Wednesday, 28 March 2012

My kitchen disaster

It's strange how you become attached to inanimate objects isn't it? Take my favourite Kitchen Devils knife for could slice, it could chop and it could cut. Now, you may think that most sharp knives can do all three things, (surely that's what knives are designed to do?) but no! I have a selection of about ten different sharp knives...some big, some small and some medium-sized. They are all useful for different jobs, but only my favourite Kitchen Devils knife could do everything.

That was until the day I dropped my beloved knife down the back of the cooker! I'm not quite sure how it happened, but within a blink of the eye it was gone...lost forever! Unfortunately the cooker was pretty much wedged in-between my kitchen units and I couldn't manage to shift it to recover my knife.

I looked for and bought a replacement, but the latest model wasn't quite the same and seemed to slice at an angle.

Well, they say bad luck comes in threes. First my knife disappeared into the back-of-the-oven-abyss. Next my faithful
food processor died, and finally my cooker gave up the ghost. The thermostat blew for the third time, and the cooker repair man advised me that it would be safer to get a new cooker than keep replacing the thermostat.

I chose my new cooker and got it delivered a couple of days later. As the cooker delivery man pulled out the old cooker and disconnected it, I noticed the glint of my knife winking at me from the kitchen floor, as if to say "Here I am, please rescue me!"

So there we are. I've been reunited with my knife, I've bought a new cooker and the world is good again...except I still haven't found a replacement food processor. 

This is my entry for the
Morphy Richards/Foodies 100 Innovator competition.  Pin It

Vegetarian camping food for kids

I've been asked a few times for food specifically suitable for kids' camping trips. While I'm a big believer in feeding my children the same as we eat, I realise there is a time and place for giving the kids what they will eat...especially when time, money and tired, hungry children are involved. 

The following meal ideas rely quite heavily on convenience foods, but they are still pretty healthy and filling. A good pinch of mixed herbs, some mild chilli powder, curry powder and/or some garlic paste could be added to most of these dishes to make them more tasty. 
These recipes might also go down well with students and festival-goers as they are cheap and quick and easy to prepare.
  • Hot dog stew: Heat sliced or mini vegetarian hot dogs in a pan, along with a tin of baked beans, a drained tin of ready-cooked small potatoes and drained tin of sweet corn. 
  • Veggie sausages, hot dogs or burgers in buns: Cook on the barbecue and serve with ketchup, salad, vegetable sticks, or corn on the cob.
  • Pasta in sauce/pesto: Cook some fresh pasta, until al dente. Drain, and add in a tub of your preferred ready-made sauce or vegetarian pesto. Heat through until piping hot. 
  • Quick and easy mild chilli with tortilla chips: Mix a tin of beans in mild chilli sauce with a tin of ratatouille. Heat until the vegetables have softened. Serve with a sprinkling of grated cheese and tortilla chips to scoop.
  • Soup and bread: Heat a carton/tin of ready-made soup and serve with some fresh, crusty bread.
  • Omelette or frittatta: Heat a drop of oil in a frying pan and some chopped veggie sausage or veggie bacon (and some finely chopped vegetables such as bell peppers, mushrooms etc. if your kids like these). When cooked, add 1-2 beaten eggs (per child) and cook until set. Serve with baked beans and crusty bread.
  • Vegetarian corned-beef hash: Boil some peeled, diced potato and sweet potato in a pan (you could add other root vegetables too). Drain. Heat a drop of oil in a pan and fry some finely diced onion and some chopped up veggie burgers (the brown, meaty-looking ones) until cooked. Add the cooked potatoes and heat through.
  • Veggie kebabs: Cut veggie sausages or burgers into chunks. Thread onto skewers alternated with chunks of whatever veg your children like (bell peppers, courgette, mushrooms etc.) Brush with oil and barbecue. Serve in pitta breads or wraps.
  • Dips and dippers: Buy a selection of ready made dips and pitta bread, naan bread or bread sticks (or a combination of breads). Cut (or buy prepared) carrot, cucumber and bell pepper crudités. 
  • Sweetcorn fritters: Make up a pancake/batter mix a little thicker than for pancakes. Add a drained tin of sweetcorn and mix into the batter. Fry in batches.
Find more camp-site meal ideas on my vegetarian and vegan camping recipes post.

If you have any other suggestions to add to the list, please add them in a comment below.
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Monday, 26 March 2012

Hotel Chocolate Extra Thick Easter Egg - Review

© Image courtesy of Hotel Chocolat 
The sun has been shining, spring has well and truly sprung and Easter is just around the corner, so it seems a pretty good time for an Easter egg review! Not just any old Easter egg though...a Hotel Chocolat extra thick egg.

Hotel Chocolat invited me to try their Rocky Road to Caramel™
Extra Thick Easter Egg. Now you may think that's a bit of a mouthful to say, but it's an even bigger mouthful to eat, containing a massive 500g of chocolate! My kids stared in awe as I unwrapped the beautifully presented gift box and lifted out the huge egg, which was luxuriously wrapped in thick gold foil. Each half egg was packed full with a selection of different shaped and flavoured chocolates.

Unsurprisingly, we all thought that both the egg and the chocolates were delicious. The egg 'shell' itself contained extra goodies
(puffed rice, cookie pieces and chocolate chunks in one side and layer of caramel chocolate in the other), which made it taste particularly good. We all agreed that both the egg and the chocolates tasted and looked superior to the usual Easter eggs we would buy. I'm not sure that I'd ever stretch to the £26 that this egg cost (not for the kids anyway!), but it has made me wonder whether it's worth paying a little extra for a quality egg, which gets savoured rather than a cheap egg which gets scoffed!

Any criticism? Not with the taste, but the chocolates inside the egg were wrapped in plain white tissue paper, which just didn't look as luxurious as the rest of the wrapping - that's me being picky though, as it didn't really detract from the overall effect.

Hotel Chocolat products are clearly marked with their suitability for vegetarians and vegans 
(on the packaging and on the website). Find their full range of edible Easter gifts here.
Integrity Statement
I received a chocolate Easter egg to review. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family. 
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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Family-friendly festival guide

kids' area at Summer Sundae festival
The festival season is fast approaching, so I thought I'd put together a guide to surviving (and enjoying) family-friendly festivals with kids.

Mr O and I have been going to music festivals since we were 18 (and that's a long time ago!). Once Miss Ony came along, we decided that festival camping with a baby was a step too far, but we still went for a day at the V festival when she was about 6 months old - we even got featured in the local paper, as she was one of the 
youngest festival goers there. We had a bit of a break from 'proper' festivals for a few years after we had Miss Kahonie, as the thought of taking a baby and a toddler to a festival (and all the stuff they needed) seemed just a bit too much effort.
main arena at Bearded Theory festival

Once Miss Kahonie was toilet trained and dry at night, we started festival-ing again.The girls love going to festivals now and delight in assembling their festival outfits and accessories before we go each year. One of their favourite festival activities is crazy dancing, which believe me, raises a smile from even the most hardened festival goers!

We always choose family-friendly festivals, generally within a couple of hours' drive. I do a bit of research beforehand to make sure that they have decent toilet facilities, showers and kids' activities. If you can, try and arrive reasonably early to get a decent pitch in the family-camping area (if there is one). We've found to our cost that trudging around a festival site with a tent and two kids, is no fun when you can't find a space to pitch.

My top tips are: 
Take a bucket and some loo rolls for night time situations! You can empty the bucket down the loo (or down the chemical disposal point if there is one, in the morning). A bucket with a lid such as a nappy bucket is best! 
If you take a light fleece blanket for each child, you can roll them up and take them out in the evenings to wrap the kids up in if they are tired (and use as an extra layer over their sleeping bags at night). A waterproof picnic mat is also useful as a make-shift bed for your little ones to lay or sleep on if they're tired in the's amazing how they can sleep through the music, noise and flashing lights! 

You might want to invest in a pair of ear protectors for young or noise-sensitive children (including those on the autistic spectrum). I can recommend Peltor Kids Ear Defenders which come in a very funky bright pink and lime green. I bought a pair of them for Miss Kahonie when she was little, as she was sensitive to loud noises. She used to get loads of compliments when she wore them (which she couldn't hear of course!). 

Essential equipment

  • A tent - make sure you're able to put it up before you go!
  • A fold up trolley/wheelbarrow etc to transport stuff and/or some big IKEA type bags 
  • Air beds/sleeping mats/campbeds - with battery powered pump if needed
  • Sleeping bags
  • Fleece blankets
  • Pillows (we always take one proper pillow each, as inflatable pillows just aren't the same!)
  • Waterproof picnic mats and/or fold up chairs
  • A battery powered light and a torch, plus extra batteries
  • Basic first aid kit with kids' paracetamol, plasters, anti-septic wipes, bite-cream etc.
  • A pack of baby wipes (always useful no matter how old your kids are).
  • Toiletries - small bottles/tubes of shampoo, anti-bacterial handwash, washing up liquid, tooth paste, tooth brushes, sun cream etc.
  • Light-weight towels
  • Toilet bucket and toilet rolls
  • Washing up sponge scourer/cloth
  • A few pegs, to peg out damp towels on the guy ropes
  • Fully-charged mobile phones
  • Good warm PJs and a vest/thermals each
  • Clothes which can be layered up, as even on hot, sunny days, it can get really cold at night.
  • Warm fleece jacket or hoodie each
  • Wellies/walking boots, plus some light shoes (pumps, sandals or trainers)
  • Waterproof jacket each
  • Festival wear (optional!) - colourful clothes, fluorescent leg warmers, socks, tutus, laces and, of course, a festival hat.
  • Dressing up clothes for the whole family -  check if there's a dressing up theme for one of the days.
Festival catering
Most festivals cater well for vegetarian and vegan guests. Festival food is generally very tasty, but it does tend to be pretty expensive, so you might want to think about taking some of your own food, especially if your kids eat non-stop. Chill or freeze all perishable items and pack into the coolbox just before you leave. My vegetarian and vegan camping food and kids' camping food pages will give you an idea of simple meal ideas...


main arena at The Big Session festival
  • Coolbox (no ice packs- freeze any milk/juice cartons/water bottles you're taking and use them as ice packs). 
  • A refillable water bottle each
  • Camping stove plus gas canisters
  • Camping kettle and small frying pan/saucepan
  • Spatula or spoon
  • Small fold up camping table.
  • Paper or plastic plates and cups 
  • Plastic cutlery
Food and drink
  • Small cartons of juice
  • Portable but filling snacks - biscuits, crackers, cereal bars, dried fruit etc.
  • Breakfast foods - bread, cereal, eggs, veggie bacon/sausages, pain au chocolat etc.
  • Tinned foods such as soup, baked beans and spaghetti with ring-pull lids.
  • Packet foods such as dried veggie burger/sausage mix, rice, noodles etc.
  • Small bottle of vegetable oil.
  • Alcoholic drinks in plastic bottles or cans (optional!) - most festivals don't allow glass bottles onto their sites.
  • Basic ingredients for simple meals: camping recipes.
Fun extras
  • Glo-sticks (pound shop)
  • Light-up balls/toys (pound shop again)
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Spray in hair-colour
  • Drawing/colouring books and pens/pencils/crayons
  • Top trumps cards
  • Walkie talkies
  • Solar fairy lights and a flag to decorate your tent!
If you have any further festival tips or recommendations, please add them in a comment below. Try sites such as Festival KidzeFestivals and Virtual Festivals to find festival dates and information.

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Friday, 9 March 2012

Veggie Mince Shami Kebabs

Veggie Mince Shami Kebabs
My mum used to make shami keema kebabs (in fact she may still make them, but she obviously doesn't make them when we are visiting!). I thought I'd have a go at making a vegetarian version using veggie mince and breadcrumbs to replace the meat, and I was pleased with the result. 

Serves 4-6

  • 200g/8oz vegetarian mince (I used Quorn) - defrosted if frozen
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (about 100g/4oz)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 large onion finely chopped or grated
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped/1 tsp chilli paste, optional
  • 3 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a pan.
Fry the spices with the onion and garlic on a low heat for a few minutes, until the onion is soft.
Remove from the heat.
Put all of the ingredients into the food processor and blend until combined.

Chill for 30 minutes to firm up.
Form into 8-12 small sausage or burger shapes, pressing the mixture together with your hands.
Shallow fry in a drop of oil until golden brown, or brush with oil and grill or bbq.

Serve with spicy pilau rice, or in bread rolls, chapattis or wraps...they taste great with a good dollup of tomato ketchup!

Add 1-2 tbsp of your favourite curry paste instead of the spices/chilli if preferred.
For a Middle-Eastern version (Kabab Koobideh), swap the spices for some finely chopped parsley, ½ tsp cinnamon and ½tsp sumac. Rolls the mixture out into thinner, longer sausage shapes and cook as above.

I haven't tried making a vegan version yet, but you would need to swap the egg for something that would help bind the mixture together (maybe arrowroot?). If you find one that works, please let me know!

Not suitable for freezing.
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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Eric Lanlard's Peanut Butter Blondies

The new series of Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard started on 5th March at 12:05pm on Channel 4 and will be on every week day for 4 weeks. If you haven't seen the programme before, Eric bakes sweet treats ranging from simple, but delicious home baking recipes to his beautifully crafted signature desserts. 

Each episode will also feature three members of the public who will come to his cookery school and take part in a bake off. Various bloggers have also been invited to take up the challenge to bake one of Eric's culinary creations in their own home and enter into a virtual bake off

I chose to bake Peanut Butter Blondies as we all love brownies, but had never tried blondies before. 10 year old Miss Kahonie helped me bake and decorate them, and I think she did a pretty good job; She also did a good job of licking the bowls clean! 

The recipe was spot on (including the cooking time), and I'm very happy with the resulting blondies, which are suitably peanut-buttery, moist and chewy - what's left of them anyway!

eanut Butter Blondies

Makes 12

 Peanut Butter Blondies
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the tray
  • 150g crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 75g white chocolate, plus extra to decorate
  • 75g walnut halves, chopped plus extra to decorate
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Dark chocolate melted, to decorate.
  • White chocolate chips, to decorate
Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Grease a 20cm/ 8-inch square tin with butter and line the base with baking paper.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and peanut butter together until creamy, using an electric hand whisk at medium speed. Add the vanilla, sugar and the egg, and beat again until light and fluffy.
Chop up the white chocolate and stir into the mixture along with the chopped walnuts.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and fold in, using a large metal spoon.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake the mixture in the middle of the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until it has a nice golden crust but is still fudgy in the middle.

Leave to cool in the tin. Decorate with white chocolate chunks and walnut pieces and drizzle over some melted dark chocolate. Cut into squares and serve.  

"Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard is a beautifully produced series that balances inspiration with information, engaging the viewer to try new things to add to their baking repertoire. Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard is sponsored by, an inspirational online community of over 100,000 members sharing a wealth of information, recipes, hints, tips and advice."
Integrity Statement
This is a sponsored post, for which I have received free cooking ingredients and 2 free cook books. The views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.
Recipe reproduced by kind permission of Baking Mad.

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Sunday, 4 March 2012

Butternut Squash Cake

I received 2 butternut squashes instead of one (by mistake) in my online shopping delivery this week, so instead of boring the family with squash-filled savoury dishes every day, I thought I'd try baking with squash, in a carrot-cake type recipe. Miss Kahonie wasn't too keen on the idea though. 
"Vegetables should not be in cakes" she protested.
"But squash is a fruit not a vegetable, so you'll love this" I sneakily replied "...and it'll count towards your 5-a-days!".
  • 200g/8oz peeled and grated butternut squash
  • 100g/4oz butter/marg
  • 100g/4oz soft brown sugar
  • 150g/6oz SR flour
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 100g/4oz mixed dried fruit (I used chopped glacé cherries, raisins and sultanas)
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
Pre-heat oven to 170C/160C Fan/Gas 3
Cream the butter and sugar.
Add all of the remaining ingredients except the dried fruits and mix well.
Fold in the dried fruits.
Spoon the mixture into a greased and lined baking tin (approx 18-20cm/7-8" sqaure).
Bake for 30-40 mins until firm to the touch.

Allow to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes, before turning out and cutting into squares.

Serve warm (with custard or ice cream) or cold.

Suitable for freezing.

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Saturday, 3 March 2012

ASDA chocolate mousse - a review

Twitter can be a wonderful thing...Veggie Advisor tweeted the other day that ASDA now do vegetarian chocolate mousses (i.e. no gelatine). So, in the name of product research, I felt I had to pop out and buy some to try. They only cost 60p for 4 small pots, so they hardly break the bank! 

Miss Kahonie was the first one to try a pot and said that it was really smooth and chocolaty. She was swiftly followed by Miss Ony who stated that it was light and creamy with an intense chocolate taste! I felt I had to try one too, in case they weren't that great, but I can confirm that ASDA chocolate mousses are yummy! The texture was really good too, so I'm left wondering why gelatine is used in so many mousses and other desserts, if they can make them without?

Integrity Statement

I have not received any payment or free products in return for this review and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family. Pin It


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