Baking: Peanut Butter Cookies

I looovvveeee peanut butter. I’m sure you have noticed by now! Peanut Butter Cups are my idea of perfection, B&J’s were certainly thinking of me when they brought out that flavour! Craving some right now as I type…

 photo e89e1b60-d10e-493d-a321-1471c82a6fc1_zps21f3fc95.jpgThis is such a simple recipe, so quick, and the result is utterly delicious. The quantities made a huge amount, filling my biscuit tin and lasting for a good week. My boyfriend then visited and they disappeared a whole lot quicker, which says a lot about how good this recipe actually is.

 photo dbeaf0a3-a045-435e-8718-a32103a5b245_zps91183892.jpgI’ve adapted it from this year’s GBBO book, a birthday present from the lovely Libby. It’s now completely suitable for when your cupboard is empty of most ingredients. Polenta is a bit of a luxury I admit, but I love it for scattering over chicken wings or, in this case, adding crunch to biscuits. Its not overly expensive, so worth having some tucked away for biscuit cravings!

 photo 821cb269-d292-4cbc-8075-80e98a6b7e41_zps020dc610.jpgIngredients

  • 1 jar peanut butter – around 300g
  • 125g sugar (I used standard granulated)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of polenta

 photo a6c3b395-83ef-4602-81f4-5cb44076c864_zps1233f6e3.jpgI told you this recipe was super simple – here we go. Mix your p-butter and sugar together until fully combined, and slightly fluffy. Crunchy peanut butter works really well, but it’s harder to beat properly. I prefer to work hard with the elbow grease, I figure it burns off the calories of at least one extra biscuit…

 photo 23832948-23a2-40f6-80ed-0b27f16f2d97_zps9d9f835b.jpgStir through your egg, followed by your polenta.

 photo 57cc7074-0d08-4ffc-a551-00575a0f5d42_zps1cd6ae63.jpg photo 467fdcaf-8649-47d7-8d8a-5af09e8ccae0_zps2607d37c.jpgRoll into small (large marble sized) balls and spread out on a lined baking tray. Dipping a fork in warm water between each, flatten out. Bake at 180 for 8-10 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack until cold.

 photo 3214a376-de96-4355-bf36-abbbe1c7765d_zpsde97d3ef.jpgPerfect with a cup of tea, dipped into a hot chocolate, or scoffed out of the tin. The original recipe calls for sandwiching them with jam, but I’m not sure it’s necessary. Delicious just the way they are!

PS – apologies for no Wednesday post this week. My Christmas party kinda took it out of me – it was a conference followed by lunch, but the food wasn’t served until 4:45. Needless to say I was hungry and feeling pretty dreadful by the time I headed out of London! I spent last night napping and trying not to snack as it’s really screwed up my eating pattern. Yep, I had to get up and eat at 3am Wednesday morning as I had had such a late lunch, then not eaten dinner. These biscuits were needed then!

Are you a fan of peanut butter? Will you be trying out this easy recipe?

Beauty: Trialling Black Toothpaste

Yep, got to admit a not insignificant part of me feels a bit disgusted by this. Cleaning any part of you with black stuff just feels odd, but teeth?! I was more than put off but in the name of trailing, in the name of white teeth, I thought I’d give it a go. This toothpaste is enriched with charcoal, which is apparently a mild abrasive, and helps to whiten teeth more naturally than chemicals. Having recently kicked away a coffee addiction that was threatening to take hold, I’m all for a bit of whitening toothpaste. Not bad enough to think about professional whitening (and it’s way out of my budget) I felt that if these just reversed the last six months I’d be happy and laughing away. At £4.99 full price for a tube, it’s slightly pricier than my usual brand, but if it lives up to it’s claims I’ll more than happily repurchase.

 photo 5e00cd01-aeac-4ee7-b940-d4396be538e0_zps84db4723.jpgAs it is, I’ve been using this for a week now, and I think I see a slight difference. My boyfriend thinks it’s all in the mind, though I reckon that’s cos he couldn’t stomach watching me use black toothpaste. It could also be for another reason – this toothpaste is so mildly minted, and so light (it all foams up, but not into a heavy foam) that I don’t suffer as badly from the usual gag reflex. So I’m managing to clean my teeth for longer without fear of breakfast making a reappearance.

 photo e2f76964-5f5d-4cb2-a07c-ab6cfc436a80_zps89ecf715.jpgI’ll be giving this toothpaste a trial for a month of so, and given that I have 21st photos from a few weeks ago, and it’s Christmas coming up, I’m hoping there’ll be a visible difference. But even with any difference so far, I already feel a little more confident in flashing my smile. Fingers crossed!

Have you tried black toothpaste before? Any teeth whitening tricks?

Student Sunday: In Case of Emergency…

From what I gather, it’s quite unusual for a student to have a credit card. I applied and received one at the same time as opening my student card pre university, and can say I’ve feel some people automatically feel that just because I have a credit card I’m irresponsible with money. My credit card is purely for emergencies. Santander have recently asked me what I class as a financial emergency, and here’s my answer.

 photo cf2535da-84bb-400c-be9e-70c856300662_zps998a82de.jpgA financial emergency? Definitely not a pair of shoes, not even a MAC lipstick. My credit card doesn’t get used on nights out, it rarely gets used for food. The main reason I got it was so there would always be enough money for me to get home if needed. With a boyfriend halfway up the country, and being close to my family, I like the security of knowing that if I need to drop everything I can. I’ve never had to use it in a total emergency, though I came close this summer when W was rushed into hospital. Not sure my phone, credit card or railcard left my hand for a few days!

There are unexpected expenses that occasionally crop up which mean I’m always glad to own a credit card. My deposit on my room this year was paid on credit card, as I simply did not have the money to spare. As was the food shop when I first moved. I can say, with hand on heart, that I only buy things on credit if I know I can pay it off, in full, before the bill is due. I knew I’d have wages coming in, so I used it. Likewise, I’ll use it over Christmas because I know there’s January’s loan to pay it off; though I have to be careful as my minimum loan doesn’t go far!

 photo 64969157-57cc-44ef-a3f2-cbd22ffb7587_zps0e85cc8c.jpgThere are other reasons where I’ll use a credit card too. For big purchases it just makes sense, as it offers buyers protection. And I love having a credit card for an often overlooked reason; it will be building me a credit card. I know of an adult, very sensible money, who was recently turned down for a finance package to buy a new car. The reason? She had no credit rating as she hasn’t ever had a credit card. I believe there are other ways to gain a credit rating, but this is sure to help, and it gives me security knowing I have the “money” there if I need it too.

Now I’m not saying rush out and get a credit card. It is NOT free money, and if you haven’t got good control of spending I’d advise against it. But as an extra piece of financial security, as a means to get a credit rating, I find it useful. Perfect for emergencies.

This is a post in collaboration with Santander

What do you class as a financial emergency?

Lifestyle: Art of the Brick & Childhood Favourites

 photo IMG_0628_zpsaece4675.jpg photo IMG_0629_zpsfd33573e.jpgI was quite a deprived child; LEGO wasn’t something I had, wasn’t something I played with. That’s changed since my relationship began at 16 – my boy loves LEGO, he’s studying engineering and I’m pretty sure LEGO inspired this! I arranged for myself and a group of friends to buy him the campervan for his 18th, and there’s probably a list of kits he’d love longer than my MAC wishlist…Going to this exhibition was a no-brainer, so on a rainy wet and grey November Saturday that’s exactly what we did!

 photo IMG_0627_zpsaeaac86a.jpg photo IMG_0632_zpsb0ebff4c.jpgI wasn’t planning on posting about this; it was just a casual couple’s day out but I was so taken with the exhibition I just had to share – especially now it’s been extended until April. I can’t stress how enjoyable it was, I’m not an arty person but loved this! Word of warning though. It isn’t a particularly child-friendly event, no matter how it has been marketed. It’s art predominately, the fact that it is all made out of LEGO is really quite irrelevant.

 photo IMG_0634_zpsb0887626.jpg photo IMG_0636_zpsaf2b1dba.jpgThis also got me thinking, reminiscing about childhood toys. I was definitely a mixed up child – I liked nothing more than climbing trees and running around with my dog, but when I did sit still I was either reading (I was fond of Jacqueline Wilson, followed by Rosie Rushton once a little older – strange as she’s very close to W’s family!) or playing with dolls. I had the full collection of Annabel’s and Baby Born’s. I loved Barbie’s too. Not Bratz, not anything too fancy, but old fashioned Barbie’s. I collected stuffed dogs – I had 57 of them, and they all had names. I can probably remember where they all came from too! But my most loved toy of all? I had Bear, a Baloo from the Disney store that now has no resemblance to Baloo at all. He has ‘lost’ his claws, got holds in his nose, the blacks of his eyes are scratched white, and his fur is no-where near as fluffy as it was. I know because I bought a “vintage” baloo from Ebay last summer and it turned out to be the same one. Just in far more pristine condition than bear! LEGO might be cool, but it’s not quite got the sentimental factor that a bear has!

What was your favourite childhood toy? Have you been to see Art of the Brick?

Festive Friday: Christmassy Jumpers

I’m not a huge jumper fan. I rarely wear jeans, I live in floral dresses and skirts (and pyjamas…) and cosy cardigans are my go-to cover ups. But there’s something about a festive jumper that screams Christmas, and for a few weeks I’ll happily live in one. I tend not to go too festive, and I still tend to accessorise with tartan scarves, but these are my wardrobes concession to festiveness. Excuse the slightly yellow light – the new lightshade in my room might look pretty, but isn’t helpful for blog photos!

 photo 2014-12-03183821_zps21671c4a.jpg photo 2014-12-03183838_zpsde03ec6a.jpgNot strictly a Christmassy jumper, but I’m so glad I splurged on this Terrier number from Joules (one of my favourite shops!) last year. Not only does it match my fur-baby, the cashmere makes it feel wonderfully soft and luxurious – as it should for the price I paid (especially considering the assistant neglected to give my three-year NUS card back, and I never saw it again). The colours make it suitable to wear whatever time of year, and it looks great dressed with with smart trousers as well as thrown over jeans.

 photo 2014-12-03184037_zps5fd79350.jpg photo 2014-12-03183859_zps6199e167.jpgSorry to say, but I failed at taking a photo of my real dog against my jumper-dog! Real dog just wouldn’t sit still for the camera, so his feet are the best I have! See here for the likness!

 photo 2014-12-03183234-Copy_zps8fb923d9.jpgNext up and I couldn’t resist included my boyfriend in his festive jumper. A classic reindeer in a lovely berry shade, this was a bargain from New Look. I think men’s jumpers are so much nicer than womens – especially this year as there’s far too many pastel colours around! M&S have some lovely ones this year, there’s one I’m desperate to get him but being short on funds makes this unlikely…sorry my love!

 photo 2014-12-03183853_zpsd072b36f.jpgNow for my favourite festive item – not a jumper, but a ridiculously oversized cardigan. It’s unbelievably a Size 8, and from Warehouse, but I’m afraid you’ll only pick this one up by rifling through attics as it’s actually older than me! This was one of my mum’s 18th presents many years ago, so many that it is officially a vintage piece. I’ve loved this for years, and I finally bagged it two years ago. Perfect with skinny jeans, and it acts as a festive dressing gown on Christmas morning too. Oh, and its warm enough to wear without a coat. I love it!
 photo 2014-12-03183831_zps67a0837a.jpg

Are you a fan of Christmas jumpers? What one are you wearing this year?

Recipe: Curried Carrot & Lentil Soup

The perfect soup – filling and hearty. Easy to make. Warming. Slightly spicy. Goes equally well with bread as it does by the spoonful. It also helps that it uses up some of the 5kg of carrots inadvertently delivered by ASDA. I made this at the same time as some cupcakes, which ended disastrously for the first batch of cupcakes. I reckon the soup was fine though, it certainly tasted as it was meant to!

 photo 73f0c241-104b-423f-89ff-c6f8975916e8_zps8f71671d.jpgNow, this soup is spicy. That obviously depends on the strength of your chilli – so if in doubt, leave it out. Dried chilli flakes are a good alternative as it’s easy to control the spice level. I like spice, so I welcomed the strong kick this gave. I’m not sure my colleagues agreed, as this soup smells strongly of curry. As does the microwave at work having eaten this a few days in a row…oops. But this is so cheap, so filling, and perfect for anyone on a budget. If your purse doesn’t allow fresh aromatics, a few spoons of curry powder works absolutely fine. Trust me, I did this in my first year.

 photo c2002620-4d2b-4b6c-adef-3ce63b56b2da_zpsd69a60fa.jpgIngredients – makes 6 big servings, but it freezes and reheats well (perfect for tight budgets!)

  • 1-2 fresh red chillies
  • 1″ piece of ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 onion
  • 1 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground coriander, and ground cumin
  • 600g carrots – peel, top and tail around 700g of them
  • 150g red lentils (dried)
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tin of coconut milk
  • Fresh coriander, to serve

 photo 971a2598-bd4d-4913-b8fd-79e11ef08150_zps9ca3a51d.jpgHeat a tablespoon of oil over a low heat, in a large pan. Fry the powdered spices until fragrant. Meanwhile, blitz the chillies, ginger, garlic and onion in a chopper, or dice finely. Add to the pan and sweat until soft.

 photo 03f3a9c7-d60f-4f53-adc4-695983ebbe8d_zpsbceebd31.jpg photo aa8089d5-44a8-4087-90b0-34fe9f5680dd_zps91d9a3b8.jpgNow, you want the carrot in small, small pieces. I used the food chopped again, or you could finely dice or grate. Up to you, but I definitely chose the easy option. Add the carrots to the pan, followed by the lentils and stock. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 20 minutes – until everything is soft.

 photo 2bc6545c-72c7-4a44-beed-31abbcb73a69_zps42b62950.jpgPuree/blend until completely smooth. Return to a clean pan and stir through the coconut milk until heated through. Serve scattered with the fresh coriander.

 photo 0cea28c0-6af4-4339-bf6f-f8484a8b5a01_zps7073e9f8.jpgThis goes amazingly well with naan bread, but I served with homemade bread. Making bread has become a real passion in the last few weeks, and it’s agreeing with my tummy a lot more too! For surprisingly little effort, and very few pennies, I’m left with soft, fresh bread that doesn’t make me feel horribly bloated. A win all round!

I’ve posted a few soup recipes recently – do you have any other recipes you recommend? What’s your favourite soup?