Product reviews

… My Vitamix!

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I have often stood in Costco and watched the Vitamix demonstration, wow, that is a fabulous blender, so many appliances in one machine… Hot soup, cold sorbets, thick smoothies, milkshakes, pizza dough and so much more! I could never justify the amount of money it cost though, instead I bought several blenders, each one returned because it did not live up to a great blender, I have bought a juicer, which is great but very time consuming making the juice then clean up is even more time consuming, and a food processor which sits unloved on my kitchen side… paul told me long ago to invest in the vitamix, you always pay for what you get, would I buy a cheap mixer instead of my beloved kitchen aid mixer… No, I most certainly would not, I love that machine and use it almost every day, so why is this vitamix any different, so after many hours of reading reviews and watching yet again another Costco roadshow demonstration I bit the bullet, what did I have to lose, with Costco’s fabulous return policy… Take it home and try it, if I don’t love it my money back in full!

So far so good, I have used this machine every day since the weekend, the soups are delicious and hot, if you don’t like smooth soups, save some of your ingredients and pulse at the end of the cycle for texture. I have also made fruit smoothies, this was a little more challenging as I have a freezer full of frozen fruit, I added the ingredients in the order their cookbook stated, but some of my fruit was frozen, I added carrots and kale, two vegetables I had in, switched my vitamix on, but I did have to use the muddler a few times to get my frozen products moving, I also then added a small amount of orange juice just to thin it out slightly, but my overall smoothie was delicious, packed with nutrients and went down well with my little 2 year old, who would never eat carrots or kale… So success, I am loving this vitamix!

I have not tried other features of the vitamix yet, the list is endless, pizza dough, muffins, cake breads, sorbets, ice cream, frozen cocktails… But so far for this season of warming soups I have a huge thumbs up, easy lunch time tomato soup in minutes is always a plus in my book, add a nutritious grilled cheese and avocado sandwich and then any leftovers can be used as a pizza topping later on for hungry children!

My lunchtime super easy tomato soup recipe… Courtesy of the Vitamix!
(Then use as a pizza sauce later… It worked well with no complaints)

1 can of organic chopped tomatoes
1/2 can of organic tomato purée
3/4 cup of vegetable stock/broth
1/2 chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste
A small handful of fresh basil leaves sliced

Place the vegetable broth, followed by the tomatoes, purée and then onion into the vitamix set to the soup setting press start and let it run it’s cycle, when finished add salt, pepper and basil leaves, pulse several times… Then serve with whatever you fancy… Hot, yummy and nutritious!

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recipes

Creamy pesto and broccoli mac and cheese

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Ingredients

1 packet of pasta (I used shells)
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
2 cups of fat free milk
1 jar of pesto
Approximately 2 cups of frozen broccoli florets (defrosted)
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
The Pioneer Woman tomato basil salad (optional for topping the bake)

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, whilst the pasta is cooking melt the butter in a small pan then add in flour and mix together until incorporated over a low heat, cooking the flour slightly. Take the pan off the heat and slowly whisk in the milk, gradually adding it to the flour, butter mixture until smooth! Return the milk to a medium heat and stirring continually bring to the boil, stir until the sauce has thickened, then take off the heat and whisk in the pesto!

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Mix together the cooked pasta, broccoli and pesto sauce and pour into a baking dish, cover with the shredded cheese and bake in a 400f oven for 20 minutes!

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I served my pesto mac and cheese topped with The Pioneer Woman’s tomato and basil salad, then made a delicious treat for dessert… An apple tea bread with a warm chocolate drizzle

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ENJOY!

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Getting ready to hibernate…

The weather is very gray today, not cold, but colder than it has been… The leaves are red, yellow and brown and covering the ground, it makes me feel like getting ready to hibernate for the winter! I have a list of projects as long as my arm for this winter, house things to do, business things to complete, Florrie knits to complete her closet and baby makes to get ready for… So winter for me will be hibernation for a few months ready for a busy hopefully brand new spring!

First on my list is a much needed clean and organization of my kitchen, I started this yesterday with a quick trip to the dollar store for containers to organize my ever flowing messy cupboards, I am cleaning and organizing by section in my kitchen so yesterday I completed my plastic container and baking cupboard… The dollar store is great for cheap organization, my aim is to have my cupboards stocked and organized in containers, then I will have to educate my children where everything goes… A huge task in it’s self!

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The next house project, which I also started yesterday is yet another mini re-organization of rooms, having so many people in one house means that we are quite often arguing over the television, when I switched the rooms around I thought, silly me, that having one main tv room would be fine as we have televisions in bedrooms… Of course not watching something in your room is not something children want to do, they all want to argue over the one television… Me personally, I am fed up of The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and the big one, American Football, not forgetting English Football too… Hence we are creating our second tv room again… Just a small re-organization though, means that I have a good excuse to re create and design some new areas… Sofa cushions, table settings and maybe the odd piece of furniture change… I visited one of my favorite stores yesterday a thrift store in Dover, Habitat for Humanity, today I am going to our local wonderful consignment store and Jo Anne’s fabric store… Yay, just a browse around, but who knows what treasures you can find… Or even some inspiration!

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Columbus Day weekend…

Columbus Day weekend… And what are we doing? Of course we are getting up early for a soccer game… Yay, my day I have no alarms set, my day I relax and chill out with coffee in bed… Not today though, we have to be up and out nice and early!

Dinner today is already cooked… Impressed? I am very impressed with myself… After watching an episode of the Pioneer Woman yesterday morning, I was inspired to make my drip beef over night in the slow cooker, then leave it to cool during the day in the fridge so the fat will rise and cool then I can take it all off and then just reheat the beef in it’s juices for warm crusty sandwiches served with caramelized onions and melted cheese…yum!

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The Pioneer Woman’s Drip Beef recipe.

I think I am definitely getting my mojo back, although I am very tired as I have been waking religiously at 4am every morning and then not being able to get back to sleep until my alarm is ready to go off at 6.15am, I am feeling more like my old self with the addition of a small, well rather large bump I am carrying around! I am menu planning again, and this week I actually completed a whole weeks worth of grocery shopping too, I have started putting together Florence’s Halloween costume, and have sorted through all our summer photos ready to post… My mojo is definitely re-appearing slowly!

This week’s project is making a headband to go with Florrie’s costume, I have it planned I just need the materials then I will post a tutorial and breakdown of the cost… Florence LOVES the Disney store and all things on the Disney Channel so of course this is the direction I headed when planning her costume… Unfortunately the costumes in the Disney store are stupid amounts of money, they are not even that nice in many cases so I am making my own, I bought the dress for less than half the cost of the costume and now I am making the headband, hopefully the whole outfit will have cost me less than $20… A Halloween Bargain!

Happy Columbus Day Sunday!

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Trying to stretch a dollar or two…

This year has certainly been financially difficult for us, we have had several car accidents costing us a lot of money not only with paying the first $1000 but also with insurance rates increasing dramatically. We also had a chimney fire and parts of our roof were damaged with the hurricane that came last year… All in all 2013 has been a little bit of a struggle in many ways… But on the positive side, we still have each other and I firmly believe that positive thoughts breed positive behavior!

With that said with things the way they are at the moment I am all in for trying to save a little bit of money, I particularly love this time of year food wise, you can really make your dollar stretch with hearty, healthy meals, soups and stews are perfect fall money saving meals, lots of root cheaper veggies fill out all those fall meals, last night I made a delicious potato, green bean and chicken soup, served together with a rustic sausage, apple and sage stuffing bake, I estimate the cost to feed a family of 6, and I say 6 as that is how many people ate this dinner was $2.65 per person… Hearty, warming, yummy and very cheap! With this in mind, I am challenging myself to make healthy fall meals for less than $15 a night… Can it be done? Who knows but I am going to try, I love a bargain and I do love a challenge!

Very quick chicken and potato soup… I found this recipe on the whole foods App, I did tweak it a bit, so no link…. I love this app for healthy recipes, I use it a lot!

2/3 packet of frozen hash brown potatoes ( a trick I got from the Pioneer woman, when you just don’t want to peel and grate potatoes or just do not have time)
1 finely chopped onion
1 stick of celery chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons of paprika
4 cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
6 ready cooked chicken tenderloins ( these are another of my short cuts, Costco have a large bag for $14, and are perfect for very quick healthy meals)
2/3 bag of frozen green beans ( the recipe actually said frozen peas and although I love peas my children do not, and as I wanted them to eat it, I changed to something we would all eat)

Place all of the ingredients into the pot, placing your chicken tenderloins on top, cover, bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes, then take off the chicken and chop or shred the meat, place to one side whilst you blend the contents in your pot, add in your green beans, top up with a little bit more water if you think the soup is too thick, bring back to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes then add your shredded chicken and simmer for a further 5 minutes… Time to serve… Delicious!
(Of course this recipe would also work well in your crock pot, I would place all the ingredients as stated in the slow cooker and cook on high for two hours, then follow the instructions for adding shredded chicken and beans but this time together, switch to a low setting and cook for a further hour).

I have always been a fan of repurposing things, I love Antique shops, thrift stores and flea markets, you can find so many hidden treasures… I don’t get to go nearly as much as I would like to these days. There was a time not so long ago when we used to spend Sunday afternoons in a little town called Lewis, near Brighton browsing the antique shops then drinking coffee in the quaint little coffee shops, of course this was when my boys were much younger and we just seemed to have far more time on our hands… Oh how I hunger for those lazy Sundays right now! I really think in this economy many people have turned to making and repurposing things within their homes… In the days of Margaret Thatcher, life became about the money and the possessions you had… Keeping up with the jones’ was the phrase of the day, and for some this is still very much the way things still are… I have never been like that, my style is shabby chic, I don’t care if something is designer and expensive or cheap and second hand… If I like it, that is all that counts! All this is a very fortunate trait , as right now I am very keen on making, creating and repurposing to create things I love for those that I love!

On a side note… Florrie’s Attic has taken a back seat in the last few months, due to the dreadful first trimester sickness, it was as much as I could do to get out of bed and cope with my family let alone think about my beloved Florrie’s Attic… But now 16 weeks later I think I am finally feeling a little bit better and my head is buzzing with all things Florrie’s Attic… First I have to complete some projects I had already started and post them up, then I will be moving on… Look out little boys things will be being added very soon… Some things are just meant to be!

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BLOGTOBER… A day in my life!

There is just something magical about that first day you shake off the dust from that well hidden box in your closet and open it to discover your beloved pair of boots that have been hidden away for many months… Those boots they just go with everything, your skirts, your leggings, your jeans and your dresses, well you get the picture, after many, many months of the long hot summer and wearing your flip flops, boots just make your clothes look cuter… Well that is how I started my morning anyway!

Today we were on tornado watch from 9am this morning, the winds were blowing, rain was threatening, so today I felt like my 12 year old daughter waiting to wear my new dress because I could pull on my long gray socks and cute tan boots…

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After what seems like a lifetime, I finally managed to gather the energy to take Florrie to the library for story stop, when we arrived in the wet and windy parking lot, she cried ‘yes, me’ making me feel oh so guilty for keeping away for so long, we arrived just on time for the story then the highlight of our trip making the elephant and being a big girl using scissors… There were some new things at the library, a wall mounted iPad, which Florence was not impressed with, there was no Disney app, just a monkey and shapes, she loved the new Legos table and the large chalk board… Overall the library was a good morning out!

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The rest of our day was kind of boring, I became my usual Monday taxi service with the addition of running Farrel to his girlfriend’s house, then onto get Blu as he finished school, dropped him home then headed to the Mall for a pit stop at Target before heading to pick Paul up from work… Something to add at this point is, that I was invited to Montclair for an Indian lunch with Lewis, I had to decline as Blu cannot get on the school bus with his crutches, but Montclair on this windy wet day would have been a a very welcome Monday pick me up!

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20131007-203413.jpgThis evening has consisted of finishing the laundry, eating pizza… And wondering why I ever believed wearing my boots after a long summer of flip flops was ever magical… My feet are aching from being trapped in my boots all day, on the positive side at least my feet were warm and dry all day… Happy Fall everyone, today I could honestly believe Winter will be here before we know it!

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Menu planning again…

After many, many weeks of first trimester sickness, lack of sleep, tiredness and just plain feeling bad I need to get our menu planning back on track, the slow cooker is my best friend in the kitchen at the moment, I have so much to get done in the house and I’m always so tired in the evening, the slow cooker really is my savior! With a big, big shop on the horizon, I need to get slow cooker friendly meals lined up and ready to go for the next week… Pregnancy has made my brain like mush, I can’t even think of one thing I regularly cook apart from white turkey chili, so I need to have a refresher cooking course and quickly!

This past week has been using up what we have in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry, all thrown into the slow cooker, I have had some weird concoctions cooking, chicken noodle soup with a Mexican twist, a weird bolognese risotto with orzo pasta instead of rice. And a potato and sausage soup… I still have a few things to use up, but I think tomorrow could be my big shop day!

Here is a rusty menu planners first menu plan of this fall:

TEX-MEX NOODLES
QUICK CHICKEN AND POTATO SOUP
TURKEY PUMPKIN CHILI
ONE POT CHILI CASSEROLE
SOUP WITH SAUSAGE AND GREEN BEANS
CHORIZO AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO RICE WITH SPINACH
TEMPEH CURRY WITH SWEET POTATOES AND GREEN BEANS (I think I may have to add chicken to this dish)
COCONUT, CARROT AND CHICKPEA SOUP and BLT PASTA SALAD

Today I am trying a slow cooker mac and cheese creation, I have taken the recipe from Food Networks Paula Dean’s Slow cooked Mac and Cheese recipe and I have just tweaked it a little bit… I’ll let you know how it turns out but for now here is the recipe:

8oz box uncooked macaroni elbow pasta shapes
2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
3 eggs beaten ( I will be using egg whites)
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup skimmed milk
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pack of chopped frozen broccoli
1 pack of bacon

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box until just tender but not quite cooked! In a bowl mix together the eggs, sour cream, soup, salt, milk, mustard and broccoli, then add most of the grated cheeses leaving enough to just cover the top, mix then set aside! Add the chopped broccoli to the bottom of the crock pot, toss the pasta with the soup mixture then add to slow cooker layering over the broccoli, top with strips of bacon then sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese… Set the slow cooker on low for 3 hours and then serve with a salad and warm garlic bread… Now this is truly pregnancy food at its best!

Just a small note for those crock pot lovers like myself, I recently discovered that baked/jacket potatoes are fabulous cooked in the slow cooker… Ok, you don’t get the crispy jacket of skin, but the potato is delicious inside, it’s so easy too, you just wash and scrub your potatoes as usual, prick all over then place in your slow cooker, I set mine on high for five hours but I had 9, yes 9 huge potatoes stuffed in the pot, but I read that 6 hours on low is a good setting if you need to let them cook all day! Enjoy and serve them with all your favorite toppings… Mine is lashings of butter and grated cheddar cheese!

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