Brilliant Brunch – Haggis, potato cake & poached egg

The most famous foodstuff in Scotland is haggis, (followed by much more appealing sounding things like shortbread and whiskey). It’s traditional to serve haggis with neeps and tatties, but I was asked by Sykes Cottages to come up with a recipe using haggis, but to try and make it a bit more appealing, a little bit sexy even. That’s a tough gig. Even tougher given that I’m vegetarian and I’ve never tried haggis.

I tried to think of it like black pudding, being a Lancashire lass this plonked me firmly in my comfort zone, it’s sort of like black pudding, in that’s it’s made from fairly unappealing bits of animal in a sausage shape, though haggis holds together less well than black pudding.

I decided to try and turn it into a brunch or lunch meal, served with homemade potato cakes and a poached egg it’s a fairly well balanced, interesting meal that’ll satisfy anyone with a hearty appetite. I’ve made my own potato cakes as they’re much nicer than shop bought, but if you want to buy them I recommend you get them from a good bakery.

Haggis recipe

Ingredients:
One haggis
One egg per person
Chives
Oil for frying

For potato cakes (makes 6 large cakes) -
2 mugs of mashed potato
Half a mug of plain flour
Salt & pepper
Chives
Oil for frying

Method:

  1. Start by putting your cold (leftover) mashed potato in a bowl with the plain flour, season and snip in some chives. Mix throughly by hand and shape into 6 equal sized cakes. Fry them off gently until they’re golden brown on both sides. Set aside until you’re ready to serve. They can be kept warm in a low oven for a little while.
  2. Take your haggis (unsteamed) and cut into 1.5cm thick slices. Fry gently in oil until brown and crispy on both sides, make sure it’s cooked all the way through. Set aside and keep warm with the potato cakes.
  3. Poach an egg per person.
  4. To plate up, stack your haggis on top of your potato cake and place your poached egg on top. I snipped chives all over mine because I like chives, but you don’t have to do that if you don’t want.

It’s really simple, it took me hardly any time at all and it was quite delicious. The boys once again returned clean plates to the kitchen. Winner winner haggis dinner.

Note: This recipe is my entry for the Sykes Cottages “Haggis Championships” competition, the creator of winning haggis recipe will win a hamper of Scottish goodies. I was given £15 to cover the cost of ingredients for this recipe. All words and images are my own.

Back to school – My Nametags

The small boy starts big school in September. Ok, so technically he’s just in nursery there, but they still need a uniform, so we’re busy buying jumpers, book bags, school shoes, polo shirts, baggy big boy trousers, and all the other bits he’ll need. One of the things I’m insisting upon is that all his uniform is labelled. He is bound to lose his jumper in a pile of other identical jumpers, and life is too short to be sewing on labels, I found the My Nametags website and they seemed just what we needed.

The My Nametags website let’s you design your own colourful labels, so they stand out when you’re rifling though the lost property box. It’s really easy to do. Type in the name you want, choose the font and colour of your text, select an image (we went for a star, but they had all kinds of things to choose from) and select a background for your label. We liked the blue bubble background, but there are so many to choose from, and they’re really funky looking.

We went for the stickers which you just stick on clothing or items of equipment such as water bottles and pencil cases. If you wait 24 hours before washing your item the sticker will have had time to fully adhere itself to the clothing and should remain there forevermore.

My Nametags

I don’t think anything could be simpler. There is no sewing, no ironing, it’s just sticking a label on. It took me about 5 minutes to design and order the label, they arrived within a few days and it took about 10 minutes to label up his entire uniform. One set of My Nametags costs £11.95 plus £1 postage and packing, which seems like a good price to me, especially given how quick and easy they are to apply.

They’re fun, eye-catching, easy to use and seem to be good quality. I’d definitely recommend My Nametags and we’ll be going back for more once we’ve used these 56 labels up.

Note: We were sent these My Nametags labels free of charge for review purposes. All images and opinions are my own.

Immune boosting Nurture drink review

Come September the small boy will toddle off to the nursery at our local primary school. We’ve been busy getting his uniform and things ready, but having worked in education in a previous life, one of my biggest worries is just how many colds and bugs he’ll pick up once he starts in September. Whilst he’s a pretty good eater and loves his fruit and veg, it can’t hurt to give him and his immune system a boost.

We were asked to try a new children’s drink, Nurture, which has been designed to boost children’s immune systems. The drinks come in two flavours, Strawberry & Cherry and Orange & Pineapple. Both flavours are 100% natural with no added sugar or sweeteners and are made up of 50% juice and 50% water.

Nurture drinks

The juices are endorsed by Dr Sarah Brewer, the UK’s leading medical nutritionist who says “Many children miss days from school due to coughs and colds. While it’s important to avoid spreading infection when kids are unwell, it’s also important to boost their immunity so they recover quickly and are less likely to succumb to the next wave of infection going round”.

Each 200ml pouch is packed with optimum daily amounts of vitamins for children aged two to five years. Including Wellmune WGP 100% natural beta glucan is a clever ingredient designed to strengthen key immune cells. Vitamins B6, B9, B12, C, D, and zinc contribute to the normal function of the immune system, Calcium and Vitamin D provide power for the normal growth and development of strong bones, and Vitamin B5 supports brain development.

So, how did we get on? The small boy is 3 and we have so far limited his juice intake, generally preferring to give him water or milk. Juice is a rare treat because it’s quite sweet and it’s not something we have in the house for ourselves. We decided to limit him to the recommended one pouch per day, and of course I had a little sip or two just to check it out for myself.

Nurture drinks

Firstly we tried the strawberry and cherry flavour. I think this was his favourite as all he asks for now is the “red juice”. To me it tasted quite sweet and I can see why it appeals. It was a nice balance of the two fruits. He was very happy to drink the pouch in one go, but if you were drinking this at home I’d be tempted to decant it into a glass and dilute it with a bit more water.

We then tried the orange and pineapple flavour, I personally preferred this flavour as I’m a bit of a pineapple junkie, the small boy liked it too. It was sweet enough, but not overly so, but could be diluted down further if you wanted to.

Each pouch comes with a special spill-proof spout. We’d never encountered a spout in that design and it took a few minutes to get the hang of, if you depress the cap with your mouth and suck the juice it comes out quite easily.

I think the Nurture drinks are a great addition to lunch-boxes and as part of childrens’ daily diets. The pouches are a definite improvement on other pouched juice drinks which offer negligible nutritional benefits. I’d happily pick Nurture over other drinks for their immune boosting benefits, even if they are slightly more expensive. I think in this instance you get what you pay for, and this is clearly innovative and useful, not to mention delicious and popular with the small boy. This is a winner.

Nurture is available now in Tesco stores across the UK, at RRP £2.99 for a pack of four 200ml pouches. Visit the Nurture drinks Facebook or Twitter for information and tips on family health.

Note: we were sent two boxes of Nurture drinks free of charge for review purposes, we have not been financially compensated for this post, all opinions and images are my own.

My Sunday Photo 17/8/14

Just So Festival

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Chocolate and Cherry Brownies

Who doesn’t like brownies? These have a crisp crust and a delicious gooey centre, best served warm with vanilla ice cream. If you’ve frozen them previously then just defrost and warm them briefly in a hot oven.

Preparation time 15 minutes
Cooking time 35-40 minutes
Makes about 18

200g butter, cubed
100g good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
4 eggs, beaten
425g granulated sugar
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
½ tsp sea salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
100g dried cherries

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c, gas mark 4. Line a small roasting tin with baking parchment.
  2. Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and allow the ingredients to melt either over a pan of barely simmering water or in a microwave on a low heat. Allow to cool slightly.
  3. Place the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and pour in the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Fold together lightly until thoroughly combined. Pour into the prepared tin and place in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until a crust forms. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 15-20 minutes. Cut into squares when cooled.

Cooks Tips:
Add alternative ingredients to the cherries according to what you have in your cupboard. Pecans and brazil nuts work well instead of cherries, or leave out as you prefer.

brownies

This recipe was developed by an Appliance House Chef. For all your kitchen appliances at discounted prices please visit www.appliancehouse.co.uk

 

Sponsored

CBeebies Land & Alton Towers (part two)

We were recently invited by CBeebies magazine to attend an event to learn about their #CBeebiesMagKidsGoFree promotion. I wrote about the fun we had that morning and how the dreams of a small boy came true when he got to meet Postman Pat. I faithfully promised to blog about our afternoon exploring CBeebies Land at Alton Towers, so here goes…

CBeebies Land is near the main entrance of Alton Towers, we found it really easily. It is perfectly designed for small children. The boy walked in and all he could say was “wow”!

Cbeebies land

There were lots of things to do, but first things first, we were hungry, so our first stop was the Little Explorers Lunch Box. There were various meal deals available, but the three of us had a sandwich, crisps and a drink for around £16 which wasn’t hellishly extortionate. If you’re watching the pennies then you can always take a picnic, but the food was of good quality and there were healthy options available.

After lunch we explored Charlie & Lola’s Moonsquirters & Greendrops, which was Charlie & Lola’s house, you could dress Charlie & Lola up, there was an interactive kitchen area (every time I opened the fridge the small boy fell about in fits of giggles). The house has a soft play type area at the back, but it was heaving as it was a rainy day, so we gave that a miss.

We moved on to the Numtums number-go-round, which was quite a sweet little merry-go-round which he enjoyed, and we got to have a sit down for a few minutes.

We were initially put off by the advertised 25 minute wait to enjoy the Postman Pat Parcel Post ride (my back means I can’t stand for long, so queuing is a nightmare), but having watched the queue for a little while we were sure it was moving quicker than advertised; it was, we queued for just 15 minutes. Queuing isn’t as bad as you might think be either, there are little games and things to look at for little ones in CBeebies Land, which helps a lot.

He enjoyed the Postman Pat Parcel Post ride and afterwards we toddled off to the Big Fun Showtime Arena to see the Mike the Knight show. The arena is a nice place to stop and have a picnic, the toilets are there and there’s a small shop selling ice creams and drinks etc. He was engrossed by the Mike the Knight show and it really was one of his highlights.

Next on our CBeebies Land agenda was the Get Set Go Treetop Adventure; really we should have gone on this first as it travels around and over the top of CBeebies Land, which would’ve made it useful for getting our bearings at first, plus it’s actually a really fun ride. We did have to queue, but it wasn’t for long and I do regret not queuing up again and having a second go.

Cbeebies land

Time was marching on, the small boy was beginning to tire, so we queued for one last ride, the In The Night Garden Magical Boat Ride. This was quite lovely and restful really, a gentle boat ride around the night garden. You see all of your favourite characters, they’re animated too, so Iggle Piggle and Daisy wave at you. It’s really very sweet.

There was so much to do in CBeebies Land, plenty to fill a day out. Other attractions in CBeebies Land include the Justin’s House pie-o-matic factory, Nina’s Science Lab, Mr Bloom’s Allotment, the Something Special Sensory Garden and the Tree Fu Tom Training Camp.

Would we go again? Absolutely. This was our first family day out to a theme park and I think we were both dreading it for various reasons, our worries were mainly about massive queues and losing the small boy in crowds, but everything was fine.

Every issue of CBeebies Magazine until the 7th October, will come with two vouchers for kids to go free to a different attraction every issue, with some of the most popular kids’ attractions in the country including Legoland, Chessington World of Adventures and Sealife Centres.

• Issue 411 (13th Aug) – Alton Towers Resort inc. CBeebies Land – Save £86.40 (£43.20 per ticket)
• Issue 412 (27th Aug) – Warwick Castle – Save £39.60 (£19.80 per ticket)
• Issue 413 (10th Sept) – Legoland and Legoland Discovery Centre – Save £82.80 (£41.40 per ticket)
• Issue 414 (24th Sept) – Sealife Centres and Seal sanctuaries – Save £39 (£19.50 per ticket)

image

Note: We were invited to explore Alton Towers, CBeebies Land and enjoy an activity morning by CBeebies magazine to help promote their #CBeebiesMagKidsGoFree campaign. We have not been paid and all opinions expressed are my own.

Is the full moon making me anxious?

The last few days I’ve felt stressy, I’m riddled with anxiety, but I’m really trying to sort my head out. The few friends I’ve spoken to about it have asked me why. Why? I have no idea. I have no clue what’s set this off and why I’m feeling this way. A chance conversation with a nurse friend made me look out of my window for the answer. Is the super moon making me anxious?

A quick Internet search suggests it’s very, very possible, but also that it could be in my head because I’m clearly demented for thinking like that. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence linking full moons to changes in behaviour, not just for humans but for animals too. This of course can be explained by science and logic, the extra brightness of the moon at this time disrupts sleep patterns, making people and animals more edgy, tetchy and anxious during the day.

Oh yes, that makes perfect sense, except I live in Manchester, it’s rained pretty solidly for the last 3 or 4 days and you’d be hard pressed to see the moon through the cloud. Also, I’ve slept like a particularly exhausted log recently. So maybe, just maybe there’s something less scientific going on, forces beyond my ken, so to speak.

Whilst trawling the interweb for evidence (essentially googling “is the super moon making me crazy”), I came across this BBC article which pulled together evidence from a number of studies, concluding that no, it probably doesn’t make you mad. Wikipedia sort of concurs, saying there is some evidence that it does effect human behaviour and that other studies say it doesn’t. Complex this science business isn’t it?

With no firm conclusions thrown at me by the mighty google, I can only say how I feel about it. I think if blaming the moon for my anxiety and current mood makes me feel better, and gives me hope that when the moon becomes less super in a few days I might start to feel calmer again, then I’m going to cling on to that thought.

I’m interested in what you all think of this. Are you experiencing any behavioural or emotional changes at the moment you think might have something to do with the moon? Or do you think it’s all clap trap? I’m genuinely interested in this. If science can’t crack it, I’m damn sure bloggers can!

Full moon anxiety

Super Moon – a super image by Redpeffer

Easybelts for Big Boy Pants

Come September my small boy (and only baby) will be toddling off to join the nursery at school, which means it’s school uniform time. Over the last few weeks we’re been stocking up on uniform bits and pieces from supermarkets and specialist shops, but we needed a belt to go with his big boy trousers, something that his small boy hands could manage. Step forward the Easybelt.

The Easybelt is a canvas belt designed for little fingers and people who’d struggle with normal, fiddly belts. You pull the end of the belt through the D ring, pull it back and press it securely against the Velcro. It is a ridiculously simple idea and I can’t believe it’s taken so long to invent it.

The D rings come in two sizes, which make them really easy for little fingers to use. We put the belt on the small boy and instinctively, without us showing him, he started to thread the belt through the D ring. It’s such a simple, instinctive design.

image

The belts come in a range of sizes and designs. We got him a plain black belt to wear with his school uniform, and a funky brown belt with a racing car design on it for casual wear. There are lots of designs to choose from and different coloured belts to mix and match with outfits.

The belts range in cost from £5 – £7 which I think is a very reasonable price. They’re excellent quality and seem comfortable to wear. Because they’re Velcro the belt will grow with the child, meaning you’re likely to get a good few years of wear out of the belt.

It’s a clever invention, simple but intuitive, as the best things so often are.

Note: We were sent two Easybelts free of charge for review purposes. The opinions expressed in this review are unbiased and my own. The images are also my own.

Why alcohol and anxiety don’t mix

A year ago when I was just a big ball of anxiety and self medicating with alcohol, those who had trodden the anxiety path before me warned me that alcohol and anxiety don’t mix. I ignored them because I knew better, and besides, there was nothing else on offer to help me, no pills, no strategies, no therapy. They came eventually, but I needed a beer or three to get me through.

The main problem with mixing alcohol with an anxiety disorder, is while the alcohol perks you up, stops you spiralling, levels you out; the morning after your mood drops, the booze messes with your serotonin levels, it dehydrates you and makes you miserable. You might also have drunk enough to make some poor choices, so you’re hungover, moody, anxious and now you’ve got guilt about what you did last night too.

The really rubbish thing about self medicating with alcohol is that if you do it for long enough you could end up being an alcoholic. Cards on the table, I like a drink, there’ve been times in the past year where I’ve needed to drink, I’ve binged and binged often. A few people have suggested I have a problem, that I might be a social alcoholic. I don’t think I am, but then that makes me a bit of a cliche, denying it doesn’t it? I don’t drink much any more and I don’t self medicate with alcohol these days. My nights out are rare and I never drink alone in the house.

I’m largely on top of my troubles these days. I have the odd wobble, but I’ve got a fairly sound self-care routine that I can slip into when I need to. It’s human to feel sad or anxious, but it’s when these feelings bubble up beyond normal levels then I need to be watchful of myself.

Why am I writing this? Last night I went out with friends, I intended to have two or three beers and leave it at that. I ended up drinking far more than I planned to, made a little bit of an idiot of myself and staggered home. I’ve spent the day in bed because I was too hungover to move, and my mood has gradually sunk through the floor.

The anxiety which occasionally bugs me is in full force, I’m practically fizzing with it; my breathing is rapid, I can’t sit still, I can’t focus on anything, I’m a mess. My head is full of negative thoughts, there’s a constant chatter of self hate in my head right now. At first it confused me, why was I feeling like this? Then I remembered alcohol is a depressant and I was able to rationalise what was happening in my head. It’s just chemical reactions, but they’re really messing with me.

A year ago I didn’t know how to stop it and the spiral would continue. These days I’m better equipped to deal with it. Hopefully I’ll self-care my way out of it, I know that chances are I’ll be ok in a few days, but the worry, the fear is always there that my full on anxiety will return and then I’ll be in trouble. This is why I hardly drink these days. I’ve come so far, I don’t ever want to go back.

Alcohol and anxiety

My Sunday Photo 10/8/14

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