Eisberg Non-Alcoholic Wine – Blog Anniversary Giveaway #1

Eisberg Wine Giveaway

Its fair to say our weekends are slightly out of the ordinary – We do not often manage to make nights out but like many others, enjoyed a drink at home on either a Friday or a Saturday. Dermot has to work on Saturdays and now I drive Millie to Leeds (1.5 hour journey) every Saturday for 9.45. This is in addition to being in the pool in Manchester on Sundays at 7am.

You can’t do all that driving (and sitting besides a hot, sticky pool) with a hangover – The legal part of driving under the influence aside, there’s just no way I would survive having a thick head.

Like most women, when I was pregnant I tried all manner of non-alcoholic drinks – They were fine, but just that …nothing special. I was recently sent some Eisberg Non-Alcoholic wines to try and thought I’d give them a go.

The first thing that struck me was they still smell like wine. You get that kick in the back of your throat and not that empty, disappointed feeling. The beauty of Eisberg wines is that they are made in the same way as regular wines, just with the alcohol taken out at the very end of the process. Even better, the fact that they are only 34 calories per glass means that you don’t feel you are consuming too many empty calories either.

wine giveaway competition

As part of my series of giveaways celebrating Casa Costello turning 7, I have the full range of 4 Eisberg Wines to giveaway to one lucky winner.

All you need to do is follow the Rafflecopter instructions below (Don’t forget to leave a comment at the bottom of this post rather than in the Rafflecopter widget) Giveaway closes 11.59pm Wednesday 1st April 2015. Sorry UK entries only.

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Eisbery Non-Alocholic wine giveaway

We're going on an adventure

Vegetarian Spring Rolls – #JLCook

vegetarian spring rolls main

I’m a big lover of Chinese Food but don’t often get round to making it from scratch. My ultimate in a lazy night is a Hot & Sour Soup with a portion of prawn crackers to dip in. Can’t say I’m not classy! To become more proficient at cooking chinese dishes is definitely on my list for this year though. When I was asked by John Lewis, to have a go at their Vegetarian Spring Rolls as featured in their quarterly food mag, COOK, I though ‘Here’s my chance’.

COOK magazine is a free quarterly food magazine, packed full of seasonal recipes, handy cooking tips all with the signature John Lewis feel. The recipe for Vegetarian Spring Rolls is one of TV Chef & Food Writer, Ching He Huang’s. There is a video to support anyone attempting Chinese cooking at JohnLewis.com/chinesevideo

chinese ingredients
So how did we get on? I decided to follow my own rules and prepare all the ingredients before I started cooking – I’m so glad I did. I felt much more in control especially as the initial cooking of the veg only takes such a short time.

We are not exactly exotic in St Helens but managed to get all of the set ingredients except for Cavolo Nero – We used Curly Kale instead and it was just fine.

filo pastry spring rolls
The recipe gives a choice of Spring Roll Wrappers or Filo Pastry – We chose the Filo Pastry as it meant we could bake the spring rolls in the oven and cut down on the frying. TIP: Only use 2 sheets of Filo at a time, wrap the rest straight up as it dries out REALLY quickly.

filling spring rolls #JLCook

The end product seems really authentic, which we liked. Good strong flavours – I may cut down a tiny bit on the amount of five spice powder but only because we are not used to using so much. I couldn’t quite get the 12 spring rolls that we were supposed to out of the recipe but it was so easy to follow and all made sense that I would quickly be able to make some more filling.

I have fallen in love with my Julienne Peeler which we were sent for preparing the carrots – I have a feeling lots of recipes are going to feature Julienne veg from now on.(Julienne cakes anyone?) Disclosure: We were asked by John Lewis to try out the Vegetarian Spring Rolls recipe and compensated for our time. All views are my own.

making vegetarian spring rolls #JLCook

If you have popped over to see #FoodieFriday then hello – I have extended the link for another week and will be back with a full round up next Friday – Feel free to add your foodie posts below:

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Money Apps – Saving with L&G

piggy bank
Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A bit of a different post from me today – I can’t say I’m exactly known for my organisation with money. My first ever wage packet saw me buying a fantastic selection of shoes and bags. Thankfully, I have grown up somewhat since then. I’m in the very lucky position that Dermot handles most of the money (not in a 1950’s housewife way, where I’m not allowed to know what’s going on) Just in the way that he is very interested and likes to know what is coming in and going out.

Internet banking was a bit of a revelation to us in the past few years – I even pottered on the Halifax banking from time to time. L & G asked me if I would have a nosy around some money apps and feed back on any that I found useful. So that is what I’ve been doing for the past month. Legal & General (L & G) are trying to promote the use of which ever apps suit the individual best to help us save during 2015.

I will admit that I put off the initial search, if you are not ‘into’ money, its hard to make a start. Once I started looking around for apps though, I became fascinated.

One thing I was certain of though, is that whatever apps I looked at needed to be free – I could almost hear Martin Lewis clapping!

spending tracker app

I’m not sure that I have the time or organisation to completely go over to a financial app for all of our household expenses but for a large project like a holiday or extension, I’m enjoying the Spending Tracker app. Rated 4.5 stars by over 300 users, I felt safe inputting our figures.

Being such a novice though, I had visions of having to put all our bank details in … you don’t! For the more visual user, there are pretty pie charts to measure what you have spent your income on. Scary to see what exactly our money is spent on … In case you were wondering, our is swimming pools!

january spending tracker 2015

I’m part of a couple of committees through Synchro and our WI – We have been really lucky to have accountants filling the role of treasurer. I’d say that if a professional financial whizz didn’t take these roles, then an app like

The other app that I’m forming a slight addiction to is My Supermarket – At first I liked the novelty of seeing how much certain items were in whichever supermarket I was using. The comparison between all the major supermarkets prices is addictive though – There’s so much can be learnt about what items are consistently cheaper in certain shops. I like this app so much that I have transferred it to my phone for easy access.

I do think there is a slight danger though that when you look through the offers, you might be tempted just to buy because they are cheaper than normal – A good old fashioned marketing technique but an easy trap to fall into.

my supermarket app

Disclosure: I was asked by L & G to try out apps of my choice regarding money management. I was compensated for my time but given free editorial reign. More information on how L & G think we can benefit from using finance apps can be found here

Scrambled Eggs with Style

scrambled egg recipes

I’ve discovered its nigh on impossible to make a photo of scrambled eggs look pretty, so lets concentrate on the taste, hey? I wasn’t an egg eater until I was a mum – There is no easier meal to give your toddler for lunch than scrambled eggs. In the early days of parenthood, I wasn’t capable of making separate meals for me, so quickly gave into scrambled eggs. It was such a revelation that the girls devoured eggs – They love being able to ‘help’ make them by whisking and adding the milk too.

Of course, I couldn’t stick to just plain eggs and have spent many years fiddling about with various combinations. When Happy Eggs challenged me to share how I eat my Scrambled Eggs, I had no trouble finding a recipe.

My ultimate favourite is Soy Scrambled Eggs with plenty of veg and a bit of a kick of chilli – My girls have always tended to err on the side of plain eggs but Tara is definitely one for the strong tastes and loves this meal.

Super Spicy Soy Scrambled Eggs
Serves 2 (1 adult & 1 child)
4 Eggs
50ml Milk
Knob of butter
1/4 small onion or 1 spring onion
1/2 red pepper
4 chestnut mushrooms
Sprinkling of chilli flakes (optional)
2 tbsp soy sauce

Directions:
I soften the onions, mushrooms and peppers first in the frying pan with a splash of water (which will evaporate).
Remove from the pan when softened then add the butter.
Pour in the eggs and keep moving around with a rubber spatula.
Season with salt & pepper in the pan.
Just before the eggs are done, re-add the veg and mix through.
Add the chilli flakes and stir through.
Serve in a large bowl and add the soy sauce.

Alternatives to Soy Sauce …
I also enjoy other sauces instead – Have you tried Sweet Chilli Sauce? Sweet & Sour?

The secret to scrambled eggs is to whisk, whisk and then whisk again – I like my scrambled eggs dry and fluffy – Cannot stand wet juice at the bottom – particularly as you will have it mixed in with soy sauce. Eew!

Disclosure: I was sent vouchers to compensate any expense whilst preparing this recipe – I am entering my recipe as part of the #happyeggtastemakers . The choice of recipe was entirely mine.

Warburtons Sandwich Thins Challenge

warburtons sandwich challenge

I was one of life’s revelations to me, when I grew up, that sandwiches didn’t have to be boring – They didn’t have to be on white bread and definitely didn’t have to have butter on them. I wasn’t the most adventurous with my sandwiches as a child – I think my record was taking plain ham sandwiches to school for 5 years!

I had discovered Warburtons Sandwich Thins long before I was asked to take part in the sandwich challenge. I’m not overly fond of doughy bread so the slimline bread is just perfect for me. I like that they come in neat squares (or diamonds depending on how you look at them) and even better for the lazy cook in me, that they are pre sliced.

My challenge was to come up with 3 different ways of using Sandwich Thins – All of these feature regularly in our house. We have got into the habit of enjoying Hot Sandwiches, especially the Pizza Sandwich, which is perfect for those long journeys to training in Manchester.

Chicken Basil Toasted Sandwich Thins

Chicken Tomato Basil Cooked SAndwich

Ingredients:
Portion of cooked chicken – I flashed fried mine just before assembling the sandwich and pulled it to make it flaky but pre-cooked is just as nice.
6 Basil Leaves
1/2 tomato per sandwich – no seeds
Sprinkling of grated Mozzarella

Cook in a dry frying pan until the middle is hot and the cheese has melted causing both bread parts to stick together – Eat immediately whilst hot!

cooked sandwiches

The Pizza Sandwich

Pizza Sandwich

Ingredients
Passata/Pizza Topping Sauce
Red Pepper – Chopped Finely
Onion – Chopped Finely
Mushroom – Chopped into very thin slices
Grated Mozzarella

Spread the passata over each side of the Sandwich Thin and place one (sauce side up) in a dry frying pan. Add a sprinkling of each of the peppers/onion/mushroom and finish with some grated cheese.
Add the top of the Sandwich Thin and heat through for 3-4 minutes – Push down with a fish slice so all the components stick together – Turn over for another 1-2 minutes so the top of the sandwich goes crispy too.

Posh Ham Sandwich with Honey & Maple Dressing
posh ham sandwich with honey & maple dressing & walnuts

If you must put butter on your bread, feel free to do so but why not live a little and try without?

I’ll start off by telling you how to make a small amount of the Honey & Maple Syrup Dressing – I bet before long you are doubling the recipe though!

To make the dressing:
2 Tablespoons Honey
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup

Heat in a small pan, stirring continuously until it starts to boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes then spoon over a Sandwich Thin filled with plenty of smoked ham – It will start to thicken (If you leave it too long, it will go almost solid so you need to reheat to liquidise again).
Finish off with a sprinkling of chopped walnuts.

Some more info about Warburtons and Sandwich Thins …

Warburtons have started off their Sandwich Challenge as part of the food trend that is set to take 2015 by storm – Creative Sandwiches are projected to be the next big thing as people want more exciting and versatile fillings – Warburtons are the first to market Sandwich Thins – They have 135 years experience in the Baking sector and are the second biggest grocery brand in the UK.

Warburtons Sandwich Thins are 420 KJ/100 Kcal per thin and available in 4 varieties: White, Brown, Seeded and Half & Half.

Disclosure: I was sent samples of Sandwich Thins for the purpose of this challenge and received payment for any ingredients purchased. All opinions are my own and I had free copy what to include in this post.

Italian Basil Chicken with Black Rice: UFUUD Review

italian basil chicken with black rice

Last month I was asked if I would like to test out the Italain Foodie website, Ufuud. Ufuud specialise in distributing high end Italian products all over the EU, directly where they have been produced.

I have a bit of a love affair with true Italian cuisine. One of my best friends at secondary school was Italian – sleepovers at her house were always the best, the breakfasts were incredible! I’ve never actually managed to visit Italy (yet!) but eating traditional Italian produce is, I’m sure, the next best thing.

So off I pottered to the website, very easy to use – I could feel the quality of the produce. The range of Italian food varies from cooked meats to sauces to amazing cheeses to specialist biscuits. Over the past month, the selection has changed regularly, I’m presuming this is as stock sells out and new producers are found. Just because Ufuud might not have what you are looking for one day, doesn’t mean it won’t be there the next.

I opted to order a range of products – I wanted to test out the chilled goods as I was intrigued how it would be delivered at temperature (Our pancetta arrived in perfect, chilled condition in polystyrene).

I loved the more unusual selection at UFUUD. I’m such a marketer’s dream, opting for the black rice.

black rice

You can even order alcohol, so not to be rude, we ordered a traditional blond Italian beer.

Most of the ingredients do come with some English description on them and some even have some English cooking directions. Our pancetta didn’t appear to have a use by date on it (When you order, the site tells you approx how long your item is in date for – By the time we used it, the pancetta had disappeared from the site)

I’ve saved the best for last though … when you are shopping on site, in the bottom right corner pops up your very own advice service – If you log into the English version of the site, they speak excellent English. This is such a brilliant service, I struggled a little when completing my order (My fault, not Ufuud) and my advisor was so patient. Its worth ordering something just to experience it!

To test out the ingredients, I made Italian Basil Chicken, served with the infamous black rice (Which was super tasty seasoned with some of the fat from the pancetta but don’t tell my arteries!)

italian basil chicken recipe

 

Italian Basil Chicken served with seasoned Black Rice

Serves 3-4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 50 minutes
Total time 1 hour
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Child Friendly, Gourmet, Serve Hot
A thoroughly tasty dish, succulent chicken with a delicious basil tomato sauce served on a bed of black seasoned rice

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Chicken Thighs (Oven cooked for 30 mins in foil)
  • 1 Small Onion (Chopped finely)
  • 1 Yellow Pepper (Chopped into small cubes)
  • 3 tablespoons Basil Chicken Passata (Or 1 tin tomatos, 6 basil leaves finely chopped, 1 tbsp tomato puree, black pepper)
  • 1 clove Garlic (Chopped finely)
  • 100g Pancetta (Chopped into small cubes)

Directions

Black Rice
I cooked the black rice according to the instructions on the box - Soak in water and cook for 35 minutes in a large pan. Drain the pan, then cool and place in the fridge until needed - Can be in fridge for up to 24 hours
Italian Chicken
Pan fry the pancetta until the fat is reduced. Remove from the pan and remove half of the remaining fat (You will stir the rice through this just before serving)
In the remaining far, cook the chopped onion until soft and transparent
Add the peppers and continue to cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Add the chicken and the passata (See ingredients list for alternative if not using bought passata). Return the pancetta to the pan and cook until all ingredients are combined and hot all the way through.
Serve on black rice if you have it and add extra tomato basil sauce on top of the chicken.

basil chicken recipe

Disclosure: I was not charged for any items that I ordered from Ufuud. I have given an honest review of the service – I really enjoyed the experience and the quality of the products was top class.

home italian food ordering service

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NibNibs Snack Review & Giveaway

nib nibs cheese snacks giveaway

I always think at this time of year, you want your snacks to be really tasty. There doesn’t seem to be the same excuse for leisurely feeding your face … even though it is a strictly diet free zone here!

Over Christmas I was sent a selection of Nib Nibs Cheese snacks – Billed as being From Yorkshire With Love they are a selection of both full size and mini cheese straw nibbles.

I’m not a massive cheese lover but even I enjoyed the Mini Cheese & Chilli Nibbles – Not too hard to eat but with a satisfying crunch. The rest of the Costellos have enjoyed nibbling their way through the range with our compulsory Onion & Garlic Dip. The snack pots are really handy for taking out and about.

Available in 4 flavours Cheddar Cheese, Cheddar & Spicy Chilli and Cheddar & Cheeky Onion, Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper flavours – Nib Nibs are ‘Premium baked British Nibbles for the most discerning connoisseur’ produced in North Yorkshire. I love supporting up & coming, local producers – One of my intentions this year is to find and use more food producers with something a little different.

I am offering one lucky reader the chance to win a selection of Nib Nibs products by entering this simple compeition – Please follow the Rafflecopter instructions below. The competition closes on Wednesday 28th January – Sorry UK entries only.

The winner will be notified as soon as possible after the random draw has been made and Nib Nibs will be responsible for sending out your prize once a postal address has been supplied.

Best of luck everyone! Happy nibbling x

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The Costellos visit Winter Wonderland at Event City, Trafford Centre

winter wonderland event city trafford centre

Its been rather quiet around here over Christmas but we are still alive – Just! All those plans for the Christmas break slowly unravelled as one by one we dropped to a virus (Is that the most annoying word in the dictionary?). I am just beginning week 3 which has seen several bed ridden days due to proper grown up ‘flu’ but am so happy to be coming out the other side.

Before the doom struck us, we did manage quite a few Christmassy events though, one of which was a visit to Winter Wonderland at Event City, Trafford Centre. I had seen adverts for Winter Wonderland but wasn’t sure exactly what it is. It truly is a wonderland though, the Uk’s largest Indoor Winter Wonderland – an indoor entertainment centre with a real life circus, a proper indoor fairground (with rides suitable for adults and children) AND the REAL Sooty show!!

If you are still in the mood for Christmas and a good day out but don’t want to brave the cold, I’d highly recommend the Winter Wonderland. So nice to visit a fairground that feels clean – We had no queues due it being a Monday evening but the organisers are very clever and arrange 2 sessions per day to try to stop everyone visiting at once.

sooty show winter wonderland

The Sooty show was wonderful – We haven’t managed to visit the whole show yet so this was a really good taste whether Tara would enjoy it. She loved it! In fact, she’s still talking about it 2 weeks later. There was everything that the full show has – lots of audience participation, a chance to sit at the front and water being squirted … and of course the lovely Sue.

meeting olaf, elsa & anna frozen

There was also a singing corner with the cast of Frozen – Amazing to see how so many kiddies were entranced – and rather sad to see how many grown men feel the need to get as close to the front as possible. Great organisation by the promoters ensured that every child got to meet the characters for a photo opportunity though. Tara is still a little unsure of Olaf as she said his mouth was open and he wanted to eat her. Brave snowman!

indoor fairground

The girls went on so many rides – they lost count and had a brilliant time. Tara even found herself on a ride on her own – A bit of a hairy moment for Mum & Dad, we really thought she would change her mind half way though but she loved it.

Our first ride that we went on was right near the entrance – It was slightly deceiving that all ages could go on it. I thought it would be rather tame but oh no! Super speedy and such good fun! We all loved it.

circus winter wonderland

The circus was incredible (apart from the juggler who kept dropping her rings!) – I could see Derm rolling his eyes as the Strong Men came on but even he had to admit they were ‘WoW’ Just fab.

Winter Wonderland at Event City is Open until this Sunday 4th January 2015 – Family tickets (2 adults, 2 children) are £60. For more details visit the website

Disclosure: We were given free entry in exchange for a review. We could write an honest review.

Littlest Pet Shop Kingdom Reviews

hasbro littlest pet shop toy review

Littlest Pet Shop toys came into our lives a couple of years ago with our eldest, Millie. A gift from her Auntie at Christmas, it was played with but never one of the massive favourites. I was asked a couple of weeks ago if my girls would be interested in trying out a new selection from the Littlest Pet Shop range. I have to say they have come a long way in those 2 years – I believe toys need a period of time to settle in, to see if they really are a winner, but so far they are doing quite well.

We were sent Blythe’s Bedroom and the Spa Style Scene along with a selection of figures and accessories. The bedroom alone contains at least 95 tiny pieces for personalising the look of your set. RRP £29.99 Age 6+.
The Spa Scene is RRP £14.99 and 6+.

assembly littlest pet shop

Violet (age 8) needed some assistance with the setting up of the Bedroom as there is quite a lot of assembly. This will depend on the individual child, how easy they find it. If you have a Lego lover, like my Millie then they will LOVE this bit. I loved the neatness of everything having a place and a slot to go in. There was scope for imagination though – Children can decide where to put the many tiny flowers that decorate inside and outside of the bedroom. There are also plenty of stickers so their imagination can go wild.

tara littlest pet shop review

While the ‘rooms’ were being set up, Tara busied herself by playing with the individual characters – I was amazed by how long they kept her interest. Who knew that putting earrings on and off a toy dog could keep a 3yo occupied for so long?! Obviously, I had to keep an eye on her as the pieces were absolutely tiny and she is only 3 but she loved it.

characters littlest pet shop

Being a bit of a tidy freak (when I get chance), I loved that the toys interlock – We put the Spa Scene directly on top of Blythe’s Bedroom.

What we liked:
* I liked Violet’s sense of achievement when she grasped the instructions about how to assemble the toy – She was slightly frustrated at first until she ‘got it’.
* The amount of decorations to design the bedroom how Violet wanted it.
* The quality of the toy – The connections seem really secure, the walls are not too flimsy either.

Time will tell how much the girls play with these sets – Tara has been found a few times having a play and Violet enjoyed telling her Dad how everything went together and what bits are for what.

opening our littlest pet shop Violet was rather pleased with her parcel – Ignore the 12yo to the side. She is obviously thrilled (in a 12 year old way!)

Disclosure: Sponsored Post – All opinions are my own (and Violet’s!)

The Snowman & Snowdog Grotto – Trafford Centre

snowman snowdog trafford centre

There’s something very magical about going to see Santa with your children. This is my 12th Christmas as a Mum and each year, we try to visit a different grotto. I’m not sure Santa recognises us at each event – I suspect that it might not ALWAYS be the ‘real’ Father Christmas ;-)

We were lucky enough to be invited to The Snowman and Snowdog Grotto in Barton Square, Trafford Centre last Sunday so off we trooped. I need to apologise at this point for the less than brilliant photos – We forgot the big camera, something to do with us having to set out at 7am to go to synchro training first.

santa's grotto trafford centre

You arrive at The Snowman Grotto to be met by one of the Elves (at least I think they were elves). Our slot was 12pm but there were a lot of other families milling about trying to book in (You book in at the main Trafford Centre Customer Service desk). The Elves were so patient and friendly – it would have driven me potty having to explain that they were fully booked until 4.30pm to so many people. An A frame board explaining which slot was next and how to register would have saved them so much hassle.

trafford centre elves

About 10 minutes before your time, you go in and queue inside – Another Elf welcomes you and gets the children all excited about Christmas – At this point you are given a gift of some Reindeer food for Christmas Eve (Anyone else got more reindeer food than real food in their house at the moment?).

Inside the grotto is a living room where an actor creates the atmosphere, telling the story of the Snowman and Snowdog with the aid of a massive video screen. Children sit on the floor and adults on benches. The younger kids were enthralled and its not too long (about 10-15 mins) for anyone who feels a little bit old (Your 12 year old for example!)

santa trafford centre

I thought this was going to be it but then the magic continues with a visit to Santa – At this point my children decide to ask for a real life monkey and 2 hamsters – Has anyone else heard that Santa isn’t doing livestock this year?! Santa was lovely and his room is great – complete with yet another friendly Elf!

You can have your picture taken with Santa and then go to choose your print if you like it.

santa's living room

After the Grotto experience, the fun can continue with a ride on the traditional carousel and plenty of other little stalls – Kangaroo Burger anyone?

To finish the afternoon, we tucked into a huge Cadwalladers’ Ice-Cream Sundae and a huge Mocha! The experience was so much better than we thought it was going to be – Our girls were really pleased with their gifts from Santa (who incidentally agreed with me that perhaps a real life monkey might not be possible this year but a cuddly one might be better still!)

carousel trafford centre