Home bit part 2

I thought I’d post a little update on things in our home. We were lucky enough to be given a few things around the Christmas period and I thought I’d have a wander round the house snapping things at random that made me smile last Tuesday. We also had to buy a Dyson ball vacuum cleaner and a freezer after I broke our last one (I am fully aware that puncturing a hole in a freezer chipping away at an ice buildup doesn’t exactly scream domestic Goddess). Nevertheless, the aforementioned purchases were possibly the most exciting purchases of the lot. You know you’re getting old when you get excited that your bagless vacuum is picking up way more sawdust from your pets than the previous model you had.

1. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Print

I bought D this for his birthday back in August and it has been sitting around for months waiting for one of us to frame it. I actually found the perfect sized frame in Asda. While it’s easier and equally NICE to buy pictures and prints already framed, sometimes its fun to choose your own frames for things, especially more specialist prints. If you have something that’s an awkward size or shape and you don’t want to trim it down; you can always mount it on coloured card and buy a bigger frame to make it look more finished off.

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2. Billy the Kid lyrics print

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As I have mentioned a few times D is a music journalist and I am lucky enough to have opportunity to go along to so many gigs and shows I wouldn’t normally see. One of our loveliest evenings was watching Billy the Kid at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds where D picked up this poster after interviewing Billy. Again, I framed this with a plain glass frame from Hobbycraft. (We also ended up naming our girl rabbit Billy!)

3. Cake stand from Asda

DSCN2342It has become a bit of a running joke with my friend Ed that D and I go to Crown Point in Leeds rather a lot. I have been eyeing up cake stands since I first began blogging and I was always put off by lack of space. Luckily this is slightly less of an issue now, which means that cakes now sit in pride of place on the table when I bake, or if we have a special meal.

4. Salt and pepper pots from Austria

DSCN2344My wonderful parents picked this lovely pair up for me when they were on holiday in Austria. As we’re a bit pet mad in this house these fit right in. Cute little things like these are a perfect way or adding a bit of fun into your house without adding too many gimmicks (in my opinion).

5. Debenhams owl oven glove and Rosie’s Pantry dessert spoons

DSCN2345My friend RC got me these lovely items for Christmas and as a belated birthday gift. I think you can still buy the spoons but the poor owl is no longer available online. RC’s real name is actually Rosie so it is highly appropriate. These are the sort of things I would think twice about buying myself due to practicality, so getting them as a gift is a real treat.

6. Egg cups from Asda.

DSCN2347Can you see now why Ed finds it so hilarious that I frequent Asda Living in Crown Point so much? They do some lovely things at very reasonable prices. Possibly I shouldn’t go back for a little while though, at least until I’ve learned where other homeware shops are…

7. Tassimo Machine

DSCN2337They say Scientists run on caffeine and unfortunately I’m no exception. Since D gave me this for Christmas I can barely keep my eyes open until I’ve had my morning caffeine fit. Plus, look how pretty and blue it is! I am saving myself a small fortune by not buying coffee from the show at work; this is so easy to use. I’d recommend one to anyone who enjoys coffee and is pushed for time in a morning.

Chicken, goats cheese, tomato and basil tray bake

So chicken and roast vegetable tray bake that I blogged in 2012 is one of the most popular recipes that I have written about and at one point I was number 2 in the search results in google for a tray baked chicken recipe (I was a bit too excited about this). Anyway, tray baked chicken is one of the popular recipes in our household and there are a couple of variations that I like to do (another post to follow). This one actually came to me as an idea as I had bought goats cheese and basil to make pizza with and I thought it would go nicely as a midweek meal. Mostly though, this recipe was a dream as I shoved it in the oven for 20 minutes after a run and I was able to shower and have a tasty, healthy meal.

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To do you own chicken tray bake you will need:

1 chicken breast per person (I did 1 extra)

1 clove of garlic

1 red pepper

Cherry tomatoes on the vine

3-4 basil leaves

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

50g goats cheese

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel and slice your garlic and chop your pepper into small pieces. Place your chicken on a roasting tray, drizzle with the olive oil and evenly distribute the garlic, pepper and the goats cheese. Tear up the basil leaves and sprinkle these over the chicken, goats cheese and vegetables. Season with the salt and pepper and top with the tomatoes (ideally still on the vine). Bake for around 20 minutes.

I served mine with sweet potato wedges but this would go with most things, particularly rice or pasta.

Yogurt and harissa spiced chicken kebabs

This is a gem of a weeknight meal. Served with cous cous or bulgur wheat for a meal that is satisfying and filling while still being healthy. If you’re not a massive fan of spicy foods take note, the yogurt makes the harissa far less spicy but still flavoursome. Mostly I just like this recipe as I get a tasty meal without much effort – if you work full time its always worth having a few recipes in your repertoire that you can whip up in under 20 minutes.

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To make the kebabs you will need (serves 2)

2 large chicken breasts or 3 smaller ones

4 tbsps yogurt or creme fraiche

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 red onion

1 clove garlic

2 tsp harissa spices

2 tsp tomato puree

Salt and pepper

Peel your onion and either grate it or use your blender to chop it finely. Peel and crush your garlic and add the onion and garlic to your yogurt along with the dry ingredients and tomato puree. Cut your chicken into 3cm(ish) pieces and add to your yogurt mix. Marinate in the fridge for at least an hour – I like to make it in the morning before work or the night before. When you want to eat the chicken thread it onto wooden or metal skewers (we have long metal ones which make me think of Turkish restaurants). Grill for around 8 minutes when turn over the skewers so the meat is evenly cooked.

Serve with your choice of bulgur wheat, cous cous, roast vegetables or salad, or pitta bread and humus – basically any way you will enjoy.

Ferrero Rocher Tart

This is one of those post festive period posts that feels a little late to the party. I ended up making this dessert when we had friends round on New Years Eve and its one that’s a little bit special. All the chocolate makes this a pretty decadent dessert – it’s actually a bit of a rehash of the  Chocolate and salted caramel hazelnut tart I made last year as the chocolate pastry and basic ganache recipe is pretty much the same. The praline in the Ferrero Rocher goes well with the chocolate and pecan nuts in the ganache. I must admit though, although the chocolate pastry is pretty difficult to work with, overall this recipe is easier than the original (both are good for a special occasion, this one is better if you’re pushed for time).

This time I made my pastry using my food processor as it is less time consuming. If you want to make the pastry by hand, there are instructions in the original recipe.

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“Monsier Ambassador you are really spoiling us with these Ferrero Rocher”

To make your own Ferrero Rocher Tart you will need

For the pastry

175g butter

75g caster sugar

2 egg yolks

250g plain flour

20g cocoa powder

35ml water

For the ganache

200g good quality dark chocolate (I used a mixture of 70% and 85%)

200ml double cream

200g soft brown sugar

70g chopped pecan nuts

For the topping

Approx 16 Ferrero Rocher

Chop your butter into small pieces and add to your food processor along with the caster sugar. Mix thoroughly – keep scraping the sides while using the food processor to make sure everything is evenly mixed. Add the egg yolks and water and mix well. Then gradually add the flour and cocoa powder. Once your pastry has come together gather into a large ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge or freezer for an hour until the dough is firm.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a half cm thickness and line a loose bottomed tart tin or cake tin. Leave the pastry to rest again in the fridge for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake your pastry lined with baking beans for 20 minutes and blind for a further 6 – 10 minutes.

While your pastry is cooling make your ganache by heating your sugar and cream and allowing to simmer for 2 minutes. Take off the heat and melt in your dark chocolate. Allow to cool slightly and add your chopped pecan nuts. Top your pastry with the chocolate ganache and leave to cool – the ganache will thicken as it does so.

Half your Ferrero Rocher and decorate your tart. I did this at random and added the crumbs I made while chopping the chocolates, but if you want you can eat these (nobody will know!).

This tart works very well with cream, ice cream or creme fraiche – D prefers his served on its own. We ate slices of this after approximately 3 hours of drinking and playing games so you can imagine the high spirits going on.

If anyone wants to see the old advert for Ferrero Rocher click here.

2014 – the year I inadvertently got a healthier attitude towards food

I generally don’t delve into my personal life too much on here; despite the slight change of pace and direction on here thebunfight will always primarily be a food blog to me, with various lifestyle, home and craft posts. However, I had a conversation with my mum over the Christmas period and it crept into my mind to write a post dedicated to something important, this being my improved attitude towards food in general (and mostly my increased appreciation of eating carbs with my meals again).

Up until I graduated from university I was slim to average and I was generally perfectly content with how I looked. I’d been brought up eating healthy, home cooked meals by two parents who absolutely doted on me. During my MSc year weight started to creep on and unfortunately during that period of feeling like my career had no direction (that is so common for a lot of us upon graduation) my weight increased to a point in which I was unhappy with how I looked.Fortunately, I ended up moving to a new place for a job related to my degree. Rather more unfortunately I was now cooking for myself and I have a bit of a sweet tooth and a major love for cheese. In addition, an unexpectedly horrible few months led to an unfortunate cycle where I gained even more weight and tried to lose weight eating a low carb diet which I couldn’t maintain and desperately unhappy I ended up comfort eating on sugary, fatty food – exactly what you want to be eating when you’re trying to lose your bingo wings, eh? I still dislike looking at photos of myself from Spring – Autumn 2013 knowing how desperately unhappy I was.

Anyway, I’ve depressed you all enough and this story has a very happy ending. So my life, and self esteem were improved by several things in 2014 which will forever be known as my unexpectedly lovely year. The first one was getting more involved with the right sort of exercise for me – gym classes and running with female friends. If ever there was a lazy woman who needed peer pressure to get off the sofa it was me. I will forever be grateful to my friends from work for barking at me as I ran round various routes in Harrogate (even if i whimpered all the way!) Exercise is so important for your physical and mental health, and although I was going to the gym before I don’t think I really understood the full benefits of fresh air and a more demanding workout.

The other thing that has helped was starting a new relationship and changing living situation. Not for any major reasons to do with looking nice, or obtaining a more positive body image. Have you ever tried to tell a 6ft 3 man with a healthy appetite that his tea that night is a salad? What about fish and vegetables? So, for the ease of cooking for two I started making meals that were a compromise – so things that were relatively healthy but more filling. So starchy carbs such as rice, pasta and bread have all returned to the daily menu and I eat until I feel comfortable.

I no longer snack as much – I get far less hungry between meals generally. I feel more awake and I don’t get as much of a 3pm slump where i feel sluggish. For a number of reasons I feel happier and my general mood has improved. We have dessert as a treat, not a nightly occurrence and neither of us is as bothered about snacking every night. I think when lower carb diets are suggested to people trying to lose weight, we forget that it is difficult to maintain this in the long term. Its not as sustainable for most people. Its far less easy to say no to a chocolate biscuit when your body thinks its missing out by not having porridge for your breakfast. When you’re trying to keep to a lower carb diet, everything outside of this dining experience becomes something of a naughty snack and we start to associate eating things we should be eating less of as a pleasurable experience. I personally have noticed gradual weight loss happening since I unconsciously changed my eating habits.

I still adore cooking and baking and I regularly bake on a Sunday afternoon and I still love blogging and writing about food. However, I don’t feel the same guilt for enjoying treats and I tend to bake more with fruit or make things we can take with our packed lunches or things that will keep during the week. Funnily enough there is a Ferrero Rocher Tart post in the pipeline but this sort of bake has become something I like to make when I have more time, at special occasions.

To summarise, this post feels like an awfully heavy topic for somebody who gets excited by Kinder Egg toys and Moomin pyjamas but diets and body image are partially related to food, right?

Anyway, after a post heavy on feelings rather than cake possibly you’d like to see a few pictures from my year?

D and I at possibly one of the worst restaurants in North Yorkshire

D and I at possibly one of the worst restaurants in North Yorkshire

Hen Do with some of the wonderful people who make me run

Hen Do with some of the wonderful people who make me run

There is so rarely a nice photo of us both

There is so rarely a nice photo of us both – Hallowe’en photobooth fun

Th

ith female friends