A Strong Coffee

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Creating A Garden For Entertaining With Homebase: After Photographs

You may remember that a few weeks ago, Homebase and Mumsnet challenged me to makeover my garden for entertaining. With £100 voucher in my pocket and some tips from the Homebase website, I started on my project. 

We moved into our house just over 6 weeks ago and the previous owners really looked after the garden. Now we have more space I am looking forward to entertaining family and friends more regularly. The Homebase website made everything easy for me. Simple ideas that could be implemented without a huge amount of work or cost. Lighting for the evening is recommended to give an inviting atmosphere so I decided that some fairy lights would look great in the trellis in our bench area. I have to say that at £4.99 these heart lights are a bargain.

heart fairy lights from Homebase

Out of all of the changes that I have made to the garden, big and small, one of the most useful things is filling this strawberry planter with herbs. I cook from scratch a lot and I love using fresh herbs. Now I can just pop out into the garden to get some. The herbs were less than £5 for a mixed tray and have really grown well.

We have placed this by the BBQ with the idea of being able to use them as we are cooking. Although looking at how well the mint is doing, I think that some Prosecco Mojitos will be on the menu too!

My last task was the hardest, It was to create a perfect patio with chill zone and fire pit. I started by painting the trellis and archway in the bench area.  I will need to do some more painting in the autumn when we can cut back a lot of the plants, but this has really lifted the whole look of the patio. It was looking old and tired rather than inviting. 

Added to this I purchased these bright red cushions to make sitting on the bench a more comfortable experience. Again the colour of these cushions make the area come alive.

A fire basket was also on my list for helping create the perfect patio. At under £16 this was great value. Now my boys are older I can trust them around it, and the fact that I purchased marshmallow forks made them very happy!

toasting marshmallows in a fire basket

The tips on the website helped me decide how to rearrange the patio. It suggested a number of areas to sit. So I moved our Bisto table down to this patio too. Simple tips like adding a few flowers from the garden to glass jars and tea lights dotted around in the evening are easy and inexpensive.

So just to show you, here is my before photo

And this is my after - helped by a bit of sunshine too!

What do you think? It is amazing what £100 and some elbow grease can do. I loved the ideas on the Homebase website as well as the prices. Now, I am hoping for some good weather so that we can invite our friends over and use our updated garden for some entertaining.

Have you got any good and inexpensive tips for updating a garden for entertaining?

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I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher in return for writing this post

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Life With Munchers

Monday, 22 May 2017

Getting Ready For Some Summer BBQ's: Maintenance And Recipes

Every now and then there is a glimpse of sunshine and I am just itching to get outside and fire up the BBQ. As you may remember, we moved house a month ago and I am currently sprucing up our garden and getting it ready for entertaining family and friends. Of course, with all the decorating that needs doing on the house, we don't have an endless budget. So tips to clean up our existing garden furniture always come in handy.

BBQ chilli and garlic prawns

Last year my husband sanded and varnished our rather shabby looking wooden table and it really did make the world of difference. I find that keeping on top of cleaning the BBQ is a must. One of the best things I learned is that if you put a metal tray with a little water on the grill after cooking then close the lid, you can gently steam off the grease whilst you are enjoying eating. Anything that means less work later sounds good to me!

So what about recipes? There are only so many burgers and sausages you can eat, and whilst they are lovely, I try to use some healthier recipes too. Mojito Chicken Skewers are a favourite and perfect with a Prosecco Moijto to drink!

mojito chicken skewers

And for a light evening meal, these garlic and chilli prawns are fantastic served with salad or in a pitta bread.

Garlic And Chilli Prawn Skewers

  • 225g of defrosted King Prawns
  • 2 cloves of garlic - chopped
  • 1cm cubed of ginger chopped
  • I small red chili chopped
  • A glug of sesame oil
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 lemon
  1. Defrost the prawns and leave in a bowl with the sesame oil, garlic, chili and ginger.
  2. Place on the hot plate in the BBQ and cook through for a couple of minutes on each side.
  3. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon and one lime.

garlic and chili prawns

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Garlic and chili prawn skewers, perfect for a light BBQ dinner

What is your favourite BBQ food? Do you have any tips on BBQ maintenance to share? Are you a coal or gas BBQ fan?

In collaboration with More Than

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Pond Dipping And Tree Climbing

I am always moaning at the boys that they need to get off the x box or stop watching Dan TDM and go outside and play. This is usually followed by, but what shall we do. I guess the main problem is that they are a bit too young at the moment to go on bike rides, and there is only so much football in the back garden they can play. 

Big man is my little scientist, so I knew he was going to like this pond dipping kit from Green Board Games. But would it convince middle and little man that a trip to the local pond was more fun than watching Dan TDM and his Pugs?

Pond dipping kit

On the walk there we had a big task on our hands. To find a stick. Reasonably long, but not too thick. A perfect stick to be the pole to our net. 

Then finding the perfect spot. But what would we find?

It was lovely to see the boys excited. At first all it looked like was a few bits of dirt.

But then a closer look revealed a number of little creatures. The identification chart was a god send here. Usually they look to Mummy to advised on what they have found. I have to say that pound life isn't my chosen subject for Mastermind!

identifying pond creatures

They took it in turns to see use the net and see what they could find. Next time we are going to take a bigger tray!

Then it was time to pack away and climb a few trees before heading home.

The best thing though was that they loved pond dipping and have asked when they can go again. Finding an activity that all three boys and I like can be tricky, but pond dipping is now on my list of activities to get them outside in the school holidays.

Have you taken your children pond dipping? Did they enjoy it?

Country Kids

Thanks to Green Board Games for providing us with the pond dipping kit.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Dairy Free Pineapple Pancakes

If you are looking for a great tasting milk alternative then you need look no further that Vita Coco Coconut milk alternative. I was recently sent some to try for myself and use in a breakfast recipe.

dairy free pineapple pancakes

One of my favourite quick and easy breakfast recipes at the moment is overnight oats, so I thought I would try this out with the Vita Coco Coconut milk alternative. My husband turned his nose up at the thought of it (he doesn't like change) so I told him I would make his with standard milk. OK I may have told a white lie and he ate a combination of oats, frozen fruits and coconut milk without blinking an eyelid! However, I was keen to try some more recipes with the milk alternative.

Now, I have to say I am quite partial to pina colada, so the thought of using pineapples sprung straight to mind and soon I came up with a dairy free pineapple pancake recipe. Great for a weekend breakfast, or a pudding at anytime!

I have to hold my hands up and say that I am no expert in free from cooking and was actually quite surprised to learn that eggs can be used in dairy free recipes. It's all to do with eggs not being made from milk. Obviously there will be some people that need an egg free recipe too, but this could easily be adapted.

Now I have to say that the vital ingredient in this recipe is coconut oil. I use the Vita Coco extra virgin coconut oil and it gives the pancakes a subtle coconut flavour which works so well with the pineapple.

As the pancakes are topped with maple syrup and contain sweet tinned pineapple, I don't think there is any need to add any extra sugar to the recipe. This recipe is a real winner with my boys and they have already asked when they can have it again.

Dairy Free Pineapple Pancakes

  • 175g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 200ml of Vita Coco Coconut Milk Alternative
  • 1 small tin of pineapple rings in natural juice
  • Vita Coco Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
  • maple syrup
  • Fresh pineapple to top (optional)
  1. Place the flour, baking powder, egg and coconut milk in a bowl and whisk to make a batter. 
  2. Chop the tinned pineapple into small chunks and stir through the batter.
  3. Heat a small amount of coconut oil in a pan and add a large spoonful of batter.
  4. Flip over after a couple of minutes to cook the other side. This recipe makes around 6-8 pancakes depending on the size you make.
  5. Once cooked, top with maple syrup and fresh pineapple chunks.
Serving suggestion: Instead of a strong coffee, why not try a coconut milk latte with the pancakes.

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These American Style pancakes are dairy free and use coconut milk and coconut oil.

This recipe is an entry into the Dairy Free Style Your Breakfast challenge with Vita Coco and Foodies100. See more great breakfast ideas at http://vitacoco.com/uk/

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Hijacked By Twins

Monday, 15 May 2017

Win 1 Of 2 Copies Of PAW Patrol: Game On!

Paw Patrol DVD

PAW Patrol fans will be excited to hear that there is a new DVD out on 22nd May called PAW Patrol: Game On!

Everybody's favourite rescue pups are back with these sports themed adventures and rescues. Episodes include one where Ryder and Marshall form a basketball team to help Mayor Goodway and another where Everest makes a daring rescue on a snowboard!

If you have a PAW Patrol fan, they are sure to love this lastest DVD packed full with the brave Pups adventures.

PAW Patrol: Game On! includes the following episodes:

Pups Save a Basketball Game In this episode Mayor Goodway needs a basketball team. She calls Ryder and the PAW Patrol for help. The pups become the Adventure Bay All-Stars and they’ll need everyone, including a reluctant Marshall, to pitch in and help win one for Adventure Bay.

Pup-Fu! The PAW Patrol and the mischievous kittens from Mayor Humdinger’s Kit-tastrophe Crew are both competing for their martial arts belts when they come across an ancient scroll that holds all the secrets. Mayor Humdinger steals the scroll and the PAW Patrol is called upon to find and return it back to Sensei Yumi.

 Pups Save the Mayor’s Race  It’s the annual Mayor’s Race and Mayor Goodway is determined to beat the cheating and devious Mayor Humdinger. Mayoral contestants need to row a boat, swim and run a foot race to the finish line. The pups need to help Mayor Goodway train for the race and clean up Mayor Humdingers’ disasters.

 Pups Save a Snowboard Competition  Jake and Everest are excited for the big Snowboard Competition, until they look outside and see the course is completely buried under a blanket of snow.  The rescue pups
help clear the course and rescue the Kit-tastrophe crew kittens who veer off-course and fall off a cliff. Everest uses her grappling hook to lower Ryder down the edge of the cliff and her snowboard jet pulls them back up to safety.

Pups Save the Soccer Game  When Mayor Humdinger challenges the Adventure Bay team to a soccer match, Ryder and the PAW Patrol are called in to play. The PAW Patrol players start strong but a series of mysterious mishaps jeopardize their team’s victory. The pups must work as a team to overcome some dirty tricks by Mayor Humdinger and pull out a win.

Pups Great Race  It's Adventure Bay Race Day and the Pups are about to race each other all across the town to see who is the fastest pup. One other competitor unexpectedly shows up though, Alex in his super trike!

Pups Save a Tightrope Walker  Turbot is bravely walking a tightrope, but seagulls threaten to ruin his act! It’s time to call the PAW Patrol.

I am excited to be able to offer 2 of my readers a chance to win a copy of the DVD. Just complete the Gleam entry below. Good luck!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Surprise Inside Carrot Cake

As my Father in law loves growing his own vegetables in his garden, I decided that for his Birthday I would make him a surprise inside carrot cake. In that when you cut into the cake it looks like a carrot growing in the ground not that it is a cake made out of carrots. You could probably make the carrot part out of carrot cake but as this type of surprise inside cake is quite fiddle I wasn't going to risk it!

Surprise inside carrot cake

Essentially this cake is the same technique as my surprise inside heart cupcakes, but on a larger scale. It requires baking two cakes and is more complicated than making a surprise inside checkerboard cake.

Surprise Inside Carrot Cake

Surprise Inside Carrot Cake

For the orange cake
  • 4oz self raising flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • orange food gel

For the chocolate cake
  • 3oz self raising flour
  • 1oz cocoa powder
  • 4 oz caster sugar
  • 2 eggs

For the topping
  • ready roll green icing that has been prepared with CMC
  • 2oz butter
  • 4 oz icing sugar
  • 1 dessert spoon of cocoa powder 
  • a drop of water
  • half a packet of crushed Oreo biscuits

  • Mix all of the orange cake ingredients together and place in a small lined loaf tin. Cook at 180C until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool. Carve out a triangle shape and then wrap in film and pop in the freezer.
  • Mix all the chocolate cake ingredients together. Place the top of the frozen triangle of orange cake at the bottom of a small lined loaf tin. Pour the chocolate cake mixture around this.
  • Cook at 180C until a skewer comes out clean. 
  • Make some leaves for the carrots out of green icing and allow to harden. 
  • Once the chocolate cake is cool, place the top of the cake on a cake board. You may need to flatten the top but cutting some cake off.
  • Make up some chocolate butter icing by mixing the butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder and drop of water together. Spread this on your cake. 
  • Add the icing leaves and then sprinkle crushed Oreo biscuits on top. Add remaining butter icing and Oreo biscuits to the sides on the cake board.
  • Then when you cut a slice of cake you will find your "carrot" inside.

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    This surprise inside carrot cake is the perfect birthday cake for a gardener or make an Easter cake that the Easter bunny would enjoy!

    Monday, 8 May 2017

    Kimberley Wyatt's Quorn Pieces in Tomato & Turmeric Curry With Chapatis

    You may remember that a few weeks ago, I headed into London to have dinner cooked by Kimberley Wyatt. As the new ambassador for Quorn, she cooked up some fantastic and flavorsome dishes. I am still in amazement that my boys all gobbled up her Quorn Tacos. It seemed common consensus from the others at the event that the dish everyone liked most was the Quorn curry. OK, whilst this may not be one for my boys yet, I often cook a curry with more of a punch for me and my husband on a weekend.

    Kimberley Wyatt cooking quorn curry

    Quorn have just released some research revealing that 70% of British adults claim to have revamped their typical weekly diet to become healthier. The research showed that health gains and well-being were being prioritised over weight loss with 64% of those polled citing it as their main reason for dietary change. Infact I felt put to shame with the results that 83% of British families have a meat free meal once a week. Hopefully trying out some more recipes with Quorn will help me achieve meatfree meals more often.

    I have to confess that before the event I had no idea how easy chapatis were to make. These will be a new addition to my Friday night curries from now on.

    I am happy to say that my husband enjoyed the curry and once again it will be a dish that I come back to, to make again and again.

    One of Kimberley's top tips for making a curry was to cook the onions nice and slowly.

    Kimberley Wyatt's Quorn curry

    Kimberley Wyatt's Quorn Pieces In Tomato And Tumeric Curry With Chapatis

    For the curry
    • 300g Quorn Pieces
    • 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
    • 3 cm of ginger grated
    • 4 cloves of garlic crushed
    • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1 tsp tumeric
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp garam masala
    • 3 large tomatoes chopped
    • 1 tbsp tomato puree
    • 50ml water
    • handful of chopped coriander
    • salt to taste

    For The Chapatis
    • 125g wholemeal flour
    • a pinch of salt
    • 1tbsp coconut oil
    • 60ml water

    1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onions.  Cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes, or until soft and golden brown.
    2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for a further 3-5 minutes. 
    3. Add the cumin seeds and turmeric, stir well then add the chilli powder and garam masala and cook out the spice for a few minutes, stirring so that they don’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
    4. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and a splash of water (I used 50ml) to the pan and stir to combine.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down, adding more water as necessary.
    5. Meanwhile, make the chapatti dough.  Add the flour and salt to a large mixing bowl.  Combine the water and coconut oil and add to the flour.  Mix to form a soft dough. 
    6. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide into six balls and roll each one out into a thin circle. I found that this worked well using a plastic board and rolling pin that I would usually use for rolling out ising in cake decorating.
    7. Put to one side while you add the fresh Quorn Pieces to the sauce and continue to cook the curry for 8 minutes.
    8. Preheat a frying pan until hot then cook the chapatis one at a time, cooking for 2 minutes on each side.  Keep warm in a clean tea towel or between kitchen towel until ready to serve.
    9. Serve with rice and the chapatis taste even better with some melted butter on.

    What is your favourite curry recipe. Are there any other sides that are easy to make that I should know about?

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    A healthy meatfree curry using quorn. This contains tomatoes and tumeric and homemade chapatis

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    Hijacked By Twins