London Favourites: Tate Modern

London Favourites: Tate Modern

For those of you who aren’t familiar with London or have only been once or twice, I thought I would start regularly posting about all my favourite London attractions. Places that you should visit, whether as a foreign tourist or someone who lives in the UK. We briefly considered moving out of London after we had our first child, but realised that there was no where else we would rather live. I’m sure you all love your towns/cities/villages, but me, I love London.

First stop –  Tate Modern, which is located on the Southbank. One of the great things about London museums is that many of them are free. Although you do have to pay for the special exhibitions, much of the museum is free for all to peruse. There is so much to see, that you would need to make several trips. And don’t assume that children won’t love a modern art gallery. My children had a fun time, and have asked to go back to the Tate again.

We went on Saturday, and our first stop was Liminal on level four. There are boxes, of different shapes and sizes, which children (and adults) are invited to try and use to make sculptures. Moozles and Dubz made a robot, and Dubz even donated his hat (for a minute) to make the robot a bit snazzier. Tate Modern have a few kids-oriented exhibits like this, allowing the children to participate in the art.

London Favourites: Tate Modern London Favourites: Tate Modern

After looking at some art installations, we were feeling quite hungry so we popped into the Tate Cafe. We hadn’t eaten there in years, and were pleasantly surprised at how the food had improved. Husband and I had the three course Christmas menu (which cost £25 each). We raved about the meal for days, as all the courses were superb. My potted shrimp starter was my favourite course. Husband loved his duck main. And the kids’ favourite was pudding (what a shocker). Tate Modern give kids a free main meal, at lunchtime, with every adult meal. Such a lovely touch! We enjoyed the meal so much, we are planning to go again soon with family.

London Favourites: Tate Modern London Favourites: Tate Modern






London Favourites: Tate Modern London Favourites: Tate Modern London Favourites: Tate Modern London Favourites: Tate Modern London Favourites: Tate Modern London Favourites: Tate Modern London Favourites: Tate Modern London Favourites: Tate Modern





London Favourites: Tate Modern

After lunch, we had a stroll by the river and even spotted one of the Paddington bears that are dotted around London. There is also a German market by the Tate, which is on until Christmas Eve. There were some lovely stalls, but it was hard to have a good look as I was firmly holding on to little hands. There was a lovely little chalet that people were relaxing in, drinking mulled beverages. But alas, that was not meant to be.

We did see a chalet filled with pocket watches. For some reason, Moozles is obsessed with pocket watches and has been wanting one for ages. So after letting her have a good look, I distracted the kids while Husband bought her a pocket watch. She is going to be so happy come Christmas morning! All in all we had a lovely family day out. Dubz had his first trip on a train and the underground. We got culture, good food and even a little Christmas pressie.

London Favourites: Tate ModernLondon Favourites: Tate ModernLondon Favourites: Tate ModernLondon Favourites: Tate Modern
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We were invited to have a complimentary lunch at Tate Modern to try out their Christmas menu. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.



Pumpkin Pie vs Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin Pie vs Pumpkin Cake

I love pumpkin pie. I couldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving without it. But, my children are not fans. But I figure if I make it every year, they will grow to love it. This year, I had planned on cooking my usual Thanksgiving feast: turkey, roasted sweet potatoes, mash potatoes, corn bread and green beans. And of course pumpkin pie. But my sinus infection had other ideas. I’ve been poorly for over a week. And with Husband working late every night for the past two weeks (and working on the weekends), I decided that there would be no Thanksgiving feast this year.

But even without a feast, I needed my annual pumpkin pie fix. So this year I thought I would try baking a pumpkin cake alongside the pie, and see if either could tempt my children. So, which one will they prefer? I normally buy a pre-made pie base, but this year used the recipe from Flora for a base (and the pie itself). I was quite pleased with the results.

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Great British Cooking with a Californian Gal

Great British Cooking with a Californian Gal

Although I enjoy baking, I am not much of a cook. I can make about 10 things well, but am not one to try new things. But recently I have become a Paragon Books book buddy. Which means that Parragon send me a book every month to review. I decided to receive cookbooks as I am keen to widen my repertoire. After all, what kind of SAHM expects her husband to do most of the cooking? *looks around sheepishly, whistles, looks down in shame*

October’s book is Great British Cooking. Husband was very excited to see this book. Just the kind of food he loves. I decided to make Toad in the Hole as it is one of those British dishes that British people term as ‘comfort food’. I think I may have tried it once at my in-laws’ house, but can’t quite remember. But I know that neither of my children have ever had it. Not only did they love it, but it was so easy to make. Moozles has asked for it again for dinner tonight (I made it yesterday). But I have told them that I will make it again at the weekend if they really want it.

There are some other yummy looking British recipes in the cookbook, including Beef Stew with Herb Dumplings, Neeps & Tatties and Treacle Tart. I will be making those very soon. If you fancy making Toad in the Hole, check out my amended recipe below (as Husband will testify, I am mentally unable to follow a recipe and I always amend them).

Great British Cooking with a Californian Gal Great British Cooking with a Californian Gal Great British Cooking with a Californian Gal Great British Cooking with a Californian Gal Great British Cooking with a Californian Gal

Toad in the Hole

115g/4 oz plain flour
big pinch of salt
1 free-range egg, beaten
300 ml/10 fl oz milk (I use Lactofree)
400-450g/1 lb good-quality pork sausages
1 tbsp vegetable or rapeseed oil
white pepper

Grease a 20x25cm/8x10inch roasting dish. Preheat oven to 220C/425F.

The batter is made by mixing the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre, add the egg and half the milk. Stir until smooth. Then add the rest of the milkand beat. Leave to stand for about 30 minutes.

While mixture is standing, it is time to cook the sausages. Place the sausages in the  dish, prick them and sprinkle with pepper and oil. Cook for 15 minutes.

Remove sausages from oven and pour batter over them. Return to oven for 35-45 minutes  until golden brown. Serve with peas, as Husband informs me that is the traditional way.

Technically, this should serve four people. In my family, it actually serves two or    three.

Great British Cooking with a Californian Gal

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I was sent ‘Great British Cooking’ for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.


Jack Skellington Cupcakes

Jack Skellington Cupcakes

My six-year old daughter, Moozles, is beyond excited at the prospect of Halloween. So this weekend we put up some decorations and did some baking. I have recently renewed my relationship with Pinterest. And after a browse, Moozles decided that these Jack Skellington cupcakes were what she wanted. There is obviously not much instruction there, so I thought I would share what we did.

Whenever I ask what kind of cake we should make, everyone asks for chocolate. So, I make my Husband’s favourite chocolate cake recipe (if I make chocolate cake for kids, I use a more kid-friendly recipe). Since my family members are chocoholics, they can handle this fudgey cake. This cake is easy to make, and easier to decorate – perfect for baking with kids.

Chocolatey Fudge Cake
175g self-raising flour
280g caster sugar
100g butter (room temperature)
3 large free-range eggs
50ml whole milk (I use Lactofree)
40g cocoa powder
6 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven 160C (fan-assisted)/190C. 
Mix all the ingredients, apart from 
the last three. In a separate bowl, 
blend the cocoa powder and the boiling 
water, then add to the rest of the mixture. 
Add the baking powder and mix.

This can be baked as 12-15 cupcakes or in two 8-inch cake pans. 
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool in the pan before icing.

Buttercream Icing
180 icing sugar
90g butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix half the icing sugar with the rest of the ingredients. 
Once that is blended, add the rest of the icing sugar. 
I use a hand blender for icing. 
I use a tea towel to cover the bowl so that my kitchen 
isn't covered in icing sugar. Spread  the icing onto the cupcakes.

To decorate the cupcakes:
You could use black gel food colouring to make the eyes, nose and mouth.
I happened to have leftover Renshaw   ready to roll icing, from Lakeland. 
I cut it up into bits and let Moozles add them to her cupcakes. 
The beauty of these cupcakes is that  they do not need to look perfect.

Jack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington CupcakesIMG_7653Jack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington CupcakesJack Skellington Cupcakes




Lemon Drizzle Cake

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Lemon Drizzle Cake is Husband’s third favourite kind of cake. So a couple of weeks ago, when I wanted to butter him up for something, I baked a loaf. The recipe is based on Mary Berry’s recipe, but with some tweaks. My son is barely two years old, so he was not much help. He did enjoy sucking some lemons while I did all of the work. And when Husband arrived home that evening, he was putty in my hands. Cue evil laughter.

Lemon Drizzle Cake
175g margarine/soft butter
250g caster sugar
Grated zest of 2 lemons
250g self-raising flour (sifted)
3 medium free-range eggs
4 tbsp whole milk (I use Lactofree milk because my son and I have lactose sensitivities)
1 level tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted). Grease and line 2 x 1lb loaf tins. Cream butter and sugar and mix in all ingredients. Divide between the two tins and bake for about 35 mins – test that it is ready by seeing if a toothpick comes out clean.
Let loaves cool for 10 minutes, then prick all over with a toothpick.
Mix 70g granulated sugar with the juice of one lemon. When you squeeze the lemon, it should be room-temperature. If it’s cold, cut it in half, pop into the microwave for 5-10 seconds, then you can squeeze the lemon much more easily. Spoon lemon and sugar mixture over the 2 cakes. Leave to cool in the tin.
* I take the remaining lemon and cut it into wedges, then freeze it. Perfect for adding to gin/vodka tonic, Pimms or even to some hot water.

IMG_1214 IMG_1220 IMG_1225 IMG_1240Lemon Drizzle CakeLemon Drizzle Cake


Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes

The only thing my daughter loves more than baking cupcakes, is eating cupcakes. So when the people over at Flora asked me to bake with their new Flora Great for Baking Block and to blog about it, how could I refuse?! I was able to get the Flora baking block with my Tesco grocery delivery at the weekend. I was pleased with the price, £1.00 for a 250g block. For baking, I normally buy the Waitrose Essential block of salted butter, which costs £1.32 for a 250g block. 

Though price matters, ultimately taste is what we care about in our cake-crazed household. So my six-year old daughter, Moozles, and I put on our matching aprons and began baking. I let Moozles pick what kind of cupcake and icing we made. I had her look through a couple of recipes books, but she said she wanted to make a Mary Berry recipe because Mary Berry has the best cakes. Yes, I am teaching my daughter well. Moozles chose vanilla cupcakes and chocolate buttercream icing (we are die-hard buttercream fans). The chocolate icing is a recipe I have used for years, but adapted, from the BBC cooking website. It is my favourite icing recipe.

So, how did it turn out? Both the cupcakes and icing turned out quite well. Moozles had loads of fun decorating the cupcakes. I think she did a fab job! I would like to say that my two-year old, Dubz, was helpful too. But he basically just spooned icing onto his face and tried to climb over the table to grab more. Husband, who is a proficient bowl-licker, told me that it was the best icing I had ever made. Hand on heart, he asked if I had used a new recipe or whether it was the Flora. He wasn’t kidding, he scoffed three cupcakes in about five minutes. Moozles said it was ‘delicious’ (she only had two). Who can argue with those reviews?!
Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes Yummy Scrummy Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes
100g Flora Baking Block (or butter)
150g Caster Sugar
150g Self-Raising Flour
3 tbsp Whole Milk
2 large Eggs
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
Preheat oven to 160C for fan-assisted (or 180C). Cream sugar and Flora (or butter) then add the rest of the ingredients. Moozles and I mixed everything with a spoon. Spoon into cupcake or muffin tin, bake for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven.
This recipe makes 12 small fairy cakes or 8 proper cupcakes (American-size). We made nine this time, and there just wasn’t enough batter.
Chocolate Buttercream Icing
110g Flora Baking Block (or butter)
180g Icing Sugar
40g Cocoa Powder (sifted, but not a big deal if it isn’t)
2 tbsp Whole milk
I actually halved this recipe to accommodate the small amount of cupcakes being made above
Use a hand mixer to mix it all up. It should only take 30 seconds. My top tip for mixing icing–place a big tea towel over the bowl before you start mixing so that icing sugar does not fly everywhere. 





Do You Wanna Build a Birthday Cake?

My daughter really loves this Disney movie called Frozen. Not sure if you have heard of it. So of course Moozles wanted a Frozen-themed birthday cake. Being a novice baker, not to mention a novice mother, I was a bit worried. I am trying to make the birthday cakes for as long as possible (before the kids realise that cool cakes aren’t my forte). I still have the scars of a mother who never baked me a birthday cake, therefore I try to force myself out of my comfort zone.
I debated whether to get edible or non-edible Elsa and Anna figurines for the cake but decided to try an edible picture topper. I found a nice one on ebay that was personalised with my daughter’s name (which was been erased for the blog) that was already cut in the shape I wanted. I also ordered edible snowflakes. I am quite happy with how the cake turned out. It’s not the most spectacular, but when Moozles’ friends saw the cake they all oohed. And Moozles herself said it was the coolest cake. She’s barely six, so it’s not like she’s an expert on cake making. But her appreciation made me feel pleased.
I made a 10-inch chocolate cake for the first tier of the cake and a 6-inch vanilla sponge for the second tier (I thought two tiers would make the cake look more impressive). When you cut into the cake, you get both chocolate and vanilla sponge which looks very enticing. 
Moozles was desperate to help, so I let her crack the eggs and mix the batter. Her favourite part was licking the spoon. Husband normally has the honour of licking the bowl, but as the ever-dutiful dad he shared the batter with the kids. Mary Berry forgive me, but I used Betty Crocker vanilla icing as a cheat. 
Chocolate Cake (originally Mary Berry’s Iced Chocolate Traybake)
275g self-raising flour
225g golden caster sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder
4 large eggs
4 tbsp whole milk
225g salted butter
4 tbsp hot water
2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 160C fan-assisted (180C). Mix ingredients, adding baking powder last. This is not essential as I started to bake the cake and realised that I had forgotten the cocoa powder. Whoops. I emptied the batter and mixed in the butter and started again. It was fine. I baked it for 40 minutes in a 10-inch cake pan. 
Sponge Cake (Basic All-in-one Sponge Traybake)
225g caster sugar
225g salted butter
275g self-raising flour
4 large eggs
4 tbsp whole milk
2 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 160C fan-assisted (180C). I baked it for 35 minutes in a 6-inch cake pan.
After both cakes were completely cooled, I iced them, put the smaller one on the bigger one and put them in the fridge to set for an hour. I then iced the cakes further and decorated them. Easy peasy Frozeneezy.


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Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips


I used to make Banana cake quite often when it was just the three of us. But my son, who is now 21-months old, loves bananas so we rarely have over-ripe bananas languishing in the fruit bowl. I haven’t baked banana bread in ages and I had a bit of a craving yesterday so I decided to use some just-ripe bananas.
A few months ago I found a recipe on the Guardian website for ‘How to Cook Perfect Banana Bread‘. I love The Guardian’s ‘How to cook the perfect…’ series (I can also vouch for their ‘perfect’ chocolate chip cookies). I have adapted the recipe a smidge as I used all my walnuts making Walnut Sandies two weeks ago. I substituted the walnuts for pieces of cooking chocolate. I also halved the recipe to make a one-pound loaf rather than the normal two. If I make the full amount, everyone gets a serving but I eat five servings on my own tonight. A one-pound loaf means the kids have pudding tonight plus I get a serving tonight and one for tomorrow. Husband doesn’t like banana bread (weirdo) so he won’t have any.

Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips
175g ripe bananas
90g plain flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
80g soft, light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp melted butter
45g of plain or dark chocolate (chips or pieces)

Preheat oven to 155C Fan-assisted or 170C Electric. Mash the bananas. Mix all the ingredients together, adding the salt and baking powder almost-to-last. I just use a spoon to mix it all up. I add the chocolate at the very end (if it’s mixed in too much it will sink to the bottom of the cake). I popped the mixture into a loaf tin, with a liner (so I don’t have to worry about greasing the tin). Bake the loaf for 35-40 minutes, depending on your oven. Then banana cake yumminess.


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The Reading Residence

Pecan Sandies

I love pecan sandies. But I hadn’t seen/tasted any since moving to the UK in 2002. So I did a little research on the interweb and found a couple of recipes which seemed good. I made the dough and kept it in the fridge for a few days (I normally refrigerate cookie dough for at least 24 hours before baking as you get a better consistency). You don’t have to bake all the dough at once. Dough normally keeps in the fridge for up to a month, so it is handy to have it in the fridge in case a friend pops in.

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I Scream for Ice Cream, at Harrods

Let me first explain that I am not fancy. We are not a fancy family. We are not posh. We don’t live a high-flying life. But yesterday we went to Harrods for a bit of shopping and a lot of ice cream. I can hear you say, ‘oooh, get you’. 


Husband often receives a few gifts from clients at Christmastime, but he usually gets booze. This year he also received a gift card to HarrodsSo we took the kids and let them explore the toy floor. Besides loads of toys, they have giant stuffed animals and cool Lego statues. Moozles got to pick out one toy (a Princess walkie-talkie). 

Then we went to the Ice Cream Parlour. It was such a treat. We wouldn’t normally spend £30 on just ice cream. At Christmas and birthdays, I normally ask for practical (but fun) things for the kids. Next time I’ll ask for a gift certificate for a fancy department store and we can have a day out. Or maybe someone will give us a big enough gift certificate that we can buy the £30k toy car that Dubz had his eye on (bottom pic). Oooh, get us.