Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Beef, Chestnut and Red Wine Casserole

This is another recipe from BBC Good Food, which seriously has to be the best recipe resource on the Internet. I was looking for a warming casserole that was perhaps a bit different to the ones I had already done and after reading the comments on this one, I decided to give it a go as it sounded like a winner, and it was!

I had a small false-start in that I made a crucial error by not reading the recipe in advance. ALWAYS read the recipe in advance. That way you will know that it's going to take two hours to cook and start making it earlier...

This was the perfect dish for using Christmas-type leftovers - the jar of chestnuts I had in the cupboard had been sitting there since last Christmas (s'okay, they were dated 2013). Plus things like carrots, onions are normally always in plentiful supply in my house.  I more of less stuck to the recipe however as you will see from the above photo, I did veg it up a bit by adding in some button mushrooms. I thought they would beef it up a bit and work perfectly in this dish and they did so I would definitely do that again.

The beef came out wonderfully tender after being slow-cooked for two hours and the chestnuts adding a nice texture.

This recipe serves two but can easily be doubled. 

Beef, chestnut & red wine casserole


450g beef (braising or similar)
1 onion, chopped
2 sprigs thyme
300ml beef stock (fresh or from a cube)
2 carrots, sliced
250ml red wine
200g cooked, peeled chestnuts
150g button mushrooms


Cut the beef into cubes and toss into seasoned flour.  Fry the beef cubes in a small casserole dish in a little oil over a high heat until they are browned. 

Add the onions and fry for a couple of minutes until they start to brown slightly. Remove the leaves from the sprigs of thyme and add to the casserole dish along with the wine and stock. Bring to the boil and turn down the heat. With the lid on the dish, simmer for one hour.

Add the carrots, chestnuts and mushrooms to the casserole dish. Season and cook gently for a further hour with the lid off.

I served this with a pile of fluffy mashed potato but this would also be lovely with roast potatoes and Mr M thought it would make a rather tasty pie filling so I might try that next time!

Word of advice. If you can, avoid buying fresh chestnuts that you have to cook and peel. Honestly, it's the biggest faff and hassle. The cooked and peeled chestnuts in a jar or vacuum-pack are way, way easier.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Monday, 30 January 2012

Meal Planning Monday (30th January 2012)

Surely it can't STILL be January? Is this the longest month ever? I think so!

So sadly last week I did indeed succumb to the illness that was hounding me and meal planning went slightly awry, but gladly not too badly and I managed most things I had planned with one or two dropping off because I was feeling too rough and also because I had to take my daughter to a birthday tea for her friend at the pub.  It has however made meal planning slightly easier this week as I'm tacking them on to this weeks plan which looks a little like this;

Chicken Passanda
Mince Beef Tacos
Conchiglie Rigate Piccanti
Pizza and Salad
Fantastic Fish Pie

I've only planned for the five week nights as quite possibly I'll go out to eat on Saturday and will  probably do a roast on Sunday.

I managed to read through all the blog posts submitted last week and hopefully commented on them all. I was getting seriously hungry reading through some of those!

Can't wait to hear what you've all got planned this week - the Linky is below so submit your blog post and I'll check it out. Remember if you add #mealplanningmonday to your Tweets, I'll RT as many as I can.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Friday, 27 January 2012

Do the (iPod) Shuffle...

I saw this on the Seasider in the City blog and because today I am sniffly and void of inspiration, I thought I'd join in.

The idea is to stick your iPod on shuffle and tell everyone what the first five songs are. This could be very embarrassing since I know what is on my iPod.  Here goes.

1. Sure by Take That

2. Sentimental Heart by She & Him

3. Mickey by Toni Basil

4.Written In The Stars by Tinie Tempah

5.  Never Let Her Slip Away by Undercover

I'd love a psychologist to look at that and analyse my musical tastes (for want of a better word).

What do you think?

Put your iPod on shuffle and tell me what comes up for you.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Lamb and Potato Curry

I'd heard good things about "Peter's Lamb Curry" from Jamie Oliver's "Return of the Naked Chef" book so as I love a curry, and a lamb one at that, I thought I'd give it a go.  To start with I was slightly intimidated by the long list of ingredients required but after a quick scan of my cupboards, I realised I had most of them anyhow.

This curry took a rather long time and a fair bit of effort on my part. I don't normally make curry pastes from scratch, I normally find the Pataks pastes are perfectly adequate but I decided to follow this recipe and make the paste. Let's just say, it was a labour of love and I'm in the market for an electric spice grinder...

Fortunately I had all day to get this ready, so I paced myself and made the hot and spicy rub and put the paste together earlier in the day. I won't lie to you, I did enjoy bashing the hell out of the spices and seeds with my Cornishware pestle and mortar but it was arduous and by the end of it my hand was hurting a bit (me? feeble?). I also ended up using my mini chopper and my Magimix so had a fair bit of washing up to contend with before I'd even started the main dish.

The paste looked and smelt awesome and I felt a great sense of satisfaction that I'd made it all myself however taste-wise, did it add much to the overall dish? For the effort? I don't think so and I have to be honest in that next time I probably would go back to a Pataks paste as I think they are a great shortcut and Jamie Oliver himself mentions them in his books so they must be okay then. If you wanted to try adding a Pataks paste, I would suggest the Rogan Josh paste.

I did make a few tweaks for 
instance, I used neck instead of leg of lamb, simply because it was cheaper and I've used it in curries before and I added potatoes because I love curries with potato in them! I also halved the ingredients and tweaked them a bit as the original recipe serves 8 and I have no need to make a curry that large and using potatoes meant I used less lamb (which I find can be very expensive) and didn't quite halve the liquids.

The curry itself took a long time to cook but I think that's how you develop a good, deep flavour. It turned out really well and I was very pleased with it, even if it had taken the best part of an afternoon to put together!

This recipe serves 4 and is adapted from the recipe featured in Jamie Oliver's Return of the Naked Chef.

Lamb & Potato Curry


Hot & fragrant rub mix;

1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1.5 tsp fenugreek seeds
1.5 tsp black peppercorns
1 clove
1/2 a cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Curry paste;

2.5cm fresh ginger, peeled
1 small red onion, peeled
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 fresh chillies, with seeds
small bunch of fresh coriander

For the curry;

1 tbsp butter
400g tin chopped tomatoes
200ml stock or water
600g diced lamb
small handful of chopped mint
small handful of chopped coriander
200ml natural yoghurt
salt & freshly ground black pepper
lime juice to taste


Start by making the rub mix. Lightly toast all the ingredients in a pan over a gentle heat before pounding into a fine powder.

Preheat your oven to 170c/gas mark 3. Chop the curry paste ingredients roughly and pop into a food processor along with the prepared rub mix and pulse until you have a puree.

In a large casserole dish, fry the curry paste mixture in the butter until it turns golden, stirring regularly.  Add the chopped tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil. Cover with kitchen foil and place in the oven for 1.5 hours to intensify the flavours.  Remove the foil and continue to simmer on the stove until it thickens. 

Peel and cut the potatoes into cubes. Boil for 10 mins, drain and put to one side.

Fry the diced lamb in a little olive oil until golden, then add to the curry sauce, along with the par-boiled potatoes and simmer for around 1 hour, until tender.  

Sprinkle with the chopped mint and coriander and stir in the yoghurt. Season to taste, add a squeeze of lime juice and serve with basmati rice and naan bread.

Jamie also suggests other tweaks you can make like adding in vegetables like spinach, peas, cauliflower, chickpeas and lentils - so you could really bulk it out and make it go further if you like.

One word of warning, this curry is very aromatic, and by aromatic I mean it stinks your entire house out for about three days afterwards...It's great when it's cooking but if you don't like lingering cooking smells you might want to open a few windows!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Mrs M's Favourite Holiday

My mind always turns to holidays at this time of year - cold, dark and miserable January. Summer has never seemed further away, and for me, holidays are all about summer. Wall-to-wall sunshine. The idea of taking a holiday somewhere cold and snowy appeals to the romantic in me but generally when it comes to holidays, I'm looking for warmth.  Which is fortunate really as our holiday in 2011, and my favourite ever holiday, took us to Orlando, Florida. In August. There's only one word to sum up that holiday - HOT! 

We booked our two week break to Disneyworld with Thomson Holidays, just over a year in advance so there was plenty of time to get everyone excited and more importantly for those who know me, plenty of  time for me to write lists, plan itinerary's and even decide where we were going to eat dinner every day.  A Disney holiday really feeds my planning obsession!

One of the only things I dreaded about travelling with the children was the long flight. In the past we'd managed a 2-3 hour flight easily but this being nearly 11 hours, with 3 hours in the airport before even getting on the plane was a whole new ballgame. My handy hint? Just keep feeding them. Seriously. We flew with Thomson Fly from our local airport which meant travelling to the airport was stress-free and once on board the plane we were pleased to discover just how comfy the seats were and what a great pitch the Thomson Fly long haul planes had. The children were entertained with the seat back tv sets which had a good selection of films and games to keep them busy in-between meals. It was definitely a great start to the holiday.

Our hotel - Port Orleans Riverside

Having been to Orlando before (pre-children) I knew that we were in for a treat and we weren't disappointed. If you've not been before, then you should definitely go, it's out of this world on every level.  Staying on site at Disney, the customer service is incredible and you really get the feeling that they just cannot do enough for you, nothing is too much trouble. The theme parks are meticulously well-kept and there's something there for everyone.  

We got to see favourite Disney shows like Fantasmic and the awesome Beauty and the Beast show, eat at lots of lovely restaurants including the world-famous and iconic Cinderella's Castle, go on scary rides, boat rides, 3D shows, we saw the most incredible fireworks show that we've ever seen, had dinner next to a turtle, met all the characters from our favourite films,  went to an all-you-can-eat dessert party, fulfilled my sons dream of riding on a monorail, spent all day playing at water-parks (Typhoon Lagoon is the by far the best), all whilst sweating more than I ever thought possible!  It was a holiday completely geared towards spending quality time as a family with the children's happiness and enjoyment being the first and foremost thing on our minds, which lets be honest, when it comes to holidays isn't always what we are thinking about!

It wasn't a perfect holiday by any stretch of the imagination. Very often due to the heat we *cough* were all tired and a little grumpy but it's one that I will look back on and remember forever. The children still talk about it now and ask me when we can go back (erm, when Daddy has recovered from this one kids!) and I hope that they'll always remember it as fondly as I do.

There really is not another holiday like it and I hope that we go back many, many more times  - although this year I'm hoping that our holiday will have a little more down-time!

This blog post has been written as an entry into the Tots 100/Thomson Al Fresco competition which is running over on the Tots 100 blog. For more information about Thomson Al Fresco you can click here!

love & kisses 
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Chicken Fajitas (Jamie Oliver style)

I cannot believe I have never blogged this recipe before. These fajitas from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food book are something that I must have cooked dozens of times.  They are quite simply delicious and everybody I know who has made them has loved them. I really need never try a different fajita recipe again.

The photo above is last night's dinner. Okay, I know it's not a picture of an actual fajita but I am probably the worlds messiest fajita-maker and you know what, you just don't need to see that. 

Rather disappointingly my fajita experience last night did not include guacamole. I know. I like the full compliment of accompaniments with my fajitas - soured cream, salsa, grated cheese AND guacamole. Clearly, the people of Rugby do not eat guacamole and the Sainsburys Local near my office does not stock it.  I stopped at a local Co-op on the way home and yes, no guacamole there either. What is wrong with people? If it hadn't have been a work night then I may have attempted a bit of a wrestle with an avocado or two and made my own but as it was, I was too tired and hungry and therefore had my fajitas had to remain guacamole-less. 

As with most of Mr Oliver's recipes, this just works. It's so incredibly quick and simple to put together that I don't know why anyone would reach for a fajita kit. Granted, I don't always make the salsa - it depends how much time I have, I mean, chopping up tiny cherry tomatoes can become a bit tedious... but let me tell you, the salsa is worth making, it's yum.

So here it is, fajitas a la Jamie Oliver. I've switched the recipe around to suit the order I do things, Jamie doesn't seem to work in the same way as I do. The recipe serves 2 but you can easily double it.  Enjoy.

Chicken Fajitas


1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly chopped
1 medium red onion, finely sliced
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into long strips
1 tsp smoked paprika
small pinch of ground cumin
2 limes
olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 tortillas 
tub of soured cream
tub of guacamole
100g grated cheddar cheese

For the salsa;
1/2-1 (depending on your taste) fresh red chilli, finely chopped 
15 ripe cherry tomatoes
small bunch fresh coriander
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 lime 
extra virgin olive oil


Pop the chopped peppers, onion and chicken pieces into a bowl along with the paprika and cumin. Squeeze over the juice of half a lime and a good glug of olive oil. Season with a good pinch of sea salt & freshly ground black pepper and stir to mix well. Leave to marinade whilst you prepare the salsa.

To make the salsa, roughly chop your cherry tomatoes and the coriander (including the stalks). Put the tomatoes into a bowl with the chopped chilli and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper before adding the juice of 1 lime. Add a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and then stir in the chopped coriander.

Heat up a griddle pan over a high heat. Put the pepper, onion and chicken into the preheated pan and cook for around 8 minutes until the chicken is golden and cooked through.  Keep turning the pieces of chicken and vegetables so that they don't burn but become lightly chargrilled.

Warm up your tortillas (microwave, pan or I pop them in foil for the oven for a few minutes) and divide your warmed tortillas between your serving plates.  Halve your remaining lime and squeeze the juices over the sizzling pan. Serve with pots of soured cream and guacamole alongside your grated cheese and the fresh salsa.

Jamie suggests serving the chicken straight from the pan by putting it on the table however, with children present I never think this is a good idea so I always transfer it to a warm serving dish.

The recipe calls for 4 tortillas as it serves 2 people, but Mr M and I easily squeeze 3 each out of the mixture - probably because I don't like fat fajitas so I don't overstuff them!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Monday, 23 January 2012

Meal Planning Monday (23rd January 2012)

Happy Monday everyone!

Hope you all had a good weekend? Mine was quiet but that's the way I like it. I was feeling quite inspired  yesterday when writing my meal plan as last week as an extremely successful week where I stuck to my meal plan completely - no frozen pizzas, no chip nights or takeaways, and I tried out a couple of new recipes which were all complete successes.

This means that this week I've got some brand new recipes again, and I'm hoping to have another successful week, however I appear to be succumbing to an illness that I am hoping won't develop but this has the potential to throw me off kilter!

This is what I have got planned;

Fettuccine Alle Cipolle
Sizzling Korean-Style Beef
Chicken Passanda
Chinese-Style Lemon Chicken
Gumbo Style Chicken 
Minced Beef Tacos

In fact, aside from the tacos, I think they are all new recipes. That could be a bit ambitious, huh!

We've been having a lot of entries on Meal Planning Monday and I am trying hard to get around each and every one so if I do miss you off, shout at me.

The Linky is below so lets see what you're eating this week. Don't forget to spread the word about Meal Planning Monday - the more the merrier.

Have a good week

love & kisses
Mrs Mx

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Sweet & Sour Chicken

I love my deep fat fryer and the variety it can offer to cooking. Okay. I know that it's not the most healthy way of cooking a meal but in terms of taste, it can add a lot to the experience. Having said that, I do find cleaning it a pain in the rear and the fact that it uses about 7 gallons of oil means it can get expensive to use so I only use it a couple of times a year. 

The house has been upside down due to building works and for the past year the fryer has been stored away but now my utility room is finished I have somewhere to keep and use it (I don't like the smell in the kitchen). It's now full of oil and after making this dish last night, they'll be a few more uses this week whilst it's out.

This is a BBC Good Food recipe that I spied a while back. I love sweet and sour from the Chinese but unfortunately it doesn't love me, and I suffer from MSG-tummy. Obviously, this doesn't stop me from indulging but this dish is a good substitute, and it's really tasty to boot!

I'll definitely make this again as it was so easy and relatively quick to put together. The chicken was really tasty and the sauce came out well. On this occasion I used a packet of tempura batter but it's very simple to make your own, and I'll include the recipe below.

The recipe said it served 4 people but the recipe lies. It served 2. I'm saying nothing.

Sweet and Sour Chicken


2-3 large skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
sunflower oil for deep frying (plus extra for stir-frying)
tempura batter
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 carrot, sliced thinly
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp finely chopped (or grated) fresh root ginger

For the sauce;
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp sherry
1 tbsp light soft brown sugar
1 tsp cornflour


Chop the chicken into small chunks and mix in a bowl with the soy sauce and sesame oil.  In a separate bowl, mix together the sauce ingredients, along with 100ml cold water.

Heat the oil in the deep-fat fryer to 180c.  Dip a few pieces of chicken at a time into the tempura batter, then place in the hot oil using tongs.  Fry until crisp and golden, this should take a couple of minutes. You will need to do this in batches, so reheat the oil if necessary. As the chicken pieces are cooked, lift out with a slotted spoon and pop onto a plate covered with kitchen paper to drain off the excess oil.

Heat a large wok and add 3 tbsp oil. Stir-fry the chopped pepper and carrot along with the garlic and ginger for around 3 minutes.  Give the sauce a quick stir in the bowl and pour into the wok. Stir and bubble for 1 minute then spoon over the chicken and serve immediately.

If you want to make your own tempura batter, it's pretty easy.   You don't want to leave the batter sitting around, so make it only when you are ready to cook. All you have to do is sift 85g plain flour and 1 tbsp cornflour with 1/2 tsp fine sea salt into a mixing bowl. Whisk in 200ml of ice cold sparkling mineral water.  Don't over beat, the batter is meant to have a few lumps. I also pop some ice cubes in the batter as it's important it's cold.

A top tip when deep-frying is not to overcrowd the basket, if you put to much in there it won't take on that lovely golden brown colour.

Watch this space for more deep-frying action very soon!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Friday, 20 January 2012

Product Review: Just Dance Kids

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know by now that I'm a big fan of the Just Dance games from Ubisoft (you can read a recent review of the adults version here). A little while before Christmas, I was sent a copy of their kids version "Just Dance Kids" to try out.

The Just Dance games can be a little complicated for children so Ubisoft have created this version with choreography designed just for them. Just Dance Kids has an age rating of 3+ and on the Wii, up to 4 people can play at one time. The music is catered towards children with recent and classic pop songs as well as movie and tv hits, and nursery rhymes. There's a song to cater for children in all age groups. The simple layout of the game means that children can navigate the menus with ease and there's also a "parents corner" where mums and dads can choose a play list or see their children's progress in the game.

We first tried this at a Christmas party where the age range of the children was 4-8 year olds. As mentioned above, the game can take 1-4 players and we definitely thought that more was certainly merrier - although it's might be wise to clear a big space as there's a few arms and legs flailing around in different directions!  All the children really enjoyed playing it and it was good to have a game that got them off their bottoms and doing something a little more energetic!

What makes this different to the original Just Dance games is the use of real children in the videos rather than the outline/animation that the adult versions use. I think this makes it easier for the children to grasp and to follow. There are also a few fun features like the "freeze mode" where you have to freeze when it tells you (not always so easy for children!) and the "shake mode" where you have to shake the Wii remote. 

This is a great game which we used at a couple of parties over Christmas and it was always a real hit, with one song being a particular favourite...

Aside from the Gummy Bear song, other favourites from the track list were Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, Song 2 and Jingle Bells. 

If I was to offer one criticism of the game, it would be that I think it is targeted slightly towards the US market - I think the recent pop hits featured on the game are ones that American children will know better as my 6 year old didn't really know any of them and it would have been nice to have seen some songs on there that she is more familiar with from our own UK acts like JLS, The Saturdays and Pixie Lott.

All-in-all, Just Dance Kids is a great, fun game that is suitable for kids of all ages (even the adult ones!) and will provide hours of entertainment. It's also extremely good value as it's currently available at Amazon for only £14.99!

Thanks to Ubisoft for providing this game for review.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Nigella's Cranberry & Soy Glazed Cocktail Sausages

This is another recipe left over from Christmas. Yep. Sorry about that.

A festive favourite in the M household, I make these every year but it occurred to me that I've never actually blogged them so hastily snapped them right before they were demolished in about two minutes.  These sausages are delicious straight from the oven so they never hang around very long.

It's a lovely simple recipe. Aside from a tiny bit of faffing making the glaze, there's nothing really to it. I secretly like whipping up a marinade or a glaze anyhow and the majority of the ingredients are store cupboard so you're likely to have them kicking around. Nigella lists them as a party dish but in all honesty I don't really see how it would work. These suckers are sticky and icky but to be fair to her she does mention that you'll probably have to follow people around with a packet of baby-wipes!  Nigella also says that you can use the glaze ingredients as a marinade/cook-in sauce for chicken wings and spare ribs, both of which I think would work amazingly.

The glaze recipe is enough to coat 50 cocktail sausages and of course can be easily halved or doubled as necessary.  Recipe adapted from Nigella Christmas.

Cranberry and Soy Glazed Cocktail Sausages


125ml Thai or Chinese sweet chilli sauce
60ml cranberry sauce (from a jar)
60ml soy sauce
1 x 15ml dark brown sugar
juice of 1 clementine (or satsuma)
juice of 1 lime
50 cocktail sausages


Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6. Pop the cocktail sausages into a foil-lined roasting tin or a disposable foil baking tray if you have one.  (This is quite important, the glaze can make an awful mess).

Mix the chilli sauce, cranberry sauce and soy sauce in a measuring jug and stir in the sugar. Add the clementine and lime juices and mix well.

Pour the glaze over the sausages, ensuring that there are all evenly coated.  Put the tin into the oven for around 35-40 minutes, turning them gently halfway. 

Serve immediately.

See? Quite simple.

Let me know if you try them, and don't forget the baby-wipes! 

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Cocktail Love: Disaronno Mule

That's a bad photo right there isn't it? Forgive me. It was Christmas and this was possibly my third or fourth *hic*.

Far more palatable than the Black Forest Martini I made first, the Disaronno Mule is a refreshing delight! Seemingly I had erased all knowledge that ginger ale ever existed from my tiny mind as I don't think I had sampled a glass since circa 1987. What have I been missing out on?!  An impulse purchase of some Canada Dry in Sainsburys led to me discovering what I think may now be my favourite tipple, after a glass of red that is.  

This is a seriously good drink, that you need to try. Right now.

Disaronno Mule


1.5 parts Disaronno
4 slices of lime
2 tsp sugar
ginger ale


Muddle the sugar and lime slices together. Add the Disaronno and some cracked ice and stir.  Top up with ginger ale and garnish with a mint sprig.

Note, if you want to go all Tom Cruise and use a cocktail shaker, then by my guest.  You'll want to be using a 25ml measure for this, making the amount of Disaronno in the drink about 40ml, but fill your boots, a little bit more won't hurt.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Monday, 16 January 2012

Meal Planning Monday (15th January 2012)

Wow you guys! I thought the previous week had been bumper but last week was even more so! Thanks so much for all your entries, I've enjoyed reading them even if it did take me ages, and two glasses of wine... 

There was a lot of sausages cropping up last week? It seemed to be a recurring theme and has inspired my meal planning this week. Lauren also inspired me to have a fish finger sarnie this week!

I'm being a bit ambitious this week, much to the dismay of my husband. Poor old Mr M always complains that he rarely gets the same meal twice! Does anyone else have this problem? I can't help it, I just like to experiment!

In no particular order, this is what is planned this week

Posh fish finger sandwich & chips
Lamb curry (a Jamie Oliver recipe) with rice & naan bread
Sausage casserole & mashed potatoes
Creamy pancetta & mushroom pasta with garlic pizza bread
Soup and warm baguette (soup will be this which is my favourite in the whole world!)

Yes. As you can see, I make a lot of things but I don't make soup. That's not because I don't want to but because I am rubbish at it. Well, I'm probably not rubbish but I can never do it as good as Heinz or New Covent Garden so I don't see the point! There are no nasties in the New Covent Garden soup so I feel it is just as good as making my own.

The Linky is below so join in and I'll check out your blog posts later this week. If you use the hash-tag #mealplanningmonday on Twitter along with your blog post I'll RT as many as I can. Don't forget to tell your friends about Meal Planning Monday - the posts are so good for inspiration!

Until next week...

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Holiday 2012

So, imagine this. You've got the chance of one week away, childless of course. Where would you go? (Of course, you may be a parent who couldn't and wouldn't dream of going away without their children, but please, humour me).

Would you go somewhere cold - an activity like skiing or would you opt for some sunshine? City break or lazing on a beach? Cultural or an escape? Would you go somewhere new or somewhere cosy and familiar? 

Mr M has just turned 40 and my parents have rather generously offered to take care of the children whilst we go away for a week. We're unrestricted on time of year so the world pretty much is our oyster.

We've so far toyed with taking off for a week and going to the grand prix in Monza before driving to Venice via Lake Garda and Verona (the timing of that trip would tie in with our wedding anniversary) or just taking off to a hot place to lie in the sun with nothing but a book and and iPod for company.  I'd be quite up for a city break to New York but Mr M wasn't enamoured on our last trip and clearly, it's his birthday so that's out of the window.

I'm finding it so hard to decide when we've pretty much no limitations, other than cost of course! Since a child-free holiday is not an everyday occurrence we want to be sure to not waste the chance and part of me feels that lazing around in the sunshine in peace and quiet is something I haven't been able to enjoy for 6 years!

I'd really like to hear where you would go for one week if you had no limitations and cost wasn't an important factor.  Your dream holidays might help me find ours!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Friday, 13 January 2012

Friday Foody Round Up #3

It's been a few months since I've done a Friday Foody Round Up, mainly because I haven't been sent a lot of food (what a travesty!) and also because I've had other things to be blogging about but it's time for a catch-up.  Here is what I have been trying out recently...

Quality Street
I was asked if I'd like to be sent some chocolate and I had to take, ooh, two seconds to think about it before saying YES! I've always loved Quality Street since I was a little girl. They remind me a lot of my nan who always bought a big glass jar at Christmas that I would of course raid every time I went round there. I was sent this tin, a limited edition 75th birthday tin which was stacked full of chocolate goodness!  We all have our favourites in the M household, which is fortunate as it means there is no squabbling. I'm all about the Toffee Deluxe and strangely, the Toffee Penny. Everyone I know disses the Toffee Penny but I love it. The little lady is a Fudge fan whilst the boy has developed at a taste for the Coconut Eclair. Mr M is partial to The Purple One, which is lucky as I was also sent to of these lovely bars to try out.

and no, I didn't get to try any but I was reliably informed it was delicious!

Häagan-Dazs Secret Sensations

Always a fan of ice-cream, and Häagan-Dazs in particular (mmm Strawberry Cheesecake flavour...) when I was asked if I'd like to become part of Häagan-Dazs Loves blogger club I didn't say no. One of the perks is free ice-cream at the Häagan-Dazs shop and they also sent me the coolest USB flash drive  - in the shape of a tub of Häagan-Dazs as well as some absolutely lovely Cow Shed smellies. How can you turn that down?! The other week I was sent a new product to try - Secret Sensations which in inspired by two of the world's most decadent desserts, combining delicious creamy ice cream with a "heart" of rich sauce. Secret Sensations comes in two indulgent flavours: Chocolate Fondant - a blend of delicious chocolate ice cream with soft brownie pieces surrounding a chocolate sauce centre and Creme Brulee - which combines smooth ice cream with small, crunchy caramel biscuit pieces and a smooth caramel sauce centre.

These are seriously good, anyone who loves desserts and ice cream are going to adore these.  The Chocolate Fondant was my personal favourite but they are both delicious. The Secret Sensations range is available from January 2012 as a pack of two 100ml mini cups (RRP £3.29) or as individual mini cups (RRP £1.99).

LG Electronics

Not strictly a food review but I think it fits in well as I did get to eat lots of lovely food, LG very kindly sent me a hamper of lovely treats as well as a bumper box of Finish dishwasher tables which came in extremely useful over the Christmas period when I think at one point, my dishwasher was in use twice a day!  It doesn't surprise me that new research from LG Electronics reveals that one in three Brits say that washing the dishes after the Christmas dinner tops the festive woes!  Apparently the nation collectively spends 25.5million hours scraping away the turkey fat and cranberry sauce during the festive season and nearly half the nation says they do more washing up over the Christmas holidays than during any other time of the year. I could not be without my dishwasher so thank you to LG for furnishing me with supplies that means I don't have to!

My very lovely polka dot lined hamper (have they been stalking me?) was crammed full of delicious festive treats like a mini Christmas cake, Christmas puddings, cranberry & orange conserve and cranberry biscuits amongst others and it all went down a treat!

That's it for now. Thank you for joining me on Friday Foody Round Up!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Best toys of Christmas? The 2011 Edition

Important Disclaimer...everything talked about in the post has been paid for by me! I have not been asked or paid to review any of these products. So there.

Last January I blogged about the best toys of Christmas. That is, what were the best toys in our house.  In case it's helpful for anyone, I thought I'd do the same this year.  

As I said last year, things can sometimes be a bit hit and miss and toys that they have longed for hardly get looked at, whilst others that were an afterthought or a small stocking filler get played with until they fall apart. Example. The most played with toy in our house this Christmas? A £1 whoopee cushion. I kid you not.

In no particular order, here are the toy successes of Christmas 2011.

The Hawkins Bazaar Penguin Race. It's not even a game but that doesn't stop my 4yr old from playing with this for hours and hours. I knew it would be a hit as he'd been making eyes at it for about a year.  It was a last-minute purchase when I needed to even up the pile and I'm glad I got it for him.

A toy I wanted to resist as I feared it would be a one-hit wonder, the Disney Snow Globe Maker. In fairness, it probably is a bit of a one-hit wonder but she has loved making the snow globes. I don't love it. It requires far too much input from me and it's a bit complex for my tiny mind.
A surprise hit of Christmas 2011 - Squinkies - and a hit with both the boy and girl in my house. We have Disney Cars 2 Squinkies, the cupcake Squinkies you see above, a Wedding Surprise Playset and Barbie Squinkies. They seem quite expensive on Amazon for what they are, but I managed to get them all for less than half-price at Argos before Christmas. I predict that these will get played with a lot over the next few months.

Mario Kart for the Wii. Probably should have just bought this and nothing else to be honest as they love it.  I'm not a huge advocate of video games for young children but at 6 and 4 I felt it was time to introduce them to the Wii - we've had it for 3 years and they've not noticed it! However, all their friends are playing these games and I've noticed they're getting left out when they go to friends houses because they don't know what to do with the controller and that makes me feel bad so I thought this was a nice game to introduce them to the world of games consoles. I'm a harsh mother as they have to wait until Sundays to have Wii-time and then, they only get it if they've been good all week. It's a good one too as we can all play it as a family.
The much-coveted Sylvanian Families caravan.  My little girl had been asking for this for months and months and even I think this is great! I think she'll get a lot of play out of this over the next few years. The attention to detail, as always with Sylvanian Families, is spot-on right down to giving you different stickers for the number plate so you can match it to the car you have.

What's that coming over the hill is it a Hexbug? It's a Hexbug!  They are LOVING the Hexbug Nanos that they got in the Christmas stockings and they go perfectly well withe the spiral habitat set that I reviewed last year. I think these are designed for slightly older children but my 4yr old loves them and nurtures them like little pets.

I ummed and aahed over buying Guess Who Extra as we already had the original Guess Who game but I am so glad as I did as this one is a lot better quality, the other was really flimsy, but I think they've changed the design again now. It also adds a bit more to the game as there are different characters from the standard ones we all know and love - including monsters and animals. It makes the game a lot trickier actually but this is a game we love playing together.

Another things they both loved were the big buckets of Lego we bought for them. It's interesting to watch my children as my daughter is very methodical and likes to follow instructions to the letter so she pores over the guide books and diagrams to get her model absolutely perfect. My son likes to free-range it a bit, and he's a lot more imaginative, creating things from scratch and just running with an idea.

Would be interested to hear what the biggest hit in your house this Christmas was?

love & kisses
Mrs M x