Happy New Year!

I want to wish you all a Happy New Year, and I hope 2012 is filled with great things and funny memories for all of us.

To look forward too....

To do....
H xo

Low-fat Chocolate Brownies

I usually groan when I see a recipe title for low-fat chocolate brownies. To me brownies should be sinfully chocolaty and so sticky you have to lick all the mixture off your fingers; more often than not low-fat brownies disappoint in both areas.

Not now though, thanks to weight watchers the perfect chocolate brownie recipe has been created, and at only 3 propoints per serving. Whilst cooking these the house filled with the smell of chocolate, and thanks to the dried prunes they are deliciously sticky.


Low-fat Chocolate Brownies

Yields - 16
Propoints - 3

Ingredients:
75g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
125g caster sugar
50g low fat spread, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g pitted soft prunes, chopped finely
50g maltesers, crushed
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Method:

Preheat the oven to gas marl 4/180 Celsius and line a 19cm square nonstick baking tin with baking parchment.

Sift the flour and cocoa into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Add the low fat spread, vanilla, prunes, maltesers and beaten egg and stir to bring the mixture together.

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 15-20 minutes until just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then carefully remove and cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 16 pieces and store in an airtight container for 3 days.

H xo

Mincemeat Cake Bars

First and foremost I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I was such a lucky girl, Santa brought me everything I could have wished for and more.

The days post-Christmas bring one thing in abundance - leftovers. In my house the only thing left over, until yesterday, was half a jar of mincemeat. Personally I can't stand the stuff, but the rest of my family like it, and it won't interfere with my weight loss that way.

So I made these:

Mincemeat Cake Bars

Now I stupidly forgot to take a photo and now they have all been eaten/given away, but I can promise you, well I was told, they are divine. Plus the recipe is uber simple!

Yields: 20

Ingredients:
250g wholemeal plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
475g mincemeat, use the vegetarian variety
2 tablespoons golden syrup
4 eggs

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius/gas mark 4. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.

Spoon mixture into a rectangular shallow baking tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

Allow to cool in the tin and cut into 20 snack-size bars.

Enjoy!

H xo

Merry Christmas!

Better late than never I want to wish you and yours a very merry Christmas. What has been your favourite part of the 2011 holiday season? Xo

My Friends Got Talent

One thing blogging has taught me in the past two months is just the immense amount of talent there is around the world that we are all able to share thanks to the internet and our blogging obsessions! It got me thinking. I'm sure there is some undiscovered talent out there, and I don't mean in the Britain's got talent way. We all have friends that are talented right? Well why not share them?!

This linky will happen every week (apart from this week because of Christmas I'm making it two).

Here is my contribution for this week:

I would like to introduce you too a lovely friend of mine.....Gemma Gutteridge.

Gemma and I met whilst working over the summer and have been BFF's ever since. Not only is she an amazingly sweet person, but is also an incredible artist.





Here is some of her beautiful work:






If you would like more information about Gemma feel free to contact me via the 'contact' page.

It would be lovely if you could all link up and get your friends to link up too. You never know you might be the one with talent........

H xo

WIWW - Family Meal

WIWW aka What I Wore Wednesday is hosted by Lindsey over at The Pleated Poppy. I've been meaning to do more fashion related/what I wear posts and linking up with Lindsey is going to be a great way to do that. I struggle with what to wear because most of the new seasons fashions don't suit me, or don't come in plus sizes; so here you will find my take on things.

I know its Thursday and I'm a day late with this post but it was an evening outfit so forgive me.

I went to a local pub with my family for a meal, drinks, and carols. At 9pm the whole pub was full, thanks to the local singing group, and 2 minutes later was filled with beautiful singing voices, including my own!

Blazer - £15, Primark
Vest Top - £7, Very.com
Jeans - £15, Dorothy Perkins
Flats - £3, Primark
Bag - £2.50, Charity Shop

Necklace - £10, Sainsburys

Ring - From France
Faux Pearl Bracelets - £1 each, Primark
Blue Bracelet - My Mums

Decided to have my hair up for once!
 H xo

Low Fat Caramel Cookies

Another low-fat recipe from me today; I am trying to rectify early all the damage that may I plan to happen over the Christmas period. Its the last cookie post for a while too, promise. My kitchen looks like a bag of flour exploded!
Don't be deceived by the title, these cookies don't contain any caramel at all sorry; but they certainly taste like they do, thanks to all the lovely brown sugar! Yum!

Caramel Cookies

Yields: 60
ProPoints: 1

Ingredients:
120g butter
140g light brown sugar, or dark brown if you have that in the cupboard
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
120g plain white flour
120g plain wholemeal flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Method:
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/400F. Set aside two non-stick baking trays.

In a large bowl cream together the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Add the remaining ingredients and beat thoroughly. You may need to add 1-2 tablespoons of iced water if the mixture is too dry.

Scrape the dough out of the bowl and put it on a large piece of plastic wrap. Roll dough into a log approximately 4 cm wide. Completely wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, 60 minutes at least, preferably overnight.

Cut into 3mm thin slices and arrange on the baking trays, leaving plenty of space between each one. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until the edges have browned a little.

Allow cookies to cool completely on a wire rack.

I made these for a friend and then decorated them by drizzling red icing over and adding edible pink glitter (it is the holidays after all!) They do taste just as good the plain old simple way too though.

H xo

Decorate Your Own Christmas Cookie Kit

I don't know about you but I always struggle with presents for my friends kids. I don't want to buy a toy that 3 weeks later my friend is going to hate me for because it hasn't stopped beeping, and I don't want to buy chocolate, as I'm sure they will have lots already.
This is when I came up with the idea for an decorate your own christmas cookie kit. I'd make the cookies myself, buy some cheap cake decorations and a cute little container to put them in; I managed to do all three for under £3.
 


I got these containers form the works for £1.99 for both, as they were on buy one get of free. They also had Santa ones, I must have spent ages choosing!









These kits can be entirely personal, you put it what you know they will like. I made cookies in the shape of a snowman, christmas tree, and a tree ornament; they aren't perfect as I did them free-hand, but it all adds to the charm right!? For the decorating 'tools' I chose two different types of writing icing, milk chocolate buttons, mini marshmallows, sugar stars and hundreds and thousands.

I wanted to put everything in the container, but unfortunately the cookies were too big, so I tried them to the character's hand and made it look like they were carrying the cookies.

I made my own sugar cookie recipe, but feel free to use a packet mix.

Sugar Cookie Recipe

Yields: 34

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Method:

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place the butter and sugar in large bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat until light in colour. Add the egg and milk and beat to combine. Put the mixer on low speed,  and gradually add the flour, beat until the mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F/ gas mark 5.

Sprinkle the surface where you will roll out the dough with the powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from the fridge at a time,  and sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If the dough has warmed during rolling, place a cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill.

Cut into the desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on a greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7-9 minutes or until the cookies are just beginning to brown around the edges, rotating the cookies sheet halfway through baking time.

Let sit on the baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from the oven and then move to complete cooling on a wire rack. Serve as is or ice as desired.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

H xo

Deck The Blogs

The Deen Bros Lighter - Red Velvet Cupcakes

The Deen Bros. Lighter Red Velvet CupcakesEvery day I thank the lord that Food Network UK brings me Paula Deen! I love this lady through and through, but it is no secret that butter is her favourite ingredient, which is absolutely no good for me right now. I usually watch Paula and just dream that I could put the 6 tier coconut cake in my mouth and not feel an ounce of guilt, POP, dream over. Until I discovered this; one of her classic recipes made over by her gorgeous sons. I mean marshmallow cream instead of frosting = yum!

For a lighter take on Paula's red velvet cupcakes, please, please, please visit http://www.pauladeen.com/article_view/the_deen_bros._lighter_red_velvet_cupcakes/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=13dec2011. I promise y'all you will not be disappointed!

H xo

Low-fat Pizza You Say? No Way!

Hello lovely readers. I haven't blogged in 5 days (oh my gosh!) and I will tell you the reason why.
I have been re-assessing myself.
I've been on this weight loss journey now for 2 years and let me tell you, it has been the hardest thing I have EVER done, and I haven't always been successful at it. I took a few days away from the technology and stresses of modern day life to really focus on why I started this journey in the first place and why I want to continue.
This year, for the first time, I have booked a girly holiday with one of my best friends to Spain :) This is the first year I can afford it, thanks to my job, and I am so determined not to be sweltering in the late August heat. So ladies with the half-naked beach hunks always in the back of my mind, my weight loss journeys begins again; this time with a low-fat pizza!

Individual Cheesy Aubergine (Eggplant) Pizzas

Serves - 2
ProPoints - 7

Ingredients -
Low fat cooking spray
Half a 144g pack of pizza base mix
1 small aubergine (eggplant), sliced thinly
2 teaspoons pesto (you can use the red or green kind, whichever you like most)
2 tomatoes, sliced
75g light mozzarella, drained and sliced
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil leave, to garnish

Method -
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7. Spray a non stick baking sheet with the cooking spray and set aside.

Make up the dough according to the packet instructions, kneading for 5 minutes before dividing it in two. Shape each piece of dough into a 15cm circle and place on the baking sheet. Set aside in a warm place to rise for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a griddle pan/frying pan until it is really hot. Spray the aubergine slices with the cooking spray and then cook over a high heat for 3-4 minutes, turning once, until softened. Drain on the kitchen paper.

Spread the dough with the pesto and top with the aubergine, tomato and mozzarella slices. Season and bake for 10-15 minutes until the dough is golden and the cheese is bubbling, Serve garnished with some basil leaves.

Variation - You can use courgettes (zucchini) instead of aubergine.

H xo

Wine Glass Markers - Free Printable

You know what its like. You're at a party, you put your glass down and now its surrounded by lots of others and you can't remember which one was yours.

Found these, loved them, though I'd share.

To download the actual printable go to http://www.modernbeautiful.com/blog/2011/10/26/wine-glass-markers-free-printable/. After all, all credit goes to Kelly and Jennette for creating these.

I think I'd be the drama queen. Which one would you be?



















Helen xo

Diary Of A Book Addict

Now all my close friends know I am obsessed by books! I always have at least 4 waiting to be read and usually 2 on the go. I spend all my spare money on books and literary associated things. This is why it is a very bad good thing when I discovered this website - http://www.theliterarygiftcompany.com
Oh my gosh!! It is like my dream come true, here are some of my favourite things.


Brilliant for the educators out there
This should soooo be my mug!
Teatowel - "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it, the rest of me is on the draining board". Such an amazing quote.


Notebook.
Gorgeous cushion. Just need my own personal library now!
Notebook with classic Austen quote.








Gorgeous pin badge with an equally amazing Virginia Wolf quote.

So if any of you fancy getting me a last minute Christmas pressie you know where to go! 


I'm reading 'The Help' at the moment, and no I haven't seen the film. I refuse to do so until I've read the book. I've also just started the style book I showed you in yesterdays post. I decided to read the month in question each, well, month.

It has some really helpful tips and tricks for each month, and they're not just to do with fashion. I thought I'd share a section from December with you. It's about wrapping presents and is written by Michael Howells who is a set designer.

"There are two types of wrapper and 50 cent is not the one you'll be needing at this precise moment. Don't neglect the wrapping - you want your gift to make an entrance. Can you get creative with the photocopier at work when no one is looking and print and design your own wrapping-paper designs? Or scan lots of photos and print up a year's worth of memories to wrap your tokens in. If you are feeling you want to be more environmentally friendly, try and find a paper-free alternative, or use recycled paper from last year, or wallpaper, fabric remnants, glossy magazines or newspapers. Make a collage and tie it with string. Use shoe boxes and ribbons. For bikes and bulky objects you could find a cupboard or shed and drape an old curtain or sheet over the surprise. Can you keep it simple on the outside and exploding with sequins, feathers and all sort of delights as Pandora's box opens? Always double-if not triple-wrap layers to increase the suspense. Try it in different colours and textures and even add sweets - why not create the ultimate pass the parcel? The more layers, the more you will conceal the shape and contents and excuse any haphazard sellotaping techniques. Wrapping is as much a part of the present as the gift itself, especially if finished with a gift tag and lots of love."

What do you think of some of Michael's suggestions? Will you be using any of them this Christmas?

Helen xo

A Girl's Guide

To failing yet another an interview.

Well if you didn't work it out from the title of this post I didn't get the job I interviewed for today :( Its OK though and I'm feeling good. I have another interview on Monday and basically a job offer from somewhere else, so wish me luck with both of those Ladies!!

I thought I'd share some of my personal tips for dealing with another rejection letter/phone call/e-mail.

Remember its OK to be yourself. You don't have to pretend to be anyone else but you. If they didn't think you were right for the job, then it probably wasn't right for you either.










Read a magazine/book. For me at the moment its this amazing month by month style book I found in a charity shop!












Crack open the vino and treat yourself to a well deserved drink! You have been under a lot of stress recently!!

















Remember the quotes that have already got you through the tough times.







Finally; paint your nails a stupidly dark/bright colour.












Helen xo

Sharing The Love.....

Recently one of my best blogger friends Mandy over at OrangeAutumn did a post on how much she loves Reese Witherspoon and her style. Well I couldn't agree more!! I've had these pictures on my noticeboard for months because I just think they are so beautiful. So I thought I'd share them with you....and Mandy :)



Gorgeous right?!

Helen xo

Chicken Chow Mein

This is one of the easiest recipes I know, and one of my own creations :) It makes for an ultra good dinner, its low in points too!
OK there are a lot of ingredients, but get them all prepared before hand and it is super easy to do.

Chicken Chow Mein

Propoints - 10
Serves - 4

Ingredients:
600g chicken breast
6 tablespoons soy sauce
200g noodles
1 large onion
100g baby corn
100g sugar snap peas
2 large garlic cloves
2.5cm root ginger
150g Chinese leaves (I couldn't find them so just used cabbage)
2 tablespoons dry sherry
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
pepper

Method:

Marinate the chicken in 4 tablespoons of the soy sauce for 30 minutes. Cook the noodles according to pack instructions and leave to cool.

(Your pan/wok needs to be extremely hot for the next bit!)

Fry the chicken for 4-5 minutes, until cooked. Remove from the pan.

Fry the onion, carrot, baby corn, and sugar snap peas for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and Chinese leaves and fry for another minute.

Add the noodles to the pan with the dry sherry, remaining soy sauce, oyster sauce and chicken. Season with black pepper (add salt if you have used a low sodium soy sauce). 

Helen xo

Warm Potato Salad With Mini Hot Dogs

If any of you read my tweet this morning, you will be wondering why I am posting. The truth is I just can't stay away from this blogging lark (plus I REALLY enjoyed my lunch and I want to share the recipe with y'all). This is one of my all-time favourite recipes! You can mix and match it so many ways; you can often find me substituting the potatoes for pasta.
Kelly over at eat-yourself-skinny.com has given me the inspiration to add the weight watchers points to all my recipes. I've been on weight watchers for a while now and I'm doing good (2lbs) off last week! Unfortunately I still have a LONG way to go, 112lbs to be exact (phew!). I am convinced that determination, planning and fantastic recipes will get me there though. I'll keep y'all updated!!

Warm Potato Salad with Mini Hot Dogs
Serves - 1
Propoints - 4

Ingredients:
100g new potatoes, raw
3 lettuce leaves
6 cherry tomatoes
4cm cucumber
30g extra light soft cheese
4 mini hot dogs

Method:
Cut the potatoes into small cubes and boil until tender (about 10 minutes).

Mix the soft cheese (I used garlic and herb), lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and hot dogs together.

Drain the potatoes and add to the other ingredients and serve.

Soooooo simple and totally yummy. You can of course add whatever sort of veggies you want.

Helen xo

All That Glitters....

Every year I plan my Christmas Day outfit, its a tradition that my family have had for years, and I'm sure many families have; everyone dresses up on Christmas day.

I wearing the most stunning LBD with a gold scallop trim and I was looking for the glittery heels to go with it. Then I found these on very.com. Oh my gosh!

















I want all of these, but if I had to pick just one pair it would be the copper coloured ones. Which are your favourite?

Helen xo

Gingerbread Coffee Syrup

This is going to be my Christmas morning treat, along with cinnamon and pecan pancakes (I will post the recipe for these soon)




Ingredients:
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract



Method:
Combine the water, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla in a small to medium saucepan.
Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. When done, pour into a melt-proof container and let cool. It will thicken a bit more once cooled.

Just add a glug to hot milk and strong coffee for perfection or just a normal coffee for total easey peasyness.


Deck The Blogs

A Girl's Guide To Interviewing

I have been to many interviews in my short life so far and I consider myself a near expert in the subject. Here is what I have learnt, I hope it helps all you budding career women out there.
The Do's and Don'ts of interviewing:

DO arrive at your interview a couple of minutes early if possible. Being late for an interview, even if only slightly, is never acceptable and will usually ruin your chances right there and then.
DO
greet your interviewer with a firm handshake and good eye contact.
DO
wait until you are offered a chair before you sit down. Sit upright and maintain good, positive eye contact throughout the interview. This will show that you are listening keenly.
DO
listen carefully, be sure to give direct and relevant answers to the interviewer’s questions. Giving irrelevant answers, no matter how brilliant, will not help you.
DO
show enthusiasm. With interview nerves, it is easy to forget this crucial point. Take a deep breath, be conscious of your whole body language, and be keen and interested throughout the interview.
DO
be honest. Answer questions truthfully, succinctly and as close to the point as possible.
DO
use the questions as an opportunity to sell yourself to the interviewer. Use your answers to highlight your strengths and your suitability for the role.

DO show maturity, a clear well-spoken manner and confidence in your own ability! Remember, you’re there to show that you’re the best person for the job.

DONT ever ask about salary.

DON’T ask about fringe benefits, holidays, bonuses and the like, especially in a first interview.

DON’T
give one word answers like simple Yes or No. Explain yourself in some details and give evidence to support your responses.
DON’T
ramble on too much when asked a question. Even though you need to provide informative answers, you can go overboard. This can be a tricky balance to achieve sometimes, but focus on the relevant facts.

DON’T speak negatively about anything if you can avoid it, especially past employers and bosses. Try to give a fair and balanced account of past experiences.


Helen xo

Scribbling away.....

The blog has had a total makeover, what do you think?

Over the weekend I've been offered two interviews; yay! They are on Friday and Monday, and I've spent today scribbling my answers to the most commonly asked interview questions, and it got me thinking. Everyone hates interviews right? You know exactly what you are going to say, then you get asked a question and you go to pieces.

Well.......

Come back tomorrow as a will be posting a girls guide to interviewing!

Holiday Cantucini

I always start planning holiday cookies weeks in advance as I give them out as gifts. This year Cantucini are my cookie of choice. Cantucini comes from the Tuscany region of Italy and is a type of biscotti. I know many people are afraid of making biscotti, which literally tranlastes as twice baked, but don't be it is so easy.


This recipe is one I personally treasure. I was lucky enough to live and work in Italy in 2010 and was handed this recipe from the Lady I worked for. Think about making Cantucini for the holidays, you won't regret it. They are great dipped in coffee, or dessert wine.




Prep Time - 15 minutes.
Cooking Time - 30 minutes.
Makes - 40.


Ingredients:
100g almonds, chopped
225g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
175g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of a large orange



Method:
  1. Dry fry the hazelnuts until lightly toasted. Preheat the over to gas mark 6.
  2. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and blend in the sugar. Make a well in the centre and tip in the egg, vanilla extract, orange zest, and hazelnuts. Mix them with a fork and then use your hands to draw the dough together. Knead slightly; add more flour if the dough seems a little wet.
  3. Divide the mixture into two and shape into logs. Lay on a baking sheet and cook for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Slice the logs whilst still warm. Put the slices back on a baking tray and return to the oven for 5 mins.

The Pefect Facial via LaurenConrad.com

This facial is a recipe by Karly Goins that I found on LaurenConrad.com. I've posted it because I have tried it and adored it and I want you all to try it too. Its a recipe for a seriously sweet fall facial, an Oh Sugar Pie Honey Bunch Facial that is…

Below are Karly’s directions. Give it a try!

DIY: Karly's Fall Facial
This facial is mildly exfoliating (can be made more abrasive with more sugar), anti-bacterial and moisturizing! It is smooth and creamy, and can be warmed up in the microwave for cold dry skin in the winter (This does however melt the sugar so it becomes an even creamier mix.) All you need are a couple basic kitchen staples and it's as easy as that!

What you will need…

  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1 tbsp. of milk (the higher the fat percentage, the better)
How to make it…
  1. Pour sugar into a bowl, slowly stirring in the honey, and add quantity of milk desired (the more milk the looser the consistency).
  2. Pat mixture onto skin (avoiding eye area, it makes eyelashes sticky and the sugar is harsh on delicate skin). Leave on for 10-20 minutes (whatever you like best and have time for) this mask will not dry on your skin or become tight or hard, it will stay moist and sticky, I suggest wearing an old t-shirt while wearing this in case of any "sticky situations."
  3. Rinse the mixture off with lukewarm water; you may use a wash cloth or facial cleansing brush to assist you if you like, but make sure to clean extra well around your hairline or some of the honey might dry in hard sticky clumps. Eew no thank you!
  4. I also like to soak cotton pads/rounds in some of the same type of milk I added into the mixture, I put on some relaxing music, and lay on m bed for 5 minutes with the pads/rounds layer on my face! The lactic acid from the milk will help to slough away dead skin, while the fats & proteins in the milk help to strengthen and plump the skin.
  5. Then rinse, apply moisturizer (don't forget to put one on that has SPF if you're going out in the sun after this facial!), Look at yourself in the mirror and SMILE! You are beautiful, and now you're soft, glowy, clean skin is a little bit more beautiful too!
All credit goes to Karly for this and Lauren for the original posting.

Forget-Me-Not Friday!

Better late than never, here's my list of unforgettable things that have happened this week.


December came around again. Yes its that time of holiday cookies, cinnamon, presents, mulled cider and all round good cheer.


I received an early present of these gorgeous boots from my Mum.




All my christmas shopping is now complete, I feel so super organised!


I have a job interview on Friday (9th). Wish me luck!


Things to look forward to:


Mandy over at orangeautumn is hosting a giveaway for one of my Etsy items on Wednesday the 7th December.


My interview!


Daddy/Daughter Christmas Fayre shopping.


What has been unforgettable about your week?

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