In which I transform from dunce to goddess. Theoretically.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Red wine velvet cake

In all the foody excesses of the last week or so, there is something that most definitely stands out.
We spent Christmas day with my inlaws, having roast beef for dinner. But my father in law had made what I can only describe as the most delicious cake I've EVER eaten. His wife (my step mother in law I guess) was listening to the Foody Thursday Radio 2 programme on the way home from work a few weeks ago when they made red wine velvet cake. Apparently Simon Mayo and his team had raved about the cake so much that she looked up the recipe. And boy am I glad she did.

And here it is

Seriously, give it a go.

I'm not a massive fan of chocolate cake and can sometimes find them a bit too rich. But this one was delicious. Very alcoholic but delicious. I will be giving it a go in the near future.

Watch this space.............

Enjoy x

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Getting in the spirit

As Christmas approaches I always fancy a spot of baking. Normally I'm so exhausted and behind on my shopping that it's the last thing I actually have time for but this year is different. Most of the activities that the little man and I go to finished last week so we found ourselves at a loose end this morning.

And these had caught my eye!

reindeer biscuits


Aren't they A-MA-ZING????

I HAD to try them.

I used this recipe for the gingerbread as  I've never made it before.




They are so much fun!

I'm going to make another little herd closer to Christmas.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Meal Plan Monday - on a Tuesday again!

I struggle to get my meal plan posts done on a Monday as I'm out at Guides in the evening and I don't really get the time to write a blog post while the little man is awake.

So, as it's nearly Christmas life in our household is a little crazy. My husband works for a toy retailer so he gets really busy and often gets dragged into one of their stores and puts in insane hours in the week before the big day. When I was working as a teacher this was my busiest time too with carol services and discos so this year I'm enjoying the relative peace and quiet.

But as a result of him being out most evenings there isn't really a meal plan for this week. Or at least there is, it's for me to eat as many of the frozen meals as possible.

I'm hoping to get some baking done this week, I'd really like to try some of these:

reindeer biscuits

and hopefully that cottage mould will arrive from Lakeland do I can get my chocolate melt on! 

What Christmas baking are you up to?

Thanks to for hosting the linky.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Look what I've ordered....

One of these........

Fairy Tale Cottage Mould


I'm very excited. I've wanted to make a gingerbread cottage every Christmas for years but a) couldn't really be bothered with making it and b) I'm not a massive gingerbread fan, I'll be honest. But the photos on the Lakeland website show the house made of chocolate!!! How exciting!!! A whole little house made of and decorated with chocolate. What more could a girl want?? 

So that is what I'm going to do, make a chocolate gingerbread house. I might take it to my sister in law's on Christmas Day, if there's any left by then! :) 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

If it stands still it gets mashed!

So..... Weaning.

The little man was 6 months old a fortnight ago and I'd put off weaning him til then for 2 reasons. Firstly, I wanted to exclusively breast feed him as long as I could and secondly because I just couldn't face all the boiling, steaming and mashing I knew was heading my way. 

But I have to say.... So far so good. I know you're supposed to do 2 days on each food to check they're ok with it but I figured that that would get really boring and as neither his dad or I have any food allergies, we'd just run with it and see how we got. We've tried apple, pear, banana, potato, sweet potato, carrot, swede, parsnip, peach, mango and yoghurt. And today we even tried some chicken.

He's doing really well. Apart from the yoghurt that is. The faces he pulled reminded me of those produced when downing shots of Sambuca. Maybe we'll give yoghurt a miss for a while.

I have to admit that it took me about a week to realise that once I've mashed this stuff and frozen it into ice cubes, I can pop the cubes out and into a freezer bag and make more ice cubes. Obvious I know, but I was wondering how many ice cube trays I'd need as I'd managed to fill the 2 I had with just apple pear and banana and was wondering how long I'd have to feed him that before the trays were emptied and I could re-fill them. durrrrrr.

It's an interesting journey, this weaning malarkey, made all the more fun when he bites down on the spoon and blows raspberries, splattering me with food. Nice!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Meal plan Monday

After last week's minor disasters I'm playing it safe this week.

Saturday: bacon and broccoli gnocchi.

Sunday: Stew

Monday: me - out, him - whatever he can find

Tuesday: Fish and rice

Wednesday: Chicken pie

Thursday: freezer meal

Friday: paella

When I made the chicken pie a few weeks ago, I didn't really follow any one recipe so I'm starting from scratch again this week. So, whatever I do this time I'm going to write it down. I've asked my sister in law for a recipe book for Christmas so I can start collecting together the recipes that have worked to reuse them! :)

Thanks to for hosting the linky.





Wednesday, 4 December 2013


So, I posted that this was on my meal plan for the week:

Tuesday: Lamb and potato bake

Wednesday: Beef keema

Now, during my first few weeks of cooking, anything I made was just amazing (to me), I was so impressed with myself that I was eating any and all of it.

Until last night.

The lamb and potato bake required cheese sauce and suggested that a pre-made sauce could be used. Him indoors (who does the shopping so who am I to argue?) said that we may as well use a jar of sauce. So I did. But it was HORRIBLE!!!! The sauce was all plasticy and I really didn't like it. Which is a shame as I think it would have been a nice dinner if I'd followed my instincts and made the sauce myself.

And then tonight I made the beef keema but didn't realise until I was half way through that we didn't have any curry powder. I used some curry paste instead but the meal was still really bland.

So I've learnt a few things:

  • homemade cheese sauce is best
  • using the correct ingredients is always a good idea
  • just because I've made something, and am super impressed with myself for doing so, doesn't mean that it is edible!
Onwards and upwards.

Oh, and I started weaning my little man this week so I'm sure I'll be posting about mashing up steamed fruit and veg at some point as that seems to be taking over my life.

Have a good rest of the week

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Meal Plan Monday #3- On a Tuesday.

So after last week's little confession I did quite well.

And this is this week's plan:

Saturday: him - out, me - freezer meal

Sunday: Mustard Chicken and daupinoise potatoes (from Jamies 30 minute meals)

Monday: me - out, him, freezer meal

Tuesday: Lamb and potato bake

Wednesday: Beef keema

Thursday: Bangers and Mash

Friday: Beef casserole.

And so far this week, so good.

But, I made the lamb and potato bake today using premade cheese sauce as suggested in the recipe. It was GROSS!!! big mistake!

What have I learnt this week already?? Making it yourself is a MUCH better idea.

Thanks to for hosting the linky.

OOOOh, I've found another linky party to hook up with over at

Monday, 25 November 2013

I've fallen off the wagon.

How long has it been? 2? 3 weeks? Useless. 

I had such great intentions of building up a little repertoire of meals that I could quickly and competently cook and I started so well. But then what happened? 

Here come my excuses: 
1) little man wasn't well
2) I wasn't well 
3) last week we went out for dinner twice and had a take away for my brother's birthday.
4) I'm useless

That all added up to ensure that I REALLY couldn't be bothered to cook. So I gave up. 


So I've resolved to try again. I won't be put off. I can't be put off. The little man is nearly 6 months old and is showing more and more by the day that he's ready to be weaned. It won't be long before I'm having to rustle up appetising feasts of mashed veg. I won't be able to escape the kitchen so I need to learn to embrace it. The kitchen and I need to bond and find a mutual love. Or at the very least, a modicum of respect. 
So back I go.

And here is the plan for this week.

Saturday: Chicken with pancetta (from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of food)

Sunday: Chicken Casserole with cheesy dumplings

Monday: Me out, him freezer meal

Tuesday: Freezer meal

Wednesday: Cauliflower pasta bake

Thursday: Beef fajitas

Friday: Chicken pie

I wonder how it will go. 

I'm linking up with for Meal Plan Monday.
Thanks for popping by.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Meal Plan Monday #2

The plan for this week is as follows:

Saturday: Cottage Pie

Sunday: Roast Chicken

Monday: N- Out at Guides
                 S- Freezer meal

Tuesday: Toad in the hole again, but it was THAT good

Wednesday: Freezer meal

Thursday: Chicken and broccoli pasta bake

Friday: Fish and rice

It's a slightly less challenging plan for me than last week but maybe I can throw in some baking too ;)

I'm linking up with Menu plan Monday over at . If you've popped by from there, thanks for coming.

Nicky x


Monday, 4 November 2013

Meal Plan Monday #1 - Reviewed

So how did last week, my first Meal plan Monday week, go??

Not great to be honest. My little man had Hand Foot and Mouth disease and, although he was amazing through it, he took even more of my attention than usual. And then I had a rotten sore throat for a few days and stayed on the sofa in my PJs. So the meals weren't necessarily done on the days they were planned. Meh!

So last week I DID manage to cook:

toad in the hole,
ratatouille and sausages
and fish pie. 
This weekend I've done cottage pie with sliced potatoes not mash and a roast.

I am amazed with myself, I really am. I've honestly cooked more in the last 2 weeks than I have in the last 7 years. I don't think my husband can believe his luck. - To be honest I think we're both wondering how long I can keep it up but I'm willing to give it a go. I'm also willing to think he's expecting me to give up soon but I'm determined not to. We've eaten SO much more healthily since I've been meal planning and there is none of that 'what shall we have for dinner?' nonsense anymore.

The Toad in the hole was AMAZING.

 (Proof I made it myself and didn't cheat!)

I followed this recipe on the BBC good food website. There was a little too much batter so will try another one next time.

The paella was ok, I followed the instructions my hubby gave me. We aren't massive seafood fans so we tend to have chicken and chorizo in it. This is the 'after' photo.

We've never had fish pie before but this meal is definitely a keeper. We loved it.
Yes that is a bit of mozzarella with the cheddar on the top - why not? - and I know the photo is rubbish but fish pie isn't the most photographic food ever is it? Lets be honest, it looks like it's already been eaten!
And this is my take on a cottage pie. The potatoes from here were MUCH nicer than mash.
I think that might be 4 little meals I've added to my arsenal.

Oh, and the ratatouille and sausages..... well. I liked it, but my husband didn't. So I wont be doing that again. I can cross that one off the list. :(

Sunday, 3 November 2013

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Look what I did.....

I'm so proud of myself.

I made a roast dinner all by myself. 

I've done bits of them before but usually have to be rescued by my husband. But this one was all my own work. Have a look.......Doesn't it look yummy?

Ok, so I cheated on a lot of it........ the chicken was one of those crown things with the stuffing already in it. The Yorkshire puddings were made by Aunt Bessie and there is a rather massive absence of any green veg. BUT, you can't run before you can walk people!  Considering this is the first roast I've done all by myself I needed to cut a few corners surely???

Anyway, it was DELICIOUS even if I do say so myself. :) I am quite proud.

Oh and ignore the way the chicken has been hacked up, my hubby did it and I'm not entirely sure what he was thinking.

Friday, 1 November 2013


Is this or is this not the best invention EVER????

Monday, 28 October 2013

Meal Plan Monday #1

So....... I was pretty keen to start writing weekly meal plans. I'd made a few rather pathetic attempts but without the commitment of my husband and sharing the cooking with him, it wasn't really working. Until he went away on Business :)

I saw the opportunity and took it!!!! (In fairness I was completely encouraged by his sister so I didn't feel too bad making changes in his absence).

While he was away I made it my aim to not only eat as many of the odds and ends out of the freezer but to start meal planning properly.

And here it is, with the accompanying shopping list.

As you can see it's a work in progress and I don't know what the date is but hey, there it is.

There have been a few changes already but it is now going to go like this:

Sunday (I plan from Sunday because the groceries arrived on Saturday) Toad in the hole

Monday Paella

Tuesday Fish pie

Wednesday Frozen pasta bake from last week

Thursday Ratatouille and sausages

Friday Frozen something

Saturday Cottage pie. with potatoes like this

I wonder how well I'll stick to it as this is only the second week of proper meal planning. I guess I'll fill you in next week.

I found a linky party over at that I'm hooking up with. If you've popped by from there, thanks for coming.

Nicky x


Sunday, 27 October 2013

My husband and I (until very recently) both work full time. I'm a teacher (no, we don't just work 9-3!) and he's a buyer for a toy retailer (no, he doesn't just play with toys all day, apparently!). We work long days leaving the house at 7 and getting home at 6 or 7 in the evening. I'm not after sympathy, I know this is pretty much par for the course for most people. My point is that it results in this conversation most nights.

"What shall we have for dinner?"

"Dunno, what do you want?"

"Dunno, what do you want?"

"I don't mind, what is there?"


Now, this can become surprisingly irritating when it happens EVERY DAY for the 7 YEARS we've lived together!!!!!

And usually ended in either of the following ways:

"Just stick some pasta on"


"Microwave that ......... From last week"


"I'll order pizza"

Or (this is by far the worst)

"It's too late, I'm not hungry anymore."


And that is why I have been arguing for creating a meal plan for YEARS!!!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

I wonder......

If the veg on top of a pizza count towards your 5 a day. 

The kick up the bum I needed

I had a baby nearly 5 months ago and as he was breech I ended up having a C-section. So my amazing friend created a dinner rota for my husband and me. I'm not sure how she did it but I think the wonders of Facebook were involved and we ended up having home cooked meals delivered to our house every night for nearly a fortnight. It was A-ma-zing!!!

My best buddy lives about 70 miles away and although she was involved in the messaging about the meal rota, obviously couldn't bring us a fresh, hot meal. Or at least she could but it might not be so appetising by the time it arrived. Apparently she replied that knowing my husband and me, we'd be more than happy if she ordered us pizza from a well known pizza delivery company. (And how right she was).

Now, I was HUGELY grateful for the generosity we were shown and we were provided with some amazing meals but their acts of compassion served to make me feel even more ashamed of  my lack of cooking skills. All these wonderful people had slaved away in their kitchens to provide me with healthy nutritious deliciousness but if the situation was reversed, I wouldn't be able to help. I could provide a tray of toast, or heat up a frozen pizza but we were provided with pasta dishes, chicken pie, toad in the hole..... the list goes on. All home cooked from scratch. How could I ever repay their kindness? I couldn't. There was no denying it. In fact, when a friend had a baby 3 years ago and I was asked to join their meal rota I had to confess publicly on the Facebook group set up, that I couldn't provide dishes that I would feel happy to feed to others but that I had the number of a very good pizza delivery company saved in my phone. And that is what I did. I ordered them a large pizza each and had them delivered to their house. At the age of 30 I was ashamed of myself.

I need to learn to cook!

Friday, 25 October 2013

A confession.

I can't cook.

Actually scrap that. I can. I just don't like cooking.

Food to me is functional. It's the stuff you eat to stop you feeling faint and passing out. It serves a purpose. And that's about it. If I'm hungry I want to eat now. I don't want to fanny around in the kitchen for hours on end chopping, peeling, par boiling and grilling. I want to eat now. If I was left to my own devices I'd live on toast and shortbread (the stuff from Marks and Spencer preferably not the home made variety!)

Luckily my hubby enjoys cooking. He likes chopping, peeling, par boiling and grilling, and he's good at it. And he enjoys supermarket shopping. How lucky am I?

Surely the story should end there. I've got it made. I'm one of those lucky ladies who never has to lift a hand at home right? Well, yeah. Sort of.

The thing is I've always wanted to be able to cook, it just doesn't come naturally. I'm not one of those who can just throw things in a pan and make them taste and look amazing. I can barely follow the instructions on a ready meal. I'm just too impatient. In fact, I'm the person who cooked some of those ready made loaded potato skins in the plastic tray they came in and nearly poisoned myself and my boyfriend - it can't have been that bad, he married me in the end, and the same person who burnt some sausage casserole onto a LeCreuset pot so badly that it took a week and several scouring pads to clean it up again. (I was unsympathetically told that those pots are supposed to be indestructible. Meh! )

But a few things have changed recently that have made me reassess the domestic balance in the house, to think about my pathetic inability to look after myself adequately and to attempt to ensure that I'm not ashamed of my kitchen skills.

And it's with that in mind that the Domestic Dunce was born.

ETA: I have liked up with the Rattlebridge Farm link party. Pop over to see some amazing looking dishes.