Smoothie Ideas

D and I are on a bit of a health kick at the moment and when we are eating healthier I tend to have smoothies a lot for breakfast. I broke my blender making smoothies and now I have a shiny new smoothie maker. I know they’re notorious for being sugary but you can make them less so but adding spinach and using fresh fruit instead of using ready made smoothies. Also in my defence I find that eating fruit earlier on in the day prevents me from craving sweet things made from refined sugars later in the day and it puts me in a happier, more energetic mood and my skin looks better. Generally we try and eat mostly vegetarian and pescatarian meals now so maybe it just fits in with these meals?

I nearly always thicken my smoothies by adding a banana. I also add oats or a nut butter to make it filling enough to see me through until lunch. Then I will add frozen fruit such as mango, blueberries or raspberries or the frozen fruit mixes designed to make smoothies with (like the banana and strawberry mix). Sometimes I use up fruit that isn’t quite at is best (minimise food waste when you can) and I also like to add frozen spinach. It is packed with all sort of nutrients and also because it has anti inflammatory properties so I find it really helpful with stomach pain or aching muscles. I switch between making smoothies with unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk or sometimes normal milk depending on what I have in. (Sometimes I have coconut water too).

I don’t think there is much of a recipe for what is essentially squashed fruit whizzed up in a blender, these are just some ideas to inspire. Maybe I’m just obsessed with fruit?

Banana and pineapple loaf

I’ve really started enjoying fruit recently. I have a (somewhat deserved) reputation as a chocoholic within my friendship group, but I feel my fruit consumption of late might have redeemed me. I got sent a selection of Nature’s Finest fruit pots a little while ago and it was just a bit too easy to take the majority of them to work for lunch. I also appreciate anything that stops me having to wrestle with a pineapple, or decipher when a mango might be ready.

Anyway, we always have a stash of bananas in the house and I sometimes think simple is best I made a more tropical themed banana loaf (especially in time for the first week of the Great British Bake Off cake week). It turned out pretty beautifully because the banana and pineapple kept the cake soft, even after 40 minutes of baking. I made this last night and D has been eyeing it up for hours while he was waiting for me to get in from work.

To make a banana and pineapple loaf you will need:

140g butter

140g caster sugar

2 large eggs

2 bananas (slightly over ripe is best)

140g self raising flour

200g pineapple chunks (keep back the juice)

50g icing sugar

Approx 20g dessiccated coconut

Heat the oven to 180°C. Line a loaf tin. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the bananas and eggs (if doing it by hand mash the banana first). Once the wetter ingredients are mixed beat in the flour to form a creamy mix. Finally, add the pineapple chunks.

Add to the loaf tin in a smooth layer. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes, until a skewer comes out of the cake cleanly. Allow the cake to cool.

To prepare the icing add about a teaspoon of the juice the pineapple came in to form a smooth paste and thinly cover the loaf with this. To finish, sprinkle over the coconut.

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Usefully, this cake keeps for several days in an air tight tin, if you can keep the people you live with’s hands off it for long enough!

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Natures’ Finest fruit is available in most big supermarkets. It comes in coconut water or fruit juice, rather than syrup so it makes it a preferable baking ingredient and a healthier snack when you’re on the go. I was sent samples of this to try. For more recipe suggestions visit here.

Rome

A month ago this week we flew to Rome and enjoyed the delights of Rome and Sorrento (but not really the delights of the Circumvesuviana from Naples to Sorrento without air conditioning on one of the sweatiest days of my life!). Anyway, I thought it would be nice to add a few more recent travel themed posts and as Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world it would be a good place to start.

We flew via Ciampino Airport and travelled round mostly on the Metro and on foot. I would really recommend buying a Roma pass; which as well as giving you a 3 day travel card for the Metro, also gets you into 2 attractions (we opted for the Coliseum and Castel Sant Angelo). I would really 100% recommend buying your tickets for the Vatican Museum before you travel, the queues were insane and we were grateful not to have to worry about queuing in the heat. On the subject of the Vatican, I would also plan what you want to wear in advance, make sure its an appropriate length and covers your knees and elbows otherwise you will be made to cover up, either in a shawl or paper trousers. I don’t know about you but paper doesn’t feature heavily in my travel wardrobe.

Apart from the above attractions we also paid a trip to the Pantheon, explored Trastavere and mistakenly attended Mass in the oldest Christian Churches in Rome (the congregation were so lovely to us and the church was beautiful). I certainly felt like we could have spent a fortnight there and not seen all of the wonderful museums, churches and historical sites.

I would also advise caution when it comes to things like touts, people coming up to you to try and sell you things outside tourist attractions etc. It can be difficult to walk past them politely but tickets are nearly always cheaper from attractions or online vendors and a lot of street sellers will try to rip you off (I feel pretty bad writing this as I am aware its to make ends meet, every beautiful place has some downsides).

However, I would recommend walking round the city and getting a feel of the place. Rome is so beautiful and has so many different areas. We stayed just down the road from the Coliseum in a hotel called Hotel Centro Cavour – the hotel itself was a good base and the staff were so friendly. Upon arrival the man on the reception gave us a map, added the best places to visit on your first visit and explained the best routes to each place.

Although Italy has a reputation for being more on the pricey side, we actually found it pretty reasonably priced for food and drinks. I don’t know what it is about European cities but one of the loveliest things about being on a city break is always sitting outside a bar in the early evening with a drink before the sun goes down.

On the topic of food, embrace gelato. It is one of my absolute favourite desserts and the flavour range is fantastic. I particularly loved raspberry, passion fruit and coconut flavours as the temperatures soared.

One last thing, I  saw another blogger recommend getting up as something ridiculous like 5am to avoid crowded places in more touristy areas. Its very rare something makes me get up this early when I am not in work, but I don’t think this is the sanest, or safest advice. However, if you DO want to visit some of the more popular places at quieter times; crowds tend to disperse around 7.30 to 8pm which provides ample photographic opportunity and a chance to see things at a more leisurely pace.

Why you should nominate me for the 2015 Cosmopolitan Blog Awards

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Slightly later than usual the nominations for the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2015 have opened. I was shortlisted to these awards in 2013 and it was a huge honour and remains one of the biggest achievements for me. In 2013 being shortlisted came at a pretty low point in my life, my long term relationship was crumbling and my self confidence was on the floor. But the opportunities that came with being shortlisted; especially given the low number of followers I had at the time provided a distraction and helped make me feel that I was clever and could be me, even when I felt that my world was being turned upside down. (I also wholeheartedly thank my amazing parents, brother and my friends for cheering me up and making me smile A LOT).

Anyway, since then my life has got a whole lot more lovely. Through a shared interest in writing; I met D and moved in with him. Which means I now no longer house share and I am no longer that annoying housemate who makes cakes late into the night and hogs all the pans in the kitchen. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the nominations and subsequent shortlisting meant a lot to me then and the continued support from everyone still astounds me. It still gives me a thrill when people post comments, or I get a new follow on here.

I am aware the direction of my blog has changed somewhat since 2013. I feel like it has gone from “lets see the maximum number of cakes I can make in a week” to “busy woman throws ingredients together to feed herself and partner”. But to be honest, the pride I feel more posting recipes I know might inspire other busy women (and men) to do their own ad hoc cooking is greater now. Plus when I do bake I enjoy it all the more for feeling like it’s a treat, or like I am giving somebody a great birthday cake.

So in summary, it would mean the absolute world to me if anyone could nominate me by clicking here., but if I don’t make it to the finals all the support I have been given has been the most wonderful blessing and I can’t imagine where I’d have been without it.

Keeping your food at its best for longer

I’ll start this post with my hands in the air; I am probably not the most domestic food blogger who ever lived. However, lately something made me start organising our food cupboards and fridge to see what was actually in there. It all started a few weeks ago when we had to buy cereal canisters for rabbit food as one of ours ate their way into a large food sack causing a telltale trail of kibble from the conservatory back to the rabbit hutch. Then the lovely people at Fresha sent me a sample and I started storing fruit and veg in the food bags. (FYI, Fresha bags are a wonderful invention which keep your fruit and vegetables at their best for way longer, they’re also reusable and seem to stop my kitchen smelling of banana).

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So I basically realised that if you keep your cupboards more organised you’re more aware of what you have in and you stop yourself buying the same thing with every shopping trip. You also minimise the risk of food spoiling by getting damp (or hungry pets getting into stuff). The more food you buy and don’t eat the worse it is for the environment and the more money you waste spending money on food that goes in the bin

So here are my best learned food storage rules so far:

1. Proper storage of fruit and vegetables is your friend. Fruit and vegetable storage bags, banana trees and fruit bowls all help keep things more fresh. Make sure you don’t hang onto rotting things as they impact on the freshness of your surrounding produce.

2. Keeping dried foods in plastic boxes and jars looks much tidier, helps you to store more in your cupboards and stops you repeatedly buying spaghetti when you don’t actually need to.

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3. Store your cakes and biscuits separately. Cakes cause biscuits to soften and biscuits cause cakes to harden. My heart actually aches when I have to discard cake as I love it so much.

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4. Keep a cheese box. This stops you from finding random old bits of cheese in the back of your fridge but it also prevents that cheese pong you get when you have been to the deli (or in my case this weekend the Wensleydale Creamery)

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5. If you eat meat, every couple of days go through your fridge and check nothing is coming to its use by date. If it is, either freeze it or cook with it as soon as you can. Nothing says “I love you” like a nasty case of food poisoning from old chicken.

It turns out, I quite like being organised in one place in my house.

As an entertaining side note here are a couple of photographs of our mischievous pets who inspired me to be more organised.

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Also a big thank you to Fresha and the nice PR lady who sent me the sample without whom I would not have written this post. I was sent my first pack of Fresha bags free of charge but they can be purchased for £3.99 for 20. I will be buying more.

A fishy themed chocolate cake

I made this cake for my friend Ed’s mini baby shower. Basically I saw a recipe on the internet for individual fish cupcakes that DC sent me and I decided to make a larger version. Although this cake took a bit of decorating I rationalised that it was easier to do a larger cake in detail than to do several cupcakes. On a week night it is always best to take the easier way out. As a side note this blog post also marks me starting to use the new DSLR lens my parents kindly bought me for Christmas. Doesn’t it make my photos look beautiful! (Thank you parents!)DSC_0289

To make this cake you will need:

3 large eggs

170g golden caster sugar

170g butter

155g self raising flour

15g cocoa powder

To decorate

50g dark chocolate

300g icing sugar

250g marscapone

Smarties (I actually opened 3 packs for my desired colours – D will be sent to work with treats tomorrow!)

1 packet milk chocolate buttons

1 packet white chocolate buttons

Writing icing (you can make your own in a piping bag, I bought pre-made this time)

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C, cut some baking parchment to the size of your cake tins to line them. Using an electric whisk beat your eggs and sugar until they leave a trail of mixture over the surface.

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Sift in your flour and cocoa powder and fold in.Melt your butter and fold in, until your mix is smooth.DSC_0276

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DSC_0280Separate into two cake tins and bake for around 12 minutes, until a skewer comes clean when you poke in into your cake.

Leave your cake to cool on a wire rack. While it is cooling make your icing by beating together your icing sugar and marscapone.Melt your chocolate and beat this into your icing. Sandwich together your cakes with a thin layer of this, then use it to cover the top and sides of your cake evenly. Use a butter knife or any flat knife to do this. This recipe makes more than enough icing – I froze mine to use on cupcakes later.

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To make the fish shape layer on your chocolate to make scales – I made my fish striped but your can do this how your wish. Don’t forget to leave space for a face. On the edges use your Smarties to frame the face. then use your Smarties to add facial features and the tail and water bubbles (I also made a little plant). Finally use your icing bag to add the top and side fin detail.

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I’m pretty please with how this turned out. Perhaps I will make fish cakes whenever somebody has a birthday, now there’s an idea!

BBC Good Food Show Harrogate

Last weekend Miss B and I visited the BBC Good Food Show when it came to Harrogate for the first time. Judging by the hoards of people in attendance it was a roaring success. We sampled more than our fair share of the various spirits available and walked around the Harrogate International Centre in a bit of a dreamy haze until we sorted ourselves out with some good old Yorkshire Tea.

I really recommend attending various food shows if you enjoy cooking (and food in general). I have picked up so many useful tips by watching cookery demonstrations since I started blogging. Miss B and I watched Brian Turner, Lisa Faulkner and James Martin prepare some wonderful dishes – but nothing I think most people couldn’t manage at home. This is obviously part of the charm (in my opinion), nobody wants to forlornly watch a cookery demonstration of something delicious knowing they have no hope of making it for themselves. I actually found James Martin’s demonstration pretty funny (and the samples of gin had worn off by then).

Anyway, I really really want the Good Food Show to return to Harrogate next year. The range of produce (both local and from further afield) was amazing. I’ll have to blog some of the things I learned at a later date.

Did you attend the Good Food Show? What did you think?

A massive thank you to the people organising the Good Food Show for sending me a Press Pass and a complimentary ticket. You made 2 girls very happy. To find out more about upcoming food shows click here.