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Top 10 Valentine’s Day Gifts For Foodies

I’ve always been a sucker for holidays of any kind. The shops are filled with cute limited edition holiday themed sweets and gift ideas. No sooner are we over one holiday before another limited edition themed product range hits the store shelves.

Some people may find this overkill, and at times I do too (ie: seeing the Easter candy being put out on display on Christmas Eve!), but it gives me something to look forward to.

I’ve noticed that the Valentine’s Day range of products has been slow to hit store shelves this year. They’ve been trumped by the Easter range which is still 3 months away. And perhaps it’s because other holidays have a wider appeal, but the selection of Valentine’s products never equals that of the other holidays (aside from St. Patricks Day – except maybe in the States where it’s hugely popular). Over the past week or so I’ve really started to see some neat Valentine’s Day products emerge, especially in the food / baking department.

I’ve found a few new products that I really love, as well as a few favourites that have been seasonally rebranded. So without further adew, I give you my top 10 Valentine’s Day gifts for foodies. Feel free to share these with your significant other, you know – just in case they need a little help.

Top 10 Valentine’s Day Gifts For Foodies

1.  Limited Edition Le Creuset Cast Iron Casserole Dish – What more can I say?  I seriously LOVE this dish!   Available exclusively online at Le Creuset  UK, this “chiffon pink” casserole dish is limited to only 100 pieces, and retails for £145.

2.  Peggy Porschen Valentine’s Day Cupcake Gift Box – An assortment of my two favourite cupcakes, the Strawberry & Champagne, and Chocolate Heaven cupcakes are decorated with hand made sugar roses and mini heart biscuits.  £30 for six cupcakes.  You can also add on a bottle of Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rose Champagne if you wish. Available for pick up and delivery from Peggy Porschen.

3.  Charbonnel et Walker Truffle Kisses – How cute are these!  Perfect little pink lips flavoured with Marc De Champagne and Raspberry.  So much better than a Hershey’s Kiss!  Available from John Lewis for £15.

4.  Pink Tuscan Cake Stand – An absolutely gorgeous pale milky pink 9 inch cake stand.   Other colours and sizes available. £65 from Liberty.

5.  Heart Ravioli Pasta Cutter – Instead of going out, cook your other half a romantic dinner to remember with this ultra cute ravioli cutter.  I first spotted this in Carluccio’s a year or so ago, and I’m glad to see they still have it.  £4.95

6.  Mason Cash Hearts Mixing Bowl – You can never have enough mixing bowls.  Seriously.  This would also make a great popcorn bowl if you feel like watching a movie after dinner. It’s the perfect size for sharing.  £13.99 from Dunelm.

7.  Laduree Macarons – Laduree has the best macarons, as well as the most stunning gift boxes.  They’ve always got seasonal flavours – this month it’s a limited edition Nina Ricci Macaron covered in gold leaf that’s filled with a raspberry jam, and a hint of lemon juice and rose essence.  Ah-maze-ing!  Assorted flavours, boxes and sizes available from the four London Laduree locations.

8.  Light My Fire Matchstick Biscuits – These are just so cute and unique.  Perfect if you’re not into heats and pink!  Available from Not On The High Street for £10, although I’m pretty sure you could make your own with minimal effort.

9.  Emma Bridgewater Heart Mug – I’m not a massive fan of Emma Bridgewater, but I do love her heart pattern collection.  These mugs are so classic, and beautifully British.  You can also order a personalised version for £18 from the Emma Bridgewater website.  I have one, and it’s great. No one can steal your mug at the office!

10.  “I Love You A Latte” Coffee Stencil – These are actually personalised coffee stencils that you can customise to say whatever you want, but there’s a great selection of pre-made ones suitable for Valentine’s day. Really great fun for a Valentine’s Day breakfast in bed. £12.50 from Not On The High Street.

* My Top 10 Picks were independently chosen by me without any compensation or influence from the manufacturers.

A Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party

 A very hungry caterpillar dessert table

When you’re a kid the day of your birthday party is pretty much the most important day of the year (ok, maybe aside from Christmas, and Halloween).  There’s always such a build up of anticipation leading up to the big day.   What presents will you get?  What will your birthday cake look like?  And worst of all, what if you’re friends forget to come?

My favourite thing to do in the days leading up to my birthday party was going to the cake decorating store with my mom to pick out a Wilton character cake pan.  There were dozens of pans to choose from, and they lined the walls of the shop.  I’d stare at the walls for ages choosing my pan, carefully studying the designs over and over.  I’d choose a different pan each year, and over the course of my childhood I had cakes that ranged from disney characters, to dinosaurs, to a big orange Garfield.  
 
The pans would come with a full sized colour decorating guide that my mom would carefully follow, ensuring that the final cake looked equally as perfect as the one in the guide.  When it came time to make the icing I’d sit in the kitchen while she’d whip up a big batch of buttercream.  Mom would hand me a beater to lick while she divided the icing into tupperware bowls so she could mix up all of the individual colours that were required for the cake. 
 
The decorating technique for these cakes was simple but effective, and consisted of piping hundreds of little stars in various colours all over the cake.  Thinking about it now, this technique is actually quite similar to following a cross stitch pattern. Nothing could beat the taste of those birthday cakes, with their crusted buttercream icing and a scoop of ice cream on the side.
 
Even after all the years that have past since my childhood birthday parties a level of excitement still remains whenever a birthday cake is brought out and presented to everyone at a party – no matter what their age.    

A very hungry caterpillar cake

And it’s that level of excitement that I love to re-create when I decorate cakes for other people – especially my little boy.  He turned two this year, and although he’s not quite old enough to choose the design for his cake, I was pretty sure a Very Hungry Caterpillar cake would make him a very happy boy indeed.  And a Very Hungry Caterpillar themed dessert table would make me even happier!  Instead of only featuring a variety of shades of green, I also opted for a rainbow theme to tie all my desserts  together.  

A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
The decorations were just as fun to put together as the desserts were.  I made good use of my elementary school craft skills by making an ombre green tissue paper “2”, and accordion fan circles which I turned into a Very Hungry Caterpillar.  I also made some little menu cards to label all of the yummy desserts which included:

– Rainbow Birthday Cake with a Very Hungry Caterpillar on top
– Chocolate Cupcakes with matching fruit and leaves from the book
– Vanilla Cupcakes
– Rainbow Jello
– “Caterpillar Food” aka mixed fruit candy
– Lemonade 

A very hungry caterpillar birthday party

One of my favourite little details were something I didn’t even make!  The folks over at DotComGiftShop were nice enough to send me some red and white paper straws, and some adorable little vintage style 1/2 pint milk bottles to display my drinks in.  The bottles were the perfect size for little hands to hold.

In the coming days I’ll be posting the recipes and tutorials for some of the desserts I made, but for now I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of the party. Enjoy! 

 12142797583_8c4f4bf605_c
 cake dessert table
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
 A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar birthday party
A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
 A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
A very hungry caterpillar dessert table
That’s the end of the party.  Time to clean up!
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Green Chocolate Chips for St. Patrick’s Day


Remember when I made my own homemade pink and red chocolate chips to use in these Valentine’s Day Chocolate Chip Cookies?  Well I didn’t just stop at pink and red chips.  I made a couple of shades of green as well.  I figured they’d come in handy for St. Patrick’s Day, so here they are!


Again, I used my coloured chocolate chips in my favourite triple chocolate chip cookie so the greens would really stand out in the dark chocolate cookie.  These still remain my favourite cookie, they’re so rich, gooey and chocolatey.  My husband who usually doesn’t eat much sweet stuff during the week ate five, yes FIVE (that’s 5!) of these in one night!  I had to give his hand a slap in order to stop him from eating the rest before I could photograph them!

I used a combination of my homemade green chocolate chips and store bought white chocolate chips for these cookies.  The dark green chips were made using the standard green Wilton Candy Melts.  To make the lime green chips I tinted some white candy melts with some Electric Green Americolor gel food colouring.


For the full set of instructions on how to make your own chocolate chips in any colour you’d like and for the triple chocolate chip cookie recipe, visit my original post here.  


White Chocolate Speculoos Rice Krispy Treats

 
A few days ago I found my self home alone.  Childless.  Husbandless.  All by my self.  And with no one to disturb me I decided to make the most of my time along by relaxing in a luxurious hour long bubble bath.  OK, OK I’m totally lying.  I did no such thing.  I actually found myself cleaning out the fridge and cupboards.  Not nearly as relaxing huh?  I was going through my cupboards when I came across a jar of leftover Speculoos from the Speculoos Swiss Roll I made a couple of months ago.  I also found a few half used boxes of cereal and some white chocolate(ish) bars by Silver Spoon which are very similar to candy melts but with a better consistency.  And since I’m trying to use up the contents of my cupboard at the moment, I figured what better way to do so than by combining everything to create some white chocolate Speculoos rice crispy treats.  
 
I guess you could say these are my take on the traditional “crispy cakes” that are so popular here in the UK.  Crispy cakes are basically just a mixture of cereal (usually cornflakes or rice krispies) along with melted chocolate, and sometimes marshmallows and/or raisins.  They’re virtually effortless, but oh so delicious. Essentially they’re idiot proof.  And they were probably one of my favourite homemade things that my co-workers would bring into the office to share with everyone. 
 
I’ll admit right now that I’ve never made crispy cakes before.  I don’t know why, but probably because they were just too simple – I’m aways trying to come up with new and exciting desserts, or attempting to re-create ones that I’ve found online or in recipe books.  

 
These are probably the simplest things I’ve ever made – aside from Jello.  Three ingredients. That’s it.  White chocolate flavoured cake covering (or candy melts), Speculoos (Biscoff Spread) and Rice Krispies.  Really, that’s it!
 
 
White Chocolate Speculoos Rice Krispy Treats
 
Ingredients: 
 
300g White Chocolate Cake Covering or Candy Melts
3/4 Cup Speculoos (Biscoff) Spread
4 Cups (120g) Rice Krispies cereal
 
Instructions:
 
1.  In a heat proof bowl or measuring cup, melt the white chocolate cake covering over a double boiler.
 
2.  Add in the Speculoos spread, and stir until fully incorporated with the melted white chocolate.
 
3.  Add the rice krispies and stir until they are fully mixed in with the speculoos white chocolate mixture.  Immediately spoon into small muffin cups, or spread in a flat layer over some foil or a silicone mat.  Allow to set for 10 minutes before serving.
 
I made a combination of the traditional “crispy cakes” in little cupcake cases, as well as some “bark” style treats.  After the flat bark style treats had set I just broke them into large pieces, but you could use cookie cutters to make fun shaped treats as well.
 
 
 

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Chip Cookies

In the UK it always seems like we’re a bit cheated when it comes to fun baking ingredients. Whenever I make a trip back to Canada or the US I always go a bit mad by chucking every type of chocolate chip, different flavoured Oreo cookie, and seasonal candy in my shopping cart so I can bring them all back to the UK to restock my baking shelf.  


I’ve brought some pretty cool chocolate chips back from my overseas travels including milk & white chocolate swirls, green mint chips, mini Reese’s Pieces, lemon chips, etc.  You get the picture…. they have LOTS to choose from.  But there’s one chocolate chip I’ve never been able to find – PINK ones!  And to be honest, I hadn’t even thought of pink chocolate chips until a couple of years ago when I noticed that one of the top search terms that people used to get to my blog was “pink chocolate chips”.  So it was really all of you guys who gave me the idea for my next project.  


After scouring the internet for a mainstream brand of pink chocolate chips, I couldn’t find anything.  The only thing I could think of even remotely similar were the coloured candy melts I had sitting on my shelf.  But they were far too big to be used as chocolate chips in a cookie. I had two options – chop them up into little pieces, or melt them and make my own pink chocolate chips.

Obviously I choose to make my own!  And it was so easy!  Not only did I make my own pink chocolate chips, but I also made red ones as well as a few other colours which will be revealed in a future post. 

Making your own chocolate chips is so easy!  Follow my directions below, and you’ll soon be able to make chocolate chip cookies with chips in every shade of the rainbow!  

How to Make Your Own Coloured Chocolate Chips

Materials:


Candy Melts
Disposable Piping Bag
Silicone Baking Mat
Food Colouring, optional

Directions: 

1. Start off by melting some candy melts in your colour of choice over a double boiler.  If you don’t have the exact colour you want, then you can use some white melts and tint them whatever colour you choose using a gel / paste / powder colouring.   (I tinted some of mine this way, and they turned out perfectly fine). 

2.  Snip off the tip of a disposable piping bag (make sure not to snip too much off, otherwise you’re chips will be too big).  Transfer the melted candy melts into your piping bag.  

3.  Hold your piping bag at a 90 degree angle, and gently pipe a dollop of the melted candy melt onto your silicone baking mat.  To make a perfect little coloured chip you’ll need keep your piping bag pointed straight down towards the mat, and keep the pressure even until a blob starts to form.  Then gently pull up, and make a little flicking motion at the end to create the little “drip” top.  Repeat until you’ve finished piping all your coloured chips. Allow the chips to set for at least half an hour before removing them from the silicone mat.  I found that the easiest way to remove all my chips form the mat was to slide an offset spatula under them.


I used a combination of the pink and red chips that I made myself, along with some leftover white & milk chocolate chips I had from a previous trip to the states to make some extra special cookies for my Valentine.  

I made his favourite double chocolate chip cookies, but switched up the regular chocolate chips for my pretty homemade Valentine’s day ones.  


Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies    

Ingredients:  

1 Cup (227g) Butter, softened  
1 1/2 Cups (337g) Sugar 
2 Eggs 
2 tsp Vanilla Extract 
2 Cups (250g) Flour 
2/3 Cup (65g) Cocoa Powder 
3/4 tsp Baking Soda 
1/4 tsp Salt 
1/2 Cup Pink Chocolate Chips 
1/2 Cup Red Chocolate Chips 
1/2 Cup White Chocolate Chips
1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips

Directions:  

1.  Pre-heat oven to 350ºF (175ºC).  Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, and set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.    

2.  Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until combined.  Add in all of the coloured and chocolate chips and stir until they’re combined throughout.  Drop the cookie dough by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.

3.  Bake for 8-10 minutes depending on your oven.  The cookies should still be slightly soft in the middle, but not liquidy or undercooked.   Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet for approximately 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  


These cookies have been, and likely always will be my favourite cookie.  I made this batch for my special Valentine who’s usually a health nut, but these are also his favourite cookie so he ended up eating 5 in one night!  They’re also the same cookie I used to make my Quadruple Chocolate Lindt Stuffed Cookies, which are even more decadent with the added chocolate pillow inside!