Gu Hot Chocolate in Edible Cups

There is something about the Winter that make hot chocolate obligatory. On a cold dark night with the wind howling outside and the snow fallling gently outside there is something comforting about wrapping your fingers round a warm mug of hot chocolate. A mug of hot chocolate topped with cream and marshmallows is food for the soul, that first sweet sip warms you up and makes you feel whole again. Breathing warmth into icy cold fingers and numb toes and making you able to face the world. Did you know that Gu Puds now have added Gu hot chocolate to their range? Neither did I until they asked me if I would take on the challenge of making an edible cup to serve their new hot chocolate in. I love a challenge and have taken part in a few in the past like making chocolate brownies. I had a feeling edible cups might be more of a challenge though. I decided to try and make cups out of gingerbread.

Hot chocolate in gingerbread cups

I thought that gingerbread would go very nicely with the Gu hot chocolate and had the idea of using muffin tins to make the shapes for the cups. The idea was to use baking parchment so they would not stick and when they cooked they would take on the shape of a cup. It worked to some extent, the gingerbread rose and I did have to hollow out the finished cups a little bit to make the right shape. When it came to pouring the hot chocolate into the cups it did work well, only one of them leaked and that was due to it being hollowed out a little too much.

Gu hot chocolateWhile my first attempt at edible cups did not look the most pretty, they were certainly tasty and perfectly complemented the Gu hot chocolate. I think with a bit more practice and bigger muffin tins I could make them look really pretty. They could be filled with icing sugar as a waterproof lining and decorated with icing and sweets on the outside which would make a lovely presentation.

Edible cupsGu hot chocolate is a lovely luxurious hot chocolate, it comes in three different types, Hot Chocolate, Mocha Flavour Hot Chocolate and Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. I tried the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate and it was gorgeous, very chocolatey and smooth with a hint of salted caramel. You can find Gu hot chocolate in Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Booths. It is a 750ml carton in the chilled aisle near the milk. I was quite pleased with my edible cups experiment and so was my son who enjoyed demolishing them after I had taken photos. Galina at Chez Maximka also took part in the challenge and  made some lovely looking chocolate cone cups.

Gingerbread Recipe

Gingerbread for gingerbread cups
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Ingredients
  1. 350g plain flour
  2. 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  3. 2 tsp ground ginger
  4. 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  5. 125g butter
  6. 175g light soft brown sugar
  7. 1 egg
  8. 4 tbsp golden syrup
Instructions
  1. Sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl.
  2. Add the butter and rub in to form crumbs
  3. Add the sugar and syrup and mix to form a dough.
  4. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge to cool for ten minutes
  5. Preheat the oven to 180C, Gas Mark 4
  6. Roll the dough out and cut into circles with a cutter
  7. Place the circles into a muffin tin lined with baking parchment
  8. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes until firm
  9. Leave to cool then hollow the centres out to form cups
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/
I was sent some vouchers in order to purchase the ingredients for this challenge

Cider Apple Bread

A while ago I attempted to make some homemade bread. I was actually quite pleased with the way it turned out but to be honest it is hard work making the bread. It takes ages to do all the mixing, kneading and waiting for it to prove. It also made my arms quite sore from the kneading. I do love the taste of homemade bread and if it wasn’t for all the effort I would make it on a regular basis. A number of people had mentioned to me that it would be a good idea to get a breadmaker as they make bread quickly and easily with no effort. Imagine my surprise when I won a Pansonic ZB2502 Breadmaker in their twelve days of Christmas competition. It arrived the next day and I couldn’t wait  to try it out.   Cider Apple Bread The breadmaker comes with a comprehensive set of instructions and includes lots of recipes. I had great fun browsing though and finding out what I could make. As well as bread it turned out that it makes cakes, jams and compotes as well. Jam is something I have never tried but I think I will be giving it a go soon. The first thing I tried was a normal white loaf. I followed the instructions, put all the ingredients in the breadpan, added the yeast in the yeast dispenser, set the right menu and pressed start.

Panasonic breadmakerIt was exciting watching the time to loaf count down on the outside of the breadmaker. The house started to smell of baking bread and it was all very exciting. I finally took out the loaf and it was cooked to perfection. Literally all I had done was measure out the ingredients and put them in the machine.

Cider apple breadI wanted to get a little more inventive and noticed a recipe in the booklet for cider apple bread. I had a bottle of Montano Cider that I had received in November’s Degustabox and this seemed a good use for it. I only used half in the loaf, I drank the rest and it was a lovely crisp refreshing cider. The Apple Cider loaf turned out really well. The mix of apple and cider added a nice sweet taste to the bread which worked perfectly in a cheese and chutney sandwich.  Luckily I also had some Branston chutney in the Degustabox which worked perfectly with the mature cheddar.

Cider Apple BreadI shall definitely be doing some more experiments with my breadmaker, I may well try a fruit loaf next to see how well the raisin and nut dispenser in the breadmaker works. It is lovely to be able to set the timer and wake up to freshly made bread in the morning without effort.

To make the cider apple bread in the Pansonic breadmaker you need menu 1. The ingredients are:

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 1 grated apple
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 300 ml cider.

If you do not have a breadmaker and want to try the recipe, here it is:

Cider Apple Bread

Apple Cider Bread
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Ingredients
  1. 300ml (½pt) dry cider
  2. 1tbsp soft light brown sugar
  3. 1tbsp dried active yeast or 1 x 7g sachet of fast action yeast
  4. 500g (1lb 2 oz) strong white bread flour
  5. 2tsp salt
  6. 1 tsp black pepper
  7. 1 tsp rosemary
  8. 50g (2oz) unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Place the cider and sugar in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for one minute then leave to cool until it is luke warm.
  2. Add the yeast to 2 tbsp of the cider mixture and make into a paste.
  3. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well in the centre.
  4. Add the cider and yeast mixture and knead together to make a dough
  5. Knead on a lightly floured board for ten minutes then place in a large oiled bowl, cover with clingflim and leave for an hour until it doubles in size
  6. Knead gently again and place in a loaf tin.
  7. Leave to sit for 30 minutes until it rises to the tins edge
  8. Preheat the oven to200 C, gas mark 6.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes until golden brown.
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/
Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

How to relax during Christmas

Are you ready for Christmas? I am getting there slowly. The presents are bought and the tree is up. I managed to get Christmas cards in the post in time. I just need to sit down and write my food shopping list and wrap the presents. Wrapping the presents is a bit of a challenge. As I work it makes it difficult to find a moment to wrap them up without my son knowing.When he was younger I often used to be up until the small hours on Christmas Eve struggling with wrapping paper. Now he is a teenager he stays up much later so this is not an option. I am going to have to find some way to sneakily wrap them without him realising what I am doing. My current plan is to tell him I am wrapping the dog’s presents and he has to keep the dog away.

Food shopping is going to be stressful. For some reason people seem to go crazy at Christmas and buy out the shop. The shops are only closed for one day or two days so there is no need to buy six loaves of bread. Make sure you have bought your sage for the sage and onion stuffing well in advance because there is always a great sage shortage the week before Christmas. I am planning to get up early at the weekend and try and beat the crowds. I hope to get most of it done and just need to get the fresh produce a day before.

All this getting ready for Christmas whilst working can be stressful but luckily House of Fraser contacted me and asked to relax over Christmas. In order to help me do this they sent me their Mulled Berry Collection which includes a diffuser, a jar candle and a Botanical candle. I love festive smells in the house and they always make me think of Christmases past. These have a delicious fruit combination of cranberry, cherry & blackcurrant laced with citrus & sweet spice highlights which make the house smell instantly welcoming.

diffuserStrangely I have never used a diffuser before, and having tried one I am not sure why not. Shortly after opening the bottle and dipping the reeds in the room was filled with a glorious seasonal smell. The smell lasts for ages and I don’t have to worry about a flame. My dining room now has a glorious sweet and fruity scent with a hint of spice that hits you when you enter the room.

Scented candleThe jar candle, as well as having a lovely scent, adds a nice festive look to the room. It flickers in the red glass jar making the atmosphere relaxing. The botanical candle when lit next to it really adds to the ambience. The flickering flames are great for watching TV in the dark.

scented candleOnce I have got all the wrapping and shopping out of the way I am looking forward to spending my time off with my family. We will be watching lots of Christmas films and TV specials, getting out board games and jigsaws and getting outdoors for some fresh air. I will also be making a dent in my incredibly large reading pile and finally reading some of the books I have been putting off for ages. I may even get to play the playstation game my son has wanted me to play for ages. I will also be spending a lot of time cooking as I love nothing more than trying new recipes. I am looking forward to the holidays and now I have a nice festive atmosphere in my home I should be able to relax more.

I was sent the fragrance set for the purposes of the post but the opinions are my own.

 

Keeping Fit with a Fitbit Flex

I like to think I am pretty fit. Although I work in an office I get out for a long walk with the dog every day and running around after the family keeps me in trim. I used to run regularly but recently I have not been doing as much exercise as I should have and have started to gain weight again. One of the reasons for this is that the colder weather and dark mornings put me off. It is fine running along country paths in the Summer when mornings are light, but it is not so easy to see your way on a dark Winter morning. Once you get over 40 it is much harder to keep the weight off, it seems to go on if you just look at a slice of cake, never mind eat it.

I needed some motivation to get me doing more regular exercise again. I definitely feel much happier when I exercise as well as being healthier. When Legal and General sent me a Fitbit Flex to try out, I was delighted. I do try and keep track of how many steps I do each day, but my pedometer keeps going missing in the house and I can never find it. The Fitbit Flex is a wireless activity and sleep wristband, it tracks steps and works out the distance you have travelled per day. It also monitors how well you sleep and it can also be used to check your calorie intake. Even better it is worn as a wristband so there is less chance of mislaying it.

Fitbit flexIn the box you get two wristbands, a small one and a large one,  a usb charging cable, a wireless sync dongle and the Fitbit tracker which is inserted in a wristband. Getting started is as easy as charging up the Fitbit using the usb charger, inserting it into the wristband and snapping the wristband onto your wrist. To track your progess you need to install the Fitbit app on your computer, which is download from the website. Once you have done that add the wireless dongle into a usb port, sign up for a free Fitbit account and sync your wristband. It then proceeds to track your activity.Fitbix flexThere is also a Fitbit app available on android and ios which allows you to sync the fitbit using bluetooth so you can view your progress during the day. Once the wristband is in place it feels secure. Even better it is splash proof so you can wear it in the shower, although I did take it off to have a bath. It is comfortable to wear and after a while you do not notice it.

fitbitAs well as tracking your progress via the app the Fitbit also uses LED lights to show you how close to your goal you are. Each light represents 20% of your goal. You can set the goal to be steps walked, calories or distance. Just tap the Fitbit and it will light up showing you how near your goal you are.

fitbitIf you want exact numbers just log into the app and it will show you.

fitbit flexI wore my Fitbit just to monitor my normal activity and see where I could increase my exercise. I found that on weekdays I was managing to fit my target of 10,000 steps per day. I was amazed to find that during my normal weekend activity on a Saturday I had actually walked 7.5 miles. This was just doing the shopping and cleaning, it was no wonder I was tired at the end of the day! I did find that I was motivated to walk more just to see all the little LED lights lit up. The fitbit also sends you emails to notify you when you have earned badges, which you get for walking certain distances. This makes you want to do more exercise to see what bad

The other thing I like about the Fitbit is that it monitors how well you are sleeping. At night you just tap it to put it into sleep mode and it tracks how well you have slept that night and how often you have got up. Even better you can set a silent alarm so that the Fitbit will buzz in the morning. This is great for waking me up but not my husband.

The Fitbit Flex is RRP £79.99 but it is a great motivational tool. Since I have had it I have found that I have wanted to get my exercise routine back on track and you may even see me out running again soon. I found out that the Fitbit Flex will also integrate with Runkeeper, the app I use to keep track of my running distances, so I will be trying that out soon. Hopefully I will also lose some weight in the process.

I was sent a Fitbit Flex in return for an honest review.

A Gift For An Old School Friend

As I get older I have found that I have had different friends at different times in my life. Some of these I have stayed in contact with over the years and some have faded away. There are very few friends that stay with you over the passage of time. I have one friend that I was at school with that I have stayed in touch with. We do not see each other often due to geography, we live a long way apart. We stay in touch with phone calls, texts and send each other gifts on Christmas and for our birthdays. When we do get together we pick up where we left off. We remember stories from our school days, catch up with what other old friends are doing and generally have a giggle. We have plenty of stories from our time growing up in Belfast, during the seventies when it was the height of the troubles. Like the time when we went for a walk in the park, the night before the 12th July. The 12th July is day of parades and marches by the Orange men, it is quite a sight watching them all march past. At the end of the march they hold a rally and this park was where the rally was going to be held. I was talking with my friend, wondering why there was no security on the field, when suddenly a soldier in full camouflage appeared from the ground. They had been there the whole time and we never saw them. Needless to say we left swiftly.

I always find it difficult when it comes to getting a gift for an old school friend. It needs to be something that is easy to post and that she can use and will appreciate. Every year I struggle for ideas. This year a gift site called Chuckle Monster came to my rescue. They have a wide range of gift ideas, from mugs and chocolates to flowers and alcohol. The gifts are sorted by type so it is easy to find what you are looking for. When browsing their jewellery items I came across the perfect gift for my friend. I found this gorgeous silver bracelet.

Silver braceletI think this looks really elegant and she could wear it for most occasions. The little heart charm looks really nice hanging from the links. I also found a pair of pretty flower shaped earrings, which are also silver.

EarringsThese are really unusual and unique and I love them. I hope my friend will as well. Each piece of jewellery came in a little coloured bag which made it much easier to package up and send. It also came quickly so I did not have to worry about missing the last posting day for Christmas.  I have parcelled them up and the gift is on its way. Do you have any special friends from school?

I was sent a voucher to use on the site in return for an honest review.