Thursday, December 28, 2017

Restaurant Food at Home - Jamie's Italian

Another copycat meal tea for us, this time from Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant. JD and I love Italian food and we're keen to get Leigh and Erin to try more of it. They already enjoy homemade pizza and Leigh like lasagna. Other than that they're a bit suspicious of pasta dishes we have.

I browsed the restaurant menu and decided on this meal:

Sausage Ravioli £12.95 x4
Funky chips £4 x4
Molten chocolate pudding with vanilla gelato £6.50 x4
Ginger mojito £3.70 x4

Total £108.60


I'd want at least a night in a hotel and meal for that or a whole fun day out with the kids! Anyway, I'll try start breathing again because we're only copying this meal, not paying for it. :D

Here's our version which cost  £14.64.

Sausage Tortellini

2 packets of ready made sausage tortellini
500ml passata
100g grated cheese
5g mixed herbs

Cook the tortellini according to the packet (usually in boiling water for a few minutes). Pour in a dish and cover with passata. Sprinkle cheese and herbs on top. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes on 200C.

 Funky fries

Just some fried chips liberally sprinkled with chopped parsley and garlic salt.

 Ginger Mojito

Pour ginger beer into a glass, add 2 teaspoons of sugar, squeeze in lime juice and mix well. Top with some crushed mint leaves and lime wedges.

Molten chocolate pudding with vanilla gelato

 4 x Morrisons Finest molten chocolate puddings with homemade gelato and toffee sauce.

It all made for a delicious meal. Especially the puddings which were so fancy the chocolate sauce had glitter in it. Leigh liked the tortellini, Erin didn't try it but loved the funky fries. JD and I enjoyed it all. Especially that it was £93.96 cheaper. :)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Subscription Box Review - Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh is a subscription service that delivers ingredients and recipe cards to make planning meals easier. We decided to try out the Classic Hello Fresh box for 3 meals for 2 people, which costs £34.99. Being thrifty I got our box with a Groupon offer for £9.99.

The box arrived on time in an hour delivery slot. Well packed and undamaged.

Inside it contained 3 colour coded packages of ambient ingredients, 3 recipe cards and 1 package of fridge ingredients.

We picked the Creamy Mustard Chicken to cook first.

All the ingredients are supplied with the exact amount you need.

Our finished meal.

Things We Liked:

The recipe was delicious.
You get a decent portion.
There's no food waste.
It's easy to cancel so no obligation. 

Things We Didn't Like:

It's pretty expensive at the regular price.
The recipe said you needed 2 frying pans, we only have 1.
The instructions sometimes weren't clear.
Our mustard seeds popped out of the pan all over the kitchen. (We're still finding them now)

We enjoyed cooking this meal together but the recipe was a bit vague in some places. Someone with less cooking experience might struggle to follow the instructions easily. I think it could've been laid out better.

I'm not sure who this subscription service is meant for but it isn't us. We plan out our meals each week and get our shopping delivered anyway so it isn't a hassle. Our week's food bill is £70ish. Each meal from Hello Fresh costs £5.83 per person. It's almost cheaper to get a takeaway!

I'd recommend this subscription to anyone who likes cooking, leads a busy life and doesn't mind spending money.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

I is for IceCream

A few weeks ago, my workmate Cathy was kind enough to lend us her ice cream maker to play around with. This is how we got on!

The first ice cream we made was lemon frozen yoghurt. Made up of lemon juice, sugar, greek yoghurt and cream. You mix all the ingredients together and chill them for 30 minutes so they're cold. You have to pre-freeze a bowl that sits inside the machine so you have to plan making ice cream at least 6-8 hours beforehand. Put the bowl in the machine and set the paddle going. Pour in the ice cream mix through a hole in the top and leave to churn for about 20-30 minutes. The machine clicks as the paddle starts turning the opposite way when it's done. Turn off the paddle and quickly scrape out the ice cream into a plastic tub and freeze for about an hour to firm it up. Or just eat as it is if you don't mind looser ice cream.

The frozen yoghurt made a really smooth creamy ice cream. We all enjoyed it and it was a good start to our ice cream journey.

Next, JD wanted to try some chocolate ice cream made with ready made custard. You make it by melting chocolate with thick double cream in a pan until it's smooth. Leave it to cool a bit then stir in the ready made custard. It looks delicious like this too!

Chill the chocolate pudding in the fridge for 30 minutes and then churn it in the machine exactly the same way as before. Freeze it for an hour in a tub again and you have chocolate ice cream.

This ice cream was also delicious smooth and creamy. I could get used to this.

Next we made a plain vanilla ice cream and added chocolate chips. Vanilla ice cream was made by mixing vanilla, double cream, milk and sugar. Chilled as usual and churned until thickened. We found that the ice cream mixtures that started off thick took 30 minutes to thicken whereas mixtures that were more runny in texture thickened much quicker. About 10-15 minutes. We added the chocolate chips near the end.

We experimented with different toppings and had ice cream cones. This one has M&Ms and toffee syrup stirred through it. We tried mint choc chip ice cream, clotted cream ice cream and vanilla gelato.

I think my favourite was the chocolate custard ice cream. We had it again this time with choc chips. Yum!

The ice cream maker was easy to use as long as you followed the instructions to the letter. It was a bit noisy to have churning for 30 minutes at a time and the paddle was difficult to scrape ice cream off. But other than that it was great to have freshly made ice cream whenever we wanted. The ice cream was enthusiastically received for the first couple of weeks then we all got a bit sick of eating it so often. JD and I preferred the plainer flavours of ice cream such as the lemon or chocolate rather than ice cream with syrup and toppings. I think Leigh was the only one keen to continue eating ice cream indefinitely.

It was fun to play with for a few weeks anyway, thanks Cathy :)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Burger It 7: Pork Sausage Burger

Something terrible happened with this burger and it's only now a week later that I can bring myself to tell you about it. We ate a burger without a bread bun (without bread of any kind in fact). I know my Dad would not approve.

Years ago when I was a teenager we were going to have an impromtu barbecue. But as often happens on the rare sunny day in the UK when this can happen, the local supermarket had been ransacked by other hopeful barbecuers. There were no bread buns to be bought anywhere. My Dad had a bit of a tantrum about it when my Mum suggested we go ahead with no bread buns. He said "You can't have burgers without any fucking bread buns". And he's right.

This recipe suggested serving the burger on a rosti with onions on top and God help us that's what we did.

Make the burgers from pork sausagemeat adding in some salt & pepper, cayenne pepper and lemon juice.

Cook them until they're done in a frying pan. Serve on a rosti with balsamic onions.

We sat down to this travesty of a burger feeling amused. It didn't look like a burger or even something we wanted to eat. But, it tasted great. The three components went together really well. It was delicious even though it had to be eaten with a knife and fork. With the addition of a bread bun and some sauce it might have been one of the best burgers I've ever had. From now on, whatever the recipe suggests we'll be having a bread item of some kind to encase the burger. It's what my Dad would want.

Ratings: JD - 4, Emma - 4

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.
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