Saturday 29 November 2014

Slow Cooker Lemon & Garlic Chicken

My slow cooker obsession continues apace. At the moment, we’re still borrowing Matt’s housemate’s every few weekends, but I keep thinking about when we have our own place next year (and our own slow cooker – that’s a given). I’m going to use it for everything. There’s always be piles of shredded chicken for salads and sandwiches and plenty of pulled pork around to add into other things. Pulled pork mac ‘n’ cheese, I’m coming for you. We’ll make stews, soups, sauces, bread… it’ll be fabulous.

Slow cooking fits nicely with my love of batch cooking, but it’s even better in a lot of ways because it’s much less effort. I love that we can throw a few ingredients in it before bed and wake up to a ready-to-eat meal. It often doesn’t need any oil, and can be more economic too – for instance, when we do a chicken recipe like the honey garlic one I posted a while back, every last bit of meat falls off the bone.


Thursday 27 November 2014

Just another Christmas Gift Guide...

Buying Christmas presents is actually one of my favourite things. I fill in my little spreadsheet (shut up, it’s not sad) and then flex my plastic and watch in excitement as packages arrive through the door. Then I get to wrap them and label them and give them out – it’s pretty much the best thing ever. And then I get presents too! Which I always kind of forget about, so it’s a total bonus.

Now I know you’ve seen a thousand gift guides already… but here’s another one, because I like writing gift guides, and maybe this is actually the only blog you read. But there are good ideas in here too!

I normally get my Dad books, or failing that jumpers. I think I might have stretched to new shirts last year. But I’m actually considering pushing the boat out and getting slippers this year – I KNOW. Creative. But these slippers from Crockett & Jones are super nice and look very comfy, and that works for me.

Navy Slippers

I used to find Mum so hard to buy for, but then I realised that she is pretty terrible at buying nice things for herself (she’s not bad at it, she just doesn’t do it) so it’s nice to get her jewellery or makeup or accessories. Scarves are always an excellent bet for Mums (and Grandmas, Aunts and in-laws) – how pretty is this one from House of Fraser? The good thing with scarves is that it’s totally acceptable to have a million, so buy them every year!

one | two | three | four

Small People
I quite like giving out things-to-do to my nieces and nephews. It keeps them entertained and allows the rest of the family to crack open the amaretto! My two nieces and three nephews range in age from 2 to 11 so there’s quite a lot of scope there, but here are a few of my favourite bits from Dotcomgiftshop:

Pretty Owls | Tea Set | Make Your Own T-Rex | Disguise | Rocket Playhouse

I know exactly what I’m getting my sister, but I can’t possibly put that here because I know she reads my blog! I’ve bought her boots for the last couple of years though (sorry Becky, not this year) – here are a few pairs I think she’d like. Or failing that, I like them…

one | two | three | four

I actually just tend to get presents for my brother’s kids rather than him, but I spotted the first of these books on his shelf recently. I noticed it as I’d actually just bought it as a gift for my Granny’s birthday, and now my Dad is reading it and raving about it. I haven’t actually read it myself! But books are always an excellent present, and the great thing with buying someone the first in a series is that you can buy the later books in the series as presents the next year!

one | two | three

Yeah, you guessed it – more books. I can totally spoil it here, as she doesn’t have the internet. I always buy Granny books. Even though she’s 98, she’s as sharp as a tack, and I love having awesome literature conversations with her. For her birthday, I got her the first in this series too on Ashleigh’s recommendation, and I know she really enjoyed it - so I’ve bought books 2 and 3. Easy peasy!

one | two | three

He also reads this blog, so I can’t tell you what I’ve actually got him (but it’s so good! I really want to!) but I’ve been scouring the emails from Not On The Highstreet and Etsy for inspiration and there’s LOADS. I also got him this book for his birthday a few months back, which is a great idea if you want your boyfriend to make you some booze. And I’m pretty sure you do. And he got me this book for MY birthday... and we have had more brunch since...

one | two

Best Friend
I don’t want to spoil things, but I have been spending lots of time looking at the gifts page on ASOS. So much cuteness! Excellent for Secret Santas, too:

one | two | three | four | five

How about you? Found any awesome websites I should be looking at?


Thursday 20 November 2014

Reasons to be Cheerful #13

I'm a little sad that I got out of the habit of doing these posts. Putting them together really does cheer me up, and you guys have always said they do the same. Plus, it's an excuse to look at amazing food, nice clothes and pretty things. What's not to love?

Here are 7 things (for 7 days) for you to enjoy. I can't guarantee that number 3 will happen, but come on - it's England. We're pretty much guaranteed it, right?

Festive Baking
Maybe it's a bit early, maybe it is, but I'm already planning some amazing festive cooking. This is my latest obsession - it's a WREATH MADE OF FUDGE. I BLOODY KNOW. And it looks really easy, sort of like a Rocky Road with fudge instead of chocolate. Daaaamn.

I am so desperate for a good pamper at the moment. I haven't had my hair cut since July and it's impossible to do anything with, but I'm stubbornly holding out for a special occasion to really maximise that blowdry. We're heading up North in a couple of weeks, so I might track down a hairdressers in Manchester – there’s lots to choose from here!

Rainy Days
What's happened to me? I used to loathe the rain, and while I'm still not too fond of it when I get stuck in it without a brolly, there's something so comforting about listening to it outside whilst snuggled up in the warm. But I'm also becoming a fan of a good puddle splash - if I'm decked out in my trusty kagoul and wellies, then I'm a happy sausage. I need some new wellies though, and these cute ones from Butterfly Twists look like they'll fit my awkward calves, too!

Present Buying
God, I love buying presents. I love receiving them too, but that part is almost an afterthought for me at Christmas - it's the purchasing and hunting that I adore. I recently discovered George Pragnell which sells stunning antique and period jewellery, they have some lovely pieces that I know the ladies in my life would like... including me!

Getting Away
Have you seen the Eurostar sale? £59 return! I am so tempted to book a minibreak for February to Paris... for less than it costs to get to Scotland, it's got to be worth it, right?

A Good Book
I'm rediscovering my love of reading at the moment and it's pretty awesome. I just finished Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater and adored it. It's the third in the Raven Quartet - please read them. You'll be happy you did.

Amy Poehler
This is why I love Amy Poehler:

And this:

And this is her author's photo for her book:

She's incredible.


Wednesday 19 November 2014

Pressure Cooker Smoky BBQ Ribs

When I was a kid, my mum absolutely adored her pressure cooker. It was constantly on the hob, hissing away – she seemed to use it for everything. I was never really sure what the difference between that and a normal saucepan was, though, and it was only when the nice people at Tower offered to send me a pressure cooker of my very own that I realised I still wasn’t sure on the difference.

In a nutshell, it’s kind of like the opposite of a slow cooker. A fast cooker, if you will. The lid is sealed on tightly with a rubber seal, and it cooks the food much quicker than in any other way because there’s so much pressure in there. You have to use more water than you would in anything else to ensure that it generates enough steam to cook properly, but in general it's very simple to use. And food cooks so quick!

Saturday 15 November 2014

Korean Barbeque Beef with Kale

We developed a bit of a habit when the Great British Bake Off was on TV. I’d go round to Matt’s after work and we’d cook something yummy – usually that I’d spied on Pinterest or Twitter – then we’d finish cooking just about in time to eat it in front of the TV. It was a good way to avoid watching GBBO and wanting to run to the shop for cakes, and it also gave me a chance to try out some of the recipes I’ve been eyeing. Like this one!

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Cocktail Hour: Gin, Apple & Pomegranate Fizz

When I was a little girl, my mum would often take me shopping with her on a Saturday morning. I never minded too much, because shopping is the best, but as a reward for being good, she’d always take me for tea and cake afterwards. The cake tended to be a cookie the size of my face, and as for the tea – well, I’ve never been a fan, so I’d always request an Appletiser instead. Apple juice was always a bit of a treat – although it’s not expensive, when you have a child who is more than capable of polishing off a family-size carton in a day, it kind of had to be a luxury.

Even though I’m a grown-up now and can buy all the apple based drinks I want, I’ve still always thought of Appletiser as a treat. I don’t think I’m the only one, as they sent me their new Pomegranate & Apple flavour to try out in the poshest box imaginable! And, in the spirit of being a grown-up now… I added gin to it.

Appletiser DID actually ask me to think of some cocktails to make up with this drink, so I have an excuse for the gin! It’s a really tasty drink, by the way – we tried it with and without booze, and it’s refreshing and fruity and lovely. Technically this isn’t really a cocktail at all as it’s only two ingredients (apparently the rule is that a cocktail has to have three) but it was super tasty. Next time, I’d like to try topping it up with Prosecco – yum, right?


Monday 10 November 2014

Yellow Duffle Coat

I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of wanting to dress like a child. The two duffle coats I bought last year are well and truly integrated into my wardrobe, and so when La Redoute offered me an item to review, I spotted this yellow version on their website and snapped it up.


Saturday 8 November 2014

Blue Cheese Pesto Pasta Bake

I’m all about bakes at this time of year. Well, most times of year, really. Some people might be anti-bakes because they take that bit longer than just a regular pan dish, but I love how the flavours develop when you let them mingle in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Plus, it gives you time to tackle most of the washing up! Which is probably not a plus in most people’s books, I realise that now.

This is the second time I’ve made this dish – the first time, I wrote it up on Where Are My Knees – and at the time, I wanted to bake it but didn’t have a baking dish at the time. This time, I made some tweaks and popped it in the oven. It’s really tasty. Full of flavour and full of cheese – what could go wrong? It’s also veggie friendly and packed full of healthy green vegetables, so even though it’s slathered in cheese, it’s nice and good for you.


Thursday 6 November 2014

Hashtag Sweater Weather

If asked, I would always say that I prefer hot weather to cold, but lately I think I’m going the other way. This time of year is just so gosh darn cosy. Hot drinks and big meals and fireworks and mulled wine and roaring fires... there’s a lot of great things about Autumn, and last Saturday we took advantage of most of them.


Saturday 1 November 2014

Sweetcorn, Lime & Avocado Salsa

I love me some fajitas, but generally they’re a quick, easy dinner involving a sachet of fajita mix, a few dips and a sprinkling of cheese. We keep talking, instead, about making ultimate fajitas – you know, the kind that you’d get in Wahaca. Even though Wahaca don’t do fajitas. But if they did do fajitas, oooh boy.

Ultimate fajitas would have fresh guacamole made from just-crushed avocados, mixed with garlic and a little salt and pepper – none of that lurid shop-bought rubbish. The meat would be slow cooked for hours, gently seasoned by carefully selected herbs and spices. There would be bowls of exciting salsas and salads, plenty of feta and coriander. It would be wondrous.

Anyway, the other day my Mum was talking about cooking a joint of pork, and I suggested slow-cooking it in Mexican spices. And then I said ‘Oh, I’ll get some wraps, too.’ But I didn’t just get wraps, friends. I got all sorts of things. I made that fresh guacamole. I crumbled up that feta. I tore that coriander. And I created that exciting salsa. And then I had to go to sleep at 9pm because I was so full. WINNER.

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