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GIVEAWAY and review: Valentine Cake from Baker Days

After 15 years of marriage, I figure we must be doing something right, but when it comes to Valentine's Day we often let it pass by without celebrating. It's tricky finding a time to go out for a romantic meal with three kids in tow, and a weekend away is out of the question as we know it would just prove too tricky getting childcare organised for the kids.

But sometimes there are little gestures that mean a lot and this year Baker Days came to the rescue with their range of Valentine's Cakes. Not only is there a big range of designs to choose from, but they can also be personalised too.

The decision...
I chose the 'My Valentine' Cake for Richard in Letterbox size. The Letterbox size cake is a 5" cake (around 3-4 portions) and as the name suggests is just the perfect size to fit through the letterbox when it arrives.

This has huge advantages as you don't need someone to be home when it arrives.

I was really pleased with the design I chose as it looked really stylish. There were so many to chose from though that I was definitely tempted by the Olaf-style snowman cake, and the Bee design 'Meant to Bee' cake.

I had seen the Baker Days letterbox cakes online in the past and had made the assumption that it was only this letterbox size of cake that they specialised in, but how wrong I was! They have a range of sizes to choose from ranging from a cupcake (perfect for kids parties), right through to a large size with 40-55 portions. They even do bespoke orders e.g. for a corporate event.

You can also choose from 6 'flavours' including gluten free and dairy free. And of course, there's plenty of choice when it comes to the occasion. Whether you are celebrating a birthday, saying sorry, or thank you, or congratulations. A new job, a new baby, passing your driving test and many many other special occasions. The perfect cake design can be found on Baker Days.

And if you want to make it extra personalised, there is even a 'design your own' option where you get to upload your own text and photo.

The verdict....
We were wowed by the fact that it really does come packaged to fit through the letterbox and you get a very cute cake tin with it.

The cakes stay fresh for 14 days and you can even order for next day delivery.


We've been totally won over by these cakes as they make a great alternative to sending someone flowers as you don't need to worry whether they will be home to receive them. We love the fact they can be personalised too, making them the perfect thoughtful gift for someone.

The taste...
And they definitely taste great too! Richard was kind enough to share the cake with us all.
D enjoying a yummy piece of Daddy's cake from Baker Days

GIVEAWAY!!!

You can find out more about Baker Days on facebook, twitter and instagram but in the meantime, Baker Days have offered one of our readers the chance to win a letterbox cake of their own.

Just fill in the rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Entry is via rafflecopter and will be drawn at random, but Baker Days would love to hear from you on twitter with the #BakerDays hashtag to find out what your best ever Valentine's present has been.

Thank you to Baker Days for sending us this cake for the purposes of review and for providing another cake for the giveaway.


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My Healthy Recipe: Quinoa and Butternut Squash Stuffed Aubergine

We've really been into eating stuffed aubergine recently. The kids got fed up of me making moussaka and yet I love aubergine so much that we had to find something different to do with it.

During the winter months stuffed aubergine has been a healthy and warming dinnertime meal. The really great thing is that it is a really flexible dish in terms of what you stuff it with! The one we made has got lots of lovely roasted butternut squash in it along with feta and bulgar wheat. But it also works brilliantly with supergrain quinoa or cous cous too.

In fact, I'd highly recommend making it with quinoa because 'Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa is a complete protein - containing all eight of the essential amino acids. It has been recognised by the United Nations as a supercrop for its health benefits: packed with dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is also gluten-free and easy to digest. The facts suggest it is close to a perfect ingredient as you can get.'*

Aubergine is a really healthy vegetarian option as it is really filling and satisfying, works well with different flavours and makes a great alternative to meat.

Here's the recipe.

Ingredients:
1 aubergine
half a butternut squash
200g cooked weight of quinoa, cous cous or bulgar wheat
50g feta
half a red onion
1 clove garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
a small handful fresh herbs - e,.g. flat leaf parsley or oregano
rapeseed oil

Optional: if you want some added crunch and added goodness from nuts and seeds, add some chopped walnuts or a small handful of pine nuts or sunflower seeds

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C (fan)
2. Cut the aubergine in half lengthways and scoop out the flesh. Leave the skin quite thick so it doesn't collapse. Rub with a little rapeseed oil and bake in the oven (cut side down) on a non-stick baking tray for 20 minutes.
3. Peel and dice the butternut squash and dice the aubergine flash. Chop the red onion. Mix these together along with finely chopped garlic and the cumin seeds. Add a little rapeseed oil.
4. Spread out on a baking tray and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes. Prepare the quinoa (or bulgar wheat or cous cous depending on what you have chosen to use) according to pack instructions. 
5. Remove both baking trays from the oven when cooked. Place the aubergine shells to one side to cool a little.
6. To the butternut squash, red onion, and aubergine flesh filling, add the chopped fresh herbs, crumbled feta, cooked quinoa (or bulgar wheat or cous cous) and any nuts or seeds if you wish. Mix together and fill each aubergine shell. Drizzle with a small amount of rapeseed oil and then bake for 20 minutes.
7. Serve with a salad garnish if desired.






*info about quinoa source: Good Food glossary
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Book Review: Moone Boy - The Blunder Years

It feels odd launching into the new year without either a round up post for last year, or a new year resolution type of post but I've really enjoyed having some time away from the computer over Christmas and so I'm not planning to do either of those posts.

Spending less time online meant that we had a more relaxed Christmas, more time with the kids, more sleep and catching up on some reading. 

One of the books we've been meaning to read is Moone Boy: The Blunder Years which PanMacmillan kindly sent to the boys to read. Written by Chris O'Dowd (of The IT crowd fame) and screenwriter Nick V Murphy, it certainly promised to be a funny read. 

We used Christmas as an opportunity to read together each evening. I was actually really glad we did read Moone Boy together because a) I got to enjoy the book and laugh along with the kids and b) I was able to alter any of the language that was slightly too 'colourful' for the boys to hear. 

Martin Moone, the main character in the book (well the main non-imaginary but still a fictional character) is 11 years old, and my boys are aged 8 and 10. But because they were out of school being home schooled for 3 years, their ears have been rather sheltered from any bad language at all. Moone boy has a few words that they weren't used to hearing, but certainly nothing that most tweens and teens would be surprised by. Things like 'flipping' 'boobs' 'bumhole' and 'oh balls'. So nothing too horrendous but just enough that I tweaked some of the language as I read with them because they weren't used to it. 

So this book is about a kid called Martin (Martin Moone - hence the name of the book 'Moone boy') who's becoming outnumbered at home with his three sisters picking on him. Time to even things up a little... So in steps an imaginary friend or 'IF' for short. 

After a rather bizarre tree encounter (I won't spoil that bit for you), Martin eventually gets his 'IF' in the shape of Loopy Lou, a crazy, annoying clown-like character. But when he decides Loopy Lou isn't quite the right IF for him, that's when the fun really begins. 

This book is certainly one of the most bizarre books I have read and the authors have very cleverly combined the imaginary with the real. Well not the actual real as it is a fictional book after all but real as in the real stuff of sisters and school and schools bullies and bicycles. 

We found ourselves putting on all sorts of silly voices as we read the book (I'm especially proud of my Loopy Lou voice) and we also came across a whole host of new words too from words like 'realsie' (the real person who has the imaginary friend) to lots of Irish words we'd never heard of, to lots of totally odd and crazy explanations to words we had heard of, for example, "Margaret Thatcher - the eldest and wartiest of the witches from Roald Dahl's wonderful book".  This was another reason I was glad to have read the book with the kids, to explain which of those explanations were true and which were the silly made-up ones. 

Now if this review sounds totally bizarre and crazy, then you'll need to read the book yourself and it'll all make sense. Well as much sense as someone having an imaginary friend and living a part-imaginary, part-real life can make. But it is a great read and will have you laughing and putting on silly voices too. And you'll probably have a tough time figuring out your favourite character because as great as Martin and Loopy Lou are, Martin's other IF is truly brilliant and I couldn't help but totally love Bruce too. 

We were sent this book from PanMacmillan and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Thank you PanMacmillan!

Moone Boy: The Blunder Years, written by Chris O'Dowd, is published by PanMacmillan and is available from their website.
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Book review: The Coroner, by M R Hall

Reviewed by Richard Beesley.

This is the first book in the series featuring coroner Jenny Cooper, by M R Hall. Hoping for a quiet and easy life, away from the stress, anxiety and tension of family law and her own difficult divorce, Jenny soon finds that her new role is a far cry from her expectations. Appointed as the new District Coroner when her predecessor dies suddenly, she is soon plunged into a series of complex and unnerving cases.

She makes it her aim to uncover the truth, no matter who she upsets or what the implications of her investigations are. But with sinister forces determined to keep things hidden, her own secrets hanging over her, and her sanity and career at stake, will she unearth the truth before her world comes crashing down around her?

This is a stunning book, starting by introducing us to the cases, then to Jenny Cooper herself. The pace of the story is just right - starting slowly and then increasing to the fast action and well-timed conclusion. With unexpected revelations throughout, and beautifully described characters and their difficult relationships, this is definitely one to read.

The Coroner, by M R Hall, is published by PanMacmillan and is available from their website.

Disclosure: Pan Macmillan sent me this book to keep for the purposes of review. All opinions are our own.
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Christmas 2014





I had planned to stay off the computer until at least the new year, but couldn't resist picking out some of my favourite Christmas photos to pop onto the blog.

See you in 2015!
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Festive Turkey Parcels (and wine pairing to match)

Before we log off for a bit of a blogging break over Christmas, we thought we'd share one last recipe on here...Something a bit different to make with those turkey leftovers.

Leading independent wine merchants, Yapp Brothers, want to hear about bloggers festive recipes along with a wine pairing to match your meal.

So here's our fabulously festive 'Turkey Parcel' recipe which also happens to be the perfect way to use up that leftover turkey.

Ingredients for the Turkey parcels:
Leftover turkey (with any bones removed)
100g feta cheese
1 pack filo pastry
handful of chopped walnuts
Cranberry sauce
A little melted butter

For the Orange, Fennel and Cranberry salad:
Bag of ready washed mixed lettuce leaves
1 orange
1 fresh fennel bulb
A handful of dried cranberries

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Take the filo pastry out of the fridge a short while before using. Melt the butter on the hob.

2. Cut the filo pastry sheets into smaller pieces. I cut each sheet into 4 rectangles. You will need enough of these smaller rectangles to have around 4 'layers' on each parcel.

3. Brush each filo rectangle with a little butter and place across each other. When you have 4 pieces layered up, then fill the centre with a little of your leftover turkey. (If you want to make this recipe without leftovers, simply use some Turkey Breast steaks - Cut into pieces and lightly fry them in a little oil first)

4. Keep adding your fillings by placing a little cranberry sauce (this is one time to NOT go overboard with the cranberry, you just need a little to add flavour and moisture to the parcel), a small piece of feta cheese and a few pieces of chopped walnuts.

5. Then fold your filo around the filling to make your parcel. Lightly brush the edges with butter to help 'seal' them.

6. Place onto a lightly greased baking tray and bake for 20 minutes in the oven at 180C.

7. Whilst your festive turkey parcels are cooking in the oven, you can prepare the salad. Simply cut the orange segments removing any pith and skin so you are left with just the very juicy segments of orange. Add to your mixed salad leaves along with the finely sliced fennel bulb. Finally add a handful of dried cranberries.

8. Remove the Turkey Parcels from the oven and serve with the salad.

Now for the most important bit - Getting the right wine pairing for this recipe. I have to confess that I sometimes struggle with wine pairings. It can easily get a little daunting with the 'advice' you hear in the media. But a good independent wine merchant is like having an expert friend who really does know their stuff and will help you make the right choice when it comes to wine without making you feel foolish for asking questions.

I came across a brilliant food pairing guide as a starting point on the Yapp Brothers website and they regularly update their blog with food pairing ideas too.

After a little research and combining it with my own experience, the wine I would match with this recipe either the Pinot Noir Stephane Brocard or the Alsace Pinot Gris. 

I chose these options because I feel they work well with both turkey and cheese. I believe they would also hold their own sufficiently with the cranberry flavours used in the recipe. 

I hope you like my Festive Turkey Parcel recipe and the wines I've chosen to pair with it. 

You can find out more about this Festive recipe blogger challenge here



Have a brilliant Christmas! 
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