I’ve been stuck in the university library for days revising for my final exams this past week, and I can’t stop daydreaming about all the delicious meals I’ll be creating when the studying is finally over. In that vein, here are my favourite kitchen gadgets to get you inspired too…
Tefal Steamer from Littlewoods
I can’t get enough of this ultimate compact Tefal steamer from Littlewoods. It’s perfect for apartment living because it collapses down into something the size of a casserole dish. Add that to the fact that steaming is one of the healthiest ways to prepare food, and grabbing one of these bad boys from Littlewoods is an investment everyone should be making. Expect some steam-inspired recipes on TOTR over the summer.
Pasta Maker from Hifi-Tower
I love making my own pasta; I’d never done it before this year, but watching the wonderful Chiappa sisters do it with such ease on Channel 4 show Simply Italian inspired me to give it a go. It’s so much easier than you think, and a pasta maker like this makes it easier still. This model also doubles up as a meat mincer if you’re feeling especially creative. As a sidenote, Hifi-Tower also specialises in Disco Equipment.
3-in-1 Avocado Slicer from OXO
Avocados are possibly one of the yummiest foods in the world, but it can be a bit of hassle to get into them. OXO have the perfect solution to this problem; say hello to their 3-in-1 avocado slicer which will get you munching quickly and seamlessly. Definitely worth grabbing one if you’re an avocado addict like me. (NB: The green one isn’t available in the UK, but you can still get one in white from the site above).
Kitchen Knives from Kitchen Devils
Kitchen Devils are the foodie kitchen item that everyone should have in their collection. They’re dishwasher-safe and each knife comes with a 10-year guarantee. Not that you’ll need it; my parents still have a set they got as a wedding gift 26 years ago. Just one cooking sesh with these knives and you’ll feel like you could rival Jamie Oliver – and I guarantee you’ll never want to use another knife again.
Herb Seeds Starter Pack from Seed Pantry
I’m a huge fan of all things fresh and self-produced. I had been wanting to try growing my own herbs in my flat for ages, but kept forgetting to go to a garden centre and get the bits and pieces you need to get started. Then I discovered Seed Pantry, who do all the hard work for you and make it ultra-easy to start growing your own herbs, veg, chillis and more. Grab yourself one of these starter packs and you’ll soon be enjoying the fruits of your labour.
Travelling is really the best. Exploration, new friends and the best memories go along with the first footsteps out a front door. However, you have to give due consideration to what’s left behind. It’s one of those cliché’s, “Did I leave the back door unlocked?”, “Did I leave the gas on?” and so forth. One way to take some of the worry away is to buy some unoccupied home insurance, which will cover damage from the obvious worries like fire or theft, to perhaps rare occasions of flood or escaping water. Of course, a lot of damages are preventable, so here are some tips on what to do with your home, while you aren’t in it.
Hide your valuables – It’s very easy to lock up and think everything will be where it is when you left, and by all sensible likelihood it will be. But just in case, hide your valuables. Don’t leave the Tablet PC on the table, but put it in a drawer or cupboard where it normally wouldn’t be found. Same for laptops, wallets. If you can afford such a luxury, deposit any real valuables in a safe, either at home or in a bank.
Double/Triple check – I’m a sucker for checking all the time on locked doors, where my keys are, etc. But for those who aren’t in frankly over the top habits, perhaps it’s a good idea to keep a compartment in your luggage for all the important gear, so you won’t lose it (this includes keys, passports and wallets).
Make it appear you’re at home – There’s nothing more preventative from theft than the appearance of life in the building. Set a timed light to come on at certain times of the day. Leaving a radio on also suggests someone would be listening. You can also go as far as to buy TV light emulators, that beam out light like a T.V. Of course, I don’t suggest leaving a tap running, or a fire going, as that could compromise your property in other ways
Housesit – Know someone happy to check on your property once in a while, use the utilities in the winter, and give a dust every so often? Good, they’ll be your new best friend. You can rest assured that with people watching over your valuables while you’re gone. Neighbours are also very helpful in this regard, just inform them of your departure and they’ll likely make sure that everything is ok.
Written by James Haslam. Accompanying image provided by author.
Everybody’s familiar with that old proverb that mum used to come out with…”Breakfast: it’s the most important meal of the day!” It’s one that many a family member in the Razavi clan has offered throughout my life as justification for a little bit of overfeeding in the AM. However, years of grooming has done nothing for my regular breakfast habits. I’m a terrible writerly cliche; my breakfast often consists of a cafetiere full of black coffee and a cigarette or two. Considering cooking and eating are two of my favourite things to do, this is probably a little bit surprising…
To try and conquer the breakfast blues, I’ve been exploring some excellent new culinary offerings, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites with you…
Yoghurts from Tims Dairy
Tims Dairy offer such a gorgeous selection, and their yoghurts might just be the best I’ve ever tasted. From their super-creamy Greek yoghurt – perfect to combine with muesli or fruit for an all-natural breakfast – to their little pots of fruity goodness, toffee flavours and the one my dad likes best, the Greek yoghurt with honey, there’s something for every taste here, and they are all just fantastic. You’ll taste just one and never want to turn back. Om nom nom. Check out Tims Dairy and order yoghurts straight to your door here.
Fruit Compote from Bonne Maman
Bonne Maman is already one of my favourite brands, and their new range of fruit compotes are just divine. My favorites are the peach and the apricot – both are lovely on toast. It just goes to show that basic breakfasts can be made that much more exciting and delectable by adding in a delicious extra ingredient. Get your own Bonne Mama compotes, jams, marmalades, conserves and more from your local supermarket or find out more online here.
Porridge from Grasshopper Foods
Crafted from 100% natural ingredients including British-grown oats, the new porridge pots from Grasshopper Foods are very yummy indeed. Grasshopper offer Plain Porridge with Cane Sugar, Fruity Porridge with Coconut & Date and Fruity Porridge with Cinnamon & Raisin, and each is absolutely delicious. Another very fine example of making a simple breakfast much more exciting – and even better on this occasion, there’s no work involved for you! Grasshopper have already taken care of everything. Grab some porridge pots of your very own right here – you won’t be disappointed.
And, of course, to go with your glorious new breakfast, what you really need is a cup of something warm – especially in this unseasonably cold weather. I have a couple of recommendations for you right here on that front.
Geisha from Sea Island Coffee
I’ve featured Sea Island Coffee here at TOTR before, and I’m still a big fan. This new blend is causing quite a stir (please excuse the pun); sourced from Costa Rica, it’s incredibly sought after. Delicate in flavour and aroma, with hints of lavender, cocoa and molasses. A cup will certainly lead to another cup, and before you know it, Geisha will become a necessarily part of your day, and a staple part of your beverage cupboard. Divine. Buy your own here.
I love, love, love tea. I never go a day without a good few cups. I’m always searching for new brands and new infusions, and I’m just loving Tregothnan Tea at the moment. I have their Classic Tea and their Earl Grey blends at the moment, and both are just divine. They come in lovely little teabag pyramids making every cup you brew just a little bit more special, and all packaging is very quirky and brilliantly British. Buy your own tea and tea accessories here - if you’re anything like me, you’ll want one of everything.
The infamous Mummy Razavi guides us around Bruges after our recent mother-daughter trip to the city. Over to you, Mummy Lynne, for part two of our adventure…
Although walking tours are available at certain times on certain days, today, we decided to take ourselves around some of the monuments and shops selling lace and chocolate. Oh so much chocolate, it was unbelievable! Last count there were almost 50 chocolate shops in Bruges, many of them being based around the main square.
Surprisingly some of them do not make their own chocolate though. If they do they will be displaying a little ‘handmade’ sign in the window. There is everything you can imagine from rich truffles to little ducks, mice, flowers, even real orange segments dipped in the beautiful dark stuff. Truly scrumptious!
We devoured some of the local waffles for lunch and enjoyed more than one of the local beers – how could you not?
We continued on despite the rain which started up pre-lunch, and soon decided on a horse drawn carriage ride (cost in the off-season is 39 Euros for 4) we chose to share, cutting the cost but not the leg room as the carriages are quite spacious and covered so the weather was not an issue.
The coachman took us along Bruges’ medieval centre along the canals and gave us information in our own language, taking in several of the museums and historical sites along the way. It lasted about 35 minutes and halfway we stopped at the Beguinage for the horse to take rest and water, which allowed us to explore for a few minutes and take a look at the Lover’s Lake.
I felt this mode of transport really took us back in time and made for a really enjoyable experience of the city.
Our last night was spent devouring more of the lovely of the lovely local delicacies.
Thank you to the friendly inhabitants of the city of Bruges. At times it really was like being in a fairy tale.
To read Beautiful Bruges Part I, click here.
The infamous Mummy Razavi guides us around Bruges after our recent mother-daughter trip to the city. Over to you, Mummy Lynne, for part one of our adventure…
After a very pleasant journey on the Eurostar to Brussels Midi, we got on our connecting train to Bruges, viewing some spectacular countryside and local dwellings en route. Our room turned out to be one of many recently renovated apartments adjacent to the Hotel Aragon with kitchen facilities included.
After a quick freshen up we walked through the city admiring the beauty of the buildings and shop windows after dark…
…stopping after much deliberation as we passed the many interesting eating establishments close to the hotel we settled for The Matinee Restaurant. Where we enjoyed some of the local dishes, served by the friendly restaurateur.
Our first full day started with the Historium, which is a very different type of attraction taking you back to Bruges Golden Age, where film, music, sets and special effects merge into a 35 minute magical experience. Throughout the 7 thematic rooms, our senses were stimulated. We found ourselves carried away by a love story based around a painting by Jan Van Eyck (Madonna with Canon Janis Van Der Peale).
We visited 3 of the 4 main churches in the city, the most impressive of which was the Basilica of the Holy Blood. This was the chapel of the Count of Flanders, which dates back to 12th century. It is renowned for holding what is said to be a vial of some of the blood of Jesus brought home from the crusades.
We also walked through the markt, a must see in the Main Square which contained the most wonderful fresh fruit, vegetables and many vividly coloured plants and fresh flowers too.
We then had a wonderful opportunity to see Bruges from a totally different angle, which could not be experienced by walking, on a half-hour canal boat tour. We were treated to same fantastic views of the historical buildings and monuments. The jovial multilingual driver also gave us an amusing talk including a brief history and plenty of interesting little facts. This tour enabled us to take many photos we were unable to from the street.
Look out for Beautiful Bruges Part II on TOTR tomorrow!
Photo borrowed from the amazing kayadeola.blogspot.co.uk (click to visit)
An easy pizza recipe to make for the whole family
For the dough:
350g strong plain bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp easy blend dried yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
200ml luke warm water
For the tomato sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
227g canned chopped tomatoes
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp fresh chopped oregano
For the pizza topping:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow pepper, cored, deseeded and sliced
1 orange pepper, cored, deseeded and sliced
1 red onion, sliced
200g herby black olives
75g sliced chorizo
1 – 2 x 120g packets Boursin Minis
4 medium tomatoes
1 x 50g packet wild rocket
Serves: 4 Prep: 30 mins plus rising Cook: 30 mins Method:
1.For the dough: mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Stir in the oil and water to form a soft dough. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough for 10 minutes. Return to a bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for around 1 ½ hours until well risen and doubled in volume.
2.Meanwhile for the tomato sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion for 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients, bring to the boil and cover and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, until thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
3.For the topping, heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the peppers for 10 minutes, over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
4.Divide the dough into four and roll into balls on a floured surface. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for 10 – 20 minutes. Roll out each to a 23cm circle. Place on baking sheets and leave for 10 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 220C/fan200C/Gas 7. Divide the tomato sauce between the pizza bases spreading over evenly and leaving a 1cm gap around the edge. Then top the pizzas with the prepared peppers and remaining topping ingredients except the rocket. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately and scatter with rocket.
Calories per portion: 915 Cost per portion: £3.20
Many thanks to Boursin for letting us use this recipe here on TOTR.
Photo borrowed from the wonderful stylenest.co.uk
This classic breakfast recipe with a twist is perfect for a cosy breakfast in bed
For the blinis:
100g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp dried yeast
120ml warm milk 1 egg, separated olive oil, for brushing
For the breakfast:
splash of vinegar
1/2 x 150g packet Boursin tomato, onion & chive
2 – 2 ½ tbsp milk
200g smoked salmon chives, to garnish
Serves: 4 Prep: 15 mins plus rising Cook: 20 mins
1.For the blinis: sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Mix together the yeast and milk, until well blended. Stir in egg yolk. Pour into the flour, stirring to create a smooth batter. Cover and leave in a warm place for approximately 1 hour, until risen.
2.Whisk the egg white until stiff and gently fold into the batter mixture. Grease a griddle or frying pan with a little oil and heat until piping hot. Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the pan, well spaced apart, and cook until the surface starts to bubble, then flip over and cook until golden. Transfer to a warm plate and keep warm.
3.Meanwhile for the breakfast, bring a pan of water to the boil and add a large splash of vinegar. Carefully crack the eggs into the pan and poach for about 3 minutes.
4.Quickly mix together the Boursin tomato, onion & chive and milk to create a thick pouring sauce and season well. Arrange 3 blinis on serving plates. Top with smoked salmon, then a poached egg and a big spoonful of the Boursin sauce. Snip over chives to garnish and season. Serve immediately.
Variation: As an alternative, use readymade blinis to cut down on time and simply follow packet instructions for warming through.
Calories per portion: 407 Cost per portion: £2.00
Many thanks to Boursin for letting us use this recipe here on TOTR.
If you are planning to live near Windermere, or if you already reside there, here is a quick guide to the many beautiful areas and attractions to visit within the region.
It is a very popular destination for a holiday and millions of visitors flock to Cumbria every year to enjoy the Lake District. In fact, Cumbria had over 40 million visitors in 2011, of which 5.1 million were overnight visitors.
If you have a holiday home there, here are the top attractions and places to visit:
Top landscape attractions to visit
Cruises are available from the Lakeside & Haverthwaite railway station to Waterhead Bay. Spend the day cruising or just take a short trip. Travel from Bowness or the Lakeside alongside the majestic mountains and islands; or alternatively, the car ferry from Ferry Nab takes you to the far west side of the lake at Far Sawrey. It’s a handy shortcut for Hawkshead, Grizedale forest and Kendal; and because it is a drive-on, drive-off service, you can take your car with you.
If you enjoy living in or near Windermere, which is without question considering the breathtaking scenery, these trips will make you the envy of your friends and family. There are boating clubs such as the Lake District Boat Club for families wanting a day out around the lake and the splendid views. Orrest Head also offers a spectacular view over Lake Windermere
Top restaurants to visit
There are plenty of restaurants to go and eat a hearty meal in both Bowness and around Windermere. There is the Fayrer Garden House Hotel, set against the beautiful lake view; you have to try the homemade scones at Cafe Latte; and Roberto’s Bistro has amazing food if you like Mediterranean cuisine. Fancy some Thai instead? The Jintana Thai restaurant is a must!
Top places to visit
Before settling down for an evening of gorging yourself, visit some top attractions during the day. The Blackwell Arts and Crafts house offers the finest artwork from the beginning of the 20th century. If you have the kids, a great family day out at The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness will delight those little faces.
Alternatively, The Grizdale Circular Mountain Bike Route is great for those who like to go off road; and the Treetop Trek is a bundle of fun with over 30 treetop challenges to swing, climb and balance from.
Fancy a shopping spree? There are various shops in Bowness, including vintage souvenirs and locally produced good. And the Windermere Steamboat Museum will delight the historian in you, with a range of vintage steam boats.
It is highly recommended that you check out these attractions and restaurants; and if you live nearby, there is no reason why you can’t pay a visit!
This is a guest post by Southlakeland Lodges. They not only offer total relaxation in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, but unlimited holidays with your family and friends. Visit http://www.sllodges.co.uk today for luxury lodges in the Lake District. The Fallbarrow, White Cross Bay and Limefitt holiday sites are situated near Windermere.
The benefits of owning a holiday home offer so much to the happy holidaymaker. Relaxing in the beautiful countryside next to your holiday lodge, takes you away from the hustle and bustle of staying in cramped hotels in city centres.
Why not pass those benefits on to the thousands of holidaymakers in the UK, looking for a nice break from the norm? You can recoup the costs of running your home each year.
You can earn up to £16,000 per year, simply by subletting a holiday lodge in the Lakes; and you can earn an extra £5,000 from subletting a caravan. Obviously this is subject to tax as it is a second income, but it is still a hefty amount of revenue to generate in addition to your yearly pay.
By owning your own holiday home, you can take advantage of a subletting service as well as;
1. Privacy under your own roof, like you are a local resident.
2. No hotel charges and expensive rooms.
3. No menus forced on you, eat what you want alfresco style if desired.
4. You can bring your pets along for the trip.
If you plan on subletting your holiday home, any advertising to market the property should be accompanied with good photographs. That first impression is crucial, so ensure you take pictures that show all the extensive facilities.
Show photographs of the interior along with the outdoors. Do not avoid outdoor pictures as it seems like you are hiding something. On interior shots, try and use natural light rather than flash photography.
Spend a little time considering why your lodge or caravan is best over others: do you have the perfect location and luxury amenities? Advertise this to make your holiday home stand out from the crowd.
There will be cleaners locally that you can advertise for to clean the property. Someone will need to change and wash all the bed linen and make sure the property is left in good condition.
You could combat this by hiring the holiday park to manage your home. They can take care of key handling, carry out maintenance checks, and give your customers peace of mind that someone is available to talk to, if they need help when you are not there. Often or not they can help you with marketing support too.
For a commission, they can take care of the entire subletting service, easing you of any strain.
This is a guest post by Southlakeland Parks, who offer the very best in luxury holiday home ownership at stunning Lakeside, Seaside and Countryside locations in the English Lake District, Morecambe Bay and Ribble Valley. Visit http://www.slparks.co.uk for more information on subletting your holiday home.
We all deserve a break each year and it doesn’t have to involve a very expensive holiday. You and the family can enjoy a break from the tumbles of day-to-day life, and on a budget that brings an unforgettable holiday for everyone.
It is important to head off for the sun and recharge your batteries once a year at least. Going on holiday has been proven to be good for your health, as it lowers your blood pressure and helps to relieve stress.
Some forward planning will ensure that even during the tight squeeze that we are all feeling right now, a perfect holiday for the family can be managed on a budget.
So, here are 5 ways to ensure that you plan your costs carefully.
Young children in the family
If your children are currently of a pre-school age, then a good idea is to delay booking your holiday. Wait until around September to book out-of-season holiday bargains for the following summer.
Self-catering instead of hotel menus
The rising costs of air taxes are putting pressure on the family budget, so many are opting for a self-catering holiday instead. Eating out for a family-of-four or more can become very expensive, so this option suits a lot of families. And you can make whatever you want, so the kids can still enjoy their favourite meals.
Try a holiday home
A lodge catering for several people tends to be no more expensive than just the one for a smaller group. There is also the advantage of a shared holiday home between families. Vacations in holiday homes around Lake Windermere and Lancashire are becoming very popular nowadays, because they are so cost-effective .
Visit a country on less costs
So many little extras can make a holiday package into a cost heavy trip. Many all-inclusive deals may be cheaper in countries like Croatia or Turkey, rather than within the Eurozone.
Reduce your travelling costs
Do you need to pay extra money for another piece of luggage, or can you take a carry-on instead? There are various ways that you can cut your traveling costs.
Find off-site parking offers at airports and book in advance, or face the high fees. Maybe a friend can drive you to the airport. Heathrow and Gatwick ticket prices on the express can be very expensive for families. Before leaving for the airport, take packed lunches with you to avoid the high costs of plane lunches.
Or better still, do you have to fly? Can you drive to the destination instead, take a coach, or alternatively, can you take a ferry?
Finally, buy your currency before arriving at the airport to avoid the higher fees. You can often get the best rates online, or at your local Post Office.
This article is a guestpost by Southlakeland Holidays. At South Lakeland Holidays we offer so much more than just a wonderful place to stay, with superb static caravan accommodation and lodge holiday accommodation close to areas of outstanding beauty in the Lake District, Morecambe Bay and Ribble Valley. To book your budget-friendly trip in 2013, visit http://www.slholidays.co.uk.