The Crazy Kitchen: November 2014

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Friday 28 November 2014

Ginger Shortbread Advent Calendar Biscuits

I was told this morning that it's only 3 more sleeps until Jack gets to open the first door on his advent calendar, which he's very excited about. It also means we get to make a start on our advent gingerbread house. If you've not got around to buying an advent calendar yet then why not try these advent cookies. You get to eat one each day from now until Christmas, remembering to save the last one for Santa on Christmas Eve!

 photo advent10_zpsd70fe7d2.jpg Ginger Shortbread Advent Calendar Biscuits Ginger Shortbread Advent Calendar Biscuits Ginger Shortbread Advent Calendar Biscuits

Find the full recipe on the Great British Chefs website here.

This recipe has been commissioned by Great British Chefs

Monday 24 November 2014

Chocolate Irish Coffee Pots

Almost everyone has an opened bottle of cream liquor in their cupboard, whether it's Baileys or a cheaper supermarket brand such as Carolans, Ballycastle or O'Connors. It doesn't matter which you use in this recipe as it just adds a hint of alcohol to the little coffee mousse pots.

Chocolate Irish Coffee Pots

If served in an espresso cup they are the perfect size to be served at a dinner party, either as a canapé or dessert.

Chocolate Irish Coffee Pots

They are easy to make & can be whipped up in no time, leaving you plenty of time for socialising at your party!

Chocolate Irish Coffee Pots

Find the full recipe on the Great British Chefs website here.

This recipe has been commissioned by Great British Chefs

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Fruits of the Forest Christmas Cake

Traditionally the last Sunday before advent is known as Stir It Up Sunday. On this day families gather in the kitchen to make the Christmas pudding and cake, and all take turns in mixing the ingredients, and making a wish.

As this Sunday is Stir it Up Sunday, Urban Fruits will be hosting a twitter party from 2-4pm where you can put your questions regarding your Christmas baking to them. Just make sure you follow @UrbanFruit and the #StirUpSunday hashtag.

Here's Jack helping out with our Fruits of the Forest Christmas Cake, which is based on my Nan's old recipe. The full recipe can be found on the Great British Chefs website here.

Fruits of the Forest Christmas Cake Fruits of the Forest Christmas Cake

If you need further inspiration to make a not so traditional Christmas cake then check out the other blogger recipes involved in Stir it up Sunday with Urban Fruit.

This recipe has been commissioned by Great British Chefs

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Christmas Dinner Is Served

A few days ago I shared my Christmas dinner preparations for a simple family Christmas dinner. This post is about the table decor and the meal itself.

I decided to go with red and white this year and Homebase did not let me down with the accessories they had on offer. I managed to pick up everything I needed (and more) to set our table, including a table runner, plates and bowls, lighting, snack bowls, candle holders, crackers, tree decorations (which I used to fill a glass jar) and a gorgeous reindeer cushion.

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My favourite item is the Christmas tree light, which has a long cable and can sit on the dinner table or sideboard. It's so nice that it will be a shame to put it away after Christmas (I loved some of my Christmas lights so much that they have stayed up for the last 3 years!)

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Once Jack returned home from his swimming lesson, Christmas jumpers were donned (albeit a bit snug), we all sat down, pulled crackers and ate dinner, whilst listening to Christmas music (yes I know it's only November, but it was fun!)

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Figgy's Christmas Pudding
possibly the best Christmas pudding we have eaten!

After dinner we had a family game of Scrabble before it descended into chaos as Mum had too many vowels and Sam didn't know where to use his 'q' and Hanna insisted that she needed to do her homework!

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Christmas at Homebase

this post has been commissioned by Homebase

Christmas pudding provided by Figgy's

Friday 14 November 2014

Preparing a family Christmas dinner in advance

When having friends and family round for dinner I always like to prepare as much as I can in advance, to make sure that I don't spend all evening in the kitchen whilst guests are socialising elsewhere. I do this whether it's a summer bbq or Christmas dinner and always choose menus that don't all need cooking at the same time and then serving immediately.

For an early Christmas dinner for the family I chose a simple menu that could mostly prepared in advance.


roasted red pepper hummus 
baked pita chips


turkey breast wrapped in bacon & stuffed with gammon and cranberry & chestnut stuffing
mashed potato and sprouts
roasted carrots and parsnips
steamed cabbage & broccoli


Chocolate & Salted caramel trifle
Christmas pudding (& custard)

(additional tips from Homebase on hosting the perfect Christmas)

Preparing a family Christmas dinner in advance

The day before 
  • I whizzed up a can of chickpeas with some roasted red peppers, garlic and lemon juice to make a smooth hummus, then cut some pita breads into wedges and baked them in the oven until crisp (and kept them in an airtight container to stay crispy).
  • The potatoes were peeled and boiled, and the sprouts added a few minutes before the end of cooking, drained and then mashed with milk, butter, salt & pepper, ready to be reheated before serving (and eaten & loved by a 12yr old sprout hater!)
  • Carrots and parsnips were peeled and chopped, tossed in a little oil and then covered over and kept in the fridge ready to roast the following day.
  • The turkey breast joint was opened out and gammon laid on top, followed by some homemade cranberry & chestnut stuffing, then folded over and wrapped completely in streaky bacon
  • A simple trifle was made by layering up chocolate cake, chocolate custard, whipped cream mixed with caramel sauce, salted caramel and salted pretzels
Preparing a family Christmas dinner in advance Preparing a family Christmas dinner in advance Preparing a family Christmas dinner in advance Preparing a family Christmas dinner in advance Preparing a family Christmas dinner in advance Preparing a family Christmas dinner in advance Chocolate Salted Caramel Trifle

On the day
  • Broccoli and cabbage was prepared ready for steaming just before dinner
  • The turkey joint was roasted a couple of hours before dinner on a bed of leeks and then wrapped in foil - it can be reheated before serving or served as it is with steaming hot gravy over (blend the juices & leeks to make the gravy)
Preparing a family Christmas dinner in advance

An hour before dinner
  • Put the carrots and parsnips in the oven to roast
  • Start steaming the Christmas pudding
Half an hour - 15 minutes before serving
  • Start to steam the broccoli/cabbage and reheat the mash
  • Make the gravy (using juices reserved from the turkey)
  • Lay the starter out
Preparing a family Christmas dinner in advance

Tuck in and enjoy!

Check back in a couple of days to see how we got on during our early Christmas dinner.

this post has been commissioned by Homebase

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Brie & Cranberry Bites

At Christmas I make my own cranberry sauce, and it really is very easy. I don't just eat it with the Christmas dinner though, as it's great served with cheese and crackers too.

If you're having a get together with family and friends over this festive season these little brie & cranberry bites are great to serve with a few drinks. They can be prepared and baked in advance and served cold, or made up ready to pop in the oven as your guests arrive.

Cranberry & Brie Bites Cranberry & Brie Bites
Cranberry & Brie Bites

You can find this recipe, along with more, on the Great british Chefs website.

This recipe was commissioned by Great British Chefs

Monday 10 November 2014

Advent Gingerbread House

"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, 
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.."

There's no denying it, in a little over a month Christmas will be upon us again. This past weekend marked the start of the Christmas countdown for many people as one by one the Christmas ads appeared on prime time tv. On my Facebook timeline three people were watching Polar Express and someone had put their Christmas tree up, as she does every year once the Christmas ads appear, as it's now their family tradition.

We have our own little Christmas Eve tradition of laying our Christmas plates and mugs out for Santa (and a carrot for Rudolf), leaving the magic key on the door and sprinkling magic reindeer food in the garden. A few years ago I started making gingerbread houses, which I've either decorated myself or have been a joint effort with the kids. This year Lindt sent us a hamper of their delicious Christmas chocolates to use to start a family Christmas tradition, so we decided to make an advent gingerbread house, with a Lindt chocolate figure for each day of advent. We can then save the house for a feast on New Years Eve!

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We started off by making a template for our house out of paper and then transferring it to our rolled out gingerbread before baking. Jack made leftover gingerbread into men and 'rocks'.

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The next stage is to assemble the house and make sure it's stable before you start to decorate. You can 'glue' the walls of the house together with a caramel, royal icing or chocolate. I prefer to use chocolate as it sets quite quickly and is also great tasting with the gingerbread (and you don't notice how messy I am as much).

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It's then best to leave the house overnight to set completely before decorating. We rolled some fondant icing onto a baking tray for our snowy scene, and then decorated the house with marshmallows glued on with more chocolate (we melted down a few mini Lindt gold bears for this).

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We dabbed a little melted chocolate onto the iced base to secure the Lindt chocolate figures (bears, reindeers, snowmen and santa) and then numbered the icing in front with numbers 1-24. This is best done with an edible pen but as I couldn't find mine we used an ink pen but will make sure we don't eat the icing!

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It's not perfect, but it's ours!

Gingerbread recipe

250g butter
200g light brown sugar
60g golden syrup
30g black treacle
625g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger

  • Heat the butter, sugar, syrup & treacle together in a saucepan until melted
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer mix together the dry ingredients
  • With the motor running & flat beater attached pour the wet ingredients slowly into the dry until it starts to come together (you may not need all the liquid)
  • Form the dough into a ball and roll out on a lightly floured surface
  • Cut into the desired shapes & bake in a preheated 180C oven for 8-10 minutes until the edges just start to brown

We received the following Lindt chocolate in our hamper. One of my favourite items has to be the chocolate gift tags, which as just £2 for 5 is cheaper than many paper ones!

Festive Chocolate with Lindt

Sausage & Vegetable Bake

Weekdays can be pretty hectic and I often get home from the school run and haven't even had a thought about what I will cook for dinner. I'm a fan of one pot meals, and as the husband usually does the washing up he's a fan of them too!

This one pot meal can be started on the hob and then thrown into the oven to finish off whilst I get on with other things, like the never ending pile of washing, or writing up the next blog post.

Sausage & Vegetable Bake

Sausage & Vegetable Bake - serves 4/5

1 tbsp olive oil
750g sausages, cut into bite size pieces
1 red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
750g potatoes, diced
200ml vegetable stock
  • Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof lidded pan
  • Add the sausages and fry for 5 minutes until starting to brown
  • Add the onion, garlic, peppers and potato
  • Fry over a low heat for 10 minutes
  • Add the stock and mix well
  • Place the lid on and bake in a preheated 160C oven for around 45 minutes

For this dish I used a selection of Secret Sausages, which are vegetarian sausages made from fresh garden vegetables. They are 90% less fat, 50% fewer calories & 35% less salt than normal sausages - and 3 of them make one of your 5 a day!

Secret sausages

For the month of November Secret Sausages will be supporting Movember, so don your tache and start cooking...

 photo movember_zpsb3041197.jpg Sausage & Vegetable Bake

I was sent a selection of sausages free of charge

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