Category Archives: family

Blondies

Now I’m sure almost everyone knows what type of cake Brownies are, but I’ve always been intrigued as to Blondies. I had never seen one and I guessed that they were similar, but made from white chocolate. I decided to look up a recipe to try making some and found that I was on the right track, but not quite correct. I have adapted my recipe from this one which uses pecans that I found on the Waitrose website, as the boys are not keen on pecans.


Blondies

Blondies

Ingredients (makes 16)

150g butter
150g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
few drops vanilla extract
250g plain flour
100g white chocolate

Method

Preheat fan oven to 160 degree C.
Line a 21cm square cake tin with greaseproof paper.
Chop the white chocolate into small pieces
Melt the butter and both sugars in a pan over a low heat, stirring to combine.
Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Beat the eggs in a jug, then whisk into the butter and sugar mixture along with the vanilla.
Beat in the flour.
Stir chocolate into the mixture.
Spoon mixture into the tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until risen and golden on top.
Allow to cool in the tin.
Slice into 16 squares.
Serve and enjoy.

blondies

These were delicious. I’ll certainly be making them again. And I’d love to hear about when you were surprised by a recipe.

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Who is The Pretender plus giveaway?

We love playing games together as a family, so were delighted to be offered the chance to review a new game The Pretender for free. This is manufactured by Gamely who also came up with Randomise that we reviewed a couple of years ago.

The Pretender game

Just like Randomise, this is a nice compact size, which always gets the thumbs up for me. The boys possessions are overflowing the storage space in our house, which is not helped by most games coming in half empty, huge boxes.

This is a game of mini charades, bluffing and suspicion. Basically one player is the Pretender and the aim of the game is for the other players to discover who the Pretender is, whilst the Pretender must fake their way through the game, escaping detection and trying to work out what on earth everyone else is miming!

The Pretender

The rules suggest that it is for 4-6 players and suitable for age 12+, but son2 at a younger age was in his element playing this, even if he didn’t quite know what a word meant. And we found that you definitely do need at least 4 players, 3 wouldn’t really be enough, particularly as we soon twigged  that whoever chose the item number for a round wasn’t the Pretender.

The Pretender

After the charades, come the accusations. I seemed to get accused a lot more times than when I actually was the Pretender, so looks like I need to brush up on my charades skills. Most embarrassingly, when I was miming knitting, as I’m the only one of us who actually knows how to knit. And jaws dropped when at least a couple of times, they thought they had caught me out, but I escaped by successfully identifying the item.

There are 10 items in each category and 36 different categories in total, 2 categories per card so it will continue to feel fresh and new after many games have been played. Scoring is optional, so we didn’t bother.

The Pretender game currently retails at £11.99 on Amazon and John Lewis. Very good value in my opinion for all the fun we had. I can highly recommend this game. We’ve now got our eye out for the other new game from Gamely, which is Soundiculous.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway The Pretender game to one lucky winner. What a fun prize.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your idea for a new game.

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Family Fever

Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Coconut Haystacks

Are you often like me, wondering what to do with leftover egg white? I usually cook it as a small pale omelette, then cut it into strips and toss them in a soup. But I know there must be so many more ideas out there. Well I suddenly remembered a recipe I used to make as a child with my mum, and decided to give it a go. This was Coconut Haystacks, so called because it looked the shape of the old-fashioned haystack, that you never see any more, now that hay is just bundled in bales.

coconut haystacks

Coconut Haystacks

Ingredients (makes about 10)

1 large egg white
50g golden granulated sugar
125g desiccated coconut

Method

Preheat fan oven to 160 degree C.
Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
Whisk the egg white until it is peaky.
Whisk in the sugar.
Mix in the coconut.
Scoop some mixture with an egg cup, pressing in well.
Gently tap out onto the lined baking sheet.
Repeat until you have used all the mixture.
Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes until slightly golden.
Cool on a wire rack.
Serve and enjoy.

coconut haystacks

I’d love to hear your ideas for using up egg white.

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Chocolate Courgette Muffins

I am sure most of you have heard of carrot cake, so I wanted to see what other vegetables could be incorporated into baking. In particular I wanted to focus on a vegetable that neither of the boys would agree to eat, if they saw it on their plate. I decided on courgette and knew it needed to be well hidden, to get past the point of them actually eating. Therefore a type of chocolate cake was the answer.

Chocolate Courgette Muffins

Chocolate Courgette Muffins

Ingredients (makes 12)

100g soft brown sugar
50ml vegetable oil
160g self raising flour
40g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 large eggs
1 courgette (approx 200g)
few drops of vanilla essence

Method

Preheat fan oven to 180 degree C.
Place muffin cases in muffin baking tray.
Grate the courgette.
Add sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla essence to mixing bowl and beat together.
Mix in the grated courgette.
Sieve in the flour.
Add cocoa, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
Fold in all these dry ingredients.
Spoon mixture into muffin cases.
Bake on middle shelf of preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until well risen and springy to the touch.
Cool on cooling rack.
Serve and enjoy.

Chocolate Courgette Muffins

So then I offered the “chocolate” muffins to the boys, which were initially eagerly accepted. And waited for the verdict on the experiment. Son1 asked if he could have a second muffin straightaway but son2 only ate half his muffin. Perhaps it needed more sugar to be disguised for son2. He could only say he didn’t like it, but not why.

I then told son1 there was a mystery ingredient and asked if he could guess it. He failed to guess and didn’t believe me when I told him it was courgette. I had to show him the photos to convince him. But I’m glad to say he continued to enjoy the muffins. And I thought they were very tasty too.

I’d love to hear your ideas for hiding secret vegetables in other dishes? I’m thinking chocolate might be a good cover for either beetroot or avocado too.

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An energy boost

I have just started a new job and there is lots to learn during the training period, which I find can be quite exhausting. Especially as I have to juggle it with family commitments.  Plus it is a shift role, so a mixture of early starts, late finishes plus night shifts again, which I’ve recently had a few months break from. So I was very pleased to be offered a free energy boosting goody pack from Pharmaton.

Energy boosting goodies

I received the following products.
75ml thisworks deep sleep pillow spray
Neom Energy Burst On the Go Mist
50g Nutriseed raw Maca powder
Boots £10 gift card (to purchase Pharmaton Vitality Capsules)

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules

So on my next shopping trip, I popped into Boots to buy a bottle of the Pharmaton Vitality Capsules. This contained 30 capsules, currently at an RRP of £9.49, for which the recommended dose is one tablet daily. I decided to take the full packet before telling you what I thought of them. The packet indicates that they are clinically proven against tiredness and lack of energy. Would I find that so?

The first 2 days didn’t go too well with me getting a bad headache overnight. The packet does warn that headaches may be a common side effect. But after that, things improved and although it is difficult to say with any certainty, I feel that overall I was probably more energised. During week 4, I did my first night shifts in several months, and I felt that my body adjusted back better afterwards.

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules

Pharmaton Vitality Capsules contain a special blend of vitamins and minerals, including the unique G115 ginseng extract. The idea is that they work with your body’s natural metabolism to relieve fatigue and restore vitality, and also help keep you stay mentally and physically alert. They can be taken every day for up to 12 weeks. (For the relief of temporary periods of fatigue. Always read the label).

And of course I tried out the other goodies too.

thisworks deep sleep pillow spray

The pillow spray is great. You just spray it on your pillow and the top end of your duvet. Then smell the delightful fragrance of lavender, vetivert and wild camomile as you drift off. Lavender is one of my favourite scents so this was perfect for me.

Neom Energy Burst On the Go Mist

The Neom mist has a lovely fragrance too and is 100% natural, but it comes in a very tiny bottle. I can’t see the size details on the packaging, but I’m guessing 5ml, so it won’t last me long. I’ve already used over half of it. Basically you spritz it above you or on your wrists, then supposedly breathe in through your nose for a count of 7 and out through your mouth for a count of 11. However I found that I couldn’t breathe for anything like this length, so I’m just doing it as slow as I can manage.

And finally the organic maca powder. I had never heard of maca, so I had to do some research. I found that the Incas have been cultivating it for 1000s of years in the high Peruvian Andes, boosting their energy at such a high altitude. More details on Wikipedia. The packet says to add 1-2 teaspoons to your smoothies, shakes, juices and healthy bakes. Well I decided to use it in my not quite so healthy chocolate cookie recipe.

Double choc chip cookies with maca

Double Choc Chip Cookies

Ingredients (makes about 13)

200g butter
200g plain flour
50g cocoa
1 heaped teasp maca powder
120g soft brown sugar
1 egg
few drops vanilla essence
1 tbsp milk
100g chocolate chips

Method

Preheat fan oven to 170 degree C.
Grease 2 baking trays.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Beat in the egg.
Add the vanilla essence.
Sieve in the cocoa.
Add the maca powder.
Sieve in the flour.
Mix together.
Mix in the chocolate chips.
Mix in milk if mixture is too stiff.
Spoon balls of mixture onto the baking trays.
Bake in pre-heated oven for about 12 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
Serve and enjoy.

Double choc chip cookies with maca

Delicious. Everyone gave these the thumbs up.


And here are some more simple tips to help you make the most of your day and get your energy levels back.

  1. Stay Hydrated

It seems obvious but make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day. According to the Natural Hydration Council, dehydration can reduce the ability to concentrate and impact cognitive and physical performance. NHS choices recommend that you drink at least 1.2 litres of fluid a day which is roughly 6-8 glasses of water. The best way to remind yourself is to keep a glass or bottle on your desk and set yourself a target amount to drink by the end of the day.

  1. Eat right

Make sure that you eat the right foods at the right time. It is tempting to reach for high fat, high sugar products when you are tired but these will leave your energy levels crashing, making you feel irritable and still hungry. Keep a pot of nuts such as almonds or cashews at your desk for when you need an energy boost.

  1. Get a good sleep

According to the national Sleep Council, your bedroom should not be an extension of the house. So don’t use the bedroom to eat, watch TV, work or talk in – the bedroom should be used for sleeping. Plan a consistent sleeping schedule by trying to get the same amount of sleep every night and at similar times. Move all screens out of the bedroom and try to avoid staring a bright screen an hour before bed, as the light keeps your brain awake leaving you struggling to drift off.

  1. Move it

If you feel your concentration failing, don’t reach for another coffee or sugary snack – get moving! Even low intensity exercise like a brisk walk around the block at lunch can help reduce the feeling of fatigue.

I’d be interested to hear your top energy boosting tips.

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Disclosure. This post includes a review of products I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.

Marble Cake

When one of my regular readers recently let me know that she was trying out my chocolate cake recipe, it got me thinking that it was time to try out something new too. And since I sometimes end up buying a marble cake at Lidl, I decided that I would try to bake one, something I’ve never tried before.

Marble Cake

Marble Cake

Ingredients

175g self raising flour
175g butter
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa
vanilla essence
3 tbsp milk

Method

Preheat fan oven to 160 degree C.
Line a loaf tin.
Cream together the butter and sugar.
Beat in the eggs.
Add the vanilla essence.
Sieve and mix in the flour and baking powder.
Divide mixture between 2 bowls.
Mix cocoa into one bowl.
Mix milk into same bowl.
Spoon alternate mixtures into the tin.
Bake in pre-heated oven for about 50 – 60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.
Cut into slices.
Serve and enjoy.

Marble Cake

It looked and tasted delicious. I love the swirly way it looks. No wonder it is named marble cake. Just like the pattern of a glass marble.

Marble Cake

Marble Cake

I’d love to hear what cakes you enjoy baking?

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Oreo marshmallow fingers

Last month I took part in the Britmums Oreo Cookie Challenge and was delighted to be one of the winners. Taking part inspired me to try to come up with an Oreo recipe, especially aimed at son2 who is huge Oreo fan.

Oreo marshmallow fingers

Oreo marshmallow fingers

Ingredients (makes about 7)

25g butter
1 packet of Original Oreos
100g mini marshmallows

Method

Tip the Oreos into a large freezer bag.
Crush the Oreos with a rolling pin.
Gently melt the butter in a large pan.
Add the marshmallows and stir until melted.
Stir in the crushed Oreos.
Spoon the mixture into a loaf mould, pressing well into the corners.
Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Remove from mould and cut into fingers.
Serve and enjoy.

Oreo marshmallow fingers

Son2 was very pleased with these, but with hindsight, it would have been better to bake a double batch, as they were all gone too quickly.

I’d love to hear your ideas for Oreo recipes.

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The Great Oreo Cookie Quest

Britmums have challenged bloggers to take the #OreoCookieQuest Challenge. And as one of the first 100 to sign up to the challenge, I received two free packets of Oreo cookies, for the family to enjoy a tasty treat.

Great Oreo Cookie Quest

I decided that we would have a fun Oreo cookie quest at home. I hid the treats and thought up some clues for the hiding places, then gave the clues to the boys for them to figure out.

Great Oreo Cookie Quest

Son1 immediately headed to the kitchen and after a false start rummaging through the chiller drawer in the fridge, he discovered his first Oreo in the fruit bowl.

Great Oreo Cookie Quest

Meanwhile son2 rushed upstairs and found Oreos on my pillow.

Great Oreo Cookie Quest

They found most of the Oreos quite quickly, but the final hiding place was a bit more tricky. They were on the right track looking in the freezer, but they needed a little hint to prompt them to look inside the ice cream carton. What a delicious combination of 2 Oreos and ice cream, 2 being the perfect serving size.

Great Oreo Cookie Quest

Oreo is celebrating The Great Oreo Cookie Quest with a fun and interactive way to win great prizes. Oreo fans have the opportunity to win a once-in-a-lifetime wonder-filled trip to California and the Googleplex through an on-pack promotion. I downloaded the app to try our luck and son2 had great fun scanning for Oreos. He found about 25 in half an hour but this is his favourite below. No points for guessing where he scanned. Certainly not one of the places I would choose to hide an Oreo!

Great Oreo Cookie Quest

So try your luck by popping a pack in your trolley on your next shopping trip. And I’ve still got another pack of Oreos left. Think I might try using them to cook a tasty treat for the family. Anyone got a recipe suggestion for me?

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Disclosure. This post mentions a product that I was sent for free. All opinions are my own. This post is an entry for BritMums #OreoCookieQuest, sponsored by Oreo.

Sweets that are good for your teeth – Zollipops review and giveaway

I have received some free Zollipops and Zaffi Taffy to review. Not heard of these? Nor had I, but I was very impressed to hear that these sugar-free treats were inspired by a 7 year old asking her dad “Why can’t we make a lollipop that’s actually good for your teeth?”

Zollipops and Zaffy Taffy

So how are these sweets good for your teeth I hear you ask?

Well after a meal or sugary snack, our mouths can become very acidic. This acidic environment is when tooth decay is most likely to spread and also tooth enamel is at its weakest. However it is not good to brush your teeth immediately after a meal due to the enamel being at its softest. I always brush my teeth before breakfast and last thing at night to avoid mealtimes.

But instead the ingredients in Zollipops, Zolli Drops, and Zaffi Taffy work naturally with our bodies to help reduce the acidity and balance the pH in our mouths. Thus reducing the risk of tooth decay and future development of cavities by having this treat after a meal or eating or drinking a sugary snack. And our teeth can re-mineralize faster, making them stronger and harder.

So these are branded as the sweet that is good for your teeth. A treat that you can have after you eat for a healthy smile. With a recommendation of upto 3 Zollipops or upto 5 Zaffi Taffy a day.

They are the perfect treat for kids and parents don’t need to feel guilty about giving them to kids. Also they are sugar free, gluten free, vegan, dairy free and only contain natural flavours and colours.

Son2 was particularly pleased when he heard that we were going to be reviewing lollipops. He always loves that the hairdresser and some restaurants offer him a lollipop whilst I’m thinking just the opposite.

Zollipops

So firstly trying the Zollipops. These come in 6 flavours: Strawberry, Grape, Orange, Raspberry, Pineapple, and Cherry with 8 in the bag. Currently available online at £2.49 so significantly more expensive than a standard lolly, but well worth it in my opinion, to reduce the risk of tooth decay. And thumbs up from the boys who couldn’t taste any difference from an ordinary sugary lollipop.

Zollipops

And secondly the Zaffi Taffy. These come in 5 flavours: Strawberry, Grape, Orange, Cherry, and Pineapple. There are approximately 16 sweets in an 85g packet. Currently available online at £3.49, so again they look dear for the size of the sweet, but think about how you are reducing the risk of developing cavities. These were my personal favourite and the boys agreed too. Nice and chewy.

Zaffy Taffy

Zaffy Taffy

Zaffy Taffy

Also nice to see that 10% of their profits go to support oral health education in schools.

There is also Zolli Drops in the product range. I didn’t review this, however I understand it to be similar to Zollipops but without the stick.

These products are also available via Amazon.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a packet of Zollipops, a packet of Zolli Drops and a packet of Zaffi Taffy to one lucky winner. What a tempting prize bundle.

Win Zollipops, Zollidrops and Zaffi Taffy
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear about your favourite healthy sweet treat ideas.

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Disclosure. This post is a review of a product I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.

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Britmums Rustlers Burger Hacking Challenge

Britmums have challenged bloggers to take the #RustlersHack Challenge to use Rustlers Southern Fried Chicken Burgers in a crowd pleasing balanced meal. And as one of the first 100 to sign upto the challenge, I received a free £20 Tesco giftcard to buy Rustlers Southern Fried Chicken Burgers twin packs and other ingredients.

#RustlersHack Challenge

Now on days when we need something quick to eat, due to other commitments in our busy lifestyle, I have usually relied on the slow cooker for our family tea. But of course that does mean that I need to be organised earlier in the day.

And I have to admit that I do already enjoy a Rustlers Cheeseburger when working night shift with a microwave as the only cooking option. However I hadn’t introduced the rest of the family to the delights of Rustlers.

#RustlersHack Challenge

They really are quick, as they only take 90 seconds in the microwave. I did contemplate buying some of those micro-fries for the hack, since no point in waiting for the lengthy time it would take to cook oven chips. That would totally defeat the speedy plan. Instead I decided to opt for a more healthy hack.

#RustlersHack Challenge

I quickly chopped up some vegetables, prepared a salad, sliced a selection of cheeses, opened some dips and coleslaw and popped a few rashers of bacon on our new George Foreman grill. Then I let everyone choose what they wanted for their own hack, as it is much more fun for the kids to prepare their own.

#RustlersHack Challenge

Of course the boys avoided the salad.

#RustlersHack Challenge

And greedy son1 took 2 chicken burgers and hacked them into a double towering stack.

#RustlersHack Challenge

Here’s mine including a large dollop of peppered mayonnaise that came in the Rustlers pack. I did notice at 140g that it was a smaller portion size than their cheeseburger, but I still felt full after eating it. And of course this will make it ideal for little hands and mouths unlike the piggy below with his towering stack.

#RustlersHack Challenge

Son1 said it was the best burger ever, so I don’t think my personal Rustlers night shift stash will ever be safe in the fridge again.

I was also very pleased to note that the packet indicates that the burger uses only the finest quality chicken which is fully traceable to the farm of origin. And they are nice and affordable, currently retailing at £2.50 for a twin pack at Tesco.

So I do recommend you pop along to Tesco and try the Rustlers Burger Hacking Challenge yourself.

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Disclosure. This post mentions products I purchased using a voucher that I was sent for free. All opinions are my own. This post is an entry for the BritMums Rustlers Burger Hacking Challenge, sponsored by Rustlers.