Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Indian SuperMeals Baby & Toddler Cookbook


When the author of Indian SuperMeals, Zainab Jagot Ahmed, contacted me and asked me if I'd like to review her baby and toddler cookbook, I thought why not. Sure, I no long have any babies or even toddlers however I do still have children and many "toddler" recipes are suitable for children as well. 

At present, Indian SuperMeals is only available as an ebook, but seeing as I have iPods, iPads, iPhones and Kindles in the house - well clearly that's not an issue! I don't normally buy cookbooks as ebooks, as my heaving kitchen shelves show and I'm still not completely won over by cookbooks in this format however it would certainly save some space in my house!

Image Credit: http://zainabjagotahmed.com/

Indian SuperMeals was created out of Zainab's own interest in home-cooking for her baby and also her desire to keep in touch with her roots. It was apparent that there was a serious lack of Indian baby food cookery books in the market, so she decided to create her own! The "SuperMeals" part of the title refers to the extra health benefits that are associated with these meals due to the inclusion of carefully selected super foods and spices.

The author has provided a lot of detailed notes to help guide you through your weaning journey and  also talks us through the spices. This is quite interesting as we tend to feed our babies and toddlers quite bland food but I am positive I once read evidence to the contrary - that babies actually like strong tastes. My friends daughter for instance is an olive and gherkin lover!

Starting at Stage 2 (age 7 months +) the recipes are split into sections like "Veggie" and "Fish"  and include all manner of delights like Rainbow Veggie Pie, Sweet Potato Apple and Dahl Curry, Sweet Fish and Fruit Curry. There are also finger food ideas like Minted Green Beans and Roti Sticks.  The emphasis at this stage is soft lumps, mild spice and the introduction of self-feeding.   We then move onto Stage 3 (10 months +) and Stage 4 (age 1 - 3 years) with the recipes getting more sophisticated and a bit spicier.

Image Credit: http://zainabjagotahmed.com/

The recipes vary in length with some taking longer to prep and cook (a good curry always takes time in my experience) but the methods are easy to follow and there are no exotic ingredients to hunt down. All you really need is a good spice cupboard to hand. 

My verdict? I like the recipe ideas and will be trying out a few of them on my own children. Even through they are are now 5 and 7 they're not overly keen on curry and I think there's a few of these recipes that I could try to broaden their horizons a bit more.  There's lots of choice and a good variety of meat, fish and vegetable dishes. I think perhaps the ebook itself could benefit for a bit of tweaking as there are few apparent formatting issues on the copy I have however, I have had this for quite a while now so these could well have been rectified by now.

Indian SuperMeals is available at Amazon, priced at £3.99. Go on, spice up your toddlers life!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Beautiful Britain: Covehithe


The hamlet of Covehithe in Suffolk is not somewhere we had planned to visit, however when we got talking to an old local he told us we should go and have a look and we were glad we did.
Whilst Covehithe is now a tiny hamlet with a population of approximately 20, in the middle ages Covehithe was a small prosperous town but by the 17th century it had fallen victim to the devastating effects of coastal erosion. In 1910, in his book “Vanishing England” the author P.H. Driffield wrote;
“At Covehithe, on the Suffolk coast, there has been the greatest loss of land. In 1887 sixty feet was claimed by the sea, and in ten years (1878-87) the loss was at the rate of over eighteen feet a year. In 1895 another heavy loss occurred between Southwold and Covehithe and a new cove formed. Easton Bavent has entirely disappeared, and so have the once prosperous villages of Covehithe, Burgh-next-Walter, and Newton-by-Corton, and the same fate seems to be awaiting Pakefield, Southwold, and other coast-lying towns.”


Image Credit: http://www.picturesofengland.com/

According to Ordnance Survey maps, the coastline retreated more than 500 metres between 1830 and 2001. This is apparent from the road that goes past the church – it just drops right off the end of the cliff! The tides of the North Sea are eating away at the cliffs depositing the shingle further south at Orford Ness. Apparently, this is a process that has been occurring for thousands of years and is part of the natural realignment of the coastline, however the erosion at Covehithe has been somewhat accelerated by the rising sea levels caused by global warming and the extraction of sand and gravel from the seabed.


At the centre of Covehithe are the magnificent ruins of St Andrews Church, a Grade I listed building. The church dates back to the late 14th/early 15th century. Only part of the church is in ruins, with a smaller chapel having been built within the footprint when the parishioners could no longer afford the upkeep of such a large building.  This 17th century built church stands against the tower of the original building and most of the materials used to build the new church, came from the old one. It has been mentioned in the past that the old edifice was reduced to its present state by the action of Cromwell’s agents however according to the Southwold Press although William Dowsing, who was the Parliamentary Commission had stated that he “broke down two hundred pictures – one Pope with divers Cardinals; Christ and the Virgin Mary; a picture of God the Father etc.” he did not in fact appear to have carried out much structural damage apart from the breaking of the stained glass windows.

Looking at the sheer size of the ruins kind of gives you some insight into the busy place that Covehithe once was, yet even at its height there were only around 300 people living in the area, not nearly enough to warrant a place of worship of this size. Whilst viewing the ruins, I let my imagination run wild thinking of all the reasons such a building would have fallen into this decrepit state but the real reason wasn’t nearly as exciting!

There is a coastal footpath which takes you along the edge of the cliffs. There is sign telling you not to enter but it’s a very well used path and there’s no real danger – as long as you don’t get too close. Every year this footpath is pushed further back, it’s unlikely that if you were to return the following year you’d be walking on the same patch of land – which is  a rather scary thought I think.
Image Credit: http://adnams.co.uk/
It’s a shame that with the rapidly encroaching coastal erosion and the church only being one length of a field away from the cliff-top, it’s likely that the church at Covehithe will be no more within the next 50-100 years. Enjoy it whilst you can.



Monday, 25 February 2013

Meal Planning Monday (25th February 2013)


Hello!

Just a brief posting from me this morning so I could get the Linky up. I've not had chance to think about groceries or meal plans yet this week and today is BUSY. Doctors appointments, children's parties, school preps... it's the end of half-term and an Inset Day today.

I'll be back with my meal plan later today but in the meantime do link your meal plans on the Linky below!

*UPDATED*

Right I am back now, phew I feel exhausted! I've still not had a lot of time to think about food (which is always good when you're on a diet) so tonight is emergency chippy for everyone else and low-cal soup for me. I've just sat down with my folders and a cuppa and now the rest of the week pans out like so.

Spaghetti bolognese
Chicken caesar salad
Cod with parsley sauce & steamed veggies
Roasted Mediterranean vegetables and spicy prawns
Chicken fajitas

After eating diet ready meals for the past 3-4 weeks I am ready and desperate to do some cooking so I've been trying to find meals that are low-cal so I don't blow all my hard work. The weight loss is slow progress now so I'm finding it quite depressing.


So once again, it's your turn! What are you planning this week? If you' are a newcomer to my blog or #mealplanningmonday, the idea is pretty simple. Write a blog post about your meal plan for the week and submit the URL of your post using the Linkytools below. If you've not got a blog but want to join in, then that's perfectly fine - just leave a comment below telling us what you're planning this week.  Any questions, you can catch me via email (in the contact page) or on Twitter @madamding.  I like messages so don't worry about bothering me!

Remember - the Link Party for February is now active and will run until the end of February, which means you only have until end of Thursday to enter.  Make sure you share any recipes you blog this month on that page which you can find HERE


Catch you later!






Friday, 22 February 2013

Good Things in England?


I recently acquired some new cookbooks. I know, like I needed any more right? I've actually run out of space now. I say "new" but what I actually mean  is "new to me" as none of them could be considered new or current by any stretch of the imagination.  I thought I'd introduce you to some of the delightful things we used to eat, before, you know, we wised up and realised they were gross.

Good Things In England is described as being "A practical cookery book for everyday use, containing traditional and regional recipes suited to modern tastes. Contributed by English men and women between 1399 and 1932." It was edited by a lady called Florence White who, described as the daughter of an old line of Sussex innkeepers, was founder of the English Folk Cookery Association and a member of the American Home Economics Association.

Miss White teaches us how to make the perfect tea, coffee and toast for breakfast as well as describing how to cook an egg without boiling it. A "receipt perfect for Invalids" apparently. My personal favourites breakfast dishes in the section were things like the Pork Cheese, which involves boiling up the feet, ears and bones of a pig before picking the meat off and boiling it with pepper, salt, nutmeg, allspice, soy and ketchup.  

Then we move onto Luncheons and of course soup. If the Pork Cheese wasn't enough for you, why not try the Mock Turtle Soup made from Sheep's Head.  Method: 

1 - Clean the head. 
2 - Take out the eyes and throw them away. Take out the tongue and cook it separately but in the same pot. Take out the brains, wash and tie them up in a piece of pudding cloth and cook them also in the same pot.

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nic/
I gave up reading the rest of the recipe as lets face it, it's never going to make it onto the table in my house is it!

You can tell how old the book is when there's a complete section on how to cook a young swan - you want to stuff it with rump steak and shallots apparently and if you want to know how to roughly tell the age of a hare, then this is your book.

At the back are some regional recipes like Barnstaple Fair Gingerbread, Devonshire Junket, Staffordshire Yeomanry Pudding and Coventry Godcakes. Despite living near Coventry my entire life I've never heard of Godcakes but this is what they look like and as they're made of puff pastry and mincemeat (and we all know how I feel about mince pies) I'm going to be making them pretty soon!

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/offchurch-tam/
It's not all bad though. The home-made bread, the vinegars and pickles and sweet dishes all sound perfectly delightful  and some of the meat and curry recipes sounded lovely. I fully intend to make Collier's Pie soon, mainly because it's one of the rare recipes that doesn't involve a chicken or pigs entrails.  My favourite section of the book is the country teas chapter and I just know that I'll make a good few of these recipes - Fat Rascals, Gingerbread Cake and Apple Butter are all on the list.

Whilst some traditional foods and drinks do sound very appealing, I'm rather thankful that times have moved on and we no longer have to cook up a farm animals head for our evening meal!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Apricot and Almond Cake


Without blowing my own trumpet, I think this cake is one of my proudest creations. Okay, it doesn't look much to look at but it tasted fabulous and I completely winged it.

I recently acquired some old cookbooks, varying in age and some are obscure local WI type publications. One of them had a recipe for apricot cake in submitted by a local lady bake in the 60's. I love apricots and I love cake, I had all the ingredients in and so I thought why not, lets go for it.

My biggest stumbling block was cake tin size, as it was an old book it wasn't very specific. I had a 7inch and a 9inch and after much Twitter debate, I opted for the 7inch as I didn't really want it to be too thin. It turned out perfect, although I think if I had an 8inch that would work fine too.

And then there was the method. It was really basic and what was there was completely different from how I'd make a cake so I rehashed it and basically just made it up and crossed my fingers and luckily it all turned out okay! I also made a couple of additions to the basic recipe - whether they helped or not, I don't know but it tasted divine!  (The ingredient weight aren't that conventional as they're converted from imperial but it works fine!).

Apricot and Almond Cake

Ingredients

225g self-raising flour
110g caster sugar
4 tbsp apricot jam
110g butter (I used Stork)
2 eggs
a few drops of almond essence
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp milk

For the top;
20g flaked almonds
1 tbsp caster sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 160c/gas mark 3. Grease and line the bottom of a 7inch cake tin with non-stick baking parchment.

Put the softened butter and caster sugar into a bowl or mixer and beat together well. Add the flour, baking powder, milk and almond essence and beat well to combine.  Stir in the eggs, followed by the apricot jam.

Transfer the cake mix into your cake tin and smooth over the top. Cover with the flaked almonds and sprinkle a tablespoon of caster sugar over the top. 

Bake in the bottom of the oven for around 1 hour and 10 minutes. Test with a skewer to make sure it is fully cooked and give it a few more minutes if necessary. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes.

My favourite type of cakes is tea-time style cakes - you know, get a lovely pot of tea brewing and have a big slab of cake on the side, no fuss, just a good simpe cake. I'll be making this to take on picnics in Clementine in the near future!



Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Lamb and Spinach Curry


This lamb and spinach curry is adapted from a BBC Good Food recipe and is a good one. It's very easy to double on and freezes well so excellent for batch cooking. I know this because our plans changed one night and the lamb was going out of date so I made this to go straight into the freezer. I wasn't sure about the spinach aspect so I left that out and added that during the reheating process.

I make curry a lot but I've never found the Holy Grail of curries yet although this one was pretty darned tasty. It was spicy, not too spicy but enough to tingle your lips and give you a bit of a nose run going on, and it smelled divine when it was cooking. I'll definitely make it again in the future.

This recipe serves 4.

Lamb and Spinach Curry

Ingredients

small chunk ginger, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 green chilies, sliced
1 tbsp oil 
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp hot chilli powder
600g lamb neck fillet, diced
4 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
100g spinach

Method

Pop the chopped ginger, garlic and onions into a food processor and whizz until they form a paste.  

In a large pan (with a lid) heat 1 tbsp oil and then add the paste, the chopped green chillies and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook for around 4 minutes until fragrant.

Add the spices to the pan and cook for a few more minutes. Put the diced lamb into the pan and cook until browned. Stir in the tomatoes, the tomato puree and a cup of water. Bring to a simmer and cover and cook for an hour.

After the hour is up, add the spinach to the pan and cook for a further 15 minutes.

It does take a fair bit of effort to chop everything although I tend to use my Kenwood Mini Chopper for that and if you want to take some of the work out, you could always use some finely chopped tinned tomatoes instead of fresh - that would definitely reduce the prep time and would work perfectly well.

I served this with pilau rice and some garlic and coriander naan breads.  Which I didn't make just so you know. I bought them from Waitrose and they were delish!


Clearing out the clutter & pocketing the pennies!


I know it's not quite Spring yet, that would be a bit optimistic seeing as we had snow last week, but my mind has turned to spring cleaning.  I'm in the mood for clearing out the clutter that has gathered around me and there's no time like the present (I have to seize these moments when they attack me!).  I don't really know where all the stuff in my house comes from but what I do know is I have way more things around me than is necessary or sensible and I feel a clear-out is as good for the soul as chicken soup.

Apart from the sense of well being that cleaning out the random and unwanted stuff that has accumulated over time gives me, I also enjoy making myself a little bit of extra spending money by finding it a new home and where better to do that, than on Ebay.  Yes, the photographing and listing of everything is a bit of a chore and answering the mind-numbingly dull and random questions I get also tends to grate after a while but when I start to see my little Paypal fund mounting up, it's all worth it! 


A lot of the parcels I have been sending recently have been bulky items like toys and baby paraphernalia *sniff*.  One thing I can't bear about selling my used items is the packing and posting and usually I enlist Mr M to help. I've recently taken to using courier services like Parcelforce especially as it's so easy to organise it all online - I do all my Ebay packaging in the evening when the children are in bed so being able to organise the parcels online is perfect. All you need is the parcel's weight and dimensions (that's the tape-measure-wielding-husbands job) and the address of where it is going to. You can then either have it collected or if it's easier, drop it off at a depot.  There's a range of services to suit, depending on how quickly you want it there and all the parcels are tracked, which gives you reassurance and have compensation included, the level of which depends on the service you choose.

The best bit of the whole process is spending the hard-earned pennies and I already know where they'll be going - I'm going to treat myself to a Le Creuset grill pan. Glamorous huh? 

What do you do with your Ebay earnings? Splurge or save?


Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, but all thoughts are my own.

Image credits: Clutter: http://www.flickr.com/photos/diaphanous/86521967/ and Parcel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mom2sofia/8394217408/

Monday, 18 February 2013

Meal Planning Monday (18th February 2013)


The weeks are just rolling by aren't they and it's Monday again? This time it's half-term for us - and for most of the country I suspect!  As it's half-term my children will be decamping to my parents for a couple of days when I have to go to work. They like going for a sleepover as they don't do it very often and as it's practically on my route to the office, it works out very well. They detest going into childcare all day so I try to avoid it as much as possible and in fact they haven't had to do full days in years. Before and after school they can cope with but all day is a no-no. I'm fortunate to have family around that can help.

It does mean that meal planning isn't that exciting, plus I'm still on this blasted diet - total of 13.5lbs lost now, but am really struggling to drop any more weight at the moment. Still, I'll stick with it. This is what it looks like but is subject to change depending on what I get up to with the littlies this week.

Sausage and mash with giant Yorkshire puddings
Bolognese pasta bake
Spaghetti with meatballs
Fantastic fish pie
Chinese lemon chicken & rice

As the children will be elsewhere one night and we won't need a babysitter, Mr M and I are taking advantage of this and heading out for dinner at one of our favourite local restaurants. Needless to say I will NOT be dieting that night! 

Okay, over to you - what is your meal plans for this week? Is half-term going to muck up all your plans?  If you' are a newcomer to my blog or #mealplanningmonday, the idea is pretty simple. Write a blog post about your meal plan for the week and submit the URL of your post using the Linkytools below. If you've not got a blog but want to join in, then that's perfectly fine - just leave a comment below telling us what you're planning this week.  Any questions, you can catch me via email (in the contact page) or on Twitter @madamding.  I like messages so don't worry about bothering me!

Remember - the Link Party for February is now active and will run until the end of February, so do share any recipes you blog this month on that page which you can find HERE

Look forward to catching up with you through the week.






Sunday, 17 February 2013

Gifts & homewares from Amara


When I was asked if I'd like to review a product from the gorgeous lifestyle shopping site Amara it wasn't a tough decision. What was a tough decision however was what to choose!  Amara was created in January 2005 to showcase luxury gift ideas from top class brands - most are in stock and many can be delivered the very next day. You can also send your gifts all over the world should you choose to do so!

On browsing the site I was seduced by bold and beautiful bed linen from Pip Studio, the luxurious  woollen blankets from Avoca, the gorgeous Rob Ryan vases and dainty Kate Spade teacups but what really caught my eye were the housewares from Anorak - a British brand known for their bold wildlife prints.

Anorak fits my wannabe-outdoorsy ideals and I have dreams of kitting out our campervan with their lovely prints which is what led me to making my choice of a coolbag and picnic blanket in a delightful seagull print.  Before I launch in, this is where I am going to apologise for the use of the stock images. I tried to do it justice at home, I really did but I just couldn't show it at it's best - as you can see from the little collage below.


See? Photography is not my strong point but don't worry, I'm sure over the next few months as we get into picnic season, they'll be plenty more sneak peeks....



This cool bag and picnic blanket will be perfect for one of our many trips away in Clementine this year. I like to match things and I know what you're probably thinking, Clementine is ORANGE. Well, as far as I am concerned this matches perfectly - look at the little seagulls beaks and feet - orange. The seagull theme also fits what is my perfect trip out in the van - a day setting up camp near the beach.


The bag is roomy and spacious, much bigger than I expected (dimensions are 40 x 34 x 14cm) and has retro styling. Most importantly it's waterproof - why is this important? We live in the UK people - you plan a picnic? It's going to rain... One of the things I really like about the cool bag is the long straps, they're actually long enough that I can sling the whole bag onto my shoulder which is not something I could do with my existing cool bag and the fact that I can attach the matching picnic blanket with the nylon straps? Love it!


The picnic blanket is 100% printed cotton on the front and has nylon water resistant backing. When the blanket is open it's dimensions are 145cm x 145cm which is a great size and it rolls to a neat 35cm x 12cm, which as mentioned above attaches to the cool bag with ease. It's really light and although I've not tried it yet, it says that it is machine washable which is always a plus point in my eyes!

Obviously I haven't been able to fully road test these products, what with it being February and all (not much need for a coolbag round these parts right now), but it's clear to see that they are amazing quality and I'll be rolling them out at the earliest opportunity - fingers crossed for Easter sunshine! What do I love most about these products? I reckon I'm going to look damn stylish hanging out at Studland Bay this summer, drinking tea and scoffing cakes. Living the dream, huh!  I've fallen totally in love with the seagull print and if I was having a baby I'd be totally buying the matching changing bag


With thanks to Amara for providing these products for review.




Friday, 15 February 2013

Giveaway: Win 1 of 3 Barbie® in the Pink Shoes™ Dolls



Who loves Barbie? I know I do - you may have seen before on my blog that my daughter is the proud owner of a Barbie Dream House so it's safe to say she would love the giveaway I have on my blog for you today.

How would you like to win a Barbie from Argos? Argos has a great range of Barbie dolls and accessories, including the new Barbie in the Pink Shoes range to accompany the yet-to-be-released DVD of the same name. In the story, Barbie is a beautiful ballerina whose magical shoes take her into a fantasy world of ballet. If you have a little Barbie fan in your life then why not try and get your hands on one of these lovely dolls!  


What you can win:

One of three Barbie® in the Pink Shoes™ Kristyn Farraday Dolls care of the nice people at Argos.

What you need to know:

Delivery will be within 28 days of Argos receiving the winner's address, and the competition prize may vary at the discretion of Argos. The prize as described will be supplied direct from Argos, and there is no cash alternative. This competition is open to UK residents only.  

How to enter:

To be in with a chance of getting your hands on a Barbie doll just follow the Rafflecopter instructions below.  The competition closes, and the winner will be drawn on Friday 8th March 2013. Once the winner has been drawn, address details will be needed by the end of Sunday 10th March 2013 to arrange timely delivery. In the event that the winner cannot be contacted, another name may be drawn.


Good luck! 


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Sponsored Video: Samsung Monkey Thieves


I love my Samsung refrigerator, I have had it for nearly 5 years and so I was rather upset when it developed a fault recently. If Samsung hadn't been so sterling at fixing the problem under an extended warranty and given it a thorough overhaul by now I'd probably be fridge-shopping. And yes, I'd buy a Samsung again. 

Samsungs new refrigerator offers lots of unique features to help you maximise the space in your refrigerator and uses snazzy digital inverter technology. It's so snazzy I had no idea what it meant so had to find out!  Apparently the bottom mounted freezer has a digital inverter compressor that improves energy efficiency and cooling performance by auto-adjusting across give speeds in response to cooling demands. This means that if you're constantly opening the door or we suddenly start experience 40 degree temperatures, the compressor will react to provide cold or slow down as necessary to reduce energy consumption. Pretty clever, huh?

The new refrigerator also offers maximum organisation due to features like the easy slide shelf that slides out to help with storing and removal of groceries, the full open box in the new bottom mounted freezer that pulls all the way out to make it easier to store and remove bulky food items and a wider and deeper door shelf to accommodate big and tall bottles.

It's these features that have made it so appealing to the thief monkeys, as with the new features everything is well organised and easy to find meaning light work for those pesky monkeys who can get in and out in no time! This is demonstrated in Samsung's new video which you can watch below:


Easy in, easy out!

You can find out more about Samsung's new refrigerator by visiting their website.



This post has been sponsored by Samsung, but all thoughts are my own.

Mrs M's Club Sandwich


This is not really a recipe, more of an assembly.  On Friday or Saturday nights I love a burger, sandwich or wrap type meal. It's what I would call "Friday Night Food" or a treat meal.  I also have a tendency to sway towards American-inspired meals at these times.

A club sandwich normally comprises of a toasted bread sandwich (complete with an additional slice of bread in the middle) with the classic ingredients of turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and sometimes cheese. I'm more familiar with a chicken club and so that is the basis of this sandwich.

The other difference here is that I didn't put a slice of bread in the middle. I thought about it but I used such massive doorstop wedges for the sandwich I really didn't think I needed it. I also strayed from tradition and used breaded chicken fillets which I thought were a very nice addition.

Mrs M's Club Sandwich

Ingredients

a couple of rashers of thin-cut or streaky bacon
1 large chicken breast 
Iceberg lettuce, shredded
handful of grated Cheddar cheese
mayonnaise
1 tomato, sliced
small crusty loaf 

Method

Preheat the grill. In a large non-stick frying pan, dry-fry the bacon for a couple of minutes on each side until nice and crisp.  Remove from the pan and put to one side.

Put the chicken breast on a chopping board and taking a sharp knife, cut the breast horizontally into four slices. Season and add to the hot pan. Cook the chicken slices for a couple of minutes on each side until golden. Put to one side with the bacon. 

Slice the crusty loaf and lightly toast the bread under the grill.

Spread the toast with mayonnaise (lots of, if you're anything like me) and top one slice with the lettuce, tomato, chicken and finally the cheese before taking the other slice and popping on top to make sandwich. Cut into quarters and skewer each piece with a cocktail stick.

If you want to make the breaded fillet version which I wholeheartedly recommend, then it's as simple as popping it in the oven to cook and if you do want to be more authentic and add in the third piece of bread just repeat with another layer of chicken, cheese, tomatos and lettuce.  Another handy hint if you want to do a shortcut - Waitrose sell crispy bacon strips in a packet that are good to go! So lazy but I always have some in my fridge!  In fact my breaded chicken fillet and ready-made crispy bacon strips make this a very quick dinner to prepare!

I served this some crispy french fries and a pot of coleslaw. Delicious!


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Making each day count for Matilda Mae

Matilda Mae
If you're part of the parent-blogging community, you'll be fully aware of the recent loss of the beautiful Matilda Mae, daughter of Jennie from Edspire. I hadn't intended to write a blog post about Matilda as many people have done this already, and put down their words far more eloquently that I could ever do. However Matilda Mae taught me a valuable lesson the other night and I want to thank her.

On Sunday we had a rotten day with my 5 year old son. He can be trying at the best of the times down to his stubborn and independent nature, however deep down I know he's a good boy and so much better behaved than his peers. He's incredibly cute and the most affectionate child I've ever known - he just knows how to push buttons, you know? There were tears and tantrums, numerous scoldings and the day ended up with him sobbing his little heart out over his dinner. He was hurting and I was probably harsher on him than I should have been.  All in all, he didn't have a great day. None of us did.

Bedtime came around and we had a little kiss and a cuddle before I tucked him up. I always check on my children before I go to bed, it's a routine I got into when they were babies and even now they are 5 and 7, I still do it. Lately I've been thinking about Jenny and Matilda at this time. 

I went in to his bedroom and he was lying there, so peaceful, so angelic, not making a sound. I actually put my hand on his chest to check he was still breathing (this isn't a new development, I've always been a bit twitchy with him but that's a story for another time). He was fine, just in a deep sleep but I sat down next to him and looked at his little face - he looks so much like a baby when he's asleep.   I thought about what a dreadful day it had been for him and then I thought about Matilda. 

Matilda was taken unexpectedly and there but for the grace of God, go any of us. 

I sat reflecting on the day quietly. What if Sunday had been his last day on earth? How awful would that have been. How would I ever have lived with the fact that he'd spent the day being so unhappy. I'd made my son cry whilst eating his dinner, over a small piece of homework which at the end of the day is neither here nor there.  It's just not that important and our children are SO precious. Life is fragile.

Whilst sitting there I made a resolve to never spend a day like that again and to never send him to bed upset or with his feelings hurt.  I don't think any of us can ever really avoid getting cross with our children but I can learn to manage my emotions and the way I deal with these things better. 

Matilda Mae, without knowing it, has given me a gift. She has a taught me such a valuable lesson and that is to cherish every single moment with my children. When they want to play with me, I shall try hard not to dismiss them because I'm too "busy". I'm going to try not to sweat the small stuff, to remember, yes they are tiny but they have feelings too and to always make sure everyone goes to bed happy. 

Because of Matilda Mae I am going to endeavour to make each day count.


For Matilda Mae. 
Sleep softly beautiful girl.


Money is being raised for Bliss in Matilda's name - you can find out more about the fund here.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Meal Planning Monday (11th February 2013)


Hi Mealplanners! How was your week?

Mine was okay but if I had to pick a word to sum it up it would be HUNGRY. The first full week back on the diet is always tough but I've made it through with only one small tantrum mid-week. The problem being a food-lover and someone who likes to cook is that it makes dieting especially miserable.  Anyway, I survived and managed a 4lb weight loss so seemingly it was all worth it and it does spur me on and make me less likely to sabotage my hard work.  The toughest part I think has been my no-wine vow. Last time I dieted I restricted myself to weekends, this time I'm having a whole month off and can't take a sip until 1st March - special occasion wine drinking only.  I really think I was starting to drink too much so I am nipping it in the bud as it had become quite a habit.

Last week we managed 43 submissions, a bit down on the previous week but still pretty-darned impressive so well done you guys. I'm about halfway through commenting but got sidetracked last night when I started writing this blog post. Sorry. I'll get back to it today whilst I am waiting for Samsung to come fix my fridge.

So anyway, I'm sticking to the diet for another week and going in with the ready meals again. Not from Aldi and no they're not Findus.  The discovery of M&S Fuller Longer, like I mentioned last week, has been a great one - whilst I'm not sure they keep me fuller for longer, they are delicious and make diet dinners less of a chore.  The rest of the family are having...

Hot dogs and onions
Chilli beef and broccoli stir-fry
Fishcake and mixed veggies 
Roast chicken dinner and the all trimmings
Vegetable lasagne
Chicken korma

Lucky them huh? I'll probably join them with the fishcakes and the veggie lasagne as I can make them lower-calorie.

Right, time for you to share your meal plans for this week. If you're new to my blog or #mealplanningmonday all you have to do is this - write a blog post about your meal plan for the week and submit the URL of your post using the Linkytools below. If you've not got a blog but want to join in, that's fine - just leave a comment below telling us what you're planning this week.  Any questions, just holler at me via email (in the contact page) or on Twitter @madamding.  I like messages so don't worry about bothering me!

As mentioned before the monthly recipe Link Party for February is now active and will run until the end of February, so remember to share any recipes you blog this month on that page which you can find HERE

Look forward to catching up with you through the week.