Thursday, 31 August 2017

New foodie discoveries (August)

The summer is officially over today. The school is looming, and we look back at the summer with nostalgia and fond memories.
Last month we also tried a variety of new foods and drinks
New food products appear on the shelves of supermarkets on a daily basis. It's impossible to try them all. Some are limited editions and are available only for a short time, some come to stay, some get discontinued after a while, perhaps due to a lack of demand.

Here are some of our food discoveries that merit a mention this month.

Palacio de Oriente Squid Pieces in olive oil octopus style was one of the foods which appeared in the Mediterranean food promotion in Waitrose recently.
These specially selected large premium quality squid with tentacles are cut in the traditional "Octopus" style. Can be enjoyed either hot or cold in any dish which uses Octopus or Squid as an ingredient.
Surprisingly low calorie - 120kcal per 72g (drained weight of the tinned squid)
Produced in Spain.

tinned food

Very handy to have in the pantry for quick salads and pasta.

Another product which I have spotted and bought in the same Waitrose Mediterranean promotion was Merchant Gourmet Smoky Spanish-style grains & rice. It is a combination of wholegrain rice, wheatberries and black barley, cooked with red peppers and a good pinch of smoked paprika.
This is one of my new favourites. I have already bought several packs to have in the kitchen as a base for quick meals.

I have tried it with chilli prawns, and it was delicious. Use it as a base for either vegetarian or meaty/flexitarian meals.
It has low saturated fat, it's a good source of fibre and is suitable for vegans.
Allergens alert: it contains gluten (wheatberries and barley).

Recipe suggestion: heat up the rice with a dash of water, mix with tinned (drained) octopus, slice hard boiled eggs and avocado and arrange on top of the meal. Serves 2.

Most Sundays I go to Waitrose an hour before closing time. There are rarely big savings to be had, nothing like I see on Instagram of one blogger who buys a whole trolleyfull of food for a couple of quid in Tesco before closing time. Our Waitrose is rather stingy at giving good discounts.
But whenever they have sushi at reduced price, I buy it. I love sushi. A couple of weeks ago I have found an Aloha Poké next to the sushi.
I have never heard of the Aloha Poké, but as it had sushi rice and seaweed, I couldn't resist buying it.

This is a Hawaiian salad/Salmon Poké - a poke bowl with sushi rice, raw salmon, wakame seaweed salad, edamame beans, rocket & spring onion with soy sesame dressing & avocado mousse.
It's a delicious flavourful salad.
Don't think I'll be buying it often, but if it comes at a reduced price, I'll gladly buy it again.

Skyr yogurt has been around for a while, but there are so many good yogurts in the shops that I haven't had a chance to try it until recently.
This Icelandic-style yogurt is a source of high protein, it's fat free and has reduced sugar.
The tubs promise -  "It's a delicious way to stay healthy"
Smooth and not sweet at all, even with a layer of berries.

Yollies have recently added a new flavour - chocolate - to their range of yogurt lollies. When Eddie and I spotted them in Sainsbury's, he was very excited to try them. However, after eating just one he mentioned that he prefers the strawberry flavour.

healthy snacks for school lunchboxes

Yollies are a good source of calcium and vitamin D. They contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Suitable for vegetarians. A lovely snack to add to a school lunchbox. There are 200kcal per 100g pack, which makes it 50kcal per yogurt lolly.

This summer we have been enjoying Paul Hollywood Ready To Bake Crusty Rolls a lot.
These part baked flour dusted white rolls with added rye flour are very handy to have in the pantry.

We don't have access to fresh bread in the village where we stay in Cornwall, and cannot have grocery deliveries on a daily basis. These delicious rolls, made with a slow fermented starter, are easy to bake, it takes about 8-10 minutes in the oven. They have a crispy crust and soft inside, which is just perfect for a butter and jam sandwich.

pre-baked bread

We ate them hot, straight from the oven, with a warning "Very hot, eat carefully or you'll burn your tongue!"
Each roll is 120kcal. The packs are suitable for home freezing
Though pre-baked, these rolls contain no preservatives.
A bit ironic that Mr Hollywood has a range of pre-made bread, when he's extolling virtues of bread made from scratch, but we are glad he did it. These rolls are fabulous. Big well done, Mr Hollywood!
There is also a seeded variety, which we haven't tried yet.

Talking of bread creations, if you are in Waitrose, pick a few of Waitrose 1 Seeded Cheese Straws, they are very moreish, though not cheap, at £1.35 for a small stick.

Another big favourite of the last summer is Hellman's Australian Sweet Grill sauce. We first sampled it on a Bank Holiday in May, when we had friends over for a BBQ.
It is an excellent sauce which can be used as a marinade, glaze or dip.
Made with honey, molasses, white wine vinegar, sugar, tomato paste, anchovies, spices and more, it has been inspired by Australian recipes.
It's great with sausages, grilled meat or even fish. I found it in Tesco, but it might be available in all major supermarkets.

best BBQ sauce

Tesco Finest is a range, where we have quite a few family favourites.
Their recent addition to the range includes Tesco Finest Tri-colour Tomatoes on the Vine.
They look so pretty and taste sweet and tangy.

These tomatoes are great in salads, but also tasty just on their own, as an accompaniment to fried potatoes.

Since our Italian from bean to coffee machine has died over a year ago, we acquired a small Nespresso, and I have been buying different brand varieties to find the one we love the best.
I'm not a big fan of Starbuck's, but I was curious to test its nespresso capsules.
Starbucks Guatemala Antigua Espresso (Nespresso compatible capsules), with cocoa & subtle spice, medium roast was not too bad, but not my favourite either.

And I'm finishing my eclectic round-up of the latest foodie discoveries with a delightful Cornish chocolate. I love dark chocolate, ginger and Cornwall, so for me it was a win-win purchase. We bought a few bars on our trip to Penzance, to take home as souvenirs. But one of the bars has conveniently got broken in the suitcase, so we ate it.
I also adore the design on this chocolate bar, it's so cute and makes me smile.

Did you discover a food product recently which made you smile?

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Roasted cabbage with soured cream and Tabasco

cabbage recipes, vegetarian recipes

Cabbage is one of my favourite vegetables, yet I don't often cook it because my fussy family doesn't enjoy it. It's one of the vegetables which is very popular in Russia. I read that Russia has the highest annual per capita consumption of cabbage per person - 20 kg. That is pretty impressive.
There are so many dishes where cabbage is used: from salads to soups (like borscht or shchi), from pickled/fermented cabbage to stewed cabbage pockets filled with rice and mince (golubtsy).
I remember my auntie used to grow cabbages in her big kitchen garden. They were like gigantic roses.
There are also some not so pleasant memories of overcooked cabbage, served in schools and hospitals throughout the Soviet Union. The smell would linger in the corridors for a long time.

Cabbage is a staple ingredient in many world cuisines, of course, not just Russia or Eastern European countries, though I think some of the best cabbage recipes do come from those lands.
When we lived in the States, my Polish friend once brought to me a big jar of bigos. I just had my baby, and was too busy recuperating and looking after Sasha to cook, and that meal in a jar was most welcome. It was also utterly delicious. We later lost all contact, I wish I asked for the recipe. I also wish we kept in touch. Margo, if by some chance you're reading this, I'm waving madly and would love to hear from you.

While my husband is away this week (off he went gallivanting to the Venice film festival), I decided I am going to cook a whole cabbage just for myself, and will eat it for several days. That's the plan.
This is one of the variations of the Russian recipe for roast cabbage with soured cream.
If you're an omnivore, add some cubed bacon or pancetta.

Roasted cabbage with soured cream and Tabasco
1 medium white cabbage (900g)
9tbsp olive oil
1 sweet white onion
1/2tsp fennel seeds
a dash of Tabasco
300ml soured cream
sea salt

Start by cutting the cabbage in half and then into 1cm thick slices.
Using most of the olive oil (leave 2tbsp for frying onions), brush the cabbage slices with it on both sides and arrange in a deep roasting dish or tin. Season well with sea salt.
Place the dish in the oven preheated to 180C, and cook for about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, chop the onion finely and fry in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the fennel seeds and a good dash of Tabasco in the last couple of minutes of frying.
The amount of Tabasco depends on how hot you like your food. You can also use 1tsp of paprika instead of Tabasco.

Turn down the heat, and add the soured cream to the onion, stir well.
Take out the roasting dish out of the oven, and pour the soured cream and onion sauce over the cabbage.

Cabbage after 15 mins in the oven ---> cabbage with sauce on top
Return the roasting dish to the oven and cook for another hour and 15 minutes If the cabbage starts to turn too brown, cover the dish with foil.

Serve hot with crusty bread. It makes a lovely side dish to any meat, but could easily be a vegetarian meal on its own.

It will keep well in the fridge in a closed container for a few days.

In this recipe I used Tabasco Green Pepper sauce which was part of the latest Degustabox. It is made of mild green jalapeño peppers mixed with vinegar and salt. It is the mildest sauce from Tabasco range.

Do you like cabbage, or have an aversion to it? What is your favourite cabbage dish?

best roast cabbage

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Farewell to summer 2017

rainbow over Perranuthnoe, Cornwall
Once upon a summer day,
Thunder rumbled and prolonged its stay,
But after the rain tumbled down,
This summer day wore a glorious rainbow crown.
Sara Teasdale, Once Upon a Summer Day

Living in town, we rarely see a full rainbow, as there are no big open spaces.
Last month, while returning from a beach to our cottage in Perranuthnoe, it started to drizzle. With the sunshine in patches amidst clouds, the most glorious rainbow appeared above the fields ending down in the sea.
Eddie was mesmerised and told me we should go and look for the gold at the end of the rainbow.
For me that rainbow was one of the most beautiful memories of the past summer.

Looking back at the photos of our summer, we managed to cram in a lot of different adventures and wonderful memories (as well as stress, anxieties and frustrations, but then, that's life).
The autumn is just round the corner, stretch your hand and you can touch it. Though the last couple of days were pretty hot, the nature is already putting its autumnal clothes on.

On the very first day of summer we visited Burford garden centre, where we go quite regularly during midterm breaks and holidays. It is about 20 minutes by car from us. Our friend Jen is our designated driver. Both of my sons enjoy visiting it. I write about it every year (see Visiting Burford Garden Centre). I love browsing through the old books section and of course, vintage china too.

We visited the Oxford castle (Boooring, according to Eddie) and climbed on the moat next to it to look over Oxford.

We had a fun meal at Prezzo, Oxford, testing the Family meals menu, and also testing my husband's patience, as he was rather embarrassed by our eating antics (I don't entirely blame him).

The first half of the summer the school term was still on. God, we are back to school again in a few days. Sob. I am so not looking forward to early mornings and hectic school run.
Eddie had a sports day, where he did quite well. Here he is, flying above the ground.

Sasha's school went to the Cotswolds Wildlife park, where he had a lovely time. He enjoyed looking at the animals, going on a train ride and just playing with the water in the fountain.

The carnival in Witney takes place every July, and this year's Heroes and Villains-themed parade was colourful and entertaining.

The flight simulator on The Leys was the major attraction. We queued for what felt like ages on that hot summer day, but it was worth it.

Eddie had his leavers' service at St Mary's church and said Good bye to his infant school. They each had to say a few words about what they enjoyed the most at school. Needless to say, the lessons were not mentioned by anyone.

As soon as long summer holidays began, Eddie celebrated his 7th birthday and had a jolly party at Darcy Bear's. He had 19 guests. It was very loud and totally crazy, but he loved every minute of it.

And then off we went to Cornwall. Our week in Cornwall is always the highlight of the year for me.
I love the village where we rent the cottage, with its beautiful beach.
My boys are very happy there, Sasha probably more than any of us. He has such an affinity with the sea. For him the sea is the living breathing creature. He doesn't mind if it rains, or the water is cold. He is ready to spend all day in the water.
As you can see from the photo, it was pretty cold.

We always feel sad when we have to say Good bye to the sea and "our" cottage.

Back home, we climbed trees...

...watched DVDs and went to see the Sphinx and Mummies in The Ashmolean...

...baked cakes and cookies and made Oreo fudge... lots of books...
and looked up at the sky, watching the clouds including this strange alien shape (that was back in June)

... we played football and drank gallons of iced tea...

We don't want for the summer to end... But whatever we wish, the autumn is knocking at the door.
Farewell, summer, welcome, autumn.

You're welcome to #Ben10Toys Twitter party (+ giveaway)

If your children are Ben 10 fans, make sure you are on Twitter this Thursday, 31st of August between 1 and 3pm. There will be an epic #Ben10Toys Twitter party run by UKMumstv.
Save the date and follow the hashtag #Ben10Toys

There will be plenty of competitions and prizes galore. My blog will offer one of the toys as a prize as well (scroll all the way down to find out how to join in).

We are taking party as one of the hosts of the Twitter party along with several parenting bloggers who you might know and follow, like Cheryl from Madhouse Family Reviews, Eileen from ET Speaks from Home and others.

Our party will include lots of activities based round Ben 10 toy range from Flair.
We'll be playing party games, doing colouring and sharing our party on Twitter. It is usually really hectic but great fun.

We received a big box of the latest Ben 10 toys as well as activities and sweet treats to share with our guests.

I will be writing a separate review of the toy range, so if you're interested, watch this space.

Just to give you a sneak peek from the future review, here is my son Eddie demonstrating a Heatblast mask and fire-thrower.

Our son Eddie is thrilled with the toys and can't wait for his pals to cover over and play

During the Twitter party you'll have many chances to win prizes with @UKMumstv.


Chez Maximka will be offering a prize along the main host.

You will have a chance to win a Ben 10 Heatblast figure, a hand iced printed cookie and a poster.


The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.

The toy is suitable for children aged 4+ (due to small parts).
To be in with a chance of winning, please RT any of my tweets during the Twitter party on 31 August between 1-3pm (only with #Ben10Toys hashtag, as there might be other tweets from my account, unrelated to the event).

My Twitter name is @maximka25

You don't have to follow me.

I will pick a winner from all of RTs of my tweets. Again, you don't have to RT all of them. Even one RT will give you an entry.
The more you RT, the more entries you get.

One winner will be selected randomly from all RTs.
I will tweet to the winner, who will have 28 days to get back to me with their address details.

I will post the prize personally, after the 6th of September, once my children go back to school.

If the winner does not reply to me within 28 days, the prize will be allocated to another person who takes part.

Disclosure: We received a box of Ben 10 goodies to host the Twitter party. All opinions are our own.

Friday, 25 August 2017

New Jelly Belly DC Super Hero Collection

jelly beans

We love Jelly Belly® beans and we love DC Super Heroes. When two of our favourites are combined, we are on cloud nine.
This summer Jelly Belly® has partnered with DC Comics to launch a Super Hero collection, which features Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman.

My son Eddie and I enjoy our reading sessions at bedtime, at the moment we are going through the Horrid Henry collection of books. Just yesterday we were laughing at Horrid Henry's birthday party. His well-meaning Mum put a granola bar as a prize in the Pass the parcel game. Even Eddie was indignant on behalf of Horrid Henry "Who thought that was a good idea?!" Indeed.

Super Hero Jelly Belly® beans will make a fantastic treat to add to any Pass the Parcel or birthday party bags, especially if it's a Super Heroes-themed party.
Each 28g bag featuring iconic DC Super Heroes includes the shimmering versions of much loved flavours like Berry Blue, Blueberry, Cream Soda, Sour Lemon, Very Cherry and Wild Blackberry.

These candy bags debuted earlier this month, on the 16th of August, though we haven't seen them anywhere locally yet.
This range comes in two sizes - 28g individual bags and 60g sharing bags.

Jelly Belly products are well known around the world. They are certified OU kosher, vegetarian, free from gelatine, gluten, fat and dairy.

For more information and for the full range of flavours visit JellyBelly.

Disclosure: We received 3 bags of Jelly Belly beans for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are our own.