Sunday 28 September 2014

Baking: Banana Loaf

loaf tin banana bread loaf shoutjohn

After going crazy baking shortbread ... I decided to do something different and found myself looking at cupcakes again. Several months ago I made some banana cupcakes and they were really enjoyable. However to steer clear of cupcakes ... I rummaged around my cupboard for my loaf tin (which I found).

So without further ado ... 

Preparation: 10-15 mins

Cooking: 50min-60mins
Yield: 1 loaf (about 8 or 9 slices)


1. 2-3 large over-ripe bananas (the ones that are starting to go black on outside, and brown on the inside)

2. 1/2 cup butter - melted or at least very soft
3. 1 cup of granulated sugar or caster sugar if you want
4. 1 egg
5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6. 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
7. pinch of salt
8. 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour


First off I used a mixer ... this can be done with a bowl and a wooden spoon - the choice is yours.

1. Mash or chop up your bananas - this doesn't need to be neat as the mixer should help with this.

2. Add the mashed banana, the sugar, the melted/soft butter, the egg and vanilla extract to the mixer bowl and turn on the mixer. Mix everything together until you get a gloopy paste.
3. Put the mixer on slow and gradually add the bicarbonate of soda, the salt and the self-raising flour until its all mixed together.
4. The cake batter should be very thick. Pour it (or because it was rather thick when I did it) move it into the loaf tin. Make sure the loaf tin is lined with greaseproof paper.
5. Bake in the oven at 180ºC for about 40-50 mins - once that time has passed, take it out and check with a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean then its ready, if not pop it back in and check in 5-10 mins later ... it should be done by then.
6. Take out of the tin, take of the greaseproof paper and leave on a wire rack to cool.
7. Once cooled put into an airtight container.

Hope you enjoyed the recipe - let me know if you baked anything?

Happy Baking



Wednesday 24 September 2014

The Collective Dairy: Live Gourmet Yoghurts

collective dairy luscious lemon passion fruit

No words can describe these yoghurts!


I was going to leave the blog there and publish it ...

A few months ago I popped into Sainsbury's for some food for dinner and came across some yoghurts by The Collective Dairy - at the time Sainsbury's had only had three flavours, they were the passion fruit (pictured above), a raspberry and amaretto flavour, and a Russian fudge flavour. 

Out of the three my favourite had to be the passion fruit - I don't know why but its just sweet, reminds me of exotic(ness) and tropical islands and combined with the plain natural yoghurt made it amazing.

yoghurt, passion, fruit, passionfruit

I then popped into Waitrose in Berkhamsted a couple of weeks ago and discovered a range of different flavours - I did not know about these (having never visited their website) and I got rather overexcited at the fridge section where they were. That much that a woman who was also looking started talking about them and telling me which one she had tried.

I can't remember all the flavours - but the had luscious lemon which is just like lemon curd with natural yoghurt - yummmmm! (that's in the first picture above). There was also a creme brûlée one, a lime and coconut special edition flavour (which I think might be finished now, maybe not) and scottish raspberry.

I picked up the luscious lemon as that was the most appealing to me as you don't often see a lemon yoghurt on the shelves ... I know there are some lemon mousses knocking around but not normally yoghurts.

lemon yoghurt luscious collective dairy

The lemon one wasn't sour as I expected, almost sweet but you could definitely taste the lemon without a doubt. The only complaint I would make is that the tubs are so big and I end up eating the whole tub and then feeling a little bit sick (my own fault of course).

I also think that the balance of the lemon with the amount of natural yoghurt is just right. Lots of people I know complain that there isn't alot of the flavour, and it's all just plain yoghurt but I think there just being picky if I'm honest. You don't want too much flavour as it just gets out of hand and overpowering. Sometimes I even like to eat around the lemon if I'm in the mood for some plain yoghurt.

Overall I enjoyed these yoghurts and always have 1 or 2 in the fridge now. If you haven't tried them before I highly suggest you do. There also great with fresh fruit - just chop up a mixture of different fruit and spoon a couple dollops of your favourite flavour on top and enjoy :)

They also do a range of milkshakes, fruit pouches you suck on, also I noticed they do large tubs of plain yoghurt without anything in apart from the yoghurt obviously - so theres something for everyone!!

You can visit their website to get an idea of the flavours or what other products they do.

I purchased these from Waitrose:

The Collective Dairy: Luscious Lemon - £2.39
The Collective Dairy: Passion fruit - £2.39

Let me know if you've tried them and what your favourite flavour is :)


Friday 19 September 2014

September Playlist Top 20

september playlist top 20

It's been a while since I last blogged ... in my defence I have been playing Destiny ALOT so that's my excuse - and I did warn you all.

I'm a very big fan of music - however I was spending lots of money on iTunes and wanted to find a more cost-effective way than spending £0.99 per song which as you can imagine ends up costing a small fortune.

So I turned to Spotify as they were running a special deal for Students, so instead of paying the normal £9.99 a month, I got it at £4.99 a month instead. So if you think about it - I now have access to thousands and thousands of songs for £4.99 a month, where with iTunes - I could have only gotten 5 songs for that price ... a win-win in my eyes!

There is a Spotify Free version which I think you can listen to 1 song 5 times then you can't anymore unless you purchase it and they put ads between some of the songs - so still okay I suppose. With the Spotify Premium - you get no ads, can listen as much as you want, you can also use Spotify on 3 different devices - so I have it on my MacBook, my iPhone and my iPad. You can also make your playlists available offline so when your not at home on WiFi you don't waste your data.

I've put together a small playlist of my favourites songs that I've been listening to the past month that I wanted to share with you. There quite random as my music taste is all over the place and this month there are a few oldies mixed in there.

This is just a little snippet of my favourite songs at the moment - 

> Bitchin' Summer by Avril Lavigne - is from her new album which is amazing!

> You're Beautiful by Chester See - I found this song on a fan video of Alfie and Zoe (Youtubers for those that don't recognise those names) - was contemplating it for a first dance song at a wedding?

> Ugly Heart by G.R.L - this came out end of last month - really catchy - although sadly a member of the group was found dead in her apartment couple of weeks ago :(

> Fast Car by Tracy Chapman - this isn't a new song but I got in the car this morning and it was playing and I had to add it to the playlist as its been stuck in my head all morning.

> Wolf Bite by Owl City - from their new album which I great - it's only 4 songs - so don't know if you can call it an album - but the 4 songs are great!

> Spinning by Meghan & Lucas - I don't know how I found this ... I think it was on Megan's twitter. You may know her as Strawberry17 ... she also lives with Joey Graceffa - anyway really catchy tune!

That's all from me folks! Hope you enjoyed the post - let me know if you have any favourite songs this month. I've been meaning to do one of these posts for a couple of months now and glad I did it ... 


Sunday 14 September 2014

Nivea Soothing Cleansing Mousse

I'm always on the lookout for facial washes and cleansers that are for sensitive skin. As you all know (or if you don't know) I have very sensitive skin - which means I can't use products that are tough or rough.

I went to Tesco a couple of weeks ago - I think I was looking for some bread and as you do I wandered up the beauty aisle (by accident) and found this on special. I think when I got it - it was £2.25, but I think it's back up to £4.50 - you can check it out on Tesco's website.

nivea soothing cleansing mousse for sensitive skin

Ever since I was young I can remember my Grandmother had a pot of Nivea hand cream in her house, my childminder has some too and even my mother ... so you could say I've grown up with Nivea - and they are definitely a brand I could say I trust so when I found this product I thought I'd give it a shot!

> Nivea claim that the product cleanses deeply and moisturises without being harsh on the skin - which is a big plus for me - what with my skin being so sensitive. I had no adverse reaction using it - nor did my face flare up - so that is a good sign.

> They also mention that after using the product your skin should be much softer and smoother - obviously I'm a guy so my skin is never smooth with the small amount of stubble I have - but it did feel softer to the touch once I had tried it a couple of times.

> It's also a change (we all love a good change) to be putting a foamy mousse onto your face that has a nice sweet scent rather than shaving foam thats strong and minty - so a big, big plus there (obviously this doesn't apply to woman)

> The product also helps the skin to keep its natural moisture balance - which is good if you suffer from dry skin or if like me, you take hot showers (which is probably the reason I have dry skin).

> One of the ingredients in the mousse is - almond oil - which has a range of different benefits - I won't list them all - but almond oil is very popular in the aromatherapy world. It's beneficial for the skin by making it healthier, reduces those dark circles under the eyes, helps to reduce the signs of ageing and helps to decrease those fine lines and wrinkles on your face.

The bottle its self also comes in a cool pump-style as below pictures shows - so 10/10 for ease of getting the product out the bottle:

nivea pump bottle white pink

It is liquid inside the bottle but the push does change this to the nice fragrant mousse. Here are a couple of pictures:

Nivea Soothing Cleansing Mousse

nivea foam hand

Dry skin is a big problem for some people - it can be down to a number of reasons such as:

> Towel Drying - Yes, funnily enough sometimes your towels can be rough, or even when your drying yourself (and I've noticed I do it) you rub, rub, rub really hard over your body - and this can actually remove a lot of the moisture on your skin.

> Soaps & Shower Gels - I did touch base above about this - but some soaps and shower gels can be harsh on the skin as they have a lot of different ingredients which can aggravate your skin - this can dry out the skin also.

> Hot Shower - I am a very big culprit for this - I love a hot shower, one that leaves you coming out looking like a shrivelled up prune - but this can actually be bad for you because it dries out your skin and removes the moisture from your body.

> Body Scrubs - similar to the soap and shower gel - body scrubs can be good for you and your skin, but only in moderation (for example once a week) not every night when you go for a shower or bath. Scrubbing your skin again removes moisture and dries out the skin. Try and limit yourself to 1 or 2 a week.

> Winter Weather - who would have thought the weather could be a culprit - but during the winter months - the temperature drops, it gets colder (if like me you get up at 5am) its very frosty - and this can be bad for your skin - as your going from a nice, warm environment (your bedroom) to a cold, dark, icy car (outside).

Overall I think this product is a must have for your bathroom. People who may want to try this product or benefit from using it would be people like me with sensitive skin or even people who suffer from dry skin. The added almond oil is also good for eczema and psoriasis - if you suffer from that. I have a couple of friends who I will recommend this product to.

Nivea also have a Daily Essentials Refreshing Cleaning Mousse (which I think is more aimed at people with normal skin) and it's a nice light blue bottle.


Wednesday 10 September 2014

PS3 Game: Destiny

Firstly, I would like to apologise in advance for my lack of blog posts as the long, long, long awaited release of Destiny happened yesterday. So I rushed home from work to find this waiting for me - YES I am a full on gamer!

ps3 game, destiny, bungie

I had already taken part in the Beta of Destiny so I was well prepared for this release. Unfortunately Bungie did not allow the transfer of your Beta characters into the real game so you had to start from scratch again. However what took me 3 days in the Beta, took me about 5 hours in the real game as I knew what I was doing and where I was going.

I'm currently at Level 7 and I'm exactly where I ended on the Beta when they closed it. So onwards into the game is all new for me :) 

For those of you who don't game or storyline - a quick version of the story - a 'being' (big round ball shape) known as the traveller arrived in our solar system and terraformed all the planets so they were liveable. Humanity took to the stars and seeded the solar system. Building libraries, and temples etc on all the planets. But unknown to everyone (although I bet the traveller knew) he was being hunted (as he had been for centuries) by a 'darkness' and this darkness finds him and basically destroys and kills all the beautiful buildings the humans built on all the planets and the most of the humans too. The traveller flees to Earth and (not too sure what happens) he fights off the darkness for now and magically protects 1 last city on Earth - where the Guardians live (that's us and what we're called in Destiny) - the traveller also created 'Ghost' little triangle-looking robots to guide and help us. It's our job to fight the darkness and bring back the 'Golden Age' we once knew ... 

I wrote all that from memory but from what I can remember that's a pretty good analysis :)

I have the PS3 version (as you can see in above picture) there is also the PS4 version, and the game is available on Xbox 360 and Xbox One as well.

The PS3 version cost me: £35.00 but I believe its not retailing at: £44.33 - that's Amazon - you might be able to find it cheaper elsewhere.

I also purchased the official strategy guide - however I tend not to read it until I've completed the game or really, really stuck at a part and need some pointers. This was £16.34 on Amazon :) Link is here: - this was the hardback copy, there is a cheaper paperback copy available.

strategy guide

I highly recommend getting the game if you haven't already. If you like shooters with a bit of magic mixed in - then its definitely for you. The graphics and areas are stunning - a lot of time and money has gone into making this game.

Let me know if your on PS3 Destiny and I'll add you on PSN.

Happy Gaming


Baking: Shortbread

It occurred to me that most (or all) of my baking blogs have been cupcakes ... or even when I haven't blogged about what I have been baking ... it's been cupcakes!

So with that in mind I had a look in my cooking cupboard to see what ingredients I had and then took to google to find a recipe - I didn't have much luck ...

I decided to make some shortbread as I found a recipe that one of my family members sent me for Christmas last year in a box. It was my grandmother's recipe for Shortbread. She sadly passed away a few years ago to Cancer. 

You know what they say about your grandparents and their cooking (well in my case anyway) it compared with no ones - not restaurants, not my own parents ... it was the best - no lies! So when I got the recipe I was rather excited as I always loved her shortbread, and her tablet, and her toffee, and her cakes ... I could go on ... but let's get to business.

Shortbread is a very easy thing to bake ... you just need to remember a few little tips which make it better.

ingredients for shortbread

Temperature: 170ºC or 340ºF (depends really on your oven)
Yield: (depending on thickness) I got 18
Time: 10 mins to make, 20 mins freezing/chilling and 10-15 mins baking


1. 8oz plain flour
2. 4oz granulated or caster sugar 
3. 8oz butter
4. 4 oz cornflour

1. You want to let the butter go very soft - so if you are planning on making this, possibly the morning of baking, take the butter out the fridge and leave on the kitchen top so its soft when you start. If not pop it in the microwave on defrost (I did it for 20 seconds on lowest defrost setting) and my butter was very soft. You don't want it melted so don't leave the microwave unattended.

2. The key to shortbread is that you want as less physical contact (with your hands) as possible as you want the ingredients/dough to stay cool. We will get into why ... later on. So add the butter to the mixer and cream until butter is like a paste (takes about 10 seconds) then add the sugar (for a finer biscuit use caster or if you like a crunch use granulated). Cream again until mixed together. 

3. Mix the flours together and sieve into the creamed sugar and butter and slowly mix until everything comes together. You should have a breadcrumb consistency. Wash your hands and quickly bring together the dough in the bowl until it comes together. 

4. Tip the dough onto a work surface (you shouldn't need to flour it as dough shouldn't be sticky) Cut the dough equally into two pieces. Roll each piece up like a sausage on the work surface. Pop the two sausages onto a place or a baking tray and pop into the freezer or fridge to chill. (If you want you can loosely wrap them in cling film).

There are a couple of reasons why we are chilling the dough - it makes it easier to work with when we bring it out of the fridge/freezer and once chilled when it goes into the oven the increase in temperature means that when the butter melts in leaves little air pockets in the shortbread which gives the finished product a more flakier feel.

5. Just before the 20 minutes are up - take time to prepare a couple of baking trays (it's optional if you want to use greaseproof paper). Take our your shortbread sausages. Get a knife and cut the shortbread (this is where you decide how thick or thin you want them) - depending on thickness will decide on how many you get.

6. Place them on the baking trays, trying not to finger them as much as possible - you want to keep them cold or chilling them will have been for nothing.

7. Pop them straight into the oven and set your timer for about 10 minutes ... 

8. After 10 minutes is up you will want to have a look ... in Scotland - some people love a pale piece of shortbread, while others prefer a nice browner, well done piece. I love it pale. So 10-14 mins is okay for me. However you decide what you want.

When I'm making it for other people. I always have 2 baking trays worth of it ... so I take one out after 10 minutes or so and leave the other in another 5-10 minutes so I have a range of shade to let people choose from.

9. Use a fish slice or something to move the shortbread to a cooling rack. While still hot sprinkle some caster sugar on top.

10. Once cooled give me people to eat or pop into an airtight box and take to work - like I did.

shortbread making and baking

Hope you enjoyed the recipe and let me know if you baked it or suggest something for me to bake?!

Happy Baking!


Sunday 7 September 2014

Healthy Eating - Part 2

Following on from my first healthy eating post - which you can check out here if you didn't see it. 

For many people - it's a mission to get up in the morning ... Especially if your like me and get up at 4am - which is not (I repeat not) a normal 'get-up' time.

A handy tip I have learnt is to keep breakfast things at work. That way if your running late, or want to lay in bed that extra 10 minutes checking Facebook or Twitter - this works a treat. I take a loaf of bread to work on the Monday and as long as no one steals it - this will last me the whole week. 

I pop a couple of slices in the toaster and luckily work supplies butter and there you have it - a quick simple breakfast, pair it with a cup of english breakfast tea and your set for the day ahead.

warburtons seeded batch loaf

I'm loving this bread at the moment and this is the bread I take into work - it's the 'Seeded Batch Loaf' from Warburtons. I can't actually remember the first time I tried it - I remember staying at my grandmothers and there was no white bread, all she had was this and I tried it and really liked it. That must have been 6 or 7 years ago ... but I don't think this bread has been out that long - I may be mistaken!?

Anyway back to the present - you can get a small loaf or a larger loaf (this is the larger loaf) pictured above. The bread is very soft - Warburtons mention on their website that they cook there loafs so the sides touch together which means it doesn't harden as much on the outside when cooking. The name 'seeded' comes about as there are five seeds throughout the loaf - linseed, millet, poppy, sunflower and sesame.

The bread is low in fat (4.1g per slice) which is 6% of your recommended daily allowance and is high in fibre (2.7g per slice) which is 11% - so if you have two slices (and this works the way I think it does) thats 22% which is nearly a quarter of your daily allowance.

There are low cost alternatives - I'll be honest and tell you I'm a bit of a snob and will always buy Warburtons but the shops do their own brand of seeded batch loaf and I think the bakery near me does something similar also.

Anyway something to think about when your thinking about what to have for breakfast. A couple of slices of toast and your 1/4 of the way to fulfilling your fibre intake for the day. And it's yummy too!

I buy this product from Tesco and it costs me (normally) £0.85 - it may vary in price.

What breakfast foods do you eat in the morning?


Tuesday 2 September 2014

August Favourites

I can not actually believe its the end of August already. You can tell by the weather here in England that we're making the transition from Summer into a wet, wet Autumn. Saying that the leaves are still green ... 

I feel like I am very organised this month - as normally I do my favourite posts from the month before half-way through the next month - go me!!

So let's begin ...

august favourites

My favourites - as always - are rather random this month ... we'll work our way round the outside, going right and then end up in the middle (good one for forgetting to number the picture)

Cream of Broccoli Soup
In my everlasting quest (your probably getting sick of me going on about it) of trying to eat healthily - I have been making different kinds of soup. Last weekend I made Cream of Broccoli - the good thing with soup is that you don't need a recipe and you can just throw whatever you have in the fridge into the soup. This soup had: carrots, onions (the base for any soup really), broccoli (obviously), stock (you can use vegetable, chicken or beef), and then cream. Whizz it up in a blender and your ready to go :)

Friends has been on for years and years and years and I never get sick of it. I remember E4 (television channel - for those of you who don't know) used to play double episodes 3 or 4 times a day so that was 6 or 8 episodes a day sometimes. It was great. I was lucky enough to get the boxset for my Christmas last year so after I come home from work its great to pop it on in the background, flick through Bloglovin and have a cuppa.

Soap & Glory - Hand Food
I got this a couple of months ago free as Boots had a 3 for 2 deal on. I can't stop using it and it makes your hands so soft. Working in a warehouse, even though I do administration - sometimes I'm lifting boxes or moving things around and my hands get dry and damaged so this hand cream is great at fixing that for you.

Del Rivo Apple & Raspberry Juice
So a new ALDI opened in Hemel Hempstead, this is our second in the last few months. For those of you who don't know - it's a discount supermarket chain. They do a lot of products you can get it Tesco/Sainsbury's/ASDA for half the price. I have bought this juice every time I've gone and it's great with some crushed ice - on it's own, or you can mix with sparkling water or lemonade.

Emporio Armani Diamonds for Men
I've been wearing this aftershave for a couple of years now. It's become my signature smell. I do have a couple others but do prefer this one over them. It's not too pricy, but still high up there. I normally buy the 75ml bottle which is about £55.00. However most times you can get it a bit cheaper at those online fragrance shops, sometimes they even have discount codes or are running events where everything is discounted. I would say the smell is quite sharp - o describe in words I would say its a citrusy, deep amber, woody, pepper smell. 

Deep Heat
I've been doing some long hours at work and this cream/paste is a life saver. I'm not the best one for sitting correctly at my desk when I'm at work. I'm more of a take my shoes off and cross my feet under my bum and sit forward kinda guy - which does nothing for my back - so normally when I get up to do something or get ready to go home - I'm aching all over! For those of you who are not sure about it. So you apply it to the affected area (in my case my lower back) and it will get very warm - sometimes I find it a little uncomfortable, but bearable and it absolutely stinks of eucalyptus and hospital smells (yes a very imaginable way to describe it) but it does work and I would highly recommend it if your aching or have sore muscles. They even recommend it for small or minor sports injuries.

Starbucks Frappuccinos  
Since I moved to England - I have been a big fan of these. We don't really have Starbucks stores where I lived in Scotland (as it was the middle of nowhere) so I instantly took a liking to these when I moved. My favourite during the Summer would have to be the Mocha Cookie Crumble - but it is rather sickly so sometimes I switch back to my all year go to frap - which is a Caramel, Coffee Frap - I love this one - as it has just the right amount of caramel so that it takes the edge of the coffee and its not bitter. I'm not really a coffee lover (I know shock, horror) but since having these ... I'm coming around.

EAT. Simple Chicken Salad
There are not may EAT. restuarants/shops around this area so when I walked past one I took the chance to go in and try their food - as it's marketed that there food is healthy, and amazing so I wanted to try it for myself. I had the Simple Chicken Salad - and as you can see by the picture it was amazing. I was a bit worried - as many of there sandwiches have rocket it, so I was expecting some in the salad - but no it was good.

There we have it ... another month done and gone ... I really don't know where the time is going. Soon it will be Christmas (but I won't get into that ... yet). 

Hope you enjoyed the post ... apologies again that it was so long ... I need to get an editor or something so they can stop me from rambling on and on and on ...

Happy Blogging!

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