Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Front Door and My New Life

My boyfriend and I have spent the last six months trying to buy a house. I say trying, because everything that could go wrong, did go wrong - between the vendors and our solicitor who equally appeared to dither, delay, they said they had sent things when they hadn't, and right before we exchanged it seemed like the vendors might have changed their minds (and on the day of completion, our solicitor got their bank details wrong so the money nearly didn't go through). That's not to mention the fact that the vendors drew out the process so much that our mortgage offer actually expired and we only secured an extension at the last minute.

Still, we persevered and had to push through the sale of my house, and ended up moving in with my boyfriend's mum for three weeks until our vendors were willing to complete on their sale. Everything went into storage - several times when I wanted to cook something, I realised the pan I needed was over at Big Yellow and it wasn't worth the trip to go and get it (not that I knew exactly which box it was in anyway!).

Finally we were able to move into our new house, which really is my dream home. It has four bedrooms, a double garage and is in a private mews road which has no through traffic so is perfect for my cat! Best of all though is the kitchen - a huge open plan area, with a modern induction hob, room for an American-style fridge-freezer (which we are going to order!), space for a dining table and there's a built-in a breakfast bar, where my boyfriend can sit and chat as I cook. The utility room just off the kitchen has more cupboards and will be the perfect place to store my baking and cake decorating equipment. I feel like the last six months have been a real slog, but worth it!

The vendors left the house in quite a state - every wall had holes and marks from pictures that had hung there for years, and we discovered that in some of the bedrooms, they had only carpeted as far as the furniture, so now they had taken the wardrobes, there are now huge sections of floor with no carpet and only grotty floorboards. So that's more money we have to spend.... but it does mean we can decorate the house how we want. We've only been there two days and we have already painted half our bedroom - it made sense to redecorate before we really unpacked.

One of the first things we did was change the front door locks of course - you never know who has keys - and bought a Yale lock from B&Q which was really easy to fit and only cost about £10. So we have security and peace of mind, even if we haven't unpacked yet.

So my front door - my brand new front door, to a house I have only lived in for two days - represents a whole new life for me and my boyfriend. It's our first home together, and has enough bedrooms that we can welcome friends and family to stay - and there is plenty of room if we decide to start a family of our own. My front door is really important to me, as it's a symbol of what I have worked so hard for and wanted for so long. At least, it will be once we have replaced the door, as I'm not keen on the stained-glass effect front - or the doorbell that plays the Lone Ranger theme tune!

This is my entry to the Yale Door blogging competition.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cute Kitten Birthday Card

Here's a cute birthday card I made for a female friend, using a piece of pretty pink backing paper and some raised puffy stickers of a cat and some flowers. I also added a 'birthday wishes' sticker that has pink wording on a clear background.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sweet Chilli Turkey Burgers

These sweet chilli turkey burgers are low fat and really zingy, they make a lovely change from a beefburger and are very easy to make.

Allow about 100-120g turkey mince per person. Mix the mince in a bowl with some chopped red onion, chopped spring onion, 1/2 tsp oregano per person and 1 tsp sweet chilli sauce per person. Combine well and shape into patties with your hands.

Place on a foil lined tray and cook in the oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve with rocket, and tomato if desired, in a crusty bread roll or burger bun.

I'm sending this to the Spice Trail Beach Barbecue Challenge, hosted by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Baby Boy Card

I made this card while a friend was pregnant before I knew whether she was expecting a boy or a girl; I made two cards and in the end this one was not needed! The embellishments were really cute and only cost 99p, I think from the Works - they are wooden and come with an adhesive pad already attached. I chose a piece of backing paper with birds that I thought would work well with the baby theme (they are not storks but not a million miles away) and used a silver outline border sticker to frame the backing paper, which I stuck in the middle of the card. I placed one of the baby embellishments in the middle and two more in the bottom corners, and a 'congratulations' silver outline sticker along the top. I've got this one ready now in case anyone else I know has a son!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

New Baby Girl Card

My friend Jane just had a baby, yay! I made a girl and a boy card in anticipation as I didn't know which she was going to have; it turned out that she had a daughter.

I went with the traditional pink theme and used a pink card blank, and cut a rectangle from a piece of printed backing paper that I thought would make a nice contrast. The swaddled baby, the small heart and the larger heart with the word 'baby' are made of wood, and all came from the same sticker pack. I think cards look nice where they are symmetrical and elements are within the lines but it can also look good to cross lines and borders, like I have done with the 'baby' heart which cuts through the border. The border itself is a silver outline sticker, as is the 'congratulations' word.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Restaurant Review: Hot Rocks, Bournemouth

The feeling of sand in your toes, sun warming your skin and the sound of the sea lapping at the shore can't be beat... especially when it's the middle of the week and you feel like you are playing truant from work. I was getting to the end of my tether with the house buying process (five months and counting, thanks to Mr and Mrs C, the most awkward people I've ever had to deal with) and decided I needed to get away from it all. Unfortunately, with the sale of my house imminent I can't go away on holiday, but I realised I had only taken one day off since I started my new job back in February and it was about time for some R&R. Hearing that a heatwave was forecast I decided there was no time like the present and booked the following day off work - and a train ticket to Bournemouth.

My boyfriend couldn't get any time off at such short notice but luckily one of my best friends is a supply teacher and didn't have any work on for the next day, so happily agreed to meet me in Bournemouth. We spent a lovely few hours on the beach, though the promised heatwave never materialised - it was quite cloudy and windy by the sea and I ended up at one point having to put clothes back on! The sun was strong nonetheless, as I discovered when I got home that evening and noticed the sunburn!

We didn't want to stray far from the beach at lunchtime but liked the idea of getting out of the wind for a bit so wakled back up to the promenade. There is a huge Harry Ramsden's on the beachfront but after eating in one in Brighton last year and not being especially impressed, I didn't want to go there.

We debated checking out the restaurant at the end of the pier but instead went to Hot Rocks, a large restaurant only a minute away on the promenade. It has a large outdoor seating area and a long queue inside, but we were told that the queue was people who were sitting outside having to order their food at the bar, whereas if we sat inside, we would have table service. Outside was pretty crowded anyway so we decided to sit inside.

The menu is fairly broad and in keeping with a "surf shack" theme, e.g. luau chicken, malibu ribs, big kahuna burger and shark island, which is a vegetarian patty on foaccia with stir-fried vegetables. Strangely, a lot of the dishes seemed to come with stir-fried vegtables and I'm sure it was even an optional topping in the burger!

I had a lovely non-alcoholic cocktail to drink and the big kahuna burger (without the stir-fried veg) but it was just too big - this is a meal and a half! The burger was quite dense and it came with three onion rings in the burger, and salad and chips on the side. I don't like wasting food (and normally have a big appetite) but left about a quarter of it, it was so filling!

My friend enjoyed the exotically-named luau chicken which was the rather less exotic chicken breast topped with bacon and BBQ sauce (and those stir-fried vegetables again!). I was expecting prices to be steep given the beach front location but thought the £11.95 for my burger and £10.95 for her chicken was pretty normal, until I remembered we weren't in London! I am so used to paying London prices that I forget other parts of the country are usually cheaper (a meal out with the whole of my immediate family in Wiltshire sometimes comes in at less than a meal for my boyfriend and I alone in London!). I was reminded of that when we paid for all day parking in a car park only a few minutes walk from the beach; I was expecting it to cost about £12 but in fact it was £4!

After our afternoon on the beach we walked through Bournemouth's Winter Gardens and I spotted one of my favourite activities as a child - crazy golf. I've played on this course countless times and usually won (whether I was good, or cheated, or my family let me win as I was the youngest, I'm not sure!). It's a traditional course where all the obstacles are made from rocks or wood or involve a bridge or tunnel - none of the clown faces and windmills you sometimes see. Needless to say, I won!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Banoffee Cupcakes in Edible Cake Cases

I'm not a fan of banana so I've never made banana bread or banana cupcakes other than these awesome Elvis cupcakes. But when Dr. Oetker sent me some of their newest products to try, including these banoffee sprinkles, I decided it was a great opportunity to make some banoffee cupcakes.

Banoffee Cupcakes - an original recipe by Caroline Makes

75g butter

100g caster sugar

1 egg

2 soft bananas, mashed

100g self-raising flour

3 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla flavouring or a few twists of Dr. Oetker Madagascan Vanilla from the grinder

for the filling:

397g tin Carnation Caramel (or similar dulce de leche)

for the frosting:

100g butter, softened

200g icing sugar

Dr. Oetker edible cupcake cases (optional)

Preheat oven to 175C.

Cream the butter and the sugar then beat in the egg and the mashed bananas.

Fold in the flour then the milk and either the vanilla flavouring or vanilla from the grinder. Dr. Oetker included this among the products they sent me to review. It costs £4.99 (though is currently on offer at Tesco for £3.74) which seems a lot compared to the liquid vanilla flavourings which you can get for about £1, but this is good quality Madagascan vanilla and thanks to the grinder, a little goes a long way - and it stays fresh as it isn't ground until you need it. The little jar also looks very smart so I think this is definitely something to treat yourself to.

I had been hoping to review the new edible cupcake cases from Dr. Oetker but they had run out at the time so I bought these myself in Asda. They are quite expensive - £2.49 for only 6, whereas the standard Dr. Oetker cases are £1.49 for 50. But I do highly recommend trying these - either if you are making a small batch (6 or 12) cupcakes, or to try a few as a treat and then you make the rest of the cupcakes in non-edible cases (as long as you remember which are which!).

The cupcakes come in pink and blue; they are quite large but fit comfortably in my muffin tin.

Spoon the cake mixture into the cases - I used 6 non-edible ones as well as these - until they are about two-thirds full, then bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.

Banoffee is of course banana and toffee; the banana is in the cake so I wanted to put some toffee (or rather caramel) in the middle. You can make your own, but to save time (and because it's just the right consistency) I used a tin of Carnation Caramel.

Using a teaspoon, carefully scoop a little out of the middle of each cupcake, and place a spoonful of caramel in the cavity, then replace the cake you have removed. Repeat for each cupcake. Of course, you need to wait until the cupcakes are cool before you do this.

I made some caramel buttercream to go on top. Carefully cream the softened butter and the icing sugar until you have a stiff buttercream, then add 2 tbsp of the leftover Carnation caramel (you should have plenty left). Mix well then pipe onto the cupcakes or swirl on with a palette knife.

Here are the banoffee sprinkles Dr. Oetker sent me - a mixture of yellow and brown in a convenient shaker tube. These cost £1.99 at Tesco (but also currently on offer at 2 for £3) which is a little more expensive than their regular sprinkles as these are from the premium collection. They will last a while though - I only used about a third of the packet on a dozen cupcakes.

Here's a cupcake complete with caramel buttercream and banoffee sprinkles, in an edible case.

It's really fun and quite an amazing feeling to bite into the cupcake without removing a paper case, and to eat a big chunk of cake, frosting and wafer case! The cases held up really well - I was worried they would go soggy from the raw cake mixture but they work perfectly. The sprinkles are a lovely touch as well - you could use them on banoffee pie or ice cream as well as on cupcakes.

Thanks to Dr. Oetker for sending the products to review. All opinions and words are my own.

I'm sending these to Tea Time Treats, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Janie at the Hedgecombers. The theme this month is picnics; you can take these on a picnic if you package them carefully in a small tupperware box and best of all, as you don't peel off the paper cases, there is no rubbish to leave behind! You could also make these if you were having a family staycation or picnic in the garden.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Strawberry Marshmallow Mousse

I had some strawberries that needed using up and had recently come across this recipe for strawberry mallow mousse on the Waitrose website so decided to give it a go. I left out the pistachios which are used as decoration. You can also use some extra strawberries for decoration if you like.

I made this for three people; you need:

200g strawberries

grated zest and juice of half an orange

20g caster sugar

125g marshmallows

200h fromage frais

Hull the strawberries and chop; place in a small saucepan with the orange zest, juice and sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved then simmer for up to ten minutes until the strawberries have softened.

Add the marshmallows and stir until melted.

I wanted my mousse to be smooth so I pulsed the mixture in a blender. Then leave to cool.

Fold in the fromage frais and spoon into three serving dishes. Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight until set.

The marshmallows definitely gave this a different texture to regular mousse; I'm not sure I was completely sold but it had a lovely zingy flavour and would make a nice summer dessert.

I'm sending this to the Biscuit Barrel challenge, hosted by Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than...., as her challenge this month is for no bake goodies.

Similarly the theme for Treat Petite, hosted by Stuart at Cakeyboi, is no bake.

Dead Easy Desserts, hosted this month by Slice of Me on behalf of Sarah at Maison Cupcake, is a challenge for recipes taking 30 minutes or less (not including the chilling time so that's OK) and the theme this month is strawberries.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Baby Shower Card

I made this card for a friend's baby shower. She didn't know if she was having a boy or a girl so I wanted to choose a neutral colour range and thought a lilac card would be pretty and that the green floral backing paper worked well with it. The embellishments come from a pack of baby stickers and the 'good luck' is a silver outline sticker.