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Respect The Pasta challenge 3: Re-respecting the Pasta!

Fettuccine, meaning 'little ribbons' is one of 600 types of pasta. That's right, there are over 600 types of pasta! With that many types of pasta - it deserves to be respected. No wonder ASK Italian are on a mission to get people to #Respect The Pasta.

This the third of our challenges with ASK Italian. Our task is to recreate a fettuccine recipe from the ASK Italian cookbook. The ASK Italian cookbook is available in ASK Italian restaurants and also online. ASK Italian will donate £4 of the retail price of every ASK Italian cookbook sold in their restaurants and a minimum of £1 of the retail price of every ASK Italian cookbook sold through bookshops and other third party retailers to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity

The ASK Italian cookbook combines favourite dishes from ASK Italian restaurants as well as recipes created by Chef Theo Randall and author Carla Capalbo. I love the beautiful colour photos in the recipe book. They provide real inspiration for trying out the dishes.

The fresh springtime colours of the Fettuccine con Verdure recipe jumped out at me so that's the recipe we've chosen to cook from the recipe book. 

We made a few tiny tweaks to the recipe; we used purple sprouting broccoli instead of spinach (as that's what arrived in my veg box this week and we thought it would go well in this dish), we omitted the chilli (so the kids could enjoy it too) and where the recipe calls for 120ml water, I reduced the amount to 40ml as all that lovely veg contains sufficient moisture without having to add much more. Knowing that we could also add some of the pasta water at the end (as per Theo Randall's pasta rules) meant that I knew I could get away with using less water during cooking.

The tapenade really makes this recipe taste amazing, but be aware that the amount in the recipe makes loads so you can either make less or keep it in the fridge to use up in other dishes. I actually froze the remainder of ours and plan to use it in stuffed chicken breasts, as an alternative to tomato paste on a pizza base, and as an alternative to pesto.

With these bright fresh springtime colours we braved the outdoors and decided to eat al fresco for the first time this year!

You can find our first challenge here and our second challenge here if  you want to remind yourself of the rules for cooking pasta. You'll find the recipe for Fettuccine Con Verdure below if you want to make this dish yourself. Have fun, enjoy and remember to #RespectThePasta!

Fettuccine con Verdure (serves 4-6)
70g green beans (topped, tailed and cut in half)
3 tbsp ASK Italian virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
240g (2 medium) courgettes cut into 1cm batons
220g Peas
100g sun-dried tomatoes in oil (drained and cut into large pieces)
80g baby spinach (we subsituted this for purple sprouting broccoli)
10g (1 medium) red chilli, de-seeded and cut into rings (we omitted this)
120ml water (we used 40 ml)
20g (about 25) fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
500g Non-egg fettuccine (or 900g if using fresh egg fettuccine)
80g black olive tapenade (see below)
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

1. Blanch the green beans by dropping them into rapidly boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water and set aside.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the spinach leaves and wilt slowly, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside. Bring a large pan of salted water to the rolling boil for the pasta.
3. Heat the remainder of the oil in a large frying pan over a low heat. Add the chopped garlic and saute lightly. Don't let it burn.
4. Add the courgettes and saute gently for 3-4 minutes until they start to soften. Stir in the peas, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, green beans, chilli and water and cook over a medium heat for a further 4 minutes. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm while the pasta cooks.
5. Drop the fettuccine into the boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions (remember that egg pasta will cook faster than non-egg pasta). Using a mug, scoop out a cupful of the pasta cooking water and set aside.
6. Drain the fettuccine and turn them into the pan with the sauce. Cook together over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring to blend the sauce with the noodles. If the sauce seems dry, add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water.
7. Divide the pasta into hot bowls and place a spoonful of tapenade on top of each dish. Serve immediately.

Black Olive Tapenade 
(makes 450g / 22 Tablespoons)
Tapenade ingredients

250g black olives (pitted and finely chopped)
1 tbsp small capers (drained and finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves (crushed with a little sea salt)
10g fresh basil leaves (finely chopped)
zest and juice of half a lemon
185ml ASK Italian Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper.

Put the olives, capers, garlic, basil and lemon zest into a bowl and, using a hand blender, blend until you have a smooth paste. Add the lemon juice and the olive oil and mix well. Season with black pepper to taste.

Tapenade keeps well in the fridge for up to one month in an air-tight container.

Disclosure: We were sent a 500g pack of ASK Italian Fettuccine and the ASK Italian cookbook, from which this recipe is reproduced with permission. You can find out more about #RespectThePasta by following ASK Italian on Twitter and on Facebook


Kids in the Kitchen: Easter egg fun!

We don't have a proper recipe to link up this week to Raisie Bay's Kids in the Kitchen, but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy in the kitchen - more about that in a mo. But first we had a trip to Sainsbury's to pick up our groceries for our Nectar Savvy challenge for next week. As one of the 8 finalists in Nectar's search for the savviest family, we have been blogging on our family blog there over the past three weeks and there's three weeks more to go! 

We really are grateful to everyone who has been reading our Nectar Savvy blogposts and commenting on them as we really are putting in loads of effort (in fact, instead of leaving a comment on this post, why not pop over and pick one of our posts over there to comment on?)

We've blogged about Leisure and Hobbies in week 1, Holidays and Activities in week 2, and we've just come to the end of week 3 where we gave our top tips relating to getting those household expenses down in the Household and DIY theme. 

This coming week the theme is Food and Shopping including how we get on with the Sainsbury's Basics shopping challenge. Our local store manager had prepared our groceries from the Sainsbury's Basics range and we've got to come up with seven savvy main meals using them. 

We're trying to be really creative and inventive with our recipes so we are really challenging ourselves a lot and hopefully the kids will help out with the cooking too. 

Picking up our Nectar Savvy groceries from Sainsburys

What will we cook with our ingredients?
Now for this weeks Kids in the Kitchen. Instead of a full recipe, the kids just had a fun session in the kitchen with total free reign using icing sugar 'glue' and sweets and sprinkles to decorate some Easter eggs.
It was great fun just having some downtime in the kitchen without any pressure of having to come up with an 'end result' and it proved to be a fun morning activity for all three of them. A great way to relax before the pressure of next week!!!

If your kids have been helping in the kitchen, why not pop over and link up with Raisie Bay's kids in the kitchen linky - old and new posts welcome.
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Haba Secret Code 13+4 game: Review for The Toadstool

We recently reviewed a fabulous Haba ball track from The Toadstool and loved it. We had no idea that Haba also made fantastic educational games too! Having homeschooled for so long, to be honest I thought we'd already seen our fair share of educational games, and a lot of them are much of a muchness.

So for me to be impressed with a game, I'd have to be REALLY impressed. And I was! 

The Haba Secret Code 13+4 game comprises of a game board, 6 wooden dice, 4 wooden player pieces, 15 number tiles and an instruction booklet. All made to Haba's high quality standards. 

We especially loved the wooden player pieces - they are unique colourful pieces and its great to have such sturdy pieces.
The game is suitable for 2-4 players and for ages 8 and upwards. Because of the way the game works it is fun for adults to join in with too as it can provide a challenge at any age.

The board game is illustrated as a museum and the players are secret agents who have broken into the museum with the aim of being the first to reach the precious 'Amun Re' mask. To do so they must first cross the 'light barriers'. 

Each light barrier is allocated a number at the beginning of the game by placing the number tiles on them. The number tiles are double-sided giving plenty of different numbers to use. Factor in that there are 6 dice to use too and the huge potential of this game can be seen as players will be challenged each time they play to practise their arithmetic as they won't be able to simply memorise answers.

As each number tile 'light barrier' is approached, the player throws all 6 dice. Then they need to be able to get that number by using a mathematical calculation using any of the numbers on the dice. You can use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (or a combination of any of these!). If they can figure out a way of calculating the number on the number tile light barrier, they can jump over it ready to tackle the next one. 

That same player continues to throw any remaining dice (which they haven't used in their calculations) until such time as they cannot manage to calculate any more of the light barrier codes. Play then passes to the next player. 

The game feels fast paced and exciting. I would describe it as challenging but not tricky because the beauty of it is that children can use the types of calculations they are already familiar with whilst also developing problem solving abilities as they try to see if there are alternative ways of getting to the answer they need, which will sometimes mean using operations that they are less familiar with. 

The whole game takes around 15 minutes to play making it a favourite for all as it doesn't drag on (like some board games can!) and mum and dad can feel satisfied that they've had some good quality time with the children playing an educational game that is first and foremost fun and one that the kids have asked to play over and over again. 

I cannot emphasise just how highly I would recommend this game. It is great for children who love maths because of all the potential possibilites of number combinations and equations, and also brilliant for reluctant learners as it is truly engaging and fun with sums that can be done quite simply too. Because it doesn't rely on pre-set sums, it remains interesting and lends itself well to different ages and abilities playing together.

At a great value price this would make an ideal birthday gift for friends or a great buy for your own children to enjoy with each other for years to come as a fun family game. 

You can follow The Toadstool on facebook and twitter to hear about all their latest releases, competitions and #Toadtests.

Disclosure: We were sent this game to review for The Toadstool. All opinions are our own. 


April 2014 Draw With Me: Family and Miss T at Two!

All 3 of the kids got involved in this months Draw With Me with their pictures on the theme of Family.

I absolutely love 8 year old D's picture of 'mum and dad'. He often notices when we argue and he really doesn't like that, so it was really special to see him draw a picture of us two with hearts on it. It means that either he knows that mummy and daddy do truly love each other, or it is wishful thinking that we would argue less and show that we love each other more!

Nine year old J did a picture with all 5 of us in:

And Miss T who has just turned 2 did this specifically telling us who was who which daddy promptly wrote on:

Apart from Miss T's birthday cake posts here and here, and a birthday post over on our Nectar savvy blog here (please do pop by and say hi to us there!), I haven't written my usual monthly update on Miss T. So I'm going to sneak in a few things here to remember her milestones this month that she turned two:

  • She got very excited about her birthday and whenever we asked who's birthday it was she replied with 'cake!'
  • She really has so many words now that it is impossible to keep track of new ones. We love it when she comes to find us around the house calling out 'whe-ah-yoo' (where are you).
  • She had a habit of pinching the boys' toys and says 'Tinty's' and tries to keep them for herself!
  • She gets excited at the strangest things like an outing to the bank - she started saying 'bank' 'bank' and dancing around excitedly. 
  • She also does dancing and then suddenly stops when we say 'freeze'
  • She tells us to 'top it' (stop it) whenever we sing or dance.
  • She loves Poppet from Moshi Monsters and often asks to wear her Poppet dress.
  • She adores eating oat 'crackers' (Nairns and Rude health crackers are her favourites) 
  • She is generally mega adorable and cute and her brothers adore her more than ever!!!

Linking up with Draw with me:

This Mummy Loves...

Kids in the Kitchen - Iced buns AND Berry Banana Split

Miss T mixing the 'real' dough
We have been so busy with our blogging over at our Nectar Savvy blog (please do pop by and say hi to us there!) that I nearly didn't get around to joining in with my favourite linky, Raisie Bay's Kids in the Kitchen.

This week I wanted to bake something we've never baked before, Iced Buns. I used the recipe I found on the Delicious magazine website for Tear 'n' Share sticky iced buns. So there's no point replicating the recipe here as it has brilliant instructions there for making them. I'll just let you know how we got on. We used a mixer with a dough hook for the initial mixing of the dough.

Firstly, I have a confession to make. I used a little trick that I used to use when the boys were little if I needed them to be involved in the cooking but couldn't risk things going wrong. I gave Miss T some flour and water to combine into her own dough so whilst I was kneading the iced bun dough, she was kneading the separate dough which would then be discreetly disposed of.
Miss T kneading 'her' dough

I tell the boys about it now and they totally understand why I would sometimes do that and they don't hold any grudges about it - so I figured Miss T won't mind either. And her hands got just as messy as mine!

Hopefully by now, you'll know how I feel about how important it is to get kids involved in cookery and how they often get the opportunity to do 'proper' cooking, so I hope you'll forgive me for this little cheat. You see, I had to stay extra focused on the iced buns - Even then I nearly forgot about the second proving - but thankfully remembered just in time.

It is a pretty straightforward recipe and iced buns seem to have a lot less butter and sugar in than ordinary cakes, but then you need loads of icing sugar to make the icing - so perhaps not so healthy after all.

A good stage for kids to help out with would be the icing stage. You could always do it Paul Hollywood style where you dunk the top of the buns in a large bowl of icing and then smooth over with a finger. I tried to do this, but my icing was a bit runny so they've ended up a bit messy.

And just as I was feeling guilty that it was mainly me rather than the kids cooking in the kitchen this week, I found the photos of what the boys got up to just after me and Miss T made the iced buns.

They found one of D's weekend boxes which had a Banana split recipe and without even checking if we had the right ingredients, they just got started on it themselves. So they ended up having to improvise a little using a petit filous fromage frais instead of plain yogurt and using frozen berries instead of fresh, but they seemed to like the creation that they ended up with. Thankfully we did have bananas otherwise that would have been interesting - Banana split without bananas - hmm?

D makes the berry 'jus' 

'Improvising' with some ingredients

Happy with the end result! 
Linking up with:
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How to make your own Princess Birthday Cake

It was Miss T's birthday yesterday. As someone who is rubbish at baking, I'm always on the lookout for easy birthday cakes to make. Last year we spotted the pigs in mud cake doing the rounds on facebook, so I made one for D's birthday. This year he wanted a minion so I used 2 microwave cakes made in Christmas pudding bowls for that. And here's another simple idea using a bowl shaped microwave cake; A Princess cake.

I've made this before in blue for J's third birthday when he was really into dolls and dolls houses and also made it in pink for my sister. But as I had some yellow icing left over from last months Minion cake, I thought it would also look good in yellow.

It really is a simple cake to make - I promise! It can cost around £50 to buy a cake that is similar so it is great to be able to make your own. I've re-used the same doll over the past 7 years so the only additional cost is the cake ingredients and icing.

Here it is step by step:

1. Start by making a simple 4 minute microwave cake. Full recipe for that can be found here.

2. Once the cake is completely cool you can begin to decorate it. You can always make the cake the day before. You could even make it several days before and pop it in the freezer, defrosting it ready to decorate. Place your cake onto a cake base. I re-used a circular cake base. If you need to make your own budget version just cover some thick card with foil.

3. Prepare your doll ready for the cake. I use a doll with legs removed so that I don't need to make a cake with a huge amount of height. However, you can actually buy or hire full sized cake tins if you do want to use a full height doll. Or you could stack a bowl cake on top of a regular round cake to get the height which is what I did before for the blue and pink princess cakes.
Optional: You can stack cakes if you want to get more height
To prepare the doll, you need to wrap a little clingfilm from the waist down. Then wrap some ribbon of the colour of your choice around the top half of the doll. I use a ribbon that is the same as the colour of icing for the skirt.

I also added a thin yellow ribbon to her hair. I cut out the huge clothes loops that you tend to find in ladies clothes these days and re-use them for things like this or for crafts.

4. Cover your microwave cake with jam. We used 'no-bits' strawberry jam but you could use any flavour jam you like. You could also add a layer of buttercream if you wish to (we didn't on this occasion).

5. Next colour your 'ready to roll' icing in the right colour. I found these Dr Oetker gel food colours recently that seem to work well. I used 'sunshine yellow' for this but mixed in with the white icing it comes out a lovely pastel yellow.

6. Dust your surface and a rolling pin with icing sugar to prevent the icing from sticking. Then roll out your (now coloured) ready to roll icing. Remember it is better to make it bigger than you need it as you can always cut off any excess. I used around 750g of icing for a cake this size.

7. Carefully lift the rolled out icing and place over your cake. You can use your rolling pin to help lift it over the cake. The great thing about this cake is that you don't need to be mega-neat as the dress could do with having a couple of folds in anyway.

8. Trim off any excess from around the bottom of the dress with a knife, and cut a small hole in the top of the cake ready for the doll.

9.Push your doll into the top of the cake until the clingfilmed part of the doll is pushed into the cake.

10. Now re-roll the icing that you trimmed off the dress, and using a medicine spoon cut some shapes you can use to decorate around the dolls waist to tidy the gap where the doll goes into the cake.

11. Finally, decorate the dress with either small flowers or hearts using a small icing cutter. We made little white flowers for the dress.

If you wish to, you could also pipe some white icing around the bottom of the dress. (I had run out of white icing in an icing tube so we missed out that stage this time).

You should now have a pretty princess party cake made at budget price with minimum effort. Seeing the cake in yellow made me think it would also make a nice cake for Easter too!
A pretty princess cake
Remember that during April and May 2014, we're also blogging over at Nectar Savvy family with our top budgeting tips - please do pop by and say hello over there! 


linking up with Vevivos' #PoCoLo:
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and also Savouring The Season as I reckon this cake would make a lovely Easter cake in pastel spring colours: