A Festive Trip To London

Monday, 2 December 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... I'm so excited for Christmas and would consider it my favourite time of the year, despite being a summer baby. I love the decorations and lights, shopping and presents, food, music, cosy days and evenings, and spending time with loved ones. It's such a magical time! Now that it's December I can be as excited as I want and do as many festive activities as possible to get into the Christmas spirit and enjoy the build up. I hope you all enjoyed your advent calendars, we put decorated our house yesterday with it being the first weekend of December. We went on a family trip to London at the weekend to wander around the shops and see the decorations and lights. Our first stop was Westfield shopping centre which had it's own ice rink, none of us were brave enough to give it a go... Next stop was Selfridges, Oxford Street and that's when we hit the crowds.   

The Christmas displays are amazing!

It was already manic inside but we slowly made it to the Christmas Emporium which was even busier before moving to the food hall, I love this cute little macaroon tree.

We thought Oxford Street was busy until we got the tube to Covent Garden. It's clearly the place to be as the tube station was so busy that we ended up taking the stairs (the 'quick' exit) to get out, 193 steps later we regretted this decision. Covent Garden was worth the workout though with it's giant baubles, tree and reindeer.

A lovely day, but we were so glad to be resting our feet on the train home!

S'mores Cookie Cake

Thursday, 28 November 2013

I made this S'mores Cookie Cake as part of my boyfriend's birthday surprise. I knew I wanted to make s'mores in some shape or form, and went from s'mores cookies to a s'mores cookie cake with inspiration from 'milk bubble tea'. To make this fluffy chocolate giant sandwich cookie keep reading...

You will need:
250g flour
200g dark brown soft sugar
100g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
170g unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
200g milk chocolate
As many chocolate chips as you like
Digestive biscuit crumbs
A tub of marshmallow fluff

Pre-heat the oven to 170C and grease or line a baking tin (I used a 24cm spring form cake tin). Mix together the butter, brown sugar and caster sugar beating in the vanilla extract and eggs. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and stir in the chocolate chips. Drop half the cookie dough in the tin and spread across the bottom (this bit may take a while).

Place the chocolate on top of this layer.

Sprinkle the digestive biscuit crumbs on top of this layer and then whip out your tub of marshmallow fluff (I bought mine from a random little shop but you can it from Asda).

Now for the tricky, time consuming part... Spreading the incredibly sticky marshmallow fluff on top of everything else you've just put in the tin. It doesn't have to be perfect and will look a mess when you eat it anyway (a yummy mess though).

If I'm honest, this was an experiment and I had no idea exactly how long it would take in the oven and how long it did take in the oven. I baked it for about 20 minutes and decided to bake it for longer as the bottom layer of cookie dough takes longer to cook. It tastes delicious when served warm with the melted chocolate oozing out.

A sickly sweet treat for those who have a sweet tooth!

Birthday Surprise

Monday, 25 November 2013

It was my boyfriend's birthday at the weekend and I wanted to surprise him with something lovely and creative. We usually go out for a nice dinner to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions, or maybe a night in a hotel or little trip somewhere. This year I decided to do something different and cook a yummy dinner at home. After changing my mind many times, I chose an American theme with three courses starting with BBQ chicken drumsticks. I can be ambitious when I have an idea in my head so it took me a while to find all the bits and bobs I wanted from shops like Butlers, Wilkinson and Lakeland.

A twist on traditional American hot dogs, frankfurters wrapped in puff pastry with curly fries.

A sickly sweet S'mores Cookie Cake for dessert (recipe to follow).

A warmed up slice of the S'mores Cookie Cake served with a small (it definitely needed to be small) Oreo milkshake served in a vintage milk bottle to finish.

There were no disasters and my boyfriend was happy!

Decadent Cheesecake Brownies

Monday, 18 November 2013

A warm brownie accompanied by ice cream is one of those desserts that you just can't resist when it's on the menu. That's why I decided to make some brownies to complete my mum's five course dinner for my grandparent's visit (posh piggies). After baking these Addictive Triple Chocolate Brownies, I was looking for a twist on the traditional brownie recipes and came across these delicious looking Cheesecake Brownies (I knew they could only taste delicious too). I couldn't wait to bake these decadent treats...

You will need:
For the brownie layers...
50g butter
200g chocolate chips or chopped plain chocolate
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
85g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the cheesecake layer...
225g cream cheese
4 tablespoons caster sugar
1 egg
200g chocolate chips or chopped plain chocolate
Digestive crumbs to finish 

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease a 23cm square baking tin or dish (my dish wasn't square don't worry if yours isn't either). For the brownie layers, combine the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan with water. Stir until just melted and carefully remove the bowl from the saucepan. Stir in the sugar and eggs, then sift the flour and baking powder together and stir into the chocolate mixture.

For the cheesecake layer, mix the cream cheese, sugar and egg together and stir in the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate.

Pour half of the chocolate mixture into your tin or dish (this is harder than it sounds and an excuse to eat the mixture that can't be transferred) and then top with the cream cheese mixture. Pour the remaining chocolate mixture on top and swirl this layer with a knife.

Bake for 25-30 minutes adjusting the time depending on the size of your tin or dish. Towards the end, top with digestive crumbs and bake for a further few minutes.

These Decadent Cheesecake Brownies are best served warm but prepare for a struggle when removing them from your tin or dish. It's much easier to leave them to cool, cut and remove individual brownies and warm them up in the oven for a few minutes if you want them to look nice. You might not be able to wait though...

These brownies are definitely a treat to share and enjoy with friends or family whilst relaxing at the weekend.

Because we're always looking for ways to indulge...

Monty's Lounge

Sunday, 10 November 2013

A little while ago when visiting my boyfriend, we went for a wander around Bournemouth's home of all things retro, vintage and unique... Boscombe. We discovered a quirky little restaurant and lounge bar with a hint of vintage called Monty's Lounge, which I knew was my sort of my place! We decided we were going to come back and that's what we did this week, two and a half years together was definitely an excuse to eat out. It's cosy (with it's cute fairy lights) and chilled, and due to it's small size I would recommend booking a table beforehand.

I started with a jam jar cocktail (I just had to have one) and went for a 'Summer Breeze'. Despite it being autumn, I still loved this fruity and fizzy drink.

Tasty burgers served with homemade rustic chips are currently on the menu and they were oh so delicious. I can be a bit of a critic when it comes to meat, no dry boring meat for me please, but the beef was juicy and flavoursome.

I really wanted the chocolate mousse in a vintage teacup but when warm brownies were an option, I couldn't say no! I also sadly couldn't finish the last bit of my yummy brownie.

We went home with our tummies full, feeling happy.

Juice: Beat The Bloat

Monday, 4 November 2013

Yesterday my mum and I were feeling fit and healthy (until our usual piggy Sunday roast and dessert). After going to a weights class in the morning (yes on a Sunday morning) we decided to make a nutritional and energy boosting juice. My mum saw the perfect juice for cleansing your body in a Prima magazine using diuretic foods to reduce water retention and help de-bloat your tummy.

For one glass (and some leftover) you will need:
Two apples
Two carrots
A few sticks of celery
Some parsley
Any alternatives or extras you want to throw in such as tomato or cucumber

Shove it all into a juicer (ours looks pretty ancient) and be careful of your fingers. I wasn't sure if I was going to like the taste of this concoction, but strangely it tasted nice as the apples sweetened it. 

Drink up to feel refreshed!

Spooky Halloween Biscuits: Boo!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Happy Halloween (for tomorrow)! It's that time of year when we can have all have some scary fun wearing fancy dress and filling up on sweeties and toffee apples. It was definitely an excuse for me to enjoy myself baking and decorating these Spooky Halloween Biscuits for kids or big kids. Keep reading for a quick and easy recipe adapted from here.

You will need:
For the biscuits...
100g unsalted butter (softened)
100g caster sugar
1 egg
275g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract

To decorate...
Icing sugar
Food colouring
Strawberry or raspberry jam

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5 and grease or line baking trays (how many you need will depend on the size and shape of your biscuits). Beat the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg and vanilla extract a little at a time. Stir in the flour (the mixture will start to become sticky and hard to stir), until it comes together as a dough.

Roll the dough out onto a floured surface and use Halloween-style or normal cutters (or just improvise) to cut biscuits out of the dough and place onto your baking trays.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until your biscuits look a pale golden-brown, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Then it's time for the fun part! You can decorate your Halloween biscuits however you like, but make sure they're super spooky (I know, mine are terrifying). 

I used icing sugar mixed with a little water to decorate the skull biscuits and added blue food colouring for the monsters. I also made holes in some of the biscuits for the eyes and sandwiched them together with jam for a creepy twist on Jammie Dodgers. 

Boo! Muahaha....

Country Cottage

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Last weekend, I went away with my parents and boyfriend to West Sussex and stayed in a lovely country cottage. Last year was the first time we went on a UK weekend away in October and now I hope our autumn weekend breaks become a yearly tradition. It's so nice to get away and explore new places, I know Candy (that happy fluffy dog above) loves her little holidays. Our excitable big soppy kid just couldn't wait and wanting to make sure she wasn't left behind, jumped into the car boot over 20 minutes before we even left. What a sweetie pie! 

The owners didn't realise a Golden Retriever was coming to stay...

After a more muddy and dangerous walk than we'd expected, walking down the side of a busy road dodging cars, we went out for some pub grub. We all treated ourselves to a burger and chips...

And then I treated myself again to a sticky toffee pudding with a bit of help from my boyfriend (I had that pudding on my mind before we'd even ordered the main course).

Then we went back to the cottage to snuggle up and I showed off my cosy new slipper socks from Primark. It was mild for October but I get cold easily, especially my tootsies.

The next day we went for a very windy (and wet for Candy) walk along the beach in Bognor Regis.

Of course we had to stop off at a seaside sweet shop to buy some rock to take home.

After a hot chocolate and slice of my Chocolate Olive Oil Cake, we went to explore Amberley Castle, a unique luxury hotel which I would love to stay at!

"Lord of the manor!"

A shy peacock...

Have you ever seen so many different kinds of pumpkins?

We carved our own pumpkin when we got back to the cottage, being slightly more ambitious this year. I always forget how hard it is to carve one though.

We had maple syrup flavoured pancakes with golden syrup and blueberries on top for breakfast before setting off for another walk, a safe one with no busy roads this time.

What an action shot!

I look forward to our next countryside adventure!