Potato & Bacon Bake

I was looking for a different idea for potatoes, so thought I’d see if I could do a ‘potato bake’.

I started by finely slicing potatoes and onions and cooking them in boiling water, complete with a dissolved chicken stock pot for around 5 minutes.

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Then, I placed the par-cooked veg into a baking dish, along with some chopped up bacon scattered throughout and some generous blobs of cream cheese (I used a supermarket own brand). Once the dish was nicely packed, I ladled over some of the cooking water from the saucepan to about a quart of an inch below the rim.

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Pop some more cream cheese on the top and cover with foil.

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Place in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 20minutes, after which, remove the foil and return the dish to the oven for a further 20minutes, to allow the top layer of potatoes to crisp up.

Dish up with a slotted spoon, so you don’t get too much of the liquid on the plate and serve with whatever you fancy – on this occasion, we had chicken kievs (I was feeling lazy!)

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The potatoes went down very well with Hubby, who went back for seconds, so they must have passed the test!

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Ashford Snow Dogs

I cannot believe how quickly time has flown since we got married just over two weeks ago. Work has been crazy busy and craftwise, I’m making more dragons at the request of a friend – I need to make a total of 5 before Christmas, one of which is a present for someone who couldn’t make our wedding. I do have another Christmas project up my sleeve, but I can’t comment on that, as they may well read this post and that would spoil the surprise.

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On Sunday, we decided to have a little break for the whirlwind world of work and headed to Ashford, where there is a Snow Dog trail, running through until 18th November. Very similar in idea to the Gromit Unleashed 2 Trail we did in Bristol earlier this year, it’s all to raise money for a hospice.

There are dozens of giant Snow Dogs dotted around the town, some accompanied by Snow Pups, which are just too cute for words.

We probably spent around 3-4hours wandering around the town looking for the statues and found most of them. There were a couple a little further out that we didn’t get to, but we did manage to get the ones at the Designer Outlet – even if parking there was a struggle!

I fell in love with so many of the Snow Dogs and we even found a Two Tone one, which was perfect for my Ska-loving husband!

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We did play along with the app for a little while, but we the internet signal let us down, so after we couldn’t register some of the dogs we found, we sadly gave up with that. It’s worth doing though, especially if you live in Kent, as there are lots of little prizes and discounts you can pick up from the sponsors of the dogs.

Hubby also bought me my own miniature Gizmo, but I’m not allowed to have him until my birthday tomorrow – he looks like this, just much, much smaller!

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It was also lovely and moving to see what effort had been put in to marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War in the town. One Snow Dog is dedicated to the animals killed in conflict and is set in a memorial garden.

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Next up, we will be visiting the Snails Pace trail around Brighton.

Wedding Crafts

So, we’ve finally done it – we’ve tied the knot!

Posts have been incredibly few and far between, because I have been ridiculously busy crocheting dragons and making dragon eggs. In total, I made 51 dragons for the sit-down meal.

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50 were for the guests to have as favours and one was for my late Dad and he guarded the wedding cake for us.

I spent 6 months crocheting and only finished the final one two days before the wedding last weekend. I was really happy with the finished results though and everyone really seemed to love them. Many guests have been sending us updates as to what their dragons have been getting up to – some have been to the beach, the theatre, the pub and one has flown all the way back to California, stopping off at Jurassic Park to visit distant relatives on the way!

If you would like to make your own baby dragon, I found the pattern here. It has certainly served me well and after 51 one, I now know the pattern by heart!

For the dragon eggs, I simply ordered some very large polystyrene eggs from HobbyCraft – on last look, the don’t appear to do that size at the moment, so I was lucky. Then came the task of covering them with drawing pins. After clearing out every shop in my home town of drawing pins, I ordered more in from a stationery company online. Each egg took around 4 hours to make and roughly 4,000 pins.

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It’s very simple though, just start at the bottom and slightly overlap the pins, to give the appearance of scales. I did mostly gold effect and one silver. You could spray paint them to be whatever cover you fancy, but we really liked the natural colour of the pins. They do get very heavy and caused great amusement as weebles when only half done – are you old enough to remember these toys??

But the finished effect was brilliant. I was really happy. To put the table name in, we cut the bottom off a metal heart place name holder and stuck it in the top. My chief bridesmaid made some amazing nests for them to sit in.

The finished room, I think looked fabulous.

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You may have guessed, but we had a dragon theme and even had the most glorious dragon made out of flowers for the day. It was completely magical. My chief bridesmaid’s husband also made us a fairytale signpost to help guests to find their way around the reception, it was just fantastic.

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The best part of the whole day though, had to be when I was going up the aisle and seeing the look on my husband’s face as he waited for me. I had been delayed by the photographer, so everyone was beginning to think I wasn’t coming – that was never going to happen! My groom looked so handsome and I’m now married to my best friend and can’t wait for our next adventure.

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It was completely the best day of my life and I wish I could do it all again where it was so incredible. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just have a replay function for life when we wanted it?

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More Cheese Gromit?

With our wedding now fast approaching, I can only apologise for not writing more on here. I have been totally swamped with work and wedding prep, that I have had little time for anything else. The wedding is now just over 6 weeks away and I have my second dress fitting today.

On the dragon front, I have now crocheted 35 of the little darlings, which will act as favours and table settings. I still have 16 to go, plus table centres, a seating plan, place names and table names.

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However, we did manage to squeeze in a flying visit to Bristol for their Gromit Unleashed 2 trail over the August Bank Holiday. It was such a welcome, albeit brief, break. We headed up on the Saturday afternoon after I had finished work – crocheting accompanied me throughout the journey! We started off in the Clifton village area of the city, where we found our first character – Feathers – on the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

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It was a lovely afternoon and I soon spotted a Gromit a short way away, before finding my first Wallace of the hunt. After a very welcome ice cream, it was off to find our AirB&B for the weekend. We had a great setting in the centre of the city and it would have been perfect, had it not been for the drum and bass firing through our window from a nearby pub from 5pm through until 6am the next day.

We found some more figures when we went out for dinner in the evening and we even found a bar with the Bubble Bobble arcade game, which took me right back to my childhood 😊

The next day, we woke to an absolute deluge outside our window, thankfully no longer accompanied by endless drum and bass. Undeterred, we sported our fetching waterproof jackets and headed out to find breakfast. On the way, we found a couple more statues to pose with too.

As the day went on, we got wetting than I ever thought humanly possible. We were so wet, even our waterproof coats gave up on us! I could ring mine out!! The sheer craziness of what we were doing just added to the fun of it all and we really couldn’t care less about the rain. Staff at one hotel, which was housing a minion Feathers, was kind enough to offer us a towel each and I tried to pull off a few moves to get my legs into a hand dryer – unsuccessfully!

The hunt continued, in museums, on the docks, in shops! We went everywhere and by the end of the day, we concluded we had no choice – new clothes had to be bought, as we hadn’t bought a change with us.

After a poor night’s sleep thanks to our friendly pub again, blasting out its favourite sound until 5am, we were up and out early on Bank Holiday Monday. First, breakfast, then time to check off a few statues we had missed the previous day, before jumping in the car to find a few on the outskirts of the city. Our search finished at the mall, where my lovely fiancé bought me a mini-Gromit figurine for my birthday – not until November, so I need to forget about it until then!

It was a brilliant day and a bit away and a big pat on the back to the organisers of the trail, which was raising money for Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. I believe the statues will be auctioned off in the coming weeks to raise more money and I have to say, I would love to own one of the Gromits!

Chocolate Courgette Cake

Thanks to my future father-in-law, I found myself with a mini-glut of courgettes. My fiancé isn’t overly keen on them, so after dishing up ratatouille and roasted courgettes, I figured I needed a different approach.

I’d heard of chocolate courgette cake, but never tried it myself. I put the idea to the other half, who looked less than impressed, it must be said, but nevertheless, I pressed ahead, determined not to let these lovely veggies go to waste.

After trawling the web, I found this recipe, which I followed, apart from I used 1tsp of ground mixed spice, as I couldn’t seem to find ground cloves anywhere. I used the two 23cm round tin method and they needed the best part of an hour to cook, so keep checking with a skewer after 40minutes of baking.

When it came to what to fill the two sponges with, I was at a loss for a while, but after rummaging through the fridge and cupboards and realising the shops had closed as it was after 4pm on a Sunday, I decided to just make something up.

Armed with half a block of butter, half a pack of cream cheese, the leftovers from the tub of soured cream and some icing sugar and cocoa powder, I set to making a form of sorts of butter icing. I blended the butter, cheese and soured cream together before adding a couple of dessert spoons each of the icing sugar and cocoa powder, before beating together again. After tasting, I thought it still tasted of cream cheese, so added more of the two dry ingredients. After another mix, I really liked it, so put half the mixture on the first sponge, sprinkled with some chocolate chips (which I confess, along with the walnuts I’d forgotten from the original recipe!) and topped with the second sponge, before spreading the rest of the icing on top.

I found this a lovely, moist sponge and very tasty – even my courgette-hating fiancé enjoyed it. Now that has to be a recommendation surely!!!

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Seasonal Fruit Crumble

The blackberries around here are really coming on beautifully. My fiancé and I love foraging – possibly me more than him! – and so far, we’ve picked over 12lb of juicy blackberries.

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Last week, I was also given some lovely rhubarb from a friend’s garden and my father-in-law-to-be, gave me some strawberries. He’s a potato farmer near Peterborough and sells a range of produce every weekend in the Notcutts Layby, Oundle Road. Check him out on Facebook and pop along for your veggies if you’re nearby 😊

I was in the mood for something comforting, so I thought I’d knock up a crumble. It’s so simple to do:

Pop your fruit in a saucepan, you need a good 1-1.5lb minimum. Add a splash of water and pop on a low heat to start stewing. Let it cook until the fruit starts to soften, this is when I add some sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Not too much and taste as you go, so you get the flavour you like.

Pour the fruit – carefully, it’s hot – into a well-greased dish. For the crumble, I follow Delia’s basic crumble mix. You may like to do a double batch, if like us, you like a lot of crumble 😊 This is my go-to crumble recipe and it’s never failed me.

To work the crumble into its breadcrumb form, I cannot recommend getting a pastry cutter enough. I used one for the first time the other day and it saved time and joint ache! They’re pretty inexpensive and to me, are a wonder.

When the crumble is done, gentle pour evenly over your fruit and pop the whole thing on another baking tray – in case of bubbling over – and place in the oven at 180C for around half an hour, or until the crumble is golden and the fruit really bubbling.

Serve with cream, custard or ice cream and enjoy.

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Big Breakfast Omelette

My fiancé loves an omelette to set him up for the day, especially what I call the Big Breakfast Omelette.

Start by heating a frying pan and melt a bit of butter. Slice half an onion – we prefer red – and add that to the melted butter, along with a few cherry tomatoes. Season with pepper. I don’t use salt as the bacon will be salty enough.

Give these a little time to soften and then add some chopped mushroom and bacon of your choice. You could also add some sausage slices.

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Once everything has started to cook nicely, whisk four eggs in a bowl and add to the pan. Let the egg sit still for a good minute or so, until you start seeing bubbles on the surface.

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Gently pull the edges back with a fish slice and allow the raw egg from the top of the omelette to run down underneath.

You may like to add a little grated cheese at this point and also some chopped spring onions. If you like your omelette well done, you could pop it under the grill, just to firm up the top. If not, fold it in half in the pan, don’t worry if it breaks, we’re not on TV(!) and allow the heat to just cook the middle a little longer, before transferring to a plate.

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For me, I prefer something a little lighter and my filling of choice is smoked salmon – I just by the trimmings from the supermarket, which are a fraction of the cost of the posh stuff.

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