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Some nice little books

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I do get sent the cutest things.    I was recently sent these cute little cookery books published by hachette Printworks ltd.   They each contain 30 recipes.

The first one uses French's Mustard. 

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This recipe in it for Crabcakes looks really tasty!  There are a total of 30 different recipes for salad dressings, casseroles, sandwiches and dips etc.  All looking very delicious.

Next is one for French's BBQ sauce

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This recipe is for Braised BBQ Pork!  Doesn't that look delish??   I think it does!

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I have never thought of using BBQ sauce in a vinaigrette salad dressing before, but they have!
And it looks really tasty.  There are also recipes in this little book for stuffed peppers and steaks and chops, casseroles, etc.   A beautiful compendium.

In the third book the recipes use Frank's Redhot Sauce.  I always have a bottle of that in the cupboard and like to add a splash to lots of things.

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These Chicken Satay Skewers look absolutely delicious . . .

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Next up I am going to try the Spicy Cheese Toasts.   It sounds like a tasty version of Welsh Rarebit!  Watch this space!

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They are actually a part of a series of books being put out by Best Loved Recipes.  You can sign up for a subscription.   You get the first two for only 99p.   You can subscribe and pick up some free gifts for doing so, or you can pick them up at newsagents.  If you subscribe you get some free gifts with the first four deliveries.   You can read more about them here. 

Marie Rayner
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Bread, Cheese and Tomato Omelet

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I was wanting something very simple for supper one night this week.  Something which didn't require a lot of time, or effort, or ingredients.

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Something which would use what I had to hand in the house, and yet at the same time, I wanted it to be delicious and filling, and pleasing in every way . . . eye, smell, taste etc.

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If you have eggs in the house, you always have a simple supper in the making.  They are so very versatile, and most people like them.   Well, that's been my experience at any rate.   We only ever very seldom have eggs for breakfast.   I would say we more often than not have them for supper if we are having them.

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They are a wonderful and inexpensive source of protein.  I only buy free range organic eggs, because I think this is an area where these types of things truly matter.  I refuse to support an industry that cages hens, and at the end of the day, when it comes to egg, free range and organic do taste better.

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This is a great way to use up some stale bread as well.   When I told my sister what I was having she said, bread in an omelet??  I said, why not??  You eat toast with an omelet, this is just saving a step!  Because the bread is toasted like croutons first, it does not get soggy.  Scrummo!

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I have used sliced tomatoes, because they go really well with eggs and cheese, but you could use anything else you wanted to.  Maybe spinach, or even leftover cooked broccoli, and cauliflower, or even peppers. 

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Did you know you should never refrigerate your tomatoes??  Tomatoes are one fruit which continues to ripen after it is picked.  I always keep mine in a bowl on the counter.  They taste much, much better for having stood that way for a few days.  They are always so hard and tasteless when you try to eat them as soon as you bring them home from the shops.

In any case, I do hope you will give this simple supper a try.   I just know you will love it!  Sometimes it is the simplest of things which bring us the most joy!

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*Bread, Cheese and Tomato Omelet*
Serves 1
Printable Recipe

Simple supper fare.  It's amazing what you can do with a few simple ingredients, a stale slice of bread, a couple of eggs, some onion, some cheese and a tomato.  Gorgeously delish!

a little butter
1 thick slice of farmhouse style bread
(remove crusts and cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
2 large free range eggs
1 TBS cold water
dash of white pepper
salt to taste
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 TBS grated strong cheddar cheese
1 small ripe tomato, thinly sliced

Melt a knob of butter in a small frying pan.  Add the bread and cook, stirring occasionally until golden and crispy brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon to some paper toweling and keep warm.

Beat the eggs with a little cold water, some white pepper and some of the onion.  Melt some more butter in the heated pan.  Once it begins to foam, tip in the egg mixture.  Add the fried bread and grated cheese.  Cook gently until set, and the bottom is lightly browned. Top one half with the thinly sliced tomatoe.  Fold in half and slide onto a warm dish.  Garnish with a bit more chopped onion if desired.  


Happy Halloween from our house to yours.  I hope you have a Spooktacular time!!
Marie Rayner
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Herbed Mushroom Mac & Cheese

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 We have been trying to eat less meat in this house lately, and much more in the way of vegetables.   Partly for economics and partly for other reasons.  You may have noticed . . .

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I had some chestnut mushrooms that needed using up the other day and so I thought to corporate them into a macaroni and cheese casserole.    It ended up being really, really delicious!

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I did an herbed cheese sauce, using two types of cheese along with some tarragon.  I love the flavour of tarragon.  It goes really well with cheeses and mushrooms actually . . .

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I also added some chives and thyme.  Both for flavour and colour.  You could use fresh herbs, but I think when they are being incorporated into a sauce like this, it doesn't really matter.  I always use the Bart Freeze Dried Herbs though . . . they hydrate really well, so it's almost like fresh herbs.  Change your herbs often.   I change mine at least twice a year.

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The Toddster always says he doesn't like pasta, but then he has two helpings of whatever it is I make.  Methinks he doth protest too much!  In any case, I hope you'll make this.  It's really, really, really good!

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*Herbed Mushroom Mac & Cheese*
Serves 6
A deliciously different kind of macaroni and cheese, using a combination of herbs, shallots, fried mushrooms and two kind of cheese!  Not exactly diet food however, but very tasty.

For the sauce:
4 TBS butter
4 TBS plain flour
675ml of whole milk (3 cups), warmed
1 tsp freeze dried chives
1 tsp freeze dried tarragon
1 tsp dried thyme
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 pound of grated gruyere cheese, divided
1/2 pound grated strong white cheddar cheese, divided

For the mushrooms:
3 TBS butter
1 shallot peeled and minced
1 pound chestnut mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2 TBS good white wine vinegar
You will also need:
1 pound of macaroni, uncooked
2 sliced of bread made into crumbs
(Or the equivalent in cracker crumbs)
1 TBS butter, melted

First cook the mushrooms.   Melt the butter in a large skillet.  Add the mushrooms and shallots.  Cook, stirring occasionally over medium high heat until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Add the vinegar all at once and cook, stirring until it has evaporated.   Remove from the burner and set aside.

To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan.   Whisk in the flour and cook for one minute.  Slowly whisk in the warm milk whisking constantly, Continue to whisk until the mixture bubbles and begins to thicken.  Turn out the heat and stir in the herbs and 3/4 of each amount of cheese.  Stir to melt the cheese.   Season to taste with some salt and black pepper.  Stir in the mushroom mixture.   Set aside and keep warm.

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Cook the macaroni according to the package directions until al dente.  Drain well and then stir this into the mushroom cheese sauce.  Spread into a shallow buttered casserole dish.

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Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. 
Combine the bread or cracker crumbs and melted butter.  Sprinkle the remainder of the cheeses over top of the macaroni mixture then top with the buttered crumbs.  Bake in the heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes.   Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.  Delicious!
Marie Rayner
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Spiced Tomato Soup

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I am such a lucky girl.  I often get sent the nicest things.  I have always wanted an Emma Bridgewater Mug.  My ex boss had several in her mug drawer in the kitchen and I always loved using them.  I have been known to go to the Emma Bridgewater Page and drool for hours at a time, wishin' and hopin' . . .   I know Susan Branch loves them too and she shared her visit to the plant with us in her latest book.  (Which I devoured from cover to cover!)

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Imagine my excitement when this box arrived in the post late last week.  I could hardly wait to open it!  What did I find inside????  Well . . .

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None other than their brand new 2013 Halloween half pint mug!!  I know!!!  So excited!   A Halloween celebration of the ghoulish gourd and hand decorated with beautifully coloured hand-sponged pumpkins!!   It's generous size makes it just perfect for a warming brew or cup of soup on All Hallows’ Eve.    I love the colours!  It's so perfectly pretty, and decorated both inside and out with these beautifully painted gourds and blossoms!

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British to the Core, Emma Bridgewater Pottery is all created from warm, cream-coloured earthenware  and hand decorated at their factory in Stoke-on-Trent.  In a day and age where a lot of the things we buy are created and manufactured in foreign countries it is nice to see a  British company selling British creation.  To me that only makes them even more special.  I love them.  Do take a gander over to their page and see what they create.  I guarantee you will fall in love like I did.   I now have my eye on a Peter Rabbit mug and have fallen completely head-over-heels in love with her robins.  Who knows, maybe the Toddster will indulge me this Christmas!      

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It was the perfect mug to enjoy this new soup which I created as a Halloween warmer this year.  I thought about doing pumpkin or sweet potato, but then settled on a warming spiced tomato soup.  I always have tons of tinned tomatoes in my larder and I wanted to use what I had to hand . . . and that way you would be sure to have those ingredients to hand as well . . . or at least I hope that you do!  

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Sweet onions, tinned tomatoes, red chillies for heat, some garlic and stock and a bit of herbs is all you need to make this delicious soup.  You can adjust the amount of chillies according to how much heat you do or do not enjoy!  Obviously the more you add the spicier it will be.  I am a chilli wimp myself . . . I don't like things too overly hot . . . 

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Mind you, the garnish of sour cream helps to cool it down a bit.  I got a bit fancy and piped it on with a baggie and dragged a toothpick through it so that it looked incredibly spider-webbed Halloween Ghoulishly frightful!  


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It worked beautifully.  Mind you, then I got all common (as my ex boss would say) and crumbled my crackers into my soup but that is just me!  Not a pretentious bone in my body!  Enjoy!

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*Spiced Tomato Soup*
Serves 4 to 6  

A deliciously easy soup which uses store cupboard ingredients for the most part.  Very quick to put together!  

a splash of olive oil
2 400g tins of good quality chopped tomatoes in tomato juice (2 14oz tins)
450ml of good quality chicken stock
2 TBS good quality balsamic vinegar
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 small clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 small red chilli, trimmed, seeded and finely chopped
(wear gloves and don't touch your face!)  

To serve:
sour cream      

Heat a splash of olive oil in a deep saucepan.  Add the onion and red chilies,  and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened without browning.  Stir in the garlic and fennel seed.  Cook and stir for about a minute.  Add the vinegar.  Cook, until the vinegar has reduced and almost evaporated.   Tip in the tinned tomatoes, the chicken stock, seasoning and brown sugar.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.   Remove from the heat and blitz until smooth with an immersion blender.   Reheat gently.   Ladle into hot bowls, and garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream. 

Many thanks to Emma Bridgewater for sending me this mug.   I just love it!
Marie Rayner
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Why not take a cookery course?

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I have always had a strong interest in food, recipes and cooking.  I grew up in the late 1950's and early to late 1960's.  Women's Lib was in it's early stages, and the majority of women were still working at home . . . cooking, sewing, cleaning and bringing up their families, whilst the father's went out to work.  

I learned how to cook at the knees of my mother and grandmothers.  I was very lucky in that way, as they were really great cooks.  I went on to learn further from my first and second mother's in law, who were also wonderful cooks!   Home Economics was  taught in the schools, and I have to say that the cooking part of it was my favourite aspect of it all.  (That and the eating!)   As a result of that tutelage,  I ended up being a fairly competent cook!  Not everyone was, or is so lucky!

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Those were the days when it was thought that the way to a man's heart was through his stomach!  I'm not sure that has changed, although the climate of how and why we cook sure has!  These days a lot of women are forced, through no fault of their own, to have to go out to work outside of the home along with their husbands  to earn a living for their families.  This has been going on for at least 40 years now,  resulting in a great deal of women (and men) out there who have never actually been taught the basic skills that I was taught when I was young.  

Statiscally, more and more families are being brought up on convenience foods and take-aways for speed and convenience. It is taking it's toll with the rise of obesity and all of it's side effects being one of the major health problems facing our country today!  Many people are under the impression that it takes too much time to cook, or that they can't cook.  It doesn't have to be that way!

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There is a solution.   Cooking does not have to be a skill cloaked in mystery, and ready-meals do not have to be a way of life!    There are a wide variety of cookery courses in the UK now available through  Hot Courses.   And they are tailored specifically to your needs with cookery courses in London, as well as many online cookery courses being offered.   Tinned curries and packaged mash no longer need to be the order of the day with customized, personally tailored courses, as well as  in person and online courses being offered at every culinary level.

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Whether you are looking to cook professionally or just for your own family.  Perhaps you are wanting to amp up your dinner party skills???  Maybe you are wanting to learn how to cook exotic and foreign delights?  Maybe you are just tired of serving ready meals and wanting to serve your family something healthier.  Cookery courses could just be the ticket you are looking for to do that!

Marie Rayner
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Spicy Baked Chicken

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We love chicken in this house and it is a meat which I serve often as it is not only affordable but something which readily adapts itself to many flavours and cooking methods.  

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Sometimes I stuff it and roast it whole, which is very, very nice.  Not to mention you then have the leftovers to turn into delicious casseroles and lets not forget a tasty soup from the bones.

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More often than not though, I like to use pieces, either breasts or leg quarters, sometimes boneless, and at others bone in . . .any way you cut it, chicken is our favourite protein of choice.

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Today I chose to use chicken leg quarters, which I rubbed with a spice mix, drizzled with olive oil and then simply roasted in the oven until the skin was nicely crisped, whilst leaving the flesh tender and juicy.  It's one of the Toddster's favourite meals, served up with potato of some sort and vegetables.  You can't go wrong.  Kiddos love this too!  And best of all it's quick, easy, economical and tasty!

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*Spicy Baked Chicken Quarters*
Serves 6

Simple.   Chicken thigh and leg quarters, rubbed in a spicy rub, drizzled with olive oil and then baked until they crispy tender and tasty tasty!  

6 chicken leg quarters (thigh and drums)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
(If you use onion and garlic salt, omit any other salt)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
2 TBS olive oil
Hot sauce to finish (optional)
Parmesan Cheese (optional)  

The day before you want to cook your chicken pieces, remove them from their packaging and place them into a baking dish, leaving space between each one and place them in the refrigerator to dry overnight.  This helps to ensure a nice dry surface for the spices to cling to.   It's not absolutely necessary to do this, but I do it this way.  You also get nice crisp skin.  Delicious! 
 The next day when you are ready to cook them remove your chicken from the fridge.  Using a sharp knife cut several slashes into the meat on the diagonal.   Mix together all of your herbs and spices and rub this mixture into the chicken pieces, coating them well and equally.  Allow to stand for half an hour before proceeding.

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  

Drizzle the chicken pieces with the olive oil and then put them into the heated oven.  Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, flipping them occasionally with tongs, until the meat easily separates from the bone and any juices run clear.  The skin should be nice and crisped and the meat tender and moist.  If you are wanting extra zip you can brush them with some hot sauce or sprinkle lightly with a bit of finely grated Parmesan cheese prior to serving.
Note:  This recipe is easy to adapt to other flavours.  Wanting a Mexican feel???  Try combining mild chili powder along with the salt, pepper, onion, garlic.  Change out the mustard powder to ground cumin and add some coriander flakes instead of the marjoram.  For an Indian feel, leave out the paprika and herbs and use ground tumeric, ground coriander, ground cumin and ground cardamom along with a touch of cinnamon and cloves.
Marie Rayner
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Pear and Apple Spice Cake

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This is a lovely cake that I always used to make using just apples.   They almost melt into the cake, making it beautifully moist.   The other day I had some pears that I wanted to use as well, and so I used half pears and half apples with the most delightful results!!    

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I kicked up the spice a bit.  Normally I use only cinnamon, but pears go so very well with cardamom . . . and nutmeg is a warm spice that goes well with most fruits, and so I added some of each of those.  

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WHAT A BEAUTIFUL CAKE.  No, not to look at, it's actually kind of ugly to look at, but flavour-wise, this cake cannot be beat.  It's just gorgeous!    

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I added some toasted walnut pieces for a bit of crunch.  I do like a cake that is interesting and has different bits in it, don't you???  But fear not, if nuts are not your thing, you can easily leave them out, no problem.  Likewise the sultanas.    

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I had some caramel sauce left from the  other day when I made those pumpkin fritters.  A bit of that warmed up and spooned over top went down a real treat.  It was absolutely perfect with this cake.  It almost tasted like a candy apple cake then . . .   

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Of course, vanilla ice cream would go very well also . . . or custard, for what is icecream but frozen custard anyways.  Oh heck, why not go whole hog and have clotted cream.  Now that would be fantabulous!

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*Pear and Apple Spice Cake*
Makes one large tube cake  

Moist and spicy and stogged full of fruit, raisins and nuts.  Delicious served warm with some caramel sauce.  Feel free to leave out the raisins and nuts if you don't like them.

420g of plain flour, plus more for dusting the pan (3 cups)
354ml of vegetable oil (1 1/2 cups)
380g of granulated sugar (2 cups)
3 large free range eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vanilla paste
3 cups of peeled and thinly sliced pears and apples (I used cox's apples and conference pears
from our own trees) (355g)
115g of chopped toasted walnuts (1 cup)
150g of sultana raisins (1 cup)

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Grease a 9 inch tube pan with some shortening and dust lightly with flour, shaking out any excess.  Set aside.

Sift together the flour, spices, salt and soda.  Set aside.  Put the oil and sugar into a large mixing bowl.   Beat together with an electric mixer, or a stand mixer (using the paddle blade) for five minutes, until thick.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time and continue to beat until creamy.   Stir the dry ingredients into the batter.  Fold in the fruit and nuts.   Spread this batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top over.   Bake for 1 hour and fifteen minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely in the pan before turning out.   Serve at room temperature with or without ice cream and some caramel sauce, if desired.

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Speaking of cakes, it's always nice to have a nice tin to store all of your baked goodies in.  I was recently sent this lovely cake tin from  Dot Com Gift Shop.  I fell right in love with it.  This Three Tier Red and Cream Cake Tin has a lovely vintage look which I just adore.

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Made from sturdy enamel coated tin, all three compartments are ample in size and close air tight to help keep things fresh.  It would make a wonderful Christmas gift for that baker in your life who also adores anything vintage looking.  It sells for £34.95.  Its a beautiful way to keep three separate baked goodies stored properly without taking up a lot of counter space!  It gets a 10 out of 10 from me!  I love the colours and the vintage look of it.

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I was also sent this adorable set of 12 Christmas Carnival Mini Loaf  Baking Cases, also from  Dot Com Gift Shop. Made from sturdy card and beautifully decorated in a vintage Christmas images they are the perfect size for individual loaves, perfectly sized for gift giving.   I would buy three sets and then bake three different loafs in each set and then present  12 lucky elderly neighbors and friends or singletons with a gift of one of each, wrapped and tied up in a pretty bow for the holidays.   I can't think of one person that would turn that down.

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They held up very well in baking without discolouring or going all floppy.  How cute is that?   These are also very reasonably priced at only £1.95 for the set of 12, which I think is great!  They also have alot of other types of baking cases for the holidays as well as a whole array of different items in the Christmas Carnival Design!

Many thanks to  Dot Com Gift Shop for sending me these!!  I highly recommend both!

Note:  Although I was sent these to try, any and all opinions are my own.
Marie Rayner
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