Halloween Cake Pops – Bake of the Week

pumpkin mummy cake pops

I hope I’m not running before I can walk, but I think I may have finally cracked Cake Pops!! I’ve talked here so many times about not being able to master them – I’ve still got a long way to go before they are perfect but I’m more than a little bit pleased with my Halloween Cake Pops.

Last week, Dr Oetker asked if I’d like to use some of their products to make their Ghost Cake Pops. My first thought was to decline knowing that I’ve never been successful at them yet but being the stubborn mule that I am, I took the challenge head on.

ghost cake pops

I did a fair bit of googling to see if there were any tips that I could follow – The biggest difference I came across was to have the cake mixture still quite crumbly and not use very much buttercream/frosting. I think this is where I have been going wrong – my pops were just too heavy and kept popping off the sticks – even with dipping the end of the sticks in melted chocolate to help them stick.

I decided to stick with my good old faithful madeira cake recipe as I know it so well and used a really firm buttercream using cold real butter. I was sent 2 bags of white chocolate drops to use for the covering – The Dr Oetker drops are tiny which work really well when melting them. They melt before the mixture either burns or turns unusable which so easily happens when melting white chocolate. I also added 1 tbsp of Trex Vegetable Fat (Try not to think about it too much!) to the white chocolate to make it runnier and easier to coat the pops. Worked brilliantly!

painting cake pops

I used Dr Oetker black Food Gel for the decorations – It has a nozzle to pipe it on but I prefer to paint it for really small details.

ghost cakepops

I felt so much safer covering the pops knowing that I was going to cover them again with a layer of sugar paste – I used a Garrett Frill Cutter to make the Ghost’s cape.
Then I got a bit braver and used ‘Naked’ Cake Pops dusted with Orange food dust for the pumpkins. I piped melted white chocolate over the cake pops to make the Mummies. I’m so chuffed with them!

There was a stand out bake last week which I have chosen for my featured ‘Bake of the Week’ – The amazing Chocolate Candy Cake from The More Than Occasional Baker. She used drinking straws for the effect of keeping the candy bags floating (I’ve also heard that balloon sticks are also good for this too!). Completely brilliant cake!!

floating sweet candy bags cake

bake of the week

1. How pretty are these steamed Rose Buns from Eileen at ET Speaks from Home?
2. Spiced Honey Shortbread with special Halloween decorations from Family Friends and Food
3. I love these Scarborough Fair Oatcakes – Really must try – from The Lass in the Apron
4. I do wish Pecan Pie was more popular here in the UK – I bought a huge bag of Pecans last week so am armed to make this from Bourbon and Brown Sugar
5. leftover treacle toffee? Make these Bonfire & Apple Muffins from I’d Much Rather Bake Than
6. Happy Anniversary wishes go to the Free From Fairy who has celebrated with her GF Heart Cake this week

The Linky is now open for all your bakes of the week – Savoury, sweet, cakes, pies, biscuits … the possibilities are endless. Here’s the badge for your post – Lovely to see that people are visiting each others’ bakes too.

Casa Costello
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Disclosure: I was sent some Dr Oetker products to use when making my Cake Pops but still had full editorial control. More information and a video tutorial on how to make Cake Pops can be found here

Autumn Picnics with #Vitapicnics

I’m going to let you into a secret – There’s a place I know. Its rather perfect. Don’t tell everyone – They’ll all want to go. If you’re thinking of setting out on an autumn picnic over the half term – you may want to think about going.

hell's mouth

Let me tell you about Hell’s Mouth (No, not the hole in my face that talks a bit too much – That’s a completely different type of Hell’s Mouth) A wonderful beach just near Abersoch – I’ve probably told you about it before. Perfect for surfing, perfect for walking, perfect for picnicking – Which is why I’m telling you about it.

vita coco kids

Vita Coco Kids have a campaign running this autumn to keep us picnicking. Just because the weather is a bit fresher doesn’t mean to say we can’t eat al fresco anymore. I’m all in favour of this idea and have been for years – We do outdoor day trips all year round – We are your forever optimistic picnickers – There’s not much a good coat and an umbrella can’t protect against.

Vita Coco want me to tell you all about our favourite picnic spot but shhh! remember to keep it quiet!

Let me introduce you to Hell’s Mouth …

FREE car park – This is a perfect spot for surfers so will spot some brilliant camper vans and maybe the odd half naked man getting into a wetsuit. Its a cross we all have to bear! Even better there is a tea van so if you finish your flask – there’s always a top up!

car park hell's mouth

There’s a sandy walk (about 200m) down to the beach – Good exercise but not too far and you are nicely warm by the time you reach the beach. Perfectly safe to let the kids walk on ahead.

walking to the beach

There’s plenty of waves for the active type – Disclaimer: This is Dermot and not me!

deem surfing abersoch

There’s even peace and tranquility (Maybe not if you take your 3 kids)

surf board beach wales

We don’t live on the doorstep of Abersoch – in fact, we have a good 2 1/2 hour drive to get there but it is well worth it. We quite often set out mid morning on a Sunday and don’t get back until late evening. We take an almighty picnic but it soen’t stop us devouring the chippy at Conwy on the way back.

Disclosure: We were sent a fabulous picnic set to encourage us to talk about our favourite picnic spot. Vita Coco Kids is fruit-flavoured Coconut Water using natural flavours, containing on average 20% less sugar and calories than other fruit juice drinks. I tested the drinks out on the kids without telling them that they were new and they went down really well. My 3yo loved the mango & pineapple flavour (Apple & blackcurrant flavour also available)

Makeaway v’s Takeaway with Sainsbury’s

homemade takeaway ideas

We don’t have traditional Saturday nights – We area back too late from Synchro trainings and have to be up at 6am on Sundays. It often means that come Sunday nights, we need something really simple and quick. I’m a bit of a one for a takeaway but Derm is always conscious that they are fatty and often ends up with stomach pains.

Sainsbury’s contacted me and asked if I would take up their Takeaway v’s Makeaway challenge. I had to make a dish that we would probably get from a takeaway and see how it went.

I like my curries to be tasty with a bit of a kick rather than blow your mouth off spicy so made a Thai Green Curry (We actually cheated and made it mid week). We were sent some sticky rice as part of our package from Sainsbury’s to review – I didn’t know Sticky Rice could cause such hilarity. We endured such questions as ‘What sort of glue do they use to make it sticky?’ (AM pretty sure its not Pritt Stick!), ‘Who puts the glue in?’ (have never seen a job vacancy for Glue Inserter), ‘Could you stick your homework together with the sticky rice?’ (Don’t try it!)

Thai Green Chicken Curry

Serves 4-5
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 20 minutes
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Hot


  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Small Onion (Chopped Finely)
  • 4 Chicken Breasts (Chopped into 2cm pieces)
  • 1 Red Pepper (Chopped into small cubes)
  • 100g Mixed Frozen Chopped Peppers (This meal is all about speed and easiness!)
  • 1 can Coconut Milk
  • 1/3 jar Sainsbury's Green Thai Curry {sate
  • 50g Cashew Nuts (The plain ones not the salted variety you eat in the pub)
  • Dried Parsley to decorate


Don't be tempted to add more than 1/3 of the jar of Thai curry paste - It will have a pleasant kick with just this amount!


Heat the oil in a large pan and Soften the onion for approx 3 minutes
Add the chicken pieces and continue to cook until just cooked through
Add the peppers (both raw and frozen) I like a crunch of pepper so therefore why I don't use all frozen
Add the can of coconut milk and 1/3rd jar of Sainsbury's Green Thai Curry Paste and stir through. Keep cooking for 2 minutes - should be bubbling.
At the very last minute add the cashew nuts and stir through
Remove from the heat and serve with Sticky Rice

I also eat loads of prawns when I get a takeaway so made Battered Coconut Prawns – These were so easy, quick and tasty that I will never buy in again. Just loved them dipped in a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

coconut battered prawns


Battered Coconut Prawns

Serves 3-4
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 15 minutes
Allergy Shellfish
Meal type Appetizer, Lunch, Snack, Starter
Misc Serve Hot
Crunchy battered coconut prawns perfect dipped into Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce


  • 1 packet Sainsbury's Tiger Prawns (I use Ready-to-eat as again this recipe is all about speed)
  • 1 Ramekin of Plain Flour
  • 1 Beaten Egg
  • 1/2 Ramekin of Desiccated Coconut


Arrange the Ramekins in order Flour, Egg then Coconut. Have a piece of kitchen roll ready to transfer the prawns to when they are just cooked to drain.
Heat up at least 4 Tablespoons vegetable/sunflower oil in a small frying pan
Dip the prawns in the flour, making sure all covered.
Then into the Egg
Then into the coconut
Then fry until both sides are just golden (approx 2-3 minutes)
Leave to drain on the kitchen roll and repeat from Step 3 until all prawns are used up
Eat immediately whilst still hot and dip into Sainsbury's Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

Dishes that work being made at home:

Boiled Rice – which now includes sticky rice (with or without glue!)
Soups – Hot & Sour Soup is fabulous! Recipe coming soon :-)

Sometimes only the takeaway will do …

Spring Rolls
Prawn Crackers
Chicken Chat – Just haven’t perfected it yet – but I’m determined!

What meals do you turn to the takeaway for? Have you found any dishes that are much better made at home?

Disclosure: We were sent some Sainsbury’s Thai products to try out for our challenge and a voucher to cover the cost of other ingredients. We could choose whatever dish we liked to cook. All in all, we were really pleased with our efforts at a takeaway – we didn’t have that horrible bloated feeling that we often get when we order in and both dishes were really tasty.

#MorningWin with Belvita

belVita #morningwin

Ah, mornings – don’t we all just love them? Here’s how they go in our house …

If we wake before 8.30
If the uniform is not dirty.

If the ham is still in date,
making lunch won’t make us late.

If we find shoes, left and right,
If the kids don’t start to fight.

If all homework is completed,
properly saved, and not deleted.

If the kids get out of bed,
shouted once, not seeing red.

If belVita’s in the tin,
we have what’s called a #MorningWin!

This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by Belvita Breakfast. Learn more at http://bit.ly/belVitaUK

#morningwin belvita
This is Violet ‘enjoying’ a belVita – Seriously. she is – you want to see how grumpy she normally looks in a morning!

We were sent some BelVita to test as part of our entry into this competition – We tried 3 flavours, Apricot, Hazelnut & Choc Chip. I had no trouble getting my girls to taste test them – in fact they were devastated when we ran out. Vi’s favourite is the Choc Chip (See pictured – She just hasn’t told her face! She is so not a morning person). My fave by far are the Hazelnut belVita’s – perfect for dashing off on that school run! Even better dipped in a brew!

Bacon, Balsamic & Black Pudding Risotto – Organic September

bacon balsamic black pudding risotto

We are coming towards the end of Organic Food Month and I’ve been trying to do my bit. I will admit to thinking in the past, that organic food was mainly for the rich and picky, expensive cuts of meat and teeny vegetables. I have been educated over the past few months though, and it is great to see that organic products feature more and more on our supermarket shelves. Sainsbury’s have been celebrating Organic Food Month with #OrganicSeptember – they currently have over 250 So Organic food products stocked in stores with more being added all the time.

I was set the challenge of producing a recipe using organic products – I wanted to use every day ingredients that we would have in our fridges and cupboards. The weather started to change last week so I was right in the mood for a comforting risotto. I’ve talked about my love for risotto dishes before and am very familiar with preparing them.

organic food sainsbury's


Bacon, Balsamic & Black Pudding Organic Risotto

Serves 2-3
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 25 minutes
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish, Snack
Misc Serve Hot
Organic Bacon, Balsamic & Black Pudding Risotto - Tasty, filling and warming for a cold winter's day


  • 6 Rashers of smoked back bacon
  • 1/2 Small Onion (Chopped finely)
  • 250g Sainsbury's Organic Arborio Risotto Rice
  • 1l Vegetable Stock
  • 2 Slices of Black Pudding
  • 1 knob Butter
  • Sainsbury's Organic Balsamic Vinegar


Chop the bacon into 1-2 cm pieces and cook through at the bottom of a large risotto/saute pan
Remove the bacon from the pan, leaving to one side and add the onions. Sweat in the bacon fat until transparent
Add the Risotto rice and approx 100ml of the vegetable stock, stirring continuously
Keep adding the stock as it evaporates, while still stirring - Do not allow the pan to run dry. This will take approx 15 minutes until the rice is lovely and tender
Meanwhile, grill the black pudding slices for 3 minutes each side and remove from the heat. Chop roughly into chunks - I like some small and some more hearty.
When the rice is just about al dente, add the black pudding and stir through for 1-2 minutes. This will help break down the pieces too.
Season with Salt & Pepper and remove from the heat.
Serve in large bowls and drizzle a generous helping of organic vinegar over the top

What I used: Like a lot of people, I thought that buying organic meant spending a lot. I worked out the following costs for the ingredients I used:

Organic Risotto Rice = 80P (£1.60 per packet)
Organic Onion = 11p
Organic Balsamic Vinegar = erm 5p? (£2.00 per bottle)
Black Pudding (unfortunately I was unable to get organic BP) = 65p (£1.25 for 4 slices)
Vegetable Stock = 20p
Organic Bacon = approx £1.50 (This was the item that was the greatest difference between regular and organic)

Total cost of Risotto for 2-3 = £3.31

Disclosure: I was sent a variety of Sainsbury’s Organic Products and vouchers to cover the costs of any other ingredients used. I was given free choice what recipe to come up with.

Homemade Bread with Sainsbury’s

sainsburys bread mix

I’ve talked before about my new found love for working with yeast – Its like a chemical experiment that suddenly I seem to get right and I love it. I’ve never used a pre-made bread mix though and wondered how they differed from bought bread. Do they really taste superior and yet save time? Sainsburys asked me if I would like to try one of their bread mixes to have a go.

We tried the Golden Multiseed Bread Mix – I made this loaf after school on a Thursday and loved it. All I had to do was mix in water and olive oil and leave to prove for an hour to double in size. I did this just before going on the school run so was all ready to go on my return. It really did double in size too!

The timings on the packet were exactly right – when it says cook for 30 minutes, it was dead on.

I loved the inside of the bread – just dense enough but with some larger air holes (I’m pretty sure this is what Paul Hollywood would call a ‘good structure’) I loved the seeds which made the bread so much more interesting than plain bread.

The verdict from the rest of the Costellos was just as good – When I got back from taking Millie to training later that night, over half of the loaf was gone – Always a good sign?

My tips for the perfect prove:
Turn the oven onto 140C for 10 minutes.
Turn off and leave the door slightly ajar for 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a metal bowl, covered with oiled cling film then place in the oven with the door closed.

making wholemeal bread

Disclosure: I was sent the bread mix to review and a voucher to cover the cost of any extra ingredients needed.

Linking up this weeks with Kate & Colette’s Tried & Tested linky

We're going on an adventure

Win 1 years subscription to OK! Magazine

magazine subscription competition

Now I know I talk a lot about wine and gin, but even I have an alcohol free night sometimes. My mum isn’t a drinker either so we always have some soft drinks in for such occasions. I first tried Shloer 13 years ago when I was having Millie – I have to admit it has got a lot better since those days! The flavours seem more interesting and not as empty as they once did. I have even been known to make alcohol free cocktails with Shloer – The recipe for my take on an alcohol free Bellini is HERE.

non alcoholic bellini cocktail recipe

Shloer have an offer on for the next 8 weeks (from 15th September onwards) to win a free copy of OK! Magazine with every promotional bottle of Shloer bought – RRP £2.25. There’s 3 sparkling flavours to choose fromL White Grape, Red Grape and Rose and the promotional code can be found on the label of promotional bottles. Simply enter the code each Friday at www.shloer.com/ok to enter (Terms & Conditions can also be found here).

For Casa Costello readers, I’ve got something even more exciting – Simply fill in the Rafflecopter details below for a chance to win 1 years subscription of OK! Magazine – You can fill some parts in once per day for even more chances to win.

The competition ends on October 9th and the winner will be chosen at random and notified within 5 days. The lucky winner will have 1 week in which to provide their details to enable the subscription to be set up. Sorry, UK entries only! Best of Luck!

Julie's Notebook #WinningWeekends linky. Supporting British Bloggers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Muesli Brandy Snap Baskets – Eat Natural Cereal Review

edible muesli brandy snap baskets bowls

You know I love a challenge, right? Well I do. I’ve challenged myself to come up with an alternative way of presenting and eating cereal – Eat Natural cereal to be precise.

I love the idea of getting my girls to eat more cereals – Not the processed kind covered in chocolate but natural goodness. I’ve always been a fan of cereal with yogurt and fruit as I’m not really a milk drinker and am working on the girls. Millie is up late most nights as she trains so hard with synchro and manages to get herself up and out at the crack of dawn each day – I’m conscious all the time that she must not burn herself out and how important a good snack is to keep her energy maintained.

I’m also very intrigued by the world of edible bowls and know they are just the thing to get my girls trying new foods. This recipe for Muesli Brandy Snap Baskets is a real novelty – It may contain sugar but also contains the goodness of the Eat Natural cereals, we were sent to try. We love the extra flavour that the seeds and nuts bring to the baskets. Mr C is rather addicted to the cereal with yogurt and Millie has been devouring it with tons of bananas.

edible bowls


Muesli Brandy Snap Baskets

Serves 10
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Meal type Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Cold
You won't believe how delicious these Muesli Brandy Snap Baskets are served with ice cold yogurt - I prefer peach or passion fruit yogurts with a generous sprinkling of more cereal.


  • 55g Butter
  • 140g Caster Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
  • 45g Plain Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 80g Eat Natural Muesli (I used the Vine Fruit variety and picked out a few of the larger raisins)


Using an electric mixer, whisk together the sugar and the butter until pale and fluffy.
Add the syrup and continue to whisk for a couple of minutes until combined.
Add the flour and the ginger and fold through.
Place the muesli into a dessert bowl. Pick up the mixture (it will be like a loose dough) and place on top of the muesli.
Press the muesli into dough until it has all been picked up and is evenly distributed.
Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes until chilled.
Preheat the oven to 190C and line a baking tray with baking parchment or a reusable baking sheet.
Divide the mixture into 10 balls and place 5 well spread out onto the baking tray. The mixture can burn easily so I only cook 5 at a time.
Slightly press the balls down with a thumb and bake for 14-16 minutes. Keep an eye open towards the end as they catch quickly.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for approx 2 mins only. They will still be hot but will have set enough to handle - Any longer and they will solidify too much.
Mould on top of an upturned ramekin or bowl - I find a wooden bowl best - The mixture tends to slip down a china bowl or cup.
Serve with yogurt, fresh fruit and a sprinkling of more Eat Natural cereal.

cereal edible basket bowls

Disclosure: I was sent some Eat Natural cereal boxes to try. I didn’t have to blog about them but wanted to as we genuinely are enjoying them (we still have some left – It lasts ages by the way!)

Entering into A Mummy Too‘s Recipe of the Week.


Soreen Malt Loaf Rocky Road

soreen rocky road

I’ve always been a fan of Soreen Malt Loaf – It was like a big treat when my Mum used to buy it when I was a child. I’ve passed that love onto my girls thankfully – We now have to buy Soreen in 2′s as they don’t last 5 minutes in this house. (Handy Tip: If you have a toddler who is a little ‘bunged up’ Malt Loaf can help speed up their digestion and make them a little more regular – Now aren’t you glad I shared that!?)

I will admit to never having thought about using Malt Loaf when cooking though – It doesn’t seem to last that long. Soreen challenged me to use a Malt Loaf in a recipe though so on with the challenge I went … I’ve gone quite simple with a Rocky Road – You still get the juicy tenderness and sweet taste of the Malt Loaf but also the famous taste of the chocolate and marshmallows. I didn’t expect to love this as much as I did though – Its very addictive – I reckon Soreen Rocky Road will now become a regular thing in our house!

Soreen Malt Loaf Rocky Road

Serves 10+
Prep time 10 minutes
Meal type Dessert, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Occasion Birthday Party, Casual Party
Adding a twist to a traditional Rocky Road recipe with the juicy texture and delicious taste of Soreen Malt Loaf


  • 1 Soreen Malt Loaf
  • 8 Digestive Biscuits
  • 150g Melted Milk Chocolate
  • 50g Glace Cherries
  • 50g Mini Marshmallows


This recipe also works brilliantly if you add chopped nuts or coconut.


In a large bowl, crush the digestive biscuits into small crumbs - a few small chunks are fine for texture
Cut the marshmallows into halves and some quarters and do the same with the cherries - Add to the biscuits
Chop the Malt Loaf into 1cm chunks - If you nibble on some you will be fine, there is plenty. Add to the rest of the ingredients in the bowl.
Pour the melted chocolate over the ingredients and press down into a 9" greased square tin. I use a silicone one to make it easier to get out at the end.
Mark out square portions with a kitchen knife before the mixture sets too hard - It will make it so much easier to cut later.
Refrigerate for at least an hour (if you can leave it that long)

Disclosure: I was sent Soreen Malt Loaves for inclusion in this recipe – I had free choice which recipe to make and genuinely loved the taste! For more recipe ideas and other Soreen products visit the website

Sharing with A Mummy Too, Honest Mum & SupergoldenBakes

tasty tuesdays honest mum CookBlogShare


When Sylvanian Families meet the Costello Family – Review

sylvanian families forest nursery

Sylvanian Family toys are huge favourites of my girls – they are just the sort of thing they love- lots of tiny pieces and many possibilities for variations. I’m not promising that they don’t occasionally find themselves hidden in a bike or a rogue dolls house too. They are really versatile.

We were asked a couple of weeks ago if we would like to review one of the sets – the Forest Family with the Chocolate Family. I asked my girls to gauge their reaction and all 3 jumped at the chance. There’s not many toys I can think of that all 3 ages 12, 8 & 3 can cater for. Miss M 12 is responsible for setting up the shots in the garden – you wouldn’t believe how long she was out there for arranging the various scenes.

chocolate rabbit family sylvanian families

The Forest Nursery is a 3 sided building that comes with 30 extra pieces, including nursery furniture and toys for in the nursery. Some of the items need actually putting together, like the card building blocks pictured below.

forest nursery ready to play

The Forest nursery retails at £16.99 with free delivery and is suitable for ages 3 and upwards. I particularly like that the nursery can be attached to some of the other items in the Sylvanian Family range – the Country Doctor Clinic and Maplewood Hall. I hold fantasies that one day all of our toys will be in a neat array on display. I KNOW that this will forever be a fantasy!

chocolate bunny

I asked around my fellow holiday makers what their thoughts on Sylvanian Families are:

Miss M (Aged 12) – ‘I like to play hide the character in the garden with my little sisters’

Miss L (Nearly a teenager) – ‘I loved my Sylvanian Families – Wish I hadn’t given them away to my younger cousin so soon’

Mrs D (21+) – ‘I would love more career based Sylvanian Family sets that would perhaps appeal more to boys as they are so well made. For example: A Fire Engine, An Airport’ – I love this idea!

What are your thoughts on Sylvanian Families – Do you ever play the Hot & Cold, Hide ‘n’ Seek game?