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).

 

Pancakes!!

I have to admit, pancakes have become the highlight of my weekend. I love making these as an indulgent (yet relatively healthy) Sunday morning breakfast treat. Mr W finds it slightly amusing on how excited I can get knowing that these are going to be my breakfast.

It all started the week before Shrove Tuesday. It fell on Mr Ws fortnightly quiz night and I didn’t want to miss out on not having pancakes. But I didn’t want to have to make a full batch of batter and throw it away or buy pre-made ones (if I’m having pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, I want to be making them). I ended up doing a bit of googling on pancake recipes and came across this single serve recipe. Now, I followed this recipe to the letter (using wholemeal flour and half a mashed up banana instead of an egg as I didn’t have any in). I made them as a pancake dessert and served with fresh fruit and ice cream. Delicious!! I even gave the recipe to my sister to try and she enjoyed them as well (using plain flour and an egg). Our only issue was that they stuck slightly to the pan (not sure if that was an issue with our pans though. Still using a cheap favourite one from our uni days. Non-stick might not be so great now :S).

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Now, after the success of these ones and the easiness of the recipe, I decided to try them for breakfast. I also thought I’d be brave and adapt the recipe slightly. With the dry ingredients I added a dash of cinnamon. I also stirred some fresh blueberries into the complete batter. Now, these did not cook as well. They turned in to mush. Not sure if it was the addition of the blueberries or that I needed to cook them for longer, but they didn’t look like pancakes. Still tasted great though. My next variation was the addition of chia seeds to the dry mix. Chia seeds have all those additional health benefits and you don’t really notice them in the cooked pancake. These didn’t cause any issues when I cooked the pancakes. Bonus.20160327_093515.jpgThis morning I decided to combine both of these variations together to create some tasty blueberry pancakes. Instead of combining the blueberries into the batter, I added them to the top of the pancake as the first side was cooking. Success!! I keep the pancakes warm in the oven whilst I cook the rest. I normally get around four pancakes out of this batter. For me, I like to substitute the egg with half a mashed banana as it’s secretly adding some fruit into the pancake. I then slice the other half and use as a topping. I also find that the wholemeal flour adds a subtle nutty taste to the pancake. I have found that the pancakes are cooked to perfection when cooked for two minutes on each side. I also spray the pan with spray oil before cooking each pancake (this has resolved the sticking issue). For toppings I use sliced banana, berries (fresh or frozen defrosted), mixed seeds, flaked almonds and a drizzle of honey. Healthy indulgence! Below is the recipe I now follow.

  • ¼ cup plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp flavourless oil (I used rapeseed)
  • ¼ cup milk (almond milk is tasty)
  • 1/2 mashed banana
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Place dry ingredients into a jug and mix.
  2. In a separate bowl (I just use a mug), whisk together the mashed banana, milk and oil until combined.
  3. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until well combined.
  4. Lightly grease a non-stick fry pan with spray oil and heat to a medium temperature.
  5. Making this mixture in a jug will make it easier to portion out the batter – make this to your preferred size. I made 4 pancakes.
  6. Cook until bubbles form on surface. If you want to include any berries, scatter them on top of the pancake at this stage. Flip and cook the other side until lightly browned. I have found it takes 2 minutes on each side.
  7. Keep warm in an oven whilst you cook the rest.
  8. Serve with your choice of toppings.

 

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