Tuesday, 29 January 2013

[Review] Flavourly.com

Inside the box!
Disclosure: this box was sent to me for free. All opinions expressed are my own!

A lot of people have different views about whether or not food bloggers like myself should accept products for free in return for a review, whether that review is positive or not. But when I received an email from Flavourly.com asking if I would be interested I actually felt quite excited. Not because I was being asked to try another food related product but because I was being asked to review a service.

There’s a difference you see.
Perhaps I should start by explaining what Flavourly.com is, and what it does.

Flavourly.com is a website which offers you the chance to sign up to what I can only describe as a “gourmet food club”. Each month you pay a fee and in return they post to you a box of some of the best gourmet food products from around the country. The producers are all experts in their field, and many of them have received awards from the likes of the Great Taste Awards.
When you sign up to their service you can pick one of three packages.

Firstly you can choose to pay as you go. With this option, you pay £22 (+ £3 delivery charge) a month and receive a box containing 6-10 gourmet products in return. You can cancel any time. And, to make sure you feel good about spending all that money on fancy pants food (because let’s be honest it may be good value, but it’s still not cheap) they will donate a meal to charity.
The second option is to buy a 3 month package. With this option you pay a one off amount of £59 (that’s a saving of 10%, or £7.) Again you receive a box containing 6-10 gourmet products, 3 meals will be donated to charity, and you will be charged £3 for delivery.

The final option is to buy the 6 month package. This sets you back £105 (a saving of 20% or £27) and you get the above for 6 months instead of for 1 or 3. (Though 6 meals will be donated to charity) Simple right?
So what did I think when I received my box?

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Baked Spanish Eggs

As quick as it came, the Shake Up Your Wake Up campaign is almost over and breakfast week will soon be a distant memory…
Ok so there’s probably no need to be quite so dramatic. Especially considering that you’re all going to eat breakfast every day from now on! Right?
The campaign this year has been fab in my opinion, with hundreds and hundreds of people sharing their breakfast pictures every day using the hashtag #breakfastwatch.
I was pretty proud of myself as I managed to send in a picture 5 out of the 7 days! Looking back on the week I had some pretty cool breakfasts!

Monday: Black cherry jam on wholemeal toast
Tuesday: Porridge with berry compote
Thursday: Bacon jam on toast
Friday: Spanish Baked Eggs!
It probably won’t come as a surprise that I won’t be able to keep up that level of variety much longer! With two jars of jam now open in the fridge I’ll probably be living off of jam and toast for the next month or so.
Hopefully you’ve all been just as inspired as me to try to add a bit of variety into your morning routine, so with that in mind I’m going to share with you my Spanish Baked Eggs recipe!
This recipe is guaranteed to put a smile on your face as the little egg yolks look like sun shines in your brekkie bowl (/ramekin!)
They’re also packed full of flavour which is guaranteed to wake you and your taste buds up.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Breakfast Detox Smoothie

Diet is a word you will often see on my blog. I come from a very weight conscious family, all of us have struggled with our weight at some point and most of us are healthy but now struggling to keep ourselves this way.

As a result much of my food is cooked with a subconscious desire to make it as low fat as possible. Most of the time this means substituting products such as cream, cheese, yogurt and more, for low or fat free alternatives. It also means choosing leaner cuts of meat – you will find way more turkey and chicken recipes here than you will pork for instance.

Detox however is not a word you will come across here. Until now.

Detox to me has always meant something faddy. Something that celebrities do to shed tens of pounds without even lifting a finger.

I’ve been reassured however that many detoxes do not require you to drink only strange coloured shakes and exercise every hour god sends, but instead many involve simply cutting out processed foods, going for whole grain carbs, and low in fat yet high in protein foods.

Well that’s not so bad after all is it?

With that in mind, I’ve not put myself on a detox this January as such, but I have been following some of the principles many detoxes promote.

Our griddle pan has been getting a lot of use and brown rice is most definitely back on the menu (more on that in a later post...)

I have however taken a liking to the concept of a detox smoothie for breakfast.

This year in my first post for the Shake Up Your Wake Up Campaign I mentioned how I often feel sick after eating in the morning. This is probably a combination of not needing a heavy meal in the mornings, and the fact that once I have eaten breakfast and left the house I then embark on a 40 minute commute including walking up and down millions of steps/escalators. Not a good combination!

It seems however that smoothies are the perfect start of the day for me.

This recipe includes high in fibre fruits, citrus to help cleanse your digestive tract, and oats for extra fibre (and a little more substance for a fuller stomach feeling, we don’t want to be hungry afterall!)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

[Shake up your wake up] Creamy Mushrooms on Toast

Farmhouse Breakfast Week 2013 will take place 20th – 26th January
Disclosure: I have not been paid to do this post...I genuinely belive in the power of breakfast and support the campaign. It's also a great excuse to share my latest breakfast recipe with you!

Some of you may remember a post I did last year about the Shake Up Your Wake Up Campaign. The campaign is all about trying to educate the general public about the importance of eating breakfast. Each year they host the Farmhouse Breakfast Week where you too can get involved with spreading the word about breakfast. For example, did you know that one in ten people skip breakfast thinking that it will help them to lose weight, yet breakfast skippers are twice as likely to reach for a bag of crisps mid-morning! (And crisps definitely are not on the diet!)

Now I should admit...I’m not a big breakfast eater, but it is something I have been trying to work on. Even as a child I never really got on with breakfast. I’m not a cereal eater nor do I like toast as I hate all processed bread with a passion! As a result my parents used to do anything to get breakfast into me. At one stage I had had scotch pancakes with golden syrup every day. This went on for so long I even ended up getting sick of them! So surprise, surprise the thought of breakfast in the morning tends to make me feel sick. I also think part of the problem is that I wake up at 6:30 and am out of the door by 7:30 with no time to spare for putting together a breakfast other than the toast or cereal I despise so much.
So this leaves me with a bit of a problem.

Because I’ve been feeling so lethargic without a morning meal, I’ve started to listen to my body and I now buy porridge with honey on the way to law school each morning. The days I don’t manage to nip in to prêt I really notice the difference. So, I may not be a breakfast lover, but I most definitely agree with independent dietician Nigel Denby who has commented on this year’s study saying: “People who eat breakfast have better concentration, more energy and tend to be less stressed. They are also less likely to be overweight.”
If these aren’t good reasons to eat breakfast I don’t know how else to convince you...except with a simple yet scrumptious breakfast recipe.

Now I’ve said already that I’m not a massive fan of toast. BUT, if it’s from a good crusty loaf and topped with something yummy then I will more often than not give in. (Over Christmas I had toast almost every day topped with an amazing Rhubarb and Ginger preserve that had so much zing, you really noticed a spring in my step for the rest of the morning.)
These mushrooms on toast are much more warming and comforting. Their creamy, mellow flavour is extremely indulgent, so perhaps best reserved for Sunday mornings. Though, should you have the time to whip them up every day you won’t have to worry about your waistline, just go easy on the butter and use reduced fat crème fraiche as I did!

But enough trying to convince you, here’s the recipe:

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Sour Cherry Gin Slings

Happy birthday to me!!!

Ok, so it’s not my birthday today, it was yesterday but that doesn’t mean we can’t still celebrate. I’ve got a whole weekend of birthday fun and frivolity planned so...

Those of you who know me will know that I am a big gin fan. My love of the stuff started at university. Before I’d turned 18 I drank pretty much anything put in front of me spirit-wise. (Insert irresponsible underage drinking comment here). I’ve never cared much for beer, cider or ale. But by the time I got to university and started visiting more and more cocktails bars in the city I started to learn more about what I liked. Gin and tequila fast became two of my favourite spirits in cocktails. This soon moved on to a gin and tonic of an eve, and tequila shots on nights out!

A few years down the line and I am most definitely still a gin girl! If we ever happen to be in the same pub or bar, mines a gin and tonic please! But, as it is (or rather was) my birthday I decided to make myself a signature cocktail to celebrate.
Gin can be a bit of an acquired taste, as can the tonic it is often served with, but the sweetness of the cherry cordial and zing of the lime juice, this drink is bright, fun and slips down far too easily.

Now I am no super-star mixologist. This is my first “official” attempt at making a cocktail and sharing it with you. Some of you may remember my Everyday Vegetable Juice, but they couldn’t be further from each other.

So, pour yourself a Sour Cherry Gin Sling, and let’s raise a toast to my birthday, the blog and more cocktails to come!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Chicken and Avocado Pizza

What happens when your break through the chains of authenticity and break the rules?

Chicken and avocado pizza that’s what!

Ok...so we all know what a pizza is. Doughy base, smothered in delicious tomato sauce, topped with cheese and various other toppings.
This dish isn’t too far from that norm. It has a doughy base, is smothered in A sauce just not a tomato one, and is topped with cheese, and various other toppings!

It still counts as a pizza...right?
While I’m not here to debate what truly makes a pizza, I am here to convince you that once in a while swapping tomato sauce for avocado is a fun, exciting and TASTY thing to do!

Over Christmas I made a DELICIOUS salmon and avocado terrine. When buying avocados we’d somewhat overestimated how many we needed and we soon found ourselves with a drawer full of avocados in the fridge. After weeks of avocado salads and homemade guacamole served with crisps I had to come up with something different for fear of becoming sick of the soft green fruit.
One afternoon when craving something cheesy, doughy and well...pizza like. I found myself stuck. We had not tomatoes, pureed, tinned, fresh or otherwise but I really really wanted a pizza! The only way to give in to my quite frankly bizarre craving was to mix it up a little and to come up with a twist on a classic.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Chocolate and Marshmallow Pillow Cake

Christmas may have been and gone but for my family the celebrations are only just beginning... on the 1st of January it is mine and Jon’s anniversary, on the 9th of January we have my Mum’s birthday, the 13th of January is the birthday of cousin Harrison, and niece Phoebe, my birthday is on the 16th and my cousins Anthony and Billy have birthday a week and a half after that!

With so many birthdays crammed in to one month it means just one thing; a lot of cake!
As my Mum’s birthday was the first of the birthdays, it was up to me to bake her cake. I’m always keen to try something new when it comes to cooking, but I also have to be conscious of who I’m cooking for. In the past I tried a very American Red Velvet and Cream Cheese Frosting Cake which my family and friends found a little too sweet. Everyone enjoyed it but only wanted half the slice they normally would. With this in mind I decided to stick to a tried and tested chocolate sponge recipe, but I combined this with marshmallow crème.

The rich depth of dark chocolate perfectly balanced the sweet marshmallow crème. The crumbled biscuit topping also added extra texture which made for an all round cake.

But, how do you really know a cake is something special? Your guests go back for more! With a cake that can serve 16 being demolished by just 12, it seems clear that rich and moist chocolate sponge, topped with sticky gooey marshmallow crème is a winning combination!
So to make this cake...

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Creamy Chicken and Tomato Potato Bake

Its January in the year 2013, dubbed to be the ‘unlucky’ year that could never live up to 2012. We’ve all eaten and drunk too much over the festive period, and as we look ahead to what 2013 has to offer we all decide we want to be a little bit skinnier along the way.
Now I don’t want to be all doom and gloom. But I’m sure I’m not the only one living in a house of people who currently seem to have a million and one things to moan about, their waistlines being one. I should’ve known the joy and frivolity of Christmas wouldn’t last forever, but I didn’t expect it to end so soon!
Nonetheless, requests are flying in for tasty food that will help people slim down over the coming months. After all, if there’s one thing we can change about this ‘unlucky’ year, it’s how much we weigh.
So, with weight loss in mind, and a fridge full of food I set about creating my low-fat creamy tomato potato bake. Now, the most common complaint about low fat food is that it is bland and doesn’t fill you up for long enough. This recipe is neither of those things!
The reason behind this dish is that it always seems to me that as soon as I tell myself I should be eating healthily I suddenly crave all the things I shouldn’t, in particular chocolate and all things creamy. I’d previously developed a low in fat yet very creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake, and I was keen to try and come up with another creamy sauce that wouldn’t make me pile on the pounds. The indulgent creamy texture of the reduced fat crème fraiche in this sauce makes it feel like you’re treating yourself without taking on unnecessary calories. By making just a few substitutes on your ingredients list you can cut out quite a lot of fat!
The fact that this dish is baked in the oven also reduced the need to add any fat to the cooking pan. (You won’t find any olive oil here!) You can further reduce the calories, and make it suitable for vegetarians, by simply leaving out the chicken.
So next time you want a low fat dinner that will keep you full all evening, and is choc-full of flavour, pop this potato bake into the oven (and maybe do a few sit ups while you wait…)

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Soy Glazed Salmon with Rice and Peas

When I was growing up my Mum had this thing about getting as much omega 3 in me as possible. I’d known for a long time that I wanted to do something in the City – the plan was to be a career woman – and it wasn’t going to happen without getting good grades. So from SATs onwards my Mum began plying me with omega 3 in the form of brain boosting tablets and lots of oily fish!

Fortunately for me I love fish!

Week in, week out we would have salmon in some form – sometimes twice! I must know a hundred and one ways to cook salmon. On this blog alone there are recipes for Salmon with Dill and Creme Fraiche, Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Tagliatelle and Asian Style Salmon with Red Onion and Cucumber Dipping Sauce and Warm PakChoy Salad

This one is slightly different. It’s hot and spicy yet sweet at the same time, and the steamed rice and peas brings a whole lightness to the dish to balance it out.

When I was growing up this was my favourite way to have salmon as it was the most exciting way that my parents would cook it. You can only have baked salmon and new potatoes so many times! If I was really lucky my Dad might come home from work with little extras like prawn crackers or spring roles. Dad’s way of treating us has ALWAYS been with food! If we had a curry he might bring home poppadums, samosas or onion bhajis when he was in a really good mood!

Even without the little extras though, this recipe packs a punch with the heat from the chilli and the zing of the lemon. For those of you who have resolved to cook more exciting things from scratch, this will certainly jazz up a normal weekday meal.


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