Thursday, 27 October 2016

A week of Naturally Tasty meals courtesy of Knorr ! (review)

I love cooking from scratch and I have a very well stocked spice rack that I love dipping into like an artist's palette, blending flavours and colours until I have the perfect combination to tickle my tastebuds (or set them on fire, depending on my mood !). However, I also have a full-time job and three kids to look after, so I'm not averse to using cooking aids when I'm in a rush. I was delighted to receive a fabulous package from Knorr, containing a beautiful red cast iron cooking pot, some herbs and spices, a grow-your-own herb garden and some sachets of their new Naturally Tasty range of packet mixes.

There are six recipes, which offer a nice mixture of family favourites and more exotic dishes : Chilli Con Carne, Lasagne, Spaghetti Bolognese, Tuna Napolitana, Moroccan Chicken and Beef Tagine.

As the name suggests, these new recipe mixes contain all of the taste but none of the hidden nasties. They are made with real vegetables, with a variety of aromatic herbs, spices and seasonings, to allow you to create authentic, great tasting meals that are quick and easy to prepare. The range contains no artificial colours, flavours and preservatives, as well as being free from MSG, HVO and HVP. 

For added convenience, the labels on the Naturally Tasty Range are easy to read and understand, with ingredients lists containing nothing that you wouldn't find in the average kitchen store cupboard.

When you see the vibrant natural colours of the spices, it makes you wonder why people ever bother using artificial colours.

We've been road-testing the new range this week and they all got a big thumbs-up from the whole family. One of our favourites has been the Chilli Con Carne, which surprised me because I usually think the kids won't like it because it's too spicy. The Naturally Tasty blend is packed with flavour but has very little chilli kick, so it even had Pierre wolfing it down and asking for seconds.

The Beef Tagine was another big hit, and as I made it with rump steak rather than stewing steak, it was ready in half an hour. This is definitely a huge bonus when I rush in late from work and need something quick on the table. You can pack in the veggies too - the recipe suggestion recommends courgettes but I added onions, mushrooms and red peppers too. A quick sprinkle of flaked almonds on top and you have a dish that looks and tastes like you've been slaving over it for hours when it only takes about half an hour from start to finish !

Pierre had great fun helping me put together a lasagne with a difference - when I went to the cupboard to find the lasagne sheets, I discovered that there were none left. Oops !

 But we have learnt that lasagne is just as delicious when made with regular pasta, and also much easier to assemble, as there is no risk of having undercooked pasta sheets when you take it out of the oven ! I used another shortcut in this recipe - a sachet of Knorr Cheese Sauce, which again made it possible to have the meal ready in about half an hour.

Knorr Naturally Tasty makes four servings per pack (but we've managed to get five generous servings out of each pack - I've just thrown in a few extra vegetables), has an RRP of 89p and is available at retailers nationwide, including Tesco, Asda, Ocado, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. The whole range gets the Madhouse seal of approval !

Disclosure : We received a package of goodies, including the new Naturally Tasty range of sachets.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Ravensburger 3d puzzle Lighthouse Night Edition

Ravensburger recently sent us through another of their 3d puzzles to review and we couldn't wait to put it together. You may remember our reviews for some of their other 3d products - the Unicorn Vase, Vanity Box and Jewellery Tree, the Empire State BuildingStatue of LibertyBig BenTower BridgeMedieval HouseEiffel Tower By Night and, most recently, the fabulous Disney Castle. We're getting quite a collection now, but we're always happy to add another one. They're great fun to put together and look fantastic on the shelf when they're finished.

Inside the box, you get a bag of puzzle pieces, along with the moulded plastic shapes that make it look so fantastic and lifelike when it's assembled. For this puzzle, there is a base with a little staircase winding up through some rocks and the top of the lighthouse, complete with working rotating light, just like in a real lighthouse.

There is also an instruction leaflet but we didn't need it at all, as it's a simple round tower shape this time. Some of the 3d puzzles are much more complex.

Given the shape of the puzzle, this one didn't have any hinged pieces. Instead, the plastic pieces are all slightly curved.

As usual, they are all numbered with an arrow to show which way the pieces join up. This makes it a doddle to put them together.

In fact, it was so simple that 7-year-old Pierre assembled the whole thing all by himself.

We worked as a team, with me sifting through the pieces and lining them up in groups of ten in numerical order, then Pierre putting them all in place.

The whole thing took less than an hour to complete and once the plastic embellishments are slotted into place, it looks fantastic.

There are lots of little details on the puzzle which really bring it to life, such as the windows, bench and lifebuoy. (The boat didn't come with the puzzle - Juliette added it.)

This puzzle is one of the "by night" collection so it still has a trick left up its sleeve to impress you - a fully working rotating LED light. We initially thought that it was broken or faulty because it didn't work when we switched it on, but there are actually three AA batteries to insert - two on one side and one on the other, which we missed at first.

There is an on-off switch so you could even use this as a funky nightlight in your child's room.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £24.99

Disclosure : We received the product from Ravensburger Testers Lounge, in order to write an honest review. Sign up for news of their future tests.

Halloween recipe : Spider cupcakes

If you want a cute rather than scary or gruesome Halloween treat to bake with the kids, these spider cupcakes from Rachel's are perfect. We had great fun making - and eating ! - them. Pierre did all the decorating himself, and, as you can see from his face, he was very pleased with the end result !

Spider cupcakes

Ingredients for Cakes

 100g plain chocolate
 150g unsalted butter, softened
 150g caster sugar
 20g cocoa, sifted
 3 eggs, beaten
 125g self raising flour
1 ½tsp baking powder
 2 tbsp Rachel’s Greek Style natural yogurt

Ingredients for Frosting

4tbsp golden syrup
80ml double cream
 100g milk chocolate
100g plain chocolate
3tbsp Rachel’s Greek Style natural yogurt

Ingredients for Decoration

 Chocolate sugar strands/sprinkles (optional)
Smarties or similar sweets (for the eyes)
 Liquorice laces or Catherine wheels for the legs

Makes: 12 cakes

First job, melt the chocolate (and try to keep your mini-helper's fingers out of the bowl !). This chocolate doesn't get another mention in the official recipe provided by Rachel's so I just added it to the mix at the same time as the yogurt.

Cream together the butter and sugar.

Add the eggs and cocoa then the flour and baking powder.

Pour in the creamy Rachel's Greek style yogurt and the melted chocolate.

Give it all a good mix and pour into silicon muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes until risen and firm to touch. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, gently heat the icing ingredients (except the yogurt). Either do this in a microwave, on medium power, or over a pan of simmering water, until the chocolate has melted. Leave to cool then add the yogurt. The frosting should be soft but not runny.

Use sweets to decorate (we don't like licorice so used fizzy bootlaces for the legs instead).

For more recipe ideas, head over to

Disclosure : We received some Rachel's vouchers to buy yogurt for the recipe.

Halloween crafting : Our Pizza Box Minions Vampire

As it's the school holidays, I'd been promising Pierre that we would do some crafting and sure enough, right from the moment he got up on day one of the holidays, that's what he wanted to do. I always have a #KitchenClearout every time I'm on holiday, but I decided that a #CraftsCupboardClearout was long overdue. Looking at all the bottles of paint that we found, I was right !

We happened to have a frozen pizza box sitting on top of the bin waiting to be recycled and as I looked at the shape, I had an idea. It looked just like a Minion with a vampire cape !

Luckily, the Madhouse kids shared my creative vision and before long, it was taking shape.

 We added some teeth, a star and some cotton wool hair and he was complete. Pierre thinks it's hilarious that from the back, he still looks just like a piza box !

 Happy Halloween !

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies recipe : Night Terror Torte (aka Chocolate Orange Torte)

I've been telling you about the Hoxton Street Monster Supplies Cookbook (don't miss my giveaway where you can win three copies) which is full of ghoulish monster treats, that have been adapted for humans.

The Madhouse kids squealed in horrified delight as I read the names of some of the dishes - maggot brownies, snot tart, earwax pie, ... - but we decided to make Night Terror Torte. The recipe instructions explain : "Be sure to think truly appalling thoughts as you make this torte - you will find that the screams of your victims will have an extra edge of misery if you do". Delightful - not ! The torte was though :)

Night Terror Torte (aka Chocolate Orange Torte)

ingredients :

200g caster sugar
4tbsp water
2 oranges, thinly sliced
475g sweet shortcrust pastry
100g butter
100g ground almonds (I used Ready Brek instead)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
100g dark chocolate

Put 100g of sugar with the water in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Finely slice the oranges, with the peel left on (blood oranges would have looked terrifically gory here !) and lay them out in the pan. Cook for 30 minutes over a low heat, turning and separating them every now and then.

Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 24cm pie tin, lined with baking parchment . Lay another sheet of baking parchment on top, fill with baking beans and bake blind for 12 minutes.

Cream together the butter and remaining sugar, then mix in the ground almonds. As I still have oodles of Ready Break in the cupboard and it has a similar texture, I used that instead.

Mix in the eggs.

Melt the chocolate and pour it in then give it a good stir.

Remove the ten best orange slices from the pan. 

Chop the rest into pieces and add to the mixture.

Press the chocolate filling into the pastry case.

Lay the crystallised orange slices over the top and bake at 180° for 30 minutes. Leave for half an hour to cool before removing from the tin.

This used up some more of my Ready Brek so I'm adding it to this month's #KitchenClearout linky.