Tuesday 15 March 2022

February 2022 Degustabox : Home Comforts


The past few weeks have been brutal. First, the wind blew some of our roof off and the roofer called out by the insurance to fix it never showed up. Then Pierre broke his arm and, on the same day, came down with Covid. Aaaggghhh ! Luckily, the postie dropped off the latest Degustabox with the theme Home Comforts. It sounds like a hug in a box. Exactly what was required to put a smile back on my face !

Unsurprisingly, the kids immediately honed in on the White Chocolate Kit Kats (RRP £1.99). As the name suggests, you get the usual crispy wafer biscuit but this time, it is covered in creamy, smooth white chocolate rather than milk chocolate. Each 2-finger bar comes in at 106 calories, making them a very reasonable mid afternoon snack. They contain no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives and they're suitable for vegetarians. We all loved them and the only question is, do we prefer them to the original Kit Kats? We just can't decide so I guess we'll have to buy both ! Each pack contains 9 bars and they are available in all major supermarket chains.

Another brand new delicious sweet treat that we discovered in the box is McVitie's Blissfuls (RRP £2.59), a lovely Belgian milk chocolate and hazelnut filled crunchy biscuit. The Madhouse kids loved the creamy Nutella-like filling and I was rather taken by the posh-looking layered top. The handy pouch format is perfect for sharing around (although they seemed to disappear rather too quickly !). They are also available with a Caramel filling, which definitely needs investigating ! Available in the major supermarket chains.

Urban Fruit Wellness Strength (RRP £2.85) is a blend of bite sized tropical fruit pieces, ready to nibble out of the bag. This was donated to Pierre as he was in isolation in his room and he couldn't manage to peel fruit one handed with his plaster cast ! You get a mixture of pineapple, mango, passionfruit, strawberry and beetroot - I was convinced he'd refuse the beetroot but nope, he happily worked his way through the whole lot ! The whole idea behind Urban Fruit is that it is gently baked fruit with no added sugar, so it gets top marks in my books. Also available in Immune and Glow. It's a different way of adding one of your 5-a-day portions of fruit (and vegetables) into your diet.

Mikado (RRP £1.50) is a product that the kids have been buying in France for years as we head down to see the grandparents. The crunchy, thin sticks are dipped in delicious milk chocolate and they're perfect for nibbling on in the summer as one end is left chocolate-free so you can eat them without getting covered in chocolate ! Each stick only contains 11 calories but trust me, you'll gobble up the whole pack in one sitting !

Tilda Katsu Curry Limited Edition Rice (RRP £1.59) is another new addition to the microwaveable rice pouches that I love to buy as a quick and simple option for the kids at lunchtime. Aromatic, mild curry spices combine with carrot, onion and coconut cream to give a tasty modern Asian twist to Tilda Jasmine rice. I was impressed to see that this is a gluten-free option, so it could be handy to keep in the cupboard if you have someone visiting who may need a gluten-free option when you're unprepared. It goes perfectly with chicken but can also be enjoyed on its own as a quick snack.

Tea India Masala Chai (RRP £2.50), described as "deliciously authentic spiced tea", is another exotic product to sample. The company explain : "Masala Chai is a staple in India, served in chai glasses at home and in clay cups from chai stalls along the road. Bringing family and friends together over cups of chai is a time-honoured tradition...and our Masala Chai was crafted and blended to do exactly that." It is a rich, warming blend of black tea, cinnamon, cloves and anise. You can brew it just as you would a regular cup of tea or simmer it in hot milk for a creamy chai latte.

Pizza Express House Light Dressing (RRP 50p per sachet (not currently available for sale), £2 for a full sized bottle) is a great way of jazzing up your salads. It's a reduced fat (30% less than their regular option) dressing with white wine vinegar, rapeseed oil and herbs. Very tasty but I've never eaten it in their restaurants so I can't tell you how authentic it is !

Chocolate Mighty Shake (RRP £1.60) is a great dairy, nut and soy-free drink option that I've handed over to Sophie (as she's intolerant to dairy products). The company says : " Our Chocolate Shake is a triumph of drinkable ingenuity if we say so ourselves. Chocolatey, M.lky, and of course 100% vegan, with no nuts or soy in there. Luxuriously loaded with pea protein for optimal plant-based gains." It is subtly sweetened with agave and contains 40% less sugar than other chocolate milks. Apparently it tastes lovely, which is the most important thing!

Belvita Choc Chips Soft Bakes (RRP £2.79 for 5) are great for breakfast on the go (otherwise known as those hectic mornings when you end up dashing out of the door after a quick swig of orange juice so that you don't miss the bus to work !) - just stuff one in your coat pocket and enjoy it when you get a moment ! The soft baked biscuits are made with wholegrain cereals, chocolate chips and added minerals. Best of all, they are very tasty and promise to give you energy for the whole morning.

Knorr Vegetable Stock Cubes (RRP £1.48) are a great way of getting in on the #CheatOnMeat action. Just toss one into anything from soups and sauces, pasta and gravy to complement the natural flavours of your veggies. They are not just vegan but also gluten-free. 

Choc Brownie Bounce (RRP £1.99) is a healthier take on a chocolate snack as it is high in fibre and protein. You get a squishy nut butter centre, stuffed inside a plant protein packed brownie ball, coated in chocolate. It comes in at around 180 calories but you might find you can cut it in two to scoff in two sittings (I found it quite rich so half was enough).

 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 March 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 11

Remember last week, when I was mentioned Pierre breaking his arm? Well, later that evening, he was feeling rough so I gave him a covid test - positive, aaagghhh ! So he's been at home all week. His friend had covid too though, so at least he could waste his time playing video games ... once he figured out how to use his controller with a broken arm ! Our streak of bad luck continues though. The roofer failed to show up so I got on to the insurance, who chased him up. He was supposed to phone to rearrange a time to come and give us a quote and protect the roof, but still no news. I'll have to chase it up again next week. I give up ! So, on to happier thoughts ... what will we be eating this week ?!


lunch- I'm at the canteen, the kids can find something in the fridge

dinner - spaghetti bolognese


lunch- canteen for me, leftovers for the kids

dinner- sweet & sour chicken with noodles (or maybe rice - I'm not sure how Pierre would get on with noodles with one hand ?!)


lunch- leftovers 

dinner- fajita pockets (with mince or chicken, rice, guacamole, tomatoes, salsa, cheese)


lunch - a meal with friends for me

dinner- Proven├žal chicken with potato wedges and coleslaw


lunch- Sophie can sort out something, probably using veggie options from the freezer

dinner - creamy pork with leeks & mushrooms & rice


lunch- chicken burgers, ebly & ratatouille

dinner- cottage pie


lunch- roast chicken, roast potatoes, veg & gravy

dinner- bacon sandwiches

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

Linking up with the Menu Plan Roundup over at Cats, Kids, Chaos

Sunday 6 March 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 10

I feel like I'm moaning the whole time lately (in my weekly round-ups, not in real life luckily !) Just in the last couple of weeks (in fact, since the end of the holidays), we've had the storm blowing our roof off (still waiting for repairs) and my last two Wednesdays and my Friday afternoon off being taken up with training sessions and open days, so I was looking forward to a nice quiet weekend to catch up on school stuff (marking and school reports to fill in) and tidying up (we're still mid-repapering the walls in the halls/stairs and all the garden furniture is still in my living room after the storm). Well, like I said, that was the plan. It all started well - Juliette finished early on Friday so we went to town to buy her some new jeans and continued on to the big out-of-town sports shop to get a new swimming costume and random other stuff for her upcoming school swimming lessons. Then Pierre came home and said his arm hurt because he got hit by a hard shot on his arm when playing football with his friend. I gave him some paracetamol and said it would probably be better in the morning but it wasn't, so we headed off to the hospital. It turns out, he has a fracture so his arm is in plaster from his hand almost to his shoulder. Can I just scream for a minute? Aaaggghhhhhh ! Right, that's better ! I just need a few extra hours in each day to get everything done ! Oh well, on to this week's meal plan (and I'll have to think of things that Pierre can eat without cutting as he's one handed now!)


lunch- I'm at the canteen, the kids have roast chicken/potato/carrots/gravy leftovers in the fridge

dinner - spaghetti bolognese


lunch- canteen for me, leftovers for the kids

dinner- Mexican chicken stew (with onions, peppers, courgettes) & rice


lunch- chicken sausages, ebly and coleslaw

dinner- pork lomo, pasta and veg


lunch - lunch with friends and Sophie can come along

dinner- chilli con carne & rice


lunch-  leftovers

dinner - smoked sausages with lentils and mash


lunch- McDonald's or somewhere similar

dinner- pizza


lunch- roast dinner probably, depending on what I picked up when I went shopping

dinner- leftovers or spaghetti carbonara

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

Linking up with the Menu Plan Roundup over at Cats, Kids, Chaos

Thursday 3 March 2022

Book review : The Psychopath - A M Edwards

If I asked you to describe the personality of a serial killer in just a few words, what would you come up with? Evil, bloodthirsty and twisted? Depraved, inhuman and soulless? Loathsome, despicable and incomprehensible? Well, I would have agreed with any of those descriptions if I hadn't watched the series Dexter on TV several years ago, which showed a more ... let's say positive ... type of serial killer. Yes, he spilled a lot of blood and killed off numerous people, but only the bad guys. It certainly didn't make him into a saint but it seemed somehow vaguely justifiable when you looked at how bad and evil (or I should say even MORE bad and evil than him) the victims were. The guy who beat up the old lady on the corner and stole all her family heirlooms? A convicted sex offender who has just got a job in a primary school and is making lots of new little friends? Well, maybe we could let him off for getting rid of THOSE guys? But then your mind catches up with you and you think about what you're actually condoning ! This is exactly the kind of mindset that this book throws you into.

Time to bring in Jez. Even the name sounds fun, jaunty and endearing. Not scary and evil at all. He's married to Maxine but is having a bit on the side - one point immediately goes up against his name on the bad side. He is a devoted and protective father to Jamie though, so that pretty much evens things up. He has a good job as a university professor and he's a pro-vice chancellor for research. I'd have him down as an overall good guy with an overactive sex drive and/or a low set of morals. He could basically be any man on the street and I could imagine myself working with him or associating with him.

But he does have this deep, dark void in his personality. He will be talking to people while imagining (and sharing with us) his very violent, uncensored thoughts, some of which will make your stomach churn. He is a music lover and is working on putting together his top 40 hits to enhance his whole killing routine. There's something utterly terrifying about imagining this man, swaying and humming happily along to a tune as he clears up his blood-soaked murder scenes. He's totally sexist, completely unfazed by his kills and ... somehow still managed to make me smirk as he told his tale.

It's a book that would be great to read and discuss at a book club as I'm sure you'd either (slightly) love or absolutely abhor him. You might want to avoid reading it before you sit down to eat your tea though as the gore and violence might put you off your food !

star rating : 4/5

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ RedDoor Press (10 Feb. 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1913062848
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913062842
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 33.7 x 2.3 x 18.5 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.
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