The Crazy Kitchen: September 2015

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Sunday 27 September 2015

Roast Pork & Stuffing Pasties

I'm not one to blow my own trumpet, but I do make a darn good pasty. It doesn't seem to matter what the filling is as it's the pastry that makes it, and this is the easiest pastry to make. It's so flaky and light, and it reminds me of the crust of a decent Cornish pasty. 

Well, that's enough blowing of that trumpet for one day, and onto the recipe. I first came across a cream cheese pastry in a Martha Stewart cookery book, and adjusted the quantities as it was all in cup measurements. This is now my pastry of choice when it comes to making pasties and pies, although it does tend to shrink away from the edges in a pie, but is perfect for pasties. After a roast dinner we had some leftover roast pork, which I teamed with a few rashers of cooked bacon and a packet of stuffing, which I served with boiled potatoes, vegetables and gravy.  

Roast Pork & Stuffing Pasties

Roast Pork & Stuffing Pasties - makes 4

85g pack of stuffing mix (I used sage & onion)
leftover roast pork, chopped
6 cooked bacon rashers, chopped

150g full fat cream cheese, diced
150g cold butter, diced
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp dried rosemary (optional)
1 egg, beaten

  • Make the stuffing up as per directions on the pack
  • mix in the pork and bacon to combine (add a little extra water (or gravy if you have it) if it's too stiff) & set aside to cool
  • Add all the pastry ingredients into a stand mixer bowl
  • Using a flat beater, mix all the ingredients together until combined and just starting to come together
  • Press the pastry together, wrap in clingfilm & refrigerate for approx 1/2 an hour (do not be tempted to over work the pastry)
  • Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces
  • Roll each piece of dough out into a circle, approx size of a tea plate
  • Add quarter of the filling into the centre of the pastry circle
  • Fold over one side of the dough onto the other
  • Crimp the edges 
  • Repeat for remaining pasties
  • Brush the pasties with the beaten egg
  • Bake in a preheated 200C oven for approx 25-30 minutes, until golden brown

Roast Pork & Stuffing Pasties Roast Pork & Stuffing Pasties

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Honey Fruit Cake with Honey Caramel Glaze

A couple of days ago I was having a bit of a clear out in one of the kitchen cupboards, and discovered a few bags of opened dried fruit. Most of the bags didn't have much more than a handful of fruit in them, which is not really much use on their own, however, pooled together they were perfect for a fruit cake.

I received some Cheshire rapeseed honey recently, along with a couple of bottles of rapeseed oil , from Calvia, so decided to try it out in the fruit cake instead of using refined sugar. I also used the honey to make a delicious glaze, which was just like caramel, and would be great over ice cream.

Honey Fruit Cake with Honey Caramel Glaze

Honey Fruit Cake with Honey Caramel Glaze

450g dried fruit (I used a mixture of cherries, raisins, currants, dates, pineapple and apricots)
300ml cranberry juice
50g butter
200g honey
tsp vanilla extract
3 medium eggs
400g self raising flour, sifted

Honey Caramel Glaze
25g butter
50g honey

toasted flaked almonds (optional)

  • Add the dried fruit, cranberry juice, butter, honey & vanilla to a saucepan
  • Heat gently and stir until the butter has melted
  • Set aside to cool, or leave overnight (if you leave overnight the butter will harden a little so just bring back to a liquid by heating a little)
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time
  • Stir in the flour until well combined
  • Pour into a well buttered spring form cake pan - I added a ring insert to mine
  • Bake in a preheated 160C oven for around 1 hour, until a skewer inserted comes out clean
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack & cooling completely
  • Make the glaze by bringing the butter & honey to the boil & simmering until it thickens
  • Drizzle the glaze over the cake and scatter a few of the almonds over the top
Honey Fruit Cake with Honey Caramel Glaze Honey Fruit Cake with Honey Caramel Glaze Honey Fruit Cake with Honey Caramel Glaze

If you're in the Cheshire/Manchester area you can find stockists of Calvia here, with an online shop coming soon for those further afield.

Tuesday 22 September 2015

BBQ Bean & SPAM Pie

However much I try and be that mum that cooks healthy meals from scratch all of the time, there are those times when I, y'know, fail miserably. Since we got back from our holiday over two weeks ago, where I cooked some amazing family meals, I've lacked a touch of motivation. I haven't even managed to do a full 'big shop' since we've been back, and have been popping to the supermarket for essential items every few days (or emailing a list to the husband).

Yesterday whilst searching my almost bare fridge and packed pantry (why is the fridge always bare but the cupboards are still rammed with tins and packets of food), I happened across a tub of SPAM nestled next to a stack of baked beans. Teamed with the bowl of mashed potato in the fridge (the only way to serve our current, rather floury, allotment spuds) it made a rather decent dinner for a Monday night, if I do say so myself.

BBQ Bean & SPAM Pie

BBQ Bean & SPAM Pie - serves 2/3

1 tub of SPAM, chopped ham & pork
2 400g tins of baked beans
squeeze of bbq sauce
1 bowl of leftover mashed potato
handful of grated cheese
  • chop the SPAM, and mix with the baked beans and bbq sauce in an ovenproof dish
  • smooth the mashed potato over & top with the cheese
  • bake in a preheated 180C oven for approx 30 minutes, until golden brown & heated through

serve with a side of vegetables if you want to be good, or a slice of thick white bread and butter if you want to be popular

BBQ Bean & SPAM Pie BBQ Bean & SPAM Pie

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Chocolate Orange Birthday Cake

As if one teenager in the house wasn't enough, I'm now officially the parent of two teenagers. A birthday always calls for cake, and as for most of the birthdays that fall midweek there were two cakes - one for a weekend party and one on the actual day of the birthday. This chocolate orange cake was made for a birthday sleepover, and shared amongst friends and family. 

Chocolate Orange Cake

I originally intended to serve the cake after dinner on Saturday night, but as I'd left the husband to feed the girls whilst I took the eldest to A&E for a suspected broken ankle (still no firm diagnosis on that), we enjoyed it for a late Sunday morning breakfast instead - got to love cake for breakfast!

A photo posted by Helen (@thecrazykitchen) on

Chocolate Orange Cake

100ml coffee
35g cocoa powder
190g caster sugar
1 egg
60ml vegetable oil
125ml milk
115g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 pack of orange jelly
250g butter, softened
500g icing sugar, sifted
4tbsp room temperature water 
150g good quality milk chocolate, melted

to decorate
1 box of Lindt Lindor orange truffles
jaffa cakes (I used 13, which was just over 1 box)
  • Beat together the coffee, cocoa powder and sugar until smooth
  • Beat in the egg, oil and milk
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder & bicarb of soda
  • Add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix well
  • Divide the mixture between two greased & lined 8" tins
  • Bake in a preheated 180C oven for approx 20 minutes
  • Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely
  • Make the jelly up with half a pint of boiling water
  • Pour into an 8" cake tin lined with clingfilm & place in the fridge/freezer until set
  • Beat together the butter & icing sugar
  • Add the water and beat until light and fluffy
  • Beat in the melted chocolate until fully combined
  • Lay one cooled sponge onto a plate & spread a little buttercream on top 
  • Place the set jelly on top 
  • Spread a little buttercream over the flat side of the other sponge and place on top of the jelly
  • Spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides
  • Decorate with Lindt chocolate orange truffles & jaffa cakes
Chocolate Orange Cake Chocolate Orange Cake

I was sent some Lindt Lindor orange truffles free of charge

Monday 14 September 2015

Discovering Northern Costa Blanca

The Costa Blanca (translated as 'white coast') lies on the south-eastern coast of Spain, with over 120 miles of coastline and 315 days of sunshine each year. When you think of the Costa Blanca you would probably immediately think of Benidorm, but many other parts of the northern area of the Costa Blanca couldn't be further than the high rise and neon lights of Benidorm.

There are many places to visit, but here are just a few that we visited during our two week stay near Moraira in our James Villas holiday villa.

Javea (also known as Xabia)
You won't find high rises in this coastal town, just a row of bars and restaurants along the seafront, and villas set into the hillside. The beach is pebbly and the water becomes deep quite quickly. Kids and adults can enjoy spending an active hour on the large inflatable in the sea for just 8 euros each. Life vests are provided and children under 12 need to be accompanied by an adult. Along the beach you'll also find windsurfing and fly boarding (75 euros for 30 minutes). Free wifi is available on the beach and parking is free along the beach front.

Javea, costa blanca
The town boasts a few beaches and coves, with sunbathing on rocks jutting out from the coastline. The main beach is sandy, where there is a large inflatable where you can kick off some steam for 10 euros for one hour. At one end of the beach you can hire pedalos with a slide for just 20 euros for an hour, and around the coast a little there is a small sandy cove which seems to be popular with those with very young children, due to the shallow waters. Bars, restaurants and shops can be found alongside the beach, as well as many more within the town. There are various places to park for free, and free wifi is available on the beach. Towards the marina we found kayaks available to rent, along with jet ski tours for 140 euros per jet ski, for a 1.5 hour instructor led tour (up to 2 adults and 1 small child per jet ski).  In the evening there's a funfair on ground just behind the town, and a market on Friday selling fresh produce, shoes, clothing, handbags and souvenirs. 

Moraira beach, costa blanca Moraira beach, costa blanca Moraira beach, costa blanca

Aqualandia Benidorm
On the outskirts of Benidorm, and just 30-40 minutes from our villa near Benissa, set into the hillside, you'll find Aqualandia, a waterpark which is a great day out for all the family. We arrived at opening time, when it seemed to be least busy, and located a couple of sun beds around the main pool (5 euros each). There were still plenty of sunbeds available later in the day and the park never felt crowded. We hired two large donut rings (7 euros each + 2 euros deposit) which could be used in the pool and lazy river, and queue jumping at the rapids. There are a few shops and restaurants/snack bars dotted around the park, as well as covered picnic areas, changing rooms and lockers for hire. Parking is free in the large car park shared with Mundomar marine park next door. Entrance to the water park is 30 euros for adults and children over 12, and 24 euros for children. We booked a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) online for 99 euros.

A coastal town between Benidorm and Calp. We visited on a Sunday, when it seemed to be very quiet along the streets, however many of the bars and restaurants along the seafront were bustling. Set back from the front was the bar of La Terrazza, where we enjoyed coffee, beer and ice creams. It was a popular place and the food being served looked great. Whilst we were there we noticed crowds gathering along the roadside and discovered that the La Vuelta (Spanish equivalent of Tour de France) was passing through shortly.

Altea, costa blanca Altea, costa blanca
La Nucia Sunday Market
Around 1 hour inland from our villa we came across the town of La Nucia where a weekly market is held on a Sunday. We arrived a little too late (midday) and the majority of fruit & veg stalls had packed up, leaving mostly stalls selling bric a brac.

A few miles further inland, nestled among mountains, lies the small town of Guadaleste, which boats spectacular views towards the coast. There are castle remains, museums and gift shops to enjoy for a few hours. 

Guadaleste, costa blanca

Local Beaches & Beach Bars
Less than 2 miles from our villa we discovered two small coves - that of Cala del Baladrar and Cala Advocat. Both are small beaches; Baladrar is pebbly and adjacent to Baladrar Beach bar, and Advocat has a sandy beach and small pier, ideal for sunbathing. There is also a beach bar here, along with a restaurant and hotel.
 photo baladrar_zpsenqhft17.jpg

There's so much more to see than I've included here, such as the wine producing valleys of Jalon, waterfalls at L'Algar, and port of Denia where you can reach the island of Ibiza by ferry.

You can read more about our James Villas accommodation in my previous post here, and family meals in a holiday villa here.

Saturday 12 September 2015

Dairy Free Chocolate Vol Au Vents

Another week of Great British Bake Off has passed, and this week I decided to give vol au vents a try. I've made puff pastry before, and whilst it was pretty time consuming it wasn't particularly tricky. This time, however, I decided to make a dairy free version, using Pure Sunflower Spread.

Pure Sunflower Spread is a dairy free alternative to butter, which can be used in baking, and whilst I've used it in cakes before, I've never tried it with pastry. As it's much softer than butter I chilled it right down in the freezer before I started, and although the dough became very sticky after a few rolls and turns, it was fine between two sheets of baking paper - just remember not to add any flour during the folding and turning.

The pastry puffed up reasonably well, and although it doesn't rise as much as puff pastry made with butter, it's a healthier alternative, so it's perfect for those wishing to follow a lower fat diet, as well as those cutting out dairy.

Dairy Free Chocolate Vol Au Vents

Vol au vents often have some kind of creamy filling in them, whether it be sweet or savoury, and I've made a sweet chocolate mousse, which is also dairy free and made using coconut milk. I was tempted to top with a strawberry or raspberry, but in the end opted for some honey roasted almonds, which complimented the sweet filling perfectly.

It may seem like there are a lot of steps in this recipe, but it really isn't complicated, but the making of the pastry and vol au vents can just be a little time consuming.

Dairy Free Chocolate Vol Au Vents

220g Pure Sunflower Spread
220g plain flour
pinch of salt
50ml cold water
100g pitted dates
400ml can coconut milk (refrigerated)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
tsp pure maple syrup
1 egg, beaten
honey roasted almonds

  • Place the Pure onto a sheet of baking paper and top with another sheet
  • Press the Pure to flatten into a rectangle
  • Place in the freezer for an hour
  • Cut half of the Pure into cubes and add to a food mixer along with the flour and salt
  • Turn the food mixer on low/medium and mix with a flat beater until it resembles breadcrumbs
  • With the motor running add the water a little at a time until the dough starts to come together (you won't need to add all the water)
  • Form the dough into a ball and flatten out, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for an hour
  • Roll the dough out until it's large enough to encase the remaining slab of Pure
  • Place the Pure on top of the dough and fold in each side to cover completely
  • Roll the dough into a rectangle 
  • Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third up
  • Turn 90 degrees and repeat
  • Keep repeating this cycle to build up the layers - you will need to place in the freezer for 20 minutes every 2nd turn
  • If the dough becomes too sticky try rolling between two sheets of baking paper
  • Once you've repeated the process 10-15 times chill in the fridge for an hour before rolling out
  • Roll out on a floured surface to the thickness of a one pound coin
  • Cut an equal quantity of discs from the pastry (don't re-roll or you will lose your layers)
  • Cut a smaller disc from the centre of half of the larger discs to make a ring
  • Brush the whole discs with beaten egg
  • Lay one of the rings over a disc & repeat with the remaining discs/rings (I also made a few mini versions using the cut out discs)
  • Place the vol au vents on a baking tray
  • Bake in a preheated 200C oven for approx 10-15 minutes, until puffed up & golden
  • Allow to cool on a wire rack


  • Place the dates into a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 20 minutes
  • Open the can of coconut milk and you will find that the it's separated into two parts - scoop the cream away from the water
  • Drain the dates and add to a food processor with the coconut cream, cocoa powder & maple syrup
  • Blend until smooth
  • Refrigerate until firm enough to pipe & pipe into the vol au vent cases
  • Top with a couple of honey roasted almonds

Dairy Free Chocolate Vol Au Vents

Win a dream baking kit worth £1000 with #bakedairyfree
If you're a bit of a whizz when it comes to baking dairy free creations then this competition that Pure Dairy Free are hosting could be for you, and you could be in with a chance of winning a dream baking kit worth £1000.


Mummy Mishaps

this recipe was commissioned by Pure

Friday 11 September 2015

Spicy SPAM Paella

When you're suffering from a bout of the holiday blues, there's only one thing for it, and that's to recreate a holiday dish, which is guaranteed to brighten spirits and banish the blues, even for just a short time.

We've not long returned from Spain, and with one of the national dishes of Spain being Paella (albeit of the seafood variety) I decided to make a version with SPAM - yes SPAM. It's hammier than ham, don't you know!

I was surprised to see that SPAM is primarily made from high quality pork shoulder meat and ham, which makes up a minimum of 90% of the content, which is actually more than many everyday pork sausages, some of which contain less than 50% pork. After making this paella I'm a complete SPAM convert, along with the rest of the family, who all loved it - and the little girl who lives next door wanted me to give the recipe to her mum as she said it looked really nice.

If you haven't made a paella before then it really is such a simple dish to cook, and unlike risotto, you add all the liquid in one go and cook without stirring.

Spicy SPAM Paella

Spicy SPAM Paella
- serves 4-5

1 tbsp olive oil
340g can of SPAM chopped pork & ham
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded & sliced
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
500g paella rice
1 litre chicken stock
pinch of saffron strands socked in a little boiling water
handful of frozen peas
lemon wedges to serve
  • Heat the oil in a paella pan or large non stick frying pan
  • Slice the SPAM into approx 1cm slices
  • Fry the SPAM on both sides until it's browned & crispy
  • Remove the SPAM from the pan and set aside
  • Add the garlic, onion, pepper & chilli to the pan & fry for 3-4 minutes, until the onion has started to soften
  • Add the rice to the pan along with stock and saffron
  • Bring to the boil and give everything a good stir
  • Cover with a lid or sheet of foil and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Cut the SPAM into cubes
  • Add the SPAM to the paella pan, along with the peas
  • Replace the lid/foil and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes
  • Leave to sit for an additional 10 minutes before serving
serve with lemon wedges

Spicy SPAM Paella Spicy SPAM Paella

This recipe has been commissioned by SPAM

Thursday 10 September 2015

Family Meals on a James Villa Holiday

Following on from my post showing off our James Villa in the Costa Blanca, I thought I would share a few of the meals that I cooked whilst we were away. 

Cooking whilst on a villa holiday is so relaxed, and you can eat your meals at whatever time suits. Some days we didn't get up until 10am and didn't eat our evening meal until 9 or 10pm, but other days we ate much earlier. Some days we ate out, but mostly we ate our meals at the covered dining area near the pool (we had 4 dining areas in our villa), which was next to the bbq, which we used for cooking many of the meals.

Family Meals on a James Villa Holiday

left to right / top to bottom :

bbq chicken, salad & roasted potatoes
bread & fruit for breakfast
cheese & ham toasties
bbq pork shoulder, padron peppers, patatas bravas & salad
frittata, roasted vegetables & salad
non seafood paella, padron peppers, pizza & salad
bbq steak, padron peppers, chips & salad
croissants, bread, fruit & yogurt

The beauty of having a villa holiday means that you can climb straight out of the pool and sit and eat your evening meal in soggy swimwear if you choose!

Not only is cooking in a holiday villa convenient, it also means you can discover local produce whilst you're wandering around the supermarket, and pick up a few treats to bring home whilst you're there. It's also a good way to eat great meals at a fraction of the cost to eating out, which can become expensive when you have two teenagers to feed.

Spanish foods

Chef and author Jo Pratt has teamed up with James Villas to create some delicious looking dishes inspired by european holiday destinations. If you try any of these out at home, make sure you share on Twitter using #MyHolidayDish & tagging @JamesVillasUK .

Here's how you can enjoy some of my favourite, yet simple, Tapas at home; Padron Peppers and Patatas Bravas. I'm not saying that this is how the Spanish cook their patatas bravas, but this is my take on it.

Apparently 1 in 30 padron peppers have a kick, but this holiday I've probably eaten hundreds of them and am yet to come across a spicy one. I bought these home with me but they can be found in Waitrose, however they are considerably more expensive than our local Pepe le Sal supermarket on holiday, at £13.30 per kg, versus 2.50 Euros per kg (£1.81).

Padron peppers

Padron Peppers
500g padron peppers
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
  • Heat the oven to approx 220C
  • Add the peppers to an ovenproof dish
  • Drizzle olive oil generously over the peppers & sprinkle with sea salt
  • Roast for approx 15-20 minutes until softened & browned on the edges
  • Serve immediately
patatas bravas

Patatas Bravas
500g waxy potatoes, diced
extra virgin olive oil
smoked paprika
  • Heat the oven to approx 220C
  • Add the potatoes to a saucepan and cover them with cold water
  • Bring to the boil and boil for 2 minutes, and then drain
  • Heat an ovenproof dish in the oven for 5 minutes
  • Pour a generous amount of olive oil into the hot dish & then add the drained potatoes
  • Sprinkle the potatoes with a little smoked paprika, and then toss to coat them evenly
  • Roast in the oven for approx 25-30 minutes until browned and crispy

serve with Alioli & Brava sauce (I couldn't find it in the supermarket so instead bought a jar of mojo picon sauce - a slightly smokey & spicy pepper sauce)

alioli and mojo picon sauce

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Hammamas Multi Purpose Cotton Beach Towels

I mentioned our new Hammamas beach towels a couple of weeks ago in my '10 tips for getting your holiday packing organised', which I wrote before going on holiday. For this past two weeks we have certainly put our towels through the test.

Firstly they are so much more convenient than regular towelling beach towels, as they pack really small compared to a thick towel of the same size. As I mentioned in my previous post, I packed 5 of them along with 10 sets of swimwear and 5 pairs of flip flops, into a bag the size of the average allowed hand baggage. I have also carried one in my small canvas bag when we've been out, incase of any impromptu paddles or a downpour of rain! 

During our villa stay I washed the towels numerous times and left them over chairs in the dining room to dry overnight. In the day the kids have dragged them around the pool and left them sopping wet in a heap on their bedroom floors, but a short while over the balcony in the breeze and sun and they've been bone dry and ready to go again.

Hammamas beach towels drying

I also love the range of colours available - we chose Original Sky, Original Charcoal, Navy/Red Marine, Daisy/White Bold and Azure/White Bold, and we all know whose towel belongs to who - and exactly who has left theirs on the floor!

In hindsight I wish I hadn't now chosen the navy/red marine towel for myself, as it has lots of white on it, and whilst it looks lovely when it's bright & clean, mine now has a few yellow stains on from the chemicals in the pool.

The towels have many purposes, but my favourite is that of a sarong. When I come out of the pool and wander up to the villa to make lunch I don't want to subject anyone that happens to be passing to the sight of my wobbly bits, so the towel acts as a great cover up, tied around the chest or waist, and as it's made of cotton it's lovely and cool, and not at all hot and bulky like a regular towel can be.

It also means it can be used as a cover up when you've had a little too much sun, without the risk of overheating.

Hammamas beach towel cover up

I can't speak highly enough of these towels and don't think I will ever use regular beach towels again, and I'm even contemplating using them at home.

 photo what are hammamas_zps77ghjdeq.jpg

I received Hammamas beach towels for the purpose of review

Monday 7 September 2015

A Northern Costa Blanca holiday with James Villas

When we first started searching for our villa holiday last year I initially dismissed James Villas, as I thought they were out of our price range. However once I looked into it further and factored in the free car hire, welcome pack and airport parking, I discovered that the price of many of their holidays was on a par with villas booked privately, with the added security of the holiday being bonded by ATOL and ABTA, which you wouldn't receive by booking directly with the owner.

We chose the Moraira area of the Costa Blanca for our holiday as it was only around a one hour drive from Alicante airport, which in turn was only a 2.5 hour flight from Manchester. James Villas have many properties in the area and I had to enlist the kids to help me choose a suitable one for us, once I'd made a shortlist. In the end we opted for Villa Ana, nestled in the hillside midway between Moraira, Calp and Benissa, with a distant view of the sea.

 photo IMG_6384_zpsszrt8qez.jpg

On arrival at the villa we received a welcome note from our local rep, Pam, advising that she would be along to visit us the following morning (you can opt in or out of this when you make your booking). We also received a welcome pack consisting of tea, coffee, sugar, bread, jam, butter, water, cheese, ham, crisps, milk, fruit juice and a bottle of wine.

The following morning we put the local knowledge of Pam to the test, and quizzed her on places to see and activities to do in the area, and made a long wish list.

The living areas of the villa are on the upper floors, with the pool, terrace and bbq area below. A flight of steps lead from the gated driveway to the main door, with another flight of steps leading down to the pool, making it a little impractical for those with very young children, or the elderly, but it certainly kept us all fit during our stay.

What appealed to us about this villa was the ample living space, which is often necessary when you have teenagers that like their own space from time to time. There's no shortage of space in Villa Ana, with four dining areas; two of them indoors and another two outdoors, along with cane sofas in a conservatory type area and two comfortable sofas in the lounge, and a small terrace off the kitchen and a small roof terrace accessed by a few steps.

The villa has a rustic feel to it, which could benefit from a little modernisation in places (lack of electrical sockets which the owner has rectified by supplying extension leads), but overall it's what I would expect from a Spanish villa in this price range.

There's no air conditioning in Villa Ana, but with the windows and doors open it's lovely to get a breeze blowing through the rooms.

What the villa lacked in modern style it more than made up for in facilities, with free wifi, charcoal barbecue, kettle, toaster, microwave, large fridge freezer (plus additional fridge in the barbecue area), two bathrooms (one with bath & the other with shower cubicle), and a plentiful supply of crockery, pots, pans and cooking utensils, as well as some quirky artefacts.

James Villas quirky artefacts Villa Ana

There is a maze of streets surrounding the villa, but we quite quickly found our bearings and discovered the best ways to the local bins (there is no roadside waste collection), shops, bars, restaurants and beaches, via many steep and winding roads (some of those bends are not for the faint hearted!)

The swimming pool was a really good size, especially when it needed to accommodate not only a family of five but a crocodile, dolphin, lizard and a couple of lilos too. The villa isn't overlooked by other villas in close proximity, and the peace is only broken occasionally by the sound of splashing and laughter echoing around the valley, and the cicadas chirping in the trees. I'm not sure what chemicals they put in the pool though, so it's worth bearing in mind not to wear pale coloured swimwear in the pool, as it may turn a slight shade of yellow!

James Villas Pool Villa Ana

The views from the villa were stunning, especially at night, during a full moon, however, within a few minutes drive inland there were even more stunning views of the coast, mountains, vineyards and the rock of Calp in the distance.

Whilst we did visit quite a few places during our stay, we spent the majority of days lazing around the pool, and evenings having a bbq, relaxing, listening to music and playing cards. That's what I love about villa holidays.

 photo full moon villa_zpsudhozbe6.jpg
 photo view of calp_zpstmnzohhl.jpg

There's an abundance of facilities close to Villa Ana, including beaches, bars, restaurants, supermarkets and shops. The closest supermarket that we found was Pepe la Sal on the first island you reach heading towards Moraira. We preferred this one to the many Masymas stores around as it seemed to have a greater selection of all the important things - wine and fresh meat for the barbecue. 

We found a couple of beaches less than 2 miles away- a small pebbly beach adjacent to the Baladrar Beach Bar, and the small sandy beach of Cala Advocat, with parking directly in front of the sea, and next to a beach bar restaurant.

 photo IMG_6773_zpspcltv1ms.jpg  photo IMG_6774_zpsds5do4qt.jpg
 photo kids jumping in pool_zpsco61g8es.jpg

Thank you, Casa Ana, we have taken lots of memories away with us.

Look out for my upcoming posts, 'Family Meals on a James Villa Holiday' & 'Discovering Northern Costa Blanca', coming soon.

We received a discount off our James Villa holiday in exchange for sharing our opinions

featuring Hammamas beach towels

Saturday 5 September 2015

Capturing Moments of Colour with Ocean Spray #JustRefresh

 Ocean Spray #JustRefresh

School holidays can be pretty hard going at times, especially when you work from home. It occasionally makes me feel a little guilty that we don't go on daily trips to the park, zoo, seaside or theme park, and instead spend much of it at home. Ocean Spray are inspiring us to inject a little colour into our normal days, and encouraging us to take time out of our regular routine, and celebrate everyday moments with our kids. 

For the last two weeks of the summer holiday we managed to get away and go on a family holiday, and this was when we all spent quality time together, which doesn't often happen when we're at home. This is the time when many of our memorable moments happen - the colourful moments that the children remember in years to come, and we look back on and smile.

Our holiday this year in Spain has lots of lasting memories for us, like me shooting down the slide on our pedalo and landing in the sea with an almighty splash, and watching our teen hovering above the sea on a fly board , however, one particular afternoon we had lots of fun when the kids took charge and hosted a pool and mocktail party.

Inspired by some vibrant Ocean Spray Cranberry & Raspberry drink, the kids set to working making brightly coloured mocktails, to keep the family chilled around the pool. Jack took on his role of barman like a professional, and kept us topped up with drinks and snacks throughout the afternoon, and almost every day that followed the pool party, declaring 'I can't wait until tomorrow, as I'm going to do the bar again'.

I've named their favourite mocktail the 'Costa Blanca', which was a deliciously fruity and refreshing mix of cranberry juice, tropical fruit juice and sparkling lemon drink. The kids discovered that if you put ice in the bottom of the glass before adding the cranberry juice the ingredients didn't mix together completely, giving a layered effect.

Ocean Spray #JustRefresh
Ocean Spray #JustRefresh Ocean Spray #JustRefresh

Sometimes it's good to sit back, relax, and let the kids take over, and see where their imagination takes them.

The Costa Blanca Mocktail

Ocean Spray Cranberry & Raspberry juice drink
Tropical fruit juice
Fanta lemon (or equivalent)

  • Add ice to the bottom of a glass
  • Pour in the Ocean Spray to fill 1/3 of the glass
  • Tilt the glass & top up with equal parts of tropical juice and lemon
  • Add a straw, an umberella and plastic monkeys & mermaids & you're good to go

Ocean Spray cranberry based mocktail recipes can be found on their website here, along with many more recipes for smoothies, desserts and savoury dishes.

I'm working with Britmums & Ocean Spray highlighting the everyday moments of colour that give each of us a little lift, just like Ocean Spray adds colour to our day and delights us all year round. I have been compensated for my time. All editorial and opinions are my own. Visit Ocean Spray for more information.

Thursday 3 September 2015

My Family Kitchen - Cookbook Review & Recipe

These days I don't tend to take any of my cookery books off the shelf for reference. Instead I've been sucked into the electronic age of reading cookery magazines online, Googling recipes, and spending hours on end drooling over Pinterest, so I was a little hesitant at first about reviewing My Family Kitchen by Sophie Thompson. Sophie is an award winning actress, as well as being the winner of Masterchef 2014, and has put together the book with recipes that have been handed down, invented, begged, borrowed, and then made her own.

If I was to dabble in the world of cookery book writing then this is the style of book I would like it to be. It contains lots of family photos, tales and humour, along with having a relaxed and fun attitude to cooking, and the recipes are (as it states on the back of the book) fuss-free, easy to follow and delicious, and I couldn't argue with that.

I'll definitely be trying a few of the recipes over the coming weeks and months, such as 'Ma's Devilled Cheese', 'Sweet n Sticky Nutty Chicken' and 'Three Choc Button Brownies', but for now I've chosen to make 'State Skool Mess'.

"I think in a recipe book it's probably wise to avoid talking about religion, politics and education - best just stick to the staff of life.....Bt why should Eton have all the fun? Let's redress the balance!"
I absolutely love this idea, and it's the kind of dessert that happens in my kitchen on a regular basis. I'm sure it was originally made with whatever ingredients Sophie could get her hands on, but I love the way the recipe is now so specific - '1 pink and 1 purple Party Ring'.

As Jack doesn’t like raspberries I chose to serve it with strawberries instead, and I was forced to improvise with the sauce as my online grocery shop delivered Twix bars instead of Mars, so I sliced the caramel off & used a Milky Way too.

My Family Kitchen - Cookbook Review & Recipe

State Skool Mess
Prepare in 10 mins – Cook in 5 mins – Serves 4

500ml vanilla ice cream (the best quality you can muster)
1 Curly Wurly, snipped into pieces
2 funsize Milky Ways, chopped
1 Crunchie, chopped
1 Jammy Dodger, chopped
1 pink and 1 purple Party Ring, broken into pieces (I know, I’m stipulating colour – it’s madness)
2 Mars Bars, roughly chopped
splash of milk (optional)
150g raspberries

Take the ice cream out of the freezer and leave to soften just enough so that it becomes stirrable. Scoop the lot into a large mixing bowl and add the Curly Wurly, Milky Ways, Crunchie, Jammy Dodger and party Rings. Stir until it’s all mixed together and then spoon back into your ice cream carton (curiously, you will find that it does fit back in).

When you are ready to serve, melt the Mars bars in a bain-marie (a heatproof bowl set over a pan of just-simmering water). If a bain-marie feels like too much effort, just melt in a pan over a very low heat with a splash of milk – this will take about 5 minutes.

Scoop your customised ice cream into bowls, pour over your Mars bar sauce and scatter a few raspberries over the whole shebang.

Up the revolution!

I knew my kids would love this one, and now that I've introduced them to Party Rings I don't think there will be any going back!

My Family Kitchen - Cookbook Review & Recipe My Family Kitchen - Cookbook Review & Recipe My Family Kitchen - Cookbook Review & Recipe My Family Kitchen - Cookbook Review & Recipe My Family Kitchen - Cookbook Review & Recipe

My Family Kitchen by Sophie Thompson is available on Amazon from 3rd September 2015 rrp £22.00

I received My Family Kitchen for the purpose of this review, and have been compensated to recreate a recipe, which has been published with permission.

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