Follow Me On TwitterSubscribe

Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Cookie-mas!

Now I must admit, I cannot take the full credit for this wondrous cookie creation.

Last night, I was sous-chef to my sister Hungrier Jemma, who had grand plans to make lots of gingerbread goodies for the family today. This picture here is just one small batch of it!

Now I'm not very patient when it comes to icing, using icing pens/pipes and all of that. Precision is not my strong suit. But Jemma was in her element with the icing pipe, creating these wonderful Santas…
Pretty cool, huh?

I managed to pipe one of the beards, but then resigned to just pipe the outline of the clothes on the santas instead, leaving the beard to the expert skill of my sister. I just don't have the attention span for it!

The level of decoration I tend to do on my cookies is a bit of melted chocolate - which normally slops on in a bit of a haphazard way. (Well, it's the 'homemade' look, see.)

I did actually create a lovely large batch of gingerbread men for my workmates, complete with chocolate Smartie buttons. Though my chocolate facial features were questionable - one of my workmates inspected the one he picked up and asked 'Is he meant to be smiling..?' Yes, some were a bit lopsided or accidentally snarling but the jolly sentiment was there, alright!

Merry Cookie Christmas everyone!
Continue reading this post..

Sunday, 4 October 2015

CHARGEing it up for Eva!

This time next week, I'll hopefully be chomping on a steak and not lying in a ditch somewhere...


Next Sunday 11th October, I’ll be running the Chi Half Marathon to raise awareness and hopefully £2,000 for the CHARGE Family Support Group. Chances are, you’ve probably never heard of CHARGE. Neither had I – until my niece Eva was born last year with this complex and rare genetic condition.

CHARGE syndrome affects 1 in 10,000 births worldwide, and babies born with this often have complex heart problems, breathing issues, hearing and/or vision loss and other factors affecting their senses which impact on their development and communication.

Eva is deaf, visually impaired and has had a tracheostomy, which means she has a tube in her neck to enable her to breathe safely. She also has a permanent feeding tube in her stomach and various other issues.

Due to Eva's condition, my sister Jemma and her husband Steven have to watch her 24/7, which as you can imagine can be extremely exhausting and tough. Despite these issues though, Eva is a very happy baby with an incredibly strong spirit – it’s always amazing to see her progression whenever I go to visit them!
Here's my beautiful niece Eva!

I live about 5 and a half hours away from them, so don't get to see them as often as I'd like - and I wanted to do something to help and show my support. So why not a half marathon, eh?

The last time I actually did any running was about 5 years ago, when I did a 25km run for FareShare. With the Chi Half being a few km short of this, it should be a doddle, right?

Erm, NO. Last time, I had no real training plan, and ended up with a bad sprain on my thigh, a few weeks before a race day. I decided to run anyway - and ended up running out of water, running out of music, going the wrong way, hitting the wall, feeling super weak - all the time making my thigh strain much worse.

So, this time around, wanting to make my niece and her parents proud, I've been more sensible about my training. I've been experimenting and tracking different pre- and post-run foods and drink, doing regular core strength exercises on non-running days, and more importantly, listening to my body to avoid over-doing it.

The course itself is fairly cross-country (the route description keeps mentioning 'steep ascents and descents'..!), which is what I'm most nervous about - but definitely feel mentally stronger and ready for it than last time. And of course, the prospect of a juicy steak at the end will be be most appealing.

The greatest motivator of course, has been knowing that it's all in aid of my niece Eva - and others like her with CHARGE syndrome, plus their families. The CHARGE Family Support Group are a small charity, entirely run by volunteers and they have been a great support to Jemma and Steven, helping them to feel less alone in this challenging situation. I can only begin to imagine how tough it must be for them (and other families in this situation), but they are such a strong family unit when you see them together, which is so inspiring to experience.

And so, I would love your help in raising funds and awareness, so that the CHARGE FSG can continue to be there for people with CHARGE and help bring these families together more.

If you'd like to support my run for Eva, please visit my fundraising page. But if this post helps to raise awareness of this rare condition to at least one more person, that can only be a good thing!
Thanks for your support!

Read more about the CHARGE Family Support Group here.
Continue reading this post..

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Attack of the Ninja Cookies!

Well it's been about 8 months since my last post. Um, sorry about that. The truth is, I got attacked by these blasted Ninja Cookies…

It started with just one at first - he seemed friendly enough, just walking along casually. As we passed each other, he gave me a bit of a funny look but carried on walking. I didn't think anything of it.

Then the following few weeks, it happened again - the same spot, the same funny glance. Hm. Starting to feel a bit edgy.

So during the next month, I decided to walk a different way.

But this time, another one walked by (or was it the same one..?). And rather than a funny glance, it was a bit of a smirk.

Over the coming months, I kept changing route - but no matter where I went, another one would appear, walk by and give me some sort of weird look.

What the hell was going on?!

The turning point came when I arrived home one day, and there was an ENTIRE BUNCH of them in the garden, all sparring with each other. Ok, officially panicked now.

Luckily, that day I had arranged for my capoeirista friends to come over. A quick SOS and a short while later, I had them hiding behind the parked cars opposite my house.

All of a sudden, we charged out towards the ninjas, each attempting to pin one down. Some successfully so, others unfortunately failed. Eventually though, we managed to knock the unlucky ninjas unconscious and stacked them on top of each other.

"Right guys", I said to my friends, "We only have a short time before these ninjas wake up. So we have got no choice but to devour them all most immediately. Are you ready?"

I didn't really need to ask...
It's over now, it's ok and we're all safe. But goodness knows when this might happen again. Make them if you dare.

Ninja Coconut Cookies

Makes 16 ninjas:
(You can find the cookie cutters online - just search for 'Ninjabread men cookie cutters'!)

250g plain flour
125g desiccated coconut
125g white sugar
250g unsalted butter, softened
A little bit of cold water

250g ready-made/ready-rolled white icing
Coloured icing pens of your choice
A little bit of hot water

1) Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, with the coconut and sugar.
2) Add in the softened butter and start to knead into a dough. (Add a little water if needed.)
3) Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
4) Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out onto a lightly floured surface.
5) Stamp out 16 ninja shapes! Transfer to a non-stick baking tray.
6) Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. In the meantime, stick the tray in the fridge again to chill the ninjas.
7) Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly golden. They will still be a little soft when done, as they will continue to firm up a little as they cool. Allow to cool completely.
8) Roll out the white icing. Use your ninja cutters again to stamp out 16 white 'dogi' trousers.
9) Use a pastry brush to brush a little hot water onto the legs of your ninja cookies, then carefully add their icing trousers, pressing down lightly.
10) Grab your icing pens and ice on some belts!

And remember, keep your wits about you...

Continue reading this post..

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Say NO to Takeaway: Do Your Own Thai Makeaway instead!

I live alone and I must admit, sometimes when I get home from work, I wish that dinner was already on the table waiting for me. But never would I ever pick up the phone to get takeout. (Ok, ok, maybe the odd fish and chips as a special treat)

Now I'm no stranger to making takeaway alternatives at home. So when I was invited to try out Sainsbury's 'Makeaway' range, I thought it'd be a good opportunity to try out some new takeaway alternative recipes on some friends, to show them how easy and cheap it can be.
(That was the plan anyway.)

Sweet Chilli Prawn Rolls
These little prawn bad boys only take about 15 minutes to bake in the oven. They are packed out with prawns (surprise!), bean sprouts, carrot, ginger, lime and coriander, all mixed with sweet chilli dipping sauce. It can be a little fiddly to wrap them up in the filo sheets, but after the first couple, you'll get the hang of it in no time. Just imagine that you're wrapping up a portion of fish and chips and you'll be fine. Serve these warm with extra dipping sauce. Be warned though, they will disappear quickly!

Turkey Udon Pad Thai
Udon are my favourite type of noodles, although admittedly, the 'quick-to-cook' ones you get from your bog-standard supermarket are nowhere near as good as the ones you can get from a Chinese supermarket. In any case, it does save you precious minutes (and an extra pan) when whipping this dish up, as you don't need to pre-cook the noodles separately beforehand. This recipe also uses a packet Pad Thai sauce, whereas normally I like to make my own sauces from scratch, just because you know exactly what you're eating. It was secretly pleasing though to be able to just pour the sauce in straight from the packet at the end ;-) It went down very well with my friends also and they were impressed that it didn't take long to make.

Thai Green Beef Burgers
Now this last dish here I didn't make for my friends, but was for my lunch the next day. I have not really tried Thai green curry before because I fear it will be too hot for my spice intolerable palate, so thought I'd coax myself into trying green curry paste in a Thai Green Beef Burger instead. The result? Yes my eyes were streaming a little by the end, even though there was only 1 tbsp of paste per burger, but it was super tasty! It probably didn't help that I added a dollop of sweet chilli sauce onto the burger just before eating also, whoops!

It did encourage me to try making a Thai green curry though (which I'll post about another day as that's a whole other story I need to tell you about!).

But back to my friends. They were making plenty of yummy noises whilst eating my prawn rolls and pad thai, so I asked them if it would encourage them to try making stuff like this themselves instead of ordering a takeaway next time. "Hm, maybe," said one, with a mouthful of noodles, "But I think I'll just come round to yours instead so you can make it again!"

Well, I'll count that as a partial success then I guess?!

If you liked this, you might want to try making these other takeaway alternatives too.
Continue reading this post..

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Five Ways to Use Coriander

So when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, they say.

But what if you get a massive wodge of coriander?
Don't worry, I wasn't actually served a dinner plate's worth of fresh coriander.

I usually buy fresh fruit and veg from my local market. They don't normally sell herbs, so when I spotted some fresh coriander the other week, I immediately bought some, without realising how large one lone bunch actually was.

Now coriander is one of my favourite herbs and when I buy one of those normal little packets you get from the supermarket, it usually isn't enough. But this one from the market was just ridiculous!

Of course, I didn't want to end up wasting too much of it (and hell yes I managed to use it all!). But I didn't want to get overly coriander-fatigued either and simply use it up within freezable batches of just one or two dishes. So here's five different ways of using up coriander, should you ever find yourself in such a situation...

Bacon, Tomato and Coriander Omelette
This omelette is perfect if you want something a bit different for breakfast, or are after a light dish. As you can probably tell from the image, my omelette flipping abilities aren't great, but as long as you can slide it out the pan and it tastes good, who cares, eh?

Lemon and Coriander Rice
This works particularly well with basmati rice, if you want to make a simple rice salad, where you can then also add some chickpeas and sweetcorn too for instance. Otherwise try this as an easy way to jazz up plain old steamed rice.

Coriander Beef
This is a beefy mince dish which is marinaded in oyster sauce and sesame oil, before being joined with fresh tomatoes, sweetcorn and onion. The fresh coriander is stirred through right at the end, so that it doesn't wilt too much. Best served with steamed white rice.

One of the easier ways to use up a larger amount of fresh coriander because you can freeze the hummus in small batches if you need to. Oh, and don't worry if you don't have a food processor to make this either. All you need is some extra elbow grease.

Lemon and Coriander Yogurt Cake
Finally, I had to of course find some way of baking coriander into a cake. A few years back, I did an Orange and Rosemary Yogurt cake that turned out pretty well, so I figured that a lemon and coriander version would work just fine. And most thankfully it did!

One more extra tip - whilst coriander doesn't freeze particular well, try filling up an ice cube tray with the any leftover leaves and a bit of water. You can then pop them out individually into hot dishes, as and when you fancy a bit of coriander.

So hopefully that has given you some ideas to try the next time you find yourself with some coriander to use up. Enjoy!
Continue reading this post..

Friday, 22 August 2014

Restaurant to try: @Blacksmiths_Pub Donnington, Chichester

Woah, good food alert.
Me and my friends have a little dinner club night out to a different restaurant once a month - a nice way to catch up on a regular basis, as well as having a good excuse to try some new food. We secretly rate the restaurants afterwards with a score out of 10 and everything*. All for a bit of fun ;-)

We've been doing this for the last two years now and it's just occurred to me that I've never written about any of 'em. It's not that they've all been rubbish experiences or anything like that. They just didn't seem worth writing about.

But yes. The Blacksmiths Arms is definitely a good'un.

It's a pub in Donnington just outside of Chichester which re-opened a couple of months ago after a complete renovation. One of my friends had been there a few weeks before for lunch and recommended that we try it out for our next dinner outing. And so we went.

It's slightly confusing where you walk in, as it is a short hallway, with an open doorway to the left and directly ahead of you is other doorway which shows the side of the bar. (Well to me that's confusing but I'm easily confused.)

I wandered towards the bar (because there were staff there, not because of the prospect of drink!) to ask for our table. As I turned back to check the girls were following, they had disappeared! But they had just made a sidestep through the other door instead. With the low beam ceilings as well, it all seemed a bit Alice in Wonderland. (Like I say, I'm easily confused.)

The dining room itself is lovely - light, warm and homely, and not pretentious. The tables are actually quite close together but at the same time you don't feel like you're sitting on top of another dining party. Probably because there's a lot of natural light from the big windows where you can look out onto their massive gardens (spot the chickens pecking around at the back!).

Everything on the menu looked really good. And I mean everything. The three of us were umming, ahhing and debating for ages. For starters, I went for the Asian tiger prawns, which came with a sweet lime and ginger dip and cucumber, carrot and cashew salad. For the main, I had pan-fried salmon with chorizo, slow-roasted tomatoes and white truffle mash (top of post).

As you can see, this is definitely a place where you eat with your eyes! I love it when you have food presented so beautifully to you, it really makes a difference. All of us were eating slowly, trying to savour everything, not wanting the food to end! I didn't have a dessert myself, but my friends were singing the praises of the local cheese board.

The service seemed to slow down towards the end of the evening, but maybe that was because they were pretty busy by then. We were so relaxed though that we weren't too bothered. It gave us a chance to eye up the dishes on other tables at least - next time I'm definitely going to try a steak!

The Blacksmiths
Selsey Road
PO20 7PR
01243 785578


* Psst. Our combined rating was 29.5/30 :-)

Other restaurants you might be interested to try
Continue reading this post..

Monday, 14 April 2014

Hungry-Jenny-Faux-Pas: How McDonalds Took My Dignity

It all started when my good friend Samji text me this photo:
Instantly, I turned into an excited young teenager:

"OMG! Lol. Maccy Ds? G2G get 1! BRB."

And so I did, quite literally, the next day - venture into McDonalds and order a Big Mac meal, with a side of two Happy Meal toys:
No shame was felt as I gleefully took the photo and Whatspped it over to Samji:

"Snap! Haha."
"Cool. U collecting them all as well?"
"Yeh! I've GOT to!"

And that's where it started to go downhill.

I don't even like McDonalds but suddenly I felt compelled to collect ALL the toys.

It's the Super Mario thing - whenever I see something Super Mario related, I get ridiculously excited. (I don't have Super Mario bed sheets or live in a big mushroom house or anything like that though, I'm not completely obsessed.)

In this case though, since I had been exposed to this in its first week, I thought I might as well just get the remaining 6 toys as well…

(Ok, the mushroom above makes a really cool 'Power Up' noise and I wanted to see if the other toys made Super Mario noises too*).

Samji got me up to speed on how to go about collecting the toys in a dignified manner:

1. You don't have to buy a Happy Meal to get the toy, you can just purchase it separately.
2. There's usually a choice of 2 toys to choose from each week, so you can get 2 in one go if you want.
3. Just buy a drink if you don't want to fill yourself with the grease of McDonalds.

Ok, ok, I thought. So actually, I only need to go into McDonalds 3 more times to get the next 6 toys.

That's not so bad. I'll just go in and grab a cup of tea and 2 toys to go. No need to consume any of that crap, and aside from the slight embarrassment of asking for a Happy Meal toy with no child by your side, you can leave the establishment with your dignity intact.


I ended up going in 5 times and buying a fat loada food each time (I didn't take photos of all the food I ate cos I forgot - um, not cos I was slightly ashamed also).
In part of my (very weak) defence, there were a couple of instances where I was only able to buy one toy rather than two (so had no choice but to go in again, right?).

I'm now the (proud?) owner of these 8 cool toys, but at what cost? About £25 worth of foodal crap bought and what worked out as around 4,000 calories later? Ouch.

The silly thing is that I did keep thinking, hey, if you really wanted a collection of Super Mario figurines, you could just find a set online which is probably cheaper and without putting a load of crap in your body too. But I was too far gone. I wanted these Happy Meal ones. I had to get them. And I secretly indulged in the fatty goodness.

Damn you McDonalds.

*FYI No, the other toys don't make sounds.

Fancy a laugh at my other Hungry-Jenny-Faux-Pas?
Continue reading this post..
Related Posts with Thumbnails