Saturday, 31 August 2013

Chocolate Peanut Cookies

Just lately I've developed a constant craving for chocolate covered peanuts. You can't just have one or two, they're that addictive that the whole bag NEEDS to be eaten, it really is a life or death situation. So to satisfy my peanut/chocolate cravings, I made some chocolate peanut cookies, very similar to Marathon Cookies. I pretty much made this recipe up and it surprisingly turned out very, very well. This recipe makes around 16 cookies. 

All you need is:
200g peanuts
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of salt
200g chocolate - galaxy as always for me!
170g unsalted butter, to melt
150g soft brown sugar
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg and 1 yolk
2 curly wurlys, chopped

First things first, preheat your oven to 180 (fan assisted) and line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment.

Melt your butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.

In one bowl, mix together flour, salt and bicarb.
In a second bowl, mix together the sugar and melted butter. When mixed well, mix in the eggs and vanilla, followed by the dry ingredients. 

Make sure everything is thoroughly mixed.

In another bowl, melt your chocolate (you can use the same saucepan of simmering water) then add your peanuts and stir well. Here's where you need to resist the urge to devour the whole bowl of peanuts and melted chocolate...

Stir the melted chocolate/peanut into the cookie mix.

Chop up your curly wurlys and throw those in.

Mix everything reeeally well. 

Now for the messy bit - Roll the mix into small, cookie-shaped balls and pop on your baking parchment.

You need to bake them for around 12-15 minutes. After 10 minutes, keep an eye on them as they need to be crispy on the outside but still soft in the middle.

If you can, leave them to cool before digging in...difficult, I know!

N xo

My Naughty Re-Discovery

As you know, this is primarily a blog to share my life with the blogging community...and a big part of my life is food. Oh, you know...the recipes, the tweets, the instagrams...I love food! I'm Natasha and I have a ridiculously uncontrollable sweet tooth. With my parents being away recently, I've had free rein of the house...and our extensively stocked pantry. I made my beautiful Peanut Chocolate Cookies and used up the last little bit of chocolate that we I did something naughty.

Melted Nutella in a little ramakin with strawberries for dipping - AH-MAH-ZING!
I can't believe I forgot how incredible chocolate covered strawberries tasted.

My diet is ruined...and as you can tell by the lighting of the pictures - naughty late night snack! Oopsy.

N xo

Friday, 30 August 2013

Friday Feeling

Source: Pinterest
Fridays are great, aren't they? Even if you don't work full time, there's always that Friday buzz wherever you go. Each week I like to recap on the things that have made me smile this week - there isn't any harm in a little positivity! Just lately, I'm smiling and happy about a lot of things. Winding down for my trip has meant a lot of plans, seeing friends and general loveliness! 

1. Post-Carnival/Bank Holiday Buzz - The Bank Holiday weekend was nothing short of amazing. We went to Notting Hill Carnival and I got to spend some time with my lovely, calming influence. I've been on a high all week post-carnival.

2. My last working day - Today is my last day at my job before I go travelling. I've been here for a year now and will miss everybody very much. It's shown me I can have friends from all walks of life and I've become very close to some here. Thank god for Skype!

3. A little visit - I have a little pre-holiday visit planned next week and I'm really looking forward to it. I don't feel ready to say goodbye yet but having a few days together will be a nice way to end the summer. 

4. Travelling - it's getting closer and I'm going from waves of excitement to waves of worry. You know I'm a worrier, I can't help it! I'm going to spend this next few days packing, list making (my fave!) and making sure everything is done! I want to be all sorted at least 5 days before I leave - which, scarily, isn't that long!

5. Family time - now I'm finishing work I have a week and a bit of family time which I can't wait for. I'm always so busy and darting here there and everywhere at weekends so I've got a little time now to focus on my family and have some quality time. 

6. Chatsworth Country Show - This weekend marks the annual Chatsworth Country Show. Attending this has become a family tradition over the years. This Sunday I'm heading there with my Parents for a day of horses, cheese stalls and country air.

7. Work leaving party - It's tonight - drinks, Indian food - need I say more?

8. New Lumix - I'm still mourning the theft of my old TZ27 but yesterday my new TZ40 arrived. I sat at my desk yesterday getting to grips with the settings and it seems great. I'm very excited to use it this weekend at Chatsworth to see what it's capable of!

9. Unemployment - is it bad that I'm REALLY happy about this? I've worked since the age of 15, mostly part time in pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, Topshop and this has been my first full time job. The marketing world is something I can see myself venturing back into in the future but I'm very, very happy to not have any work to go to at the moment. It's going to allow me to write to my hearts content, enjoy those closest to me and to have that sense of freedom I feel like I missed out on during the summer post-university.

10. Being able to wear my OWN clothes...forever - No more officewear for a while HURRAH! While I think having a dress code of 'officewear' for work is the most sensible thing, I CANNOT WAIT to be able to wear normal clothes everyday from now until I enter back into the working world again.


N xo

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Banging Barbecue Chicken

I think I've been far to engrossed in How Sweet It Is and Jessica's incredible corn-related recipes just lately. I ventured to Sainsburys last week, purchased a crazy amount of corn...then realised, I don't have anything in mind for this corn. Impulse food purchases are my downfall.

SO this lead to barbecue chicken, you guessed it, served with corn on the cob and my standard sweet potato wedges.

I have recently discovered my love for barbecue sauce so am keen to experiment with it. I've made it before several times for burgers (here and here...oh and here too) but never as a proper marinade. Hereeee we go...

All you need for two is:

Chicken breasts - I did two each
1 tbsp Worchester sauce
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp Chilli flakes
3 tbsp Tomato Ketchup
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp Light Reduced Salt Soy 

I served mine with oven cooked corn (smothered in butter, parsley and chilli flakes) and some tasty sweet potato wedges. 

Mix the Worcester Sauce, paprika, honey, chilli flakes, ketchup, mustard and soy in a bowl. Pop you chicken in and leave to marinate. I left mine over night but as long as you've given it a good two hours or so,  you'll be fine.

I've told you about the wedges before - peel, chop, boil for 5-10 minutes, drain, stick on a baking tray, drizzle with oil and cook in the oven at 180 (fan assisted) for 45-50 minutes.

Pop the corn in, wrapped in foil, the for the same amount of time - smothered in butter (plus parsley and chilli flakes if you fancy it). 

I used my Le Creuset griddle pan (just as I'd used it for my Burgers on National Burger Day) - let it heat up until it's pretty hot. You'll need a good 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil so it doesn't stick. Once the pan has heated up, bring the heat down to medium and add your chicken - leave the rest of the marinade in the bowl for later. You need to make sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked so cook it for 6 or 7 minutes on each side...spooning the leftover marinade on every now and then. Chicken usually takes about 15 minutes to pan fry fresh, if it's been microwave defrosted, about 8 minutes.

Pretty simple, huh? Plate up and serve.

It won't disappoint taste-wise and it's a great quick and easy recipe that requires minimal effort and minimal cooking time!

Not the most adventurous of pictures but, as I've told you, my camera was unfortunately stolen at Notting Hill Carnival (sad face!). My new one will be arriving today though (happy face!), so once I've got to grips with it (it's a few models up from my old one), my photographs on here are going to be a main focus of mine. Photography is something I've never really got to grips with and I really think it's a good skill to have.

N xo

Thursday Things

Beautiful Verona
[Source: Pinterest]
1. I am very disappointed I didn't witness this at Notting Hill Carnival

2. Disney Princess and Prince texts...if they had phones...

3. National Burger Day? AMAZING. I made these and they were GREAT. Here's some other tasty burger recipes, for future reference. #Iloveburgers

4. An incredible article by Emily Steer about depression. Everybody's talking about Miley and her risky VMA performance...but things like mental illness are the real issues that should be talked about. An issue very close to my heart!

5. Pleased to see I eat the 5 best superfoods pretty much daily! Go me! It's nice to know my healthy eating is on track.

6. A student creates the ultimate mobile home from an old school bus. Very impressive!

7. Can you honestly imagine if this had happened?! 1D and a room?!

8. Food porn at it's best! Very glad to have discovered this yummy blog.

9. Cannot get over this. Why Cheryl, why?!

10. The dilemmas of a bacon sarnie! Grilled with a bucket of HP for me please!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Life Lately

I returned home on Bank Holiday Monday to my parents who have just returned from a lovely fortnight away. We got back pretty late from Notting Hill on Sunday night so I stayed over at Luka and her boyfriends place. Although I had the Monday off, I was sad for the rest of the weekend to be over. We had such a great time and I got to spend time with some of my favourite people, which at the moment is just want I want before I leave. 

I think with age you really do learn who your friends are. I always thought it sounded really cliche when relatives used to say it to me because, at the time, you think friends will be there forever. Unfortunately, after graduating, I've learned that isn't always the case. This isn't always for a specific reason; work commitments, not living in the same city and just general busyness get in the way. This weekend allowed the busyness of life to be pushed to one side for one of my favourite days of the year so far...and I can probably say, a great end to one of my favourite weekends. I've been quite lucky recently that I've got to know somebody that completely calms me and makes me not have a care in the world - for me, this is very rare. I tend to be a worrier - about my life, my friends, my family; you name it, I'll probably worry about it (unfortunately I've not managed to shake off all of my past anxiety yet!). But this weekend, I felt like I didn't have a care in the world. I'm very happy at the moment. This time is short lived, but I'd rather be having a little of it with that person than none at all.

Bank Holiday Monday was spent in a lovely way - with my parents catching up, sitting in our garden in the sunshine and gorging on my infamous Bruschetta. This time of year is my favourite - our vegetable garden is overflowing with fresh produce that I have the luxury of cooking with every day. Today, the tomatoes made an appearance and really added to the authentic Italian taste of my Bruschetta. Here's the recipe should you fancy a little yourself!

I now have today...tomorrow...and Friday left at work. Yep, that's it. Life lately seems to be going full speed ahead and today marks the two weeks countdown to my big backpacking bonanza.

Although I'm VERY excited, I'm also starting to panic a little bit - time is going too quickly. I don't have an outlandish number of people to say goodbye to, but those ones that I do...well, I'm not ready to yet. So I'm thankful to be finishing work on Friday as it means I have 12 days to fight the tears and avoid the goodbyes.

Life's about to get a little bit hectic!

N xo

Beef Burgers with Caramelised Onions, Gherkins and Corn

Yesterday was National Burger Day. What a brilliant thing to celebrate! 

I love an excuse to have a nice, juicy burger, especially when it involves making my own! You've seen me make Nacho BurgersBurgers with barbecue sauce and even Skinny Tuna Burgers before; this time I've made a beef burger with spring onions and garlic, served with gherkins, tomatoes, barbecue sauce, caramelised onions on a oven baked ciabatta and they were on a whole other level. Yes, it tasted as good as it sounds.

All you need for four is:

500g lean steak/beef mince (ground beef)
A handful of parsley
4 or 5 spring onions, chopped
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp flour
A sprinkle of chilli flakes
Pepper, to season

All you need for the corn is:
A piece of corn each (obviously...)
25g butter, softened
A sprinkle of chilli flakes
A sprinkle of chopped parsley
Pepper, to season

I served mine with sauteed mushrooms, caramelised onions, fresh-from-the-greenhouse tomatoes, barbecue sauce and potato wedges.

First things first, preheat your oven to 180-200 (fan assisted). I served my burgers with some potato and sweet potato wedges - so needed peeling, chopping, popping in a pan of simmering water for 5-10 minutes then sticking on an oven tray with a drizzle of oil. These take around 45-50 minutes to cook in the oven, so these needed going in ASAP.

I put my corn in at the same time - smothered in butter, parsley and chilli flakes that I mixed together using my Bamix. Wrap it in foil, stick it in the oven and leave it in for the same length of time as your wedges for soft, tasty corn!

While the corn and wedges are cooking away, I prepped my burger patties.

In a bowl I mixed together the beef mine, parsley, garlic and chilli flakes. Make sure the mince is all separated well so it doesn't get clumpy.

Chop up your spring onions and throw them in too.

Top in the egg yolk and mix through the mince.

Shape the mix into patties - I did three big ones but there is plenty for four.
When they're shaped, wrap them in cling film fairly tight to hold the mix together.

Now your burgers are prepared - get cracking on your sauces.

I made a barbecue sauce and a special sauce. The barbecue sauce is 5 tbsp tomato ketchup, 1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins), 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp runny honey, 1 tsp dijon mustard.

The special sauce is so simple - equal amounts of ketchup and mayonnaise with a few dashes of tabasco.

And what's a burger without gherkins? A bad burger, that's what! 

Chop up your mushrooms, season with pepper with a knob of butter ready to fry later on.

I also served my burgers with caramelised onions - two white onions chopped up, fry on a low heat with a knob of butter for around 5 minutes. Add two or three tablespoons of soft brown sugar and allow to softened for another 4-5 minutes.

When your wedges are pretty much done. Get the mushrooms sauteeing in the butter on a low heat.

Get a griddle pan - the Le Creuset griddle pan is go-to for this kind of thing. My mum's had it for years and it's absolutely brilliant!

Get the griddle pan as hot as possible before putting the burgers in. You only need a dash of oil because of the fat from your burgers. I popped my two tablespoons on flour in a bowl and put the patties in to get a little flour on both sides to seal the burger.

I'd recommend cooking the patties for 4-5 minutes on each side for a medium to well done burger.

To construct - I used oven baked ciabatta, popped the patty on the bottom, caramelised onions, mushrooms, gherkins and a generous helping of gherkins. Mouth watering!

Take a bite and prepare to be in burger heaven!

I can probably say National Burger Day is on a par with Christmas for me...controversial!

N xo

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Notting Hill Carnival!

This Bank Holiday weekend I went to Notting Hill Carnival. We decided to go on the Sunday, just for the day. I've wanted to go for years as I've always been told how much fun it is. We set off VERY early on Sunday morning and got back VERY late Sunday night but it was definitely worth it.

Source: MPS
Those that know me will know I'm quite scared of the idea of London. It's a big place, I don't know it at all but I'm eager to get to know the place and see what it has to offer (mostly for the food...). We arrived just before midday, faffed around getting the tube (definitely the bit that scares/stresses me the most!) and arrived in Notting Hill. I've been ridiculously excited about this day for weeks now but really didn't know what kind of thing to expect. 

We arrived and it was already packed. The sounds of music and the smells of food filled the air; it was GREAT. Enjoying the atmosphere with the other carnival-goers, we danced and twerked (eat your heart out Miley!) our way through the streets.

There was something going on everywhere you turned, even the side streets that seemed pretty deserted in comparison to the main streets. We started getting a bit peckish so searched for food. The first place we came to was on the main stretch and for a tiny bit of chicken and corn came to £10. Now, I'm not stingy and I will pay a fair amount for good food but that was steep, even for this kind of event. We wandered off in search of a portaloo (the perks of being outdoors..) and came across a lovely group of people selling food from their own house - Jerk Chicken, stuffed dumplings, patties and the best rum punch I've ever tasted. And guess what...for HALF the price! For me, this was what the carnival should be about - locals embracing the carnival atmosphere and doing it properly - not ripping tourists off! The food was incredible, really authentic and the guys were so nice. We stayed there for quite a while chatting and thoroughly enjoying the rum punch.

We moved on, had a wander, did A LOT of dancing and it made we wonder, why have I never been before?! Everybody was so happy, dancing away, enjoying the glorious sunshine and getting into the carnival spirit. Time absolutely flew and before we knew it, we hadn't got long before we needed to hop on the tube and make our way back to the station.

Just before this, the only downside of the day occurred; my camera was stolen. I'm absolutely distraught about this, not so much because of the camera itself (even though it's not ideal two weeks before I go travelling), but because of the brilliant pictures that were on there. It just goes to show, don't let your guard down too much at those kinds of things. I'm very naive, I like to think everybody's lovely and that the world is a nice, honest place but, unfortunately, not everybody is honest, lovely nor has the best of intentions. The worst part is, I didn't even realise and had absolutely no recollection of even a slight opportunity it could have been taken. This was a harsh lesson learned for me - not to be too trusting and to keep an eye on my possessions because not every is going to be there for a good time. Katie also had her purse stolen which was pretty rubbish as you can imagine! So I urge anybody going to this kind thing, or even just out and about in a busy place - keep an eye on your belongings and don't let your guard down too much or something very precious to you could be gone in a flash (sad face). I started to think it's just because we were naive to the London environment but I just think it's one of those things that happens during an event like carnival! Lesson learned for next time!

We made our way back tube, a little hazy and starting to get tired after a day jammed packed with dancing in the sun! I did make sure I got my chicken, rice and peas, mmm!

I cannot wait for next years carnival and will definitely go for both days rather than just the one. I'm so glad I got to experience the day and thanks to the girls, I perked up a little bit about my lost camera after these pictures popped up yesterday evening:

I have never seen so much twerking...mainly from Katie!


Lots of carnival love <3

N xo