How to beat the back to work blues

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Here we are, for a great many this is the Sunday ahead of the Monday of going back to work. Which tends to feel a bit like this:

 

How to beat the back to work blues in 5 easy steps

 

Here’s a few ideas, sort of based around food, that might just help. A little.

 

Make Bircher muesli tonight for a better morning tomorrow

  1. Make a good breakfast ready to go the next morning the night before. I love Bircher muesli or any other version of overnight oats.

 

Roasted Parsnip & Carrot Soup - perfect for leftovers

2. On a similar theme, get your own lunch ready for tomorrow, unless you have a spectacularly good canteen at work. I’m thinking of a homemade soup with the leftover carrots and parsnips from Christmas. I like this recipe from Real Simple.

 

Treat yourself well with a dinner out

 

3. Let someone else cook dinner. Go on, it’s Monday, you’ve done a day at work, and there’ll be lots of offers around. You don’t have to go mad, but it’ll just feel really good to not cook or wash up tomorrow night.

4. Plan a trip. Doesn’t matter if it’s just a day trip or a full blown holiday, just having something to look forward to is a great feeling. There was a good guide in the Guardian of the places to visit in 2016, including Nottingham, Dublin and Penzance, for places that won’t necessarily break the bank. Do some research and make a table reservation or two as well.

 

Shopping lists at the ready

 

5. Plan some good meals for the rest of the week, and organise your shopping to be delivered on Tuesday evening so you’re ready to go. You’ll be too busy being out at dinner on Monday night.

Personally, I’m delaying the inevitable and not going back till Tuesday. If you need me, I’m taking a day of R&R at Champneys Springs and cannot wait.

 

Bircher muesli photo by Alpha and shopping list by Ex Smith on Flickr.

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So, what kind of food year was 2015?

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Seems an age since I wrote about my hopes for 2015 on the food front, when I was hoping that grip of the big four supermarkets on our shopping might continue to loosen. Well, according to reports, that seems to be happening.

 

#Backofchallenge - what food is lurking in your cupboard?

 

January saw me starting the Back of Challenge for unloved food. I have to say, I still have some of the things I took out of the cupboard then, although I haven’t replaced them and the cupboards are still somewhat emptier.

 

Chocolate Macarons from Drop Dead Chocolate - the most beautiful chocolates to gift to a food lover

 

February of course is about love and Valentine’s Day for many. I loved the chocolates from Drop Dead Chocolates, and would also have been very partial to a hamper from The Modern Pantry. To be honest, anything from the Modern Pantry would be great, any time of the year.

 

Beauty in the Juice? Or not.

 

In March I was being cynical about claims made for a fruit juice. I’m probably not finishing the year looking any younger, as I haven’t been drinking it, but then I’m also not siginificantly poorer either.

 

Favourite end to a fabulous trip of great eating in Australia

 

March and April saw MGG and I on our Australian adventures, and there were flat whites on many days. Although there was a reasonable amount of the local wine taken too. And a breakfast to remember at Bill Granger’s.

 

Cooked apple tart

 

By May we were focusing on heading to France, so helping the kids get into French food. I was also discovering that not every recipe book is well tested, and so recipes do fail.

 

Time for iced tea for Tea Jay

 

Praying for warm weather in June, then I was hoping for iced tea as well as hoping to get organised for next year’s World Gin Day. I was also being tempted by the Lakeland sale. Again. Somethings never change.

 

The best birthday cakes ever from my tribe

 

I had my unbirthday in July with some great cakes from the tribe. There was also a great debate about what kit was essential or not in a kitchen. Still think I’m missing some bits.

 

Distill your own gin at 45 Gin School, the best lesson I've been to in years. Perfect gift for a gin lover

 

August of course heralds the start of Bake Off, and I was musing on the 10 things I had learnt from Bake Off. It was also the month I went back to school, and made my own gin for the first time. Amazingly, there’s still some left.

 

My fabulous bread basket at Cafe Einstein

 

There was a gin theme in September too (ok, I know, when isn’t there?) as my favourite Advent calendar launched. And it probably turned up in my round up of 53 hours eating and drinking in Berlin.Though less so in my roundup from Rugby, although that does feature eggs Benedict.

 

Make Your Own Bacon - perfect gift for bacon loving food lover

 

October saw Christmas looming, and I reflected on the six gifts that food lovers hate to get. I also did a roundup of kits to make your own foodstuffs, of which bacon was the most popular. I also showed how to get a cocktail through a letterbox, one of my favourite tricks of the year.

 

That's no moon: Death Star cookie jar, great gift for a food lover with a Star Wars obsession

 

By November, the countdown was really on to the new Star Wars movie coming out, and I summoned up the foodie force for a guide to the best gifts around for Star Wars lovers. There’s also my top ten gifts for food lovers who love to entertain, just in time for the major entertaining season ahead, not to mention gifts for those just starting out on their own cooking journey.

 

The Best Gin Cocktails You've Ever Made. Apparently.

 

December was about getting ready for Christmas, whether the fun, with festive cocktails, or the practical, with funky tea towels for the drying up ahead. Not to mention my usual roundup of options if you had forgotten that Christmas was just around the corner.

Definitely a year of contrasts, and new adventures on several continents, but some great eating with good company, at our own tables and away from home too. Here’s hoping for more of the same in 2016. What are your food memories of 2015? Would love to know.

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Doing the Edinburgh Festivals? My Edinburgh food roundup

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Edinburgh Festivals for food lovers - so many gifts for the food lover

 

I really wish I was back in Edinburgh, as MGG and I had an amazing time there last year. As well as incredible shows, from dance to circus, drama to Zombie science, we managed to fit in some great eating, food shopping and space for one or two kitchen mementos.

If you’re going to be there for any amount of time, then you might want to check out a few of these, or just need something to ponder on as you eat and dash between shows.

 

Tin Tin in a Tea Pot - the first time I'd had a beer cocktail. In a teapot.

 

Our Edinburgh Food Fun & Finds gives you the highlights of our trip, for eating, drinking and seeing on the food front.

 

Time to head to Edinburgh

 

I loved the Fringe for the sheer variety of shows to pick from. Overhearing a conversation one night made me reflect on what an Edinburgh Fringe show has in common with a small food producer. More than you might think in my view!

Whilst this was a Christmas post, in Buy Them Experiences Not Things I talk about the great food walking tour that we did. Definitely recommend this for getting to taste some great food and discover some places a little more off the beaten track.

And then this is just a hint for a great place to go find good tea towels, one of my slight holiday obsessions!

And if I could only see one show again, then it would have to be Feet Don’t Fail Me Now from Rhythmic Circus. Ultimate feel good, incredible dancing!

Photos by Zoetnet and Dimitry B on Flickr

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The Tour de France of food

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The Tour de France passes through the next village to my mum’s in Brittany this weekend, and it’s not too long until we head out there. It’s made me think about the many wonderful food stuffs and meals I’ve had in my many trips out there.

 

This year's haul from France

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love British produce, and producers, and this is no longing for one cuisine over the other, just enjoying the best of everything. I wrote a couple of years ago about the things I stock up on in France, from brioche to Speculoos, and it’s good to see that more things are available more readily here now. And even gone one better in that I’ve never seen the crunchy Speculoos in France, but can get it in the local supermarket here now.

 

Beautiful in every way

 

We’ll be further north than I used to stay, but have to admit that I still hanker after a return trip (or seven) to the area around La Rochelle. A trip to the market and an ice cream from Ernest remain two of my favourite things in the world to do.

 

Channelling Juliette, hoping for Mr Depp

 

I still like to try and channel Juliette Binoche on days I need a little added something, and the older we both get, the more I admire her. That, and that I could rewatch Chocolat every day and not get bored of it. Let’s face it, with Juliette, Johnny, chocolate and beautiful French scenery, that’s a tour you’d never get bored of!

Can’t wait to start my own tour of France, though I shall be steering clear of Lycra and two wheels in any form!

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Anzac Biscuits recipe always to hand

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This weekend saw the very significant commemorations at Gallipoli, the start of the continuing legend of the Anzac troops.

 

Anzac Biscuits Tea Towel from Red Tractor Designs

 

I don’t really know the story of Anzac biscuits, but I do know they’re delicious. So Anzac Biscuits Tea Towel seemed to be a perfect combination of commemoration, recipe and memento!

From Red Tractor Designs, these are designed and printed in Australia and are available for international shipping. I may have to go back and order a Christmas in Australia one too!

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Land of the flat white

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MGG and I have been in Australia for nearly two weeks now, and loving every moment, even the few rainy ones. Of course I always expected to come out here to great food and drink, and given the amount we’ve packed in so far, caffeine has been required.

So, when in Rome and all that, switched my normal coffee to the ubiquitous, local flat white. With varying degrees of success! First up:

 

First but not last - a McDonalds Flat White

 

No surprises that this wasn’t great, but we were straight off the overnight flight from Hong Kong, it was warm & caffeinated and they have free wifi. First and last from them!

 

Three quarters latte, Manly style

 

A few hours later, and a coffee shop in Manly served up much better, though this is apparently a three quarters latte. Didn’t care, almost downed it in one, was beginning to flag!

 

The Box serves up a great Flat White. The wine list was pretty darned good too.

 

This was a scenic one, at The Box in Ettalong on the Central Coast at the end of a great lunch. Loved this place, hoping to go back.

But for most iconic, got to be this one:

 

Iconic flat white. When in Sydney, coffee at the Opera House

 

Opera Terrace at Sydney Opera House, in case you couldn’t guess. Thanks to my assistant/hand model for the visual clue! Perfect location for a first timer to Sydney, great coffee too.

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Ready for Macaron Day

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I’m not sure where this started or who started it, but I love the idea of a day of celebrating macarons! And if I can only have one, it would be this one:

 

Birthday macaron - fabulous raspberry and pistachio macaron from Pierre Morel in Vannes

 

Ok, cheating slightly as this was practically a cake, but it was my birthday. But I’m not passing by the market in Vannes anytime soon, so will have to live on memories. Or hope that somewhere in terminal 3 we might find some!

Happy Macaron Day anyway, hope some treats find their way to you!

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Getting good food ready to let the train take the strain

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British Rail Sandwich? Thankfully for food lovers there are many alternatives now.

 

I had two trips to London this week, which is always a good opportunity to try new things, or at least new to me things. Especially when I’m on the slower train back to Nottingham at lunchtime, which means an opportunity for a train picnic from Sourced Market at St Pancras.

I’m trying to eat a gluten free diet, because I feel better without it, so all the delicious bread and sandwiches were off the menu. But no loss, as I had these chicken teriyaki lettuce wraps from Tanpopo Japanese Food. It was fresh tasting, crunchy and I loved the peanut sauce.

 

Chicken Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps

 

It does feel like an endless journey, so needed something for snacking too, and so had Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup popcorn from Portlebay Popcorn. I have to be honest, this left me underwhelmed on the flavour front (particularly given these are two of my favourite flavours). I wouldn’t be in a hurry to buy it again.

 

Portlebay Popcorn in Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup

 

I had Elderflower Green Tea from Daymer Bay to wash it down. Can’t find much about these, inspired by a bay in Cornwall, but with a Kensington address. Hmm. Not much benefit to Cornwall as far as I can see, but happy to be put right.

I saved my last purchase till I got home and did share it over a couple of nights with MGG, and we’ll definitely be treating ourselves to Peanut Butter Chocolate from Nomnom again. As part Welsh, she was happy to discover a Welsh chocolate company, I was just happy to eat great sweet, salty, nutty chocolate. I would imagine we’d like the Salted Caramel version too.

 

Nomnom chocolate

 

So, it was a mixed picnic, some things will definitely be on my shopping list in the future, but even the less good ones were better than a British Rail sandwich!

Photo by Chris Sampson on Flickr.

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We’d eat all the pies!

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Pie school

 

It’s British Pie Week, and they are certainly popular in our house, with chicken pie always having ranked as one of MGG’s favourite dinners. If we had to choose, then these would definitely be our favourite pies:

Bray’s Cottage – given our proximity to Melton Mowbray, then it’s always felt slightly wrong to love a non Melton Mowbray pork pie more than a local one, but we do. Let’s face it, we love them so much, MGG even did a 40 minute work experience on the stall with Sarah on our last visit to Norfolk. I bemoan the fact that there are no local stockists, and more that I am not organised enough to order them by post. In spite of many imitators, the onion marmalade one is still my favourite.

Hartland Pies – our second favourite pork pies, and definitely more local and easier to get hold of. The pork and stilton sums up two great local flavours, and also fond of the slightly more exotic for Melton pulled pork version too. Available in London and further afield from here too.

Pieminister – having long standing connections to Bristol, then we adopted these pies fairly early on, and am happy to find them all over the place now. To combine the two localities, then it would have to be a Moo and Blue pie for us, which is steak and Long Clawson Stilton. Although we’d prefer Colston Basset Stilton in this house.

Great North Pie Co. – I’m from the north, and pie does seem a very northern thing. And I love the Great North Pie Co for really taking the pies to the next level. Big winners at the British Pie Awards last year, and I’ve no doubt will be this year too if they continue to turn out things like Ox Cheek, Stout, Pearl Barley and Redcurrant. If you’re in the North West, find one of the markets they’re at and stock up!

I’m with MGG in that this is great comfort food, perfect for cold days, and therefore this week feels like the perfect time to indulge. Although we’re off to Australia soon, and apparently they like a pie or two, so we may have to test the southern hemisphere versions too.

Photo by Donna Sutton on Flickr. Sounds like my kind of school!

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