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I learned to make a pretty parcel cake

For my birthday back in March my lovely husband and daughter bought me a voucher for a cake decorating course at Sweetie Darling.  

With my 2012 mission of baking all close friends and family cakes this year for every occasion, I feel I can bake fairly tasty cakes so now it’s time to step things up a level and learn how to confidently use the many different types of icing there is out there!  So the Pretty Parcel course looked a great way to do this.  My glamourous friend Michelle (who made our wedding cake) also came along so we had a great day learning brilliant skills!

Here we are with our finished masterpieces:

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We learned how to slice a large madeira cake using a snazzy device like a cheese cutter, then filled it with jam and butter icing.

Then covered the whole cake (apart from the bottom) with a thin layer of butter icing to stop the crumbs from escaping and ruining the lovely regal icing we were to drape over the top.

The cake board was also covered in regal icing in a contrasting colour – and we used a rolling pin with a decorative stencil embossed all over which gave the bubble effect (got to get myself one of those!!).

We learned how to knead and roll regal icing with so many little tips – it was brilliant!   The draping over the top of the large cake and positioning over the cube shaped cakewas quite hard to get right – I kept getting folds and creases and air bubbles but got there in the end.

We used modelling paste to make the bow and ribbons, and royal icing for the label and stars.  

We just added C2C powder to the regal icing to make it into modelling paste – which I never knew existed before!  This makes it set really hard quite fast so we had to keep the icing moving in our hands until we needed it to set.  But it made the bow stay looking like it was made of silk rather than hard icing, a beautiful effect.  Sugar glue kept everything in place – whoever invented that deserves a medal 🙂  It’s like superglue but edible!

The stars were white and we painted them with edible sparkly powder mixed with alcohol.  That part was fun but messy for my fingers.

Here’s a close up of my cake:

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I wrote ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ in royal icing as my daughter loves singing that nursery rhyme!

Here is the back of the cake to prove I didn’t just make the front look pretty and forget about the rest!

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The course has given me so much confidence to use the 3 different types of icing.  I can’t wait to start trying it out by myself at home!!

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Top Safety Tips For Cooking With Children

I believe part of the reason my daughter is such a non-fussy eater is because I try to include her in the cooking process as much as possible.  The other part of the reason is probably that she takes after me and just loves all types of food!!  Here is a lovely guest-poster who has some brilliant tips for cooking with children:

Cooking with your kids is not only messy and fun, but it is a great way to set them up for the future and ensure they have good eating habits.

I always try to get my kids involved when I get the chance, as they love mixing the dough, chopping the vegetables and stirring the sauces.

Yet if I have learnt one thing over the years safety really does matter when kids are involved. That is why I have come up with the following safety tips so you and you kids can whip up biscuit recipes safely, and still have fun.

  1. Are your hands clean? It is important that you all wash your hands before you begin handling food and cooking to prevent the transferral of germs. Similarly whenever any of you cough, sneeze or go to the bathroom, you need to wash your hands again.
  2. Choose your recipes wisely – it can be hard to judge what recipe is right for your kids, especially when they are so curious about cooking generally, but don’t give them too much too soon.
    Instead judge their tasks based on their age and ability. For instance toddlers will have tonnes of fun simply decorating the top of chocolate chip cookies, whilst older kids will easily be able to follow recipes, measure ingredients and mix them themselves.
  3. Be organised – get out all the ingredients and tools you need in advance so your kids can begin cooking straight away. Just remember to take over using knifes or turning on the oven if they are young to prevent accidents.
  4. Show them what to do – eventually your kids will get to the age where they want to cut things themselves. To prevent them cutting themselves or their fingers, first show them how to do it properly, get them to practice and always ensure that you are there to supervise.
  5. Supervise – even the most innocent of objects can be dangerous in the wrong hands, so make sure you supervise them closely and offer to help where needed to keep them safe.
  6. Don’t be tempted to sample – whilst we are constantly reassured that eggs have been processed to protect you from salmonella, I strongly recommend never letting your kids try uncooked foods, especially those with egg in them, to protect them from poisoning. Instead allow them to sample the finishing touches of your biscuit recipe endeavours…

Cooking with your kids can lead to countless hours of fun. Just remember to keep the above points in mind and you too can offer your kids a fun and safe cooking environment.

I’m Keli and I love cooking with my kids. I prefer the healthy option of making my own food but when I want to spoil my family I like the easy option of ordering from an online bakery.

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Helping your children to eat better

So far my posts have been all about recipes (and mostly cakes … I can’t help it, they’re so yummy!), so I have taken the opportunity to share a brilliant guest post from Heather.  She has 8 tips to help your children eat better which sound really helpful, so I think they will be of use to other mums and dads too.

Why is it once our kids hit the 2’s they never want to eat the things you offer them? Sure as they get older their habits improve and they are willing to try more, but generally why does the sight of healthy, nutritious meals or even meat send them running?

It’s a strange phenomenon, but if you’ve got a picky eater in the family then you’ll be all too familiar withwhat I’m talking about.

Yet feeding your child well doesn’t have to feel impossible. Try any of the following tips and you’ll notice an improvement in their eating habits:

1.  Make the same for everyone – don’t get into the habit of making them something different. Instead try to offer them the same foods you’re eating – family style – so they can pick and choose what they want. You’ll soon notice that your child is mimicking what you eat.
2.  Introduce new foods slowly – whilst you want to broaden their tastes, too much too soon will make them rebel. Start subtly by adding it to a recipe and once they are familiar with it, give it to them on their own. Similarly don’t try to give them too many new foods at once. Allow them to get used to a taste, and then introduce another.
3.  Use a little hero worship – you’ll be surprised what they’ll eat if you tell them their favourite star or character eats them.
4.  Hold your tongue – hard I know, but don’t pressurise them to eat their fruit or vegetables as all this will do is make them have negative associations with the food.
5.  Take advantage of dips – if they won’t eat vegetables on their own, offer them a dip to dip it in to improve the flavour.
6.  Be creative – the more creative the meal, the more excited your kids will be to eat it. Giving healthy foods silly names as well, will make meal times more interesting.
7.  Don’t be afraid to give treats – less healthy food shouldn’t be treated like a forbidden food otherwise your kids will want them more. Instead make them a treat to be looked forward to.
8.  Be a role model – most of us are on a diet these days but this doesn’t always set good habits for our kids. Instead of following the latest fad, offer you and your whole family healthy balanced meals so you’re sending your kids the right message about food. 

Whether your child is refusing to eat meat or refuses to eat anything healthy, it is possible to broaden your kid’s taste buds and help them to take a better approach to food.

Simply give the above tips a try, and remember to be patient.

Thank you for reading, My name is Heather and I write about Food and Kids and how to bring the two together. I also look to make life easier by getting my meat from an online butcher and buying just about everything else online!

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Ham and Pea Risotto – baked in the oven to have more time to play!

Here is a guest post from the lovely mummykins.  She writes about all things baby and toddler as she experiences day to day life with her little girl.  Oh, and she also happens to be one of my best friends!

Here is a delicious recipe for small people and us bigger people:

Risotto is a lovely comforting food.  It’s great for older babies and toddlers too – babies tend to pick up whole handfuls and stuff it into their mouths, and its thick texture is good for toddlers learning to feed themselves with a spoon.  However it can be tricky to cook using the traditional method of adding a ladleful of stock at a time and continuously stirring when you have little ones underfoot.  Here is an alternative way to cook risotto in the oven.  This is a baby friendly recipe so it doesn’t include any salt or white wine, though of course you can add these if you wish.

Serves 3 adults.

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 25g butter, preferably unsalted
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 250g risotto rice
  • 6 slices good quality ham, chopped
  • 250g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • parmesan cheese, grated

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Heat the olive oil and butter over a medium heat in a large ovenproof dish until the butter is melted.
  3. Gently fry the onion for a few minutes until softened.
  4. Stir in the risotto rice until it is coated with the oil and butter.  It should go slightly translucent.
  5. Pour in all the stock and give it a good stir, then bring to the boil.  Cover and put into the oven.
  6. After 10 minutes, add the ham and peas and stir well.  Recover the dish and put it back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
  7. Add the parmesan cheese and season if desired, giving it one final thorough stir.  Allow to rest for a couple of minutes so the cheese melts.
And here it is:

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American themed birthday cupcakes

As I mentioned in my last post, it was 2 of my best friends’ birthdays this week.  For Sasha’s birthday she had an American themed party at her house (as her and her husband have recently been to New York).  I dressed up as Sandy from Grease!  Here I am with Sasha (I’m on the left!) eating a slice of cheeseburger flavoured pizza (I didn’t even know that existed!!):

I wanted to make cupcakes as they’re very ‘New York’ – after watching Sex and the City.  So I was trying to think how to make them even more ‘American’ so I thought red, white and blue and stars.  So I spent ages cutting out all these stars from regal icing:

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The Hummingbird Bakery cupcake recipe is by far the best tasting cupcake I’ve ever had.  Here is the recipe:

4½oz/120g plain flour

5oz/140g caster sugar

1½ tsp baking powder

A pinch of salt (I left this out but used slightly salted butter)

1½oz/40g unsalted butter, at room temperature

4½floz/120ml whole milk

1 egg

¼ tsp vanilla extract

1 quantity vanilla frosting – see below

Stars to decorate!

A 12-hole cupcake tray, lined with paper cases

  • Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3.
  • Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a free-standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a hand-held electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  • Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
  • Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.
  • Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched.
  • A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  • When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the vanilla frosting (see next recipe) on top and decorate.

And here is recipe for the tastiest frosting

Vanilla frosting

Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes.

9oz/250g icing sugar, sifted

3oz/80g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1fl oz/25ml whole milk

A couple of drops of vanilla extract

Food colouring to suit (optional)

  • Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a free-standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a hand-held electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
  • Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time.
  • Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed.
  • Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.
 Here they are pre-star decoration:
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The frosting tastes divine!!  And here they are all glammed up:
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Thank goodness for my little star plunger cutter!!
These went down so well at the party, I think everyone had one in the end, and Sasha was sad there wasn’t many left over at the end of the night for her to eat!
I actually find the cakes themselves are very moist and so satisfying 🙂
Give them a try, you won’t regret it.
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Heart shaped carrot cake

This week is birthday central for me!!  It is 2 of my best friends’ birthdays and my brother’s birthday.  My brother doesn’t live in ‘baking distance’ so I am not baking him a cake, but that left 2 lots to make this week 🙂

The first was my friend Hannah.  I had it on good authority (from her husband) that she likes carrot cake best, so that’s what I made.

I used trusty Mary Berry again.  Here is the recipe:

225g (8oz) self raising flour

2 level teaspoons baking powder

150g (5oz) light muscovado sugar

50g (2oz) chopped walnuts

100g (4oz) grated carrots

2 ripe bananas (mashed)

2 large eggs

150ml (5 fl oz) sunflower oil

Topping

175g (6oz) full fat soft cheese

50g (2oz) softened butter

100g (4oz) icing sugar

few drops vanilla extract

walnuts to decorate

1) Pre-heat oven to 180C or gas mark 4.  Grease a 20cm (8in) cake tin.  Line base with baking parchment.

2) Measure all the ingredients for the cake into a large bowl and beat well until thoroughly blended and smooth.  Turn into the prepared tin and level the surface.

3) Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 50-60 mins until the cake is well risen and shrinking away from the sides of the tin.  Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

4) For the topping measure all the ingredients except the walnuts, into a bowl or in food processor.  Blitz until smooth.  Spread over the top of the cake, swirling the top with the spatula for a decorative effect.  Decorate the top with the walnuts.  Store in the fridge as the topping is soft.

I made a smaller cake so was able to fill the centre and make some bonus cakes in addition!

Here is the cake (with some bonus cupcakes!) without the walnuts:

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And here they are decorated with chopped walnuts:

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As carrot cake is also my husband’s favourite I made him some small cakes.  I included the vanilla extract bottle so you can see the proportions – such diddy little tins, I love them :

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I’m off to the second friend, Sasha’s, fancy dress birthday party tonight but don’t want to ruin the surprise of the American themed cupcakes so will post these later this weekend!  I may even include a picture of me dressed up – but the outfit is a bit unforgiving so we’ll see!!   Wish me luck!

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Is it a cake, is it a crumble…?

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it hard to come up with dessert ideas for the family.  My daughter doesn’t like drinking milk so I’m always looking for ways to get rice pudding, custard or yoghurt into her.  But with a dairy intolerant husband, that tends to leave poor S with no dessert!

My husband loves raspberries and we had a lonely-looking cooking apple in the cupboard so I put those ingredients into google and found this link:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1585637/raspberry-and-apple-crumble-squares

I used soya milk and dairy free margarine instead of milk and butter, of course.  I don’t have a square or rectangular cake tin so had to go for the traditional round cake tin so mine didn’t look quite like the one on the BBC website!  I also had to cook it for about 20-30 minutes longer as my tin was quite deep.  The cake at the bottom was nice and stodgy, and the crumble was lovely and … crumbly!!  The flavours of the apples and raspberries really complimented each other.  Most importantly, my husband loved it – and so did I.  As I can eat milk more than S can, I had ice cream with my slice, which melted beautifully and went perfectly with this dessert.

Here is a picture of my (very different to the above!) crumble cake:

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I hope to buy a square/rectangular cake tin soon so I can try this recipe as it was intended, but in the meantime I will continue to make my lovely stodgy version!

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Weight Watchers Chicken Noodle Soup – with added zing

Sorry for my absence lately, I’m not even sure what I’ve been doing to be honest.  Just a busy bee – and doing fair bit of cooking of course!

I thought I’d share a healthy yet very tasty fail-safe meal.  My daughter hasn’t been keen on noodles up until now, but she seems to like them all of a sudden which is great news for this recipe

Here is the recipe:

http://www.weightwatchers.co.uk/food/rcp/index.aspx?recipeid=71741

I add 1 red chilli, a thumb sized piece of ginger and 2 chopped garlic cloves for extra ‘zing’ and it really makes it taste very fresh.  My husband loves this dish and I’m always in the good books when I’ve made this for him 🙂

Here it is cooking away:

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I hope you try it out and enjoy it!!

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“Happy Birthday to me, lots of cakes for me”

As I wrote in a previous post, I was a bit concerned about cake over-load this birthday as I’ve been baking cakes for all my close friends and family for every occasion in 2012.  I thought they might all repay the favour at once!!  Luckily 4 lovely friends/family members bought or baked for me 🙂  This was still quite a lot to get through, but we managed of course and they were delicious.  Here they are half way through:

There’s a Victoria sponge my mother-in-law and daughter made, carrot cake and cherry/date squares two of my friends made and a Forever Friends cake my best friend bought.

As I am sure is the case in most places of work, if it’s your birthday you are expected to provide cakes for your work colleagues.  Our team at work has grown significantly in the last couple of years, so I was looking at a total of 20 people to bake for!  I did a poll on favourite flavours and they came up with lemon and chocolate as the main two.

So I went for chocolate cup cakes, lemon drizzle cake and chocolate chip cookies to cater for all tastes.  Here is a picture of my desk today:

My manager claimed she was floating on a ‘chocolate cloud’ after eating the cupcakes.  They are crazily rich and chocolatey!  They’re the same recipe as in my previous post https://leannecookingforthefamily.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/party-cupcake-time/  from the Hummingbird recipe.  These are such a fail safe recipe, everyone loves them.

The lemon drizzle cake is from Mary Berry’s baking bible – you can’t go wrong with good old Mary’s recipes!  Half the cake was gone by the end of the day – some people had 2 slices 🙂

Crunchy Top Lemon Drizzle Cake

100g/4oz softened butter

175g/6oz caster sugar

175g/6oz self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 large eggs

4 tbsp milk

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

For the topping:

juice of 1 lemon

100g/4oz caster or granulated sugar

1) Pre-heat oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas 4.  Grease an 18cm (7inch) deep round cake tin then line base with greaseproof paper.

2) Measure all ingredients into large bowl and beat for 2 mins until smooth.  Place mixture into the tin and level the surface.

3) Bake for 35-40 mins or until the cake has shrunk slightly from the sides of the tin and springs back when lightly pressed.

4) For the topping, measure the lemon juice and sugar into a bowl and stir until blended.  When the cake comes out of the oven, spike the cake all over with cocktail sticks (this is my own adaptation to ensure the drizzle soaks into the cake) then spread the lemon paste over the top of the cake while the cake is still hot.

I doubled this recipe and put plain butter icing in the middle.

I’ll save the cookie recipe for another time 🙂

I wonder how much cake will be left tomorrow at the end of my working week (yes I only work 2 days a week – but I am a mum the rest of the week!).

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Delicious and easy to make quesadillas and guacamole

Hello fellow bloggers and readers over here on Leanne’s blog!  This is A from Taxi20, a foodie-oddity-decor-history multifaceted blog (find us here: http://taxidermy20thcentury.wordpress.com/ ), and I’ve been invited here to give to you a tasty alternative to the regular posts here. Having lived in America for some time, I’ve collected some delicious American and Mexican style dishes that are a quick and easy fix for hungry mouths. The best part? This specific dish can be made from a variety of leftovers, making it the perfect lunch or light dinner alternative.  Let’s start with the centre of the meal: Basic Quesadillas.

A very Tex-Mex American dish, don’t be too shy to try this out.  Get yourself some leftover meat and “flour tortillas.”  Although most any type will work, these seem to be the easiest to get your hands on, especially if you’re across the pond where these ingredients may be a little sparser. On a skillet or in a large pan, heat the tortilla. Cover one half in cheese, such as a preshredded Mexican Assortment or similar orange cheese. Don’t choose anything too pungent your first time.  Place slices of chicken, beef, pork, or seafood over the cheese, and garnish with hot toppings, ones that can stand the heat of the skillet.  These may include lime juice, salsa, chipotle sauce, tomatoes, green onions, etc.

Using a spatula, take the uncovered side of the tortilla and flip it to enclose the chicken and cheese.  Press firmly to “glue” the hot cheese to the other side of the tortilla, flip the entire quesadilla, and cook until slightly browning or hot all the way through.  Then, remove from the skillet, chop into 3 triangles from a central point along the flat edge, and garnish again with cold toppings, such as arugula, sour cream, pine fruits, lettuce, etc.  This makes 1 portion.  Repeat according to individual tastes.  For an alternative style, use chicken, mozzarella, basil, and lemon juice.

Next is Classic Guacamole.  This side dish is a particular favourite of American West-Coasters, and in-season avocados are becoming much easier to locate and identify. When in the store, select several (2 avocados feeds 3 people) dark green, slightly soft avocados.  If they are all hard, take some and feel them every few days.  Once they feel ripe, cut them in half with a knife and spoon out the pit. Using the same spoon, scoop out all tasty green fruit from the vegetable, omitting any dark bruises.  Smash the avocado into a rough paste using the spoon.  Some people prefer creamier guacamole, while others prefer less ripe, chunkier guacamole.  The guacamole shown here is very creamy.

Next, dice a tomato and some cilantro or green onions and throw them in.  You may want to mince garlic and add it too, if your avocados are not very flavourful. Sprinkle salt and pepper, or, if you can get your hands on it,  Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.  Squeeze a lime over the top and mix with that same spoon.  Serve in a small bowl with tortilla chips.

And finally, something for just the adults.  Having taken up so much of your time, I’m going to redirect you to Martha Stewart for this one: http://www.marthastewart.com/334097/wat … margaritas

Whether you’re entertaining for friends or in need of a light, tasty lunch, try out this exotic combo next time you’re lost for some new ideas!  If you like what you’ve tried, check out my own blog and have a great time hunting for new recipes!  Cheers!

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