Saturday, 23 February 2013

The English Cheesecake Company - a review and giveaway

an English Cheesecake Company cheesecake topped with chocolate seashells
Mother's Day is coming up, and I've had the arduous task of sampling a chocolate and vanilla seashell cheesecake from The English Cheesecake Company, to see whether it would make a suitable Mother's Day gift. Being a mother myself makes me more than qualified for the job in my opinion!

Now, my family and I know a good cheesecake when we see/taste one and are cheesecake connoisseurs, so shop-bought frozen cheesecakes just don't do it for us! The English Cheesecake Company desserts are a cut above the rest though (and almost all are suitable for vegetarians).

The cheesecake was delivered frozen, packed in a polystyrene box with dried ice. I was a little worried that the cake would be starting to defrost by the time it was delivered, but no...it was well and truly frozen. There didn't appear to be any instructions on what to do with the cake once it was unpacked (I found the instructions online after we'd eaten it though!). As I hadn't removed the cake from the box before defrosting it in the fridge, it did suffer from a bit of condensation on the chocolate seashells. This didn't detract from the flavour but did spoil the appearance a little.

The cake was piled high with Belgian chocolate seashells which looked fabulous, but had to be removed before slicing and then replaced to serve. I must admit I was a little disappointed that they were solid chocolate rather than praline-filled seashells, but they still tasted delicious. Overall, we were all very impressed with the luxurious taste of the cheesecake. The base was crisp and chocolaty and was topped with smooth vanilla cheesecake filling and a chocolate-fudge sauce. It sliced really well and we got twelve slices out of it rather than the recommended eight.

I think it would make an amazing Mother's Day gift, or indeed would be a great alternative to sending flowers or chocolate for almost any occasion.

Being the kind and considerate person that I am, I have of course, managed to persuade the English Cheesecake Company to offer an identical cheesecake for one lucky person to WIN! All you have to do is fill in the Rafflecopter entry form, visit the English Cheesecake Company's website and leave me a comment to tell me which your favourite cheesecake is.

The cheesecake we tried was the 6" Chocolate Seashell which serves eight large portions and retails at £22 including delivery. Buy direct online from www.englishcheesecake.com and your carefully packed cheesecake will be delivered frozen to your door. Defrost when needed and eat within four days.

Integrity Statement
I received a 6" seashell cheesecake to review and 1 to give away on my blog. I did not receive payment, and was not required to write a positive review in return. The views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Lime and Coriander Quorn Kebabs

Vegetarian kebabs on a plate with salad
© 
This is another old recipe which I have veganised/vegetarianised...the original recipe used sardines. Use Quorn or any other meat-free alternative such as firm tofu or paneer, depending on which you prefer. This dish went down particularly well with the chicken-eating Mr O!

Serves 8 as a starter/4 as a main course
  • 1 pack of Quorn fillets/vegetarian or vegan chicken-style fillets, defrosted if frozen
  • 2 limes (or 1 lemon), juice and zest 
  • 1 tsp ground sweet paprika
  • ½ red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped or ½ tsp hot chilli sauce
  • 2 tsbp olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp chopped coriander or parsley
Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl.
Cut the vegetarian fillets into large chunks (about 1"/2½cm square)  - I cut each Quorn fillet into 6 pieces.
Add the Quorn pieces to the bowl and turn to coat.
Marinate for a couple of hours in the fridge.
Thread the pieces onto skewers, retaining any marinade (if using wooden skewers, soak them first in water...I forgot to do this, hence the charred ends in the photo!)
Grill or bbq for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally and basting with the remaining marinade, until cooked through and lightly browned.

Serve with a side salad and a wedge of lemon/lime as a starter, or with rice or a wrap for a more substantial dish.

Not suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: Add whole button mushrooms, sliced courgette, bell peppers and onion to the kebabs. Pin It

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

PKTMNY: An update

We've been registered with PKTMNY (the online pocket money website) for a few months now, so I'm posting an update, to let you know what my children and I think.

Not surprisingly, 14 year old Miss O loves having her own Visa card as she feels more in control of her own money and spending. Having her own debit card is a big responsibility, but she now knows just how important it is to keep her PIN number private (and how not save it as pin on her mobile phone!). She also understands that she just needs to tell me if she loses, or misplaces the card, as I can put a temporary stop on the card straight away. 

She’s enjoyed using the card to buy clothes with her pocket money, and I now know that by the time she has her own bank debit card, she'll know how to look after it and use it responsibly. She has definitely been more keen to do her set chores, knowing that the money for these will go straight into her PTKMNY account and will be ready to spend next time she goes shopping!

11 year old Miss Kahonie has always been a good saver and only spends her cash on things she really wants, so she hasn't used her VISA card yet. However, as she’s starting to become interested in fashion (and shopping) and has recently been asking to go shopping with her friends in town, I think she’ll be ready to test it out pretty soon!

Overall, I like the idea of the PKTMNY service, especially to encourage tweens and teenagers to do chores around the house and to give them experience in dealing with their own debit card and online 'banking' a few years before they are old enough to open their own real bank accounts.

Sponsored post: This post is part of a project with BritMums, sponsored by PKTMNY, highlighting its launch. The new tool allows parents to easily pay and monitor their children's pocket money online, whilst allowing their children to earn, save, spend and manage their money in a totally safe and fun way. We have been trialing the service and all thoughts and opinions are our own.
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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Grow organic, eat organic - a review and giveaway

Grow Organic, Eat Organic (by Lone Morton, b small publishing) is a lovely little book for budding gardeners. It includes instructions and tips on cultivating easy-to-grow food crops like potatoes, tomatoes and strawberries (plus herbs and flowers) in even the smallest outside spaces. It also has a child-friendly recipe section (almost all vegetarian) which shows children how they can use their home-grown produce in the kitchen.

What I particularly like about this book, is it's introduction to organic gardening methods, the tips on what equipment to use and how important it is to attract 'garden friends' like birds and frogs into the garden to eat pests like slugs and snails, rather than to poison them.

I would say the book is aimed at a KS2 aged children (7-11), although it would also be a nice book for parents to share with younger children, as it has attractive pages beautifully illustrated by Martin Ursell. The book would also be a great resource for primary schools.

Grow Organic, Eat Organic retails at £5.99 (affiliate link).

Integrity Statement
I received a copy of Grow Organic, Eat Organic to review and 1 copy to give away on my blog. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

If you would like to win a copy of the book, just use the Rafflecopter entry form below and leave a comment (UK only).
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Saturday, 9 February 2013

Pasta with Spicy Pepper, Aubergine and Tomato Sauce

©
This is my recipe for this month's Pasta Please challenge...do link up your pasta posts before the end of the month.

The rich pasta sauce for this dish is a cross between a ratatouille and a pepperonata (does that make it peppertouille or maybe ratonata?). I've gone slightly over the top with the pepper theme and have included bell peppers, chilli pepper, paprika and black pepper in the recipe!

Serves 4.
  • 3 bell peppers (pref 1 red, 1 orange/yellow,1 green), sliced
  • 1 aubergine/eggplant, cut in quarters lengthwise and then sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tsp sugar, optional
  • 1 tbsp balsamic or wine vinegar (or a glug of red wine)
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • ½ chilli, deesed and finely chopped 
  • A handful of basil leaves, chopped
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Dried pasta of your choice
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan.
Add the aubergine and cook on a fairly high heat for about 10 minutes until soft and golden brown. Remove from the pan and keep to one side.
Heat a further 1 tbsp of olive oil in the pan. Add the peppers, onion and garlic and sauté gently for about 5 minutes. Add the aubergines back to the pan.
Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir well. 
Put a lid on the pan and allow the sauce to simmer on a low heat for about 20-30 minutes, or until the peppers are soft and you have a thick sauce.

Meanwhile boil your pasta ( I use about 250g/8oz of dried pasta to feed 4), drain and top with the sauce.

Alternative: If you're not a fan of aubergine, swap it for sliced mushrooms or a drained tin of chickpeas.
Add an additional 250ml/1 cup of passata to the sauce and use as a filling for a vegetarian lasagne.

Sauce suitable for freezing.

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Friday, 8 February 2013

Marinated Olives with Garlic, Chilli & Parsley

bowl of Queen green olivesI generally buy a pot of marinated olives each week. This works out to be quite expensive, as my favourite marinated Queen green olives are generally £2-£3 a tub. So, I thought I'd have a go at marinating plain olives (at about £1 per jar) to see if they would taste as good and save money...they do!
  • 1 jar of your preferred plain or stuffed olives in brine (about 200g/8oz drained weight)
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh, chopped parsley
  • 1 pinch of dried crushed chilli
Drain the olives, blot dry on some kitchen roll.
Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour over the olives.
Allow to marinate over night in an airtight tub.
Will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge.

Top tip: After you've eaten the olives, don't through the marinade away...pour over chopped Mediterranean or root vegetables and roast them.

Other marinade suggestions (just add the chopped ingredients to olive oil as above): lemon peel and coriander leaves, sundried tomatoes and feta, fresh basil and garlic, garlic and fresh chilli etc.

Any other marinade ideas? Do let me know in a comment below.
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Monday, 4 February 2013

Chocolate Microwave Mug Cake (Vegan)

It's a hard job, but someone has to do it... perfect an easy recipe for a vegan microwave mug cake that is! Of course, this took many attempts and I inflicted the varying results on my poor children, not that they complained at the prospect of eating yet another chocolate dessert. 

This is a very economical pudding to make and takes literally 5 minutes to prepare and cook, so it's a great one for kids to make. You can mix the ingredients together in the mug, but I find it easier to mix them in a jug and pour into a mug before cooking.

I adapted this recipe from the standard 4 tbsp non-vegan version (available in various forms on the inter-web) which makes a larger cake. Unfortunately, none of my mugs were big enough to hold the cooked mixture and I ended up with a Vesuvius type eruption in my microwave on one occasion! Half of the standard mixture gave a small cake, which only ¾ filled the mug and looked a little feeble.

This version fits an average 250ml/½ pint mug and serves one teenager/adult or can be split between 2 children.  As you can see, the cooked cake sinks a bit after cooking, but this doesn't affect the flavour. 
  • 3 tbsp self raising flour
  • 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder, sieved
  • 1 level tsp Orgran No Egg (or similar egg replacer) - add this dry to the flour  
  • 3 tbsp/45 ml dairy-free milk (water would probably work too)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable/sunflower oil
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter, vegan chocolate/hazelnut spread (or an extra tbsp of oil)
  • 1 tbsp dairy-free chocolate chips
  • ½ tsp vanilla or coffee extract or a good pinch of ground cinnamon.
Mix all of the dried ingredients together in a jug.
Add all of the liquid ingredients and mix well, making sure there are no pockets of dried ingredients.
Pour batter into a standard mug (it should be no more than half full). 
Microwave on high/full power for 2-2½ minutes or until until firm to the touch - I found that 2 minutes gave a moist, brownie texture and 2½ minutes gave a more traditional sponge cake texture...both tasted good! Watch as it cooks, as it will rise a lot, but don't open the microwave until it has finished rising.
Carefully remove the mug from the microwave using oven gloves...the mug will be HOT!!!
Allow to cool in the mug for about 5 minutes before eating.

Top tips: This cake needs to be eaten warm and does not keep. 
You can easily double the ingredients to make two cakes, but only cook one at a time.

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Friday, 1 February 2013

Pasta Please: Peppers

I'm very excited to be hosting the 2nd round of Pasta Please as I do like food-related alliteration! This month's theme is peppers, as they're readily available all year round, fairly cheap and really brighten up a pasta dish. You can, of course, choose which type/s of pepper you want to use...that could be bell peppers, pointed peppers, a red pepper pesto or even chilli peppers. The choice is yours!

...Want to join in the challenge?
  • Simply post a pasta dish on your blog by the 28th of the month and:
  • Link to the current host (this page please!) and Tinned Tomatoes: e.g. I'm linking this post into the 2nd Pasta Please challenge hosted by Lisa at We Don't Eat Anything with a Face and Jac at Tinned Tomatoes.
  • Use the Pasta Please image in your post.
  • If you use twitter, please tweet your post to @facelessfood and @tinnedtoms with the #PastaPlease hashtag and we will re-tweet it. 
  • Selected entries will be pinned to the Pasta Please Pinterest board.
Here are the rules:
  • Follow the current theme (that's peppers this month!) when creating your recipe.
  • All entries must be suitable for vegetarians.
  • Other hosts will accept all pasta dishes, unless they specify only vegetarian/vegan etc.
  • One entry per blog.
  • Recipes must be added to the linky by the 28th of each month.
  • If you would like to host Pasta Please, email Jacqueline at tinnedtomatoes@googlemail.com
The February 2013 theme is peppers.
All dishes must be suitable for vegetarians
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