Christmas Countdown

Yes. I dared to say the C word. 

I cannot wait for Christmas this year. I mentioned Christmas to Amelia this morning and she said ‘presents?’and raised both eyebrows at me to emphasise the importance of the question. 

Apparently she has her priorities set for Christmas already. (Puzzles are her new favourite toy so she is very hopeful that Father Christmas leaves her some new ones.)

I’m surprisingly organised this year. I thought it would be less stressful if I started shopping early. I’ve already finished off buying all the gifts for the little ones in the family/friend group and I’ve actually wrapped them this morning. (The bags were overflowing and I couldn’t handle the disorder of it.)

I’m very lucky to work for a company that are closing for 2 weeks over Christmas. Completely unexpected, given that I would have been working Christmas Day if I had stayed in my previous job. 

I’m trying to plan days out and activities to do with Amelia throughout December. Christmas markets. Baking. Going to see Santa. Looking at all the Christmas lights. Costa Christmas drinks are always lovely and little lady likes coffee almost as much as I do so no doubt we will do a few Costa trips. 

She’s been given quite a few Christmas jumpers and T-shirt’s by family and friends so her wardrobe is all set for the festive period. She really likes dinosaurs on her clothes at the moment so if anyone sees a dinosaur themed Christmas jumper then send me the link. Amelia will be very appreciative! 

Just to scare you all a bit there is 108 days til December 25th.

(And no, before anyone asks. My tree is not up. The photo is one from a previous Christmas.)

The Simple Sponge Cake Recipe

For the sponges:

7oz self raising flour
6oz light brown sugar
2oz white sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons of soya milk
8oz butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling and decoration:

icing sugar

jam

malteasers

Preheat the oven to 180degrees. Grease three sandwich sponge tins with butter and flour.

Cream both sugars and the butter together. Add half of the flour and one egg and mix. Add the remaining flour and egg. Mix in the vanilla essence and the milk. Split the sponge mixture between the three tins evenly and put them in the oven.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer in the middle comes out clean.

Remove the sponges from the oven and tip out onto cooling racks. Whilst they are still warm, spread jam on two of the sponges. Make buttercream icing using icing sugar and butter, using the measurements provided on the back. Once the sponges are completely cool add a thin layer of buttercream on top of the jam and assemble the cake. Cover the top in buttercream and decorate with malteasers.

(excuse the messy photo. Hurriedly taken before the cake was sliced and demolished!)

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Easter or the New Christmas?

Easter or the New Christmas?

It’s Amelia’s first Easter and there is certainly the temptation to go over board and buy her a bucket load of chocolate. But one she wouldn’t eat it and two I don’t want to spoil her.

I have seen many memes and posts calling Easter the new Christmas. In our family that is definitely not the case. Easter is not Christmas and for us does not mean a pile of presents. Emphasis on the PILE part. (Her nanny and great nanny have each used the money they would have spent on chocolate on clothes as the little lady is nearly in the next size up.)

So what are we getting the titchy princess for her first Easter weekend?
I’ve had an adorable little skirt and hair bow set made for her by a lovely Instagram business called ‘stitchlings creations’. She also has a pair of bunny ears and an Easter bonnet which we are going to decorate later with Pom poms and fluffy Easter chicks.

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As far as chocolate goes she has a small hamper with little chocolates in it: kinder eggs, kinder bars, a small Cadbury’s egg and some caramel mini eggs. We also treated her to some gold Easter bunny’s this morning in the lindt shop at bluewater.

As it’s raining and horrible out today we are going to make some Easter biscuits and some chocolate nest cakes. Recipes to follow.

Have a good easter everyone

Chocolate Trial Birthday Cake

Anyone who knows me knows I bake cakes. A lot. If I had the patience and time and money I’d go to all the decorating classes and learn how to do it professionally.

Instead I just have fun making cakes at home.

Amelia’s birthday is in less than two months. Birthday cakes made in bakeries instead of in supermarkets are very expensive. I’ve had quotes ranging from £50 to £150. (Nothing against supermarket birthday cakes, just want Amelia’s first birthday to be extra special. Okay maybe a little bit against supermarket birthday cakes then.)

So I am going to make one myself. I’m torn between making a vanilla cake or chocolate cake.

My chocolate cake trial sponge was adapted from an old easily memorable recipe my Nan taught me when I was little.

Simply
3 eggs
6oz of caster sugar
6oz of self raising flour
6oz of butter

Cream the butter and sugar together and then add the flour and eggs a little at a time.
Cook in two round baking tins at 180 for 25 minutes or until a knife in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

To make the cake chocolatey and rich I used 4oz of self raising flour and 2oz of cocoa powder, instead of 6oz of flour . I also swapped out half of the normal sugar for 3oz of brown sugar.

For the top I made butter cream and mixed in melted chocolate and decorated with sprinkles and a pretty flowery chocolate centre piece.

The centre was filled with mango and passion fruit jam. Maybe sounds a bit of a weird combination but it was actually really nice (admittedly I used this because I couldn’t find the strawberry jam, the fridge seems to have eaten it)

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(getting a close up of this cake and having the sprinkles and chocolate flower on focus was a nightmare…so I’m using this photo as I like it) 

When I get another spare hour I’ll have a go at a vanilla one. Who knows. Maybe a red velvet sponge or a strawberry one too.

Peppa Pig Muddy Puddle Cakes

With the weather cold and icy it’s not always easy to keep the little ones entertained in doors. Amelia is crawling and trying to walk now and the little monster doesn’t like being confined to the living room. She likes being a free titch and it’s hard work trying to keep her distracted – she’d much rather be emptying the drawers in our bedroom or tipping over the bin in the bathroom.

One thing that is brilliant for distraction the little mess making tornado is chocolate. Chocolate cake. Chocolate buttons. Hot chocolate. Chocolate ice cream. Amelia is not fussy.

So one of the activities we did together last week was making these peppa pig muddy puddle cakes.

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Amelia helped with the mixing, although her favourite part was decorating them with the chocolate icing. Most of it ended up in her mouth and on the floor but for half an hour she was happily entertained. Amelia loves being the diddy chef.

They weren’t beautifully decorated but Amelia had fun and she thought that were delicious. The mix cost me £1.25 in Tesco and there’s even a competition the little ones can enter on the side. Cheap and messy fun. Between the making and the eating Amelia was entertained for most of the morning.

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Best Brownies Recipe

Recipe for the best sticky chocolate brownies

Ingredients:
75 grams of butter
100 grams of light brown sugar
2 eggs
100 grams self raising flour
100 grams chocolate caramel spread
200 grams nutella
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
100 grams white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 and grease a square tin with butter and dust with flour.
Cream together the butter and sugar and add in one of the eggs and the flour. Add the other egg and vanilla extract. Mix in the two spreads and the salt. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake for 20-25 mins until firm around the outside and slightly soft in the middle. Leave to cool before cutting into squares.

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Quick and Easy Tasty Dinners

Easy dinners

1. Stir fry. The easiest has got to be a stir fry. for the one below I used a garlic and hoisin sauce from Aldi, a Chinese stir fry mix from Tesco, mushrooms and dried egg noodles. It’s super easy to boil the noodles and stir fry the vegetables.

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2. At home Indian. For this one I shopped at Asda. I bought a saag aloo side for me, a chicken tikka masala for rob and a pack of 8 mini vegetable samosas and onion Bhajis. Boiling rice and warming up naan breads was simple enough and the other bits were microwaveable

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3. Shepherds pie. To make this one easier I use frozen mashed potato. Frying the meat and your choice of vegetables and adding gravy is quick and this can be prepared in advance and warmed in the oven before serving. I usually top mine with grated cheese

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4. Of course there has to be easy to make and delicious puddings too. One of my favourite is these double chocolate cookies. These are good for little fingers too. Find the recipe – one of my cookie in a jar gift ideas – here.

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Raspberry and white chocolate tray bake

Raspberry and white chocolate tray bake

2 eggs
4 ounces of self raising flour
4 ounces of sugar
4 ounces of butter
3 and a half ounces of white chocolate chips
3 and a half ounces of fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Grease a small square baking tin by rubbing with butter and dusting with flour.

Cream the sugar and butter together. Add an egg and half the flour. Mix well and add the remaining egg and the rest of the flour. Fold in the white chocolate chips, adding the raspberries last so they don’t get to squashed.

Pour the batter into the tin and gently spread the mixture out so that the pan is evenly filled.

Cook the cake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes or until the top is golden and springy to touch.

Allow to cool and cut into pieces – I made mine into 9 good sized squares.

This recipe would also work with strawberries and milk chocolate or could be used to fill cupcake cases.

I served mine with squirty cream and extra raspberries

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(This recipe is my own and so are my pictures.)

Last Minute Homemade Gifts

Last Minute Christmas Gifts

Run out of time to order presents? Only got evenings left when the shops you want aren’t open?

Home made gifts are brilliant! Here are a few ideas.

Cookie mix in a jar:
Put the following dry ingredients in a jar.
* 210g plain flour
* 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
* 100g caster sugar
* 340g milk or white chocolate chips
* 110g dark brown soft sugar

Add a ribbon and attach a card with the following instructions:
In a bowl mix 170g butter, 1 1/2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract together. Add the dry mixture. Put tablespoons of the mix onto baking trays. Bake in a preheated 190 C / Gas 5 oven for 8 – 10 minutes.

Shortbread biscuits
Preheat oven to 190 C or gas 5. Beat 125g butter and 55g of sugar together. Stir in 180g of plain flour.
Roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to make the biscuit shapes. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes and then bake for 15-20 minutes.
Wrap the cooled biscuits in brown paper and decorate with red ribbon.

Flowery Soaps
Line ice cube trays with cling film.
Melt as many bars of clear soap in a Pyrex bowl over a pan of hot water. Pour the melted soap into the ice cube trays. Decorate them with small flowers, bits of lavender and other fresh smelling herbs.
Set the soaps in the fridge or freezer. Once set, turn out of the ice cube trays and wrap them in tissue paper.

Have fun getting creative!

Salt dough and cookies

December the 2nd and it’s finally the weekend. Today has gone quickly and as I write this our tree is sparkling, illuminated by the fairy lights. Our living room and kitchen are open plan and as I have had the cooker on for most of the day it’s toasty warm.

To start the day off Amelia and I made salt dough decorations. I managed to make two prints of Amelia’s hands and used the rest to cut out stars for on the tree. (Its extremely easy to make: 1 cup salt, 1 cup water and 2 cups flour. Bake for 5 minutes at 180. Credit for the recipe and idea go to the wonderful mummy deer. Head on over to her blog here.) We haven’t finished decorating them yet but I started painting the hand prints.

The second baking activity of the day involved lots of chocolate chips. We made some wonderful soft chocolatey cookies. The recipe is pretty easy:
80g caster sugar
80g brown sugar
225g plain flour
200g choc chips (I used half white chocolate and half milk chocolate)
2tsp vanilla essence
Pinch of salt
150g butter
1 egg

Mix the sugars and butter together and then add the egg, vanilla essence, salt and flour. Add the choc chips and then spoon teaspoons onto baking trays (makes around 30)

They taste delicious warm and just as good once they’ve cooled down. We now have a tin full.