Friday, 24 February 2017

WEDDING: Honeymoon planning (well, fantasising)

Wedding planning blogger - honeymoon thoughts

It’s over a year until we’re planning to get married (I am like 73% sure the wedding posts will diminish during that time, I’m sorry I'm talking about it so much at the moment) and I can already tell that our planning is going to be anywhere but linear. We’re fixating on the little, insignificant details in a big way while giving rather less attention to the massive, significant stuff. Table names? Nailed. Venue? No clue.

And in that ilk, I’m idly planning our honeymoon. The honeymoon that we’re not actually intending to take until a few months after the wedding. I know why, of course. Hard savings this year means that exciting holidays has to take a backseat, and I’m getting all wistful for sunshine, interesting food and fun things. Currently I’m leaning towards an American road trip with a side of Disney, but there’s so much more out there to potentially choose from. The world is, quite literally, our oyster.

No, wait. That’s not literal at all. The world is not an oyster. Anyway, here’s some other honeymoon options that I’m toying with. I’m sure I’ll involve my fiancĂ© in these plans at some point.

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Monday, 20 February 2017

RECIPE: Slow cooked beef and ale stew

Beef and Guinness stew from Jamie Oliver's Superfood, Weight Watchers friendly

As much as I cheerfully kept my food blog going last year, I felt like I didn't cook all that much. Well, I did, but I didn't cook very many NEW recipes. I kept returning to old favourites over and over again, like chorizo pasta, peanut curry, coconut dhal and burrito bowls. Don't get me wrong, my parents wouldn't have minded if I'd made something different every night, but I minded. I didn't want to be under their feet all the time, so I relied heavily on batch cooking, which meant I'd spend a day once a month or so to fill up our freezer drawer with meals.

And it worked, but I missed what I love most about cooking - learning new skills, finding new flavours and experimenting with different things. So when we moved into our house, one of the first things I unpacked was my cookbooks. You see, having my own kitchen again is so much more than just space. It's having complete ownership of what's in the cupboards and the fridge, which sounds like a little thing, but when you're sharing that space it's sometimes hard to remember what's in there, or even to guarantee that what you left in there will still be there when you get home. We've all been in that position, right?

When we moved, I was convinced I wanted to replace the kitchen, but now I'm not so sure. Yeah, I'd love to replace the faux-wood cupboard doors with a calming cream, but it's actually a really good size with tons of storage, and lovely to cook in. I also get the impression it had hardly been used by the previous owner, apart from the oven which was pretty appalling. I attacked it with liberal amounts of Oven Pride (which I find terrifying but oh-so-satisfying) and it's much better, but I'm dreaming of replacing it eventually with a nice shiny hob (with no rust stains, the dream) and a big old oven. Currently eyeing up a nice cream double oven from Belling kitchen appliances, even though I'm not sure we can actually fit a double oven in. Oh well. One day I'll have my dream cream-and-wood farmhouse kitchen, I will. And until then, I must count my blessings, and remind myself that what we have now beats the oven we had in our flat by a long way, which was tiny, terrible, and only had one shelf. The wooorst.

Aaaanyway. I've already been racking up the new recipes since we moved. From curries to chilli to stew to meze, I'm loving experimenting again. I think my favourite new cookbook is one of Jamie Oliver's latest, Super Food Family Classics. You know when you just want to make EVERYTHING? That. Anyway, his beef and ale stew recipe is to diiiie for. He recommends serving it with mustard spiced pearl barley, but I serve it with mash, because I don't understand why you wouldn't have mash when you could have mash.

Here's my variation on it. It's pretty close to Jamie's, but I add a bit more beef and a bit more veg, and spend some time thickening it at the end, too. And I add mash. Did I mention the mash?

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

RECIPE: Vegan blueberry bircher muesli with Alpro

Alpro breakfast ideas - vegan bircher muesli with blueberries

I always have a little list of recipes in my head that I want to try out, but they're often the ones that it takes me the longest to get round to. One such recipe is bircher muesli. I love the stuff - I'm always buying the pre-made pots from M&S or Pret, and whenever I'm in Germany for work, I make a beeline for it at the hotel breakfast buffet.

Despite its name, it actually has more in common with porridge than muesli, and consists of oats soaked in milk, yogurt or both with grated apple. That's the basis of it, anyway, but you can add anything extra you like to it, such as fruit, granola or nuts. It's been around for years (it's a staple breakfast food in Switzerland) although it's had a bit of a renaissance recently under the guise of Overnight Oats, and there are hundreds of different variations - even versions where double cream or condensed milk is used instead of yogurt. Decadent.

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Saturday, 11 February 2017

WEDDING: Choosing my engagement ring

Story of choosng an engagement ring using bespoke design service from Purely Diamonds

It feels like absolutely ages ago now that I announced my engagement on here - and it kinda was, to be honest, as it was back in October. Well, if you remember, I was left with a little task... to choose my own engagement ring. Matt proposed with a beloved, broken ring of mine that he'd secretly had fixed, because he knew I'd want to choose my own ring.

He knew this because every time we idly looked in a jeweller's window or the conversation came up, I confessed that I had no idea what I wanted, just that I didn't want the standard cartoon emoji ring - you know, one square or round stone on a gold band. Of course, that's classic and beautiful, but I just wanted something a little different. And therein lay the problem.
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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

RECIPE: Vegan rice and pasta tofu bowls with Florette

High protein tofu salad bowls for Veganuary with Asian and Italian inspired flavours

I've never been very good at timing my blog posts properly. I've often had to turn my Christmas recipes into New Year's ones, and I have photos of an Easter cake sitting on my computer that I made last Easter Sunday and realised I'd have to wait a year to post if I wanted it to be at all timely. And all that explains why on this, the last day of January, I'm talking about Veganuary!

I didn't go vegan for January, but I know plenty of people who did. Eating a plant-based diet has plenty of potential health benefits, and ethical benefits too (you can see more at The Vegan Society). And while I don't plan to switch any time soon, I have found myself eating more vegetarian and vegan food in recent years. Florette recently challenged me to come up with some high protein, high vitamin vegan recipes, so armed with my block of tofu and some other vegan ingredients that they sent me, I got to work.

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Sunday, 29 January 2017

INTERIORS: A new bedroom

Tempur Love Sleep - tips to sleep better

I will freely admit that I am a tiredyhead. I am that person who falls asleep on the couch at house parties, dozes off every time I'm on a long car journey (as long as I'm not driving, obvs), and has a list as long as my arm of films I've missed the last half an hour of due to the alluring call of the Land of Nod. I once fell asleep at a friend's gig. Sleep is my bae.

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Saturday, 21 January 2017

REVIEW: Little Marrakech, St Albans

Review of Little Marrakech, Moroccan restaurant in St Albans, Hertfordshire

Oh, hello! I took a little bit of a Christmas break from blogging... that then extended into January. The first few weeks of January have actually been pretty quiet, and staying home and trying to remember how to make food that's not entirely made of cheese and booze isn't all that blog-worthy.

Of course, plenty's been going on. Obviously we moved into our own house in December, and we've made serious strides in making it our own. There's still plenty to do, but I've been sharing pics and vids on Instagram and I'm definitely planning a few posts about that. I'm probably most excited about having a decent shoe storage area (remember all those pairs from Spartoo I've been posting over the years?). I'm really looking forward to exploring Tring and the local area a bit more, too. It's so nice! And new for this year is a little thing called Wedding Planning. Eeeep. We're planning to get married next year, so we need to start looking for venues soon and ironing out plans. I'm a big planner, so I'm sure there'll be lots of it on here. But not tooo much, if that's not your thing. I promise.

Having my own kitchen again means more cooking, which I've already been doing plenty of. I must confess it's been a lot of tried and tested recipes lately but I've got a few new cookbooks and am inspired to try some new things. Anyway. That's all to come!

Today I'm sharing a review of one of my favourite restaurants in St Albans, Little Marrakech. This lovely Moroccan restaurant has been tucked away near French Row for quite a long time, and it's always stood out as one of the best restaurants in the area. Sure, now there's a pretty diverse range of restaurants in St Albans, but a few years ago it used to be chains as far as the eye can see, with a million Italian and Indian restaurants and not much else, so Moroccan food was exotic beyond our wildest extremely tame dreams.

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