Thursday, 28 August 2014

Cooking made easy, oh sooo easy!


Hands up who loves cooking?
Hands up who doesn't like cooking, but still has to do it?

I'd say there were a mixture of answers there. I, personally, like cooking desserts (for obvious reasons!) but I have to cook lunches and dinners too, which I find more of a chore.

It's the endless chopping, beating and mixing that I find a bit time consuming.  I've always thought, why doesn't someone invent pre-chopped onions (like they do with carrots) just to make my life a little easier.

Luckily, for me, I was sent the amazing Russell Hobbs Aura, 6 in 1 hand blender. They say its a "revelation in ingredient preparation" and I have to agree with that.

 


 

This amazing gadget can do almost anything.  It has several attachments which you can use to do, blending, slicing, dicing, mixing, whisking, shredding, creaming.....I think the list could go on!

The hand blender is 600w (which you think isn't very much, but wait until it starts!)

The bowl which comes with the hand blender is 1.2 litre, so big enough for all every day cooking and preparing as well as smaller cake mixtures.

Once the attachments are in place the blender can do:

  • processing
  • creaming
  • slicing
  • shredding
  • blending
  • whisking
It has a stainless steel blending leg and stainless steel whisk.

I have say, how easy the whole system is to use.  Even swapping, mid way through a recipe to change blades, is simple and easy to do. Obviously the blade is extremely sharp, so you need to be super careful.

You may think cleaning would be a chore, but again it's not. Especially with all the time you have saved chopping and dicing and slicing, you don't mind if you have to spend an extra couple of seconds cleaning it!

This hand mixer is so versatile, and very sturdy. It's very easy to clean. The controls on the hand blender are very easy to use and easy to hold.  The power it has it very strong, even on the lowest setting it whizzes through whatever you are doing in seconds.  So, if you want something chunky cut, watch the blades carefully.

Even when I used it to make a batter, it didn't overheat and get uncomfortable to hold.

For someone, who really didn't want an extra appliance cluttering up my kitchen, I absolutely adore this and use it nearly every day. It makes cooking less of a chore and I actually love hearing the buzz of the blades!

We used the hand blender to make a variety of things, testing it out during the prep work for a dinner party!

Here's what we did:

 
Mincing lamb



Ginger

 




Garlic, being chopped


Parsley being chopped
 

 





Onions, chopped with ease
 




Cheese, then grated (pic on the right)
 

That's how easy it is!


Disclaimer: I was sent this product to give an honest review.  All views and opinions are my own.

Vanilla ice cream with homemade fudge pieces - recipe

Fudge is a firm favourite in our house...well it has to be as I have been practising and practising how to get it right! :)

Even so, before I started practising, I have always loved it.  It's so creamy and smooth. 
I have been toying with a recipe and I know there is a myth about fudge being really hard to make, but it's not, honest.

Here's my recipe, it makes a delish, smooth fudge.  The tray never lasts more than 1 day, that's the sign of a good fudge!

Ingredients:

  • 397g can condensed milk
  • 150ml milk
  • 450g demerara sugar
  • 115g butter
  • You will also need...
    20cm square tin lined with baking parchment
     
    Step 1:
    Place the ingredients into a large non-stick saucepan and melt over a low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.



    Step 2:
    Bring to the boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring continuously and scraping the base of the pan. Take care while the mixture boils and during stirring as the fudge will be VERY hot! To test its ready drop a little of the mixture into a jug of ice-cold water. A soft ball of fudge should form. Or check with a sugar thermometer if you have one (approx 118°C).




     
     
    Step 3:
    Remove from the heat and beat the fudge until very thick and starting to set (about 10 minutes).  


    Step 4:
    Pour into the prepared tin and leave to cool before cutting into squares.


    Ice cream is so versatile. You can adapt it to almost any flavour you wish. Who doesn't love it? 

    It's also so much better home made, rather than shop bought.  Home made ice cream has four simple ingredients and then you can jazz it up with any other flavour you want.

    Here's my basic vanilla ice cream recipe, which you is delicious on it's own or you can add different flavours (e.g mint, strawberry, orange etc etc).  I'll be added my home made vanilla fudge to the vanilla ice cream.  This makes about 1.5 pints of ice cream.

    Vanilla ice cream (custard based) recipe:

    Ingredients:
    4 egg yolks
    4oz (100g) caster sugar
    1.5 pint (300ml) milk
    1.5 pint (300ml) double cream
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Pour the milk in a saucepan and slowly heat it to boiling point. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar together and then still beating pour over the milk. Return the mixture to the pan and stirring constantly heat it until the mixture forms a film over the back of a wooden spoon. Do not let it boil or it will separate.

    Remove the pan from the heat, leave it until cold and then stir in the cream and vanilla.

    Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and set it to churn. Once the mixture is at it's desired consistency you can add your chosen flavouring (fruit, crumbled biscuits etc)

    If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can do this part by hand.  Pour into a contain with a lid. Put it in the freezer. Let it be for about an hour. Take it out and stir it, until the ice crystals break down and disappear. Return to the freezer for another few hours. Take out of the freezer and stir again.

    Depending on your consistency, you may need to repeat this stir and refreezing a few times. 

    Here's my finished product!

    Vanilla ice cream with home made vanilla fudge.
    You can, of course, add any additional flavour to the vanilla ice cream.  I've made a mint ice cream and a strawberry ice cream.  They were both delicious (so I've been told, I never got to try it!!)

    Enjoy!

    Saturday, 23 August 2014

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Tutles - competition time!

    If your children, like mine are into the wonderful TMNT then this competition is for you.

    I remember when I was at school and the cartoon came on.  I remember watching it and loving it.  It's great to see that they are still around after all this time. Just goes to show how good they are really!

    There is a fab competition, here are the details:

    The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are Getting Zippy this autumn and are giving 20 lucky winners the chance to win a pair of tickets to a Go Ape of their choice to take part in a Junior Tree Top experience.
    Ninja fans can participate by heading to www.swapit.co.uk/tmnt to take part in the Getting Zippy experience. Kids simply have to catch the Turtles as they whizz across the screen on their zip lines and take part in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles quiz for their chance to win one of 20 pairs of tickets to a Go Ape experience.
    The prize of tickets to Go Ape can be taken at any of the 13 locations nationwide at a date to suit the winner. The vouchers will enable the winner plus a friend to take part in a Junior Tree Top experience at the site which includes canopy exploring, trail blazing, obstacles plus negotiating crossings and finishing with an epic wind-in-your-face zip wire!
    The 20 winners will also receive £50 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Z-Line goodies including a Deluxe Playset and Figure. 10 runners up will also be chosen and will receive £30 of fabulous Turtles Z-Line Goodies!
    To enter into the Getting Zippy competition, fans should head online to www.swapit.co.uk/tmnt before the closing date of 1st September 2014 for a chance to win!
    Winners will be chosen at random from entries received via print and digital entries and the winners and runners up will be notified one week after the closing date. All winning entries will be announced on Flair’s website on www.flairplc.co.uk from 7th September.
    How good is this, go on enter, you have nothing to lose and a great swinging time if you win!
     

    THE no.1 toy for 2014 - review

    Can you guess what it is?

    There has been a lot of hype around this new toy.  It has had a lot of press coverage and has been rated as potentially one of the most sought after toys for Christmas 2014. It is a cheeky little toy, which will keep you and your kids (!) entertained for ages.

    Have you guessed it?

    Well it's the new Xeno, the baby monster, who loves to be played with.


     

    I was lucky enough to be invited to a Xeno event, at London Zoo.  I had heard of this toy and I was intrigued to see whether Xeno could live up to the hype.

    Xeno comes in a three colours: blue, burnt orange and violet.  So a colour for all tastes.
    Seeing the toy in the flesh, (so to speak), was completely different to the pictures I've seen in the press.  I didn't realise that Xeno had soft, stretchy, tactile 'hair' surrounding the whole of it's body. This gave Xeno an extra huggable factor, and also it meant that if (and in our household's case, when) someone falls on this toy, it won't actually hurt so much!

    The 'hair' around the body is where all the senses are for activating the monster's moods and feelings.

    The features:

    There are plenty of features to this little monster....monster features to be exact!

    When being played with, the 'hair' activated the senses, happy, sad, angry, playful etc etc. All the senses and feelings we have. You can tell what 'feeling' Xeno is having by reading his eyes. If it is sad, you can see tear graphics in the eyes, laughing means it giggles etc. Just watch it's eyes.



    It is also a little cheeky monster, with some great dance moves.  Play some music near Xeno and watch him dance.  But, watch out, if he doesn't like the track he won't be interested, so make sure you choose something he likes!


    If you press it's belly button Xeno will burp and if you pull his tail he will fart.  The kids, for obvious reasons, loved this.  They aren't totally grotesque noises thought to be honest.  I'm guessing as he is a baby monster he can't do loud burping and farting noises just quite yet!

    You have probably noticed that green snot hanging from Xeno's nose.  On first impressions I thought this was just a visual snot, which again the kids love. But, in fact if you pull on it while on certain modes it will trigger or functions (e.g gaming).

    The App

    Controlling Xeno's mood swings and dancing are not the only things you have to do.  There is also an amazing Xeno app which you can download, for free on your ipad or similar device.


    The Xeno app is great, it's child and parent friendly.  Meaning, that it really brings a different dimension to the toy, but also it's free and there are no in-app purchases.  The games are unlocked by playing with Xeno and the app, so children can discover more elements to the app without it costing anything.

    One of the areas which Xeno on the app can visit is the doctors area.  If Xeno the toy sneezes you can 'take' the virtual Xeno to the doctors and it will be fixed. The toy uses an infrared signal to link to the ipad or device. Just make sure the toy is quite close to the device to keep the signal strong.




    Games

    Xeno has five games to play.  Xeno will say "wanna play" when in game mode.

    One of the games we played was where we had to watch the eye movements and copy each sequence by using its arms, head and snot, signifying top, left, right, top and bottom eye movements.

    The games are rather fun and addictive.  If you win, Xeno gets upset but if he wins he gets very happy.  He loves to win.  So you have to try hard to beat him!

    Another feature is that if you place two Xeno's facing each other they will 'talk' to one another. Cool!

    I can see how this is a must-have toy for 2014.  It is a great looking and feeling toy.  Has great features and isn't just a one minute wonder. With the free app, and games this toy will easily still be played with well into Christmas 2015.

    The RRP is £79.99. 


    Disclaimer:  I was invited to an event, showcasing this toy.  All my views and opinions are my own.

    Friday, 15 August 2014

    Summer holidays = summer fun which doesn't hurt the wallet!

    My 42 Days of Summer #Sweeet Linky Challenge

    For some reason I was dreading the school summer holidays this year. We weren't going away on holiday so I was a little unprepared for the long, drawn out 6 weeks of mayhem!

    When I say dreading, I mean a little concerned about how I would keep the boys entertained over this period.

    We have planned various day trips within the UK and, of course, the obligatory theme parks too! But, these were trips where all the family (hubby, two kids and myself) would attend, plus any other friends too. There were also play dates, when the friends weren't away on their holidays.

    But, what about the days where my husband was working and friends/family were busy? What could I do with the boys on those days?....and there were plenty of those days to fill!



    I didn't want to do those big days trips without my hubby (he is my unofficial taxi driver when I can't be bothered to drive!). We all know how hard and tiring it is to cope with your children on normal days but when it's day trips away on your own, it can be even harder and more exhausting....which kind of takes the fun out of it!

    Then, bingo! I devised something's which ticked all the boxes.  Eureka!



    I set my boys a little challenge (well, and myself).  I sat them down and said, we are going to visit as many local parks as possible. Now, I know that doesn't sound so exciting, but here's the fun-ish part:

    The rules:
    • the parks have to be within walking distance of our house OR within a 5 minute drive of our house.
    • after playing at the park, the children would both have to give the park a score out of 10
    • I would also have to give the park a score out of 10, from a parents perspective
    Simple!

    The children were so excited. Hmm, I thought, How could I get them even more excited? That's it, a McVitie's BN Biscuit treat at the end of their play! Perfect.


    I was sent two delicious flavours, raspberry and chocolate, this is going to be a doddle!

    The great thing about our park challenge was that it meant that we planned something together, as a team.  We would sit at the computer looking at nearby parks, debating which one we would try first, even ones we knew. It was a really exciting process.

    It also meant that we got to know the area a little better, and there are loads of 'hidden' parks which are not so obvious to everyone, which are totally amazing!  The 'secret' parks are great fun, less people and great equipment.

    The children, totally got in the marking system.  They would really think hard about the reason for giving the mark and they negotiated between themselves to come up with the final answer. It was lovely seeing them work together.  Even with the small age gap, they both understood the concept and, of course, enjoyed the playing!

    I've included a few pictures of the boys playing at various parks in our area.  A mixture of ones we were familiar with and new ones.  When the summer is over and we have finished visiting the parks, we are going to make a collage out of all the pictures we have taken, as a memento to our momentous "summer of 2014"

     




     


     




    
    Kew Gardens



    There are a few more weeks left of summer (ok, maybe just the holidays!), so we still have loads more exciting fun to be had.  Shame we have run out of biscuits already....they were too yummy!

    This has truly been a great project. One which has kept all of us thoroughly entertained. AND, best of all, it has cost us absolutely nothing!  Of course, the icing on the cake were the BN biscuits.  Or should I say, we ALL 'took the biscuit'!

    Have you got any great money saving holiday fun ideas you can share too?


    “This post is an entry for 42 Days of Summer Linky Challenge sponsored by McVitie’s BN. Learn more at http://bit.ly/1mRpMCL.”

    #sweeet

    Friday, 1 August 2014

    Little Live Pets - review


    My boys are at the age now where they want pets. I don't mind, but my husband is a bit of a pet-phob! Shame really.

    Well the kids were delighted when we recieved the Little Live Pets, butterfly.  It really took the edge off the "I want a puppy" requests!







    I wasn't quite sure the boys would play with the pink butterfly version we received, which is called Precious Wings, but I shouldn't have worried. They were eager to tear the packaging and dive in.

    There is a great little set of instructions to accompany the butterfly with all the ways to keep your butterfly/bird happy.



    The Little Live Pets range come in a selection of either butterflies or birds. The butterflies cost £12.99 and the birds cost £9.99.  The more you play with them the more they respond. So, it really gives children an understanding of caring and nurturing needing for pets.

    With the butterfly, we needed to put in 2 x AA batteries (which as most families know are essentials in a family home!) into the charger.



    This is where the butterfly charges (or feeds) itself. It flutters it wings when it's charging (make sure the button is pressed to the on switch). The butterfly also needed to face in the correct direction when charging and sits correctly on the charger so the connections are correct.

    When you take the butterfly off the charger, you need to hold the butterfly by the base, it's wings are very delicate.

     


    Once charged, place the butterfly gently on your hand and watch it flutter. It is really light and smooth. The longer you play and charge it the longer it flutters on your hand and stays 'happy'.

    There is also a suction cup which displays the butterfly. Press it onto a window and insert the butterfly into the holder. This is just for display but looks lovely, rather than Ian box or drawer. It is also a great prompt to charge the butterfly, rather than putting it out of sight.

     


    This is a great little toy for all ages and sexes.  When I was playing with it, yes a grown up, I found it really soothing and therapeutic!  The gently fluttering on the hands really soothes you after a hectic day, don't ask me how, but it did!



    Disclaimer: I was sent this product to give an honest review. All opinions and views expressed are my own.



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