JC Cooks: Healthy Turkey Courgette Lasagna

Turkey Courgette Lasagna

Recently, courgetti has been EVERYWHERE! And I’m seriously jealous. I am quite the courgette (or zucchini, whatever you want to name it!) lover and have it most weeks. But I am yet to be the owner of a spiralizer, so courgette pasta is yet to grace me with its presence.

So as I have been thinking a lot about courgettes and pasta, and through some pintrest inspiration, I stumbled across the idea of courgette lasagna. As in lasagna but with courgette slices instead of the pasta. I scoured through recipes trying to find the ideal one but none of them were quite right. So I amalgamated a whole lot of them together to create (if I do say so myself), one of the best recipes I’ve ever made – Turkey Courgette Lasagna. Seriously guys, this is so good, and guilt free! Ideal.

Not only did I reduce the calories with the swap of the pasta, I also decided to make this with turkey instead of traditional mince and swapped the traditional roux for ricotta. It is also packed full of an array of veges! This makes a huge serving – we had it over two nights so 4 servings, but if you are having it with a side (some crusty bread would be ideal!) then it would definitely stretch to 6 servings. Right, stop yapping, start cooking!

Ingredients:

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  • 1 pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 700mL diced tomatoes/ready made tomato sauce/home made tomato sauce (whatever is easiest for you!)
  • Big handful of basil
  • 500g turkey mince
  • 4 big zucchinis
  • 500ml ricotta
  • Big handful Parmesan
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Mozzarella (optional)
  • Chilli flakes, mixed herbs (optional)

This recipe does require a little bit of work, but trust me it is worth it!

1. Using a wide vegetable peeler, cut the ends of the courgette and cut in half. Use the vegetable peeler to peel over slices of the zucchini. Place in a pile to be layered (you can grill it first if you want – I grilled half and kept half normal and couldn’t tell the difference!).

2. If you can multi-task, then chop up your pepper and onion and get them frying in a saucepan. Once they are browned, add the turkey and cook until brown. Add the onions, chopped basil and any other herbs you have lying around along with the pasta sauce (or tomatoes or whatever you are using!). Place on a low simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Grab your ricotta and place in a bowl. You should now have three categories, your tomato mince sauce, ricotta and zucchini.

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4. It’s time to layer! Grab your zucchini and start layering across the bottom of the dish – it’s good to keep it as a full layer but don’t worry if there are any gaps. Spread a quarter of your ricotta across the zucchini and sprinkle with some of the Parmesan. Then on top of that add a layer of your mince tomato sauce.

5. Now repeat! I got 3 layers of everything before I started to run out but it will depend on the size of your dish you are using. Just keep going as far as you can.

6. I ended on a layer of zucchini and as I had some leftover mozzarella, tore this up and sprinkled it over the top.

7. Pop in the oven for 25 minutes at 200 degrees.

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8. Slice in servings and ENJOY!!

Tell me, have you gotten into this courgette pasta craze?!

JC xx

 

JC Updates: 10 Happy Things #12

Hello friends!

This is a kind of exciting post, not just because it’s all about lovely happy things from the past couple of weeks – but also because this is my 200th post! How I’ve managed to sit here and tap out a whole 200 of them, I have no idea. I’m going to be doing a little round up of them soon (and an image archive if I ever get time…!).

So the last 2 weeks summed up in one word… BUSY! Seriously, coming up to deadlines at work and it has been full on, lots of work and not too much time to blog, but it feels good to be making a lot of progress. Let’s get into the happy things now, shall we?

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1. We just got back from a long weekend in Anglesey. Expect a whole post, but just look at that view. We did so well with the weather and I had an awesome time shutting down from work and technology.

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2. I went to pint of science! This was one of the best things I’ve ever heard of, talks about awesome science and research all talked to you over a pint at the pub. I only managed to get to one – all about physics in the world around us where I learn about plastic electronics and it was SO interesting. I had tickets for one on genetics as well but unfortunately had to travel for work. It’s on for 3 days a year and can’t wait for next year already!

3. Our tickets for F1 arrived! I bought Paul and I tickets for the Silverstone Grand Prix for his birthday back in January. I literally ordered these in October and they finally appeared this week. Already looking forward to it – I enjoyed the Monaco grand prix this weekend too.

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4. The bike! Pretty sure this features in every happy things post, but I finally got an action shot.

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5. Weight Watchers biscuits*. I got sent some of these delish custard creams from Weight Watchers and they are so good. When I’m busy I do tend to fall into bad eating habits, so these have been perfect for a little afternoon treat without having to feel guilty about it. Plus custard creams are quite possibly my favourite biscuit ever so a lower calorie option is ideal.

6. My SEO post! I literally spent what felt like a week writing and rewriting it, so I’m really happy that so many people found it useful!

7. The Thinking Sideways and Start Up podcasts. I’ve done a whole lot of driving over the past couple of weeks so it’s been nice to listen to interesting things! I mentioned Thinking Sideways in my top 6 podcast post, but it is so good. All about unsolved mysteries and I love the hosts. Start Up follows two new companies as they launch their businesses – it’s made by one of the guys who used to do This American Life and is fabulous.

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8. We went to Alices Undergound Adventures at the Waterloo Vaults. I hadn’t been to the theatre in ages so this was awesome. It’s an immersive experience where you go down the rabbit hole. You get split into suits (I was a diamond) and took visits to different characters before all meeting again at the Mad Hatters Tea Party. I thought it was awesome – so nice to go to something that bit different!

9. My lovely American cousins came to visit! We went out for a nice dinner in central London, and it made me want to plan a trip back to America ASAP.

10. I really enjoyed watching Aisybees Get to Know Me tag video shot all around Brighton, along with Ancas recent trip to London!

Tell me what has made you happy recently!

JC xx

*As always, I only feature products on the blog which I love! No love, no blog.

JC Tech: The Bloggers Guide to SEO #2 – 8 Ways to Boost your SEO

Jasmin Charlotte | The Bloggers guide to SEO, 8 Ways to improve SEO

Welcome back to the second installment of The Bloggers Guide to SEO! Last week we went super simple, explaining what SEO really is, and why you need to care about it. This week I want to explore 8 things you can add into your posts which will help in boosting your SEO – and how many people come across your blog from using google. This post is going to end up being a bit of a beast, so grab a cuppa and get comfortable – promise there will be something good in it for you if you make it to the end!

8 Ways to Boost Your SEO

1. Reader Friendly Content Rich Writing

The first one is an obvious one – good content. Google is looking for sites which are ‘sticky’, where people tend to stay on the site and have a browse rather than clicking straight back to google. And the best way to become sticky? Have good content. It’s always hard to define exactly what ‘good content’ is, as you want your writing to be unique!

However, luckily there are some tangible things you can do:

  • Paragraphs – Make your posts as easy to read as possible, keep your paragraphs and sentences short. Most people skim read – keep it simple.
  • Bullet points and numbered lists – in the same vein, breaking things into lists (like this one!) makes it easier to read. This also changes your HTML code to indicate a list – something which google bots can easily see when scanning your site.
  • Grammar and Spelling – Make sure your grammar and spelling is up to scratch! It doesn’t have to be perfect, but a large amount of errors will be notice. I’ve started using Grammarly which I mention in my 5 tools to improve your writing post – this has really helped with my posts!
  • Make sure your posts are over 300 words – As a guideline, the ideal SEO posts are between 300-1500 words. Don’t make them too short.
  • Use simple words instead of complex words – if you can use a simple word instead of a multi syllable word then use it. We get taught in school to try and use big words, but in reality – simple one syllable words are the way to go.

2. Use Keywords Strategically

Right keywords!  This is a tricky one but one which helps your SEO tremendously. Back in old SEO, it was important to stuff as many keywords into your post as possible – however, with new google updates this really isn’t the case. Keywords should be used, but they need to inserted into the post in a native fashion. That means, just write the post like you would read it, rather than adding odd ‘key words’ at every opportunity. There are several recommendations for keywords:

  • The key word or phrase should be used in:
    • Title
    • URL
    • Content
    • Alt Tags
    • Meta description
    • H2 (though this isn’t as highly favoured)
  • So when you begin your post, pick one key word or phrase and use the same one across the post. For example, the key word for this post is ‘Bloggers Guide to SEO’, you can see that up there in title, in the URL, a couple of times in the copy, on the alt tags of any pictures and in my meta description.
  • The title on wordpress is set at the top of the screen, with the URL below it – you can update this URL by clicking the edit button if needed. This is especially important if you change your title and key word – your URL won’t automatically update.

URL

3. Sub headings + Titles

If you are familiar with HTML then you will be familiar with subheadings. These are used to make your writing bigger – and although it is tempting to just increase your font size in various areas of your post, it is important to use heading tags. These can be found in wordpress under the paragraph drop down.

heading

By inserting areas of text with a heading tag (most notable the H2 heading), you are highlighting that text as important – so it should include a keyword or phrase. When you create a H2 heading for example, the code of your post will change and add a <h2> tag surrounding that text. When google comes to analyse your website, any text found within these tags is deemed more important.

Titles are similar to your H2 headings except they are surrounded by a <title> tag. Titles are so important as this is what is going to show on google to draw searchers in. Make sure they are inviting, informative and clear. Elle&Company wrote an awesome post on how to create good titles (plus a whole heap of other amazing articles!).

4. Meta Description

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The meta description is what appears on google underneath your title. You can see it under ‘Jasmin Charlotte’ in the black text on the image above. You should set a meta description for each of your blog posts including your key word or phrase. This should follow a similar pattern to your title in order to entice readers in from google. If you are using blogger there is a tutorial to add a meta description here. If you are using wordpress then I wholly recommend the WP SEO plug in which I will cover in full in a future post.

5. Links

Links, links, links. This is going to be a big section and is key in SEO. I’m going to tackle each link type separately:

  • Inbound Links (also known as backlinks):
    These refer to links which are from other websites which link to your site. This is a key factor in SEO. Seriously, it used to be the main factor but there have been a few tweaks. You want the links to your sites to be from reputable sites, i.e. you can’t set up a random website and put a whole heap of links back to your site just to increase your SEO (this is what dodgy SEO companies do!). Obviously this isn’t something you can magic up, but the best ways to increase these links are guest posting, link swaps or just creating content which is shared and linked to naturally from other sites. Remember, when you write a share the love post, not only are you making the blogger happy – you’re making google happy too! (A Branch of Holly recently wrote an awesome posts about this too!)
  • Outbound Links:
    These refer to links from your website to other sites. It’s good practice to include links outside of your site to other sites – they are seen as a natural part of a web page by google. But, remember every time you link to a site, you are giving them an endorsement as seen by google. Make sure you understand follow and nofollow links and use these wisely (if you are unsure about these, then check back here soon!).
  • Internal Links:
    These refer to links from your blog to old blog posts also on your site. This is one of the easiest and best things you can do to increase your SEO. Regularly link back and refer to old blog posts which are relevant to what you are writing – plus it will increase views to your archived posts as well.

6. Images and alt tags

All posts should have an image in them. This is not mandatory but it does link back to point number 1 – having an image makes a post more reader friendly. Now, let’s remember, google does not have eyes. Therefore, when it sees an image, all it sees is the code for that image. So we need to make sure this code is as descriptive as possible.

This is done in two ways:

  • Ensure the image file is named something descriptive (not just IMG_99).
  • Add an alt tag, you see when you hover over the image above, it comes up with a description? That is the alt tag and it tells google what the image is showing (along with helping accessibility on your site). The alt tag should be descriptive of the image and contain your key word. You can set alt tags on wordpress by hovering over the image, and clicking the pencil tool, it will then show a box like the below where you can write in the Alternative Text.

alt tags

7. Social media

Active usage of social media is key, not only to drive traffic for your blog but for your SEO as well. You should ensure that your social media is linked to your blog (you can do that through a tool like nibbler) and be regularly posting links from those social media to your posts. Ideally, at least 2 links to your blog post on each social media platform (you can read my bloggers guide to twitter for more tips!).

Social media is also a real essential for domain authority (which is similar to SEO and I’m planning a post on it soon!). It also acts as it’s own mini search engine for when people are searching for hashtags and people to follow – utilising social media is key for your blog strength.

8. Tags/Categories

Your blog should be organised into broad sections which are known as categories. Each post should be linked to the appropriate category, this helps classify the post and makes your blog easier to navigate (for example this is a technology post, and if you click the little technology category menu button at the top, then you will go to all my other posts on technology). Make sure each post is sorted into a relevant category.

Tags are used to further sub categorise the post. Tags don’t have much influence in SEO, but are useful for navigation on your site. Just make sure you do not use too many, 3 or 4 description key word tags are enough.

Now, if you managed to get through that whole post, then CONGRATULATIONS! I have a little prize for you, I have created a checklist from all these 8 things for you to use with each blog post. If you manage to tick off all the thing for each of the posts you write, then you know that your post is search engine optimized!

You can download the checklist here.

Make sure you check in next week for the next installment of the SEO series! Follow along on bloglovin for all updates!

JC xx

P.S. Although I consider myself pretty SEO savvy, I do not work in SEO and as we all know, there is always someone smarter than you! Therefore, if you have read this post (and I know a lot of you are super SEO geniuses) and you’ve read something which you think is COMPLETELY WRONG. Then please leave me a comment or send me an email – I want to make sure I share the most up to date and correct info possible.

P.P.S I’m currently taking bookings for people to advertise here on Jasmin Charlotte in July! Check out all the details here.

JC Reads: 40 Books – May Update!

Books. Something I have sorely neglected on the blog this year! So it’s time for an update. As a reminder, my goal is to read 40 books this year – quite the target considering it was only July last year when I really got the reading bug back. I was worried when I stopped my commuting at the end of January, that the reading would stop as well. I have found that it is a bit slower than when I had 3 hours of reading time a day, but it still fits comfortably in my life! When I was growing up, I used to always read for about 30 minutes before bed to switch off – and I’ve started doing this again. It is a really nice way to unwind at the end of a busy day!

So my progress so far? I have read 18 out of 40 books! According to my goodreads calculator, I am 4 books ahead of schedule which is good to know. As I have been slow with the reviews, I’m not going to review all of the books I read this year – I’ve picked the top 5 for a quick time review!

The opposite of loneliness

The Opposite of Loneliness – Marina Keegan

This is a collection of short stories and essays from Marina Keegan. Marina was a successful student at Columbia when sadly she died at the age of 22. Knowing that gives her writing such an influential and inspiring caste – reading essays about living life to the fullest become more poignant, and short stories about dealing with the death of a loved one, all too close to home.

Seriously recommend – she has a lovely writing style and I think this gives a twenty something a lot to think about. I gobbled this up in a couple of days – it isn’t long. Read it!

4.5/5

the night circus

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

This was a recommendation from the lovely Katy. It follows the story of a battle of 2 magicians, it sounds like a fantasy but it is written in a modern fiction style. The battle between the magicians goes over many years and is set in a circus. Not only was this a captivating read but I loved the descriptions of the magical circus, it’s not the cliche circuses you see in movies, it was a whole new concept.

This book was a little bit different and thats what I loved about it. The chapters juxtaposed with scenes from the circus and never really knowing which way it was going to turn. If you want a bit of a different read, I highly recommend – this book is worth its hype!

4/5

attachments

Attachments – Rainbow Rowell

In a complete opposite to the top two, I really wanted a quick and happy chick lit read when I ran across attachments. This follows the stories of a guy who works in IT whose job it is to read other peoples email. He begins reading conversations between two women and quickly begins to fall in love with one of them. The book switches between the email conversation of Beth and Joanne, and the life of Leo as he struggles with deciding what to do.

It made me chuckle, and it is definitely a bit of a heartwarmer. Plus it is set in 2000, so the references are pretty entertaining in themselves – all in the panic of Y2K! An enjoyable happy read.

3.5/5

the pact

The Pact – Jodi Picoult

Ugh Jodi Picoult always writes those books that I don’t really enjoy but I want to know what happens SO BAD that I end up reading it non stop for about 48 hours. And this was the same with this book. It centres around a teenage couple who have been together since growing up with each other next door. One day they are found with the girl shot in the head and the boy hurt, in a botched double suicide attempt. The book flits between current day, the court case against the boy, scenes of them growing up and everything in between.

As I said, it is an addictive read! I wanted to know what happened and it was captivating. Did I really agree with the outcome? Not really, I do think it has a few plot holes which did frustrate me. But if you want something to keep your mind busy for a few days then this is a good option.

3/5

foundation

Foundation – Isaac Asimov

I do love a bit of sci fi. And it has been ageeees since I’ve read any so I picked this up from my grandad. I really enjoyed it! It is classic sci fi, all about the end of the empire of galactic planets. It’s a really interesting read as the book moves through hundreds of years so it never stays with the same characters for more than a few chapters.

It’s the first in a trilogy so I will be sure to keep reading the next ones. If you fancy a great sci fi, then this is an awesome option!

4/5

Alongside these books, I have also finished since my last update: Personal – Lee Child, The Girl on The Train – Paula Hawkins, Heresy – S J Parris, Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki, Nudge – Richard Thaler, Harry Potter 2 – J K Rowling, and From the Cradle – Louise Voss. If you want reviews on any of those, let me know and I will include them in my next update!

Let me know what you’ve been reading recently!

JC xx

All images from Amazon.