How To Get One Of Your 5-A-Day From Cake

Readers of this blog will know the by now legendary challenge I have to get enough fruit and veg into the kids.  Caitlin has always been reasonably good but Ieuan is proving more stubborn.

Parents will be familiar with the general boredom that sets in when you have to listen to your own, largely ignored lectures about the health benefits of vitamins and minerals on repeat, whilst the kids languidly prod whichever gadget is in reach.

vegetables in cakes - delicious cakes from Blackberry Cottage

So it is time to explore a new and sneaky way to get veg into them – and happily, the bakers at Blackberry Cottage have a cunning plan.

As they explain, vegetables in cakes have been around for hundreds of years – everyone has heard of carrot cake – but they have designed a whole range of vegetable cakes and tray bakes, as well as a delectable selection of Christmas puddings.

Their cakes have vegetables as the biggest ingredient which allows them to reduce refined sugars and fats.  They also use alternative flours such as rice and gram as well as the more traditional ones.

Based in Berkshire, the team bake every day in their artisan kitchen.  Blackberry Cottage cakes are hand baked in small batches using home grown or locally sourced supplies – and using eggs from their own chickens.

We were sent a Tea Time Cake Selection to try containing 5 delicious cake portions:-

  • Chocolate Sponge with Butternut Squash
  • Apricot & Almond with Carrot
  • Chocolate Brownie with Sweet Potato
  • Fruit Loaf with Parsnip & Lemon Icing
  • Carrot Cake with Vanilla Frosting

We found all of them lovely and moist without being overly sweet.  Whilst you can see the vegetables in the cakes, they are not the over-riding taste.  This is brilliant because if you didn’t tell your kids what they were eating, I doubt they’d realise they were eating veg!

My favourite was the Chocolate Sponge with Butternut Squash whilst the Husband liked the delicate taste of the Fruit Loaf with Parsnip & Lemon Icing. Caitlin and Ieuan both chose the Chocolate Brownie with Sweet Potato as their favourite.

Enthused with this new method of eating vegetables, Ieuan announced he was now going to eat a Blackberry Cottage brownie every day.

Cakes need to be stored in a cool dry place and you can freeze them too.

We were also sent a Blackberry Cottage Round Christmas Pudding to try.  There are four to choose from:-

  • Gluten, Dairy, Nut, Egg Free & No Added Refined Sugar (suitable for Vegans)
  • Delicious Moist Pudding full of Rum Cask Cider Soaked Fruit (suitable for Vegetarians)
  • Traditional Old Recipe with Ale & Carrots (suitable for Vegetarians)
  • Delicious Moist Pudding full of Stout Soaked Fruit (suitable for Vegetarians)

Ours was the one full of Rum Cask Cider Soaked Fruit and it was a dense, rich pudding full of spices and surprises such as figs. The kids wolfed theirs down with Caitlin opting for her usual 3 pints of custard.

Although you can steam the pudding (100 minutes), it also microwaves nicely in 3 minutes so that’s what we did and it worked fine.

The cider used in our pudding comes from a local cider maker in West Berkshire using a variety of eating, cooking and crab apples which have been fermented and matured in oak rum barrels.

The pudding we were sent was the 450g size which serves 4 comfortably but there is also a 900g which serves 8 and larger sizes are available.

Our pudding came wrapped in muslin and finished with a pretty ribbon so would make a great gift too.  I’m not the only one who would eat Christmas pudding after Christmas, surely?!

If you would like to learn how to incorporate vegetables in cakes, you can even attend one of Blackberry Cottage’s courses or demonstrations.

I have to confess I’m not the only one to discover Blackberry Cottage.  They have been featured in Vogue, The Daily Mail, Landlove Magazine, The Daily Telegraph and Healthy Diet Magazine, among others.

You can find out more at www.blackberrycottagefayre.co.uk or email kate@blackberrycottagefayre.co.uk.

Would you like to try vegetables in cakes – you’ll never know, I promise!

GoGo squeeZ – A Great Fruit Snack For On The Go Kids

Now that the new school term is in full swing, it is perhaps inevitable that some schools will attempt draconian measures to enforce healthy eating for children – for example as this Bradford school did only this week by banning pork pies and sausage rolls. I think, though, that most parents have a good idea of what constitutes a healthy diet; it’s just that many of us are so time poor these days.

best fruit snacks - GoGo SqueeZ pouches

We know that our kids should be eating a good balance of fruit and veg but, when it comes to lunchboxes and mid-morning snacks, I am pretty tired of unearthing mouldering fruit from the depths of Caitlin and Ieuan’s backpacks.

best fruit snack - GoGo Squeez pouch

If you’re looking for the best fruit snacks for on the go kids like my two, there is an alternative to a bruised banana and a dented pear which, hands up, I’m quite partial to myself – and these are school compliant.

best fruit snack - Caitlin with a GoGo Squeez pouch

GoGo squeeZ is a range of squeezable fruit snacks and yoghurt snacks with no artificial additives, no mess and no need to keep in the fridge.  You don’t need a spoon – simply twist off the cap and squeeze. They consist of either a fruit puree or a relatively ‘set’ yoghurt, both of which taste great without that yucky tang of added sweetener or too much sugar.

The fruit snacks are made from 100% fruit whilst the GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ are made from milk and fruit puree and are a source of calcium and Vitamin D – particularly important now that the sunlight is decreasing and the days are getting shorter.

The pouches each contain a small serving size of 85 g, come in boxes of 4 and are suitable for children over 3. There’s no preparation or waste involved and these are a very easy way for kids to get 1 of their 5 a day. The fruit snacks come in three flavours: Apple, Strawberry & Apple and Apple & Mango, whilst the YoghurtZ come in Banana and Strawberry flavours.

These would have been a godsend to me when Caitlin and Ieuan were younger and feeding hungry (and grumpy) toddlers was a bit of a challenge.  Let’s not talk about the ‘John Lewis Lift Melt-Down’ or the grass eating incident at Sudley Castle – both of which could have been avoided with a GoGo squeeZ.

These days, my two don’t stop and I find GoGo squeeZ are a great fruit snack to tide the kids over to mealtimes after Caitlin’s ballet or Ieuan’s Tae Kwon-d0 and football. Ieuan does his own particularly spectacular version of ‘hangry’ which I’m finding some emergency fruit or yoghurt curtails somewhat.

It’s really easy to just chuck a few GoGo squeeZ pouches in your bag or their kit bag along with their water bottle.  They’re also ideal to add to your child’s lunchbox.

I once met a mother who advised me that tantrums and lift meltdowns could be avoided by carrying a stock of sultanas at all times. A GoGo squeeZ® would do much the same – and avoid a glutinous sticky mess at the bottom of your handbag too.

And, if you’re a bit of a lazy cook like I am, you could always squeeze a fruit snack on to your porridge in the morning or squeeze out a yoghurt and decorate it with chopped fruit as a speedy dessert for the kids (or mid-morning snack for me). Shameless but very handy.

GoGo squeeZ is available in local supermarkets or on Amazon.

If you’re looking for a more fun fruit snack for kids, give them a try.  In my experience, the best fruit snacks are the ones that actually get eaten!

Knoppers Wafer Biscuits Review

It’s been a summer of snacking.  You forget, don’t you, how much kids eat when they’re home from school and they demand constant variety at all hours of the day.

Knoppers Packaging & Wafer

Whilst we try to get as much fruit down them as possible and to deny Ieuan his insatiable quest for crisps, there are times when you just want something that’s fun, tasty, not too calorific and preferably portable.

Caitlin & Ieuan & The Leaning Tower of Knoppers

Plus, you’ll never be stuck if you can’t find the Jenga set.

I like my snacks to have a little pleasure built in.  My dad’s favourite biscuit, for example, is the Rich Tea. At the risk of sounding like Peter Kay, there’s little pleasure in one of those.

I am also occasionally guilty of using snacks to bribe the kids or to pacify them when it’s just too long a gap between meals – as happens every Friday when Caitlin has ballet.

Ieuan Hobbis eating a Knoppers biscuit with a glass of milk

Ieuan is the personification of ‘hangry’ when his blood sugar’s down and we’ve learned to get him a glass of milk and something not too substantial but enough to fill his tummy.

Knoppers is a new crispy baked wafer biscuit with a milky hazelnut filling and a chocolatey wafer coating. It weighs in at a reasonable 137 calories (a four-finger KitKat is 250 calories) and each one is individually wrapped, ideal for slinging in your bag or the glove box of the car.

Knoppers wafer biscuits have already launched in 50 countries around Europe and are extremely popular so you may well have come across these if you’ve been lucky enough to travel lately.  But now they are over here and, judging by the taste, likely to be equally as popular.

Caitlin eating a Knoppers

We all loved the taste of these and whilst Caitlin and Ieuan take them to Tae Kwon-do and ballet, the Husband throws them in his travel bag en route to the airport or London, where he spends most of his time.

Far better for him than succumbing to the Danish Pastries which apparently lie in wait for him at Cardiff Central Railway Station.  And, when he gets the train home, lots of the food places at Paddington are closed – unless you want a pasty.  Who said London is an international capital eh?

Knoppers is a more solid wafer biscuit than a couple of the rivals on the market and denser, with the filling running through the wafer, rather than being soft, piped in cream. You feel as if you have had a decent snack when you have one – although be warned, they are very moreish.

Have you tried Knoppers Wafer Biscuits?

Organic V Free Range Milk – Do YOU know the difference asks Arla?

Lately, I’ve been talking a lot to Caitlin and Ieuan about where our food comes from. Caitlin’s rainforest school project has put her on a mission to avoid Palm Oil at all costs – you’d be amazed how many products contain it – and of course we’re now looking at where our food and drink comes from in this country too.

Caitlin & Ieuan tasting Arla Free Range Organic Milk

Happily, the kids are well aware of how most of their food is produced and Ieuan in particular is an avid milk drinker.  We got to see a fully operational dairy farm in action on a recent glamping holiday with Featherdown Farms but if there’s one thing we are not sure about, it’s the difference between organic milk and free range milk.

Caitlin and Ieuan know about pesticides and that these can be ingested by both humans and animals and I know that the organic label can be applied where there is a limited number of pesticides used, but other than that our knowledge is sketchy!

And we’re not alone.  Arla recently conducted some research which revealed that Britain’s parents aren’t clear about the distinction – and it’s quite an important one.

Arla’s milks are both organic and free range so here’s the difference.

Free range organic milk

The cows which produce Arla Organic milk are free range, meaning they are grazed outside whenever possible. They are only brought indoors when it would be detrimental to their welfare to be outside, for instance, if weather conditions are poor.

There’s no specifically defined number of grazing days for the cows as conditions can be different on every farm and for every cow. Instead, the focus is on maximising the time animals are outside grazing and on average, organic cows are outdoors for over 200 days of the year. (Source: Arla Farmer Owner Survey of 84 farms, May 2017, Kingshay Independent study of 85 organic herds in the UK)

Milk can be free range without being organic as free range only relates to the ‘grazing’ requirements. By choosing to buy organic milk you also guarantee that in addition to already high standards, organic product requires additional standards are met on animal welfare, caring for wildlife, sustainability and production quality.

 

bee on a wildflower in a meadow
Image credit: Pixabay

Wildlife and Bee friendly

Arla’s organic cows graze outdoors on grass and clover and no weed killers or artificial fertilizers are used. They use a system of farming which relies on crop rotation, well-timed cultivation and careful selection of crop varieties. This method is bee-friendly and encourages wildlife and biodiversity by avoiding manufactured chemical sprays. No GM animal feed is used and antibiotics are not used routinely.

Farmer owned

Arla is a farmer owned cooperative which means that the farmers own the business and 87 of their farms are organic. All their milk complies fully with controlled organic standards.

Arla Organic Free Range Milk & Cereal

As you can see there is a clear difference between organic and free range and I can report that the kids noticed a definite difference in the taste of Arla’s Organic Free Range Milk. They both preferred it to their usual supermarket milk.

You can find Arla Organic Free Range Milk in Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and NISA supermarkets and why not join their Twitter party this Wednesday 19th July at 8pm where you can chat more about family food using the hashtag #ArlaOrganicFreeRange and by following Arla on Twitter @ArlaDairy.

You can find out more about Arla milks at www.arlafoods.co.uk.

*Collaborative Post

Review: Robins & Sons Luxury Handmade Chocolates

Who doesn’t love chocolate?  I’ve written before about how this product of the cacao bean has held us all in thrall for centuries.

Robins & Sons Dipped Oranges in Chocolate Display Box
Robins & Sons Dipped Oranges in Chocolate

But all chocolate is not the same.  These days I find some commercial chocolates have such a high, cloying sweet taste that it’s hard to taste the chocolate for the sugar.  No surprise then that even Nestle is reducing the sugar content of bars such as KitKat to see if we can cope.

I prefer my chocolates to be a little more challenging, taste-wise and if they are beautifully packaged, so much the better.

I was recently invited to sample luxury handmade chocolates from Robins & Sons and they are a cut above many of the others I have tried (and there have been a few!).

Robins & Sons Mint Crackle
The one that started it all off – Robins & Sons Mint Crackle

Robins & Sons is a family business run by Andrea Robins, her husband and their two young sons and the company has an interesting origin.

In late 2012 Andrea was employed as a Clinical Scientist within the NHS and a visit to New York during ‘Thanksgiving’ led her to discover what she describes as “a wonderful ‘minty concoction’ unlike anything I’d tasted before, thinly layered milk and white chocolate topped with crushed candy cane (aka Peppermint Bark).”

Being unable to find anything like it back home, Andrea decided to make her own and a slip up with recipe quantities led to her giving lots of her chocolate away – to a great reception.  This, the creation of the company’s signature Chocolate Crackle and Mint Chocolate Crackle, led to a full-time career as a chocolatier.

Now Robins & Sons have over 25 products, all of which have been meticulously sourced from around the globe for superiority in taste, texture and appearance.

Robins & Sons Very Berry White Chocolate Heart
Very Berry Chocolate Heart

They insist upon natural colours and flavours throughout, using only natural peppermint and Valencian orange oil extracts in their Robins and Sons Signature ‘Chocolate Crackle’, and fragrant Sicilian lemon oil in their Sicilian Lemon Crunch.

We tried a number of lovely Robins chocolates including:-

Available in Milk or Dark

Salted Caramel Nibble
Mint Chocolate Crackle (with peppermint oil and peppermint candy cane)
Dipped Oranges (whole candied orange slices dipped in milk or dark chocolate)

Available in Dark (70% cocoa solids)

Orange Chocolate Crackle (with orange oil and fruit candy cane nibs)
Sicilian Lemon Crunch (dark chocolate with lemon oil, lemon sugar crystals and meringue)

Available in Milk

Fruit & Nut Clusters (with almonds, cranberries & oranges)
Very Berry (white chocolate with dried Strawberries, Raspberries & Meringue)

The ‘crackle’ adds a great texture and little bursts of flavour on your tongue. We loved the natural fruit flavours and pieces of fruit and meringue which give a depth of taste and make you want to linger over each chocolate.

You can find the full range of their website at www.robinsandsons.com.  Sold in bags, bars and boxes, there’s free delivery on orders over £30.  Even better, Robins & Sons chocolates are made just outside my university city of Swansea so it’s great to keep the Welsh flag flying so to speak.

On the website, you’ll find a range of gift ideas all beautifully packaged and just begging to be hidden from the Husband who had to be forcibly restrained from munching his way through all the samples Andrea kindly sent.

The selection gift box (RRP £30) is a great gift for any chocoholic. Find out more at  www.robinsandsons.com for more luxury handmade chocolates.

 

ChewyMoon – A Healthier Snack Option For Your Kids

GIFTED: As parents, I’m sure we’re all aware of the snacking danger zone which occurs when the kids come out of school.  They’re usually starving and demand sweets, chocolate or crisps. Offering a nice juicy apple or a banana is usually greeted with a grumpy face and “isn’t there anything else?”.  So why not try a ChewyMoon snack box?

Collage of Caitlin & Ieuan enjoying ChewyMoon healthy snacks for kids

ChewyMoon is a subscription box service which provides the UK’s first nutritionally balanced snack box for children between the ages of 4 and 10.

The company is the brainchild of nutritionist Verena Klanner who has created a range of snacks made from natural ingredients with no refined sugar or nasties.

Not only are the snacks age appropriate to meet the differing nutritional needs of kids as they grow but they compare favourably to the traditional healthy option, e.g. that apple!

ChewyMoon nutritional statistics - how do their snacks compare?

Each box contains 5 different snacks, as well as comics, fact cards and totem toys to make healthy snacking fun.

ChewyMoon snack varieties - 4 pictures showing the options

And each snack variety has a cute character on the box.  For example, there’s Dr Fluffy Moon, the cat who is clever, passionate and bossy (much like Caitlin and Ieuan) and Yuri Moon, the space chimp who is old, grumpy and adventurous (can’t think who that reminds me of!).

So how does the subscription scheme work?

You simply select the box you fancy and fill in details about your child.  The first box is free and then each weekly box costs £4.93 per child (including postage).  Billing is 2 days prior to the despatch of your box and you can cancel at any time.

Once you have received your box you can rate each snack online so that future boxes are tailored to the taste of your child.

Note that ChewyMoon boxes are NOT suitable for children with food allergies.

ChewyMoon variety box types

We were sent samples of the weekly snack box which contained five snack varieties, a fact card, totem toy and comic strip and the monthly family pack which contained seven snack varieties, two of which are specially designed for the adults.

Caitlin tried Jack ‘n’ Fruit, (flapjack, orange drops and blueberries) and Ieuan had Cherry Crumble (cherry cubes, cherry raisins and millet balls).  A number of the snacks have suspiciously vanished up to the Husband’s loft – particularly Coco Raz (raw coconut chips, raspberries, palmyra blossom nectar, beetroot, baobab and vanilla).

We liked the quirky packaging and the fun element to snacking.  The snacks are imaginative and tasty, although it would be helpful to have the ingredients of the snack listed on the individual box. These details are available on a separate leaflet containing nutrition facts but first-timers won’t know what they’re getting.  Arguably though, this adds to the fun.

I would also say that while the portion size is adequate, it isn’t huge so you may find hungry kids might eat more than one box at a time.  Verena says that the calorie count for snacks for younger kids should be around 100kcal whilst older children and preteens can have up to 200kcal.

The individual ChewyMoon snack boxes are ideal to chuck in to gym and ballet bags for a healthier fix after exercise (a lot better than our current habit of Werthers Originals or Mintoes).

I like the concept of ChewyMoon.  If I had one comment it would be that the current box is rather heavy on the packaging but it’s bright, attractive and likely to appeal to kids.  The price point is reasonable given the quality of the ingredients, working out at around 98p per snack.

Have you tried a ChewyMoon snack box?

Mighty Little Thirsty Quenchers – It’s Ribena Minis

GIFTED: I’ve been wondering for a while why Ribena, one of the UK drinks brands I grew up with hasn’t produced their drinks in mini bottles rather than cartons.

I find the bottles much easier to carry and generally they contain a larger amount of drink which is important when kids are rehydrating after biking, Taekwondo or ballet!.

But now Ribena has launched Ribena Minis, made specifically for frantic family life with a specially designed ‘Less Spills, Less Mess’ cap on a brightly coloured plastic bottle (recyclable of course).

The caps have been developed, based on in-depth research with parents, to minimise spillage by allowing liquid to be released only when gently squeezed.

There are three flavours with real fruit juice and no-added sugar – Brilliant Blackcurrant, Oh So Yum Orange and Amazing Apple & Mango.

The drinks come in 2 sizes, 200ml and 250ml, ideal for day trips, lunches and after-school snack and if there’s a little leftover, the resealable bottles mean that they can be opened and closed whenever needed.

Caitlin tried the Amazing Apple & Mango and Ieuan tried the Brilliant Blackcurrant and they were happy to accept Ribena’s challenge to prove that the new caps are leak-proof by holding the bottles upside down over their heads for 5 seconds.

The flavours are what you would expect from Ribena and whilst we tested the 200ml size, Ieuan wanted a bigger bottle – he’s a blackcurrant fiend – so the 250ml would have been better for him.

The caps certainly do the job and little fingers would not be able to open them.  Ribena state that the caps are not suitable for children under 3.  You do have to push the cap in and then lift it and it took my two a while to get the hang of it because the caps are quite stiff. You might find that a grown-up is needed to open the drink for a younger child.

The Ribena Minis range is available in major supermarkets and the drinks are available in multipacks of 8 (RRP £2.99), 4 (RRP £1.99) and single 250ml bottles of Apple and Mango and Blackcurrant are available at RRP 85p.

It’s nice to have the option of a new drink for the kids’ packed lunches and day-trips.

You can find out more at @RibenaUK on Facebook and Twitter.

Review: HelloFresh Meal Subscription Service

GIFTED: We tried the HelloFresh Meal Subscription Service for two weeks.  Here’s what we thought.

Being a so-so cook, I find that deciding what to have for tea is rather difficult – despite having a collection of cookery books that would fill a library.

If I do find a recipe, there will be at least one ingredient I don’t have to hand, or the ingredients will be far more exotic than our local supermarket will offer.

This means that the kids’ weekday teas tend to consist of pizza, salmon, spaghetti bolognese, fish fingers and ham sandwiches.

Over the summer holidays we got into a bit of a rut with rather more of these than was good for us. Now autumn is here and it’s getting colder, I find myself wanting proper, hot, nutritious food – particularly for the kids.

But I’ve discovered HelloFresh who offer a food box subscription service with fresh produce, all the stocks, sauces and spices you’ll need and recipe cards with instructions even the most hopeless cook can follow.

HelloFresh meal subscription service

We were sent the family box to try over 2 weeks.  This feeds 2 adults and 2 children for the price of £64 per week for 4 meals (that’s £4 per head per meal).

These were the 8 meals we were sent:-

Week 1

  • Jamie’s South Asian Chicken Curry with Fluffy Rice
  • Mushroom, Broccoli and Pancetta Gnocchi
  • BBQ Sausage Skewers with Cheesy Wedges
  • Chorizo Crusted Tilapia with Miniature Roasties

Week 2

  • Creamy Leek and Mustard Chicken with Stir-Fried Green Beans
  • Jamie’s Sizzling Steak Stir-Fry with Tenderstem Broccoli & Noodles
  • Sweet and Sour Pork with Bulgur Wheat Courgette
  • Broad Bean and Feta Orzotto with Pork Meatballs

Once you have signed up (and there are other boxes to choose from), you select your delivery day and then wait for your box to arrive.

Each box contains a variety of vegetables, a bag of all the spices and condiments you need to make the recipes, your meat and fish (carefully wrapped in wool with ice packs) and the recipe cards.

HelloFresh also offers a box for vegetarians and a classic box with more adult and spicier meals.

With the possible exception of a splash of olive oil, milk or water, there is nothing else you need to provide.

You can cook the meals in any order and the produce lasts for one week so there is no need to panic and cook them 4 days on the trot, although I did find I began to get into a routine.

Whilst the meals are easy to prepare, if you don’t do much cooking I would allow yourself extra time for chopping etc.

As experienced cooks will know, a small block of time for food prep in the morning (unless your school mornings are complete chaos) or just after you’ve put the kids to bed will give you a useful breathing space when tea time comes around – particularly if you are taxiing the kids back and forth to various clubs and classes.

Not only are the recipe cards clearly written and easy to follow, but the quality of the produce you are sent is also incredibly high.

All the food is carefully packaged and clearly marked with the use-by date.  There is nothing processed and you add the seasoning yourself so there is no danger of too much salt.

The cooking time for each meal is around 25-35 minutes, designed specifically for busy mums and dads who need to get tea on the table pronto.

Caitlin is an excellent eater but Ieuan is a lot pickier. To my surprise, I found that they both tested everything.

I did substitute the bulgur wheat for rice with the sweet and sour pork and Ieuan wasn’t a fan of the orzo pasta.

I also managed to undercook the Gnocchi which could have been better had they been crisper – but I’ve learned to cook in batches rather than chuck everything in a frying pan and hope for the best!

I was really impressed with HelloFresh and we have now subscribed because

  • No more bulky main meal food shopping
  • No cupboard full of condiments and pickles that never get used
  • No stress about thinking “what’s for tea”
  • Cooking is actually quite enjoyable (don’t tell the Husband)
  • I feel like a much better mum for feeding my kids decent meals each tea time
  • We all feel quite a bit healthier due to less processed food

Of course, there are still another 3 tea times to cope with but the recipe cards are punched so you can store them in a folder for a quick idea or two.  I feel far less guilty about pizza and fish fingers when the kids have already had 4 proper meals that week.

Currently, if you sign up to HelloFresh there is £40 off (£20 off each of your first 2 boxes) and if cooking is your bugbear, I heartily recommend you take a look.

In terms of value, I think the £64 is very reasonable. You could probably cook 4 meals a lot cheaper but it’s the removal of the stress of planning, shopping and storing that adds value to HelloFresh.

Their subscription plans are flexible too – you can stop your subscription when you need to or cancel it at any time (as long as you give about a week’s notice).

It’s going to be a much healthier, and tastier winter in the Hobbis household.

For more information visit www.hellofresh.co.uk. Read our review of the HelloFresh Christmas box here.

Have you tried the HelloFresh meal subscription service?  What did you think?

Brilliant Hacks For A Stress Free School Morning From belVita

It’s not surprising to learn that over 40% of parents say back to school stress begins the week before the new term starts, threatening to send some of us over the edge!

And, as the new school term looms, a huge 80% admit to feeling stressed at the thought of having to get everyone back into the school routine after the holidays, with the dreaded morning school run amongst the most stressful things about parenthood, according to the nation’s mums and dads.

The study on parenthood stresses by belVita Breakfast Biscuits found that 5 of the 10 top parent pressure points start the moment we wake up, with 31% agreeing that getting the children ready and out of the door in time for school and settling back into the flow of the morning routine post-holiday, are key parenthood stress triggers.

And it’s not just kids who bear the brunt of the ‘morning madness.’ Unfortunately for parents, 65% of mums and dads forego something to get the kids out of the front door like breakfast (36%) or end up fighting with their partner over who takes on the most in the morning (38%).

It can sometimes be a battle to get the kids to eat breakfast!

Parents don’t just feel the ‘back to school’ pressure at home…44% feel under pressure to appear to be stress-free and ‘together’ in front of the other parents at the school gate in the morning – with dads feeling the pressure more than mums (49% men versus 46% of women).

Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who has been working with belVita Breakfast to help advise parents, particularly in the morning where most of the pressure lies, says:

“The stress and challenges of parenting can feel overwhelming – especially when we feel under pressure to get a lot done in a short space of time- morning can be especially challenging and it’s key to develop a positive, convenient routine in the morning as it sets the rhythm for the day. And it’s not just kids who bear the brunt of the ‘morning madness.’ Unfortunately for parents, 65% of mums and dads forego something to get the kids out of the front door like breakfast (36%) or end up fighting with their partner over who takes on the most in the morning (38%).

Parents don’t just feel the ‘back to school’ pressure at home…44% feel under pressure to appear to be stress-free and ‘together’ in front of the other parents at the school gate in the morning – with dads feeling the pressure more than mums (49% men versus 46% of women).

The research, focused on 2,000 parents, reveals that thanks to the frenetic morning routine, nearly a third (32%) forget to pack an important school item and a fifth (20%) drop the children off late for school.

1 in 10 parents even do something ridiculous before leaving the house, including sending the kids outside with socks on their hands instead of gloves or they walk at out the house in an item of nightwear!

When it’s ‘back to school time’, trying to get everything done and leaving the house on time is at its most pressurised so developing strategies that you give you and your family a sense of control is really important.”

Over a half (51%) of parents feel stress would be reduced if the kids just did what they were asked, whilst over a fifth (21%) of pray for a fairy god mother out of pure desperation!

However, others look for solutions to deal with the battle of the morning routine, with nearly a quarter (22%) wishing they tackled what was thrown at them with ease and 21% wishing to find cheats to help them out in the morning.

Here’s a list of the top parenting stressors the researchers found:

*Keeping the house tidy and the chores up to date (38%)
*Getting the children ready and out of the door in time for school (31%)
*Getting back into a school/morning routine after the school holidays (31%)
*Getting children to do their homework/reading (27%)
*The bedtime routine (26%)
*Getting children to eat certain foods (26%)
*Getting children to clean their teeth (24%)
*Making sure my children are well behaved in public (23%)
*Getting children out of bed in the mornings (21%)
*Meal times (20%)
*The School run (19%)

“Parents don’t need to panic! There are ways we can relieve the morning madness, simple strategies like connecting with kids in the morning so they’re more co-operative or preparing things from the night before can make a big difference to the morning mood of a family unit. Small changes and combining some short term quick wins and convenient cheats will pay off in the long term.”

belVita believe that a good morning can set you up for the day – and that means making sure neither you nor the kids miss out on a breakfast.and their breakfast biscuits are a tasty and convenient breakfast option.

And if you’re looking for some great hacks to make your morning routine simpler, check out the video below.

All you can do is come up with a routine and stick to it come hell or high water in the hope that your kids will eventually do what they’re asked automatically.

Either that, or just muddle through like the rest of us with coffee.  An awful lot of coffee. And I can confirm that belVita biscuits are great to dunk.

The belVita range includes belVita Breakfast Biscuits, belVita Breakfast Yogurt Crunch and Duo Crunch, belVita Breakfast Tops – three tasty breakfast biscuits with smooth topping, belVita Breakfast Soft Bakes and belVita Breakfast Crunchy – three tasty bigger breakfast biscuits – which we tried in Apricot.

A PR sample was received for the purposes of this post and very tasty it was too.

Reinventing Family Favourites With Branston Pickles & Sauces

Most of us know the name Branston and the saying “Bring Out The Branston”.  The original Branston Pickle was always on our table to liven up ploughman’s lunches and sandwiches.  My dad was a particular fan and in fact, his pet name for me was Pickle – which may, or may not be linked.

Branston Pickle was first made by Crosse & Blackwell in 1922 and is named after the small village near Burton in Staffordshire. Over 17 million jars of pickle are sold every year and the range now includes relishes and table sauces.

But did you know that you can use Branston products to liven up a whole range of dishes, including family favourites such as lasagne or beef stew with dumplings?

There is a great selection of Branston products to choose from such as the new Branston Sweet Chilli Pickle, Spicy Tomato Relish, Caramelised Onion Chutney, Orchard Fruit Chutney and Tomato & Red Pepper Relish.

You can use these to jazz up your leftovers – for example, you could use up leftover cheese in a Cheese, Spinach & Caramelised Onion Chutney Quiche or how about some Mediterranean Bubble & Squeak Cakes – a great way to use up leftover potato and veg.

Branston’s website has a comprehensive range of recipes to try, including five created by Andy Bates, the star of Food Network’s Street Feasts which are tasty takes on the hot sandwich. Andy, who is known for his modern twists on classic dishes, fuelled by his international travels and passion for street food, has created a recipe to complement each flavour in the Branston Relish range.

How about Cider & Fennel Braised Pulled Pork, Mango Salsa Roll with Branston Sweet & Spicy Brazilian Relish or Mushroom & Grilled Cheese ‘Burger’ Muffin With Branston Caramelised Red Onion Relish?

It’s a very long way from the humble Ploughman’s!

If you would like to try Branston’s recipes for yourself, you’ll find them at www.bringoutthebranston.co.uk.

We tried Sticky Pork Chops but substituted the Branston Orchard Chutney for the Branston Sweet Chilli Chutney.

Simply make a marinade with 4 generous tablespoons of Branston.

Coat the chops with the marinade and chill for 30 minutes.

The Marinade at work

Then whack in the oven for half an hour while you prepare some rice with the broccoli and courgette.

The tomatoes are added to the chops about 10 minutes before serving.

The result was pork chops with quite a kick and the added veg are great for the kids.

You’re sure to find a way to add some extra taste to your meals with the Branston range.

Miniscoff – Great Organic Ready Meals For Kids aged 1-8+ & Giveway

When I weaned my kids it involved endless hours wrestling with a food processor, fruit and an selection of implausibly small freezer pots. I was a devotee of Annabel Karmel and would blend combinations of fish and spinach or mix up fruit purees to get as much goodness into the kids as possible.

Miniscoff Organic Meals

Nowadays, as readers of this blog know, my cooking is a little more, er hit and miss and there are times, particularly when the Husband is away on business, that I’d love to give the kids a proper hot meal with real family favourites.

The reality is that we dash home from school, dash straight out again and then come home to reheat a pizza or when time is really short to yet another round of sandwiches.

I always mean to get something out the freezer and cook something up in the slow cooker in the morning, but now I write full time (and am hopeless at getting side-tracked), I usually remember after lunch that tea is looming.

The kids are too big for baby ready meals and too small for adult ready meals which, being generally stuffed with too much sugar, salt and other additives are often a poor choice anyway.  Ieuan is still resisting baked potatoes, although he will deign to eat roasties so I was happy to find that there is a range of ready meals for kids which cater up to 8+.

Miniscoff is a children’s organic food brand founded by Angus Oliphant, who, as a working dad discovered that trying to cook meals from scratch was challenging and that healthy prepared meals suitable for kids were hard to find. He decided to create his own range of organic ready meals for parents that didn’t want convenience to mean compromise.

Ieuan Hobbis with Miniscoff Organic Sauces - giveaway - motherdistracted.co.uk
Ieuan weighing up the Miniscoff Organic Sauces

All Miniscoff dishes are certified organic and made by hand and the brand has recently received awards from Prima Baby & Pregnancy as Best Toddler Food Range and Best Children’s Food Brand from Junior Design Awards.

Miniscof meals are available from Ocado as well as the Miniscoff website and are also available on over 300 menus across the UK if you’re travelling.

The meals include 9 organic ready meals and 4 organic sauces:-

The Ready Meals

Ali Baba’s Shepherd’s Pie (lamb) (GM, Egg & Gluten Free)

Mr MacGregor’s Pie (beef) (GM, Egg & Gluten Free)

Curly Wurly Chicken (GM, Egg & Dairy Free)

Broccoli Bill’s Pasta Pie (GM & Egg Free)

Salmon Ocean Pie (GM & Egg Free)

Jolly Spag Bolly (GM, Egg & Dairy Free)

Planet Spaghetti (GM, Egg & Dairy Free)

Chilli Yum Yum (GM, Egg, Dairy & Gluten Free)

Creamy Salmon Pasta (GM & Egg Free)

The Organic Sauces

Chicken & Bacon (GM, Egg, Dairy & Gluten Free)

Bolognese (GM, Egg, Dairy & Gluten Free)

West Country Cheddar (GM & Egg Free) 

Cheese & Tomato (GM, Egg & Gluten Free)

We were sent a selection of Miniscoff meals to try and we tried Ali Baba’s Shepherd’s Pie, Curly Wurly Chicken and Broccoli Bill’s Pasta Pie.

Caitlin tries Miniscoff Ali Baba’s Shepherd’s Pie

Initially I wasn’t too convinced about the portion size but they were just right for my two.  You may want to add a side dish or two of extra vegetables if you have time to bulk the meals out.

We did find that, particularly with the Ali Baba’s Shepherd’s Pie, the omission of seasoning was noticeable, although only to be expected and that a pinch of salt and pepper improved the dish greatly. My kids are 8 and nearly 7 though so you would not want to do that for younger children.

The pasta dishes we tried, (the Curly Wurly Chicken and Broccoli Bill’s Pasta Pie) were preferred by my two who adore pasta and they both said the sauce had more flavour.

I found all three dishes to be tasty and with a natural flavour.  You can tell that there are no artificial additives in the dishes.

In fact, Ieuan actually cleared his plate which is practically unheard of in the Hobbis household.

Miniscoff have set themselves a challenge by coming up with organic ready meals for such a comparatively large age range (1 – 8+) but I think they have succeeded. I will be trying the organic sauces during the week and they will be ideal for a quick half-term holiday lunch.

I did find that microwaving two meals together required extra time for the Shepherd’s Pie but that is standard with microwaved foods.

As an option I think that the Miniscoff meals give you a hassle free choice of menu options to serve up without having to rely on pizza and fish fingers.

I don’t know about you but when the kids are off I find I really have to scratch my head to come up with lunch and dinner options that find favour!

You can find more about Miniscoff on their website, on Facebook or Twitter.  The ready meals retail at £3.50 and the sauces at £3.00.

Giveaway

If you fancy trying Miniscoff organic ready meals, I have a lovely hamper of 6 assorted ready meals and 3 organic sauces for one lucky winner.  Entry is via the Rafflecopter in the usual manner.  Terms and conditions apply.  UK entrants only.  The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Friday 17th June 2016.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Take Your Toast To The Tropics With Buko Organic Coconut Jam

The humble coconut has been catapulted into stardom recently thanks to its health-giving properties and lovely taste and now there is a new way to enjoy the benefits in coconut jam.

Buko Organic Coconut Jams - motherdistracted.co.uk
Buko Organic Coconut Jams

Buko has made the UK’s first organic coconut jam which is a naturally sweet alternative to other spreads and jams.  Vegan-friendly, gluten-free and non-GMO, the jams contain a blend of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, including Inositol, the ‘feel-good’ Vitamin B8.

All of Buko’s coconuts come from organic, GMO-free farms in the Philippines. (Buko actually means
a young green coconut in Filipino) and their coconuts are Fair Trade and are grown without pesticides or fertilizers.

Buko is also registered with the Soil Association and the company has teamed up with Cuipo, a lifestyle brand dedicated to preserving prime rainforest around the globe so that for every jar of the jam sold a square meter of rainforest is saved.

You can even enter a code found on the side of each jar on their website to find out where the piece of rainforest you have saved is.

The jam comes in 3 flavours, Original, Sea Salt and Chocolate and, having tested all three, I can tell you they are delicious.

The Original Jam tastes like a velvety caramel.  The Sea Salt Jam has a lovely salty, toffee-like taste and you’d be hard pressed to tell the Chocolate Jam apart from Nutella, save for the coconutty taste of course.

Buko Organic Coconut Jam With Sea Salt - motherdistracted.co.uk
Scrummy Sea Salt Coconut Jam

These jams are an ideal alternative to the usual jams and are great spread on toast to give the kids an after-school snack with a difference.  They can also be used in baking or in smoothies or, my personal favourite dolloped on top of some ice cream.

Buko Organic Coconut Jam is available from Holland & Barrett.