Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Courgetti - a low carb dinner idea from Nigel Slater

Last night I tried out a lovely simple new recipe idea for a healthy & low carb dinner - another one from the wonderful Nigel Slater (one of my food heroes!) 

The idea is simple...instead of using carb-filled pasta, you use wafter thin ribbons of courgette - genius! It worked so well and was super-tasty and filling. I used Nigel's recipe for fresh pesto, and added some baby plum tomatoes, and some smoked sausage to the original recipe to 'meat it up' a little.

Courgetti - Courgette "pasta"
Wafer-thin ribbons of courgette fried with homemade pesto. Simple and delicious.

Ingredients

For the pesto
For the courgettes
  • courgettes, cut into ribbons with a peeler
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

    Lucy's Extras...

    4 large smoked Herta frankfurter sausages (serves 2-3)

    half a punnet of baby plum tomatoes

Preparation

  1. For the pesto, crush the garlic with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar. Add the basil and bash the leaves to a rough pulp. Pour in the olive oil and the pine nuts. Mix together, but leave the majority of the pine nuts intact. Add the grated pecorino and mix again. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir once more.
  2. For the courgettes, use a peeler to slice thin ribbons down the entire length of the courgettes.
  3. Add the olive oil to a large, heavy-based frying pan over a medium-low heat. Carefully place the sliced sausages and baby plum tomatoes into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, then add the courgette ribbons and cook until they just begin to soften
  4. Add the pesto to the courgette pan, using a spatula to ensure you don't leave any behind in the mortar.
  5. Cook for a further minute to warm the pesto through but avoid overcooking the courgettes, then serve immediately.

    T'ah Dah! Yummy filling dinner full of fresh ingredients and low on carbs! 

    I couldn't resist tweeting the picture of my finished dinner to lovely Nigel Slater (@NigelSlater on Twitter), and thanking him for his simple but effective recipe idea... and ever the gentleman, he replied to my tweet saying that it "looks amazing lucy!" how lovely :-)


My tweet from lovely Nigel! 

Have you tried any healthy and simple recipes recently?

Mrs B

xxx

Friday, 26 July 2013

MaterniCare PRE & POST NATAL Nourishing Cream

A few months ago I was lucky enough to win a tube of MaterniCare PRE & POST NATAL Nourishing Cream (bump cream!) over on the lovely Mrs Shilts blog. Up until that point I had steered away from buying maternity-specific creams, as I figured they all do much the same thing as each other, and you'll probably pay a few pounds extra for that 'maternity' label. However, never one to turn down a freebie, I happily gave this cream a go. 

I'm pretty realistic about my figure changing due to pregnancy, and having always been a plus sized woman, I am honest with myself about inevitable things like stretch-marks and the such. However, before I became pregnant I had lost over 3 stones in weight, and my skin was definitely in the process of re-adjusting to my new size. Then I shocked it back into stretching again (this time for a better reason than pie-eating!) and I knew I needed to take some extra-care.

I do try hard to look after my skin, and give it the best treatment I can a) afford and b) remember to undertake! Massaging in a lovely smelling cream twice a day is not too taxing even for me, and I have to say I've loved this cream, and am now at the point where I'm squeezing out the last dregs! 

Materni-Care say... “The Nourishing Cream is a clever blend of rich plant oils and essential vitamins developed especially to nourish and care for your skin as your bump grows, and then later support your body as it recovers. The gentle, hypoallergenic formula is packed full of pro-vitamin B5, almond, avocado and grape seed oils, as well as vitamin E and soothing calendula.” 

 "Massaging MaterniCare into your breasts, tummy, thighs, hips and bottom 2-3 times a day will help keep your skin strong, smooth and supple through your entire pregnancy journey."

In my opinion the cream smells lush (even my hubby kept commenting on it!) and left my skin and hands non-greasy, and more importantly seemed to really help relieve the itchy skin most pregnant women seem to suffer with towards the end, me included! My stretch marks aren't half as bad as I imagined they might be, and at 37 weeks now I can't imagine they'll get too much worse (wishful thinking?) I just hope this tube will last me until our little Mr makes his appearance. 

Materni-Care cream is now available in Boots priced £14.99 (200ml), or online at MaterniCare.

This is not a sponsored post. I genuinely loved this cream and would recommend it to any expectant mums out there!

Mrs B
xxx


Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Wonderful Weekend Book

Back in January my friend Liz gave me a copy of 'The Wonderful Weekend Book' by Elspeth Thompson, as a random act of kindness - you can read all about it here.

It is a gorgeous book which is just great for dipping in and out of as the mood takes you - full of fab ideas of how to make the most of your weekends and advice to make your weekend fun, and full of things to nourish you, and your family. 

I love a weekend, who doesn't? But sometimes I've been known to get to the end of a weekend either completely exhausted and burnt-out; or wondering "what did I actually DO this weekend?". Finding a happy medium of rest & recuperation mixed with getting-stuff-done isn't always easy...but since finishing this book I feel like I'm finally starting to get it right.

One of the things the book helps you to do is organise in your mind what is important to you in terms of your time away from work - what do you enjoy, what makes you tick, what jobs are vital and important to you, and which can be held on the back burner for another weekend? 


I keep a notebook on me at all times - it is a glorious Rob Ryan notebook, which was a gift from my lovely friend Clare...its full of ideas, quotes, lists, plans, notes from books etc - in essence it is a type of journal, and it has become so helpful for me to organise my thoughts & ideas on to paper. As soon as I began reading 'The Wonderful Weekend Book' I started to note down passages, ideas, and suggestions - and I thought I'd share some of these with you, my lovely blog readers. 

said Rob Ryan notebook...sooo pretty! 

What Makes A Wonderful Weekend for Me?

In my notebook I have complied a list of all the things I want my weekends to be full of. Obviously, you can't fit every one into every weekend, but a balance of these over my yearly weekends would truly make for a set of 'perfect' weekends for me. 

-crafts and hobbies    -reading   -lie in's   -spending time with family   -meals out   -blog writing              -de-cluttering & organising   -picnics   -TV/film nights   -trips to the theatre   -baking & cooking   
-cleaning   -washing   -shopping   -walks   -visit the beach   -swimming   -having weekend guests  
 -socialising with friends   -BBQ's   -home improvement & DIY   -weekends away   -time in the garden   -pampering   -breakfasts & brunches   -cuddles with Liam & the cat   -teatime/afternoon tea                    -girlie nights   -attending parties   -planning events   -family days out 

What would make it on to your list?

I thought I'd share some pictures with you to prove I've been managing to fit into my weekends some of these simple pleasures mixed with the 'boring' stuff like chores and food-shopping (which weirdly I don't find that boring really either!)...

family days out : I went to Cadbury's World with Liam back in June.

home improvement/DIY/time in the garden: we have made-over  the garden shed

hobbies/crafting: I'm working on some knitted 'paper' chains. 

Trips to the theatre: hubby and I went to see 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time' back in June, it was amazing! 

Socialising with friends: Liam and I went to our friend Kerry's house for dinner and a good catch up - she put on a delicious summery buffet for us, how spoilt were we?

Socialising with friends/ having weekend guests / picnics: We had our gorgeous friend Carmi to stay for the weekend, and went on a lovely picnic!

walks: I've been getting out and appreciating the beauty all around me when I have some spare time - like the gorgeous wild flowers all over Bedford at the moment. 

time with family/weekends away: my lovely sister & mum threw us a big Baby Shower BBQ last weekend in Surrey where about 50 of our nearest & dearest got together to celebrate the imminent arrival of Baby Boy Bishop - we were so spoilt & had the most amazing time! In the picture is... 
(L to R :Liam's Uncle Paul, Liam, myself, Liam's lovely mum Ruth, and stepdad Paul). 

All in all I think I've done pretty well at filling my weekends with what I love - I do have a tendency to over-do it a little, and try to do too much within my weekends, that is still something I need to work on - I'm hoping with my maternity leave on the horizon (two working days to go!) I'll be able to manage my time much better & fit in some well deserved resting as well as nesting for the arrival of our little Mr. 

Elspeth's Guide to Seasonal Pleasures..

And so, I want to leave you with some inspiration from the author herself - here are the notes I made on her guide to seasonal pleasures...some ideas to add to your 'wonderful weekend' lists...seasonal tasks / outings / festivals to celebrate / jobs to do which will help to make your weekends brighter, no matter what the season/weather. 

SPRING - celebrate Valentines day, arrange an Easter Egg Hunt, listen to the dawn chorus, plant a herb garden, spring cleaning, make a Simnel cake, go and see some spring lambs, make pancakes on Pancake Day, go on a Spring Detox. 

SUMMER - Serve summer cocktails, sleep under the stars, swim at a Lido, make jam, have a picnic, pick your own, visit some gardens, pick flowers from your own garden, revamp your home, make ice cream. 

AUTUMN - Make chutney, wear cashmere, go fly a kite, bake bread, light a real fire, celebrate Halloween, make sloe gin, go on an Autumn walk, celebrate Bonfire night. 

WINTER - Cook up presents for Xmas, build a film library, learn to knit or crochet, have fun in the snow, feed the birds, homemade presents, wrap and cards, make a Christmas cake, throw a Christmas party, make mulled wine, out with the old and in with the new. 

Here's wishing you all many wonderful weekends....

Mrs B

xxxx


Friday, 12 July 2013

How To Make Outdoor Wooden Bunting

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I'm due to give birth to my first baby in just over 5 weeks time. My husband and I are very organised, and have pretty much all the baby-related stuff organised and ready for our little bundle. I like it this way - organisation is my safety-net - it makes me feel calm and in-control, and it helps keep my mind (and house) uncluttered. 

Because we are an organised pair, I don't feel too worried about the prospect of the baby coming early as I know we are ready for him. Being organised means that I can stay at work until the end of term (7 working days left until I start maternity leave -woo!) without stressing that I have everything to sort out when I finish, and should mean I can get other smaller jobs done before baby arrives. 

One of the jobs I wanted sorted before our little Mr makes his appearance was some titivating in our garden. With this lush weather we've been having hubby and I have been spending loads more time in our lovely garden, and the more time I spend out there the more ideas I have about how we can improve it. I am by no means at all a gardener of any shape or form; I tend to kill everything except weeds, and although I love flowers my fingers are definitely not naturally green.So for us its about having a hassle free, low maintenance garden for enjoying, rather than a garden to work in. 

We have a lovely brick-built shed in our garden which is hubby's domain - full of all that 'man stuff' they love to keep. For a while now I've been wondering how to decorate the outside of the shed so it becomes a feature of the garden. Then I came across some wooden bunting online and thought "wouldn't that look lovely across my shed" - but alas it said only for occasional use outside :-( ... and most of the strings I found cost at least £15-£25... not an amount I'm prepared to pay when I'd only be able to put it up outside occasionally. I wanted something robust that I could leave out in my garden all-year-round.

So I got my thinking cap on and I did some searching online and soon enough I found some pre-cut wooden bunting flags on eBay, some hardy garden string/twine and found that Cuprinol have an amazing array of brightly coloured garden shed paints which you can order in tester pot size - score! 

So I got ordering on eBay:
  • 12 pre-cut wooden flags for £4.30
  • 5m of twine for £1.79
  • 3 tester pots of Cuprinol paint for £3.00
= total cost of £9.09

And we got to work - it was such a fun task, and very quick - the bunting flags dried over night in this awesome heat, and hubby had it strung up the very next evening. 


Mrs Bishop's Garden Shed: Before
Garden shed before shot - plain and boring with an empty window box. 

Cuprinol paints for garden bunting
Cuprinol shades we chose: IRIS, COASTAL MIST and SUNNY LIME

make your own garden bunting
Painting our flags

homemade garden bunting
Leave to dry overnight

Mrs Bishop's finished garden bunting
T'ah d'ah!! All strung up with some nice new (fake!) outdoor Lavender plants (I cannot possibly kill these, right?)

wooden bunting
Gorgeous!!

homemade outdoor wooden bunting
Our homemade outdoor bunting & lavender window box.

garden shed with bunting
The titivated garden shed - very pleased! 

after: garden shed bunting
the after shot - all tarted up and ready for summer! 

I'll definitely be making some more outdoor bunting, perhaps to go along my garden fence, and maybe some for gifts, and for inside the house...the variety of wooden flags you can find on eBay is immense - hearts, rubber ducks, trains, fairy princess castles, letters - you name it! So Cuprinol can be expecting lots more tester pot orders from me in the future! 

How to make outdoor wooden bunting for your garden by Mrs Bishop's Bakes and Banter Blog
Pin this for later ^^

Are any of you in the middle of little DIY projects? 

I wonder how many jobs like this I'll be able to fit in before baby arrives? 

Mrs B

xxxx

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Happiness is 100 things...

Today I've been thinking about happiness. All those things big & small that make me happy in my day-to-day life. Sometimes I think it's really worthwhile to take some time to sit down & really think about your own happiness...what makes you tick, what you appreciate, what you need more of in your life. 

I thought that thinking of a specific number of things would be quite a challenge...there couldn't possibly be 100 things that make me happy, could there? But to be honest I could have probably written 200 once I got into the flow. 

1. Sunshine
2. Cuddles with my husband
3. Time with family & friends
4. Long lie ins
5. Bacon sandwiches
6. The smell of freshly cut grass
7. New nail varnish
8. Afternoon tea
9. A big mug of hot sweet strong tea
10. Meals out
11. Swimming in the sunshine
12. Long walks in the country
13. Getting mail which isn't a bill 
14. Fun drunken nights with friends
15. Re-runs of the "Friends" sit com
16. Smiles from a baby
17. A long soak in a bubble bath
18. Being treated to a manicure
19. Being near water (sea, rivers, lakes, swimming pools!) 
20. An unexpected compliment 
21. Movie nights
22. BBQs in the sun
23. Shopping
24. Achieving weight loss goals
25. Watermelon 
26. Greek food 
27. A naughty take away treat
28. Baking
29. Getting a bargain
30. A smile from a stranger
31. A cuddle with my cat
32. Hearing my baby brother (not a baby, he's 17!)  laugh
33. Girlie time with my mum & sister
34. Any print by Cath Kidston
35. Work by the artist Anita Klein 
36. Feeling my baby boy kick 
37. The smell of suncream
38. The smell of cigars, reminds me of my grandad Bert
39. Singing
40. The buzz after performing (acting/singing) 
41. Naughty stuff with my Mr ;-)
42. Beautiful flowers in my home or garden. 
43. Bunting! 
44. Emails/texts from my best friend Susie. 
45. Whiling away time looking at images on Pinterest.
46. Knitting
47. Learning a new craft & all crafting in general. 
48. Treating myself to an interiors magazine. 
49. Gerberas
50. Looking at my wedding photos.
51. Discovering a new city/country 
52. Laughing until your belly hurts
53. Getting into bed after a long day.
54. Hearing my bestie Carmi sing.
55. Wearing a new outfit I feel really confident in.
56. Pretty shoes.
57. A compliment from my husband
58. A tidy & clean house
59. Organising & sorting of all kinds
60. Finishing something homemade.
61. Ugg boots
62. Jewellery by Alyssa Smith
63. Seeing any baby animal.
64. Mr Whippy Ice Cream
65. Having dinner cooked by someone else. 
66. Birthdays
67. Christmas
68. Buying presents
69. Performing Random Acts of Kindness.
70. Sleeping with the windows open.
71. Listening to my favourite music
72. A glass of pimms, gin & tonic, pina colada or good red wine. 
73. Picnics.
74. Watching a child you're teaching make progress. 
75. Watching little birds (blue tits etc) jump about. 
76. Going to the theatre.
77. London 
78. Having my hair cut at Nicholas Anthony
79. Breakfast 
80. Holding hands
81. Driving past my dream house in Bromham.
82. Buying a pretty dress.
83. Long chats on the phone. 
84. Farrow & Ball paint colours
85. The smell of my mums perfume.
86. Flip flops
87. Nights away in hotels.
88. The smell of windscreen washer
89. Walkers ready salted crisps
90. Watching heavy snow or rain from indoors. 
91. The smell of Aussie shampoo
92. New underwear.
93. Cooking for friends/family
94. Weekend guests. 
95. Holding a newborn baby.
96. Peonies
97. Twister lollies. 
98. Sherbet dib dabs
99. Opening a thoughtful present
100. A cold drink on a hot day. 

What 100 things make you happy? 
If you're a fellow blogger why not link up to this post & write your own happiness post. I'd love to hear what makes you smile. 

Mrs B xxx

Sunday, 7 July 2013

99 Flake Cakes & Lemon Curd Cupcakes...

Today I sold my cakey wares at a lovely local pub's Vintage & Handmade Suitcase Bazaar (imagine a car-boot style sale, out of suitcases instead of car boots!)...it's not often I actually sell my cakes - it is usually just a hobby that means I get to treat friends and family to home-baked treats, but it made a refreshing change to exchange my baking for some cash rather than gifting. 

Because of the glorious sunshine this weekend I decided to bake some summery cupcakes for the sale, and I'm glad to say they went down really well, with just a few left over at the end of the sale for hubby and maybe a few lucky co-workers to sample. 

So, my lovely blog-readers, if you fancy some summery baking, why not give these a try?

99 Flake Cakes

(makes 12)

cake batter:
110g self raising flour
110g caster sugar
110g butter
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract

icing:
110g butter
225g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Pieces of Cadbury's Flake to decorate

Method

Preheat oven to 190 (170 fan).

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add a large spoon of flour and then slowly add the beaten eggs to the mixture, keep it moving all the time.

Mix in the remaining flour, and then add the vanilla extract. Mix the batter until throughly combined and smooth. 

Spoon into a piping bag, and pipe into 12 paper cupcake cases. 

Bake for 15-20 mins until well risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Mix the butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy, add milk and vanilla extract and mix until throughly combined. 

Leave in the fridge until cakes are cool, then pipe onto each cake using a large star nozzle. 

Add a piece of Cadbury's flake for that '99 ice cream' look. 



Lemon Curd Cupcakes

(makes 12)

cake batter:
110g self raising flour
110g caster sugar
110g butter
2 large eggs
juice of half a lemon
rind of half a lemon 
a dash of lemon flavouring

lemon curd for piping into centre of cakes

icing:
110g butter
225g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
juice of half a lemon
a dash of lemon flavouring
2 tbsps lemon curd 
yellow food colouring gel

Method


Preheat oven to 190 (170 fan).

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add a large spoon of flour and then slowly add the beaten eggs to the mixture, keep it moving all the time.

Mix in the remaining flour, and then add the lemon juice, rind and flavouring. Mix the batter until throughly combined and smooth. 

Spoon into a piping bag, and pipe a small amount of cake batter into the bottom of 12 paper cupcake cases. 

Next pop your lemon curd into a piping bag and pipe a lovely big splodge of lemon curd on top of the cake batter, this will give your cakes a gooey lemon curd centre.

Next, pipe the remaining cake batter on top of the lemon curd to almost fill your cases (leaving about a 1cm of paper showing). 

Bake for 15-20 mins until well risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Mix the butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy, add the milk, lemon juice, lemon flavouring, lemon curd and food colouring, and then mix until throughly combined. 

Leave in the fridge until cakes are cool, then pipe onto each cake using a piping bag with whichever nozzle you prefer. 

I added some pretty rice-paper butterflies to my cakes to give them a lovely summery feel and pretty them up! 



Happy Baking my lovelies

Mrs B 

xxxx