Banana, chocolate and raspberry muffins

Banana, chocolate and raspberry muffins

Sometimes baking inventions come from slightly healthier intentions. We have been eating a lot healthier and going to the gym 4-5 times a week. We actually have a couple’s gym membership (although I categorically deny that we sit side by side on the exercise bikes!) As such, there has been a lot more fruit and vegetables in our shopping basket. Enter these muffins. I had some raspberries that needed eating and a hankering to adapt a tried and tested muffin recipe. After all life is about balance and a little of what you fancy does you the world of good.

To make 13 muffins you will need:

3 bananas (slightly overripe is best)

2 large eggs

113g butter, melted

150g caster sugar

230g self raising flour

150g raspberries (fresh or frozen)

150g milk chocolate chunks

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a muffin tray with cake cases. Mash your bananas and the eggs together until there are only small lumps of banana. Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly. Add the sugar, flour and butter to form a nice batter. Once it is mixed in with no dry bits add the raspberries and chocolate.

Put the mixture into the lined cake cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out of your test cake clean.

Best enjoyed

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Ginger Whisk Cookery School – A Review

Ginger Whisk Cookery School – A Review

If you love food I’m sure you can appreciate that even the most confident cooks sometimes benefit from a bit of help and guidance to improve in certain types of cooking. Personally, I find using pastry a challenge (curse my naturally warm hands). As such I was absolutely delighted to attend a Pork Pie making class 2 Saturdays ago at the Ginger Whisk Cookery School in Chiswick, West London.

The Cookery School hosts a wide range of classes ranging from baking; teaching university students to cook; children’s cookery classes; soap making; food photography and many more. The class list is diverse and classes are run by a range of people and can include guest teachers.

The pork pie class was hosted by Lucy Cufflin, one of the founders of Ginger Whisk and Lucy Lee-Tirrell. Both were excellent teachers, friendly, encouraging and open to questions. The class sizes are small which gives them both opportunity to offer tips to individuals in an area where they may have been struggling. For example, I have been rolling out pastry too aggressively for years which has led to slightly shrunken pies and tarts as the pastry sprang back in the oven.

The small class sizes gave a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and it was lovely to spend time with other people who enjoyed talking about food as much as I did. As it turns out pork pie making, which previously I was wary of, is actually pretty methodical and it is a pretty perfect thing to make around Christmas time or for a celebration. As somebody who is collecting ideas for a wedding it quite literally gave me food for thought and home made pork pie might make an appearance on the menu in the course of the day.

It was a lovely touch that not only did we get to sample a range of pork pies and local beer.; we also had cheese and wine from Lucy and Lucy’s recent travels to France. As well as being a great way to learn about cooking on an individual basis, attending a cookery class would be a fun idea for a date or even a great corporate team building event. Not only does Ginger Whisk offer cookery classes, there is opportunity for prop hire and a photography studio – used in food magazines and in the production of cook books. So if you’re the next Delia or Jamie Oliver get in touch with Ginger Whisk.

I had a great time during my trip to London and I left with a large pie and instructions on adding the jelly which was a fun post pie activity. I actually made a video of my visit which will be appearing on my Youtube channel soon!

Thank you so much for my invite to your lovely cookery school. I had a great time!

Click here for details of classes.

For information on prop or studio hire click here.

For any general enquiries or business enquiries click here.

I was kindly invited to visit the Ginger Whisk Cookery School to review a class. All opinions stated here are my own.

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be constantly productive?

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be constantly productive?

Do you ever get the same feeling as me that you’re constantly running behind? Like you have a long to do list, you complete 90% of it and yet you still have a niggling feeling like you should have pushed that extra bit to get everything done. Sometimes you do have the energy to finish everything off or but some lucky stroke things take less time than you imagined. On those days the sense of achievement is pretty great, but it leaves me asking a question, why do some of us put so much pressure on ourselves?

I don’t actually know where this drive to be busy came from. If I’m honest at times I was a bit of a sloth. I was happy idling my time away, spending time binge watching Game of Thrones and expecting nothing more from my free time than just relaxing and seeing the boyfriends I had at the time.

I’ve noticed most of my female friends and a lot of the blogging community seem to be reluctant to give themselves a break. I don’t know if its crept up on me as I’ve got a bit more mature or whether its actually finding a job that I’m pretty good at and a pretty cool niche in blogging that I really enjoy. I’ve found myself in breaks at work keeping on top of blog emails and wedding research. If I stop my brain feels like its literally breathing a sigh of relief. Perhaps that’s why spa days are so immensely popular?

I am surrounded by so many wonderful people in my life stuck in the same predicament, some tired mothers who accomplish so much; some people managing multiple jobs and people running their own businesses who seem to achieve so much. Everyone seems to have the same worry that they’re not productive enough , not doing enough.

I think I mentioned nearly 2 years ago about having to take a hiatus from blogging and I had to pull back from work as I pretty much worked myself into the ground during a stressful time at work. The day in A&E that followed was at best hilarious as it was so surreal and at worst a warning sign about overdoing it.

So, to all the worriers, the list makers and the people who upon completing their to do list add another 5 things to it. You’re doing a pretty great job, keep it up. The world needs more people who care. But don’t be afraid to sit down and have a tea break, the world won’t stop if you don’t finish everything.

Plus, you can maybe cross a couple of the more unattainable tasks off the list and get some sleep?

Something for the weekend: George’s, Leeds

Before I properly start this blog post there are 2 things you need to know:7

  1. The photo quality does not do this restaurant justice.
  2. It is embarrassing that after nearly 5 years of blogging that after 5 minutes D took better photos than me. Bravo my darling, bravo.

If you’re looking for a venue that can produce a classic British dish and put a contemporary twist to the same high quality; Georges is probably the place for you. This place came highly recommended to us from several of Dane’s work colleagues and upon visiting, we could see why. This place is a fun cross between a seaside town and a cocktail bar, with the restaurant booths being decorated like beach huts which was a lovely touch.

We visited on a Friday night after work as D was reviewing Miss Vincent at the Key Club. The staff were lovely, really attentive and pretty interested when D told them they’d be appearing here! The food came really quickly, essential for us as we didn’t really have time to linger. I definitely got the impression that it wasn’t the sort of place you’d be rushed out of though as the cocktail menu was impressive and extensive.

I wasn’t really paying attention when I ordered my drink and was delighted when the below concoction appeared in front of me. This is a Candy Baby – a non alcoholic cocktail. The first time in around 15 years i have had candy floss.

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Dane samples the wild ocean hake in onion bhaji batter. He raved about this, and the batter really was like proper onion bhajis. This was the perfect spin on British fish and chips, but obviously also allows you to enjoy some Indian flavours at the same time.

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My eyes were slightly bigger than my stomach (which they often are after a day in the labs at work) and I ordered a stacked fish burger with cheese croquettes. Both burger and croquettes were delicious. The fish was beautifully cooked. I wasn’t so struck on the deep fried gherkin and picked onion though. (This is more personal preference rather than the way it was cooked). I did feel like I slightly over ordered, and I would say that never time I would order a lighter side with this burger as it was pretty sizeable, and I could not finish everything.

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If you happen to be in Leeds (or Newcastle/Nottingham) and you want somewhere that will appeal to those who want a more traditional menu, without ignoring those who like trying new things this is the place for you. The menu is pretty varied, there are options for meat lovers, and those who want a lighter meal.

We arrived at the music venue, perhaps not the oldest in the audience, but definitely the fullest people there!

Thank you to the staff who were so friendly and really made us feel welcome.

I’d love to return to try some of the exciting looking cocktails. I’m sure we will be returning soon.

For more information on Georges including booking information click this link.

If you’re interested in the band D was reviewing this link takes you to one of their music videos.

Have a great weekend!

Wedding planning part one

Wedding planning part one

As I mentioned in my recent travel posts D and I are engaged and planning our wedding. Full disclosure; there hasn’t been any major stresses and we have disagreed on approximately 3 things. These were centred around the usual minor things; the food, the music etc etc.

I have a very helpful fiance who has done a lot of work organising. With music being a major influence in his life he was never going to let me organise wedding entertainment (although I have input) just like I was never going to let him have the final say on the flowers.

I have to say, I haven’t found the initial stages of wedding planning particularly stressful, when you plan a wedding in 11 months its more efficient to be decisive and do your homework. We had already planned and discussed what we wanted while we were away and as such it has been relatively straightforward to put everything into place.

So far the venue is organised, the registrar is booked, we have one band booked (with a few more to consider) and we have a guest list. D is doing a lot of homework with his photographer and music contacts (what a love!)  We have a cake organised. I am wedding dress shopping in a few weeks with my mum, although I have absolutely no idea what type of dress I want.

I am by no means a wedding planning expert. I feel like we’re sort of making it up as we go but in a good way. My only tips so far are:

  1. Wedding planning doesn’t have to take over, our way of tackling it is to have regular check ins but not have it all consuming.
  2. On the back of this is is important to make time to be a couple. It doesn’t have to be expensive, a movie night at home or a gig won’t set you back much. Having fun together sets some good foundations for your marriage (or so I’m told).
  3. Work out what (if anything) you want to DIY. Price it up, eBay is your friend, but also consider how much you’re prepared to do. Do you actually enjoy crafting? How will you feel having to tie 100 ribbons and just how handy are you with a glue gun? If you like arts and crafts this is your time to shine, but don’t feel like you have to make anything if its not your bag.

Its all getting very exciting! I might even try to get D to write some tips on picking a wedding band.

A weekend in Northumberland

A weekend in Northumberland

Northumberland you stole our hearts. It turns out that all it takes for D and I to be happy is a beach, fish and chips, a place of historical interest and a boat trip. (Maybe also a day off work). We visited not one but 2 castles; Alnwick Castle, where much of the first 2 Harry Potter films were shot; and Bamburgh Castle which is just beautiful and overlooks the sea.

Considering we did everything at a relaxed pace we managed to fit a lot in. I really and wholeheartedly recommend taking a boat trip from Seahouses. Apart from seeing some of the beautiful coastline that the UK has to offer, we also got to see some adorable seals and puffins (the smell of guano was a bit ripe though).

Obviously being at the seaside we have to take the opportunity to have some of the best fish and chips we’ve had in a long time overlooking the sea.

We hit the jackpot with our B&B and I wholeheartedly recommend it. The room and bath were beautiful and the owners were so kind. We stayed at the Old Station House just outside of Belford. I could not recommend the place enough.

I think with planning a wedding its sometimes tempting to focus purely on the day ahead rather than enjoying your time as an engaged couple. I’m so glad we took an opportunity to spend time together in such a blissful and relaxed surroundings.

If you’re looking for a relaxed and reasonably priced break in the UK I couldn’t recommend Northumberland (both the coastal area and the National Park) enough.

The Florida Road Trip

The Florida Road Trip

Oh Florida you stole my heart! Our final leg of the trip was preceded by a rather disastrous flight to Jacksonville from Washington DC, but we had a wonderful time in Florida.

We started in Northern Florida at the beaches of Jacksonville and St Augustine, enjoying relaxing on the white sand and swimming in the sea. We followed our day at the beach with seafood dinner at Red Lobster. I’m still dreaming about the dinner we had there.

Other the next couple of days we visited two natural springs. On my birthday we had a wonderful time at the Devil’s Den snorkelling in a fossil cave. The following day we swam, kayaked and ate delicious barbeque food at Manatee Springs. It was great to see the wildlife, but we were both pretty wary of the large snake on the steps to the water.

Following our adventures in Northern Florida we headed to Orlando. I’ll be honest, I wanted to love Orlando but I didn’t. We had a good time there, but it was so much busier and more commercial than Northern Florida. It didn’t really help that I got the worst cold and one of the days I was too ill to do what we had planned.

In terms of the Orlando parks we both loved Islands of Adventure. We somehow managed to go on a day where we didn’t have to queue for anything and we managed to walk straight onto all of the rides. The dream day at any theme park! Be aware though, we both got absolutely soaked on the water rides, down to wringing out our underwear! We also went to Typhoon Lagoon at Disneyland and had a relaxing day at the water park.

On our final day we visited Magic Kingdom. There were some elements to Disney’s Magic Kingdom that I loved – the Castle, the shows and attractions. However, it made me realise I am not really one for crowds and the queues were insane. If I were to go back to Disney I would probably pick one of the other parks to visit – I know its the big one to visit but it was a bit much in the heat for D who isn’t really a Disney fan.

All in all we loved Florida. For those interested we upgraded our hire car to a minivan for the extra space and for the ease of it. (Thank you D for driving!) We stayed in Jacksonville, Gainesville, Palatka, Ocala and Orlando. I wouldn’t recommend driving too much in Orlando; we actually returned our car in Orlando and used the hotel shuttles, the bus services and Ubers.

I know the main draw for a lot of visitors to Florida is the parks but we both really felt that if we had gone straight to Orlando we would have missed out on some really special experiences. Although theme parks are fun, swimming in springs in the sun and walking across beautiful beaches felt pretty once in a lifetime and was exactly what we needed at the time in life that we visited. It gave us the chance to just enjoy being engaged and let life happen for a while.

Also, a final thought for the last of my America posts. Buying premium economy tickets for our flight home was possibly the best £70 per ticket I’ve ever spent.