Author: Sinead

Homemade Hot chocolate & Chips Ahoy!

homemade-hot-choc

Do you ever make homemade hot chocolate? I don’t mean with cocoa powder (although I do love this too!); I’m talking about adding real chocolate pieces to warm milk. It’s so good! I don’t make it that often as it’s just a bit too rich and indulgent to be a regular thing but that means it makes for an even better treat.

As I mentioned (numerous times) on Twitter this week, I’ve not been very well lately. It’s nothing serious — just a really heavy cold — but it was enough to stop me from blogging for a few days. I’ve over the worst of it now and ready to make up for my recent lack of posts so I thought I should share one of my favourite pick-me-ups: this luxurious hot chocolate with marshmallows and cookies on the side!

chips-ahoy-cookies

When it comes to cookies, I don’t discriminate. Whether they’re homemade or shop-bought, I love them all! We’re trying Chips Ahoy Cookies for the first time this weekend. We chose the crispy choco caramel variety and they’re lovely and crumbly and moreish. There are 12 cookies in each 168g pack and I have a sneaking suspicion that we’ll tear through them in no time ;-).

homemade-hot-chocolate

To make the hot chocolate: simply heat the milk gently for five minutes and then thoroughly stir in your favourite whole chocolate.

I used 8 squares of milk chocolate for 450ml of milk which made enough for two teacups. If you don’t drink it all immediately, it will naturally separate so just give it a stir before reheating. Add some marshmallows lightly dusted with cocoa powder for a finishing touch and enjoy!

hot-choc-cookies

Spooky Sticks

The Sweetie Sticks that I made last year were so well received (one of my most popular posts, in fact) that I decided to give them a little makeover for this Halloween. With the same base of marshmallows and fresh fruit, these have enough of a twist to become Spooky Sticks!

hallow-mallows

They’re the perfect treat — easy to make, cute to look at and fun to eat! You just dye some jumbo white marshmallows and decorate them however you like; pop them on to skewers with some fruit and they’re done.

halloween-marshmallow-sticks

When you’re choosing what fruit to use; think about what will work overall. I briefly considered using chunks of caramel apple but soon realised that they could be a bit too sticky and sickly, especially paired with the marshmallows (which, let’s face it, are basically pure sugar in a fluffy package!). Grapes, on the other hand, always seem to be popular around Halloween; they’re juicy but not too sweet and they’re also the perfect size so they work incredibly well here.

dyeing-marshmallows

The first thing to do when you’re making these Spooky Sticks is to dye the marshmallows:

1. In a small bowl or cup, mix 4 tablespoons of water with around half a teaspoon of food colouring. If you’re planning on mixing colours; just experiment to see what works for you. I used half a teaspoon of blue and a quarter of a teaspoon of red to make purple.

2. Use a skewer to dip the marshmallows, one by one, in to the coloured water for 15-20 seconds a piece.

3. With each freshly coloured marshmallow, tap the skewer off the rim of the cup/bowl to shake off any excess water.

4. Leave the marshmallows to dry completely on a plastic sheet or board. Don’t worry if they look a bit blotchy at first, they always dry to a reasonably even finish.

dyed-marshmallows

Don’t forget to turn the marshmallows upside down to allow the base to dry too!

coloured-marshmallows

I originally wanted to use a black food gel pen to draw the faces on to the marshmallows but despite all my efforts, couldn’t find one in any of the five supermarkets I searched (although I swear, I’ve seen them there before!). In the end, I used melted chocolate since I was already working with that for the Frankensteins’ hair.

The hair part is easy; just a matter of quickly dunking the top of the marshmallow in to the chocolate. I used a skewer to draw on the eyes and mouth on each character which was — I have to say — fairly awkward! The features didn’t turn out perfect but I’m happy with them nonetheless. Having said that, if you have the choice of using a food gel pen; probably go with that as it would be easier. For an extra touch, I also used a red food gel pen to add a little blood around the vampires’ lips. Be sure to melt your chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water — it’s the best way to guarantee smooth results.

halloween-marshmallows

When the chocolate is completely set, you can start threading the marshmallows and grapes (or whatever fruit you choose) on to the skewers. I really hope that you try these out and enjoy them as much as I do. :-)

spooky-sticks

Rain and Artrave

Met Eireann have issued a weather warning for this weekend, predicting thundery showers and gale force winds. Chances are I’ll get caught in it but I’m really not too bothered because we’re off to the Lady Gaga concert in Dublin tonight! She’s one of those artists that I’ve always wanted to see live so I’m really excited to be finally going! What are your plans for the next couple of days? Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I hope you have a great weekend!

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My 5 Favourite Ways to Unwind

I’m so glad it’s almost the weekend! We had some stressful moments over the past few days which really made me think of how everyone has different things going on at any given time and how that can sometimes quickly get on top of us. I always think it’s so important to have time for yourself and we’ve made a few plans so I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead. While on the subject of relaxing, I thought it would be good to share my five favourite ways to unwind.

baking

Baking

Getting in to the kitchen; pulling out bowls and weighing scales and wooden spoons; mixing various ingredients and creating something delicious…so satisfying!

Music

I get on to Youtube on my phone, put in some earphones and just listen to a random mix of songs — pop is my favourite (hey, I never said I had cool taste in music!)

Cleaning

I was the messiest kid in the world and although I’m certainly no clean freak now; I love having a tidy home. It really stresses me out when the dishes are piling up, the laundry hasn’t been done or there’s just random clutter everywhere. It’s by no means one of favourite things to do (I’m not that crazy!) but giving my home a good scrub always makes me feel better.

Long hot showers

I think that’s just one of the best things in the world really! The rushing water and thick steam always clears my mind and it’s guaranteed to make me feel blissfully chilled out!

Quiet time

I consider myself very lucky to be living with my boyfriend. For around the first three years of our relationship, we lived far enough away from each other and there were times when we’d only get to meet up every couple of weeks. Now we get to hang out pretty much every day and I love it. One of my favourite things to do is for us to turn off the TV and put away the phones and just chat. Instead of being distracted by different screens, we can actually properly listen to each other and — even if it’s only for five minutes — it’s always worth doing.

The Halloween Tag

I absolutely love Halloween so I’m really excited that it’s that time of year again. I’ve decided to kick things off with a series of Halloween themed questions which I came on this blog. I tag anyone who wants to do it — if you post the answers on your own blog, be sure to leave a link below!

halloween-tag

1) What’s your favourite horror movie?

I can be squeamish so I’m really not a fan of the typical guts-and-gore horror movies. I love psychological thrillers though — they scare the hell out of me and I find them more satisfying that horrors. The likes of Misery with Kathy Bates…so good!

2) If you were in a horror movie, how far do you think you would get? (Five minutes, halfway, all the way to the end credits…?)

Hopefully ’til the end?! I’d like to think I wouldn’t be the one that runs up the stairs with nowhere to go….but then again, who knows?!

3) Favourite scary video game?

Pass — I don’t play video games.

4) Favourite scary story?

That urban legend of the woman who pulls in at a petrol station and becomes suspicious of the assistant’s attempts to get her to come with him. In the end, she drives off frantically before realising that he was just trying to warn her that there was a guy in her back seat…argh!

5) What’s one unusual thing that you’re afraid of?

Cauliflower…it just freaks me out! I think I had a dream where someone kidnapped me and used cauliflower to gag me…it probably doesn’t get weirder than that!

6) What’s your first memory of Halloween?

When I was in Junior Infants in school, we all had to dress up and the entire school had an assembly that day to showcase our outfits! I went as the Queen of Hearts — I had the most gorgeous burgundy gown and my mum made me a crown out of cardboard, tin foil and real jelly sweets for jewels!

7) What’s your favourite Halloween memory?

When we were kids and we’d go trick or treating; play apple bobbing; go down to the local bonfire…the good old days!

8) Best Halloween costume you’ve had?

Probably the Queen of Hearts?! But I also have to say that I love the Little Red Riding Hood outfit which I ordered online last year. With its little cape and puffy gingham skirt, I just think it’s so cute! I only wore it for five hours so I’m probably going to use it again this Halloween.

9) Worst Halloween costume you’ve had?

When I was little, I went as a witch almost every year — black dress and black pointy hat….not very imaginative!

WHICH IS SCARIER:

10) Werewolves or vampires?

Ooh…I don’t know! Probably neither — after the likes of Twilight and True Blood, I always think of werewolves and vampires as just being ridiculously good-looking creatures who don’t really want to hurt you…!

11) Ghosts or zombies?

Ghosts! You can’t hide from ghosts!

12) Creepy dolls or creepy clowns?

When I was a kid, I was more afraid of clowns that anything else. The first (and last) time I ever went to a circus, I ran out crying as soon as a clown appeared! Fortunately (!) I’ve grown out of that fear so I’m going to say creepy dolls are scarier now — especially the ones that look like they’re watching you!

13) Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers or Leatherface?

I always get these guys mixed up…whichever one appears in your dreams — I couldn’t cope with that!

Dulce de Leche Brownies

dulce-de-leche-brownies

Craving something sweet and indulgent over the weekend, I tried David Lebovitz’s recipe for Dulce de Leche Brownies. Dense and rich and intensely chocolatey like any good brownie should be; there was also the added bonus of thick caramel swirls in every piece. Believe me — they taste as incredible as they sound!

caramel-brownies

The recipe is so easy to follow and takes just about tens minutes to put together. The only thing I’d change is the baking time which is given as 35 to 45 minutes. I thought that might be a bit too long so I took my pan out after thirty minutes and even then, I was wishing I’d done that five minutes earlier! They could have been a bit gooier in the middle but they were still pretty amazing. I guess the lesson here is that all ovens vary and mine just seems to be particularly hot.

Lebovitz notes that these actually taste better on the second day and I can definitely vouch for that! Overnight, they become deliciously chewy and fudgy. Even on the third day, they’re just as good.

caramel-brownie

These are really the most decadent treat. I didn’t make many chocolate desserts during the hot summer that we just had so I think it’s time to start making up for that…and these are definitely a good way to go ;-).

brownie-crumbs

Laying Low

I can already tell it’s going to be one of those weekends where we’ll be laying low. I’m not sure why but I’m just feeling really tired and I’m craving a couple of cosy days at home.

Sleeping in, baking, pulling out the Halloween decorations, working on a few blog posts…I also got my hands on the latest Ross O’Carroll Kelly book (I love this series!) and I can’t wait to get in to it now. Throw in some tea, chocolate and fuzzy pyjamas and I probably won’t leave the house again ’til Monday morning!

book-and-chocolate

Have a great weekend :-)