Lifestyle: Happy Things #41

Another Monday, another Happy Things diary! This last fornight has been a mix of being super-busy at work, some relaxing weekends and a lot of evenings spent resting a pulled neck (so painful!). Having said that, there’s still a lot to be happy about…

    1. White Chocolate and Pretzel Cookies. The perfect balance of sweet and salty, crunchy and chewy. Recipe coming soon!
    2. BBQs and gatherings with friends. I’m not a football fan at all, but the World Cup at least gives people the excuse to get together a bit more and I’m totally okay with that.
    3. Red Onion and Goat’s Cheese Quiche. It’s currently baking as I type, it smells *amazing* and I’m looking forward to it making up my lunchboxes this week.
    4. Having a bit of an Instagram clear-out. So many accounts I don’t remember following, or just don’t have any major interest any more. It’s meant my feed is full of content I actually want to see, so I’m engaging more. Win win.
    5. Fresh mackerel. It’s one of my favourite fishes and it’s *so* cheap to get hold of. This weekend we pan-fried some in a harissa glaze which was delish!
    6. Gaining a tortilla press. I’ve made homemade tortilla wraps previously but struggle to get an even thickness so I’m looking forward to giving this a go.
    7. Homemade burritos. We piled green rice, refried beans, pork pibil and cheese into wraps and heated in the oven. They were huge, naughty and absolutely delicious.
    8. Enjoying the above whilst watching the Lego Movie. Everything is awesome!
    9. My fiance passing his Masters degree – we celebrated with pizza and wine, then he caught up on some much needed sleep. I’ll hopefully be sharing some of his final project on my Instagram page soon so stay tuned…
    10. Managing to nail a copy-cat recipe of Bella Italia’s Pollo Siciliana. I skipped the chicken, but it was virtually spot-on and absolutely delicious. One I’ll be making again and again…

What’s made you happy this week?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #38

Happy Bank Holiday Monday! It’s a bit of a miracle here in the UK that a Bank Holiday weekend has been combined with hot and sunny weather, but I for one am not complaining (other than the bright sunshine makes it far more difficult to take photos!). We’ve spent the weekend exploring new (to us) areas of London, lying in the sun, eating tacos and generally just relaxing. I’d like to do something a bit more exciting next Bank Holiday though, so let me know what you got up to!

  1. Tacos for dinner. We love eating Mexican food, and with a tub of leftover roast chicken needing using up we took inspiration from Chelsea’s recipe. The avo-corn salsa combo was DELICIOUS (I used frozen sweetcorn, and fried it in the pan we’d used that morning for bacon, before cooling and adding to the avo), and perfect with the roast chicken (tossed in a chipotle dressing with some onions). We topped with feta, a squeeze of lime and lots of coriander and *really* enjoyed it. Plus it was ready in 10 minutes, so I can see it becoming a regular fixture in our meal plans.
  2. Olive Oil and Lemon Cake. It was light, zest and delicious – have a look on the ‘gram for more!
  3. Exams are done! I finished my latest exam sitting a fortnight ago and, whilst hugely relieved, I’m not feeling overly confident with how they went. Either way I’m not retaking in the next sitting (as it’s right before the wedding) so I’ve got a nice break from heavy studying for now. I’ll still be sitting a smaller exam in September, but no written paper this time – vain as it may be, I get awful finger blisters when revising and being left-handed means I *really* want to avoid them just before the wedding!
  4. Launching a new blog series. I’m going to be reviewing cookbooks with a recipe from each – you can read the first Cooking From posts here and here.
  5. A wander around Hampstead Heath. It’s an area of London I’ve not explored at all, but I’m desperate to go back and see more of it. We just won’t mention the fact I stupidly wore sandals and now have insanely painful and swollen ankles…
  6. Wedding prep! I bought the final bits I need for my ‘look’ on the day (highly recommend Dress Me Pretty if you’re in the Midlands), we’ve finalised our invitations, bought a couple of things for decorating the reception. It’s now five months to go – eek!
  7. An impromtu date night at Home SW15. It’s quite honestly our favourite place at the moment, and we wish we had the pennies to visit more often. We enjoyed a Lemon Sole (me, it was perfectly cooked), a Bavette Steak with Red Wine Butter (him, I stole a piece and it was the best tasting steak I can remember eating) and shared a portion of fries with aoili. If you’re ever in the Putney area I highly recommend a visit!
  8. Saying hi to puppies. There’s a gorgeous Border Terrier pup who lives near me and I’m worried the owner will think I’m stalking him as I bump into him far too often…
  9. Ice-cream! Sun and heat = ice-cream craving. Chalet Chiro in Putney does the best ice-cream I’ve tasted in London, and one of the best outside of Italy (there’s a small hidden place in Brighton that *just* pips them to the post).
  10. Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic. We had this for dinner last night and it was perfectly – just the right amount of soft, sweet garlic, with tender chicken. Keep an eye out for the recipe!

What’s made you happy lately? How have you spent the Bank Holiday weekend?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #37

Happy Monday! It’s probably not surprising to you that I’ve had yet *another* quiet fortnight. Exams are just about to get into full swing – I have a computer based on over two days this week, then a big written paper in another two weeks. I’m not feeling overly confident with these as getting the flu really knocked the stuffing out of me – I forgot a lot of what I’d covered, lost a lot of time, and it took me ages to be able to study at my full pace again. Fingers crossed it will be alright!

The past two weeks have involved a lot of time at my desk, but some fun also. And of course, it was Easter which meant chocolate, hot cross buns and a long weekend…

  1. More Bourek and Hummus from Balkan Bites at Borough Market. I first tried this when we did our doughnut workshop, then went back the following weekend for me. It’s definitely my favourite street-food lunch at Borough Market. It’s relatively light, steaming hot (but I bet lovely if left to cool too), the hummus is *amazing* and the green chilli packs a punch. Get the spinach and feta bourek and you won’t be disappointed!
  2. Finally getting round to watching the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast. Have you seen it yet? What did you think?
  3. Doing a spot of baking. I made a (perhaps excessive) Easter Cake for the office and it went down well. Sponge filled and covered in buttercream (courtesy of Green’s Cake Mixes*), the topped with a giant chocolate-cornflake nest and filled with mini-eggs. Yum!
  4. Winning a couple of blog competitions. I’ve recently managed to win a Bill’s voucher and also a mini-moon getaway in the Cotswolds for a couple of nights.
  5. A sunrise church service on Easter Sunday. Our church does it with a Bonfire next to the Thames and despite the early start it is a lovely occasion. Helped by the pastries and Buck’s Fizz afterwards I guess!
  6. Dinner Party planning and eating – without the stress of cooking! We planned a bit of a get-together for a few friends last week, I help W plan the menu (always fun) and then left him to do the cooking. He did a wonderful job and make egg yolk ravioli, a chicken dish with pan-roasted thighs, mashed potato, malt crumble, crispy skin skin and a chicken jus. Then dessert was a chocolate-cherry concoction that was simply heavenly…

What’s been making you smile lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #35

This fortnight has been a pretty weird one, as most of it I’ve spent being rather ill with a severe cold/flu illness. In fact this was the same illness than led to my previous happy things post being cut short halfway through – apologies about that. It’s been kinda difficult to see the good things when you’ve spent so long in bed, especially when you’re too ill to walk the length of your flat or even read a book, but I’m hoping writing this post will cheer me up.

  1. Chicken soup. The best medicine you can buy!
  2. Starting with (another) new team at work for the next few weeks. I may have only managed half a day before I headed home ill, but I’m excited to start a new project and see where things go.
  3. Sausages in Cider. I had very little taste for over a week with this illness, and this was the first dinner where I actually managed to appreciate it.
  4. Chicken & Ham Pie topped with Cheesy Mash. I needed comfort food, and this worked.
  5. Finding a 20% off code to coincide with when I needed to reorder Pixi Glow Tonic. Every little helps!
  6. Lemon Meringue Pie. Coupled with a lack of taste I had very little appetite, but I was craving this – so my wonderful fiance made me one fro scratch.
  7. Ordering some pretty pyjamas for the morning of the wedding. At least I’ll look decent in the bridal preparation photos!
  8. A pamper evening. If you’re feeling ill then an evening with candles, a warm bath and facemasks might not make you feel better, but it does help a little.
  9. Receiving our pre-wedding shoot photos back. Our photographer has done an absolutely amazing job, I’m planning on sharing a few over on Instagram during the week!
  10. Blood Orange Curd Tart with Dark Chocolate Pastry. This was our Sunday night dessert yesterday and it was goooood!

Sorry for the slightly depressing Happy Things post! Hope you’ve had a better fortnight than me!

Lifestyle: Happy Things #33

I’ve gotten into such a lovely, lovely habit of writing these cosied up on a Sunday night. I find it really starts my working week off well the next day, as I’m in such a good mood having remembered all the lovely things that have happened recently. And it just so happens this last fortnight has been absolutely amazing!

    1. My Hen Do being planned. It’s a total surprise right now but I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen, and just to spend time with my best girls.
    2. Bridesmaid shopping. I actually found the idea of this really quite stressful (no idea why – my girls are lovely, but I just don’t enjoy shopping when I have to buy something in particular), but it was a really lovely day. I just know the three of them will all look completely and utterly gorgeous on the day!
    3. More wedding things – but my hair and makeup trial. Again something I was nervous about as I’m not really one to have a nice hair-do and lots of makeup on, but I think I found a gem in the lady I’ve booked.
    4. Taking part in The Little Plantation Winter Instagram Challenge. I haven’t participated in every single challenge, but I’ve been enjoying being inspired to think of different foodie things to post.
    5. A few weeks of awesome lunches. There was a Cauliflower Salad inspired by a recipe in Fress, then I made up a glorious taco-inspired quinoa salad for a few days. Yum!
    6. Going to Flip Out in Wandsworth. It was an awesome Sunday night workout session!
    7. A Cheese & Onion Chutney Grilled Cheese. So, so good.
    8. A Tasting Menu lunch at Roganic. It was my Christmas Present from W and the boy did goooood! I’m not going to be blogging about it as it was such a treat meal, but I can highly recommend it if good, tasty and slightly fancy British food is your thing.
    9. Snuggles with my pup. At 12 he’s starting to get a bit older now, but that means he’s more up for cuddles!
    10. Trying Aligot for the first time. It’s basically an insanely cheesy mashed potato, made with Alpine Cheese. It’s super-rich and filling, and quite possibly one of the most delicious things to have some out of my kitchen

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #32

I’m sat here writing this on a Sunday evening. I’m in my cosiest PJs (they’re from Next and they are the softest things I’ve ever worn), I’ve got a wee dram of whisky and I’m feeling delightfully sleepy and cosy. That pretty much sums up my January to be honest – cosy. Lots of evenings in, snuggled with a good book or Silent Witness. Lots of comforting, seasonal food. It’s been wonderful!

    1. Afternoon Tea with my besties. We visited Alice & The Hatter Tearooms in Herne Bay and whilst it wasn’t exactly a refined afternoon tea it was yummy enough. A bit of a sugar overload, but we very much enjoyed it!
    2. Trying to squeeze in some daily exercise. I’m struggling a bit with the daily, but I’m doing something more often than not. I’m alternating between Yoga and more HIIT style work-outs which feels more sustainable to me.
    3. An exercise mat. My dad picked one up for me from Aldi and it’s made the aforementioned yoga workouts so much more enjoyable – no more bruised back from our wooden floors!
    4. A payday treat at Honest Burger (previous review here). I remembered exactly why I consider The Honest to be my favourite burger so far, and how addictive their rosemary chips are. Any other burger places you can recommend?!
    5. Silent Witness. It’s my guilty pleasure – I usually wait until later in the week then watch the two episodes back to back…
    6. A Cauliflower Cheese Risotto. Quite possibly my favourite thing I’ve cooked so far this year.
    7. A belated Burn’s Night celebration. We cooked up Haggis, Neeps & Tatties and a Whisky Peppercorn Sauce, then finished with Cranachan. Delicious – and all the more so with bagpipes playing in the background!
    8. Finishing off a really difficult but enjoyable project at work. I had to learn a new software and start a fairly complex project all within four weeks, and I’m proud to say I achieved this. Coupled with an unexpectedly good annual performance review I’m feeling fairly #girlboss right now.
    9. Getting loads of wedding-related things pencilled into our diary. I’m having a hair/makeup trial later this week, a dress-fitting is booked for February, we have menu-tasting in a few weeks and there’s a date for my hen weekend.
    10. Homemade Pitta breads. I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat bought ones again!
    11. Tacos. We made Duck & Pineapple Tacos a few weeks ago, and last week we used leftover marinade to make Pork Pibil ones (recipe here). I do love a good taco!

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #31

Wow, hasn’t the past fortnight gone quickly! Maybe it’s because my Christmas ended up being not-so-festive, but I’ve found easing myself back into work, a routine etc a lot easier than previous years. I mean, if you ignore the horrendous 2.5+ hour journey to work last Monday morning, it’s been pretty much a breeze! Though if you could send me an excuse to eat vast amounts of cheese again, that would be wonderful…

  1. Long walks. Both on New Year’s Day, then again last weekend, me and W wrapped up warm and went for a long walk. Our go-to route is along the river (heading West out of London), but we also spent a lovely 4 hours zigzagging across Richmond Park, before walking to Ham and then onto Petersham Nurseries. Gorgeous, though trying to make our own sandwiches on a picnic bench in sub 5C was perhaps a mistake.
  2. Buying pretty plates at Petersham Nurseries. Anything for the Instagram!
  3. Speaking of Instagram, I’ve been loving curating my feed lately. If only I could reach the small but elusive 1k though!
  4. Joining a new join at work (albeit temporarily) – it involves a lot of techy and code-y work so it’s been a challenge, but I’ve really appreciated it.
  5. Booking onto a Doughnut Making Workshop as part of W’s birthday present. It’s not until the end of March but I’m already excited for it!
  6. Being challenged to cook a ‘local meal’ – more on this soon…
  7. A birthday night out at Home SW15. The food was lovely, the seasonal cocktails (mine involved parsnip and white chocolate) were yummy and I definitely want to visit for brunch now!
  8. Oh brunch. We also managed a birthday brunch at our favourite, The Dynamo (read my previous review). I tried their Turkish Eggs which were AMAZING, just lacking a big enough toast portion…
  9. Cosying up with a homemade lasagne made with my tomato-free bolognese. Cheesy, creamy, and full of all the carbs!
  10. Burning my favourite candle. It’s Rose & Oud scented and I’m so gutted it’s now ran out.
  11. Enjoying my new armchair. I now finally have a mustard-y yellow armchair. It’s just the right size to curl up on with a book, it’s super comfy and makes my flat feel 10x more cosy. I love it!
  12. Making progress with wedding bits and bobs. With less than 9 months to go we actually need to plan stuff rather than just book vendors. I have my hair/makeup trial, first dress fitting and our ‘engagemnt’ shoot with our photographer all in the next few weeks, plus a shop to try and find dresses for my ‘maids. So exciting!

What’s made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #30

Happy New Year!

I’m kicking the year off with a bumper Happy Things post – covering all of the festive period and a little before that. Whilst I had planned to write a couple more Christmassy posts, I felt a bit run-down in the week leading up to the big day so decided just to enjoy my time away from the office. I won’t be having more than a couple of days off until our wedding and honeymoon in October now, so it was good to make the most of it! As it was, I had a fabulous few weeks, although Christmas wasn’t quite what I’d planned…

      1. Homemade gifts. I’ve made a few homemade gifts this year and they’ve all gone down really well. The Peanut Butter Fudge has definitely been the most well-received though!
      2. A really good office party. I was in another department on a rotation before my Christmas holiday, and they were nice enough to have me tag on to their celebrations. There was good food, a lot of wine and bubbly, plenty of festive games and a compulsory Santa hat.
      3. Mulled Wine afternoons with friends, before a Carol service at our local church. Much festiveness.
      4. Continuing a new festive tradition. Last year me and W came up with ‘Pigs in Blankets Night’ – a roast dinner, but where the main meat is a good serving of homemade pigs in blankets. It’s so, so good.
      5. Sleeping for 12.5 hours pretty much straight.
      6. Curry night. I was sent some of Patak’s new Paste Pots* and added them to my Nomato Sauce. Served with homemade pilau rice, a spinach-coconut concoction I made up, bhajis and plenty of poppadoms we ate ourselves into a food coma.
      7. Frijoles at Wahaca. Though I’m not too happy at their menu change, as there’s now a lot more I can’t eat (and it feels a lot less authentic too!).
      8. A short break at Centre Parcs. We went to celebrate my sister’s eighteenth birthday and it was lovely! A gorgeous lodge with our own sauna, plenty of time in the pool (some of the water rides are pretty scary!), and some fun activities. Segeways were a particular highlight.
      9. My first ever spa day. I spent lots of time in a Blossom scented heat room, enjoyed a fire and ice experience – though the highlight was a Flotation Mud Wrap.
      10. Passing my exam! I came out of the spa to see my name on the pass list for the exam I took in September. I hadn’t been feeling overly confident recently after a tutor went over the paper, so I’m feeling relieved. Next ones are in April and I’m already on track with the material…
      11. Hot Beef Rolls from a nearby delicatessen. They roast a couple of joints of meat daily, then fill fresh slightly crispy rolls with meat sliced to order. The beef is rare and tender, the horseradish just the right heat. And at £3 it’s difficult to resist.
      12. Picking up chocolates from Cocoa Amore.
      13. Heading home for Christmas. It was a pretty hectic festive season for us all, but we managed to see both my Nan and Grandma, all the nieces/nephews and get presents delivered on time and to the correct people.
      14. The Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Rolls from M&S. They’re addictive.
      15. Christmas Dinner. Nuff said. Although I did have to rush my one on the big day as W was being ill (nesecitating a trip to A&E, 2 litres of fluid on a drip and an awful lot of worry). Then my second Christmas Dinner on Boxing Day was understandably subdued. Both delicious though!
      16. Being able to say – “We’re getting married THIS YEAR!!”

Hope you had a good Christmas – and that your New Year has gotten off to a good start! What’s made your festive period so special?

Life: Best Food of 2017

I can’t quite believe that it’s time to start rounding up 2017 – this year has just flown by. For personal reasons it hasn’t exactly been a great year, so this gal is excited for 2018. Not least because there’s a certain day in October when I get to done a rather pretty dress and sign perhaps the most important document of my life!

A few months ago I made the decision to move the focus of this blog away from ‘everything and anything’ to food. Because I’m all about food. For the first time in what feels like years, I’ve been really happy with the way my blog is moving forwards. I feel more excited to sit down and write posts, to take photos. Admittedly this is being shadowed by the need to move all my photos from photobucket at some point (cheers guys, that’s probably a month’s work right there) but I’m so excited to see what happens next.

And on that note, rather than doing lots of round-ups like 2016, this year there’s just one. The best food of 2017. Here goes.

I have visited Putney Pies twice in a fortnight, sooo yummy! 🙈

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January

I spent a lot of January cosied-up at home. With W away in the warmer climate of Chile I relied on a lot of comfort food and quick fixes – though I ate a lot of mushrooms and seafood too. Homecooking highlights were perfecting my homemade falafel (recipe here), and cooking up a delicious mac’n’cheese infused with whisky (with whisky glazed bacon crumb) to welcome my boy home. I’ll actually be posting that recipe ahead of Burn’s Night 2018 so keep your eyes peeled.

January was also the first month I visited Putney Pies – in fact it was so good I actually went two weekends on the trot!

Cake 😍 🍰 Saturday’s trip to Dominique Ansel was pretty much sugar-high perfection!

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February

February saw sugar-overload from a mummy-daughter trip to Dominque Ansel. The Frozen S’more is every bit as delicious as it sounds. I also managed to perfect my Tomato-free Bolognese, which I’ve since made many, many times.

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March

This month saw me eating a lot of beetroot – with my Beetroot Risotto becoming a firm favourite. With plenty of goat’s cheese I reckon it’s a way to encourage beetroot-haters to try this delicious vegetable! We also discovered Maltby Street Food Market this month…

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April

Ah, now April was a good food month! The start of it saw us head off to York, where we had so many delicious meals. There was lunch at Skosh, which is one of my top meals of all time. We had a cheese and wine night at Pairings, which is my idea of the perfect date night location. And of course, we had to stop by Betty’s – we didn’t something different to the usual afternoon tea which I’ve just realised I haven’t yet blogged about! Whoops! Following my exam this month we also had a celebratory meal at Pollen Street Social – whilst I didn’t blog about the visit, I can confirm that chicken-fat mash should totally be a thing…

Homecooking wise and a highlight was my oven-baked crumpets. Originally baked as part of a collaboration with St Helens Farm, these were absolutely delicious. I may have to make them again soon!

May

May saw us try and eat as many vegetarian dinners as possible, with some real highlights. I developed a delicious vegan bolognese recipe (although quite often we added plenty of parmesan), and this curry is now a firm favourite.

June

Now, June was a stressful month. We found out we needed to find a new flat – trust me, house hunting on the hottest weekend of the year was not fun! There was definitely some foodie highlights though – Kenwood sent me one of their kMix Stand Mixers* which was fun to play with, and I cooked one of my favourite salads yet.

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July

Another good food month! We kicked off July with a delicious meal at Bistro Vadouvan in Putney, eating one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever had. We also celebrated my exam pass with a brunch at Duck & Waffle which was utterly amazing, I’m so glad I’ve ticked it off my list.

We then flew to Switzerland for a week of cheesy carby goodness, including a rather excessive rosti topped with 10 rashes of bacon, and a meringue that was larger than my head. I also tried flammkuchen for the first time, I’ve been craving one ever since!

August

August was a quiet month, with most of it taken up with gradually moving out and dealing with our ex-landlord (he wanted a new carpet to the tune of over £1000. Short story: he didn’t get one, or at least not from our deposit!).

This Fesenjan was honestly one of the best dishes I’ve ever cooked! Tender chicken in a Pomegranate & Walnut Sauce it’s comforting, rich and lightly spiced. Served with brown rice and fragrant roasted cauliflower it’s a hug in a bowl for an Autumn evening! What’s your favourite dish? #fesenjan #pomegranate #middleeastern #middleeasternfood #goodfood #whatimeating #thefeedfeed #onmytable #savorthejourney #foodstories #forkfeed #inmytummy #makeitdelicious #eatnowplaylater #yougottaeatthis #tastingtable #storyofmytable #heresmyfood #inspiremyinstagram #show_me_your_food #foodandflatlay #hungrygrls #lickyourphone #foodlikewoah #noleftovers #verytandc #happyselves #theartofslowliving #nestandflourish #fdbloggers

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September

This was another exam month, though someone we managed to tick two pizza places off of our list to try (Mother LDN and 400 Rabbits – review from the latter will be one of the first of 2018). We also spent the last weekend of the month in Suffolk, which was utterly wonderful – I never realised the county was so foodie! A particular highlight was the chocolate doughnut from Pump Street Bakery…

And on a cooking note, this month was when I cooked what is perhaps the best thing I’ve cooked all year – my Chicken Fesenjan. Perfect for a special occasion!

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October

October was the month where I enjoyed having some me time - no exams to worry about, no deteriorating family members at the back of my mind. I cooked lots this month - with the Caramelised Onion & Goat's Cheese Pasta being a particular favourite. I also came up with my favourite lunchbox salad ever - a combination of crunchy veg, quinoa and satay sauce. And of course, Autumn meant homemade fruit crumbles...

I had the pleasure of being invited to the Ginger Whisk Cooking School, where I learnt to temper chocolate and make peanut butter fudge (recipe here).  I was also privileged enough to take part in Wok for 1000, where we made over 1400 for people in need across the city, included a whopping 4000+ wontons.

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A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

November

Ah, November! This was the month of my very early Christmas party (and with 2016's in February, there were less than 9 months between them!). It featured "Christmas Dinner on a Stick" which definitely wasn't one of my foodie highlights! However this month also kicked off the festive dining in a rather spectacular way. The #AEGTasteofXmas event featured perfectly cooked turkey and beef rib, deliciously crispy roasties and a rather nice apricot-spiked stuffing (but, to my horror, no pigs in blankets). We learnt how to make pastry for mince pies, and picked up lots of tips for cooking the big meal this year. Not that I'll be attempting that one quite yet...

We also managed to get to the Taste of London event - eating our way around we have some *really* good things, with the stand-out being a Roasted Peach Massaman Curry. Yum yum!

December

My birthday month! I kicked it off in style by spending a scary £65 in the butchers on meat for the weekend (yep, it made me feel faint too!). I cooked up braised Ox Cheeks for my family, a delicious Pork Stew for me and Will, and I got my traditional birthday steak night too. Yum!

My actual birthday day saw a couple of lovely meals out too. Breakfast was at Antipodea which I loved - such a cosy atmosphere and my pancakes were delicious. Lunch was a trip to tick Hai Cenato off my list. I embraced the carbs-on-carbs, eating a pizza topped with potato, egg yolk and the obligatory cheese. No regrets.

And of course, December also has more good food to come. The best bit! Christmas dinner, featuring the usual two-birds (goose plus turkey), pigs in blankets, two types of potatos (roasts plus mash), two types of stuffing (sage and onion, plus a sausage-y one), lots of veg, yorkies and lashings of gravy. I'm drooling already!

What are your best eats of 2017? Where do you recommend for next year?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #29

Another Monday, another “Happy Things” post – although those with a good memory will have noticed that I’ve missed one or two of these. Whoops!

I’ve had a busy few weeks at work, a lot of blog events to go to (and write about) and I’ve been trying to take it a little easier in the evenings I have been at home. Comfort food, catching up with Masterchef and reading a few good books. Oh, and attempting to fix insanely massive tech issues on this blog (it was to the point my hosting company suspended my account and everything disappeared) and trying to deal with Photobucket giving me 30 days to save thousands of photos… yep these happy things posts just slipped my mind! It’s a shame as there’s been many happy things lately…

    1. My birthday! Sure I’m another year old, another year closer to finding grey hairs (I’m convinced I’ve actually gone slightly grey so I’ve upped my dyeing game lately!). But it was a great weekend spent with some of my best friends and my lovely family.
    2. And of course, a lot of food was eaten on said birthday weekend! I managed to tick off two restaurants from my ‘to visit’ list, including a delicious brunch and an *amazing* double carb pizza. Full reviews coming in the new year!
    3. Amazing gifts. I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging at all, but some of the gifts I received this year were truly magical. From a plant pot (can tell I’m getting old!) that fits in perfectly with the rest of my flat decor to a gorgeous Olivia Burton watch. I know I’m not the easiest person to buy for as well!
    4. A pretty good one-to-one with my manager. I don’t share a huge amount about my professional life here, but it’s been quite a tough few weeks at work so to find out I’m actually not screwing things up was a major thing for me recently! Now just to start thinking a bit more positively…
    5. Snow! Some of my colleagues were visiting from India at the time and had rarely, if ever, seen snow so it was super-exciting. Though I find snow at any time exciting!
    6. Opening my M&S Beauty Advent Calendar. I was worried it was’t going to be worth the money but I’ve been really impressed so far.
    7. A New Look Haul. I ordered myself a couple of jumpers and several skirts to update my winter wardrobe and now feel so much happier. I should probably through some older stuff away to make room though…
    8. Buying some really good quality meat. Now, I’m all for living ethically but equally I don’t particularly have any desire to be a vegetarian. Sure it works for some people, but I find I do feel an awful lot better when I eat meat. With that in mind we’re trying to eat slightly less of it, but make sure it’s coming from a better source. It’s costing is a bit more (and my birthday steaks made me pale as we went to pay) but it tastes SO much better. Pork in particular is a total game changer. Now to try and find a better source for fruit and veg – any recommendations?!
    9. Wine, wine, wine. This winter I’ve discovered I really like red wine. There’s a Romanian one I’ve been absolutely loving, but my go-to is a malbec. All the wine please!
    10. Ox Cheeks Braised in Red Wine. Combining two of my big loves – red meat and red wine. It was utter heaven served with celeriac mash and bacon-fried greens. Yum yum!
    11. A realllllyyyy yummy lunch at Bill’s. It’s not somewhere I visit often, but the cod and lentil dish I had was light and tasty and really hit the spot. The Molten Chocolate Bombe I had for dessert wasn’t quite so light, but was just as delicious.
    12. Watching Aladdin at the threatre. It was such a good performance, and the set and effects are some of the best I’ve ever seen on stage. Highly recommended!

What’s made you happy lately? What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently?