Monday 29 August 2022

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

We got everything done that we needed to do last week, sorting out the back-to-school shopping and cracking on with the decorating. On Monday, we're going out for a final end-of-the-holidays meal at a restaurant chain where you order your main meal and have a buffet for starters and desserts - always goes down well ! I go back to work on Wednesday, the kids on Thursday and the real start of lessons is Friday - just in time for the weekend ! No idea who will have school when for this week but everyone can fend for themselves with whatever's in the fridge and freezer. We pretty much stuck to our menu plan last week, but we got invited out for a meal with friends on Thursday, which was nice. Also Pierre wanted to cook and he made a cracking chilli con carne and a sausage couscous (totally made up but delicious!), with just a little bit of advice from me - hope he keeps it up !


lunch- end-of-the-holidays meal out 

dinner - not sure how hungry we'll be but there's everything we need for spaghetti carbonara


lunch- Mediterranean chicken (seasoning & cooking bag - add tomatoes, courgette & red pepper) with couscous (this was on last week's plan but didn't end up getting made)

dinner- gratin dauphinois (creamy potato bake) with beefburgers and green beans


lunch- I'll be at work, the kids can sort themselves out

dinner- tacos


lunch - eating with a friend, kids will be at school or can sort themselves out

dinner- time to go freezer diving - I'll have fish, the kids have have chicken or pork chops, with garlic mash & a bag of frozen veg


lunch- I'll presumably be at school, kids can sort themselves out

dinner - at some point this week, the house will be in chaos, I'll be knackered after a full day at work and will still have oodles of paperwork to fill in for the kids, so I'll predict that we'll fall back on Deliveroo !


lunch- fishfingers, potato wedges and peas


lunch-  Key West lime chicken with rice & peppers/onions

dinner- leftovers or toast

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

Friday 26 August 2022

August 2022 Degustabox review : Back To School & Relaxing Evenings

Much as I hate to admit it, the summer holidays are drawing to a close. I took the kids shopping yesterday to find new trainers and PE kits. Today we called into Pierre's school to pick up the "back to school kit" that we ordered at the end of the summer term. I'm starting to get emails about work things. There's no denying it - the countdown has begun.

When the latest Degustabox arrived recently, I pulled out the info sheet to see this month's theme and instantly smiled at the optimistic label. Yep, it's all about back-to-school but they've twinned this with Relaxing Evenings. Ahh that sounds good to me !

The first product that I pulled out of the box was a pack of Urban Fruit Glow (RRP £3). This product instantly rang a bell but I couldn't remember what it tasted like - a quick search revealed why. We got a pack of Urban Fruit Strength in a previous Degustabox, which I donated to Pierre who was in isolation in his room with Covid ! This pack is a blend of mango, pineapple, acerola cherry and turmeric and is a source of vitamin C. It's 100% natural with no hidden nasties and we love the tropical fruit flavour. Available at Tesco, Amazon and Ocado.

Sxollie Xider Packham's Triumph Perry (RRP £2.20) confused me when I looked at the bottle - is it a cider or a perry? I jumped on to google to find out what a perry actually is (you can tell I'm on holiday with some spare time on my hands !) and discovered that it's a pear cider. Aha, it suddenly makes more sense ! My next question was how do you pronounce it? I soon found this answer too - it is pronounced "Skollie" and is a South African slang word for a cheeky rascal. With that cleared up, Sxollie is a medium-dry perry, made purely with eating apples grown in the sunshine, with honey, caramel and subtle elderflower notes. More like a wine than a cider, it contains no added sugar, flavourings or concentrate. It's 100% natural, gluten-free, vegan, lower in calories and tastes great, straight from the fridge on a hot summer's evening.

Ocean's Halo Korean Barbecue Soy-Free Sauce  (RRP £4) is described as a spicy Gangnam-Style Sauce! This organic kelp-based sauce gets its flavour from red jalapeƱos and sesame tahini. That kinda put me off, so I dipped my finger in and tasted it suspiciously. It actually tasted a lot better than I expected ! It's soy free, gluten free and certified vegan and can be used for BBQ, dipping or marinades. It's great for stirring through chicken and vegetables and serving with rice for a quick and tasty meal.

Palmini Hearts of Palm Angel Hair (RRP £4.49) is part of a range of products (they have pasta, rice and mash) made from hearts of palm - something I've eaten many times in France, straight from a tin. I'd never thought of using them for creating alternatives to pasta, rice and mash but why not ?! Low in calories, low carb and sugar free, it's a light and healthy option and once you've coated it in sauce, you'd be hard pushed to notice the difference ! Available on Amazon and Planet Organic. 


Good Earth Pomegranate & Blueberry Kombucha (RRP £1.60) has a lovely fruity kick, behind which hides a kombucha made with black tea and fermented with live cultures. It is organic, uses 100% natural ingredients and comes in at under 30 calories per can. Good Earth also donates 1% of its revenue to Bright Green Future, an environmental non-profit association.

Horlicks Vegan Malt Drink (RRP £3.49) is a dairy-free version of the relaxing drink, perfect for unwinding at the end of a long day (or whenever your stress levels are rising !). I didn't know that Horlicks can be drunk hot or cold or even used in numerous baking recipes. Enriched with 14 vitamins and minerals, it can be used with any milk alternative.


Heinz Veg Hoops (RRP £1.25) are a great way of adding extra veggies to your kids' diets without them turning up their noses ! Containing 30% more veg, the pasta is made with carrot and cauliflower then coated in a vegetable sauce. It's low in sugar, a source of fibre, vegan-friendly and contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Perfect on toast when you need a quick meal or the kids need a quick snack that they can heat up in the microwave !

Nesquik All Natural Strawberry Flavour Milk Drink (RRP £1.80) offers the great taste of Nesquik in convenient ready-to-drink cartons. I had a quick taste and it reminded me of the powdered form of strawberry Nesquik that I used to drink as a child. The kids drank the rest before I got another look in though ! The drinks contain 91% milk and are made with only simple, natural ingredients. Delicious !

Dr Will's All Natural Classic Mayo (RRP £3) declares to be "so simple you could make this at home, but we've saved you the effort. Classic. Versatile. Delicious." What more could I add?! It's sugar free and uses quality ingredients to provide a natural dollop of flavour. Perfect in sandwiches, on the side of a salad or mixed into homemade coleslaw. Also available as Chilli Mayo.

This month's product of the month, McVitie's BN Chocolate (RRP £1) are a big hit with the Madhouse kids, who have been munching on them for years in France. You get two crunchy biscuits, sandwiched together with a rich chocolatey filling and - best of all according to the kids ! - a cheeky face cut into the biscuit. All flavours are natural. There are 16 biscuits in each pack and the kids would happily munch through a whole pack in one sitting if I let them !

Another variation on the same theme, McVitie's Mini BN Strawberry (RRP £1) are equally tasty and better suited to snacks-on-the-go as they come in sealed packets of five biscuits. The smaller size makes them easier for younger children to handle but big kids love them just as much too ! These also only contain natural colours and flavours.

The final product in this month's box is a Nissin 5 Spices Beef Cup Noodle (RRP £1.75) - apologies for the stock photo. It was munched before I took the individual photo ! Just add boiling water for a delicate noodle soup with the full flavour of beef and an irresistible combination of five carefully selected Asian spices and flavours. Perfect for a quick lunch or snack option for busy teens and apparently very tasty.

 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 August 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 34

Into the last ten days of the school holidays and I still have so much to do ! We did well last week though, catching up on washing and carrying on with the decorating. I don't think we'll finish before going back to school but the main bits should be finished (hopefully !) We stayed on plan for most of the week, but we did opt for a takeaway after a busy day decorating (which was on the cards anyway !). This week will be much of the same  but I also have to head into town with the kids to restock on clothes/shoes for school.


lunch- grilled ham, mash & veg with gravy

dinner - pork chops in BBQ sauce with rice & sweetcorn


lunch- pasta carbonara

dinner- roasted sausage and potato supper (with chipolatas, red peppers and onions)


lunch- Mediterranean chicken (seasoning & cooking bag - add tomatoes, courgette & red pepper) with couscous

dinner- chilli con carne with rice (special request from Pierre)


lunch - tacos with leftover chilli (assuming there is some !)

dinner- Jamie Oliver's comforting sausage bake (to use up the rest of the chipolatas)


dinner - I'm thinking the fridge will be full of leftovers


lunch- I'll put McDonald's here as it'll be munched at some point, whenever we end up going on our shopping trip

dinner- whatever remaining Chinese nibbly bits I uncover in the freezer, along with some chicken nuggets


lunch- garlic & herb chicken (seasoning sachet) with roast potatoes & veg

dinner- leftovers/sandwiches/toast

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

Monday 15 August 2022

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 33

The last menu plan I posted was on 3rd July (week 27). Since then we've had a fortnight on holiday in the Dominican Republic, a few days back at home then a fortnight visiting the family in Hastings. That leads us into week 33 - blimey, five weeks of no cooking ! I need to go shopping but I think I'll try to clear out stuff from the freezer this week. I have no idea what is in there but I'm sure most of the meat will be in there and my cupboards are full of seasoning sachets and odds and ends from recent Degustaboxes. I do need to get on with my decorating (stripping the wallpaper then repainting the walls on the stairs and on the landings) so I may end up opting for the odd takeaway if we're too tired though !


lunch- spaghetti bolognese

dinner - steak & ale pie and rice (and a bag of frozen veg if there's one in the freezer)


lunch- chicken stir-fry (with baby sweetcorn, mangetout, beansprouts, onions (red peppers and carrots if I've headed to the shops), noodles and sweet soy sauce)

dinner- gammon with roast potatoes & carrots and lashings of gravy !


lunch- chicken korma & rice

dinner- the girls will be trying homemade sushi (look out for an upcoming review), there should be leftovers for me and Pierre


lunch - barbecue chicken salad (or there should be leftover rice for anyone who prefers that to salad)

dinner- baked potatoes with tuna/mayo, cheese or leftover barbecue chicken


lunch- burgers, mash & coleslaw

dinner - soy & chilli chicken with peppers and peanuts with rice or noodles


lunch- tacos (even if it isn't Tuesday !) or fajitas

dinner- lasagne


lunch- beef or pork (depending on what is in the freezer) casserole with pasta

dinner- toast or fridge-raiding for leftovers (or I've no doubt the kids will try to convince me to go for a takeaway on Deliveroo !)

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

Sunday 7 August 2022

July 2022 Degustabox review : Summer & Get Outdoors

School's out for the summer and we've been enjoying the sun (and hiding from it when it all got a bit too intense!), travelling (we had a fantastic fortnight in the Dominican Republic but getting over the jetlag was tough for a few days - eek !) and now we're catching up with family. It's almost like COVID never happened, with us all enjoying the sun mask-free, visiting new places and going to summertime events stress-free. Fingers crossed that that continues once the kids all go back to school. All that was missing was some tasty nibbles and drinks to keep our energy levels fuelled - enter the latest Degustabox !

This month's box has the theme Summer & Get Outdoors which sounds perfect. As I unwrapped the contents, I could see lots of new products from well-known brands and also some totally new brands that I'd never heard of that really appeal to me. Time to investigate !

Clif Bar White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Energy Bar (RRP £1.75) is a creamy bar, packed with 9g of plant-based protein, perfect for supplying energy for all your summertime excursions. The flavour of the roasted nuts really complements the creaminess of the white chocolate. Available at most supermarkets, sports retailers and health stores.

Heinz Plant Proteinz Thai Red Curry Soup with Beans & Chickpeas (RRP £1.50) is great for a quick lunch or snack when it's too hot to spend time in the kitchen preparing a big meal. Bursting with the goodness of plants and beans, it contains 15g of plant based protein. It is packed full of onions, carrots, red and green peppers, haricot beans, chickpeas and red curry paste. It tastes great, as well as being good for you and low in calories (204 calories per can). Perfect if you want to add more vegetables to your diet.


Hamadaya Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce (RRP £2.99) is a gourmet soy sauce, made from the best koji and a process involving immense time and effort. It comes from a company founded in 1818 and the same closely guarded, time-tested, two-century-old recipe is still used. It has a rich, deep flavour that is ideal for splashing into stir fries and drizzling over spring rolls. Available on Amazon and Japan Centre.

Shaken Udder Chocolush (RRP £1.75) is a rich, creamy milkshake made with real Belgian chocolate that gives it a delicious flavour. Each 330ml bottle provides 51% of your RI of calcium, as well as B12 for natural immunity support. It contains no artificial colours, flavours and preservatives and is gluten-free. The rich chocolatey taste is what the Madhouse kids preferred though. 

Herdez Authentic Mexican Seasoning (RRP 2 x £1.19) instantly appealed to me. I love trying exotic cuisine and Mexican is a particular fave, as long as it's not too hot. I'd never heard of this brand but they have over 100 years of experience creating quality regional flavours. We got the Classic Tacos mix, made with cumin, garlic and Cayenne chilli peppers. We also got Yucatan which is a zingy citrus, garlic and coriander seasoning mix, perfect for tacos or fajitas. The zingy, bold flavours really give you the impression that you are sampling a taste of true Mexican flavours. Available in the majority of larger Tesco stores.

Mission Chargrilled Wraps (RRP £1.50) are perfect for summertime meals, whether you wrap them around barbecued meat or stuff them with roasted vegetables or salad and sauces. They're great with the Mexican meals using the seasoning sachets from the box too or just as a sandwich alternative, filled with ham and cheese with salad. They're soft and have a lovely smoky flavour coming through. They can be eaten cold straight from the pack but are apparently even tastier if you heat them briefly, in a dry pan, in the microwave or on a barbecue for the ultimate summer vibe ! Available in Sainsbury's, ASDA and Morrisons.

KP Salt & Vinegar Flavour Peanuts (RRP £3) are a product that intrigued me. I love peanuts and I like salt and vinegar crisps but would the two really work together? Well, yes, they do actually ! The salt and vinegar flavour is really strong and explodes in your mouth but then the peanut flavour comes through afterwards, so it's almost like a two-in-one snack experience. Each 30g pack provides 185 calories and is a source of protein and fibre. Even better - they won't melt in the summertime heat so they're great for stuffing in pockets and handbags for snacks on the go !


Mister Free'd Mango Chilli Tortilla Chips (RRP £1.99) are a new take on the well-loved snack, offering a mango chilli flavour for a sweet and spicy kick. This is great if you want to dig in without bothering with the usual guacamole, salsa and dips. The kids loved these and will definitely be buying them again. They are gluten-free, vegan-friendly and made using natural ingredients. 

Polaretti Fruit Freeze Pops (RRP £1.50) have been munched in record time, given the record-busting temperatures. The freeze-at-home pops are made with real fruit juice and should be shaken before freezing - something I'd never thought to do before ! The kids loved all of the four flavours - strawberry, lemon, orange and sour cherry. Available in Asda and Aldi.


Pravha Lighter Tasting Pilsner (RRP £2 per 330ml bottle, £25.99 for a 24 pack) offers all the bold flavour of a high quality Prague-style pilsner, perfectly balanced with an unexpectedly light and refreshing taste. I'll be passing this one on to Sophie.

Rubicon Spring Sparkling Water drinks (RRP £1.29 each or £3.49 for a multipack) is a healthy, refreshing drink made from spring water mixed with fruit juice. We tried Orange-Mango and Black Cherry-Raspberry which are both very nice but kids may be put off by the fact that they are much less sweet than many fizzy drinks. The drinks are vegan, use water collected directly from its natural source and each can contains under 10 calories. Perfect for adults who want something fruity to enjoy on a hot day.

Skittles Squishy Cloudz (RRP 2 x £1) are a great new twist on one of my favourite sweets. The flavours are the same as regular Skittles but the Cloudz, as their name suggests, offer a soft and airy gummy texture sensation. I love the regular Fruits ones but the kids loved the Crazy Sours. 

 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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