Sunday 26 June 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 26

What a week ! I had after-school meetings (4.30 - about 7pm) every day this week except Wednesday, so Sophie was on cooking duty .... until she tested positive for COVID on Thursday. Aaaggghhh ! Luckily she's the only one to have it so far and fingers crossed it will stay that way as Juliette has one of her big exams (an oral) on Monday. The beds were delivered on Wednesday and the settee on Friday. Juliette was a total star and built the whole lot single-handedly ! I was very impressed. It's all so comfortable - much better than the old ones. This week is our last full week at school as we break up next Thursday. It's a busy week though as I have a normal day on Monday, the end-of-year "party" at school on Tuesday (when the school band plays and all the good pupils (top 3 marks and top 3 for effort) in each class get invited up on stage to receive a prize), on Wednesday (my day off usually) I have an online training session and Thursday and Friday are the big exams so I have to invigilate all day long. I'm tired just thinking about it all ! But the holidays are almost here so no complaints from me. So, here's this week's menu plan.


lunch- canteen for me - leftovers for the kids

dinner - Tex Mex pork lomos with rice and tomato salad


lunch- canteen for me - the kids can go freezer diving or have sandwiches 

dinner- chicken stir fry with noodles & loads of veggies


lunch- grilled ham with cheesy baked potatoes & beans

dinner- meatballs with tomatoes/peppers/onions/spices and couscous


lunch - I'll be at school, the kids can go freezer diving again !

dinner- pork chops with creamy potato bake and salad


lunch- I have a long lunch break between exams so I'll meet up with the kids for lunch near school - McDonald's maybe?

dinner - spaghetti carbonara 


lunch- beef pies with mash & veg

dinner- pizza


lunch- roast chicken & all the trimmings

dinner- leftover chicken/veg/gravy with pasta

***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

Monday 20 June 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 25

Phew, what a week ! It was way too hot to feel really hungry so we opted for simple things like sandwiches and toast. Last night, we had a massive storm so it's cooled down to more normal temperatures again. Sophie cooked up some fabulous burgers with chicken burgers, guacamole, fried eggs and Philadelphia cheese in bagels - her own invention apparently ! This week I have after-school meetings every day except Wednesday, which is when the new beds are being delivered. Today, we broke apart the old beds and took them down to the garage to be picked up on Wednesday, when the new ones are delivered. I just have the bed base and mattress left until then so the bed is really low - comfortable though, luckily ! Then on Friday the new settee is delivered so we have to get the old settees downstairs at some point. I don't think there will be enough hours in the day this week ! Sophie will be dealing with food while I'm on late finishes, but here's a rough plan, with what I bought. She may well completely ignore it though !


lunch- canteen for me - leftovers for the kids (spaghetti bolognese)

dinner - Provençal chicken with rice & veg


lunch- canteen for me - the kids can go freezer diving or have sandwiches 

dinner- spicy pork chops with pasta


lunch- Mexican ribs/grilled chorizo/BBQ chicken breast pieces with couscous & salads (coleslaw, grated carrots, céleri remoulade (similar to coleslaw), beetroot salad)

dinner- leftover meat from lunch with leftover pasta & salads (something quick after dealing with the beds !)


lunch - meal with a friend for me/Sophie, leftovers for Juliette/Pierre (or they can come to the restaurant if they haven't got lessons)

dinner- marinated chicken with mash & veg


lunch- chicken sausages with Ebly & veg

dinner - something from the freezer - minced beef parcels (kinda like pasties) with rice & veg 


lunch-grilled ham, mash & veg

dinner- I think we deserve a takeaway after this week !


lunch- depending on how hot it is, roast dinner or meat, rice & veg

dinner- 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

Saturday 18 June 2022

Book review : Dangerous Waters - Mike Martin (Sgt. Windflower book 13)

Ahhhh Sgt. Windflower is back in a brand new book, Dangerous Waters. It's the thirteenth title in the series, featuring the kind-hearted Canadian Mountie, but don't worry if you haven't read the others - each one can be enjoyed as a standalone novel, although it's lovely to see him and his family growing and developing in the small town of Grand Bank.

The last book, Buried Secrets, left Windflower wondering where his life would lead him. He was in the midst of examining his choices, deciding whether to face being relocated to a new job or leave the RCMP altogether. Neither of those solutions appealed to me as a reader - how could the Sgt. Windflower series continue without Grand Bank or the RCMP? 

At the start of this book, he is still unsure of what the future holds, using up his paid leave and working on the renovations of the new B&B. Things are progressing, which is just as well as he is called on to put up a group of German tourists, stranded when their vehicle breaks down in the middle of a snowstorm. Through his friends, he also hears about the latest case that his old colleagues are working on - a series of men have gone missing and one turns up dead. Is there a link to these unexpected visitors from out of town? Windflower listens but ultimately shrugs his shoulders, as it isn't his problem any more.

Or is it ?! With everything that's going on, Windflower is asked to help out, going back to work just for this case on a temporary contract. Instead of being in charge, he is following orders but apart from that, everything is back to normal ... including trips to the Mug Up cafe with Eddie Tizzard, dinner and chess with Dr Sanjay, BBQ dinners and dog walks with Sheila and the girls. There's still no final decision on where Windflower and his family will end up, especially as the very future of the Grand Bank RCMP detachment hangs in the balance, but reading this latest tale of Windflower's work and family life, I'm sure he'll be content whatever happens.

RRP : $24.95 CND (£13.75 on Amazon)

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Ottawa Press and Publishing (30 April 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1988437822
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1988437828


 Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Cookery book review : Make Bake Celebrate - Mrs Bun The Baker

When I look back at all the fun things I've done with the Madhouse kids throughout their childhood, some of the best memories are spending time in the kitchen, rustling up sweet (and savoury) treats for the whole family to enjoy together. Not only has this given them the skills and confidence to try new things in the kitchen, all that measuring and cutting into portions is a great way to test their maths skills without them even realising it. Quite frequently, I halve or double up on quantities just to get them to calculate all the new measurements as we go (but shh, don't tell them !)

Someone who shares my joy at getting the kids some hands-on experience in the kitchen is Mrs Bun The Baker. After starting out as Head of Food Tech at a secondary school, she developed a cookery school so that she could spend more time with her son and help kids develop their kitchen skills. This activity moved online during lockdown, opening her up to a wider audience. Make Bake Celebrate is her third book and we were delighted to receive a signed copy.

I always start a new cookbook by scrolling through the recipe index (or flicking through the pages, if there isn't one) to see what is hiding inside. I love the way that this book works its way through the year, covering recipes that highlight various celebrations - 3 Kings Bread for Epiphany, Heart Cake for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day Loaf, Simnel Cookies for Easter, Father's Day Medals, Camping S'mores for the summer holidays, Back to School Biscuits, Witch's Fingers for Halloween, Bonfire Bread for Guy Fawkes Night, Christmas Scones and Christmas Pudding Biscuits. Any of these recipes could be tied in with storytimes or project work on the different celebrations. Similarly, the recipes are a great way of introducing kids to a variety of countries - Wales (Welsh Cakes), America (Key Lime Pie), France (Chaussons aux Pommes), Italy (Pasta Cannelloni), Mexico (Mexican Bowls and Guacamole), India (Mango Kulfi), Central and Eastern Europe (Latkes). Internet is a great source of fun, kid-friendly projects such as wordsearches and simple crafts that would tie in perfectly with the recipes.

The recipes are very simple to follow with short texts that aren't too complicated for children to decipher. The instructions have been thought out for youngsters and there are various suggestions for making things simpler or more appealing to young chefs - for example, in this recipe for Soda Bread, you can split the dough into several pieces to make smaller rolls, making it easier to manipulate for little hands. There are also ideas for changing the flavours, replacing sun dried tomatoes with olives, rosemary, pumpkin seeds or cheese. There's nothing worse than realising you have an ingredient missing or knowing that your kids will turn up their nose at something in the dish, so these ideas are always appreciated !

Even as a grown-up, the book offers simple techniques that I'd never thought of. Who knew that making a cake with a hidden heart inside was so simple ?!

As well as being simple to create, the results are visually appealing and guaranteed to get even fussy eaters to have a taste. 

Even young children who can't read can follow the recipes in picture form and for beginner readers, the words used next to pictures are a great way of reinforcing reading practice, once again without the kids even noticing !

This is a great book on so many levels. As well as containing fun cookery projects that kids of all ages can get involved in, it provides lots of delicious treats that the whole family will enjoy. On top of that, it offers insight into different cultures and celebrations and reinforces learning in maths and reading. What more could you ask for ?!

Independently published, Make Bake and Celebrate is available in paperback (£11.99) on Amazon at


It is also available on the author’s website at

and WH Smith  -  - Waterstones -

and Blackwells -

Disclosure : I reviewed a copy of the book in order to write my review.

Sunday 12 June 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 24

Into the last few weeks at school - phew ! In just three weeks, that's it ... the summer holidays will be here. That still seems pretty unbelievable at the moment but I'm sure it'll come around really fast. Things are kicking off at home too. I've ordered a new double bed and mattress (for me), a single bed (for Pierre) and a big settee (a corner unit so basically the equivalent of two settees - we have two separate ones at the moment). As well as taking the deliveries, we also have to get the old furniture downstairs so that they can pick it up and dispose of it. It all needed replacing pretty desperately but I've been putting it off for the last few years as we didn't know if we were staying in France or, after Madhouse Daddy died, moving back to the UK. As I'd lose my pension if I stop being a teacher before my retirement, I've decided to stay here and finish off my working life in France though. So, loads going on at the moment. Just as well the kids are around to help me out ! So, what's on the menu this week? Juliette has her big exam on Thursday but will be at home (hopefully revising !) for the rest of the week.


lunch- canteen for me - leftovers for the kids (chopped up chipolatas with pasta & tomatoes)

dinner - pork lomos with mash & carrots


lunch- canteen for me - the kids can go freezer diving or have sandwiches (or there are some chicken burgers that they can have in the fridge)

dinner- grilled ham & pasta - I found a bag of cook-in herbs/spices for pasta in the cupboard (that go in the water as you cook it - Sophie brought it back from Italy) so I'll give that a go


lunch- tacos

dinner- Provençal chicken skewers with rice & veg


lunch - meal with a friend for me/Sophie, canteen or leftovers for Juliette/Pierre (or they can come to the restaurant if they haven't got lessons)

dinner- cottage pie with carrots (actually I think I'll put the carrots in the cottage pie for simplicity)

lunch- leftovers or something from the freezer (Sophie will be in charge) - chakchouka maybe?

dinner - sweet & sour chicken stir-fry with noodles


lunch- I'm thinking there will be lots of leftovers to use up in the fridge

dinner- pasta carbonara


lunch- roast chicken, roast potatoes, veg, gravy (I think I even have a box of stuffing at the back of the cupboard)

dinner- cheese & bacon fougasse or maybe Algerian fougasse, if we didn't end up having chakchouka the other day

***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 5 June 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 23

I can't keep up with the weather lately. We're going from blazing hot days to storms and chillier weather, so it's hard to know what to cook. I think I'll go for a mixed bag this week - actually I think I should start going through the freezer and having a clear-out in there. I'm not even sure what's in there at the moment but it's pretty full ! Monday is a bank holiday this week. I was thinking boo, that's the last one for a while, but then I realised - there are only four weeks of term left then it's the summer holidays anyway. Woohoo !


lunch- chicken burger, pasta, grilled tomatoes

dinner - filet mignon with a cream sauce, rice & carrots


lunch- canteen for me - leftovers for the kids

dinner- Provençal chicken with couscous & salad


lunch-  chipolatas, mash & beans

dinner- pork lomos, rice & mushrooms


lunch - meal with a friend for me/Sophie, canteen or leftovers for Juliette/Pierre

dinner- leftover chipolatas, chopped up, in pasta with red peppers, onions, mushrooms

lunch- leftovers or something from the freezer (Sophie will be in charge)

dinner - chicken gyro, rice & cucumber in cream salad


lunch- pork meatballs & pasta

dinner- chilli con carne & rice


lunch- chicken, gratin dauphinois (creamy potato bake) & salad

dinner- leftovers or toast

***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

Wednesday 1 June 2022

May 2022 Degustabox review : BBQ & Garden Party

We've had some lovely weather lately and the kids have set up our little summertime outdoor area on the patio, complete with parasols, chairs and a table. All we need now are some summertime nibbles to enjoy in the sun, so we were delighted to discover the theme of the latest Degustabox : BBQ & Garden Party.

We were intrigued to discover the contents of the box and the kids helped unpack, convinced that they would find loads of crisps, biscuits and sweets to nibble on. Here's what was hiding inside.


Bull's Eye New York Steakhouse BBQ Sauce (RRP £2) is a beautiful rich sauce that we have discovered in previous Degustaboxes (both the New York Steakhouse BBQ Sauce and Original BBQ Sauce have featured in the past, as well as a Bull's Eye Kentucky Habanero with Whisky Hot Sauce). Made with a blend of tangy tomatoes and bell peppers with just a hint of chilli, it offers a deep and smoky but not spicy sauce, perfect for accompanying barbecued meats, such as pork chops, steak or chicken. It is also great for adding a burst of smokiness to chilli and casseroles. My personal favourite? Mixing into leftover roast chicken for a pulled pork style sandwich - hmmm !

Carr's Italian Herbs Flavour Melts (RRP £1.69) are deliciously crisp and have a lovely texture that seems to melt in your mouth. They are tasty straight from the pack as a quick nibble or can be topped with anything from cheese to sun dried tomatoes, if you fancy a simple lunch or a more substantial snack. 

Echo Falls Merlot (£2) is described as a "delicious smooth red wine with blackberry and plum flavours and a hint of oak". A hint of oak? I have no idea what that is supposed to taste like ! I will be honest, I threw this into a beef bourguignon style stew and it was lovely. I did have a quick sip before emptying the bottle though and it's rather nice. Apparently this is supposed to be perfect paired with pizza or whilst out socialising with friends. Available at ASDA and convenience stores.

Love Raw Salted Caramel Cre&m Wafer Bar (RRP £1.89) is a tasty treat that I'd never heard of before. It's a fluffy caramel-filled wafer, smothered in a layer of vegan salted caramel chocolate. The idea reminded me of a Kinder Bueno type bar. Very tasty but also vegan, with no palm oil, no artificial nonsense and no compromise !

Gunna Turtle Juice Tropical Lemonade (RRP £1.10) is an intriguing new drink option, perfect for trying out this summer. The manufacturers claim :" Turtle Juice is inspired by a mango daiquiri recipe we discovered in St Lucia, full of tropical sunshine but without the rum. Packed with sweet mangos, zingy limes and a hint of coconut to deliver an explosion of characterful flavour." This is lovely straight from the fridge or served over ice. Fruitilicious ! Available on Amazon, Ocado, Holland & Barrett, Sainsbury's and independent retailers.

Geo Watkins Mushroom Ketchup (RRP £2) is described as a vegan alternative to Worcestershire sauce (I'd never thought about Worcester sauce not being vegan but I've just been to check and it contains anchovies). It can be used to add rich umami flavour to pasta, pies, gravies, soups, ramens and noodles. I've been experimenting and adding it to chillis or stir fries that need a little extra oomph and it's actually a very versatile product. Available at Tesco, Waitrose, Booths and Ocado.


Slim Noodles Pad Thai (RRP £4.99 - other subscribers received Slim Rice Tarka Dal, Slim Noodles Panang Curry or Slim Pasta Arrabiata) is a scientifically proven meal for weight loss from the Eat Water company. The basis of the dish is konjac noodles. I had tried Slim Noodles in the past, without a sauce, and I disliked the smell and the texture. They are slightly more palatable with a tasty sauce mixed in, so if you're looking for a simple way to lose weight, they're worth trying. The whole dish comes in at just 208 calories and only takes a couple of minutes in the microwave.

New York Delhi Hot Chilli VIP Nuts (RRP £1.50) are a delicious snack from a company that I discovered in a Christmas hamper several years ago. The peanuts have a great crunchy texture and a lovely flavour that the whole family enjoyed. They are also available in Classic Sea Salt or Hot Honey & Mustard flavours. They're gluten-free, high protein and vegan. Available on Ocado, Amazon and the VIP Nuts website.

Cheddar and Onion Peapops (RRP £1.85) are the third product in the box to appear in what is obviously this season's key colour ! They are a new take on crisps, made from chickpeas and popped, so they have 60% less fat than regular fried crisps and less than 100 calories per serving. They have 20% plant-based protein, are gluten free, high in fibre, vegetarian and made from all natural ingredients. Best of all, they taste great. We're not the only ones to think so as they won a Great Taste Award. 

Slooow Crispy Rustic Rolls with Honey (RRP £1.65) are made with 100% natural and organic ingredients, including the most important ingredient of all - time. The bread is given more than 24 hours to rise then is stone baked for a delicious crispy crust. The rolls need ten minutes in the oven and are lovely, spread with butter on the side of the plate, but they could also be topped with cheese or jam as a tasty snack or light lunch or breakfast.

The Sweet Botanist Mellow Mint CBD Peppermint Gum (RRP £3.99) is produced for World of Sweets, whose origins as sweet makers began back in 1895. The team of confectionery creators have teamed with CBD experts to create the tastiest fresh flavours to help improve mood and well- being. The producers promise : "With high quality "healing" ingredients grown in nature, combined with delicious tasting confectionery and meticulous testing, you can feel safe and reassured." Each pack contains 45mg of CBD and the gum is suitable for vegans. 

Free From Fellows Vanilla Vegan Mallows (RRP £1.99) are a tasty treat, free from the top 14 allergens, making them suitable for everyone, including vegans and vegetarians. They don't contain any nasties and have also been approved by the Vegan and Vegetarian Societies. They're lovely straight from the pack or can be toasted on the BBQ and made into S'mores. They're available in Strawberry, Vanilla or Mini Pink & White Vanilla Mallows. Available at Sainsbury's, Ocado, H&B 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.
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