A Day of Celebration …

It’s been a while but I think I’m rediscovering my creative ‘mojo’, certainly in the kitchen anyway. We had family for lunch yesterday to help celebrate a range of birthdays which are all really close together. It’s something we do every year but couldn’t last year due to my dad’s ill health. It was wonderful to have him there yesterday alongside my mum and both of my parents-in-law, as well as my husband and boys.
I really enjoyed getting everything ready – we’ve had our roof re-done and the scaffolding only came down on Saturday, luckily the sun shone and we were able to open the doors from the dining room onto the garden:
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So far as the food was concerned, I made a mac ‘n’ cheese with red peppers and chorizo, buffalo inspired chicken, a potato salad and green beans. I made the mac ‘n’ cheese first thing in the morning which freed me up later on to concentrate on other things. These were the food choices of my 2 boys as one has just had his birthday and the other will be celebrating in just a few weeks time.
Desert came in the form of cake and plenty of it. We had rocky road cupcakes – even the buttercream icing contained melted marshmallow!

Rocky Road Cupcakes

Alongside the cupcakes we had freshly made doughnuts. I used a Mary Berry recipe and although it was originally intended for filled jam doughnuts, it worked really well for ring doughnuts too:

Rocky Road Cupcakes and doughnuts

To finish off we had some delicious rhubarb vodka which I bought a few weeks ago at the Abergavenny Food Festival – nobody else liked it quite as much as I did but then that’s no bad thing as there’s plenty left for me to enjoy!

Cake, Découpage and Quilting …

I’ve not posted for a while for various reasons but mainly because I started a fantastic new job at the beginning of September and more importantly, my Dad was taken seriously ill a few weeks ago and whilst it’s been a huge roller coaster of emotions and worry, there are some hopeful signs. Needless to say, I’ve not really been feeling particularly creative.

Over the past week though, I have had a go at my very first quilt and whilst some of the stitching is somewhat random, I am quite pleased with it as a first attempt:

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Whilst trying to take a decent photo of it, someone decided to ‘help’:

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I’d really like to make a large quilt for our bed but think I need to practice on some more smaller projects first.

Baking has not featured much here recently apart from the cakes made for my sons’ birthdays – they are just over 3 weeks apart, with mine thrown in the middle for good measure! My younger son loves cheesecake and he chose a raspberry ripple cheesecake as his birthday cake:

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My older son’s cakes are coming in 2 batches, the first were salted caramel cupcakes, he chose these because he was out on the evening of his birthday and is away this weekend, we will have the last 4 when he comes home later today. The 2nd/proper cake will be made next week when we are all home to enjoy it:

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I’m finally posting about our découpage fireplace. I did this way back at the end of the summer holidays, it took me over 5 hours and it was one of those things where I really wasn’t sure whether it was going to turn out ok or not. Originally, the tiles were a green/grey muddy colour and looked horrible, having lived with them for 13+ years, I decided to do something about them. At first, I was going to spray paint the whole fireplace purple, fortunately, I decided against this and went for découpage instead. I know it won’t be to everyone’s taste but I love it. The fireplace looks so much better now, we never have a fire in there – it’s in our dining room and anyone sitting next to it at the table would severely overheat !! The fireplace now looks like a proper focal point of the room:

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Baking with my Boy …

An afternoon baking with my teenage son was a real treat today. Together we prepared dessert for tomorrow’s lunch (Baked Alaska), a Chocolate and Orange cake (his choice, I’ve never made it before but it is delicious – definitely one to make again) and chocolate digestives.
The star of the afternoon was the Chocolate and Orange cake:

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This is a very light sponge where half the mixture has cocoa and milk added and the other half has orange juice and zest added. Once out of the oven I used a skewer to put holes all over the cake, I then brushed an icing sugar and orange juice mixture all over the top. As this seeped in to the cake, I dribbled melted chocolate over the top.

Making individual Baked Alaskas for dessert tomorrow meant that we could try very mini versions today! I made the raspberry ice cream yesterday and the lemon sponge base this morning. All we had to do this afternoon was make the Italian meringue. I’m really looking forward to the ‘full’ version tomorrow as the little taster that we had tonight was yummy!

The digestives were a quick treat for my husband as they are his favourite biscuits, we stamped them with
the instruction ‘eat me’ and then coated the other side with chocolate:

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Baking Hot …

Phew, yesterday was another scorcher, so what did I decide to do to keep cool? Yes, I decided to bake. We were going out in the evening (to see Giffords Circus – if you get the chance to see them, do, they were incredible, funny and surreal, all at the same time) and due to the timing of the show, we decided to take a picnic.

For our savoury dish, I wanted to use some lovely Scottish salmon fillets, I wanted something along the lines of a Salmon en Croûte. In the end I made a combination of several recipes. The pastry was rough puff – the first time I’d ever made it – and it was layered with a herbed pancake, saffron rice, finely chopped and shallow fried onion and mushroom, chopped hard boiled egg and a seared salmon fillet (skin removed). It took several hours to prepare but it was fantastic to have that time available to make it:

An added bonus is that we have enough of these left for us to have for our tea tonight.

We’ve recently discovered the restaurant chain ‘Bill’s‘, we love the way the restaurant is set out with the combination of old industrial pipework and ornate chandeliers, we also love the food, its range, freshness and all round yumminess. After our first visit there, I bought the cookbook ‘Cook, Eat, Smile’ and yesterday seemed the perfect opportunity to  try out one of the recipes. I chose the Beetroot and Chocolate Cake. In the same way that Carrot Cakes are almost always moist, the beetroot in this cake kept the sponge deliciously so. The beetroot also gave the sponge an incredibly rich colour and wondrous depth of flavour. Sandwiched between the two sponges, were a chocolate buttercream and a Black Forest Gâteau inspired cherry jam. This is a definite crowd pleaser and I’ll certainly be adding it to my list of favourites:

Let Them Eat Cake …

The title refers to my family eating yet another cake to celebrate my parents’ 70th birthdays  rather than the much disputed quote allegedly made by Marie Antoinette! The cake took a ridiculous 8 hours to make – baking, making the decorations, making the lemon curd to sandwich it all together and then the final arrangement of the decorations. The heat that we have been experiencing here in the UK did not really help with the latter but I got there in the end:

 

It was seemingly enjoyed by all, it was particularly lovely to be able to share it with my Canadian cousin and his family.

A Birthday Surprise …

It was my Dad’s 70th birthday last week, both he and my Mum hit this milestone within a few weeks of each other. They are both coming for a celebratory lunch in a couple of weeks – I’m having fun trying out a few different dishes on my family as I decide what to cook for the day itself. On my Dad’s birthday, we decided to surprise him by turning up at the restaurant Mum was taking him to that evening. Staff at the restaurant had suggested to my Mum that a cake could be brought for us to have at the end of the meal, chocolate is my Dad’s favourite and this is what I made for him:

It was lovely to spend some time with them both on Dad’s birthday, driving 2 hours each way was definitely worth it.

Food for a Birthday Celebration …

It was my husband’s birthday during the week and we had a celebratory meal with our boys and our parents yesterday. It was a real luxury to have the day to prepare so I really made the most of it.

Our main course was a delicious chicken and herbed rice dish, served with raw green chilli as an optional extra. To follow we had a choice of three cakes. First off were the lemon slices, these were a very simple tray bake that had been sliced and then drizzled with a lemon icing.

Next, there was a Fruit Loaf, the recipe being from Paul Hollywood and was a real success. The fruits kept it moist and the lemon icing gave sweetness.

Fruit Loaf

It was no bad thing that both the Lemon Slices and the Fruit Loaf weren’t too sweet as our Rocky Road Cupcakes more than balanced them out:

Rocky Road CupcakeUnderneath was a Chocolate Cupcake, on top was a frosting that was a combination of melted marshmallow, cream, butter and icing sugar. The ‘Rocky Road’ was melted chocolate which had a variety of sweet things sprinkled and dribbled over it. Whilst these cupcakes required more time and effort than normal, they were definitely worth it!