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New year, new…

I’m terribly late wishing you a Happy New Year, it’s already February!

I’ve been away from the blogasphere for over two months due to a few things all happening at once which have taken my energy and attention elsewhere, completely draining me at times. Just focusing on the good stuff, something we’ve been trying to make happen for a long time finally did happen – once again we’re homeowners!

Definitely the best thing that’s occupied me for the last few months has been moving into our new home. A wonderfully light and warm house that’s also very English-looking I think, don’t you agree?

And it even has a name - Minstrel Cottage.

And it even has a name – Minstrel Cottage

Before we moved, Nicholas decided on some house rules, all by himself, the main ones being

  • No shouting
  • No anger
  • Everyone be happy

I’m so looking forward to filling our new home with love and laughter as well as gorgeous things. But in the meantime I’m project managing the long list of work we’re getting done, as well as being the designated door opener for the daily deliveries of building supplies!

Thanks, dear readers, for hanging in there, and I really appreciated the messages checking up on me from some of you. My next post will definitely be food-related :)

Very happily decorating our outside Christmas tree

Very happily decorating our outside Christmas tree

Our very first attempt at cooking a turkey for our very English Christmas in our new home

Our very first attempt at cooking a turkey for our very English Christmas in our new home

Surrounded by unpacked boxes, Christmas 2014 spent with friends and family couldn't have been more perfect

Surrounded by unpacked boxes, Christmas 2014 spent with friends and family couldn’t have been more perfect

Greek Chicken Tava

Christmas is fast approaching and I’m super excited that family and friends are coming to us this year. I LOVE Christmas, but have never had the chance to organise it myself.

Of course having family to stay means also feeding them before and after Christmas day, so I’ve been researching, making lists and trying out recipes that easily feed a large number of people. There’s going to be 9 of us to feed for two weeks!

Honest Mum

The gorgeous Honest Mum’s Greek Chicken Tava (actually her mum’s recipe) ticks all the boxes. Quick to prepare, everything thrown into one baking dish (less washing up) and roasted in the oven so you can forget about it while it cooks and get on with other things. And on top of that, it’s delicious, warming and filling, and also easily doubled (or tripled!). The perfect easy (and healthy) family meal.

I also love that you can add pretty much any vegetables you have on hand. Vicki’s mum uses onions, potatoes, courgettes/zucchini, carrots and tomatoes. I’ve made this several times now and also tried peppers/capsicum, parsnip and beetroot. Basically any vegetable that’s yummy roasted is fine to add.

Vicki’s mum uses slices of large fresh tomatoes. I tend to throw in small vine tomatoes (still on the vine) as I love their pops of freshness when you eat them. I also tend to leave out the chilli simply because Nicholas can love spice one day and hate it the next, and it’s still really tasty without it. I also use dried oregano instead of fresh.

A brilliant dish whether you have a large family to feed or just deserve some more time to yourself instead of slaving over the stove!

Greek Chicken Tava

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 50 mins
Serves 4

750g new or Maris Piper potatoes, unpeeled, chopped into small pieces
8 medium chicken thighs, on the bone and skin on
2 onions, quartered
2 courgettes, sliced
2 carrots, chopped
2 large tomatoes and/or 400g can diced tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small fresh red chilli, chopped
40ml (2 tbsp) olive oil
40ml red wine (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or dried)
flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C

In a large baking dish or tray, add the potatoes, chicken, onion and vegetables, tomatoes, garlic and chilli. Drizzle with the olive oil and add the wine (if using). Season and sprinkle with cumin and oregano.

Bake for 50 minutes, checking on the chicken and turning if necessary.

Serve with a sprinkling of parsley.

Review: Culture Vulture measuring spoons

When I have to rustle up meals for my family I don’t worry very much about precise measures or amounts. My day-to-day style of cooking is definitely ‘it’ll be fine’ or ‘I think this is what I did last time’. But then I get into trouble.

If it turns out well and I want to share it with you, my lovely readers, I can’t say ‘just add a smidgen of this and a dash of that, oh and don’t forget a pinch of salt’.

Well actually now I can! The lovely people at Culture Vulture have found exactly what I need, measuring spoons that can measure a smidgen, a pinch and a dash.

image_3Based in rural Cumbria, Culture Vulture are experts in sourcing unusual home furnishings and gifts, celebrating the creativity of artisans from around the world, from kitchen and dining ware to furniture and home accessories, from clothing and jewellery to food . In their online catalogue you can find the most wonderful gifts for foodies, including ceramic pots of Mediterranean sea salt, fig flavour pearls, Calabrian liquorice jellies, French Kir syrups and even a cheese-making kit.

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The smidgen measuring spoons would make a great stocking filler for the foodie in your life. While they’re a fun gift, being silver-plated they feel high quality in your hand. They come tied together on a leather cord with a cute floral hook to hang them on your wall.

It’s a shame that the attention to detail and cuteness doesn’t extend to the packaging which is quite plain, especially for an item that would mostly be bought as a gift. However, these are by far the cuteness kitchen accessory I’ve seen in a long while.

Culture Vulture Smidgen Measuring Spoons

Now if only I could get all of you to buy them…

Have you decided what you’re buying the foodies in your life for Christmas?

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with Culture Vulture. My opinions are honest and my own.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2014

Pirate Pucco

Ahoy me hearties!

Yo ho ho and shiver me timbers, today be t’ best day o’ t’ year. Arr, aye, today be ‘International Talk Like a Pirate’ Day!

T’ celebrate I made Captain Nicholas a swashbuckling lunch with an extra surprise for snack time. Aye, dressin’ up like a pirate be one o’ his favourite things t’ do, so he was happy with his booty. Later he told he especially loved the jolly roger flag.

pirate lunch

pirate apple - aarrr!

The pirate schooner and sail are cut from a ham, cheese and spinach sandwich with a cheese mast on a sea of lettuce. I drew a jolly roger and the portholes with edible ink pens, and added a side of cherry tomatoes.

I precut the apple to make it easier for Nicholas to eat and put the pieces back together held with a rubber band to stop the pieces going brown. I then drew on the pirate face with an edible ink.

Batten down t’ hatches and happy Pirate Day to ye!

Eats-Amazing-Fun-Food-Friday

I’m linking our pirate lunch up to Eats Amazing’s Fun Food Friday, a weekly round-up of fun and creative food.

 

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.

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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.

COMPETITION NOW CLOSED

Update 10/09/14 – And the winner is…

Ozeri Knife Competition Result

Congratulations Gillian! I’ve emailed you.

Thanks so much to everyone who entered x

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