Saturday, 31 December 2011

Stuff and Junk

I've not written anything for a while as I've been pondering a few things.

This year has been teaching me that life is better when it is simple. Fewer demands, fewer distractions, fewer things. I'm still working on this but I know for sure that life is good and that those people who are meant to be around me are still there, although some of them are geographically further away than before.

In it all  I have been learning to "settle" and to be "available" to those who matter most - the gorgeous husband, the amazing sons and family. I have also had my eyes opened to the reality of true friends and friendships. Those people who can really know you, who you can share the ups and down of life with, and who stick by you in it all.

So life is very different at the end of 2011 from at the beginning. That is more than good. Priorities have shifted in many directions. I feel healthier and more blessed in every way. I'm not saying it's not challenging at times but anyone that truly knows me will know that I always rise to a challenge.

So my challenges for next year are simple though daunting, and at the core of them lies the need to continue with putting my family first. By the end of March I am going to have stopped working as part of this ongoing process. I don't do 'staying at home' but it seems I soon will be. In it all I am trusting God that He knows best, and that ultimately He works out everything for the good of those who love Him.

Happy New Year.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Illicit Trading of Baked Goods

There is a guy at our gym called Barnaby who is notorious for his amazing mince pies. I have never met this elusive mince pie maker, but through a mutual friend (for the price of a triple chocolate cookie - bargain!) we have agreed to trade baked goods tomorrow evening at the gym. After spin/circuits (depending on your choice of class), showered, changed, carrying the goodies, by the front reception at 7.45pm. I am giddy with excitement. Barnaby has requested brownies, so I have made a sour cherry and macadamia nut batch which I hope will equal his infamous mince pies. I have adapted a Jamie Oliver recipe and added 75g of sour cherries along with 100g of macadamia nuts. I am so looking forward to the clandestine rendezvous and my ensuing mince pie fest!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Two (or Three) Can Play At That Game!



I've just had to check my diary to reassure myself that I haven't mysteriously and rather carelessly 'lost' several days of December. The reason? It seems that the amazing sons' advent calendars are rather inept at telling me the correct date, or rather that the amazing sons are rather adept at trying to eat the chocolates ahead of schedule. I know most children have probably done this but you have to admire their audacity.  I truly believe the amazing sons are continuing to properly make progress in their attempts to stay one step ahead of me with their SHENANIGANS. You see, this year, they have had the genius idea of putting the wrappers back in the little pockets so it appears they have not been eaten. Except I know. I always now! And now I have done the same with the rest of the chocolates in their advent calendars. Oh yes, I have removed them (for safe-keeping!) and replaced the wrappers so all appears well. I wonder if either of them will come to me when they are next expecting an uneaten chocolate bar to complain! We'll have to wait and see. Funny, so very funny.


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Birthday Treats

It is the gorgeous husband's birthday tomorrow and he requested some espresso cupcakes to celebrate. To be honest, I think he would rather have had a pork pie, scotch egg or sausage roll as he has a very savoury tooth. But he IS the gorgeous husband and knows how much I like to bake cakes, so cupcakes it is. I used the Hummingbird Bakery recipe from their Cake Days book but also added an espresso syrup to soak into the sponge before I iced them with the coffee buttercream. No chocolate covered coffee beans for decoration, but a slice of flake on the top instead does the trick I think.


To appease his savoury taste buds I am currently slow roasting a tastily marinated leg of pork for 24 hours for lunch tomorrow. The plan is to eat it with some garlic and chive mash and some steamed cabbage. We have also been enjoying champagne cocktails using some fizz, The King's Ginger and my beautiful vintage glasses. I cannot begin to describe how good these drinkies are. I might have another shortly......



Friday, 11 November 2011

SHENANIGANS (or - Not So Whiter Than White)

I have just attempted to start washing the amazing sons' uniform from this week. I'm not sure there is much I am going to be able to do about 3 of amazing son number 2's polo shirts.


I kid you not - they really are as bad as the photos suggest. Except you can't see the holes that have mysteriously and inexplicably appeared on them in addition to the stains. He has only had these polo shirts since mid-September. 


And I am not even going to start thinking about the 3 pairs of trousers and tracksuit bottoms that I have had to sew holes up in. Holes that (again) mysteriously and inexplicably seemed to reappear the day after I had sewn them up. 



In other news I have also discovered that one of my secret hiding places for stocking presents for the amazing sons has been found. I had bought some unusual chocolate bars to wrap up to help Father Christmas. There were originally 6. There are now 4. Hmm........no prizes for guessing who is responsible.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

My Cat Likes Cupcakes

Well, the cream cheese frosting on cupcakes to be more precise. Thankfully I didn't find this out as a result of him licking the frosting off my recent batch of baking. No. The gorgeous husband has been found out feeding it to the cat. I have hidden the bowl of frosting that is in the fridge for fear of it 'disappearing'. I have plans for that frosting. For once the amazing sons are not to blame for the SHENANIGANS in our house. It also explains why the cat is so keen on the gorgeous husband. 



Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cake Crawl

We are not long back from a couple of days in London staying with the gorgeous husband's parents. They very kindly looked after the amazing sons on Saturday so that the gorgeous husband and I could spend the day in London.



My Our plan for the day mainly  involved eating cake. So we started in The Hummingbird Bakery in South Kensington. I LOVE their cookbooks but this is this the first time that I have visited and oh my, I am so glad we did. We shared a single black bottom cupcake -so restrained and so delicious! Definitely a recipe I will be trying at home.



From there we (predictably) made our way to Harrods to enable me to drool at the macarons in Laduree. I couldn't help it, I bought 3 of the little lovelies, but I did share them. Black Forest, Madagascan Chocolate and Salted Caramel. Please note the use of capital letters in writing their flavours, they are worthy of such deference.



Our final stop was for the gorgeous husband to find his favourite - Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Sadly the hotlight store seems to have disappeared from Harrods. This was not altogether a bad thing as it enabled us to burn a few calories walking to the nearest alternative. Apple cinnamon was the flavour of choice and certainly didn't disappoint. It was deemed "nearly as good as the original glazed". High praise indeed.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Bad Muffin Good Cake

It's been a baking week of lows and highs. With too many over-ripe bananas in the house I started by making banana and cinnamon muffins. They were simply dreadful. I don't know what I did wrong, but the tops were overcooked, the bottoms undercooked and they totally failed to rise.


Not one to be easily defeated I set my sights on some of the challenges on the recent Great British Bake Off. I think I managed 3 in one day - the brandy snaps, the tarte au citron, and the sachertorte. The brandy snaps and tarte have already been devoured and were pretty delicious. The sachertorte is to take with us when we go out for dinner tonight. I only hope it tastes as good as it looks.


The focacia and the iced fingers are next on my list, and possibly my old nemesis - macaroons.

Friday, 23 September 2011

SHENANIGANS (again)

Quite uncharacteristically I found myself actually doing some housework today. I can't even begin to explain quite how that happened but it did. Big mistake. I even decided to tackle the amazing sons' bedroom. Even bigger mistake. In the process I stumbled upon more SHENANIGANS.

If it hadn't been such a gloriously sunny autumnal day I might never have found out. Except NOTHING gets past me, even the weather seems to work in my favour. Due to the sun shining in their bedroom it became apparent that there were clear, shiny hand prints around the walls. Hand prints that were undoubtedly deliberately printed on the paint using Diprobase (think E45 mixed with Vaseline and you have an idea of what we're dealing with here). I think 'words' are needed with the amazing sons.

Their bedroom already bears permanent testimony to past SHENANIGANS - writing on the skirting boards and walls, paint picked off the walls, indescribable things wiped on the walls that for some reason can't be removed........

There were more SHENANIGANS involving the cat's litter tray today too. You really do NOT want to know the unsavoury details of this incident. It rendered me speechless. And in need of a glass of wine before 8.00am. I wonder what the weekend has in store......I've stocked up on vino just in case it's needed.


Hmmm, as you can see from this recent holiday photo - 'butter wouldn't melt in their mouths'. Neither would ice cream it seems. You have to laugh, you really do.

Monday, 19 September 2011

13

That's all I can bring myself to type as a title as I am still in shock at officially having a teenaged son. Surely I am far too young. Amazing son number 1 turned 13 at the weekend and (teenage grumps aside) is becoming a wonderful young man who we are very proud of, particularly as anyone who knows our story will know a little bit of the obstacles he has already overcome in his life.


He chose the new hat himself - thank you for it to Uncle Chi, Aunty Karenza, Victoria and Daniel, even though this is the first you will know about it!

Having made Lego Head Cake Pops for amazing son number 2 for his birthday I decided to make Super Mario Mushroom Cake Pops for amazing son number 1. Needless to say both the amazing sons thought they were great, and have even started making requests for their next birthdays. I haven't the heart to say that I'm thinking of going back to making Nigella's incredibly speedy ice cream cake next year, probably because I also know I will undoubtedly relish the challenge (if not the hours required) to make more cake pops nearer the time.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

On The Jazz, Man

The gorgeous husband and I have recently introduced the amazing sons to The A-Team - oh yes, the original series from our childhoods. I seem to remember not being allowed to watch it as a child, but my sisters and I usually found some way round that little rule. We bought the first series on DVD off EBay for pennies and watched an episode every evening on holiday - classic family entertainment.

Incidentally, I watch most television programmes and films with the subtitles on. My hearing is fine, but I find it very difficult to follow any plot unless I can read the dialogue. If they did special 'subtitled' screenings of films in the cinema I would undoubtedly go more often. So, we watched The A-Team with subtitles, and the gorgeous husband and I found the description of the instrumental music as amusing as some of Murdock's antics. From one episode alone, and I quote:
  • tropical instrumental music
  • upbeat instrumental music
  • adventurous instrumental music
  • tense instrumental music
  • fast-paced instrumental music
  • triumphant instrumental music
  • soft instrumental music
  • cheerful instrumental music
  • sentimental instrumental music
Fantastic stuff! Can't wait to see what other descriptions they use. I'm thinking the subtitler probably runs out of adjectives at some point in series 3!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Razor Rash

We are just back from 2 weeks' holiday in Spain. We stayed at a lovely villa with its own pool and did nothing more strenuous than opening wine, barbecuing chorizo and jumping in the pool when we got too hot. Bliss


It is the third time we have used this villa and I have now truly refined the art of packing light. We took 2 hand luggage suitcases between the 4 of us for the 2 weeks. For the amazing husband and the gorgeous sons this looked like (in addition to what they wore) a pair of swimming trunks, a spare pair of shorts, 2 spare t-shirts and 4 pairs of boxers/pants (depending on age and underwear fussiness!). I slipped in an extra dress for me (I was packing, there was room, you can call it packer's prerogative) but had much the same. Needless to say it didn't take very long to unpack when we got home today - always a good thing as I have a knack for leaving suitcases unpacked for days weeks months after a holiday! I wish that last sentence was an exaggeration, but sadly it is all too true. That and the fact that I usually like to pack in Sainsbury's bags.

The holiday started off with some typical SHENANIGANS with amazing son number 2. When we arrived at  the airport I noticed his upper lip was rather sore and red looking. It had been fine the previous day. Don't ask me how I knew (I always know, poor boys) what he'd done but when quizzed he admitted that yes he had been shaving his top lip. Makes a change from his eyebrows and hair then.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Jump Jump

A while ago I decided to toilet train my cats. Literally. You could buy a device which progressively taught them how to 'use' the toilet, although you had to ensure the seat lid was left up and they obviously wouldn't flush when they were finished.  I am rather proud of the fact that I have successfully managed to teach train nag the gorgeous husband and the amazing sons to both put the seats down AND flush but I was prepared for the cats to forgo this. Despite my best efforts it failed. I think my cats were too old, and one of them too big. If we ever get kittens in the future I will try again.

Following the toilet training failure I am rather impressed with the amazing husband's cat training skills. We only have one cat now - Harvey, who very much adores the amazing husband as highlighted in a previous post. The cat now 'showjumps' for his food. If you stand at a certain point in the kitchen and raise your leg he will jump over because he knows he will then get a food reward. I have video footage as evidence. Quality stuff!


video

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

What To Do?

Today is a very unusual day for me. The amazing sons are away on a camp for a few days and so I have the whole day to myself. The gorgeous husband in his gorgeous way has told me to have some fun once the glass shelf for his new tv stand has been delivered. It is 8.35am and that said same shelf is already sitting in the hallway. So the day is mine. I have made a quick list of some of the possibilities (things I both could and should do) on offer to me today:
  1. go to the gym (there is a an abs class followed by a spinning class at 10am which I really enjoy) - very likely
  2. clean the bathroom (have been meaning to do this all week, it is a quick job and would make me feel better) - quite likely
  3. tidy and clean the kitchen (I have already emptied the dishwasher this morning, that feels like enough) - not at all likely
  4. have a nice lunch (though after suffering for my 2 glasses of wine at lunchtime yesterday BEFORE a circuits class in the evening I will go to the gym first) - very likely
  5. do some gardening (feel quite nauseous at the thought, although that could be the double espresso on on an empty stomach) - very unlikely
  6. have a mooch around town (there is a maxi dress I would rather like, so think I will try it on.....again, and see if it is cheaper in the sales) - very likely
I think you might get the idea. Thankfully, the gorgeous husband seems to understand (or is at least reconciled to) my aversion to housework and is somewhat appeased by the fact that I love to cook for him and the amazing sons. Now, let's get on and enjoy the day.....breakfast thanks to the Vitamix.


That will be an apple, half a carrot, a slice of lemon, a chunk of ginger with some water and ice and whizzed for 30 seconds to produce:


So nice! And (with my housework aversion) so clever that the washing up of the Vitamix literally takes seconds. Total brilliance.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Time Away



We are just back from a wonderful weekend with the brilliant friends in Somerset. They moved away from Nottingham last year and we miss them massively, so it is always very special when we get the chance to spend some time together. We went to Lyme Regis for the day on Saturday and chatted a lot, ate chips, watched the Red Arrows, ate ice cream, spent pocket money in a fossil shops, ate fudge......it doesn't get much better.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Chui Males

Yesterday was our Chui Family Birthday - a day of great significance as it is when we celebrate the day the amazing sons came to live with us. 'We' were 7 years old yesterday and it felt like a real milestone. We celebrated with pizza for lunch and spent the day having fun. Well, not all of it was my idea of fun (an hour in a computer gaming shop deciding on some new games?!) but then I am clearly outnumbered by the males in the family.

Even the cat is male. I managed to take some video this morning of how much he loves the gorgeous husband. I don't think this behaviour is normal. As we say "not natural".......My lovely friend calls the cat "Sir Fleabag" and is not entirely enamoured with him. I wonder if this footage will change her mind?

video

The amazing husband has surpassed himself again though and bought me a new toy. A Vita Mix! I suppose you could call this a blender, but seeing as it can make hot soup and ice cream that title really doesn't do it justice. I can't wait for it to be delivered and try it out. More about it another time.......

Friday, 24 June 2011

New Vocabulary

It seems I have acquired a new word in my frequently used repertoire of vocabulary - SHENANIGANS. It needs to be written with capital letters and in bold to to imply the way it needs to be said. Shock, horror, disbelief......

The reason for this new word? The antics of the amazing sons over the last few weeks. Well, over the last few years if I am honest, but the last few weeks stand out in particular.

For example......The sneaky buying and eating of about 14 chocolate bars EACH in the space of just 3 days over half term. The spitting of toothpaste out of the bathroom window so it looks as if our garden steps have been daubed by a rather unwell flock of birds. The sneaking of the treat box upstairs after bedtime. The discovery of a stash of sweet/crisp/chocolate wrappers under the floorboards. Rotten sandwiches discovered hidden away in their bedroom. The drinking of chocolate sauce out of the bottle from the pantry shelves. The sneaking of the computer upstairs after bedtime to play games or watch DVDs. Being found INSIDE the duvet covers (buttoned up) when asked to strip their beds. Being caught on camera eating ice cream after not being allowed to have any or take any spending money on the school trip due to previous SHENANIGANS.......a parent on the trip inadvertently emailed me the photos not knowing what she had discovered.



I laugh. A lot. Usually after getting cross. Usually after a large glass of wine. I've had 2 large glasses of wine tonight. You have to agree, SHENANIGANS sums it up rather well.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Chui Chilli Chop



The amazing sons helped me to cook lunch today. Nothing fancy. It is the end of the 2 weeks of half term and I really urgently desperately need to go to Sainsbury's. There is not much 'fresh' food left in the house so we made a bean and lentil chilli with a few carrots and stalks of celery that were languishing in the fridge. The amazing sons' knife skills are definitely getting better. That last sentence read out of context would be extremely worrying.


For extra spice I chopped up a few chillies. It wasn't the gorgeous husband who suffered for his chilli eating bravado this time. Amazing son number one looked more than a bit watery around the eyes it has to be said after crunching through a few of them. He was also heard to say 'I think I prefer mustard, it [the effects] doesn't last as long'. Regardless, I bet he'll be back for more when we have the leftovers for dinner tomorrow.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Cheesecake Conversion


I'm not a huge cheesecake fan. Despite my very sweet tooth it is not a pudding I often eat or want to eat.  Probably due to the school dinner variety that I was offered throughout my education. And until last week I had never made one or had a desire to do so.


I don't know what came over me therefore, but with 8 friends coming for dinner I decided I simply HAD to serve cheesecake. Baked cheesecake. Baked cherry cheesecake. With a soured cream topping. It seems that a recipe for this does not exist on the internet, so I had to combine 2 recipes and add my own twist.


It almost went horribly wrong when I discovered that the foil (above) had failed to keep the water (from the 'bain marie', what culinary sophistication) away from the tin and there appeared to be some seepage. I was imagining a very damp biscuit base but carried on regardless. Thankfully my fears were unfounded and the cheesecake was something of a resounding success.


I served it with sour cherry compote to complement the cherries in the mixture. And even I had seconds. I may be converted to cheesecake it seems. As long as it doesn't have a soggy bottom.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Chuis and Chillies



The gorgeous husband decided to treat us all to an impromptu  meal out last night. One of our locals (there used to be just one which was a definite 'old man's pub', but now we have 4 rather trendy (or trendy enough) bars/cafes within walking distance) has a curry night on a Thursday. The amazing sons loved it although there was some inevitable curry bravado amongst the Chui males as to who could handle the hottest curry. Amazing son number 1 was brave enough to try a chicken jalfrezi (4 chillies on the menu) while amazing son number 2 ordered a chicken korma (not even 1 chilli on the menu, no fun in that). The gorgeous husband had a chicken vindaloo (a whopping 6 chillies on the menu) and suffered a little for it. It is a very rare occurrence to hear him say that something is a little too spicy, but that is (I am sure) what I heard him mutter at some point during the meal. It may have been when he was mopping his brow such was the heat of this curry. It was a simply lovely evening, topped off with mini ice cream sundaes at home. Special times with my favourite people.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Wednesday Sundaes



The amazing sons chose to have their ice cream sundae treat today. Effortless and (thanks to some bargains I spotted in Sainsbury's) complete with proper sundae glasses and spoons. Okay, so the sundae glasses are vivid orange and the spoons equally garish in colour but they were vastly reduced and added to the fun! Ice cream, chocolate sauce, nuts, bananas, chocolate buttons and whipped cream. All topped off with total silence while the amazing sons enjoyed them. I think we will be making more....

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Mocktails, a Movie and Midnight Munching


After a tiring morning filled with swimming and gymming we spent the afternoon making 'mocktails'. We even dipped our glasses in egg white and sugar! They are rather pink and did not really convey the 'James Bond shaken-not-stirred' image the amazing sons wanted, but we had fun. You really don't want to know what went into making these - I wouldn't recommend them for adult consumption as they were very, very sweet but the amazing sons thought they were very, very delicious. But then they are 12 and 8 and would happily eat sugar cubes with maple syrup poured over for breakfast if I let them. Amazing son number 2 was in fact caught sneaking the 'treat' box upstairs for a little midnight munching that same evening. I do feel the amazing sons are making progress in their sneaking of the 'treat' box upstairs. This time amazing son number 2 was only caught by chance as the gorgeous husband went to the kitchen to get a beer. I wish I had been there to see his face! Last time they tried, amazing son number 1 dropped the treat box on his way upstairs. Rookie error.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sun-dried Tomato and Fennel Seed Bread


I have been wanting to make my own bread for a long time, but the whole kneading thing is simply not my style. I just can't be bothered. I don't mind waiting for the dough to rise (= time for a cup of tea) but I just don't want to poke and prod dough. Therefore, another reason to love my KitchenAid. It does all the hard work for me.

After trying some amazing fennel seed bread at Carluccio's in Nottingham (my favourite place for lunch at the moment) I've been longing to use some in my baking. So with some seeds purchased, half a jar of sun-dried tomatoes discovered in the fridge and a new recipe adapted  I made this:

What You Need:
  • 500g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 5g dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 320 ml lukewarm water
  • 2 tbsp  tomato pureĆ©
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes drained & chopped
What You Need To Do:
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in the KitchenAid bowl using the dough hook.
  2. Add the olive oil to the flour mixture and combine using the dough hook then add the water, fennel seeds, tomato pureƩ and sun-dried tomatoes.
  3. Mix to a dough consistency on the lowest setting (add a little extra flour if necessary) and then increase the speed to 2 and let the KitchenAid do all the hard work for 10 minutes while you put the kettle on.
  4. Cover the dough in the bowl with clingfilm and allow to rise in a warm place for about 60 minutes until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. Using the KitchenAid again knead your dough for a few minutes. Remove it from the bowl, shape into a round loaf and place on a floured baking sheet. Dust the dough with flour, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise again for about 60 minutes again until it has doubled in size.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and then bake your bread for 20-30 minutes until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

If you can wait long enough, slice when cool(ish) and enjoy with butter and some homemade soup.

At A Loss....

After a 3 1/2 week term (seriously) the amazing sons are back on holiday for half-term. Most children get 1 week for a half-term, mine get 2. I'm not complaining as I work at their school but for the first time ever I have found myself at a bit of a loss as to what to do. Not that I had got as far as suggesting a game of football. I wasn't that desperate.

A cunning plan has been hatched to keep them entertained and me sane. I have written 'treats' for us to do each day on bits of paper, folded them and coded them with a symbol - sunny day, wet day, big treat day. They choose a treat and we enjoy. Today it was going to the library (they've been wanting to go for weeks) and getting a cone of chips on the way for lunch. Now they are reading books and watching a film they borrowed. Long may the peace last!

I'll keep you updated as to what else we get up to shortly - and may even remember to take a photograph too.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Mmmmmmacarons


I finally plucked up the courage to give macarons a go. I have to say I was pleased with my first attempt. I chose my favourite flavour (lemon) and used the Italian meringue technique where you pour boiling sugar syrup onto whipped egg whites to make the meringue base. I even managed to pipe pretty decent circles of the batter.


Look at the 'feet' on these after they have been cooked. Slightly undercooked admittedly, but look at the 'feet'!


Here they are filled - lemon curd whipped together with cream cheese. Not quite Laduree or Pierre Hermes, but entirely satisfactory. At this point we won't mention my second attempts which were more meringue than macaron. Practice makes perfect though, and even the mistakes taste delicious.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Ginger King


The gorgeous husband and I like love adore our cocktails. Not the overly fruity or umbrella topped variety please, we are very selective and discerning in our choice of drink. Normally we have them when we go 'out out' which doesn't happen that often due to the need for a babysitter for the amazing sons. In all honesty I think amazing son number two would happily join us if given the opportunity - he was even excited about the fact I had put wine in the risotto for lunch today. We fully intend to never let him try an alcopop. Over the weekend I picked up a bottle of King's Ginger after sampling it in Harvey Nichols in Birmingham. This stuff is good, believe me. We have just had a glass of it with ice, tonic water and a dash of angostura bitters. Delicious. Can't wait to have some topped up with cava. You can't buy King's Ginger in many places but it is definitely worth tracking down a bottle. Or two. Three?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Chick On Sticks - The Recipe


Cute hey? I decided against adding eyes or beaks in a different colour - minimalist chicks you could say. The amazing sons, the gorgeous husband and the fab friend all enjoyed them on Easter Sunday. They are very sweet though - so be warned if you don't have a sweet tooth or if you do and need to avoid indulging your sugar addiction. So, here's how....

Ingredients
  • 2 x Sainsbury's basics Madeira cake (yes, the basics variety - cheap but actually very nice)
  • 1 x tub Betty Crocker vanilla frosting (cheating all the way my lovelies)
  • 1 x packet of Scotbloc (you really can still buy this from Sainsbo, fabulous stuff)
  • yellow oil based food colouring
  • lollipop sticks - the paper variety preferably
  • chick shaped cutter (unless you are feeling very creative and have lots of time)
  • polystyrene block (available free from Homebase I understand, or be prepared to hold the cake pops until dry)


What To Do
  1. crumble your Madeira cakes into, well, crumbs
  2. stir in the frosting, all the frosting - this is why they are so sweet
  3. refrigerate the dough for a good hour or so
  4. roll out the dough to the depth of the cutter and cut the chick shapes out, repeat as necessary
  5. refrigerate the chicks for another hour or so
  6. melt the Scotbloc gently in the microwave and stir in enough food colouring to get a good yellow colour
  7. dip the lollipop stick in the Scotbloc and gently push into the bottom of the chick - about an inch or so
  8. (yawn) refrigerate again for about an hour or until the scotbloc has fully hardened
  9. re-melt the scotbloc gently in the microwave
  10. dip the chicks headfirst in the melted scotbloc so they are totally covered
  11. gently tap and twizzle the chicks over the bowl until the scotbloc stops dripping
  12. insert the stick into the polystyrene block to dry
It sounds more complicated and long winded than it really is. You can do it in stages over a number of days which is what I did. A good website for supplies is The Cake Decorating Company, and they delivered incredibly quickly when I used them. I also referred to Bakerella's YouTube video for the tap and twizzle method so you get a nice smooth coating. Maybe I have too much time on my hands, or perhaps my housework aversion is to blame, but I love making cake pops. More to come I would imagine.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Chicks On Sticks

Since making the Lego Head Cake Pops for amazing son number 2 I have been longing to have another go. With Easter just around the corner and the fab friend coming for lunch with us all I've just the excuse - especially when there is the bathroom and bedroom to clean. Have I mentioned before how much I loathe housework? So work is under way - rather quickly as these are a lot easier than the Lego Head ones as I have used a cutter to form the basic shape.


Just need to coat them in 'chocolate' and add an eye or two. Recipe to follow once they are finished - a cheat's delight this one! Now, what else can I find to do other than cleaning.....

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Want To Be In My Gang?

I have a generous friend in London to whom I am forever indebted. A few years ago I spent 2 weeks in France on holiday and discovered the proper French macarons, indulging in them at the local patisseries whenever possible. I was distraught on my return to discover you can't get a decent 'macaron' in Nottingham, nothing, not even a whiff. So my generous friend sent me 24 of the delectable delights from Laduree at Harrods in the post. They were something else. I think I love macarons even more than wine, or cocktails or even chocolate. It is probably a very good thing they are not readily available here in Nottingham. I am still going to try making them, but am feeling very nervous about doing so hence my appalling procrastination. In gratitude to my generous friend I occasionally send him a parcel of yummies in the post that I have made. I posted one this morning - hope he enjoys it.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Perfect Peach


It is that the time of year when some of us begin to think about getting the supreme suntan, others about seeking out the chicest sunglasses, whilst others about hunting for the sublimest sandals. Me? I am forever searching for the perfect peach nail varnish. It is an elusive thing I can tell you. I have tried many a shade - from pink to coral to orange. And with little joy or success. I may be a perfectionist and something of a hoarder at times, but even I am a little embarrassed at the number of peachy nail varnishes now in my collection. Sadly none of them are quite right. I painted my toe nails yesterday in preparation for the chance to wear my favourite wedges today - and after trying again some of the pictured colours I gave up and went for gold. The search continues.....any suggestions?

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Silicone Moan


Now I am a big fan of silicone, in baking terms anyway. I love the way my brownies, flapjacks and caramel shortbread turn out of the silicone baking tray with no greasing or lining. Effortless and easy. So I was more than a little excited by the prospect of this silicone piping bag from Lakeland. I had made some vanilla cupcakes for the amazing sons and wanted to ice them so decided to give it a try. The cupcakes were iced well enough, but in hindsight I didn't like the 'feel' to the piping bag - it felt clumsy, and I'm not sure I would manage anything that needed a more deft or delicate touch like macarons which I am planning on making VERY soon. Still, the cupcakes have been wolfed down - little Easter ones complete with eggs in the end. Twee and a definite cliche but deliciousness itself.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Dirtee Coffee

It has come to my attention that although I love (good) coffee and my wondrous Rancilio Silvia espresso machine I have neglected to write anything about either here. My coffee of choice varies throughout the day - espresso first thing in the morning and always freshly ground coffee beans are the only rules. The gorgeous husband and I have rediscovered "dirtee coffee" though - a double espresso with whipped (read "squirty") cream on top. They call these 'espresso con panna' at Caffe Nero. Amazing - and only a little bit naughty really. We now have a can of "squirty" cream in the fridge and I can't see it lasting very long, these coffees are very addictive! I wonder what the Italian for "dirtee coffee" is.......

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Dim Sum Yum


Flicking through the photos stored on my phone I came across this one of my Mothers' Day meal at China China, a fab Chinese restaurant here in Nottingham. The gorgeous husband is (clearly) Chinese and his wonderful Mum is a trained chef, so it takes a lot for him to be impressed by a Chinese restaurant. So much so that we VERY rarely venture into one. Until recently! A lovely Chinese family took me and the boys to China China a few months ago where we had Dim Sum and were suitably impressed. So the gorgeous husband was prepared to give it a go when I categorically stated I rather fancied some Dim Sum for Mothers' Day recently - blatant I know, but how else to get him to try it?

The place was very busy and I was definitely in the ethnic minority (nothing new there - have you seen my family?), which is usually a very good sign. We were not disappointed. Everything was delicious - from the char siu bau to the cheung fun. Tripe is a bit of an acquired taste that I have been learning to like and this was delicious enough to convert anyone brave enough to try it. The icing on the cake (or should I say the stuffing in the bau?) was the price - less than £40 for the 4 of us to eat, impressive when you know how much the amazing sons consume!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Cooks Cooking Cookies



The wonderful Kitchen Aid is now very at home in the kitchen, and I totally love it. It makes baking incredibly easy, which in turn could make staying trim incredibly hard. I had the fab friend (different person to the lovely friend) round for dinner last night. That in itself was pretty delicious (salad of rocket, watercress and spinach with grilled Portobello mushrooms stuffed with cheese and topped with a poached egg) BUT my fab friend then announced we "have to make peanut butter cookies", at 9pm at night!

She was dutifully sent to buy the peanut butter and chocolate chips as I (quite uncharacteristically) had run out and we (more or less, well more really as we added a great deal more peanut butter (accidental) and chocolate chips (deliberate) than stated) followed the recipe in the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. This book should probably be illegal incidentally. The lovely friend has lent it to me and it contains the most amazing, decadent recipes that are completely irresistible.

The result - well, after less than 24 hours there is just one cookie left. The gorgeous husband was practically speechless when he tried them - he couldn't believe how good they were. Who gets the last one? Amazing son number one - we had a sweep stake on the Grand National which he won. He hadn't realised that he had won, and I would probably have got away with snaffling that last cookie for myself, but honesty prevailed.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

In The Mix

There has been a plethora of birthdays during March, with more to come. Amazing son number 2 turned 8 last weekend and we had a wonderful day with a trip to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen (his choice, I was just glad it wasn't Pizza Hut again this year) with a few of his friends, then on to Sugacane (think sweet heaven for young boys and try to not imagine the ensuing sugar high) to get them all some pick n' mix before heading back to our house to watch a DVD. All good fun and the Lego cake pops were an outstanding success too, although I now have a feeling that the bar has definitely been raised for all future birthdays and that an ice cream cake may not cut it any more.

Somewhere in the mix was my birthday and I turned "that old" - thank you lovely friend for that. I had a number of different celebrations over the week and it was really special. Out with friends for lunch, dinner with the amazing husband the following day, and a weekend with my family in Cheltenham. Happy times. Plus I've got the excitement of my birthday present to come - a KitchenAid Stand Mixer. I'm almost giddy at the thought of the bread, pasta, cakes etc that I'll be whipping up in no time once it arrives.


First on the list will be 'macarons' though - I can hardly wait. What flavour to make first, that is the question?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Simply Too Much Fun


The Lego head pop cakes for amazing son number 2 are now finished. I got a little over excited about making them and couldn't wait any longer. I'm assured they will be fine until Saturday but I am so tempted to put one in each of the amazing sons' lunch boxes on Friday as a surprise. I think I would make them a little smaller next time but I am really pleased. I think that amazing son number 2 is going to love them and it will be a total delight when I see his face. One problem though - where exactly do I put the candles?