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Birds Eye’s #Afterschoolchefs Challenge

If you’ve got children, I won’t have to tell you that teatime can sometimes be a little more than hectic – especially, if you are juggling the needs of more than one child or come home later after an after-school club or class. However, I am a firm believer in eating together as a family and recent research by Columbia University also proves that having dinner together has its benefits. Children who regularly have dinner with their families are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and are more likely to do better in school.

Nutritional scientists at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth have also found that family dinners decrease behavioural issues in children, which means that they are less likely to start fights or get suspended from school.

Now, I know that it’s not always possible to cook from scratch, especially, if you get in late at night and your kids are getting tired and hungry, but luckily Birds Eye have a great range of nutritional meals for all the family that are not only quick to make, but also affordable, tasty and versatile, which means that you spend minimum time in the kitchen and maximum time as a family.

As part of their #Afterschoolchefs campaign with BritMums, Birds Eye have also challenged mums and dads to share their tips and tricks for a smooth and stress-free teatime routine and here are our ideas:

1. Get your kids involved

Allow your children to get involved from start to finish. Let them choose some meals for the week’s meal plan, take them shopping with you and find the ingredients needed. Last, but not least, let them help you prepare the food, even if it is just switching on the oven, pouring peas into a bowl or laying the table. Being involved in preparing the food gives children confidence, teaches them new skills and makes them feel proud of their achievements. Amy loves being Mummy’s little helper and has amazing egg cracking skills for a three year old.

Birds Eye frozen food

2. Make it fun

Let your kids get creative around the dinner table. They can draw pictures of their favourite foods and drinks, seasonal celebrations and more. It’s a fun activity that gives your dinner table a personal touch and keeps the kids entertained while they wind down after school and wait for the food to be served. Another fun idea for older kids, or if you have time to help, is folding napkins to create napkin animals. How cute is this little origami crab?

3. Get creative

Get creative and pimp your plate. There are so many ways to present food in a fun and exciting way and if you have a fussy eater, creating a fun and themed meal for them is the way forward. Amy isn’t picky at all, luckily, but she loves being surprised with a fun plate of food and Birds Eye products are great, if you want lots of different colours, shapes and textures.

I created this little underwater/beach themed dinner for Amy using solely Birds Eye products and it was done in a matter of minutes. I drew some crab claws and eyes on white cardboard, cut it out and taped them onto a tooth pick before sticking them into the stuffed red pepper.

Birds Eye challenge red pepper crab with chicken nugget star fish and fish

The filling of the pepper and some of the sand on the beach/sea is Birds Eye’s Mediterranean Rice Infusion, steamed long grain rice with Mediterranean style vegetables and seasoning that can be prepared in the mircowave in just 3.5 minutes. To create the look of golden pebbles and sea weed, I used the pea and sweetcorn veg infusion with a lovely seasoned dollop of butter and of course, we wouldn’t have an underwater or beach scene without some sea creatures to accompany Mr Crab.

We had to get a little creative for this one and ended up using Birds Eye’s Chicken Space Shapes: We turned the star into a starfish and the rocket became Nemo (or any fish of your choice) by simply putting it sideways. Easy peasy!

Amy was over the moon with her underwater dinner and cleared her entire plate – not without complaining that there wasn’t a mermaid, but I guess that’s one for another day…

happy after dinner face

How do you organise dinner time and make it as stress-free as possible? Have you got a routine after school?

This post is an entry for #Afterschoolchefs Linky Challenge, sponsored by Birds Eye. Learn more on the Birds Eye Facebook page.

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25 autumn soups and broths

It’s less than two weeks until autumn officially starts and I can’t wait for those dark evenings that call for a warming autumn soup or broth followed by a cosy evening wrapped up on the sofa.  Autumn is probably my favourite season. I love the crispy cold mornings, red leaves dancing in the wind and the warm earthy scents lingering in the air when you step out of the house.

Amy and I have created our own autumn bucket list with activities and days out that we want to make happen this autumn and today, I want to share with you 25 autumn soups and broths that I have come across on my travels around the world wide web. Some of them are simple, others more indulgent. One thing, they all have in common: they looks seriously delicious and warming. Make sure to check some of them out!

25 autumn soups and broths, autumn recipes, recipes for autumns, winter soups and broths, soup recipes

Auntie Loulla’s Greek Lentil Soup

Mushroom & Cauliflower Soup

White Bean & Potato Soup with Garlic and Brown Butter Sprouts

Feel Better Chicken Soup

Potato and Leek Soup with Hazelnut Browned Butter Pesto

Spiced Lentil Soup with Frazzled Onions

Sweet Potato & Red Pepper Chowder

Pumpkin & Coconut Soup

Romanian Bean Soup

Cream of Kohlrabi Soup

Ham, Lentil & Kale Soup

Roasted Yellow Courgette Soup

Spicy Prawn & Noodle Soup

Celery & Leek Soup

Autumn Minestrone

Welsh Cawl

Puy Lentil, Tomato & Bacon Soup

Gluten-free Miso Noodle Soup

Loaded Potato Soup with Creamy Cheese, Bacon & Jalapenos

Kale Soup with Spicy Chicken Sausage & Sweet Potato

The copyright for all images used in the collage lies with the owner and author of the recipes featured in this post.

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Cooking tips for dummies

the best cooking tipsCooking is a hobby for many while it is a chore for others. It’s not rocket science though and you don’t have to be a five-star restaurant chef to rustle up a nice meal. All it needs is a little common sense and some patience. If you are new to cooking, then here are some basic cooking tips that will help you prepare simply unbeatable food.

Planning

Planning your menu and lining up the ingredients accordingly is the best and most systematic way to start cooking. Arrange all the ingredients including the measuring, chopping and mixing parts and keep them at an easy-to-reach distance. Don’t keep them too far away as it would mean longer time to take the particular ingredient- you may risk burning your preparation in the bargain.

Order

When you start cooking, start with the dish that requires the longest time to cook. The dish that gets prepared quickly must be prepared last. You can utilize the time between for preparing other items.

Boiling Tips

If you are boiling milk or custard, grease the inside of the pot lid with a small amount of oil. This would keep your milk from boiling over. In case of double boiling, you can place a few marbles at the bottom of the water pan. When the level of water gets low, the marbles rattle warning you to fill it with more water.

Food Handling Tips

Corn

In order to maintain the same level of taste, boil corn by directly putting it in water with no salt. This would retain the taste of corn.

Cheese

If you plan to grate cheese, then freeze it for half an hour to make grating easier.

Eggs

While boiling eggs, add a pinch of salt or pour a drop of vinegar. This will keep the egg in the shell even if it cracks.

Wilted Vegetables

Wilted vegetables are not always spoilt. They sometimes wilt due to extreme temperature differences. Soaking them in water with a drop of vinegar in it would help the vegetables bounce back to life.

The above cooking tips minimize the work load on you especially the clean-up process after cooking gets easier with these. Find out more about cooking tips online. There are plenty of tips that will help you reduce your stress and enjoy the whole process.

What’s your best cooking tip?

This is a promotional post with images from Nicole Abalde.

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Puff pastry pizza with spinach, asparagus and more

puff pastry pizza with spinach, asparagus and broccoli
It’s so hot at the moment that I really don’t fancy slaving in the kitchen for hours, so the other day I decided to make us a really quick but tasty dinner: a puff pastry pizza with spinach, asparagus and lots of yummy toppings. It took 30 minutes to make (including prep-work) and was a big hit with Amy, who had three slices of it. If you want to recreate it, here’s our recipe:

Puff Pastry Pizza with Spinach and Asparagus

Jus-Rol Light Puff Pastry Sheet (320g)
125g soft cheese
1 tbsp red pesto
200g fresh spinach
100g tenderstem broccoli
100g aparagus
150g cherry tomatoes
100g mozzarella pearls
50g grated cheddar
salt
pepper
garlic powder
butter

puff pastry pizza with spinach, broccoli and asparagus

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 200 degree Celsius. Line a baking tray with baking paper and roll out your puff pastry sheet.

2. Mix the soft cheese and red pesto and thinly spread on the puff pastry sheet leaving a 2cm edge on all sides.

3. While blanching your spinach and boiling broccoli and asparagus, slice your cherry tomatoes in halves and spread on your pastry sheet.

4. Drain spinach and try to squeeze out as much excess liquid as possible, then train broccoli and asparagus.

5. Spread spinach, broccoli and asparagus on your puff pastry sheet, add mozzarella and sprinkle with grated cheddar.

6. Season with salt, butter and garlic powder and brush the edges with butter.

7. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden. Serve on its own or with salad.

Voila, our Puff Pastry Pizza with Spinach. I hope you enjoy this recipe. We really liked it and are looking forward and can’t wait to experiment with toppings.

Puff Pastry Pizza with Spinach, Broccoli and Asparagus recipe

What would you top your Puff Pastry Pizza with?

Linking up with Recipe of the WeekTasty Tuesdays and Friday Foodie Round-Up.

Disclosure: I received some vouchers from Jus-Rol to get some of their products for recipes.

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The 25 best summer salads

the 25 best summer salads, summer salads, salad recipes for summer

I don’t know about you, but in summer my cooking and eating habits change completely. I don’t cook any hearty grub like stews, roast dinners or other meals that requires me to slave in the kitchen for hours – because a) it’s too hot and I’d rather spend time outside and b) I don’t really fancy any heavy and stodgy meals. Summer is when I really enjoy salads. They’re light, healthy and quick to make, especially if you are using pre-washed and cut salad leaves like the ones from Florette that you can get in almost any supermarket.

There are a couple of Florette salad recipes on their website too, but today I thought, I’d share with you summer salads that are a little different and who better to ask than my favourite bloggy friends. So here we go, the blogosphere’s best summer salads – just for you. Colourful, fresh, healthy and utterly beautiful to look at. I hope you enjoy them:

Summer Pasta Salad
Caramelised Walnut, Blue Cheese and Pear salad
Garden Salad with Grilled Fennel, Tomato & Balsamic
Rustic Egg, Bacon and Potato salad
Avocado, Spinach. Lentil and Egg Salad 
Beetroot,Carrot & Cottage Cheese Salad
Epic Potato Salad
Trout, Asparagus and Fennel Salad
Spinach Salad
Easy Greek Salad
Vegetable Salad with Seaweed and Miso Dressing
Zesty Summer Salad
New Potato and Tuna Salad
Thalassini Salata – Seafood Salad
Asparagus and Orzo Salad with Lemon and Tomato
Ginger, Pear and Walnut Coleslaw
Vegetarian French Salad
Avocado and Parma Ham Salad with Balsamic Dressing
Strawberry, Mango and Spinach Salad
Nutella Jar Turkey Pesto Salad
Rainbow Trout and Citrus Salad
Jersey Potato, asparagus and 3 leaf salad
Tabbouleh Salad
Kale, Chard, Watermelon and Avocado Salad
Fennel and Pomegranate Salad with Cashews and Pumpkin Seeds

Are you a fan of salads? What’s your favourite? Make sure to leave a link below, if you have blogged a recipe.

I have received a goody bag and recipe book in return for this blog post. Copyright for all images lies with the author of the recipes linked. 

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A bank holiday weekend with Morrisons

Morrisons also offer online shopping nowIf you regularly read parenting blogs, you will probably know that a lot of bloggers have recently been part of an exciting campaign with BritMums and Morrisons called #MorrisonsMum or #MorrisonsDad, if you happen to be male. To find out more about Morrisons’ new lower prices, we received £80 in gift vouchers to spend over the bank holiday weekend and see for ourselves, if our shop really turned out cheaper and I have to say that I was really impressed.

I ended up spending £120, but I managed to do almost our entire weekly shop on that budget, got some alcoholic drinks for the bank holiday weekend and picked up some pieces from Nutmeg for Amy. I just adore their clothes for little ones. They’re fashionable, well-made and they wash really well. I might show you some of them in a separate post, but now I want to tell you all about the meals that we made with the food that I got with our vouchers.

Our bank holiday weekend and weekly meal plan:

3rd May: stir-fry with chicken, sugar snaps, broccoli, peppers, bean sprouts, onions and egg noodles
4th May: garlic and balsamic vinegar encrusted pork tenderloing with new potatoes, braised red cabbage and asparagus
5th May: BBQ with quarter pounders, stuffed mushrooms and salad
6th May: my mum’s famous pasta salad
7th May: fried egg noodles with pork, broccoli and bean sprouts
8th May: sausages and mash with carrots, peas and broccoli
9th May: one pan rice pot from Old El Paso

I am quite impressed with the price of our shop considering that all meals contained some form of meat as well as fresh vegetables and I really noticed that a lot of products had reduced prices, which is fab when like me you add everything up while shopping.

Morrisons new cheaper prices

On top of our main meals, we also bought breakfast essentials such as sunflower seed rolls (Amy’s and my favourite), fresh fruit, juices and yoghurt. All in all, we had a very pleasant shopping experience, which admittedly I am used to as I shop at my local store quite a lot. The shop is clean, the shelves are well stocked and the staff are really helpful. So much so that the baker bakes your bread rolls freshly, should the bread baskets not be topped up. You can’t ask for more, can you?

The only thing I was missing is the super cool vegetable display that some of my blogging friends have in their local stores. I don’t know how they work, but it looks like thaw is being dispensed over the vegetables via a sprinkler system and it just looks so cool that I want one. Not for myself obviously, I would share it with other shoppers, but it would make shopping for vegetables even more fun!

I initially wanted to share the recipe for my mum’s famous pasta salad in this post, because it’s super tasty, everyone loves it only costs around 85p per serving, but this post is quite long already, so I will blog that tomorrow. Promise!

Do you shop at Morrisons?

Disclosure: We received an £80 voucher as part of the #MorrisonsMum campaign with BritMums.

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Sampling the Food of Cork

Cork

Cork plays host to some fantastic restaurants, from traditional Irish fare served in the historic pubs and restaurants throughout the city to more diverse additions, like pizza and Chinese. Some of the more unusual items you’ll come across on the menu are:

Drisheen

Known as Ireland’s black pudding, Drisheen is made from a mixture of cow’s, pig’s and/or sheep’s blood combined with milk, salt, fat and breadcrumbs, boiled and sieved, then cooked in a pig or sheep’s intestine. Traditionally served as part of a breakfast with bacon, eggs and potato cakes, it’s now finding its way into starters and main meals in restaurants.

Tripe

Tripe is the stomach of a cow, pig, sheep or an ox. Very much an acquired taste and traditionally cooked with onions in white sauce or in a stew – you’ll often find Mediterranean variations of it on menus too.

Crubeens

Crubeens are simply boiled pigs feet. Eaten by hand, you’ll find some of the best crubeens in Ireland at The English Market.

Murphy’s and Beamish Stout

Produced in Cork itself, Irish Stout has been brewed here for over 200 years. Beamish is described as full roasted, full bodied and full flavoured with a hop aroma and has been produced here for the longest. Murphy’s Brewery is 150 years old and practically legendary in terms of stout. Dry, smooth and creamy with a touch of bitterness, it’s a real favourite.

Seafood

The seafood here in Cork is of fantastic quality, being caught by local fisherman and docked in the harbour each morning and sold in the markets around town just after being landed. You wont get fresher fish than this.

Sample the true taste of Cork – book into Travelodge Cork and discover what this beautiful and historic city has to offer both you and your tastebuds.

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Teriyaki chicken with sesame vegetables

teriyaki chicken with sesame vegetables

We love Asian food in this house. It’s quick and easy to make, healthy and most of all full of flavours. One of our favourite dishes is Teriyaki chicken with sesame vegetables and rice. Amy absolutely loves it and Ben could eat it twice a week, if he had it his way. It’s a real winner and as my lot like it that much, I thought I’d share the recipe with you today.

Teriyaki Chicken with sesame vegetables

Ingredients:

5 tbsp dark soy sauce
3.5 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 chicken breast fillets, diced
2 medium-sized carrots
200g baby corn
250g sugar snap peas
3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Method:

1. To make your teriyaki sauce, heat the soy sauce, sugar, rice wine vinegar and 2 tbsp of water in a sauce pan and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

2. Dice chicken fillets, put in a bowl and pour half the teriyaki sauce over it. Marinate for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile peel your carrot and cut into batons. Steam for 7 minutes, add baby corn and sugar snap peas and steam for another 5 minutes.

3. Cook the chicken in a wok or frying pan until brown and booked through, then reduce the leftover sauce in a separate sauce pan.

4. Mix your steamed vegetables with the toasted sesame seeds and serve them on a bed of rice and your chicken. Use the left over teriyaki sauce to drizzle over the meat.

Enjoy! 

teriyaki chicken with sesame vegetables, japanese recipes, japanes cooking, teriyaki sauce

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The Very Best of Baby-Friendly Recipes

 photo baby-friendlyrecipes_zpsd7f8905c.jpg

It can be difficult to find decent food for a baby – when they hit the one year mark things suddenly get tricky, as you can’t rely on milk alone. You will want to start your little bairn on some actual solids, but it can be tough to get them on side with this plan of action!

So in all, you want something that is both tasty and healthy. And you will need to strike a good balance between “not lumpy enough” and “too lumpy” – it’s complicated! If you’re looking for a little help and guidance, you’ve come to the right place: here are our two favourite baby-friendly recipes. Any little one will love ‘em!

Baby’s Beef Casserole

Though you might think a beef casserole is far too grown-up for a one year old, this one is perfectly suitable, and is a way of getting some much-needed iron into your baby’s system. It requires a fair few ingredients, but it’s worth it – parents can enjoy it too, so long as you don’t puree it!

  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 ½ cups steak, in 2cm cubes
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped carrot
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms
  • ½ crushed garlic clove
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 2 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • ¼ cup grated cheese
  • Smidge of butter

Heat half the oil in a frying pan, brown the meat and put to one side. Heat the rest of the oil in a saucepan, add in the onion, mushroom and carrot, fry for two minutes then add the garlic for two more.

Flour the veg then add the tomato, puree, stock and beef. Cover this and bring it to the boil, leaving it to simmer for about 2 hours.

Now boil the potatoes, drain them, then mash in the butter, milk and cheese. Blend the meat and veg together and stir them into the tatties. You should have around 6 portions’ worth, enough to feed your little one for a few days, so take ‘em out of that Koochi pushchair, sit ‘em down in their highchair and start feeding!

Pasta Cheese, Please

This one’s quick and easy, and you can even get organic pasta shapes if you want to go that extra mile!

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup grated cheese
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 tbsp pasta shapes

Steam the carrots until extra tender then grab a second pan and warm up the butter, before adding the tomatoes and sautéing until really soft. Take everything off the heat and mix the cheese with the tommies.

Boil the pasta until it’s soft (no al dente for babies!), then drain it. Puree the carrots with a few tablespoons of the steam-water using a handheld blender. Blend in the cheese and tomato mix, stir that in with the pasta and you have a lovely meal fit for a (baby) king!

What are your favourite baby-friendly recipes? Leave me a comment below and a link to your blog post, if you have written about the topic!

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Day 6 Blogger Advent Calendar: Homemade Chocolate Truffles

 photo homemadechocolatetruffles_zps57dca3bc.jpg

I always send a few homemade gifts each year. I find that people really appreciate the effort, and while not always the very cheapest option, they are certainly good value! One of my most popular gifts are melt in the middle chocolate truffles. I use a recipe from the BBC Good Food website.

They are incredibly easy to make, although they can get a bit messy – making them perfect for the kids to help with. There are so many ways you can package these, either in Christmas cellophane bags as I have done this year, in gift boxes or as part of a hamper – whether the rest is homemade or not!

By getting the kids involved these make perfect gifts for teachers or teaching assistants at the end of term.

Some variations on the Chocolate Truffle recipe

I always find that the cocoa coating is a little bitter for my taste so below are a few ideas of other coatings.

  • Grated milk, white or dark chocolate
  • Shaved milk, white or dark chocolate
  • Chopped nuts – unsalted peanuts or pistachios are perfect!
  • For someone with a really sweet truth try icing sugar
  • Sugar or chocolate strands, hundreds and thousands, or any other cake decorating embellishments
  • Desiccated coconut

Here are some ideas for varying the flavour of the truffles – leave out the vanilla essence if you are using any other flavouring.

  • Add chopped nuts or crushed biscuits into the Grenache mixture before it sets to alter the texture
  • Try adding any essence you have – almond, rum
  • Add the grated zest of orange, lemon or lime
  • Use flavoured chocolate in place of the milk chocolate
  • Add 50ml of any Baileys flavour – I added the regular Baileys to these, but they would be amazing with the hazelnut or orange Baileys flavours
  • Add 25ml of your favourite tipple – whiskey, brandy or dark rum work best, but you could also try Cointreau.

You could even make a selection of the above to either send as a gift, or enjoy yourself!

The 6th day of the Blogger Advent Calendar was brought to you by Andrea from All You Need Is Love And Cake. Andrea is a stay at home mum to 2 year old daughter Sophie and blogs about the two loves of her life: her family and baking.