Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Mini s'more brownie cupcakes with Creme Eggs

creme eggs, recipes with creme eggs, Easter recipes

When it comes to Creme Eggs, our family is split quite unevenly. They are way too sweet for me, but my boys and husband are always happy to eat a Cadbury Creme Egg. So that makes 3:1 in favour of these classic gooey treats.
In the lead up to Easter, Cadbury has joined forces with Rinkoffs Bakery to create irresistible dessert recipes, using creme eggs.
The Creme Eggs have been back on shelves nationwide and are only available until Easter.

Easter eggs, Easter chocolate

Creme egg fans can enjoy their favourite Easter treat as an ingredient in scrumptious Easter dessert recipes. I knew that my family would approve of the creme eggs-topped brownie cupcakes.

best Easter recipes

Mini s'more brownie cupcakes with Cadbury Creme Eggs (recipe courtesy of Rinkoffs Bakery)
125g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
100g unsalted butter
125g light muscovado sugar
2 large free range eggs
75g plain flour, sifted
1/4tsp sea salt
for the marshmallow topping:
1 tub of marshmallow fluff roughly 10g per cupcake (you will have fluff left over)
12 Cadbury creme eggs, crushed into pieces (I used 4 creme eggs, and that was plenty)

1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a large saucepan over a low heat. When completely melted, stir in the sugar, then the eggs one by one. Fold in the flour and salt, and then spoon into the cupcake cases so they're nearly full.
2. Pipe the fluff onto each cupcake and bake in the centre of the oven for 12 minutes. Leave to cool. Once cooled, add the crushed creme eggs on top.

best Easter recipes, Easter chocolate

I didn't pipe the marshmallow fluff, just spooned it over each cupcake. Also I didn't add it before baking, as it would have been too crispy. I added it in the last five minutes of cooking, plus placed the cupcakes with  broken pieces of creme eggs on top for another minute in the oven to soften and melt them.

As I imagined, I was a very popular person today. These brownie cupcakes are a lovely seasonal treat, great with a cup of tea or coffee.

For a full range of Cadbury seasonal treats, check out Cadbury Gifts.

best Easter recipes

Disclosure: I received a selection of creme eggs and a voucher to buy ingredients for testing the recipe. All opinions are our own.

Easter chocolate recipes

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Birthday cake for Sasha

cakes by post

Come Friday, my Twitter feed is full of competition tweets. I try to intersperse them with recipe links and a bit of chat, so as not to annoy my foodie friends who sometimes frown at the comping RTs.
The thrill of winning though keeps me motivated. Can't say I win very often, perhaps once a month on Twitter. Last month I won a cute red double-decker bus mug, which is a lovely addition to my mug and cup collection.
If like me you enjoy Twitter comps, and what's not to like? - they take a second to enter - you might know that @SpongeCakesLtd offer a cake giveaway every Friday. I have been entering their giveaways for a couple of years, hoping to win one of their super cakes.
Imagine my delight when earlier this month I opened my notifications folder to see a tweet from Sponge Cakes that I won their cake of the month - salted caramel and toffee cake.
It was great timing, as Sasha's birthday was coming in a week.
The cake was delivered by courier the day before his birthday. I had to hide the box, so as not to tempt anyone into sampling it too early. It was well packaged, a box inside a box, and arrived in pristine condition.

best cakes by mail

It was not the first time we have had a cake from Sponge. A couple of years ago I have ordered a different flavoured cake, and it was delicious.

I have already bought a cake for Sasha to take to school to share with his class and teachers. It was a plain vanilla buttercream sponge with an Emoji icing on top, as I thought it would appeal to his teen tastes in decorating.

The salted caramel and toffee cake which arrived by courier is a different league. It was a generously sized two-layer cake with toffees on the frosting. Both my sons love toffees so this cake got thumbs up from everyone.
Eddie had the biggest slice and pronounced it to be "AMAZING!".

best cakes by mail

I was a bit anxious whether Sasha would "approve". Being autistic, he is rather particular about the cakes, and foods in general, that he would eat.
We had visitors coming to wish him a happy birthday through the day, and everyone loved the cake.
Looks like it is an inspired flavour, with oodles of appeal for both grown-ups and children.

As for Sasha, he was very happy with his birthday cake.
Thank you, Sponge, for making our boy's birthday extra special!

Check out Sponge for a range of delightful cakes. And keep tweeting, you never know, it might be your turn to win a cake now.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Sea bass with prawns and black garlic ketchup

You would have thought that with over a hundred cook books at home, I would be more organised with the meal planning.
I admire people who plan their dinner menus a week in advance. Though I often have a shopping list with me with ingredients to buy for that evening, there are days when I have no clue as to what I might serve for dinner. I wander around the shop, looking at the ingredients, trying to find inspiration.
Last Friday I stopped by the deli fish counter in Waitrose (they have 20% off promotion each Friday) and decided to buy two sea bass fillets.

fish Friday recipe

Sea bass with prawns and black garlic ketchup
2 sea bass fillets
3tbsp olive oil
1 medium carrot
a handful of baby tomatoes
a squeeze of lemon juice
3tbsp black garlic ketchup
fresh parsley, chopped
Peel and slice a carrot, and place in the oiled roasting dish. Place the fish fillets on top, scatter the tomatoes around the dish. Spread black garlic ketchup over the fish and squeeze a bit of lemon juice over. Cook in the oven at 180C for about 20+ minutes. Add the prawns in the last five minutes of cooking.
Serve hot, with a bit of fresh parsley sprinkled on the top.

seafood recipes

In this recipe I used a Black Garlic Ketchup, an innovative product from Hawkshead Relish. The flavour of black garlic is created with baking whole, fresh garlic bulbs for 40 days at a very low temperature creating an extraordinary flavour.
"Combining the pureed garlic cloves by hand with fresh tomatoes, olive oil & Anglesey sea salt this ketchup sauce is the ultimate addition to cooked meats, tartlets, potato wedges, roast veg, shell fish, stews and glazes".

unusual condiments, best condiments
Image credits: Hawkshead Relish

Maria Whitehead, co-owner of Hawkshead Relish, says: "The flavour of black garlic is exquisite & relatively new to the British palate, although seen on some adventurous menus, we wanted to bring this tremendous innovation to the public in a way that it can be easily appreciated & enjoyed! We've made it in a way that the unadventurous will just love as a dynamic dip for chips, to those who will delight in its versatility in adding luscious flavour in cooking & preparation".
Handmade with optimum quality ingredients & completely natural without any artificial flavouring, colouring or additives, free from gluten & nuts as well as suitable for vegetarians.
It is rich, smooth, sweet, almost treacle-like in appearance and consistency, with a good garlicky punch.

best condiments

This excellent condiment could be added as an ingredient to a whole variety of dishes.
For example, yesterday I cooked a one-pan chicken and vegetable dish. I have sliced two sweet peppers, a big courgette and drizzled them with the olive oil, before placing a chicken breast joint on top. Drizzle more olive oil over the chicken, season with a bit of salt and pour a mix of 2tbsp of maple syrup, a good squeeze of lemon juice and 2tbsp black garlic ketchup. Cook at 180C for 40+ minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Add more black garlic ketchup on top in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve hot with crusty bread.

one pan meals

Have you tried this innovative ketchup?

Disclosure: I received a bottle of ketchup for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Fun with Rusty Rivets

Did you happen to visit Twitter last Thursday between 4.30 and 6pm? Have you joined the Rusty Rivets Twitter party run by ukmumstv and hosted by a number of parenting bloggers? The party coincided with the launch of the first episode of Rusty Rivets on NickJr.
We don't have NickJr channel, and watched Rusty Rivets on Youtube, on big screen TV.

Rusty Rivets is an animation series, aired daily at 5.30pm on NickJr. It follows adventures of a young chap named Rusty who's into all things engineering and inventing. He has a dedicated team of customised robots who help him. Rusty is pretty clever at engineering and upcycling machine parts into new inventive gadgets.
Rusty lives in a town called Sparkton Hills, along with his friend Ruby, a robotic T-rex Botasaur and smaller robots who are known as the Bits.
The animation is showcasing a series of basic scientific concepts and techno-ideas.

To tune in with the engineering theme of the show we received a box with several activities which challenged us to use our grey cells and create technical stuff.

We sent out the invitations to the Rusty Rivets party.

And waited for Thursday with eagerness.
We started with a memory game, taking turns to pick two cards to reveal the pictures beneath. If the pictures match, you keep the pair.

The most anticipated activity involved building a robot. Who wouldn't want to build a robot?!
Have a look at the materials which were in the first activity pack. As you can see, we had lots of cool things, just like the Rusty Rivets team has in their junkyard. We had a couple of flat cardboard boxes, paper cups for arms and legs, stickers and lots of colourful bits.

It was a team effort, but I think our robot is super. What do you think?

We had colouring sheets and crayons, but engineers wanted to keep building, so rather than do the colouring the guys have chosen a Rusty Rivets construction course. This cool activity lets kids be creative with the shapes. We had a selection of wooden skewers, polysterene balls, plasticine, as well as sweets - marshmallows and gum drops.

The boys first started working with gumdrops, but it wasn't easy to skewer them, and the fingers were getting too sticky. The joint decision was to eat the gumdrops and proceed with the polysterene balls.

The shapes kept being changed.

It was a fun educational activity. Edgar told us that they did something similar recently in his class, building tunnels with dried spaghetti and marshmallows.

Afterwards it was time for a noisy Rusty Rivets treasure hunt. Cards were hidden around the house with the clues. When our guests went home, they left with a goodie bag each.

Visit for fun Rusty Rivets activities and games.

Disclosure: We received a box of Rusty Rivets-themed goodies and crafts materials for the purposes of hosting a party.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Strawberry cake

cake mix recipes

The spring is here, and there is no excuse to postpone the kitchen spring cleaning. This is quite a quest in my case. To make it less daunting I need to divide the task into smaller jobs, and do one cupboard at a time, or I will be forever procrastinating.
I should be particularly merciless with all the old jams and chutneys. I am usually over enthusiastic in autumn, and make too many jars. Some I manage to give away, but there is still a lot, we never eat all preserves I make, then the next canning season comes, and the circle is never ending.
Trying to find some space on the shelves for the honey I bought a few days ago, I discovered that I still had half of the strawberry cake mix, half of the tub of cream cheese frosting, as well as a jar of strawberry jam with just a few tablespoons of jam left. Plus there was a small pot of yogurt in the fridge which nobody fancied. If I dump everything into a cake mix, it might just work. 

Strawberry cake
3 medium eggs
half a box of strawberry cake mix (e.g. Betty Crocker)
100g self-raising flour
100g Greek style yogurt
2tbsp strawberry conserve (I used TipTree Strawberry conserve with Champagne)
100g butter, melted
cream cheese frosting (half a tub) + sugar sprinkles for decoration

In a mixing bowl beat 3 medium eggs with the cake mix. Add the flour, yogurt, conserve and melted butter, and mix well. Pour the cake mix into an oiled spring cake tin. Place the tin in the oven preheated to 180C. Bake for 35+ minutes, check with a wooden toothpick if it's ready.
Take the cake out of the oven, let it cool before slicing into two halves. Spread half of the frosting on the first layer, cover with the second layer, and spread more frosting. Sprinkle some of colored sugar sprinkles on top.

cake mix recipes

This is a quick and easy bake, and I was pleased to finish a few bits and bobs in the kitchen.

cake mix recipes

Adding this recipe to #KitchenClearout linky run by Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews.

Wild Science Lava Lamp and Glitter Tube Factory

"Double, double, toil and trouble, lava boil and glitter bubble!"
Earlier this week we've been playing with Wild! Science Lava Lamp and Glitter Tube Factory, making me think of Eddie and myself as glamorous Meg and Mog, throwing things into a cauldron.

best science kits for kids

Wild!Science is a range of collectible science kits, which are designed to have a great play value while being educational. To encourage families to explore scientific concepts and skills, Wild Science has launched a fantastic competition.

The Wild! Science Global Science Challenge is giving families (2 adults and 2 children) everywhere the chance to win:
- A trip to Orlando, Florida
- Entry to Disney World
- Accommodation to a 5-star resort for 7 days
- Car hire for 7 days
- A full set of Wild Science product- Entry to the Kennedy Space Centre to meet a real astronaut

How to enter:
1. Buy a Wild! Science Kit and send a receipt copy with your online application.
2. Design and create an awesome new Wild! Science Kit.
3. Write and illustrate a basic instruction book to show other kids how to use your awesome Wild! Science Kit.

There are not that many creative competitions around for the whole family to take part. This competition is a perfect chance for everyone to get creative.

To check out just how tricky those kits might be, Eddie and I have agreed to test one of the Wild Science kits. We have chosen a Lava Lamp and Glitter Tube Factory.
The blurb says:
"Create dazzling optical effects by reflecting light from glitter and bubbling water. In the glitter tube, the glitter is suspended in a thick liquid called glycerine. Each piece of glitter is a tiny mirror that reflects light and with lots of tiny mirros, the light is scattered in all directions to create a sparkling effect. In the lava lamp, a fizzy chemical reaction between an acid and a base produces bubbles of carbon dioxide gas, creating a spectacular effect that looks just like an underwater volcano!"
Sounds exciting!

best science kits for children

Let's have a peek inside the box which has the following contents: LED flasher, double-sided tape, lab gloves, glitter, glitter tube filled with glycerine, glitter tube base and cap, sodium bicarbonate, citric acid, beaker, red colouring, beaker, spoons, lava lamp jar, base and cap and more.

science kits for younger children

We were first advised to assemble a LED flasher. It does say in the instructions that it won't last forever, but we didn't count on it to hardly last at all. When you press on it, it goes flashing for 14 seconds.
We struggled to make it work. I don't know if we got a malfunctioning flasher, as reading other people's reviews of the same product, I don't see anyone mentioning it. Our flasher was a real pain. You press and press, and nothing is happening.
After the flasher fiasco, we built a glitter tube. This was very easy and straighforward.

We added some of the glitter into a glitter tube filled with glycerine. The tiny particles of glitter are suspended in the glycerine solution and act like mini mirrors. It's a pretty little thing.

Though the set is aimed at children aged 8+, Eddie who is not yet 7, begged me to let him build a lava lamp. I agreed for him to have a go, under my strict supervision.

To make a bubbling chemical reaction, he first needed to make some Fizzy Discs.
He carefully scooped sodium bicarb from a blue-labelled bottle and citric acid from the red-labelled bottle into a beaker, then we added a few drops of red colour.

Stirring the mixture helps it to get all bright red and crumbly. Then the mix is scooped into the Fizzy Disc mould to make six fizzy discs.
Then we counted to 60. Our discs were still rather crumbly, I think we overdid with the red colour.
The red mass starts to fizz in the tube.

best chemical sets for children

Put on the lava lamp cap and push down to turn on the LED flasher which is inside the base. Again, we didn't manage to make the flasher work, but the lava effect itself was pretty, with small blobs of red going up and down.

The instructions booklet is educational, and explains the chemical process behind the activities.

Eddie had great fun, playing with the set. He was also very proud to "do chemistry", and is enthusiastic about trying the other products from the range.
Check out the Wild Science range at FlairPlc.

Disclosure: We received the set for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Glittering Gemstones 1000pc jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

best jigsaw puzzles, Mother's Day gifts

Give me a jigsaw puzzle and leave me in peace, and I'm on cloud nine. That's one of my favourite ways to relax. I don't like to be distracted, working on a puzzle, so usually treat myself when my children are at school. I'll make a cup of tea or coffee, switch on television with something equally congenial like Father Brown on BBC iplayer or some costume drama on Netflix, and get a puzzle board from under the sofa.
I'm happy with any jigsaw puzzle, but if I had to choose, I prefer those with lots of little details rather than big scenic views.
Glittering Gemstones is the 8th jigsaw puzzle from a popular Perplexing Puzzles range (Ravensburger).
It is delightfully detailed and wonderfully challenging.
The photo taken by Devon-based photographer Greg Shepherd shows a collection of glittering gemstones and trinkets. There are all kinds of jewellery, from rings to brooches, from bracelets to necklaces... Long strands of pearls encircle cameos and brightly coloured cloisonne enamel.
All the treasures are artfully arranged, inviting you to a visual feast of jewellery. Each piece of jewellery, be it a golden dolphin or enamelled boat, is shown at its best.

I have read that for this project the photographer's friends have contributed their treasures, how wonderful is that.
As with all Ravensburger jigsaw puzzles, this set comes with an A4 colour leaflet as a reference help.
This is a high quality 1000pc cardboard jigsaw puzzle, which measures 70x50cm when completed.
It is suitable for ages 12+. The jigsaw pieces are made from strong premium grade cardboard, with linen finish print to minimise glare on puzzle image.

This jigsaw puzzle is a real pleasure to work with, and will make a super present for any puzzle lover.
If you are thinking of a suitable Mother's Day gift, and know that the recipient loves puzzles, this could be just the right gift for her.

best jigsaw puzzles

Disclosure: I received the puzzle for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are my own.

best jigsaw puzzles

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The True Tea Club Giveaway E: 2 April 2017

I'm very pleased to offer my blog readers a chance to discover a new tea subscription box. I have recently reviewed The True Tea Club (<--- click on the link to read full review).

The True Tea Club subscription box is a company based in York. They specialise in seven loose teas - white, green, black, oolong, chai, rooibos and herbal tea - to satisfy every taste and preference.
New subscription boxes are released on the 20th every month, but the boxes are also sent out all the time in between these dates.

Lovely people from The True Tea Club have offered a month's subscription box as a giveaway prize to my blog readers.

To be in with a chance of winning, please enter using a Rafflecopter form.
The only mandatory step is answering a question - What tea from the current True Tea Club subscription box would you like to try first?

The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
Once the Rafflecopter picks the winner, I will contact them regarding address details, if they do not reply within 28 day, the prize will be allocated to another person.
Please don't forget to leave a comment, as it is the only mandatory step, I will make sure the winner selected by Rafflecopter has complied with T&Cs.

The prize will be posted by The True Tea Club, the winner will receive whichever tea selection box is available at the time.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Beef stew with sweet pepper and carrot #ReadCookEat

Italian recipe, beef ragu

Reading Donna Leon's bestselling Commissario Brunetti's novels, you can't escape the culinary descriptions and references. Food plays an important part both in Brunetti's life and in the series. I have bookmarked many a tempting recipe mentioned in the novels, with beef stew being one of them.
It appears in "A sea of troubles"

"He finished his lasagne and looked across at Paola. "Is there any more? It's delicious", he added.
"What else is there, Mamma?" Chiara demanded, appetite overcoming Raffi's warning.
"Beef stew with peppers", Paola asked.
"The one with potatoes? Raffi asked, his voice rich with feigned enthusiasm.
"Yes", Paola said, getting to her feet and starting to stack the plates.
The lasagne, to Brunetti's disappointment, proved to be much like the Messiah: there was no second coming...
... as he ate, his attention drifted from the chunks of stewed beef to the cubes of carrot, the small slices of onion. When he paused, Brunetti looked across at Paola and asked, "Did you put Barbera in this?"
She nodded, and he smiled, pleased he'd got it right".

So, what do we have here: beef, carrots, onion and red wine.
The Brunettis clearly have very good appetities, if they can eat stew after lasagne.

I have checked a few books on Italian cuisine, trying to find a recipe for any special Venetian beef stew.
I also have a book "A Taste of Venice/ At Table with Brunetti" by Donna Leon and Roberta Pianaro. There is a recipe for beef stew with pepper, onion and carrot, however, I was a bit confused. The recipe uses minced beef, and the final result sounds more like ragu than a stew. A stew is usually made with chunks of meat, though don't quote me on that.
I have adapted the recipe, deciding to try to cook the stew with minced beef, though serve it not with potatoes but with pasta, like tagliatelle, especially that the recipe ends with "This is a superb sauce for pasta", while the Brunettis have it with potatoes. You see, it is confusing, isn't it?!

Italian recipes, beef ragu, beef pasta sauce

Beef stew with sweet pepper and carrot
3tbsp chilli-flavoured olive oil + 3tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 big white onion, finely chopped
 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped, about 300g
400g minced beef (I used Hereford beef mince, 10% fat)
a bottle of tomato passata (540g)
250ml red wine
2 sweet peppers (orange or yellow)
a pinch of sugar, sea salt

In a deep frying pan heat up the olive oil, add the chopped onion and carrots, cook stirring for 10-15 minutes. In a separate frying pan, fry the beef mince with finely chopped shallots in chilli flavoured olive oil, until the mince is browned on all sides.
Put the beef in the frying pan with the carrots and onion, mix together, add the passata, red wine and chopped peppers. Season with salt and a pinch of sugar. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and cook simmering for an hour and a half, covered with the lid.
Serve with freshly cooked tagliatelle. You could also serve it with mashed potatoes or polenta.
It is a delicious beef ragu/stew, flavourful and moreish.
This amount of ragu will be enough to feed a big family. You can also freeze it in plastic containers.

Italian recipes, beef ragu

In this recipe I used La Classica Passata from Cirio. This is an authentic Italian tomato product made with ripe luscious tomatoes, and it's a perfect base for any tomato sauce.

I used chilli flavoured olive oil from Filippo Berio. If you don't have it, just substitute with a standard olive oil, and add a bit of chilli paste, or fresh chopped chilli to add a nice kick to the dish.
I didn't have Barbera for the recipe, the red wine I added to the recipe was just average red wine which I think was part of dinner for £20 from M&S. In these deals they usually add a cheaper bottle of wine.

Have you read a book recently which inspired you to run to the kitchen and cook to your heart's content?

I hope you are inspired by books to join in the #ReadCookEat challenge.

The idea is to choose a book, either a world classic or modern fiction, or even memoirs and pick up a dish mentioned or described in that book and then recreate it in a recipe. Please say a few lines about your chosen book, and maybe even do a quote from the book.

If you decide to take part, please add the badge to your post and link up back to me, and either use a link-up tool or add the url of your post as a comment. Alternatively, email me with the link to your post (my email is sasha1703 at yahoo dot com).

I promise to Pin all blogs posts taking part in this challenge, as well as RT and Google+