Birthday Thanks

It was my birthday a few quite a few days ago, and I’ve been meaning to do this post since to show you all what fabulous friends I have. Now, I now we are all in the same boat, all on a very tight budget, and so I really don’t expect gifts at all, let alone some of the wonderful things I received. Everything I was given was just totally ‘me’ and I love it all – it shows what great friends you have when everything they buy you is perfect!

2013-12-05 10.27.41Here’s just a selection of what I got!

  • First up is the canvas at the back. Amazing, my housemate actually painted that herself. When I realised she hadn’t bought it, I feel in love with it that little bit more. It’s absolutely stunning, and will look good in both my student room, and my dream-bedroom I’m planning for when I finally have my own house.
  • Then there’s the apron in the corner, which another housemate asked her mum to make for me (seriously wish I had a mum that could sew, let alone wishing that I could sew something like this!). Between this and another friend gifting me a recipe binder, you’d think they were hinting at me doing some baking! But honestly, I love both of the gifts, and they will be so, so  useful. Not to mention that a floral apron was actually on my Christmas list!
  • Lots of chocolate, which is helping me get through a period of stressful assessments and placement applications (I so wish there were more actuarial industrial placements available!). Plenty of fluffy socks, which are vital as we have a cold kitchen floor. Plus I love fluffy socks, and wear them pretty much constantly. I have been known (accidently of course) to shower in them…
  • A 2014 calendar, which will go perfectly in my room. And it’swipe clean, so great for tracking assessments and important to-do’s. Looking forward to using this!
  • A new Cath Kidston mug. I love my Cath Kidston mugs, they’re a perfect size for hot chocolates, so I love that I now have two at university!
  • Libby was shocked to hear this year that despite wearing dresses/skirts with tights a lot, I’ve never tried Primark’s super-cosy tights, so she treated me to a pair. Once this horrible wind dies down, and I’m not in danger of flashing anything, I’ll be trying these. Is is weird to be so excited about a pair of tights?
  • I was also treated to some new make-up, and related bits-and-pieces, including a MAC blusher I’ve wanted for five long years. It’s been worth the wait!

But what was my best present? Well, we all went out for a meal for my birthday, and it turns out that everyone had been secretly talking behind my back. It turns out that one of the people I had invited had deliberately agreed, despite knowing she wasn’t coming. Because my wonderful friends had arranged to get my boyfriend down to my university town and surprise me. They’d been planning for WEEKS, everyone knew (including my mother, who nearly let it slip a few hours beforehand!) and they managed to keep it a total surprise, although I did start getting a little suspicious at various points. To everyone who was in on this and made this happen – thank you so much, you will never know how grateful I was to spend my birthday, and an extra few days, with my boyfriend. Those in long-distance relationships will understand!

So that’s it, a quick round-up of my wonderful presents, and my even-more wonderful friends. Thank you guys – I love you all!

 

Love Your Leftovers: Pizza Pinwheels

If you made my Chicken & Sausage Pie recipe, or indeed any pie recipe, you might find yourself with some spare pastry hanging around. I certainly did! Rather than throw it away (I have a ‘thing’ about throwing perfectly edible things away) I decided to make something, and raided my fridge/freezer for other things to use up. I have to admit though, I was very, very tempted to just make some Cinnamon Swirls

I found some Pesto (from my Tomato-free Bolognese recipe), chorizo, and cheese, and so some version of Pizza was going to be born. I also decided I wanted something portable, so I could use it for lunch the next day, so had a little google and found this recipe…and improvised. Here’s my very quick version, which taste delicious. They are easily adaptable for your own tastes, and whatever you have in too!

I’m not going to write this properly, with a full ingredients list, because it depends on what you want to include, but I’ll outline what I did and the basic method – the rest is up to you!

2013-11-25 16.15.40Take your strip of leftover pastry, and roll in out a little, so it’s long and thinner. Spread with the pesto.

2013-11-25 16.17.30Sprinkle with grated cheese, and top with the chorizo slices. This did make it quite greasy, so next time I’m going to try ham instead.

2013-11-25 16.18.58Roll up tightly – a bit like this:

2013-11-25 16.19.38Then cut into slices – mine worked well at around 1 cm width. Place on a foil covered baking tray.

2013-11-25 16.21.52Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, the cheese should be bubbly, the pastry golden and crisp. All totally yummy!
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Try to resist eating, if you can. These would be great served with a salad as a main meal, but I’m going to enjoy them instead of a sandwich in my lunch box. This is definitely an idea I’ll be trying again, with lots of possible variations!

 

How do you use up leftover pastry?

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Chicken & Sausage Pie

This seems like a bit of a strange recipe to write on a student blog, as it seems so expensive – and I must admit the price did make me wince slightly when buying ingredients. But actually it makes a huge amount, and the cost spreads out. Each portion of pie is roughly £1.50, and whilst that’s not the cheapest meal around, its far cheaper than buying a ready meal.

Pies are so fun to make too! There’s so many different stages, but none are complicated (unless you are attempting to make your own pastry, with a cling-film roll instead of a proper rolling pin), and you can tailor the flavours to your own tastes completely. They are perfect for crowds – I made this when it was my turn to cook the house Sunday dinner and it was very well received. Not only did I make enough to feed four hungry girls, I made four individual pies for my freezer too – 2 hours work (and a lot of washing up) but I filled my freezer, relaxed from revision, and generally made a mess in the kitchen. Something I recommend!

2013-11-24 19.16.25And who wouldn’t want a dinner like that?! Served with plenty of mash and veg, this would have actually served at least another person, so I got at minimum nine servings out of this recipe, and I can’t wait to eat some of the ones I have stashed away in the freezer! I originally made a similar recipe from a Times magazine – I no longer have that recipe, so improvised with what was in my cupboard and what I remembered!

Ingredients

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  • Four chicken breast (£7 from Tesco)
  • 6 sausages (I bought 16 for £5, also in Tesco, working out at £1.88)
  • 1 slice of bread, this recipe is perfect for using the ‘end bit no-one wants’ (5p)
  • Two regular onions (40p)
  • A large knob of butter (20p)
  • A handful of the cheapest mushrooms, optional (20p)
  • 2 chicken stock cubes (10p)
  • Two tablespoons of flour (5p)
  • Some herbs and seasoning (5p)
  • 1-2 packs of ready-rolled puff pastry (£2 from Sainsburys)

Splitting the recipe into eight servings, this works out at £1.49 per serving.

Let’s make pie!

First of all, cook your chicken – preheat the oven to 200C, and get four large squares of tin foil ready. Spread each with a little oil, place a chicken breast in the centre, and season with salt and pepper (I also added a bit of thyme). Wrap the foil into a parcel, it should look a little like a Cornish pasty in shape. Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, then leave to cool.

2013-11-23 16.20.42Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, and sweat down with the butter until soft.

2013-11-23 16.44.00And while that is going on (see, we’re multi-tasking here!) remove the sausages from their skins. Pulse the bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs, and mix this into the sausage meat – a kneading movement works well here. If you want, add a bit of lemon juice to this mixture – but don’t worry as it’s far from essential. Shape the mixture into balls – it makes lots, the picture below shows half of mine…

2013-11-23 17.03.57By now your onions should have sweated down. Make the stock up (you need 1.5-2 litres). Add the flour to the onions and stir to make a roux, then slowly add the stock whilst stirring. Once it’s all in the pan, add some herbs, salt and plenty of pepper, and your mushrooms (if using). You could also add vegetables at this point, I imagine some chopped carrot would work well.

2013-11-23 17.06.11Leave your sauce to simmer on a low heat for a bit, whilst you brown the sausage balls in a little oil. Make sure the pan is hot when they go in, or the bread will absorb oil and the final result will be greasy.

2013-11-23 17.34.48Back to the chicken. Remove it from it’s foil parcels, and drain any grease on a piece of kitchen towel. Cut up into bite sized pieces.

2013-11-23 17.43.15Once all of your elements are prepared, put some chicken and sausage in the bottom of your chosen dish.

2013-11-23 17.49.14Ladle in the sauce until it is roughly this full…

2013-11-23 17.49.19And bake for around 30-45 mins at 160C. If you are making a day in advance, keep the filling in the fridge, top with pastry when ready to cook, and bake covered with foil for 30 minutes, and then uncovered for 30 minutes. If freezing, use pastry that has NOT already been frozen (I made my own for my individual ones), defrost fully before cooking, cover and bake for 40 minutes, and then uncovered for 30 minutes. Remember to only use my timings as a guide – everything should be fully cooked and piping hot.

2013-11-24 19.10.14If you want, you could get fancy with your pastry and make some pretty shapes on top…mine was a little rough looking though!
2013-11-23 19.17.58Serve with plenty of green vegetables and mash, and you have a filling dinner for under £2.

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Having made this, I’ve been inspired to make more pies – I’m planning on making some steak ones over my Christmas holidays! Does anyone else make double portions and freeze meals to save time?

Baking: Mayonnaise Brownies

Remember this brownie post, where I compared some of the brownie recipes I’ve tried? And this one, where I made amazingly good peanut butter brownies? Well tonight I whipped up some healthy-ish brownies for a friends birthday treat, using her favourite food – mayonnaise. I’ve made these multiple times before, and they are a pretty fail-safe recipe. As long as you don’t overcook them (a hideous crime to brownies!), they always seem to work well.

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I’ve based mine on this recipe, but made it a little more budget friendly – what student really has several types of sugar (even though I do quite a bit of baking, I only ever buy cheapy cheap granulated and soft dark brown types) and buttermilk. You can make your own buttermilk by ‘curdling’ normal milk using lemon juice but (1) I’ve never tried it, (2) it doesn’t really appeal to me, and (3) I’m trying to avoid *too much* dairy at the moment.

If you are a brownie addict and looking for a less-sinful version to snack on, look no further. If you have mayonnaise to use up, try this. If you just want an easy no fuss, no beating with electric whisks (as in my all time favourites) brownie recipe, then this is definitely one for you. Let me know if you try it!

Ingredients

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  • 100g of (preferably dark) chocolate
  • 80g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 80g granulated sugar
  • 60g soft brown sugar
  • 1/3 of a mug of coffee – made black, and very strong (I used two teaspoons)
  • 1 egg
  • 100g of mayonnaise (I bought  big jar of Aldi’s own brand for 40p)
  • Extras – chopped nuts, or chopped chocolate (or anything else you fancy) – I went for chopped milk chocolate as that’s all I had, but white chocolate works very well

Turning these rather odd ingredients into yummy brownies…

Preheat the oven to 180C. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, then leave to cool slightly. Weigh out the other ingredients whilst it cools, or do some of the reading you’re meant to be doing.

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In another bowl, mix together the flour and cocoa powder.

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By now your chocolate should have cooled! Add the sugars to the chocolate, mixing well. It will look gritty and not particularly pleasant.

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Gradually add the coffee and it should look something like this:

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Then add your beaten egg and mayonnaise. Mix in your extras at this point too. Mmm chocolate…

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Gradually sift in the flour/cocoa mix. In between siftings, fold the mix together gently. Eventually it will look all fudgy and yummy;

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Put the mix into a baking tin I should have told you to prepare earlier (it needs to be greased/lined). Ease into the corners and smooth down the top. I recommend NOT licking out the bowl in this recipe – you will taste the mayonnaise in the raw mix.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes (there should be a slight wobble in the middle). Then turn the oven off, and leave to cool in there. This works perfectly for me everytime when making brownies, especially with a temperamental oven.

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Once completely and utterly cool, remove from the tin and cut into pieces – I got 12 good size pieces out of this amount of ingredients, but this recipe is excellent for scaling up. I’ve made it for parties before and it’s gone down very well!

Now all that’s left is to enjoy, and feel slightly smug that you’ve made a healthier version of something totally yummy.

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Do you have any tips for making ‘naughty’ recipes healthier?

Fun Friday Finds

Welcome to a new series, which I hope will become weekly (although bear with me on that one!). Basically here I’m going to be going over what I’m loving at the moment, new blog posts I’ve read this week, things I’m adding to my wishlist – loads of things really! Hope you enjoy it – and bloggers if you want to be removed then please let me know!

Homemade Shortbread

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I received a lovely parcel from my lovely boyfriend last week – some homemade shortbread (he is also a very keen baker) and four bars of dairy milk. Not only was this a great surprise, and a much needed pick-me-up, but the shortbread was amazingly good!

Tony Moly Lip Balm/Tint

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As you know from my previous post, I’ve fallen in love with the strong colour payoff and unbelievable staying power of this product! If you like a berry lip, but aren’t a fan of reapplying all the time, I couldn’t recommend this enough. Thank you to Makeup Savvy for the recommendation!

My Filofax

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Life is a little busy with a few deadlines, and a lot of mid-term assessments, and this is vital for keeping me on track and organised! I literally couldn’t live without my Filofax, and I really do believe every student should have some form of diary or organiser that works for them. I’m planning a post about my university set up very soon, so please keep an eye out for it!

 

Blogroll – Best Posts of the Week! (or last few weeks…)

  • As you probably know, I love the Londoner’s Banana & Nutella Swirl Muffins, and I can’t wait to try these ‘healthy’ cookies.
  • I’m trying to get into eating soups for lunch (especially as they are a great way of using going off vegetables) and as soon as I receive a new blender I’ll be trying Mama Cook’s Borlotti Bean, Bacon & Vegetable Soup.
  • I love A Thrifty Mrs blog for the vast array of tips – our kettle is looking decidedly grubby inside so this weekend I’ll definitely follow her tips for descaling.
  • I’m a huge fan of neutral but smokey and defined eyes, and I desperately would love to try Naked  3, which has just been announced. Check out Sunday Girl’s post for more information!

Has this week introduced you to anything new you now love?

Guest Post: Chocolate Overload Torte

Here is a guest post written by my lovely boyfriend – as he did the cooking for this recipe, I decided it was only fair he did all the hard work of writing too! Any of my annotations are written in italics, so you can easily differentiate between both of our witty comments. He found the original recipe here.

Upon trying to think of a pudding to make for a house of 4 girls plus yourself, the best option by a long mile is chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate. Cue lots of googling around for a sensible recipe that won’t break the small student bank balance or ask for all kinds of fancy kitchen gadgets.

In the end I settled on a delicious chocolate torte (plus a raspberry coulis – how fancy, right?). It went down extremely well with the 4 girls plus myself and another boyfriend; even if I do say so myself! Perhaps, dare I say, slightly too rich? Hmm… No. I wouldn’t actually. It was lovely! Onwards with the recipe for the torte…

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Ingredients:

  • 75g of Unsalted Butter (split into 50g and 25g)
  • 200g of Dark Chocolate – at least 70% cocoa – and please please please don’t skimp on the quality. As cheap as supermarket ‘Value’ chocolate is it simply won’t taste anywhere near as good! Split the 200g into 50g and 150g.
  • 100g Digestive Biscuits – about 7 biscuits
  • 1tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 250g Mascarpone Cheese – this tends to be available in tubs of 250g which is great because trying to weigh out mascarpone out isn’t fun
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g Dark Muscovado Sugar or Dark Brown Soft Sugar

Now, you’ll also need a heatproof bowl (Pyrex or metal – just not plastic) and a 20cm/8inch loose-bottomed cake tin. Sadly, we didn’t have the latter in the house, so I had to make one out of a cereal packet and tin foil – if that’s not budget lifestyle then I don’t know what is! You could of course buy a tin, but where’s the fun or cheapness in that?!

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And how do you turn these ingredients into something amazingly yummy? Keep on reading!

First of all, melt the 50g of butter with 50g of the chocolate in a saucepan over a LOW heat and stir to combine. Definitely a low heat though – otherwise bad things will happen to your chocolate. Horrible bad things…

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Meanwhile, crush up your digestive biscuits. I like to do this in a sealed sandwich bag using a bashing-type tool. Usually a rolling pin; in this case a potato masher.

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When the chocolate and butter have fully melted and combined add your crushed biscuit and stir well until fully combined before pouring into the base of the tin, levelling out, patting down, and shoving in the fridge to cool for a bit until firm.

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Then, put the remaining 25g of butter, 150g of chocolate and cocoa powder into a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (or you could use a bain-marie on the off-chance you own one). Stir occasionally and allow to melt together. Once it has melted, set it aside and allow to cool slightly.

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Beat the mascarpone in order to soften it before beating into the chocolate mixture until it is thoroughly combined.

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In another heatproof bowl (or the same one with the previous contents moved into a different bowl of any kind) put the eggs and the sugar together and, again, place it over a saucepan of simmering water. Now, if you have an electric whisk, definitely use it! You need to use a whisk to beat the egg and sugar mixture until it is much lighter, paler and thicker than when you started. Much, much thicker. It will also increase in volume!

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This egg and sugar mixture should then be folded into the chocolate mixture. Be patient with it (unlike myself who usually gets far t0o bored by the slow folding process – I will add here that I did this part!) to make sure you keep as many air pockets in the mix as possible – making for a nice light chocolate torte.

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Then pour this combined mixture on top of the chilled base in the tin, smooth out the top and fill all the gaps, then place in the fridge until it has firmed up and you are ready to serve.

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Now time to lick the bowl!

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When it comes to serving it, remove the side of the tin and leave the torte on the base. Cut into the desired wedges, place on a plate and add the optional coulis.

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Eat, enjoy and be very, very happy in chocolate heaven!

For those interested, for the coulis, blend about 50g of raspberries per person with icing/caster sugar and a splash of lemon juice in a blender or food processor. Then force the blended mush through a sieve into a jug. The seeds won’t pass through the sieve and the coulis will be nice and smooth! I used frozen raspberries as they are much cheaper than fresh at this time of year – simply heat slightly in the microwave to defrost them before attempting to blend them.

This chocolate torte really was amazing, especially paired with the coulis. 

Does anyone have any favourite easy-to-make dessert recipes for entertaining? That question was a huge mouthful!

Baking: Peanut Butter Snickers Brownies

Another baking post for you! Anyone would think this is turning into a food blog, but that isn’t really the case…much as I love food I still want to keep this as much of a lifestyle blog as I can manage. Food is just a big part of my lifestyle…

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Anyway, this recipe has quickly proved to make a favourite baked good of mine. These brownies are rich, gooey, crunchy from the snickers, with a savoury hint coming from the peanut butter. Wonderful on their own, but spectacular warned with Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream. Diet = ruined.

 

I will say is that the snickers did make this very unstable and virtually impossible to cut. The crunchiness of the nuts is a pretty key part of the finished bake, but I’m not sure whether Snickers bars is the best way to achieve this. I plan to make another batch trialling a slightly different method, which I will blog about in due course. I will also add my method of using tins is slightly odd – I always line with tinfoil and grease this, then add greaseproof paper. Mainly as it eases the washing up…

 

So, here is the recipe for some of the best brownies I have ever eaten. Gooey, crunchy, chocolatey and salty. If you ever bake one thing from this site, make it these!

I made these as part of a bunch of presents for my lovely old boyfriend, for our third (yep, third – sickenly loved-up couple alert – but happy anniversary again my lovely!) anniversary of being together. His reaction was pretty impressive, so I think he liked them. They have been greatly appreciated by parents and housemates alike (and also travelled the five, yes five, thanks Southeastern Trains, hour journey to said boyfriend in a suitcase relatively unscathed) so would be great to make when meeting new people, having family visit, or for sending home in the hope of a fund relieving cheque in return…

 

Ingredients

  • Brownie mix (I used this recipe, as it is my go to for brownies. I also like this slightly healthier one, but I admit to using Tesco’s “just add water” mix on occasion, as baking ingredients can be expensive!)
  • Peanut Butter (around two tablespoons, smooth seems to work better in baking)
  • Snickers bars (I used three snack sized bars)

 

Method

  • Preheat your oven to around 180C.
  • Chop your snickers into rough chunks.

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  • Once your brownie mix is made up, stir through your chopped up Snickers, and add roughly half the mix to your prepared tin.

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  • Warm your peanut butter slightly in the microwave to make it a little runny (photo is before microwaving!).

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  • Add around half of your peanut butter over your brownies, trying to drizzle it evenly over the mix.

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  • Add the rest of the brownie mix, and drizzle over the rest of the peanut butter. Smooth the top down.

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  • Bake for 20-25 mins, turning if your oven cooks unevenly. If it is slightly underdone when you check it, my tip is to turn the oven off and leave to cool in the oven. It should finish it off nicely.

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  • Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin and cutting. If you do this while they are still warm, so know from experience that you will just make a mess.
  • Now sit and eat, preferably with a class of milk or a cup of tea. Oh, and although the snickers might make the base sticky, it means great pickings for the baker…

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This post has made me so hungry, I think I might need to go and steal another from the boyfriend… If you liked this post, check out my brownie post here. Also look at my take on The Londoner’s Banana and Nutella Muffins, and my Citrus Drizzle Cupcakes.

Baking: Cinnamon Swirl Banana Muffins

As you all know from this post, I have a touch of Fresher’s Flu. And what does this student do when ill/stressed/annoyed/grumpy/all of the above? She bakes! My house had lots of very brown and mushy bananas to use up, but I wanted a change from the usual Banana & Nutella Muffins (much to some of my housemates disgust!). Thanks to Wahaca and Hula Cafe (a lovely little place in Edinburgh that do the best smoothies – I’ve not blogged about my summer holiday, but maybe I should!) I have a rather strong addiction to cinnamon, so decided to incorporate that. My brainwave was these Cinnamon Swirl Banana Muffins, some with a hidden surprise!

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Next time I personally would double the amount of cinnamon, and possibly use another banana and lose an egg (thrifty tips here guys!). But definitely err on the side of caution when it comes to cinnamon – you can always dust with more after baking, but can’t take it away. I used this recipe as a brief guide, but didn’t really follow it at all – but I’d thought I’d show you as there are some great recipes on the site!

I haven’t costed this recipe exactly – but relying on the fact that you may have cinnamon in your cupboards (it is a useful spice to have, mainly because I like spoons in porridge, but a little does add a nice fruity note to a curry) and some baking powder (if you bake a lot, it really is useful – I ran out and all I could get were stupidly expensive sachets, so it is worth buying a pot) it shouldn’t be too expensive, as there are no special ingredients. The soft brown sugar can always be substituted with generic sugar you throw in your tea if you don’t want to splash out anymore.

 

Anyway, here’s the recipe!

 

Ingredients (Makes 12 big muffins)

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  • 3 bananas
  • 2 eggs (medium)
  • 115-125g butter (about half a pack, I used salted)
  • 225-240g (I have very unreliable scales at the moment!) plain flour
  • 100-120g sugar (I always use the cheapest I can find here)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Optional – a handful of oats, some dark chocolate
  • For the swirl/topping – 50g soft brown sugar (or normal if you prefer), and 1+tsp of cinnamon (to taste)

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to around 180 degrees.
  • Peel your bananas and mash into a bowl.

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  • Add your eggs to the bananas and beat up.
  • Melt your butter, let cool slightly (we don’t want scrambled eggs!) and add the the mixing bowl.
  • Add in your flour, sugar and baking powder, and mix to combine.

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  • If you are using them, throw in your handful of oats. If the mixture gets a bit stiff and sticky cooking, beat in a splash or two of milk.

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  • Make your cinnamon mixture – mix the brown sugar (or alternative) in a bowl with the cinnamon.

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  • Line a muffin tin with paper muffin cases (I bought some really pretty ones from Wilkinson’s recently – and don’t use silicone ones with banana recipes as they tend to stick more).
  • Add a tablespoon of the muffin mixture to each case.
  • Sprinkle over some of the cinnamon sugar.

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  • Add another tablespoon of mixture to the cases (they should be almost full – the actuary in me estimates around 5/6 full).
  • Swirl your mixture slightly with the top of a teaspoon – they won’t swirl as readily as the nutella version, so don’t worry.
  • If you are making some with a chocolatey surprise, push a square of dark chocolate (I used ASDA’s own smartprice version) into the centre.
  • Sprinkle more of the cinnamon sugar onto the top.

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  • Put in the oven, for 20-25 minutes. I turned mine round halfway as the oven in this new house cooks unevenly.
  • Cool before eating, although they are good blasted in the microwave too.

Perfect as a pick-me-up when you realise that going into second year is a big jump in terms of workload (one class test and piece of coursework already done, AND they count towards my actual degree!).

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For more baking recipes, check out my aforementioned banana and nutella oat muffins, and my lemon-and-lime drizzle cupcakes – I’m sure there will be plenty of baking over second year, as it’s the perfect method of yummy procrastination!

Do any of my readers have any recipes they recommend?

Follow me on BlogLovin’

After a few weeks of serious technical difficulties (in which I may or may not have forgotten my password to this account!) I believe I have finally set up my connection on Bloglovin. I use Bloglovin’ a lot to read blogs I enjoy (more about that in a second), and I think it is a really good reader-orientated platform, so I do suggest following me on there, particularly if you are a smartphone user.

Here is the link, and you’ll also find one taking a permanent place on my side bar!

 

Now, I thought I’d be ultra-lovely and show you a guide to some of my favourite blogs of the moment:

  • Lottie’s Little Kitchen – this is one of the blogs that actually inspired me to become more active in my blogging when I began university as a little Fresher last year. Some of her recipes look amazing, and the Treacle Tart is on the menu for my house Sunday lunch in a few weeks!
  • Philofaxy – the source of all things Filofax related. I have a big post coming up on how I am using both of my Filofaxes over my second year at university, and I have to say this blog and the people behind it have helped me hugely!
  • Handbags and Cupcakes – I just love this girl’s writing style, and her taste in Handbags!
  • Life of Libby – this is the blog belonging to a lovely housemate of mine, it’s only four months old and I think it’s wonderful! And it means I can easily work out what she has in her make-up bag for me to try!
  • The Sunday Girl – wonderful make-up reviews, incredibly professional style!
  • A Girl Called Jack – full of amazingly cheap recipes. She has inspired a lot of posts that are coming soon to my blog, and which I hope will be handy for students on a serious tight budget! I’d had to adapt a lot of her recipes, but please check this blog out.
  • The Londoner – probably the most well known blog on this list, and the source of my Nutella and Banana Oaty Muffins. Just take a look at these beauties, and then get baking with my recipe here.

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Baking: Citrus Drizzle Cupcakes

I came out of a two-and-a-half hour exam earlier. Knowing I had another (4 hour!) exam on Monday, what did I do? Put my head down and revise? Drown my sorrows in alcohol? No, I turned to baking.

 

I’ll be completely honest with you, I have no choice but to bake at the moment. For one thing, both the making, the eating and the giving away to friends is a great stress reliever. But the main reason is that it’s coming to the end of the year and I have a LOT of food to get through.

I currently have just under a kilogram of flour, lots of various different sugars, and a selection of flavourings. Last week I made brownies (not as successful, so they don’t get a blog post – my halls oven is failing rapidly). This week I wanted something fresher, to reflect what I thought was sunnier weather – again something that is also failing rapidly. I knew I had a bottle of lime juice and a bottle of lemon juice to use up. I recommend always having some lemon juice – I love it. Over pancakes, as a simple salad dressing, or over fish fingers (hey I’m a student!) it’s really useful at perking things up. Lime juice is less of a necessity. I only have it because of my addition to Mexican food, which I have street-food restaurant Wahaca to blame for. I make refried beans a lot of the exam period, and they always benefit from a splash of lime juice. But anyways, lots of lime juice to use up.

I decided to make citrus cupcakes. I have a cupcake ‘recipe’ I use, that I’ve used for years, that I don’t know where it came from, and that I usually flavour with vanilla. I decided to use that, but ditch the vanilla in favour of a citrus mix. I then swapped out my usual buttercream  icing for a drizzle type concoction. It seemed to work. I definitely over cooked the cupcakes, but I had enough mixture left over for a ‘cake’ in my Le Cruset baking dish. This isn’t so dry, and is much better – so keep an eye on these little cakes, especially if you have a dodgy student oven.

 

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Citrus Drizzle Cupcakes

Here’s the recipe. It made 12 cupcakes and a reasonable size cake – I’d guess you’d get at least 18 cupcakes out of it. Note that in the picture one is missing. Someone had to sample it didn’t they…

Ingredients;

  • Oil (vegetable) – 6 tablespoons
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup of sugar – I used standard granulated for this
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (or just use 1.5 cups of self raising flour)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Lemon and Lime juice – good splashes of both, preferably to taste though I take no responsibility for any illness from eating raw cake mixture (it’s not a good idea, but just about everyone I know does it)
  • For the drizzle – more splashes of lemon/lime juice, and granulated sugar, just enough so it stops dissolving and feels grainy

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Beat together the oil, sugar, and the salt, until fully mixed.
  3. Add the eggs gradually, the mix should go light in colour, and reasonably fluffy.
  4. Sift together (I’ll admit I didn’t do this – due to lack of a sieve) the flour and baking powder. Add this to the mixture, alternating between a cup of flour and some milk. Mix until you have a smooth batter.
  5. Stir through the lemon/lime juice – again, use your own judgement as to how much.
  6. Add to muffin cases in a tin (fill about 2/3 full) and bake for 15-18 mins, probably towards the shorter end of the cooking time.
  7. While they’re cooking, prepare the drizzle mix as specified in the ingredients.
  8. As soon as they’re out, spoon the drizzle mixture oven. Let cool, and eat! Simple as that!