The Crazy Kitchen: July 2013

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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Soft Pretzels

There are a few smells that remind me of our time living in America - Cinnamon Buns, Yankee Candles and Soft Pretzels. I've cracked making my own cinnamon buns, Yankee Candles are readily available and now I've made soft pretzels for the first time so I feel that my life is complete.

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After seeing a recipe for German Pretzels on Carolin's blog last week I couldn't stop thinking about them so, with a helping hand from Jack, set about making some and couldn't believe how easy they were. You can find Carolin's recipe here and below is the recipe I used, making a few changes (I misread the type of flour and my forgot to get my butter out of the fridge!). The pretzels worked out great though and are ideal for making with kids as they can make pretzel sticks whilst you're busy twisting your classic pretzel shapes.

Soft Pretzels

2 tsp dried yeast
1 tbsp sugar
125ml warm water
125ml milk
500g plain flour
50ml vegetable oil
150g bicarbonate of soda
1 litre of water
course sea salt

  • Mix the yeast, sugar, water, milk & 100g of flour together in a bowl with a whisk
  • Cover and leave for around 2 hours
  • Mix in the remaining flour and oil
  • Bring it together with your hands and knead for around 5 minutes (adding a little more liquid or flour if necessary)
  • Divide dough into pieces and roll into long sausages and twist to form a pretzel shape (or roll into sausage shapes is making pretzel sticks)
  • Bring the bicarbonate of soda and water to the boil in a saucepan
  • Add the pretzels into the solution, 1 or 2 at a time and leave for around 30 seconds
  • Place onto a greased baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt
  • Bake in a preheated 200 C oven for approx 15-20 minutes until golden brown
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Serve warm or cold - delicious with a Nutella dip made by mixing a little boiling water into Nutella

Please also check out Jayne's lovely Bavarian Pretzels here
and again Carolin's are here

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Chewy Honey & Oatmeal Cookies with Summer Berry Jam

I very nearly didn't manage a recipe this month for the Swallow Charity Recipes for Life Challenge but by the skin of my teeth I've managed to squeeze one in. I had hoped to rustle up something savoury but time ran away with me so it had to be cookies.

This month is the penultimate month for the challenge and you can read more about it on Bangers & Mash here. The 3 ingredients for this month are berries, oats and honey and I came up with some Honey & Oatmeal cookies accompanied by some Summer Berry Jam. The cookies & jam were great, I just need to practice my blackboard writing skills - I would never make a good teacher, although it's all laptops & white boards these days so I could still stand a chance...

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Chewy Honey & Oatmeal Cookies
- makes approx 24

115g Flora Buttery
230g Caster Sugar
Vanilla pod
35g Honey
1 Egg
115g Wholegrain oats
125g Self Raising Flour

Summer Berry Jam

200g Frozen Summer Fruits
100g Caster Sugar
  • Beat the Flora, sugar & seeds from the vanilla pod together (keep the vanilla pod for later)
  • Beat in the honey & egg
  • Stir in the oats and flour until well combined
  • Spoon a heaped teaspoonful onto a greased baking tray, repeat with the rest of the dough (spaced well apart)
  • Bake in a 170 C oven for approx 10-12 minutes until golden brown
  • Leave to cool for 10 minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
  • Add the summer fruit, sugar & vanilla pod to a saucepan
  • Bring slowly to the boil, stirring regularly
  • Simmer for approx 5-8 minutes stirring regularly, until the jam coats the back of a spoon
  • Pour into a sterilised jar and allow to cool
Serve the cookies spread with a generous amount of jam

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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Barbecue Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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.

The weather recently has been absolutely amazing. I think we've eaten outdoors more in the past few weeks than we did in the whole of the last 2 years. Barbecue's are a great way to cook, leaving no nasty cooking smells in the house or extra pans to wash. As we have a gas barbecue I also use it in the colder months and have been known to cook sausages and bacon for New Years Day breakfast on it, although we don't always do the eating outdoors.

Whilst we were away on holiday this last week we used the barbecue almost every day as it was far too hot to cook indoors, and we enjoyed some delicious family meals.

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I read a blog post during the week for a brilliant idea of cooking pizzas and cookies on the barbecue and thought I had to give the cookies a go. I was challenged to do some child friendly baking with Flora and thought it would be the perfect opportunity. You can see the photos of my shopping trip to the nearest Tesco store here.

Myself and Hanna set about making the cookies using a slightly adapted recipe that is currently my favourite cookie recipe. Hanna was kitted out in her apron & hair net from a chocolate workshop she went on a couple of days previously so really looked the part! The Flora Buttery is perfect to use in this hot weather as butter is either too hard straight from the fridge or too runny if left out, whereas the Flora is easy to beat straight from the fridge.

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We then placed the cookie dough in the fridge whilst we cooked our chops and then rolled it into balls and placed on some parchment lined foil for placing on the bbq once the meat was cooked.

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For baking the cookies I covered a pizza stone and baking sheet in foil and then placed the cookies on the parchment on top, closed the lid and left for 8-10 minutes until the cookies had spread out and caramelised. I removed the sheet and placed on a wire rack to cool completely before removing. They did spread out quite a lot but separated easily once cooled down.

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Absolutely lovely served with some local ice cream

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Chocolate Chunk Cookies

115g Flora Buttery
230g Caster sugar
45g Golden syrup
1 Egg
250g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
100g Milk chocolate, cut into small pieces

  • Beat the Flora & sugar together
  • Beat in the golden syrup and egg
  • Stir in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and chocolate
  • Place the dough in the fridge for minimum of 30 minutes
  • Roll dough into balls and place on foil lined baking sheet
  • Bake on a lidded bbq or in a preheated 170 degree oven for around 8-10 minutes  
  • Leave to cool 

Top 10 Tips for a Top Road Trip

If you're planning a road trip this summer here are a few tips to make it run smoothly

  • Switch off the satnav - great for finding your way from A to B but not great when it comes to finding interesting places en route
  • get yourself lost - if you have a Satnav, phone or a road map you're not really lost as you can always find your way back...eventually. I have found all the best shortcuts to places by getting myself lost, especially when moving to a new area
  • bring out the Ordnance Survey map - a big book road map is good for following the main roads but if you want to find some out of the way places then an Ordance Survey map is great

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  • Fill up your tank - In some areas petrol stations are very few and far between off the beaten track
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  • turn off the main roads - there's not a lot to see on the main roads and motorways apart from lay-by's and service stations, turn off somewhere along the way and discover something new

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  • Food - pack a picnic and plenty of drinks, even if you are lost for a while you know that you won't starve
  • Company - take a friend, not only to keep you company but as a pair of hands to change the music, hand you snacks and keep your spirits up if you do become well and truly lost
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  • Slow down - take time to look around at the scenery and wherever possible pull over to the side of the road, get out of the car and take in the scenery

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  • Music - charge up the ipod with your favourite driving tunes, you cannot beat Sweet Caroline blasting out when the sun is shining

  • Money - take some cash with you and small change as you don't see many cash points out in the country but you may need some cash for stopping off for a cream tea or ice cream or paying for a beach car park

We set off to discover some beaches along the Dumfries & Galloway coast. The A75 is no fun as it's often just a single lane in each direction and full of lorries en route to Stranraer. Just off this A road there are lots of quiet lanes leading to beaches, villages and Lochs.

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We found a few little beaches on our road trip - one that was great for digging and burying big brother....

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one that was great for finding sea creatures in the rock pools....

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and one that sold great ice creams...

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The weather was absolutely fabulous, which helped make the trip extra special but even when the days started off a little miserable there was plenty to do in the area including touring an ice cream factory and making chocolates at the chocolate factory.

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I received £50 towards the cost of filling up our tank for our Moneysupermarket #roadtripchallenge 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

One Mighty Week

What happens when you throw together 3 kids of varying ages, a pop up tent, a couple of sleeping bags and some marshmallows?

A lot of fun and giggling that's what.

Persil wants kids to be brave and mighty, face new challenges and be given the freedom to discover and have adventures for themselves. Our 'mighty night' with the tent didn't quite go as I expected, but left to their own devices these three can make some great entertainment.

First of all they put the tent up, dragged the sleeping bags inside and ate marshmallows, which was all an adventure in itself, especially for Jack who has never been in a tent before.

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Then, once the adults had retired inside, away from the mosquitos and other biting creatures, this happened next, and went on for quite a while (don't try this at home!)

I think zorbing will be next!

Another mighty achievement for the kids this week has been trying out Kayaking for the first time...

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Unfortunately I never got any of the fun stuff from Persil, and instead received a bottle of their Small & Mighty Bio liquid. I do love a gimmick and the flexible plastic liquid dispenser isn't on the top of the bottle and is instead inserted through a hole in the bottle and has a rough side for massaging the liquid into tough stains, genius.

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I often try cheaper own brand washing liquid but after doing my first wash I remembered why I always go back to Persil - the smell. I do love a fresh scent on my laundry and one that sticks around after the drying, and lots of cheaper brands don't unfortunately. Persil definitely lives up to the Mighty name and I'm pleased to inform that even after washing everything at 40 degrees my smalls are smelling mighty.

I am a member of the Netmums Blogging Network, a unique community of parent bloggers from around the UK who have been handpicked by the Netmums team to review products and brands on their behalf. I have been paid expenses and supplied with a product sample for this review but retain all editorial control. All my Netmums Reviews will display the Netmums logo within the post.

This is a Netmum's sponsored review.To find out more click the button:

Monday, 22 July 2013

How to Make Pancakes Schwartz Style

We love a good pancake in The Crazy Kitchen, thick ones or thin ones, the children aren't bothered which, as long as they are drowning in golden or maple syrup. When I was asked to cook up some pancakes using one of the Schwartz pancake recipes there was no need to think twice about it.

On their website there are tips on how to make pancakes and lots of delicious pancake recipes, including both sweet and savoury, crispy fried pancakes and some with sauces.

Whilst in town with Jack, having a 'last day of being just the two of us' treat, we picked up a couple of punnets of raspberries for just £1 and decided to make the American Raspberry Pancakes, which have a lovely infusion of vanilla from the Schwartz vanilla pod.

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The recipe was a nice easy one to follow that didn't need any specialist equipment or ingredients.

They turned out lovely and thick but light and fluffy inside. Just pile them high on a plate and drizzle with syrup and a few raspberries....perfect for breakfast or dessert. Even better with the addition of some ice cream to cool you down on a hot day.

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I don't think I did too badly with these..

Recipe commissioned by Schwartz

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Hotel Chocolat New Arrival Collection {review}

With the birth of the Royal baby imminent it's time to get prepared and stock on some goodies from Hotel Chocolat so that you're good and ready to celebrate in style once he or she is born.

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Unfortunately the box arrived a little damaged & messy.

If you're feeling generous you could even buy a gift for a new Mum from the New Arrival range, starting at just £8. What new Mum wouldn't be thrilled to receive delicious chocolates instead of new baby clothes, after all she did all the work so why shouldn't she be rewarded.

My new arrival gift was slightly belated, only arriving 4 years too late, but has been very well received.

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The New Arrival Collection is a ribbon bound gift box with something for Mum as well as baby :

140g Caramel Buttons
250g Liquid chocolate 
Box of 8 indulgent filled chocolates
20cl bottle of sparkling Rosé
Unique 'Trainee Chocolatier' bib


Whilst the chocolate is chilling in the fridge I'm waiting on the news of the Royal baby chilling with this ......

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I was sent this package for the purpose of this review

Colourful Dove quality tableware for children {review}

Now that Jack is a 'big boy' he likes to eat his dinner off proper plates, just like the rest of us. The dinner plates are usually too large and side plates too small but when we received the gorgeous tableware set from Colourful Dove it was just perfect.

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The bone china plate, cup and bowl is a perfect size for little ones and comes in a choice of 4 bright colours - we chose the blue monkey as blue is one of the colours that Jack is struggling to recognise at the moment so we're hoping this will help.

As the set is made of bone china it can be used in the microwave, which makes it ideal for warming bedtime milk in the cup. Everything can also be cleaned in the dishwasher, although lower temperatures are recommended to keep the colours vibrant.

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The rrp of the items in the range are as follows : Plate £8, Bowl £7.50, Beaker £7.50, Gift set (plate, bowl, beaker) £24.99, Beaker set (four beakers) £27.50

The items come stylishly packaged in brown cardboard, making them perfect as a gift.
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Perfect size for spaghetti hoops on toast & a side salad.

We were sent the set for the purpose of this review

Olives Et Al {review}

The good think about being a food blogger is receiving food parcels, particularly containing a product that turns out to be so delicious you wonder how you lived without it for so long!

I love olives so I was more than happy to receive a package from Olives Et Al , a company that has been around for 20 years conjuring up tasty marinades for their personally sourced olives.

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The package included marinated olives, spiced nuts & seeds, a chilli & ginger dressing and a jar of Coriander & Red Chilli pesto.

All of the products were lovely with bags of flavour, especially my favourite, the pesto. It's not often that chilli flavoured food stuffs are spicy enough for me but this definitely had a kick to it. I absolutely love it & will be sad when it's all gone, thankfully you don't need to use too much at a time to get the flavour. I added one spoonful to a huge bowl of pasta and each mouthful was spicy, so spicy that the kids were gasping for water! It was also packed with coriander and would be great used as a marinade for chicken, we love it!

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The nuts didn't hang around for long as I'm partial to rosemary, as you can see by the half empty jar in the picture and I'm enjoying the dressing on my salad every day.

You can buy Olives Et Al products online or from one of their Deli's in Dorset

I was sent the products listed for the purpose of review

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Easy as Cherry Pie

Anyone who knows me knows that I do love a cooking challenge but when I was challenged by Cool Cookery to create a recipe with just ingredients that you would find in the frozen food aisles (plus the odd condiment) I must admit that I did have to think twice about it.

I decided to give it a go & browsed the online freezer shelves for inspiration. I was thinking fruit pie initially but decided to make it less run of the mill and make it into a type of Mille Feuille, although I do believe a classic version has 3 layers of puff pastry and mine only have 2, so instead it's a tart/pie/sandwich kind of creation, with ice cream in.

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Cherry Ice Cream Puff Sandwich
- serves 5

320g Frozen ready rolled Puff Pastry sheet, defrosted
300g Frozen Morello cherries
400g Vanilla Ice Cream
Icing sugar for dusting

  • Lay the pastry sheet flat & cut in half lengthways & then cut each piece into 5 equal strips
  • Lay the pastry pieces onto a greased baking sheet & dust with icing sugar
  • Place in the fridge for 10 minutes
  • In the meantime beat together the ice cream & cherries (easiest in a food mixer)
  • Line a rectangular baking tin or tray (similar in size to the sheet of pastry) with greaseproof paper
  • Spoon the ice cream into the lined tin and smooth out
  • Place in the freezer for 1 hour to firm up
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge & dust with more icing sugar
  • Bake in a preheated 200C oven for approx 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed up
  • Dust with more icing sugar & allow to cool
  • Cut the ice cream into pieces similar in size to the puff pastry rectangles
  • Serve with the ice cream sandwiched between 2 pieces of pastry

If you are a blogger and would like to enter this challenge just link to within your post and tweet @cool_cookery with your entry.

I was provided with payment to cover the cost of ingredients used in the recipe

Hello Fresh {review}

We don't do ready meals in this house. You may occasionally find the odd one lurking in the freezer and it would usually be a special offer Weight Watchers meal that I've picked up whilst shopping on an empty stomach, but it's a rare sight to see. I could almost every night & always from scratch (even if it is only pasta, beans & cheese!), so a delivery from Hello Fresh was a very welcome sight.

The Hello Fresh chefs create different meals every week and send you all the ingredients you need to make delicious meals along with simple step by step recipe cards. The boxes are delivered to your door free of charge on a Tuesday or Thursday, well packaged with insulation and ice packs (which were still partly frozen upon delivery which is no mean feat in this heat!)

The box we received had everything I needed to make the following meals for two :

  • Hail Caesar Salad with Roasted Lime & Herb Chicken
  • Genki Yakitori with Crispy red Onions and Sweet & Sour Noodles
  • Double Guilt-Free Fish & Chips with a side order of Nostalgia

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On a hot Friday evening in a moment of madness I decided that I would cook all 3 recipes and we would share them all between the 5 of us for our dinner - crazy idea!

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It was hot hot hot in that kitchen, with pans boiling, the griddle sizzling & the oven baking, but I did it and the meals were absolutely gorgeous. There was more than enough of some of the ingredients needed - there was more than double the quantity of potatoes needed in the fish & chip recipe and plenty of garlic cloves. All I needed to add from my own store cupboard was salt & pepper and olive oil, although there was 2 lots of soy sauce instead of 1 soy sauce and 1 malt vinegar.

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The finished meals were huge, especially the salad, the leftovers of which were packed up in a lunchbox and taken to a football tournament the following day. Each dish would definitely serve 2 as stated without the need for any additional sides and considering that there is no need to buy any ingredients (apart from the salt,pepper & oil) I think the price tag of £4.30 per meal* is excellent value. 

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I'm now seriously considering buying a Family Box as it serves 4-5 people, perfect size for our family.

* based on 5 meals in a classic box for 6 people

I was sent the Classic box with 3 meals for 2 people for the purpose of this review

**** FOR A DISCOUNT OF £20 enter code 5NNZ8D at checkout ****


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