Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Boursin Individual Portion Packs review


I've already reviewed several different varieties of Boursin cheese here on my blog, so I'm sure I don't have to tell you how much I love the creamy taste and also its versatility. As well as being lovely spread on anything from crusty bread or oatcakes to Ryvita and crackers, it is also perfect served on a baked potato or incorporated into a recipe, such as my Boursin-stuffed Chicken recipe, which is similar to a Chicken Kiev.


What are new in the world of Boursin, however, are their individual portion packs for their popular Black Pepper and Garlic & Herb varieties. Each box contains six 16g portions, which is the perfect size for a generous individual serving to eat straight from the pack at the end of a meal or to spread on two crackers or one slice of bread.

The shaped individual servings also make it much easier to use as a filling, for example in the recipe I mentioned above, or to wrap in smoked salmon as a starter. They are perfectly suited for lunchboxes and picnics too.

They're really convenient for people who probably wouldn't manage to get through a whole pack of Boursin on their own, but one development that I would really like to see is a variety pack with portions of several different flavours of Boursin in one box.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £1.69 for 6 x 16g


Disclosure : We received some packs of Boursin in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Haribo Smurfs Jelly Sweets review


To tie in with the release of The Smurfs 2 movie which hit the cinemas today, Haribo have launched a new range of Smurf jelly sweets, featuring Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Gutsy, Brainy and Grouchy. They're supposed to be in raspberry, strawberry and lemon flavours but to be perfectly honest, I couldn't really distinguish any separate flavours. They are very nice though !


We couldn't help but laugh before it's not just their hats but their whole heads that have taken the different colours so you get a very red-faced Papa Smurf, a yellow-faced Smurfette and a bunch of pale-looking white-headed other Smurfs. This led to the Madhouse Mini-testers making stories up as they ate, about Papa Smurf being embarrassed, Smurfette feeling ill after going on the ferry and the other Smurfs having seen a ghost or being scared !


On the promotional packs you’ll also see details of a ‘smurftastic’ competition to win hundreds of tasty treats and official Smurfs movie merchandise. Prizes include bags of HARIBO Smurfs, The Smurfs DVDs, The Smurf 2 magnet sets, movie posters, and PS3 video games, as well as Sony Cyber-shot digital cameras. You can get more information at www.haribo.co.uk/smurfs.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1 at Poundland

Disclosure : We received some bags of the sweets in order to write an  honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Dairy Milk Freddo Faces review


Kitchen Nomad Globe-Cooking Recipe #3 : Mixed Fruits in Lemongrass Syrup (Vietnam)


This is such a simple recipe (which you can see on the Kitchen Nomad website) but what makes it special is the syrup. The write-up on the Kitchen Nomad website says : "This exotic and refreshing fruit salad can be made with any combination of fruits - just go for a good balance of colour, flavour and texture. You can also flavour the syrup with ginger or aniseed stars rather than lemongrass if you prefer." I stuck with the original recipe though because I just happened to have exactly those ingredients in my fruit bowl that needed using up !


The only slightly unusual ingredient (and the only one from the Kitchen Nomad box) to be used this time is lemongrass. Now, I was convinced I didn't like lemongrass. No offence to my mother-in-law but the only time I've eaten it, it was in some Vietnamese soup that she'd made after their trip to Vietnam and Thailand and I found it woody and bitter. I was surprised to see that this lemongrass was soft, dry and grassy. I cut the two stalks that the recipe called for into two halves so that they'd fit in the saucepan and bashed them with a wooden spoon a bit to release the flavour. My fingers smelt beautifully lemony afterwards.


The syrup was so quick and simple to create and tasted wonderful. Sophie even said it seemed like it would work well as a remedy for a sore throat so I might have to try that this winter !


A lovely colourful mix of fresh mango, pineapple and banana and tinned lychees, waiting to be drizzled with that gorgeous syrup. This would be lovely with a scoop of coconut ice cream, but even without, it's the perfect light dessert for a summer's day.

Disclosure : I received a Kitchen Nomad box in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Kitchen Nomad Globe-Cooking Recipe #2 : Bánh Xeo (crispy crepes) (Vietnam)

Madhouse recipe : Naughty But Nice Fruity Bites


Jordans Recipe Challenge : Seeded Cranberry Breakfast Muffins


We love Jordans cereals here at The Madhouse so when I was invited to take part in a cookery challenge using their products, I couldn't wait to get involved. They sent me through a lovely goodie bag containing three of their products for inspiration - Strawberry Country Crisp, Super Fruity Granola and Nut & Seed Muesli. Well, we all started off the day with a bowl of lovely Jordans goodness while I mused on what to make. With hindsight, this was a bad move because everyone enjoyed all three of the products so much that I was banned from "wasting" them on experimental recipes. Charming ! I had a look through the rules of the cookery challenge and it mentions using a Jordans product but not necessarily one of the ones sent through, so I opted for a recipe using a box of Jordans Porridge Oats that I already had in the cupboard. I decided to try making something wholesome but tasty that would be a healthy breakfast or snack option. Here's what I came up with.

 Seeded Cranberry Breakfast Muffins



Ingredients 

for 12 muffins:

120g Jordans porridge oats
250g low-fat lemon yogurt (I used a tub of Lemon Quark which was perfect)
75ml milk
100ml vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
100g dark brown sugar
150g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla salt (optional) (this is a new Steenbergs product that I've been trying out - more about that in an upcoming review)
200g dried cranberries
50g mixed seeds

Method :


Put the oats in a bowl with the yogurt and milk. Stir and leave to one side for 10 minutes for the oats to soak up all the moisture and become creamy. While you are waiting, preheat the oven to 180° and line 2 x 6-hole muffin tins with paper cases.


Add the oil, egg and brown sugar and mix well.



Add the flour and (if using) vanilla salt and gently fold it in, without overmixing.


Mix in the cranberries.


This makes quite a firm dough so it's a great one for kids to put into the paper cases because it makes much less mess than runnier fairy cake or muffin batters. Sprinkle mixed seeds over the top of each muffin before putting them in the oven for 20 minutes until they go golden brown and slightly crispy on top.


I was amazed at the texture of them - they have a lovely firm, moist consistency that isn't at all oaty. The cranberries add some lovely sweetness and the seeds give them some crunch and nuttiness.


Pierre's not big on oats - he's not keen on flapjacks or porridge - but he loved these.


They're perfect for breakfast or snacks on the go - they're not too crumbly so they travel well.

Disclosure : We received some Jordans products in order to take part in Jordans Recipe Challenge. You'll be able to see all the participating recipes on Jordans website soon (www.jordanscereals.co.uk) - I can't wait to see what everyone else came up with.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Fun kids' recipe : Jacket Potato Boats

Jacket Potato Boats

Makes 4 boats (serves 2)

Ingredients

2 small baking potatoes
150g broccoli, cut into small florets

To decorate:

Wooden skewers
4 CHEDDS TOWERS cut in half
Mini Cos lettuce for the sails
Cucumber strips for the top of the sail
1 x 16g bag of CHEDDS SHAPES to decorate


Heat the oven to 180c/gas mark 6. Microwave the potatoes on a high heat for 10 minutes until cooked.

Meanwhile, cook the broccoli for 2 mins, drain. When the potatoes are cool, cut in half and scoop the potato out the middle into a bowl.

Mash with a fork and add the broccoli. Spoon the mixture into the shells and place onto a large baking sheet.
Sprinkle with some Chedds Shapes and bake for 10 minutes.

Thread 4 skewers with 1 x Chedds Tower cut lengthways and one cos lettuce leaf. Top with a strip of cucumber and two shapes. Put each skewer into the middle of each potato half to make a boat.

Shape little fish out of strips of carrot and make waves with strips of cucumber.

Recipe provided by Chedds.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Fun kids' recipe : Mac 'n' Cheese Rabbits

Are children getting a raw deal in UK restaurants?

Organix and The Soil Association have been carrying out an investigation into children’s menus and the results are pretty damning. The Out To Lunch report includes 21 restaurants, from multinational fast food chains to celebrity restaurants and ranks them in how well they provide the overall experience to families, including whether it’s children's choice in food, whether they have high chairs provided or whether breast feeding is allowed in the restaurant. The findings have been compiled following extensive research which began in January 2013, including a study of over 2,000 parents.

The investigation shows that 66% of parents think the food provision for children in restaurants is not good enough. Here are some of the key findings :

12 out of the 21 restaurants and pubs have children’s menus dominated by nuggets, burgers and sausages

Eight out of 21 chains don’t include vegetables or salad in the majority of their children’s main meals

10 don’t include a portion of fruit in any of their children’s puddings

Only 11 out of 21 chains were willing to say if their food was freshly cooked and where it comes from. Of the 11, only 4 were making and cooking the majority of their children’s food in the kitchen: Jamie’s Italian, Wagamama, Carluccios and Café Rouge

Only one chain (Jamie’s Italian) could reliably tell parents where its meat came from

Only 1 offers children’s cutlery as standard

No restaurants have signage welcoming breastfeeding on their premises

Only 2 chains offer a children’s drinks menu free from added sugar and sweeteners

The most worrying one of these is that, post horsegate, only one chain could reliably tell parents where their meat comes from. I find this shocking - how can it be allowed ? The lack of kid-sized cutlery and the rarity of vegetables on most kids' menus are also things that have annoyed me in restuarants in the past.






















In line with the research, Out to Lunch has also issued a league table ranking the 21 restaurants and pubs to show the industry and consumers what chains are offering children.

Jamie’s Italian, Wagamama and Wetherspoons have come out on top of the league table, while Burger King, KFC and Prezzo scored the least points. Although average meal price varied from restaurant to restaurant, this did not determine where chains came in the rankings.

The Out to Lunch campaign is calling on all high street restaurants and pubs to:

1. Offer all young diners the choice of a children’s portion of adult meals
2. Serve freshly prepared food, not ready meals
3. Offer free water to families on arrival
4. Offer children’s cutlery as standard
5. Make breastfeeding mums feel welcome



Out to Lunch is asking families to carry out four simple steps to back the campaign:

To tell restaurants what they think. The Out to Lunch downloadable Campaign Pack includes a review slip to make is easy for families to leave it behind on the table.
To be vocal and share feedback with family and friends.
To vote with their feet. If a restaurant is not up to scratch, don’t go back.
To support by wearing the ‘I support Out to Lunch’ badge on their Facebook and Twitter profiles.


Jamie Oliver, founder of Jamie’s Italian which came first in the league table said; “Since the first Jamie’s Italian opened we’ve always kept things kid-friendly with our funky viewfinder menus and super-tasty food, so to come top of the table is a fantastic achievement, and more importantly, confirmation that we're doing things right. We believe that the quality of the kids’ food should to be right up there on the same level as the main menu, and I truly believe that we have a brilliant offering that both kids love and parents can trust.
“Over the years, I’ve learnt that if you give kids a bit of ownership over their food, they’ll really embrace it, so that's exactly what we’ve done with our “shake me” salads. Every dish on the kid's menu comes with one and it counts as one of a child’s five a day. I’ve seen parents completely amazed that their kids are eating salad, and that's down to the fact that they’ve been involved and had fun putting it together.”

For a more detailed insight into the Out to Lunch league table visit www.soilassociation.org/outtolunch.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Calling all fame-seeking mini-foodies !


Calling all fame-seeking mini-foodies !

Do you have a child aged 9-12 who loves cooking and would like to show off their talents on TV ? Then read on ... !

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Calling young chefs!

Are you a great cook aged 9-12 who’d love to show off your skills on a brand new ITV series?

ITV is giving budding up-and-coming cooks the chance to take part in a brand new entertainment show. Can you cook the best casserole, make a Mexican dish to get the taste buds tingling, or whip up a strawberry cheesecake to wow the crowd? Whatever you make, if you love to cook we want to hear from YOU.

If you are aged 9-12, ask a parent/guardian to send an email by Sunday 18th August to:

There was a bit more about the concept in the email : "As for the show, it’s an hour-long programme to be shown on ITV every Saturday, 8.30-9.30am from October, with an initial run of 12 episodes. The programme features two teams of 3 children (Boys v Girls) competing against each other in a variety of cooking challenges and food-related games. It’s not going to be the intense experience of ‘MasterChef’, and the children won’t be placed under any sort of similar pressure. It’s all fun, everyone will have a great time, and hopefully they’ll all learn a lot about cookery and teamwork along the way. We’re also hoping to have some celebrity chefs involved, showing the children how to make some more elaborate and experimental dishes!"

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Kitchen Nomad Globe-Cooking Recipe #2 : Bánh Xeo (crispy crepes) (Vietnam)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Happy International Day of Friendship !


Today is International Day of Friendship, a day to show your friends how much you care about them. No, I must admit, I didn't know that it existed either until an email pinged into my inbox ! I decided to go looking for a clever title for this blogpost and came across some classic quotes about friendship :

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”― C.S. Lewis

This TOTALLY sums up my online bosom buddies !

“Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected.” ― Charles Lamb, The Life, Letters and Writings of Charles Lamb

As does this one !

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ― Elbert Hubbard

Aww, very true.

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” ― Linda Grayson

And this one is just perfect !


As well as coming up with a range of friendship-inspired gifts for those special people in your life - there are thank you cards and personalised keepsakes, including my fave, the emergency chocolate bar ! - Hallmark have created The Friendship Report, a research project to discover how modern friendships work and the qualities that bring great friends together. They have created a fun infographic with the results, including the top 5 ingredients for a close friendship, the average time spent socialising with friends, the best pick me ups when you’re down and many more. (Click on the picture below to see it full size.)



So to all my online friends (and any offline friends who may be reading this !),  this is for you ! :


for more information : www.hallmark.co.uk/friends

Disclosure : I received some of Hallmark's friendship range in honour of International Day of Friendship.

Other reviews you may be interested in :


Giveaway #310 : Win Bubble Guppies Fin-tastic Guitar & Rockin' Micro-fin - closed - winner Ashleigh Allan


I've just posted our review of the Fin-tastic Guitar and Rockin' Micro-fin from Fisher Price's range of Bubble Guppies toys.




Rock out with the Guppies — and over 40 fin-tastic phrases, tunes and sounds! Strum strings to play music and add guitar riffs; press Gil, Bubble Puppy and Molly buttons to add swim-sational sounds and phrases! 



Sing along with the Bubble Guppies! This microphone features voice amplification, underwater bubble sounds, over 15 songs and phrases—and the Rockin’ Micro-fin™ tail flips back and forth!

I have one of each of the Bubble Guppies toys (a Fin-tastic Guitar & Rockin' Micro-fin) to give away to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. To be in with a chance of winning, use the rafflecopter widget below.



UK only. Closing date : 20/8/13

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook, twitter and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after a week, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners.

Bubble Guppies Fin-tastic Guitar & Rockin' Micro-fin review


Despite only having discovered it relatively recently, Juliette and Pierre have both really taken to watching Bubble Guppies. If you're unfamiliar with the series, it features a group of mermaid pre-schoolers who have lots of fun and adventures in the underwater city of Bubbletucky. They both love the silliness and jokes, as well as the songs. Juliette made me laugh by saying it's like a cuter and not so rude version of Spongebob Squarepants !


Fisher Price have created a whole collection of Bubble Guppies products so Pierre and Juliette were very pleased when the postman dropped off two of the toys from the range. We received a Fin-tastic guitar and a Rockin Micro-Fin. The first thing I had to do was explain the names because otherwise Pierre would have thought that funtastic and microphone weren't the real words !



You can tell that Madhouse Grandad is a Beatles fan because the first thing that Juliette said when she saw the microphone was "oh, it looks like a yellow submarine" ! If you turn it on its side, she's quite right ! The bright colours and Bubble Guppy pictures were instantly appealing to the Madhouse Mini-testers, as was the flapping fish tail. As a grown-up, I was very impressed to see that the three AAA batteries were already installed - phew, no need to go rummaging in the drawer of pinching the batteries from the remote control ! 

The microphone features over 15 different extracts of songs and phrases from the show, but more exciting than that, it has voice amplification and underwater bubble sounds that you can add when you sing along ! Pierre and Juliette both had great fun with it, but I must admit it did get a bit headachey after a while. One thing to be wary of - Pierre almost threw it in the bath I was running at the end of the day because he thought it was a swimming bath toy because of the flipping tail ! I'm not sure it would have survived that !




The Fin-tastic Guitar follows the same logic. This time it plays a selection of over 20 Bubble Guppies phrases and song extracts and by pushing on the buttons showing the characters from the show (Gill, Bubble Puppy and Molly, so the Madhouse Mini-testers tell me), you can add sound effects and phrases to the songs that you play by strumming the strings. The 3 x AA batteries are again included (big bonus point to Fisher Price - I wish all toy manufacturers would follow their example).

The Madhouse Mini-testers had a great time creating a Bubble Guppy orchestra and using the guitar and microphone simultaneously while both singing along at the same time. This sounds very harmonious and lovely until you realise they're both singing totally different songs and adding voice amplification, Bubble Guppies sayings and sound effects every 30 seconds. It made me laugh for a while but the the noise got a bit too much in the end !



Luckily, I found the perfect way to restore peace and quiet. On the Nick Jr website, you can sign up to a free Bubble Guppies fan club which enables you to print out a 25 page colouring book. That was absolutely perfect for calming them down so I would advise you to sign up and print it out in advance before giving out the noisy toys !

If you want to put my theory to the test, don't go away - I'll be back in a moment with a giveaway where you can win your very own Bubble Guppy musical toys.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : Fin-tastic Guitar ££19.99, Microfin £14.99




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

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Kixi Razor Balance Bike review

Kitchen Nomad Globe-Cooking Recipe #2 : Bánh Xeo (crispy crepes) (Vietnam)


As you know, we've received a couple of Kitchen Nomad foodie boxes here at The Madhouse, containing everything we need for a gastronomical voyage to Greece and Vietnam. Yesterday, we decided to get all exotic and try out one of the recipes, so we had Bánh Xeo - Vietnamese Crispy Crepes - for lunch. 


In the box we discovered the rice flour for the pancakes


Some bird eye chillis.


And a very authentic-looking bottle of fish sauce.

The recipe for this dish is available on the Kitchen Nomad website. It was provided by Uyen Luu, a Vietnamese chef, food stylist, and food photographer, who writes recipes for numerous newspapers and online magazines and who will have a cookery book coming out in the autumn.


First I mixed up the batter.


Sophie prepared the dipping sauce, although I took over chopping up the chillies, just to be on the safe side !


Using what was in the fridge, I opted for leftover barbecued beef, carrot and spring onion.



Two crepes on the go at the same time was maybe asking for trouble, but I managed to pull it off !


I'm not sure mine really went crispy enough but they went down a storm. The kids loved the taste but also the fun way of wrapping them in salad leaves and eating with their fingers. I loved them too until I ate a chilli seed from the dipping sauce and it was so fiery, it made my eyes water !

From talking to chef Uyen Luu on twitter @loveLELUU, I now know where I went wrong - the pancake batter needs to be very runny and mine was quite thick, getting moreso the further I got to the bottom of the bowl, so I'll dilute it a bit more next time.

Disclosure : I received a Kitchen Nomad box in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :


Tideford Organics Carbonara Sauce review


It's the final few days before we head off on holiday to Morocco (you won't even notice I'm gone though because I've been busy scheduling posts for when we're not here - ahh the wonders of modern technology !) so I'm running out of the usual fridge staples. When the kids said they'd like spaghetti carbonara for dinner, I started off thinking I'd make my usual twist on the classic cream and bacon sauce - I like to make it with extra onions, mushrooms and leeks, as well as lots of grated cheese to thicken it up - but I didn't have enough cream to make enough for all five of us.


Then I remembered a pot of Tideford Organic Carbonara Sauce that we had received to review and that was waiting in the freezer. I pulled it out to defrost and decided that would be perfect. Once it had defrosted, I had a little taste. It has a lovely flavour - you can taste the nutmeg coming through which adds a lovely depth to the usual creamy flavour - but the consistency did seem very thin and runny to me.


I had a fish around with a fork and there are some large chunks of bacon in there but not as many as I would have liked. I therefore decided to do a half and half homemade/shop bought sauce, following my usual recipe as far as possible (I didn't have any leeks or mushrooms and not much crème fraîche) then adding in the Tideford Sauce to make it stretch further. This worked perfectly - the nutmeg was a nice extra touch and my extra cheese, bacon and onions made for a more robust sauce.


The 300g pot contains 360 calories, 26g of fat and 14g of carbs - plus all the extras from my added ingredients !

Look out for more Tideford Organics reviews coming up shortly, and make sure you enter my giveaway to win a fab selection of their products too.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £2.29 for 300g

for more information : http://www.tidefordorganics.com

Disclosure : I received a selection of Tideford Organics products in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :


Fun kids' recipe : Mac 'n' Cheese Rabbits

Ready for another fun recipe idea for the kids? That's lunch sorted then !



Mac 'n' Cheese Rabbits

Serves 4

Ingredients

350g pasta twists
75g sliced ham, shredded (optional)
45g butter
45g flour
450ml milk
4 x CHEDDS TOWERS
2 tbsp grated breadcrumbs

To decorate
CHEDDS SHAPES


Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

Melt the butter in a small pan and add the flour. Beat with a wooden spoon for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, beating continuously. Bring the mixture slowly to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.

Take the sauce off the heat and stir in the CHEDDS TOWERS. Drain the pasta and pour over the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Add the shredded ham if using.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and place under a preheated grill for 2 minutes.

To make your face, use cherry tomato halves for the eyes, topped with two round CHEDDS SHAPES. Make the ears out of carrot strips and the whiskers with fresh chives. Finish with a CHEDDS SHAPES bow tie.

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Recipe provided by Chedds.


You can read our review of Chedds Shapes & Towers here.

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