Yuletide Greetings

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Indeed, Yuletide greetings to you all.

Today is the day of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, celebrated as the festival of Yule in ancient and modern Pagan traditions. Yule was the traditional mid-Winter festival of ancient Europe, before being adopted and adapted by The Christian Church into the festival of Christmas. Being the shortest day of the year – that is, the shortest period of daylight between sunrise and sunset, obviously every day is always 24 hours long – the festival of Yule is based around the celebration of the sun returning and bringing life back to the world with the (gradual) move out of Winter towards Spring.

Whatever you want to call it – this time of year always makes me want to bake and feed people! So I do like to mark the Solstice with a bit of baking. Of course, the Chocolate Yule Log derives from the tradition of the Yule Log which was an actual wooden log that was burnt to celebrate the Solstice. I didn’t fancy lining myself up for the stress of trying to roll my own Chocolate Yule Log – instead I decided to go down the route of orange, marzipan and cinnamon as ingredients that make me think of warmth and sunshine.

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I used this recipe from Sweet Paul for Norwegian Skillingsboller, that’s Cinnamon Buns, although this recipe has an awesome twist of added marzipan! It takes a bit of time to make as it is a yeasted dough, so you need to leave it to rise, but other than the waiting the recipe is pretty easy. Note: mixing the butter into the dough is very messy!

Mine turned out a bit, haphazard looking – but this isn’t GBBO and I’m not marking myself on presentation or uniformity, it’s all about taste for me.

The finished buns are delicious, I’m going to struggle to restrain myself from eating them all. I did a taste test when they were warm and they were amazing – I’ve also had one cold and it’s still really good, but it might be worth zapping one in the microwave for a few seconds to warm before eating.

I also made these Tangerine and Marzipan Muffins from Olive Magazine. I haven’t tasted one of these yet, I’ve been too busy focussing on the Cinnamon Buns, but they smell really yummy 🙂

UPDATE: I’ve just tried one of thee and they are lovely! Light and orangey and not too sweet, surprisingly! Recommended 😊

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I have a feeling I may take a few steps backwards on my weight-loss over the next week :/

Hope you are all enjoying the festive season, whatever you celebrate and whatever you eat!

Love

Betty

Pulled Pork Stew

This summer I completely fell in love with Pulled Pork – it was cheap, easy and very, very tasty. It’s something I meant to blog about all summer but never got around to.

Now, whilst Pulled Pork is a barbecue style dish (not that mine involved the use of a barbecue) and could generally be considered to be summer food, there obviously isn’t any reason why you can’t enjoy it in the winter – slow cooked spicy meat still sounds like a great, comforting winter meal.  However, I was inspired by a recent email from Tesco to put even more of an Autumnal-Wintery twist on my summer favourite and make a Pulled Pork Stew.

One of the best things about this recipe is that it uses Pork Shoulder, which is a really affordable cut of meat – Asda have Pork Shoulders available from £3 per kilo (I used around 700 grams of shoulder steaks and that was more than enough for 4 people).
Another great thing is that it is really quite low effort – as a slow cook dish, so you can put it on in the morning and it can cook all day to be as good as ready when you get home from work 🙂

Pulled Pork Spice Rub
Pulled Pork Stew
1. Mix the rub ingredients together in a bowl. Rub half into your meat then cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours or over night.

I have previously used Pork Shoulder Joints but used Shoulder Steaks this time for the stew, however, I think I would probably recommend Joints over Steaks



2. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius  Place meat into a roasting tray/tin, add a cup of water and cover the whole tray in tin foil. Cook for 4 to 5 hours (for 1 to 1.5 kilos)

To make stew mixture
(any time after putting the meat into the oven) 


3. In a large pan/casserole dish – Soften a chopped onion and sliced celery (optional) in olive oil


4. Add tinned tomatoes and water (number of cans depends on number you are feeding, I used one tin of tomatoes and one tin of water for 4 people)


5. Add chopped veg of your choice (I generally use carrot, peppers, courgette, tomatoes, green beans…)



6. Add beans – I used tinned kidney beans in chilli sauce, but you can use any type of bean, fresh, dried (and soaked) or tinned (even baked beans) or skip the beans all together if they aren’t your thing (but they are very good for you and if you cook them for a long time you’ll probably not even notice they’re there!)

7. Add more tomatoes and/or water if more liquid is needed

8. Season to taste – salt, pepper, smoked paprika/cayenne pepper/chilli, tomato purée

9. Now you have a choice, which partly depends on how long you have left til the meat is cooked
– If it is still a few hours til the meat is ready you can either put the pot in the oven with the meat (make sure it is oven proof) and leave to slow cook or you can simply turn it off and leave it covered
– If the meat will be ready soon (within 30 minutes to one hour) you can leave the pot, covered, on a low heat on the hob or pop it in the oven with the meat

Bringing things together


10. Once the meat is cooked, remove the layer of fat (which will be weird and squidgy, not like crackling as Pete is always disappointed to find) then take two forks and pull the meat apart (hence PULLED pork) and mix in the spicy juices in bottom of the tin

11. Add the meat to the stew mixture – If you took the stew mixture off the heat while the meat cooked then do warm it up on a mid to low heat hob, or in the oven, before mixing the meat in

12. Serve. 
I served mine with savoury corn muffins made using this recipe, although substituting buttermilk for soy milk with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

I certainly enjoyed it, and everyone else seemed to as well.

I hope you are all well and enjoying some hearty and warming meals now autumn has definitely arrived.

Love



My Favourite Magazines: The Simple Things

Over the past year or so I have really got into magazines – not Fashion magazines, I have no time for that dross, but craft magazines and slightly different lifestyle magazines.

When I came across The Simple Things I was intrigued by it’s stripped down take on the lifestyle magazine, about enjoying the simple things – simple food, the outdoors, family & friends, collecting, tradition and seasonality – rather than the numerous, overly consumerist, high-end, designer, glossy lifestyle magazines that promote shiny, polished, expensive perfection that I really don’t think is a genuine route to fulfilment or happiness.

My interest also stemmed from where I was in my life at the time – really wrestling with my PhD and feeling lost and discontented with life – and a growing realisation that I needed to focus more on the beautiful, simple things in everyday life; which is exactly what I feel this magazine celebrates.

I love all of their regular features; tasting notes and articles on good, honest food – bread, cheese, chocolate, features on food traditions from around the world – from the Full English to Churros to Merenda (mid-afternoon Nutella on bread for Italian children), personal, intimate guides to great, interesting cities by people who really know them, seasonal garden observations and activities and loads more on interiors, collectors, days out, tea and books. I like that encourages you to take a step back, to look at  the things that most of us take for granted and really appreciate them and take joy from them instead – I think everyone needs to do that at least every once in a while.
I will also always love a lifestyle magazine that features real, muddy dogs as part of that lifestyle!

Although, now I think about it, I hold the writers and editors at least partly responsible for my recent weight as their articles definitely led to my nearly month long obsession with croque monsieur and my (fantastically successful) experiment with toffee apple crumble – both simple and both brilliant.

It’s a really great magazine to properly chill out with – the autumn and winter editions have been lovely to snuggle up with and always make me feel warm (especially the bonfire night edition that featured hot chocolate with pink peppercorn syrup). Hopefully the spring editions won’t have to keep me warm for too much longer as I’m still holding out hope that the sun will be bringing some warmth soon and I’ll be able to get outside and put the gardening features to good use!

If you’re also sick of the same old nasty lifestyle magazines and believe that there is more to life, and that the little things matter, check out The Simple Things – I think you’ll like it.

Love

The Only Comfort I Can Think Of

So it seems that I haven’t managed to completely overcome my lack of enthusiasm to blog just yet.

In all honesty, I haven’t been feeling too great lately, for a whole mix of reasons, and it’s not easy to write when you’re feeling low. Not much really seems very worthwhile and even less seems interesting enough to photograph, take the time to write about and then share with you, my lovely readers.

As you may be aware, these low moods aren’t exactly a rarity in my life, but sometimes it still takes me a while to realise when one has become particularly invasive in my life. It’s only really over the past weeks or so that I’ve noticed the effects and tried to put some steps into action to help pick me up.
Mostly this involves remembering to make time for and to appreciate small comforts. While the changing light might have something to do with my changing mood, I do find that Autumn is a a great time for small comforts – blankets, hot chocolate, fallen leaves 🙂

As I’m (rapidly) approaching the end of my PhD I do have loads of work to be doing during the day, so I’m trying to keep my evenings free and dedicated to relaxing and trying to make myself feel better.

Jumpers and Blankets. 
I also really want to get a onesie 🙂

Long, Hot Baths

Good Food
Homemade Toffee Apple Crumble

Good Food with Ice Cream
Movies
Rekorderlig
Especially Apple and Blackcurrant
Chocolate
Anyone tried this?

Time with my boys


Making and Baking
I’ve been doing a lot of craft and making things. Partly just as a break, but also in preparation for Christmas
It is really nice to take time for myself and just relax, and trying not to feel too guilty about it. I only wish I had a wood stove, that would be the ultimate in comfort and relaxation.
Hope you are all well. I do have posts lined up that I want to write. Hopefully improving my general mood will improve my blogging motivation.
Love

Homemade Nutella

To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Nutella. I’d always rather have a straight-up, no messing chocolate spread than a hazelnut chocolate spread. However, I first decided to make my own ‘Nutella’ a few months ago when I was reading Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ book and cookbook and really trying to reduce the amount of processed foods and sugars in my diet.
Recently I have let things slide a bit and have been no where near as good at watching what I eat. However, I still always have a jar of this spread in my fridge for some slightly-less-guilty snack time. As it’s based on Sarah Wilson’s recipe it is low sugar and so much healthier than regular Nutella – not that that’s hard, real Nutella is more than 50% sugar (56.7g of sugar per 100g). I am personally horrified that this stuff is advertised as a great breakfast for kids, and don’t even get me started in Nesquik….anyway.

Honestly, this so yummy and really not very hard to make – I have it smothered on rich tea biscuits, often as a mid-afternoon snack 🙂

The recipe is based on one from Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ cookbook, I have made some changes based on personal taste and availability of ingredients.

Homemade (Low-Sugar) Nutella

  • 1 cup nuts – I have mostly used hazelnuts (obviously), but have also tried mixing in some other nuts, particularly Brazils, but you can experiment
  • 1/4 cup cocoa (Sarah Wilson states Raw Cacao, as this doesn’t have added sugar, I have used both raw cacao and regular cocoa and don’t notice much difference in taste)
  • 4 tablespoons honey (Sarah uses Brown Rice Syrup as this contains more complex sugars, but I have found it really hard to get hold of and, personally, have no problem with honey!)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla 
  • 1 tablespoon nut oil (Sarah says Macadamia, I use Groundnut, but I don’t see why you can’t just use your own oil of choice)
  • 1/2 cup milk (again, Sarah says coconut but I use soy but regular milk, or any other milk should be fine. Amount can be increased or reduced depending on your desired final texture)
  1. Spread nuts on a baking tray and bake at 180 degrees C for 10 minutes (until browned)
  2. Rub as much of the skin off the nuts as you can
  3. Grind nuts in a blender/food processor (I only have a mini food chopper, which doesn’t completely puree the nuts but I quite like the slightly rough texture it produces)
  4. Mix in the rest of the ingredients
  5. Spoon the mixture into a sterilised jar* and keep in the fridge
The latest batch that I made and photographed actually turned out a little thicker and drier than past batches, which you can kind of see in the pictures. I think I may not have put enough milk in. You can also see it’s  not as smooth as ‘proper’ Nutella, but that’s because of the limitations of my food processor, I quite like the chunks, makes it feel a bit healthier 😉 It’s still yummy despite all this 🙂
In theory, having this should help me be healthier, if I eat a couple of rich teas with this spread instead of a more calorific dessert. I’m still working on that in practise though :/
Anyone discovered any interesting or different recipes lately?
Love

*To sterilise a jar, wash it and place the jar and lid (not a plastic lid) in the oven at around 150 degrees C for 20 minutes. Fill and seal jar straight from the oven (using oven gloves!)

I Want Candy

Check out this super haul of American candy that I won in a giveaway run by Sarah of Temporary:Secretary in conjunction with CyberCandy!

Twizzlers, Pop Tarts, Nerds, Jelly Belly Soda, Pop Rocks, Kool-Aid, Oh Henry!, Big Turk, The Big Deal…….plus an I Love Nerds T-shirt and Sugar Daddy Lunch box!!

Now, like most people I consider myself to be someone who ‘never wins anything’ – but I guess I can’t really keep saying that now :/

I’ve been a big fan of Temporary:Secretary since I first started reading blogs, way back when. Sarah is super cute and her blog is full of great outfits, photographed superbly. If you don’t know her blog, I really do recommend you check it out.
I first heard of CyberCandy through Sarah’s blog, when she wrote about the Oreo Milka bar they sell – I still really, really need to get my hands on one of those :p I was trying to restrict my sugar intake when she published the post, but that has long since slipped, so I guess I can indulge my chocolate craving now.

As much as I have a major sweet tooth, I think I’m almost more excited about the t-shirt and tin lunch box that came as part of the prize! The candy is already looking a little depleted, Pete and I had a bit of a ‘tasting’ session last night, as we weren’t familiar with a lot of what I got. Big thumbs-up for Oh Henry! (kinda like a Snickers), Big Turk (Turkish Delight in chocolate), Big Deal (Wafer, Caramel and crispy cereal in chocolate – really sweet) and Chewy Spree so far 🙂
Even between the two of us we couldn’t have got through it all in one go though, plus I might have to pace myself on what’s left or I won’t fit into the awesome t-shirt :/

I just wanted to say a big thank you to Sarah and CyberCandy for the great giveaway.

Also, thank you to all my readers and followers (old and new!) for still reading even though I’m being a very bad and irregular blogger at the moment 🙂

Love,

PS. How the heck can there be more calories in the Blueberry Pop Tarts than the Chocolate Fudge Sundae Pop Tarts? lol

My 27th Birthday

Last Monday was my 27th birthday 🙂
Whilst I lost a notable amount of work time in the preparation and celebrations, I had a lovely birthday weekend with a lot of my favourite people and far too much food (but really, really good food)!

I had a small party and barbecue on the Saturday. The weather wasn’t quite as nice as it had been during the week and it looked ominously cloudy from time to time, but it never did actually rain. We hung out in my garden with cake, drinks, meat and music for most of the afternoon and into the evening.

I wore my lovely Dorothy Perkins peach/coral polka dot peplum dress, which I’d been waiting for a suitable occasion to wear for ages! To match the vintage styling of the dress I put my hair up in victory rolls. I think they may be my best victory rolls so far 🙂

Happy Birthday bunting made by my mum (from almost entirely reused materials)
Homemade Rocky Road – I’ll blog the recipe soon
Happy Birthday Battenberg Cake 😀
Making a Wish

On my actual birthday, my boyfriend, our dog and I took a day trip to Burley in the New Forest.
We had a lovely lunch in The Queen’s Head pub (dog friendly) before wandering through the village to see the shops. As well as being a typical New Forest village full of ponies and shops selling fudge and ice cream, Burley also plays on its historical links to dragons and witches and has a large number of shops selling associated souvenirs.
The village is actually quite small, so we extended our walk into the surrounding forest and countryside, taking in an old hill fort and barrows. Alf had a fantastic time tearing around, up and down hills and through fields of bracken. He was well and truly knackered by the time we got back to the village. Pete also made the most of being outdoors (his natural habitat) by climbing trees.
We must have walked for about two hours and were in desperate need of drinks when we got back to Burley. As we enjoyed The Queen’s Head so much at lunch, we headed back for refreshments and I got myself a cream tea – which was sooooo yummy.

The Queen’s Head, Burley. Dog Friendly. Awesome Cream Tea.
The cutlery and condiments came in a small picnic basket. So cute.
Alf loves being outside and ran around like a crazy thing
Woo, Bracken!
View from the Hill Fort
Lake
Cream Tea at The Queen’s Head. Soooooo good.
So good it gets two pictures!
Knackered puppy
Alf, Pete and Me 🙂

I had such a lovely time. Thank you to everyone who came to the party and all of you who sent birthday wished via text, facebook or twitter. You’ve made being old a lot easier for me.

Now I need to seriously up my exercise routine to loose these extra pounds I’ve put on this week!

Love