Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Reverse Advent Calendar

Christmas is a time of indulgence for many of us. Chocolates, mulled wine, Christmas cake and lots of extra treats in the food shopping. I for one love eating cheese and crackers washed down with a snowball or two!

But this year in the media there's been a lot of stories about families struggling to make ends meet. People turning to food banks to get them past some tricky times financially.

This time of year it's especially important to help out those people. Christmas should be a time of giving. Not just giving presents to family and friends but thinking of how we'd feel if we didn't have enough money to feed our kids.

There's a brilliant idea doing the rounds that anyone can join in with to help out. The Reverse Advent Calendar!

Decorate a box with some festive paper and every day leading up until Christmas put one item of food in the box. When you have 24 items, donate it to your local Food Bank. Ideally you'd start doing it a week before December starts so you can deliver your filled box just in time for the food to be handed out for Christmas.

Put the box in your kitchen and get into the habit of buying a couple of extra items when you go in a shop. It doesn't have to be expensive brands, just whatever you can spare. Food bank websites will detail exactly what they accept but generally anything with a decent shelf life is good. Tea, coffee, sugar, pasta, rice, tins of anything. Also don't forget toiletries are needed too. Toilet rolls, sanitary towels, shampoo etc.

Our box is off to a good start!

It's a great way to get your kids involved in giving to others. Encourage them to help pick out foods they think other kids would enjoy in a food bank parcel. It's a lovely project to encourage us all to think of others less well off.

Here's a link to the Food Bank Network if you want to find your local drop-off point:

Give it a go. Let's try make sure everyone has a Merry Christmas xx

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Restaurant Food at Home: Wagamama

JD and I love noodles so we thought we'd try recreating our own Wagamama meal. The kids were away at their Dad's for the night so this is an ideal meal for just the two of us.

We looked at their menu and picked out the following meal.

Bang Bang Cauliflower - crispy, wok-fried cauliflower coated in a firecracker sauce.

Chicken Teppanyaki - teppanyaki is a big plate of sizzling noodles, stir-fried quickly in a hot pan. This means you get soft noodles and crunchy vegetables.

Two ciders

This would have cost us £37.90 at Wagamama, which isn't terrible for a meal out for two. But we can do much better!

JD likes stir-frying food so this was a nice one for him to cook. I made our version of the Bang Bang cauliflower and our local corner shop provided the ciders.

It all tasted great and there was enough for a second bowl of noodles each. Our version had much more chicken per portion, we were really pleased with how the food worked out.

Our meal cost £16 to make (with £5 of that being the ciders). We could have made it cheaper but we were quite generous with the chicken. It made a delicious, filling meal with alcohol for £21.80 less than going out to Wagamamas. Pretty good, I'd say. :)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Subscription Box Review - Graze

Leigh and I decided to try out a Graze Box. It's a subscription delivery of healthy snacks that you can have weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Each box is just £3.99 and contains 4 snacks.

The box is perfectly shaped and sized to fit through your letterbox which makes delivery really convenient.

There's over 100 snacks to choose from, you rate them so they know what you like the look of then they send you 4 surprise snacks. 

We had honeycomb flapjack, lemon poppy bar with tea, chocolate brownies and chocolate pretzel dippers. All sweet things even though they have a massive selection of savoury snacks too. We liked the look of more of their sweet treats!

I'm struggling to find something I don't like about Graze! You don't even have to subscribe, they're happy for you to have a one-off box or just buy their snacks online or in stores around the UK. If you do subscribe you get offers such as your 5th box free or a free box for a friend. You can easily cancel your subscription online or pause it if you prefer.

They do several types of Graze boxes, the variety box that we tried or a light box with lower calorie snacks or a Protein box with high protein snacks. What I like most is the range of options, you can enjoy their product without feeling hassled to subscribe weekly if you don't want to. But why wouldn't you want to, I'm extremely tempted myself as the snacks were all delicious!

I'd recommend this subsciption box to anyone who enjoys trying new tasty healthy snack ideas.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

H is for Harrogate

Harrogate is the town we live in. It was voted Happiest place to live in the UK in  2013, 2014 and 2015. Confirmed by this cheerful graffiti I photographed a couple of years ago.

One of the nicest things about Harrogate is that it's surrounded by The Stray, 200 acres of grass with paths which are great for picnics, games, walks, running etc. There's plenty of space for lots of activities. Sunday football, Bonfire Night, Bank holiday fairs and lots more.

Harrogate is well known for several things. One of them being it's mineral springs. Years ago people would travel to this spa town to take it's waters for good health. You can still taste the water if you visit the Pump Rooms but it tastes awful and smells of rotten eggs due to the sulphur in it.

Another popular Harrogate attraction is Betty's Tea Rooms, you can often see a long queue of people outside. The Tea Rooms are owned by the Betty's and Taylors group. They have several tea rooms in the area and also make Taylors Coffee and Yorkshire Tea.

In 1926 Agatha Christie dissappeared from her home causing speculation that she'd killed herself. She was missing for 11 days before being found at the Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate under an assumed name. I suspect she chose Harrogate as the perfect place to get away from it all. It's a lovely old-fashioned hotel, now a Grade II listed building.

One of my favourite places in Harrogate is the Valley Gardens. It's not far from our house, there's a playground, skate park and crazy golf. We like walking in the pinewoods behind it and that there's often fun stuff going on there in the summer.

Harrogate isn't a huge town which makes it a nice place to live. Leeds and York are both less than an hour away if you want to go to a city for shopping etc. You don't have to go far out of Harrogate for some gorgeous countryside, there are plenty of beautiful places to visit or walk.

Yep, we like living here. :)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Oh Burger! 6: Sesame Salmon Burger

I'm not sure how I feel about a fish burger. I don't think I've had one before. I'll have to get used to the idea though because there are several in this book I'm working through! I know people eat them, McDonalds has one on it's menu. But who picks that over a cheeseburger? Not me :)

Coat your salmon in sesame seeds and then cook it in a frying pan with some sesame oil.

 Toast the bread bun and put a layer of thinly sliced cucumber and onion on it.

 Top with the salmon, I also added a bit of mayo or you could use tartar sauce.

My misgivings were unfounded, this burger was great. The sesame flavour was quite strong from the oil but it goes really well with salmon. There was a nice meaty bite to the whole burger which is just what you want. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Rating: Emma - 4

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Subscription Box Review - Degustabox

It seems you can get almost every kind of monthly subscription box now. Food, snacks, make-up,  socks, gin, clothes, stationery etc. I probably won't review them all but I'm going to review a few.

First up is Degustabox, a surprise delivery of 10-15 grocery items every month for £12.99 per month. Promises new products for much less than you'd pay in the shops.

Our box arrived on the day it was due in the given hour time frame. It was nice not to know what might be inside. Like an Amazon delivery but more exciting.

It came well packed in a nice patterned box with delicate items bubble wrapped for safety.

Our box had 12 items in it. 9 things that we liked or could use. 3 things I'm not sure what to do with. I'd filled in some quick questionnaires about products I would like/dislike so they'd done ok I think.

Things I liked about this subscription were:

New products to try and maybe things you wouldn't pick up at first
Surprise element is exciting
No commitment means you can cancel after just one box
Delivery and packaging were great

Things I didn't like were:

You have to cancel your subscription with an email instead of just clicking a button
They want you to review products, which seems like something they should pay you for not vice versa
Surprise element works both ways, could get items you don't want

I wouldn't want to have this subsciption box every month but it was nice to try it. A rough comparison with Morrisons (where I usually buy groceries) put the box's worth at £14 which was more than I thought. Including postage it's not bad value. Though I expect they get the products much cheaper from companies wanting to find out what the shoppers think of them.

I'd recommend this box for people who like surprises and trying new products before anyone else.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Burger Off! 5: Roast Chicken Burger

With JD away in America visiting his family, I had a browse through the book for a suitable burger to eat with Leigh and Erin. They have very 'refined' tastes but I found this recipe for a roast chicken burger and optimistically decided we'd have it for tea one night.

We've had a lot of Roast dinner/Christmas leftover sandwiches in the past for our Saturday Sandwich but I've never eaten a Roast Chicken Dinner in burger form before. Until now!! :)

The patty part of the burger is made up of stuffing and sausage. Mix together some sage & onion stuffing with some sausagemeat and form into a burger shape. Place on an oven tray along with some chicken breasts and roast until cooked.

Assemble the burger by making a nest of lettuce on the bread bun and topping with the stuffing patty along with two pieces of chicken breast.

The hero of this burger was the delicious sausage/stuffing patty which I would happily eat on it's own and may change Christmas forever now I've tasted this winning combo. It went really well with the chicken of course but it was lacking something to moisten the whole burger. I'd add a bit of mayo next time. Erin wasn't interested in the stuffing patty but enjoyed a chicken sandwich. Leigh tried it and was quite enthusiastic about how good it was, which was nice. I imagine if JD was here he'd have wanted to dip the whole thing in gravy, that would certainly have moistened it!

Ratings: Emma - 3, Leigh - 4