Sunday, 9 March 2014

Slowcooker Vietnamese Yellow Coconut Chicken Curry.............

I've adapted this from an original recipe, to our taste, and it is so yummy.  As I write this has been cooking for 6 hours and the smells are amazing.............
2 tbsp Groundnut or Sunflower Oil
1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Around 500g chicken thigh cut into pieces
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1-2 thin green chillies (seeded if preferred), finely chopped
200ml Coconut Milk (I use reduced fat)
Salt and Pepper to taste
3 tbsp Yoghurt (I use Greek 0% fat total)
More yoghurt and chilli powder to serve (optional)
Handful of coriander leaves

I'm going to throw some cauliflower in in a minute too, last time I added 100g of spinach towards the end.....

1) Heat the oil in a pan, add the spring onions, garlic and chicken, and fry, stirring, for 3 minutes.  Tip into the slowcooker.
2) Add the chillies, spices and coconut milk to the pan, and bring to the boil.  Top over the chicken and season to taste.
3) Cover and cook on High for 2-3 Hours or low for 4-6 Hours.
4) Stir in the yoghurt, taste and re-season if necessary.  Serve over rice, with a dollop more of yoghurt and some chilli powder (optional), and coriander leaves - if you remember to buy them!!!!

Just beautiful, we are off to Vietnam in August, and if I find curries like this I will be a happy bunny!
Thanks for reading!
Annie x

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Vegetable Lasagne and Face Painting, what's not to love........

My daughter went to her friends house for a playdate after school, and came back raging about what they had to eat.
So I duly texted Hannah - our multi-talented face painting artist of Glitterbox fame - to find out what they'd had.  Turns out it was a vegetable lasagne, and Scarlett had 3 helpings of it!!!  I asked for the recipe, and Hannah, being a recipe phobe, texted me what was in it.

I've since made it for all of us, the kids devoured it, and Chris loved it too, compliments indeed from my carnivore husband!   So, with permission from Hannah, here it is, just as I received it.


Having then nosed around at what Hannah has been up to - as you do (I blame my new obsession with Facebook), I discovered some photo shoots Hannah has been involved with, and she said she was happy to share too, so have a look see below!  Puts my England flag on my blogger header to shame ha!

This was for a Valentines Day shoot Hannah did recently, photography by Jeanette Lendon (who took some fantastics pictures of my kids yesterday), and make up by Karen Snook.  

Maybe, when QPR get promoted back to the Premier League, then Hannah can paint me a nice logo - no worries Hannah, it could be a while yet!


Thanks for reading, now go make the lasagne and let me know how you go!

Annie x

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Real Greek - We Are Dining in W12!

 I was set a challenge, to take on a Westfield London restaurant's signature dish head to head. Had lots to choose from, and was torn between Mexican Wahaca, Brasilian Cabana and The Real Greek.................I settled on The Real Greek in the end, as I am more familiar to Greek food, (we have a Villa Annie in Crete that we frequent).

We headed to Shepherds Bush for the day (home to the mighty Super Hoops), and picked up my mum on the way.  The signature dish here was the Souvlaki, a popular dish across Greece, and served slightly differently depending on where you are.

In Crete the Souvlaki would simply be skewers of BBQ's meats, and if in a wrap it would be known as Gyros - which translates as "plate" i.e. it is a meal in one.
Here the Souvlaki was served in a flatbread wrap, with their own home-made tstatsiki, red onion, tomatoes, sweet paprika, and a choice of meats, haloumi or falafel.  I opted for the chicken.   It was truly scrummy, the flavours transported me straight back to the little shop in Kalyves where we often stop for lunch..........I must go back to W12 and try the other fillings too, I love haloumi/squeaky cheese as we call it  (though I would say this is more a Cypriot ingredient).

Anyhoo, I digress.  I have since produced my own version of this dish.   It was every bit as yummy, and I enjoyed making it, as much as I enjoyed watching the kids devour it.  We are off to Crete in April, and this has just served to make my heart pine for my little piece of Greece.........bring on the sunshine!

Annie's Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki, red onion and tomatoes in a flatbread wrap!

2tbs olive oil
2tbs lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of salt
500g chicken thighs (skinned & boned) and cut into squares.

Combine all the ingredients and marinade for a minimum of 2hrs, but longer if you have time.

For the tsatziki (this makes plenty)!
170g plain Greek Yoghurt (I use the Total 0% fat)
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 glove garlic, crushed
Pinch of salt

Again, combine all the ingredients and put in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

You will also need flatbreads, skewers, tomatoes and red onion, or whatever other fillings you like.  I also added grilled sweet peppers.

When you are ready to go, thread the marinated chicken onto skewers - if using wooden ones, make sure you have pre-soaked in water for at least 15 minutes.  Put under a medium grill for around 8 minutes a side, until no longer pink in the middle.

Load the flat bread with the chicken, a couple of spoons of Tzatziki (to taste), tomatoes, onion etc. wrap and eat.

In Crete, when you order the Gyros, they put chips in it too, the kids and Chris like it, but I always take mine out - a carb too far in my mind, but hey as you like it!

Thanks for reading!
Annie x

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Slow Cooker Roast Pork with Crackling........YES Crackling!

No I'm not going mad, I was sceptical too, but you know what, it works and was bleeping delicious!  The picture speaks for itself...................

The idea is that you let the pork cook slowly in the slowcooker, then finish off in the oven for 45 minutes, around the same time it takes to make your roast potatoes.

Found this recipe at it's a fab website...... *goes off to search for more little gems*.

UPDATE: I have since used this method for my slowcooker "roast" chicken and it works a dream too :)

Thanks for reading!
Annie x

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Q&A Prior to tonights Bolton Game

I was contacted again by the lovely folks at Burnden Aces to complete a Q&A piece they had prepared for me prior to tonights game.

I have predicted a 2-1 win, watch this space, but in the meantime you can catch up with the rest of my ramblings here!

Thanks for looking!
Annie x

Monday, 20 January 2014

#TeamHonk is coming to #StAlbans 4th February 2014

Yes, St Albans, you weren't seeing things, on the 4th February, you did witness Mayor Annie, in a onesie, on a scooter, surrounded by Zippy and George (of Rainbow fame for my younger listeners) and Buzz Lightyear, also on a scooter, alongside other bizarrely dressed honkers, racing through town with THE baton!   

I was so proud to be part of this effort, the buzz (pardon the pun Helen) on the day was amazing, and most importantly the 2 schools Mandeville and St Peters, with their human chain and running tracks, had THE most fun ever for a school day!   

As I write this update the baton has reached Birmingham already, on it's way to John O'Groats, and with another month to go, TeamHonk are already at 95% of their £20,000 target!!!!! WOW!!!!! I have no doubt they are going to smash that any day soon!

Anyhoo, go TeamHonk, here's a few pics from our day!   Thanks for reading, and don't forget you can support our local effort here!
In the old Courthouse
One of my faves from the day

Thank you Bakehouse
Talking to Year 5 at St Peters
A fine sending off from St Peters
In the old Cells

The first ever Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Games take place from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd March 2014. The public can join the fun and games by running, swimming or cycling their way to raising cash at over a thousand venues around the country, including the landmark events at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
As one of the biggest fundraising events, Sport Relief brings the entire nation together to get active raise cash and change lives. The money raised by the public is spent by Comic Relief to help transform the lives of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people both at home in the UK and across the world.
And here's our little bit........................Three lovely friends and fellow bloggers went to Ghana 2 years ago, with Davina McCall and Jonathon Ross et all, as you do.  Tanya Barrow Penny Alexander and Annie Spratt made up TeamHonk They did a fantastic job raising awareness and also raised over £10K to boot.  Pretty impressive stuff.

Well this year TeamHonk HQ came up with the idea of getting a baton from Lands End to John O Groats, purely by blogger power, in aid of Sport Relief......hoping to raise awareness of this fine organisation and ultimately to raise even more money this year!

We are lucky enough to have been invited to be part of the #StAlbans leg of the journey, the whole team is listed here :) Team Honk Jenny Soppet Smith Annie Robb Renata Blower Siobhan Calthrop Steph Curtis Paul Hooker Penny Carr Kirsty Hornblow Clare Goldthorp Rudd Carolynne Ashworth Lisa Pearson Chrissie Michelle Saunders Hannah Brewer

Thanks guys!
Annie x

Friday, 10 January 2014

Bribery, Incentive or Threat.........Motivation, Reward..........oh my poor head!

The following are definitions from the good ole Oxford English Dictionary.

"dishonestly persuade (someone) to act in one’s favour by a gift of money or other inducement"

"a thing that motivates or encourages someone to do something"

"a statement of an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone in retribution for something done or not done"

I have heard these three words used regularly, by parents, when trying to motivate(???) their children to do something for them/themselves/society!  It is one of my little bug bears, (of which there are many), but when I hear the words bribe or threaten levied at me, I am always quick to say NO I like to offer an incentive.   Although arguably said incentive can be used in a threatening way.

The whole thing we need to think about though, IMHO, is -  who is going to benefit or gain from the action/achievement?   I believe this is the crux as to the success of said role-play, which let's be honest, is what it comes down to.

As children develop there are very obvious mile-stones........ crawling, standing up, walking, toilet training, dressing themselves etc.   I have video footage of me trying to get Jasper to walk towards me, whilst holding out some chicken. It is cringe-worthy, and to be honest the reason why I have been thinking about this post.  It didn't harm him, he did in fact take the bait (ouch), but my running commentary mentions "donkey" and "carrot", well done mummy
oh dear!

Anyhoo, I digress........The right incentives can be successful with your children, if you know what works for them.  Sticker charts did nothing for Jasper, he didn't get it, but I know they can work very well for some.   I remember going to see a teacher in school and they said I must be very proud of all the gold stars Jasper had for his work?  I knew nothing of it, it didn't occur to him to tell us.  Whilst the teacher saw this as a reward for good work, to Jasper it was just a random sticker.

Fast forward, and all those development mile-stones pretty much achieved, and I have been trying, without success, to motivate/incentivise my children to do other things regularly...... open curtains, make beds, put shoes/clothes away etc.   Don't get me wrong, they are good kids and not complete slobs, but they will not take on board MY requests, and you know what, it's because its MY want and not their gain.  In this case, absolutely nada will help with this matter, and I have to get over it.

I have worked out that I am the only person in this house who cares what it looks like.  I wondered about going on strike, but I know I couldn't cope. Again, who is the only one stressing here, why MOI of course!

So here it is, I'm giving up.   The house will be a lot calmer without me running around demanding such actions in return for something they don't really care for.   I'll no longer have to hear them pleading "but I forgot".   Instead I will concentrate on equipping them with life-skills that will take them forward, as long as I can come up with good reason for them to take them on board.

Have I failed?  No I don't think so.  I believe I have just worked out what will work here, and make us all a lot happier as a family.   I still have my standards, but if I want to maintain them then that's up to me.    

Now, having said all that, "Reward" is another word to throw into the mix, and having worked out what does motivate my children, these will be used as required.

Jasper - money for Mr Simms, use of XBox, Heelies
To be used for:  achievement of Times be updated as required.

Scarlett - money...........
To be used for:  tbc, not had to be used as yet as she is very keen at school, but will remember for future.

AND these should NEVER be removed due to another misdemeanour, the reward must stand whatever!

Thanks for reading, would love to hear your opinions?

Annie x