Monday, 28 March 2011

10 things you might not know about me

I seen a few blog peeps do this post so I thought for a bit of fun I'd do the same:

1. I cannot stand peppers. In my house they are called dirty peppers and must not be near any food that I consume.

2. I went to a boarding school from age 13-18. It is not like Harry Potter but still a lot of fun. One christmas we hung tampons on the christmas tree and our house matron went craaaaaaaaaaazy. Sorry Mrs Steenkamp!!!

3. If I win the lottery I'd set up a bunny sanctuary to look after unwanted bunnies.

4. When I was 8 I had a rabbit and my sister had a guinea pig. They lived together and one day we married them. We got my dad's wheelbarrow dressed it with mums net curtains and that was their wedding car. I was the vicar.

5. I run my own cupcake business and one day i'd love to have a small shop front selling coffee, my cakes and have bookshelves of books for people to pop in and chillax.

6. My favourite films are The Wizard of Oz, Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Muppet Christmas Carol.

7. Me and my sister thought we could fly like Mary Poppins so would jump of our climbing frame with an umbrella hoping to fly. I think I broke a toe.

8. Me and Phil are weird. Yes we usually make up random words and use them for various things. The thing is they catch on and our circle of friends and family now use it in their vocab. The best one is one of Phil's. "Shabady bab bab" Or "shab" "shib shab shoo" "shib nab" and on. Yes we are weird...

9. If I could visit anywhere in the world I'd go to see Father Christmas in Lapland. I'm a serious christmas freak. I love it. Love it love it. I suppose I best wait until we have kids to visit Father Christmas thou...

10. I admire bloggers like Cherry MenloveThe FitnessistaCarrotsNCakeHEAB who blog multiple times a day. Wish I could. I do try to do a post once a day but it's more like a few times a week.

Weekly Meal Plan W/C 28th March 2011

Making meal plans helps me stick to a budget and takes the stress out of deciding what to make for dinner once I get back form work. Sometimes it will change if we don't fancy it that particular night or we get invited out for dinner etc but the majority of the time we stick to the plan. I'll try and post my weekly meal plans as it might give you some ideas :-) Some of them will link to my recipes and some to recipes I have found elsewhere.

Monday- Courgette, turkey and potato frittata
Tuesday- Tuna fishcakes and salad
Wednesday- Chicken Salad
Thursday- Singapore noodles
Friday-Chicken Chow Mein
Saturday- Meal out- it's my birthday so we are off to London for the day and I don't want to cook on my birthday!
Sunday- Roast dinner (chicken)

Poppy has the vets tomorrow for her check up and booster jabs. Bless her. The 2 rabbits and 2 cats know something is going on as the pet carrier has be brought in.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Recipe post- Spiced Prawn Quinoa

This is a lovely healthy dish with lots of flavour. You can pretty much add whatever you want or leave out things you don't like. Here I have served it with a tuna steak on pak choi and sweet chilli dressing. Great as a side dish or a main.

Serves 2-3


· 350ml cups chicken stock
· 60g quinoa, rinsed
· 225g peeled prawns
· 1/2 onion, chopped
· 3 cloves garlic, chopped
· 60g frozen peas
· 1 tsp cumin
· 1/2 tsp turmeric
· 1/4 tsp chilli powder
· 1/4 tsp dried oregano
· Pinch red chilli flakes (or more depending on how spicy you like it)
· salt and pepper to taste
· 2 tbsp olive oil
· toasted pine nuts, for top and for garnish


1.Pre-heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add spices and oregano and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add quinoa, lower heat to simmer, cover pot, and cook for 20-25 minutes, until quinoa is tender.

2.Meanwhile (near end of quinoa cooking time), pre-heat a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add other tbsp olive oil to pan. Season prawns with salt and pepper. Add prawns to pan and saute till shrimp are cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.

3.When quinoa is done, add peas to top of quinoa, then cooked prawns, cover and let cook for 1 minute.

4.Remove lid, stir.

5.Serve topped with toasted pine nuts.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Gardening- Spring 1

Monday already! Weekends go by far too quickly.

As I've mentioned we moved into our new house in September 2010 and hadn't really done anything in the garden. Well we have started! Here is what we got up to.

The front flower bed was totally over grown with weeds and had a horrid thorn bush in it- sorry I don't have a before picture. I got everything out of the bed, forked over the soil and added a couple of fertiliser pellets. I then planted some violas and primroses to give some instant colour. I also planted some tulip and Iris bulbs and some sweet peas. I also added a few novelty gnomes and a hanging basket above the door!

Around the back I've got the following in containers: Jamie Oliver mixture of herbs, Jamie Oliver mixed salad and a climbing rose.

Phil also put the raised bed together. I've not put anything in it yet as I need to put another bag of compost in. But in this one I plan to have sweetcorn, carrots and radishes in. I will be getting another one as well so I can get some more in. The pic below show's Phil putting the weed blanket on the underneath. I will take another picture once I have put some veggies in there!

Lastly I put my potatoes into bags. Last year I used large containers but this year I'm trying the bags as they have a velcro opening which makes it easier to get them out. I did two varieties of Jamie Oliver- Smile and Pixie.

So we've started a few things, lots more to do! Daisy helped too!

We ended the day with a roast dinner at The Great Western Arms for Phil's Birthday. Happy Birthday babe.

Jess xx

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Housework 101- March 2011

Now I'm not professing to be an expert or a clean freak but I'm always having people pop in and I can't stand it if things are messy. As with many people having a full-time job and running a business/kids etc things can get on top of people and before you know it you have a need for a cleaning blitz!

This post is a few tips/ideas to help towards a cleaner/tidier home. There will be more posts on this topic so this list is not exhaustive!

1. Ensure the washing up is done every night and then clean the sink. Just a 30 second once over to stop it getting really grimy. It's never nice to wake up to a pile of washing up!

2. Buy a storage basket to keep in the hallway or wherever you seem to have a build up of items that people haven't put away. Normally this is on our kitchen side. I got my basket for £6.99 from InStore and have placed it in my hallway and I can put everything that is left out in there and then take it up when I have a bit of time to put things away. This way instead of my kitchen worktop becoming a dumping ground it looks much tidier when an unexpected guest pops round.

3. Before or after cleaning your teeth give the sink and sides a quick clean. Cleaning wipes are excellent for this. It takes less than one minute to do. I have a staff of these wipes in the kitchen and all the bathrooms.

4. Get up 15-30 minutes earlier- are you really going to miss it that much? You can do an extra few jobs in that time and leave less for when you finish work or having a long list of things to do at the weekend. Of course some people may want to miss out this tip...

5. Make your bed as soon as you wake up- before you do anything else.

6.Buy fresh flowers. I usually get some at the weekend and most last all week as long if water is freshened. Flowers are such a simple way of adding decoration and instantly lifts a room- and a natural air freshener too! You don't have to buy expensive flowers. I sometimes buy the £2 carnations or pick some from the garden. I particularly like flowers in a washed out jam jar.

7. When you are short of time try to just focus on the rooms that will be seen by visitors. Usually the living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom. Just don't leave the other rooms too long!

8.  Each month choose a room to have a sort out. And if you can; get rid of 5 things (carboot or charity shop before the bin). Be ruthless. Do you really need it? When was the last time you used it? It can make space for other things you might want to get. Then once you have done that do a bit more of a deeper clean by doing the skirting board, dusting ornaments/picture frames and wiping shelves. It saves doing all the rooms at a later stage- normally when we are rushing for a party/occasion or a guest staying.

I hope some of these tips have been useful. Please let me know any tips you use.


Friday, 11 March 2011

Recipe- Willow Cottage Pie

It's Friday! This week has flown by. This weekend I'm hoping the sun stays out so we can get some more things done in the garden. One of the main things I want to get done is getting some raised beds put in for the veg. Anyway that will all be covered in another post.

I made this last night as I had a few things I needed to use up. It's based around a cottage pie. It may sound odd to some and may not be your thing. But it was a nice, yummy filling meal for us :-) As we live in Willow Cottage that's what I decided to call it- what a wordsmith I am!

Jessica's Willow Cottage Pie


400g pack of lean beef mince
1 medium onion chopped
1 large carrot chopped
300ml beef stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can of baked beans
100g pancetta cubes or bacon lardons (can be more/less than 100g if you wish)
salt and pepper
4 large potatoes (cooked in water for 20 mins and then mashed with butter and a litttle milk)
Grated cheese for top (optional)

1.  Heat some olive oil in the pan. Add  the onions and carrots and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the pancetta and cook for another 5 minutes.

2. Add the mince and cook until browned. Add the bakes beans, stock, Worcestershire sauce and season. Let it simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes until the stock has absorbed.

3. Place the mince mix into an oven dish and spread over the mash potato. Cover with grated cheese (optional) and place into the oven for about 20 minutes until browned on top. Then serve.

Jess xx

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Recipe- Banana Bread

There is nothing I enjoy more than a nice cup of tea with a big hunk of banana bread lightly toasted, smothered in butter and a dollop of honey. I always used to have past their best banana's lying around but not any more! They are perfect for this recipe.

Banana Bread- makes about 8 slices


270g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
200g peeled bananas, mashed
280g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
140g unsalted butter, melted

1. Grease a 23x13cm loaf tin and dust with flour. Preheat the oven to 170C / 325F / GM3

2. Put the sugar and eggs in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat until well incorporated. Beat in the mashed bananas.

3. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda, cinnamon and ginger to the sugar mix. Mix it until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the egg mixture. Pour in the melted butter and beat until all the ingredients ar well mixed.

4. Place mixture into the loaf tin and smooth over. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour or until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool for about 15 minutes in the tin before turning out to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

5. Enjoy!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Recipe- Guiness Gingerbread

I've been meaning to make this for a while as I got Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home for Christmas but hadn't yet got round to it. I think I bought the bottle og Guinness for it in January!

Anyway this recipe is amazing in my opinion. I don't think I'll make gingerbread any other way now. It's nice and moist and keeps for a week if you wrap in baking paper and cling film. Anyway on to the recipe.

Nigella's Guinness Gingerbread

Makes about 16-20 squares


150g butter
300g golden syrup
200g dark muscavado sugar
250ml Guinness
2tsp grounder ginger
2tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I didn't have this so used a little All Spice which worked fine)
300g plain flour
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
300ml sour cream
2 large eggs

Baking tin/tray lined with greaseproof paper. Grease the tin with a little butter first.

  1. Preheat oven to 170c
  2. Put the butter, syrup, muscavado sugar, Guinness, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves into a pam and melt gently over a low heat.
  3. Take off the heat and whisk in the flour and bicarb. You will need to be patient and whisk thoroughly to get rid of any lumps.
  4. Whisk the sour cream and eggs together in a measuring jug and then beat into the gingerbread mixture, whisking again to get a smooth batter.
  5. Pour into your lined square tin, or foil tray, and bake for about 45 minutes; when it’s ready it will be gleamingly risen at the centre, and coming away from the tin at the sides.
  6. Let the gingerbread cool before cutting into slices or squares (I must admit I did not wait!)

Jess xx

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Things I'm loving at the moment

I've posted a few recipes lately so decided to post some of the things I am loving and recently come across. Please let me know what you are loving at the moment!

I drink too many fizzy drinks so I got this while it was on offer in Sainsbury's. It's so delicious and a real treat. Proper grown up squash!

I saw an article on Janine in Country Homes & Interiors and loved her work. I'm going to be ordering some of her fab cards.

Now I have wanted this for a very long time, it keeps popping up in Country Living magazine and I will buy it this year. I just love the colours and style of it. Most people may say it's horrid but I can't wait to get one!

My sister bought me this book for Christmas last year and I love it. It's a cookbook but also a sort of memoir from Sophie. Most of the recipes are very simple but really nice. It's a book I love to flick through as it has lovely pictures in as well.

This smells amazing and I love using it every morning, makes me feel awake! I've also used the satsuma one which is equally as nice.

Again I bought this when it was on special offer and it's been great so far. I need a really good moisturiser especially in the winter but I can't stand it when they are greasy. This one goes on like silk.

I am never without a can of this at home. It can be a total lifesaver if you are running late. Tomorrow I am in Manchester which means a 5am wake up so the extra 15 minutes in bed are very precious to me. So i'll be washing my hair tonight and using this tomorrow for a quick fix!

8. Crocuses
They are so pretty and remind me that even though it's still freezing outside it won't be long until spring!

Jess xx

Recipe- Blackberry and Apple Cupcakes

Seeing as I run a cupcake business I thought it was about time that I posted a cupcake recipe. Here is the first of many!

Blackberry and Apple Cupcakes

Makes 12

230g unsalted butter
220g golden caster sugar
225g self raising flour
4 large free range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 – 2 tablespoons milk
2 large apples
3 tablespoons water
20g golden caster sugar

Jam filling:
275g fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons water
20g caster sugar

Cream cheese Icing:
250g soft cream cheese
150g butter
400g icing sugar

Method :
You will need a 12 hole muffin tin and line with 12 cupcake cases and a large piping bag with nozzle.

Top tip: Make sure the baking ingredients are at room temperature and try not over mix the mixture once the eggs and flour are added.

1. preheat oven to 170-180, gas mark 4 (fan assist 150-170)

2. peel the apples and then chop into small cubes then gently cook with the sugar and water in a small covered pan, until slightly soften. Strain apple and put to one side to cool.

3. In the same pan put the fresh blackberries, sugar and water and cook until it looks like the consistency of a thin jam- about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool in the fridge.

4. in mixer cream butter with sugar and vanilla extract, beat until light and fluffy.

5. gently mix in the beaten egg and fold sifted flour with a wooden spoon.

6. fold the cooled apple pieces into the cake batter and add a tablespoon or two of milk if required to form a dropping consistency. Don’t make it too thin as the apples won’t hold in the batter.

7. Spoon mixture into the 12 cupcake cases & fill until three quarters full.

8. cook for 20 minutes or until golden. Test with skewer (it should come out clean). Remove tray from oven and leave for a few minutes. Place cupcakes onto wire tray to cool completely.

Top tip: Always bake cupcakes on the middle shelf of the oven where possible

9. cut out a teaspoon sized piece from the cupcake. Add a teaspoon of the blackberry jam to the centre.

10. To make the cream cheese frosting mix all the ingredients together and place into a piping bag. Pipe onto the cupcakes and top with a fresh blackberry. These are best enjoyed straight away but can be eaten up to 2 days after but remove the blackberry on top.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Recipe- Pancetta, Goats Cheese and Garlic Linguine

I used to do this recipe quite a lot as it's very quick and easy but packed full of flavour. Really good when you really fancy a big filling bowl of pasta. As the garlic is baked first it takes on a more sweet flavour and not so intense so don't be alarmed at the amount of garlic!

Serves 4


1 bulb of garlic broken into cloves with skin on
2 tablespoons of olive oil
150-200g goats cheese
4-6 slices of pancetta
400g linguine
1 onion finely sliced
1 teaspoon thyme (fresh is best but dried works fine)


1. Put the oven on 170 c. Put the garlic cloves in some tin foil with a drizzle of olive oil and wrap it up like a parcel, place on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes.

2. Dry fry the pancetta in a frying pan until crispy and then place on some kitchen towel and leave to one side.

3. In the same pan add the onions and fry until soft and slightly browned, add thyme. Meanwhile cook the linguine to the packets instructions.

4. Remove the garlic from the oven an squeeze out the garlic into the pan with the onions.

5. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it then put it back into the saucepan. Add the onion/garlic and crumble in the goats cheese. Mix it together.

6. Place onto a plate and garnish with the crispy pancetta