The Crazy Kitchen: 2017

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Monday, 8 May 2017

Slow Cooked Chinese Style Ribs

When you think of BBQ food you may often think of charred sausages, undercooked chicken and dried out burgers, but with a little forward planning it doesn't have to be this way. Meat can be pre cooked beforehand in the oven, slow cooker or sous vide and then finished off on the bbq for that bbq taste, without the risk of making your guests ill!

We have a gas bbq which is great for all year round cooking, and as it's the type with lava rock it really does taste as though it's been cooked on a charcoal bbq. Bbq's in our house don't have to be a major event, and I'll quite often cook dinner outside when the weather is nice, which can save on a lot of washing up!

Pork ribs are delicious on a bbq, but they can often be tough if they haven't been pre cooked, or dried out if they've been on the bbq for too long. This recipe for Chinese style ribs produces moist meat that's full of flavour and comes away easily from the bone. I've pre-cooked them in the slow cooker, coated with sauce and then finished off on a hot bbq.

Sticky Slow Cooked Chinese Style Ribs

The ribs in the large bbq pack from Great British Meat Co, are perfect for this recipe. 1kg of ribs contains around 10 ribs; enough as an appetiser for a family, or a meal for one or two.

Sticky Slow Cooked Chinese Style Ribs

Slow Cooked Chinese Style Ribs

2 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp Hoisin sauce
1cm fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp honey
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Chinese five spice
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (optional)
1kg pork ribs

  • Mix together the soy sauce, hoisin, ginger, honey, garlic, balsamic and Chinese 5 spice together
  • Coat the ribs in the sauce and add everything to a preheated slow cooker
  • Cook on high for 2 hours, or until the meat comes easily away from the bone, but doesn't fall off when touched
  • Remove the ribs from the slow cooker and add the liquid to a saucepan
  • Bring the sauce to the boil and simmer for approx 10 minutes, until thick enough to coat the ribs - if you like your ribs spicy then add the sweet chilli sauce now
  • Coat the ribs with the thickened sauce and cook on a hot bbq for a few minutes each side, ensuring they are heated through thoroughly

Sticky Slow Cooked Chinese Style Ribs

I've got quite a lot of bbq recipes & tips on this blog, which can all be found here.

I was provided with a large bbq pack free of charge. The pack is currently on offer at £32.50, and contains enough meat for for 8-10 people.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Rhubarb Cake Traybake

Well that was a bit of a typically rubbish bank holiday with the weather. It's May but we spent much of the weekend wrapped up in winter coats watching football. Where we should've been sitting on blankets in the sunshine, we instead had the blankets over our knees to keep warm!

Thankfully the sun came out on Monday afternoon allowing us to spend a couple of hours in the pub garden, catching up with friends who we somehow only seem to see when the sun comes out and we bump into each other over a pint. The best kind of friends!

I hear the sun is shining in Portugal, and as that's where I'm heading next week for a break with old friends I'm happy that I will be able to wear my flip flops at long last.

Rhubarb Traybake

This weekend did mark the arrival of our rhubarb though, which does make me happy, as I bloomin' love rhubarb, firstly because it doesn't require me to have any green fingers to grow it, and secondly because it makes a mean crumble. On Sunday I cooked a roast dinner (which is a bit of a rarity here), and followed it with a home made crumble  and a rhubarb cake. I started to panic when I checked the baking cupboard & realised that the girl teen had used up all the caster sugar making her speciality chocolate mug cakes, but had thankfully left me 3 eggs, which was enough for the cake. I used soft brown sugar instead of caster, but it would work equally well with caster, albeit a little paler in colour.

Rhubarb Traybake
Rhubarb Traybake

It's a lovely moist cake, and it can be served warm or cold, on its own or with custard or vanilla ice cream. It's also great for packed lunches and picnics, and keeps well for a few days in an airtight container.

Rhubarb Traybake

Rhubarb Cake Traybake

Hijacked By Twins

Celebrate Star Wars Day with Swagbucks Collectors Bills

In honour of Star Wars Day, Swagbucks has a special one-day-only collector's bill available exclusively through Search! It's an 8 SB bill available all day long - and here's the best part: If you get it, you'll get an automatic 20 SB bonus as well!

If you aren't already a member of Swagbucks, it's a site where you earn points (called SB) for Searching the web, shopping, discovering deals, taking surveys, and watching videos. Then you redeem those points for gift cards to places like Amazon, PayPal, New Look, M&S, Debenhams, and more! They've awarded hundreds of pounds in free gift cards already in the UK, and I've personally earned over £400 in gift cards since November, which I've used to buy clothes, gifts, electronics and more!

What are you waiting for? Sign up for Swagbucks now

Friday, 28 April 2017

Creating a Desk area out of an Unusable Space

A few years ago we knocked the utility room out of our relatively small kitchen and extended the kitchen out into a conservatory. Whilst we now have a pretty large kitchen/family room space there isn't a great deal of workspace. There's enough for cooking and prepping food as we also have an island, but I longed for somewhere to organise our lives. I needed a little desk area to keep the family diary, letters from school, the wheelie bin calendar, and other general bits and bobs, without taking up a much needed area of worktop.

A couple of years ago I made a memo board wall, but as it was mostly behind the kitchen door it didn't really work for me, and there still wasn't anywhere to keep the diary apart from in the hallway, and I kept forgetting to look in it!

I then came up with the genius idea to change the opening of the kitchen door. Instead of opening into the kitchen, it would open out into the hallway, freeing up that unusable kitchen wall which would no longer be hidden behind the door. We did similar in our ensuite bathroom last year, and it made a huge difference to the space, making it feel so much larger.

I found a local chippie on Checkatrade, who changed the opening and refitted a new door for £40, enabling us to fit a shelf to the kitchen wall. A few accessories were purchased, and I now have a handy shelf for all our paperwork and reminders, plus somewhere to hang school artwork.

Creating a Desk area out of an Unusable Space

Creating a Desk area out of an Unusable Space

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Creating a Desk area out of an Unusable Space

Copper Clock : John Lewis
Wire Memo frame : Maisons du Monde
Stacking mugs : Waitrose
Memo pad & Notebook : Sainsburys
Copper beaker : Sainsburys
Copper bulldog clips in jar : Sainsburys
Copper tealight holder - New Look
Copper vase : Tesco
Shelf & Brackets : Ikea
Half glazed door : B&Q

Creating a Desk area out of an Unusable Space

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

6 Tasty Family Meals Using Your Leftover Roasts

According to the government agency WRAP, UK households waste around £700 worth of food per family every year. I know that my family doesn't waste anywhere near this figure, so that means that there are other families out there that waste our share too - over £100 of all the food they buy each month goes in the bin. 

For me, it makes sense to meal plan.  It also makes sense to keep excess food such as bread and crumpets in the freezer. We then only take out what we need to use as and when we need it, avoiding any waste. Buying ready sliced frozen vegetables such as peppers, onions and mushrooms, also helps avoid waste, as well as being extremely convenient to use in cooking.

6 Tasty Family Meals Using Your Leftover Roasts

Before I shop (either online or in store) I make a list of 6 main meals that we'll be eating over the coming week, and then buy everything I need that I don't already have in the cupboards. I don't necessarily plan for us to eat a specific meal on a specific day as that often depends on the use by dates, as well as who will actually be at home. With two teenagers in the house, plans for family meals can quickly go out of the window when an offer of 'bowling and Nando's' comes in. This also means that we sometimes have leftovers (hence only 6 meals on the planner). Whilst some families don't like reheating foods later or the following day, this is something that I often do. Meals are plated up, covered over and reheated in the microwave later, or used as a base for another meal the following day - it's easy enough to slice a couple of cooked chicken breasts up, add them to pasta or rice, throw in some veg, and end up with a family meal for five.

I'm currently working with Iceland on a campaign to try and reduce the amount of waste that households produce. You may have seen the ad for their new 'Buy me frozen, Keep me chilled' World Famous range :

The idea is that you buy these delicious pre-cooked dishes frozen, then take them home and either pop them back into your freezer to use at a later date, or keep them in your fridge for up to 7 days, and have them ready to cook whenever you want, without the need to wait for defrosting.

With 7 dishes in the World Famous range, there is something for all tastes. For my family I chose to incorporate the Texan Down n Dirty Beef Brisket, Lamb Shanks in Mint & Rosemary Gravy, and the Mississippi Smoked Pulled Pork into our weekly meal plan in the following ways, to show that with a little imagination leftovers can form the basis of another delicious meal. Each dish served 4 people and was made using half a pack of the World Famous meats, making them an ideal way to use up any leftovers, however small they may be.

6 Tasty Family Meals Using Your Leftover Roasts

You can find photos of the finished dishes over on my Instagram feed, and the full recipe for the Lamb & Feta Pita Pizzas below.

What's your favourite way to use leftovers?

What are you doing to avoid food waste?

Do you have any tips to share?

6 Tasty Family Meals Using Your Leftover Roasts

Hijacked By Twins

a commissioned post for Iceland Foods #PowerofFrozen

Monday, 10 April 2017

Last Minute Easter Treats

There's only a few days until Easter but there's still plenty of time to bake some Easter treats. I've gathered together a few ideas for last minute Easter treats that you can keep the kids busy with this week.

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Chocolate Pretzel Easter Nests

Mini Egg Cookies - Makes approx 16 large cookies

115g Butter, softened
230g Caster sugar
35g Golden syrup
1 Egg
230g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
100g Chocolate Mini eggs
  • Beat the butter and sugar together
  • Mix in the golden syrup & egg
  • Stir the flour and bicarbonate of soda together and add to the butter/sugar mixture
  • Mix well, adding the mini eggs just as the mixture starts to come together
  • Roll mixture into balls (heaped tbsp) and place on a greased baking sheet, spaced well apart
  • Bake in a preheated 170 C oven for approx 10 minutes, until golden brown
  • Cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack
  • Store in an airtight container
Mini Egg Cookies

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For more Easter baking inspiration follow my Seasonal recipes Pinterest board:

Last Minute Easter Treats - Baking with kids

10 Spanish Style Kitchens Design Ideas

If you’re thinking of redesigning or refurbishing the kitchen in a Spanish home, it makes sense to keep that Mediterranean feel and retain some of those gorgeous original Spanish features that are already there. Talk to your kitchen designers about keeping (or adding) all those rustic touches, bold colours, Saltillo-tiled (terra cotta) floors and wooden beams that are the essence of a Spanish kitchen.

Spanish design is made up of a mix of natural materials in vivid, bold colours and decorative antique items. Walls can be painted deep blue, rich red, dark green – even a deep yellow. Genuine Spanish-style kitchens have wall and/or floor surfaces of brightly-coloured patterned tiles, ceramic backsplash tiles in rosette patterns, or hand-painted in vivid oranges and blues.

Earthy tones and the use of dark woods (ceiling beams and counter tops) are a hallmark of the early Spanish hacienda style, as are terracotta tiles and ornate wrought iron light fittings and sconces. Backsplashes of bold patterned mosaic tiles in golden yellow or bright blue resemble the colourful, rustic Spanish haciendas of days gone by. Wrought iron handles, knobs, racks and hooks add an authentic touch, as do open shelves with antique pottery, paella pans, dishware, espresso pots, bottles of Spanish olive oil, and bunches of sweet-smelling herbs. 

For a slightly modern touch that’s still in keeping, why not have your kitchen designers fit a central island with a dark wood top and an under-mount sink? Although appliances like stainless steel American double-door fridges, hobs and dishwashers, hammered copper sinks, and brightly-coloured ranges with hoods, are ultra-modern, they provide a wonderful contrast. 
10 Spanish Style Kitchens Design Ideas

If you’re looking for specific, practical advice, here are 10 design ideas inspired by Promas kitchen designers, that will help you remodel your kitchen in an authentic Spanish hacienda or colonial style.

Give your cabinets some age
Try to find some old, traditional kitchen cabinets at a second hand Spanish market or antiques fair, or make your own cabinets look old by using distressed wood. Knots in the wood and imperfect lines are perfect for a Spanish style kitchen. Choose knotty pine, or alder, and bring the natural grain to the fore with stains that are the colour of dark honey or hazelnut.

Saltillo-tiled floors
Saltillo tiles, or terracotta tiles, with their warmth, rough textures and patinas, are as traditional as Spain itself. A must-have in your Spanish-styled kitchen.

Wood and stone – a great combination
Your kitchen may already have a ceiling of natural stone or intricate brickwork and dark wooden beams. In which case, don’t change a thing.
10 Spanish Style Kitchens Design Ideas

Get rustic
Rustic stone walls add warmth and a lovely tactile texture to your kitchen. They’ll also contrast beautifully with your distressed cabinets and your sleek, modern kitchen appliances. To finish off the look, use traditional, brightly-coloured tiles for the backsplash and as the backing for any open shelving or small alcove arches.

Construct an arch
If there isn’t one already, you might like to create an archway. This is another Spanish and Mediterranean architectural design feature, and it’s a great way to divide the cooking and dining areas. Smaller arches for niche storage areas are also a nice touch.

Kitchen shelving
Open kitchen shelves are in keeping with the Spanish way, especially wooden shelves that are intricately carved. They provide easy access for all the kitchen items you regularly use.

Get creative with your cooker hood
The hood of your kitchen stove or range is definitely a major focal point. So why not take it up a notch and add an intricately carved wood panel, or fit a wood trim using old, reclaimed timber, or even add some intricate Spanish or Mexican tile designs.

A stylish sink with a rich patina
The distinctive appeal and rich patina of a gorgeous hand-beaten copper sink will lift your otherwise simple rustic kitchen to a new level.

Warm up the kitchen with a fireplace
A blazing fire is just the thing to add cosiness and warmth to the kitchen in the cold Spanish winters. A Spanish-style fireplace together with banco seating turns the room into a relaxing and welcoming gathering, and eating, place for family and old friends.

10 Spanish Style Kitchens Design Ideas

Antique iron pieces
Iron sconces are a great idea for lighting accents in Spanish-style kitchens. Have them connected to dimmer switches and turn these down to create the perfect atmosphere when serving tasty dishes to friends and family. You could also complement your sconces with other antique Spanish wrought iron pieces like candelabras and drop lights.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Creamy Broccoli Soup - Slimming World Friendly Recipe

We are a family of soup lovers here. My youngest will often ask for a bowl of tomato soup for dinner, especially if it's accompanied by a few slices of home made bread. As well as being a hearty meal, it's a great way to get some extra veggies into our diets, which can be especially difficult with teens.

Having soup for lunch is also a great way to feel satisfied at lunchtime when I'm watching what I eat. I'm currently following the Slimming World plan, albeit intermittently at times (in between wine weekends and Wispa Wednesday), and this soup is not only easy to make, it's also very satisfying and doesn't make me feel like I'm eating diet food, as it's so rich and creamy.

Creamy Broccoli Soup - Slimming World Friendly Recipe

Know your salad greens

With summer just around the corner, it’s time to think green. From picnics to packed lunches, BBQs to intimate al fresco dining, salads are an indisputable summer staple. The good news is that there’s now such a wide variety of lettuce leaves available that no two salads need ever be the same!
Whether you shop at a supermarket or your local farmer’s market, you’ll be spoilt for choice with a wonderful selection of lettuces and salad greens, some of which are so exotic you may have never heard of them before. Even better, many salad greens are easy to grow yourself. For the best selection of lettuce seeds, consult a reputable garden centre or buy online from a specialist seed supplier such as Seed Parade.
For lettuce ‘learners’ or anyone wishing to broaden their salad green knowledge base, we’ve put together a handy overview of 10 types of leaves you’re likely to encounter. Whether you’re looking for sweet or bitter tastes, and soft or crunchy textures, there are many delicious varieties out there to satisfy every taste.
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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Chocolate Crispy Easter Egg with a Hidden Creme Egg

With many children already finished school for the Easter holidays, and others (like ours) finishing at the end of this week, there's still plenty of time to for Easter baking and crafts. You will find plenty of inspiration for baking and yummy Easter treats in my seasonal Pinterest board. These Chocolate Crispy Easter Eggs are one of many simple recipe ideas that you can make with the kids, whatever your cooking ability. 

Chocolate Crispy Easter Egg with a Hidden Creme Egg

5 historic kitchens you simply must see

Kitchens today have come a long way. If you’re the custodian of a historic property or country estate, your kitchen would have looked very different when it was first built. Period properties reflect societal norms and the way of life back then – and the kitchen is a prime illustration of social history.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

How to Create a Sideboard with Tapered Legs using IKEA Kallax

I love Ikea and we have many pieces of furniture and storage throughout the house bought from the store. In fact, I don't think there is a room in the house that doesn't contain at least one thing from Ikea, whether it's a picture frame, a shelf or desk. I like the clean, modern look of many of their products, plus the price is always an added bonus. 

Over the years we've bought a few units in the Expedit range, which has now been superseded by a slightly slimmer Kallax. A few weeks ago we ventured off to Ikea on a Sunday afternoon (crazy, huh?), with the aim of bringing home 4x2 and 2x2 Kallax units in turquoise for the kitchen, but when we took a look at it in the showroom I didn't think the colour was quite right. I then spotted the 4x2 in grey and wood effect and I was in love! Unfortunately they only do this size currently so my hopes of having the two pieces standing alongside each other (with the 4 x 2 on its end) were dashed, but we bought it anyway!

How to create a sideboard with tapered legs from IKEA Kallax

5 Great Options for the Best Commercial Kitchen Flooring

If you own a restaurant, then you know that the kitchen floor plays an important role. It’s a high traffic area having to cope with heavy loads like the constant traffic of your chefs, the delivery of trolleys laden with food, and the heavy footfall of your waiting staff coming in and out.

5 Great Options for the Best Commercial Kitchen Flooring

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Incorporating Orange Juice into your child's diet, and a recipe for Breakfast Muffins

With having teenagers I know that it can be particularly tricky to make sure they get enough fruit & veg in their diet. On the whole, mine are pretty good with vegetables, but teenagers are naturally lazy and it takes too much effort to peel an orange or bite into an apple. If I cut the fruit up & make a bowlful of fruit salad they will help themselves and eat the lot in no time, but I don't always have the time (or inclination) for all that faff.

By having a carton of orange juice in the fridge I know that all three kids can easily get themselves at least one of their 5 (or is it now 10?) a day with their breakfast, without too much effort. Just one 150ml glass or 100% pure orange juice can provide children with one of their 5 a day, as well as being a good source of vitamin C (100% RDA), potassium and folates. Vitamin C is essential for a healthy immune system, and potassium & folates help with cell and muscle tissue repair. Consuming orange juice with a meal can also help to increase the absorption of iron rich foods such as fortified cereals, which makes breakfast an ideal time to have it.

If you have teens like my daughter though, more time in the mornings will be spent doing hair and makeup than thinking about breakfast, so these Breakfast Muffins make an ideal grab and go solution. Teamed up with a small bottle or carton of the recommended 150ml serving of orange juice, it makes a perfect breakfast. The muffins can be made the night before and packed up in a lunchbox ready to grab before running for the school bus.

Ingredients in the muffins can be tailored to suit. These have veggie sausages, pepper, onion & tomato in, which can be replaced with bacon, mushrooms and spinach, for example.

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