Saturday, 30 March 2013

Slow Cooked Beef Adobo

I was flicking through my slow-cooker recipe books for some inspiration last week when I came across this.  Its a bit like a rich beef Asian is apparently eaten in the Philippines but also popular in Spain.  It was a nice change, and one I'd make again.

750g braising steak, cubed
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp plain flour
450ml beef stock (I used vegetable stock as I'd run out)
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 bay leaves
Juice of half a lime

Brown the beef in a frying pan, remove & set aside.  

Add the onion to the pan and fry for around 5 mins (you don't want it to brown).  Add the garlic and cook for 2 mins more.  Stir in the flour then gradually add the stock.  Add the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and bay leaves and bring to the boil.

Transfer the beef to the slow cooker and pour over the onion & stock mixture.  Cover and cook for 8-10 hours.

Before serving, stir in the juice from half a lime.  

I served the beef with rice, and a garnish of spring onion, sliced carrot and coriander leaves.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Upcycled Bedside Table

We have recently moved baby girl from sleeping in with me to being in her own room so I gave her room a little change-around and a mini-makeover to help her get excited about the prospect. 

I started looking around at bedside tables for her but they all seemed so expensive for what they were.  My tightness kicked in, and I held off buying.  Then I remembered we had this old thing sitting in the garage - we used to have our stereo on it in our London house but we don't really have a use for it now.  

Its pretty cheap and nasty looking in my opinion - with that shiny laminate look - plus it had black ring marks made from the feet of the turntable that just wouldn't come off no matter how much I scrubbed, which you can see here.

So I thought I would smarten it up a little, and if it turned out well enough, baby girl could have it for her bedside table.

First I removed the wheels from the bottom, as I didn't want her pushing it round the bedroom and it only added to the cheap look of it.  Then I filled the holes - there were various peg holes so you could adjust the shelf height but I chose a mid-height set to keep and filled in the rest with wood filler.

When the filler was dry, I spray painted the whole thing - I didn't take it all apart (as I couldn't be bothered...) but just took the middle shelf out.  As I have been banned by DH of adding anything else pink to DD's room, I chose a teal-type colour.  The spray painting definitely worked better when applying to a flat surface - i.e. I turned the cube around so I was spraying onto the "top" at all times, and it saved drippage.

I also bought a piece of hardboard the size of the whole unit when upright (the nice man in B&Q cut it to size for me) and I covered it with this lovely colourful Ikea fabric I had, held in place with material glue.  When everything was dry, I nailed the hardboard to the back using taking pins.  Although you don't see it much, especially if she fills the shelves, it is a nice cheerful back drop to catch a glimpse of.

Now, I'm the first to admit I'm not the best at DIY...I have some good ideas but I lose patience when carrying them out.  So I'm happy to report that this was super easy - everything I needed was purchased from B&Q, and it took me just a few afternoons to fix up.  I'm pleased with the result, and best of all, DD got a new bedside table for just the cost of some spray paint and a piece of hardboard!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Meal Planning Monday

Remember the restaurant meal I boasted about last week?!  It was *so* worth the wait.  Pan fried scallops followed by Chateaubriand steak with thick-cut chips and salad, all washed down with wine and Bellini cocktails.  And yes, I did have to look up how to spell that.  The steak...not the cocktails :)  Kudos to my child-free sister for surviving 24 hours with my two monsters - not quite sure she's recovered yet!

Anyway, back to the reality of school runs and family suppers now.  The Easter holidays are looming so I will be using my slow cooker a lot more than usual so that at least I don't have to worry about dinner *and* trying to entertain the kids!

Monday - Everything Fried Rice and after a quick root around in the freezer, I'll be adding bacon in too.

Tuesday - Slow-Cooked Chilli ...this is a firm favourite in our house!

Wednesday - Kids will have left-over fish pie and I will rustle up something easy for DH as I'm out meeting a friend for a pub dinner :)

Thursday - Quick Beef Stroganoff...a new recipe that I'm trying from a new Quick & Easy Family Meals recipe book.  Hope it lives up to its name...

Friday - Kashmiri Chicken cooked in the SC...looking forward to that one!  Not too spicy so hoping the kids like it too.

This post is part of Mrs M's Meal Planning Monday so don't forget to check out all the other recipes right here.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Mamatography - Week 11

A thoroughly lovely week by all accounts!  

Day 69 - Sunday 10 March
It was Mothers Day here in the UK and my two lovelies surprised me with some beautiful cards and breakfast in bed (with a little help from Daddy!).

Day 70 - Monday 11 March
I managed to get this stack of books at the charity shop for £1.20...saving them for our holiday and the dreaded plane flight!

Day 71 - Tuesday 12 March
Remember in Week 9 I showed you the bag(s) that DD likes to fill up, and how it drives me crazy?!  Well, here's some more...she's progressed to three at a time now :/

Day 72 - Wednesday 13 March
DD and I made jam tarts while DS was at school.  She barely needed my help, and was very proud of the result.

Day 73 - Thursday 14 March
I whipped up a batch of homemade pesto to use with pasta - find the recipe here.

Day 74 - Friday 15 March
DD helped me make dinner by peeling shallots for the sauce - I love the look of concentration on her face :)

Day 75 - Saturday 16 March
Some rare time out for me, I took a sewing class at a local college and learnt how to install zips and make buttonholes...look out kids, I'm gonna be making you some clothes :)

Without further ado, here are the Mama/Papatography2013 participants!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Meal Planning Monday

I'm coming to the realisation that quite a lot of my life revolves around food...  Here's whats on the menu at Three Counties Mum HQ this week.

Monday - Chicken Curry...we had a roast chicken yesterday so I'm using up the leftovers! I make it tame so the kids can eat it too, with coconut milk & mild curry powder.

Tuesday - Pasta with homemade pesto and garlic bread

Wednesday - Slow-cooked Goulash

Thursday - Fish pie

Friday - Leftover fish pie for the kiddos because mum & dad are spending their first night away from home - woo hoo!  We get to eat dinner in a *real* restaurant without being interuppted - imagine! :)

This post is part of Mrs M's Meal Planning Monday - go check out all the other delicious link-ups!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Strawberry & Almond Traybake

This was really quick & easy to whip up, and the kids loved it - definitely a keeper!

200g butter (room temp)
200g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
100g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
4 eggs, lightly beaten
150g strawberries, chopped
20g flaked almonds

Put all the ingredients except the strawberries and flaked almonds into a mixer / processor and mix thoroughly.  Spoon into a greased baking tin and smooth so it sits evenly.

Scatter over the strawberry pieces and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.  Cook at 180 / 160 fan for around 45-50 mins - keep checking to ensure it doesn't burn.

Allow to cool slightly after removing it from the oven, and cut into squares.  Enjoy with a large cup of a tea :)

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Fresh Pesto Sauce

Have you made Pesto sauce at home?  It is ridiculously easy and tastes *so* much nicer than shop bought.  I just whipped up a tiny jar to use this week - one of my "go to" meals for the kids is fusilli pasta with pesto stirred in and grated cheese on top!

25g fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove
2 tsp pine nuts
3 tbsp olive oil
10g Parmesan 
Pinch of salt

Put all the ingredients except the cheese into a blender and go!  Then stir in the grated Parmesan and refrigerate.

Stir into fresh pasta and enjoy :)

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Mamatography: Week 10

Ten weeks in already?!  Oh yes...

Sunday 3 March
We had such fun at Thorndon Country Park on the Gruffalo Trail!

Monday 4 March
DS had to take something into school baked with Fairtrade ingredients so we made dinosaur banana cakes!

Tuesday 5 March
My version of a "body surfing" photo.  I had to take DS to a doctor's appointment first thing and missed my bootcamp class so instead I went for a 1.5 hour walk...much more enjoyable I must say!  This was taken while I took a breather on a bench :)

Wednesday 6 March
Grandad & Nanny came to visit, and DD drew this beautiful picture of me on the chalkboard with Grandad's guidance.

Thursday 7 March
Haircuts all round...and DD sat in the chair by herself for the first time ever!

Friday 8 March
Mummy got her nails we had to paint DD's too!

Saturday 9 March
Oops - no photo!  A trip to the theatre and then on to see Grandma and Grandpa meant no time for snaps :)

Without further ado, here are the Mama/Papatography2013 participants!

Monday, 11 March 2013

The Gruffalo Trail

OK, I know this is not exactly a "local" review but this is too good not to share!  If you have a Gruffalo obsessed little one, you just have to take them here.

Thorndon Country Park is in Brentwood, Essex, and they had the fabulous idea to carve the Gruffalo and all his friends out of wood.  Hidden amongst the trees, you can wander and find each creature tucked away...Mouse, Gruffalo, Owl, Fox and Gruffalo's Child.  Snake is underway too and will be joining them soon!

There is no entrance fee but you do need to pay for car parking.  The children can pick up a free trail map, and maps of the park are 50 pence.

The creatures are nicely spaced out so it takes the kids a while to find them while you can enjoy the beauty of the wood!

My kids adore the Gruffalo, and we had a ball on our visit.  There is a gift shop and refreshments are available, although we didn't try them.

A definite must if you are ever in the area.

Meal Planning Monday

I'm very into meal saves me time, money *and* takes a lot of the stress & hassle out of dinner time each day.  When I don't get round to planning, I always end up spending more as I pick things up as I go through the week, and dinners are chaotic!  

I usually plan my meals for the week on a Sunday evening so when I stumbled across Mrs M's Meal Planning Monday link-up, I thought I'd join in!

With only a few weeks until I have to bare all in a swimsuit on holiday, I'm trying to be as good as possible :(  So here goes...this is what will be on this week's menu for us:

Seafood pilaf 

Spaghetti Squash Casserole (assuming I can find a spaghetti squash somewhere...none in Tesco's this morning!)

Butter bean & chorizo stew
Kids: Pasta with pesto

Pork & sweet potato casserole

Grown-ups: Fish & chips at the school quiz!
Kids: Fish fingers & homemade chips

I try most of the time to make one meal we can all eat but hubby & I do quite like spice so I tend to sit the kids out of those meals.  I don't plan for the weekend meals as we're never sure what we're doing so I just wing it with my store cupboard staples!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Mamatography: Week 9

Not a very good week photo-wise...just completely forgot most of the days!  

Day 55 - Sunday 24 February
Treasure hunt fun in the garden...

Day 56 - Monday 25 February
We had more fun at bath time with our frozen letter blocks!

Day 57 - Tuesday 26 February
This right here is a constant sight in my house...DD is *obsessed* with filling bags - doesn't matter what type of bags or what she fills them with, she just loves to stuff them full and carry them round.  It drives me crazy :/

Day 58 - Wednesday 27 February photo here!

Day 59 - Thursday 28 February photo here!

Day 60 - Friday 1 March photo here!

Day 61 - Saturday 2 March
I love to bake at the weekends, and often make these macaroons to have as a treat :)

Without further ado, here are the Mama/Papatography2013 participants!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Frozen Letter Blocks

I've seen this a few times on Blogs and saw it again recently on Bath Activities for Kids, and was reminded what a great idea it was.  My two loved this when I bought it in for them in the bath, and begged me to make more right away for the next night!

Our bath letters are too big to use for this so I used our magnetic fridge magnet ones.  Find a small (plastic) toy and spell it out using the letters.  Put it all into a tuppaware, fill with water and stick it in the freezer overnight.  

The next night, I took the ice blocks out of the tuppaware and gave one to each of them.  They loved the feel of the cold ice, and enjoyed melting them in the warm water bit by letter would come off then they would swish the block round in the water to release the next letter.

As my letters were magnetic, I bought up two flan tins to stick the letters onto.  

Once all the letters and the toy were released from the ice block, I helped DD spell her word out while DS managed his on his own.  

The finished product...words proudly spelled out with accompanying toy!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Paperclip Treasure Hunt

DS bought home his library book from school recently, and it was Sonny's Treasure Hunt - a cute little tale about a duck that gets bored and his grandma sets up a treasure hunt for him.  We enjoyed reading it, and when daddy was trying to get 10 minutes peace to watch the rugby a few days later, I thought I would set up a hunt for my two monkeys.

I googled images of pieces of furniture around our house (or things in the garden if you're doing it outside) - see my lists below for the kind of things.  I chose things I was pretty sure I could find an image of on the web, then printed these out.  

House: 1) rocking chair, 2) beanbag, 3) toy kettle, 4) cat basket, 5) dining table chair, etc.
Garden: 1) wheelbarrow, 2) dustbin, 3) playhouse, 4) bench, 5) seesaw, etc.

Keep the first item aside then hide the next.  Using the numbers above as an example, it's like this - hide number 2 (the beanbag picture) in the number 1 space (the rocking chair); hide number 3 (the toy kettle) in the number 2 space (the beanbag), and so on.  You can make it as short or as long as you like, and I made sure that the next one was as far away from the last as possible in terms of distance i.e. number 1 was upstairs, number 2 was downstairs, number 3 was upstairs...this ensure it wears them out a little running back & forth :)  If you're doing it in the garden, space them out at opposite ends of the garden.

I folded up each printed picture and "secured" it with a paperclip of a different colour.  This gave DD a role - she collected the paperclips that DS gave her, and ticked them off a list I made for her on a little clipboard - check boxes she could tick alongside a coloured paperclip image.  They worked really well together doing this, and it was lovely to see.  

I used two gold chocolate coins for the treasure at the end, which they were delighted to find!

DS finds a clue under the dustbin!

We've done this a few times since too, and they just love it!  It's a good one to remember for quiet afternoons at home and / or rainy days.