Thursday 30 April 2015

Would you eat a creepy crawly? Well, maybe these ones !

When Nestlé invited me to join in with their latest fun blogger challenge, I couldn't help but laugh at their introduction : "If you spend a lot of time trying to coax a caterpillar out of your little one's mouth after they’ve been left to their own devices in the garden, you’re not alone. According to new research by Nestlé Cereals, 47% of children have munched on a creepy crawly from the garden, but over two thirds refuse to eat their greens." Ewww ! To launch the challenge, they got together with food artist Prudence Staite, to create this huge sculpture of a caterpillar using Nestlé cereals !

They also sent us through some cereal and a crafts kit and invited us to create our own bug, albeit on a smaller scale !

We decided to reuse the technique we mastered when we made our cereal ice creams and Frankenstein's monsters last year so Pierre got to work breaking up some white chocolate into a bowl.

We also added some marshmallows and a knob of butter before melting it in the microwave then stirring in lots of Cheerios.

The first thing we decided to make was a butterfly so we moulded the Cheerios into a long body and round head shape.

We decided to add some black food colouring to the remaining Cheerios and mould them into a spider shape.

Off to the fridge to chill and set.

Time to get on with creating the butterfly wings. The cardboard from the cereal box would have been perfect but we still had over half a box full of cereal in it so I used some card from the crafts box. Mix in some crafts glue and lots of feathers, stickers and sparkly bits and we soon had some very colourful wings.

All that was left to do was add some pipecleaner legs to the spider and some pompom eyes.

One very colourful feathered butterfly (I wonder if it's a peacock !).

And one not-so-scary spider !

Pierre was very impressed with his handiwork.

But slightly apprehensive of the spider!

Can we eat them now, Mum ?!

He's so well-trained, he even tidies up afterwards !!

These were actually very tasty and they're fairly healthy too (despite the chocolate and marshmallows !) because all Nestlé Cereals with the green banner (which, as you can see in the top picture, is all of the ones we had) contain at least five vitamins and minerals and are made from whole grain. Definitely healthier and tastier than eating real bugs too !

Disclosure : This is my entry in the Nestlé Cereals creepy crawly challenge. We received a selection of Nestlé cereals and a crafts kit in order to take part.

Lucy's Slim Salad Dressings review

Especially if you're on a diet, eating salad can sometimes be a bit soul-destroying. You fancy tucking into steak and chips or bangers and mash but you've decided to be good and go for a salad instead. The important thing to remember is that salads don't have to be boring. By combining different colours and textures and adding some unexpected ingredients, you can actually come up with a totally moreish but healthy dish - you might like to try out some of my concoctions, such as Chicken Fajita Salad, Sunshine Cod & Mango Salad, Warm Potato & Smoked Mackerel Salad, Beetroot Salad with King Prawns, Olive, Cheese & Couscous Salad, and even a Kid-Friendly Salad-Haters' Salad.

The other important thing is the choice of salad dressing. When buying ready-to-eat salads in the supermarket, you need to be careful because the lashings of high-fat dressing can actually make them a worse option than a trip to a fast food chain for burger and chips ! Even at home, you need to peruse the labels carefully, so I was delighted when Lucy's Dressings sent me their new 'slim' range of natural food dressings for summer - lower-calorie versions of their best-sellers, Slim Light Asian and Light French, plus a brand new addition, Light Raspberry.

The first one that I tried was the Light Asian Dressing, a zesty zingy blend of  rice wine vinegar, fresh lime juice, chilli, ginger & garlic. It added a nice subtle kick and a note of sweetness to my tuna salad (made with lettuce, cucumber, red pepper, carrot, olives and tuna). It contains 41 calories per 15ml serving, which isn't bad at all.

When I came to sample the Light Raspberry Dressing, I wasn't sure what it would go with, so I just drizzled some over some lettuce as a very simple side salad. It is not actually as sweet as I expected - it's more a burst of fruity tartness - so I think this would be lovely as a dressing with salmon or goat's cheese and maybe as a dip with spring rolls. The lovely Galina over at Chez Maximka always produces visually stunning and tantalisingly tasty flavour combinations and she paired this with goat's cheese, pear and figs, but also roast duck, which is pure genius. The Light Raspberry Dressing contains 51 calories per 15ml serving.

And finally the Slim Light French, a classic blend of extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar and cracked black pepper. A 15ml serving contains 49 calories and I was pleased to see that it has only a hint of mustard heat so it doesn't overpower delicate salads.

I used this on a Portuguese Squid Salad and it complemented the flavours of the squid and red and green peppers perfectly.

If you want some lower calorie dressings that are perfect for injecting some pizazz into salads over the summer months, they're absolutely perfect.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £4.50 per 250ml bottle or currently £12 for all three on the Lucy's Dressings website

for more information :

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

Children's book review : What do the grown ups do? Gordon the wildlife film maker

If you're a regular reader, you may remember our reviews for the previous books in the What do the grown-ups do? series. So far, we've learnt about Richard the Vet, Fiona the Doctor, Sean the Actor, Papa the Stockfarmer and Joe the Fisherman. This time it's the turn of Gordon the Wildlife Filmmaker.

We are taken back to the Scottish Highlands to catch up with Ava, Skye and Gracie Mackenzie, who are off visiting some of the Scottish islands, including St Kilda and its huge bird population and Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, which the Madhouse kids were delighted to learn is where Balamory is filmed.

It is also the home of Gordon Buchanan, real-life wildlife filmmaker (who also happens to be the first flatmate of Mairi McLellan, the book's author. So that's how she finds such interesting people to feature !)

As always, the book presents a no holds barred look at the job, focusing on both the high and low points, accompanied with some great  behind-the-scenes photos. Gordon has had some amazing experiences all over the world, including living with black bears for a year, hunting for wolves and polar bears and trekking through the rainforest looking for new species.

He regales the girls (and the readers) with tales of his real-life adventures (the Madhouse kids were utterly fascinated by the pictures of the polar bear trying to get into his plastic box to eat him !) and also provides some insider tips that even the grown-ups will love discovering. Did you know, for example, that if an elephant comes and tries to get you out of a tree, you should wee on it ? I certainly didn't ! (Although I'm not sure I'll ever need to know this pearl of wisdom !)

 The girls ask him the kinds of questions that only children will ask - is he ever scared? does he sometimes want to scream? does he prefer people or animals? - resulting in a fascinating insight that will appeal to readers of all different ages and levels.

The fun-loving Mackenzie girls are aged 6 and 7 but I would say that the books target slightly older children.  That said, 5-year-old Pierre loves looking at the photos in the book and having me explain them to him, even if we don't necessarily read the complete texts, which are very detailed and sometimes quite technical. Even as a grown-up, I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to produce wildlife documentaries.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Matador (19 Jan. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1784621862
  • ISBN-13: 978-1784621865
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 0.4 x 24.4 cm

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

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Globecooking recipe : Squid Salad (Portugal)

One of the ingredients in my Portuguese-themed Kitchen Trotter box a while ago was a tin of squid. Hmmmm. I wrinkled up my nose and took a closer look. "Giant squid tentacle." That did it, I put it in the back of the cupboard and pretended it didn't exist ! But today, I must have been feeling particularly brave because I decided to give it a go.

Suppressing a scream, I opened the tin. It smells vaguely fishy but mainly of the sea.

I have to say, it didn't look very appetising and when I dug it out of the tin, it looked even worse ! Ho hum, lets just get on with it and see how it turns out !

Squid Salad

1 tin squid
1/4 green pepper
1/4 red pepper
1/2 small onion
1tsp peri peri seasoning (see below)
light French vinaigrette

Dice the squid (that makes it look less scary !) and the peppers and very finely slice the onion. Put it all in a bowl.

Add the peri peri seasoning - this was also in the Portuguese Kitchen Trotter box and is a blend of laurel (bay leaf), black pepper, birds eye chilli, pimenton de la vera (Spanish smoked paprika) and cumin. It has a lovely heady, smoky, spicy fragrance.

You could make your own vinaigrette but, as I wasn't really expecting to like this dish, I couldn't be bothered and used some Lucy's Slim Light French Dressing instead !

Drizzle over some vinaigrette and give it all a good mix. Have a taste and add some more peri peri seasoning if it needs a bit more kick.

Serve on a bed of lettuce and drizzle with extra vinaigrette, if desired.

The verdict? Well, after all my misgivings, it was actually quite nice ! The peri peri seasoning and vinaigrette tamed down the flavour of the squid and once it was all chopped up, I could pretend I was eating fish ! It's not something I'd eat on a regular basis but it was perfectly edible.

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

Fancy having a rummage in your kitchen cupboard to see what needs using up? Join in with the April #KitchenClearout linkie !

Kids' app review : Elmer's Photo Patchwork

Elmer the patchwork elephant is covered in vibrant colours and in his new app, Elmer's Photo Patchwork, he invites you to take inspiration from the world around you to create some new patchwork squares with different colours and textures.

For once, Elmer isn't going to be the only elephant who isn't boring, plain grey ! There are lots of elephants trailing behind Elmer in a parade and, using the photo function on your ipad or iphone, you need to give them all a colourful makover.

We received a code to try out the app and Pierre has been having great fun looking around the house for different colours he can snap. In this small selection, he took pictures of the quilts, a wooden tabletop, the yellow wall and his hair !

It's a great way of getting children to interact with the world around them and really take notice of the colours, patterns and textures of everyday objects. The only limit is your child's imagination - Pierre has also been looking at the rainbow colours of the fruit bowl, the changing patterns of the clouds in the sky, close-ups of the dogs' fur or the skin on his hand ... Then he had a brainwave.

Why not do a photo patchwork too? As well as taking regular full-face portraits of the two and four-legged residents of The Madhouse, he went for close-ups of facial features or random objects around the house.

You get to choose the patterns on each elephant so the options are limitless.

 And when you've finished, your elephant will head back to the colourful background of Elmer's world.

It's such a simple concept but it has provided hours of fun. Pierre isn't the only one to play with it - his big sisters and even the grown-ups have been getting in on the fun too ! It's lovely to find an app that doesn’t keep children glued to the screen, but makes them look up, look around and get inspired by the world.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £1.99

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

The Primal Pantry raw paleo bars review

When The Primal Pantry offered to send me over some of their raw paleo bars to try out, I was intrigued because it was a brand I'd never heard of. I went to investigate and liked what I read - they were created by nutritionist and mum Suzie Walker who wanted a healthy snack for her daughter, they contain only natural raw ingredients and the ingredients are picked for their nutritional content as well as their taste. Ahh but would they taste nice ?!

The first bar that we tried was the Coconut & Macadamia Raw Paleo Bar.

They look quite stodgy and heavy but they actually taste really nice and have quite a light texture, thanks to the airiness of the coconut. The macadamia nuts give it a lovely crunchy, chewy texture too which is very satisfying and makes a change to the gooey, dense raw bars that I've tried in the past. The ingredients list is incredibly short and absolutely devoid of hidden nasties : Dates, Cashew Nuts, Coconut, Macadamia Nuts, Almond Oil, that's it ! No added sugars or artificial additives, nothing in fact that you wouldn't find in any regular kitchen. I loved it but the kids weren't too keen.

The second bar was the Hazelnut & Cocoa Raw Paleo Bar.

It has an equally short ingredients list : Dates, Hazelnuts, Almonds, Cocoa Powder, Vanilla Powder, Almond Oil. Again, the texture and taste got a thumbs up from me and I love the fact that you have a totally clear conscience when you're eating them. Sadly, the kids weren't overly impressed by this one either, eating a small piece each but not coming back for more.

Calorie wise, each bar contains about 200 calories (192 for the hazelnut and cocoa, 221 for coconut and macadamia) but these aren't empty calories from sugar, as with most other snack bars. All the bars are gluten, grain, refined sugar, soya, dairy, GMO and vegetable oil free and the website says they are suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans (and Cavemen) !

They're quite pricey but if you want a healthy, guilt-free snack that is tasty and filling, they're a good option.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £1.49 per 45g bar

available from Tesco, Superdrug, Ocado and health stores

for more information :

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