Tuesday, 29 July 2014

What makes Flora?

A couple of weeks back, on a rainy Thursday, I headed to College Farm in Cambridgeshire, to walk through some rapeseed fields and find out what the connection between Flora and the Rapeseed on College Farm is.

Those of you that know me will be shouting 'WHAT'?!

You see, as much as I am very interested in learning all about what goes on, on a Farm. I am not the sort of person that would walk through a field where you can not see your feet, purely for the fact there may well be snakes hidden in there!! It is one of my biggest fears, it freaks me out. A lot!  

But, I did it, and I loved every minute of it!

Most of us are familiar with the brand Flora. I use the Flora Cuisine and Flora Buttery a lot when I bake. But I had never really given much thought into what ingredients are in Flora, or indeed where they come from.

One of the ingredients in Flora is rapeseed oil. Unilever, the company that own the Flora brand, work closely with LEAF to find and work with Farmers across the UK to source the rapeseed that is added to their products. If you didn't know, which I didn't before my farm visit, LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) is the leading organisation promoting sustainable agriculture, food and farming. They help farmers produce good food, with care and to high environmental standards.

Andrew Nottage, College Farm manager, took us out on a tractor/trailer to show us the Rapeseed fields and explain further how the Rapeseed on his Farm gets in the Flora product.

As you can see the Rapeseed fields are just beyond the Tractor. What I LOVED hearing about was how the Farmers are not only concerned for their crops, they are also concerned for the wildlife. For example, the big set of tree's to the right of the field are not just there to look pretty, they are there to encourage birds. The bit of green you see before the Rapeseed starts is also their to encourage wildlife, in includes certain flowers that encourage insects, such as bee's. In fact each field even has its own beehive! How awesome is that?!

We learnt a lot on our trip to the fields. We learnt that Rapeseed has to be harvested at a specific point in the farming cycle, moisture levels are critical in deciding when to harvest. It takes almost a year to grow and harvest the Rapeseed crop, if we happen to have a particularly wet time around the harvest time , then it could lead to the whole crop being destroyed. How disheartening must that be for Farmers, a whole years work, ruined.

I am a very visual person, so was really grateful when Andrew got out a square meter (made from pipe) to show us that a meter squared will plant around a kilo of Rapeseed. That kilo will produce around 440ml of Rapeseed Oil. That may not sound a lot, but looking at it in perspective, looking at the size of the whole field, this means that the Rapeseed grown here equates to almost 80,000 litres of Rapeseed oil to be put into Flora products! WOW, that is a lot!!

The Rapeseed's are black, they look similar to poppy seeds. We got to handle some and even though they didn't look it, they were very oily (hardly a surprise really when they are made into oil). We were told that none of the crop goes to waste, after the oil is extracted the rest is made into animal feed.

Now, I don't know about you, but I hadn't really put much thought into what ingredients are in Flora. I cook a lot of my meals from scratch, so have a pretty good idea what goes into them. But when I stopped to think about it, I actually have no idea what goes into the Flora that I bake with almost weekly! I am pretty annoyed with myself about this, especially with two young Children, I really should be taking more notice of these things!

Anyway now I do know, so I will let you know too....

Flora is made up of 3 key oils, Rapeseed Oil, Sunflower Oil and Linseed Oil. We got to taste all three by the way, and I can confirm that Linseed Oil is disgustingly bitter on its own! However I loved the taste of the Rapeseed Oil and wondered why on earth I have never cooked with it?!

Flora Original has 80% less saturated fat than butter. The Sunflower oil in Flora contains Omega 3, which combined with Omega 6 (also in Flora) helps to maintain cholesterol levels. Now Craig has got a cholesterol level that is a bit on the high side, so I was very pleased to hear this. I was also surprised to learn that the emulsifier in Flora also comes from Sunflower oil! So no hidden unhealthy nasties in there! It also contains vitamins A and D. I have just been diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency (more on that soon) so this was a nice surprise for me.

After spending lots of time out in the fields, we came back with a lot of new found crop knowledge. The afternoon was spent eating lunch and baking savory scones with Edd Kimber (winner of GBBO), I will be posting separately about that part of the day, so keep a look out for that post, coming soon!

I am so very proud of myself for going out into that field, I am very pleased to report that I didn't see a single snake the whole time I was there and I was so distracted by the information I was being given I barely thought about snakes the whole time! But more importantly, I am very grateful to Flora, College Farm, and LEAF for giving me a great insight into how Flora goes from Farm to Shelf! So Thank you very much!

How about you, do you ever stop to think about what goes into the spreads you eat or how they are made?

Friday, 25 July 2014

Quorn Toad in the Hole recipe.

Toad in the Hole is one of our favourite dinners, and as much as I hate to admit it, my Dad's version is the best.

But its not exactly the most healthy of meals is it?! This is where Quorn come in. Quorn sausages, are both low in fat and a great source of protein. We are not vegetarians (although my Sister is), but that doesn't mean that we can't enjoy a meat free meal.

Until now, we had never tried Quorn Sausages, but as you know we tried the Quorn meat free chicken nuggets recently and were very impressed. So we were very looking forward to trying them.

The recipe for the Quorn toad in the hole can be found here. Do also check out the other recipes as they have some delicious meal ideas!

This is how our toad in the hole came out....

It was really yummy. In fact it was so yummy that Chester ate everything on his plate, and Millie had seconds! That is virtually unheard of! Obviously its not the same texture or taste  as meat sausages, but the texture and taste it did have was really enjoyable. Knowing how much healthier they are compared to meat sausages, this version on toad in the hole will definitely be on our monthly meal planner!

Do you have a favourite family meal in your house?

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Ozeri Elite 3-piece Ceramic Knife set review

Being a busy Mum of two I am in the kitchen a lot, even more so in the summer holidays! I like to cook as many fresh meals as I can so therefore knives are a kitchen essential to me. I use them on a daily basis. So it is imperative that they are of good quality and will withstand use.

I was recently sent a Ozeri Elite 3-piece Ceramic Knife set to review. Having never used ceramic knifes before I was intrigued to see how they would fair.

My first thought when I got them out of the box, was how light they were! My kitchen knifes are all relatively heavy, so this was hard for me to get used to at first, but it was a welcome change!

The knives are easy to use, they slice through most things without any real pressure. I have been using them every day over the last few weeks, cutting a range of foods from malt loaf, onions, apples and potatoes, to uncooked Steak and Chicken. With the blades being ceramic each blade is close in hardness to diamonds and preserves its razor-sharpness 10 times longer than traditional steel blades. I was dubious about this at first, but after using the knifes every day for a few weeks I can confirm that I have not had to sharpen them once! They are still just as sharp as the day I got them!

Because they are Ceramic it also means that they do not corrode or rust. So this means that they should be long lasting.

The Ozeri Elite 3-piece Ceramic Knife set is currently on offer on Amazon for £49.99. For 3 good quality knives that is an amazing price. I can see them lasting for many years. Having never used Ceramic Knives before I can honestly say that I am very impressed, they have cut down my prep time so much, they are certainly the way forward! The only 'extra' I would like to see is the option to have a knife block included too.

Who does all the cooking in your house? Do you class it as a chore or a way of getting a bit of me time (I see it as the latter).

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What a difference a School year makes!

I have just been reading this letter I wrote to Chester just before he started School last September. There are tears in my eyes! I can't believe my little boy has finished his first year at School!

As I predicted in my letter, Chester has come on so much in this first year. He can now write full sentences, he can read, his Maths is above average, his attention span has improved and although he has had his moments, most of the time he is a good boy. But more importantly his imagination is still just as fantastic! In fact it was written in his report last week about how he has got a great imagination and he uses things that have happened that day/week as a base for his role play.

I could not of wished for a better first year for Chester, he started the School year knowing no one and has come out at the end with a huge bundle of friends. He is happy, he is inquisitive and he has a lot of respect for his teachers.

It amazes me every day that he still has the same enthusiasm that he had on his very first day. But he is ready for the 6 week break now, I think his class and his teachers have earnt it! He is tired and ready to rest and relax (yeah right) before he starts his Year 1 journey in September.

Anyone else's child just finishing their reception year?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Why Manchester is the place to be this Summer.

I have always loved visiting places in the UK. Weekends away in this country can be very fun and interesting. I think that there is so much history in the country and sometimes we can miss what is sitting on our own doorstep!

I have always lived in Kent, which has the nickname 'Garden of England' it really is a stunning place, with lots of exploring to be done. But I think its nice to be reminded that there is a lot more exploring to be done outside of the comfort of the beautiful County I know and love!

I am a curious person, and there are plenty of areas in the UK that I still long to explore and learn about. Manchester is one of them. I went to Manchester when I was 18. Well I say I went to Manchester, I went to Old Trafford to watch a football match! So all I remember of Manchester was a stadium and then lots and lots of Motorway driving!

I have a couple of Friends who live in Manchester and there clearly is a lot more to see and do than I thought! Its the kind of place where I think a long weekend would be a start, but a week would be even better! I have  been looking into accommodation on Hotel Direct and it has given me an idea.... Wouldn't it be great to be a bit flexible and not stick to just one base? There is so much to do in Manchester that it would be wise to book maybe 2 nights in the City Centre and then another couple of nights further out.

Until recently I was unaware that Manchester has its own 'Wheel'. The Wheel of Manchester. Its in the centre of Manchester and at 196ft you are sure to see across the whole of Manchester! I was shocked at the price, it is only £9 each or for your own private capsule its only £45! Already I can see why Manchester is a great place to visit!

Having friends in Manchester, I get to see lots of lovely pictures of Heaton Park on my social medias! Heaton Park is just 4 miles from Manchester City centre. Its the biggest park in Manchester and the biggest municipal park in Europe! It has a grade 1 listed building (18th century Heaton Hall) a farm, boating lake (with rowing boats), woodlands, 2 playgrounds, an observatory, and even an 18 hole golf course! If that wasn't enough they have events going on throughout the summer! Looks like the perfect picnic day out to me!

Of course, with a Son called Chester we would have to visit Chester Zoo! His name is in no way connected with the place by the way, but that is a story for another day! The Zoo is the number one zoo in the UK and it claims to be one of the worlds top Zoos! . We visited Colchester Zoo recently and that is our absolute favourite Zoo in this country, so I would love to visit Chester Zoo and see how they compare!

Situated a short drive away from Manchester, it makes for a perfect excuse to not stick to one base! If we were to stay in a hotel on the outskirts of Manchester we could certainly include Chester Zoo in our sightseeing!

How about you, have you ever visited Manchester? What would you recommend as a must see or do?

*Big thank you to Jennifer over at My Mummy's Pennies, who let me use her lovely pictures for this post!

*Please note this post is written in collaboration with Hotel Direct, it has been written by me and all thoughts are my own

Jacamo - fashion for men!

Its not often that Craig gets mentioned on my blog. Yes I can hear your sighs of sympathy! But the truth is he works very hard so often misses out on the things I do with the children.

Because he works so hard, he almost always misses out on choosing what clothes he buys himself too. That is my job!

But one thing I draw the line at, mainly because I don't know how to do it myself, is tying up his Tie! For everyone who is unsure on how to tie up a Tie, Jacamo have released this helpful video...

With the summer now in full swing, I think its safe to say that we have hit wedding season! If its not a wedding its a party of some sort. Craig, being an MOT tester/Mechanic is not really a smart dressed kind of guy, his wardrobe is looking a sparse in that department!

Jacamo to the rescue! They kindly let me pick a lovely smart outfit for Craig, so that he can attend the weddings and parties of this summer without having to spend hours walking around the shops finding the perfect outfit!

I found the website to be very easy to navigate, and there is so much to choose from! I was amazed, something for all occasions. Also worth noting that there is something for all sizes too. Chest size goes from a Small right up to a 5XL, leg 27"-36", waist 34"-54" and even footwear up to 15. So whatever your size you can keep up with the fashions of today. They have helpful size charts too, not only for their own branded clothing but also the other brands they stock too. This was a big plus for me, when you are buying online its difficult to be certain that you are buying the correct fit.

After being distracted by the vast amount to choose from, for a few hours, oops. I finally decided on an outfit for Craig. I chose each item because it can easily be paired with other items of clothing to make further outfits. This will be his staple smart outfit.

We went for this Black Label by Jacamo Shirt and Tie set because its Craig's style, he doesn't like anything heavily patterned and I think it compliments his personal style well. At only £25 I think its a bargain, the quality of the material is great.

Next I wanted to choose some trousers, as I had gone for the black on black shirt and tie I wanted to go for lighter trousers. So I decided on these Jacamo 5 pocket trousers in charcoal. I think they are smart and go well with the shirt and tie, the colour is something different to what Craig is used to and even he agrees that they look (and feel) good. These trousers are only £22.50, for smart trousers I think that is a great price!

Lastly, I went for this Black Label by Jacamo slim belt. I think sometimes its good to keep it simple, this belt is exactly that, but it does the job it needs to and I think it looks good. Its a good quality leather belt, priced at £20. Bargain

So altogether (excluding the shoes, which are 'the model's' own) the whole outfit cost £67.50. I cant believe it! I think thats an amazing price, especially as the quality of the items is so good.

As you can see, Craig wanted to test out his modelling poses! What do you think?

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Baking with Soreen!

I really love Soreen Malt Loaf. I have it toasted with butter, its just so yummy!

But until recently I had never thought about baking with it! Soreen have released this video to show just how easy it is to make Soreen Flapjacks! Yes, you heard that right, Soreen Flapjacks!

How yummy do they look?!

The written recipe is on the Soreen website.

I really wanted to make some Soreen Flapjacks after seeing this video, so thats exactly what we did! The kids loved getting involved too. I decided to omit the chocolate from ours, only because of how hot it has been over the last few days. They were truly yummy and so easy!

Chester said he loves how Soreen is just so squidgy, and Millie couldn't speak because her mouth was full of flapjack haha!

Next on our Soreen bake list is brownies! Using the Soreen Banana Loaf. So look out for how we got on making that very soon!