The Crazy Kitchen: July 2015

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Friday 31 July 2015

Gooseberry Fool

We've had our allotment for nearly two months now, and it's amazing what you can grow in that time. We've so far harvested leeks (left over from the last owner), a cauliflower (albeit a very small one), 3 good sized courgettes and piles and piles of potatoes. We've also managed to get hold of more courgettes, raspberries, strawberries and gooseberries from some very generous allotment neighbours - I'm not one to turn down free veg and will always find a use for it.

When I was around 8 (maybe even younger) I used to go to my Great Grandma's and top and tail the gooseberries from her garden with a pair of nail scissors. I used to love doing this, but I now realise that it was one of those tedious jobs that the adults would rather someone else did.

Three years ago another friend game me some gooseberries which I used to make gooseberry jam. I was pretty surprised at the time that the jam turned out to be quite red, instead of the green that I thought it would be. I think this is down to how ripe the gooseberries are at the time of picking, and these were very ripe. The more recent batch I had were ripe, although still quite firm, and when I cooked them with a little sugar they stayed green.

I left things simple with these, and used the cooked gooseberries to make some gooseberry fools.

Gooseberry Fool x

Gooseberry Fool - makes 4

150ml double cream
150ml Greek yogurt
4 heaped spoonfuls of cooked gooseberries*
  • whisk the cream and yogurt together until thick, but not firm
  • gently fold through the gooseberries, reserving a little for the top
  • spoon into glasses and serve
  • top with a little of the cooked gooseberries

*gooseberries cooked in a lidded pan - 7 parts gooseberries to 1 part caster sugar, cooked until they burst, and left to cool
    Gooseberry FoolGooseberry Fool

I love the sharpness of gooseberries and also used some of the cooked gooseberries in a Mojito, which was amazing - despite looking a bit like pond slime!

gooseberry mojito

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Chocolate Pancake Quesadillas & how you can save £1000 off your next school trip

We're well into week 2 of a mammoth 7 week (and 2 days) school summer holiday, and meal times seem to have gone out of the window. Some days breakfast gets eaten just before lunchtime and some days it gets skipped completely, to be replaced by a late night bowl of cereal. Once the new term comes around again though, I'll be nagging the kids to make sure they eat breakfast before they rush off for the bus, and reminding them that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and shouldn't be skipped, especially with the eldest starting his GCSE's this year.

I'm pretty sure that if I popped a plate of these pancake quesadillas in front of them though, they wouldn't be in such a rush to get out of the door.

Breakfast Chocolate Pancake Quesadillas

These were filled with banana & hazelnut chocolate spread and banana & peanut butter, but they can be filled with any of your kid's favourite fillings.

They're simple to make, and you don't even need scales to measure the ingredients, just use an average sized coffee mug if you don't have cup measures.

They can be made the night before so you don't even need to get up extra early in the morning to make them, just pop a few on a plate, cover over and place in the fridge.

Breakfast Chocolate Pancake Quesadillas - makes approx 6 pancakes

1/2 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
tbsp chocolate Nesquik powder
tbsp melted butter + extra butter for frying

  • whisk everything together until smooth
  • add a little butter to a non stick frying pan and heat over a medium/high heat until melted
  • wipe the butter around the pan with a piece of kitchen roll
  • pour some batter into the pan & swill around to coat the pan
  • cook until bubbles come up through the batter and the pancake dries around the edges
  • flip the pancake over and cook for an additional minute or two on the other side
  • repeat with the remaining batter

Breakfast Chocolate Pancake Quesadillas

Breakfast Chocolate Pancake Quesadillas

Eggs are a great source of protein, and protein is good for brain function, so therefore pancakes are a great way to start your day, and fuel young minds until lunchtime. 

Kingswood know the role that educational trips and outdoor residential experiences have on fuelling young minds. Both of my eldest two children have been on school residential trips, where they've learnt a variety of new activities and skills, as well as having loads of fun with their friends. 

Due to this first hand experience of knowing how important these trips are and how they provide an invaluable learning experience for children, I'm sharing news of the Kingswood and Happy Egg Co. partnership, which is a great opportunity to give schools up to £1000 off their next school trip. Kingswood strive to ensure the adventures they provide are great value for money, and made available to as many schools and as many pupils as possible.

Happy Egg Co Trips for schools

By collecting codes from promotional packs of Happy Egg Co. free range eggs , up to £1000 can be saved on trips for your school during 2015, 2016 and 2017. Full details on the Trips for Schools promotion can be found on the website here, or by calling 0800 655 6564.

in collaboration with Kingswood

Monday 27 July 2015

Cocktails, Cocktails, and yet more Cocktails!

I've noticed recently that everyone seems to be going mad for cocktails - they're all over social media, and it seems that my friends just can't get enough.

A couple of weeks ago myself and a few friends attended a cocktail making masterclass at The Post House in Stafford. It was a great evening, and we picked up a few tips on how to make some popular cocktails and shooters, including Amaretto Sour (my favourite), Porn Star Martini, Lemon Cheesecake, Mojito, Buttery Nipple (another good one) and the perfectly layered B52. We staggered out of that ninety minute session barely able to remember our own names, let alone any tips, but thankfully I made a few notes ready for my next cocktail session. I think the best tip that I walked away with was to add a little egg white to the Amaretto Sour, which gives a frothy, almost meringue like, head.

With my newly acquired cocktail knowledge I was well equipped to make a Ciroc Summer Punch with ingredients provided by World Duty Free for their Summer Drinks Festival, including the very unique looking 1 litre bottle of Ciroc Pineapple Vodka.

Ciroc Pineapple Vodka.

The plan for the latter end of the week and the weekend was to enjoy a few cocktails out in the garden, however the weather had different ideas. The only day that we didn't get rain was Saturday, which actually worked out ok as it was the day of the annual music festival in our village, however I spent the best part of eight hours serving behind the bbq stall. I still managed to enjoy a Summer Punch, but in typical British summertime style, I had it indoors.

Ciroc Summer Punch Ciroc Summer Punch

If you fancy giving this sweet refreshing cocktail a try, then just follow the recipe from mixologist Charlie McCarthy below.

Ciroc Summer Punch

Post House Stafford Cocktails
Masterclass cocktails & shooters

Thursday 23 July 2015

Strawberry & Banana Iced Lollies

I often go through phases of cooking and baking where I make the same thing over and over again, over a period of a few weeks. Recently it was flapjacks but at the moment it's iced lollies. 

Homemade lollies are great if you have kids, as it means you can add their favourite fruits and know exactly what's gone into them. It's also a great way to use up fruit that's perhaps past its best, that nobody wants to eat. Of course, you could just make a smoothie, but where's the fun in that. Just take it one step further and pour your smoothie into an ice lolly mould. It means that portions can be easily controlled, as well as preserving the fruit that little bit longer.

These are simply made by blending strawberries and bananas together. I had some strawberries in the freezer that I'd frozen when one of our allotment friends gave us two punnets a couple of weeks ago, and the bananas were looking a little ripe.

Strawberry & Banana Iced Lollies

Strawberry & Banana Iced Lollies - makes approx 8 lollies

handful of fresh or frozen strawberries
1 banana

  • add ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth
  • pour into ice lolly moulds and place in the freezer for a few hours until frozen solid

Strawberry & Banana Iced Lollies Strawberry & Banana Iced Lollies

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Quick & Easy Family Desserts

If your kids are anything like mine, they always ask for pudding after their dinner (they usually ask for pudding after their lunch too, and have been known to ask after breakfast). If they're lucky enough they may get something freshly home baked, but mostly I send them to the fruit bowl. There's only so much fruit they can eat though, so I like to have these essential ingredients in the fridge, freezer and cupboard to enable me to rustle up a quick dessert.
  • cake
  • ice cream
  • frozen berries
  • squirty cream
  • double cream
  • mascarpone
  • cream cheese
  • biscuits

These layered chocolate desserts are based on my Baileys Chocolate Lasagne, and are put together in mixer glasses (or empty Nutella glasses work well), using chocolate milk instead of Baileys. You could make a citrus or berry version by changing the swiss roll, and adding lemon zest to the mascarpone, or a layer of berries. 

layered chocolate pot

Layered chocolate pot - makes one dessert

1/4 jumbo chocolate swiss roll
2 tbsp chocolate milk (can be replaced with Baileys)
60g mascarpone
10g caster sugar
tbsp double cream
grated chocolate or milkshake powder to finish
  • unroll the swiss roll carefully
  • cut out 3 discs of sponge with a circular cutter, just a touch smaller than your straight sided glass (or you could cut thin slices of roll if the roll is the approx same diameter as your glass)
  • brush the side without cream filling with a little chocolate milk - you want them to be moist but not soggy
  • set the remaining chocolate milk aside
  • beat the mascarpone with the caster sugar until smooth
  • add the cream and beat again, and then the chocolate milk
  • place a sponge disc into the base of the glass
  • spoon a third of the mascarpone on top and smooth over
  • repeat with the remaining sponge & mascarpone
  • finish with some grated chocolate or a sprinkle of chocolate milkshake powder
layered chocolate pot

Sundaes are another favourite quick and easy dessert, which I make with whatever fruit and ice cream I have at the time. I add either a layer of crushed biscuits or cake at the bottom, and then layer up ice cream and berries (or tinned fruit) and top off with some squirty cream. Both of these desserts can be made with (or by) the kids too.

Strawberry & Chocolate Sundae

Strawberry & Chocolate Sundae

chocolate brownies
frozen strawberries (thawed)
vanilla ice cream
chocolate ice cream 
squirty cream
  • Layer up the ingredients in a sundae glasss
  • Finish off with some crumbled brownie on top

Another favourite is the cheesecake, and individual desserts can be made quickly by mixing a little cream cheese with lemon zest and caster sugar and spooning on top of a digestive biscuit, and popping some berries on top. Alternatively try mixing chocolate spread with the cream cheese and spooning on top of a chocolate digestive biscuit.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Tropical Fruit Breakfast Muffins

If you're trying to reduce your sugar consumption, but still like the odd sweet treat then these muffins could be right up your street. I prefer fruit muffins to cupcakes as they don't tend to be as sweet, and add some nuts into the mix then I'm completely sold. I suppose these are a cross between a muffin and a scone (although more moist than a scone), and could therefore be called a scuffin, or maybe a mone.

The kids weren't that keen, but I think that was down to the pieces of coconut rather than the lack of sugar, but that was fine as it meant more for me. Two of these and a coffee really set me up for the morning.

Tropical Fruit Breakfast Muffins

Tropical Fruit Breakfast Muffins - makes approx 12

200g self raising flour
75g muesli
100g dried fruit (I used Urban Fruit Tremendously Tropical)
50g caster sugar
1 egg
100ml vegetable oil
250ml milk
  • In a large bowl mix the flour, muesli, dried fruit & sugar together
  • In a second bowl or jug whisk together the egg, oil and milk
  • Stir the wet ingredients into the dry & mix until just combined
  • Spoon into muffin cases in a muffin tray, and bake in a preheated 180C oven for 18-20 minutes
  • Turn out onto a wire rack & allow to cool

Tropical Fruit Breakfast Muffins Tropical Fruit Breakfast Muffins

I received samples of Urban Fruit free of charge

Thursday 16 July 2015

Jumbo Chocolate Orange Cookies

The end of the school year has arrived, and I can't believe that my baby boy has completed 2 years of school already. It suddenly dawned upon me yesterday that we hadn't got anything for his teacher, and even though he'll have the same teacher next year it's nice to give a little thank you gift, so we decided to bake cookies.

This is my favourite cookie recipe, and I just add different flavours to suit. Yesterday I made lemon and sultana to take to bootcamp as it was my birthday, and we decided that chocolate orange would be a nice flavour for the teacher. They can also be made in whatever size you choose - I used the same recipe previously to make mini spiced lemon cookies, but this time we wanted to make jumbo cookies, and packed six in a box to take into school.

Jumbo Chocolate Orange Cookies - makes approx 9

115g Butter, softened
230g Caster sugar
35g Golden syrup
1 Egg
zest of 2 oranges
230g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
100g dark chocolate chips
  • Beat the butter and sugar together
  • Beat in the golden syrup, egg & orange zest
  • Add the flour and bicarbonate of soda and stir until well combined
  • Stir in the chocolate chips
  • Roll mixture into large balls (approx size of a satsuma) and place on a greased baking sheet, spaced well apart (you may need to do this in a few batches)
  • Bake in a preheated 170 C oven for approx 12-14 minutes, until golden brown
  • Cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack
  • Store in an airtight container

Sunday 12 July 2015

Better with BRITA - Home Made Coconut Milk & Chocolate Iced Lollies

Now that the warm weather is finally with us, the kids may be pestering for ice creams and lollies, just as mine are. I've filled up a freezer drawer with cheap supermarket lollies ready for when the ice cream van plays his music & the kids line up with all their friends.

These chocolate lollies are much healthier than any you would find in the supermarket and don't contain any added sugar (obviously that would be without the chocolate and sprinkles they've been dipped in), and are made from just 3 ingredients, plus BRITA filtered water.

You can use ready made coconut milk, but if you make your own you know exactly what's gone into it. It's really easy to make, as long as you have a high powered blender. You can then use the milk on cereal and in drinks, or of course you can make your own iced lollies.

No Added Sugar Chocolate Lollies

No Added Sugar Chocolate Lollies - makes 6 

150g shredded coconut (unsweetened)
500ml BRITA filtered water, boiled*
2 small bananas
2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • Add the coconut to a bowl and pour over the boiling water
  • Allow to cool
  • Blend with a powerful blender (I use a Nutribullet), for approx 1 minute
  • Strain through a fine sieve until all the milk has come out of the coconut (use the remaining coconut in flapjacks)
  • You should have around 200ml of creamy coconut milk - you can repeat the process, however the second batch won't be as creamy
  • Blend the coconut milk with the bananas and cocoa powder until fully combined and smooth
  • Pour into lolly moulds and place in the freezer until completely solid


home made coconut milk No Added Sugar Chocolate Lollies No Added Sugar Chocolate Lollies

*use BRITA filtered water to ensure that you receive the full flavour from your ingredients, and it's not tainted with limescale and impurities

Thursday 9 July 2015

Summer Roast Chicken with Lemon and Olives

We've had some changeable weather this week. One minute it will be brilliant sunshine, and the next it will be pouring with rain. Yesterday the window cleaner came, so I knew it would rain, it always does. I'd planned to cook dinner on the bbq but didn't fancy getting a soaking, so instead I cooked this chicken dish in the oven. It's perfect for this time of the year as it doesn't take much preparation, which means that you can go and enjoy the sunshine (if you're lucky enough to have some).

I served it straight from the oven with steamed broccoli, but it can even be served cold with a salad.

Summer Roast Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Summer Roast Chicken with Lemon and Olives - serves 4

8 chicken thighs
1kg baby new potatoes
handful of olives
2-3 lemons, quartered
olive oil
sea salt
fresh herbs - I used rosemary
  • arrange the chicken, potatoes & olives in a large roasting dish
  • squeeze the lemons over everything and then add these to the pan
  • drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and scatter with fresh herbs
  • bake in a preheated 180C oven for around 1 hour, until the chicken is cooked all the way through and the potatoes are tender

Summer Roast Chicken with Lemon and Olives Summer Roast Chicken with Lemon and Olives Summer Roast Chicken with Lemon and Olives

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake

A few years ago I fell in love with Reese's Peanut butter cups. I don't exactly remember when I had my first, but I suspect it was shortly after the birth of my first baby, whilst living in America. I craved peanut butter during that pregnancy but laid off it, as was the advice at the time due to allergies. I've since discovered Reese's Nutrageous bars, which are amazing, although I haven't had one for ages. I've also made my own peanut butter cups and featured them previously on this blog.

A while ago I had a conversation with fellow blogger Heather about a peanut butter cream pie, which I think she'd eaten in a Perkins Restaurant in Florida, and I promised I would try and recreate one, one day. This isn't quite a cream pie as it doesn't have a pastry crust or cream on top, and neither does it have the layer of chocolate ganache that a peanut butter cream pie in Perkins has, but surely a peanut butter cheesecake has to be a good substitute when the real thing is over 4000 miles away. Next time I think I'll add a layer of chocolate ganache, and maybe a layer of peanut butter or mini peanut butter cups, but I must say that this was pretty damn good as it was.

   Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake - makes a 20cm cheesecake

200g digestive biscuits, crushed
50g butter, melted
400g full fat cream cheese
450ml double cream
60g caster sugar
250g peanut butter
8 Reese's peanut butter cups, halved
caramel sauce (optional)
  • Mix the crushed biscuits and butter together and press into the base of a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin & place in the fridge to firm up
  • Whisk together the cream cheese, double cream and caster sugar until well combined and smooth
  • Whisk in the peanut butter, until stiff peaks form
  • Spread the filling over the base and level off
  • Place in the fridge overnight, until fully set
  • Remove from the tin before serving and decorate with peanut butter cups & caramel sauce

Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Friday 3 July 2015

Pimms and Elderflower Iced Lollies

Well, summer has FINALLY arrived, and what does everyone do? complain that it's too hot! Such a typically British thing to do, but if you can't stand the heat then get out of the kitchen, which definitely applies in my case, as the kitchen is the hottest room in the house this time of the year. Even the hamsters have gone on vacation to the deepest, darkest (and coolest) depths of the teen cave to cool down.

This explains why my blog has been quiet for a few days (ok, it was a whole week), because who wants to be stuck in the kitchen when the weather is so nice. I've either been at my desk in the coolest part of the lounge (warmest in winter as it's next to the radiator) or up at the allotment, planting, watering and building (more on my DIY pallet bench another time).

This weekend is set to be another scorcher, so these iced lollies will help to cool you down. If you don't have any sparkling elderflower you can make up some cordial with sparkling water or lemonade, or just use regular lemonade, whichever you prefer. This recipe makes 6 lollies but you may need to adjust the quantities depending on the size of your lolly moulds.

Pimms and Elderflower Iced Lollies

Pimms and Elderflower Iced Lollies - makes 6

100ml Pimms
300ml sparkling elderflower (I used Cawston Press Elderflower Lemonade)
a few thin slices of strawberry
a few thin slices of cucumber
  • mix the Pimms and elderflower together
  • pop a couple of slices of strawberry & a slice of cucumber into each lolly mould
  • fill the moulds with the Pimms mixture & pop a stick in
  • freeze overnight
Pimms and Elderflower Iced Lollies Pimms and Elderflower Iced Lollies

Enjoy! (and no moaning about the weather, we want it to stay like this for a while)

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