Tag Archives: valentines day

Easy Recipe: Love Heart Jam Tarts

Jam tarts are most people’s introduction to baking. I remember standing on a stool in my Grandma’s kitchen watching her roll the pastry out, I’d help her cut out pastry rounds and I’d spoon jewel coloured jam into the tarts. Waiting for the jam tarts to cool once they’d come out of the oven was torture.

I still love jam tarts today. These days I usually bake them with my son; him stood on the stool, spooning jam and waiting impatiently. They’re one of the easiest things to bake and are ideal if you’re baking with kids or if you’re a novice wanting to take your first steps into baking.

Easy Recipe: Love Heart Jam Tarts

I’ve jazzed these simple tarts up for Valentine’s Day. The addition of a heart makes these jam tarts whimsically romantic. Of course your tarts will be perfectly delicious without the pastry heart, but if you can’t push the boat out a bit for Valentine’s Day, when can you?

Love Heart Jam Tarts

Ingredients (makes 12 -15 tarts)

4oz plain flour
2oz butter, cubed
A pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons of cold water
-or- a packet of ready rolled shortcrust pastry

Half a jar of strawberry or raspberry jam
Milk or a beaten egg to brush your pastry with
Extra butter for greasing your baking tray

Method

Put the flour, salt and butter in a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Use a knife and stir in just enough cold water to bind the dough together. Do this gradually as you don’t want your pastry to be too wet. Once you’ve made the dough, cover the bowl and chill it in the fridge for 15 minutes or so before using.

Or if you’re using shop bought, ready rolled pastry, take it out of the fridge half an hour before you want to use it. 

Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 5 or 190°

Take your pastry and roll it out to the thickness of a pound coin. You can either roll it out on a floured surface, or between two pieces of baking parchment. I find the baking parchment method quicker and a lot less messy.

Grease your bun or muffin tin with butter and cut your pastry into rounds. Gently press each round into the tin and prick the bottom of each one with a fork. With the remainder of the pastry, cut out enough heart shapes to top each of your tarts.

Carefully put a spoon of jam in each tart. Do not over fill the tarts as the jam will bubble up and ruin your hard work.

On a separate baking sheet, place a piece of baking parchment and lay your heart shapes flat, brush them with a little milk or beaten egg and put your hearts and your tarts in the oven for 12-15 minutes.

Once cooked and your hearts are golden, remove from the oven and quickly but carefully place a heart on the top of each tart. Gently press it in place taking care not to touch the hot jam with your fingers. Leave to cool for a few minutes before removing the tarts from the tray and putting them on a wire rack to cool.

Easy Recipe: Love Heart Jam Tarts

As you can see, my jam tarts didn’t come our perfectly round this time; but a rustic, imperfect looking jam tart is still a delicious jam tart.

These jam tarts with a heart are a simple way to share the love this Valentine’s Day. Who will you bake with love for this year?

Easy Recipe: Love Heart Jam Tarts

Learning: Take the Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge

We are getting quite into STEM crafts and activities at home now. We’ve been busy with jellybean architecture, made a sponge house to grow cress on and this week we’ve been using the Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards from Mrs Mactivity and seeing what we could create.

Lego play is well known for having all kinds of great developmental benefits, these include –

  • Promoting fine motor skills
  • Encouraging team work
  • Improving creativity
  • Developing problem solving and mathematical thinking
  • Improving communication skills
  • Developing lateral thinking and planning skills

Crafts: Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards

Developing STEM (Science, technology, Engineering and Maths) skills and encouraging an interest in these areas is so important for all children. I’m lucky that my son is very keen on science and engineering; not so much maths, but we’re working on that. He absolutely loves playing with Lego too, so these Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards were absolutely perfect for him.

We printed out the Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards and gathered a few boxes of Lego together. We each chose a challenge and got to work. I made the heart, the present and spelled out the word LOVE. He did an arrow, a heart and he also wrote the word LOVE in Lego.

Learning: Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards

It was really interesting for us to do something a bit different with our Lego and nice to build something which wasn’t a Lego City or Ninjago set. I can see how it worked his problem solving muscles, trying to find the right piece to go in the right place, picking and choosing colours and carefully following the visual instructions on the cards.

I think it’s also helped to show him that he doesn’t just have to build the sets, that he can be a little more creative with his Lego. He especially enjoyed writing with it and went on the write his name and mine. This is definitely something we can build on together at home.

Learning: Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards

This was most definitely a fun thing to do together and the learning is obvious to me, but it’s just fun for him!

The Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards are available to download on the Mrs Mactivity website. You can also find a good selection of other activity sheets there – all designed to be fun and educational too!

 

Learning: Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards

Recipe: Showstopping Turkish Delight Cake

Turkish Delight is one of those things people love or hate. I am firmly in the love camp. For me, it’s always had a hint of the exotic about it, those romantic Laurence of Arabia style adverts from the 80’s mean that this rose (or lemon) scented sweet is wonderfully evocative. What could be a more romantic tea-time treat than this showstopping Turkish Delight Cake?

I love Turkish Delight in all its forms; from the chocolate covered Fry’s version, to the sugar dusted boxes of these jellied fancies you get at Christmas. During my weekly shop I spotted a box of Turkish Delight thins from Morrison’s and I knew exactly what I’d do with them. My Turkish Delight Cake was born!

Recipe: Showstopping Turkish Delight Cake

It’s a stunning looking (and tasting) cake. It looks fancier and harder to bake than it really is. If you can bake a sponge cake and mix up some buttercream, then you’ve got all the skills needed to make this cake.

Showstopping Turkish Delight Cake

Ingredients:
8oz butter or margarine
8oz caster sugar
4 eggs (large)
8oz self raising flour
1.5 teaspoon baking powder
Zest of two lemons

For the buttercream:
250g icing sugar
250g butter (softened)
3 drops of Holy Llama Rose Extract Spice Drops
Red food colouring

To decorate:
Turkish Delight Thins (or similar)
Traditional Turkish Delight pieces

Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 180° and grease three 9 inch cake tins.

Cream your butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and using a hand mixer combine until the batter is smooth and airy.

Divide your cake batter equally between the three tins (I weigh my filled tins to make sure they’re roughly equal) and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool.

While your sponge cakes are cooling, sift your icing sugar and beat together with the softened butter. Add your drops of rose extract, beating thoroughly and tasting as you go. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away!

Once you’re happy with the flavour, add a few drops of the red food colouring and mix well and add more colouring until you’re happy with the shade of pink you’ve got. Make sure your buttercream is well combined and smooth.

On a cake stand or cake board (or wherever your cake is going to sit) put a heaped teaspoon of butter cream in the middle and position your first sponge cake on top of that. This will anchor your cake in place and stop it sliding about.

Cover the top of that sponge layer with a thin spread of buttercream and put your second sponge on top of that. Repeat the process with the third sponge layer.

Now for the slightly time consuming bit; using a palette knife spread the rose buttercream around the sides of the cake. I found it easier to plaster on more buttercream than I needed and then smooth it off. It doesn’t have to be a perfect finish, but cover it as best you can, this is easier if your buttercream is soft. If if’s too hard, give it another beating.

Once the sides of the cake are covered, spread a thick-ish layer of buttercream on the top. I usually ripple the buttercream with the knife, but you can do a smooth finish if you’d prefer. Cut the Turkish Delight Thins in half into triangles and do the same with the Turkish Delight pieces, although they will look more like pyramids.

Arrange the Turkish Delight thins and pieces on top of the cake in whatever way you think looks good. I did haphazard rows of thins with the pieces dotted about.

Recipe: Showstopping Turkish Delight Cake

My Turkish Delight Cake is a real treat. It’s rich and sweet and absolutely packed with the traditional flavours of Turkish Delight; from the light lemon zested sponge, to the sweet rose scented buttercream – it’s a treat and a half for Turkish Delight fans!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like my Romantic Rose Cupcakes.

Recipe: Showstopping Turkish Delight Cake

Valentine’s Day Crafts: 52 Reasons Why I Love You

After 23 years of Valentine’s Days with my husband, I’m not saying romance is dead, but the budget has been somewhat slashed. We have for a number of years had a £5 gift and a card policy; which means that Valentine’s Day often requires a bit of creativity. His favourite of the homemade Valentine’s gifts I’ve made for him was the 52 Reasons Why I Love You pack of cards. It’s a favourite of mine too, because it’s so darn cute!

Valentine's Day Crafts: 52 Reasons Why I Love You

It’s remarkably easy to put together. All you need is a pack of cards, a permanent marker and a list of 52 Reasons Why I Love You. That last one is the tricky one. My advice would be to take a few days to list some of the reasons why you love your partner. I found that I could find 30 or so reasons pretty easily, but then I started to write things like “I love you because you take the bins out”; which is a valid reason but lacks a little romance.

You can use a normal pack of cards. I found a nice heart shaped pack of cards and used them, but you can find a similar pack here on Amazon. Using your list of the 52 Reasons Why I Love You; neatly write a reason on every card in the pack. You may want to write the biggest and best reasons on the heart cards, and make sure you write it on the suit side, not the patterned side of the cards.

Here are a few of my reasons to give you an idea of what I wrote –
  • You cook amazing meals
  • You work so hard for our family
  • You’re ace in every single way
  • You’re generous with everyone
  • I love snuggling with you
  • I’ve known and loved you forever
  • I love the way you tuck me in at night

This 52 Reasons Why I love You gift is such a lovely thing to give someone. I know my husband looks at the cards often. The reasons are full of our shared history, our shared interests, our family and all the special things about him which I love and appreciate.

It’s such a small, inexpensive and simple gift. But it’s something that your partner will probably really appreciate and treasure for many years to come.

See what other Valentine’s Day crafts you could make here.

Valentine's Day Crafts: 52 Reasons Why I Love You

Recipe: Romantic Rose Cupcakes for Valentine’s Day

After 17 years of marriage, flamboyant romantic gestures on Valentine’s Day are a thing of the past. It’s not that we don’t do romance, it’s just that we’ve got different things to spend our money on. For many years now Valentine’s Day for us has been about homemade cards and smaller, more meaningful gifts. I usually bake something sweet to share with the boys, this year I’ve made some romantic rose cupcakes, and they’re sure to be a hit.

A little while ago, whilst browsing the reduced yellow stickered items in a deli, I found a bottle of Holy Llama Rose Extract Spice Drops. They were a bargain, so they ended up in my shopping basket and then in my baking cupboard at home. If you don’t have Holy Llama Rose Extract Spice Drops, substitute this with whatever rose extract you have.

Recipe: Romantic Rose Cupcakes for Valentine's Day

I’ve been a bit worried about trying out my Rose Extract. Rose is one of those flavours which if you use too much of, whatever you’ve made will end up tasting like Granny’s soap. If you go easy and add a little at a time, everything should turn out rosy.

Romantic Rose Cupcakes

Ingredients:
4oz butter or margarine
4oz caster sugar
2 eggs (large)
4oz self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 drops of Holy Llama Rose Extract Spice Drops

For the buttercream:
250g icing sugar
250g butter (softened)
3 drops of Holy Llama Rose Extract Spice Drops
Red food colouring

Method:
Pre-heat your oven to 180° and put paper cases in a bun or a muffin tray.

Cream your butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and using a hand mixer combine until the batter is smooth and airy. When you add your rose extract, taste the batter to check the levels of rose flavour. Remember, a fair amount of the rose flavour will bake out of the cupcakes, so bear this in mind. I opted for a not very rose flavoured sponge because I knew the buttercream would be where most of the flavour was.

Dollop a large dessert spoon of the cake batter in each case and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Once cooked remove from the oven and leave cool on a rack.

While your cupcakes are cooling, sift your icing sugar and beat together with the softened butter. Add your drops of rose extract, beating thoroughly and tasting as you go. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away!

Once you’re happy with the flavour, add a few drops of the red food colouring and mix well and add more colouring until you’re happy with the shade of pink you’ve got. Make sure your buttercream is well combined and smooth.

Once your cupcakes are cool, put your rose flavoured buttercream in a piping bag with a star piping nozzle – I used a Wilton 2D nozzle. Starting in the middle of the cupcake, swirl your buttercream around until you’ve got a buttercream rose shape. If you’re not sure how to do it, watch this short video.

Recipe: Romantic Rose Cupcakes for Valentine's Day

Tip: Once you’ve finished decorating your rose cupcakes, you could pop them in the fridge for an hour so the buttercream firms up a little before serving.

These Romantic Rose Cupcakes are really pretty and very easy to bake. The icing is much easier that you’d think and you can also scrape off and re-do any which you’re not happy with. I’m no expert cake decorator, but with a little bit of practice and patience, you’ll be piping buttercream roses like a pro!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like my tangy marmalade cupcakes.

Recipe: Romantic Rose Cupcakes for Valentine's Day

Casa Costello

Crafts: Easy Valentine’s Paper Heart Wreath

This month Craft Merrily have set the Bostik Bloggers the task of creating a craft for Valentine’s Day. Last year I made a lovely découpage candle holder for Valentine’s Day, but this year I thought I’d make a Paper Heart Wreath.

I really like making paper wreaths, we have a place in the kitchen where I like to hang the seasonal wreaths I make. This is a little different to my usual style, this Paper Heart Wreath is put together with easy to make 3D hearts. It’s really quite easy to make, it looks very effective and it’s a lovely Valentine’s decoration.

Crafts: Easy Valentine's Paper Heart Wreath

How to make a Paper Heart Wreath

You will need
Colourful paper, A4 size
Scissors or a craft knife
A ruler
Bostik Glu Dots
A length of ribbon

How to make your Paper Heart Wreath

Using a ruler measure the long side of your piece of paper and divide that length by 7. Measure out 7 equal widths of paper and carefully cut into strips using a pair of scissors or a craft knife. If you’re doing this with children then you may want to be in charge of this bit.

Fold each strip in half, make sure you’ve got a neat, crisp fold here, this will be the pointy bottom of your heart shape.

Crafts: Easy Valentine's Paper Heart Wreath

Using a glue dot, stick a dot at the end of your strip and bend the edges together to create the heart shape. Press the paper together so the glu dot is holding the shape firmly in place. Do this with all 7 hearts.

Crafts: Easy Valentine's Paper Heart Wreath

Take two hearts and stick them together using the glu dots. Then take your ribbon and using the glu dots stick the ribbon to either side of the two hearts. Make sure the ribbon is positioned so the ends will be hidden between the hearts. Using the glu dots, carry on sticking the hearts together until all 7 hearts are stuck together.

Crafts: Easy Valentine's Paper Heart Wreath

Your paper heart wreath is now finished and you just need to find somewhere to hang it!

I am a Bostik Craft Blogger and I was sent the materials to create this craft from Craft Merrily. 

Check out my other craft tutorials here!

Crafts: Easy Valentine's Paper Heart Wreath

Crafting: Making a Découpage Lantern for Valentine’s Day

I am part of a craft group who meet monthly. Each month we try something different and last month we did a spot of découpage. It was really simple, given that it’s essentially sticking pieces of paper onto something. This month I’ve been thinking about crafts for Valentine’s Day and I thought I’d make a découpage lantern, and it turned out pretty well. Here’s what I did.

How to make a Découpage Lantern for Valentine’s Day

You will need:
Two sheets of tissue paper 
One clean jam jar
Some PVA glue (I used Bostik White Glue)
Some ribbon or coloured rafia craft twine

Crafting: Making a Découpage Lantern for Valentine's Day

Tear up one sheet of the tissue paper, choose the paler colour. Paint the jam jar with the PVA glue and cover in the ripped up pieces of tissue paper. If you layer it up so that all of the jar is covered, but some parts have several layers it will create a nice effect when the candle is lit.

Crafting: Making a Découpage Lantern for Valentine's Day

Once the jar is covered with tissue paper, take your darker paper and cut heart shapes in varying sizes.

Crafting: Making a Découpage Lantern for Valentine's Day

Glue the hearts over the jar however you like. I covered some of the sides of my jar with big hearts and others with little hearts. Leave the jar to dry for a few hours or overnight.

Crafting: Making a Découpage Lantern for Valentine's Day

Once the jar is dry you can tie a ribbon around the top which finishes it off nicely and makes a really pretty little centrepiece for your Valentine’s Day dinner table, or just some lovely mood lighting for a romantic night in front of the TV.

Crafting: Making a Découpage Lantern for Valentine's Day

Découpage is really easy and so great for decorating lanterns and votives with. You can découpage almost anything. At my craft club we decorated little boxes which were quite pretty when they dried, but I think it really lends itself to glass and especially glass jars.

 a Découpage Lantern for Valentine's Day

Note: I am a Bostik craft blogger and I was sent the materials to create a Valentine’s craft with by Craft Merrily. 

Review: Dinner for two at the Bamford Arms

As one half of a pair of fairly exhausted parents we often find it difficult to have a night out together. Every few months we make a special effort to have a date night, dress up a bit and go out somewhere, anywhere for a few hours of couple time together. With Valentine’s Day approaching we visited the Bamford Arms in Stockport for a romantic dinner for two.

We’ve been to the Bamford Arms a few times before as a family, we’ve always been impressed with the quality of the food and the child-friendly atmosphere. This time we visited at night, the restaurant was busy with couples and small groups of friends on a night out. We were shown to a cosy booth and ordered a bottle of prosecco while we looked over the menu.

The Bamford Arms is a Beefeater Grill, so steaks are the order of the day. We ordered starters, him a classic prawn cocktail and me the potato dippers with sour cream and spring onion. His prawn cocktail was a fairly big portion, lots of prawns in marie rose sauce, layered on top of lettuce and cucumber and served with slices of ciabatta. He gave it a 9/10 which is praise indeed! My potato dippers were like thin potato wedges or fat crisps with melted cheese over them and served with a sour cream and chive dip. It was a big portion but very tasty. They do sharing plates of these too which I would definitely order again, to share obviously. 

Bamford Arms

For our main course he ordered the huge 18oz porterhouse steak which comes with unlimited fries (skinny or triple cooked), half a slow roasted tomato, a grilled mushroom and salad. I’m veggie so I ordered the baked veggie enchiladas which were soft flour tortillas stuffed with lime & coriander rice and tomatoes, topped with melted cheese, red chilli, spring onion and sour cream & chive and served with  mini corn on the cob. We also rather greedily ordered sides of macaroni cheese, garlic king prawns and chunky slaw.

Bamford Arms

My enchiladas were very fresh and tasty. It’s nice to see an alternative to the standard lasagne for veggies on the menu. It was piping hot and still bubbling when it arrived at the table. It was fresh and filling, full of wholesome beans and veg, with just enough melted cheese on top, despite the cheese I suspect this is a reasonably healthy choice. 

The sides we ordered to share were huge, the macaroni was toothsome and cheesy, and I know my pasta loving son would have devoured the lot in one go. Hubs loved the garlic king prawns, you get 10 big juicy prawns in a serving for just £4.99 which was excellent value and the chunky slaw was the perfect foil for my spicy enchiladas. 

Hubs valiantly faced the 18oz porterhouse steak; priced at £20.99 it was the most expensive steak on the menu but it was a special occasion so we pushed the boat out. He asked for it to be cooked medium and for some hot piri-piri sauce on the side. The steak was perfectly cooked and huge, it was beautifully tender and he rather impressively managed to devour it all and declared it to be delicious.

Bamford Arms

We were both absolutely stuffed, but we wanted a little bit of something sweet for pudding, so after much deliberation and negotiation we chose to share the Rocky Road Sundae. This was the perfect size for sharing, lovely ice cream and chocolate sauce with chunks of chocolate brownie and topped with marshmallows and a wafer. 

Bamford Arms

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, although we were stuffed, we’d eaten and eaten well. The restaurant was cosy and the tables weren’t too close together, so you could have a good conversation without feeling like you’re sharing with everyone else. The booth was comfortable and we quickly relaxed into our evening, and importantly at our age there wasn’t loud music blaring, so you could actually hold a conversation rather than shout at each other across the table, which made a nice change.

The food is perfect for sharing, the unlimited skinny or triple cooked chips offer is fantastic, it mean’t that I could pinch a few chips off his plate without him complaining. We couldn’t fault it, and without drinks out food came to £54, which we thought was excellent value for the feast we’d just had.

For a romantic dinner with good food, great wines in a cosy and relaxed atmosphere, the Bamford Arms is well worth a visit for Valentine’s Day, and if you want to push the boat out, order the porterhouse steak. You’ll not regret it! 

Note: We were invited guests of the Bamford Arms Beefeater Grill in Stockport, all images and opinions are our own.

Valentine’s Day Crafts & Activity Sheets

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the small boy and I sat down for an afternoon of Valentine’s Day crafts and activity sheets to get us into the spirit of things. Generally Hubs and I don’t much go in for too many hearts and flowers, we’ve been together since 1995 so we’ve seen more Valentine’s Days together than most, but a heartfelt card and a small token gift is always the order of the day. 

We’d already started to make some cute heart shaped decorations using a heart decoration bead kit from Baker Ross. The kits include some nice long pipe-cleaners and lots of colourful beads. You thread the beads onto the pipe-cleaners and then bend into a heart shape. The kit comes with a little bell you can attach to the heart and some ribbon so you can hang it up. It was a lovely, fun activity which we did together. It was also great for helping to develop his fine motor skills which are essential with helping him to learn to write.

Valentine's Day Crafts

A reasonably quick but fun craft we did was to make these heart pets photo frame fridge magnets. Again these are from Baker Ross and they’re really easy to put together. The foam pieces and googly eyes all have peel off backs, so you just peel everything off and stick it together. The small boy enjoyed putting the frame together and making his doggy. He said he’s going to give his frame to Grandad on Valentine’s Day, because he loves him *heart melts*.

Valentine's Day Crafts

Again, the peeling and sticking actions are all great for those fine motor skills, and for exercising his pincer grip, we can’t get enough of that kind of thing at the moment.

Once we’d put our craft box away, we decided to have a go at some of the Valentine’s Day activity sheets we’d printed off from Twinkl, including the Valentine’s Day worksheet and the Valentine’s Day word and picture matching worksheets. These went down very well with the boy, we started with the word and picture matching, he spelt out every word and we looked at the pictures to see which we thought might match the word, he loves this kind of activity at the moment so I was glad we had a couple of sheets of these to do.

Valentine's Day Crafts

The worksheet was a little more challenging for him, he’s not a confident writer, so together we thought about some of the questions and how we might answer them. He verbally listed everyone he loved (dogs first, naturally) and then said his best friend was Daddy. He was getting tired by now, so we called it a day. I didn’t want to push things as that can be counterproductive. It was time for a cuddle and a walk in the park!

Valentine's Day Crafts

We both love our craft afternoons together. It’s lovely to see him focus on a task and enjoy sitting with me. These quiet moments with him are probably the highlight of my week. I think I know who my Valentine is this (and every) year.

Crafts: Making Valentine’s Day cards with toddlers

This week I volunteered to run the crafts table at playgroup. It’s not something I’ve done before because the room is full of people much more creative than I could ever be. I figured we could make Valentine’s Day cards and that wouldn’t be too difficult.

I got my husband, who has a printers and stationers in Didsbury to cut and score some blank cards for us, and I cut out several hundred red and pink hearts. Throw in some glitter pens and some PVA glue and you have the ingredients for toddler fun.

Crafts: Making Valentine's Day cards with toddlers

Setting up – hearts and glue

Crafts: Making Valentine's Day cards with toddlers

Let’s get sticking!

Crafts: Making Valentine's Day cards with toddlers

Getting busy – sticky, glittery fingers!

Crafts: Making Valentine's Day cards with toddlers

Result! Just one of the beautiful works of art.

I really enjoyed making these Valentine’s Day cards with the children. I think they enjoyed it too, it’s always good to share the love, whatever age you are.