Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Happiness is... a Lindt chocolate bunny

Yesterday little man Eddie and I went shopping for the Easter chocolate supplies. For gifts and for our own pleasure. The choice of the Easter chocolate is impressive, and as much as we are tempted by artisan eggs, the classic chocolate bunnies from Lindt will always hold a special place in our hearts.
These bunnies are cute, come in different sizes and are a perfect Easter treat. In fact, Easter wouldn't be Easter without one or two (or ten plus) Lindt chocolate bunnies. Don't you love their smoothy creaminess that melts in your mouth? And who said, it's only for children?! I have noticed my husband sneakily biting the chocolate treat that Eddie has trustingly left on the table, half-eaten.



Choices, choices...Needless to say we got bunnies of different sizes - just to make an academic comparison, you know. Test based research. We got some carrots as well. And a couple of boxes of Lindt truffles.



"Yummy in my tummy!", as Eddie likes to say.
Last Sunday we entered a competition in the local supermarket to win a gigantic plush Lindt bunny. Alas, we didn't win. I kept my fingers crossed, as I would have given the big bunny to the local charity Guideposts, which works with the special needs children, and from which my family has benefited, as our older son Sasha enjoys having days out with the Guidposts, when they provide the holiday playdays.



P.S. Nothing to disclose, nobody asked me to write about the chocolate bunnies. All chocolate has been paid for by us.

McCain Home Chips challenge

I've been following in the footsteps of Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews blog and taking part in McCain Home Chips challenge. Cheryl and I are always up to any cooking/culinary challenge, and it is fun to see which ideas she comes up with.

I am not surprised that the simple combination of soft, fluffy potato and crispy coating makes McCain Home Chips a taste sensation – and now the latest data shows they are the chip of choice for us Brits – infact we eat 3.5 billion of them every year, so many that if you lined them up end-to-end they would stretch to the moon and back four times!
 
I usually buy the McCain French Fries, as this is what my guys love the most, so I was curious to try the Home Chips and compare.
 


What did the Home Chips challenge involve?
The brief was simple:
"Take the Home Chips challenge!
Now McCain is challenging you to put Home Chips to the test in three quick steps:
1. Contact us for samples and wait for the bag of potato goodness to arrive at the address of your choice.
2. Get cooking! (Don’t forget to use your favourite condiments and accompaniments.)
3. Tell us what you thought – and feel free to pass the challenge onto colleagues, friends or family.
We hope it will be fun foodie challenge for you and your family to take part in and also make an interesting blog post for the readers of your blog"
 
I know I am suggesting the most obvious combination here, but chips and fish are a perfect match, so that is exactly what I cooked. I am not very keen on the fish in batter and have chosen to cook the trout in parchment paper or en papillote. You simply make a parcel from the parchment paper, add a few pieces of your preferred veg, a sliced carrot or fennel and herbs, add fish, close the pocket and the fish will be cooked in steam in it sown liquid. A healthy and tasty way of cooking the fish.
 
What about the McCain Home Chips? Did they stand the test? They were soft and fluffy inside as promised, with the crispy outside. As chips go, they are probably perfect.
 
My guys were happy to eat them, though Eddie said he loves Smiley Faces and French fries more. I think Sasha's choice would be French fries as well.
 
My favourite condiment to serve with the chips is not mayo or ketchup, but a bottle of runny mustard. It reminds me of the eateries I loved visiting when we lived in the States. And of course, I love pickles.
 



To read what Cheryl cooked with her bag of chips, visit her post The McCain Home Chips Challenge.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Crazy about DGJ Organics' Wild'n'Crazy

A few weeks ago my lucky little man Eddie won a range of DGJ Organics' Wild'n'Crazy range. Eddie loves the bathtime, especially splashing for England bit, but not very keen to have his hair washed. He needs to be persuaded to do it, with "Don't you want to be nice and clean and smell lovely?" or "Eddie, monsters can build nests in your hair".




When the colourful bottles of shampoo from DGJ Organics arrived, I told Eddie it was a present from Mr Tumble's favourite brand (just look at the colours, they match Mr Tumble's spotty bag). Well, if it's good for Mr Tumble, it is good for Eddie as well.

The first impressions: we love the colourful bright bottles. Very appealing to young kids.
We have tried the whole range (not just Eddie, the whole family including Daddy) and this is what we thought:

Organic Wild'n'Crazy Kids Hair Juice/Detangle Shampoo with Banana & Berry extracts (yellow bottle)
First thing that you notice is the most delicious smell of ripe bananas, it is so tasty, you can almost eat it (not that we tried). Loved by all four of us. Left our hair soft and clean. And it does what it says - it is much easier to comb the hair afterwards due to the detangling action.

Organic Wild'n'Crazy Kids Hair Juice/Detangle Shampoo with Watermelon essential oils (green bottle) is a no tears shampoo which gently cleanses and detangles the hair. Again, the smell is absolutely wonderful, though I thought it was more melon-y rather than watermelon-y.

Organic Wild'n'Crazy Kids Swim shampoo & Body wash (blue bottle) with organic blueberry and coconut extracts is effective at neutralising the harmful affects of chlorine in swimming pool water and chloride in sea water. I confess we used it at home rather than in the swimming pool. We only just introduced Eddie to the pleasures of the local leasure centre, but its showers are not enticing to stay longer than a few seconds, it is way too cold to have a proper wash. Hopefully, once the weather is more clement, we could use this facility, until then after a quick dip in the shower, we have a proper wash once we get home, in the comfort of the warm bathroom. This shampoo has a mild smell of the coconut mixed with blueberries, a bit like a blueberry yogurt. Hair is left silky-smooth after its use, and the skin is feeling fresh.

Organic Wild'n'Crazy Kids Lice Repel shampoo with organic strawberry & lemon eucalyptus extracts (red bottle): now for such an unplasant task it is an ultra mild shampoo. It contains natural lice repellents. It is always better to use preventative measures rather than deal with the nasty creepy-crawlies (yep, been there a couple of times with our older son). Unlike the other lice treatments that we came across (which smell terribly and kind of announce to everyone in the vicinity: this person had a lice treatment), this shampoo smells lovely. Used it a few times for our older son who goes to school.

Organic Wild'n'Crazy Kids Hair Juice/Detangle Spray with watermelon essential oils (smaller size green bottle) is just right for kids like Eddie whose hair is very fine, and is often dreadlocky in the morning (he is a restless sleeper, like me, who moves a lot in bed, and his hair looks pretty tangled after the sleep). Use the spray straight on the hair, a very handy nozzle helps you to manage the stubborn knots.




The DGJ Promise: "All our products are made with plant derived natural ingredients enhanced with organic essential oils/extracts and contain no harsh chemicals such as Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphates or parabens. These products may not foam as much as synthetic based products".

I remember reading on FB some irate parent complaining about the shampoos not foaming enough to his liking. True, you might get less foaming, but that didn't bother us. In fact, I think there is enough foam, as you can see from the photo below. The shampoos cleanse thoroughly and leave the scalp feeling refreshed and moisturised.

When Eddie saw this photo, he said: Eddie's crying. But actually it is the opposite, he was laughing his socks off when I took this photo.


Monday, 25 March 2013

Hake in soured cream with mashed potatoes

When the weather is cold, I crave mashed potatoes. I could eat it straight from the pan, piping hot. For me this is a comfort food from my childhood days, and I can happily eat it every day. With vegetables, pickles, meat cutlets or fish, it enhances any meal and is probably unfairly called the side dish.
Talking of fish, when I grew up, I remember that the hake was much scorned by the housewives. Whenever someone was buying the hake, you'd hear them specifying loudly "For my pussycat", while in reality they were buying it for the family meals. But it was the cheap fish and it would have been embarrassing to confess that you liked it. Fast forward the time, and I am happy to serve it to my family.
The last time I cooked the hake, I was on the phone to my Mum, when she asked me what we were going to have for dinner. I said: the hake. She asked wistfully: with the soured cream? But of course.



Hake in the soured cream with mashed potatoes
For 2-3 fillets of hake (keep the bone in) you will need
1 tbsp olive oil
a tub of soured cream
4-5 small tomatoes, sliced
half an onion (finely chopped)
1/2 lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp of plain flour
Dip the fish in the flour and coat evenly on both sides.
Pan fry the hake pieces in the olive oil with the finely chopped onion, add the sliced tomatoes. Once the skin starts to crisp, add the tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the soured cream and cook for another few minutes. Season well, squeeze the lemon juice over the fish.
Serve with the mashed potatoes (don't forget to warm the milk when you make your mash, it truly does make the difference to the flavour).

It might not be a great looker, but it tastes great, the sauce is totally of the plate-licking variety. Mop it up with a nice chunk of bread.








Saturday, 23 March 2013

One chicken: three meals

In them good old days when I was a child, my grandma used to keep chickens. She also kept the geese and cows and pigs. As we usually visited her during the summer holidays, all the meals at that time were cooked in the so called summer kitchen, i.e. in the oven just under a roof on four stilts, without any walls, not far from the wooden well and the big kitchen garden bordering on the woods. The hedges were rather neglected, and you could occasionally glimpse the deer. Or step on the snake while walking among the watermelons. Why am I suddenly reminiscing about those days? It crossed my mind that I rarely buy a whole chicken, preferring to buy just a pack of chicken breasts or thighs for cooking a meal. However, if you get a whole chicken, you can easily stretch it into several meals.



Meal no.1: Roast Chicken with bacon
The first chicken meal served on Thursday was the roast chicken, stuffed with the sausagemeat (mixed with the breadcrumbs and chopped fresh herbs) and semi-wrapped with the streaky bacon rashers to add the extra smoky flavour to the dish. It was a terrific roast, which I served with the roast wedges of squash and red cabbage with apples.
Roasted chicken will become a base for several meals.



Meal no.2: Chicken, avocado and feta salad
The next day I fancied some cold salad. The cubed chicken breast was mixed with the chopped avocado, red pepper, 100g cubed feta cheese, a handful of black pitted olives, a handful of pine nuts, a sliced tomato and the dressing made of 1 tsp of Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp honey.



Meal no.3: Chicken noodle soup
The carcass and leftovers were used to make a lovely chicken noodle soup.
Put the carcass and shredded leftovers in the pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Add 1 chopped garlic clove, a piece of fresh ginger (grated), 2 finely chopped stalks of celery, salt and pepper and a dash of the soy sauce. Cook for about 20 minutes for the broth to get infused with all the added flavours. Slice a sweet red pepper, several mushrooms. Take the carcass out of the pan and discard, having removed all bits of meat. Add the mushrooms and pepper to the broth and cook for about 5 minutes. Put some noodles in the broth and cook for a couple of minutes until soft. Serve with the chopped spring onions. You can make it more noodley if you want by adding more noodles, or keep it more soupy, it's up to you.




Be creative, change the salad ingredients, depending on what you have in the fridge. Feta can easily be substituted with a chunk of cheddar or hard goat's cheese. Add a sliced apple, chopped gherkins, walnuts. Salads are a great dish, where almost anything can go in for a satisfying meal.
Noodles in the soup can be swapped for rice or baby pasta.



What do you do with the leftover chicken?

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Celebrating the Bacon Connoisseurs Week

I often wonder just who decides that a certain week or a day of the year is, let's say, a Chocolate week or a National Bug-Busting day (I kid you not). Did you know, for example, that from 18-24 March 2013 we are celebrating a Bacon Connoisseurs Week.

Bacon Connoisseurs Week is set to revolutionise the nation’s love affair with bacon. 

This special week celebrates all the fabulous cuts and cures of bacon and is a firm favourite in the foodie calendar.

Think you know your bacon? Think again! With literally hundreds of different cures in Britain, it is safe to say not all bacon is the same - with smoked, unsmoked, Maple cured, Wiltshire cured, hocks, steaks, joints and rashers to explore – the list is endless! Of course it’s not just for breakfast either – enticing recipes for snacks, lunches and dinner prove that bacon can be enjoyed at anytime throughout the day.

To mark the occasion I cooked a roast chicken for dinner, stuffed with the sausagemeat and wrapped with the rashers of bacon for the extra flavour. All the juices were added to the gravy. The bacon kept the chicken moist and juicy.


TV favourite and cookbook author Fay Ripley, will be leading the Great Bacon Revolution in 2013. As ambassador for the campaign Fay will be showcasing her own classic Great Bacon recipes - with a revolutionary twist.

Running from 18 – 24 March 2013, Bacon Connoisseurs Week aims to revolutionise old attitudes, thoughts and usage of bacon.

The week will be brought to life with new recipes, trade secrets from a ‘baconologist’, fun bacon facts & figures, and a taste of the wilder side of bacon too.

If the quality of your Bacon is important to you, then why not join the Great Bacon Revolution and look for the Red Tractor logo on pack when choosing your bacon. The Red Tractor logo indicates the quality and country of origin of the bacon and that it is traceable back to Red Tractor farms. With pig farmers facing serious challenges owing to spiralling global feed costs, there has never been a better time to support Red Tractor farmers.
JOIN THE GREAT BACON REVOLUTION!

BACON, LEEK AND SWEETCORN PUFF PIE
Serves: 4
Cooking time: About 40 minutes
Oven temperature: Gas Mark 7, 200˚C, 400˚F




Ingredients:
2 dry-cured smoked bacon or gammon steaks (about 200g each in weight), cut into cubes
15ml (1 tbsp) oil
2 leeks, washed, halved and sliced
200g low fat/light cream cheese
325g can of sweetcorn, drained (alternatively use 260g of frozen sweetcorn)
500g packet of pre-made puff pastry
Milk and egg, whisked, for glaze
Black pepper – to taste

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7, 200˚C, 400˚F.

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the bacon and leeks and cook until the bacon has changed colour and the leeks are beginning to soften.

Add the cream cheese and combine together well. Heat through and allow to thicken slightly for about 2-3 minutes. Add the black pepper and sweetcorn then place in a large 1 litre/2 pint pie dish.

Roll out the pastry to a size that will roughly cover the dish – decorate the edge with a pattern (a good effect is to use the edge of a small round glass) and if you wish cut out shapes to decorate the top of the pie. Brush pastry with the milk and egg glaze.

Place in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and well risen.

Serve with a selection of seasonal green vegetables.






NO-BAKE BACON LASAGNE


Serves: 3-4
Cooking time: approximately 35 minutes




Ingredients:
240g dry cured oak smoked bacon rashers
15mlsp (1tbsp) olive oil
2 large mushrooms, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
400g (approx) can chopped tomatoes
15mlsp (1tbsp) tomato ketchup
15mlsp (1tbsp) fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped   
8 fresh lasagne sheets, cut in half–or if dried lightly soaked in boiling water
Grated parmesan cheese
Fresh Basil leaves
Black pepper to season

 
In a large non-stick saucepan heat the oil and fry the bacon, mushrooms and garlic for about 4 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato ketchup / sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes. 
Plunge lasagne sheets into boiling water for about 2-3 minutes (Follow pack instructions). Remove from water, rinse well and allow to drain.
Assemble & Serve:
Cut each lasagne sheet in half. Onto each plate start with a square of lasagne, top with a spoonful of sauce and repeat making up to 3-4 layers of lasagne.
Finish with the top being with a piece of lasagne, sprinkle generously with grated parmesan and scatter with fresh basil leaves.
Serve with mixed leaf salad.

Disclosure: this is not a sponsored post. No payment in money or in kind was received.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Eddiesms

Having one non-verbal child made us aware that the gift of talking should never be taken for granted.
How many times have I seen parents ignoring their children who keep saying "Mummy, Mummy, look at this" and Mummy's completely uninterested in what her child has to show and say. It always makes me think "If only you knew that this is a true miracle - a talking child".

Now that Eddie is almost 32 months old, he is chatting away for both Sasha and himself. He talks non-stop and he has a lot to say.

He has his own opinions and he appreciates a conversation. There are moments when I look at him in awe and wonder: wow, my child can talk. But of course, that's what neuro typical children do.

There are so many little things that keep me utterly diverted and amused, when Eddie expresses his own opinions and invents his own words, which I call "Eddiesms".

Eddie with Mr Tickle



Eddie's drawing next to me. I asked him What are you drawing? He said: Dagga-Deckka-Yoo. So, I asked: What is Dagga-Deckka-Yoo? He pointed to his picture: This one. ;)"

Got a new top from Next for myself. Little man looked at it & said "Mama's pyjamas". Thank you, darling, that bad?

Playing hide and seek with Eddie: he is hiding behind me and says "I lost me".

Going up the hill, me pushing his pushchair up with him inside buckled in, Eddie says worriedly "Mama, don't drop the pushchair"

He is still struggling with his Rs and Ls and insists on some names and words pronounced his own way.
So, Winnie-the-Pooh is a Winty for some reason.
What about Percy the Peecup? Have you guessed who it is? It's Percy the park keeper.

Faff-feikes are snowflakes.
Ebeh-behs are vegetables.
Kim-bum-bah is a cucumber.

A few weeks ago I have been watching a bit of One Born Every Minute recorded from the previous day. Eddie watched with me for a few minutes, then commented: Big belly, so I replied: She has a baby in her belly. He thought for a while, when the other pregnant woman was on screen, he said: "She's eating babies."

Eddie goes around the rooms on the ground floor calling "Thomas! Thomas! Where's Thomas?" I asked him who Thomas is. He said: "I don't know. I'm looking for Thomas".

What are your little ones up to? Which amusing things have they said?


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Scent of Death by Andrew Taylor

I confess I am addicted to reading historical thrillers. It is a pure escapism for me. There's nothing better after a long difficult day than to snuggle in bed with a book and get engrossed in the murder mystery set in the times long past. Having thoroughly enjoyed The American Boy by Andrew Taylor, I was excited to get hold of Taylor's latest novel The Scent of Death.



If you are a fan of the historical thriller genre, you might have come across some pretty mediocre examples of it, where the plot often does not hold water and the characters seem to be totally implausible.

Andrew Taylor has created a gripping detective story, with a convincing plot and compelling characters.
Taylor has chosen a fascinating period of history: the novel is set during the American War of Independence.
The pace is teasingly slow at the start, the style of writing is exceptionally good.
You get the taste of how good the writing is from the very first lines:
"This is the story of a woman and a city. I saw the city first, shimmering from afar like the new Jerusalem in the setting sun. I smelled the sweetness of the land and sensed the nearness of green, growing things after the weeks on the barren ocean... It was Sunday, 2nd August 1778"

The story is narrated by Edward Savill, a London clerk from the American Department. He is assigned to New York to investigate the claims of dispossessed loyalists who are evicted from their lands by the republican rebels. You get the insights into the routine horros of the civil war, injustice, internal contradictions, tough conditions and precariousness of life.
Savill is billetted with the respected Wintour family. The enigmatic Arabella Wintour is the heroine who appears in the first sentence of the book and who would propel the story to its unforgettable end.
Savill is a sympathetic and observant story-teller.

The narrative is visually dramatic and marvellously atmospheric, the darkness hiding the danger and proving treacherous, the light - be it shimmering candles or glowing windows - highlighting the facial features and revealing the mysteries. Flashes of light and darkness are symbols of the human nature, as almost each character in the book has a secret they want to hide.

The title of the novel is quite apt, as the scent of death follows you from the beginning, with the memorable description of the "merman" in the sea, the graphic scene of execution, with more deaths to follow, coming to a very poignant attempt of escape of the ice and the most intense and agonizing dénouement.

score: 10/10

P.S. Harper Collins kindly sent me a copy of the book for reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Five Valleys Cordials giveaway CLOSED


I have been enjoying delicious soft drinks recently courtesy of Five Valleys cordials. Just add a dash of a cordial to your favourite sparkling water or lemonade with a few cubes of ice, add a few berries and imagine yourself by the seaside. If you haven't yet read my review of these exceptionally tasty cordials, it is never late, here is the link.

Five Valleys Cordials have kindly offered a case of five bottles of cordials to one of my blog readers.
If you haven't discovered yet this brand, you are in for a nice surprise.



To win this lovely selection of Five Valleys Cordials, please enter the giveaway by using the Rafflecopter.
Only the first step - leaving a comment (answering the question) is mandatory. All the other steps give you bonus entries.
The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
One entry per person.
The winner will be selected via the Rafflecopter after the closing date and will be notified after 10 April 2013.

------------------------------------------------------

Thank you for all your comments! The winner has been chosen by Rafflecopter.
Big well done to Helen D!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A taste of summer: Five Valleys Cordials

There are tiny snowflakes dancing in the open air, and I'm talking of summer. Right. It's not exactly the wishful thinking. I am trying to magic the summer in by exploring the zingy summery tastes of Five Valleys Cordials.



Five Valleys Cordials is an up and coming soft drinks company, based in Stroud, Gloucestershire which was set up by husband and wife team, Chris and Becky, who between them have 25 years shared experience in the drinks industry. 
The company uses the Cotswold countryside as their inspiration for their cordials. Their imaginative range offers uniquely different flavour combinations that aim to tantalise the taste buds & mind!
If you're bored with the standard blackberry & apple, elderflower or ginger cordials, look no further.

Five Valleys Cordials boasts five products in its tempting range - Lemon & Mint, Pomegranate & Rose, Apricot & Ginger, Sloe & Raspberry and Coconut & Kaffir Lime.

All the cordials are made from natural ingredients and are free from artificial flavours, sweeteners, colourings or preservatives.


 





Pomegranate & Rose is an exotic blend mingled with the heady aroma of rose petals. Think of the seductive Scheherazade and her fairy tales The Arabian Nights.

I love the flavour of rose petals (rose tea is one of my old favourites). If you have followed my blog for a while, you might remember my recipes using the rose petal syrup.
So, I was very excited to try a new cordial, and I wasn't disappointed.

Put a few raspberries in a small glass, add a dash of Pomegranate & Rose cordial and top up with the sparkling water. Simple and lovely.



I can easily see both cordials used in the white wine and lemonade spritzer.
Or poured over a good quality vanilla ice cream, mmmm.

I was also curious to try the cordial in baking.
For the Orange cupcakes you will need
100g butter, melted
2 medium eggs
a mug of self-raising flour
a mug of granulated sugar
2 tsp of Pomegranate & Rose cordial
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tsp baking powder
icing sugar

Zest and juice an orange. Add the sugar to the zest in a medium-sized mixing bowl, then beat in the eggs. Add the flour, juice, baking powder, cordial and melted butter, pour into the cupcake cases and bake in the oven preheated to 180C for about 15 minutes.
Add the icing on top if you like (mix the orange juice with the icing sugar). My standard icing sugar finished, so I used the vanilla icing sugar, which made the icing quite brownish when mixed with the juice.
It was the first time I used the silicone cupcake cases, which was a freebie from Anchor Rewards Club.



Lemon & Mint is a combination of zingy lemons and summery garden mint. The simple drink made of a dash of Lemon & Mint cordial with the lemonade and ice cubes is an absolute delight, very refreshing and reinvigorating.
I think this will be my favourite tipple in summer after spending time in the garden.



For colder days like we have this week, try a hot drink:
The Lemon & Mint Hottie (recipe courtesy of Five Valleys Cordials)
25ml Five Valleys Lemon & Mint Cordial
225ml orange juice
2 tsp honey
Add orange juice & cordial, microwave until hot, then add honey.

Another refreshing drink:
Green tea mocktail
1 teabag of Twinings Jasmine Pearls (green tea)
a dash of Five Valleys Lemon & Mint Cordial
2 strawberries, halved
ice cubes
a slice of blood orange

Make a cup of green tea, let it cool completely. Once cold, pour in a tall glass, add a dash of the Lemon & Mint cordial, ice cubes and strawberry halves. Decorate with a slice of the blood orange.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself lazing in a hammock in the garden. Bliss.



The two flavours I have tried are fantastic, really pleased to discover them. Will be definitely looking for the other flavours to try. A very enthusiastic recommendation from me.

The Five Valleys Cordials are exclusively stocked in Waitrose.



To find more about Five Valleys Cordials and discover more recipe ideas please visit the Five Valleys Cordials website.

I received two bottles of cordials for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Jordans Crunchy Oat Granola Raisin & Almond

I never skip my breakfast, but most of the time it is just an enormous cup of Twinings Earl Grey with lemon and a couple of slices of toast. Which by around 10.30ish makes me quite peckish, and then I go for naughty biccies or a chocolate boost. Would eating a granola make me feel full for longer? I was happy to give a Jordans Crunchy Oat Granola Raisin & Almond a try.



I have recently written about Jordans Super Berry Country Crisp which has a lovely seasonal Christmasy twist to it with lots of cranberries.
How does Crunchy Oat Granola Raisin & Almond compare to it?
It obviously contains the similar honey baked British oats, which come in crunchy clusters. It has also the same superior quality of staying crunchy and not going soggy when the milk is added.
The flavours are different. You can definitely taste the almond. And there are lots of sweet raisins as well.
As mentioned before, my boys prefer to eat cereals without milk, just munching the crispy clusters as they are.
The bag comes in a packet rather than a box (well done on cutting on waste!). If you are worried about spilling the contents, just pop your bag in a reusable plastic container.
After having an early breakfast of Jordans granola, I did feel energised and ready to take on my day.




If adding milk to the granola is not your cuppa tea, why don't you make a berry compote granola fool? Just add three layers in a deep glass: the berry compote, Jordans granola and your favourite yogurt (I used the Greek style yogurt) for a more trendy breakfast (I planned to present it in a flat champagne glass, but I managed to break the last one a few days ago, so my "posh" breakfast is done with a wine glass).





If you've tried this granola, have you noticed the little bee logo on the side of the packet? It signifies Jordans are "using the cereals that are grown to Conservation Grade standards which means they come from British farmers who manage 10% of their land so that birds, bees and butterflies can thrive".
It is commendable that Jordans' customers are doing their bit to help keep the British countryside flourishing.

To find out more about Jordans and explore their extensive range of products visit Jordans website.

I received a packet of granola for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Where would you choose to go?

As many of my blog readers enjoy entering competitions, I wanted to alert you to an exciting competition on Latedealsuk (Facebook/link removed as expired). Go to the trivia tab, watch the video and answer the question to be in with a chance of winning a holiday worth £500.

As a family with two kids, we don't often go on spontaneous trips. In fact we have booked our holiday cottage in Cornwall last summer, as soon as we came back from there. We loved it so much that we wanted to make sure the cottage would be available.

Cornish beauties who would have inspired Rubens or Rembrandt

Drawing mermaids on the beach and then watching how the sea waves lick the image off


The view from the master bedroom of "our" cottage in Perranuthnoe


However, if we were lucky to win a £500 holiday, I would like to take my guys on a short break to London. Before Eddie was born, we used to go to London quite often with Sasha, as he absolutely loved the Aquarium and the Zoo. Now that Eddie is 2 and a half years old, I think he will be able to enjoy these trips as well.

Or how about having a short break in Italy, somewhere sunny but not too hot? Eating a pistachio gelato on the beach. Gently strolling along La Passeggiata, watching the other passers-by. Stop in an open-air cafe and have a cocktail. Mmm, perhaps a Bellini.



What would you do if you won a £500 holiday? Where would you choose to go?

Terms & conditions:

The prize is non-transferable and there is no cash alternative

The starting date is 15/02/2013.

The closing time / date is 11.59pm 28/03/2013

The prize is offered subject to availability

The prize offer is valid for travel until 15/12/2013 (except from 25th May - 6 Sept. 2013)

Any personal data relating to entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data

protection legislation.

Data will be used by Latedeals.co.uk for promotional and information purposes but will not be

disclosed to a third party without the individual’s prior consent.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Crocuses and bunny buns

Saffron costs a small fortune, and though I have seen seeds & plants catalogues extolling the virtues of growing your own edible crocus, I have also read how tricky it could be with the-foliage-aplenty-and-hardly-any-flowers palaver. But what about the plain garden crocus that grows in abundance almost like a weed in my garden? Granted it probably won't be a superior saffron like the proper one, but if I don't try, I won't know for sure. Especially that I love freebies, and foraging in the garden is a pleasurable quest.


Saffron comes from the saffron crocus or Crocus sativus. What we buy as the spice is actually the red stigmas of the crocus flower.

What I have in the garden is Crocus Tommasinianus. The pretty flowers vary from shimmery pale lilac to darker blue-purple. This crocus is definitely a self-seed variety, as I have never planted any of them, and we moved to the current home over 5 years ago. Many thanks to the previous lady of the house who loved gardening as we have lots of lovely spring flowers like snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses running amok in the garden.

My experiment was to collect some stigmas of the plain crocuses (or croci) and cook with them.




First thing I noticed is the aroma, it is much more subtle than the proper saffron.




I let it dry in an open container for a few days and then stored in the little glass jar.

I have added a tablespoon of vodka to the crocus stigmas and let it infuse for 10 minutes. The colour was sufficiently yellow as you can see (it also stained the plastic bowl. Note to self: the next time to use the ceramic dish).




I meant to put all the ingredients in the breadmaker and let it do the kneading job properly, but after I started the machine, I realised the paddle was missing. Frantic search brought zero results, so I have chucked all the mix on the table and started kneading myself.

To make a bunch of bunny buns, I used
1/2 tsp of yeast
250g strong white flour
1 tsp of sugar
1 egg
20g butter
50g water
50g milk
a pinch of salt
saffron infusion

About a week ago I've seen lots of pins and re-pins of the buns shaped as bunnies with the instructions on how to use the scissors to cut their ears. Of course, today when I wanted to look at the recipe, I couldn't find any (I should have repinned it myself). Google wasn't helpful, as I found zillions of images from all over, and none the wiser who the original cook was.

So, here is my version of what I've seen on Pinterest (I would have given full credits to whoever invented these bunnies, but I don't know who it is).

The idea is that you cut the ears with the scissors before baking the bunnies.




And here they are, looking more like alien cats than Easter bunnies. Cute nevertheless and tasty too.



Was it worth the effort, foraging in the garden? yes and no. The colour was certainly there, but the flavour was more diffused and less prominent, perhaps I should have tried to add more crocus stigmas. On the bonus side, it was free and I learnt something new.



Friday, 8 March 2013

The Barefoot Book of Mother & Daughter tales

Neither my Mum nor Grandma used to read any bedtime stories to me as a child, but I remember listening to the wonderful fairy tales retold without any book props. Telling a good story is not about entertainment only, this is the way the local culture and history passes from generation to generation.
Most of the stories in The Barefoot Book of Mother & Daughter Tales originate in this tradition of storytelling. These tales have been passed from mother to child for many centuries, and have been recorded as retold by nameless authors. These stories appear in many versions, and it is amazing how the same plots and story lines move within and beyond the national boundaries.



This beautiful edition is another gem in the already shining treasury of books from Barefoot Books. It comes as a collection of stories which deal with the themes of mother-daughter relationships: "These stories are about mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, godmothers, foster-mothers and mothers-in-law as they weave their mysterious relationships with their maturing daughters". This collection has been retold by Josephine Evetts-Secker.




You will find the traditional stories from Greece, Russia, Germany, Japan, Norway and other countries.
I was pleased to find two of the Russian stories. One is Vasilisa the Beautiful. A fairy tale which kept me entertained and scared at the same time when I was a child. Another familar story from my childhood is Snowflake (though this version is Slavonic, as there are so many different variations across the Slavic countries). The Russian name for Snowflake is Snegurochka (lit. snow girl or snow maiden). I have always found this story poignant: a couple who are desperate to become parents, whose happiness feels empty because they have no children. They build a snow child who comes to life. Their happiness is complete, only to be snatched away by the cruel twist of fate, when their beloved child melted jumping over the bonfire. The fragile and vulnerable snow child is a symbol of the brevity of life.
The Turkish tale Katanya is another story of a woman's longing for a child. The little girl has miraculously appeared from the ripe date.

There are vulnerable heroines, there are strong characters like Vasilisa, there is a whole spectrum of women's personalities.



The book is beautifully illustrated by Helen Cann. Her style of painting is distinct and original, the illustrations are reminiscent of the multi-coloured blocks in patchworks, bright and intricate.




If you enjoy listening to the stories, this book comes with two discs. All the stories are narrated by Juliet Stevenson. A real treat!





Happy International Women's Day to all my blog readers who are daughters, Mums, sisters and grandmothers!


P.S. I received this book for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Tilda rice

Even if you enjoy cooking, sometimes it feels like a chore, coming up with tasty nutritious and healthy meals on a daily basis. That's where the range of Tilda rice offers a helping hand. Their rice gives you an opportunity to make some shortcuts in the kitchen and offers more choice than ever before. If you are short of time, the pouches of steamed basmati rice come very handy. If your family is happy to wait for their dinner, use the wholegrain basmati grain (uncooked). The choice is yours.



Lamb pilaf
Ingredients:
4 lamb chops
200g Tilda rice (a mugful of rice)
2 mugs of vegetable stock
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 red onion, finely chopped
7 dried apricots, sliced
a handful of pine nuts
salt and pepper
fresh coriander


In a frying pan quickly brown the lamb chops on both sides. Once nicely browned, place them at the bottom of  a deep Pyrex dish. Chop the red onion and fry it in the olive oil until translucent, add to the lamb. Slice the carrots and celery and again give them a quick fry. Put them on top of the lamb chops. Add sliced dried apricots and a handful of pine nuts.



Add the hot stock, ratio - 1 mug of rice to 2 mugs of liquid. Place the Pyrex in the oven preheated to 180C and cook for an hour or so (check the rice a few times, stir it, so that the top doesn't go dry).You might want to use the lid after the first half an hour.



Take the Pyrex out of the oven and add some chopped fresh coriander.



Serve with a good dollop of the chilli jam for an extra kick.



Tilda Wholegrain Basmati rice has a delicate nutty flavour. It is "the classic grain with all the natural goodness and flavour of the bran untouched".
I applaud Tilda's slogan on the pack "We select this unique fragrant and delicate Basmati from over 10,000 independent farmers whom we know by name".





My regular blog readers might remember that I have written about Tilda rice before.
I often use steamed rice pouches from Tilda, as they are a versatile and convenient ingredient. And the choice of flavours is very impressive too. To explore the full range of Tilda rice, please visit the Tilda homepage.





One of the easiest ways of using Tilda rice is to stuff pepper halves with it and roast (add a bit of liquid to rice so that it doesn't go dry). Serve a fillet of trout with a sweet pepper stuffed with Tilda Sundried Tomato steamed basmati rice, which includes sun-dried tomatoes, passata and red pesto.






If you enjoy hearty sausages, then Tilda Roasted Pepper & Courgette (with roasted yellow pepper, red onion and courgette) will be a fab side dish (again roasted in pepper halves and tomatoes). This brown basmati rice is healthy and tastes lovely.





The choice is so varied that you will surely find some that would suit your preferences and tastes.