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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.

 

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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.

pinterest.com

pinterest.com

 

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!

imagesCAHZOS9O

 

















Tea party Etiquette: The Rules!

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As much as I’m a cappuccino and cake kind of girl, I do love a good tea party – especially if it’s done properly. I know in the States, an afternoon tea party is considered to be a quintessentially British pastime. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news guys, but most of us here in the ‘old country’ don’t even own a piece of fine bone China, never mind drink from it every day. And I really cannot remember the last time I used a saucer. On the rare occasions I do drink tea, it’s usually from a cardboard cup – just like my cappuccino!

Original image by pixabay.com

Original image by pixabay.com

But I do know a typically British afternoon tea party can be a fabulous occasional treat. We don’t have them every day or every week, but they are very popular for birthdays, bridal showers, little girls dressing-up tea parties, and just generally  when you feel like being a little bit girly and going overboard with the hats, gloves, tea dresses and pearls. Told you it’s not an every day thing!

Original image by pixabay. com

Original image by pixabay. com

Tea parties can vary in terms of theme, style and food served, and there’ll be more about that in later posts. Although they are usually considered to be quite formal occasions, they don’t always have to be. They’re just great fun  and a chance to have a cup of tea and a natter with a huge slice of cake. However formal or not, there are certain rules (for want of a better word) which need to be taken into account for a smooth running party.

Original image by pixabay.com

Original image by pixabay.com

So here’s the low-down on tea party etiquette.

TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE

IF YOU’RE THE HOSTESS:

1. Depending on how formal you want to be, you may want to send out invitations. Make sure you send these out in plenty of time.

2. Greet your guests as they come in. I don’t really think a handshake and a ‘how do you do?’ is necessary as one book suggested. Hello and a smile work just fine!

Original image by pixabay.com

Original image by pixabay.com

2. Show guests to the table and invite them to sit down. Whether you give them assigned seating or allow them to chose their own seats is up to you.

3. As the hostess, it’s your job to serve each of the courses and pour the tea. Make sure the conversation is flowing and your guests are eating and drinking.

Original image from pixabay.com

Original image from pixabay.com

4. It’s fine to arrange for someone else to do the serving if you wish so that you can concentrate on just having a good time with your guests.

Original image by pixabay.com

Original image by pixabay.com

5. If you are not able to get outside help and you have a fairly large number of guests, you can nominate a couple of friends to help serve – especially if you know that they are happy to do so!

IF YOU’RE THE GUEST:

1. It’s always nice to bring a small gift for the hostess.

2. Take your place at the table and wait to be served.

Original image from pixabay.com

Original image from pixabay.com

3. Keep your purse or handbag on your lap or behind your chair but not on the table.

4. When the party’s over, always send a handwritten note of thanks to your host – preferably within a week.

FOR EVERYONE:

Original image from pixabay.com

Original image from pixabay.com

 

 1. Place napkins on your lap. If you need to leave the table, leave the napkin on your chair and not on the table.

2. No reaching across the table for anything. If you’d like something, ask someone to pass it to you.

3. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat with your fingers – no one eats sandwiches with a knife and fork – but anything that has the potential to be messy should be eaten with a fork.

Original image by pixabay.com

Original image by pixabay.com

4. Remember that thick cream is for scones – not for tea.

5. Take small bites of the sandwiches no matter how tiny they are. Don’t cram a whole one into your mouth. Now is not the time for party pieces!

6. When eating scones or muffins, break off a bite-size piece, then put a small amount of butter and/or jam on it. If clotted cream is being served, a small amount can be dabbed on after the jam.

Original image by pixabay.com

Original image by pixabay.com

7. Don’t dip the sugar tong or sugar spoon into your tea if you are taking sugar.

8. Stir the tea with your teaspoon and then place the teaspoon on the saucer behind the cup.

9. If your tea is too hot, simply leave it on the table to cool. Don’t blow on it to cool the tea down.

Original image by pixabay. com

Original image by pixabay. com

10. Slurping is not acceptable!

11. And neither is dunking biscuits.

12. Whatever our American friends might say, nobody here sticks their little/pinky finger out when drinking tea from a teacup. Who does that???

Original image by pixabay.com

Original image by pixabay.com

This is of course a rough guide and rules are open to interpretation. The most important rules which go without saying is that everyone should be happy, comfy, well-fed and having fun!

Original image by pixabay.com

Original image by pixabay.com

Enjoy!!!

imagesCAHZOS9O

Passionate About Grenadilla!

 

 

 

 

Everyone who knows me knows that although I try to eat healthy and like fruit, I’m not really an apples and oranges kind of girl. I love anything that’s a bit out of the ordinary so I can’t get enough of exotic fruits. Dragon fruit, mango, lychees, rumbutans… you name it, I’ve tried it. Or so I thought… After being introduced to granadillas by a friend this week, I tried them for the first time. “If you like passion fruit, you’ll love granadillas,” said my friend confidently. And he wasn’t wrong. The granadilla is indeed a relative of the delicious passion fruit and hails from South America. Whereas passion fruits have a tough purple skin, granadillas – which are larger in size – have an inedible, shiny, orange-gold skin which appears hard at first but is actually surprisingly fragile. There is a very spongy pith before you get to the edible part of the fruit. As with passion fruit, the edible part consists of black seeds covered in a jelly-like pulp; the only differences being  that the pulp is more of a pale champagne colour and is much sweeter in flavour – almost like honey.

 

 

 

HOW TO PREPARE

  • Granadilla is orange and firm when it is ripe.
  • Ripe granadilla can be refrigerated for a few days.
  • Cut the fruit into two halves as you would with passion fruit.
  •  Scoop out the jelly-like pulp with a spoon. The skin is not to be eaten.

 

HOW TO EAT

  • Granadilla is commonly eaten by itself but it can be cooked or juiced.
  • It makes a great jelly, jam, pie filling, flan topping or cake frosting and also makes a great addition to  fruit salads.

 

 

It also has great nutritional value and is said to be  an excellent source of fibre and essential minerals, such as phosphorus, iron and calcium.  They are usually available in the spring months so now is the time to try them. You never know – it could be your new favourite fruit!

 

 

Try this recipe for  a granadilla meringue pie – a tropical twist on the classic lemon pudding.

GRANADILLA MERINGUE PIE

 

INGREDIENTS:

200g packet of ginger biscuits

80g butter, melted

385g can of condensed milk

125ml lemon juice

5ml grated lemon rind
3 egg yolks
50ml granadilla pulp
3 egg whites
125ml castor sugar
METHOD:
  1. Put the biscuits in a food processor and remove and place in a bowl.
  2. Add the butter and mix well.
  3. Press the mixture into a greased 20cm pie plate and chill in the fridge.
  4. Combine the condensed milk, lemon juice, rind, yolks and granadilla pulp and mix well.
  5. Pour into the crust.
  6. Beat the egg whites until stiff then gradually beat in the castor sugar, reserving 15ml to sprinkle on top.
  7. Pile the meringue on top of the filling.
  8. Sprinkle with the remaining castor sugar.
  9. Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes or until the meringue is light golden brown.
  10. Turn off the oven and leave the pie in for another hour.
  11. Remove and cool completely before serving.
  12. Enjoy!

 

Saying It With Chocolates And Roses

 

 

I love the pairing of chocolate and rose as a flavour combination. It works really well and tastes divine. So you can imagine my delight when I came across some recipes featuring the two.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge chocolate fan – who isn’t? But I also really like the delicate flavour of rose – the sweet fragrance alone is deliciously tempting. It’s not a common flavouring in most parts of the world, being more popular in Asia and the Middle East. In the UK, it’s probably more commonly known for being used to flavour Turkish delight and rose creams. However in the Far East where my mum comes from, it’s used to flavour a whole variety of sweet things including cakes, biscuits, ice-creams, jams, jellies, milk puddings and drinks. One of my favourite drinks is a rose milkshake made with a delicious rose syrup. My mum prefers to dilute the syrup with water to make a type of rose squash.

 

I’m not surprised that it’s not as popular here in England as it’s a very difficult flavouring to get right: too little and you won’t be able to taste it; too much and it will taste as though your food has been laced with air freshener! It’s got to be spot on. But when you get it right it’s just like the flower itself – beautiful.

So I found three gorgeous recipes which combine both chocolate and rose together. They’d be perfect for Mother’s Day, St. Valentine’s Day, romantic meals – any occasions in which roses and chocolates are synonymous. But of course you can make them any time you want simply because they look and impressive and taste amazingly good!

CHOCOLATE WHOOPIE PIES WITH ROSE MARSHMALLOW FILLING

Makes 10-12

 

INGREDIENTS:

COOKIES

  • 60g – 2¼ oz unsalted butter diced plus extra for greasing
  • 120g – 4¼ oz golden caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 20g – ¾ oz cocoa
  • 125g – 4½ oz plain flour
  • 1 rounded tsp baking powder
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp milk

MARSHMALLOW FILLING

  • 1 medium organic egg white
  • 75g – 3oz white caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sieved fresh orange juice
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 5 pink marshmallows halved
  • pink food colouring optional

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  2. Butter two baking sheets.
  3. In a food processor, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended, then incorporate the egg.
  4. Sift together the next three cookie ingredients and add to the mixture followed by the remaining cookie ingredients.
  5. Mix until well combined.
  6. Drop rounded teaspoons of the mixture on to the baking sheets spaced about 7cm l 2¾ in apart to allow for spreading.
  7. Bake until just risen and firm without crisping at the edges – they should be soft and slightly cake-like in texture.
  8. Loosen them immediately with a spatula and leave to cool.
  9. If not assembling on the day store in an airtight container.
  10. Place the first four filling ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk using an electric hand-held whisk until combined.
  11. Set the bowl over a pan containing a little simmering water and whisk the filling at high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and moussey.
  12. Add the marshmallows and stir for several minutes until beginning to melt.
  13. Then whisk until smooth and combined, adding a little food colouring if wished to achieve your desired shade of pink.
  14. Remove from the heat.
  15.  Sandwich the cookies in pairs with about a teaspoon of the filling, matching the top and bottom sizes as evenly as possible.
  16. Set aside for an hour for the filling to set.

CHOCOLATE AND ROSE PETAL JAM VICTORIA SPONGE

 

Makes 1 x 20cm (8″) cake

INGREDIENTS:

CAKE

  • 225g (8oz) diced unsalted butter
  • 200g (7oz) golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 200g (7oz) self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 25g (1oz) cocoa sifted
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) milk

FILLING & TOPPING

  • about 125g (4 ½ oz) rose petal jam or good quality pink or red jam of your choice
  • 350ml (12 fl oz) double cream
  • pink food colouring optional

METHOD:

  • Butter a 20cm (8in) loose-bottom cake tin at least 7cm (2 ¾ in) deep.
  • Heat the oven to 190C/170 C fan oven/gas 5.
  • Place all the cake ingredients in a food processor and cream together, about 3-4 minutes, until completely smooth.
  • Transfer the mixture to the cake tin, smoothing the surface.
  • Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Run a knife around the cake and leave to cool in the tin, then turn out.
  • For the filling, work the jam in a bowl to loosen in slightly.
  • In another bowl, whisk the cream with a couple of drops of pink food colouring until just starting to form soft peaks, taking care not to let the cream turn buttery.
  •  Slit the cake horizontally into three layers using a bread knife.
  • Spread the bottom layer with half the jam, and then half the cream. Repeat with the middle layer using up the remaining jam and cream and set the top layer of cake in place.

CHOCOLATE ROSEWATER MOUSSE

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 125g – 4½ oz dark chocolate about
  • 70 per cent cocoa broken into pieces
  • 2 medium organic eggs separated
  • 25g – 1oz caster sugar
  • 100ml – 3½ fl oz double cream
  • few drops rosewater to taste

METHOD:

  1. Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water.
  2. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff using an electric whisk, then sprinkle over the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking well with each addition until glossy.
  4. Fold the egg yolks into the whisked whites.
  5.  Flavour the cream to taste with rosewater and fold into the chocolate in two goes.
  6. Now fold in a third of the egg mixture to loosen it, and then the remainder in two goes.
  7. Spoon or pipe the mousse decoratively into dessert dishes or glasses.
  8. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scrummy Redcurrants

 

I have just tried redcurrants for the very first time. OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration as I’m sure I’ve had a tart, cake or some other dessert topped with a couple of redcurrants but this is the first time, I’ve properly tried them. I’ve wanted to try them ever since I was five years old and I saw them in my mum’s The Cookery Year cook book, as they looked delicious and ever since then I’d wondered what they taste like.

 

Well, now I know. Redcurrants are surprisingly tart but still quite yummy and I managed to demolish the whole punnet in one sitting. Mr. D tried some too as he’d never eaten them before. Did he like them? Well, it’s quite hard to tell with him but he did say that he found the redcurrants to be quite sharp and didn’t scoff them the same way I did, so maybe it wasn’t such a big hit with him. Oh, well – all the more for me!

 

Redcurrants are related to the gooseberry – which might explain the tartness – and are native to western Europe, although there are similar species in Asia and North America. They’re available from July until September which means that I’ve only just managed to try them while they’re still in season.  Despite their sharp taste, redcurrants are still slightly sweet enough to be eaten raw, although you’d obvious have to sprinkle them with sugar if you’d prefer them to be sweeter. They are quite rich in vitamin C and go well with other fruits and berries.

 

They are a surprisingly versatile fruit and can be served in a multitude of ways.  They can be sprinkled with sugar and served with cream or frosted to decorate desserts and puddings. Redcurrants are also usually used as part of the mixed berries that go into making a delicious Summer Pudding. Because of their high levels of pectin, they make great jams and jellies that taste great with toast or accompanying lamb or game. That’s right – they go quite well with savoury dishes too!

So here are two quick and easy  recipes using delicious  redcurrants. Make these lovely delicacies before redcurrants disappear for another year!

SPICY RED ONION AND REDCURRANT RELISH

Ingredients

  • 4 medium red onions
  • 2 small red peppers,
  • 1 bsp olive oil
  • 2  red chilli,
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2″ piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • 300ml red wine vinegar
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp five spice powder
  • 300g redcurrants, stripped from stalks

Method

  1. Peel onions and cut into thin slices.
  2. Cut red pepper into chunks then mix with the red onion and oil.
  3. Fry for 5-10 mins over a high heat until lightly charred and softened.
  4. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Deseed chillis and chop.
  6. Grate ginger and crush garlic before mixing with the chilli.
  7. Lightly fry chilli mixture before adding half the vinegar.
  8. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 mins.
  9. Add the onion mixture plus the remaining vinegar, all the sugar, spice and 1 tsp salt.
  10. Bring to the boil then bubble away for about 5 mins until thickened.
  11. Add redcurrants and simmer for about 5 mins more, or until they have burst, but still have some shape and the liquid is syrupy.
  12. Remove and pour into a large heatproof jar. Cover and seal while hot. Keeps in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Taste great with sausages, cold meats and goat’s cheese.

ZESTY BERRY COMPOTE

 

Serves 10

Ingredients

100ml berry juice- any kind

100ml water

2 tblspn. Crème de cassis

50g sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1kg fresh/ frozen summer fruits (blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants)

10 stems fresh redcurrants

Method

1. Empty the jars of conserve into a large pan. Add the cassis and 200ml water. Heat until warm, then add the frozen fruits and heat for a few minutes until the berries are no longer frozen. Cool and chill.

2. Serve in glasses decorated with fresh redcurrants.

3. Also delicious served with cream, ice-cream or custard.

 

Apricot Bakewell Tart

Who doesn’t like a large slice of Bakewell Tart? And if like me, you’re quite fond of apricots, then you’ll love this modern take on an old classic which uses apricot jam rather than the traditional raspberry. Easy to prepare and delicious – your family and friends will love this. If you don’t scoff the lot yourself, that is!

APRICOT BAKEWELL TART

 

Serves: 8-12
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
Cooling time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS:
For the pastry

225g plain flour
110g unsalted butter
50g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs

For the filling

4 heaped tbsp. apricot jam
150g unsalted butter
150g castor sugar
3 large eggs

1 egg yolk
150g ground almonds
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp. Almond extract
1 tbsp. flaked almonds
Icing sugar for dusting

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit/Gas mark 4
  • To make the pastry, put flour, butter, sugar, and salt into food processor.
  • Whizz until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Add one egg and pulse the processor until the dough comes together.
  • Flatten into a disc; cover with cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to about 3mm thick.
  • Grease  a 20cm, 3.5 cm deep fluted tart tin and line with pastry.
  • prick the base and chill for 20 minutes.
  • Line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans.
  • Cook for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove the beans and paper.
  • Beat the remaining egg and brush over the inside of the pastry case.
  • Cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Leave to cool.
  • Spread the jam evenly over the base of the pastry case.
  • Cream the butter and castor sugar together.
  • Gradually add the eggs and egg yolk.
  • Fold in the ground almonds, orange zest  and almond extract.
  • Spoon the mixture over the jam.
  • Scatter with the flaked almonds and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  • Serve with cream, ice-cream, custard or mascarpone.

 

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