I have a giveaway for you to kick off the new year from Just Catering Supplies. It’s pretty much everything you might need to hold rather a large party, worth £43.80. There are two prizes available consisting of:
There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 27th March 2015.
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Lakeland kindly sent me a whole host of chocolate related goodies for review. This is most definitely my kind of review. Here’s what I thought:
Train mould – As the mother of one train enthusiast this was heaven sent. Max (4) loved this, even took the mould to playschool for show and tell. The detail on the train is amazing, the mould turns out well (you MUST let the chocolate set properly first, don’t be impatient) and it washes easily too. It’s a must have for our little train enthusiast. My only criticism would be that the mould takes a lot of chocolate (850g); I’d love to see a smaller mould.
Two piece Christmas silicone choc mould – These moulds are lovely; they remind me of old fashioned Christmas decorations. They have all the good qualities of the train mould whilst taking less chocolate and also being perfect for topping cupcakes or even a Christmas chocolate cake.
Fairy tale village mould – Another big tick from us. This mould can be used for chocolate or gingerbread. I think this might be a perfect present for kids who want to make a gingerbread house but are scared of getting all the geometry right. Again, washes well, turns out well as long as you grease well.
Silicone thermospatula – I would recommend investing on one of these if you are in any way interested in tempering chocolate. That is, making sure that any chocolate you melt has a wonderful sheen on it once it sets. This spatula has an in built thermometer so no need to balance a thermometer and spatula over a bain marie any more. Great idea.
Dark chocolate – I have a confession to make that my husband and I ate this whole block whilst watching TV and drinking coffee. It was delicious. I can’t comment on it’s melting abilities other than it dissolves well on my tongue as the hot coffee washed over it.
Star treat bags – I have been using these bags to give mini mince pies away to pals in. They’re great for popping a piece of card into, giving the mince pies more stability, very festive indeed.
Homemade stickers – I have to confess that I don’t much like these. They didn’t seem hugely sticky to me. Apart from that, to me there’s something strange about shouting ‘homemade’ when giving a gift that clearly isn’t packaged in supermarket stamped cardboard. Not my thing.
Reindeer gift tags – I love these, they’re really thick and sturdy with a cut out reindeer. Only criticism would be that there’s only 3 per pack. I wanted to adorn all my presents with them.
I have 1 x Lakeland chocolate pack RRP £70 giveaway. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 17th December 2014. Please note Lakeland will post on a next day delivery up until the 19th, however in the event that any product is unavailable Lakeland will provide an alternative product of the same or greater value.
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Annie, of Spoon Cereals, came to the food industry in her second year of working in advertising. “I struggled to find a tasty, healthy, high quality bowl of cereal on my way to work each morning, which is why I decided to start up my own breakfast cereal company, Spoon Cereals, with mentor and business partner Jonny Shimmin.”
The compnay was only launched a year ago and already they’ve been on Dragons’ Den where they secured investment from Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden. They supply granola and muesli to Harvey Nichols, nationwide as well as local high-end delis in London. They sent me four of their cereals to try. Well cereal is the wrong word – they sent me muesli, granola and a museli-granola hybrid. Here’s what I thought:
Apple & peanut granola – this was my favourite. I loved it. Now I am not usually an apple person unless they’re crisp and fresh and raw. I don’t really go in for apple crumble, apple cake… you get the idea. But these dried pieces of apple (of which there were lots) really did it for me. They were ultra chewy and sweet; so to get the sugar you really had to work for it. This seemed right and fitting. The peanuts were as delicious as peanuts always are. A great combination that felt ever so slightly American for some reason. I admit to eating two bowls back to back upon first tasting. I sent the rest of the packet to work with my husband to stop me gobbling it all up as snack style trail mix.
Cinnamon granola – Gosh, I don’t want to sound like an old misery but again, I am not big on cinnamon baked goods. They always taste artificially sweet to me. I don’t know why. I really did like this granola though. The toasted hazelnuts were crunchy and abundant (none of that hunt the nut business here), the cinnamon coating was subtle and added a lovely crispness to the outside of the granola pieces AND it had coconut flakes. I am a coconut nut. I ate a small bowl with milk and then two tumblers-full as snacks. I have asked for this granola to be removed to husband’s work for fear of eating the whole lot in one sitting. (FYI: This variety has won a Great Taste Award).
Granola-muesli mix – I have issues with the naming of this. I reckon the makers of Spoon can be a bit more creative. One of them used to work in advertising for goodness sake (as a fellow ex ad girl I know it matters not which department she worked in; all ad folks are frustrated copywriters and art directors, even the copywriters and art directors). Anyway, onto the taste test; I ate a bowl with milk and I give it a tick. Enough dried fruit (ie/ a lot) to remain sweet , lots of brazil nuts, hazelnuts and almonds plus oats and rye flakes and spelt flakes galore. Yes it was very nice indeed but I couldn’t help think of the granola’s I’d sent into exhile (see above). Sorry, but my heart belongs to apple and peanut granola.
Fruit and nut museli – Come on guys, there’s a better name for this surely? Okay, so this is a breakfast for those folks who like to eat clean. There is no sugar, I repeat there is no sugar present in this muesli. And it tastes like it has no sugar. (Not even maple syrup which everyone knows isn’t really sugar, it’s healthy sweet syrup, right?) It was full of the good stuff; oat flakes, rye flakes, spelt flakes, hazelnuts that had been toasted to perfection, almonds, brazil nuts and loads of apricots, dates and sultanas. Even some pumpkin seeds. But honestly? This was too worthy for me. No thanks. I will leave it to the Eat Clean brigade and their perfect skin and jutting hip bones.
This is possibly the longest review in history but still I have more. I did have a small issue with the packaging. I LOVED their Harvey Nics (and surely Waitrose soon?) friendly outer white paper bags but the inside cellophane type bag was a bit too easy to rip in my opinion. The cereal doesn’t seem to be suffering from this as the white bags have a nifty fold over thingy that seals rather well. Still… this is a review so I’m going to mention it.
I have 1 x Spoon Cereal gift pack RRP £20 giveaway. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 20th February 2015. How to enter:
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Base Fashion sent me a lovely Gant Christmas jumper for baby Lawrence. It’s beautiful and it cost £42! That’s more than I spend on my own Christmas jumper, but it’s oh so soft being 100% cotton and has sweet little buttons on the shoulder to get it safely over his head without the usual squawking that ensues when I try and introduce anything other than a baby gro. Is it wrong that I am considering having this jumper framed once Lawrence has had his winter’s wear out of it? It’s just so incredibly dinky I want to preserve it.
I have 2 x Gant baby Xmas jumpers to giveaway worth £42 each (RRP). The available sizes are here. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 12th December 2014. How to enter:
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Oh My Baby, as their name would suggest, sell baby related goods. The FunkyBox is specifically what we’re here to talk about today though. Now, I don’t know about you, but my house is plagued with half opened and used packs of wipes. Some faring better than others in their state of dried-out-ness. OMB sent through a lovely red and white spotty wipe case for using around the home (they have travel sized ones too). It’s very much my kind of design but they are available in green, white and white and silver too. I’m a sucker for spots. I like red a lot too. I even wore red shoes on my wedding day. You open the wipe box underneath where there’s a rubber seal that’s hard enough to remove that small fingers won’t be slinging the wipes across the room, but easy enough that it won’t result in any adult tantrums.
The box is taking pride of place on my dining room table (we use wipes for EVERYTHING in this house) and doesn’t offend me in any way, which frankly a box of naked wipes always did. The wipes easily pull out of the flip top clip lid and are staying true to their name
I have 1 FunkyBox plus travel sized box to giveaway worth £23.49 (RRP) to one person in red, white, green or silver and white. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 12th December 2014. How to enter:
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The Bake Off has a lot to answer for. When I was practising in 2011 the only books I could find on the subject were either very much written for the home cook or professional text books full of science, that whilst interesting (well to me) was something I just didn’t have time for. I was busy making 1000 croissants to prepare. Mich Turner’sCake School book sits between the two.
The book could be described as much like GBBO – it takes you on a journey. First off we start with lots of basics on ingredients. The seasoned cake bakers will know this lot already. Then we move onto some quite homely cakes – with an emphasis on fruit and vegetables. There’s a retro pineapple upside down cake, coffee hazelnut roulade and an orange chiffon cake.
Soon there’s advice on splitting and icing cakes with buttercream, jam and curds. How to make a shiny and stable ganache. Step by step instructions on piping cupcakes, royal icing and intricate wedding cake style detail. Hands up a lot of these type of cakes feel dated to me now. I’m a big fan of rustic cakes and very simple decoration. But these intricately iced cakes aren’t there for us to copy perfectly, they’re more a guide to use for inspiration.
There are sections throughout on what could have gone wrong which are very useful. Also sections on ‘what not to do’ and ‘Mich’s tips’ – all full of useful advice with sanitised science to explain why we should or shouldn’t do something.
Photography wise the style is very close up, not overly dressed and reminds me a little of Usbourne books from my childhood. But then this isn’t a lifestyle book. I don’t want to be Mich. I would like an ounce of her cakey skill though.
I have 2 x £30 (RRP) Mich Turner’s Cake School books to giveaway to two people. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 12th December 2014. How to enter:
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I like Lorraine Pascale. Okay, I’ve never met her and we’re not friends (though Lorraine, I am totally open to cocktails some time in London or even Leicester if you fancy a little jaunt on the Midland Mainline) but I think we could be. She seems like a girl’s girl. The type who would never ditch you for a bloke. Oh no. Lorraine is made of better moral stuff. A proper girlfriend.
So I was very pleased to be asked to review her latest book that accompanies her TV series, How to be a Better Cook. The book isn’t a Good Housekeeping style tome with details of how to fillet a seabass or indeed make a sourdough starter. It’s a book jam packed full with recipes that you might find really rather useful. It’s hard to ignore the fact that there’s a heavy slant on the healthier end of cooking. A lot of the recipes are low carb. There’s a high proportion dedicated to meat centric dishes. This for me is a bonus as frankly I need to eat a little low carb to deal with the last of the baby weight, plus if this is the food that makes LP look so utterly stunning then bring it on.
The book is very much of the moment. There are kale crisps for example. There’s pulled pork, a fair amount of pumpkin and Moroccan influence. And there’s a bit of novelty, which always appeals to me. Meringue ghosts, spider cupcakes, mummy wrapped sausages (I am publishing a recipe for this next week! See, we’re kindred cooking spirits I tell you!) and peanut shots. I like the book but if you are expecting a lot of classic LP baking recipes then this isn’t for you. It’s majority savoury. It’s food to eat every day, not just on high days and holidays.
Lorraine’s books are always strewn with motivational quotes. I follow her on Instagram and there’s a definite vulnerability to her. I don’t feel she posts these quotes for her followers, more for herself. A little reminder if you will. I like the quotes but I know some people won’t. They’re marmite in that way. Photo wise the shots are very crisp, very clear and almost masculine in the colour palette chosen for backgrounds. It’s not the Jamie Oliver style we’ve all become very accustomed to of late. There isn’t a lot of crumbs thrown casually across the table, there’s no messy chocolate shards lying in wait on the bench. The shots have been styled. They’re grown up.
All in all? A beautiful book that is genuinely useful. I like.
I have 3 signed copies of Lorraine Pascale’s How to be a Better Cook worth £25 (RRP) each to giveaway to three person. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 12th December 2014. How to enter:
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I’ve recently lost over 4 stone (What? you mean you haven’t heard me banging on about it? Oh, you’re being sarcastic.) so anything remotely carby has been off the menu. Now I am back onto a sensible diet of mostly plants, some meat and the odd treat I am slowly reintroducing sugars, in all their forms, to my diet. Here steps in our friend Clarks maple syrup.
When it comes to baking the darker the syrup the more suitable it is for baking. Dark syrup has a stronger flavour and is extracted later in the harvesting season – the darkest of all is grade B. Grade A is lighter and the kind of stuff you might like to liberally throw over your pancakes in the morning.
The good news for baking fans though is that whilst maple syrup is clearly still a sugar it is lower GI than the regular white stuff, meaning it raises your blood sugar slower – a very good thing. I tried using maple syrup in a few cakes of mine recently to put it through my regime of Tough Tests. The first one was the chocolate cake recipe from my book that uses golden syrup (alongside white castor sugar) to add the all important squidge to a big slice of sticky chocolate cake. Now maple is a lot thinner than golden syrup – so I was a little worried it might cause some issues with the texture. I was wrong. In fact I am now using maple syrup as a substitute in this cake all the time. (I do make this cake rather a lot…) I tried it again in the apple cake recipe up on this here blog. I subbed half the sugar with Clarks maple syrup. It was much much harder to pour into the cases, but all in all the flavour and texture was fantastic once baked. Another triumph.
The second way I put the sweet stuff through it’s paces was in the icing from the aforementioned cake recipe. I usually use Monin syrup but decided to try maple flavoured buttercream. Just 3 tbsp lent a sweet, Autumnal and altogether earthy flavour that worked a treat with the spiced apple cake. I thoroughly recommend.
I have a £60 (RRP) Clarks hamper containing to giveaway to one person. There are lots of ways to enter – see the Rafflecopter form below. The first way is just to leave a comment on this post. Easy peasy. Closing date 12th December 2014. How to enter:
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