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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Asda's new Chosen by Kids range - Review

Asda are bringing out some innovative new products and re launching some of their older products under their new Chosen By Kids range.

The range will feature a huge 180 products spanning across all meals of the day. The entire Chosen by Kids range has been tasted by kids and approved by mums.




To mark the launch of their Chosen by kids range Asda held a special event for bloggers and their little ones to give us an exclusive insight into how the tasting process works and have a sneak preview of some of the food in the range.

Myself and Littlest baker were invited up to Asda's home office (Asda house) in Leeds to be a part of this special event. Leeds is a fair trek from Bedford so our hopes were high of having a good time at Asda house.

Upon arrival we were immediately immersed into the Chosen by kids range as Asda house had a 'monster makeover' in their hub. Complete with the Chosen by kids cheeky monster characters milling around having photo ops and laughs with the mums and little ones.

Littlest baker meeting Trixta

We were walked through the area to explore the breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacking ranges and briefed about the range in general by Product development director Gail Paddy. 
Breakfast

Lunchtime

Dinner

After being shown the meal range by Gail we were taken away into a separate room and given an opportunity to try out some of the new products and even rate them using special 'yum' or 'yuk' paddles.
Among the items we tried were Cheesy pasta shapes, which had a definite 'yum' paddle held up by Littlest baker, a squeezy yogurt pouch, another 'yum' paddle and Monster feet which Littlest baker was a bit undecided about. 

Littlest baker was very happy with the squeezy yogurt.


Every product has been tried and tested by kids, who enjoy the taste and then approved by mums. The mums approval comes from the point of view of nutrition, convenience and appeal.
Many of the products contain hidden vegetables and fruit taking some of the guilt out of giving your kids a convenience food knowing they will still be getting their vitamins. With Monster Mash, which is a mix of mash potato, peas and broccoli, or the carrot and Potato waffles. 
The Chosen by kids range has been designed to be a solution for mums juggling different family mealtimes with after school activities or working late, without breaking the bank as the prices start as low as 58p (Instant porridge pots). Incidentally the instant porridge pots needn't be a worry with the heat burning little hands as Asda have developed a thermal packaging that stays cool to protect them. 

Snacks are also covered with options such as Mini Fruit Bags (five for £2) or Jelly with real fruit pieces, or Lime flavoured raisins ('yum' vote from Littlest baker). 

Littlest baker was impressed with the range of products available and I'm sure with the kids going back to school really soon I will be featuring some of the products in her lunch boxes and after school when time is a premium due to after school activities.  I especially think she wants to try the Meatballs and Spaghetti that we saw on the Dinner table in the hub, it looked the perfect size for her appetite.

All set for going back to school.


How your weeks meals could be planned using Asda's new range.







Cappuccino pots

I've recently been trying out recipes using gelatine with varying results. I've tried marshmallow, which worked alright but was a bit too wet and sticky. It seems quite hard to find a really good marshmallow recipe, which is a shame. So after the disappointing results I had with marshmallow I turned my attention to cheesecake, which actually turned out fine, just needs a little bit of tweaking with the flavours then I will blog about it.

I then got looking through a recipe book I have for the slimming group I belong to and found a dessert recipe which makes a coffee mousse. This is my own twist on that recipe.


Ingredients:

2 tsp powdered gelatine
5 level tbsp low fat crème fraiche
5 tbsp fat free natural yogurt (I used 0% Greek yogurt)
2 tbsp v strong filter coffee or espresso
3 tbsp sweetener (I used 1 tsp liquid sweetener)
2 large egg whites
10ml Tia Maria (optional)
2 tsp cocoa powder

Method:

Pour 2 tbsp of boiling water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatine in. Mix well until the gelatine is dissolved and put to one side until needed.
In a separate bowl mix together the crème fraiche, yogurt, cocoa powder, coffee, Tia Maria (if using) and sweetener. 
Whisk the egg whites until stiff, I used my Russell Hobbs Kitchen machine for this but you could do it by hand if you don't have an electric whisk.
Mix the gelatine into the coffee mixture and carefully fold the egg white into it, being careful not to knock the air out of it.
All that's left is to divide the mix into your chosen serving pots or glasses and leave to set for around 2 hours. 
I served mine in some vintage tea cups that I bought recently, though this dessert is so versatile that it could be served in most things, I think Martini glasses or espresso cups would look really good with this.
This is a fantastic dessert to have in your repertoire for something a bit fancy for a weekend pudding or tarted up a bit with some chocolate or Baileys served along side at a dinner party.  

Lollibopping with the littlest baker

It's summer time and that means festival season is well under way. The festival scene has really come into its own in the last 10 years with more and more festivals popping up each year for just about every conceivable member of society.
I remember the days of being excited about going to festivals, a day or if you're really lucky a whole weekend spent with your mates in a mud sodden field (Great British weather) listening to some of your favourite bands and maybe some more obscure ones thrown in for good measure. Going home exhausted and exhilarated with some great memories of a day well spent.

Move on to me now being 30(!) and a married mum of one and those days seem behind me for now. This festival season there was just one festival that I was excited to visit and that was Lollibop!
Lollibop is a festival all about children. Littlest baker was just so excited to be having a day out in London and going somewhere that was all about her! 


We didn't manage to see everything and do everything as there was just so much that trying to do it all would have been akin to a military manoeuvre and when you have a 5 year old in tow sometimes its easier to just go with the flow.
We did however get to watch the fabulous Katie - CBeebies I can cook live on the cooking stage. She wasn't cooking, but at 8 months pregnant did a magnificent job of entertaining her audience with singing, dancing and jokes. Littlest baker made her way to the front of the stage and got stuck in with joining in with the action. 


We even managed to squeeze in a photo with Peppa Pig and the Cloud babies! 
We watched the cast of The West End show Peter Pan (starring Stacey Solomon) on the main stage whilst we sat and ate our lunch. 
The whole thing was a star filled extravangza - Dick and Dom were on the main stage following the Peter Pan songs, Sid and Andy (CBeebies presenters) were in a smaller tent. There were lots of photo opportunities with Mr Men, Postman pat, Shaun the sheep and even Justin Fletcher was there!



What was brilliant about the festival was that all of this and the rest including face painting was included in the ticket. So often you take your child for a day out, pay the entry fee to wherever it is and get hit for everything else they want to do once you're in. How refreshing that this wasn't the case at Lollibop. The food stalls were reasonably priced, we got a toastie for littlest baker at £2.50, there was also a Paella stall, hot dogs, burgers, churros (which I may have treated myself to) and some clever person had thought about what kids really like to eat and had a Fish finger butty stand.

Yes! She is 'feeding' a pineapple, I didn't get it either! 


As you can imagine there were plenty of stalls all giving out free samples/money off vouchers to advertise their business - pretty much all of them relating to children of varying ages. There were of course the odd stall aiming themselves at the grown ups, we are after all the ones controlling the purse strings. I did get a few bloggers samples from some of these stalls which will be reviewed in a seperate post.
As you would expect the sponsors and partners of the festival were well represented across the park with the one standing out the most in my opinion being Chobani who seemed to be everywhere I looked. Lots of their posts were being handed out and I bagged myself a few which made a handy breakfast to keep me fuelled for the busy day after the early start I'd had. I'm sure the presence Chobani had a the festival can only help them with their move towards UK yoghurt market dominance!

Thanks to Chobani for allowing myself and littlest baker to be your guests at the festival, we had a great day with lots for the Littlest baker to tell her friends about the day she went to her first festival.

                                         

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Going Krazy at lunchtime with Warburtons! - Sponsored

Warburtons have been going Krazy at lunchtime over the last few weeks with short videos of  (possibly the first?) Facebook game show. The game shows which are fun to watch, show two families pitted against each other in the Warburtons Krazy Kitchen trying to make their lunch whilst ignoring unusual and humorous (think giant yellow chickens being chased by an angry farmer) distractions going on around them.
 I love the videos, they're fun and remind me of the game shows of the 80's (Finders Keepers, Fun House ringing any bells?). Kind of sounds like my home! 2 cats and a hungry 5 year old are always a recipe for fun in the kitchen!


Warburtons sent me a hamper asking me to have a go at a recipe that could be fun and a bit Krazy. I had some Square(ish) wraps and Sandwich thins along with some other ingredients such as avocado, lime, jalapeños, red onion, light Mayo, re fried beans and chicken breast.

I immediately thought about Mexican as that's where most of the ingredients were pointing. I made a Chicken, lettuce, caramelised red onion and Mayo wrap using the square(ish) wrap.

To make the wrap a bit more fun I thought about making it a sharing lunchtime meal and made some chips for dipping into the re fried beans and guacamole that I'd made by cutting one of the wraps into quarters and cutting the quarters into triangles. These were then fried lightly in an oiled pan until brown. They didn't crisp up like tortillas but were really soft and more-ish and went brilliantly with the dips. Myself and hubby particularly enjoyed this one, the prop Sombrero I was sent with my hamper made a cute little hat for the guacamole dip.


Littlest baker is away at her Nan and Granddad's being spoilt for the week as it's the school holidays, so she missed out on going Krazy with our lunchtime fun (more for the grown ups!) though she did manage to get in on the fun with her Nan who sent me this cute pic of her enjoying her Nanny's Krazy lunchtime creation. 

 

Even Nanny's dog Jonty got in on the action! I so wanted to try the hat on one of my cats for a picture but I feel that sadly even if I'd bribed them with fish I'd have had no luck. 
Friday 23rd August sees the last instalment of Warburtons Krazy Kitchen Drama Gameshow - why not go take a look and see who shall reign victorious? 
Lunchtime never needs to be boring again!


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Low fat, no sugar sponge cake

We're have a tasting session in our group at my slimming club tomorrow. This basically involves members being asked to take along something that we enjoy eating at home that fits in with the plan to inspire others.
I decided to finally brave making some low fat, no sugar cakes for the group tasting session, I've made it before but only for eating at home so it didn't matter too much what it looked like.
Anyway, seeing as the idea of a tasting session is to inspire others I thought it would be good to post the recipe on here to inspire a greater audience and prove that you really can have your cake and eat it!



I followed a really simple sponge recipe for this, substituting the butter for low fat spread and the sugar for sweetener. If you don't want to use the low fat spread or the sweetener just swap them for the full fat versions.

Ingredients:

4 eggs
225g Self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/3 cup Sweetener
225g Low fat spread (I normally use Flora extra light)
1 tbsp Cocoa powder (optional)

For the filling:

1 tub Quark
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp sweetener
3 passion fruits (optional)


Method:

Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and sieve in the flour, baking powder and if using it the cocoa powder. 
Add the sweetener and spread.
Mix until combined but don't over mix as that will stretch the gluten in the flour making the cake more dense.

For a big Victoria sponge divide the mix equally between two 8 inch sandwich tins which have been lined with grease proof paper and given a spritz with fry light (use butter to grease the tins if you prefer).
For making the small sponges I used a special 12 cup mini sandwich tin from Lakeland. Just fill each cup around 3/4 of the way up allowing for a bit of rise. 
Gently smooth the surface of the cakes and put in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes. 
The cakes are done when a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Allow them to cool for a few minutes in their tins before carefully removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Assembling the cakes:

To assemble the big Victoria sponge mix the quark with the 1 tbsp sweetener and 1/2 tsp vanilla. 
Cut the passion fruits in half and scoop the insides out into a bowl, discard the skin. Blitz the passion fruit seeds and flesh with either a hand blender or food processor until smooth (the seeds will still remain).
Sieve the passion fruit to take the seeds out, leaving the passion fruit purée. 
This bit with the puréeing is optional, you can use the whole passion fruit flesh, I chose not to as I don't like the seeds.
Spread a thick layer of the sweetened quark (about half of the mix) onto the bottom layer of cake and drizzle the passion fruit on top of the quark, leaving about a tablespoon to drizzle on top of the cake if you wish. Put the top layer of cake on and sprinkle with a teaspoon of icing sugar for decoration. 

You might notice in the picture that my big Victoria sponge looks a bit flat, that's nothing to do with the bake and all to do with me using the completely wrong size of cake tin! That will teach me to check these things before rushing ahead with them. 

For the mini sponges the procedure is pretty much the same. Slice the cakes in half and spread the sweetened quark onto the bottom layer. I didn't use any passion fruit on these though if I'd thought ahead I'd have used raspberries kept whole and sandwiched between the two layers with the quark. 
Then sprinkle the cakes with 1/2 tsp icing sugar.






A quick note on Quark - you may have never heard of it and therefore have no idea what it is, or you've heard of it and heard bad stuff about it. 
Quark is a virtually fat free soft cheese, used in baking and cooking. It tastes just like a mild soft cheese so it can be used in dips, cheesecakes, and in this case as a cream substitute when sweetened. Don't be put off by it's weird name or any bad press it may have had. Try it yourself before passing judgement. It's usually found in the cheese isle though can be a bit hard to spot straight away.  

Hopefully I have proved to you that healthy eating and baking do mix. Sometimes a bit of creativity with the ingredients is needed if you want to still feel saintly whilst having an indulgent moment, sometimes just go full fat and eat less! 

Do try these recipes and tell me what you think!








Saturday, 3 August 2013

Becoming a Chobani convert!

As you probably know I have been following a diet plan since January 2012, quite successfully I might add as I have now lost just under 5 1/2 stone! My breakfasts have evolved over the course of the plan to now being pretty much a standard of a banana, or two if it's just one of those days, with a fat free yogurt, usually a Activia flavoured one. Which is fine, but it does get a bit boring after a while if I'm honest. So when I was given the opportunity to try out a new yoghurt which is just hitting the shelves in the UK I was quite pleased.

Chobani have been around in America since 2007 when it first went on sale in New York. But it has taken until now for it to move across the pond to the UK. Chobani is different from other fat free yoghurt's on the shelves as it is strained, which makes it deliciously thick and creamy and much higher in protein than regular yoghurt.
Something which I have know for a while now is that yoghurt is a fantastic replacement in recipes for things much higher in fat such as mayonnaise, creme fraiche and fromage frais, sour cream, butter milk etc... Which is where something such as the plain fat free Chobani would work well. I've not tried this yet, but I have plans for a chicken tikka masala in the coming week or two that will use it so I will post about it then.

This post is actually about the flavoured Chobani yoghurts. I was sent one of each of the flavours to try out and decided to change my usual breakfast yoghurt each day for one of these.

Day 1 - Pomegranate 


I have never been the biggest fan of Pomegranate as the fruit, I do like the juice though so I did my best to go into this flavour with an open mind. Though I was pleased with the over all flavour and texture of the thick yoghurt, I'm afraid this flavour did not change my mind about Pomegranate as I didn't like the seeds, if they were to make this without the seeds then I would buy it.

Day 2 - Apple Cinnamon


This flavour I was really looking forward to as Apple Cinnamon is one of my favourite flavour combinations (particularly in a pie). You don't tend to see Apple Cinnamon flavoured yoghurt in the UK either, so I was doubly pleased to try it. I really enjoyed the yoghurt, though perhaps would have like a bit more of the Cinnamon flavour to come through. Also, I think if I were to buy this flavour I would turn it into a really quick pudding with some granola sprinkled on top to make a crumble.  

Day 3 - Peach 


Peach yoghurt is one of the most classic flavours out there in my opinion. This stood up to the best of the peach flavoured yoghurt's I've had over the years, perfect sweetness mixed with the thick yoghurt. Not much else to say. 

Day 4 - Blueberry


Another one of my favourite flavours. I'm always pleased to find a blueberry yoghurt, not many of them around! This one was delicious, not allowing the tartness of the blueberries to come through, just the sweetness which works so well when mixed through the strained yoghurt. Again, this could go well with some granola sprinkled on the top as a super quick pudding, or special breakfast. 

Day 5 - Blood Orange


I don't think I have ever seen a Blood orange flavoured yoghurt anywhere before, so this was a first for me. I have eaten blood oranges before, but not for around 20 years much to my shame. This meant I had absolutely no idea what to expect when trying this, which probably made me a perfect candidate for trying it, as I had no prior opinions. I was pleasantly surprised at the flavour, it was a bit tangy, a bit sharp but just the right sweetness to balance it all. I will definitely buy this one!

Day 6 - Black Cherry


I have only tried one other yoghurt product with black cherry and I do really like that one so this had high standards to live up to in my mind. Although I enjoyed this one, it didn't make it into my favourites, I think I'd have liked a bit more of the Cherry flavour to come through. 

Day 7 - Strawberry


Another one of the classic yoghurt flavours, and one that I have tried in many forms over the years. This one matched all of the others, but didn't blow them away I'm afraid. What helps this one over the others though is that it's fat free and the fact that it's strained, so thick and creamy. If I were buying a strawberry yoghurt and saw this on the shelves I'd go for it for those facts alone.

I will be using the plain fat free Chobani in quite a few different recipes over the coming weeks, months and posting on here about them. So check back often to keep up to date. 

Pictures taken from the Chobani website to depict the actual yoghurt's that I tried.






The perfect flapjack

I have been trying to find the prefect flapjack recipe for what seems like forever. I have lost count of the different recipes I have tried and yet whilst most have been good, non have matched up to what I get when I buy them and that's what I'm always aiming for.
For me the perfect flapjack would be a nice thick slice, not crunchy but melt in your mouth soft. Not filled with fruit or flavoured with spices. I would maybe allow it to be drizzled with a touch of chocolate, but really I'm a purist when it comes to flapjack. It needs to be oats, sugar, butter and syrup. Cooked until soft, and never crunchy.

So when I was sent some Flahaven's Irish oats to try I thought, rather than just making porridge and telling you all what I thought of my breakfast I'd try out a flapjack recipe. I usually just say that oats are oats and there's no point spending more on them for a better brand. Perhaps that's why I'm so often disappointed with my flapjacks when I use the cheapest oats I can get?


After a bit of scouting on the internet I found a recipe on the Guardian website from Felicity Cloake, aptly titled how to cook perfect flapjacks.
I gave it a go, following it verbatim, as I always do when I first try a new recipe, then I make notes of what I would change next time and tweak it to how I like it.

Ingredients:

300g Unsalted butter, plus extra to grease
75g demerara sugar
120g golden syrup (6 tablespoons)
250 jumbo rolled oats 
200g quick-cook oats -  I used my Flahaven's quick-cook oats

Method:

Pre heat the oven to 190C. 180C Fan, 150C if you prefer your flapjack chewy rather than crispy - this is what I did with mine.

Line a 30x20cm baking dish/tin with grease proof paper, cutting slits into the corners to help it fit more neatly.
Melt the butter, sugar syrup and pinch of salt in a small saucepan. When the butter and sugar are melted and combined take of the heat and stir in the oats. 
Press into the baking dish/tin evenly and bake for 25 minutes for chewy, 30 minutes for crunchy, until set and golden. 

  
Allow to cool completely before removing form the baking dish. but slice into squares whilst it's still warm. 


This for me was the nearest to prefect flapjack recipe I've found. The only tweak I would make next time is to use slightly less butter as they were just a bit greasy. The oats seemed to do the trick though, so I shall definitely be using some more for them for another tray of flapjack. Judging by how fast this one has gone I don't think that will be to far away. 

How do you eat yours? Crunchy, chewy, with fruit, with cinnamon... Comment and tell me what makes your flapjack perfect. 





Happy Birthday Grandad!

I was recently sent some lovely silicone Pyrex moulds for children to use in baking. As you can imagine Littlest Baker was very pleased to receive these and we decided the first use just had to be for her Granddad's Birthday last week.
We took the Happy Birthday Loaf shaped mould with us on our visit to stay with my parents with my dad's birthday being on one of the days we were there meaning I wouldn't have to worry about transporting the cake safely all the way there in the car. My dad doesn't tend to have much of a sweet tooth so I didn't want to make anything too fancy or sugary as it would have gone un-eaten. Banana bread it was then!

Image taken from Pyrex website depicting the Happy Birthday loaf mould
                                         

Banana bread is really simple, perfect for little helpers when they're trying out their own range of bake ware!
I didn't leave Littlest Baker to do it on her own partly because she loses interest in baking about half way way through making a recipe and secondly because I had my own new gadget to try out. I have got a Masha which does the job of a stick blender (and a bit more) but without sharp metal blades.
                                       
When making Banana bread I normally use some brown bananas that have been kept in the freezer to save them being throw away, what might not be appetising eaten as is is perfectly adequate for cakes. However as I'd been away from home all week at the point of making this cake I used fresh bananas.

Here's how to make it.

Ingredients:

285g plain flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp salt
110g butter
225g caster sugar
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas
3 fl oz butter milk (or normal milk with 1.5tsp clear vinegar or lemon juice)

Method:

Pre heat the oven to 180C (160C Fan)
Sift together the flour, bicarb of soda and salt.
 In a separate bowl cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, mashed bananas, butter milk to the butter/sugar mix and mix well. This is where the Masha did a brilliant job! Sadly, didn't get a pic of it in action as I was trying to supervise Littlest Baker whilst working, sure there will be plenty of other opportunities though. 
Fold in the flour until just combined. 
Pour the batter into a loaf tin (which needs to be greased if not silicone) and put in the oven for about 40 minutes or until well risen and golden.

I had one or two problems with the oven at my parent's house, it seems to be a little bit user un-friendly (what's the saying about a bad workman again?) I set it to 160C as it's a fan oven, after around 15 mins I check on the cake and found it raw inside with a rather brown top! So after hastily turning the heat down and covering the cake in foil to prevent further browning I left it in for another 40 minutes or so and managed to get a workable banana bread. The cake came straight out of the silicone mould with ease, and the mould was cleaned in no time due to the fact that silicone is non stick. Not quite the right consistency but my dad said it was delicious non-the-less (liar!)  


Littlest baker was most impressed with the Happy Birthday writing that appeared on the cake, and was very pleased with her creation for her Granddad.
The Masha made the batter lovely and smooth with minimal effort. I must admit I was a bit dubious about how well it would work when I saw it but having used it twice now once for this and secondly for mash potato (where it made perfect, lump free mash in around 30 seconds!) I'm converted and will be using it A LOT more often! It is easy to use, and easy to clean. I look forward to trying it out on soups and sauces in the winter.
There's still a few weeks left of the school holidays and myself and Littlest Baker are planning on trying out the other Pyrex moulds so look out for another post to see what the creations will be!