Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #58

Happy May Monday! As with the last fortnightly update, I’m so pleased to be back to regularly (almost at least!) blogging – it gives me the creative outlet that I would struggle to get in my day-to-day life. Much as I love my job, creativity is not something it hugely offers me and so doing this on the side works so well for me – and concentrating on my other love of food is pretty much a double win. And this last fortnight has certainly been full of good food…

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  1. Another bank holiday weekend full of fun and relaxation. Though it sadly lacked the sunshine and warmth of Easter, the early May bank holiday weekend brought board games (mainly Ticket to Ride, Catan and Forbidden Island) and a delicious roast chicken dinner made up entirely of recipes from Ottolenghi Simple.
  2. Speaking of that roast dinner, the Two Bean Two Lime Salad is quite possibly my new favourite thing. THE most delicious way to eat your greens!
  3. We also used the Bank Holiday to try out a new recipe – and made Pork Belly Bao! I was really pleased with how these looked and tasted given we’d never tried anything like this before. Definitely worth a go!
  4. Unusual Jaffa Cake flavours from M&S. The jury is out on the Peach & Passion Fruit (limited edition, grab a pack and let me know what you think?) but I’m very intrigued by the raspberry ones so watch this space…
  5. A surprisingly good throw together salad of chorizo slices, cheddar, salas leaves, mint and lemon. Yum!
  6. A solo dinner of fish fingers. We’re on a freezer run-down to de-ice it, so managed to score a solo dinner to nab the fish fingers. Such a guilty pleasure! Though unfortunately we’d emptied the freezer of bread so I couldn’t pop them into a sandwich…
  7. Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cakes. A classic and a goodie – and a recipe I’ll be sharing very soon.
  8. Kindle Unlimited. I’ve finally started shelling out for it and it’s the best decision ever. Though very glad I waited until post-exam as there are SO many page-turners available. I’m also joining a couple of book clubs so it’s been alllllll the reading for me!
  9. A whole month of clear skin. Let’s hope I haven’t jinxed it!
  10. An absolutely delicious dinner at The Royal Oak. I didn’t try the signature Njuda Scotch Egg, but my Pea Salad was delightfully fresh and my Bavette Steak with Wild Garlic? So good. I also thought £40 for those courses plus two large glasses of very decent wine wasn’t bad at all. But maybe I’m too used to London prices?

What have you been loving lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #57

Happy Monday! I’m proud to say that there has not been radio silence this last fortnight, with a couple of blog posts actually making it through the drafting-editing and all the way to the publishing stage. I’m so thrilled to be back typing away in my little online space, although I’ve recently had a paddy, thrown all my toys out of the pram and decided I hate a lot of the photographs I’ve already shot. And so now I’m facing reshooting a load of recipes… so yep. On the plus side, that means making and eating them all again…

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  1. The glorious sunshine of the Easter weekend. Not only was it the first time I could actually enjoy the Bank Holiday thanks to exams being before Easter (the novelty!) but the weather gods did us proud. Getting some much needed Vit-D is definitely a highlight of the last fornight!
  2. I also took an extended break, heading up to my parents the Tuesday before Easter to celebrate my Dad’s birthday, get in some doggy snuggles and just get out of London. I love living in London, but there’s something about the (non-polluted) fresh air and being able to get out into the countryside that makes me so happy.
  3. Ottolenghi’s slow-cooked lamb shoulder with mint and cumin. Yes, I regretted having the oven on for more than 7 hours on the hottest day of the year but this was absolutely bloody delicious. We’ve always done a lamb roast on Easter Sunday but this was definitely the best. And the leftovers. Ooft. So good.
  4. Speaking of the leftovers, I played around with another of Ottolenghi’s recipes – the spiced shepherd’s pie with butterbean mash. Using leftover meat (with was so tender it carved with a spoon) it was fairly quickly pulled together and the butterbean topping was dreamy.
  5. Is it bad that I’m mentioning the same cookbook three times in one Happy Monday post? We made the Za’atar Leek Eggs for a pre-walk breakfast on Easter Monday and they were so good. We should have maybe cooked off the stock a little more, and our eggs were a tad over, but yum, yum, yum. Preserved lemons are my new favourite ingredient.
  6. And speaking of the walk – we did a lovely 5-ish mile circuit from Kingston, through Bushy Park, through Hampton Court Palace Gardens (the informal ones, because free!) and back down the Thames. We saw an incredibly friendly deer, lots of dogs and had a picnic. Bliss.
  7. A pub lunch in the Leicestershire countryside. Not only was the price of it insane (2 beers, 2 white wine spritzers, 2 lemonades and 3 sandwiches with fries – £33 thank you!) but it was delicious. Beef sandwiches with really good cold but rare roast beef, crispy salty fries and a well dressed salad. Worth the sunburn sitting in the beer garden! (yes, I was wearing suncream)
  8. Taking my grandma through my wedding photos. Such a lovely moment!
  9. Catching up with my girlies. It felt like ages since I saw them (it wasn’t, but I was so distracted with exams I didn’t make the most of it!) so it was lovely to spend some time giggling away.
  10. An afternoon tea. Not a fancy one at Hide this time, but a buffet version to celebrate our friend’s engagement.

What’s made you happy lately? Did you enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #56

Happy Monday! There’s been radio silence on here since my last post a few weeks ago, as studying for the ol’exam just got in the way. I do usually try and schedule posts to see me over exam season, but it just wasn’t happening this time. The good news is the exam is out of the way, so I’m planning on reintroducing myself to the world of blogging over the next few weeks…

Most of the last month or so has pretty much entirely been spent at my desk studying, but of course there’s been time for a few yummy bits and pieces to eat!

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    1. A really delicious pasta bake from the lastest issue of Delicious magazine. Essentially a cheese bechamel spiced with nutmeg and clove, spaghetti and plenty of spring vegetables. One of the nicest and freshest things, and something I’ll definitely be making again.
    2. Post-exam cocktails at my favourite spot – Home SW15. Of course some sneaky cauliflower cheese croquettes got eaten too…
    3. Cadbury’s Darkmilk Chocolate. The perfect bar for an evening treat, it’s far too easy to sit and eat loads of this!
    4. Pizza night! Following every professional exam me and W have gone out for a pizza, and this time round was no exception. We tried out Battersea Pi over in Clapham and it definitely didn’t disappoint! Review coming soon…
    5. A “throw together” meal of a hash made with potatoes, onion, cavelo nero and chorizo sausages, topped with a fried egg. Surprisingly tasty!
    6. Spending far too much money on clothes, but finding some real gems in the process. H&M in particular have some lovely bits in…
    7. Sourdough bread. W has really gotten the hang of dealing with our starter and baking the perfect loaf. Have a look on my Insta feed for more!
    8. Re-reading the Harry Potters, because why the hell not?!
    9. New laptop! I bought it a good month ago now, but it’s only since my exam on Friday I’ve been able to have more than a brief play on it. SO nice not to have to wait 30 minutes for it to turn on…
    10. Having a good skin week, despite my exam stress. It’s been a rough ride for my skin this year (mainly due to the fact I’ve accidentally upped my sugar intake and I’m finding it tough to cut it back down) but right now it’s looking good.

How have your spent the past few weeks? Any tip for cutting down on sugar?!

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #55

Hello from me! This is just a really quick, frantically typed catch-up today – done between exam papers (because somehow my exam is now less than three weeks away, no idea how that happened!). My last fortnight has been pretty much all study (surprise surprise) but definitely some yummy food and good days too…

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  1. Meal prep Sundays. The perfect way to productively procrastinate – though to be fair to myself I did pick things that produced maximum portions with minimum effort. The perfect way to pace myself through exam questions, and now we have lots of delicious meals ready for the week!
  2. A date-night in. I had an afternoon off work and couldn’t bear to spend it all studying so cooked up a three course meal. It included oven-baked arancini, veal saltimbocca and a cream dessert with bananas and homemade caramelised walnuts. Yum!
  3. I also mastered making my own caramel for the first time. It’s terrified me before so I’m pleased I tried it out!
  4. Evening walks. Despite it still being dark after dinner we’ve been trying to get out for a walk around the local area. Turns out we’re getting in around 2 miles which isn’t bad!
  5. A really good meal involving cheesy mash and pork fillet. Based on this recipe. So good, so quick, absolutely 100% will make again.
  6. Tinned peaches and vanilla ice-cream. A new combination to me and one I’m now totally hooked on.
  7. A new laptop. I’ve needed one for years but finally took the plunge this month (anyone else HATE getting new tech even though you know it will work better?!). It’s (1) super fast, (2) so light-weight and (3) really quite pretty so winning on all counts.
  8. Peanut Cookies from Sainsbury’s and Yorkshire Biscuit Brew. Thank me later.
  9. Watching Masterchef – I love it! I thought the Vegan Challenge was particularly good, and I also loved the episode about cooking with scraps.
  10. Board game afternoon (and takeaway pizza from The Dynamo) with my girls. The best way to spend a Saturday!

What’s made you smile lately? What have you been up to?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #54

Happy first Happy Monday of March! Can I first address the fact that it’s already March, and this year is going by far too quickly for my liking?! Well, January really dragged for me but February? Blink and you’d have missed it! As I alluded to last fortnight, things are a little difficult for me right now. I’m trying my hardest to concentrate on the little things, but some days are better than others! Here’s the good bits from the last couple of weeks…

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    1. Lots of doggy cuddles. I’ve been dogsitting this past weekend and it’s been great to spend some quality time with my pup. He’s definitely in his more senior years so it’s been lots of cuddles and a few extra sneaky treats!
    2. A weekend with my mummy. We went for our annual afternoon tea (this time at Hide, which was every bit as beautiful as I’d hoped) and had a wander around Richmond the next day. A lovely and relaxing weekend ahead of many weekends of study…
    3. The Chickpea Pasta recipe from Ottolenghi Simple. An absolutely amazing dish, and the chickpea mixture is also really good over sourdough toast. It’s going to become a staple for sure.
    4. I’m Fine, and Neither Are You. One of the February free Kindle books available for Prime member, and it was one of the best books I’ve read in a while.
    5. Another good tomato-free pizza from Waitrose. This one was Speck and Gorgonzola and was the perfect combo of meaty and cheesy.
    6. Cosying up in jumper dresses. I’ve recently invested in one from Oliver Bonas and it’s just so cosy and soft!
    7. One of the best pies I’ve ever, ever eaten. It was a Chicken, Pancetta and Mushroom combination at The White Hart near Waterloo. It was packed full of tender meat, had so much flavour and the pastry was perfect to (about as far away from a soggy bottom as is possible). I also really enjoyed the roasted veg and braised red cabbage on the side. Oh, and the Sticky Toffee Pud was pretty awesome as well.
    8. Bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon. A treat breakfast as smoked salmon doesn’t generally fall into my shopping basket, but its been soooo good!
    9. Fresh daffodils and a new side table.
    10. Finding some cookie dough frozen in the freezer. Freshly baked cookies in 15 minutes is a very dangerous thing indeed…

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #53

Happy Monday! After my more positive post a fortnight ago there’s been radio silence on here and, whilst I do have an excuse, it’s not something I particularly want to share. Let’s just say that these last few weeks have been far from easy and there’s more to come. I’m hoping that focusing on the positives whilst writing this post will improve my mindset (it needs it!).

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  1. The SUN. These last few days have been absolutely glorious in London, and for the first time in my life I’ve felt a genuine difference in my mood as the weather has brightened up. I’ve even been outside with bare legs (albeit a midi skirt) and a t-shirt. In February.
  2. Having a big spring clean. With the warmer weather we threw open all the doors and windows and went a little crazy with the cleaning spray. We reorganised cupboards (my bathroom cupboard now has boxes for treatments of different ailments. I even have a first aid box). Found places for wedding presents which have been sat out for months. Sadly the missing limited edition MAC lipstick that sparked the tidying remains missing.
  3. Picking up more plants. Our flat was lacking some green, so we picked up some more plants and attracted a lot of attention walking back from B&Q. Now just to keep them alive!
  4. Gooey melted cookie dough pots. For our Valentine’s date night we kept things fairly simple – pan-fried sea bass with a lemon caper butter, then this glorious cookie pots based on a recipe from Top with Cinnamon.
  5. Lots of new recipes. We’d noticed we’d let our goal to cook more new recipes slide in January due to both of us being ill constantly, but we more than made up for it in the last two weeks, pretty much everything we cooked was a new try! Highlights have been an Ottolenghi chickpea pasta dish and a smoked haddock bake. And the aforementioned cookie pots.
  6. Having broad beans for the first time in years. My Granddad used to grow them and they immediately transported me back to my childhood.
  7. A new concealer that seems to be working wonders on my under-eye circles. If you have trouble in this area definitely check out the L’Oreal Infallible More Than concealer.
  8. Knitting! My knitting skills are definitely getting there – don’t get me wrong my Grandma would NOT be impressed but it’s looking less like a tangle of wool every time!
  9. Popcorn from The Popcorn Shed (gifted). The perfect calorie controlled snack, and the flavours are *amazing* – I loved the Berrylicious flavour combined raspberries and chocolate…
  10. Branching out and buying a leopard print dress – now I just need to find the courage and the occasion to wear it!

What’s made you smile this week? Are you enjoying the nicer weather?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #52

Happy Monday, and Happy February. I have to say I’m very glad to see the back of January as it felt like the longest greyest month ever. I’ve found I’m really, really struggling with the wedding blues now. It wasn’t too bad immediately after the wedding and honeymoon as we had a break to the Cotswolds, birthdays and Christmas to look forward to, but now it seems like a *very* long time to go before anything else exciting happens – so I’m hoping getting into the habit of these Happy Monday posts will help to cheer me up again. Recalling the positive things does seem to lift my mood slightly…

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  1. Fruit crumble, Peanut Butter Jelly style. I’ve recently been working on a more modern take on the fruit crumble (see my classic recipe here) and it’s been a super delicious recipe to test.
  2. Really good bacon. W’s been getting a fortnightly subscription and it’s changed how I see bacon sandwiches for good. It smells incredible!
  3. Picking up a (still very expensive) dress in the Ted Baker sale ready for black tie events and weddings in the next year. I was specifically looking for something I could wear with my wedding shoes and I love it. I now need my bank card confiscating!
  4. Chowder. I absolutely fell in love with it during the New England leg of our honeymoon, and last week I made a gorgeous curried version. I’ve still got to attempt the classic Clam though…
  5. A tasting menu at Hibiscus in Northampton. Whilst the ‘main’ of venison was really not to my taste at all, everything else was delicious. The highlights were a cold crab salad on a puffed cracker, and a lovely light pigeon and beetroot dish.
  6. Trying out a DoughnutTime doughnut – I went for the Bruno Mars based on a Kinder Bueno. It was delicious although a tad too sweet for my liking, I thought the hazelnut creme could be a tad nuttier.
  7. More board games. I mentioned last time that we were enjoying Zombiecide, but this fortnight we’ve been enjoyed 7 Wonders Duel, it’s a two-player game that definitely keeps us entertained of an evening!
  8. Burning candles. I’m determined not to keep saving them ‘for best’ so every night my flat is being filled with some delicious scent. It’s definitely lifting my mood slightly too!
  9. A really good burger from GBK – the Major Tom is definitely worth a try!
  10. A vegan lunch-time soup of chickpeas (so many chickpeas in the recipe!), lemon, mint and tahini. It was a little like hummus in soup form and was absolutely delicious. 100% my favourite soup recipe *ever* and I’ll be posting the recipe very soon…

What’s made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #51

I feel like January has been *the* longest month ever. Why isn’t it over yet?! Yet again I’ve been crazzzyyyy busy at work (plus the studying has started again, boo!) and I started this fortnight off battling a really horrific cold. Despite that it’s been prettyyyyy good and I’m hoping with February around the corner my post-festive bad mood will start to lift!

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  1. Silent Witness. It’s probably the only TV series (other than Bake Off and Masterchef) that I religiously watch so I’m really glad it’s back on our screens again. Even better is that BBC have made loads of old series available on iPlayer, so my evenings are even more fun now!
  2. Date Night at (you guessed it) Home SW15. We made it for another visit as we’d got a voucher for a free bottle of wine, and had a really delicious meal. More of the Cauliflower Croquettes (a must try!), then I enjoyed a *massive* Chicken Kiev with Sprouts and Artichoke Puree whilst W had a very indulgent Cheese Souffle. We both finished off with Treacle Tart which was almooosssttt as good as my grandmas recipe
  3. Haggis. Burn’s Night just can’t be done with out it, but we had plans on the Friday evening so celebrated a few days early with Haggis, Neeps and Tatties and a Whisky Sauce. So, so good and I also have enough spare to make Haggis Carbonara the next day!
  4. Making progress with knitting. I’ve been trying for years but it suddenly seems to have clicked. I’m far, far from perfect but it actually resembles knitting rather than knotting now…
  5. Planning our Scottish road trip. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for years and we’ve finally taken the plunge. We’re not doing the whole of Scotland as we wanted to restrict the amount of driving and also really get a feel for the places we do visit, but I’m super excited! And it just means we’ll have to plan another trip for the bits we didn’t see…
  6. Board games! We’ve developed a love for them over the last few months. At the moment our favourite is Zombiecide, a strategy-based collaborative game that can even be played by 1 player. Any other recommendations then do let me know!
  7. Green & Black’s Orange Velvet Fruit. We got a bag in a Degustabox (gifted) a few months ago and they are absolutely addictive. So, so good.
  8. Donating a load of food to the local Food Bank. We had a lot of chocolate from Christmas we weren’t ever going to get through, plus a lot of tins which we just weren’t using. Clearer cupboards for us and it helps out people in need.
  9. Sex Education on Netflix. So good for some light-hearted watching!
  10. Vegan lunchboxes. Since my Mushroom & Lentil Stew I’ve eaten a really tasty bean salad (although I did ‘cheat’ as I had a dressing leftover from these Taco bowls which I drizzled over for a few days – but I’d sooner cheat than waste food!). I’ve also got a curry made with chickpeas and cauliflower for this week, and I’ve got a bean stew planned for next.

What have you been up to recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #50

Welcome to the first ‘happy Monday’ of 2019. I’ve been spending a lot of time over the last few weeks thinking about the future of this little online space and I want to *try* to make it a little less rigid and reduce the self-piled-on pressure it can give me. I used to post recipes on a Thursday, Cooking From on a Saturday, other posts on a Tuesday. It was pretty useful for planning, but it also meant I stressed about getting a post live.

Well, no more. I’m hoping to just post about the food I love as and when, no real posting pattern. We’ll see how that goes anyway! The one thing I do want to keep regular is this little series, as it puts me in such a good mood to type away on a Sunday evening remembering all the good bits about the previous weeks. And so with no further ado, what’s made me smile lately…

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    1. New Year’s Eve. We had a fairly relaxed night at ours, with my sister and some close friends. We cooked a rather tasty meal (Pan Fried Pork Fillet, Slow-Cooked Pork Cheek, Boulangerie Potatoes and Greens, followed by a White Russian Roulade and then plenty of cheese and biscuits) and played board games. I couldn’t think of anything worse than a night out on NYE so this was perfect for me!
    2. Vegan lunchboxes. You’ll see from Thursday’s post that I’ve set myself the challenge of vegan lunchboxes for the year. My first was a thick Mushroom and Lentil Soup, but I also made a rather tasty Daal from The Green Roasting Tin last week.
    3. On a related note, realising my beloved falafel are vegan.
    4. ASDA’s Rhubarb & Custard Tea. It’s my new go-to tea (that’s not Yorkshire Breakfast!). Sweet and fruity without being overly sickly or artificial.
    5. The never ending tin of chocolates from Christmas. We bought a tin of Quality Street (actually we got a personalised tin because hey married life, and chose the contents to be green triangles, orange creams and strawberry creams) – but we keep adding other Christmas chocolate to it, so it doesn’t seem to be going down despite my best efforts!
    6. A Hazelnut Bundt Cake with Nutella glaze. This was W’s birthday cake of 2019 and it was so bloody good!
    7. Garlic Bread. I’m actually ill with yet another flu virus but one of the few things I’ve wanted to eat has been garlic bread. I regretted it as it was not good for my sore throat but it did taste damn good!
    8. Realising one of my fav ‘fancier’ dresses I bought for the honeymoon can be dressed down a little with a jumper underneath. Whoop!
    9. Cauliflower Cheese Croquettes from Home SW15. Worth the trip to Putney just for a plate for five…
    10. How sweet my husband is looking after me when I’m ill. He picked me up from the tube station (as I was 100% not steady on my feet having pushed through a day at work), got me comfortable, went on several trips to the shop to find food I fancied and meds I needed and was generally a star.

How has 2019 been treating you so far?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #49

It’s the last day of the year, but it’s also time for my Happy Monday post. I did debate doing a special “year in review” type post but unfortunately ran out of time to put it together – and so it’s the bog-standard usual format, albeit with some added Christmas sparkle! I will however be putting together a Year in Review thingy on my Instagram stories, so keep an eye on that if you’re interested!

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First up though, what’s made me happy lately…

  1. Making it through Christmas (and also 6 whole months!) without either me or W ending up on A&E. Given last Christmas Day I took him in, then both of us were in within 10 days of each other in the summer it’s a bit of a relief!
  2. Pecan & Maple Snowball Cookies. I made them as gifts for my team at work and they are 100% my favourite bake of the year. Recipe will be up as soon as the photos are edited…
  3. Picking up two jumpers I’d lusted after in the Fat Face sale for less than half price.
  4. Making White Russian’s at home. It’s one of my favourite drinks and it’s dangerously easy…
  5. New fluffy socks. So warm, so cosy!
  6. Making prints of our wedding photos as Christmas gifts for our parents. It gave me all the feels, and I can’t wait to choose some to display in our own home.
  7. Lighting my Cocoa & Cashmere scented candle from Yorkshire Soap Company. It’s the most glorious fragrance!
  8. Big blanket scarves. I unwrapped one on Christmas night from my parents, and treated myself to another in the sales.
  9. My beautiful new chowder mugs, all the way from a tiny potter in New England – because my husband is all kinds of awesome. I’m planning to do a whole post about them soon but short story is I saw them, didn’t get them, moaned about it for weeks then unwrapped them on Christmas day.
  10. Cuddles with my pups. Our old terrier behaves like a puppy again when there’s presents to unwrap which is so lovely to watch!

I could go on and on about how lovely Christmas was, it might sound boring but a quiet few days with my nearest and dearest was exactly what the doctor ordered! I’m now prepping for a NYE celebration of good food and board games, so the good times are only going to continue!

How was your Christmas break?