A Strong Coffee

Monday, 22 January 2018

Meal Planning Mondays: 22nd Jan

I am pleased to say that last weeks meal plan worked well. Apart from the fact that the lasagne I had planned turned into a spaghetti bolognase as little man piped up that he didn't like lasagne!

On Friday we were treated to a private chef from La Belle Asiette, which was amazing. I will be writing a review in more detail soon, but it really was something special. Our main course was duck with cherries - my photo does not do it justice.

duck with cherries from a La Belle Asiette Chef

In other news, my husband had his bag taken from a train this week and has spent the weekend trying to re-buy the essentials. It is amazing how much fits in one small suitcase! We are hoping that it was taken by mistake, but whether we getting back again is another matter. He is away a couple of nights this week so there will be some quick and easy meals for me and the boys.

Monday: Salmon and vegetables

Tuesday: Chicken burgers

Wednesday:  Pizza and baked beans

Thursday: Scampi and chips

Friday: Probably pasta for the boys and curry from the freezer for my and my husband.

Saturday: Sweet and sour chicken and egg fried rice

Sunday: Pasta and dough balls

Hijacked By Twins

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Cauliflower And Stilton Soup

Soup is such a good way of using up this leftovers and this cauliflower and Stilton soup did just that after Christmas.My husband is of the opinion that the addition of Stilton improves the taste of most things. Of course, if you aren't a blue cheese fan then you could substitute a cheese of your choosing. Again, an onion could be swapped for the leek.

This recipe serves 2.

Cauliflower And Stilton Soup

  • 1/2 a large cauliflower
  • 1 leek
  • 1 vegetable oxo cube
  • 50g Stilton plus extra to crumble on top
  • 500 ml semi skimmed milk
  • creme fraiche to finish
  1. Chop the cauliflower and leek and add to the pan. Cover with water and add a vegetable oxo cube. Cook until the cauliflower is soft and most of the water has evaporated.
  2. Put this into a food processor and add the milk. Give it a whizz until nice and smooth.
  3. Transfer back to the pan and warn through with the 50g of crumbled Stilton. 
  4. Pour into a bowl and top with a little creme fraiche and crumbled Stilton.
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Hijacked By Twins

Monday, 15 January 2018

Meal Planning Mondays : Jan 15th

I can safely say that meal planning is helping me keep sane at the moment. I am trying to juggle so many balls, that it is so helpful to know what I am making for dinner. One less stress. Last week, I amazed myself with how good my chicken stir fry was, that I am going to make it again at the end of this week and write it up for you. I have been trying more recipes from my Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients book, all of which have been amazing. Little man even had a go himself, making the apple crumble cookies. I think we may have made them a little bigger than Jamie intended as there were nowhere near 24, but they tasted good and were gobbled up in a day.

apple crumble cookies

This week we have something rather exciting happening. A private chef is coming to our house to cook for us and a few of our friends. Then menu sounds fantastic. Our menu is: roasted beetroot and carrots wit warm goats cheese cakes followed by duck two ways with cherries and sautéed Savoy cabbage. And to end with orange blossom posset with pistachio biscotti and an orange and pomegranate salad. I am excited just thinking about it! In preparation, we have moved around our dining table and the cooker will be getting a good old clean. I think it has made my husband realise that our kitchen would look better with a slightly smaller table. (I have been harping on about this since we moved in, in last April.)

So whilst Friday may be sorted, what about the rest of the week?

Monday: A left overs pie made from left over ham and roast chicken from last week.

Tuesday: Tacos. Mainly using up some bits I found in my cupboard clear out this week.

Wednesday: Hot dogs. We seem to have a freezer full of rolls!

Thursday: Chicken with cheese and ham.

Friday: The boys will have a quick and easy pasta and sauce whilst we enjoy a meal courtesy of La Belle Assiette.

Saturday: Stir fry chicken chow mein

Sunday: Lasagne - batch cook an extra one.

Little man is also keen to make some chocolate orange shortbread that he has seen in my recipe book. We have agreed he can use some of his chocolate orange to top it with.

What have you got planned for this week?

Hijacked By Twins

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Honey Parsnip Soup

After the excesses of Christmas, this parsnip soup was a welcome light lunch. It was a great way of using up the leftover parsnips and my Mum's cheese straws. I often forget how easy it is to make soup, and this tasted so good, I really should make them more often.

honey parsnip soup

I used leek in this recipe as I had one in my fridge, but I would usually use a chopped onion. My sister left behind some chopped ginger and garlic and I used these instead of fresh.

This recipe serves 2.

Honey Parsnip Soup

  • 5 parsnips peeled and cored
  • 1 leek
  • 1tsp chopped garlic
  • 1tsp chopped ginger
  • 1/2 tsp chopped red chili
  • 1 vegetable oxo cube
  • 1tbsp honey
  • 500 ml semi skimmed milk
  • creme fraiche to finish
  1. Spray a saucepan with oil and heat the garlic, ginger and red chili. 
  2. Chop the parsnip, leek and add to the pan. Cover with water and add a vegetable oxo cube. Cook until the parsnip is soft and most of the water has evaporated.
  3. Put this into a food processor and add the milk and honey. Give it a whizz until nice and smooth.
  4. Depending on the type of food processor you have, you might want to warm this mixture through in a pan. Top with a little creme fraiche.
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simple to make, honey parsnip soup

Hijacked By Twins

Monday, 8 January 2018

Meal Planning Mondays

Whilst it may only have been a week ago that I was raising a glass to see in the new year, this week has been back to work and back to normality. The Christmas holiday went by in the blink of an eye and as per usual we over indulged and have been trying to eat better this week.

looking at recipe book

One of my Christmas presents was the Jamie Oliver 5 ingredient meals and I have enjoyed making some of his quick and easy recipes this week. Rose and Pesto prawn pasta was a hit as was pancetta wrapped cod. We are continuing with more fish this week as I think we really need to eat less red meat.

So what is in our meal plan for this week?

Monday: The boys are off to karate so it is fish fingers for them and salmon fishcakes for us. I have some frozen salmon in the freezer which I am not keen on, so will use it up in some homemade fishcakes.

Tuesday: Chicken stir fry

Wednesday: The boys are off to karate again so they can have scrambled egg and chorizo bagels and my husband and I will have Salmon and chorizo.

Thursday: Another Jamie recipe - this time pork escalopes

Friday: My OH and I will have frozen curry that my sister made on Xmas eve and the boys will have a chicken korma.

Sat: Not sure yet.....

Sun: Roast chicken

Little man has also been looking through my cookery book and has chosen the apple crumble cookies to make with me :-)

Are you trying to eat differently this new year?

Hijacked By Twins

Monday, 1 January 2018

Goals For 2018

Happy New Year! I can't quite believe that 2017 went by in a flash. It was a strange old year, where I learnt a lot about myself. I found that I work best under pressure, like to be surrounded by people and really need to make more lists. They really do have a calming effect on me. My boys are growing bigger by the day and I am loving the little people they are turning into. (Well most of the time.)

As we move into 2018, I think it is good to set some goals.

First off, I am going to think of myself more. As a mother, it is really easy to put yourself last. Or at least that is what I have been doing. As my boys are getting more independent, I really need to start thinking about myself more. Starting dance lessons last year made me really happy and whilst I will never be on Strictly simple things like this can make a world of difference to me. So on a Sunday you will find me doing a Cha-cha-cha at the gym.

I need to blog smarter. Having a part time job means I have less free time. It hope that it doesn't mean that I will stop blogging. I love that unlike many 40 somethings, I have kept up to date with social media, can use twitter and even code a little. I need to get better at scheduling posts and remember to share evergreen content. I am going for a quality versus quantity approach, but as I am finding meal planning really helpful, you can expect to see me joining in with Meal Planning Mondays and Cook Blog Share most weeks. Whilst I am going to attempt some more healthy recipes in the New Year, I love baking so will be joining in with Bake of the week as much as I can.

I need to continue my decluttering journey. I say journey as it seems never ending! I have a whole room (well cupboard room) to go through. I need to sort through the baby toys and take some younger toys out of little man's room to see if he misses them. Things are slowly getting better and it is a case of keeping on top of everything.

Lastly, I want to improve my photography further. On my current to do list is to purchase some back drops from Capture by Lucy and a new tripod. When I look back at how far my photography has come on in the last year or so I am pretty pleased....

This was taken in October 2016:

And this was last month:

I still have some way to go, but I feel like I am making progress. Practice makes perfect I guess (and a few new gadgets will help me on my way!) Maybe one day I will get some good photos of the 5 of us together. Do you know how hard it is to get everyone looking in the same direction at once?

So what goals have you set for 2018?

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

5 Tips For Hosting A Christmas Party

I can hardly believe that Christmas is just around the corner. If you are anything like me, you will have friends and family visiting for nearly two weeks solid. I thought I would put some hints and tips together, to help you along the way.

1. Remember Allergies And Vegetarians

It is so easy to forget to cater for your friends that don't or aren't able to eat the same food as you. Make sure that you have some vegetarian alternatives and don't forget any friends with allergies. Tesco sent me a fantastic cake mix from there free from range along with some other goodies so that I could make sure everyone was catered for at my party.

Here is a look at the packaging so you can see what is in it.

ingredients free from cake mix Tesco

It was so simple to use that little man helped me bake it.

Once cooked I cooled it in the fridge and then cut around the jumper. I then made some butter cream up (mine was to cater for a gluten free friend as I used butter.) and then covered the cake in it. Finally I decorated the cake with the sprinkles and chocolate in the kit. (I made the chocolate reindeer on grease proofed paper and transferred onto the cake when set, just incase I went wrong.)

The best thing was that it tasted really good and everyone was able to enjoy it. Little man made sure that he was trying it after baking it.

2. Use your freezer

It is so hard to work out how much everyone will eat and it is often less than you think. Keep some sausage rolls and mini cakes in the freezer that can be quickly made up if it looks like you are going to need more food. This saves waste and gives you piece of mind, if extra guests arrive.

3. Drinks

If you have children coming then individual bottled drinks are the way to go. It may be slightly more expensive that squash and glasses but spillages will be reduced. Don't forget to get some soft drinks in for the adults too. Not everyone wants to drink mulled wine at lunchtime so remember to get some adult soft drinks too.

4. Christmas Music

Set up a playlist before the party. It doesn't all have to be Christmas songs, but make sure it is appropriate. In the summer we let the boys sort the music out and I was running to turn off the explicit Gansta rap song they had accidentally pressed. I have also made the mistake of putting on a Christmas CD before thinking it would be fine and it was the most depressing set of Christmas songs you could have imagined!

5. Prepare as much as you can in advance

The last thing you want to do at a party is spend your time hidden away in the kitchen. Prepare as much as you can in advance and don't worry about using some pre prepared food from the supermarkets. Your guests will be more interested in spending time with you rather than Michelin starred canapes. These cheese and marmite sausage rolls are great to make ahead of time, and for dessert, you can't go wrong with these raspberry brulee. If you are looking for cute cupcakes then how about these penguins or polar bears?

So it leaves me to wish all my family and friends a very Merry Christmas. I will be around on social media over the next few weeks but will be spending lots of time with my nearest and dearest. Thanks for reading this year and here's to a wonderful 2018.

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5 Tips For Hosting A Christmas Party

Thanks to Tesco who provided me with a hamper full of goodies for hosting a party in exchange for this post.

Family Fever