Wednesday 31 January 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 - Week 5

I did have just over 6 weeks to go until baby Cowe is due... and then I got booked in to be induced (because of the gestational diabetes) rather sooner! I've only got a few more days at work as well before I start maternity leave - the idea of not commuting into the City and working for about a year is very strange though I will have plenty to occupy me instead!

This coming weekend my family and friends are throwing me a baby shower which I'm looking forward to, though the catering isn't that easy given I've got gestational diabetes and another friend is vegan - try finding a baby shower cake that works for both! I've also got some people staying - my parents and sister and her baby are coming up the day before and staying until the day after the shower and I always find it harder to plan meals when it's more than just me and my husband to think about, so I'm just going to play it by ear really.

My husband requested something with chips so we had chicken with sweet potato fries for me.

We needed a quick dinner as we had our final NCT antenatal class this evening and the only thing I could think of to do was put pizzas in the oven - I really wasn't sure what my blood sugar readings would do but actually they were fine! Even so I'm not going to eat that sort of thing very often until after the baby is born.

My husband was out and I had a headache so couldn't be bothered to cook so just had some pasta

Thursday - day off
ready prepared chicken with cheese and bacon from Tesco and cauliflower cheese for me, potato wedges for him

Friday - my parents, sister and her daughter are here in the evening, my mum will want to have dinner ready for when we get home from work so I've left her something easy - chicken kievs

lunch - early brunch or light lunch for three of us as there will be food this afternoon at the baby shower but my husband and dad will want a proper lunch - so options will include bacon sandwiches, fry ups etc
dinner - the three of us might not want much though a few friends might also come back to the house afterwards and we might all want to eat while my husband and dad will want a proper dinner, so I'm just going to play it by ear.

lunch - soup and crusty bread
dinner - chicken mini roast

Add your meal plan here


Tuesday 23 January 2018

Pop-Up 3D Box Birthday Card for My Husband's 40th Birthday

Have you come across box cards before? They fold flat to go into an envelope, but when they are opened, pop out into a three-dimensional box that stands up, and often has other elements 'exploding' out. They take a little while to make but are really worth it as they are impressive and really unusual. I made this one for my husband's 40th birthday last year and he was really pleased with itI'd heard of these cards but didn't know how to make them so looked for a video on You Tube.
It's a bit too difficult to describe each step and easier to direct you towards a video like this one or this one - I can't actually remember which tutorial I used now!
You need a fairly large piece of card to start with, roughly A4, and score lines at certain widths apart so you can later fold along them.


Make cuts part way up where you have scored

You'll find the card then folds into a box shape.

To decorate, I cut squares of patterned paper the same size as the sides of the box and used a different paper on each side (but in the same colour scheme).

Stick two strips of acetate inside, folding them at the ends so you can glue to the sides of the box; these create cross strips that you will then stick things to.

To make an element stand up out of the card, stick it onto another strip of acetate as shown, then stick this acetate strip vertically to the horizontal ones running across the box. Glue dots are good to use for this.

This is the effect you are going for! You can add as many of these as you like.

 You can see that here I've got three elements sticking up inside the box; two are glued onto acetate strips running horizontally through the box and one is stuck to the front and the back of the box itself. Make sure the elements aren't aligned with each other either in position or height, otherwise you won't be able to see them all when you look at the card from the front.

Here's a better view of the box so you can see the elements sticking out - a 'happy birthday' die cut, a 40 I cut from silver card, and a 'with love' heart. I also used a 40th birthday message topper on the front of the card.

And here the card is from the front; it's better in real life as you can take in all the elements at once. I think my husband liked it and seemed pleased with the amount of effort I'd put in to make him something special!

I'm sharing this with Cardz 4 Guyz as the theme is 'January blues'  and the Make My Monday challenge where the theme is 'fancy folds'.

Monday 22 January 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 Week 4

Having not managed to blog all week since I posted my last meal plan, I have at least made a lot of headway with baby's nursery and washing all those tiny little sleepsuits! I've also just about managed to cobble a meal plan together...

Monday - working from home - physio appointment

Lunch baked sweet potato with tuna

Dinner  chicken in a cream cheese sauce

Tuesday - working from home - antenatal appointment

Lunch - toasted ham and cheese sandwich

Dinner – pork chop with homemade cauliflower cheese I keep meaning to make but don’t


lunch- sandwich or soup

dinner - out in evening


lunch - sandwich

dinner - sausage and mash/ sweet potato mash


lunch - sandwich

dinner – tuna steak for me, chicken in breadcrumbs for him


lunch – prawn/ chicken fajitas

dinner at cinema. If time, steak and chips/ sweet potato fries which we didn't have last week or might even eat out


lunch – eggs benedict

Dinner – pasta bake with sausages

Link up your meal plan here!

Monday 15 January 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 - week 3

I'm working from home twice this week as I have an appointment with the diabetes midwife on Tuesday and a growth scan on Friday, so a bit more time hopefully to cook some nice meals!

Breakfast porridge
Lunch tuna sandwich
Dinner fish pie for me (frozen a while back pre-GD but only has a little mashed potato on top) and chicken kiev for him

Tuesday - working from home
Breakfast smoked salmon and poached egg
Lunch ham and cheese toasted sandwich
Dinner spicy chicken escalopes I was going to do last week but didn't, with potato wedges/ sweet potato wedges

Breakfast yogurt and oats
Lunch chicken soup
Dinner  tuna steak with vegetables and quinoa for me, my husband is out at a work event

Breakfast yogurt and oats
Lunch tuna or ham sandwich
Dinner out

Friday working from home
Breakfast - porridge
Lunch ryvita with cream cheese and smoked salmon
Dinner salmon en croute for me, chicken in breadcrumbs for him

Breakfast toast with peanut butter
Lunch tortilla wrap 'pizza'
Dinner steak and chips/ sweet potato fries

Breakfast  toast with peanut butter
Lunch baked sweet potato
Dinner pork chop and roast potatoes for me

Join in the blog hop!

Thursday 11 January 2018

Review: Pure freeze-dried cat food

While this blog usually focuses on food and drink for humans, I have written a few posts before about meals I've made for Tilly - my gorgeous tabby cat.

I was asked if I wanted to review some cat food and since there is a link (albeit small) with what I've covered before, I said yes. The product itself is interesting I think to foodies anyway as it's freeze-dried - you just add water - making me wonder if there is any food for humans (other than what astronauts eat in space!) that is prepared in this way. I have a feeling that herbs are sometimes freeze-dried as a way of keeping them tasting fresh - if you know of any other freeze-dried food let me know in the comments!

So on to the cat food. Made by a brand called Pure Pet Food, a company founded by two friends who wanted their dogs to eat food as good as they did, rather than highly processed food made with low quality ingredients. After developing the business and seeing it start to take off, they appeared on TV's Dragon's Den (the equivalent show in the US is called Shark Tank if you're an American reader!) and were offered investment but decided to turn it down to go it alone.

They started off with dehydrated food in 2012 and only last year moved into freeze-dried. The company says its freeze-drying technique keeps the texture of the meat which did look to be the case from appearance (I drew the line at tasting it myself) and it doesn't need preservatives added. There's plenty of nutritional information on their website which I won't repeat here but I am impressed at the list of ingredients and their benefits, and that it contains nothing 'bad'.

I was sent finger-lickin' chicken and surf and turf flavours; here's what you get inside the box:

Mix with the recommended amount of water and leave for a few minutes to rehydrate, mixing well.

Tilly (my cat) really enjoyed this - she does like to switch up her brands and flavours every so often - and seemed to prefer it when I added a little more water to the mixture.

Here she is posing for a photo!

It does take slightly longer to mix this up in the mornings, and I'm always in a hurry before work,  though you can do it the night before and keep it in the fridge. You can buy online from their site and the products are also stocked in Pets At Home.

A 200g bag costs £11.99 but this is equivalent to 800g of fresh food, Pure says.

Thanks to Pure for the pet food for review. All opinions are my own.

Monday 8 January 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 - week 2

I've found having gestational diabetes has increased my grocery bills... but at the same time I did my first bit of batch cooking over the weekend and now have five portions of lasagne in the freezer. Just need to do a bit more of that so I can have some easy dinners when the baby is born!

Breakfasts – will depend on what time I go into work but either: overnight oats; yogurt; toast with peanut butter, or protein if I feel I need to avoid carbs eg egg, ham, smoked salmon

Lunch: sandwich
Dinner: spiralized carrot and butternut squash with prawns and mascarpone (recipe previously on my blog)

Lunch: sandwich
Dinner: pasta with a cheesy sauce with chicken

Lunch: soup
Dinner: spicy chicken escalopes

Thursday- working from home
Lunch: soup
Dinner: pork chop and cauliflower cheese

Lunch: sandwich
Dinner: salmon en croute with vegetables

Lunch: prawn/chicken fajitas
Dinner: chicken mini roast - I'm going to treat myself to some roast potatoes!

Lunch: packed lunch on NCT class
Dinner: vegetarian toad in the hole based on this recipe

 Join in the blog hop!

Sunday 7 January 2018

Restaurant review: Ewe Tree Cafe, Cholderton Charlie's, Wiltshire

The middle of winter isn’t the best time of year to visit a farm – but I discovered that if there is soft play, children are happy at any time of year!

Meeting up with my school friends at Christmas, it was decided that we needed to do something during the day to tire out – I mean entertain – the children, as there would be three children aged three and under with us on this occasion. We were meeting up at a friend’s house in Hampshire, not far away from Cholderton Charlie’s (which is near Salisbury in Wiltshire). I remembered this from when it was Cholderton Rare Breeds Farm – it is still home to a number of rare breeds of animals though the types of animals themselves are fairly standard – goats, pigs, ponies, chickens, sheep etc. I’m not sure if as a child I particularly appreciated that any of them were rare breeds!

There’s definitely more here than when I was a child, not least the pig racing (though we were out of season to see it – rates start from February) – apparently the pigs enjoy a quick burst of energy and want to run because they are rewarded by treats at the end. There’s also an outdoor adventure play area, trampolines, nature walk – even a vineyard where you can hold your wedding.

It was a pretty freezing day and by the time we had waited for everyone to arrive and finished lunch, we only had an hour before the place shut – but an hour was long enough. Unsurprisingly a lot of the animals were tucked up for the winter – we saw some but I imagine the place is much more buzzing in the summer. The children really enjoyed the indoor soft play area and I did briefly get to hold a very cold shivering guinea pig before I gave him back to the keeper to put back inside her coat!

We ate lunch at the Ewe Tree Café; the menu looked quite good but it was disappointing they had run out of several things – I asked about the soup of the day and there was none left, and asked for a cheese toastie instead and my friend asked for the quesadilla, only to be told they had no cheese! She then asked if she could have an adult portion of the fish finger sandwich and chips from the children’s menu which the café was happy to do, and several of us (including me) ended up having the same – though I had no chips (a side salad instead, and brown bread with my sandwich) as I am supposed to be avoiding certain foods due to gestational diabetes.

The café was happy to accommodate our various requests and the service was friendly – the same guy was running the gift shop and the café (which was part of the same area), probably due to low out-of-season visitor numbers, and I half expected to then see him in one of the animal pens, but they did seem to have other staff around after all.

Cholderton Charlie’s looked like a nice place to take children of all ages and somewhere I would definitely come back to – but probably in warmer weather next time.

Saturday 6 January 2018

Low Sugar Low Carb Diabetic Lemon Cheesecake

My sister, her partner and their one-year-old came to stay for new year which was lovely (especially fun introducing my niece and my cat to each other – I think it went fairly well!). I wanted to make a nice dessert for new year’s eve but of course am a bit limited now I have gestational diabetes (sorry to keep harping on about that – but it’s relevant to this recipe!).
Sweetener is a god-send when you can’t eat sugar – though I know there are people who avoid artificial sweeteners and have health concerns, so it’s not something I use often but as I did want to make an actual dessert that others would enjoy as well, it came in very handy.
I can also eat dairy products like cream, soft cheese, yogurt etc, so quickly decided on making a cheesecake. I prefer no-bake cheesecakes for the taste and texture, but a lot of them involve using condensed milk (I don’t know if you can get an unsweetened one but I figured it probably wasn’t possible to get sugar-free) and some cheesecakes involve raw egg. I made mine very simply, using a tub of Quark (curd cheese that is a bit like cream cheese only thicker, and doesn’t really have much of a flavour) mixed with soft cheese, lemon juice and sweetener – it tasted really good.
I’d read on a gestational diabetes diet sheet that I could have a couple of light digestive biscuits or rich tea biscuits (which struck me as odd as they do contain carbs and sugar) but I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I crushed up some digestives with a rolling pin in a plastic bag (the biscuits were in a plastic freezer bag, that is – not the rolling pin) and mixed with some melted butter and pressed into the base of a loose-bottomed cake tin. I then spooned the cheese topping on top and decided not to decorate it as most of the things I could think of involved sugar!
I left the cheesecake in the fridge for a day until we wanted to eat it – it really was the easiest thing to make and tasted really good. My sister was surprised that I could have it, even after I told her what was in it, but I had a reasonably-sized portion after a dinner of chicken and vegetables, and got a blood sugar reading that was perfectly within range. So this is a dessert I can recommend!

Tuesday 2 January 2018

Meal Planning Monday 2018 - Week 1

Welcome to 2018! I hope it's a great year for all my readers. It's going to be a life-changing year for me as our baby is due in just over 10 weeks... and potentially sooner which is quite a scary thought! I haven't been blogging as much as things like choosing a car seat and buggy are more important at the moment but I will continue to bring you recipes ranging from the birthday cake I made for my niece to diabetic-friendly baking so please stay tuned!

Here is the first meal plan of the year - as I explained in a recent post I have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and have to cut carbs as well as sugar, which is actually pretty difficult - in the summer I'm happy to have salad for lunch but in winter am more likely to have something carb-based, and while I don't always have potatoes, rice or pasta with dinner, I do sometimes- and once or twice a week when I get home late like most people I might bung some chips or a frozen pizza in the oven. Can't do that any more! So meal planning will become even more important, and probably more time consuming until I get the hang of what I can and can't tolerate to get blood sugar readings within my target range.

I'm slightly late posting this week so the first two days have already happened!

Breakfast plain soya yogurt (Alpro) with sweetener
Lunch tuna sandwich using Burgen soya & linseed bread
Dinner As it's a bank holiday and we were not looking forward to going back to work I decided to give takeaway a go after all (having read online some options are not that bad from a diabetes perspective), and had a few slices of thin crust takeaway pizza - and my blood sugar reading was well within range! Won't be doing this sort of thing often (if at all) for the next few months though.

Breakfast having been told by my midwife and read elsewhere that porridge made from scratch should be OK (complex carb, low GI, slow release) so I made some using Tree of Life organic porridge oats from Ocado, using a mixture of water and milk and added a little sweetener - and got a blood sugar reading well over my target level! Sigh.
Lunch At the hospital after a lengthy set of antenatal appointments and a long wait at the hospital pharmacy - I expected to be home hours ago so didn't take any food (or a book to read!) with me. My only option was lunch in the hospital restaurant where nothing looked particularly diabetes-friendly (though I could have had sausage and mash without the mash I suppose). I had a small portion of lamb pasta bake which wasn't particularly nice but I got a surprisingly good blood sugar reading.
Dinner tuna steak with wholewheat noodles and vegetables.

Breakfast Going into work early and need to take something with me so going to try overnight oats using a little porridge oats and the soya yogurt.
snacks al desko: mini babybel, sour cream and chive dip and carrot sticks, sugar-free jelly
Lunch ham and lettuce sandwich with Burgen bread
Dinner spaghetti and meatballs, but using spiralized carrot for me

Breakfast depending on my blood sugar reading and which train I get to work - toast with peanut butter, overnight oats or just yogurt
Lunch ham and lettuce sandwich with Burgen bread
Dinner sausage and mash for him, and sausage and cauliflower, sweet potato and kale bake (from Ocado) for me

Breakfast as above depending on the same factors
Lunch ham and lettuce sandwich with Burgen bread
Dinner out with a friend

Breakfast depending on when I get up - toast and peanut butter most likely
Brunch/ Lunch buckwheat pancakes with apple or lemon and sweetener
Dinner for me: pork with cauliflower cheese. For him: chicken breast wrapped in bacon with potato croquettes

Breakfast toast and peanut butter
Lunch need to take a packed lunch as we are on our antenatal course
Dinner homemade lasagne

Join in the blog hop!

Monday 1 January 2018

A Year in Review and 2018 Resolutions

Each year I look back on the year in blogging (and a few aspects of my personal life) and my top 10 most popular posts, and think about what I want to tackle for the blog in the coming year.

The first half of last year was pretty normal; I made cakes for birthdays, reviewed restaurants, did some crafts, all the usual things. Then at the beginning of July I found out my husband and I are expecting a baby - and everything changed. We are really excited and looking forward to the new addition to our family; I've been lucky and not suffered from morning sickness or much else during this pregnancy apart from a few aches and pains (trying to get out of bed in the morning is quite difficult these days) but I have been extremely tired for several months, often needing a nap (or simply falling asleep wherever I am) which means I am not getting much done! I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes right before Christmas, which should disappear as soon as the baby is born, but means I now have to watch what I eat a lot more and cut out most carbs as well as sugar.

Lack of time and the tiredness meant I blogged a lot less in the last few months of 2017 and my readership stats reflect that. It's been interesting to see what my top 10 most read posts were over the year:

1. Slow cooker butterscotch pudding - from a book called the Slow Cooker, you cook the puddings in a water bath and they set like custard - they tasted great. I have lots of other slow cooker recipes on my blog!

2. Vegan French apple tart - often people who are not vegan need to make a vegan recipe and this is where the internet rather than recipe books comes in! I found this on the Good to Know website and made it for last new year's eve where I was with friends including a vegan, and also entered it in the Food n Flix challenge. You can find lots more vegan recipes on my blog.

3. Chicken and chorizo filo parcels - I always have a few sheets of filo pastry left after opening a packet and this recipe from the Jus-Rol website is a great way to use them up.

4. Slimming World coronation chicken jacket potato - I haven't followed the Slimming World plan for a while but still have a lot of the recipe books and cook from them sometimes. This coronation chicken filling is low fat and really nice in a baked potato.

5. I'm glad to see that my meal plans, which I post every Monday, are popular, and hopefully useful. One of them - my very first meal plan of 2017 - made it into my top 10 most read posts.

6. Chocolate crumble - something I made for my husband while I enjoyed an apple crumble as he doesn't like apple. The recipe comes from the Tesco website and I recommend you check it out!

7. Weightwatchers Turkish pizza - another good recipe for people who are watching their weight. This Turkish take on a pizza has no cheese but is topped with minced lamb and spices and is really good.

8. A roundup of soup recipes I'd previously featured on my blog - soup is really easy to make and pretty much a fail safe lunch in the winter for me!

9. Super-moist vegan strawberry cake - a birthday cake for my vegan friend which she really enjoyed. If you like strawberry flavour check out these other strawberry recipes.

10. I'm pleased to see one of my card making projects made it into the top 10, even though this snow scene foil Christmas card is based entirely on a design from a card making magazine - if you want to see the other cards I've made click here.

In terms of goals for 2018, I'm not going to write a whole long list like I sometimes do - as I can't even begin to imagine how much my life will change when I have a baby. My resolution instead is to continue my blog, even if I'm not able to post often; I would also like to revise the layout and make some design changes which I've wanted to do for a while now but never seem to find the time to do. So I think given there is a baby on the way, blogging at all this year will be an achievement!