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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.

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The Kimono: Mrs. D’s Summer Must-Have

 

Everyone who knows me that I’m a shrug girl. I live in them as much as I live in my jeans. My brother often asks me why I keep wearing cardigans that have shrunk in the wash but I don’t care: along with scarves, it’s something of a trademark for me and a godsend for us girls who prefer to keep our less-than-toned-arms covered. In fact I even had a shruggy, bolero-type thing to go with my wedding dress – but that was more at my mum’s insistence as she didn’t want Father John tut-tutting!

Anyway the recent, warmer weather has made it virtually impossible to wear a shrug, especially at work where the building is overly warm in the winter months alone – so it’s like a furnace in the summer!

So what’s a girl to wear?

I saw kimono-style tops in the shops last summer and toyed with the idea of getting some but didn’t think that I could pull it off. I figured most of the styles would swamp my petite frame. So instead I just wore my shrugs and roasted!

This summer, I decided that I couldn’t go another three months in a sweltering classroom and decided I’d give the kimonos a go in a bid to stay cool. And it’s a good job I did.

I actually think kimonos suit me, and I’ve had quite a few compliments from colleagues – who are probably relieved I’ve discovered a new look! They don’t swamp my frame at all; they go with everything in my wardrobe and I actually feel quite elegant, boho and trendy in them (yes – all at the same time!) The kimonos I have are all made of very light-weight fabrics, some of them have fringing, one is made of lace, and I have an array of patterns and colours.

Kimonos are really versatile, and can easily take you from day to night. They are cool, edgy, funky and are the epitome of festival chic. And the longer length ones work great as something to throw on over your cossie when you’re at the beach.

 

Begin With That Summer Skin In Seven Simple Steps

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Summer is just a matter of weeks away and it’ll be here before we know it. And despite the fact that it’s very cool today, no one could have failed to notice that the temperature has been rising these last few days. And as the temperature starts to soar, there’ll be lots of legs, arms, shoulders and tums on display, so it’s important to start getting your skin looking it’s very best. The winter months means that we’ve cranked up the central heating and indulged in long, hot baths which aren’t the best things for your skin. In addition to that, our bodies have been kept under wraps during the winters months and our skin hasn’t been getting the TLC it needs.

Well now’s our last chance to get our skin looking and feeling in tip-top condition before the big reveal in the sweltering heat of the Summer.

1. EXFOLIATE

It’s super important to exfoliate before you tackle anything else as it makes hair removal easier, and the moisturising and tanning products more effective. Exfoliating is also important for removing and preventing ingrowing hairs, getting rid of scaly skin, and preventing blocked pores. For those of you who shave as part of your hair removal regime, exfoliating means that your razor won’t get clogged with flaky skin.

If your skin is a bit on the parched side, it will be more effective for you to use a scrub on dry skin rather than wet. Pay particular attention to heels, knees, and elbows.

I swear by using my loofah but I don’t have a particular favourite scrub although I generally prefer to use one which has lots of lovely natural ingredients and is cream based rather than oil based. Find the scrub that works best for your skin but remember NEVER use a scrub designed for your body on your face – it’s much too harsh.

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2. HAIR REMOVAL

I still can’t get over the shock of seeing a lady on the bus wearing a short skirt with seriously hairy legs. It was definitely a case of ‘what were you thinking?’ in conjunction with ‘are my eyes deceiving me?’ Unfortunately they weren’t but it goes without saying that summer clothes generally mean fuzz-free skin, paying close attention to legs, underarms and bikini line – especially if you’re hitting the beach.

There are a whole ton of hair removal methods – shaving, waxing, epilating, depilatory creams,  or laser hair removal – so choose what works best for you.

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3. MINIMISE CELLULITE

Urgh the dreaded dimply, orange-peel skin that strikes fear into the hearts of women everywhere! Cellulite has been the bane of my life for more years than I care to remember but I know that my unhealthy diet and lack of exercise is to blame so I can’t really talk. The key here is to stick to a diet that is rich in wholegrains, raw fruit and vegetables and oily fish and low in salt, caffeine, and processed fatty food (yes, all the things I love!) Oh yes, and to get exercising!

There are also a lot of cellulite creams that reduce the appearance of cellulite by eliminating the toxins under your skin. And of course body brushing is fantastic for eliminating cellulite and getting rid of dry skin. Sadly it does feel like you’re being attacked with brambles but once you get passed this stage the results will be worth it!

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4. MOISTURISE

I know, I know – we’re all a little lazy when it comes to moisturising and I must confess I’m no different. But if you want to keep skin looking young, supple, hydrated and flake-free then it’s a must so regular moisturising is a stage that should never be skipped.

There’s some fantastic products out there in the form of lotions, oils, body butters, whipped body butters etc. but if you’re a bit neglectful with the old moisturising, then try adding some oil in your bath water for some much needed hydration.

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5. ELIMINATE DARK PATCHES

It would be delightful if we all had an even skin tone but in reality a lot of people don’t. Toes, knees, elbows and knuckles are just some of the areas that typically tend to be a little bit darker than the rest of our bodies. There are creams available which even out skin tone, and you can naturally lighten these areas by rubbing  half a lemon over them for fifteen minutes a day. Yes, you’ll feel a bit of a lemon while you’re doing it but it does work! If you find lemon to be a bit harsh, try potato slices.

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6. BANISHING ACNE

I really sympathise with women who have acne on certain parts of their bodies. I was lucky as a teen in that I didn’t have facial acne unlike a lot of my schoolmates. But life had a bigger surprise for me in store, and as I approached my twenties I got hit by the acne stick all over my chest, upper arms, and worst of all my back. It was not a pretty sight and quite embarrassing, and I was stuck with it for years.

Thankfully I was spared a visit to my doctor. Changing to organic bath products that were free of SLS, using a body wash that contained tea tree oil, and cleansing, toning and moisturising these areas the same way I did my face (yes, even my back which might explain my super long arms!) helped tremendously and now, apart from the odd spot every now and again, my skin is very clear. And I have to admit, I do love wearing, sleeveless, strapless, off-the-shoulder, or backless clothes because there was a time I could never get away with such outfits.

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 7. TAN

I have to admit that I’ve never used a fake tanning product in my life as I’ve never needed to so I can’t pretend to be the world’s greatest expert in this area. But I know that for some ladies, the appeal of a fake tan is that they feel healthier and look slimmer. Tanning products work best with smooth skin, so if you’ve followed all the previous steps, your product should go on easily and effectively with minimal risk of streaking.

Build up your tan gradually every day or use one that develops overnight and lasts several days. And don’t forget areas such as feet, ankles and fingers.

And I have to say, I’ve seen some awful fake tan jobs in my time (who hasn’t!) so go easy on the product and aim to get a gorgeous, naturally-looking, sunkissed glow.

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Bring on Summer!

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Please Rain On My Parade!

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We’re still in August but the cooler temperature of the last few days has been an indicator that Autumn will be here before we know it – and I couldn’t be more thrilled! It’s pelting down with rain as I’m writing this post but instead of feeling dismayed at the grey skies I cannot wait for Autumn to arrive which is most definitely my favourite season.

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As a Summer baby, the irony that I don’t ‘do hot weather’ isn’t lost on me. I put it down to the fact that I’m a Londoner, and that the cold and the rain is what I’m used to but then I know that that doesn’t count for much as most Londoners crave the sun – mainly because we don’t usually have any! But I’m most definitely an Autumn-bordering-on-Winter kind of girl. When planning our wedding, the original date was to be in Winter (Mr. D’s birthday to be  exact) but the reaction from our guests – who acted as though we’d just announced that our wedding was gong to be held in a morgue – made us reconsider. So as a compromise, we held our wedding in the twilight month of September: technically Summer but with a more Autumn feel.

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I understand that to say you don’t like hot weather is like saying you don’t like chocolate, can’t stand Friends or never listen to music! I’m not totally sure where my negativity regarding the Summer comes from because I’m quite sure I loved it when I was a child.  I put it down to the fact that as I got older I became less tolerant to the sun (or maybe the sun became less tolerant towards me!) But I don’t see anything great about sweating like a spa; having your make-up slide off your face; getting heat rash  and sunstroke… I could go on and on. Sure we get to indulge in ice-cream, barbecues, picnics, give our summer clothes an airing, and drive with the top down if we’re lucky enough to own a convertible. But for me, the colder months have more appeal.

So why do I love Autumn so much? Well…

1. If it gets too cold, you just put on extra layers. What do you do when it’s too hot? I don’t live near Miami Beach so running around in a bikini is not an option!

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2. I’m very much a jeans and boots kind of girl, but who can wear boots in scorching hot weather? I love the ballet style pumps I live in throughout the warmer months but it feels so good to be back in a pair of knee-high boots!

b4e6a25b83ef8c80e736e40fc392ece53. I love my snug, cosy jumpers, sweaters and cardis.

b6d50e938049e42d1175d6ed956511464. The colder temperature means lots of frothy, hot drinks. I love the wonderfully flavoured hot chocolates and coffees that are available. Gingerbread, eggnog, pumpkin pie lattes… bring it on!

9dac74f8b853b89380b8696fdc948ac55. All the best holidays – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Bonfire Night, Christmas and Valentine’s Day – take place during Autumn and Winter.

91ef87c27baacc591457da8c505abb1b6. There’s no denying that blossom looks gorgeous in Spring but there’s just something naturally stunning about the simplicity of Fall colours. Plus walking ankle-deep in fallen leaves reminds me of my childhood.

e0e4af7801503de99673e4e9991824ec7.  It’s the perfect excuse to lie around in cosy pjs, with a warm blanket watching movies all day (providing it’s the weekend of course!)

jam8. Comforting soups, stews and stodgy puds were made for this weather!

c22bf7b45c460be365672c6fdcc6810d9. There’s something quite beautiful about a  dark city street, after it’s been raining and seeing the street lights reflected on the glistening ground.

imagesHAY40OMF10. If you think miserable weather means being cooped up indoors, think again. Some of my best nights out have occurred during cold and wet weather.

imagesJNYNTT8111. …but if you do decide to stay in, sofa Saturday nights with takeaways, booze, movies and mates are fab.

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12. You can ditch the exercise plan as you won’t be getting your bikini bod out for a while!

images52SLUESX13. It’s great news for holidaymakers and soon-to-be-marrieds as everything tends to be cheaper around this time.

919cba7fcc60496198876a96b44c36ad14. No one wants to be stuck indoors during the Summer, especially not in a hot kitchen, but Autumn’s great for practising your baking skills.

af17f96ebd70102e575eadee310cb16815. There’s an extra hour in bed!

child-sleeping16. It’s great to fall asleep to the sound of falling rain.

swr17. The crisp, cool weather makes for great walks.

322594c5e6154444c0e2aacd2bec075918. Who wouldn’t like to sit in front of a real log fire?

imagesBS01HPVG19. Packed tubes, trains and buses are way more bearable when it’s cold.

efee4-imagescap4210j20. I can wear my beloved scarves and not look like an idiot!

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I can’t wait to say

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Bring it on!

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The Coolest Ice Cubes Ever!

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I can’t believe how hot it is. I swear I’m melting away. I know England cries out for hot weather but seriously this is just too much. I feel like I’ve been locked in a sauna. People may pray for the sun but in my opinion, hot weather is so overrated – and that’s coming from a summer baby! Beach babes are able to look effortlessly hot as the temperature soars, and I’m no different. I’m able to look like a hot, sweaty mess with no effort at all!

 

So in this heat, it’s no wonder my thoughts have turned to keeping super cool. For me it’s cold drinks – and I’m knocking them back like there’s no tomorrow. And cold drinks mean ice, which right now is a necessity. The summer season means parties, weddings, barbeques etc where ice and drinks will go hand in hand. But the problem with ice cubes is that they can be pretty boring to look out and as great as they are at keeping your drinks cool, they’re also great at watering them down (which is only OK if you’re drinking water!) I did a post a while back about creating an ice-bucket – made from ice. It proved to be very popular and inspired this post about livening up the humble ice-cube in terms of appearance (presentation is important, you know!) and taste!

1. GOT TO BE HOT TO BE COOL!

Image from lifetricks.co.uk

Image from lifetricks.co.uk

Everyone knows that if you freeze cold water, you get cloudy ice. But freeze boiling water and you get crystal-clear ice. And that’s really important if you’re going to add other ingredients to your ice cubes.

2. THE HERB GARDEN

Image from boston.com

Image from boston.com

 

Add washed sprigs or leaves to the water before freezing. Mint ice-cubes are great in iced-tea (Mr. D’s fave) or fruit punch; rosemary or thyme are perfect with home-made lemonade; basil works well with gin, vodka or rum based cocktails,  and lemongrass ice-cubes in pineapple or apple juice – WOW!

3. CITRUS FRESH

Image from goodfoodideas.com

Image from goodfoodideas.com

Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, and oranges are a very obvious choice as slices are often served with cold beverages. But you could also try experimenting with pieces of grapefruit, pomelo, blood or ruby orange. These will work with still or sparkling water; as well as a variety of sodas, cocktails and juices.

4. BERRY NICE 

Image from tastespotting.com

Image from tastespotting.com

If you want pretty as a picture ice-cubes, berries are the way to go. They give a fantastic burst of colour and a fruity flavour to drinks. Raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants, blackberries etc. could go in whole, although strawberries would probably have to be sliced. They would be perfect with iced tea, lemonade, sodas, berry, cherry, pomegranate or cranberry cocktails or juices, and raspberry would also work well with orange or peach juices.

5. TROPICAL PARADISE

 

Try pieces of pineapple, kiwi fruit, lychee or dragon fruit for a touch of the exotic. These would be a welcome addition to coconut water, a multitude of cocktails and tropical fruit juices.

6. SALAD DAYS

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

Cucumber, celery, red, yellow and green peppers might be more at home in a salad bowl but these can be really refreshing served with still or sparkling water or in a Pimm’s (my absolute fave – summer just isn’t summer without it!)

7. EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES

Image from shaadicurry.com

Image from shaadicurry.com

Add some washed, fresh rose petals to water before freezing. I adore the delicate flavouring and aroma of rose as an addition to food and drinks, and it is amazing with pomegranate, raspberry and other berry based drinks.

8. IF THE SUMMER HEAT ISN’T ENOUGH…

Image from blond-logic.hubpages.com

Image from blond-logic.hubpages.com

 

… then try adding cut pieces of chilli to your ice cubes. This will give a light heat to drinks and complements citrus, pineapple, papaya and mango based drinks. Just remove some of the seeds in order to reduce the level of spiciness.

9. GLITTERING COLOURS

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

Add some edible glitter for sparkle or food colouring for a marbled effect. These obviously won’t do anything in terms of flavour but they will make the ice-cubes in your drink look so pretty, so it might be good for those who want to keep the taste of their drinks pure.

10. DITCH THE H20

Who says that ice-cubes can only made with water. It can be annoying when ice-cubes water down our drinks. So freeze cola for cola-flavoured ice-cubes; pineapple juice for pineapple-flavoured cubes; iced tea for iced tea cubes… you see where I’m going with this.

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

And of course you can combine any of the above and freeze them in water if you really want to be creative with your cubes. Try rose with raspberry; pineapple with lemongrass and ginger; cucumber with mint… the possibilities are endless!

Let’s hope the only thing that melts in the heat wave is the ice in your drinks! Stay cool.

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Keep Calm And Stay Hydrated

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Summer has officially descended upon us and the weather is just making me want to drink… and drink… and drink! Forget food, I just want something to quench my thirst so no prizes for guessing what’s going to make up most of this week’s shopping list!

 

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I came across some delicious sounding recipes for drinks which I thought I’d share with you, including one for a hot coffee drink which may not sound ideal for the warmer weather, but a girl always has to get her early morning coffee fix!

HAZELNUT LATTE

One of my fave coffee flavours – hazelnut!

Mr_-Coffee-BVMC-EL1-Cafe-Latte

INGREDIENTS:

Hazelnut syrup

A cup of whisked, warmed milk

1 tsp. coffee powder

A swirl of cream

METHOD:

  1. Put coffee powder into a latte cup.
  2. Add a tbsp. of boiling water to coffee and stir.
  3. Add hazelnut syrup.
  4. Top up with whisked, warmed milk.
  5. Add a swirl of cream.

 

MANGO LASSI

(serves 6)

I love mangoes and anything made from this delicious fruit so it’s no surprise that it’s something I always order when I go to an Indian restaurant – although I have yet to make it myself! This version also includes mint – something I’ve never tried in a lassi.

Image from mealmotivation.com

Image from mealmotivation.com

INGREDIENTS:

A small bunch of mint leaves

100ml milk

1 ripe mango, peeled, stoned and chopped

2tbsp. low-fat yogurt

1tsp. runny honey

METHOD:

  1. Whizz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.
  2. Fill a tall glass with some ice.
  3. Pour lassi over ice – and serve!

 

CLEMENTINE FIZZ

Pretty much Bucks Fizz – something I usually have with breakfast Christmas morning but I bet an ice-cold glass of Clementine Fizz would go down very well on a hot day.

Image from channel4.com

Image from channel4.com

INGREDIENTS:

Juice of 1 Clementine

1tsp. triple sec

Prosecco or Cava

METHOD:

  1. Put the juice in a champagne flute.
  2. Add the triple sec.
  3. Top with Prosecco or cava.

 

CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL

Who wouldn’t like a glass of champers?

Image from bbc.co.uk

Image from bbc.co.uk

INGREDIENTS:

1 sugar cube

A dash of Angostura bitters

10ml brandy or cognac

Champagne or your favourite sparkling wine

METHOD:

  1. Place sugar cube in a fluted glass.
  2. Add Angostura bitters and brandy or cognac.
  3. Top with Champagne or sparkling wine.

 

WASABI BLOODY MARY

(makes 6)

Image from fresh.co.nz-

Image from fresh.co.nz-

usually made with tobacco sauce, this version uses wasabi for an even more powerful kick!

INGREDIENTS:

1ltr tomato juice

3tbsp. wasabi powder

6 shots vodka

1tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3 lemons, halved

6 celery sticks

Handful of ice

METHOD:

  1. Place ice in glasses.
  2. Put all other ingredients – except celery –  into a large jug.
  3. Stir well.
  4. Pour into glasses over the ice.
  5. Serve with celery sticks.

Enjoy these gorgeous drinks. Enjoy the Summer!

All recipes from Woman’s Own, March 2014

All recipes serve one unless otherwise stated.

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