Saturday, November 5, 2016

A-Z Blogging Challenge - Apps

Everybody knows I love a challenge and so to get myself blogging regularly again I'm going to do this A-Z blogging thing where I have to post about something starting with each letter.

First up is A (I'm a genius!) and a post about Apps I use.

Google Keep

Keep - It's a note-taking app for anything and everything. I use it to keep track of our monthly budget mostly. JD and I can see what each other has spent so we can keep a running total and not go over what we want to spend. The best thing about it is you can add to it offline. You can make checklists with it too. I use it to make a list of errands when I go into town or things I need from the shop.
Loop Habits

Loop Habits is an app to get you into the habit of doing something regularly. I use it to keep track of how often I'm doing the things I want to make time for each day. After I've done something consistently for 20 or so I days I stop tracking it because it's become a habit. I've used it to make sure I read every day, do exercise, a few minutes of yoga, eat well, complete brain training, learn a language. Basically anything you want to do more of on a regular basis.
Zombies, Run!
Next is my favourite exercise app. In Zombies, Run! you're a runner for a town of people who survived the Zombie Epidemic. They need you to collect items, find supplies, lead zombies away and all kinds of other missions. Voice actors set the scene and let you know what's happening in the storyline with each mission. You just have to run (or walk). Sometime during each mission you'll hear zombies and that's your cue to move faster to escape them. I usually speed walk for the most part and then run when I hear zombies getting close. You can set the length of run to whatever you want, play your own music in between scenes and use items you collect to build the town up in an app minigame. It's fun! I find running or walking on my own boring so this is perfect for me, it's kind of like watching a TV show while you exercise and it makes exercising enjoyable for me.

Swiftkey is a customisable keyboard for your phone. You can change the colour of the keyboard and change the key size if you want. It's predictive text is much better than the default keyboard too. You can swipe type instead of tapping each key and you can customise the layout of the keyboard too. Basically it's just more choices for the phone keyboard if you use it a lot. It even gives you interesting stats on your typing practises. Apparently I've added 6,229 words to my swiftkey vocbulary since I got it and the heart eyes emoji is my most used! There's probably more you can do that I haven't discovered yet too.

Twilight is an app everybody should be using. It cleverly adapts your screen's brightness to the time of day making it easier on your eyes. This is especially good in the evening as it changes to a red filter instead of the usual blue light which research shows makes sleep slower to reach. It does this by being in snyc with your local sunrise and sunset. It's a simple idea that works well and I'd hate to go back to my screeen's blue brightness now.

So, those are my favourite apps at the moment. What is your favourite app?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Restaurant Food at Home: Krispy Kreme

This time I decided to recreate us a sweet treat at home. Krispy Kreme doughnuts always look delicious as do their milkshakes. We've had the doughnuts before and they are quite pricey.

I decided to make us:

Krispy Kreme Biscoff Caramel Milkshakes
Original Glazed Doughnuts

Cost in Krispy Kreme £23

The milkshakes were easy to make and turned out great.

The doughnuts were a lot more complex to make than I'd planned for. Professionally made doughnuts look uniformly circular and perfect. My doughnuts were more like blobs of doughnut. Still, they were delicious blobs and much cheaper than professionally made ones.

Cost of homemade food £8 (£3 of that is the lotus biscoff spread!)

Saving us £15 by eating at home!

Either way, whether eating in Krispy Kreme or at home, doughnuts and milkshakes together leave you with a sick feeling of overindulgence. We all started off enjoying the food but felt horrible after it. Definitely not worth £23 but a bargain at £8, haha :p

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Saturday Sandwich 101: Vada Pav

This popular Indian street food consists of spiced deep-fried mashed potato garnished with various chutneys. We put this sandwich off a bit because it's quite a faff to make with all the chutneys.

Eventually, after JD being away for several months we decided to simplify things a bit with just two chutneys, just to get this last sandwich done!

Here's the recipe we used if you want to try it -

We made up some green chutney and some dry garlic/coconut chutney, see if you can work out which is which :D

The spiced mashed potato was delicious, JD and I both had a few spoonfuls before we rolled it up to be deep-fried.  The mashed potato balls are coated in a batter made from Gram Flour which was thick and almost impossible to get coated on the potato. The first ones we tried to fry in the deep fat fryer were a disaster. The potato dissolved from inside the batter leaving deep-fried batter in the basket. So we fried the next ones in a frying pan instead. Fun times!

Make up the Vada Pav by spreading the green chutney on a bread bun, follow with the battered potato and top with the garlic chutney. Our battered potato is definitely not as pretty as most pictures I've seen but it's finally done!

Ratings: JD - 2, Emma - 2

The sandwich was very spicy, almost every element of it contained chilli powder which builds up to be quite fiery with every mouthful you take. The green chutney was a nice addition and really tasty on it's own and the garlic chutney adds a nice crunch to a soft filling here. But overall it just didn't do it for us, which is a shame as it's the last one.

We've enjoyed a lot of the sandwiches we've tried doing this, some that we've had again and we're currently going through our favourites too. I'll post some sort of re-cap post soon with the ones we liked the most but apart from that we're done. :D

I wonder how many people in the world have eaten 101 different sandwiches. :)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Taped Hands Challenge

Last weekend we planned a bit of silliness since it was the end of Leigh and Erin's first week back to school.

What could be sillier than taping up your thumbs and fingers and trying to do simple tasks?

First we got ourselves all taped up!

We had 6 tasks to do each and we rolled a dice to see which to do first.

I thought putting on socks was the hardest, I couldn't do it. But everyone else managed it. Leigh and JD pictured showing off above. Sending a message was easiest, we all did that one without any difficulties.

Taking a selfie was ok too, we all did that one. Opening up a soda bottle was almost impossible. I was the only one to do it. I helped Leigh with an extra pair of hands to open hers.

Making a sandwich was fun, we went with what we thought were easy choices of peanut butter and jam but they were hard to get open before even trying to spread them with a knife!

Everything was way harder than we thought it'd be and we felt pleased to have managed most of it. I even managed to take these pictures with taped hands thanks to my phone's timer function. :D

So there you go, if you want a bit of silly fun on the cheap then tape up your hands and try to make a sandwich.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

We're Still Here!

It's been a long time since I've made a blog post here. Not since May, which is shocking. There are still things going on which I'll be sharing shortly. This post is to let you know what to expect soon. :D

First up - Saturday Sandwiches

Remember our quest to eat every sandwich in this book I got JD for Christmas several years ago? Well we've eaten 100 of them so far with just one sandwich left to make. We'll be having it soon and then posting about our top 10 favourite sandwiches ever.

Second - More cheap ways to entertain the kids (and yourselves if I'm honest)

Coming up soon is the Taped Hand Challenge, what simple everyday tasks can you manage if your fingers and thumbs are taped up?

Also, we'll be holding a Plastic Cup Games Tournament, multiple fun games using plastic cups and ping pong balls.

Lastly we're keen to start an Eat Well For Less style comparison regular post where we taste various foods (we're most keen to try chocolate and crisps!) to see which brands we prefer.

Anyway, expect some more Family Against the Flow stuff soon :)

Friday, May 27, 2016

More Experiments with my Slow Cooker

I still use my slow cooker a reasonable amount. Usually for curry, stew or the occasional soup. I'd still like to use it more though so here I am again after a 2 year hiatus. This is what I made last time if your memory isn't so good -

I felt it was about time I made a slow cooked pud so I had a go at this recipe for Slow Cooker Gooey Brownie Cake.

You line your slow cooker with foil (hopefully better than I did!!) and pour the cake batter in. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.

My cake took more like 5 hours so maybe it depends on the slow cooker and I'd recommend putting a tea towel under the lid to soak up condensation or it drips on to the cake.

It was pretty easy to make and was great to make ahead ready to serve after our main meal. It made a lovely gooey cake that we all enjoyed. Success!

Next I thought I'd try jacket potatoes in the slow cooker.

Prick the potatoes all over with a fork, sprinkle with salt and pepper then coat in olive oil. Wrap each potato tightly in foil and place in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 7 hours.

When I opened the foil I was really surprised how crispy the tops of the potatoes were. The insides were lovely and soft although the potato had taken on a reddish brown colour from the skins which was weird. Tasted great though, Leigh ate two!

The next recipe isn't a new experiment as we've had it a few times now. But I really love it, so here's a great recipe for Slow Cooked Meatloaf

Mush together a packet of minced beef, an egg, a handful of oats (or breadcrumbs or broken up Ritz crackers) salt and pepper. Form it into a log shape and put it into the slow cooker. Using a strip of foil under it will make it easier to lift out when it's done.

Then I use a cheap can of tomato soup and mix in a tablespoon of brown sugar, a squirt of mustard, 2 squirts of tomato ketchup and a tablespoon of honey. Pour this over the meatloaf log, cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. The tomato soup sauce will thicken leaving you with a meatloaf you can slice but with a tasty soft tomato layer on top. Delicious!

I've got a few more recipes to experiment with, including a slow cooked pizza. Watch this space!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Eating More Vegetables

One of our goals this year has been to eat more veg. We eat a resaonable amount already, plenty of salad and vegetable sides with most meals. But we want to try eating vegetables in different ways to make it more interesting.

We've swapped our regular potato mash for sweet potato mash for a change. We've made more of some old favourites we don't have that often like cauliflower cheese and broccoli casserole. We've made soups, stews and curries mainly out of vegetables. So far we've eaten more veg than usual but I'd still like more ideas of unusual ways to eat them.

Here are a few things we've tried recently:

Beetroot chocolate cake - recipe!

Adding beetroot makes for a moister chocolate cake with a lovely depth of flavour. Cooking anything with beetroot is hazardous though because of the risk of staining everything red. :D It's not really a great way to eat more vegetables but I've always wanted to give it a try anyway!

Pea fritters - recipe!

We're already fans of sweetcorn fritters so I decided to give peas a chance. They're pretty tasty, especially dipped in mayo. I wonder what other veg can be frittered? Watch this space!

Mushroom Quesadillas - recipe!

Now, I hate mushrooms but JD really wanted to try these so we made them and I womaned up to give them a try! As we sauteed the huge pile of mushrooms they gave off a not horrible smell, so I felt optimistic that they might not be awful. Turns out, they're OK. Not delicious but not completely un-delicious either. The cheese helped but it was still the texture of mushrooms that put me off. I feel good about giving mushrooms a try, though I doubt it'll be a regular thing for me.

I've got more recipes to try but I still need more ideas. What's your favourite way to eat vegetables?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Saturday Sandwich 100: Broodje Haring

Another sandwich we've been putting off. JD once bought some rollmops in Lidl and declared them one of the most disgusting things he'd ever eaten. Now here we are years later having to eat more pickled herrings in a Saturday Sandwich, life is cruel.

We scoured Harrogate for some different pickled herrings and found some in Waitrose. We reluctantly bought them and took this picture of them looking malevolent.

Ingredients: bread buns, pickled herrings, dill pickles and onion.

Put 2 herring fillets in a bread bun with sliced dill pickles and chopped raw onion.

Suprisingly not disgusting! The herrings combined with the strong flavours of raw onion and the pickles made for a sour tasting, sharp sandwich. It was hard to identify the herrings in amongst the other flavours. It's not a sandwich we'll ever eat again but it wasn't as bad as we thought it'd be. What a relief, we've eaten it at last and now there's only one sandwich to go. :D

Ratings: JD - 1, Emma - 2

Not sure when we'll be making the last sandwich. JD is currently in America spending time with his family. So you're left with an exciting cliffhanger wondering what the last sandwich will be. Tantalising, eh? ;)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Which Fast Food Fries Are The Best?

My daughter Erin LOVES fries! And no, we haven't been Americanized. I consider fries to be thin cut fried potatoes as opposed to thicker cut fried potatoes which are chips.

Anyway, Erin and I set off to Leeds to test 5 different fast food fries and find out which are the best. Reasonable people might have tried fries over several weeks at different places, but not us.

We decided to test the fries on cost, temperature, crunch, saltiness and size of portion.

First up was Burger King.

Cost: (99p) 4, Temperature: 4, Crunch: 3, Saltiness: 3, Size: 3

These fries were pretty good, served quickly and had a nice saltiness to them. Plus they were the first fries we ate, yay fries!

Overall score:  17/25

Next came McDonalds fries.

Cost: (£1.09) 3, Temperature: 3, Crunch: 3, Saltiness: 1, Size: 4

These fries were also served quickly but lacked the crunch and temperature we'd experienced at BK. They come unsalted but you can add salt from a sachet, we decided to rate them as served. Still quite enthusiastic about eating fries.

Overall score: 14/25

Time for Five Guys fries.

Cost: (£2.75) 3, Temperature: 4, Crunch: 4, Saltiness: 4, Size: 5

A bit shocked at how pricey these fries were but when they came the quantity made up for it. We had a longer wait for our fries than most other places but they do fry them to order. The freshness gives the fries a great temperature and crunch. The fries have some skin left on and together with the seasoning makes for fries you can't stop eating. Also the server came over to talk to us while we ate and gave us what felt like Five Guys life history, she was friendly though and gave Erin some peanuts to take away with her. The fries came in a plain brown paper bag which was nice, JD will approve! Left the restaurant feeling a bit full.

Overall score: 20/25

Chicko's (Independent chicken fast food place)

Cost: (£1.30) 3, Temperature: 2, Crunch: 2, Saltiness: 1, Size: 4

These fries weren't that great, they didn't seem as fresh as others we'd had plus they had little crunch. They weren't salted and there was no salt available to use either. Pretty tired of eating fries now, even Erin didn't want to finish these ones.

Overall score: 12/25


Cost: (99p) 4, Temperature: 3, Crunch: 2, Saltiness: 1, Size: 3

These are usually Erin's favourite but after sampling other, fresher fries she wasn't as impressed. The price and quantity are quite good but again saltiness and crunch were a let down. Bleurgh, fries :(

Overall score: 13/25

So, Five Guys lives up to it's hype. It's worth paying more for your fries if you agree that freshness, saltiness and crunchiness are the best characteristics of the fast food fry. I'm usually not a lover of fast food fries, I can take them of leave them but Five Guys fries seem to have some kind of suspicious addictive quality to them. I should have saved one for chemical testing. :D

Eating 5 half-portions of fries in a day is a terrible idea, don't try this at home! Or at least if you do, have plenty water at hand.

Final Scores:

Five Guys - 20
Burger King - 17
McDonalds - 14
KFC - 13
Chicko's - 12

P.S. Great news! Five Guys is opening a restaurant in Harrogate (where we live), hurrah :)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Saturday Sandwich 99: Student's Zapiekanka

This Polish open-faced sandwich is usually made up of mushrooms, cheese and meats on bread, served toasted. This student version has no restrictions and is much like the refridgerator buffet sandwich we already had.

Ingredients: baguette, cheese and whatever is available in your fridge.

 The suitable foods of our fridge laid out.

Half the baguette and then layer up with a sauce, some meats and vegetables then cheese on top. Grill until the cheese is melted on top.

It's tasty, there's no denying that but is it a sandwich? It's more like a pizza to be honest. We enjoyed the Zapiekanka anyway, it's great to tailor it to your own tastes after months of eating other people's sandwich combinations. Also not pictured we put tomato ketchup on the top as the recipe suggests which was nice. I don't know what else to say, this sandwich was a confusing time. It's behind us now at least. :D

Ratings: JD - 2, Emma - 3

Next Saturday - Broodje Haring

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday Sandwich 98: Shooter's Sandwich

This sandwich is basically a beef wellington in sandwich form made portable for shooters out on the hunt to take with them for lunch. It's traditionally chilled and pressed overnight to be ready for the next day but we decided to eat it still hot when it's just made.

Ingredients: small loaf, steak, mushrooms, butter, onion, garlic, horseradish sauce and mustard.

First off, you make the duxelles (who even knew that was a thing)!

Chop up the onion and mushrooms as finely as you can. Then saute them in butter with garlic, salt & pepper. Also season and cook the steaks according to your preference of done-ness.

 Hollow out the loaf and then spread horseradish sauce on the bottom.

Fill with a layer of steak, then a layer of duxelles and then another layer of steak. Top with some mustard and then cradle it lovingly in your hands.

I loved the flavour of this sandwich, horseradish sauce and mustard are competing to see which can be hottest in your mouth. Horseradish wins, but only just. It's not an easy sandwich to eat, steak in a sandwich never is in our experience. We'd cut the steak up against the recipe's advice but it was still hard to take a bite. Nevertheless, this sandwich is delicious hot and likely more delicious served cold after the sauces have chance to soak in even more. It almost makes me want to go out shooting animals but not quite!

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 4

Next Saturday : Student's Zapiekanka

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