Thursday 28 January 2016

Let's Talk About Food: EGGS!

Hey everyone :)

If you follow my blog then you will have seen recently that I've gone a bit crazy on the baking front and my blog has been full of cupcakes and other odds and sods! This in turn got me thinking about all the ingredients and what I'm putting into the cupcakes which leads on to what my post today is about - EGGS!

Eggs are very versatile food and ingredient when it comes to baking or eating. You can make just about anything with them - on there own you can have them fried, scrambled, poached or boiled and mixed into things you can have amazing meals such as carbonara, quiche, pancakes, cupcakes, muffins ... I could go on but we'd be here all day!

Nutritionally eggs are a great source of protein - if you know anyone who frequents the gym then they probably eat lots of high protein foods and eggs are probably one of them. More than 3/4 of the protein of an egg are in the white - which probably explains why you can buy just cartons of egg white in the supermarkets. The whites also contain Vitamin B2, D, B6 and B12, Selenium, and minerals such as Zinc, Copper and Iron. Let us not forget about the yolk (my favourite part) - you could say the yolk is the unhealthier part of the egg as it contains more calories and fat. It also includes a source of cholesterol, Vitamins A, D, E and K, and Lecithin.

When it comes to buying eggs (unless I'm visiting my parents in Scotland - then I get eggs from their chickens - they are AMAZING compared to supermarket eggs!) then I always buy free-range. I don't know why - it may stem from a documentary I watched years ago about the horrible conditions caged hens were put through and since then I've never bought caged eggs again. There are a couple of things I look for when buying eggs - that they are free-range or organic, and that all eggs look good and are not broken or cracked. All eggs should also be stamped with the British Lion Eggs logo - this is a food safety mark scheme that nearly 90% of eggs in the UK are produced under. Egg producers have to follow strict rules and procedures to attain and hold the mark.

I was recently contacted by British Lion Eggs and asked to produce a recipe that I enjoy and post it here on my blog - which I obviously jumped at the chance to do so - as who could turn down a cooking/baking post. Since I have done several cupcake posts I thought I'd try something different today.

Scrambled Egg and Bacon on Seeded Batch Toast

2 x eggs
1 x tub of double cream (or milk if you prefer)
3 x rashers of smoked bacon
2-4 slices of seeded batch loaf
salt and pepper to taste
knob of butter

1. In a glass bowl - add the 2 x eggs, a glug of double cream, the butter, and the salt and pepper. With a fork stir/whisk this until incorporated together. Set to one side. To butter probably won't mix as its hard but don't worry it will melt when you cook them.

2. In a frying pan - fry the 3 rashers of bacon until cooked how you like them. I like mine well done.
3. Toast your bread - depending on how hungry I am - I will have 2 or 4 slices - the loaf is quite small.

4. While your bread is toasting - pop the glass bowl of egg mix into the microwave (yes I'm cheating) and pop on for 1 minute. Take it out and check it's cooked. If not pop it back in for another 30 seconds and keep doing this until it's ready. I like mine on the verge of just cooked so its quite sloppy still.
5. Get your toast, bacon and scrambled egg and pop it on a plate.
6. Pop the kettle on and make yourself a cup of tea or have a glass of orange juice.

If you want a healthier option - as let's face it my scrambled eggs are not healthy then I sometimes also make:

Poached Egg with Avocado on Toast

2 x eggs
2-4 slices of seeded batch loaf
2 x avacados
1 x lime
salt and pepper to taste
2 dash of vinegar

1. Put a pan of water on to boil. Add a couple of dashes of vinegar.
2. Cut the avocados in half, remove the stone, scoop out the inside into a bowl and discard the skins.
3. Squeeze some lime juice into the bowl and add some salt and pepper. Using a fork mash the avocado until mushy but still lumpy.
4. Pop the bread into the toaster.
5. For the eggs, you want to get a spoon and start swirling the water (like a whirlpool) and then crack (one at a time) the eggs into the middle of the whirlpool. Cook them for about 3-4 minutes - I find this the exact amount of time for the yolks still to be runny. You can find a definitive guide of cooking times online for poaching HERE.
6. While the eggs are poaching, smear some of the avocado mix on top of the toast and place on a plate. Then take out the eggs and drain as much water as you can and them pop on top of the avocado-covered toast.
7. Get a glass of apple or orange juice and eat your healthy meal :)

These are just a couple of recipes I've been making for the last few years on and off - however if you are looking for any more you can find lots and lots here @ Egg Recipes. Let me know if you do make anything and send me a link here or a picture on Twitter.

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Disclosure: I received a free gift in exchange for writing this post. All opinions are my own and are not influenced in anyway.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Beer Batter & Maple Bacon Cupcakes

Hi everyone :)

As you probably have noticed I've gone a bit cupcake crazy over the last couple of weeks. I've been posting cupcake recipes here, there and everywhere. I was searching for a new recipe and for some odd reason beer batter and bacon cupcakes popped into my head. I have no idea why and I don't know where the thought came from so I took to Google and found this great recipe HERE on another blogger's blog (inspired from 2 Broke Girls) which I decided to make.

Ingredients (for cupcake batter):
1 1/2 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (aka bicarbonate of soda)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup beer (preferably a citrusy white beer like Hoegaarden)

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a muffin tray with 12 cupcake cases. I prefer a muffin tray to a cupcake tray as they are deeper and hold the shake of the cupcake better.
2. Together mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
3. Using a food mixer, or handheld mixer or your hand and a wooden spoon - add the sugar and butter to the bowl and beat until creamed together.
4. Then alternate adding the beer, an egg and the flour into the creamed sugar and butter until all incorporated and you have a well mixed cake batter.
5. Divide the batter into the 12 cupcake cases.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes. After 25 minutes check with a skewer and if it comes out clean take them out the oven. If not just pop them back in for a couple more minutes.
7. Leave in the tray for 5-10 minutes and then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool.

While the cupcakes are cooling we can make the candied bacon and frosting ...

Ingredients (for candied bacon):
1 pack streaky bacon
2-3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1. If you still have the oven on from the cupcakes - great! Just turn it up to 200°C.
2. Get 1 baking tray and line it with greaseproof paper or foil.
3. Cut the streaky bacon in half so it's not too long and lay on the baking tray.
4. Sprinkle brown sugar on the bacon and turn over and sprinkle on the other side too.
5. Put another piece of foil or greaseproof paper on top of the bacon and if you have another baking tray (preferably the same size) push it down on top of the bottom tray creating a kind of seal.
6. Put in the oven for about 20-30 minutes.
7. Check after this time - you might need to put it back in. It should be well cooled and overdone.
8. Take out to cool. Once cooled just use a knife and it should just crumble and snap and shatter when you try to cut it -that's when you know its ready!

Ingredients (for frosting):
3/4 cup soft room temperature butter
2 cups icing sugar
3 tablespoon maple syrup
candied bacon (from above)

1. I used my food mixer so in the bowl I added the butter and beat it for a little bit.
2. Then gradually add the icing sugar bit by bit and let it mix well with the butter.
3. While adding the icing sugar - at 3 separate intervals add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and let it mix in well too.
4. Depending on the thickness of your frosting - if you want it thicker, add some more icing sugar or milk (tablespoon at a time) if you want it softer.
5. I used a piping bag but you can just smear it over the tops of the cupcakes. Pipe/Smear on the icing and then sprinkle some shards of candied bacon. Voila! All done.

The cupcakes tasted different but a good different. I will admit though that even though they tasted good - the cupcake actually stuck to the inside of the liners which after Googling - either means they were crap liners or I didn't add enough flour or butter. So just be mindful of that before making them.

If you do make them let me know how you get on and send me links/pictures.


Tuesday 26 January 2016

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Hey everyone :)

I always had a thing for carrot cake ... I remember I used to frequent a cafe in my hometown and they had the most amazing carrot cake and it had this amazing cream cheese icing - truth be told I scrapped the icing of the cake and ate it and left the cake. I'll never forget my mum moaning at me constantly about wasting it but anyway ... I've been meaning to make something with carrot - like a cake, or a loaf, or cupcakes!

I opted for cupcakes as it means I can take them to work and share them out with my work colleagues. The 'Raspberry & White Chocolate Cupcakes' went down a treat and disappeared within seconds. I found a recipe on Martha Stewart's website - you can check the original recipe HERE - as always I'm altered it and added some of my own little comments.

1 1/2 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (aka bicarbonate of soda)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 ground cinnamon
1/4 ground nutmeg
1/4 ground ginger
3/4 cup melted butter (unsalted) - you're better melting then measuring
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons plain low-fat yoghurt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup grated carrot

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C-190°C (depending on oven) and line a muffin tray (these are better than cupcake trays) with 12 cases.
2. You will need two bowls - so get one of them and add all the dry ingredients (apart from the sugar) - so the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Give it a stir with a spoon or whisk.
3. I used a food mixer (but you don't have to) in the mixer bowl add the wet ingredients - melted butter (but let it cool or you could scramble the egg), the egg, the yoghurt, sugar and vanilla essence. Turn the mixer on and mix for a minute or so. Add the grated carrot and mix again until incorporated.
4. You should have two bowls - one with dry ingredients and one with wet ingredients - gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients bit by bit until all mixed together ... I did it in 3 goes.
5. Divide the batter into the 12 cupcake cases - I only managed to get 11 because I put a bit too much batter in each cupcake but that didn't cause any issues.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes (mine took 20 minutes exactly at 180°C) but I know all ovens are different so just watch them and then check with a skewer that it comes out clean when tested.
7. Once ready remove from the oven and leave in the tray for 5-10 minutes and then take out and leave on a wire cooling rack until completely cool - then you can frost.

226g of cream cheese
133g of butter (soft, room temperature)
1 cup of icing sugar (sifted)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon orange zest (i used half an orange worth of zest)

1. Using my food mixer again (with the whisk attachment) add the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar to the bowl and whisk until smooth and creamy.
2. Add the vanilla essence and the orange zest and whisk again for 10 seconds or until incorporated.
3. Spread over the top of the cupcakes. You could try piping but you would need to add more icing sugar to stiffen the mixture as it's quite soft.

Note: I don't put the cream cheese frosting on all the cupcakes - I keep the cupcakes in a separate container and the frosting in another and keep it refrigerated (as it's cheese after all) - I leave the cupcakes in an airtight container in the kitchen - I then before serving - frost the cupcakes. I only do this because if you frost and then refrigerate the cupcakes - the cupcakes themselves go tough and chewy which I think is horrible.

Have you baked anything this weekend? Let me know in the comments below.


Friday 22 January 2016

The 'Lost In A Book' Tag

Hey everyone :)

I was reading one of my favourite blogs: Underland to Wonderland by Danielle and she did a post called "The 'Lost In A Book' Tag" and as I love reading - I thought I'd steal the idea and do it for today's post. You can check Danielle's out HERE

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
I like to be comfortable when reading so I normally get settled in bed with a book. I tried to read on holiday but it was too warm and I was more interested in the pool.

2. Where do you like to read?
As I said above - bed is my more favorable choice.

3. Bookmark or random piece of paper?
I use neither actually - I sometimes fold the corner of the page I'm on down or I just try and remember the next time I pick up the book.

4. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop at a chapter?
Depending on the book - for example Harry Potter I could not put it down and stopped at a chapter so I didn't miss anything. Some other books I can stop anywhere.

5. Do you eat or drink while reading?
Sometimes I'll have a drink or a snack but not a full on meal. 

6. E-reader or real book?
Definitely a real book as it makes me want to read it and it's dare I say it ... old fashioned now! I did buy a couple of books on iBooks (the e-reader for the iPhone) and I didn't like it ... there is more distraction that you can check like Facebook or Twitter or something. 

7. Music or television while reading?
I need complete silence and no distraction when I have a book. Even if my boyfriend is sitting near me and is tapping on his phone or even moving - I can't read!

8. One book at a time or several at once?
One at a time as I would probably confuse myself and think other books were part of the book I was reading. Plus I always like to imagine the book in my mind and it's easier with one book that several at once.

9. Reading at home or everywhere?
To be honest I have never read anywhere else apart from my bed (at home) and 'tried' to on holiday in Spain. But I prefer at home where there are less (to zero) distractions.

10. Reading aloud or silently in your head?
We used to have to read segments aloud at school in class and I hated it. I much prefer silently in my own little world.

11. Fiction or non-fiction
Both ... I love magical or sci-fi though ... they are my weakness.

12. Do you read ahead or skip pages?
I can't believe people do this? You might miss something important or ruin the story.

13. Break the spine or keep a book like new?
I like them looking like new ... is that bad? haha! Like they are in a bookshop!

14. Do you write in your books?
If I bought the book to write a paper on ... like in school - then yes I would (I did) write on it ... but for just reading for pleasure then no ... never ... it would ruin them and what if I lent the book to anyone??

15. Your favourite book?
Hmmm .. it's a choice between Harry Potter or Twilight.

If you have never done this tag and feel like doing it feel free ... I won't tag anyone!

Let me know in the comments if you have done it and leave a link so I can go check it out!!


Wednesday 20 January 2016

Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Hey everyone :)

Hope you are well? Today is Wednesday and when I got up it was -4°C - I could barely move ... although saying that Dave constantly tells me it was around -25°C when he was in Canada so I shouldn't complain. My front door also locked itself shut yesterday so I was stuck in my house - so a perfect opportunity to make 'Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate Cupcakes'!

I found the recipe HERE on Sainsbury's website ... I have adapted it slightly but the original is there if you want it.

Batter Ingredients:
85g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
70g golden caster sugar (I used normal as didn't have golden)
70g light muscovado sugar
120g butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp sea salt flakes
2 medium eggs
70m milk (whole or semi-skimmed milk)
140g self-raising flour, sifted
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

Step 1 - Preheat the oven to 180°C (or fan 160°C or gas mark 4). Get a muffin tin and line with cupcake cases. I find the muffin trays are better than cupcake tins as they are deeper and keep the shape of the cupcake/muffin.

Step 2 - Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water, once melted whisk in 70ml of boiled water and whisk until smooth. Leave this to the side to cool down.

Step 3 - Add both sugars to a bowl and rub with your fingers until you've got rid of little lumps or if your lazy like me put it in the mixer and put the whisk attachment on and leave it for 5 minutes - this works too!

Step 4 - Then add everything to the bowl of mixed sugar - so the cooled melted chocolate, cooled melted butter, vanilla essence, sea salt flakes, 2 eggs, milk, self-raising flour and cocoa powder. Mix together either with a wooden spoon or by food mixer (if doing it that way). Once all mixed together divide the mixture into the 12 cupcake cases - they will look very full but don't worry they won't overflow.

Step 5 - Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Take out from the oven and leave in the tin for 5-10 minutes and then place onto a wire cooling rack - be careful as they will still be hot.

Ganache Icing Ingredients:
120ml double cream
120g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), finely chopped or grated
50g butter
1/2 tsp sea salt
100g icing sugar sifted

Step 1 - Add the cream, chocolate and butter into a bowl set over a pan of hot water. Stir until the mixture is melted. Once melted, stir in 60ml of hot water and whisk until combined together and glossy looking. Stir in the salt flakes.

Step 2 - Place in the fridge or somewhere cool for an hour or so ... or until the mixture as thickened and cooled. It will look very runny but it will thicken - don't panic!

Step 3 - Once cooled - whisk in the 100g sifted icing sugar.

Step 3 - Once cupcakes are cooled, and once ganache is ready either spread over the cupcakes or put in a piping bag and pipe onto the cupcakes. Sprinkle with sea salt for decoration.

Have you ever tried such an odd combination ... dark chocolate I find is always bitter but they tasted good. Let me know if you have been making any cupcakes in the comments below and what your favourite flavour is.


Tuesday 19 January 2016

ASOS 'Spring' Wishlist

Hey everyone :)

It's January ... although with this weather (ice and snow) you would think it's November or probably December but I suppose ice and snow are more common in the UK at the start of the new year rather than the end of the last year.

In my head I feel like it's Spring now - even though the Spring Equinox (or the first day of Spring) isn't until March 20th. As it feels like Spring I felt like doing a clothing/wishlist post for all things 'Spring' which means green (or white) depending on your mood but I chose green as it's a good, lively colour.

1. Hollister Long Sleeve T-Shirt with Sleeve Print in Green - £19.00 - I'm loving long-sleeved t-shirts at the moment as it's still cold and it keeps my arms warm.

2. ASOS T-Shirt With Brush Stroke Print In Relaxed Skater Fit - £12:00 (on sale £7.00) - I love minimal t-shirts and this is just a brush stroke design and nothing else.

3. Minimum T-Shirt With Stripe - £30.00 (on sale £18.00) - If you saw my posts from last year you knew I was loving stripes so I had to sneak one into this post. 

4. New Look T-Shirt with Pocket in Aztec Print - £12.99 - I love t-shirts with little pockets and I love them even more when the pattern is different and funky looking.

5. ASOS Muscle T-Shirt with Bird Print In Green - £14.00 - Fade-effect seems to be a thing at the moment - I've bought a couple faded-t-shirts and these birds are slightly faded on the t-shirt which looks great.

Do you have any plans for a 'Spring' wardrobe or are you still recovering from Christmas and your bank account can't take another hit? Let me know in the comments below.


Friday 15 January 2016

Let's Talk ... (life update)

Hey everyone :)

I'm currently waiting on my White Chocolate & Raspberry Cupcakes to bake so I thought I'd take this opportunity to type a 'life update' post as my last one was over a year ago. I have tried since then to write one but I always feel like I waffle on and make no sense but I'm going to give it a go nonetheless.

Where to begin ...

I suppose I should start with my birthday on the 9th December last year I turned 25! Yes 25! I know ... can you hear me cry? I am crying ... For the last couple of years I've told myself that age is just a number but since I turned 25 - all I can think about is life and what I'm doing with it ... and the answer ... still at the age of 25 - I have no idea. I'm wondering how long I can go on before I really need to sit down and say to myself ... 'John, you need to decide'.

I thought I'd try and break this update into sections to stop me from straying from the path ...

Health & Fitness
I'm very healthy ... apart from a cold that has nearly gone I am what I would consider well. I'm trying to eat healthier ... however McDonald's profits have soared ever so slightly when they brought back their Mozzarella Bites - they are amazing! YUM! I am considering re-joining the gym but I can no longer get into the 'Under 25' club so it would cost be around £72 to join Virgin - which is extortionate however their pool, sauna and jacuzzi are pretty amazing and the gym/classes are good too. I feel that if I paid that much it might make me go but then I think ... do I have time? I have a full-time job, a blog (where I post 3 times a day), a YouTube channel and a social life - can I fit the gym/swimming in a few times a week? Some people would say if you really wanted it - you would make time ... I might die if I make any more time in my life!!

I'm still currently in shared accommodation - it's cheap and easy. That's my excuse - Dave and myself are looking for places to stay however house/flat prices in Hemel are crazy expensive. We also want to go on holiday and it's easier for me to save staying in shared accommodation that it is if we move in together so I think we have decided to do the holiday(s) first and then look at places to stay together. I'm hoping that by this Christmas we are moved in and settled together as I said the same thing last year but I am determined to stick to it this year.

We celebrated our 4 year anniversary on Christmas Day 2015 past there. So that's four years we've been together even though for 3 months he was in Bulgaria and 6 months he was in Canada - it's been four years! Seems like such a long time. We didn't do anything special as we tend to combine our Christmas presents and anniversary presents into one and because it falls around the holidays - he spends time with his family and my work tends to be erratic.

Obviously I can't say too much about work on my blog as I might break some 'social media policy' they have but work is work ... I put lots of hours in and some personal hours and I get basically nothing out of it. I feel like I'm stuck in a rut - the job is going nowhere at the moment. The only position I can progress on to is taken and my manager doesn't have any plans to go anywhere soon so I have been looking elsewhere but interviews and new jobs suck ass - I don't want to be the new person!

I celebrated my 1 year anniversary in June last year so this June will be the 2nd year I have had my blog so I am excited for that. It's done well and I'm excited for this year. I'm getting more into my photography - before it was just point and shoot and the first picture was my picture, but now I spend time with lighting, background, position, then I play with the manual setting on my camera ... it is quite fun ... however taking 1000 pictures and then spending ages picking 1 or 2 for my blog is not so much fun haha!

I will admit that I spent lots of time focusing on my blog so my channel got neglected a tiny little bit. I went from weekend vlogging (that's Fri, Sat, Sun and post Mon) for 16 weekends to daily vlogging ... which killed me ... editing everyday was a nightmare and I love editing ... but everyday - OUCH! Then I stopped completely so I could recover. I do 'sit-down' videos every so often - I try for once a week but sometimes I forget or don't have time to shoot a video so I leave it for a week. I miss vlogging ... so I have decided that if I do something exciting or I find a week where I'm doing lots - I'll vlog it and collage it together in one big vlog - hopefully that will be exciting.

How is your life going? Anything exciting been happening? Let me know in the comments below.


Wednesday 13 January 2016

Raspberry & White Chocolate Cupcakes

Hey everyone :)

Raspberry & White Chocolate Cupcakes

On Tuesday I asked my work colleagues what flavour of cupcakes they would like me to make and Mark asked for 'raspberry and white chocolate' so that is what I made. Don't they look good?!

I found the recipe HERE on BBC Good Food if you want the original but I haven't altered anything.

300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g golden caster sugar (or plain caster sugar works too)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
225ml milk (I used whole)
50g melted butter (cooled, not too hot)
100g fresh raspberries
100g chopped white chocolate (good quality - I used Green&Blacks)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (or 180°C for fan oven) and line a cupcake/muffin tray with 12 cases. I found these floral ones in Tesco or just use whatever you have lying around.

2. You will need two bowls - in the first bowl - sift the plain flour, baking powder and sugar. In the second bowl add the wet ingredients so the egg, vanilla essence, the melted (cooled) butter and milk and mix together. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. I used my mixer again but you could just use a wooden spoon. 

3. Once mixed add the white chocolate and mix again until incorporated. The next part if you are using a mixer - STOP! Get a wooden spoon as we need to add the raspberries but you want to try and keep them as whole as possible as you don't want them to break up. So add them and gently mix them until they are incorporated (I love that word!) into the mix.

4. Spoon the mixture into the 12 cases - don't worry if it looks like there is hardly any batter and more chocolate and raspberries in the cases ... I was wondering about this ...

5. Pop them into the oven for 20 - 25 minutes ... after 20 minutes mine were just starting to brown so I left them in for around 23 minutes and then checked a couple of a skewer. The skewer came out clean so I took them out.

6. Leave them in the cupcake/muffin tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire cooling rack until cool. You can eat one when they come out but be careful as the raspberries are really hot - I burnt my tongue :(

7. For decoration you could do a butter cream icing, but I wanted to keep it simple so I melted some leftover white chocolate and just drizzled it over the tops of the cupcakes ... just make sure they are completely cooled before doing this.

Let me know what your favourite flavour is and I'll try and make it in the comments below.

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