Optimum VAC2 Air Vacuum Blender from Froothie - Review

The Optimum VAC2 Air Vacuum Power blender from Froothie is not 'just another high powered blender' it's a heavy duty blender that has the option to be used with or without vacuum. Just look at this gorgeous machine; I say it definitely looks the part, but not only that it makes life so much easier in the kitchen.

It's also available in Black or Red but I'm loving Silver. I have to say it's built well, and so it should be for the price, but you can tell this is fantastic quality as is my previous Optimum 9400 Next Generation Blender. There's certainly nothing flimsy or cheap looking about any of the power blenders from Froothie.

Optimum VAC2 Air Vacuum Blender

Why would you need a Vacuum Blender?
When used with the vacuum option the air is taken out of ingredients such as fruit placed in the blending jug. By removing the air smoothies etc will stay colourful and won't separate as they usually would. The vacuum technology eliminates the oxidation process by drawing out the air which can lead to the destruction of nutrients in food; this is what causes smoothies etc to separate in a very short time if not consumed straight away. 

How to make Marzipan

Well who'd have thought me of all people, has actually managed to made a Christmas cake. Now for the cake itself I used a recipe off the net which worked and I had a rich dark, moist fruit cake.

As I understand it it's important to 'feed' the cake every few days by making small holes in with a cocktail stick and adding brandy. Well due to one thing or another happening round here I didn't get round to icing it for a good few weeks so for fear of it drying out my cake was fed possibly a little too much; yep a lot of brandy went into this cake 😊 I think if I had a shop I'd need an alcohol licence to sell a slice!

Christmas Cake

So anyway the cake was made and with thanks to the lovely people over at Dr. Oetker the icing was taken care of by way of a ready to roll pack. Well I got so into this cake making lark I even bought me a fondant icing smoother which is necessary for a lovely smooth finish - see I know all the techie bits lol πŸ˜‰ A cake smoother not only give a nice smooth finish but it ensures the marzipan and icing are nicely sealed with no airspace in between; you may remember I had lessons at the Langham Hotel in London with Cherish Finden no less so I know these things!

Bear in Mind your Star Sign when Deciding what to Eat

There are many aspects of life that can be explored using our zodiac signs; the most obvious of which is when you’re thinking about your love life and who you might be most compatible with. Then, of course, we can use astrology when considering a career change, as certain character traits – and suitability for certain roles - seem to follow with whichever star sign we are.

Astrology

"astrology" (Public Domain) by claudiadea131

But did you know that there are certain foods that are supposed to suit certain zodiac signs better than others? Maybe you take astrology seriously and have regular astrology readings like those available at TheCircle or perhaps you just tend to glance at your horoscope in the paper and see if anything chimes with how you’re feeling at that moment. Either way, it makes sense that if our star sign affects our character and love life, it might also be relevant to what foods work for us.

Stilton and Pecan - Bread Recipe

Well amazingly for me, I'm still into baking; I seem to have got the bug since the Kenwood Chef Elite arrived. Of course the Kenwood Chef does far more than mix, knead and whisk - so far I've made Banana Bread and a Berry and Chocolate Meringue Wreath. I've also made a birthday cake and a Christmas cake for which I made my own marzipan - check me out. Baker Jan lol

Stilton and Pecan Twist

I'm loving Paul Hollywood book 'How to Bake' and had a go at his Stilton and Pecan Twist. I have slightly altered it though - just don't tell him πŸ˜†I decided it would be even better with a mix of white and wholemeal flour.

I must say I know very little about baking but when I read the water had to be cold I thought it was a bit odd. But if you take time to read the beginning of the book (page 13) as I did, there's a very interesting bit about water temperature.

Berry and Chocolate Meringue Wreath

Okay so after my Banana Bread made with the help of my Kenwood Chef, I've since got all tricky and made this Meringue Wreath. Now I understand that for most this probably isn't tricky at all but I don't do baking; simply because I'm no good at it. However, since the Kenwood Chef Elite arrived it's made such a difference as I not only love using it but it makes life so much easier.

Berry and Chocolate Meringue Christmas Wreath

I really couldn't have been bothered with all the whisking needed to produce meringue (too much like hard work and I am lazy) but now I can just put the egg whites in and let it get on before adding the sugar a little at a time and let the Kenwood Chef Elite KVC5100S do all the hard work.

How to Help People in Need this Christmas

For most of us Christmas Turkey dinner is something we look forward to and Christmas is a lovely time to spend with friends and families and eat, drink and be merry as they say.

But unfortunately for a lot of people they simply have very little money and just can't afford to eat properly all year never mind afford a full on Christmas dinner. Then there elderly people that maybe living on their own and don't have any family to help them or perhaps they simply aren't well enough to cook for themselves. Sadly there are also many homeless people having to live on the streets. Thankfully myself and most people reading this won't ever know what that's like; it must be unbearable. But here's how we can all help.

Tesco Christmas Turkey

This year Tesco have pledged to donate £1 for every fresh turkey sold, either instore or online, to help people in need this Christmas. Money raised through the purchasing of turkeys at Tesco will be shared between Tesco’s food charity partners FareShare and The Trussell Trust to help people in need over the festive period.

The initiative builds on the continued support offered by the retailer to local communities through its annual Food Collection (now in it's 10th year), and its food surplus redistribution scheme, Community Food Connection.

Last year, Tesco became the first retailer to pledge that no food that is safe for human consumption will go to waste from its UK operations, and since 2012, Tesco customers and colleagues have donated the equivalent of over 60 million meals to people in need which I think is absolutely fantastic - Go Tesco!

Tesco Charity Partners

How can we all help?
  • By ordering your turkey from Tesco's Christmas turkeys and Tesco will donate £1 to their food charity partners for every fresh turkey sold.
  • By simply arranging to cook one extra Christmas dinner for a neighbour in need.
  • Donating to a food bank - you can find your local food bank here.
  • Many town centres are places that homeless people tend to go to to try and get some money; so how about taking a thick pair of socks to give to them. I'm sure they'll appreciate it with the weather getting so cold and apparently socks are one of the least donated items.  
  • Buy a hot pasty or sausage roll and give it to a person you see is clearly living on the streets. 

You can find Tesco on Twitter @Tesco #EveryonesWelcome

For more information on FareShare and The Trussell Trust click on the links to take you to their sites.


Disclosure:  I received a Tesco gift card to cover my time writing this post and promoting Tesco's campaign on social media. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

New York Skyscraper Burger

New York; the city that never sleeps. I've been to New York a good few times, although not recently, this was a while back in the 90's. It's an amazing place, there's so much to see and do there.

If you've never been I really recommend it and one things for sure you'll be amazed at the skyscrapers; yes obviously they're tall, but they are also interesting as each one is different. I love the Art-Deco style of the Chrysler building, Empire State and the Rockefeller. I've never seen the One World Trade Center which opened in 2014 as the last time I went to New York it was at the end of August 2001.

New York Skyscraper Burger

Having been asked to come up with a BBQ or grill recipe inspired by Thomas Cook Airlines for their 'Where is Hot in' page, I chose New York as I truly love that place and really must go back soon. New York is at it's hottest in June, July and August and with an average flight time from the UK of 7 hours 20 minutes it's not too long to travel to.

Aside from the famous buildings I've already mentioned (and of course there's many more) with Times Square, The MET and of course the Statue of Liberty there's a lot to see and do. From music festivals to outdoor movie screenings in Central Park, the summer months are a great time to experience the huge, diverse personality of this metropolis.

As for the food, oh my goodness there are so many places to eat in New York! Everything from fast food to really fancy restaurants and if you do go don't forget to visit a New York Deli; amazing places full of all things yummy πŸ˜‹ 

Kenwood Chef Elite KVC5100S - Banana Bread Recipe

As you all know by now I do love a good kitchen gadget, so when Kenwood asked if I'd like the Kenwood Chef Elite to review of course the answer was 'Oooh yes please'!

Now I'm not really into baking but of course the Kenwood Chef Elite can be used for so much more than making cakes and bread. But with that said, since this amazing piece of kit arrived I've become all converted and have made a Christmas cake, a Chocolate cake and two lots of Brownies. I'm feeling quite pleased with myself; in fact I'm becoming quite a little baker! 😊

Banana Bread and the Kenwood Chef Elite

There's no doubt about it the Kenwood Chef KVC5100S is a powerful 1200w, variable speed mixer which comes with a beater, whisk and dough hook and it certainly make makes a lot of things so much easier.

Pear Chocolate Cocoa and Coconut Superflake Crumble

Everyone loves a good crumble but if you haven't tried my Pear, Chocolate, Cocoa and Coconut Superflake Crumble you're missing out! πŸ˜‹ Pears are just coming into season now and are one of the least allergenic of all fruits and so can be enjoyed but most people and they're so versatile too; perfect in a crumble and they go so well with chocolate.

I was recently asked to make a recipe using Cocoa and Coconut Superflakes by Nature's Path. To be honest until then I hadn't tried Superflakes before but I say they make the perfect easy and healthy breakfast and are also healthy and nice and filling too.

Pear Chocolate Cocoa and Coconut Superflake Crumble

Superflakes are made using sorghum flour, black bean flour and brown rice flour which are all made from nutrient-rich sprouted grains. Coated in a little honey and Fairtrade cocoa Superflakes are not only nice and crunchy but are also Gluten free and Organic as are the rest of Nature's Path products.

Stokes Real Mayonnaise - Win a Foodie Trip to Greece for Two

I'll be honest I'd never tried Stokes Real Mayonnaise until the other day when I was sent some to try. In the past I've had a go at making my own mayonnaise but it didn't turn out too good and I've never bothered again.

Although the ingredients of mayonnaise are simple; just a beaten egg, add a small amount of Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt and then there's the oil. The oil has to be very slowly added whilst constantly stirring to avoid it splitting and that's where I went wrong I just don't have patience! If I want mayonnaise I want it like now, so I just buy a jar and be done with the hassle πŸ˜‰

Stokes Real Mayonnaise

Up until now I always used to buy the same top brand of Real Mayonnaise and didn't think I'd ever be convinced to change but since trying Stokes Real Mayonnaise it has to be said we (me and the husband) both think it is by far the best.

So What Makes Stokes Mayonnaise Taste So Good?
Starting with the eggs, Stokes found a producer farming high Welfare Standard British Free Range hens whose eggs are perfect and can be delivered to meet their strict regime of hygiene and quality. Stokes use the whole egg in their real mayonnaise as the white contains so many essential nutrients and trace elements they decided to use it.

*Read More* for details of the Stokes Real Mayonnaise competition and how to enter!

Pizza Express Christmas Menu - Review

Have you seen the new Christmas Menu from Pizza Express? I have! πŸ˜‹ On Friday night we were invited along to our nearest Pizza Express which for us is in Southwater Shopping Centre, Telford. First of all I must say what a lovely bunch of staff they have in that place, they're all very helpful, smiley happy people.

By the way by 'we' I mean me and Paul (the husband), anyway on with the menu. As far as the actual Christmas menu goes there isn't a massive amount to choose from which is sometimes a good thing since I would tend to spend half the evening wondering what to have as I'm quite greedy and always end up wanting what the person next to me chose!

Hot Chocolate Orange

Anyway it was all rather lovely I must say. To start, we both had Roasted Tomato, Roasted Red Pepper and Mascarpone Soup. The only other choice (on the Christmas menu) was Chicken Liver PΓ’tΓ© which we're both not fans of. Of course there are plenty of other yummy starters on the usual menu. The soup was actually really very moreish, tasty, and piping hot. The addition of mascarpone makes it the soup lovely and creamy. It's topped with croutons, pesto and fresh basil and I want this soup again!

Telford town center has the German Christmas market on at the moment and before going into Pizza Express we'd just had a walk around that and let me tell you it was freezing cold outside so a hot bowl of soup went down well. We also had Garlic and Mozzarella Bread - told you I was greedy 😊

Bento Box and All Purpose Seasoning from Nifty Kitchen

I was asked by the lovely people over at Nifty Kitchen if I'd like to review their Bento Box and their range of all purpose seasonings and BBQ rubs.

Nifty Kitchen Bento Box
Now I'm using the image from Nifty Kitchen website for this as it show the Bento Box in a way I can't possibly manage!


Bento Box from Nifty Kitchen
I absolutely love this Bento Box! It has 2 compartments and is a great size 20cm x 10cm x 10cm and has a total of 1 litre capacity. It's convenient to take a tasty lunch to work or the gym and of course perfect for kids to take a healthy lunch to school. It's made from the high quality, 100% food safe & BPA free materials.

Each compartment has a clip on lid so there are no leaks. The leakproof seal ensures dressings, sauces and liquids stay safely inside. It's great that the box includes proper stainless steel cutlery (fork and spoon).

Review - Coffee Gator French Press Keeps Coffee Hotter for Longer

Oh now, this French Press from Coffee Gator is quite marvelous - Why? Well, not only does it look good but the main thing is it really does keep coffee hotter for longer than the usual glass jug of a French Press.

If tea is your thing (as it is with me) you can also use it for tea. The manufactures say this French Press keeps coffee piping hot for up to 32 minutes longer so I tested it πŸ˜‰ and I can confirm that this is pretty much true.

Tried and Tested:
I filled a regular Glass Jar type French press (from a big top brand name) with just off boiling water and at the same time I filled the Stainless Steel Coffee Gator French press.


Stainless Steel French Press



To keep it fair both were filled to the max and both left for 30 minutes and then I checked the temperature with my Thermapen here's what it read:
Coffee Gator Stainless Steel French Press 77.7°C Pretty impressive ah?
Regular Glass French Press 59.6°C

So I say it's true; the Coffee Gator really does keep coffee hotter for longer!

45 minutes later: 
Coffee Gator Stainless Steel French Press 74.5°C
Regular Glass French Press 53.0°C

Blue Coffee Box Subscription Club - Review and Reader Discount

Blue Coffee Box is a UK subscription club for speciality coffee lovers. Each month, they send a letterbox-friendly blue (unsurprisingly) box containing three bags of freshly roasted coffee with tasting notes and information of the origin and farm where it is produced.

Three new roasters are introduced every month from the top of the UK’s 300 or so craft roasters to hand-roast the beans. These are fresh roasted every week and members can select how they are prepared; whole beans or ground for cafetiere, dripper or espresso.

Blue Coffee Box Club Contents

I love that the boxes are letterbox-friendly meaning you don't have to be home to receive your box.

I'm not a coffee drinker but Paul (the husband) tells me this is really good coffee. He says the coffee tastes fresh and that's because it is; all Blue Coffee Box coffees are freshly roasted each week. I also think the price isn't too bad at all when you consider how expensive big brands of roasted coffee is in the supermarket and let's face it they are probably roasted and packages weeks if not months ago!

Membership:
Costs £17.99 per month (or less for 3, 6 or 12-month advanced payment). Members can cancel, pause, skip or upgrade any time.

Discount coupon:
The lovely people over at Blue Coffee Box have set up a discount for readers of this blog 😊

Just enter AG912 at checkout and that will give you £9 off your first box making it only £8.99
The code can also be applied to gift boxes or the longer subscriptions, too.

For more information and to order pop over to Blue Coffee Box.
Twitter @bluecoffeebox 

Disclosure: I was sent a Blue Coffee Box to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not required to write anything positive.

Truffle Risotto Recipe and Le Petit Ballon Wine Club Review

Le Petit Ballon is an online wine club that delivers two bottles of wine straight to your door every month. The wine arrives perfectly packaged so the wine is well protected and ensures it reaches you without any breakages.

Each month you'll receive two bottles of wine carefully selected Former Sommelier Chef at The Ritz.
Tasting advice and super tips. You'll also receive a copy of The Gazette; the magazine that tells you everything there is to know about wine and how to taste the wines in your box.

I don't want to sound like an advert but I really do believe Le Petit Ballon is excellent. I think it's great that you can cancel at any time if you want to; there's nothing worse than feeling you can't back out of something so that's good to know.

The wines in the November box which I received pair perfectly with dishes made with Truffles such as Truffle Risotto.


You wont find the wines from Le Petit Ballon in any supermarket and I love that you can buy a gift card for however many months subscription you want to buy (3/6 or 12 months) and send as a gift; perfect with Christmas coming up. Or of course you can subscribe to a monthly wine box for yourself 😊 The wines in the November box are Mas du Soleilla and Domaine BΓ©rΓ©nas.

Le Petit Ballon have an offer on at the moment which is 15% off all gift cards until 19th November just use the code WINEGIFT15 at the checkout.

Or readers of this blog can get £10 off first month subscription by entering GLUG10 at checkout.
Offer is valid until 30th November 2017

The English Kitchen Cookbook Review

Food blogger friend of mine Marie from The English Kitchen blog has just published her first hardback book and what a book it is, 724 pages!

This book is more like an encyclopedia covering just about everything. From The Full English Breakfast to Elevenses, Lunch, Salads, Sandwiches and Soups to Sunday Lunch, Side Dishes, Leftovers and the Saturday Night Takeaway. Now if that's not enough Marie covers Sauces, Desserts and Festive Feasts including Bank Holiday and other Holiday events such as Bonfire Night and Halloween.

The English Kitchen Cookbook

Basic cooking techniques, conversion charts and substitutions are all helpful. I love that Marie has added a bit about Ingredients and their translations, this is so helpful to many people especially if they're from the States.  I remember writing a recipe her on this blog of mine once that mentioned the vegetable Swede; well that caused a bit of conversation with many people asking what is a swede? Of course I've since discovered it's called Rutabaga in the US!

This book is huge and is well written and as I know Marie, I know the recipes will work - unlike some top chefs that have books published I think some need to get better proofreaders since I've found a few errors; yes indeed, even in Paul Hollywood's book 'How to Bake' but that's another story.

Cooking with Frylight Spray Oils

Oh my goodness I have to tell you what a fantastic day I had last week with the Frylight Team over in the Food at 52 Cookery School in London. Along with a few Bloggers and Instagrammers I was invited along to pick up some top tips and get all educated about healthy eating and nutrition thanks to the lovely Helen Bond, Dietician and Frylight® consultant nutritionist.

As bloggers and food writers we had a brilliant day cooking under the guidance of chef John Benbow who launched Food at 52 Cookery School in 2007.


Seriously, this was a really interesting and fun day. Plus we got to eat a delicious healthy lunch consisting of a starter, main and dessert; and as none of us were vegetarian we had two mains!

Potato and Spinach Rosti with Pea Mash and Maple Bacon

Potatoes are extremely versatile whether you want to boil, mash steam or bake potatoes are really quite amazing. They're cheap to buy, they fill you up and the humble potato can transform even a basic simple meal into a feast. I particularly like the lovely deep red skins of  Albert Bartlett Rooster potatoes; they really stand out from the rest of other potato varieties.

Oh and they make proper crispy, crunchy golden roast potatoes and because they crisp up nicely and are perfect for making rΓΆsti.

Potato and Spinach Rosti with Pea Mash and Maple Bacon

Of course Albert Bartlett produces other kinds of potatoes. Look out for the new seasons crop now which are available now in supermarkets; they will be highlighted with stickers.

Here are just a few varieties - click on the link to see the full Albert Bartlett potato range.
Rooster is the classic, main crop potato. Red skin and great for mashing, roasting, baking, gratin etc.

Elfe is a more modern potato flavour, with a slight buttery-ness about the flesh. Yellow skin and great for mashing and baking.

Apache is a distinctive looking baby potato with red and white patched skin and is great for roasting whole, skin-on.

Indian-spiced Lamb Meatball Pizzas

I especially like using lamb in Indian dishes as it can handle the lovely spices without them overpowering the lamb.  A really easy and tasty favourite of mine is to make these Indian-spiced meatballs and serve on a soft tortilla; kinda pizza style. Soft tortillas topped with tomatoes, cucumber and mango chutney drizzled with cooling riata.

They're so easy to make and take just 35 minutes from prep to table; the perfect starter to an Indian meal to celebrate National Curry Week with Tasty Easy Lamb (9th -15th October).

Spicy Lamb Meatball Pizzas

I use tortillas as they're much lighter than a pizza dough base so make a great Indian tapas/starter dish to an Indian meal or a light lunch. You could also serve these mini meatballs minus the tortilla in little dishes with a few different dips. Or you could half the amount of filling and make them into wraps.

Honey Challah Bread Recipe

When asked to make a recipe that called for Challah bread I was on a mission to find it and buy a loaf. But after a trip to Waitrose, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Morrison's so I gave up and decided the only way I was going to get my hands on Challah bread was to get busy and make it myself! Turns out as our Waitrose is fairly small they don't stock it.

But as most people know I don't do baking simply because I'm not very good at it and also I can't be doing with all the exact measurements baking involves. However, with that said considering this was my first attempt I was pretty pleased with myself 😊

Honey Challah Bread

I didn't take a proper picture of it being made since I had little faith that it would turn out any good so the only one I have is a phone camera pic which I posted on my Instagram.

Challah bread is enriched with eggs and this recipe has honey in it which gives it a really lovely taste.

Sliced Honey Challah Bread


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