Categories

Lifestyle (155) Reviews (85) Recipes (78) Parenting (48) weight loss (27) crafts (22) Competitions (15) pregnancy (11) wedding (11) Plus Size (9) Interiors (4) Blog Hops (2)

Monday, 26 January 2015

First Baking Challenge of 2015: Sweet Potato & Spring Onion Waffles *RECIPE*

As soon as I saw this recipe for Sweet Potato & Spring Onion Waffles by Jo Blogs, Jo Bakes, I knew I HAD to make them. I added them to my Baking Challenge 2015 list, and am pleased to say I have ticked them off my 'to bake' list nice and early in the year. 

I had to share them with you as they were JUST SO GOOD

I was lucky enough to receive a Sage Appliances by Heston Blumenthal Smart Waffle Iron for review at the end of last year, and it is one of my favourite pieces of kit in my kitchen. It makes the most awesome waffles, and the design is sleek and very high end (you can read my full review of the Sage Smart Waffle here). Up until now I've only used it to make sweet dessert waffles, and I couldn't wait to use it to make this alternative savoury waffle.

I am obsessed with sweet potatoes. In a bid to be more health conscious and eat better carbohydrates we've been trying to eat sweet potato in the place of normal potato as much as possible recently. We usually eat them baked in their skins, or made into fries using our Tefal ActiFry (which only uses half a tbsp of oil per portion), so I was intrigued to try this alternative way of cooking them...

The recipe calls for you to cook 3 small sweet potatoes in their skins using the microwave (which is so easy!) and makes this recipe a very quick one from start to finish. Using a combination of sour cream, flour, butter, spring onion, eggs and seasoning to mix up the waffles, you're left with a thick gooey batter which only took around 4 minutes to cook perfectly on our waffle iron. The result were deliciously crisp and golden waffles, with a soft and unctuous centre, and an incredible sweet/savoury balance between the caramel sweetness of the sweet potato, the heat from the onion and the creaminess of the sour cream. 

Perfect.

The Sweet Potato waffle batter on the irons ready for baking...

Yummy golden sweet potato waffles with sour cream and spring onion

We served our waffles for dinner with baked beans and sautéed mushrooms as a 'breakfast-for-dinner' sort of meal. They would equally go well with sausages, eggs or bacon for breakfast, lunch or dinner: so they're a lovely versatile meal option. I think they stand alone perfectly as the star of the meal - Hubby didn't even notice it was a vegetarian dinner until I pointed it out to him at the end, however, if we were being a little less calorie conscious we'd have definitely added a sausage and a spot of bacon to the meal too. 

Each waffle worked out at approximately 218 calories each. 

What a great dinner! 

Hubby and I throughly enjoyed them, and they'll definitely become a regular meal for us from now on. 

A big thanks goes to Jo for such a fab recipe! 

Jo's blog is full of loads of brilliant printable recipes - head over to her website Jo Blogs, Jo Bakes for loads of kitchen inspiration: I literally want to make every single recipe on there! 

Bye for now

Mrs B 

xxx



Thursday, 22 January 2015

Bath Time with The Bertster: Cussons 'Mum & Me' #voiceofmums Campaign *REVIEW*

Bertster in the bath tub! 

Bath time with Bert used to be a very, very stressful time. He absolutely hated every single bath he had to begin with, in fact, it has only been in the last few months that Bert has started to enjoy his bath times. I think it is the very independent streak in him that was the problem: he hated having to be held and restricted, and I think he was afraid of the water to begin with. He's now able to sit, stand, and walk up and down in the bath unaided (with us by his side in case he needs steadying etc) and is much happier with that freedom. Now, he loves nothing better than getting every single bath toy (we have a lot) and every single bottle off the shelf and having a long old play amongst the bubbles.


Of course, bath time is still a bit of a rigmarole - if you have ever tried to coax a wet and slippery toddler out of a bath when they just don't want to get out, you'll sympathise! Bath time usually ends in a mild meltdown, and a few tears, as its just too sad for Bert when we pull the plug on his splashing and bath time merriment. Then the fun of trying to get a wet, thrashing, screaming, crying toddler dry and dressed begins - wow, it's a workout in itself! My husband Liam is king of bath time in our house as I don't cope too well having three slipped discs in my back, I'm the lucky one who just gets to sit perched on the loo watching all the fun and passing dry towels to my hubby for him to wipe the bubbles and water off his face when Bert's splashing has got a little too rigorous! 

The Cussons #voiceofmums Campaign 

Recently, Cusson's introduced me to their #voiceofmums campaign, and I'm excited to share it with you today. They invited real mums to join them in a studio to create a new take on a much-loved children’s rhyme 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes', talking about the realities bath time with baby. The soaking of the bathroom, the juggling of a slippery baby, the impossible multi-tasking. They wanted the truth and that’s exactly what they got! I absolutely love this video - it is reassuring to know that other parents can find bath time a bit of a nightmare and utterly exhausting too! 

You can check out the #voiceofmums 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes' video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-beUSIwe80 or click on the video icon below:


#voiceofmums Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

The campaign celebrates Cussons' Ultra Mild Head to Toe Wash which is kind to eyes and contains Camomile known to relax, and mild bubbles that gently cleanse from top to toe! It’s kind to eyes, hypoallergenic and paediatrician approved. Just like all of the products in the Cussons Mum & Me range, it’s designed by mums and developed by experts.

We've tried all sorts of baby baths and shampoos over the past 17 months for Bert - we're lucky that he doesn't seem to have overly sensitive skin, and most baby products are naturally mild and have a 'no tears' kind of guarantee. 

Cussons kindly sent us some of their Ultra Mild Head to Toe Baby Wash for Bert to use at bath time, and we've been putting it to the test...

Cussons Mum & Me Ultra Mild Head to Toe Baby Wash

Bert's bath time wouldn't be complete without his duck sponge - yes, he's still obsessed with ducks! 

We really like this super mild wash - although it doesn't lather up tons of bubbles it smells mildly of camomile which is very relaxing, and helps to get Bert in the right frame of mind for bed time. The lack of bubbles is probably a good thing as a) there's not as much chance of us getting covered from head to toe in bubbles as Bert throws them at us, and b) it helps his bath time be a slightly more subtle affair rather than full blown bubble warfare! 

Head to toe wash: Bert's all in a lather having his hair washed with the Ultra Mild wash. No tears for the B Man! 

I also love the fact that the Ultra Mild Baby Wash is suitable to use from head to toe; so we can use it to wash Bert's hair as well as his body, which wipes out the need to purchase separate bottles of baby wash and baby shampoo - so it saves you money too! Always a bonus! 

Bert looking super cute with very spikey bath time hair & his new body wash! 

The Cussons Mum & Me range is available to buy in Asda, Boots, Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons, Ocado & Wilkos. 

**The Ultra Mild Body Wash currently retails at around £2.89 for 500ml.**


A slightly blurry shot, but couldn't resist including Bert's "T'ah d'ah!" moment presenting you all with his fab new body wash - in his duck pjs and coordinating dummy of course! 

You can find out more about the Cussons 'Mum & Me' range over on their social media pages:


Bye for now!

Mrs B

xxx

Disclaimer: We were sent two bottles of the Mum & Me Ultra Mild Body Wash and a branded towel in exchange for this review. All words, images and opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Weight Loss Update and Kitchen Safe *REVIEW*

Image from Pinterest

Those of you who read my blog regularly will known that the past 17 months has seen me embark on a lifestyle change to lose weight and improve my fitness. I've now lost 6 stone 2 lbs in total, and have about another stone to lose to get to my ultimate goal. I've slimmed from a UK size 20 to a size 12, and am much happier and healthier than I was at my larger weight. (You can follow my weight loss journey posts in order and see before/after photos over on my Weight Loss Journey page on the blog.)

In order to shift the pounds I have had to completely change the way I eat and exercise. I have had to learn to eat with moderation, and have had to educate myself on the science of eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly to burn off any excess calories. 

It has been a steep learning curve for me, and I am most definitely a different person now on the inside as well as out. I still have days where I find it hard - when I fancy all the bad food in the house, and the biscuit tin is calling me, but these days a few and far between now as I can no longer bury my head in sand and pretend that those biscuits "probably aren't that bad for me" when I know that they are 75 calories each and that it takes me 17 minutes of fast paced walking to burn that off. 

When I first began losing weight I had to make sure I didn't buy any high calorie, high fat, high sugar 'treat' foods such as chocolate, biscuits and crisps, as I knew I didn't have the self control and willpower to ignore them. If they were in the house I was going to eat them and it took a while before I felt strong enough to start introducing them back in to my diet, this time in moderation. 

Seventeen months on and my behaviours have changed, I try to no longer use food as an emotional crutch, and I no longer eat big binges on bad foods. If I do eat "treat" food then I ensure I work physically hard to burn it off, so I don't pay the price later on the scales. I still calorie count every day to ensure I stay on track but perhaps most importantly I haven't banned any foods at all from my diet - I still eat cake, and crisps, chocolate, sweets and takeaways, I still drink wine and indulge in meals out etc - the difference is that now I eat all of these things in moderation, and I work really hard physically on the days that I choose to eat more. My decisions are now conscious, and my head is no longer buried in the sand - if I decide to eat cake I know I either need to eat less on other days that week, or I need to get out and pound the pavement in order to ensure that piece of cake doesn't lead me to put on weight. I truly believe it is only a whole lifestyle change when it comes to food and exercise that will lead to successful weight loss that you'll be able to maintain, and keep off. 

Before my lifestyle overhaul I had tried every diet in the book - Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Cabbage Soup Diet, Rosemary Connelly, low carb, Atkins....you name it, I'd tried it. But what each of these diets did was either cut out all the bad foods (which I enjoy) completely, meaning I was unable to stick to the diet long term and felt unhappy, deprived and fed up very quickly. Or, diets like Slimming World and Weight Watchers would work fine all the time I stuck religiously to cooking their recipes or eating their branded foods, but as soon as I went out for dinner, or on holiday, or had a few days off of their 'plan' I would begin to struggle to understand what I should be eating out there in the real world away from that specific plan. What calorie counting has done is educated me on all foods, all drinks, every take away or restaurant meal out, every bottle of drink I've picked up, or chocolate bar I've been contemplating eating has been logged into my calorie counting app and I have been able to see it in terms of its 'worth' - I soon began to ask myself these questions...

"How much would I need to walk to burn this off?"

"Is it worth it?"

Slowly but surely asking these question has made me learn new habits, and has caused me to feel differently about lots of foods. I no longer see food for its short-term gain (i.e - sugar high, comfort, indulgence) but now try to see that food in terms of its long-term affect - will it nourish me, keep me full up, be good for my body, will I regret eating this five minutes after I've finished? Is it going to be worth the work out I'm going to have to do afterwards to burn it off? And on the whole this makes me make better choices, which in turn has lead to my regular weight loss. 

I have also found that eating with this new found clarity and honesty has meant that I no longer experience the guilt I used to feel when I ate. Because all of the food I eat is now a conscious decision, and because my diet is balanced and moderate I can truly enjoy the 'treat' foods, safe in the knowledge that they won't make me fat. 

They taste better because of it. 

As well as hundreds of fad diets out there, there is a new influx of slimming gadgets on the market designed to help with weight loss - from special glasses with blue glass which you're meant to wear while you eat to make food look less appealing, to forks which tell you if you're eating too fast - there really is a weird and wonderful array of stuff available for the discerning slimmer. 

On the whole I'm pretty sceptical about these gadgets but one that caught my eye recently was the Kitchen Safe and I've been sent one to review - so here's what it is, and what I thought...

The Kitchen Safe *REVIEW*


The Kitchen Safe - the lockable food storage with no override. 

The Kitchen Safe is in essence a lockable storage box - sold as "a powerful tool to build good habits" the safe is intended to store things you want to limit/moderate (such as food), you can lock this box at the twist and push of a dial for as many days/hours/seconds as you want. And here's the catch: there is no override. Once locked the Kitchen Safe stays locked and there's no way of opening it. 

Designed with the intention of helping combat lack of self-control/willpower - this lockable box could potentially help you keep your hand out of the biscuit tin, literally. 


The people at Kitchen Safe say their product has been scientifically proven to increase your chances of reaching your goals. It was developed based on research published by scientists at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and Yale. They discovered that pre-commitment can significantly increase our chances of achieving our goals. Pre-commitment is the notion of committing to a smart choice now, when you know you’ll be tempted by a bad choice later. They've taken years of inter-temporal and willpower research and reimagined it into this fun and effective product that has the potential to help people reach their goals. 

(If you’re interested in this stuff, here is a great TED talk on the subject. I talked a bit about TED talks here if you've not come across them before.)

Of course, there are always ways round it - if your Kitchen Safe was filled with chocolate and locked until the next day, but you were truly desperate for a chocolate binge you could of course just go out and buy some more, but generally I guess you'd be less likely to go to all that effort for a quick binge, and so you'd be more likely to avoid the binge altogether. Score. 

Of course you have to have the willpower in the first place to actually lock it, and I do have some issues with locking food away - part of me thinks that by restricting yourself and telling yourself you can't have something you'll be even more likely to crave it - but I guess this could help with learning to moderate your eating.

If you are truly serious about cutting back on the junk food and leading a healthier lifestyle, but you struggle to resist the temptation of the naughty foods in the house, then this could help you. You could use it as a portion control/moderation tool. For example: if biscuits are your nemesis you could use the Kitchen Safe as your biscuit tin - after having one or two biscuits (and no more) with your afternoon cup of tea you could lock the safe until the same time the next day, making it impossible for you to dive back into the biscuit tin until then. Or perhaps you snack and graze all day at work - would this be helpful to have on your desk, and lock when you know you'll be likely to indulge in something naughty?


My Kitchen Safe - full of biscuits! 

Lockable by the simple twist and push of a dial. 

How long would you need to lock it for?

The Kitchen Safe is a very simple but well made piece of kit - it comes in various colour options - you can choose a white or clear base, and lids in either white, pink, blue, red or green. The screen and lock is battery operated (included) and it literally takes 30 seconds to set up. The one button twist and push function makes it so simple and easy to use - no long winded programming here, which means you'll be more likely to use it regularly. 

One of my biggest concerns with the Kitchen Safe was whether it would keep my food items fresh - I worried that if I filled it with biscuits that they might go stale, but my Kitchen Safe has been full of biscuits for a week and a half now, and they are still crisp and fresh, so that's great. 

So far since having my Kitchen Safe I have only locked it once in order to test it out. I haven't yet felt the need to lock the biscuits away from myself - I guess this is testament to how far I've come with my eating habits, and that moderation has now become my habit. I must admit that knowing the locking function is there if I need it is weirdly reassuring for an ex-binge eater. I guess if you've always eaten in moderation then you definitely wouldn't need or benefit from one of these, but if, like me, you've battled with that little voice in your head telling you to eat ALL THE BISCUITS, then maybe this is for you! 

The Cons

Of course, as with anything, there are some downsides that I've had to consider...

- The Kitchen Safe is only so big, you can't lock ALL the bad food away in this one 17cm x 15cm box. Of course you could have multiple Safes (one for biscuits, one for chocolate etc) but that would work out to be pretty pricey. 

-If you lock the Kitchen Safe it is locked to everyone in your house which would mean your kids, husband, wife etc would all be locked out of the treats too. This may not be a bad thing if you could all do with cutting out the junk food, but if you're the only person with the "tendency to binge" gene in the house, it would be quite unfair on the others.

- You can always go out and buy more. The Kitchen Safe will only get you so far - you've got to really want to keep away from the junk foods, and the locking function will only help you while you're at home. It isn't particularly portable, and it won't be able to stop you resisting the bad foods outside of the house. 

-Will locking the food away just make you crave it more? It's quite possible. Something about the clear base can be quite tormenting, it seems to be saying "look at me all full of deliciously calorific biscuits, don't you just want to come over and devour them?". Obviously, it isn't saying that, but you know what I mean! 

-The price: The Kitchen Safe retails at £39.95 so it is by no means a cheap option. Yes, it is sturdy, very well made, easy to use, and it looks really cool, but that is one pricey biscuit tin! 

Other Uses for The Kitchen Safe 

The People who make the Kitchen Safe also give some interesting alternative uses for their device, and I've discussed a few of them below:

A Punishment Tool for Parenting: As a parent, I can see potential in this device for an alternative use. We've all been or going to be in the position where we threaten a punishment to our misbehaving children that we know we are going to find hard to stick to (Think: "If you do that again you're not going to play Playstation for a whole day") With the Kitchen Safe you can self-impose the punishment you've threatened by locking away the Playstation controller for the time you specified, and no matter how much they cry, beg or argue, you can't get it out for them until it unlocks. Obviously, this would only work with small items such as handheld games consoles, controllers, phones, TV remotes, small toys etc, but it may well save you from yourself if you know you're the type of parent that will be likely to give in to your child's pleas. 

Lockable Money Safe: You could use it for budgeting - if you need to save cash for a big night out or for the gas bill at the end of the month but know that you're going to be very tempted to spend it before then, you could use the Kitchen Safe to lock it away until you need it. 

Cut Back on Smoking: Perhaps food isn't your nemesis but smoking is - you could use the Kitchen Safe to lock away your cigarettes - and help you to cut down on the amount you smoke when you're at home. 

Prevent Drink Driving: We all know someone who gets far too tempted to get into their car once they've had a few too many glasses of wine - the "I'll be FINE" excuse just doesn't wash with me, and I can see the potential in locking said persons keys away in the Kitchen Safe until they will be sober enough to drive again. Obviously, the Kitchen Safe needs to be in the vicinity at the time of need, so this may not be totally plausible, but it's certainly an interesting idea. 

Conclusion

Having now seen and used this product in the flesh, I like it much more than I was expecting to. It is expensive, but at least it is a very well made, good quality and cool to use product. For me it's the sort of gift you'd buy for someone who already has everything. If you love cool, quirky gadgets, or genuinely think it will help you develop better habits to have a lock function on your treat tin, then this would be great for you.

Personally, I think I'm more likely to use it in the future to ensure I stick to my word when it comes to punishing bad behaviour from Bert (hopefully I won't need to use it very often) or perhaps I might even need to use it on Liam if I think he's playing too much Playstation - haha - watch it Liam, you've been warned! ;-) 

Maybe I'll feel the need to lock all the chocolate and biscuits away in it at some point, who knows? But, for now I'll be leaving it unlocked so that everyone in my house can enjoy the biscuits in moderation. I wouldn't have been able to do that 17 months ago, and perhaps had I received this product to review then, I would be waxing lyrical about its snack-stopping, binge-preventing properties....who knows! 

Have you ever used a weight loss gadget?

Have they worked for you?

I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Mrs B 

xxx

Disclaimer: I was sent a pink & clear Kitchen Safe for the purpose of this review. All words pictures and opinions are my own, unless otherwise stated. 

You can find our more about The Kitchen Safe on their social media channels:


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Pampers vs Mamia: Mamia Ultra Dry Nappies (Size 5) *REVIEW*


As a family we have been shopping almost exclusively at Aldi now for around 6 months - in that time we have managed to halve our food shopping bill, saving us around £30-£40 per week. This saving has been a godsend mainly because we are now having to survive as a family on just one wage as I'm no longer working and am at home with Bert full time. 

Financially, it is a struggle, but, it is absolutely worth any financial hardship - I keep telling myself that the 5 years up until he goes to full time school will be here far too fast for my liking, and that I just need to concentrate on soaking up and enjoying every single moment of being at home with him, and in the meantime we need to be as sensible as we can with money to make ends meet. 

One of the ways parents can save a decent amount of money each week is by swapping branded products in their weekly shop to supermarket's own brand products such as Aldi's Mamia Ultra-Dry nappies


You can buy Aldi's Mamia Ultra Dry nappies in all the standard nappy sizes: size 3, 4, 5, 5+,6 and 6+, and they come in various different sized packets - 30, 36, 40, 44, 48, 56. Aldi also sell newborn nappies in size 1 and 2, as well as Pull Up style Easy Pants in sizes 5 and 6 for potty training. 

Aldi really do cater for all of your child's nappy-wearing needs!

THE COST CONUNDRUM

We usually buy Pampers Active Fit nappies in bulk (136 nappies at a time) from Amazon, which costs us £19.39 working out at 14p per nappy. We have found this the cheapest way to buy the popular branded nappies, and for me they have been the most reliable nappy that we've used so far. When Bert was smaller, we tried Sainsburys and Tesco's own brand nappies, but found them all to be less absorbent and more likely to leak than the Pampers, so we decided to stick with the branded nappies that seemed to work better for us. 

Then recently Aldi contacted me asking if I would consider giving their nappies a try. They sent us a 40 pack of their Size 5 (Junior) Ultra Dry nappies and we've been using them through December/January to see what we think. 

The Ultra Dry nappies size 5 cost £4.49 for 40 nappies working out at 11.2p per nappy, so by swapping to the Aldi brand nappies we would be saving 2.8p per nappy - it might not be a huge saving, but it is £5 a month we could spend elsewhere. It is also worth noting that if you buy branded nappies directly from your supermarket (rather than in bulk from Amazon like us) then your saving will most likely be much bigger, as the branded nappies at the supermarkets often work out to be around 20p per nappy, in which case you'd be saving 8.8p per nappy by switching to Aldi. 

WHAT WE THINK


The Ultra Dry nappies seem to fit Bert well, but are slightly more bulky in the pad than the branded nappies we normally use. This doesn't seem to bother Bert at all, and the change to these new nappies hasn't worried him in the slightest. Each nappy has a really cute fun design on, in fact, I like the design much more than the ones on the branded nappies - the cartoon animals are much clearer than on the Pampers nappies and Bert makes a cute little roaring sound when I point out the Lion on his nappies....sweet! The front of the nappy is clearly labelled with the size (5) and the resealable tabs are brilliant for ensuring you get a good snug fit when trying to change a very wriggly toddler like Bert. 

Front of the Aldi Ultra Dry Mamia Nappy

Back of the Aldi Ultra Dry Mamia Nappy

The outside of the Aldi nappy has a slightly more papery texture than the softer almost fabric-like outer of the Pampers nappies we are used to using but again, this doesn't seem to trouble Bert at all. I'm not overly keen on how it feels when I change him, the outside papery texture seems to almost stick to my hand when I touch it (think velcro!) and I just find it a bit icky. This would be a stupid reason not to buy the nappies when they're saving you good money though as they don't affect the performance of the nappy at all, its just me being weird with textures! 

In terms of performance I have found the Ultra Dry Nappies to be mostly very reliable. In the month that we've been using them exclusively Bert has only leaked a small amount of wee three times and each time it was his overnight nappy that leaked. He'd been in the nappies for 12 hours + each time, and there was a slight leak at the top of the nappy around one side, which had seeped a little onto his vest. For me, this isn't a huge issue, as I always give him a fresh vest and clothes after his first nappy change each morning, and I rarely expect any nappy to be much good after over 12 hours anyhow, Aldi promises UP TO 12 HOURS protection, and I'd say that promise is delivered with these nappies. I'm used to the odd leak here and there, even with our usual nappy brand, so the Aldi Mamia range seem to stack up pretty well! 

WHAT ALDI SAY ABOUT THEIR ULTRA DRY NAPPIES

So what’s so great about our Ultra Dry nappies?
  • Dermatologically tested, hypoallergenic
  • Tested for performance against the leading brands
  • Extra soft and breathable
  • Re-sealable fastener tapes
  • Contoured design and cute characters
  • Leak protection up to 12 hours
  • Day and night comfort up to 12 hours
  • Made with fibres from Sustainable Forestry Initiative
The Mamia Ultra Dry nappies are multi-award winners having received a Gold award from Nursery Trader in their Best Baby Gear category 2013, Gold award in the Mother & Baby awards 2014, Silver award from Loved By Parents in their Best Disposable Nappy category 2014, and finally a Silver award from the Baby & Pregnancy Awards 2014.

Aldi Mamia nappies are a great fit!

My little nappy-clad rascal - in amongst his kitchen chaos! 

CONCLUSION

I think that these nappies are a great lower-cost alternative to their branded contemporaries; they offer a reliable nappy for up to 12 hours, a good fit and design, while best of all saving us parents a pretty penny or two! 

If you haven't tried Aldi's Mamia nappies then why not give them a whirl and see if they work for you and your little one...

Bye for now...

Mrs B

xxx

Disclaimer: We were sent a 40 pack of Aldi's Mamia Ultra-Dry size 5 Nappies for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions are my own. 

Friday, 16 January 2015

My Baking Challenge 2015...

As well as setting health/lifestyle/fitness goals in the new year, I also like to set myself some cooking/baking based challenges as well. This helps me to be decisive and selective about which recipes I really truly want to have a bash at, while it also helps me to stick to a realistic baking timetable. (I have come to realise over the many years of my baking addiction that I just can't make everything: not only is it terribly expensive, but also not good for my waistline!)

Last year I set myself the challenge of having a go at one brand new recipe each month. I'm pleased to say that I managed to make 9/12, which isn't a bad effort considering how busy last year was. 

So, here are the results of my 2014 Baking Challenge...

LUCY'S BAKING CHALLENGE 2014: The Roundup










The three bakes on my list that I didn't get round to trying were:
  • Bacon & Onion Suet Pudding 
  • Baked Alaska
  • Millionnaire Shortbread
I'm not going to judge myself too harshly though, as I did find the time to bake all of these in 2014 as well as the recipes on my baking challenge list...

Zucutto - Gin & Tonic Cake - Chocolate/Vanilla Marble Cake (Rose Piped Choc Frosting)
Two First Birthday Cakes (BERT) - Cherry/Mascarpone Victoria
Waffles - Custard Creams - Peanut Butter Banoffee Cake
Iced Vanilla Biscuits - Treacle Tart - Banoffee Marshmallow Cake

Hummingbird Cake - Quiche Lorraine - Tangle Pie
Cheese/Onion "Biscuits" Scones - Marble Cake - Doughnut French Toast
Comte Cheese Bakes - Marshmallow - 3D Xmas Biscuits
Whisky Waffle Pudding - Christmas Dinner Cake - Viennese Whirl Topped Mince Pies

I don't think that's too bad an effort - and that isn't even everything I baked...I have just picked my favourite ones to feature in this post! :-)

So with last years challenge deemed a success I decided it would be sensible to set myself a new goal of 12 more brand new bakes for 2015, just to keep me focussed! 

I've had a long hard think and here are the 12 recipes I've decided I'd love to have a go at during 2015, they are all recipes I've never ever made before, and I'll blog about each one as I complete them. 

I'm under no illusion that I'll just stick to only these 12, but, they are the 12 that I'm really serious about trying above all others...

LUCY'S BAKING CHALLENEGE 2015
  • Liverpool Tart - Lemon desserts are always top of my list, this tart uses whole boiled lemons, much like the Mary Berry Whole Lemon Cake I made last year, just in tart form. 
  • Iced Gems - an old school favourite of mine and my sisters, saw a fab recipe for these here that I can't wait to try. 
  • Jam Doughnuts - I keep seeing these on Bake Off and am desperate to try them, who doesn't love a doughnut?
  • Monkey Bread - I saw this on a baking blog I love called Kymmy's Kitchen and knew I just HAD to make it.
  • Jam Roly Poly - My school dinner favourite, I can't believe I'm yet to make this - 2015 will be the year I conquer it for sure. 
  • Fish & Chips - I want to have a go at beer battering cod and making proper fried chips from scratch at home. Diet out the window that night then! ;-)
  • Orange Marmalade - Marmalade is my favourite of all the jams/preserve/conserves/jellies and it would definitely feature on my top 10 foods list for sure, I just love it - lord knows why I've never made it before. 
  • Bread Pudding - I will use my mum's recipe which has been her 'signature bake' for years. I absolutely love it but I'm yet to give it a try myself. If you've not had bread pudding before think fruit cake meets bread & butter pudding!
  • Bacon & Onion Suet Pudding - I didn't get round to it last year, but this will definitely feature as a 2015 dinner in The Bishop household.
  • Ferrero Rocher Brownies - I saw this recipe just last night on Jo Wheatley's baking blog Jo's Blue Aga...now then, don't shoot me down too quickly BUT I have a baking confession to make... I, Lucy Bishop, baking fanatic have NEVER EVER made a brownie. 2015 will change that - how can I call myself a baker without having a decent brownie recipe in my repertoire? 
  • Sweet Potato & Spring Onion Waffles - I found this great looking recipe from Jo Blogs Jo Bakes, and being determined to put my Sage Smart Waffle Iron to more use, I'm going to embark on a savoury waffle experiment with these. 
  • Jalepeno & Cream Cheese Puff Pastry Poppers - My favourite buffet food of all time, I happened upon this recipe on Pinterest and I just cannot WAIT to taste one of these hot from the oven!!
2015, you're going to be a very delicious year indeed! 

Do you set yourself yearly challenges for your own hobbies? 

What bakes are you planning (if any) for the year ahead? 

I'd love to hear from you! 

Mrs B

xxx

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Heinz Baby Breakfast Range *REVIEW*


Today is the final post in our Heinz Baby review series and for this we've been trying out Heinz's extensive range of baby breakfast products.

Breakfast is my most needed meal of the day - I am always most hungry at breakfast time, and for me, it is also the time I am most likely to munch on something I shouldn't - so it is important for me to eat a good breakfast that will fill me up quickly, and stop me from falling off the 1200 calorie-a-day limit I'm currently on to get my final stone off. 

Due to my love to breakfast (nature? nurture?) Bert absolutely LOVES it too - and has always eaten a huge breakfast - some mornings he eats more calories than me! So we were excited to give Heinz's range a whirl...would they meet Bert's breakfast "must eat" list? 

For this review we were sent:

-a box of creamy oat porridge
-a box of strawberry, raspberry & blueberry muesli
-a box of fruit & yogurt cereal
-a box of oat & apple cereal
-a box of apricot & muesli
-a large pack of breakfast biscotti
-a small pack of apple biscotti
-two ready-to-eat tubs of banana & apple muesli
-two ready-to-eat tubs of creamy oat porridge


Over the past 6 weeks Bert has been munching his way through the breakfast options, and giving me his opinions. He's now at that age (16.5 months) where he can make his thoughts clearly known - he will spit out something he doesn't like, say 'no' and shake his head to foods he doesn't fancy, and make his "I'm really enjoying this" zombie-groan constantly through a meal he really likes. It is now easy to know what he likes and doesn't - and on this breakfast bundle Bert definitely had mixed reviews. 

BISCOTTI

He absolutely loved both the biscotti packs, and they were the first things to go! They are such versatile little biscuits - you can munch them as they are as a snack, or perfect for a quick breakfast 'on the run' (think adult breakfast biscuits), or you can mix them with milk or water to make a soft porridge like mixture which can be eaten from a spoon. We used the biscotti's not only at breakfast but also as an accompaniment on his lunch time plate, or an afternoon snack. Their perfect long finger shape make them the ideal finger food for your little ones, and as they can be eaten from 6-7months + they are a great first food too. Bert ate them at 7 months, and still enjoys them at 16.5 months - they're clearly a winner for us! 

The Heinz Baby biscotti contains no artificial colours or preservatives and are fortified with 6 key vitamins and minerals making them a really healthy breakfast/snack option. 

PRICING
£0.74p Apple Biscotti snack pack (Tesco/Sainsburys)
£2.15 Breakfast Biscotti 160g pack (Tesco/Sainburys)

Heinz Baby Biscotti - a clear winner in The Bishop household

CREAMY OAT PORRIDGE

Bert's close second in this breakfast bundle was the creamy oat porridge both in the ready-to-eat pots, and the powdered form. He usually eats fine porridge oats for breakfast, and I think this is the closest in taste and consistency to what he has become used to. Soft, velvety and creamy, this breakfast was happily wolfed down by Bert with no fuss made at all. The ready-to-eat pots were really handy on mornings when we had to be out quickly, or when we were travelling over Christmas - he seemed to enjoy them just as much as when I made up the porridge from the box using water (the powder already contains milk). I'd definitely buy more of the ready-to-eat pots next time I see them in the supermarket as they have great expiry dates on them, and would always be handy to have around. I'd happily give him a pot like this for dessert after his evening meal too, he likes it that much! 

The ready-to-eat Creamy Oat Porridge contains iron and calcium from brain and bone development, and has no added sugar. It is suitable for babies from 6 months +, so another perfect 'first' food. The boxed Creamy Oat Porridge is super smooth in texture and so suitable for babies from 4 months + - it contains calcium, vitamin D and 12 key vitamins and minerals. 

PRICING
£2.15 125g box Creamy Oat Porridge
£1.09 (Tesco) £0.97p (Asda) 2 x 100g pots Creamy Oat Porridge 


Creamy Oat Porridge - Bert loved its velvety texture and creamy taste! 

MUESLI

Unfortunately, not all of the breakfast items went down so well with The B Man...he showed a firm disliking for the muesli - and having tried it myself (I try them all too, for reviewing purposes) I can sort of understand why - the muesli seems to have a grainy/gritty texture, which is a little unpleasant to the palette. The flavours are really lovely, sweet and fruity, that really isn't the issue for us - it is all about the texture. 

You make up the muesli using milk, and actually the longer you leave it to soak in the milk, the softer it becomes. Bert will eat it once the milk has been left on for about 5 minutes, before then it is a bit too grainy for him. He isn't usually lazy about lumpy food, so I really think it is a genuine aversion to the texture rather than him not being bothered to chew it. 

Each portion of muesli contains three teaspoons of fruit per serving, and has the usual 12 vitamins and minerals, making it a really healthy balanced breakfast option for older babies: due to the lumpier texture this cereal is suitable for babies from 10 months+.

PRICING
£2.15 200g Muesli box (Tesco & Sainsburys) 

*They are quite often on a 2 for £3 offer at Tesco, so it's worth watching out for that offer and stocking up!*

Bert just wasn't a fan of the texture - leave the milk on for 5 minutes though, and he's good to go! 

Overall, we've really enjoyed trying the Heinz Baby Breakfast selection, and can't fault them in their flavour, ease to make up, and nutritional values. Bert has wolfed down lots of the selection over the past 6 weeks, and the breakfast bundle will no doubt last us for many more weeks to come. Having looked at the pricing and seen the many supermarket offers the breakfast range seem to regularly be included in, I think the breakfast products are very good value for money, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to fellow parents, and buy them again for Bert. 

Happy B Man at breakfast time: some creamy oat porridge and a biscotti, and he's a very happy chappy! 

What does your little one like to eat for breakfast?

Have you tried any of the Heinz Baby Breakfast range? If so, what's your little one's favourite? I'd love to hear from you. 

I'll leave you with one of my favourite pictures of Bert from this Christmas - he is so funny in the mornings, and Christmas morning was no exception...sat in his high chair waiting for his Heinz Breakfast...

Funny Bert at breakfast time over Christmas! What a stunner! 

Bye for now

Mrs B

xxx

Disclaimer: We were sent a hamper of Heinz Baby Breakfast products for the purpose of this review. All words, opinions and pictures are my own.