Is there anyone who doesn’t like chips and dips. Nope? Good.Recently I hosted dinner. A bits and pieces dinner. Frittata, flat-breads and salad which gave me the chance to try two dips. One an aubergine, yoghurt combo and the second a thick white-bean citrus mash. Both were delicious. Yes, they were.

These are wonderful with flat-breads and chips, but you could also serve with vegetables. The white-bean mash could also be served as a mash, with steak/sausages/quorn pepper steaks. Perfect.

Aubergine Dips

Put in your trolley

For white bean mash

Olive oil (plus 2 teaspoons)

Half a head of garlic

Fresh rosemary

One green chilli

Grated zest 1 lemon and juice of half a lemon

2 x 400g of Cannellini beans (or white beans)

Salt and pepper

For Aubergine and Yoghurt Dip

2 medium aubergines

half a bulb of  garlic,

2tsp of ground cumin

2 tsp of paprika

Salt

4 big tbs of Greek natural yoghurt

6 tbsp finely chopped parsley

Jalapenos for topping

Method for White Bean Mash

Chop off the top of a bulb of garlic (to use with both recipe.) Pop the oven on 200 and slam in the garlic and leave to roast. While you’re waiting, drain the cannellini beans and chop the chilli. Once the garlic is soft (only takes 5/6 minutes,) squeeze half the garlic into a blender. Add the beans, lemon, chilli, rosemary, salt to season and blitz. Use the lemon juice to your taste and to help with consistency. I like it thick but not chalky. Serve!

Method for Aubergine and yoghurt dip

Oven should be nicely warm. Chop up the aubergines into slices, season well with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven, turn over regularly until they are cooked. Take from the oven, and once you ‘can’ chop into smaller chunks. Then add all the ingredients into the nutri-bullet/blender until mixed. Whiz until blended and serve. Top with jalapenos if you so wish.

Numbers (if you’re bothered.)

Both of these are very calorie friendly coming in at 50 calories per portion for the aubergine and closer to 90 for the white bean mash. (Depending on how much you demolish.)

I read somewhere that you should have one signature dish that you can always whip up.

Writing this I think Hannah Gale wrote in one of her very fab blog posts. The idea being that on a Saturday at midnight, when you’ve missed the last train home, you can still make this recipe. You can perfectly create it every damn time. You don’t need to weigh out 59603059220 different ingredients. You’ve made it so many times it’s inscribed on the cookery book you keep inside your noggin.

For me that did is homemade pizza. It started last year when I oddly had all the ingredients in the cupboard. I then lived off homemade pizza for six months. (Almost.) So I’m sharing how you can do the same.

The Ultimate Homemade Pizza Recipe (from scratch.)

Put in your trolley (For the dough.)

200g strong white flour

50ml of lukewarm water (Give or take.)

1tbsp of olive oil

For Toppings

Tomato and basil passata

Sweetcorn

Deli Chicken (We used chicken tikka, T had quorn.)

An egg

Mozzerella

Anything else you fancy topping your masterpiece with.

You may have noticed there is not yeast in this recipe. I like very, very thin and crispy pizza bases so I don’t wait for the dough to rise. I’ve done it before and (with yeast and proving,) and found it unsuccessful. (If you were wondering.)

Step One

Measure out the flour into a bowl, spoon in the oil. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water bit by bit. I add very little amounts at a time – you don’t want it too sticky. Stir with a spoon until it comes together and then use your hands.

Step Two

Put the oven on to pre-heat at 200C.

Take the dough from the bowl and knead. Youtube helps if you’re struggling with the motion. Knead until it resembles mashed potato. Then roll out using a rolling pin. (Or a bottle of tomato sauce.) It will spring back, so keep rolling until it’s circular(ish) and the thickness of a pound coin. Liberally sprinkle a baking tray with flour and place the dough on-top.

Step Three

Top with the passata (quite a lot) and then add your toppings (minus the egg.) We added a mixture of the toppings featured but just use your favourites. Mushrooms, olives, artichoke – whatever you fancy. Pop in the oven and cook for 7 minutes.

Step Four

Once the base is cooked – give it a prod, crack the egg on top and then whip back in the oven. T likes his quite cooked so he put his on a couple of minutes earlier. Once egg is cooked take out, slice and devour.

Numbers (if you’re bothered.)

Depending on how many toppings you use this comes to between 450 – 500 calories which is higher than a lot of the recipes I’ve been posting. But compared to ordering a large dominos you’re onto a winner. It’s a brilliant way to treat yourself without ruining your healthy eating mission.

Recommended Reading

I’m not going to suggest reading for this one. Pop on Project Runway with a glass of diet coke and while the evening away. Perfection.

The Ultimate Homemade Pizza Recipe (from scratch.)

The Ultimate Homemade Pizza Recipe (from scratch.)

The Ultimate Homemade Pizza Recipe (from scratch.)

T and I love a wonderfully brewed coffee. This year we invested in a new caffietere, espresso cups and saucers, and filled a cupboard full of flavoured beans. It’s been a long time coming. The only wobble we’ve had is how to have nice coffee at work. Despite being a morning person I’m never up quite early enough to go to the gym/make breakfast/sort lunch and sit down and have a cup. T came up with the perfect present. Ordered from Amazon, two Zyliss Hot Mug Cafetiere’s appeared on our doorstep.

Enjoy freshly brewed filter coffee on the go with the Zyliss Hot Mug Cafetiere. All you have to do is put in the ground coffee, add hot water and press the fine mesh filter down to brew lovely fresh coffee. The double walled container will keep your drink hotter for longer, and a useful lid allows you to lock in the heat and carry your drink without spilling it.

Zyliss Hot Mug

Features and Benefits

Fresh coffee wherever you go – Brew your favourite coffee anywhere, anywhere.

Any hot drink – Suitable for all kinds of drinks as well as hot chocolate and tea.

Specifications

  • Double wall container
  • Filter mechanism
  • Dimensions: H12.1 x W8.9 x D11.4cm

Thoughts?

The main reason for investing, (does £6 count as investing?) Was to save pennies on terrible instant coffees. A pound a go I wanted something that would give me caffeine, live with the constraints of my desk without constantly breaking the bank. This is a life-saver. It works just as a regular caffetiere does. Add a spoon of coffee, fill to the brim with not quite boiling water. Let the coffee infuse by waiting a couple of minutes, then pushing down the plunger. Perfect?

Well – pretty much. The size is wonderful. It makes a large enough cup to leave you buzzing and keeps the coffee warm for much longer than a regular china/ceramic mug. Yes it’s a plastic mug but the high quality doesn’t make it seem so bad (promise.) It also comes with a lid, although I will probably lose it quite quickly. It’s good for keeping your coffee V V hot. It’s not so great for the car, the mug is a little too fat. It comes in three colours; blue, read and black. It looks high quality and feels it. Oh, and the price point is incredible.

There are LOTS of reviews that complain about having a mouthful of coffee grains towards the end of the mug. This can be very simply avoided. Before you begin make sure the cup is really dry then add a spoonful of coffee. Then gently fill with hot water but do not fill above the fill line. (Keep a cm below.) Stir gently then wait 30 seconds for the coffee to sink. THEN, put the plunger into the cup so the filter is just in the liquid. It should seal against the side of the cup. Then you can add more water (if needs be.) Brew for however long you want then push down gently. PERFECT.

Would I recommend? Yes – it’s a wonderful little present that will keep your coffee hot and your wallet heavy.

I caved and bought a blog planner.

For the last few months I’ve been using my personal diary to plan my blog posts. It started off well enough but recently I’ve been moving a lot of posts around. It’s meant that my personal diary is super messy. That week I received an email from Dot Creates that they had a couple of slightly damaged blog planners. Seeing as I had meant to buy one earlier in the month I snapped one up. Was it a good idea?

It’s all in the details

Dot creates state on their website that

Our all-in-one A5 blog planner is the perfect way to keep both your daily life and blog content organised. Small enough to carry in your bag and easy to write on. And with daily diary space, loads of post planning pages, upcoming event, sponsored content space, AND notes pages. This is the only planner you will ever need.

The planner contains:

  • 12 month (undated) planner

  • 192 post planning pages! (split into months)

  • Daily diary space

  • Hand-drawn quotes

  • Upcoming events section

  • Sponsored content section

  • Monthly stats recorder

  • Extra sponsored content pages

  • Notes pages

The Design

I love the design of this planner. It’s A5 which is the perfect size and it’s spiral bound so it’s easy to use. I like the clear cover to help protect the diary and the paper is really good quality. But the detail I really love is that it’s not numbered. It means that you can use the planner at any time of the year with no wasted pages. Brilliant. The cover is gorgeous too. I was tempted by the peach but the blue/grey pipped it to the post.

It’s what’s on the inside

The inside is perfect. There are pages for sponsored content if that’s your thing and space to write in upcoming events. The pages for planning blog posts are really well designed. There’s space to tick whether you’ve finished words/photographs, which is very helpful for me. I tend to write my posts during the week and then photograph on Saturday’s when the light is good. I think this is definitely going to help me keep up-to-date.

You Go Doll

I love the inspiring quotes throughout the planner. Blogging can be a lonely world so it’s nice to have a pick-me up every 15 or so pages. The type-font is gorgeous and I’m half tempted to rip these out and frame them. Or just buy prints from Dot Creates.

It’s purse friendly

I don’t think I will use this for every post I do. I want to use it for longer posts, or series posts. But I love how weighty it is. This will last me at least a year, probably more. The planner I bought was £7 because of slight marks on the cover but these sell for £12.50 which is, ridiculous. For such a high quality product it’s a steal.

Better Content

I really think this is going to help me improve my content. I’ve recently really upped my game with my photos and SEO. I think it’s going to help me improve what I’m posting and keeping an eye on my stats and the like. I’m really excited to get stuck in.

Should you invest?

Yes, yes, yes. It’s a fantastic planner, with a great price-point and a stunning cover. Big fan. I lave it.

Dot Creates Ultimate Blog Planner

Dot Creates Ultimate Blog Planner

Dot Creates Ultimate Blog Planner

 

I’ve been reading from the Pigeonhole App again.

This time it’s the intense You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott. Abbot has been on my list to watch for a while now. I’ve read a lot of good reviews but never quite got round to it. Today I finally did. Onto the review!

Blurb

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon. A gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But then a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community weeks before an all-important competition. Everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries to hold her family together. But she finds herself drawn, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate.
 
You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition.

My Review

You get a jist from the blurb, this is a murder mystery. BUT, it revolves around family and the anchor that is Devon. Devon is a gymnastics prodigy. Her family have given everything to make her dream come true. When a supposed hit-and-run rears it’s ugly head, rumours begin to swirl. The novel details the hows, the whys, the confusion, melted into the intense mania of elite gymnastics.

The characters are intensely written. Katie is a mother overwhelmed and terrified by her daughter who is changing in ways she can’t control. Eric, the father, is obsessed with Devon’s dream – he’ll do anything to make her success a probability. Drew, the little brother notices the smallest details. He’s often forgotten and left in Devon’s shadow. He’s written wonderfully. Finally Devon – she’s a whirlwind that keeps her feelings close to her chest. She’s described regularly as a hard, perfectly smooth nut. It’s a perfect description of a teenage girl caught up in the stressful world of elite gymnastics.

The writing is sublime. Abbot is brilliant at writing about the psychotic world of teenage girls. The pain, the hurt, the secrets. Abbot has a way of manipulating the reader so you never quite know where to point the finger. I like the fact that the secret could be given away and you would still read on. The execution of the writing is spot on. The death brings a lot of secrets to the light and Abbot perfectly understands how to manage each character as it slowly unravels.

Final Thoughts

I loved the exploration of claustrophobia, secrecy and female adolescence. The story is full of suspense, and I liked the perspective of transition between girl and woman. Watching Katie try and control her daughter, whilst trying to push away multiple characters that wear on Devon. It’s exhausting and exciting. I like the theme of greatness and sacrifice and how to two mix, and how it affects little Drew. It creates a destructive but very exciting narrative, which I loved.

Abbott also manages to capture tiny moments (with a lot of meaning) in perfect clarity. Here’s an example.

He’d never woken up, and the only sound now was his breathing, hoarse and ragged. For a second she thought she saw his lashes lift, the white of one eye looking at her, but she was wrong.

It’s a brilliant story that had me hanging onto every word. Read it.

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