Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 35: The French Dip

The French Dip is a well known sandwich from Los Angeles. Two different restaurants claim to have invented it. One says it accidentally dropped a sandwich in some gravy and the other claims it was invented to cover up the use of dry bread. The latter seems more likely to be honest but no one knows the truth. Exciting, right?

There are lots of fancy French Dip recipes where you make your own gravy etc but we opted for a nice simple version.

There's a recipe here if you want to make your own ---> The French Dip Sandwich

Basically you make some beef and coleslaw sandwiches and then dip the sandwich in hot gravy before you take each bite. I love gravy but I'm fussy about what I eat it on. Gravy on chips...nope, gravy with bread...ugh, gravy on mashed potato, yorkshire puddings and roast beef...yes yes yes :) JD is less discerning with his gravy and will eat it on a slice of bread O_o

 Here's some dipping action so you can tell how it works :D

The French Dip is a delicious sandwich. I imagine it's even more delicious with some slow cooked beef and homemade gravy but ours was pretty great too. We're definitely going to try it again with slow-cooked beef so the kids can try it. Beef and coleslaw taste good together but the addition of some hot gravy really makes the sandwich. It's a messy sandwich to eat but that didn't bother us. Dipping the sandwich in gravy was a lot nicer than either of us expected. I really liked it and might even relax my gravy rules. I probably won't be able to stop JD from dipping all his food in gravy from now on.

Ratings: JD - 4, Emma - 3

Coming up next week - Ploughman's Sandwich

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 34: Frittata Sandwich

This sandwich is from the Leftovers section. I've had similar sandwiches before just using up eggs and cheese from the fridge. It's a vague recipe that uses up what you have and is useful for that reason.

Ingredients: eggs, goats cheese, red pepper, onion, bread, paprika, salt & pepper

Cut up the onion and red pepper. Saute it in a frying pan until softened. Mix up the eggs, paprika, salt & pepper. I added some mixed herbs too. You could any seasonings, herbs or vegetables to this recipe.

 Pour the eggs in to the frying pan and cook until the bottom is done. Flip it over and cook the other side. Cut up the goats cheese and sprinkle it on top.

Mix some tomato ketchup and hot sauce. Spread it over 4 slices of bread.

Fold the frittata in half over the cheese so it melts. Cut in half and use to (over)fill the sandwich.

I really loved this sandwich. The frittata was a lovely soft texture with a nice taste from the onion and pepper. The hot-sauced-up ketchup really spiced up the eggs giving a nice zing to the whole sandwich. The best thing about it was the goats cheese though. It oozed out from the frittata and was delicious. JD found the frittata too soft and commented that it's really hard to flip a frittata over. He's not wrong there! I'd definitely have this sandwich often. It's great :)

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 5

Coming next Saturday - The French Dip Sandwich

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Homemade Gift Idea - Christmas Tree Decorations

I'm trying to be organised with Christmas presents this year. Which means starting making gifts before it's properly Christmas season! I started making some of these tree decorations in August to give to family.

Stuff You'll Need:

Red and green felt
Red and green thread
Stuffing material
Assorted small buttons
Christmas ribbon

 I started off with a simple shape until I got the hang of it. This bauble shape is easy to do. Cut out the shape twice so you have a back and front. I used pinking shears to give a nice edge.

 Play around with the buttons to see how you're going to place them.

 Sew the buttons in place on one side of the bauble. I decided to leave the centre empty so I can add a personalised initial button or novelty Christmas button if I want to later.

 Sew both sides together using contrasting thread with a simple running stitch. Sew on a ribbon loop and stuff the bauble before you finish sewing it shut.

I think these tree decorations will make a nice thoughtful handmade gift for my family and will be something they can keep and use every Christmas. They were quick and easy to make and weren't expensive either. I also made some green tree shapes and different coloured baubles. All with initial buttons on to match the recipiant's name.

There are lots of different ribbons available to buy and lots of other shapes you could use instead of these ones. See what you can come up with yourself. :)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 33: Balik Ekmek

Here we are, just about a third of the way through the book already. This time it's the turn of an Istanbul sandwich which translates as 'fish sandwich'. I love mackerel so I'm looking forward to this one.

Here's a recipe if you want to try it yourself --> Balik Ekmek Recipe

 Grill the mackerel and chillis after brushing them with oil first.

 Prepare the vegetables and lemon wedges.

 Fill each bread bun with a mackerel fillet, a chilli pepper, onion, lettuce and tomato. Squeeze lemon over the fish before eating.

The mackerel was delicious grilled. We were surprised the sandwich had no sauce but was still moist from the oily fish having been grilled. The salad items gave a nice crunch to the sandwich. I wussed out on having a whole chilli in my sandwich but still felt the heat from where it had been nestled against everything else. JD ate the chilli and said it was way too hot. It's a great sandwich without the chilli and I enjoyed it a lot.

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 4

Coming up next week - Frittata Sandwich

Friday, November 14, 2014

Family Board Game Review - Cluedo

We've got a cupboard full of board games we don't play so we're going to go through them all, replaying them to see if we should keep them. First pick is Cluedo.

 We have this newer version of Cluedo we bought in a charity shop. It's quite fancy compared to the game I remember playing as a kid. Real people pieces instead of those ludo coloured pieces. The weapons don't seem as good as the old game though. I used to love those when I was a kid. An actual piece of rope too not just a plastic copy like in our Cluedo. All the cards were a more stylish black too back then.

Set-Up - The game is easy to set up. Just set out the pieces, secretly pick cards for the envelope and deal the remaining cards out. 3-4 minutes at the most (unless you have to search for pens).

Instructions - The instructions are easy to understand with nothing left to interpretation.

Gameplay - You take turns to move around the board trying to deduce who, with what and where the murder happened.

 Apparently I'm very impatient with the kids taking ages to have their turn. I think I'm turning into my Dad who I recall being the same. Erin was reading her book between turns though and had to be reminded every time.

Also, Erin was hilariously not very good at subterfuge. If she had a card to show you could tell, even if it wasn't her turn to show first. Maybe I should play her at poker right after she gets her pocket money next. :D

Leigh seemed to enjoy being secretive and making her deductions. She was quite good at it all this time and maybe has a career in the secret service to look forward to.

Result - I won!

Game Length - 35 minutes, not a bad time really and quite doable.

Ratings - JD 3, Emma 2, Leigh 3 and Erin 3

I found the game a bit tedious which is a shame because I remember enjoying it as a kid. Leigh and Erin both thought it was boring but Leigh said she enjoyed the deductions part. I was frustrated by several really low dice throws that set me back a bit but still enjoyed winning. Although I might have won due to taking advantage of Erin's transparency. JD said he enjoyed the game because it's a bit more complex than a lot of games but still simple to play.

Somehow the verdict was that we keep Cluedo even though we all mostly thought it was boring. I can see we might not get rid of any games afterall and just end up having to get a bigger games cupboard.

Other Game Reviews:

Battleblock Theater

Guts of Glory


Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse

Escape: Curse of the Temple

Exit: The Polar Station

Dungeons & Dragons

Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes

Monopoly Deal

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 32: Mozzarella in Carozza

Which apparently translates as Mozzarella in a Carriage. An Italian version of a grilled cheese sandwich.

Here's a recipe if you want to try it ---> Mozzarella in Carozza

 The usual bowls of dippings for fried food. Milk, flour and egg.

 Make up the sandwiches with mozzarella, salt and pepper.

 Dip the sandwich in the milk then flour then egg. Fry in oil until browned. This sandwich looks like we just threw it in there. :D

The sandwich was nicely crunchy with soft, smooth mozzarella oozing from the centre. We all tried it but Leigh ended up eating the most. It was similar to a grilled cheese sandwich in a lot of ways but mozzarella lacks the flavour of cheddar. Maybe we've just had enough of fried food sandwiches for now. This sandwich is best eaten freshly made as it becomes soggy fairly quickly. It'd be great as a quick snack if you craved something fried. We enjoyed it anyway.

Ratings: JD - 1, Emma - 3, Leigh - 4, Erin - 3

Coming up next week - Balik Ekmek

Friday, November 7, 2014

Family Book Review - The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson

 Tom Hodgkinson wants us to leave our kids be, to give them the space and time  to grow into self-reliant, confident, inquisitive, contented and free people. Full of practical tips on what to do and (more importantly) what not to do, Tom will not only help your kids to be happier, but he'll also help you, their parents, live happier and more fulfilled lives.

JD found this book in a charity shop and bought it for us to read. At a glance it seems to be the kind of book with the same sort of ideas that we already follow with our kids.

I enjoyed a lot of the thoughts in this book and agreed with some of them. The author seemed overly obsessed with finding the time to drink alcohol which we don't often do. There are plenty other things we enjoy doing that it'd be nice for more time for though :D

I'm going to quote my favourite parts from the book and explain why I like them:

"Children who have too much done for them cannot do things for themselves. Have you noticed how they expect their parents to know the precise location of all their belongings at any point. Where's my Tamagotchi? the child tyrant whines. I can't find my socks."

Actually, not just true of children. Plenty adults rely on their partner to know everything too. We currently have a problem with Erin getting herself up for school. We want her to take responsibility for it herself but she's resisting so far. We're working on it. Leigh sometimes tries to get us to help her with doing something she can easily do herself too. And while it feels good to help someone out I think the pleasure of managing to do something yourself is equally rewarding. I want my kids to have that feeling.

"Whining is an expression of powerlessness and dependence. When you cannot do anything for yourself, when you have come to rely on others to supply your needs and wants, then whining is the impotent response when things go badly."

A whining child is like torture. Just loud enough to grate on your nerves but not too noisy that you feel the need to quieten them. Teaching a child how to do most basic tasks themselves cuts down on this constant whining for help and must make for a happier, more content child. TH (Tom Hodgkinson) also mentions that lots of adults whine at work because they feel they have no control over what happens there.

"The boredom of the full-time mother is compounded by her guilt: she feels guilty because she is not enjoying the company of her own baby, her own children. She feels a failure for not enjoying motherhood. How far she falls short of the ideal of motherhood presented in magazines and TV ads."

TH feels strongly that the way society isolates full-time mothers is wrong compared to how extended families used to share care of the children. I did feel isolated when I had Leigh and it took a lot of getting used to after working full-time and being surrounded by people. I enjoyed being a Mum but sometimes felt I wasn't a good enough Mum or that there was something wrong with me for finding it hard to cope at times.

"Where the man-made world is very expensive, nature is free, physically, mentally, spiritually and financially. While the man-made world is endlessly frustrating, nature is deeply satisfying. Nature is the great generous opposite of mean and greedy commercial culture. It costs nothing."

Preaching to the choir here! I've always loved getting out into nature with or without the kids.

"Shopping trips to town are hellish. The harried parent wastes vitality by saying 'No' constantly, and is also made to feel mean and stingy."

Advertising shamelessly targets children all year round but never as viciously as at Christmas time. Parents are made to feel guilt if they don't spend enough on their child or don't get the most popular toys as presents. I used to feel mean saying no to my kids but I'm starting to feel differently. 'Can't Buy Me Love' isn't just a song lyric. Your time is the best gift you can give anyone and is what kids crave most, not more stuff.

"You want your kids to fit in with the other kids and therefore you buy them rubbish. But the rubbish costs money and to get the money you have to work."

TH believes you should be happy with less stuff and I agree. Life is set up to have everyone chasing material possessions. A bigger house, a faster car, a newer mobile phone etc etc. One of JD's favourite quotes sums up how we feel about possessions.

The less you want, the more content you feel with what you have. The less you want, the less you need to work to pay for the things you want to buy. It does make it awkward when family ask what you want for Christmas though. :)

"Try not to fill children's days. Let them live."

Our kids fight against being too busy. They prefer to have a few days in the holidays where we do nothing. They often ask if we're doing anything at the weekend and feel pleased if we say nothing or groan if we're doing too much. Many kids are constantly engaged in after-school activities and days out/holidays. In the school holidays it's sometimes hard to find a balance between going out and having fun but also days doing nothing so the kids can just laze/lounge and enjoy the time off school. As a parent I often feel guilty that we don't always have a holiday or enough days out but then I remind myself that the kids themselves enjoy time to relax so who am I feeling guilty for?

On reflection there's far too much in this book that I could talk about so I'm going to save some for another day/post :)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturday Sandwich 31: Katsu Sando

This week's sandwich is Japanese and consists of a breaded fried pork steak in white bread. Looks tasty!

There's a recipe here if you want to try it ---> Katsu Sando Recipe

You tenderise the pork with a rolling pin first and then cover it in flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs.

 Fry it until browned. We had some problems with oil temperature and the first one was a bit too browned.

We made up some tonkatsu sauce using tomato ketchup, worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce and sugar.

 It's supposed to be shredded cabbage on the sandwich but we only had lettuce.

The sauce is the best thing about this sandwich. It's spicy, sweet and oozes all over the pork. The pork was deliciously tender and crunchy with the breadcrumbs. I feel it's hard to go wrong with something deep fried and sandwiched in soft bread. A very enjoyable sandwich :)

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 4

Coming up next week - Mozzarella in Carozza
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