Tag Archives: decorations

My 30th Birthday BBQ

30th Birthday BBQ - Me on the patio!

To celebrate my 30th Birthday over the weekend I threw a small BBQ party in my garden.  The weather had been glorious all week but come the weekend rain was predicted.  Never fear!  I had a plan!

30th Birthday BBQ - Awning to protect guests from the rain!

I have an extendable awning for over the patio and I stretched a shade sail over the lawn to provide an even bigger canopy propped up with a pole in the middle and anchored to the fence posts on the corners.  This way most of my garden was sheltered and I could happily set up everything under cover in case of rain! A few shower curtains filled the gaps over the food and drink stations.

30th Birthday BBQ - DIY Bar

I set up a little bar so people could help themselves to drinks throughout the evening.  I am so in love with the drinks dispensers!  I set them on cake tins to give them a bit of elevation.  I also went the plastic and paper cup route.  No point in crying over smashed glass!

30th Birthday BBQ  - Pallet side table and flowers

I went to town on the flowers and decorations!  A few sawn pallets stacked up made a nice little coffee table on the lawn (and helped to stablise the pole!) My flower arrangements were made up of peonies, roses, rhododendrons, chrysanthemums and sweet william with rosemary for greenery and fragrance.

30th Birthday BBQ - Roses and Rosemary in Diet Coke Bottles

30th Birthday BBQ - Candles and Flowers throughout the garden

I had plenty of seating set up so people could suit themselves and lots of cushions and blankets to keep everyone comfortable.

30th Birthday BBQ  - Guests mingling under the canop

30th Birthday BBQ- the Lawn seating

Darcy got a little bit overwhelmed by all of the people but he soon bounced back and mingled with the guests stealing bits of BBQ!

30th Birthday BBQ - Me and Darcy!

30th Birthday BBQ

I got all crafty for this shindig too!  A polystyrene wreath covered in cocktail umbrellas decorated the front door to greet my guests.

30th Birthday BBQ - DIY gold glitter letter sign

I cut out letters from black posterboard and then covered it in gold glitter paint for the ANNA 30! and DRINKS signs.

30th Birthday BBQ - Food and Drink Stations

I kept things nice and simple and self service through the night.  I had got Tesco Bumper Party Bags of BBQ food, which were excellent value and had everything you could need! Everything got cooked in the oven and then served buffet style.  Paper plates and pink plastic cutlery meant that at the end of the night cleanup was simple!

30th Birthday BBQ- Ombre Birthday Cake

The cake went down very well!  I went for a 3 layer ombre victoria sponge.  Darcy helped to clean up!

30th Birthday BBQ - Darcy cleaning up cake plates!

 

All in all a wonderful evening filled with fun,friends and food, what more could a girl ask for?

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Filed under Gardening, Not Food, Roundup

Christmas Pie

Christmas is tradtionally a time of leftovers.  We’ve got just about all of the sandwich suitable turkey off it now so now it is time to think of other things to make with the bits and pieces left over.  There are lots of options available but few I’d actually enjoy.  Pie seemed the way to go.  Not only can you use the turkey but there’s nothing stopping you from using up some stuffing or leftover vegetables or even a few dollops of cranberry sauce.  Got a ham? Pop it in too!  Whatever is left or takes your fancy, within reason, then in it goes!  I usually keep things simple.  I might do turkey, stuffing and cranberry but I’d leave out the vegetables.  Ham, turkey and vegetables go well together too.  If you’ve got a lot of mash then why not skip the pastry and use that?  It really does depend entirely upon what you have and what you like.  If you’ve only got turkey to play with then a simple turkey and mushroom pie is great too. 

Makes 1 average pie dish serving 4 people. 

For the pastry:
225g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g butter, chilled and diced
50g Trex (white vegetable fat), chilled and diced
3-4 tbsp chilled water

– Mix together the flour and salt.
– Add the butter and Trex and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. 
– Add 3 -4 tbsp cold water by sprinkling it evenly over the surface fo the mixture.  (I used 3 tbsp and a bit.)
– Using a flat bladed knife mix it together until it forms a dough. 
– Gather it together with your hands and lightly knead for a few seconds to bring it together. 
– Form the dough into a ball and wrap it in clingfilm.  Place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. 

For the filling:
1 onion, chopped
Turkey/ham/vegetables/stuffing/etc.
a good splash of olive oil
2 tbsp cornflour
1/2 pint chicken stock

– First saute your onion with a pinch of salt in a little oil in a frying pan.  Add whatever leftovers you’re using and stir gently to combine. 
– In a separate small pan add a good splash of oil, at least enough to cover the base of the pan. 
– Gently heat this until it just starts to shimmer a bit then add the corn flour.  Whisk rapidly to combine. 
– Pour in your chicken stock, still whisking and keep stiring until it is a smooth sauce. 
– Pour this sauce into the other pan and stir well to mix. 

To make pie:

– Lightly flour the worksurface and the rolling pin, not the pastry. 
– Turn out the chilled dough onto the worksurface and roll it out in one direction, turning it as you go until it reaches about 3 mm thick. 
– Place your pie dish upsidedown on top of the pastry and cut a line around the dish about 1 cm out to leave room for shrinkage. 
– Cut a second line around this about 1.5 cm thick.
– Fill the pie dish with the filling.
– Moisten the edge of your dish with a finger dipped in water then press the 1.5 cm thick strip round the outside of the dish trimming the length to fit.   
– Moisten this pastry with water again then lay the rest of the pastry over the top using the rolling pin to help lift it across. 
– I fluted the edges of this pie.  It’s very simple.  You basically place the thumb and index finger of one hand on the ‘inside’ of the pie and with the index finger of the other hand press the edge of the crust inwards between the two fingers of the other hand.  Move round the pie and keep going until the whole edge is fluted. 

– With any spare pastry I like to make decorations for the top of the pie.*  I went for a Christmassy snowman and Christmas trees.  Again just dampen any pastry you’re pressing together to make it stick. 
– Once you’re done brush the top of the pie with beaten egg and cook in an oven preheated to gas mark 7 for 40 minutes until the pastry is a golden brown and the contents heated through.  If it starts to look too brown then cover with foil or butter papers** for the remaining cooking time. 

* And any spare spare pastry I stamp out shapes with cutters, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with grated parmesan to make cheesy biscuits. 

** I keep the butter papers when I’ve used a block for covering things like this.  It saves on foil and is a great little recycling tip!

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Filed under Easy, Mains

Christmas Treats

As of tomorrow I am going to start posting recipes for things I’ve made for christmas presents.  I’m doing a mixture of bought and home made, edible and not.  So if you know me in the real world this is your cue to stop reading this blog until after christmas… or start working on your surprised face! 

Tonight’s offering is Christmas Cupcakes!  Same basic cupcake recipe as usual made into 1/2 plain and 1/2 chocolate.  The christmas cupcake cases are slightly smaller than normal muffin cases so I ended up with 15 cupcakes rather than the usual 12.  Some are iced with buttercream, sprinkles and EDIBLE GLITTER! My life has not been complete without edible glitter.  I love the stuff! The candy cane ones are chocolate cupcakes with mint fondant icing (fondant icing sugar, peppermint essence and water) and sprinkles. 

I have run out of sugar, icing sugar, vanilla essence and other necessary supplies so the holiday baking is on hold for now.  Tomorrow I start again!

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Salt Dough

I love salt dough.  There’s something so satisfyingly primary school about it but it’s not just for kids!  It’s cheap, simple and fun.  My sister and I made up a 3 cup batch of this and set to making Christmas decorations.  We made a mixture of things: wreaths and candle holders, cut out decorations to hang on the tree and freestyle modeling decorations too, When we were kids we made all sorts of decorations and presents from it.  Handy hint, if you want to make a sheep or hair then the garlic crusher is your best friend.  We used acrylic paints to paint ours but you can use just about anything you like really.  For best results varnish the salt dough afterwards.  We didn’t because we like the rustic, homemade look and also because we’re impatient and couldnt’ be bothered to wait!  And yes, those Daleks are on the tree (round the back though) because what is more festive then the Doctor Who Christmas Special?

Makes however much you want, just multiply up keeping the same ratios. 

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp vegetable oil (don’t multiply this up, just add 1 tbsp unless you’re making a bucket load in which case add a few!)

– Mix together the salt and flour. 
– Add the oil.
– Gradually add the water and mix.   
– Once you have a smooth, kneadable dough you’re ready to go!
– Shape as you like and lay the finished product on baking paper. 
– Bake in the oven on gas mark 1 for 5 hours or microwave for 3 minutes then test and do longer if the dough is still soft underneath. 
– When cool paint as you wish and varnish if you like. 

NB.  YOU CANNOT EAT THIS RECIPE.  IT IS COMPLETELY INEDIBLE!

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Filed under Basic, Easy

100th Recipe Celebration Cake

Yay!  This is my 100th recipe posted here!  To celebrate I made a cake.  Chocolate cakes and I have a tricky relationship.  I’m very demanding when it comes to chocolate cakes.  I am after perfection!  I’m not sure I’m quite there yet but this is the best chocolate cake I’ve made yet.  It’s moist and fudgey and squishy but not too rich.  It’s quite dense but stops just short of being called brownie-like.  The best thing about it is that it can be thrown together in a blender or mixer if you don’t want to do it by hand.  It was ridiculously easy.  All in all this cake was a success. 

I was going to do fantastic things icing this cake.  I made fondant icing from scratch, well, a box of fondant icing sugar.  But I had to get the Kenwood out to mix it and spent over an hour rolling it out.  Blood, sweat and tears went into this icing, literally.  Then I finally had it rolled out to the right size.  I went to pick it up to drape it over the cake and… DISASTER.  It stuck to the plastic sheets I’d been rolling it out between and then it stuck to itself and then it fell apart.  I honestly don’t know if it was too wet, sticky, or too dry, cracked into pieces.  But I cried. 

So I just stopped with the buttercream icing and decided that may be I should practice with ready rolled a bit first.  Learn to walk before I try running if you will.  As for the decorations… well, I have the artistic ability of a drunken ferret.  I love edible ball bearings and all baked goods should be blessed with them.   Strawberries or raspberries would look great on this but they’re out of season at the minute so I used raspberry jelly sweets instead.  A layer of fresh fruit inside would be nice too. 

Makes 1×8″ cake

For the cake:
225g granulated sugar
200g plain flour
100g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
120ml milk
60ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
120 ml boiling water

For the buttercream*:
180g plain chocolate
225g unsalted butter, softened
240g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

– Heat your oven to Gas Mark 4 and prepare two 8″ sandwich tins. 
– In a large bowl mix together the sugar, flour, cocoa**, baking powder and salt. 
– Add the egg, milk, oil and vanilla essence to the dry ingredients and mix well.  It make seem very dry but keep at it.  It will come together to form a dough.  Keep mixing until it is a smooth, even consistency. 
– Add the water and mix thoroughly. 
– Pour the batter into the two tins.  If you want completely equal layers you can weigh them but I usually do it by eye. 
– Smooth the batter out so it is even. 
– Bake for 25-30 minutes.  You will be able to see if the centre is uncooked and a skewer inserted will come out clean. 
– Make up the buttercream by melting the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.  Allow to cool.   
– Cream together the butter and the icing sugar and then add the vanilla essence. 
– Mix well then add the melted chocolate and stir thoroughly until everything is combined. 
– Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes or so then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
– Once completely cool fill between the two cakes and ice all over with the buttercream using a palette knife to smooth it over the cake. 
– Decorate as you wish. 

* I only made 2/3 this amount and it needed more so expect better coverage than seen in the photo. 
**Sift this in or you will get lumps.

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Filed under Cakes, Easy

Spooky Halloween Cupcakes

I am planning a big Halloween feast tomorrow night but to keep us going during the day I made these spooky halloween cupcakes.  The cupcakes were made to my usual cupcake recipe.  I made half chocolate and half vanilla by making up the whole batch plain, spooning out the 6 plain into their cases then stiring in a large spoonful of cocoa powder and mixing it well, then spooning the remaining mixture into the remaining 6 cases.  I made sure to well fill four of the cases that were to be the owls so they would form peaks. 

Spooky halloween cupcakes

You will need:
Giant Cadbury’s Buttons
Mini Cadbury’s Buttons
Malteasers
Chocolate Eyes (available nearly everywhere aroung Halloween)
Orange and Lemon Jelly Slices
Thick Glace Icing (Icing sugar and lemon juice mixed to a paste)
Buttercream Icing

– First trim the peaks off the cupcakes and retain 4 of the chocolate peaks. 
– Then ice the cupcakes with buttercream using a large nozzle or spread carefully using a flat bladed knife. 
– Melt a handful of the Giant Buttons in a small ziplock freezer bag (1 minute in the microwave) then snip a small corner off. 
– Put your glace icing in another freezer bag or a cone of baking paper with the corner snipped off. 

For the Owls:
– Take the 4 retained peaks and slice them in half. 
– Place the two halves in a V on the cupcake. 
– Place a malteaser on either side for the eyes.
– Squeeze a good blob of glace icing on to each malteaser and place a mini button on top. 
– Place an orange or lemon slice at the tip of the V for the beak. 

For the Eyes:
– Place an eye at the centre of the cupcake. 
– Take the bag of chocolate and ice eyelashes on the cupcake. 

For the Sipders:
– Place a Giant Button at the centre of the cupcake. 
– Ice legs on with the chocolate. 
– Ice on the eyes with two blobs of glace icing and a dot of chocolate for the pupil.
– For smiley spiders finish by icing on a smile with chocolate.

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Filed under Cupcakes and Muffins, Easy

Christmas Muffins

It may seem a little early to be starting on Christmas baking but there is a very good reason for this.  My nextdoor neighbour and I were talking and she mentionned that she needed a baking project for her class to do for the Christmas fair to raise funds but that there were a number of criteria that needed to be met, no boring fairy cakes, for example!  I thought I’d seen a recipe somewhere about that would work but it proved to be a figment of my imagination.  So I decided to invent something that would, hopefully, work.  These are the delightful result!

They have all the tastes of Christmas but not in an overwhelming way.  I have to confess I don’t usually like Christmassy flavoured things, I eat Christmas pudding after Christmas dinner because it’s traditional not because I like it.  However, I really liked these muffins.  They had all of the flavours but lacked the heavy, stodgy feeling I usually associate with Christmas foods.  All in all a great experiment and come Christmas I shall certainly be making these again. 

Christmas Muffins

Makes 6

150g mixed dried fruits
zest and juice of 1 orange
50g dark muscoavdo sugar
125ml milk
1 egg
2 tbsp sunflower oil
150g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
pinch of salt
100g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Holly berry and leaf decorations (I made leaves out of white icing and green colouring and berries out of glace cherry bits)

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and prepare 6 holes of a muffin tin. 
– Combine the fruit and orange zest and juice in a microwavable dish and microwave for 2 minutes.  Alternately leave them to soak for an hour. 
– Beat together the sugar, milk, egg and oil.   
– Sift the flour, baking podwer, nutmeg, mixed spice and salt into the mixture.
– Fold in gently. 
– Add the mixed fruits and stir in. 
– Divide the mixture evenly between the six cases. 
– Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Mine took 25)
– Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little in the tin then place on a wire rack to cool completely. 
– Mix together the icing sugar and the lemon juice until smooth. 
– Once the muffins have cooled spoon a little of the icing over each muffin. 
– Add the holly decorations and leave to set.

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Filed under Christmas, Cupcakes and Muffins, Easy