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Savouring Dinnertime

I’m one of those people truly plagued with an overactive mind – someone who constantly worries about anything and everything, and over-analyses the day’s events in slow motion and HD quality (particularly if I said a stupid comment, did something I regret, or there’s a chance to convince myself that someone doesn’t like me). For this reason, I’ve long been searching for a hobby or activity that takes up so much of my energy and brainpower that I switch off from replaying the faux-pas I made in the meeting and just absorb myself in what I’m doing.

Unfortunately I’m far too messy for sewing or knitting, get completely distracted when trying to read a book or watch a film, and the last time I went to a yoga class I spent the entire time worrying I’d ripped my leggings (I had). One thing I have rediscovered lately is the absolute joy I find in cooking. At the moment, I’m currently living at my parents’ house which has been a bit unexpected and just as odd an experience as you might think (I haven’t lived at home since I was 18!) With the weather being pretty horrendous lately and the winter darkness setting in around 4pm, sometimes the evenings stretch out ahead of me and I find myself getting far too introspective (and sometimes a little bored). 

A few weeks ago I decided to start cooking for my parents once or twice a week, and trying to cook a meal that I could take my time over preparing (not just fishfingers, chips and peas!) I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. There’s something so cathartic about chopping vegetables, preparing sauces and watching things bubbling away in a saucepan. After a long day at work (and a long drive home thanks to a much lengthier commute) I can feel all of the worries of the day ebbing away as I prepare a meal. Over the last few weeks I’ve been trialling the HelloFresh boxes, and it’s been a total joy making (and eating) the meals they’ve sent. For those of you that don’t know, Hello Fresh is a delivery service that delivers the ingredients for three or five meals a week. They deliver the entire ingredients for a meal, right down to seasonings, stocks and even small things like garlic cloves or butter. They also send out recipe cards with step-by-step instructions for each meal. You can swap the meals if you don’t fancy the menu that week, and there’s also veggie options for people who don’t eat meat. We actually often order Hello Fresh boxes, usually for the first week of the month when we’re feeling a bit lazy and want to treat ourselves to some easy dinners!

Red Thai Prawn Curry - Recipe here
I think it’s common these days to end up coming home from work in a state of total exhaustion, foraging for something quick and easy to cook in the kitchen (or grabbing a ready meal or a takeaway) and then eating it in silence in front of the TV. I know many of my evenings often end up looking like that. One of the real pleasures of Hello Fresh is not only that it takes time to prepare the food in a mindful and slow way, but also that making that effort forces you to savour the meal too. After the meal is cooked I always take time to sit at the table and really take time to enjoy the fruits of my labour; chatting about the day and usually enjoying it with a glass of wine and some candles burning. My Mum has a rule that we’re not allowed phones at the dinner table (I still can’t get over how pathetic I feel saying that I’m back living at my parents’ house!) and whilst I initially found it annoying, I must admit I do actually really enjoy just sharing news and catching up rather than scrolling through Twitter. Sadly enough I’ve realised that cooking and eating is probably the only time when I just do nothing but focus on the meal (or the eating!) without having my mind on what’s going on on social media, or what I’m going to do next.

I think one of the reasons I love Hello Fresh so much is not only because the food is frankly delicious (I can’t even explain just how many ‘mmm’ noises have occurred from all around the table since I started cooking them), or that all of the ingredients are fresh and good quality, but just for the sheer experience of preparing the food and enjoying it around the dinner table. This is definitely a habit I’ll be keeping up (as well as the Hello Fresh subscription – there’s no way I can live without dinners like Sweet Potato Cottage Pie, Mexican Spiced Tostadas or Cajun Pork (I’m getting hungry now…)

If you want to try Hello Fresh you can get £25 off your first box here.

*This is a PR collaboration but all opinions are my own

Self-Care on Valentine's Day

It's generally acknowledged that Christmas can be a difficult time for people who are on their own, but once the festivities are over and the New Year is upon us, I also think that Valentine's Day is another day that people often dread.  I have to admit that I am not exactly looking forward to Valentine's Day this year, and know several people who are in the similar position of seeing that date on the calendar and hoping it whizzes by as quickly as possible.

Personally whilst I obviously have no plans on Valentine's Day, I've decided to keep this Tuesday as an evening dedicated purely to self-care and chilling in at home (just like every other evening, I hear you say, and you would be right).  Kraken Rum kindly sent me a little Valentine's kit to share with a special someone (this year, that being me, myself and I) complete with black roses, black candles and the ingredients to make an 'Any Port In a Storm' cocktail.  Kraken has long been my favourite rum, and whilst I'm usually found ordering it with Diet Coke in a bar, I'm excited to settle down on Tuesday evening with a glass full of my favourite spirit and a different recipe to whip up.  I somehow feel like staying in with a bottle of wine and a boxset on my own paints a different picture to staying in with a glass full of rum and some black candles burning away in the background - I'm pretty sure that's what badass people do on their own on V-Day. 

Aside from sipping rum, there's several other things I have planned for my Valentine's Day evening.  At the moment with the weather how it is, it's absolutely imperative to come home from work, put the fire on and get snuggly underneath a blanket.  I'm pretty sure that when it reaches 2 degrees or under it makes it absolutely legitimate to get straight into your pyjamas and slippers even if it is only 6pm.  On Valentine's Day I'll be making sure my favourite PJs are freshly washed (I may even put my dressing gown on the radiator to warm it up - never let it be said that I don't know how to celebrate special occasions...)  

 Of course if I'm ensuring I'm treating myself to all of my favourite self-care activities, it wouldn't be a Rosie night in without a long, languid bath with some kind of Lush bath bomb.  I treated myself to a few things from their Valentine's range, and my favourite is the Unicorn Horn bubble bar.  Can you think of anything more perfect than settling into fairytale, fragrant bubbles on Valentine's Day? I'll definitely be lighting candles and making sure there's a rum-filled glass within easy reach.  I've also been bringing in a little speaker to the bathroom and listening to podcasts or audiobooks whilst I'm soaking in the tub - it's the perfect relaxing evening activity (or it would be if I didn't mostly listen to podcasts or audiobooks about serial killers).

At the moment I'm really trying to focus on my self-development and staying inspired and creative even through what is quite a tough time.  So, on Valentine's Day I'll be giving a nod to awesome, independent ladies everywhere by dipping into Radical Self Love by Gala Darling (seems apt for Valentine's Day!), one of my favourite poetry books, and my Christmas present from Emma - Bad Girls Throughout History.  Of course these books will be enjoyed under some sort of blanket, with my cosy PJs on, and maybe with some sort of bowl of snacks to hand.  I feel like self-care and nachos are pretty inextricably linked, so I can imagine whipping up some sort of crisps and dip combo, and then maybe an indulgent dessert.  Nothing says radical self-love like a slab of New York Cheesecake all to yourself.

Will you be celebrating Valentine's Day with your significant other, or planning a night of self-care like me? Whatever you're planning, I highly encourage you to check out some of the awesome things that Kraken Rum have been doing throughout Valentine's Day by looking at the #Rumantics hashtag - which include matchmaking a couple for a date via the excellent blind date planning skills of Ken the Octopus (you can read how their date went here!

*Post in collaboration with Kraken Rum, all opinions my own

Minimalism in the kitchen: tips for not wasting food

The rising trend for 'simple living' and minimalism is ubiquitous at the moment, with people using Marie Kondo's guidance to clear out their wardrobes and live better with less.  It's true that we have an increasing culture of consumption where many people favour quantity rather than quality, and find ourselves owning more than we can cope with (and eventually throwing things out, or being stuck in a cycle of having a clearout but buying more things).

I can certainly relate to that - I found myself sickened some months ago when we moved house and the removals company had to send extra people in the afternoon to help us to pack the sheer amount of things we owned. Our three bedroom house was full to bursting, and there was only two of us.  I knew I had to make some changes to stop the stress I felt at the amount that we owned, and constantly wasted.

Whilst I've managed to clear-out a lot of clothes and unwanted belongings like books and DVDs, one area where I am guilty of waste is the kitchen.  Every week I find myself throwing things out from the fridge (especially fruit and vegetables or dairy products) and it makes me feel incredibly guilty to see that amount of food going into the bin.  Interestingly, Sainsbury's have kicked off their own initiative to save money and reduce food waste; recognising it as a huge environmental issue.  Their research shows that seven million tonnes of food are thrown away by UK households alone, and my generation are the worst culprits, with 17% saying that they throw away leftovers multiple times a week.

So how can we cut down on food waste and declutter our kitchen cupboards? Here are my tips for ways to waste less and save more...

001. Do your food shop online - I'm a big fan of shopping online for a lot of the things I buy, but there's another reason why I favour online food shopping rather than just sheer loneliness.  I find that I'm not tempted in by the 'end of the aisle' treats and new products, and instead can just work through my list and stick to buying exactly what I need.

002. Make more and freeze leftovers - For me, one of the best things I can do for both my health, minimising waste and my bank balance is making bigger portions of meals such as spaghetti bolognese, shepherd's pie or lasagne.  I'll then portion them out for lunches for the office or freeze them for meals for the following weeks.  It means I save money not running to the shop across the road to get a pre-packed sandwich, and it means I don't end up throwing things away that I've bought for lunches for the week and then not been bothered to make the night before!

003. 'Audit' the kitchen cupboards - One of the things I do try and do is to routinely go through the cupboards and work out what meals I could make with the ingredients I have.  I've found in the past that just by looking at what there is in the various kitchen cupboards I can then do a really small shop at the end of the week and make several more meals.  The Sainsbury's 'Waste less, Save more' site also includes a great 'Food Rescue' function where you can put in the ingredients in your cupboard and it will show you yummy recipes you can make with them (such a good idea!)

004. Plan your meals - Another good habit I find helps combat waste is to plan my meals every night and then only buy the ingredients required for those meals.  This means I don't find a leftover ball of mozzarella, bunch of leeks and packet of sausages in the fridge at the end of the week that I bought on a whim and are all past their sell by date! It also takes the stress out of coming home from work and wondering what to cook.

One of the things that Sainsbury's found out is that our generation (18-34 year olds) tend to spend more on food, and waste more food (on average £460 worth of food a year).  They found that over 55s leave leftovers much less than 18-34 year olds, and tend to feel they know more about managing and cooking food.  My Mum definitely hates wasting food and will always be the first person telling you to finish your food in a restaurant (and then helping you finish your chips as she hates being leftovers!) I asked my Mum what her tips were for avoiding wasting food....

001. Check the sell by dates - Check the dates on the perishables in your trolley to make sure you have a variety of dates, rather than multiple things that run out within the next day or two.

002. Immediately put things in the freezer - Make sure anything that's refrigerated that you intend to freeze, you put in the freezer straight away, rather than leaving things in the back of the fridge until it's too late.

003. Have a few favourite recipes for over-ripe fruit and vegetables - Find recipes for fruit cakes or banana bread and whip them up to give over-ripe fruit a new lease of life.  Also make soups, roasted vegetables or pasta sauces with vegetables that are on the turn.  You can also freeze these to really extend their life!

What are your tips for combating food waste?
*This has been a PR collaboration