Sunday, 25 September 2016

Globecooking recipe : Mini Baked Ring Donuts (USA)

After the resounding success of the totally indulgent Banoffee Whoopie Pies, I couldn't wait to try another recipe from the latest Bake Box which has a New York theme. This weekend, we gave the mini baked donuts a go and they were equally popular. The original recipe, which can be seen on the bake box website, suggested a coffee-flavoured icing with chopped up Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on top, but I knew that nobody at The Madhouse would like the coffee flavour (least of all me !) so I actually recycled the failed whoopie pie filling which I hadn't managed to to firm up. I added in some cocoa powder and it was perfect as a chocolate drizzle icing. Nothing goes to waste here !

This recipe uses the mini donut baking tray that was in the Bake Box - very cute it is too! You could probably try to make them free-form though.

Mini Baked Ring Donuts

ingredients :

65g plain flour
2tbsp cocoa powder
½tsp baking powder
50g golden caster sugar
4tbsp milk
1 egg
25g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180°.

Put the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sugar, salt) in a bowl and mix.

Melt the butter.

Add the milk and egg to the bowl - I used up a carton of coconut milk which worked perfectly.

Once the butter has cooled, add that too and give it all a good stir until smooth and perfectly blended.

Use a teaspoon to fill the donut rings three quarters of the way full.

Put the donut mould on a baking tray and put in the oven for 8-10 minutes until they are firm and springy to the touch.

Leave to cool until you can comfortably handle the donut tray. Gently press each side to loosen them then carefully pop out each donut. Place on a wire rack to cool. Refill the donut mould with the remaining batter and make another batch.

Once the donuts have completely cooled, it's time to ice them. I used my failed whoopie pie filling which had come out too runny - it was a mixture of  75g unsalted butter, 100g full fat cream cheese,
275g icing sugar and a few spoonfuls of cocoa powder when I was still trying to thicken it up. It may have been rubbish as a whoopie pie filling but it was perfect for icing donuts !

Use a teaspoon to drizzle the icing over the top of the donuts.

Top with whatever takes your fancy - digestive biscuit crumbs, silver balls, sprinkles, toffee chunks, mini choc chips, ...

I made these ones yesterday and they disappeared so quickly that I made a another double batch this afternoon !

This used up a bowl of failed whoopie pie filling that was destined for the bin if I didn't manage to recycle it, so it's going in to this month's #KitchenClearout linky. It also used up several ends of tubs of cupcake sprinkles.

Disclosure : I received a free Bake Box subscription in order to share my attempts at recreating the recipes. Bake Box delivers a new package of goodies every two months and each box costs £14.99 + £2.99 postage. For more information and to see the recipes :

Madhouse diaries : Inflatable sports day !

Yesterday, the main town square was advertising some free sports activities for the kids so we went along to have a look. What I didn't realise was that they were mostly inflatable versions of the main sports, which the kids thought was even more fun !

We started off with basketball, which was extra sporty for Pierre because he had to keep climbing up to retrieve the balls. The woman in charge took pity on him and told us he could climb over and stand at the bottom in the end. He managed to get a few balls in the hoops which he got very excited about ... but then so did Juliette and Sophie whenever they managed !

 I was busy taking the photos so I could never see whose ball was going in the hoops so I just made general encouraging noises that could have been for any of them !

Next up was a mini crazy golf course - I was impressed at finding this in the middle of the town centre !

Pierre had a very unique way of holding the golf club but it seemed to work more or less !

This was everyone's favourite hole but the ball got stuck in the middle of the pipe every single time !

"Mu-um, you have to go and call the man again !" 

 It was on to bigger balls next, with the penalty shoot out stand. It wasn't very well thought-out though because there was a gap at the bottom of the back wall so the poor bloke had to go round the back to get the ball back EVERY SINGLE TIME ! This probably explains why they deflated this one not long after we'd finished playing !

Next up was baseball - or softball? I never know the difference anyway ! 

It was more like tennis though, with a racket rather than a bat, and a little ball that you had to aim at the holes in the back wall.

The best thing about this one was the cone which blew out a stream of air, making the ball "magically" hover in the air, waiting to be smacked !

Even Madhouse Daddy couldn't resist having a go !

This photo made me laugh when I looked through them because it's Sophie moving her hair behind her shoulder but the angle makes it look like the woman from the stand is strangling her !

The next activity was their favourite - the Equalizer put Juliette and Pierre head to head, both attached to a rope like a giant tug of war, trying to reach the edges and stick their sponges on the highest scoring Velcro pad.

I'd told Juliette to give Pierre a chance to win a few, as he is smaller, but they both seemed to be giving it their all !

Go Pierre, heave-ho !

"Hee hee hee Mum, I'm stopping Juliette from being able to reach the edge !"

It was hilarious to watch and I thought they were pretty well matched !

There was just one final activity left to do - some big go-karts that Pierre managed to ride around like a pro (until he drove straight over a cone and flattened it !!)

All in all, not bad at all for a free event in the middle of the town centre.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 25/9/16


At a multi-era military camp reenactment we visited recently. The dog has a first aid kit on its back in saddlebags !

Sunday SnapOneDad3Girls

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Lalaloopsy Glitter Hair Dough Doll review

Lalaloopsy have just launched their new Autumn/Winter range, including the Potty Surprise doll, Princess Style N Swap range and Glitter Hair Dough Doll, which we received to review.

It made me laugh when an email popped into my inbox to tell us about the new products. Now that Juliette has reached the grand old age of 11, I thought she'd no longer have any interest in them whatsoever, but when I passed it by her, she gave me a cheeky grin and said, "well ... I still like them" ! It just goes to show that the press release saying that they are suitable for ages 4 to 104 was quite right !

I can see the appeal - she has such a cute face and the attention to detail, if you're slightly older and actually think about, is very clever when you realise she is supposed to be made of material, with woollen hair, button eyes and sewn-on features. That's sew clever, as well as sew cute and sew magical, as it says on the box !

The new Lalaloopsy Glitter Hair Dough Doll offers more than a pretty face though. She comes with three different glittery hair dough colours, so you can choose one or mix them up for rainbow styling. Simply pop the dough under your chosen hair cap, then turn her pigtails to make the hair grow longer. She even comes with her own seat so she can sit up unassisted, whilst you concentrate on the hair styling. You can play with twists, braids, curls, plaits, buns and more, the styling fun is endless, and when you've finished, you can just cut it and ‘grow’ it again!

The set also comes with three styling caps, scissors and hair clips so you can style it in any way you like for hours of hil-hair-ious fun ! Both Pierre and Juliette have been having great fun making the hair grow and then chopping it off over and over again. The colours are really vibrant and look beautiful when you make multi-coloured rainbow plaits and twists.

Lalaloopsy Glitter Hair Dough doll is priced at £29.99, available from all good toy retailers. I can see this being on a little of Christmas wish lists this year !

You might also like the new Mini Lalaloopsy Style ‘N’ Swap Princess collection. Collect the whole range to Style ‘N’ Swap across all the characters and create new and exciting looks for the Mini Lalaloopsys.

I also love the sound of the new Lalaloopsy Babies Potty Surprise doll, which is a fun and quirky addition to the ‘sew cute’ Lalaloopsy range. Little ones will love to feed Jewel Sparkles her special baby food - and when she's ready to go, just place her on the potty. She will magically poop different shapes every time, including cute stars, hearts, flowers and buttons! Tiny Tears eat your heart out !!

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £29.99

For more information, visit

Disclosure : We received the product in order to write an honest review.

Madhouse recipe : Tuscan slow-cooked pork belly and beans

Yesterday was officially the first day of autumn so pulling out the slow cooker seemed like the perfect way to welcome in the new season. You really can't beat coming home after a long day at work to a hearty, comforting dish, ready and waiting to be served, with appetising cooking smells wafting around the house. I'd been invited to take part in  a foodie challenge by To Tuscany, a travel company that offers charming, private villas in Italy’s most famous region, Chianti. They challenged me to create my own Tuscan-inspired recipe, using typical flavours and influences from Italy.

Tuscan food is what I would call peasant food, and that is by no means derogatory. The region instantly makes me thing of rustic soups, stews and casseroles, made with fresh local produce, relying on the natural flavours of the food rather than complicated seasonings or spices. Forget nouveau cuisine with three carrot sticks and a slice of cucumber artistically arranged on a plate - this is belly-filling, soul-warming comfort food at its best.

Cannellini beans are often used in Tuscany - in fact, Tuscans are sometimes called mangiafagioli or bean eaters ! - so I paired those with a cheap, no-frills cut of meat (pork belly) and some in-season vegetables : tomatoes, carrots, courgettes and onions. The result was simple but simply delizioso !

Tuscan slow-cooked pork belly and beans

ingredients :

250g dried cannellini beans
a piece of pork belly (about 400g)
2 large onions
3 carrots
4 tomatoes
2 courgettes
2 cloves of garlic
3tsp semi-dry sage
freshly ground salt and pepper
1 tin tomatoes
1 glass white Chianti wine 

Soak the beans in cold water overnight. They're supposed to be soaked for 12 hours according to the instructions on the box, but as I was going to be cooking them in the slow cooker for several hours, I actually only let them soak for 3 hours, but this will depend on your cooking method.

Drain and rinse the beans and throw them in the bottom of the slow cooker. Peel the onions and carrots, chop them into large chunks and arrange them around the sides of the slow cooker.

Chop the tomatoes into quarters and roughly chop the courgettes then toss them in too.

Crush the garlic in a little dish and mix in the sage. Spread this paste over the pork belly and transfer to the slow cooker.

Pour in a glass of Chianti (I used white wine as I already had a cheeky bottle open, but you could use red if you prefer !) and season with salt and pepper. Cook on the high setting for 5 hours or the low setting for 8 hours, or whatever suits you - the slow cooker has to be the most forgiving cooking method ever in terms of timing !

A couple of hours before serving, I added a tin of tomatoes - I went for Cirio's tomato fillets which have a chunkier texture than chopped tomatoes. You can add extra water (or wine) if necessary but the slow cooker always keeps all the steam and moisture in so you don't usually need to add much liquid at all.

Once the pork has cooked through and started falling apart, stir the contents of the slow cooker every half hour or so to mix everything up, help the flavours mingle and make sure everything is covered in the rich tomatoey sauce. Serve with a chunk of crusty bread and feel free to use it to mop up every last bit of sauce from your plate !

Disclosure : This is my entry in the To Tuscany blogger competition -  I want to win a week in one of their Tuscany villas!