RSS Feed

Big Packed Lunch – NSPCC

I read a scary fact today:

On average two children in every primary school class are suffering from abuse or neglect and they can sometimes wait months or even years before asking for help.

Because of this, the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) set up its ChildLine Schools Service with the aim of educating children to protect themselves from abuse. This scheme sees trained volunteers visit all the primary schools in the UK every two years to educate children on what abuse is, why it’s wrong and where they can get help.

To raise money to continue this amazing educational service, the NSPCC want you to join in with the Big Packed Lunch on Wednesday September 17. Organise a special packed lunch with friends, family, colleagues, school mates or neighbours with everyone bringing something to share. Then donate the amount you may have spent on a boring sandwich to the NSPCC (to make a donation of £5, simply text LUNCH to 70744). All the money raised will help support the ChildLine Schools Service.

It’s a great excuse to get away from your desk or from munching on your own, and it can be as simple or as fancy as you want.

All the information you need including flyers, invitations, lunch ideas and fundraising ideas can be found on the Big Packed Lunch webpage.

To find out what other people are planning and to share your lunch, use the hashtag #BigPackedLunch on social media.

By donating the money you would have spent on lunch, you’ll be helping the NSPCC give children the knowledge to prevent abuse, the confidence to talk about it and the courage to seek help if they ever need it.

bpl-footer-banner_wdi103512

Frozen fruit pops

Frozen fruit pops

Summer has come and gone in the UK. It wasn’t a bad one at all this year, in fact I got a tan during a British summer for the first time! However I’d be lying if I said I was anything but ecstatic that we’re finally away on holiday enjoying a very hot sun on a wonderful beach.

During our summer at home, Nicholas and I got into a regular habit of going to a park a little way from home that’s much bigger than our neighbourhood ones. For warm days its paddling pool was perfect. Our ritual was paddling pool followed by a lie in the sun, moving to the large sand pit followed by all the other playground attractions. Then we’d go find the ice cream man and have a run round the park before coming home.

Of course a British summer wouldn’t be a British summer without some rain, and not just a summer shower but days of torrential rain! (I wrote my cheeky views of the summer in the UK here.)  When we couldn’t go outside and enjoy an ice lolly, we’d improvise a picnic inside and eat frozen fruit pops to make the day sunnier.

There really is nothing simpler than frozen fruit pops. Well you could just throw some fruit pieces into the freezer, but then you’d be missing the fun aspect of the stick. Why does putting food on a stick much it so much better?!?

You need plastic cake pop sticks or wooden ice lolly sticks. Don’t use wooden skewers as these can be dangerous for little ones and they’re not as easy to hold on to.

Next chop up some fruit into bite-sized pieces. We used strawberries and grapes. You can also use banana, watermelon (cut in chunks or balls), raspberries, blueberries and mango.

Thread your fruit onto the sticks, put on a freezer-proof plate or tray and put into the freezer for at least 2 hours. Once they’re frozen you can keep them all together in a freezer bag.

A healthy fun treat for summer days, or when you’re wishing for the return of summer days.

What were your favourite things to do together this summer?

Ozeri Elite Chef Ceramic 3-Piece Knife Set Review and Giveaway

Elite Chef ceramic knife set by OzeriI was very happy to get the chance to review another Ozeri kitchen product as I’m still in love with my Ozeri frying pan. I was also very curious to try ceramic bladed knives for the first time.

The set of three knives are beautifully packaged in a stylish black box, which make them perfect to give as a gift. Inside the knives are nestled in foam to protect their ceramic blades.
Foam packaging for Ozeri Elite Chef ceramic knife set

The 100% ceramic blades are light and ultra-sharp, and keep their razor-sharpness ten times longer than the more common steel blades. They also won’t corrode or rust.

The ergonomic handles are rubberised making them extremely comfortable to use and you feel you have a solid grip.

review and giveawayThe three sizes are pretty much all you need. There is a 3″ paring knife perfect for slicing and cutting fruit, a 5″ slicing knife for your medium cutting jobs such as vegetables, and a 6″ chef knife for easily gliding through larger vegetables and boneless meats.

I’ve been using all three knives for a month now and am very happy with them. They cut with ease and glide through everything I’ve thrown at them. They’re lightweight while also feeling top quality in your hand. I’m very happy with my first experience of ceramic blades.
Back of packaging for Ozeri's Elite Chef ceramic knife set

You need to wash them by hand, because the ceramic blades are more fragile than steel ones, and so there’s the possibility of them chipping. In our house we don’t put good knives in the dishwasher anyway in order to keep blades sharp so this isn’t an issue, but I do have one disappointment related to the blades.

Having to take extra care with the ceramic blades, it would have been great to have individual covers to protect the blades. My other favourite set of knives have them and it would mean I could keep my Ozeri knives in my cutlery drawer with their blades safe rather than storing them in the original packaging, which takes up a lot more space. But this is just one little gripe.

Overall the Elite Chef ceramic knives are elegant, lightweight and top quality, exactly what you’d expect from Ozeri. As a set of three the RRP of £59.99 is reasonable (they’re currently £49.99 on Amazon).

However, I’m  very happy that one of you will get to try out these ceramic knives for her or himself! I have one set to give away from the lovely people at Ozeri to one of my lovely readers (just those in the UK, sorry).

All you need to do is leave a comment on this blog post telling me why you’d love to have your own set of ceramic knives.

Leave your comment before 9pm (GMT) on Tuesday 9 September 2014. Please make sure you leave a way for me to contact you such as a blog link or email address. Remember you need to live in the UK.

I’ll pick the winner at random on Wednesday 10 September 2014. If I’m unable to contact the winner within a week, I’ll pick someone else.

Good luck!

Disclosure: I was sent the Ozeri Elite Chef ceramic 3-piece knife set to review. My opinions are honest and my own.

Aussie saltbush damper

This week’s Great British Bake Off was all about bread, something I have a love/hate relationship with when it comes to baking it.

I used to love baking bread and wasn’t too bad at it, then came a period where it never seemed to go right. The only bread I tend to make at the moment are these bread rolls which are super easy and very slightly adapted from my friend Barbara’s recipe. If you’re at all interested in baking bread you must check our her wonderful blog all about bread and things that accompany it.

I tried to face my bread demons with an attempt at baking an amazingly pink beetroot bread. What I learnt was I must always check the type of yeast I’m using and how it’s meant to be activated! My bread was a fabulous colour but didn’t rise properly and so didn’t cook properly.
My beetroot bread failure

I wasn’t sure I’d manage to try some more bread as we’re going on holidays at the weekend, so there’s the usual pre-holiday panic of packing and getting on top of work. But when I was putting away the Aussie herbs and spices hubby brought back from a business trip quite a while ago, the jar of saltbush caught my eye, in particular when I read the label explaining its use in damper.

Damper is a traditional Australian bread, typically baked in the coals of a campfire and gets its name because the fire is damped to then cook the bread amongst the hot coals. Damper can also be wrapped around a stick and cooked over a fire.

Originally made by stockman who might be in the outback for weeks or months with only basic provisions, it consisted simply of flour and water without any raising agent. Now people tend to use self-raising flour or add baking powder, as well as add butter and milk to the dough.

Saltbush is a very hardy long-living shrub that doesn’t mind droughts and is very common in the dry inland of Australia. As its name suggests, its dried leaves have a salty ‘herby’ taste which were used in the past along with the ground roasted seeds by indigenous Australians mainly to flavour damper.

I decided to do a dairy-free take on a modern damper recipe using the saltbush for an authentic outback flavour.

dairy-free

AUSSIE SALTBUSH DAMPER

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30-35 mins
Makes 8 servings

250g plain self-raising flour
200g wholemeal self-raising flour
2 tsp saltbush
1 tsp salt
100ml oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
300ml cold water
1/4 tsp saltbush, extra

Heat the oven to 200C and line an oven tray with baking paper.

In a food processor, combine the plain and wholemeal flours, saltbush, salt and oil until the oil is fairly evenly distributed.

With the motor running, pour in the water a little at a time until the dough has just come together in a ball (you might not need all the water).

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and very briefly knead (about 1 minute) then form into a round shape.

Place the dough onto your prepared tray. Dip a sharp knife into flour and score the top in a star pattern to create 8 wedges. Sprinkle the extra saltbush over the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden and when you tap the bottom it sounds hollow.

Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes.

Best eaten warm as a large chunk in your hand, with lashings of butter and perhaps some good cheese or a bowl of soup on the side.
dairy-free damper bread

Variations:

  • omit the saltbush (difficult to get outside Australia) and replace with chopped fresh rosemary
  • sprinkle with Parmesan before baking
  • add chunks of cheese to the dough when kneading for a cheesy damper
  • use beer instead of the water to get a yeasty flavour
  • use your hands instead of the food processor to mix the dough (great for little ones to get involved)

Please share some of your easy/foolproof bread recipes so I can beat my bread demon!

I’m joining in with the Great Bloggers Bake Off. Visit Mummy Mishaps to see some more successful attempts than mine at leavened bread!
gbbo-badgesmallI’m also linking up to Supergolden Bake’s #CookBlogShare party.
cookblogshare

Cheesy spinach crackers

Week two of the Great British Bake Off was all about biscuits and this was the perfect excuse for me to revisit making savoury crackers.
the crackers say it all!

I don’t make these Wholemeal Wheat Thins nearly enough, especially when we’re all big cracker fans, and since I first made them I’ve wanted to try adapting the recipe to use olive oil instead of butter to be a bit healthier.

I’ve made these crackers using both fresh and frozen spinach with the same great result. If you’re using frozen spinach, run it under cold water for a minute or two to defrost and then squeeze as much liquid out as you can before putting it into your food processor.

The preparation is super quick and easy – just throw everything into your food processor! What will take up most of your preparation time is rolling and cutting.

cheesy spinach crackersThe secret to getting a lovely crisp cracker is to roll out the dough as thinly as possible (2-3mm is ideal).

Nicholas and I had lots of fun cutting out different shapes – small letters, circles and wavy rectangles. Small fiddly shapes can be time-consuming (although kids will love them), but even cutting random straight lines across the dough will give you some fun shapes.

If you get sick of rolling and cutting, the dough freezes very well!
cheesy spinach crackers

CHEESY SPINACH CRACKERS

Prep time: 15-20 mins
Cook time: 5-10 mins (depending on the size of the crackers)
Makes about 120 Ritz-size crackers
Store in an airtight container for up to a week

100g spinach
200g grated cheddar
150g wholemeal plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
60ml extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oven to 200C and line an oven tray with baking paper.

Put the spinach into a food processor and blend until evenly broken up.

Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until the mixture comes together into a ball.

Take the dough out of the processor and divide it in half. Roll out one half of the dough as thinly as you can (I put the dough between two pieces of cling film to avoid it sticking to the bench or rolling pin, which saves on cleaning up time!). The thinner you can roll it, the crisper your thins will be.

Cut out shapes using a cookie cutters or a pastry wheel.

Place the shapes close together on your prepared tray and use a skewer or toothpick to poke some holes into each one to stop them puffing up.

Bake for 7 – 10 mins until golden brown and crisp (keep a close eye on them as they cook quickly).

Variations:

  • use white plain flour for a lighter textured cracker
  • omit the cheese for a dairy-free cracker
  • add onion or garlic powder to the mixture
  • add some dried herbs such as thyme, sage or rosemary to the mixture

Tip: if your stored crackers start getting soft, pop them back into the oven to crisp up for a couple of minutes.

To join in the Great Bloggers Bake Off or to see the other baking efforts, visit Mummy Mishaps.
gbbo-badgesmall

I’m also linking up to Supergolden Bake’s #CookBlogShare party.
cookblogshare

 

Review: Nurture drinks by Mune Health

I’m a mummy who’s never been overly concerned about keeping the environment completely sterile for little ones, instead believing that exploring the world with some freedom can help build up a child’s protective antibodies. And whether it’s this or simply luck, we’ve been very lucky that Nicholas is a very healthy boy.

Since he’s been going to pre-school every day though, he regularly catches colds. Nothing serious, but then we all tend to catch them off each other!

With the lovely sunny days coming to an abrupt end and the new school year quickly approaching, something that could naturally boost Nicholas’ immunity against germs and infections would be great for all of us.

Nurture is a new juice drink for children that does just that – a fruity water drink (50% pure fruit juice and 50% water) with no added sugars, sweeteners or preservatives, and with added vitamins. It’s like a multi-vitamin in a drink.
Mune Health

The company behind Nurture, I MUNE, was founded by husband and wife Lucie and Derek Sanders, who came up with the idea for the drink after unsuccessfully searching for products to strengthen their children’s immunity.

In each pouch of Nurture you’ll find 100% of the optimum daily amounts of key ingredients for a 2-5 year old child:

  • Wellmune WGP 100% natural beta glucan (which comes from baker’s yeast), which has been clinically proven to strengthen key immune cells that help keep the body healthy (read more about it here);
  • Vitamins B6, B9, B12, C, D, and zinc, which contribute to the normal function of the immune system;
  • Calcium and Vitamin D, which are needed for normal growth and development of bones in children.

I Mune Nurture fruity water pouchAvailable in two flavours (strawberry and cherry, and orange and pineapple), it comes in a 200ml spill-proof pouch that can be closed and reopened making it perfect for throwing in a bag for when you’re out and about. The spill-proof spout which has to be pressed down as you drink (not as complicated as it sounds) means munchkins who like to squeeze their pouches aren’t able to make a mess. You can definitely tell parents came up with this product!
Nicholas trying Nurture orange and pineapple juicy water

But what did my juice-loving taste-tester think? After being told they were for him, Nicholas had opened a box before I got a chance to take any photos. He drank his first pouch very quickly (almost in one go) then asked for another, telling me ‘It’s very yummy juice, mummy!’ Nothing for me to add, except that the next day I sneakily had a taste and I can confirm it is very yummy.

Nurture is a brilliant idea whether you just want to give your child a healthier juice drink or also want to give their immunity a boost. It definitely has to be the easiest way to give your little one the equivalent of a multi-vitamin tailored to their specific needs. Now if only they would come up with one for adults…
Nicholas finishing his yummy Nurture fruity water

You can buy Nurture in multipacks of 4 pouches at Tesco (RRP £2.99) and, if you’re quick, you can get a £1 off voucher if you visit the Mune Health site.

Disclosure: we received two multipacks of Nurture for the purpose of this review. Our opinions are honest and our own.

Lemon Myrtle Swiss Roll

The Great British Bake Off is back on which makes me very happy, and this year I wanted to do something I didn’t get round to last year – join in the Great Bloggers’ Bake Off run by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps.

The idea is to bake something inspired by the challenges on that week’s show, whether copying a recipe done or coming up with something yourself. This week was Swiss rolls, Mary Berry’s cherry cake and miniature British classics.

As soon as I saw some of the contestants making coloured patterned Swiss rolls, I knew that’s what I wanted to try!

I’ve seen some of my favourite foodie bloggers making the cutest Swiss rolls using silicon templates like these:
cute Swiss roll silicon sheetsAnd what Minion fan wouldn’t love to eat these?!?
minnion-cake-rolls-cupcakepedia

Absolutely amazing, but I didn’t want to be overly ambitious as each separate colour you use adds to the preparation time (and my piping skills leave a lot to be desired!). You do the pattern first, one colour at at time, either freezing the batter, or cooking it for a very short time, to set it in place and stop it bleeding into the rest of the roll. You then pour the rest of the batter over the top and cook the whole sponge.

Patterned Swiss roll decided, but what about the flavour? I wanted to do something a bit different. When I saw my lovely blogger friend Blue’s creation inspired by her childhood memory of an Aussie honey roll with the twist of lavender, I remembered the Australian herbs and spices my wonderful hubby brought back from a work trip to Melbourne. Powdered lemon myrtle was the first one I pulled out and my decision was made.

You can learn more about lemon myrtle here and I’ve found it to buy in the UK here. It has the most amazingly strong lemon aroma and you really get the sense of it being a wild bush plant when you taste it in something. However, you can substitute it with lemongrass powder or lemon verbena for a similar more earthy lemon flavour.

I used my husband’s Swiss roll recipe converting his very easy to remember ‘3-3-3′ formula (3 dessert spoons of plain flour, 3 dessert spoons of sugar and 3 eggs) to grams. His Swiss rolls always turn out wonderfully light using just the whisked egg whites to make it fluffy; unfortunately mine didn’t. Whisking the egg whites a bit to make the batter for the pattern, waiting for that to freeze and then whisking the whites again to fold into the main batter didn’t work that well (and hubby wasn’t impressed!). Next time I do a patterned Swiss roll I’ll use self-raising flour to produce a more stable batter.

Great British Bake Off

LEMON MYRTLE SWISS ROLL

Prep time: 30 mins plus 15 mins freezer time to set your pattern
Cook time: 8-10 mins
Makes one roll

3 eggs
50g caster sugar
50g plain flour
1 tsp ground lemon myrtle
small amount of green food colouring gel

For the cream filling:
200ml double (or whipping) cream
1 tsp ground lemon myrtle
2 tsp caster sugar

Draw your leaf pattern on a piece of paper slightly smaller than your baking tray. Place it on your tray and cover with a piece of baking paper. (If the baking paper doesn’t stay flat, dab a little butter on the tray around your paper pattern and use it to stick the baking paper in place.)

Separate the eggs putting the yolks into a medium-sized mixing bowl and the whites into a bowl big enough to beat them (a metal one is supposedly better for beating egg whites).

Add the 50g of caster sugar to the egg yolks and beat by hand with a whisk until it’s turned a paler colour. Keep beating and add the flour a spoonful at a time and then the lemon myrtle.

Put 2 tablespoons of the egg and flour mix in a small bowl and add a very small amount of food colouring gel to get your required shade.

Using an electric beater, whisk the eggs whites until soft peaks have just started to form.

Add 2 tablespoons of the whisked egg whites to the sponge batter you put in the smaller bowl and mix together (you don’t need to worry about the whites collapsing). Keep adding egg white until you have a fairly runny mixture similar to the consistency of single cream.

Put in a small clean resealable bag and squeeze the mixture to a bottom corner. Snip the corner off (it needs to be very small!) and pipe your design onto your prepared tray using your pattern as a guide.
My template and my simpler piped leaves

Put your tray into the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 175C.

Just before you take your tray out of the freezer, whip your remaining egg whites a little bit more until you just have firm peaks. Add about a third of the egg whites to the remaining sponge batter and thoroughly mix.

Take your tray out of the freezer.

Gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the sponge batter and pour the batter into your tray using a spatula to very gently cover your design without smudging it.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden brown.

Keeping the sponge on the baking paper, roll it up tightly while it’s still warm and leave to cool.
lemon myrtle

To make the cream filling, whip the double cream, lemon myrtle and sugar until stiff.

When the sponge has cooled, gently unwrap it and peel off the baking paper.

Trim the sides and spread the cream over the sponge (putting slightly more at the end you’ll start rolling it up and slightly less at the other).

Roll up the sponge as tightly as you can and trim the end just before you finish rolling. Chill in the fridge to firm up for at least an hour.

Great British Bake Off

What pattern would you try on a Swiss roll? Something for a birthday or Christmas perhaps?

To join in the Great Bloggers Bake Off or to see the other baking efforts, visit Mummy Mishaps.

gbbo-badgesmallI’m also linking up with Supergolden Bake’s #CookBlogShare party.

cookblogshare

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 119 other followers