Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Kitchen gadgets - my thoughts...





With so much innovation in and around the kitchen these days, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the choice - high speed blenders for smoothies, juicers for... juice, fancy pants all in one machines that cost a quarter of my monthly mortgage payment... I could go on. Now, I know I'm an exception when it comes to kitchen gadgets, in that I use mine regularly. Part of the trick to that (I think) is that none of them are tucked away in a cupboard.

My beloved kMix lives on the fridge and is used for all our baking exploits as you can see above - most recently M's Funfetti birthday cake ably assisted by my helper.

Similarly my much battered Kenwood food processor lives on the shelf below our microwave and is used at least twice a week. It makes such short work of prepping veggies for dishes like my Tomato, veg and lentil pasta sauce or our new favourite Mexican Rice Bowls




My bread maker is being used much less at the moment (damn you Slimming world and your anti-breadness) but is a Godsend in this heat. I can pop the ingredients for a loaf in overnight and wake up to allergy friendly, fresh bread in the morning.






I've toyed with buying other gadgets; the blender that came with my food processor isn't watertight so is no good for smoothies (I tend to use a stick blender and stick to fruit avoid the slightly more taxing green smoothies), and a spiraliser go in and out of my Lakeland basket so often it looks like they're on Strictly.






And then we come to juicers - I've dithered over a juicer for a few years now. Often prompted by an afternoon perusing the Lakeland catalogue I think of the wonders I could knock up with end of the week fruit - or just with the half punnet of this, that or the other that Harry has decided he no longer likes at all, having previously inhaled them at light speed. Yes, blueberries I'm looking at you. However I've never got as far as committing to a purchase - I quite like the look of the Panasonic juicers swayed in part by 'easy to clean' in the description.




On sweltering days like today I'm especially rueing my dithery nature as I battle to get Harry to drink any fluids - something tells me a drop of fresh juice in his water bottle would help much more than my futile attempts at bribery with grapes, attempts at playing cheers (which annoying always works for Daddy). We've always avoided anything akin to squash or baby juice, but as the thermometer tips 30 degrees and my anxiety about a dehydrated bubba does the same  (Oh how I miss breastfeeding on days like today) some freshly pressed juice in some chilly water might be just the ticket.


What are your favourite kitchen gadgets? Do you have a juicer? What are your experiences?



This post has been sponsored by Panasonic, all content and views are my own

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Meal Planning Monday: 27th June 2016


Regular readers will have noticed the absence of a meal plan last week - we were off on our hols to the lovely Centre Parcs at Woburn. A wonderful time was had by all, Harry loved the bike and swimming pool. I was blissful at the spa, and M had a go at fencing which he really enjoyed. Overall a hit. I'm writing up some posts covering what we learned, enjoyed and would do differently so keep an eye out for those in the weeks to come. 

As enjoyable as last week was, talk about falling off the Slimming World wagon: ice cream, wine, biscuits, chocolate and garlic bread all featured. And were wonderful. Now to face the music and get back on it. 

Breakfasts are yoghurt and fruit this week. I'm not a fan of the Slimming World staple Mullerlights, because of the sweeteners which we think trigger my migraines (although I did enjoy a banana and custard one today but - headache ensued). Instead I adore the Total Greek 0% fat which is lovely and not packed full of additives. Aldi had melon and grapes on their Super 6 this week so those will both feature alongside my usual apple and banana. 

Lunches -  I'm going to have a go at some mini crustless quiches this week. I'm planning on a smoked salmon, broccoli and cherry tomato batch and will post about them if they're a success.  I've got lots of salady bits in the fridge so will make sure to have that too. 

Suppers - we had a roast chicken today which as you know is my favourite way to start the week, because: leftovers!

Monday: Cold roast chicken, baked potatoes, carrots, peas

Penelope's-Pantry-Chicken-and-mushroom-risotto



Wednesday: Leftover risotto

Thursday: Freezer surprise

Friday: Breakfast for supper




Sunday: Leftover pasta 

So that's our week - it's just a normal one: Baby groups, Brownies, Guides, work for M and stay at home mummying for me. But it keeps us all out of mischief. 

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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

From phone to photos: Printing our memories with Sticky 9



In the UK we take more photos now than we ever have before, and photosharing websites like Instagram are surging in popularity. However, I don't know about you but I do miss the days of proper photos that you could put in albums. I love to pore over the albums of my university days, memories of drama productions that we shed actual tears over, joyous nights out, and friends long forgotten. Somewhere along the line I stopped doing that, would upload shots to Facebook or Instagram but not get any prints. 


A recent discovery (to me at least) was a company called Sticky 9: a printing service that turns your online photos onto magnets, phone cases and actual prints. I'm enjoying surrounding myself in colour at the moment so wanted to print some of my brightest and favourite shots of late, but of course also wanted some lovely pictures of Harry, M and I. The result has been, as you can see above an absolute riot of family love and glorious colour which now decorate my new desk. 


As you can see, I also couldn't resist getting a phone cover. Isn't it a gorgeous shot of my darling bubba? It makes me smile every time I see it. Which is all anyone can ask for really. 


Sunday, 12 June 2016

Meal Planning Monday: 13th June 2016



No meal plan from us last week - shocking, I know! And it definitely showed in my haphazard approach to the week. We ended up with fish and chips one night, and a pizza night too. Onwards and upwards this week, once Harry wakes up we're off to Aldi to do what will hopefully not be an expensive shop.

I'm doing some baking this week - jam tarts as prep for Brownie holiday which is heading fast towards us. We're Alice in Wonderland themed, and it's just so long since I made jam tarts that I thought I'd better have a trial run. Allergies mean they'll be raspberry jam and dairy free.

My slow cooker is out at the moment for a big batch of my Chorizo and butternut squash chilli - I've not used it for a couple of weeks and have definitely missed the ease of big batch cooks, I think it'll be out three times this week!

Breakfasts: oddly for me I've been really enjoying eggs for breakfast: soft boiled, mashed onto a slice of wholemeal toast with some salt and pepper. I have to eat it stood up in the kitchen so it's not around Harry, but that's what Bing bunny is for, yes?

Lunches: this week is Aldi smoked salmon with salad. And possibly some couscous.

Suppers:

Monday - Chorizo and butternut squash chilli (I'll be having with cauliflower rice)

Tuesday - leftover chilli

Tomato-vegetable and-lentil-pasta


Wednesday - Tomato, veg and lentil pasta (I'll be having with courgetti)

Thursday - leftovers

Super-slow-roast-beef-brisket


Friday - Slow cooked beef brisket (unseasonal I know, but beef is on special at Aldi this week)

So that's our week, wonderful slow cooker to the rescue!


Friday, 10 June 2016

Dancing in the rain: Crochet and Mental health



Crochet and mental health don't, at first sight, seem to be natural bedfellows. But did you know that handcrafts like crochet and sewing reduce your heart rate and relax you in the same way that meditation or prayer does? Anecdotally, even Einstein is said to have knitted between projects to 'calm his mind and clear his thinking.'

However, mental health is a serious thing and whilst for some people crafts like crochet can help them to manage their condition, for others it's just too much. It's essential to remember whenever we think about mental health conditions that they're serious, not something to be dismissed, or categorised as people being 'over-sensitive'. I myself have had serious issues with my mental health in the past and am not ashamed of taking anti-depressants to help with that. For some people talking therapies or things like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help. For others, sadly, their battle is too hard, or they slip through an over-subscribed, seriously under-funded system and they lose their battle to the disease.

Marinke Slump (also known as Wink) was a crochet designer - she blogged at www.acreativebeing.com. For her, crochet enabled her to express herself and connect with like-minded creative people all over the world. She designed Crochet Alongs (CALs) to share her love for craft, colour and to connect. Before she lost her battle with depression she shared her last CAL idea with the Dutch yarn company Scheepjes - it was a blanket inspired by the sea and it's beauty. In honour of her memory, Scheepjes and Marinke's friends and family have finished this CAL in her spirit to keep her in our memories and will be making a donation to ww.Mind.org.uk (the Mental health charity) in Marinke's name.


A dear friend Sarah pointed me in the direction of this CAL, and as soon as I read the background I knew I had to participate. Dancing in the rain yarn pack ordered, Facebook group duly joined - I started to hook my squares. Sadly, as a relative beginner to crochet (and on losing several squares that fell out of the buggy) I found that Marinke's blanket was beyond my skills for now (I have every intention of returning to it in the future). Undeterred however, I have continued to crochet in her memory and am making a sea inspired neat ripple blanket using the gloriously soft Scheepjes yarn. My blanket will top our bed, reminding me on a daily basis of the importance of self care to maintain my mental health.

If you are a crochet - novice or advanced and wish to participate in this CAL - the details are on the Scheepjes CAL Facebook page and I would recommend (as always) buying your yarn kit from Wool Warehouse where there are options for all three colourways and both the investment yarn pack and the cheaper one - which was all I could stretch to.

Please do let me know if you use craft to help with self care, or if you're participating in this CAL.  If you'd like to follow my progress, do make sure you're following me on Facebook and Instagram which are where I share my blankety updates.

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Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Mexican Rice bowls: dairy free, syn free, can be veggie/ vegan





Midweek dinners can be a bit of a trial can't they? Toddlers hit grumpy o'clock (anytime from 4pm to bedtime in this house), husbands are hangry (an entirely new word to me - thanks Kat for introducing me to it as it defines M perfectly), and my thoughts are turning from caffeine to gin. Or something. These rice bowls, are quick, easy, and can be made with whatever is knocking around in your fridge as well as being personalised to your particular taste preferences - add coriander, or don't, add chilli, or don't, add avocado, or don't - you get the idea.

For us, these came about on spotting a box mix for this type of thing in Aldi - and thinking, to quote Jason Robert Brown - "I can do better than that." so, a home made spice mix, and some long grain cooked rice later we the basis of the dish. Adding veggies, a tomato based sauce, and some leftover roast chicken for the resident carnivore.  Surprisingly, as he's been a bit picky of late, Harry hoovered it up. Although we discovered he's no longer a fan of avocado. Which would be a shame if I didn't love it. Just don't mention Slimming World!

Without further ado, here's the recipe for our Mexican rice bowls

Mexican Rice bowls
Dairy free, syn free. Omit the chicken for veggie/ vegan option
Serves 4 (and 3 baby portions)

1 cup of long grain rice, cooked as you would usually. I use the absorption method as it's idiot-proof.
Flavourless oil for cooking - we used Fry light but rapeseed or vegetable would be great
1 red onion, finely diced
1 red and 1 yellow pepper finely diced
125g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup of sweetcorn (I used frozen)
1 red chilli, finely diced
Leftover roast chicken - or omit completely. I'd have been more than happy without it.
2 cloves of garlic
1 400g tin of back beans (or kidney beans, I just had a random tin of black beans in the cupboard)
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp oregano

For the sauce:

1 tin chopped tomatoes/ 1 carton passata - depending on if you prefer smooth or chunky
1 red chilli
Tomato puree
Paprika
Pinch of sugar
2 cloves garlic

Toppings (to taste):

Fresh coriander
Diced avocado
Quartered cherry tomatoes
Sriracha or similar chilli sauce
Grated cheese/ vegan cheese

In a large pan make the sauce, gently cook the chilli and garlic until you can smell them sizzling away, then add the tomatoes, paprika, tomato puree and a generous pinch of sugar (more if, like me you buy cheap tomatoes).
Bring to a simmer and bubble down until you get a thick, almost pulpy sauce

In a separate pan cook the onion, garlic and chilli in the oil until the onion is softened. This normally takes me about 10 minutes over a low heat.
Add the beans, peppers, mushrooms, and sweetcorn and cook for a few more minutes
Add the spices and continue to cook until softened
If you're adding leftover chicken stir it in now
Add the sauce, bring to a low simmer (you might want to add a glass of water if it feels too thick - but you basically want your dry ingredients covered in sauce, not swimming in it)
Add your rice and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes

Serve in bowls, sprinkled with any toppings you a) have in the house and b) fancy
Enjoy

It took me less than half an hour to cook, and the duration of an episode of Mr Tumble to prep. Which in my eyes is perfect!

Why not Pin this recipe for later?


Some other lovely bloggers have made similar recipes - why not have a look at theirs too?

A gorgeous looking Veggie miso soup noodle bowl from Foodie Quine
Similarly a beautiful Vegan rice bowl with Maple Tofu and and Smoked tomato sauce from Choclette at Tin and Thyme
Also from Choclette, a Quinoa bowl with roasted squash and broccoli that I am entirely sure a certain toddler would love
A sushi bowl that is already on next week's meal plan from Jane at the Hedge Combers


I'm linking this post up as part of this month's Credit Crunch Munch that's being hosted by Lisa from Lovely Appetite

Credit crunch munch is a joint challenge run by Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours


I'm also linking up with A Mummy too and her Recipe of the week as well.

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Link up your recipe of the week

Monday, 6 June 2016

A milestone cuddle





Two years ago my life changed immeasurably. On the 5th June, after 20 hours of labour I'd had a crash C-section and given birth to a baby boy. At 33 weeks and 5 days pregnant. So, not the most premature baby in the world, but the most premature baby I'd ever given birth to.

However, within minutes of giving birth and the briefest of cuddles, Harry was whisked away to NICU. He had breathing difficulties and needed a CPAP. I couldn't go anywhere, and sobbed silently as the surgeon stitched me back together.

The next morning, having cried myself to sleep in the early hours Mark wheeled me up to NICU. To this day I vividly remember going in. The sunshine was slipping through the edges of the heavy blinds, each perspex incubator bathed in the early morning light. The room was silent, save for the whirrs, ticks, clicks and beeps of what seemed like hundreds of machines and monitors. Each baby had their own nurse and we were introduced to Harry's. The noise of our voices seemed to echo around the eerily quiet room, where no babies cried. I remember the brightly coloured crochet blankets, carefully laid on top of each incubator - they in themselves were tiny. Harry's was made of turquoise granny square, there's a reason it's one of my favourite colours to hook with to this day.  I couldn't tell you what our nurse said in detail, words like 'infection markers' 'breathing difficulties' and 'jaundice' were mentioned around and I duly nodded politely. I had no tears.

Mark pushed my wheelchair to the incubator, where our son was. The nurse chuckled kindly as she told us about his first nappy changes - we'd learned about them in NCT. We were supposed to have to face the horror of meconium poos ourselves.  I tried not to think about the 12 hours I'd missed. Everyone had impressed upon us the importance of immediate skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, the opportunity to try to breastfeed as soon as possible and I'd missed all of those things. Being stitched up, stuck in bed waiting for the spinal block to wear off, on morphine. I had no tears.

The nurse asked if I'd like to hold my son - I think I'd said yes before she'd finished explaining that it would only be for a tiny while as he couldn't be away from the breathing machine for long. I had not yet held him yet I already felt the absence of him in my arms.

And suddenly he was there, so tiny, so light, wrapped in a massive cellular blanket. A bit like a loaf of bread or cake taken out of the oven too early, he just wasn't quite... finished yet. But to me, he was perfect, tiny fingers, eyelashes that were so long already, and a head of jet black spiky hair. My son. My son. My son. In my arms. Where he belonged. Where, to this day he belongs. At two years old (as of yesterday) he still snuggles up, just like he did on that day, still likes to be wrapped in a cellular blanket and cuddle up with me to go to sleep.



My milestone cuddle where I finally met my perfect baby boy.

This post is my entry into the Tots 100/ Waterwipes Baby milestones challenge

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