My First Gousto Box!

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Recently, I have started seeing recipe boxes being promoted – mainly in flyers in some of the parcels I have been getting. They did intrigue me but I decided they were a bit too pricey so decided not to get one. However, a flyer came through with a recent Amazon purchase to try the Gousto box for only 10 pounds. Now that is a good offer – 3 meals for 2 people for a tenner, so I signed up and gave the box a try! Now I do have to apologise for the quality of photos in this post – I am struggling with the light in the kitchen and flat as it is pitch black by the time I get home – but I am working on it promise!

The premise behind the Gousto box is that 10 recipes are put up each week and you select 3. You then get these sent out on a specific day, with all the ingredients included. They try and make all the ingredients organic, local and sustainable which I really liked. In terms of our normal eating habits, we eat in and out about equally through the week – but I am trying to cook more. We are about 2 minutes from a supermarket so when I do cook, it is usually whatever I decide and pick up on my way home from work which is usually quite late.

I signed up for the box and ordered it to be delivered a week later – I think you can choose from a Wednesday or a Friday but as I often work from home on a Friday, I got it delivered then. I went on the website and picked three recipes – they had a good range including fish and 3 vegetarian options and they include all the nutritional information and how long they approximately take to cook – between 30 and 40 minutes. The dishes we selected were: Mexican Pork Tacos, Harissa Beef Patties and Mexican Bean Wraps – we obviously like our mexican! But there were other recipes which we liked the look of.

I was very excited when the box arrived – they rang my phone at 9, but only at 11 did I realise that it meant the parcel was here, and it was where I told them to leave it. The box was huge! I grabbed it and brought it upstairs before digging in. They have a really awesome cooling system where they put the perishables in a thick wool bag with ice cubes. Ours had been sitting there for a couple of hours and the ice was still frozen and everything very cold. I did wonder about this as if I was at work I wouldn’t be able to get it in the fridge until I got home, but I think I would feel comfortable with the food in this bag. All the other veges were in the box itself, with all the herbs and spices in their individual measured out packets which I quite liked. We got some extra free pop chips which is nice then our recipe cards and some other bits and pieces. Most ingredients have a label on them with a code and the code relates to the recipe card and step which was a good touch so we knew what bits were for each recipe. We also got a sheet outlining everything in the box and letting us know when to eat it by.

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Now you do have to eat these recipes pretty quickly – they arrived on Friday and they needed to be used by Tuesday which means you do need some planning involved! We were out on Friday and Saturday nights so we ended up making them Sunday, Monday and Tuesday which worked well. I think it would be good to get the box earlier in the week as it is weeknights I would use it most!

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The recipes are really easy to follow and I was very happy with the results! First came the pork wraps with an apple, coriander and red onion slaw which was really nice. I always think about making things with pork mince but I never seem to find it in the little supermarket near us. I also never use apple as I’m not the biggest fruit lover, but I was so happy I did! These took about 30 minutes to make and I will make these again. Also a word on portions – they are very generous for two! We got two wraps each, but there was enough filling for more than that so we just packed them in and ate it all.

Next came the Harissa Beef Patties which Paul cooked – Paul isn’t the biggest chef but he found the recipe easy to follow and did a great job! This was beef patties with roasted sweet potato and red onion and a yoghurt tzatziki type dressing and it was delicious. I make my own version of beef patties (which you can find here) but I really liked this as it gave me another idea of how to serve it – the sweet potato tasted amazing. I think this was my favourite of the three meals.

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Last was the Mexican bean wraps which was our vege option – these were a tomato and bean mix with a really nice coriander and lime sour cream. This was probably my least favourite as it was quite wet but it still tasted really good and we ate it all up.

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Overall, I really enjoyed our Gousto box – it made my evenings much easier as there was no guess work and everything was delivered fresh and ready to go. I also liked that it was all sustainable and local produce which I try and buy when I can. I’m not sure if we are going to keep getting boxes – probably not every week but maybe every once in awhile as they are 35 pounds normally and I think that is stretching the budget a bit – especially coming up to Christmas!

Have you tried a Gousto or other recipe box?

JC xx

My Top 5: Sandwiches (+ where to buy them!)

As many of you know, I’m trying to get over a bit of a blog slump and write about things I love. I was pondering over some food related posts, when I realised all of my thoughts were centering on one thing – sandwiches. I love them, simple as that. If I could pick one food item for the rest of my life to eat then it would be sandwiches. It’s not unknown for me to eat them for three meals a day..

Now when I first moved to London, I didn’t cook for a year. Yep, for a whole year I did not buy any groceries nor enter the kitchen. My shelf in the fridge consisted of diet coke and water. I am recently changing all that and getting back to the kitchen. But, it does mean that I have purchased a lot of sandwiches to feed me over that year and I am going to highlight the best! So I will run through my top 5 sandwich flavours and where best to buy them on the high street. Now I also apologise for the stock photos, I have been trying to get pictures of all these sandwiches but they don’t look too appetizing when I’m running through a train station!

1. Ham and Cheese

It’s a classic, and it’s a delicious one. I could eat ham and cheese sandwiches all day. The ham definitely needs to be real ham and none of that processed and put back together ham, the cheese should be cheddar but not too strong. You want a good salty creamy balanced. I like my ham and cheese equally toasted and untoasted depending on where I get it. My gran makes an amazing ham and cheese bap with ham she cooks herself, so I have high standards.

Top: Uppercrust Ham and Cheese Baguette. My top ham and cheese has to go to Uppercrust, a baguette is ideal, crispy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. The ham and cheese is perfectly proportioned and a bit of mayo to give a bit more flavour. I eat one of these every single time I get a train, and I usually look forward to it for quite awhile!

Runner up: Cafe Nero Ham and Mozerella Toastati. Now this does have mozerella as well as cheddar, but it is an ideal little size for snacks or breakfast so I eat this a lot! It must be toasted so that is creamy and delicious. I much prefer this over their ham and cheese paninis, do I want bechamel on my sandwich? No way, too gloopy for me!

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2. Egg mayo

Another classic. I ate so many egg mayo sandwiches as a child I possibly could have turned into one. I remember not being able to fathom how people could be on diets if they couldn’t eat egg mayo, it was a true addiction. I did go off egg mayo as I go older but that is because you have to get the egg mayo ratio correct, I don’t want it watery, you need to cook the egg well or else it is unappetising. You also need some green in there, cress or spinach, just something to break up the flavour.

Top: Pret Egg Mayo. Hands down winner here, not only is it freaking delicious but it’s by far their cheapest sandwich. Lunch for under 2 pounds from Pret? Yes please!

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3. Chicken and Avocado

Anything with avocado and I am there. I hated avocado when I was young and only really started eating it in the past few years which I think has driven the need to eat it all the time. When you combine it with chicken then I am happy! There are several versions of this sandwich, toasted with cheese, throw some bacon on there, or do it in a wrap – all delicious!

Top: Pret Chicken and Avocado again! It has some delicious yoghurty mayo on it too and overall is a top reasonable calorie option for lunch time.

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4. Salmon and Cream Cheese (Bagel)

This is better on a bagel rather than a traditional sandwich but I think this needs to still be in the list as it is freaking amazing. Same with avocado, I hated smoked salmon for the first 20 years of my life and now I CANT STOP EATING IT. Honestly, every time I go out for breakfast it’s always scrambled eggs and salmon. But it is even better on a bagel. The bagel needs to be toasted, a thick layer of cream cheese and some delicious thinly sliced fresh smoked salmon – bit of lemon and pepper and honestly, I could eat about ten.

Top: This is something that you only tend to get at smaller cafes etc but the Bagel Factory which is in Waterloo does an amazing bagel – plus if you buy 4 bagels you get the 5th free!

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5. Chicken, Cranberry and Brie

This combination isn’t as popular in the UK as in NZ. But in New Zealand, you can’t go into a cafe without being offered some twist on the chicken, cranberry and brie toasted sandwich. It is important to get the balance right – creamy brie with a bit of cranberry to cut through it then some fresh chicken on top, all toasted so it’s gooey and delicious!

Top: Muffin break which I have seen occasionally in the UK does a good sandwich.

Runner Up: Sacred off Carnaby street in London also does a very good rendition of this sandwich!

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So what are your favourite sandwiches?

JC xx

Eyeshadow Sticks – The Good and the Bad!

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I am always looking for make up to be easier and quicker. And although I do love my naked palettes, on very early mornings before work, I can barely navigate myself out of bed never mind deal with 12 shades and blending. So my savior has become eyeshadow sticks, all I have to do it grab a colour and either put it over the entire eyelid or as a thick eye line and I have added a little something to my face, without over doing it and spending the least amount of time possible! So I have been picking up a few of these and though I would share my faves and my not so faves.

Faves:

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Kiko:

Kiko eye shadow sticks are the star. Honestly, I have two but I want to buy them all. The first I got was one from the Ace of Diamonds collection and is shaped like a chubby stick. It is a lovely neutral grey which with the large nib is easy to sweep over my entire eye and get out the door. It twists up and has a lot of product for the price. It applies pigmented and creamy – I do tend to wear some primer underneath just to ensure it stays put and crease free. This means it lasts me morning until night!

I also picked up one of their standard kiko shadow sticks – these are like twist up pens with a smaller nib. I got this burnt red colour which I really like. It is a bit bolder than the other colours but when I just do a thick eyeline, I think it looks smart enough for work and I wear this quite often. As I only usually line my eyes, I don’t bother with a primer and it stays put!

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Sephora:

I have written about these before but I will just reiterate my love for the Sephora Jumbo Eye Liners. They stay put all day without primer but are so creamy and easy to apply. I love this colour so much as it is really brightening on the eye, I like drawing a thick line but then bringing it down into my inner corners to really highlight them. I really want to pick up other colours (next month when I’m in Paris and can find a sephora!) The only problem with this one is that you need to sharpen it which is a pain as I never remember to pick one up!

Not So Faves:

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Rimmel:

The Rimmel London Scandal Eyes are the most disappointing thing I have picked up in awhile! It swatches so smooth and creamy on the hand, exactly like the Sephora eyeliner but when I put it on my eyes it just disappears! I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, I’ve tried with and without primer, warming it up etc but it just will not get on my eyes. It is such a gorgeous colour as well so I wish it worked but I will not be picking up any more of these!

MUA:

Now these aren’t as disappointing as the Rimmel ones, they are just a bit average compared to the faves! The colour is lovely again, and the packaging is pretty much the same as the Kiko one but the pigmentation just doesn’t transfer to the eyes. It is still wearable but doesn’t last all day – but for the price you pay not too bad.

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From bottom: Kiko Ace of Diamonds, Kiko, Sephora, Rimmel, MUA!

I’m keen to try the Gosh ones next as I have heard good things! What eyeshadow sticks do you recommend?

JC xx

 

Top London High Teas: Sanderson Mad Hatters High Tea

I have been writing a little series of all of the great afternoon teas I have been to in London over the last year or so. I started with the Ritz which you can read about here. But this week we are doing something a little different, the Alice in Wonderland themed Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson Hotel.

My sister, her boyfriend and I were tempted to this because of the theme, although Alice in Wonderland isn’t my favourite book, I thought that there are so many cute things you can do to keep it in theme. First, the covered courtyard where you eat is beautiful. The Sanderson is such a unique hotel with lots of odd furniture and art in the lobby, but the courtyard is classic with a gorgeous fountain in the middle. It was nice to be in such a bright and airy space. Another nice touch was that many of the staff are in costume – which really adds to the theme.

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The menu itself is stuck inside really old books which I love! I think old books are so charming and give me such a sense of nostalgia. We all picked teas which came out in themed queen of hearts teapots, and the sugar in a little singing jewellery box – so many of the little touches were considered which I thought was great. The plates and teacups themselves were also really cute! I really was tempted to take mine home!

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The food itself started with sandwiches. They tried again to give these a twist and all of the breads were different – spinach, rye, lemon and sundried tomato with the traditional inclusions – salmon, egg and cucumber. They were all in a different shape as well. Although these looked great they weren’t all my favourite as some of the flavours were a little odd. But they certainly looked great! There were also some quiches which were very nice – I always like it when a high tea adds some different savories than just the sandwiches.

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There were the traditional scones which of course were delicious. Can’t really go wrong with a big scone, lashings of cream and some sweet jam – probably one of my favourite foods ever.

The best part of the afternoon tea was the cakes as they were themed so well to the Mad Hatter – meringue in the shape of carrots along with the pea shoots on the top, victoria sponge in the shape of clocks, little marshmellow mushrooms, there was mousse in tea cups and little drink me potions. Not only did these look great but they all tasted amazing. By this point I was a bit full as you would imagine but I still managed to get most things in!

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Overall, I think this is a really lovely afternoon out – it is slightly cheaper than the Ritz at 38 pounds each so is a great thing to do if you want a bit of a treat or if you are down in London for the weekend! We had a great time and I still want to get my hands on the tea cups and plates used!

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JC xx

Ingredients Explained: Salicylic Acid

It’s been a long time since an Ingredients Explained post! But I really want to get back to bringing some science into my blog and I think bringing this back is a good start. I also have some marketing busted posts coming up – as some marketing ads are just ridiculous when you think about them from a scientific perspective so look out for those.

Now, onto salicylic acid – I wanted to do a post about this as it is a common ingredient but not one which many people understand. When you first hear salicylic acid you presumably think about its anti blemish properties but it does this in different ways which affects your skin natural balance.

So what is salcylic acid?

It is an acid! Well technically a beta hydroxy acid, it was originally isolated from willow trees as it is a plant hormone. It is one of the active ingredients in aspirin for it’s pain reliving and anti inflammatory properties. Nowadays it is manufactured rather than extracted from tree cells!

And what does it do?

Salicylic acid is an awesome product (in small quantities!), it has several functions when put on skin. First, it acts to remove the outer layer of the skin – even though you can’t see it there is a lot of dead skin which sits on your face, sometimes when this builds up, it will block the skin underneath and cause clogs and a place for bacteria to grow. This acid sloughs off these cells (and in high quantities is even used to burn off warts!).

On top of that, the acid widens pores, unclogging the oil within them, most like using it’s anti inflammatory properties. It not only opens the pores but keeps them open so may have a dilating effect. This helps keep the pores from clogging and gives you less spots! On top of this, being a corrosive acid means that it kills any bacteria on your face, which is a huge part of causing spots – getting into your pores, causing a reaction and a spot suddenly appears!

This three pronged approach makes salicylic acid an amazing product and is why it is so popular and found in a whole range of face, body and hair care products.

Why do I need to be wary about it in products?

However, even though I sing it’s praises above. Salicylic acid should only be used if you have blemish prone skin! It works well at clearing the skin, but for those who are past that stage or have more normal skin should stay away – the sloughing, widening of pores and stripping effect of the acid can damage the skin. It can increase our pore size (which no one wants if they can help it!) and can really irritate the skin of some people.

And there you have it – everything you need to know about salicylic acid and whether you should be using it!

Do you have any requests for ingredients explained posts?

JC xx

London Town Date Night + Wahaca!

Whilst Paul and I do go out for dinner and to the movies quite a bit, we haven’t had a proper date night where we get dressed up and go out on the town in ages! So this Friday, we decided to go out for dinner in central London then have a bit of a wander round the city and go out for a drink.

We pondered where to go but eventually decided on Wahaca. Wahaca is a mexican chain which I think is now around the UK. We had been once a long time ago so thought it was time to go back! Mexican is one of my favourite types of cuisine – I don’t think you can go wrong with big bold flavours, a bit of chilly, creamy sour cream and delicious guacamole!

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First, comes the face. I decided that it was time to wear a bold lip! I haven’t worn bright lipstick in awhile as I don’t like wearing it to work and haven’t been out too much. This is the elf matte lip colour in Rich red and I love it! It is so creamy and lovely to apply, not to mention opaque and stays put! Although you can’t see my eyes too well, I combined this will some pinky neutrals from the naked 3 palette and a whole lot of black eyeliner – also something I never seem to have time to apply these days so it was nice to wear. I used one of my holy grail eyeliners – the collection 24hr, which does not budge. I wrote a review on it awhile ago, and I can report it has not yet dried out!

We then headed out on the train to Waterloo and went to the wahaca opposite. I prefer this one to the one on Southbank as it is a lot bigger. We of course started out with Margaritas – the hibiscus one is really nice and gives a great cranberry flavour (which makes it very drinkable so watch out!). Alongside some guacamole of course which I scoffed so quick that I didn’t get to take a picture – but it was good, rich and creamy with red onion. I could’ve licked the bowl (but refrained as I was on a date!).

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Left: Chicken Taquitos and my hibiscus magarita Right: one of the steak tacos

I think the best bit about wahaca is that you can get small plates and share them. This is my favourite thing to do when eating out as I like to try a little bit of everything. We had the steak and chipotle tacos, the black bean tostada, chicken taquitos and chicken quesidillas. They were all really nice but the steak tacos were amazing! The steak was melt in the mouth and it had a nice kick to go along with it. The tostadas were good too as I had never had one before, but they are like a cripsy wrap which is covered by a cold black bean and cheese salad – it was refreshing to have something light and fresh as sometimes mexican can get quite heavy.

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Left: Paul looking happy with his tostada Right: Caramel churros!

We of course needed to have dessert as I can never pass by churros in a restaurant – we had them with caramel dipping sauce and they were ridiculously delicious. You can’t go past sugary, cinnamon chewy doughy dipped in caramel goodness.

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After our meal we obviously needed to walk off all that food so headed over the bridge, up around Covent garden then down through Trafalgar square, back over another bridge and back to Southbank. I love wandering around London in the evenings, there is such a great atmosphere and so many awesome shops, restaurants and bars to peek into. It was just chilly enough to give a bit of Christmasy atmosphere as well.

When we made it back to Southbank we sheltered from the rain which soon started in Los Iguanas. I had never been there before but they did a nice cosmo.

Overall, it was a lovely night out – it’s nice to do something a bit different and get a bit of London atmosphere.

Oh and we also went to Honest Burger on Saturday night in Tooting which isn’t too far from us and it was delicious. Seriously, if you haven’t been to honest burger you are missing out – soft, melt in the mouth meat with brioche, cheese and red onion relish. I could eat them pretty much everyday.

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Have you had any good nights out recently? Do you like Wahaca and Honest burger?

And I finally got around to having a bit of a blog rejiggle – redid the top menu bar and lots of the widgets on the right hand side. Let me know what you think!

JC xx

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Collective Haul: Lush, Yankee, + Cookbooks!

I have been trying to spend less money lately but I have picked up a few bits and bobs recently and I didn’t really feel like I could do a whole post on each so I thought I would squash them all together into one big haul post! I picked up a few things from Lush, The Body Shop, Yankee Candles and Amazon.

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Firstly Lush – I find I don’t have much time for baths but I do enjoy them. But I definitely have a lot more in the cooler months, and as I have been working some long days, it has been amazing to come home and just relax for awhile in a hot bath. So when I went to the #LDNbloggermeetup (which was awesome by the way!), I popped into Lush on Regent’s Street. I only picked up a couple of things, then I was lucky enough to get the third at the meet up.

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I bought the penguin bubble bar, which I was a little disappointed with – it just didn’t give me as many bubbles I would have liked but other than that was amazing, it turned the bath an amazing blue and smelt so good! My bathroom still smells of it when I go in which I am loving. It was also really kind to the skin. The other two I haven’t tried yet but I bought the butter bath bomb which says that it has shea butter to smooth the skin and the santa claus one! This one looked so cool but smashed a little in my bag on the way home – still perfect to use in the bath though so looking forward to that.

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Following my trip to Prague with Paul, we picked up a huge yankee candle in Soft Blanket on our way back through the airport. This has definitely started an addiction! That one was a jar and not only did it last for ages but I was really impressed with how much the smell diffused around the room, I never seem to get that with other candles. I went for a quick browse on Yankee Doodle and decided to get some multi packs of the smaller candles – I could not decide on a scent! So I picked up the Autumn sampler and the Christmas Sampler – 10 smaller candles in total but total burn time of 150 hours which should keep us going for awhile. They were also quite affordable – only about 8 pounds each which I can definitely justify!

I have only burnt two so far, out of the Autumn pack, Lake Sunset which was quite a floral, light scent and honey glow which is sweet and warming. I have really like both so far and they all smell delicious in the pack!

I have also been cooking a lot more so decided to buy a couple of books from Amazon. Cook books can be surprisingly cheap on there, I think I got both of these for 12 pounds. I bought Jamie Olivers Save with Jamie and Mary Berry Cook Now Eat Later. They are both lovely high quality but I really like the Jamie one! The recipes are delicious, easy to make and give some great affordable options. I haven’t made anything out of Mary’s yet – they do all sound great but seem to all be in portions for 6 people which is a pain when you are only cooking for two. I made the Singapore Noodles the other day and they were so nice!

So there are a few of my recent purchases, have you tried any?

JC xx