Monday, 27 February 2012

Baby’s First Nursery Must-Haves


Pregnancy is a unique time full of new experiences and anticipation, and one of the many pleasures of preparing for your newborn is planning the nursery. If you have never planned a baby nursery before, it may seem a daunting prospect, but do not worry. Here are some helpful pointers to get you started.

Sleeping

Babies spend an awful lot of time asleep and so you will need to buy a cot your little one will love. Choose one with a simple drop-down side that gives easy access to your baby and protects your back from excessive strain when picking them up. Cot bedding is available in a wide variety of colours and designs, a good selection can be found at Vertbaudet at their online shop or in their extensive catalogue. Good sleeping habits can be encouraged by fitting a blackout blind at the window to block out light. As babies spend a lot of time gazing up at the ceiling, it is nice for them to have something interesting to look at. Create the perfect mood in the baby nursery with the clever use of unusual mobiles, night-lights, lampshades and lit canvasses. It is important to create the right balance between stimulating and tranquil, you will find plenty of interesting baby nursery items to inspire you at Vertbaudet.

Image courtesy of Vertbaudet

Decorating

Only use non-toxic paints in the baby nursery, look for the words 'low VOC' on the tin,
this refers to 'low volatile compounds.' Plan to finish any decorating or carpeting well before baby's arrival so that any fumes or dust will have dissipated. Remember your baby will not be a baby for long, so unless you really love painting and decorating, choose a simple scheme that remains appropriate for some time. Easy peel off decorative stickers are an effective way of creating interest and detail without permanence, see the sticker collection at Vertbaudet for ideas. Do not climb a ladder during pregnancy; ask your partner or a friend to take care of any difficult decorating tasks. Make sure that rugs are fixed securely to avoid trip hazards. Many mums find fitting a dimmer switch in the nursery helps to keep the baby relaxed, and it is especially useful during night feeds when neither of you really want to be awake.


Image courtesy of Vertbaudet

Changing Table

A changing table in the baby nursery, whilst not essential, will make life easier as it is specifically designed for one purpose. Handy for keeping all the baby's changing equipment together and wide and high enough to offer space and ease of use.


Image courtesy of Vertbaudet

Storage

You will need storage for all of the baby's new things. Choose practical storage solutions that are easy to use and integrate well into the nursery. Find plenty of fun storage options at Vertbaudet, including a wonderful soft laundry basket shaped like a washing machine – there's nothing like teaching them good habits early!

Image courtesy of Vertbaudet


*This is a sponsored post*

Meal Planning Monday (27th February 2012)

Monday again? Is it just me or are the week just flying past? 

I have to admit that today I don't have a plan. I know, shocker right? There will be a plan but I've just not got there yet. I'm in the process of sorting out my recipes pile and looking for inspiration as I go. This is an arduous task as my recipe pile must have literally hundreds and hundreds of things torn out of magazines or printed off the internet. For some reason I appear to be nesting right now and this is a project that has been sitting around for years so I am getting on with it.

I'm kind of let off the hook anyway this week as tonight we're going out for dinner and tomorrow we have got soup and baguettes, so I'm practically halfway there... There's bound to be a curry of some type, a pasta dish and a stir-fry, although I am yearning to make another pie.

The Linky for this week is below so add your meal plans and I will check them out (I'm still getting through last weeks...). 

Thanks for joining in with #mealplanningmonday!


Sunday, 26 February 2012

Review: Hotel Chocolat Mothers Day Gifts

When Hotel Chocolat asked me if I wanted to review one of the products from their Mothers Day range I was hardly going to turn them down. After all, it's likely to be the only box of chocolates I get for Mothers Day and also, we all know I am a big fan of Hotel Chocolat and have reviewed their products before (here and here if you're interested). 

When given the choice, I normally always opt for a Sleekster. I love having a box that contains a delicious variety of chocolates and truffles, so that I can try out things I might not normally go for. The Sleekster All About Mum Selection offers this in droves. The box contains 26 beautiful chocolates in an amazing ray of flavours.


The selection includes such delights like Bison Grass Vodka, Chilli Sweetheart, Vanilla Truffle and Strawberry & Black Pepper. My own personal favourites were the Cherry Bombe, - a zingy cherry puree truffle, Buck's Fizz - a light and creamy truffle with a splash of champagne and a dash of zesty orange juice, and A Kiss for Mothers Day - a melt-in-the-mouth silky soft milk ganache encased in a pair of milk chocolate lips.


Who wouldn't want to receive these? There's no hope of Mr M ever delivering me such a yummy gift so I must thank Hotel Chocolat for treating me!

You can check out the rest of the gorgeous Hotel Chocolat Mothers Day range here. If Mr M is reading, I wouldn't be opposed to receiving the Jewellery Box or the Beauty Box. It's no good, he never takes a hint however blindingly obvious!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Chablis Blogger Challenge


I was recently sent one of those PR approaches that you can't turn down. Yes, that's right. They wanted to send me free WINE. It's practically impossible to say no to that so of course I speedily responded.

I was invited to give my ideas, as part of a blogger challenge, for food pairing with Chablis wine and in particular they wanted to hear from bloggers who have no experience in wine or food and wine pairing. They picked the right girl. I have no experience in wine - other thank drinking it rather quickly. I'm never going to be a wine  connoisseur. I find a wine I like and I stick with it, however rubbish it might be considered but that's not to say I can't appreciate a good wine, I'm just not very good at sniffing them out!

I was sent two wines to try out. The first was the Chablis Premier Cru, Les Vaillons, 2007, Billaud-Simon (£13.15 available at Bancroft Wines) and the second was the Les Domaines Brocard Organic Chablis, 2007 (£14.99 available at Marks and Spencers).

I was sent a very handy pack to get me on my way with a guide to tasting wine, a chart to help me record my thoughts and some useful information on Chablis. Nearly 35 million bottles of Chablis are produced every year and 3 out of 10 bottles are sold in the UK, which clearly means we must be Chablis fans!

I read through the guide but I'm still not too sure about my wine-tasting knowledge! With my wine-tasting hat firmly on my head I approached the first wine, the Chablis Premier Cru. Using my new found skills I would say that this wine was subtle and fresh with a citrus aroma. It was pale and clear.  The second wine, the Les Domaines Brocard was clean, crisp and also had an aroma of citrus fruits.  That's as knowledgeable as I can pretend to be on these wines. I'm much better with food and with that in mind, lets move on to my food suggestions. 

I decided to pair my Chablis wines with seafood as in my mind, that is what would go best and in doing this, I thought about the ideal three course menu that could be served.


What do you think? I tried to keep it French to go with the wine but in reality, I have no idea what I am doing, I just think having tasted the wine, that it would wash down these dishes rather well!

I'm now off to have another glass *hic* whilst I dream about scoffing a big bucket of Moules.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Black Forest Brownies


Black Forest. You've got to love anything Black Forest haven't you? Or is that just me? I cannot resist a cherry/chocolate combo.

I had the urge to bake this week so I had a search through my saved recipes folder and found this one that I had copied from somewhere. (I'd scribbled it down so can't credit anyone, if it's yours, I apologise. Let me know and I'll credit you appropriately!).  I don't make brownies very often, in fact, this was the first time in a few years but that's for no other reason than lack of appropriate baking tray. This was rectified at the weekend with a trip to Lakeland and so it was brownies and tray bakes a-go-go.

These turned out really well, better than I could have hoped, and were very simple and satisfying to whip up. I used alcohol in these, and was probably a bit heavy-handed as you could smell it. I wasn't entirely comfortable with putting them in my daughters school lunchbox reeking of kirsch so if you don't want to use alcohol then substitute the kirsch for some of the syrup from the cherries.

Black Forest Brownies

Ingredients

225g milk chocolate 
125g butter
3 tbsp single cream
3 large eggs
225g caster sugar
2 tbsp kirsch
160g plain flour
100g dark chocolate chips
can of black cherries, drained

Method

Preheat the over to 180c. Grease and line a brownie pan with baking parchment.

Chop the milk chocolate and butter into small chunks. Place them in a small bowl along with the cream and melt by gently heating over a pan of simmering water.  When everything has melted together, put the bowl to one side and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs together and mix in the sugar and kirsch (or syrup). Beat the sugar and eggs together until well combined and thickened slightly. Carefully mix in the melted chocolate mixture.

Add in the flour, a few spoonfuls at a time. Combine with a wooden spoon. Keep repeating until all the flour is mixed in and then throw in the dark chocolate chips, before stirring well for a final time.  Transfer the batter into the brownie pan and place the cherries on the top of the batter, spreading them out evenly.  

Pop the pan into the oven for around 35 minutes. When ready, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool in the pan before removing and slicing into equal portions. 

I like my brownies small so made them almost a large bite-size, but you can make the portion as big or as small as you like.

With regard to the milk chocolate, I always take my cue from Nigella and use Buttons. It's way easier than trying to chop and break up a bar of Dairy Milk.   When melting don't let the bowl touch the water whatever you do, or the chocolate may seize. This has happened to me WAY too many times.

The brownies were enjoyed by everyone at home and at work so I think we can consider them a hit!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Year 1 Phonics Screening & "My Phonics Kit"


If like me, you have got a child in Year 1, you may well be aware that this year our little six year olds will be preparing to take the first ever phonics check after it being trialled in some schools last year.

The Year 1 phonics screening check is a short assessment to confirm whether individuals have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard and will help to identify the children who need extra help so that they are given support by their school.

There is some controversy with regard to this screening check with many people believing it's not necessary and schools should already know how the children are developing. I tend to agree but also think that there's no real harm in an informal test with the class teacher, especially if may help pick up a few children that might be slipping through the net. I recently debated this at length with Tasha from WAHM BAM! on both Twitter and her blog, and you can read her views on it here

One of my biggest concerns regarding the phonics screen was that during the trial only 32% of children reached the expected level. The government, in their own words, "make no apology for being ambitious". I fear this level of expectation could be damaging, not just to the children but also to the teaching staff and the schools. The test in itself shouldn't be too stressful for the children, as it should be conducted in the familiar learning environment they are used to with their their own teacher. At ages 5 and 6, I would hazard a guess that they won't even notice they are being tested.

Our school does a lot of work on learning phonics with the children and expect parents to back this learning up at home. I'm therefore pretty confident that my 6 year old won't struggle with the test, however whether my reception-age child will fare so well next year, would be anyones guess! 

With this is mind I was happy to receive a copy of "My Phonics Kit" from The Oxford University Press featuring those much-loved characters that I'm sure you're familiar with if you've got a school-age child, Biff, Chip and Kipper!
The kit has been created by educational experts and aims to support parents in helping their children with reading activities at home. The pack includes a CD-ROM with eBooks and phonics support; reward chart, sticker sheet; tips for parents and 3 phonics workbooks.

The workbooks in the kit are designed in a fun way that will appeal to young children. They are easy to follow and the tasks vary in difficulty. One of the things I especially like about the kit was that it introduced the idea of reading nonsensical words. (or "alien" as the kit calls them).  I know that this is a big part of the check but I'm not actually sure how much emphasis is put on these at school so it's a good way for me to see how well she can cope with using her phonics skills and reading words that don't actually say or mean anything!




I really liked the kit and I shall use it with both of my children in the run-up to the screening checks.

"My Phonics Kit" is widely available with an RRP of £9.99.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Conchiglie Rigate Piccanti


Another exotic sounding dish - this one translates to "Shell pasta with spicy pork and tomato sauce". The Italians really have a way with words don't they?

Another try-out from the Gino's Pasta book, another success. Minced pork was not something I had tried with pasta before but it worked really well. The sauce really took on the flavour of the olives. If you like olives this is good, if you don't, then maybe one to avoid. I'm only a new convert to olives but I loved it. The sauce has a strong flavour and the chilli gives it a little bit of a kick.

Gino wouldn't let me put any cheese on this and that felt a little bit alien to me - all pasta dishes come topped with copious amounts of Parmesan don't they?!  I can see why he would say this though, it really doesn't need it.

Quick and simple, my favourite type of dinner!

Recipe serves 4 and is adapted from a recipe by Gino D'Acampo.

Conchiglie Rigate Piccanti

Ingredients

5 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
80g pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1 hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
80g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and finely chopped
300g minced pork
300g passata
400g medium shell pasta

Method

Heat the oil in a saucepan or wok over a medium heat. Fry the onion and olives together for 2 mins, stirring occasionally.  Add the chilli, sun-dried tomatoes and the minced pork and continue to fry for a further 6 mins, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the passata and gently simmer uncovered for 15 mins. Stir every few minutes. Season with salt, remove from the heat and set to one side.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and tip back into the same pan. Pour in the meat sauce and stir everything toether over a low heat for around 30 seconds. This will allow the flavours to combine. Make sure you coat the pasta evenly.

Serve immediately.

One point to make, just make sure you buy PITTED olives. Guess who didn't. It really slowed down the dinner-making experience. Tedious is not the word.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Meal Planning Monday (20th February 2012)

So it's come around again, Monday morning. Normally I'm not too blue about Mondays but today I just feel bleurgh, can't quite put my finger on what it is but my inspiration and motivation have gone right out of the window!

Last week's meal planning didn't go to far wrong, the pie I made was epic and I shall be blogging that later this week. This week's meal planning is - easy. No new recipes, quick, convenience food.  Yesterday I was just feeling too lethargic to put much effort into it and didn't want to set myself up for a big fall either by being too ambitious this week. 

Spaghetti Bolognese
Pancakes
Pizza
Fishcakes & veggies
Nachos

Told you. It's a low maintenance week. I'm also trying not to overeat as this week I plan to start losing some weight, so I shall be trying to have low-fat versions of meals!

Of course as you can see, Tuesday will be pancakes. We never have any other meal on Shrove Tuesday as I can face dinner AND pancakes so the pancakes become the dinner. I'm such a purist too, lemon and sugar all the way and perhaps a bit of Golden Syrup. (Actually craving that on toast now so once I am back from the school run...). 

Thanks to everyone who joined in last week, I think I managed to comment on them all!  The Linky is below so feel free to link to your blog post this week. I'll pop along to see what you've got planned.



Sunday, 19 February 2012

Love hens? Enjoy eggs?


I was contacted last week by the RSPCA who asked me to support their campaign encouraging people to choose cage-free eggs this Pancake Day. As a food blogger, and as someone who keeps their own chickens I thought this was particularly relevant for me to share and I am happy to support the RSPCA with their campaign.

All that is being asked of you is when you're shopping for eggs look for eggs labelled Freedom Food, free range, organic or barn. Some eggs in our supermarkets still come from hens kept in cages which do no allow hens to move around freely.  Did you know that on 1st January 2012 barren "conventional" battery cages were banned in the EU but so-called "enriched" battery cages are still allowed? All this means is that the hens are given a little more usable space for nesting, scratching and perching but it is still only amounts to a space no bigger than an A4 piece of paper per hen.

And it goes further than just boxes of eggs - caged hens eggs are also used in things like batter mixes, ready-made pancakes, mayonnaise, cakes and quiches.  Many supermarkets now use free-range eggs in their own brand products and foods made with free-range eggs will often have this clearly advertised on the packaging or in the ingredients list.

Obviously with my own laying hens in the back garden I rarely need to buy eggs in the supermarket but urge you to check the source of your eggs before you buy. In 2011 49% of eggs were laid by hens kept in cages. Compare this to the 1995 figure of 86% of eggs being laid by caged hens and it's clear to see that the situation is improving but we need it to improve further - increased public awareness and support from the supermarkets and food manufacturers can help bring this percentage down further.

As it's Pancake Day this week, I've also got a recipe to share with you, courtesy of Tony & Gwen Burgess of Welsh Freedom Food egg producers, Birchgrove Eggs.


Rhubarb and Ginger Pancakes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes, Cooking Time: 20 minutes, Serves: 8

Ingredients

for the pancakes:
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g light brown soft sugar
2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, finely grated
2 medium Freedom Food labelled eggs, 1 whole and 1 separated
284ml pot buttermilk
25g butter

for the rhubarb:
500g rhubarb, sliced
200ml water
3 tbsp caster sugar

Method

Place the rhubarb, water and sugar in a pan and heat gently. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl, and then stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre and add the ginger, whole egg and egg yolk. Mix with a wooden spoon, and then gradually add the buttermilk, beating until the mixture forms a smooth, thick batter. In a clean bowl, whisk the remaining egg white with a pinch of salt to form soft peaks. Lightly fold into the batter using a large metal spoon.

Heat a little butter in a non-stick frying pan until foaming. Pour a generous tablespoon of the batter into the pan and spread to a circle about 8 cm across. Cook over a medium heat for about 3 minutes until bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes. Flip them over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until risen and golden. Repeat until all the batter is used.

Layer the pancakes and the rhubarb in a stack and serve.

Sounds delicious huh? I think I'll be trying these this week!

Thanks for reading this blog post. If you want to find out more about the RSPCA's campaign and download a PDF guide to choosing cage-free eggs click HERE.

Happy pancake flipping!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Mahna Mahna Misery

Yesterday we went to see the new Muppets movie, which we all loved. 

I've been a Muppets fan since I was a little girl and I had a much-loved Muppets flask for school. I introduced my children to the Muppets at Christmas, I mean who can resist the Muppets version of the A Christmas Carol? Naturally, my children have become instant fans and as a reward, earlier this week I had promised to take them to Build-a-Bear to stuff their own Muppets, having spotted them last week when we were at a birthday party. I resisted going earlier in the week as we wanted to see the film first and take Daddy into town to join in the fun.


We all marched off this morning, my son wanting a Kermit and clearly, the little lady had her eye on a Miss Piggy.  Of course, as with most highly-anticipated events, we were left feeling flat as there wasn't a Muppet to be seen in Build-a-Bear. I asked the young lady behind the till who said they had sold their last Miss Piggy yesterday and they didn't know when they would they would be getting anymore in, if at all, as the demand has been so high.  Deflated, but not defeated we decided to hot foot it to the Disney store where last weekend we'd seen their own versions of the Muppets. Okay, so not Build-a-Bear but they'd do.


But wait, oh yes, of course. SOLD OUT. The cast member behind the till told me that they were like gold-dust and again, they didn't know when they'd get anymore.  We left The Disney Store with heavy hearts and a 6 year old and 4 year old with very sad, disappointed faces. Epic fail.

Now clearly the moral of this story is to buy things when you see them but really, the film has only been out a week. One week. Am I wrong in expecting stores like Build-a-Bear and Disney to anticipate the popularity of such characters and stock up accordingly? I'd really expect film merchandise to be readily available a week after film release but I have learned a hard lesson here! I suspect it being half-term and the cinema being situated in the shopping centre has a fair bit to do with shops being bare.

I pacified my children eventually with some Moshi Monsters from The Entertainer with a promise that I WILL get them a Kermit and Miss Piggy when I can. They perked up but I still couldn't help feel disappointed that what was meant to be a reward for good behaviour turned out to be a complete fail.  Clearly there are far more important things in life to be worried about but I don't like breaking promises to my children and seeing their little crushed faces!

I'll keep you updated on the Great Muppet Hunt of 2012.

Friday, 17 February 2012

The "AAH" Factor

I don't normally post my random pictures up but these are too cute not to share. 

Yesterday I took the children to see some new arrivals at a local farm - yes lambing season is in full swing. Some of these little lambs were born only a few hours before we got there so it was amazing to see them up on their feet!






Yes. Clearly the last one is a dog but what a handsome girl she is. My son was more enamoured with her than he was the lambs! 

The lambs were so sweet I could have quite easily tucked a couple under my arm and made off with them. Sadly the children didn't get the opportunity to feed any lambs as they don't encourage it at the farm but having a little peek at the little darlings was enough for them.

I didn't have the heart to make the lamb meatballs that were planned for tea last night...so it was a trip to the chip shop for us instead!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Chinese Style Lemon Chicken


I could have sworn blind that I had blogged this recipe, but after a search, it appears not. This is too good not to share.

I'm a big fan of lemon chicken when I get a Chinese takeaway so I was really keen to attempt making my own at home, especially as I'd recently dusted off the Magimix Deep Fat Fryer we received as  a wedding present a few years back. I tend to have blasts of using it, then put it away for months on end.

I've found that making this crispy style Chinese dishes is a bit of a faff, especially as I tend to dribble batter everywhere but the end result is so good and always worth the effort. I wasn't confident that the sauce would turn out as it should but keep the faith, it all came good. Who knew that yellow food colouring was the trick to getting a bright yellow sauce?!

The only change I would make to this in the future would be to make double the sauce. It may not be strictly necessary for everyone but I like A LOT of sauce with my food and whilst there was enough to go around, more would be good.

I can't really tell you how many people this recipe serves as I halved the recipe and I am a pig but I think due to the amount of chicken, I'd say four would be a good aim.  The original recipe that I found on a recipe website was American so I have adapted it for us Brits!

Chinese Style Lemon Chicken

Ingredients

1.2kg diced boneless skinless chicken breasts

For the marinade;
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt

Batter;
2 large eggs
35g cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch white pepper
oil (for frying)

Sauce;
75g sugar
250ml chicken stock
1.5 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 tsp salt
3 slices of lemon (peeled)
2 tbsp oil
yellow food colouring

Method

Place the diced chicken into a large bowl and mix with the soy sauce and 1/2 tsp of salt. Cover the bowl with cling film and pop into the fridge for around 30 minutes to marinate.

After the chicken has marinated, prepare the batter. Beat together the two eggs with the 35g cornflour, a pinch of white pepper and the baking powder. Coat the chicken well in the batter.

Heat your deep fat fryer to 180c and fry in batches until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

The next step is to make the lemon sauce. In a bowl combine the sugar, cornstarch, chicken broth, lemon juice, salt and a couple of drops of the yellow food colouring. Mix well and add the sliced lemon to the bowl.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok and stir in the lemon sauce mixture.  Heat the mixture until the sauce starts to become clear, occasionally stirring.  

Remove the lemon slices before serving. Pour the sauce over the chicken and eat immediately.

I served this with steamed white basmati rice and it was delicious! If you don't have a deep fat fryer you could always do this in a wok, it would turn out the same.

Just writing this post has made me hungry now! Think I may need to put this on the menu next week.



Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Happy V-Day to Me!


I arrived home from work last night to find little red foil hearts scattered all over the floor by my front door. No, don't get too excited, it wasn't Mr M being overly romantic (perish the thought!) - a parcel had arrived and the packaging had been ripped slightly, letting all these little hearts escape.

I was intrigued as to what might be in the big parcels - there were two of them and then I remembered that Warner Bros were sending me a Valentines Day film package! I hurriedly tore into the first package, a big red box, and found this




A box of goodies including a bag, chocolate, a hand mirror and of course, a veritable feast of movies including Casablanca, The Bodyguard, Valentines Day, Midnight in Paris (have wanted to see this for a while), The Lake House, Going The Distance and-the-one-that-made-me-squeal extremely loudly, Crazy Stupid Love.

I LOVE Crazy Stupid Love, and not just for this


Okay, that may have been one of the first things that attracted me to the film, but aside from Ryan Gosling's six-pack, I just loved this film. So much I saw it at the cinema twice, once with my friend and once with my husband (who also enjoyed it I might add!).   

I laughed, I cried and I thumped my friend in the leg such was the delight.  I never thought of myself as someone with a shoe fetish, but I won't pretend I didn't completely swoon at the sight of Ryan Goslings leather-clad feet in slow motion, and that suit. 

(Okay, yes so perhaps this blogpost is being written purely to upload gratuitous shots of Ryan Gosling).

I loved the storyline of Crazy, Stupid, Love which was both funny and heart-warming at the same time. There are some great actors and actresses in it - the beautiful Emma Stone, the funny Steve Carell, the absolutely stunning Julianne Moore not to mention Kevin Bacon, Josh Groban, Marisa Tomei and rising starts like Analeigh Tiptop and Jonah Bobo. 

If you like a good rom-com then you'll love this and I'm so excited to own a copy. I'm desperate to see it again, so tonight's activities will be eating chocolate and watching Crazy, Stupid, Love.

After all that swooning, I opened the other package to find that the children had not been left out.


Sweets, Scooby Doo DVDs, magazine and toy plus, something Mr M was very enamoured with, an amazing box set of 10 Looney Toons DVDs! My son is a big fan of Looney Toons so he's going to pop when he sees this. It's got all the favourites - Tweety, Roadrunner, Tom & Jerry, Porky Pig, to name but a few and I know he'll get hours of entertainment out of these, just as I did as a child. The old ones are the best!

After all this excitement, Mr M and I went out to dinner. This wasn't a specific V-Day dinner  (we don't normally make a big fuss, as it's never that romantic sitting in a restaurant feeling forced to look lovingly into each others eyes) but last night the children were having a sleepover at my parents due to that old work/childcare/half-term conundrum so we thought we should make the most of not needing a babysitter and go out. This was before I realised it was Valentines Day. Luckily, it dawned on me in the nick of time and I was able to book somewhere! 

Hope you had a lovely Valentines Day whatever you did and BIG BIG thanks to Warner Bros for sending me these goodies! You made my day.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Tagliatelle Alle Cipolle


Or tagliatelle with sweet onions, rosemary and minced lamb to you and me.

I recently purchased "Gino's Pasta" by Gino D'Acampo after looking for a new pasta cookbook and hearing great things about this one. It's fair to say I had high hopes after reading the Amazon reviews and so was excited to sit and have a read through it when it arrived. I can tell I am going to use this book a lot, I've already cooked three dishes from it and they were all great!

This was the first thing I tried. It's actually meant to be fettuccine but I think that's a bit exotic for my local supermarket who never seem to have any, so I swapped the fettuccine for tagliatelle.

I've never had minced lamb with pasta before so I wasn't sure what to expect but this was delicious. One of the tastiest pasta dishes I've ever had. In fact writing about it here now makes me cook it again. It was very different to things I've cooked before and I was concerned Mr M might not like it, but he agreed that it was fab!

This recipe serves 4 and is adapted from a recipe from the book mentioned above.

Tagliatelle Alle Cipolle


Ingredients

6 tbsp olive oil
3 large onions, peeled and finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and finely grated
1 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
200g minced lamb
200ml white wine
300ml vegetable stock
400g fresh tagliatelle
100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onions, carrot and rosemary for 5 mins over a medium heat until softened and golden, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.  Add the minced lamb and mix well. Cook for a further 5 mins, stirring often, until the meat is browned all over.

Pour in the white wine and cook for a further 2-3 mins to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Season well and pour in the stock. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat. Simmer uncovered for 30mins, stirring every 10mins.

Meanwhile cook the tagliatelle in a large saucepan of boiling water, according to pack instructions. When cooked, drain the pasta and immediately add to the meat sauce. Increase the heat to high and gently mix together for 30 seconds. Make sure the sauce coats the pasta evenly.

Serve immediately topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

If you try this, let me know what you think!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Meal Planning Monday (13th February 2012)

Thanks to all last weeks contributions. I will admit as I write this (it's Sunday night) I haven't yet read and commented on all of the posts but never fear, I will. I'm just not that organised this week as there's no big meal planning going on in the M household this week.

It's going to be a simple one.  Today we ate leftover curry from our takeaway last night so our planned fajitas didn't happen and are getting pushed over. Also, my children will be staying with the parentals one night this week which means Mr M and I did a little whoop about not needing to arrange a babysitter and decided we should go out for tea. Then I twigged that Tuesday is in fact Valentines Day and that means no chance of walking in somewhere, so I had to get my bottom into gear and book a restaurant. We've not been out for Valentines Day in TEN YEARS as we prefer to celebrate at home rather in an over-crowded restaurant, eating from an unappealing over-priced set menu and being forced to feel romantic but well, we'll give it ago. Might be the last time for another ten years so I shall make the most of it.  Other nights, I've gone simple as it's a busy week.

Oven baked fajitas (Old El Paso style)
Soup and baguettes 
Pizza 
Toad-in-the-Hole
A curry of some description

Soup will be New Covent Garden's Mexican Chipotle Chicken otherwise known as THE BEST SOUP IN THE WORLD.  Pizza is going to be courtesy of Dr Oetker as I've been sent some vouchers to try out the Casa Di Mama range. I have actually tried these before and there's a story I shall be sharing there....

The Linky is below, so get your blog posts up when they're ready and keep spreading the word #mealplanningmonday and don't forget to join in the new Recipe Linky Party if you've made anything nice this month!