Saturday, February 28, 2015

Our Visit with Anne, Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace

A few weeks ago my husband and I received a very exciting invitation in the mail that instantly made me feel like a giddy little girl in a Cinderella fantasy. It was an invitation to join Anne, Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace in support of the Animal Health Trust which is a charity organisation my husband does work for. We were invited to Buckingham Palace and to meet a real life princess!!!
Anne, Princess Royal who, ahem, happens to be the Queen's only daughter is the President of the Animal Health Trust which raises funds to research animal diseases and injuries, find cures and learn how to prevent them. It's absolutely AMAZING what this charity can do for our furry family members using top of the line diagnostics and equipment. And every penny goes into more research, research that is shared with ALL veterinarians everywhere so that our pets have the very best of care when they need it. How cool is that?! If you want to learn more and even donate, check out their website here: http://www.aht.org.uk 

So, we got all dolled up and headed off to Buckingham Palace. When we arrived the changing of the guard had just begun and there were about a thousand tourists outside the gates snapping photos and watching. We got a little bit confused by the parking instructions on the invite and thought that surely we don't just drive in through the front gates, like, that would be crazy.....BUT WE DID! We asked a security guard and showed him the invitation and he actually stopped traffic and directed us straight through the gates! And even crazier, we got to park our car right in front of the actual Palace! As if we were just popping into a pal's house for tea and cookies or something. We couldn't believe it. My husband really wanted a photo of his Range Rover parked in front of Buckingham Palace so I asked a guard who very politely advised us that no photos are allowed once you're inside the gates or everyone gets in trouble. So unfortunately we don't have any personal pics from that day but luckily there was an in house photographer (Matt Leete mattleete.comto take a few snaps. 
Upon entering the palace through the Privy Purse entrance we had to leave our coats and cell phones in the cloak room before our lovely greeter lead all of us (about 50 people) up the grand staircase to the Principal Corridor for sparkling wine and juice. We mingled with the other guests for a bit but couldn't help but look all around and really take everything in. Glancing out of the big windows of the Principal Corridor we saw two stunning horse and carriages on stand-by in the courtyard waiting to whisk away whatever important ambassadors were meeting with the Queen that day. The Queen was in though we didn't get to see her. We were even allowed into one of the guest bedrooms to use the restroom. The bedroom looked as if they hadn't changed its decor since the Victorian era with a HUGE comfy bed and very ornate antique furniture and paintings. From the window you could see the front gates and the crowds behind them, that's when it really sunk in that I was actually inside!

From the Principal Corridor we moved to the Chinese Dining Room for the AHT presentation in which the Princess Royal spoke to the group about the importance of the organisation and what has been achieved so far. She was a terrific speaker with so much passion for the cause and for animals. My admiration for her definitely grew to new heights, what a woman. After the presentation we moved on to the Center Room which is has the famous balcony we've all seen newly wed royals kissing and waving from. They served us delightful little canapés of smoked salmon toast, fish cakes, pesto pastry scrolls and chocolate mouse squares with gold flecks and of course, more sparkling wine. 

We were divided into groups for Anne, Princess Royal to meet and greet us. When she finally got to our group, which was the last group, I was so anxious. One of the women in our group gave me a bit of a panic because she said we MUST address her as Ma'am and nothing else. No , "lovely to meet you" or "your royal highness" just "Ma'am". I had no clue of this protocol so it suddenly made me kind of nearvous. Well, there was no need to be nearvous at all really. She was very gracious and warm and quite easy to chat with. I honestly don't know how the royals do it! Always meeting and talking to so many people in a single room with an ounce of apathy. She chatted with some of the men about golf and rugby and even threw in some jokes with my husband about him being a Welsh man that's not into rugby and doesn't know anything about Welsh Corgies. 

We somehow got onto the topic of our dogs and their genetics and she explained to us about the Animal Health Trust's genetics testing for dog breeders because there are certain genetic illnesses that need to be bred out in which I spoke to her about our dog Frances' hereditary deafness. She explained to me that in white pure bred dogs if a color hasn't been bred in after two generations then the deaf gene will keep getting passed on. Well I can now say I've learned an interesting fact personally from a royal. Whip smart, funny and very kind. Anne, Princess Royal is exactly the kind of princess you'd hope a princess to be. 

PJJ xx




Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Quick and Easy Breakfast Toast Fingers

No need for a long explanation for this one. All you need to know is that these a superbly tasty little breakfast bites and you will love them. Nuff said.


All you need is:

1 or 2 slices of toast per person (I used gluten free but choose what you want)
A little bit of butter or sunflower oil spread
3 strips cooked bacon per each slice of toast
Grated cheddar and/or Gruyere 
1/2 cup sliced baby tomatoes
1 egg per slice of toast
Fresh chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste

First, Heat your oven broiler to high. Butter your toast and place in a large baking dish side by side. Lay the bacon strip diagonally on each toast. 
Sprinkle a handful of the cheese over the bacon evenly then dot the sliced tomatoes on top. Broil for about 5 minutes or till cheese is bubbling. 
Meanwhile, in a large skillet and using a tiny bit of oil, start frying each egg on both sides and setting them aside. Remove, the toast from the oven and place a fried egg on each piece. 
Use a large knife to slice the toast into 4 strips. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chives then yum it up! 
Oooooh....ahhhhh.

PJJ xx


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Perfect Pancake Day

So yesterday was Pancake Day and I thought we should go all out this year and just have a full day of pancake everything! And it's great because you can have savoury and sweet pancakes so they're basically an all day food, not just breakfast. I personally hadn't ever made savoury pancakes before so it was exciting to come up with an interesting flavor.

Now, I know it doesn't sound like the healthiest of days to celebrate but I did make sure we substituted in healthy ingredients where we could, like using whole grain and seeded flour instead of plain white flour, and all the pancakes came out beautifully! I even made a batch of dog friendly pancakes which really went down a treat. We're trying to fatten up our little girl doggy Frances since she was recently diagnosed with Addison's disease after not eating for 5 days straight. I think she had about 4 pancakes and still wanted more! (Recipes for all pancakes below)
Sweet Potato Pancakes for Dogs (makes about 9 medium sized pancakes)

Recipe:

1 cup (150g) whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 egg
1 cup (250ml) low fat milk
1 cup (200g) cooked and mashed sweet potato
2 Tbs olive oil, plus 1 more for the skillet

First mix all the dry ingredients well in a bowl. Crack the egg into the center then add the milk, sweet potato and olive oil and stir gently till well mixed. It will be lumpy but that's ok, don't over mix or pancakes will be tough. Heat oil in a large skillet or griddle pan on medium heat. Pour about 1/3 cup of the batter for each pancake, I use an actual 1/3 measuring cup to do this. Once bubbles start to form, flip the pancakes and let cook for a minute or so. Let all the pancakes cool off completely before feeding to your pooch. Hope they love 'em! 
Never disturb a man making crepes. Serious business.
Savoury filled crepe style pancakes over roasted shaved Brussels sprouts

Ingredients: 

For the Brussels sprouts-

1 1/2 lbs fresh Brussels sprouts, sliced thin
4 garlic cloves minced
1 red onion, sliced thin
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the crepes-

1 cup (150g) whole wheat flour
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 cup (250ml) milk + 1/4 cup (60ml) water
2 Tbsp melted butter, cooled
2 Tbsp olive oil

For the filling 

Grated Gruyere  
Diced cooked ham
Yellow mustard

Heat oven to 400f/200c. Mix all ingredients for the Brussels sprouts and roast for 20 minutes, tossing with a spatula occasionally. Remove and set aside. 

Now for the crepes, use a fork to mix the flour and salt well. I use a fork because I can't be bothered to sift and it actually turned out just fine. Anyway, fold in the egg, milk, water, melted butter and olive oil till well mixed but don't over mix, lumps are ok. Heat up a large non-stick skillet and add a dab of oil. Pour about half a cup of the batter into the hot skillet and tilt to evenly coat the bottom with the batter. When little bubbles start to form, loosen the edges of the crepe with a spatula and using the spatula to aid you, flip the crepe quickly. This can be pretty tricky but don't worry if you mess up, the scraps are just as tasty. 

Immediately after flipping, place the cheese and ham in a thick line down the middle. Let cook for about a minute then fold the sides of the crepe over the cheese and ham and press down gently. Scoop some of the roasted Brussels sprouts on a plate and lay the filled crepe on top of them. Enjoy with yellow mustard. 

And now for dessert....
Whole grain seeded buttermilk pancakes with fresh apple and rhubarb compote (makes 9 medium pancakes)

Ingredients:

For the compote-

1 stalk of rhubarb, chopped
2 green apples, peeled and chopped
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon 
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

For the pancakes-

1 cup (150g) whole wheat seeded flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp raw sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups (375ml) low fat buttermilk
2 Tbsp melted butter, cooled

First make the compote. Add all the compote ingredients to a small saucepan and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn of heat and cover. Now for the pancakes, mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Fold in the egg, buttermilk and melted butter and mix gently till all combined. Do not over mix or pancake will turn out tough.

Heat a drop of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Pour 1/3 cup of batter onto hot skillet for each pancake. Once bubbles start to form around the edges, flip. Once each pancake is done, place onto a plate and cover with foil to keep moist. Serve with a dollop of compote in between each pancake and for an extra treat top with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Yum!

PJJ xx











Monday, February 9, 2015

Bring a Room to Life with Color!

Spring is just around the corner and after finishing spring cleaning it's a perfect time to add some pizazz to your home. I personally think adding a big dose of color is the best way to welcome warmer sunnier weather and my friends at www.chairish.com with all of their FABULOUS vintage home furnishings have exactly what's needed for a bright boost. I've put together a whole spread of everything I would choose from the Chairish website to make an awesomely vibrant sitting room to share with the friends and family that come over for a springy drink!

This rug makes a stunning centerpeice to start. If you're having trouble coming up with design ideas for a room try starting with a great rug and work your way around it. Check out more groovy vintage rugs like this at https://www.chairish.com/collection/rugs .
I love having plenty of seating space for guests so we can all just relax and hang out without feeling cramped. How cool are all these colourful vintage pieces?? Oh and I'm dying over the coffee table...I chose glass so you can still see the design of the rug underneath.
I love a good side table so we that have lots of places to set drinks or nibbles and since I'm a huge cocktail making fan, a fancy drink cart would be a dream!
Of course there needs to be storage as well and this worn blue credenza would add such a fun hue to the room. I chose some quirky decorative objects to put on top that I think go with its blue theme.
You can't forget about the walls when adding color and since many of us don't want to commit to actually painting our walls I think the best solution is to add art! I like funky conversation starters.
Well there you have it! Taking a plain white room to new heights with color. Hope you all can find some inspiration for your own homes here. 

PJJ xx





Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Special Guest Writer Brandon Rose's Valentines Day Advice for the Fellas

Hey everyone! Meet my very first guest writer Brandon Rose. He has some fantastic ideas that every guy should pay close attention to this Valentines Day. I mean, let's face it, romance isn't always second nature for most men so guys, lend this man your ears. Oh and for the ladies reading, if you wanna give your Valentine a "hint hint", just casually leave this page open on his laptop or iPad, cross your fingers and hope for the best. On to you Brandon! 


 Making Valentine’s Day Special For Her

By: Brandon Rose


 


 


Fellas, Valentine’s Day is the one-day a year you need to put in 100% effort for your significant other.  Because you know what happens on February 15th?  Your girl and all of her girlfriends get together to brag about what their men have done for them, and this is the one contest where you don’t want to be the loser.  This year, up your Valentine’s Day game with these tips and be the guy who puts some thought into her special day.  


 


Flowers are a definite must on Valentine’s Day but don’t just pick up a bunch from the petrol station. Bad move. Believe me she will be able to tell. Do yourself a favour and call your local florist ahead of time and order something decent. Red roses are your classic Valentine’s Day flower and are always a good choice, but if you know that your girl has a thing for white tiger lilies, don’t be afraid to deviate from the norm and get her what you know she likes.  Sending your woman flowers at work is always a smooth move and especially if you send them the day before Valentine’s Day with a note that lets her know how you couldn’t wait until February 14th to show her how much you love her. Congratulations! You just earned some serious brownie points while disarming your competition that all send flowers to their women at work the following day with a message that doesn’t matter because you did it first.  Be an original, because nobody remembers who the second guy was to walk on the moon.


 


Also as Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year why not book your lady in for a beauty treatment at her local beauty salon. You may just be able to coincide it while the match is on. Smooth move again.


 


You’ve now got some nice momentum going, and you want to capitalise on it so make sure you also book a table at her favorite restaurant for an evening date. But remember restaurants are bound to get booked up quickly so make a reservation now.  If there’s already no room at the Inn, maybe her favourite restaurant does home delivery? Draw the curtains, light some candles, fire up the Barry White and hey presto… you’ve set the scene for one romantic evening in. 


 


For dessert, send her on a treasure hunt.  Buy her three or four little gifts and hide them throughout the house with clues attached to each that lead her to the next gift.  Make the hints rhyme for added effect and watch her squeal in delight.  The gifts can be small, such as her favourite chocolate bar, a gift certificate to the nail salon, or her favourite perfume. However, of course jewellery is always a big winner too.  Have the last clue lead her to the freezer where her favorite desert is waiting for her.  Enjoy it together and pour on the romance thick, because you just made her Valentine’s Day special, and all of her girlfriends jealous.

 
- Follow Brandon on Instagram @brandonrose99

Sunday, February 1, 2015

My Ultimate Umami Venison Chili aka The Best Damn Chilli On Earth!

Alright, alright I know it's a HUGE claim but I honestly have never made a batch this delicious and I've made A LOT of tasty chili over the years. I've recently become obsessed with the term "umami". What is it exactly? What's it made of? And how can I create my own?! Most people, like myself, have heard the word umami but don't have a clue why it's so special. 

Well here's a quick breakdown: Umami is a flavor now considered to be the fifth taste sensation on our palates (the others being salty, sweet, bitter and sour). It's basically an intense savoury flavor with brothy meaty roasted undertones that lingers in the mouth and induces salivation. It's the kind of flavor that keeps you coming back for more, and more....and more! It's created from different combinations of all kinds of ingredients such as anchovy, mushroom, parmesan cheese and rich tomato just to name a few. Some simple examples of an umami combination is the meat, bacon, cheese and tomato ketchup of a cheeseburger or soy sauce mixed with stir fried vegetables. Then there's a more complex way to get your umami on by carefully concocting umami ingredients into a sauce, soup or seasoning. This is where my new venison chili recipe comes into play. 

I made a list of my usual chili ingredients (some of which were already umami conducive) then I added a bunch more umami flavors just to give it a super umami punch and man oh man....it effing worked! It's not a particularly spicy chili because I didn't want spicyness to override the intensity of the umami but there is just enough to get that warming chilli feel. Now, be forewarned there are a stupid amount of ingredients involved to get this chili just right but trust me, it's well worth it and makes a large batch that can be eaten for days or saved in the freezer. 

Also, I used and recommend a slow cooker to avoid burning on the bottom of the pot. 

Serves 8-10

Recipe ingredients:

1 tall can of beer (any kind you prefer)
1 small can tomato paste
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 cups beef stock
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 bulb black garlic (cloves removed and mashed into a paste)
1 1/2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 jalapeños, chopped with seeds and white veins removed
2 anchovy fillets, minced
2 bay leaves

1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander 
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp chili powder
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp sea salt
Generous dash of fresh ground black pepper

1 cup pancetta
1 cup cubed chorizo
1 1/2 lbs ground venison (can substitute lean ground beef)
2 bell peppers chopped
1 1/2 onions (yellow and red) chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced

Optional toppings:
Sharp cheddar
Sour cream
Chives
Green onion
Avocado
Fresh cilantro
Chili flakes for added heat if desired. 
 

Instructions:

Turn slow cooker on high and add first 11 ingredients. In a small bowl, mix the next 10 ingredients to make the chilli spice mixture. Add the chilli spice mixture to the slow cooker and stir well. Now, brown the pancetta and chorizo in a large skillet then add to slow cooker, leaving the drippings in the skillet. Brown the venison in the drippings then add it to the slow cooker, still reserving the drippings in the skillet. Finally, sauté the bell peppers, onions and garlic in the drippings (add oil if needed) till soft then add them to the slow cooker. Stir all ingredients well and let slow cook on high for 4 to 5 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve on its own or with toppings. Enjoy that umami goodness! 

PJJ xx