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


Thursday, September 21, 2017

G is for Games

I love games. I love board games, video games, pen and paper games, card games, word games, dice games...pretty much anything slightly gamish.


When I was a kid we'd often play card games with our parents. My sister Caroline and I usually had a game of Monopoly on the go on our bedroom floor. My youngest sister Sally and I played games like Key to the Kingdom and Anticpation. Once my Dad came home with a second hand games console in a cardboard box. I think it was a texas instruments console, anyway it came with a cassette player to load the games onto the console and it took ages to get set up. That started our love of video games.


I spent hours in my room as a teenager listening to music and playing Yahtzee by myself on a felt board my Dad had made. I loved when Christmas came around , there was often a new board game to play and plenty of time to play it all together. Family would come around and we'd play Charades/Give us a clue. I loved it.

Winterbells


My love of games led me to be looking for free online games to play which is how I met JD, also playing an online game. Not the best game but a forum with a lot of great people we got to know over the years we played. We'd play games on the forum together, I enjoyed Rock, Paper, Scissors tournaments we had and trying to beat each others high scores at games such as Helicopter or Winterbells.


My Dad loved gaming (pictured playing Rocksmith on the XBox). In the early years he played a lot of RPG type games, we'd have to help by drawing maps of caves or dungeons he was exploring. No auto-maps back then. No saves either, if you died you had to decide if you wanted to spend the time getting to where you were when you died or give up for the day. I don't know how he had the patience for it to be honest. We've had some great times over the years playing some really good video games but also plenty terrible ones too. Games my Dad couldn't get through even if I was sat next to him reading from a walkthrough in a magazine.

Simple games have always been useful for passing the time when travelling or waiting for a hospital appointment. You just need a pen and paper to play Hangman, Noughts and Crosses, Battleships or one of tons of games. Word games like I-spy, The Lord Mayor's cat or I went to the shop and I bought etc are also good for those times. I was talking to a Portuguese friend at work recently and realised we played a game in common. It's the game where you have to think of a thing for each category (like animal, country, film etc) and they all have to start with the chosen letter. You get points if no one else picked the same thing as you. She called it Stop because of how they choose what letter to use (someone is thinking the letters of the alphabet until someone says stop). I have no idea what we call it, maybe the Alphabet game. It's fun though and I remember us playing it as kids. I could never get an animal starting with N :D

Games are a simple pleasure for me, I'm always up for playing something. I enjoy spending time with my family playing a game. I'm not even that competitive, I just enjoy playing. I like winning of course but I've never flipped over a board game in a rage or anything. Honest!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Burger That! 4: Sticky Lemongrass burger

This recipe looks interesting. I love fusion food and this is a great example. It's a perfect meal for JD and I to have while the kids are away at their Dad's. I do all the prep, making up the burgers and then relax while JD cooks them in the frying pan. I don't have the patience to cook something that needs constant watching, if it was left to me we'd eat things before they were fully cooked and suffer from food poisoning. Luckily JD is on hand to save us from that!

The burger is made up of chicken mince mixed with spring onions, lemongrass puree, ginger and garlic. Formed into patties and then cooked for 4 minutes on each side.


Then to make it sticky you mix together soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, water and sugar to make a syrupy sauce. Pour it over the burgers and cook covered for a further 3 minutes. Serve in a bread buns with cucumber sticks and lime wedges on the side.


I really liked the sticky glaze on the burgers. It worked perfectly and gave the meat a lovely asian flavour. Squeezing lime over the burger before you eat it adds a subtle sour tang which I also liked. Very nice!

Ratings: JD -3, Emma - 4

Sunday, August 27, 2017

F is for Frugality



Frugality - the quality of being economical with money or food; thriftiness.


We really like saving money or making money we spend go further. We like the philosophy of making do instead of buying more and we don't like things to be wasted. Here's a list of things we do to try save our money. 

1. Menu Planning

We've done this for a few years now and it cuts down our supermarket spend. Once a week I write a menu and we only buy food for meals and planned snacks. Leigh and Erin know what we'll be eating and when so it cuts down on 'What's for tea?' questions. We spend between £60-70 per week but it covers all our lunches too.

 
2. Ziffit

Ziffit is a site/app you can sell books, games, DVDs and CDs to. They make it very simple because they pay for postage, you just parcel up what you want to sell (a minimum of £5 worth) and post it to them. Then they pay you via Paypal within a couple of days. For someone that reads a lot it's a handy way to sell on books. You'd get more if you sold them on ebay or similar but it's really convenient.


3. Reduced Food

We're always on the lookout for reduced food in supermarkets. Whenever we go to Asda we'll seek out the reduced section or in our Sainsbury's Local we'll keep an eye out for yellow stickers. Last week we bought 5 packs of reduced Puff Pastry in Co-op and put them in the freezer when we got home. This week I put chorizo sausage rolls on the menu using the pastry and we've also had chocolate & custard twists and cheese straws for snacks. If we get something reduced it gets used up in a meal saving us money on that weeks food shopping. Unless its something like muffins which we shamelessly scoff as soon as we get home, haha!


4. Budget

Our finances are mostly a series of budgets. JD and I each have a personal spending budget each month. Like I said earlier, we stick to a food budget. We have a monthly spending budget for days out, clothes and treats etc. If we want to buy something too expensive for the budget or have a trip out that's costly we owe it to ourselves like we've loaned ourselves the money. Then we have to pay it back over the next few weeks or months. It might seem weird to other people but it works for us. Thinking about how much we've spent and keeping a budget stops us from spending too much. But if we do spend too much, we have the best loan rates in town at 0%!


5. Groupon

Days out are often quite costly so when I'm planning something fun to do I always check out sites like Groupon for money off. We've had some good deals through these recently. This summer we've done an Escape Room at £36 instead of £50. Gone to the Proms with 2 for 1 tickets, £32 instead of £64. Eaten out with 50% off. Me and Erin have a reduced Spa Day planned and Leigh and I will be having a cut-price Afternoon Tea. There's plenty of offers on things to do and places to eat but you have to check the original price on the company's website to make sure you're actually getting a saving. A lot of times you can save money by going at a quieter time of day so this only works if you check the details of use before you buy.


6. Buying Second Hand

A lot of things we buy we try not to buy new. We look in charity shops for items we need or search sites like eBay or Gumtree for listings. Today we carried home a bed for Leigh that we bought on Gumtree for £30 and last month we picked up a stand mixer that I bought on eBay for £50. JD's really good at searching online for things we need. I often manage to find some nice clothes for myself in charity shops too. The internet has made it so much easier to buy second hand, you can easily look up the price of things on your phone to check you're getting a good price. Buying second hand isn't everyone's cup of tea but we really like saving money plus making use of something someone else doesn't want anymore.


7. Vypr.

I use quite a few apps to make a bit of extra money but this one is the easiest. It's a survey app where you just have to answer a few questions for each survey. It's quick to do and the money soons adds up. You get more points for surveys answered while you're actually in the store running the survey too. The questions are sometimes bizarre and repetitive, you don't have to mind answering questions about which packaging you prefer or if you think milk is sensual. But apart from that it's worth doing. They pay out at just £5 into Paypal within 48 hours. Nice :)


8. Be Inventive

We like going to the cinema or having fun days out as much as the next person but to save money you can always try being a bit more inventive about having fun. We've had just as much fun doing silly stuff at home. We've held Beetle Drives, Bingo Nights, Guiness World Records Olympics, Minecraft events and much more. We have a film night every Friday with homemade pizza and snacks, watching a film from Netflix or Lovefilm. We play cards or board games and try to find cheap ways of making our own fun. If it means you have to to see how many post it notes you can put on your face or dress up as your own invented super hero (watch this space!) then just go for it. :D



Anyway, that's your lot. Some of the ways we try to be frugal with our money.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

You Cheeky Burger 3: Chicken Caesar Burger

I kind of regret starting the burger/bugger puns in the post titles, I'm going to run out before I finish the burgers! Send help! In the form of puns :D

Now, I love a chicken caesar salad so this burger has to be good. Let's find out.


Add parmesan, lemon juice, spring onions, garlic, salt and pepper to chicken mince. Form into burger patties and wrap in some streaky bacon. Cook in oil in a frying pan until fully cooked.

The burger is bunned (probably not a word) in a section of baguette along with lettuce and caesar salad dressing.


I don't usually like when burgers are served this way (not fully bunned) but it looks stupid with the top baguette on top. A bit like me wearing a hat. Haha.

This burger was delicious, all the moistness was kept inside by the bacon making for a juicy burger. Chicken and bacon go really well together so the only thing letting it down was the choice of bread. I wasn't keen on the baguette and prefer a softer bread bun for burgers. Still, I wouldn't kick it out of bed. (Not that I'd have it in bed with me in the first place, I'm not a burger weirdo!)

Ratings: JD - 3, Emma - 4

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Well, Burger Me 2: Breakfast Burger

Making a Breakfast Burger leaves us with quite the dilemma. Do you eat it for breakfast or dinner? We opted to eat it for dinner but we wouldn't judge anyone eating this for breakfast instead.

Burger Components:

Sauasage patty
Bacon
Black pudding
Fried egg

You could add other breakfast items if you wanted, such as a fried tomato or a hash brown but we decided to stick to the recipe in the book.


Peel the skins off some sausages and put the sausagemeat in a bowl. Add, salt, pepper and some mustard and squish together with your hands to mix. Form into patties and fry in some oil until cooked. JD did the frying while I hovered behind him worrying that the patties would break up.

They turned out reasonably well though and so we built up the burgers. Sausage patty followed by bacon, black pudding and then the fried egg. Top with whatever sauce you like. The bread of choice for this burger is an English Muffin.


The observant among you might notice one of these burgers doesn't have black pudding on it. I felt really wary about eating it. When I came to eat the black pudding one I wussed out and took it off. A hash brown would've been a better choice I think!

It's a good idea for a burger, made up of things that go well together but in execution it's not that great. The muffin doesn't hold together very well with all the ingredients inside. The sausage patty was a bit soft and neither of us like black pudding that much. All in all we weren't very impressed.

Ratings: JD - 1, Emma - 2


Sunday, June 25, 2017

No-Sugar Month Finishes

We made it, one month with no sugar! It was easier than I thought it would be. The only problem being that the food was a little repetitive at times. The only dessert type food we ate was a brand of yoghurt we found that had no added sugar. I ate it with some lower sugar fruits and it was nice to be having a dessert sometimes.

Mostly we ate meals based on meat and vegetables.

Chilli with extra vegetables added

 
Meatballs with sweet potato and kale

Beef stew and dumplings

Stamppot

For lunch we generally had a salad with meat and cheese. 

Gammon salad
Sometimes we had a collection of foods such as avocado, cheese, ham, sun-dried tomatoes, hot dogs, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, carrot, hummus etc.


We always ate plenty so we wouldn't get hungry and be tempted to eat something sugary. And it worked, we both enjoyed the food we ate and didn't particularly miss foods we'd cut out.

After the month I definitely feel like I have more energy and I want to keep eating a fairly low sugar diet. It's nice to feel like you're giving your body good foods. It's really stisfying.

I did miss baking, it's something I get pleasure from, making something sweet that everyone enjoys. I'll probably go back to making the occasional treat but do it less often than I used to and try to find some lower sugar treats for us.

But overall it was a good experience, I'm glad we did it. :)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Playing Silly Burgers 1: Indian Spiced Burger


I've got a new book. 40 burgers! Even though the book's tagline claims "The exciting varieties are endless". Hehe!

The travesties don't stop there! Despite it's claims, this recipe book only includes 31 burger recipes. The remaining recipes are for fries, coleslaw etc. I'm still going to do 40 burgers though, I'll just scour the internet for 9 more recipes. 31 burgers isn't a nice round number of burgers to make.

So here we go with the first of many burgers we'll be making and eating.

Indian Spiced Burger 

    

Lamb mince spiced with garam masala, tumeric, mustard seeds, and chili. Served between mini naan breads.


Saute the onions with the spices.


Mix together the meat, onions, breadcrumbs and an egg.


Form into patties and cook.



We ate ours sandwiched between two homemade mini naan breads (since we're still not eating sugar and shop bought ones have sugar in). The burgers were really good, nicely spiced and really tasty. I'm not sure I've had lamb burgers before but I'd have them again. They weren't as aesthetically pleasing as most burgers I've had but the taste made up for that.

Ratings: JD -3, Emma - 3

Friday, June 9, 2017

E is for Eggs and No-Sugar Update

How do we like our eggs in a morning? We like ours with a kiss ;)

Actually kisses aren't very filling so we usually eat our eggs with some meat and cheese. I do the prep and get the egg accompaniments cooked then JD takes over and scrambles the eggs in a frying pan. It's a really satisfying breakfast and a good start to the day having a meal together.  

Chicken and spinach

Pek chopped ham

Smoked sausage

Hot dogs

We try to vary the meat or way of cooking to stop us getting bored. We even tried haggis in our eggs on Burn's Night.


Corned beef and baked beans go great with a fried egg for breakfast.


We also enjoy Shak Shuka from Israel, eggs cooked in a thick tomato passata.


So yeah, we love eggs! If you've got any suggestions for something we could try with eggs then please comment below. :)

No-Sugar Update

We're over 2 weeks into no-sugar month and so far it's going well. We've eaten piles and piles of vegetables and our own body weights in meat too. It's tough for me going without sweet treats because I eat them fairly often. My work colleagues are keeping an eye on me at work so I don't eat sweets but so far I haven't really been tempted.

I definitely feel like I have more energy which has made it easier for me to get back into exercising more. We're being more creative with meals and making sure to eat plenty so we don't get hungry and succumb to sugary snacks.

Sugar makes you feel crap if you eat too much, there have been times we've eaten too much these last few weeks but it doesn't make you feel the same. It's nice to feel you're giving your body good food all the time.

I'll be posting when we finish with pictures of meals we've been having. 12 days to go!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

D is for Diet (Start of No-Sugar Month)

JD picked up this book on a recent trip to The Works bookshop:


He read it and then passed it on to me to read. I was aware that sugar isn't good for our bodies but I wasn't aware of the extent of the damage sugar consumption can cause.

In the book the author Damon Gameau experiments with eating 40 teaspoons of sugar a day for 60 days. Sugars added to supposed healthy foods like muesli bars, orange juice and cereal. He doesn't eat any junk food.

After 60 days he gained weight, a fatty liver and high cholesterol. It was an interesting experiment to read. He ate the same number of calories daily as his usual diet but because the calories came from carbohydrates/sugar he negatively affected his health.

JD and I make an effort to eat well. We usually make sure to eat our 5 a day including plenty of foods that are good for our bodies. But we do (me especially) eat treats fairly often. JD has a weakness for Doritoes and my nemesis is chocolate. I also work in a sweet factory which doesn't help with avoiding temptation.

People who devote their lives to eating clean, sugar-free, low-carb diets often extol the feeling of high energy, feeling good and having a completely changed outlook on food. We feel suspicious that isn't the case but also feel a bit optimistic that it could be true.

So just to check for ourselves in case it works, we're going to have a month of no-sugar. No foods with added sugar, no bread, no chocolate, no crisps. I'm still going to eat fruit but only the lower-sugar ones. We started on Monday 22nd May and so far so good. No energy boosts yet but also no terrible feelings of loss!

We'll be back in a month to share how it went. :)

Note: Neither of us are cutting out sugar in order to lose weight. The word diet in the title refers to us changing our diet to avoid sugar not to be on a diet.




Sunday, April 23, 2017

C is for Chocolate

I'm very much a fan of chocolate, so when Easter comes around I like nothing more than a huge Cadbury's Easter Egg. Cadbury's has always been my favourite chocolate but I'm not very fussy, I often have Galaxy or a supermarket own brand instead.

JD has always said he doesn't think I could tell the difference between the brands if I didn't know what I was eating so I had to put my chocolate-lovers reputation to the test.

Quite nervously too, because previously I've completely failed to tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke and between various flavours of crisps! Plus we're always laughing at people on Eat Well For Less when they have no idea their favourite brand has been swapped for a cheaper option. Not so funny now!

We picked a variety of higher end, regular and cheaper chocolates to try.


We had:

Galaxy
Cadbury's
Lindt
Tesco mid range
Asda value range
Hotel Chocolat
Thorntons

We chopped the chocolate into small pieces to disguise it even more. Any chocolate aficionado can tell the difference between Cadbury's chunky bar and Galaxy's smoother rounded bars.



We took turns trying each chocolate and guessing which was which. All while blindfolded. This is serious stuff!



The results:

JD was the winner guessing 4 correctly and the rest of us recognised 3 of them each.

Most importantly, I recognised Cadbury's chocolate. I completely mixed up Hotel Chocolat and Asda value, so I don't seem to know which is good quality and which isn't. We all liked the Asda value chocolate which is impressive as it's only 30p a 100g bar. I found the Thorntons chocolate quite tasteless after trying the others.

My reputation is intact for now, I can smugly claim to know my favourite chocolate without reprisal from JD. It probably won't last long if we do more taste tests though!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Another Writer in the Family


Our 13 year old daughter Erin is following in her step-dad JD's footsteps as it seems she's caught the writing bug. She spends a lot of her spare time writing and has so far completed two short stories and has started a third. They seem to be a bit macabre so I'm hoping she'll be the next Stephen King. I won't spoil the plots of either but one has murder and the other has zombies. What will she write about next?
She's been reading her stories to us as she writes them for feedback and advice. We can tell she's already improved as she continues to develop her own style. JD's advice is to write lots, not worry about a title and to finish what you start. It seems to be working for Erin. I'm proud of her for sticking at it.

Here's an excerpt of one of her stories titled 'Robbie'. Jack's wife Zoe has been recently bitten by a zombie:

---I woke up and looked over at Jack. He was sat against the wall; empty whisky bottles laying on the ground and a half full one in his hand. “Morning, Jack,” I said. “Morning,” he grunted. I smelt the booze on his breath. He was drunk. “You know, this is your fault,” said Jack, drunkenly. “None of this would have happened if you hadn’t shown up!” 
“Jack, you’re drunk,” I said, placing my hand on the bottle. He smashed it to the ground and picked up his axe. “Well, Zoe’s hurt and it’s all your fault!” He yelled, swinging his axe, aiming for my head. I darted out the way and shouted “Jack! Stop! You don’t want to do this! Zoe wouldn’t want this!” 
“Oh, you think you could tell what Zoe wanted! Should’ve killed you at the beginning!” I grabbed my knife and with tears running down my cheeks, I said “Don’t come any closer, Jack! I will stab you! I don’t want to but I will!” “Go to Hell, Iris!” He screamed before lunging towards me. I jumped out the way and stabbed him in the back. He howled in pain. He fell to the floor with a thud. He turned onto his side. I could see that he was sobering up. He said “Please, promise me something. If you see Precious, please look after her. She deserves to have a parent.”  
“Okay, I will,” I said, tears streaming down my face. And like that, he was gone.---

 Dramatic stuff! Well done, Erin, keep going :)