Super simple chocolate fudge recipe

I wasn’t sure what on earth to get for Monkey’s Teacher and Teaching Assistants for Christmas this year. It’s our first foray into presents for teachers and to be honest I didn’t want to spend too much money or time on them, but I still wanted to give them something nice. Having seen lots of seemingly simple recipes around for homemade fudge, I decided to give it ago. I’ve typed it up below as mine are a bit of a variation on some others I saw, and ooh they are scrummy.photogrid_1481736987541

I made two, a white chocolate and cranberry fudge and a minty white chocolate fudge. The first part of the recipe is identical then you add flavours later.

Chocolate Fudge ingredients

397g Tin of Condensed Milk
550g White chocolate, broken into small pieces
40g Icing Sugar (sieved)
For the minty version
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Handful milk chocolate chips (to sprinkle on top)
For the cranberry version
1/2 cup of dried cranberries

Method

Line a baking tray (deep ones work best) with greaseproof paper.

Melt the chocolate and condensed milk. I did this on the hob in a Pyrex dish over boiling water, but you can do it in a microwave, if you do it in 10-20s bursts. With both methods stir well throughout.

Once melted take off the hob and add the sieved icing sugar. Mix well (you can use an electric mixer).

Add other ingredients of your choosing (peppermint extract, or cranberries, or nuts etc) and again stir well.

Pour the mixture into your lined tray and spread evenly. For the minty version this is where I added chocolate chips and gently pressed them in for the topping.

Refrigerate for 3-4 hours at least.

Take out and cut as desired. Our tray was quite long which meant the fudge wasn’t very deep but I got at least 30 bite sized chunks from each, though it would depend on the size of baking tray you use and how big you cut them up!

So easy and so tasty!

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How NOT to make a Paw Patrol Lookout Cake

So your kids have asked you to make a Paw Patrol Lookout cake, or you have decided to try it yourself and that has led you here. Fear not I have been there and basically failed first, so you can learn from my mistakes as I share my wisdom and experience about how not to make a Paw Patrol Lookout cake.paw-patrol-cake

My first piece of advice. Just don’t do it. Don’t even attempt it. No matter how much your kids beg, whine, plead, cry etc. Just say no. Continue reading

Baking with our new bowl from House of Fraser

With the recent start of the new GBBO series, baking season is in full swing. We love baking in our house and it’s great to be inspired watching the brilliant bakers… Even if that isn’t so great for our waistlines! The kids love baking too, especially Monkey, so it is often a family affair in our house. Which is why I was super excited to receive this gorgeous new bowl from House of Fraser recently and couldn’t wait to try it out. 20160826_092723

The design is gorgeous, with a real country kitchen feel. Apparently Hubs’ Nana had a similar one growing up, and I’m sure mine did too actually so it conjures up lots of memories of yummy smells and delicious food. I’m sure I saw a very similar one in the Bake Off tent recently too!

The kids and I put it to the test with a simple biscuit recipe from the Queen of Bake Off herself, Mary Berry. As LM is mainly in a play and explore mode she had her own little bowl of ingredients to,  erm,  have fun with, while Monkey and I got on with the serious baking in our gorgeous new bowl. PhotoGrid_1473080336913

The bowl was perfect and once the dough was ready I rolled it out and the kids helped make some biscuits in the shape of stars and, um, stormtroopers. Haha, probably not quite the shape Mary Berry had in mind when creating this recipe! PhotoGrid_1473080736068

Once they had baked it was time to decorate with simple water icing and sprinkles. I was pleasantly surprised how LM did with the sprinkles actually and some actually made their way into the biscuits! By this point Monkey was far more interested in eating the ingredients than helping any more!PhotoGrid_1473081094949

I love baking with the kids but it can seriously stress me out at times too trying to actually end up with something edible by the end haha. Hence keeping it simple with the recipe, but don’t be fooled by the seemingly perfect serene images, I was definitely irritable by the end. The clean up too, argh! 20160902_104008

One of my favourite things about our new bowl though is that it can be washed in the dishwasher! Hooray! That is such a must for me these days. Even though Monkey had basically licked it clean it went in the dishwasher with all the other bits meaning I could give the kitchen itself a good clean up without leaving the kids to their own devices for too long.

Thanks House of Fraser, our new bowl is the perfect addition to our kitchen!

Disclosure: we received this bowl foc in exchange for this review, however all thoughts, opinions and images are my own.

Lots of cooking and baking

My word of the week this week is “cooking” as I seem to have spent a lot of time cooking and baking lately! Mainly food for LM as we continue her weaning journey and I am looking for easy freezable finger foods I can take out and about with us or just have readily availble at home so there is not a huge amount of prep at every mealtime.

So, in the last week or so I have tried the following new recipes: salmon croquettes, cheesy flapjacks, carrot muffins (which I made correctly this time after forgetting to add the butter the first time, d’oh!), meatloaf, and an apple oat cake plus the usual things for us to eat like a big batch of carrot and honey soup, sausage carbonara, sweetcorn fritters etc etc. (I have intended to share these recipes on here for some time but never get round to writing the posts!)

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Carrot muffins, cheesy flapjacks and carrot soup, the fruits of one morning’s labours!

 

Most of the new recipes have come from the baby-led weaning cookbook and I am afraid to say that so far I have not been that impressed with them. The exception to this is the salmon croquettes as even I don’t mind those and I am not a big fish fan. The carrot muffins aren’t terrible but the cheesy flapjacks are just odd and I’m not that keen on the oat cake either (Icooked it for 15 mins longer than it says but still is soggy in the middle, is it supposed to be like that?). I suppose the meatloaf wasn’t terrible either but it wasn’t exactly delicious.

Difficult as of course recipes for babies do tend to be a little more bland as they contain much less salt or sugar than we would usually use. Having said that though, the sweetcorn fritters are based on an Annabel Karmel recipe (just with the addition of a few more veggies) and they are lovely, as are many of the other things we have tried from her cookbook so I don’t think that recipes suitable for babies necessarily have to be bland.

It’s a shame to be spending so much time and effort in the kitchen and being disappointed with the results to be honest! Thankfully because at least 50% of the food I have made this week are tried and trusted recipes, they are lovely but it’s a shame none but one (the salmon croquettes) of the new recipes from the weaning book are going to be added to our repertoire I don’t think… I’m not even sure how to tweak them to improve them… as I’m not sure they are worth the effort!

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the slightly soggy centred oat cake

Monkey has enjoyed helping me cook and bake though so it is always nice to have him in the kitchen with me helping weigh out and mix ingredients. The low point though was when trying to do some with LM awake and eating/playing in her high chair in the kitchen with us. She wasn’t having any of it so I ended up holding her in one arm & balancing her on my hip, while hastily whizzing some fruit, greasing a pan, stirring the mixture (with Monkey’s help), filling the pan and putting it in the oven. It is blimmin amazing the things you can accomplish with one hand when you have to, but my goodness it makes it hard work!!

The kids are enjoying the oat cake and it is full of goodness so I may not like it but at least they are!

WP_20150603_001The over-riding success of the week actually comes in the form of not a recipe exactly, but more of a cheat. I love Paprika Chicken at restaurants but we have never been able to recretae it at home, none of the recipes I have tried seem to have the right balance of seasoning. So when I saw some funky new pre-seasoned papers that you wrap the chicken in, I thought they had to be worth a try. And they were great!

This isn’t a sponsored post and I didn’t get them free to review, but we thought they were lovely, and so so easy.You wrap the chicken in the paper, and fry it in the pan. It’s that straightforward. The chicken was juicy and the flavour was yummy. So hooray for a success, I needed one!

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Chocolate Easter Nests

I remember making chocolate easter nests year after year as a child and it is a tradition we have carried on with Monkey, and will with LM as she gets older. It is such a great fun, quick, and easy make that kids of any age can join in with.

Easter Nests fun for all ages

Monkey did it first 2 years ago at about 10 mths old, then last year at just under 2 and again this year. He still needs quite a bit of help but I imagine he will less and less help as he gets older.

Continue reading

Monkey & Daddy Make: Basic Chocolate Biscuits

Monkey loves baking, he would do it every day if he could and I do love doing it with him but I don’t have the energy to do it with as much at the moment. Last weekend as we were having a bit of a quiet weekend I thought it was a good opportunity to try and do some with him. With 2 parents it meant one could bake with him while the other could look after LM.

Hubs loves baking, he was the one who got me interested in baking when we met and he really loves baking with Monkey. He has more patience than I do too so they are a great little team. So it was an easy decision for them to spend some time together and do some baking! one of Monkey’s favourite programmes at the moment is Bing Bunny and there is an episode where they make Ginger Bunny biscuits. He loves it so I wanted to find a recipe where you can roll it out and cut out shapes as most of our biscuit recipes are for just free-formed biscuits really. Neither hubs or I like gingerbread very much though so we though either a plain or chocolatey one would be great.

So I found this lovely, simple, recipe to make lovely simple chocolate biscuits.

225g Self raising Flour
100g Caster Sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
100g Margarine
5 tbsp Milk
A few drops of vanilla essence.

Pre-heat the oven to 190°C and grease 2 baking trays.

Mix the flour, sugar and cocoa in a bowel and rub in the margarine.

Add the milk and vanilla essence and mix in well. Bring together with your hands and knead lightly on a floured service. (Ours still felt really gooey at this point but soon firmed up with some kneading in the flour).

Roll out to a thickness of 0.5cm and cut shapes. The recipe we used 7.5cm rounds and baked the biscuits for 8 – 10 minutes. We gave Monkey the choice out of all of our cutters and ended up with Star and Rhombus biscuits and only baked ours for 7 minutes which was perfect.

Monkey is so good at baking now – a far cry from the early days where all he wanted was to eat the raw ingredients, even the flour, now he is so good at measuring everything out and so careful with it all, and only ate some of the dough when we said it was ok to.

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He was less keen on getting his hands really mucky when mixing the dough, but loved kneading it and helping daddy roll it out (he hasn’t got the hang of rolling it out himself yet).

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Then of course was the important job of cutting out the shapes ready to bake!

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You can decorate these biscuits however you like, the recipe used a Chocolate Glace Icing but we used some little icing tubes we already had in the cupboard and again I was pleased to see how precise he was. Even since the baking we did at Christmas he has got a lot more precise and was great at putting dots and patterns on the biscuits.

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The finished biscuits! Obviously Daddy helped with some of the patterns but Monkey did a lot of them by himself.

These chocolate biscuits are super quick and simple to make although obviously baking them with a toddler takes a little longer but just adds to the fun. Monkey adored making these with daddy and actually they were really, really tasty!

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Mini Creations

Simple Christmas Baking with a Toddler

Monkey loves helping to cook at the moment. He loves putting his pinny and on and it is generally Daddy who he helps in the kitchen while I am looking after Little Miss. They have done all sorts, Monkey is learning to peel and chop vegetables and he is fascinated by “fire” (the hob) though he knows to stay well back from it, and the oven. He just wants to “have a look see!”

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Plum & Blackberry Crumble & a Plum-Picking Adventure!

We have a lovely little ‘pick your own’ farm a really short distance from where we live. I vaguely remember going as a child to pick strawberries and had planned on taking Monkey to pick strawberries, but alas we missed the season this year. My neighbour went though and also went recently and said they had the most delicious plums! Plums aren’t a fruit regularly eaten in our house but my neighbour really wanted Monkey and I to join her and her kiddies on a pick your own expedition, and I thought Monkey would enjoy it so off we went.

Monkey absolutely loved it at the farm, so many open spaces to run about bless him and he just kept running around shouting “Berry, berry, berry!” lol. He was quite helpful with picking the plums, although he also tried picking some very underripe ones, and some less than lovely looking ones off the floor! He did try though!

plums

I didn’t realise they also had blackberry bushes and we love a blackberry crumble in our house so we picked some of those too. I was worried he would hurt himself on the thorns but he managed really well and actually tried to eat some of the blackberries and plums, though he isn’t very good with fresh fruit and pretty much spat it all out.

blackberries

We then had a play on their fabulous play park before we headed home. It was a lovely place and we will definitely go fruit picking there again!

playground

I wasn’t sure what to do with the fruit to start with as neither hubby or Monkey are big fans of fresh fruit, and I don’t really have the energy to make anything complicated. So it didn’t take long for me to decide to make a Plum & Blackberry crumble. I love making crumbles mainly because they are so easy to make, are absolutely yummy and get some fruit inside us (albeit with a lot of sugar involved!)

Here is our recipe for a lovely crumble. My fruit measurements are very vague and can be interchangeable with a lot of fruits. I originally used this recipe to make a rhubarb crumble, though with rhubarb you also need 50ml of water, which I left out in this case as the plums were so juicy in themselves!

Plum & Blackberry Crumble Ingredients

WP_20140816_19_15_38_Pro500g Fruit – in this case Plums & Blackberries – chopped/sliced thinly
100g Caster Sugar
100g Wholemeal Flour (can use plain)
100g Rolled Oats (Porridge oats)
100g Butter (we use unsalted)
125g Demerara Sugar

Plum & Blackberry Crumble Method

Preheat the oven to 180°

Place the chopped into fruit in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the Caster Sugar (and water if necessary i.e with rhubarb)

Put the Flour, Oats and Demerara Sugar in a separate bowl. Add the butter and mix in with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. It is ok if there are a few lumpy bits.

Sprinkle crumble mixture over the fruit as evenly as possible, and don’t pat down too much.

Bake for 35- 40 mins or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.

Plum & Blackberry Crumble

Serve with custard, or a good dollop of ice cream!

Plum & Blackberry Crumble

Family Friday

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Link up your recipe of the week

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My Birthday Cake

Yes, I made my own birthday cake. Before I go any further I will say that my lovely hubby did offer to make it, or we could have bought one, but I said no. I wanted to make my birthday cake, and I will tell you why.

Regular readers will know that I recently went to a cake decorating masterclass with Cake Boss Buddy Valastro. At the class, I was basically just having a bit of fun and the cake I decorated was a right mess if truth be told! When we left we were given a decorating set from the Cake Boss range, and I decided that I would like to decorate my birthday cake, using the set. Partly to make use of the set, and partly to prove to myself (and the world) that I am capable of decorating a cake slightly better than the one I did at the masterclass!

We were having a birthday BBQ on the Saturday after my birthday, so on Friday, Monkey and I did a lot of baking. Or at least, I did a lot of baking while he basically ate quite a lot of butter and sugar. He was happily occupied at least!

I made a huge batch of cake mix, all following a very simple recipe. To make a fairly small batch (for 12 cupcakes or a fairly thin layer of sponge) you would follow this recipe.

4oz Self Raising Flour
1 tsp baking powder
4oz soft Marge or butter (I use Stork)
4oz Caster Sugar
2 Large eggs
2-3 drops Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 170°C

Put all in a bowl and whisk with electric whisk until smooth and light. (Yep it is THAT simple!)

Bake 30 mins for cake, or 25 mins for cupcakes. Should be golden and bounce back if pressed gently in the middle) 

I made 4 times that amount, made a huge cake, in two layers, and 24 cupcakes.

Then I made lots of lovely buttercream icing, using this recipe: (I made a double batch for my cake and cupcakes)

110g Unsalted Butter at room temperature
60ml Semi-skimmed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
500g sifted Icing sugar

Beat the butter, milk, vanilla extract and half the icing sugar until smooth – can take several minutes with an electric hand mixer.

Gradually add the remaining icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.

If you want different colours – your best bet is to add gel food colouring otherwise the consistency gets a lot sloppier and harder to work with.

On Friday night I dirty iced the cake (or applied a ‘crumb coat’) ready for some fondant. Now I didn’t do quite as cake boss would recommend. I didn’t trim the cake to make it flat (I did plan to cut off the tops of the sponge, but it felt too much like a waste of cake!) and I don’t really have the smoothing tools he mentions in his book. I did pipe the icing onto the cake before spreading with a spatula though, and I have to say that was much easier. Normally i am dragging it all over the place and there is crumbs sticking to the icing everywhere, and it basically looks a bit rubbish. Piping the buttercream onto the cake, and then spreading with a spatula, worked a LOT better!

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I made some different coloured buttercream for decorating the cupcakes and used a couple of the tips we already had for piping the decorations on. It started off quite well, and I was really pleased with myself.

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Then somehow, it went wrong. I know they say a bad workman always blames his tools but honestly something went weird with the piping tips. I used exactly the same technique from moments before, but they went from looking like this…

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to this…

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What? How? Oh I don’t know, but they look like I suddenly got drunk while piping, and well, as I am 3 months pregnant, I don’t think that happened. Anyway, hey ho, they will all taste the same!

I had planned on finishing the cake on the Friday night too but this had annoyed me somewhat and by now I was tired and irritable and eventually conceded the point to hubby and agreed it may be more sensible to finish icing the cake the following morning!

Feeling fresh on Saturday I set about decorating my cake. Unlike at the masterclass where I just went all guns blazing with no clear idea in my head, this time I had a vague design idea.

I started with the white fondant, which seemed to go ok, although I did make a bit of a mess on the sides of the cake.

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Thankfully I planned on putting a thick band of icing round this bit, which will hide it but I managed to patch it up a little.

Then I cut some ribbons using the handy cutting tool from the set, and applied round the base of the cake (handily hiding my previous errors!).

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The set comes with lots of different shaped cutters, but I chose to just use the star shapes for my cake. So I cut out lots of stars in the different coloured fondant and applied to the cake.

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I don’t think I was very delicate with the stars as they look a little more like star fish than stars as they are all wavy, but they still look quite pretty! We’d bought some gel icing pens for writing on the cake with, so I had a little practice, and actually found them really easy to use!

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So Ouila! My Birthday Cake and cupcakes! Not perfect and my writing on the cake was a little wonky but overall I was quite pleased. I was pretty chuffed with them, and everyone said they tasted yummy, so a big success overall I think!

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I used the Cake Boss circus kit to make my birthday cake, which retails at £25.00. I received the kit free but all words and opinions are my own.

 

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Easter Fun 2014 – 23 Months old

Happy Easter!! Hope you have all had a lovely relaxed weekend so far and eaten lots of chocolate? No? Well there’s still time!

We’ve had lots of Easter fun so far this year!

We’ve made Easter Nests, Easter Cards and been on an Easter Hunt, and Monkey has loved every minute!

Easter Nests

There is obviously different ways of making easter nests but I like to use Shredded Wheat, as then they feel a bit more nest-y.

So we used:
1 pack of Shredded Wheat 16s
400g Belgian Milk Chocolate (we are a little in love with the Waitrose own brand Belgian Milk Chocolate at the mo – seriously, you should try it, yummy!!) We actually used a little less than this as I had scoffed some beforehand, but it would’ve been better if we had the whole bars!
Mini Eggs

Easter Nests

Basically you bash up the Shredded Wheat, Monkey helped with this, until it is really fine. I actually find using the end of a big rolling pin is the best bashing method! Lots of fun!!

Melt chocolate, we do it over the hob in a bowl over simmering water, but I hear microwaving is very easy too!

Mix, then scoop into cake cases, and add eggs.

Very simple, tasty chocolatey fun! :)

Easter Cards

After the success of Granny’s birthday card a couple of weeks ago, i thought we’d use a similar  method for Easter cards and involve monkey with some finger painting! The first time we tried unfortunately Monkey just mixed up the paint and we ended up with some murky brown splodges, he had fun, but not very attractive or easter themed!

We tried again at the weekend with some different colours and had much more success! Once the masterpieces had dried I cut them into egg shapes and stuck them onto some cards. Monkey finished them off with some lovely colouring! Easy peasy Easter cards!

Easter Cards

Easter Hunt

Because we would like to avoid too much of a sugar rush, we got some other bits in addition to eggs, to make this an Easter Hunt, rather than an Easter ‘Egg’ Hunt. I dotted the chicks and bunnies, signs and eggs around the front garden (the back garden still being mainly mud at the moment, with less places to hide them!) for Monkey to find. With the weather forecast for Easter Sunday a bit miserable we did the hunt on Saturday afternoon, in case it got rained off on Sunday!.

Monkey loved it, I mean it lasted about 5 minutes but he had lots of fun with all his bunnies and chicks, and putting them in his little basket. He obv loved eating the choccy eggs too!

Easter Hunt

I used to love Easter as a kid, Easter egg hunts, chocolate, but as an adult I didn’t really celebrate it much. Now we have a little man it is bringing the fun back again and I am loving all the Easter fun this year!

Have you had much fun over Easter?
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