10 Ways with Pumpkins

It’s that time of year again – the one where you get unbearable arm cramp from the carving of intricate designs into a big smelly pumpkin. Yes, Halloween. And yes I said smelly.

It’s fair to say I’m not a big fan of pumpkin, at all. I think it harks back to an unfortunate incident that involved a pumpkin (in place of a watermelon, the shop was all sold out) and a toxic mixture of vodka, cider, lager, schnapps and many other unidentifiable alcoholic beverages…along with a furry moustache. It was called “drinking through the bumhole” and we’ll end that story there but I’m pretty sure you know how it ends.

That said this year, in the interest of being frugal I thought I would try doing something with the pumpkin innards that normally just get thrown in the bin. Honestly they gross me out. After considerable research it turns out there are a million and one ways to serve up a pumpkin and today I am sharing my Top 10 ways with pumpkins.

1. Oatmeal Pumpkin Creme Pies

2. Pumpkin French Toast Bake

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Image Credit: http://www.thegunnysack.com/

3. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

4. Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

5. Skinny Pumpkin Pasta Bake

Pumpkin-Cake

Image Credit: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2

6. Iced Pumpkin Coffee Cake

7. Pumpkin Cake with Apple Cider Glaze

8. Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bread

9. Pumpkin Chilli

 

Image Credit: http://www.food.com/

Image Credit: http://www.food.com/

10. Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

Hmmm.

I might have changed my mind. I think the best option there is No 10 because I don’t have to eat it, but don’t let me put you off. I still think these look great recipes for using up your pumpkin leftovers. Let me know if you try any!

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Essential home maintenance for winter

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The days are already getting shorter and this winter is being forecast to be another particularly chilly one. Maintenance is important all year round but bad weather can put extra strain on the fabric of your home. A broken boiler or even a blocked gutter can be a major headache while cold and wet weather can also damage areas such as exposed wooden window frames, doors and decking.

Prevention is always better than cure so tackling essential maintenance tasks before winter can help protect your home and save a lot of money in the long run.

Older homes can require more maintenance than new builds. Take a look at new homes in Bristol to see what types of quality new builds are available but don’t neglect your property … however old it is.

Inside the home

It’s important to get your boiler serviced and checked regularly and it’s usually best to do this before winter, when you are likely to be using it more. If your home is inadequately insulated, try to do this before the weather gets colder and ensure that all pipes and tanks in the loft are lagged.

Make sure you know where your stopcock is located in case you do get a burst pipe. Most frozen pipes occur in the roof space or below sink units so leaving trapdoors to lofts and cupboard doors open for extended periods of time can allow warmer air to enter these areas and prevent freezing.

Exterior areas

Make sure gutters are clear and in good repair. A blocked or damaged gutter can cause additional water damage to other areas of the house and it can be more difficult to attend to once the weather has turned.

You should also make sure your roof is in good repair. Look for missing or damaged slates or tiles, cracks in the chimney and problems with pointing. If there are any issues that need rectifying, always hire a professional roofer to carry out the repairs.

Exposed wood can be irreparably damaged by prolonged wet or cold weather so ensure these areas are filled, painted, stained with a weatherproof solution or otherwise treated as appropriate. Cut back low hanging branches that could cause damage in storms or windy weather and make sure fixtures such as exterior lights are secure.

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Image Credit: “Barrie Condos and Houses in Winter” by Wikada – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barrie_Condos_and_Houses_in_Winter.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Barrie_Condos_and_Houses_in_Winter.jpg

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Practising the dark arts with Waitrose…

…the dark being CHOCOLATE and the arts being BAKING!

Yes I write this post with a mouthful of the most delicious chocolate cake ever!

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Waitrose recently got in contact regarding their ultimate chocolate recipes which I think are just perfect for Halloween. We normally just have a Bonfire party but this year we’re having a joint Halloween/Bonfire party instead – double the fun! Lots of scary costumes, silly games, fireworks and yummy food. I was looking for a cake to bake for the occasion and I now think I have found one.

There is lots of choice on the Waitrose website and I was partoculary taken by the flourless chocolate praline cake but in the end I opted for Paul Hollywood’s chocolate Victoria sandwich as I think it’s the kind of cake that will suit everyone and I’ve got both adults and children to feed. A chocolate cake is a surefire winner!

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When I am baking for a special event I normally use a tried and tested recipe, I can’t bake under pressure so it means less chance of failure. That’s why I decided to have a trial run of this cake over the weekend. I know it’s not my most spectacular looking cake however I’ll be making it again on Friday night ready for the party, only this time it will be adorned with extra buttercream on top and lots of spooky sprinkles too.

The recipe called for extra fine sponge flour which I didn’t have in my cupboard so I had to make a special trip out for that. I did wonder if it was necessary and I’m sure that bog-standard plain flour would have probably sufficed but oh my word, the texture was amazing. So light and fluffy. I’ll be trying the extra fine flour in my tried and tested regular bakes too to see what difference it makes.

If you’re looking for a superb chocolate Victoria sandwich recipe then I recommend you try this one!

There are a whole host of other delicious chocolatey recipes over on the Waitrose website, so why not go check them out?

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Disclosure: I was sent gift vouchers by Waitrose in return for a blog post. All words, images and opinions contained in this post are my own.

Meal Planning Monday (27th October 2014)

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Good morning! Hope you have all had a lovely weekend. Anyone else feeling a bit messed up by clock changes? I swear it affects me more as I get older. It wasn’t really helped by a 2am power cut that woke the whole household up! Felt a bit zombiefied yesterday.

So it’s half-term this week and I am taking advantage of the fact that there is no after school running around to be done which means I can do some proper cooking. I can’t tell you how good it feels knowing I don’t have a million places to go every day. Saying that though, I only really have half a plan because I’m going out to eat one day, having a spooky Halloween tea on Friday and a party on Saturday, which will mean leftovers on Sunday! For the rest of the week I am digging out some old favourites. This is our plan.

Honey Sesame Chicken
Jamie Oliver’s Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie
Sausage Casserole
Cheese and Potato Pie

I am looking forward to the stodgy deliciousness of the cheese and potato pie like you wouldn’t believe! Comfort food at it’s very best.

Right party people, it’s your turn, what are you cooking this week?

If you are a newcomer to my blog and Meal Planning Monday then the idea is simple. Read more about Meal Planning Monday HERE.  All you have to do to join in is write a blog post about your meal plans for the week and add it to the Linky below. No blog? No matter! Just leave a comment below with your plans or you can join in with our Facebook group and let us know over there.  We’ve also got a great Pinterest board going on.  If you want to join this collaborative board then let me know. We’ve currently got over 915 followers so it’s another great way to share your recipes and posts with the masses!

Follow At Home With Mrs M’s board Meal Planning Monday’s Family Favourites on Pinterest.

Also, I’ve just started a new community on Google+. I have ignored Google+ for so long since I joined there so I have no idea what I am doing but here is the link, come join me so I am not lonely! https://plus.google.com/b/…/communiti…/117001749684787456150

I’d really like to drum up some more interest in Meal Planning Monday this autumn, so please do share your posts and RT so we can get as many people on board as possible!  Use the hashtag #mealplanningmonday over on Twitter and I’ll share as many as I can without annoying everyone!

Look forward to seeing what you’re all cooking up this week.

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Curried Parsnip Soup with Spooky Bat Crouton Toast!

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I was recently asked to come up with a “spooktacular” recipe for Halloween by Unilever as part of their #UnileverHalloween challenge. To get me on my way I was sent a hamper of ingredients from the Unilever brands such as Knorr, Flora, Hellmans and Colmans.

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As the weather is turning a little I thought I would do a warming soup, taking inspiration from the parsnips also supplied in my hamper. A while back I was sent a soup-maker to review and it remains one of my favourite kitchen gadgets, though it tends to get retired over the summer months so I was quite glad to get the opportunity to get it out again.   I was going to create a parsnip and curly leaf kale soup as that was also in my hamper but I wanted something a bit more warm and spicy so I looked at the Knorr Flavourpots that I had and opted for curry.

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I think a curry and parsnip is quite a popular combination for soup but it’s actually not something I have ever tried before. I therefore had no idea whether I would even like it!  I needn’t have worried because it was delicious, so delicious I had to go back and have a second bowl!

I served the soup with some crouton toast cut out into the shape of bats to give it it’s halloween twist.  I love having toast like this because it remains really crispy rather than going soggy when you dip it into the soup. Yum!

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I’ve listed the standard version of the recipe below, rather than my soup maker method as I’m aware not everyone will have a soup maker! If you do  want the soup maker method listed, then drop me a line.  The recipe serves 4.

Curried Parsnip Soup with Spooky Bat Crouton Toast

Ingredients

30g Flora Buttery
1 medium onion, chopped`
450g parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Knorr Curry Flavourpot
1 Knorr Chicken Stock Cube
800ml boiling water
125ml Elmlea double cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch of paprika

For the toast;
Slices of bread
Olive oil

Method

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, over a medium heat. Gently fry the chopped onion in the butter until it has softened. This should take about 5 minutes.

Add the chopped parsnips, garlic and the curry Flavourpot to the pan and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.

Mix the stock cube with the boiling water and pour into the saucepan. Stir everything well, cover and leave to simmer for 15 minutes or until the parsnips are soft.

Whilst the soup is simmering, heat the oven to 180c. Take your sliced bread and cut out your desired shapes. Brush with olive oil, pop on a baking tray and put into the oven for 6-7 minutes until crisp and browned.

Remove the soup pan from the heat and puree in a blender (or use a hand blender). Stir in the cream and gently heat through, do not allow to boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle over a pinch of paprika to garnish.

Ta-dah! A quick and easy soup that is delicious and tasty to boot!

Do let me know if you try it out and make sure you check the #UnileverHalloween tag on Twitter for more spooky recipes!

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