007842777703.

currently priced at £129.99

To be in with a chance of winning please follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter form below. Please note that I cannot accept entries by email.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


brought to you in conjunction with Argos

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