The Crazy Kitchen: March 2013

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Thursday, 28 March 2013

My baby turns Four & a Football Birthday Cake

On Sunday Jack turned 4, it's hard to think where the past 4 years have gone. It seems like only yesterday that I was pregnant for what felt like ages yet it feels like he's been in our lives forever.

On Friday we had a heavy fall of snow and by Saturday started to get a bit worried for his party after another heavy snowfall. Thankfully by early afternoon the main roads were clear and Cinderella did go to the ball after all.

Jack had a fab party with his little friends at a local indoor play centre. As I wanted to keep his birthday cake until his actual birthday we didn't cut it and instead put football cupcakes into the party bags.


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We then went to the pub with a few of the friends where Jack opened a couple of his presents.


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Later at home the children enjoyed a pot of hot chocolate and biscuits whilst opening the rest of the party presents.


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Sunday was another day of present opening.


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and cake....

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Unfortunately the day didn't go to plan due to more snow meaning that Nanny and Pop Pop couldn't come and visit. We instead spent most of the day indoors playing Playmobil.

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No overnight snow on Monday meant that Nanny and Pop Pop could come up for the afternoon and stay for tea, and we sang Happy Birthday for the third time and finally cut the cake!

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If you're wondering how to make a football cake read on....


Football Birthday Cake

I've had the Wilton ball cake tins for around 7 years but I've never been brave enough to make one. Jack is mad about football so I thought I would dust it off & try it out this year after picking up a few tips on another blog here.

I used my favourite Madeira recipe that I found on the recipes2share website, and used a 5 egg recipe (291g butter, 291g sugar, 291g SR flour, 145g plain flour & 5 eggs).

It's best to prepare the tins using butter & flour or Wilton Cake Release to make sure they come out easily.

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I sliced the tops of the cakes off whilst still in the tins, then removed and allowed to cool fully on a wire rack.

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Once the cakes are cool sandwich them together with jam and buttercream

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then coat the cake completely in a chocolate ganache. This not only makes the cake easier to handle, without the halves sliding apart, it also gives a good surface to glue the icing to.

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Cut black pentagons and white hexagons from rolled out icing, each with 3cm sides, and start sticking them to the cake using edible glue

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You may find that as you get further down the cake the pieces don't fit very well, and you may need to stretch them to fit

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Once covered completely, you can brush over lightly with alcohol to remove any icing sugar. Cover a cake board in green icing and glue down a ring of icing to support the cake. Use edible glue to stick the cake to the base.

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I made cupcakes to give to party guests using my favourite vanilla cupcake recipe and vanilla buttercream coloured with green paste and piped on using a grass tip

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I made edible football decorations by making a silicone half football mould by using a toy football and silicone plastique, which were then filled with icing in the same way that I made Lego bricks. The footballs were then coloured with an icing pen.

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I bought plastic cupcake boxes for everyone to take their cakes home in - one of my pet hates is a slice of cake wrapped in a napkin!

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3rd February 2014 : I am linking this up to the Team Honk Great British Bake Off for Sport Relief but will be making this again next month as Jack has requested it again for his 5th birthday!

Mummy Mishaps

Cadbury Mini Egg Cookies & Ice Cream

A couple of days ago one of my friends posted a photo on Facebook of some cookies that she'd made, so I asked if she would share the recipe with me as I'm always on the lookout for a good cookie recipe. It turns out it was a Mary Berry recipe, and as I don't have any of her cook books (I must do something to rectify that soon) she sent me the recipe. Instead of 100g Chocolate chips I added Cadbury Mini Eggs, just because it's nearly Easter, and substituted Muscovado sugar for soft brown, as that's what I had in. I then served them sandwiched with home-made Mini Egg ice cream.


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Cadbury Mini Egg Cookies

100g Butter, softened
75g golden Caster sugar
50g dark soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1 Egg
150g SR Flour
100g Mini eggs, roughly chopped or crushed
  • Beat the butter & sugars together until creamy
  • Beat the egg & vanilla together & add to the butter & sugar
  • Mix in the flour and the chopped/crushed mini eggs
  • Take spoonfuls of the mix and place on a greased baking sheet, approx 5cm apart
  • Bake in a preheated 170 C oven for approx 8-10 minutes
  • Cool on a wire rack
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Cadbury Mini Egg Ice Cream

397g Condensed milk
284ml Double cream
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
few drops of yellow food colouring
zest & juice of half a lemon (optional)
100g Cadbury Mini Eggs

  • Whisk the condensed milk, cream & vanilla together until it forms firm peaks
  • Weigh out 100g and combine the food colouring until you have the desired yellow colour & then add the lemon zest & juice
  • Bash the bag of mini eggs a few times with a rolling pin to roughly crush them
  • Pour the uncoloured ice cream mixture into a freezable container
  • Mix in the mini eggs
  • Stir the yellow ice cream mixture through the the rest, but don't mix it in
  • Freeze for a few hours or overnight, until set
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If you're in a hurry for your ice cream it can be made more quickly in one of the many ice cream makers on the market. If you use one you won't need to whisk the condensed milk & cream beforehand.




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All words & recipes are my own - the cookie recipe is adapted from Mary Berry Chocolate Chip cookie recipe in Mary Berry's Baking Bible

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Simple Beef & Mustard Sausage Rolls

My kids love sausage rolls, and unfortunately they're not fussy about the quality of the sausage inside them.  When I make them myself though I like to use good quality sausages as they not only emit less fat than cheaper sausage meat or sausages, but they are also flavoured well and it's possible to make lovely sausage rolls without much mess or effort. For these I used beef and red wine sausages, which were shorter than regular sausages and a perfect size for lunchtime sausage rolls. I added Dijon mustard but unfortunately we couldn't taste it once they were cooked so I know for next time to add twice the amount.


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Simple Beef & Mustard Sausage Rolls

320g Ready Rolled Puff pastry sheet
Dijon mustard
480g Beef Sausages (12 small sausages)
1 Egg, beaten

  • Cut the pastry into strips as wide as the sausage and 2cm longer
  • Spread a spoonful (or more) mustard over the pastry, leaving 2cm at the end
  • Brush beaten egg onto the end without mustard
  • Place the sausage at the opposite end 
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  • Roll the sausage up and press down the end & placed on a baking sheet
  • Repeat with the remaining sausages & pastry
  • Score the pastry diagonally, careful not to score the sausages
  • Brush beaten egg over the pastry
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  • Bake in a preheated 180 C oven for 30 minutes until golden brown


Morphy Richards 9 in 1 Steam Cleaner {review}

Spring is coming (we hope), so it's time for a good spring clean. To help me in my spring cleaning endeavours I have been sent a Morphy Richards 9 in 1 Steam Cleaner to put through its paces. It claims to be the 'ultimate cleaning tool for your home' so obviously I was interested to see it in action.

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The cleaner comes with a whole range of attachments which, according to the Morphy Richards blog, make it possible to clean the following 9 areas of your home :

Hard floors
Carpets
Work surfaces
Windows
Tiles & Grouting
Oven & Hobs & BBQ's
Upholstery
Taps
Clothes

It can be used as an upright cleaner or handheld, with an easy to fill removable water chamber, on/off button at the back and a trigger to control the steam flow. There is also a handy bag to keep all the attachments in.


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I must say, I was sceptical to read that one piece of equipment could clean all these things but gave it a try, with the following results.


Upholstery
Used as a handheld with the upholstery attachment and elasticated utility cloth, I attempted to remove a mark from an upholstered chair but unfortunately all that seemed to happen was that the chair got very wet, and the mark remained.....and spread a little more :-(

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Carpets
Used as the full upright cleaner and carpet glider the steam cleaner is supposed to clean your carpet - it claims to pick up dirt that your vacuum can't. I'm not entirely sure how a machine that emits steam 'picks up' dirt but gave it a go anyway, on a faint stain on our 10 year old beige carpet. Afterwards I couldn't actually see any difference in the stain, maybe I was hoping for too much? The carpet was left with a soggy patch and it was difficult to tell whether it had been 'freshened up' in any way.


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Hard floors
Once the cleaner is turned on and steam begins to come out a resistance is built up and it feels quite heavy to push, although this means that it grips to the floor well and removes stubborn marks with ease. The swivel head makes it easy to go into smaller gaps, although the bulky body of the cleaner didn't allow it to go under cupboards. It cleans the floors really well and they're not left wet like a regular mop would.

Windows
We are in a hard water area where we live and the limescale quickly builds up on our shower cubicle doors. Using the squeege attachment I attempted to clean the shower doors. Our shower cubicle is quite small so armed with the handheld cleaner I struggled to operate it in the confined area as it was difficult to get it to the angle needed to apply pressure to the glass with the squeegee. Even cleaning the open door from the outside wasn't simple as not enough pressure could be put onto the glass to allow the steam to be effective. After much effort the limescale was lifted somewhat from the centre of the glass but there was no change around the edges, meaning I would still need to clean with limescale remover afterwards, defeating the purpose.

Tiles & Grouting
This is where I got a bit stressed. My white tiles, although they have a build up of limescale on, are wiped over on a regular, almost daily basis so are not dirty. However, when I again used the rubber squeegee tool on them black water began to drip down the tiles, and I can only assume it was from the squeegee. I then had to use cleaning products to get the black off the tiles.


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oops!


Oven & Hobs & BBQ's
After the tile incident I was a little reluctant to try it on anything else, but after a few days decided that I would give the steam cleaner a second chance to see if it could redeem itself on our oven door. I'm a little ashamed to show you my oven , but in my defence it is almost 10 years old and gets a battering on an almost daily basis.


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After less than 10 minutes scrubbing with the circular brush attachment it went from this (left) to this (right) - it's not perfect yet, but it's a start. I'll leave the rest of the door and oven for my husband, as I know he'll be impressed by the performance and I wouldn't like him to miss out on trying it for himself.


Work surfaces
Work surfaces are rarely in need of steam cleaning but there is a tiny gap around the hob where bits get in and it's hard to get them out. Using the angled nozzle a and few quick blasts of steam the gap was free of bits. It's not something that I would do on a regular basis but an occasional deep steam clean of the worktops and gaps will definitely be in order now.


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Taps
The bathroom taps don't go long without being cleaned here as, with 3 children and exceptionally hard water, the limescale builds up very quickly. Again I used the angled nozzle and a few blasts around the taps and a wipe over with a dry cloth and they were once again sparkling. The angled nozzle can also be used under the toilet bowl rims.


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Clothes
Never would I have thought that you could use a floor cleaner to clean your clothes, but apparently you can. There's not a lot in this house that needs dry cleaning, even most of the husband's suits these days are machine washable so I couldn't really put the cleaner through a 'dry clean only' test, however it did fare well getting the creases out of a shirt. I'm not sure the husband will be ditching the iron just yet but it's perfect for freshening up those party dresses!


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I think Morphy Richards make some big claims with this steam cleaner but unfortunately , in my experience, it doesn't seem to live up to most of these claims. The floor cleaner is great, and so much easier than a traditional mop and the handheld is great for occasional steam cleaning jobs but not something I would use for anything other than floor cleaning on a regular basis. 


  I was sent the steam cleaner for the purpose of this review


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Monday, 25 March 2013

Betty Botter - kids recite tongue twisters

Every year at school the children learn a poem and recite them in front of their classmates. I posted a video of Hanna reciting hers last year, and this year she chose a tongue twister which she had been practising for days.



She was over the moon that her practise paid off and she won the year 5 competition and will now be reciting the poem in front of parents, teachers and pupils at a celebration assembly.

All the members of the family are now aware of Betty Botter and her bitter butter, including little brother Jack, who turned 4 yesterday and recited the tongue twister whilst eating cake for tea.

Aroma Coffee pods {review}

I do love a good cup of coffee and since having an Espresso coffee maker I usually enjoy an espresso, cappuccino or latte mid morning once the kids have been shipped off to school. My coffee maker uses ESE (Easy Serving Espresso) pods and I haven't been able to find them in the supermarkets so have been buying my supplies online. Thankfully I liked the first batch that I bought so have used the same brand ever since, too afraid to try another and run the risk of being left with 200 pods of bitter undrinkable coffee.

When I was contacted by aroma coffee to see if I wanted to try some of their pods I was therefore more than happy to give them a go.


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I always go for the strong coffees as I hate it weak, and in my opinion you can always water a strong coffee down but you can't make a weak one stronger. I was sent a selection of strengths from 3 to 5 which worked well as I had the strong ones and gave the weaker ones to visitors who don't share my love of strong coffee.

The pods made a lovely cup of coffee with a nice frothy top, and I have been enjoying them equally with and without milk, which isn't possible with a poor coffee.


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You can find the full range of ESE pods on the aroma website in small or large quantities, as well as a variety pack.

I was sent the coffee pods for the purpose of this review.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Spicy Chorizo & Ricotta Tart

I have a bit of an addiction to buying & using puff pastry sheets. They're so versatile and can be used to make pies, pasties, sweet treats and also very simple tarts. This dinner was prepared, cooked and served in around 30 minutes, which is perfect when you have a hungry family that wants to eat right now!


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Spicy Chroizo & Ricotta Tart - serves 4


250g Ricotta cheese
handful of fresh basil, chopped
pinch of black pepper
1 ready rolled Puff pastry sheet
1 tomato, thinly sliced
half a red onion, thinly sliced
50g Chorizo, sliced
1/2 fresh red chilli, sliced 
Olive oil

  • Mix the ricotta with the basil and black pepper
  • Roll out the puff pastry sheet
  • Score the pastry 1cm around the edge
  • Spread the ricotta onto the pastry leaving a gap around the edge
  • Sprinkle with the tomato, onion, chorizo and chilli
  • Brush around the edge with the olive oil
  • Bake in a preheated 200 C oven for approx 20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed up and golden
I did intend to add some Rocket on top once it came out of the oven but in the rush to feed everyone I forgot!

This is my entry into Nazima & Laura's One Ingredient Challenge, which for March is Chilli & being hosted on Laura's blog.

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Photo-Canvas {review}

Since starting this blog just over 2 years ago I've taken a lot of photos, a hell of a lot. There are a few photos and canvases around the house but not enough, in my opinion, so I'm always happy when I'm asked if I want to receive another canvas for review.

This time the offer came from Photo-Canvas.com. I chose one of our holiday photos from last year for Sam's bedroom.


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One of the reasons that I love this photo is because of the bright colours, whenever I look at it I can recall that hot day last August when we enjoyed time on the beach as a family. I cropped this from the original photo and allowed for the wrap around the edge. On the website you can see exactly how your image will look on your chosen canvas, and select the type of edge and thickness of the canvas before placing your order.


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My canvas arrived within 48 hours of ordering, wrapped in plastic wrap and a strong jiffy bag. I was really pleased with the quality of the image, the colours are spot on and the quality of the fabric is excellent. All images are printed on real woven canvas and hand stretched over a strong anti warping frame and wall fixings are provided.


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the canvas

Now Sam has something nice to look at instead of looking out of the window at a cold and snowy street.

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up on the wall


I received the canvas for the purpose of this review

Friday, 22 March 2013

Spice up your leftovers

I had a bowl full of beef stew left over which wasn't enough for everyone as it was so I eeked it out a bit and spiced it up by adding a can of baked beans and a teaspoon of chilli powder.

I then stirred through some cooked pasta and it made 3 generous portions.


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What do you do with your leftovers?

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