Recipe: White Bean and Red Cabbage Soup

It’s getting to that time of year again where we all turn to our trusty friend the soup to keep us warm and comforted in the colder months. Supermarkets provide a pretty good selection of soups but I can’t help but prefer a homemade one.

The other week I invested in a Food Flask, I can’t tell you how excited I was. No more taking soggy salads or couscous with me to work, I can now perk my day up with a comforting soup or even last nights dinner. Better yet, it stays piping hot from 7.30am until 1pm in my little flask. Can you tell I like this flask?

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Now this soup isn’t going to win any beauty awards but it sure is tasty. Better yet it is full of flavour, healthy and good to your teeth. The perfect way to look after your insides with the added bonus of showing a difference on the outside. Win, win!

I was asked to take part in the SimplyHealth recipe competition, whereby I had to create a recipe using at least one of the specific ingredients that contain the essential nutrients and vitamins to maintain a healthy smile. I used two of the ingredients; carrots and red cabbage. You can find the other foods and what to avoid here.

You will need:

Tin of cannelloni beans
2 x carrots
Red cabbage
Broccoli
Chicken stock
Onion
Sweet potato
Tabasco
Salt
Pepper

1. Dice your onion, slice your carrots, chop your sweet potato and broccoli.

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2. Heat some oil in a pan and brown off the onion.

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3. Chuck in your broccoli, sweet potato, carrots and about 500ml of chicken stock. Bring to the boil and cook until all vegetables have softened.

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4. Add half the tin of cannelloni beans and cook for a further 10 minutes.

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5. Chuck about 80% in a blender or food processor and blitz that veg. I like some chunky bits in my soup, that’s why I leave a little out of the blender.

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6. Return your soup to the saucepan. Slice up some of your red cabbage and add to the saucepan as well as the remaining cannelloni beans, cooking for about 5-10 minutes.

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7. Season with salt and pepper, add a splash of Tabasco if you like a little heat and serve.

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A guide to blogging

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I’m no expert blogger and sometimes I’m not a very good blogger, leaving it weeks between posts. I hate when that happens but often life gets in the way or I’m just not doing anything exciting enough to share! I never tire of it though, I love posting about what I’ve been up to, where I’ve been or just rambling on – even if no one is listening. It’s a great little hobby, that has lots of benefits and I think everyone should have a blog.

The lovely people at Farfetch sent me a gorgeous infographic full of tips and tricks of how to take your blog to the next level.

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1. Be consistent. Apart from the weekend, I have no plan as to when I’ll send out posts. Try to keep a schedule, that way readers know when to check your blog.

2. Choose quality over quantity. Writing about something you’re passionate about shows, especially compared to those posts you feel obligated to write. Adding your own perspective on something can help make it more personal and memorable.

3. Keep a note of ideas. You never know when you may be hit with inspiration for a blog post. I often create drafts of posts so I know to come back to them.

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4. Use pictures to help tell a story.  A whole page of writing can put people off, pictures often give readers an idea of what the blog post is about and entice them in. Bloggers don’t always have to be the best writers, like they say a picture tells a thousand words.

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5. Build a community. Get to know your readers as well as other bloggers. Blogging should not be about competing with another blog, it should be more about connecting with like-minded people. Using social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+ are great for this.

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6. Host a giveaway. A fun way to drum up interest or thank your readers is by hosting a giveaway. Giving them a chance to win something that you yourself want or have recommended.

7. Plan a meet up. Arranging a meet up either via your blog or social media is a great way to meet readers and other local bloggers. It’s nice to be able to thank people in person for following your blog. You could plan your meet up around an industry event or simply host a picnic in the park.

I’ve been doing this for over two years now so I’ve learnt things along the way, however if you stick to these tips there’s only one way your blog can go.

Money saving Wedding tips

Weddings are blooming expensive. I had this magical idea that I was going to be different, I was going to get the wedding I wanted but without financially crippling my parents. I was deluded. I haven’t gone as far as to bankrupt my parents but I failed to realise if you want the wedding of your dreams, you’re are going to have to pay. I have, however, learnt there are some areas where you can cut the corners and save yourselves a reasonable chunk.

Get your quotes in early

Vendors prices are always going up. Without the initial intention of booking, email potential vendors and get a quote. When you have made a decision and decide to book someone, they can sometimes tell you their prices have now increased. If they’re a reasonable enough company/person, you can show them the original quote and they should honour that.

Haggle

Not necessarily a given, but don’t always accept the first offer. As soon as you mention the word ‘Wedding’, it seems it automatically entitles companies to add a couple of zeros on the end. Every wedding has a budget and vendors should know this. Being able to cater for each wedding should be a given. I’m not saying you should start bartering with the vicar, but explain your budget and see if they are willing to do you a deal.

Friends with benefits

Not in the rude way, please! As I said weddings are expensive so it always helps if you happen to know someone who can help out with particular aspects. It’s a great way to get a friend or family member involved, sometimes you get offered their services as a wedding gift.

Get married on a weekday

Bit of an obvious one, but has to be said getting married on a weekday can save you a lot of money. Sundays can be cheaper, but if they’re followed by a bank holiday, they’ll often be bumped up to a Saturday price. A weekday wedding can save at least a £1000, try to arrange it within a school holiday, that way children are off school, giving parents one less thing to worry about.

Seasonal flowers

Flowers help bring together the colour scheme of the wedding, they are a must. Like a lot of things, choosing flowers that aren’t in season is going to cause additional costs. Also keep in mind that sometimes you just can’t get particular flowers, I liked the idea of peonies but that was never going to happen in April.

There are obviously a lot more ways to save some pennies, but evidently the ‘big day’ is going to put a hold on you buying that new winter coat (boo). In the end your friends and family are there to celebrate you getting married and only you worry about the finer details, so try not to blow all your budget on the place names!

A proper introduction to Sushi

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There is definitely a trend on my blog at the moment and it seems to circle around food. I’m either sharing a meal I’ve had out or having a go at making something myself. I’d like to say that this post is going to break the trend but it’s not. I’m going to talk about sushi.

The only experience of sushi that I have is from the little packs you get in M&S or Tesco, and visiting the popular chain, Yo!Sushi. Now, I’m no expert but I don’t think this stuff could be regarded as the highest quality sushi and so I may be lying to myself when I say I love it. I had to put this to the test and check out KibouSushi in Cheltenham.

Tucked away along Regent Street in the centre of town, KibouSushi opened it’s door in 2013 and has been a hit with locals ever since. Priding themselves on cooking authentic Japanese food to a high standard, Alan and I finally went to see what all the fuss was about.

We went on a Saturday lunchtime, having just beaten the rush and bagging the last table as we watched countless people having to be turned away. If that’s not a good sign, I don’t know what is!

Having not been to a Japanese restaurant before the menu felt a little intimidating at first glance, however the staff were really friendly and more than happy to talk us through it.

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We picked out a number of dishes to share, so we could try a little bit of everything.

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And I mean everything, it just kept coming.

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The food was beautifully presented and so fresh. A great variety of food, I now feel I can say I have eaten authentic Sushi.

I think many locals had been waiting for something new and different to hit the town, Yo!Sushi didn’t really do that but KibouSushi did!

Cheltenham Literature Festival: Chilli Notes

I love a good book. My commute on the train from Cheltenham to Bristol Monday to Friday has helped me get some valuable reading time done without any distractions. I’m currently reading ‘The Goldfinch’, I know, I know I’m totally behind what’s trending but if you haven’t read it, I’d definitely recommend.

This week Cheltenham welcomed the likes of John Cleese, Dame Judi Dench and Heston Blumenthal, among others to this years Literature Festival. There are always plenty of events, speakers, book signings to suit all tastes; as well as treats for foodies – a fact I only learnt this year.

As I said, I do enjoy a good book, however I probably enjoy a nice meal more. I can’t convince my fiance to wear a full-on tweed suit on our wedding day but I can convince him to come to the Literature Festival with me when there is food involved. Alan and I decided to book up one of the events that included a scrumptious three-course meal. The meal was with MasterChef winner, Thomasina Miers, who showcased dishes from her new cookbook. If I’d known the Literature Festival did these kind of things, I would have made the effort to go a lot sooner.

The Imperial Gardens (aka Beer Gardens, as more familiarly known by Cheltonians) and Montpellier Gardens are packed full of large tents housing all the different events going on. The festival brings so many people to Cheltenham, it can make for awful evening traffic but the town really comes alive and there is a great, buzzing atmosphere.

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Our three course meal was in the Spiegeltent, a gorgeous venue with soft lighting and cosy red velvet booths.

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We were seated with two other couples, one of them actually being someone I catch the train with everyday. It was a lot more sociable than just being seated together and great to have different opinions about the food. Having said that, the opinions were pretty unanimous, we all loved it.

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We sipped on our glasses of wine, got to know our fellow booth sharers and waited for the food to appear in front of us. With a stroke of luck, we were seated at the table that got the food first.

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The starter and main dishes were a dream. The starter was really fresh with smooth avocado and crunchy pancakes topped with perfectly cooked prawns. The mains had the perfect amount of chilli. The beef melted in your mouth, with the rich gravy bringing it all together.

Between the main and the pudding, Thomasina was interviewed by celebrity MasterChef winner, Emma Kennedy. Giving us an insight into how she got into food and the opening of her restaurant chain, Wahaca.

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The meal was finished off with one of my favourites puds, a slice of treacle tart. Lovely, although my mum’s is better.

We left feeling satisfyingly full, with a new fondness for mexican food and a promise to make sure we went to more Literature Festival events next year.

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Portraits of Cheltenham: The Newborn

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while. I could come up with a million excuses like wedding planning, working etc but the main reason is probably not always having the confidence to approach random people. I was put to the test with my next portrait. Luckily he was feeling generous with his time and allowed me a snap-shot.

Meet Oscar.

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My oldest friend Emma gave birth to this little guy just over 3 weeks ago. He’s a teeny-tiny bundle of cuteness that kept us both entertained whilst out for lunch. It’s impossible to not get a little broody, just look at that face.

Unique finds

As part of my campaign with HomeSense I was tasked with visiting the new Cheltenham store to source some of their unique items and share my findings with you guys.

This was not a particularly hard task as all their items are unique. It’s perfect if you want your home to look different and offer some originality. I found some amazing gems that I’m keen to purchase for mine and Alan’s ‘bottom draw’.

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I love some of the vintage pieces like the vinyl player, such a great statement item or the skull bookends. So many items that can help show off your indiviual style. Some of the more classic items look like you’ve spent a fortune when in fact you’ve got a bargain.

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This whole campaign with HomeSense has given me itchy feet, I can’t wait to fill a home with unique little trinkets that don’t cost a fortune. If only I could say the same about house prices…