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Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Best Ever Carrot Cake

the-best-ever-carrot-cake
the-best-ever-carrot-cake


Happy Easter! 

Is there a better cake for the Easter weekend than carrot cake? I think not. Well, apart from the more traditional simnel cake but I like very few of the ingredients that go into that, so it's not for me. I love carrot cake! It's one of my absolute favourites, but seeing as most of the time it contains raisins or sultanas I never really get the chance to eat it. I know the title of this post has a pretty bold claim, but trust me -it's amazing!

I knew I wanted to have a cake for this weekend, something to have sitting out on my favourite cake stand for guests to help themselves too when they came round. Or of course, for us to sneak a little slice every so often -a hard thing to do with a four tier cake let me tell you, they aren't so little. I'd been craving carrot cake for a while but thought it would be the perfect thing to save for the long Easter weekend.

the-best-ever-carrot-cake
the-best-ever-carrot-cake

Ingredients: (for the cake)
4 eggs
400g caster sugar
400ml sunflower or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g plain flour
200g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
400g finely grated carrots
100g chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
a little grated nutmeg

(for the frosting)
150g butter -room temperature
250g cream cheese -room temperature
850g icing sugar

the-best-ever-carrot-cake
the-best-ever-carrot-cake

Pre-heat your oven to 170°C, then grease and line two 9 inch cake tins. You could also make cupcakes if you'd prefer, it will make 24.

It's best to have all your ingredients weighed out ready, so in a bowl, sieve your flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices -then give them a little mix together.

Grate your carrots and set them aside, chop up your walnuts as fine as you'd like them, or replace them with something else.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together your egg and sugar until pale and fluffy, add in your oil and mix again until fully combined. You should be left with a lovely thick mixture.

Add in your dry mix of four, raising agents and spices and stir until smooth, then add in your carrots and chopped nuts.

When everything is fully combined, distribute evenly into your cake tins and bake for 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean.

Be sure you leave them to cool completely before slicing or decorating.

the-best-ever-carrot-cake

To make your frosting, beat your butter for a minute until soft, smooth and a little paler in colour. Then add in your cream cheese and beat for a further 2 or 3 minutes on a medium high speed.

Turn your speed down and slowly start to add your icing sugar. For some reason, adding icing sugar to cream cheese makes it go a little runny at the beginning. Don't panic! Just keep adding your sugar and it will eventually come together and leave you with a smooth spreadable consistency.

Now all you have to do is decorate and serve!

the-best-ever-carrot-cake

You can of course decorate your cake however you choose. I wanted mine to look quite tall and impressive on it's cake stand so I sliced each of my cakes in two, so I ended up with four layers.

To finish my cake off, I coloured some plain white fondant icing green and orange to make the carrots. Then, to make "soil" for the carrots to sit in, I crushed half a bag of Oreo cookies. I just put them in a food bag and rolled them with a rolling pin until I had a bag of crumbs.

It does make a little mess when you slice the cake but who minds a little Oreo cookie crumbs?

Hope you all have a lovely Easter weekend.

the-best-ever-carrot-cake

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Friday, 25 March 2016

Made Me Happy This Week

made-me-happy

It's the first day of the long weekend and I'm so ready for it! I would think this weekends going to include a lot of chocolate and carrot cake, but then, it is Easter so I'm allowing it. We don't have an entirely relaxed weekend as we have a few things we have to do, but I'm still hoping for some sunny weather so we can get out and about to make the most of the four days. I hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend!

1. Finally, smashing open our pound jar!! We've been waiting patiently to do it, so it was beyond satisfying to smash it with the hammer and get to count our coins.

2. Baked potatoes for lunch, with cheese and spring onions -very tasty!

3. My niece's little face when she seen me waiting for her outside of school -she actually screamed with excitement.

4. My mums reaction to the updated Thunderbirds cartoon, lets just say shes not very impressed that they've taken away the puppets.

5. Starbucks new spring collection, it's so pretty.

6. Having a day full of plans cancelled last minute, which ended up in a day of baking. Not a bad way to spend your time, especially when it's raining.

7. Curling my hair for the first time in absolutely ages. It's so long now that it takes quite some time but I do love it when it's finished.

8. Crushing Oreo's with a rolling pin to make the soil for the carrot cake. It's an oddly pleasing thing to do.
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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Spring: To-Do List


Now that it's officially spring, I'm full of excitement and ideas of what I want to do during the coming months. As I've mentioned in some recent posts, spring has taken on a whole new life and meaning for me this year, I'm more excited and positive for it than in previous years. Instead of wishing the winter chills would come back so I can continue to wrap up in all my cosy layers, I'm now overjoyed that I can leave the house in a light jacket, and the pretty flowers blooming everywhere you look are leaving me very happy indeed. It's a season full of promise and I want to make the most of it!

Here's my list of some things I'd like to make sure to-do...

1. Spend as much time as possible outside. Now that the never ending winter has finally started to ease up I can't wait to get out and about that bit more often.

2. Have a good 'ol spring clean, and not just the house -the garden too. While the new year began in January, spring always feels like the best time for a fresh start. 

3. Spend some time exploring Edinburgh for some new cafes, ones that also have amazing coffee and cake. 

4. Plant some bulbs in the garden so we have some pretty flowers each year.

5. Fill the house with fresh flowers -tulips are my favourites at the moment! 

6. Visit a few farmers markets. Fresh asparagus, cheese and fresh bread will be high on the shopping list.

7. Make the absolute most of Easter weekend, we have no plans yet but I'm hoping they include some chocolate. I mean, it's only right!

8. Take a couple of day trips to explore some new areas and see a little more of the country.

9. Have a picnic somewhere beautiful (hopefully with cherry blossoms), with a large wicker basket full of goodies.  

So they're some of my to-do's this spring...what are your's?
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Monday, 21 March 2016

Easter: Home Made Creme Eggs

home-made-creme-eggs
home-made-cream-eggs

I have to admit, before we even begin this post, that I've never been the biggest fan of Cadburys Creme Eggs. I'm sure when I was little I loved them, but as I grew up -not so much. I did try them again a few years ago and my opinion hadn't changed all that much to be honest. Paul on the other hand...well, he is a die hard fan of the little eggs and eats as many as he can each year, throughout Creme Egg season -he even has a Creme Egg cookie jar to keep them in. 

Is Creme Egg season a UK thing? 

When I found out a few weeks ago that you could actually make your own Creme Eggs at home, and after reading reviews of many people saying they'd done it, and that they taste even better than the real ones, I wanted to give it a try. 

The recipe comes from chocolatier Paul Young, and you can find it here. It's a very simple, easy to follow recipe and they honestly do taste amazing! We had a little taste test at the weekend and the homemade eggs were the clear winners -they're also bigger which is a bonus. 

home-made-creme-eggs
home-made-creme-eggs

It's of course much easier to pick some up at the shop but it is fun to do at home, and I think they made a great dessert option for Easter dinner -you can make them any size you like and eat them with a spoon. Or, even rather thoughtful Easter gifts.

I would say the recipe is more of a guide than specific quantities, and I think the amounts you end up using, will depend on the molds you go for (they don't have to be eggs after all) and the amount of filling you add. I found that with 220g of chocolate, I could make four eggs with my molds, and I still have rather a lot of the fondant filling sitting in the fridge. It won't go to waste though, I'm sure we'll have made a few more by this Easter weekend. 

Oh and a tip for tempering chocolate at home! I'm sorry if I offend anyone who knows how to do this properly, but we don't have a large marble slab in our kitchen so this is how I do it. 

-Take half of your chocolate and chop it up into small chucks, put this in a bowl and keep it in the fridge or freezer until you need it, so it's completely chilled. 

-When the other half of your chocolate is melted, add in your chilled chocolate -all in one go, and stir to bring down the temperature. Continue stirring until everything is melted and there you have your tempered chocolate. 

As I said its not the same as doing it the proper way, but it does what it needs to and gives your eggs that shiny finish.

If you feel like giving them a go I'd definitely recommend it -they are so much fun to make and I was very proud of my little eggs. I'm now a definite fan of these little treats and as Paul's pointed out to me, he can have Creme Eggs all year round now we know how to make them -not just in Cream Egg season. You could also go that extra step and cover them in colourful foil. We only had standard tin foil so ours did resemble tiny baked potatoes, but this could stop people stealing them at least!

home-made-cream-eggs

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Friday, 18 March 2016

Made Me Happy This Week

made-me-happy

Today started off not so great, and I know this post is to highlight the happy things but I have to be honest. We slept in, Paul didn't feel too well, I had quite a few bits to do before we left for the day, but didn't really have time. All in all, it just left me in a little bit of a bad mood! However, by the time we were dressed, ready and out the door, Paul had cheered me right up and we've had the most lovely day. We had a very tasty lunch that for some reason we got for half price, and we did a little bit of shopping. Things have been so busy lately that we haven't had time for a proper day out together, so today's been a rather lovely start to the weekend.

1. Stocking up on a few very much missed Lush products -and a couple of glittery Easter ones. Paul's already refused to clean the bath after I've used the sparkly golden egg.

2. Ham and pineapple pizza -it'll always be a favourite of mine.

3. My mum waking us up at 5am! I know that sounds bloody annoying but sometimes it's lovely to see the morning begin.

4. Paul's brother and his girlfriend have just bought their first house, and our friend has just today, got the keys for his first house. It's all very exciting, and I assume the upcoming months will include a lot of diy.

5. A late night catch up with my best friend.

6. Picking up a brush cleaning mitt. I'm hoping this will help me to clean my make up brushes more often seeing as I now wont have to rub them into my hand.

7. Little treats from my grandmother, she always buys the most random of things but I love them. This week it was three boxes of sugar, one of which is very pretty sugar crystals. I think they'll be rather lovely to serve with coffee.

8. Spring bulbs flowering in the garden, lots of pretty purples and yellows.
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Friday, 11 March 2016

Made Me Happy This Week

made-me-happy-this-week

I'm so glad the weekends here, and today's seen it off to a rather lovely start. My mum, my gran and I, went for lunch at a new-ish cafe about 20 minutes from us. The place was beautiful, and while the food was tasty it was too much for us to manage -however I did manage to eat my whole caramel slice. We left feeling very full with doggy bags of our left overs. This weekend we plan to re-watch Kung Fu Panda before we go to see the new one next week, and enjoy a little of the malteaser cheesecake we have in the fridge.

1. Our bathroom tiles were delivered at the start of the week and I can't stop looking at them. They are perfect in every way and exactly what I wanted!

2. Today being warm enough to wear my leather jacket and not freeze. It's been a while and I've missed it.

3. One of the most hilarious "you had to be there" moments with my friend and a door to door window salesman. We couldn't breath for laughing!

4. Modern Family! We may be a little late to the party on this one, but we've finally started watching it and now we can't stop.

5. Feeling like a pirate in my knee high boots.

6. Making a birthday cake for Paul's dad with my niece -she's getting so good that I hardly have to help at all with the decoration. I love watching the concentration on her little face while shes planning what to do with the sprinkles.

7. Sweet unexpected texts from Paul through the day.

8. Beautiful pink sky as the sun goes down on sunny days.
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Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

toasted-cheese-sandwich-and-tomato-soup
toasted-cheese-sandwich-and-tomato-soup
toasted-cheese-sandwich-and-tomato-soup

There are some amazing taste combinations out there, and cheese and tomato has to be up there as one of the best! This particular cheese and tomato combination is one of our personal favourites and its possibly the best treat you can have on a cold or grey afternoon. Seeing as it's been quite cold and grey for most of the year so far, this has been a very tasty dinner or lunch on many occasion.

When I was little, I used to have a very similar thing with tinned cream of tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches. It was honestly one of the meals I enjoyed the most but don't think I could eat it now. As I grew up and started cooking for myself, I fell out of love with tinned soup, so this is my slightly more grown up adult version which I have to admit is much better anyway.

It's an all round, amazing pairing of flavours and textures. You have the fresh light tomato and basil soup, combined with the crispy, salty, cheesy, toasted sandwich -heaven!! 

Both are so easy to make, and the soup is perfect for freezing if you don't think you'll get around to eating the whole batch.

toasted-cheese-sandwich-and-tomato-soup

Ingredients

For the soup: (8-10 portions)
1.5kg of fresh tomatoes
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 large onions
1.3 liters of chicken or vegetable stock
2 large cloves of garlic
25g of fresh basil
50ml of oil
Salt to taste

For the sandwich:
Slices of good bread
Mature cheddar cheese
Mild gouda cheese       - (or any combo you enjoy)
30g of melted butter

To make your soup, preheat your oven to 200°C and slice all of your fresh tomatoes in half. Lay them out on a baking tray, cover and toss them in half of the oil and roast for 40 - 50 minutes until they are all soft and have charred a little.

Ruffly chop your onions, they don't need to be too fine as you're going to blend everything at the end. Add them to a large pan with the rest of your oil and fry on a medium heat until softened and lightly brown, then add in your garlic and fry for a couple of minutes more.

Add your stock to the pan, then both tins of tomatoes, all of your roast tomatoes and your basil. Now all you have to do is blend everything together and add some salt to taste.

Now for the sandwich! 

toasted-cheese-sandwich-and-tomato-soup
toasted-cheese-sandwich-and-tomato-soup

You can really do as you like here, and add as much or as little cheese as you want. I like to use a mixture of mature cheddar and gouda with mine. I like the strong taste from the cheddar and the sweeter nutty taste of the gouda -plus when it melts, gouda becomes stretchy and stringy -and that's always good for a cheese toastie.

Put a frying pan on a low heat so it can start to warm up and cut two slices of any bread you like.

Melt your butter and brush a little on each slice of what will be the inside of your sandwich.

Grate your cheeses of choice, and pile as much as you like of your bread. Once you've sandwiched them together, brush one side liberally with your melted butter and place it butter side down in the pan. Brush the rest of your butter on the other side so it's ready for when you flip it over.

Because of the butter you shouldn't need any extra oil in your pan.

Around four minutes on each side will do, just enough to crisp everything up and melt all of your cheese.

Then you're ready to serve and enjoy with your tomato soup for some messy dipping.

toasted-cheese-sandwich-and-tomato-soup

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Monday, 7 March 2016

A Little Touch of Spring

spring-flowers
spring-flowers

It's a beautiful day outside today, the sun is shining and I can't see even one cloud in the sky, but for the most part it's still pretty Wintery out there. I mean, it was snowing yesterday morning and last night, so I find it hard to jump head first into Spring when I still want to be wrapped up in as many layers as possible. That being said, I am excited for Spring and hoping most days, for the wintery chill in the air to go away.

In an attempt to brighten thing up I wanted to add a tiny touch of Spring around the house. One of the easiest ways -and my favourite, to brighten up a room is with some fresh flowers, so while shopping last week we picked up some pretty Spring tulips. I love tulips - they always make me think of Spring (and Easter) and you can find them in so many colours. We chose a bunch of purple, pink and yellow and I thought I'd share them with you, in case you (like me) are in need of a little Spring.

While it may still be cold, they really lift the mood and remind you that Spring is definitely coming. 

spring-flowers

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Friday, 4 March 2016

Made Me Happy This Week

made-me-happy-this-week

This week we've been car shopping, wondering around showrooms and talking to salesmen (not my favourite thing in the world). For those of you that don't know - I don't drive, Paul's the driver and he thinks it's time for a new car. There's also been a lot of noise and banging while the downstairs bathroom has had all the tiles knocked off the wall, and flooring taken up. I'm most definitely looking forward to a slightly quieter weekend and a lovely Mothers Day brunch on Sunday. What are your plans?

1. Buying fresh flowers to add a touch of Spring to the house. We haven't had any in quite a while, so I thought it was about time we added some life and colour around the place. Plus I love all the pretty tulips around at the moment.

2. Watching crowds of people try to get last minute mothers day cards in tiny card shops. All while being rather smug having got our weeks before.

3. Spending an afternoon at a cake smash photo shoot my best friend organised for her little girl. It was so much fun! Basically, baby + cake = hilarious mess and adorable photos.

4. I captured a spider with a glass!! Now I understand that doesn't seem all that impressive, but you should know how terrified I am of them! I've left the house before because there's been no one home to deal with one. So I was very proud of myself when I managed to do it. 

5. Kinder treats from my grandma -she's a sweetie.

6. Wondering around the garden centre and looking at all the pretty flowers I'd like in the garden. If only I knew how to look after them - or even when you're supposed to plant them?!

7. Being able to hang washing up outside again, Springs definitely around the corner.

8. Costa's chai lattes -I've had 3 this week. They're one of the best (if not the best) I've ever had.
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Thursday, 3 March 2016

Dreaming of Spring: Wishlist

spring-wishlist

This year I have a whole new appreciation for spring. I've always loved winter and all of it's cosy nights in and layering of knitwear, but lately I've found myself longing for, and dreaming of the warmer days that Spring could bring with it (hopefully soon). Also because everything has looked a little too grey for a little too long now, I'm looking forward to blossoms and bud and of course daffodils to brighten life up again.

I've found myself spending a lot of time lately, looking through all the pretty spring fashion (while wearing faux fur lined boots and parka's), and in my head have managed to make quite the list. These are some of my favourite bits and pieces...and it would seem I have a definite theme of blue running through everything.

Now we just need March to warm up and give us some beautiful spring weather
...fingers crossed.
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