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Recipe – Courgette Chips

Another day, another courgette recipe! I am seriously obsessed with this vegetable at the moment and it is making its way into almost everything I cook.

This time I wanted a tasty and slightly healthier alternative to chips to serve with burgers and I thought I would try making ‘courgette chips’. Still not completely sin-free but one of your five-a-day and absolutely delicious!

Ingredients

One courgette

A couple of teaspoons of plain flour

A generous pinch of smoked paprika

Salt and pepper

A glug of milk

A glug of olive oil

A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese

How to make it

  • Prepare your courgette by slicing them into batons – I discard the soft, seedy centre as they just don’t keep their shape

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  • Next, grab two saucers or small bowls and add the flour, paprika and some salt and pepper to one and a glug of milk to the other

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  • Heat some oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat
  • Dip your courgette chips into the milk then coat in the flour

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  • Add to the pan and lightly fry until golden brown

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  • Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese

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Latest Purchases #77 – Lily Flame Candles

I used to be somewhat precious about candles, saving them until any scent had all but disappeared and allowing them to collect dust. Shameful I know! Now, I am much more eager to actually use them to give a lovely warm glow to a room and fill it with a gorgeous scent.

For Christmas, my friend Hannah bought me this little candle tin by Lily Flame in the scent Wild Jasmine. After lighting it, I was amazed by how quickly it filled the room with its scent and really impressed at its burn time for such a dinky little tin!

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As soon as I had finished burning it, I knew I wanted to try some other scents from this brand and I was so happy to see that Lily Flame is a local business, hand-making these candles in nearby Somerset. I would always much rather buy locally and I found the bigger size tin for just under £10 in a wide range of scents…the hardest part was narrowing down which ones to order!

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I opted for a candle for our kitchen and another for the living room. Since buying a Parsley and Mint candle from Space NK, I am a real convert to using herbal candles to help get rid of leftover cooking smells because who wants their kitchen smelling like a perfumery?! I bought the Mellow Figs and Garden Mint and am really pleased with it as it is hard to buy something scented online based on a small description box.

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A lovely pale green colour, this is a very clean and fresh scent and reminds me of Diptyque’s Figuier candle (but for a fraction of the price!). It is a rich, earthy scent but the mint stops this being too heavy.

I also picked up the Fresh Linen candle tin as I just love the smell of washing fresh off the line. A pretty pale blue colour, this scent really lives up to its name and is just so ‘clean’ smelling!

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These slightly larger tins claim to have 30-35 hours burn time which I think makes them a great value candle. I am already planning the next scents to try out! x

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Book Corner – Latest Reads

A little insight into what books have made it onto my bedside table recently (no spoilers!)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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A popular choice and one that caused me to have to ignore all reviews of the film based on this book before I had finished it! I’m glad I did though as I loved this story and it was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down. I liked how each chapter flitted from the viewpoint of the husband then the wife and I believe this title did live up to the hype.

I have since passed this title onto my Mum who thought the twists were really obvious but I really didn’t see them coming and thought the two main characters were really interesting and brilliantly written, especially Amy. I would highly recommend this one.

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

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I was really looking forward to reading this book packed full of romance, Paris and food. It follows an American, Elizabeth, as she discovers her love for a Frenchman and his nation’s food. It’s funny how on paper this looked like an ideal book for me but in reality it didn’t quite hit the mark.

The positives centre on the food itself. The author spends a lot of time describing restaurants, meals and amazing French markets in detail and you could easily transport yourself to the streets of Paris for a few pages. Having studied French at university and spent some time studying there too, I could identify with her observations on French women, the frustrations of being an ex-pat and missing home comforts.

Unfortunately, the same level of detail was not given to the actual storyline and the author skimmed over major events like their wedding and a family death. This ambivalence for the plot, plus the fact that I really disliked the protagonist (who came across as somewhat of a spoilt brat), meant that this book was a bit love/hate for me. I really enjoyed the foodie parts but the storyline was so weak it just didn’t grab me.

The Number One Ladies Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith

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Now I like to keep up-to-date with the bestselling and prize-winning books but equally there is something to be said about an easy, uplifting, feel-good read too. This series is like an old friend to me and I am racing through them.

There are fifteen books in this series and I am on book seven after a few weeks. Set in Botswana, the books follow Precious Ramotswe as she solves small mysteries and carries out her daily tasks under the Botswana sun. There are no sensational murders or overtly dramatic storylines but rather a focus on morality and the small things in life. I love the picture that is painted of this slower-paced way of life and the lead character is a formidable lady too!

Recipe – Courgette Pasta and Spinach Balls (aka My Favourite Carluccio’s Dish!)

Apologies for the long title but it pretty much sums up today’s post! I think most people have a restaurant dish that they just love and for me, it is the Penne Giardiniera at Carluccio’s. I really like these restaurants and every time I go, I tell myself that I really should try something new but gravitate towards this dish without fail. It is so delicious and I have converted friends too who now order this without fail when they go!

I had a real craving for this pasta dish recently and decided to try and recreate it using my memory of how it looked and tasted, plus a bit of Google as well! There were two main components I had to master. Firstly, there is the pasta in a rich cheesy sauce with courgettes and flecks of heat coming from chilli flakes. This is tasty enough but there are also these beautiful crispy spinach and Parmesan balls which add another texture.

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I am pleased to report that I was triumphant! It tasted just as good as I remember although Carluccio’s use giant penne pasta whereas I just had the normal stuff. I also think my spinach balls weren’t quite as crispy but on the whole it was a really tasty dinner and one I will recreate often.

Ingredients (for 2)

For the spinach balls:

300g of fresh spinach leaves

1 egg, beaten

A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 garlic clove, minced

2 Weetabix biscuits (or about 50g of breadcrumbs)

30g of grated Parmesan

Salt and pepper

A glug of olive oil

About 200g of penne pasta (or enough for two people)

For the pasta:

Olive oil

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

A pinch of chilli flakes

1 courgette, grated

30g of Parmesan (and a little extra to sprinkle on top)

Salt and pepper

How to make it

  • Begin by making the spinach balls then keep them warm on a low heat in the oven. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the spinach leaves for 3 minutes

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  • Drain well then put the leaves into a pan of ice cold water to stop them cooking

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  • Using your hands, squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as you can until you are left with a small ball of leaves

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  • Use a sharp knife to shred the spinach as finely as you can
  • Put the spinach in a bowl and add the egg, nutmeg, garlic, Weetabix, parmesan and a generous amount of salt and pepper

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  • Using your hands, mix well until everything is combined

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  • Roll the mixture into small balls

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  • In a frying pan, add a good glug of oil and heat gently on a low to medium setting
  • Fry the spinach balls in batches until crisp and golden and keep warm

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  • Now for the pasta! Cook the penne until al dente
  • In a large frying pan, heat some oil on a medium heat
  • Add your garlic and chilli and fry for a few minutes

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  • Now add the courgettes and cook for about 5 minutes

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  • Next, add the Parmesan and some salt and pepper
  • Finally, add the pasta with about half a ladleful of the cooking liquid to create a bit of a sauce

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  • Serve with the spinach balls on top and another sprinkling of Parmesan cheese

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One of my favourite pasta dishes I’ve ever made! x

Sunday Catch-up #16

I usually find the first week back at school after the holidays a bit of a drag but it seems to have flown by! I know I keep banging on about the weather, but some sunshine just puts me in such a good mood. I have been trying really hard this week to up my fitness and have managed to squeeze in several longer runs. I am also obsessed with courgettes at the moment and have tried out about four new recipes with them! If you are a fan then they will be on the blog in the next few weeks.

This week I have been…

Making: a start on testing out all my lovely Birchbox products from this month’s box

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Going: for a lovely mid-week date night at our local pub

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Wearing: flip flops again for the first time this year

Eating: the most amazing courgette arancini

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Drinking: this green tea

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Reading: through my cook books for inspiration

Watching: The Godfather Parts 1 and 2

Buying: candles – I’ve found a new brand I love

Planning: our meals for this week…trying out two new dishes

Cooking: risotto

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Baking: some choc chip cookies

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Writing: a Sephora wish list for America (I may need to take an extra suitcase!)

Favouriting: A Beautiful Mess’ ‘Happy Mail’…I may subscribe

Working on: tidying up after myself

Trying to decide: if my courgette chips can be classed as ‘healthy’ or not!

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Wishing: this little guy well as I sent him on his way after he collided with our window

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Enjoying: going on a morning run

Needing: to try and drink more water

Feeling: so happy now that the sun is out

Giggling at: the silly YouTube videos Ian sends me on a daily basis, especially this one!

Beauty Review – April Birchbox

Hello and Happy Saturday! It’s a sunny one and I was up and out on a run this morning to start the day. I have really been trying to get back into running lately as not only does it burn a few pounds but I just love how awake and energised I feel running through the country lanes with the sun on my face…I’ve even managed a few 6am pre-work runs this week which I never thought would happen!

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I arrived home to find this month’s Birchbox waiting for me on my porch which was a lovely surprise as I had forgotten it was coming. After a couple of average boxes in recent months, I am pleased to report that things are back on track and I think this is a really great box. I love the pink and rose gold box that this month’s goodies arrived in too! Here was my first peek at the contents:

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Now before I get into the products, I am going to have a moan about this week’s theme: ‘Royally Good’. I was slightly distracted by the beautiful pink and mint green design and thought this was a celebration of Britishness. Yet, when I had a read through the cards, I realised that the whole box was dedicated to the second royal baby?!?!

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Yes, apparently we are at fever pitch waiting for the new royal arrival so all products are introduced with the word throne/ rule/ crown/ queen thrown in for good measure. I guess this could all be seen as a bit of fun but the article that really annoyed me was the one that gave us an insight into what we could do if we were queen for a day which included lie-ins, pancakes, chocolate and a ‘pamper sesh’…hardly the most inspiring message for independent women!

Anyway, I have to admit that the reason I subscribe to Birchbox is not the for the accompanying literature but the products inside so here is what I received.

A Laura Mercier Foundation Primer. This is the third one I own and I love this item. It is a perfect base for my make-up and a cult product from a great brand.

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Next, a Bergamot Pear Body Milk by Korres. I love their skin products and think their scents are always a little bit different from what else is on the market. This is going in my travel bag for the summer.

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A foaming face wash next from Bliss. This looks like it will do a good job but I am quite wary of anything foaming as it is usually very drying. I think when I try this I will have to make sure I slather on some moisturisers afterwards.

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I am quite into a hair and skin mask treat on Sunday evenings at the moment and these single sachets are always fun to try out. I received a warming clay mask from Befine with cardamom, arnica and pomegranate. I have a few pomegranate products, which is a great antioxidant, and my skin seems to like them.

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A hair product next – Percy and Reed’s Smoothed, Sealed and Sensational Volumising No Oil Oil. A bit of a mouthful but an interesting product nonetheless! I quite like hair oils and while I don’t need any more volume in my locks, anything that can help tame the frizz is always welcome!

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Finally, a nail varnish which made me very happy! From Lola Barcelona I received a gorgeous coral shade in Rambla which brings back very happy memories of strolling down La Rambla on holiday in this city. I couldn’t wait to try this brand out so popped the polish on my toes. It wasn’t the best formula upon application and I needed three coats for full coverage but it has dried to a lovely glossy finish and looks great. I feel this is a great summer shade to wear with a tan.

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So despite a rather naff theme this month, I love April’s Birchbox. There isn’t one product I’m not excited to use and I have some welcome additions to my travel make-up bag for our July/August holiday! x

Recipe – Overnight Oats

So I have become one of those non-dairy, Kilner jar-using, superfood-eating people who prepares breakfast the night before and spends a small fortune on trendy seeds….£8 bag of chia seeds, I’m looking at you!

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In all seriousness, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Weirdly, spending 5 minutes each evening sorting out my breakfast means my mornings are less stressful and I know I’m starting the day with something really healthy and filling. Overnight Oats are basically just porridge which soaks up the milk or liquid overnight and is served chilled with a shedload of fruit, nuts and seeds.

Ingredients

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My daily breakfast has an ever changing list of ingredients but the basics stay the same and I use a small cup to measure my oats out with double the amount of milk.

1 cup of oats (use chunky or steel-cut oats)

2 cups of milk (I love using almond milk for this)

A teaspoon of chia seeds

Frozen berries (blueberries and cherries are my favourites!)

Seeds (I’m currently using a mix of linseed, goji berries, sunflower and pumpkin seeds)

Nuts (I had a bag of mixed nuts in my baking drawer)

Flaked almonds

How to make it

  • In a bowl, jar or lunchbox, add the oats, milk and chia seeds

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  • Give them a stir and tip over a handful of frozen berries

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  • Pop this in the fridge overnight

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  • The next morning, give it another stir, add the seeds, nuts and top with flaked almonds

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Variations

The flavour combinations are endless here! I have been experimenting for the last few weeks and here are some winners:

  • A teaspoon of vanilla extract

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  • A drizzle of syrup, honey or dulce de leche on top

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  • Fresh mango

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  • Choc chips
  • Bananas

Any other recommendations for how to jazz up my oats? x

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