February Roundup

February is always the month I dread as it’s the time of the year I most associate with cold weather and the dreaded snow. I hate the white stuff. Whilst others are gleefully building snowmen and sledging down hills, you can find me hidden away in my nice warm house having a panic attack at the prospect of eventually having to leave and slipping over. Thankfully, there’s been none of that this month and the weather has been rather mild. Windy, for sure, but I can deal with that even if my hair isn’t best pleased.

So what I usually anticipate to be a bad month has actually been fairly decent. Nothing particularly exciting has happened but does anything exciting happen at this age really? I’m at that stage in life where I’m in a longterm relationship so no funny first dates to report on, we don’t have kids so I can’t fill you in on how hilarious it was when the little one peed in my face whilst nappy changing and I don’t have any sort of jet setting job where I mingle with celebs. My cat played fetch with me recently if that counts as exciting news. Like she brought the toy back to me and everything. It was pretty exciting if I’m honest.

Here’s some other top notch stuff that has got me smiling in February:

  • Clubbercise. Move over Zumba, you are so 2012. I’ve been going to a local Clubbercise class and I really like it! It’s an aerobics class but with a twist. Glow Sticks! I’m not usually one for humiliating myself in public but the beauty of this is that the lights are off so no-one can see you making a complete twat of yourself as you sing along to Justin Bieber and do all the moves wrong.
  • Loungewear. I have always been one of those girls who changes into pyjamas the second they get home. And I have no shame in that. But I recently decided to buy myself some proper loungewear so that I can make a distinction between chill out time and bed time. So I’ve been loving wearing tracksuits and hoodies around the house, keeping me all cosy. I’m not quite at the stage where I find this acceptable outdoor attire but give it time.
  • Snickers. Who doesn’t love a Snicker’s bar? It’s got everything you could possibly want from a snack; chocolate, peanuts, caramel, nougat, tons of sugar and fat and all those things we should generally avoid. I love all chocolate but have times when I don’t really eat it at all, but then will become transfixed on a certain type for a short period of time. I remember a particularly vivid addiction to KitKat Chunky bars that actually lasted for a shameful few months. Let’s hope my Snickers fetish comes to a halt soon.
  • Hot lunches. It’s been so cold in the office that I’ve been really enjoying taking something hot for lunch to keep me warm throughout the afternoon. Leftovers are always a great shout for lunch the next day.
  • Diet Coke. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve been drinking fizzy drinks, I never had them as a kid. Lately, though, I’m quite addicted and I hate myself for it. I know that these drinks are just a bunch of chemicals and they can’t be doing my insides any favours but I love having a can of Diet Coke as a sweet treat at work, or a cold glass with my dinner at the weekends. I still don’t have it everyday, but have it more than I probably should. I was going to give it up for lent but forgot on the first day so then it was all a bit pointless really.
  • Sweet potatoes. Nothing new here really, I’ve always loved sweet potatoes but have been eating them lots this month, especially roasted and added to rice bowls.

If you missed any of my posts from the last month you can find them all below. You can also follow me on Instagram if you so desire @ taniaadrianne88

What I Ate in a Day #3 / Recipe: Superfood Salad / My Thoughts on Valentine’s Day / Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake / A Period Drama / What I Ate in a Day # 4 / Recipe: Almond and Sultana Granola / Cookbook Review: Deliciously Ella Every Day / Recipe: Fully Loaded Sweet Potato Fries / Recipe: Chicken Burgers / A Spring in my Step

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A Spring in my Step

Yes people, Spring is nearly here! My third favourite season after Autumn and Summer. When the days start to become longer and the grass gets greener I know that the worst is over for another year and I can look forward to long, hot days in the sun, picnics in the park, ice cream at the beach and of course, Christmas. But before then, we get to enjoy Spring in all its glory, full of daffodils blossoming, lambs being born and some clean, fresh air that’s at least a couple of degrees warmer than it was during the winter. Or so we hope.

I’ve certainly got a spring in my step and am looking forward to a nice new start. The winter spiced candles are being replaced with fresh, citrus fragrances, my blue and white snowy themed sofa cushions are going into storage and I’m bringing out the florals. I’ve already got a few bunches of vibrant daffs brightening up my home, their gorgeous sunny hue making me smile every time I enter the room. I’m lucky to live in a wonderfully bright and airy house and I can’t wait for some more sunshine to stream through the windows, illuminating the dust on the windowsills that really needs tending to. Maybe that will be my inspiration to do so, everyone loves a good Spring clean!

Food gets a little lighter as we move into Spring, I start to enjoy salads and lightly cooked vegetables more than before and don’t feel the need to comfort eat quite so much. Here’s a few things that are in season from March that I’m looking forward to eating:

  1. Rhubarb! Oh how I love their vivid pink stems. I recently had a rhubarb royale cocktail in a restaurant, made with a rhubarb syrup and prosecco. It was so good and tasted like an old school rhubarb and custard sweet. I need this in my life.
  2. Spring Lamb. I don’t always eat seasonally but there’s definitely something about Spring lamb that feels just so perfect to eat at this time of year, when the meat is sweet and tender. I’m planning a nice Sunday roast with all the trimmings and plenty of mint sauce. Yum!
  3. Spring Greens. As above, I don’t just eat these during spring as they are my favourite type of green and so good for you too, but they are my favourite vegetable to have with lamb alongside some glazed carrots so expect to see more of these.
  4. Chocolate. OK, not exactly seasonal but with Easter coming up, it’s only natural to include chocolate in my list. Now I don’t need much of an excuse to munch through a chocolate bar or four, but Easter, like Christmas, is when it is wholly acceptable to have chocolate for breakfast. I like to break my Easter eggs up into shards and store them in the fridge ready to snack on when the moment takes me. OK, I lied, I usually eat the whole thing in one sitting then pass out on the sofa.
  5. Hot Cross Buns. Same as the chocolate thing really, an essential part of the Easter celebrations and perfectly OK to eat a whole packet for dinner, smothered in butter.
  6. Purple Sprouting Broccoli. If you’ve never tried this then you are missing out my friend. It’s wonderfully tender and has an amazing vivid colour once cooked. I really like it in salads for lunch or served as a side dish with butter, lemon juice and some black pepper.
  7. New Potatoes. These aren’t technically in season until the end of April but you can usually find them in the supermarkets a little earlier. Jersey Royals are my favourite so I will wait for them to appear to have warm with so much butter on them it should be illegal. I can’t wait to sit in the garden with a spread of roast chicken, buttered new potatoes and salad with a glass of something cold and refreshing.

Spring does have it’s downsides too. As the weather gets warmer I have to ditch the tights meaning my poor work colleagues are exposed to my pasty legs. And I have to shave them which is a chore I manage to avoid for most of the colder months. Other than that I am raring to go!

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What’s your favourite thing about Spring?

 

 

Recipe: Chicken Burgers

I’ve mentioned once or twice that I love burgers. By once or twice I mean maybe a couple of hundred times. Yes, that was a Bieber reference. Is it too late now to say sorry? I don’t care anyway, I’m a Belieber and I’m not sorry. Anyway, this is a chicken burger, with bells on. Enjoy.

Serves 2

What you need:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 4 tbsp Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 2 rashers smoked back bacon
  • 50g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 ciabatta slipper, halved or two ciabatta rolls
  • Other delicious things to fill your burger with

What you do:

  1. Start by laying your chicken breasts on a board, cover them with clingfilm and bash them so that they are flat. I have a meat mallet for this, but you could use a rolling pin, a heavy frying pan, your boyfriend’s face, the options are endless. You want the chicken to be quite thin.
  2. Mix the flour and mustard powder together with some salt and pepper on a plate. Now, dip each chicken breast into the flour mix and coat evenly, then dust off any excess.
  3. Next, you want to give your chicken a bath in the whisked egg. I always feel guilty mixing chicken with eggs, like ‘here chicken meet the child you never had’, but I’m afraid this is essential to the recipe. Make sure the chicken is nicely coated in the egg.
  4. And now for the next stage. Mix the breadcrumbs with the paprika and plonk your eggy chicken breasts into them and coat well. I use Panko breadcrumbs as they are extra crispy, but use whatever. You want a good coating on your chicken so use more breadcrumbs if you need to. The flour we initially put on the chicken meant that the egg would adhere to the meat, and the breadcrumbs will stick to the egg. Science.
  5. Heat up a frying pan big enough to fit both chicken breasts in. You need to add enough olive oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan, so how much you use will of course depend on the size of your pan. Size absolutely does matter here. Cook your chicken for about 4 minutes per side until the breadcrumbs are lovely and golden and the chicken is cooked through. Just check it carefully because the time needed to cook the chicken will vary depending on how thinly you bashed it in step one.
  6. Whilst the chicken is cooking, fry your bacon in another pan with a tiny amount of oil until cooked and crisping up at the edges.
  7. Once the chicken and bacon are done to meaty perfection, you can start bringing everything together. But first; cheese. Lay your chicken breasts on a baking sheet, sprinkle a little grated cheese over each one, add a slice of bacon to each then add the rest of your cheese. Pop into a moderate oven for 5 minutes alongside your ciabatta, which has been halved lenghtways and perhaps drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil if you fancy.
  8. Once your chicken burgers are now covered in bacon and melted cheese and the bread has started to crisp at the edges, it’s construction time. Spread some kind of sauce on the bottom half of the ciabatta. I went for a spicy Cajun sauce but you could use mayo, ketchup, whatever. Then add a handful of mixed leaves if you like before topping with the chicken breast. Next, add either some sliced gherkins or sliced tomato, you want something a little acidic, finish with a little more sauce and top with the other half of the bread.
  9. Now, apply to face.

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This may seem like a long winded recipe, and yes there are a few stages, but they are all easy and deliver amazing results in less than 20 minutes. Give it a go!

Washing Up Score: 8/10 – not gonna lie, it was horrendous.

Recipe: Fully Loaded Sweet Potato Fries

Be still my beating heart! You got fries, you got sweet potato fries, then you got THIS.

Regular potato fries are the food equivalent of Michelle Williams (if you’re thinking ‘who?” then I rest my case), nice enough but blends into the background fairly easily and will never be centre stage. Sweet potato fries are like Kelly Rowland, a bit more to them with enough gusto to go alone, but still just another side dish. But my Fully Loaded Sweet Potato Fries are Beyonce. I really have just compared chips to Destiny’s Child. Three guesses what I’ve been listening to today! My loaded fries are an all singing, all dancing, disco in the mouth. In other words: Fierce.

Serves 2. Or Just me.

What you need:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chips
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for frying
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2 rashers smoked back bacon
  • 100g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced

What you do:

  1. In a bowl, mix your sweet potato chips with the cornflour, olive oil, paprika and salt and pepper until all of the fries are well coated. Lay them out on a baking tray in one even layer and bake in an oven at 200°c for 30-35 minutes, turning them occasionally. You want them to be soft but starting to colour.
  2. Meanwhile, cut your bacon into little strips and fry it off in a pan with a little olive oil until it is lovely and crisp. Set this aside until your potatoes are ready.
  3. Once the fries are cooked, transfer them into an oven-proof dish so that you have a pile of loveliness. Add half the amount of grated cheddar, top with the bacon and spring onion, then finish with the remaining cheese. Put the dish back into the oven for about 10 minutes until the cheese melts and brings everything together in one delightfully amalgamated mess.
  4. Eat with your fingers, dipping each bite into some sweet chilli sauce. If that’s your kind of thing.

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Shall we take a closer look at these?

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Washing Up Score: 6/10 – There’s quite a lot to wash up but it’s totally worth it. Plus I fed these to my mum and she washed up so it’s win win really. I’m all for parent labour.

Injury Count: 1 – I burnt my finger on the baking tray getting the fries out of the oven. 😦

Cookbook Review: Deliciously Ella Every Day

Ella Woodward’s debut cookbook, simply titled Deliciously Ella, was Amazon’s best selling cookbook of 2015. Look at me being all factual! Last month, Ella released the follow up book, Deliciously Ella Every Day. Both books now sit very happily together on my overstocked bookshelf in my ‘good for you’ section.

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I was shamefully late to the Deliciously Ella party and only bought the first book at the very end of last year but it’s already one of my most used cookbooks and I love making recipes from it. It was only fair that I got the new book too so ordered it ready for release date and was super excited when it arrived. It doesn’t disappoint.

What I love about both books, other than the lovely photos of Ella and her dog, is that they don’t intimidate me. I find some books in the same genre really unnerving, mentioning no names *cough-Hemsley Hemsley-cough*. I don’t want to feel like I’m being lectured and I don’t want to feel inferior for not having a chlorine filter on my shower or not knowing what the hell amaranth is. I still have no idea by the way. Ella manages to completely simplify her recipes so that they are relatable, easy to follow and not in any way intimidating. Yes, the ingredients may seem a little expensive and you might not be able to pick them up in your local corner shop, but most of the recipes only rely on a few elements and quite often the prep time is so quick and simple that it makes up for a few extra pounds spent in the supermarket. All of the recipes are well thought out, well written and accompanied by gorgeous photography.

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Although my diet is completely different to Ella’s (she is a dairy free, gluten free vegan, whereas I consider chocolate, burgers and pizza the three main food groups) I really enjoy the recipes. In reality, I love all food and enjoy healthy recipes as much as I do takeaways and these books have completely opened my eyes to the amazing food you can create from just really good produce. I will never be a dairy free, gluten free vegan (1. steak 2. cheese 3. bacon) but I can still enjoy these great recipes safe in the knowledge that Ella won’t judge me for that.

There’s so many dishes that I still want to try from this book and I’m excited to work my way through it. The biggest success I have had so far is the Spiced Sweet Potato Stew. It’s basically just sweet potatoes and a red pepper cooked down in a spiced tomato sauce with beans and spinach added in at the end of the cooking time. Obviously it’s insanely good for you but more importantly it is absolutely delicious. I made a big batch on a Sunday night and we had it for dinner in the week plus lunches for a couple of days too with some brown rice. It really filled me up and was a bit different to my normal lunches.

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The Warming Pesto Butter Beans were good too. These are butter beans and spinach cooked in some lemon spiked pesto with pomegranate seeds thrown on top. I am so into pomegranate lately and I loved the little bursts of juiciness against the dry beans. Again this made a lovely lunch and was something completely different to anything I had made before. The picture below shows the butter beans with some tomato rice and some caramelised onion hummus with a sprinkling of feta cheese.

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I’ve previously gushed about the Raw Brownies from Ella’s first book and have found a similar recipe in the second one. The Fizzy Truffles are so good; really nutty and chocolatey and a perfect afternoon pick-me-up. I didn’t fancy the ‘fizzy’ element so skipped the baobab powder as per Ella’s tweaking suggestion and they turned out great. Like the brownies from book one, these are a work of moments and just rely on a food processor to do all the work.

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I already had a lot of the ingredients hanging around for the Warming Winter Bowls so we made these for dinner on a cold and windy night. This was my least favourite of all the Deliciously Ella recipes I have made so far. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t necessarily make it again as it just didn’t suit my tastes.

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I’m super excited to try more recipes from the book. I’ve got the Winter Spiced Pear and Apple Crumble lined up already, it looks like it would be the perfect Sunday pudding and make an awesome Monday breakfast. To be honest, there’s not much in the book I wouldn’t try and knowing all the recipes are so good for you is such a bonus.

So should you buy this book? HELL YEAH! Here’s a link to Amazon so you can buy it right away and a link to the Deliciously Ella blog if you want to learn more about this wonderful woman.

Overall Rating: 9/10

Recipe: Almond and Sultana Granola

Making a batch of this and storing it in a clip top glass jar makes me feel like a total boss of the kitchen. In fact, storing anything in a clip top jar is pretty empowering. Try putting normal old Corn Flakes in a glass jar and see how much better they taste once they have clattered into your cereal bowl. It’s like upgrading from Asda to Waitrose without spending a single extra penny.

But if you want an upgrade from Corn Flakes altogether then how about some yummy homemade granola? I don’t rate many shop-bought granolas, there’s always something that I don’t like in it or it’s too sweet or too crunchy or the ratio of ingredients isn’t quite right. I’ve experimented quite a bit with granola making in my kitchen and I am now proud to present you with my recipe for an almond and sultana variety.

Makes enough for at least 4 servings, depending on how you eat it

What you need:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup flaked almonds
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup sultanas

What you do:

  1. Mix together the oats, flaked almonds, cinnamon and salt and leave to one side.
  2. Melt the coconut oil with the maple syrup in a pan over a low heat until nicely combined then pour the liquid mixture onto the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.
  3. Tip your mixture onto a baking sheet and bake in an oven set to 180°c for 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice to break up the clusters.
  4. Once everything is gorgeously golden, remove from the oven and stir in your sultanas. Leave to cool before storing in an airtight container.

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You can eat this however you want. My favourite way is to make some fruit compote (just frozen berries cooked down with a little rosewater), layer it into a pot, top with some Greek yogurt and finish with a tablespoon or two of granola. This makes the loveliest breakfast and means your granola will last for ages. If you want to just eat it as is with some milk then be my guest, it should still make about 4 servings.

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Washing Up Score: 4/10 – there’s a few bits to wash but nothing too strenuous.

 

 

 

What I Ate in a Day #4

I really dislike early mornings and hate when I have to be in work for 8am. To me it feels like mild torture. Hence why I couldn’t be bothered to make lunch today, and offers an explanation into my carb fest.

I had breakfast al-desko when I got to work, which consisted of 2 Linda McCartney rosemary and red onion vegetarian sausages in a wholemeal roll with butter and brown sauce. I used to eat this meal all the time when I was on Slimming World and instantly remembered why I stopped eating it upon the first mouthful today. It was so dry and boring, but filled a hole. Note that I am by no means a vegetarian but I used to like these sausages as they were free on the Slimming World plan and thought I would give them another go. You live and learn.

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Not much time passes before I’m hungry again so I tuck into a banana. I swear this banana was pure yellow when I took it from the fruit bowl this morning, it seems to have aged drastically during transportation.

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I treated myself to a bought lunch today from a sandwich shop local to my workplace called Francombs. I have linked their website here, check them out if you’re local as they do amazing salads. This New Yorker one has a base of mixed leaves and pasta with pastrami, stilton, gherkins, cucumber, jalapeños, tortilla chips and mustard sauce. It was very nice washed down with a Diet Coke and set me up for an afternoon of Newsletter writing.

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Later in the afternoon and surprise surprise, I’m hungry again so I make short work of some cinnamon swirl popcorn and make a mess all over my keyboard. Not gonna lie, my desk is never short of a crumb or two.

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Oh look, more food. Seriously, I am really hungry today. Once home from work I make a start on dinner but can’t wait that long so have 3 of these raw truffles as a snack. They are from Deliciously Ella Every Day and are really tasty, plus the amount of dates packed into them means that 2-3 balls counts as one of your 5-a-day! I love dates, I could eat them everyday in some form or another, they’re like the fudgiest, richest tasting toffees, kids would never know they were natural if you didn’t tell them.

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Finally, dinner time! I made the Warming Winter Bowls from Deliciously Ella Every Day. It was a little disappointing as the cinnamon really overpowered the other flavours but I still ate it. I forgot to cook some rice so had it with a buttered wholemeal roll instead. For someone who does’t really like bread (unless it’s the crusty white variety) I’ve not done a bad job today.

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There’s still more. I promise it’s nearly over. My all time favourite snack of strawberries and warm Nutella. Heaven. I heat the Nutella in the microwave for no more than 20 seconds and then scoop it up with some juicy strawberries. This is so good and one of those things that I go mad for every now and again and will eat daily then forget about again for a while, which is a good job for my teeth and waistline!

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And finally I am done eating. Despite a terrible craving for a McDonalds I’m going to bed to dream about what I can have for breakfast tomorrow.