Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Quick Hack for a cake mix cake

Since having The Babe in July I really haven't baked anything that requires more than 10 mins to prepare...except for the birthday cake I made David in October...and while not a disaster that was a huge learning curve.  The Babe will happily sit in her rocking chair and watch me in the kitchen but I am too nervous to attempt anything that needs me to focus, since that is pretty much impossible these days.  I have been making muffins, scones, and cookie bars since they are so quick and easy and recently, to satisfy my cake cravings, I've been whipping up treats using Wrights Cake Mixes

Just before The Babe was born we stocked up on some mixes; chocolate fudge, ginger and toffee are our faves...and David baked them over our first few weeks with The Babe. The mixes were a life saver, and I'm still using them but now I'm jazzing them up a bit. 

Last week I was craving a super decadent Chocolate Cake so, while The Babe rested her eyes, I stirred up a Chocolate Fudge Cake mix, popped it in the oven and then quickly mixed up some chocolate ganache.  Easy Peasy. The cake took an hour to bake, the ganache took a little over an hour to thicken, an once the cake was cooled I sat The Babe up at the table in her highchair with some rice cakes to munch on and got on with slathering a very thick layer of chocolate frosting over the cake.  

I use Nigella's Chocolate Frosting recipe from her Devil's Food Cake Recipe in Kitchen.  To generously cover an 8 inch cake I just make half the recipe, and to save time I chuck all the ingredients into a glass bowl set over simmering water.  It works.

Topped with fresh strawberries and blackberries you wouldn't even know this cake was from a packet.  

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Chocolate Chip Pretzel COOKIE Bars

The Babe and I met up with a couple of friends today for a catch up, a cup of tea, and more than one sweet treat.  One of my pals has been out of town for a few weeks so it was a great excuse to make something a bit OTT.  Crammed chocka block with chocolate chips, minstrels and pretzles I fell in love with these cookie bars.  That's right...cookie...bars.

Cookie batter baked in a cake tin and then cut into squares...I may never make regular cookies again.  Ok, that's not true...I probably WILL make cookies again, but I am pretty sure I'm going to be overdosing on cookie bars.  

These are so easy to make and baked in around 30 minutes...so much better than baking tray after tray of normal cookies.  Another bonus...this recipe uses melted butter...no need to be all organised and have your butter out softening the night before (although I did because I hadn't actually read the recipe).  So now I am in love with the cookie bar and have been surfing Pinterest all day looking for the next recipe (smores, peanutbutter, m&m)...I'm hooked.  

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Courgette Scones

I whipped up a quick batch of savoury scones to devour with soup Thursday night.  I make a big pot of soup once a week for lunches and to freeze for quick/not messy meals for The Babe...and we usually end up having it for dinner at some point bulked out with grilled cheese sandwiches or savoury scones piled high with cheese and chutney.  This week I tossed in about a cup of shredded courgette to my usual scone recipe...sat back and let them riiiiise riiiiise riiiiiiiiiise.

Since I was going to be sharing these with The Babe I didn't use any salt or any other seasoning...but in hindsight they needed something like a big pinch of black pepper.  She loves peppery tattie scones so I don't know why I didn't toss some in in the first place.  She has her's smeared with unsalted butter, the adults prefer a really good stilton smothered in jalapeno horseradish jelly.   

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Lunch @ STEAKEdinburgh

I spent a lovely afternoon with The Babe and a good friend of ours "lunching" at STEAK Edinburgh, a...you guessed it...steak restaurant on Picardy Place, right across from The Playhouse.  I've been before with friends for dinner a few times over the past couple of years and have always been happy with the food. When I noticed on Twitter that they were promoting their new lunch deal (2 courses for £9.95) I made a mental note to try it out.  

The set lunch menu is good, it has a decent selection and includes a rump steak with frites and sauce that would normally set you back at least £10.  The Babe isn't quiet old enough to order her own dishes, yet (only a matter of time), but if she were I could have special ordered her a smaller portion of something on the lunch menu.  I had brought her lunch with us and she happily sat in the highchair munching away while the adults caught up. The mirrors, candles and busy staff walking back and forth was more than enough to keep her entertained.  

I started with a lovely salad of romain lettuce, apples, walnuts and blue cheese.  I make a similar salad for special meals at home and I love the combination of the walnuts and cheese so it was pretty much perfect in my eyes.  The portion was really good as well and there was plenty of cheese too...Siiiiigh, I am still drooling over it a week later.  My pal had the spicy lentil soup.  Also a good serving and perfectly warming for the miserable weather that day.  

I've been to STEAK a few times in the past and have, on those occasions, had steak with frites so I decided to try something different this time around.  The Fish and Chips and Mushy Peas practically jumped off the menu at me so that is what I went with.  It was great.  I wasn't sure what to explect, having only had steak before.  The portion size was small, without being dinky.  The fish was lovely and crisp on the outside, the chips were just right too, and the smear of mushy peas was fab.  I wish there had been a couple more chips, and a thicker smear of mushy peas...only because I shared some with The Babe and...well...I can sometimes be a resentful sharer (I'm working on it, and obviously don't mind sharing with her...cause I lover her).  

Only one pudding on offer, which is not included in the set menu price (an extra £3.50) and joy of joys on Friday it was a Peach Crisp with ice cream.  PERFECTION.  Sikly smooth peach compote topped with a crunchy crisp hazelnutty crumbly topping and killer vanilla ice cream.  It was served in a rather larger tumbler, which was just the rught size for a greedy guts like me.  The Babe thoroughly enjoyed the compote too and showed off her new lip smacking trick...yum yum smack smack.  

My pal and I were really happy with our meal.  She said that it would be a great place to go if you worked near by, althougth if you are pressed for time I would mention it to the servers.  Our service was...not slow...but relaxed.  We weren't in a rush so it didn't matter to us, it was nice to enjoy the food, the atmosphere and the company with out feeling like we needed to hurry up so the servers could  flip the table.  

STEAK Edinburgh 
14Picardy Place 
Lunch is served 12-2:30
Check out the menu here

Monday, 3 March 2014

Visiting the Grandparents and eating Macarons in Norwich

*********I apologise for the lack of links, I am trying to get some blogging done while The Babe sleeps beside me on the couch and this blasted Blogger App isn't up to scratch*********

The Babe and I spent a wonderful 10 Days visiting The Grandparents in North Norfolk last month.  I love going to visit my parents when they are over here the UK, well I love visiting them anytime, but it is especially nice to go exploring the gorgeous North Norfolk coast with them.

This trip was my first journey down flying solo with The Babe, a very short practice run for our much longer solo trip to Canada in April...it was fine, she was great, it was easy...April might be a different story but...oh well.  

Most days we stayed close to Home venturing out for a car journey around lunch time.  We ate at some family favourites, The Red Lion in Stiffkey, The Grove in Cromer, and The Lodge in Old Hunstanton and introduced The Babe to the Lattes and baked goods at Huckleberries in Cromer.  It was all lovely.  

A real treat was our trip into Norwich.  I've been to Norwich loads, I love wandering around and checking out the shops...especially the Coleman's Mustard Shop in the Royal Arcade.  This time we headed straight to Macarons and More (also in the Royal Mile)...the fantastic bakery by Tim Kinnaird of Masterchef fame.  

If you've been following this blog for a while you will know that I am a sucker for French Patisserie.  I love love love macarons, I love choux pastry,  I love delicately decorated miniture cakes....so when I found out via the Twittersphere about Macarons and More I was giddy with excitement.  

The shop is gorgeous, it is bright and totally reminds me of some of the more modern patisseries I've drooled my way through in Paris.  There was a good selection of Macs, gourmet brownies and legit patisserie.  Since it was early on in the day I decided to treat myself to a selection of macarons, although I was very tempted by the Mojito Baba topped with rhubarb.  


Gingerbread, Salted Caramel, Praline, Peanut Butter and Jam, Norfolk Lavander, and a classic Pistachio filled the selection box I entrusted my Mum to carry around Norwich.  Once we got back home and The Babe was occupied at Grandad's crawling bootcamp I finally got stuck in.  

One word....YUM! 

Nothing was overly sweet or soapy tasting (I've had some weird flavour combos before that have come close to the taste of Pears soap) really they were just perfect!   If pressed I'd say the Gingerbread was my favourite, but mistly because I am a lover of anything Gingerbready.  The PB&J was great and the Lavendar really surprised me. The flavour was subtle and the filling was so smooth.  

I really hope Macarons and More does well in Norwich because I am already planning my return trip in the Autumn.  

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Playdate Muffins

Lyra and I had a playdate this week with a mum and her little dude who I met through my antenatal classes waaaaaay back in May.  We've been meeting up pretty much every week for the past few months. This week Lyra and I went over to their flat for a couple hours of rolling and crawling.  

I was really glad to go over to their flat.  While I love meeting at cafes and chatting over coffee the little monkeys are getting bigger and more active and more vocal and they really need space to explore...not to be stuck sitting in a high chair.  And also...my mat leave money has run out so I'm trying to stop frivolously throwing my money away on decaf lattes and scones.  So a playdate was the perfect way to hang out and save a little money.  

I offered to bring something healthy(ish) to snack on and ended up whipping up a batch of muffins Tuesday afternoon while Lyra watched on.  Muffins are my go-to bake these days.  They are easy and fast...perfect for baking with an unpredictable 6 month old looking on.  A big plus is that they freeze really well too...not that this batch was for freezing.  

I adapted this banana muffin recipe substituting some oats for flour, adding some cinnamon and a good handful of frozen blueberries.  The banana muffin recipe alone is great, I've used it loads and am going to hold back half of the sugar next time and make some minis for Lyra.  The addition of the oats and blueberries in this batch made us adults feel less guilty about shovelling them in our faces while trying to stop the babes from head butting/scratching/crawling over/squashing each other.  Now that they are on the move I don't feel guilty about eating 2 muffins in 1 sitting.  

my little (carrot) muffin

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Chocolate Irish Cream Cupcakes...a (post) pregnancy craving

It is weird.  I didn't really have any cravings while I was pregnant, but over the past 6 months I have found myself craving things I never really HAD TO HAVE before.  I'm mostly talking about chocolate and other sweet things.  Sure, sure I have a bit of a reputation for loving all things cake...and YES most (all) of my new friends in Edinburgh are foodies and cake lovers but I really didn't crave sweet before I was pregnant.  I do now...that's for sure. 

Last night while shushhhing The Babe to sleep I had a sudden urge for chocolate cupcakes...chocolate cupcakes with Mocha buttercream.  Why I NEEDED that combination? I have no idea.  

I haven't made cupcakes in yonks and while I knew I had butter in the house, I knew I didn't have enough for cupcakes AND buttercream.  Dilemma, dilemma.  

Fear not! A quick google search took me straight to this recipe on the Add a Pinch Blog.  Decadent chocolate cupcakes made with vegetable oil.  Perfect! These cupcakes took about 15 minutes to whip up (in fact I had to go and calm The Babe at one point) and bake AND COOL very quickly.  In her recipe Robyn says that you can totally make these after everyone has gone to bed or first thing in the morning. They really are that simple.  Dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in the other...bish bash bosh SIMPLES. 

Last year at some point BTB (Before The Babe) I made some to.die.for buttercream icing where I creamed about 150grams of unsalted butter in a bowl with a wooden spoon and just gradually beat in sifted icing sugar and a drop of milk at a time until it was...perfect.  Since then I have never looked at recipes for icing....I go with 150grams of butter for a single layer or 12 cupcakes and just double it for a layer cake.  

I've been obsessed with the Beanies Flavoured Coffees I bought over Christmas so I mixed up a little bit of instant Irish Cream Coffee (extra strong for a deep flavour) and added that instead of milk into the buttercream.  Total indulgence. 

Cravings satisfied...until next time.