Sunday, 5 August 2018

Rainbow Sprinkle Cake Bars


Readers

Remember when this blog used to be about baking… all the baking? As most of you know, I rebranded earlier this year, to focus more on travel, lifestyle and dining out, but when I can, I still try to do the odd recipe post. 

In Florida I did a trip to Walmart to buy up all the rainbow sprinkles because the ones in the UK are so much less jazzy. The American version may well have some seriously strong colouring but, for creating amazing cakes, they are so much better.  The colour doesn’t bleed during baking either. I wish I'd bought more, so if anyone is headed to Walmart... can you sort me out?

So today’s weekend bake is super simple, but looks great and can be made into cake bars great for parties or office Friday treats. And as a Glasgow food blogger, I'm always trying to put new food content on my blog! 
rainbow cake bars what claire did


There’s so much nostalgia around these bars… does anyone remember having them in school (usually square shaped) and the highlight of school lunches?  These are a bit more modern – snack bar format, rather than full on pudding but still a big nod to my youth!

Happy Baking guys and if you give this a go, let me know!

Rainbow Cake Bars

Ingredients (makes 10 bars)

150g self raising flour
30g plain flour
150g caster sugar
150g butter
3 medium eggs
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp rainbow sprinkles (add last)

Icing

200g icing sugar
Warm water to mix – add slowly
Few drops blue gel colouring
1.5 tsps rainbow sprinkles

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180c (fan).
  2. Grease a silicone 8in x 8in baking pan.
  3. Sieve both flours, add caster sugar, eggs and chopped butter to a large mixing bowl.  Whisk with an electric mixer to mix to a cake batter.  Add a little milk to loosen the batter and mix some more.  This is the all in one method… total time saver!
    all in one batter what claire did
  4. Add a tablespoon of rainbow sprinkles to the batter and gently fold in, don’t overmix.
    add in sprinkles what claire did
  5. Add the cake batter to the pan, spread evenly and bake for around 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the mix comes out clean.
    rainbow cake batter what claire did

  6. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
    rainbow cake what claire did


Icing

  1. Don’t start until cool!
  2. Add around 200g icing sugar to a bowl and slowly add in warm water, until a thick paste has formed.  Add a few drops of gel icing to the mix and combine.
  3. Spread the icing paste over the top of the cake and allow to set for a few moments.  Then, sprinkle more rainbow sprinkles over the top and allow to set before slicing.
    icing rainbow cake what claire did
  4. Top tip – for clean looking bars, take a sharp knife and slice off each edge, for a neater finish, before slicing into 10 rectangular bars.
    rainbow cake bars what claire did

Storage- Keep in an airtight container for a few days (if they last that long!)

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

From Monifieth to Malawi… The Wildlife Wonders I Saw

Readers, tonight’s blog is my entry to the Trips 100 / #AudleyBloggerChallenge where I’m writing about my amazing experience seeing wildlife in the natural habitat on the shores of Lake Malawi. Instead of my usual Glasgow food blog posts, I'm doing something different tonight!

Audley Travel are on the hunt for bloggers to share their adventures... and if you keep reading, you might be able to enter a competition yourself to win an African safari! 

For those of you reading this, Monifieth is a tiny village in the north east of Scotland… and well you probably know where Malawi is.

This post is a mission to convince you that it’s an AMAZING place to go. People often have visions of starving children, poverty (it can’t be denied, there is poverty, with NGOs trying to resolve this) but maybe, just maybe, we could use the powers of sustainable tourism to drive visitors to this wonderful, friendly country and learn there’s much much more than what’s shown on Oxfam adverts.

So queue my story.  I was 19.  Young, not really what you’d call “well travelled” (I’ve done my best to change that since) and was invited to go and do some volunteer work in a country called Malawi.  I’d heard of it, but had never even been out of Europe at that point.  There I was on a plane bound for Johannesburg.  Then on a tiny plane to southeast Africa.  
audley travel trips100 travel blogger challenge
Amazing views and landscapes in Malawi

The heat was dry and searing, people looked at me, stroked my skin (I’ve since learnt in the more rural parts, they’d never seen a white person) but something struck me.  Those huge smiles.  It didn’t matter there was a language barrier, we’d find a way to communicate.
audley travel trips100 travel blogger challenge
Traditional cooking in a Malawian mut hut


For 3 long weeks, I laid bricks, built walls (not my profession now, my skills were average at best). I taught English in schools and ran wild in the playground with the kids. It was emotionally exhausting, but totally rewarding and at the end of the trip, hopped on a minibus for a 4 hour ride to Lake Malawi.

For those who like facts, it was only discovered 150 years ago.  You’ll find fishing villages dotted on the shore, next to golden sands and beach resorts. We didn’t have time, but I’m told the crystal clear waters make for great snorkling, where you’ll see a vast array of fish swimming in their habitat.  But oh what you’ll see… watch for Nile Crocodiles!  There’s around 700 species of fish in the lake alone.  Plenty to spot on your adventures.
audley travel trips100 travel blogger challenge
The shores of Lake Malawi at 7am. Beautiful, peaceful and tranquil


For me, though, the best part of all, was taking a water safari along the Lake.  This wasn’t just to see the animals living in the lake… it was the banks of the lake where the magic happened.  Walking by us were herds of elephants.  The entire family on a slow walk by the river… tiny babies surrounded by grandparents, with years of wisdom and survival experience.
audley travel trips100 travel blogger challenge
Elephants and birds on the shores of Lake Malawi, from our boat

Looking closely, there were hippos baking in the midday sun, rolling around in the mud.  Doing as hippos do, one would assume. 

Those famously stripy zebras peeked out from the tall grasses as we sped past on our boat.
Birds swooped overhead, magnificent colours and sizes – just some of the 650 species you’ll find in the country.
audley travel trips100 travel blogger challenge
Cooling off in the waters of Lake Malawi


I was in awe… having never been somewhere so exotic, and seeing animals that only existed in the encyclopaedias and picture books of my youth, to be almost touching distance of an elephant, was without a doubt… breath taking.

***

Win an African safari with Audley Travel by sharing your best wildlife photograph or video on your social media channels. To enter write #AudleySafari and @AudleyTravel on your Instagram or Twitter post or share directly on the Audley Travel Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/audleytravel/. To find out more or enter via the website, visit www.audleytravel.com/social.  Entries must be posted between 20th August – 23rd September.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Spotlight on Aberdeen and the North East of Scotland


Readers, hello! It’s been a busy few weeks and I am absolutely full of the cold (run down probably) and feeling a bit sorry for myself at the moment.  I’ve made it from bed to the couch today, so you know, progress.  I’d planned on writing my spotlight on the north east post yesterday, but the head was so far in a bin, there was zero point in trying.  As most of you know my food and travel blog usually focuses on Glasgow, so I'm somewhere else!

Today I wanted to share with you a spotlight on the north east of Scotland – sometimes forgotten, mostly rainy, a lot of granite is the reputation up in Aberdeen, but when we rocked up on Wednesday night after a drive of several hours, we were greeted by sunshine, warmth and a gorgeous looking townhouse for our Air BnB.  Between 6 of us, it was £74 per couple, for 2 nights, which was an absolute steal for having our own space, big rooms and an area to chill in.   

For those of you wondering – we were up for a midweek wedding, so made a holiday of it, staying for a couple of nights to catch up with friends.

We started our Aberdonian adventure, with brunch at Foodstory on Thistle Street. Proof that social media marketing works – I’ve followed these guys for ages and always wanted to go, so when we discovered our accommodation was a mere 15 minute walk away, we made the effort to visit for brunch.  In short, it’s VERY hipster.  The menu is mostly veggie and vegan food (in fact it might all be). But 4 out of 5 of us had the superfood granola pancakes which were amazing.  Around £11 per person for an incredibly filling dish and a flat white was great value and the food was so filling.  I was defeated by the granola in the end and our 9.30am brunch filled us up right through to canapes at the wedding at 4pm.
superfood pancakes foodstory aberdeen what claire did

Feeling a bit worse for wear: “just really tired” after our celebrations at the McCaig wedding and being greeted by the all too familiar grey skies, we packed the car and made our way back to Glasgow late morning.  We pulled off at Stonehaven to visit a couple of old haunts we hadn’t been to for years… not far off 7 years.

Arriving in time for lunch, we visited Molly’s Café Bar (where we’d had a great Cullen Skink previously) which is a cozy beach café on Stonehaven’s promenade.  It was packed with locals and visitors and was a very reasonable £20 for lunch for two.  I tried their summer special raspberry iced tea… which was HUGE but delicious. I went for a light bite choice for lunch – sweet potato skins with cheese and bacon.  All to save space for my next stop off, two doors down.
lunch at mollys cafe bar stonehaven what claire did

If you’ve never been to Aunty Betty’s in Stonehaven… YOU MUST GO. Old school sweet shop, meets ice cream shop, meets Mr Whippy, with all the toppings you’d ever want on your cone.  The ice creams might seem a bit more expensive than your regular store, but all toppings are included in the price, so would absolutely encourage you to have every single topping you can with your cone.  You won’t be disappointed.
aunty bettys stonehaven ice cream what claire did

So there you have it folks, whether it’s a day trip or a short break you are on to Aberdeen, there’s plenty of great places to eat whether you’re headed up the coast, or back down again!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Ikea Hacks... Repainting Bathroom Cabinets & Bathroom Remodel On A Budget


Readers, I’ve got another DIY blog for you tonight. I’ve got a bit obessessed about painting wood. I did crates and blackboards for our wedding earlier this year, made a shoe rack recently – it got painted too – and now, I’ve just finished my biggest project yet.

3 years ago we moved into our tenement flat in Glasgow and whilst we’ve done some stuff like put in new windows, decorated from top to bottom, painted the beautiful old storm doors etc, that’s as far as it’s gone.  We always knew we’d never be here long enough to justify a Pinterest worthy kitchen or bathroom.  Our Ikea units have held up well (we think they are close to 10 years old now) and we chose our huge kitchen diner here over a tiny designer galley kitchen offering when we moved.  

The bathroom’s always been a bit of a sore point – even my non interior design mum called it “old fashioned"recently.  We’ve made the best of it – it’s got a toilet (essential), big double sink (actually quite nice) and a large, fairly powerful shower (for the win!) It’s just the décor around it, we’ve always found a bit, well, questionable.  There’s the “fossil” tiles, but less said about them the better.  Then the dingy, dark wooden cabinets, which just made the already narrow bathroom feel, well, like it was closing in on you.  The room gets so much natural light, so it was time to try and enhance it.

So instead of my usual Glasgow food blogger posts, today it's all about Glasgow lifestyle, diy hacks and room development!
ikea hack painting bathroom cabinets before
Before - dark, dingy and a bit tired looking


After spending weeks pouring over Pinterest, reading folks blogs and learning about the joys of painting Ikea furniture, I ordered my bits and tackled it with gusto.  And the result? For less than £200, I’ve fallen back in love with our tired old bathroom.

Was it easy?  Fairly.  Time consuming?  Most definitely. A few set backs on the way? Of course.  Does it look good?  I’m SO PROUD OF MYSELF.

Anyway, I’ve knocked up a quick guide for any first timers looking to paint their Ikea furniture or re-model a room on the cheap… Happy DIY’in guys!

Preparation

I can’t stress this enough. USE A GOOD PRIMER.  Make sure it’s oil, not water based, or it won’t stick. I can’t recommend B.I.N. Shellac Primer enough.  Even with chalk paint (which apparently goes onto all surfaces) I used this. Touch dry in 20 mins, re-coatable in 45, it was a saving grace when the paint went on.
Don’t skip this step.  Also, this primer is non sand, so you’ll save a bit of time there!
what claire did ikea hack bathroom remodel during priming
First coat of primer goes on. Also - note the glass door and glass drawer that no longer exist


Choose a fresh colour

Our bathroom was just a bit beige and brown before.   With the help of a bit of a light colour on the wood, it’s transformed the space.  When the sun shines in the window, it’s beautiful and airy now.   For those wondering, I used Rustoleum Laurel Green on the cabinets and painted 2 coats on top of the primer.

what claire did ikea hack bathroom remodel painted cabinets during
First coat of paint goes on!
Pick funky handles

Get rid of those bog standard handles that come with your flat pack furniture and treat it to some nice, custom bought handles. Lots of places sell handles and knobs.  I picked up a pack of 6 lovely white marble style door knobs for £6 in TK Maxx, which really added to the finished look. 
 
finish ikea bathroom cabinet repaint what claire did
Check those funky door knobs... compare with original above!

Do it properly!

Make it a job done well!  If you’re serious about it, remove all doors, shelves etc from your units and paint them separately.  Honestly, it makes for such a better finished look.   You won’t miss any bits this way.

Also, don't be afraid to shake up a bit - the old freestanding cabinet had glass doors I hated.  So I painted them to make them look solid. I removed a drawer and left it as an open storage area for nicely rolled towels.  Now's your chance to change those bits you aren't sure of.  Plus, the open space means I have to keep it tidy... 
ikea cabinet ikea hack repaint what claire did finished
This door used to be glass.  Also, I accessorised with a new artificial plant 

Don’t skip the varnishing

It’s so important to finish your look. I used to chalk paint, which has a gorgeous matt finish, but marks so easily. Rather than waxing, I used a clear, matt varnish on the top, did 2 coats and it’s helped to seal my units.  It’s especially important in high traffic areas where things are likely to get bumped and knocked.
ikea hack painting bathroom cabinets finished look what claire did
The finished article - I'm so proud of what we've done with the space!


Invest in Other Updates Too 

Don't just do the painting and hope for the best - spend a bit of cash on some other accessories for the room. My purchases possibly cost more than the actual renovation (which came in at about £70 for two cabinets) however, I wanted to do a complete overhaul.  So I spent some money on the new Joseph Joseph bathroom bin and loo brush which are game changers, bought a new toothbrush holder and soap dispenser, bought a load of new towels for display and guests coming and then got some plants (a mix of real and artificial) to make it all a bit more homely.  We had some vouchers we got as wedding gifts, which we put towards some of this stuff, softening the blow a little. It's been well worth it though. 
succulent in bathroom what claire did
Investment in some gorgeous succulents for the window sill



I'd love to hear from you if you take on your own project. I promise it's not that scary... GOOD LUCK! 

Sunday, 24 June 2018

What Claire Did... Round Up Time!


 Readers, in my head recently I thought "I’ve got all these exciting things I’ve done recently, that I’ll have a ton of content and be able to write so many blog posts".  As it turns out, life generally gets in the way and it doesn’t quite go to plan. So rather than not posting at all, I thought I’d do an early summer round up for you all.  Here’s what I’ve been up to, over the last few weeks.

It's been really busy recently, from my usual Glasgow food blogger activity, to recent travel blog adventures too... 

Mac and Cheese Themed Weddings

You might have seen over on Instagram, that my lovely pals Emma and Mark from Foodie Explorers, recently got married at our local pub and enjoyed a mac and cheese themed surprise wedding, at the end of the mac and cheese festival, that they organise each year.

foodie explorers mac and cheese wedding what claire did

I was sworn to secrecy, but had a blast creating their mac and cheese themed wedding cake – ft dessert mac and cheese (it’s amazing what can be achieved with yellow jelly beans, yellow chocolate and some desiccated coconut…)  I was tearing my hair out the night before, after a fondant disaster, but was so proud of the end result and the press seemed to love it too!


Daily Record Mac and Cheese Wedding What Claire Did

Smokehead Whisky Event

Just before my 30th and my trips away to The Lake District, the lovely PR team from Smokedhead Whisky, collaborated with Dram and Smoke on an amazing food and whisky event at SWG3 in Finnieston.  We enjoyed Smokehead cocktails, drams on the table and an amazing smoky 3 course dinner to boot.  Was it fun? Hell yes it was.   I shared some stories on the night and some other Instagram content which you’ll see here.

Smokehead Whisky What Claire Did

Florida

We headed off to see the big mouse again at Disneyland in Orlando for Mr WhatClaireDid’s 30th alongside his family.  We had an absolute blast – hosting a fancy dress bbq for his actual birthday, at our villa. Everyone else had a bit of a prehistoric theme, but I went as Snow White because the costume was cheap on Ebay… 
florida fancy dress what claire did

We had a few days at the parks – I still love The Magic Kingdom -  and I’m hoping to do a Florida Guide post as part of my travel blog content over the coming weekends.
magic kingdom what claire did

I won't say too much on Florida for now and will aim to get some more content up in the coming weeks. 

Vegas Baby!

You’ve probably seen my other post on our trip to Momofuku in Vegas – so you’ll know that we went to Vegas on our USA trip too.  It’s actually really easy to do from Orlando. We got cheap flights with Spirit (cheap = delays both ways, however I'm trying to block that from memory).It got us there. It’s a 5 hour flight from Orlando – so one to time right if you are going.  We stayed for 2 nights at New York New York again.  All in, our trip cost £170pp for the 2 nights and was worth it for a change of scenery for a couple of days.
bellagio and caesars palace las vegas what claire did


We also went to Carlos Bakery in Vegas (I’m a massive fan of the show) and completely got overwhelmed ordering rainbow cake… which I then ate in bed the next day after Vegas well and truly defeated me.
carlos bakery rainbow cake las vegas what claire did

The final highlight of our amazing Vegas trip was David Copperfield at the MGM Grand. Honesty, if you are ever in Vegas and get the chance… go.  He was nothing short of amazing.

Just a short post from me tonight readers… and I promise more coming soon!

Claire x