Sunday, 31 December 2017

Reflecting on 2017

Hi readers,

I hope this finds you well. As I write, it’s the 31st December 2017 and, in less that twelve hours, we’ll begin the new year. Again, a year will have passed.

This afternoon, using Christmas money from grandparents, I treated myself to a back massage. To anyone about to end 2017 having not yet experienced a back massage, I will make it your new year’s resolution for you. Please, go have one. It’s a wonderful thing.

Today, especially, I enjoyed the neck part, where the masseuse somehow – using only a small circling motion on the base of the back of my neck – helped me to breathe the easiest I have in days, with a massive head cold.

It was glorious and I walked out of the wellness suite feeling light, and feeling calm. And reflective, I suppose, which has me hoping to find the words to end 2017 with.

How has your 2017 been, readers?

Honestly, I’d say mine has been a good year. 2016 was somewhat marred by a breakup in a text, and a close friend moving away. It was a year of moving out from my parents, again, but staying in the same city as them this time. Leaping from a job, to a graduate job. Beginning to feel more like a graduate. Discovering a new (and now treasured) yoga class.

I remember 2016 ending with fireworks and Robbie Williams singing on TV, at a party at a friend’s parents’ house. I think at the time I felt as though it had been a bad year, largely due to the texter. Looking back, I would perhaps amend to say it had been a good year. My friend, my job and my yoga class stand out as the highlights.

So, not bad at all. I can pick out three good, memorable things that happened in 2016, and I suppose that’s more than many people could say. So, I’m grateful. And grateful, very much for my 2017. How about you, readers?

Can you pick out the highlights of your year gone by?

Big Things happened for me, I would say.

- I moved house again (though not far)
- I celebrated my birthday with a weekend away with 13 friends
- I joined a book club
- I made new (good) friends
- I appeared in court (and lost belief in the justice system)
- I learned to drive
- And got my first car, Suzy Splash
- I rewarded myself with a new tattoo
- Then ran 10K, with support from friends and family
- I learned to knit, and have begun a blanket project
- I started eating fish (after about a decade off)
- I went on holiday alone to Barcelona (faith in humans: restored)
- And I got a pay rise at work (!)

It’s been a year of good health, of Big Things, and happy times. And who knows what the new year may hold, for any of us?

I’m hoping for good health and happy times, some more. There may not be so many Big Things to come, but I intend to enjoy the small things and make the most I can of the moments in every day. It’s nice to sit and reflect, at the end of the year, and then I want to look forwards in 2018.

How about you, readers? Besides the back massage, and some great tasting ChefBeHere recipes to try out, what might your 2018 hold?

Wishing you all the best for the new year,


Hayley



Friday, 22 December 2017

A final festive post of 2017

Recipe of the week...
... Reindeer Christmas cupcakes

Ingredients: 225g butter, 175g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 200g self-raising flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 100ml milk, 150g dark chocolate, 2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur (optional), 200g icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 24 white chocolate buttons, 6 glace cherries, and half a box of Matchmakers.

Makes: 12 Christmassy buns!

Time taken: 20 mins prep, 20 mins in the oven, half an hour to cool and then half an hour to decorate. (1hr 40mins total)


Hi readers,

It’s nearly Christmas!! We’re so near now! 3 sleeps to go and I’m beginning to get really excited! Are you??????????? SANTASCOMINGAHMAGAADDDDDDD!

And. On a not-so-hyperactive note, as this will be my last ChefBeHere blog post of the year, I’d just like to say thank you. To everyone who has been reading, been liking my posts, been mentioning my blog to others, been trying out the recipes at home… thank you for all your support!

I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas indeed. I hope we all have a safe, fun time celebrating with friends and family. And anyone who isn’t feeling so good this Christmas, or can’t spend it with friends and family, or if it feels like everyone on social media is having a bigger better time than you…

Everything is fine, and it’s going to be fine. Believe in yourself, take good care of yourself and 2018 will be the year for you. Talk to someone if you’re not so sure. I’m sending love.

Plus – obvs – I’m sending a recipe. One final festive recipe to see you through Christmastime! Here, readers, is one last ChefBeHere recipe of 2017… *drumroll please* … for Reindeer Christmas cupcakes! Based on a BBC Food recipe found here, they’re cute and easy to make and tasty and very very Christmassy!

Here’s the recipe in just ten simple steps…

--

Recipe: Reindeer Christmas cupcakes


Ingredients: 225g butter, 175g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 200g self-raising flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 100ml milk, 150g dark chocolate, 2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur (optional), 200g icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 24 white chocolate buttons, 6 glace cherries, and half a box of Matchmakers. 

1.     Whack on some Christmas tunes… tis the season! Get a drink of something mulled in your hand and take the time to enjoy yourself – simply have fun doing some baking.

2.     Heat the oven to 180C, line a muffin tray with 12 festive paper cases, and get all your ingredients out on the kitchen side.

3.     Melt 100g of your dark chocolate, either on the hob or in the microwave, and break your remaining 50g of dark chocolate up into pieces.  

ChefBeHere Top Tip: I say it every time but BE CAREFUL when melting chocolate – as it can very easily burn. Go slow and keep an eye on it at all times.

4.     Measure 100g of your butter and all of the caster sugar into a mixing bowl and cream together using a wooden spoon, until light-coloured and smooth.

5.     Gradually beat in your eggs, until well combined, and then sift your flour and cocoa powder into the bowl. Fold into the cupcake mix.

6.     Next, fold in the milk, your melted chocolate and Irish cream liqueur (if using), then spoon your cake mix into the muffin cases and carefully transport into the oven.

7.     Leave to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until well risen and lightly firm to the touch. Once they’re done, safely remove your buns from the oven and switch it off. Leave to cool on the side for at least half an hour.


8.     Once your buns feel cool to touch, melt the remaining chocolate and leave to cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, cream together the remaining butter, your icing sugar and vanilla extract. Fold in your melted chocolate and mix until smooth.

9.     To decorate the cupcakes, begin by chopping your glace cherries in half. Spread the cupcakes with icing and press half a glace cherry onto each cake as a nose, then two chocolate buttons on the cake as eyes.

10.  Use a tiny blob of melted chocolate to ice pupils on the button eyes, and then stick broken up Matchmakers in as the reindeers’ antlers… and you’re all done!


--

What’s not to love about these Christmassy little cupcakes?? If you don’t like glace cherries, you can sub them for smarties or M&Ms. If you don’t like white chocolate, sub the buttons for sliced up marshmallows. If you don’t like Matchmakers, try pretzels or broken up bits of Curly Wurly.

If you don’t like chocolate or cupcakes or reindeers… you can piss right off and I’ll see you in January!! Merry Christmas everyone!

Celebrate safely,


Hayley

I finally got to use my
reindeer cupcake boxes - hurray!



Sunday, 17 December 2017

Santa Buns - and film/book/song recommendations for 2017

Recipe of the week...
... Santa Buns

Ingredients: 250g self-raising flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 50g butter, 75g caster sugar, 2 large eggs, 250 ml milk, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 250g icing sugar, a few drops of red food colouring, 12 festive icing decorations

Makes: 12 big muffins

Time Taken: 20 mins to make, 20 mins to bake, and then 20 mins to decorate once cooled


Hi readers,

How are you all today?? As a write, it’s a cold Sunday morning in December. Temperatures stand at a tropical 2 degrees, and I’m huddled up in bed with my laptop… hoping things warm up a little before I go out on a run. I already have a cold, readers, (which can fuck right off) and we’ve been negotiating snow, ice and slush for the best part of two weeks now.

In other news, Christmas is a week tomorrow! Whooooo!!! Who’s feeling festive? And ready for it?? And not at all Scrooge-ish? I think I can raise my hand here! I’m just about finished sorting cards and Christmas presents now, and also an engagement gift and 3 December birthdays, and various Christmas-related projects at work.


I’m at the bit now where the three’s up and I can bum about in a Christmas jumper with a mulled wine, listening to East 17 and looking back on the past year. Are you there yet, readers?? Power on if you still have things left to do! Because it’s great once you get it all done and you final chill out.

And just think it will ALL be worth it when the magic happens on the day, and everyone’s opening gifts and having a great time together. Just think. And then – it will all be over! One day and this fuss will all be behind us. I hope, readers, that you’re beginning to feel the Christmas spirit, and you’re finding time to spend with your loved ones in the run up to the 25th, and that you all have the most wonderful Christmastime.


So, I thought with this blog post, I might dish out some recommendations for the best films, books and songs, that I’ve seen this year. In case over Christmas you’re at a loose end and fancy a decent film, or a good book, or an update to your playlists, to end the year nicely. These recommendations might not be for everyone! Bear in mind… I’m a yoga-loving 23-year-old female. Don’t take these as scripture.

BUT… I’m going to start with film. I’ve seen alotalot of films this year as I splashed out on a Cineworld membership card – best decision ever – but it is hard to remember which ones you’ve seen, over the course of a whole year. I will update this post if I later remember a film I’m forgetting about now, but I think my fave film of 2017 has been Manchester by the Sea.


This film was released way back in January, and is not at all festive or wonderful or cheerful, but it’s a very good film. Watch, if you haven’t already. And if you feel like some dark humour. OR if you’re looking for a film and not feeling that vibe, I also would recommend Despicable Me 3, Baywatch, or The Hitman’s Bodyguard. All good, and slightly more uplifting, films from the past year.

So, on to books. I’ve done quite well with reading this year! Joining a book club has kept me turning pages and I’ve been solidly getting through a book or two each month. Plus, I’ve discovered audiobooks, which prove to be a good way to pass my 45-minute commute in the car. With further ado, here are ten books of note, which I read this year and would recommend…

1.     Black Eyed Susans by Julia Haeberlin

2.     Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

3.     Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

4.     The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

5.     Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

6.     The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

7.     On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry

8.     Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

9.     The Thirst by Jo Nesbo

10.  Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler


And that just leaves music. Here are some recommendations, readers, which I’ve tried to break down into different moods, for top songs which I’ve played on repeat / blasted in the car / run to / related with / rediscovered / fallen asleep listening to / learned (almost) all the words to… during 2017.

Significant…

1.     Aquilo – Low Light

2.     ARIZONA – Oceans Away

3.     Sampha – (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano

4.     This Is The Kit – Moonshine Freeze


5.     Stereo Honey – The Bay

6.     Ghostpoet – Be Right Back, Moving House

7.     Choir of Young Believers – Hollow Talk

8.     Loyle Carner – Damselfly


9.     Tricky – The Only Way

10.  Bill Evans Trio – My Foolish Heart

Girlpower…

1.     Maggie Lindemann – Pretty Girl

2.     Martin Solveig – Places

3.     NEIKED – Call Me

4.     Zara Larsson – What They Say


5.     Fergie – You Already Know

6.     Rita Ora –Your Song

7.     Tove Lo – shedontknowbutsheknows

8.     Taya – When Ur Sober

9.     Goldfrapp – Anymore


10.  Hailee Steinfeld – Starving

11.  Anton Powers & Pixie Lott – Baby

12.  HAIM – Want You Back

13.  Jem – Just a Ride

14.  Soayla – No Good


Tuuunes…

1.     Bicep – Glue

2.     Justin Bieber – Friends

3.     Macklemore – Glorious


4.     Moon Boots – Keep the Faith

5.     Tycho – Horizon

6.     Ride – All I Want

7.     Harry Styles – Ever Since New York


8.     Blaenavon – I Will Be The World

9.     Feeder – Just a Day

10.  Newton Faulkner – Up Up and Away

11.  Fleetwood Mac – The Chain

12.  John Mayer – Love On The Weekend


13.  Trevor Hall – Indigo

14.  Dutch Uncles – Streetlight

And those, readers, are my film, book and song recommendations for 2017. Which have greatly improved my year. I hope you might find a treasure in there, which you go on to quite like yourself. And please – recommend me things back! If there’s a film or a book or a song, which your 2017 would have been a much greyer place without, leave me a comment on this post and I’ll give it a go for sure! Thank you.

And now… for our recipe of the week! I’m writing this week, readers, to share with you a festive bake. Tis the season! Here’s a recipe for some Santa Buns – which are really easy and straightforward to get together, and which I’m sure your friends, family and colleagues at work will only be too delighted to demolish.


I basically just took a Mary Berry recipe, readers, for American muffins. Added in a LOT of cinnamon, for a festive flavour, and then decorated them in a Christmassy way. The little iced Santas, which feature on top of my buns, I actually found on a local market stall in Sheffield. But I’m sure they must also be sold in Lakeland and large supermarkets, too.

Here’s the recipe, for 12 Santa Buns, in just ten simple steps…

--

Recipe: Santa Buns


Ingredients: 250g self-raising flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 50g butter, 75g caster sugar, 2 large eggs, 250ml milk, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 250g icing sugar, a few drops of red food colouring, 12 festive icing decorations

1.     Set some crimbo songs playing and pour yourself a refreshing drink. Open a window, stretch really tall, and stop thinking ten steps ahead. Just be calm.

2.     Heat your oven to 200C and get all your ingredients out, ready to go.

3.     Measure the flour, baking powder and butter into a mixing bowl. Use your fingers to rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Then, stir in the sugar and shake a large amount of cinnamon into the bowl.

ChefBeHere Top Tip: If you like cinnamon – go all out. Tis the season! If you do not like cinnamon – then maybe just a small shake. Or you could switch it for a teaspoon of vanilla extract instead.

4.     Pour 250ml milk into a measuring jug, then crack your eggs into the jug and use a fork to whisk together your milk and eggs. Then pour this eggy mix into your main mixing bowl.

5.     Use a wooden spoon to blend everything together, into a cake mix with a lumpy consistency. Line a muffin tray with 12 Christmassy paper cases and spoon your mix out evenly between the cases, filling almost to the top.

6.     Carefully transport your muffins into the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Use this time wisely – tidy the kitchen up and clean your dishes, while you still have the enthusiasm. Then refresh your drink and why not see what’s on the telly?

7.     Once your muffins are well risen, firm to the touch and a golden colour, carefully take them out of the oven and turn the oven off. Leave your muffins on the side to cool for half an hour.

ChefBeHere Top Tip: I wouldn’t try icing your buns until they’re properly cooled, even if you’re in a hurry. If the buns are still warm, your icing will just run right off them. And go everywhere.

8.     Once your buns feel cool, take them out of the muffin tray and stand them on some kitchen roll, to absorb any grease on the bottom of their paper cases.

9.     Shake around 250g icing sugar into your mixing bowl, along with a few drops of red food colouring and a splash of warm water. Mix together (and add extra of any of the 3 ingredients, as you see fit) until you have a bowl of thick, smooth red icing.

10.  Use a knife to smear each of your buns with a good amount of the icing and then stick a little Father Christmas icing decoration on top to finish. Tuck in!


--

And that’s all there is to it, readers! No skill needed here, really. The buns are simple to bake and the main difficulty during decoration, once you’ve got your icing to the right consistency, is trying not to get it all over your fingers! Mine were red for days!

Fancy giving these buns a go, readers? You’ve an eight-day window of opportunity for festive baking, and I say why not! Treat your loved ones to some very cute buns and make sure you nab one before they’re all gone. I’ll leave you to your festive plans now, but best of luck in the kitchen if you do give this recipe a go.

Take care on the roads, readers… and go steady on the mulled wine.

Celebrate safely,

Hayley