Monday, 16 February 2015

Abra-Ca-Debora Pancakes & Recipe Ideas...

When I was younger, Pancake Day used to be all about those traditional pancakes with lemon and sugar, I wasn't a huge fan so could take them or leave them to be honest. More recently, me and Si have been loving the scotch pancake variety and have found a topping that we love! So much so that we don't just restrict ourselves to having them on Pancake Day, we have them as a dessert all year round - more about our favourite topping later!

I was recently given the opportunity to sample some pancakes from a company called Abra-Ca-Debora. They have three varieties, which are Original Dutch Pancakes, Sweet Dutch Pancakes and Diddy Sweet Dutch Pancakes. The pancakes look and taste home-made but offer a stress and mess free solution to Pancake Day. Sometimes it's not convenient for people to make loads of pancakes for their family and then try to come up with interesting fillings or toppings. Time, the stress of it and the mess of it can all get in the way. These pre-made pancakes put aside all of these factors so that Pancake Day can be a more enjoyable experience, leaving you to experiment with exciting fillings and toppings. They're also handy if you're a big fan of pancakes and want to have them throughout the year. They are ready to purchase from the chiller in Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Waitrose, with prices starting from £1.50.

The sweet pancake variety is the kind that everyone will be more familiar with, whereas the original variety gives you the chance to try out sweet or savoury fillings. The Diddy Sweet Dutch Pancakes have the light and fluffy texture of scotch pancakes - mine and Si's favourite kind.

The Abra-Ca-Debora website has an amazing amount of inspiration when it comes to fillings and toppings for pancakes. If you're one that likes to stick to the traditional lemon, sugar, golden syrup or honey, then take a look at the recipe section of their website, they have an endless amount of ideas to suit all moods and tastes, so you're sure to find something to suit you and/or your family.

I adapted a couple of their recipes and made up a couple of my own, so I thought I'd share them with you and hopefully they'll inspire you this Pancake Day :). If you're picking up some ingredients later on tonight or on Pancake Day itself, keep in mind Abra-Ca-Debora pancakes and my recipe ideas below...

Abra-Ca-Debora Diddy Pancakes With Strawberries & Vanilla Cream

This Vanilla Liqueur Cream from Asda is amazing! As I mentioned above, me and Si like the scotch variety of pancake and our favourite topping is this cream and strawberries. Simple but delicious! I re-created this topping with the Abra-Ca-Debora Diddy Sweet Dutch Pancakes. This combination goes really well together and is honestly scrumptious. The cream is a real treat! You can enjoy these pancakes warm or cold, but in this instance I used them straight out of the packet.

Abra-Ca-Debora Sweet Pancake With Biscuit Butter

Here I used an Abra-Ca-Debora Sweet Dutch Pancake with the equally amazing Biscuit Butter. This stuff is incredible. If you like biscuits then you'll definitely like this. It's a spread that tastes like biscuits! I thought this would be gorgeous spread on an Abra-Ca-Debora Sweet Dutch Pancake and warmed in a frying pan so it melted and became all gooey. I spread some of the Biscuit Butter over one half of one pancake and popped it in a non-stick frying pan, over a medium heat. The Biscuit Butter started to melt and so I folded the other side of the pancake over the Biscuit Butter half and left it to warm and crisp for about 30 seconds to a minute. I flipped the halved pancake over so the other side got warm and crisp too. I then folded the pancake again so it resembled a quarter of a circle and popped it onto a plate. I cut it in half to look like what you see in the image above. This is lovely eaten straight out of the pan or cold, but I'd definitely say it's a tad more yummy when warm! I got our Biscuit Butter from The Good Food Show Winter in Birmingham last year, but you can buy it online or see if one of your local stores stocks it here.

Abra-Ca-Debora Diddy Cake Pops

This was a recipe that I saw on the Abra-Ca-Debora website (I adapted it) and thought it was something a bit different. I think kids would absolutely love this! I used milk chocolate that I melted down in the microwave (in 30 second pangs) and a variety of sprinkles. I had these little sandwich sticks that I just put to use as I had them there, but I've seen cake pop sticks available at Poundland and I'm sure you'd be able to get some online, Amazon might be your best bet! As I said above, I melted the chocolate in the microwave and put the sticks on the Diddy's. When the chocolate was melted, I used a spoon to cover the pancakes on sticks. I made sure the Diddy's were covered in chocolate but not dripping and then I poured some sprinkles onto a plate and pressed the Diddy's on sticks into the sprinkles to cover both sides. I made a make-shift cake pop stand using an egg box and some decorative food wraps from Squire's Kitchen (I also used the food wraps for plate decoration as you can see in some of the other images. They would also be good to wrap up some of these items if you were to put them in a lunch-box or take them on a picnic) and popped the cake pops into the stand before putting them in the fridge to set. You could also put them on a plate if you don't have a cake pop stand.

Abra-Ca-Debora Quick Quesedilla

Last but not least is my chosen savoury pancake, which I have to say was my favourite! I've never made a savoury pancake before, but it was delicious and I'd definitely recommend giving it a go :). For this recipe, I used three Abra-Ca-Debora Original Dutch Pancakes. I prepared a mixture of cherry tomatoes, cheese, a red chilli, coriander, salt and pepper in a bowl. I was just making one so used my initiative when it came to deciding what to use (I just imagined I was making a toastie or a sandwich for one), but there is a recipe on the website that serves 6, so you can work out what you'd need from that. I put the three pancakes together and put the filling over one half (I tried using one pancake but realised it was too thin to hold all of the filling, hence why I used three) and folded the other half over, pressing down and trying to seal as much as possible at the open end. I put the filled triple pancake on a baking tray and into the oven on medium to warm and crisp for 10 minutes. When done, I put the pancake into a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat, just to crisp up even more. I flipped the pancake over so each side was cooked, warm and crisp and then put it onto a plate, cutting it in half. The picture above was taken about 10 minutes after it was out of the pan as my camera battery died, so I had to wait for it to charge a little. I tried taking pictures on my phone but the quality wasn't as good. I say this because when it was first cut, the cheese was oozing and it was amazing, but you can see from the image above that it had cooled a little by the time I took the photo. You'll also be able to tell that I tried a little before a picture was taken and oh my god, it was delicious! I honestly didn't have the highest hopes that I'd like it, I'm not sure why, probably because I've been brought up with pancakes being a sweet treat. It was extremely similar to a toastie, it's making my mouth water now just thinking about this, I might have to make another one later! The recipe that I saw online was a quick quesedilla recipe (I adapted it to make mine), but if you look at their recipe image and mine, mine is a lot less clean and not as thick. Their quesedilla looks more like an omelette, where as mine is more cheesy and oozy. Trust me, I'd give this a go!

I hope my ideas inspire you to keep it simple with the pancakes and to be a bit more experimental with fillings and toppings. I'd love to see if any of you carry out any of the recipe ideas above or from the Abra-Ca-Debora website. Let me know in the comments section below, on Twitter (@GemsGemz86) or Instagram your pancakes and add me (@GemsGemz86).

Have a flippin (oh dear!) fab Pancake Day lovelies!

Thanks so much for reading!
Gem XxOo
* Pack shot images are courtesy of Abra-Ca-Debora.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Tesco Finest: Two Dine For £10 Meal Deal...

I was recently given the opportunity to sample Tesco's Finest meal deal, where two dine for £10. They actually have two meal deals on at the moment and you might have seen the one that has been advertised the most on TV, promoted for Valentine's Day where two can dine for £20. I did primarily go into my local Tesco to get the items for this £20 meal deal to sample and review for you. However, my local Tesco is a Tesco Express and I was told by a lady working there that the bigger stores have the £20 deal and the smaller stores have the £10 deal, hence why it's the £10 deal that I'm featuring today.

Me and Si are actually booked in at a local independent restaurant tonight, which I'm really looking forward to, but there have been times in the past where we haven't actually been able to get out on Valentine's Day night and something like this is a great alternative. Whether you have a partner or not, there may be many reasons why it's not convenient for you to go out on Valentine's Day, whether it's because you can't get a babysitter, you and your partner both have busy lifestyles and just want some time in alone at home or you don't fancy going out on that specific evening where everywhere is likely to be busy. The Tesco Finest £10 meal deal is running until the 3rd of March, so there is plenty of time to try it out. You could even share it with your mom, sister, best friend or flat mate, it doesn't have to be just for couples.

With this meal deal you get a main, a side, a dessert and a drink for £10. The meal deal is for two, so portions are based on two dining. There are meat and vegetarian options for the main meal, ranging from meatballs, fish cakes, pie, lasagne, chicken and paella. For sides you have a selection of vegetables, rice and potato options. For dessert you can choose from tarts, cheesecakes, profiteroles, a crumble and melt in the middle puddings. Lastly, for the drinks you can choose from several alcoholic wines, freshly squeezed lemonade or Coca Cola (in glass bottles!). They also had Bottle Green drinks as a choice in my local Tesco, but that doesn't seem to be on the website. You can buy any of these items individually if you wish. If you want to read more about the products in this meal deal, you can do so on the Tesco website.

So, onto what we chose...

For our main dish, we chose the Chicken In A White Wine Sauce With Leeks. This main meal consisted of two tender chicken breasts topped with fresh slices of leeks, finished with a creamy white wine sauce, with bacon and a hint of mustard. We fancied something with a bit of sauce, so this was an easy option for us. The chicken was really tender and a pleasure to eat. The sauce thickened slightly when cooked, so there wasn't a lot when it came to dividing the meal between the two of us, you can see this from the image below of the food plated up. It would have been nice to have a bit more sauce so it covered the chicken and so there would have been enough for dipping our potato wedges in. That's just our preference though. Also, when the chicken was being cooked, you could really smell the bacon, however, it was just bits of bacon within the sauce. Si doesn't really like bacon but there wasn't enough of it that it was a problem and he was easily able to push the bacon bits to one side. I thought I'd mention this as if you aren't a fan of bacon but like the sound of the dish aside from that, it is possible to avoid eating the bacon bits. It was only when finishing the meal that we both said that we didn't notice the leeks within the dish. On the front of the packaging, it seems that the leeks are a main part of the sauce, but like I said we didn't even notice eating any. I don't know what happened there as you can clearly see the green leeks in the image below :/. The overall taste of the dish was lovely though and I was pleased that the chicken wasn't dry and was tender, as it said on the packaging. The sauce was flavoursome but not too rich. I would definitely eat something like this again, it would just be nice for there to be more sauce and more leeks.

For our side option we fancied a potato dish, so we went for Sea Salt & Black Pepper Wedges. The wedges are baked in extra virgin olive oil until they're soft and fluffy in the middle, with deliciously crisp skins. The wedges were seasoned perfectly, they didn't need anything extra. I did notice that the skins were lovely and crisp, exactly as described, which I love! The crispier the skin the better in my opinion. There were definitely enough wedges to share between two people.

It doesn't look a lot when dished up, but if you add a side of veg it makes the meal more substantial. Plus, the dessert finishes it all off nicely.

The dessert option was another easy one for us as we are big lovers of cheesecake. We opted for the Madagascan Vanilla Cheesecake Slices. The cheesecake is made with creamy soft cheese and vanilla seeds, with a digestive biscuit base. These slices were huge! Vanilla might sound quite boring but it's actually one of my favourite cheesecake flavours, especially when vanilla seeds are used, rather than just flavouring. The cheesecake was very creamy and light, it wasn't heavy or sickly at all, so was a lovely end to our meal.

Note: the strawberries do not come with the cheesecakes. Si added a few to our plates, trying to rectify the bad with good probably, ha ha!

I'm not drinking alcohol at the moment as me and Si are trying for a baby, so we opted for a soft drink option. Si loves Coca Cola full stop but he prefers drinking it from the glass bottles when he can. They had a pack of Coca Cola Regular 6 x 330ml Bottles as part of the deal, so we chose those. I'm sure you all know what Coca Cola tastes like, but I thought it was a great option, especially because there were six glass bottles in the pack, which we knew would last beyond the meal.

If we would have bought all of these items separately it would have cost us £15.79. The meal deal was £10, so we saved £5.79. Not too shabby and always a bonus when you're saving money. I cook from scratch at home a lot, but we always keep our eye out for deals like this now and again. I pop into M&S to look at their meal deals now and again, but our local one never has any of the main meals left :/. It's funny though because the day before we went and picked up this meal deal, Si had been in town and he saw it in Tesco and came back quite excited that the glass Coca Cola bottles were in the deal, so we probably would have picked up this meal deal regardless.

Whatever you do today and whoever you're with, happy Valentine's Day lovelies!

What are your experiences with supermarket meal deals?

Thanks so much for reading lovelies!
Gem XxOo

Monday, 2 February 2015

Start The Year As You Mean To Go On...

Heeelloooo lovelies! Long time no see/speak, whatever it'd be in the blogging world :). The last post I wrote was on Christmas Eve 2014, which was the final post of Blogmas 2014. I loved taking part in Blogmas and although it was a challenge blogging every day, it was a fun one. As you might have guessed, I had a little break over Christmas and the New Year, just to have fun, spend time with family and just be. This carried over into January as I was getting organised, had a few things to sort out, priorities and all of that. I generally had to get back into the swing of things, which took a while as to be honest I was a bit :( that Christmas was over.

So yes, I wanted to get organised and sort a few things out before I got back into blogging. It's all about the clean home, clean mind for me and I didn't want to get straight into blogging again when I needed to do other things first. The main things that I needed to do have been done now, so I'm perfectly happy sitting here on this lazy Sunday and blogging for you all :).

I thought it would be apt to share with you my tips for starting the new year as you mean to go on...

Clean Your Home/Space

This is something that can instantly make me feel better and have a much clearer mind. Obviously I regularly clean our home, but there's something about having a 'big' clean at the beginning of a new year that just feels really satisfying. It's kind of like the big clean you do just before Christmas and before you go on holiday or is this just me?! Hoovering, polishing, cleaning floors and general tidying are just the basics. Opening windows to let a bit of coolness in whilst cleaning is also a lovely feeling, making it feel even more fresh and clean in your home/space. Doing a big wash of things you don't have to wash that often, for example, pillows, cushions, blankets, dressing gowns, mats etc. Also, change your bedding. I always sleep so well after I've changed our bedding and had a shower/bath before getting into bed. Finishing touches like fresh flowers, candles, air fresheners and plug-ins will make your home/space smell wonderful and just feel generally fresh, clean and comforting. I say 'space' as I know you might not have your own home and your bedroom is the only place you can make your own. I loved making my bedroom my own when I lived with my mom and so the new year was one of the times that I liked to have a good clean out and feel organised for the year ahead.

Image courtesy of Baby Center.

Freshen Up/Complete Your Home/Space

Getting rid of old items/items that don't work any more and buying new bits and pieces for your home/space can be really therapeutic and can really freshen up your home/space. You don't have to do your whole home/space in one go, but work on one area at a time. It's amazing how little things can make your home/space feel more complete and more 'you'. We've bought a few new things for our flat recently and I was just saying this to Si the other day. We've purchased a few new kitchen items, slogan signs and a working, Big Ben wall clock sticker. You can see some images on my Instagram @GemsGemz86 (which is also my Twitter name should you want to follow me :)). There's almost a sense of satisfaction and comfort from bringing the ideas in your head into reality and making your home/space feel like yours, if you know what I mean. Even moving things around and making your home/space feel different can be just as good. I'd recommend starting a list and writing down ideas for parts of your home/space that you aren't entirely happy with, then when you get paid or have a little extra money, look into buying one or two items from your list. Before you know it, your home/space will be exactly how you want it. Look for bargains online, check out charity shops and places like B&M that have amazing aisles with all those bits to add a special something to a home/space.

Sort Out Your Personal Items

For me, this was initially my clothing. I did this the other day and I'm not gonna lie about the fact that it felt great! I needed to do it for some time as I noticed when I was putting clean washing away that it was getting harder to put items back into my wardrobe. It only took me an hour which I was really pleased about. Usually with a big task like this, it's always the thought of how long it's going to take that can put you off. It wasn't that hard to do this year to be honest, I just got rid of the items that I no longer wear, items that don't fit as they first did and shrunk items. My wardrobe is now much more organised and in sections so I know what's what. I have a huge bag for charity and a few items that I might try and sell online. This tip can also apply to shoes, make-up, general beauty items etc. It doesn't have to mean getting rid of anything, maybe just dusting/cleaning items and organising them in a better way, for example, in style or colour for shoes and categories for beauty items. This could also be a time to think about getting bigger/better storage. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel after you've organised your things and it just makes you want to be more neat and organised from then on.

Write Stuff Down

One of my favourite things to do at the start of a new year is fill out a new diary and calendar. It's a great way to get things off of the mind and you can keep track of birthdays, blogging days, special events, things you don't want to miss etc. I also love getting a new notebook that I start writing in at the beginning of a new year. It's there for those times that something comes into my head and before I forget it, I write it down. So far this year, I've been jotting down blogging ideas, finances, things I need to remember to get, things I want to look at online and to-do lists. I also made a little pouch in the back of my notebook to hold loose notes etc. You'll feel better knowing you don't have to try and remember everything and that you can always refer to your diary, calendar or notebook to tell you what you need to know.

Look After Yourself

The new year is a great time to think about starting new routines in many aspects of your life whether it be your skincare routine, your diet or just your general health/fitness. I suppose some may call these 'New Year Resolutions', but I never make a point of saying I have specific resolutions that need to be adhered to, because let's face it, we all have the best intentions of sticking to resolutions at the beginning of a year, but most of the time we don't. There are always things that I want to do more of at the start of a new year but I don't put huge pressure on myself to stick to whatever it might be from the 1st January to the 31st of December. I just look at it as things that I'd like to think about and do more of during the year. I think it's good to think about things that you will enjoy doing, but also things that might be more of a challenge.

Whether it be healthy or hearty food, I love to cook from fresh, so it never really becomes a chore for me. I have my off days when I'm not in the mood, but it isn't very often when it comes to cooking. I love going through recipe books and putting little tabs on the pages of recipes I'd like to try. I also look online for recipes and have a folder for those that I'd like to try and a folder for tried and tested recipes that we enjoyed, so I can go back and make them again. I jot down the ingredients that I'll need for recipes and then during our next 'big shop', I'll pick up those ingredients. Don't get me wrong we have our treat days where we eat out or have a takeaway and we don't beat ourselves up over this as we never do this to the point where we should be worried about it, but in general, I like to look after myself and my husband in this way. If you don't like cooking, then this may be a hard one for you, but I'd recommend doing what I said above with the recipe book. It'll give cooking a bit more structure and it won't seem as daunting when you're at the supermarket and have no clue where to start.

Maintaining a skincare routine is an easy one for me as it's something I like to do as I can see the benefits. I always feel rubbish if I haven't cleansed, toned or moisturised my skin. I'm not a saint, I have those days when I use make-up remover wipes, but over the years I've found the ones that work well for me. My main skincare routine includes a cleanser, a toner and a moisturiser. I use face masks once or twice a month and also use an overnight repair cream and an eye cream. I'm thinking of doing a current skincare routine post soon, so I won't go into too much detail now. My skin feels so much better when I include all of these steps and if for some reason I forget to use a product, I definitely notice! If you already have products but don't stick to a specific skincare routine, I'd recommend giving it a go, at least then you're doing your bit in looking after your skin and you'll start to notice a difference. If you have no routine, I'd recommend treating yourself to a proper cream cleanser (cleansers you can use with a hot cloth are wonderful), a toner and a moisturiser to start with. You can go onto eye creams, masks and night creams later. You don't have to spend a fortune either, Boots often have deals on their skincare products. You might be lucky and find products that work for you straight away, but if you've never had a routine before, it might take a couple of products to get a real feel for your skin type and find those products that work perfectly for you. You could always try speaking to an assistant in Boots or another drug store and see what they'd recommend for the type of skin that you feel you have.

The last part of looking after me is a bit more challenging as I find it hard to get the motivation to do it. You might have guessed it, it's exercise/fitness. The thing is I love it when I'm doing it and I feel so much better for doing it and I know this, it's the same every time. I might be shattered after a good session of exercise/fitness but I ALWAYS feel better for it and that alone should be enough to get me going, but it's not. I know a lot of people feel this way and it's hard to fathom to be honest, but getting the motivation to exercise/keep fit is hard! I suppose if I was in a routine it might be easier, but it's more of the case that because I don't HAVE to do it, I don't. So yes, this is something I want to do more of this year. Me and Si starting running around our local park last year, in the run up to our wedding and we quite enjoyed it, so we will definitely be doing that again this year. We also like taking little walks, so we'll probably do that more too. I want to get a few exercise DVDs aswell, that I can do at home. I really want to get into yoga this year too. I love the thought of exercise that gives you perspective and peace of mind, so I need me a bit of that! One thing I will say if you are umming and ahhing over exercise/fitness, is that you will feel so much better afterwards. You might feel exhausted to start with, but exercise builds up your energy, helps metabolism and just generally makes you feel better in yourself. It's hard to explain, but you'll know what I mean!

Image courtesy of Pinterest.

I also had a hair cut and colour (I've never had my hair coloured before!) recently. I wanted a change for the new year and I'm sooo happy with it :)...

These are just a few things I've been doing and thinking about in January to set me up for the new year. Everyone has different priorities/situations, so what have you been doing to start a fresh new year? Let me know in the comments section below :).

Thanks so much for reading lovelies!
Gem XxOo
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