IKEA ‘Be brave, not Beige’

The looming clouds above the IKEA chimneys reflected the mood of most shoppers inside!

The looming clouds above the IKEA chimneys reflected the mood of most shoppers inside!

If you’re crazy enough (like we were this weekend) to enter the manic world of off-the-shelf & mass-produced Swedish Design, in my book that counts as brave! When our house was but a mere shell, & more welcoming to the builders than any other civilisation (apart from the gigantic spider that refused to stay in the garden). This place became our regular late night haunt. Don’t say we didn’t know how to live! You would have found us there at least once a week pacing the self service isles, hunting down that one last component needed to complete a whole (as opposed to half) piece of furniture. Which for some reason & still remains unanswered to me, seems to be located in a black hole?

This was of course before little Bear entered our world, & trips to Ikea now have to be arranged around a time that lord snotface finds convenient.

On this occasion, it happened to be on a Saturday afternoon. Bad luck to us. It was heaving! Alas, the joke is on you, God’s of Saturday shopping! & You can’t scare me Ikea! For I (like a superhero), have the ability to recall your store layout! Ha! No dilly-dallying, and meandering through the winding walk paths. Nope, nadda this old carry on. Straight to the kids department, using the short cut. Grabbing the items I had pre assigned to our shopping list in my ‘memory bank’, whilst at the same time swerving like a rally driver to avoid an unprecedented amount of trolleys’. I think my shop was complete within 10 minutes (does that mean I should add ‘professional shopper’ to my CV?).

Inspiration for my budding Artiste!

Inspiration for my budding Artiste!

Like nearly all little boys, mine is obsessed with cars/ trains/ tractors. Car mat is a must. & he's in to 'snap snaps' in a BIG way...

Like nearly all little boys, mine is obsessed with cars/ trains/ tractors. Car mat is a must. & he’s in to ‘snap snaps’ in a BIG way…

But whoa there, wait a minute! I got a little ahead of myself, and it slipped my mind about the small detail of having to queue to pay for said items. Big mistake. The scene awaiting us as we approached the till area can be described best as a massive swarm of wasps. & I don’t like wasps. So how was this for a bit of ‘off the cuff’ ingenious thinking (in my humble opinion)? With Bear acting up, I took the executive decision that I could best entertain him and divert his attention by heading off on a walking adventure, whilst M stayed to wait out the marathon queue & pay (he he he)!

Shelf searching, manic queuing & crowds aside, you’ve gotta love a bit of Ikea. Our home reads like a page out of one of their catalogues. I’d say 80% of our purchases from there are decent quality & reasonably priced goods, which are great value for money. Bear’s nursery is kitted out head to toe in Ikea & it’s had dozens of compliments (even from friends who have spent a small fortune on their own bubba’s nursery). & Quite honestly, babies/ toddlers/ children are an expensive hobby, so where you can save a couple of ££’s without having to compromise on style, safety & quality it seems frivolous to me not to take advantage & ‘be Swedish’ as they say!

Lord of the manor's boudoir

Lord of the manor’s boudoir

The range that we have-looks tons more expensive than it is.

The range that we have-looks tons more expensive than it is.

A wise word or warning: the market hall. This welcoming area is sure to capture your imagination & convince you that just must have that candle, or glass vase. Don’t be sucked in, stay strong and don’t deviate from your list! Unless of course that’s what you’re there for (after all, we made all or wedding center pieces using ikea glass wear & candles).

As long as you enter the store fully prepared for a bit of chaos, & the idea of self-assembly isn’t too intimidating, Ikea needn’t be scary! Now, if I could just fine where I left that allen key…….

 

 

 

 

 

Leon: Gluten Free Restaurant Hero

The bright lights of leon

The bright lights of leon

I just want to feel ‘normal’. What is normal? I’m not too sure. But when I go out to eat at a restaurant it can be a nightmare trying to unravel if a dish has gluten in it. Although my friends & family are more than supportive, I can’t help but feel like it’s a bit of a drag for them also. Asking the waiter/ess about a dish, going back and forth to the ‘kitchen’ to ask the chef. Choosing something else & the same scenario being repeated until you can actually find a dish that is suitable. It doesn‚Äôt help when you have waiting staff that has a ‘I-would-rather-be-elsewhere’ attitude to boot, who don’t understand the implications of your dietary requirement & that sending them on countless visits to the kitchen isn’t your way of making them work for that tip.¬†Nay, I have a medical condition.

Anywho (little rant out of the way!) you can imagine then, when you find a place which¬†has a very clear menu with tons of dishes marked as ‘gluten free’ you can feel rather elated at your discovery! To top it off, these are tantalizingly tasty meals & pretty healthy. You feel like you’ve hit the jackpot! No more worrying & fussing over a menu, easy ordering & a lovely filled belly at the end. I’m a true believer in spreading the word about these gems, & my ‘Gluten Free restaurant Hero’ is without a shadow of a doubt Leon. LEON people!! It’s awesome.

The company itself seems pretty darn cool…. I love folks who are, as I call them ‘a purple cow’ Different and unique: not trying to reinvent the wheel, just reshaping it to create improvements¬†.

Well done Leon, you rock!!

Leon. mmm. Wrap (not GF!) but a hearty salad that is!

Leon. mmm. Wrap (not GF!) but a hearty salad that is!

My chargrilled chicken salad. With rice.

My chargrilled chicken salad. With rice.

Lovely Leon Meatballs

Lovely Leon Meatballs

Chorizo sausage, salad & rice. Awesome combination!

Chorizo sausage, salad & rice. Amazing combination!

I will add, that it does appear restaurants in general are slowly taking note. I’ve seen more are now displaying a ‘gluten free’ section on the menu’s (even if it is only a handful of dishes). As the saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, so it’s a good place to start. My other argument is, if a restaurant can offer the same dish but as gluten free, by substituting a couple of components: why am I being charged extra? (happily, you won‚Äôt find this the case at Leon) That’s pretty unfair if you ask me. What gets my goat the most though, is those whom cop out totally by saying ‘all of our dishes may contain nuts or gluten’. This is just lazy. Lazy I say!

Note to all food establishments: Take heed of Leon, they’re onto something mighty fine.

Leon, You are my gluten free, go to, restaurant heroes: & I salute you!

Mmmm, anyone for Leon tonight?!

 

We're going on an adventure

Chinese New Year….London 2014 Year of the Horse

 

 

Sweet dreams are made of these
I love The Chinese New year celebrations. Having spent my childhood growing up in South East Asia, the memories that are evoked by this colourful celebration are a pure joy to me. The loud steel drums, the noise of fire crackers, dancing dragons and spinning Lions all produce a grin on my face comparable to that of a cheshire cat! Oh, & if anyone is generous enough to present a red envelope that’s a wonderful treat! I remember that if we were lucky enough to be travelling through Singapore around the same time as the festivities, it was an absolute delight. ¬†That being said, the London CNY celebrations are apparently the biggest outside of Asia.

Chinese new year. London parade 2014

Chinese new year. London parade 2014

Since my little bear was born, I’ve yearned to attend the London parade & share with him this cultural delight. It’s taken us 2 years to get there! In the past we’d been plagued with bad weather. & quite frankly we’ve had to prepare ourselves for a London excursion with our mini explorer. ¬†He’s like a Duracell bunny. Non stop. Like he has ants in his pants. & trying to time the trip around his much needed nap (which if he misses out on trust me, you ought to run for the hills before all hell breaks loose!), it just all seemed too much hassle. Not this year! We took the plunge & boy I’m glad we did. With London basking in some overdue winter sunshine, it was beautiful (all be it very fresh!).

St. martin in the fields basking in the morning sunshine. The parade started from here

St. martin in the fields basking in the morning sunshine. The parade started from here.

I can safely say that my boy bear is now wholeheartedly obsessed with Trains & I think I may have found his kryptonite. He actually sat still for the entire journey! In total awe. Amazing. As for the parade? Well, he had far more important things to investigate. Charging up & down St. Martin’s Place & checking out the church. He was however very happy to see a super sized rubber duck in the parade!

A rubber duck in the Chinese new year London parade?

A rubber duck in the Chinese new year London parade? Far left in this pic are ma’boys- Daddy bear in a yellow jacket & boy bear up on his sholders for a good view!

Chinese New Year is one of China’s oldest festivals chock-full of ancient traditions & interesting history. & one that I find fascinating to expand my knowledge of. For a couple of minutes on Sunday I felt as though if I shut my eyes, I had returned to the balmy climes of South East Asia.¬†Don’t get me wrong the¬†London parade can’t compare to the celebrations over in Asia, but until the day when I can return there & celebrate in style, it was a reasonable substitute & I would happily visit again.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Oh & yes. I attempted some gluten free Chinese food. Tasted good-looked awful! I tried sesame prawn toast. I used genius bread, & made a paste out of:

  • prawns
  • kikkoman tamari soy sauce (GF)
  • olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • & a small piece of ginger

I mixed this all in a blender & then spread the paste onto the bread, covered the pasted area in sesame seeds & then fried in a pan with some olive oil. I think next time I will oven cook them, for 20 mins or so to make them more crispy. Please forgive the picture it’s a terrible quality & not very pretty prawn toast!

Gluten free sesame prawn toast

Gluten free sesame prawn toast. Yummy!

With these, we had Cook GF Thai red chicken Curry & Szechuan Chicken, & some jasmine rice. A satisfying Gluten free Chinese Meal.

May the Horse bring you good fortune for 2014!

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free Christmas Dinner….recreated for January

If you had asked me ten years ago about all the gluten free products available, I’d have said ‘avoid them like the plague!’. They were rotten, bland tasting pieces of what can only be described as cardboard. For those of us, who for medical reasons have to follow a gluten free diet it was one thing. But you most certainly, unequivocally, would not have endorsed these products to friends on a ‘normal’ diet (i use the term ‘normal’ very loosely!). By golly, how thing have changed! So much so, that I introduced some dear friends of ours into my world of a Gluten free Christmas dinner this weekend…..

Despite the Yorkshire puss looking incredibly sorry for themselves, & my lack of photography skills-this is Super tasty!

Despite the Yorkshire puds looking incredibly sorry for themselves, & my lack of photography skills-this is Super tasty!

I can hear your thoughts….’ Christmas Dinner? It’s January?!’. That’s right, Christmas Dinner- recreated in January. So let me explain the reasoning behind this & you’ll see I’m not totally bonkers. (1) Being the busy mummy that I am, when I made Christmas dinner back in December, ¬†I totally forgot to take pictures and share all my secrets with you (2) My lovely gal pal ‘K’ had a reasonably unpleasant Festive period. So we thought ‘Hey, lets recreate Christmas one day in January?!’¬†Furthermore, ‘Christmas Dinner’ sounds heaps more glamorous than ‘Sunday dinner’.

So Christmas music playing, novelty place mats set, mini christmas tree out & crackers ready to pull? Lets jump in! Here is a list of the yummy gluten free products that I used & also have the seal of approval from non Coeliac’s alike!

  • HECK¬†Sausages.
  • MrsCrimbles¬†¬†sage & onion stuffing mix
  • Kallo Gravy granules.
  • Isabel’s Yorkshire pudding mix- 160ml milk & 2 eggs to add.
  • COOK¬†¬†Goose Fat roast potatoes, Parmesan parsnips & Heritage carrots.
  • Pancetta or Streaky bacon (for pigs in blankets)
  • Smoked Ham joint
  • Vegetables
Bloomin' HECK..these guys know how to make a good sausage!

Bloomin’ HECK..these guys know how to make a good sausage!¬†

Part of my ‘mummy mission’ is to find time saving ideas & be that as it may, for ‘pigs in blankets’ there really isn’t any alternative other than to get those hands dirty! So i got stuck in the night before. I Simply cut the sausages in half & wrapped them in pancetta/ streaky bacon. HECK do a fantastic range of GF sausages & you can use any of them for this. (Whilst on the subject of HECK, they’ve recently introduced a range of Chicken sausages: we’ve put these to the test & they are delicious). Once you’ve wrapped the little piglets in their blankeys-cover them over & return them to the fridge. When it comes to cooking these I did them at gas mark 5/6 for approx 90 mins, so they can be nice ‘n’ crispy. HECK are very reasonably priced, I get mine from that big ‘T’ supermarket for ¬£2.98 per pack. I’ve tasted plenty of GF sausages & HECK are my winners.

Cook- goose fat pots, heritage carrots & parmesan parsnips

 

I mentioned my need for finding convenient products…. god bless COOK! This company have recently had a huge expansion & I’m sure it won’t be long until you see a shop near you (i feel like my secret is out there now!). I’ve been using this company since a shop popped up near me in Petts Wood-around 10 years ago. They carry an awesome gluten free range, their products are ‘homemade’ & frozen so no worrying about sell by dates! If you’re anything like me, you’ll buy food that sits in your fridge & by the time you get to use it, a funny coloured fur has grown around the outside (eewww!)! They also sell some other great dishes straight from frozen to the oven-offering such convenience that we all desire now & then. Back to the roast….. SO i used COOK goose fat roast potatoes, Parmesan parsnips & Heritage carrots. I cooked these for longer than the suggested time, approx 40 mins/ gas mark 5 so that they had a lovely crisp to them. COOK aren’t cheap, but as long as you’re not eating 3 of their meals per day, 7 days a week I don’t think the bank manager will be on your case!

'Northern boys love gravy' (i quote my husband, who himself is quoting 'soccer am'!)

‘Northern boys love gravy’ (i quote my husband, who himself is quoting ‘soccer am’!)

For the Gravy I used KALLO- easy peasy & yummy. I followed instructions exactly (KALLO also do GF stock cubes, that are very good). The Yorkshire Puddings were ISABEL’S, I mixed these in a blender & oh me, oh my did the rise in the oven. Sadly, they deflated into what looked like pancakes once they were removed despite all my efforts of trickery! (I have had more success with these staying fluffy in the past-it must have just been one of those days!) But they tasted great all the same. For the stuffing i used MRS CRIMBLES & I followed the mixing instructions ,rolled them into balls & cooked them for 40 mins/ gas mark 5 which was 20 mins more than they suggest.

Yorkshire Puds

 

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

I chose to cook a smoked ham joint, because we aren’t massive turkey lovers. This had been cooking merrily all morning & so into the oven all the other ingredients went. I just had to take a pic of my yorkshire puds-look at the size of these bad boys….

Rise baby rise!

Pls Excuse the very bad quality of picture & my reflection!!

I cooked some greens & made the gravy whilst this was all finishing up. & as the saying goes…bob’s your uncle….

dinner served

Dinner is served! Even the my little Bear tucked in with us (that would be his drink you can see by the crackers!)

A very well received Gluten Free christmas meal. In January. But what christmas hoos-a-nanny would be complete without the (a) cheesy cracker jokes.. My favourite: What christmas carol does every parent like best? A: Silent Night 

& (b) Present time?! To be fair, it was K’s Birthday the following day-but any excuse for a present is a worthy cause if you ask me!

Daisy London Friendship Bracelets.

Daisy London Friendship Bracelets.

Ooooh look at our pretty friendship bracelets! I’m officially in love with Daisy London¬†& their chakra bracelets (But that’s another post in itself there!).

In my opinion, Gluten free products have evolved to a new level where not only can I enjoy the occasional indulgence, but I’m also confident enough to introduce them to my friends & family safe in the knowledge that a great meal will be had by all.