Recipes that are delicious and that always work!

You know these recipes are delicious because if I didn't think that they were fabulous . . . I wouldn't be showing them to you. You can also be sure that these recipes work for the same reason! The rest is simply a matter of taste.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Brown Batter Bread

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When I was growing up in Canada, weekends  would often bring Baked Bean Suppers. These would be held at Church Halls, Volunteer Fire Dept Halls and Community Centers all through the beautiful Annapolis Valley where I lived. There were not too many people who could resist the temptation of a Baked Bean Supper, cooked by all the best cooks in the community.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Blueberry Cake with a Brown Sugar Sauce

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Do you know how much I love blueberries?   If you've been reading my blog for any time at all now, you will know it is an awful lot.   We have our own bushes in the garden . . .  a good half dozen now, and they are great producers . . .  but of course they aren't producing this time of year.  I do have quite a few frozen however, which is never a bad thing!  ☺

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Coconut Caramel Slices

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Do you love coconut as much as I do?   Buttery coconut cakes?   Macaroons?   Do you love Caramel?  As much as I do?  If you do then this is YOUR bake.  You really must bake these delicious squares.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Rhubarb Clafoutis

Well, folks, what with having an early spring and such a lovely March, quite a bit of the rhubarb in our garden is ready to begin harvesting now. Not bundles and bundles of it, but enough for me to indulge in a few rhubarb treats.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Pot Roasted Pork Loin with Leeks

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If you are looking for something a little bit special for the weekend, or maybe even for Easter (albeit not a traditional Easter Roast) look no further.  This Pot Roasted Pork Loin will fit the bill perfectly.   Simple enough that just about anyone will be able to easily throw it together, and yet at the same time special enough that people will think you put a whole lot of effort into it.  Nobody would guess that you hadn't spent all day in kitchen!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Put some fruit and sunshine into your life with Florida Grapefruits!

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I have a confession to make.  I love Grapefruit.  No . . .  I ADORE Grapefruit!  Especially pink grapefruit.  I love tinned grapefruit and grapefruit juice . . .  but most of all I love fresh grapefruit.   When I was a girl, it was considered very classy to serve broiled grapefruits with a cherry on top.   The very height of sophistication!  (Double confession . . .  I still like it done this way!)

Did you know that 79% of women in the UK blame rain and cold weather for making them feel unproductive?   It doesn't help that only 39% of these women eat their daily allowance of fruit in the winter!   I know it's officially Spring now, but that doesn't mean that eating fruit, and especially Florida Grapefruits!  Yum!

Maple Baked Butterbeans

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I can remember visiting a Great Aunt when I was a girl with my family and she served baked beans for dinner one night while we were there.   I can still remember the wonderful smell wafting throughout her kitchen for most of the day and the anticipation of what was to come . . .  and the disappointment when my plate was set in front of me.   These weren't baked beans like my  mother made.  My mother always used the small white haricots beans for baking . . .  and my Great Aunt had used Jacob's Cattle Beans.  As soon as my brother, sister and I saw them we made up our minds that we weren't going to like them.  You know what kids are like . . . I am sure my mother was terribly embarassed.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Vanilla Table . . . Two Tone Chocolate Malt Cake

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I was recently sent the most exquisite cookery book for review.  Entitled Vanilla Table, and written by Natasha MacAller, it is a culinary celebration of all things vanilla.  Containing 100 recipes it boasts contributions from some of the elite of International Award Winning Chefs . . .  including the UK's Yotam Ottolenghi, Peter Gordon, William Curley and Galton Blackiston!

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You would think that a book based solely on vanilla flavours would be somewhat limiting, but with a forward written by Peter Gordon, Natasha MacAller and her friends have  proved that Vanilla is indeed a very versatile ingredient in no less than 9 different chapters covering everything from soup to nuts.

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Vanilla is an essential ingredient in my kitchen.   I have beans, paste and extract which I use on a regular basis for my baking and desserts.  I find it is very easy to use, it gives everything a lift and my cakes always taste and smell delicious.    I have also used it in savory dishes . . .  my Pot Roasted Chicken with Raspberry Cider is just one example of how I have done this, but it has been really nice to see just how far you really can go with it via the wide variety of recipes contained in this book.

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The photography, by Manja Wachsmuth is just beautiful, and you will find that most of the recipes are accompanied with a very tempting photograph.  I love cookery books with photos.  It's nice to be able to envision what the finished dish should look like.

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I was particularly intrigued with the Vanilla Pantry Chapter which shows you how to make your own Vanilla Sugars, Salts, Extracts, Syrups, Oils, etc.  I will be making more than a few of these for sure.

Another bonus is that all of the recipes are presented in North American, Metric and Avoirdupois measures, which means that this book can be used with ease just about anywhere in the world.   This is a real bonus.  There is also a really good source list at the back of the book.

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I would stress however that this is not a book which a beginning cook would be able to use with ease.  Many of the recipes are what I would consider of a quality restaurant calibre . . .  ie. "Cheffy Recipes," but . . . on the plus side,  each recipe is well laid out with a paragraph about the story behind the recipe, a table showing the ingredients as well as clear and concise instructions. The photography truly is  outstanding and quite helpful in creating an understanding of  how the dish should look as well as tempting your taste buds.

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NATASHA MACALLER is known worldwide as the “Dancing Chef”. A former professional ballerina, after thirty years of performing with companies such as New York’s Joffrey Ballet, the Boston Ballet and on the stages of Broadway, she decided to move on to what she considered another performing art: cookery. She used her seasonal layoffs from ballet to become a professional cook and eventually set up her own catering business, Dancing Chef Catering, which served TV, theatre, film and food industry folks. In 1996, after graduating number one in her class from The Colorado Culinary Institute, Natasha went from strength to strength, and she now holds her own culinary classes and has become an international chef consultant.

I normally like to share a recipe from the book I am reviewing with my readers and the one I have chosen to share with you from this book is a delicious cake.  Two Tone Chocolate Malt Cake.  I chose this one because it is a recipe I think most of you could make.  The buttercream is a tad bit fiddly, but quite do-able and the cake itself is very straightforward.   It's also quite beautiful.

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*Two-Tone Chocolate Malt Cake*
Makes one double layer cake

A delicious double layer chocolate cake flavoured with malt powder and sporting a delicious white chocolate buttercream icing. 

For the cake:
400g of plain flour (3 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
225g of white sugar (1 1/4 cups)
475ml filtered water (2 cups)
60g unsweetened cocoa powder (2/3 cup)
70g chocolate malt powder (eg Ovaltine, Milo or Horlicks, 1/2 cup)
150ml vegetable oil (1/2 cup plus 2 TBS)
1 TBS pure vanilla extract
2 TBS white balsamic vinear or strained lemon juice 

For the Buttercream:
170g white chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled (1 1/3 cup)
(Use a good quality white chocolate that's not overly sweet such as Lindt, El Rey, E. Guittard or Valhrona)
225g of white suar (1 1/4 cup)
4 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
225g of unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes (1 cup) 

To assemble:
150g of chocolate covered malt balls (1 1/2 cups) 

Preheat the oven to 160*C/325*F/gas mark 3.   Butter two 9 inch cake tins.  Press 2 circles of baking paper inside each pan, then turn over so that the buttered side of paper is up.   Dust lightly with cocoa powder.  Set aside. 

Sift together the flour, soda, salt and sugar.  In a small saucepan, heat the water to a simmer.  Whisk in the cocoa powder and chocolate malt powder until smooth.   Set aside to cool.   

Whisk together the oil, vanilla and vinegar in a bowl.   Whisk the cocoa mixture into this until smooth.   Add to the dry imxture, stirring until smooth.  Divide evenly into cake tins.  Tap sides of pans against the edge of the counter, or drop from waist height onto a towel covered counter to pop air bubbles.  Swirl a skewer through the batter to pop any remaining bubbles.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Tip out onto a wire rack to cool completely before proceeding. 

To make the buttercream, place the sugar in a clean, heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add just enough water to create a "wet sand" consistency.  Bring to a simmer and simultaneously begin whipping the egg whites in a stand mixer with the whip attachment or with a hand held mixer on low speed.  When whites froth, sprinkle in cream of tartar and whip to just soft peaks.  Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches the soft ball stage. (118*-120*C/235*-240*F.) 

Slowly stream sugar syrup into whites, pouring down inside of the bowl, to avoid beaters, while whipping on low speed.  Turn to high and whip until white and glossy, and the outside of the bowl when touched is lukewarm, not hot.   When it is, turn to low and add cubes of butter a little bit at a time, alternating with the melted white chocolate.  When butter and chocolate are in, turn the speed back to high.   It may look like it is separating, but keep whipping and it will come back. 

Place one cooled cake layer in the centre of a cake plate.  Spread a layer of buttercream on top all the way to edges.  Place the second cake layer on top, then frost top and sides with the remaining buttercream.  Cut malt balls into random shapes.  Just before slicing, take one handful of malt balls at a time and press into the sides of the cake until completely covered.  Cut into wedges to serve.

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 A sampling of some of the recipes in the book which caught my eye and that I want to try:

Starters: Shaved Fennel and KeriKeri Orange Salad, Caramelised Orange Salad, Pate au Poulet with Tipsy Cherries and Heirloom Tomato Bisque.

Main Plates: Slow Roasted Oxtail Pot Pies, Vanilla Lacquer Duck Leg, Seared Scallops with Vanilla Parsnip Puree, Chicken Stroganoff with Chanterelles and Vanilla.

Blue Plates and Brunch Plates: Coronation Chicken on Squashy Poppyseed Buns, Crunchy Cornflake Fried Chicken and Apricot, Almond and Vanilla Clafoutis.

Sharing Plates:  Island Crab cakes with vanilla-grapefruit remoulade,  The Tonga Trifle, Devilish Eggs with vanilla candied bacon and Saturn Peach, Onion and Blue Cheese Pie.

Dessert Plates: Vanilla Spiced Pineapple Roast, Quince Tarte Tatin, Raspberry Meringue Martinis, Creamy Butterscotch Pudding with Tash's English Toffee and The Anna Pavlova.

Cake Plates: Pure Vanilla Layer Cake, Caramelised Pineapple Carrot Cake, Two-Tone Chocolate Malt Cake and Bittersweet Chocolate Torte.

The Cookie Plate: Chocolate Sticky Bits, Espresso Brownie Bites, Gold Ingots, Cranberry Tweed Cardigans and Black Pepper Chai Truffles.

Bevvies and Bar Snacks: Toasty Coconut Chips and Nuts, Vanilla Passion Martini, Pink Ginger Zinger, Carrot Vanilla Gougeres.

Vanilla Pantry: Vanilla Sugar, Vanilla Salt Flakes, Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Aioli, Raspberry Vanilla Vinegar and Scooter Pastry Cases/Pie Shells.

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Personally I think it is a beautiful book.   Well written and laid out.  Beautiful photos.   Well written recipes.  Easy to follow for the confident cook.

Vanilla Table, the essence of exquisite cooking from the world's best chefs
by Nasasha MacAller
Photography by  Manja Wachsmuth
Published by Jacqui Small LLP
ISBN 978-1-909342-86-6
£25.00 UK/ $40.00 US/ $43.99 CAN

*Special Reader offer 
To order Vanilla Table at the discounted price of £20 including p&p* (RRP: £25), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG301.
*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.
Vanilla Table officially releases on 19th March

Many thanks to Jacqui Small for sending me a complimentary copy for review.  Any and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Mile High Buttermilk Biscuits

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I am a lover of quick breads  . . .  scones, tea loaves, baking powder biscuits, muffins, corn bread, etc.  I just love them.  One of the reasons I love them is because they are quick to put together and they freeze really well.   If you are making a pot of soup, it really isn't much extra work to put together a savoury muffin or quick bread to go along with it, and they realy turn a simple meal into something very special.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Sweet and Salty Easter Bark

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It's hard to believe that Easter is just two weeks away.   This year just seems to be evaporating.  I thought over these next few days I would share a few Easter Treats with you that your family will enjoy over the holidays.  First up is this delicious Easter Bark!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Elizabeth's Lemon Meringue Pie

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I had not baked a pie in a very long time.   It was different when I had a large family to feed . . . I often baked pies and tarts then, but with there only being two of us now, I don't often bake pies and tarts because I love them so very much and they are far too tempting for me.   I can't control my appetite when it comes to pie!  And my favourite pie of all has to be  . . . yep, you guessed it, Lemon Meringue!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Chocolate Sheet Cake

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This recipe has been floating around for years.   Chocolate Sheet Cake.  Texas Sheet Cake, etc.  Call it what you will, it is all the same cake.  Like they say, there is nothing new under the sun, just new ways of doing things.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Grains as Mains

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I was recently sent this cutting edge cookery book on grains to review.  Entitled Grains as Mains and written by Laura Agar Wilson, it  features a comprehensive collection of modern recipes using ancient grains.

Ancient grains first cooked thousands of years ago are now back in vogue, as more and more people become more health conscious and actively seek out food that is nourishing as well as being delicious.

Tropical Grilled Chicken with a Pineapple Salsa

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I was really wanting something light today.   We eat chicken a lot in our house. We only ever very rarely have another form of protein.   Pork or beef are a rare treat.  Eating chicken as often as we do, it can be somewhat of a challenge to keep it interesting.  Chicken breasts are so very adaptable and mild in flavour.  They make a pretty decent canvas for other flavours.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Monique's Cake

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I like to think that one of the most wonderful things about blogging is the fabulous people you meet via this medium.   Like minded people . . .  good people . . . invisible friends.  One of my favourite fabulous blogger invisible like minded friends is Monique from La Table De Nana.   I think we have belonged to a mutual admiration society for at least five or six years now.  You know how it goes . . .  you follow a link, to a link, to a link . . .  and before you know it you have discovered something very special and hearts and souls touch and it is as if you have always known these people.  You become kindred spirit friends and you share things like e-mails, and snail mails, and . . .  little pretties . . .  and sometimes cakes.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Seasoned Rice Pilaf

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Rice wasn't something we ate a lot of when I was growing up.  My brother wouldn't eat it at all, my mother didn't like it either and when she did cook it, it was always minute rice, which is a sort of instant rice product they have in North America.  Not exactly nutritionally sound    . . . but we did not know that then.  She always made it taste good when she did make it.  She would chop up celery and onion and add some herbs . . .  usually oregano.  That was her favourite add in . . .

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Wholemeal Wreath Loaf

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I was recently sent a lovely Hamper from the people at Baking Mad and challenged to bake myself a loaf of bread!  I have a real fear of baking with yeast.  Most of the time (even when I use the bread machine) my bread turns out lousy!  I kid you not!  My ex husband was a beautiful bread baker.  He baked all of our bread when he was home.  It was lovely.   Me . . .  I have always only ever made great door stops.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Leona's Lazy Chicken

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I've been very lucky in my life to have been inspired and taught by remarkable women and cooks.   One of them was my good friend Leona.  I was in my mid twenties when we met and Leona was probably a good 16 years or so older than myself.   She was and is a remarkably great home cook and this is one of her recipes which she shared with me all those years ago.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Chocolate Marble Cake

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I am somewhat ashamed to say that there were not a lot of homemade . . .  made from scratch . . .  cakes that didn't come from a mix in my life prior to coming over here to the UK.   I did some psuedo homemade cakes . . .  you know the kind I mean.  You use a cake mix and a few other ingredients to make a type of cake . . .  but there's not really any science or skill involved in that is there.  I did make my mom's hot milk cake from time to time and the odd gumdrop cake, and maybe a fruit cake now and again, but mostly . . .  my cakes came from a mix.  They were quick, easy, convenient and didn't taste all that bad.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Some tasty cakes for Mother's Day

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This Sunday is Mother's Day Mothering Sunday here in the UK.  I'm not sure why they choose to have it a couple of months earlier than they have it everywhere else, but I am sure there is a good reason for it.  In any case I have a lovely variety of beautiful baked goodies to show you today from the people at Dr Oetker, guaranteed to make any mom happy.  I know I would be thrilled to pieces if one of my babies showed up with one of these!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Scalloped Macaroni

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Today I tortured my pasta hating husband with some comfort food from my childhood, which rang all my bells, but left him feeling rather off key! haha He says he hates pasta, but he always eats it when I make it. I think it's because he knows it's cheap . . . and that part of him that grew up during the War and during rationing, likes a good bargain!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

A Saint Patrick Day's Feast!

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In just a few days time people the world over will be donning the green and celebrating St. Patrick's Day 2015!  I was recently challenged by Ocado's Irish Shop to create a three course meal, suitable for four people to help celebrate this special day!   As you know I love nothing more than a challenge!  This is always fun for me and something which I really enjoy, so without further adieu, here I go.

Here is my St. Patrick's Day Celebratory meal for 2015.  I do hope that you will enjoy it and be inspired to do one of your own!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Mac and Cheese Dogs

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I think two of my favourite things have to be macaroni and cheese and hot dogs . . . (don't judge me!).  Put the two together and I am in heaven.  And by that I don't mean slicing some hot dogs into a casserole of mac an cheese . . .  I mean topping a hot dog with mac and cheese!  Yes, I am a big kid at heart!!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Fiery Chicken Tenders with a Blue Cheese Dip

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One of my favourite things to eat is . . . Buffalo Chicken Wings . . . scrummy yeh . . . but not so good for you with all of that skin and fat . . . that's probably why they taste so good. Why does everything that's bad for you have to taste soooo good???? It's not fair I tell ya! It's just not fair!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Peanut Butter Milk Cake

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I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I love Peanut Butter.  I use it a lot!  That's why I was so excited when my February Degustabox arrived.   I think this one was my all time favourite box and not the least because it contained not one, but two delicious peanut butter goodies, not to mention a couple of my second favourite flavour things . . .  chocolate!  I was able to create a really delicious peanut butter cake using one of the products, but more about that a bit later.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Four Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies . . . perfect for Gluttons like me

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I got this recipe from my friend Laurie a few years back.  She's a real sweetheart.  A Canadian just like me.  She also used to work as a chef, so you know it's got to be good.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Plum Fudge Puddings

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I had some lovely plums that I picked up in the grocery store the other day. It's not often you get nice ones this time of year. We had our fill eating them raw and then I decided to make a pudding with them.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

TGI Friday's and Mothering Sunday . . . Restaurant Review

I was recently sent some vouchers to try out the Menu at TGI Fridays.  We have one very close to us in Ellesmere Port so I was really excited to go and check it out.   We don't eat out a lot in this house because I am usually disappointed.

First off I have to say that it was really difficult for us to find.  That could be because we are old and not that great at finding places.   We had such a hard time finding it that we almost gave up and came home.  It was when we were in the process of turning around and coming home that we stumbled onto it.  So we were really happy because we were starving by then!  It was advertised as being in the Cheshire Oaks Super Mall Area, but in reality it was across the road, and tucked in next to a KFC.  I think it could benefit from a much larger sign!

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Once we found the place and got inside, we were both impressed with the decor and spaciousness of it.  Because we had gone in the early afternoon, and on a week day, it was busy enough, but it wasn't overly busy, which was good.  I have heard that it gets really busy at the weekends.

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The music was not too loud and quite fun to listen to.  I liked that it was not so loud that we couldn't hear each other speak. With a choice of either booths or tables, I can see where it would be quite family friendly also, which is a great thing to bear in mind with Mothering Sunday coming up here in the UK very soon now!

The staff were friendly and very welcoming.  Bonus.

They do have a special offer menu - available from Monday to Friday - you can eat two courses for £10.99 or £15.99 (two menus to choose from, selected restaurants only, check availability at your local restaurant on line) which can offer significant savings compared to the main menu.

The main menu was filled with ample choices and it took Todd and I quite a while to make up our minds.  We opted to eat from the main menu because there was only two of us, but I can see where the special offer menu would be very family friendly.

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For starters Todd chose to have Jack Daniels Cajun Battered Shrimp which was £4.99.  For that price  he got six jumbo battered shrimps on a bed of lettuce, served with a lemon wedge and their signature  Jack Daniel's Smoky Glaze for dipping.

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Here he is enjoying it.  He thought it was quite delicious.  He loved the glaze.  We hardly ever have starters when we eat out so this was a real treat for him. The shrimp was crisp, well cooked and a nice size and the glaze went very well.

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I had the boneless Chicken Wings, priced also at £4.99.  Crispy coated chicken breast chunks tossed in Franks Hot sauce and served with blue cheese for dipping.   These were delicious, but they were hot!  Oh baby, was I ever grateful for their bottomless soft drink service!  Yep, free refills on soft drinks and I needed a refill after these.   They were fabulous, but very very hot.

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I tried really hard to talk Todd around to ordering something different for his main meal, but he was really set on having a steak.  He chose the 12 ounce rib eye, choosing to have a wild mushroom sauce with his, mixed vegetables and cheesy mash. (£17.49).  Over all he was quite pleased with his steak. It was done exactly how he wanted it.  It was HUGE.  He couldn't eat it all.

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I ordered the 7 ounce Fillet Steak, served with wild mushroom sauce, crispy fries and a house salad with blue cheese dressing (£19.49)

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I thought the presentation was a bit lacking.  When you spend almost £20 on a steak dinner, a bit of garnish would be a nice addition, but overall the steak was done exactly as I wanted it (rare) and the salad was huge.  I was stuffed when I was only halfway through the steak.

Needless to say neither one of us had any room for any pudding, but apparently they do  great puddings or so I hear.

We took our leftover steak home for Mitzie to enjoy.  She is one pampered pooch for sure.  She really enjoyed it.

This would be a great place to take your mum on Mother's Day, although I would book in advance if possible as I am sure that with food and service this good, it will be a hopping place on the day!

What I liked:
A wide menu with something to pretty much suit every taste, as well as a wide selection
on their special offer menu.
A children's menu for kiddies under ten.
Free refills on soft drinks.
Our steaks were cooked to perfection.  (This is a real bonus with me as it only ever
rarely happens.  Most times my steak ends up overdone.)
Pleasant serving staff.
Clean and well laid out.
Music at the right tempo and volume for an enjoyable dining experience.

It was difficult to find.
The entrees could have benefited looks-wise with some garnish.   (I am being really picky here.)

Really.  I could not fault it.  This was our first time eating at TGI Friday's. We both really enjoyed our experience and we would go again.  I would love, LOVE to try the ribs.  They looked fabulous.

Disclaimer:  I was given £50 in vouchers to use towards our meal.  Irregardless of this any and all opinions are my own.

Buttery Cinnamon Bun Cake

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I have to confess . . .  I am somewhat of a cinnamon bun nut.  I do love cinnamon anything . . .  just the smell of cinnamon anything baking gets my taste buds to tingling.  It should come as no surprise that I have an abundance of cinnamon related recipes!  Most are quick and easy to make because . . .  another confession . . .  I am not a very patient person and the idea of waiting hours and hours for doughs to rise and what not just pains me.  So all of my cinnamon indulgences are almost instantaneous gratification!  And that's how I like it.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Deep Dish Salmon Pie

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Tinned salmon is something which I have in the cupboard all the time.  If you always keep a few things in the larder, like tinned salmon and tuna,  you always have the makings of a tasty meal.  Be it sandwiches for lunch, or a delicious casserole for supper.   Tinned fish always comes in really handy.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A tasty Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Loaf

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I make no secret of my great love of Peanut Butter.  It is quite simply one of my favourite things.  It is one thing I could not live without and I confess I have at least a tiny bit of it every day.  True confessions here.  Even if it is only a cracker with a bit of it spread on top.