Wednesday 29 November 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - week 48

Yes I know it's Wednesday... I don't really know where Monday or Tuesday night went. I was so tired on Tuesday I spent most of the evening asleep while my husband watched TV! We had another busy weekend, with a visit to my family a couple of hours away (and back in the same day) for my niece's first birthday party - the first year has flown past! I made her birthday cake which you will be able to see on the blog soon. Then on Sunday I went to see my friend's nine year old daughter in High School Musical - the lead parts were played by teenagers, and the age range went right down to about 4 or 5, it was very sweet, and a bit unintentionally funny in places (I'm still not sure why there was a kid in a Pharaoh costume, I got the feeling that was just what he wanted to wear that day!).

I did at least spend a bit of time on Monday planning meals for this week so it's a bit less haphazard than it has been for the last couple of weeks. I expect meal planning will go out of the window entirely when I have a baby next March!

Lunch – sandwich
Dinner – stand and stuff tacos with mince and potato wedges/ salad

Tuesday – working from home as I have an antenatal appointment
Lunch – tuna melt bagel (ended up being too tired to make this and just had bread and butter!)
Dinner – pasta bake with meatballs and garlic bread

Lunch – sandwich/ bagel
Dinner – out at a work event

Lunch – buy something as I won’t have been home (going straight into work from an overnight stay at the event)
Dinner – stand and stuff tacos (will need using up once they’ve been opened) with chicken and rice

Friday – working from home as the cot is being delivered!
Lunch- macaroni cheese on toast
Dinner – either a baked potato or pizza as it’s quick as I plan to go to yoga

Saturday – planning to sort out the nursery furniture today!
Lunch – crumpets with scrambled eggs and bacon
Dinner – steak and chips (my husband’s favourite and he will have been working hard moving and building furniture all day!)

Lunch- bacon sandwich, another of my husband’s favourites
Dinner – roast chicken, which is my favourite!

 Join in the blog hop and link up your meal plan!


Friday 24 November 2017

Kinder and Oreo Chocolate Pancakes

Inspired by my recent visit toMy Old Dutch where Kinder and Oreo pancakes were on the menu, I decided to recreate something similar at home when my parents were visiting, for an easy but indulgent dessert. My husband enjoyed it so much, he requested the same thing the next night, made in exactly the same way!

When I had the Kinder dessert, I had a thick stack of pancakes, but it was really too much and I only managed to eat about a quarter of the pancakes. I decided it would work well with one thin crepe, and as I was making several, and wanted the pancakes to be really thin, I decided to buy ready-made crepes and warm them through.

Here’s everything else I did and what you need – but really you can have fun decorating the pancake however you want!

Serves 4

4 ready-made crepes
60g milk chocolate, melted
4 Kinder surprise eggs
Handful of mini marshmallows
2 packets Kinder Bueno (with 2 sticks in each)
8 small scoops vanilla ice cream
4 dollops of cream or can of squirty cream
Melt the chocolate either in the microwave or a bain marie and spread over each pancake. Open out a Kinder surprise egg (you can give the toy on the side as you serve the pancakes!) and place the two halves on the pancake. Take one stick of Kinder Bueno, break in half and place in between the Kinder eggs. I then gave the pancakes a 20 second blast in the microwave at full power to slightly melt the chocolates.

Place a scoop of ice cream into each Kinder shell, sprinkle the mini marshmallows in the gaps, squirt some cream in the middle and voila! Everyone enjoyed these pancakes though I couldn’t finish mine – there probably is such a thing as too much chocolate!

When my husband requested a repeat performance I decided to make a pancake using Oreos – in the spirit of the Kinder vs Oreo challenge that My Old Dutch is running. I ended up making something quite similar to my Kinder pancake, with melted chocolate spread on the bottom, a sprinkling of mini marshmallows and some broken up chocolate Oreo biscuits, with a whole Oreo in the middle and a squirt of cream sitting on top.

I preferred the Kinder version because the Oreo biscuits were a bit too hard and crunchy for this kind of dessert – but if you’re feeling inspired, why not experiment with your favourite chocolates or sweets and share a picture of how you’ve decorated your pancake?

Thursday 23 November 2017

Restaurant Review: Tasha's Tearoom, Epsom, Surrey

Every time my parents come to visit, they drive through Cheam, and remark that it looks like a pretty little village with some interesting shops. So this time when they came to stay, we decided to go into Cheam for lunch, a look around and some shopping – helped by the fact there was a NCT nearly new sale in Cheam that afternoon!

It was a cold, drizzly day and Cheam turned out to be smaller than we thought, so we arrived in the morning in time for coffee and had pretty much walked around the whole of the central Cheam Village area by lunch. The NCT sale was still a couple of hours away so we decided not to bother and went home!

As we walked around I had an eye out for places to go for lunch and thought Love Crepe looked good, but had already decided to make pancakes for dessert that evening and we didn’t want the same thing twice. We ended up in Tasha’s Tearoom - the vintage crockery and cakes in the window looked very appealing.

They serve afternoon tea, cake and a small range of hot savoury dishes; as it was a cold day, all three of us went for a ham and cheese toastie, which came with salad and crisps. The toastie was a little limp (rather than crispy) but the filling was good – thick cut ham and just the right amount oozing cheese. I enjoyed a lemon and ginger tea which really hit the spot on a cold day.

We didn’t have room for any cake which was a shame as it looked really nice!

Monday 20 November 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 47

Last week was a busy week so I didn't get to blog much. One night I was out at the Institute of Internal Communications awards - where I, ahem, won an award for the third year in a row - and the other nights I was either too tired to do much or preparing for my parents coming to stay (the spare room is finally tidy and ready to start being turned into a nursery, once we buy some nursery furniture anyway!).

Since my parents were here I didn't do the meal planning or food shopping I usually would on the weekend so everything is a bit ad hoc today.... I thought I'd do a bare bones meal plan at any rate and hopefully fill it in later!

Lunch: leftovers from the weekend
Dinner: Toad in the hole deconstructed (to use leftover Yorkshire puddings) with mashed potato

Tuesday working from home
Lunch: TBA
Dinner: Leek and ham hock gratin for me, based on this recipe, and something different TBA for my hubby!

Dinner: TBA

Dinner – pasta, quick so I can make a cake (also my husband is out)

Lunch: TBA
Dinner:- quick dinner, as I will be decorating the cake

lunch – out
Dinner – home late, pizza from freezer

lunch- out
Dinner – TBA

Join in the blog hop!


Saturday 18 November 2017

Easy Chocolate French Toast

This is an indulgent brunch or snack that's easy to whip up- all you need is three slices of bread, some chocolate spread, an egg, and ideally some sugar or sweetener as well!

The idea came from the Slimming Foodie though her recipe also uses peanut butter, which sounds very nice. I just wanted to quickly share what I made and send you back to her website for more detailed instructions and recipe.

Spread two slices of bread with chocolate spread and sandwich together with a third slice so you have three layers.
Beat an egg in a small bowl with a dash of vanilla essence and dip both sides of the sandwich so it is coated in egg.
Fry the sandwich on both sides for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle one side of the bread with sugar or sweetener, turn and fry for another minute. Sprinkle the other side, then turn and fry that side for a minute.

That’s literally all you need to do – you can cut the crusts off the bread or leave them on. You end up with a toasted sandwich that’s moist and slightly sweet on the outside, with a gooey chocolate middle – fun for an occasional treat!

Monday 13 November 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 46

This week I'm not having my usual working from home day on a Tuesday as I'm at an internal comms seminar followed by an awards event at which I am shortlisted for two national awards (ahem - again - I've won them both over the past two years!). They are Best Editor and Best Writer from the Institute of Internal Communications but as I've been in this industry for more than three years now, I'm starting to get to know people and know that there is definitely some stiff competition!

Then at the weekend my parents are coming to visit which I am looking forward to - I think they will be surprised at how big my baby bump has got since they last saw me at the end of September!
So here's the meal plan I will use as a guide at least....

Breakfast yogurt or cereal
Lunch  leftover pasta from the weekend
Dinner chicken fricassee based on this recipe with leftover chicken from Sunday

Breakfast yogurt or cereal
Lunch sandwich as I won't have long before needing to head to the seminar and awards
Dinner home late after the awards - can't remember if it's actually a dinner event or not!

Breakfast yogurt or cereal
Lunch quick mess-free sandwich as I will be with a supplier all day
Dinner will have to work a bit late as I have a meeting so something quick from the freezer with chips

Breakfast yogurt or cereal
Lunch soup
Dinner spaghetti bolognese

Breakfast yogurt or cereal
Lunch leftover spaghetti bolognese
Dinner my parents here - something easy from the freezer

Lunch out for lunch
Dinner risotto followed by pancakes

Lunch egg and cheese/ tuna bagels
Dinner roast gammon

join in the blog hop!

Saturday 11 November 2017

Review: Club Cala Romani, Majorca

At the very end of summer I went on holiday with two girl friends to Majorca. We wanted a cheap and cheerful week (or almost week) in the sun, and with three of us wanting to fly from different airports, returning home on different dates, with different budgets and different requirements in mind, it was never going to be easy!

We found Club Cala Romani on and agreed to book it; I'd been quite busy at work at the time and didn't want to hold the others up as there were only a few rooms remaining, so I said go for it - and only read the reviews afterwards.

There were some OK but not great reviews on Trip Advisor, a few from people who loved it who go there every year - and some really, really terrible reviews. I've never gone anywhere with such poor ratings before, and my heart sank. So what I want to say right away was: it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I was expecting!

OK, it wasn't a great hotel -and I don't even mean by comparison with some of the amazing places I've been lucky enough (and I mean really lucky) to stay, like the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach. Even based on much cheaper self-catering holidays I'd had in my 20s to places like Greece and Cyprus, it was somewhere that had its pros and cons, but overall I had a nice holiday, it surpassed my (low) expectations and it's the sort of place I think children would really enjoy.

We were three lone females travelling without children, but going in the school holidays as one of my friends is a teacher, which did put us in a very small minority. This is definitely a family resort and I don't think I remember seeing anyone else without kids!

I will go through some of the pros and cons in turn, also addressing some of the main criticisms I read on Trip Advisor which were really off-putting and not necessarily what I experienced.

area next to the hotel pool
The airport transfer
Booked as part of the package on though provided by a third party called MTS Globe Spain. It was advertised as 90 minutes but I had seen several people on Trip Advisor saying it took three hours. It actually took me 2 hours 35 minutes on the way there - I got a taxi on the way back but that's another story.

It's easy to find the desk at the airport then they tell you which number bus to get on outside. The coach has air con and the journey was fine though Club Cala Romani was the very last stop.

I was flying home a day earlier than my friends and was worried that my transfer pick up time was four hours before my flight - it's not a big airport but I had seen a lot in the news about long queues so wanted to get to the airport two hours beforehand, but as it took more than two and a half hours on the way - and I'd seen one review where someone said it took 4 hours on the way back - I was a bit worried.

I spoke to the hotel reception and they said they could book me a taxi, though I would forfeit the money I had already paid for the transfer. The receptionist told me it was a 75 euro flat fee to the airport and since I hadn't needed to spend much money on holiday I decided to do it for peace of mind. But when it came to leave and my taxi was 20 minutes late, I went back to reception and the receptionist - a different person to the one who booked the taxi the day before - called the company and found that there was no record of my booking. They said they could send another taxi right away but that took another 20 minutes, though I still arrived at the airport in plenty of time. When we arrived the taxi driver charged me 86 euros - when I argued and said I'd been told there was a 75 euro flat fare he said there was no such thing! So if you are going to get a taxi instead of a transfer then I would watch out as it isn't as straightforward as you might think!

The hotel - checking in
I arrived with one of my friends while the third was arriving later. At reception we asked if she was in an adjacent room and they went to look her up - and found they had no record of her booking! We were in a bit of a panic but luckily the hotel wasn't full and by the time she arrived and we met at reception, they had allocated her a room - and we saw her name hand-written onto the bottom of a printed list! I'm not sure how that happened as we all booked through, albeit separately.

The room
I had a double room to myself which was a good size, basic and simply furnished but nothing wrong with it. My room would have overlooked the pool but I was on the first floor so I actually looked onto a flat roof that was the top of the restaurant below, so couldn't see anything at all.

my room
The room was supposed to have air con and there was a temperature gauge on the wall but no sign of an air con unit; instead there was a big fan on the ceiling. The lowest the temperature gauge could be set to was 23C which was a bit worrying as it was the end of August, but strangely the room actually seemed OK with the ceiling fan on. I did speak to some people who were staying in the family apartments on the other side of the hotel and they said there was no air con in their rooms at all, they were having to pay to hire fans and it was still unbearably hot - apparently the hotel is installing air con in those rooms in 2018!

view from my terrace - with a child's rubber ring on the flat roof
Walls are thin though - I could hear people upstairs banging around and at one point hear the conversation the people next door were having.

The pool
There are actually two main pools next to each other - one is supposed to be for adults only and the other for children but nobody seemed to pay attention to that rule. There's also a baby pool a short walk away.

Neither main pool ever seemed that warm - even though it was August, it was cloudy most of the time and even sunbathing we were rarely in direct sunlight, I never felt particularly hot and I never really got a tan - and when there was a breeze I felt quite chilly!

I'd read several reviews on Trip Advisor saying the pool was sometimes closed because a child had pooped in it, which sounded disgusting - though my friend who has a toddler assured me it can happen even if the child is wearing swim pants (like nappies but waterproof). I still thought it was pretty unpleasant and I've never been anywhere on holiday where that has been a problem, so I was half expecting it, but my heart still sank one day when I heard this announcement at 3pm: "The pool is now closed until 5pm. We would like to remind parents that babies should wear Pampers swim nappies in the pool, which are available in the shop." The most annoying thing was it was the larger adult pool that was shut for two hours - where there weren't supposed to have been children in the first place!

I found the sun loungers by the pool really uncomfortable - rigid plastic with no cushioning and most of them couldn't have the head propped up so you had no choice but to lie completely flat. They gave me back ache after about five minutes so I spent most of the time sitting on one of the chairs from the bar by the pool.

The food
The hotel is all inclusive, so all food is included other than anything you want to buy from the on-site shop. It has a main buffet restaurant and a small snack bar that is open between meal times. The snack bar was very disappointing - it looked like a cross between a cheap café and a school canteen. When we arrived in the afternoon, not having had lunch, we went in with high hopes, only to find a coffee machine that had a 'not in use' sign on it, a self-serve machine for juice that tasted very watered down, and a self-serve tap for red wine and white wine (not sure how you stop the kids from helping themselves, even though they have different coloured wristbands!).

buffet station
The food choice in the snack bar was the same every day - bread rolls, butter, ham and cheese - I suppose it's filling but also cheap for the hotel to do, and I couldn't help wondering about the reviews I'd read where people speculated it was the meat and cheese left over from breakfast or even the day before put out again.

The main restaurant isn't bad, I thought it would be a bit school dinner hall but it actually looked ok. There are three long serving stations all with the same food - or so we thought, we realised after a little while that the one at the back of the room was slightly bigger and always had something extra the other counters didn't have, like pizza or a whole joint of roast pork.

roast pork
It's self-serve buffet and children under a certain age aren't supposed to go up unattended; you need to be careful though as people do push in, or pile too much on their plate and spill it - one day I slipped and nearly went flying with my plate after stepping in a pile of spilled spaghetti on the floor.

The dining hall was busy but we never had to queue for a table whatever time we went.

lamb and potatoes
There was a fairly large choice of food with most things changing each day; always a couple of types of pasta, lots of salad stuff, and three mains - e.g. one day was fish (I think mackerel), lamb and lasagne, but only one hot vegetable to go with them  which bizarrely was Brussels sprouts! Then there were two types of potatoes plus chips and pizza cut into squares, so something for everyone - and the lamb which I had was pretty good.

fish in white sauce, croquette potatoes, plain rice

Another day I had pork, fried potatoes and cauliflower, which like a lot of the food I found under-seasoned, though there is salt and pepper on every table and that was probably the worst thing I could say about the food.

One evening none of the choices looked appealing, and just as I was about to give up and have pasta with tomato sauce, I spotted the extra serving station down the far end, where someone was carving roast pork, which I had with roast potatoes, and gravy when I eventually found it. It might have been Majorca in August but a nice bit of roast dinner was lovely!

dessert station

dessert plate
There's a separate buffet station for dessert, where there were three choices every day, all cake-based eg swiss roll or a creamy vanilla cake. The fruit is good - I often had a huge slice of watermelon for dessert. There's also a freezer chest of mini tubs of ice cream but they are generic and only basic flavours -if you want a proper ice cream you have to buy one from the shop. You can help yourself to water, watered-down tasting juice or wine, or get a drink from the bar in the building next door.

breakfast buffet
At breakfast there was a fairly big choice of food, but on the first morning the sausages were mini hot dogs (not to everyone's taste and I couldn't eat them since I was pregnant) and the 'bacon' was the same type of sliced deli ham we'd seen in the snack bar yesterday but fried, and curling at the edges - I did wonder if it was exactly the same ham! There are also croissants, and different types of biscuit or cake things every day, bread, porridge and quite runny looking yogurt and fruit. Another day there were real sausages and bacon and even churros with chocolate sauce.

breakfast selection
There's a pizzeria only open at lunchtimes (the main buffet restaurant is also open at lunch). It serves pizza - always plain cheese and tomato when we were there, cut into small squares - plus hotdogs, burgers and chips, and each day a couple of random things that I assume are what they are serving in the main restaurant, e.g. spaghetti and mixed veg. The pizza was actually quite nice and gooey but the burgers nothing special.
pizzeria lunch
We ate there a couple of times, alternating with the main restaurant at lunchtimes. The food there at lunch was similar to dinner - though not the same thing on the same day. I often didn't fancy meat and potatoes at lunch so had pasta  a few times which was a bit plain but OK.

The drinks
The pool bar has self-service soft drinks and there were wasps circling the taps constantly which wasn't very nice - you have to take your chances to get a coke or lemonade.

There is a two drink limit per person on alcoholic drinks and they come in small plastic cups - I suppose it's one way to make sure guests don't over indulge. If you have wine then the plastic cup isn't a bad size but if you are drinking beer it's tiny. Some people on Trip Advisor were complaining about the two drink rule - I suppose it's a pain if you want to get drinks for yourself and your family at the same time - but you probably can't easily carry more than two of the plastic cups at once and it does reduce wastage - if you are by the pool and having soft drinks you need to drink them quickly because of the wasps which are flying around constantly. I found they left me alone if I ignored them (and put my cup in the bin when I had finished) but my friend did actually get stung by a wasp which wasn't nice.

There are two bars open in the evening, one in the theatre (where the entertainment takes place so it's lively, quite noisy and busy) then a quieter bar near reception. The queues in the theatre bar weren't bad anyway, and both have the same choice of drinks covered on the all inclusive: vodka, rum, gin and one other spirit I can't remember with mixers, plus wine, beer, slushies and a limited list of cocktails, so you can't ask for just anything, though the cocktails seemed to cover most of the well known popular ones. There was even a non-alcoholic cocktail on the list that was great because I'm pregnant, though it was bright pink and a bit sickly sweet! My friend who had the gin said it tasted awful but the other drinks were apparently OK.

The entertainment
The hotel offers activities throughout the day, some for children, others for teenagers and some for the whole family, ranging from Spanish lessons to rifle shooting to aqua-aerobics and face painting.

activities board
There's a theatre with a show every night but not until 10pm (lasting an hour) which is surprisingly late for a family resort, especially when dinner runs from 7-9 and most people with young kids seemed to eat early. There seemed to be some sort of kids club activity in the theatre from 9 (involving getting parents to do embarrassing things on stage, then a kids disco) then the main entertainment varies every night (for two weeks at least then I imagine they repeat).

One evening the entertainment crew (who also run the activities during the day, and seemed popular with the kids) were miming or possibly singing along to different songs while dressed in character, e.g. Barbie Girl, YMCA, the Baywatch theme etc. It was quite cringe-worthy at times but over the course of the week I decided they were fairly good entertainers, we just weren't their target audience at all. Kids loved it, and parents enjoyed it because their children were enjoying it (or because they'd had a few drinks). Childless and sober (due to pregnancy) I wasn't exactly getting into it in the same way - but there was literally nothing else to do in the evenings!

Outside the hotel - the beach
The beach path is well signposted from by the hotel swimming pool and it's about a ten minute walk to some steps down to the beach. If you walk along the parallel path higher up you get to a little town centre which has some other restaurants and bars, souvenir shops and places you can book excursions.
the beach
We went to the beach one day when the pool was shut due to poo-gate; you are supposed to pay 4 euros 20 for a sun lounger and another 4 euros for an umbrella but it was already mid-afternoon and there was nobody around to pay.

There's a snack bar (nothing to do with the hotel so you have to pay) and toilets up at the top of the steps, and you can hire pedaloes. The water was quite warm and really clear; you can see fish even without a snorkel and I could hear people by the rocks (the beach is in a sort of cove leading out to the sea) saying they could see jellyfish.

We also went out for a day trip which I will review separately, to the Cuevas del Drach (dragon caves) and Porto Cristo.

Overall I didn't have a bad holiday at all - the people at the hotel were actually quite friendly and quiet, not the sort of rowdy drunk crowd I had been expecting given this is a pretty cheap all inclusive - probably because most of them were there with children. There are plenty of activities, the food isn't bad at all and offers something for everyone, the accommodation was fine, and while there were some issues like the poo in the pool and the entertainment not being to my taste, it was a lot better than I was expecting. I wouldn't choose to go back, but for the price it wasn't bad at all.

Thursday 9 November 2017

Tree and Santa Pattern Christmas Cards

These two cards are mainly made from a mini set that contained a few pieces of patterned paper and one sheet of die cuts. I think they are quite fun but there is also something a bit masculine about them, I think because of the colours and also the geometrical shapes.

On the first card, I covered a square card blank with the patterned paper and mounted a die cut tree with adhesive pads. It's also a little hard to see but there are a few tiny die cuts in the shape of presents and snowflakes also on adhesive pads so they stand out. To finish off, I used a 'noel' shiny red sticker from a different pack.

For the second card I covered the bottom half of the card with patterned paper and used a piece of washi tape across the edge as a border. The two child (elf?) stickers at the top were actually left over from a pack of Christmas address labels that I think came from Ikea a couple of years ago. Finally a 'tis the season' sticker in the top right corner completes the card.

I am sharing this with Crafty Hazelnuts Christmas Challenge and Cardz 4 Guyz where the theme is Christmas trees.

Tuesday 7 November 2017

Baby Cow Gender Reveal Cake - For My Own Baby!

There’s a big trend at the moment for gender reveal parties, in the US at least. I’m seeing more and more posts and pictures on the internet where couples expecting a baby reveal whether it’s a boy or a girl in front of their family and friends – often in quite creative ways. For instance, when the gender is discovered at the antenatal scan, rather than tell the parent(s), the sonographer places the result into a sealed envelope. The parents give the envelope to a bakery, which makes a cake that has either neutral or both pink and blue decorations on the outside, but the cake inside is dyed either pink or blue, and often has sweets in the centre that tumble out. It’s only when the couple actually cut into the cake and see what colour is inside that they find out whether they are having a boy or a girl.


Another reveal method is for the couple or mum to stand surrounded by family and friends (usually outside) holding a large helium balloon that is opaque – often black or patterned. They burst the balloon and are showered with either pink or blue confetti – again having had no idea themselves what the gender would be.

Those seem really fun if you want to make a thing of revealing the gender in front of your loved ones, but the idea of not knowing ourselves was a bit strange to me – and gender reveal parties aren’t really a thing in the UK. Nonetheless, I decided I wanted to make a gender reveal cake – but rather than give a sealed envelope to a bakery, my husband and I would find out at our 21-week scan and I’d bake a cake that evening.

I wanted to fill the cake with sweets that would tumble out when it was cut, and I found getting hold of pink sweets was easy but blue surprisingly hard! As I was making the cake in the evening I wanted to have both colour sweets already to hand, so a few weeks before the scan started having a look on the internet and online in supermarkets. There are loads of pink sweets available, from strawberry bonbons to a giant tube of purely pink Smarties, but there didn’t seem to be a blue equivalent – at one point the closest I thought I was going to get was mint tic-tacs! Of course, I could have gone to M&M World in Leicester Square – where you can buy M&Ms by weight in any colour you like – and I do work in London but getting to Leicester Square is a bit of a pain and the shop is busy, full of tourists and generally not somewhere I want to go if I can help it.

Luckily I spotted an old fashioned-style sweet shop called Hardy’s near my office – there are a few of these around. They had giant jars of all kinds of sweets against one wall, including pink strawberry bonbons and blue raspberry bonbons, so I bought a bag of each.

I also wanted to plan the cake and buy the ingredients in advance – it might have been nice to have the option of baking both a pink strawberry cake and a blue raspberry-flavour cake but I decided to take the easy option and make a lemon cake.

I used this recipe from Good to Know, though I didn’t do the lemon syrup due to lack of time, and realised the lemon curd in my fridge was out of date and I didn’t have time to make more, so I made a simple lemon buttercream for the filling.

I made up the batter, adding lemon zest and a bit of lemon juice, and then added some gel food colouring before the mixture went into two cake pans.

When it was baked and cooled, I used a glass to cut a circle out from both layers of cake, going right through the top layer and part way through the bottom layer. I spread lemon buttercream icing on the bottom layer and sandwiched the other cake on top, then filled the hole I’d cut with the sweets, replacing a thin slice of the disc I had removed so the cake would be flat on top.

The rest of the buttercream went on the top and around the sides of the cake so I could cover it with a large piece of rolled white fondant. As my surname is Cowe – pronounced cow – this had to be a cow-print cake, like my wedding cake last year! But instead of black and white I made the patches a mixture of pink and blue. I used the same cutters from the Lakeland ‘make your own cookie cutter’ set that my sister and I used on the wedding cake last year – lovely to think that the cutters were coming out again for such a special reason!

It was already 9pm and I was watching the Apprentice when I decided the cake did need a baby cow topper as well, so I moulded the animal – complete with baby bottle – while sitting in front of the TV. It’s not my best creation but given it wasn’t even going to be seen very long (I was taking the cake into work, not having a gender reveal party) I didn’t think it mattered much. I also made four alphabet blocks spelling ‘baby’- I thought the cake looked quite pretty and it didn’t actually take that long.

So here’s what you’ve no doubt been waiting for…. when the cake was cut the first slice revealed the colour inside was…. Pink!  We are having a little girl.

The cake tasted really nice and it was fun to see people’s reactions and to be able to share our news!

I'm sharing this with CookBlogShare hosted by EasyPeasyFoodie.

Monday 6 November 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 45

I have a day off this week to visit some nurseries - I was staggered when I found out recently that our local ones have a one-year waiting list. It's lucky I asked when I did! I'm then working from home the following day to have a repeat scan - everything was fine at the last one but there was one thing they needed to check but couldn't as baby was lying the wrong way around and wouldn't move!

Breakfast Didn't get time for breakfast today
Lunch Leftover curry from Sunday
Dinner Strangely didn't fancy eating tonight after I cooked dinner for us both, which has happened a couple of times since I've been pregnant

Breakfast yogurt with fruit
Lunch late lunch as I'm on a course til 1pm - will have a sandwich as it's quick
Dinner salmon and sweet potato mash that I was meant to have yesterday

Wednesday  my husband and I both have a day off
Breakfast porridge or yogurt
Lunch will see what my husband fancies!
Dinner sausage casserole I was going to make on Sunday but we got back from visiting his family too late

Thursday working from home as I have the scan
Breakfast  yogurt with fruit
Lunch  homemade broccoli soup assuming I get back from the hospital in time
Dinner pork chop with sweet potato fries

Breakfast yogurt with fruit
Lunch sandwich
Dinner probably microwave risotto if I go to yoga

Lunch soup and bread roll
Dinner pan-fried hake in lemon butter sauce I was going to make last week but didn't

Lunch out at Stylist Live
Dinner probably something quick from the freezer

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Saturday 4 November 2017

Restaurant review: My Old Dutch, Chelsea, London

I tried to go to My Old Dutch once on Shrove Tuesday – along with half the population of London, it seemed! My Old Dutch is a pancake house offering sweet and savoury dishes, with three locations around central London. I thought I’d had a bright idea to go on Shrove Tuesday – pancake day – a couple of weeks back, and found they weren’t taking bookings for that night, so went as early after work as I could. The queue was so far down the street we decided to go elsewhere – something I’ve always slightly regretted as the food looks really good.

So I was very pleased to be invited to enjoy a complementary meal to review a new dessert range at My Old Dutch – I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.
My husband and I visited the King’s Road Chelsea branch, and were warmly welcomed by our server Raphael, who combined just the right amount of attentiveness and friendly chat with fast, efficient service.
The menu took a while to peruse even though I was skipping over the starters and salads and going straight to the savoury pancakes – because there were so many choices, some old favourites and other flavour combinations I would never have thought to put on a pancake – not to mention the create-your-own section.

I love seafood so had a pancake with king prawns, tuna, cheese, tomato sauce and capers (£11.50) while my husband, who is more of a traditionalist when it comes to food, picked mozzarella and bacon from the create-your-own.

We were astounded at the size of the plates when they came – of course the pancakes are thin (the crepe variety) but they were huge – you can see my fork in the picture for scale! Needless to say we couldn’t finish the pancakes but they were very good – I thought my seafood was delicious with just the right amount of cheese so the seafood was the main flavour but it had a nice gooey base as well.

The real reason we were here though is the Kinder vs Oreo promotion that My Old Dutch is currently running. The two big chocolate brands have gone head to head with a selection of sweet pancakes and milkshakes to choose from – which side will you come down on?

We each tried a milkshake – a peanut butter Oreo shake (£5.50) for me, with ice cream, cream, sprinkles and a peanut butter Oreo on the side. The milkshake itself had a distinct peanut butter taste but not too strong – it was creamy and delicious. My husband had ‘my Kinder love’ (£5.75) , a Kinder Bueno and Kinder Chocolate milkshake topped with cream, wafer, Kinder chocolate, chocolate sauce and chocolate nibs. I think he was in chocolate heaven!

Despite being really full, we had to try the desserts. I was hoping my husband would have the ‘Have fun with Oreo’ (£14.95) as it sounded right up his street – a sweet pancake topped with mini Oreos, Milky Bar buttons, crushed Chocolate Crème Oreos, chocolate nibs and sprinkles served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, but I think the idea of all that sweet stuff after the milkshake he’d just polished off was a bit too much! Instead he decided to try poffertjes, which are Dutch mini pancakes – bite sized pieces that are thick and fluffy, served with chocolate sauce (£5.95). He really enjoyed them and managed to eat nearly all of them despite having complained he was too full for dessert!

I had ‘My happy Kinder’ – butterscotch pancakes topped with Kinder Happy Hippos, Kinder Eggs, banana, vanilla ice cream, chocolate nibs and chocolate sauce (£14.95 - I had it without the banana). The butterscotch pancakes are thicker, American-style pancakes and you get a whole stack so the dessert is very filling – I couldn’t eat much at all! The hippos were a fun touch and slightly melted from the warmth of the pancakes which was very nice. I was slightly disappointed that the Kinder Eggs were the chocolate shells and I didn’t get a little yellow capsule with a toy inside! But you can’t have everything and this was an amazing dessert – not cheap for a pancake but given everything that is piled on top I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

Overall we had a great meal – it’s casual, fun food that would suit the whole family and definitely something a bit different. As for whether Oreos or Kinder won? My Oreo milkshake was delicious but I think the Kinder dessert had the edge.

Friday 3 November 2017

Fish in Lemon Cream Sauce with Hasselback Potatoes

My mother-in-law came to dinner recently and as she’s vegetarian and I don’t eat a lot of purely vegetarian food, that always involves a bit of thought around menu planning. Then I remembered that she is actually pescetarian, meaning she eats some – but not all – types of fish. She likes white fish and I had some in the freezer.

I don't eat fish as often as I should, as my husband doesn't like it and I find plain fish quite dull, so it needs a proper recipe - and during the week I don't tend to have time to cook complicated recipes from scratch. Of course, the recipes don't have to be complicated, but sometimes even getting out all the ingredients is more bother than I want when I get home from work!

It was a week night when we had my mother-in-law over but I was working from home. I always think that will give me plenty of time to make something a bit more elaborate for dinner but I usually end up logged on to work for far later than my official finish time (who doesn't?) so in the end it's still a bit of a rush. However on this occasion my husband was late home from work so we had quite a late dinner!

That gave me the opportunity to do some potatoes I've wanted to try for ages - have you come across hasselback potatoes before? They look a bit like mini hedgehogs - I think they would be a nice treat to serve on Bonfire Night (instead of jacket potatoes which a lot of people make then) as they are a bit different. They would also go down well at children's parties (so I imagine) - especially if you added little edible eyes to make them look like hedgehogs!

Back to dinner and sensible things.... to make these potatoes all you do is take a fairly large potato (not quite a baking potato size but a large standard potato) and make several slices into it, going two thirds of the way down, spacing the slices evenly apart by about a centimetre or a bit less depending on the size of your potato.

You can see the baked potato in this picture here:

Melt a little bit of butter in a pan or the microwave and brush the potato with the butter, getting into all the cuts you've made. Then put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake at 180C for around an hour - it will depend on the size of the potatoes. The potatoes will be nice and soft in the middle when they are done and the slices you've cut will have fanned open a little and gone crispy. We really enjoyed these!

For the fish, I used this recipe by Nagi at Recipe Tin Eats - I didn't add the shallots/ spring onions at the end because I wasn't sure if my mother-in-law liked them (though in retrospect I'm sure she does - never mind!). It was a very easy dish to make and tasted delicious.