Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Celebrating great mornings with Pampers

This is a sponsored post. 

Pampers are celebrating ‘great mornings’ and asking mums to share pictures & their sleep tips for a chance to win a professional photoshoot and appear in Mother & Baby magazine!

You can tell just by looking at your baby’s beautiful morning face whether they've had a good night’s sleep or not, and we want mums to show us what works for their baby to have a great start to the day.

Pampers, whose Baby-Dry nappies are recommended for up to 12 hours of Golden Sleep by 92% of UK mums*, are celebrating these great morning moments by inviting you to share images of the great morning moments you share with your little one along with your tip for a good night’s sleep. Simply email a recent photo of you and your baby, and your tip in no more than 50 words to pamperscompetition@hkstrategies.com. Remember to include your address and a contact number.

A selection of the entries will be shared each week on the Pampers Facebook page, and three winners will be selected to have a professional photoshoot and appear in a Pampers advertorial in Mother & Baby magazine!

Missy Woo in characteristic pose
In our house, the children's sleep habits as a baby have followed through into childhood. Monkey was dreadful for the first few months and even when he was sleeping through, he'd still wake early. He still wakes early now - I'm hoping the teenage year kick in soon but I'm sure he won't be the kind of person to sleep in all day. 

Missy Woo, on the other hand, slept so well as a baby, I used to have to wake her to feed or she would get too hungry, guzzle milk, bring it back up and get into a hungry/sick cycle. Now she's older, she tends to sleep the best - if Monkey leaves her alone, she'll happily lie in and we often have to tell her to get out of bed in the mornings. I'm not hopeful of her as a teen, I have to say! 

I'm way past the stage of being able to pass on sleep tips to mums of babies but my mantra when dealing with sleep issues was "Be consistent, be persistent". In other words, once I'd decided what I was doing, I would keep doing the same thing over and over, unless my instinct told me otherwise (eg if I really felt anything unusual was going on like illness, or teething etc). It certainly stood me in good stead - along with a healthy dose of "This too shall pass".

Closing date for entries is 9th July 2013 so don't hang around, get entering now and you could be a magazine model very soon.

*Based on a survey by 704 mums.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the Wimbledon quick meals edition!

Meal Planning MondayYes, it's that time again and at the time of writing this on Sunday evening, I'm like a child on Christmas Eve. For tomorrow (today when you're reading this) is the first day of Wimbledon. I'm a huge tennis fan and I love it in all its forms but for me, Wimbledon is THE one as it's something I have grown up watching and I love the wall to wall coverage of it. Hence not a lot is going to get done for the duration and my meal plan has to reflect an ability to do mostly throw together meals or at least be able to be made ahead. You will note that two dishes from last week have reappeared as they got bumped after some last minute changes last week. I WILL get to make them this week.

Apart from tennis, I have to go to London for the day on Thursday which is going to be long as I have to get the 6am train from Preston. It's sandwich day anyway so at least they'll manage that between the three of them (the children now enjoy making their own butties when I let them). Oh, and Monkey has chosen Monday's tea as he has a friend coming for tea, a boy who has recently joined his class from another school. Again, I made sure it didn't involve too much faffing or can be made ahead of time and will help me maximise tennis viewing opportunities.

This is the plan, in all its glory.

Monday - Lasagne
Tuesday - Sweet and sticky wings (with supermarket coleslaw, so shoot me)
Wednesday- Baked aubergines with cannellini beans
Thursday - Sandwiches
Friday - Pea & spring onion tart (will make this on Weds)
Saturday - Sweet chilli bangers in buns and coleslaw
Sunday - Sweet potato and spinach bake

So, are you excited about Wimbledon? Have you planned nothing but sandwiches and salads for the next fortnight? What are you having? Tell me, then pop over to Mrs M's by clicking the badge above and discovering lots more meal planning entries. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the quiet mid-Summer week edition!

Meal Planning MondaySo, I'm writing this after a weekend where my feet barely touched the ground. We went to a family wedding on Saturday, which was fabulous, and on Sunday, they held a day after party at their house. No time for anything and in the build up, I baked a cake which I decorated on Sunday lunchtime before taking over to Blackpool.

Back to normal this week. Nothing particularly unusual is happening, and I am very glad of that. We do, however, still have children doing five different after school activities between them, three of which are on the same day! They are finishing football this week though so as of next week, we'll  be down to four. Hurrah. My meal plan in response to this comprise a few easy peasy meals, and I've picked a couple of things to use up things in my freezer.

This is what we're having.

Monday- Sausages, sweet potato mash and onion relish (with broccoli not courgette)
Tuesday - Sloppy Joe bake
Wednesday - Warm smoked mackerel and new potato salad
Thursday - Sandwiches
Friday - Baked aubergines with cannellini beans
Saturday - Pea and spring onion tart
Sunday - Roast beef with salads

Don't forget if you need more of a meal planning fix, there are more entries to be found at Mrs M's, which you can find by clicking the badge above.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the summer easy cook edition!

Meal Planning Monday So, I'm trying to ignore that the weather is due to turn this week and trying to cook simple things this week. Already, you will recognise a dish from last week's plan which has been bumped until the later part of the week when it's supposed to be colder. Which is a shame, as we are going to a wedding on Saturday and then the day after party on Sunday. On the bright side, that means no cooking for me this weekend so I only had the week to fill. We are fully back to normal this week with school and activities, with Monkey now out of his cast - although not a fully extending arm as yet.

This is the plan for the week, then.

Monday - Sticky chicken drumsticks and potato salad
Tuesday - Pasta with red pesto and meatballs (kids' choice!)
Wednesday - Pea and spring onion tart
Thursday - Lamb & aubergine stew with crispy chickpea topping
Friday - Mushroom coconut & mango pilau (adapted from our usual favourite)
Saturday - Wedding
Sunday - Party

Need more Meal Planning Monday inspiration? Get yourself over to Mrs M's where there will be plenty posts to give you ideas. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Wholemeal bloomer - healthy home-made bread


I've recently become obsessed with baking bread. Not in a breadmaker, oh no - our poor Panasonic is sitting unloved in the corner. No, I mean by hand - well actually, again not really. Since I acquired my fab stand mixer (a K-Mix in raspberry of course), I've discovered the joys of kneading using the dough hook. I can leave it going and get on with other things whilst watching it.

I watched, glued, to Paul Hollywood's series, Bread, and not because I fancy him, I just really like his way of going about things. I made his basic bloomer recipe from the BBC website whilst the series was on and then, husband bought me the book for a wedding anniversary present (he is a keeper!) so since then, I've made that loaf a few times and started to adapt it for use in my mixer and I've pretty much cracked it. Even if I do say so myself.

However, I'm trying to be healthy and really, I'd like to master wholemeal bread so we can have nice bread and get some good fibre. So, I tried adapting the recipe to wholemeal bread and I think it worked. I used my  breadmaker recipe book to change the quantities as wholemeal flour needs more yeast because it rises more slowly and the bran absorbs more water.

This recipe assumes you have a stand mixer (or hand mixer) with dough attachment. If you don't have a stand mixer, you could try kneading it for at least 10 minutes - you will know when it is "done" as the dough will feel smooth and form a tight ball easily. It is harder to stretch out like white bread dough, again because of the bran.

Try it and let me know what you think. Don't buy cheap wholemeal bread flour - it's really worth spending an extra few pence to get a better quality flour as it will give you a better result. You'll also note that this doesn't use sugar - the yeast doesn't need it as it is surrounded by starch in the flour. It does mean that it takes longer to rise but this is what makes it taste better than the bread you buy in your supermarket.

Wholemeal bloomer
Makes 1 large loaf

Ingredients

500ml wholemeal strong bread flour
10g fast action dried yeast
8g salt
330ml cool water
40ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing

You will also need a lined baking sheet, cling film, and a plastic bag.

1. Tip the flour into the bowl of the mixer, add the yeast to one side and the salt to the other. Measure out and pour in the water - note it doesn't need to be warm as again, this speeds up the proving process and slower proving means nicer tasting bread - on top, then add the oil. Fit the dough hook, and turn the mixer onto a low speed. Once it has come together as a dough, watch it to see that it's coming away clean from the sides. If you think it looks too dry, add another tablespoon of water but do hold back and give it some time. Even a little too much water can mean the bread spreads outwards rather than upwards.

2. Once the dough has fully come together and the sides of the bowl have become clean, turn the speed up to medium and let it knead for 10 minutes. If it looks like the dough is just spinning around the hook, turn it off, remove the dough, then start up again. My lovely friend Ruth recommends kneading for 5 minutes, resting the dough for 5 minutes, then kneading for a further 5 minutes for her loaves. I figure I stop it enough times but it's of merit, although I am apt to forget if I've got something else to do.

3. After the kneading time, check that the dough is properly kneaded - it will feel smooth and quite silky. Now, this is where I get lazy - everyone else says put it into an oiled bowl but I just take out the dough hook and cover the mixer bowl with oiled cling film. Yes, the dough sticks to the bowl but it comes off easily at the end of the prove. Leave the bread to prove in a room temperature kitchen. If it's really cold, I put it on a chair near the radiator.

4. Leave the bread until it has tripled in size. That should be at least an hour and a half but could be double that. Lightly flour your worktop so that you can knock back and shape your bread. Tip out the dough onto the worktop and knock it back by pressing down and flattening the dough or folding it repeatedly. You need to do this a few times just to make sure you have knocked all the large bubbles out of the dough. Again, the dough will feel smooth once it's been done properly.

5. Time to shape  - knock the dough really flat into a rectangular shape. Turn, if necessary, so that the long side is facing you. Fold the long ends into the middle quite tightly over each other and turn it over so that the seam is on the bottom. Roll it gently so that it starts to form the bloomer shape, a bit like a fat sausage. Place it onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and re-cover with oiled cling film. You can place it inside a clean plastic bag with room to rise but I prefer the cling film balanced on plastic bottles stood at either end of the baking sheet. Now you're ready to prove again.

6. This time, you want the dough to double in size. Typically, it's 1 hour but it might be as long as 2 hours and  of course, that should mean better tasting bread. Towards the end of the proving time, preheat your oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Place a baking tray in the bottom of the oven to heat up and ensure your shelves are spaced to allow the bread to rise as it bakes (I forget this EVERY TIME!)

7. Once your bread has finished proving, spray or sprinkle the dough with a little water then dust with flour. Take a sharp knife and make four diagonal slashes, evenly spaced down the loaf - this will help to make the traditional bloomer shape.

8. Just before you place the bread into the oven, fill a jug with a litre of water and pour into the baking tray in the bottom of the oven to create steam. Place the loaf on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Lower the heat to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Check the loaf by tapping the bottom - if it is cooked, it will sound hollow; if not, put it back for a few more minutes.

9.  Once cooked, take out of the oven and leave it to cool on a wire rack. Try not to eat it all at once.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Seeing red (and a cherry mess)

Red. Back in the eighties (because, yes, I am that old), I was big on red in my kitchen and bought everything in red. Somewhere along the line, it became untrendy and I stopped buying red things for my kitchen.

My current kitchen is white so anything can go with it and it can be a bit dull so over the last few years, bits of red things have been creeping back into my kitchen. I've started buying more red clothes too. Not everything is bright pillar box red - it started with a hand mixer that I won which I chose in Raspberry and then I acquired the stand mixer too (as you do). Then there was the knife block.

Now I have this.

Food not included

This is the chop2pot from a site for people like me, called Red Candy - everything is red or has some red in it. Heaven! I've lusted after something like this for a while - a chopping board that helps you transfer stuff to your pot, pan, or dish without spilling it everywhere. It's brilliant. It's easy to use and importantly for me, dishwasher safe. I think the larger one would be better for families but if like me, you are chopping things as you cook, it shouldn't be an issue. The only thing I haven't liked about it so far is that it got quite a few knife marks on it after a few uses so I will be interested to see how it fares after some hefty use from me. But other than that, I love it and the site - well, I'm going to have to be strong and resist going mad with the credit card. And red overkill is bad - perhaps that is where I went wrong in the eighties!

Really rubbish photo of a yummy dessert - it's nice, honest
Whilst we are on the red theme, Princes sent me some fruit fillings to try. Although it can be seen as a "lazy option", they are handy to have around if you want to make some fast puds. One of the fillings they sent to me was red cherry so I thought I'd make some cherry mess - a version of the traditional Eton mess but made with a can of red cherry filling. It's uber simple although if you want to be a true domestic goddess, you could make some meringues yourself first.

Cherry mess
Serves 4

Ingredients 
About 16 mini meringues (I used a tub of mini meringue shells from Asda)
300ml whipping or double cream
410g tin Princes Red Cherry fruit filling

1. Break up the meringues into a large bowl- don't break them up too small or they won't provide the crunch.

2. In another bowl, whip the cream until it has reached the soft peaks stage.

3. Open the tin of fruit filling and carefully spoon the cherries into the bowl of meringues leaving most of the juices behind in the tin.

4. Fold the cream into the meringue mixture carefully. Then fold all but a couple of tablespoons of the juice from the tin.

5. Finally, drizzle the last couple of tablespoons of the juice on top. Serve, trying not to drool.

The kids thought it wasn't sweet enough but I thought it was fine. If it's not sweet enough for you or you know you have a really sweet tooth, try adding a tablespoon of icing sugar to the cream.

(Red Candy kindly sent me the Chop2PotPlus and Princes some tins of their fruit fillings to try. I have not been paid further for writing this post and all opinions are mine.) 

Monday, 3 June 2013

Meal Planning Monday - the not very well June edition!

Meal Planning Monday
Well, I'm getting there but on Friday, I came down with a sore throat and later in the day, whatever is causing the sore throat completely wiped me out, so much so that I crawled into bed at 7.15pm and slept most of the evening, with the children looking after me and putting themselves to bed. I'm feeling lots better now after sleeping on and off all night on Friday and part of Saturday morning but the sore throat doesn't seem to want to go away so I'm sucking extra strength throat lozenges to avoid having to take paracetamol all day long.

Not the best end to our half term week although the children aren't officially back until Tuesday. Then they have Well being week at school and so are very excited about going in wearing sports kit instead of uniform this week. More exciting is the fact that Monkey should get his cast off on Wednesday so we can return to normal again, which is a relief. And it's your archetypal busy week - I have two evening meetings this week, Missy Woo has a party to go to, and it's Sports Day on Friday. I think we have something every day until the weekend (and then husband is working the weekend). Hey ho...

Nearly all these recipes are from this month's BBC Good Food magazine so I can't provide links as they take a while to get on the website. I drew up a shortlist and Monkey chose them - and asked for scrambled egg for tea as it's just him and me for tea due to the other half of the household actually having social lives (how very dare they?). It's all pretty simple stuff, nothing complicated and the Sunday stew will go in the slow cooker and be finished in the oven.

So, this is our week in food.

Monday - Scrambled egg
Tuesday -  Spicy salmon tabbouleh
Wednesday - Spicy bean tostadas
Thursday - Sandwiches
Friday - Chicken tikka burgers
Saturday - keeping free
Sunday - Lamb aubergine stew with crispy chickpea topping

Looking quite good, if I say so myself! Want more meal planning posts? Go to Mrs M's by clicking the badge above and you will find the linky.
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