Friday Randoms

It’s Friday! Woohoo! And it is really cold. Very frosty and chilly. But the mornings are lighter and the days are feeling longer. I thought I’d do a recap of the last few days and some random points I wanted to share.

Poor Ben, he pulled a muscle in his back on Tuesday evening…pulling on a jumper. Men! What are they like? He ended up being in agony. So the next day he took a day off work to try and recover but in the end he needed to go to the doctors. He couldn’t drive and I was at work so unfortunately he had to wait until Thursday when I could work from home.

I had a 5 mile run planned so got up early and did that Thursday morning and then we rushed straight out to get to the morning appointment. No time for a proper breakfast so this had to sustain me:

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Black coffee and banana. It placated the starving beast within for a short while…

#1 Random Point – does anyone else detest the doctors? I appreciated everything they do, don’t get me wrong. But I feel at risk of catching something at the actual place. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit paranoid and OCD about dirt and germs, but seriously I will never touch those magazines no matter how much the front cover is screaming at me. And everyone there just looks depressed and ill. It’s not a happy place (which I guess is to be expected).

Anyway, after Ben had seen the doctor he came out looking a bit sheepish. His back just required a bit of time to heal as it was ‘only’ a pulled muscle and nothing serious. Ben did tell me he used his appointment wisely though.

#2 Random Point – Ben decided to talk to the doctor about a whole list of issues he’s been experiencing – back unrelated – to make his trip “worth while” (e.g. he’s had a sore foot for a while). Men hate going to the doctors, so when they have to go it’s almost like they’ve saved up a list of problems so they don’t have to go back for another 10 years.

We then went home and I got on with some work. Alfie was a bit confused with my presence and I think a little bit annoyed that I wasn’t sat on the couch with him enjoying some Alfie-Anna time.IMG_3818

I was sat at our dinner table trying to focus. Then this happened:

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He jumped straight up on my lap as if to say “hellooo, remember me?” This makes using a lap top a bit tricky…

After giving him some snacks I managed to get him to fall asleep on the floor next to me so I could concentrate.

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More coffee.

#3 Random Point – coffee tastes so much better in your favourite mug.

Oh speaking of mugs. I do have a mug at work which I leave in the kitchen. Now I know it doesn’t exactly have my name on it but it does annoy me when in the morning I go to make a coffee and find it’s not there. THEN later in the day I see that culprit with it and making their drink in it. Rude. I mean seriously, is it not clear?

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Being at home, it was nice that I could have whatever I wanted for lunch. I had got myself in the mood for scrambled egg and cream cheese when I realised we only had two eggs, rather than my preferred three. So I rustled around and made myself a random combination of chicken, random veggies (carrots, mushrooms & spinach), plumbs, cream cheese and BBQ sauce.

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The sweetness of the plumbs and BBQ went well with the creaminess of the cream cheese. Not a bad meal!

In the evening, after doing the food shop, I had my scrambled eggs so I was happy. I had cream cheese, mushrooms (again) and onion.

#4 Random Point – I’ve only just discussed a brilliantly easy way of finely chopping onions without being a whizz chef with an amazing knife.

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By keeping one of the ends on it holds it all together so you can easily chop it. Many of you I imagine are now going “yeah, duh!” but I never knew this! [And I wanted to show off my favourite apple chopping board Smile]

#5 Random Point – we have so much cake still in our freezer it’s ridiculous.

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This is pretty much the entire bottom drawer full of cake. Cake from our wedding, cake from last Christmas and cake from the Christmas before.

Speaking of cake. I had an attack of the munchies on Sunday and decided it was time to kill my mini bride.

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This was the top tier of our wedding cake and it’s been sat just hanging around for ages .It’s fruit cake so it’s fine to last but those little people needed to go. As in, be eaten.

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Ben had his groom as well. I was quite hyped up on sugar after that…but it was definitely worth it. RIP, mini bride.

Right, so it’s almost the weekend – hurrah! Tomorrow I have my 12 mile run planned for the morning, then I drive to Bristol to meet up with my university friends to celebrate one of their birthdays. Then I drive back Sunday. Busy busy but lots of fun I hope!

What are you up to this week?

If you’re married, what was your cake like? Ours was lemon for one tier, vanilla and jam for the middle tier, and then fruit for the top.

Do you have a favourite mug? I have a favourite coffee mug and a favourite hot chocolate mug (which is huuuge, I like my hot chocolates super-sized!)

Cake, cake, and, er, more cake?

Oh I do love Sundays. Once all the housework is done and everything sorted, it is just nice to put the kettle on, make a cup of tea and just relax. And the weather is beautiful today! The sun is shining and it’s not absolutely freezing.

So this week has been fairly tough in terms of running. Getting back into it after skiing was hard. But after the first run it eventually got back to normal.

Monday – 6 miles with an average pace 8mins20sec. Normally I find running at this speed quite easy but it was really tough.

Tuesday – 4 mile interval run. I did several intervals throughout this run and then ran slowly after each one so average pace doesn’t really mean much.

Wednesday – 3mile lunchtime run with a guy at work. I saw this as my easy recovery run as we were chatting and just enjoying the fresh air. Average pace of 8mins26sec.

Thursday – 5 mile tempo run. Between miles 2 to 4.5 I maintained a steady 7mins50sec (total time of 39mins56sec, which I think is my best 5 mile yet!).

Friday – rest day, and boy did I need it!

Saturday – this was my 10 mile long run. I got up early on Saturday, walked Alfie and then set off. During the first mile I wanted to go home as I just couldn’t be bothered. But I persevered and got into it as I hit the second mile. Here are my average paces for each mile:

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I’m over the moon with this. The run was hard, don’t get me wrong, but not impossible and I wasn’t dead by the end (I was ready for home though!) This has really made me consider running the half marathon faster than 8mins/mile.

Best thing about this run? I got beeped by someone. TWICE. Once at the start of the run and then at mile 9! I mean seriously, I’m wearing glasses, looking sweaty, dishevelled and basically about to keel over. Fairly chuffed with that haha. There are some weird men in the world!

After the run I showered and then shovelled about a kilo of oatmeal into me (long run = Anna the Hungry Beast). Then Ben and me had to dash around to his mum’s house where we were helping to prepare for her birthday open house celebration.

Ben helped with sorting the drinks out and I took charge of the food (let’s stick with what we’re good at!) It was quite a casual affair to be held in the afternoon in her house with drinks and nibbles so there wasn’t masses to prepare but there was enough to keep us busy before 1pm! Ben’s mum and me had previously gotten together the week before to decide on what nibbles to go for and I think in the end we were very happy with our selection!

I made tomato mozzarella sticks:

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These were basically mozzarella balls, a sliced cherry tomato and a bit of basil on a cocktail stick with salt and pepper. Simple! Thankfully simple considered I had to assemble a million of them haha.

Then there were smoked salmon and cream cheese blinis:

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Again very easy. We bought pre-made blinis, put them in the oven for 5 minutes. Then smeared cream cheese on top, added a torn piece of smoked salmon and then sprinkled a garnish of dill on top.

I made hummus the night before so we had that with crudités and bread sticks:

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I don’t think this was my best hummus ever. Because I made twice as much as usual it wasn’t as lemony and garlicky as before. But it was still OK!

The most tricky thing to prepare were the cheesey garlic mushrooms:

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I used THIS recipe. It was quite fiddly cutting out stalks and preparing the filling. This was the most time-consuming nibble to make, but luckily we had enough time.

Along with these home-made pieces, we also had garlic bread, Doritos and salsa, cocktail sausages, and sausage rolls:

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It went down very well I think. Almost all the garlic mushrooms went. They were so good – totally recommend! It was really relaxed and lovely with Ben’s mum’s friends milling around enjoying the food and drink and chatting with everyone. Ben and me tried to make sure that his mum had nothing to worry about, which meant we were dashing about a lot! But I loved it. I love doing things like this (like when we had the Boxing Day buffet round ours).

My parents also came and my dad shocked me once again by bringing round a home-made apple tart that HE had made. Well, that’s TWO baking adventures he’s had in one week.

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French custard, home-made pastry…oh my goodness. The guests at the party went crazy for this. Luckily Ben and I even got to take a couple of slices home with us. Amazing! And yes, it tastes pretty darn good.

As much as I wanted to try the tart I thought I’d save myself for the birthday cake though (I have since munched on the tart at home though obviously).

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The cake was made by the same lady who made our wedding cake. The cake is perfect because Ben’s mum loves the gym and goes all the time. I just love the dumbbells and towel! So cute. And it tasted AMAZING. It was vanilla sponge with jam and buttercream.

While the cake was being cut I luckily managed to reserve a corner piece (well, I had worked hard all day!) – losing out on the first corner to Ben’s uncle who got in there quicker (mental note: must improve my speed on these things). Corner piece = more icing. Then as there happened to be another normal piece floating about I had that too. Can I just clarify that they were little pieces? Like the size of an IPhone (and that is an official cake measurement just so you know Winking smile).

However, the third piece was just plain greedy, even I will admit. Ben and me were haggling over sharing this third piece but couldn’t find a fair enough way to split it so that both of us a) got enough icing and b) got enough buttercream. In the end Ben just said “Oh for goodness sake, I’m having my own piece”. Well…if I’m pushed to it!

I felt I had very successfully rewarded myself after my long run after all Open-mouthed smile

Then after all too soon Ben and me quickly tidied up so his mum didn’t have to and then collapsed onto the sofa to chill and reflect on such a good day before going home (with some leftovers in tow – hurrah!)

Such a good day and everyone looked like the had a good time. We were shattered in the evening and had a nice early night. So today we had a nice lie-in, did the housework and now we’re just relaxing. Perfect.

How has your weekend been?

What nibbles would you/have you made for a party? I think the best advice I can give is, don’t make everything. Make a few really nice things and then do more simple crowd pleasers alongside (i.e. cocktail sausages).

What do you hone in on at buffets? The savoury stuff or the sweet?

Friday catch-up and Valentine fail

It’s Fridaaaay! I think my absolute favourite time of the week is Friday evening just as I get in from work. It’s that glorious moment of ‘whew the week is done’.

This week has been pretty good in terms of key dates – Shrove Tuesday and Valentine’s Day. And also, my dad’s birthday (which is also 14th February). Happy birthday for yesterday, dad!

So Tuesday evening Ben and me celebrated Pancake Day with eating pancakes for dinner. Ben had the standard egg, milk and flour pancakes with sugar and lemon. I even managed to convince him to use wholemeal flour (OK, we didn’t have any regular flour so there wasn’t much choice). I’m not a big fan of the sugar and lemon variety, but luckily I was inspired earlier in the day from the lovely Ffion from ChocolateAndRaspberries blog.

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Definitely wanted to give them a go and such a simple recipe! So I microwaved some chopped sweet potato for around 5 minutes, let is cool and then whizzed it up with one egg with a hand blender and then fried a few batches in coconut oil. They didn’t quite work out as I hoped in terms of presentation – they fell apart. However, they tasted mighty delicious!!

IMG_3760I topped them off with some stewed plumbs (cooked in a bit of a water and sugar) and then added a good dollop of PB2. Really, really good. Thank you Ffion!

Thursday was obviously Valentine’s Day and my dad’s birthday and it was our work bake off and bake sale. I was planning on making lemon drizzle cake and some cheese scones but on Wednesday night I didn’t get back from work until fairly late…So I decided to just stick to cheese scones. I used THIS recipe and didn’t amend it at all.

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In true Anna fashion, something always goes wrong with me and baking. It’s usually because I don’t read recipes properly. It doesn’t matter so much in cooking but baking is more precise and so the problems arise for me. The recipe instructions said:

Lightly dust the surface with a little flour. roll out the dough no thinner than 2cm

I read that to be that I was to roll it out to be 2cm, no thicker. So I got very mini flat scones. And loads of them! They were more cheese biscuits than scones. They still tasted good though – and the recipe says they’re 130 calories per each one, but as I made twice as much they’re likely to be half that Smile

On Thursday morning I put my scones next to all the other bake goods that had been brought in and I felt mine didn’t quite living up to their peers. Ah well.

Bake off

There was a carrot cake, two banana breads, chocolate muffins, chocolate cupcakes, Mars Bar crispy cakes, ginger cake, lemon drizzle, my cheese scones/biscuits, more muffins, and a marble cake.

Well, we had to stand there and watch one of the managers try a small piece of each cake to make his mind up which was going to win. It was excruciating as I just wanted cake!! And watching him stuff his face was unbearable. At this point I couldn’t care less who won!

In the end one of the banana breads came third, the Mars Bar cake came second, and the marble cake came first.

Marble cake We later found out that it was actual the winner’s wife who made this cake, not him! Haha.

Anyway, though I wanted a bit of everything I went for two Mars Bar crispy cakes as honestly they were UNBELIVABLY good (I had one and just had to go back for a second), a small slice of carrot cake (very moist and yummy) and a small slice of lemon drizzle as this was my dad’s cake. I couldn’t believe it when he told me he’d baked. He never bakes. I have never known him to bake anything in my entire life.

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And it was very good!

I was hyped up and full of sugary goodness by 10.30am. Can’t complain.

We then sent them down to reception to sell for charity to the other companies in the building. I was really chuffed later as I saw a woman from another office walking along with two of my biscuits.

So it was Valentine’s Day. Ben and me had previously agreed to do nothing. I’m not that sentimental in that I need a card or chocolates to know Ben cares. Now I have nothing against other people celebrating it together and sending flowers – if that makes you happy, enjoy it! For Ben and me it was important at the beginning of our relationship when I was at university and he was at home, so sending flowers and cards was lovely as I didn’t get to see him that regularly. This year we just wanted to save some money and not bother.

BUT in the afternoon I was sat in a meeting when someone came in and told me there was a huge bunch of flowers in reception for me. I couldn’t stop the huge grin on my face and feebly saying “we said we weren’t doing Valentine’s Day this year…”. I skipped off down to the reception and found a box of flowers waiting for me to unwrap. The receptionist helped me and we giggled together about how lovely it was. I opened it to find twelve beautiful roses.

Ben’s never sent me roses before (other flowers, yes, but not roses) so I was surprised and initially thought it was a little bit of a cliché but these thoughts were quickly swept away with happy thoughts of how romantic Ben was in a very classic way.

As I headed upstairs I opened the little card that comes with it:

“Love you lots, love Rob xxx”

Who the hell is Rob?? They must have confused the cards! That’s all I could think. As I headed back to the office one of my colleagues saw the flowers and commented how lovely. I told him about the card and said how strange it was. He burst out laughing and said “Rob is the other Anna’s partner”.

Oh. My. God. Reception rang the WRONG Anna (there are two Anna’s in our office) and gave me her flowers. So I walked back into the office, sheepishly gave the other Anna her flowers and apologised for opening them. How embarrassing is that? The whole office thought it was hilarious. I did find it quite amusing (after my cheeks had faded from the beetroot colour). I mean, you have to laugh, right? I told Ben and he felt really bad.

As he should Winking smile

So that’s my week. I’ll do a recap on my running at the weekend – it’s been a hard week! And I have a 10 mile run planned for tomorrow morning so finger’s crossed it goes well.

Did you celebrate Pancake Tuesday? What kind of pancake did you have?

Did you enjoy Valentine’s Day? Any surprises?

What would you make for a bake off?

Christmas and Boxing Day

Well, doesn’t Christmas just zoom by? It’s sad how quickly it’s flies by. But I had such a lovely time! I feel so much better than I did thankfully. I still have a cough but my body no longer hates me!

Christmas morning I woke up early, got my running stuff on and went for a run. Hurrah! It had been far too long. And it definitely felt that way – it was really tough, like I hadn’t been running for months! How depressing. Also Christmas day was absolutely tipping it down so I only ran 2 miles – and definitely not a fast 2 miles! I started to get worried I was going to make myself ill again because I was soaked through. Luckily though I was fine.

Then I had a steaming hot shower and got dressed ready to face the day! Because I am quite boring and predictable, I just had my usual porridge for breakfast (sorry re-used photo).

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The only sad thing is that I haven’t been eating my usual amount as I my stomach isn’t quite back to normal yet in terms of quantity food in the morning. So I had a smaller bowl, which I guess is a good thing considering there would be a lot of food later!

Then Ben’s mum came over to spend the day and my parents dropped by to give us some gifts. I got some brilliant presents. From my parents:

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I am so pleased about the waffle maker!! I can’t wait to make some yummy fluffy waffles. And the Game of Thrones book is amazing. So many beautiful photos and behind the scenes information from the series. I am 75% of the way through the fifth book. It is EPIC. I need to read something lighter afterwards I think, it’s quite intense.

Then when my parents left I got into the kitchen and got things going. I put the two turkey joints that we were having in the oven, peeled carrots, washed parsnips, prepared the stuffing…and then when everything was in the oven I prepared our starter. I didn’t take a photo but we had little bite-sized cream cheeses wrapped in smoked salmon.

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Because I had a fair amount to do I bought them ready made – don’t kill me!

Then the main event. My favourite meal of the year. I was so worried when I was ill that  wouldn’t fancy it or have an appetite for it, but there was no issue hehe.

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Absolute heaven! I roasted the parsnips and carrots in a little oil, salt and pepper and a tiny bit of treacle to make them sticky. Devine!

Because we were all stuffed and Alfie was antsy, it seemed liked a perfect time for a post-Christmas meal walk! OK, maybe I was the only one excited about this. I just love being nosey and seeing through people’s windows and what they’re up to [OK, to clarify, I don’t actually go up to the windows and peer through like a stalker!!].

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Ben wasn’t too keen on leaving his new Xbox games for a walk, but what can I say? We’re married and he is scared of loves his wife.

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Then we came back and had some pudding. I had my standard apples as I’m not a fan of Christmas pudding. Listen to this, Ben had brandy butter, brandy cream and Courvoisier cream with his. He said he felt quite sick afterwards haha.

However, later I did treat myself to my most favourite cake in the world.

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Christmas cake!! And a corner piece of course (most icing and marzipan! Ben and I fight over these pieces).

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It’s soo rich and delicious. That was supper!

Throughout the day we opened presents of course. I got some amazing gifts. Lots of running gear from Ben’s mum which I’m so pleased about as I never buy running stuff and it’s nice to have some brand new clothes!

I got a beautiful necklace stand, a couple of scarves and necklaces, some Next vouchers (amazing), DVDs and Jamie Oliver’s new cook book…and more!

Presents

I really am very lucky and very grateful. One of the best presents? ONESIES!!!

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And then we played some cards and just chilled. It was perfect! Time well spent with the family.

Oh and Alfie for a few presents too Smile

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Boxing day was a bit more mad. I had invited everyone over to ours for a Boxing Day buffet. I had set myself the task of making lots of bits and pieces for people to eat. So I spent the morning cooking and preparing for everyone (Ben’s mum, my parents, my granddad, my sister, brother-in-law, niece and obviously Ben & Ben’s dad who were already over).

I made hummus, tomato salsa, smoked mackerel pate, chopped some veg for crudités, sticky chicken bites, broad bean and courgette salad, normal salad, garlic bread, prawns with lemon mayo dip, and then some bits we bought like ham and sausage rolls. Ben was Mr Drinks when everyone arrived – which he does so well, bless him. So attentive! I just ran around like a headless chicken getting food together.

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Nick, my brother-in-law, kindly made his very tasty pulled pork as well!

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Then everyone got stuck in.IMG_3380

I was starving by the time we began eating. I guess cooking for like 5 hours does that to you!!

And obviously there was pudding. My parents brought over several things, bless them.Pudding

We obviously had the Christmas cake to share and I had made stollen on Christmas eve (the right photo).

And then we watched Ellie, my niece, open all her presents from my parents, Ben and I.

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And obviously brought out the big kid in us all…

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It was madness with so many people in our tiny house but it was such a lovely day. And I think everyone liked the food, which was such a relief as I was so worried.

Family

And then after everyone had left, we washed up and hoovered, and then flopped on the couch.

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Shattered! But a brilliant couple of days. And now we’re living off leftovers – which I personally think is the best thing ever.

How was your Christmas?

What did you eat?

Did you have a fun family-filled time?

Christmas cake (finally!), new trainers and Total Greek Yogurt review

Howdy all! Hope you’ve been having a nice weekend. On a random side-note, I have literally just painted my nails and am typing like a right idiot trying not to smudge them. I hate painting my nails as they never last that long with me as I always chip them. And the waiting around while they dry drives me mad. I’m not a person who can sit still and do nothing…so here I am typing like an idiot.

This weekend has been jam-packed and I feel shattered! But I only have a three day week next week (can I get a woohoo!) as I’m off from Thursday. It’s our work Christmas do Friday and Saturday and we’re off to Bruges! And partners are allowed to come as well! So excited. But from what I’ve heard about the Christmas parties (as I wasn’t here last year), they are quite wild. So watch this space…

Today I finally made the Christmas cake. Yes, yes most people have made theirs by now…but this weekend was the only time we could really do it. It’s quite a lengthy process. We used Ben’s mum very old (from 1949!) cook book for the recipe.Xmas cake recipe

It’s become a lovely tradition to make this cake. Before we had moved out, we watched Ben’s mum make it and then one year we helped her make it. And last year we made it on our own for the first time. And everyone will be able to enjoy it at Christmas. Basically we’re carrying on the tradition!

So this morning I got cracking. For once nothing went wrong (though saying that, it is currently still in the oven so…touch wood).

Xmas cake

[Check me out being all Christmassy with PicMonkey]

Christmas Cake

  • 350g (3/4lb.) butter 
  • 350g (3/4lb.) brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 500g (1lb.) flour
  • 500g (1lb.) sultanas
  • 500g (1lb.) currants
  • 100g (1/4lb.) raisins
  • 150g (6 oz.) candied peel
  • 50g (2 oz.) cherries, chopped
  • 100g (1/4lb.) chopped almonds
  • 1/2 tsp. mixed spice
  • 2 tbs. dark treacle
  • 1 small glass of brandy

– Preheat oven to 140C.

– Using a very large bowl, beat sugar and butter together until well combined.

– Beat in eggs one at a time until combined.

– Stir in the sifted flour, fruit, almonds, spice treacle and brandy. Mix well.

– Transfer to a tin well lined with baking paper. Bake for 6 hours and 20 mins.

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Mixing all the ingredients together is like an arm workout. Seriously it’s so thick by the end. And our bowl was almost too small to contain it all!

The cake is still in the oven and the smell is deeeelicious. But when it comes out we’ll need to cut the top bit off it as this will be very crispy and might even be burnt. Then we’ll get a lovely square cake which we’ll let cool and then wrap up for at least a week until we then marzipan and ice it.

As there’s always too much mixture for the tin, we tend to do a mini loaf. Though this year I wanted to make something a bit different…

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Mini Christmas cakes! Christmas cake muffins if you like. They themselves took an hour to cook! That’s how beasty and dense the cake batter is.

And this weekend I also went for a solo off-road run in my brand, new, amazing off-road trainers. I can’t stress just how much I adore these shoes.

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Check out those amazing treads!! Technically they’re a Christmas present from my sister…but I was allowed them early. So I ran a nice and easy (read: I didn’t go fast) 6 mile this morning to test them out.

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And my trainers rocked.

Run mud

[Before and after]

Not looking quite as shiny as before now but who really buys trainers to keep clean??

And a while ago now I was sent some Greek yogurts to try out: Total Greek Yogurt split pots (honey, blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry with pomegranate).

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I’m not a massive fan of snacking on Greek yogurt, or yogurt in general I must say. I prefer to add them into things to thicken up sauces etc. I’m not too keen on the taste of Greek yogurt on it’s own. That being said…the idea of adding something sweet and fruity to the yogurt appealed to me.

Greek yogs

The yogurt was very thick and creamy and adding in the fruit/honey compote made them much more exciting I found. The sugar content is quite high for each yogurt (around 11g per 100g and they’re 170g pots) but they were very tasty. And very filling (8g protein)!

A lovely afternoon treat I’d say Smile

Right I’m off to make dinner – baked chicken with plums! Nom nom nom.

What have you been up to this weekend?

Are you making/have you made a Christmas cake this year?

Do you like to run on roads or off-roads?