The Crazy Kitchen: May 2013

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Friday, 31 May 2013

Frankie & Benny's - Review of the Specials Menu

It's not often that I get to spend time with just my eldest so it was nice when we found ourselves with a few hours to spend on Wednesday afternoon without his siblings. We decided that after dropping Hanna at a friends for the afternoon (Jack was with my parents) we would 'do lunch' at Frankie & Bennies. For our last review for them we chose to eat at the Stafford branch, but this time opted for Uttoxeter, as both are a similar distance from where we live.


It was a cold and dull afternoon and when we arrived the car park was full apart from half a space where someone had parked inconsiderately. Just as we were turning around to park in KFC next door a space became free just opposite the entrance.



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The restaurant was busy inside, and being half term most of the parties had lots of young children in them. We were shown to our table quickly, presented with menus and asked what we wanted to drink. I opted for a sparkling water & Sam a diet coke. The bar man arrived a couple of minutes later with the drinks, Sam was pleased that they had no smaller glasses and instead was given a pint!



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We placed our order from the Specials Menu, which is a fixed menu of 2 courses for £10.95. An additional course can be added to this for £2.25



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We opted for main courses and dessert rather than a starter and a main,  Sam chose the double Pepperoni pizza and I picked the Philly Cheese steak sandwich.



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Our meals were delivered to us in around 15 minutes which, considering how busy the restaurant was, surprised me as when we've been to this branch previously fast service was not one of their plus points.



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The pizza definitely had a lot of peperoni on but unfortunately this resulted in the pizza being very greasy. The base was lovely and thin and crispy though, just as we like it.



My Philly cheese steak sandwich was tasty, with lots of sautéed vegetables, although some of the strips of steak weren't as tender as I would have liked and definitely not 'piled high' as described on the menu. It was also sadly let down by the quality of the fries which looked like they were from the bottom of the pan, lots of greasy pieces rather than whole fries. The coleslaw was also disappointing as it was obviously brought in and could have been so much better if it had been made fresh on the premises, as I would have expected. Nonetheless, the main courses were pleasant, but nothing that I would describe as 'special'.


For dessert we chose the Salt Caramel Cheesecake and Banoffee Brownie. 


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They were both really nice desserts although the brownies were a little dry and definitely couldn't have been eaten without the ice cream and sauce. The cheesecake was really creamy and the salted caramel sauce delicious, although I would have been very happy with a little more sauce. The one thing that let it down though was the base, it would have been so much nicer with a biscuit base rather than a pastry one.


All in all the meal was nice but not something that I would be in a hurry to go back for. The service this time was excellent though and we were in and out within an hour, which on this particular day suited us fine, and we didn't feel like we were being rushed out of the door.

I was provided with a voucher to cover the cost of the 2 meals and drinks

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Sugar Free Banana & Blueberry Muffins with Truvia


This week we seem to have rather a lot of bananas that need eating up. I've no idea why we have more left than usual but I don't think anyone is complaining as over-ripe bananas mean cake. I decided to use some Truvia, calorie free sugar replacement, that I'd been sent in these muffins, and no-one noticed any difference, polishing them off in under 24 hours.


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Sugar Free Banana & Blueberry Muffins
- makes 12

175g Self Raising Flour
25g Ground Almonds
1 tsp Baking Powder
25g Truvia (or 50g caster sugar)
200g Mashed Banana (2 medium bananas)
2 Eggs, beaten
75ml Sunflower Oil
150 ml Milk
100g Fresh or frozen Blueberries
Sprinkling of Cinnamon

  • Mix the flour, almonds, baking powder & Truvia together
  • Mix the banana, eggs, oil & milk together, stir in the blueberries
  • Add the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients - do not over mix, it should be lumpy
  • Divide mixture between muffin cases 
  • Sprinkle the tops with a little cinnamon
  • Bake in a preheated 180 C oven for 18-20 minutes
  • Cool on a wire rack
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I was sent some Truvia for use in my baking

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Ultimate Caramel Mochaccino with Tassimo


There's no denying it, I do love a good cup of coffee in the morning. It may be the only cup of the day so I like it to be a good one, usually a strong espresso or a cappuccino made with skimmed or almond milk.


When Tassimo offered to send me one of their machines and a few coffee pods I was more than happy to try it out. 



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I received a Tassimo TAS 20xx in black and after having a quick browse through the instructions it was up and running. Fill the tank with water, pop a pod in, close the compartment, press a button and away you go, simple. For cappuccino's and lattes you can pop a milk pod in and out comes hot frothy milk, genius.


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You can even dispense hot water, which is very handy for my cups of herbal tea, much quicker than boiling the kettle.


I was challenged by Tassimo to have a play about with my Tassimo and create a unique drink with a twist, so here's mine, which I have named The Ultimate Caramel Mochaccino...


You will need :

Tassimo Machine 
1 x Costa Espresso pod
1 x Costa Milk pod
3 Rolo's
10g Mini chocolate chunks
2 Marshmallows
Squirty Cream
Caramel Sauce, chocolate chunks & Cocoa Powder for decoration (optional)


  • Insert the Espresso pod into the Tassimo and dispense into a large mug or heatproof glass
  • Stir the Rolo's and chocolate chunks into the hot coffee until dissolved
  • Insert the milk pod into the Tassimo and dispense into the glass
  • Pop the 2 marshmallows into the frothy milk
  • Top with squirty cream and decorate with chosen toppings


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This is a lovely rich and creamy drink, of which you couldn't drink many, and I would dread to think of the calorie content. Not something that I would drink every day, I think I'll stick to my Espressso's and save these for very very special occasions! 



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I was sent the Tassimo machine for the purpose of review and this challenge 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The next generation

Last weekend we went to meet our Grandson for the first time. Yes, yes I know I don't look old enough to have a grandchild! It's actually my step-daughter's baby, I married someone much (much) older than myself!

We managed to get all of my husband's children in the same room, as well as his Mum and new grandson - all four generations together. That's no easy task so I made sure I took plenty of photos.

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Gorgeous isn't he........

Bank Holiday Cocktails with Bombay Sapphire and #cbias

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® #CBias #SocialFabric.


I was really looking forward to this Bank Holiday weekend, with no plans apart from visiting family and a swimming gala on Saturday. The weather was forecast to be good on both Saturday on Sunday with chance of rain on Monday so with gin and mixers in hand, that were bought during our trip to Asda on Friday, we were set for a good weekend.

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You can see pictures from our Asda shop in my Google+ album here.
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Sunday morning we spent tidying up the garden, clearing out some of the garage, taking apart a playhouse and building the new garden furniture that we bought at Asda during the gin shop. In the afternoon my parents came up, and my Mum being the seasoned gin and tonic lover that she is was an ideal guinea pig to try my cocktails. Using a little cocktail book of mine (150 Classic Cocktails by Chancellor Press) I set to work making the first (of many) gin based cocktails, using the attractively packaged Bombay Sapphire.



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With plenty of ice loaded up in my 50p carboot sale bargain glass ice bucket and some ready made sugar syrup (equal parts sugar and water heated gently in a pan until the sugar has dissolved) I made a very refreshing Albermarle Fizz.

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Albermarle Fizz - serves 1

4-6 Ice Cubes
1 measure  (25ml) Gin
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 dashes of Raspberry Syrup (I used Chambord Raspberry Liquor)
1/2 tsp Sugar Syrup
Soda Water to top up
Cocktail Cherries to decorate
  • Mix the ice, gin, lemon juice and syrups together 
  • Pour into a glass and top up with soda water
  • Decorate with cherries


I tripled the measures and made in a jug, which we enjoyed sitting on the new garden furniture in the sunshine with friends who had also joined us for the evening. I think out of all the cocktails this was my favourite, a very light & refreshing drink that slipped down easily in the sunshine.

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Next we tried a simple, but just as refreshing Gin and Bitter Cranberry. Bitter Cranberry is fizzy and fruity just like bitter lemon, but with cranberries instead of lemon, obviously. With lots of ice it's perfect for a hot day.

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On Monday I continued the weekend of Bank Holiday Gin cocktails and invited some friends round to sample more of the Bombay Sapphire delights. The friends, who are normally vodka rather than gin drinkers, were surprised how nice the cocktails were, with a very subtle and not at all overpowering taste of gin. After being almost blown away in the garden we decided to party in the warmth of the kitchen.

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We started off gently with a gin and pink grapefruit fizz - a measure of gin mixed with equal parts pink grapefruit juice and soda water and plenty of ice - the only criticism was that the grapefruit juice had bits in as I picked up the wrong one.

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We then tried a gin and orange fizz - the same as the grapefruit but with orange juice - how clever!

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Last but not least, and a favourite with my friends, was a Sydney Fizz, which I made a couple of jugs of.

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Sydney Fizz - Serves 1

4-5 Ice cubes
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp Grenadine
1 measure Gin
Equal parts soda water and Orange juice to top up (although by this point I had run out of soda water and topped up instead with bitter lemon)

Again I tripled the measures and made it up in a jug

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A small amount of dancing may have been involved, accompanied by lots of laughing, followed by some mighty nibbles of home-made oven baked chips and oven roasted sausage bites and vegetables, with barbecue and ranch dips.

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We never got around to trying out one of the cocktails that I really wanted to make so the French '75  will have to wait until next time.

French '75 - serves 1

Cracked ice
1 measure gin
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp Caster sugar
Chilled champagne or sparkling dry white wine
orange slice to decorate


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When all the fun is over you can rinse the empty Bombay Sapphire bottle out, scrub off the label and have a lovely bottle which I'm sure can be upcycled into something very useful - any ideas gratefully received.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Cinnamon Buns

I haven't made cinnamon buns for a very long time despite being something that I think about often. My love for them stemmed from when I lived in America and would buy trays of them in Sam's Club for just cents, it was the cream cheese topping that made them irresistible.

When Katie tweeted me last week to ask if I would be joining in with Breakfast club that she's hosting this month I saw it as a great excuse to make cinnamon buns again. It's not something that I would normally eat for breakfast but how nice was it on Sunday morning eating one of these Al Fresco with a freshly brewed coffee.


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As it had been so long since I made them last time, and well before I started blogging, I had no clue which recipe I used so decided to use my current favourite tear & share bread recipe, adapted from a chelsea bun recipe in my 'bread & bread makers' recipe book.


I made the dough using the basic dough setting on the breadmaker, however it's possible to make it using a dough hook on a food mixer easily enough, or by hand if you're feeling energetic.


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For the dough
225ml milk
500g white bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
50g caster sugar
50g butter, softened
7g yeast

Filling
50g caster sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
50g butter, melted

Icing
25g butter, softened
75g Cream cheese
25g Icing sugar


  • Add the dough ingredients into the breadmaker in the order that your machine specifies and set to dough.
  • Once the dough is ready remove onto a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle approx 30 x 20cm
  • Mix the caster sugar and cinnamon together
  • Brush the melted butter generously over the rolled out dough
  • Sprinkle with all of the cinnamon sugar
  • Roll the dough up along the long side & press the end to seal
  • Cut into 12 equal slices using a very sharp knife
  • Lay the slices into a buttered round or rectangular baking tin or dish
  • Brush with any remaining melted butter
  • Cover with clingfilm & leave in a warm place for approx 1 hour
  • Bake in a preheated 200 C oven for approx 15-20 minutes until golden brown
  • In the meantime mix all of the icing ingredients together until smooth
  • Whilst the buns are still in their tin and still warm smooth the icing over them
  • Serve warm or cold 


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 thegoodlifemum.com

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Cheese & Rhubarb Chutney Tart

The last week has flown by in a frenzy of rhubarb, there's been ice cream, lamb, sweet pizza and pudding. To complete my rhubarb extravaganza I've gone savoury again, this time with a tart made up of a combination of cheese and sweet rhubarb chutney. The chutney was made earlier in the week and kept in the fridge until I made the tart for Friday night dinner, which we ate accompanied by a bag of the finest chippy chips, because we're classy like that.


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Rhubarb Chutney

1 tbsp olive oil
2 small red onions, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Half a small red chilli, finely chopped
350g rhubarb, diced
75ml cider vinegar
50g soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Juice of 1/2 small lemon


  • Heat the oil in a pan
  • Add the onion, garlic & chilli & fry gently for 5 minutes
  • Add the rhubarb, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice and stir
  • Bring to the boil
  • Simmer for approximately 20 minutes until thickened


This will make twice as much as you need. You can store any chutney that you don't need in a sterilised jar and enjoy with your favourite cheese & crackers.


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Cheese & Rhubarb Chutney Tart

Ready made puff pastry sheet
75g cheddar cheese, grated
125g mozzarella cheese, sliced
7 cherry tomatoes halved
fresh basil


  • Lay the puff pastry sheet on a baking tray
  • Spread over half of the chutney that was made previously leaving a gap around the edge
  • cover with grated cheddar, slices of mozzarella, tomatoes & torn basil leaves
  • Bake in a preheated 200 C oven for approx 20 minutues
  • Serve with more torn basil leaves scattered over



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This is another of my recipes for the May Swallows Charity Recipes for Life Challenge on Bangers and Mash. You can find out more about the challenge & see more rhubarb recipes here
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Friday, 24 May 2013

Lemon & Rhubarb Pudding

Booths are a chain of food stores in the North West of England. I've never visited one as there isn't one close by but last year I did some beer and wine tasting for them - it's tough this blogging game.


During one of their recent twitter parties I spotted a lemon pudding recipe and though I would give it a go. As I have so much rhubarb at the moment I thought it would be a nice addition to the base of the pudding, along with some ginger and cinnamon in the sponge.



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Lemon & Rhubarb Pudding

75g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
juice & zest of 2 lemons
3 medium eggs, separated
75g self raising flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
200ml milk
200g rhubarb, cut into 1cm pieces
1 tbsp sugar


  • Beat the butter & sugar together with the lemon zest until light & fluffy
  • Mix in the egg yolks one at a time
  • Fold in the flour & spices
  • Slowly add the lemon juice & milk (it may separate but don't worry)
  • Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form
  • Fold the egg whites into the batter
  • Lay the rhubarb into the base of a buttered ovenproof dish & sprinkle the sugar over
  • Pour the batter over the rhubarb
  • Bake in a preheated 180 C oven for 30-40 minutes, until well risen & cooked right through (mine took a little longer as my dish was quite deep)



The pudding didn't look particularly pretty as the sauce looked like it had separated a bit, but it tasted absolutely great, especially with vanilla ice cream.



As this recipe is another one this month that uses the 3 ingredients in the Swallows Charity Recipes for Life challenge I may as well enter it...sorry Vanesther, that's number 4.




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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Rhubarb and Custard Crumble Pizza

Who said pizzas have to be savoury. I shared my recipe for fruit crumble pizzas a while ago but thought it was time to share again now that I have a tonne of rhubarb to use up. What goes better with rhubarb than custard so I've incorporated some custard in there too, the ready made tinned stuff is fine, and what better way to serve it than with some rhubarb ripple ice cream.

It's a very simple, no yeast, pizza base which, if you have a very sweet tooth, you might want to add a little sugar to.


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Rhubarb and Custard Crumble Pizza

250g rhubarb
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 can of ready made custard
25g butter
100g plain flour
50g Demerara sugar
1/2 tsp mixed spice
zest of 1 lemon


  • wash & trim the rhubarb & cut into 1cm pieces
  • Place in a microwaveable bowl, cover & microwave for 5 minutes, until soft
  • Drain any excess juice and stir in the tbsp of sugar & set aside
  • Make the pizza base by mixing the flour, oil and milk together until it forms a dough
  • Knead for 1 minute & roll out to approx 30cm in diameter
  • Make the crumble by rubbing the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs
  • Stir in the demerara sugar, mixed spice & lemon zest
  • Spread the rhubarb over the pizza base, cover with the custard & sprinkle over the crumble
  • Bake in a preheated 180 C oven for approx 20 minutes
  • Serve hot or cold
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I have entered this recipe into the Swallows Charity Recipe for Life challenge on Bangers & Mash, which you can read more about here.




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