Monday, 11 December 2017

Giveaway #661 : Win a duo of fruity 2-in-1 shampoos from Vosene - closing date 28/12

Wind, rain, snow, temperatures below freezing ... Mother Nature seems to be throwing it all at us at the moment ! There's nothing nicer than coming home from work or the school run, jumping into a steaming hot shower then getting into fluffy pyjamas and snuggling on the settee with a hot chocolate (maybe topped with marshmallows, if we're feeling particularly decadent !). While the grown ups and the girls at The Madhouse prefer taking a shower, Pierre still loves splashing about in the bath, so he was over the moon to receive a package of festive bath-time goodies from Vosene, including a bathroom light show and a Santa sleigh and accompanying reindeer rubber ducks !

I had a good giggle when I got to the bottom of the box and discovered some stripey elf bobble hats, complete with pointy ears ! I'm going to Norway on a work trip in the first week back after Christmas, so this will come in very useful for staying warm ! Heading off to work with damp hair is always horrible in the cold (and even if I wash my hair in the evening, it's still slightly damp in the morning) so maybe I could get away with wearing it on the bus to work in the mornings too?!

The stars of the show, though, were the bottles of Strawberry and Melon 2-in-1 shampoo, in suitably festive green and red bottles. We love these shampoos because, as well as keeping hair soft and tangle-free, they have a fabulous, fruity, feel-good fragrance that the whole family loves. Both have a RRP of £1.99 at ASDA.

Vosene (who I think should be renamed Ho-Ho-Vosene during the festive period, as they're being so generous !) have kindly offered to send a bottle of each of the shampoos (Melon and Strawberry) to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. (You'll have to find your own elf hat and santa rubber ducks though !!) Fill in your entries using the rafflecopter widget below (-ho-ho - sorry, I can't help myself !)

UK only. Closing date : 28/12/17

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after 28 days, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray ! Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. The winners' personal contact information will be passed on to the PR / Brand responsible and used only for delivery of their prize. 

You may also like to enter my other giveaways :

Giveaway #660 : Win 2 x Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie on Blu-Ray - closing date 17/12

Madhouse diaries : Christmas in Dunkirk

Braving the winds of Storm Caroline (called Storm Xanthos in France) yesterday afternoon, we headed into Dunkerque town centre to see the Christmas decorations, starting at the Forêt Enchantée.

Following the pathway through the forest of Christmas trees, we peered into each of the wooden chalets.

Each chalet presented a different scene, from schoolroom and woodland scene to carpenter's studio, each one with animated figures.

They were pretty and the festive music and smell of pine needles added some extra Christmas spirit, but we didn't think it was quite as good as previous years when they featured moving teddy bears.

 There were still some nice surprises hidden around corners though.

After seeing Santa working through the Christmas mail with his band of merry elves, we came across the man in red himself. 

The organisers announced that they were closing the forest as a safety measure because of the wind, but we just had time to see the rest of the display on our way out.

 Choo choo ... from one train to another, as we headed into the town hall opposite to see a demonstration of model trains.

The town hall had had the Christmas decorators in too, but we were just as impressed with the big stained glass window, representing the history of Dunkirk and the local hero, privateer Jean Bart.

 From the top, the Christmas tree looked even bigger. Meanwhile, Sophie was whispering sweet nothings in the polar bear's ear !

We headed down to the Christmas market in the main square but they were being forced to close as a safety measure too. We just had time to buy a chocolate pancake before heading home. I've no doubt the Madhouse grandparents and Auntie Em weren't looking quite so smiley a couple of hours later. Due to the wind and an earlier ferry accident in Calais, there were humungous delays on the Channel Tunnel on the way home. (Three hours at time of writing.) I hope they had a good day all the same.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Madhouse recipe : Rich Chocolate & Love Brownies

You may remember that back in October, I made some delicious Chocolate and Love Salty Cookies for Chocolate Week, using a recipe by CPH Good Food. Well, they were so delicious that I had to roadtest the other recipe that they had sent me for rich brownies, along with some of their Rich Dark 71% chocolate. In my opinion, there is nothing more disappointing than a dry brownie so I always slightly undercook mine, to make sure they are gooey and chewy. Well, I might have gone a little bit too far this time - when we ate them an hour after cooking them, they were delicious but so gooey we ended up using spoons ! The next day, they had firmed up nicely, while still remaining soft and chewy, but it's very hard not to scoff them all straight away !

 Rich Chocolate & Love Brownies

Makes 10 – 15 pieces

250g dark cane sugar
160g unsalted butter
5 tbsp high quality cacao powder
Seeds of 1/2 bourbon vanilla pod
2 tbsp whisky
150g wheat flour, preferably cake flour
100g Rich Dark 71% from Chocolate and Love, roughly chopped
60 g (1 dl) pecan nuts, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
2 organic eggs

Serve with
250 g mascarpone cheese
1/2 dl single cream or coffee cream
3 tbsp whisky
Fresh blueberries


Heat the oven to 175º C / fan 155º C.

Mix the sugar, butter, cacao powder, vanilla seeds and whisky in a pan. I used up the end of a bag of coconut sugar.

I also used 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate powder and left out the whisky.

Put the pan over medium heat, until melted. (I used the microwave instead.) Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Mix flour, chopped chocolate, chopped nuts and salt in a bowl. (Due to popular demand, I left out the nuts.)

Stir the flour mix into the cooled sugar, butter and add the eggs. Stir it with a whisker until it’s just combined. Avoid further mixing!

Pour the cake batter into a squared 20 cm baking tin lined with baking parchment. Bake the cake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are firm, but the middle still soft. Let it cool completely before cutting.

When serving: Whip the mascarpone together with the cream and whisky, until fluffy and spoonable. Serve the brownies at room temperature with whisky foam and blueberries. (We didn't bother with the final step - they were deliciously and utterly indulgent as they were.)

Recipe by CPH good Food

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 10/12/17

Moody skies courtesy of Mother Nature #nofilters !

(Click through to find out more about our wintry walk along the beach, including blue jellyfish, World War II bunkers and sea urchins !)

OneDad3GirlsSunday Snap

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Stocking fillers and tummy fillers for foodies of all ages (review roundup)

Whether you're looking for festive nibbles or Christmas gifts for foodie friends and secret Santas, there are some lovely new products hitting the shelves at the moment, that will appeal to everyone, whatever their age or dietary restrictions. You can't have Christmas without chocolate, and this Diva box of Bonieri chocolates from Turin looks very snazzy, in its sleek black and white packaging.

Inside the box, you get twelve individually wrapped, boat-shaped gianduiotti chocolates which, unbelievably, are sugar-free. Yes, I know what you're thinking ... "Sugar-free chocolate? Yuck, I'd rather go without." Well, yes, I was inclined to agree with you before tasting these ones. Don't just take my word for it though - they won a 2016 Great Taste award. They are made with cocoa paste, Piedmont hazelnut paste, cocoa butter and sweetener and they're gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians, as well as those who need to avoid sugar for health reasons or lifestyle choice. They contain 54 calories per chocolate and have a lovely smooth, silky texture. You honestly would never guess that they're sugar-free if it wasn't written on the box ! (RRP £11.95 for 120g) For more information :

Hands up if you are guilty of regularly throwing away over-ripe bananas. I have to admit that I am, even if I have a tried-and-tested banana bread recipe that uses up most of them before they go too far. I'm not alone though - 1.4 million edible bananas are thrown away in Britain every day. Snact reacted to this problem by creating a trio of Banana Bars, using fruit that would otherwise have gone to waste for being too 'ugly' or not the right level of ripeness. Available in three flavours - Apple & Cinnamon, Carrot & Spice and Beetroot & Cacao, the soft, chewy bars come in eco-friendly wrappers that are fully compostable and compost at a similar rate to orange peel. They taste very nice and are vegan, gluten-free, less than 130 calories and free from flavourings, colourants and artificial sweeteners. What's not to like?! We also tried a bag of Snact Fruit Jerky which has a satisfyingly chewy texture and great fruity taste, as well as being equally eco-friendly because it is made with surplus apples. For more information :

Staying on the healthy snacks theme, do you prefer sweet or savoury options? Even if nobody is hungry after all that turkey, not to mention the Christmas pudding and mince pies, it's always nice to have little bowls of nibbly things to share in front of the festive telly binge over Christmas.

If you want something healthier than a family tin of chocolates, Bear Claws are as delicious as sweets but contain nothing but 100% fruit and vegetables and the same amount of sugar as half an apple (with a lot more fun !).  They even count towards your five a day. Indie Bay Snacks pretzel bites are a reinvention of the pretzel with alternative flours and wholesome grains, making them the ultimate #snackswithbenefits. Perfect for munching on while waiting for Big Ben to chime on New Year's Eve (even if, presumably, they'll be using a recording this year).

If (like me) you've been trying (but failing !) to get enthusiastic about chia seeds, Andean Sol have a great new way to get some of the superfood into your diet : an innovative range of Chia Oils. A world first, the Olive and Chia Oil is cold pressed to maximise flavour, adding life to any dish, whether it’s drizzled, dipped or doused over food. Available in 250ml bottles with a RRP of £8.99, the nutritious oil brings together the best of both worlds, the sublime taste of the highest quality extra virgin olive oil blended with the impressive plant based Omega-3 power of cold pressed chia oil. The result is a rich peppery oil that will add depth to any dish. Andean Sol has also launched a pure Extra Virgin Chia Oil, made from the finest ingredients sourced only from the warm and sunny foothills of the Andes Mountains and containing approximately 64% of plant powered Omega-3 fatty acids. With a light nutty flavour, it is the ideal nutritious salad dressing. Available in 100ml bottles with a RRP of £9.99, you can experience the true taste of the Andes with every drop. Ever wondered where your food really comes from? Well now you can know, because by entering the unique code found on the back of Andean Sol packs onto their website, you can learn about the process, people and farm who worked hard to create the new oil range. Available on Ocado. For more information :

If you prefer making your own snacks and tasty treats, the Christmas stocking filler-sized Flavours of Wales : The Baking Cookbook pocket book (RRP £6.99) by Gilli Davies and Huw Jones showcases ten authentic sweet and savoury Welsh recipes, including Bara Brith, Caerphilly Scones, Teisen Lap and Aberffraw Cakes. Despite living in Swansea for three years, there are several tasty treats that I'd never heard of and can't wait to try, having seen the full colour photos accompanying each recipe.

There's nothing better than a warming bowl of homemade soup on a cold winter's evening, especially after all the over-indulgence of Christmas. I make soup at least twice a week - using the leftovers from the roast on Sunday evening and once more, usually with bacon and lentils or split peas, at some point during the week - so I love Drew Smith's Broth To Bowl : Mastering the Art of Great Soup from Six Simple Broths.

As well as giving me some great twistq on the soups I already have in my repertoire, such as Bean & Barley Soup, Old-Fashioned Split Pea Soup or French Onion Soup, it also has lots of inspiration for more exotic soups, including Monkfish with Ginger, Mussel soup or Chickpea soup with leeks, coriander and tomatoes.

With over 60 recipes, there's something for everyone, including vegetarians, meat and fish-lovers. As a keen globe-cooker, I particularly love the exotic offerings, from French bouillabaisse to Thai Tom Yum Goong, Scottish Cock-a-leekie and Japanese Dashi. Using nothing but honest, unprocessed and natural ingredients, it is perfect for the health-conscious home cook, and anyone interested in using time-honoured techniques to expand their culinary skills, not to mention reducing food waste by using up odds and ends that may well have ended up in the bin otherwise. The full-colour photos make it enjoyable to flick through and I'm looking forward to upping my soup game and making lots of lovely warming dishes to see us through the colder months. (Hardback, 160 pages, RRP £20.)

Finishing off with one for the kids, The World In My Kitchen by Sally Brown & Kate Morris ,
co-creators of CBBC’s I Can Cook,  offers a whistle-stop culinary tour of the world. Today you could be having a Peruvian meal, tomorrow your table could be whisked over to Finland and the day after chopsticks will be on the table instead of knives and forks as you take a trip to China !

The Madhouse kids are quite used to me cooking up lots of exotic dishes but they don't always want to try them, so it was great to find a variety of kid-friendly options that they could help prepare. In fact, they didn't need much help from me at all, as each recipe has been created so that your child can cook as independently as possible, with simple preparation, easy to source ingredients and serving suggestions to help create a balanced meal.

The recipes, all tested by children before being allowed in the book, are devised to produce a portion size equivalent to two adults and two children, so your mini chefs can feel really proud when they dish up a meal to serve the whole family. As well as honing important life skills, including cooking and nutrition, the book is educational, with maps and facts about each country dotted amongst the recipes.

(Paperback, 160 pages, RRP £12.99)

That little lot should give you plenty of food for thought (and bellies) over the Christmas period !

Disclosure : We received the products in order to write an honest review.

Fab freebies of the week 9/12

Welcome to this week's round up of the UK's best freebies. It's starting to look a lot like Christmas, and there are a couple of things in this week's offerings that could make nice stocking fillers, if they arrive in time, as well as some advent giveaways with good odds of winning. Let me know if you've had any luck with the advent competitions this year so far.


Write a short review of twenty children's books in the same month at Boolino and they'll send you a free book

Cougar Beauty Products are giving you the chance to order a free full size face oil worth £22.99, just  pay pay P&P £3.95- use code FREEOIL (valid until 14th Dec)

Receive your free Shawn Mendes scented tattoo sample from Sopost

Request your very own #TullyTheElephant

You can enter the Modern Gardens Magazine daily instant win competition every day until Christmas - I won some Sophie Conran enamel seed pots the first time I entered yesterday :) (Today I won a free digital issue of Modern Gardens worth £2.99, which I'm guessing everyone wins)

Kiddylicious have 50,000 prizes up for grabs

Win one of 100 copies of The Woman In The Window

Nisa's giveaway has 100 runner-up prizes of Kinder cuddly toys

Want to try Budweiser Prohibition zero alcohol beer for free? To get your hands on a can, enter your details and they’ll send you an email with a digital voucher to redeem at Tesco.

Enter your details below to receive your free travel sized REGENERATE™ toothpaste for 3 x stronger, smooth, healthy teeth.

MAC foundation - 14 formulas. 50+ shades. Pick up a complimentary 10-day foundation sample in store today.

Boots are offering samples of Similac Growing Up Milk

Sign up now to sample a new generation of condoms from Skyn. Feel everything.

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time. Let me know if any have expired and I'll remove them from the roundup.

You may also like to enter my current giveaways :

Friday, 8 December 2017

Madhouse recipe : Apple Cake with Toffee Sauce

As I had a few forlorn looking apples in the fruit bowl, I headed online for recipe inspiration to use them up. On the Baking Mad website, I spotted a recipe for Toffee Apple Cake, which had the added bonus of using up some of the black treacle and dried fruit cluttering up my baking cupboard. Win-win ! I adapted it slightly to suit what I had in the cupboards, so do head over to see the original recipe.

Apple Cake with Toffee Sauce

ingredients :

For the cake:

175g salted butter (softened)
125g muscovado sugar (I used a mixture of dark and light as I was using up ends of bags)
100g dates
70ml apple juice
3 eggs
220g flour (self raising or plain + 1tsp baking powder)
2 tsp mixed spice
3 apples
squirt of lemon juice

For the toffee sauce:

150ml marscapone
85g butter (salted)
100g demerara sugar (I used coconut sugar)
1 tbsp Black treacle

Preheat the oven to 180°. Chop the dates and put them in a saucepan, with the apple juice. Bring to the boil on a gentle heat then turn off the heat and leave to cool.

Cream together the butter and sugar until they turn pale and fluffy. 

Beat in the eggs, one by one, adding a spoonful of flour if the mixture starts to curdle. Fold in the flour and spices, then stir in the cooled date mixture. 

Pour into a cake tin or silicon mould.

Peel and slice the apples and toss in lemon juice. Arrange on top of the cake.

 Bake for 50 -55 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

To make the toffee sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat gently until they start to bubble. 

Continue to heat for a few minutes,stirring, until combined and smooth.

Serve the cake with the warm toffee sauce drizzled over the top.

By itself, the cake is slightly bland and dry, but with the addition of toffee sauce, it's lovely.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up various odds and ends, including wrinkly apples, black treacle, ends of bags of sugar and a pack of dates.
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