Monday, 30 September 2013

Easy peasy creamy mushroom, bacon and broccoli pasta

Last week, I found myself digging around in our fridge again, looking for inspiration for tea.  I always seem to have some leftover bacon, broccoli and creme fraiche!  Here's what I made with it:

Easy peasy creamy mushroom, bacon and Tenderstem broccoli pasta

Serves 3-4 hungry people
Takes about 20 mins in total to make

  • About a third of a pack of pasta (I used Reginnete)
  • Half a pack of bacon (I used extra lean), chopped into bite sized pieces
  • Variety of mushrooms, chopped (I used shitake, chestnut and button)
  • One pack of Tenderstem broccoli
  • Third of a block of cheese, about 150g, grated (I used half fat mature cheddar)
  • Around 300ml of creme fraiche
Put the pasta in a pan of boiling water and cook according to packet instructions.

In the meantime, fry the bacon and broccoli for around two minutes, and add the mushrooms.  Fry for a further 2-3 minutes.

Once cooked, drain the pasta, and stir through the creme fraiche and nearly all of the grated cheese (reserve a small amount for serving).  Warm through again.  Serve pasta in bowls and add a spoon or two of the bacon, mushrooms and Tenderstem.  Top with a small amount of grated cheese.

Serve with ciabatta, or on its own.  Yum!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Summer and autumn on the school run

Our son's been at school for nearly three weeks now.  I love the school run.  We have a 15 minute walk, mostly through a large local park which has a playground, cricket pitch and football pitches.

This morning, the sun was breaking through the clouds, the grass was being cut and I could smell summer and autumn mixed into one.  Crunchy leaves were being crushed by our buggy wheels.  The wind had the slight chill of autumn to it, but the sun was warming everything up.  It was quiet.

The trees are all on the turn, and there are signs everywhere that the weather will turn cold at any moment.  For now though, I'm loving this mild autumn weather, with its smells, crunchy leaves and signs that things are starting to change.  I love our school run.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Our Japanese big night in

This is my entry to the Little Stuff and Two Little Fleas big night in blogger challenge.  The challenge is to create a perfect 'big night in' with up to £750 to spend.  This blog post is accompanied by my big night in Pinterest board.

Welcome to our big night in.  It'll celebrate 2013 and everything it brought for our family - a new baby, a new job, a 60th birthday and a 40th wedding anniversary.  Our Japanese themed party will be something different for us to try, and will be a night to remember for a year to remember!

Our Japanese big night in


Invitations - 招待

Invites will go to everyone in our close family who will celebrate 2013 being an extra special year.  My husband and I will host, and invited along will be our two brothers and sisters in law.  Mine and my husband's parents.  And the children in the family.  10 adults, five kids in total.  The invites will set the Japanese theme:

Location - 場所

It'll be a big night in at our house.  And because a party isn't a party without decorations, I'll make sure each room looks the part, with lanterns, cushions and the right ambience.  This looks like a perfect template for our living room, I love the lanterns and colours.

Dress code - ドレスコード

We'll book a shopping trip before the big night, so the ladies can choose appropriately themed outfits.  I'll be wearing my favourite Oasis floral Japanese design top from John Lewis with a black skirt.  Oh, and I'll be needing some new makeup from my favourite Japanese brand Shiseido too.

Entertainment - エンターテインメント

To kick off the evening with lots of laughs, we'll have children's sumo wrestling suits for our younger guests.  It would be hilarious to see them wrestling each other - if they could get near with those suits on!

The grown ups will need something to sit on while laughing, so we'll have some gorgeous bean bags around that will fit with the theme.

While we're all comfy, we'll have a game of bingo (in Japanese - ビンゴ).  We'd of course stop by Two Little Fleas to check out the reviews of the latest sites, and play online using a projector for our screen so everyone can see.  We'll have prizes for the kids, who each get a Tamagotchi for playing nicely.

Food - 食品

We'll work up an appetite with the entertainment, so a hot and cold Japanese buffet will be available.  I love Japanese food!  There'll be sushi, yaki soba, chicken teryaki, yakitori and prawn tempura.  Help yourself...

And for drinks, the guys will need some Japanese beer - Sappora will go down nicely.  We'll also have a lovely sake/rice wine in a traditional holder for the ladies which will go nicely.

Back to the entertainment - エンターテインメント

To top the evening off, we'll have a rousing round of karaoke.  We'll have a fabulous karaoke microphone to plug into our iPad, so there's no excuse not to sing your heart out!  The first song on the list, which we'll all sing along to will of course be 'Big in Japan' by Alphaville.  The kids will learn about the band in history!

Carriages - 馬車

The evening ends at midnight, or sooner if the kids flake out. I hope you've enjoyed our Japanese style big night in. 

I would love to make this a reality for our family to come together and celebrate all that 2013 has given us.  It would be a night to remember!  You can find all the images used, and more inspiration for my Japanese big night in on my Pinterest board.

Budget breakdown:
  • Invites £25
  • Room decoration £250 (bean bags £100, cushions £75, lanterns £50, orchids £25)
  • Dress code £75 (top £40, make up £35)
  • Entertainment £225 (sumo kits £100, karaoke £50, bingo £50, tamagotchi £25)
  • Food and drinks £175


[Please use Firefox to view the Japanese symbols in full]

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Great British school cake sale problem

Our son's school is holding a Macmillan coffee morning.  We received our invite a couple of days ago and it struck fear to my heart.

Not because of the coffee morning, where it'll be lovely to see the children in school.  Or Macmillan, which is a charity I already support.  It's because of this line in the invite:

We welcome donations of cakes from parents, which will be made available for sale.


Would home made Bake Off inspired cakes be a bit 'showing-off-trying-to-be-the-best Mum'?  Will shop bought make me a 'what-does-she-do-all-day Mum'? 

Do simple fairy cakes mean I'm a 'doesn't-she-make-any-effort-at-all Mum'? Could I possibly pass off shop bought as my own or will this mean I'm a 'doesn't-she-know-we-all-shop-at-Sainsbury's Mum'?

At 50p each, I'm sure Macmillan will be grateful for all money raised and won't care at all what my cakes look like.  But will other Mums?  Is it just me who's just a teeny bit (ok, a lot) competitive?  Or am I just reading way too much into this?

What would you take?

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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Homemade Tenderstem broccoli and bacon quiche

I love to cook and bake but often don't have time.  So I'm always on the lookout for food I can make that will freeze and/or last us a couple of nights.

I looked in the fridge a week or two ago to find it pretty empty, apart from these ingredients:

There's only one thing to make for tea... quiche!  Here's my recipe:

Makes large quiche, around 10 slices
Takes around 20 mins prep and 45 mins to cook

  • One pack of Tenderstem broccoli, washed
  • About 400ml of half fat creme fraiche
  • One 375g pack of ready rolled shortcrust pastry (yes I am that lazy)
  • Half to one pack of bacon (smoked or unsmoked is fine)
  • Four eggs
  • Third of a block of cheese (about 85g)

Oven warmed to 180 degrees

  • Line a flan dish with the pastry.  I like to leave my pastry hanging over the edge of the dish to trim for a neat finish after baking.  Top with foil filled with baking beans (I use red lentils instead) and bake in the warmed oven for around 15 mins.
In the meantime:
  • Grate the cheese
  • Mix the creme fraiche and egg together until smooth
  • Chop the bacon into bite size pieces and fry for two or three minutes.  Add the Tenderstem broccoli and fry for a further two or three minutes.

Remove pastry from oven, and remove foil with baking beans.  Add bacon, Tenderstem and grated cheese to the part baked pastry:

Then pour in the eggs and creme fraiche mixture.  Return to the oven for around 40 minutes, or until golden brown.  Once cooked, trim the edge of the pastry around the dish for a neat finish.  I served it with a jacket potato and salad.  Yum!

Even our son, who hates anything green had a slice - success!

I'd love to know if you make this too.  Did the recipe work for you?

Monday, 16 September 2013

Things to love about autumn

Our lovely hot and sunny summer has officially come to a close, and there's a definite chill in the air.  As the nights are drawing in too, it's easy to feel down, but there's so much to love about autumn.  What's top of your list?

Here are the things I'm looking forward to during this cooler season of transition:

  • Blackberry picking, and subsequent apple and blackberry crumble
  • Getting outdoors and going conkering with our son
  • Enjoying all the golden, red and orange colours of autumn trees
  • Staying warm indoors on cold wet days and watching a film
  • The smell of dew in the mornings
  • Warming curried butternut squash soup
  • Sunday walks with the kids, crunching leaves underfoot

I love this time of year.  Do you?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Review of Brabantia Binny; sorting and storing clutter

When we were expecting our son we said our lives wouldn't change.  That our house wouldn't be full of kid's clutter.  And our son wouldn't be spoiled with loads of stuff.

Fast forward five years and there are signs of our kids everywhere in our house.  And our son's room in particular is full of clutter and toys, especially cars and Lego. I guess he's spoiled - just a bit!  I hate the house being messy, but struggle to keep on top of it sometimes.

So when Brabantia got in touch with me with an opportunity to review its product the Binny, I jumped at it.  We have loads of Brabantia products around our house and I've found everything great quality and withstands family life (e.g. have a hard time!) really well.

So would the Binny measure up?

The Binny is a 'waste and storage organiser' (to use Brabantia's term) and is designed to be fixed to a wall or cupboard by its bracket.  The plastic bucket attaches to the bracket, and can easily be removed. The lid is fixed to the bracket, and has a really quiet open and close mechanism.

They come in four colours: lipstick red, grey, apple green and lavender.  The bracket and lids slightly contrast with the bucket colour.  The colours are really vibrant and I think they look great.

They come with full instructions for fitting on a wall, and with all the fittings you need too (hooray, no need to search for a screw).  Each Binny measures around 27cm width, 23cm deep and 34cm high.  It holds 10 litres of stuff.  Here's exactly what you get (the bracket is at the back of the bucket, just out of shot):

When I first got the Binnys, I thought it's time to tidy up.  Our son had other ideas as he immediately filled them with cars and used the box as a ramp.  Hmm I thought, these might encourage him to tidy up too!

So while he had a play, I thought about where each Binny could live permanently.  We have loads of places where little piles of 'stuff' seem to gather!  I thought about the following:
  • Office/study - great as a recycling bin, or for storing magazines, stationery or my crafty bits and bobs
  • Kitchen - fab as a bin (we have a black one too), or on a wall or in a cupboard to store small baking items, carrier bags, cleaning products
  • Living room - perfect for scooping up our toys, magazines, and if you have lots, remote/gaming controls
  • Hallway - ideal for stashing kid's wellies, storing scarves and hats, small umbrellas etc
  • Nursery - perfect as a cloth or disposable nappy bin, storage for baby change supplies, toys, teddies, feeding supplies

In the end, I settled on two in our son's room, one in baby girl's room, and one in our utility room.

Utility room - don't we all have bags storing stuff in corners?  Here's our son's outdoor games bag, with a small football and rugby ball and blast off game.  We always stuff it in this corner by our back door and end up tripping over it when it spills out.  Now his stuff is neatly in our discrete grey Binny, with room for trainers underneath too.

Son's bedroom - the coloured Binnys come into their own in kids' bedrooms.  Our son's room gets so messy, and I always have to clear clutter before bedtime.  Again, we found a couple of corners where the Binny could sneak into space that would otherwise be unusable.  In one corner we have a binny that holds all the bits and bobs that make it into kid's bedrooms (pom poms (!), sticker packs, cars, a couple of books etc).

The other corner neatly holds a Binny full of cars, Lego and Kermit the Frog!

Baby girl's room - our final Binny, the lavender colour one, looks great as a nappy bin in our baby girl's room, attached to the wall underneath her changing table.  We have some 'C' sized Brabantia bags from our kitchen bin that are the perfect fit.  I'll spare you the picture!

As with all Brabantia products, the Binny comes with a 10 year guarantee.  I have no idea why you would ever need it with these though; they are solid, well made and feel so robust.  As the bucket comes completely away they are easy to clean too.  I really recommend the Binny as a sorting and storing the everyday clutter that comes with family life tool.  They're sturdy, vibrant and will last for years and years...  What more could you want?

Binnys are available for around £25 each. If you buy one, I bet you get more as you'll soon realise how many places in your home need one.  I wouldn't be without ours now, and I'd love to hear where you use yours!

Oh, and yes, the new Binnys have so far encouraged our son to help tidy his room up... a bit!

Disclaimer: thanks Brabantia for sending me the Binnys to review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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