Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Food // Avocado Feta Dip

This recipe is inspired by a girly holiday in Zante several years ago (you know the kind!). Each morning we headed down to the beach to chill out, hope for a tan and attempt to rid ourselves of the inevitable hangovers. It was on one of these days that we discovered the absolute joy that is avocado feta dip served at one of the seafront restaurants, and I've been longing it for it ever since!

The restaurant in question served it with tortilla chips which makes for a perfect snack, but I love it stuffed into mini pitta breads for lunch. The creamy avocado pairs so beautifully with the salty, tangy feta and makes for an absolute dream dip that really does transport me straight back to Greece.

2 medium ripe avocados
100g feta cheese
1/2 a lime (juice of)
1/2 tsp paprika
salt to taste

Coarsely chop the feta and avocados into large cubes (I like big chunks but if you prefer your dips more mushy then feel free to chop smaller!).

Add the avocado, feta, lime juice and paprika together in a bowl and mix. Season to taste and it's ready - hooray for simple summer food!

Serves 4 - 6

Kirsty x

Monday, 7 July 2014

Little Things Lately #11

Long, late night phone calls from good friends

Sunlight drifting through my window in the evenings as I chill out with a book

My new Garmin watch making running feel really enjoyable for the first time in a long time

Lazy weekend breakfasts of pancakes and maple syrup with a huge mug of coffee

Fresh roses in summery colours to brighten up my living room

Tell me, what's making you happy recently?

Kirsty x

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Food // Cherry Bakewell Slice

I think I can safely say this is one of the finest things to ever have been created in my kitchen. Buttery pastry covered in sticky fruity jam and moist almond cake, all topped with sugary sweet icing and - of course - a cherry on top! 

It's not often something non-chocolate makes it's way to the top of my favourite cakes list (everybody has one of those, right!?) but this is the perfect mix of sticky and sweet and is a wonderful accompaniment to a big mug of tea. To illustrate that point, I'm going to forfeit all dignity and admit that over the course of last Sunday I managed to fit 3 of these into my day. I wish I could say I regretted but honestly, it was pretty freakin' great!

The recipe might look a little complicated but trust me, the sponge is a 'chuck-everything-together-and-mix' affair (my favourite kind of baking!) and there are plenty of shortcuts you can take to make this even simpler - see the notes at the end.

350g shortcrust pastry

For the jam:
2 cups pitted cherries, roughly chopped
75g caster sugar

For the sponge:
200g unsalted butter, softened
100g plain flour
100g ground almonds
200g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
4 medium eggs

For the topping:
200g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp water
glace cherries to decorate

Pre-heat the oven to 200°c. Let's start with the jam! Add the cherries and sugar to a saucepan and simmer over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture starts to thicken (about 20-30 minutes) remove from the heat.

Whilst the cherries cook, roll out the pastry to fit a 20cm x 20cm baking tin. Grease the tin (or line with parchment paper) and lift the pastry into it, pressing into the corners. Blind bake for 10 minutes until slightly golden then remove to cool.

Onto the sponge - this is the easiest part! Pour all the sponge ingredients into a large bowl and mix together.

Assemble the traybake: spread the jam in an even layer across the pastry then pour over the sponge mix. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a cocktail stick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the tin to a cooling rack and allow to cool.

Lastly, make the icing. Gradually add 1-2 tbsp water to the icing sugar whilst mixing to create a thick icing. Pour over the sponge and allow to set. Once set, decorate with glace cherries and slice! Makes 12-16 servings. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days (if you can make them last that long...)

:: You could make your own pastry, but I used pre-rolled sheets which work perfectly well
:: Shop bought jam would work just as well here - strawberry or raspberry would also be delicious
:: 1-2 tablespoons of water doesn't seem like a lot but it doesn't take much to make the icing super runny so add cautiously!

Please tweet me a picture and let me know if you make this and most importantly, enjoy!

Kirsty x

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Pinterest: Interior Inspiration

Having let my pinterest account lie dormant for about 6 months since first setting it up, I've finally started making use of it. There are countless different things to grab your attention on there but, for me, it's the gorgeous home and interior photos that have been catching my eye!

I'm forever dreaming of my perfect home (and probably browse expensive houses on rightmove a little too frequently) so thought I'd share a few of the images that have inspired me most. Living in a rented flat, there's not an awful lot I can do to spruce the place up, but at least when the time comes to buy a home I'll have plenty of ideas lined up, right? 

You can check out my interiors board here and please leave your pinterest links below - I'd love more people to follow!

Kirsty x

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Happiness Project // July

Find out what The Happiness Project is here and read all my posts about it here.

July. How did that happen?? As you can see above, June's resolutions didn't go particularly well. I got off to a pretty great start on the studying front and managed my 45 minutes ten out of the first eleven days before, well, it all went rather sharply downhill!

I don't think I can call June a success. I have to say though, those eleven days were fantastic. I got so much done whilst simultaneously feeling like I'd spent barely any time studying. It seems that regular mini study sessions are most definitely what works for me (when I stick to them that is...)

The whole point of this Happiness Project is to build lasting habits that contribute to my happiness and enhance my life. With that in mind, rather than introducing new goals I'm going to spend July focusing on reinforcing the good habits that make the biggest difference to my life. After all, taking on new resolutions only for old, important ones to drop off isn't particularly beneficial. So, July's resolutions:

Sleep // lights out by 10.30pm every night (early I know, but I'm working towards 6am starts!)
Study // spend 45 minutes studying every day
Exercise // exercise at least 4 days a week 

What habits do you find make the biggest difference to your happiness?

Kirsty x

Monday, 30 June 2014

Food // Baked Banana Chips

I'm a massive fan of bananas - they're my go-to breakfast/pre-workout/feeling-a-bit-peckish-mid-afternoon snack, but I also love that they're so versatile and can be used in about a million different ways. Recently I bought banana chips for the first time in years and remembered just how delicious they are. The downside to the shop-bought variety is that they're usually pretty expensive (as is anything from 'health stores'!) and often filled with sugar, which kinda defeats the purpose of a healthy snack.

So, I set out to make my own and I'm pretty damn pleased with the outcome. One thing to note though - these are more of a chewy texture and don't have the same crunch as traditional banana chips. I'm planning on having another go at these sometime in the near future (possibly using a little coconut oil to get that crunch) so I'll keep you updated on the outcome but honestly, chewy banana chips are just as delicious and sweet as the crunchy ones!

Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup cold water
4 medium bananas

Turn your oven on at it's lowest temperature (usually about 90°c). In a bowl add the water and lemon juice. Slice the bananas reasonably thinly and dunk in the lemon water mixture. This prevents the bananas going brown and also adds a hint of lemony sweetness. Remove the banana slices and lay out on a lined baking tray.
Bake in the oven for 2-3 hours, turning halfway. Once they feel dry to touch on both sides, remove and leave to cool. Once cooled, store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

:: I'm not going to lie to you, turning over 50+ banana slices is a total pain in the arse! I use these Lakeland non-stick liner sheets which makes the task a little easier. Alternatively, if you slice the banana really thinly you can probably get away without turning them.
:: The '1 cup' of water is a bit of an arbitrary measurement - just use however much you need to be able to coat the banana slices in the mixture.
:: This is a long one, so plan ahead. Don't do as I did and stick these in the oven at 5pm only to realise an hour later that you need the oven to cook dinner...

Kirsty x

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Little Things Lately #10

A delicious dinner of moules mariniere and prosecco that almost  had me believing I was relaxing in France.

Getting stuck into a new Peter May book - that man knows how to set a scene!

Passing my first set of professional exams - hooray!

Curling up in bed without an alarm set for the following morning. One of life's simplest pleasures.

Homemade banana chips (so good - recipe coming soon!)

Feeling my blog inspiration returning after a bit of a creative slump.

Let me know what's been brightening your days in the comments :)

Kirsty x