Category Archives: In The Kitchen

Mrs D’s Roasted Veggie And Parmesan Pasta

 

Feeling very ravenous one lunchtime, I thought I’d make myself a bowl of pasta in tomato sauce; super easy and super lazy – especially as the sauce was coming out of a jar! But then I realised that I had all the ingredients for a roasted vegetable pasta – a dish I had made a few times before. Sure it would take more time and effort than just opening a jar of pasta sauce but it would be so worth it!

Just to make it clear, this may contain pasta but it is not authentic Italian – it’s just authentic Mrs. D! The chilli that’s included in here contains just the right amount of heat without it being too spicy but you can leave it out if you want to. Whenever I make this recipe, I always throw in whatever veggies and pasta I have to hand so this dish does vary whenever I make it but it is still very yum! The recipe below includes the vegetables and pasta I used on the day, but you can use whatever you like. If I was making this for Mr. D I would add some chicken or bacon as Mr. D simply will not do veggie!

I also decided to top this dish off with a poached egg. I’m no professional chef and I’m sure anyone who’s reading this will beg to differ but I actually feel that for the first time ever, the egg was poached really well – I didn’t even have to make to look presentable like they do in the cooking shows. So yeah, for Mrs. D it was a good effort!

ROASTED VEGETABLE AND PARMESAN PASTA

Serves: 2-4

INGREDIENTS:

250g penne pasta, cooked and drained

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tbsp of dried mixed herbs

1/2 a large green chilli, finely chopped (optional)

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

1 medium tomato, diced

100g button mushrooms

100g sweetcorn

100g spinach

50g shaved or grated Parmesan

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

Salt and pepper

1 poached egg per serving

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

  2. Place chilli, garlic, herbs and vegetables, except spinach, in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle over olive oil, add butter and season well.

  3. Put in oven and roast for 15-20 minutes.

  4. Take vegetables out of oven and add spinach. Once spinach has wilted, add Parmesan and mix well.

  5. Dish out onto plates and top with a poached egg.

  6. Enjoy!

 

All photos taken by Mrs. D – in case you couldn’t tell!

 

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Beer-Battered Fish N’ Chips

Now that I’m living in the States, I have had the opportunity to sample dishes that I’d never heard of before, and I have to say it – American cuisine is fab! But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about my fave fish and chips.I have to listen with envy as my family describe how they still have fish suppers every Friday. Yes, of course we can get fish and chips out here but no disrespect to our American cousins, this is a dish that us Brits definitely do best. I’ve tried fish and chips in many different countries, and even though all of them were very pleasant, no one does our national dish quite like we do.

 

 

Admittedly, fish and chips from a proper British chippie is impossible to beat and always to recreate at home. Almost everyone I know has said that there’s something about fish and chips from your local chip shop, with lashings of onion vinegar and wrapped in paper that is hugely satisfying and hits the spot every time. To me a proper fish and chip shop, is one where the fish is battered (never breaded) and the chips are chunky (never fries!) After my last day at the school where I worked, my colleagues and  I could have gone anywhere for my leaving meal. But what did we choose to do? Grab fish and chips and eat them on the steps of the town hall, which incidentally also gave me flashbacks to grabbing munchies after a hard night’s clubbing! Yep, I clearly knew I was really going to miss good ol’ English fish and chip shops that much!

 

 

But as much as I love chips from the chippie, that doesn’t mean that the home-made version isn’t delicious. Which is a good thing as that’s now how I’m going to be able to get my fish and chip fix regularly! Here’s a recipe below for scrumptious beer-battered fish and chips. For those of you who don’t like the idea of frying everything, the chips can also be roasted in the oven at 200°c/Gas 6 for thirty minutes, turning over occasionally.

 

 

BEER-BATTERED FISH AND CHIPS

Serves 2

Prep time 15 mins

Rest time 30 mins resting

Cooking time 40 mins

Courtesy @pixabay.com

INGREDIENTS:

50g plain flour

50g cornflour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp turmeric

75 ml beer

75ml sparkling water

Vegetable or sunflower oil for deep frying

400g cod, hake or haddock, halved

Lemon Pepper

Salt and Pepper

For the chips:

750g potatoes, peeled and sliced into thick chips

2 tbsp plain flour

2 tbsp sunflower oil

Salt and pepper

METHOD:

1. Combine the flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt, pepper and turmeric in a large bowl, reserving about one and a half tbsps of the mixture and set aside.

2. Pour beer and water into the bowl and whisk until you have a smooth, lump-free batter. Leave to rest for 30 mins.

3. Meanwhile prepare the chips. Boil a large pan of water, add the cut potatoes and boil for 2-3 mins until the outsides are tender but not soft.

4. Drain potatoes then tip on to a large baking tray with flour, 2tbsp oil and salt and pepper. Toss until all the potatoes are evenly coated. Set aside.

5.  Pat the fish dry with kitchen paper, then season with salt, pepper and lemon pepper for extra flavour.  Then coat evenly in the remaining turmeric flour mix. Shake off excess then dip into the batter.

6.  Heat 1 ltr oil in a deep saucepan. When hot enough, lower each fillet into the hot oil and fry until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, lift out the fish and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt.

7. Fry the potatoes until crisp and lightly golden. Remove from oil and drain on kitchen towel. Sprinkle with salt and vinegar. Serve with fish and enjoy!

 

Sparkling Rosé Fruit Bowl

I made this yummy fruit salad for breakfast one Valentine’s Day a few years back, served with a delicious vanilla cream. Anything with booze in it gets my vote – even if it is for brekkie! As predicted, it was a little too delicate for Mr. D. who preferred the more robust eggs Benedict I served up afterwards!

This fruit salad is based on a dessert I used to order whenever I used to visit my favourite restaurant in Baker Street: mixed berries in champagne topped with a lemon sorbet. The fruits I ended up using would not have necessarily been my first choice (all they had that appealed to me when I popped into the supermarket the night before!) it all actually worked rather well: the crispness of the apple against the tart softness of the raspberries, the sweetness of the mango, with the zinginess of the grapefruit. I’m not a breakfast person but if this was breakfast every day, I would happily tuck in.

It’s autumn now, when breakfast is supposed to be comforting and warming, but I remembered this recipe and just had to share it. And of course its not just for breakfast. Despite the sugar and wine, you could almost fool yourself into thinking it was healthy! Who said salads can’t be decadent???

INGREDIENTS:

1 Granny Smith’s apple

200g raspberries

1 mango

1 pink grapefruit

500ml Sparkling rosé wine

2 tbspns Caster sugar

1/4 lemon

METHOD:

1. Make a sugar syrup by heating the sugar with 2 tablespoons of the wine until sugar has completely dissolved and syrup thickened slightly. Leave to cool.

2. Peel and dice the mango.

3. Remove peel and pith from grapefruit and cut into segments.

4. Core and chop apple, leaving peel on if you wish.

5. Squeeze lemon juice over the apple.

6. Combine prepared fruit in a bowl with the raspberries.

7. Add remainder of the rosé wine to the syrup.

8. Pour sweetened wine over the fruits.

9. Serve with cream,yogurt, ice-cream or sorbet.

VARIATIONS

If the recipe above isn’t quite your cup of tea (or glass of rosé!) don’t worry – maybe one of these boozy fruit salads will float your fruit bowl!

TROPICAL

Pineapple, mango, passion fruit, kiwi fruit with rum.

SUMMER BERRIES

Raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants and blueberries in champagne

FAR EASTERN

Lychees, rambutans, melon, papaya and dragon fruit in gin

PEACH MELBA

Peaches, raspberries, nectarines and apricots in Prosecco

ORCHARD FRUIT

Apples, pear, plums, apricots and blackberries in mulled cider

CHRISTMAS MAGIC

Kumquats, Clementine’s, blood orange, quince, figs, in mulled wine

 

 

The-Heat-Is-On Tropical Fruit Compote

 

 

 

OMG OMG OMG! I’ve fallen in love… with a compote!

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No you are not imaging these words and I really am saying them. But I’ve just made the most amazing tropical fruit compote that’ll having you thinking that you’re sitting on a beach from the very first spoonful – and by beach I don’t mean Southend (although, of course, there’s nothing wrong with good old Southend!)

It was my second attempt at making this compote. The first attempt wasn’t too bad but I felt it was missing something. So I added more spices, some honey, and some booze – because let’s face it, everything tastes so much better with booze!

Initially I wasn’t a hundred per cent sure if all the flavours would work well together, even though I knew that many of the ingredients used to give flavour worked well individually with the pineapple, mango and passion fruit used in this recipe. Thankfully they did and I was thrilled with the result.

I loved the heat you got from the spices and the rum; the fresh zingyness of the lime; the sweet aroma of the vanilla, and the somewhat simultaneous sweetness and tanginess of the fruit. Delicious!

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But don’t just take my word for it – have a go at making it yourself!

Another thing I’ve discovered about fruit compotes – whether you use fresh or dried fruit – is that they are so versatile. You can serve them hot, warm or cold and they can be used  as a topping for porridge or toasted brioche as part of a yummy breakfast; they can be served as dessert with cream, mascarpone, ice-cream or custard. Compotes can also be used as a topping for cheesecake or a sponge pudding, or can be used as a filling for pancakes, crumbles, pies, cobblers or tarts.

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And if you’re feeding little people – and by little people I mean children not vertically challenged people like myself – you might want to leave out the rum.

Awesome!

THE HEAT IS ON TROPICAL FRUIT COMPOTE

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THE FOOD STUFF:

1 medium pineapple

2 large mangoes

5 passion fruit

Zest of 1 lime

Juice of 1/2 lime

1 vanilla pod

1 star anise

1/4 teaspoon mixed spice

2 tablespoons runny honey

a couple of good glugs of Malibu

THE EQUIPMENT STUFF:

1 Sharp knife

1 chopping board

1 baking tray

A variety of spoons

GET BUSY:

  1. Turn oven on to
  2. Peel and core pineapple and cut into chunks.
  3. Peel mangoes and cut into large chunks.
  4. Cut each passion fruit in half and scoop out pulp.
  5. Place fruit in an oven proof dish.
  6. Cut vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out seeds.
  7. Add vanilla to the fruit.
  8. Add remaining ingredients.
  9. Combine well.
  10. Pop in the oven and cook for 25mins or until pineapple chunks have softened.
  11. Take out of oven – and enjoy any way you wish!

 

Things That Make Me Go Ewwww!

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I never thought of myself as a fussy person when it comes to food, especially when compared to Mr.D, who has a list of food dislikes that’s almost as tall as he is! I considered myself to be the kind of person who’ll eat anything – or at least give it a try. But a conversation about food the other day made me realise that I had an awful lot of food hates myself. In fact after sharing them with you, I doubt I’ll ever be invited to dinner again!

1. Glacé cherries

This might seem a little ironic considering I love cherries, but they have to be either fresh or dried – I can even live with the tinned variety. But glacé cherries for me are a huge non-no. Their bright, tomato-red colour just puts me off as I know that real cherries aren’t supposed to be that colour. In fact for years I thought that they’re weren’t ‘real’ cherries as they didn’t look or taste like the cherries that I love but they are – they’re maraschino cherries that have been stoned and candied in a sugar syrup.

Even as a child I’ve never liked them, and my dislike for glacé cherries still continues. As much as I adore cherry bakewells, fruit cake and Christmas pudding, I always pick out the offending glacé cherries.

Image from glacecherries.com

Image from glacecherries.com

 

2. Smoked salmon

I love, love, love salmon. It’s one of my fave foods. So you’d think I’d be a huge fan of smoked salmon, right? Wrong! Smoked salmon and I never really hit it off. I never liked the taste or the texture. I know it’s considered a luxury delicacy, but I could never acquire a taste for it. In fact, give me a tin of salmon over the smoked stuff any day!

 

Image from wikihow.com

Image from wikihow.com

3. Quiche

Oh my goodness – if there’s a food I really cannot stomach, it’s quiche. I’ve never liked it and they used to serve the horrid stuff  for school dinners on a regular basis. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a whole slice of quiche. I’ve given it a good go but that taste, that smell… no, just not happening!

image from bbcfood.com

image from bbcfood.com

 

4. Green banana

Green bananas are usually served in savoury dishes and feature in Caribbean, South American, African and South Asian cuisines – cuisines I enjoy a great deal.   I don’t come across green bananas very often, thankfully. But when I have, I’ve never really enjoyed them so tend to pick them out. I don’t like the texture – and the fact that I believe bananas should be yellow and sweet probably has something to do with my dislike of them!

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5. Cooked peppers

Now I can eat raw peppers without any problem at all, and I don’t believe that a salad is a salad without them. But for some reason, I don’t enjoy peppers when they’ve been cooked. Unlike many of the foods on this list, I can actually eat cooked peppers but then again I’ve had to – you won’t believe how many dishes contain cooked peppers. It’s just that I’d prefer not to! I don’t really like the flavour or texture of peppers when they’ve been cooked.

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6. Non- peeling oranges

I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with oranges. One of those things in life that just can’t be explained. But even though I’m happy to OD on oranges when I have a really bad cold, they have to be of the peeling variety. I can’t be doing with all that cutting malarkey. And since childhood, I’ve never been able to stand the sight of those navel oranges – definitely not for me!

no

 

 

7. Soft jelly sweets

Now I’ve always had a sweet tooth so naturally I love sweets. But I don’t like those ultra soft, sugar-coated jelly sweets. I’m not totally sure why – I vaguely remember being sick after eating too many of these as a child so I’m sure that’s got a lot to do with it – but they’ve always made me feel a bit queasy after tucking into a few, so I tend to give them a miss. I prefer the jelly sweets with a harder texture.

imagesSGJI4XBQ

 

8. Curried/stewed fish

OK, so I love fish, I love curries, and I love stews. I even like fish stews and curries. But I’m very fussy about how the fish is cooked. It has to be in chunks rather than steaks, and there shouldn’t be any huge bones and certainly no skin, as  I hate the texture – all slimy and nasty. Not good!

Image from bbcfood.com

Image from bbcfood.com

 

 

9. Duck

Duck is very popular with many people but I personally have never understood the appeal. It has a rather strong flavour that I really don’t like but if I did have to eat it, I’d prefer to have my duck cooked a bit longer than most people would prefer. I’ve tried to get into it but I’ve accepted that my tastebuds are different to everyone else’s and duck just isn’t for me.

bbcfood.co.uk

bbcfood.co.uk

 

10. Offal

I reckon it’s a small minority of people who can stomach offal – but I’m not one of them. The smell alone is horribly off-putting, and although I’ve tried classics such as steak and kidney pie, and  liver and onions,  it’s not something that I’m in a hurry to sample again.

imagesMAEAE76Q

 

If any of you have any ‘food nasties,’ I’d love to hear about them!

 

 

imagesCAHZOS9O

Triple Chocolate Banana Cake Bars

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I absolutely love the combination of chocolate and banana together. I think it’s a match made in dessert heaven so when I stumbled across this recipe for chocolate and banana cake bars – which contained all three types of chocolate – I knew I had to share it with you.

Guess who’ll be baking away this weekend?

Makes: 16 cake bars

Image from The Examiner

Image from The Examiner

INGREDIENTS:

250g plain flour

130g butter, softened

100g soft brown sugar

3 ripe bananas

2 eggs, beaten

1tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

60g dark chocolate

30g white chocolate

30g milk chocolate

45ml milk

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 160ºC.
  2. Butter and line 2 22cm x 24cm cake tins.
  3. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar.
  4. Mash bananas.
  5. Add to the butter mixture along with vanilla and eggs.
  6. Sieve flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl.
  7. Combine well.
  8. Add all the chocolate and milk.
  9. Stir well.
  10. Spoon mixture into tins.
  11. Bake in the middle shelf of oven for about 20mins.
  12. Insert a skewer or knife into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean it’s ready.
  13. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
  14. Slice into rectangles while in the tin.
  15. Remove from tin and serve.

COOK’S TIP:

  • Instead of making cake bars, this mixture can be used to make muffins. Just substitute cake tins for muffin tray lined with muffin cases.
  • Chocolate can either be broken into chunks or shop bought chocolate chips can also be used.

imagesCAHZOS9O

Passion Fruit Mousse

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Passion fruit mousse is supposed to be the closest thing that Brazil has to a national dessert. It’s not hard to see why. Mousse? Great! Passion fruit? Amazing! I absolutely love tropical fruits, so this dessert is right up my street.

Prep: 15 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time

Serves: 4

Image from Sainsbury's

Image from Sainsbury’s

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 4 passion fruit, pulp and seeds scooped out
  2. 150g sweetened condensed milk
  3. 175ml fresh whipping cream
  4. 4 lemon shortbread thins, to serve

METHOD:

  1. Put ¾ of the passion fruit pulp and seeds (reserve the rest for decorating) in a food processor or blender and whiz to a purée.
  2. Push through a sieve into a bowl, to remove the seeds.
  3. Add the condensed milk and stir until smooth.
  4. Pour the cream into another bowl and use a hand-held electric whisk to whip until stiff peaks form.
  5. Fold through the passion fruit mixture, 1/3rd  at a time, until combined.
  6. Spoon into small serving glasses and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
  7. Spoon the reserved passion fruit over the mousses and serve with the lemon thins.

imagesCAHZOS9O

Sweet Griddled Pineapple

imagesCA4CCVW8

Pineapple is one of my favourite fruits, and it’s so versatile – it can be used in sweet and savoury dishes; makes an excellent mixer in cocktails and can be eaten both raw and cooked. This is a great dessert to serve as finale to a barbeque.

Prep: 5 minutes

Cooking: 10-15 minutes

Serves: 4

Image from Sainsbury's

Image from Sainsbury’s

INGREDIENTS:

  1. 1 pineapple, quartered lengthways, leaving the skin on
  2. 4 tsp Fairtrade caster sugar
  3. 1 tsp Fairtrade ground cinnamon
  4. 1 lime, cut into wedges

METHOD:

  1. Preheat a griddle pan or barbecue to medium.
  2. Cook the pineapple quarters for 2-3 minutes on all sides until just softened and a little charred.
  3. Just before removing from the heat, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon.
  4. To serve, cut away the fruit from the skin and cut up into slices.
  5. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over.

imagesCAHZOS9O

Pineapple Coconut Fizz

imagesCA4CCVW8

Pineapple and coconut make a great partnership, and this mocktail is perfect as a refreshing summer drink.

Prep: 5-10 minutes

Total: 5-10 minutes

Serves: 4

Image from Sainsbury's

Image from Sainsbury’s

INGREDIENTS:

  1. ½ x medium pineapple, peeled, cored and chopped, reserving 1 skin-on slice, cut into wedges, to decorate
  2. 200ml pineapple and coconut juice drink
  3. ½ x 28g pack fresh mint, washed and chopped, reserving a few sprigs to decorate
  4. Crushed ice
  5. Soda water to top up

METHOD:

  1. Put the pineapple in a bowl and crush using the end of a rolling pin.
  2. Tip into a jug and add the pineapple and coconut juice and the chopped mint.
  3. Fill 4 glasses with crushed ice, then pour over the pineapple mixture.
  4. Stir with a cocktail stick, then top with soda water
  5. Decorate with the reserved pineapple wedges and mint to serve.

imagesCAHZOS9O

The Coolest Ice Cubes Ever!

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I can’t believe how hot it is. I swear I’m melting away. I know England cries out for hot weather but seriously this is just too much. I feel like I’ve been locked in a sauna. People may pray for the sun but in my opinion, hot weather is so overrated – and that’s coming from a summer baby! Beach babes are able to look effortlessly hot as the temperature soars, and I’m no different. I’m able to look like a hot, sweaty mess with no effort at all!

 

So in this heat, it’s no wonder my thoughts have turned to keeping super cool. For me it’s cold drinks – and I’m knocking them back like there’s no tomorrow. And cold drinks mean ice, which right now is a necessity. The summer season means parties, weddings, barbeques etc where ice and drinks will go hand in hand. But the problem with ice cubes is that they can be pretty boring to look out and as great as they are at keeping your drinks cool, they’re also great at watering them down (which is only OK if you’re drinking water!) I did a post a while back about creating an ice-bucket – made from ice. It proved to be very popular and inspired this post about livening up the humble ice-cube in terms of appearance (presentation is important, you know!) and taste!

1. GOT TO BE HOT TO BE COOL!

Image from lifetricks.co.uk

Image from lifetricks.co.uk

Everyone knows that if you freeze cold water, you get cloudy ice. But freeze boiling water and you get crystal-clear ice. And that’s really important if you’re going to add other ingredients to your ice cubes.

2. THE HERB GARDEN

Image from boston.com

Image from boston.com

 

Add washed sprigs or leaves to the water before freezing. Mint ice-cubes are great in iced-tea (Mr. D’s fave) or fruit punch; rosemary or thyme are perfect with home-made lemonade; basil works well with gin, vodka or rum based cocktails,  and lemongrass ice-cubes in pineapple or apple juice – WOW!

3. CITRUS FRESH

Image from goodfoodideas.com

Image from goodfoodideas.com

Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges are a very obvious choice as slices are often served with cold beverages. But you could also try experimenting with pieces of grapefruit, pomelo, blood or ruby orange. These will work with still or sparkling water; as well as a variety of sodas, cocktails and juices.

4. BERRY NICE 

Image from tastespotting.com

Image from tastespotting.com

If you want pretty as a picture ice-cubes, berries are the way to go. They give a fantastic burst of colour and a fruity flavour to drinks. Raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants, blackberries etc. could go in whole, although strawberries would probably have to be sliced. They would be perfect with iced tea, lemonade, sodas, berry, cherry, pomegranate or cranberry cocktails or juices, and raspberry would also work well with orange or peach juices.

5. TROPICAL PARADISE

 

Try pieces of pineapple, kiwi fruit, lychee or dragon fruit for a touch of the exotic. These would be a welcome addition to coconut water, a multitude of cocktails and tropical fruit juices.

6. SALAD DAYS

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

Cucumber, celery, red, yellow and green peppers might be more at home in a salad bowl but these can be really refreshing served with still or sparkling water or in a Pimm’s (my absolute fave – summer just isn’t summer without it!)

7. EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES

Image from shaadicurry.com

Image from shaadicurry.com

Add some washed, fresh rose petals to water before freezing. I adore the delicate flavouring and aroma of rose as an addition to food and drinks, and it is amazing with pomegranate, raspberry and other berry based drinks.

8. IF THE SUMMER HEAT ISN’T ENOUGH…

Image from blond-logic.hubpages.com

Image from blond-logic.hubpages.com

 

… then try adding cut pieces of chilli to your ice cubes. This will give a light heat to drinks and complements citrus, pineapple, papaya and mango based drinks. Just remove some of the seeds in order to reduce the level of spiciness.

9. GLITTERING COLOURS

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

Add some edible glitter for sparkle or food colouring for a marbled effect. These obviously won’t do anything in terms of flavour but they will make the ice-cubes in your drink look so pretty, so it might be good for those who want to keep the taste of their drinks pure.

10. DITCH THE H20

Who says that ice-cubes can only made with water. It can be annoying when ice-cubes water down our drinks. So freeze cola for cola-flavoured ice-cubes; pineapple juice for pineapple-flavoured cubes; iced tea for iced tea cubes… you see where I’m going with this.

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

And of course you can combine any of the above and freeze them in water if you really want to be creative with your cubes. Try rose with raspberry; pineapple with lemongrass and ginger; cucumber with mint… the possibilities are endless!

Let’s hope the only thing that melts in the heat wave is the ice in your drinks! Stay cool.

imagesCAHZOS9O

 

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