Chicken With Mushroom Sauce

I just wanted something quick and simple for dinner tonight. I’m back on early mornings and feeling the effects, so my brain is on go-slow. So, I thought, chicken with mushroom sauce.

I used chicken thighs for this recipe as I find them to have more flavour than breasts. Start by cutting the thighs up into bite sized pieces and heat some oil in a large, deep frying pan. Fry off some garlic, chillies (heat to your liking) and lemongrass and then add the chicken.

As a side note here, I’ve recently got into using that ‘lazy’ garlic and the like. Supermarkets do their own puree versions, so you don’t have to pay out for the expensive stuff.

Let the chicken brown for a bit, then throw in some sliced mushrooms of your choice and cook for around 5minutes, before adding in some double cream – enough to cover the base of the frying pan – some black pepper, thyme, onion salt (just a pinch) and a chicken stock spot.

Allow everything to bubble together for a good 10minutes.

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Serve with your choice of noodles, pasta, rice or even potatoes – I went for noodles and my husband loved it!

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Cupcake Day

In honour of Cupcake Day, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the cupcakes I’ve made over the years. I used to bake a lot more than I do now, but cupcakes have always proved a winner.

I wish I could remember where all of the recipes are from, but I’m pretty sure most come from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. Unfortunately, I can’t check, as my cookery books have been packed away for a while.

However, I know for certain, these Coca Cola Cupcakes are from the pen of Ms Dawson. I just took her sponge recipe and shared it between cupcakes and baked for a shorter time. They are always a huge hit.

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For a variation, I swapped the cola for cream soda and used white hot chocolate in the icing. They went down well too!

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Caramel cupcakes with a meringue frosting were also well received, as were the orange and poppy seed ones. (I have a feeling these may not be Nigella).

And one year, I stumbled across a recipe for Cream Egg brownies, so I made them into cupcakes, along with some basic double chocolate brownie cupcakes too.

The best reception I received though, was when I made 100 cupcakes of various varieties, including Coca Cola and Peanut Butter, for two friends who were getting married.

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Again, I’m so sorry I can’t remember where I found all of the recipes now, but I’m pretty certain there’s no such thing as a bad cupcake recipe, so just dive in and give them a go!

Photography

Aside from cooking and crafting, one of my favourite hobbies is photography. Now, I don’t proclaim to be an expert, I tend to point and press and hope for the best! I have a nice camera and long for a really big lens to go with it!

Photography isn’t something I spend enough time doing in my opinion. I just find it relaxing. I prefer animals, landscapes and ‘things’ over people, as they don’t tend to moan if you make their nose look too big!

Recently I have been indulging in this pastime a bit though.

One of the parks near where I live, is quite well known in the town for having a breeding pair of swans and every year, people watch and wait for the latest generation of cygnets to be born. This year, we were treated to eight of the little balls of fluff.

I was also lucky enough to witness the DAKS Over Normandy Fly Over, as they made their way from Duxford to Normandy, retracing the flight they made 75-years-ago for D-Day. My husband and I waited for 4 hours at Beachy Head for them, after their take-off was delayed. It was freezing cold up there, but well worth the wait.

This past weekend was pure bliss though. We were in Spalding, Lincolnshire, where this is a lovely little place called the Baytree Owl and Wildlife Centre. It’s definitely worth a visit. We watched the falconry show and I spent a good few hours just taking photos of these amazing birds.

 

Crochet Craziness

Well the crocheting has gone slightly bonkers! Ever since we got married and I made 51 little dragons as favours for our guests, demand for the little guys has gone through the roof, with friends all over the place asking for one of their own.

I’ve made another bride and groom for an upcoming wedding, one for a new baby boy, four went off to Wales and one even flew to Sweden!

Perhaps my favourite to date though, was the giant one I made – I really didn’t want to part with him!

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But it’s not just dragons that I’m keeping busy with nowadays. I’ve really become hooked – no pun intended – by crochet. I spend hours looking at patterns and ideas I could make, just wondering who I could make them for.

My best friend, who’s a massive Harry Potter fan, decided she would like a Niffler from Fantastic Beasts for her birthday. So, I found a pattern and set about creating him. I found the perfect wool too in Poundland – black with just a shimmer of sparkle. He had his own pouch for hiding away his treasures.

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Then, for my brother-in-law’s birthday, I discovered this Simon’s Cat pattern and I just had to have a go. I was really pleased with how it turned out, although the tail did look rude when I was making it!

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This little bat was a tad odd, but fun to make.

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And then for Mother’s Day, I made this snowman wreath for my snowman-obsessed Mum. Making the cover for the wreath itself took forever, but it was very satisfying when I finally got it done and Mum just loves it, so I expect to see it in pride of place this Christmas.

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I’m not joking when I say I spend hours looking at ideas and so far, all of my creations have been thanks to pattern discoveries I’ve made on Pinterest and I think I’ve only paid for one through Etsy so far. So many clever people are very kind to share their patterns online for us all to enjoy.

I’m already planning my next creation – I’ve seen a pattern for a unicorn like the one in Despicable Me! I can’t wait!

Beer Gummy Bears

I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets and gizmos, so when I spotted gummy bear moulds for just £1 on Wish.com, I couldn’t resist. My parcel arrived with a tray to make the bears and a pipette to fill it with. Now, all I needed was the jelly to fill it with.

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My husband and his two grown sons are big fans of Belgium beer, so I thought it might be fun to have a go at some beer gummy bears. On my travels around Pinterest, I found this recipe, which requires just beer, sugar and powdered gelatin – I found one sachet is just over a tablespoon, so I used three sachets when making mine.

I measured out a cup of beer the best I could with the head frothing up and added it to a pan with the sugar and stirred on a low heat until the sugar dissolved, before adding the gelatin and mixing until that too had dissolved.

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Then, using the pipette, I filled the teddy moulds, making sure each teddy was filled to the top, gently popping any air bubbles. I found I had way too much liquid, so ended up filling anything I could find. But the recipe I followed does say you need three teddy bear mould trays.

I popped everything in the fridge for a few hours until set and then turned them out. There was a mixed response from the boys – my husband liked them, but his two sons, not so much. I thought they reminded me of the pint pot sweets I used to get as a child, but with more alcohol in them! In all seriousness, these do hold a lot of their alcohol content, so that’s worth keeping in mind if you’re driving.

I plan to try other concoctions now including gin and tonic and prosecco, so hopefully they’ll work too.

Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

Making a risotto is scary right? Wrong! Risottos really aren’t that tricky to make. Like most people, I was nervous before trying one for the first time, but it was really quite simple. One of my favourites to knock up is a chicken and mushroom risotto.

Start by cutting up chicken breasts – one per person – and cook them off, before setting aside. Melt some butter in a deep frying pan – a generous amount – and add one large, finely chopped onion – red or white, your choice. Allow the onion to sweat, along with a couple of crushed garlic cloves, until they start to soften. Now, add some chopped mushrooms and bacon and allow them to start cooking too.

To the veggies, add your risotto rice, the pack will indicate how much per person and mix around. Let that cook until it starts to turn translucent, before adding around a glass of white wine. When that’s started to cook down, add some chicken stock. I made around a litre, but only put in a quarter to start with. Keep stirring the rice and add more stock as it’s absorbed into the mix.

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After around 15minutes, return the chicken to the pan, adding any extra stock as required and after another 5minutes, providing the rice is cooked through, take the pan off the heat, throw in some grated parmesan and allow that to melt into the dish. It should look creamy and ready to serve.

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Dish up and sprinkle some extra parmesan and black pepper on the top.

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Brighton Snailspace Trail

We’ve been giant animal hunting again! As the Snailspace trail around Brighton and Hove entered its final day, my husband and I finally got around to going to find as many as we could.

With the weather perfect, we couldn’t have chosen a better day to walk some 15 miles around the city, looking for the sculptures, which came both as large snails

 

and smaller ones, which had been designed by schoolchildren.

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We started off at the train station and worked our way through the Laines, where we came across a Martlets shops. Martlets is the hospice benefiting from the trail and thankfully, stocked trail maps, which made our task that little bit easier. We also nabbed ourselves a ‘snuck’ – cross between a snail and a duck – as a little memento of the day.

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After finding most of the Brighton-based snails, we decided a little lunch was in order, before pushing on into Hove.

It was a packed day along the seafront, but with the weather so glorious, it wasn’t hard to understand why. In total, we probably found around 50 of the snails, both big and small. We knew we wouldn’t find them all – there was over 100 in total – but some were too far out to find on foot. We made full use of the app – £1.99 to download – which added a little extra fun to the day. We collected several rewards, but couldn’t use many of them, but I shall be going through them again today to make sure all competitions have been entered.

We found our final snail as the sun was setting and it was a sunset worth watching.

By the time we returned to the city centre to head towards the train station, the Christmas lights had come on, which really added something to the day – I’m a huge Christmas fan.

 

 

This is the second time we have completed one of these trails in Brighton – we did the Snow Dogs a couple of years ago – and it’s always great to see how the city embraces the idea. There was a lot of excitement in the build up to the event and if you missed the event, there is still a chance to see all of the snails at their farewell event on the 30th November to 2nd December at St Augustine’s Event Centre in Brighton. This is a ticketed event, which can be found online. The snails will then be auctioned off for the Martlets and these things always go for a lot of money, which is fantastic for the hospice. If you think you can give one of the snails a home for life – and they are ridiculously cute – check out the website, where you can also make a donation or grab your own Snailspace merchandise.

I’m looking forward to whatever trail arrives in Brighton next, but currently I’m not aware of any, anywhere in the country that are coming up. So, if you know of any, please do let me know!

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