Top 5 Reasons for Vaping

As an ex-smoker, I often think about what it would be like to smoke again. It’s not something I would ever do, for SO many reasons, but when there are times of stress and even happiness, I still get the urge to reach for the nicotine, even though it’s been almost a decade since I gave up. However, it got me thinking about e-cigarettes and vaping (CLICK HERE for more information) and how they could potentially be a viable option if I ever did decide I wanted nicotine in my life again, and also about the ways in which it would be SO much better than smoking. Here’s what I came up with:

Cost

When I stand behind people in a shop and see how much cigarettes cost nowadays, I genuinely blanch at the idea of spending THAT much money on smoking. Don’t get me wrong, cigarettes weren’t exactly cheap when I was a smoker, but they cost roughly double now and it’s an expense that I could never justify. In 2006, I was smoking around 20-a-day, which these days Vapingwould cost about £9 – that’s £63 a week, £273 a month or over £3200 a year! By comparison, vaping costs the average user around £8 every ten days, which equates to £292, giving you a mind-boggling almost THREE GRAND saving!

Health

Apart from the very obvious health benefits of switching to an e-cigarette for both you AND the people around you, vaping has actually been shown to aid weight loss. I remember reading this Reddit thread a few months ago about someone who replaced their evening sweet snacks with a dessert-flavoured liquid and it satiated them to the point that they lost over a stone in a month! I know that when I quit smoking, I also missed the hand-to-mouth action and replaced cigarettes with food, so this could be massively beneficial to anyone who wants to quit smoking but doesn’t want to gain weight.

Smell

I don’t know about you, but I hate the smell of smoking. The way it lingers to clothes and hair is awful and I never knew how bad it really was until I quit and started smelling it on other people. A friend of ours vapes and has all sorts of sweet-smelling liquids that he uses and they are all fabulous!

Safety

I grew up in a house of smokers, as did Husband, and we BOTH remember incidents where one adult or another would doze off in the armchair with a cigarette in hand, only to wake up seconds later to a smouldering arm of the sofa and singed fingers. Research done by the Government showed that poor disposal and care of lit cigarettes was the LEADING cause of fatal housefires for decades – these are odds that I just don’t like.

Environment

Finally, and one reason that I like the most, is that vaping is SO much better for the environment than smoking cigarettes. Cigarette butts are still responsible for much of the litter that we see on the streets and the smoke itself is a huge contributor to air pollution. One study showed that “discarded cigarette butts are non-biodegradable and they are also the most common form of litter found in beach clean ups. It is estimated that around 4 trillion cigarette ends are discarded across the world each year.” – imagine how much cleaner our air and seas would be without cigarettes?

Have you switched from cigarettes to vaping? Have you taken up vaping despite no longer being a smoker? Leave me a comment below.

The Continued Emasculation of Daddy Pig

The Continued Emasculation of Daddy Pig

Having two kids with a 5 and and half year age gap means that I’m suffering enjoying a lot of the same programmes a second time around, and BB is at that age where EVERYTHING must be Peppa Pig (save for a couple of times a week when she takes a brief foray into Topsy and Tim, her previous programme du jour). This means that, during the week, Peppa is usually on in the backgroud for much of the late morning/early afternoon period while I work and do housework and BB mills around doing what it is that toddlers do (picking her nose and sticking stickers on my furniture, mostly).

Watching the same episodes of Peppa over and over again means that you notice certain things and one of those things is what I like to call “The Emasculation of Daddy Pig”. See, there seems to be a running theme in Peppa; Daddy is a bit useless and is fair game for mockery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a bit of banter (HASHTAG BANTZ), but he seems to really get the rough end of the deal, and it’s got to a point where it’s verging on misandry. Jokes are made about Daddy Pig that no-one would DARE make about Mummy Pig because it would have people getting into an Everyday Sexism frenzy…so, let’s take a look at what those episodes might look like…

Mummy’s Fat Tummy

Everyone decides (after years of mockery) that Mummy Pig needs to get off of her fat arse and lose some weight, so Daddy Pig forces her to do exercise videos and go on bike rides (on a bike which is dangerously small for her). Everyone is waiting at home to take the piss out of how unfit she is.

Mummy Fucks Up The DIY

Daddy Pig has an important meeting to go to, so he asks Mummy Pig to hang a painting. Of course, Mummy is a hapless fuckwit and manages to knock a whole load of plaster off of the wall. She’s terrified that Daddy Pig will have a shit-fit at her when he gets home so she quickly re-renders the wall before he gets there. Once he gets home, he takes over because he’s obviously so much more capable than her and puts the painting up with a single flick of a hammer.

Mummy’s a Greedy Bitch

The whole family visits the supermarket to buy lots of healthy things off of their list. When they get to the checkout, they realise that Mummy Pig has put a chocolate cake on the conveyor belt and although they all agree that Mummy is a greedy, ‘naughty’ bastard, they all let her have it anyway (despite the fact that she’s clearly the main breadwinner and as such can buy whatever the fuck she wants).

Mummy Pig Doesn’t Speak French

Peppa gets a phone call from her French pen-pal and despite claiming she can speak French, Mummy Pig isn’t able to communicate with Delphine and, in fact, doesn’t even recognise that she’s speaking a foreign language in the first place, declaring it all to be “nonsense” and revealing herself to be a braggart who lacks any form of common sense or intelligence.

Now, I’m just going to put this out there; if ANY of these episodes were real and this kind of mockery, fat-shaming and stereotypical sexist bullshit was aimed at Mummy Pig, there would be OUTRAGE. But, because Daddy Pig is only a man, it’s okay to disregard his feelings and bully him on a daily basis, because don’t be silly, men don’t have feelings!

The worst part is, Peppa Pig was created and is written by TWO MEN! That leads me to one of two conclusions – either Mark Baker and Neville Astley are weird, self-hating males who think it’s okay to deride their own gender OR they think that they’re somehow appealing to the common housewife who obviously hates men. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with either conclusion, if I’m honest. I want my girls to grow up knowing A) everyone has different strengths, regardless of their gender and B) bullying people based on archaic, clichéd notions is just wrong.

I’d love to know what you think about this. Am I reading far too much into Peppa bloody Pig and need to seriously get a life? Or is this something which gets on your teats as much as it does mine? Leave me a comment below.

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Brocolli

Okay, so you may have noticed that my 7-day slow cooker challenge didn’t exactly go to plan, in that I only managed to last for four days and my last three planned meals never quite made it onto my site. I think this happened for a couple of reasons – slow cooking, for me, is something I do to make my life more convenient, and forcing myself to use my slow cooker to a schedule just didn’t work. Also, one of the meals I planned was lasagne, and I’m not going to lie, I was really apprehensive about it. We LOVE lasagne in this house, but I always bake it the normal way, and attempting to slow cook it seemed a bit like fixing something which isn’t broken.

Anyway, I had a little slow cooker break after failing but I’m back to using it again today and it’s a super simple, super tasty beef and broccoli recipe that I’m making today:slow cooker beef and broccoli

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Brocolli

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Broccoli
 
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A slow cooked beef recipe with a simple Asian-inspired sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 240ml/1 cup beef stock
  • 120ml/ ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup erythritol (substitute with brown sugar if you don't need a low sugar recipe)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 900g/2lb stewing beef
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 4 Tbsp corn starch
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • Sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Place the stock, soy sauce, erytritol/brown sugar, chopped garlic and sesame oil into the slow cooker pot and mix well
  2. Add the beef into the pot and mix well to coat
  3. Cook on LOW for 4 hours
  4. After 4 hours, mix the corn starch and water together and add to the pot, stirring well to thicken
  5. Add the chopped broccoli and stir
  6. Cook for a further 30 minutes on HIGH, or until broccoli is soft
  7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with rice or noodles, or a side of your choice.

This was such a simple recipe but has turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser with the family. It’s exactly the kind of ‘chuck it all in’ recipe which makes me love slow cooking, and offered so much flavour for such an easy-to-make dish. The sauce was salty and savoury, and thickened to almost a gravy consistency once the cornstarch was added, and cooking the broccoli in the sauce added an amazing layer of flavour. The best part of this meal is that, when you factor in a portion of rice, it came in at just 453 calories per portion, which is amazingly low!

Beef is probably my favourite meat for slow cooking as you can buy the really cheap cuts but end up with a tender, flavourful dish which is low calorie, high protein and doesn’t cost the earth – basically the Holy Grail of cooking for a family! Let me know if you make this yourself, I’d love to know if you were as pleased with the results as we were.

Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

I’ve always been a huge fan of kids using technology; I know lots of people think that screen time is negative for kids, and I agree that all things should be in moderation, but I strongly believe that children can learn a lot from various apps and programs and that they should have time on devices without us leaning over their shoulders.

Sausage is at an age now where her interest in the internet has evolved slightly. No longer is she spending ages on the Cbeebies website or using the Mister Maker app to make beautiful, fridge-worthy creations. Now, she’s also asking about websites (like the ones you see advertised on the TV) which allow users to not only play games, but chat with one another too, which really concerns me. I have no objections to her chatting with friends online, but these websites are SO often a completely unknown quantity and can be a portal to online bullying, which is why I was keen to help when a cyber-bullying charity got in touch. Here’s what they had to say:

To mark this year’s Stop Cyberbullying Day on Friday 17 June, anti-bullying charity Bullies Out has partnered with data analytics firm Online Them to raise awareness of the risks of cyberbullying and what parents can do to spot the warning signs in time.

Monitoring software such as Online Them enables parents and teachers to keep an eye on children’s online activities and highlight any causes for concern. Any monitoring of online activity tends to spark handwringing sermons about the right to privacy. But this is not another example of Big Brother clipping the wings of youngsters trying to explore the world and all the opportunities that brings. Nor does it give parents and teachers free reign to spy on children.

Tools using Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing can identify and highlight anything of concern or unusual to an individual child such as social media posts containing adult content, or mentions of crime, as well as flagging any new friends in countries outside the UK and a rank of who a child is interacting with most on social media. This is done on a consent-only basis, meaning a child has to agree to the use of software to monitor their high-level social media use. Consent can be given easily and quickly via an email invitation – all they have to do is click the attached link and authorize access to their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. They can connect all three accounts or just one or two.

Monitoring tools present a great way to hold a child’s hand as they enter the world of social media. Parents and teachers can both use these tools to safeguard children in a low-maintenance and non-intrusive way.

Sausage uses her own iPad and laptop, both of which are internet enabled and I really don’t like to be hanging over her shoulder the whole time, so using an online monitoring software would really give us peace of mind. She’s not allowed anywhere NEAR Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any of the other places where random people could gain access to her, and Husband and I will be thinking long and hard about whether she’ll ever be allowed accounts on these sites, while she’s under our rules.

If you want some really handy tips on how to keep your kids safe online, take a look at the Bullies Out site, where there is a whole wealth of information, and also links to allow you to donate to this excellent cause. Online Them are also currently offering a free one month trial for parents, allowing you to try the site before you commit to a subscription.

How do you moderate your kids online usage? Have you got any apps installed? Have you ever had to deal with cyber-bullying? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment below.

Busy Summer Vacation? Get Help With Slow Cooker Summer Recipes

Kids are out of school, and that surely means it’s a time for you to take a break of nine months of being a taxi driver for extracurricular activities or a school volunteer, right? Of course not. When summer break hits, you’re marching to a different rhythm—driving kids to and from summer camps, going on more daylong trips, or just scrambling to organize summer activity ideas to hold off kids from saying, “I’m bored!”
Basically, your kids may be getting a break from the summer, but your job has shifted to activities director—you are most likely just as busy as during the school year.
Good thing your slow cooker also doesn’t take a break either. This trusty appliance was most likely was your saving grace during the school year, cooking your family meal while you are gone all day and having it ready when you arrived home after work and picking up children. In the fall and winter months, a warm and hearty meal from the crock pot sure hit the spot after enduring brisk weather. Crockpots are great for cooking and keeping food warm on those winter days, but what about summer when a hot day calls for a cool drink or a crisp salad? Your slow cooker can cook up meals that are sure to hit the spot on summer months without you being stuck in the kitchen. Check out these crockpot tips to make summer cooking a little easier:
Barbeque
Summertime is all about cooking on the grill, but if you’re gone most of the day, firing up the grill for a quick meal may not always fit in your evening schedule. Luckily, there are many crockpot recipes that offer that summer barbeque taste without needing a grill. Many of these barbeque-like recipes simply involve marinating the meat in a sauce like mayonnaise, barbeque, or salad dressings.
For example, consider a recipe like Crock Pot Caesar Chicken: simply place four boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the crockpot, and set the crockpot on either high for three hours or low for six hours. After cooking the chicken for either three or six hours in the crockpot, drain the juices from the crockpot, keeping the chicken inside. Pour a bottle of Caesar salad dressing like Just Caesar from hampton creek on top of the chicken. Cover the crockpot and set it on high for 30 minutes. Top off with parmesan cheese and cut it up to serve with a salad or as a chicken salad.
The difference in Hampton Creek salad dressings and sauces is that they are made with minimal artificial additives and free of gluten, dairy, and soy. The company has other sauces like Just Mayo, an eggless mayonnaise, that you can use in other crockpot recipes that call for mayonnaise. Try replacing any crockpot recipe with a sauce or salad dressing from Hampton Creek.
Vegetables
Summer BBQ isn’t complete without a side of vegetables, especially corn on the cob. Corn is often boiled in a pot or cooked on the grill, but you can prepare corn on the cob ahead of time in a slow cooker so you have it ready when you get home.  One version of crockpot corn requires that you prep each ear of corn with garlic butter, pepper, salt, and wrap each ear with a slice of bacon. Place the ears of corn in a crockpot with chicken broth and minced jalapeno pepper. Cook on low for up to four hours.
Soup
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that you can’t eat soup. Soups are often thought of as hearty meals meant to warm you up after a cold day, but there are just as many soups that are light and flavorful, making it a perfect dish to enjoy on a hot summer day. It’s also a fun way to incorporate fresh vegetables from farmer’s markets, which most of the time are held during the warm months. A summer vegetable soup like a summer vegetable pesto soup makes use of summer vegetables like sweet corn, green beans, tomatoes, and more, and tops it off with pesto. You can also add other vegetables like white beans for a different flavor.
Summer break from school doesn’t mean that parents also get a break, but summer crockpot recipes give you a break from the kitchen so you can spend your summer days doing what you want—going to the pool, attending the county fair, relaxing at the beach—without the worry of what you’re going to eat for dinner.

Are We Too Reactive? (Or: “Sometimes Jelly Shoes Rub”)

Spending as much time on Facebook as I do means that I often see storms brewing, posts which go on to become viral and occasionally end up in the MSM (mainstream media). Often, traditional news outlets will scan groups for newsworthy posts and contact the people with offers of media coverage, which is fantastic when its for something like the plight of an unwell child or raising awareness of an issue. However, some of these posts and subsequent articles are getting a little bit ridiculous.

This week, I saw a post which had been shared by quite a few parents, depicting a toddler with a bloody foot who’d apparently sustained an injury from a pair of Next jelly shoes which had caused her to bleed. The picture below was posted along with it and a rant about how other parents should be careful, leading several to comment that they planned to boycott the shop.

toddler bloody foot jelly shoesThis was then, as predicted, picked up by the MSM and printed in several newspapers, one of which being the Daily Mail. In true Fail style, the article talks about how the toddler had HORRIFIC CUTS and a BLOODIED FOOT, and goes on to talk about how she suffered DEEP INCISIONS from the evil shoes. The parents have apparently called on Next to withdraw the shoes and are warning other parents to avoid them like the plague.

I won’t lie, when I first saw this picture, I definitely took a sharp intake of breath, but the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t help think that the whole thing seemed a little bit ridiculous, especially after seeing the following picture, which shows the “horrific cuts” after they were cleaned up:

superficial blisters jelly shoes

So, let me get this straight…

1. You put new shoes on your kid

2. They gave her a blister which is LITERALLY a few millimeters in size

3. Her foot bled and you didn’t notice

4. The blood smooshed around her foot (probably mixed with a little bit of sweat because, you know, RUBBER SHOES)

5. This is tantamount to a DEEP INCISION and the shoes need to be recalled.

Erm…WUT?

I’m just going to say this – this ISN’T on Next. As an adult, I have lost count of the amount of shoes I’ve worn in my life which have given me blisters the first time I’ve worn them. It’s not because of a fault in the shoes or some evil plot to create footwear which will cripple the nation. It’s because sometimes, just sometimes, NEW SHOES RUB.

Seriously, has the world gone mad? Are we so desperate for something to be outraged about that we’ve given up on reason? I’m sure that I would be shocked if I removed a shoe from BB or even Sausage and saw a blood covered foot. But once that gaping wound had been cleaned up and was discovered to be a tiny little rub, I’d take a deep breath, accept the fact that shit like this occasionally happens and move on. I certainly wouldn’t take to social media to urge other parents to boycott a store and I’d feel pretty bloody silly seeing a picture of my “oh so solemn” mug in the newspaper over it.

I won’t even go into the fact that the child apparently TOLD the parents how uncomfortable the shoes were, but was seemingly unable to alert them to the fact that the shoes were slowly sawing her foot off, while they walked along…

I get that warning other parents that the shoes might rub is an okay thing to do; I might even avoid those shoes myself if the information about them rubbing was presented to me before I bought them. That is what you call a PROPORTIONAL RESPONSE.

Taking to the media for your five minutes of fame seems seriously tacky to me…and I guarantee they’re spending the vouchers (which I would BET MONEY Next sent to them for the trouble) with absolute glee. The whole thing just cheapens times when something seriously actually happens and the next time someone has genuine reason to go to the media for something like this, there’s a good chance that people will scoff instead of believing them.

What do you think? Were these parents just doing the right thing by warning other people or was this an absolutely ludicrous reaction to something that happens a million times a day, all over the planet? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear what you think.

Slow Cooker Challenge – Pulled Beef Chilli

Pulled Beef ChilliChilli is one of those dishes which is a bit of an issue in our house. My mother-in-law is from one of the Southern states in America and therefore makes literally the best chilli I’ve ever tasted. She’s shared her recipe with me, but it NEVER tastes as good as when she makes it, so I rarely bother any more as mine is just a pale imitation! However, I’ve been desperate for some sort of chilli dish, which is where this version came from. “Pulled” dishes are a huge hit here, with pulled pork being one of our faves, and it seems to make meat go really far, so a pulled beef chilli seemed like a perfect thing for my experiments this week. Here’s how I made it:

Pulled Beef Chilli

Slow Cooker Challenge - Pulled Beef Chilli
 
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A smoky chilli made with brisket, which is slow cooked before being pulled.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: TexMex
Serves: 12 portions
Ingredients
  • 1.4kg beef brisket (about 3lb)
  • 2 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 400g carton of passata
  • 4-5 slices of pickled jalapenos, chopped
  • 2tbsp chipotle chilli paste
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 500ml beef stock (about a pint)
  • 1 400g can of kidney beans (drained)
  • 2 Tbsp chilli powder
  • 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp coriander (powdered)
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Splash of olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and brown the brisket on all sides.
  2. Place the brisket into the slow cooker
  3. Cook the pepper, onion and garlic in the same pan until the onions just start to brown
  4. One everything is cooked, throw the chipotle paste and chopped jalapenos into the pan and stir through
  5. Put the contents of the pan into the slow cooker, followed by the kidney beans, chopped tomatoes and passata. Stir to combine everything and coat the brisket.
  6. Add the spices and the stock
  7. Stir again and cook on low for 6-8 hours
  8. Remove the cooked brisket from the slow cooker and shred with two forks
  9. Place the shredded meat back into the sauce and stir well to combine
  10. Serve with warm tortillas, guacamole and sour cream

I must admit, along with the dish I have planned for the final meal of this challenge, this was the meal I was MOST looking forward to trying and I’m not gonna lie…I think this was probably the BEST thing I’ve ever cooked in my slow cooker! The meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender and the combination of the sweet tomato and the smoky, spicy chipotle and jalapeños was TO DIE FOR. The flavour was so intense and the amount of spice was still  the right side of pleasurable. I was conscious of making it a dish that the girls could still tolerate and while they’re by NO means a pair of chilli wusses, Husband and I could have stood to have it a smidge spicier, but as it stood, it was still delicious with a bit of a kick.

I must warn you, when paired with tortillas, guacamole and sour cream this is definitely not an elegant dish; only eat this with people you love, who don’t mind seeing you with sauce running down your chin! However, the mess was well worth is and the whole family declared it a success!

Have you made anything in the slow cooker this week? If so, don’t forget to blog about it and link up below!

 

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7 Day Slow Cooker Challenge – Chicken and Chorizo Stew

So, you may or may not have noticed that this post is a day late and there is a very good reason for that.

We had a potato disaster.

As with most of my slow cooker recipes, I research the dish that I want to make and adjust them to our tastes and the fact that my Crock Pot cooks things a little quicker than a conventional slow cooker. All of the recipes for chicken and chorizo stew varied their cooking time between 8 and ten hours on low, so I figured 4 hours on high in my Crock Pot would be plenty. However, after 4 and a half hours on high, the potatoes were still rock hard! In fact, the dish wasn’t actually properly edible until about 9.30pm, by which time we’d declared it a disaster and gone to get fish and chips! The girls needed to eat and of course, all of this weeks shopping was geared toward slow cooked meals, so a takeaway was the only option.

However, once the stew WAS cooked, it was totally delicious. We’ve saved it for dinner today and I’m so glad we did, rather than abandoning it altogether. The chorizo has released its smoky flavour into the dish and broth around the meat and veg was rich and warming. Our first two dishes were things which were made to go with non-slow cooked accompaniments, but this was a true one pot meal, with the protein, carbs and veg all cooked together, which is what the essence of slow cooking is about for me.

Chicken and Chorizo Stew

Here’s how we made it:

Chicken and Chorizo Stew

7 Day Slow Cooker Challenge - Chicken and Chorizo Stew
 
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A slow cooked stew with smoky chorizo and tasty chicken.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Spanish
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 600g chicken breast, cubed
  • One onion, diced
  • 450g potato, peeled and cubed
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 200g chorizo, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or grated
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 30g black olives
Instructions
  1. Place all of the ingredients (apart from the olives) into the slow cooker
  2. Stir well
  3. Cook on high for 6-8 hours (depending on your slow cooker!)
  4. Add olives around 30 minutes before you're ready to serve
  5. Serve with crusty bread and sour cream

I must admit, I often avoid dishes with potato in them as I’ve had a disaster like this before; the one and only time I cooked my lamb stew in my Crock Pot, the potatoes didn’t soften very well and I put it down to the fact that the pot was just too full, so the heat didn’t permeate as well as it could have. This stew was far less voluminous and the potato was the only root veg, so I thought we’d be fine, but alas not! I think the moral of this tale is to always give yourself PLENTY of time for dishes with potato to cook…I’d actually be tempted to put this on at about 8am in future, just to be sure it was completely cooked, but the effort would be worth it as the stew tastes fabulous!

Have you been slow cooking this week? Don’t forget to blog about it and link up below.

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7-Day Slow Cooker Challenge – Macaroni Cheese

Slow Cooker Macaroni CheeseToday is day 2 of our slow cooker challenge and in the slow cooker today we have macaroni cheese! This one is quite a leap of faith for me because not only have I never made macaroni cheese at all, I’ve never even tasted it (other than one mouthful of the stuff you get from a can). We opted for this today as yesterday’s dinner was very rich and meaty, so we wanted to have something which is totally different, and it’s also one of the days when Husband does his longer run, so some carbs will be very welcome! The recipe is super simple:

Slow Cooker Macaroni Cheese

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Mum's the Word 7-Day Slow Cooker Challenge - Macaroni Cheese
 
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A slow-cooked oozy, cheesy pasta dish with bacon, served with garlic bread
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: American
Serves: up to 10
Ingredients
  • 300g grated cheddar
  • 900ml milk
  • 200ml evaporated milk
  • 500g elbow macaroni
  • 1 tub of cream cheese
  • 150g streaky bacon
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
Instructions
  1. Begin by dicing the bacon and browning it lightly in a frying pan
  2. Pat the bacon with some kitchen paper to soak up some of the grease before adding it to the slow cooker
  3. Chuck in everything else, give it a stir and cook on low for 2-3 hours
  4. Serve with garlic bread or a side of your choice

In terms of slow-cooking, this recipe couldn’t be any easier – you could probably even forgo the frying off of the bacon and just chuck in some lardons raw, but I wanted to get rid of some of the fat, and also have that lovely salty flavour of bacon when it’s been browned. The result was an oozy, gooey cheesy delight which the whole family absolutely loved. What’s most impressive is that this dish, which was absolutely huge and could have served a whole other family as well as us, costs around 91p per portion, including the garlic bread, which seems brilliant to me.

Both girls absolutely loved this and I think it’s a meal which would also work really well cooked the day before and eaten cold for lunch, or even at a picnic or barbecue as a really tasty side dish.

Have you tried slow cooker macaroni cheese before? What did you think? Have we inspired you to try it yourself?! Leave me a comment below…or even better, join in with our 7-day challenge and blog your own recipe, then come back and link up below!

 

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7 Day Slow Cooker Challenge – Beef and Guiness Stew

Beef and Guiness StewToday is the first day of my slow cooker challenge, and it was one of those awkward days where I had to be at an appointment in the mid afternoon. This meant that I needed to choose a dish for the day which could be put on around lunchtime and left for at least 6 hours, so I opted for the Beef and Guinness stew. It’s rubbish weather here (we’ve actually had the heating on today!) so coming home to something warm and tasty, bubbling away, was incredibly welcome.

If I’m honest, I don’t know the difference between a casserole and a stew, so this could be either, but I opted for a recipe without veg so that we could choose what to have with it – I’ve served it with red cabbage and mash, but you could choose anything you fancy (or have in the freezer).

Here’s the recipe:

Beef and Guiness Stew
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A tender, slow-cooked beef stew with Guiness and bacon.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Irish
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 900g diced beef
  • 150g streaky bacon
  • 1 onion
  • 3 tbs plain flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bouquet Garni
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 bottle of Guiness (or other stout)
  • Olive oil for cooking
Instructions
  1. Finely chop the onions and fry in a little oil until translucent
  2. Slice the bacon and add to the onions. Fry for 2-3 minutes
  3. Place the onions and bacon the the slow cooker
  4. In a bowl, season the flour with salt and pepper
  5. Toss the diced beef in the seasoned flour
  6. Fry the beef in a little oil in the same pan that you cooked the bacon and onions in until browned
  7. Once browned, add the beef to the slow cookers
  8. Add the stock, Guiness and bouquet garni to the slow cooker
  9. Cook on low for 6-8 hours
  10. Serve with potatoes and veg of your choice

Often I shy away from dishes which require any sort of prep or pre-cooking because I feel like slow cooking should basically just be “chuck it all in”, but I can honestly say that the extra effort was well worth it here. The beef was super tender because it had cooked for so long, but the flavour was incredible because of the initial browning in seasoned flour and the salty morsels of bacon added bursts of savoury flavour to the dish. The stock, herbs, ale and juices from the meat and onions combined to make the most delicious gravy…I had to resist the urge to dip bread in the remaining sauce in the pot!

I also think this dish would freeze really well, so I’d be tempted to make a double portion and freeze half next time I made it. All in all, I’m really pleased with today’s recipe and I’m really glad I kicked off with this as it was just perfect for today!

Don’t forget to blog about what’s in your slow cooker and link up with the linky below.

 

Mum's the Word 7-Day Slow Cooker Challenge
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