Creamy Chicken, Sweetcorn & Broccoli pasta bake

I got an email a few weeks ago about the British Poultry Recipe Challenge challenging me to make a family friendly meal,  I was in fact on holiday at the time and so I had time to think about it. Every family has their ‘go to’ recipes that they pull out of the bag when all else fails, and this is one of ours. All of our children love pasta, our youngest is gluten intolerant so we just use gluten free pasta if she is eating with us. This is such an easy one dish recipe and above all its low cost too.

The Red Tractor logo is displayed on food to show that it is farmed and prepared in a good way which is regularly checked by independent experts to make sure it is of a high standard. All of the produce can be traced back to its origins. 75% of UK farms are Red Tractor assured.

This bake is so simple to make and delicious to enjoy – and above all caters for the fussiest of children. I find with a large family (4 children and 2 adults) often the huge preparation time that goes into meals feels wasted when you get the fussy eaters picking things out. But this easy cook recipe can be adapted to include the vegetables that your children love, and there is always the option of hiding vegetables in this bake by cutting them small! It can also be adapted to use what you have in the cupboards!

 

Creamy Chicken Sweetcorn & Pasta Bake

Ingredients

300g chicken breast cut into small bits*

300g dried pasta shapes

300ml chicken/beef stock

30g butter*

2 tablespoons of cream (any variety)*

30g plain flour

400ml milk*

200g grated cheese*

1 broccoli cut into small parts*

6-10 mini corn on the cob – or sweetcorn from a tin

Salt and pepper

1 clove of garlic (chopped or minced)

Items denoted with a * displayed the Red Tractor logo, other items available in this range can be seen here.

  1. Warm the milk, mix this with the warm stock, butter and flour, garlic & seasoning
  2. Add the dried pasta.
  3. Cut the chicken into small pieces and add to the mixture, stir well.
  4. Add the cream and half the cheese.
  5. Add the broccoli and sweetcorn, be as generous as you wish depending upon your taste
  6. Cover the dish and bake for 25 minutes
  7. Take out and sprinkle with the left over cheese
  8. Bake for another 20 minutes until crispy on top!

That is it! A perfectly cooked low cost meal for the whole family which can be adapted to whatever your favourite vegetables are.

This meal is simple and nutritious and can be tweaked to include your families favourites, I think its a good challenge to pace the supermarket isles because it really makes you realise the air miles certain products can rack up. I live in a town and have lots of different large supermarkets around me, all are good for Red Tractor produce. I prefer to buy local if I can, but obviously with a large family cost is also important. The Red Tractor logo assures me of where my produce is from and also means I won’t be paying a huge premium.

This is my entry to the British Poultry and Red Tractor Recipe Challenge

Hold onto your safari hats…

I fell in love with Australia the minute I arrived. In 2010 I traced my birth father – originally he was just a name on a piece of paper, then I traced him and found him living 12,000 miles away on the other side of the world. Australia amazes me; it’s so far away yet so similar to England in so many other ways. In finding my dad I also discovered (to my delight) that I also have 6 half siblings also living there. We booked our flights within weeks of first talking and have  been to visit a few times since, with my sister coming here and seeing us too. I am amazed at the endemism and uniqueness of wildlife over in Australia which is due to the continent’s long geographic isolation from other land masses. It is also unique due to the size of the country and the effect the tough climate has had on making plants and animals adapt to such conditions. On a basic level the colours of the wildlife amazed me; over in England we are used to seeing grey and black in pigeons and crows, in Australia beautiful coloured parrots are the norm!

The fauna of Australia consists of a huge variety of animals; some 83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 24% of fish and insects and 93% of amphibians that inhabit the continent are endemic to Australia. Some of the best known animals are the koala (mostly Southern Australia),  kangaroo, echidna, dingo, platypus, wallaby and wombat.

We had the great opportunity to go Rottnest Island the first time we visited Perth, this is a famous island at it is the home of the quokka, the the only member of the genus Setonix, is a small macropod about the size of a domestic cat. All plants and animals on Rottnest Island are protected by law, the quokka is endangered because the wetlands where it lives are disappearing and because it is easy prey for animals that are introduced by humans. My daughters teacher didn’t believe the quokka was a real animal when she went into ‘show and tell’ with a photo, it took a bit of convincing and her googling it to show her is it actually a real animal still living!

No trip to Australia is complete without kangaroos, this last time we were lucky enough to see them in the wild and also again when we went camping to Molloy. Lots lived at the campsite and were incredibly friendly, they would come up to you and ask for food, one of them was even carrying a joey which was beautiful to see.

When we went to the local shopping centre after our camping trip we were lucky enough to see some rescued joeys who were also very friendly. Cars are their predictors and often the female kangaroos will get hurt and killed on the roads leaving charities to help the orphaned joeys and give round the clock care. I know this is not their natural environment, but I was really impressed with the dedication of the Native Animal Rescue staff. 

And finally there were birds…lots of birds. The rainbow lorikeets are widespread around Perth where we were camping, their squawks were super loud and their demand for food was amazing, but they were very entertaining and the children loved the opportunity to get closer to them. 

Above is my dad and the lorikeets, and after both my girls. They learned so much while being in Australia (even though the school doesn’t consider it being educational!) and have seen first hand the natural environments of these animals and they understand why the wildlife is so unique in Australia too.

So there you have my favourite wildlife experiences for the #AudleyBloggerChallenge, I really don’t believe anything can beat the diversity of Australia and seeing the animals in their environment is just amazing. 

 

Win a safari adventure in Kenya!

Win an African safari with Audley Travel by sharing your best wildlife photograph or video on your social media channels. To enter write #AudleySafari and @AudleyTravel on your Instagram or Twitter post or share directly on the Audley Travel Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/audleytravel/. To find out more or enter via the website, visit www.audleytravel.com/social.  Entries must be posted between 20th August – 23rd September.

Snow school today with #OreoCookieQuest

Today was officially a snow day off school, we have had quite a bit here so we decided to dress up warm and take part in some snow games along with the #OreoCookieQuest. Oreo is currently celebrating The Great Oreo Cookie Quest a fun and interactive way to win great prizes. All you do is download the app onto your phone and scan some objects, some have clues and some are just random. We have had a great time scanning everyday items and seeing if the Oreo app recognises the item, best of all when you reach certain points in the game you can win Google Play vouchers. There is also the opportunity to win a once-in-a-lifetime wonder-filled trip to California. Let’s keep our fingers tightly crossed.

Eleanor (aged 10) was more than happy to play in the snow, she decided to sledge and then build a snowman with dad, she used the Oreo’s as eyes and named him Oreo! We spent about an hour in total on the slopes of our local park, the children all had a fun ‘snow’ day off school and enjoyed warming up with a hot chocolate and Oreo’s afterwards. It was a bit too cold to stay out too long but it was nice to venture out considering I think the rest of the day will be spent beside the fire indoors.

 

 

“This post is an entry for BritMums #OreoCookieQuest, sponsored by Oreo”.

Loving the laundry – Ecover a review

I have piles…and I mean laundry piles before I get an interesting comments? There are six of us in the house and the laundry fairy strangely doesn’t work when I’m not about. I swear my children think that there is such a thing as they just use the clean stuff and chuck it in a pile when it is dirty. Anyway, I love things that make life easy, 30 minute washes are my saving grace when most of the stuff is just worn a couple of times and isn’t really dirty. Another saving grace is a good washing powder or detergent, I wasn’t lucky enough to get a free sample of the Ecover with the most recent Britmums challenge but I thought I would join in and see what all the fuss is about, so I popped to the shop and bought some.

I do my laundry daily, generally I split the washes into whites, coloureds and dark’s. I quite enjoy doing laundry. In the summer my clothes air dry and in the winter I have some airers upstairs. I do have a dryer which I reserve for desperate measures, solely because of the cost of using it. I need a detergent that will work first time and not take colour out of my coloureds but equally get my whites white. I love that Ecover is not harsh on the children’s skin and it has a nice smell to it as well, it also goes a long way. This was my first experience of using Ecover, I have always stuck to the big brand names but we enjoyed using it and would definitely recommend it. I was surprised it worked as well as it did, I guess I am used to environmentally friendly products being more of a compromise but this wasn’t. Here is my daughter showing everyone how simple it is to get the job done. Take the challenge too and see what you think of Ecover!

“This post is an entry for BritMums #EcoverLaundry Challenge, sponsored by Ecover..” 

Messy Meatball Madness

Finding interesting new recipes is always hard work. We have recently started meal planning in an attempt to lower our monthly spend on food and its a challenge in itself. So when I heard that Britmums were challenging us bloggers to create a delicious recipe with beef, pork or lamb I felt I had to have a go.

If you also want to take part there is still quite a while left to apply and whats more the first 100 bloggers to sign up to take part in the #HealthyRedMeat and you’ll receive a £10 Tesco voucher to buy red meat. Plus you’ll be eligible for prizes when you write about it on your blog. The #HealthyRedMeat, challenge is sponsored by the Meat Advisory Panel, meat is often overlooked in children’s diets, but can be versatile providing a range of nutrients such as iron, zinc, B vitamins, selenium and potassium. In fact including a small portion of red meat in a child’s diet once a week can fill nutrition gaps and maintain good health.

 

Anyway, the recipe got a massive thumbs up from the children, what’s more they asked for seconds! So I think we will be making this again. Thanks Britmums for the suggestion to try something new too.

“This post is an entry for the BritMums #HealthyRedMeat, sponsored by the Meat Advisory Panel.”

 

 

 

I just love a bit of Vintage

I adore vintage and especially English vintage. In my opinion there is nothing more elegant than the fashions and styles from the 1930’s and 40’s, as you all know I love the era and often go to events all done up with victory rolls and retro fashions.

Here is a recent photo from one of the events I went to, the dress is reproduction. I don’t own many authentic pieces from the era but when I find one I treasure it. I’m always on the look out for sellers that sell quality  items from this period and I think I have found a really nice seller with great ratings on Etsy called ELFeelgoodsVintage they are based in Belfast, Northern Ireland but ship to the UK.

One of my favourite items on her list of items is a lovely brooch, I wear brooches quite often, they are great to jazz up an otherwise quite plain outfit. This would also work on holding together a gaping outfit or could be added to a hair flower as a little sparkle. The quality is often better on vintage items as they weren’t mass produced as things are now and have so far stood the test of time!

I also love her crockery, you can’t beat a cup of tea in a proper china cup and no house is complete without a good set of cups and saucers. I love the set she has here. They look really pretty and would also make great table decor for any wedding or party. I just love Etsy and seem to spend a fortune on there. But be sure to take a look at the lovely vintage things she is selling.

 

 

Painting with light

Oh I love a good old meet up with ‘likeminded’ folks, last night I went a superb meet of some local photographers all keen to try out some painting with light, we waved fairly lights, my new v.24 lightwand, wire wool in a whisk (very effective) and a flame torch. I thought I would share some of my results.IMG_830a6 (Large)

This photo was taken using wire wool pushed into a whisk. Its very good at giving off lots of sparks, to get an image like this you will need:-

1. Steel wood – from any hardware shop, make sure you get grade 0000, 000, 00 or 0 as the grades above are not as good at giving off sparks.
2. A whisk – yes, seriously! You can usually pick these up for  a £1 from the cheap shop, it will get broken so don’t use an expensive one!
3. A metal chain – I used a toilet chain, you just need to be able to link the end of the whisk to it.
4. A tripod – As you will be doing long exposures, and a self timer.5. A lighter or a 9V battery – to light the wool with.
5. A powerful torch – to lightpaint the building
6. Safety goggles and clothes you are not really worried about!
7. Patience!

This was taken with two exposures – the first lit the building and the second for the wire wool. The were put together in Photoshop using layers, and this is the result.

Shutter Speed: 30 Seconds
Aperture: f.8
ISO: 100
Focus: Manual Focus Get someone to stand with a torch so you can prefocus your camera, then remember to turn off the autofocus!
Tripod

Choose a point to pivot on and then spin the chain around in a circle, this will give you a 3D orb shape, the sparks do go everywhere so make sure your eyes are protected and always remember to check there are no sparks on the area you have been working at that could ignite after you have left. Its also wise to find a quiet place to do it, it does attract attention and sometimes even the police!

I have uploaded a nice image of light painting to a new site called Million Eyez, this is free to use and enables your blog posts to be livened up by superb images from all over the world. Feel free to use mine on there. It’s a great site, be sure to check it out.

 

 

 

All children get sick, unfortunately so do us adults sometimes! This half term always seems one that is a bit blighted in this household, with the cold winter weather and central heating kicking in, the children always seem to end up with some lurgy. Well, this holiday didn’t disappoint! I managed to have two children off at the end of term, both were wrapped up on the sofa. In our house you seem to get lots of cuddles from the animals, I think they see a warm cosy spot and just want to snuggle up; other people would say they can probably detect a fever and go and give their own hugs to the children.

I asked the children what their favourite thing to do and they came in this order…

  • watch movies
  • play with the cat
  • have a nice warm drink
  • sleep
  • relax
  • do some crafts

My children usually curl up on the sofa and watch film, that combined with a nice hot chocolate does the trick. Although mine are a bit older my daughter still enjoyed the book  in the sample pack and the Vicks First Defence nasal spray was helpful too in making her less blocked up. We got the Christmas presents out and looked through what we had still left to do, I got Mr W doing some soldering on his Christmas tree bug and Miss E was attempting to knit. It took their minds off how they were feeling – after that we watched Paper Planes together. Thanks #VicksTricks for giving us some ideas, although my magic tricks are not up to the ones on your YouTube!

If you’d also like some ideas for when your children feel ill a great link from Vicks is here.

 

 

My Geek box unboxing

My son had no idea what to ask for for Christmas, he wants a trampoline but at the moment they don’t have the right size in stock. We had read some reviews on subscription boxes and he is a real fan of general geekiness so I said I would do a 6-month subscription as part of his present. We weren’t too sure which one to go for as there are quite a few out there, initially he was keen on Loot Crate but then we realised it is an American product and we really wanted something UK based as I always seem to get charged extra duty, regardless of the price of the item! Anyway, we haven’t been disappointed – we got the first box just before Christmas; with the second one arriving yesterday. He was super excited to see it when he got home from school, but I was cruel and made him wait until I could film him opening it for a review on here.

 

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Well, the result? He loved it, he has recently taken up free running so the t-shirt definitely hit the spot, the Captain America book looks ace, and co-incidentally we were watching the movie tonight so he will enjoy looking at that tomorrow, and he is over the moon with the other bits that also came in the box. It has been a total hit, in his words ‘I can’t wait for next month’s box’.

Confessions of a summer parent

Every parents knows the sound of the ‘I’m bored mum’ moan from a child who has simply run out of things to do a couple of days into the summer holiday. I had to have a chuckle when I saw the BritMums competition for parenting tips over the summer. If you want to enter too, hurry as it ends really soon. Details can be found here.

Now, I’m a seasoned parent, I have four busy children, who I try to keep active and who love the Summer outdoors weather, but mine still get bored. In the past few years I have found a novel way of keeping them busy, just as we get them to write a list for Christmas I do the same thing with the Summer – a ‘what I’d like to do over the Summer’ list. I suggest a couple of paid for things and other things that are free. Below are a few of the things we did last Summer.

Learn a new sport – Free

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Both my girls dance in a majorette troupe and my youngest wanted to learn the mace which is done by the girl in the front of the troupe. Usually it’s done by much older girls but with the help of her sister she managed it.

 

 

 

 

Check local shops for activities days – Free

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Last year our local pet store ran activity days for children, they were totally free and helped the children understand what it takes to care for an animal and what to feed it. Not everything costs money and these days were superb, I am always surprised that more people don’t do the free things!

 

Find a local splash park – Free

IMG_9394These are popping up all over and are just perfect for a hot and sunny day. Pack the sun cream, a towel and your cossie, and just have fun. Again – they are usually free and if you take a picnic you can stretch it to the best part of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry picking – Inexpensive

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My children love strawberry picking – this year they want to see if there is anywhere where we can pick raspberries. I love this activity, and if you are feeling adventurous you can try your hand at jam making!

 

 

 

 

 

So, what’s on the list this year…

All the children have written lists again and here is Eleanor (aged 8) list. Here is the list in case you can’t work out her spellings!

  • Legoland
  • Strawberry picking
  • Bounce – trampoline park
  • Make a music video
  • Bingo
  • Go shopping with her sister (could be expensive!)
  • Caterpillars
  • Local library book challenge

For expensive things I always use my supermarket vouchers or look for offers online. As a consequence I rarely pay full price for anything!

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Best of all enjoy your Summer and make some great memories, after all they are not young for long.

This post is an entry for BritMums Confessions of a Summer Parent Challenge, sponsored by Anchor