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Throwing An Awesome Superbowl Party

It’s been the most talked about news for the last few days – and I’m not talking about Beyonce’s  pregnancy announcement. Superbowl fever is here again and come Sunday, the whole of America – well OK, those who are not seriously cheesed off by their teams not getting through -will be on the edge of their bar stools as they wait to see whether it will be the New England Patriots or the Atlanta Falcons who’ll emerge victorious. Those who know me know that I haven’t got a sporting bone in my body but as I’m now a New Englander, I obviously want the Patriots to do well (sorry everyone!)

 courtesy of filtersofly at pixabay.com

courtesy of filtersofly at pixabay.com

Last year I was pretty chuffed to have got to America just in time to see the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos in Superbowl 50. And just before that we also watched the Patriots suffer a crushing defeat which obviously did not go down too well with the locals!

Courtesy of keijj44 at pixabay.com

Courtesy of keijj44 at pixabay.com

I’ll admit I won’t have a clue what’s going on! I don’t know the rules or how the game is played – despite Mr. D. trying to explain it to me a million times – but then why would I?

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

Sporty I may not be but one thing I can understand is the excitement of the country right now. I may not be a football/soccer fanatic but I’m jumping up and down as much as the next person during World Cup and Euro Cup seasons and never miss an England match (yeah let’s not talk about that!) and always make sure I have the best seat in the pub when I’m watching a game – complete with cider and a plate of pub grub of course. It’ll be no different in America on Sunday with packed bars across the country as everyone desperately waits to see who’ll be the new NFL champions.

But I know that not everyone will be watching the Superbowl in a crowded bar or pub. Superbowl parties are very much the rage here and some people will be celebrating with family and friends in the comfort of their own homes rather than “pay the over hiked prices in bars” – and why not? I think a Super Bowl party sounds like a great idea. As everyone knows entertaining is very much my thing, and I have to say it definitely sounds like my kind of party: there’s no pomp and ceremony, you don’t have to get your glad rags on, and there’s this mixture of a laid back, chilled out vibe combined with a feeling of excited anticipation as the guests get psyched up as much as the players!

As a relative newcomer to America and American football, I had to ask around in order to find out how to put together an awesome Superbowl party. I now wish I hadn’t left it so late in the day to throw a party myself but… There’s always next year!

FIRST THINGS FIRST:

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

Courtesy of Unsplash at pixabay.com

  • Decide who’s coming: invite your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, your hairdresser, local barista… Invite who you want but be sure that you have enough space to accommodate your guests and that you can cater for large numbers.
  • Work out your budget for food, drinks and the necessary extras.
  • Get some bedding handy for anyone who might be staying over because they’re too drunk to drive – or heartbroken!
  • Alternatively keep the number of a reputable cab firm handy!
  • Ensure there is adequate seating for everyone as you don’t want any of your guests to stand the whole time. Drag in your garden chairs if necessary; borrow folding chairs and bean bags. If worst comes to the worst people won’t mind the floor or stairs.
  • Get the tables ready. You’ll need one large table to hold the food, and then a few smaller tables within people’s reach to rest plates and glasses on.
  • You may not know for sure until the day but consider whether you need to move the TV from its current location and position for maximum viewing benefit. After all, people are there to see the game so you don’t want any disgruntled guests!

DON’T FORGET:

Courtesy of StockSnap and pixabay.com

Courtesy of StockSnap and pixabay.com

  • Drinks coolers and ice buckets –  it might be cold outside but who wants to drink warm beer?
  • Ice
  • Bottle openers – a must unless you want people opening bottles of beer with their teeth, or worse, your furniture!
  • Napkins – cloth not necessary!
  • Disposable cups, glasses, plates, and cutlery – it takes a brave woman – or man – to get out their best crockery and silverware knowing that they’ll have a never ending mountain of washing up to do afterwards! Just make sure you choose good quality cutlery because if there’s when thing I can’t stand it’s plastic  cutlery shattering when I attempt to use it.
  • Serving platters, trays and bowls
  • Condiments

DECORATION

For one day you can go absolutely football crazy in your home!

  • Use flags, posters, pictures, footy gear or anything else that screams football!
  • Get inspiration for your colour scheme by using the colours of the teams that are playing.
  • Decorate the main food table to resemble the football pitch.
  • Decorations don’t have to cost the earth. Streamers and banners are relatively inexpensive, and use ordinary latex balloons rather than helium ones if you want to keep the costs down.
  • Get crafty by creating decorations from crêpe or tissue paper.

DRINKS:

 Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

  • Beer, beer and more beer!
  • Punch
  • Hard lemonade
  • Sodas
  • Juices
  • Sweet tea

FOOD:

I figured that much of the food would be classic American fare – and I wasn’t wrong. The food doesn’t have to be ‘fancy’ – not something my mother would ever want to hear – it should be quick and simple to prepare and serve and if it’s something that can be prepared in advance, so much the better.

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

Courtesy of pexels at pixabay.com

The food tends to be fried or baked finger food, a little on the stodgy side with little need for cutlery, although you should provide some anyway. There’s no need to try to ‘elevate’ any if these dishes ( this isn’t Masterchef!) and food is generally served buffet-style so guests can help themselves as and when they want and load up during the game.

If you’re pushed for time and/or cash you could:

  • Kindly ask everyone to bring a platter. This will also ensure that most dietary requirements are covered.
  • Make big batches of dishes like chilli or lasagna which can be made in advance and frozen.
  • This isn’t Come Dine With Me so if you can’t make everything from scratch, don’t be afraid to order in food or visit the freezer section at the supermarket.
  • Its always good to offer a selection but don’t feel as though you have to give the kind of selection found on a restaurant menu!
  • My own personal choice would be a minimum of six different appetizers; two mains, and a minimum of desserts.
  • Don’t forget the sides for your main dishes and the accompaniments for the desserts.
  • If you choose to go for one main only, you could always set up a build your own tacos, burritos or even sandwiches station with all the components laid out and your guests choose what they want. This way thry feel as though they’re getting a choice but how practical this idea is depends on space and the number of guests – there is also likely to be a bit of a wait.
  • You could always choose one type of dessert e.g. brownies, cupcakes, cheesecake, cookies etc. Whip up a huge batch of the batter or dough, then divide them into portions and give each a different flavour. Once baked, you could give them different toppings.
  • Its OK if you wish to forgo mains and dessert. But if you choose to serve snack food only, ensure there is a reasonable selection to choose from and make sure quantities are plentiful. It’s going to be a long game and people will get hungry. Furthermore, its also a good idea to have some ice cream in the freezer for anyone with a sweet tooth!

Obviously you can serve any kind of food you wish during the game. Use the suggestions below as a guide.

APPETIZERS/SNACKS

Courtesy of RitaE at pixabay.com

Courtesy of RitaE at pixabay.com

  • Chicken wings
  • Chips and dips
  • Potato wedges
  • Pizza rolls
  • Fries with cheese and bacon
  • Soft pretzels with cheese dip
  • Mini blooming onions
  • Pull apart garlic bread
  • Mozzarella sticks with marinara sauce
  • Anything battered or breaded including shrimp, calamari, chicken bites, mushrooms or zucchini.
  • Loaded potato skins

MAINS

Courtesy of mccartyv at pixabay.com

Courtesy of mccartyv at pixabay.com

  • Chilli
  • Pizza
  • Ribs
  • Lasagne
  • Fajitas
  • Steak sandwiches
  • Tacos
  • Sandwiches
  • Fried chicken
  • Pulled pork
  • Hamburgers/Cheeseburgers
  • Sliders
  • Chilli nachos
  • Quesadillas

SIDES AND ACCOMPANIMENTS:

Courtesy of hansbenn at pixabay.com

Courtesy of hansbenn at pixabay.com

  • Fries
  • Potato wedges
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Green salad
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Cornbread
  • Bread rolls
  • Sweet potato mash/fries
  • Onion rings

DESSERT

Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

  • Brownies
  • Cookies
  • Cupcakes
  • Fruit pie bars
  • Blondies
  • Doughnuts
  • Ice-cream cookie sandwiches
  • Churros

TO SERVE WITH DESSERT:

Courtesy of greenthemoongreenthemoon at pixabay.com

Courtesy of greenthemoongreenthemoon at pixabay.com

  • Ice-cream
  • Whipped Cream
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Caramel sauce
  • Fruit flavoured sauces

Whatever you’re doing on Sunday, I hope you all have a great time – and may the best team win!

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All Sweet At Boston’s Beer And Sweet Fest 2016

EVENT: Boston Beer & Sweet Fest

HOSTED BY: Drink Craft Beer

PLACE: Space 57, 200 Stuart Street, Boston, MA 02116

DATE: 4th-5th November 2016

TIME:  Session 1 – Friday, November 4th: 6-9:30pm
Session 2 – Saturday, November 5th: 1-4:30pm
Session 3 – Saturday, November 5th: 6-9:30pm (the one we                     went to)

When I started  writing this post I was slightly hungover – and its all the fault of my sister and brother-in-law!

When I left London in October to join Mr. D. in Massachusetts after finally being approved for my Green Card (go me!) My sister and her husband decided to treat me and the fella to tickets to this year’s Beer & Sweets Fest that was being held in Boston. I love alcohol; I love sugar; I love alcohol and sugar; I love sugar and alcohol – proof that my sister and brother-in-law really do know me too well!

SO WHAT’S THIS FESTIVAL ALL ABOUT?

The Beer & Sweets Fest is an event thrown by Drink Craft Beer, who in the past have hosted events celebrating all that is good about, well, craft beer! As everyone knows that it’s not much fun drinking without having something to munch on, so these beer events are usually teamed up with a food item of some kind. So there’s been the Beer & Cheese Fest, the Beer & BBQ Fest (Mr. D. would have loved that!) Beer & Chocolate, Beer & Ice-Cream (whatever will they think of next???)… Well now it’s the turn of sweets.

WHAT’S THIS FESTIVAL LIKE?

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An indoor festival, there were a series of stalls where vendors from different companies were offering unlimited, free samples of either beer or sweets. Each company generally offered three different items for people to try.

And naturally most sweet treats were paired with a beer or cider from a neighbouring vendor – as suggested in the festival guide – which complemented it.

ON ARRIVAL

After having our IDs checked and receiving the obligatory wrist band, we then had to pick up a biodegradable tasting cup for all our drink samples (great way to cut down on waste) a festival guide and a pencil so that we could mark off all the goodies we’d sampled.

And then the fun began!

ONCE INSIDE

As each stall had about three items for everyone to try. Mr. D. and I worked out a strategy that we were going to go round the venue trying one thing from each stall before working our way around another two times so that by the end of the night we’d have tried everything.

Well at least that was the plan. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way because as much as I think I can consume sweet stuff and alcohol all day long, my tiny little body had other ideas and decided that it just couldn’t handle the buzzing, sugar rush it was getting.

Oh well we tried! And we didn’t do too badly either.

WHO WAS THERE?

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Celebrating all that was great about New England beer, were a total of twenty breweries and cideries from the region as well as eight companies providing delicious sweet treats such as ice -cream, cookies, doughnuts, and various types of confectionery.

Here’s a list of the breweries, cider makers and confectioners who were in attendance, as well as the samples on offer.

BEER AND CIDER

Allagash Brewing Co. (ME)

Black – Belgian-style stout

Fluxus – Belgian-style saison w/ ginger

James Bean – Belgian-style strong ale w/ coffee

White – Belgian-style wit beer

Bantam Cider (MA)

Hibiscus Mint

Rojo-Chocolato – Bantam Rojo cherry & black pepper cider aged with chocolate roasted cacao nibs

Wunderkind – Cider with flower-blossom honey

Castle Island Brewing Co. (MA)

Hoodsie TBD – American stout with cocoa nibs & vanilla bean

Oaverzealous – Double IPA with oats & New Zealand hops

Palmside – Coconut porter

Citizen Cider (VT)

Americran – Cider with cranberries

Dirty Mayor – Cider with ginger

Stan Up – Vintaged cider made from heirloom apples

Clown Shoes Beer (MA)

The Barista – Brown ale with coffee & milk sugars

Chocolate Sombrero – Stout with cinnamon, vanilla, & ancho chili peppers

Space Cake – Double IPA

Downeast Cider House (MA)

Cranberry Blend – Cider with fresh cranberry juice

Original Blend

Pumpkin Blend – Cider with fresh pumpkin & chai spices

Exhibit A Brewing Co. (MA)

The Cat’s Meow – American IPA

Demo Tape Five – American brown Porter

Demo Tape Six – Dry-hopped kettle sour

Goody Two Shoes – Kolsch-style ale

Far From the Tree Cider (MA)

karr-UH-mel – Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel Cider

 Cord – Oaked maple cider

Ember – Toasted chai cider with smoked vanilla & burnt sugar

Foolproof Brewing Co. (RI)

Emperor of the Yahd – Bourbon barrel aged Double IPA

La Ferme Urbaine – Belgian-style saison

Peanut Butter Raincloud – Peanut butter porter  with chocolate

Henniker Brewing Co. (NH)

Hometown Double Brown –brown ale

King Misanthrope – Russian Imperial Stout

Ora – Belgian-style golden ale

Jack’s Abby Brewing Co. (MA)

Brewery Maker – Lager wine aged in bourbon barrels

Framinghammer – Baltic Porter

Red Tape – Amber lager

Lefty’s Brewing Co. (MA)

Big Brekkie Stout – Breakfast stout with organic chocolate, coffee, oatmeal, maple syrup, & bacon

Graham Cracker Porter

Vanilla/Chocolate Wedding Daze – Imperial Stout aged on organic vanilla beans & organic cocoa nibs

Long Trail Brewing Co. (VT)

Citrus Limbo – IPA infused with grapefruit & tangerine

Cranberry Gose – German-style gose brewed with cranberries

Barrel Aged Unearthed – Bourbon barrel aged stout

Lost Nation Brewing Co. (VT)

Gose – Slightly sour German wheat beer w/ coriander & sea salt

Cask Pitch Black –  black ale dry-hopped withGalaxy hops

Cask Vermont Pilsner – pilsner dry-hopped with Mandarina Bavaria hops

Newburyport Brewing Co. (MA)

Das Kolsch – Kolsch-style ale

Joppa Grande – Foreign Export Stout

Plum Island – Belgian-style Wit

Night Shift Brewing Co. (MA)

Awake – Coffee porter

Furth –Hefeweizen

Trifecta – Belgian-style pale ale aged w/ vanilla beans

Peak Organic Brewing Co. (ME)

Nut Brown – Brown ale

Fresh Cut – Dry hopped hoppy pilsner

Happy Hour – Pilsner

Samuel Adams (MA)

Slice of Citrus IPA – Citrus IPA

Black Harbor Stout – Imperial stout with vanilla, black pepper, coffee, & cocoa nibs

Neighborino Flanders Red – Belgian-style sour red ale

Slumbrew (MA)

UNION by Somerville Brewing – Barleywine

Yankee Swap 2016 – Rotating big beer

TBD Sour Brown Ale

Wormtown Brewing Co. (MA)

Blizzard of ’78 – English-style brown ale with cold brew coffee

Blonde Cougar – American blonde ale with honey

Norm – Oatmeal stout with cocoa nibs & toasted coconut

Spices Like Us – Imperial Russian Stout

SWEETS

Blackbird Donuts (Boston, MA)

Grapefruit and Cracked Pepper Glaze Donut

Cinnamon Spice Donut

Vanilla Sugar Donut

Chocolate Therapy (Framingham, MA)

The Cure – Dark chocolate truffle with cinnamon, bay leaf, cayenne, and Aleppo pepper

Fix – Smooth dark chocolate truffle topped with crunchy cocoa nibs

Honey Hops – Dark and milk chocolate truffle with Citra hops and honey

Honeycomb Creamery (Somerville, MA)

Apple Cider Donut with Caramel Swirl ice cream

Brown Butter Apple ice cream

Spiced Pumpkin ice cream

Kitchen Millie (Somerville, MA)

The Peanut Patriot – Peanut butter cookie

The Sugar Blizzard – Sugar cookies with sea salt and cinnamon

The Unrivaled Classic – Chocolate chip cookies

Miam Miam Macaronerie (South Boston, MA)

Chocolate Stout macaron

Salted Caramel macaron

Vanilla Bean macaron

Spindler Confections (Somerville, MA)

Salted Vanilla Caramels

Apricot Pate de Fruits

Peanut Brittle

Sweet Lydia’s (Lowell, MA)

Coconut Marshmallows

Turtle Bark – Caramel, pecans, and dark chocolate

Mexican Chocolate Stout S’More – S’more with vanilla marshmallow, ganache made with Clown Shoes Chocolate Sombrero stout, and graham cracker crumbs

Taza Chocolate (Somerville, MA)

Toffee Almond Sea Salt

Maple Pecan

Cranberry Pumpkin Spice

WHAT WE THOUGHT

To say that Mr. D. and I had a fab time is an understatement. There was such  a good vibe from the time we entered the venue and the purple-shirted staff members were so polite, helpful and accommodating. The vendors were an absolute delight (I’ve been to similar events back in London and this has not always been the case) and we managed to sample some fabulous, top quality food and drink. I don’t know who comes up with these innovative, highly original flavour combos but we had great fun tasting them.

Admittedly I’m not much of a beer drinker – that’s more Mr. D.’s thing – so I was thrilled to see that there were quite a few cider makers there that night because I am most definitely a cider girl!

Although we did enjoy almost everything, if I’m honest, I was disappointed that a very delicious and unusual sounding cider  – which shall remain nameless- had to be tipped into a waste bucket because neither Mr.D nor I could finish even that little two ounce sample which had an extremely strong taste which we did not find appealing. That’s not to say that it was rank – just not to our taste but that was the only thing we ditched that night.

WOULD WE GO AGAIN?

Oh you bet! We had such an amazing time there that if there was ever to be another one next year, we would definitely go. It wasn’t just the food and drink that was on offer that made it worth it, but the vibrant atmosphere, helpful event staff, friendly vendors and fab festival goers that made this event such a pleasant experience.

And let’s not forget that it’s events like these which give local breweries, cideries and confectioners the chance to put themselves and their products in the spotlight,  and make themselves known to a wider audience.

SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO…

Although we thought everyone was amazing, there are some people who really stood out.

CITIZEN CIDER

Mr. D. and I sampled some great tasting cider but it was the vendor who really stood out as much as those cups of appley goodness! He had no in engaging the festival goers in conversation and seemed oo have time for everyone. The fact that he complimented me ookn my accent means that he gets a zillion house points!

SPINDLER CONFECTIONS

The vendor was very welcoming and took time to explain what the samples were and invited is to try them. And they were gooooood!

SWEET LYDIA’S

I found that this company were very generous with their samples. I’ve seen restaurants who serve up mingier dessert portions! They were all incredibly tasty and even though I’m not normally a huge coconut fan, I really loved the taste and texture of their coconut marshmallows.

FAR FROM THE CIDER TREE

Mr. D and I were very impressed with what we tried, and I loved the flavour of the vanilla sea salt caramel cider. The vendor was also a very cheery, laid back dude!

BLACKBIRD DOUGHNUTS

Okay, I was disappointed that there were no vanilla sugar doughnuts, and I really wish that their grapefruit and pepper doughnuts – which were created especially for the festival – had a greater hit of grapefruit. But I can overlook all of the above because Mr. D. fell head over heels for their cinnamon spice doughnuts, and I can’t say I blame him because they were pretty yum!

HONEYCOMB CREAMERY

Mr. D. couldn’t get enough of their apple cider ice – cream – especially when he teamed it up with the cinnamon spice doughnut from Blackbird Doughnuts. And I loved the bits of roasted apple in the butter brown apple ice-cream.

THE CHUBBY CHICKPEA

They weren’t giving away  any beer or sweet samples but instead were selling reasonably-priced actual food – for which Mr. D. and I were extremely grateful because as fabulous as sweets are you need food to mop up all that alcohol!

I ordered the falafel which was cooked to perfection – light on the inside and beautifully crisp on the outside. And Mr. D. loved his chicken schnitzel sandwich. Both were served with hummus – Mr. D’s fave – and a type of salsa.

My only complaint? Guys, ditch the bread roll/bap thing and go for a flat bread instead!

These guys have a food truck located in parts of Boston so catch them if you can.

EVENT STAFF MEMBER

Mr. D. and I need to give a massive shout out to a bespectacled, shaven-headed male event staff member on the Saturday night we attended – for having a heart of gold. Thank you.

MY SISTER AND BROTHER-IN-LAW

Thanks guys for this amazing gift. If it hadn’t been for you two, we wouldn’t have had such a great night out. Next time, leave the kids at home and come with us!

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Well done to Drink Craft Beer – you excelled yourself.  Here’s to next year!

Great British Bake Off Finale 2015

 

In less than twenty four hours time, we’ll know who will be the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2015.

The downside of this is that this year’s series of Bake Off will come to an end, so we’ll have to say goodbye to Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue, cakes, pies, biscuits, meringues, pastries and breads until we see them again next summer – though sadly we’ll have to bid farewell to the 2015 contestants forever!

 

I get lost in my own little world when The Great British Bake Off is on. I actually feel as though I’m in the midst of the tranquil English countryside where the Bake Off tent is pitched. All those pastel, candy shades of iced goodies appeal to the kid in me. And even though the bakers often feel flustered and panic-stricken, there’s something so calming about the gentle pursuit of baking. It also invokes memories of home life and family time because let’s face it, who didn’t have a mother, aunt or grandmother who didn’t whip up baked delicacies, and I remember that growing up, teatime was a pretty big deal. And of course, the show celebrates that great British tradition, afternoon tea – which I’m sure you all know I’m a huge fan of. And best of all, for one deliciously decadent hour every week, we can forget that healthy eating ever mattered!

 

I think it’s fair to say that The Great British Bake Off is my very own televised Disneyland!

Mr.D and I have loved this year’s series – not to mention it’s sister program An Extra Slice with the hilarious Jo Brand. I often find that when I’m hooked on one year’s series of any show, the following year’s will fall a little flat so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this series so much as I thought 2014 was brilliant. But this year has been equally fantastic and we thought the contestants were a delightful and mega-talented bunch. It was so hard to pick a favourite because I had a soft spot for so many of them including Alvin, Sandy, Nadia, Tamal, and Paul. We’ve been watching Bake Off since the third series and one of the things that I love about the show – apart from it developing my love of baking and further increasing my love of all things sweet – is the sense of camaraderie among the contestants and the way they’re always willing to pitch in and help each other out even though this is a competition, and this year’s series has been no different.

 

Everyone has their own idea about who will win the title of Great British Bake Off Winner 2015 but I personally cannot make my mind up between the finalists Ian Cumming, Nadia Hussain and Tamal Ray. A lot of the work they’ve done has been highly original and really had the wow factor. Some people may have thought that Ian’s chocolate well last week was too simplistic but I thought it was amazing and showed that he really thought outside the box. All three have worked hard to secure their place in the final, and they’re all so likeable that it’s impossible to decide who to root for, so I’m cheering them all on!

Tomorrow’s final is going to be a real show stopper in itself. It’ll be interesting to see what culinary creations Ian, Nadia, and Tamal conjure up. I cannot wait!

 

 

Never Give Up On a Good Thing

 

When I have to teach my students the word ‘habit’ and how to use it, I often go around the room asking each one of them what their worst habit is, and sometimes the bold ones will turn the tables on me and ask me what’s mine. I often respond along the lines of drinking too much coffee or eating too much chocolate. But I’ve just realised that my worst habit is actually far worse than that.

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My worst habit is that I am forever starting things and then not finishing them – a habit that stems from childhood. I feel like I should stand up in a room and declare, “Hello. My name’s Mrs. D and I’m a quit-aholic. It’s been two hours since I abandoned my most recent project.”

Think I’m joking? Think again!

At sixteen, I gave up A-level French because after being top of my French class for years, it came as a shock to find that I was struggling with the language at non-phrase book level.

“You give up too easily,” said one of my classmates.

Well I couldn’t argue with that!

 

Fast forward several years and I’ve lost count of the number of home study courses that are still incomplete; the lessons for singing, dancing, and various instruments that I stopped attending early on; those books that are falling off my bookcase on subjects I’d always said I’d wanted to know more about but never managed to get past the introduction; the language CDs and DVDs which taught me hello and goodbye in many languages but not much else. Then there are the craft kits that are collecting dust, the work-out equipment that looks just as it did when I brought them home from the shops, the blog posts I started last year but haven’t got round to finishing; the drafts of plays, short stories, and novels that I always mean to work on; my ideas for new business ventures that remain just that…

 

And these are just the ones I can remember. It all starts off so well with so much interest and enthusiasm. But as soon as I realise that it’s not going to be as easy as I thought it would be or I feel I don’t possess enough natural talent, I start to lose interest and lack the patience and perseverance necessary to keep going, which explains the reason why I only ever touch upon the basics (if that!)

 

I’ve figured out what my problem, no, make that problems are. The first is having a finger, thumb and toe in every pie as I have waaay too many related and unrelated interests. This leads to sloppy time management as there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, which in turn leads to an inability to focus because I’m trying to do too much and end up feeling overwhelmed. I’m also an impatient perfectionist who wants everything to go swimmingly the first time I attempt it. I have a deep-rooted fear of making a fool of myself, and then to top it all off, I have a tendency to procrastinate, especially when I feel that whatever I try to accomplish is never going to culminate in the desired result anyway.  Here you have a recipe for never getting anything done. And many of my likeminded, ‘creative type’ friends agree with me. We’re just so inquisitive and curious about everything and want to give it a go. We have a million things whirling around our heads like a cyclone. And then just as quickly as our interest appeared, it starts to wane, and we then move onto the next big thing.

Well I’m glad to know I’m not the only one!

 

But without meaning to sound overly dramatic (even though Mr. D says no one does overly dramatic quite like I do) I had a flash back to when I was five and we were practising for sports day at school. I had been put in the skipping race even though I couldn’t skip to save my life. Feeling deflated at being laughed at and ridiculed by the other kids, I persuaded my mum to buy me a skipping rope. That weekend she did. From morning until evening honing my skipping skills was pretty much all I did. And do you know what? None of the other kids ever laughed at me again. Do you know why? Because I was lethal with a skipping rope (and not because I tried to whack them with it. Although I probably should have done!)

 

Recalling this event has restored a lot of my inner confidence. It reminded me that with a lot of determination, hard work, and persistence you really can achieve anything – that’s not just talk show host speak! I remember that five year old who had enough fire in her belly to go out there and show everyone that she had what it took. She didn’t think that it was too complicated or unachievable. She didn’t listen to those who said that she couldn’t do it. Perhaps it’s time I followed my younger self’s example.

But then I realised that the determination of my younger self did crop up over the years. It was that determination that helped me achieve two degrees; fulfil my dream of studying drama; train as a florist; pass my driving test (something my dad thought was never going to happen) and carve out a career as a teacher for the past seven years. I certainly didn’t give up at the first hurdle there. Maybe I do have it in me to get things done after all.

I feel angry at myself for allowing this habit to continue for as long as it has. I’ve missed out on developing new skills and interests not to mention wasting sh**loads of money. But now that I’ve realised where I’ve gone wrong, I don’t have to allow this habit to continue. First of all I need to accept that I’ll never be able to give my attention to everything at once so I’ll need to prioritise and concentrate on what’s most important to me. And once I’ve done that, I’m going to dedicate some time each day or each week (even if it’s just a little time) to a particular activity and really make a promise to myself to go for it. After all I owe it to myself to try – plus I want to get my money’s worth out of all the stuff I’ve bought! I can always give the other interests a go when I’ve fulfilled these goals.

 

And I’ve also got to stop getting so hung up on being able to do everything perfectly. We can’t all be brilliant at the first attempt, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m always telling my students that with practice and patience, you’ll make vast improvements so maybe it’s time I took some of my own advice. Until then, I’ll just have to accept that I’m going to suck! Who cares if I can’t ice a cake properly? I’m not Mary Berry! So what if I can’t rock a guitar like Slash? At least I’ll have fun trying. I heard someone say recently that it was better to do something badly than not at all, and that is all the inspiration I need (unless of course the doing something badly is flying a plane, performing life saving surgery or firing a gun in which case it really is better not to do them at all!)

 

I’m going to leave you with this fantastic piece of advice from the legend that is Dave Grohl which is a reminder that even the greats don’t always start out as great. Sure, you might be pants today, but tomorrow people might be throwing their pants at you while you’re rocking out on stage!

Right, now I’m off to a car boot sale to buy some sh**ty instruments and start putting all those ‘teach yourself’ guitar and drum books and DVDs to good use!

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Better Living #3: Get Your Five-A-Day… Without Even Trying!

 

The road to healthy living is paved with good intentions: getting more sleep; exercising regularly; drinking more water, and consuming the all-important five portions of fruit and veg every day. There are some lucky people who have no problems getting their five-a-day. And despite the fact that I love fruits and veggies and have no aversion to them, I also love chocolate, cakes, pastries and anything sugary and stodgy, and more often than not, that’s what I opt for – especially when I need to dash. It seems such a mission to remember to eat healthily with my fast-track lifestyle where I’m always on the move.

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I’ve convinced myself many a time that the jam tart I’m scoffing is actually quite healthy because it contains jam which is made from, er, fruit; that coffee and chocolate are good for you because they are made from beans; chips are made from potatoes which is a vegetable so all good in the hood there, and sugar comes from a plant – need I say more! But seriously,  who am I trying to kid?

SO WHAT COUNTS AS A PORTION?

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There seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what constitutes a single serving of fruit or vegetables but it’s widely believed to be around 80g. The following are examples of single servings:

  • 1 150ml glass of pure fruit juice
  • 1 thick slice of pineapple or melon
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of pulses or beans
  • 1 apple, pear, orange, banana or other similar sized fruit
  • 2 plums or kiwi fruit
  • 1⁄2 a grapefruit
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins or sultanas
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of stewed fruit
  • 3 dried apricots
  • 1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries
  • 1 small bowl of salad

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With the exception of potatoes, which are very starchy and aren’t included in the recommended five a day, all other fruit and vegetables count, whether they’re fresh, frozen, dried, tinned, or pure juices.

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But it’s worth remembering that no matter how much pure, freshly-squeezed juice you drink, it still only counts as one portion owing to certain nutrients being depleted in the juicing process. And because they don’t contain the same vitamins and minerals as other fruit and veg, kidney beans, chick peas, lentils and other pulses also only count as one portion, no matter how much you eat. Therefore in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, it’s advisable to munch on five different types of fruit and veg each day. It’s also worth noting that when people talk about getting their five-a-day, that’s just the minimum amount that we should be consuming every day. Ideally we should be aiming for about seven servings but goodness – it’s sometimes hard enough just getting the five so we’ll concentrate on that for now!

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To be honest, it’s not actually hard to eat the recommended daily amount of fruit and veg. It’s just that we all live such busy lives these days and we’ve fallen into a pattern of bad eating habits. An ideal healthy eating day for me would see me start with chopped mango and pineapple with yogurt for breakfast; an oaty, apricot flapjack for mid-morning; prawn salad for lunch; a snack of fruit salad; and salmon with spinach, asparagus, broccoli and potatoes for dinner. What could be simpler?

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I was thinking of ways in which you could effortlessly get the recommended five-a-day where it seems as though you’re not even thinking about it so it doesn’t seem such a drag. Many of the ideas below are things that I’ve tried or that appeal to me, and appear to be effective and not at all unrealistic ways of getting more fruit and veg into your diet. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change your eating habits overnight, and lifestyle changes always seem a bit daunting but you’ll gradually be able to work your way up to incorporating more fruit and veg into your diet – and once you know how easy it is, you’ll be unstoppable!

  1. USE REAL FRUIT INSTEAD OF ARTIFICIAL SYRUPS IN DRINKS

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I always feel really disappointed when I call into a coffee shop, order a fruity iced drink, smoothie or milkshake – and find them pouring sickly-sweet, synthetic-tasting syrup into the glass instead of blending real fruit.

Well you can’t control what your local coffee shop uses, but you can make delicious cold drinks at home using real fruit. It may take a little more effort than opening a bottle but it’s so worth it!

2. GET SPIRALIZING!

 

Spiralizing has caught on in a big way where vegetables such as carrots and courgettes are cut into thin, spaghetti-like strands using a spiralizer before being cooked and eaten a lot like pasta with pesto or tomato-based sauces.

3. CAULIFLOWER ‘RICE’ ISN’T JUST FOR THOSE DOING ATKINS!

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When I first heard about cauliflower ‘rice’, it was something that Atkins dieters were making as a substitute to rice, where they would pulse cauliflower florets to resemble rice grains.

I don’t really  think it tastes like rice but I do think it’s really delicious. It tastes a lot like the fried cauliflower my mum used to make. It might sound quite bland but with seasoning, herbs, spices, a little chopped onion or crushed garlic, and a lot of imagination it can be very tasty. You can even add egg to it to make egg cauliflower fried ‘rice’!

4. SNACK ON DRIED FRUIT AND FROZEN BERRIES INSTEAD OF SWEETS

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I do love my sweet, sugary treats but thankfully I also love dried and frozen fruit and it’s a healthier way to get my fix of something sweet.

5. ICE ICE BABY

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Blend yogurt, and honey with your favourite fruit, pop into ice-lolly moulds and you’ll have a delicious, frozen sweet treat that takes next to no time to prepare.

6. GO BANANAS!

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Bananas are so versatile and contain a lot of potassium which is great when you need an energy boost -something many of my colleagues know only too well as they’re always bringing bananas to work to snack on. There’s so much you can do with them. You can have them on toast, or blended into a milkshake or smoothies for breakfast; coat them in chocolate and freeze them as an alternative to ice-lollies; mash them into pancake, muffin or cake batter; bake or barbecue them and serve them with ice-cream… the list goes on!

7. DREAM TOPPING

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Purée some berries with honey and pour over ice-cream as a healthy alternative to sugar-laden ice-cream toppings.

8. JUICY!

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I don’t know many people who don’t own a juicer – but I know many juicer owners who don’t use them. This is a real shame because fresh, pure juice is so good for you. And of course with a vast array of fruit and veggies available, you can have fun trying to come up with unique flavour combinations.

9. SWAP POTATO CHIPS FOR APPLE CRISPS

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Slice an apple (or pear) very thinly; place on a baking sheet; place in the oven at a low temperature, and bake until crispy, turning over occasionally.

10. BLEND VEG INTO SHOP BOUGHT FOOD

 

There are times when we don’t have time to make things from scratch – no matter how much we want to. But you can always add veggies to shop-bought stews or  blend vegetables into shop-bought soups. My grandfather always liked adding mushrooms to frozen pizzas while I tend to add sautéed onion, garlic and mushrooms to shop-bought pasta sauces – something Mr.D. is not happy about!

11. MAKE VEGGIE DESSERTS!

 

It started with carrot cake but now there seems to be a trend for adding vegetables such as beetroot, sweetcorn, pumpkin and courgette to baked goodies and desserts – and it seems to be going down a storm. It’s great because you can enjoy the sweet treats you love so much AND get the necessary nutrients. So you get the both of best worlds!

12. CHIPS AND DIPS

 

Ever since I discovered that I can make dips and salsas that taste better than the shop-bought stuff and that they’re so quick and simple to make, I’ve been making delicious guacamoles and spicy salsas to serve with tortilla chips when I want to snack on something in front of the telly. Not only do they taste great but I feel so much healthier.

13. FEEL THE PULSE IN A CAN!

These are a great cupboard stand-by and a good source of fibre. A serving (three tablespoons) of canned beans or lentils can be added to soups, stews, salads etc. And let’s face it – how much effort goes into opening a can?

14. LIVEN UP THAT SALAD

 

Gone are the days of boring lettuce, cucumber and tomato salads. Today we have a fantastic array of fruits and vegetables available – not to mention awesome dressings – which will change the way you look at salads forever and let’s face it – how hard is it to prepare a salad? My favourite is prawn with mango and avocado with a chilli, lime and coriander dressing. I’d eat it every day if I could!

15. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DO WITH AN AVOCADO???

 

When I was a kid, there was only one way in which people used to eat avocados and that was halved with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice. Nowadays the humble avocado has come a long way since then, and like the banana, it’s quite versatile, and is even making an appearance in sweet dishes. Salads don’t seem the same without them, and you can add avocados to dips, salsas, smoothies, milkshakes, desserts and is also used as a substitute for butter or cream in cakes and mousses. I even saw a contestant on Come Dine With Me baking them – something I didn’t know you could do with avocados.

 

The Cosy Coming-In-Out-Of-The-Rain Supper

As everyone knows, I really like the cooler months of the year rather than the blazing hot ones ( I don’t need to be told I’m strange – I already know that!) So I didn’t mind when it was pelting down with rain last Friday. I didn’t mind at all. I just wished I could have been at home watching the rain come down from the comfort of my own home rather than be outside in the rain, freezing in my lightweight summer clothes while carrying three times my weight in groceries!

 

 

Thankfully Mr. D. was on hand to give me a, um, hand with the shopping but even that couldn’t take away from the discomfort I felt as the rainwater slowly began to seep into my totally inappropriate ballet-style pumps. Just then an image of a steaming hot mug of  chocolaty goodness with enough cream and marshmallows to concern Jamie Oliver flashed into my head.

 

“You know what?” I began as I turned to Mr.D. who makes carrying a multitude of grocery bags look so effortless, “this is perfect hot chocolate weather.” All I wanted to do was get home, change out of my damp clothes and into comfy pjs, and sit by the fireplace, sipping gloriously thick hot chocolate and munching on toasted goodies. OK, so I don’t have a fireplace but the radiator with a few candles around it would do! Then I realised – we didn’t have any hot chocolate. And we hadn’t thought to pick any up. But then again why would we? Summertime’s all about the Pimm’s and cider. Or perhaps I should say, it should be all about the Pimm’s and cider. But at that exact moment all I wanted was hot chocolate and I could very easily have kicked myself for not buying any, if it wasn’t for the fact that I felt as though I had a swimming pool at the end of each foot!

It seems strange to be writing a post that’s better suited to the Autumn months than in what should be a blazing hot July, but it did get me thinking about cosy and warming suppers; the kind that’d be a real treat after a trip out in the cold, wind, rain, and possibly even snow. Or when you’re indoors, all snug and cosy while it’s chucking down buckets outside. Or perhaps you’re just in need of some good old-fashioned comfort food. There’s no special occasion for this supper; you can prepare this when you need something warm and comforting. None of the following should be served cold; everything should be either piping hot, warm or lightly toasted. You could serve all the following courses as a kind of high tea if you really wanted to go to town, especially if you are having friends over. But the main idea here is to keep it simple (who wants to do a whole lot of cooking when you’re looking for some much needed comfort food?) so I would pick one or two of the food items and serve it with a hot drink. Furthermore, unless you’re going for your own brand of comfort food, a lot of the foods listed here are deliciously stodgy and high in carbs, so I would choose carefully! Oh, and a lot of it will most probably be dripping in butter…

The good thing about this kind of supper is that even if you’ve invited your friends to come over and join you, there’s really no need to go to town on dressing up or creating an elaborately decorated table. The key here is simplicity, comfort and warmth. So comfy trackies, sweaters, pjs, robes and slippers are ideal. Oh and don’t forget the blankets!

SANDWICHES

Sandwiches should ideally be made with thick-sliced, soft bread and toasted:

Bacon and tomato

Sausage and mushroom

Chocolate and hazelnut spread

Jam/marmalade

Cheese and tomato

Cheese and ham

SOUP

Serve with warm crusty bread:

Tomato

Mushroom

Chicken and sweetcorn

Vegetable

BREADS AND PASTRIES

Don’t forget the butter, jam, marmalade etc:

Crumpets

English muffins

Drop scones

Teacakes

Fruit loaf

BISCUITS

Shortbread

Oat and raisin cookies

Ginger biscuits

Flapjacks

SAVOURIES

Welsh Rarebit

Jacket potato with cheese and bacon bits

Kipper with poached egg

Egg on toast

Mushroom on toast

Scotch eggs

Spinach and cheese muffins

SWEETS

Rice pudding

Chocolate brownies

Gingerbread

Banana bread

Apricot tea bread

HOT DRINKS

Tea – of any kind

Coffee

Hot chocolate – with a splash of your favourite liqueur for the adults

Hot apple toddy

Irish coffee

Hot milk with honey

 

And I’m well aware that we’re not all fortunate enough to live in a house with a fabulous fireplace (I know I don’t!) so we’ll just have to crank up the heating a notch and dream of romantic, roaring log fires! And you can always create that cosy glow with dimmed lighting, candlelight, and if you really want to push the boat out, fairy lights.

Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea

 

 

Here in Britain, we celebrated Mothering Sunday back in March, but tomorrow people in the rest of the world will be celebrating motherhood and honouring the very special women in their lives: mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, godmothers and even aunties. So what could be a more special way to spoil the extraordinary women in our lives then by treating them to a decadent afternoon tea – which if you ask me, is an occasion made for mums!

 

In case you didn’t know by now, I really love the idea of a themed afternoon tea (come to think of it, I love the idea of a themed anything!) and when it comes to a Mother’s Day afternoon tea party, vintage is the only way to go, with mismatched, floral, china teacups, an elaborate cake stand, bird cages, and decorations in the form of pearls and lace. Mothers are obviously all different, so you’ll cater your tea party to your mum’s tastes but inspiration for my ideas have come my own mother who’s pretty big on tradition.  Chocolate and flowers also feature quite heavily as they tend to be gifts we traditionally give our mothers on their special day. Colours for this event could be in the traditional pink and lilac, or any pastel hue, or maybe even cream and gold for a classic vintage feel. With the weather getting warmer, there’s a good chance that you could hold your tea party outdoors.

 

When thinking about the menu, I went for old-school English classics, real ‘like mother used to make’ stuff, with an added touch of elegance and luxury. After all you can’t get more English than afternoon tea, so English classics it is!  The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your afternoon tea party menu:

SANDWICHES

  • Egg and cress
  • Cucumber and cream cheese
  • Crab
  • Ham and English mustard
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Rare roast beef and horseradish
  • Rose petals with honey
  • Prawn mayonnaise

SAVOURIES

 

  • Smoked salmon soufflés
  • Mini sausage rolls
  • Blinis with smoked salmon
  • Mini Cornish pasties
  • Parmesan thins
  • Roast beef-filled Yorkshire puddings
  • Goats’ cheese rarebit
  • Spinach and parmesan muffins
  • Cheese straws
  • Potted shrimp on melba toast
  • Trout pate on melba toast
  • Mini chicken and asparagus pie

SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS

 

  • Crumpets
  • Tea loaf
  • Tea cakes
  • Brioche
  • English muffins
  • Scones with clotted cream and rose petal jam

CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:

 

  • Victoria sponge cake
  • Apple pie with cinnamon cream
  • Chocolate fudge cake
  • Lemon drizzle cake
  • Cherry Cake
  • Jam tartlets
  • Battenburg cake
  • Rose and raspberry  or chocolate macaroons
  • Fruit cake
  • Mini Bakewell tarts
  • Chocolate mousse with sugared violets in shot glasses
  • Mini English trifles
  • Pink and lilac iced buns
  • Lavender shortbread
  • Chocolate éclairs
  • Strawberry shortcake
  • Custard slices
  • Florentines

DRINKS:

 

  • Tea!
  • Frozen strawberry daiquiris
  • Mixed berry tea
  • White chocolate mocha
  • Jasmine tea
  • Pink lemonade
  • Chilled Chrysanthemum tea
  • Raspberry bellini
  • Cava with nasturtiums
  • Pomegranate Martini
  • Chamomile tea
  • Champagne with hibiscus
  • Chocolate flavoured cocktails

Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles.

Here’s a recipe for the unusual but delightful sounding rose petal sandwiches which is taken from The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree

ROSE PETAL SANDWICHES

 

Makes 24

INGREDIENTS:

60 dried organic rose petals

Few drops of rose essence

25g (1oz) butter, at room temperature

12 slices of soft white bread

6 tsp lavender honey

METHOD:

1. Soak the dried rose petals in a bowl of cold water with the rose essence for 20mins.

2. Drain and set aside.

3. Butter the bread.

4. Spread honey over 6 of the slices.

5. Divide the petals between 6 slices of honeyed bread.

6. Top with remaining slices.

7. Cut off crusts.

8. Cut each sandwich diagonally into four.

9. Serve immediately.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!

 

 

 

Easter/Spring Afternoon Tea

new-years-clip-art-12   Easter is just around the corner and we are looking forward to yet another gloriously long weekend. For me, long weekends mean gatherings, socialising, fun, food as well as a healthy dose of r n’r – and I reckon afternoon tea combines all of these elements perfectly. I’m a huge fan of afternoon teas, and when it’s a holiday-themed afternoon tea, then that’s even better! One of the great things about hosting an Easter/Spring themed afternoon tea party is that if it’s a gloriously sunny day, you might just be able to hold your party outdoors. Inspiration for this party comes from colours and ideas associated with this time of year as well as food that is in season. Colours in soft, muted pastel shades are typical of Spring, and chicks, bunnies, Spring flowers, eggs and chocolate are what springs to mind (excuse the pun!) when we think of Easter, so these will probably play a role in your choice of food, drinks and décor. The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your Spring-themed afternoon tea party menu:

SANDWICHES

  • b9d882970272f55c1f2f15c626dfbf93 Egg and cress
  • Cucumber and cream cheese
  • Chicken salad
  • Chicken and pesto
  • Ricotta and apricot jam
  • Egg and asparagus
  • Prawn cocktail

SAVOURIES

  • pea Scotch eggs
  • Mini asparagus and quail’s egg tartlets
  • Mini Yorkshire puddings with lamb and mint gravy
  • Pea and mint soup in shot glasses
  • Bite-size lamb samosas
  • Chicken tikka on bite-size naan bread with mint raita
  • Spinach and ricotta/feta in filo pastry
  • Cheese and spring onion scones
  • Broccoli and spinach mini quiche

SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS

  • images10ARJEL0 Hot cross buns
  • Fruit loaf
  • Apricot muffins
  • English muffins
  • White chocolate and raspberry scones
  • Rosewater and vanilla scones

CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:

  • sim Lemon cupcakes
  • Chocolate fudge cake
  • Carrot cake
  • Simnel Cake
  • Mini rhubarb and custard tartlets
  • Crème egg chocolate brownies
  • Pastel coloured macaroons
  • Chocolate whoopie pies
  • Lavender shortbread
  • Raspberry panna cotta in shot glasses
  • Mini chocolate and cherry trifles

DRINKS:

  • imagesE0VT0C19 Tea!
  • Lemon tea
  • Raspberry tea
  • Vanilla latte
  • Mint tea
  • Elderflower cordial
  • Shot glasses of thick chocolate milk
  • Chocolate flavoured cocktails

Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles. And now I’m going to leave you with an awesome recipe for raspberry and white chocolate macarons. Yum!

RASPBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE MACARONS imagesJ11H9KO3 INGREDIENTS:

Meringues:

  • 130g pure icing sugar
  • 110g almond meal
  • 2  egg whites
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 4-5 drops of pink food colouring

White chocolate and raspberry ganache:

  • 50ml double cream
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 45g raspberries, coarsely chopped

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 140C.
  2. Combine icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor until finely ground.
  3.  Triple-sift into a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Whisk two-thirds of the egg whites in an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks form.
  5. Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until fully combined and mixture is thick and glossy.
  6. Add food colouring.
  7. Stir in almond mixture in batches until fully combined and mixture slowly slides down sides of bowl when bowl is tilted.
  8. Add remaining egg white to loosen mixture.
  9.  Spoon into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle.
  10.  Pipe 3cm-diameter rounds of mixture onto heavy baking-paper-lined oven trays.
  11.  Stand until a crust begins to form  which should take around 5 hours.
  12. Bake macarons until firm.
  13.  Cool completely on trays.
  14. Meanwhile, for white chocolate and raspberry ganache, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan.
  15. Remove from heat.
  16.  Add chocolate, stand until melted, stir until smooth and glossy.
  17. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable then stir until smooth.
  18. Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect, then spoon a teaspoon of ganache onto half the macarons. Sandwich with remaining macarons and refrigerate until set.
  19. Macarons will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

Enjoy! imagesCAHZOS9O

Ideas For A Fabulous Valentine’s Day Breakfast In Bed

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Yay! St. Valentine’s Day is about to descend upon us – and I’m thrilled. Say whatever you like about this day but I do love everything it stands for. And what’s so great about this St. Valentine’s Day is that it falls on a Saturday so it’s more like St. Valentine’s Weekend. Even better! And I’ve definitely got into the spirit of it. Although we’d originally planned to go away this weekend, I’ve been a little under the weather so we’ll be staying at home but it most definitely won’t be boring. We’ve got the cards, the gifts, the choccies, the booze, the candles, the rom-coms, the Valentine’s Day treats and all the ingredients for a fabulous dinner. Because we were long-distance for a long time, we never got to spend St. Valentine’s Day together until after we were married, so it’s very special to us.

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So seeing as you have the whole weekend to lounge around and be totally loved up, there’s no excuse not to have a long, leisurely Valentine’s Day breakfast. A piece of toast on the go just won’t do especially as (I hope) you won’t have to dash to the office. And there aren’t many things that scream romance quite like breakfast in bed which is the perfect way to start a lazy weekend. And let’s banish all thoughts of your usual fare – Valentine’s Day is a great time to try something different and indulge in heart-shaped delicacies and dainty little pastries.

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So here’s some ideas to inspire you – and have you wishing every day was a breakfast in bed day!

First things first. When serving breakfast in bed you’ll need:

  • A tray
  • Cutlery
  • Glasses
  • Cups/mugs
  • Napkins or kitchen roll
  • Flowers
  • Newspapers or magazines
  • A bottle of Champers (it’s a special occasion!)

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What To Serve:

  • Porridge served with berries/chopped bananas, honey and cream
  • Pancakes with a selection of fillings: jam, honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, Nutella etc.
  • Homemade croissants with butter and jam
  • French toast with berry compote
  • Scrambled egg and smoked salmon bagel
  • Sausage, egg and cheese bagel (Mr. D’s favourite!)
  • A fry up! How often do you get to have a full English? Be sure to serve on extra large plates.
  • Fresh fruit salad
  • Danish pastries
  • Muffins – these can be made in advance to save you from getting up early to prepare them.
  • Waffles with butter, syrup and strawberries
  • Steak and eggs
  • Fresh fruit smoothies (my fave!)
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Yogurt in a tall glass layered with fruit, cereal/oats and compote/honey
  • Stuffed French toast with Nutella and raspberries or mascarpone and blueberries
  • Crumpets with butter and jam
  • Hot chocolate made from scratch with whipped cream

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And remember…

  • If you’re going to serve toast, make sure you prepare that last so that it stays warm.
  • Likewise if you’re going to serve yogurt, get that out of the fridge just before you go up so that it stays cold.
  • Make sure you have all the things you need before you go up. It’ll be annoying to run back down because you’ve forgotten the cutlery.
  • Napkins and kitchen roll are a must!
  • If you’re going to serve Champagne/sparkling wine along with the breakfast, make sure you pop it in the fridge the night before.
  • Don’t worry about crumbs or mess. This is quality time with your other half. Enjoy!

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Afternoon Tea Christmas Style!

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Christmas day may be over but that doesn’t mean that the fun times should stop!

I absolutely love Christmas. It’s my favourite time of year and I don’t care what anyone says – it’s not just for kids! One of the things I love about Christmas is the chance to eat, drink and be merry (is that three things?) It’s also great that you have the chance to catch up with people you might not see a great deal of throughout the year, and that you have time to relax. Furthermore, could there be a more aesthetically pleasing time of the year that Christmas?  This year I’m super lucky that I will have two glorious weeks off work. Yes, I know it’ll fly by but right now I’m just going to wallow in my super relaxed state of bliss!

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So I think that the Christmas break is the perfect opportunity to indulge in a festive themed afternoon tea party. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge fan of afternoon tea. In fact, I’m a huge fan of anything that involves, food, drink, people and conversation. But there’s something extra special about having afternoon tea. I suppose that it’s because we don’t often find the time to have a real, proper afternoon tea so it’s become something of a treat.

And when you combine afternoon tea with my most favourite event of the whole year, Christmas, then you have a delightfully themed tea.

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Of course, I’m not suggesting you have a Christmas afternoon tea on Christmas Day itself. By the time you’ve devoured the turkey with all the trimmings followed by a helping of Christmas pudding, tea will be the last thing on your mind! But the good news is that you can hold your Christmas themed tea at any time during the Christmas holidays which generally last for twelve days beginning on Christmas Day.

The beauty of hosting a Christmas afternoon tea during the season is that many of your family and friends are likely to be in town in order to celebrate the holidays, so it will be a lovely way to spend more time with them before they go home. There’s also no need to buy decorations for your tea – because it’ll already be there: the tree and other decorations will still be up; you might have poinsettias on the table; your fancy Christmas table cloth is likely to be adorning the table, and you may have lots of accessories in traditional Christmas colours.

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Furthermore, it’s also a great way to use up any leftovers that you might have. Everyone knows that when it comes to Christmas, we really go town, buying/baking/cooking as though we’re facing the apocalypse. So there’s no need to prepare too much food, and in addition, any Christmas type food items that need to be bought are likely to be reduced in supermarkets after Christmas.

The list below gives food ideas of what you can include on your afternoon tea party menu which include typically Christmassy give festive flavours of Christmas:

SANDWICHES

Smoked salmon and cream cheese

Turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce

Ham and chutney

Ham, brie and apple

Bacon and chipolata

Cream cheese and cranberry

Cheddar cheese and chutney

Ricotta and orange marmalade

SAVOURIES

Mini sausage rolls

Mini Yorkshire puddings with turkey, stuffing and gravy

Filo parcels with cheese and cranberry sauce

Pigs in blankets

Baked brie with cranberries

Cheese scones

Cheese and bacon vol-au-vents

SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS

Fruit loaf

Teacakes

English muffins

Slices of Panettone

Cranberry and dark chocolate scones

Orange and cranberry scones

CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:

Christmas cake

Rum cake

Ginger cake

Mince pies

Spiced apple pies

Stollen

Mini yule logs

Orange and walnut cake

Cranberry and orange jelly in shot glasses

Sherry trifle served in teacups

DRINKS:

Mulled wine

Spiced tea

Ginger and cinnamon tea

Apple and cranberry fruit tea

Eggnog

Hot apple toddy

Spiced pumpkin latte

Shot glasses of thick hot chocolate flavoured with rum or Bailey’s

Remember to serve butter and jams such as fig, mulled plum or orange curd to go with the toasted breads and scones, and you might need some clotted cream if you’re serving scones which you could flavour with spices, orange zest or brandy if you wish. You might also need some chutneys and sauces to go with the savouries.

I found a delightful recipe for chocolate and orange scones, by Ellie Simmonds, which I have tried before so  know it’s delicious and would be perfect as part of your Christmas tea.

CHOCOLATE AND ORANGE SCONES

Ingredients

  • 700g/1lb 9oz self-raising flour

  • 150g/5½oz butter

  • 150g/5½oz caster sugar

  • 2 large oranges, finely grated zest of both and juice of one orange

  • 150g/5½oz chocolate drops

  • 200ml/7fl oz whole milk, plus extra for brushing

To serve

  • clotted cream

  • 2 satsumas

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 210C/400F/Gas 6.
  2. Lightly butter two baking trays.
  3. Sift the flour into a bowl.
  4. Rub in the butter using your hands until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  5. Stir in the sugar, chocolate drops and orange zest.
  6. In a measuring jug, mix the milk with the juice of one orange.
  7. Add to the flour mixture gradually until the dough just comes together.
  8. You may not need all the liquid. Be careful not to overwork the scone dough.
  9. Roll out the dough to approximately 2cm/1in thickness and cut out scones using a 5-6cm/2-2½in cutter.
  10. Transfer the scones to the buttered baking trays, brush the tops with milk and bake in the centre of the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown.
  11. Remove from the oven and cool on wire rack.
  12. Serve with clotted cream and satsumas.

 

Enjoy!

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