Portable Breakfasts

This month, Mr W and I spent a few days in Cambridge to celebrate our two year wedding anniversary (the time has flew by). Usually, we would book into a B&B but this time we were room only which meant finding somewhere to eat. Mr W did a little research and found some good reviews for a little cafe tucked away in the centre. Although the breakfast menu was a little limited (only about four options and the closest to a cooked breakfast was toast) Mr W was happy to try it. Boy we were glad. We enjoyed it that much that we went for breakfast again the next day. As Mr W put it, you don’t want to finish a holiday going somewhere new for breakfast and potentially be disappointed when we can go back to somewhere we really enjoyed.

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Mr W decided on the fruit compote, natural yogurt and granola whilst I tried the apple bircher muesli. Although I have made my own takes on bircher at home, I’ve never bought one and was intrigued as to what the consistency was going to be like. I’ve followed recipes where these has been way too much liquid (think an island of oats surrounded by a sea of milk) or quite dry. For me, this one had the moist texture I like when I make it. It was a combination of oats, grated apple, raisins, cinnamon and topped with some fresh fruit. Mr W’s was strawberry compote layered with banana, natural yogurt and topped with a soft, flapjack like granola. I think it was the flapjack granola that sealed the deal for Mr W. For those ever in Cambridge, head to Stickybeaks Cafe (for this breakfast), the Pint Shop (try the homemade scotch egg), the Free Press (quirky little pub), Jack’s Gelato (always room for ice cream) and Meat and Bread (amazing sandwiches and tasty sounding brownies).

When we got home, I made my version of the yogurt and fruit jam jar breakfast. First up I mashed some fresh strawberries with some honey, chia seeds and cinnamon. This was to get a soft compote like texture which still had some structure to it to prevent it seeping into the yogurt. So, I put a layer of the strawberry compote in the bottom of two jam jars , topped this with a layer of sliced banana and then a layer of natural yogurt. I then repeated the layering so that there were two layers of each. I then topped with some Graze strawberry yogurt protein topper. This has a mix of small toasted oats, freeze dried strawberries and crispy yogurt balls. I did the layering the night before and stored in the fridge overnight. In the morning I then added the protein topper so that it still retained it’s crunch. You could always top it with shop bought or homemade granola or use a different fruit for the compote. I can imagine stewed apples would be nice for autumn. My version got the thumbs up from Mr W.

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The serving of the bircher and yogurt pots in jam jars got me thinking that I could make similar things for breakfast to take to work. Recently I seem to be rushing in the morning and don’t get t enjoy my breakfast. My thoughts were that I could prepare the breakfast the night before and divide into two jam jars and that would be two day’s of breakfasts sorted. So, over the last two weeks I have had a portable jam jar breakfast for eight mornings and have tried three different recipes. My favourite (the one I repeated) was one that I found in a Madeline Shaw cookbook that I adapted slightly. When I initially saw it, it reminded me of the one I had in Cambridge. In the recipe, the amount of oats stated is a little too much for me. I also made some slight changes the second time by not adding any honey or maple syrup as I found it sweet enough and adding some raisins to the bottom of each jar. So, the night before I mixed 100g oats with a grated apple, 250ml almond milk, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and some vanilla (I use a vanilla grinder as it gives the flecks of vanilla that I love). Get two jam jars or containers and add a spoonful of raisins to the bottom of each and divide the oat mixture between the two jars and keep in the fridge. The following morning I topped the bircher with some natural yogurt, blueberries and some Graze vanilla sunflower seeds (beware, these are addictive). Although it didn’t look as pretty by the time I transported in to work, it still tasted yummy. I kept the other jar in the fridge for 2 days before eating and it was still fine.

I also made a carrot bircher (another Madeline Shaw recipe) and a layered chia pudding. For me, these recipes still need a bit of tweaking, Although the carrot bircher was okay, the texture seemed a bit sloppy and it needs the addition of some raisins or nuts to give it a carrot cake vibe. The chia pudding wasn’t firm enough and by the time I got to work, the yogurt had mixed together with it. By slicing the strawberries, I seemed to make it more difficult to eat. A compote idea might work better. I have managed to find some other chia pudding recipes which I’m going to try this week. Chocolate and peanut butter…. As we are approaching summer, these jam jar breakfasts are a great replacements for hot porridge. Here’s to more flavour combinations!

Rocky Road

Last Friday saw the UK raising money for Red Nose Day. At my work, we have one charity that we raise money for each year so nothing was organised to raise money for Red Nose Day. My dad, however, was involved in a number of events to raise money for this cause. First, he works in a call centre which was being used to take calls from members of the public wanting to make donations. Secondly, he was getting his head shaved to raise money. When he was younger, my dad used to have long hair and as he has gotten older he’s kept it short but has never dared to get rid of it completely. Why would he? He hasn’t started to lose any yet and it is still it’s natural colour (no grey appearing yet). Good on him for going through with it but now he’s worried it won’t grow back. Thirdly, charity bake sale. Cue him asking me (very nicely) if I’d do some baking for him. He re-requested some triple chocolate cookies that I baked for his team last month, which I did bake for him. But the week before, I found out that maltesers were promising to donate £5 for every photo that was posted on the Facebook page showing a Red Nose Day charity bake using maltesers. Now, that wasn’t a challenge I was going to ignore. So, it got me thinking about what I could make. Crush some maltesers and mix them into the cookie mix instead of chocolate chips? Nope, his team were looking forward to the original cookie recipe. Make some malteser cupcakes? Nope, last time I was involved in a cake sale, the cupcakes were still there until the end. Make a malteser cake? Nope, my dad would only worry about cutting it into pieces.

Rocky road….chocolate….biscuits….marshmallows….maltesers…winner!!!

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A bonus about rocky road is that it is simple to make and can be made in advance. No manic baking the day before trying to get everything ready for me to to take round to my dad. So, as mentioned above, my recipe only consists of four ingredients, yes, FOUR!! Everyone has an opinion on what should be in rocky road. Dried fruit, cherries, nuts, marshmallows, certain type of biscuit, certain type of chocolate, dusted with icing sugar….The list is endless. For me, I like to keep it simple. Adding too much can mean fewer people will buy it. With this recipe you can interchange the type of biscuit used (shortbread, shortcake, cookies, rich tea, digestives, oreo) or put in your favourite chocolate bar (crunchie, double decker, mars bar, milky way). But if you want to re-create my version, follow the below recipe.

  • 450g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 150g ginger biscuits, broken into 1cm chunks
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 80g maltesers

Line the base and sides of a 7×9 inch cake tin with baking parchment. Place the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot water. Bring the water to the boil, then take the pan off the heat and allow the chocolate to melt slowly. Once the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the pan and leave to cool slightly. If the chocolate is too hot the marshmallows will melt. Stir in the biscuits, mini marshmallows and maltesers and then press into the cake tin. Place in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours or until set. Cut into 12 pieces.

I use basic own brand chocolate as I feel it is not as sickly as the brand and balances well with the sweetness of the rest of the ingredients.

I’ve made this before where I have used one third plain chocolate and two thirds milk chocolate which gives it a bit of bitterness.

I melted 50g white chocolate and drizzled over the top once it had set to add some contrast.

Mr W managed to sneak a piece before it went and loved it. I was worried the ginger biscuits might overpower but he felt they worked well. Feedback from my dad’s work has been good and some have wanted the recipe. Here you go 🙂

Krakow – City Break

Last weekend saw me, my sister and my mum take our first trip abroad together, just the three of us. It’s crazy that in almost 30 years, we have only ever been to London together on a mother/daughter break. We wanted to go somewhere different and a few of mine and my sisters colleagues mentioned how good Poland, in particular Krakow was. With the help of dad, we managed to get a good deal on flights on a hotel. The hotel, Queen Boutique was in a good location, 15 minutes walk from the Old Town and 5 minutes walk from the Jewish Quarter. The train station was 20-25 minutes walk away and was how we got to the centre from the Airport. 9 zloty each and a straightforward journey and walk (if I can work out how to buy tickets and which stop to get off at, anyone can).

Beer Hall

Bierhalle – Pork Crackling and Lard, Sour Rye Bread Soup, Pierogi, Beef Stew with Potato Pancake

Groats

Gruzinskie Chaczapuri Restraunt – Georgian Dumplings, Breaded Pork Cutlet with Roast Potatoes, Goulash with Sauerkraut and Groats

Milk Bar

U Babci Maliny – Mixed Pierogi. Peramin Chill Out – Cocktails and Gin

We stayed there for four days (Saturday to Tuesday) and planned two days of activities before we got there. The difficulty was deciding which to do. If you’ve ever been away with me, you’ll know that I love food and when I’m abroad (especially somewhere for the first time) I like to try as much of the local cuisine as I possibly can. I probably ate more in these four days than I do normally in a week! A unique way of doing this is booking onto a food tour. I was able to find one with the help of Trip Adviser. Eat Polska offered a small group tour around Krakow sampling local cuisine. In four hours you would visit four different establishments and sample 12 different foods (plus a shot of vodka). We did this tour on the Monday and was worried that we would be repeating foods that we had already tried as we were having our meals in restaurants that did local cuisine (think goulash, beetroot soup, pierogi and sauerkraut). But we needn’t have worried. Our tour guide took us to places that we wouldn’t have considered (or I turned down as not authentic enough), very informative on the history of Polish cuisine and a true foodie. We were learning from each other on food trends, behaviours around food and I picked up some recipes. I surprised her with my knowledge on Polish cuisine (all learnt from my Polish Meat Free Feast). I strongly recommend booking a place on this tour (or look for food tours on your next city break). It’s not only about trying local cuisine but also about learning about the history and culture of the country. We visited one of the numerous food markets and the amount of seasonal fresh produce available was good. Made me envious of how much we take for granted having produce available all year round. We struggled with the cheeses and meats but still managed to eat all our cake 🙂 Our eyes may have been bigger than our bellies as we then stopped of at E.Wedels for a trio hot chocolate taster. You’ll be pleased to know that we were then in food comas for the rest of the day.

Food Tour

Eat Polska Food Tour (plus a Trio Chocolate Sampler)

Our tastings were:

  • Zapiekanka – Polish Street Food, pizza
  • Zalewajka – sour rye soup
  • Barszcz z pierogiem – red borscht / beetroot soup with dumplings
  • Obwarzanek – Polish pretzel
  • Sliwka wędzona – smoked prunes (yes…that is correct)
  • Śledź maties z kwaśną śmietaną, gryczano grzybowym poppingiem i dymką – matjes herring with sour cream, buckwheat popping and spring onion (a modern twist on traditional cuisine)
  • Stek Hanger na ziemniaczanym racuchu z boczkiem z sosem z boczniaków i pieczonego czosnku – Hanger steak on potato pancake with bacon and oyster mushrooms and baked garlic sauce (a modern twist on traditional cuisine)
  • Biała kasza gryczana smażona z warzywami, słonecznikiem i boczniakiem – Fried white buckwheat with vegetables, sunflower and oyster mushrooms
  • Puree ziemniaczane – Potatoe puree
  • Warzywa z czosnkowo – ziołowym masłem – Vegetables with herbs & garlic butter
  • Wódka Baczewski – shot of Baczewski vodka
  • Polish cheeses: – twaróg – quark, oscypek – smoked sheep’s milk cheese, koryciński – cow’s milk cheese, klagany – mild cow’s milk cheese, homiłki – cheese balls with mint
  • Coldcuts platter: schab – pork loin, salceson – brawn, boczek – pork belly, kiełbasa – sausage, pasztetowa – spreadable pate
  • Vodka chasers : smalec – lard, chrzan – horseradish, ogórki kiszone – sour pickles, sour dough bread
  • Kremówka – cream cake

Our second booked activity was a visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Although my mum was a bit reluctant to go on this tour, we felt we needed to as it is part of our history. Although very emotional, the tour and attraction have been done in a respectful manner. It is something that you would need to do if visiting Poland. It does take a day to visit and I would suggest that you only do the one trip in the day. Some tours offer both this and a visit to the salt mines but personally, I think that it is too much for one day. However, I would like to go back and visit Krakow again to go to the Salt Mines and visit some of the other attractions that we were unable to do. We managed to walk around the Castle and visit the Underground Museum. 

Sights

Before getting to Krakow, I had a mental list of the different foods that I wanted to try and I managed to sample them all. On our first day we had lunch in a beer hall where I got to try sour rye bread soup with white sausage. In the evening I tried Georgian beef stew with groats and sauerkraut. I learnt from the food tour that groats is buckwheat and is a well used grain in Poland. The following evening we visited a milk bar which was different. The menu consists of cheap, traditional foods. The room is set up with long benches and stools and is more of a self service. Orders are placed at the till and you then wait for your number to be called. I tried to re-create my homemade Polish feast and tried the beetroot soup and the peirogi three ways. Another thing I learnt from the food tour was that the beetroot borscht I’d made is known as Hungarian borscht in Poland (explains why the beetroot soup was more of a broth in the milk bar). Our final meal in Poland was in the Jewish District where we enjoyed a set menu. I finally got round to trying the last item on my mental food list, bigos stew!

Momo

Momo Cafe – Pumpkin Soup, Bigos (Hunters Stew), Mama’s Tea.

Soft Baked Pretzels

One of my New Year  ‘resolutions’ was to bake more bread/dough based recipes. I’ve mentioned in my blog a couple of times that it is one of the baking areas that I feel less confident in. The main reason for this being unsuccessful proving in the past. So this year, I aim to bake a new bread/dough based recipe once a month.

January saw me making my first rye bread. Over the last few months, rye bread has become one of my favourite bread options. Especially toasted for breakfast with smashed avocado or almond butter and banana. I particularly like the dense texture which is one reason why Mr W doesn’t like it. For this bake I followed the suggested recipe on the back of the dark rye flour pack. It was an easy recipe to follow (although the addition of a beaten egg threw me a little) and the end result was a decent, although basic, rye loaf. This recipe was more like the rye breads that you can buy from the bakery section in your local supermarket as opposed to a traditional rye bread. Although it did have the addition of caraway seeds which gave it a slightly aniseed taste which took a while to get used to when eating for breakfast. I’m going to attempt this bake again and follow a recipe Paul Hollywood recipe. His ‘How To Bake’ book has a number of different ones.

February found me wonder what to bake. I didn’t want to bake another bread as I wanted a new challenge. Also, I want to attempt sour dough but I am waiting until summer so I have warmer temperatures to get a starter growing. Mr W didn’t like my suggestion of attempting doughnuts again so I asked my sister for suggestions. I should have guessed what she would want me to bake. Her favourite bakery snack that she had to have every day whilst we were in Germany. Pretzel. A soft baked pretzel. I tried to put her off them by telling them that they were dipped in caustic acid before being baked (honest fact there, it gives them the crunchy outer texture. I was able to find a fairly easy recipe online that got the nod from sis.

They were surprisingly easy to make. They used active yeast which isn’t a yeast I’ve used before. As the name suggests, it needs to be activated in water before use. I’m used to fast action yeast. Unsurprisingly, the hardest part was shaping the pretzels put for a first attempt, they weren’t too bad. Ideally, they need to be eaten straight away as after two days, they’d past their best (but sis still ate them). Although not as good as shop bought, they were a decent attempt. The texture was softer but it had the flavour. They did seem a little greasy which is down to the lashings of melted butter that was used to coat them. I followed the recipe from this blog. If you want to try making them, head over. Do follow the recipe exactly. Although I thought there was too much melted butter it’s better to use your own judgement. See if you can master the classic pretzel shape. You think you’ve managed it but by the time it comes out of the soda bath, its a soggy mess lol.

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French Toast

Last week  was a lovely long weekend for me. Mr W had booked us a weekend away in the Lake District. I took advantage and booked the Friday off work (too many days and not enough time to use them). As Mr W was only off in the afternoon, I decided to treat myself to breakfast out. It did take some persuading from Mr W and my sister to actually get me to go. Plenty of food in the house, the weekend away was going to be full of food treats and the idea of sitting in a cafe on my own eating breakfast scared me. But, there was a new cafe that had recently opened I Prestwich that I did really want to try and when would I get the chance anytime soon? (Forgetting that I have a week off in a few weeks lol). That was me all geared up to go, hoping that I could go again with Mr W if I liked it.

On the way to the tram stop I called in to the shop to get a magazine so that I had something to do over breakfast. I then realised that the trams were cheaper after 9.30 (time check and it was 9.20) so cue long way round to tram stop and waiting with other people at the station for the time to change on the machines. I don’t even know if my fare was any cheaper but it made for a fun wait of commuters against the machine.

This cafe I wanted to try (All The Shapes) had come through on my Instagram feed a few weeks ago and the food looked yummy. A mooch at the menu had me drooling over breakfasts like homemade granola, toasted banana bread and sweetcorn fritters. On the walk over, I started to panic that I would be the only person in there (as it was hidden away off the main street) eating breakfast on my own. Talk about looking like a loner. But I didn’t need to worry, there were a few groups in there. It was only a small cafe and I managed to grab the last available table (okay, it was meant for four people…).20170203_100730

I am very indecisive when it comes to ordering food (Mr W and my family hate it. I sit there having an internal dilemma about it and over analyse all my options. It’s something I need to work on but it’s difficult. As much as I love food, I have an awkward relationship with it 😦 ) So, I asked the waiter what he would recommend which were the green eggs (sourdough, healthy greens, griddled avocado  and fried egg) or the cooked breakfast (filling but not greasy). I really wanted him to recommend the french toast so decided that must be what I wanted. French toast with griddled pineapple, mango and mascarpone. Now, I’ve never been been a big fan of french toast (bad experience of eggy bread growing up) but OMG, this was delicious. Whilst I was waiting for it, I was eyeing up the neighbouring tables green eggs with envy. But then when mine came out, they were envying mine. I was so glad that I went for that option, although now I need to go back with Mr W to try something else. I would never think of making french toast at home, but having tried this, it made me want to give it a go. 

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So, yesterday morning I decided to try a french toast recipe that doesn’t use egg. It’s a recipe from Madeline Shaw that I adapted slightly. Although Mr W likes eggs, he isn’t a fan of dishes like omelette or quiche because of the texture. I was worried that if I gave him eggy bread for breakfast he wouldn’t like it. Madeline’s recipe was a vegan friendly so used a mix of almond milk and chickpea flour instead of egg. It was easy to make and was hit with both me and Mr W. This is how I made it.

Serves 2

180ml skimmed milk

1tsp vanilla essence

2tbsp chickpea flour

1tsp cinnamon

4 thick slices sourdough

1/2 tbsp coconut oil

blueberries and strawberries

Pour the milk and vanilla essence into a baking dish and whisk together. Sieve in the chickpea flour and cinnamon and whisk together. Place the bread in the mixture and soak on each side for 2 minutes.

Whilst the bread was soaking I warmed the blueberries in a pan with a little bit of sugar, water and a teaspoon of cornflour to make a gloopy warm compote.

Heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan. Add the soaked bread and cook on each side for two minutes (turning over every one minute). This will give the coating a nice golden colour. Serve two slices of toast per person and top with the blueberry compote and sliced strawberries. Enjoy!

Almond, Coconut & Chia Seed Butter

Now who likes peanut butter? I used to hate it. Growing up I disliked nuts generally. I remember family buffets, sitting at the table with my sister and picking all the dried fruit out of the fruit and nut mix. However, I did used to like walnuts. Both of us at ours Grandma’s, cracking open walnuts in front of the fire. It’s funny how I wouldn’t eat them in a nut mix but I would out of their shells. Peanuts were another no go. My dad loved (and still does) salted peanuts and my friend would always buy peanut M&Ms when we would go to the cinema. But me, I just couldn’t stand the smell of them. I would sit as far away as possible.

But now, I love them. I’d quite happily snack on a handful of unsalted nuts (my favourites being cashew and almonds) and peanut butter has a multitude of uses. Mixed into chocolate brownies, cookies, with banana on toast, stirred into porridge or spread on a rice cake. Then I tried other nut butters, like almond, and these were even better than your bog standard peanut butters. When you start to look into the ingredients on some of the nut butters on the market, it’s crazy some of the extra things that are added like sugar and palm oil. So it got me thinking, is it difficult to make your own?

My first attempt was following Jamie Oliver’s basic recipe in his Everyday Superfood book. I toasted a mixture of cashew and almond nuts and then blitzed them in a mini chopper. Now, a lesson I learnt from making this batch was that I didn’t blitz them for long enough. If you think you have, add on an extra five minutes. The texture of mine was quite thick and although it tasted nice, it was difficult to spread onto toast or stir into my morning porridge. A second attempt was needed.

Then, my sister gave me some almond and coconut butter to try. I’m not a big fan of coconut, in particular desiccated coconut because of the texture. Bounty’s are always left at Christmas when the Celebrations tub comes out. But this nut butter was amazing and I was gutted when I finished it.

So, imagine my delight when I came across a recipe book by Pip & Nut. In the book was a recipe for Almond, Coconut and Chia Nut Butter. There was also a detailed guide on how to make your own standard nut butter. For this process, they advised that it would take at least 10 minutes to blitz the nuts into a butter (depending on the power of your food processor) and that it should be smooth and glossy. I use a mini processor as it is a small quantity being blitzed. I also stop every two minutes to let the motor cool down so I don’t overheat (lesson learnt when using a hand mixer to make a Christmas Cake one year). So, would take me longer than 10 minutes but at least it’s an idea (more than I had with my first attempt). If you are a fan of nut butters, you need to give this recipe a go. There are even more recipes in the book and suggestions for use (an excuse to go buy a copy). Below is how I made the nut butter. This was different to how the recipe stated due to me misreading it (whoops). Chia seeds aren’t a must to the recipe so don’t worry if you don’t want to include them. However, they are not difficult or expensive to buy. Home bargains sell bags of these a lot cheaper than anywhere else I’ve seen. Tesco also sell ‘shot packs’ which would be enough to make this butter. By the way, the recipe makes enough for one jar. I’ve been keeping mine in the cupboard.

nut-butter

200g whole almonds (skin on)

1 tbsp chia seeds (white or black)

75g creamed coconut (buy from supermarket, packed in individual sachets)

pinch of sea salt

1/2 tbsp agave nectar (or honey or maple syrup)

To roast the almonds:

Pre-heat oven to 150C. Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet in a single layer and roast until golden brown. This will take around 10-15 minutes but keep an eye on them as they can quickly burn. Once roasted, cool for 5 minutes.

To make them into butter:

Tip the nuts into a food processor. I find that my mini food processor is more powerful when chopping nuts compared to my standard one. Blitz for two minutes. The nuts will turn into a crumble texture and will need scraping down with a spatula. I left my processor to cool for two minutes. I blitz for two minutes and left to cool for two minutes throughout the process. After six minutes of blitzing, a ball formed. After another four minutes of blitzing the nuts were smooth but looked to still have a rough texture (this was when I stopped when making Jamie’s nut butter). After another four minutes, the nut butter started to look smooth and glossy. If you want a basic almond butter, stop at this stage.

Add the creamed coconut and sea salt and blitz until smooth. I found that this made the texture appear runnier and glossier than before. Add the chia seeds and agave nectar and blitz until well combined. Pour the nut butter into an airtight container. When pouring into a jar, I found the texture quite runny but it has thickened over time.

The result, a lip smacking delicious nut butter. Although it feels like a long process when you blitzing (especially when taking the rest periods like me) the final product is definitely worth it. Now I know the basic method of making it, I am going to be trying my own combinations.

 

 

Live A Little

As much as I enjoy my meat free days, healthier recipes and exercise, I also love afternoon tea and meals out with friends and family. It’s not something I do all the time (although meals out are becoming a regular feature, I do try and make healthier choices as much as possible) but I do have those times where I want to indulge. This week has been one of those weeks.

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First up was a visit to a garden centre in the middle of nowhere with Mr W. A Facebook friend put up a picture of an afternoon tea here (near Clitheroe). It looked so cute, all presented on a mini picnic bench with flowerpot cakes and wellington boot milkshakes. Who couldn’t resist it? The menu changes on a regular basis (an excuse to go more than once) and has a theme. Mr W and I visited when they were doing there ‘Winter Wonderland Picnic’ menu. Although there were a couple of things that Mr W wanted to trade (cheese scone and chocolate milk) I said he needed to try them all as I wasn’t willing to part with any of mine. The funny thing being he enjoyed the cheese scone and I didn’t (FYI Mr W dislikes cheese and scones). Although when you looked at the menu, it sounded like a lot of food, they were miniature and wasn’t as over-facing as some afternoon teas can be. On offer was butternut squash and sage soup, cheese scone with red onion chutney, mini sausages and mash, chicken and stuffing sandwich, chocolate and marshmallow milkshake, mini blueberry muffin, Victoria sandwich cake, Bakewell slice and apple crumble with custard. Yum yum. Although we were a bit disappointed by the ‘garden centre’ the winter picnic and little food shop more than made up for it. Mr W has suggested we go back again in the summer when hopefully they will have more plants and a different afternoon tea menu. For anyone interested, Holden Clough Nursey.

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Next up was a catch up with the girls. It has become a bit of a tradition that we go out for food after work and take advantage of the January food offers in Manchester. We normally go to a restaurant that has 50% off but we decided this year we tried somewhere different. We decided on Bakerie, a small restaurant near Stevenson Square that prides itself on its selection of homemade breads. We shared food boards, numerous bread baskets and some bottles of wine. The bread baskets were difficult to resist and we all nearly ended up in carb induced comas, but it was worth it. We would love to go back and try some of the main meals (majority of these come with your choice of bread. BONUS!). We took advantage of their January offer of two food boards and a bottle wine for £25 and tried the fish, vegan and cheese boards. Not only do they do goof food and wine, they also offer bread making courses which we thought sounded interesting.

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Finally, a January Manchester event that Mr W has started to take a liking to is the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival. This is our third year of going and this year has probably been my favourite so far. 2015 was held at the Manchester Velodrome. Although it was a unique location, you were able to watch the cyclists training whilst enjoying the festival, it was poorly laid out and was a bit of a trek to get to. This year and last year have been at Manchester Central which, as the name suggests, is central located and all the areas are easy to access. Mr W and I normally take the afternoon off work and head over at lunchtime, staying until 5-6pm. This gives us time to get some food and try a number of the beers (or ciders in my case). We like the Friday afternoon as it is a little quieter and more of the beers/ciders are still available. It is a case of when its gone, its gone (which happened with three of Mr Ws beer choices). An improvement on this year was the food options. They had different street food vendors as opposed to the standard venue catering last year.This was one of the reasons that I decided to go again, the prospect of a fancy cheese toastie (mmm…Viva La Toastie was there and the recommendation of the chicken and pesto toastie gets a thumbs up from me). I sampled four different ciders and two stood out as favourites for me; Red Bank Autumn Orchard and Kent Spiced cider. I did try a gin spiced Perry but it got a bit sickly after a while, although it wasn’t as bad as a chilli cider I tried last year (serves me right for trying to be adventurous).