The ultimate cat birthday

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If you follow me on Facebook and Instagram you probably already know this: I am a very (very) proud cat mum. Like all good cat parents that means two things – that our ginger fur-babies, Hunter and Sybil, are quite simply the coolest cats on the block and that I love each and every one of their little quirks and details.

While I can hardly believe it, these furry twins just turned two – and obviously that’s something to celebrate! As rescue kittens we don’t know exactly when they were born, so always make a big fuss of them on the day they officially joined the family – that means a whole heap of cat-ty fun.

When we celebrated their first birthday last year I came across this awesome ‘catland’ idea and knew that we absolutely had to make it part of our cats’ annual birthday festivities. Seriously, why choose just one toy when you can let them have everything – and I mean everything!

This year’s cat playland featured every one of Hunter and Sybil’s favourite things: a blanket, ribbon and scrunched up paper ball, Christmas ornaments, hair ties and an old phone cable (encouraging bad behaviour, I know!), their favourite play tunnel and – of course – the perfectly sized cardboard box. And the cats absolutely lost it with excitement.

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With both cats exhausted, it was time to move on to part two of the celebrations – the food! Food is a big part of all birthday celebrations, so making sure you have the right things on the menu is key.

Maybe salmon, spinach, courgette and green beans? Or how about chicken with pasta pearls and spinach? Luckily you don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to pull together such a fabulously gourmet meal – Fancy Feast has got it covered.

We whip up a little cat birthday ‘cake’ for Hunter and Sybil each year using their favourite Fancy Feast flavours – for Hunter that means beef is on the menu, while Sybil’s more of a chicken girl.

It’s super simple (and way less gross!) than it sounds – just pop over a can or pouch of Fancy Feast (they’re single serve, so you won’t have open cat food lingering in your fridge) on a nice dish and top it with a little extra treat you know your fur-baby loves: think cream cheese, grated cheese or their favourite cat treats.

Oh, and a candle of course!

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Hunter and Sybil’s birthday is officially done and dusted for another year, but they won’t be longing for the next one to roll around too quickly – they can relive the magic of their purr-fect birthday every evening with Fancy Feast. After all, we all enjoy eating well, so why shouldn’t your fur-baby – love is in the details.

giveaway_HTWD

Fancy Feast_Cat birthday_WIN

Hands up if your cat’s mad about running water?

Thanks to the lovely team at Fancy Feast I have a cat water fountain to give away to two lucky readers – plus we’ll pop in a replacement filter with each one too, so your cat’s all set for the next six or so months.

To be in to win, simply leave a comment below telling me how you show your cat how much you love them. Let your inner ‘besotted cat parent’ out – it’s something we all have in common!

This post (and Hunter and Sybil’s second birthday celebrations) was made possible thanks to Fancy Feast. All comments and photos are, and always will be, my own.

Entries close 11.59pm Thursday 21 July. The winners will be chosen at random and notified on Friday 22 July. Each winner must make contact within 3 business days or they’ll forfeit the prize and a new winner will be drawn. Sorry – this giveaway is only open to New Zealand residents.

Winter wellness smoothie

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There are so many things to love about winter – for me it’s snuggly nights at home, warming winter meals, crisp morning walks, thunderstorms and cuddly cats.

But there’s one thing the season brings that I’m sure we would all rather go without – illness! As soon as the weather gets cooler, colds and flus seem to be everywhere and if you’re anything like me, you begin doing everything possible to avoid coming down with something.

That’s where this super simple, vitamin-packed winter wellness smoothie comes in – it’s the perfect way to support your immunity and help keep those winter sniffles away. The best part? It only takes five minutes.

What makes this recipe great is that you don’t need piles of fresh fruit and veggies to make it – just some banana, tinned pineapple in juice, unsweetened yoghurt and Barker’s Lite Squeezed NZ Blackcurrant syrup.

It’s the Barker’s Lite Squeezed NZ Blackcurrant fruit syrup that makes this smoothie such a vitamin-packed winter booster – blackcurrants are naturally loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants. Plus it’s made with 50% less sugar than regular Barker’s Blackcurrants and has no artificial sweeteners, colours or flavours. Basically it has all the goodness, without any extra nasties (and fewer calories!).

I’m going to be honest: I’m not a morning person or much of a smoothie person. But you know what? I absolutely love this recipe – so much that I’ve sacrificed an extra five minutes in bed a few mornings this week to make sure I can whip one up before work.

Once you have a bottle stashed in your fridge you can try all kinds of other quick ideas – like folding 1 Tbsp of fruit syrup through 300g unsweetened yoghurt to enjoy on its own or on top of your favourite cereal for a totally delicious, vitamin-packed morning treat. And remember – you can always check out Barker’s for more winter wellness recipe ideas.

Enjoy!

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Winter wellness smoothie
Adapted from Vegalicious Recipes

Ingredients

Method

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend for 20-30 second until smooth.
  2. Pour into a glass. Serve with extra pineapple if desired.

giveaway_HTWD

Barker's-Winter-Wellness-Reader-Giveaway-NZ

The team at Barker’s have given me a winter wellness prize pack to giveaway to one lucky reader packed with everything you see above – pretty awesome, right?

To enter, simple check out this post on our Facebook page and follow the instructions. You can earn a bonus entry by leaving a comment on this post too – but you need to enter on Facebook first!

This post was made possible thanks to Barker’s. All images and words are my own.

Cheese-lovers savoury loaf

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The older I get, the more I love cheese. In salads, muffins and pizzas; in sauces, with pasta or simply sliced with crackers – cheese is one of the most versatile ingredients you can have stashed in your fridge. It’s the perfect excuse to always have a variety of cheeses on hand, right?

But with just two of us in our house, there’s no point in buying the big packets of cheese you see in the supermarket – we simply won’t get through it fast enough. And with different recipes calling for different cheeses, how do you commit to just one type for the coming month?

Well, now you don’t have to choose. Dairyworks’ awesome range of cheeses are all about convenience – that means they come in smaller sizes (think 250g blocks), are cleverly packaged and are all totally resealable. So now it’s easy to have everything from Tasty to Mozzarella, Parmesan to Gouda in your fridge all at once – without the waste!

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Three ways with… Banana bread

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Ever have those days when you desperately need to bake something but have no time and barely anything in the cupboards? Yeah, it happens to the best of us.

Whether you’re a keen baker or just like to bake from time to time, I’ve discovered a fab product that you have to have tucked in your cupboards for those forgotten shared lunches, birthdays and visiting guests – Edmonds Banana Cake Mix.

Not only does the finished product taste as good as from-scratch, but you’re bound to have the other ingredients you need tucked in your cupboard already. But the best part? You can make three cakes from a single packet. How awesome is that?

That doesn’t mean you need to make three basic banana cakes – how about three delicious (and super simple) takes on banana bread? Luckily I have you covered with recipes for peanut butter and chocolate, salted caramel and raspberry and coconut banana bread.

The only trouble is you never have those perfectly brown bananas when you need them. Well guess what? It totally doesn’t matter! Simply poke holes with a fork into all sides of whatever bananas you have on hand and warm them in the microwave in 30 second bursts until they’re nice and brown. Simple, right?

What I love most about these recipes is that the finished banana breads taste just like they’re made from scratch, but they take next to no time to whip up. While they’ll be in the oven for the best part of an hour, you’ll have the batter mixed up in five minutes flat. Perfect!

So cover yourself for those baking emergencies – or let’s be honest, anytime you need something sweet – and pick up a packet of Edmonds Banana Cake Mix. You’ll love it!

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Basic banana bread

Ingredients

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius and grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until just combined.
  3. Pour into prepared loaf tin and spread evenly. Place in oven and bake for 45 – 55 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  4. Allow to cool in tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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Salted caramel variation

Additional ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp salted caramel (try my recipe here) + extra to drizzle

What to do

  1. Pour salted caramel over banana bread batter once you have poured it into the prepared loaf tin. Pull a knife through the mixture to marble the salted caramel through the batter.
  2. Bake as usual and drizzle with extra salted caramel once cool.

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Peanut butter and chocolate variation

Additional ingredients

  • ¾ cup chocolate drops + 1 Tbsp extra
  • 2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter

What to do

  1. Once batter has been mixed, add ¾ cup chocolate drops and mix through until evenly dispersed. Pour into prepared loaf pan.
  2. Place 1 Tbsp peanut butter in a mug and warm in the microwave for 20 seconds. Drizzle over banana bread batter and marble through batter using a knife. Bake as usual.
  3. Once cool, drizzle with melted chocolate and warmed peanut butter.

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Raspberry and coconut variation

Additional ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups frozen raspberries
  • ¼ cup desiccated coconut
  • 2 Tbsp icing sugar
  • ½ – 1 tsp milk
  • Freeze-dried raspberries and shredded coconut, to finish

What to do

  1. Once batter has been mixed, add frozen raspberries and desiccated coconut. Mix until just combined. Pour into loaf pan and bake as usual.
  2. Combine icing sugar and milk in a mug and mix until well combined and runny. Once loaf is cool, drizzle with icing and finish with freeze-dried raspberries and shredded coconut.

giveaway_HTWD

Thanks to the lovely team at Edmonds I have a prize pack filled with $50 of Edmonds products to giveaway to one lucky reader.

To be in to win, simply leave a comment below and tell me what you would bake with Edmonds Banana Cake Mix.

This post was made possible thanks to Edmonds. All words, images and recipes are my own. Entries close 11.59pm Wednesday 18 May. The winner will be chosen at random and notified on Thursday 19 May. Winner must make contact within 3 business days or they’ll forfeit the prize and a new winner will be drawn. Sorry – this giveaway is only open to New Zealand residents.

Chilli chocolate hi-hat cupcakes

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Chances are you have a pot of mayo perched in your fridge ready for your salads and savoury dishes. But have you ever thought about using it in some sweet baking?

Yip, there’s a secret ingredient inside these delicious chilli chocolate hi-hat cupcakes – they’re packed with mayo!

I know what you’re thinking; why would you use mayo in cupcakes?

Well, ultimately mayo is just eggs and oil – two ingredients that are used in baking all the time. So when you bake with mayo, you’re really just switching out the eggs and oil you’d usually use for this cupboard staple – perfect for when you’re in a pinch! Using mayo also makes the finished cupcakes both light and dense at the same time – it sounds like a strange combination, but it’s absolutely beautiful.

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Feijoa and almond crumble slice

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The air is cooler, the days a little shorter and there are trees absolutely brimming with a gorgeous little green fruit. Yip, it’s officially feijoa season!

After visiting my grandparents last weekend I was lucky enough to come home with a big bag brimming with feijoas – so many that a few days later, even with husband doing his best to eat every last one, there were enough left to do a bit of feijoa baking.

That’s where this beautifully fragrant feijoa and almond slice comes in. Imagine a light shortbread base with just a hint of lemon, topped with freshly sliced feijoas and a scattering of slivered almonds, finished with a crumbling of shortbread. Good, right?

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s an absolute breeze to make – the base and topping are one mixture, and all the feijoa topping needs is a sprinkling of sugar and a dash of lemon juice. Too easy!

Enjoy the finished slice hot or cold, on its own or with a generous swirl of whipped cream on the side. However you serve it, I’m sure the feijoa fans in your life are going to absolutely love it!

Happy baking!

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Feijoa and almond crumble slice
Makes approx. 20 pieces

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 110g butter, softened
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 12 medium feijoas, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp slivered almonds

Method

  1. Grease and line a 20x30cm (or similar) slice tin with baking paper and preheat oven to 185 degrees Celsius.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, egg, butter and 2 tsp lemon juice. Mix until well combined and a soft dough forms.
  3. Press 2/3 of the dough into the prepared baking tray. Set aside while you prepare the filling.
  4. In a medium bowl combine sliced feijoas, 2 Tbsp sugar and juice of one lemon. Mix until well combined and allow to sit for five minutes.
  5. Drain excess lemon juice and scoop feijoas onto prepared base. Scatter with small pieces of remaining dough.
  6. Place in oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

White chocolate ANZAC cheesecake

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There are a few things we always do on ANZAC Day, year after year – we get up bright and early and head along to the Dawn Service at the Auckland Museum, then go out somewhere nice for breakfast before heading home to do a bit of ANZAC baking.

Whether you’re a baker or a baking-eater, no ANZAC Day is complete without ANZAC biscuits – and what’s not to love about those sweet, chewy, oaty biscuits?

While ANZAC biscuits are delicious as they are, I decided to make something a little more indulgent this year – after all, we’re lucky enough not to be limited by war-time rationing, so why not! So this year we’ll be enjoying something a little different on ANZAC Day – a white chocolate ANZAC cheesecake.

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Spiced apple yoghurt muffins

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While it’s always a bit hard getting used to the end of daylight savings and the arrival of cooler weather, there’s one great thing about autumn – the baking!

Not only is it much more pleasant using the oven when you aren’t already roasting in the summer heat, but there are a whole new range of flavours you can play around with – think baked autumn fruits and warming spices.

Spiced apple is one of my all-time favourite flavours for the cooler months, so I was thrilled to find out Piako’s launched two delicious new flavours to their range – Lime and (my personal favourite) Spiced Apple.

Like all the flavours in Piako’s range, these new gourmet yoghurts are perfect for enjoying as an indulgent treat on their own – but they’re equally delicious in baking! After all, Piako yoghurts are known for being deliciously flavoursome so why wouldn’t you want to bring that beautiful flavour into your baking?

PSST – want to WIN a month’s supply of Piako yoghurt and a beautiful candle inspired by Piako’s Spiced Apple flavour? Then get your entry in at the bottom of this post.

That’s where these gorgeous Spiced Apple yoghurt muffins come in. As well as being loaded with a full cup of Piako’s beautifully creamy Spiced Apple yoghurt, they’re also packed with fresh diced apple and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg to give them a little extra punch.

Not only does the Spiced Apple yoghurt effortlessly bring a whole heap of flavour into the muffins, but the Piako yoghurt also helps keep the finished muffins incredibly fluffy and moist.

Seriously, these muffins are so good that you’ll want to make the recipe using all the various flavours in Piako’s range – raspberry muffins made with Piako raspberry yoghurt with frozen raspberries are next on my list!

So grab a tub (or two) of Piako yoghurt (RRP $5.99 for 500g) and get baking!

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Spiced apple yoghurt muffins
Makes 12 muffins, recipe adapted from Once Upon a Chef

Ingredients

  •         120g butter, softened
  •         ½ cup white sugar
  •         ¼ cup brown sugar, packed + extra for sprinkling
  •         1 egg
  •         1 cup Piako Spiced Apple yoghurt
  •         2 cups plain flour
  •         1 tsp baking powder
  •         1 tsp baking soda
  •         1 Tbsp cinnamon
  •         ½ tsp nutmeg
  •         2 apples, cored and diced

Method

  1.    Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius and grease a 12-hole muffin pan.
  2.    Place butter in a large bowl and beat until creamy. Add sugars and beat until pale and fluffy.
  3.    Add egg and mix until well combined. Add Piako Spiced Apple yoghurt and mix well.
  4.    Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg, and beat until just combined.
  5.    Add diced apple and mix until just combined. Mixture will be very thick.
  6.    Spoon mixture evenly into the prepared muffin pan. Sprinkle each muffin with brown sugar.
  7.    Place in oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly in the pan before transferring to a wire rack. Best enjoyed warm.

giveaway_HTWD

Thanks to the lovely team at Piako I have a month’s supply of Piako yoghurt and a beautiful candle inspired by their new Spiced Apple flavour to giveaway to one lucky reader.

To be in to win, simply use the gadget below to tell me which new Piako flavour you would most like to try – Spiced Apple or Lime.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post was made possible thanks to Piako. All words, images and recipes are my own. Entries close 11.59pm Sunday 24 April. The winner will be chosen at random and notified on Tuesday 26 April. Winner must make contact within 3 business days or they’ll forfeit the prize and a new winner will be drawn. Sorry – this giveaway is only open to New Zealand residents.