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


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!


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.

Preparations are under way

This last week since we came home from our lovely holiday has been all about preparations. Mainly, preparations for a little party as our gorgeous Monkey turns 4 this weekend! I will write a more specific post about our gorgeous boy but for now I can’t believe I have been a mummy for 4 years! This weekend we are celebrating. After a lot of uhhming and ahing about what we should do, we decided on a fairly simple and small party at the local community centre with some of his closest friends. We are having a pirate theme as he loves pirates and we have some really simple activities planned that I hope go well. I have spent a good chunk of this week getting ready for said party. I have party bags and favours and sweets and I need to wrap up a pass the parcel game.WP_20160519_13_47_40_Pro

Even LM has gotten involved in the preparations today by “helping” me bake Monkey’s birthday cake. By this I mean she had a great time getting in a good old mess with flour and sugar while I baked as she isn’t really much of a help at the moment.lM baking

There is still quite a bit to sort even for our “simple, low-key” party so I am glad we didn’t try and plan anything more extravagant. Monkey is so looking forward to his party though, which is why we are doing one, and I really hope he enjoys it and it all goes off without a hitch.

WP_20160519_13_51_39_ProThere have been other preparations also underway this week. A while ago Hubs dislocated his knee, and after an MRI scan and hospital visits we discovered it was due to some torn cartilage which would need an operation to repair. We didn’t know when this would happen but suddenly received a call this week with a cancellation meaning he would have his operation next Thursday! It is good to get it out of the way but we have had to cancel and rearrange a few things and have been getting ready for that really. Reading up on the procedure and what the recovery will mean etc. Hopefully it on’t be too bad as it is pretty minor surgery really, but I am nervous as to how it will go and how much less he will be able to do with the kids for a bit. Only time will tell I guess!

Anyway back to the party prep for me. How has your week been?

The Reading Residence

Our Easter 2016

For me the best thing about easter isn’t the chocolate, it’s spending time with family and celebrating the arrival of spring by spending a lot of time outdoors. So that is primarily what our our Easter has been all about… With a few treats thrown in.

After all the illness we’ve had lately with both kids having chicken pox, and Monkey and I suffering with tummy bugs we were a bit worried it was going to be a bit of a washout but thankfully we were all miraculously well and able to enjoy the weekend.

We kicked off with a day out with my family to one of my favourite National Trust places, Belton House near Grantham. The weather was incredible and we had a wonderful day.PhotoGrid_1459082245077

It was seriously busy and sadly my older brother and his wife got stuck in traffic getting in, but they did eventually arrive and even though it was so so so busy, because it is such a huge site it didn’t feel too busy. Other than the queues for the restaurants! We were pretty lucky in that I had been to the play and ride cafe as soon as we arrived and got a timed ticket to get in, then a big enough table vacated as soon as we walked in which was really fortunate.

We had plenty of space to explore, climb trees, run around chasing bubbles and playing aeroplanes. We sat and had ice cream in the sun and partially completed the easter hunt, though gave up when we saw that the queue to collect the egg afterwards was absolutely ginormous and in our mind the chocolate wasn’t worth the queue!PhotoGrid_1459088128180

Oh and yes the place is seriously stunning so I had to get some pretty shots too.PhotoGrid_1459088344946

That night my aunt, who had come up from London for Easter, stayed with us and we had a lovely evening. The next day we took her to the local farm that we are members of. It could not have been a more different day weather wise and was windy and bitterly cold! Still we had a lot of fun completing the easter hunt there and we even met the easter bunny! Not that the kids were too sure about him haha. We had a bit of fun in the soft play then headed home for lunch.PhotoGrid_1459085468261

After lunch it was time for a bit of a team effort making some easter nests. It’s a proper easter tradition for us and the first year LM could take part, though she was shattered and needed to go for a nap before we had finished. Monkey really enjoyed it though.PhotoGrid_1459085584186

While LM slept that afternoon Monkey had some fun with some of the crafts and activities pound land kindly sent us to try out, and I was very grateful for something to keep him busy as I was shattered! We had already done some of the other crafts earlier in the week and I was impressed at all they have for a pound! *PhotoGrid_1459168415696

Easter Sunday itself was a bit more of a normal day for us. We went swimming in the morning and then our neighbour popped in with her kiddies for a bit. After lunch we did a the other of our Easter traditions and we put on a little easter hunt for the kiddies. Because Monkey loves treasure maps I made a simple map of the back garden and made a trail for him to follow before having to dig for his treasure! He loved it!PhotoGrid_1459085831382

LM sort of went along for the ride but didn’t really get what was going on I don’t think!

After LM’s nap that afternoon we headed over to hubs’ brother Andy’s house for a roast to celebrate his birthday and easter. It was lovely to get together all of hubs’ family too and we had a lovely time. Hubs bought his brother some star wars lego which the boys all had great fun building that. LM had fun with all of her relatives too and very much enjoyed a ride in Aunty Julie’s wheelchair while she rested having cooked us all a yummy roast.PhotoGrid_1459104159966

Monday was the most relaxed day of all and we pottered in the morning and made a roast for lunch. My little brother aka Uncle Marky joined us (sadly Aunty Fran was poorly and missed out) and played with kiddies and had a good catch up. More like a normal Sunday I guess, with laundry and little jobs that needed doing etc. Just what we needed after a busy few days.

I’m painting a picture here that is filled with sunshine and smiles and to a certain extent it is true and we have had a happy weekend. But it has also been difficult with toddler tantrums from LM and major threenager meltdowns from Monkey. They have been overexcited over tired and over chocolated (not a word I know but seems to fit :)). We barely buy any treats (only for the nest making and treasure hunt) but our lucky kiddies have lots of adoring family who have given them lots of treats. I have drafted a post about the over commercialisation of Easter (as I was having a rant moment) but I am not sure about sharing it. I am instead choosing to remember the happy moments of a lovely easter spent with our lovely my.

I hope you had a wonderful easter too.

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Life Unexpected
*Poundland provided the craft materials free of charge for our use over Easter. 

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!)


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!


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!

The Reading ResidenceWeaning Wednesdays Linky

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.


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!

Tasty Tuesdays on

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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!


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.


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!


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

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