Saturday, 20 June 2015

Quick Quesadillas

I made my first quesadillas and they were fab! Elizabeth especially loved them.


  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 cooked chicken breast
  • some chopped up cooked ham
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • about 50g grated cheddar cheese
Heat the oil in a frying pan and the chicken and ham on a low heat for a minute or two, then mix in the tomato puree and soy sauce. Cook for a further 2 minutes. 

  • If I was making the quesadillas for myself, I would also add some red pepper and sweetcorn. I would fry them at this stage until they were starting to soften.

In a separate frying pan, lay a flour tortilla in the base of the pan and top with the chicken mixture. Sprinkle over the cheese and top with the other tortilla.
Cover the pan with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for 12 minutes. Flip the tortilla over - I put a large plate over the pan, tipped it so that the tortilla was on the plate, then I slipped it back into the pan. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
Remove the tortilla from the pan, allow it to cook slightly, then slice it into wedges.

I served this up with some Cajun potato wedges - peel several large potatoes and slice them up into wedges. Mix them up with a table spoon of oil and some cajun seasoning. Cook in the oven at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes. Turn them over a few times to stop them from sticking to the baking tray.

Monday, 15 June 2015


I've had a bit of a break from updating while we've had sickness bugs, chicken pox, half term and general real life things going on.

I got two new recipe books for my birthday: Nigel Slater's Eat and Ella's Kitchen: The Red Cookbook. I've already tried a few recipes that I will do again and take photos because they are good!

A while back I added some pages to the blog, including a recipes page with links to all the recipes I've blogged.

I also have a few more days out with kids updates lined up to write about.

Meanwhile I'm always open to suggestions for things to try and I would love to hear what you think of the blog in general or of specific recipes.

Cookies and Mallow Chocolate Heaven Cake

Cookies and Mallow Chocolate Heaven Cake
The plan had been to make the best carrot cake in the world for my birthday. However after eating most of the original cake myself and having a good amount of the one I made for Jeff's mum, I wanted to try something else for my birthday.

The idea was for a cookies and cream cake. And I kid you not, I had a dream that I used the marshmallow icing and woke up thinking it was a wonderful idea!

I used recipes from the Primrose Bakery recipe book. For my first attempt, I used normal cake tins and made a two tier cake with icing in the middle and on the top. Second time round I thought I'd try out my Wilton Heart Cake Tins which I haven't used since the Candy Cake. I doubled up the cake recipe and made two batches of the icing to do it all. However, I think this cake is a little too soft and moist to hold it's shape with the heart insert. Plus it was gigantic!

Heart Insert
So here's the basic recipe for the two tiered cake I made.

Chocolate Cake
  • 115g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 85g unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs separated
  • 185g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp bicarb of soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 250ml semi skimmed milk at room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 170C (fan) and grease and line 2 cake tins.
Break the chocolate and break into pieces and melt. I use the microwave on 30 second blasts, the stir until it is completely melted. You can use a bowl over simmering water though.
In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and smooth.
In a separate bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg yolk for several minutes.
Slowly add the egg yolks to the creamed mixture and beat well. Next add the melted chocolate to the mixture and beat well.
Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a jug.
Add a third of the flour to the chocolate mixture, beat well.
Pour in a third of the milk and beat again. Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk have been added.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks start to form. Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter using a metal spoon.
Divide the mixture into the 2 cake tins.
Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean after being inserted in the centre of one of the cakes.
Leave them to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Peel the greaseproof paper from the bases of the cakes.

Marshmallow Icing
  • 120g granulated sugar
  • 80g golden syrup
  • 1 1/2 tbsp water
  • 2 large egg whites
Cook the sugar, syrup and water in a saucepan over a high heat until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (115C). This took a few minutes.
Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, in a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks start to form. With the blades still beating on a low speed, slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup in a steady stream on the egg whites.
Continue to beat on a low speed until all the hot syrup is in the mixing bowl.
Increase the speed to medium high and continue beating the mixture until it becomes thick, glossy and cool.

Spread a layer of this icing in between the two layers of cake and spread or pipe the rest on top.

Because I wanted this to be a cookies and cream cake, I added 6 crushed oreos on top of the first layer of icing. And I took out the centre of about 6 oreos and blitzed the biscuit then sprinkled it on top of the cake.
This is the basic 2 layered version
I would love to hear what you think of this cake. Please leave a comment.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Melsop Farm

Melsop Farm
We live about 3 miles away from Melsop Farm. We were lucky enough to go on a sunny day and spent the whole day there.

There's a farm, as you might expect, with a huge range of animals, many of which roam freely so you can pet them and feed them. The shop sells animal feed, I didn't buy any this time because the last time we went the girls were too scared to go that close to the animals. However this time they were really into it.

The farm also has indoor and outdoor play areas. You can pay to go to the play areas alone, the price for that is £4 per child over 2 plus £1 per adult. That is about the same amount you would pay for other soft play areas nearby. However the indoor play area is a little limited compared to others and I think if my 3 and 5 year old were only able to play indoors they would get bored fairly quickly. If it's nice enough to play outside then it's a bargain.

To visit the farm it costs £6 for children over 3, and £7 for adults. The play areas are included in that price. Again, compared to nearby attractions it's a fair price. It's well worth it if you stay for the whole day like we did!

The cafe is also worth a visit given that they use their own produce! It's not like some of the greasy cafe food you sometimes get in the soft play areas!

Here are some more photos from our recent visit.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake
I've never made carrot cake before, which is crazy because I love carrot cake! So I decided I would make one for my birthday, which is still ages away but I thought I should do some recipe testing before hand. I had envisioned working my way through several recipes giving marks out of ten etc. But I think I'm in love with this one! I cannot stop thinking about it. I want more! It is moist and tasty and the icing is light and fluffy.

The Cake
I followed the recipe from Lorraine Pascale's Baking Made Easy although I didn't want a big cake, so I reduced the quantities by two thirds to just make one of the three layers she has pictured. Which was a perfect amount. These are the quantities I used:
  • 175ml vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g soft dark brown sugar
  • 140g carrots peeled and grated
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 175g self raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180°C - I had my fan assisted oven on at 165°. Prepare a 23cm/9in round tin by oiling the insides and lining the bases with baking paper.
Put the oil, sugar, carrots and orange zest in a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon.
Mix the flour, salt, bicarb of soda and mixed spice together then sift into the bowl.
Add the vanilla and lightly mix everything together until the mixture is uniform but still soft and runny. Pour it into the tin and bake for about 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Leave it to cool for 5 minutes then turn it out onto a wire rack and peel off the paper.

The Icing
I basically followed the recipe for cream cheese buttercream in Karen Sullivan's Step by step cake decorating book. Again I changed the quantities for my own purposes.
  • 65g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 90g cream cheese
Cream the butter and vanilla together with an electric whisk. Add half of the icing sugar, beat well, then add the other half and beat it again.
Add the cream cheese, a little at a time, beating vigorously until fluffy.
The spread it over the cake and enjoy!

If you tried the carrot cake, let me know what you think. Leave a comment below.
Also, I'm always looking for new ideas for baking/cooking, if you have any suggestions, leave a comment!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Fit Families

Elizabeth's school has been taking part in a pilot project being run by the local council called "Fit Families". There were 6 sessions run at the school covering different aspects of keeping healthy e.g exercise, balanced diets and growing your own food.

The children each got a t-shirt, a folder with weekly homework tasks, and they came home with a Broad Bean Plant at the end of the 6 weeks.

Week 1 - Let's Get Active!
The NHS recommends that all children over 5 years need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
In the session at school we did lots of running, jumping, skipping, hopping activities and we were set homework for the half tern to keep a log of activities that we did. There was a Facebook page set up for us to share photos and we could win prizes for sharing photos and stories of our activities.
Our activities included playing Wii Fit, bike rides, walking around Gressenhall, playing at the park, soft play and an awesome obstacle course that I made in the house.

Week 2 - Let's Get Growing!
We believe there are similarities between a healthy child and a healthy plant! Both require good nutrition, fluids and sunlight to develop healthily and reach their full potential.
In the session in school we had a run around to get the heart beating faster and hot foreheads. Then each child got to plant their own marrow fat pea which they had to look after at school, making sure it got plenty of sunlight and water.

Week 3 - Mix it up!
This session was all about having a balanced diet. We learned about carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, proteins, milk and dairy and sugar and fats. Although a lot of the information went over the children's heads, they did get the message that too much sugar and fats were not good!
Elizabeth chose not to eat her cereal bar in the packed lunch that day because that was mentioned as being too sugary.
The homework this week was to write a food diary for one day and split it up into carbs, proteins etc. I think Elizabeth's diet is pretty good as it is. She eats a tonne of fruit, which helps make up for the lack of vegetables in her diet. And I have seen her taking fruit over sugary treats when offered. It's easy for me to not give her sugary treats. I have cut back on them since taking part in this project. However, I do let the girls have home baked treats. At least then I know how much sugar is in it!

Week 4 - Sugar and Salt
The NHS states that a child between 4-6 years old should have no more than 3g of salt a day and an adult 6g a day. Too much salt can increase your blood pressure and may lead to heart disease or a stroke.
Many foods contain high levels of hidden sugars and eating these on a regular basis with limited exercise can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
In the session we were to guess how many teaspoons of sugar there were in certain products. We also looked at the traffic light nutrition labels on food to see what was healthy and what was not. It was quite surprising just how much sugar it is possible to consume in a day without really thinking about it!
The homework was to swap some foods in our diet so that we had less salt and less sugar. I decided to switch to brown bread and to stick with fruit for sweet snacks. Elizabeth and Rebecca are addicted to strawberries now!

Week 5 - Eat a Rainbow!
We learned about having 5 fruit and vegetables a day and how different fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals. Elizabeth impressed everyone by knowing lots of fruits and vegetables, when others in the class didn't recognise them.
We had a fruit diary again this week where we listed the food eaten in a rainbow chart. Elizabeth ate a lot of reds - peppers, tomatoes, strawberries and red apples. But she did not really have many greens!

Week 6 - Grow Your Own!
In the last session we recapped about eating 5 fruit and vegetables a day and we planted strawberry plants at the school. As mentioned before each child was also given a broad bean plant to take home and look after.

The sessions have finished now, but as a bonus the Fit Families group have challenged us to take Selfies on walks around the local area during the Easter Holidays. We have done one already.

Walk 1 - St Mary's Church and Loch Neaton

It's been a really interesting project to be involved in. It has made me think about what we are eating at home, so it has been successful in that respect. The girls do have a reasonably balanced diet and they don't have too many sugary and fatty treats, those sorts of foods have gradually been sneaking into our shopping more and more, but there is no need for them when the girls are happy to eat fruit.

We've always been quite active with the girls, they cannot go a whole day at home doing nothing. The Wii has been a great addition to their activities for rainy days, and we might not have thought about using it with the girls had it not been for this project. But on dry days we're always out walking, geocaching, cycling, playing at the park or having a day at Gressenhall!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Scottish Tablet

Scottish Tablet
This is a sugary treat! It's a harder form of fudge that crumbles in the mouth. I've made it a couple of times for my English friends and it is usually well received! It is incredibly tricky to make and mine often comes out like fudge. But it's still great to eat if it is soft.


  • 4oz salted butter
  • 1kg granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of full cream milk
  • 1 tin of condensed milk
Melt the butter in a heavy based pan. Add all of the rest of the ingredients and slowly bring to the boil, stirring frequently.
When it comes to the boil, turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 45 minutes until the mixture is a caramel brown colour.
Take it off the heat and beat it with an electric hand mixer until the mixture is really thick and coming away from the sides. This should take about 10 minutes. Have a taste of it, if it tastes grainy then it's right.
Pour it into a 20cm/30cm tin. Score it after 5 minutes. Then once it's hard cut it into squares.

I made these for the Easter Coffee Morning at Rebecca's Pre School. I took Rebecca into school especially for the end of term festivities, she doesn't usually go on a Friday. They had an Easter Egg Hunt, face painting, biscuit decorating, crispy cake making, crafts and loads more things going on.

This is all the food she came away with from one session:

Is it just me or is that a little bit too much for one 3 year old?

If you tried the tablet, let me know what you think. Leave a comment below.
Also, I'm always looking for new ideas for baking/cooking, if you have any suggestions, leave a comment!