The Perfect Christmas Hamper

For me, a festive hamper encapsulates Christmas spirit perfectly – festive food and treats, handmade gifts and a personal touch make a hamper ideal present for your family and friends this year. A homemade hamper is one of the most thoughtful, generous gifts you can give as you can tailor it to your friends tastes and dietary requirements, without it costing too much either!

So, when Ryvita got in touch to ask me to create a special festive hamper for a friend including their delicious Ryvita Thins, I couldn’t wait to get to get started, thinking of all the gorgeous festive treats to put together. Also, following on my on my quest to teach myself to cook this year, this was the perfect opportunity to cook my first ever chutney – something I’d never attempted before and quite honestly, could possibly have been quite a festive disaster! (See below for how I got on…..)

When putting together a hamper, my advice is to think of two things – firstly, luxury treats you wouldn’t eat every day and food that is ideal for sharing. You want the recipient to feel spoiled and surprised by the treats inside and be able to share the contents with family and friends over Christmas time too.

I started putting my hamper together by adding my Ryvita Thin’s – these are quite different from the classic ryvita we know and love, with five different flavours they are a fab party snack and the perfect ‘implement‘ for dipping in your homemade festive chutnies. I bought some for myself (well, I had to do a trial run of the chutney!) and they are SO moreish, once I had one I literally couldn’t stop. Before I knew it, I’d watched a Christmas movie and managed to eat nearly a whole box, oops!

Other treats to include were things to share on Christmas Day – Luxury Juices, Spirits or Wine, Festive Hot Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Mix, Truffles and of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a traditional Christmas Pudding. I bought few of my treats from M&S this year – their products are just classic at Christmas time, they never dissapoint! I especially loved their Sparkling Peach and Proscecco Conserve! How amazing would that be as breakfast on Christmas Morning?

I also created some cute handmade crackers, these are packed with cute little surprises, jokes and of course a gold shimmery crown for Christmas Day too.

So, going back to my Chutney… Well, I’m so pleased to say my recipe and first attempts at cooking a chutney went really well! I decided to make a Caramelised Onion Chutney, inspired by the Caramelised Onion Ryvita Thin’s – having a dip of the same flavour was perfect and amplifies such a festive flavour.

SIMPLE CARAMELISED ONION RECIPE

Makes 4-6 jars

8 red onions
1 red chilli
2 bay leaves
25ml olive oil
150ml red wine vinegar
200g brown sugar
150ml balsamic vinegar
150ml red wine vinegar

  1. Cut your onions and chilli into thin slices and put them into a pan with the bay leaves and oil. Cook gently over a low heat for about 20 minutes.
  2. Once the onions are dark and sticky, add the sugar and the vinegars and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the chutney is thick and dark in colour.
  3. Pour the chutney into your glass jar, it’s best to sterilise your jar and pour in whilst the jar is still warm, to ensure your dip will be kept super fresh.
  4. The longer you leave the Chutney, the more the flavour will develop, so try and make it a little way before Christmas, although don’t worry if you are making a last minute gift, I think it tasted fab straight away!

 

So, when it comes to creating a Christmas Hamper, let your imagination run wild, spoil your friends and family this Christmas and give them a perfectly thoughtful homemade gift!

Post written in collaboration with Ryvita – All words, opinions and photographs are my own

The one minute Pud in a Mug

In my last post, I talked about our cozy pizza night in but I didn’t mention the most important part, the pudding! Everyone will know by now I have a super sweet tooth, and if there is one thing I’ve LOVED about being pregnant, it has been the excuse to get stuck in and eat lots of treats, without worrying too much about the size of my hips. I’ll worry about that after February! I also think the baby has a sweet tooth too as a lot of my cravings have revolved around sugar too.

So, as we were having a date night, we had the movie playing and wanted to spend as much time chilling out (i.e- not in the kitchen!) so I cooked us a couple of these really quick and easy Pud in a Mug desserts which are a new product in the Dr Oetker range. I’ve seen all the 1 minute mug-cake recipes on Pinterest, and as simple as they look I’ve never actually given them a go as creating the mixture is still going to take a bit of time, plus of course mess – if you are like me! The Pud in a Mug sachets literally take away all effort, they are so easy and perfect for a lazy date night. All you have to do is add milk to the mixture in your favourite mug (mine is from here!) and stir. Microwave for less than a minute and your warm, delicious pudding is ready! Ta Daa!

I’m always a bit sceptical about ready-mix cakes, but these are actually really delicious and the perfect warm pudding for a chilly night. The best part for me is that the top is lovely, spongey and warm, but as you delve deeper into your mug, the bottom is pure gooey, rich chocolate sauce, yum!

The range includes a variety of flavours – my favourite is the Rich Chocolate Sponge Pudding (pictured!), but you can also get Chocolate Chip and Lemon Sponge and Milk or Dark Chocolate Velvety Dessert too. Sachets can be picked up in all major supermarkets and are priced at £0.79. For creative ideas on your #PudInAMug, take a look at their Instagram here.

Enjoy! 

 

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Post written in collaboration with Pud in a Mug, however all opinions are my own

 

Peppermint Creams – Simple Christmas Recipe

As Christmas gets closer, I getting so in the festive spirit! So I decided this week to do a little baking! Well, I say the word ‘baking’ loosely, this is more a cold, no-bake sweet treat, but you get the idea! I’ve never been much of a cook, when I try and bake a cake, I turn my kitchen into a whirlwind of mess –  think flour EVERYWHERE including in my hair and eyebrows, eggs broken on the side, every single pot, pan and utensil covered in glooping cake mix and not much left in the mixing bowl. Yep, thats the usual scene of my kitchen once I’ve been in there, it always has been. I don’t know why, but cooking makes me so clumsy and accident prone. Because of this I usually avoid baking at all costs, but with baby on the way something inside is telling me to brush up my ‘home-making skills’ and finally learn to bake properly. After all I do want to teach my little girl to cook, so I really better get my act together myself or I’ll turn her into another little mini-baking disaster like me.

So, when Boohoo got in touch to ask what my favourite Christmas recipe was, I was inspired to finally get my baking skills off the ground and try and make something Christmassy to share on my blog. Plus, to really get me in the festive mood, they even sent me this really cute maternity Christmas Jumper to wear too!

I popped on the Christmassy tunes in the kitchen, limbered up and decided to start of easy by making something super easy but classic. So here it is, here are my delicious, sweet Peppermint Creams.

Ingredients: 

Method:

1. Measure the ingredients and sift the icing sugar. Gradually mix the icing sugar into the condensed milk. Add the peppermint extract to taste and knead until smooth.

2. Dust a clean surface with icing sugar and roll out the mixture to around 5mm thickness. Shape your peppermint creams by either using sweet cookie cutter shapes, or if you are like me and a bit cack-handed with a cutter – just roll into even balls and slightly flatten into even shapes.

3. Leave in a cool place to dry (about 2-3 hours).

4. Decorate your Peppermint Creams – this is the fun bit! There are so many ways you could decorate them so get creative! The most traditional way is to drizzle plain chocolate or dip one half. However I decided to go for a look which I fondly call ‘Polar Bears on the Rocks’, which is a nice thick swirl of Milk Chocolate, Edible Glitter Snow and Candy Polar bears, but each to their own!

5.  Allow to set. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container and use within 3 weeks.

Yum! They are so quick and easy to make, plus they are sweet and delicious too! These make ideal gifts with a lovely homemade touch. You can make a batch, then package them into cute bags as a little stocking filler. Enjoy! 

If you fancy a nosey at my last years Boohoo Christmas Jumper (featuring Robbie and I in matching jumpers) you can find that here.

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Post written in collaboration with Boohoo

 

 

Whats for dinner…? HelloFresh!

I’m the one in charge of our food shopping at home but I have to say my shopping list is quite dull. As I always order from the same supermarket online, so now just saved a ‘regulars’ list, so usually I end up ordering all the same stuff, with my narrow repertoire of homemade dinners just go round on a cycle. I keep looking at things on Pinterest and thinking ‘I’ll make that one day‘ but it never happens and before I know it, there is another Old El Paso Fajita kit in my online shopping basket and we are back to square one. That is why I’ve absolutely been loving a new food home delivery service called HelloFresh.

WHAT IS HELLOFRESH?

HelloFresh works by delivering you a box of fresh ingredients for you to cook three different recipes each week. There are three box options, Classic, Veggie and Family, so you can cater it to your dietary requirements and the size of your family as each box comes with enough food for either 2 adults or 4 adults. Each box contains the exact ingredients to make up the recipes which are carefully explained on easy to follow recipe cards (which include pictures and everything, perfect if you are a rubbish cook like me!) All of the ingredients, (even the little things like herbs and spices) are measured into exactly the right amount, so there is absolutely no measuring involved, you just throw the ingredients together. FAB. Also, of note all the ingredients are sourced as locally as possible, I noticed nearly all of our fresh veg were British grown and organic.

The box is then delivered to your door in clever packaging to keep everything cool, so even if you are out, it’ll be ok on your doorstep for a while with everything keeping super fresh.

We were offered a two week trial, so I chose the Veggie box, plus we opted for the 4 adult package as we were still hosting foreign students at this point (and being teenagers they LOVE to eat). Here is how we got on during our first week:

MEAL ONE: HOMEMADE VEGETABLE PACKED CALZONE

Our first meal was the Homemade Italian Vegetable Packed Calzone, I think this was probably my favourite dish of the week too! With this one I was so impressed with how fresh the vegetables were, the tomatoes inside the Calzone, just burst with flavour. Plus, I’ve never made a Calzone before so it was a learning curve putting it all together, but I absolutely loved the fresh dough, it was absolutely delicious! This one was great as I felt like I was eating something slightly ‘naughty’ being a pizza, but with the fresh veg it was actually pretty healthy….. Winner!

MEAL TWO: VIETNAMESE PHO WITH CAVOLO NERO AND CASHEWS

Our second meal was the Vietnamese Pho with Cavolo Nero and Cashews. I was lucky enough to have V cook this one, she described making it as ‘dead easy‘ even though we don’t actually usually cook dishes like this at home. Even with new flavours and ingredients, the recipe card was just so simple to follow, you can’t go wrong. This was as tasty as a dish at Wagamamas, but cooked at home! We had so much of this dish we were still eating it two days later, there was so much to go around.

MEAL THREE: GREEK AUBERGINE RAGU WITH BASIL COUSCOUS AND FETA

Our last meal of the week was the Greek Aubergine Ragu with Basil Couscous and Feta. On the first glance of this recipe, this was the one that excited me the least, but I have to say I was totally surprised. The Ragu was so much tastier than I imagined, I think it was the addition of the olives gave the dish such a rich, fresh taste I was pleasantly surprised. Again, we had so much of this recipe, I had both a dinner and lunch the following day too, the portion sizes are just huge. Another hit!

OVERALL

We really enjoyed our first week of HelloFresh and went on to get another 2 boxes as we loved it so much. As Vee works shifts and we are not home together all the time, we don’t think we need a subscription every week, but plan to dip and and out (you can cancel any time) so when we have time together in the week so we can make sure we truly enjoy the boxes. We have also talked about getting the boxes when the baby first arrives as we will be super busy so it will be great to have some healthy food dropped round each week, or I think we might just end up living off pizzas! We have kept the recipe cards so will use them again too, it’s been really fun to try new foods and flavours and spice up our usual dinner cycle.

If you fancy a go at HelloFresh you can work out which box is right for you and see the prices here, plus if you fancy some money off you can use this referral code U5P66H £25 off first box (plus I get a little bit off my next too, so we all win – woohoo!).

 

I was sent a trial of HelloFresh boxes in return for an honest review – all words, opinions and photographs are my own.