A Strong Coffee

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Homemade Jaffa Cake Bites

jaffa cake bites

The GBBO is back and week one saw me making these mini jaffa cake bites. As I usually stick to buying Jaffa cakes from McVites, I decided I would stick to this Mary Berry Recipe to make them. However, as I decided I was going to use my mini muffin pan, it made 24 jaffa cake bites rather than 12 jaffa cakes.

To make the sponge bottoms you will need:

1 egg
1oz caster sugar
1oz self raising flour

For the jelly:

1 packet of orange jelly
150ml water
zest of 1 orange

I used plain chocolate cake covering to top my jaffa cake bites.

I started by dissovling the jelly in the boiling water, adding the zest and allowing to cool in a large dish.

I then made the sponge bases.

Here I pre heated the oven to 180C and greased my mini muffin pan with butter.

I then whisked the egg and sugar for 3-4mins before folding in the flour. I separated the mixture between the 24 holes and baked for around 10 minutes.

Once cooled topped my sponges with the jelly.

making jaffa cakes

I used a fish slice to get the jelly out of the dish and then used a piping nozzle to cut a round disc. Once placed on the sponge I added melted plain chocolate on top.

I was pleased with the result but they are a little time consuming to make.

half eaten jaffa cake

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homemade jaffa cake bites

Mummy Mishaps

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

ASK Italian Review

pasta at ASK Italian

Yesterday I visited ASK Italian for the first time, to review the new children's menu. I am unsure why we have never visited an ASK Italian before as we all enjoy Italian food and it is a safe choice with the children. The new children's menu is £6.95 and includes a starter, main, dessert and babyccino.

The menu doubles as an activity sheet with finger puppets for the children to colour whilst they were waiting. The boys really enjoyed this.

colouring sheets at ASK Italian

The children's starters were bought quickly as they understand that children don't like waiting. The starter consists of vegetable ticks with garlic bread and dip. All the boys enjoyed this.

children's starters ASK Italian

For the main they all chose the Spaghetti Carbonara, the portions were large and they all enjoyed this. One thing I was really impressed with was that you are able to ask for an allergen menu. Whilst my children don't have any allergies, I know that it can be hard for friends eating out with children that do. The pizzas (except calzone) can be gluten free as can the pasta dishes.

children's spaghetti carbonara ASK Italian

For desserts there is a lovely choice. If my boys couldn't read I am sure they would have been happy with the fruity ice lolly or fruit. However, big man's eyes lit up at the chocolate pizza and the other two were excited by the toppings for their ice cream.

chocolate pizza

children's ice cream at ASK Italian

To end the meal they even had their own babyccino which big man pimped up with his left over sprinkles.

I thought that the selection was fantastic and I it certainly wont be the last time we visit.

I feel I should also add about the meals my husband and I had as they were delicious. In denial that I was no longer on holiday, I enjoyed a sea breeze mocktail, before we enjoyed our sharing platter which was filled with high quality ingredients.

sharing platter ASK Italian

Both my husband and I chose pasta dishes which we enjoyed.

Bolognase at ASK Italian

For dessert I had to go for the new chocolate lava mountain. Hot toffee sauce slowly melts a chocolate case over ice cream and chocolate fondant. It was seriously good!

Have you been to ASK Italian before? What dish do you recommend for my next visit?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Costa Rica In August

Costa Rica fields and flag

You may think that travelling to Costa Rica in August I would be worried about poison dart frogs, snakes, crocodiles, or the many other deadly animals that my children had told me about from watching Steve Backsall in Deadly 60. Strangely I wasn't. The one thing I was a little worried about travelling to Costa Rica in August was the weather. May to November is the green season in Costa Rica. Also known as their rainy season! I had absolutely no idea how much it would rain and more importantly what to wear!

rain cloud out to sea

As it turned out, Costa Rica was extremely kind to us. The rain didn't get in the way. We visited 3 different areas of Costa Rica, each with a different climate. One thing that was invaluable were the waterproof jackets kindly supplied to us by Blacks. As they were lightweight it meant that they could easily be carried around in our backpacks ready for an impending downpour. They are incredibly thin meaning that they don't make you too hot either. Unlike back in the UK, it is still hot when it rains in Costa Rica.

Arenal was the first part of Costa Rica we visited. It is home to an active volcano and many hotels boast heated springs from it. Here the rain was at it's most unpredictable. One day it would rain at 5pm, another all morning. It always rained overnight meaning drying swimming clothes was hard work. This was our going out to dinner style.

We then traveled to Monteverde. Home of the Cloud Forest. Here there was rain in the air most of the time.

hanging bridge in Monteverde

You might even need your raincoat if you ate the in quirky Treehouse restaurant. It stayed dry for our horseriding trek, but we were taking no chances and wore our raincoats anyway.

horseriding in Monteverde

Finally we headed to Manuel Antonio which is along the pacific coast. Here the weather was magnificent. There was rain in the night but the days were beautiful, even though some were cloudy.

Manuel Antonio National Park

As it turned out, I shouldn't have worried about the weather at all. Obviously I can't guarantee that the weather would be the same again, but it certainly didn't ruin our holiday. I think as long as you are sensible and take the right clothing then the beginning of August is a fantastic time to visit Costa Rica. Let's face it, with the UK weather as it is, it is likely that any waterproof clothing you buy is going to be used at home too.

If you would like to follow our travels from planning our trip to the tours we took, then I will be writing about them all on my travel blog A Strong Coffee To Go. You can follow A Strong Coffee To Go on Facebook.

waterproof jackets

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Family Fever
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

A big thanks to Blacks for the waterproof jackets. They will be well used here too!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Our Summer So Far

playing in the paddling pool

I can't believe we are 4 weeks into the summer holidays already. We have had lazy days, staying in our PJ's until lunch. Days out and a fantastic holiday. We have met up with family and had fun in the sun.

Little man had a lovely time in Thorpness and Skegness without his brothers. He finished pre school a few weeks before the other two so my husband and I had some time one on one time with him. As a third child, that doesn't happen that often - especially for my husband. There was no stopping little man at going in the sea at Skegness. And yes he was the only one - it was freezing!

playing in the sea at skegness

Once the boys finished school we spent a few days at home relaxing, with trips to the park. We had a lovely day out at Burghley with my parents and the boys enjoyed playing in the garden of surprises.

mirror maze at burghley

We then had a lovely time at Willows Activity Farm. Little man loved the Peter Rabbit Playground.

Peter Rabbit Playground

We then headed on our Costa Rican adventure and enjoyed some fun in the sun.

Beach in Manuel Antonio

When it comes to having fun in the sun, there is one thing that is VERY important to us. As you can see we are a rather pale skinned family. Making sure we have sun protection is a must. Even on a cloudy day. To be honest, my husband and I burn so easily we often use the same SPF50 as the children. I was really excited to hear about the new easy peasy kids range from Garnier Ambre Solaire. They have two new products that have addressed my two main issues with sun screen.

Easy Peasy kids range

First up is the Garnier Ambre Solaire Anti Sand Spray. When we were on holiday I posted this photograph on Facebook with the caption "I love the fun of splashing in the waves but my the sand gets EVERYWHERE!"

playing in the waves in Manuel Antonio

One of the things I hate above all is sand sticking to my skin. Garnier Ambre Solaire's Anti Sand Spray has a special sand-repelling agent that allows sunscreen to be absorbed without sand sticking to the skin. Clever hey?

So what is my other problem? My boys like doing this

garden of surprises burghley

and this

playing in the swimming pool

and this

body boarding Manuel Antonio

Yes, they would be quite happy to spend their entire summer holiday splashing about in water. Which is great, until you need to reapply sunscreen. Have you tried drying children off to reapply suncream? It is hard enough keeping them still let alone getting them dry! Again Garnier Ambre Solaire have the answer. Wet Skin Lotion! You can just spray it on wet skin. And here is the science bit. It contains two hydrophillic gelling agents that render it water resistant, giving your little ones (and you) long lasting SPF 50. You can find out more on their website and it is available to buy at Boots.

So I will be packing these in my bag for the rest of our summer outings. Along with sunhats as my boys noses always catch the sun too. We have some trips to the park planned, a day at IWM Duxford and hopefully a day at Skegness too. Then I hope to have a couple of special days out with little man before he starts in reception. Trust me, blink and your baby starts school!

What are your plans for the end of the summer holidays?

Linked to Magic Moments

This is a commissioned post for Garnier Ambre Solaire

Monday, 15 August 2016

The Botanist, Marlow

food at the botanist marlow

I first saw The Botanist tagged in a friends post on Facebook and had a look at their website. There are a few restaurants scattered around the country and they offer food inspired by the deli, rotisserie and BBQ. As my husband has been in gardening leave, we decided to take advantage and to visit the Marlow  restaurant one lunch when the boys were at school.

The decor is quirky, with books being used as a ale list and containing the bill too.

ale list at the botonist

tables at the botanist Marlow

Whilst they pride themselves on a range of cocktails and ales, we opted for lemonade. 

For starter we decided to share a scotch egg and baked Camembert with smoked bacon and crispy onion crust. Both were delicious and presented beautifully.

baked Camembert with smoked bacon and crispy onion crust.

scotch egg

For main, I opted for the crispy salt and pepper beef with soy beans and sweet chilli dressing. It tasted amazing with just enough heat. (However, there were a couple of sultanas that I had to pick out as I just can't stand them.) That aside it was a lovely salad and not something I would have made for myself at home.

crispy salt and pepper beef with soy beans and sweet chilli dressing

My husband opted for the chicken and chorizo pie. It came with a choice of fries, mash or sweet potato fries. Along side it was some mushy peas and gravy. Again it is not a combination I would have really thought of making, but my husband will now be challenging me to recreate it!

chicken and chorizo pie

I noticed that there were watering cans filled with coloured pencils and colouring sheets if you did take children with you. I'm pretty sure that my boys would have liked the Brunch menu.

We really enjoyed our meal and would happily return. Have you tried any of The Botanist restaurants?

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Easy Steak Pie With Blue Cheese Crust

Steak Pies with blue cheese crust

This steak pie with blue cheese crust recipe is simple to make and I make the pie filling first in the slow cooker. This means that I can then make blue cheese crust for me and my husband and just use plain pastry for the boys. The key to this is just making sure that you roll the pastry thin enough, so that it cooks through properly.

Easy Steak Pie with Blue Cheese Crust.

Serves 2 adults and 3 children

For the pie filling you will need:

500g stewing steak
1 can on vegetable soup
200ml of reduced salt bisto
1 onion diced.

For the crust:
I pack of ready rolled short crust pastry
Blue cheese
1 beaten egg 

Place all the ingredients for the pie filling in a slow cooker and heat on low for 5 hrs.

Divide the mixture into the pie dishes.

For the plain pastry pies, cut the pastry so that it is a little bigger than the pie dishes. Brush with egg and pierce two lines in the top.

making a steak pie

Crumble a couple of slices of blue cheese into the remaining pastry. Roll as thin as you can and then cut these around the die dish. Again brush with egg and pierce the top.

Cook for 25 mins at 180C.

Enjoy with a mix of vegetables.

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Steak pie with blue cheese crust

Friday, 5 August 2016

Afternoon Tea At Pennyhill Park

Afternoon tea at pennyhill park

For my friends 40th, we headed to Pennyhill Park in Surrey for afternoon tea. This was my third experience of afternoon tea. Many years ago we went to the Ritz and whilst it was lovely I was disappointed that the sandwiches were stale around the edges. Last year I went for a Mad Hatter's afternoon tea which was extremely quirky and fun. As a traditional afternoon tea, Pennyhill Park was fantastic with amazing customer service.  I called to book and was pleased I could pick any time. Other hotels were only offering set times. I received a phone call two days before, confirming the reservation, checking for any dietary requirements and inquiring if it was a special occasion.

When we arrived we opted for the Royal Ascot afternoon tea. This came with a glass of Nyetimer, English Sparkling wine which again tasted lovely.

The afternoon tea itself was then served. The finger sandwiches were lovely and freshly made. Our waiter then came over to say she had ordered us some more sandwiches.

As I had told them it was my friends 40th they then came over with a plate for her. Including fresh fruit, nougat and a caramel chocolate. I thought this was a lovely touch.

birthday message at pennyhill park

The scones were the best I have ever tasted. They were light and the devonshire cream and jam made them delicious.

There was then an array of cakes to try.

afternoon tea at Pennyhill Park

The afternoon tea was served in the bar, and there was a harpist playing from around 2 o'clock.

We had an enjoyable afternoon tea with fantastic service and I would recommend it for a traditional afternoon tea.