Sunday, 20 April 2014

Eating Smart with Woman & Home

The lovely people at woman&home sent me a little package out recently containing the second issue of their Eating Smart magazine alongside a box jammed packed with food samples. Now I don't have any special dietary requirements and neither do any of my family so on that basis I don't really have any need to eat "free from" foods but that doesn't mean I can't or shouldn't try them!


Eating Smart is woman&home's new stand-alone magazine, which is filled to the brim with gluten and dairy-free recipes. The magazine is designed for people that either have an intolerance themselves, know somebody who does or who are simply cutting our certain foods for the health benefits and a lifestyle change.  There are recipes from popular chefs like Mary Berry, The Hairy Bikers and Jamie Oliver for all sorts of dishes - pizza, creamy puddings, indulgent cakes - lots of different things that you would think that people with intolerances or allergies couldn't enjoy. 


women&home are keen to dispel the theory that "free from" food can't taste good and to demonstrate this point they sent me a pile of samples of different foods.   There were lots of things I wouldn't normally buy, or perhaps even try (way too healthy for me....) but there wasn't really anything I didn't like. Two of my favourites were the Choc Shot and the peaches sweets.



I've been meaning to try the Choc Shot since I first saw it in Waitrose at Christmas so it was nice to receive a sample of that and peaches must be one of my favourite sweets in the world - very good to see that those on restricted diets can enjoy them too!

Still not entirely sure what to do with Chia Seed though...so do feel free to enlighten me!


If you want to find out more about Eating Smart, visit the woman&home website.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Guest post: Sash windows are part of the architectural heritage


If you look at most houses over a certain age, you will see that many have wooden sash windows. This generally applies to houses built between the 1600s until the 1940s. Thankfully, this style of window is undergoing something of a revival and can be seen adorning homes across the country.
The joys of a sash window

There is no better feeling than getting up on a summer’s day and sliding up your window to greet the morning. There used to be a time when it was difficult to replace the wooden frames and pulleys but sash windows prices have come down in recent years, so if you need a replacement, it will be easy to source.

Period architecture

Many people who have old or protected homes do not want to replace tired or damaged windows with a uPVC model. These windows do not match the architecture of the house. The wood that was used to construct the original windows was sourced from softwood timber grown on the Baltic. To replace these with plastic windows spoils the look of the house. The UK heritage organisation, English Heritage even launched a campaign to protect sash windows.


Famous sash windows

Number 10 Downing Street, London is famous as the residence of the Prime Minister. The building is also famous as a great example of a fa├žade displaying sash windows. The historical district of Fairmont in Texas also has some wonderful examples of older buildings, complete with their original sash windows.

Sash windows require love

If you are lucky enough to have an original window, or if you have replaced it with a contemporary, double-glazed wooden model you will have to look after your sash window. Most people understand that a house requires painting and cleaning and the same applies to windows. If the frame is constructed from natural wood, make sure that you varnish or paint the frame on a regular basis. If you have a new house you can still ask to have wooden double glazed sash windows installed.


Wooden sash windows help the environment

Another bonus with wooden window frames is that they are constructed from sustainable materials and enhance the environment. To date we have not found a way of recycling certain plastics, so the uPVC frames will remain, long after the original house may have been knocked down.



Disclosure: Guest post in association with The Sash Window Workshop
Image Credits: All images property of The Sash Window Workshop


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Easter Cooking!

I love a bit of theme cooking, can't beat it for inspiration and Easter provides lots of opportunities for this. I thought I'd share some of Easter gems from my own archives as well as those from some of my blogging friends. I hope you enjoy and find something to nice to cook!

Kinder Egg Chick in a Wheaty Chocolate Nest from A Mummy Too
Chocolate Almond Easter Cake from Utterly Scrummy
Crunchy, Chewy, Fruity Muesli Chocolate Nests from A Mummy Too
Carrot Cake Cupcakes from The Mini Mes and Me
Hot Cross Buns from At Home With Mrs M
Spring Bird Cake Pops from The Mini Mes and Me
Easter Delights from Cherished by Me
Hidden Easter Egg Cupcakes from Utterly Scrummy
Chocolate Easter Cake from At Home With Mrs M
If you've cooked up any Easter treats yourself, leave a comment below with the link and I will check it out!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Chocolate Nests with Salted Chocolate Truffle Eggs *Featured Recipe*


Have to love an Easter recipe - mainly because they generally include chocolate. I was very taken by this recipe from the Happy Egg Co for chocolate nests, especially because they include salted chocolate eggs. I am having a lovely affair with salted chocolate at the moment!

Chocolate Nests with Salted Chocolate Truffle Eggs

Ingredients

850g milk dark chocolate
140g unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon sea salt flakes
2 happy egg yolks, at room temperature
100g icing sugar
125 ml boiling water

Method

Make the nests.

Grease with sunflower oil the outside of a silicone half sphere mould. (I used one that was 80mm wide for each half sphere)

Melt and temper the chocolate. Break 400g of the chocolate into small pieces and melt in the microwave, 20 seconds at a time, taking out after each 20 second interval and stirring well. Continue until about 2/3rds is melted and there are a few lumps left. Stir well until no lumps are left.

Put the chocolate in a piping bag and pipe thin lines in a crisscross manner over the greased half sphere mould. Make it quite thick at the base. Leave to dry, and then carefully remove from the mould.

Using a cheese slicer of a vegetable peeler, scrape shavings of chocolate off the remaining block of chocolate to make the straw for the nest.

Make the salted truffle eggs.

Chop 400g of chocolate into small pieces. Place the chopped chocolate, butter in a heat-safe bowl. Half fill a small saucepan with water and heat until it just simmers.  Place the bowl with chocolate and butter on top of saucepan and melt the chocolate and butter. 

Put the 2 egg yolks in a bowl and gently whisk to break the yolks. Very slowly pour 125 ml of just boiled water into the yolks whilst stirring continuously. 

Beat the melted chocolate and butter a few times with a whisk then place a fine mesh strainer over the mixture. Pour 1/3 of the egg mixture through the strainer and into the bowl, beat with whisk until incorporated then repeat with remaining egg mixture.

Add the salt. Beat until the chocolate mixture has thickened and looks shiny. Refrigerate for about 2 hours until firm. 

Put the icing sugar into a bowl. Dust your hands with icing sugar. Take ½ teaspoonfuls of the truffle mixture and roll the mixture into an egg shape. Roll each shaped egg in the bowl of icing sugar.

The egg truffles can then be returned to the fridge and kept for up to 2 days until they are ready to be served in the chocolate nests.

Enjoy!


Note: Any post marked *Featured Recipe* on my blog is one that contains a recipe I wish to share with you on behalf of a company or brand. I may not have tried myself and I have not been paid to share this information with my readers, I am simply choosing to do so because I like the look of it!

Image and recipe property of The Happy Egg Co. 
For more recipes, visit www.thehappyegg.co.uk


Monday, 14 April 2014

Meal Planning Monday (14th April 2014)


Good morning everyone!  

What a busy weekend! We did a car boot sale yesterday - was totally not worth it and won't be making that mistake again. £60 was so not worth getting out of bed at 5.30am on a Sunday - regardless of how broke I am!

It's the first proper day of our school holidays today and for that reason I am making the controversial decision NOT to meal plan this week. 

Nope, I am totally going to wing it with the children this week and do whatever takes our fancy. Picnics in the garden, make homemade pizzas, get takeaways in front of movies, let them choose dinner... A totally relaxed week and will work it around what we're doing that day.   

Today we're off out with friends for the day and food will mainly be picnicky all day long!

Don't let my lack of meal planning stop you though, oh no!  The Linky is still below for your meal-planning-pleasure! 

If you're new to my blog or #mealplanningmonday all you have to do is this - write a blog post about your meal plan for the week and submit the URL of your post using the Linkytools below. If you've not got a blog but want to join in, that's fine - just leave a comment below telling us what you're planning this week.  Any questions, just holler at me via email (in the contact page) or on Twitter @madamding.  

Don't forget to join our Facebook group and check out our Pinterest board for more inspiration! 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Friday Foody Roundup #16

Have I really not shared my Friday Foody news with you since December? Really?!  This first chunk of the year has whizzed by. I'm not completely complaining, after all, we're speeding towards my favourite time of the year - late Spring/Summer. It does mean though that I have a lot of Foody news so get comfortable and hang on to your hats!

Dole Porridge Pots

I'm not a big breakfast person really, I do like it, but it needs to be about 1-2hrs after I've got out of bed. This means that breakfast on-the-go is my friend. Dole have brought out a new range of portable porridge posts that come complete with a portion of lovely fruit ready to mix in.  I find these convenience products so handy for my working days as I have to leave the house so early and don't get much time to think about breakfast. As they are a store-cupboard item, I can keep porridge pots in my desk drawer for when hunger strikes!  Dole Fruitful Porridge Pots currently come in three flavours - apple in cinnamon, pineapple in coconut and peach and are available now from Tesco stores with an RRP of £1.19 per pot.

Haribo Easter Range


The lovely people at Haribo sent me a whole host of Easter lovelies, they must know I have a weakness for sweets! 

Sainsburys Easter

Shloer


As anyone who knows me well will know, I am very partial to a glass of wine or a nice cocktail. However sometimes there are times when you can't partake in an alcoholic drink and for these occasions, I always turn to Shloer - especially now they have a great fizz range.  Shloer Celebration is an alcohol-free bubbly drink served in a celebratory-style bottle with a popping cork and comes in two lovely flavours - White Bubbly and Pink Fizz.  Best served chills these drinks are the perfect thing to get the party started!   The celebratory bottles are available in supermarkets nationwide and have an RRP of £2.99.

Princes Fruit Fillings


Fruit fillings in a can is not something I have ever bought before so I was happy to try out some samples from Princes.  Their fruit fillings come in a range of flavours including apple, summer fruits, red cherry, black cherry, strawberry, blackcurrant and apple & blackberry. I found them a great addition to my store-cupboard as they were so handy for whipping up last minute desserts. I topped pancakes with them and also made some quick crumbles - making up a simple topping and serving in individual ramekins. Princes Fruit Fillings are available at a range of supermarkets with an RRP of £1.29 per can.

Knorr Flavour Pots


I'm going to start with an apology - I was sent an absolute stonking hamper from Knorr full of delicious fresh ingredients along with a selection of their new Flavour Pots. The intention was for me to create some delicious recipes. And then I got a stonking cold and all thoughts of food and cooking went out of the window.  Nevertheless, I WILL get around to cooking with the Flavour Pots very soon and the recipes will be featured on this here blog! In the meantime let me tell you about the pots.  The new Flavour Pots, created by Knorr Chef Cameron Healy, have been designed to revolutionise the way we use herbs and spices. The range includes Mixed Herbs, 3 Peppercorn, Curry, Garlic and Mixed Chillies. There are a million ways to use these Flavour Pots - curries, stir-frys, sauces....  Knorr Flavour pots are gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians, with an RRP of £1.59.

Aldi Easter Hamper


I am not lucky enough to have an Aldi nearby, it's a bit of a jaunt and for that reason I have never actually been into an Aldi store however my friends have waxed lyrical and are often supplying me with delicious and fantastically priced wines!  Aldi sent me a lovely hamper full of delicious goodies including their Philippe Michel Cremant de Jura sparkling Chardonnay (£6.99) and a lush French Pinot Noir (£4.49), alongside a cocktail shaker and some martini glasses. There were also other delicious treats like their Choceur White Chocolate Bunny (99p) - this was so tasty and I could hardly believe the tiny price tag!  Aldi have won so many awards over the past few years including the Which? Award for Best Supermarket in 2013 as well as "Grocer of the Year" at the Grocer Gold Awards - it's not difficult to see why and I think I am going to have to make more of an effort to check out the delicious treats and bargains in store for myself!


I think that's it for now, no doubt I've forgotten something! Will be back soon with another Friday Foody! 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Things to do with children over the Easter break


If you're like me, and you're facing two weeks at home with the children over the Easter holidays then it can be a good idea to have a list of ideas of things to do to break the boredom. We've always go a well stocked baking cupboard and craft cupboard so with a little imagination, there's no reason to be bored and fed up. 

Here's some ideas if you're looking for inspiration.

Make an Easter bonnet. We've just done this for my youngest for school (and let me tell you, it was epic) but my older child didn't get to make one so we've papier-mached a balloon in readiness to let her go crazy and style her own bonnet.  If you want to use papier-mache, plan ahead. You may need more layers than you think and it can take a good few days what with all the drying time required.

Decorate eggs. An oldie but a goody. Check out these interesting ideas for decorating eggs from Readers Digest.

Make learning fun. There are tons of printable resources out there and this is one of the children's favourite activities - I do this for Christmas, Halloween, Easter...whenever I need to occupy the children and there's a relevant seasonal event. Colouring in, word-searches, maths problems...with a good theme, the children find them fun and don't even realise they are learning.  Try Teaching Ideas, Education.com and Woodlands Junior School for starters.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/booleansplit/

Easter egg hunts. Predictable yet but you can do these indoors or outdoors making up fun and clever clues. National Trust properties also run Easter egg hunts in conjunction with Cadburys if you're desperate to get out of the house!

Easter cooking. My children love to cook. Last year we made Hot Cross Buns and they took what felt like the best part of my LIFE to make but you don't have to be that ambitious. Another favourite is just making some simple biscuits, cutting out Easter shapes and letting them go wild with the icing and decorating supplies!

Image credit: Crafts a la mode

Get creative, think outside the box. Fun things that the children might not have seen before. I love the idea of making these chocolate strawberry carrots and will definitely be letting the children have a go at this!

I'm sure you've all got tons of great ideas - leave me a comment if you've got something you want to share!



Title image credit: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Easter_eggs-midiman.jpg