Twirly Chocolate Fridge Cake

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Given the chance Boo would bake something most days.  She likes to crack the eggs, weigh the flour… but she loves to mix.  She’ll mix stones in a bucket, raisins in a pot, ice cream in a bowl.  She pretends to hold a big bowl in the air and mixes up food for imaginary horses or pups.  Sometimes I try to make our creations at least a little healthy (carrot or corguette cupcakes, beetroot cake) but this week she wanted “Chocolate Mummy!”  And however hard I try to shun the pink, this girl does still like the ballet and the jewels and the twirly dancing, so we made pretty, twirly chocolate cake.

Twirly chocolate fridge cake, to be precise.  A really child friendly recipe with no oven, but lots of mixing, naughty ingredients to be taste tested, and art to top it off. I usually make this with lots of glacé cherries (yum,) but my husband is not a fan so we added mini marshmallows from the store cupboard and they add that rocky road chew to balance the biscuit crunch.  There must be loads of recipes like this, but here is mine.  I really recommend trying it, the posh twirly topping is so satisfying to look at (especially as it was artfully created by a 3 year old)!
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Ingredients:
4oz (110g) butter
2tbsp (25g) caster sugar
2 tbsp (30ml) golden syrup
4 tsp cocoa powder
8oz (225g) digestive biscuits
3 1/2oz (100g) raisins
Cup or large handful of mini marshmallows
4oz (110g)dark cooking chocolate
4oz (110g)milk cooking chocolate
3 1/2oz (100g) white cooking chocolate

First melt the butter, sugar, syrup and cocoa either in a saucepan or (carefully, checking every 30 seconds) in a microwave. I used the microwave and we counted together.

Put the biscuits in a bag with no holes and bash them into little pieces. A few larger pieces add texture, but don’t leave lots of big lumps.

Mix the biscuits, raisins and marshmallows into the butter mix until it starts to stick together.

Line a 1 inch high baking tray, or a flan dish with baking paper. Add the mix to the tray and push it down hard with the back of a spoon.

Now melt the dark and milk chocolate together. I know lots of people do this on the stove, but I find the microwave much easier. Just keep checking on it so it doesn’t burn. Tip the melted chocolate over the cake and spread to cover it.

Melt the white chocolate and drizzle over the cake. Take a toothpick (or something similar, end of a chopstick, knitting needle!) and start to twirl in and out of the white chocolate, creating your arty pattern.

Place in the fridge to harden (or if you can’t wait that long, make space in the freezer for an hour).

Take out and take it out of tray easily using baking paper to lift it.

Marvel at the twirly beauty, then chop it with a sharp knife… and try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting!
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Lazy Lavender Cupcakes

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Lazy days, lazy sunshine, lazy fun and lazy cooking – what a great way to spend your summer!   With their subtle aroma of lavender, these cupcakes manage to relax you with their delicate flavour, and are so simple to bake that you could make up a batch right now to enjoy with your afternoon tea.

I’ve been noticing lots of lovely crafts and recipes popping up using lavender recently, and decided to make good use of some of the beautiful plants growing in my neighbour’s front garden at the moment.  The bees are in nectar heaven, but Big and Little Boo are not so keen on their visiting (there are ALOT of them, and Big Boo did get stung by one on holiday) so helping mummy to collect lavender was a brave task which was rewarded by helping to make these cakes, as they are so simple they are child’s play!

imageAll of the recipes I found were either biscuits (I can cook a good cupcake, but my biscuits never seem so great) or called for lavender to be infused overnight with milk. I’m sure this does develop a much stronger lavender flavour, but I am rather lazy and impatient too, so if I want to make lavender cupcakes, I want to make them NOW. With this in mind we simply made up our favourite basic cupcake recipe, and added about 2tbsp of lavender flowers.  Guess what? They worked a treat, beautiful, light and subtly flavoured and scented- enough to be noticed but not overpowering.

If you fancy a go, here is the recipe we used:

100g sugar (I used half and half but caster sugar is fine, or granulated if you don’t have caster)

100g self raising flour

100g butter

2 eggs

Good vanilla essence, just half the lid.

2 tbs lavender flowers, removed from stalk Some of mine were still fresh and some had dried but both seemed to work)

imageWe mixed the sugar, flour and 1tbsp lavender in the mixer first to pound the lavender a bit and distribute it. Then we added the softened butter and eggs (which Little Boo loves to crack) and finally mixed in the rest of the lavender, saving some of the fresher flowers to scatter on top of the cakes once the mixture had been spooned into it’s cases.

imageThey were cooked at 180 degrees for 19 minutes (that’s my oven for you), left to cool then promptly devoured – the only part of the process that wasn’t lazy!

I do warn you though- eating these cakes may bring out the superhero in you!

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Hooray! My children eat courgette!

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I’m off on a tangent today for this blog.  My usual content is either sewing or craft based, and I do have a couple of sewing projects ready to share except for the photos (including the salme playsuit!), but I’m waiting on some good weather combined with good timing to take some photos.  Whilst I tap my fingers I thought I’d share a meal with you, such a nice thing to do, share a meal with friends, don’t you think?

This meal has been a favourite with the family for a while now, and is something that everyone likes and is guaranteed to eat (don’t you just love it when that happens). My children will eat vegetables (Little Boo loves them) and do try new things, but Big Boo prefers his flavours unmixed (rice separate, pasta plain etc) and Little Boo loves finger food (i.e anything you can easily pick up – sausages, roast potatoes…). But this meal has them eating with a fork and wolfing down, great when you have visitors! Plus you can pep it up for the adults. I’m not sure where it came from, I think it stemmed from a meal I had at my brother’s in Sweden and developed from there. I know, I know, it isn’t anything amazing, theres no fancy ingredients or clever presentation, but it works, for my family at least, and maybe it will for yours too.

It really is simple, all you need is:

Pasta (dry or fresh, but I used dry as it is better for diets) – preferably one that the courgette can get into, like conchigle

2 courgettes (zucchini)

Parmesan – about 80g is fine for 4

Spring onions – about 3

Basil to decorate

Chilli flakes – to spice it up for the adults

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It really is so simple, anyone can make this (even my husband!). Just cook the pasta according to instructions (mine takes 11 minutes on the hob). While it is cooking, spray you frying pan, or wok( sorry, I cook everything in my wok- I love it!) with cooking oil – you can use butter if you don’t mind calories. Finely chop the courgettes and spring onions in a blender and add to pan, stir over a medium heat for about 4 or 5 mins until they start to soften, but don’t get too mushy. Turn off heat and leave in pan.  Once cooked add the pasta to the courgettes and stir, then add the parmesan (saving some for little fingers to sprinkle on top at the table) and stir again.  Put in bowls, then add chilli flakes and basil to grown up food.  You can drizzle with balsamic vinegar rather than adding chilli if you don’t like the heat.

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Present with some yummy garlic bread and parmesan to sprinkle.  Watch children shovel into mouths.

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A happy mealtime makes a happy Mummy! Hope it works for you too.  If you have a fail safe kiddie favourite that works for grown ups too, I’d love to hear about it to add to my repertoire.  Happy eating….

A Dinomite Dino Party!

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Big Boo’s 4th birthday party was last weekend and despite all my stressing (I’m not a natural hostess) all the prep work paid off and we ended up with a really relaxed, enjoyable celebration.  Last year’s dino party was a military procedure planned to the last minute with a whole host of games.  It worked well but was hard work for me as I had to do lots of running around and organising of children.  This year we prepped lots of activities that the children could do themselves and the plan was to intersperse them between free playing.  Luck was with us and the sun came out so the children had free run of the house and garden.

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The first activity was a fossil excavation in the ‘sand pit’ (which was actually a paddling pool filled with sand). Inspired by some pinterest searching I bought a T-Rex skeleton mould from ebay  and filled it with plaster of paris.  Then all I had to do was bury the ‘fossils’ just before visitors arrived and place some paintbrushes on top of the sand.  Once our guests had all appeareWei sent them down to the garden to do some palaentological excavation work.  Big Boo gave a huge exclamation of “WOW” when he uncovered the tail, and the they laid the pieces out on the grass to (almost!) create the T-Rex once they found them all.  They then buried and uncovered them again, and again and again, 4 or 5 times before they got bored.

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After some more sand play we got busy cracking open the dinosaur eggs that the children made earlier in the week.  I’ve got a tutorial here for making them. The only disappointment here was that the children wanted to crack open more than we had, they enjoyed this a lot.

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Due to the mid afternoon timing of the party I stuck to nibbles (monster munch a.k.a dinosaur footprints and bread sticks a.k.a dino bones) and sweet treats. The dinosaur nest cakes at the top of the picture were made with lots of help from Little Boo and you will find a tutorial here.  The gingerbread fossil biscuits were made with these great cutters from amazon. They were pricey but we will use them with play dough too. Finally the cupcakes were piped with green grass buttercream icing and topped with a mini plastic dinosaur.

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We finished with this piñata activity.  These dinosaur eggs did take a few days to make (with stops and starts obviously!) but did end up looking great and were a hit (ha ha!). The children did need a little help to get started but they were all happy to become the baby dinosaurs hatching from the eggs by donning their masks.

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Birthday wishes were sung as the candles were lit on the volcano cake and a “wow” even escaped from one little boy’s lips as the sparkler in the centre of it started to spark.

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The children went home with their piñata dinosaur masks and a little thank you bag with some ‘dinosaur eggs’ (mini eggs) and a couple of toy dinosaurs, and we rounded the event off with a beer (my husband) and a Pimms (myself!) – perfect!

If you are planning a dino event for your little one, I would really recommend any of these activities, and you can find links to tutorials to do the activities above or below:

Dinosaur fossil mould from ebay.

Dinosaur eggs to crack open Tutorial.

Dinosaur nest mars bar cakes Tutorial.

Dinosaur skeleton cookie cutters from amazon.

Dinosaur egg piñata tutorial.

Volcano cake tutorial.