Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Return of GBBO: Mrs Bishop's fave bakes...

GBBO is back 2016
Image from GBBO Facebook page

That's right, folks! 

Tonight sees the return of my favourite show on TV - The Great British Bake Off. 

In essence it is a baking competition for amateur home-bakers, who each week are challenged to bake their way through signature bakes, skills tests and show stoppers, with a Star Baker being crowned each week. At the end of every episode one of the contestants leaves the competition until just three bakers remain in the grand-final. 

I've been a huge fan of the show since its first series back in 2010, and through this little ol' blog of mine I have been lucky enough to meet, work with and get to know some of the contestants from previous years, including Edd Kimber who won the first ever series in 2010, the super-lovely Holly Bell who was runner-up in 2011, and Frances Quinn who won series 4 back in 2014.

Mrs Bishop and Edd Kimber
Edd Kimber and myself, baking on a farm in Cambridge together for Flora.

Mrs Bishop and Holly Bell
Holly Bell and myself, baking in London together for Whitworths

As a keen home-baker I find the GBBO hugely inspiring. Sometimes, I watch and feel as if I could totally give the contestants a run-for-their-money and other times I admit defeat and sit and wonder at their incredible baking, flavour and design skills. 

If you haven't watched before then I urge you to give it a go tonight - even if you don't feel like you're "into baking", you are more than likely into eating delicious home baked goods, and so you'll be sure to enjoy plenty of mouth watering viewing. Saying that, I do strongly urge you to watch each week with your own homemade bake to enjoy while you watch, otherwise you'll find yourself in some sort of messy hangry-cake-rage every Wednesday evening, and no one wants that! 

GBBO is back
Image from GBBO Facebook page

Bake Off wouldn't be Bake Off without the utterly fabulous presenters Mel and Sue, I adore their humour and think they bring an absolutely necessary element to the show, it would suffer hugely in their absence. 

Naturally, the judges are vital too: the lovely legend that is Mary Berry, and Mr Silver Fox himself, Paul Hollywood. They work so well together, have a crazy amount of chemistry and I get the impression they all have a whale-of-a-time filming each year. 

In readiness for the return of my favourite series I have been updating my bakeware collection courtesy of House of Fraser and their capsule baking collection from Dickins and Jones, isn't it pretty? My kitchen has never been so well equipped...

I'm hoping that the return of GBBO and the arrival of these fab new baking accessories and linens will spur me on to get my baking mojo back...I've not done a huge amount since Connie came along, its pretty hard to find the time to fit in any baking on top of everything else. 

Dickins and Jones Bakeware
The Dickins and Jones capsule bakeware collection including 'Farmers Market' linens range all from House of Fraser. 

I thought that in order to get your baking juices flowing in readiness for tonight's show that I'd share with you some of my favourite bakes/recipes from here on my blog...

Which will you bake first?

Just click on each picture to access the recipe/original post...

Peanut Banoffee Cake

Homemade Bourbon biscuits

Caramac digestives recipe

doughnut french toast







cherry cognac rock cakes

These are just a taster of my faves from the blog... I've got a long 'to bake' list of new recipe ideas that I'm dying to try, so watch this space and hopefully I'll share some new recipes with you all soon. 

Enjoy tonight's show my lovelies - I'm off to one of my girlfriends houses to watch with my closest mates, while we all enjoy sharing #cakefordinner (sometimes it's just got to be done!)

Mrs B

xxx

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

My Post-Second-Baby Body & a Lotus Caramelised Biscoff Cheesecake from English Cheesecake Company *REVIEW*

My Post-Second-Baby Body


Recent picture of moi - post Connie's arrival

Since a few weeks after Connie's arrival I've been making a conscious effort to eat well and exercise more in a bid to get back to my pre-Connie weight as soon as possible. I knew that this time round I would find putting on 'baby-weight' especially hard, having worked my socks off for two years previously to shift over 6 stone. 

During my pregnancy with Connie I was definitely far more sensible with my food and exercise than I was first time round with Bert, so although I allowed myself a few more calories than normal, and cut myself a little slack in those final weeks when I was feeling generally beach-whale like and fed up, I don't feel like I "ate for two" or lazed around the whole time. 

So, I was hopeful that my weight gain would be far less than my pregnancy with Bert (3 stone 11 lbs). As it turned out it wasn't actually that much better this time round and I gained a total of 2 stone 12 lbs. Still much more than I'd hoped for. I've only gone up one dress size, and I *think* I'm carrying it fairly well - people always seem genuinely surprised at how "heavy" I am...just shows you that weight can be deceiving. Maybe that's the way my body is predisposed to be, perhaps I put on weight far more easily than some, or maybe that's just an excuse, and I over-ate and under-execised even just a little bit, for 9 months - and that all adds up. 

I knew dealing with the weight gain was never going to be easy: I'd tried hard to mentally prepare myself for getting bigger, my shape changing, being unable to fit into my new wardrobe of size 12 clothes, but despite the mental preparation I'm finding it tougher than expected. I'm so eager to shift the pounds, but I'm also exhausted: trying to look after a three year old, 10 week old, run my freelance social media management business and cook, clean, shop and do the washing - as well as attempt to be a wife to Liam too (I fear I may be failing epic-ly on that front!) With all that in mind it's been hard at times not to let convenience win when it comes to food, and to swap a long walk for a few more hours in the office to get through my mountainous to-do list. 

That said, so far I've shifted 15lbs, and I am feeling better, closer to "me". I'm trying not to feel pressured (the pressure is coming 100% from me) - but I would be lying if I said that the extra weight I'm carrying is not stressing me out. It's making me feel a bit glum. 

Connie is of course absolutely worth every single pound of weight gain, and I wouldn't have it any other way - nethertheless, I'm sat here wishing I was able to wear my full-to-bursting size 12 wardrobe, rather than my makeshift size 14 capsule wardrobe (1 jeans, 1 chinos, a few tops and a sweatshirt!) 


Considerably rounder, but still loving life with my little brood! 

Despite the longing to reach my pre-preggo weight I'm still approaching my food, exercise and weight loss in general with balance and moderation, as I know this is the key to steady and most importantly, long-term weight loss. I'm focussing on controlling portion sizes, eating as much natural, un-processed food as possible, and counting calories (although all calories are not equal, so I'm trying not to get too het-up about an exact amount, more a round-about figure). I'm not cutting out any foods in particular (until next month when I'm challenging myself to attempt Sugar Free September *more on that in another post*) and I'm enjoying higher-calorie/sugary/fatty foods just in moderation - one slice of cake won't make you fat, just like one workout won't make you thin. 



Lotus Biscoff Cheesecake from English Cheesecake Company

With this in mind, I wanted to share with you an epic cheesecake I was kindly sent recently to review from The English Cheesecake Company

Still in the throws of life with a newborn, I still haven't quite got my baking mojo back - there genuinely aren't enough hours in the day for the most basic of things, so baking is a luxury that's had to fall by the wayside for now. I'm still regularly hosting/entertaining though, and our guests need to be fed, so when the offer of a Lotus Biscoff Cheesecake to feed 12 came pinging into my inbox, who was I to refuse?

If you've not discovered the wondrous joy that is Lotus Biscoff biscuits and biscuit spread then A) where have you been over the past few years and B) I demand you stop reading this post and go straight to the supermarket to buy some pronto - you won't regret it. These sweet, caramelised biscuits are a joy, and using them to make a cheesecake is a move of pure genius! 

I first discovered Lotus Spread (crunchy and smooth - think peanut butter in texture but made from biscuits!) back in Nov 2012 (read the post where I discovered it here) and it's had pretty much a permanent place in my kitchen cupboard since then. Hubby and Bert especially adore it, so this cheesecake was a treat with them in mind. 

If you've not discovered The English Cheesecake Company before, then let me introduce you. These guys produce top quality artisan cheesecakes, and deliver them frozen to your door - 8 hours in the fridge and these monsters are ready to devour. They are perfect for weddings, parties, large dinner parties, or even for taking into the office to feed your colleagues on special occasions - cheesecake says 'I love you guys' far more than a tray of ring doughnuts, trust me. 


English Cheesecake Company packaging
Delivered frozen in a polystyrene box

English Cheesecake Company box
So well packaged - with a label full of all the need-to-know info (ingredients, nutritional info, portion size, allergy info etc). 

English Cheesecake Company wrapped cheesecake
The frozen cheesecake is wrapped in branded tissue paper, and looks high-end and luxurious even when wrapped! 
Frozen Lotus Biscoff cheesecake from English Cheesecake Company
The frozen cheesecake, in the box ready for the fridge - 8 hours is a hard amount of time to wait to devour this beauty! Luckily for us, our was delivered at 11am, meaning it was ready just in time for dessert! 

Each cheesecake serves a suggested 12 people (I must admit we made ours serve 8... we like a lot of cheesecake, what can I say?) and they do a huge array of flavours from cinnamon bun streusel or pina colada flavour to cookies and cream or hazelnut praline. There are so many delectable flavours to choose from! Checkout their website for their full range of cakes, cheesecakes and mini cheesecakes. 


A Lotus Caramelised Biscoff Cheesecake from English Cheesecake Company
The Lotus Caramelised Biscoff Cheesecake from English Cheesecake Company in all it's glory! 

The Lotus Biscoff Cheesecake is priced at £25.00, so yes, it's definitely on the pricier side for a ready-to-serve dessert. But, I can promise you the quality of the cheesecake is incredible - it was easily the best cheesecake I've ever eaten and all my taste-testers agreed too! It was absolutely restaurant standard, and if you think about the price tag of a decent dessert in a high-end restaurant, then even if you make the cheesecake serve 8 like we did, it still only works out at £3.12p per portion and £2.08p per portion if you make it serve the recommended 12, which seems reasonable to me.  

It's not necessarily something you'd buy for just a regular-day (unless your stinking rich, in which case, go for it!) but instead I see it as a luxurious treat food reserved for uber-special occasions.


slice of Lotus Caramelised Biscoff Cheesecake
A very generous slice of Lotus cheesecake - it was worth every single calorie, trust me! 

The cheesecake is made up of a buttery biscuit-crumb base, topped with a thick, creamy, super-dense and cloying cream cheese mixture flavoured with the smooth Lotus spread, topped with a generous layer of crumbed Lotus biscuits. It really is just as good as it sounds. 


Lotus Caramelised Biscoff Cheesecake review
^^ Why not pin this for later ^^

It was so good that we all went back for a second slice the following day - what was that I was saying about one slice of cake won't make you fat - will two? ;-) 

Huge thanks to English Cheesecake Company for sending us the Lotus cheesecake in exchange for this review. 

Bye for now

Mrs B

xxx

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Essential Things To Do Make Your Home Safe For Children

Our little ones are our pride and joy, aren't they? But parenting isn't always easy! There's so many things that as a parent you need to do to keep them safe. One of the most important things is making sure that your home environment is safe for your little ones. That’s why it's vital to make the transition from grown up house to child-proofed home.

I wasn't enthralled about making these changes to my own home pre-Bert, but, I now understand how important each of them are, and they have FOR SURE saved my bacon (or Bert's bacon I guess!) on multiple occasions when he otherwise would have hurt himself.

So, what do I need to check/get pre-little one's arrival?...

Baby gates

Ok, so unless they are a 'super' baby, you probably won't need your baby gates straight away, but it never hurts to be prepared does it? Baby gates are such a great thing for when they start walking. You know then that they will be safe and not able to wander off to any parts of the house that might prove dangerous (kitchen, stairs, bathroom etc).

Window Locks

window

Window locks are also essential if you have little ones, especially if you have furniture like your sofa near to your windows. Remember that once they start crawling, they start climbing too! So you want to make sure that they can't use the window as an unsafe exit. You can also get windows that lock while they are open. They basically only open a tiny smidgen to let air in and keep your home well-ventilated, with the use of restrictors. This is a useful idea if you like to have a breeze in the room but still need a child proof safety feature. We have literally only just discovered that our windows can do this...and as a household with a house-cat who doesn't go outside (hence we never leave windows open) this discovery has been a god-send!

Heavy doors

Sometimes the safety risk of heavy doors with young children is one that is missed. We can become so used to it, that we just forget that the door is there and a potential risk. But consider those little fingers and how easy it is to get them trapped in a closing door. Ouch! That's why it's essential to have a latch, chain or stopper that holds the door in place when its open or stops its from closing fully into the frame. Then it can't swing back under its own weight and cause injury!

Corner covers

Corner covers are essential for table and cupboards with very sharp points, especially if they are at your toddler's level. You can get a nasty bump on the noggin from a sharp corner and of course, they can pose a real risk to the little one's eyes and face too! You can buy corner protectors from mothercare and online.

Pest control

Another safety issue that few parents think about is making sure that any pest control issues are sorted out. Remember your child will be crawling along the floor, often where the pests route is, so the risk of contamination is high.

squirrel

Some pests provide a direct risk to children and adults alike like wasps. Especially as it's so hard to know whether your little ones will have an allergic reaction. That's why it's so important to get these things sorted as soon as you see a hint of them. It's just not worth the risk. We had an issue a few years ago when we found we had a wasps nest in our front room wall - we got it sorted straight away as I was so scared of baby-Bert getting stung!

Water covers

life-buoy

If you have a pool or pond, it's very important that you take some safety measures into account once you have children. Most people cover their pools or ponds to some degree, but you need to make sure that you are using the right type of cover to protect your child. Netting and flexible covers are good for keeping out animals and debris like leaves, but they can pose a risk to humans: people can get caught up in them, and then find themselves stuck and unable to get out. Doesn't bare thinking about! Rigid covers are the best in terms of safety, as they will not give way, even if someone steps on them, making them a much safer option.

------------------------------

I hope this has been useful for all you new parents, child minders etc.

Have I missed anything? I hope I've covered all the basics!

Mrs B
xxx

(This is a collaborative post)

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Most Influential Trends in Bedroom Makeovers

Are you thinking of decorating your master bedroom?

Do the kids rooms need updating? 

Have you got a guest room, that needs some serious TLC?

If so, then before you get to work, read my summary of the most influential bedroom trends at the moment and how you can work them in your home...

Feature wall using wallpaper

Feature wall in my own bedroom

The feature wall has been popular for ages, but the current trend of using a bold illustrative print on one wall is a fresh update to the existing trend. You can see that we have tried hard to achieve this in our master bedroom (see my full bedroom tour here). With such a bold print on the walls it is important to keep the rest of the room simple. I think that black, white and neutral prints work particularly well with feature papers. Then you can inject some brighter colours into other things in the room such as the duvet or curtains (see my splash of yellow!).

Prints that have shades of the same colour also work well, think of a multi palm leaf pattern. If you are going for a bold and bright print like this, I'd keep it to just one wall.

Placing a feature paper right behind the headboard of your bed works well, while keeping the other walls white. Then you can match your duvet cover too, and it won't look too much. You could soften the look with textures and accessories. You could make a feature of accessories in the room by choosing something particularly special such as these rose gold lamps (rose gold is still one of my faves!) then chuck a luxurious throw over the bed to give it a super-comfortable yet high-end feel.

Victorian Style Bedsteads

I love this one particularly 

There is a significant trend at the moment for using Victorian style metal bedsteads. They can't be just any metal bedstead, to fit the trend they must be the ones that have rails running vertically down from the headboard and footboard. They are also usually painted in a gloss cream, black or grey for effect. These work well with bold prints and illustrative designs that are in fashion at the moment. They give you that vintage but industrial feel that is so popular. Combine these with bare light bulb fittings like these to finish the look. You could create contrast by adding floral duvet covers and an eclectic mix of cushions for a very stylish look.

pillows-1158274_960_720.jpg
Floral bedcovers to add contrast

Many people are put off buying a Victorian style bed because they think that they are going to be uncomfortable, but this is not the case! You'll often find that they are modern reproductions, rather than original Victorian pieces, and so they are build with modern comforts in mind. Remember, you can add your choice of mattress to the frame for your personal comfort. Would you choose an orthopaedic, memory foam, or Tempur foam mattress? I've always hankered after a Tempur mattress, they are so comfy! If you are not sure which mattress would be best for you, check out this guide to tempur memory foam mattresses, to help you make a more informed decision.

Clothes as decoration

Now it may sound a bit crazy to suggest that you display your clothes, accessories or shoes as decoration in your room. You’ve probably had years of trying to get into the habit of putting them away, neatly out of site, so that everything is tidy. However, done well, you can use the things you would usually store away to enhance the overall look of your bedroom. This is a major trend at the moment.

clothes-rail-918859_960_720.jpg
Clothes as decoration

An effective way of doing this is to have an open clothes rail in your room. This works well if you have a small capsule wardrobe or if you have a few striking designer pieces that you really want to show off.

Many people like to have their shoes on show too! If you have Avant Garde or artistic shoe taste, this can work particularly well, as your shoe rack ends up looking more like an art installation than a shelf in Clarks. A simple way of doing this is to use floating shelves and paint them the same colour as your wall. Then either arrange your shoes face on or side on, depending on which looks best. It's also a good idea to have a floor mirror and a seat nearby to make the whole getting ready process more comfortable and enjoyable.

Shoes on display - it's not just women's shoes that can look great.

Jewellery is the decoration that we wear, so it's a shame to hide it away when we're not wearing it. For this reason, why not try the trend of displaying your jewellery collection in your bedroom? You can buy hangers or racks that fix to the wall behind your dressing table. Then you can hang statement pieces for you to admire even when you're not wearing them. Think of how beautiful they will look when the crystal and beads catch the light on a bright day. The added benefit of this is that your jewellery will then be organised and easily to hand, so it should make getting dressed in the morning a bit easier too!

Fresh Flowers

My final fave for bedroom style at the moment is to display fresh flowers. There is something so decadent about having real flowers on show in your bedroom - I don't know about you, but smelling and seeing fresh flowers in my home makes me so happy, and is definitely one of my regular luxury purchases. Choosing your favourite flowers in colours that accent your wallpaper or accessories will be the perfect finishing touch to your newly made-over room. 

Fresh flowers in your bedroom, the ultimate luxury. 

(This is a collaborative post.)
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Friday, 22 July 2016

EPIC Chicken Caesar Salad RECIPE & New Kitchen Knives from Edge of Belgravia



Today I'm excited to share with you some fabulous products from new-to-me brand, Edge of Belgravia. Edge of Belgravia produce unique designer chef knives, and very kindly sent me their professional four piece knife set and diamond knife block to put through their paces in my kitchen. 

Any serious home-cook or chef will tell you how vitally important a good quality, super-sharp set of kitchen knives are...what is it they say...'a bad workman always blames his tools' ... but seriously, good knives = better, faster and more professional dishes coming out of your kitchen. In my experience is it absolutely worth investing a decent amount of money into your kitchen knives - you get what you pay for and all that. 

One of the main things that struck me about this knife block & set was not only the quality of the product but how beautiful they are to look at too - a real feature of the kitchen. The black diamond knife block in particular is so striking and would look incredible in a modern monochrome kitchen. 

Precision Chef Knife Series Professional 4 piece set Edge of Belgravia and Black Diamond Knife Block

Black Diamond Knife Block priced at £79.90

What EOB say: 

Our unique, angular float knife block designed by Christian Bird is a piece of art for the kitchen. Clever use of weighting secures the knives in their blocks, just as slight angling allows for easy extraction. Designed for maximum flexibility it is suitable for most knives.

Precision Chef Knife Series Professional 4 piece set Edge of Belgravia


What EOB say:

The professional four piece set complements the existing knives in the Precision Chef Knife Series. Its extra-large chef and bread knife means it is ideal for all those who think bigger is better. The set includes a new knife for filleting and boning fish, and we introduce a slicing knife with unique recesses so that you can slice salmon or cured meat in the thinnest of slices. The professional set will have you dicing, slicing, chopping, filleting and mincing with impressive ease. If you are not already a Chef, you will be with this set.

I've now been using these knives for around a month in the kitchen and I really love them! They feel so nice to hold, the handles are comfortable and easy to grip, and the blades are so super sharp - they slice through everything like butter, which makes food prep a dream! 

Each of the knives slot perfectly into the diamond knife block, and one of the best features is that the knife block has room for up to 11 knives, so I can slot all of my other kitchen knives in there too - keeping everything together and organised (and you know I do love things organised!). 

Precision Chef Knife Series Professional 4 piece set Edge of Belgravia and Black Diamond Knife Block
My new knife block and set from Edge of Belgravia in its new home

I thought it would be fun to show you the knives in action and share with you a new awesome recipe for literally the best Caesar salad you'll ever taste. Caesar salad was (weirdly!) one of the meals I was craving in the weeks after Connie's arrival (along with pasta and pesto) and I've genuinely lost count of how many ready prepared bags of Caesar salad I've eaten from Aldi in the past 6 weeks (LOTS!)

This week, feeling a bit more human and with more energy to get back into the kitchen properly I decided to make a Caesar properly from scratch, and boy was it awesome! 

Mrs Bishop's EPIC Chicken Caesar Salad

CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD

(serves 4 - 700 calories per portion - this is a HEARTY salad!)

Ingredients

4 thick slices of non sliced white bakery bread, cut into large 3cm cubes 
3 springs rosemary, finely chopped
4 chicken legs
olive oil 
salt and pepper
100g pancetta cubes

100ml low fat creme fraiche
juice of whole lemon
double amount of olive oil to lemon juice
80g finely grated parmesan cheese
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped,
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper

2 heads of Romaine lettuce
fresh parmesan shavings to garnish

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. In a deep roasting tray place the bread cubes, drizzle over a generous amount of olive oil, sprinkle over half the chopped rosemary and season with salt and pepper. 

sharpest bread knife ever
The sharpest bread knife ever! 

2. Place the four chicken legs atop the bread trivet in the roasting tray, drizzle the chicken with olive oil and again, sprinkle over the remaining rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked. 

chopping a lemon
Putting the knives through their paces...with lots of chopping and dicing. 

Yummy ingredients for the ultimate Caesar dressing!
Yummy ingredients for the ultimate Caesar dressing! 

3. While the chicken/bread bakes make the dressing. Lightly whisk creme fraiche, lemon juice and olive oil together until combined, add grated parmesan, anchovies and chopped garlic, then blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

4. After 45 minutes take the chicken out of the oven and sprinkle over the pancetta cubes. Bake for 15 minutes until pancetta is crispy. 

crispy chicken legs, pancetta and croutons
crispy chicken legs, pancetta and croutons

5. Remove chicken legs from the tray and set to one side to cool slightly. Pop the bread/bacon back into the oven to make sure any soggy bits crisp up (about ten minutes). 

6. While bread is crisping up cut up your heads of lettuce wash/spin it until clean and dry. Take the chicken meat off the bone, and discard the bones. You want to try and get nice mouth sized chunks of chicken for the salad. 

The BEST croutons in the world.
The BEST croutons in the world. 

7. Assemble. Divide the chicken, bacon and croutons among 4 dishes of lettuce and then dollop over the amazing dressing and sprinkle over parmesan shavings to finish. Alternatively serve in one huge dish and let people help themselves. 

EPIC Chicken Caesar Salad, from scratch!
EPIC Chicken Caesar Salad, from scratch! 

Not only was the salad a dream to eat, but it was a total dream to make too - the knives made all the prep super easy and gave the dish a much more professional over all finish. Granted, it takes a lot more time and effort to make a Caesar from scratch compared to opening a bag, ripping up some pre-cooked chicken and dolloping on sauce, but boy was it a superior version - Caesar salad on steroids if you will. On taste, texture and appearance it absolutely wins hands down - the ready made wins on speed, cost and ease. The pre mixed bags absolutely have their place, but every now and then it is nice to pull out all the stops and have something extra special, and this is one of those recipes. 

Do let me know if you give it a go, I'd love to know what you think! 

Mrs B

xxx

Disclaimer: I was sent the 4 piece knife set and diamond knife block in exchange for my honest review.