I love cooking. But I’m not a very adventurous cook. I think, like many people who work fulltime, I tend to stick to the same tried and tested recipes most nights, out of convenience rather than anything else. So I recently decided to set myself the task of trying out a new recipe every weekend that I’m home – which is probably about once a month in reality. Most of these are main dishes which can then be added into the weekly rotation. I thought I would share a few of my favourites:
- Chicken Sauternes with tarragon and pea and lemon rice. This was a very decadent but delicious meal and surprisingly easy. I’ve actually only made this once but I keep intending to make it again. The recipe if from Lorraine Pascale’s How To Be a Better Cook. I really love Lorraine Pascale’s cookbooks – the recipes sometimes look a little daunting and long but actually they just explain every step really clearly and are so easy to follow.
- Lasagne. I can’t really believe that I hadn’t made this until recently. I make Bolognese a lot but only recently decided to venture beyond. My recipe (for the béchamel really) is from another Lorraine Pascale book: Home Cooking Made Easy. I still stick to my own tried and tested Bolognese recipe – in fact I usually make this for us a meal one night and save half for a lasagne later in the week. The leftovers make great packed lunches if you have a microwave for reheating.
- Courgette and green bean salad. This salad also from Lorraine Pascale’s How To Be A Better Cook. It makes a lovely spring/summer lunch and is very light and refreshing.
- Meringues. I love meringues and always remember my mum making these for summer desserts when we were little. When we went to a dinner party at a friend’s house for New Year, we offered to take dessert – and then panicked!! But I borrowed the recipe from my mum (from a very old Sainsbury’s dessert recipe book) and they were so simple. Made them again for the same friends for dinner last weekend too!
- Red pesto. This is a recipe by the other much talked about food/chef bloggers of the year, Hemsley + Hemsley. I got their cookbook for Christmas. This recipe is actually from their website and is easy peasy. I throw everything into my Nutribullet and it’s ready to go.
- Lamb rogan josh. This is another recipe from How To Be a Better Cook and is so good. I’m a fan of curry recipes that use the spices to make a paste and this one tastes really authentic (I got the balti serving dishes in the photo above in Aldi!).
- Veggie chilli. I had the much talked about Deliciously Ella cookbook for my birthday and I love this recipe. The grated carrot creates a deliciously sweet alternative to the mince and I skip the kidney beans, just adding the black beans which are kinder on the stomach. An added bonus is using the Le Cruset dish we got for our wedding!
- Hummus. Another Deliciously Ella recipe. Not really a meal as such but a great healthy snack option for the office. Again, I make this in my Nutribullet and it always works.
If you want to see what I’m cooking up in my kitchen, make sure to follow the blog on Instagram @sugarandspicesg
- Get the right underwear! Seems obvious but maybe not. Make sure to try on your choice underneath your white dress too. I bought the white dress above for my honeymoon, so threw my white wedding knickersinto my suitcase and figured I was sorted. Turns out, white doesn’t always work with white! Cue a quick trip to Italian lingerie store Intimissimi for “the right pair”!
- Be careful what you eat. I chose spaghetti for dinner in this white dress. Risky. But it didn’t have the dreaded tomato sauce – it came with mussels, garlic and oil, which don’t stain – so badly! I also used my napkin!
- Finally, don’t be afraid! For so long I’ve been terrified of wearing white but I think my wedding day may have cured me of that fear!
- Oh ok then, another two for good luck!! Toughen up your white look with black accessories à la Alex at The Frugality.
- For a more summer holiday look, team with delicate gold accessories to really highlight your tan.
Will you be wearing white this summer? Do you have any handy tips?
My hubby (still feels strange to write that!) and I have just got back from our Italian honeymoon. We spent two and a half weeks touring the islands in the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi coast. It was wonderful. But moving around every few days with a heavy suitcase has made me reassess how I pack for my holidays.
This post from Garance Doré totally sums up my attitude to holiday packing. Wicker baskets – lovely idea but how?? Beach towels – great in theory, HEAVY and BIG in practice. Straw hat – stylish but impossible to pack. Toiletries – bulky, heavy but oh-so necessary! Souvenirs? How do you even begin to fit your holiday purchases in?
The answer to these holiday packing dilemmas? Here’s what I’ve learnt (if you want to read Garance’s take, you can find it here):
- Wicker baskets – great for weekend trips and picnics at home, when taking the car! Not for holidays. Unless you can snag a really cheap version at your destination.
- Beach towels – leave them at home! A Pareo or Hamman style towel which are much thinner and, therefore, lighter are the way to go – plus, as they are cotton, they work as a sarong/cover-up too. I spotted these everywhere on the Amalfi coast but my suitcase was already so full and heavy that even a light towel/sarong was too much. Instead, I’ve hunted out some reasonably priced versions at Notonthehighstreet.com.
- Straw hat – wear it, don’t pack it. This is not the approach favoured by Garance but I am still quite attached to the look, so wear my hat for my trip.
- Toiletries – if you can do without your usual brand, buy abroad. If you’re travelling with friends/partners/family, share the load and the bottles. Alternatively, order them online at Boots, to pick up at the airport, after security and ditch anything left before heading home.
- Holiday purchases. This is a trickier one. Leaving space in a suitcase can feel like a waste but also means no room for those inevitable purchases. One way I do it, is ditching the toiletries I packed and making room for them. Alternatively, throw in a couple of rolls of loo roll – they’ll come in handy on your travels and are surprisingly big – you could certainly fill the space they leave with a pair of new holiday sandals and a few pieces of holiday clothing!
What are your top travelling tips?
Since moving to the country from the city just over a year ago, my shopping habits have had to change. Online shopping has become my most usual retail therapy and trips to the shops are more of a special occasion these days. Over the past 12 months, I’ve learned a few things about how to shop online and thought I’d share them with you.
Shopping online is quite a different experience to shopping in store and it has it’s pros. The first is that you can try on the pieces with those you already have in your wardrobe and make sure that they do work before committing to them. You also have the bonus of being able to try on in the comfort of your own home which means no harsh changing room lights, no annoying queues and no awkward communal changing room experiences!
But there are a few tips for making sure that the cons don’t outway the pros on the online shopping front:
- Be prepared to make returns. If you’re not prepared to make returns when shopping online, don’t do it. You’ll end up wasting too much money as the chances of getting the right size and the right piece the first time are slim, particularly if it’s a new store.
- Look out for free delivery and free return codes. Delivery and return costs add to the price of online shopping and are costs that aren’t refunded if you decide to return an item. Almost all online stores offer free shipping and returns at some point, be savvy and keep an eye out.
- Sign up for newsletters and email updates from your favourite online stores. This is the best way to making sure you’re the first to find out about free delivery and return codes, as well as other discount codes. If you’re on twitter, follow our #sssavings for the latest discount codes that we can get our hands on too.
- Know your size. If you’re in the city, try to make it to the stores you shop in online and get trying on. Not only is it quite fun when you don’t often get the opportunity but it’ll also help you learn about the fit and sizes in the different shops and will, hopefully, cut down on the number of returns you have to make.
- If you’re not able to get into town for a good ol’ trying on session, order a few size options, if you’re unsure. This is where free returns come in handy. As with shopping in store, don’t be afraid to size up (or down) to get the right fit from a piece.
- Pay off your bills on time. Many online stores offer credit for their customers which is great – as long as you remember to pay them on time, otherwise you’ll end up stung with late charges and interest payments. If you can avoid credit payments, do.
Do you have any top tips for shopping online?
We’re counting down the days until spring. We realise that last weekend was officially the start of spring, but tell that to the weather – this week has been colder than it has been for a while!
Before we can finally pack away the winter woollies for the summer, we’ve been finding ways to put spring into our wardrobe right now:
1. Beauty is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to update your look for spring. I’ve been swapping my dark nail colours for lighter, more nude tones.
2. Add a splash of colour to your sombre winter looks with a swipe of coral or orange lipstick – it’ll brighten any outfit.
3. Shed the layers – throw on a jacket for warmth. A jacket will look a little less wintry than a big coat but will still keep any chill off, like a leather jacket with a big scarf.
4. Swap your winter boots for bright flats. I’ve thrown off my knee high winter boots in favour of brightly coloured ballet flats.
How are you introducing spring to your wardrobe right now?
I’ve been trying for the past year or two, to streamline my wardrobe and create a collection of clothes that will see me from season to season.
There are a few reasons for this approach:
- Space. A lack of space has forced me to rethink how I shop and fill my wardrobe. Our new house (of 18 months) has a much smaller wardrobe space than my previous house.
- Moving house. Having moved house three times in as many years, I have used each move as an opportunity to edit my wardrobe.
- Money. Another lack of – this time, money. Those moves haven’t been cheap and we’re saving for a wedding, which never comes cheap. By choosing pieces that will last, I am saving money each season.
- “I-have-nothing-to-wear” moments. A streamlined wardrobe is much easier to filter through in the mornings and means I more often know exactly what I will wear. Plus, I’m trying hard to make sure that everything goes with everything else.
There are a few rules I’m sticking to when buying new pieces for my wardrobe:
- Have I already got something like it? This isn’t always as simple as it seems. Sometimes buying multiples of something I know I will wear till it falls apart is actually a good idea. But if I’m buying something that I already have or that is very similar, I have to make double sure that I will wear both.
- Do I love it? If I don’t absolutely have to have it, I won’t be parting with my money.
- Do I have the money for it? I’m trying not to throw purchases on my credit card these days – no matter how much I really really want them. If I want it that much, I can wait till pay day, or save up my pennies for it.
- Does it go with everything else in my wardrobe? Ok, so not everything. That would be impossible. But I’m no longer buying pieces that I know I will need to buy new shoes/new jacket/new bag to go with! That is not frugal. Plus, it rarely happens and then the new piece sits in the wardrobe for months, before being donated to the local charity shop, tags still on.
- Does it come in black? I know, I know, some of you will be thinking, black? But frankly, if it’s in black, I’m far more likely to wear it. I love black on black outfits and so I know that it doesn’t matter what the piece, if it comes in black, it’ll go with nearly everything in my wardrobe.
Do you have rules you use when shopping?
This weekend we’re off for a dinner party with friends. The first obvious question before any event like this is, what to wear? So I thought I’d share my top tips for dressing for a dinner party:
1. Statement necklace:
Choose a statement necklace to accessorise your dinner party outfit. You’ll be sitting down most, or all, of the evening, so you want your top half to be the talking point. If you’re going out for dinner, it might seem like an ideal opportunity to wear sky high heels as you’ll not be standing or walking too much, but they will also be hidden away under the table most of the night.
2. Statement party top:
As before, keep the emphasis on your top half. Choose a blingy top – with jeans or leggings.
3. Party jumper:
If it’s likely to be chilly, a dinner party, or dinner out, is the ideal opportunity to choose a party jumper. Jewelled or sequinned jumpers will keep you warm and look like you’ve made an effort too.
4. Statement earrings:
If a necklace isn’t your thing, tie your hair up and put on your best pair of sparkly earrings. They are bound to draw attention of the right kind.
How do you dress up for a dinner party?