The Crazy Kitchen: March 2015

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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

BBQ Lamb Steak Burger with Mint Dressing

A couple of weeks ago we were promised an Easter heatwave. As I type this the hailstones are battering the window and the letterbox is banging in the wind, as it always does when it's blowing a gale. Last night I got completely drenched at bootcamp and my legs were red with cold when I peeled my soggy clothes off to get in the hot shower to warm up. Last March I was driving with my roof down on an almost daily basis. This month I find myself putting the heated seats on for the morning school run. Come on sunshine, show your face and give us all the Spring that we've been waiting so patiently for.

In anticipation of the warmer weather we put the cushions out on the garden furniture and uncovered the barbecue and cleaned it up. We managed a brief sit on the chairs last weekend before we covered them again and weighted the covers down to stop them from blowing away. I was not going to be beaten though, and braved the cold to cook some lamb steaks on the barbecue in a bid to bring some sunshine into our lives once again with Lindeman's.

BBQ Lamb Steak Burger with Mint Dressing

I love the taste of meat cooked on the barbecue, and as we have a gas one it's really convenient to use, and I have been known to cook dinner on it in the pouring rain with an umbrella to avoid messing up my oven. Whilst (in my opinion) lamb steaks are best cooked on a barbecue you could also fry them on a griddle pan on your hob if you don't fancy braving the cold.

BBQ Lamb Steak Burger with Mint Dressing - serves 2

2 lamb leg steaks 

2 tbsp Lindeman's Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon 
1 tsp garlic granules (or clove of fresh garlic)
handful of fresh mint

75g Greek yogurt
fresh mint leaves

for serving
fresh bread rolls 
salad leaves
red onion slices
  • Make the marinade by adding the ingredients to a pestle and grind with the pestle
  • Place the steaks in a closeable bag and pour in the dressing
  • Seal the bag and squeeze to coat the lamb
  • Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight
  • Make the dressing by ripping the mint leaves and mixing them into the yogurt
  • Cook the lamb on a very hot bbq for a few minutes each side - my tip is to have your bbq as hot as you can and cook the steaks as quickly as you can to avoid them drying out. This way they are lovely and crispy on the outside, yet lovely and juicy on the inside
  • Serve the steaks in fresh bread rolls with salad leaves, sliced red onion and yogurt & mint dressing

Accompany the burgers with a large glass of Lindeman's Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon - a perfect pairing this Easter.

BBQ Lamb Steak Burger with Mint Dressing BBQ Lamb Steak Burger with Mint Dressing BBQ Lamb Steak Burger with Mint Dressing

I'm once again working with Lindeman's as an Ambassador - keep your eye out for future recipes, news and giveaways.

This post has been commissioned by Lindeman's

Monday, 30 March 2015

Easter Treats - Eggs, Cakes and Homemade Chocolate Crispy Cakes

Easter has come a little early in The Crazy Kitchen, and we've been sampling some chocolate treats so that we can help steer you in the right direction, when it comes to Easter cakes and chocolate.

First up was a selection of chocolates from Lindt. In my opinion you cannot go wrong with Lindt chocolate. Their gold chocolate bunnies are so cute and no Easter basket should be without one. 

Lindt Easter

There is something for everyone this Easter, from Lindor milk chocolate truffle eggs to a luxury Hazelnut egg, that smells & tastes amazing. The gold bunny storybooks are a lovely idea for an Easter gift for little ones, and have a selection of chocolate animals in a box along with a story to read. I'm loving the colours and packaging on the Taste of Spring boutique collection, and the individual easter eggs and praline box not only look great but taste delicious too. Our least favourite from the collection was the strawberries and cream white chocolate egg. Not only is white chocolate our least favourite but the strawberries and cream truffles were a bit sweet for our liking.

Lindt Easter Lindt Easter Lindt Easter Lindt Easter

If you're looking for something a little bit different then the Monty Bojangles eggs could be for you. They come in three flavours - Scrumple Nutty Truffle, Berry Bubble Truffle, and The Flutter Scotch Truffle, which was the one that we tried. I gave the egg to the kids to fight over whilst I set to work on the truffles, telling the kids that they wouldn't like them. Unfortunately for me they didn't believe me and once the egg had been inhaled they pinched some of the butterscotch and sea salt truffles too - please will someone buy me a box of these truffles for my birthday as they are so good!

monty bojangles easter monty bojangles easter

Monty Bojangles Easter egg £6.00 (200g box of Flutter Scotch truffles also available for £4.00) 

I only really thing of Greggs as making sausage rolls, but my local store showed me that they do so much more when they delivered a lovely box of Easter treats for the family to share, which included hot cross buns, Easter doughnuts, Easter Ring buns and Easter cupcakes.

Greggs Easter

I was really surprised at the price of these as they are great value, and look so cute too. I know I shouldn't have had any of these myself, after an weekend away indulging in lots of food and drink, but I couldn't resist trying the doughnut, filled with vanilla frosting and topped with milk chocolate - oh my I do love a chocolate doughnut!

Hot Cross Buns - 30p each / £1 for a pack of 4
Chick & Bunny Ring Buns - 75p each / £2.50 pack of 4
Easter doughnut - 85p each
Easter Chocolate cupcake - 85p each / £2.80 pack of 4

If you fancy making some Easter treats for yourself to keep the kids busy in the holidays (mine don't break up until Thursday so there's not much time for Easter baking here), then these Mini Egg Crispy bars are quick and easy, as well as being extremely cheap. I picked up a value box of Coco snaps for 83p and some chocolate flavour cake covering for 67p - making these just under 6p each (not including the cost of the mini eggs).

Mini Egg Crispy Cakes

Chocolate Crispy Treats - makes 28

300g milk chocolate cake covering
300g coco snaps
pack of Cadbury Mini eggs
  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave until smooth
  • Stir in the coco snaps until fully combined
  • Press into a lined baking tin and pop Mini eggs onto the top
  • Refrigerate until set & then cut into squares/bars

Mini Egg Crispy Cakes

I received the Easter products mentioned free of charge for the purpose of review

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Butternut Squash & Tomato Soup

The weather recently has definitely been more spring like. Coats have been ditched and more time is being spent outdoors. Then, all of a sudden, a frost hits again and we feel that we're back in the depths of winter. What better way to warm yourself up on a chilly day than with a bowl of soup. This butternut squash and tomato soup is extremely simple to make, has few ingredients, yet tastes as good as a good quality cream of tomato, and is a lot healthier too.

The husband wasn't feeling too good so I served him a bowl with a cheese toastie, sprinkled with a few bacon flavour bread bites, from this month's Degustabox.

Butternut Squash & Tomato Soup

Butternut Squash & Tomato Soup

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 stock cube    
400g can of chopped tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
  • Add the butternut squash to a large pan
  • Cover with water & add the stock cube
  • Bring to the boil and simmer until the squash is softened
  • Add the tomatoes and bring back to the boil
  • Remove from the heat and blend to a puree with a hand blender, adding more water if necessary
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

The soup is completely free on Weight Watchers filling & healthy plan (minus the cheese toastie and bread bites).

Butternut Squash & Tomato SoupBrioche Pasquier Bread Bites

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake

Easter is almost upon us, which means that Cadbury Creme Eggs will be disappearing off the shelves for another year (well, until Christmas at least), so whilst I had the opportunity to get my hands on some I decided to make a cheesecake, which I've been meaning to do for ages.

This isn't your traditional no bake cheesecake with a biscuit base, as it's a cross between a cheesecake and a cake - you get the best of both worlds. There are two layers of moist chocolate cake sandwiching a creamy vanilla cheesecake layer, packed full of Creme Egg pieces, and topped with a milk chocolate ganache. It's not for the fainthearted or diet conscious among us, as it contains a full 7 Creme Eggs, plus a bag of mini eggs.

Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake

Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake

for the cake layers
3 tbsp cocoa powder
75ml boiling water
200g butter, melted
200g caster sugar
3 medium eggs (approx 200g weight in shells)
200g self raising flour

cheesecake layer
300g full fat cream cheese
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
300ml double cream
4 Cadbury Creme Eggs, chopped

ganache layer
100ml double cream
200g good quality milk chocolate chips (I used Callebaut Belgian chocolate)

to decorate
3 Cadbury Creme Eggs, halved
90g bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs
  • Whisk the cocoa powder and boiling water together until smooth
  • Whisk into the melted butter, and then whisk in the sugar and eggs
  • Fold in the flour until fully combined
  • Grease the base and sides of a deep sided, loose bottomed 20cm cake tin, and line the base with baking paper
  • Pour the batter into the tin
  • Bake in a preheated 180C oven for around 45 minutes, until springy to the touch
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out of the tin & cooling fully on a wire rack
  • Once the cake is completely cool slice the top off & discard (eat) and slice the remaining cake around the middle, into 2 equal slices
  • Make the cheesecake filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together
  • Whisk the cream in, a third at a time, until it's thick enough to hold it's shape (but not stiff)
  • Stir in the chopped Creme Eggs
  • Place the bottom off the cake into the 20cm tin and spread the filling over it
  • Place the top slice on top and refrigerate overnight
  • Turn the cheesecake cake upside down out of the tin onto a plate or cake stand, so that the base is now the top
  • Make the ganache by bringing the cream to the boil and then pouring onto the chocolate chips
  • Leave for a minute before whisking until smooth
  • Pour over the cake and allow to drip down the sides
  • Decorate with Creme Egg halves and Mini Eggs
Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake Creme Egg Cheesecake Cake

Creme Eggs - how do you eat yours?

How about in a Creme Egg chocolate quiche or creme egg chocolate brownies?

Easy Peasy No Knead Hot Cross Buns
 photo hot cross sq_zpsbebkpszf.jpg

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bolognaise and Chips in the Tefal Actifry Family Express XL

I've been using my Tefal Actifry for a few months now, and I have to say that it's one of the most used small kitchen appliances that I've ever owned. We regularly enjoy eating healthy chips, wedges or roast potatoes that have been made completely fuss-free. It's so easy to use that the kids can use it too, and when I take Jack for his swimming lesson I ask one of the older children to set an alarm for 5.45pm as a reminder to turn it on so that we have chips ready for when we get home.

Up until now we've only had the 1kg machine, which I do have a tendency to overload to make sure there is enough to go around the hungry brood. Recently Ideal World got in touch to ask if I would like to try out one of the Tefal Actifry Family Express XL machines, as part of their Easter celebrations.

Tefal Actifry Family Express XL Tefal Actifry Family Express XL Tefal Actifry Family Express XL

This machine is ideal for our family; with it's 1.5kg capacity I can cook more than enough chips for all of us without overloading it. For a midweek dinner I decided to try something that I haven't tried in the Actifry before, but something we love eating - bolognaise. The advantage of making it in the Actifry is that you can add all the ingredients at the beginning, set the timer for 25 minutes and just leave it, without the need to keep stirring.

As far as I can see, Tefal have made a few improvements to this model that differ from the 1kg Actifry that I had previously :
  • the bowl no longer has a hole in the middle and is instead raised up in the centre, which means there is no risk of leakage into the base of the fryer if it's used without the paddle
  • the paddle has just one button to release it easily from the bowl, whereas previously it was necessary to hold it on both sides, which could be a little fiddly, especially when hot 
  • the lid has a large transparent viewing window making it easier to view the food cooking without needing to open the lid
  • the Express Technology means that chips take around 5-10 minutes less than previously - which makes all the difference when you have hungry kids!
  • Once the programmed time has ended, cooking stops, unlike the older model that keeps cooking - if you don't hear the alarm your food may overcook
Beef Bolognaise in the Tefal Actifry - serves 4/5

1 tbsp olive oil
500g lean beef mince
100g onions, chopped
100g peppers, sliced
100g mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • Add all the ingredients to the Actifry
  • Set the timer for 25 minutes and turn it on
Tefal actifry bolognaise Tefal actifry bolognaise

The dish isn't as saucy as it would be if you cooked it in a pan, but it's no less delicious ,and is great served with freshly cooked pasta.

I also cooked a batch of chips (using just one spoon of Olive oil for the whole pan) in the new Actifry in just 30 minutes, and doused them in plenty of salt and vinegar, just for research purposes of course.

Tefal actifry healthy chips

These dishes are also suitable for Weight Watchers filling & healthy, if you use 5% fat beef mince, and take the olive oil from your daily allowance.

The Tefal Actifry Express XL is available from Ideal World TV
Their  ‘Great Easter Giveaway’ launches on the 2nd April - #Easters4Sharing

Monday, 23 March 2015

Plant Me Now Novice Gardener Challenge - Results

Just over 6 months ago I was challenged to do a spot of gardening, which isn't one of my strong points. I planted up some pots for the front garden with bulbs and plants sent to me by Plant Me Now.

This is how they looked back in September...

 photo plantmenowplanted_zps89bdd66d.jpg

It's been a long winter, and the weather is still quite cold compared to last March, and not all of the bulbs have flowered yet. As the front of the house doesn't get much sun I brought the pots into the back garden where there's a lot more, got rid of some of the dead foliage and tidied the post up a little.

before the pots were spruced up :

 photo plantmenow1_zpseur4clb2.jpg

after (perhaps a little too much green still?). As I've said before, I'm not great when it comes to gardening and I may have filled the pots with a few too many bulbs, but they have definitely brightened up the garden this spring.

Plant Me Now Novice Gardener Challenge - Results Plant Me Now Novice Gardener Challenge - Results Plant Me Now Novice Gardener Challenge - Results Plant Me Now Novice Gardener Challenge - Results

Hopefully we'll manage to grow a few vegetables and some summer bedding plants this year without much effort too!

I'm working together with Plant Me Now on this blogger challenge

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Cooking Birthday Party for a 6 Year Old

This year we decided to host a cooking birthday party for Jack's 6th birthday. He wanted a party at home with a few friends, and as he loves to indulge in a spot of cooking I thought it would be a nice idea to get the kids involved in some fun cooking activities.

The agenda for the party looked like this :
  • Apron decorating
  • Birthday cake making
  • Cupcake decorating
  • Fruit kebab making
  • Birthday cake decorating
  • Pizza making
  • Party games
  • Party food

I bought some plain cotton aprons from Baker Ross, along with washable pens and fun stickers. Each child had their own apron and pot of stickers (to avoid the possibility of arguing), along with a paper chef hat and novelty glasses.

 photo party1_zpsjgwnhhlr.jpg  photo balloon 3_zpsweozksbi.jpg  photo party 2_zpsac6nr9bi.jpg

It was interesting watching how different the children were when decorating the aprons - some carefully drew detailed pictures, whilst some used every sticker they could get their hands on and slapped them on the apron. It certainly kept them quiet for a few minutes whilst I prepared the next activity though.

Next up was birthday cake making. Each child had their own task, whether it was whisking the cocoa powder into the melted butter or cracking an egg. The bowl was passed around in turn and each child had their turn at whisking and mixing the cake before I baked it in the microwave. (recipe for microwave chocolate cake here).

 photo cake mixing_zpscmz4l6nd.jpg

On the morning of the party I made some cupcakes and gave each child two to decorate - one for eating now and one for taking home. I filled some icing bags with buttercream and let the kids loose with sprinkles and Smarties. I'm sure I will be finding 100's and 1000's on the kitchen floor for a long time to come, but they had so much fun doing it.

 photo party cakes_zpscfpdhtml.jpg

Fruit kebabs were next. There was a selection of fruit available - melon, grapes, strawberries and satsuma segments (I forgot the bananas) and the children threaded their choses fruit onto a wooden skewer.

Once the cake was cooked and cooled slightly I once again let the children loose with icing and sprinkles and they decorated Jack's birthday cake (which saved me the job of making one).

 photo cake making_zpss7rqqqkf.jpg

Next was the messy task of pizza making. Each child had a piece of pizza dough on a paper plate covered in flour. They rolled their dough out and topped it with passata, grated cheese, and their choice of toppings - mushrooms, sweetcorn, ham, sausages, pepperoni and red pepper.

 photo ingredients_zpseiwnhftg.jpg
Whilst I cleared away (with help from a few very good friends) and baked the pizzas, party games were played in another room with the husband. I called them back in when their pizzas and fruit kebabs were on their plate ready for eating. These were accompanied by some veggie sticks and a selection of crisps.

 photo jack pizza_zpspzkecbi1.jpg
 photo party food_zpsw7swlrrr.jpg

Many of the kids were full up (I suspect from eating too much icing during the cake decorating) and wanted to take their leftover pizza home, along with their cakes. We sang 'Happy Birthday' and then it was time to go home, complete with party bags.

 photo jack party_zpsgaeik4go.jpg

I found these colourful paper bags in Asda and tied a helium balloon to each handle. The balloons came courtesy of Balloon Time, which is a convenient helium tank kit which inflates approximately 30 latex balloons. There's no need to go to your local party supplies shop for helium filled balloons, and instead these can be filled in your own home. I bought mine from Asda and had it delivered with my weekly grocery delivery, which makes it even more convenient.

 photo balloon 2_zpswfsiisyj.jpg

The tank comes with 30 balloons and some ribbon, along with full instructions on using and disposing of the tank. It's really straightforward to use, and I inflated all the balloons I needed in just a few minutes. The only problem I had was getting them off the conservatory roof when I stupidly let them go after tying, without any thought of how I was going to get them down - thankfully a selfie stick with sellotape on the end works well if you should ever find yourself in the same predicament!

The helium tank filled 20 latex balloons for the party bags and decorations around the room, as well as a large number 6 foil balloon that a friend gave to me after her little boy's birthday.

 photo balloon1_zpsoem1eyx6.jpg

I received a lot of comments on how nice and colourful the party bags looked, and the balloons acted as an additional decoration in the room.

I'm working with  Britmums and Balloon Time as part of the "celebration club", hilighting inventive and fun ways of using balloons. I was provided with a Balloon Time helium kit and have been compensated for my time. All editorial and opinions are my own. Visit for more information and party inspiration.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Upcycle an Old Chair with Chalk Paint

I am currently in the spring cleaning mode - conservatory blinds have been lifted and windows cleaned, and the hallway has had a good lick of paint to brighten it up. I've also replaced the wooden chairs in the kitchen with some white ones to match our bar stools, which brightens the place up a lot. I used to have one of the spare kitchen chairs in the hallway but when I bought the white ones I used the spare one at my desk instead of putting it in the hall, which left a space crying out for a small piece of furniture.

I then remembered that we had an old pine chair in the garage that we've used previously when decorating. It was covered in white, pink and blue paint splashes, but it was a good solid chair that I bought in a clearance around 15 years ago. What it needed was a makeover.

With the help of Rust-Oleum chalky finish furniture paint (previously used to paint my plate rack here) I gave my old chair a face-lift with a distressed finish.

Upcycle an Old Chair with Chalk Paint
  • I painted the chair with two coats of Winter Grey and 3 coats of Chalk White before allowing to dry fully overnight. 
  • I then took some fine sandpaper and lightly sanded the edges where, over time, the chair would see natural wear, to reveal the grey underneath.
  • Finally, I applied a coat of Rust-Oleum Finishing Wax, which I buffed to a shine after around ten minutes. The wax is by far the easiest furniture wax that I've ever used, and I also gave my wooden kitchen island a going over at the same time.

 photo chair before_zpsp0mnqh7m.jpg

Sanding the bumpy paint splashes...

 photo chair sanding_zpsghsg8nbq.jpg

Give the paint a good stir before using...

 photo paint stirring_zpsmxrrwj5q.jpg

After 2 coats of Winter Grey...

 photo grey coats_zpsvsw4qoui.jpg

After 3 coats of Chalk White...

 photo white coats_zpsokb2fthp.jpg

Lightly sanding to reveal the grey...

 photo sanding edges_zpsly0fpnzl.jpg

Finish with a layer of furniture wax...

 photo waxing_zpstnaupdxk.jpg

The finished chair, in situ in my hallway, with a lovely yellow & grey cushion from John Lewis on...

 photo chair 1_zpsvrk9rixz.jpg

Tips for upcycling an old piece of furniture
  • Sand any rough edges, lumps or bumps with sandpaper - no need to sand down the rest, the paint will cover most surfaces easily.
  • Wipe the surfaces over with a damp cloth to remove any grease, grime, dust or cobwebs, and then dry it off.
  • Tighten any loose screws and fill any holes or cracks.
  • Stir the paint well - if it has become too thick then add a little tepid water
  • Allow 4 hours in between coats - wrap your brush in clingfilm or a plastic bag instead of washing it every time.
  • Stand the furniture on boxes or paint cans (if it's not too heavy) to allow easy access to the bottoms of the legs/feet and the underside

I received paint from Rust-Oleum as part of their Make It March challenge.


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