Wednesday, 27 September 2023

Degustabox September 2023 review

 

This month saw us heading back to school after the long summer break, and, despite the manically intense heatwave lasting way longer than was pleasant, it seems as though the weather has finally turned decidedly autumnal over the last week or so. I even walked past a load of conkers on the ground on my way to work yesterday. That convinced me. Even Mother Nature seems to think that the summer is over now ! When the postman dropped off the latest Degustabox, I was keen to see if it would reflect the changing seasons. Would it be full of ingredients for casseroles, curries and other winter warmers ? Let's take a look at what was in the box.

 

First of all, I plucked out this can of 6 o' Clock London Dry Gin & Tonic (RRP £3). I'd never thought of having a ready-made gin and tonic out of a can, but why not? It's practical, saves time and avoids forking out on a big bottle of gin, so it's ideal for those who don't drink regularly. It is made using London Dry Gin and natural premium tonic water. Taste-wise, it is spot on. Available at Co-op stores and on Ocado.

Chipoys Chilli & Lime (RRP £1.99) are a popular American snack, made from rolled Mexican-produced tortilla chips with intense, authentic flavour and real crunch. I'd never seen these before but they remind me very much of the crisps and snacks that you can buy from American exporters in discovery packs. The kids loved the strong flavour and gobbled them up in minutes. Available on Amazon and in independent stores.


Mission XL Wraps (RRP £2) are big 30cm wraps that are perfect for those with a big appetite. We love eating fajitas and chicken and salad wraps here at the Madhouse, but sometimes, by the time you've added everything you want in them (meat, guacamole, tomatoes, sweetcorn, cucumber, sour cream, salsa, cheese, ...), it can be hard to roll them up and eat them without half of the filling falling out all over you. These bigger sized wraps avoid the mess and they taste lovely too, with a nice soft texture and pleasant taste. They can be enjoyed hot or cold. The kids love them when they want a snack for creating an instant "pizza" by spreading them with tomato puree and sprinkling them with cheese and ham before sticking them under the grill or in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Available in ASDA.

 

Fruit-tella Out In Space (RRP £1.50) are a new (to me, at least) fruity jelly sweet that offers moon, planet and rocket shapes in pineapple, strawberry and peach flavours. They are made with more fruit juice than other jelly sweets and also contain natural colouring and flavours. They taste very nice and we loved the soft, chewy texture. Available at Co-op.

Garofalo Rigatoni Pasta (RRP £2.50) is a large tubular pasta shape, with ridges that make it perfect for chunky sauces and baked pasta dishes. After being boiled for 13 minutes in salty water, it has the perfect al dente consistency. We loved this served with bolognese sauce and the slightly firm, rough texture works perfectly as a sauce magnet. Delizioso ! Available on Ocado, Amazon, Booths and local stockists.


Green Cola and Green Lemonade (RRP £1.19 each) are from a brand that I had never heard of before but they are very tasty. They are low or no sugar without aspartame, low calorie and offer a healthier take on fizzy drinks. They use natural, plant-based Stevia for sweetness and real fruit juice for a punchy, refreshing taste. Perfect straight from the fridge or served over ice. Available at Sainsbury's, Holland & Barrett, Ocado and Amazon. 

 

Jordans No Added Sugar Granola (RRP £3.60) is a tasty breakfast option. The crunchy clusters are made with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, relying on lashings of fruit, including dates, apple, blueberries and cranberries for sweetness, flavour and zinginess. The Triple Nut option adds some great crunch and the delicious result is a bowl full of great, natural flavours and textures. Available at Waitrose.


Ryvita Crackerbread (RRP £1.59) are a light, crispy bread-alternative that can be spread with sweet or savoury toppings as a snack, breakfast or lunch option. I like them spread with cream cheese and cherry tomatoes or banana and peanut butter. I haven't eaten Ryvita crispbread for years but these crackerbread don't seem hugely different to the originals, as far as I can remember. Available in major supermarkets.

  

Simply Cook Goan Curry Recipe Kit (RRP £2.50) is a quick and simple product designed to help you get an interesting and flavour-packed meal on the table in twenty minutes. Inside the pack are three pods : masala paste (for the curry base), coconut paste (to add topnotes of garlic and coconut) and a spice blend (with mustard seeds and star anise to add depth of flavour). This kit works perfectly with prawns, cod, salmon or even chicken for a rich, exotic meal that tastes as if it should have been a lot more complicated to produce than it was using the kit. 

Wagamama House Dressing (RRP £2.50) gives you the chance to enjoy the signature house dressing of the iconic restaurant chain in your own home. Since first opening in 1992, Wagamama has delivered the flavours of Asia through simple, balanced food. The dressing, inspired by their katsu curry side salad, contains shallots, soy and garlic. It's guaranteed to bring some serious oomph to your salads. Available at Tesco, Sainsbury's, ASDA and Waitrose.

Mutti Tuscany Passata (RRP £2.70) is this month's Product of the Month. It is made using the highest quality Rossoro tomatoes from the Tuscany region, harvested at their peak ripeness and processed within 24 hours. The tomatoes bring a distinct fruity flavour to the passata and its smooth richness is ideal for incorporating into pasta sauces, pizza toppings, soups and casseroles. Its adds a lovely flavour but also a smooth consistency to whatever you are cooking. Available at Sainsbury's and Waitrose.

 A subscription to Degustabox costs £12.99 per month including delivery, with each box having a value of much more than that, but the great news is, I have a discount coupon code for you which means you'll get the first box for just £9.99 - enter code PKUFE at the checkout. 


for more information :

Also now on Instagram @DegustaboxUK

Disclosure : We received the box in order to write an honest review. As a Degustabox blogger, I receive all of the products that go into the monthly boxes, but subscribers may not get exactly the same selection.

Sunday, 24 September 2023

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 38

Juliette came home for a long weekend from Thursday to Sunday so our food plans changed slightly, to cater to her tastes. This week is, in theory, a quiet week. Pierre has football training on Wednesday and probably a match on Saturday, which throws out food planning slightly but I'll have to think up lots of quick fixes (although he's usually starving when he gets home so I'll have to think of filling dishes too). Friday is our school open day which means I'll be home late too. Maybe it's not such a quiet week after all ! Here's what I plan to be cooking this week. I've been looking through the Taste of Home website which is full of American recipes that look exactly the kind of thing Pierre would love.

Monday

lunch- Arizona chicken with rice (this is preseasoned meat from Lidl but I'd never heard of it so I looked up the recipe, if you want to give it a try)

dinner - BBQ pork and pasta skillet

Tuesday

lunch- fishfingers, mash and beans

dinner-  creamy filet mignon with baked potatoes

Wednesday

lunch- I'm thinking there will be leftovers from last night


Thursday

lunch- school canteen for me, Pierre can use up leftovers 

dinner-   saucy pork chop skillet with rice

Friday


dinner - baguette pepperoni pizzas 

Saturday



Sunday


dinner- Nacho pie

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

Sunday, 17 September 2023

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 37

Juliette went back to Lille midweek then the girls invited us to Lille for the day on Saturday. Pierre decided to stay at home so I headed off on the train for a lovely day chilling out, sampling the girls' homemade cakes and hitting the shops. Pierre has settled in well at school and this year is looking good so far in terms of marks. Hopefully that will continue ! This week, we'll be getting a new hot water tank fitted. The old one sprung a leak and the plumber did a temporary fix but warned me that it is full of limescale and won't last long. We've lived here for over twenty years and it's never been changed in all that time so it's not bad going. Apart from that, we have a quiet week this week, pootling along in our work/school routines. Here's what is on the cards foodwise for this week.

Monday

lunch- sausage pasta (with tomatoes, onions, herbs)

dinner - chicken curry with rice

Tuesday

lunch- chicken burgers with mash & beans

dinner-  chilli con carne with rice

Wednesday

lunch- leftover chicken burgers (and maybe chilli), in wraps with guacamole, tomatoes and rice

dinner- smoky bbq pork (using a Flava It seasoning sachet from a Degustabox) with pasta

Thursday

lunch- school canteen for me, Pierre can use up leftovers 

dinnerchicken Milanese with couscous and ratatouille

Friday

lunch- breaded chicken chunks in wraps with rice and sweetcorn

dinner - pasta carbonara

Saturday

lunch- fishfingers, chips and peas

dinner- East meets ... South ! chicken empanadas and pork spring rolls (from the freezer)

Sunday

lunch- roast chicken, roast potatoes, veg and gravy

dinner- leftovers or toast

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

Monday, 11 September 2023

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 36

The first week with just me and Pierre worked out well foodwise. I still have to convince Pierre to use up the leftovers when he's home alone, but apart from that, it all worked perfectly, apart from the nights he has football training and gets in quite late but I'll work out a solution for that in the next few weeks. Juliette signed up at uni but then had a week to settle in before starting lessons so she ended up coming home on Friday and will go back to Lille on Tuesday. It's been lovely to see her again and I managed to buy new laptops for her and Sophie for this new year at uni which worked out well as they were half price in the sale. I'm back into routine at school which is good. Here's what's on the menu plan for this week.

Monday

lunch- lunch in town with Juliette and maybe Pierre

dinner - meatballs and pasta

Tuesday

lunch- sausages, eggs and hash browns

dinner-  Spanish chicken & rice (which was on the menu plan last week but didn't get made)

Wednesday

lunch- corned beef hash with potatoes and baked beans


Thursday

lunch- school canteen for me, Pierre can use up leftovers or cook

dinner-  steak (in the freezer) with baked potatoes and peas

Friday


dinner - chicken supreme with rice

Saturday

lunch- spiced tomato chicken skewers (in the freezer) with rice

dinner- pasta carbonara

Sunday

lunch- roast dinner

dinner- leftovers, toast or soup

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

Sunday, 3 September 2023

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 35

The new school year has kicked off so we're getting back into our usual routine but everything will be different this year as it's just me and Pierre at home now with the girls off at uni. They'll be back for lots of visits but in the meantime, I'll be focusing on Pierre's favourite meals. He's not big on vegetables so this could be interesting ! My timetable this year means that I will probably be cooking lunch at home on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, so I'll only be at the school canteen one day a week. Pierre is therefore almost completely off cooking duty which I'm sure he'll be happy about ! I still have to fit in a weekly meal with my friends though so we'll see how it all works out.

Monday

lunch- spicy lentils with sausages

dinner - chilli con carne with rice

Tuesday

lunch- leftover chilli, with baked potatoes if there is no rice left

dinner- creamy pork filet mignon with pasta and carrots

Wednesday

lunch- leftover creamy filet mignon with pasta if there is any left, otherwise mash

dinner- beefburgers (or leftover sausages if there are any) with oven chips and baked beans 

Thursday

lunch- school canteen for me, Pierre can use up leftovers or cook

dinner- pork in sweet & sour sauce with noodles & veg (mange tout, carrots and baby sweetcorn)

Friday

lunch- chicken cordon bleu (in breadcrumbs, stuffed with cheese and ham) with mash & carrots

dinner - Proven├žal chicken with rice & veg

Saturday


dinner- pasta carbonara

Sunday

lunch- chicken thighs, roast potatoes, veg & gravy

dinner- leftovers or toast

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

Sunday, 27 August 2023

Degustabox August 2023 review


The Madhouse kids (except Sophie, who was travelling in Amsterdam and Rome with a friend) were off visiting the grandparents in Brittany for two weeks, leaving me home alone. That meant that I got the first pick of things from the latest Degustabox ! I did save some things for them when they got home though. Here's what was in the August box, which didn't have a specific theme this time.


Bear Little Paws (RRP 2 x 60p) were available in the box in two flavours : strawberry and apple and raspberry and blueberry. These gently baked, chewy shapes are made from 100% fruit with no added sugar and never from concentrates. They are described as the perfect toddler snack for cubs aged 2+ years but the Madhouse kids are much older than that and they still love them. They have a lovely smooth texture and taste really sweet and fruity despite the lack of artificial additives and sugar. Totally delicious. These are also available as a multipack of 5 x 20g packs at all major supermarkets.

 

Carlsberg 0.0 Pilsner (RRP 2 x 85p) is an alcohol-free option that tastes identical to the original version, in my opinion. It has a crisp hoppy bite and only contains 63 calories per bottle. It's ideal for sticking alongside the wine, cocktails and soft drinks at summertime barbecues for anyone who doesn't want to drink alcohol.

Fruit-tella Strawberry Flavour (RRP £1.30) is this month's Product of the Month and it was a big hit with the whole family. Crafted with natural flavours, you just squeeze a small amount into water for a refreshing drink. This is also available in a Blackcurrant flavour, exclusively at B&M for summer 2023. The flavour is great and the smaller bottle makes it easier to carry home from the shop, as well as being better for the environment. Each bottle provides enough for 20 drinks.

 

Another drinks option is J20 Spritz (RRP £3.55 for 4 cans). We got Apple & Elderflower flavour, while other Degustaboxers got to try Pear & Raspberry. The fruity flavour and lightly sparkling quality combine to create a very refreshing drink that I like to sip on in the afternoon or evening, but the info in the Degustabox says it can also be paired with creamy and rich dishes. Available in all major supermarkets.


Knorr Pastaria Pasta Bolognese (RRP £1.40) is a dish that I usually throw together from scratch, using mince, tomatoes, onions, garlic and a sprinkle of herbs to create a rich sauce to serve with pasta. I wasn't sure what I would think of a packet version, but I was pleasantly surprised. Although it doesn't look that appetising while it's cooking, it does actually have a lovely taste and texture once it's all cooked and the fact that, as it contains pasta, it creates a whole meal in ten minutes makes it perfect for Pierre when he needs a simple lunch to cook on his own. You literally just have to add water so it couldn't be easier to make. Other varieties in the range are Pasta Parmesana and Pasta Carbonara, which I'll definitely look out for for the kids. Available at Asda.


Le Petit Ganache (RRP £1.70) is the first filled biscuit in the popular Lu range and it was a big hit with the entire family. The buttery biscuit is filled with a silky chocolate-hazelnut filling which is incredibly moreish and with four of us nibbling on them, the whole packet disappeared in one sitting ! Available in major supermarkets.


Nature's Heart Sour Cream & Chive Flavour Crunch (RRP £2.25) is a tasty mixture of crunchy edamame, peas, broad beans and seeds, along with flavouring. We got cream and chive which we loved but other Degustaboxers got Sweet Chilli Crunch. They are high in protein and high in fibre and half of a 100g bag provides one of your five a day portions. I happily munched on a handful while Sophie absolutely loved it and swiftly devoured the bag. Available at Waitrose, Holland & Barrett, WH Smith, Ocado and Amazon.

 

Pitch Strawberry (RRP £1.75) are a new addition to the Pitch range in the UK, bringing a strawberry filled brioche that is perfect for breakfast or snacktime. They are a new product on this side of the Channel but the Madhouse kids have been eating them for years in France and love them to bits. The individually wrapped buns are great as snacks on the go and perfect for stuffing into pockets or handbags. Available at Aldi from 27th August to 3rd September and at Tesco from 4th September.

Rubies in the Rubble Squirty Tomato Ketchup (RRP £3.50) is a great product on a number of levels. It is made using surplus and wonky pears that would otherwise go to waste which is great for the environment, as well as creating a product with double the fruit and half the refined sugar content of leading brands. Tastewise, it gets a unanimous thumbs up from the Madhouse testers too. Available at Tesco, Waitrose, The Co-operative and on Ocado.

 

Whitworths Shots Fruity Biscuit Flavour (RRP £2) are a popular snack option at the Madhouse, loved by the kids and promoted by me as a healthier alternative to many sugar-packed or chocolatey treats. The Fruity Biscuit variety is a mixture of sultanas, cranberries and white chocolate coated shortcake biscuits which are very tasty. Each pack comes in at under 100 calories and is easy to stash in a pocket or handbag. 

Tropicana Smooth Orange With No Bits (RRP £3) is a great tasting drink, made from 100% perfectly pressed fruit juice, not from concentrate. Juliette loves the perfectly smooth texture and everyone loves the taste. Made from hand-picked oranges, squeezed within 24 hours for freshness, plus no added sugar. Lovely at breakfast time to start the day in style ! It can be stored in the cupboard but is best served chilled.

 A subscription to Degustabox costs £12.99 per month including delivery, with each box having a value of much more than that, but the great news is, I have a discount coupon code for you which means you'll get the first box for just £9.99 - enter code PKUFE at the checkout. 

for more information :

Also now on Instagram @DegustaboxUK

Disclosure : We received the box in order to write an honest review. As a Degustabox blogger, I receive all of the products that go into the monthly boxes, but subscribers may not get exactly the same selection.

Sunday, 13 August 2023

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 32

Into the second week of living on my own. The kids will be back at the end of the week and I'm sure they'll be wanting something from Deliveroo to welcome them home. It's funny, I stick completely to the meal plan when I'm on my own whereas I end up getting sidetracked many times by the kids. That's not true actually - Sophie invited me to have lunch with her and a friend last week so we went to a pizza restaurant that wasn't planned until the last minute. Here's what I have planned for this week.

Monday

lunch- spicy fish cake with rice

dinner - steak, baked potato and coleslaw

Tuesday

lunch- the leftover spicy fish cake with hash brown and peas

dinner- ham and cheese tart with salad and boiled potatoes

Wednesday

lunch- battered fish, leftover boiled potatoes and veg

dinner- leftover ham and cheese tart with mash and beans

Thursday

lunch- leftover battered fish with rice and coleslaw

dinner- quiche lorraine with salad

Friday

lunch- leftovers or cheese on toast

dinner - celebratory Deliveroo delivery

Saturday

lunch- pasta carbonara

dinner- creamy chicken and mushroom pie with rice

Sunday

lunch- pork paupiettes (slice of pork stuffed with sausagemeat), roast potatoes and veg

dinner- sausages, mash and beans

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

Wednesday, 9 August 2023

Book review : All That Glitters - Mike Martin


All That Glitters is the thirteenth book in the series by Mike Martin featuring Winston Windflower and his life in Grand Bank, Newfoundland. (Click here to see my reviews of the other books in the series.) Up until now, as well as being a married father of two, Winston has been an officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but this book sees a new beginning for him as he starts a new job as a Community Safety Officer in his small town. As the book begins, he is about to start his first day in his new position and he is not at all sure how his role will develop. It turns out that nothing much changes at all though as he is swept into a new police case involving many of his friends and former colleagues.

Things begin at the guest house run by Winston and his wife, Sheila. A dead body is uncovered in one of the rooms and the victim is soon discovered to be involved with a diamond smuggling operation, having ingested a quantity of jewels. The lovely Dr Sanjay, fan of fine whiskey and chess games with Winston, is brought in to examine the body and ends up getting kidnapped by another group of diamond smugglers, keen to recover the gems. They want no police involvement in the exchange of jewels for Dr Sanjay so, obviously, Winston is the perfect choice.

Due to various departures and transfers at the RCMP, the newly promoted Corporal Eddie Tizzard is brought in on the case and works alongside Winston. It is lovely to catch up with him and his wife, Carrie, along with their growing son. Winston's own children, the cheeky Stella and Amelia Louise, are growing up too. Now aged six and three and a half, they love playing together and baking cookies with their mother Sheila, but they are also great at squabbling and fighting with each other. The numerous references to Winston's mealtimes and the moments that he spends with his family add another focus to the stories and frequently reminded me of the time when my own children were small.

While Winston's life is deviating from his career as a Mountie, his new professional horizons look equally exciting and unpredictable. Grand Bank is a lovely, charming small town with a close-knit community feel, but that doesn't stop it having its fair share of dangerous criminals and dodgy goings-on for Winston to help stamp out. I look forward to seeing where his new life takes him next.

star rating : 4.5/5

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Ottawa Press and Publishing Mystery (19 May 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 260 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 199089609X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1990896095
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 15.24 x 1.65 x 22.86 cm



Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book in order to share my honest opinion.

Sunday, 6 August 2023

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 31

The kids are off visiting the grandparents in Brittany so I'm all on my own this week. That actually makes it harder to cook and shop as most things come in packs of two or four portions so it's hard to plan ahead to avoid waste. For most things, I think I'll cook double portions then use up the leftovers the next day. I've also decided to go through the cupboards and use up various random things that have been lurking in there for a while (mainly things from past Degustaboxes that don't appeal to the kids). Time to google ingredients and see what recipes I can come up with !

Monday

lunch- garlic crusted steak & baked potato with grated carrot salad

dinner - cheesy baked ham-wrapped endives

Tuesday

lunch- chicken spring rolls

dinner- onion gravy smothered steak with rice & carrots

Wednesday

lunch- tuna mayo-stuffed endive boats with salad and maybe garlic bread

dinnercheesy polenta with sausage ragout (not keen on polenta but there's a box that needs using up in the cupboard)

Thursday

lunch- probably leftovers to use up, if not cheese on toast

dinner- Korean BBQ pork (with pork, onions, red pepper, courgette and the end of a bottle of sauce) with rice

Friday


dinner - Hoisin sauce chicken & veg stir fry with noodles

Saturday


dinner- big mixed salad with apple, bacon, sweetcorn, tomatoes, onions

Sunday

lunch- roast potatoes, roasted veg (peppers, carrots, onions, mushrooms, courgette) and pork chop

dinner- cheese & ham omelette

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

Monday, 31 July 2023

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 30

Last week was a nice, calm week of chilling out and catching up on the washing and shopping. I'm hoping for more of the same this week. I'm setting myself one job a day - tidy this, wash that, dejunk this spot - and I figure out that in a couple of weeks, I'll have achieved a lot. That's the plan anyway ! Sophie is off to Amsterdam with a friend this week but Juliette and Pierre are still here this week. That all changes at the end of the week when they head down to Brittany to see the grandparents on Friday, leaving me all on my own for a fortnight. The house is mine !! Here's the menu plan for this week.

Monday

lunch- chicken, mushrooms and green beans in gravy with rice

dinner - filet mignon with cream and pasta

Tuesday

lunch- spaghetti bolognese

dinner- battered fish with rice, peas and carrots

Wednesday

lunch- sausages, mash and beans

dinner- steak with hash browns and coleslaw

Thursday

lunch- beefburgers with pasta

dinner- tacos, guacamole, tomato salsa and rice

Friday

lunch-  ham or tuna baguette

dinner - chicken curry with rice

Saturday

lunch- bacon and tomato pasta

dinner- beef lo mein

Sunday

lunch- Spanish omelette

dinner- leftovers

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

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