Thursday, 29 June 2017

Naturelly Jelly Juice (review + giveaway E: 18 July 2017)

Jelly!!! Who doesn't love it?! I'm well over 40, and still enjoy an occasional wobbly treat. You can make it with fruit or berries, a grown-up version with some booze or a sin-free low-cal version.
My Mum used to make a lemon jelly in teacups. I remember I couldn't wait for it to set, checking it out every few minutes in the fridge, which probably didn't help.
Our son Eddie is a big jelly fan. Thankfully, there is a new trend among big and smaller brands to produce healthier versions of this delicious treat, so that it's not full of sugar or any artificial additives.

Naturelly Jelly Juice is a healthy snack, made from natural ingredients, including real fruit juice and jelly.
We have first discovered Naturelly, when we found a pouch in one of Degustabox deliveries. Eddie was quick to gobble it up and pronounced it tasty.

What has inspired Naturelly founders to come up with an idea of this product?
"Trying to find healthy snacks was always challenging for us; especially when on days out or picking the girls up from school and nursery. Tears and tantrums would often follow. We needed an on the go refreshment that would fill them up just a little, until dinner time. So, we put all of our crazy brains together to find out the stuff our kids and their friends loved and this led us to the idea of creating Naturelly Jelly Juice".
That probably sounds very familiar to many parents who come to collect their kids from school or nursery. Eddie has always been peckish after school, and I tend to carry a snack or two in my handbag for the school pick up, usually a fruit string or rolls.
Though it will never be enough to last until dinner time.
I'm afraid we are a family of grazers, and we almost never have a three-course dinner (unless we have guests).

Naturelly is a mix of juice with a special gelatine free jelly made from Lily plants called Gellan Gum. It provides a natural dietary fibre, and by mixing it with fruit juice it helps stop cravings for sugary snacks.

healthy snacks for kids

Naturelly jelly juice comes in three fruity flavours: Summer Fruits, Totally Tropical and Apple & Blackcurrant. The pouches are easy to squeeze and slurp from, they are just right for little hands.

Parents will appreciate that Naturelly snacks are made without added sugar, sweeteners, artificial colours or flavours and preservatives. Only natural goodness for our little ones.
Each pouch provides 36kcal and 7g of naturally occurring fruit sugar.
These light pouches are great for carrying around in a lunch box, or consumed on the go, when your kids are feeling peckish.

We kept the last pouch for yesterday's Sports Day at Eddie's school, as they were supposed to have a picnic outdoors. Alas, the Sports event was cancelled due to the inclement weather. But Eddie enjoyed his Naturelly jelly juice, having a picnic in the school hall.

If you like the sound of Naturelly jelly snacks, you can try a pouch for free. Buy any flavour from Boots and claim your money back online. There's 5000 to give away this summer. Offer ends on 31 August 2017. Only 1 free Naturelly product per person.

healthy snacks for kids

Lovely people from Naturelly have also offered a giveaway prize for my blog readers.
One lucky blog reader will win a month's supply of Naturelly - that's 36 pouches of deliciousness.

To be in with a chance of winning, please enter via Rafflecopter form.

The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
Once the Rafflecopter picks the winner, I will contact them regarding address details, if they do not reply within 28 day, the prize will be allocated to another person.
Please don't forget to leave a comment, as it is the only mandatory step, I will make sure the winner selected by Rafflecopter has complied with T&Cs.
The prize will be posted by Naturelly.
Giveaway ends on 18 July 2017 (midnight).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Fennel and potatoes in tomato sauce

vegetable side dish

Having looked at beautiful savoury mini muffins with garlic scapes on Choclette's blog Tin and Thyme, I popped into the garden to see if I can find any scapes. Nope, just as I thought, they'd come later in summer, in mid-July. I still picked a few green garlic leaves for the fennel and potato dish.
I planted garlic a few years ago on the strawberry patch as a preventive measure against slugs, and now find it growing in the most bizarre places in the garden. The slugs were undeterred, but the garlic stayed.

I had in mind cooking patatas bravas for dinner tonight, but there was lovely fennel at a reduced price in Waitrose, and I got a couple of bulbs. So, it's not exactly patatas bravas, but this dish is inspired by the classic Spanish recipe.

vegetarian meals

400g new potatoes, skins on
3tbsp olive oil
2 medium fennel bulbs
smoked sea salt
1tbsp smoked paprika
1tsp finely chopped parsley
1tbsp butter
1 tin of tomato fillets in tomato juice (Cirio Filetti)
2tbsp chopped garlic greens

Cut new potatoes into chunks and parboil them in salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain the water. Slice fennel bulbs and place them into a big roast tin or ceramic dish. Scatter the potatoes on top. Add the olive oil, season with smoked sea salt and paprika and mix well.
Add a little bit of butter. Chop the garlic greens (or swap for a garlic clove) and fresh parsley, and scatter over the veg. Pour the contents of tomato fillets in tomato juice over the vegetables as well as half a tin of water.
Place the dish in the oven preheated to 180C. Cook for 30+ minutes until the potatoes are soft.
If you like it hot, add more paprika or chilli flakes. 1tbsp of paprika gives it a flavour rather than heat. And smoked paprika has a beautiful flavour.

This dish could make a lovely vegetarian meal, serve it with a chunky bread.
It will also make a tasty side dish to go with meat or fish.

vegetarian meals

In this recipe I used Cirio Filetti, but any other tinned Cirio product would work well in this dish.

vegetarian meals

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Chocolate hazelnut muffins for school fayre

I don't cope well with the heat. I'm so glad that the heatwave has ended. Last Tuesday when I accompanied Eddie's class to the swimming pool, I thought I'd have a sunstroke. It was hot and humid, and my face was the colour of the cooked lobster (and I do wear the hat at all times).

My husband has just talked to his parents, and it's +49C in his home town in Italy. Makes me shudder. I don't think I could survive that.

Earlier today Eddie and I went to his school fayre. I was rather reluctant to go, but he begged and begged, and I just tagged along. Thankfully, it wasn't as hot as a few days ago.

Yesterday I baked a batch of chocolate muffins for the fayre. I have adapted the recipe found in Eric Lanlard's Totally Chocolate book.
I got this book a couple of years ago for Easter from Happy Eggs PR, suggesting to try one of the seasonal recipes. I confess I haven't tried the egg cups recipe, nor cooked anything from the book.
I have way too many cook books, and really need to sort through them and take some of them to the charity shop.

If you don't have the book, you can find the original recipe for chocolate and hazelnut muffins online.

Since I needed more than six muffins, I have doubled the amount of all ingredients. I used milk chocolate rather than dark one. My kids prefer milk chocolate. I also used more milk as the cake batter was very thick to spoon into the muffin cases. I couldn't find any chocolate chips, but an Easter chocolate bunny, chopped finely, worked fine instead of chocolate chips.

Eric decorated his muffins with chopped hazelnuts, I used sugar stars and chocolate jazzies (buttons with sprinkles) also known as rainbow drops. I placed them on top of the warm chocolate, spread over the top of each muffin, to "glue" them to the top.

You can use Nutella or a supermarket own chocolate hazelnut spread to cut the costs.

These are lovely rich muffins, which you can decorate in a variety of toppings.

baking for school fete or fayre

Flower Fairies 500 piece jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

best jigsaw puzzles

When I was a child, my Mum bought me a book about the world's best illustrators of children's books. I loved that book and spent hours looking at all the fascinating pictures and dreaming of reading all of those books one day.
I was completely entranced by the images of Flower Fairies, and thought that surely nothing could be more beautiful than those delicate little sprites created by Cicely Mary Barker.

Her illustrations which first appeared in 1923, are world renowned, and have many fans among both children and adults.
The flower drawings are botanically accurate and depict delightful fairy images. Each Flower Fairy has a lovely poem written in her honour.

I have recently revisited my childhood dreams, working on a new Flower Fairies 500pc jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger.

best jigsaw puzzles

The puzzle presents a tapestry of several famous images from Flower Fairies collection, as well as a poem Spring Goes, Summer Comes.

This colourful and detailed puzzle is made from high quality cardboard and measures 36x49cm.

best jigsaw puzzles

Admire the graceful floral illustrations of lavender, pinks, sweet peas, buttercups, daffodils and more, as well as delicate butterflies and dainty fairies.
It is an enjoyable puzzle, which will make a lovely gift for any jigsaw puzzle fan.

best jigsaw puzzles

Disclosure: I received the puzzle for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are my own.

best jigsaw puzzles

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Tonka Blast & Dash Quarry Playset

Can you believe it that Tonka is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year?! That's a great achievement for a toy brand. Happy anniversary, Tonka!
To mark 70 years of fun, Tonka has released two new playsets in their Tonka Tinys range -- Tonka Car Crush Escape and Blast & Dash Quarry (£9.99 each).

collectible mini cars, toy cars

If you haven't come across Tonka Tinys before, this is a collection of miniature vehicles which are great for small scale adventures.
Suitable for ages 3+, this range of mini collectibles is popular with children and grown-ups alike.
We have already reviewed some of the Tonka Tinys earlier this year.
There are over 20 vehicles to collect including police pickups, quarry dump trucks and even helicopters. You can get them in packs of three (with one mystery vehicle) or in blind garages (priced at £2.49).

They are highly detailed and have movable parts. We like that they come in small craters/garages, which are easy to store, as they are stackable on top of each other.

Two latest sets are connectable, and are scaled to play with all Tonka Tinys vehicles.

Tonka Tinys

Tonka Tinys Blast & Dash Quarry Playset features a working crane, car crusher and catapult for an exploding action. Don't worry, the exploding action is very minor, it's more of an up and down movable part than a blast.

Tonka Tinys

This set comes in a box, ready for a simple and easy assembly. It is suitable for 5+ due to small pieces.
Both sets include an exclusive Tonka Tinys vehicle.

Tonka Tinys

Eddie enjoys playing with little cars and other vehicles. He loved sending them down the slide through the tunnel.

This set is a lovely addition to Tonka Tinys range.

If your child is a fan of Tonka Tinys, keep an eye on a new larger playset coming out in autumn.

Disclosure: We received a playset for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Ginger molasses cake

best ginger cake

I recently discovered Shetland series on Netflix, and totally fell in love with the location and detective Jimmy Perez. I headed to The Book People and bought a bunch of Ann Cleeves' books. Raven Black has a strong narrative, a great setting and an intricate plot. The personalities and close-knit community are well crafted. And though I know exactly how it all ends, having just watched the series on TV, I am enjoying the book.

One cold January morning a teenager is found dead on the frozen beach. All suspicions fall on an old loner Magnus Tait, who has been a local pariah for many years (he was implicated in the disappearance of a child eight years earlier, though nothing has been proved). Did he kill Catherine Ross?
Detective Jimmy Perez is investigating the case, which will lead him into the past.

Lonely Magnus is sitting in his house on the new year's eve, hoping that someone would come and wish him a new year. He has bought a ginger cake, and is ready for any visitors.
A few days later he thinks of inviting new neighbours - a mother and her daughter - in for a cup of tea with biscuits, "there was a slice of ginger cake in the tin. He wondered briefly if she baked for her daughter. Probably not, he decided. That would be another thing to have changed. Why would anyone go to all that trouble now? The beating of sugar and marge in the big bowl, turning the spoon as it came out of the tin of black treacle. Why would you bother with that, when there's Safeway's in Lerwick, selling pastries with apricot and almond and ginger cake every bit as good as the one his mother had baked?"

best ginger cake

I read that, and suddenly had a craving for a slice of ginger cake. I don't bake it often, as my kids are not very keen on ginger, but a friend was stopping by on Friday for a cup of coffee, and I decided to bake the ginger cake. Not with black treacle like mother of Magnus, but with molasses.

best ginger cake

100g molasses sugar
175g margarine (I used Flora Light)
3 medium eggs
1tbsp molasses (liquid)
1tsp baking powder
3 big pieces of preserved stem ginger, grated
2tbsp ginger syrup (from preserves)
a pinch of salt
1/3tsp ground cloves
1tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1tbsp ground almonds
230g self-raising flour
2tbsp milk (optional)

for the icing: mix icing sugar with a teaspoon of ginger syrup and lemon juice to make a medium runny consistency icing
2 pieces of stem ginger, sliced thinly for decoration

Beat the molasses sugar with margarine in a deep mixing bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and add molasses, baking powder, grated ginger and ginger syrup, salt, almonds and spices. Mix well.
Sift the flour in the bowl. If the batter is too thick, add a bit of milk.
Take a brownie tin and line it with a foil. Oil it lightly, and spoon the cake batter in. Even the surface, and place the tin in the oven preheated to 180C.
Bake for 30+ minutes. Check if it's ready with a wooden toothpick, if it comes out clean, remove the tin from the oven. Carefully lift the cake from the tin, and let it cool a bit on the rack before adding the icing.
Mix icing sugar with lemon juice and ginger syrup and pour over the cake. Decorate the cake with thinly sliced stem ginger.

It is an utterly delicious cake, not too sweet and perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. Shame my kids wouldn't eat it. Eddie peeled off a slice of ginger from the cake, ate it, shuddered, made a face and said "Thanks, but No".

best ginger cake

If you don't have molasses, by all means swap it for treacle and brown sugar, but molasses add a distinct rich flavour which works so well in baking.

best ginger cake

Have you read a book recently which made you run to the kitchen and cook to your heart's content?

I hope you are inspired by books to join in the #ReadCookEat challenge.

The idea is to choose a book, either a world classic or modern fiction, or even memoirs and pick up a dish mentioned or described in that book and then recreate it in a recipe. Please say a few lines about your chosen book, and maybe even do a quote from the book.

If you decide to take part, please add the badge to your post and link up back to me, and either use a link-up tool or add the url of your post as a comment. Alternatively, email me with the link to your post (my email is sasha1703 at yahoo dot com).

I promise to Pin all blogs posts taking part in this challenge, as well as RT and Google+

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

LEGO The Capture of Sophie Jones play set

LEGO Elves

If I mention Barblin, Tufflin, Roblin, Beiblin and Dukelin, would you know what or who I am talking about?! If you know exactly who they are, it means you have fans of LEGO Elves in your family.

LEGO recently expanded their Elves range by adding five more new sets, which follow Part 3 of the LEGO Elves webisodes.
Emily Jones' little sister Sophie - like all younger siblings - thinks she can do the same things as her big sis. She is delighted to discover the magical kingdom: "What could possibly go wrong?!"
Of course, she gets into lots of trouble.

New sets invite you to defeat the evil goblins and save Emily's little sister. Each play set could be enjoyed on its own, or assembled together in different combinations.

"The magical world of Elvendale where the LEGO Elves Azari, Farran, Naida and Aira live faces dark times now the King Goblin and his goblins have hatched an evil plan.
Emily Jones' little sister Sophie has followed Emily through the portal to the magical kingdom Elvendale, however, without her big sister and her elf friends, Sophie gets capture by the evil Goblin King and his mischievous goblins.
The LEGO Elves must unite the magic and go on a dangerous mission to search for Sophie and also recover Emily's precious Amulet which has been stolen."

It is aimed at age group 8-11, but at 6, my younger son Eddie is a LEGO pro, and found it very easy to build the set.

LEGO Elves

The Capture of Sophie Jones 41182 (RRP £17.99) includes some crucial details from the story, with lots of accessories.
There is a magical portal that took Sophie to Elvendale.

LEGO Elves

You may visit Mr Spry's grocery store and discover all the items for sale.
It even has a price list

LEGO Elves

We love all the little goodies.

LEGO Elves

Mr Spry the squirrel has quite cosy quarters above the shop too, with a little couch to sleep on and a family picture on the wall.

LEGO Elves

Barblin the goblin rides a capture-mobile with a big butterfly net which moves up and down.

LEGO Elves

He looks kind of cute, but don't be deceived by his appearance. He is in with the nasty Goblin King.

LEGO Elves

And there is Sophie Jones herself. This mischievous trouble-maker is pretty and cheerful, with big blue eyes and a cheeky smile.

LEGO Elves

LEGO Elves sets are colourful and creative. If you haven't followed the story, you might like to watch the trailer, which captures the essence of the latest Elves adventures, to get an idea on who all the characters are.

After Eddie built the set, we have spotted the latest issue of LEGO Elves in the supermarket. It comes with a minifigure of Mr Spry and a juice bar with tiny cherries and watermelon slice.
There is also a competition to win all five new LEGO Elves sets.

For more information about the range, visit LEGO Elves.

Disclosure: We received a LEGO set for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are our own.

LEGO Elves

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Smokey Russian Caravan tea

best loose tea

Having picked some tea, he drank it.
Then sprouted wings
And flew to a fairy mansion,
To escape the emptiness of the world...
Chiao Jen

After a sleepless night with a rather unsettled Sasha who often manages to survive on just a few hours of sleep, I was wandering through the twilight zone. Having taken Eddie to school, I exchanged a few words with the school secretary, who looked at me with sympathy and said "Now take it easy. Go and have a big cup of strong tea".

It made me smile. I find it amusing how many Brits think a cup of tea is the solution to many problems. I wish... If only my troubles diminished with every cup of tea. 
I drink so much tea, my life should be miraculously free of any worries.

I did come home, and brewed a small pot of tea. I have chosen a strong Smokey Russian Caravan from Jeeves & Jericho.
It is a fusion of Lapsang Souchong and Keemum Chinese whole leaf teas.
I bought it a few weeks ago in a local cafe which has several shelves dedicated to tea and tea pots. My kind of teashop. I'd be happy to try all of their teas (though, truth to be told, my kitchen has more tea than their shop. Ahem.)

Russian Caravan is one of my favourite teas, probably second favourite after Earl Grey. I have tried several brands of this tea, and find it very refreshing and palate-cleansing. It doesn't need any milk, but if you take tea with milk, a little dash would not distract from the smokey flavours.

Our local cafe Coffeesmith used to offer a decent cup of Russian Caravan. But when I went there for a cup of tea last week, I was served a pale green tea. When I queried if they might have by mistake offered me a cup of green tea, the young lady at the counter told me it was a Russian Caravan. She clearly thought I was a fusspot, and I'm too polite to insist. I think I'll just order a latte there from now on.

Russian Caravan tea has such a distinct flavour and aroma.

Jeeves & Jericho is a local, Witney-based tea business. They call themselves teasmiths, and boast of a new modern approach to tea. 

Their boxes come in a very striking, distinct design, and look different on the shelves. They are colourful and striking.
Each character representing a tea flavour is a national stereotype. 
For Russian Caravan, you find a mustachioed Cossack in a tall bear hat, with onion cupolas of the church in the background.
I don't necessarily associate black tea with Cossacks. They would definitely drink herbal brews, like wild thyme tea, mint and spices. Fruit compotes made with dried fruit and kvas.

I have also bought a couple of other teas from Jeeves & Jericho.
Tea might not solve my problems, but it surely keeps me sane.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

My Haven - The Man Cave 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

best jigsaw puzzles, Father's Day gifts

Goodness me, it's only one week to go until Father's Day.
Are you stuck for ideas for Father's Day gifts? You can always buy another Best Dad Ever mug (I'm laughing at myself, as the last time I counted we had at least three Dad mugs at home).

I plan to bake a cake, and Eddie will most likely do a homemade card for his Papa.
My late Dad loved crosswords, fishing and listening to the radio. He was also a very talented jeweller. One day I will find courage and write about him.
My father-in-law is into arts and fine whisky. We all have our passions and hobbies.

If your Dad or father of your child(ren) enjoys puzzles. there is a perfect gift for him -
My Haven-The Man Cave 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

Father's Day jigsaw puzzles

This puzzle is the second in My Haven series of Ravensburger puzzles, created by British artist Steve Read.
My Haven presents all kinds of havens and sanctuaries for different creative retreats and hobbies.
Last year I reviewed My Haven - The Craft Shed, which depicts a colourful scene inside a shed with the most beautiful garden view. I wish I had a shed like that to escape and relax with my hobby.

The Man Cave is suitable for ages 12+, and measures 70x50cm when complete.
Like all Ravensburger puzzles, it is made from strong premium grade cardboard, with linen finish print to minimise glare on puzzle image.

Father's Day gifts

The Man Cave in the puzzle is a perfect hidey hole for any man, where he can concentrate on his numerous favourite hobbies. He clearly has several projects on the go.
The master of this creative chaos is not in the picture, must have nipped out to the loo.
His laptop is on, the big beer mug is waiting, and the fluffy dog is asleep in the corner.

Looks like the owner of this well-organised shed (or is it a house extension?) has quite a few hobbies - model building, photography, reading, playing musical instruments and doing online research. I wonder if he's researching his family history.

He's clearly also into sports - golf, cricket and rugby.
And he has the most comfortable looking armchair as well, lucky chap.

The overall design is colourful and very detailed.
This puzzle will make a lovely gift for any puzzle fan and might be a great idea for a Father's day gift.

Disclosure: I received the puzzle for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are my own.