Curried Parsnip Soup with Spooky Bat Crouton Toast!

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I was recently asked to come up with a “spooktacular” recipe for Halloween by Unilever as part of their #UnileverHalloween challenge. To get me on my way I was sent a hamper of ingredients from the Unilever brands such as Knorr, Flora, Hellmans and Colmans.

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As the weather is turning a little I thought I would do a warming soup, taking inspiration from the parsnips also supplied in my hamper. A while back I was sent a soup-maker to review and it remains one of my favourite kitchen gadgets, though it tends to get retired over the summer months so I was quite glad to get the opportunity to get it out again.   I was going to create a parsnip and curly leaf kale soup as that was also in my hamper but I wanted something a bit more warm and spicy so I looked at the Knorr Flavourpots that I had and opted for curry.

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I think a curry and parsnip is quite a popular combination for soup but it’s actually not something I have ever tried before. I therefore had no idea whether I would even like it!  I needn’t have worried because it was delicious, so delicious I had to go back and have a second bowl!

I served the soup with some crouton toast cut out into the shape of bats to give it it’s halloween twist.  I love having toast like this because it remains really crispy rather than going soggy when you dip it into the soup. Yum!

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I’ve listed the standard version of the recipe below, rather than my soup maker method as I’m aware not everyone will have a soup maker! If you do  want the soup maker method listed, then drop me a line.  The recipe serves 4.

Curried Parsnip Soup with Spooky Bat Crouton Toast

Ingredients

30g Flora Buttery
1 medium onion, chopped`
450g parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Knorr Curry Flavourpot
1 Knorr Chicken Stock Cube
800ml boiling water
125ml Elmlea double cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch of paprika

For the toast;
Slices of bread
Olive oil

Method

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, over a medium heat. Gently fry the chopped onion in the butter until it has softened. This should take about 5 minutes.

Add the chopped parsnips, garlic and the curry Flavourpot to the pan and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.

Mix the stock cube with the boiling water and pour into the saucepan. Stir everything well, cover and leave to simmer for 15 minutes or until the parsnips are soft.

Whilst the soup is simmering, heat the oven to 180c. Take your sliced bread and cut out your desired shapes. Brush with olive oil, pop on a baking tray and put into the oven for 6-7 minutes until crisp and browned.

Remove the soup pan from the heat and puree in a blender (or use a hand blender). Stir in the cream and gently heat through, do not allow to boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle over a pinch of paprika to garnish.

Ta-dah! A quick and easy soup that is delicious and tasty to boot!

Do let me know if you try it out and make sure you check the #UnileverHalloween tag on Twitter for more spooky recipes!

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Meet the Meal Planner : The Five Fs

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Meet the Meal Planner is a new feature on At Home With Mrs M, designed to introduce everyone to the people who get involved with Meal Planning Monday each week.  This is each meal planners chance to tell us who they are, why and how they meal plan. I hope you enjoy this new item and feel free to leave a comment for the meal planner below!

Hi there and welcome to Meet the Meal Planner! It’s great to have you here. Lets start by introducing yourself. Please tell us a little more about who you are and all about your blog. (If you have one!)

My blog (http://thefivefsblog.blogspot.co.uk/) is all about me and the Five Fs I hold most dear in life – family, food, fitness, football and fun! I used to blog loads but the last two years has seen a massive decrease in posting frequency and often my only post in a week is an MPM one.

Lets get down to business. I’d like to know you have been meal planning for and what inspired you to start?

I started meal planning a bit in 2009 when I took redundancy from my job and decided not to find another permanent job, preferring just to do freelance work. I tried to make money go as far as possible and at the same time, Economy Gastronomy first hit the screens. However, it could be a bit hit and miss until I decided to write a post about meal planning which happened to coincide with MPM starting and I soon got into the habit of doing it religiously. Now, I’m more likely to meal plan than blog the meal plan!

It’s time to start writing your meal plan for the week. What do you do first? Talk us through your planning.

I consider what we have on and who is going to be where and when – my husband works late one night, the children do swimming another and Missy goes to a dance lesson on a third but there may be other things affecting the week. I also consider what I have in as leftovers, in the freezer or in my cupboards that needs to be used. Then it’s a bit of a free for all – I might have seen a recipe in Good Food (I have a subscription) that I want to try. Sometimes, I have a list on my computer of things I want to try but didn’t want to fit in previous weeks. I try to chop and change so we’re not having curry every day or chicken too much etc. For the days where I’m going to be out from school time until tea time, I’ll try to plan something that is very quick, can be reheated or made in the slow cooker. And Thursdays is usually butties, because Missy has dance lessons, is uber slow at both eating and getting changed in time for her lesson.

Where do you find your meal-planning inspiration? Do you have a list of go-to meals or do you like to get creative and mix it up?

I try to make it quite different every week but I will fall back on family favourites if I get requests. I use websites a lot (see below) and I do google for ideas if I decide I want to do something different with, say, mushrooms. Occasionally, I’ll get ideas from other MPMers posts! I have the odd week where the children choose but I have to be careful or we’ll have pasta and pizza every day. I do ask them if I’m lacking in inspiration. Missy usually asks for cauliflower cheese and Monkey for pasta or a roast dinner. We’ve done a lot of Sunday roasts this year.

What cookbooks do you use the most? Is there a website resource you would recommend to other meal-planners?

It varies. The Good Food magazines and website is fab and Allrecipes is great. I use Delia’s How to Cook but not necessarily for whole recipes (eg things like sauces). Other great books are Nick Coffer’s My Daddy Cooks and The After School Cookbook. And if I want a porky treat, I’ll take a look at John Mountain’s book Pig. I like simple recipes that taste nice – bit of a given when you have children.

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So you’ve got your meal plan ready…do you ever go off-plan or do you always stick to it rigidly?

Yes, going off plan has been known to happen, when things suddenly change or I realise that a recipe can’t be made in advance and I need it to be or it’s just going to be too faffy to cook when I get home. Another one is when I forget to take something out of the freezer. I had one recipe I carried forward for about 5 weeks! I did something similar today – I was going to make lentil shepherd’s pie but we had so much leftover roast pork, I made the filling from chopped cooked pork with barbecue sauce, peppers, garlic and some leftover gravy. The kids didn’t like it though, but husband said it was nice!

What benefits have you seen from meal planning? Do you find it helps you to cut waste? Save money?

Saving money was the driver for starting and it definitely works! We waste so much less now. Sometimes I hear people moaning about their food bill and they are shocked that I rarely spend over £50 at the supermarket each week (although my kids have school meals and don’t get free ones).

Any top tips for meal planning?

Just get started. Lots of people think it will be hard and it can be intimidating looking at a blank screen or piece of paper, but once you get started, it’s very easy to put a plan together, then make your shopping list ready for an online shop or a trip to the supermarket. It will save you time too – I’ve seen people say it saves time because they don’t have to work out what’s for tea based on what they have in, and perhaps have to make an extra trip to the supermarket to buy a vital missing ingredient. So the time you put in will reap huge benefits. Although the kids ALWAYS greet me after school with “What’s for tea? Every. Single. Day.

And finally, purely because I am nosey, what kitchen utensil/gadget could you just not live without? 

My K mix for cake and breadmaking but my most used gadget is the microwave. It’s a combination one but I rarely use that part of it. I bought my current microwave on the day I moved into this house on my own 15 years ago! It’s been repaired once but I know I would definitely be lost without it; it’s used every single day, sometimes several times a day.

Why not pop over to Kates blog and read all about her views on organic food and cost. It’s really interesting!

I’ll be back with another Meet the Meal Planner really soon!

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My Perfect Night In

I often get asked to write about lots of different topics, some are easy to write about, others a little more taxing. When I was recently asked by Sainsburys to describe what my perfect night in would be I knew that this one would be one that was easy to cover. I really didn’t need to think long and hard about this at all.

As much as I love my husband and my children, and of course I relish spending lots of quality time with them, I am going to be completely open and honest and tell you that my all-time perfect night in would be one spent with my amazingly awesome best friend. We always have the most incredible fun and it’s even better if the night in is at her house as she currently lives on her own – so to go and spend a night in at her house is pretty much as close to blissful as you’re going to get.

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There are several important factors to our girly nights in. These are standard components and never change. Ever. Our perfect night in always consists of wine, cheese, crisps and chocolate.

And one other thing that is crucial to the night is a cheesy film, preferably one with some singing or dancing in it. This is perfect. I mean, it even has perfect in the title so it couldn’t be more perfect. I mean it’s true nothing makes a woman feel more like a girl than a man who sings like a boy.

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The night usually ends at about 2am, after much giggling, watching of cat videos on YouTube and making spontaneous random internet purchases that we slowly remember and live to regret over cups of tea in the morning. Did I mention that these awesome nights in are also sleepovers?

Yes, it’s childish. Yes, it’s not sophisticated. But who cares? After a night in with my best friend laughing and putting the world to rights with crazy rants I feel happy, relaxed and rejuvenated. For one night and one night only, I’m not a mum and a wife. I don’t have work and school hassles. Nobody is expecting anything of me. I’m just me. Me at my most carefree and craziest and it feels so very good.

To me, that is an a great result from the perfect night in.

What would be yours?

Sainsburys would also love to hear about YOUR perfect night in and they’re currently running a competition where you could win a 40″ HDTV, £250 of Sainsbury’s vouchers and 10 DVDs. All you have to do is complete the form and tell them what your perfect night in involves. Why not head over to their website to tell them all about what would make your perfect night in and grab yourself the chance to win a fabulous prize?

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Disclosure: In return for promotion the Sainsburys competition I was sent some gift vouchers and DVDs. All words and opinions contained in this post are my own.

Image credit: Wine By Quinn Dombrowski (originally posted to Flickr as Wine) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Chocolate Orange Brownies

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Looking at that photo is making me have real brownie cravings now. Unfortunately I made these last week so there are none left. Curses.

I’ve started baking more with my children recently. We’ve always baked together but now they are getting older I am letting them do more of the work that I’ve always done myself, like melting things over the heat and putting the cakes into the oven. I’m taking it in turns with each child and they get to pick what they want to make. This week was the little boys turn and he chose brownies.  I decided instead of just bog standard brownies we’d pop in some more flavour and as we’re all fans of chocolate orange that’s what we went with.

This recipe, adapted from an Annabel Karmel recipe, is perfect to knock up with your children as it’s very simple and easy for them to follow. Don’t look too hard at the ingredients list though, I think I gained an inch on my hips just reading it! Brownies really are incredibly loaded aren’t they? But that’s why they taste so good!

You might want to adjust the cooking time to suit yourself. If you like them fudgey then 30 minutes will do it but if you prefer your brownie to be more cakey then leave them for 35 minutes.

Either way, they’re delicious!

Chocolate Orange Brownies

Ingredients

225g unsalted butter
275g dark brown muscavado sugar
200g dark chocolate
Zest of 1 large orange
Juice of 1/2 orange
4 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
110g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder
100g white chocolate chips

Method

Preheat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4. Line a brownie tin with baking parchment. You need to ensure the parchment goes up the side of the tin and overhangs the edges – this also makes it much easier to remove from the tin.

Over a saucepan of warm water on a gentle heat, melt the butter, chocolate and sugar together in a large heatproof bowl, stirring occasionally. Once melted, set the bowl of melted chocolate to one side to cool.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla, salt, orange zest and orange juice together until everything is well combined.  Take the cooled melted chocolate and whisk the egg mixture into it. Sift over the flour, cocoa and baking powder and carefully fold in before adding the white chocolate chips.

Pour the mix into the prepared brownie tin and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Once cooked, allow the brownie slab to cool in the tin before removing to a wire rack. Once cool, cut into squares.

Of course you may not want to leave it to cool because these brownies are pretty amazing eaten straight out of the oven, warm with vanilla ice-cream. I wholeheartedly recommend that. They also keep quite well and were perfect little treats for the school lunchboxes last week.

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Visting FarGo Village, Coventry

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This weekend we paid our first visit to FarGo Village in Coventry. I’ve read lots about FarGo over the past few weeks and was really interested to take a closer look as it sounded fab.  We’re going to ignore just how long it took me to catch on about the name. I spent days, maybe weeks, pondering how they came up with the name FarGo and literally twigged when walking down Far Gosford Street. There are no flies on me. My husband was disgusted.

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FarGo Village is a brand new creative “village” on the edge of Coventry city centre, a hub of independent shopping and creative arts in an old bicycle factory. The aim is to bring a bit of a Camden vibe to Coventry with niche and unique shops, studios, creative workspaces and crafts, cafes, markets and entertainment.

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First impressions were good, we loved the design of the development, it was really well done and lots of thought had been put into it. We liked the shipping container units and the old bicycle factory had been sympathetically developed without losing it’s old character and identity (Coventry’s bicycle heritage is very important).  There’s a great mix of shops – vintage and new and I can see that this is could be a really great place to pick up some nifty and unique Christmas gifts.

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Three of my favourites were

The Big Comfy Bookshop – beautiful, light and well-organised which is quite unusual for a secondhand book shop, totally loved it and will spend a lot more time in there. They have local author book signings and are currently running a children’s writing competition.

The Dashing Blades Barbershop – Mr M decided to get himself a haircut whilst he was here and it was a great experience. Robert, the owner, was very dapper indeed, the most awesomely styled barber I’ve ever come across and I loved the whole style of the barbershop.

CaBloom Flowers – CaBloom was displaying some stunning arrangements of beautiful, vibrant flowers. If only I had someone to buy me some.

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There is obviously so much more and you can read a little about the other tenants here.

I’m a sucker for somewhere I can meander and mooch around, and even better if there is some nosh on offer.  You won’t be disappointed if you wander on down to FarGo at the weekend when Scoff Street Food are in residence. When I visited there was three of the most amazing street food vendors serving up some pretty top notch food – Spectacular Goat, The Meat Shack and The Hungry Toad. I’ve been fortunate enough to try food from The Hungry Toad (Nachurrito. A NACHURRITO. That’s a burrito with nachos in it to you and I. One word. Amazing) so this time I thought we’d try out the other two vendors. The children had a pretty awesome pizza (The Marge) from Spectacular Goat whilst I opted for a burger from The Meat Shack. I’d heard nothing but good things about these burgers so couldn’t wait to get my chops around it and it did not disappoint. Wowsers. I will be back for more, that’s for sure!

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FarGo Village have got tons of spooky fun planned for half-term week and I can’t wait to get back down there. It’s such a fantastic development and I feel, a massive asset to Coventry. I really hope that more people get themselves down there to support this creative community. Every single person I met there was friendly and helpful and I think it would be amazing to see this really flourish.

If you’re local to Coventry or even just passing through, make sure you stop by FarGo Village and check it out!

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