January Joy: Try some new recipes

One of the things I wanted to do for my New Years resolutions was to eat a wider variety of food. I don’t know about you guys but I feel we are in a rut of eating the same 5-10 dishes night after night, Spaghetti Bolognese, Fajitas, Stirfry, Pasta, Salmon… In winter theres the added problem of eating too much stodge so I wanted warming winter foods that wouldn’t make me look like a polar bear even if I felt like one. I’m not so sure about how I’m doing on that last point but I have found some great recipes I thought I’d share.

The Carb-free comfort dish: Cod, Cauliflower and Chorizo mornay
The healthy breakfast: Bircher Museli with Apple and Banana
The Vegetarian option: Roast Aubergine Parmigiana
The one your kids will eat: Cheesy ham and broccoli pasta

To inspire me with some new recipes I bought Good Food magazine and I really enjoyed it. All of the recipes above have been tried by us from this months magazine and I’m seriously considering a subscription – it’s £5 for 5 issues right now! Despite being carb free the cod mornay was amazingly satisfying and comforting, the bircher muesli is awesome for getting some fruit in right at the start of your day and the cheesy pasta was a massive hit with Bea – including the broccoli!

Have you tried anything new this month? – I’d thoroughly recommend all of these!

Rebecca x

Beetroot Soup and #JanuaryJoy roundup!

One of the things about starting to wean Bea is that it has made me re-evaluate my own diet. That and New Year optimism made me think I should be making more soups and when my friend Jess said she had made beetroot soup I thought I’d give it a go too, fascinated by the idea of the colour it would come out. I really enjoyed it and as they say it’s good to include a variety of different coloured vegetables in your diet, I think this will cover pink and red for a while. 😉

Adapted from this Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe

Makes 1L soup

4 large beetroot, cut into chunks
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
500ml low salt stock
1 can of plum tomatoes

1. Chop the beetroot and throw into a roasting tray with the garlic clove and some olive oil. Roast at 200 degrees for 30 minutes or until soft.
2. Dice the onion and soften with some oil in a large pan.
3. Add the beetroot and garlic, then the tomatoes and stock.
4. Simmer for ten minutes
5. Blend or blitz to a smooth consistency before storing in the fridge or serving with crumbled feta cheese on top or a dollop of creme fraiche.

Let me know if you try it! Now lets recap #JanuaryJoy so far…

So far I have done:
(Another) new recipe (for Gingerbread!)…
Talked about a few of the smaller projects I plan to tackle this month/year…
and I have embarked on learning a new skill with the Pen and Peplum #52handlettered challenge.

Erin also talked about your style updates for January (see how she’s wearing them here,) and Esme shared how she gets organised as a working mother.

Other posts from around the web:
Sarah from Glasgow Mummy set some health and fitness goals
Sian from Little Star & Me captured the memories with a round up of baby books.

How are you getting on – please do leave a link to your #januaryjoy moments (- even if they are just photo’s, it doesn’t have to be a whole blog post!) Or tell me about what has been making your January Joyful in the comments box!


#JanuaryJoy: Sugar and Spice… Gingerbread

It’s perhaps a little festive and in truth I prepared this post before Christmas, but this is a recipe that’s worth sharing and one I’ll undoubtably make again in January so I thought I’d share it. Until I tried this recipe I had never made gingerbread which is odd because 1. I really like it, (just an excuse for thick icing on top!) and 2. I’m also a fan of homemade biscuits. In fact, biscuits are one of my favourite things… apart from cake maybe. 😉

I used this BBC Good Food Gingerbread recipe and some cutters I’ve bought over the years at John Lewis with quite pretty details on them… I particularly love the houses. As with most recipes I feel are worthy of sharing here, this one was super easy. The dough came together quickly and although I think I over-did them slightly as I like gingerbread on the chewy side, they were really delicious. Particularly with that extra thick icing. 😉

I made them one afternoon before Christmas and spent a perfect maternity leave afternoon decorating them with a friend. Let me know if you give the recipe a go and tweet me a picture!


Florence’s Food: Raspberry and Amaretti Crunch Cake

Becky is here today with a fab cake recipe I asked her to share after she brought it round to me when Bea arrived. Along with being delicious it’s also quite sophisticated, yet she reliably informs me, easy to make. Perfect to impress friends when time is short and seasonal for these last days of summer…

Florence Finds, Michelle Kelly, Pocketful of Dreams

I bookmarked this recipe for raspberry amaretti crunch cake just before I became a Mum after enjoying a slice in a cafe on one of my many maternity leave cake dates. I searched online for a recipe and this BBC Good Food one popped up first. What I love the most about using any Good Food recipe is how heavily they are rated. As time is so precious, I’m no longer prepared to waste it cooking or baking something that could turn out to be a flop. I love the fact that you can search only for 5 star rated recipes and I find the comments section underneath each recipe is a great help for tips and suggestions.

With this recipe, for example, there were a lot of comments suggesting that an extra egg was needed, as well as a lot longer in the oven. So, first attempt, I added an extra egg and just patiently kept checking the cake until my skewer came out clean. It’s a very simple, all in one mix which takes very little effort to prepare but tastes great.

A week after baking this for Rebecca to celebrate Bea’s arrival, we collected some wild raspberries on a family dog walk so made the cake again using half the quantities and baked it in a loaf tin. It turned out just as good.


PS Read more from Becky here

How to Create Your Own Smoothie

I am always trying to get more fruit into my diet – veg I am good at eating, fruit not so much, so I loved this post that Katie sent in on DIY smoothies…

Florence Finds, Michelle Kelly, Pocketful of Dreams

Summer may be almost over after a sweltering July, but come sunshine or showers I think that smoothies are the perfect summer beverage. Indulgent enough to be a treat, but packed full of nutritious goodness. Filling enough to be a snack, but light enough to not feel heavy. #winning

The best part about them? How ridiculously easy they are too make.

Avocado, Blueberry & Ginger

With that in mind it seems daft to give you a smoothie recipe – instead here’s my formula for creating a delicious smoothie every time.

What you need:

Something creamy – bananas, mangos, or yogurt all work here.
Something liquid – apple juice, milk, coconut milk
Something sweet – honey, syrup, strawberries
A little something something – oats to provide a little more energy, cocoa powder to make your drink a bit more indulgent, your favourite spice… Whatever makes you happy.

Banana, Cocoa and Honey

You don’t have to use all four – ripe bananas are often both creamy and sweet, or maybe your fruit is so good it doesn’t need that something extra – but generally with this combination you’re sure to get good results. Equally, the exact proportions depend on how you like your smoothies – I try to use about half liquid to give a thick but easily drinkable consistency but you can use more/less.

Once you have your ingredients, just chuck them in a blender and whizz until smooth.

Banana, Peanut Butter & Honey

Here are a few of my favourite flavours:

Avocado, blueberry, ginger and apple juice
Banana, peanut butter, honey and milk
Banana, cocoa powder, honey and milk

Although really any combination of fruits will probably taste just great! Have you got any favourite smoothie flavours?

Katie x

PS. Find Katie on Pinterest and Instagram

#January Joy: Plan some clean eats

Florence Finds, Michelle Kelly, Pocketful of Dreams

I’ve said it before I’m a planner at heart and the one element this has had the greatest impact on our home life is with meal planning.

We make all our meals from scratch at home as we’re both keen cooks and like to stay relatively healthy but time is always against us. We’ve often had those occasions of arriving home from work starving hungry, looking in the fridge and realising we had no food in or worse still, having food but not being able to come up with a single recipe that would work with the ingredients we had. Resulting in much tetchiness and stomping around the kitchen until our growling stomachs were relieved.

To bring a little more harmony to the home I decided to take matters in hand and took this meal planning task by the balls. I spent a few evenings trawling the net for recipe ideas that met a few criteria:

  1. Quick to prepare and cook, no-one wants to spend 3 hours marinading meat or stirring a pot when they get home from work
  2. Uses seasonal ingredients
  3. Is relatively healthy, clean food with plenty of veg
  4. Not too much stodge
  5. A combination of accompaniments- so rice, potatoes, pasta and noodles being our main go-to’s – I often forgo these but cook some up for the other half or he feels he’s being starved to death
  6. A combination of meats and fish dishes to give us some variation in our diet
We narrowed down a hitlist of meal ideas testing out a few new recipes to see if we liked them and if not adapted them to our own tastes. We now keep our hitlist written down in the kitchen and it includes around 30-40 different meal ideas to supplement our standard go-to’s of stir fry’s and pasta with something!. We settle on a two-week meal plan and buy groceries according to what’s on the plan. Refreshing it again at the end of the two weeks and doing another shop – we’ve recently been doing this online and now we have a favourites file on there it’s making the shop much quicker and simpler too.
Doing things this way does mean we know in advance what we’re going to be eating each day which can sometimes take the joy out of cooking and sometimes we’ll get home and really not fancy what’s on tonights plan so we’ll swop things around. But in the main we try and stick to it.
It also means we throw far less food away as every item we buy has been designated to a meal. Of course this is the goal, in reality it doesn’t always go to plan but I can hand on heart say I throw away probably 1/10th of the food I used to.
As the seasons change I review my meal ideas hitlist and look for new ones that fit better seasonally and then I simply bookmark the recipes on my phone or iPad so I can really quickly find them when I get home, or I email them to the other half to let him know he’s ‘cooking tonight’. It may seem a little like military planning but seriously it has made such a difference to our daily routine that I hardly even think about it now, meaning I have more time for the good stuff in life, like long lazy bubble baths, cuddling under a blanket with the latest edition of Red mag, or scoffing chocolates as we work our way through the Netflix library.
In the interests of sharing here’s my current list and associated recipes in case you’re in need of a little inspiration yourself:
Some of these are not so speedy but as they tend to be more oven/casserole based I will either make a few up at weekends and freeze so it’s just a case of reheating or sticking them in the oven in the morning (with a timer set to switch it off of course!) so they are ready when I get home.
If you have any seasonal meal ideas to share please do pop us some links in the comments box, always room for adding new ideas.

Michelle xx

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Friday Food: Braised Steak in Ale with a Herby Cobbler Topping

When I described todays Friday Food to Gemma last night I told her it was ‘a beef stew with a herby cheesy cobbler topping. Kind of like a cakey-cheesy-scone on top.’

‘You mean like a savoury-cakey-cheesy-scone on a beef stew?’


It is that good. And it would be a crime not to make it during the hibernation-inducing weather we’re experiencing.

So here’s how: (taken from The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook (Yeo Valley))

Ingredients (Serves 6)
One kilo of chuck steak
5 tbsp sunflower oil
200g smoked bacon lardons
500ml good beef stock
25g butter
250g mushrooms
2 medium onions, halved and sliced thinly
1 tsp white sugar
3 garlic cloves crushed
20g plain flour
500ml brown ale/stout
the leaves from 3 large thymes springs
4 fresh bay leaves
3tbsp worcester sauce
salt and pepper

For the cobbler topping:
165g plain flour
1tbsp baking powder
90g chilled butter
1tbsp thyme leaves
1tbsp curly leaf parsley
50g finely grated cheader
1 medium free range egg
1 tbsp soured cream
100ml whole milk

1. Season the beef. Fry off the bacon and remove onto a separate plate. Brown the beef in batches on a medium/high heat and put aside on a plate.
2. Add half the stock into the pan and rub the base to release the caramelised juices and tip back into the stock. With half the butter cook the mushrooms and also set them to one side. Add the remaining oil and butter to the pan with onions and sugar for 15-20m until caramelised. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute
3. Stir in the flour, ale, stock, thyme, bay and worcester sauce and bring to the boil. Add the beef, bacon and mushrooms, and simmer for 1.5-2h. Remove the bay leaves, allow to cool and preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Add the beef mix to your oven proof dish ready for the cobbler.
4. For the topping sift the flour, baking powder and half teaspoon of salt. Add the cubed butter and rub together with your finger tips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the herbs and cheese. Make a well in the centre and add the egg and milk and sour cream. Mix together into a batter and spoon large dollops around the edge of the beef.

Bake for 35-40 mins until golden.

The beef is melt-in-your-mouth good. The cobblers are like cheesy, cakey pillows of loveliness. It really is worth the time (not not as much effort as it sounds) to make this dish. We’re having friends to stay this weekend and this is on the menu for Saturday night’s dinner.

I hope you all have a fun and friend filled weekend too 🙂


Peach Upside Down cake

I’m currently obsessed with peaches and was planning on making a peach dessert of sorts when I found myself in need of a quick cake to take to a friend’s house. It turned out so well that I thought those of you who perhaps don’t bake because you don’t have time or find it difficult, might try this peach upside down cake at home.

I used a simple sponge recipe that I also use to make Victoria Sandwich cakes:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 oz butter
  • 6oz of self raising flour
  • 6oz of caster sugar

Beat the butter and sugar together, then mix in the beaten eggs and the flour and you’re done.

For the peach top, I browned the peaches in some butter and sugar to give them some colour, otherwise the cake top can look a little anaemic.

Arrange the peaches in a pretty pattern on the bottom of your greased cake tin and pour the cake mix on top then bake for 40-50 minutes at 180 degrees, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Turn the tin upside down and remove the cake so the peaches are now on top. I used a sprung tin with a removable base, which comes in handy when gently peeling the cake off the peaches. Sprinkle with some granulated sugar whilst warm and serve warm with cream or ice cream, or cold with tea and gossip 🙂

Of course, you can do it with any fruit – when I was a child I used tinned pineapples, or you could use apples in autumn or other berries for a more pudding-y dessert. Right now, peaches are so delicious though, I think they’re perfect for this.


Florence’s Food: Macarons

Today, I’m handing you over to my sister Francesca because she is going to share her tips on making (the notoriously tricky) macarons. After she had cracked the recipe and bake, I asked her to teach me, and you guys, how to make them, with stunning results. You can find the basic macaron recipe here on The Pink Whisk – the baking blog by Ruth, who came second in the first Great British Bake off series. Francesca is going to talk you through the how-to step by step sharing her hard won tips so you can skip to the perfect macarons!

A very lovely friend recently brought a box of macarons all the way back from Brussels for me and I instantly fell in love. Each was a different flavour with a tangy delicious filling and the colours were beautiful! I decided I wanted to make them myself and knowing how notoriously difficult they were to make I took the time to read around the art of making them. With a fair bit of baking experience under my belt I foolishly went into my first batch feeling quietly confident. I followed the recipe and heeded the few warnings about common stumbling points but mine were still misshapen, unrisen and very firmly stuck to my extra greased grease proof baking paper. The silver lining to this baking disaster was the macaron eaton mess I made with the broken pieces I managed to prize from the baking paper! A futher 4 batches were made with varying degrees of success and failure and I now believe I have mastered the tricky little macaron! I hope with these tips you will avoid the 4 unsuccessful batches and skip right to the proud moment of sandwiching two together and having your friends/family tell you how great they look (and taste!)

My first piece of advice is not to try making macarons without a silicon Macaron Mat! Other people recommend different brands of baking paper but the only success I had was with my purpose made silicone Macaron Mat (link to the one I bought). As long as they are cooked at the right temperature, for the right amount of time and left to cool completely, they will peel off this mat with ease. (Make sure you put a baking try under your mat before you pipe anything onto it or you’ll have great difficulty moving the floppy silicon mat into the oven without your mixture going everywhere!)

I start by mixing the ground almonds and icing sugar very thoroughly. This can be done with a food processor or enthusiastically by hand! Once they are mixed, I weigh out the egg whites ensuring the mixing bowel is squeaky clean and no egg yolk gets mixed in. They need to be whisked to a stiff peak and then the sugar can be added in bit at a time. Be careful not to over whisk or they egg whites will become flat again. This is the best stage to add in the food colouring. Gel colouring is best as it does not affect the consistency of the mixture as much as a liquid colouring. I personally like ‘sunshine yellow’ for my lemon macarons but pick whichever colour takes your fancy! You do need quite a bit of colouring, they fade a little when cooked. I use about half a tube for each batch.

The ground almond and icing sugar mixture can then be sieved into the egg whites, I usually do it in thirds. Each time you sieve the mix over the egg whites some larger almond grains will be left behind (above top right), these will make the maracons grainy if you force them through the sieve so throw these away. Fold the almond and icing sugar mix into the egg whites being careful not to knock out too much air as you go. Once they are fully mixed together, the macarons are ready to pipe.

I like to make lemon macarons which requires the addition of the zest of 2 lemons and ½ – 1 whole juiced lemon. I add this once all the mixture is combined and add the second half of the juice slowly and see how loose the mixture becomes, depending on the size of the lemon only half may be needed, or the macaron mix will not hold its shape on the mat.

I have two fancy piping devices, neither of which helped me with the macarons as the nozzle sizes weren’t right. I decided to fill a plastic sandwich bag full of mixture and seal it at the top, then hold the mixture upside down so the tip is pointing in the air and carefully cut off the corner tip. You can then turn it around and start piping onto your mat.

Once your mat is full of macarons, you need to help the mixture flatten by lifting the tray about 10cm and dropping it flat onto the work surface. Do this 3-4 times until your macarons have flattened out nicely, then leave the mixture on the side for 30 minutes to form a skin. At this point you can preheat the oven to 140, (fan assisted.) You should be able to gently touch the top of the macarons without any mixture sticking to your finger. They need baking for 1416 minutes in my oven, but I’m afraid it can be a trial and error situation as every oven varies. They then must be left to cool completely before trying to remove them from the baking mat or they will stick and break.

You can be a creative as you like with the filling. I have to confess I’m not sure I’ve mastered that part yet but I do like using whipped cream with the addition of a generous handful of raspberries and a little icing sugar. Anything from jam to nutella can be used to fill them or special macaron buttercream filling, for which there are numerous recipes on the internet for, I just haven’t found one I like enough to use yet! My last bit of advice is to only sandwich the shells together with filling just before you eat them, otherwise they tend to go soft if left for too long. The shells will keep fresh for about a week in an air tight container.

Good luck and remember, if at first you don’t succeed – try, try again! I think this motto was made for macaron making!

Thank you Francesca! I was so impressed with this batch – now to make them myself!

Will any of you be joining us in attempting macarons, or have you mastered them already – I’d love to hear any tips!


The Details:

Spread the Valentine’s Love…

Valentine’s day is a little bit like Marmite. People either love it or hate it but that appears to be a uniquely British attitude propagated by a combination of stiff upper lip and abject scorn at those who want to wear their hearts on their sleeves. I definitely fall into the love it camp, although only when it’s done the right way. I don’t believe in celebrating your relationship once a year but everyday. I can take or leave the over priced restaurant tables and tacky black and red V-day paraphernalia, but for once I think our friends across the pond have got it right and I love the idea of celebrating all of those people you love and telling them so. My Mum often sends me parcels for Valentines day with cute presents and notes. I think it’s a shame we don’t embrace that side of it more.

Should the fancy take you, I’ve been collecting a selection of treats and DIY’s to inspire you. Even if you don’t make them, they’re pretty sweet for a Monday 🙂

Date Night Valentine Arrows // Valentines garland mailer DIY // DIY Heart gift wrap // Rock Sugar Cookies // Heart topped fruit tart // Sweet Pea Valentine gifts // Heart Tree installation // Chocolate Pomegranate tart // Make heart shaped cinnamon rolls // Pink lemonade cake.

So, now it’s over to you. Do you celebrate V-day with your beloved, or less traditionally with family and friends? I’d love to hear what you’re doing and if you’ve made anything. For us this year it’ll be some QT at home with M&S food 😉


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