Sunday 28 February 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 9


Last week was the perfect combination of sorting out the house (still lots to do but a lot of annoying odd jobs and cleaning have been taken care of) and just chilling. Our second week of holidays will be the same, I think. We had a trip to the orthodontist for Juliette - the last one ever, woohoo ! This week, we will be having a new boiler installed - after all the problems with the old one, it's got to be a good thing ! And that's it. Dunkirk is still the worst place to be for coronavirus, along with Nice, so, as well as the 6pm-6am curfew, we're not allowed out at the weekends either. There are a few exceptions, including an hour for "sport", but having seen the masses of people at the beach, I don't want to go there anyway ! We have to wear our masks outside or in public places all the time now, which is not a bad thing. Right, on to food. Last week, we stuck to then plan, except for the takeaway - we had pies (from the freezer) and mash instead. This week will be using things from the freezer too.


lunch- spaghetti bolognese

dinner - slow cooker sausage casserole with mash


lunch- tacos 

dinner- fish, ebly & ratatouille (or leftovers, for those who don't like fish)


lunch- chicken & chorizo rice (thanks for the idea Kim !)

dinner- lasagne


lunch - pork & pineapple with rice

dinner- Spanish chicken with roast potatoes & veg


dinner - I have some filet mignon in the freezer - this looks good : Chilli & brown sugar rubbed filet mignon with potato gratin


lunch- chicken fajitas with tomato salad, rice, guacamole, sweetcorn

dinner- pizza


lunch- Garlic & cheese chicken puff pastry bakes with mash & veg

dinner- toast or leftovers

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


Thursday 25 February 2021

February 2021 Degustabox review : Home Comforts

The weather is definitely changing and I get the distinct feeling that, after all the snow and ice just a couple of weeks ago, spring is on the way. The weather is warming up, the sun is putting in an appearance ... bring it on, I say ! Especially if lockdown is drawing to an end - phew ! For the final few weeks (fingers crossed !) though, the latest Degustabox is perfect for seeing us through, as its theme is Home Comforts. Ooh, I predict lots of sweet treats and things to make us go hmmm ! Let's see what was in this month's box.


The first thing I pulled out of the box was a jar of Hartley's Strawberry Jam (RRP £1.59). I was initially intrigued as it just says strawberry, not strawberry jam, so I was wondering if they'd done something weird and wonderful with it, but no, this is just the classic and utterly delicious strawberry jam that we all know and love. Delicious on a slice of toast, as a filling for a sponge cake or in some sticky jam tarts. An oldie but definitely a goodie !

BelVita Soft Bakes (RRP 3 x 60p per single) come in two flavours, Choc Chip and Blueberry, both of which are very tasty. They are made from five wholegrains - wheat, oats, barley, spelt and buckwheat or rye and are a source of fibre, calcium, magnesium and iron. The kids love these as a mid-afternoon snack.

Boka Cereal Bars (RRP 2 x 75p or £2 for a multipack of 4) are tasty cereal bars, in Caramel or Choco Mallow flavours. The kids loved the sweet-inspired flavours and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the bars are low in sugar. Boka's mission is to bridge the gap between healthy and delicious with portable, affordable and satisfying bars. The front of pack traffic lights have four green lights, which means low fats, low sugar and low salt, but they still taste great. Win-win ! They're available at Sainsbury's and on Amazon.

Bounce Almond Plant Protein Ball (RRP £1.69) is a vegan-friendly option for those looking for a healthy snack. The brand has recently relaunched with a range of nut butter-filled, protein packed energy balls that are high in fibre and protein, gluten-free and less than 160 calories. I found this very tasty but quite pricey. Perfect as a special treat pre or post workout though. Available at Waitrose, Holland & Barrett, BP and WHSmith stores.

Eloments Organic Ceylon Breakfast Vitamin Tea (RRP £3.99) is a single origin, full-bodied black tea sourced from organic, family-owned farms in the Sri Lankan highlands. Each tea bag (you get 14 in the box) also contains 9 essential vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, vitamin C and zinc, all derived from nutrient rich herbs, fruits and botanicals. As well as being 100% natural, it is certified organic and Fairtrade. I don't drink tea so I'll be passing this on to a friend. Available at Holland & Barrett and Ocado Online.

Hilltop Everyday Blossom Honey (RRP 2 x 75p) is a simple, pure and natural honey, with nothing added and nothing taken away. It is specially crafted to be consistent in taste, colour and aroma. Lovely drizzled on toast or porridge but it can also be used in cookies, cakes and even sweet & sour sauces or stir fries. Available at Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Ocado, Waitrose and Iceland.

Jaffa Cakes (RRP 2 x £1.20) are this month's Product of the Month and it's well deserved as they got the biggest oooh when we unpacked the box ! We love Jaffa Cakes and will happily munch through a box of the classic orange flavoured ones, but these ones have a brand new Passion Fruit or Cherry flavour. Sandwiched between a layer of sponge and a coating of dark chocolate, they are deliciously zesty and fruity. The Cherry ones are my favourite but they're both definitely worth a try ! Available in all major supermarket chains.

Very Lazy Chopped Red Chillies (RRP £1.50) are a great time-saver, to keep in the fridge and add to chilli, soup, stir fries and whatever else needs a little kick. If cooking a meal for the family, they are great for spicing up the finished dish once the kids have been served. A teaspoon is given as the suggested serving size, but I'd start off with a half (or even a quarter if you're not keen on spicy food) and see how it goes ! It's a great way of cutting down on food waste too as there are always leftover chillies when buying them fresh. Available in all major supermarket chains.

Knorr Vegetable Stock Pots and Beef Stock Pots (RRP 2 x 95p) are great for adding a depth of flavour to soups, casseroles and stews, or just for perking up leftovers. Knorr are on a mission to get us eating more vegetable based dishes, as they're often better for us, as well as the planet, and these are perfect for adding extra flavour to whatever you're cooking. Just fling them in the pot and they will melt effortlessly - you can avoid the stinky fingers you get after crumbling traditional stock cubes, yay !

Lost The Pot Noodle (RRP 2 x 80p) are instant noodles in a sachet. Although I realised that the name referred to the lack of plastic pot, I didn't twig that they are actually from the Pot Noodle brand - aha, it makes sense now! I haven't touched Pot Noodles since I was a student almost thirty years ago and, I will admit, I was somewhat sceptical, but they're not bad. They come in three flavours - Roast Chicken and Sweet Chilli in the Degustabox and there is also Curry - so you could just eat them with the seasoning sachet, but I added vegetables and chicken to make a proper stir fry meal. Each pack contains two servings, making them a good option for a cheap meal to share.

Milky Bar Cookies & Cream (RRP £1.59) is a creamy, crunchy bag of deliciousness to share - it took me right back to my childhood, which is when I think I ate my last Milky Bar ! Chocolate cookie pieces are covered in the sweet, creamy, smooth white chocolate. It tastes delicious and contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Yum !

Koko Original Milk (RRP £1.50) is a fresh, light alternative to cows' milk, suitable for adding to tea, coffee, cereal, smoothies or even in baking. Sophie, who is dairy intolerant, has already tried it and liked it. It is a family-owned company and the coconuts are picked by hand and freshly pressed on the plantation. 

This was a really popular box in our house, particularly as it contained lots of chocolate bars and snacks (!), but I also loved the fact that it was full of unknown products from well-loved brands. There are definitely things that we will be buying again. (Jaffa Cakes and Milky Bar Cookies & Cream have been requested !)
 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 21 February 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 8


This week, we're on holiday at last - thank goodness for that ! Pierre's friend's COVID test came back positive but, I was surprised to learn, pupils are only counted as a contact case if they eat at the canteen together or spend at least 15minutes together without a mask. Hmmm. I kept Pierre off for the last day, just to be on the safe side. I still have my cold but I'm feeling OK. I don't think it's anything worse. During the holidays, I'm planning on getting the house back under control, cleaning, tidying and dejunking, as well as finishing off various odd jobs that need tackling, so we won't be going out much anyway. Here's what we'll be eating this week.


lunch- chicken stir fry with noodles (+ homemade prawn crackers)

dinner - beef stew in the slow cooker, with rice


lunch- smoked sausages with lentils and couscous

dinner- cottage pie


lunch- leftovers

dinner- Proven├žal chicken, ebly & veg


lunch - chicken burgers, pasta & ratatouille

dinner- baked potatoes (cheese, ham, mushrooms, onions & tomatoes filling)


lunch- steak, chips & peas

dinner - spaghetti bolognese


lunch- takeaway (kebabs? or KFC style chicken? they both come from the same shop anyway !)

dinner- leftovers from lunch


lunch- chicken thighs, roast potatoes & veg

dinner- toast or leftovers

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


Thursday 18 February 2021

Book review : The Colour of Thunder - Suzanne Harrison

Released at the start of February, The Colour of Thunder is the perfect book to read in the middle of a pandemic for some much-needed escapism. While we're pretty much stuck inside four walls, with nothing but views of snow and icicles to brighten up our days lately, this intriguing story will mentally transport us to the vibrant, bustling city of Hong Kong. I can hear the beeping horns of the cars, smell the noodles and soy sauce of the busy restaurants and feel the dense, humid heat of summer without even needing to step outside of my front door, let alone dream of booking a flight ! The book is written by Suzanne Harrison, an Australian ex-pat journalist who has lived in Hong Kong for over twenty years, so it's great to get an insider's sneak peek of life there.

The book begins with a killing outside of an orphanage, but the narrative soon shoots off in different directions, following various seemingly unlinked characters over multiple timelines. Switching back and forth between different periods, different stories and different lives can soon become complicated, as it's hard to remember all the different aspects of each character's life and history, but it's a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle - the individual pieces soon start to fit together to build up a bigger picture. As the book starts to draw to an end, we can see all the links and connections joining up.

As the title suggests, the storm of the century is on the way and this sense of impending doom and menace building up throughout the narrative leaves the reader feeling on-edge, always waiting for something to happen, looking to the skies to gauge the current atmosphere. The book focuses on six characters, each of whom have ended up in Hong Kong for one reason or another. With women flocking around three men who each have their own dirty past to cover up, the truth comes out bit by bit and, taking their past stories into consideration, it's hard to know who are genuinely "bad guys" and who are victims of their own circumstances.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Publisher : Legend Press (1 Feb. 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1789559391
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1789559392
  • Dimensions : 12.9 x 19.81 cm

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

Sunday 14 February 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 7


Into the last week before the school holidays and, with COVID cases on the rise, we are going into one-day-on-one-day-off at school so we only have two year groups out of four on site each day (years 1 and 3 on Mon/Wed/Fri and years 2 and 4 on Tues/Thurs). Things may evolve though, as the mayor has asked for all schools to be shut for the final week (a request that has so far been refused). That should mean that I'll be home for lunch every day except for Friday. I've got a stinking rotten cold - I think it's just a cold as I can still taste food and last week was freezing, so every day, as I waited at the bus stop in minus temperatures, my mask got instantly wet as I breathed. Pierre's best friend's dad has just tested positive for COVID though, so he (the friend) is getting a test on Monday. If he comes back positive, Pierre will be a contact case and need a test too. We'll see how things unfold ... I went shopping yesterday and filled up the fridge and freezer anyway, so we're good to go for a while, whatever happens !


lunch- chicken breasts, boiled potatoes & Mexican veg (straight from the freezer - peas, carrots, red kidney beans, sweetcorn, green beans)

dinner - chilli con carne (with leftover Mexican veg mixed in) and rice


lunch- leftover chilli con carne with pasta

dinner- pork chops, couscous & ratatouille


lunch- baked potatoes with tuna & salad (or butter & cheese for Pierre)

dinner- something from the freezer in the slow cooker - beef stew maybe? with rice (+ carrots, onions, mushrooms, peppers in the stew)


lunch - chicken burgers with mash and salad

dinner- chicken fajitas


dinner - chicken & veg stir fry with noodles


lunch- creamy pork with pasta

dinner- pizza


lunch- Spanish chicken with roast potatoes & veg

dinner- toast or leftovers

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


Monday 8 February 2021

Gusto Super DC Immune Support drinks review

Living in current times with all the scary news of COVID, anything that you can do to help boost your immune system has to be a good thing. Even just coming down with a mild cough or cold is enough to make you panic about having something worse, so if it can help you fight off the germs, I say bring it on ... especially when it tastes as good as Gusto Super DC Immune Support Drinks !

In terms of flavour, you'd think you were just drinking a random fruity, fizzy drink. The Blood Orange flavour is a deliciously zesty citrus hit, while Blackcurrant & Elderberry is a juicy, tart flavour sensation. A big thumbs up for the flavours, and I was surprised to learn that, despite being free from artificial sweeteners and preservatives, they come in at under 60 calories per can. That's because white grape juice or apple juice, which has a low glycemic index, is used to add a hit of sweetness.

This isn't just about the great flavours though - the drinks are an absolute powerhouse of vitamins, designed to help keep you in top form. Have you been wondering about the name Super DC? Well, that's a nod to the two biggest vitamins contained within. Each can provides 200% RI for vitamin D and a whopping 2500% RI for vitamin C and both of those vitamins are great for boosting your immune system. They also contain zinc, folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin K. The vitamins are plant based, coming from extracts of elderberry, acerola cherry and mulberry, and the drinks are vegan friendly.

So, what's not to like? Whether you have them for breakfast, to kick the day off with a boost of vitamins, or throughout the day as an on-the-go drink, you get the inner glow of happiness from knowing you're doing all you can to fight off the pandemic, alongside a great tasting drink !

RRP : £1.99 

 Available in 250ml grab and go cans, via, Amazon, Holland & Barrett, and natural trade retailers across the country.

Disclosure : I received the products in order to share my honest opinion.

Sunday 7 February 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 6


As always happens, the kids didn't eat the nibbly bits (chicken wings, chicken nuggets, ...) that I got for them to eat at lunchtimes when I was at work, so they need using up next week, or I suppose I could throw them in the freezer. We ended up grabbing a kebab on Friday night because I was tired out when I got home from work - they're massive so the leftovers do for Saturday lunchtime too. Apart from that, we pretty much stayed on track though. I can't believe we're into week 6 of the year already - where is the time going? We were just saying yesterday that the evenings are staying lighter longer, so I guess spring is on the way ! OK, here's this week's menu plan.


lunch- I think there will be leftovers to use up (Monday lunchtimes are complicated - Pierre is home from 12-1pm, I get home at about 12.30 and don't work in the afternoon, Sophie is on her college online class until about 1pm, this week Juliette is at school ... we'll see what happens ! lol)

dinner - Pork in caramel sauce with rice & stir-fried veg


dinner- I picked up some pies filled with potato, bacon and raclette cheese - not sure what I can serve them with. Mash and salad maybe? I have some leftover white cabbage so I could throw together some coleslaw too.


lunch- chicken burgers with pasta & ratatouille

dinner- I grabbed some pork filet mignon but I have no idea what to do with it ! I think I'll serve it with onions and mushrooms, maybe a cream sauce ... ooh, I've just thought about gratin dauphinois, a creamy potato bake. The kids love that so that'll do :)


lunch - I'm thinking there will be leftovers to use up

dinner- Spanish chicken (chicken in a tomato & paprika sauce) with couscous


dinner - We're a bit early but let's do Chinese new year - I have some chicken spring rolls and some Chinese nibbles. We could even fry up some prawn crackers as I found a box of "make your own prawn crackers" in the back of the cupboard !


lunch- friands (they're basically like big sausage rolls) with boiled potatoes (or mash) and veg

dinner- spaghetti carbonara


lunch- roast chicken, roast potatoes and veg (and hopefully some kind of birthday cake for Juliette !)

dinner- toast, leftovers or maybe homemade chicken soup, if I ended up getting a whole chicken

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


Monday 1 February 2021

Giveaway #745 : Win a £50 voucher on Trendhim - closed

So how's it all going? Hopefully you're all surviving the latest lockdown without going crazy ! I have some good news to help you through the madness ... another fabulous giveaway where you can get your sticky mitts on a £50 voucher for Trendhim !

You may remember me posting a similar giveaway back in November. Well, this one is slightly different as you'll need to head on over to twitter to take part. It's all very simple though. Just go over to my twitter profile @cherylp59 and retweet my pinned tweet. I'll make it nice and simple for you - just click here !

Once you're there, just answer the following question : what product(s) would you by if you win the voucher? Follow me @cherylp59, follow @trendhim and use the hashtag #trendhim. RT the message and add your reply. Simple ! 

Good luck !

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