Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Recipe: Amaretto sours cocktail cupcakes!


After my Pina colada tray bake success, it got me thinking about other cocktails I love. 

I mean, who doesn't love a cocktail right?

Sit down, close your eyes, sun on your face and take a sip and you could almost, almost be on a tropical island somewhere.

Then the kids shout & scream and you realise, nope, you're at home. In England. With parenting & chores to be getting on with. 

But that split second of joy is sooo worth it. 

Maybe drinking in the day whilst in charge of small people isn't a good idea though? 

Tempting as it is. 

So here's the next best thing. 

Cocktail cupcakes. 

Yes! Cocktails AND cake. Winning combo  right there. 

All the taste of the tropics and all the yumminess of moist sponge. 


The cocktail I've chosen to cupcake-ify today is an Amaretto sour. 

Traditionally this is Amaretto with lemon juice, sugar, a slice of lime and maraschino cherry.

A beautiful mix of velvety almond cut through with sweet and sour citrus fruits. 



So to cupcake this up I've made an amaretto sponge and topped it with a lemon and lime frosting and a maraschino cherry. 

Not forgetting the little straw which I love as a nice extra touch for a dinner party or something?


Of course these have been made with actual amaretto to give an authentic flavour but if you wanted an alcoholic free version, you could just as easily replace the amaretto with a few drops of almond essence/ extract. 


Personally I love any excuse to tell the kids - hands off - they're alllll mine!! 


The recipe below makes 12 cupcakes. 


INGREDIENTS
For the cupcakes: 
175g Caster sugar
125g Self raising flour
50g ground almond
175g unsalted butter, room temp
3 large eggs 
6 tbsp Amaretto (or 1-2 tsp of almond essence/ extract)
1/2 tbsp baking powder

For the frosting: 
500g icing sugar
225g unsalted butter, room temp
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lime 
1-2 tbsp lemon juice

To decorate: 
12 Maraschino cherries
4 paper straws cut into 3 pieces each 

METHOD
1. Preheat the oven to 180c and line a muffin tin with 12 cases. 

2. Combine all of the cupcake ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly until smooth. 

3. Spoon equally into the cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. 

4. Put onto a wire rack to cool and make the frosting by creaming the butter with the icing sugar and lemon & lime zest then adding the lemon juice until you get the consistency you want. Not too stiff and not too soft so you can pipe it onto the cupcakes easily. 

5. Pipe a swirl onto each cooled cupcake, push in your mini paper straw and top with a cherry. 


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Review: Trutex school uniforms


School uniforms are probably one of the most important purchases you will ever make for your children. 

I remember how excited I was buying their first ever uniforms and how adorably teeny they looked toddling off for their very first day. 

Get it wrong and you will find yourself constantly replacing items as the year goes on. We have already had to replace BBs trousers twice since September due to holes in his knees and LLs Cardigan which shrunk too much in the wash!

Children wear their uniforms more than they do their normal clothes. 6+ hours a day, 5 days a week. It's a tough old life being a school uniform! They go through A LOT in just one week at school....

My Sunday evenings are taken up with a pile of school ironing, folding them all up neatly for the week ahead. 



Monday morning comes around and they look so clean and smart. 


But after play times and afterschool where you shout at them 10,000 times over to get changed which they promptly ignore as they rush into the garden to play regardless, they start to look a little dishevelled!






By the end of the week their poor uniforms have everything from paint to spaghetti bolognese splatter across them!



Then at the end of every day when they get ready for bed and the uniforms are lovingly *ahem* thrown across the back of the chair ready for the next day. 

And the before we know it they're in a pile to be washed on Saturday ready to be ironed again on Sunday and the whole process begins again. 


See how important it is that you chose the best quality uniforms from the outset? 

So I was over the moon to be given the opportunity to try out Trutex school wear for review. 

Trutex are a brand that you can trust to make school wear that lasts, giving you real value for money. 

And that is the exact reason Trutex are the UKs leading school uniform and sportswear brand. 

When I mentioned to my mum we were reviewing Trutex she new of them instantly. Apparently we used to wear their uniforms as kids all those years ago and she always loved their quality.

A good sign when a brand is still going strong 30 years later. In fact, they began 150 years ago!!!! 

The uniform items I chose to review were: 

Junior classic fit trousers in charcoal 


Polo shirts in white



Crew neck sweatshirt in claret



Junior stitch down pleat skirt in Harrow grey



Sweat cardigan in claret



For me, a uniform needs to be comfortable and durable to put up with the children's day to day life. 

An important factors for us is fit. 

I struggle to find trousers specifically that fit BBs tiny waist and bottom.

I bought a load of trousers at the start of the year that didn't fit his waist which I ended up exchanging for the more expensive ones with an adjustable side button waist.

 I also struggle with his leg length. The smaller size is too short and the next size up is far too long. 

When the Trutex ones arrived and they didn't have the side adjuster on, I was a little worried. But I needn't have been. They fit him perfectly! They have a nice slim waist which is elastic ages to grow with him slightly. 


LLs skirt did feature the side button adjuster so with a little adjustment, this fits perfectly too. 

Another biggy is how well they wash. I seem to spend my life washing, drying and ironing them so they need to fair well in this test. 

LL & BB have had uniforms in the past that bobble and fade really easily when washed a few times. 

These Trutex ones have been put to the test about 8 times in the last 4 weeks and are currently showing no sign of bobbling, shrinking, loss of shape or colour. 

My biggest chore hate, and to be honest, I hate them all, but the one I hate the most is the dreaded ironing. Especially pleats!

Luckily for me, LLs skirt held its pleats really well after washing and they barely needed ironing. I could totally have gotten away with not ironing it at all to be honest!

Another bug bear with uniforms is with new sweaters and sweat cardigans that shed fluff from the Inside onto their polo shirts underneath. And do you think you can easily brush off dark maroon fluff from a bright white shirt easily? No! 

The Trutex ones had no shedding whatsoever, much to LLs delight. 

We are lucky that LL & BBs school allow plain sweaters with no logo on, but I know that some schools insist you have everything logo'd. 

Trutex do offer an option to customise their sweatshirts with their embroidery and bashing service. 

Overall Trutex offer great uniforms which you can rely on for quality, comfort and durability as well as great value for money. 

To find your nearest stockist of Trutex school uniform please visit http://www.trutex.com/store-locator/




*Disclaimer: These uniforms were gifted to me for the purpose of review but all of the opinions above are my own and true*


Friday, 22 April 2016

10 reasons to love picnics and how to make them perfectly stress-free!


"There are very few things more fitting than a really good picnic as spring turns to summer. Warmth, good food, and the great outdoors - what could be better?" Jamie Oliver

Nothing Jamie - nothing! 

There is literally nothing better than a picnic with the family on a summers day.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Recipe: Fruit crumble & custard cupcakes


The sun is shining. 

And as soon as it comes out, I instantly think of summer fruits.  

Rhubarb season is just starting and will see us through until the end of summer, September time.

We have to make the most of them whilst they are fresh, home grown in the UK and in season but a bog standard rhubarb crumble can get a little boring after a few weeks.

So why not try out these crumble inspired cupcakes instead?

A vanilla sponge with a gooey raspberry & rhubarb centre topped with a custard frosting and granola crumble.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Review: Chiquitos new menu!


I have been to chiquito's quite a few times in the past but many years ago when I lived near by to one, long before the children came along. 

I used to love it but the closest one to us here is a bit of a drive away so not as easy to spontaneously pop in for a bite to eat.

So when they contacted me about reviewing their new menu, I was keen to go and try it out as a family.

I love Mexican food and the children are just starting to get more adventurous with their tastes so we were all excited.

We decided to go swimming that day which worked very well as the fun pool was across the road from a Chiquito's.

The perfect pit stop after working up an appetite!

Monday, 18 April 2016

Review: Cirio filetti ft a spicy mince & potato bake recipe


You may have seen my previous Cirio reviews & recipes for home made stuffed crust pizza's and Pomodorini tomato, bacon & woodland mushroom tagliatelle?

If you did then you'll know that tinned tomatoes are a staple in my pantry.

As long as I have a tin of tomatoes in, I know I can always rustle up a meal.

They are just so versatile and easy to cook with.

And you will also know that I have tried cheap supermarket own brand tinned tomatoes and learnt the lesson the hard way that it is necassary to pay the few pence extra to get a good quality brand you can rely on.

Cirio produce authentic, italian tinned tomato products that are full of rich tomatoey flavour and can be relied on to make any meal tasty.

They not only make your standard chopped & plum tinned tomatoes but have a large range of others from finely chopped, pomodorini, tuscan, pizza bases and fillet tomatoes.

Today was the turn to try out Cirio Filetti which are plum tomatoes, peeled & sliced into wedges in a rich juice. 

The Cirio website does feature a few recipe suggestions for these but always one for experimenting I decided to come up with my own to try these in and came up with this delicious spicy mince & potato bake recipe.

I took inspiration from lasagne, moussaka & chilli and I think it is the perfect fusion of the three.

The mince is spiced like a chilli-con-carne, the bake is layered and topped with a white sauce & cheese like a lasagne but the layers are made up of potato and fillet tomatoes more like a moussaka rather than pasta.

It is hearty and packed full of flavour.

Perfect in as a winter warmer as much as it is in summer with a side of salad and garlic bread as I have done here.



This recipe serves 2.

INGREDIENTS
1 onion
1 tsp lazy garlic
500g minced beef
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground cumin
500g beef stock
400g chopped tomatoes
200g beans (I used cannellini but kidney beans would work well too)
1 large potato, cooked & sliced thinly.
1 tin of Cirio Filetti
 For the white sauce: 
50g butter
50g plain flour
400ml milk
50g grated parmesan.

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 200c. Fry off the onion with the lazy garlic for a minute or two.


2. Add the mince and fry until browned.


3. Add the chilli and cumin and stir in thoroughly.


4. Then add the stock, chopped tomatoes & beans. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until reduced down by half.


5. Once cooked start to layer up your bake.



6. To make your cheese sauce: Melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the flour to make a paste. Cook for a few seconds then gradually stir in the milk until smooth. Add half of the parmesan and simmer for 4-5 minutes and season.


7. Top with the remaining parmesan and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.




Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Review: Encona Brazilian BBQ sauce inc a recipe for Brazillian BBQ steak with a south american salsa


If you saw my recent review of Las Iguanas you'll know that I have a new penchant for Brazilian food after trying a traditional Brazilian bar snack called Dadinho's. 

I loved the whole southern vibe and flavours that Las Iguana's provide so I was keen to replicate some of that and try some southern cooking of my own.

One thing Brazilian food needs to be is exciting! The flavours really need to get your taste buds dancing in your mouth.

That's where Encona come in. Encona bring together authentic ingredients including chillies & spices to create unique recipes. And what started as a company providing just Caribbean sauces now provides sauces and marinades from countries all around the world from India & Africa to Texas & Louisiana.

Their current range includes this limited edition Brazilian BBQ sauce which is a blend of tomatoes, herbs & spices to create a unique sweet, spicy & tangy sauce. 

All of the sauces are so versatile and can be used as table sauce or in stir-fries but today I decided to use the Brazilian BBQ as a marinade.

It was delicious and such an easy way to jazz up a normal plain steak.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Recipe & Review: Bear claws monster breakfast bars


Occasionally, just occasionally, you get asked to review something that turns out to be an absolute gem.

Something that you had never heard of or seen before but is now a staple on every weekly shopping list.

Occasionally, a product is produced that ticks the boxes for both parent & child.

When these products arrive, it reaffirms to me why I do this.

Why I test out products and write all about them, the good and the bad.

Because some things are just too good to keep to yourself & the word needs spreading!

Review: The Arla B.o.B (Best of both) fat free milk challenge


The lovely people of Arla recently got in touch with me to tell me about a brand new fat-free skimmed milk called Arla B.o.B (Best of both) - which they told me has all the benefits of drinking skimmed milk, with the taste of semi-skimmed (without tasting watery and artificial!)

The offered me the challenge of swapping my semi-skimmed or full-fat milk for one week to see how it compared.

Well, I am never one to pass up a challenge and I was intrigued to know if their claims were true so I jumped at the chance to try some and swap for the week!

Review: Wing Yip fried rice sauce inc a recipe for egg fried rice



If not, pop over & take a peak!

Not only will you discover a new yummy recipe, it'll fill you in on all Wing Yip low down.

Friday, 8 April 2016

#FashionFriday: Daisy, Daisy....

Daisy, Daisy

With the sun shining & Summer soon upon us this week we are looking at three different outfits that all channel sunshine yellow and summer daisies.

Outfit one is perfect for a relaxed meal out - how cute is that little daisy bag?

Outfit two is a chilled out, casual holiday outfit - I LOVE those rocket dog trainers!

And outfit three is perfect for a stroll around the shops or a summer picnic - there is something about straw hats & bags that immediately make me think SUN!




Thursday, 7 April 2016

COMPETITION & Review: Carlton Kids Dinosaur Creativity on the go book


If you saw my recent review of Carlton Kids press out & play dinosaurs book the you'll know that:

A. BB is Dinosaur MAD and
B. Carlton kids produce fun, colourful & educational books for children

If you didn't see it, why not!?!

Click the link above & head on over to see what we made of the press out & play book.

But today's review is another fab one - the Carlton kids Dinosaur creativity book.

This is a Dinosaur themed activity book with 80 pages packed full of things to do from puzzles & mazes to colouring & drawing prompts like the one below which is on the first place and the start of your creative journey.



The book also includes over 150 bright & colourful stickers.


With spaces to put the throughout the book.


BB sat so quiet for well over an hour going from page to page doing all of the different things and he barely touched the surface. 

This book is packed so full it literally gives hours upon hours of entertainment.


And because it is all neatly contained in one book, all you need is this & some pens/ pencils and away you go.

A perfect holiday book or one for the car for long journeys.


Or in our case, a rainy day activity over half term.


BB is 4 (nearly 5) and the activities were all perfect for his age. 

He grasped what he needed to do for most activities and only needed help on odd occasions to read the instructions/ prompts.

Great that he can do it all independently & I can leave him to it!


And he can check himself if he was right or not with the answers at the back of the book.


Some activities are best suited to being at home, but provide lots more crafty, creative fun, adding to the hours of entertainment this book gives.


And as well as all of the activities, the book is filled with educational facts & dinosaur related things to learn.

BB LOVED this book. He loves colouring and puzzles and he loves dinosaurs so it was a total win-win for him.

If your child is not so Dinosaur obsessed as BB, do not worry, Carlton have it covered! The creativity on the go range comes in lots of different themes to suit all interests and ages from Science & art to horses & ponies.

This book was only released in February 2016 & retails at just £5.99. For more info please visit www.carltonbooks.co.uk

And just for you lovely people, Carlton have agreed to give-away a copy of Creativity on the go to one lucky winner!!

COMPETITION


Competition is open to UK residents only.

Winner will be announced on 23rd April so please check back here or twitter to see if its you!

The prize will be sent out direct from Carlton.

Please enter using the options below.

The only madatory option is to comment on this post but for extra entries you can share the love & spread the word on social media.

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