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Monthly Archives: January 2013

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I have decided that January will be an alcohol-free zone. Gone are the Friday nights in with a glass of red and the latest Lovefilm. Instead, I’m whipping up some tasty non-alcoholic versions of my favourite tipples to sip on.

I’ve been surrounded by inspiration this month, as both my parents are off the chardonnay and in the gym, my workmate is off the booze for a whole year as part of her marathon training and everywhere you look people are talking about Dry-uary. I admit I’ve jumped a little on the bandwagon here, but the thrill of saying no and having the willpower to have a diet coke instead of a tasty Brewdog is actually quite empowering.

I also admire people who don’t drink at all. Like TV presenter Jameela Jamil, who just doesn’t drink. No explanations given, and really who cares? She still goes out and parties, rolls into bed at 3am and presents the Chart Show with a sleep-deprived hangover. I have to say I find it pretty cool when people stand up for what they believe in, and even if it is just for this month that I give the ol’ liver a rest, then I think belonging to the fair-weather-teetotal gang isn’t such a bad thing at all.

So instead of my usual Friday night Pinot Grigio wind down, I’ve become more adventurous and tried new things to help me relax after a week in the office. Alcohol free beer has featured on the menu, alongside cups of green tea and fizzy water with fresh basil and raspberries. But this mock-tail was such a hit, I’d happily continue sipping it well into February. Sharp lime marries with mint beautifully, and it is that hit coupled with blueberry juice that implies fancy cocktail without a hint of rum. Topped up with soda, ice and fresh blueberries makes this cocktail look the part, and a lime sugared rim on the glass ensures a hint of sweetness as you take a sip. Even if you’re still on the booze this month, I suggest you give this cocktail a go. You never know, this recipe may even overtake your favourite Mojito recipe. Happy Dry-uary Friends!

 

Serves One (easily multiplied)

You Will Need

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 lime

A sprig of mint

Blueberry juice

Soda water

Ice

4-5 fresh blueberries

blueberry mock-ito ingredients

Put the caster sugar on a plate and zest the lime on top. Mix together until the sugar is fragrant. Wet the rim of a short glass with a little water then twist in the lime sugar. Cut the lime in half and squeeze into the glass, catching any pips. Pick the leaves from the mint sprig and add to the lime juice, muddling with a spoon. Fill the glass halfway with blueberry juice then top up with soda, ice cubes and fresh blueberries. Finish with a sprig of mint as a decoration if you like, then serve.

blueberry mock-ito

 

4 Simple Goals for Spring 2013

Following on from the successes (and failures) of my first attempt of the 4 Simple Goals Challenge, I have decided to pick some new goals to take me into spring. As I noted in my results post, simple goals are the perfect way to challenge yourself day to day without the stresses of year long unachievable goals – climb Mount Kilimanjaro, meet the Queen, find someone who doesn’t like cake – that sort of thing.

This time around I’ve revisited the smoothie challenge, but I’ve made it a little more interesting. Although I bemoaned the lack of blender in my new household, forcing myself to use the stick blender has brought some great results and it is far easier to clean a Pyrex jug then a huge blender, which is a little victory. I’ve also decided to have some day to day fun with my look, challenge myself further with cake making and revisit my artistic side. I’ve already been doing these challenges for a couple of weeks now and so far the results have been rather positive. I’ll keep you posted soon as to how these challenges have gone, but in the meantime, here’s a reminder of the rules if you fancy having a go.

1. Choose simple goals that will make your life richer and happier on a daily basis. Choose things you may not otherwise get done, but that are not difficult to accomplish.

2. Do not choose result oriented goals, choose activity oriented goals. For example…. instead of “lose 10 pounds”, choose something like “eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day”. Get what I’m saying? Positive actions instead of just the end result!

3. Choose goals that are personal that you believe will truly make your life richer just by doing them! They can be daily, weekly or one time experiences.

4. Choose a reward for each goal as it is accomplished! It can be a small or large reward- it’s up to you.

As well as these simple goals, I have an additional set that are year-long. Inspired by Katie from Skunkboy Creatures, I have created a list of bigger things that I want to achieve, but will be keeping them close to my chest. That way, she suggests, you can do things for yourself without the disapproving or overly pushy reactions from people around you. But these little goals are the perfect example of something fun to share with bloggers and friends alike. They are personal to you, aren’t too stressful or crazy and are simply fun. Here’s mine!

Victoria Sponge Pease Pudding 4 Simple Goals

  1. Try the green smoothie challenge: I am terrible for not eating enough iron and although I love a good smoothie, I am not particularly great at challenging myself to create new combinations on a day to day basis. So forcing myself to be creative in the kitchen each morning is a fun and exciting goal to try. The aim is to create a refreshing smoothie with 1-2 handfuls of greens (I am choosing spinach but kale works too) and whichever fruits you fancy. I already have a few ideas and will be documenting them on Instagram.
  2. Try one new hairstyle a week: I am guilty for having a bit of a blasé relationship with my hair. Every now and then I dye it when the roots become unbearable, but as for the style long and er…longer is the general look. I want to try out some of those gorgeous hairdos I have pinned on Pinterest over the months to discover some alternative looks to hair down, hair up.
  3. Make a two-tier cake: This one has been on the agenda for a long time but I have never had the guts or the faith to believe I can pull off a two-tier without creating an unintentional lopsided mass of butter and sugar. I plan to pull the resources, do an insane amount of planning and blog the result of what I can already tell will be a labour of love. I can’t wait
  4. Paint a picture: Continuing the challenge to craft more in 2012, I want to finally grab the oils and get a canvas for my room on the go. I really like the idea of coming home from work and along with blogging, relaxing with a palette of paints and a brush.

Good luck for the next round of 4 Simple Goals! Do you have any?

 

 

Pink Peppercorn, White Chocolate and Rose Shortbread

I am starting to discover that I quite like breaking the rules every now and then with baking. Only using plain flour instead of self raising in a cake – how wrong! Swapping Maldon sea salt flakes for rock salt – sacrilege! Adding pepper and an egg to a basic shortbread mix – just get out.

I have to admit that breaking the fundamental rules of flavour matching in baking are one of the most fun things to do with this blog – simply picking up an ingredient and thinking ‘what will go well with this I wonder’ is enough to get the creative juices flowing. But I had purchased a little tub of fuchsia-pink peppercorns a few months ago and they have been languishing in my cupboard depressingly ever since. Until Christmas day, when the Pease family broke the rules and switched up the starter to a trio of salmon with a pink peppercorn and fennel dressing. Rule broken, I knew I had to get baking.

I have to admit that this particular flavour combination is not my own; the inspiration came from a throwaway tweet from Edd Kimber, also known as The Boy Who Bakes, who spoke of the flavour trio. I filed it away under the to-bake list, but the rule breaking baking was calling and soon I devised my own recipe to offer an alternative to tasty, but boring plain shortbread.

Purists may say this isn’t proper shortbread as I have added an egg yolk to the mix, but with all the smash bang of flavours and textures going on in this biscuit, a little richness to bring it all together is hardly dishonourable, rather it adds to the fusion of flavours in these treats. Each bite brings a different sensation, a crumbly buttery base (sing it now), a crunch of white chocolate and a spicy note of pink pepper, all the while a hint of rosewater hums in the background. This isn’t your standard tartan-tin shortbread, this is 21st century cool shortbread. Breaking the baking rules indeed.

Inspired by Edd Kimber

You Will Need

225g plain flour

75g caster sugar

A pinch of salt

150g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

1 tbsp pink peppercorns

90g white chocolate, chopped

2-3 drops rosewater

1 egg yolk

Pink Peppercorn, White Chocolate and Rose Shortbread ingredients

Preheat an oven to 180oc/160oc fan/ gas mark 4 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt then rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. In a mortar and pestle, grind the peppercorns finely then add to the mix with the white chocolate and rosewater drops. Stir with your hands then add the egg yolk to bind the mix.

Pink Peppercorn, White Chocolate and Rose Shortbread unbaked

Lightly flour a work surface and tip the shortbread on top, bringing together with your hands and flattening out to around 1cm in thickness. The mix will be very crumbly so take care and don’t over knead or your biscuits will lose their shortness. Cut out biscuits with a 7cm round cutter and place on the baking sheet. Repeat and re-knead until you have around 12 biscuits. Bake in the oven for around 18-20 minutes until golden round the edges. Leave to cool for 5 minutes on the tray before removing and leave to cool on a wire rack until completely cold.

pink peppercorn white chocolate and rose shortbread

4 simple goals before 2013 the results

So around four months ago I decided I needed a little direction in my life. I was running around in what can only be described as two-job-one-blog-one-unpaid-writing-job circle. I ate, slept, drank coffee, worked, wrote, ate some more and cried. A lot. Then all of a sudden the circle slowed down and I had one awesome job, a blog that was doing really well, a flat and a new life. I saw the 4 Simple Goals post on A Beautiful Mess and dreamed up some achievable but fun challenges for myself. Adding some simple goals to my new life didn’t seem so scary any more.

Except it was. I have to say reader I didn’t do particularly well with this challenge. I said I would make loads of smoothies and share the recipes with you. Reality: I made two. I said I would DIY and craft more. Reality: I made two things and decided Hobbycraft was an expensive place. I said I would try different types of pastry. Reality: I did do this one, but I made bloody miserable croissants that made me cry. And I said I would blog more original content. Reality: Well, I’ll let you decide that one.

I think my slight ineptitude with this task is due to the upheaval of my life some 100 miles north, but you can’t blame Aberdeen for everything. (Except the sideways rain. ALWAYS the sideways rain). But I am no quitter and really bloody stubborn so I have picked myself up, grabbed a notepad and given this thing another shot. So far I’m doing much better and the extra kick up the arse I am giving myself means I am being more creative, healthy and pushing myself outside of work. How’s that for simple!

So here are the results from my first challenge:

Make fresh smoothies: This particular one went badly due to the fact that it was badly planned. I up sticks and left behind my mum’s blender, and who enjoys standing over a Pyrex jug with a load of fruit that won’t blend with an immersion blender? Not me anyway. Goal: rubbish effort.

smoothie challenge

Be inspired to craft and DIY more: Went well but the majority of my crafty stuff still resides at home and it always seems a pain to drag it up the road. A side goal for this year will be to actually find a home for it in my room so I can’t get away from it. Anyway I upcycled a knackered old pine mirror into quite a cool Great Gatsby-eque number with decoupage. I made my own Dorothy shoes when I couldn’t find any on the High Street. I also sculpted and painted personalised Christmas ornaments for my family which went down extremely well. Goal: accomplished-ish.

diy challenge

Brainstorm and blog original ideas: Pretty darn good! Out of nine posts, five were my own or heavily adapted recipes that were barely the original any more. I created spiced German biscuits piped with snowflakes, a monster sized pumpkin cake with fresh puree and discovered making my own frosting recipes was a bit of a doddle. All in all this challenge was perfect for me and gave me the push to be more confident and adventurous in my posts. Goal: A success!

blog original content

Try making different types of pastry: Again, various successes. I was utterly terrified of choux and was pretty much convinced I’d scramble it but it was perfect and completely responsible for me eating the whole batch in one day. Despite the fact in the post I advocated a ‘little of what you fancy’ policy. Er, oops. Flaky pie-like pastry was also fun and easy and made the most gorgeous Pumpkin Spice Pop Tarts. I think that recipe will be adapted heavily over the next year. Alas we end on a sad note, as my croissants died a painful death despite a full weekend of prepping, rolling, folding, proving and then ultimately burning. I always learn baking lessons and this one was painful, but at least I gave it a shot and I will go back and try again one day. For now though, my croissants will be purchased from the bakery aisle. Goal: Two outta three ain’t bad – passable.

pastry goal

So there you have it. My Simple Goals to achieve before 2013. I tried my best and had some spectacular failures but all in all it was a fun challenge to undertake. I’ll be back soon to tell you my four new goals, but in the meantime, did you undertake the challenge? How did you do, I am dying to know!