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Competition info: Children's Art Competition

We wanted to share info about a fabulous Children's Art competition currently running at JAR Project. It closes on Saturday 7th November so be sure to get your entries in before then. It's completely free to enter with great prizes to be won and is open to ALL children in the UK aged between 3 and 15.


JAR Project are a small UK charity focussing on finding a cure for juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) as well as raising awareness of the condition and providing support and information to newly diagnosed children and those further down the JIA journey. 

They receive no government or grant funding and so are reliant on fundraising and donations to support their vital work. When an organisation or individual arranges a fundraising activity, it's always nice to be able to say thank you. So when they needed new "thank you" cards printed, they thought it would be a great opportunity for them to be designed by a child through this competition. 

As well as a main prize bundle for each age category winner, there are 30 runners up prizes to be won! 

The runners up will be drawn at random and the main age category winners will be judged by celebrity judges artist Sarah Maycock and musician Tom Williams. Sarah's work includes pieces for the Natural History museum, BBC Wildlife magazine and the Rugby World Cup. 

Celebrity judge: Artist Sarah Maycock

Each of the main age category winners will also receive a copy of Sarah's beautifully illustrated book "Sometimes I feel..."


Find out more about the competition and the judges here. 










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Let's #ACEit when washing whites!

 

I've been sent a bottle of ACE Ultra for Whites to try out. 

In our household, the main culprits for getting that dull grey look and hard-to-remove stains are the kids school polo shirts, shirts and white school socks. 

Common culprits: White school socks often end up grey! 

School polo shirts soon lose their whiteness and brightness!

We also have some nearly white handtowels that I use in the kitchen for when I've washed my hands. It is recommended that ACE Ultra for Whites is ONLY used on completely white items but I knew that I wouldn't mind if the colour of these towels changed as they're rather old anyway. 

I have to confess that I didn't have any fresh stains to use the ACE on as the kids have been studying from home this term for medical reasons so we didn't get the usual "school dinner tomato sauce stains" that are usually a regular feature in our household! 

So the stains were older "baked in" ones like the yellowing around the collar and underarms. I realise that allowing stains to "bake in" is actually one of the worst things you can do. You can read some great tips for how to avoid this on the Britmums website.

But nonetheless, we put the ACE Ultra for Whites to the test. There are several ways of using it including for directly treating stains before washing and leaving to soak. However, my usual way of washing is as quick and straightforward as possible so I put it in the fabric conditioner drawer as we don't have a dedicated CL compartment as some washing machines do and I didn't need to use fabric conditioner. 

As I expected, the baked in stains proved stubborn but I was impressed with the improvement in the towels! I have some white bath mat towels that I'm planning to use this on now as I think it will help them stay bright and white when use in every wash of whites.  


For the shirts it was harder to notice the difference. But as I mentioned, these stains are old "baked in" ones so it wasn't really the fairest test. I'll definitely be using it straight away on any new fresh stains in future. Even with the shirts, I think there has been some improvement in reducing the yellowing neck stains. 

I was amazed at the fresh smell of the clothes. As ACE Ultra for Whites contains bleach, I have to admit that I was worried about being left with an unpleasant bleach smell but I was very happy to have a fresh clean smell wafting around my home as the clothes dried. 

In future, I'll definitely be taking note of the tips on the ACE website to help me #ACEit when it comes to keeping whites bright!


Gifted item: I received a bottle of ACE Ultra for Whites for the purposes of this post. All opinions are my own.

This post is an entry for the #ACEit Challenge, sponsored by ACE. Get ideas on how to wash whites, treat stains and laundry like a boss with tips from the ACE site

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Chocolate chip loaf cake



Another day, another loaf cake. This time our chocolate cravings took hold so we made a chocolate chip chocolate loaf cake. I suppose it could be called a double-chocolate loaf cake as it has cacao powder in the batter as well as chocolate chips in it. 

Once again I tried to keep the sugar content a little lower and switched some of the fat content for greek yogurt. I have found that oil seems to work better in chocolate cakes for keeping the cake more moist compared to butter. 

Ingredients:

100g self-raising flour

25g cocoa or cacao powder

1 tsp baking powder

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

50g olive oil

50g greek yogurt

20g chopped white chocolate (or chocolate chips)

30g chopped milk or dark chocolate (or chocolate chips)

Strawberries to garnish

Drizzle of melted white chocolate to decorate if desired. 

Method:

Once again, as with the Basil, Lemon and Poppy seed loaf cake, the method is really simple. Perhaps just a little tricker because I mixed the wet and dry ingredients separately first.

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C and grease and line a loaf tin. I used a loaf-tin liner and found that I didn't need to grease it. 

2. Mix all of the wet ingredients together. In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together except for the chopped chunks of chocolate. 

3. Then mix around half of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Add the chopped chocolate to the remaining dry ingredients. The idea being that if they are coated with the flour and cacao powder it should make them less likely to sink in the cake when cooking. Then add the last of the dry ingredients with the chocolate chunks in into the main mixture and fold in to combine. 

4. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 35-40 minutes at 160C (fan). It took 37 minutes in our oven. 

If you wish to you can melt a little white chocolate to drizzle over the top and garnish with some chopped strawberries. 

 

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Lemon, poppy seed and basil loaf cake


One of my favourite cake flavour combinations has to be Lemon and Poppy seed. In the past, I've made gluten-free lemon and poppy seed cupcakes and even a vegan version of a lemon and poppy seed cake for GBBO's Vegan week bake along back in 2018. 

Lately I've been really into baking loaf-cakes. They seem to have a reliability about them that I don't seem to master with a circular shaped cake! So it made sense to try a lemon and poppy seed loaf cake. To give it an extra flavour twist I also included some finely chopped fresh basil. 

If I can get away with it, I often try to reduce the amount of sugar and fat in cake recipes. So I got away with 100g of caster sugar in this recipe and used a combination of greek yogurt and butter so that I didn't need loads of butter. Both of these tweaks seemed to work out well. 

Ingredients:

125g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

100g caster sugar

50g butter - room temperature

50g greek yogurt

2 large eggs

Juice of half a lemon and zest of a lemon

20g poppy seeds

A few leaves of fresh basil - finely chopped (plus extra for garnish)

A little icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice to decorate if desired (or a drop of gin mixed with icing sugar for an extra treat) 

Method:

The method really was as simple as combining everything together in the stand mixer, pouring into a lined loaf tin and popping in a pre-heated oven at 160C for 35-40 minutes. It actually took 42 minutes in my oven. 

I put the poppy seeds into the mix last but everything else went in at the same time.

I've found that if I use a loaf-tin liner then I don't even need to grease the tin first whereas with baking paper I do tend to grease the tin too. 

The trouble with the loaf shaped cakes is that between the 5 of us, they dissappear rather quickly - A generous sized slice each and it's gone or two thinner slices each if we're trying to eat less of it each time. 


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Apple Cake with apples from the apple tree

It's that time of year again...time to find any apples on the apple tree that haven't been too badly eaten by insects. I tend to cut off the good bits to use in recipes and the bad bits go into the compost bin.  

I decided to make apple cake. I've made this Mary Berry apple cake recipe before and it's always turned out well (as most Mary Berry recipes seem to do). I seem to recall that in the past I've even added cinnamon and raisins into the mix to make it resemble the flavours we enjoyed in the apple pies we had in Amsterdam.

I forgot to add those extras in this time though so we sprinkled some cinnamon on top of it afterwards. 



I've tweaked the recipe because I needed to make a double batch to use up the apples I had picked. I also reduced the amount of butter slightly, adding a little greek yogurt in it's place and reduced the amount of caster sugar slightly too because most I've found that you can get away with slightly less sugar in most cake recipes. 


This makes enough for 2 cakes. I used a 9inch (24cm) loose bottomed cake tin and an 8inch (20cm) loose bottomed cake tin. 

Ingredients: 

500g fresh apple - sliced

250g melted butter

2 tsp baking powder

50g flaked almonds

450g self-raising flour

400g caster sugar

4 large eggs

50g plain greek yogurt


Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 140C (fan). Grease and line the two baking tins. Ensure the apples are washed and sliced ready to use and the butter is melted on a low heat in a pan. Remove the butter from the heat and allow to cool slightly. 

2. In a stand mixer, mix together the flour, baking powder and sugar. Then add the eggs and the yogurt. Slowly pour in the melted butter whilst the beater is still turning until it is all combined. 

3. If using added cinnamon or mixed spice, I would have added a teaspoon in at this point and mixed it in. 

4. Pour half of the mixture into the cake tins. So each cake tin will have around a quarter of the entire batch. You will need to save half of the whole batch to cover the apples with shortly.

5. Place the apples onto the cake batter. Don't worry about piling up several layers of apples. I just try not to let them go too close to the sides of the cake tin. If I was using sultanas or raisins I would add them amongst the apples at this point. 

6. Cover the apples with the rest of the batter trying to cover them as well as possible. It always feels like there is not enough batter left but it does usually turn out OK in the end even if they are not fully covered. 

7. Bake in the oven at 140C (fan) for 1 hour. Then check with a skewer. It may need an extra 15-30 minutes so check again after a further 15 minutes if it is not ready.  





The original recipe can be found here. This is my own adaptation so that I can remember what I did! Next time, I might try reducing the sugar and butter further and increasing the amount of yogurt. 

EDIT: I did try the recipe with less sugar and butter and more yogurt and it worked! Had a slightly "wetter" texture when cooked but that could have just been the apples bunched up more closely together and the batter seemed thicker so harder to spread but essentially it worked. So I used 200g butter, 300g sugar and 100g yogurt in place of the amounts given above. 


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Persian cooking: Fesen joon recipe

One of my biggest regrets is never learning to cook from my mum before it was too late. In her friendship group, she openly admitted that she wasn't the best cook when it came to Persian food but having tried to cook Persian food myself, I've realised that it isn't as easy at she made it look and that she was actually a great cook (memories of my zooloobiah disaster come flooding back as I type this!!!) 

In my opinion, Persian cuisine is one of the tastiest in the world and also hasn't yet had it's moment as it doesn't seem to have been widely discovered in the way other world cuisines have. 

Our nearest Persian restaurants are in London, for example, and we don't have any nearer to us sadly. 

I did however come across something the other day that I got very excited about - Nationwide delivery of frozen Persian meals from Modern Persian Kitchen. In fact, I placed an order as soon as I discovered it. We've gone for the Family Selection chef's pack. Next time it will definitely be the veggie option so that I can enjoy more of it. This time I was thinking of my family and what they would all enjoy the most. 

In the meantime, I started to crave Persian food. Although I never did learn to cook from my mum, one of her close friends gave me a Persian recipe book - It was her own treasured beloved copy - and to this day remains one of the kindest things someone has done for me. My dear auntie has also taught me some dishes when she has visited a couple of times in the past couple of decades and we miss her dearly living so far around the globe the rest of the time. And with the wonders of the internet, I'm always excited to come across Persian recipes.  

Now there are a few more unusual ingredients that you need for this recipe - but these days most ethnic stores or Amazon will sell these ingredients. Even supermarkets sometimes have some of these items. I'd say the key ingredient that you need that you may not ordinarily have at home is pomegranate molasses. Dried barberries and saffron for the rice also help complete the dish although it would be fine to serve with plain rice instead.

I found a recipe on Turmeric & Saffron that I used as a starting point for this. I love the idea of adding an apple - I've never done that before. Although I didn't add any sugar as I love the tangy sourness of the pomegranate molasses and the barberries. 

I've made my version meat-free using Meatless Farm mince as I usually keep a pack of that in my fridge. It has a longer shelf-life than meat and I use it in all sorts of recipes!  


Ingredients:

1 onion - diced

1 pack Meatless Farm mince

1 cup pomegranate molasses

1 apple - chopped

2 cups walnuts (finely ground)

A little oil

Half tsp turmeric 

Salt and pepper 

 

For the rice:

2-3 cups rice

2 carrots - grated

Handful of dried barbecues

Butter

Saffron, rose petals, ground cardamom 

 

Parsley to garnish 

 

Method:

1. Prepare the meatballs by adding salt, pepper and turmeric to the Meatless Farm mince and rolling into balls. 

 

2. Fry the onion in a little oil, then add the meatballs, gently stirring until browned. 

 

3. In the meantime, cook the rice according to pack instructions. My go-to way of cooking rice is wash, cover with water (a few centimetres above the level of rice), and pop in the microwave for 20-25 minutes (white rice) or around 40 minutes for brown rice.

 

4. Remove the meatballs and fried onions from the frying pan. Then use the same pan to dry fry the ground walnuts. They need to be finely ground. Keep stirring and keep a very close eye on it as they can burn easily. Once the walnuts have darkened (but not burned), add the pomegranate molasses and 2 cups of water. Add the meatballs/onions and apple and leave to simmer on a low heat. 

 

5. In a separate pan, fry the grated carrot and barberries in a little butter. 

 

6. Add the saffron to a small amount of boiling water. I used the contents of a saffron/rose/ground cardamom teabag but you can just use saffron if you wish. This is then stirred into the rice.

 

7. Serve the fesen joon with the rice and garnish with fresh parsley if you wish.  


 

 


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