Thursday, 31 January 2013

Heart-Shaped Strawberry Tart {Recipe}

A friend sent me an email saying she had seen this recipe & thought of me!

I will be attempting to create this at the weekend, but thought I would share the recipe as it is very appropriate with Valentines Day coming up soon.

This recipe makes one big tart and serves 6. I think I'll be making individual smaller ones.

Ingredients
150g ready rolled shortcrust pastry (or, of course, you could make your own!)
For the crème patisserie
350ml semi-skimmed milk
1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise
4 small egg yolks
50g caster sugar
20g plain flour
20g cornflour
For the garnish
300g strawberries, hulled

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 200° C.
Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to roughly 1cm thickness.
Use a heart-shaped template and cut around it on top of the pastry to give you a heart-shaped piece of pastry.
Transfer to a lined baking tray.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown in colour all over.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray to one side.
Meanwhile, prepare the crème patisserie by placing the split vanilla pod and milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Set to one side to cool a little.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick and then sift in the flour and cornflour, whisking until smooth.
Pour the milk and vanilla onto this mixture, whisking all the time.
Transfer back to the saucepan and cook on a medium heat for about 2 minutes, until it thickens. Transfer to a clean bowl and cover the surface with clingfilm.
When ready to assemble the tart, whisk the crème patisserie again until smooth and spread on top of the pastry.
Top with the hulled strawberries, cutting some to shape in order to fit.
Serve immediately.



Half Empty or Half Full?

After a light-hearted conversation with my husband the other day about something work related I realised that we can be very different in our thinkings (opposites attract though, right?!)

He is very much an optimist and I can (quite often!) be the pessimist.

I decided to have a read/google into it and came across some interesting articles about why optimists tend to be "happier, healthier & wealthier". I got lost in a world of pessimist v optimist discussions and let it get to me a bit.

Using twitter as a discussion platform I tweeted "Is the glass half empty or half full?!"

One of the respsonses I received was this picture:


Which soon changed my perception of it all and made me smile!




Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Utterly Personal {Review}

When Utterly Personal contacted me asking if I would review one of their products, I couldn't help but cling on to the new-ness & novelty of being recently married still!

I spent a long time chosing between all of the lovely personalised gifts on offer in their Wedding Gifts section and after much deliberating I chose the personalised rectangle chopping board - mainly because both my husband & I are keen 'foodies' but also because I hadn't ever seen anything like it before!

The team at Utterly Personal provided excellent customer service keeping me up to date with my order & letting me know it had been dispatched. They were also on hand to answer any questions I had which I feel is particularly important when purchasing a personalised gift.

Considering the board had to be personalised & engraved, delivery was very quick and the board came well packaged to avoid any damage.

Please note: I love the board too much to actually use a sharp knife on it, so the below is for illustration purposes only ;-) 


We had friends over for dinner at the weekend so I decided to use the board for an alternative purpose too - a cheese board! 



I love the fact that it is so simple but has our names & our wedding date on it. It's attractive looking, a great size, lightweight but sturdy, something unusual, and for only £14.99 including personalisation I think that it is a lovely gift.

If someone had bought us this as a wedding present I would have loved it! 

On further browsing of their Wedding Gifts section, I noticed that there are two other boards available:



Which are equally as lovely if you wanted to spend a little extra.

I also noticed these Personalised Mr & Mrs mugs which we did receive as a present from our friends - making our first morning cup of tea as Mr & Mrs Watts that extra bit special!

Disclaimer: I was sent the personalised chopping board for the purpose of this review. All words are honest and my own.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Sales Calls

I just have to get this off my chest....
 
Being an Office Manager of a small architects practice, one of my responsbilities is to take the brunt of the numerous sales calls (amongst the equally numerous legit calls too, obviously!) we receive on a daily basis.
 
Usually I can end the call quite quickly with a polite "I'm sorry but we wouldn't be interested, thank you" reply... occasionally, I get the odd absolutel b*stard who either won't take no for an answer or thinks he is within his rights to be rude to me.
 
I just had one of those particular calls.
 
Me: "Good Morning, ****** & ****, can I help you"
B*stard caller: "Can I speak to Mr *****"       side note: he didn't even get the directors name right to begin with... not a good start
Me: "Who's calling please?"
B*stard caller: "**** from Pioneer"        side note: yes, I will name & shame the company - if only I'd have caught his name I would be naming that too.
Me: "Unfortunately I can't put you through to him, he won't take your call, thank you"
B*stard caller: *rudely* "Just tell him it's ****, he'll want to take my call"
Me: "I'm sorry but he won't, thank you"
 
I hang up.
 
Phone rings again.
 
B*stard caller: "Why did you just hang up on me like that?"
Me: "I'm sorry but I get a ton of calls from your company & my boss is not interested in speaking to you."
B*stard caller: *very rudely* "Have you any idea how many companies there are in the UK called Pioneer?"
Me: "Please don't speak to me like that"
B*stard caller: "He will want to speak to me, just tell him it's *****"
Me: "I'm sorry but I can't unless you tell me more about the company and what it is you're calling about"
B*stard caller: "I'm calling about the receptionist vacancy"
Me: "Right... ok"
B*stard caller: "Well there will be one if you speak to all of your customers like that"
 
He hangs up.
 
HOW DARE HE?! Does he really think that is the way of getting to speak to busy directors of companies?

Of course he withheld his number so I have no way of tracking him.

He sure touched a nerve with me - I wonder how many sales he has made today?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Spring in the air?

Over the weekend whilst browsing the reduced section in tescos, I spotted two pots of daffodils which I thought would brighten up my kitchen windowsil. They were reduced from a couple of pounds to 39p each. I couldn't see anything wrong with them so thought it would be worth a shot at giving them a home.

Last night whilst I was making a cup of tea, fed up of the mess the snow has left (there's only a certain length of time that snow is 'pretty' & 'fun' in my mind.. then it turns to black messy slush that lingers a lot longer than is welcome!) I noticed that one of the daffodils had flowered.

Amazing how simple things like that can give so much pleasure to look at.

Hopefully this is an early sign that spring is on it's way:



Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Saturday Nights...

Once upon a time most Saturday Nights you would have found me wearing a new dress, (and shoes, bag & make up!) most likely propping the bar up having spent a fortune on drinks and entry to clubs... only to suffer the following day!

These days, my Saturday Nights involve: my husband, pyjamas, Saturday night TV, a glass of something lovely and good food. 

This weeks effort by husband was:


Steak with peppercorn sauce on a bed of wilted spinach with garlic & rosemary potato stack, and a grilled mushroom and beef tomato! 

It was simply............. AMAZING!!

I wouldn't have it any other way, I love my new Saturday Nights... 

Monday, 21 January 2013

Baker Days, Personalised Cakes {Review}


I was very excited to receive an email from Baker Days last Tuesday asking whether I would review one of their Valentines letterbox cakes for them - an offer I could hardly refuse!

They say:
"You can’t always be there to share a special occasion with a friend or loved one. But you can let them know you’re thinking of them by sending something which is personalised and therefore unique.
The ‘letterbox cake’ is a brand new product innovation from Bakerdays.com: designed to be posted and drop safely onto the mats of your family and friends. It’s the right size to fit through the letterbox so you don’t have to worry about someone being in to take delivery.
There are over 400 designs and five cake flavours to choose from: Madeira, gluten and wheat free , fruit, carrot and double chocolate chip. You personalise your cake with messages and can upload a photo eg the person or a special moment. Not only does the cake arrive in a neat little tin to keep it fresh but it also comes complete with candles, a gift card, balloons and a party horn.
Your personalised letterbox cake starts at just £14.99 including delivery. Simply go to www.bakerdays.com to choose and create your own special gift. If Royal Mail can reach your loved one, so can a Bakerdays cake."

Rarely having the opportunity to bake Matt a surprise cake, the idea of having a handmade cake delivered through the letterbox for him was really appealing to me.

Their website is very simple to navigate around - giving you the chance to personalise each cake by selecting the occasion, chosing the design, the option of uploading a photo, editing the text and size.

You are also given a choice of recipes: sponge cake (included), carrot cake (+ £1.20), fruit cake (+ £1.80), gluten & wheat free cake (+ £1.80) or double choc chip (+ £2.00)

I chose the Superhero cake, uploaded one of our wedding photos, edited the text & chose the double choc chip recipe.

The website gives you a preview of what your cake design will look like before you complete the order - I think this is a great idea, especially if you are buying a cake for someone and you won't get to see the end result!

I came home to a Royal Mail card on Friday saying they had tried to deliver something that wouldn't fit through the door and needed collecting from the local post office. I was disappointed on Saturday to find out that it was in fact the 'letterbox cake' which should fit through the letterbox! Although I trusted my postman, I had to check for myself and was surprised to find that the cardboard box is slightly too big for our letterbox. 

Despite the first technical glitch, I was really impressed. The cake comes very cleverly packaged in a cute resuable tin to prevent damage, each cake comes with an 'extra' - as mine was a Valentines cake lovehearts were included (yum!) and a small notecard is also in the box. 

The graphics and text were great and I love the little detail of the hearts on the side of the cake. 

Shamefully Matt & I devoured the cake between us - it was so lovely. Really light, moist & chocolatey, all the things you wouldn't expect from a cake that had travelled. 

I also really liked the fact that all of the ingredients are listed and you are given a 'use by' date with at least 10 days from the date of delivery.

 








I think that the idea of being able to send a personalised cake to family & friends wherever they are in the UK is great. Who wouldn't be happy to receive this through their front door from a loved one this valentines:




Disclaimer: I was sent a valentines letterbox cake from bakerdays for the purpose of the review. All words are honest and my own.

Rigatoni Sausage Bake {Recipe}

When searching for a 'quick & easy recipe' for a Saturday night in with friends, I came across a Rigatoni Sausage Bake

It really is so simple and can also be made ahead so all you have to do is put it in the oven when you want it.

I made it for the second time last weekend when we had my Mum stay and she commented on how lovely it was too. 



Ingredients:
- 400g pork sausages
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 150ml red wine
- 300ml vegetable stock
- 3tbsp tomato purée

(I also added 2 small crushed garlic cloves)

For the Sauce: 
- 50g butter
- 50g plain flour
- 600ml milk
- freshly grated nutmeg
- 500g rigatoni or penne
- 200g fresh spinach
- 140g mature cheddar - grated  
 
Method:
  1. Slit the sausages and remove them from their skins, then chop them into small pieces. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and fry for 5 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Stir in the sausages and fry until lightly coloured. Add the carrot, then stir in the wine, stock, tomato purée, and season.
  2. Bring to the boil, then simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes until thickened. Taste and season. Set aside.
  3. Put the butter, flour and milk in a pan. Gently heat, whisking, until thickened and smooth. Add a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg, season, then simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5/fan 170C. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta, stir well, then cook, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes, until tender. Remove from the heat, stir in the spinach and, when just wilted, drain well.
  5. Tip half the pasta into a shallow ovenproof dish, about 2.2 litre/4 pint, and level. Spoon over the sausage sauce, then cover with the remaining pasta. Pour the white sauce evenly over the top and sprinkle with the cheddar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Leave for 5 minutes before serving.

This post is part of the #FaveFamilyRecipes Competition with BritMums and Tilda Rice. Every pack sold will provide a meal to an expectant mum in need in support of the World Food Programme’s Mothers Helping Mothers initiative in Bangladesh

Friday, 18 January 2013

Bargain Beauty Box

On Wednesday Boots had their 75% off sale. I heard about this via Martin Lewis (money saving expert) on his twitter account.

I tried to look online in the morning but as predicted they were experiencing high volume of traffic and it was virtually impossible to find anything left to buy!

Disappointed I had to make the decision to wait until lunchtime to see whether my local store had anything left.

It wasn't looking promising as I saw hoards of people and rows of empty shelves.... Until I spotted this pretty little box:



At its original cost of £65.00 I wouldn't have even considered it but for £16.50 it looked like a box of beauty items that would come in handy.

Inside the box there is: day cream, night cream, cleansing lotion, body wash, moisturiser, mascara, lipgloss & eye shadow palette:




It wasn't until I got back to my desk and looked up the individual prices of the items that I discovered the contents were worth over £120!!

I was so pleased with my find that I tweeted about it. Martin Lewis retweeted it and then I got lots of tweets from people saying they'd been unable to buy anything!



That was a worthwhile lunch trip out in the snow!

Snow {Flashback Friday}

I thought it would be apt. to make this weeks Flashback Friday about snow!
The last big snow fall we had was February 2012. We had only been in our house for about 6 weeks and not many houses around us had been completed - let alone moved in.
This made our cul-de-sac exclusive to us! We had tons of fresh snow untouched by anyone else.
One negative of this was that it made it near impossible for us to move our cars! I vividly remember Matt coming back from a supermarket trip getting his car stuck.. he ended up having to dig his tyres out! Of course I was smugly sat inside the house cosy & warm watching through the window!
This year we haven't had any where near as much as these photos yet. I wonder what this weekend will bring?






 
 




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Thursday, 17 January 2013

Fridge Cake {Recipe}

Last week one of my friends posted an instagram photo on twitter of her freshly made  'Malteser Fridge Cake'. Of course I couldn't resist opening the link to see the yummyness!
It instantly reminded me of making fridge cake with my Nan when I was little. It's oh so bad for you, but oh so good! We used to change the mixture everytime, but I remember my favourite having cherries in it.
I love chocolate that has a crunch but also some gooeyness - Cadburys Fruit & Nut, or Chocolate Raisin Club biscuits... mmmm!!
I happened to tell April about the cherry fridge cake & the next thing I know, she has tagged me in this photo:


Pretty unfair that she lives miles away!! Instead, I just simply HAVE to make some of my own this weekend!
While googling for a recipe I found this very simple 'malteser traybake' on the Nigella Lawson Community Recipe Forum:

Ingredients

100g butter
200g milk chocolate
3 tbsp golden syrup
225g finely crushed digestive biscuits
225g Maltesers
 


*** of course I will be adding cherries.. or raisins... or both!!

New Look

I have been fairly rubbish on my blog the last few weeks - mainly due to Christmas & New Year festivities and 'getting back into the swing' of working 9-5pm.

As my blog is unbelievably coming up to it's 2 year anniversary in February  (albeit some of that time it was a secret blog!) I thought it was due a facelift!

So here I present you with my 'new look' blog - thank you for looking.

I would like to personally give the lovely and very clever Lauren a great big thank you for her blogging expertise & knowledge xx