An Alternative Sunday Lunch

This year I’ve truly gone outside of my comfort zone with the food I cook at home and I’m really quite proud of myself. I’ve managed to perfect some meals I never really gave a chance before and experience completely new ways of cooking.

To an extent I honestly thought that it was impossible to cook high quality meals from scratch and that in order to experience the finer foods I would need to eat out and spend a lot of money but, oh how wrong was I.

I came to this assumption because I considered myself to be a humble little home cook, creating what I realise now to be unambitious meals for me and my partner. You know the sort of meals I mean… spag bol, stir fries and boring unidentifiable curries to name a few.

Last November though, whilst staying in the Cotswolds me and partner decided to challenge ourselves by choosing menu items we’d never dared to try before. Since this experience I’ve kept that ball rolling and, in August I began ordering from Gousto.

I’ve never really looked back since.

Never missed my old meals and I never intend to revert back to previous bad habits.

Now, lets talk about the gooooood stuff…

Sunday lunch!!

I always thought that a roast dinner had to be one thing. I thought it had to be chicken or beef, had to come absolutely covered in gravy with packet mix stuffing and frozen yorkshire puddings. You had to have roast potatoes (seasoned with rosemary – I thank my mum for that little tip) and if you were lucky you might get a roast parsnip or two.

I loved the roast dinners I used to cook, slow cooking beef for hours and filling up my flat with the delicious scent of red wine and garlic religiously every Sunday.

BUT, I was stressed. Prepping veg in advance and panicking about timing was enough to make me never want to make another roast ever again.

I seriously have no idea how my mum mastered the art of making sure every item was ready at the same time. It’s a real talent!

Anyway, it’s safe to say my viewpoint has changed and the stress is gone all because of Gousto I might add.

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I’ve realised now that I/everyone I know has been doing Sunday lunch wrong I’m sorry to say.

A good Sunday lunch should appear simple but every ingredient should compliment one another and comfort you.

Exactly my experience with this festive pork recipe.

  • Roast pork belly with crackling
  • Sprout mash
  • Red cabbage
  • Parsnips
  • Plum gravy

How wholesome yet, vibrant.

Packed full of veg with sweet and savory notes to compliment one another and paired perfectly with succulent pork belly. A dish I never thought I’d be able to create in my own kitchen.

If I’ve learnt anything this year it’s that simplicity is everything when cooking.

Recipes shouldn’t be overcomplicated and cooking shouldn’t be a daunting task.

I’ll certainly be cooking this time and time again.

Most of all, I should also add that, I’ve never cooked pork belly at home before and it turned out so well! I didn’t burn my flat down or set my smoke alarm off (my biggest kitchen fear) and I didn’t over or under cook it.

I can’t wait to continue growing my love of food in the NY and sharing the journey with all my lovely followers.

This post is one of two before Christmas, so please stay posted for my next update where I cook another exciting dish using Duck for the first time.

Where’s My Christmas Spirit?

Christmas is most definitely my favourite time of year but, this time around I can’t seem to find my Christmas spirit.

So many of us at this time of year put enormous amounts of pressure on ourselves to live up to a certain expectation and as a result it’s sometimes hard to sit back and enjoy the festivities.

Christmas is probably when I feel the most stressed personally. Money is always at the forefront of my mind and making sure I buy perfect gifts for all of my relatives is my top priority. However, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s important and often I forget that during this season in particular I need some real down time to feel calm, something I really need after a busy year of financial worry.

So, whilst admiring my humble sized Christmas tree sat upon my windowsill I suppose I’m wondering about the pressure we all put on ourselves to spend, whether it’s really necessary and whether it’s something we all feel?

I don’t come from a big family with lots of money to spare but, no matter what we’ve always tried to spoil each other with gifts on Christmas day. Seeing the look of surprise on someones face when opening their Christmas present feels priceless at the time however, the overspending, the heartache involved and feeling crippled by debt in the NY is all too real.

I like to think that’s something we all experience. Maybe not every year but probably at some point during our adult lives and, this year it’s my turn.

I haven’t really found a way to resolve the issue and I’m still pretty daunted knowing that as soon as payday hits most of my expendable income will be gone in a matter or hours or days.

I love shopping though, whether I’m buying for myself or for my loved ones. Yet, I think I’m somewhat frugal with my spending nonetheless. So, feeling the pressure to shop until there’s nothing left at Christmas is a little hard for me to feel okay about. On previous years when I was in a more financially secure position with more disposable income than I knew what to do with it was okay but, this year money has been tight  and I know that I’ll still be catching up in 2019.

Maybe in a perfectly rational way I just need to accept that Christmas 2018 isn’t going to be that special. In fact, I’m actually working for the most part anyway.

Maybe I just need to realise that Christmas is just a day? Something shortly forgotten.

So, what now?

In between trying to find my Christmas spirit I’m going to try my hardest to feel calm, spend within my means and stop when things get a little too overwhelming. Something I hope isn’t easier said than done.

Old Flames

Sitting here slightly hungover and drinking diet coke, I’m reminded of my old flames in the form of best friends and just why they mean so much to me.

I’ve always struggled balancing my social calendar especially during the festive season and the task always feels daunting but, recently I met up with two of my closest school friends for dinner at our local Wetherspoons and all my anxieties disappeared.

I’m just so happy that we were finally all available on one cold November evening for one another.

We’ve always had the ability to talk and talk and talk for hours without taking a breath. Voices getting louder with every sip of alcohol.

We drank lots of wine and gin, spoke about our relationships, old school friends, food etc and reminded ourselves of why after over 10 years we still make time to care and love one another.

We’re all now more or less in the same head space, settled down with our partners, looking forward to 2019, saving for a home and wanting to go on lots of exciting adventures. Supporting each other and equally wanting to make more of an effort to keep in touch.

It feels like time is fleeting these days and often we all forget to communicate with each other and the rest of our wider friend group but, personally, I know that as long as my friends are happy and healthy it doesn’t matter whether I see them once a year or once a week.

Nonetheless, when I’m with my best two I feel like I’m fun, carefree and ready for anything. That’s something I haven’t felt for a while and never realised I missed until now.

26 Facts About Me

 

  1. My favourite soup is spicy parsnip
  2. I’m currently reading Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eye Witness Account
  3. I can’t sit on the sofa without being under my big fluffy blanket
  4. I found out I had Dyspraxia when I was 18
  5. I’m fascinated about North Korea
  6. I like my surroundings to be quiet 
  7. I studied at Plymouth University and graduated during 2015
  8. I love cooking but hate the mess it creates and washing up
  9. My first job after graduating was in a call center for Virgin
  10. I used to be vegetarian
  11. I was made redundant at 23
  12. Brie is my favourite cheese
  13. I love an M&S scented candle and own many!
  14. I have two tattoos and plan on getting more in the NY
  15. Carbonara is my favourite pasta dish
  16. I moved in with my partner after being together for only 5 months
  17. I dislike Theresa May and want to stay in the EU!!
  18. I eat Halloumi for lunch more often than not
  19. I play the Sims 4 frequently
  20. I only work 3 days a week
  21. I’m happiest when I’m at the beach
  22. I can’t decide whether lemon drizzle or coffee cake is my favourite
  23. I’ve recently perfected my cauliflower cheese recipe 
  24. I love spicy food
  25. I’ve been dying my hair since I was 12
  26. November is my favourite month

 

Turning 26

Tired eyed and cold whilst writing today.

Hugging a hot water bottle snuggled up under a blanket and waiting for my partner to come home.

I’m thinking, my 26th birthday later this month has crept up on me.

When did I settle down into this life, into my skin and become who I am?

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With these tired eyes I’m thinking that I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made so far as an adult. Some spontaneous, some well thought out and some fell right into my lap.

Because of these moments shaping who I want to be, I’m beginning to live worry free (for the most part) and am able to live a comfortable life with my partner by my side.

Freedom for me has happened over time through actively changing my job and shifting priorities.

Right now, for the first time, I feel like I have control over every aspect of my life. I can choose how much I want to work, I have creative freedom and time to spend doing what I love, time to myself and time for my loved ones.

I’m quietly confident in my own skin which is something that I think comes with time. I know who I am as an individual, what makes me tick and what I want to do with my life.

These tired eyes are sleepy because I chose to have a busy day, shopping, eating lunch with a friend and working from home. Not overwhelmed by my job or my social calender and that feeling is priceless.

It’s important to remember though that a lot of life events are completely out of our control and, just like everyone, I have moments of self doubt and dark days where I want to hide away, take a break from life and reassess.

Turning 26 on the 25th felt daunting at first.

The years seem to be flying by but I’m ready for whatever’s next.

Things don’t always go to plan I’m learning but, my big goal is to hopefully buy a house by the time I’m 30. I want to continue feeling free, content and happy everyday. I don’t want to over complicate relationships and constantly worry about the little things.

I’ll be spending my birthday later this month relaxing at home, hopefully going on a spontaneous UK mini break and eating lots of good food with my partner, who’s birthday just happens to be the day after mine.

“Happiness is pretty simple: someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.” – Rita Mae Brown.

6 Weeks of Autumn

I’ve been busy apparently, suffering from a cold at least twice, going to work, hurting my foot, feeling sorry for myself and taking an accidental mini break away from my blog.

I wanted to write but just didn’t know what to say exactly.

I didn’t worry about promoting content or think about stats.

But, over the past 6 weeks I’ve still been taking photos knowing that at some point I wanted to share where I’ve been/what I’ve been up to.

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I left the house at 8am to visit my doctors and left the appointment feeling just as frustrated. On the plus side, the walk was beautiful!

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Just a couple days later I returned to the doctors and my issue was resolved thanks to a lovely course of antibiotics and a very helpful nurse.

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I visited my mum and walked our/her two old timers Coco and Herbie.

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I sat on a bench opposite my old work and watched the ongoing building works. Once this complex is complete it’ll be an extension of our shopping center Drake Circus and hold a cinema, lots of parking and at least 14 new restaurants.

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I visited Nandos with a close friend (her choice not mine but I enjoyed it.) I still don’t understand the obsession with the chain at all but I know what I like and can handle spice wise so I was still able to enjoy a nice lunch. For anyone wondering, I ordered the sunset burger with piri fries.

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I bought two books that I’ve wanted to read for a long time but still somehow haven’t managed to start. I can’t help but want to know as much as I possibly can about this subject.

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I admired my beautiful bedroom window and thought about buying more houseplants and candles.

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I baked unattractive chocolate and coffee cupcakes but my work friends loved them.

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I drank good coffee and walked around Royal William Yard with my family.

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Me and my partner stopped for petrol before travelling to a farm shop and returned with duck pie!

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I walked down a street I used to live on purposely to admire these incredible red Autumn leaves.

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I caught up with a friend and went for an evening walk with her dog to the Barbican.

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I made smoked basa fish cakes from scratch with curried mayo and spring greens.

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I whipped up an easy peasy pasta recipe using just garlic, olive oil, chilli and prawns.

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I bought a pair of yellow socks from H&M and sat in bed admiring them for hours. These are my favourite thing now.

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I went food shopping and wore my prescription glasses for the first time in forever.

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I ate more halloumi whilst binge watching Shameless on Netflix.

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In the same day I made steak and mushroom stroganoff.

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I waited in the cold for my mum who is never usually late before grabbing lunch at Starbucks.

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I spent lots of time trying to enjoy my everyday. Going for walks, being in my own company and looking after myself during my favourite season.

What have you been up to this October?

 

Lemon Drizzle

Considering my blog title you’d think I’d love to bake more than I actually do.

The truth is I just love eating cake.

I’ve baked a few good cupcakes in the past and adore butter cream but, baking is an art I’m yet to master.

However, today I thought I’d give baking another go with a little help from Boutique Bake and their lemon drizzle mix.

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The recipe was so easy peasy.

All I needed was 3 eggs, 150g of butter and 1 lemon/lemon juice, whisking the mixture together until light and fluffy before spooning into a cake tin.

The cake didn’t rise as much as I’d hoped for but, to be honest, I didn’t have the appropriate sized tin and didn’t realise that until I read the box.

I could have bought another I suppose but I’m full of cold and feeling extra lazy this Thursday afternoon.

The rise didn’t impact the taste at all though I’m pleased to say and I can’t wait to bring this cake to work on Friday morning.

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If you fancy making a lemon drizzle to dazzle your friends with I’d highly recommend giving Boutique Bake a go!

Functioning on Coffee

Nothing beats a big o’ cup of coffee to give me a warm hug no matter what the time of day.

Coffee for as long as I can remember has always been a friend to me. Whether I needed a little morning pick me up, a late afternoon boost or a friend to dunk my biscuit in, I could always rely on coffee to help me out.

There was a period of time however, after leaving University and getting a proper job, that I put my relationship on hold with my favourite drink and switched to decaf, it saddens me to say.

Because, coffee although delicious can have some damaging side effects if relied on too much I began to realise. Coffee is packed full of caffeine (of course we all know that) so you might notice over a period of time that you experience increased levels of stress, nervousness, insomnia, an irregular heartbeat and even nausea if you’re not careful.

I suppose, if you’ve been thriving off of coffee for quite a long period of time you might not even know that your stress levels at work for example might be effected because of your beloved drink, which I learnt during 2015.

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My job at the time (working in a fast paced called center) was kinda mad but, I loved it. Yet, I began to notice that after having a coffee or two I would become more nervous and began to stutter on the phone to a customer. I didn’t feel more anxious in myself personally but when I thought back to before I’d had my morning coffee vs after, my telephone manner was different and not in a good way. Obviously coffee wasn’t agreeing with me at the time and I wanted to feel more confident and capable to do my job well.

So, yes, I switched to decaf as previously mentioned. Honestly, I love decaf. I was able to get the taste of coffee I loved so much without any of the guilt that I’d feel stressed or anxious at work afterwards. As a result of switching away from coffee I also ventured into the fruitie tea category of hot drinks and found a love for raspberry tea.

My journey with coffee has been a great one.

I’m actually back drinking the real stuff now and I’m happy to report that we have a healthy relationship once again. Since that crazy fun target oriented job ended and I began more calmer roles I felt comfortable enough to drink a big mug of coffee once a day, just once a day. Although, I still revert back to decaf if I’m feeling like I want the taste but not the energy boost.

The thing I’m most happy about though is that I can catch up with mum, cappuccino in hand and panini on the way once more. That’s a big deal!

Where Am I Going?

Does anyone really know?

I can’t imagine being someone who has their entire life mapped out but, I just thought I’d have my shit together at least a little bit by 25.

On paper I’m happy, I have a lovely little home with my partner, with a kitchen that I love, I have a job that pays the bills and that I enjoy, I live 5 mins from my mum and I’m driving distance from the ocean.  All good things that are important to me and meet my needs to sustain a healthy happy lifestyle.

I have vague ideas for the home and life I want to share with my partner one day and, I thought I’d be closer to achieving them by now honestly. The frustrating thing to accept is that I’m probably further away than I’ve ever been from a financial perspective at least.

A year ago I was arguably in a much more stable financial position but, I hated my flat and my job, so the money didn’t mean much to me in the end. Once I’d established I was unhappy that was it. It became obvious to me that it was more important to love what I was doing everyday than to earn a certain amount of money.

I still stand by that mindset and in some respects have never felt so good. Yet I don’t remember the last time I felt this financially stressed either. I’m beginning to wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life and turning 26 this year has really got my brain scrambled.

The realisation that a lot can change within a  year has hit me hard this Summer.  Last year there was a lot of loss and growth in my family and that theme has spilled over into life with my boyfriend. I could list so many things that I wish I could change but, everything is a life lesson and all I can do is hope that 2019 is good to me.

ALL I want is for things to go smoothly. I want to stay and progress in my job. I want my boyfriend to find a job he loves and, I just want to live calmly in my nice flat surrounded by beautiful houseplants. That’s my short term goal I suppose and, to go on holiday next year would be pretty great too.

So, yes, where am I actually going long term?

Well.

I wish I knew. This post would be so much simpler if I had some real direction and clue about what I was doing but, I don’t. I’m beginning to learn that making plans is all well and good on paper but, life doesn’t work that way. Life will put a spanner in the works again and again and it’s up to you to adapt your plan and learn to cope.

However I do know that I want to try my best everyday to be kind to myself and to others, to one day (hopefully) own a home with a fancy garage and big kitchen, to start a family and live amongst nature. If for whatever reason those things don’t happen I’ll be alright though, something better might be right around the corner. It’s not like I can’t change my plans and find something new to feel excited for.

I’m kind of making things up as I go a long with this constant vision of a beautiful house by the beach, where I can call home.

That’s keeping me going right now.

If I reach a point in my life where I don’t have to worry about the amount of money I’m spending on a meal I’ll be truly happy and feel successful. But, I have no idea if I’ll get there and what career I even want to follow for that to happen.

To be unsure of everything is kind of exciting in some respects but, it’s a sort of nervous energy that I’d rather not feel.

I guess for now, all I can do is tell myself that everything will fall into place. And, despite the challenges I’ve been facing recently with my partner we’ve still managed to have the best Summer in a long long time and I’m so thankful for that.

“A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.” – Albert Einstein

Cooking With Gousto

I love cooking, planning my meals weekly and going food shopping but, recently I’ve been feeling a little uninspired.

I partly blame the hot weather, making me want to avoid standing over a hot stove and, also I blame myself for always cooking the same few meals.

We all do it though, right?

We find a few family favorites and cook them to death.

My go to’s until recently have been Carbonara, Stir Fry, Thai curry with salmon and Lasagna. All good meals that I’ve well and truly perfected but, just don’t interest me anymore.

At this point I could have started just researching some new recipes and going food shopping for exciting ingredients but, life is too short and amongst working 12 hour shifts, I don’t always feel like spending my afternoon in my local supermarket. So, I began looking at Hello Fresh but, I didn’t get on with their website because I didn’t like the idea of having to pay for the box before getting to see what was on the menu that week.

But then, I stumbled across a company called Gousto! 

At this point I should add that this isn’t a sponsored post.

The concept is much the same as Hello Fresh I suppose, with food boxes arriving at your door with a selection of recipes you have picked.

Gousto lets you pick up to 4 recipes per week for your family and, each week they have 30 recipes to choose from. You can pay a little extra for some premium dishes too if they take your fancy and you can add extras like a bottle of wine.

I really liked having the benefit of browsing through their recipes before signing up, which really sold me and encouraged me to put an order in.

I should also add that all of their ingredients are locally sourced in the UK. Every ingredient you will need for every recipe is provided in little packets and sachets, which means that the measurements are all done for you, making life even easier.

Here are three of the dishes I’ve tried so far…

Teriyaki Rump Steak, Rice & Sesame Pak Choi 

I paid I think an extra £4.99 for this dish because I’d only tried steak once or twice before and was curious to try an Asian alternative that I knew my boyfriend would love.

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I didn’t have a great time with this recipe or the plating up though sadly. Gousto provide you with simple step by step recipe cards, so I thought cooking this dish would be pretty simple but, I undercooked the steak at first, had to put it back in the pan and then I became flustered and the end result was chewy. Not Gousto’s fault I might add and the rest of the dish tasted delicious. I’m just annoyed at myself because this was supposed to be our premium dish!

I definitely want to cook this dish again, as the Pak Choi steamed with sesame seeds and soy sauce was delicious and making a Teriyaki marinade out of soy sauce and honey was incredibly simple. I’m amazed that I didn’t know how easy it could be.

I’m also a little stubborn and determined to get that steak right.

Sloppy Joe Sliders & Gem Wedge Salad

Not going to lie, I was a little disappointed with just how teeny tiny these sliders were. However, they were actually pretty filling and the wedge salad was the perfect side.

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The dish was super easy to prepare, creating a sauce similar to a Bolognese with the beef, onions and carrots. All I needed to do was grill the buns, pop the mixture into the oven and top with mozzarella.

For the salad dressing, I simply mixed 3 sachets of mayo with a splash of white wine vinegar and some oregano to finish.

I was pretty impressed and my boyfriend loved this dish too.

An all round winner in the Collins Delamare household that’s for sure.

Ten-Min Creamy Tarragon and Mustard chicken

Even though I absolutely love love L O V E cooking, after work it does sometimes feel like a chore. So, this simple and healthy recipe was perfect for those kind of moods.

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The overall dish was so simple and really did take only ten mins, maybe a little less.

Brown rice takes forever to cook and although I think it’s worth the wait, I was pretty grateful to see that Gousto had given me a Tilda microwave wholegrain rice sachet for two.

This delicious meal felt like comfort food and I’ve officially been converted to wholegrain mustard. It’s an ingredient I’d only ever tried in mash before and never thought of pairing with rice.

Moving forward I think this is going to be a staple in my household this Autumn.

These are just a handful of recipes I’ve tried but, they offer such a wide selection for all dietary requirements. The range of cuisines they cover within 30 different recipes per week is commendable too.

I’m so pleased with all of the food I’ve experienced so far with Gousto and can’t wait to receive my next couple of boxes, which will include recipes such as Shredded Chicken Hoisin Wraps, Tofu Chow Mein, King Prawn Korma and, Red Pepper and Sasuage Pasta.

The boxes cost about £34.99 per week and I understand it might not be the most cost effective, it’s definitely convenient for my lifestyle at the moment. I’m absolutely loving the growth Gousto has given me as a home cook and the confidence I’ve been given to step outside of my comfort zone with new recipes.

I’d highly recommend to anyone seeking an easier time in the kitchen. The recipes are easy to follow and really effective. Plus, you won’t need to spend time in the supermarket on your much deserved day off!

What’s not to like?

If you fancy trying Gousto  signing up is really simple.

To receive your 50% discount on your first two boxes simply enter KATE13656695 and enjoy!

Mount Edgecombe & The Little Fox

On a beautiful hot Sunday me, my partner, his dad and best friend all traveled down to Cornwall to attend the Mount Edgecombe Classic Car show in our Reliant Scimitar.

The event is held annually on the first weekend in August, and it has become a family thing for us to attend in matching t-shirts with our almost 40 year old Scimitar.

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The event is so so much fun, as lots of classic cars from around the UK travel to be part of the exibition, paying £10 to socialise with other car enthusiasts and eye up each others vehicles.

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But, you don’t have to own a classic car to attend. You can simply visit for the day, parking your car separately or traveling on the little Cremyll ferry from Plymouth direct to Mount Edgecombe and, in addition to the cars, there’s a massive boot sale too.

The event is an all day thing, starting from about 9am with cars usually leaving around 5 or 6 in the evening and, as we were up at 5am getting ready to go we knew we deserved a good evening meal to end the day. So, we made a reservation at the Little Fox Hotel for a delicious dinner with a view.

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The Sunday evening menu was a little small and the by the time we had arrived the waitress had advised that the roast beef and steak options were no longer available, which we were all a little disappointed about to say the least.

However, in the spirit of feeling a little adventurous I decided to order roast duck with black pudding croquettes, something actually quite far outside of my comfort zone.

I’ve only tried duck once before whilst staying in the Cotswolds and had never dreamed of trying black pudding. The thought before that evening made me feel uneasy but as a meat eater anyway, I thought I’d give it a go and, I liked it.

I’m upset to say that and I certainly won’t be raving about it to my vegetarian mother.

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The overall dish and presentation was stunning however, I have to comment on the two little perfectly formed potato rosti.

I’m not sure if they were homemade or not to be honest? I like to think that they were but, they just look too perfect. They weren’t particularly rich and crispy like you usually expect either and, felt a little more like mash potato inside.

For pudding, we were given two menus which were a little confusing. There were lots of items available on both it appeared, until the waitress came back and mentioned that they were out of several options and we had to change our order.

I wanted the advertised lemon tart but, ended up with a classic dark chocolate and raspberry tart with chocolate ice cream and was not disappointed. The thing was beautiful. Very rich and the pastry fell apart on your spoon. There were also whole raspberries inside to add a lovely additional texture.

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What can I say?

The restaurant and food at the Little Fox Hotel is really special. If you’re in the area and fancy some good hearty food I’d recommend stopping by.

The meal for me and my boyfriend came to about £50 in total but it was certainly worth the money and, despite the lack of beef available on the menu, there were lots of other choices including fish and chips, halloumi and chips, roast chicken and duck!

What an incredible day all in all.

The service at the Little Fox could have been better but it certainly wasn’t terrible by any standard, and the car show is always great.

I’m seriously looking forward to next year already and if I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it again, I love coastal living! Having events like this, food, vast countryside and sea views is a total dream and I never want to leave the South West.

My Instagram Dilemma

For as long as I can remember Instagram has been my favourite social media platform.

I was one of the last people in my friend group to get an Iphone and when I did it totally changed my life. I attempted photography for the first time, found a love for capturing everyday life and, creating an Instagram profile helped my hobby to thrive.

When I first created Cake & Coast my followers kept going up and up and up but all of a sudden, I’m struggling to make it over 700 followers. 700 is a lot and I’m very thankful but, over recent months I’ve noticed so many tweets about the Instagram algorithm and it’s made me think.

Like all bloggers, I find it really disappointing to notice my engagement decrease on Instagram and my blog after a couple of days absent. The annoying thing is, I’m not not posting because I have nothing to say or because I can’t be bothered. It’s because I have a job. Sometimes I work 36 hours in space of 3 days and that means no social media for me. When I have the time/energy I schedule tweets but, I don’t always get around to it and then all of a sudden, goodbye 20+ followers.

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So, what am I doing about my dilemma?

I’ve only been writing since December last year and I’m trying to be kind to myself about the whole thing. I’m trying really hard not to stress and I hope the other little bloggers like me aren’t worrying too much either. It’s difficult because I want to continue writing and I want my blog to be somewhat successful but,I’m trying to adopt the attitude that it doesn’t matter if you have 100 followers or 1000.

Basically, as long as you enjoy the content you’re creating that’s really all that matters right?

I’m also slightly torn about how to improve my content going forward however, I’m trying to look at Instagram from a different angle. I’ll be sticking with my rustic Iphone photos for the time being and blog when I feel I have something I want to share.

It’s not possible for me to be doing more than I currently am and, I need to remember that I love my blog. It’s an ongoing hobby, something I’m still new to and I want to continue enjoying every moment of.

My hope is that people will read my blog, find my Instagram, see the joy I feel for writing and hopefully want to subscribe.

If you want to check out my content on Instagram and read about my latest life ramblings click here

By The Sea Shore

Where I feel at home.

I’m happiest when I’m swimming in the ocean, that’s a fact.

I crave the fresh sea air when I’m at my flat.

When I’m away from the water for too long I’m restless. My skin feels dry and I feel stuffy.

The sea is probably the only place I feel truly myself. I don’t know what it is exactly but, the freedom I feel from swimming is so relaxing and I’m so glad that I’ve been able to share that with my partner recently.

A couple of weeks ago I felt so carefree, full of joy and delicious food.

We didn’t know that life was about to become so much more stressful.

All of our worries at that time had escaped us, as we stayed in Cornwall soaking up the sun for almost an entire week, swimming at the beach, sunbathing, eating fresh seafood and catching up with old friends.

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Life has become much more stressful now but we’re both trying to manage it as best we can. All I can do is sit back, let it all wash over me and pray that the waters will calm soon.

Honestly though, nothing compares to living by the sea. I keep dreaming of having a home on the beach one day. Vast ocean and countryside views, big windows and that clean air. A place for my creativity in the kitchen and garden to thrive.

Pure bliss.

They say that living by the coast has so many health benefits too and, in a previous post I explore why I love this lifestyle so much. I’m not sure I’m feeling the full health benefits at the moment from my flat in Plymouth but, I know that the coast is only a short drive away and that makes me happy.

Overall, I think I can say that this has definitely been the best and worst Summer I’ve had in a long time. I know I’ll be sad when it’s over but I’m looking forward to the future and Autumn so much too.

Mothecombe Beach & Schoolhouse

Whilst sunning it up in Devon this week and enjoying a lovely trip to Mothecombe beach we discovered a little restaurant named Schoolhouse.

I was a little skeptical of what to expect of their food after a few bad lunches recently but, upon closer inspection of their menu I was pleasantly surprised and couldn’t decide what exactly I fancied for lunch.

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Local seafront restaurants in my opinion usually produce the best food, as long as their chef is driven and given creative freedom, which it looks like he is! So, I was really excited to see all of the seafood they had to offer.

I went for the crispy squid option with garlic aioli and salad and had to order some dirty fries on the side! The first time I tried dirty fries was an Hubbox and ever since I’ve been hooked and interested to see others interpretations.

In addition to my attempt at a light lunch, my boyfriend ordered the not so light house burger with beef and bacon, which according to the waiter was a really great choice.

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I think we both made fantastic choices for lunch though. My squid was really fresh and crispy and, although it cost £9.50 I was given an enormous portion that kept me satisfied with every mouth full. My dirty fries were also pretty good, covered in cheddar cheese, bacon and both red and spring onions. What’s not to like basically!

My boyfriend said that the house burger was one of the best he had ever tasted and honestly, I believe him. I’m kinda gutted I didn’t get to try any because it looked so so good and was stacked!

Definitely worth the money after a beautiful swim in the ocean that’s for sure.

My only regret is that I didn’t order, take a photograph or even acknowledge any of the delicious cakes they apparently had on offer.

In terms of the decor, everything is super rustic and laid back. Outside where me and my boyfriend had lunch were lots of old sofas and benches, covered in sand but were really comfortable and relaxing. Indoors is much the same, with lots of chalk boards, giant lampshades and antiques.

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If you’re ever in South Devon and want to check out some local food I’d highly recommend Schoolhouse. They might not be the most cost effective option but their food is certainly delicious and worth experiencing.

Also, Mothecombe beach where we spent our morning soaking up the sunshine is only a short walking distance away and there is a separate dog beach too.

Everything about Mothecombe is simply so beautiful, unspoilt and picturesque.

Yet, I should warn you of the £4.50 parking charge for the privilege of leaving your car at some local guys field.

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All in all, I hope you’ve all been enjoying the sunshine as much as I have recently.

Remember to stay safe when out and about during Summer. I love the beach but I always make sure to keep topping up my suncream. No matter what I never tan but I’d rather be pale in summer than burnt.

Making Life Good Again

Sometimes all you need is a good catch up with your mum to make things good again.

After a stressful couple of months dealing with moving house and the finances involved, this weekend has felt like the first in a while where I could just chill and take it all in.

Me and my boyfriend ended up moving house a little early due to lack of communication from our estate agents, and everything sort of became a mess. I ended up spending more money than expected and moving became a huge rush. We’ve been in since June 1st but are finding problems left right and center.

Lets just say it’s not been easy. We’ve contemplated our regrets a lot and are only just beginning to feel settled.

I’m eternally grateful for my mums support and my boyfriends dads too though. My mum has been amazing and my boyfriends dad has been there to try and help with every issue we’ve found with the flat.

I know so many people who have such complicated relationships with their parents and I’m so glad I’m not one of them. My mum literally makes everything better. She is full of kindness and I turn to her for support in everything I do. If I didn’t have it during this move I don’t think I could live here. Is that weird?

Anyway, I’m so open about how thankful I am for everything she’s ever done and continues to do for me and I just want her to have the best life possible.

Times have been rough on us all recently and it’s so hard to put on a brave face when you’re feeling your worst. But, I encourage myself and my loved ones to take a step back and get some fresh air as often as possible. That means different things to everyone but to me and mum, it means getting outside. Being with nature, having a good lunch and a catch up. Laughing lots and talking through our problems.

Recently we did just that whilst visiting a local farm shop. We ordered lunch, watched chickens running around and laughed at Alpacas. We shopped for fresh veggie produce and eyed up the deli section. We sat on a bench with a big cup of coffee, discussed our worries and how we wanted to resolve them.

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I always feel that everything is better after eating a good meal, drinking a hearty coffee and spilling out all of the thought that have been consuming you all week. It’s easy to keep things bottled up but, it’s not healthy to live like that and I don’t want to watch someone struggling either.

We’re trying to make life easier, better and healthier in all aspects. I’ve been trying to hold it together and struggling throughout the move but things are getting easier and, I think the sunshine truly helps with that.

I also try to live by the simple words my mum would always say and reiterate them to her when she’s feeling down…

Everything works out. It just does. This is just a moment in time.

What you’re feeling now is only temporary. It’s natural to feel anxious and worried but don’t let it eat away at who you really are.

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I just think it’s easy to focus on the things that aren’t right in your life but, there’s plenty of good things happening too.

My new home is coming together slowly.

I’m going on holiday to Cornwall and will be dog sitting later in July whilst mum is sunning it up in Spain.

Life is good and so are we.

Coastal Living

When the sun is shining and I can escape to the sea I’m so grateful that my mum chose to raise me in Plymouth.

What a great decision!!

This week whilst the sun has been shining away me and mum have been able to spend lots of time together, going for beach walks with the dogs and coffee by the shore. It’s been so lovely and I’m so thankful for weeks like this, where I can enjoy my days away from work and feel like I’m on a little holiday.

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I bumped into a couple old work colleagues on their lunch breaks buying fish n chips and thought to myself, thank God I chose to quit. Thank God I have entire days to enjoy this weather, not just short lunch breaks dreading going back to that office.

I couldn’t imagine not living by the sea and Devon is where I want to spend the rest of my days, living with my boyfriend and eventually raising a family. Plymouth is a beautiful city surrounded by vast landscapes, with Cornwall and Dartmoor only a stones throw away, so why wouldn’t anyone want to live here I don’t know but, it’s something I hear all the time from people who currently reside in the city.

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I don’t think people really realise what they have until it’s gone, which is why so many people move away from coastal cities and return later in life to raise a family or retire. There are so many benefits to living near the coast compared to living in a larger and much more densely populated city like London for example.

Waking up to fresh sea air is a huge benefit and something that appeals to many but there are some other serious health benefits too. The sea helps you feel calm, enables you to sleep better and helps to decrease your levels of stress. Living by the ocean and green spaces also apparently encourages people to exercise more and to take up more outdoor sports such as coastal walking, jogging, surfing and sailing.

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Personally, knowing that I have plenty of beaches in both Devon and Cornwall to choose visiting whenever the sun is shining makes me feel spoilt. I know that if I need to get some fresh air that I’m in walking distance of beautiful parks and the sea, which already makes me feel a lot less stressed.

In terms of food, it’s also great knowing that there are plenty of fresh seafood restaurants to enjoy and that all the ingredients are locally sourced, which is important to me as a foodie. You can’t beat a good bit of cod in batter and I know that whatever the time of year I can access this delicious meal and it’ll be fresh.

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Coastal living also provides a great quality of life to your pets. Allowing your dogs to attend some beautiful walks with you, giving them the opportunity to enjoy nature and paddle in the sea is just as important to them as it is to us. Enjoying days out with your dogs in this way is a beautiful thing and something I encourage doing so as often as possible.

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Even if you don’t live by the ocean and can’t access green space as often as you’d like, it’s important to get away from city life from time to time. Visit your local park or swimming pool, take some time out and book a mini break to Cornwall, take a long drive to the coast or go on a long walk.

There are days when it’s sunny but we want to stay in doors having some alone time but, I urge you to enjoy the great outdoors whilst you can. When the sun is shining it’s a glorious thing and getting a little vitamin D will help brighten your spirits.

British weather sucks for the most part so it’s important to enjoy the sunny days whilst we can. I mean, who knows when we’ll get a week like this again. So, get out of the house, get your friends or family together and head out of the city and towards the coast!

I promise you won’t regret it.

 

I Would Prefer Not To

My life motto.

I’m somewhat unavailable, it’s true.

I work 12 hour shifts which means getting up at 05:45am and getting home at 8pm sometimes two or three days in a row. It’s exhausting and on my much needed days off I’m sleeping, taking a bubble bath and catching up with chores.

I don’t like saying no to people but mentally I’m not capable of pleasing everyone and I’m done with feeling pressured and apologetic because I choose to spend my time in a certain way. In the past I wouldn’t dare to disappoint a friend and because of that mentality I wasn’t happy in myself. I started to feel hurt by the friends who didn’t realise the positions they were putting me in. I’m not sure when it happened but, at some point I decided enough was enough.

We’ve all dealt with uncomfortable situations where saying no hasn’t felt like an option I’m sure. Whether it’s agreeing to a work event that we weren’t really interested in attending or, agreeing to go out for dinner with your in-law, the feeling SUCKS but you continue saying yes to these sorts of things. You might have been tired after work but still decided to go to that shitty house party your friend invited you to when you really wanted to stay home. The FOMO is real and sometimes the thought can feel really unbearable yet, you probably regretted your decision the next day and realised that the hangover wasn’t worth it.

For a long time I would go to every party I was invited to, drink when I didn’t really want to, hang out with people I didn’t really care for and make extra effort for people who wouldn’t do the same for me. I don’t make the time for these sorts of things often any more and life is better as a result.

I’ll always try to be available for the close friends who respect how I manage my time and, who feel similarly to me in regard to personal time management. It’s not always easy to see each other often but, when we do find the time it’s all worth the wait.

When I do reach out and plan to meet a friend I always try to manage the time responsibly. I try to meet up with people around 11am or 12pm for brunch meaning that, I can have the lie in I want and take my time getting ready. It also means that when I get home in the early afternoon I still have time to do whatever chores need to get done and I’m still motivated instead of tired.

With certain friends, when I know I have a couple days off in a row we’ll meet at our favourite pub for dinner on my first day off, have a catch up for a couple hours and try to make sure I’m home at a reasonable hour. I’ll make sure that I don’t make plans for the following day, allowing myself a ‘me’ day to r e l a x.

I always try to remember that if I’m feeling overwhelmed on the day I have a plan that’s it’s fine to reschedule. I continue to feel guilty for saying no or canceling plans but sometimes it needs to be done. My brain often feels frazzled from work and the thought of being social can sometimes feel too stressful. I try to be honest about the reason I’m no longer available and that makes me feel a little better about things.

The thought of disappointing someone is awful I get it but, the thought of unnecessarily going out of your way to please someone else is much much worse.

If you don’t want to say yes to whatever is being asked of you that’s okay. Saying no doesn’t always have to be a negative thing, it’s just about addressing your wellbeing and respecting the needs of others too. The party will still go on, your friends will still have fun and you can do whatever it was you wanted to do with your time instead. Even if it means going home, getting into bed at 8pm and watching Netflix that’s fine too. It’s all about doing what makes you feel happy.

To help me feel better I try to remember the following…

  • Valuable friends and family won’t mind and will still support you.
  • If saying yes makes me feel stressed I’ve made a mistake.
  • Being available constantly isn’t always a good thing either.
  • It’s important to be honest and realistic about how I manage my time and it’s healthy to want some space.
  • Saying no doesn’t mean I won’t ever be available for that person/event in future.
  • I’m still growing. If I need time to recharge then that’s fine. It’s no one else’s business to decide how much time is too much.

The reality is, not everyone will want to or say yes to every invite you throw their way either, so it’s important to make the decisions that make you feel comfortable and fit in with your schedule.

Don’t forget, never ever put someone else before your own wellbeing. Do what’s right for you. Go or don’t go to that event, catch up with your friend or family member another time and enjoy whatever brings you peace.

Dirty Delicious Hubbox

Hubbox essentially is an American street food joint based in the South West.  At the moment you’ll only find them in St Ives, Truro, Pentewan, Plymouth, Exeter and most recently Bristol.

They take pride in their ingredients and have gone out of their way to ensure that their food is locally sourced. Their potatoes come from Cornish Potatoes, their meat Phillip Warren Butchers and their veg comes from West Country Fruit. All of their coffee and alcohol is locally produced too from various UK based companies including Cornish Orchards and Harbour Brewery.

I’ve eaten at Hubbox about a zillion times since they opened in Plymouth a couple of years ago and I have no complaints. Their staff are super friendly and I always look forward to going back. I just wish they were around when I was a uni student because I would have spent my entire student loan eating from their menu and felt so fat and happy doing so.

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Their current menu (which I hear is set to change soon) has lots of choice in terms of beef, chicken, fish and veggie burgers. They also serve hot dogs, nachos, mac n cheese and various types of chips. Honestly I think there’s a little too much choice because I never ever know what to order. Literally just because I know it’ll all be delicious and I don’t want to make a mistake.

So, what did we order you ask?

My boyfriend was a little hungover so he wanted to go all out whereas, my non hungover brain was just craving a big greasy burger. He ordered the BBQ tray which I would only recommend if you have a larger than life appetite. The tray includes beef brisket, pulled pork, fries, chicken wings, a frank (hot dog), pickles, slaw and onion rings (which I stole). I wanted something a little less complicated and I ordered the Kim Yum Chick BBQ chicken Korean burger with dirty fries.

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What are dirty fries you ask? Well, they are delicious I can tell you that much. You can ask for any type of fries from their menu and just ask to make them dirty, which means adding their Hub sauce mixed together with diced white onions and plenty of jalapeños. If spice is your thing you’ll love this sauce. It’s literally so mooreish and like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. I wish I knew how to explain the flavour better but I think it’s something you just need to experience yourself. If you’re unsure whether you’ll like it but want to give it a try, just ask to have some on the side and they’ll be happy to do so.

In terms of my burger, the best way I can describe it is like a really REALLY good KFC Zinger because it’s essentially a slightly tangy buttermilk chicken burger. Inside of their burger itself is a Korean BBQ sauce so you would expect a little kick of some Asian spices, which I didn’t really notice but that’s okay because it’s damn tasty regardless.

My boyfriend loved his meal but had to take a break because as you can imagine, it was really filling. I didn’t get to sample anything apart from the yummy buttermilk fried onion rings but he assured me that the tray was worth the £17.95 it cost.

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Overall, I just love the Hubbox ethos. I commend them for being able to make fantastic good quality food at a competitive price and, I appreciate the efforts they have gone to in order to support other local farmers and suppliers when creating their menu. They are a force to be reckoned with, a big competitor in the Plymouth burger industry. I think they are here to stay and us Plymouthians absolutely love having them.

If you’re ever visiting the South West I would highly recommend trying to track down a nearby Hubbox. Their food is seriously dirty and delicious in so many ways.

Check out their website and drool over their food at your leisure!

Supporting Local Cafe’s – Make

I enjoy venturing out and supporting independents whenever I can and, I’ve loved watching my hometown of Plymouth’s creative community grow in recent years.

With community spirit in mind, I visited Make recently to sample their homemade food thanks recommendations from my mum and sister. Make are based at  140 Vauxhall Street in Plymouth and their premise not only runs a cute cafe but, is used as a workshop for crafts including sewing and crochet. I’m not creative with fabric at all so I’m purely invested for the food but, their workshop space looked fantastic and if you’re interested in getting creative they have a calendar you can access on their website.

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Their cafe and workshop space is neatly organised to sit side by side and is completely void of clutter. The space feels so warm, inviting and well, really creative! From the minute I walked in the door I felt welcomed and couldn’t wait to try the food.

In an aim to show support I obviously had to sample a good variety from their menu including tea and coffee. I started off by drinking a lovely strong cappuccino whilst pondering their menu choices and changing my mind over and over again. Their menu is almost entirely vegetarian and vegan friendly you might be pleased to know, although they do have some meat options available too.

img_0050I almost ordered the brunch poached eggs on toast but at the counter was tempted by their savory muffins so instead, ended up ordering a cup of mushroom and thyme soup with a vegan olive and pesto muffin.

By God did I make the right choice! Their adorable mug of soup was delicious, not too heavy and the muffin was light yet filling as well. My sister ordered their cheese muffin too, which meant we could split them in half and sample each others with the soup. We both agreed that the olive muffin was the better choice but both were pretty tasty to say the least.

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After a much needed catch up I decided I wasn’t leaving until we had cake. They only had a few options available and I was hoping for a little bit more choice but honestly, I was pretty satisfied with my soup and any cake was going to be a bonus. I went for a yummy citrus orange polenta cake accompanied by lots of tea whereas, my sister chose their chocolate and salted caramel brownie.

My orange cake was really delicious but maybe a little too heavy after a big savory muffin (my poor choice not theirs) and the brownie looked pretty damn delicious too although, I didn’t sample it unfortunately.

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I used to work right around the corner from Make so I’m kind of gutted I didn’t ever visit sooner. Regardless, I’ll hopefully be going back in the near future and I might even bring my boyfriend if he’ll let me.

Their food in taste and presentation feels really special so if you’re looking to take a friend or relative out for a little something to eat I’d highly recommend Make. They’re more than just a cafe. They’re a real space to grow, get creative and enjoy good food.

Oh and, they’re also a dog friendly cafe! Which means, if you’re venturing out with your adorable doggo to the Barbican anytime soon you can stop for a little something to eat without a single worry.

If you love their food and their ethos they can also plan events including children’s parties, Hen Do’s and Baby Showers! You can find out more about all of their products, workshops and events by visiting their website https://www.makeat140.co.uk

Side note, it’s so incredibly important to support local retailers, cafe’s and other businesses alike whenever you can. Your support in buying their products and providing exposure through social media means an enormous amount. It’s particularly important when the weather is bad (e.g. recent snowfall) because businesses can really suffer more than you might realise.  They will see their profits change during good and bad weather and this impact can ultimately save or shut down your favourite.

So, I urge you to please still go out, visit your favourite independent or try somewhere new, making sure they stay afloat even when the weather is miserable. I promise it’s worth it if you want them to stick around.

Embracing ‘Me’ Time

Feeling snowed in?

On a freezing cold day in March, I’m able to reflect on my love for ‘me’ time.

When life gets busy and we feel stressed it’s easy to forget to look after ourselves. There are times in all of our lives when we won’t love ourselves as much as we should but, I’m learning to cope with my negative thoughts and enjoy alone time.

It’s important to let happiness and positivity in. Although, when things get really tough and happiness seems far away, we need to at least acknowledge our feelings and take time to heal in whatever way works for you.

For me, in order to function and feel good about everyday, I choose to spend one day a week at home or at least in my own company. I never feel guilty because the day is important to me. I need to recharge my batteries and I enjoy my solitude. It gives me time to process all of my racing thoughts and be calm. It’s particularly essential for me to keep my home and mind organised. Sometimes this slips but there are certain things I like to do to get life in order again…

I’ll wake up when I want and won’t set an alarm. I’ll take a relaxing bubble bath, put on a face mask and pamper myself. I’ll change into fresh pajamas and I’ll eat a nice breakfast, take my time and listen to the radio. I’ll tidy up, chill out on the sofa and catch up with my favourite Netflix show. In the afternoon, I might go for a walk or go out for lunch. I’ll rustle up a nice dinner and maybe try something new. I’ll get an early night, scroll on my phone and read a good book. Catch up with my boyfriend and fall asleep at peace.

I love these days.

I’m not being selfish or lazy, I’m just an introvert. I love the productivity I have when I’m all alone, seeing what I’m able to achieve when I’m in my quiet space. This blog for example!

“Introverts are collectors of thoughts, and solitude is where the collection is curated and rearranged to make sense of the present and future.” – Laurie Helgoe, Revenge of the Introvert

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I like to set time aside and stick to it yet, some weeks I might not need my day and on others I might need more than one. Sometimes, I cancel on friends because I’m not done recharging. It just takes as long as it takes and that’s why sometimes I flake out on plans but, reading Chloe Plumstead’s blog post about being the flaky friend reminded me that it’s okay to not be available all of the time. Good friends and family should understand and if they don’t then I just shrug it off these days.

Basically, lazy days are great, having the house to yourself is great and being your own best friend is great too.

It’s important to love ourselves inside and out, to understand what we need to feel good and to never ever forget that!!

My Food Journey

Whether I’m cooking at home or going out for a nice meal, nothing brings me more pleasure than eating with my loved ones. From a young age I remember always wanting to help my mum cook in the kitchen, and when she was working late shifts as a nurse me and my sister would cook together too. I think one of the first meals I learnt to cook was Ratatouille. I always wanted to chop the mushrooms, peal the veg and annoy my mum with my questions about food. I always fondly remember my mum cooking honey and mustard chicken, vegetable curries and her infamous roast dinners as well. She was the type of mum who would be serving up dinner the minute you entered the door from school, and I loved her so much for that! I will always remember walking home with my sister and trying to guess what would be for dinner that day.

With mums help, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be a chef but I was really scared about the training involved and the equipment, so I over-thought about it and instead, I stayed safe and chose to study Business. Although, I continued to grow my interest in cooking from the comfort of my own kitchen.

When I moved out for University I think one of the first things I made for my housemates was Fajitas, which I continued to live off of through my first year. Cooking whilst at University was always a bit of a struggle though. I enjoyed cooking but everything had to be on a tight budget. I mainly led a vegetarian diet and I ordered A LOT of pizza from our local takeaway.

It wasn’t until I moved in with my boyfriend during 2016 that things really changed and my confidence in the kitchen began to come to light, partly because I had more money in a new job, and also because I had someone who I was excited to cook for. Some of my favourite dishes to cook for us include Thai salmon curry, lasagne, carbonara and sausage & mash.

Unfortunately having someone to cook for and more expendable income to buy ingredients can impact our health negativity though, as it’s often difficult to find a good balance between eating rich food and living a healthy lifestyle, something I’ve been battling against for some time now. I always cook with lots of vegetables and eat a lot of fish but, me and my partner have a big sweet tooth and eat a lot of sugary treats too. I’m also a sucker for making big portions, which means my plates are usually overcrowded or we go back for second helpings. Also, I love sides! If I’m making a stir fry I almost always have to have some spring rolls and/or prawn crackers, and if I make anything Italian we need to have garlic bread too. Is this a dilemma in other households or is it just me being greedy??

Having said that, things are changing and I’m not sure how it will impact the way we eat long term. I’ve taken a new job which means I’m working 12 hour shifts and won’t be cooking dinner everyday like I used to. My plan is to cook meals in bulk  by utilising my slow cooker, meaning we can both have a home cooked dinner even on days when I’m working. This isn’t something I’ve managed to achieve yet but, I’m planning to start this Sunday with a big comforting cottage pie.

I should also note that, I’m already seeing positive changes in my cooking on the days I have off during the week. I’m able to take more time and care in the kitchen to rustle up our weekly favorites, and experiment with new dishes too. It’s nice having the time to do a big food shop without rushing around after work too, as I’ve been able to pick ingredients more carefully.

It’s just been so good to have more freedom. Long term I feel this change in routine will have such a positive impact on my happiness, my relationship, and my skills as a cook, which of course is amazing news! For an example, as we all know it was Valentines Day on the 14th, a great excuse for me to try out a new dish at home. I think I might have mentioned in my previous post reviewing Bill’s Diner that I wanted to try steak and really enjoyed theirs. So, I thought it was about time I tried to recreate my own version at home and to be honest, I think it might have been just as good, if not better!

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I cooked my version of healthy chips by cutting my potatoes in to thick wedges, par boiling them for 5 minutes before sticking them in the oven with a spray of fry light on each. I rotated them after 15 minutes and sprayed more fry light on the other sides. I think in total I baked them for 30/40 mins at 200 until golden brown.

For the steak, I was aiming to cook it to medium. I again used more fry light, I sprinkled a little pepper on each side, and cooked on each side for 3 minutes. I used the BBC Food guidlines to help me on how to cook the perfect steak. I ignored the recipe but half way down the page they note the following…

  • Blue: About 1½ mins each side
  • Rare: About 2¼ mins each side
  • Medium-rare: About 3¼ mins each side
  • Medium: About 4½ mins each side

I paired my steak and chips with fancy long stemmed broccoli and a peppercorn sauce. Unfortunately I didn’t cook the sauce myself, as I totally forgot to buy the ingredients but, I will definitely attempt to next time because there will be a next time! I know it’s an easy dish to some but I’d never made either of the main components before and I was so so pleased with the results, as was my boyfriend.

I also recently made a ricotta baked chocolate cheesecake. I glanced at a recipe whilst in the supermarket shopping for ingredients but didn’t really follow it when I got home. I remembered my mums amazing baked chocolate cheesecakes from when I was a teenager, and just went with my instincts from there. It was simple really. I literally just added three tubs of ricotta cheese into a bowl with two egg yolks, 100g of caster sugar and 275g of melted dark chocolate. For the base, I melted 50g of butter with half a packet of crushed digestive biscuits and pushed it all to the bottom of a cake tin, added the cheesecake mix and baked for an hour at 150.

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I feel like my food journey is only just beginning to grow and I’m incredibly excited about my future food ambitions. I’m hoping to master the art of the perfect yorkshire pudding, bake the perfect cake and figure out how the hell to make a poached egg amongst many other things! Feel free to read the full list on my 2018 goals post and I hope you all continue to read about my many cooking successes and failures to come.

Carbonara Overload at Prezzo

If you happened to read my last blog post, you might be aware that I’ve been having a little panic about what the hell I’m doing with my career and how I’m going to spend time with my loved ones.

It’s hard to fit everyone in and around conflicting work schedules but, we all try our best to make it work. Whether it’s due to finances, laziness or lack of free evenings, me and my boyfriend rarely go out for dinner either.  But, we decided to visit Prezzo last Friday night thanks to a lovely £40 gift voucher as one of my work leaving presents. We were both a little tired but planned on having dinner followed by a few drinks to wind down from a long week.

The night started off with our taxi being 15 mins late and me pacing up and down the sitting room impatiently waiting. From then on the night went sort of downhill. Nothing went horrendously wrong but we weren’t all that talkative, our food was relatively mediocre and we ended up coming home around 10.

I hate to be critical but, I’d never been to Prezzo before so, my expectations were pretty high. Knowing that they have a prime spot at Royal William Yard and lots of venues across the UK, to me meant that their Italian food must be pretty damn special.

Classic Italian dishes are pretty hard to get wrong I say! I mean, everyone loves a good pizza or hearty bowl of pasta. They are relatively easy dishes to cook at home too but feel really special when cooked with high quality restaurant ingredients you might not have in your kitchen cupboards.

So, what did I order you ask?

I chose the chicken and wild mushroom ravioli with a carbonara like sauce, paired with a tall glass of Rose wine. The dish was pretty yummy but I was slightly peeved that my pasta bowl had sauce on the rim, which should have been wiped off before serving surely? I’m just being picky but presentation is important. Also, the chicken and mushroom filling wasn’t particularly strong which was a shame.

We both must love carbonara and so, my boyfriend ordered the Prestigio chicken and mushroom carbonara pizza however, we both felt it tasted more like breakfast. The pizza was lacking in sauce and the richness you would find in this great classic pasta dish. It was simply overwhelmed with the taste of two fried eggs and, I know it’s supposed to be a twist on the recipe but, maybe it was too much.

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I wouldn’t say I’d never go back to Prezzo but it definitely wouldn’t be my first choice. We both love Italian food and it’s a cuisine I regularly cook at home, which added to the disappointment. I’m just glad that we had gift vouchers, else I would have been really disappointed to have had to pay £53 for our dinner. Maybe next time I’ll order something more exciting. Lots of other dishes caught my eye, so maybe I just ordered the wrong one.

Simply putting this failed evening down to tiredness on our part, a bad taxi driver and carbonara overload in all the wrong ways.

Bill’s Bill’s Bill’s

Do you ever just walk into a restaurant and feel like you’re at home? Well, that’s how I feel about Bill’s Diner.

I had seen the restaurant being built on my route to work every morning, so I was really intrigued and looking forward to the day it opened. I wanted to see what all of the hype was about.

I’m all about supporting local businesses and I know, I know, that they’re a big chain restaurant across the UK but, to me that’s why I’m so impressed I suppose. From their well thought out breakfast, lunch and dinner menu’s to their great customer service and interior design, I’m in love. I feel comfortable, happy and invited every time I have visited the Plymouth branch (4 times so far to be precise), and I would forever recommend friends/family/anyone to visit their local.

They have been able to capture the art of an amazing laid-back approach to food and customer service, whilst being able to maintain a high quality. It’s simple really. Tasty food. Good pricing. Great staff. Warm atmosphere.

So let’s go through the food I’ve tried on my visits shall we?

My first trip to Bill’s was for my 25th birthday in November with my mum and sister. My sister had recently visited Bill’s for breakfast and encouraged us to make dinner reservations. I initially thought there was too much going on with the menu and that it seemed quite busy but, I quickly changed my mind when I found several things I wanted to eat right there and then.

So, I went for deep fried Halloumi sticks to share with my sister and the most amazing buttermilk chicken burger with apple slaw, sweet potato fries and Cajun mayo. I accompanied this with Bill’s own pink lemonade.

Overall, the burger was like something I had never tried before and it was really really delicious. Messy I might add though. You’ll most likely need a knife and fork for this one. Oh and, It was so good that I ordered it on my second visit to Bill’s too by the way.

I loved that the dish overall came with sweet potato fries and that you didn’t have to request them. I also loved the apple slaw. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but it was really refreshing and even though they did use mayo, it didn’t bog down the dish and make it heavy. Oh, and Cajun mayo on the side! Who doesn’t love that.

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In the background you might be able to see my mums dinner. She’s vegetarian so she ordered a Calliflower steak with toasted fregola, roasted tomatoes and veggie gravy. She was very very impressed to say the least.

We even ordered dessert too. My family has a big sweet tooth! We shared their Baked Alaska but unfortunately I was so excited I completely forgot to take any photographs to show you. Rest assured, it was heaven though. If you like all things sweet and are willing to share it’s the perfect treat.

My third visit to Bill’s was another kind of celebration. It was the 28th December and I’d just taken a big step with my work.

I handed in my notice to pursue a new career.

With progression and wellbeing playing on my mind a lot towards the end of 2017 I had definitely made the right choice. So, I arranged for me and two close work friends to go for dinner to talk, celebrate and commiserate me leaving work at the end of Jan.

On the thought of trying things new and making big decisions, I ordered steak and peppercorn sauce for the first time. I had always wanted to try steak but was always a little cautious. I love beef burgers, lasagna, cottage pie etc so I knew I’d enjoy it but, the price had always scared me. I wanted to make sure that when I ordered it that it was perfect and I wouldn’t regret it. I felt confident on that day and decided I trusted Bill’s.

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I was initially a bit confused because I hadn’t ordered a flat iron steak and I had envisioned something more juicy but, it did the trick and was really filling. Now I can say that I like medium steak and will definitely be ordering it again whenever I get the chance.

In addition to our mains, we also had a champagne cocktail or two to celebrate change in 2018. My favourite cocktail was Just Peachy Bellini and Aperol Spritz pictured below.

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ALSO, we ordered desserts and I took a photograph this time. I wanted something a little less chocolaty which is unusual for me, so I went for the apple crumble and my friend ordered the chocolate brownie. Both good choices that left us feeling comfortably full and satisfied.

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Yesterday, I visited Bill’s again but for breakfast this time. I had heard some great things about their breakfast menu and was really excited to take my boyfriend there spontaneously. There was so much choice and all I knew was that I wanted a poached egg with something. I almost ordered the Eggs Benedict but last minute swapped to the veggie breakfast (great choice) but without the pesto roasted tomatoes.

The dish included one slice of toast covered in Guacamole and the other with tomato hummus, topped with two poached eggs, mushrooms and basil. This breakfast took me to my happy place. It was delicious and paired with a strong cappuccino, I felt great.

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I’m not vegetarian but I love vegetables and never ate much meat until recently (hence my curiousness about steak). Honestly, this is probably the best vegetarian alternative to a fry up I have seen in any restaurant, independent or chain. Usually there’s lots of egg options and veggie fry ups but they aren’t always very creative. This one felt uplifting. I wasn’t missing out because I wasn’t eating meat.

My breakfast yesterday has inspired me I suppose. I’ve never been a breakfast person and was always a fussy child when it came to food. If/when I do eat breakfast it’s always so dull and boring. Basically toast or porridge. Until 2017 I barely knew how to make a fried egg. Still don’t, not really. But, I’m willing now. I have found a love for eggs and hummus both together and as separate meals and the combination together made me very happy. I need to be more adventurous with breakfast in 2018 and I need to learn to poach an egg, else I’ll be visiting Bill’s every weekend for this breakfast.

So, there you have it. That’s my review on Bill’s! Generally just feeling really pleased to see such a huge chain like Bill’s come to Plymouth. Everytime I’ve visited it’s been super busy and every table around me has loved their food. It’s great to see Plymouth growing and getting the attention it deserves from Nationwide restaurants and shops.

So go check out Bill’s if you haven’t already. You’ll probably find something you like and will leave feeling all sorts of satisfied.

Visiting the Cotwolds

If you’re looking for somewhere to visit this Winter I’d highly recommend taking a trip to the Cotswolds. Whether you’re looking for a countryside day trip, a mini break or long holiday, Cirencester has plenty to offer you.

At the end of November, we travelled to the Cotswolds for a two day short break, staying at the Stratton House Hotel. The hotel has new owners and is currently going through a refurbishment period however; there are plenty of high quality standard and comfy rooms to choose from. Not only are some of the bedrooms beautiful but, both the breakfast and evening meals were outstanding.

On our first night, we had dinner included with our Groupon deal so went all out, ordering starters, mains and a dessert. I tried mushroom risotto with a quail’s egg to start, pan fried duck for main and a chocolate and caramel lava cake to finish. I had never eaten duck before or tried a quails egg, and I was truly impressed. I’ll certainly be trying both again when the next opportunity presents itself.

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After devouring our meal and repeatedly commenting on how amazing everything tasted, “just like you see of Masterchef Professionals” to be exact, it was time to rest and make a plan over wine and a warm fire.

It was decided that visiting Bourton on the Water would be a great start to our first day after a big hearty free fry up. Our first stop, the vintage car museum was a must and roughly only cost £6 each to enter. If you want to travel back in time, reliving some historical moments though transportation history AND meet the original Brum, this is the place for you.

I was also very much excited to attend the model village only a short walk away from the high street, also in Bourton on the Water. I was amazed at the detail that went into recreating the village of Bourton. Every shop matched and was up to date with the current village, every sign was identical and, the buildings I believe were also made from sandstone, just like the golden coloured building you expect to find in the Cotswolds. They even had a mini village inside of the village model, which I was very impressed to find.

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For our next stop we travelled to to Morton on the Marsh, which has a great high street full of rustic pubs like the White Hart, which I would highly recommend for their big portioned sandwiches, burgers and sharing platters. The town also has lots of little independent confectionery shops selling homemade, chocolates, fudge, honey, jam etc. I purchased several indulgent chocolates from an amazing little cafe including white chocolate and champagne truffles, which were presented beautifully and eaten that night with a glass of wine and monopoly back in the hotel room.

On our final day we attended the Morton Arboretum with my camera to take in the vast landscapes and autumnal scenery. The weather was crisp and sunny at only 2 degrees in temperature.

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There are still so many little villages and incredible landscapes I’m sure I didn’t get around to seeing so, I’d definitely love to go back in the NY.  The Cotswolds is one of those places that will look beautiful no matter what the season I can imagine. It’s looked after all year round, their residents and shop owners are nothing but friendly and helpful, and their buildings are restricted in terms of modernization. It simply feels like you’re really visiting somewhere unique and truly special.

If you’re looking to plan a break to the Cotswolds I would definitely recommend having a look on Groupon or, head straight to the Stratton House Hotel website for more info.