Our Wedding Anniversary - Big Night In

Yes indeed, staying in is the new going out!  
These days, everything seems to be getting more and more expensive and whilst it is nice to go out, it can also be just as good to stay in.  With no taxis to pay for, no tips and no need to get all dressed up, you can totally relax and have a great time.

Having been set a challenge by MoneySupermarket to have a Big Night In for £50 since our wedding anniversary is in a few days time, I decided to cook up a right nice semi-posh Dinner Party for Two.


The Starter;
I kept everything simple, Baked Fig and Goat's Cheese with Parma ham, a few leaves and balsamic glaze.
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Boursin Black Pepper Cheese Portions

Boursin have now launched Black Pepper flavour portions to their delicious range of cheeses alongside Garlic and Herb portions.
Sold in boxes of six individually wrapped cheeses which is great for portion control and to keep them nice and fresh.
 

I'm already a huge fan of Boursin and I love the lightly cracked peppercorn flavour which goes so well with the rich and creamy cheese.  A quick word of warning - they are very moreish!  Simply spread on a cracker or two and I'm happy, but then again the garlic & herb portions are in my opinion far too nice!
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Szechuan Stir-fry with Jasmine Rice - Jamie Oliver

As with all stir-fry recipes this is really easy to make and served over Jasmine rice as Jamie does is oh so very tasty indeed.  Despite the use of dried chillies and Szechuan peppercorns, I'd say it isn't really very spicy and next time I'll be adding more Szechuan peppercorns!

Szechuan Stir-fry with Jasmine Rice

Give this a try and I'm sure you will love it as much as we did.

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Noodlemania - Easy and Fun Pasta Recipes for Kids

For any parent with kids that are fussy eaters, I imagine actually getting them to eat can be a nightmare.
Since pasta seems to be loved by most kids and comes in a humongous range of shapes and sizes, with the help of 'Noodlemania' those nightmare feeding times could be over. 


 This book contains fifty fun looking recipes that kids will love to help make and more importantly, eat!
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Spicy Stuffed and Roasted Butternut Squash

This is so easy there really isn't any need for a recipe.  Sweet soft butternut with a nice spicy heat from the harissa paste - that alone is delicious, but add tomatoes and the salty tang of feta and you're in for a treat. 
  

 If you're cooking this for vegetarian's just make sure the feta is suitable.  The brand 'Yamas' is vegetarian.
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Favourite British Pie - Lemon Meringue

These days it's so easy to go out and buy a ready-made dessert from a supermarket or shop but easier still not to bother having one at all. Even though there's something quite satisfying about making a nice dessert for everyone to ooh and aah over, I wonder why most of us still don't bother.

Is it because most people think like me and that it would be too complicated?  Well it isn't, I'd never made a lemon meringue pie before in my life.  Fear not and trust me, it's a doddle - if I can do it anyone can!
  

I was set a challenge by Most Wanted, the lifestyle magazine for their 'Making Summer Taste Better' series asking if I could make a dessert that was fairly easy, not over complicated and perfect for alfresco dining but costing no more than £7.00

So in an attempt to inspire everyone to have a go and make your own desserts instead of buying ready-made, here I go with lemon meringue pie.

By the way this pie serves 8 to 10 people and actually cost less than the challenge set and cost just £5.99 to make which is fantastic.  You can find the ingredient price list at the end of this post. 

Time for a small confession; I've been writing this blog for over five years and have never made meringue before until now and it has to be said I'm quite proud of my meringue!

My top tip for success when baking or cooking in general:
Get everything ready before you begin.  Have a quick read of your chosen recipe prepare your ingredients.  For example in this recipe, zest your lemons, separate your egg yolks from the whites, get the pastry out of the fridge.

Yes I know I used ready-made pastry, but one step at a time here please, I've only just got to mastering meringue never mind making pastry.

Also, have you got the right equipment at the ready, saucepans baking tin?  Have a quick check and your good to go!

Print Recipe


 For the filling you will need:

grated zest and juice of 4 large lemons
90g cornflour
600ml cold water
4 large egg yolks
175g caster sugar


For the meringue you will need:

5 large egg whites
250g  caster sugar
 
For the pastry base you will need:
1 x 500g ready-made shortcrust pastry 


How to do it:

While your getting everything ready, remove the pastry from the fridge as it's better if it's at room temperature.
On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough and line your loose-bottomed flan tin (mine was 24cm).  Prick the pastry base all over with a fork and line with a piece of greaseproof paper, allowing it to come above the rim so it can be easily lifted out after baking.  Fill the shell with ceramic baking beans, or uncooked rice, and bake in a preheated oven at 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6 for 10 minutes.

Remove the baking beans and foil and bake the pastry shell for 5 minutes or until the base has dried out, then remove from the oven.
If the pastry has risen during baking, gently press it down with your hand.


Reduce the temperature to 150C/130C Fan/Gas 2 and get on with the filling:

Mix the lemon zest and juice with the cornflour. Bring the water to a boil, then stir into the lemon mixture. Return to the pan and bring back to a boil, stirring, until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat.
Leave to cool slightly, then stir in the egg yolks mixed with the sugar. Return to a low heat and cook, stirring, until just simmering. Leave to cool a bit before pouring into the pastry shell.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff then whisk in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time on maximum speed.
 

Pile on top of the filling and spread over - don't fuss too much, I didn't and mine turned out okay.



Bake for 45 minutes or until crisp and brown on top.  Leave to cool a bit before attempting to remove from the tin.  Recipe adapted from Mary Berry's Complete Cookbook


Ingredients purchased from a well known top UK supermarket cost:

Pastry £1.25
Kitty Campbell's Free range very large eggs £2.00
Cornflour 75p
4 lemons £1.00 on offer 4 for the price of 3
Caster sugar 99p - and of course you wont need to use the whole box

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Chicken Skewers with Chilli Butter

Basting with butter during cooking keeps the chicken lovely and juicy.
These skewers or kebabs are so easy to make and can be ready to eat in next to no time.  Either on the BBQ or using a grill-pan, you can still create that. lovely char-grilled look.


If you want to make these in advance, just drizzle them with a little olive oil or better still the chilli butter baste, cover with cling film and pop them into the fridge.  Remove them about 20 minutes before cooking.
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High Speed Training Courses - Review

Do you know that if you decide to sell food items from your home, or you want to sell food at a pop up event, you would be required to have a Food Hygiene Certificate?  For anyone that regularly works with food it’s a useful qualification to have anyway.  Or maybe you just want to make sure you are safeguarding the health of your family.
    
Screen shot of the Food Hygiene and Safety Course taken from High Speed Training website: 
High Speed Training Courses

Having been given the opportunity to take a couple of courses from 
High Speed Training, this is how I got on: 

It has to be said, High Speed Training is in my opinion brilliant!

I've recently completed and passed two courses; Level 2 Food Hygiene and Safety and Nutrition and Healthy Eating. 
I would never consider going out to a class to get these certificates as I simply don't have time.  I didn't find the courses boring at all, in fact both the courses were really interesting.  The nutrition one is quite long and I was worried I wouldn't pass as it's quite in depth, but no worries, I passed!

Are the courses easy to understand? 
Yes they are very easy to understand.  There's a list of the different course activities which you simply complete in order.  Each slide is read out to you in a nice clear voice and you press 'next' to continue in your own time without feeling rushed to take it all in.
You can stop the course at any point, anytime you fancy, go and get yourself a cuppa, then go back to it later on whenever it suits you - it remembers where you're up to. 
  Once you're done, it's time to take the quiz which tells you whether or not you've passed.  Your certificate is then posted out to you the next working day, but you can print a temporary certificate in the meantime if you wish.  
  
All in all:
High Speed Training is the ideal way to gain certificates in a wide range of subjects from Hygiene and Safety through to Financial Services and Business Skills.  Each course is reasonably priced and they are CPD certified and meet UK/EU requirements.

 More about Level 2 Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering:
This course is aimed at food handlers working in catering or hospitality including hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, fast food outlets, takeaways, cafes, kitchens, hospitals, schools and colleges.

The course gives learners a basic awareness of good hygiene and safety issues and meets food industry regulations, with reference to employees preparing, cooking and handling food in catering settings.

More about Nutrition and Healthy Eating:
With so many people eating the wrong kind of foods, the Nutrition and Healthy Eating course is a great way to ensure you understand how to eat properly and maintain a healthy diet for all age ranges from infants to the elderly.

This course gives an overview of each of the essential components in a healthy diet and explains the different requirements of special diets, including the special diets of children, vegetarians and people in care homes

 Many thanks to Ryan at High Speed Training for making these two courses available for me to review.

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Organic Herbal Products - Relax Massage Oil from Pukka

We all know it's important to eat well but healthily too and for general well-being it is also good to relax.  With today's busy lifestyle it's easy to grab quick (and often unhealthy food) and never even seem to have time to eat properly.  

Some people even find themselves eating on the move too which isn't ideal at all.  To avoid aging, it's important to take time out to actually slow down and relax.


Relax:
Everyone should seriously try to find some time to actually relax properly.  Looking after your skin is important and a nice massage not only makes you feel good as it relieves stress but also nourishes the skin and makes it radiant.
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Potato and Chorizo Omelette - Jamie Oliver Recipe

Jamie's omelette is, as he says a cross between a Spanish tortilla and an Italian frittata. 
It's Spanish because of the chorizo and potato, but a little Italian too because he likes to finish it off in the oven instead of on the hob, so it puffs up like a soufflé.

Potato and Chorizo Omelette

This is my slightly altered version, Jamie puts rosemary in his which he fries in the chorizo oil till crisp, other than that it's pretty much the same recipe.

If you make it be sure to make the kind of parsley salad which is sprinkled over the top before serving as it's really lovely.
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Shopping Trolleys Get Fashionable

Yes indeed, shopping are the way to go!  Yes indeed; just recently I've seen more and more younger people using them and that's because they're getting far more trendy and up to date than the kind my nan used, bless her.  

The Mail online published a recent article with the following headline;  Granny chic is back! Shopping trolleys are the hot new must-have for glam girls on the go 'more Fearne Cotton than Dot Cotton'

shopping trolley

Fantastic news for anyone that doesn't drive:
If you don't drive or just want to pop to the shops on the way home from walking the kids to school then this fashionable shopping trolley from Sabichi's new Lemongrass collection is the very thing you need.
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Dishwashers - More Hygienic than Washing up by Hand

Most people would agree that washing the dishes is nothing but a chore!  However, there are still an awful lot of homes without a dishwasher. 


What’s more Economical – The Dishwasher or Washing by Hand?
I must point out that I haven’t always had a dishwasher; I used to think that with just the two of us, there was little and no point in buying one.  However, after discovering Homebase dishwasher range, there’s no going back.  I’ve since realised you don’t have to have a huge family to justify having one.  All we do is start loading it in the morning and then keep adding to it throughout the day.  At the end of our evening meal we set it to start and when we get up in the morning the dishes are washed and dried without effort. 
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Moroccan Style Butternut with Spiced Tomatoes and Feta

Soft sweet butternut with harissa spiced tomato sauce along with tangy feta and crunchy pumpkin seeds.  Oh yes, this is good food.
In my opinion Marks and Spencer are simply the best for their fantastic and top quality range of food.
After spying this dish from their recent 'Dine in for Two' menu, I had to have a go at making it.


I made the sauce from tinned cherry tomatoes and added rose harissa, oregano and a splash of sherry vinegar along with a couple of other bits and bobs.  Of course you can find the recipe if you continue reading.
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