Winter Warmer Recipe: Cowboy Pie

I love watching old westerns. The cowboys gallop across the desert passing amazing rock formations and the colours always look so bright. The bright blue sky contrasts with the orange of the rocks and occasionally you can see a giant cactus on the horizon. The cactuses are amazing, so tall they cast a shadow on the desert and little owls build their home in them. A safe place to sleep away from the hot sun.

The cowboys always have a wagon with them, full of food and driven by a cantankerous old man who does not like anyone interfering with his cooking. He has the responsibility of setting up the camp, getting the fire going and making the food. The meal is usually slopped out of a cauldron onto tin plates and eaten with a spoon. It is filling and warming, perfect after a hard day rounding up cows.
Cowboy-pieWhen Kikkoman got in touch and challenged me to create a winter warming one pot dish using Kikkoman soy sauce I decided to make Cowboy Pie. It is similar to cottage pie but has the addition of baked beans. I always think of beans being a stable part of a cowboys diet. It also contains the secret ingredient, Kikkoman soy sauce to add some extra depth to the taste.

soy-sauceFor the recipe I decided to use my slow cooker so I could just leave it and come in and find it ready. If you don’t have a slow cooker you can also cook the dish in the oven. Using the oven will require a little bit more preparation and slightly more than one pot as the mince should be browned before adding to the casserole dish. The slow cooker worked perfectly and the potatoes can be browned up under the grill before serving.

Cowboy-pie-2If you wanted to add a bit more comforting flavour to the dish you could sprinkle some grated cheese and black pepper on top of the potatoes when it is cooked and melt this under the grill. I didn’t bother doing this, the meal was tasty enough without.

cowboy-pie-3Cowboy pie is a lovely warming dish and it had a really nice depth of flavour. It is one I will be adding to my slow cooker recipe list for cold winter days when I need a meal to be ready when I come in from work.

Cowboy Pie

Cowboy Pie
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Ingredients
  1. 500g minced beef
  2. 1 onion
  3. 2 cloves garlic
  4. 2 tbsp soy sauce
  5. 150 ml beef stock
  6. 1 can baked beans
  7. 1 tbsp flour
  8. 500g potatoes
Instructions
  1. Peel and chop the onions and garlic and add to the slow cooker
  2. Mix the flour with the beef stock until it is smooth
  3. Add the beef and all the other ingredients to the slow cooker and mix well.
  4. Peel the potatoes and chop into thin slices.
  5. Top the mince with the potato slices and season with salt and pepper
  6. Cook for 7 -8 hours in the slow cooker until the potato is tender
  7. If you wish you can brown the top under the grill
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/

I am entering this recipe into the Kikkoman recipe blogger competition.

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Homemade Thursday

Chime for Change with Special K

Recently Special K sent me a box of their breakfast cereal. You might wonder why I am telling you this, but this was no ordinary box of breakfast cereal. It was an exclusive Special K pack, one of only 200 in existence!  The box has been designed in collaboration with Frida Giannini, Gucci Creative Director and co-founder of Chime for Change to raise awareness of the charity which Special K are supporting. I think the box is really striking and unusual.

chime-for-change-2Chime for Change is a global charity which aims to improve the lives of women and girls across the globe. They have the byline: “Education. Health. Justice. For every girl. Every woman. Everywhere. Because none of us can move forward if half of us are held back.” The charity have funded more than 390 projects to help support girls and women in 88 countries across the world. In order to raise awareness of the work that Chime for Change are doing Special K have redesigned 18.5 million Special K cereal boxes. Now when you enjoy a bowl of cereal you can help support the campaign.  You can support education, health and justice for girls and women by going online and voting for a project that you would like to see funded.

Chime-for-changeThere is a wide range of different projects to choose from, and they are based all over the world. From supporting women who are suffering from domestic violence, teenage parents, fighting childhood malnutrition and many more. You will definitely find a cause that you want to support.

Chime-for-change-4In return for writing the post I was given the opportunity to have a £50 donation made to one of the organisations that Chime for Change support. I was happy to have the chance to support a worthwhile cause and am still looking though deciding which one to choose. You can help to support the project using the hashtag #chimein @MySpecialK_UK on twitter and by donating to any of the causes that you would love to support.

Make Walkies a Doddle – Review

My dog loves going out for walks, say the word “walkies” and he will get very excited. He will jump around and woof until you put his lead on and open the door. Often when I come down in the morning to take Eddie for his walk, I find that my son has put the lead somewhere and I can’t find it. This results in an excited dog waking everyone up while I have to hunt around the house to find his lead. When I heard about Doddle for Dogs I was really interested to give it a try. Featured on the Dragons Den, Doddle for Dogs is a dog collar which contains a hidden retractable lead. This means that when I want to take Eddie for a walk I no longer have to search the house to find his lead, it is there on his collar and just needs to be pulled out. It is a great idea.

Doddle for dogsThe lead itself is contained in a lightweight pod on the collar. The pod does not seem to annoy Eddie in any way he is happy enough to wear the collar in the same way he does a normal collar. The pod itself is only 5cm in diameter and it is not bulky.

Doddle for dogsWhen I want to remove the lead from the collar I just pull on the tab and the lead extends. The lead is about 1m when extended, so it is the same length as a normal short lead. The material is strong as well, it is guaranteed to hold a dog up to 27kg which is the size of a small Labrador. I had no problems holding Eddie with it. Doddle for dogsWhen I want to let him roam free I can just let go of the lead and it will retract into the pod. This means I don’t have to carry a lead with me leaving my hands free. If I need to grab him in a hurry I can and don’t have to fiddle around trying to clip a lead to his collar. There is an eyelet on the lead as well so I attached all Eddie’s dog tags so I can be contacted if he does get lost.

Doddle for dogsMy son loved using this lead as well. He found that as well as it being great outdoors he could now grab the lead and get the dog to go with him whilst he was in the house. It also comes in handy when someone is at the door, it makes it easy to grab the dog and prevent him escaping.

I really liked the Doddle for Dogs dog collar, it was really easy to use and made walkies a doddle. I would have liked a slightly longer lead so that Eddie had a bit more freedom, but if you are just walking your dog on the streets the length is ideal. I would also like it if the Doddle for Dogs came in a light up version now the nights are getting darker. I can easily get a little light to add to the collar though. A big advantage is that the collar can be cleaned in a washing machine, great now the paths are getting muddier.

The Doddle is RRP £24 and is currently available in 2 sizes: neck size small 28cm-32cm, or a neck size medium of 32cm-40cm. For an additional £8.99 Doddle offers an engraving service. Two lines of text can be added to the pod, perfect for adding your details in case your dog goes astray.

Doddle for Dogs Giveaway

 If you have a dog of your own and would love a Doddle, Doddle for Dogs are kindly running a giveaway where you can win one. I am hosting the giveaway on their behalf so please read the terms and conditions in the rafflecopter widget. The giveaway ends on 08/11/2014 at 12:00 PM (London). If you do enter good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was sent a Doddle for dogs collar in return for an honest review.

Halloween Pumpkin Soup

In case you haven’t noticed Halloween is on the way, time to get creative and start carving pumpkins to put in the window.  The origins of carving faces into pumpkins is lost in time. As a child pumpkins were not commonly found in shops and we used to use carve turnips into Jack O’Lanterns. We had great fun making funny faces in them, the hard part was scooping out the insides. Pumpkins are much easier to carve and I have been creative over the years. I managed to make a dragon pumpkin one year and even a puffle pumpkin when my son was really into Club Penguin. Originally a Jack O’Lantern was a watchman with a lantern, but it is also another name for a will o’wisp. These are strange lights seen over the marshes at night which are said to signify the presence of ghosts. Possibly the carved pumpkin acts as a ward against ghosts on Halloween, when ghosts are meant to be out and about.   Pumpkin soupThe problem with carving pumpkins is that you are always left with a large amount of pumpkin that needs to be used up. Pumpkins also contain large amounts of seeds, which can be toasted and eaten. This year I am going to plant some and see if I can grow a few pumpkins next year. I had great success with my potatoes, tomatoes and broccoli this year when I planted my vegetable garden. Sadly the slugs ate all my butternut squash.

Halloween pumpkinWhile there are all sorts of recipes for left over pumpkin I like to use mine to make a big pot of Halloween Pumpkin Soup. It is a lovely warming soup that can be served with warm bread, the perfect snack for trick or treaters coming home on a cold night. It will no doubt be followed by plenty of sweet treats but it is great for warming you up. It would also make a great centre piece for a Halloween party, served in a cauldron or a hollowed out pumpkin (without the face carved in it!).

Pumpkin soupI found that pumpkin on it’s own could be a little bland but adding a couple of potatoes into the soup adds a touch of creaminess to the soup. I spiced my soup up with chilli and garlic flakes and a little black pepper. Other spices can be used instead, nutmeg and cinnamon are also a favourite.

Halloween Pumpkin Soup

Halloween Pumpkin Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 1 onion
  2. 2 potatoes
  3. 2 cloves garlic
  4. 1 large pumpkin
  5. 1 litre vegetable stock
  6. olive oil
  7. salt and pepper to season
  8. garlic and chilli flakes to season
Instructions
  1. Peel and chop the onions, garlic, potatoes and pumpkin.
  2. Place some oil in a large pan and add the onions and garlic.
  3. Gently cook the onions and garlic until soft.
  4. Add the potatoes, pumpkin and stock and bring to a simmer.
  5. Simmer until the potatoes and pumpkin are soft.
  6. Use a blender to blend the mixture until it is smooth.
  7. Add salt, pepper and garlic and chilli flakes to season
Dragons and Fairy Dust http://www.dragonsandfairydust.co.uk/

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TalkTalk offers great deal on Sky

There is nothing better than sitting down to watch a good movie on the telly as a family after a long day at work. Even better if you have some popcorn to share. Sky movies have a great selection of new and old films so there is always something to suit your mood. From the latest blockbusters to well loved family favourites, I can always find something to watch. On the other hand my husband and son love Sky sports. Now the football season has started they can often be found glued to a match, hoping for a win. It is not just football though, they love boxing, formula 1, golf, tennis, you name it. Luckily with Sky Sports there is a great selection of Premier league matches for them to watch at home.

sky sportsThe good news is that TalkTalk are offering a great deal on Sky Sports and Sky Movies. For three months, you can watch both Sky Sports and Sky movies for just £20 a month. This will take you past the festive season allowing the family to watch the latest blockbuster movies over the Christmas period. With 11 Sky Movies Channels, including Sky Disney and Sky Superheroes and plenty of movies on demand you will never be short of something to watch.

With Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4, F1 and  with Sky Sports 5, home of European football there will be plenty of sports to entertain the men of the house as well. I am sure they will be glued to the Barclays Premier League matches when Newcastle is playing.

Normally TalkTalk homes can access Sky Sports Boost for £30 a month and the Sky Movie Boost for £15 a month on a month by month basis. This new deal saves you £25 a month, ideal in the run up to Christmas. This offer builds on the recent deal between Sky and TalkTalk to broaden and extend the distribution of Sky entertainment to TalkTalk’s TV customers. In August, Sky gave TalkTalk homes access to all Sky Sports channels as part of an Open weekend. Earlier this year, TalkTalk added seven Sky channels, including Sky One, Sky Living, Sky Sports News HQ and 100s of hours of on demand Sky entertainment content, to its Plus TV package.

One of the great benefits of TalkTalk’s TV packages is that you can add boosts to add extra channels as you require. These can be added and removed on a month by month basis allowing you to keep control of your spending and not be stuck with large bills. In addition to the Sky packages, TalkTalk homes can add Boosts for hit US and UK entertainment and favourite kids channels and on demand content to their package at the touch of a button. There are plenty of additional programs available on demand and with YouView you can stop, rewind, pause and record live TV at the touch of a button so you do not miss a minutes viewing.

If you want to sign up to TalkTalk you will find TalkTalk’s Essentials TV is half price for six months at £4.25, then £8.50, plus line rental. And Plus TV is just £9.25 a month for six months, then £18.50 a month, plus line rental. TalkTalk’s Plus TV package includes seven great Sky entertainment channels and a free YouView box, usually £299.

I am a TalkTalk Family blogger and am provided with TalkTalk in order to tell you all about their services.