Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Saleen Placemats - keeping the area clean!

As a blogger most of the products I get sent are for adults or general consumption but they are not usually for the little people!  The placemeats I have been sent to review are perfect for the visiting little people.

My house is not really child proof and at mealtimes I do tend to hover with a cloth when they have their meals.  How nice it will be to pop one of these mats underneath and not worry.

There are six fun and amusing designs to choose from such as Balancing Zebras, Hens, Egg Cups, Cow Parade, Birds and Cats.  I picked Hens and Balancing Zebras to have at my house.

Perfect for everyday, but certainly not ordinary.
Saleen Polypropylene Place Mats are:
  • hygienic,
  • washable,
  • dishwasher-safe,
  • food-safe and
  • withstand temperature up to 70°C! That's pretty hot.

So the next time one of the little people visit we will be keeping nice and clean!

These mats will add a bit of fun to mealtimes and have an RRP of £6.95 each. Size 30cm x 43cm

Monday, 29 April 2013

Something for the little people

I have been sent a childs vacuum insulated food jar by Contigo.  When the lid is fitted correctly this container is leakproof. It will keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot which is very helpful when temperature is important to the contents.

I have a new allotment and have plans of entertaining the grandchildren when they visit this summer. It will be vital to bring their refreshments with us and I will be putting the Contigo insulated food jar through its paces for sure.

I will also be cheeky and use it to take some fresh milk to the allotment for our coffee. Stainless steel keeps your milk cold even on hot summer days so no spoiled milk or the need to drink black coffee.

It is small with a brightly coloured lid. The handle is plastic so it won't get too hot for the little people to pick up if the contents inside are hot. The lid is fitted securely so it won't accidentally come open when little fingers are fiddling with it. So all I can say is "Cheers!"

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Pickles from Home

We were really lucky earlier this year when my neice stopped off in the UK for a visit on her way to study in Australia.  We hadn't seen the family since 2007 and Miss Brit hadn't ever been to the UK so there was great excitment and planning where to take her when she was here.

Before Miss Brit left home she asked if there was anything I would like her to bring.  I asked for some Hershey's cooking chocolate powder and Miracle Whip. I don't like mayonnaise and Miracle Whip is a kind of mayo substitute.  Probably all plastic but sometimes you need something to add to the tuna and sweetcorn or egg mayo!

But I wasn't prepared for all the goodies my sister put in the suitcase for me! Lots of lovely flavours and tastes from home.

My sister has recently moved to North Carolina from Vermont and discovered these amazing pickles which she included in my care package.  I think I sussed her evil plan! Get me addicted to the pickles and I will have to visit her to get some more!  Well there could be some method in her madness.  I am addicted to the pickles (well, not the okra) and really looking forward to visiting her new home with an empty suitcase!

Real southern pecans to make pecan pie!

Like all your Christmasses at once, thanks sis!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Beef Stew - The Slow Way

I had some meat sent to me from Farmison & Co and as we were going to be spending time on the allotment on Sunday I wanted to come home to a cooked meal. Usually we come home with sore backs and fairly tired so it is always good not to have to cook.

I had a bag of seasoning from a visit to America that I wanted to try.

I have used them before and you put all the ingredients, meat, carrots, onion and celery in this case into the plastic bag that comes with the seasoning and pop it all into the oven for an hour and a half. 

I wanted to use my slow cooker and decided to try an experiment.  I put the whole cooking bag right into the slow cooker and went off to the allotment. It did start to cook the meat and veggies however when I got home I decided to empty the bag straight into the slow cooker.  I let it all finish cooking and served up a tender and tasty beef stew.  I hadn't cut the meat up smaller than how it arrived which meant the stew was full of lovely larege pieces of tender stewing steak along with the onion, carrot and celery.

I served the stew with my 'No Fail' raisin rice which is a family favourite and taught to me by an Indian woman I used to work with.

Soak one cup of basmati rice for about 20 minutes then rinse and drain.  Whilst the rice is soaking you can fry a finely cut up onion in a couple of tablespoons of sunflower oil.  When the rice is starting to go golden add the rice and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so that all the rice grains get coated with the cooking oil.  Add one cup of boiling water to which you have added a Knorr stock cube and another cup of water to the pan.  Now add a handful of raisins and bring back to the boil.  Stir rice, cover and turn down the heat so that the rice can simmer for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes turn the heat off and without lifting the lid let the rice sit for another 10 minutes.  Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.  Perfect rice every time!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Aaahhh Bisto!

Last week I had a great time visiting the test kitchens of Premier Foods and being treated to a demonstration, followed by tasting 8 recipes made by the lovely Sue.  Each recipe had one of the flavours of Bisto gravy granules included or served with it.

Sue and her hob busy cooking lots for us to taste.

Shephers's Lost His Sheep Pie (with Quorn Mince)

Cottage Pie with Butternut Squash Thatch

Bangers with Red Onion Gravy & Root Veg Mash & Bisto Favourite Gravy

Bisto Favourite Meatballs and Mash & Bisto gravy
Toad in the Hole With a Twist & Bisto Onion Gravy

Midweek Chicken Roast with Bisto Chicken Gravy
This weekend I stayed at my daughter's house for a couple of days and we decided to make the 'Midweek Chicken Roast with Bisto Chicken Gravy recipe. It is really simple. You leave it all to cook in one roasting dish and after about an hour you have a really tasty , simple and cheap hot dinner. The recipe called for chicken thighs to be wrapped in the bacon but I had three large chicken breast fillets and I sliced each one into four slices and wrapped each one in the bacon. The gravy really finished off the dish perfectly.

Son-in-law was very happy to come home from work to this for his dinner!

An interesting fact that I learned at this event is that the Bisto Favourite Gravy granules is suitable for vegetarians!

The stars of the show!!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Cake International Show at The ExCel London

When I arrived at Cake International Show I was greeted in the Press Room where I was to pick up my pass and show guide with a restorative cup of coffee and a beautiful cup cake.  The petals of this cake are made from buttercream not the usual icing! Very delicate and precise and equally tasty. 

Red velvet cupcake by Queen of Hearts

You may be forgiven for thinking I popped into the New Billingsgate Market the other day from this photo but in fact it is made not of fish but cake! Yes, cake!!

This 4.5ft tall creation is by Tracey Mann and is called 'Under The Sea'. You can see what other things Tracey has been up to by finding her on Facebook - Tracey's Cakes.

The attention to detail of this cake is stunning and very intricate.

I was lucky enough to be at the front of the queue to have a chat with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood! Mary looked quite tired whilst she was waiting for the greetings to start. She must be getting tired after the success of the Great British Bake Off!

I loved having a chat with Mary and Paul and kicked myself I hadn't brought my copy of Paul's book 'How to Bake'. I will be reviewing this book soon here on the blog.

There were so many beautiful cake creations like this one (and also the cupcake I had on arrival) made by two very friendly young ladies, Valeri Valeriano and Christina Ong and their cake company Queen of Hearts. Their beautiful decorations are made using only buttercream are indeed edible works of art.

There were various competitions and the standard of the entries was in some cases outstanding! Look at the detail on the cascading flowers. I can't even begin to estimate or imagine how many hours it took to create all those flowers.

I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't more emphasis on actual baking at this show but the emphasis was on the decorating.  One very interesting product I found was SugarVeil. Michele Hester created an innovation in cake decorating with SugarVeil which produces exquisite lace patterns.

Using a special formula of icing and silicone mats you can create something that resembles lace. You can purchase basic kits and then add to your collection.

The lace decoration on this cake was a piece of SugarVeil as above, which was carefully cut and laid onto the top layer.

This bow was made by placing SugarVeil over a piece of coloured sugar craft icing and fashioned into a lace bow.

I enjoyed visiting the Cake International show however I did expect there to be more actual baking elements but it was really heavily decorating loaded.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Fish Pie starts the week - Fish is the Dish

There is fish pie and there is MY fish pie! 

Fish is the Dish has set a challenge for some of us to eat fish twice a week so this week I decided to try a fish pie.  The fish I used in this was sent to my by DelishFish - fresh fish caught of the north coast of Scotland (they are based in Peterhead near Aberdeen) and each fillet is packed individually, labelled and ready to eat or store in the freezer.

For my fish pie I cooked my fish selection in the microwave briefly so it wouldn't need as long to cook in the mixture.  I used two cod fillets, one haddock fillet, one salmon fillet and one smoked haddock fillet and flaked them into fairly good size pieces.

I added this to the white sauce I made and to which I also added a Tablespoon of Maille Dijon Mustard with Honey (a new addition to their Dijon family), salt and pepper and a good glug of white wine.  I also added some frozen peas and sweetcorn.

The base of the fish pie all ready to put in the baking dishes.

For the potato topping I made some mashed potato.  I boiled some potatoes until soft, drained them and put them back into the pan.  I only added a little butter and salt & pepper and when creamy I added Total Greek Yoghurt.  This made the mash extra smooth and creamy.

I made a lot more than I  had planned to so there was plenty for dinner on the night, a small one for Missie W (5 year old grandaughter) and one for the freezer.  I also put some in a casserole with out the topping so that my father-in-law could take one home, freeze it and add fresh mash when he was ready to eat it.

The results of my efforts and now to wait for dinner!!

Dinner for me, Mr R and FIL + a salad and we were all stuffed.

One for the freezer and one for Missie W
For father-in-law to take home for his freezer
After I put the mash on the top I baked it in the oven for about 25 minutes to brown the topping and make sure the filling was piping hot. The fish pie was really delicious and everyone was satisfied with their dinner. 

Missie W had her dinner first and as you can see she was enjoying watching TV and eating!

After supper Missie W showed my FIL how she was learning to read at school

But at bedtime only a story from Grandad (Mr R) will do.