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).

 

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Prague (and maybe some baking)

The other week, Mr W and I were lucky enough to have a week off work and spent a few days in Prague. It was nice to have a break from work (we hadn’t had more than a few days off since our wedding in May) and it had been on my list for cities to visit for a while. We spent our days walking round the city and taking in the sights. On our first full day we spent the morning walking along the river and taking a stroll through some of the parks before heading to Prague Castle and tackling Petrin hill. We were lucky we chose a clear day to do this as the views were amazing (the weather turned after this).

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The view from Petrin Hill

The next day, as it was raining, we decided to tackle some of the museums. We had three in mind, a couple were mentioned in our guide and the other Mr W had found on the internet. Our first museum was Muzeum Karla Zemana, a film special effects museum. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to make of this when Mr W told me he wanted to go but I actually quite enjoyed it when I started wandering round the building. It was interesting seeing how he was able to achieve what he did before computers. Next on our list was a Gastronomy museum that Mr W had seen mentioned on Trip Advisor. Turned out, this no longer exists and is currently a building full of rubble. I was slightly disappointed by this as a museum about food sounded like my idea of heaven (well, to an extent). The final museum on our list was a beer museum. Considering beer is so cheap and plentiful in Prague, we felt like it was a tourist thing we needed to do. We went to the address and stepped into the pub (we had read there was a pub as well). We decided to sample some beers before we ventured into the museum. I chose two fruit beers and Mr W chose some more ‘traditional’ beers. It transpired that Mr W preferred my fruit beers, which is a first.

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After drinking up, we ventured next door to what we thought was the museum. Turned out there was no museum, just the pub. Let’s just say, we weren’t feeling inspired to try and find any other museums with our current success rate. But that didn’t put a dampener on our city break. We visited a number of cafes/restaurants and pubs where we tried food , beer and home-made lemonade. I have come back with dishes that I want to try and re-create (potato soup and carlsbad dumplings). We got the chance to visit one of our friends from University who took us to his favourite cafe and suggested a brewery near his work that made the ‘best beer in Prague’. Now, I’m not a big beer drinker but even I managed to have two glasses. One thing we didn’t manage was learning any of the language (no matter how hard we tried).

Over the last couple of days, I have managed to fit in a little baking. On Wednesday I made some Peanut Butter Oreo Brownies to take into work. I’ve been wanting to make these for a while after buying some oreos that had a peanut butter filling but wanted a reason to make them. One of our managers was leaving on Thursday so that seemed a good reason to get them made. If I was to make them again, I would consider making actual peanut butter brownies and adding the oreos to that. In this instance, I followed a Cookies and Cream Brownie recipe from one of my Lorraine Pascale cookbooks. Here’s a link to the recipe online.

I also made another batch of the stem ginger flapjacks as I still had some stem ginger in the fridge (I also gave the pearl barley recipe another go. I love the heat and flavours. It’s becoming a go to recipe when Mr W is out and it’s tea for one). I omitted the dark chocolate topping as I wanted to give some to my mum and dad to try. I cut the flapjack into 12 pieces this time which meant the size was a lot more manageable. I was also able to get a picture of them before Mr W got his hands on them (considering he doesn’t really like them….)

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