Category Archives: Food

Family Weekend in London – part2

Last week I wrote about our family weekend in London, staying at The Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington and enjoying great things to do with 2 for 1 offers using The Entertainer app.

 Read Part 1 here

On the Sunday we borrowed Micro Scooters from the hotel and spent some time scooting around Kensington gardens. I haven’t been on a scooter since I was about 8 years old so this provided much hilarity for Ed and G. We also visited the Diana Memorial Playground which was just as amazing as ever, a truly magical place for children in the heart of the capital.

IMG_1369 After building up an appetite in Kensington Gardens we  met up with some friends for an early supper. Our friends live near The City so using The Entertainer app we looked for restaurants with offers near to them. We chose to go to Belgo in Holborn (about to undergo a major refurb) as I can remember reading once that they had a great menu for children.

Belgo

G absolutely loves mussels since our holiday to the Ile D’Oleron  so anywhere with them on the menu is always going to be popular. The food at Belgo was superb and a big hit with the 5 and 3 year old of our party. They also have a great range of beers for the grown ups too (but be warned an awful lot of them are very boozy!) The 2 for 1 offer with the app meant we received one main course free when we used the code and paid for one.

Using the app was really easy, you simply look up the offer you would like to use, input your unique code (that you create when you purchase the app) then hand it over to the vendor who has their own key. These two codes then generate the code for the vendor needs to apply the deals to your bill. A meal for 6 of us (4 adults, 2 children) with two courses and drinks came in at £80 which we all agreed was superb value for such an excellent meal. The next time we are in town we will definitely be going back to Belgo.

We were able to spend some quality time together during our family weekend in London, catching up with friends and family and creating some amazing memories. We were able to pack so much in and save money too, which is always a bonus. So are next issue is when can we fit in our next weekend away?


The ENTERTAINER London App

App logo JPGThe ENTERTAINER London 2016 – www.theentertainerme.com/London – is a new app featuring over 900 Buy One Get One Free offers for restaurants, bars, nightclubs, attractions and spas across the capital. Whilst my nightclub days in the big smoke are well and truly behind me the rest of the offers certainly piqued my interest.

Although the app may seem to be for those living and working in the city, The ENTERTAINER London can bring a ton of savings to those visiting the capital too, especially families. (Check out my post on money saving ideas for enjoying London life here)

TOP 20 Merchants

With a one off payment of £40, the ENTERTAINER London 2016 is valid for one calendar year with no weekend exclusions.

Over 50 of the available buy-one-get-one-free offers on the new app have an estimated savings value that is higher than the cost of the app itself, so it is pretty easy to make your money back by redeeming just one or two offers.

London App Face

We trialled some of the features of the app this weekend and have to say that from the two offers we selected we already saved the price of the app itself. (My next post is going to be about the fab time we had whilst in London this weekend.)

London-merchants_benefit-banner_emarsys

The app offers customers a location-based search to find the best deals close to them and a savings calculator that shows how much cash has been saved throughout the year.

the ENTERTAINER London 2016 product is available to download from the App Store, Google Play and Samsung Apps.

Another great part to purchasing the ENTERTAINER London 2016 is that you will receive a free copy of the ENTERTAINER Travel, which features over 300 ‘Buy One Room Night, Get One Free’ offers in hotels including Fairmont, InterContinental, Shangri-La, Hyatt, Radisson, Sofitel and Sheraton throughout the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia & Indian Ocean and North America. These are all redeemable through the same app.

With each offer being Buy One Get One Free, the app is a real money saver so you can enjoy spending time with friends and family making your cash go a lot further during your time in the city.

The ENTERTAINER London 2016 is available to download for free from the App Store, Google Play and Samsung Apps websites now. For further information please visit www.theentertainerme.com/London

(DISCLAIMER; We have been gifted a subscription to the app)

 


The Guild – Bromsgrove

The GuildBromsgrove

A few weeks ago we were invited to try out the newly refurbished ‘The Guild’ in Bromsgrove, part of the Brewers Fayre chain. I have to admit that we haven’t eaten in a Brewers Fayre before so were unsure as to what to expect. As my Dad and step-Mum now live in Bromsgrove we thought it would be good to try somewhere different and one of the features of The Guild is that it has a large children’s soft play area. (Garth loves soft play so we knew it would get the thumbs up from him!)

soft play Brewers Fayre.

Fun for all and all for fun! Our brand new, Dennis the Menace themed, fully supervised play area will be the highlight of your kids’ trip to Brewers Fayre. There’s a totally amazing tree-house play area, new toddlers zone for your little ones, and daily activities Monday to Friday.

Open Sunday to Thursday 9.30am – 8pm and Friday to Saturday 9.30am – 9pm. Only £3 per child for 90 minutes of play.

The Guild has recently undergone a big refurbishment with the bar and restaurant area having been updated with a makeover of the interior in general. Booth style seating has been introduced which makes it easy for a large family to sit and eat comfortably. Our table was in an area which looked over the soft play area (through a sound proof window) making it really easy to watch over Garth in the play area but also be able to chat and catch up without having to jump up every 5 minutes to check on him.

As I said we hadn’t eaten in a Brewers Fayre before so were not entirely sure what to expect and I have to say we were pleasantly surprised. We all enjoyed our meals, with the sharing platter starter ‘Combo Feast’ a real hit! Although this was for two people it was plenty for three adults and our mains were just a good a size. the Guild Bromsgrove

One of the other great value aspects of the restaurant was the soft drinks machine where you can have unlimited soft drinks that you can mix with one of five Teisseire syrups. Teisseire syrups are one of our favourite things when we are in France and I haven’t really seen them here in the UK before so this was a big pull.

228

Overall we had a really enjoyable visit to The Guild. Anywhere with a large children’s soft play area is not going to be a fine dining experience, but what this most definitely was, was a family dining experience. Garth absolutely loved it, he made friends with other children and we were able to relax and talk knowing that he was happy and enjoying himself. Couple this with great value for money we will definitely be returning for a family dining experience soon.

brewers fayre

We were invited to try The Guild as guests of Brewers Fayre on this occasion.

 

 


#MilkDrinkersMilk Challenge with Cravendale

Cravendale Milk

We recently got involved with the #MilkDrinkersMilk Challenge with Cravendale.

We get through a lot of milk in our house. I am an avid tea drinker and G will often have a glass of milk instead of squash or water. One thing I noticed, especially in the summer was how quickly our milk went off. I always keep an eye on the best before date and am a big fan of ‘the sniff the milk to see how it is’ test.

Cravendale is filtered for freshness, if I am honest, I had always read this and never really understood what this meant.

With this post in my mind I decided to dig a bit deeper  and find out exactly what this meant and how this made Cravendale different (and if I am honest more expensive) from the other milk on the supermarket shelf.

What Cravendale do differently is that their milk is passed through ceramic filters to remove the bacteria that turns milk sour, so we end up with purer milk that stays fresher for longer, without additives or preservatives. 

As a child I loved drinking milk but as I have got older I have forgotten how good a cold glass of milk from the fridge tastes. G has started having a glass of milk more often too, not just before bed and for breakfast but asking for a glass when he gets home from school too.

Cravendale and biscuits

I can definitely say that Cravendale is staying fresher for longer than other milk we have used so our experience is definitely backing up their claims of the 7 day freshness.

(Although Cravendale is best enjoyed in it’s purest form I did rather enjoy it with my tea too!)

cravendale

Emma Bridgewater dots

This post is an entry for BritMums #MilkDrinkersMilk Linky Challenge, sponsored by Cravendale who you can follow over on Twitter by clicking here.

 

 


The Great British Picnic

Getting all our kit together for our holiday this week got me thinking about picnics and everything you need for a great British picnic. My dream picnic would look something like this picture I found in The Telegraph but realistically ours are more of a nice rug and a good spot.

Beautiful picnic picture

Living in the countryside we tend to enjoy picnicking by the coast or near water as it feels totally different for us.

Cherry Good JuiceCherry Good Juice recently did some ‘picnicking’ research to celebrate International Picnic Day.  It revealed the nation’s top picnicking preferences to uncover the recipe for the perfect Great British Picnic ‘Brit-nic’.

Apparently over 10 million Brits picnic at least 5x a year and according to this research we are a nation of traditionalists opting for a classic chicken salad on white bread with crusts left on…but they must be cut into triangles!

What’s more, we spend on average £29.55 on our picnic hampers, with 1 in 5 of us including luxury items on our picnic shopping list. Almost 1/4 of those in Northern Ireland and London are prepared to pay over £50 for the perfect ‘Brit-nic’.

My Top 3 Picnic Spots in the South-West

Cornwall beaches Fowey1. Readymoney Cove, Fowey, Cornwall

This is perhaps one of the most child friendly beaches I know. A small sheltered cove in Fowey where you feel you are in the setting for a Famous Five novel. There are plenty of rock pools to explore and when the tide is out plenty of beach to sit on.

 

 

Best picnic spots South West

2. The Front Beach, Lyme Regis, Dorset

We had the most  wonderful afternoon here totally unplanned when we were  in the area for my brother’s wedding in 2012. We were staying at The Alexandra Hotel and wandered down to the beach not knowing what to expect. We ended up having an amazing afternoon eating crab sandwiches from a little sandwich shop by the sea front and it was G’s first real beach experience as a toddler. Very happy memories.

south west picnic spots

 

 

 

best beaches in Cornwall for picnics

 

3. Pridmouth Cove Beach, Nr Fowey, Cornwall

Before we had G we used to love going on long hikes. When we visited Fowey one year we walked some of the South West Coast path and came across the spectacular beach of Pridmouth Cove. Pridmouth Cove is quite an isolated spot with access to the beach a 15 min walk from the car park. It is also the inspiration for Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, with the house on the beach serving as the backdrop for Rebecca’s beach hut escapades. I read Rebecca at school and it has been one of my all time favourite novels ever since. I try and re-read every 10 years or so. I think my Du Maurier obsession is why I love visiting Fowey so much.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

 

 

 

 

The most luxurious picnic I have been too was when I went to the Longborough Festival Opera, an annual event held a few miles away from us here in the Cotswolds. I was invited by my great friends, Barry and Finbarr who had prepared a fantastic feast for us to eat in the interval of the opera we had gone to see. We thought we were pretty organised until we started seeing silver candelabras coming out on the tables next to us!!

My dream picnic though is to book a ready made hamper from my favourite place in the Cotswolds, Cowley Manor and take off into their amazing grounds, with a bottle of something chilled and a good read.

Cowley Manor, Cheltenham

The picnic hamper menu just makes my mouth water reading it and although not cheap would be lovely for a special event. For me this has all the elements of a Great British Picnic.

COWLEY PICNIC HAMPER

£60 for two people

Graze

Ginger beer & vegetable crisps

Black pudding Scotch egg & Sausage roll

w Cowley ketchup

Manor smoked salmon & cream cheese

on sourdough

Tuck in

Roasted Poussin

w jersey royals & house dressing,

green bean salad w shallots & walnuts

Heritage tomato & Laverstock farm mozzarella salad

Keep Going

Fruit scones w jam, clotted cream

& a cup of tea

Elderflower & strawberry jelly

& a selection of Turkish delight, inspired by the gardens

Cheeses, chutneys & freshly baked crackers

Do you have any great picnic suggestions or places to go? If you had to create and organise your dream picnic what would it be? I would love to know!


Raspberry Cream Cupcakes

raspberry fairy cake

Today I am sharing my super simple recipe for Raspberry Cream Cupcakes. We had some of my Mum’s cousin’s over for afternoon tea whilst Mum was staying with us and when I say I made these in under 30 minutes, I am not exaggerating. Also they were very yummy too so win, win as far as my baking is concerned!

Ingredients

for the cakes you will need:

200g unsalted butter, softened

200g caster sugar

200g self-raising flour

3 eggs

a splash of milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

12 large muffin cases (the prettier the better)

for the Raspberry Cream topping you will need:

a small pot of cream

icing sugar

a punnet of fresh raspberries

Method

I was always taught to cream the butter and sugar together first when making cakes but I read once in Nigella Lawson’s How to Be A Domestic Goddess  that you can just mix all the ingredients for the cupcakes together in your mixer and when it is all nicely fluffy you can slowly add the milk until it is the consistency you feel happy with. Not too runny but not too claggy either.

pop your muffin cases into a muffin tin and fill them with the mixture, leaving enough space for them to rise up nicely.

Pop into a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees C/ gas mark 6 and keep an eye on them after about 12 minutes. No matter what a recipe says I have found each of the cookers I have had over the years have all varied slightly so the best thing to do is keep checking towards the end.

Take out the oven and leave to cool on a rack.

Whilst the cakes are cooling, gather together your ingredients for the Raspberry Cream. I haven’t given exact measurements for this as I did it by taste and sight until I was happy.

Whip up some of the double cream with half the punnet of raspberries (keep back at least 12 raspberries for the topping) and as much icing sugar as your taste buds like. I personally don’t like too much so added about 2 tablespoons into the mix. Whip away until you have a mixture that is thick enough to dollop onto your cupcakes without it being too runny.  Finish off with a raspberry on top and you have a very glamorous looking cupcake to wow your guests with!

This was the first time I have used 00 Italian flour in my baking and wow, did it make a difference. These cakes came out so fluffy and light we were practically scrapping them off the ceiling. (Okay that is an exaggeration but you get where I am coming from.)

 


Chocolate Easter Baskets

chocolate easter baskets As per usual the one thing you can’t plan for over the Easter weekend is the weather and here in the Cotswolds it has been shocking. So we battened down the hatches this afternoon and made these easy peasy chocolate Easter baskets following a simple cornflake cake recipe.

We were really lucky today that we were able to enjoy some of Good Friday as a family. With Ed working in hospitality bank holidays usually mean we don’t get to spend time as a family as not surprisingly these are the busiest days of the year for them. Somehow we lucked out today and although Ed has had to work tonight he had the whole day free.

We popped out at lunchtime to the garden centre but the weather was so grim, the prospect of purchasing anything that needed planting over the weekend was not at all appealing. All we ended up coming away with was two ready made hanging baskets for our back door courtyard.

On the way home we stopped off to purchase the ingredients for these yummy chocolate Easter baskets as I knew Garth would enjoy making them as much as he would enjoy sampling them. I got the recipe for them from the BBC Good Food website (worth having a look at their cooking with kids section – it has tons of great ideas) The Co-op had run out of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs (am I surprised?) so we ended up getting the eggs from the M&S garage we pass. Although I wasn’t best pleased about this as I love a Cadbury’s Mini Egg, they were perfect for our cakes and the colours were so pretty they added a touch of something special to the overall effect I think!!

Ingredients

  • 50g butter
  • 100g milk or dark chocolate, broken into chunks
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g cornflakes
  • Chocolate mini Easter eggs

(Be warned! – We ended up using double the amount of chocolate stated here) chocolate cornflake cakes for Easter chocolate Easter baskets Method

1.       Children: Weigh out the ingredients. Older children can do this by themselves with supervision and little ones can help to pour or spoon ingredients into the weighing scales. Put the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a saucepan or microwavable bowl. Put the cornflakes in another large bowl.

2.     Grown ups: Melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in the saucepan over a low heat or briefly in the microwave. Allow to cool a little before pouring over the cornflakes.

3.    Children: Stir the ingredients together gently using a wooden spoon. Spoon the mixture into 12 cupcake cases arranged on a muffin tray (or baking sheet, if you don’t have one). Grown ups will need to do this for younger children or simply arrange on a tray and let the mess happen. Put in the fridge to set.

To make these into Easter baskets we added the mini eggs and chicks (left over from our Easter bonnet making activity.) Garth loved making them and as he had made some at school last week was quite keen to tell me what I was doing wrong (I say differently) compared to his teachers. At least he is taking on board his experiences at Kindergarten and applying them elsewhere, even if it means we have a mini Masterchef judge on our hands!

Quality control in the kitchen

Happy Easter everyone and remember cocoa grows on trees, so effectively it is a plant.

Do you think we can count it in our 5 a day????????

 


42 Days of Summer #sweeet

At the start of the school holidays I signed up to the 42 Days of Summer challenge with BritMums sponsored by McVites BN biscuits. When the biscuits arrived I put them away with the intention of taking a great picture of the two packets to add to the blog. However they didn’t stay closed long enough for me to do this and to take this picture we are now on our third packet! I remember eating biscuits like this when we had holidays in Spain as a child so was intrigued if they were anything like I remember. I have to honestly say they are yummy and we will definitely be stocking up on them, especially as they are made from wholemeal and wheat.

BN Biscuits

Anyway back to our summer of fun. We have had a hectic summer as those of you who are regular visitors will know but have managed to have lots of fun as well. Living in the countryside is both a blessing and hard work when it comes to doing stuff to keep little ones entertained. Yes we have beautiful green surroundings but we don’t have much on offer in terms of parks and museums that town dwellers have. (I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, I love living in the countryside but as an ex-townie I also appreciate what city living has to offer too.) We have to be a little imaginative when it comes to things to do without getting in the car for long drives.

So our days so far this summer have included;

1. Playing in the garden and the grounds around where we live, including lots of fishing.

2. Day trips out to Stratford-upon-Avon, Hatton Park with my godson and Oxford.

3. Popping down the road to have ice cream in Bourton-on-the-water with all the tourists.

4. Getting crafty at home on rainy days.

5 Spending time with our family which is always special.

 

We still have our summer holiday camping in France to look forward to and a week of play dates lined up before we go. Thanks BN for actually making me stop and think about the fun we have had this summer, rather than that usual ‘what did you do over the summer holidays?’ to which the reply is usually ‘ooh not a lot’. This summer is definitely turning into a summer of fun that we will remember.

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


Hiding Vegetables

Recently the 3yo has stopped eating all fruit and vegetables apart from the odd over boiled carrot and grapes so I have taken to hiding vegetables in most his meals! . He does inform us that he likes tomato ketchup and that tomatoes are a vegetable (I know fruit but I am picking my battles carefully these days!) Cue the concerns that I am bringing up a malnourished child who will suffer in later life blah blah. However he loves meat and especially mince we got me thinking about creating dishes that are packed with vegetables but minced up into such a fine state that once cooked down they really wouldn’t be noticeable.

I have always had a Kenwood Mini Chopper which was a really useful piece of kit when weaning as you could make food in small batches. They are a real bargain and would recommend anyone about to start the weaning process to invest in one.

kenwood mini chopper

Now we try to create family meals though with us all eating the same food. This can be hard with husband who works anti-social hours running the pub and a young man that seems to be forever wanting food (just not veg). This prompted me to visit our local catalogue store to purchase a food processor and blender on a more family friendly scale. After a bit of deliberation, basically the price point and what was in stock I opted for a Wahl Food Processor and couldn’t wait to get blitzing. Yesterday was the great unveiling of this new machine’s super powers to get G back onto vegetables. I threw in nearly every vegetable I had to hand including;

carrots, courgettes, red peppers, onion, celery, and cherry tomatoes.

vegetables in chopper

A few minutes in the blitzer and we went from this to this……..

chopped vegetables

I added about half to the bolognaise I was making and put the other half in a Tupperware container in the fridge to use up in meals throughout the week. The bolognaise was a hit and was wolfed down so am hoping this technique will keep my parenting guilt at bay when I worry about the 5 a Day quota.

If anyone else has any tips on getting our fussy eaters to be a little more adventurous or devious ways to trick them into eating healthier I would love to hear from you.


My Crazy Week and Poor Parenting……

The last seven days have gone by in a blur and my parenting skills have been poor to say the least. This time last week we were offered the opportunity to move to a bigger and busier pub and had to make the decision pretty quickly. The time frames were tiny and would have been a huge upheaval for all the family so as you can imagine their was an awful lot of soul searching. Cue the bad parenting due to all our focus on what should we do. The milk went off, the bread went mouldy, we didn’t send son to nursery as there was nothing for his packed lunch and we had a succession of babysitters over the five days we tried to work out what to do. Here is me trying to blog about healthy families and the other half caved in to the golden arches on one of his stints with our son! The crazy thing is the root of all this poor parenting was trying to make the right decision for our son’s future and us as family. Oh the irony of it all….

After all the umming and ahhing, number crunching and possible scenarios we have decided to stay put. We love our life as it is even though it can be a hard slog, but then what isn’t in this life? We have decided to focus and develop what we have rather than stretching ourselves and our time even more than we do already. Since we said no, our fridge is packed with vegetables again, dinner times have seen home cooked food back on the menu and the lunch box is back up to standard again. Our son visited his new school on Monday and my mum gave me a lecture on the importance of him having clean fingernails. If only she knew about the mouldy bread.