Monday, 28 January 2013

Minestrone Soup

I super LOVE minestrone soup - the proper stuff, mama's true Italian.

Its definitely something I would choose to have if it was on a menu. The flavour, the goodness, you can't really beat it for a soup.

I have created my own recipe 3/4 times now and thought I would share it. I use my slow cooker to do this but it can easily be done without, I just prefer the slow cooker way of cooking if its possible.

The ingredients as always can be varied but the more variety the better.

Olive oil
Carrot (diced)
Celery (diced)
Courgette (diced)
Green beans (chopped)
Leeks (chopped)
Potatoes (diced)
Dried oregano, basil
Chicken/Vegetable Stock
Chopped Tomatoes/Tomato Passata
Tomato Puree
Salt, pepper
Cayenne Pepper

Start with the olive oil, onion garlic (butter).

Chop all the vegetables and add it all in.

Add the herbs, salt and pepper (and any other seasoning you may wish)

Pour in the stock and chopped tomatoes/passata. Add the tomato puree and just a little bit of cayenne pepper (depending on the spice level but I like to give it just a little kick, not too overpowering).

I tend to use tomato passata rather than chopped tomatoes just because its thinner and I like my minestrone soup thin. This is why I tend not to add flour to my minestrone recipe but if you prefer it thick, flour is best used.

If cooking with a slow cooker, leave to cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

I top it off with parmesan to finish in true Italian style (sometimes I also add some tortilla strips with the parmesan just because I like it on some soups).

Optional additional ingredients:

Small knob of butter (just to give it some more flavour)
Flour (thickening agent)
Small cup of water (to water it down, if the flavour is a bit intense)
Striped lettuce leaves
Pasta (add 10 minutes prior to serving)

In terms of quantities of ingredients, I tend to use as much as I like for the vegetables but making it suitable for 2 people. I add quarter of an onion, 2 cloves of garlic, salt and pepper (approx. a teaspoon). 1 can or pack of tomato and 1 big sachet of stock (500ml). Chicken stock I find does give it fuller flavour so thats my preference.

Happy cooking :)

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Christmas: Connecticut and Fort Myers

Naples, Fl
Christmas seemed to come and go fast but then it always does, time flies when having fun.

It got off to a bad start... Heathrow (as usual) was a pain in the ar*e. I was put in a check-in line that wasn't moving and consisted of about 80+ people when I had already checked in! When I complained I was in the wrong line 'surely I should be in bag-drop' a woman shuffled me out and put me in a line of 4!  HUGE difference (and a time-saver, I was already a little late).

Checked-in, ran to security, only to face more problems. The main issue seemed to be my iPad and it wasted literally 10 minutes I didn't have for some lady to look at it who seemed to have all the time in the world...

Ran to the boarding gate, grabbed coffee and snack to go (I don't bond well with aeroplane food) and then boarded the flight all in slight panic as I was definitely one of those last few on - but thankfully not holding up the flight.

I breezed through the cabin looking at my seat number on my ticket as I passed (usually would have checked by now but was in such a rush) only to realise I had gone too far

Seat 6C?
Hold up.
I'm at 13F, I need to turn back
but back is business?
(walks back)
Flight attendant: 'Ma'am, are you ok?' (as I look all flustered)

I thought I would save embarrassment of asking if I was in the correct seat (when its clearly labelled and a part of me was thinking just sit down) don't make a scene or ask questions, they might have made a mistake take it while you can!
So I sat down in business with quite a big smile on my face as she handed me a glass of bubbles :) to a bad good start
inflight menu
wine and dessert :)

I landed in JFK on Xmas eve, my sister picked me up who lives in CT which was nice as I haven't been before so made it easy.

When we got to CT I was amazed at how pretty it is. Better than expected. A really pretty quaint town
(Obviously, wintery feel of snow and Christmas lights etc always helps) - and it definitely was freezing.

After CT we flew down to Fort Myers to some warmer weather, lots of sunshine :)

Fort Myers and Naples are perfect for good weather in Dec/Jan, so I love visiting there and the great shopping is a bonus. Also visited Cape Coral for the first time but didn't enjoy it as much. It's quite basic, with not much of a store or restaurant around, extremely residential so not ideal for visiting. The Westin Marina where we stayed though was really nice and I actually miss the condo there it was so nicely done, I felt right at home! and has some amazing views. The other downside was that it was on the bay so there was a mass of mosquitoes, and they were MASSIVE. Quite literally (with boots on!).

Westin Marina (condo), Cape Coral
The more and more I'm lucky enough to get away to places with good sunshine I find it hard to come back to the UK. It's so cold and grey - at the moment its snowing which is better than the rain but I prefer the sun anyday...

Westin Marina Bay view

Monday, 21 January 2013

Sienna X gradual tan

I am no fan of fake tan, the mess, the risk, its a bit much.

Gradual tans however, pre-mixed with moisturiser, are a nice and hassle-free way to get that hint of colour.

I particularly have been loving 'Sienna X' for all its good giving qualities.

Pros -
Reasonably priced
No stickiness
No nasty fake tan smell
No risk of streaks/patchiness 
No orangeness 
Dries within 5 minutes
Pump action bottle
Not tested on animals
Paraben free

Cons -
The tan doesn't last as long as I would like but then I haven't found any that do!

This also has a good list of ingredients including -
Aloe vera, sweet almond oil and cocoa butter

How I apply -
Before bed (just preference). Exfoliate. Moisturise. Apply with hands. Wash hands. Apply tiny amount onto hands - massage - use a wet wipe on inner palms. Go to bed. Wake up golden brown and happy. 
(Really I could have been on the beach for the past 8 hours, wishful thinking in my head, but actual feeling by the look of my skin).

One application does the job. Leaves skin smooth and faintly smelling rather like coconuts. 

This also contains some form of anti-cellulite formulation with the aid of lemon peel oil and butcher's broom, though I can't really confess to the powers of that (not because I don't have cellulite, lord knows most of us do and how astonishingly difficult it is to get rid of).

If you do like the other types of tan, Sienna X do have a range online, including an instant bronzing gel, selection of body products and some cosmetics.

All in all a good brand to know and love. 

For that hint of colour all year round Sienna X is your good friend. :)


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