Monday, 30 May 2011

Chiquito - Over priced and under spiced!

We used to love an occasional family meal out at Chiquito Mexican Restaurants. They have always provided a good range of vegetarian options for both adults and children alongside a good atmosphere and service with a smile.

Unfortunately a meal out this weekend to celebrate Miss Kahonie's fabulous year 5 test results, was less than impressive (quick proud-parent brag for anyone who understands the UK assessments...she jumped from a 3A to a 5C in literacy...whoohoo!)

It wasn't a good start to the meal, when the usual free (mini) appetiser of tortilla chips and salsa didn't arrive and the member of waiting staff serving us looked stressed and kept apologising for the wait (blaming the kitchen staff.) We had to ask for kids' menus, maybe because we have tweens rather than little ones.

The recent changes to the kids' menu looked great on paper, with even more veggie options than before, and costing only £4.99 for a main meal, pudding and drink. Miss Ony chose the roasted vegetable fajita wrap (the anaemic vegetables weren't roasted - probably microwaved - and were in chunks far too large for the average child to find appealing) and Miss Kahonie went for the veggie bean chilli tacos (which actually looked quite nice).


While the kids enjoyed their meals, Mr O and myself were less than impressed. The menu had plenty of options for me as usual, and I went for the veggie bean chilli enchiladas and Mr O (the only non-veggie amongst us) decided on the Texan chicken melt.

My enchiladas were a poor excuse for Mexican food, or even Tex-Mex. They should have been soft, oozing with filling, and topped with melted cheese - they weren't. I reckon the wraps had been microwaved - they were tough and certainly hadn't been baked with tomato sauce and cheese. In fact, they were topped with a generous estimate of approximately 5g of cheese and they certainly weren't worth £10.

Mr O's £12.99 chicken was rather puny looking and he said it was dry and tasteless. He'd asked for rice with it and it came with chips, so he had to send it back.

It's a shame, as Chiquito used to be one of our favourite restaurant chains, but we certainly won't be planning to re-visit any time soon.

Chiquito - over priced and under spiced in my humble opinion. Pin It

Friday, 27 May 2011

No child born to die

Miss Kahonie, aged 10
Wendy from Inside the Wendy House tagged me in this potentially life-saving meme. It took a while for me to write this post, as it's one that means a lot to me, but here goes...

Maggy at Red Ted Art and Josie at Sleep Is For The Week are currently promoting the Save The Children “No Child Born to Die” Campaign, which was launched earlier this year. Since reading about the campaign, I've found out that 3 amazing fellow bloggers/vloggers (Lindsay Atkin, Chris Mosler and Tracey Cheetham) are all travelling to Mozambique next week, to follow the journey of a vaccine to a rural community. They will be reporting back about their experiences as they meet children and families on their journey. 

I'm supporting this campaign partly as it's such a worthy cause, and partly as my younger daughter, Miss Kahonie contracted meningitis when she was a baby.

I personally find it hard to comprehend why measles and other preventable diseases are on the increase in the UK again. Parents are well aware of the free vaccines available, but they are CHOOSING not to immunise their children.

If only we could have chosen to immunise our daughter against the strain of meningitis she contracted when she was a baby. She would not have had to fight for for her life in hospital. She would not have been studied and discussed by every doctor, nurse and medical student on the ward - whispering to each other and looking concerned, shooting sympathetic glances in our direction. Her tiny veins almost invisible as needles were poked into her for blood test after blood test; Veins nearly too narrow to take a cannula as the life-saving anti-biotics were pumped into her frail body. We wouldn't have had to ask the question every parent dreads and we wouldn't have had to consider how we would cope without her. Thankfully the necessary drugs and medical expertise were available to save her life...but many children around the world are not as lucky as she was.

Miss Ony, aged 12
Now, I know some parents may think the risks of immunisation are too great to consider (due to some pretty dodgy research IMHO), but I'm sure millions of parents around the world, especially those in developing countries, envy the position these people are in. What a luxury to be able to choose whether to immunise and to decide whether vaccination is a risk worth taking or not.

I find it shocking that every year 8 million children under five (around the world), still die from illnesses we know how to treat or prevent, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. That's like the entire population of New York being wiped out every year.

Look at the self-portraits of my 2 beautiful and talented daughters. Would I still have them both if we lived in the developing world?

Want to try to make a difference and raise awareness of this campaign?You can help to by signing the petition before 13th June 2011, to help persuade world leaders bridge the funding gap and save the lives of millions of children.  I have; Will you?
  • Get your child to either draw or craft a self portrait of themselves now or in the future.
  • Sign the Save the Children petition and then pass it onto your friends.
  • Write a blog post about it as soon as possible, including info about Save the Children and the petition.
  • Come back and link up your posts, so we can all share your craftiness.
    If you have time, visit some of the other posts and say hello.
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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Vegetarian week challenge

It's National Vegetarian Week next week - the annual awareness-raising campaign promoting inspirational vegetarian food and the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle; I'm doing my bit to promote the event, by setting you all a foodie challenge (whether you're veggie already, or not!)

If you're not vegetarian, I'm challenging you to adapt a meat/fish based recipe to make it vegetarian, by swapping the meat/fish for a meat substitute, pulses, dairy products or just leaving it out and adding extra vegetables.

If you're already vegetarian, I'm challenging you to adapt a vegetarian recipe and make it vegan.

If you don't want to join in with these challenges, but you're featuring Vegetarian Week on your blog, or you have a vegetarian/vegan recipe you would like to share, then please link up too.

Edit - Thanks to everyone who linked up!

Linky posts:
Lynn's Cooking Blog - National Vegetarian Week
Farmer's Girl Kitchen - Butternut Lasagne
Inside The Wendy House - National Vegetarian Week
Peace, Love & Lots of Giggles - I Heart Being Vegetarian
Tofu Fun - End of Days
Gotta Run
Celebrating Mums - Family Vegetarian Recipes
Senses in the Kitchen - Courgette and Feta Bake

Thinking about going veggie? Then the first thing to do is to get your hands on a copy of the Vegetarian Society’s very aptly named – Going Veggie guide, it’s free and brand spanking new. Call 0161 925 2000 or visit www.nationalvegetarianweek.org for a free copy.

Image courtesy of the Vegetarian Society. Pin It

Monday, 16 May 2011

Mixed Vegetable Curry (Vegan)

 ©
This is a medium, Indian-style vegetable curry, which all the family can enjoy. You might prefer to add the chilli at the end of the cooking time (after you have removed the kids' portions).
Serve with rice, chapatti or naan.

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 heaped tsp fresh grated ginger plus 1 crushed clove of garlic (or 2-3 tsp garlic and ginger paste)
  • ½ green chilli, deseeded and chopped finely (optional)
  • 1-2 green cardamom pods (whole)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1-2 green bell peppers, chopped into chunks
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 100g/4oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 100g fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree/paste
  • 25g/1oz creamed coconut
Heat the oil and add the cumin and mustard seeds. Cook for 1 minute.
Add the onion and cook gently for a couple of minutes.
Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and other spices and cook for another minute or so.
Stir in the tomato puree.
Add the remaining vegetables (except the spinach), and the tinned tomatoes and simmer gently (with the lid on the pan) for around 30 minutes.
Throw in the spinach and creamed coconut and stir well.
Cook for a further 5-10 minutes.
Remember to fish out the cardamom pods before serving!

Suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: Use any combination of seasonal vegetables - frozen veg work fine too.
Use 2 tbsp of medium curry paste if you don't have the dried spices available.

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Thursday, 5 May 2011

Minced Quorn with Spicy Rice (Vegetarian Keema Matar Pilau)

 © 
This is my vegetarian version of  keema matar pilau, made using Quorn or veggie mince. It's a really quick, cheap and simple dish to make, and as it's very mild, it's ideal for all the family, even toddlers. 
  • 1½ cups Quorn/veggie mince
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 heaped tsp garam masala
  • 1½ cups of frozen peas or frozen mixed vegetables  
  • Basmati rice
  • ½ tsp turmeric 
Rinse the rice and cook for around 12 minutes (add the turmeric to the water, to colour and flavour the rice). Drain and place the lid on the pan to keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil in a large frying pan.
Fry the cumin seeds for a minute and then add the onion. Cook until until golden.
Add the veggie mince and peas (and/or other vegetables) and cook on a gentle heat for 5 minutes.
Add the rice and garam masala to the frying pan and stir well to combine the ingredients.

Alternatives: Add some drained, tinned chickpeas along with the vegetables for extra protein.
The mince and vegetable mixture (before the rice is added), also makes a nice wrap or pitta filling.

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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

An utterly authentic curry

My whole family love curry. Not one of those poor excuses for a curry that you can get out of a jar, but a real, spicy, aromatic curry, made with fresh ginger, garlic and spices.

I've tried to cut corners before and have tried all sorts of curry powders and pastes, but none have come close to the dishes I can cook at home using individual spices, or that I can eat in the Indian restaurants in my neighbourhood.

I was intrigued when I first heard about a new range of fresh curry pastes called Bipin's Masala. They come in various Gujarati blends: Surti Masala, Jeera Masala, Methi Masala, Machi Masala, Garam Masala and a milder Royal Korma range.

"Bipin’s Masala fresh curry paste is natural, pure, fresh and contains no additives, no flavouring, no colourings and no preservatives... All natural, all fresh, 100% vegetarian, gluten free, diary free."

I was lucky enough to be sent a sample of the Surti Masala paste and couldn't wait to try it out and see if it lived up to the claim that it would enable me to cook "...the best authentic curry you've ever tasted." Well, it certainly smelt pretty good when I opened the package. It looked good too, but what would it taste like? I couldn't wait to get cooking.

I improvised a bit with my curry, as I had various vegetables which needed using up, but if you're stuck for ideas, Bipin's website has a dedicated vegetarian section with some delicious-sounding recipes.

I added a chopped onion, a diced bell pepper, some mushrooms, 2 tbsp tomato puree, half a packet of paneer and a tin of chickpeas to a pan, and stirred in the curry paste (no need for extra oil or to pre-cook any of the vegetables). I let this simmer for 20 minutes and then stirred in 100g of chopped spinach and about 100ml of coconut milk. I simmered this for a further 5 minutes and then served with fresh naan bread. While it was cooking, Miss Kahonie commented that it smelt really good "Like a take away."

So to the taste test. My whole family had positive comments about the curry, and mentioned that it tasted better than my normal home cooked curries! The kids thought it was a bit too spicy, but they polished off every morsel on their plates. Both myself and Mr O, thought it was delicious, and agreed that it was up to restaurant standard. The only criticism we had, was that it was a little on the hot side for the average British palate. However, Bipin has created a milder Royal Korma range, which would cater for those who don't like their curries too hot. 

I will definitely be recommending Bipin's Masala pastes to my friends and family, and to anyone who wants to create an authentic curry at home. They are so quick and easy to use, that you could make a meal at home in the time it would take to get to the take away and back!

At the moment, Bipin's Masala can only be bought online at a cost of £10 for 3 pastes (plus p&p). Each curry paste pot serves 4+ people and is suitable for freezing.

Integrity Statement
I received 1 sample of  Bipin's Surti Masala to review. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

Images courtesy of Bipin's Masala ©
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Monday, 2 May 2011

Simple pleasures

Image © Onykahonie
I've just come back from a lovely, sunny weekend camping in Wales with the family. One of the first blog posts I read when I got back, was from Kate Takes 5 on the subject of simple pleasures. 

To me, simple pleasures must, by definition, either be free or cheap, so here are my top 5 (inspired by our weekend away).
  1. Family laughter - Not just a giggle, but when the whole family are nearly crying in laughter about something that any other person would not find remotely funny. For us this weekend, it was the word foxy; First mentioned by Miss Kahonie, and then repeated randomly in conversation by the rest of us, to raise a laugh. I'm not sure that makes sense if you're reading this, but it raises a smile for me, just typing it out!
  2. Going to the seaside - Which must involve eating chips on the beach, or eating an ice cream (or both, but not together!) plus paddling in the sea whatever the weather (wearing wellies and raincoats if necessary).
  3. Hide and seek (or sardines) - My children are now at an age when walks in the countryside or visiting National Trust properties just aren't cool. Mention hide and seek, and we can still win them over.
  4. Singing - I might not be the world's best singer, but I love singing. I've always sung to the children and they've grown up with a love of singing too. Mr Ony also likes a bit of a croon, but really can't hold a tune. Nevertheless, it cheers me up just to hear him attempting to sing!
  5. Reading NOW magazine - My guilty pleasure, as I do like a bit of celeb gossip.
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Sunday, 1 May 2011

I'm singing a veggie song!

Well, my eyes (or should that be ears?) have been opened, thanks to a random youtube link I was sent on twitter (@facelessfood, just in case you want to sent me a tweet!) Of course, I had to click on the link, and soon found myself listening to the Vegan Song. The lyrics and images were pretty thought-provoking, and certainly caught my attention, but some of the pictures were a tad controversial, so not suitable to show to children.

I then thought I'd search for vegetarian songs, and found quite a few. Now, I don't think that any of them will ever get any awards for singing or song writing, but here are a few that I particularly liked: Don't Eat Like a BarbarianWhat Do You Eat?, No Meat On Monday. Pin It

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