Friday, 29 October 2010

Missing...



....Yes I am still alive! I apologise for being AWOL recently, I have no excuse other than my blogging mojo just up and left me. It's probably something to do with children being ill, Mr M being ill, me being ill and then half-term. It's more than a girl can take sometimes!  

What is it when children start nursery or school? You just get plagued with nasty infections. Girly upchucked the contents of her stomach the other week just as we were about to sit down to dinner and then bawled her eyes out because I wouldn't let her eat.  We thought we were all safe from illness but four days later the boy spectacularly lost his lunch with comic timing, right outside the school gates when we had gone to collect the little miss. It was gruesome, truly gruesome. I had no wipes or tissues with me and the buggy was literally awash with the stuff. Luckily some nice school mums came to my aid and helped me strip him off (to his pants - it was freezing too, poor love) whilst I had vomit dripping from my hands. It wasn't my finest moment but it was a good ice-breaker all the same...

Since then Mr M and I have managed to avoid sickness but we've been battling with other illnesses - upset tummies, extreme tiredness, feelings of nausea and generally just lack of oomph.  I've still only got half a bathroom, we can't find a tiler, my pumpkins are rotting and I have five loads of washing to put away. It's half-term this week so I've tried to get out and about everyday to stop the kids killing each other, and more importantly, me killing them but I've got to Friday now and am suffering yet another bug, the boy has a cold and the house is a mess so today will be spent feeling sorry for ourselves, eating biscuits in front of a film we've all seen a million times.

I haven't cooked a lot, watched a lot or doing anything much recently but I do have a few things to share with you all and I'll start to get back on it today.

So, what's new?

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Mozzarella & Tomato Pasta Bake

I love pasta bakes. I love that you can just assemble them and shove them in the oven and I love the gooey cheese on top. That's why I love this one - all that gooey stringy mozzarella!

This is a really (really) simple pasta bake but it's tasty, filling and a perfect family meal as the children love it too. You can easily add in other ingredients bacon or ham would work well in this, tuna, chicken, mushrooms...there are endless possibilities but personally I prefer just as it is.

This recipe will serve 4 if served with some salad/vegetables and some nice fresh crusty bread.

Mozzarella & Tomato Pasta Bake

Ingredients

300g penne
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
400g can finely chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
150ml vegetable stock
2 tsp dried mixed herbs (I like Schwartz Italian Herb Seasoning)
freshly ground black pepper
130g ball of mozzarella, sliced

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/gas 4.

Cook the pasta as directed on the pack, drain and set aside. Whilst the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the onion and garlic and fry for 5 minutes until the onion is starting to soften.

Stir in the tomatoes, puree, stock and herbs and season to taste with black pepper. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cover and simmer for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and mix together. Transfer to an oven-proof dish.

Top with the sliced mozzarella and bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

This is where I show you what a glutton I really am...I think that this pasta bake could take way more mozzarella if you are that way inclined. (I am). It could easily take a little bit more on top and if I have any in the fridge, I like to scatter a handful or two of mozzarella pearls in with the pasta. I'm sure it's not healthy but I am a cheese addict!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Say it with flowers...

I'm feeling completely rubbish today. Woke up feeling tired and groggy which in itself is not unusual but by 10am was showing the telltale signs of a migraine attack. Migraines are the bane of my life, I regularly suffer and whilst I'm not sure of the particular trigger I do know that they are in the main, down to hormones.

Today I am feeling all out of sorts with it and feeling particularly nauseous and I tweeted about this earlier today. Imagine my surprise when Interflora picked up on my general glumness and offered to cheer me up with some flowers! What a lovely gesture! Not even Mr M would think of doing something like that for me so I genuinely appreciate this act of kindness.


A little over an hour after their message look what arrived...



A beautiful bouquet in my favourite colour which has more than brightened up my day. I rarely receive flowers (read: this is the third time in 10 years that I've received flowers & once was my wedding day...) so it's a proper treat.

The nausea is subsiding somewhat now so I ordered Mr M to bring home a chippy tea as I've not got much get up and go in me. Mr M walked through the door laden with food and my 4yr old chose that moment to projectile vomit all over the kitchen several times. Not really what I needed today!

Anyhow she's now tucked up fast asleep and we'll have a duvet day together tomorrow. Tonight however I plan to spend the evening curled up in front of the log burner, dosed up with a pill in the 500mg category and watch something that features Robert Pattinson (NOT Harry Potter) whilst hoping to hold on to the contents of my stomach!


Thanks Interflora - you've made a bad day much better. The flowers are beautiful!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Desert Island Discs


I have been tagged by The Blog Up North to do a Desert Island Discs post. Before I start this post I am going to issue the following disclaimer: I know nothing about music. I love music immensely, it's a big part of my life however I do not profess to be knowledgeable about music and neither I am on-the-pulse with music trends. Therefore the music in this post will be anything but cool and may verge on the Gorgonzola end of cheese.

If you're still reading...

My music tastes vary widely. One day I could be listening to Bon Jovi the next day it could be Flo Rida, the day after that, Dolly Parton or The Carpenters. My iTunes is a veritable mix of good and bad taste choices and I will not apologise for that! Music be should be enjoyed and it shouldn't matter who the artist is as long as you like it. I very rarely follow groups or artists, I tend to just love individual songs but there are the odd full albums that I will listen to time and time again.

My eight Desert Island Disc song choices are a mixture of songs that make me feel good - ones I can sing along to, that make me want to get up and dance, and songs that mean something to me and evoke memories of good times. If I was stranded on a desert island those are definately the types of songs I would want to be listening to.

So first up...

Billie Jean by Michael Jackson - I'm a huge MJ fan. Growing up as a child of the 80s & 90s, he was a God. I love all of his music but this is not just my favourite song of his - its my favourite song of ALL TIME. This video is amazing. What a star.



Elgar, Nimrod from the Enigma Variations - my all-time favourite piece of classical music. We had this played at our during the signing of the register. It's such an incredible piece, I fail to see how anyone couldn't be moved by the emotion impact of it. One of the most beautiful pieces of music.



Kiss by Prince - BIG Prince fan here, the guy is great. Weird, but great and strangely alluring. Kiss is such a great song to sing along to (badly) and believe me I do. Especially that high-pitched screechy bit he does near the end. (No proper video, think his record company get them all removed!).



Don't Stop Believing from Glee - Okay, cheese-fest. Glee is a bit Marmite isn't it but as regular blog readers will know I am a GLEEK and proud. That's not why this is here though. This is my childrens favourite song. Yes I have probably highly influenced this (I don't play it that much - honest!) but they love it and sing it endlessly. I'd have this on my island just to remind me of them!



I Vow To Thee My Country - I feel the need to include a hymn for those moments when I need to pray to God to get me off this damn island! This is my favourite hymn and was sang at our wedding.



Footloose by Kenny Loggings - Great 80s film and if you're toe doesn't start tapping when you hear the intro to this you must be dead from the waist down! If this comes on at a party there is no way I can help dancing and have been known to dance around the kitchen like a maniac to this at home so this is what I need for cheering me up and spontaneous bursts of activity.



More Than A Woman by the Bee Gees - Another favourite group and this comes from my number one film of all time. It was also the first dance at our wedding (there's a theme here isn't there?). Beautiful memories of our wedding. This is a must-have.



Bad Romance by Lady Gaga - I can't do without Lady Gaga in my life and this is my favourite of her songs as well as being the one my daughter loves and knows all the words to.



All that remains is for me to furnish you with a book and a luxury item. Book would be Breaking Dawn from the Twilight Saga. I know. I really am that sad. Luxury item? Can I say Robert Pattinson?

I'm not going to tag anyone in this post but do feel free to pick it up and have a go yourself - make sure you let me know so that I can check your songs out in the hope that you are more of a loser than I am!

Were my choices that criminal? What would be your Desert Island Discs? Leave me a comment!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Half-term Horrors!



It has dawned on me that half-term is rapidly approaching. As a mum whose children have just started in reception and nursery this September this hasn't really been a concern for me before now but I've settled into the routine of school and I have ways of coping with the little terrors that I just don't think are going to cut it now. For the main part, my two spend a good part of the day away from each other now which means less fighting and generally less shouting from me, a whole week in each other's company 24/7 can only mean one thing - complete and utter carnage!

Out of all the holidays the children have over the year, the October half-term is probably the one that I am most comfortable about. Why is this? The greatest event in the whole year (according to the little fella) occurs at the end of this half-term. Halloween. Yes, my 3 year old has a slight fondness, verging on obsession, of anything remotely related to Halloween, as I previously mentioned. We've been watching "Pooh's Heffalump Halloween" since August... This fascination means there are endless possibilities for crafty activities including glitter, glue and papier mache but here's the thing; whilst I think I'm quite a good mum in other ways I'm not so good with the messy play. Is that a terrible admission? I surely can't be the only one!

When I needed to evacuate the house over the summer holidays in the hope of preserving a little of my sanity I headed to the local library. This was by the far best value activity I did all summer because it was FREE! The children loved the library and I'm hoping to instill a love of books in them; even if I am dwindling in my own reading quest. (Yes, I've still not read three quarters of the books I planned to). The library was running the Space Hop reading challenge and the Bookstart Book Crawl as well as running children's storytime. It has a great space for the children - a separate room with bean bags and a few toys around which means the noisy kids aren't disrupting anyone else and little miss and the boy just loved picking their own books, so much it was extremely hard to limit them to just a few each.

Our library is right next to the shopping centre so a trip into the toy shops usually kills another hour and remarkably I normally get them out there without buying anything before heading somewhere for lunch. Pizza Hut is normally our first port of call because a) I am pizza fiend and b) it's pretty good value. I could eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and tea and then some. The children also love pizza - at home. For some unknown reason every time we go to Pizza Hut they raid the salad bar and girly opts for chicken and the boy chooses fish. I honestly cannot get my head round it but hey, as long as they are happy... Pizza Hut did a great deal over the summer where Kids Eat Free and they've extended it until January 9th 2011. You know what that means don't you? Yes, more money for dessert! For every adult main course or adult lunchtime buffet purchased, an accompanying child can choose from either a free two course kids meal plus drink or a free kids lunchtime buffet which includes pizza, pasta and salad. You can find out more details about this great offer here.

So this half-term we will be frequenting the local library again and I would definitely recommend you take a closer look at yours if you haven't already in case there are any special events coming up. (I'm still kicking myself over missing The Gruffalo coming to the library a few months ago). We'll also be doing some serious pumpkin carving as regular readers of my blog will know that I've been growing my own this year, quite successfully I might add!

What do you have planned for half-term?

love & kisses
Mrs M x

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Sunday, 10 October 2010

Fantastic Fish Pie


Jamie Oliver calls this "Fantastic Fish Pie" and you know what? He's not wrong! This is by far the best fish pie I've ever made and shall now never stray from this recipe again. There's no point is there when you've found one that works?

Mr M is very dubious about fish but he enjoyed this even if he did pick his way around the minuscule amount of spinach I put into it! Men!

This fish pie was warming and satisfying and I can see us eating this a lot over the winter. I strayed from the original recipe a bit in that I didn't solely use haddock or cod as you can tell from the above picture. I infact bought one of those fish pie mixes you can now get in the supermarket so my pie included salmon. I think you could use any fish you liked in this, perhaps throw a few prawns in it as well.

Fantastic Fish Pie

Ingredients

6 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch squares
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
2 handfuls fresh spinach, trimmed and washed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
285ml double cream
2 large handfuls of grated mature Cheddar or Parmesan (I used a mix of both)
juice of 1 lemon
1 heaped teaspoon English mustard
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
455g fresh fish - haddock, cod etc skin removed, deboned and sliced
Nutmeg (whole)

Method

Put the potatoes into salted boiling water and bring back to a boil for 2 minutes. Carefully add the eggs to the pan and cook for a further 8 minutes until hard boiled, by which time the potatoes should also be cooked.

Steam the spinach in a colander above the potato pan. for about a minute. When the spinach is done, remove from the colander and squeeze excess moisture away. Drain the potatoes in the colander. Remove the eggs, cool under cold water, then peel and quarter them. Place to one side.


In a separate pan slowly fry the onion and carrot in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes, then add the double cream and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, lemon juice, mustard, and parsley.

Put the spinach, fish and eggs into a large earthenware dish and mix together, pouring over the creamy vegetable sauce. The cooked potatoes should be drained and mashed, add a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Spread the potato on top of the fish. mixture. Pop the dish into the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are golden.

One of my favourite things about this was the egg in it. I'd never put egg into fish pie before because I always thought it a bit odd but I'd never do it without now! Jamie suggested eating it with tomato ketchup - another thing I'd never thought of doing but oh my days, it was delicious!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Lamb Hotpot


We're moving into winter territory now, although today is a balmy 18 degrees. This means I am hunting out casseroles, stews and pies for my weekly menus and this week I thought I'd give the lamb hotpot from BBC Good Food a whirl.

After a bit of a dodgy start (I'd committed cardinal sin number one and had failed to read the recipe properly, I didn't realise it took so long to cook) the house was filled with a delicious aroma. Mr M commented on it when he arrived home from work.

This was a very simple dinner, easy to prepare, only a handful of ingredients and was thoroughly satisfying. Mine did go a bit mushy however I think if I had left it in the oven a bit longer it would have crisped up more on top. We were practically chewing our own arms off though and I couldn't wait any longer! I served this as you can see with green beans and thick crusty bread spread extremely liberally with butter!

Lamb Hotpot

Ingredients

8 lamb chops
oil
1 onion, finely sliced
450g potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 handful parsley, chopped
650ml lamb stock
butter

Method

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Trim any excess fat off the lamb then brown them in a little oil. Set aside and fry the onions until tender.

Layer the lamb, onions, potatoes and carrots in a large casserole, sprinkling parsley and seasoning as you go. Make you save enough of the potato sliced to finish with a thin layer on top.

Pour in the stock and dot the top with butter. Cover and cook for 1 hour.

Take off the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes until the top is crisp and golden.

I actually used diced lamb instead of the chops as I am not a big chop fan and it was perfectly fine. Next time I might try changing the parsley to mint as lamb and mint is one of my favourite combinations and perhaps putting a bit of wine, garlic or celery in for a little bit of added flavour although it's perfectly fine without.

Whilst we're talking about diced lamb, I had some delivered by Tesco earlier this week and then decided on buying some more from the local Co-op. The difference was astounding. The reason I bought more was that the Tesco one looked so unappealing, dark coloured and stringy. In comparison the Co-op one just looked a lot more pleasing. What do you think?


love & kisses
Mrs M x

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Byron Bay Cookie Company Review


I was asked by Beyond the Bean (UK distributers) if I'd like to sample some cookies from the Byron Bay Cookie Company. Err, hello? Of course I blummin' would!

I have to admit to having never heard of the Byron Bay Cookie Company. I could possibly have been living under a rock, who knows, but I'd just never seen them before. Since receiving the samples I've now seen them in a few places (the cafe in House of Fraser in Birmingham being one of them) which is just weird, but perhaps they were always there and I never paid much attention.

A few days later a box of treats arrived and Mr M was naturally interested and told me that you got cookies everywhere in Byron Bay when he was there. (Yeah, yeah, so you went to Australia in '94 and I didn't - stop going on about it!).


In the box was a great selection of flavours to try that included;

  • Triple Chocolate Fudge
  • White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut
  • Sticky Date and Ginger
  • Lemon and Macadamia Nut Shortbread
  • Milk Chocolate Chunk
  • Fig and Pecan
  • Gluten Free Dotty Cookie
My first impression of the cookies was that they are not cookies as I know them. I was half-expecting them to be the thin, chewy American style cookies but there were nothing like that. They are chunky, somewhat crumbly (especially the Dotty one) and very tasty. The crumbliness means they are not hard but they're not exactly soft either - there's no squigdiness. The Byron Bay cookies are substantial - one is certainly enough with your afternoon cup of tea as you can see!


My personal favourite was the Sticky Date and Ginger, this one was quite moist and was yum, I could definitely eat a lot of those whilst Mr M is more of a traditionalist and he liked the Milk Chocolate Chunk. The children didn't have an awful lot to say but they did seem to enjoy the Dotty cookie.

I have to say them seem a bit of an extravagant purchase for everyday munching but I would consider buying them as a treat or I think they'd be great if you were making a little gift hamper for someone and I would certainly pick one up in a cafe if I was looking for something to go with my cup of tea. All in all I give them a thumbs up!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Monday, 4 October 2010

Zingzillas - The Album


I was recently sent a copy of the new Zingzillas album to review. If you don't know who the Zingzillas are (and if you don't, I'm presuming you don't have small children!), it's music show aimed at young children that is currently shown on CBeebies.

The programme is set on an island and the main characters Zak, Tang, Panzee and Drum make all kind of music using world influences and the musical styles include rock, soul, jazz, samba and big band.
The CD contains 26 songs most of which avid Zingzilla fans will know from the tv shows and of course the catchy theme tune performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra is the first track on the CD.



Our verdict? Anything musical goes down a storm in this house - I have a budding starlet on my hands who loves to dance around the house and this CD was perfect! Both of my children recognised the music and enjoyed listening to it - it was great for keeping them entertained in the car and the songs are good quality ditties that don't grate on you, many of them sound more like pop songs than songs for littlies. Well, they don't grate yet anyhow. I'll let you know when I've listened to the CD for the umpteenth time...

Our favourite songs on the album are "Do a, Do a, Do a Duet," "Have You Ever Lost?" "Boogie Woogie Bubbly Time" and my personal favourite, "Let's Hear You Scat".

Anything that makes the ME and the children dance around the kitchen has got to be good! Yes, even I couldn't resist busting-a-move. I have to be perfectly honest and tell you that I liked this album I lot more than I thought I would and a lot more than I should probably admit to!

The album is available from today (4th October) on both CD and as a digital download with an RRP of £9.99 and you can get it at Amazon for £8.99 + free delivery.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Baked Dippy Eggs


I apologise for being a bit AWOL over the past week, things have been busy and I've just lost my blogging mojo a little. Anyhow, I thought I'd share with you this little gem I discovered on the BBC Good Food website recently - baked dippy eggs!

My little lady has recently started a love affair with eggs, having always turned her nose up in the past. This started when we got our own chickens which I was most surprised at as if anything I thought it might turn her off eggs even more but nope, she loves them, the fresher the better! She has also recently started school and is currently sampling the school dinners so she has tea when she gets home and I've been trying to make it a bit more exciting than just sandwiches.

This recipe is great and was very tasty - I was almost wishing I'd made this for myself instead of the Toad-in-the-Hole we had! The best thing about this it is incredibly easy and no faffing whatsoever! This recipe serves one but obviously it's easy to double, triple...

Baked Dippy Eggs

Ingredients

1/2 slice of ham
2 cherry tomatoes
1 egg
small handful of cheddar cheese, grated
1-2 slices of bread, toasted, buttered and cut into soldiers

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4.

Cut the ham into strips and put in the bottom of a ramekin. Squash the cherry tomatoes and place these alongside the ham in the ramekin.

Break the egg into the ramekin and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Pop into the oven on a baking tray for around 15-18 minutes, until the egg what has set.

The original recipe includes spinach but I have left that out mainly because it's not something I always have in but you can include it or also take up some of the other suggestions of frozen sweetcorn, frozen peas, peppers or spring onions.

The other great thing about this recipe? Finally a use for those darned GU ramekins! (Although tonight I did christen one of my lovely Le Creuset heart dishes!)

love & kisses
Mrs M x