Friday, 30 September 2011

Child-Friendly Vegetarian Enchiladas

I was wondering what to cook for dinner the other night, so I had a delve in the freezer and pulled out a pack of wraps and some home made tomato sauce. I had various vegetables to use up in the fridge and plenty of store-cupboard ingredients, so I decided upon making vegetarian enchiladas.

These enchiladas have a mild child-friendly, baked-bean chilli filling. You could, of course add some extra chopped jalapenos if you want to spice things up! You can use the same mixture to fill burritos, top jacket potatoes, or to stuff peppers with.
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 carrots/1 small sweet potato/1 courgette/zucchini, grated
  • 6-8 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small tin of sweetcorn or 150g frozen sweetcorn
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tin of baked beans (or mixed beans in mild chilli sauce)
  • 2 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 6 tortilla wraps
  • 1 portion of tomato & chilli pasta sauce
  • 100g/4oz grated cheese or vegan cheese
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan.
Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the herbs and spices, the mushrooms, pepper and carrots/sweet potato/courgette and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until softened slightly.
Stir in the tomato puree, garlic, sweetcorn and baked beans.
Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour about ¼ of the tomato sauce into the bottom of an oven proof dish.
Divide the chilli mixture between the wraps. Roll them up and place (seam side down) in a row in the dish.
Pour the remaining sauce over the wraps and top with the grated cheese.
Cook for 20-30 minutes at 160C/150C Fan/Gas 3.

Serve with a green salad, soured cream/guacamole/salsa etc.

Alternative: Use frozen mixed vegetables and a jar of ready-made pasta sauce for an even speedier dinner.

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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Tweet and Eat with Innocent

I'm a bag fan of Innocent's fruity smoothies and juices, especially as they're a great way of getting some extra 5-a-days into my kids during the autumn and winter, when their favourite soft fruits become really expensive.

I didn't realise that Innocent had expanded their range to include
veg pots though. Veg pots are all vegetarian (and most are vegan too) and contain "3 portions of veg, wholegrains, or pulses and tasty sauce, with herbs and spices..." so they sound ideal for a quick lunch at work.

The good news is that Innocent are giving away loads of discounts and offers for veg pots over the next few weeks, in an original and interactive way called tweet and eat; The clue's in the name...the more people that tweet #tweetandeat, the cheaper you eat! As the number of people who tweet increases, the discounts will too - so you might be able to buy veg pots for a pound, half price, or even completely free.

Collective buying power is where it’s at. So get all of your friends, family and followers tweeting loudly to push up the Tweet-O-Meter and get more discounts.


My family and I tried two Innocent veg pot varieties: Mexican sweet potato chilli and Thai curry. My children shared most of the chilli, as a filling for wraps. It was mild but tasty with nice bite-sized chunks of vegetables and lots of different beans. They really enjoyed it and said they'd happily eat it again. Mr Ony and I shared the Thai curry with some extra rice. . It was packed full of pulses and vegetables and had a really nice texture. It was strongly flavoured with lemon grass and other Thai spices, which we love...but it might be a bit over-powering for those who prefer milder flavours.

The pots are a generous size for one person, and would make a healthy filling lunch or dinner. I particularly liked the idea on the packet, they they would make good camping meals.

I wouldn't pay full price for the pots, as I think they're a bit expensive, but would happily buy them if they were reduced or using the half price #tweetandeat vouchers.

Integrity Statement
I received 5 veg pot vouchers. I used 2 for this review and will be giving the other 3 away soon.  

Image courtesy of Innocent.
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Apple Upside-Down Cake

Apple Upside-Down Cake
This is a recipe that I adapted from an old pineapple upside-down cake recipe, as I had some apples on my tree that needed using up - I think it would also work well using other fruits such as plums, pears, apricots and pineapple of course!
  • 50g/2oz butter or dairy-free spread
  • 50g/2oz soft brown sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
Cream the above ingredients together and spread over the bottom of a greased 18cm/7" round sandwich cake tin.
  • 3-4 eating apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
  • 75g/3oz butter/dairy-free spread
  • 75g/3oz caster sugar
  • 100g/4oz SR flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg or equivalent egg-replacer
  • 1 tbsp water
Top the butter and sugar mixture in the tin with a generous layer of sliced apples.
Cream the remaining butter and sugar together for the cake mixture.
Add the egg, water, baking powder and flour and mix to a smooth (but quite thick) batter/mixture.
Spoon into the tin and spread over the apples.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C/170C Fan/Gas 4 for around 30 minutes or until the sponge is golden brown and firm to the touch.
Turn out and serve warm.

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Thursday, 22 September 2011

Chocolate Tiffin (Vegan)

slices of chocolate covered vegan tiffin
My kids love chocolate tiffin (biscuit cake/refrigerator cake) and are old enough to make this on their own now. I decided to earn some good mum points today though and made some on my afternoon off work, so they would be ready to eat as an after dinner treat. 
  • 200g/8oz crushed vegan digestive biscuits (Graham crackers)
  • 100g/4oz dairy-free spread (not reduced/low fat)
  • 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or your choice of coffee, peppermint, orange extract etc)
  • 100g/4oz chopped dried fruit (I used raisins, glace cherries and apricots)
  • 100g/4oz dairy-free chocolate, melted.
Crush the biscuits in a plastic bag, using a rolling pin, or use a food processor.
Put the spread, sugar, cocoa, and syrup in a bowl and melt on a low setting in the microwave. Stir well.
Add the flavouring, dried fruits and crushed biscuits.
Mix until all the biscuit crumbs are coated.
Pour into a greased square baking tin and press down well with the back of a spoon.

Melt the chocolate on a low setting in the microwave.
Pour over the biscuit base and spread, with the back of a spoon, to cover.
Chill in the fridge.
Cut into squares when cold.

Keeps for up to a week in an airtight container.

Not suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: you can really use any plain biscuits in this recipe such as rich tea, shortbread, Nice etc. or use a combination if you wish. 
Swap the dried fruits for chopped nuts or seeds, if preferred.
Gluten-free option: swap the biscuits for a gluten-free variety.

Top Tip: This is a good recipe to use up left over Christmas or Easter chocolate.

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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Will you join Save The Children's health worker campaign?

Image courtesy of Save the Children
In the west, we take it for granted that we'll have caring, professional and qualified health workers available to monitor us during pregnancy, to deliver our babies safely and to provide health care, advice and medication when our children fall sick. In fact, we see it as a right.
My children were both delivered safely at home by 2 fabulous midwives who never questioned my belief that home birth was the best option for me and my babies.
When my children have been unwell, I've been able to take them to the local health centre or hospital where I knew they'd receive the care and medication they needed.

Unfortunately, not all women are that lucky...

"Doctors, nurses and midwives are vital to saving children’s lives. But there's a massive shortfall of health workers in the world’s poorest countries.  As ever, the poorest and most vulnerable are hardest hit. Half of the 8 million children who die each year are in Africa, yet Africa has only 3% of the world’s doctors, nurses and midwives."

On Tuesday, fellow blogger Chris Mosler from Thinly Spread and digital media consultant Liz Scarff will attend the UN General Assembly in New York (on behalf of Save the Children), where they hope to persuade David Cameron to take the lead in tackling the health worker crisis. There is a target of 60,000 signatures on the petition by Tuesday. At the moment, almost 42,000 have signed the petition - a shortfall of 18,000. 

Your help is urgently needed to meet that target before Tuesday. Let's do our best to make sure that Chris and Liz go on Tuesday, armed with 60,000 signatures.

What do you need to do?
  1.  Firstly, sign the petition.
  2. Then publicise the campaign to make sure everyone knows about it! Get tweeting @ChristineMosler #healthworkers, facebooking, texting...whatever you can do to help spread the word. 
  3. If you blog, please think about joining in the blog hop below (the aim is to get 100 bloggers to write a 100 words about how accessible health workers are to them or about great health worker they have encountered*) 
It's not difficult and it won't cost you anything, so let's work together to make a difference.

Thanks to Michelle (Mummy From The Heart) and Gemma (Hello It's Gemma) for setting up the linky.

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Friday, 16 September 2011

Mini Spinach and Feta Pies (Easy Spanakopita)

My family loves Greek food (and Greek holidays) so I'm always on the look out for new Greek vegetarian recipes to try out. When I saw a recipe for halloumi cheese pie on Eftychia's Dream of Cakes blog, I was intrigued, as this was a recipe I hadn't heard of before.

I decided to try it out as part of a meze, which also included spinach and feta pies (see below), falafels, hummus, tzatziki and salad. I halved the recipe, and made it without the pastry case to make small individual  pies. I also swapped the mint for a combination of parsley and dill, as my children aren't keen on the taste of mint. Unfortunately the mini pies stuck to the greased muffin tin, so next time I'll make them with pastry, like the original recipe states. They tasted great though and went down really well with my halloumi-loving family.

This spinach and cheese pie recipe isn't wholly authentic, but it's my own quick-to-make adaptation of spanakopita.
  • 1 pack puff pastry/shortcrust pastry (or make your own)
  • 200g feta cheese
  • 150g fresh spinach, washed
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml Greek yogurt
  • black pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp dried oregano (or use fresh chopped parsley/dill)
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Roll out the pastry.
Cut circles out of the pastry (using a cookie/pastry cutter) and pop them into a greased muffin tin - press pastry down into the bottom of the tin.
Put the spinach in a bowl, cover with cling film and microwave for 2 minutes on high.
Allow to cool for a few minutes, drain off the excess water and squeeze out the remaining water (wrap in a few layers of kitchen towel and squeeze with your hands), so it's as dry as possible.
Chop the spinach.
Mash the feta in another bowl, stir in the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Spoon the mixture into each of the pastry cases, filling almost to the top.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C/190C Fan/Gas 6 for around 15-20 minutes, or until the pies are golden brown.
Serve warm or cold.

Recipe ShedSuitable for freezing.

Cut out 4-5 layers of filo pastry, brushed with butter for more traditional pies.
Make one large pie if preferred and cook for an extra 10 minutes.

Recommended cookbooks
The Greek Vegetarian
Greek Vegetarian Cooking

This week's recipe shed linky is on a vegetarian theme, so be sure to check out all the other lovely recipes on Reluctant Housedad's blog.
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Monday, 12 September 2011

Easy (Bread Machine) Mini Chocolate Brioches

My daughters love chocolate chip brioches at the moment, but as these are quite expensive to buy, I thought I'd have a go at making them myself. I found various traditional brioche recipes, but they looked a bit of a faff, as you're supposed to fold in extra butter after proving the dough (like you do when making croissants or flaky pastry). I decided to have a go at bunging everything in the bread machine to see what would happen...

I was quite pleased with the results as I managed to produce lovely fluffy brioches with less fat and sugar than found in most traditional recipes.
  • 8oz/200g strong plain bread flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • milk
  • 2 oz/50g butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2-4oz/50-100g chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 sachet fast action dried yeast
  • ½ tsp salt
Crack the eggs into a measuring jug/cup. Top up to the 5fl oz/150ml mark with milk.
Add all of the ingredients, except the chocolate chips to the bread maker pan.
Set on the dough setting and leave to run.
When it has finished proving, knock the dough back by briefly starting the dough setting again. Add the chocolate chips.
Stop the bread machine once the chocolate chips have been mixed in.
Cut the dough into 10-12 small pieces (it will be sticky, but don't add any extra flour.)
Roll into balls and pop each ball into a section of a well greased muffin tin.
Cover loosely with clingfilm and allow to rise for a further 60 minutes.
Brush with milk.
Bake at 200C/190C Fan/Gas 6 for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes, before loosening with a knife and turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully. 

Suitable for freezing.

Alternative: Add raisins or other dried fruit instead of the chocolate chips, for a slightly healthier version.

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Friday, 9 September 2011

It's the very first Fish Free Friday

Fish Free FridayFish Free Friday We all know about Meat Free Mondays, but have you heard of Fish Free Fridays? It's the new campaign by the Vegetarian Society, which hopes to raise awareness of the fact that vegetarians don't eat fish (no, not even fishfingers!) and that the current commercial fishing industry is not sustainable.

If you want to join in and spread the word, visit the Vegetarian Society website
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Thursday, 8 September 2011

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Goats Cheese Pasta Bake

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Goats Cheese Pasta Bake
This vegetarian pasta bake makes a good family meal, and as it includes lots of sweet-tasting veggies in bite-sized pieces, it's great for toddlers and young children.

I adapted this recipe from Good to Know, but as I don't use ready-made pasta sauces and rarely use pre-prepared fresh vegetables I reduced the cost of the ingredients considerably. I thought I'd work out the difference in price to show how much money you can save...Good to Know recipe using bought pasta sauce and prepared vegetables: £5.60;  My recipe using home made pasta sauce and peel-them-yourself vegetables £3.40
  • 500g combined weight of peeled and diced butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots,  red bell pepper
  • 250g dried fusilli pasta
  • 100g grated firm goats cheese
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts (optional) 
Roast the vegetables in 1 tbsp olive oil at 190C/180C fan/Gas 5 for 20-30 minutes, until soft. Meanwhile cook the pasta until slightly underdone (8-10 minutes), drain and make the pasta sauce:

Tomato & chilli pasta sauce

  • 1 onion diced finely
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 500ml passata
  • ½ tsp dried or 1 tsp chopped fresh herbs
  • dash of hot chilli sauce or a pinch of cayenne (optional)
Fry the onion in a drop of olive oil for a couple of  minutes, until soft.
Add the tomato puree, herbs and chilli and stir well.
Add the passata, stir and then put the lid on the pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes.   

Combine the pasta, tomato sauce and roasted vegetables and stir well.
Top with grated cheese (and pine nuts, if using) and return to the oven for 10 minutes.

Alternatives: Save even more money by swapping the cheese for budget mozzarella/cheddar or leave it out completely to make a vegan meal.
Omit the chilli if serving to toddlers/young children.

More sweet potato recipes. Pin It

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Cheap and cheerful vegetarian/vegan meals for students

It's back to school this week after a lovely summer holiday... 

My mind has been on university rather than school for some reason, even though my children are still a good few years away from going to college; maybe because I've been reminiscing with old friends and Mr O about the time, many years ago, that we got our 'A' level exam results and started to prepare to go off out into the big wide world. 

Unfortunately I didn't quite get the results I needed to get into my first choice polytechnic university (ahem, slight social-life/study balance issue there!) but after some panic driven phone calls, I secured a place on a decent course at my fifth choice poly uni, managed to find a place in the local halls of residence and was looking forward to the start of my days as a student.

Being a pretty good cook even back in those days, I found I had some bargaining power in the communal kitchen, as I could cook. I wasn't vegetarian then, but was well on my way, so meat-free meals featured strongly, especially as they were cheap to make; I soon found that if I offered to cook, I could spend less money on food (by pooling our food budgets) and get the washing up done by someone else...not a bad trade off eh?

If you want to save money and impress others with your culinary skills, you can find a week's worth of meal ideas on my vegetarian budget/student meal planner, and even more student meals and tips below.  I can't really call some of them recipes but they are all quick and easy to make, use basic ingredients, and will save you money which you can spend on your social life instead (and books, of course!)

Top tips
  • Combine food budgets with one or more friends/room mates.
  • Look out for special offers on tinned, fresh and frozen fruit and veg.
  • Look for reduced products which are near their sell by date.
  • Base meals around cheap carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes), dried or tinned pulses (peas, beans and lentils) and seasonal fruit and veg.
  • Forget about brand-names, even if your mum swears by them!
  • Shop at budget supermarkets or buy own label/budget foods from larger supermarkets.
  • Use up leftovers in another meal, don't throw them away (unless out of date). Most meals can be frozen for a month or kept in the fridge for a couple of days.
  • Follow these guidelines if reheating cooked rice, unless you want a dose of food poisoning! 
  • Use cheap herbs and spices  (e.g. mixed herbs, mild chilli powder, hot chilli sauce and garam masala) to pep up boring meals.
  • Use packet/dried mixes for burgers and sausages and own-brand meat-free products (if you like them).
  • Plan your main meals each week, as that will reduce the amount of food you buy and waste. Try Netmums and Money Saving Expert for more meal planning tips.
  • Be creative!
Quick meals
These quick, cheap and easy meals will all serve 2 hungry students (or one person for two meals.) It might sound strange, but a lot of my camping food ideas would make great student meals too.
  • Pizza  - make up a budget pizza base or plain scone mix. Flatten onto a greased baking tray. Top with tomato puree, mixed herbs, grated cheese and any toppings you have (choose from onion, pepper, mushrooms, tinned pineapple, olives, tinned sweetcorn etc.) Cook at 200C/Gas 6 for 10-15 mins.
  • Pasta or rice with chickpeas in spicy tomato sauce  - Fry 1 small chopped onion in a drop of vegetable oil, add 1 crushed clove garlic, 1 tbsp tomato puree, 1 tin budget chopped tomatoes, ½ tin budget chickpeas, a grated carrot/sliced mushrooms/chopped red pepper, 1 tsp chilli powder or garam masala. Simmer for 15 minutes, meanwhile cook the pasta or rice.
  • Baked bean curry -  Fry 1 small chopped onion in a drop of vegetable oil, add 1 crushed clove garlic and 2 tsp curry powder/paste. Add a tin of economy baked beans and heat through. Serve with boiled rice.
  • Pisto Manchego
  • Lentil spag-bol - Follow recipe but swap the chickpeas for 50g dried red lentils and 100ml water (reduce the amount of water and add a glug of red wine if there's any going!) Swap the chilli powder for 1 tsp mixed herbs. Simmer for around 20 minutes.
  • Make and cook veggie burgers/sausages from a packet mix, serve in budget pittas with budget coleslaw/salad, or serve with mashed potatoes, vegetables and veggie gravy.
  • Root vegetable soup - Fry 1 chopped onion in a drop of oil, add 2 chopped carrots, 1 potato, 1 parsnip and a handful of dried red lentils. Cover with 500-750ml veg stock made with a veg stock cube and boiling water. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Mash or blend, if you don't like chunks in your soup. Serve with bread.
  • Savoury pancakes - Use a budget pancake/batter mix to make pancakes. Fill with roasted veg and grated cheese, veggie chilli, or cheese and baked beans.
  • Baked beans/tinned spaghetti/scrambled eggs/cheese on toast.
  • Potato pancakes - Mix left over mashed potato with 1-2 eggs and 1-2 tbsp plain flour. Fry until golden brown on both sides.
  • Lentil hash - Fry ½ an onion in a drop of oil, with a clove of garlic, 1-2 tsp mild chilli powder and a pinch of mixed herbs. Add a diced carrot/sweet potato, 1 tbsp tomato puree, 50g of dried red lentils and about 200ml water. Cook until soft (about 15 mins), adding more water if needed. Spoon lentil mixture over a pack of economy tortilla chips and top with a handful of grated cheese/vegan cheese. Pop under the grill for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling. 
  • Pasta bake - Cook 150g budget pasta for 8-10 minutes and drain. Meanwhile fry ½ chopped onion in a drop of oil, and add any other veg you have handy (eg: chopped carrot, parsnip, leek, cauliflower), a crushed clove of garlic and a good pinch of dried herbs. Add 100ml of veggie gravy (made with granules) and 100ml of cider to the pan and bring to the boil, while stirring. Simmer for 5-10 minutes (with pan lid on) until the veg are just cooked and the sauce has thickened. Pour the sauce over the pasta, mix and tip into an oven-proof dish. Top with some fresh breadcrumbs and grated cheese/vegan cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 190C/Gas 5.
  • Veggie sausage and baked bean pasta
  • Cheap veggie chilliFry 1 small chopped onion in a drop of vegetable oil, add 1 crushed clove garlic, 1 tsp mild chilli powder, 1 small chopped chilli, 2 tbsp tomato ketchup, 1 tin budget chopped tomatoes, 25g dried red lentils, ½ tin budget kidney beans . Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serve with baked/jacket spuds or boiled rice.
  • Quesadillas - put a tortilla wrap into a frying pan. Add any left over veggie chilli or refried beans and some grated mozzarella/cheddar cheese/vegan cheese. Top with another wrap. Turn over and heat through.
  • Hawaiian Quesadillas 
  • Mexican rice burritos 
  • Hot dogs - Buy budget bread rolls and veggie hot dogs. Fry 1 sliced onion in a little butter or oil, until soft. Cook hot dogs. Serve hot dogs in rolls with the fried onions and a squirt of mustard or ketchup. 
  • Rice and peas
You can find more quick and cheap meal ideas (including veggie curry/chilli, garlic mushrooms, spicy rice, veggie sausage stew, frittata, pesto spaghetti, and noodles with stir-fried vegetables), and a list of basic cooking equipment you might need here. 

Find a basic student shopping list here.

..oh, and just in case you're interested, yes I did get my degree (in both science and socialising!) Pin It

Friday, 2 September 2011

Fab Effex - A fab set for rainy days and long journeys

10 year old Miss Kahonie was feeling bored (well it is week 6 of the school holidays!), so she was thrilled when I showed her the pack of Fab Effex which had just popped through the letterbox. She loves creative activities and fashion (one of her ambitions is to be a fashion designer), so Fab Effex sounded ideal to combine the two.

pack contents
The contents of the box looked a little puny - 3 little bags, which contained 3 cardboard dress up dolls, a pack of pre-cut Fab Effex pieces in various shapes and 2 small sheets of uncut Fab Effex in different designs. Miss Kahonie was initially a little disappointed by the quantity of the contents, but soon got stuck in designing her first outfit.
Just in case you've never seen Fab Effex, this is what the manufacturers say about the product: "Get a fabulous formable fabric experience with Fab Effex! The kits come with lots of patterns, textures and shapes. You can shape it, wrap it, stick it and it holds its shape."
the finished outfits
The product is aimed at children aged 6+ but I think that an average 6 year old would need quite a bit of adult help to manipulate the little pieces and cut out small clothes-shapes from the uncut sheets. The instructions look a little overwhelming as there's lots of text to read Miss Kahonie had a quick look at the pictures and then ditched the instructions and learnt by trial and error. It took her around an hour to design outfits for all three of the dolls and she came up with some lovely ensembles.

Miss Kahonie said "Fax Effex is really creative and fun to do. You can design any outfits you want to and use the pieces again. It's quite hard to cut it to the shapes you want and the handbags are difficult to make though. The instructions looked really complicated, so I didn't use them."
Fab Effex is reusable and portable, so it's ideal for long journeys or to take on holiday for a rainy day activity (it would be useful if it came with a resealable bag to store the pieces). I think it's probably best suited to 8-11 year olds, Extra sheets of Fab Effex are available in refill sets which is a good idea to prolong the life of the product and to extend the play value. There's also an animal set available, so it's not just aimed at girls.

So to the crunch question, would I buy Fab Effex? Yes, I would. At around £9.99, it would make a nice birthday or Christmas present for Miss Kahonie's friends.

Integrity Statement
I received 1 pack of  Fab Effex to review. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

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