Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Tomato and Quinoa Soup

I love adding quinoa, aka the super high in protein wonder grain, to my boring cans of tomato soup but today I decided I was going to go one step further and make my own tomato soup! The soup takes around twenty minutes to make, meaning it's a quick, easy and healthy dinner.

(serves two people)
50g of quinoa
10 decent sized tomatoes
canned tomatoes
garlic puree

olive oil

You will also need a blender or food processor. 

Before putting the quinoa to cook I recommend you soak it in water for at least five minutes to get rid of the dirt taste and soften it. Then place in a pan with boiling water, put the heat on medium and leave to cook for fifteen minutes.

In a saucepan heat up the olive oil, I use a garlic infused oil to add more flavour, vegetable or sunflower oil can be used as a substitute. 

Whilst the oil is heating up chop the tomatoes into small chunks and add to the saucepan. After a few minutes add the canned tomatoes. Bring it to the boil and then simmer.

Once the tomatoes have boiled blend them so there are no big chunks of tomato and then return to the saucepan. Then add the garlic puree and seasonings. I used chilli powder, basil, oregano and a pinch of salt, but you can use any ones you like. Heat until it is a desirable temperature, I like mine 'scald your tongue' hot. 

The quinoa should be ready by now; drain and add to the tomatoes. I recommend using a fine sieve and putting a sheet of kitchen roll over the bottom before you drain the quinoa as it is very small and likely to fall straight into your sink! 

Stir the quinoa and tomatoes together and then serve. I served mine with garlic toast and a salad. 

I'll definitely be making this in the future and using the leftovers for lunch in the coming days. I'm also going to use quinoa in another soup recipe in the coming weeks so keep your eyes out for it!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Triple Chocolate Cookies

A more accurate name for these cookies would be 'death by diabetes' but don't let that put you off, these cookies are delicious and everyone will love them.

150g softened unsalted butter or margarine
150g soft brown sugar
1 egg, beaten 
1 tsp vanilla essence
250g self-raising flour
2 tbsps cocoa powder
50g milk chocolate, chopped into small chunks
50g white chocolate, same as above
50g smarties (or similar, I used M&Ms)

Featuring 2lbs of homegrown strawberries.
 Preheat the oven to 180*c or Gas 5

Cream the butter and sugar together, I prefer to mix by hand but you can use an electric whisk to save time.

Add the egg, vanilla essence, cocoa powder and half the flour, mix until it is smooth.

Stir in both kinds of chocolate chips and the smarties.

Mix in the remaining flour until the mixture is thicker and almost dough like.

Divide the dough into two and then again from this into six small balls.

Flatten each ball and place on a greased baking tray making sure they are evenly spaced, if not you will end up with one massive cookie, which isn't a bad thing but not what we are aiming for!

Bake in the centre of your preheated oven for 10 - 12 minutes or until the edges are crisping.
This recipe makes roughly 12 -14 cookies. 

I am taking this batch into work to enjoy on what will most likely be a very busy day that requires cookies.

Monday, 16 June 2014

My Summer Playlist

I go through stages of listening to the same album on repeat for weeks until I move onto the next one. Here are the songs I've been loving in May and June. 

Border Line// King Krule

Nothing Stays the Same// Luke Sital-Singh 

The Death of Queen Jane// Oscar Issac

Sweet Life// Frank Ocean

Oats in the Water// Ben Howard

avf// Stromae

Partition// Iggy Azalea+Beyonce

Cheer Up//Miles Fisher

My commute to work is around forty minutes all together which means I get to listen to one whole album before and after work. My album of the month is most definitely Racine Carrée by Stromae, it has the perfect mix of upbeat and slower songs.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Tips for learning a new language

Come September 2014 I'll be studying Spanish and German at university, so I know all the little tips and tricks to learning a language and actually remembering it! From firsthand experience I know how difficult it can be learning a language, these tips definitely helped me! In our modern society its becoming increasingly more important and relevant knowing more than one language. Although being bilingual can help your career prospects and even your grasp of English, I think the biggest and best benefits are in how it opens your world. There really is no better feeling than speaking to someone in a native language and seeing their world through your own eyes!

Start with the basics
Whether you've learnt the language before or are a complete novice, starting with the basics is the best way to ease yourself in. Although jumping in the deep end with conjunctive verbs may have the best payoff it's not the most sensible thing to do. If you've studied the language before then going over the basics is a good refresher and if you're learning from scratch then the basics are the sensible place to start! If you're only wanting to learn a few vital phrases for your holiday such as '¡una cerveza, por favor!' then you probably won't want to learn about the verbs and how to conjugate sentences. I'd recommend goggling said phrases and getting a guidebook with some basics included, most guidebooks nowadays have this. 

Use technology
We are fortunate, or unfortunate if you see it like that, to live in a world where everything and anything is at our fingertips. I recently discovered the Duolingo app, which has turned into an everyday app of mine. It has a great feature that tracks how much time you've spent on each language and you can set yourself a goal to do a certain amount each day. There are also tonnes of other apps that you can download to help you along the way. This also means that you don't have to go out and buy a lot of supplies, such as a dictionary or grammar books because both services are easily accessible online.

Listen to the language
Watching things or listening to things in the language is a great way to integrate it into your daily life whilst also learning how to pronounce certain sounds correctly. I am a big fan of foreign cinema with Amélie being one of my favourite films, even though I know only a few words of French. Listening to non-English music is also a great way to get used to hearing the language. A few of my favourite artists sing in French and German, Stromae and Max Prosa

Don't do it alone 
It's a lot easier to give up on something if there is no-one there to motivate and push you. I was lucky that I had the opportunity to learn my languages at high school in a small class setting. Having someone to answer to and go to for advice is vital in knowing where you're going wrong and how you can improve. Most community centres and schools will offer beginners language classes which are reasonably priced and provide the books you'll need. 

Make it fun
You're not going to continue learning a new language if it's boring and feels like a chore. Like I stated before watching films/tv and listening to music is a great way to learn a language and it's fun. Set yourself goals and when you achieve them reward yourself! Go to a tapas restaurant and order in Spanish, there you go!, you just spoke Spanish and you have a margarita! Your goals don't have to be big or complicated. By setting small achievable goals you're encouraging yourself to develop skills and gain confidence in the language. Learning something new is meant to be exciting and interesting, try to enjoy the journey!

Without sounding like your teacher, practice does make perfect! If you want to become good at anything you have to put in the graft and the effort. Something that I do a lot is think in another language or think how to say certain things whilst I'm doing them. For example, I will mentally count in Spanish in my head instead of English and, without sounding completely crazy, I sometimes speak to my cats in Spanish! I find it so helpful to speak out loud and hear yourself speaking the language. 

I hope this tips were helpful and someone is inspired to pick up a new language or even one they did at school.
Get out there and learn a new language, what's the worst thing that could happen?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Oatmeal Cookies

In an attempt to make healthier choices but being unable to avoid sweet treats I thought I would make some healthier options of my own. These cookies are perfect paired with a warm drink or even warmed up with ice cream for dessert. 

Just a word of warning, the amounts listed make more than twenty cookies, depending on how small or large you want them. If you want to make around a dozen I would recommend halving all the amounts. 
Can you spot the flour on my top? Wear an apron!

230g butter or margarine
200g caster sugar
220g brown sugar
250g self-raising flour
250g oats 
2 large eggs, beaten
vanilla extract
pinch of salt
baking powder
Preheat oven to 190*

Mix together the butter and both sugars. Gradually add in the egg and then add one teaspoon of the vanilla essence. 

Mix the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder together. Then mix and make sure that all the flour is mixed in. Finally add in the oats. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rest.

If you want you can add fruit, nuts or anything really to the mixture. I split mine in half and added raisins to one half and more cinnamon to the other.

After half an hour the mixture is ready to cook. Grease an oven tray and use a teaspoon to create small balls of the mixture. Place, well spaced apart, on the tray and push down slightly on the top with a fork dipped in milk

I kept mine on for around nine minutes and they are the perfect mixture of chewy and crunch. If you're looking for super chewy, melt in your mouth cookies then leave them in for eight minutes and for eleven if you're wanting crunchy ones. 

As I said before this recipe makes a lot of cookies! I plan on giving some to friends and colleagues, and if there's any left having them as a tasty snack. I'm giving up chocolate and sweets for lent and fully intended to last the full forty days!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Microwave Chocolate Brownie

A super quick, super easy recipe for when you're needing a chocolate fix! This recipe is measured in spoonfuls to make it even easier and quicker to make!

2 tablespoons butter/margarine
2 tablespoons milk (roughly 50ml)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons self-raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
a dash of vanilla essence 

Melt the butter or leave until it is room temperature. Then add the milk and vanilla essence. 

Add the cocoa powder and mix. 

Add the sugar and mix. The mixture will look a bit grainy but don't worry!

Add the flour and, you guessed it, mix! 

Put the mixture into the microwave at the highest setting (900W)  for 70 seconds. If your microwave doesn't go that high then adjust accordingly. Important!; make sure you're using a microwave safe bowl or you could end up with an interesting science experiment in your kitchen! 

Be careful when taking it out as the bowl and brownie will be very hot. However, it is best served hot with ice cream to enjoy whilst watching trashy tv. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

February Films #1

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Eccentic oceanographer Steve Zissou with his crew, find themselves in troubled waters when they attempt to track down the mysterious 'jaguar shark' that ate Zissou's partner while they were filming a documentary of their latest adventure.
After having being told that Wes Anderson films were the sort of ones I would like I was very intrigued. I must say it was a perfect pick for me! I found Anderson's style of film-making very original and right up my street. I loved how the sea creatures and seascape were puppets which I think made the film even more fun. I've also been turned into a Bill Murray fan, I'd never really seen any of his films before but I'll definitely be checking out his other films! Plus I think dressing up as one of Steve's team would be such a fun costume, baby blue and a bright red hat, so high fashion! 9/10

The Sapphires
It's 1968, and four young, talented Australian Aboriginal girls learn about love, friendship and war when their all-girl group The Sapphires entertain the US troops in Vietnam.
Since I am a huge fan of Chris O'Dowd (The IT Crowd is one of my favourite programmes) and musicals, I knew I would enjoy this film. I must admit this film was a lot more emotional and heart-wrenching than I thought it would be! It was interesting to see racism towards aboriginals in Australia. I have friends and family in Australia and even they say it's not really spoken about nowadays and in some areas is still an issue! I found out that The Sapphires is actually based on a true story and the screenplay was written by a relative. 7/10

The Fantastic Mr Fox
An urban fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers' retaliation.
My second foray into Wes Anderson films. I grew up reading Roald Dahl books so it was nice to see a more adult adaption of one of my beloved childhood books. Once again I found the style of the film captivating. I love the music in the film as well. I think overall it's a great adaption of a classic book that everyone will enjoy! 8/10

Julie and Julia
Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book.
As a somewhat novice cook myself I can see the appeal of trying to cook every recipe in a certain book, whilst this wouldn't work for me since I'm so darn fussy it's an interesting idea. The film is set in two distinct times and places so it flicks between modern-day New York and 1940's France/Europe. I must admit this film inspired me to branch out more in my cooking which is always a good thing! 7/10

What To Expect When You're Expecting
A look at love through the eyes of five interconnected couples experiencing the thrills and surprises of having a baby, and ultimately coming to understand the universal truth that no matter what you plan for, life doesn't always deliver what's expected.
I've not read the book this is based on, mostly because it's a pregnancy book and I've never been pregnant! However, I think this is definitely one of those films that it doesn't really matter if you've read the book or not. It has a cast full of well known actors which I don't think adds to or draws from the plot. I enjoyed the film and would watch it again, you can drift in and out and still understand it. 6/10