Friday, 30 December 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011 has been and gone and I hope that you all had a lovely, happy, family time; full of love, laughter and precious memories.

I was lucky enough to spend the day with my husband, children, parents and one of my sisters.  Unfortunately my other sister was at home in France and my brother lives in South Wales, but they were in our thoughts and hearts that day, as every day.

My fave pressie from my hubbie and my two fantastic kids... a little kitchen indulgence no less ;-)

Sprouts (and lots of them) were being prepared - I lurves sprouts - mine and dad's fave veggies.  But oh WOW I look sleepy eyed and fat in the face in this one. Hellooooo diet in January!

My Christmas angel; oh how she's growing up too fast.  Unfortunately the teen isn't one to pose for the camera, so I can't embarrass show you just how he's growing up and becoming a handsome young man before our eyes.

However, as you can see, not everyone was impressed with their new winter coat!  Or was it that fact that the Santa hat had been placed on her head?

Chocolate Brownie

A well stocked store cupboard should contain all of the ingredients needed for this recipe.  Walnuts are optional, and can easily be excluded without affecting the recipe if you like.  So, let's get started...

100g (4oz) Plain flour
4 eggs
225g (8oz) Caster sugar
225g (8oz) Butter
50g (2oz) Cocoa Powder
2.5ml (½tsp) Baking Powder
7.5ml (1½tsp) Vanilla Extract
100g (4oz) Chocolate, chopped/Chocolate drops
16 walnut halves (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4.

2. Grease a 9" square tin and line the base with baking parchment.  I've found the best performing baking parchment is this one from Lakeland Limited.  I've used it loads and, so far, it's never stuck on me.

3. In your bowl place your flour, eggs, sugar, butter, cocoa powder, baking powder, and vanilla.  Mix together for several minutes until thoroughly combined.  I used my Kenwood Major on high speed for 4 minutes to incorporate as much air as possible.

4. Add the chocolate drops and stir until just mixed.

5. Pour into  your prepared tin, smooth the top and place 16 walnut halves on top to mark out each of the 16 pieces your brownie will be cut into.

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes.  You will notice that the top of a brownie sometimes 'bursts' through as it cooks.  This is normal; don't worry.

7. Test the brownie in the centre with a cocktail stick.  If it comes out fairly clean (a little bit of 'goo' is ok, but not lots!) then your brownie is cooked. If the cocktail stick is still very wet, then place the brownie back into the oven for 5 minutes and test again.  If the top is browning too much, then place a sheet of foil loosely over the tin for the last 10 minutes.

8. Remove from the oven.  Leave to rest for 2-3 minutes in the tin, then make sure that the edges aren't stuck to your tin (use a plastic spatula if you're using a non-stick metal tin.  Turn out onto your wire cooking rack.

Can be served either warm - with custard, cream or ice cream - or left to go cold and enjoyed with a nice cuppa while you put your feet up!



Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Rosie's Christmas Rum butter

Tradition in our house is to serve Christmas pudding with rum butter. Why rum? Well my dad was a Submariner in the Royal Navy when he was younger and is still partial to a 'tot' of rum that they used to be served on board daily. Mum therefore created her own accompaniment based on this love of rum and it's been served up ever since.

It's so easy to make; just 3 simple ingredients.

250g (8oz) butter, softened
500g (1lb) icing sugar
A good splash (or even a glug) of dark rum

I trust the wonderful Kenny to whizz this together for me, but you can use a hand mixer if you don't have one of these gorgeous machines.

1. Add all the ingredients to a large bowl.

2. Start by mixing slowly until the icing sugar and butter are just combined (starting slowly prevents a huge sugar dust storm enveloping the whole of you & your kitchen).

3. When this is just combined, turn the speed up to maximum and beat for 4-5 minutes until light & fluffy.

4. Taste and add more rum if required.

5. Spoon into little dishes and refrigerate until required.

This will keep for as long as your butter is in date. In this case about 6 weeks until 6th February 2012. No chance of that in my house of course as the family are coming for Christmas dinner and all adore rum butter on their pudding. It's also got to last until Christmas day (I'll be watching for the fridge raiders!)

A tasty alternative is to heat a mince pie for 20 seconds in the microwave and then add a generous dollop of your rum butter on top. Leave for a short while to start to melt the butter & enjoy with your feet up whilst listening to a lovely Christmas carol or two!

Alternatives to rum would be any liqueur or spirit such as whisky, brandy, Grand Marnier (for an orange kick).

Let me know if you try it.

Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Letraset Aquamarkers

As many of you know, I'm lucky enough to be a freelance demonstrator for Letraset. (Lucky mare or what?! LOL).

I recently made a few cards using their Aquamarker pens and want to share the results with you here.  The stamp is from the designer John Byars for DoCrafts.  Papers  are all from my scrap paper stacks and all embellishments are from my stash.

I used different colourways for each of the little boys in my images and for the bubbles I applied some Glossy Accents to give the bubbles a bit of shine and depth.

You can click on the images to get a more detailed look at the colouring/watercolouring techniques I've used.

I've applied the base colour to these dungarees from the pen using a damp paint brush pen and then used the same colour pen directly onto the image to add a more defined, darker/shadow area, which I then blended in to prevent too much of a harsh line.

Again I've used the same technique used on this card as the one above.

I applied my colour to the dungarees on this card with a damp paint brush.  By using this method, you get a much more subtle effect.  More akin to traditionally watercolouring an image.  I then applied another layer of the same colour to darken the shadow areas.

For this next card, I applied the colour to the card and then, using the blender pen 'washed' the colour into the image.  This gives a much more intense colour.

Using the black Aquamarker which I have diluted right down, I created a shadowed area at his feet.

I hope to get a YouTube video made in the next couple of weeks to show you how to use the Letraset Aquamarkers using the techniques above.  I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Hodgson's Barn plus 4 girls

I had a wonderful long weekend away at the beginning of the month in a beautiful part of Yorkshire with 3 lovely ladies; Kirsty Wiseman, Roz Carter & Janet Bower.

Apart from chilling out BIG stylie, watching DVDs, chatting, laughing, crafting we had our very own Come Dine With Me experience.

First up was Roz with Breakfast at Tiffany's:

Bucks Fizz to start

Muffins with smoked salmon and dill.  The other girls had a wonderful poached egg and hollandaise sauce with theirs, but as I can't eat egg, this was my 2nd course & delish it was too!

Followed by waffles, served with maple syrup and creme fraiche.  With a wonderful cup of tea, served in china cups and saucers.

Kirsty wasn't hung over; she was being all Audrey Hepburn and wearing her shades indoors

This is a picture you'll never see again; me with out make up or eve lipstick (one for the diary!!!)

We wore pearls around our necks.

Oh, how very rude Mrs Wiseman!!! LOL

Janet; at least you posed for me nicely and it's a lovely pic of you too. x

I prepared a picnic for my dining experience;

Pink plates, cups and napkins.  Pink lemonade.  Little triangular cut sandwiches.  Nuts, nibbles, biscuits and crisps.

Followed by pink and white marshmallows, pink Smarties, pink butterfly candles and home made raspberry & chocolate cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting and fondant butterflies.

It's a wonderful setting for the converted barn that we hired; in the Yorkshire Moors with a gorgeous view and, as you can see, an eery full moon shining through the skeleton tree into the living room! Schpooky!

Kirsty had us go all mexican for her experience.  But first she drew us each a hat and we had to decorate them in a Mexicano theme.

Roz chose to stitch hers with dangly bits, while looking all moody and butch in her 'tash!

Janet went a little bit camp and premature with her Sombrero (look carefully for a surprise!)

Kirsty wasn't exactly butch with her colour theme either, but she did show us her amazing pair of guns! HAHA!

Me?!! OMG !!! I drew a rather large cactus but my Mexicano has a bit of a problem methinks and was rudely making suggestions to the camera :-o

Sol with lime - only for the hard amongst us!

Or those who like to lick limes...?!

ATG Guns at the ready - gonna shoot my tape all over you if you come any nearer!!!

Cheers Amigo - we scared them off with our sharp rootin' tootin' shootin'!

But when Camp Amigo makes another appearance with the pink ATG gun; the others go all butch and macho and show off their muscles!

Kirsty served us wonderful chicken fajitas, guacamole, refried beans - and a whole Mexicano kit and kaboodle of lush foodiness.

Unfortunately I can't find the pics of Janet's Dining Experience - dunno where they've gone to?!?!?!?!  Kirsty and I decorated ourselves a Fez, though I had to write on mine what it was just incase anyone was wondering what that large red squareish thing with a plume of black was on my head.

But she cooked the most amazing Lamb tagine with giant Moroccan cous cous.  Served with olives (yeuch!) flatbreads, hummus, mixed nuts, orange & lemon sliced served up with some tasty minted green tea.

Our winner by a unanimous 3 to 1 vote was...... JANETTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!  Though she is yet to share the lamb tagine recipe with us all as we ALL wanted to cook it ourselves ;-)

All in all this is what I thought of my weekend away with the girls...

Loved my relaxing few days in Yorkshire.  It's a long drive but so very worth the miles.

Missed the family and was very glad to be home safely again on Monday afternoon to pick my poppet up from school.  Now... back to my diet (I NEVER eat as much in a week as I did in those 3 days away!)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Freycob's Food - Sausage Casserole

I've just blogged a recipe for Sausage Casserole over on my food blog.

If you decide to have a go at making this yourself, please remember to let me know what you think of it.


Sausage Casserole

Who buys packet casserole mix? WHY do you buy packet casserole mixes? Do you know just how EASY it is to make your own; do you KNOW what is in it (no preservatives, copious amounts of salt or 'E' numbers) No? Then let me show you.

Simply take (remember it's cooking not baking so it's not a precise science; add or take away ingredients that you do or don't like, even alter the proportions to suit your taste).

1 HEAPED tbs (20ml) plain flour
1 HEAPED tbs (20ml) tomato puree
1 HEAPED tbs (20ml) wholegrain mustard
2tsp (10ml) mixed herbs
1 400g chopped tomatoes
1 pint (570mls) Beef/Chicken stock.
1 pack of your favourite sausages (I use Lincolnshire)
1 medium swede, diced.
3 medium carrots, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium parsnips, diced
1 red pepper, diced

Oven temperature from 150°C to 180°C depending on how quickly you want it to cook. I normally do mine on 150°C for a few hours. Alternatively, why not put it all into your slow cooker and come home to the amazing smell of your home cooked fayre?

1. In a large casserole dish, put your flour, tomato puree, mustard, herbs and chopped tomatoes.

2. Add the stock and mix thoroughly.

3. Add the chopped vegetables and stir through.

4. Add the sausages (I don't bother to brown mine as it's a slow cooked recipe). You MAY need to add some more water at this stage. You want it to submerge the majority of your veg but not all.

5. Place in the oven and ignore for the next couple of hours or so.

6. Remove, stir through and serve with buttery mashed potatoes and some lovely Savoy cabbage.

Perfect for a cold Autumn or Winter's evening.

Now you've seen just how EASY it is to make your own casserole sauce, why not have a go for yourself? Come back and tell me how you got on!



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