Monday, 31 October 2011

Creepy cupcakes

As it's halloween, and I haven't baked anything special for it, I thought I'd use the occassion to show off some pictures of my hen party.  Except, it wasn't a hen party actually. Ian and I have quite a lot of shared friends so we decided to have a joint hen and stag party, or a hag party.

I wanted to do cupcake decorating and decided I'd force Ian to do it too! He wasn't the only guy dragged along, and they all decided to team up and have a zombie cupcake competition. I'm not sure the cupcake lady was expecting this kind of turn of events, but she seemed to really like the finished results, and they guys all seemed to have a nice time.
Here are some of their cupcakes. 

This post would have more pictures, but my internet is down, and not wanting to miss halloween for this post, I'm using the internet on my phone and it's unbearably slow.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Baking Wedding Vow

Now, I didn't actually make this vow on my wedding day in front of all my guests. But I did vow it to Ian in private and I am intending not to break my vow. I vowed to bake something for him every month. That was it - there were no rules about whether he got to choose what I baked or if it had to be sweet or savoury (I imagine it will always be sweet though),

We got married on the 13th, so I reckoned I had until the next 13th to bake. I put it off, because I was too busy looking for enough clothes for a 16 night cruise. Then I realised that it was almost cruise time, and I'd not baked a thing. So, my plans for a cherry pie went out the window (I didn't have a pie dish and I had no time to pit all the cherries)  so I fell back to my ultimate cookie recipe and made white chocolate chip cookies so that we wouldn't waste anything when we left the next day for our cruise because we could freeze the leftovers. 

I sent Ian out for white chocolate chips. This, I have decided, is fine.  My vow, afterall, was not 'I must bake something for Ian every month and not force him to run errands related to it.' Ian returned without chocolate chips, but with white chocolate buttons instead, so I spent 5 minutes just breaking the damn things in half!

I used one of my measuring cups (think it's a quarter one) to make little discs of cookie dough, baked about 8 and open froze the rest on the quick freeze shelf of my freezer. I then wrapped them in clingfilm and put them in a 'in case of emergencies' box in the freezer. The cookies were yummy as usual, but I always seem to cook them too long.  I know that I'm meant to take them out when they're still uncooked looking, but I can't seem to let myself do it!

I'm afraid there is no picture of the finished article because we ate them all before I took a photo. Just imagine the ones in my other blog post, but crunchier. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Back to blogging

I've been gone 7 months. I'm ashamed. I didn't mean for it to happen, but I was away for good reasons. I married a wonderful man, and pulled off an amazing wedding that had everything I wanted, done the way I wanted it, and then I relaxed for 16 blissful nights on a very large boat in the med. The prep for a wedding didn't leave much time for baking, but I didn't manage a few things for key events, and I certainly ate out. I have plenty to write about - I could write ten blog posts about the cruise food alone. But for this post, I just want to post something, to get my motivation back and so that it doesn't say 'march' on the top of my blog anymore.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Diet food... a journey!

So February finally saw me convincing Ian to help me lose weight for the wedding.  He's always semi-supportive, but loves to cook unhealthy things and I love to eat them - so hammering home how unhappy I was with myself wasn't fun, but we've been looking for healthier things since, and it's been an interesting journey.  We've had some good meals, and we've had some bad - but we've generally stuck with it.  So far, I'm 10lbs down.  I'm really pleased with the turn around, and I'm going to let you see some of the things we've tried - and I'm also happy to take any suggested recipes for us to try.  

We started off just by trying to modify some of our existing meals. First we tried putting grated carrot into our meatballs - it lacked flavour and was a bit mushy, I ate it, Ian got takeaway.  We swapped the cheese in  our   fajitas for guacamole, but the avocados wouldn't ripen - it was still good, but there wasn't very much of it.  Also, Ian doesn't understand the concept of guacamole being cooling, and added lots of chilli to it!

We then decided that we'd spend some time on Sundays going through my food magazines looking for healthy recipes so that we could learn to enjoy some new things instead of stressing over changing our existing meals.

Here's the photographic evidence from week one!

This was a smoked paprika mackerel - it was quite tasty, but I wasn't so keen on the smokiness.  The saute potatoes were nice though, and added more flavour to the meal (I usually just have my new potatoes boiled - slightly healthier than Ian's version, but pretty boring).  We bought the fish whole so Ian got to learn how to gut a fish and I got to take photos of the heads to scare my friend with!

This lasagne was made using ricotta instead of cheese sauce and mushrooms in place of meat.  It wasn't bad but the ricotta didn't melt very nicely and so it was all gloopy.  Probably wouldn't have this one again.

We used a tikka masalla curry paste to make this prawn, pea and tomato curry.  The best bits were the chunks of tomatoes but there weren't many of those cos they all disintegrated.  I think I'd prefer this more if we used chicken (mainly because I think the prawn flavour isn't strong enough to come through once you add the curry paste).


Ian made this chicken and mushroom stir fry.  It was pretty good, but I was having a nice nap and Ian woke me up when this was ready so I wasn't really awake and the mangetout was quite squeaky and hurt my head!

 This was indian spiced potatoes, but we left out the ginger and onion, and it was super garlicky.  I think it would have been better in a smaller portion with something else as opposed to an entire plateful of just this.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Owl old are you?

It was my birthday in January, and I finally decided to make the owl cupcakes that I'd been planning for a long long time.  I saw them here and because of my love of owls, I couldn't resist.  Unfortunately, the oreos were a disaster to work with - I had to try and get them in half cleanly to use for the eyes.  It was 8am in the morning, and I'd had enough - I didn't want to be fussing over these on my birthday.  

So... I made one, that looked like an owl, and I ditched the decoration on the others. I think American oreos are better made than English ones.  Either that or whoever made these cupcakes had far more patience than I did!

The best part of the day was that I got to use my cupcake stand - and it really made the whole thing feel that much more special!

I also hosted a nacho party - because I love nachos, and I love spending time with friends.  Last year, my birthday seemed to go by without any sort of celebration so my main aim for this year was to make sure I had some photos.  So, here is one - showing off my fabulous lazy susan that I've had for about 3 years and never used!

Monday, 14 March 2011

I'm back!

I've been quiet for a little while, no good reason really, I can only apologise and hope that you all haven't lost interest.

The longer you stay away from a blog, the harder it is to come back - you start feeling overwhelmed by all the things you've been doing that you want to blog about, and it's easier to go and do new things instead, but then you're just adding to the blog backlog and then there's guilt.  

Making the first post after a while is really hard - what do you write about to welcome back your blog - do you try and put all the things you've done in chronological order so it makes sense? Or do you pick your best topic and blog about that?

I'm going for both!

Back in January, our friend PG turned 30 and we used this as an excuse to do some extreme cake construction. We'd been looking for more things to do as a group at weekends, so making a bridge out of cake seemed like a good opportunity. 

We even drew out a plan for it, that's how geeky we are.   
Don't worry - the avocado was for something else!
Ian and I went shopping for supplies with my mum on the Saturday, I got up nice and early to bake the cakes and then we all got together in my dining room/kitchen to construct the bridge. 

We thought it best not to attempt to make a specific bridge, pulling it off well would be too difficult. We instead went for a 'cake bridge', where all bits were either cake or sweets. We had Swiss rolls for the uprights, strawberry pencils for the supports, cupcakes for the tops of the towers, melted chocolate for the road, with mini marshmallow white lines. The main part of the cake was to sit on a board, that was then supported above a larger board using cadburys mini rolls. 

We added extra little details -  a green bus and some cars to the road, lollipop street lights, and even little haribo people and a monkey that we pretended was king kong at the top of a cupcake tower. 

The bridge was a bit wobbly, but it looked pretty epic, and our friend was speechless when he saw it, I think it was kind of a crazy thing to find waiting for you at a tea break at work!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The difference a year makes

Last Christmas I made a cottage pie for Christmas eve, ready for when my family arrived.  This time, we were spending Christmas just the two of us, but I still managed to crack out the cottage pie after boxing day when my family came for Christmas number two! Last year, my eldest niece ate the cottage pie, peas and all - this year there was a lot of effort to get her to eat it.  My youngest niece was the harder of the pair to get to eat it last year but this year she happily ate it all and had seconds.  It's crazy the difference a year makes!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Every year Ian and I put together some marzipan fruits for my marzipan loving aunt.  This year, I thought it was about time my nieces had a go at it, so we coloured all the marzipan in advance, and set about showing them how to make the fruits.  Some fell on the floor, but most of it ended up as fruits - I think we kept them occupied for at least 20 minutes before they decided they wanted to be more creative and do their own thing.  You'll notice in amongst the fruit, there is a face, a penguin, a couple of lollipops, a frog...

...and my sisters effort, a caterpillar.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Christmas Pizza

In the run up to Christmas, you can end up having the same turkey dinner over and over again and by the time it gets to the big day, you're fed up.  Enter the Christmas pizza, the ingenious idea from our Basingstoke friends, DL and PG.  Our friends moved into their new house quite possibly years ago, and this was finally our invite round to their house.  I must say, it was a lovely house, and a great evening, made superb by the pizza.

They let me take pictures of each stage, and I even helped make one - that's how wonderful I am!

You can make your own base, but the packet mixes are pretty good, and a good time saver.  DL and PG roll the edge, I assume that's important! 

The tomato sauce of a normal pizza gets ditched in favour of the much better marscapone sauce (add a bit of milk to make it spreadable).  DL didn't see me go to take this photo, so just ignore that bit of turkey there! (It's like a sneak preview)

Next add sliced turkey - if you're eating with PG, you need to be generous with the meat - I got told off for leaving gaps. 

The other toppings are paxo stuffing, a pig in blanket, and some mozarella cheese.  Doesn't it look gorgeous? You'll notice there's only stuffing on one half - that's because it's sage and onion stuffing and Ian is fussy remember!

And here it is all cooked and ready to eat - we ate lots, and it was amazing - I think this might have to happen every year!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Dinner with Friends

Before Christmas we had some friends over for dinner.  It was mid week, so we wanted to keep the meal simple as we'd be cooking straight after getting in from work.  I was going to make my sweetcorn fritter batter up while Ian started on the cherry coke duck, and then he'd make that along with deep fried mozarella, while I chatted to our friends.  Unfortunately, when shopping the day before, Ian neglected to mention that he'd need redcurrant jelly and so I had to dash to tescos to get some, while he took over all the cooking.  All I managed to do to help in the end was line up the plates with salad ready to have the starters laid on top.  And I think it makes for quite a cute picture.

I usually make the fritters smallish, but I clearly didn't tell Ian this, because he made one mahoosive fritter per person! Check out the size of them!

The difference in the mozarella breading is because Ian wanted to experiment with adding paprika to the flour.  We couldn't really tell the difference, but it didn't make them bad - I couldn't tell you which was better.  

You may wish to pop back to the previous cherry coke duck picture first, before looking at the next picture, see if you can play spot the difference.  Ian decided to cook the cherry coke down slightly more this time, so that it turned pretty much to toffee! He said he really enjoyed it, but I think it totally overpowered the duck, and I was really disappointed.  I told him off for altering something I'd specifically chosen to share with friends because it was so good, and making stuff just for his own taste.  He's good at that.- naughty Ian!

For dessert, we cheated and had lemon cheesecakes from Fru.  Very very yummy and much easier than attempting our own dessert. 

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Sticky Pork

The problem with me posting about the yummy stuff Ian cooks me, is that I generally don't have a recipe for what he's cooked, sometimes because he hasn't told me, but generally because he makes it up as he goes! 

But this time, he cooked from one of my good food magazines, so I can actually link to the recipe.  He skipped the couscous part (he's not a fan), and left out the mustard.  Actually, looking at the recipe, I'm pretty sure we didn't buy any orange juice, and I remember him telling me that he added redcurrant jelly or cranberry sauce, so I guess the recipe isn't much help! I know he cut down on the honey because I'm not a big fan of the taste of honey.  

The end result was de-lish! You might also have noticed that we have a bit of a thing for mangetout cooked to death in butter.  It's really good, but I have a feeling we might have to scrap it in the New Year diets - boooo!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Cooking Wednesdays - The Last of 2010

My last cooking wednesday happened in November - after that, all routine disappeared it seems.  My plan was to cook toad in the hole.

And here it is!

What? It doesn't look like toad in the hole? Well, that's because we couldn't be bothered! Instead, we got out Ian's new toaster, and christened it!

Here it is on it's first heating (bread free to get rid of the funny smell).

And afterwards, with our toast. It's really cool having my own knob, set to how I like it, and knowing that it will still be on the same setting when I get back.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Cooking Wednesdays - Damn This Morning!

I love daytime telly, especially This Morning, but obviously being at work all day doesn't allow me to watch it.  But, they recently decided to do some weekend programmes, with highlights from the week and a few extra bits too, so I caught one of these back in November when Gina D'Acampo was making a pasta bake.  I decided it looked good, so set about making it that week for my cooking wednesdays.  It was epically huge, I probably should have halved the recipe, but instead ended up with tonnes of pasta.  I quite liked it, although it was definitely the wrong ratio with way more pasta than the meat could cope with.  My mum ate it, and I ate it, but Ian just picked at it, and then refused to eat anymore than the mozarella cheesy bit.  This opened a big can of worms about how he never eats the food I cook, and he told me he didn't even like pasta.  I did wonder what he thought was in a pasta bake and why he didn't stop me from making it, but I was more concerned by him telling me he doesn't like chilli - the dish I make quite a lot! So fussy! 

So, because of Ian not liking/eating it, this is being labelled a disaster, even though I'd say it was perfectly edible, and not that bad really.  

Monday, 10 January 2011

Cherry Coke Duck

I don't like coke.  I don't like cherry flavouring (I love cherries).  I do like duck.  But I was a little worried about Ian's choice of meal back in December when he told me about it.  

But, because I love him (and because he doesn't listen to me anyhow), he made it, and it was........ YUMMY! 

It was really good, it didn't taste horrible like coke at all and the duck was nice and tender and it even looks good! 

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Work Cake Bake Off

Back in November was the work cake bake off again.  You might remember me saying last time here that I wasn't going to take part again - but I solved the organisation problem this year, by being on the organising team! It was hard work, but we raised over £300 for charity, and managed to announce the winner the same day.

I like to try a new recipe each time, so this year I went for a simple apple traybake (traybakes are easy to cut, and feed more people - more people = more votes!) and a white chocolate spotty traybake.

The apple cake didn't seem to have the correct ratio of apple to batter - I struggled to cover the apples, but it turned out alright.  I think it would be better hot with ice cream though.

The white chocolate spotty cake used yogurt in the frosting, and that made it less chocolatey, more yogurty but as a whole cake, it worked quite nicely.  It won me third place which is good! (Please don't look too carefully at the OCD ordering of the smarties).

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Mint Chocolate Souffles - at last!

A long long time ago (no, this isn't the start of a fairy tale), I promised Ian I would make him a souffle.  I don't remember when, I don't remember why.  I do remember never doing it!

So back in October - yes, I know that was pretty much three months ago - I randomly started about making some.  I found a recipe online here but Ian wanted a mint chocolate souffle, so I used some minty chocolate to make it.

It was surprisingly easy to make - although Ian's one had a big hole in it (so was mainly air - oops, good job I made more than two!)

But they look good don't they!