Friday, 28 February 2014

Did you win anything nice in February?

I haven't entered many competitions this month - in fact, I'm not quite sure where the month went, I seem to have blinked and missed it, probably because of losing a week in bed with the flu ! - but I've just been to look at what I won this month and was pleasantly surprised. There were more wins than I thought !


First of all, I won "a few" bags of crisps from Walker's - a whole box full of 18 six-packs, much to the kids' delight ! ( I actually won this back before Christmas but it arrived this month.)


I was more delighted with this prize - Lorraine Pascale's A Lighter Way To Bake - and you may have seen the cute little pinwheel biscuits that I made with a recipe from this


Next was a useful win - a box of Oven Pride oven cleaner.


Followed by The Pointless Leopard book


I was also over the moon to win a Le Creuset saucepan with my recipe for spicy prawns with feta and chorizo. Oooh very posh !


This also came with a lovely hamper of Tilda goodies.


I won a pizza voucher from Dr Oetker. (I told you about this giveaway on my freebie roundup - there are 100,000 prizes up for grabs so you have great odds of winning one.)

I also won a £15 Marks & Spencer voucher this month.

So what about you? What did you win this month? 

You might like to try your luck entering my giveaways too !

Giveaway #367 : Win Baby and Toddler Show Tickets - closing date 2/3

Giveaway #368 : Win a £50 cereal voucher for your school breakfast club - closed - winner Jo Welsh


Pre-school breakfast clubs have become a lifeline for many British families with almost a quarter of all working households using them so they can drop their primary school children off before school in order to get to work on time. One in four working parents with children in breakfast clubs would be forced to quit their jobs without them.

Working parents who drop their children off at school early can save up to £1,373 a year using pre-school breakfast clubs instead of alternative childcare. Across the UK, this is a potential saving of £26.4 million in childcare costs each week .

Kellogg’s is awarding grants to 1,000 schools in some of the most deprived areas of the country to help them set up or run their existing breakfast club. This is part of the company’s pledge to donate 15 million portions of cereal and snacks to families in food poverty, by the end of 2016.


Paul Wheeler, a Kellogg’s director, said: “For millions of parents in Britain, having access to a breakfast club helps them do the basics – keep down a job. But, with school budgets squeezed, it’s more important than ever that breakfast clubs stay open.”

Kellogg’s Breakfast Club grant applications close on 28th March 2014, schools should visit www.giveachildabreakfast.co.uk to apply.

Kellogg's have also kindly offered to send a £50 cereal voucher to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader for you to pass on ot your school breakfast club. Fill in your details on the Rafflecopter widget below to be in with a chance of winning.


UK only. Closing date : 14/3/14

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. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray !


Other giveaways you may be interested in :

What's cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 28/2


As it's the school holidays and we're lucky enough to get two weeks off, I did a double menu plan last week (and only published half). I ended up using more from the second part (that I'm blogging today) than last week's so I'll be mixing and matching from the last two week's plans.

Saturday

lunch - it's turned into a bit of a school holiday tradition so we'll be heading to the Chinese eat-all-you-like buffet

dinner - soup if anyone's hungry

Sunday

lunch -  Daddy will be off doing carnival so we'll have something simple - maybe a picnic, not sure if it will be an indoor or outdoor one though !

dinner -  smoked sausage and beans casserole in the slow cooker

Monday

lunch - pork chops with garlic and herb wedges

dinner - Cantonese chicken with mixed veg and noodles

Tuesday

lunch - Chicken Tonight Spanish chicken with rice

dinner - prawn biryani for the grownups, fishfingers and tinned spaghetti for the kids

Wednesday

lunch - sweet potato noodles with pork and veg (and I think we might try the tin of kimchi from the Korean Kitchen Nomad box too)

dinner - Youvetsi (tomatoey pasta bake with orzo) with chicken and veg

Thursday

lunch - French chicken with green beans and new potatoes

dinner - Quiche and salad

Friday

lunch - beef in ale stew with mash and dumplings

dinner -  leftovers or soup

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***


Meal Planning Monday


Want to see what everyone else is eating ? Head over to Meal Planning Monday at Mrs M's blog !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

New York Bakery Co. mini bagels review


New York Bakery Co have just launched a new range of mini bagels that are ideal for kids' packed lunches or guilt-free mid-afternoon snacks. They deliver the same great taste as their regular bagels but are half the size. They come in a choice of three flavours - plain, sweet cinnamon & raisin and the new Duo which are made with 50% wholemeal and 50% white flour.

If you've ever wondered how bagels get their unique firm texture, here's the secret. New York Bakery Co makes all of its bagels the authentic NY way by boiling them before they are stone-baked, making them soft on the inside with a deliciously chewy crust.

Each bagel weighs 45g and as a rough guide, a plain mini bagel provides a very reasonable 116 calories and 0.6g of fat, making them a great choice for anyone watching their waistline.

Bagels are very versatile so you can fill them with just about anything, from classic ham and cheese to sweet combinations like peanut butter and banana, passing by more exotic options like pesto chicken, prawn and avocado or BBQ pulled pork. Here's our favourite serving suggestion though - Loch Ness Bagel Monsters ! 


New York Bakery Co. Mini Bagels cost from £1.60 per eight pack and are available in Tesco.

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

Other reviews you may be interested in :

New York Bakery Co Muffins review

Madhouse recipe : Chilli Enchiladas

Madhouse recipe : Homemade Ferrero Rocher

Madhouse recipe : Homemade Jaffa Cakes Disaster !

As soon as I saw a recipe for homemade Jaffa Cakes, I knew I wanted to have a go. The idea was genius - make little sponge cakes, cut circles out of an orange jelly then cover them in chocolate. Unfortunately, it all went horribly wrong but it was still good fun ! I think the recipe only needs a couple of tweaks for it to work so I might have another go.

Homemade Jaffa Cakes


ingredients :

2 eggs
50g sugar
50g plain flour
1 orange jelly
a bar of chocolate


Boil some water in a small saucepan. Place a heatproof bowl over the top so that the bottom of the bowl doesn't reach the water. Whisk together 2 eggs and 50g sugar until pale and fluffy (4-5 minutes). Add the flour and keep whisking until well blended.


Pour into 12 greased muffin tins and cook in a preheated oven at 180° for 10 minutes. This produces perfectly formed, firm sponge cake bases.


I'd prepared an orange jelly in a shallow tray and managed to cut out perfect circles with a cookie cutter that were the same size as the sponge bases. Once the cakes had cooled, I plopped a circle of jelly on top of each. So far so good. (This was what I thought would be the most delicate part but it was really easy.)


Next, you need to melt some chocolate and drizzle it over the jelly. I did actually predict what would happen  next (but hoped I'd be wrong - I wasn't !) - the chocolate melted the jelly and it all slid off in a gooey mess !


This didn't stop the kids eating them. They had several techniques. 1. Either eat just the sponge + jelly or sponge + chocolate. 2. As for the first technique but shove a spoonful of the missing ingredient in your mouth just before eating one. 3. Drizzle chocolate on top of the jelly and shove the whole thing in your mouth before it melts !

From looking around online, several recipes suggest adding a tablespoon of marmalade to the orange jelly. This presumably raises the melting temperature of the jelly but I would think it makes them taste more bitter.

So, have you made homemade jaffa cakes before? If so, how did you get on? I think we'll have to stick to making homemade Ferrero Rocher instead - they were dead easy and tasted divine !

Other recipes you may be interested in :

Pancake Day recipe : Jelly Belly Pancakes

Pancakes, fruit, chocolate and Jelly Belly jelly beans - these flip-tastic pancakes contain all my favourite ingredients. Yum !

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Jelly Belly Chocolate American Pancakes


Thick, fluffy American style pancakes make a delicious breakfast, and are far too good to be saved only for pancake day. Nevertheless, Pancake Day is so worth celebrating and Jelly Belly® jelly beans make an inspiring and delicious addition to any recipe. 

We've used Jelly Belly Dark Chocolate Milkshake in these pancakes to give them a chocolate flavour, and decorated with berries and chocolate dip Jelly Belly beans.

Makes 6 - 8 Pancakes
Serves 2
100g plain white flour
1tsp baking powder
2 free range eggs
100ml Jelly Belly Dark Chocolate Milkshake
Knob of butter
Jelly Belly Chocolate Dip beans, fresh berries and caramel sauce to serve.

Mix together flour, baking powder, eggs and the Jelly Belly Dark Chocolate Milkshake. Do not overbeat, as this will result in tougher pancakes.

To cook a few at a time - heat a little of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, and pour in about half a ladle of the pancake batter.

Turn once with a spatula, when bubbles start to rise to the surface and when a skin has started to develop on the surface.

Keep warm in the oven whilst you cook the rest.

Served stacked with fresh berries, Jelly Belly Chocolate Dip beans and a generous drizzle of caramel sauce accompanied with the remainder of the milkshake.


Jelly Belly Vanilla Pancakes


A classic English crêpe style pancake, but gently flavoured with vanilla from a Jelly Belly French Vanilla Milkshake. Serve with a traditional sugar and a squeeze of lemon, of fold the pancakes and fill with a lemon cream

Makes 6 - 8 Pancakes
Serves 2

For the pancakes
100g plain white flour
2 free range eggs
200ml Jelly French Vanilla Milkshake
75ml water
Knob of butter
For the lemon curd cream
120ml double cream
1 heaped tbs lemon curd
To serve
Fruit flavoured Jelly Belly Beans, fresh berries, icing sugar, chocolate sauce

Mix together the flour, eggs, and half the milkshake. Add the rest of the milkshake and the water and whisk until the mix is smooth and the consistency of thin cream.

Heat a little of the butter in a large non stick frying pan over a medium heat, and pour in about half a ladle of the pancake batter.

Tilt the pan gently swirling the batter to spread it out, and return to the heat. Cook for about 45 seconds to a minute until golden and solid, and either flip with a spatula or fish slice or toss. Cook the other side for 30 seconds or so until done.

Transfer to a warm plate whilst you cook the rest of the pancakes, or eat immediately.

To make the lemon curd cream, simply whisk the cream and lemon curd together until the mixture is stiff and holds a peak.

To serve fold the pancakes into quarters to make a pocket, fill each with lemon curd cream and serve decorated with Jelly Belly Beans, fresh berries, a sprinkle of icing sugar and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Alternatively serve the classic way with a sprinkle of sugar and a squirt of lemon juice.

Recipe, styling and photography by Helen Best-Shaw, Fuss Free Flavours for Jelly Belly UK

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Madhouse recipe : Creamy Leek & Bacon Lasagne

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Kärcher Steam Cleaner SC 2.500 C review


I'm going to ignore the fact that I saw a snow warning earlier on today and say that spring is on the way. We've had some lovely weather over the past week, it's stopped raining all the time and we even went out for a nature walk and discovered lots of signs of spring like catkins, crocuses and daffodils. Unfortunately, that also means that it's time to start spring cleaning ! Luckily, we have a new ally - a fabulous steam cleaner that Kärcher sent through for us to roadtest.


The model that we received is the SC 2.500 C.


The illustrations on the box show that you can use it for cleaning hobs.


It also has a small brush attachment for getting into nooks and crannies.


And it even promises to get the bathroom clean and combat limescale build-up. Hmm I definitely want to try that one out !


When you open the box, this is what you get - quite a few attachments (steam nozzle, small round brush, large floor brush and medium brush), as well as two large cloths and two elasticated cloths that look like mini shower caps to go on the small brush.


It's all extremely simple to put together, even without reading the instruction manual. The cloths (which look like Terry towelling burp cloths - I might try recycling old bibs when I need to replace the cloths) are just flat cloths, that you fold around the brush then hold in place with simple open/close clips. (I find this system better than on my old steam cleaner which had elastic fasteners that need to pull tight around the brusn attachment to hold them in place - they invariably came off when cleaning and eventually, the elastic snapped, making them unusable.)


We started off on our lino floor. The steamer heats up very quickly - just a couple of minutes - and you're ready to go. You basically use it just like you would a vacuum cleaner (although you need to vacuum the floor first - it won't pick up dust).


It is simple to use and seemed to give about the same result as using a mop and bucket. The advantage is, there is no need to use any cleaning products with it, which is better for the planet and the kids/pets, while saving you money too. The floor is wet afterwards but less so than with a mop and bucket.


At this point, Sophie excitedly squealed "oooh, can I do the rest of the house ?"! Believe me, this is definitely not normal ! Obviously, I said yes (!) and we swapped over to the smaller brush attachment. One quick wipe over the table got rid of the icing dribbles and stuck on bits of pastry that were left over from our cookie-making session. That usually takes a fair bit of elbow grease to remove !


It wasn't really the right attachment but Sophie moved on to the hob and stunned me by removing all the grease and grime with just a couple of wipes. I normally have to use a powerful degreaser and leave it to soak in before getting the hob this clean.


She had a quick wipe over the wall behind the hob where there are sometimes grease splashes. I love the fact that the steam wipes out any germs that may be lurking about.


The water tank needed refilling at this point but it just clips on and off. The opening is wide enough and well placed so filling it at the tap is a breeze, and this machine offers continuous steam so I was very impressed to see that we didn't have to wait for the water to heat up.


While Sophie got on with the cleaning, I followed her around taking photos - this is the life ! We all thought that it's not just functional, it's also rather funky, with a cheerful yellow colour.


Having finished the basic cleaning (floors and surfaces), Sophie asked what else she could have a go at so I decided to launch a challenge - the oven. Aaaagh ! I had this down as one of my disgusting half-term jobs and thought I'd be up to my elbows in grease and grime for a whole morning. In fact, the oven door has cooked-on grease and grime that I have never managed to remove, even with extremely powerful deep cleaning chemical oven cleaners. Sophie thought it was hilarious that it instantly started to shift with the steam cleaner.


There's the proof if you need it ! Luckily the cloths are machine washable. The oven door isn't 100% clean but it's much better than it has been in a very long time and I'll be regularly using the steam cleaner on it now to try to get rid of the remaining grime.


Here's the colour of the floor cloth - hmmm !


Having seen how well it worked on the oven door, I was a woman on a mission, taking Sophie to all the problem areas in the house that no amount of cleaning products and good old-fashioned elbow grease has ever managed to shift. These greasy fingerprints just above the door handle have resisted anything I've thrown at them so I was about to repaint the door during the half-term holiday.


But that was before Sophie ran the steam cleaner over them. Once. And they all magically disappeared. In fact, it's so powerful, it took the very top surface off the paint too, so be warned - you do need to be careful about the more delicate surfaces you use it on ! I was absolutely delighted though !



On to the ultimate test - the shower stall. We have very hard water and the limescale has built up so much on the transparent panels of our shower stall that it looks like frosted glass. Sorry about the sound at the start of the video - it gives you an idea of how simple the steam cleaner is to use though.


I have honestly never seen our shower sparkle before. You know those cleaning product adverts where they do that "bling" shine thing at the end? Well, that was the effect ! I was flabbergasted to see that by using the steam nozzle, you can even blast limescale build-up off the showerhead attachments too.


The shower stall isn't 100% limescale free but it is absolutely unrecognisable. I also read that the steam cleaner can initially create smears and streaks due to leftover detergent residue so I think regular use will have even better results.

This isn't the first steam cleaner that we've reviewed but it's by far my favourite so far. It's amazingly effective, very versatile and very green if you want to cut down on the toxic products you use around the home. It has a child-safety steam-lock to prevent nasty accidents and you can regulate the power of the steam. By far the biggest bonus, though, is that it's made my almost-teenaged daughter love cleaning the house - woohoo !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £221.99 on amazon

for more information : 
Twitter: @karcheruk



Disclosure : We are very proud to have been picked as Kärcher Ambassadors for the coming year. We'll be receiving several products from the brand in order to write honest reviews.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Vanish Gold 30 Second Stain Challenge

Ella's Kitchen's Incredible Edible Forest!


Ella’s Kitchen have created the world’s first edible forest for little ones, made entirely of organic fruit and vegetables.


The toddler sized forest - designed to introduce little ones to a world of healthy eating - features over 600 kilos of fruit and veg and took a team of six people over 460 hours to create. Little ones can help themselves to tasters of over 23 different fruits and vegetables as they explore the forest, from carrot hedgehogs and pepper flowers, to cherry tomato trees and lentil pathways.

You can see how they made it in the video below :



The edible forest has been launched by Ella’s Kitchen to celebrate the launch of its new toddler meals range which features six recipes for growing toddlers, each bursting with at least five different fruits and vegetables.


The forest, which stands at just 1.8m high making it perfect for little ones to explore, has been created specifically with adventurous (and hungry) toddlers in mind. Research shows that if little ones play with their food using all their senses, they are more likely to eat their greens at meal times!

Disclosure : We were invited along but couldn't make it sadly.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Giveaway #367 : Win Baby and Toddler Show Tickets - closing date 2/3

Kids App Review: Dr. Panda’s Restaurant 2


When we were sent through a code to test out a new kids' app last week, it was absolutely perfect timing. I was stuck in bed with the flu and this kept the kids entertained for hours !


This was the first time we'd come across Dr Panda but he actually stars in a wide range of apps, including Airport, Supermarket, Bus Driver and Beauty Salon. There is also a previous restaurant game too.


In this app, customers come to your pierside restaurant in pairs and you create a dish for them using the ingredients of your choice. There are 20 different ingredients available, including  fish, kiwifruit, eggs, peppers and tomatoes, so there are lots of different combinations available.


You can combine flavours and seasonings to make a delicious dish or, if you're feeling cheeky, go out of your way to make it disgusting. If you make it too spicy, your customers will breathe fire, much to the Madhouse Mini-testers' delight ! You need to watch your customers for reactions to see what they think of your food and how you can adapt it to their tastes, so it's a great way of learning about facial experessions with young players, as well as using your memory to remember which ingredients they did and didn't like.


It's also a great introduction to basic kitchen techniques. Kids learn basic recipes such as throwing together a plate of pasta or making a pizza, and they get to try out various techniques such as grating, chopping, baking, boiling and frying.

It's a gentle, non-competitive game with no scoring or time limits to worry about. The Madhouse Mini-testers were confused by this to begin with, because there are no levels to work through or targets to attain. There are dozens of different reactions to discover though so they love trying out different combinations of ingredients and kitchen tools to see what they can come up with and keep coming back to the app.

There are absolutely no third party ads or in-game purchases, which is great, but I would like to see some updates with further ingredients  and recipes at some point to keep it fresh.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £1.99


Disclosure : We received a code for the app, in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Free kids' app : Mike the Knight Storybook Treasury

Madhouse recipe : Creamy Leek & Bacon Lasagne


I often make classic bolognese lasagne but I decided to mix things up a bit today, using the Madhouse carbonara sauce, which is a mixture of bacon, mushrooms, onions and leeks in a cream and cheese sauce. It worked really well and the kids said they preferred it to spaghetti carbonara because it is easier to eat !

Creamy Leek & Bacon Lasagne 

ingredients :

400g bacon lardons
2 onions
2 leeks
4 mushrooms
30cl liquid crème fraîche
150g grated cheese
lasagne sheets (dried or fresh)



In a large frying pan, fry the bacon lardons for 5 minutes, drain off the excess fat and return to the heat. Add the onions, leeks and mushrooms and fry for a further 8 minutes until it's all soft and cooked. Drain off the excess fat again.


Pour in the cream and a handful of grated cheese. Heat, stirring continually, until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat.


Layer the lasagne sheets and the sauce in an ovenproof dish, finishing with a layer of sauce.


Top with grated cheese and bake in a preheated oven at 180° for 30 minutes until the lasagne sheets are cooked through. Serve with salad.

Link up your recipe of the week

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Madhouse recipe : Chilli Enchiladas