Happy Valentines Day!

As I’ve said, ask me a question and I feel honour bound to answer…. So when Cottage Delight asked about Valentines menus and how you’d use their products, of course I had to rise to the challenge!

We’re very lucky to have a supplier of delicious Cottage Delight products quite close to us – you might have one too, check out the handy Local Stockists section of their website. I thought I’d take two of my favourites of their ingredients and see what I could come up with….. here’s the results.

The great thing about Cottage Delight products is that you can often pick up leaflets and delicious recipe cards, so they’ve done the hard work for you!

YUM!!!

YUM!!!

This time, however, I thought I’d go it alone with my recipes using, firstly, Caramelised Onion Chutney. Thinking along the Valentines theme, I decided that having my first attempt at palmiers, given their heart-ish shape, would be a good idea.

If you fancy a try it’s very easy and pretty effective looking too – as well as being delicious of course! If you’d like to use make-your-own puff pastry then, please, be my guest! Ready made is, however, far easier and has equally great results so I went with that.

Take your pastry square from the fridge and bash it hard with a rolling pin! Yes, really! See, you’re liking this recipe already! The palmiers don’t actually need to “puff” much so mistreating the poor old pastry on this occasion is a plus, not slapped wrists from Mary Berry time.

Now roll out your bashed pastry to approx 30 x 35cm and spread with your Caramelised Onion Chutney. Crumble cheese over the top. I used Blue Stilton given the strength of its taste, but you could use whatever you wanted.

Turning the short end of your pastry towards you, roll each of the long sides towards the middle of the pastry rectangle, so they kiss (this is Valentines remember) in the middle. Brush whisked egg along the join so that they stay together. Place the whole lot in the fridge for 30 mins to allow the pastry to harden. After the time’s up, take the rolled up pastry out and cut it into thick pieces (about 1cm wide). Lay them on a greased baking tray and spread with lots more of the egg. Bake them in an oven heated to 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes until crisp. They should look something like this….

Caramelised Onion Chutney and Blue Stilton Palmiers

Caramelised Onion Chutney and Blue Stilton Palmiers

Okay, better speed things up or it will be Easter by the time you’ve finished reading this, let alone Valentines Day!

I’ve decided to serve these with Beetroot Risotto…here’s the recipe…

500g fresh beetroot
2tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
1 heaped tsp Caramelised Onion Chutney
1 finely chopped red onion
1 finely chopped garlic clove
250g risotto rice
150ml white wine
700ml hot veg stock
Grated Parmesan

Heat the oven to 180 degrees (fan). Peel and chop beetroot into large wedges, toss in 1tbsp of olive oil, place on baking foil on a baking tray and place in the oven for an hour until soft.

Heat the remaining oil with the butter in a large frying pan. Saute the onion and garlic until translucent. Stir in the rice, ensuring it’s well covered with the butter/oil. Pour over the wine, add the chutney and allow to bubble for a short while. Stirring again, add the stock and allow the mixture to soak into the rice, softening it. Keep stirring as you go.

Remove the beetroot from the oven and blitz them or chop them into very small pieces and then stir into the risotto mixture with the Parmesan. Serve with palmiers….

Tastes as amazing as it looks!

Tastes as amazing as it looks!

Okay, moving on to the second of my favourite Cottage Delight’s products – Lemon Curd and a Lemon Curd Cake.

The ingredients are:-
100g margarine
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
175g self raising flour
1 jar of Cottage Delight Lemon Curd (I leave 2 tsp in the bottom of the jar to eat later….!)
1 level tsp baking powder

If you’re lazy like me, shove it all in your food processor and whizz it until it’s mixed together nicely! Or, the proper way mix it all together for about 5 mins. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (fan).

Pour the cake mixture into a greased (or, lazy me again, one with a paper case) 2lb loaf tin.

Bake for approx 35-40 mins until browned.

Serve drizzled with honey or maple syrup and top with ice cream or clotted cream. Oh, and champagne given the day of course!

Lemon Curd Cake - more amazing colour from lemon curd and free range eggs!

Lemon Curd Cake – more amazing colour from lemon curd and free range eggs!

Happy Valentines Day and thank you very much to Cottage Delight for the inspiration! I would love to hear if you give any of the recipes a go.

Valentines Gifts in Unusual Places (with SportsDirect.com)

Hahaaaaa! SportsDirect.com have issued a challenge! I cannot resist a challenge!!

This is what they’re asking us to do….

“Bloggers will have the task of finding five products from the SportsDirect.com website that they would deem acceptable gifts to give to their partner as a Valentines Day presents, using their blog to explain which items they would chose and why. Each item must be £20.00 or under.”

So, let’s take a look at SportsDirect.com and see what we can find…

Item 1 – Black Zero Stalking Tripod (£9.99). Now the first purpose of this is not for man stalking as you may assume (if you’re me and you’re thinking Fatal Attraction) but a fishing tripod. However,  if you read the description, you’ll see that the tripod, with an attachment, can also be used with a camera. My husband’s a keen photographer and doesn’t have a tripod at the moment, so this is the first item I’d get for him just to show how thoughtful I am (wanting him to be outside taking photos in our current “beautiful” weather!).

Item 2 – Slazenger Metal Pilot Mens Watch (reduced to £8.50 from £39.99!). My husband works on a building site and, though he has an expensive watch, understandably he doesn’t want to wear it on site. This is a good alternative, particularly as it’s currently so much cheaper than the original RRP (no, I’m not being cheap, but I’m sure you know what I mean!).

Item 3 – Muddyfox Mountain Bike Gloves (£9.99) Someone (!) has tidied up my husband’s cycling gloves, never to be found again. Muddyfox is his favourite brand so I’d be number 1 Valentine if I replaced them for him (hopefully!).

Item 4 – Muddyfox Cycling Jacket Mens  (£19.99) My husband has a Muddyfox Cycling Jersey but not a jacket. This one looks brilliant and would score me MEGA brownie points. Ideal Valentines present!

Item 5 – Calvin Klein 365 2 Pack Boxers Mens (£19.99) Those of a nervous disposition, please do not press the link!! Okay, if I have to explain the thinking behind this then you’re not in a Valentines mood at the moment are you? My only comment is that I hope they come with a note to tell those husbands who just might, that they don’t need to be worn for 365 days non stop each pair….. ‘Nuff said!

So, are you surprised? I was to be honest. When I first took on this challenge I wasn’t sure how easy it would be, but these gifts are actually a very good idea – very low in calories and not a cuddly toy in sight. What a refreshing change! Thank you for the inspiration SportsDirect.com!

pants

 

Energise Me!!! (Please!)

You may remember last year that I took part in a brilliant challenge suggested by those clever people at Whittard? I created a cake in a mug….cooked in the microwave! Yes, really! Check back to October 2013 if you don’t believe me!

Well, Whittard have issued another challenge via their Blog – a Healthy New Year Blogger Carnival 

I think you ought to have a go…..

I have!

By far my best discovery so far this year is Whittard’s amazing Cinnamon & Orange Superior Tea Pyramids. They’re a flavoured Green Tea – and we all know how wonderful Green Tea is for you. It’s loaded with antioxidants and nutrients which do you masses of good – go ahead and Google if you don’t believe me (honestly, are you already not believing me for the second time in this one post. Humph!). Anyway, from the very second you open your pack of Cinnamon & Orange tea bags you KNOW you’re in for a special treat and, I swear, you’ll heave a huge satisfied sigh and put the kettle on immediately.  Here, let me tempt you further….

Try it now!

Try it now!

It’s okay, it doesn’t come with a funny sticky out aerial, I just took the photo of it in front of my radio…

So, what does this have to do with cookery and healthy recipes? Well, I decided that I needed a bit of an afternoon energy boost to go with my delicious cuppa so wondered about making some flapjacks (oats are good for digestion, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, helps control blood sugar levels, helps maintain a healthy weight fact fans – I Googled this time!) …..soaking the dried fruit in my Cinnamon & Orange tea before using it! I know – genius right?! And you know what, it worked!! It was delicious…..so delicious that I nearly ate all of the fruit before putting it in with the rest of the ingredients. So, here’s the recipe in case you’d like a go for yourself.

150g oats (I used organic jumbo oats)
45g dried fruit (I used cranberries brought back to life by soaking in Cinnamon & Orange tea)
40g seeds (I used sunflower seeds)
2 apples (I used Pink Lady….sorry, I’m being very specific aren’t I?!)
A quick glug of oil (Virgin Olive in this case)
3tbsp honey
1tbsp cinnamon (yes more, I know but yum!)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of salt

After heating the oven to 170 degrees (fan) chop your apples and then zap them in a food processor until they’re very finely chopped.

Slop a glug of oil into a saucepan, add the honey and vanilla and heat gently. Add the apples when the mixture is runny and warm and mix together well.

In another bowl mix together the oats, fruit, seeds, salt and cinnamon then add the apple mixture to them.

Press the mixture into a greased/lined tin and bake for 15-20 mins (mine needed 20) until they’re a lovely golden brown.

Turn them out and leave them (if you possibly can!) to cool and then cut them into HUGE pieces…..or normal sized slices if you’re anyone other than me!

Put the kettle on, get a lovely cup of Cinnamon & Orange on the go, sit with your feet up and go AHHHHHH very loudly….. Feel a bit smug and very happy!

Ha, managed to miss the aerial out of this photo!

Ha, managed to miss the aerial out of this photo!

 

 

Happy New Year!

Okay, so it is a little late but I really do wish you all the very best for 2014. I hope it’s happy, healthy and full of fun, new adventures and laughter.

So…….million dollar question…..have you made any resolutions?! I usually avoid them were possible because, let’s face it, they’re a pain! Why, unless you have determination of steel, put yourself up to fail and feel bad? So, how about this for a more positive idea for 2014….

Think of a wonderful thought.....any merry little thought...

Think of a wonderful thought…..any merry little thought…

Yup, a special jar just to keep note of your happy thoughts, things that have made you smile, laugh or just tickled your fancy (oo-er! Lucky you!). I can’t claim to have come up with the idea as it was floating around on Facebook, but I think it’s a great idea. The idea is that you keep adding to these notes all year and then on New Year’s Eve take them out, reflect on the year and hopefully have a bit of a chuckle at the happy memories. Sounds good doesn’t it? No pressure to do it day after day, just when the fancy takes you. Good use for a Kilner Jar too! I’ve delivered one to my mum so she can do the same. As you can see I have several (leaf shaped) notes in mine already whereas mum has added a couple of objects and is intending doing longer messages rather than just sketchy notes like me! I think I’ll probably print out a couple of photos and add them as well. When I run out of leaf post it notes, I can always use these great “toast-it” notes!

Tasty!

Tasty!

Here are a couple of photos of my happy memories so far this year to inspire you to perhaps take a leaf out of my book (or out of my jar!) and give it a go yourself.

My nephew couldn't blow his "tooter" properly but sat there quite happily making the "right noise" while we were all being daft!

My nephew couldn’t blow his “tooter” properly but sat there quite happily making the “right noise” while we were all being daft!

Lovely sight on 2nd January - a break in the rain and storms and signs of spring to come!

Lovely sight on 2nd January – a break in the rain and storms and signs of spring to come!

Winter Window Competition

In association with home store Peddlars, Shutterly Fabulous have launched a competition for bloggers to share their festive windows for a chance to win some lovely prizes!

The idea is to decorate a window at home or work with a Christmas theme and then post an image on your blog and share it with Shutterly Fabulous. Sounded VERY tempting to me!

This will be our first Christmas in our new house and, apart from the fact we haven’t actually located the decorations since moving, we’re really looking forward to finding homes for our Christmas bits and pieces. Our daughter, however, decided she couldn’t wait for us to get our act in gear (probably very wise given the amount of boxes still left packed up in storage!), so we went out and got her a new tree, with decorations to match her new room, which she put together last night.

This was her room this morning….

Room with a view...of a shed!

Room with a view…of a shed!

….and here it is this afternoon!

IMG_5009

I’ve got a bit of an addiction to drawing on windows since the crafty project at our local Gallery back in the summer, so have been in my daughter’s room today jolly-fying her window!

The gorgeous and delicate snowflakes were made with the help of my boss at work. They really are beautiful but it was more than a little tricky to find anywhere to Glue-Dot them!

IMG_5021

We have cheated and cut our favourite reindeer card up from last year and put him in the forest overlooking the fun.

The figures are us! Well, hopefully no-one will be offended by their looky-likey otherwise we might be in for a bit of a quiet festive period!

Us! (kinda!)

Us! (kinda!)

The very, very, very sad thing is that I misjudged where I was drawing Father Christmas and his sleigh, so unfortunately there was no room to complete my spectacularly good picture of a reindeer….honest…. It is very sad but, well, you do get the general jist of what I was trying to do, don’t you?!

IMG_5022

Slow down Rudolph, I can’t draw that fast!

 

 

Please let me know if you have a go at the competition too. It closes on 8th December so there’s plenty of time to take photos and blog before then…

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Winter Warmer FADS!

Psssssstttttt…..do you Pin?!

I LOVE Pinterest. Have you tried it? If you like photos and pictures and daftness and fun, then it is for you! Pinterest are even clever enough to have described themselves, saves me getting all tongue-tangled and technical, so if you’re not up to speed you can just check them out here http://about.pinterest.com/basics/

index

FADS are a great online furniture store and when I saw recently that they were issuing forth a Pinterest challenge, encouraging their blog readers to have a go at pinning a winter warmer board (for a chance to win a £100 voucher to spend with them – hurray!), I had to have a go.

Here’s my board if you’d like to take a look – http://www.pinterest.com/brassolasso/fadswinterwarmer-room/

The lovely thing about Pinterest is that, even if you don’t know where to start, it’s not difficult to find inspiration. I sat and looked at all the lovely furniture and wallpaper on the FADS website and pinned my favourites and then thought of other things that made me feel wintery, snuggly and warm….and off I went! I added a photo which I took outside one of our local antique shops because I thought it looked like a wonderfully warm dolls house, some photos of cute animals and books …. how predictable am I?! All of a sudden it was hard to know where to stop. Hope that you like the results. If you have a go too (you’ll find the details of how to enter here), or would like to know more about Pinterest (I’ll try not to get too befuddled!), please get in touch!

IMG_5809

An Advent of Crafty Prizes!

The nice people at Crafty Ribbons are going to be keeping us busy and inspired all the way up to Christmas!

From 1st to 24th December they will be running a Christmas Advent Event where every day they will be highlighting a different craft company/shop and project….and there will also be a daily prize!

Their blog is here and there should also be (if I can work out how to do it!) a linky on the left hand side to take you directly to them.

Good luck if you have a go and I’d love to see if you try out any of their crafty projects throughout December.