Ice cream cone cupcakes.

image

I know these babies have been popular in the USA for a while now, but here in the UK they’re still a bit of a novelty. With our church hosting a Light Party (alternative to Halloween) this afternoon, I figured the kids would love a bit of a treat. Here’s how to make these incredibly simple cone cupcakes:

Firstly buy the short ice cream cones which have a flat bottom so they’ll stand up. Make your cake batter and then cover a cupcake tray with tin foil. Push the cones through the foil (this works best of you puncture the foil worth a knife first). The foil will give them some stability and so them falling over in the oven.

image

Then fill the cones with the cake batter up to the first line of the cone. As you can see from the pictures I was a little over enthusiastic with the batter and overfilled them which caused a few of them to spill over the sides during the baking process.

image

image

Bake in a preheated oven at about 160oC for about 20 minutes or until a skewer comes clean. You’ll end up with something like this:

image

Now for the icing. I made white  buttercream but wanted it to be a bit more colourful so in the piping bag I drew a line of red, purple, green and blue food colorings before carefully adding the white buttercream trying not to smudge the colours.

image

Then, from the outside of the cupcake, start a swirl working inwards to create the affect of a ‘Mr Whippy’ ice cream.

image

Everyone knows an ice cream isn’t complete without some adornment so I used peppermint straws as makeshift flakes.

image

I had some left over buttercream so iced a few regular cupcakes with a rose style. For this start at the centre of the cake and swirl outwards.

image

Well that’s all for today folks. I’ve got a party to go to! Here’s all this mornings baking ready to go…

image

Advertisements

Which army are you fighting for?

image

It will come as no surprise to you that we don’t celebrate Halloween at home or in our church. Whatever its historical roots, these days there is no denying that it has evolved into a celebration of all things dark and evil, and I for one do not buy into the “oh, it’s just harmless fun” mentality.

The Word clearly states in Ephesians 6:12 that, “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen (spiritual) world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

Whether intentional or not, when we buy into the Halloween ‘celebrations’ we’re buying into something much greater, far more powerful and darker than just costumes, scary faced pumpkins and trick or treating.  However melodramatic it sounds, there’s no getting away from the biblical truth that there is a constant battle in the spiritual realm between good and evil, between God and the devil, and by buying into Halloween you’re stating, inadvertently or not, which army you’re fighting for.  That should make you think. You can’t be on both teams, you can’t pledge your allegiance to both rulers, you can’t fight for both sides.

There is enough darkness in this world already. As Christians we’re called to be salt and light, to add the God flavour in this otherwise tasteless world, and to shine light, goodness and the love of Jesus in dark places. Which army will you be fighting for this Halloween?

Halloween: harmless or harmful?

Why I don’t celebrate Halloween. I couldn’t have put it better myself…

God and Politics in the UK

Halloween PumpkinToday’s guest writer is the Revd. Canon J. John. J John is an internationally recognised Christian speaker and author. He has written over 50 books and spoken in 69 countries, teaching the Christian faith and  addressing over 300,000 people in person each year.  his series Just 10 (on the Ten Commandments) has now exceeded one million people in attendance.

In light of the recent media focus on Tesco and Asda’s ‘psycho’ patient Halloween outfits, J John is keen to raise a debate on the nature of Halloween. What messages are we giving to children who are encouraged to dress up as a ‘Zombie Pyjama Girl’ for example with blood soaked pyjamas and a slashed teddy and what is the impact of Halloween on society and on vulnerable people?

You can find out more about J John and his work through his Philo Trust website and also follow him on Twitter.

————

View original post 1,146 more words

Cutting the mustard…Plant or tree?

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32 ESV)

What if the popular interpretation of this well known parable is flawed? What if we’ve totally misunderstood the message Jesus conveyed through this story? What if the global church has become something it was never intended to be?

In Ste’s latest soon series ‘Your Kingdom Come’, he unpacks this parable in a way you may not have heard before. Have a listen here. His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The Hairy Bikers’ Gyoza Recipe

image

I have a borderline irrational love of gyoza. Beautiful little soft dumplings, packed with flavour, half fried, half steamed, made all the more delicious by soy and chilli dipping sauces. My mouth is watering at the thought! Anyway, a few weeks ago I saw the Hairy Bikers make some on TV and I have been waiting for an opportunity to try them out ever since. With my cousin and his lovely new wife coming to stay for the weekend I thought the gyoza would make a perfect Saturday night starter. The link to the recipe is here, but here’s how I got on in pictures…

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

So, the verdict…Not bad for a home made first attempt, but I have to admit they’re not the best I’ve had. I think I under cooked them, but they were a bit too crabby tasting for me. I’m not a great fan of brown crab meat and next time I’d definitely use less and sub it with more prawns. We shall see what the guests think tomorrow.

Living Generously.

gen·er·os·i·ty

noun \ˌje-nə-ˈrä-sə-tē, -ˈräs-tē\

: the quality of being kind, understanding, and not selfish : the quality of being generous; especially : willingness to give money and other valuable things to others.

If there’s one thing in this world which gets my goat more than almost anything else it’s miserly, bitter, selfishness. Attitudes that demonstrate narrow mindedness, lack of consideration for the rest of humankind, an ignorance that clouds our ability to see what someone else may need at that point in time, and more so a lack of faith, be that in other people or of course in God.

Unfortunately the society in which we live isn’t particularly conducive to generous living. We’re bombarded with information about how we can get x, y and z by doing a, b and c, and how by having x, y, and z we’re suddenly transformed into more valid and successful individuals, but where does this cycle actually end, when are we actually fulfilled by this material stuff, and the sense of accomplishment it promises to bring? I’ll tell you…never. 

In my experience, the happiest, most fulfilled people are not those that have the most, rather those that give the most, and give the best of whatever it is they’re giving. I’m not primarily talking about money here. When was the last time you dropped a meal off for a sick friend, called in on an elderly neighbour for a brew and a chat, offered to help a friend decorate, do the garden, pick their child up from school so they could indulge in some ‘me time’, bought a homeless person a hot meal or whatever else it may be? Generous living is about recognising a need without being asked and acting on that need to make someone else’s life a little easier, without expecting anything in return . It’s giving of ourselves for the greater good of someone else. It’s showing unconditional love for those around you, something that sadly largely opposes societies expectations in this day and age.

As you’ve probably realised by now this is a biblical principle. Matthew 6:19 instructs us not to store up treasures on earth. As my parents (and incidentally the most generous, in all senses of the word, people I know) often tell me, “you can’t take it with you”. In verse 21 it goes on to say, “wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be”. It’s simple really, to discover what your ‘treasure’ is you just need to examine what you want. Unfortunately, many of us want material and monetary things which we ‘can’t take with us’, when really our hearts desires should be to live generously, giving of ourselves and demonstrating the same love and consideration to those around us, that Jesus showed us.

I don’t know about you, but I’m working on storing my treasures in heaven.

Making scents of Christmas

image

At the bottom of our garden, just over the fence, we have a rather majestic 300 year old oak tree. It stands proud, its branches enveloped in ivy. Every few years though it drops hundreds of acorns all over lawn, and this year is one of them.

image

Concerned about an orchard of little oak trees sprouting on our land, I decided that Phoebe and I should gather up as many acorns as we could. Phoebe got bored fairly quickly…

image

We eventually ended up with a large tub of acorns although looking at the ground you wouldn’t have known we’d been there!

image

Most of them went to an early grave in the brown bin, but we kept a couple of handfuls to display in my oversized martini glass.

image

Although pretty, they needed a bit of something extra to lift them which is when I thought about doing out some sliced clementines, star anise, cloves and cinnamon in the oven to make a Christmas scented pot-pourri (for want of a better word… Pot-pourri sounds so 80’s!).

image

It couldn’t be easier and is a fun thing to do with kids. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, slice the clementines and put on the paper, sprinkle on everything else and bake in a low oven for a couple of hours until the clementines have dried out. Your house will smell amazing.

image

Once dried out, toss the clementine mixture with the acorns and display. You can keep the scent fresh by adding a few drops of essential oil every so often. I like to use frankincense or cinnamon. This warm, homely smell is bound to get you in the mood for Christmas… Even in October!

image

60th birthday cake

image

It’s my amazing mum’s 60th birthday this weekend and we’re planning to surprise her in Cardiff today. She knows she’s going with my dad but has no idea that Ste, Phoebe and I will be there too (so don’t blow it if you happen to see her before they set off later!).

Anyway, of course I wanted to make her a cake, so I’ve spent yesterday evening decorating it having baked it earlier that day. I have to admit I’m worried about this one. She’s not a fan of butter icing so I opted for a carrot cake with a cream cheese icing without really considering the fact that a) cream cheese needs refrigerating, and b) it’s more runny than butter icing and less likly to take the weight of the fondant on top. Hmmmmm. Hindsight is of course wonderful… Anyway, there’s not a whole lot I can do about it now, and I have to admit last night is the first time I’ve ever prayed over a cake whilst putting it to bed in the fridge! I’m hoping the hotel will have a fridge it can reside in until Sunday, that is of course if it survives the four hour road trip later.

Here are some pics for you to enjoy…

image

image

image

image

image

image

Wow factor chocolate slab

image

image

We’ve all seen those beautiful chocolate slabs adorned with luscious dried fruits, crunchy nuts, sweets and sometimes even gold leaf, but tempting as they are I resent paying upwards of £15 for them when I could knock one up myself for half the price, and in little over ten minutes. Plus there’s the added bonus that I can gleefully boast to the recipient that “I made it myself”! Here’s how easy it is:

Buy the best quality chocolate you can as it will set better after melting. I used a bar each of white, milk and dark Green & Black’s.

image

Melt each chocolate separately in a bain-marie, stiring occasionally. Meanwhile put a piece of greaseproof paper on a tray or baking sheet.

Once the choc is melted pour the dark on one side of the tray in a rough line, then the milk on the other side of the tray so it’s opposite the dark, then pour the white in the middle to fill the gap between milk and dark. Use a skewer to swirl the chocolates into each other to create a pretty pattern and start your adornment process. I used cranberries, sour cherries, raisins, nuts and gold sugar (turns out Sainsbury’s don’t stock gold leaf!).

Leave to set, then peel off the greaseproof paper, wrap in cellophane and tie a ribbon round it. There you have it, chocolatier style chocolate for half the price. Perfect for Christmas, but this one is for a certain someone’s special birthday…

image

image

My little helper in her element!

Spiced pickled pears

image

Pears are bang in season in the UK at the moment, so when a friend presented me with more pears than we could possibly eat, I decided to get ahead with the homemade Christmas presents and make spiced pickled pears.

I’d had a look at a few recipes online but ended up just cobbling together a recipe based on what I had in. Which was roughly this:

Almost 2kg pears
700ml cider vinegar
Half a lemon
A few star anise
A teaspoon cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
A teaspoon juniper berries
A teaspoon black peppercorns
And 450g sugar, I used a mixture of dark soft, golden caster and demerara just because that’s what I had in.

image

image

Start by slowly bringing all the ingredients, except the pears, to the boil, stiring occasionally. While that’s going on peel the pears, putting them in cold water as you go to stop them browning. Once all the pears are peeled and the sugar in the vinegar mixture has dissolved, drain the pears and add them to the pan. Cover and simmer for about 15/20 mins until the pears are tender.

image

image

Meanwhile sterilise some jars with glass or plastic lids and once the pears are cooked put them in the jars before covering with the syrup and sealing. You’ll find the syrup has reduced and sweetened slightly (in fact mine had reduced so much I actually didn’t have enough to cover my fourth jar… We’ll have to eat that one pretty pronto… Shame!). In an unopened sterilised jar, immersed in the syrup, the pears should keep for around six months.

image

They’re delicious served with cold cuts and cheese and would be a perfect boxing day alternative to the traditional pickles.

image
image

Enjoy, I did! Well, it’d be rude not to 😎