Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Hot Chocolate with all the trimmings Cupcakes

So today hurricane Gonzalo came to batter our North West coasts and he was not kind. The littlest and I got drenched twice on the school run with her big sister escaping with just the one soaking - that hardly seems fair when she was the reason we had to venture out in such dreadful conditions! But the bonus of getting soaked through to the skin and blown half way to the moon is that when you at last get home to a nice warm house you can put the kettle on and feast on luxury hot chocolates. Unfortunately my children are a little bit weird in that they haven't fully embraced the delights of hot chocolate yet! So in an effort to still enjoy this treat together we have had to come up with an alternate plan and so we have Hot Chocolate Cupcakes! When baked in a cake hot chocolate is apparently acceptable (even edible before actually baking judging by the cleanliness of the mixing bowl) The children are also not averse to a bit of squirty cream and of course all the other decorative trimmings are a no brainer. So once they are ready and cooled down enough I let them have their own way with the decorating. Always a tense time for a control freak like me so I keep a few back to eat perfect myself later. Still they have a lot of fun although who taught them to squirt squirty cream straight into their mouths is a complete mystery to me...

120g self raising flour
120g caster sugar
1 egg
40g softened butter
4 tsp hot chocolate powder
120ml warmed milk

To decorate

Squirty Cream
Mini Marshmallows and/or whatever else makes your perfect hot chocolate topping!

Make up a small mug of hot chocolate with the milk and hot chocolate powder
Cream the butter and sugar together and then add the flour and whisked egg mixing well
Finally add the hot chocolate mix and combine to make a smooth batter
Distribute into approx 10 cupcake cases and bake in the centre of the oven on 180 oC for 20-25 mins

Once cool let the small people loose with the squirty cream plus added extras and enjoy!

Monday, 20 October 2014

This one time, at Blog Camp....

You know you're at a blogging conference when you can stop the person beside you from moving while you take a picture of your feet and they don't think you're weird.  At least I don't think @PhotoJodie did. Well we had both posted instagrams of our feet on the way to Birmingham Blog Camp so it made sense to snap them actually there, plus the floor at The Studio was just so pretty. When we were talking I mentioned to Jodie that I know I think too much about the things I want to blog instead of actually writing them. I can give many reasons for this and lack of time is a huge factor but even if I do snatch a little time for myself I tend to over think and not manage to do what I'd hoped to. I've always been the same but I don't want it to stop me anymore. So here I am on the train home from Blog Camp, doing instead of thinking. Oh dear this could all go horribly wrong...

In case you hadn't heard Blog Camp is a Blogging Conference run by the lovely people at Tots 100 and - brace yourselves - it's free!! I wasn't sure what to expect, I wasn't exactly sure if we'd even be fed! But I did remember reading positive tweets in the past when the event was being held and feeling like I'd missed out. But not this time! On the Friday in a rare foray onto Twitter where I've hardly been of late I spotted that there was a Blog Camp coming up at the weekend. After a brief moment of feeling disappointed to have missed out again I checked for tickets on the off chance, looked for train fares, texted the darling husband of my hatching plan and in a hugely impulsive and last minute move it was all booked. Argh! Hardly a moment to think about how nervous and unprepared this made me feel. What no weeks of outfit planning and stalking twitter to see if anyone I 'knew' was going? Eek! It was almost like the birth of the new me happened right there on that Friday afternoon in the moments before I had to dash back out on the school run.

The atmosphere was relaxed and the feeling informal. Sally, Lindy and Kiran from Tots were lovely and welcoming and immediately put me at ease. The itinerary for the day was packed full of brilliant looking sessions I didn't want to have to choose between. Plus there was coffee, and lots and lots of cake!

The first session I attended was the Pro Blogging session with Lindy and Kiran. It was very  interesting to learn that editors are on the look out for new voices and not to be afraid to approach them. They also blasted some myths that have previously put me off being more serious about my blog because I was afraid I couldn't keep up to date with all these apparent rules and regulations of blogging that often raise their heads on twitter. I've also been dissuaded in the past by the opinion that trying to monetise my blog devalues my aspirations as a writer. After this session I felt assured that, no matter what some may think, there are no blogging police, there are no rules! And writers need to put food on the table too! It's about doing what's right for you and this could vary depending on your personal circumstances at any particular time. I was left feeling hugely empowered by the session and more than a little proud of being a blogger.

With my background in foreign language study and travel industry career the travel blogging session was something I was really interested in attending. It was valuable to hear from different perspectives of travel blogging and to get an idea of what sort of things could be possible. The brand panel was a great eye opener to what brands and PRs are really looking for. The honesty and enthusiasm of the panel was refreshing and inspiring so thank you all.

One of the biggest lessons I learnt at Blog Camp was the importance of pitching. It might sound strange to some but I hadn't really considered it before. Putting myself out there is not something I'm great at and I know I need to work on it but now I can see how important it is I am willing to really try. In the wise words of Honest Mum I will strive to 'Be more American!' Why are us Brits so reserved?! I'm likely more British than the queen if it were measured in reservedness!

Thank you @Tots100 for putting on such a fabulous event for free and also thanks must go to the sponsors Showroom and Cow & Gate Growing up milk who provided the beautiful space we called home for day and ensured that yes, actually, we were fed and very well so too! I left Blog Camp feeling hugely inspired, less afraid, more motivated, and with a pen that ran out of ink on the train home...

I am very excited about what comes next - watch this space there are glass ceilings waiting to be broken!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Best Ever Honey Nut Banana Bread

Could this really be the best ever Honey Nut Banana Bread?!! Well it is to us and banana bread is one of, if not, the most often baked recipe in our house. I always have a ripe banana or two lurking in the fruit bowl and am happy to convince myself that of the all the cakes I could make Banana bread is one of the healthiest so I can bake it and feel good, after all cut a big enough slice and it's one of your five a day right?! It makes a great breakfast on the go when you're running short of time or freshly baked out of the oven for elevenses it's one of my favourite treats.

3 ripe bananas (mashed)
100g caster sugar
50g demerara sugar
125g softened butter
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
50g chopped mixed nuts (I used walnuts and hazelnuts)
1 tablespoon runny honey plus extra teaspoon for later
1 tablespoon golden syrup
250g self raising flour

First add the honey and golden syrup to the chopped nuts and set aside to soak

Cream both sugars with the butter until light and fluffy, first setting aside a little demerara for later.

Add the beaten eggs and mix well.

Next stir in the mashed bananas followed by the honey/nut/syrup mix.

Lastly fold in the flour ensuring it is mixed well.

Pour into the ready greased bread tin, sprinkle with the leftover demerara and decorate with a few nuts if you like.

Bake at 160 oC for approx 1 hour until an inserted skewer comes out clean. If the top is browning too quickly cover with a little foil.

Once baked turn out to cool and drizzle with a teaspoon of honey while still warm.

Boil the kettle and try and wait for it to cool a little before you cut a slice!