It looks as if the Spring is finally here. When I walk the dog in the morning I am able to see where I am going, it is no longer dark. The sky is tinged with pink as the sun has just risen and I can hear the birds singing happily in the trees. Spring flowers are starting to bloom, the grass is covered with yellow blooms of daffodils. Here and there you can see the odd crocus popping its head up as if to check it’s safe to come out. Best of all the sun is shining and the skies are blue. The days hold promise of long Summer days to come, the scent of mown grass drifting in the air and the hum of bees gathering pollen from the flowers.
It seemed appropriate to mark the occasion with some pretty Spring cupcakes, decorated with flowers and animals. These would be perfect for Mothers Day and are easy enough for children to make and decorate themselves, with a little supervision.
Inside the cupcakes is a surprise of jam, which gives them a Victoria sponge taste and makes them a little bit more exciting. The lovely Spring decorations were provided by Cake Angels who provide a range of edible and eye catching cake decorations and accessories. I love the Spring animals and flowers. They also sent a few more bits which I will have to use soon.
To top the cupcakes I planned to do elegant swirls of buttercream icing using a piping bag. This was my first attempt at using a piping bag and it is not that easy. The icing kept trying to escape out of the top as I piped it onto the cupcakes. I did manage a vaguely elegant circle effect. Do you have any good tips for using a piping bag?
A vanilla cupcake with a jam filling topped with buttercream icing.
- For the cakes
- 150g caster sugar
- 150g butter
- 150g self-raising flour
- 3 eggs
- 30ml milk
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 12 tsp strawberry jam
- For the buttercream icing
- 110g butter
- 500g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 60ml milk
- For the cakes
- Preheat the oven to 160C 325F Gas Mark 3
- Place 12 cupcake cases on a baking tray.
- Beat the butter and sugar until creamy
- Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the jam and beat until smooth.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the cupcake cases.
- Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until they spring back when touched.
- Leave to cool.
- When they are cool use an apple corer to remove the centre from each cake. Fill the hole with jam then add the cake centre you removed to the top of the jam.
- For the buttercream frosting.
- Whisk the butter until soft and creamy.
- Gradually add the icing sugar and vanilla essence and beat until smooth
- Add the milk a little at a time until the mixture is soft and spreadable.
- Use a piping bag to create swirls on top of the cupcakes.
- Decorate as required.
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/
Disclosure: I was sent some Cake Angels cake decorations to use in making cakes.
Have you noticed that the sun is shining outside? We seem to have been hit with a spell of warm weather and Spring is finally here. After a damp wet winter the sunshine is lifting my spirits. The trouble is that warmer weather means that you can no longer hide away under bulky coats and jumpers. You come to the realisation that you may have eaten a little too much over the winter and you need to lose a little weight. I know that I do. Luckily Ryvita have come to the rescue by adding two more flavours to their Ryvita Crackerbread range. They now have a Cheese flavour and a Pepper flavour.
Even better each Crackerbread contains 19 calories and 0.2g fat (0.03g saturated fat) so they are great for a light lunch or snack. Topped with healthy toppings they are really tasty as well. I have to admit when I first took them out of the packet my son commented, “cardboard”. I gave him one to try with a topping of soft cheese with garlic and herb. He soon changed his opinion and came back for more. I tried some topped with the soft cheese and a bit of smoked salmon for a more elegant snack.
I really liked the Ryvita Crackerbread, it is really crispy and crunchy and is the perfect base for the toppings. You can taste the cheese and pepper flavourings but they are not overwhelming. I will be taking a few of these to work, with a selection of toppings and creating the layers at my desk.
You can find Ryvita Crackerbread in most supermarkets, it is available in cheese, pepper, original and wholegrain varieties. RRP £1.19
Disclosure: I was sent some Ryvita Crackerbread in return for an honest review.
I come from a family where we appreciate art, the walls in my parents house are full of paintings. I love a picture, it adds personality to an otherwise blank wall. With digital photography it is now possible to get your photographs printed onto canvas. This is another way to personalise your home, you can have large photos of the special moments in your life immortalised on your wall. Your wedding photograph, photographs of your children or your dog, time with friends, the choice is yours. The only hard part is choosing a photograph, if you are like me you have lots to choose from.
Recently Canvas Design offered me the chance to have one of my photographs made into a canvas. I knew exactly which photograph I would choose, it is a picture of the Millennium Bridge taken from the quayside at Newcastle Upon Tyne and night. I love this photograph, the way the light reflects off the water and the colours of the bridge. I wasn’t sure if it would translate well to a canvas as the picture is all about the play of the light. The parcel arrived, well packaged to avoid damage. I removed the packaging to find the canvas.
The canvas looks amazing and I have the perfect place on my wall to hang it. A hanging kit is supplied so I don’t need to worry about fixing it to the wall, all I need is a hammer for the picture hook and a screwdriver to attach the hanger to the wooden frame at the back of the canvas. Canvas Design offer a range of different size canvases from 6″ x 6″ all the way up to 40″ x 40″. You can upload your photograph and customise it on their site and when you are happy you buy it and wait for it to arrive.
Canvas Design have kindly offered my readers the chance to win a canvas of their own. All you need to do is leave a comment below letting me know what photograph you would choose to put on a canvas. When you have done that come back and fill in the rafflecopter widget so your entry is registered. This is the only mandatory entry. There are other entries for following on twitter, facebook and tweeting but these are optional.
If you are not lucky enough to win then you can also order a print and receive a 15% discount by using the following code at the checkout:
Delivery is free.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
- UK only
- Closing date for entries Monday 24th March 2014 at midnight
- Include a valid email address or twitter id (it will not been shown). This is to allow me to contact you if you win.
- One entry per household.
- The winners will be contacted by email and their details sent to the PR for delivery only and not kept for any other purpose.
- The PR is responsible for shipping the prize.
- One winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
- The prize is a canvas from Canvas Design
Disclosure: I was sent a canvas in order to provide an honest review. I was not told what to write and my opinions are my own.
Wednesday, on my way home from work, I got a text from my husband to say my son had hurt himself at school. He had been in a football tournament that day and the school had rung to say he had played brilliantly in goal. He had dived to save a ball and hurt his wrist. All sorts of thoughts started going though my mind about how bad it might be. I rushed to get home as soon as possible to see for myself.
When I got in my son was sitting there with his dad. His face was grey and he was holding his wrist which looked swollen. I decided we should go straight to the hospital to get it looked at. I fed him first as he was hungry, luckily I had some stew ready made that just needed warming up. We then got a taxi to Accident and Emergency.
Accident and Emergency was busy, there were lots of children in football strips as well as babies and the elderly. Our details were taken and we sat and waited. We saw a triage nurse very quickly who just took the details of the accident and offered some pain killers. We then had to wait to see the doctor.
The seats were uncomfortable and hard and there was nothing to do. We passed the time people watching and playing I Spy. We worked out who was in front of us in the queue so we knew when we might get to see the doctor. Time passed slowly. Eventually we saw a consultant who examined my son’s wrist, asking how it happened and see where it was sore. He sent us along to x-ray.
We got to x-ray to find we were in another waiting room. This time there was a television showing reruns of Heartbeat, a show my son was not impressed by. We had different people to watch. This time not everyone was waiting for an x-ray, there were other departments with mysterious sounding names like fluoroscopy. After another eternity my son’s name was called. Our bottoms were sore from sitting on the hard seats and our legs were stiff. He was taken into the x-ray room by himself and I waited while they took the x-ray. Afterwards he was full of questions, wondering if his arm was now radioactive. The bad news was his wrist was broken and now we had to wait for a plaster.
Afterwards another wait, we were getting fed up by this time but knew we had to stay. Eventually the doctor saw us again to explain that the wrist was broken and then he got a temporary cast put on. An appointment was made for him at the fracture clinic the next day. By the time we got out of casualty four hours had passed. We were tired and weary and my son was sore. At least everything is now sorted out, he is sporting a blue cast which he will need to wear for several weeks and hopefully is on the mend.
Did you know it was National Pie Week? Neither did I until I spotted a lot of pie related activity going on. To mark the occasion I had to make a pie, it would have been silly not too. When I make a pie I normally make a sweet pie like apple. This is because I have no decent pie dishes and the lid of a casserole dish makes a great substitute. They are also very easy to make, usually you just add fruit and sugar to the pastry. I wanted to try a savoury pie this time so decided to try using the casserole dish instead. I wasn’t sure that it would work but I was very pleased with the results.
I choose to make a chicken and leek pie as these ingredients were in my fridge. I did think making a savoury pie might be difficult and time consuming. I was pleasantly surprised, making the filling was easy and then after the pie crust was added it only took 20 minutes to cook. It was much more flavoursome that pies you buy ready made in shops. I will definitely be making the effort to make more of my own pies in future, and will even get some decent pie dishes.
The family were very impressed with my chicken and leek pie, it was clean plates all round and my son wanted more. Even the dog tried to get some but he had to make do with his dog food.
Chicken and Leek Pie
- 3 chicken breasts
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 30g butter
- 2 leeks
- 6 mushrooms
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 200g cream cheese with garlic and herbs
- Pack puff pastry
- Add the chicken to a pan and just cover with cold water. Crumble in the stock cube and add the thyme. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Cut the chicken into pieces, keeping the stock to one side.
- Chop the leeks into strips and the mushrooms into small pieces.
- Melt the butter in a pan and add the leeks and mushrooms. Cook on a low heat until soft.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the flour
- Add the stock and gently heat, stirring all the time until it thickens.
- Add the chicken and stir in the cream cheese.
- Season to taste.
- Add the mixture to a pie dish.
- Preheat the oven to 200C, Gas Mark 6.
- Roll out the pastry to make a lid and place it on the pie dish.
- Place in the oven for 25 minutes.
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/