Thursday, 30 June 2011

Review: Find Me A Gift & Joseph Joseph Oil & Vinegar Drizzler Set

Following an earlier review for some Joseph Joseph products, www.find-me-a-gift.co.uk recently sent me another of their products to try out. This time I received the Joseph Joseph Flo Oil and Drizzler Set.


The item stood out as something I might like to try as I use a lot of oil and vinegar. When I say "use a lot of oil and vinegar" what I mean to say is "spend a lot of time dipping huge chunks of bread into oil and vinegar"...  I have to be honest, I've never until now considered transferring them into drizzler bottles but now I've done it I don't think I'll go back.

The oil and drizzle set consists of two glass flasks and a silicone coaster. The big difference between using the bottle to dispense your liquid and using these flasks is the cap that allows you to control the flow and thus not drenching your salad in balsamic vinegar. I mean, I love it as much as the next person but you can have too much of a good thing.  To get the desired amount all you have to do is depress the button as you pour. You press it more if you're using a thicker liquid, less if it's something like vinegar. 


Simple, huh? The flasks are large, with a capacity of 325ml and all the parts are dishwasher safe. As with all Joseph Joseph products, it is a stylish product and would look at home in most kitchens. I've been keeping mine in the larder unit but it's almost a shame to hide it away so I might need to find a new home for it.


As you can see from the above I am a chilli oil kind of girl and just look - I already need to replenish supplies!

The oil and vinegar set come packaged in a stylish box which makes it ideal to give someone as a gift - I'd definitely consider buying this as a housewarming gift for someone as it's one of things that not everybody has but it is a useful item!

I really do like this item and I think it's one I will use for a long time. Especially whilst I am in my eating-as-much-Italian-bread-as-I-can phase!

The Joseph Joseph Oil & Vinegar Drizzler Set is available from Find Me A Gift for £30.00.

Thank you to Find Me A Gift for sending me this item.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Creamy Sausage & Mustard Casserole


Please don't use my photography to guide you as to whether something is worth trying or not. I appreciate that the above might look like a big pile of yack but it was in fact very nice, if a little anaemic in appearance.

I made this sausage casserole for the first time last week and after a minor crisis of confidence (my sausages weren't really browned, I was feeling lazy and then I panicked that I would make everyone violently ill with food-poisoning...) it was wolfed down by Mr M, the little miss and myself. The boy decided against trying it but that's too be expected as he's not overly keen on trying new things.

Seeing as it has three types of mustard in it I thought it would be quite a strong flavour but I am pleased to report it wasn't. Not that it would have been a problem for me, no, I love a good dose of mustard head freeze, but then my daughter probably wouldn't have eaten it.

It's not the healthiest of dinners due to the sausage and cream content but who is counting calories huh? I first saw this in the Daily Mail (don't hate me) a long time ago packaged up as winter dish but I think it works perfectly fine at this time of the year too.  

It's a bit of a juggling act so get all your ingredients assembled and chopped as necessary before you start cooking. This recipe is to serve 4.

Creamy Sausage and Mustard Casserole

Ingredients

8 good quality pork sausages, each chopped into about 4 pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced or chopped
250g chestnut mushrooms, halved if large
400g potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large Bramley apple, peeled, cored & chopped into small chunks
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
300ml vegetable stock
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp English mustard
150ml double cream
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Method

Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and gently fry the sausage pieces until the golden brown all over.  Remove from the pan.

Add the onions to the pan and saute for around 10 minutes until softened and slightly golden. Throw in the mushrooms and saute for a further 5 minutes before stirring into the potatoes, apple pieces, bay leaf, sage and stock.

Bring to the boil and return the sausages to the pain. Reduce the heat and cover, leaving to cook gently for around 40 minutes. Stir every now and again to ensure the sausages aren't sticking to the bottom of the dish.

The apple should have broken down by now, helping to thicken the stock slightly. If the apple pieces are still holding their shape but are soft, mash them gently with the back of a spoon and stir in.

Mix the mustards with the cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour the creamy mixture into the casserole dish and increase the heat.  Leave the lid off and simmer for a further 5-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. 

Stir in the parsley and serve!

love & kisses
Mrs M x
 

Meal Planning Monday (27th June 2011)

Wow, a week flies by doesn't it? Here we are again, facing another Monday! Hope you all had a good weekend. I of course spent mine like many others at the fabulous Cybermummy event in London before heading home early to make the most of the heatwave we seemed to experience on Sunday, which resulted in an impromptu barbecue and much drinking of Pinot Grigio.

This week is a bit light on meals because I've got two nights out. One to Take That and one to a black tie event which promises to be dull as dishwater and therefore about the only option I have is to stuff myself silly and get tiddly. 


Week commencing 27th June 2011

Mexican chilli sausages and mashed potato
Chicken fajitas
Salmon and warm rice salad

Sorry, not very inspiring this week am I? The sausages are coming from a local butchers as I saw him mention them on Twitter and thought they sounded delish. He's winging them over to my village from his other shop, can't wait to try them!

As ever, pleased add your blog post to the Linky below and spread the word about Meal Planning Monday!

love & kisses
Mrs M x
 


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Obsessive Compulsive Listing


I've been meaning to write this blog post for a really long time however this week I attended the much talked about Cybermummy event in London and after hearing Baby Genie reading out her own blog post "I was saved by a raisin" in the crowd sourced keynote session, I was inspired to actually put pen to paper, or rather, my fingers to the MacBook Pro.

I'm just going to put it out there. I am a serious lister. An obsessive in fact. I list everything and I carry a book of lists on my person most of the time. I am pretty sure that the world would most definitely stop spinning should I lose my book. Forget the purse full of money or my precious iPhone, if I lost my bag containing my lists, I'd cry an absolute river.

So, what do I list? What don't I list would be the easier question to answer. Firstly there's the "general" list. This is a list that is constantly added to and updated on a daily basis. It's mainly things to (of varying degrees of urgency) that I check a couple of times a day.  In addition to this, I have a "daily" list - full of chores and goals that must be completed that day. I write it at the start of the day and must admit to feeling a bit bloody miserable with myself if I've not ticked everything off by bedtime.  On top of these I have lists for work, grocery lists, school lists, meal planning lists, lists of recipes to try, lists of websites I need to look at and of course, lists of blog posts to write.

Then of course there are holidays and Christmas. These are a whole different ball game. A complete higher level of listing.

For a holiday there will be a whole host of lists - it could do with its own book really (Christmas already has one...). It starts with a shortlist of places to go, then when its booked (only after checking review sites obsessively as previously mentioned) there is the "holiday list of things to do" which of course (as with other lists) will be cross-referenced with the "general" list. Then we have the packing list and the need need to buy to list. Going to Walt Disney World this year has added a new dimension - lists of where to eat, things to do and even better - itineraries and spreadsheets.  Christmas means Christmas card lists, lists of who sent us a card last year, present lists, things to cook, grocery lists...

In our house I can even suggest an evening dedicated to creating lists without my husband batting an eyelid. Yes, I have dragged him down with me although generally, he's not a lister as that's my department. We have lists of house jobs, garden jobs, places we want to go...I think I am getting to the point where I need a list to list my lists and yes, I also do that incredibly weird thing of writing menial tasks like "empty the dishwasher" on my daily list, purely to have the satisfaction of crossing through it with a fluorescent marker.

Whilst I am making a joke of my listing obsession and really it doesn't bother me or anyone else, I realise that I may be harbouring a few OCD tendencies, especially in other areas of my life. Hoovering is a common one and I also have a thing about checking that the iron and oven are turned off. Obsessive is indeed a word I would use to describe it. I will get out of bed in the middle of the night to check the oven, even through I know I checked it before I went to bed. When i get home from work I will go to check that the iron is turned off even though I am fully aware I checked it three times that morning AND unplugged it before I left the house. I'm the same with locking doors. It's irrational I know but right now I feel these quirks are not serious enough to make a big deal off. Annoying as hell sometimes perhaps, but I'm not hurting anyone, and now I am more aware of them perhaps it will be easier to keep them in check. Kind of like my hoarding tendencies (story for another time...).

I'd so like to be like Baby Genie and throw the lists away with gay abandon but I can't. Mainly because I fear all my balls would drop but also because to put it bluntly, I love them! They keep me and my mind organised, they help me feel focused and without them I think I'd be a big gibbering disorganised mess. Would I be in reality? I don't know, and I'm not willing to chance it to find out!

love & kisses
Mrs M x 

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Chicken Salad with Citrus & Chilli Dressing


It's often hard to get excited about a salad isn't it? Generally they're not the most exciting of dinners. However today, I am getting excited by a salad.

I made this salad for the first time on Monday and it was nothing short of delicious, it surprised even me. A light and fresh dish which would be perfect for a warm summer's evening - that is, if we should ever get another one! It's also only 282 calories per serving which I think is pretty good, and we will ignore the fact that I served this with chunks of warm ciabatta and small bowls of chilli oil and balsamic vinegar...

One of the best things about this is meal is it's a good way of using up leftover roast chicken but you can just quite as easily roast a couple of chicken breasts (which is what I did) or buy some pre-cooked chicken from the supermarket if you're short on time.

Chicken Salad with Citrus & Chilli Dressing

Ingredients

2 skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1/2 a cucumber, deseeded and diced
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1tbsp fresh mint leaves
1tbsp fresh coriander leaves
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
3 limes, juiced
1tsp freshly grated ginger
1tbsp fish sauce
1tbsp soft brown sugar
1tbsp roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Method

Place the shredded chicken into a large salad bowl and add the cucumber, shallot, herbs and chilli.

In a separate bowl mix the lime juice, ginger, fish sauce and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour half the dressing over the salad and mix gently. 

Serve the salad with some chopped peanuts and the remaining dressing.

I thought that the juice of three limes was excessive and was worried that it would be too overpowering, however it wasn't at all. In fact it didn't taste that lime-y (is that a word?) at all. It was just right.

Now, this doesn't make a huge amount if you're thinking of it as a main meal hence the dipping bread and I also served Mr M's on a bed of mixed salad leaves so it looked a bit bulkier for him as I knew he'd look a bit alarmed at the portion.  

love & kisses
Mrs M x 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Tales from the cinema...


Okay, not so much tales but more of a small rant...

Last night I took Mr M to see the much talked about Senna film. It was pretty flippin' awesome, but more on that in a minute.

We ventured to our local cinema, which happens to be a Cineworld. Now in terms of cinemas I always find Cineworld pretty good and they may be my favourite cinema chain but my local one is seriously understaffed.  Rather than going to the ticket counter to erm, buy your tickets, the tickets are sold from the refreshment counter. Of course this might be great for some people - I mean you can buy your tickets and refreshments all in one go, but for those of us who have already collected our tickets from the machine? Not so great. It takes ages. Especially when there is the grand sum of two people serving. The annoying thing is there is a whole other counter for refreshments but that was completely closed.  

So out of three counters (one for tickets, two for refreshments) only one was working. It was a long, slow process queuing to get a diet coke I can tell you, and what do I get faced with when I get there? £7.20 for a regular drink and regular popcorn. SEVEN POUNDS AND TWENTY PENCE. Honestly? Is it me or is that just a tad overpriced?  Well Cineworld, you can stick your popcorn where the sun doesn't shine!  After paying over £17 for two cinema tickets and booking fee there's no way I was forking the best part of a tenner for some nibbles.

I might be getting really old but I am sure there was a time when the cinema was considered a cheap night out? I used to go weekly when I was a bit younger. Now it has to be saved for films I really want to see. Paying nearly £30 for two people to see a film with some watered down Coke and bit of stale popcorn is NOT something you can do all the time!  Obviously none of this outrage purely applies to Cineworld, I am sure Odeon, Showcase and Vue are just as bad. 


Anyway, after the shock of blatant daylight robbery...the film, Senna. Was it good? WOW pretty much seems up how I felt when I left the cinema.  The film is basically a documentary about the F1 career of the amazing Brazilian racing driver Ayrton Senna. It starts with this entry into F1 in the 1980's and ends with his tragic and untimely death at the age of 34.  A lot of the story focuses on his famous rivalry/feud with Prost and also on how Senna felt unfairly treated by the FIA. Jean Marie Balestre did not come out of this in the best light and neither did Prost but I think that was to be expected.

You don't have to be a F1 fan to see and appreciate this film. Certainly, whilst I enjoy the sport and have been to see a live race, I'm no die-hard fan but this was a beautiful piece of filmmaking which had me enthralled from the off.  Asif Kapadia deserves to receive some big recognition for this work which was thought-provoking and incredibly moving. Indeed, I cried from the moment he won the Brazilian Grand Prix right until the end, despite knowing that the story didn't have a happy ending.

Mr M and I dissected the whole thing afterwards and had a good conversation about how some things in F1 have changed dramatically - it's clearly a whole lot safer these days but more reliant on technology, and how some things seem to have stayed the same - the FIA generally still being a bunch of arses and McLaren still getting the rough end of the stick (I did wonder just who Ron Dennis pissed off once upon a time...). I'd also hope that F1 is slightly less corrupt that in it has appeared in the past but sadly, it's probably not. As Ayrton Senna himself has said, it's all about politics and money.

love & kisses
Mrs M x 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Meal Planning Monday (20th June 2011)

Okay. So last week I didn't actually get round to finishing my Meal Planning Monday blog post It was a bit of a hodge-podge week with lots of after school commitments. This week is somewhat more organised, especially as I don't need to cater for Friday and Saturday because I am going to London for Cybermummy. Eep.

I'm being a bit ambitious and trying a few new recipes this week. This is when things tend to go wrong in the plan as well but I feel my cooking mojo is returning so hopefully I'll stay on track!  It's hopefully going to look a little like this...


Week commencing 20th June 2011

Spaghetti Bolognese
Spicy Asian Pork
Chicken Salad with Citrus, Ginger & Chilli Dressing
Sunshine Spicy Rice
Creamy Sausage & Mustard Casserole

As ever, leave a link to your blog post on the Linky Tool below or leave me a comment! I love to hear about what you have planned.

love & kisses
Mrs M x




Sunday, 19 June 2011

What are you reading in June?

In the past I've linked up to a blog post on Curtains for the Window - What Are You Reading? I am a bit late as we are now in the middle of June but better late than never huh?

This month I am reading (or have read)






A complete random mix of books, I know! What have you been reading recently?

love & kisses

Mrs M x

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Review: Fishy Fishy Cookbook


I was recently sent a review copy of the new Fishy Fishy Cookbook published by New Holland Publishers. 

If you've never heard of Fishy Fishy let me tell you a little bit about them. Fishy Fishy is a relaxed, informal seafood brasserie whose ethos is to promote fresh, local and seasonal seafood. There are two restaurants, one in Brighton and one in Poole, right on the quay.  The restaurant was the brainchild of none other than Dermot O'Leary and two of his friends James Ginzler and Paul Shovlin.  I've never been to Fishy Fishy yet but as I spend an awful lot of time in Poole I plan to go in next time rather than standing by the door reading the menu and salivating.

The Fishy Fishy book is jam-packed with fish advice and recipes. The book starts with a foreword by Dermot O'Leary before launching into the introduction which contains useful information like how to buy fish, fishing methods and how to prepare it.  The book is then split into sections - Starters, BBQ & Al Fresco, Everyday Fish & Shellfish, Special Occasions, Sauces, Side Dishes & Desserts.


The book is really good quality, with matt pages and a clean and simple layout with great photography. At over 180 pages it's also quite substantial.


I will admit to being slightly scared of cooking fish but I am getting braver and there are a few things I am going to try. Oysters and squid are still out of my comfort zone but I may have a go at the scallops with chorizo and perhaps the moules mariniere as it is one of my favourite seafood dishes and I've never tried making it before.  Other things I plan on attempting are the hot and spicy prawns, cornish sardines with pesto and the sticky mackerel.  I love most types of seafood although I'm still not great when it turns up on my plate actually resembling a fish!


One thing I did find interesting in the book was the chart detailing which fish were in season and when. Eating fish "in season" is not something that has really occurred to me before but it stands to reason doesn't it. I'm going to make a serious effort to eat seasonal fish, especially as I am a big support of the Fish Fight.

On the whole I adored this book and hope that I will get braver and use it a lot and of course, if I ever get to Fishy Fishy in Poole, I'll let you know what it was like!

You can buy the book direct from New Holland publishers here.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The tracks of my (early) years

I love blogging. I love music. It therefore stands to reason I love blogging about music.

I've been listening to a lot of music recently and after hearing a song that remind me of being a child I wondered about the type of musical memories I might be creating for my own children. My son isn't the slightest bit interested in music but my daughter loves it.  Her current favourites are Jessie J's "Price Tag" and Bruno Mars "Marry You", undoubtedly influenced by me, but in the past she's loved Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, The Ting Tings and Girls Aloud. She's a proper pop queen.  I wonder what she'll remember of these when she is older? 

I've always loved listening to music and from a very early age, probably around the age of 3, my dad used to record Top of the Pops for me. He'd then edit the recording to save purely the songs I loved onto video tape.  I believe he still has these after they were transferred over from Betamax to VHS. Of course we have nothing to play them on anymore... Because I listened to so much music as a child, certain songs really make me feel nostalgic and take me back to a time and place long, long ago. (Okay, circa 1984). They evoke all kinds of memories, bringing long forgotten sounds, tastes and smells to the forefront of my mind and I wonder if the music of today will do the same for my little girl.

In the interests of embarrassing myself further with my criminally bad taste in music, I thought I'd share the Top 5 tracks of my early years.  

Phil Collins & Phil Bailey - Easy Lover. I think I remember this one so well because my mum used to like the video with Phil Collins mucking about. This song is guaranteed to get me dancing.


Sister Sledge - Frankie. Possibly one of my favourite songs of all time. I even had a dance routine to go with this which I possibly stole of Top of The Pops. Wonder if it's knocking around on YouTube anywhere...  I also sang this on karaoke (badly) at a Telecentral roadshow in the middle of a shopping centre back in 1996.  EDITED: STOP PRESS I only found the actual Top of the Pops performance....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HThtFKSQikM  I wanted to be that woman in the black leather dress


Lionel Richie - Hello. Clearly one of the best ever love songs...with the best video and a nice storyline! Lets ignore the fact that in the light of day, Lionel comes across as a bit of a stalker. I loved this as a kid. I think I may have tried to learn it on the Casio keyboard.


Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson - Say Say Say. I possibly remember this so well as I think I bought my mum a 7" of this for Mothers Day. I'm sure she still has it, again, with nothing to play it on.


Laura Brannigan - Self Control. My dad listened to this, a lot. I therefore listened to it a lot. I still love it, and lets face it Laura Brannigan was a fantastic performer.


I'd like to point out, I also very clearly remember the videos to these songs, too clearly perhaps. The dialogue from "Hello" will be permanently etched in my mind forever. I can't listen to it without launching into the whole "I've wanted you to see it so many times..." speech.

I actually could go on and on. 99 Red Ballons, Pipes of Peace, There Must Be An Angel, Time After Time and this iconic Madonna performance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPlRkHyu05M&feature=related I watched that concert over and over until I was about 16. Wonder if you can get it on DVD because it was a-mazing. When I made my First Holy Communion I thought I WAS Madonna.

As I love music so much and I am such a nosey bugger, I'd love to hear what songs, if any, remind you of being around 5 years old. Do share here or blog about it and let me know!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Product Review: New Covent Garden Soups


I was recently sent some vouchers to buy some New Covent Garden Food Co soups. Of course I needed no introduction to the range of soups, I'm sure everybody has seen in them in the supermarket, and I know I have bought several different flavours in the past, my personal favourite being the Broccoli and Stilton - do you have a favourite flavour?

I'm a big soup lover, in fact I have just devoured a huge bowl - but more on that in a moment. I find a big bowl of soup and some fresh white bread, preferably crusty with butter you can sink your teeth into, very comforting but I will admit right here that I absolutely never make it myself. I have done in the past of course, and I got a blender with the sole intention of making soups but I've found that whatever I do I just can't make them as nice as the ones I can buy.  I almost feel guilty admitting that, seeing as I do so much cooking from scratch, but there it is. I'm a lazy soup person and really I have no need to feel guilty as there are no nasties in these soups - just natural ingredients.

The new seasonal range from the Covent Garden Food Co was brought to my attention as well as the "Soup of the Month" which in May was Patatas Bravas.  I was immediately taken by the idea of this soup as I love patatas bravas so much and I wasn't disappointed by this soup at all! It was delicious and tasty and one word of warning, very spicy! If you don't like spicy food then it's probably not the soup for you but if you like a bit of heat, it's very enjoyable.  The "Soup of the Month" for June is Bloody Mary - spicy tomato with vodka!  I'll admit I wasn't aware that a different soup was launched each month but I shall be looking out for it from now on!


In the new summer range some old favourites have returned like Pea & Mint (yum!), Summer Vegetable and Gazpacho (I'm sorry, I'm not eating cold soup!) along with a brand new soup for summer 2011, Classic Vichyssoise - and this is what I have just finished eating.  Leeks, potatoes, cream and onions with a sprinkling of chives. This soup was really fresh and light and I thoroughly enjoyed it! 

I know I just said above that I don't make soups at home but browsing the website just now I notice that they do their own cookbooks (We all know how I love a cookbook...). Perhaps I should give soup making another go? I'd love to hear about any soups that my blog readers like to make or whether in fact you are like me, and like your soup to come in a carton!

All the summer soups are available in most supermarkets and many other independent shops and are usually priced around £1.99. They are available now up until September.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Are you casting asparagus on my cooking?


If you're anything like me (and you're probably not...) you may have a list as long as your arm of things you want to attempt to cook in the near future. 

I absolutely love scanning blogs, books, magazines etc for ideas of things to try, I must say it's one of my favourite pastimes and a nice Sunday afternoon for me is sitting in a sunny garden armed with a stash of new cookery books and a pile of post-it notes. I know how to live, don't you dare tell me otherwise!

The plan seems to fall apart when it comes to the actual cooking though. About 90% of the things I earmark will never see the light of day, which is a complete shame isn't it?  This could be for a few reasons - sometimes I know I am the only one who will eat it and therefore theres no point, other times it's too faffy and I just can't be bothered to do all the clearing up! Although truth be told, with hundreds of cookery books and boxes and boxes of magazines there's no way on earth I could ever cook everything!

I think it's fair to say I've kind of lost my mojo recently and I whilst I am still cooking lots of lovely meals, I haven't been doing so much cooking for fun - you know, baking and jam-making etc so this weekend I am going to get off my bottom and attempt something new.  I've been slightly hindered in my efforts recently by the fact that my utility room is not finished yet meaning my things are stored in various places all over the house but hopefully we're only a few weeks away from finally getting it all sorted. I've had an ice-cream attachment for my KitchenAid mixer for three years and it has never been used and I'm desperate to try it for the first time but I've no idea where it is!

How are about you? Have you tried any new recipes lately that you want to shout about? Let me know! Are there lots of things you plan on cooking but never quite get round to trying?

love & kisses
Mrs M x