Healthy Eating Giveaway

Today I went out running, it was the first time in ages and it felt good. Whilst I am fairly fit, I walk miles every week, I find that exercise can really boost your morning and set you up for the day. I have struggled to run over the summer, I found my asthma was really bad. I suspect that this was due to the large amounts of long grass and wild flowers that appeared on every grass verge in the council area. They are doing their best to help bees by setting up these conservation areas. I am all in favour of helping bees and the wild flowers did look nice. However the large fields of long grass really upped the pollen count and I am sure it affected me.

Last week the council decided to cut the long grass, carefully mowing around the wild flowers. As a result I have been able to breathe more easily and was able to go out running today. It is exhilarating running as the sun rises, watching the foggy tendrils drift across the fields in the crisp morning air.

Even when I am not exercising I always try to eat a healthy diet. I cook most of my meals from scratch and try to include plenty of vegetables. When you work all day and come home at night tired, it can be difficult to pick up your pans and start cooking. I find meal planning is the key. I plan quick to make meals for week nights and often use my slow cooker so they are ready when I come in. I also make some meals at the weekends so I can just reheat them during the week. This stops me reaching for ready meals or throwing a pizza into the oven. I also try and pack my lunch which allows me to make tasty sandwich fillings like thai chicken sandwiches.

Healthy Eating Giveaway

Discount Supplements have recently launched a new healthy eating campaign and have offered me a bundle of healthy products to give away to one of my readers.


The bundle contains

  • Bare Naked Rice
  • Bare Naked Noodles
  • Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Yogi Detox Tea
  • Yogi Positive Energy Tea
  • Organic Smooth Peanut Butter 

It is a lovely bundle to help get you eating healthily. So how do you enter? Leave a comment below to let me know what you do to try and stay healthy. Do you have an exercise regime or a particular food you add to your diet? Just let me know. When you have done that come back and fill in the rafflecopter widget so your entry is registered. This entry is mandatory. You can get other entries by visiting my facebook page, following on twitter or tweeting about the giveaway but these are optional. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Rules

  • There is one prize of a healthy eating bundle – the prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
  • Open to UK residents aged 18 and over, excluding employees and relatives of Dragons and Fairy Dust and Discount Supplements
  • Closing date for entries is on 11:59pm BST on 23rd Oct 2015
  • Only one entry per person
  • Entrants must log into rafflecopter and leave a comment on the blog answering the question.
  • Optional entry methods are to follow on twitter, visit facebook and tweet on twitter
  • The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
  • Automated entries will be disqualified.
  • The winner will be informed within 14 days of the closing date and will need to respond with a postal address within 14 days or a new winner will be chosen.
  • The winner’s name will be available on request.
  • Discount Supplements is responsible for prize fulfilment. The prize will be sent within 28 days of receiving the winner’s address.
  • This is a joint promotion between Dragons and Fairy Dust and Discount Supplements
  • Entry to this confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions

A visit to Gibside

Gibside is a National Trust property found in the Derwent Valley near Rowlands Gill. The estate was owned by the Bowes family who obtained their wealth from coal. It is a huge estate with plenty to discover on the grounds and gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside. I had Gibside on my list of places I wanted to visit this year and managed to go over the Summer. Gibside is easy to find, it is well signposted from the main roads and there is ample car parking space. To enter the estate you do need to climb a steep hill. There are minibuses that drive you around the estate so if you wait you can get a lift to the top.

The Walled Garden

We started our visit in the Walled Garden. The garden is three acres in size and is full of flowers, fruit and vegetables quietly growing in the beds. We found apple trees, beans and plenty of flowers. The produce from the garden is used in the cafe as well as in the community farm.  Part of the wall surrounding the garden collapsed in 2013 due to severe weather conditions but now this is being restored. This isn’t as simple as it sounds, the 300 year old bricks are no longer in production. Some of the old bricks were cleaned to be used again but a number had to be ordered specially.

GibsideThe garden is a lovely tranquil place to stroll though, especially on a warm summer day. The birds were singing and the bees humming. Gibside is a haven for wildlife and if you are lucky you might see a red kite overhead. If you are interested in wildlife you can take a ramble though the estate with a ranger and discover more about the trees and wildlife that live here.

Gibside-2The Orangery

Leaving the walled garden we headed towards the orangery. This was built by George Bowes daughter Mary Eleanor to house her exotic collection of plants from around the world. It is a short walk though wooded paths to get there and rounding the corner you see the building against the skyline.  It would have been an imposing sight when the windows contained glass. Strangely shaped trees could be found in the undergrowth.

Gibside-4 Gibside-5
gibside-7 Gibside-8

Gibside-9The Column of Liberty

Dominating the skyline is the Column of Liberty which depicts a young woman holding a staff of maintenance and a cap of liberty. It was built by George Bowes to show his support for the Whig party in the 1700’s. Rising from the trees it is a short walk down the hill to get there, but we turned towards The Avenue, a tree lined walk way leading to the chapel.

Gibside-10The House

On the way to the chapel we passed the ruins of the house, which must have been an impressive place to visit during Georgian times. Even though it is in ruins it still looks majestic against the countryside behind. The rooms within must have had a great view over the Derwent valley beyond. You get a sense of the grandness of the estate, it must have been filled with servants hustling about their business tending to the needs of the occupants within.

Gibside-15The house was vacated in the 1920s, death duties meant the family had to give up some of their houses. Parts of the house have been destroyed. It is a shame that you can’t go inside the ruins and it would be lovely to see them restored to their former glory one day.

The Avenue and Chapel

The avenue is half a mile long and lined with Turkey oaks and Sycamore trees on either side. It is a gentle and tranquil walk leading to the impressive chapel. It would have been a lovely stretch to travel along in a horse drawn carriage. The chapel was finished in 1816 and George Bowes is buried here. It is meant to be equally impressive inside.

gibside-16 Gibside-17Leaving Gibside we were tempted to buy some bread at the bakery. They had a wide range for sale and it was delicious. I want to go back and visit Gibside when they have the market on the first and third Saturday of the month. It is a place to buy fresh and seasonal produce as well as crafts and Gibside is certainly a great setting for this. On Fridays though out the year you can also go along and attend the local beer garden and pub with local ales and snacks.
Gibside-18I would love to go to this event and maybe combine it with glamping in one of the yurts they also have on the site.

Gibside is a National Trust property so entry for members is free. Prices are:

  • Adult: £8.70
  • Child: £4.50
  • Family (1 adult): £15.20
  • Family: £22.00

Do allow plenty of time for your visit as there is plenty to see, we only saw a small part of what Gibside has to offer.

Out and About Linky

The out and about linky is a linky for places of interest you have visited, restaurants you have eaten out at, days out with the kids or holidays. Anywhere that gets you out and about. It is co-hosted with Chez Maximka and stays open until the end of the month. If you have been anywhere recently why not link up? We love to find out about your adventures.

Rules of the linky

  • You can add up to three posts per month to the linky below. Please make sure they are no older than three months old and feature somewhere you have visited.
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Dragons and Fairy Dust


Porridge for a cold morning

Have you noticed how the mornings are much darker and chillier? I woke up this morning to find my feet were freezing. I think it is time to put on a thicker quilt. When I took the dog out for his morning walk I was able to watch the dawn. It was magical, streaks of gold were running across the sky which gradually turned red and disappeared. The ground was wet with dew and spiders had been spinning webs which hung from the plants, scattered with silver droplets. The cold air worked cold breath inside my fleece, leaving me cold and glad to step into the warmth inside.

spiderwebWhilst I usually have cereal for breakfast, like the Special K range I recently tried, on a cold morning there is nothing better than some thing warm. Porridge is ideal for a warming breakfast. Whether you make a large pot on the stove with milk or use one of the sachets you add hot water to, a steaming bowl of porridge is good for the soul. Just looking at it steam makes you feel warm inside and the carbohydrates in the oats will release energy slowly, giving you the strength to face the morning and keep you going until lunch time. You can vary your morning porridge by adding different toppings and syrups to keep it interesting. Add fruit like bananas, apples, pears or berries to give it a different taste or sweeten it with a touch of syrup, every morning you can have a different flavour. You can even ring the changes by adding yoghurt or coconut milk.

PorridgeRecently I have been trying out MOMA’s porridge sachets. These are a mix of jumbo and fine oats which contain no added sugar. Just open the sachet, add 140ml of boiling water and wait patiently for a couple of minutes and you have a lovely tasty bowl of porridge. The sachets are the perfect size for pouring into a mug as well so they are ideal for taking to work if you haven’t had time to grab breakfast. The porridge is lovely and creamy, as well as being gluten free.

Moma porridgeI have been experimenting with different toppings and found that Clarks have added some new syrups to their ranges. I normally use Clarks maple syrup as I love the taste. I noticed that carob syrup and agave syrup have been added to the range. I have memories of eating carob as a child, my mum used to buy carob pods for us to snack on as an alternative to chocolate. From what I remember they did have a sweet taste but took a lot of chewing. Carob has been used in the Mediterranean and Middle East for years as a sugar replacement and is thought to have many health boosting properties. It makes the perfect addition to a morning bowl of porridge for a touch of sweetness. Agave syrup I was not familiar with, although I had seen it used in the Great British Bake Off during alternative ingredient week. It is made from a Mexican succulent and also adds a lovely sweetness to porridge.

Clarks SyrupI served my porridge with blueberries and carob syrup and it soon warmed me up. I felt ready to face the day ahead and the coldness in my toes was soon gone. Do you eat porridge for breakfast? What do you add to yours?

PorridgeOther warming breakfast ideas are these bacon and egg cups, perfect for a brunch.

Bacon and egg cupsThese brunch scrambled eggs are also lovely and perfect for a lazy day.

Brunch Scrambled Eggs

I was sent the porridge and syrup in return for an honest review.

Carrot and Fennel Soup

I love carrots; they are one of the most forgiving vegetables. They are easy to grow, somehow stubbornly burrowing into the ground and surviving as the caterpillars, slugs and snails munch on everything else. They are lovely eaten raw or served alongside a meal and they also make a lovely soup. Not only is it tasty it is also healthy, and as the nights get shorter brilliant for helping your night vision.

Carrot and fennel soupRecently I have been experimenting with carrot soups. Carrot and coriander is the most familiar variant and I also like carrot and orange and carrot and butter bean. When we stayed at Ox Pasture Hall we got to try their tomato and fennel soup. I have to admit I am not keen on fennel. Aniseed is one of those flavours that you either love or hate and it is not a taste I like. The tomato and fennel soup was a revelation; it did not taste of aniseed but had a warm earthiness that added a depth of flavour to the tomato. I wondered if I could create a carrot and fennel soup and if it would have the same depth of flavour. I experimented with some fennel seeds that had come with one of my spice racks. It worked really well and added a rich flavour to the carrot soup.
Carrot and fennel soupThese days are perfect for soup, the nights are getting shorter and it is getting harder to drag yourself up in the mornings as they are not longer light. A definite chill can be felt in the air and the leaves are turning golden and falling from the trees. A bowl of soup makes a lovely warming lunch served with crusty bread fresh from the oven. It is also a lovely starter for an evening meal, perfect on those days when the fog is coming in or the rain is lashing against the window and you just want to snuggle indoors. It is also perfect to heat up when you have got caught in the rain, soaked though and dripping.
Carrot and fennel soup
I love to make a big batch of soup to last a few days or to have some to freeze. That way I always have some ready when it is needed. Soup is also a great way to use up vegetables that are about to go off, saving them from being thrown out and wasted. Indeed for this soup I used up a big bag that was lurking at the bottom of the fridge. It was definitely a tasty way to use them. Home made soup tastes so much nicer than tinned and is an easy way to impress guests.
Carrot and fennel soup
The soup is really simple to make, it is just a question of chopping up carrots, onions, garlic and gently frying them up in some oil which has had a teaspoonful of fennel seeds and a teaspoon full of caraway seeds added. Stock is then added to the mixture and it is cooked until it is soft. Finally the soup just needs to be blended until it is smooth and served. For a touch of real luxury you can add a little cream.

Carrot and Fennel Soup

Carrot and Fennel Soup
Serves 4
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  1. 15ml (1tbsp) vegetable oil
  2. 1 onion, chopped
  3. 450g (1lb) carrots
  4. 2 cloves garlic
  5. 1 tsp fennel seeds
  6. 1 tsp caraway seeds
  7. 1.2 litre (2 pints) vegetable stock
  8. salt and freshly ground black pepper
  9. single cream to serve if liked
  1. Peel and chop the onions, garlic and carrot,
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the fennel and caraway seeds. Stir then add the garlic, onions and carrot.
  3. Sauté for a few minutes until they begin to soften.
  4. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
  5. Cover and simmer for around 25 minutes, until the carrots are tender.
  6. Place in a food processor and purée until smooth.
  7. Place back in pan and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve with a cream if liked
Dragons and Fairy Dust
For other warming soups why not try potato soup.
Potato soup

Tasty Tuesdays on

Slow Roasted Spanish Style Lamb

Some weekends are just made for being lazy. When you have been busy all week it is good to be able to relax and read a book or catch up on television box sets. Now the days are getting chillier and Autumn is setting in, the shorter days induce a feeling of laziness and hibernation. The trees are turning red and leaves are falling to the floor. Mornings are misty and sunrise is later, a pink glow is in the skies when I get up to walk the dog. A lazy weekend calls for food that is simple to prepare, left to cook slowly in the oven. The smell will fill the house with promise. On opening the oven door later you are greeting with a lovely dish which needs little to go with it. A warming dish that feeds the soul as well as the body.

Spanish Style LambThis weekend was a lazy weekend for me, lacking energy I decided to cook something slow and simple but full of taste. Grey’s Fine Foodshad recently sent me a couple of their items to try, a milk fed lamb leg and a bottle of Lopez Cristobal Roble. This seemed to be the ideal chance to try it. I decided to make a slow roasted Spanish style lamb. Spanish, because Grey’s Fine Foods are Spanish food merchants who import gourmet food, rare wines and drinks from Spain. It seemed appropriate.

Milk fed lambMilk fed lamb is young lamb which is still at the milk feeding stage. The resulting meat is soft and creamy with slight gamey notes. I decided this would be perfect for slow roasting at a low temperature to bring out the flavours in the meat. I prepared the lamb simply, cutting slits in it and inserting slivers of garlic and rosemary before browning it in a pan. It then went into the roasting tin and was seasoned with salt and black pepper. To go along side it I prepared a sauce with onions, garlic, chorizo sausage, cherry tomatoes, black pepper, chicken stock and red wine. The ingredients were sautéed in a pan until soft, then the wine and stock added and it was simmered for a minute. The sauce was then poured over the meat and placed in the oven on a low temperature for four hours.

Spanish style lambThe smell began to waft around the house, a rich meaty smell that promised good things to come. I just left it to cook, checking occasionally until it was ready. The dish can be served simply with mash and vegetables, or if you want to make more effort you can add roast potatoes and parsnips for a Sunday roast experience. It just depends how much effort you want to make. If you want to make the meal more Spanish you could serve it with tapas style potatoes,  Patatas Bravas and Alioli would be perfect.

Spanish Style lamb

The lamb was soft and tasty, roasted to perfection. The Spanish style sauce complemented it perfectly, adding a touch of fiesta to the dish.The final dish was perfect served with a glass of Lopez Cristobal Roble. The wine was voted the Best Spanish Wine Vintage 2011. The taste of strawberries and blackberries with overtones of wood worked really well with the Spanish style lamb dish.

Spanish style lambIt was the perfect meal for a lazy day. For other lazy slow cooked dinners why not try roast beef in red wine sauce done in the slow cooker.

Slow cooked roast beef in red wine sauceSlow Roasted Spanish Style Lamb

Slow roasted Spanish style lamb
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  1. 1 leg lamb
  2. Four cloves of garlic
  3. 1 onion
  4. 1 chorizo sausage
  5. 230 ml red wine
  6. 230ml chicken or lamb stock
  7. 200g cherry tomatoes
  8. Salt and black pepper
  9. Fresh rosemary
  10. Olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 130C, Gas Mark 1
  2. Chop 2 garlic cloves into slivers, cut slits in the leg of lamb and insert the garlic and rosemary.
  3. Add olive oil to a pan and gently sear the lamb on both sides.
  4. Add some olive oil to the roasting tin and place the lamb into it.
  5. Chop the onion and garlic and add to a pan, sauté until soft.
  6. Chop the chorizo and add to the pan, cooking gently for a minute
  7. Pour in the wine and stock and add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for a minute.
  8. Pour over the lamb and cover the roasting tin.
  9. Cook for three to four hours until tender.
Dragons and Fairy Dust


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I was sent the lamb and wine in return for my honest opinion, I was not obliged to say anything nice.