Cinnamon honey shortbread | Recipe

Cinnamon honey shortbread

If there is one thing I love eating during the festive season, it’s shortbread. Though the shop bought stuff is tasty, I do love to make my own as it is so simple and fills the house with tempting smells; it’s hard not to eat it straight from the oven! I have to say, it doesn’t last long though; it’s just so moreish, isn’t it?

Leisure Cookers have asked me to put a Christmas twist on one of my favourite recipes, to coincide with the Tribe to Table foodie trends. Being a keen baker, I chose the sugar free baking trend; saying that, this recipe isn’t completely sugar free, but refined sugar free instead, as honey replaces the usual sugar.

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Easy filo mince pies | Recipe (Slimming World friendly)

Easy filo mince pies

Christmas is upon us, and that means lots of festive food consumption is underway! Though for a lot of us, I think it has been for a couple of months already, as seasonal products seem to enter stores earlier and earlier these days.

One of my favourite Christmas foods has to be a warm mince pie, with lashings of double cream; not so good for the waistline, but mighty tasty! I usually make my own mince pies with shortcrust pastry, but this year I decided to use filo pastry instead; mainly to cut down the syns*! They are still really good though, especially fresh from the oven when they are warm and still crispy.
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Christmas on a budget – Tips for Parents

Christmas on a budget – Tips for Parents

Christmas is a hectic and expensive time of year. From festive parties, to food shopping and gift shopping the bills add up quickly. Not to mention the dreaded electricity and heating bills go up this time of year. It can be a particularly stressful time if you have a large family to buy for.

Here are 6 pointers I have put together to guide you through this festive time of year.

Budget

Have a budget. Before you go splashing the cash make yourself a budget. Budget for gifts and for food shopping and then stick to those budgets to avoid overspending. Christmas is just one day of the year so don’t start the new year in debt; spend sensibly. Read more

My Christmas wish list | with The Works

My Christmas wish list with The Works

I know. I mentioned the Christmas word. Yep, I said it again. But, I’m one of those people who starts getting excited about Christmas in September, so you’re lucky it’s taken me this long, really! Not so much Christmas present shopping, but I love browsing and buying everything else Christmas; books, decorations, crafts, movies – I could spend a fortune! I love visiting our local The Works as they stock so many bargain bits & pieces, and I find them great for gifts, also.

I’ve recently been browsing the Christmas section of The Works website and have put together a little wishlist. Just in case anybody is planning already, like me. 😉 I do have an even longer list in my head though!

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Craft tutorial – Egg box Christmas trees

We’ve been doing quite a few Christmas crafts this month – mainly stolen from Pinterest I will admit – but this one I just thought up when I bought some eggs in a green box. Egg box Christmas trees! (Obviously with a plain egg box they would need painting too). It does involve a little adult help for cutting the cones from the egg box and possibly putting the glue on them, but the sticking allows children to be creative with their trees and makes a very simple enjoyable activity. This is suitable for pre-schoolers and toddlers, as even Noah managed to sit through the whole craft and enjoy himself! They are a lovely decoration to put in a keepsake box, use for future Christmases, or give as gifts to family members or visitors.


Materials needed

  • an egg box
  • PVA glue
  • sequins
  • glitter paper
  • pom poms
Method
  • Cut out cones from egg box and paint green if needed.
  • Dot glue about randomly on cones.
  • Stick on decorations.

A magical Christmas with the Portable North Pole

Since I discovered the Portable North Pole a few years ago, Jacob has had a message from Santa every year without fail. Last year though was the first year that he really understood about Father Christmas and he was absolutely mesmerised while watching his personalised video. Both boys loved their videos this year, even Noah was excited at watching his, and J wanted to watch his again & again! It is such a lovely idea on the countdown to Christmas, especially if children don’t manage to visit him in person.

This year the PNP is back – bigger & better than ever before! You are still able to create a free video, and there now many free activities available including crafts, stories, and colouring in; but within the premium collection there are even more videos to choose from! There is also the option of obtaining a bundle pass for parents who wish to create more than one video, which is brilliant for us so both boys can have one! The pass also unlocks an exclusive Christmas Eve video and the option to download your video in HD so you can keep as a memento for years to come.
In the true spirit of giving at Christmas, the PNP elves will also donate 5% of all online sales to Children’s Hospital foundations around the world. And if you wish to upgrade from a free video, I have a code for you to obtain 20% off your purchase – just use the code
BLG20PNP

at the checkout and off you go!
Merry Christmas from me and the PNP elves!

Recipe – Christmas candy cane & cranberry brownies

I don’t know about you, but I love a brownie. The way I like them – fresh out of the oven warm, gooey. I haven’t baked brownies for ages but with the Christmas season upon us, I thought I would get experimenting. I came up with two festive favourite flavours – candy canes, and cranberries – and decided that they would be delicious in a brownie. I was right; these are amazingly gooey, minty and the cranberries give a sharp tang. They went down well at home and at work when I sent them with the husband so I didn’t eat them all as they were devilishly moreish! They are perfect for a day in front of the TV with festive movies, all snuggled under a blanket. Of course, if you didn’t want to use fresh cranberries then you could use dried instead, but I think fresh ones just give them that edge.


Ingredients (makes 12)

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 6 peppermint candy canes, crushed or blitzed into small pieces
  • 125g fresh cranberries
Method
  • Preheat the oven to gas 4/350F/180C. Grease and line an 8 x 14in cake pan with baking paper.
  • Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt it with the butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  • Beat the eggs, sugar & vanilla until thick & creamy, then stir in the melted chocolate mixture.
  • Add the flour, salt & crushed candy canes and mix well.
  • Add the cranberries and mix carefully until well combined into the brownie mixture.
  • Pour into the tin, leveling the mixture with the back of a wooden spoon, and bake for around 25 minutes. The top should be cracked but they should still be gooey inside.
  • Enjoy!

24 Advent Activity Ideas For Toddlers & Pre-Schoolers

The 1st of December is upon us, which means the Christmas countdown has officially begun! The boys have chocolate advent calendars from relatives, and you may remember we received this wooden advent calendar from Hobbycraft to review last year. I was a bit last minute with it then, but this time I have compiled a list of activities which I have put inside so we will have some Christmas fun-filled days in the lead up to the big day – some of them may even involve Buddy the Elf again 😉
I’ve been scouring the web for activities and here are the ones I have decided we are going to be doing – the boys still have such short attention spans that most of them are quite simple and easy, yet lots of fun!
Make Christmas cards
North Pole breakfast
Delivery of letters from Santa
Christmas colouring pages
Drive around looking at Christmas lights
Christmas jumper day
Attend a Christmas party
Watch a Christmas movie with popcorn
Choose Christmas books from library
Help decorate the Christmas tree

Review – Hotel Chocolat ‘The Everything Collection’ from the Christmas Collection

If there is one gift I always receive for Christmas, without fail, it is chocolate. Last year hubby bought me an awesomely huge peanut flavoured chocolate hamper; but due to starting with my new weight loss goals in January, I actually still have some left! That has definitely not been the case since discovering Hotel Chocolat though – why have I never had the pleasure of trying chocolate from here before? I can tell you though, it is my new favourite luxury chocolate brand.

I was so excited to see an email land in my inbox asking if I wanted to try some products from this year’s Christmas Collection as I have been lusting over Hotel Chocolat for years. The only problem was when I had the most difficult task of deciding exactly what I wanted to try (couldn’t I just have it all, please?). In the end I decided to go for The Everything Collection as I could try a little bit of everything, just like the name says.


When my chocolates arrived I was in awe immediately at how gorgeous the packaging was; as much as I wanted to tuck into the contents inside, I didn’t want to open it and spoil it either! Definite luxury from the off. Once I did manage to get myself to open it though, even the box that the chocolate collection came in was beautifully presented, with a clear lid so the recipient can immediately see what’s inside, tissue shavings to hold the contents, and wrapped in a gorgeous ribbon.

 

The hardest part when it came to tucking in, was deciding what to eat first! I had to go for the salted caramel though, and oh my. The taste of this chocolate is indescribable; absolutely gorgeous. Such a moment for savouring but wanting to devour. Between myself and hubby – though reluctantly on my behalf – we managed to work our way through the box over a few nights and I honestly cannot tell you which of the collection was my favourite. They are all so different but all so delicious in their own unique way.

 

 

I would adore to receive something from Hotel Chocolat for Christmas (hint, hint, husband…); I think anything from their Christmas Collection would be the perfect gift for a chocolate lover as it all looks amazing. The recipient could definitely live in the lap of luxury chocolate.

RRP – £25


Our rating – 5/5


Disclosure
I was sent these products free of charge to review. All thoughts and opinions are honest & my own.

Review – Ideal Home Show at Christmas

I shared with you last week some information about the Ideal Home Show at Christmas and after waiting rather (im)patiently all week, on Thursday we finally made the trip to Manchester to start off our Christmas adventures!

I had originally booked a train for the unworthy hour of 7am, I was going to take J with me, and hubby was going to stay at home with N. But when we got to the station…the train had been cancelled! (So glad I got insurance on that ticket). Cue me getting upset because I had promised J a journey on the train and a Christmas day out. There was a bus operating between two locations on the way to Manchester but my anxiety had risen and I was panicking about how we were going to get the rest of the way, so in the end we decided that hubby would drive and we would all go – a much needed family day out!

Then when we got near Manchester, there were delays because of roadworks so we were stuck for an extra half an hour, and of course J needed a wee so that set us back even more. We finally managed to arrive at 11.30am, a whole hour and a half after the show started so we missed the opening of it which I was looking forward to. When we had managed to get parked, we then made our way to the main entrance and actually walked further than we needed to as we had to go back to the press entrance; well, we got there eventually anyway!


I was a bit overwhelmed when we went into the show as there was so much going on! I knew there were going to be six sections, but I wasn’t expecting quite so many stalls so that was a bonus as we could have a good look around. I did notice that there was a need for more seating in the food court as there were people sat on the floor eating, around the perimeter of the stalls. Saying that, the food area smelled absolutely amazing and there was a great selection which I was happy about as it was the part I was looking forward to most! I just managed to catch Gino D’Acampo’s demo but I was a little disappointed that he had planned to do a starter, main and dessert but he only had time for the starter as there were other demos taking place. He did answer a lot of questions from the audience though.

Near the interiors section and at the main entrance there was an amazing display of Christmas trees; I could have spent all day there, it was so beautiful. There was also a bandstand in this area with a selection of acts performing throughout the show, which was a lovely touch. I didn’t manage to catch the demo by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen but J & I did manage a photo opportunity with him! (A funny anecdote from that – I was so star struck, the first words that came out of my mouth were, “Ooh, you smell nice!”. He was lovely though!). I was a little disappointed that there weren’t really any areas with different decor idea displays as I was looking to take a lot of inspiration away from that, and rather it was just the demo area.

Many of the stalls had great offers on especially for the show and I managed to buy a few bits – I couldn’t leave without buying anything from the large choice! Hubby’s favourite part was the technology section, and I must admit that there were actually some great gadget gifts, if not a bit out of our price range! We did spot Santa at one point too so J was happy about that.

There was such a lot to take in, with something for everyone really and there were also various cafe and restaurant areas around the perimeter so you didn’t necessarily have to eat in the food court. I would have liked to have spent longer having another look around the stalls but J was getting grumpy after a long day so we decided to make a move and head home. Overall though, it was a great Christmas day out and I will probably make a visit next year too!

Our rating – 4/5


Disclosure
I was provided with complimentary tickets to attend the show. All thoughts and opinions are honest & my own.