We’ve moved….

Feeding Boys is now on feedingboys.co.uk - come and join us!

Feeding Boys and a Firefighter is now at feedingboys.co.uk

Well the day has finally dawned, after lots of work behind the scenes my blog has moved.

You can now find a new and improved version of Feeding Boys and a Firefighter over at www.feedingboys.co.uk… drop over when you can, there’s cake and everything!

Feeding boys and a firefighter graphic

I won’t be updating this blog any more so if you want to keep getting my recipes, reviews and competitions you need to get yourself over to feedingboys.co.uk

There’s a lovely new design and layout that should make finding the kind of recipes you’re after much easier.

I’ve been blogging for nearly two years now, so I wanted to make the most of the content i’ve created. I’m hoping it’ll be a useful resource for all of us stressed family cooks who need reliable recipe inspiration NOW!

To make sure you don’t miss a thing:

sign up to get my email updates or RSS feed
stick me in your Google reader
or follow via Networked Blogs

My facebook and twitter pages remain the same.

A huge thanks to Jo at Magenta Sky Solutions for helping me pack up and move…

and also to my talented brother-in-law Mark Bryson for designing the lush graphics.

Lastly thanks so much, to all YOU lovely lot for supporting my blog, and I hope to see you all soon over at my shiny new place for a welcome drink or two 😉

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Pancakes two ways

Pancake day is upon us this week, a fabulous excuse to cook up my favourite breakfast treat. Not that we need an excuse to be honest, we’ll often have them at weekends or birthday breakfasts.

I wanted to give you lovely lot a couple of recipes – a traditional one for those that need it, plus a bonus blueberry one in case you fancy trying something a little different.

I also wanted to use this opportunity to get you to check the provenance of the eggs you’ll be buying for your batter mixes. We’re rather fond of animals in the Feeding Boys household so always use free range eggs.

RSPCA guide to cage free eggs

You might be unnerved to hear that some eggs on the supermarket shelves still come from hens that are kept in cages.

While ‘conventional’ battery cages have been banned in the EU, unfortunately something called ‘enriched’ battery cages are still allowed.

These provides the hens with space equivalent to an A4 sheet of paper to nest, scratch and perch in. Sounds hideously cramped to me.

And it’s not just boxes of eggs you need to be wary of, it’s the labels of products like ready-made batter mixes you should be checking for eggs that are cage-free.

The RSPCA would like us to look for eggs labelled Freedom Food, free range, organic or barn. The following supermarkets all stock own-brand products that only contain free range eggs:

  • Marks & Spencer – all products
  • Waitrose all – own-brand products
  • Sainsbury’s – all own-brand products
  • Co-op – all own-brand products
  • Morrisons – ‘The Best’ range
  • Tesco – ‘Finest’ range
  • Asda – ‘Extra Special’ range.

    Thanks for listening and here are my pancake recipes – enjoy!

traditional pancake in panTraditional pancakes

225g plain flour
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
600ml milk
50g unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for frying

1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Whisk the eggs and milk into the flour. Add the melted butter and whisk into the mix.

2. Pre-heat the frying pan. Lightly oil the pan and pour in some mixture – making sure the pan only has a thin layer of mix by tilting and rotating the pan to make the batter spread out.

3. Cook for 30-40 seconds, until golden brown. Turn the pancake over and cook for a further 20-30 seconds.

4. Keep warm between layers of greaseproof paper while you cook the remainder. (this doesn’t happen in our house – they get eaten as we go along!)

blueberry pancakesBlueberry pancakes

200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
300ml milk or buttermilk
25g butter, melted
punnet blueberries
oil or butter for cooking
maple syrup, to serve

  1. Sieve the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Spoon out a well in the centre and pour in the eggs and milk. Whisk until you have a smooth thick batter, then beat in the melted butter in.
  2. Gently pour in about a third of the blueberries to the batter and gently stir.
  3. Heat a large frying pan and coat with oil or a little butter. Drop a large tablespoon of the batter onto the pan to form a rough disc shape about 8cm across – depending on your pan you could probably cook about 3 pancakes at a time.
  4. Cook for a few minutes, lifting with a palette knife or silicone spatula to check for a golden appearance underneath. Then turn and repeat on the other side.
  5. Stack up on a plate, scatter with the remaining blueberries and drizzle with maple syrup and serve.
Posted in Breakfast, Desserts | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hot chocolate spoons

Hot chocolate spoons setting in silicone cases
Hot chocolate spoons setting in silicone cases

It was my mum’s 70th birthday party at the weekend and I decided to make little table gifts for everyone.

I drew inspiration from the fabulous Holly from GBBO with her hot chocolate on a stick idea over at Recipes from a normal mum.

It’s essentially a large mass of chocolate, studded with marshmallows and set onto spoons or sticks and then melted into a large mug of steaming hot milk.

All the kit laid out to make hot chocolate spoonsIt’s been so cold I thought ultra luxe comforting drinks would be universally appealing.

So how do you make them…

For a really special look, I used pretty teaspoons in Kings Design courtesy of the fantastic Cutlery and Catering. By some stroke of luck, it turned out the cutlery at Soulton Hall where the party took place, was exactly the same – spoooooky!

If you’re on a tighter budget you could use some wooden stirrers from a coffee shop.

chocolate in microwave saucepanYou need a stack of silicone fairy cake cases and lots and lots of chocolate. I opted for a decent cooking chocolate with a 70% cocoa content.

I wanted to achieve a deep flavour that’d feel like a real treat. I also wanted it to cope well with being melted and set, so I didn’t buy the cheapest on the block. I bought 2.5kg, but ended up using 2.2kg to make 32.

filling silicone cases with chocolateI’m a big fan of melting chocolate in short bursts in the microwave – so my essential Lakeland microwave saucepan did a blinding job here. The pouring spout made it a dream to pour the melted chocolate into the moulds.

You need some patience once the choc is in the silicone cases. It took them at least two hours to be set enough to plunge the tips of the spoons in without them capsizing.

The best approach is to just keep squeezing the silicone cases and monitoring how firm they are getting.

As soon as the spoons are in you can press your little marshmallows onto the surface to decorate. You could add some white chocolate sprinkles too which would look lovely.

The scent of chocolate in our house was quite intoxicating – I felt like I smelt of it for days afterwards!

I left the cases of chocolate to firm up overnight, then in the morning I slipped them out of their cases and packaged them up in cellophane bags with curling ribbon and instructions.

Hot chocolate spoons on the table at mum's party

Hot chocolate spoons on the table at mum's party

Can’t believe my mum is 70 – makes us both feel old to be honest! Her party was absolutely lovely – lots of family and friends.

Matthew dressed up in his fire kit and carried mum into the party to everyone’s delight.

And then the biggest surprise of all – my mum’s partner announced they’d got engaged – gobsmacking moment but utterly gorgeous news 🙂

Posted in Drinks, Edible Gifts | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Valentine competition winners

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone 🙂

The lucky winners of my Valentine giveaways:

Hotel Chocolat Hamper: Sarah Robertson
Hotel Chocolat Love Notes: Julie Hogg

Lovetub Hamper: Emma Morgan

Enjoy your prizes everyone – and thanks to those who took the time to enter!

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Spend Vouchers, Get Rewards!

Sponsored Post
Living on a budget means you have to get creative with what you have, so when buying presents for Valentines Day or birthdays crop up I will often make my own edible gifts – giving things like jams or baked treats that you’ve taken the time to create and package up. Hopefully people don’t think I’m a cheapskate!

Another way to get round a lack of cash is to check the balances of all my loyalty cards to see if I can afford an impressive gift.

There’s nothing more satisfying than feeling like you’ve got something in return for your weekly shop – especially when the cost of food in our trollies seems to be rising so rapidly of late.

I know a lot of people who use their Tesco Clubcards to get some great deals and checking out the Clubcard Deals it’s easy to see why:

Magazine subscriptions are one of my favourite things to give as a present because it lasts all year.
I’m a huge fan of BBC Good Food Magazine for regular family-friendly recipe inspiration, it’s very accessible and ideal for family cooks who are stuck in a recipe rut.
If you’re tearing your hair out about what to get for your Valentine – men are SO hard to buy for after all – did you know that you can get a motorsport driving eperience or even go indoor sky diving with your points?!
Or perhaps if you’re planning on going our for a meal but are worried about the cost you could cash your points in at places like Ask, Brasserie Gerard or Strada.
You could reduce the stress of paying for your holiday by saving up enough points to nab yourself a stay with apartment 4 you.
Loyalty schemes are a fascinating area. Obviously the brands want you to keep coming back to shop with them, so incentives like the above are absolutely key, but don’t forget in return for this you are providing them with information about your shopping behaviour.
There’s an interesting clip on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme where they interview Edwina Dunn, co-founder of Dunnhumby, which runs the Tesco Clubcard scheme, among others and talks about the challenges facing big brands in this area. LIsten here
How do you use loyalty schemes? Do you save them up and use them at the end of the year for Christmas presents? Are you one of those super savvy shoppers who manages to fly around the world first class on tesco points? Does it bother you that the brand holds your purchase history?

Viral video by ebuzzing

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Hello Fresh review

Pan with ingredients

I’ve given a new meal London-based delivery service called Hello Fresh a whirl this month, and thought you might be interested to know how I got on.

The concept is simple – the recipes and ingredients for your week’s evening meals delivered in a box to your door on a Monday night.

They don’t assume you have anything in your storecupboards, even down to a pinch of chill or a knob of butter. You really don’t have to think about a thing.

The food was from a variety of different shops like Waitrose and Sainsburys, neatly packaged up so you’ve only got what you need so there’s no waste.

The meat and fish were of exceptionally high quality, but some of the veg was a little bit tired.

How much does it cost?

3 meals feeding 4 people £59
5 meals feeding 4 people £89

This includes the delivery cost.

Who’s it aimed at?

Judging by the price and the time-saving nature of the service, I think it would suit busy professionals who like cooking when they have time but aren’t very experienced at it.

Perhaps you’ve got a busy week coming up and can’t be bothered to make any food-related decisions but want to eat well or have people staying you want to cook nice things for without the hassle.

Or maybe you could buy it as a gift for someone who’s snowed under at work, or recovering from having a baby.

Recipes I tried:

Classic Tuna and Pasta Bake with a Crunchy Twist – classic family supper, very quick and simple and there was so much of it that I was able to put it everyone’s packed lunches the next day. The crunchy twist was the use of crumbled up cheese crackers for the topping which was unusual but worked.

recipe card
The recipe card for the chocolate chilli

The Emperor’s Chocolate Chili Con Carne – this was my favourite by far as it’s not something I usually cook. Putting a small amount of dark chocolate in with the ground beef gave it a really rich yummy dimension. It wasn’t too spicy either so went down well with everyone in the family.

Penne at Sunset with Creamy Tomato, Fresh Salmon and Basil – not hugely healthy – but of course using double cream makes things totally luxe! For a weeknight meal i’d have been tempted to use half fat creme fraiche instead which I think would work just as well with the salmon. Again another simple meal that went down well with the troops.

My verdict:

The meals were pretty simple to make and really delicious – great to be able to have all the right ingredients to hand and not have spent much time menu planning for the week ahead.

I’m too much of a control freak to do something like this all the time though as I like to come up with my own recipes and ideas, but it was lovely to have a break, especially with relatives to cook for.


You’re paying for the convenience – it’s not cost effective to have portioned-off packets of staples like pasta and rice when you can buy cheaply in bulk to keep in your storecupboard.

It’s not your weekly shop, as you obviously still need to buy in breakfast and lunch items, along with your non-food things like washing powder.

The recipe cards were hard to read – tiny green text printed on a black background with the ingredients amounts on one side and the method on the other – I like it all at-a-glance on one page. It also doesn’t give you a nutritional breakdown or how long it takes to cook.

However Hello Fresh is still very much at the beginning of its journey, having launched a matter of weeks ago.

In the months ahead there will be improvements to the service, including options for vegetarians and special diets.

Thanks to Hello Fresh for supplying me with a box to review

Meal delivery service

All your ingredients for your evening meals in one box

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Review: WeightWatchers: the complete kitchen

I’ve owned a fair amount of diet recipe books over the years, but to be honest they’ve never appealed enough to use them very much.

The food styling is usually non existent, and the recipes just don’t have any ooze appeal, you know, those tempting pictures in normal cookery books that make you want to cook and eat it immediately.

So I was a bit skeptical when Weight Watchers sent me their latest book to review.

Weight Watchers Complete KitchenWeightWatchers: The Complete Kitchen is actually a very attractive book, it’s nicely styled and as the title suggests covers most essential areas of cooking.

After an initial flick through there are still pictures of meals that don’t look very juicy, but there are others that are so vibrant and appetising that they deserve a whirl in the kitchen.

The author is Tamsin Burnett-Hall, who I’d not heard of, but after a big of digging I found out she’s Leith’s trained, has worked for Delia and writes recipes for Good Food Mag. Her particular passion is creating non-dull diet recipes, so you can see why she’s been asked to write this book!

Who is it for?

Well people following the WW diet obviously, but maybe those of us who fancy a healthier recipe from time to time or are cooking for people who are on a diet.

Easy to follow

I like the first chapter which has a selection of good everyday basic recipes which have been given the WW treatment – like white sauce, pastry and salad dressings. The things we use as the basis for lots of things.

The rest of the book is split into the usual logical sections like breakfasts, soups, salads and sandwiches, weekend suppers etc.

There’s a definite nod to the current economic climate too with a section of using up leftovers and also budget conscious meals.

Family friendly? 

I’m not hugely keen on the idea of serving up ‘diet food’ to my growing boys who are hungry every five minutes, but there are tempting looking family faves in here with a low-fat makeover like toad in the hole that uses balls of low fat sausage meat instead of whole sausages.

Vegetarian friendly?

As well as some veggie recipes dotted around the book, there’s also a pretty big chapter of meat-free meals that look genuinley appetising and wouldn’t look out of place in an Ottolenghi book. So yes the dieting vegetarians are catered for very well indeed.

There’s the intriguing looking reipe called Kosheri, which is an Egyptian street-food dish of lentils, rice and macaroni topped with caramelised onions. The chickpea and courgette kofte with tabbouleh look great too.

I think vegetarian food gets away with being healthy but still attractive because of the use of bright colours and interesting textures.

Most likely to cook

Sausages with crushed new potatoes look easy and yum –  especially the spring onions and peas in a cream cheese and garlic sauce. If you’re cooking low fat it’s all about packing that flavour in and you really get a sense of that with this recipe.

Asian pork patties in a sticky sauce with jasmine rice look highly tempting.

Least likely to cook

Most of the recipes are pretty appetising, however Indian Shepherds Pie is one twist on a classic too far for me. Also Turkey and Sweetcorn meatloaf with lemon sauce sounds a bit wrong somehow.

Would you buy it for a friend?

Hmmm nope! It’d probably go down about as well as buying your friend a pot of anti-cellulite cream. It’s no reflection on the recipes, but buying this for your friend would be like saying “You’re a bit of a porker love – why not try cooking this way instead?!” No it’s one you buy for yourself!

Rating out of 10

7 – you don’t need to be following Weight Watchers to enjoy this book – it’s a good one to have on the shelf if you need to embark on some stricter healthy eating from time to time and need some inspiration.

But if you are a Weight Watchers follower then you’d probably rate the book higher as it has all the points values and alludes to the wealth of WW products to use in the recipes.

You don’t, however, come away having sussed out the new points system on the sly, like I was hoping to. They’re not stupid at WW – they still want to sign you up!

Published in hardback by Simon & Schuster, priced at £16.95 and is available at meetings and through Weight Watchers At Home on 08456 788 999.

Thanks for my review copy

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Product review round-up

Here’s a little round-up of some of the food samples i’ve been sent lately, so you know what they’re like when you spot them in the supermarket aisles…

Be Good to Yourself ready meals

Be good to yourself ready mealsSainsbury’s got in touch to ask me to try out their improved range of healthy Be Good To Yourself ready meals on the back of some research that found Shepherds Pie is top of the UK’s list when it comes to comfort food in the chilly winter months.

We didn’t get hold of the Shepherds Pie but we tried:

spinach & ricotta cannelloni: 349 calories
A bit sauce-tastic, and the top looked a little watery, but it was actually pretty tasty and the spinach-filled pasta shells were firm. The tomato sauce underneath was good.

chicken & mushroom pie: 349 calories
Father-in-law was impressed with the size of the portion – a huge mash topping with a cheese crumb with a tasty filling with good meat content and excellent flavour.

cod & salmon fish pie: 363 calories
Mother-in-law really enjoyed this dish and gave it a big thumbs up. The chunks of fish were really substantial and great quality, and again the flavour good and portion size very satisfying.

I’m not hugely into ready meals, but when I was working I loved taking them into the office to heat up for my lunch to make a change from sandwiches.

They’re also great if you are watching your weight and want to have a super controlled day calorie-wise. They can easily make a quick weeknight meal bulked out with lots of veg or a big salad on the side. Just be careful when they come out of the microwave as they’re hotter than the sun.

I was really impressed with the quantity and flavour for so few calories. I was also pretty delighted to see regular ingredients listed on the packaging, and not lots of weird and wonderful processed nasties as you normally expect from ready meals.

All Be Good To Yourself ready meals are 400 calories or less.
Prices range from £2 to £3. 

Kiddylicious smoothie melts

smoothie meltsWhat the company says:  crunchy, bubbly honeycomb pieces that transform to a sweet smoothie juice sensation on the tongue to create a delicious food experience for your child

Available in two flavours: strawberry & banana and passion fruit, banana & mango – and handily count as one of your little one’s five a day.

I got very excited about these little packets. I thought they’d make fabulous lunchbox fillers for Arlo, who I struggle to get fruit into. He’s more of a veg man.

I held my breath when he tried one, then sighed as he spat it out and proclaimed it disgusting. I think the texture threw him to be honest.

Sam liked them, but then he loves fruit. So if your little one is a fruit bat then these could make a nice change for a lunchbox, but I don’t think it’ll be converting the non-fruit eaters.

59p per bag, available in Sainsburys 

Light at Heart Tate & Lyle sugar

Tate & Lyle Light at heart sugar

Tate & Lyle’s new lighter sugar is an all-natural cane sugar and Stevia blend that has twice the sweetness of sugar but with only half the calories.

When adding to drinks, sprinkling on cereal, or baking your favourite desserts you therefore halve what you normally use.

Stevia is a naturally sweet herb that grows wild as a small shrub in parts of Paraguay and Brazil

I left the box by the kettle for the father-in-law to put in his tea – he didn’t notice the difference taste wise, so that’s a good sign.

I was a little more quizzical about how it would perform in baking – the product is billed as stable at cooking temperatures and so is said to work the same way as sugar when you cook with it.

I used it in my weekly batch of banana cake and you really wouldn’t know – it rose beautifully, the sponge was moist as ever, I guess the only thing missing was the treacly taste from the soft brown sugar I normally use.

I think i’ll definitely use it in future for my staple pot of sugar that sits on the side for spooning into hot drinks and sweetening sauces. I’m not convinced i’ll use it much in my baking though as I really like cakes to feel indulgent.

Available nationwide in all major supermarkets

Thanks to everyone involved for sending out the samples to review

Posted in Product reviews | 2 Comments

Are you cut out for an allotment?

A bounty of vegWe’ve had our plot for over a year now, so I thought it’d be good to write a round-up of what i’ve learnt from the experience.

There have been highs and lows – getting caught up in a tangle of netting in front of a beer-swilling group of guys on a neighbouring plot was perhaps one of the more humiliating moments.

However harvesting veg you’ve nurtured from seed to table is a pretty amazing feeling.

If you’re thinking about immersing yourself in the world of vegetable growing or you’re just starting out, then get yourself over to read my feature on Tesco Magazine’s website and see if you’ve got what it takes!

It’d be great to see some comments about your experiences on there too 🙂

Posted in allotment | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Another easy dessert: lemon possets

Lemon posset

Simple dessert of lemon posset

I’m all about make-ahead desserts this month, it’s not very on-trend with the usual winter health-kick, but I’ve had a bit of entertaining to do and ramekin-friendly recipes have won the day.

Quite similar to the berry fools, but even simpler. Only three ingredients required – double cream, sugar and lemon juice. It’s incredibly rich so you only need to serve up a tiny amount per portion.

The kids loved it, the grown ups loved it. I breathed a sigh of relief.

You could of course show off and make your own shortbread to serve with it, but I got mine out of a packet as the meal was quite short notice.

Lemon possets
serves 6-8

600 ml double cream
150g caster sugar
4 lemons, juice and some zest for garnish

1. Put the cream and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Allow to come to the boil, remove from the heat and stir through the lemon juice.

2. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes and then pour into small ramekins or espresso cups. Cover with cling film and stick them in the fridge for at least 5 hours or over night.

3. When ready to serve scatter with some lemon zest and serve with a shortbread biscuit or two on the side.

Posted in Desserts | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments