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Saturday, 20 January 2018

Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients : Carrot & Grain Salad

It's been very quiet on the blog front over here recently, and I've enjoyed a lovely extended break from it. Other things in my life have taken the place of blogging recently, with one of them being getting back into exercise. I used to love it when I was exercising regularly and it made me feel great, but for the past couple of years a frozen shoulder followed swiftly by an injury to my back meant that exercising was no longer fun. The shoulder is pretty much back to normal now, and the back is as good as it's going to get for a while, and whilst sitting down or standing still for extended periods gives me pain, running and cycling don't seem to have the same effect.

My running shoes have been dusted off, I've nicked my eldest's new bike, I've rejoined my bootcamp buddies, and I'm now on a mission to get fit and lose some excess beef before my holiday season starts in just a few short weeks!

The time has also come to ease myself back into blogging. 

A couple of weeks ago I saw one or two recommendations for the new Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients book, and as I was feeling a little uninspired in the kitchen department following Christmas I thought I would put some of my Christmas Amazon vouchers to good use and buy a copy.

After a quick flick through the book I noted down a few recipes that I really wanted to try, and made a mental note of a few that I wouldn't; namely all of the fish and seafood dishes. What I really like about this book is that every recipe has a photograph of the finished dish. For me this is one of the most important parts of a cook book, because I like to actually see what the dish is going to look like rather than have to imagine it.

Another appeal of this book is that fact that each recipe only needs 5 ingredients (surprising, hey?), and takes under 30 minutes to make. You do need the odd store cupboard ingredient in addition to the 5 main ingredients, but many of us would have these in the cupboard already - Olive oil, red wine vinegar (I use white wine vinegar & you really could improvise with malt vinegar if you were desperate & had no alternative), salt & black pepper.  

The first dish that I tried was Carrot & Grain Salad, and although I've not eaten pomegranate since I was a child (and never really liked it) I thought it would be nice to give it another chance to be in my life.

I couldn't get my hands on any colourful carrots, and instead used regular carrots, so my finished dish isn't quite as pretty as it could be. Someone on Twitter also pointed out that I hadn't washed or peeled my carrots (insert eye roll emoji!) so I would like to take this opportunity to say that the carrots were indeed washed, but not peeled, because, well...y'know..I'm lazy when it comes to peeling. I hate peeling. I will do anything to avoid peeling carrots or potatoes, and usually do.

I absolutely loved this salad, and will definitely be making it again, although I won't go to the extra effort of buying a pomegranate as, although Jamie & Nigella make bashing the seeds out of a pomegranate with a wooden spoon look easy, I somehow managed to make my kitchen look like a crime scene. I also can't get over that bitter taste when you crunch into the seeds. The sour flavour of pomegranate seeds are nice though, but I think it could be replicated with the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon.

I'll be sharing my results for some more of the recipes from the book over the next few weeks/months, but I won't be sharing the recipe. If you want to try them for yourself you can find the book on Amazon (affiliate link below). Some of the recipes are also available online.

For the record, I used Merchant Gourmet Glorious Grains in this dish, which I found in Asda.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Cocktail Glass Christmas Trifles with Splenda®

There's less than 3 weeks left now until the big day, and I'm feeling rather pleased with my organisational skills at the moment. The tree is up and most of the presents have been bought and wrapped. Inspired by Nigella and her year round twinkly lights, I've also put some fairy lights up in the kitchen this year, however, in my enthusiasm, I appear to have achieved the look of Santa's Grotto rather than Nigella's cosy kitchen. The husband is none too chuffed by my efforts to be super festive as I'm yet to introduce smart plugs into the kitchen, and there are a grand total of 7 sockets to turn off at the end of the night!

I've not yet dug out my spreadsheet for the Christmas food, but that part of the planning will hopefully get underway over the weekend. I'm not catering for as many guests on the big day this year but I'm sure that won't stop me making plenty of desserts, resulting in me inadvertently consuming far too many calories.

According to Consultant Dietician Helen Bond, on average people gain  between 1 and 5lbs over Christmas, and I've definitely been closer to the latter in previous years. This year I'm aiming for zero weight gain, so I need to be a little bit clever, as I don't want to miss out on all of the treats.

Reducing your sugar intake over Christmas can be a little tricky but by substituting sugar in desserts and drinks with Splenda® granulated low calorie sweetener means that you can still enjoy a few sweet treats, without the extra calories. As Splenda® is made with sucralose it's heat stable up to 232 degrees C, making it an ideal replacement for sugar in cakes and bakes.

Cocktail Glass Christmas Trifles with Splenda®

There are lots of recipes and ideas on the Splenda website, including Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake, Mince Pies, Mulled Wine Jelly and Christmas Trifle, which would all be perfect for Christmas entertaining.

I decided to make the Christmas Trifle, and instead of making one large trifle I made smaller ones in cocktail glasses. Making individual desserts is a not only a more attractive way to serve trifle, it's also a great way to ensure that you don't eat one spoonful too many!

Cocktail Glass Christmas Trifles with Splenda®

My version of the trifle also includes Amaretto in place of Sherry, Madeira or Masala, as I absolutely love Amaretto, and the almond flavour goes really well with the spiced plums. I must admit that despite making trifle every Christmas I can take it or leave it really. I certainly don't like trifle with jelly in, and many trifles are really heavy, however this version, without the layer of cream on top, was much lighter, and the spiced plum layer was quite tart and paired well with the sweet custard.

Cocktail Glass Christmas Trifles with Splenda®

Helen Bond’s top 10 tips for negotiating festive feasting; from daily treats to New Year’s toast.
Top Tips:
1.     Always start the day with a healthy breakfast. It’s easy to miss this important meal, or give in and indulge in fatty croissants to ease that Christmas party hangover. But eating a good breakfast will help kick-start your metabolism and keep you feeling full, making it easier to ignore the inevitable chocolates lying around.  

2.     Get creative with your advent calendar. Even big kids love opening those little advent calendar doors – but, enjoying 25 days of chocolaty goodness will do your waistline no favours! A little chocolate Xmas character provides around 26 kcals, 1.5g fat, 2.8g sugar - even more if they are truffle or alcoholic filled – that’s an extra 650 kcals, 37.5g fat and 70g sugar over 25 days. Why not get creative with your countdown to Christmas, so you’ve got a daily treat, without the daily guilt. 

3.     Love seasonal fruit and veg. With the abundance of festive food, it can be easy to forget the basics of eating healthily and achieving the (at least) 5-a-day recommendation. I like to pile the veg on my plate first, rather than last.

4.     Make time for exercise. However well you plan, life is going to get hectic over the festive period, so schedule your 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise into your week now. Exercise is also a fabulous stress buster, as it releases endorphins, making you feel happier and calmer. 

5.     Don’t skip meals. If you’re going to the office party straight after work, or you’ve got a dinner date with friends, don’t ditch lunch for fear of overdoing your daily calorie intake. You’ll be famished and hungry people tend to make bad food decisions.

6.     Try not to burn the candle at both ends. Burning the festive candle at both ends, with parties during the week and weekend hosting duties, can also affect your waistline. Too little sleep can reduce the level of the appetite-controlling hormone leptin and increase the hormone ghrelin, telling the brain you need to eat – and not always the right healthy food choices.

7.     Rethink your tea breaks. Cut cutting down on the ‘white stuff’ is a tall order, especially around Christmas. It appears in so many of the traditional festive favourites, that it’s near impossible to keep track of how much you’re eating.  An easy win is to rethink your tea breaks; instead of adding sugar to your tea, swap to a low-calorie sweetener, like SPLENDA®. If you drink four cups of tea a day with two teaspoons (8g) of sugar in each cup - that adds up to 128 kcals. Your sweet tea also tots up to nearly one 1kg bag of sugar over the 25 days of December and 3,200 kcals! You, and your Xmas shopping could be a whole lot lighter for a simple sweet swap!

8.     Treat sweets as treats. The constant supply of treats from guests and salty savoury snacks at work can be too tempting to avoid. Keep healthier seasonal snacks, like clementines, to hand; a medium clementine has just 25 kcals and will provide you 31% of your daily needs for immune boosting vitamin C and 1g of gut healthy fibre.

9.     Wise-up to the buffet. Faced with a buffet, resist the temptation to start filling your plate at one end of the table and continuing to add to it until you reach the other. Before you pick up the plate (and always take the smallest one!), pause for a moment and then prioritise healthy choices; smoked salmon, slices of lean ham and vegetable crudités. Now, step away.

10.  Keep in mind portion size. Most of us are over-generous with serving sizes at Christmas and it’s a fact that the bigger your tableware, the more you’ll fill it. Research shows that simply downsizing from a 12 to 10-inch plate could help you eat roughly 22% fewer calories, and you’ll not feel like you are missing out. 

Visit for more delicious recipe inspiration & baking tips.

Commissioned post for SPLENDA®

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Earn Giftcards Online with Swagbucks December Swago Bonus

I've written previously (here and here) how I've earned giftcards online to help cover the cost of Christmas, and now the digital rewards site Swagbucks is offering big payouts during their December "Swago" promotion starting on Monday 4th December and running until the following Monday. Swago is just like bingo, but in this case you're filling out squares as you earn points on their site for doing things you already do online. If you're thinking of trying Swagbucks, this is a great chance to learn all about how the site works and earn bonus points while doing it, meaning you can get more gift cards faster.


Here are a few tips:  

  • Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete. They can be anything from getting a search win, completing a survey, or just visiting one of our popular stores!  
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete.  
  • You have until Monday 11th December to mark off as many squares as possible, so use your time wisely.  
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value. Once you’ve achieved a pattern, the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely.  

  • Each activity you successfully complete on your Swago Board will give you anywhere from 1-20 spins on the Spin & Win Wheel. PLUS, when you submit your board for a bonus you'll get additional spins. The number of spins will depend on the pattern you complete. The wheel has all sorts of great prizes that you can win, and each spin is a winner!

The Spin & Win Wheel will be available all throughout Swago and you have until Monday 11th December to use all your spins.  

Fill up your board and then submit your pattern to get even more points - if you can fill in the whole board, you get a 300 SB bonus.

Click here right now and click "Join" to get started! If you don't already have a Swagbucks account, you'll be able to quickly sign up; PLUS, if you earn 300 SB before the first of January, you'll get a bonus 300 SB!

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Adult Only Dream Garden Room

For quite a few years now I've been dreaming of having a garden shed. Not a dusty shed full of spiders, bikes and tools though, my shed would be an extension of my home. It would be somewhere to hide all those purchases that I get tempted to buy but don't have anywhere left in the house for.

It would be somewhere that I could fill with the latest trends, but not have to worry too much about when they are 'so last year'. It would be full of greenery to make it feel like the outdoors all year round.

A garden studio from Tiger Sheds would be my ideal haven, with large windows to let lots of light in for food photography, and plenty of room for a comfy chair or two, a cosy rug, cushions & throws, a few plants, and a secret cocktail cabinet to store my ever increasing collection of champagne and cocktail glasses, as well as a bottle or two of gin and Prosecco. After all there is no point in having an adult only escape if you can't enjoy a few cocktails in peace!

Garden Room

Garden Room by thecrazykitchen 

Follow my PInterest board for lots more home & garden inspiration.


This is my entry into the Boo, Roo & Tigger Too competition to design an adult only escape with Tiger Sheds

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