Friday, 22 February 2013

Roasted pepper soup - Recommended Recipe!

Roasted Pepper Soup - serves 4, takes 15 mins to make, 40 mins to cook.

2 red peppers
2 red onions
8 vine tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil
500-700ml vegetable stock, depending on how thick you like your soup to be!
Handful fresh basil leaves, torn

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/Gas 6.  Cut the peppers in half, scoop out the seeds and cut the flesh into small chunks.  Peel the onions, halve and cut into similarly sized pieces to the peppers.  Put the onions, peppers, tomatoes and garlic into a roasting dish.  Drizzle with oil and roast for 35 minutes or until all the vegetables are cooked.
  2. Squeeze the garlic out of it's skin.  Put the vegetables and garlic into a food processor and add the stock.  Puree until smooth.  Pour into a saucepan and heat for 5 minutes or until warmed through.  Divide between 4 bowls and scatter fresh basil leaves over.
Per serving: 135 calories, 7.5g fat, 1.1g saturated fat, 12.1g sugars, 1.0g salt.

Source - The Co-Operative Membership Magazine.   

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Be Food Smart - Change4Life

Change4Life is a government initiative that helps families and individuals to eat healthier and keep fit.  Their latest leaflet publication helps us to “Be Food Smart”.

We all like food to be cheap, easy and tasty and so often reach for the ready-made foods, snacks and take-aways, but it’s often cheaper (not to mention tastier!) to make your own!

The five principles of the Change4Life Be Food Smart campaign are:

  1. 5 a day – aim for a variety of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.  Remember, they don’t all have to be fresh.  Frozen, juiced, dried or canned – they all count.
  2. Sugar swaps – swap sugary drinks for no added sugar drinks like water or skimmed/1% fat milk.  Switch sweet snacks for fruit or unsalted popcorn.  And why not replace your sugary puddings with plain low-fat yoghurts and fruit?
  3. Watch the salt – most us don’t realise that there’s hidden salt in every day products that don’t even taste salty – bread, cereals, pizza and some sauces.  So, go easy with ketchup, mayo and soy sauce and skip adding salt next time you tuck into a meal. 
  4. Cut back on fat – we all know that too much fat is bad for us but often we don’t realise that fat is hidden in many of the foods we eat.  It’s easy to be food smart about fat; choose lower fat spreads, lower fat dairy products and leaner cuts of meat to make a good start! 
  5.  Be calorie smart – calories are a clue to what you should be eating each day and area really handy for planning how much to eat and when.  Try to aim for 400 calories for breakfast, 600 for lunch and 600 for your evening meal.  That leaves a few calories for any healthy snacks.  And remember, we don’t all need to eat the same amounts.  Women don’t need as many calories as men and kids need even less – so get into the habit of “me-sized” meals!
Five a day

Here’s the link to the Meal Mixer app from the Change4Life website.  So when you are stuck for inspiration, because it happens to everyone(!) - have a browse through their recipes and your creatuve cokoing juices will be flowing once again!

And lastly, there are many ways to be food smart all day.

Being food smart at breakfast means you’ll be less tempted to reach for a mid-morning snack:

  • Pick cereals with no added sugar – you  can always sweeten it up with a bit of chopped fruit. 
  •  Swap white toast for wholegrain toast to release energy throughout the morning to keep you on the go.

Perk up a packed lunch with these tips:
  • It’s fun to dunk – cucumber, pepper and carrot sticks are delicious with a low fat dip. 
  •  Low fat yoghurts always go down well – they’re a good source of calcium too.
For a quick and simple snack after school:
  • Swap crisps for plain rice cakes dunked in low fat cream cheese. 
  •  For a sweet tooth, forget the cakes and biscuits – fresh fruit is great for munching on the go.
For more meal ideas and food smart tips, search online for Change4Life.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Big Breaktask in conjunction with Warburtons

Mornings, you either love them or hate them!  Overall, I would say that my mornings are pretty OK.... but is that due to the planning that takes place the night before?  Or would everything fall nicely in to place regardless of the planning that takes place!
Did you know that Mums have to juggle twice as many tasks as business owners, directors and decision makers during the breakfast rush, according to new research by Warburtons. Between 7.17am and 8.30am each weekday morning, busy mums face a constant series of domestic tasks and chores – these often include tactical strategies, coercion and juggling children, partners and dogs (in my case, anyway!).

Warburtons are compiling a collection of useful tips, ideas and recipes in a handy book to make the weekday breakfast routine as smooth and enjoyable as possible, as well as providing inspiration for the more relaxed weekend breakfast.

Considering we (me and hubby) run a bed and breakfast serving breakfast to our guests from 8.30am to 9.30am and have to get the children (aged 5 and 8) to school at 9am – sometimes I think we deserve a medalfor what we manage to achieve!  But, at the end of the day, it’s our choice to be self-employed and we love it!

So how do we manage? This is often a question asked of us by our guests and so the answer is ready to give.... BE ORGANISED!

Our local primary school runs a breakfast club where the children can go to school at 8.15am and have a healthy breakfast (cereal, toast and fruit juice) followed by an outdoor activity – weather permitting, of course!  So, during the summer school term when we often have more guests than at this time of year, the breakfast club is truly a god send!  I get the children dressed and ready for school, whilst hubby does the prep for the breakfast service.  I take the children to school - only 5 minutes walk away – and then back in time for the guests to arrive in the dining room and eat.

At quieter times of the year, we take the children to school for the normal time of 9am – but we still prepare in advance what we can.  Organising the uniforms, PE kits, dinner money, fruit, etc... the night before is a must, as well as making sure we have both the left and right shoe of a matching pair of school shoes!

I must confess that once I nearly (only nearly!) took my son to school with odd shoes on!   Luckily, we noticed when we were at the endof my garden path! 

And then the questions of what to eat in a morning?  My daughter is perfectly happy with a drink of milk and a bowl of cereal or toast, but my son, given the choice, would love scrambled eggs, bacon and tomatoes for his breakfast with a glass of apple juice on the side!  During the week, this just does not happen(!) so he is happy with cereal and toast.  But at the weekends he can have his cooked breakfast, no problem!

The only thing we leave until the morning is the sandwiches part of the packed lunch for my daughter.  We put everything else in her box in the fridge – but I can’t stand soggy sandwiches and so always make them fresh in the morning!  It only takes 5 minutes and what can go wrong with a ham sandwich!

I also like to get up about 30 minutes before everyone else.... just to get myself ready and check my emails in peace!

So, to sum up, here are my top tips for juggling the family Breakfast Rush Hour:

  • Plan ahead - do what you can the night before.
  • Make sure all parts of the school uniform (including shoes) are ready to put on.
  • Don't give your children too much choice with breakfast items.
  • Wash up later on - just put all the dishes in the sink/dishwasher and deal with them when you return from the school drop-off.
  • And most importantly, don't get stressed!  Children are very sensitive to your mood and to try and ensure a great start to the day, keep a smile on your face and breathe! 

So, if any of you Mum’s and Dad’s out there have any top tips, advice and recipes for juggling the family Breakfast Rush Hour, you can submit them through the Warburtons Facebook page here.

Silent Sunday 17th February 2013

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Tots 100 Family Photograph Competition

Tots 100 is a mecca of information for bloggers and competitions. At the moment, they are running a competition to win a fantastic Panasonic bridge camera from PrinterPix

If you are a blogger member of Tots 100 and would like to enter the competition, you can find full details here.  Here is my entry for the Children Aged 5+ category.

I love this photo as my daughter often shys away from the camera but on this occasion, she was captured with her natural smile.  Through all the tantrums and stamping feet, I always think back to this photo whilst counting to 10!

Living by the sea we don't often get snow that actually sticks!  We have been "snowed in" before but in a different way than normal.  We can move around our small town quite easily but as a "one road in, one road out" town, when the snow is bad, nobody can get into the town and nobody can get out!

So this level of snow was quite unusual and definitely put a smile on my daughter's face!

This post is Katie's entry into the Printerpix Photo competition.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Sage sausage baked potatoes - Recommended Recipe!

Sage sausage baked potatoes - ready in 105-120 mins, including baking, serves 6.

coarse sea salt
6 large floury potatoes, washed and pricked
85g/30z butter
4 thick pork sausages (total weight about 225g/8oz), cut into nuggets
6 sage leaves, chopped
100g/4oz cheddar or gruyere, grated
4tbsp double cream

  1. Heat the oven too 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.  Sprinkle salt over a baking tray, sit the potatoes on top and bake for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours until crispy and tender.  While the potatoes are in the oven, melt a little of the butter in a frying pan.  Once bubbling, add the sausage slices and fry over a medium heat until lightly coloured and cooked through, about 10 mins.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Remove the cooked potatoes from the oven and cut each in half.  Scoop the potato flesh into a bowl, and fork lightly to a crumbly texture, then add the remaining butter and season with a little salt and pepper.  Stir in the sausages and sage and divide between the potato shells.  Mix the cheese and cream, and divide between the potatoes.  You can get the potatoes ready to this stage up to 2 hours ahead.
  3. Return the potatoes to the oven for 15-20 mins until golden and bubbling.
Per serving - 459 kcal, 14g protein, 37g carbohydrate, 30g fat, 17g saturated fat, 3g fibre, no added sugar, 1.55g salt.

Source - BBC Good Food magazine.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Chicken and red wine casserole with herby dumplings - Recommended Recipe!

Chicken and red wine casserole with herby dumplings - serves 6, ready in 90-105 mins including 50 mins in the oven.

6 part-boned chicken breasts
3 tbsp plain flour
3 tbsp olive oil
3 onions, peeled and each cut into 8 wedges
200g/8oz smoked bacon lardons
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
300g/10oz large flat mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp redcurrant sauce
3 strips of peeled orange zest
300ml/1/2 pint red wine
300ml/1/2 pint chicken stock

100g/4oz self raising flour, plus extra for dusting
100g/4oz fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
140g/5oz butter, cubed
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten

  1. Preheat the oven to fan 180C/200C/gas 6.  Season the chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then coat lightly in a little of the flour.  Heat the oil in a large ovenproof lidded casserole dish and, in batches, brown the chicken on both sides over a high heat.  Remove the chicken and set aside.
  2. Reduce the heat, add the onions and lardons and cook for about 5-8 mins so they are golden tinged.  add the garlic, then sprinkle in the plain flour and cook for 1 min, stirring to prevent sticking.
  3. Add the mushrooms, bay leaves, redcurrant sauce and orange zest, then pour in the red wine and stock and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil,then return the chicken to the casserole dish, making sure it is well covered with the liquid.  Put on the lid and cook in the oven for 30 mins.
  4. While the casserole is cooking, prepare the dumplings.  Put the self-raising flour, breadcrumbs, mustard and butter in a food processor and blitz to a crumb consistency.  Add the thyme, parsley, eggs and salt and pepper.  Briefly blitz until the mixture forms a fairly moist dough.  Using floured hands, roll the dough into 6 large, even-sized balls.
  5. Remove the casserole from the oven when the 30 mins is up and sit the dumplings on top.  Pop the lid back on and return to the oven for a further 20 mins, until the casserole is cooked and the dumplings have puffed up.  Spoon the chicken and sauce onto six plates  and top each with a dumpling.  Serve with a rich, fruity red wine.
Per serving - 701 kcal, 47g protein, 38g carbohydrate, 37g fat, 17g saturated fat, 3g fibre, 1g added sugar, 2.55g salt.

Source - BBC Good Food magazine.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Big Barmouth Knit... In Progress!

Here's an update on our Big Barmouth Knit!  We've had some squares received already and I know there's more on the way.

The Cambrian News (our local newspaper) have covered the event for us and will be present on the day when we announce the winner and present the scarf to Bermo Maoi.

Thanks to everyone who has shared and tweeted about our fundraising efforts... please continue to support us.  You can press the g+1 button below to share this post via Google as well as tweeting and sharing on Facebook.

Here's a link to the original post with the full details of the event... The Big Barmouth Knit.  Keep those knitting needles and crochet hooks on the go!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Free (or cheap!) things to do in half term!

With half term looming and no guarantee of good weather, what can we do to fill our time and keep the young ones occupied?  And the free or cheap side of things comes in when you're self-employed in a seasonal business at the wrong end of the season!

We have 9 days off (including weekends) to fill and while I'm all for the great outdoors and enjoying the beach and mountains that surround us, I cannot bring myself to do a puddle-splashing walk every day!  I don't mind being out and about when it has stopped raining but with the winds and rain we've been having... this half term I just cannot face it!

So, here's our plan for the holiday with wet-weather alternatives in place!  Who's betting we won't even leave the house....

Today my children have their karate gradings at the local karate dojo.  While this is far from free or cheap(!), it is good for their self-esteem, self-confidence and general fitness.  So, after today I hope my little Karatekas will have achieved their next belt grade.  Following the gradings sessions, we will be returning home and (weather permitting!) going on a scavenger hunt on the beach for some dry driftwood to make some picture/photo frames later on in the week. 

After stormy weather, our beach is often littered with driftwood and the little bits of rope from stray lobster pots and buoys - my son loves to collect these and keep them for Grandad so "he can make things with them"!  Although my Mum says, "no more wood, please!" as his shed is slowly getting filled with more seaside treasures than it will hold!

If it's wet, windy or both; we will be making some woven placemats from thick paper/thin card.  My daughter made a placemat like this for one of her Brownie badges and has since decided that she can make these to sell at a local craft fair to save up some money!  I initially talked her down from the £5 each figure, deciding on a much more reasonable 50p... I should send her onto Dragon's Den... she can sell anything!

Today is Chinese New Year - the year of the snake.  There's loads of activities and crafts ideas over at Activity Village.  I especially like this Paper Roll Snake Puppet and this Paper Plate Snake Mobile.  Both really simple ideas which will keep your children happy for a good couple of hours!  With a difference in age range, you can decorate them as simply or as complex as you wish... using anything from tissue paper and sequins to dried pasta and rice!
Then,  you could cook up a nice Chinese meal for tea - the children can get involved with the preparation and cooking (under supervision!) and try and eat with chopsticks!  Good luck!

A very cheap day today - using craft materials that you already have around the house keeps your costs down.

Another day outdoors planned, weather permitting!  The Nature Detectives website from the Woodland Trust is a site that I use a LOT during the warmer weather.  There are loads of printables, spotter sheets and craft ideas, arranged by season, so it's very easy to find something fun to do.  Locally to us, we have a lovely open space called "Wern Mynach" where we can explore nature to our heart's content!  Along with a picnic on the pirate ship, we can send all afternoon there!  We'll be taking the First Signs of Spring spotter sheet and the Texture Trail worksheet.
And if bad weather graces us once again, there are plenty of quiz sheets and colouring ideas on their website too!

Our local church, St. John's, runs a great event usually once every six weeks or so where the town's churches come together and run a "Messy Church" session.  It's not as messy as it sounds and although there's a religious theme to the event, it's not formal and is enjoyed by everyone.  They set out craft activities on tables around the church and there's usually a snack for the children (pancakes this week!) and a short address to the families who attend with a story for the children with a meaning behind it, giving them something to think about.  Here's a link to the Messy Church UK website, have a look around and explore the site - for those who "don't do church" you might surprise yourself!

Wednesday will be a walk to the park!  Our local park is of reasonable size and OK for the kids but sometimes it's worth the 20 minute drive to the next town where the park is fantastic!  With equipment suitable from toddlers right up to big kids (me included!) it's great fun but to fully appreciate it, you need a dry day where you can spend more time outdoors enjoying the space.  So if it's a quick visit in between rain clouds, we will stay local but if the forecast is looking good, we'll venture out of town and visit our neighbouring park. 

Hopefully, we will also take a walk around the town, following the well established Town Trail.  It's good to see somewhere you know well from a different point of view and it's always worth being a "tourist" in your own surroundings!  You often find things out you never even knew, even though you walk amongst them daily!

In Barmouth, we have a RAOB Buffs Club which is used for many community events and get-togethers.  The lady who runs the club is fantastic at getting things organized and involving different age groups in the community.  This week she is holding a Valentine's Disco for the children in the town.  Free entry, so anyone local get your glad rags on and have a dance!

Today's plan is a trip to the local library.  For a small town, we have a lovely library with a great selection of English, Welsh and bi-lingual books for children and adults alike.  My son tends to pick his book quickly and then enjoys playing with the Lego-style blocks they have in the children's corner while my daughter reads nearly the first chapter in each before deciding!  I wouldn't mind but we've got more Lego at home than you can shake a stick at but it's the old tale of someone else's toys are better than your own!

As a Welsh learner myself, the library is a great place to browse books to help with my language skills and the librarians are great as I can practice my Welsh in a real life situation with someone who won't laugh when I make a mistake!

There are also Story Sacks available at our library - these are a great tool as the accessories in each pack really bring the story to life.

Today, we're heading out for a day trip to the National Slate Museum at Llanberis.  From the 14th to 17th February, they have a Model Railway Show on for a great day out for train lovers!  The museum is free to visit and there's plenty to see and do.  As part of the Railway event, children can have free rides on the miniature steam engines and you can even bring your own 00 gauge trains and have a go on the track layouts yourself.
All National museums in Wales are free to visit and it's a great way of getting your children interested in the heritage of the country.  So bring a picnic and your day will be pretty cheap and fun-filled!  The hardest part will be keeping the children awake in the car on the way home so they will go to bed on time that evening!

Well, Sunday will be a day of rest!  A nice relaxed day with a walk along the prom and round the harbour and (if the sun shines...) a well-deserved ice cream!

What do you have planned for the half term break?  Or do you take it one day at a time?  Whatever you decide to do, I hope the weather treats you kindly and there's a smile a day!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Soy roast duck with hoisin gravy - Recommended recipe!

Soy roast duck with hoisin gravy - serves 6, ready in 30-40 minutes.

6 boneless duckling breasts, each about 175g/6oz
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 heaped tsp 5-spice powder
2 tbsp clear honey
2x 300g tubs fresh chicken stock
4 tbsp hoisin sauce
4 thin slices fresh ginger, no need to peel
dash of sesame oil


  1. Prick the duck's skin really well with a fork to help release the fat from the skin as it roasts.  Mix the soy, 5-spice and honey in a large bowl, add the duck and coat well.  Cover and place in the fridge until ready to roast.
  2. For the gravy, tip the stock into a pan, add the hoisin sauce and ginger and boil for a few minutes to make a smooth gravy.  Add the sesame oil and set aside.
Preheat the oven to fan 180C/Gas 6.  Pour 1 litre of water in the base of a roasting tin and place a rack over the top - this stops the fat from the duck dripping on to the tin, then burning and filling the kitchen with smoke.  Lift the duck from the marinade and arrange on rack, skin side up.  Roast for 20 minutes for medium and 30 minutes for well done.  Slice each breast in half.  Spoon some rice onto each plate; top with halved duck breasts.  Add any meat juices from the duck to the hoisin gravy and pour a spoonful or two over the duck.  Serve the remaining rice and gravy separately.

Per serving - 448 kcal, 29g protein, 9g carbohydrate, 33g fat, 9g saturated fat, 7g added sugar, fibre none, 3.22g salt.

Source - BBC Good Food magazine.