The Best of Autumn

Autumn, the season arrives slowly drifting in after lazy Summer days, lulling us into a sense of security with a show of colour. Days start to get shorter, we notice when we wake up to be greeted with a sky awash with gold. Sunrise is never seen in the Summer, we wake up and it is light already.

Autumn sunsetMornings start to become foggy, a soft haze drifting up from the fields as if it is trying to hide a secret. Tendrils of fog shiver in the cold morning air and you realise the warmth of Summer is coming to an end. It is mysterious and spooky walking in the early morning light.

The trees slowly change colour, first one leaf turns red, then another turns gold and slowly all the trees are different colours. A blaze of fire when lit by the sunlight, looking as if they belong in the mysterious cities of gold. The sky seems bluer somehow, in contrast with the leaves beneath it.

Autumn colourThe leave start to fall, piling up under the trees, blowing into gutters and sneaking into corners where they build up into large mounds. The temptation is there to shuffle though them, swishing my feet, kicking up leaves remembering Autumns long ago. There is something satisfying about the swish of leaves under foot, rustling around your ankles. Sometimes the leaves reveal treasure, a prickly conker shell with the brown of the chestnut inside. The shell is parted carefully and the conker removed, bringing back memories of conker fights at school. Carefully boring a hole in the conker and threading though string. Sometimes thinking of ways to strengthen the conker with vinegar or baking, Hoping that yours would be the one strong enough to last and be crowned victor. Sometimes sweet chestnuts and beech nuts are found. Beech nuts can be eaten from the shell, small but tasty. Sweet chestnuts are taken home and grilled, filling the house with the scent of Autumn.

Later come the winds and rain, we dash to get inside and warm up with a cup of tea, or hot chocolate and marshmallows. Looking out at the rain lashing the glass we are glad to be inside warm and cosy. The best bit of Autumn is the glorious colours in the morning and evening skies, the colours in the leaves and the way it gently heralds the start of winter.

I am entering this post into Sykes Cottages best bits of Autumn competition

Peanut Butter Mug Cake

For some time I have been fascinated by mug cakes. These are cakes that you cook in a mug in the microwave and are ready in no time. You can literally whisk up the ingredients and in less than five minutes be eating cake. There is something mystical about spooning sugar and flour into a mug, popping it into the microwave and watching a perfectly risen cake appearing. It is perfect for an indulgent mid afternoon snack on an October day when the wind is howling around the windows and it is too cold to go out.

I decided it was time to try and create one of these mug cakes myself. I chose to attempt a peanut butter mug cake as I currently seem to have a cupboard full of different types of peanut butter. I decided I would use this new Three Nut Butter from Whole Earth. Three Nut Butter is made from three different types of nuts, cashews, hazelnuts and peanuts and I thought it would add a more exotic taste to my cake. It also has no added sugar as well as being a great source of fibre, so my cake would be reasonably healthy.

Peanut butter mug cakeIt really did work like magic, I mixed up all the ingredients, poured it into the mug put it into the microwave and watched as it fluffed up into a cake. It was amazing the way the mixture just suddenly puffed up over the edges making a perfectly formed cake in a mug. The cooking time depends on the power of your microwave. I checked mine after a minute and a half and found it needed a little bit longer. It only took two minutes in total to cook and it was bliss to eat a steaming warm cake.

Peanut butter mug cakeThe cake tasted delicious, the three nut butter worked really well giving it a lovely nutty taste. It was a very filling cake, I could not eat it all in one go.  I think next time I would use a smaller mug and make two cakes. I did however tip half of the cake out of the mug and keep it for later. It tasted just as nice eaten cold.

Peanut butter mug cakeNow I have found out how simple it is to make a mug cake I will definitely be trying this again. Maybe next time I will get more adventurous and make some kind of creamy topping to put on the cake. My son loved it as well, I think the magical way a cake appeared in the mug was really appealing to him. If you want to use Three Nut Butter you can find it in Sainsbury’s and Tesco RRP £3.19.

Peanut Butter Mug Cake
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Ingredients
  1. 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  2. 4 tablespoons white granulated sugar
  3. ¼ tsp baking powder
  4. 1 egg
  5. 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  6. 3 tablespoons milk
  7. 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. Whisk until smooth
  3. Pour into a large mug or two smaller mugs
  4. Place in the microwave and cook on high for 1½ minutes
  5. Check if it is cooked, if it needs longer just cook for 30 seconds more then repeat until done.
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/
I was sent the Three Nut Butter in return for an honest review.

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Halloween Food Ideas

It is nearly Halloween, a day when children love to get dressed up and go knocking on doors trick or treating to get sweets. I used to enjoy taking my son when he was younger, it was lovely seeing all the kids in different costumes walking the streets. A lot of households made a big effort with pumpkins round the door and different decorations in the windows. I always have fun carving pumpkins and have made a dragon pumpkin in the past. Pumpkin soup is always a great thing to make with the left overs. Now my son is older he does not go trick or treating any more but still enjoys answering the door to the younger children and giving them treats. He also loves eating the treats himself.

He is planning to have a friend to stay over on Halloween night, I think the two of them are planning to watch some scary movies together as well as playing video games. When he has a friend to stay they love having different snacks to eat together late at night. I usually provide popcorn and crisps but as it is Halloween wanted to think of a few more exciting idea. LoveBrands came to the rescue, they sent me a hamper of products along with a few Halloween food ideas.

Halloween hamperThis weekend I got busy making up some of the recipes.

Witches hand on a bed of dirt

First of all I made a witches hand on a bed of dirt. The hand was made from strawberry jelly poured into a rubber glove and left to set. I think it looks really effective as well as rather gruesome.

Witches hand jellyThe idea of putting the jelly in a rubber glove is a good one, although I did have problems with the jelly trying to leak out. It is a good idea to have a few rubber bands available to secure the top of the glove tightly until the jelly has set. You also need to be very careful removing the jelly from the glove, my witch lost a finger but luckily this is easily hidden. The bed of dirt is made from boiling sugar to make a caramel and adding nestle crunch chocolate.

Witches hand jellyI advise caution when boiling the sugar as it gets really hot and can give you a nasty burn if you spill it on yourself.  The resulting chocolate mixture is really tasty when cooled and does look like a bed of soil.

Witches hand jelly

Witches hand on a bed of dirt
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Ingredients
  1. Witches hand
  2. 2 packs jelly
  3. 500ml boiling water
  4. oil or spray oil
  5. Bed of dirt
  6. 100g caster sugar
  7. 75g plain crunch milk sharing bar
Instructions
  1. Tear the jelly into cubes and add to a bowl. Add 250ml boiling water and stir with broomstick
  2. When the jelly has dissolved add 250ml cold water
  3. Oil the inside of a clean rubber glove then pour in the jelly mix. Secure the end of the glove with a rubber band and leave in the fridge until set.
  4. Carefully cut away the rubber glove
  5. Crush the plain crunch milk sharing bar
  6. To make the bed of dirt boil the caster sugar in a cauldron with a splash of water until it lightly boils and turns brown.
  7. Remove from the heat and whisk in the crumbled chocolate.
  8. Place on a baking tray and add the witches hand to the top
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/

Squeamish Squares

These are squares make from a mix of Shredded wheat cereal, chocolate, jelly tots, jelly laces and marshmallows decorated with white chocolate. They are really simple to make and the mixture of different flavours is sure to be a bit at any Halloween event.

Squeamish squaresNo baking is required, just melting chocolate and mixing then leaving to set in the fridge. These are the ideal recipe for kids to help with, although you may find a large number of the sweets vanish before they make it into the mixing bowl.

squeamish squaresThey were great fun to make and taste great, the addition of the jelly sweets takes them to another dimension. You can tell the kids that the cakes contain worms and watch their faces as they eat them.

Squeamish squares

Squeamish Squares
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Ingredients
  1. 150 g Shredded Wheat
  2. 6 Yorkie bars
  3. 50g white marshmalllows
  4. 200g golden syrup
  5. 1 pack strawberry laces
  6. 1 pack jelly tots
  7. 1 bag Milky bar buttons
Instructions
  1. Grease a 20cm square tin and line with baking parchment
  2. Melt the yorkie bars and golden syrup together in a bowl over a cauldron of simmering water
  3. Chop the jelly laces into smaller bits
  4. Mix the shredded wheat, ½ the jelly tots and ½ the jelly laces together in a bowl then stir in the melted chocolate mixture.
  5. Pour the mixture into the tin and leave in the fridge to set for at least 1 hour
  6. Cut into bite sized pieces.
  7. Melt the milky bar buttons over a bowl in a pan of boiling water and spoon the melted mixture over the bars
  8. Scatter the remaining jelly tots and jelly worms over the top before the milky bars set
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/


Spooky Spiders

If you are looking for a simple craft idea for children to make this Halloween, why not try some spooky spiders. All you need are empty smartie tubes, pipe cleaners and googly eyes. First you will need to empty the smartie tubes, which is obviously the best part.

Spooky spiderChop the smartie tube in half and carefully wrap a couple of pipe cleaners tightly around it until it is covered. Take another pipe cleaner and fold it in half. Cut into two halves. Wrap each half of the pipe cleaner around the front and back of the spider to make legs. Finally stick on the two googly eyes using some glue.

Spooky spiderSimple but effective. You can hang them from doorways, hide in cushions or place in a web of cotton wool to help create a spooky effect in the house.

Thanks to LoveBrands for the ingredients and recipes to make these items.

 

Joseph Joseph Elevate Kitchen Utensils

I love my kitchen utensils, there is nothing better than using a smart set of utensils in the kitchen to make you feel you are cooking something worthwhile. Recently I have been trying out the Joseph Joseph Elevate Kitchen Utensil Gift Box Set which Suppose.com sent me to review.

Joseph Joseph elevate gift setThe Joseph Joseph elevate kitchen utensil set contains six tools that will be of great use in any kitchen. There is a slotted spoon, a spaghetti server, a solid spoon, a slotted turner, flexible turner and a ladle. They come in bright and cheerful colours which brighten up my kitchen. Even more clever the handle contains it’s own tool rest so when you place it on a kitchen surface it is raised off the work surface. This helps prevent mess and makes them easier to grab. The tools themselves are made from nylon and are heat resistant up to 200C.

Joseph Joseph kitchen utensilsThere is a utensil for each of the cooking tasks I have been carrying out recently and the tools have been a joy to use. They work perfectly with my non stick pans and I do not have to worry about scratching them. They would make a perfect gift for someone who loves to cook.

One of the things that Suppose.com do is offer a price tracking tool that allows you to get the best deal. It constantly compares prices on different websites and highlights offers for you. If you are interested in a particular product you can follow it on suppose and find out when the cheapest price is available.

kitchen-utensilsThe Joseph Joseph elevate kitchen utensil set is normally £37.10 but using the Suppose  price tracker we found that the cheapest price was £23 which is a great saving.

Suppose sent me the utensil set in return for an honest review.

 

Halloween Party Food

Are you planing a Halloween Party? It can be hard to think of nibbles that your little ghosts and ghouls will enjoy, that are easy to make and look spooky on a plate. This weekend I have been busy in the kitchen and came up with a couple of ideas  for Halloween party food. They are simple to make but look ghoulish on  a plate. Kids and grown ups will love them.

Mummy Pizzas

Mummy pizzasGhoulish mummy pizzas are quick and easy to make and taste nice. Use muffin halves as the base, layer on tomato sauce and use strips of cheese to make a bandage effect. Jalapeno peppers are great for the eyes but olives could also be used. These were a big hit with my son who loved the effective look.

Mummy pizzas

Mummy pizzas
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Ingredients
  1. English muffins
  2. Passata
  3. White Cheddar
  4. Jalapeño peppers
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Cut the muffins in half
  3. Spread passata over each muffin half
  4. Cut the cheese into strips and lay on the muffins to look like bandages.
  5. Add the jalapeño peppers to look like eyes.
  6. Place on a baking tray and bake for ten minutes until the cheese has melted
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/

Mummified Hot Dogs

Everyone love hot dogs, but how about mummified hot dogs? A simple variation on a sausage roll with the hot dog wrapped in shortcrust pastry, with a little space left for the face. Eyes can be added with ketchup or mustard after they have been baked for a more scary look. They taste nice and look effective as well.

Mummfied hotdogsThey are actually very filling as well so perfect to eat after a hard night trick or treating. Serve them with a bowl of mustard on the side for dipping into and you have an ideal party snack.

Mummified hotdogs

Mummified hot dogs
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Ingredients
  1. Jar of jumbo hot dogs
  2. Pack of shortcrust pastry
  3. Ketchup or mustard
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  2. Cut the hot dogs into halves.
  3. Roll out the pastry and cut into fine strips
  4. Wrap a strip of pastry around the top and bottom of each hot dog leaving a gap for the face.
  5. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden
  6. Add two daps of ketchup or mustard to look like eyes
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/

For the ideal Halloween party setting why not carve a few pumpkins and then make pumpkin soup or pumpkin cheesecake pie.

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