Monday, 20 October 2014

Madhouse recipe : Autumnal Fruit Salad

Fruit salad is one of our favourite desserts during the summer, but, having gone a bit mad at the farmers' market on Sunday, I decided to try it using autumnal fruits. It was just as delicious.

Autumnal Fruit Salad

ingredients :

2 persimmons (also known as Sharon fruit)
2 bananas
2 apples
2 satsumas
a squirt of lime juice

Persimmons are at their best when they're very ripe - this brings out the sweetness and juiciness of the fruit. It does make them very fragile though so I wasn't surprised to discover that the two I had bought at the market had been reduced to a pulpy mess by the time I got home. Rather than waste them, this became the basis of our autumnal fruit salad.

I added some chopped banans, a couple of windfall apples from a work colleague and a satsuma, but plums, cherries and even dried cranberries would add a lovely splash of colour. Just throw in whatever is looking a bit unloved in your fruit bowl ! Add a quick squirt of lime juice to freshen things up and you're ready to go.

This was lovely as it was, after chilling in the fridge for an hour, but could also be used as a pie filling, with pancakes or served with a scoop of ice cream.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

#UnileverHalloween recipe : Autumnal Hug In A Bowl !

#UnileverHalloween : Cottage Pie with a Pumpkin & Potato Thatch

9bar Gave Our Mornings A Boost ! (review)

There's nothing I love more than a mystery parcel arriving at the door. As Julie Andrews famously sang, "Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things" !

We excitedly opened the box to discover a bundle of goodies from 9bar, designed to help give our mornings a boost. As well as some very useful accessories such as an umbrella and a coffee mug, there were a selection of 9bar Breakfast bars, including Almond & Raspberry, Cashew & Cocoa, Apricot & Strawberry and Peanut & Raisin flavours.

I reviewed the Breakfast Bars earlier in the year (click through to read that review) and they're lovely - the perfect natural energy boost to get the day off to a great start. Every 9bar is made with a unique blend of wholesome seeds including sunflower, pumpkin, poppy, sesame and hemp, and many of them also add delicious crunchy nuts such as cashews, hazelnuts and peanuts or dried fruit.

Breakfast isn't the only time of day to indulge in a 9bar though. As well as the Breakfast range, they sent me some of their classic 9bars and also a not-very-naughty-but-nice Indulge bar.

Can you guess which one I started with ? Yep, you got it ! But as the packaging says : "Indulge ! With a bar this nutritious, you really can !"

Unlike most chocolatey snacks that you'll find in the supermarket, 9bar Indulge doesn't just provide empty calories, unrefined sugar and saturated fats. Its mixed seeds make it "oddly nutritious" (as it says on the wrapper). That doesn't mean it's low in calories but, as my FitBug homepage keeps telling me, you shouldn't just look at the calories but also they type of food that's providing them. 

9bar explain on their website : "Seeds are high in calories, which means 9bar is too. [...] One comment we sometimes receive is about the amount of fat in a 9bar. However, the fact, and indeed the fat, is that there’s such a thing as “good fat” and “bad fat”. Seeds, you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear, have a high proportion of the “good” variety. It’s been a bit of a truism for three decades or more that healthy eating is simply all about calorie-counting and avoiding fat. These days, however, it’s widely acknowledged that we need a whole range of nutritional substances in our diet that comes from selecting foods that have a high nutritional value, in other words foods that are full of a wide range of nutrients such as protein, minerals, vitamins and, yes, you guessed it, the “right” kinds of fat!"

When I tucked into the deliciously gooey and chewy Fruity bar  (packed with seeds including sunflower, sesame and pumpkin, plus dried apricots and dates), I was convinced it was topped with chocolate but it's actually carob.

A 9bar Breakfast Bar contains about 220 calories but it's filling enough to keep you going until lunchtime. I love the chewiness of the bar and the crunchiness of the seeds, as well as the taste, like a denser, less sweet cereal bar. I also love the fact that they're totally portable so I can pop one into my pocket to eat at the bus stop when I'm in a rush.

for more information :

Disclosure : I received a hamper of 9bar goodies in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

#UnileverHalloween : Cottage Pie with a Pumpkin & Potato Thatch

Madhouse Diaries : Autumnal Geocaching

Yesterday, it wasn't even me that suggested going out geocaching - it was the kids ! As I wasn't sure if it was going to rain, we headed into the town centre so that it wouldn't get too muddy and there would be places to shelter if the worst came to the worst. Urban geocaching can still be sporty - Sophie had to climb up on a road sign to get this one !

We found the next one nestling in a very realistic looking birds' nest, much to the kids' delight.

Pierre decided to revisit one that we'd found before that we were walking past, to see if there were any new treasures to swap - and there were !

We went exploring a nearby park, looking for some caches.

I love the way people create really ingenious caches that blend in with nature, such as this gigantic (and real) pine cone, with a hole drilled in the bottom to hide the logbook. We'd never seen a pine cone this big before.

Meanwhile, Pierre was busy making leaf piles and jumping in them.

Then there was much clambering about in the rocks.

As well as using the stepping stones to cross the tiny stream. 

Sophie wandered off to discreetly find the geocache hidden in this statue made of old anchors.

We took a Playmobil figure and dropped off a Rabid Rabbit.

We played pooh sticks and made leaf boats too.

Then watched the ducks for a while (and quacked at them). 

 We played around on the concrete sheep for a while !

Then we revisited a cache that I had never managed to find before (despite several visits) and this time, we found it - yay ! I knew it was a big one and it had loads of treasures to swap in it. Sophie loved the Rubik's cube keyring.

Pierre had more fun playing in the leaves !

We took some silly selfies while waiting for people to wander off so we could grab a geocache discreetly.

I bet everyone wondered what was so interesting about this tree !

We marvelled at how well camouflaged this one was - it's in the bolt !

Then we finished at the beach for one final cache with a sea view. Can you guess where it's hidden? We had to sit down and pretend to redo our laces to find it discreetly !

The kids played in the sand for a while then we went and got the bus home.

"Can we go geocaching again tomorrow, Mum ?!"

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Sunday, 19 October 2014

What to do with ... a crateful of fresh figs?

I haven't done one of these blogposts for a while because usually it revolves around summer fruit. I love going to the local market right at the end and buying up the crates of fruit that are on the turn. It appeals to me on two levels - firstly you get an absolute bargain and secondly, it makes me feel good for reducing food waste. It's also a great chance to get creative in the kitchen and find ways of using up whatever I've bought. Well, today I picked up a crate of fresh figs for €5 - some are mouldy, some are squishy and some are in perfect condition, so I'll have to have a sort through.

I've gone googling for inspiration and these recipes appealed to me, but if you have any other ideas, leave me a comment below.

Hmm where to begin ?!

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

My mid-season fruit & veg haul !

Today I headed off to the local market to stock up on some fruit and vegetables. The veg box scheme has disintegrated so I decided to just go and buy lots of interesting things myself. I had a rough plan of coming home with sweetcorn, a pumpkin, butternut squash and round courgettes. I didn't find any of those but I did come home with this little lot !

After trying beetroot soup in Poland last week (that made my wee go bright red !!), I couldn't resist buying a couple of beetroot to try to recreate it.

I could really tell that we're between seasons by looking at the different autumn and summer produce on the stalls. I grabbed some melons (5 for €2 - can't get cheaper than that !) which remind me of balmy summer days. I also picked up a salad and some lemons. (Another Poland-inspired idea of putting slices of lemon in jugs of water.)

 I also bought some red onions, red and green peppers, a pomegranate, some persimmons and a whole crate full of over-ripe figs that I'll need to get innovative with. (See my next blogpost of you have any ideas !) That should keep me busy for a while. I need a bigger fruit bowl though !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

#UnileverHalloween recipe : Autumnal Hug In A Bowl !

Picture book review : A Scarf And A Half - Amanda Brandon & Catalina Echeverti

We've been discovering lots of great new picture books here at The Madhouse this month and our latest read was A Scarf and a Half by Amanda Brandon & Catalina Echeverti.

It's Lionel the sheep's birthday and his Granny has knitted him a scarf, but it turns out so long that it gets in the way and stops him from playing. He's rather disappointed and a little disgruntled until his friends at the farm come up with loads of new fun and exciting ways of using the "scarf and a half" in their games.

It's a great message about every cloud having a silver lining and always looking at the positives in every situation, as well as using your imagination and creativity to have fun with very little. (Junk modelling would be a great follow-on activity so I think we'll have a read-and-play session during the holidays.)

The cute, colourful illustrations are packed with detail and really bring the story to life. 

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £6.99

  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Maverick Arts Publishing (28 Sep 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848861168
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848861169
  • Product Dimensions: 26 x 25.6 x 0.4 cm

Disclosure : We received the book in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Picture book review : Yuck! Said The Yak - Alex English & Emma Levey

Sunday weigh-in : The Poland Diet !!!

Last week, I finished off my Sunday weigh-in post with this : "Next week in Poland will be catastrophic. We'll be eating in restaurants twice a day and I'll have no time for any sport but its an experience I need to make the most of without worrying about what the scales say next week !"

Well, it was actually worse than that - on one memorable day, we had a cooked breakfast, two three course meals in restaurants plus an extra "meal" just before lunch. (We had a little reception at the tourist information centre to welcome us to the town - they'd put on nibbles (little wraps and mini tarts), then brought out beef stew, cheesecake and fruit. All before heading off to the restaurant for a big meal ! We couldn't really say no though as they had laid it all on in our honour and paid for us to eat in the town's best restaurants. We also had a chauffeur-driven minibus transporting us everywhere all day every day so didn't even walk anywhere.

I have no regrets though - it was great fun and a fantastic opportunity to discover a new country. The PE teacher with us said he was sure he'd put on 5kg (in 5 days !) and when I jumped on the scales yesterday morning, I saw 88kg flash up. Eek ! A 2.5kg gain. This morning, however, they said 86.5kg which is only a 1kg gain - not putting on weight would have been grotesque after everything we ate this week so I think I got away lightly there with a 1kg gain!

Back to sensible eating and exercise this week.

Positives of the week

Yesterday was a salad and soup day with a big geocaching walk thrown in for good measure. (We found our 100th cache - yay !)  It's now the school holidays so it's the perfect time to get back on track.

- Rather than set myself up for a fail, I ditched the FitBug last week but it's back on my arm and I'm aiming to hit my targets every day.

- The break has done me good so I'm not feeling the slightest bit guilty!

Current targets 

Last week's target :  Take a week off and enjoy Poland. (DONE !)

This week's targets :  Get back on track. Track all meals on the FitBug. Hit my steps target every day on the FitBug. Listen to the SlimPod and the FitPod at least once. Get back to pre-Poland weight (85.5kg)

Short-term targets 21kg to lose sounds a lot but breaking it down, aiming for 1kg a week, that's only about 5 months -
first target, get my "weight to lose" badge down into the 40's (it's currently on 51lb) by next week (done),
 second goal - get back to 85.6kg, my pre-holiday weight, by the end of September(done)
third goal : get my "kg lost" badge back into double figures by Halloween
fourth goal : get my "weight loss" badge higher than my "still to go" badge
fifth goal : get back into my (smallest) bright blue jeans comfortably
sixth goal : get back to 77kg - my lowest weight since my pregnancies

Longer-term targets :  Hit my target weight of 68kg. 

STILL TO GO : 18.5kg

Feel free to add your weightloss posts to my weekly linkie - it's great to see how everyone else has been getting on and give each other support and encouragement. You can even grab the linkie code and add it to your own blog if you like. :)

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