Tuesday 29 November 2011

Blog prompt - All I want for Christmas

This weeks blog prompt over at Brit mums is All I want for Christmas - well for me that is easy. For the day not to exist, to have it wiped from my personal calendar for good.

That might sound a bit drastic, but to be honest with you I (no matter how hard I try) can not feel jolly, or full of the Christmas spirit of any other expression you can think of. I would much rather it was treated as just a normal day, and not to be made to feel strange or wrong because that's the way I feel. Surely I have as much right not to want it to exist as the rest of you to be excited and hyped up about it? I am working Christmas day again this year, and happy to be doing so, I will go in and act jolly and join in with the festivities because Im expected to but not because I want to.

Whether this goes back to my childhood where being honest with you I cannot remember a happy Christmas day, I do remember getting excited because Santa was coming and my sister and I use to open our stockings which were left at the bottom of our beds at silly o'clock and then go back to sleep till it was up time. But that's as far as it goes.

I do remember only getting Christmas presents every 2nd year as my birthday was too near Christmas and my parents couldn't afford both birthday and Christmas presents for me, so 1 year I got for my birthday the next I got for Christmas ( apart from my stocking). Every body else got both so why should I have been singled out? Its not as though I got more for my present than the rest got so why the difference? I guess I will never know. I am not materialistic, never have been never will be, but to have been fairly treated would have been nice.

I do remember going back to school after the holidays and we were always asked to write a piece on "What I got for Christmas" - well with the lies I told my parents must have been rolling in it.  Having been a parent that has been hard up I do appreciate how difficult it can be but come on  - you don't buy for 3 and leave the 4th out do you?

When my own children were young I made huge efforts to give them nice Christmases and I fought against ever mental block I had to give them a good time. Christmas when mine was young was made a real family time with real family traditions ( that I started and the kids/grandkids are more than happy to carry on). We like a lot had little money, but Christmas isn't about money it is about family, fun, love and warmth.

We made mince pies on Christmas Eve, with each child doing a piece of the work, rolling the pastry, cutting shapes, popping in the filling, and so on till the pies were done. We left Santa a pie out, and he loved them as much as we did (well they were gone the next morning). We sat - well danced and sang to Disneys' sing-along-a Christmas songs and once it finished that meant bed time. We sat in a wendy house and ate rolls and bacon on Christmas morning, played games and sat snuggled up together watching films.

My children loved these times and the 2 eldest are in their 30's now and still talk fondly of the great Christmas days they had and the fun they remember - so I guess I must have done plenty right. So much so daughter No2 is arranging to come here for 48 hrs over Christmas, and yes I am happy to have her as I love all my kids to bits and I am honoured they still want to spend time with me as I certainly did not my parents.

Granddaughter will be along to make mince pies before Christmas and no doubt daughter No2  and hubby will eat rolls and bacon when I am at work Christmas morning and I will come home to a nice cooked Christmas meal and we will all watch a nice Christmas film together, but Christmas past will always haunt me. Sorry Folks but that's the way it is

Review on Bobs Gingerbread Man outfit

he just loved this
Back in October I was lucky enough to win a Halloween costume for Bob and did a blog post on what we thought of it.
So Neal at Fancy Dress outfitters offered to send out a Christmas costume for Bob. Now his mum and I liked the Reindeer costume,  the Robin costume, or the snowman costume but Bob preferred the Gingerbread man costume. 
I was very impressed with this 3 piece costume, it was well designed, well made and well finished. The seams are all well finished and the white decoration is well inserted into the seams. The sleeves have fold back  gloves attached, which makes it easy for the child to use their hands if need be, but cannot loose as they may with separate gloves. The hat has an easy Velcro fastening so a child can get this on and off easily for themselves.

We ordered the 4-6 yr old, and there is a wee bit growth in it for him yet, but it is not too big as to drown him. Look at the size of the grin on his face. We had the video camera set up for something else, well this post here to be exact ,so his mummy just taped this bit whilst she had the camera in her hands anyway  as you will see from the table behind him).

This costume was given to me free of charge for the purposes of this review, but my findings are an honest reflection of my findings

I got to be a Morrisons taste tester

I was really quite pleased to receive an e-mail from Morrisons taste testers to say I had been fortunate enough to be picked to one of these months testers.

This in simple terms really entails getting some food sent out, eating the food and telling Morrisons what you thought of them.

Now I had applied for this this month as it was looking for people having parties and as the 28th Nov is both my birthday and our wedding anniversary and they were supplying party food, so better excuse to try and get picked?

the gift sets

    I was informed that I would get a box of various bits
      and  pieces which included
       Christmas decorations
                            Christmas gifts (him / her / kids)
                          Christmas card pack
                          Morrisons the Best South African Sauvignon Blanc
                          Morrisons Cava Rose
                             Christmas Pudding Cake
                         Morrisons the Best Chocolate Cluster Cake and 
                a video camera
               £40 Morrisons vouchers
the cakes and vouchers

 The form that I need to fill in is very simple, a few boxes to tick and pop in a comment and 4 predefined foods that they picked. I need the video camera to take a some video footage of the gathering and upload them on the comment form. So how difficult can it be?

 So tonight the 3 daughters, along with the grandchildren,came over and the testing began.

The foods we had to test were Morrisons the best beef kofta kebabs  we thought these were tasteless and uninspiring.
Morrisons the best hot salmon blinis these were very tasty and the salmon was nice, but the blinin bit was soggy. We were not sure where the hot bit came is a s they were served cold.
Morrisons mini cheese burgers in a bun, we felt these had too much cheese on for the amount of burger and bun.  Mini cheese and basil pizzas were liked by all but one of us and had a good amount of topping for base.
Chicken yakitori- you could not tell these were chicken, and they were fairly tasteless. We thought the sticks were to long and they tickled you throat trying to eat the eat.

We also had a chocolate cluster cake which was very rich and heavy. It was a rich fruit cake with ample chocolate chips in and a very heavy choc chip, chocolate covered nuts topping. We found this cake very rich and heavy and a small piece was sufficient.We also sampled 2 bottles of wine, 1 white which was light and drinkable  and it complemented the blinins nicely. The rose wine has just the right amount of sparkle with a very pleasant after taste.

These foods were provided to me for free, but this post is an honest reflection of our findings. This post was not a necessary part of the foods but I decided to share my findings with you.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Provamel launch ‘Botanical’ yoghurt range

I was approached by a PR company on behalf of Provamel to see if I was interested in trying out their new product and telling you all about my findings.

The press release that was sent with the products is telling us about the new botanical yoghurt. I admit I have not tried them but then I have the capabilities to make my own milk , and then I make my own yoghurt .

Yogurt fanatics will be excited by the launch of Provamel’s new ‘botanical’ range; a radical fusion of natural herbal remedies muddled with delicious fruits, which not only taste great, but are the first of their kind thanks to the unique combination of ingredients.

Hitting the shelves just in time to ramp-up summer-wellbeing, there are two new dairy-free yogurts in the ‘botanical’ range, including: Apple Green Tea (500g) and Lime Lemon Balm (500g).

High in antioxidants, green tea is widely known for its ability to boost metabolism, whilst lemon balm has long been recognised as a great reliever of tension.

Low in fat and rich in plant protein, these botanical-based soya yogurts are packed with aromatic herbs with health benefits all of their own, combined with a mouth-watering flavour brought to life by ripe apples and zesty limes.

The new ‘Botanical’ range will be available at Holland and Barrett and all major health food stores, with an RRP of £1.55.
The additions complement the existing range of soya products in the Provamel range, which includes soya milks, soya shakes, chocolate and vanilla desserts, cream and custards.

 So they sent me out everything I needed to make 2 different recipes. 

First up is a delicious Pavola

Serves: 6


350g Provamel Apple and Green Tea Yogurt
4 egg whites
150g caster sugar
140g light brown muscovado sugar (90g for the pavlova and 50g for caramelising fruit)
the cooked meringue, has cracked a bit
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp corn flour
4 plums
1 pear, sliced                            
120g blackberries
30g toasted hazelnuts, chopped
60g soya margarine


Pre-heat over to 120 ºC/250 ºF/Gas Mark ½
the finished product
  • Using a large, clean mixing bowl and an electric hand whisk; whisk the egg whites until forming soft peaks. Turn the whisk up to top speed and gradually add in the sugars, a tablespoon at a time, until all incorporated. Gently fold in the corn flour and white wine vinegar.
  • Spoon the mixture on to a flat baking tray lined with baking parchment, making a circular shape about 25 cm across.
  • Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hrs. Turn the oven off but leave the meringue in for at least 2 hrs or overnight with the door shut - this allows the meringue to dry out properly.
  • Cut the plums in half and remove the stones. Place on a baking tray along with the sliced pear, and sprinkle with the remaining 40g muscovado sugar and dot with the soya margarine before placing under a hot grill for 5-10 mins until sticky and soft.
  • Top the pavlova base with the Provamel Apple and Green Tea Yogurt and top with the plums, pears, blackberries and toasted hazelnuts. 
I made it in a loose bottom tin as I didnt have any parchment. The result gave a pleasant but very chewy meringue in the middle (will do an egg free one for the grandson when I have room in the fridge). I added extra fruit (cos Im sure in a previous life I was a fruit bat) and omitted the nuts as nuts make my mouth itchy. Altogether a very pleasant pudding that would make a light alternative after a heavy main course ( Christmas Day maybe)

And the other recipe was for
Provamel Apple and Green Tea Yogurt Loaf with Dates and Cranberries
Your browser may not support display of this image. Preparation Time: 2 hrs (including rising time)
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Makes: 1 loaf

mixed ready to rise

500g wholemeal spelt flour
7g powdered dried yeast
1 tsp salt
30g dried cranberries
100g chopped dried dates
30g flaxseed
150ml Provamel Apple and Green Tea Yogurt
175ml warm water


Pre-heat oven to 220 ºC/425 ºF/Gas Mark 7
well risen and brown
cooked and sliced
  • Add the flour, yeast, cranberries, dates, salt and flaxseeds to a large bowl and stir to combine.
  • Mix together the yogurt and warm water and pour into the flour mixture. Bring together to form a dough and then knead on a floured surface for 10 mins.
  • Add to a greased 2lb loaf tin and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place for up to 1½ hrs or until it has doubled in size.
  • Place in a pre-heated oven and bake for 30 mins.
Now I must admit I have never cooked with spelt flour before, it is not gluten free, and I have only dug my bread maker back out the loft to experiment with stuff for Bob. I als would not have thought to put bread in flour, though experiments I have done with yoghurt in cakes and pancakes has given good results.  I made the dough in the machine and cooked it in the oven. I was surprised at how well it rose, well above tin level, and gave a fairly light resulting bread with a good texture and a very pleasant wholemeal flavour.

This is a review post with the food being provided to me,but is an honest reflection of my findings.

Alpro Soya custard and cream

I was approached a while ago by Alpro Soya to see if I wanted some of their cream and custard sent out to try cooking various products with, and as they fit in nicely with the needs of my grandson then I was very happy to give it a go. We use the cream regularly as I quite like it poured over cakes or pies, and I use it in my ice cream recipes.

they say
 Alpro's cream and custard contain much less saturated fat than their dairy
counterparts as well as being rich and creamy in taste with a silky smooth
texture. Whether it be trifle, Christmas pud or chocolate log they can all
be made lighter!

Alpro cream alternative has around 45% less saturated fat than standard
single cream yet can be used in all of the same ways, so you can still
indulge over the holidays.

They sent me various recipes, using the custard in trifle, my lot dont like cold custard, a fish and leek pie but I dont like white sauce (we are very fussy in this house...lol), but they did send me one that sounded yummy -

Christmas Truffles


the mixture after it had been refrigerated

The finished product

I rolled them in cocoa powder, and very nice they are too. These were very pleasant and they will be great for a Christmas treat.

This was a review post with products being supplied by Alpro, but the findings remain my own.