Thursday, 21 February 2019

Madhouse recipe : Cranberry & White Chocolate Scones

It's the school holidays, which means I've been having a sort out in the baking cupboard. One of the things I made were these scones, which I jazzed up with some white chocolate and cranberries that were lurking in the cupboards. They disappeared very swiftly !

Cranberry & White Chocolate Scones

ingredients :

250g self-raising flour
40g butter
125ml milk
40g sugar
75g cranberries
75g white chocolate chips
a little milk to brush on top

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Put the flour and sugar in a bowl and add the butter.

Rub in the butter to create breadcrumbs. Don't worry - it will still resemble flour.

Add the cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Pour in the milk and mix it all together until it forms a ball of soft dough.

Gently roll the dough out until it's about 1.5cm thick. (You may need to add a little flour to the board and the rolling pin if the dough is sticky.)

Use a cookie cutter or an upside down glass to cut out six scones. I formed the remainder into two more scones freestyle, which worked perfectly too. (They're the ones in the middle, if you can't tell !)

Dab a little milk on top with a brush or, if you haven't got one, your fingers will do. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Eat warm or cold, cut in half with some butter. Yum !

This was great for using up various odds and ends, including the cranberries and white chocolate chips, so I'm adding it to this month's #KitchenClearout linky.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Overhang Ginger, Orange & Lime Drink review

It's half term - yay ! We've actually had some pretty fabulous weather so far - quite cold but very sunny - so we've been getting out and about, making the most of it. Luckily, I've had a couple of bottles of Overhang to review, which promised to provide me with a little natural boost to help me keep up with the kids !

The drink is made using a family recipe, which has been perfected over a century, with the zesty flavours of ginger, orange and lime. I was a little concerned that the ginger would make it too spicy, but it's very tame and the citrus flavours are what you taste the most. It also contains milk thistle, burdock and raspberry leaf, which contains naturally occurring vitamins and tannins, as well as added vitamins B3, B5 and B6. The orange juice provides 50% of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C too.

Usually, I find that these kinds of natural boost drinks are either really expensive or packed with sugar. Well, the good news here is that each bottle retails for a reasonable £1.20 and only contains 58 calories, so that's not bad.

If you want something to put a little spring in your step, it's definitely worth a try, as it promises to tonify the body and promote general well-being in a very traditional way. It provides a very gentle lift that can help with a little boost towards the end of the day when your energy levels are flagging.

Available in Morrisons, Holland & Barrett, Tesco, ASDA, M&S, WHSmith, & on Amazon from RRP £1.20


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

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Book review : KA-E-RO-U Time To Go Home - B. Jeanne Shibahara

I was recently offered a review copy of KA-E-RO-U Time to Go Home, and, reading the summary of the book, I was instantly intrigued. Having spent half of my life living in France, I love discovering differences in cultures, whether that be through food, music, traditions or history, and this book promised to give me a captivating and fascinating insight into a country I know little about : Japan.

The central character of the novel - Meryl - is a middle-aged, American mum, whose son is now grown up and working in Japan. Her father has just remarried and is going off on honeymoon and, as her husband was killed during the war in Vietnam, leaving her to bring up their son as a widowed, single mum, she is feeling a bit lost, unwanted and unneeded. A friend passes on a new project to her - a Japanese flag from World War II, stained with blood and marked with messages. Meryl gets in touch with her son's Japanese teacher at the university and he encourages her to go to Japan, catch up with her son and hunt down the flag's owner.

Meryl heads off into the unknown, catching a flight to Japan and discovering that her son is off travelling. Luckily, his bunch of co-workers at an English school take her under their wings and introduce her to some of Japan's unmissable customs and traditions, while helping her track down the family. She then heads off on a road-trip to return the flag to the sister of the soldier, who invites her to take part in a ceremony to honour her brother's memory and release his spirit on to the next part of his journey. Despite the miles between their homes and the differences in language and culture, their one universal point - the loss of a loved one - brings the two women together, allowing them to say goodbye to their pasts and open themselves up the possibilities that the future may hold.

It's an uplifting, positive story, filled with fascinating insights into life in Japan, past and present. From kimonos to Matagi hunters, sushi to ikebana, it will lead from the things you vaguely know in Japanese culture to notions that have never even crossed your mind, bringing in the unknown whilst also leading to the discovery that, beneath it all, we all have the same humanity and love.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : currently £5.93 on amazon

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (13 Oct. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1719859264
  • ISBN-13: 978-1719859264
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Monday, 18 February 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #8

This last week was a great time for catching up with all the various appointments that I don't have time for when I'm at work, plus I had a clearout in the spice rack. This week, which is the second week of the holidays, I have plans to do lots of baking to make some space in the baking cupboard, plus have a use-up session in the food cupboards and freezer. That's the plan anyway, but it's the holidays, so things may change !


lunch - baked ham with rice & veggies

dinner - chicken stir-fry with noodles & more veggies (but shhh ! don't tell the kids !)


lunch - chicken sausages with mash, peas & carrots

dinner - cheese & bacon pasta bake


lunch - battered fish, chips and peas

dinner - fajitas


lunch - spicy steak with onions & peppers and ... not sure, rice or pasta or maybe some leftovers

dinner -  Hawaiian pizzas again - the kids loved the last lot and made me buy more !


lunch - pork chops, couscous & veg

 dinner - cheesy potato bake, probably with a side order of leftovers, if not I'll add some bacon to it


lunch - kids' choice of fast food - probably the old favourite, McDonald's !

dinner - sandwiches and fridge clearout


lunch - chicken gyros with rice & salad

dinner - sandwiches and/or fridge clearout

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


Sunday, 17 February 2019

Ravensburger Disney “Wicked Women” 1,000 Piece Puzzle review

Just in time for the half-term holiday, Ravensburger delivered a lovely new 1,000 piece puzzle for us all to put together. 

It's a design that features six of Disney's most famous female villains. Do you recognise them all? 

In the bottom right-hand corner is Maleficent from The Sleeping Beauty, the self proclaimed "Mistress of All Evil", who was so incensed at not being invited to the little girl's christening that she cursed Princess Aurora so that she would prick her finger and die before her sixteenth birthday. Boo, hiss !

Above her, in the top left corner, is Cruella De Vil, lover of fur coats and puppy thief from A Hundred and One Dalmatians, surrounded by a trio of the nervous looking puppies. Did you know that the author of the original story, Dodie Smith, had a dalmatian called Pongo ?

In the middle of the picture are the Evil Queen, and the Evil Witch that she disguises herself as, from Snow White. "Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" Well, definitely not you ! In the bottom right corner is the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, who looks totally furious as usual. Off with her head ! 

Finally in the top right corner is Ursula from The Little Mermaid, one of (in my opinion) Disney's scariest but also funniest villains, out to get the beautiful princess Ariel and take over the sea world. 

It's a lovely puzzle for Disney fans of all ages, packed with details so it's fairly simple to put together. If you look closely at the little pictures on the frieze, they are in sections and change frequently, making it even easier. The completed design, which measures 70 x 50cm, looks like a stained glass window, but I don't think any church would want these Disney villains as decorations ! The pieces fit together easily and stay in place, even when dragging different parts to their correct position. It's a lovely way of keeping the kids off their consoles and mobiles phones for a couple of days.

Disclosure : We received the product in order to share our honest opinion.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Fab freebies of the week 16/2

I've been off all week, which has been great, giving me a chance to catch up on paperwork, various appointments and giving the kids' bedrooms a major tidy. We've been busy clearing out all the toys they've grown out of and popping to the toy shop to drop off a bag of toys in their collection point - still plenty to go but it's looking better already. Hope you have something nice planned for the weekend, starting off with some new freebies :)


To celebrate the launch of The LEGO® Movie 2, we are hosting a free LEGO Make & Take event on Saturday 16th February at 9am in ALL stores! It's simple, head down to your local Smyths Toys Superstore, make something awesome from LEGO® Movie 2 and then take it home with you! This event will take place while stocks last, so make sure you get down early! What will you build?!

Pizza? Roses? It's gotta be Valentine's Day ! Win hundreds of prizes with Pizza Ristorante

In the Sacla newsletter yesterday : We have a Pesto for everyone, including a wide range of different flavours, and we would love you to try our new 'Nduja Pesto. 'Nduja is an Italian sausage, made with pork and plenty of fiery Calabrian chillies. Delicious spread on pizza, swirled into soup or served with fish. If you would like a FREE jar, then simply buy 2 jars of any Sacla' product, then send us a message either on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) or email with a picture of your receipt(s) along with your postal address and we will send you a free jar of
‘Nduja Pesto. This is for the first 100 people only, so go go go!For the full T&C's visit our website here.

@NYROForsyth (Neals Yard Remedies)
Free samples available (UK only), PM your address.

The weekend has landed! #Free samples up for grabs for the first 500 in the UK to:
1. #LIKE and #RETWEET this post
2. #FOLLOW US @TrySurvivor
That’s a free sample worth £5.99 We’ll DM you to arrange delivery.
Find out more at #giveaway #freebies

Too late for this time, but it will be running again so keep a check on it... Claim your free Café Brontë biscuit sample! Choose from one of the following: Doubly Chocolate, Choc Chip & Orange, Choc Chip & Vanilla or Ginger.

Find your dream fabric by ordering up to eight free samples today 👇🏻 #dreamfabric #freesamples

Café Direct have hundreds of prizes up for grabs in their giveaway

Grab a coupon for a free pack of La Famiglia Rana Fresh Tortelloni (valid until 20th Feb)

Naturalista is a recently launched programme designed by Noughty to get some of our newest products into your hands in exchange for your honest reviews. As a programme member, you'll be periodically invited to choose products to sample at completely no cost to you. Some of these products may not yet be available to the general public, so your opinion could be among the first we receive.

Grab some free Nescafé Azera Nitro on Shopmium

Get a FREE Trouw Nutrition Lambing Pack containing a Farm-O-San Reviva Ewe sample and a woolly hat!

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time. Let me know if any have expired and I'll remove them from the roundup.

You may also like to enter my current giveaways :

coming soon !

Friday, 15 February 2019

DVD review : Norm of the North - Keys To The Kingdom

In the original Norm of the North movie, the clever polar bear with his talent for talking to humans headed to New York to see off some property developers who were planning on building on his Arctic homeland.

In this new animated adventure, the newly crowned king of the North, Norm, travels to New York with his son to accept the keys to the city. These aren't just any old keys - they open every door in the city ! Hmm can you see where this is headed ?! The keys are stolen and Norm gets the blame for a string of bank robberies that he didn't commit. (They were committed by a guy in a polar bear suit - I kid you not !) He relies on his friends, old and new, to help clear his good name.

But that's not all ! Back in the Arctic, a vicious bottled-water company has moved in and is starting to steal the ice. Norm decides that he will save his kingdom in a thrilling winner-takes-all hockey match. There's never a dull moment ! 

This movie seemed a bit disjointed to us and it turns out that it is a combination of two separate episodes, which actually makes more sense. We love the way that friendship and helping each other out are important factors in the movie, and Norm also learns some good lessons about leadership. The kids liked all the fart jokes too ! Throw on some popcorn and you'll have a great way of passing a rainy afternoon in half term !

NORM OF THE NORTH: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM is out to download from 11th February and to own on DVD from 18th February.

DVD Date: 18th February
Certificate: PG
Running Time: 91 mins approx.

Disclosure : We received a review copy.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Globecooking recipe : Afghan biscuits (New Zealand)

These Afghan biscuits are our favourite biscuits at the moment and I particularly love the fact that they are using up some leftover cereal that nobody has been eating ! They can be made with cornflakes or anything similar so they're great for using up odds and ends. I adapted this recipe from a New Zealand sugar website, but big thanks to Susan B who left me a message on my recipe for Brownie Style Cookies to say that they reminded her of Afghan Cookies and got me intrigued enough to go searching !

Afghan Biscuits

ingredients :

200g butter
110g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
30g (1/4 cup) cocoa
220g plain flour
a few big handfuls of cornflakes or other cereal
icing or chocolate/hazelnut spread

Put the butter, sugar and vanilla essence in a bowl and cream together.

Add the cocoa powder and flour.

Work it together until you have a ball of dough.

Add your cereal and work it through the dough. (I had letters but anything from cornflakes to muesli would work.)

Pull off little balls of dough - the first time I made 24 small biscuits and the second time, I made half as many double-sized biscuits. The choice is yours !

Flatten them out on a baking tray covered in foil. Bake for 10 minutes if making small biscuits, 15-20 minutes if using the bigger size.

Once they have cooled, put on a wire rack to cool down.

The first time, I used up half a tub of Betty Crocker chocolate icing that was lurking in the fridge. The second time, I finished off a jar of Crunchie chocolate spread. Both worked perfectly, so use whatever you have - you could even just melt some chocolate and use that. If you want to be traditional, they should be topped with half a walnut, but I left them off as the Madhouse kids aren't keen on them.

They're really quick to throw together, use nothing special so you'll probably have everything you need in the cupboards and they're a great way of using up odds and ends.

*** Don't miss the other recipes in my globecooking recipe index ! ***

Adding to the #KitchenClearout linky as they used up some cereal that was feeling unloved, as well as using up some odds and ends of icing and chocolate spread.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Kids' book review : Discover The Leader In You (MyBookHeroes)

We recently discovered a series of children's books from a company called MyBookHeroes, which creates personalised stories to help boost the self-esteem of children around the world. We chose the title Discover The Leader In You, but there are also Discover the Determination in You and Discover the Courage in You.

As it says on the opening page, "We hope every child sees the hero in themselves and we promise to bring you beautiful stories that inspire all kids to be the best version of themselves". So far, so good !

When you go to create the book, you first need to choose the language (English or Greek - it would be good to have a wider choice of languages available), then select the sex and image that will represent your hero. There are only eight characters available - four girls and four boys - but I thought that the one we chose did look quite similar to Pierre. (You can compare with the photo on our sidebar, if you don't know what he looks like !) You might be limited if your children don't look like any of them though, so, again, it would be lovely to have a bigger choice of characters available. (In other similar choose-your-hero books that we've reviewed in the past, you can select hair, eye and skin colour, which may be a more universally appealing option.)

The story is quite simple. After talking to the Dragon Tree about what it takes to be a good leader, Pierre meets some new friends - Plato Panda, Silvy the Fox and Grace the Bunny. The new friends soon meet a Turtle King, who needs some help getting home before nightfall. Working together, they overcome the challenges - mission accomplished !

The whole story is written in rhyme, which makes it quite fun to read. The characters are appealing, even if they are not developed a great deal - I would think you would get to know them more if you bought the other books in the series. 

Pierre thought the book was fun and he particularly liked the fact that the main character had his name and looked like him. He did ask lots of questions though, that weren't covered by the book, but we had fun making up our own descriptions and explanations !

There should be a new title released every three months and each title costs €24.99. There is currently a free worldwide shipping offer that you can take advantage of too.

for more information :

Disclosure : We received a free book, in order to share our honest opinions.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Madhouse recipe : Shepherd's Pie Style Bangers & Mash

Well, as the photo goes to show, this dish was a huge success. The kids had dashed in and served it up and polished half of it off before I even got to step in from the kitchen with a jug of water and the camera ! Ah well, it's good to see they enjoyed it ! It's actually really simple and definitely one to make again. 

Shepherd's Pie Style Bangers & Mash 

ingredients :

6-8 potatoes
8 smoked sausages (or use your favourite brand)
1 onion
drizzle of olive oil
leftover gravy (or use a stock cube or make up some instant gravy)

Put some potatoes on to boil for 25 minutes - I don't bother peeling them. Once they're cooked through (a knife pierces straight through without resistance), drain off the water, return to the pan and mash them up, then add butter and milk, a sprinkle of salt, and mix it all up until you have a delicious mash that will be used as a topping.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan, chop the sausages into chunks and throw them into the pan, along with the chopped onions. Cook for about 10 minutes, until they are perfectly cooked through and the onions have gone soft. I use smoked sausages, which are already quite salty - if using regular sausages, you may need to add some salt.

Once the sausages are cooked, add the leftover gravy and pour into an ovenproof dish. Spread them out. 

Pour over the mashed potatoes and use a fork to add some lines on top.

 Bake for 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes have browned slightly. Serve with salad or peas and carrots.

This was a great way of using up some leftover boiled potatoes and gravy, so I'm adding it to the #KitchenClearout linky.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...