Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Recipe ideas for the RNLI Fish Supper (9-11 October)

Having spent my whole life living by the sea, I've always been aware of the importance of the RNLI. Whether it's coming to the rescue of fishing boats in difficulty, searching for people who have been swept out to sea or rescuing kids who have been cut off by the incoming tide, the lifeboats and their crew are always at hand to avert numerous disasters.

This month (9-11th October), the RNLI is encouraging people across the UK to cook up a Fish Supper for family and friends to raise money for the crew members, who voluntarily sacrifice dinner time with their loved ones to respond to a shout and help those in trouble at sea. From a gourmet lobster thermidor to the quintessentially British Fish ‘n’ Chips and even to the fashionable alternative of sushi, Fish Supper is a time for family and friends to come together. The importance of togetherness and team spirit is central to the RNLI, and is what makes the charity and its volunteers so special.

I've been looking through my recipes for some fish dishes that might inspire you to get involved.

How about a Brazilian fish stew called Moqueca da Peixe ? It's much easier to make than it is to say !

Or the Portuguese take on fish & chips, Bacalhau a Bras? Leave yourself plenty of time to soak the saltcod though, or it will be inedible.

If you're looking for a family friendly option, you can't go wrong with Cheesy Fish Pie.

Or Crunchy Cornflake-Crusted Cod is ideal if you're short on time.

If warming comfort food is your thing, this Leek, Potato & Smoked Haddock Soup (from a Gordon Ramsay recipe) is just the ticket.

Last but not least, these Salmon & Spinach Puff Pastry Parcels are always a hit with the kids too.

To find out more about getting involved and raising some funds for the RNLI, watch their little video and head over to their website for all the details.

Money-saving tips and a Wonder Week of Pampers deals

Moneysaving seems to be all the rage at the moment. With TV shows like Eat Well For Less? showing you how to cut down on your food bills and coupon queens online and in the newspapers showing off their weekly shops paid for almost entirely with money-off vouchers, looking out for easy ways to save money is becoming second nature to many people. Many of us are starting to work out the Christmas budget and put aside a bit each week to pay for all the extra food and presents, so now is the perfect time to give your buying choices an overhaul.

Jasmine Birtles, an internationally recognised finance expert, financial and business commentator, journalist, TV and radio presenter, is passionate about simple ways to save pounds. As well as being a familiar voice on radio and television, she’s an expert in all money matters and her mission is to de-mystify money by giving practical advice.

This year, Jasmine is working with Pampers to spread the word about their Wonder Week of deals - from October 1st – October 7th Pampers will be working with selected online retailers across the UK to give you a week of amazing deals. She has also shared a few words of wisdom to help keep our spending in check.

Jasmine’s top money-saving tips:

1. Buying in bulk might seem like a big investment up front, but making a larger one-off payment can reap big rewards over time.

2. The best bulk deals can often be found online & can make shopping a lot easier. Spend time finding the best online deals and then relax whilst your bulk order gets delivered direct to your door.

3. Did you know you can get big discounts bulk-buying nappies and wipes? Several supermarkets have offers on Pampers nappies and wipes if you bulk-buy right now. Find out more at http://www.pamperswonderweek.co.uk

4. With most special offers in supermarkets, when it’s gone, it’s gone, so keep an eye out for these deals – purchase things like extra bedding for a cot, gifts for friends' little ones or anything else that will come in useful and store them for later

5. Try and avoid buying products in bulk that you haven’t used before: stick to tried and tested products for your family like Pampers and Fairy!

We all know how time-consuming it can be looking for the best offers online – time you’d rather spend having fun with your little one - so Pampers have teamed up with key UK retailers to give you one website to shop all the fantastic deals on the whole Pampers range. Stocking up on nappies in advance rather than buying as and when needed saves time and money, especially when home delivery is included.

Wonder Week’s amazing savings also include Fairy Non Bio, so you can experience great value as well as great cleaning power on your baby’s laundry. Dermatologically tested and voted #1 laundry brand for sensitive skin, you can trust that Fairy won’t irritate your little ones, so you won’t have to spend extra money re-washing their clothes in the event of an allergic reaction. Buying larger packs when these great deals are available will save money in the long run too!

All of the product offers & pricing are at the sole discretion of the retailer, but you’ll be able to make the most of offers like the ones below:

Amazon Up to 50% off your first pack when you subscribe and save**
Asda Pampers Baby Dry giga packs are 3 for £39*
New Pampers Baby-Dry Pants jumbo packs are 2 for £18*+
Boots Buy 5 essential packs of Baby Dry or Active Fit for £30*
Pampers New Baby jumbo packs are 2 for £14.50*
Ocado Buy 6 essential packs of Active Fit or Baby Dry and get 3 free*
Pampers New Baby jumbo packs are 2 for £14*
Morrisons Buy 10 Baby Dry essential packs & save £25*
Buy 8 Active Fit large packs and save £30*
Buy 2 essential packs of New Baby-Dry Pants for £12*
Tesco Spend £50 on Pampers nappies & wipes & get £10 off your shop*
New Pampers Baby-Dry Pants essential packs are £6*
Waitrose Buy 5 carry packs of Active Fit or Baby Dry for £15 and save £10*
Half Price Fairy Non Bio*

Promo Disclaimers:
*All pricing is at the sole discretion of the retailer
**Amazon offer: 30% discount off 1st pack, 20% off all packs as part of family, only available for prime members, additional 30% only for new subscriptions and only off 1st pack.

Pampers Wonder Week has been designed to be as user-friendly as possible so you can simply do your weekly shop online and enjoy the convenience of having all your favourite nappies and wipes delivered to your door - freeing up as much time as possible for you and baby. Simply visit the Wonder Week website at www.pamperswonderweek.co.uk, choose your preferred retailer from the list available, pick your product deal and click through to their site to purchase.

Disclosure : This is a sponsored but hopefully useful post !

The Stone Earth Pan by Ozeri (review)

Would you believe me if I told you I'd been cooking fried eggs on Stonehenge this week ? OK, I admit it, it's nothing to do with the mystical standing stones, it's the name of the stone-derived non-stick coating on the funky Stone Earth Pan that Ozeri sent me through to review recently.

I don't pretend to understand the technology but basically, the natural stone-derived coating from Germany promises non-stick perfection without PFOA, a harmful chemical found in traditional pans, so it doesn't release harmful fumes or toxins at high temperatures. The coating is also scratch-resistant and easy to clean.

It comes with a felt inlay to help protect the surface while it's in storage, which is a nice touch - especially if you tend to pile up your saucepans and frying pans like I do to fit them all in the cupboard under the oven !

I first used the pan to make fried egg hoppers for my Sri Lankan feast and I was impressed at how easily the eggs slipped out of the pan with just the tiniest smidgen of oil. Cleaning it really was a piece of cake too - just a quick wipe with a sponge and a bit of washing up liquid was all it took.

Next I made pancakes (yes, they are supposed to be green - they're an Indonesian recipe that I'll be sharing later in the week !) and they didn't stick at all, flipping over effortlessly.

I decided to up the ante and used it to make a sugar syrup - crossing my fingers that this wouldn't totally wreck the pan. I've never seen anything like it - a rubber spatula got every last bit out of the pan and it just needed a quick wipe with the washing up sponge to be clean. I usually have to leave saucepans to soak overnight after making caramel, and even then, they usually don't come out totally unscathed !

I'm totally convinced by the non-stick coating and the fact that it is environmentally-friendly and less toxic than regular non-stick pans is a huge bonus. This pan is slightly small for my needs but it is available in three sizes - 8 inches (20cm), 10 inches (26cm) and 12 inches (30cm). It's pricey but it is a really good quality piece of equipment and the degree of non-stickness (made-up word alert !) has to be seen to be believed.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £39.99 / £44.99 / £49.99 (but currently £19.99 / £24.99 /£29.99 on amazon)

Disclosure : We received the product in order to write an honest review.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Madhouse Diaries : The Madhouse is in mourning

photo credit : https://instagram.com/officiallybratayley/

I thought I'd seen the depths of tween/teen grief when I was mopping up tears after the announcement that Zayn was leaving One Direction, but I was shocked to see both 10-year-old Juliette and 6-year-old Pierre sobbing their hearts out tonight for over an hour at the news that Caleb, from their favourite Youtuber family Bratayley, had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away at the age of 13.

If you don't know Bratayley, they're a fun-loving American family who post daily videos on youtube of their family adventures and high jinks. Caleb (13), Annie (10) and Hayley (7) are almost the same ages as the Madhouse kids and Juliette has been watching them every day for months ... to the point where she's acquiring an American accent !

The family have only said that he died of natural causes. Rumours are rife but apparently, he suffered from anxiety and, as he was worried about a hurricane alert, he was sent off for a nap and died in his sleep from a heart attack. My heart goes out to the parents - I can only imagine how heartbreaking that must be. As well as knowing they won't ever get to see Caleb goofing around again, I think it has come as a huge reality check for Juliette and Pierre to suddenly realise that, even at their tender age, they're not immortal.

The lesson for all of us is to cherish every moment, make every minute count and live life to the full. RIP Caleb.

Ella's Kitchen Healthy Snacks for Budding Superheroes ! (review)

Ella's Kitchen have just launched a range of new kiddie snacks that are the perfect fuel for would-be superheroes. They sent us through the whole new range to try out ...

... along with a fun superhero kit for Pierre.

We got straight down to the taste-testing. All three of the Madhouse kids wanted to try the Smooshy Snacks, similar to the fruit puree pouches that they have already tried and loved, but this time containing intriguing combinations of fruit and vegetables. You can choose between Strawberry & Beetroot, Apple & Cucumber, Mango & Pumpkin and Orange & Carrot.

I think they are definitely an acquired taste - the first sip resulted in surprised and rather unsure faces, but they had a few more sips and kept swapping between "they're really nice ... oh actually they've got a bit of a weird background taste ... you do get used to it though, they're not bad" !

The Fruity Bars were a more instant hit - because of the packaging and also what was inside them !

They are a (super)powerhouse of goodness, made up of real squished fruit and extra healthy ingredients like oats, flaxseeds and coconut. They're moist, sweet and fruity and all of the flavours were a unanimous hit. Both the Fruity Bars and the Smooshy Snacks are ideal for school lunchboxes.

The packaging is great fun too with collectibles to press out and keep.

Pierre loved the finger puppets with the cute animal superhero characters on them. (They really reminded me of Fingerbobs for some reason - many a school lunch hour was spent watching that in my childhood !)

And he also loved the press-out superhero masks.

They were the perfect accessory to go with the rather fabulous superhero cape that he put together, using the kit.

Ready to save the world ! (His Mister Maker dressing up outfit became part of the costume somewhere along the way !)

I asked Pierre what his superpower was and he decided it was the fact that he can speak English and French ... and dog !!

Even superheroes need a refuel every now and then !

The new snacks are available at Sainsbury's but make sure you head over to the Ella's Kitchen website where you can currently win 1 of 1000 prizes (either a Smooshy Snack or a box of Fruity Bars and a mask).

Disclosure : We received the products in order to write an honest review.

Madhouse recipe : Souperhero Soup !

Sorry about the name - it was a ploy to get Pierre eating more vegetables without complaining (and it worked !) and, as we went a bit superhero mad this weekend (more to follow about that in my next blogpost), it fitted in perfectly with the theme. The grown-ups might prefer to call it Bacon & Veg Soup though !

Souperhero Soup 

ingredients :

250g bacon pieces
2 onions
1 leek
3 carrots
3 potatoes
3 mushrooms
1 can chickpeas
1 stick celery
3 tomatoes
some liquid - chicken/vegetable stock or just water (I used a Knorr vegetable stock pot and a Knorr paprika stock pot because they needed using up)
some herbs/spices (I used garlic granules, black pepper, salt, oregano)

I got the kids involved in choosing and prepping the ingredients so that they'd be more likely to eat the finished product.

Fry off the bacon pieces and onion for a few minutes until they're just cooked.

Toss in the leeks and potato.

Throw in the carrots and celery.

Add the mushrooms, chick peas and tomatoes.

Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, to give it all some colour, then add enough liquid to cover all the ingredients. Add the stock cubes/stock pots if using, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour. You could eat this right now for a chunky version.

Or blitz it with a hand blender (which is a handy way of disguising the veggies !). I like to leave some small chunks but you could make it really smooth. Add extra water if it's too thick.

Top with a little grated cheese and some croutons. You could also add a swirl of crème fraîche just before serving. It's a really filling, warming and kid-friendly soup that the whole family can enjoy.

Linking up to this month's #KitchenClearout linky because it used up half a tin of chickpeas from the fridge, a lone stick of celery from the freezer and some stockpots that are past their sell-by date !

Kids' DVD review : Tree Fu Tom and the Carrots of Doom

Forget Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, it's time to bring on Tree Fu Tom and the Carrots of Doom ! That's the fabulous name of the brand new Tree Fu Tom DVD that hits the shelves today. We received a review copy and Pierre sat straight down to watch it from start to finish, which is no mean feat when you consider its very impressive 132 minute runtime ! (That said, he was feeling poorly and having a duvet day off school !)

We always love Tree Fu Tom, partly for the imaginative world of creepy crawlies but also for the fun audience participation when Tom starts doing his magic moves. He also has great values, often with an eco-friendly message, and lots of important but fun life lessons for young viewers.

The DVD includes six episodes :

Carrots of Doom - The Tree Fu Rangers are trying to win their ‘Green Fingers’ badge, but the carrots of Ariela’s range have grown huge and gone crazy thanks to some seeds from the Big World and Zigzoo’s Harvesting Hands invention!

Picture This - Tom and Twigs are excited when Treetog decides to teach them a new tricky spell that can be used to control the magic of an enchanted scroll that brings into being whatever is drawn on its pages. However, the friends find themselves in trouble when they try and use the scroll without the all important spell!

Dragon Fruit Fiasco - Tom and Twigs turn detective to find out who has been taking certain items without asking, including some Dragon Berries belonging to a giant Boing beetle. Tom is going to need your help to perform some Big World Magic to calm the situation when the Boing beetle realises his berries are missing!

Ranger Tom: A Badge Too Far - It’s a bumper badge day at Tree Fu Ranger Club with three new badges up for grabs. Tom and Twigs are desperate to get more Tree Fu Ranger badges than Chezz. In their haste to win the badges, Tom and Twigs soon learn that trying to do too many things at once can be disastrous, but they are given one last chance to prove themselves.

King Stink - When Stink accidentally finds the legendary Golden Crown of Greatness and becomes King of Treetopolis, he revels in having the power to do whatever he wants. However he soon discovers that being King is not all fun and games!

The Sprite Before Christmas - Tom and Twigs are so looking forward to Winter Fest that their over-excitement very nearly ruins the celebrations for everybody else when Tom opens his present from Twigs early. It’s only when they learn that all good things come to those who wait and the virtue of patience that they are able to save Winter Fest for everyone.

The final festive episode was Pierre's favourite ... although I had to point out that he'll have to draw on his own patience now because Christmas is still quite some way away !

TREE FU TOM AND THE CARROTS OF DOOM is available on DVD from 5th October 2015, courtesy of Fremantle Media Kids & Family Entertainment.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £6

Disclosure : We received a copy in order to write an honest review.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Sunday weigh-in : Stuck in a rut

Well, the good news, I didn't put any weight on this week, but the bad news is, I haven't lost a single gram in the last three weeks. My scales seem to have got stuck ! Oh well, I suppose it could be worse !

To be fair, I haven't made much effort this week, through lack of time rather than motivation. (As you can probably tell from the fact that I'm posting this mid afternoon rather than in the morning - I've just finished my marking !) Every single one of my half days off got gobbled up so there was no time to squeeze in the wii fit - on Monday I finish at lunchtime but I stayed at work until 3pm phoning around the parents so I got home just before the school run; on Tuesday afternoon we had an inset training session for the new school reform; on Wednesday I spent the morning running errands and the afternoon walking around with Sophie to sort out her work experience, then taking Pierre to a party at McDonald's and picking him up again. I felt like I had flu in the evening, all achey, but my FitBug informed me that we'd racked up 18km (over 11 miles) - eek ! And the rest of the week, I finish at 5.30.

I've given up saying things will settle down - next week is a normal week but the week after, I have three parent-teacher evenings so I'll be shovelling whatever Madhouse Daddy can find in the freezer into my mouth when I get back home ! After that it's the holidays though so I'll make a concerted effort then.

Positives of the week

- The scales aren't moving but I'm eating pretty well and getting in lots of walking.

Current targets 

Last week's target : Find the time (or make time) to squeeze in at least one wii fit run - stay in the 80's (half done)

This week's targets : Find the time (or make time) to squeeze in at least one wii fit run and listen to the Slimpod - stay in the 80's (third time lucky ?!)

Short-term targets 

(1) get back into the 80's
(2) get my "lbs lost" back into double figures
(3)  get my "weight to lose" badge down into the 40's 
 (4)  get back to 87kg, my pre-holiday weight 
(5) get my "kg lost" badge back into double figures 
(6) get my "weight loss" badge higher than my "still to go" badge
(7) get back into my (smallest) bright blue jeans comfortably
(8) get back to 77kg - my lowest weight since my pregnancies

Longer-term targets :  Hit my target weight of 70kg.

START WEIGHT :93.7kg (BMI 34.8)
WEIGHT TODAY : 89.9kg (BMI 33.4)
STILL TO GO : 19.9kg

Feel free to add your weightloss posts to my weekly linkie - it's great to see how everyone else has been getting on and give each other support and encouragement. You can even grab the linkie code and add it to your own blog if you like. :)

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

 MyFitnessPal - Nutrition Facts For Foods

Globecooking recipe : Egg Hoppers (Sri Lanka)

Hoppers are Sri Lankan pancakes made from a fermented batter that can be topped with a vast array of sweet or savoury toppings. Traditionally, they are made in a curved pan and you swill the batter around the pan so that it covers the bottom and the sides, creating a bowl-shapped pancake for the filling. I used a small frying pan and they still worked fine, although they came out a bit flat.

 I served these with Kadai Chicken (or you could make Kadai Tofu for a veggie option) - click through for the recipe.

Egg Hoppers

ingredients :

100g rice flour (I think normal flour would work too)
25cl coconut milk (+ coconut water if needed)
1tsp dried yeast
1tsp sugar
50ml warm water
1 egg per person (the batter should make enough for 3 or 4 hoppers)
a drizzle of oil
pinch of salt

Put the dried yeast in a little bowl with the sugar and warm water. Stir and leave for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Now, I've used coconut milk many times before, and it's usually more liquid than this can, which was totally solid. I therefore added a glug of coconut water to get the required consistency (like pancake batter).

Stir the coconut milk into the rice flour.

Add a little coconut water to create a smooth batter if needed. Stir in the yeast mixture and a pinch of salt. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Heat a drizzle of oil in a small frying pan or wok then pour in a ladleful of batter. Pour it around the sides to create a bowl-shaped pancake

Cook for one minute then crack in an egg. Again, tilt the pan so that the egg white covers the whole surface.

Cook for a few minutes until the white is set and the yolk remains runny. Carefully slide onto a plate with a flish slice.

The recipe from the Sri Lankan-themed Kitchen Trotter box mentioned that it is the egg that holds the hopper together. I had enough left over for an extra hopper after cooking our meal so I made an extra one without an egg. It was impossible to get out of the pan though, as you can see on the right !

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***

If you fancy trying some more Sri Lankan cuisine, how about Kadai Chicken or Crispy Medu Vada-style Lentil Fritters ?