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  • Parenting hacks for the summer holidays!

    As we all know, the British summer time weather forecast isn't the most predictable... so, which are the best rainy day activities? Firstly, don't panic! Our team of experts here at Kitchen Sync HQ have thought up some marvellously crafty and unique children's activities to help you get through the school summer holidays.

    CHORE/TREAT JARS

    Prepare yourself for a quick solution to the classic “I’m bored!” comment with this nifty parenting hack - so, what will you need?

    • 2 jars
    • Labels and decorative stars or stickers
    • Lollipop sticks (we think that roughly 50-70 sticks should be enough)

    Firstly, divide the lollipop sticks in half and on one lot, write down chores that your children are able to do. We’ve included some ideas below, but feel free to add your own of course!

    Ideas for the chore sticks:

    • Wash the dishes
    • Tidy bedroom
    • Make Mummy/Daddy a cup of tea
    • Mop the floor
    • Sweep the floor
    • Clean out the rabbit hutch

    On the next set of lollipop sticks, write down some treats - here are some of our ideas…

    Ideas for the treat sticks:

    • 30 mins later bedtime
    • Extra 30 mins of TV
    • +50p allowance
    • One item from the sweets cupboard
    • Play outside for 30 mins longer

    Top tip: Get the kids to decorate the lollipop sticks with drawings and stickers!

    Pop them on your kitchen counter and, when the children are bored, tell them to pull one out and complete a ‘chore’ before they can move onto a ‘treat’. It’s a nifty way to keep them occupied, whilst getting a few household jobs ticked off the to-do list too!

    BOREDOM JAR

    If you have any lollipop sticks leftover from the Chore/Treat jars, this is a great way to use them up and create a new activity to keep little ones entertained during the summer holidays. If not, use some folded up pieces of paper instead - either way, we recommend decorating them with plenty of fun stickers and drawings!

    Write down some rainy day activities onto either your lollipop sticks or pieces of paper, when kids say they’re bored - tell them to pull out a stick and do the activity!

    Here are a few ideas to help you get the ball rolling…

    • Bubble Art - Fill your kitchen sink with water and add a few squirts of washing up liquid and paint, mix it all up and use a straw to blow bubbles into it. Once the mixture is bubbly, rest a piece of paper on top of the mixture so that the bubbles pop and create a vibrant print! When the paper is dry, you can either frame the prints or use them to make greeting cards and gift tags.
    • Play hook-a-duck - (See our guide below!)
    • Bake a cake
    • Draw a picture
    • Paint a mug or plate

    HOOK-A-DUCK

    You can buy ready made hook-a-duck sets online or alternatively create a DIY version using plastic ducks, screw-in hooks and a stick with some string. Fill the bath with a little water and have a go at catching a duck! You could even start a ‘hook-a-duck tournament’ and see how many the children can catch in a minute, start a leaderboard and give out small prizes to the winners!

    What are your go-to activities for the summer holidays? Let us know in the comments below!

  • How to clean your barbecue

    How to clean your barbecue blog header

    We love a barbecue, but the clean down afterwards can be a real pain if you’ve been cooking and hosting all evening! As it’s #NationalBarbecueWeek and the British summer seems to have finally arrived, we’ve compiled some top tips that may help you to keep calm and ‘grill on’ the next time you fire up the coals.

    Barbecue grill

    What’s the best approach when cleaning a BBQ?

    If your BBQ grill has been collecting dust in your garage and still remains caked in last summer’s grub, a more intensive clean is required. Heating coals or simply switching the gas onto a low heat should help you to burn off some of the old food stuck to the grill. After heating gently – please make sure to turn off your gas bottle or wait for the coals to cool before you do anything else! Use the ‘steaming’ method to help soften any debris (this can be done by either adding a damp newspaper onto the grill, or alternatively filling a deep metal baking tray with water, resting it on the grill and closing the barbecue lid to help loosen any old bits of food). Once the barbecue has been steamed and cooled, cleaning should be much easier.

    How to clean a BBQ grill

    Firstly, remove the grill and get ready for a good scrubbing. Avoid using harsh chemicals when cleaning your barbecue grill, as these could damage the grill and also contaminate the food you’re going to cook. Opt for warm, soapy water instead and clean the grill using a scourer. Alternatively, you can buy barbecue cleaner, however we’d recommend testing an area of this product onto the grill before using all over your barbecue - if the area looks corroded or discoloured, use a gentler mix of soapy water to clean instead.

    Once clean, rinse and dry your grill. Grills are quite an awkward shape to navigate in your sink, however a pull out kitchen tap makes light work of rinsing off suds and hosing down any stubborn stains. Once your grill is sparkling clean and dry, you could try rubbing a small amount of vegetable oil onto the grill which will prevent rusting.

    Cleaning barbecue grill using pull out kitchen tap

    Cleaning barbecue grill using pull out kitchen tap

    Cleaning barbecue grill using pull out kitchen tap

    Cleaning barbecue grill using pull out kitchen tap

    Top tip! When cleaning out your BBQ drip trays (only do this when the BBQ and any excess fat are cool) try using some spare cat litter to soak up any grease - leave for a few minutes, then dispose of the cat litter and wash out the trays using warm soapy water.

    Try and keep your barbecue clean after each use, it might be the last thing you want to do after a day in the sunshine with friends - but it will mean less work in the long run! We recommend investing in a BBQ cleaning brush like a steel brush. Once your barbecue has cooled down, use this to scrape away any dirt (it will be easier to do this when the grill is still slightly warm). If you use a charcoal BBQ, empty and dispose of your coals once they’ve cooled (this could take up to 48 hours) and dust the bottom of your barbecue after each use.

    Happy barbecue’ing!

  • Upgrade to a Stylish Sink

    A well-thought out kitchen sink area can completely transform a kitchen, making light work of meal time preparation and washing up. With such a wide range of sinks available, take some time to consider those on offer - luckily, the team here at Kitchen Sync have saved you some time and written a handy guide to help you upgrade to a stylish sink.

    Try a Stainless Steel Sink

    A Stainless Steel Sink is the most popular choice amongst homeowners, it’s no wonder really - they’re stainless, corrosion-resisting and lightweight. Stainless Steel Sinks are also affordable, durable and long-lasting. If you’re looking for a low maintenance sink, Stainless Steel could be a good option for you, as these sinks can be cleaned using most household chemicals.


    Try a Ceramic Sink

    A Ceramic Kitchen Sink such as our Belfast Sink can add a classic style to any kitchen, they are often deep and large, making it easy to wash up larger pots and pans. Ceramic Sinks are also resistant to high temperatures, which allows you to transfer hot pans straight from hob, to sink. Ceramic Sinks are simple to clean - use a mild liquid detergent, vinegar or baking soda to scour away stubborn stains or marks, without etching the porcelain or causing the surface to fade.


    Try a Glass Sink


    Glass Sinks add a modern edge to a kitchen. They come in different colours, which could tie-in nicely with your kitchen design. Make sure you opt for a toughened glass kitchen sink that can withstand hot temperatures, such as the Valle Edesa model. These sinks also come with a Stainless Steel bowl, making them durable and long-lasting. Glass Sinks are straightforward to clean, use either a standard household glass cleaner or a mixture of vinegar and water to coat, then wipe using a soft cloth.


  • How to make mince pies from scratch

    photo of mince pies on the right and text saying How to make mince pies from scratch


    Not many people make homemade mince pies from scratch however the recipes for them don’t require much effort considering how tasty and easy they are to make. No rolling, simply pack into your tin and bake! It’s great fun and should be the perfect distraction for those weekends on the run up to Christmas where the weather prevents any and all outside activity. Follow our mince pie recipe for the perfect classic Christmas mince pies.



    photo of home made mince pies on a slate plate and a glass of red wine on a kitchen counter top

    Making mince pies from scratch is easy and the perfect bit of festive fun, especially for a large family! Plus the outcome is delicious!

    Some things you should;

    • Prep time = 30 to 40 minutes
    • Cooking time = 20 minutes
    • Difficulty level = Easy (perfect for kids!)
    • This recipe makes 18 mine pies

    Ingredients to make your mince pies;

    • 225g cold butter (diced)
    • 350g plain flour
    • 100g golden caster sugar
    • 280g mincemeat
    • 1 small/medium egg
    • Pinch of salt
    • Icing sugar (to dust)

    You will also need;

    • Patty tins (18 holes)
    • Wire rack

    Method;


    1. Rub all of the cold butter into the flour, then mix in the golden caster sugar with a pinch of salt. Combine the mixture into a ball - do not add any liquid and kneed it briefly. The dough will be firm and should feel like shortbread dough. Use immediately or chill for later use.
    2. Preheat oven to 200C/gas 6/fan 180C. Line 18 holes of a patty-tin by pressing small walnut-sized balls of the pastry into the holes. Spoon the mincemeat evenly into each hole.
    3. Roll smaller balls of the remaining pastry and pat them out by hand to make round lids, big enough to cover the pies completely. Press the edges together to seal the pie. You can freeze the pies for up to one month or use immediately for baking.
    4. Beat the egg and brush the top of the pies. Bake for 20 minutes until golden and leave to cool in the patty-tin for 5 minutes. Remove and place on a wire rack. To serve, lightly dust or sprinkle with icing sugar so they look their best and present. They will remain fresh for 3-4 days in an airtight container.

    mince pies on slate dish with a glass of red wine

    And you’re done! A lovely sweet treat, filled with Christmas spirit and free from any unnecessary preservatives! A fresh and (almost) healthy snack!

    Our tips;

    • You can turn these into vegan and vegetarian mince pies by buying vegan or vegetarian mincemeat and swapping the egg used for brushing with non-dairy milk!
    • Try something new with the filling – add some cold vodka to get an alcoholic twist for the adults!
    • Use a cookie cutter to cut the lids into shapes for a less traditional and more creative appearance!
    • Mincemeat contains fruit, meat and other seasonal spices so it's actually not that bad for your diet! What gets you is the pastry! So fill up your mince pie with as much filling as you want!
    • Looking for something new and never done before? Search no more, why not use a cake tin, to bake a huge mince pie! Scale up on the ingredients and baking time and you'll have yourself a good family sized mince pie to share with everyone at home or even work - Plus you can proudly say it was made from scratch! The perfect Christmas food!
    • Fancy adding an orange twist to your mince pies? Add a few table spoons of orange juice to the dough mixture and follow the recipe as normal. You'll get a delicious zesty twist to the pastry!
      • Have you made some food that you'd love to shout about? Tag us on Facebook or Twitter and we'll share it with our own followers! We all love food in the office, especially if it has a special twist to it! Whether you cook or bake, we'd love to see!

  • Beer Marinated Steak

    fathers beer marinated steak

    Beer Marinated Steak is quick, delicious and easy to cook - perfect for a romantic Valentines Day meal at home! Cook for your loved one and show them just how much you love them by pouring your heart into this recipe! You're free to use more or less any steak you'd like but we recommend Sirloin (or even Tri-Tip if you know how to work with that!).

    For an even more romantic meal, light some candles, spray some of your favourite smellies (perhaps something that reminds you of who you love?) and dim the lights a little. Quiet, romantic and simply lovely!

    raw steak on a metal grill
    raw steak on a metal grill aerial shot

    Ingredients


    • 80g Brown Sugar
    • 3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
    • 60ml Soy Sauce
    • 350g Steak
    • 200ml Beer of your choice

    steak cooked on a pan
    steak on a wooden board

    Method


    1. In a baking dish combine the brown sugar, minced garlic, soy sauce and beer and mix them all together.
    2. Place steak in marinade, make sure to flip on both sides to get the marinade everywhere. After that put the steak (still in the marinade) into the fridge to chill and allow time for the marinade to infuse better with the steak.
    3. Preheat grill or pan to medium-high heat. Remove steak from marinade and throw away the excess marinade.
    4. Grill/fry the steak until you have your preferred doneness. Once you have your steak cooked, season with salt and pepper, leave to cool (this lets the meat relax giving it a much better texture in your mouth), then serve!
    5. steak cooked on a pan
      steak on a wooden board

  • What Gin and Tonic is Perfect for You?

    raspberry gin and tonic

    Gin and Tonic is about as British as alcohol gets. It’s simple, refreshing, distinct and looks classy too. The best thing about Gin is that it doesn’t tend to have a specific demographic, anyone can enjoy it and add their own twist with different mixers – tonic is the most popular but many people prefer it with Lemonade, for a much sweeter taste. However, if you have never tried Gin before or are simply bored with the stereotypical Gin drinks then here are a couple of varieties that we think everyone should try.

    The Classic


    For the classic gin, you of course will need good quality gin paired with some cucumber. When it comes to cutting the cucumber, you can go as fancy or simple as you want. For the gin, we highly recommend Hendricks as it goes hand in hand perfectly with a slice of cucumber. This drink is described as bitter, fizzy and floral - we think this is perfect for a classic gin and tonic! Fill a tumbler with ice cubes, then add 50ml gin and 150ml tonic water (this is on preference, we found this measurement to be the tastiest.) Then give it a gentle stir and garnish your drink with thinly sliced cucumber, try and be creative with it, here’s how ours turned out.

    Gin and Hendricks tonic
    Gin and Hendricks tonic

    Gin and tonic with cucumber in

    The Raspberry Rose


    This gin is for those who aren’t a big fan of your standard gin and tonic. This involves an abundance of flavours and makes a classic gin and tonic something completely different. If you want to make your guests a gin and tonic that they would never have tried then this will be the perfect one. For this drink, we used Bombay sapphire gin but you can use any good quality gin you prefer. This one does take longer to make so ensure that you have enough time to make this. Firstly, add 2/3 cup of raspberries, 1/3 cup of gin, 3 tablespoons of caster sugar, 3 tablespoons of lime juice and ¼ teaspoon of rosewater to a jug and semi crush them together and leave for an hour to infuse. Add crushed ice to the tumblers and pour in the berry/gin mixture. To finish off the drink add chilled tonic water and then finally garnish the drink with rose petals.

    rose petals
    raspberries

    raspberry and rose gin and tonic in 2 glasses

    This are our two-favourite gin and tonics. One perfects the classic cocktail whilst the other puts a modern twist on an already loved favourite, both taste completely different yet they are both beautifully made and taste amazing, especially on a hot day!

  • Buyer's Guide: Countertops

    buyers guide: countertops

    Countertops are a handy space to place appliances such as toasters and microwaves, they are used to prepare your food and they are a massive part of your kitchen physically. If you have an outdated countertop, no matter how new the rest of the kitchen is, your kitchen overall will still come across as old and bland.

    We thought we should help with the process of choosing the right countertop for your kitchen. From price, practicality and aesthetics we will go through different designs and materials used for countertops to find the perfect one for your kitchen.

    Quartz


    This is one of the most commonly used materials in the kitchens, which speaks volumes when you think of the options you have. This can look good in the most minimalist of modern kitchens with its uniform look. Its price range is higher than granite but less than marble. Not to forget it’s also better for the environment as it is manmade from the use of waste stone. Quartz would look great with our VALLE QUEBEC 1.5 bowl sink to finish that modern kitchen look.


     a 1.5 bowl stainless steel sink

    Granite


    Granite is a classic when it comes to beautiful kitchen designs and works perfectly with traditional designs. It’s the cheapest of all stone countertops and therefore very appealing for those on a tighter budget. Its natural stone finish really adds elegance to the kitchen. However, it isn’t economically friendly, due to it being a natural stone, massive slabs of stone have to be cut out and transported etc. therefore it has a bigger carbon footprint than quartz. This material works amazingly well with under-mounted sinks as it maintains a traditional look without having too much steel on show. Our VALLE VANCOUVER 1.5 bowl undermounted sink looks incredible with any style of granite.


    A stainless steel undermounted sink

    Marble


    The last of the stone countertops is marble. With it being the most expensive, you know that you’re not only going to get a higher degree of quality but you are also going to impress guests. This looks great in a modern kitchen paired with a lot of white, blacks and greys. Marble isn’t exactly best for the environment because massive slabs of rock are required and a lot of waste is created during manufacturing, however its natural look gives you a countertop that isn’t uniform and looks great. Just like the granite worktop we suggest you opt for an undermounted sink to keep the focus on the marble. However, we recommend a single bowl sink like our VALLE VANCOUVE single bowl undermounted sink which would ensure that the marble is the main focus in the kitchen.


    A stainless steel undermounted sink

    Wood


    If you prefer a subtle, natural look then wood is a great option. To achieve that authentic country kitchen, look then you have to go for wooden countertops. Everything else would just put a modern twist on the classic design. Country kitchens are rare these days but they are certainly beautiful as they bring a very homely feel to the house. This is the least expensive material you could opt for so it’s very forgiving on tighter budgets and if you really do want that warm, loving country home feel in the kitchen then pair the wooden countertop with a ceramic sink. Timeless. Our RANGEMASTER FARMHOUSE SINGLE BOWL CERAMIC BELFAST SINK would work hand in hand with this material and ensure that your country home is complete.


    ceramic single bowl sink

  • Tap Designs To Suit Everyone

    tap designs to suit everyone

    Everyone has their own personal style, it’s what makes us all unique. This is why we sell a huge variety of different tap designs to ensure that no matter your taste, we have a tap that is perfect for your kitchen. Taps get used daily, therefore a nice-looking tap will always get noticed, albeit being a small feature in the kitchen, it’s a key feature.

    Modern


    When people think of modern they usually think sleek, minimalistic and stylish. Well that certainly is still the case when it comes to taps. One of our more modern designs is the VALLE SYDNEY MONO KITCHEN SINK MIXER TAP and its stainless-steel body pairs well with kitchens that utilise black, grey or white. If you want to go for a more modern and sleek look then this tap will definitely be the right one for your kitchen.

    modern stainless steel kitchen tap

    Country


    If you enjoy the warm homely feel that a country kitchen brings then you are in luck. We also offer the perfect taps that suit that big, country style ceramic sink. The ESSENTIALS X TOP KITCHEN SINK TAPS offer the simplicity that the country kitchens try and capture and would work perfectly with a wooden countertop and ceramic sink. These are also sold at a very good price, coming in at £9.97 it’s a complete steal.

    traditional pillar kitchen taps

    Practical


    If you prefer the practical sides of things then we also offer a full range of pull out rinser taps in all different shapes and sizes. So, if you want a modern looking tap that is more practical then you would probably like the VALLE PARIS MONO KITCHEN SINK MIXER TAP WITH PULL OUT RINSER. It offers you increased freedom when washing dishes whilst still maintaining its modern look. This tap would look amazing with a granite or quartz worktop and would be especially helpful for those deep sinks.

    tall pull out rinser kitchen tap

  • Eton Mess Variations

    Eton mess variations

    Eton mess is a classic British dessert that is loved by many bust just because it’s a traditional dessert doesn’t mean we can’t put our own little spin on the way it is made. We created 3 different Eton mess desserts creating different tastes and spicing up the dessert world.

    Summer Fruits


    The summer fruits Eton mess is a great way to mix up the classic recipe as it replaces strawberries with raspberries and blackberries. You can either keep strawberries in with these berries or take out the strawberries completely. This Eton Mess not only tastes refreshing but looks absolutely fantastic too!

    eton mess with summer berries in it

    Tropical


    We decided to turn the traditional British treat into a tropical paradise. For this we took away the strawberries and added mangos and apricot as the main fruit for the filling. Once we had the taste done we thought we should pretty it up even more to give it that extra tropical feeling. By adding extra leaves It makes it look more appetising and will definitely make you feel that you should be eating this in the burning sun on a beach! Perfect for summer.

    tropical eton mess with mangos and apricots in it

    Exotic


    The exotic Eton mess really changes up the recipe, feeling more exotic, we added passionfruit and pomegranate. We kept strawberries in this recipe because we wanted to keep the original flavour and add a more exotic after taste too it. Not only does this taste amazing it also looks great as all fruits involved in this recipe sticks with the original colour of red which contrasts nicely with the white from the meringue mixture. And we decided to embrace the messiness of an Eton mess which gives a very cool look and makes it more fun to eat!

    Eton mess with passionfruit, strawberries and pomegrantes

    Tell us what themed Eton Mess you think is the best? Which is the tastiest or which one looks the nicest!

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