Spring Has Sprung…(Well Nearly!)

With the start of Spring comes the prospect of sunshine, warmer weather, new life and lush surroundings. This year, for those of us in the UK however, it has disappointed and confused thus far- officially 3 weeks in and I  have on as many layers of thermal & wool as I would in the depths of our Winter.

It is at this time of year that we celebrate Easter- the resurrection of Jesus and/or  a visit by the Easter Bunny, depending on which way you are inclined. Easter being a ‘moveable feast’ can fall anywhere between 22nd March and 25th April, on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon– which seems much more complicated than I had ever given it credit for. This year, it fell the Sunday before my Mum’s Birthday and so we decided to make it a family celebration and get together for an Easter Egg Hunt and Birthday Roast Lunch!

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My local flower stall is on the corner of the Portobello Road and Blenheim Crescent. It is always bursting with seasonal bouquets and bunches of brightly coloured flowers. I make up my own posies be it for gifts or special occasions and the lovely lady on the stall is always on hand to give guidance where needed. For this Easter lunch, I knew I wanted Tulips and Hyacinths and with all the incredible colour choices it wasn’t easy. The deep purple hyacinths were really too delicious looking not to go for, so I kept it simple with the fresh & clean white Tulips and a hint of yellow to add the sunshine we were in need of.  To finish I added a few clip-on nests & feathered birds from Graham & Green and placed them in and around the bouquets.

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My sister was in charge of the Egg Hunt with the assistance of our brother, who keenly emptied the packets of Mini Eggs out onto the grass (without considering their lack of wrappers!) They created a Beatrix Potter haven for my nephews to explore and seek out the hundreds of chocolate surprises planted in every nook & cranny possible. Easter Egg hunts were always a big thing in my family when I was growing up and (when the weather used to be glorious) it had a similar poignancy of a Birthday or Christmas Day. Friends from near and far would come over, be handed a little basket then hunt around in the woods at the bottom of the garden, whilst the adults partook in champagne & nibbles, ginormous VHS camcorders out at the ready.

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Today I wanted to keep the table vibrant and fun for the kids so doused the place settings with Easter themed sprinkles. I also used a selection of wools to tie up the napkins. The balls of wool were £1 each from Poundland, perfect for wrapping presents, hand tied bouquets or a decorative touch for a table. Poundland is actually a bit of a gem for finding cheap and cheery accessories, stationary and decorations. I had a really good rummage around in the store and made up two party bags for the boys- yo-yo’s, bubbles and little furry chicks were waiting for them on their chairs (always a good idea to provide kiddy things to keep them entertained at the dinner table).

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For lunch, I cooked roast chicken, roasted beetroots, honey & rosemary carrots, chipolatas, beetroot tops, petit pois, purple sprouting broccoli and roast potatoes (I have to thank Isaac, my boyfriend, at this point who is always a fantastic co-chef and saves me from the typical stresses of tricky timings and hot pans!) For the ‘newly Vegetarian’ Isaac, I turned to the fabulous Hemsley & Hemsley and found this scrumptious recipe for Quinoa and Mushroom Nut Roast. Having never made Nut Roast before I was nervous that I would get it totally wrong but the girls have created a perfectly understandable and totally delicious vegetarian dish, which was popular with all of us.

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What’s a Birthday without a Birthday cake! Red Velvet has apparently been around since  the 1920’s and although I am really only accustomed to Hummingbird Bakeries famously red & exceedingly rich cupcakes, I chose to use a recipe for a three layer Red Velvet Cake from Annie Bell’s Baking Bible. I decorated the cake with mini eggs (I just had to add a little Easter touch) and sugared daisies.

N.B. I used a red food colouring ‘liquid’ for the cake and in future would definitely take Annie’s advice and go for the ‘paste’ which will result in a much deeper red colour for the sponge.

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Making chocolate nests is so simple that it is the perfect treat to make with your kiddies. Shredded wheat, 100g Milk chocolate, 100 g of dark chocolate and 50g butter. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie (a heat-proof bowl over boiling water). I used about 4-5 large shredded wheats crushed up into oblivion. Get your paper cases ready and once the chocolate has cooled to room temperature start mixing into the shredded wheat. Finish with a white chocolate egg or two.

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Having watched copious amounts of sport and nearly digested our rather large lunch…it was time to sit down and enjoy a cuppa, cake and Mary Berry’s Lemon Pavlova, with homemade Lemon Curd- much enjoyed and looked bloomin’ fantastic (all thanks to my mum!) We were joined by these little knitted chicks. Made by a elderly lady that my mum visits, the little darlings also double as egg cosies and caused much oooo’ing and ahhhh’ing across the table.

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When all the food was eaten, all the wine had been drunk and the little ones were in bed, it was time to say Goodnight to Easter for another year.

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Full to the brim of chocolate and love.

Juicy Business


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Post Christmas and New Year many people desire to shed a few pounds and having one or two ‘juicing days’ is a great way to kick start this, without needing to cut down too much during the whole week.

I have worshipped my Le Duo Magimix juicer, ever since I got it a couple of Summer’s ago. It was a really hot June and I was juicing for my life; beetroot, lemon, carrots, apples, ginger and raspberries to garnish… trying out loads of different refreshing and healthy drinks. I reckon a lot of people think you need lots of time to do it, but really it can be quick and effortless, although cleaning up the equipment can be a bit of a bore. Best thing I find is to make a big batch and decant into several bottles, which will keep me going for a few days makes the whole process all the more worthwhile. If you share a fridge with others, then labelling the juices with ingredients and a date too might be a good idea.

In the beginning I was desperately trying to get a simple green apple juice but kept on battling with the ‘oxidation reaction’ i.e. it was going brown within 2 minutes. Although there is no harm in that it totally changes the flavour, the sharpness and appearance and adding lemon was not cutting it. One day, I was talking about this to a friend of mine when she emerged from a cupboard with a little tub of Vitamin C powder (scientifically called, ascorbic acid). “This is the trick” she said and so it was….

Adding even the smallest pinch to your juice right at the beginning will preserve the freshest taste and keeps your apple juice bright green, it also gives your body an extra boost!

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I store my juices in a glass bottles and they keep for a couple of days. You can get yourself a ‘Korken‘ bottle with stopper from Ikea or the swing top glass bottles from Butlers. They also do a very cool looking ‘Refill‘ one which I have my eye on for a next purchase! My only advice would be that if you are planning to put these in the dishwasher, the swing top will loosen a little and might fall out eventually. Hand washing is advisable, especially with the easy cleaning methods mentioned in this post.

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Health Benefits

I asked my mum (a Dietician), to help me summarise the health benefits of juicing and they seem pretty endless so i’ll keep it short and sweet.

Juices are great for keeping you hydrated! In winter months in particular we tend to be in and out of rooms and transport with central heating, wearing layers of clothes leading to perspiration and therefore loss of fluid. It is important to keep our levels topped up for healthy skin and essential bodily functions as well as for keeping the viruses at bay!

If you were looking to lose or control your weight, it is not a bad idea to supplement a meal now and again with a nutritional juice. If you are serious about it then it would be great at this point to get yourself a recipe book to aid you along, show you different options and diversify your diet. The book I use is called Smooth and Juicy by Joanna Farrow.

Fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables provide the vitamins & minerals for general health. In the summer there is an abundance of produce, making ‘being healthy’ readily available, which I believe we take for granted. It is however, during these Winter months, when we still need the same nutrients (if not more) so juicing using seasonal root vegetables, citrus fruits & tree fruits is a good base to work on. I get my fruit and veg from my local market, where it is always seasonal and very well priced.

To find out what fruits and vegetables are in season, I found a fun chart on the Eat Seasonably website.

Recipes from Friends!

My boyfriend Isaac loves any juice with ginger in, as it give things a kick.

“My favourite is beetroot, apple and ginger. I drink it in the mornings for a fresh start to the day”

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India is a bit of a domestic goddess, she told me about her juice of the moment which she makes daily in her Breville Juicer!

“Really good for fighting a cold! It is kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon, ginger. I like it with a dash of olive oil at the end and sometimes I will add other tinctures like aloe or flax seed oil…”

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My friend Tilly and I share the same favourite. This yummy juice is cucumber, celery, apples, lime and ginger (pictured). The crispy, zingy green apples really wake you up, so this is the perfect energising drink for an early morning.

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More than a juice…

Susie wakes up to a breakfast smoothie.

Soya milk, mixed berries and low fat natural yogurt. My inspiration for it was Jamba Juice’s ‘Bright Eyed & Blueberry’”

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…and Fearne (who is about to become a yummy mummy!) is craving this delicious combo!

“I first put some crushed ice in the blender, then add a handful of blueberries, half an avocado, a skinned kiwi, some kale, and sometimes a bit of papaya too. Them some chia seeds which are so good for you! Top all of this off with a big splash of almond milk. I drink this every morning before breakfast so even if I have an unhealthy day I’ve had a load of vitamins in one go in the morning!”

Tips for the clean up!

  • Milton (used for cleaning babies bottles), in liquid or tablet form. Follow instructions on the label in terms of dosage and pop it in the bottle once you have finished with your juice.
  • Dishwasher tablet broken up, with boiling water and shake shake shake!
  • It is probably worthwhile investing in some bottle brushes, the ones you might use for a baby’s bottle.
  • A spatula is a good tool for scraping out the bits of fruit from the juicer after use. With the Le Duo, MagicMix juicer, they provide something very like a spatula for this (seen here), which makes all the difference.
  • Lastly, clean the juicer straight away otherwise it really is harder to get the dried fruit and veg out. In the Summer especially that would be a breeding ground for fruit flies, so stick it straight in the washbowl before sitting back to enjoy!

Thank you to all of my lovely friends who shared their recipes, I hope everyone enjoys trying them out.

Please feel free to comment below & tell us what you like?