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Guest Post: Family Mealtimes Made Easy!

Family life is often busy, with barely a moment to spare. For some hectic households, family meals can be few and far between and while making do or grabbing a bite on the go may be indicative of modern life, snacking and skipping meals can lead to unhealthy eating habits.

By adopting bad eating habits, your children may miss out on essential nutrients. As such, it’s important to make regular, balanced meals part of your daily routine. Dinnertime needn’t be difficult though, and the following top tips are guaranteed to help make family meals easy and inexpensive.

Breakfast is best

Sticking to regular mealtimes not only eliminates the temptation to snack, it also creates a reassuring routine. The best way to start the day is with a healthy, balanced breakfast. This is the most important meal of the day and helps to give the body an all-important boost.

Enjoy eating together

Children learn by example and enjoying mealtimes together is the ideal way to instil good eating habits. Turn off the TV and take the time to talk to one another. If it’s not logistically viable to eat together at every mealtime, try to set aside a particular day that’s dedicated to your nearest and dearest.

Plan meals and save pennies

When doing the weekly shop, planning ahead can help to save pennies so make a meal plan for the week and watch your ingredients go further. Bulk cook and freeze portions for later in the week and remember that it’s perfectly possible to enjoy essential nutrients without purchasing fresh produce.

Canned, dried and frozen foods can all be just as healthy as fresh produce – not to mention easy to prepare and long-lasting. They also reduce the risk of waste and save you time and money.

Similarly, swapping traditional homemade roast spuds for easy to cook oven versions such as McCain roast potatoes can make cooking a Sunday roast a doddle. Classic family meals become even easier to prepare with these crispy roast potatoes – giving your kid the nutrients they need without handcuffing you to the oven for the entire afternoon.

Get your tots involved at teatime

Allow your children to get involved at dinnertime and encourage their input. From laying the table to deciding what to have for dinner, your children’s involvement and interest will make mealtimes much easier for all involved and ensure that they’re ready and eager to eat the second you dish up.

 

 

 

My Dream Kitchen

One day I would love to be able to design my own kitchen from scratch. My kitchen would be in a farmhouse with views over a valley, with lots of animals and a river to look at, if I’m lucky. I would have my own homegrown produce in the garden with my own chickens and pigs for meat and eggs.

My kitchen would be large and spacious with plenty of room so that my family could watch or help me cook without getting under my feet. There would be a large kitchen table where we could eat and spend time together as a family, playing board games and helping the boys with their homework.

I would have to have lots of kitchen cupboards, all organised and labelled with a place for everything so I could get everything quickly and easily. I would like the units to be made out of wood with marble work surfaces, giving a real country kitchen feel but with practical easy to clean finish.

Moving onto my dream appliances, I would need to have a range oven with lots of hobs and oven space as I enjoy cooking for lots of people on a regular basis. It will also make cooking Christmas dinner for the masses easier too. I would love an American style fridge freezer so I can have lots of space to keep a whole pig or lamb, in joints in the freezer for our Sunday lunches. As I am an avid baker and cook in general, I would need to have a KitchenAid stand mixer and food processor so I could whip up a cake or even some curry paste, quickly and easily. As I am useless in the morning, I would need to have a coffee machine so I can get up happy and ready to face the day. I would love to have a wine fridge so I can have a glass of wine, whenever I wanted and have it served at the correct temperature. Overall, I just want my dream kitchen to be a happy place to be, where we can cook, eat and have fun together as a family.

What would be in your dream kitchen?

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post, however all words and opinions are my own

 

 

The Perfect Coffee Moment

CoffeeDaydream with me for a few minutes. Imagine you are sitting on a balcony with me in Modena, Italy admiring all the Ferraris going past below as they leave the factory nearby, going to their new owners all over the world. As we sit on the balcony, we are both eating a generous portion of tiramisu and have a large cup of coffee to wash it down with. The sun is shining on our faces, we are wearing sunglasses and are just generally enjoying the watching the people and the city around us.

The coffee we are enjoying is from Caffe Cagliari, an Italian company with over 100 years knowledge and experience making the finest Italian Espresso. Every single cup is an exquisite masterpiece, the result of more than 100 years of knowledge and tradition. The qualitative and sensory standards of the Espresso have been certified by the Italian Espresso National Institute (I.N.E.I.), which protects and promotes Italian Espresso.

Stop daydreaming now. You are at home with your children and after a rough night with the baby and early start from the toddler, by mid morning you are starting to suffer and are in desperate need of a break. You sit down, put the Caffe Cagliari Nespresso compatible capsule into your machine and cut a large slice of chocolate cake. You do not need to go to Italy to enjoy a Caffe Cagliari coffee anymore, Italy and it's finest coffee can now come to you. You ignore what the children are doing for a few minutes and enjoy the perfect coffee moment. Five minutes to yourself, an excellent cup of coffee and a large slice of chocolate cake.

Disclosure: there is a sponsored link in this post, however all words are my own.

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Five Recipes To Spoil Your Mum (Guest Post)

Mother’s Day isn’t the only time you can look after your mum. After all of the pack lunches, teatime snacks and home-cooked dinners your mum has prepared for you over the years, why not spoil her with some gourmet cooking that shows her just how much she means to you? Cooking for her will always be a welcome treat – whatever day of the year it is!

Whether you’re a budding Delia Smith or can’t tell your puree from your jus, these five recipes should be simple enough for everyone to attempt.

1. Eggs benedict

There are few more indulgent ways to start the day than with a decadent plate of eggs benedict.

Simply slice a lightly toasted English muffin in half, butter each slice, place crispy bacon on top, add a poached egg to each half and then top with hollandaise sauce. The bacon, eggs and muffins are all easy to prepare and you can pick up good quality, readymade hollandaise sauce in most supermarkets if you don’t fancy making your own.

2. Pancakes

Another great way to treat your mum is with pancakes. Easy to make – simply mix flour, milk and eggs – and delicious to eat, pancakes can be sweet or savoury depending on your mood.

Toppings can include everything from sugar, lemon and chocolate to cheese, ham and tomatoes – so why not give your mum the choice and cover your dinner table with an array of enticing options?

3. Mediterranean tart with goat’s cheese

If it’s lunch that you’re treating your mum to, this delicious, light recipe is the ideal midday meal.

For the tart, simply unroll some readymade puff pastry and place it on a baking tray. Place some sliced onions, courgettes, cherry tomatoes, goat’s cheese and olives on top and finish with a few dollops of pesto and a sprinkling of good quality olive oil.

Pop it in the oven for about 25 minutes and serve with salad and new potatoes. It’s guaranteed to be just as good as anything your mum enjoys at her assisted living accommodation – or anywhere else for that matter!

4. Pavlova

When it comes to teatime treats, it doesn’t get much better than a generous helping of creamy pavlova, so why not spoil your mum with this Antipodean classic.

Whisk egg whites and sugar into a meringue and bake in the oven until crispy. Once cooled, top with whipped cream, chopped strawberries and raspberry coulis and your mum won’t know what’s hit her!

5. Roast dinner

If you’re cooking your mum a special dinner, the recipe options are pretty much endless. However, there’s nothing like a classic roast to show off your cooking skills.

Simply choose your mum’s favourite meat and roast in the oven along with potatoes, carrots, parsnips and onions. Serve with fresh green veg, Yorkshire puddings and a generous helping of gravy for a spectacular evening meal.

Whatever you decide to cook to show your mum how much you love her, she’s sure to love the effort you’ve put in to make her feel special.

 

 

Films and Food – The Perfect Combination

The cinema experience is something we all love. The thrill of watching a new film is hard to ignore … and so are the treats. From hotdogs and nachos to the classic cinema combination of popcorn, fizzy drinks and sweets, there are plenty of treats to keep you content throughout your film.

The problem with all this? The price of course

According to numerous investigations, cinema snacks are given a hefty mark-up before they go on sale to the public. The Daily Record issued a report in May 2013 which looked at the true cost of a family day out and suggested cinema popcorn may be subject to a mark-up of as much as 700% seeing as kernels cost pennies while a regular box of sweet or salted popped goodies is likely to cost the average punter £4.50.

Hardly surprising that in July 2011 The Daily Mail reported that around 90% of movie-goers felt popcorn was too expensive!

The solution

So what’s the solution for those looking to get the most out of their films without paying through the nose for it? Taking your own snacks is always an option but not all cinemas are happy about this protocol. You can avoid snacking altogether while enjoying a new release but that detracts from the overall enjoyment and can make a three-hour epic that much harder to stomach.

Another option is to avoid the cinema altogether and enjoy films from the comfort of your own home. With plenty of movie rental services now available online, not to mention the great selection of TV Packages for digital TV which include film channels and subscriptions, you don’t need to travel to the cinema to find great films.

Whatever type of film you’re interested in, you’re sure to find something worth watching. All you need then is the snacks … and here are some of our favourite film food recipes.

Homemade popcorn

Whether you have your own popcorn machine and kernels or buy microwaveable bags to pop in a couple of minutes, homemade popcorn always tastes best. Give this snack some extra flavour by mixing in chocolates and sweets to make your own sugary combination. Marshmallows work particularly well and can even melt a little if you get them hot enough but chocolate buttons and gummy sweets are other favourites.

Nachos

A simple and easy recipe to make, all you need here is a few bags of the classic crisps, a few dips and plenty of cheese. Melt the cheese so that it’s nice and gooey and covers the nachos. Then arrange your dips at the side and enjoy!

Pick ‘n’ mix

If you want to bring the cinema experience to your front room without any compromises then making your own pick ‘n’ mix stand is a must. Children are sure to be a fan of this idea and it’s relatively easy to put together.

Arrange plastic containers with different sweets in your kitchen or dining room and send everyone round with a small paper bag to fill up. You can even use kitchen spoons to replace the plastic scoops.

You can also use this idea when creating your own ice-cream treats. Give everyone a bowl to fill up with their favourite flavour ice-cream and then send them round the pick ‘n’ mix stand to add their favourite toppings. Make sure you include plenty of source options and wafers too!

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/lifestyle/money/revealed-true-price-family-day-1914538; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2012723/9-10-movie-goers-say-cinema-popcorn-expensive.html

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Cook Up a Hot New Look For Your Kitchen

Are you fed up of looking at the same cabinets and worktops? Or perhaps you’re looking for something more convenient for your kitchen design? Do you have a little one that you now need to consider? Maybe you have been putting off a new kitchen for years? Whatever your reasons for wanting to give your kitchen a lift, take a look at these hot new looks for 2013 and find one that’s right up your street.

Neutral

As you might expect, one of the hottest looks for your kitchen is a contemporary and modern style. However, it seems that contemporary with a country twist is becoming a real favourite.

Whatever design you go for, neutral colours are the key. Not only are whites, greys, off-whites and natural wood right on trend, but they also prevent you having to redecorate again in the near future.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match either. If you don’t want a brilliant white kitchen but think that grey will be too dull, think about a range of colours for your cabinetry. Add a splash of colour to your neutral background with accessories or tiling.

Solid worktops

With the economy having a major influence on the way people are thinking, it seems that longevity and durability is also an important factor. As such, solid and stone worktops have been revived with quartz and concrete leading the way.

Wooden flooring

Does your kitchen linoleum date back to the 70s? If you want to go the whole hog and replace the flooring during your kitchen remodel then opt for hardwood flooring. This trend is seeing washed and lighter shades becoming more popular so keep things light and airy.

Sink

Struggling for that focal point? How about a stylish deep bowl sink to complete the look? It seems like our pots and pans have grown over recent years, so a sink with a deep bowl will give you practicality but remain cutting edge. Homeowners are also ditching the double sink in favour of just one deep bowl. Again, stainless steel is the preferred material due to its durability, but there are always other options.

Built-in appliances

Now is definitely the time to invest in that new cooker or fridge-freezer as built-in appliances are all the rage. Homeowners are becoming increasingly aware that space is a priority so streamline your new kitchen with built-in appliances that fit seamlessly into your home.

If you want a new look and style without the hefty price tag, keen an eye on Betta Living’s kitchen offers and see if you could save on your dream design.

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Best Soft Drinks To Give Your Kids

We all want the best for our kids’ health and the earlier we start them on a healthy diet, the better. Not only is this essential for your children’s, healthy growth and development, it also instils in them the benefits of consuming good food early on.

Of course this is easier said than done! There is seemingly endless choice out there on the shelves for kids when it comes to processed food and drink. Still, you can’t give up the fight against all that temptation!

If you are looking for some healthy beverage alternatives for children, here are a few ideas.

Milk

Being so rich in calcium, this age-old drink contributes to building strong and healthy bones and is also a good source of vitamin D which helps bone health.

Milk also contains vitamin A and a few B vitamins – giving it even greater health benefits for growing bodies. Research says that the former is good for growth and eyesight while the latter supports the nervous system, muscles and heart.

Natural soft drinks

There has been an explosion in the natural soft drinks market and for good reason. Consumers have long been concerned about how diet affects their health and this is starting to reach food and drink which, traditionally, has undergone a great deal of processing.

Zeo is a soft drink made with all natural ingredients from its carbonated water to its sweeteners. What is Zeo? Presently this pleasant soft drink comes in three flavours which include health-supporting herbs and fruits.

The advantage of natural soft drinks is not just that they are a great deal better for children all round; they also show kids that there are choices to the processed variety.

Water, water everywhere

We all know that water makes up the majority of our body content and is one of the best drinks we can consume. This goes for kids as well as adults. Water keeps children’s bodies functioning properly by aiding digestion and proper blood circulation. H2O also helps regulate the temperate of the body and carries nutrients and oxygen to body cells.

Fruity stuff

Fruit juices are another favourite for kids. The key here is to select products which are 100% fruit juice instead of the sweetened variety.

Apart from being better for weight control, they also contain more nutrients. The Food Standards Agency can provide advice on drinks and nutrition – visit fsa in the UK for more information.

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How To Get The Best Out Of Your Breakfast

Demanding work schedules, hectic home lives and full social calendars mean that most of us are living incredibly busy lifestyles. With so much to think about on a daily basis, you probably don’t put much thought into your breakfast. Whether you’re on autopilot as you wearily reach for the bread-bin or your box of cereal or you skip it altogether, the importance of breakfast often gets overlooked.

You’ve probably heard it a hundred times before but it really is true: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. As the meal that kick starts your metabolism and gives you energy for the day ahead, it deserves some attention! With this in mind, here’s how to get the best out of breakfast time.

Choose a good cereal

Breakfast cereals are a great way to get the day underway as it is both tasty and nutritious. Crunchy oats are not only delicious but also release their energy slowly, which helps you stay fuller for longer and keeps you going until lunchtime. Oats are a great source of insoluble fibre and if you team them with dried fruit you can get an early start on ticking off your five-a-day.

Muesli is an equally good choice and is made with wholegrain cereals that keep your tummy satisfied until lunchtime. The perfect blend of oats, toasted wheat flakes, juicy fruit and crunchy nuts makes it incredibly moreish!

Mix it up

Don’t get stuck in a breakfast rut! With lots of different variations on the same cereal, alternating between breakfast choices is easy and ensures you look forward to enjoying your first meal of the day. Variety is the spice of life, so why not try your hand at a few simple recipes and treat yourself to a breakfast smoothie? Throw some muesli, yoghurt, honey, milk, banana and strawberries into a blender and voila!

Fruit is also a great way to add some colour and nutrition to your breakfast. If you get a chance at evenings or weekends, make a large fruit salad that you can dip into throughout the week or choose a different piece each day to accompany your cereal and give you a vitamin C boost.

Get up 15 minutes early

The prospect of setting your alarm even earlier may fill you with horror but it can have a dramatic effect on how you start the day. Chomping your way through breakfast as quickly as you can in order to stick to the day’s schedule can make you feel stressed, not to mention leave you feeling unwell

Setting aside more time to eat breakfast also gives you the chance to enjoy your food. You may not have eaten for around 12 hours, but breakfast is more than just a fuel stop.Take the time to savour the delicious flavours and texturesand learn to really enjoy your food.

 

A quick guide to worldly cuisines

Food is very much a part of our everyday lives and most will say their tastes are cultured. Yet despite this, many are too scared to try something new. I myself am guilty of this. My favourite meal is Buttery Cashew Curry and despite perusing the menu every time I’m at an Indian restaurant, I’ll always opt for the same dish. Some may say ‘why change what works?’ My husband however has his own views.

We live in Birmingham City Centre and thankfully there are a number of good takeaways in Birmingham. Friday has slowly moulded itself into our takeout evening. We’ll often head to the gym on the way home from work, as this way we feel we deserve the feast we are about to order.

Then the ordering process commences. This time I decided to surprise the husband and instead of going for my usual, I opted for something completely different and I have to say, the lamb masala was divine.

I’m now considering trying another culture, never mind another dish. There are so many to choose from and all look equally as tempting.

Indian cuisine

Indian cuisine tends to involve a great variety of flavours with regional differences noted. You’ll often find that a great number of spices, meats, herbs, vegetables and fruits are used in Indian cooking and certain dishes are extremely hot.

Chinese

Styles and tastes vary slightly and this particular cuisine is often a little sweeter in flavour. It all depends on what region the dish comes from. The Chinese are known to eat anything that is edible and that means you can come across some interesting delicacies.

Italian

Mediterranean food is very fresh and often quite oily. Italy is the home of pizza and pasta with olive oil a predominant ingredient in most dishes. They are renowned for their simple, good food and many of the dishes are tomato based.

American

The Americans have a very diverse flavour and the most popular cooking technique is grilling. They are also very fond of their fish and the likes of shrimp, crab and lobster are popular in a number of restaurants.

English

Some would say that the English cuisine is pretty safe, spices are not used very often and as a culture, we tend to eat very traditional foods. I couldn’t disagree more though and whilst you might not get the same pungent kicks as with other cuisines you will discover a wonderful collection of flavours and tastes.

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A Quick Guide to Coffee Machines

 

Coffee is not just a part of most people’s mornings; nowadays it’s a big part of British culture. A far cry from a few years ago when all we had were watery Styrofoam cups in cafés and the occasional Italian deli espresso that cost the earth, today great coffee is not only something that can be enjoyed in your lunch hour but also in your own home.

One great way to bring the taste of fresh coffee to your mornings is with a coffee machine – but what do you need to know about these appliances?

How do they work?


Coffee machines
, like the Tassimo from Bosch, are very easy to use. Simply pop the little T Disc into the machine which contains your roasted beans, place your mug underneath and then press the button.

In absolutely no time at all, the machine will fill your mug with your morning coffee. They actually take a lot less time to boil than a standard kettle too which leaves you with a few precious minutes to take care of anything else you need to when getting the family ready for the day.

How do they taste?

The taste is the most important part of any cup of coffee. With coffee machines, you are able to buy the exact strength refill disc that you desire; with beans varying from dark and chocolaty to gentle and nutty.

Importantly, machines such as the Tassimo incorporate an “intelligent brewing” system. This is done via a barcode on the refill disc. The machine scans the disc to calculate the exact temperature, boiling time and amount of water needed to make each specific cup of coffee. No more adding too much instant coffee or too much water and spending those morning minutes gulping down something only half-tolerable!

How do they look?

Coffee machines are designed to not only make great coffee but also to look fabulous. Thanks in part to their sleek ergonomic styling, coffee machines fit beautifully into the modern kitchen and this is something that all mums can get behind.

How do you maintain them?

When it comes to maintaining your coffee machine, it is amazingly easy – something all busy mums want to hear. No more constantly wiping down the decks to get rid of spilled instant power, all you have to do is simply pop a cleaning disc into the back of the machine and run it as normal. This will ensure it stays clean, functional and beautiful for years and years, giving you the benefits of gloriously brewed coffee and a clean family kitchen at the same time.

 

 

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