Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Healthy Choc Chip Oat Cookies

Healthy Choc Chip Oat Cookies

After my last "naughty" recipe, it only seems fair to balance things out with something a little more nutritious. These healthy oat cookies are made from natural ingredients, and are a handy little carb boosting snack to enjoy post workout! Or, any time of day really... Plus they still include a little chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth and sugar cravings. I wouldn't expect you to go cold turkey after the Easter egg binge!

225g (2 medium) mashed ripe bananas
100g honey
125g old fashioned oats
100g dark chocolate chips
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Simply mix together all of the ingredients until they combine into a sticky, dough type consistency. I found my mixture to be a little too wet so you could either reduce the amount of honey or increase the oats to avoid this! Take a spoonful of the mixture and roll it into a ball between the palm of your hands. Place on a lined baking tray and flatten out with the back of a spoon.

Bake your cookies in the oven for 20-30 minutes, depending how you like them. I baked my second batch for a little over 30 minutes and they came out a much nicer, golden brown colour with a crunchier texture than the first batch which I only gave 20 minutes!

Try not to eat them all at once!

129 calories, 21.2g carbs, 1.9g protein, 3.9g fat
per cookie

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Eggcelent Vanilla Cheesecake

Happy Easter!

I hope you've all enjoyed the long weekend and eaten your fair share of chocolate eggs? I've tried my best to avoid too many treats but it hasn't been easy! My father in law celebrates his 74th birthday this week so Gordon and I played host for the weekend and I cooked up a storm for the family. Fish pie was the dish of the day (shout if you'd like the recipe for this!) followed by an indulgent vanilla cheesecake, topped with Easter's finest Cadbury goodies.

For the Base
100g crushed digestives
50g demerara sugar
50g melted butter

Mix the ingredients together and press firmly into the base of a lined 20cm spring form tin. Pop it in the fridge to set.

For the Filling
500g philadelphia cheese
100g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
200ml double cream

Place the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract into a large mixing bowl and beat well. Lightly whip the cream with a whisk and then fold it into the rest of the mixture. Pour the entire filling over the base and smooth out with the back of a spoon. Pop it into the fridge to set for at least one hour.

For the Decoration
90g crushed mini eggs
2 mini creme eggs

I bought a whole bag of mini creme eggs for the topping... only two of them made it! To avoid eating the entire bag while you wait for it to set, you could place some creme eggs on top of the base before pouring the filling over. An extra little chocolatey surprise when you slice into your deliciously creamy cheesecake!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Wedding Planning... High street wedding dresses!

Choosing my wedding dress was one of the most exciting parts of planning our wedding so far. I think I took a little longer than most brides. Many have told me they only visited 2-3 shops whereas I visited 8, even going back to three of them a second time! I don't think I was particularly fussy or difficult, it's just that I never really had an idea in my head what I wanted and I think I was waiting for that "the one" moment with tears and applause! (Not really, nobody in my bridal party is that way inclined.)

My dress finally arrived in store last week and I picked it up with my Mum and sister on Tuesday. I did have a few anxious feelings before we got there... what if it didn't fit? What if I don't even like it any more?! I needn't have worried because it fit like a glove* and I fell in love with it all over again! 

*Apart from needing a tiny lift on the shoulders and a little off the hem!
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9

While I hunted round all my local bridal boutiques, I found that prices ranged from anything from £800 upwards. Many people just can't justify paying £2k for a dress that will only ever be worn once. Hell I know I can't! However, lately the Great British high street (and online retailers!) seem to have upped their wedding game, with everyone from ASOS to H&M releasing impressive and affordable bridal collections, promising excellent quality too. There is literally a dress for every bride - traditional ball gowns, fish tails, a modern two piece or jumpsuit, or dreamy dresses with vintage lace or an ethereal boho vibe. Whatever your style, you'll find it well within budget at these stores. I'd highly recommend checking out the wedding section on ASOS - they have literally everything covered! Monsoon and Coast have some gorgeous options and places like Debenhams and John Lewis are worth a look too.

Above is a selection of the best gowns I've found online. Funnily enough, none of them are anything like my wedding dress!

I'd love to know where you got your dress from - did you look online and on the high street or would you only consider a traditional bridal boutique or dressmaker? Let me know in the comments below, pictures welcome! :)

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Cheesy Chorizo Baked Eggs

You know those dinners, where there's not much food in the house so you pretty much just throw random things together and hope for the best? This was one of those. We had some chorizo in the fridge to use up so I chucked it in with some eggs and tinned tomatoes, and it turned out to be epic! You can really add anything to this recipe (just use up what you have!) but here's how I did it...

4 eggs
70g diced chorizo
400g tin chopped tomatoes
36g grated mozzarella & cheddar
(serves 2)

8g carbs, 27g protein, 27g fat
383 calories

Preheat your oven to approx 180 degrees. Fry the chorizo in a wok for a couple of minutes and then pour over the chopped tomatoes. Stir in any spices you like - I used smoked paprika, oregano and a little salt and pepper. Make a little well in the tomato sauce and crack an egg into it, repeat for each one. It works better if you crack the egg into a small cup first and then pour it in! Leave on the hob for a minute or two, sprinkle the cheese on top and then pop it in the oven until the cheese melts and the eggs cook through.

Tastes fantastic on it's own but even better with bread - we scooped it straight out the pan with some crusty wholemeal loaf!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Wedding planning... Make-up trials!

I wish I was one of those girly girls who could contour and highlight her face to perfection. But I'm not. I don't know my concealer brush from my blending brush, my eyeshadow skills make me look like a clown, and I've certainly never brushed or drawn my eyebrows in!

We all know the bride takes centre stage on a wedding day. Everyone is dying to see the dress and comment on how beautiful and radiant she looks. I will be neither of those things if I do my own make-up - it probably wouldn't even last til the meal! I could do with a little help at the best of times but my wedding day is the one day in my life when I absolutely have to get a MUA involved. 

Pink vs Nude
Both looks by Jade Gourlay MUA.

I actually posted on Facebook looking for MUA recommendations and was lucky enough to be contacted by someone I know, who has just recently completed her training with The Academy of Make-up. She very kindly offered her services and after a couple of trials we're all booked and ready to go!

Both looks are very natural - the first (right picture) was done with lots of browny nude and neutral colours and although I was very happy with the results, I felt it was a little too dark and dramatic for me. Remember I only wear foundation and a little eyeliner and mascara normally!

For the second trial we opted for softer pink tones with less definition around the eyes and smaller, more natural looking lashes. The original pink lip colour was far too bright for me but Jade softened it with a lighter colour on top. I felt much more like myself this time and would happily walk down the aisle with this face!

A few tips for choosing your MUA

1. Check out their facebook/instagram/website! In this day and age anyone in a creative industry like this will post pictures of their work. Make sure you like the looks they've created in the past. There's no point going to someone who specialises in dramatic, smokey eyes when you want a fresh, natural look.

2. Book a trial! If you wait til the big day you'll probably have no time to change anything you're unhappy with. You need to feel comfortable enough to be honest and tell them truthfully whether you like or dislike something. There's no point thinking I'll fix that myself later because you probably won't have time on the day! Get it right ahead of time and you'll save any hassles or tears on the happiest day of your life.

3. Shop around. Don't settle on the first person you find, get recommendations from others and make sure you get a few quotes. One person quoted more ££ just for the bride than I'm now paying for myself and my 3 bridesmaids. Crazy.

4. Going back to the trial - if you plan on having a spray tan for your big day, get it done for your make-up trial too. A tan can totally change a look and the MUA will need to know which shades to use on the actual day. Also, wear white (or whatever colour you plan on wearing down the aisle) as the colours will look completely different against darker clothes.

5. Find out what products are in their kit. This is especially important if you have any allergies or strong beliefs on animal testing!

6. Can you use your own products? One thing Jade suggested to me was to use my own lip colour. Your MUA can only stock so many products and will never be able to please everybody. At least if you choose to use your own products, you know you'll like the shade and you can keep hold of it to top up throughout the day!

What are your top tips for wedding make-up or choosing an MUA?

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

All of the grilled cheese at Melt, Aberdeen

What cheese do you use to lure a bear out of the woods?


(Come on bear, gettit?)

If there's one thing I love more than a Gouda cheese joke, its a grate grilled cheese sandwich! I always thought Gordon made the best grilled cheese, then I met Mechelle. Last week she kindly invited us along to Melt, her brand new sandwich shop on Aberdeen's Holburn Street, to sample some of the goods.

Inspired by the London foodie scene, Mechelle's recent redundancy spurred her on to bite the bullet and bring something new to the Granite City's lunch offerings. Lots of man hours, renovation skills and a few failed sourdough starters later, Mechelle brought her cheesy takeaway dreams to life. Stepping into Melt is like stepping back in time (or into your Nan's kitchen). Burnt orange seventies wallpaper takes pride of place alongside retro crockery and paintings. It's refreshing to see such a unique new concept in Aberdeen and it seems to be a big hit. Melt sold so many sandwiches on their first day that they ran out of bread and were forced to close early!

The menu is short and sweet (literally, in some cases) but its feta than you could ever imagine! Choose from the classic, the mac & melt or the hag & melt on a choice of locally made sourdough or gluten free bread. The choc & cheese on brioche was my personal favourite but take my word for it, they're all prett-Edam tasty!

(Sorry, not sorry...)

The Mac & Melt with cheddar.

The Classic Melt - gruyere, cheddar & bechamel.

Hag & Melt - haggis, bacon, rocket & gruyere.

 Choc & Cheese - mascarpone, nutella & fleur de sel salt.

The sandwiches are a generous size, filled to the brim with cheese oozing everywhere. So much cheese. My words and pictures will never do justice, you'll have to try them and see for yourself! Even the tomato soup can be served with cheese. The vegan option is a work in progress but promises to involve soy and beer so sounds like it'll be worth the wait. Mechelle has over 100 specials in the pipeline too, which will launch one at a time from April - look out for a banana and peanut butter bad boy! 

What fillings would you like to see at Melt?

What do you say to someone who tries to steal your Melt sandwich?

This is nacho cheese!

(Last one, I promise.)

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Wedding planning... Stay classy, 5 hen party ideas!

If there's one part of wedding planning that will really get your friends excited for your upcoming nuptials, it's the stag and hen parties! These days pretty much anything goes, from an afternoon life drawing class to a wild weekend in Ibiza. My bridesmaids and I have decided on a trip to Edinburgh. The hotel is booked, we just need to sort trains and then we can start planning the fun stuff!

When I think of hen nights, I picture girls in tacky matching t-shirts and L plates, downing shots and cheap booze through willy shaped straws, maybe even served by a "buff butler"! This is not my cup of tea, and I'm guessing its not yours either? Don't even get me started on inflatable penises - what is the point of these?! I only have one rule for my henny... stay classy!
I've jotted down a few ideas to hopefully inspire any ladies planning a hen party. If you're a bride to be, make sure you share these with your maid of honour before it's too late!

1. Afternoon tea
Who doesn't love tea and cake? This is a particularly good idea if you have a wide range of ages joining you. Most places will give you the option of adding champagne or cocktails so both drinkers and non drinkers can be catered for. I'm open to suggestions for an intoxicated tea party in Edinburgh, send them my way!

2. Cocktail masterclass
Start your evening off with a masterclass where a mixologist will show you how to shake and stir your own drinks! Normally the bar will provide your very own barman for the occasion who will cater specifically to your group, show you some tricks of the trade and maybe even introduce a game or two. Different bars will have different packages available but look out for one that includes your drinks and food so you can soak up the booze afterwards. Revolution does some great deals.

3. A night at the theatre
If you're based in London then you will be spoiled for choice but for those up north, keep an eye on your local theatre's listings. Book a pre-theatre meal and then enjoy anything from Footloose to the Rocky Horror Show to Breakfast at Tiffany's! You could even theme the night around the show and dress up for the occasion. Nothing says class like a little black dress and pearls a la Audrey Hepburn!

4. Something for the foodie
How about a cheese and wine night, a chocolate making workshop or a cooking class? Cocoa OozeNick Nairn's cook school and Thaikhun are all good options! If you'd rather just do the eating then book a table at the bride's favourite restaurant, decorate it tastefully (flowers, nice balloons, candles, a small but thoughtful favour for each guest?) and get everyone to chip in for a couple bottles of fizz! Simple but effective.

5. Spa day
A day of relaxation and pampering might be exactly what your stressed out Bridezilla needs! Again, many spas will offer packages to suit all budgets. Guests can pick their own treatments from manicures and massages, to facials and hopi ear candling. You might even be able to enjoy time in a sauna or pool, depending on the facilities available. Often you'll find a spa located in a hotel so you could even book an overnight stay and meal all under one roof! I recommend Aberdeen's Ardoe House.

For hens on a budget, you could adapt any of these ideas to home. Arrange a tea party or BBQ and ask everyone to bring some goodies along, turn your kitchen into a bar & serve DIY cocktails. Stock up on face masks and nail polish for a pamper sesh in your living room or swap the theatre for a themed movie night with prosecco and popcorn - Sex and the City or the Great Gatsby would be ace!

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter where you go or what you do. All that matters is that you have a good laugh with your favourite ladies and make lots of happy memories. Oh, and do the Single Ladies dance at least once!

What's the best or most unusual hen party you've ever been to?
I'd love to see your pics if you use any of these ideas - tag me @xchristybx on twitter and instagram!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Wedding planning... 5 months to go!

This wedding thing has really crept up on me. We got engaged at the end of 2013, booked our venue, photographer and caterers in 2014, then chose our bridesmaids/best men, booked the registrar and found the dress in 2015 - after 7 months of hunting round every bridal shop in the north east of Scotland! Other than that, we didn't do much at all in the way of wedding planning. I've been fairly relaxed about the whole thing and kept reassuring everyone that there's plenty time... Suddenly 2016 is here and the happiest day of our lives is only 5 months away!

Suddenly I'm freaking out that we still don't have invitations... (work in progress!)
We left it too late to book a bridal suite... (Booked a standard room in a nearby hotel with the promise of an upgrade if it becomes available!)
I can't afford the shoes I really want...
We have 2 best men and both of them are out of the country!
How are we supposed to get kilts measured up without them?
There's a hen weekend to organise - trains, hotels, activities, money, money, money...
Speaking of money, when do I have to pay the balances to our suppliers?
Should we be planning menus by now?
We should definitely start planning the ceremony.
Hair trials, make-up trials, dress fittings... so many appointments, so little time!
Am I forgetting something?*

My head is buzzing with all things weddings at the most inconvenient times! Why am I always feeling most productive when I'm meant to be busy at work and can't send out e-mails to stationary suppliers?!

I'm sure it'll all come together in the end, as everyone keeps telling me, but it's going to be a crazy busy, expensive but exciting few months! 

Any tips for successfully planning the wedding of my dreams?

*Rings! I forgot the rings!
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