Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Madhouse recipe : Cheesy Chicken & Bacon Stuffed Marrow

After wandering around the local markets in Turkey last week and enthusing over the varieties of fruit and vegetables that I'd never or rarely seen before - white and light purple striped aubergines, round aubergines, courgette flowers, strings and strings of red peppers and chillis drying in the sun, sunflower heads full of seeds ... - I decided to head to our own farmers' market on Sunday to see what was on offer there. Nothing too exotic but I did come back with a couple of marrows. 

This is only the second time I've cooked marrow - I shared my recipe last year for Stuffed Marrow using a sort of Oriental-inspired bolognese sauce (with added raisins and za'atar spice). It was very nice but this year I wanted to try a different filling, using up the leftovers from the fridge (cooked chicken from the Sunday roast and cooked rice, plus a glut of cherry tomatoes from the patio).

Cheesy Chicken & Bacon Stuffed Marrow

ingredients :

1 marrow
200g bacon lardons
2 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
4 mushrooms, quartered
leftover cooked chicken, chopped
a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 cups leftover cooked rice
spices of your choice : I used smoked paprika, oregano and Schwartz Spanish seasoning, then threw in the remains of a half-used sachet of Crispy Crumb Fajita Coating 
100g grated cheese

Wash and dry the marrow. Cut off the ends if you like then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, making sure you don't pierce the skin. Keep the flesh for later.

In a large pan, gently fry the bacon for a couple of minutes until it releases some fat, then add the onions, garlic, red pepper and mushrooms.

 Cook for 5 minutes then add the chicken, scooped-out marrow flesh and halved cherry tomatoes. Cook for a further 5 minutes then add the tinned tomatoes and the rice. Season with the spices (and add salt if necessary, but the bacon might be enough). Cook for 5 minutes for it to reduce slightly.

Put both marrow halves in a roasting tin and use the mixture to stuff them.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and pop in the oven for 1/2 hour until the marrow is soft and the cheese is melted and golden.

As this used up leftover roast chicken, cooked rice and a half-used spice sachet, I'm linking up to the No Waste Food Challenge, which is hosted at Chef Mireille’s East West Realm this month

Link up your recipe of the week

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Monday, 1 September 2014

Giveaway #415 : Win 3 x Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 DVD box sets plus Haribo Minions sweets - closing date 15/9

Hands up if you've already spotted (or munched) the latest despicably delicious product from Haribo - Minions!

The kids got incredibly excited when they saw these and that was before we'd even tasted them ! They do taste as good as they look though, with four Minion shaped jelly and foam pieces, along with an additional purple Evil Minion piece, in strawberry, apple, raspberry, cherry and blueberry flavours. They're despicably good !

To celebrate the launch of HARIBO Minions, Haribo have kindly offered three prize packages for lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers. Included in each prize package are three packets of HARIBO Minions, each one featuring a selection of the iconic Minion characters from the movies, along with the Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 DVD box set. Fill in your entries on the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 15/9/14

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook, twitter and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after a week, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray !

Other giveaways you may be interested in :

Check out the August Degustabox

I've been receiving a Degustabox for several months now but I still get just as excited as in the beginning when they arrive. You never know what's going to be hiding inside - family favourites that you already know and love or products that you've never heard of and that may even take you out of your culinary comfort zone a bit ?

Well, here's the contents of this month's box :

Mexican Dave's Lightly Salted Tortilla Chips - Having tried some Mexican Dave's Nacho Tortilla Chips in a previous Degustabox, I already know we love these. I'm thinking of trying out the recipe for Dave's Legendary Loaded Nachos, rather then just devouring them straight from the bag as we did last time !

Berry White Goji Berries with Peaches, White Tea and Echinacea Organic Drink -  I love the way the recipes blend common ingredients with more exotic ones, so that your tastebuds recognise some flavours while trying to work out what the more unusual topnotes are. I wasn't at all sure I'd like this (I'm not a tea fan) but I loved it.

Caribbean Twist Strawberry Daiquiri Cocktail - "A sparkling Caribbean Style Alcoholic Cocktail" - don't mind if I do ! This sounded right up my street and it was ! Just what the doctor ordered after a long day at work or running around after the kids and it's very summery and refreshing.

Fever Tree Ginger Beer and Tonic Water - I don't really get the whole idea of tonic water - apart from adding it to gin (which I never usually drink), what are you supposed to do with it? - but I am looking forward to trying the cloudy ginger beer as it's always a nostalgic blast from the past that reminds me of visiting my grandad.

 Schwartz Flavour Shots Mexican Fajitas and Spanish Smoked Paprika Chicken - I love these little pots of flavour because they're perfect for when you need a quick meal and don't know what to cook. I often defrost chicken then look through the cupboards for inspiration, and these little flavour pots take up less space in the cupboard than big jars of cooking sauce. They are a mix of oil and herbs and spices and make it really simple to create a tasty meal, even if you're not very adventurous or good at cooking. I can't wait to taste these two - the Spanish Smoked Paprika Chicken sounds particularly appealing. (You can see my reviews of the Paella, Indian Spicy Jalfrezi Curry and Italian Creamy Herb Tagliatelli Flavour Shots on my previous blogposts.)

 Lindt Hello Chocolate Hearts - it's chocolate, more to the point it's Lindt chocolate, so what's not to like?! As well as being scrummy, the little heart-shaped tin is very cute. These would make a perfect little gift.

 Cawston Press Apple & Pear Kids Blend - I've loved the other Cawston Press products that have popped up in earlier Degustaboxes so I was keen to try this. It's made from pressed juice mixed with 40% water for a lighter taste - it was refreshing, not overly sweet and very nice indeed.

 Brioche Pasquier Croissants and Pains Au Lait - The kids love these for breakfast. The Pains Au Lait can be eaten as they are straight from the pack but are even more delicious lightly toasted and spread with butter or jam. Be warned - they will burn very quickly though so keep an eye on the grill. The croissants aren't as good as the fresh, crumbly, flaky croissants fresh from the baker's but, as a store cupboard standby, they're not bad at all.

 Dr Oetker Edible Wafer Cupcake Cases - What a fabulous idea ! I got very excited when I saw these. I'll have to knock up some cupcakes to try out, maybe using the Eton Mess or Violet Sprinkles from the last Degustabox.

 MOMA Bircher Muesli Pot - Degustabox have innovated with a voucher for a chilled item in this box, as a bonus extra product. I couldn't work out why muesli would be chilled but it's because it's a mix of muesli and yogurt. The voucher can be used at Waitrose or Sainsburys, so I'll have to make a special trip to pick this one up. It sounds great for breakfast or a light lunch.

This month's suggested recipes are for Spanish Smoked Paprika Chicken (which seems a bit pointless because there's a recipe for that on the Flavour Shot) and Brioche and Butter Pudding, which sounds rather tasty.

I was very pleased with almost all of the products - the only thing I wouldn't bother with again is the tonic water - and I discovered several new products that I had never tried before and got quite excited about trying. It does seem to be the same brands coming up every time though so I hope they'll inject some new brands into the mix next time.

A Degustabox subscription costs £12.99 per month, delivery included. As usual I have a discount coupon code for you, which gives you a £3.00 discount when registering. The code is: BEL4A

for more information :

Disclosure : I received a free box in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Book review : The Pink Suit - Nicole Mary Kelby

Few items of clothing are important enough to have earned a place in the world history books - Lady Diana's wedding dress, Marilyn Monroe's white dress blowing up in the ventilation draught and Monica Lewinsky's infamous stained blue dress spring to mind - but Jackie Kennedy's iconic pink suit has to be in there too, as the ill-fated outfit that she was wearing when her husband JFK was assassinated.

Nicole Mary Kelby's The Pink Suit barely touches on this tragic event though, giving it just a brief mention at the beginning. The book looks at the story behind the suit, focusing not on the presidential couple but the unknown characters working behind the scenes to bring the clothes into existence : the catwalk design-copiers at Chez Ninon and the backroom seamstresses putting them together, in particular central character Kate, an Irish immigrant who has come to a new land chasing her American dream - a dream that, some would (and do) say, is above her station.

It's a fascinating look at life in the States in the 1960's, particularly for the Irish immigrant community, revealing people's views on everything from the Kennedies, Martin Luther King, fashion and women's place in the world. Kate is a timeless heroine, trying to find her place in a world which wants to quash her dreams, caught between the values of the Old Country and the new emerging world.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £14.99

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (5 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844089746
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844089741
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 16.1 x 23.8 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Book review : UFOs Above PA and Midwest UFOs and Beyond

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Was August a winning month?

My first win made me smile - a Hooch moustache bottle topper. Not sure how useul that will be !

Staying on the novelty alcohol theme, I won a can of alcoholic whipped cream - interesting idea ! Pumpkin Pie flavour sounds a bit strange but we'll give it a try !

I love the sound of this cookery book that I won from Kyle Books, featuring recipes from the American South - yum !

I came home from Turkey to news of two wins - firstly a set of  Spice Drops from Holy Lama from Bangers & Mash's Summer Spice challenge.

And secondly a copy of the book The Baby's Coming from TIPS.

What about you? Did you win anything nice this month?

You may like to try your luck at my giveaways :

Giveaway #414 : Win 1 of 2 Lubber the Whale Moshlings - closing date 1/9

Book review : UFOs Above PA and Midwest UFOs and Beyond

Do you believe in UFO's? I'm still on the fence, to be honest. It's like ghosts and mediums and crop circles ... I'm sure that 99% of them are all hoaxes but some of them just seem totally strange and inexplicable. Even if just 1% can't be explained away, that's still a lot of incidents that still have no rational explanation. When I saw that there were two UFO books up for review, I decided to request them to see if they'd help me make my mind up either way.

First up was Midwest UFOs and Beyond by Tom Baker (does it make it extra freaky that he shares his name with one of the Dr Who actors ?!). Tom Baker is a believer, but he is also very objective and says from the off that many UFO stories aren't true - they may be deliberate hoaxes or hallucinations or genuine mistakes. But even these non-stories make interesting reading so he includes some of them in his book.

What seemed a bit strange to me was that for the first six chapters, there is no focus at all on the Midwest. The author takes a look at UFOs in ancient history and the very dawn of tales of aliens. This got a bit heavy-going in parts and I would have preferred to jump straight in with the "tales of the unexpected" from the Midwest that I was looking forward to discovering. From Chapter 6 onwards, he does deliver though, and a large catalogue of unexplainable incidents, from strange flashing lights to full on encounters and even alien abductions, follows. They're presented in a very concise, factual manner, reading almost like police reports or "in brief" newspaper articles, all with dates and places. Some are only a short paragraph, others extend over a couple of pages, but we are given the bare bones - there is no story-telling and scene-setting, so it's up to you to take the facts and decide what you want to believe. I did feel that I would have liked a bit more fleshing out and atmospheric descriptions to get me in the right mood and mindset, maybe even a few photos. If you live in the Midwest, it's probably more interesting because you would know some of the place names, but I did start to lose interest towards the end.

By contrast, UFOs Above PA by Gerard J. Medvec and Mark Sarro goes more the other way. We get the photos (not of anything even vaguely extraterrestrial but the locations they reportedly took place in) and longer stories, covering a few pages each, adding atmospheric descriptions of feelings and personal background. The authors take us by the hand and bring us into their world of believers, rather than leaving us at the door to decide whether or not to enter. I would have liked more precise detail about when and where the different incidents took place though. In this book, the authors clearly state that they present nothing but the true UFO stories that they believe in, anything that seems like a hoax is filtered out. They do have an interesting point too - as they say, UFO's, as the term is properly intended, DEFINITELY do exist, there is absolutely no doubt that certain flying objects remain unidentified, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are in the slightest other-worldly or extra-terrestrial.

So there you have it. Do I believe any more now than when I started? In a word, no. Some of the stories seem so bizarre that they're almost laughable, resembling a low budget 1950's sci-fi movie. But others, often the less impressive, more discreet ones, do give you food for thought. I think you definitely need to be at least an open-minded sceptic to really appreciate the books.

MIDWEST UFOS & BEYOND Paperback – 28 Jul 2013 - by Tom Baker (Author)
ISBN-10: 0764343904
ISBN-13: 978-0764343902
RRP : £13.99

UFOS ABOVE PA Paperback – 28 Jun 2013 - by Gerard J. Medvec (Author), Mark Sarro (Author)
ISBN-10: 0764342924
ISBN-13: 978-0764342929
RRP : £13.99

Available from all good booksellers, or direct from Gazelle, email sales@gazellebooks.co.uk.

Disclosure : I received the books in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Book review : Written in the Stars - Ali Harris

Karcher FP 303 Floor Polisher review

In between visiting the in-laws in Brittany, the Madhouse grandparents and then jetting off to Turkey for a fortnight, I haven't had much time for product testing and I certainly haven't been cleaning the house because we haven't been here ! I couldn't resist having a play as soon as the latest product from Kärcher arrived though - the FP 303 Floor Polisher.

I'll be honest - it isn't a product that I would have bought myself, but as all the other products up for review this month were geared towards big gardens, I went for this as a last resort. I was impressed, though, when I saw the number of different surfaces it can be used on - basically all hard floors, whether they're laminate, parquet, PVC or lino.

Getting it out of the box, it looked quite complicated to put together but it was actually really easy and only took a few minutes, using just the quick instruction sheet rather than the big manual.

It's very user-friendly - the polishing pads just press on with a velcro-type backing. I thought they'd come straight off when I started using it but they didn't - they stayed firmly in place.

The box contains three universal polishing pads but you can also buy specialised pads for waxed parquet, sealed parquet/laminate and stone/linoleum/PVC. You can also buy floor care products to use with the polisher

It's got a built-in vacuum device to suck up any dust from the polishing (particularly useful on a stone floor, I would think) but it isn't designed to be a full-blown vacuum cleaner so you should really hoover first, before using the polisher. I skipped this stage and it didn't pick up most of the dust bunnies or dog hair that was on the floor.

I thought it would clean the floor but it wasn't totally successful - I think I'd use this after the steam cleaner rather than instead of, but I think it would be much more effective on a smoother, shinier floor. Using the specific floor care products may well give a better finish too.


Here's a quick video to show how easy it is to use - you just push the button with your foot for it to start, use both hands to push it around then stand it up until it clicks for it to switch off. It's very light and easy to manoeuver. The triangle shape is great for getting into corners and it is small enough to fit under most furniture. The Madhouse kids thought it was cool because it reminded them of the floor polishers you see janitors and late night cleaners using in hospitals and offices on American TV shows !

I'm not sure it's something I'll be using all that regularly because I'd have to hoover, then use the steam cleaner, then use the polisher, which seems superfluous, but if I had laminate, wooden or marble floors all through the house, I could see it being a much more useful piece of equipment, to give it a lovely shine.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £189.99

Disclosure : I received the product in order to write an honest review.

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Sunday weigh-in : All BAD things come to an end !

Every year, I stop weighing in over the summer, enjoy the time off with the kids, spend a week with the in-laws in Brittany (with everything cooked in butter - Sophie even discovered the joys of chips topped with butter, I kid you not !), a week in England with my family (rediscovering all the (naughty) foodie things I can't get in France like fish & chips and KFC) then spend a fortnight on holiday (this year in Kusadasi in Turkey) with all-inclusive cocktails, ice creams and tempting buffets 24/7. And every year I put on about a stone, which takes me back to where I started in January with my new year's resolution.

And guess what - this year is not much different ! I was actually pretty good on holiday, opting for diet cokes over cocktails and consuming my entire body weight in freshly grilled fish (with the heads still on, much to the kids' horror/fascination !) so I only put on 1kg in a fortnight which is better than usual, but overall I still put on 3.4kg.

But I'm back in the saddle, totally determined to get back into the groove, with my trusty new friend, the Fitbug Orb, to keep me on the straight and narrow. I'm not going to dwell on the pounds I've piled back on, I'm just focusing on the ones I'm going to lose. 

How about you? Has your summer been a dieting disaster or have you been good ?!

Positives of the week

- I have motivation in buckets and after all the over-indulging of the past month, I'm actually looking forward to munching on soup and salads!

- This year's timetable gives me Wednesday off and Friday afternoon off so I'll actually get some me-time to schedule in some Wii-fit regularly - something I haven't had for years !

- We brought back a Mini Disco CD from Turkey that will be great for a fun regular "workout" with the kids ! I also plan on hitting the Wii-Fit again and may also dust off my fitness DVDs.

Current targets 

Last week's target : Enjoy the summer (DONE !)

This week's targets : Use the Fitbug every day to track everything - calories, activity, sleep ... I'm actually really keen to kick off on upping the exercise and reducing calories but I'm supposed to do a normal week first to help set targets. I guess one week won't make much difference ! 

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, second goal - get back to 85.6kg, my pre-holiday weight, by the end of September.

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

WEIGHT LAST WEEK  : 85.6kg (in the middle of July)
STILL TO GO : 21.0kg

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. :)

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

 MyFitnessPal - Nutrition Facts For Foods

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Calling all Chuggington fans !

Just a quick heads-up if you have a little Chuggington fan in your midst ... 


Chuggington, the much-loved CBeebies TV series, has teamed up with the UK’s favourite toy shop, The Entertainer to provide hours of action-packed fun for children this Summer across a number of UK shopping centres. Chuggington fans will be able to discover a world of traintastic adventures at the Chuggington StackTrack Play Zone, created by Chuggington Master Toy partner, TOMY.

The Play Zone will tour the following shopping centres:

30th August - Harlow 
6th September – Newbury
13th September – Barnsley
20th September – Bexleyheath
27th September – Cardiff
4th October - Uxbridge 
11th October - Livingston   

The Play Zone will run for the duration of each shopping centre’s opening hours within a close proximity to The Entertainer store and children will have the chance to engage with the huge range of Chuggington StackTrack™ toys stocked by the store. Families will also have the chance to win fantastic prizes and get scribbling with Chuggington themed activity and colouring sheets.

Families will be able to discover brand new Chuggington StackTrack sets, plus collect their free Chuggington Collector Poster from The Entertainer store when they hand in their voucher obtained at the Play Zone. Parents can also take advantage of two exclusive offers running in-store on the day of the event - spend £10 and get a free Leaf Covered Brewster engine and receive 25% off the Koko Safari Adventure Playset, RRP £23.99.

Keep an eye out in The Entertainer stores near you for brand new Chuggington StackTrack playsets and engines coming soon!

For more information about the Chuggington StackTrack Play Zone events please visit https://www.facebook.com/tomy.toy.uk/events

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Go Create eco craft kits review

#alphabetphoto : P is for ... paradox

If you're looking for cheap counterfeit copies of big brands, the Turkish markets are the place to go. They have stall after stall of identical rip-off clothes, bags and shoes and the stallholders are very insistent, trying to get you to buy their wares. They do have a sense of humour though, yelling everything from "cheap as chips" to "cheaper than Tesco, cheaper than Primark" or even, on one occasion, "cheaper than shoplifting" ! This sign made me giggle too - cheeky !

My #alphabetproject so far :

To see what everyone else found for this week's letter or to join in yourself, head over to PODcast

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