Sunday, 31 March 2013

On it like an Easter bonnet

That's right, kids, this Easter bunny has been partying this weekend and has the evidence to prove it.

Me lastnight (on the right!):



Me this evening:

 
Slightly less fresh, but feeling good nonetheless.
 
Let's head back to Good Friday and some good eats and good times at Nicholsons, my favourite tapas place. We dined with a fabulous couple and had a great evening.
 
On the menu for me were marinated pork skewers - so tender and juicy - chicken and chorizo skewers, spinach with raisins and pine nuts and marinated grilled vegetables. Exquisite food, as always. I also enjoyed two glasses of a very light and fresh Spanish white called Borsao. Worth a try and a nice change from the usual Sauv Blanc.
 
 
A great start to the Easter weekend.
 
Saturday morning called for a fortifying breakfast. Those li'l anchovies are back on the frittata menu.

 
Plus lots of tea and an apple...


Before boarding a minibus with 13 other ladies, Cardiff-bound. Me being a sensible type, I packed some roasted veggies, ham, dates and almonds for the journey and had lots of water. Just as well as I also had a glass of Buck's Fizz and a cherry Aftershock shot. I was actually quite restrained compared to the others!
 
 
Three hours later we disembarked and checked in to our hotel, called Sleeperz. It was modern, compact and had everything we needed, including a well-stocked and reasonably-priced bar and friendly staff. Pinot Grigio Blush kicked off the afternoon's events.

 
Next up was a late lunch/early dinner at Las Iguanas to line the stomach/start the assault on it.
 
I had two very tasty Caipirinhas and an Iguanas Cosmo which was nice, if a little sweet and syrupy. It was 2 for 1 on cocktails!

 
Dinner was a very tasty Bahia Moqueca - coconut curry with peppers, garlic, tomatoes, plantain, squash, palm hearts and spinach. Served with spring onion, garlic and coriander rice and toasted coconut. Pretty much most of my favourite flavours. It was delicious. I also had some cassava fries with salsa on the side.

 
After a very filling and enjoyable meal, we went off and got ready to party. I drank lots of cocktails throughout the evening - Margaritas and Elderflower Collins - and danced for four hours straight, hobbling back to the hotel at 2am, although it was actually 3am as the clocks went forward. Damn I needed that hour back!
 
I woke up feeling surprisingly okay - we'd paced ourselves and had lots of water - but in need of tea and food. Nothing unusual there! Bacon, scrambled egg and tomatoes plus an apple and a slice of melon. And three cups of tea.

 
Then it was back on the minibus for a three hour snooze.
 
I arrived home hangry and in need of this ham salad.

 
And apple.

 
And VERY much in need of chocolate. No chicks were harmed in the making of this blog post, but I did later demolish a pack of dates and some 90% cocoa Lindt dark chocolate. And some almonds.

 
Hey, I'm making the most of my freedom before I start my second Whole 30 tomorrow! Wish me luck!
 
How have you spent the weekend so far?

Friday, 29 March 2013

'Fessing up Friday

Happy Easter, lovelies! I hope you're able to enjoy a long weekend or, if not, at least some quality time with your favourite people in the world. Because we all need a bit of that.

So, I have a few things to confess throughout this post. First, I'm completely washed out. I've tried to fit in too much this week. It's been great to catch up with friends and go to an important meeting in Manchester and get in to work early to hand out Easter eggs... but not all in the same week! I need sleep. I actually felt tearful yesterday and today from tiredness. I need to stop over-stretching.

More confessions to come. In the meantime, Monday ended on a high with some finger lickin' chicken and roast sweet potato and parsnips with steamed veggies. Always a treat.

 
Tuesday's breakfast was a cold one on the road, with a hot flask of tea. Picture taken at 6am in the airport carpark before I boarded the plane bound for Manchester. That cold smoked salmon frittata never fails.

 
Ever-distrustful of the buffet lunch, I took leftovers with me and dug in to the pineapple, mango and melon they had on offer. I got lots of questions about my lunch. I do get fed up of people going on about my food choices, but do also enjoy pointing out that sandwiches are not the only lunch choice!

 
On my way back to the train station I stumbled across Chinatown. I'll definitely stop by for some grub another time.

 
As it was, I'd spotted a Carluccio's (Italian chain) on the way in and fancied giving it a try.
 
HUGE green olives to start. Very nice and mild.

 
And a tasty fish stew, although a bit skimpy on the portions. Hmm. I did love the addition of some spicy sausage, though.

 
Confession #2: Then I went to pay and couldn't find my bag. Must be hanging on the back of my chair? No. I started flipping out at this point and racking my brains for where it would be. Finally, I retraced my steps and suddenly remembered bending down to tie my shoelace outside another restaurant. I grabbed a waitress going by and she said yes, she'd seen a bag and it had been taken to lost property. Can you believe it?! I couldn't. And everything was still in it and it meant I could pay for my meal and fly home. I dread to think what I would have done otherwise. Doh!
 
I got home at 9.30pm - a long day with a stressful end, but also huge relief!
 
Wednesday started with a warm version of my Tuesday breakfast and the remains of a headache I'd had for 24 hours.

 
This pear was looking a little sad so I thought I'd better eat it. Confession #3: It was too soft and mushy and sweet. So I threw it out. Hate wasting food!

 
Work was busy, so this baby certainly didn't go to waste. Prawn salad, as made by The Boy.

 
Eaten after a lunchtime visit to meet a co-worker's new Pomchi puppy. Don't know what one of those is?
 
You're welcome. Now that's something I'd like to do every day! Sure brightened the day!
 
I managed a walk after work, and then headed over to a friend's for dinner later in the evening. She always puts on a proper spread.
 
Smoked salmon with apple, fennel, beetroot and horseradish sauce to start. I love fennel but never seem to use it. This was so fresh and light.

 
The main was a warming, fragrant Moroccan lamb tagine with sweet potato and butternut squash. It is still bitterly cold out, so this REALLY hit the spot.



Confession #4: I didn't even consider resisting my other friend's homemade apple crumble and custard she bought. She makes the best crumble with the crunchiest topping.
 
 
Unfortunately it didn't entirely agree with me and my stomach complained, but I think, on balance, it was worth it!
 
Thursday started off very spring-like. Loving those daffs and teeny yellow plums! So sweet and juicy. Ham topped the frittata.

 
The week was really starting to catch up with me at this point, after another late night, and I was tired to the bone.
 
Confession #5: While handing out Easter eggs at work in bunny ears with a big smile on my face, I was thinking very evil thoughts. Bad bunny. Actually, making people smile did a lot to cheer me up - they were genuinely taken aback that we would hand out chocolate eggs for no reason other than to say Happy Easter!
 
Before I could tuck in to lunch, I had to head to an interview! Yep, I've applied to mentor young people who need support getting in to employment, education or training. It went well and I'm really excited to get started on the training and get to meeting my mentees! More to come on this.
 
So, I was more than ready for this baked salmon with Luann's salad minus the kale. We realised this week, kale season may be over. Can't find it anywhere in the shops. Gulp.

 
Another evening, another meal cooked for me by a lovely friend. Cod wrapped in parma ham topped with parmesan and served with roast veggies. Gorgeous!

 
And a sweet and juicy mango for dessert.

 
Confession #6: My friend also bought me some very nice Swiss dark chocolate. Unpictured but certainly not uneaten! She is so thoughtful and always makes me stuff she knows is Paelo-friendly. It means alot.
 
I made my way home this morning after staying over at BC's and stopped by the butcher to stock up. I got 20 eggs in a big 'ole tray. My kind off Easter eggs. What can I say, I love big eggs and I cannot lie.
 
Breakfast was a break from the norm - leftover baked salmon with avocado and a sweet potato. It was really good!


And I've been eyeing up this beautiful ruby specimen all week.
 
 
 Then I went for a walk by the sea and called my Mum, which always makes me happy.
 
Confession #7: I locked The Boy out by mistake so he waited 30 minutes in the freezing cold in his running gear. Oops! He forgave me. I'm not sure I would have!
 
Ham and samphire salad with Kalamata olives for lunch.
 
 
The last of the plums.

 
And looked who popped in for an afternoon visit... I only had one chick... so far...

 
We're out again tonight for tapas with friends and then it's off to Cardiff with a gaggle of girls tomorrow. Help!
 
Have a great weekend. Back on Sunday!
 
Got anything to confess?

Monday, 25 March 2013

The little things

I'm at the start of a super busy week. Thank goodness it's only a four day one at work! Just got to make it through to Thursday evening...

To be fair, I'm mainly doing nice stuff, it just all seems to be packed in to the same week. Not so nice is a 4.30am start tomorrow to get to Manchester for a meeting. Hey ho, a girl's gotta earn a living.

I left you on Saturday when we'd had our evening plans cancelled, so I needed to think of a quick and easy dinner because I wasn't in the mood for fussin'.

Tina at Carrots and Cake came up trumps with Gingery beef and broccoli. I added a mushroom stir fry mix to the recipe. Simple and wholesome and just what we needed.

 
Gala apple and cinnamon for dessert. We resisted wine.

 
Ah, Sunday. The best start to the day - veggie frittata, Frasier and the iPad. Bliss!

 
Not bliss? The frickin' FREEZING weather as I walked to the shop for some groceries. Seriously, the cold is beyond ridiculous.
 
This tasty ham salad for lunch did nothing to warm me up but sure did cheer me up. As did getting my oven doors sparkling clean with a bit of baking soda and a brillo pad. It's the little things!

 
We had a date with the shops, so I put dinner on to slow cook while we flexed the plastic. Inspired by the gorgeous stew I had at Juliets last week, I chucked the following in - two pork steaks, a leek, an apple, some organic prunes, a parsnip (all chopped), a glug of brandy, a pinch of cinammon and some thyme. Covered with chicken stock and cooked for five and a half hours.


It turned out great! The Boy gave it a big thumbs up.
 
 
Our shopping trip was a success too - I treated myself to some gorgeous L'Occitane products at their outlet store and got some bargains. I'm in love with their rose handcream. It was still sooooo cold out, though, so we didn't linger and got home quick to keep cosy for the rest of the night, reading and watching DVDs. The little things.
 
Another little thing that made me happy today...

 
...and another (smoked salmon frittata)...

 
...and another.
 
 
It may feel like winter outside but in my house it's spring!
 
I met BC for lunch and we discussed her birthday plans. Very exciting. We also braved the biting cold with a walk. Lunch was mackerel salad with samphire and Kalamata olives.

 
And this rather sad but sweet pear. I prefer them less ripe, but hate waste!

 
I walked home from the shop after - work Andy dropped me there - and am still defrosting! I needed to stock up on wine to take to friends' places... I'm dining out for the next five days in a row... Holy Whole 30 in April! But, it will give me lots to post about when I check back in with y'all on Friday!
 
What are your Easter plans?
I'm going on a Hen Party in Cardiff on Saturday!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Whole truth and nothing but

Hello lovelies! It's been a busy few days and I've got a little Saturday afternoon sleepiness going on, so do excuse any ramblings. I hope you're having a good weekend. We're still in the grip of winter here, but at least it gives us the excuse to cosy up and drink hot chocolate. I'm getting addicted to the stuff. It's happened once before. While travelling I was drinking hot chocolate in Brazil in 30 degree heat. What can I say, an obsession is and obsession.

So, here goes with the round-up. First things first, Wednesday's dinner deserves a mention. Rare grilled rib eye steak with Luann's kale salad and roasted root vegetables. We cleaned our plates.


Thursday started the only way this gal knows how. Still loving a bit of anchovy on my roast vegetable frittata. Ooh, those salty little buggers!

 
Lunch was more fishy fun in the form of sardines. Full of calcium but also rather stinky. Apologies, once again, to my colleagues. Served with leftover salad from dinner the night before with avocado added for fat, fun and frugality (aka using it up).

 
Half a pear. They keep very well cut.

 
I really wanted to go for a walk, particularly as I had a long drive ahead later in the afternoon, but the rain would not let up.
 
Soooo, I left a little early to get some treadmill time in at the hotel. I'd been invited to a work party in the Cotswolds, about 90 minutes' drive away. I got there around 4.30pm and got settled in.
 
First things first, I hotffooted it to the gym and did an hour's walk on the treadmill reading my book. While there I picked up an apple to help stop myself being tempted by the free biscuits in the room. It worked! (I also hid the biscuits!).
 
 
My room was rather cosy, crisp and clean.

 
I got ready and headed down for the drinks reception at 6.30pm. I'd decided not to drink alcohol, so stuck to fizzy water all night. I caught up with colleagues until dinner was served around 8pm.
 
It was good. Let's see if you spot the theme...
 
First up was rillette (?!) of duck with Oriental salad and a hoi sin dressing. Very yummy and just the right portion size for a starter.

 
Next up was braised leg of lamb with carrots and green beans, fondant potatoes and a red wine jus. This was delicious and, impressively, stayed nice and hot. Even the veggies. Now that's good mass catering.

 
To finish? White chocolate and champagne torte with raspberry coulis. I'm told it was good - I donated mine to a fellow diner!

 
Did you spot the theme? All the food was round! Cliched, but when it tastes good, I won't argue. I had good chats with my fellow diners, who were very supportive of me photographing my food and even suggested I take a menu with me so I remembered what we had. Good tip! I snuck off around 10.30pm back to my room and left them to dance the night away.
 
Bright and early Friday morning I made my way to breakfast and bumped into someone from our London office I only met recently on the way. We had a good chat over a good meal. Fried eggs, mushrooms, bacon and grilled tomato went down a treat.

 
Followed by some fresh fruit.

 
And another hour on the treadmill.
 
I was surrounded by beautiful lakes and scenery, but the rain and wind were not letting up, so I got my steps in any way I could. God, it seems to take soooo much longer on the treadmill, though!

 
After a very enjoyable stay at the Cotswolds Four Pillars Hotel I made my way to visit an office where a company which is part of ours are based. I had fun listening to customer calls and meeting new people.
 
Then, lunchtime came. And I went to Disney World.
 
 
Yes, I was in Cheltenham where a huge and beautiful branch of Whole Foods recently opened. I actually gasped out loud when I beheld it's gorgeousness. It's JUST like the ones in the States. Eeeeeeeee!
 
I didn't have long and I was hungry, so I ran straight for the hot food bar. Oh God it was good.
 
Chimichurri bavette and roasted butternut squash with onions, cranberries, parsley and sage. Heaven.
 
 
Accompanied by apple and parsnip soup. Divine.

 
No words necessary.


 
Fresh ground spices.


Grind your own nut butter.
 

 
 
It was really busy, which was great to see.
 
I bought a chai latte for the road, some pitta chips for The Boy (they're like crack to him), some organic prunes for a recipe and these babies:
 
 
Reader, the pack is empty because I ate them all on the way home. And I don't care. They are very, very tasty. I didn't get long at Whole Foods, but I will be going back and spending a day there. It was great!
 
I drove the two hours back to work, finished up some stuff there and then we headed straight over to my Mum's for dinner and to play cards.
 
There was quite the spread.



I filled my plate with smoked salmon and salad. Sliced beetroot and garlic drizzled with olive oil and vinegar tastes amazing with smoked salmon.
 
And then I found this bar of 70% dark chocolate with raspberry in the chocolate drawer. Yes, they have a chocolate drawer and yes, I always check it out! It was very nice. I had rather a lot.
 

 
And then I had some apple crumble cheesecake. Which was amazing. It was a bit of a sugar binge really, but I was tired and dinner wasn't terribly filling, so I went with it.
 
Back on the wagon today with my frittata with the last of the anchovies. Bye bye little fishies :(

 
I was well up for Real Military Fitness at 9.30am, especially after last night's sugar fest, but they called it off with 30 minutes to go due to people dropping out because of the bad weather. Wusses! I went for a brisk 90 minute walk instead. Boom.
 
I assembled this Albacore tuna salad for lunch at breakfast time, and was glad I had!

 
Andy was off helping his friend with some gardening, so I toodled in to town to get some bits and scored some bargain undies in the John Lewis sale. I celebrated with a hot chocolate made with semi-skimmed milk and Green and Black's cocoa powder.


We were due to have a couple Andy knows to stay tonight but the weather is so bad where they live they're staying put. So, it's a chill one for us, which is just as well, because next week is manic, yo!

What's your current food/drink obsession?
Hot chocolate/chai lattes and salty food. I think my body is asking for calcium and sodium!