One Lovely Blog Award and Real Neat Blog Award

So I’ve been nominated for a couple of blogger awards just recently!  I can’t explain how happy this made me 🙂 It is a show of the wonderful nature of the blogging community.  I was so apprehensive about starting a blog and I have been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement that everyone in the blogging world gives to each other.  These awards are further examples of the great community I’ve joined and been into welcomed with open arms.

So the first nomination came from Evgenia who has a lovely blog called Living On Annette (make sure you go check it out!).  Evegina nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award 🙂 A massive thank you for thinking of and nominating my blog!


As with all blogger community awards, there are certain rules that apply to the One Lovely Blog Award:-

  • You have to thank the person who nominated you for the award
  • You add the logo to your post
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Nominate other bloggers

I was so excited to receive this nomination and I then I thought…what on earth could I tell you about myself!  So I’ve had a little think about things (hence the delay!) and I’ve opted for the following:-

1. I am incredibly close with my wonderful family.  There is a saying that “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”; well I’d choose my family as my friends every time! Love you all.


My wonderful dad, mum and brother!

2. My first ever ‘proper’ roller coaster was The Hulk in Islands of Adventure (Florida).  Inspired by my white knuckle coaster junky mum and uncle and a desire not to be outdone by my brother, I finally plucked up the courage to ride.  I started screaming the minute the harness came down and didn’t stop until it lifted up again at the end but I’ve not looked back since 🙂

3. I’ve been given the honour of being a bridesmaid and wedding cake maker for one of my closet friend’s wedding next year.  I cannot wait to spend the day celebrating her big day!


The bride to be celebrating with me and another bridesmaid, Laura 🙂

4. I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos (EDS) Type III in 2013.  This is a syndrome which affects the connective tissue in my body.  The problem is cause by a collagen problem meaning my joints are loose and bend further than they are supposed to.  To help control the affects of this, I have spent the last year trying to improve my health and I’ve even joined a triathlon swim club.

5. My brother nicknamed me ‘Gunter’ after the fat German exchange student in the Simpsons and its stuck! My 21st birthday watch even has the name engraved on the side.


6. For my first birthday with my boyfriend Dave (back in 2008) he bought me Despicable Me on DVD and frozen chicken pies 🙂 Yep, frozen pies as a birthday present is a little unorthodox but I thought it was great.

And finally…

7. My nan used to tell me she was a witch and I believed her.  She even planted a broom in the garage whenever she would visit so I thought she arrived by flight. 

Me and nan

Me and my nan at Christmas this year.

The second nomination has come from Plan B Chronicles.  Again, be sure to check out the site and a great big thank you for the nomination.  Plan B Chronicles nominated me for the Real Neat Blog Award.


Again, this award comes with certain rules:-

  • Put the Award Logo in your post.
  • Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you (my nominee snuck in an extra question just for a bonus 🙂 ).
  • Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
  • Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
  • Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog)

The questions I’ve been asked:-

1. What are you hobbies?

My biggest hobby will probably come as a great surprise to you all! Only kidding, its cooking and baking! 🙂 Other than that, I love to read, swim, watch films with Dave and spend time with my friends and family. 

2. What is your favorite vacation spot?

Florida! More specifically Walt Disney World and Universal Studios 🙂 Each visit has been the best holiday and it is definitely my happy place.

3. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?

There isn’t just one, it has to be both my mum and my dad.  They have influenced me in different ways but most importantly they have shown me the importance of having a good work ethic, never letting anything stop you from achieving your goals, always pushing yourself, enjoying everything life has to offer and the understanding that happiness and laughter are vital to having a long and happy relationship. Thank you for everything you have taught me and for all that you have done and continue to do for me. Love you!

4. Where did you grow up?

A city called Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, UK.  I lived in a village which had the city on one side and the countryside on another.  There wasn’t always a lot to do but it was home. My parents and brother still live there and I have a handful of close friends who I try to visit on a semi regular basis.

5. If you could change one thing about your appearance, what would it be? 

With my love of all things food, it would be nice to loose a little weight.   I’ve always struggled a bit with my weight and ever since I was diagnosed with EDS, my health and fitness has become very important.  About a year ago, I started to eat healthier and exercise more regularly.  I’m 20lbs lighter than when I started and in such a better place but I still have a few more to go before I reach my goal weight.  Life is however short and I don’t believe in denying myself the things I love.  The last year has been about taking control and it has become clear that everything in moderation leads to a more beautiful and happy life.    

6. Do you have any pets? 

I don’t have any personally but my mum and dad got a dog when I was 15.  A beautiful golden cocker spaniel called Casey and I absolutely love him to bits.  He’s getting old now but he’s still as full of energy and love as he was the day my parents brought him home.  His wagging tail and floppy years are enough to soften even the hardest of days!   


Casey on his annual holiday to Cornwall.

7. What do you usually do on Sundays?

In my house, Sundays are officially a chill day.  Dave will usually spend the day playing his xbox or watching films.   Whilst he’s doing this, I’ll spend the day in my favourite room of the house… the kitchen!  The great thing about our flat is that the kitchen and living room are together so at least we aren’t in separate rooms 🙂

8. What is your favorite food to cook?  Recipe?

There isn’t really one type of food that I enjoy cooking more than others.  There is one which I enjoy eating the most and that is definitely a roast dinner! My favourite dinner of the year is definitely Christmas dinner which is the ultimate roast.  I’ve not hosted Christmas yet and the closest I get is the occasional sunday roast.  Coming shortly in Challenge 52, I’ll be sharing the recipe for a cola, maple-glazed roast ham.  Be sure to come back to check out the recipe.

I now nominate:-

Your 7 questions are:-

  1. What are you most looking forward to in the next 12 months?
  2. What is your favourite book and why?
  3. How did you get involved in blogging?
  4. If you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
  5. If you had a dinner party and you could invite any 5 guests, dead or alive, who would you invite?
  6. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
  7. What is your best piece of advice for a new blogger?

I look forward to learning more about you all 🙂


Challenge No. 18 – Philly Cheese Steak

This dish was suggested by my brother who is a qualified cross-fit trainer, ex-triathlon athlete and all round fitness fanatic whose love of food sometimes wins out over the desire to be healthy (he’s only human!).  My brother doesn’t abide by the motto of having everything in moderation and if he’s going to do something he does it properly, including cheat days.  And so his suggestions for Challenge 52 include Philly Cheese Steak, BBQ chicken wings and, what he calls, “the mother of all milkshakes”.  Not exactly the picture of health but some great choices from my big brother!

I’ve already made the chicken wings and now its time for the Philly Cheese Steak – a wonderfully cheesy beef mess served on a lovely soft white roll.  Whilst I had heard of of the dish, I actually hadn’t ever eaten one.  I did a bit of searching online and was presented with a plethora of versions.  Some used mushrooms whilst other didn’t, some used leftover roast beef whilst others used fresh beef steak and so on.  The starting point was the beef.  I discussed the options with my boyfriend Dave and we decided to go for left over roast beef.  A common problem with roasts when there are only 2 of you is what to do with the left overs and this seemed like a great solution.

So on Sunday I cooked a roast dinner using beef brisket.  I slow cooked this until it was at a good carving point but not quite at a shredding point.  We had a 1kg joint and I cooked it for around 2hrs 30 minutes at 170 degrees celsius.  Once the leftover beef was cool, I got my sharpest knife and carefully cut it into very thin slices.

Practical tip: slicing the beef as thinly as possible seems to be key to this dish.  If you are using fresh beef steak, most recipes call for the steak to be chilled in the freezer for 30-45 minutes as this makes it easier to slice the beef as thinly as possible.

To make the full dish, I used the following ingredients:-

  • Oil
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 sweet red peppers, thinly sliced
  • Leftover roast beef, thinly sliced
  • 5 cheese slices
  • 3 hot dog buns

Edited - ingredients

This is a very simple ingredients list and it could be expanded by adding mushrooms, a bit of garlic and maybe even jalapeños if you like a bit of heat.  However, Dave requested we keep it simple and so I stuck with just the 6 ingredients listed above.

Edited - meat and veg

I started off by frying the onion for a few minutes and then adding the pepper to the pan.  I let this cook away for about 8 minutes over a low-medium temperature until the veg was nice and soft.  I removed it from the pan and added a little more oil before frying the beef. 

At this point I cut my buns in half and popped them under the grill to heat through.  They were under a medium heat for around 5 minutes which was just long enough to add a little crunch to the surface without loosing the fluffiness of the bread.

With the buns almost done and the beef heated through, I returned the onion and peppers to cook for a couple more minutes.  Finally, I added the cheese slices and once these had melted, I gave it a good stir to mix it all together.   I then added the cheesy-beef mix to the heated rolls and added a side of sweet potato fries.   

 Edited - in the bunEdited - served up

All in all, I enjoyed my first Philly Cheese Steak and this really was a perfect Monday night dinner.  It used up the sunday roast leftovers and was so quick to make. I am planning on making this again and next time I’ll give it a go with fresh steak and a few extra ingredients, just to see what its like.         

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 19 – rum raisin ice cream! 🙂

Challenge No. 17 – Profiteroles

This challenge was suggested by my friend Danny and it is a fond favourite of mine.  I’ve made profiteroles before so I thought I’d experiment with a new flavour to make it more of a challenge.  I decided to try passion fruit cream profiteroles with a homemade hot chocolate fudge sauce.

Danny and his girlfriend Kate joined me and Dave for dinner a couple of weeks ago where we enjoyed Kate’s suggestion of moussaka for Challenge No. 14.  I used this opportunity to also make the profiteroles for our pudding and so Kate and Danny got a full evening of My Gastro Adventure eating 🙂

I’ve used a couple of different recipes for this challenge; one for the profiteroles and one for the hot chocolate fudge sauce

I tweaked the cream filling to build in the passion fruit and so to make my version of the recipes you will need the following ingredients:-

  • For the choux pastry
    • 200ml/7fl oz cold water
    • 4 tsp caster sugar
    • 85g/3oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
    • 115g/4oz plain flour
    • pinch salt
    • 3 medium free-range eggs, beaten
  • For the cream filling
    • 600ml/1 pint double cream
    • 3 passion fruits
  • For the chocolate sauce
    • 340g/12oz granulated sugar
    • 85g/3oz brown sugar
    • 100g/3½oz cocoa powder
    • 30g/1oz plain flour
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1 x 400g/14oz can evaporated milk
    • 250ml/9fl oz water
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Edited - ingredients

I started by making the choux pastry and pre-heated my oven to 200 degrees celsius with a roasting tray placed in the bottom.  I put the water, sugar and butter into my saucepan and heated it over a low heat until the butter was melting.

Edited - butter in pan

Whilst the wet ingredients were warming through, I prepared the flour and salt.  I measured out the amount I needed and placed it onto a square of baking paper.  Doing this makes it easier to add the flour smoothly and quickly in one go. 

Edited - flour

Once the butter was melting, I turned the heat up and bought the mixture quickly to a boil.  Once boiling, I tipped in the flour/salt, removed the pan from the heat and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until it came away from the sides to form a heavy dough. 

Practical tip: make sure you bring the wet ingredients to a boil.  The first time I tried to make profiteroles, the recipe didn’t mention this and I just added the flour once the butter was melted.  I ended up with a very wet mixture which just would not work, no matter how much I beat it.  I looked back at a recipe I had previously used for eclairs (which are also made with choux pastry) and this clearly stated that the wet ingredients should be brought to a boil before the flour is added.  I have followed this bit of advice every time since and it always works 🙂

Edited - dough

Once my dough formed, I put it in a bowl and left it to cool for 15 minutes.  I waited until it was cool enough to touch and then beat in my eggs a little at a time, until I achieved the so called ‘dropping consistency’.  It needs to be runny enough so that it doesn’t clog up the piping bag but not so runny that it will just slip straight out the end.  Ideally, the dough should fall from a spoon when lightly shaken.  Mine was a little runny this time and I’m clearly still perfecting my assessment of the optimum ‘dropping’ point 🙂

Edited - eggs added

I lined two baking trays with baking parchment, using a bit of the choux mixture to stick the parchment to the tray.  I filled my piping bag and piped small balls (a bit randomly) onto my tray.  I then rubbed the top of each ball with a wet finger.

Edited - pipped

I put the trays in the oven and added the water to the roasting tray before shutting the door. I set the timer for 20 minutes and watched the little golden balls rise like the air filled wonders they are.  When the timer went off, I re-set it for another 7 minutes and when golden-brown, I took them out the oven.

I use a skewer to prick the base of each profiterole making a hole for the steam to be released.  I put them back on the baking trays with the holes facing upwards and popped the tray back into the now turned off oven for 5 minutes to dry out.

Edited - bottoms

I then got my flavouring ready.  I pushed the passion fruit filling through a sieve to leave just the juice.  I was amazed at how much juice you actually get out of this fruit.  They don’t seem that juicy when you eat them but there was absolutely loads!

Edited - juicing

I decided I didn’t want to fill the profiteroles too early as I thought the cream would make the pastry go soft.   So at this point I put the profiterole cases and the remaining ingredients to one side whilst our guests arrived and we enjoyed our Greek inspired dinner.

When we were all well fed and watered, I set out to finish this yummy dessert.  I whipped the cream with a balloon whisk until stiff – Kate helped with this as my arm started to ache and she was supper quick!  I then added the passion fruit juice and stirred it through until well combined.

I then put all the chocolate sauce ingredients (except the vanilla extract) into a big pan and popped this over a medium heat to bring slowly to the boil. 

Edited - sauce ingredients

Once it reached boiling point, I set the timer for 5 minutes and whilst the chocolate sauce finished cooking, I piped the passion fruit cream filling into the profiteroles.  I let the sauce cool slightly and then added the vanilla extract. 

Edited - filled profiteroles

Then we reached my favourite bit – time to tuck in! 

Edited - served up

We all agreed that the passion fruit cream profiteroles were delicious and the chocolate sauce was delicious however together they kind of battled each other for centre stage.  What would this adventure be without a little experimenting and I’m glad I tried the different flavour in the cream but it just didn’t quick work with the chocolate sauce. 

The passion fruit cream profiteroles would have been lovely on their own but for me, profiteroles just aren’t quite complete without a lovely hot chocolate sauce!!  Next time I’ll stick to simple vanilla cream profiteroles which this lovely rich sauce 🙂

The chocolate sauce recipe made a HUGE batch for just the four of us and I ended up with loads left over.  Before leaving, Danny suggested I turn the leftover sauce into brownies.  So the next day, I put some of the sauce into a small pot to put to one side and then added some flour (about 65g) and 3 eggs to the rest.  I mixed it up and poured it into a lined tin.  I popped it into the oven for about 15 minutes at 180 degrees celsius.  This definitely was not long enough as it was still wobbly! I left it in the oven for a while longer (I lost track of how much longer) and when it was firm and a skewer came out clean, I took it out the oven.  After 5 minutes cooling in the tin, I turned it out onto a cooking rack.  I’ll be honest, this didn’t really work as a brownie but what I had created was possibly one of the best chocolate fudge cakes I’ve eaten! Warmed in the microwave and served with the reserved chocolate sauce – absolute HEAVEN! 🙂

Edited - fudge cake

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 18 – Philly cheese steak.