Baking: Peanutty Chocolate Chip Cookies

 photo 2014-07-10113127_zpsdf574723.jpgThe eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed some colourful bits looking out of place in last week’s Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Here’s the explanation;

 photo 2014-07-10113141_zps98925580.jpgYou see, whilst my sister let me photograph (if I did the annoying bits – the creaming, the dolloping, and the washing up…) “her making” cookies I wasn’t actually going to be allowed any. We halved the recipe and she needed 12 to take to the stables (lucky horses!) BUT there was a little bit of mixture leftover. I quickly claimed it, but then spied some Peanut M&M’s on the side. Knowing we had peanut butter in the fridge I got mixing, and after a quick bake I had chewy, nutty, salty, chocolatey, crunchy delights. Not quite as good as my boyfriend’s cookies, but pretty damn good all the same!

 photo 2014-07-10110419_zpsafb3566d.jpgTo make these delicious cookies, you simply need to follow the recipe above, adding in a couple of spoons (I used a tablespoon for a small amount of mixture, so use your judgement) of crunchy peanut butter at the butter-sugar stage, and peanut M&M’s with the chocolate chips. Dollop onto the baking trays and bake – I found these took slightly less time.

 photo 2014-07-10112459_zps6291bb7c.jpg photo 2014-07-10113127_zpsdf574723.jpgThere you have it – a quick and easy adaptation that takes a simple recipe a step further. And it combines peanut butter and chocolate, what could be better?!

What do you add to your cookies?

Lifestyle: Packing A Small Suitcase

 photo 2014-07-17164523_zps39cee783.jpgAs I’ve mentioned before, my long-distance relationship often means I have to back a small case/bag for a weekend quickly (I have managed to pack and make a train 85 minutes after a lecture finished once, though never again!), and I often need to pack sensibly. I’ve been caught out by heatwaves, and become stranded due to snow, so a few extra outfits is a must! Recently I went away to Devon with my family and was told I could take one case and one satchel only. As this case is a cabin-sized wheel-on I thought it would be a great post opportunity as I can show you just what I can cram into a small space!

 photo 2014-07-17165349_zpsdc3e81da.jpgI actually ended up getting seven outfits into this case, as well as shoes (two pairs) and toiletries. The only thing I didn’t fit in was my walking boots – but they take up half the case so I decided to wear them! Oh, and just to point out that although we only went for a weekend I spent the surrounding nights at my boyfriends so packed extra, I didn’t just go too mad! My key packing tips are to stick to ‘convertible’ outfits. I went for dresses that look great with sandals, but work equally with black tights, shoes and cardigan – perfect in most weathers! I also picked neutral colours cardigans, so the few I took went with everything. You may notice that I also stuck to florals, they’re definitely my favourite kind of print! Finally I stuck to rolling everything up. This saves so much space, although it is a little time consuming!

 photo 2014-07-17181404_zps674b85a2.jpgIn terms of makeup I pretty much followed what I took to Edinburgh, but without foundation (I just relied on concealer and Java Rice Powder instead!) and with a hair gel instead of tousle cream. I’m still loving the Wilkinson’s plastic bottles I bought – I’ve noticed them still on sale in my store so if you’re going away I’d highly recommend you pick some up! There was a new addition of an MUA cream blusher, and I also stuck to just MUA power pouts for a more sheer wash of colour – I have a dog that seems to love the smell of the Revlon Matte Balms, and sitting next to him in the car would not have been an enjoyable experience had I been wearing them! I ended up having a great time – posts to come soon!

Are you off on holiday this summer?

Beauty: Pampering with Lush

Confession time: I’ve never really liked Lush. I don’t particularly like the bath bombs (without fail all the ones I have tried have left me with sore skin), and the smell really, really puts me off. I can’t stand the smell of the bathroom after one has been used, let alone a full shop of them. I’ve used a couple of products in the past; Volcano foot mask (effective, but messy); King of Skin (probably my favourite, but hard to use – I would repurchase this if I could brave the store again!); and some form of solid cleansing bar that I can’t find on the site (caused spots galore). You get the impression, I’m just not a Lush kinda gal! Even so I couldn’t help get excited when my boyfriend came home from work with a bag crammed full of goodies. Here’s my mini-reviews of what I received.

 photo 2014-07-08103846_zps74c21797.jpgDisclaimer: These products were given to my boyfriend free of charge by our local Lush store, something to do with the neighbouring shops helping each other out. They were unaware of my blog, and all opinions are my own. I haven’t marked this with a * as it isn’t really a blog ‘freebie’ as such!

 photo 2014-06-28212331_zps1e8baf15.jpg photo 2014-06-28212650_zps7b2898dd.jpgCupcake is a chocolatey face mask, and was the product I was most excited about. The day of receiving this I happily slapped it on my (normal-dry) skin, and persuaded my boyfriend (combination skin) to try it too. Not sure if it was a coincidence, but my trip to see Coldplay at the Royal Albert Hall had me fashioning a side-fringe to hide the growing mountain on the side of my forehead. It wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t come alone. Yep, pretty sure this mask broke both of us out. My love for Lush certainly wasn’t growing at this point…

Things started to look up with the Brightside Bubble Bar. I love all things citrus but rarely get to indulge seeing as my sister has a severe allergy. This zingy bar produces loads of bubbles and bright orange water, smells delicious and leaves my skin soft. It does feel odd to soak in orange water so I do shower down afterwards – but this did win me over.

 photo 2014-07-08103827_zps6f7b2e86.jpgOnto another facemask; Oatifix has actually really impressed me. The smell isn’t pleasant, but it isn’t the typical overpowering Lush smell so I can cope. Yes it looks like you have spread sick around your face, and it does make a bit of a mess, but for me the results are worth it – this leaves my skin soft, hydrated and glowing. And, wait for it, it doesn’t break me out! I’d actually buy this again, if I could work out how on earth you could use it all before the best before date. I was unable to, and I only had a teeny tester pot…

Now soap. I love bar soap, I’ve even confessed to use one as my cleanser of choice. I was intrigued by Noriko soap, particularly as I can only find this one the US site. Having said that, mine looks nothing like what is featured there, so I wonder what I’ve actually got! I actually adore the smell as its subtle, fresh and just rather nice. It’s also a pretty moisturising soap too – I’ve taken to using it instead of a shower gel as it also has a teeny amount of scrubby bits. Bonus, it looks great on the bathroom side too!

 photo IMAG2306_zps1496a0b4.jpgI’ve still got a couple of products to try; Mask of Magnaminty (the one I have is self-preserving, something I’m quite intrigued by as one of my problems with Lush is the short shelf life) and Hair Doctor. I can’t say I’m particularly willing to try Hair Doctor due to reports of it stripping colour out – I’m pretty picky about my hair colour, and having had my preferred and back up colours both discontinued I’d sooner not dye my hair unless absolutely necessary!

I have to admit, some of these products have changed my mind slightly about Lush. I still won’t be tempted to venture into a shop, but I’d consider an online order if I needed a gift for someone and a few treats for myself.

What are your favourite Lush products?

Baking: Chocolate Chip Cookies

 photo 2014-07-10113141_zps98925580.jpgI may have mentioned this before, but many years ago my boyfriend pretty much wooed me with his cookies. It’s a long standing joke that I’m with him for these cookies, and whilst that’s not true, his cookies are pretty yummy! A few months ago he gave his recipe to my little sister (who I’m hoping isn’t using them to woo someone!) – she’s done a bit of adapting and today I’m going to share the results with you!

 photo 2014-07-10112602_zps50eecb9a.jpgThese are pretty much the perfect cookie – crispy on the outside, but chewy and almost gooey in the middle. They even have the classic wrinkly look about them! And the best thing? They are absolutely crammed full of chocolate chips. I will be honest here and say I prefer to buy a dark each of dark, milk and white chocolate and chop into rough chunks, whereas my sister buys chocolate chips and neglects to use any dark chocolate at all – either way is delicious so do what you prefer.

Disclaimer: I’m entering this into the Bakespiration Challenge run by Stuck in the Tree – you can find more details here. I’ve received no compensation for entering, and this recipe is entirely based on adaptations to my boyfriends. 

 photo 2014-07-10112459_zps6291bb7c.jpgIngredients (this makes a LOT of cookies – as in 24 massive ones)

  • 1 cup butter, softened (I use salted, but add 1/2 tsp of salt if you don’t)
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 cups worth of additions – chocolate, nuts, fruit etc – I don’t measure here, just through in whatever looks like enough!

Lets make cookies! 

 photo 2014-07-10103209_zps7234925f.jpg photo 2014-07-10103723_zps013f11dd.jpgCream the butter and the two sugars together. I find it easiest to beat the butter on its own first before adding the sugar. And obviously make sure the butter is well softened before starting! Though if you use fridge-cold butter you’ll burn loads of calories, so treat yourself to an extra cookie…

 photo 2014-07-10103916_zps5759dbab.jpg photo 2014-07-10104152_zps97ff4dab.jpgBeat in the eggs, best to do this one at a time or it could get messy.

 photo 2014-07-10105145_zps4782deb1.jpgMix the bicarbonate of soda into the flour, along with a little salt (if you used unsalted butter). Stir this into the egg-butter-sugar mixture, but don’t overstir. If the mix looks a little dry, add the water.

 photo 2014-07-10105332_zps40c7ca05.jpg photo 2014-07-10105404_zps813f4aa2.jpg photo 2014-07-10105430_zpsb5a2478b.jpgStir in the chocolate chips.

 photo 2014-07-10110413_zpsdccfbf11.jpgNow get ready to bake – heat your oven to 180C, and line several baking trays with baking parchment (thrifty tip – I’ve found Tesco’s own to be the best quality). Using two tablespoons, dollop 6 golfball sized amounts of cookie dough, evenly spaced, onto the tray. You may be wondering what the colourful bits are – come back next week for an explanation!

 photo 2014-07-10104931_zpse1c2184c.jpg photo 2014-07-10105123_zps5921205e.jpgIgnore the beautiful brown eyes that are begging for some to be accidentally dropped on the floor…

 photo 2014-07-10111208_zps7848a28a.jpgCook for 9 minutes, or until golden brown. They will be soft, but they firm up whilst cooling. To get a really classic wrinkling, bang the tray on a side just after they come out of the oven.

 photo 2014-07-10112633_zps368eadd1.jpg photo 2014-07-10112602_zps50eecb9a.jpgThere you have it – classic American style chocolate chip cookies. Serve with a glass of milk and a good book and you have my idea of a perfect mid-morning treat. Package up nicely and you have (my relationship is proof!) the perfect cupid’s gift. Now I’m off to find any that are still left…

What’s your perfect baked treat?

Lifestyle: Preserving Memories*

For a few years now I’ve been meaning to sit down and go through the several thousand images on my laptop, printing off the best, the most important, the most memory-provoking. Of course more important tasks always got priority, and I never did it. I sorely regretted that when my laptop died before university – I’m still working out a way to get it to stay on long enough to copy them over to a memory stick. The photos I do have left unsurprisingly still didn’t get printed, until a few weeks ago.

 photo 2014-07-08105041_zpsdbd5fbe7.jpgI was offered money towards products of my choice from Cartridge Discount, which I promptly put towards ink cartridges for my printer. The printer we have at home is a pretty good one, not only can it do double-sided printing on its own (wonderful for printing exam papers – I can just leave it to it and not waste tonnes of trees paper) but it also has a separate little section for photos. This means I can print out photo-sized images without having to trim them myself, and there’s no messing around trying to size the image either. The quality is pretty damn good too, I was quite pleased my work paid off as I have some lovely images to put into albums, frames, and make into presents…

 photo 2014-07-08105826_zps250e464a.jpgI printed out some of holidays and scenery. I was amazed at how clear some of my photos from Switzerland (I holidayed there in 2012) printed out. Obviously I had to print some of my Edinburgh Zoo photos too!

 photo 2014-07-08105724_zps7e93b646.jpgMy ever-so cute dog had to make an appearance. I actually think I printed more photos of him than anything else!

 photo 2014-07-08105917_zps2bada689.jpgThen there’s my pictures from university. My house organised a BBQ to celebrate end of exams, and we got some lovely pictures. It’s great I can know put them in an album knowing I won’t accidentally delete them!

And finally there’s the obligatory couple pictures! I’ve put this little arrangement together to show how much we have both changed since the beginning of our relationship – him more so than me! They also show how my boyfriend now cannot pull a nice face when presented with a camera lens…

 photo 2014-07-08110119_zpscd552875.jpgI’ve loved having physical copies of my photos – I’ve been showing them to everyone I’ve seen since I printed them! I can’t wait to buy some more pretty frames and albums and begin putting them together.

What do you do with your photos? 

 

Restaurant Review: Urban Angel Cafe, Edinburgh

Before we went away to Edinburgh, I spent hours researching places to eat. Myself and my boyfriend are both students, both on relatively tight budgets, so I wanted to plan away, find deals etc, and make sure we weren’t excessively spending. One of the deals I came across was Urban Angel’s 10th Birthday Celebration, so we decided to go with their dinner deal of two courses for £10.

 photo 2014-06-19185751_zpsc79e7daf.jpgWhilst thoroughly impressed with the decor of the place (all nice and rustic, an instagrammers delight, though the second photo was taken from their site!) we were a little disappointed when none of the staff knew about the offer. We promptly got it up on our phones (to convince ourselves too!) and we were offered one small plate and one big plate each for the £10 as promised. Whilst it could have been my imagination, I felt service decreased then slightly, it was a little less friendly although still nothing to complain about! In our defence, their website actually stated the offer was running from the 10th June to the end of July, and we visited on the 19th – surely we weren’t the first?! Anyway, onto the food…

 photo 2014-06-19191831_zpsc953ce0b.jpg photo 2014-06-19191839_zps6d89aba3.jpg photo 2014-06-19191928_zps70b0cf53.jpgI suffered serious food envy when the starters came out. I’d gone for the Handcut Chips with Thyme Salt & Aioli. Whilst it was lovely, I kind-of expected a little more than just a huge plate of chips. Bit of an ordering mistake if I’m honest, the mushrooms would have been a far better bet! I found the thyme salt to be barely noticeable, though the aioli packed a huge garlicky punch – I would have loved that spread on warm fresh bread! Onto my boyfriends far more satisfactory starter – Falafel Balls in a Curry & Coconut Emulsion. I’d avoided these as I couldn’t be bothered with the tomato issue, but after inspected his plate I promptly demanded a taste – they were delicious! I’d probably want my falafels a little crisper, but the combination of flavours was great. One happy boyfriend, one jealous girlfriend!

 photo 2014-06-19193720_zpsee437ed6.jpg photo 2014-06-19193728_zpsb18f7b83.jpgOnto bigger plates, and I think we were both satisfied – I like to think my dish was the better but in reality I couldn’t try the other! Will went for the Veggie Chilli and really enjoyed it, despite him having an issue with veggie chilli (to be fair, meat ones are better!). I scored with my choice of a Herby Ham Hock Cake with Soft Poached Egg & Hollandaise – yum yum! Again I’d have preferred the cake to be slightly crisper as it was a little soggy, but the flavours were beautiful. The egg was absolutely perfectly poached, there were decent sized chunks of tender ham hock – one of the most different and exciting main courses I’ve tried! I would say that all out dishes required seasoning at the table to taste their best, but other than that it was a pretty good meal for £10 each. We’d happily go back to Urban Angel again, their brunch sounds delicious!
 photo 2014-06-19193805_zpsa7cb45fe.jpg

Have you have a nice meal out lately?