Sunday, 30 December 2012

no-fuss evening


A little premature? Well, I've been thinking about tomorrow night's festivities and know how many people are stressing over plans/failed plans. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of NYE - like a lot of people, I hate how much pressure is put on to having an amazing night when in reality it usually just the same as any other night out, but overpriced. 

This year, we're not going out. We've spent the last few NYEs in Brighton with Rich's friends, but this year we just can't be bothered. Instead, we're going to a friends house for Mexican food and cocktails a'plenty. To me, this is the perfect way to spend NYE - with good friends, food and drinks!

Now, I know a lot of people are having people over to their place for a similar affair, and this presents us with the age-old dilemma; what to cook? Personally, I like to be fed when I go out - a few packets of Pringles and peanuts aint gonna cut it. 

Here are a few super easy ideas of things you can whip up with little effort, but for lots of people. You don't want to be faffing around with assembling perfect meals - whack it in a big dish, put it on the table with some tasty extras and you're off. Enjoy!


The easiest dish ever - chop it up, toss in some oil and bung it in the oven. Perfect served on small plates or bowls with chunks of crusty bread. Recipe here


Perfect for cold nights in! Serve with baby baked potatoes and a dollop of crème fraiche. Recipe here


Because everyone loves pasta! This is a little different - more veg, different types of cheese and a crusty breadcrumb topping. Serve with garlic ciabatta and shavings of parmesan. Recipe here.

These are just so simple, and tasty. You could also whip up a quick curry (here or here) which again you can make a big batch of and serve with rice and naan breads. 

And for pud...


No baking required, simply melt, mix and bung in the fridge. A favourite with friends and family! Recipe here


And finally, the queen of all puddings! This requires no baking, simply pop in the fridge to set overnight. Recipe here.

Hopefully this has inspired you, or at least put your mind at rest. Don't stress; cook or prepare these recipes in advance so you can enjoy the evening! 
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Saturday, 29 December 2012

must reads


In the (little over a) year since I've been writing this blog, I've done fourteen bookworm features, and have read some pretty amazing books. I love to read most nights in bed to take my mind off a busy day (usually lesson planning/marking stress). Luckily Rich is a big reader too, he seems to fly through books so much faster than me... he read the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones) in just a few months, impressive! Between us we've amassed a good collection of books in our new flat (which we don't have room for) and look like a middle aged couple in bed, tucked up with our books and side lights on!

Anyway, I thought I'd run through the books I would say have been my favourite over the past year or so. I love getting a good book recommendation (just finished reading Me Before You by Jojo Moyes on twitter recommendations!) so thought I would return the favour.

Here are my top ten books, read in the past year or so...

1. The Help - Kathryn Stockett. Probably one of my favourite books. Heart warming story, lovely characters and the film is a great representation of the novel! If you like this, you may also like The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (review here).

2. This Charming Man and Rachel's Holiday - Marian Keyes. Love Keyes' writing, she is so funny and true to life. Her novels always strike a chord with me, and these two are my favourites. Again, great characterisation and storylines - not sickly sweet happy ever after, but based on 'reality' with a funny undercurrent. Perfect.

3. One Day - David Nicholls. Such a great read. I also liked The Understudy by him. Again, humorous but with a serious storyline. 

4. Room - Emma Donoghue. Bit of a different one here; serious storyline about a girl who was kidnapped and gave birth to her kidnappers son whilst in captivity (review here).

5. We Need To Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver. Again, a very serious and deeply upsetting book, but extremely well written. Perhaps an interesting one to read in the wake of the Newtown school shootings (review here).

6. The Thread - Victoria Hislop. Incredibly interesting, so well explained and described. Such a great read, especially if you are interested in history, geography or want to view the Second World War from a perspective other than that of England or Germany. But ultimately, a story of love (review here).

7. Falling Leaves - Adeline Yen Mah. I read this as a child (and Chinese Cinderella), but re-read whilst on holiday this summer. Fantastic, and again historically interesting with a heart-wrenching storyline (review here). 

8. The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins. Loved the books, and loved the first film! Good storyline, and fairly good continuity over the three books. First book was my favourite, but still enjoyed the second and third (review here). 

9. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell. My all-time favourite film, and the book is a beast. Not easy going; it is solid but packed with amazing characters, incredible descriptions of America during the Civil War in the early 1860s, and above all a fantastic storyline. An absolute classic. 

10. Me Before You - Jojo Moyes. I finished this last night and absolutely loved it! Similar to Marian Keyes' novels in that it covers a serious issue but with an amusing and thoughtful undertone. I warmed to the characters in the first chapter; you really feel for all parties involved. Warning: you will cry like a baby!

Those are just some of my favourite reads, but it is so hard to limit it to ten! 

Next on my bookshelf are: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Sister by Rosamund Lupton and Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French.

On a slightly more negative note, what to avoid? I can't go without mentioning 50 Shades of Grey. I reviewed it here, but can safely say my year would have been no worse (if not better) if I'd not bothered reading them. If you've not yet... then don't. Mine are in a bag to take to my local charity shop!

That brings me on to my final point (promise!) - where do you buy your books from? A while ago I posted about buying my books from charity shops, and still am a firm supporter of The British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK, but am worried about the future of our bookshops! Waterstones et al must be quaking in their books in the light of the rising popularity of e-books and Amazon selling paperbacks for next-to-nothing. I try to buy some books from actual book shops; particularly ones I want to keep on my bookshelf for life - classics, and books by my favourite authors. But, a £1.99 bargain is still too good to pass, especially when I'm on a budget!

What have been your favourite reads this year?
Recommendations more than welcome!
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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

captain pugwash


This recipe is just so easy, and so delicious. You may have noticed a pattern in that respect! I'm all for good food, but just don't have the time, patience or inclination to spend hours sweating over an intricate recipe.

You will need: for 4 people
300-400 grams of assorted fish
A hard boiled egg
2 tablespoons low fat crème fraiche
Cheddar cheese
Spinach (frozen or fresh)
Teaspoon dijon mustard
2 potatoes (for mash topping)

When I was in Sainsburys I found this pre-prepared fish pie mix - chunks of salmon, pollock and haddock for just over £3. You can of course use what ever fish you have at home, but I think this is such a good time saver. I often add a handful of frozen prawns to the mix too.


Mix together your fish, two tablespoons of low fat crème fraiche, a teaspoon of mustard, two defrosted spinach balls (or a handful of fresh wilted spinach), a sliced hard boiled egg and a small sprinkling of grated cheese. I also added a small handful of frozen sweetcorn; you could use peas instead. 

Spread the mashed potatoes (peel and cube 2 potatoes, boil until soft, mash with a small amount of milk, butter, salt and pepper) over the top of the mixture and top with a sprinkling of grated cheese. 


Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 180C, until the top is golden and crispy and the filling is bubbling. 


Serve with steamed green veg and enjoy!
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Saturday, 15 December 2012

bookworm #14


When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

After hearing good things about this book I bought it for Rich's Mum last Christmas... I then initiated my book borrowing rights and borrowed it right back! Cheeky? Probably. 

Anyway, this is a lovely story about a brother and sister, their relationship, lives and loves. From the off there are laugh-out-loud moments - the characters are funny, endearing and likeable - as well as parts which leave you deep in thought. Elly tells the story of her childhood in Essex, happier years in Cornwall with her family (and family additions!) and life in New York. It is one of those books where not much actually happens until about three quarters of the way through... but you don't realise. Its no bad thing; its a commentary on life, families and love. The story really develops towards the end of the book when Elly's family have to deal with a life-changing disaster; so well told, and hugely gripping. 

Would I recommend this? Yes! It's such a lovely read, you really warm to the characters as if they were your own family. The story lines are interesting, delivering shockers all the way through the novel. 

I'll leave you to discover why it is called 'When God was a Rabbit'!


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Sunday, 9 December 2012

zingy chicken


My friend made this for me when I went to visit a couple of weekends ago, and I was impressed with how easy it was to prepare/cook, and how tasty it was. 

You can find Nigella's recipe here, but basically just chop up potatoes (I used a sweet potato too), an onion, some chorizo and throw in chicken thighs and a drizzle of oil to a baking dish, season with salt, pepper and herbs and cook in the oven for an hour. Nigella also uses an orange to give it some zing, but I didn't have any so left that bit out. 

So easy and so tasty! Perfect to serve when you have guests round as it means you can spend more time chatting and less time cooking - perfect. 

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