Sunday, 30 November 2014

Christmas kindness advent

I recently read an article about the 'entitlement' culture that our children seem to be a part of.  The article went on to point out how we as parents have a tendency to fuel this entitlement culture. Whilst I understand what the author says and to some extent, I am guilty of it as well as a parent, the reality is also that our children live in a very different world to the one we did and it is a herculean task to take away all the commercialism and materialism out of their lives (at least in my opinion).  

So to balance it, I thought we could do something that teaches Lil Miss J to do things for others this holiday season and I'm hoping we can carry it through past the holiday season as well. 

A quick look at pinterest revealed loads of ideas and here is our version of the Kindness Advent (which will be opened alongside her 'Frozen' advent calendar - I know, I know!).  



We have some very simple ideas on there - some as simple as choosing books to donate to charity, buying some food and donating to the homeless shelter, writing a thank you letter to her teachers, leaving a treat for the postman etc.  The toughest task was slotting the activities based on our days' commitments in December.  There will be a certain degree of flexibility - but as long as we do one random act of kindness a day, we will have achieved what we wanted to out of this exercise. 

The idea is to focus her attention on doing things for others and realising that this in turn will bring her joy. 

This cost me nothing to make! The envelopes are school dinner money envelopes and I just stuck some printed images on them :) 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Flower cupcakes

So I have been on a blogging hiatus for over a year now.  Blogging fell by the wayside. Life and the universe got in the way - so on and so forth.  


In the last month or so, I joined a Whatsapp group with my school batchmates.  I don't get to spend a lot of time on it but I'm grateful to those on there that encouraged me to start blogging again.  

So I'm trying to start up again - let's hope it lasts!   I've always loved baking and most of what I bake is usually foolproof but icing and frosting - that's a whole different kettle of fish and not one I'm overtly comfortable with.  But having seen these flower cupcakes on facebook and pinterest, I thought I'd try them out to see how they turn out. 


Not too shabby for a first go!


For the vanilla cupcakes: -

1 cup self-raising flour (sifted)
1 cup sunflower oil
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius.  Prepare the cupcake tin with cupcake liners. 

2. In a bowl, whisk together the oil and sugar until well mixed. Add one egg at a time and whisk thoroughly.  Add vanilla extract and mix. 

3. Spoon in the flour and mix with a light hand. 

4. Using an icecream scoop or ladle, pour in the batter into the cupcake liners filling them about halfway. 

5.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes until a cake tested inserted in the middle comes out clean. 


For the buttercream: -

40 g butter
125 g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
15 ml milk

1. In a food processor, add in softened butter and icing sugar and beat using the whisk attachment. 

2. Add vanilla extract to the milk and pour whilst the food processor is on. 

3. Beat for 2 minutes until the icing is smooth. 

For the flowers: -

Mini marshmallows
Coloured sugar

1. Cut the mini marshmallows diagonnally. 

2. In a ziploc bag, pour in the coloured sugar.  Add the cut marshmallows to this sugar.  The sugar will stick to the sticky part of the marshmallow creating the "petals".

I didn't have any coloured sugar, so I made my own by putting some sugar in a ziploc bag and adding a few drops of food colouring and then mixing the sugar around. 


To assemble the cupcakes: -

1. Take a cupcake and spread a layer of buttercream on it.  The buttercream is only a glue for the marshmallows. 

2. Take out the marshmallows from the sugar and arrange the petals starting from the outside.  

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Oven fajitas

This is an awesome quick throw together kind of meal - perfect for when you've had a busy day at work and  need to get dinner on without much preparation.  I had fajita seasoning at home which I used but you can create  your own by following this recipe.

I didn't really follow any perfect quantities for this recipe but I'll try to put down some to give you an idea.

You could go vegetarian with this recipe if you prefer.  I have also made it with large portobello mushrooms instead of the chicken and it tastes just as good.


Ingredients

1.5 chicken breast cut into strips
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
1 large onion
150 g mushrooms
Handful coriander chopped
3 tsp smoked paprika
3 tsp fajita seasoning
Olive oil to mix
Salt to taste
1 lemon

To serve - tortillas, salsa and creme fraiche

Method

1. Cut all the vegetables into strips and halve the mushrooms.

2. Throw in the vegetables and chicken on to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

3.  Sprinke fajita seasoning and smoked paprika.  Add a glug of olive oil and some salt (if needed - this depends on how salty your fajita seasoning is).

4.  Give it all a good mix until all the vegetables and chicken are coated with the olive oil and seasoning mix.

5.  Bake in a hot oven at 180 degrees celsius for about 20 - 25 minutes

6.  When done, take out of the oven, sprinkle with coriander and give it a good squeeze of lemon.

7.  Roll up in a tortilla with salsa and creme fraiche and enjoy!  You can use sour cream if you prefer but i used low fat creme fraiche.


Monday, 17 June 2013

Black bean and avocado enchiladas

This is my first attempt at making enchiladas and even then I ended up making a vegan option but the flavour is so so good - and of course keeps me away from the cheese! 

The enchilada sauce is also made from scratch but it literally takes less than 10 minutes and is so easy to throw together. 

You can find the original recipe at Budget Bytes.

This is my version.  I made a few minor substitutions to include ingredients available in the UK and also to what was to hand at home.



Ingredients

Sauce
Plain white flour - 2 tbsp
Sunflower oil - 2 tbsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Water - 2 cups
Double concentrated tomato puree (available in a tube) - 3 oz.
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Garlic clove (minced) - 1 small
Cayenne pepper - 1/2 tsp (leave out if you don't like your sauce hot)
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Dark cooking chocolate - 4 little squares

Enchiladas
Black beans - 1 can drained
Avocado - 1 medium chopped (I use hass avocados as I think they have loads more flavour)
Tomato - 1 medium chopped
Frozen corn - 1/2 cup
Green onions - 2 stems
Coriander - one handful chopped
Salt - to taste
Flour Tortillas - 4 for a small oven dish.
Garlic clove (minced) - 1 small
Lemon juice - 1/2 a lemon


Method
Sauce 

1. In a sauce pan combine the sunflower oil, plain white flour, chilli powder and minced garlic. Cook over a medium flame until it starts to bubble.  Cook for two minutes. Add the water whilst whisking continuously.  Add the tomato puree, cayenne pepper, cumin powder, salt and chocolate squares.  Whisk together and heat on a medium flame until it comes to a simmer.  At this point the sauce will start to thicken.  Take off heat and set aside until you are ready to use it.


Enchiladas

1. In a bowl, combine the black beans, frozen corn, tomato, coriander, green onions, tomato, minced garlic, salt and lemon juice.  This is so good you could eat it straight from the bowl like a salad.

2. Coat an ovenproof dish with non-stick spray. Get your tortillas out and scoop in the filling and roll each tortilla. Place the tortillas so they are tightly packed in the ovenproof dish.

3. Pour the enchilada sauce so that all the tortillas are covered.

4. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 175 degrees celsius for about 25 minutes or until the edges start to bubble.  Take out  of the oven. Garnish with some coriander, dish up and enjoy!

These keep very well for lunch the next day!  This is a perfect meatless/vegan meal.  Try it - you won't be disappointed.


Saturday, 11 May 2013

Lemon and cranberry loaf

Now that spring has finally made an appearance, I find myself wanting to use all things citrusy.  I love the freshness that oranges and lemons exude especially when used in desserts.  

This recipe has nothing to it - it is so easy to throw together.  In fact, Lil Miss J came home one day with it from having baked it at the childminders and so I had to ask them how they made it.   So much flavour from such a simple recipe. 



Ingredients

Self-raising flour - 175 g 
Butter - 175 g 
Caster sugar - 175 g 
Eggs - 3
Dried sweetened cranberries - 1 handful 
Juice and zest of two lemons

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius. 

2. Sift flour and set aside. 

3. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  You can use an electric beater but we tend to hand beat it as my baking is always done with Lil Miss J who loves 'mixing'. 

4. Add one egg at a time and beat until incorporated.  

5. Lightly fold the flour in.  Add the juice and zest of two lemons and the cranberries. 

6. Pour into a loaf tin and bake at 180 degrees celsius for 40 to 50 minutes.  If the top is browning too quickly, you can cover it with silver foil.  

7.  Remove from oven and let cool in tin before turning it out on to a cooling rack.  When cool, cut into slices and serve. 

Enjoy :)

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Upcycled shoe rack

I've made one of these before and you can see it here. But this time, we went one step further and used the paintings that Lil Miss J makes at nursery to decorate the A4 paper boxes.  A fun afternoon activity and her shoes are all nice and tidy. 


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Spinach and cheese pie

I had been looking at a spinach pie recipe on Budget Bytes for ages.  Yesterday the craving hit an all time high so I proceeded to make it with whatever ingredients I had lying about!!! 

I love puff pastry - I know its not that good for you in terms of being healthy but what can I say - I do love it.  Combine it with spinach, mushrooms and feta which are some of my favourite ingredients and you're in food heaven!  

So here it is - a very simple to throw together meal.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.




Ingredients
Spinach (frozen cut) - 16 oz 
Mushrooms - 5-6 sliced thickly
Onion - 1 medium
Garlic clove - 1 
Nutmeg - 1/8 tsp
Feta cheese - 1/2 cup
Mozarella - 1/2 cup
Parmesan - 1/4 cup
Cayenne Pepper/Chilli powder (optional) - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Eggs - 3
Puff Pastry - 1 sheet (I bought the ready version)
Oil - 1 tbsp

Method
1. Thaw out your frozen spinach. Mix together the spinach (after you've squeezed out all the water), feta cheese, mozarella, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, cayenne pepper and salt. 

2. Chop the onion and garlic.  Take some oil in a pan.  Lightly saute the onion and garlic.  Add the mushrooms and quickly saute till they are just soft.  Add some salt and then add this to the spinach mixture.  

3. Check for seasoning and then add 2 eggs to the spinach mixture. 

4.  Roll your puff pastry out.  Then place the pastry in an ovenproof dish.  Spoon the filling in evenly and then fold over the pastry to cover the top.  I cut off some excess bits from the side to cover a gap that was left.  Break an egg and beat it up and brush over the top of the pastry to give it a nice glaze as it bakes in the oven. 

5.  Bake for 45 minutes at 160 degrees centigrade. 

6. Once done, take it out of the oven and leave for five minutes prior to cutting it up to serve. 


If you want to refer to the original recipe, you can find it here
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