Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Happy Days at Work - The Hairdresser, 500-pc jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

best jigsaw puzzles

"Pieces of jigsaw puzzle might all be different but when fit in, complete the story..." (Harrish Sairama).

This quote might well be a motto or a slogan for Ravensburger, since its jigsaw puzzles tell many a story.
Ravensburger Happy Days at Work series of jigsaw puzzles takes you on a trip down the memory lane.

Happy Days at Work - The Hairdresser is the 14th in a series of retro-style puzzles, created by the Yorkshire-based artist Trevor Mitchell.

The lady in the centre has the most elaborate hairdo, she is clearly getting ready for an evening out. Her make-up is amazingly "loud", and she looks very pleased with herself.
The hairdresser behind her seems to be delighted with the result. I can imagine it took hours to finish such an intricate hairdo.

best jigsaw puzzles

You see the other customers in the back, sitting under the dryers and reading magazines.
The posters on the walls show the glamorous images.
It is a cheerful scene from the days gone by.

best jigsaw puzzles

The 500-piece jigsaw puzzles measures 49x36 cm when complete. It is suitable for ages 10+.
Like all Ravensburger puzzles, it's made from strong premium grade cardboard, with linen finish print to minimise glare on the puzzle image. All the pieces are cut out, using Soft click technology, which ensures the precision and accuracy as well as the variety of shapes.

best jigsaw puzzles

The nostalgic image of the hair salon made me think of my Mum in her early 20s, when these hairstyles were en vogue.
There are a couple of photos in our family album which show my Mum and her friends with the glam and spectacular beehives and babettes.

best jigsaw puzzles

This lovely puzzle is an easy and entertaining one, and will make a great gift for any jigsaw puzzle fan.

amusing jigsaw puzzles

Disclosure: I received the jigsaw puzzle for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Photo diary: week 15, project 365

16 days of Easter holidays, and counting. Not that we love school so much, but it's been two weeks of stress in our family. Sash has been very unsettled with a change in his routine, and I'm utterly exhausted. Roll on, Monday.
Last Sunday Eddie and I stopped in Gregg's for the weekly treat. Here's Eddie, rocking the Gregg's sausage roll.

It's been such a miserable week weather-wise too, raining every day. Still waiting for the parrot tulips which my Mum planted last autumn to reveal their colour.

More rain...

Experimental salmon fish cakes with kimchi on Wednesday for lunch.

It's the season of hyacinths and muscari in my garden at the moment. Such a beautiful blue colour.

Our local Waterstone's has very enthusiastic team, and we enjoy their book displays.

We start the week with Eddie's photo, and end it with yet another photo of Eddie. He is a big Ninjago fan, as you can see, and loves his new tshirt.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Salmon fishcakes with kimchi

what to do with leftover kimchi

Some time around Christmas I have seen a small feature in one of the food supplements, on what to do with leftover kimchi. I remember thinking that it was not exactly an ingredient that would be so easily found in many kitchens. I think it was a recipe for potato cakes with kimchi, but rather than that I don't remember much. It was most likely The Guardian's Feast, but looking through my boxes of recipes from newspapers, I cannot seem to find it. It might have been recycled, or is hidden somewhere until Doomsday in our house. I tried to google, but couldn't find the one I had in mind.
If anyone remembers that recipe article, and knows what I am talking about, please let me know.

I recently opened a jar of kimchi to cook a tinned tuna and kimchi soup, but there was still 2/3 left.
One of the possible recipe ideas was to use it in fishcakes.

I had a small pack of two salmon fillets (220g), which needed using. I have removed the skin, and chopped the salmon into small cubes.

Salmon fishcakes with kimchi
1 big potato (580g with skin)
220g salmon, cubed
1tsp mustard
1tsp ketchup
1 medium egg
3tbsp self-raising flour
2tbsp finely chopped parsley
kimchi (about 1tsp per fishcake)

Peel the potato, slice into quarters and cook in salted water until soft. Drain the water, mash the potato. Once cooled, add the mustard, ketchup, chopped salmon, egg, flour, kimchi and parsley and mix well.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up a biggish lump of salmon potato mix and drop into a plate with breadcrumbs, carefully turn it over, so that the fishcakes are covered with crumbs on both sides.
Place the fishcakes on the griddle pan, which has been lightly oiled. Place the griddle in the oven preheated to 180C and bake for about 20 minutes.

what to do with leftover kimchi

Skip kimchi, if you don't have it. I actually didn't put it in all fishcakes, as I thought my guys might not like the idea.

In this recipe I used Sainsbury's pistachio & herb crust breadcrumbs (they also have dried onion in the mix), but any decent breadcrumbs will work.

Serve hot, with a salad, or roasted peppers and olives. It is also lovely in a bun, like a burger.

easy fishcakes

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Lime coconut cake

easy everyday cake

Today is my Mum's birthday, and also the Russian Easter, two good causes to celebrate with a cake. And while my Mum is thousands miles away from me and cannot sample my cake, I'm sending her big warm hugs across the sea and land. I so wish I could hug her in person, but it's quite impossible right now. Sigh.
I wanted to bake something not too heavy, without lots of frosting or decorations.
Having a good look around what I had in the kitchen, I got two limes (left from a week before, when I bought limes for Easter), a bag of dessicated coconut, a half-full bag of ground almonds...
There is a lovely recipe for Lemon, lime and poppy seed cake in DK Everyday Easy Cakes & cupcakes book. I didn't have any poppy seeds, they would have been nice, and I must try that recipe one day.
Dancing off the book recipe as a rough guide, I started mixing, adding some extra ingredients like coconut and ground almonds, and reducing the amount of sugar a bit.

easy everyday cake

Lime coconut cake
3 medium eggs
165g caster sugar
zest of 2 limes
2tbsp lime juice
170g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
30g ground almonds
40g dessicated coconut
180g butter, melted
for the icing
60g icing sugar
3tsp lime juice

In a big mixing bowl beat together eggs and sugar with lime zest. Add the lime juice, sift in flour and baking powder, mix well. Add the ground almonds and coconut, as well as melted butter. Mix everything well to thick smooth consistency.
Pour the cake batter into a spring cake tin, lined with parchment and lightly oiled at the bottom and sides. Place the cake tin in the oven preheated to 180C. Bake for about 40+ minutes.
Check readiness with a wooden toothpick.
Mix the icing sugar with lime juice for a rather runny icing and spread over the cake while still warm. Decorate with little jellies (optional).

what to do with limes, baking with limes

I think next time I'll add more lime juice for an extra zingy flavour. It is a lovely delicious cake, and it won't last long (my guys have already demolished a half of it).

Adding this post to this week's #CookBlogShare linky at EasyPeasyFoodie blog.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Photo diary: week 14, project 365

We're just over half-way through Easter holidays.
Last Sunday we invited our friends over for the Easter lunch. The egg is a symbol of new life, and I wanted to make a small centrepiece for our table. I cooked the quail's eggs and placed them in a little nest I bought last year.
I cooked and cooked half of the day, while Eddie went to the Easter service with his father. He came home happy, with chocolate eggs and a little embroidered cross.

There's a vintage shop in town, which sells all kinds of oddities, from truly antique to XXc junk. You never know what you might discover there. Eddie and I enjoy visiting it, more for the entertainment than actual shopping. I think the only few bits I ever bought there were pieces of vintage china.
Eddie fancied this old designer chair, saying it was very comfy. But at a tag of almost £300, I told him he'd have to win a lottery and buy it himself.

The rains were non-stop for a few days at the beginning of the week, and the Windrush river's levels were going higher and higher. We actually couldn't get through the flood fields on the way into town. To walk through you'd need wellies, so we had to turn back and choose a different route.

My Mum is a keen gardener. Last year, when she stayed with us in October, she bought lots of tulip bulbs and planted them in pots and planters around the garden. I don't know which colour or variety this tulip will be, but love the carved edge of the leaf.

Thursday was finally a sunny day. Our friend Jen took my boys and me by car to the Burford garden centre, which we know so well and visit almost every holiday. Eddie couldn't resist lying on the grass in the playground of the garden centre. I didn't think it was that warm.

Today we stayed at home most of the day, as our Papa didn't arrive from his trip until 6pm, and then we rushed to buy some fresh bread and a few other bits and bobs. We often stop outside the Teddy Bears of Witney shop, as it's on the way to the town centre, they change their window displays regularly. The last one, with the cat, is a cause of merriment every time we look at it. It makes me think of zombies, as it's rather realistic but also creepy

Friday, 6 April 2018

Tuna and kimchi soup

what to do with tinned tuna

One week of school holidays has whizzed by. Tonight we had a pizza night, with a takeaway from Domino's and a DVD.
We watched Kubo and the Two Strings. I've seen it twice already, but it's such a beautiful philosophical animation, that I was happy to watch it again. And every time I am crying in the end, slightly embarrassed with myself. Brilliant film, one of the best in the last decade for sure.
Both Kubo and pizza were Eddie's requests, he said he didn't fancy pasta or burgers, or any of the strange-looking food I enjoy cooking.
He clearly referred to the tuna kimchi soup I cooked earlier this week.

I don't always use all the foods which arrive in a monthly Degustabox at once, those which can keep well in the pantry might take a few months before being consumed. Back in January there was a tin of Wild Planet pure tuna (no water or oil added). I wasn't sure whether to make a salad with it, or a baked potato with mayo and pickles.
While my husband was travelling earlier this week, I decided to prepare a tinned tuna and kimchi soup.

I do buy some exotic ingredients spontaneously, and before Christmas bought a jar of kimchi in Sainsbury's. I got it, thinking I would try to make a Korean fried rice I've seen on Madhouse Family Reviews, but haven't had a chance yet.
I love pickles in soup, and was rummaging through the pantry shelves, trying to find any gherkins or olives, when I spotted a jar of kimchi, and decided I'd add that to the soup instead. I did google, if the combination of tuna and kimchi actually exists, and it does, there is a recipe for tuna and kimchi stew. So, why not soup?

easy soup with tinned tuna

Tuna and kimchi soup (serves 2-3)
1 small red onion
1tbsp oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 tin of tuna
1 carrot
2 medium potatoes
2-3 heaped tbsp kimchi

Finely chop a small onion and fry it with the olive oil for about 7-8 minutes, until well browned. Add the chopped garlic in the last couple of minutes of frying.
Break tinned tuna into chunks and add to a medium sized pan, add the sliced carrot and cubed potatoes, as well as fried onion and garlic. Pour water (the amount depends on how thick you like your soup). Add the kimchi, bring the water to boil, then lower the heat and cook simmering for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked.
Serve hot, with chopped flat leaf parsley or without.

tinned tuna soup

I loved the soup, Eddie sniffed at my bowl and asked if he had to eat it, and whether he could have something else. I didn't insist, I kind of knew he would be suspicious of kimchi.

tinned tuna soup

If this soup doesn't appeal to you, what about another tinned tuna soup - Pearl barley and tuna soup?

Thursday, 5 April 2018

The MamaBake Book by M.Shearer & K.Swan + Pumpkin & Ricotta Cannelloni

I am a busy Mum, and there are days when I'm feeling totally exhausted and overwhelmed by the dietary demands and wishes of my family. And yes, there are moments when I feel like throwing a tantrum and refusing to cook. Sounds familiar?
I was very curious to discover a new cook book which evangelizes weekly meal plans and batch cooking.
The MamaBake Book (HarperCollins, published 22 February 2018, £12.99) professes to be no ordinary cookbook. It claims to revolutionise the way we prepare family meals - "once you try the MamaBake way you will never look back!"

I'm mistrustful by nature when any big claims are made, but I'm also open to new ideas and happy to be converted.

MamaBake movement and cook book are the brainchild of two mothers - Michelle Shearer and Karen Swan. It was Michelle who founded their community in 2010, with the grassroots cooking club and a meeting place for young mums who would cook meals in batches, then share and swap their prepared meals to take back home a week's worth of food enough to feed a family.
This big batch cooking granted them free time during the week.

I had to smile, when I read about "mothers united in their passion to free up women from the unending pressures of domestic burden through the power of The Sisterhood".
It reads like a revolutionary pamphlet, rather idealistic.

Take me: I love cooking, and wouldn't dream of not cooking for a whole week. Yes, it is a burden at times, and I do moan about it, but half-heartedly, as basically I love cooking. In my situation it would be impossible for other mothers to cater to my family's special situation with an autistic child who would most likely not eat any of the foods cooked by someone else. But I digress...

I was intrigued as to how this book teaches you to plan meals a week in advance, make shopping lists and batch cook.
If you discard the grandiose statements about The Sisterhood and domestic burden, it is actually a clever guide on how to be more organised and adapt your cooking to make life easier.

Many things mentioned in the book make a lot of sense, like labelling containers or zip lock bags which go in the freezer. Guilty as charged: how many times I took out the container out of the freezer without a clue as to what's inside and how long it was stored there.

The MamaBake Book features many inspired once-a-week cooking plans and big batch recipes. There are over 200 recipes to choose from.
The book would better suit a non-vegetarin/vegan family. There is a Meat-free week menu and the vegan slow cooker menu, but I would say the majority of recipes are for meat-eaters.
Some weeks' menus include meat on an almost daily basis.

The book conveniently offers shopping lists which include everything you will need to cook meals for a week. The once-a-week plans include seven different recipes with step-by-step of prep and cooking.

It is an inspiring concept. And while I don't think I'm ready yet to do a week's worth of meals in one go, I might just try to batch-cook more often and freeze (and label!!!) the meals.

I would have liked to see illustrations of at least some of the recipes. For me photos and/or illustrations are the main magnet to cook books. The MamaBake book is free from illustrations.

There were quite a few of recipes I have bookmarked, for example, Vegetable & bean pie with polenta crust, Greek honey biscuits, potato pizzas, pumpkin falafel & flatbreads and more.

One of the recipes I have tried already - and which we loved - is Pumpkin & Ricotta Cannelloni.

Italian pasta

Pumpkin & Ricotta Cannelloni (recipe reproduced with kind permission from HarperCollins)
1/2 butternut pumpkin (butternut squash in the UK), peeled, seeds removed and cut into chunks
1tbsp oil
2 x 400g tins whole peeled tomatoes
1 bunch basil, leaves finely chopped
250g ricotta
150g mozzarella (plus extra for sprinkling)
1egg, lightly beaten
2 handfuls baby spinach shredded
375g fresh pasta sheets (I used a pack of 250g lasagne sheets)
100g parmesan, grated

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease a ceramic baking dish.
2.Drizzle the pumpkin with the oil and roast in the dish until tender, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and mash. Set aside to cool.
3. To make the sauce, place a medium-sized saucepan over high heat and add the tinned tomatoes and half the basil leaves. Season, to taste. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced by one-third, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
4. In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, mozzarella, egg, spinach and mashed pumpkin. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
5. Lay out the pasta sheets and place 2tbsp of the pumpkin mixture in the base of each sheet and roll up into a tube. Lay each cannelloni in the baking dish. Top with the prepared sauce and grated parmesan.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, then cover with foil and bake for further 15 minutes.

Serve with a fresh green salad.

Allow to cool completely before chilling or freezing. The cannelloni will keep for 1 week in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer.
If cooking from frozen, defrost overnight in the fridge. Cover with foil and bake in a 180C oven for 30 minutes until thoroughly reheated.

Disclosure: I received the MamaBake Book for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Choc chip cashew oat cookies, and what to do with leftover chocolate Easter eggs.

what to do with leftover chocolate eggs

With me going slightly overboard buying chocolate Easter eggs for my sons and friends, and our friends bringing more and more treats for us, we ended up with too much chocolate. My sons ate most of the little treats which come in big boxed sets (creme eggs, mini eggs), but don't fancy the actual chocolate shells. And I refuse to be a human bin and finish off all the leftovers.

Today we've had an incessant rain since the early hours, and as we're staying indoors, I decided we'd do some baking to cheer us up.

There are a few things which need using in the pantry, not just chocolate eggs. There was recently a ShowYourOats competiton run by Quaker Oats, which I've been entering most of the weeks. I've eaten so much porridge for that comp, that I think I can't stand the sight of it for a while.
Recently I bought a Meridian smooth peanut butter instead of the usual peanut butter, and according to my spoilt family, it is not smooth enough, argghh. And I don't even eat it neat, unless it's used in sweet or savoury dishes.
So, all this could be used in cookies.
And we have at least three Cadbury's chocolate eggs to deal with.

what to do with leftover chocolate Easter eggs

Choc chip cashew oat cookies
100g caster sugar
100g margarine (Stork)
50g peanut butter
45g cashew nuts, blitzed into small crumbs
150g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1 medium egg
40g oats (1 sachet of Original Quaker Oats)
100g Cadbury's chocolate (half of the bigger sized egg)

Cream the sugar with margarine in a deep mixing bowl, add the peanut butter and mix together. In a separate bowl blitz the cashew nuts into small crumbs (or just chop finely). Add the cashews, flour, baking powder, 1 egg, oats and chopped chocolate egg to the big bowl.
Mix well together.

Pinch a big walnut-sized piece of dough and roll it into a ball, then flatten and place the cookies on trays lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until golden at 180C. Don't overcook, they are still soft when you take them out.

easy choc chip cookies

My sons love cookies when they are still warm. I often bake different variations on the theme, with oats, different nuts etc.
That's only a half of one chocolate egg used. For inspiration I asked foodie bloggers what they do with the leftover Easter chocolate.

If you have had enough of Easter chocolate eggs, and don't quite know what to do with all those Easter chocolate leftovers, here is a whole bunch of recipes for your delectation:

If you have leftover Creme Eggs, how about...

Cadbury Creme Egg Cheesecake at Dragons and Fairy Dust

Creme Eggs Monuts at Madhouse Family Reviews

Easter Chocolate Bark with Creme Eggs at Chez Maximka

Creme Egg Chocolate Brownies at FabFood4All

Mini S'More Brownie Cupcakes with Creme Eggs at Chez Maximka

Marshmallow Rocky Road with Mini Creme Eggs at Chez Maximka

Easter Fudge at Cooking With My Kids

Mini Eggs

Chocolate and marshmallow traybake with mini eggs at Chez Maximka

Mini Egg Rice Crispy Squares at Curly's Cooking

Mini Egg Chocolate Rice Crispy Cake at FabFood4All

Easter (Very Rocky) Rocky Road at Mrs H's Favourite Things

Any other chocolate Easter eggs

Salted Caramel Egg Brownies at The Baking Explorer

Galaxy Golden Egg Millionaire's Shortbread at The Baking Explorer

Leftover Easter Egg Chocolate Ice Cream at Tin and Thyme

Easy Chocolate Fudge Sauce at Charlotte's Lively Kitchen

and there's 7 Recipes to use leftover Easter chocolate at Free From Farmhouse

Well, that's a great lot of deliciousness, and I am tempted now to search the supermarkets for any more leftover Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs, just to try some of the recipes above.

Since I've used a few leftovers in the recipe, I'm adding this post to #KitchenClearout linky run by Cheryl at Madhouse Family Reviews.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

March 2018 Degustabox

We are always looking forward to our Degustabox delivery, which arrives every month and is full of foodie surprises. This monthly food and drink subscription box is an excellent way to discover products which have only just appeared in the shops or those which might have been around for while, but you haven't had a chance to try them yet.
Thanks to Degustabox, I have found new favourites to add to our shopping list, including some products which I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise.

Each time the box arrives, it's a total surprise. You get a good selection of foods and drinks.
If you haven't tried Degustabox subscription box yet and would like to have a go, I have a whopping £7 off discount from your first box (and you can unsubscribe any time) - just use a code 8EVI8 when you place an order.
What did we receive in March Degustabox? Let's have a look.

food box

Shreddies Max Granola (£2.59; whole grain granola and oat granola with malted cereal pieces) is a good source of protein. Crunchy oats clusters with Shreddies pieces are high in fibre.
Nutrition values: 182kcal per 45g portion; this granola is quite sugary at 9g of sugar per serving.

Hafervol Limited Flapjack (£1.99) is made with wholegrain rolled oats, honey, sunflower oil, walnuts, apricots, almonds, sesame, cocoa powder and spices like cinnamon, ginger and clove.
They are the first 100% natural oat bars without added sugar, cheap stuffing or other chemical additives.

Mr Lee's Noodles (£2.99) is a range of six premium noodles in a cup, certified gluten free and low in sugar, also low in saturated fats and calories, and with no nasties. They use freeze-dried ingredients to ensure that the product locks in the nutrients and the flavour.
Vegan options are also available.
I received the Hong Kong Street Beef noodle flavour.

I didn't realise that the bottom of the cup was damaged when I started to pour in the boiling water, so that the liquid immediately spread around the cup, that's why I chucked the contents into a bowl.
I liked the noodles, but was less keen on the freeze-dried beef. They didn't reconstitute well and tasted bland, the texture was also cardboard-ish. For £2.99 I would expect a better tasting pot noodle.
I'd like to try the other flavours before deciding on the range.

Encona Carolina Reaper Chilli limited edition (£1.49)- our hottest chilli sauce - is the scorching blend of the world's hottest chilli pepper, tomatoes ans spices. It is suggested to use as a marinade.
To be honest, I don't think I am brave enough to try it, I do not like very hot sauces or meals. I am going to pass it one of my "fire-eating" friends.

chilli sauce

Cirio Pasta Sauce (£2) is one of the new additions to the extensive Cirio tomato products' range. Cirio is one of our favourite brands, and the new sauce, made with 100% Italian ingredients didn't disappoint.

Stir it through freshly cooked pasta, use as a base for lasagne or turn into a delicious curry sauce.

I used Cirio Cuor di Pelato Classic tomato sauce in an aubergine curry, and it was a tasty vegan dinner.

Cheestrings Snack Mix is a 3 in 1 after school snack, built in 3 individual sections - crackers, real cheese cubes and a sweet treat. You will receive a full value voucher in the box.
There are 3 different flavours to choose from. We've tried all three in the past, and Eddie's favourite selection includes mini pretzels, though he likes the crunchy fish-shaped crackers too.

Smarties & Milkybar Mixed Mini Eggs (£3) were a lovely Easter treat.
It's a sharing bag of milk and white chocolate eggs in a sugar shell. A serving of 5 mini eggs contains 85kcal and 10.8g of sugar. They look pretty and colourful, and were a perfect Easter decoration.

My children enjoyed decorating the Limoncello ricotta cheesecake I baked for Easter.

Canny All Natural Chocolate Milk is a blend of British semi skimmed milk with date nectar, cornflour, cocoa powder, cocoa mass, natural flavourings and sea salt.
Contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and no added sugar.
Nutritional values: 83kcal, 9.3g sugar (from date nectar)

Tenzing Natural Energy drink (£1.19) is inspired by a traditional Himalayan Sherpa recipe.
Tenzing is a natural sparkling energy drink with herbal extracts, Himalayan rock salts and natural flavourings.
It has been named in honour of the late Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, one of the first two men to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
55 kcal per can, it has zero artificial additives. It's vegan, non-GMO, and comes in a 100% recyclable can. It contains 80mg of natural caffeine, about the same as one cup of coffee.
As it has a high caffeine content, it is not recommended for children or pregnant/breastfeeding women.

Appy Kids Co Roald Dahl Fruit Drinks (£1.29) is a range of children-friendly drinks. Vegan approved and low in calories, these drinks contain no GMO, gluten, added sugar or artificial preservatives, making them great for school lunchboxes.

Ribena Pineapple & Passion Fruit (£2.49) is the latest addition to Ribena's popular squash range.
This refreshing drink contains no added sugar and comes at 15kcal per 250ml serving. It has a lovely tropical flavour.

Disclosure: we receive a monthly food box for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are our own.