Monday, 25 July 2016

Twist by Martha Collison - A Recipe Book Review

Twist Recipe Book by Martha Collison - A Cook Book Review

There's something almost irresistible about picking up recipe books in the supermarket for a quick flick through.

I've probably said it before, but I love growing my recipe book collection. Sure, the internet is excellent when you've got something specific in mind, but you can't beat a beautiful cookbook for a little foodie-inspiration.

My latest addition is this - Twist by Martha Collison of Great British Bake Off fame. Yes. I did need another baking book. One minute I'm buying dog treats in Waitrose, the next this beautiful book has somehow fallen into my basket... (Actually. I'm not sure I was even carrying a basket.)

Recipe from Twist by Martha Collison - A cook book review

My thoughts

What made me purchase Twist is that it really appeals to my principles of baking. I like a classic, but I like thinking about how I can change it, update it or add a little something extra. 

And this is exactly what Martha's proposing in her recipes. This isn't another book rolling out the same old standard cakes. She gives a few basic recipes, then follows them up with all kinds of inventive, yet oh-so-appealing variations.

I like a good brownie, but how about salted caramel and pretzel for a little added sweet 'n' salty loveliness?

Or how about playing with a lemon drizzle? I personally love the sound of Grapefruit Drizzle Cake but my mum and sister reacted with 'yuck' - so guess who won't be getting a slice?!

Twist by Martha Collison - A Recipe Book Review


What I also really like about this book is that the majority of the recipes are the kind of things I can bake at home on any old rainy afternoon. It's not all showstopper cakes that are best suited to a fancy dinner, or huge cakes that only survive a matter of hours before they are past their best. The recipes are all the kinds of thing I can pop in a cake tin and let my family munch through over a few days, no special event required.

On a similar note, I haven't spotted a single ingredient I don't recognise. Which is not so much a sign of my incredible baking knowledge, but more that these are basic, everyday items that can be found in any supermarket. No ordering off Amazon for these bakes! 

Twist by Martha Collison - A Recipe book review

What it doesn't have is loads of explanation behind the methods, ingredients and techniques, or stories behind the recipes. Which is fine - it's not what I'm looking for and it keeps the book simple and to the point, but this isn't one of those recipe books you can sit and read with a hot drink. And that's not to say there's no explanation either - even with the briefest of flick throughs I've learned about the role of gluten and how to manage it in everything from biscuits to choux pastry!

Twist by Martha Collison Great British Bake Off


 Test run

Eager to get some use from the book, I was straight into the kitchen and whipping up 'Millionaire's Flapjacks' - now that's a good baking combination! Crunchy flapjack topped with caramel and a crisp layer of chocolate - delicious.

Millionaires Flapjacks - Recipe from Martha Collison Twist

I followed the recipe exactly in order to give the book a good testing. The instructions were clear and unambiguous, meaning I could easily follow them and snapchat at the same time. (This is the kind of fun you'll find if you follow me!) The flavours were spot on and although the flapjack layer was a little too crisp for my liking, we'll blame the oven rather than the recipe.

Millionaire's Flapjack - By Recipe from Twist by Martha Collison
Millionaire's Flapjacks - Reviewing Twist by Martha Collison

 

What I want to try next


Honestly, I could try out nearly any of these recipes - there's nothing that looks overly complicated, ludicrously expensive or questionably flavoured.

But high on my 'to-bake' list are:
  • Raspberry and Pistachio Friands
  • Breakfast Muffins
  • Apricot, Pistachio and Honey Upside-Down Cake
  • Mojito Macarons
  • Turkish Delight Profiteroles

In conclusion?

Whether you've got wall-to-wall cookbooks or are looking to start your collection with a solid baking all-rounder, Twist would be high on my recommendations!

What twists do you like to put on a classic recipe?

Jennifer 
xXx

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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Little Things I've Loved This Week #32

Little Things I've Loved This Week 32


It's been a pretty special one this week because it's the week I finally graduated! Five years of medical school has been great, but it was wonderful to finally make it to the end. There's also been a fair bit of organising to do, ready for moving house next week. So here are the little things making me smile this week:

Seeing all my friends proud to be graduating as doctors. I can hardly count graduating as a 'little' thing (although I definitely loved it!), but seeing my Facebook timeline fill with photos of newly graduated doctors was so special. Everyone worked incredibly hard to get here so it was wonderful to see everyone so happy!

Going to a spoken word performance on Wednesday night. I'd probably have laughed if you'd told me a few years ago that I'd go to something like this and actually enjoy it, but it was great! The professional poets were brilliant, with funny and thought-provoking poems and I'd definitely go again.

Vanessa Kisuule's "A Malleable Personal Manifesto". Vanessa was one of the poets who performed and this piece in particular deserved it's own mention. A list for life, a lot of it was very relatable and there are certainly some great lines to live by. I've linked to a video of it, or you can find the words here: A Malleable Personal Manifesto.

Being in an air conditioned hotel room on the hottest night of the year. I really, really appreciated the air conditioning the night before my graduation!

Picking up the keys to my new flat. I haven't properly moved in yet, but I'm really happy to have everything sorted and I'm excited about living there.

Reaching 300 Twitter followers. I know this sounds like nothing, but I actually only set up a dedicated blog Twitter account about a month and a half ago so I'm pleased it's growing! It also means I'm getting much more traffic from Twitter now because I 'm happier about promoting on this account, and pretty much all the followers follow for the blog and nothing else.

What have you been loving this week? I'd really like to know!

Jennifer
xXx
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Saturday, 23 July 2016

Graduation!



I did it!

Five years of medical school all finished, all passed and all ultimately enjoyed (despite the hard work).

It was wonderful to go back to Bristol for one last day on Wednesday and celebrate the achievement with my graduation ceremony. 

A busy day of dashing from place to place - gown collection, promise ceremony, graduation ceremony and celebratory drinks reception. And all in the glorious July sunshine.



It's hard to sum up in words what it feels like to have finally graduated, to know that I now hold a medical degree and that all those years of studying, placement and exams have been worthwhile. So I'm keeping this post short and sweet. Maybe it'll sink in eventually...



(Dr) Jennifer
xXx
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Friday, 22 July 2016

Should You Edit Old Blog Posts?

Should you edit old blog posts? Blogging tips on Ginevrella Lifestyle Blog

This is something I got discussing in a recent Twitter chat - "Should you edit and update old blog posts?"

Previously, I'd always said I wouldn't.

I liked seeing how my blog has grown and thought that having my progression there for all to see was a good way to show where I'd come from and be a more 'authentic' blogger.

But then I got all enthusiastic about my blog. I wanted to put in a little more effort and reap a little more reward. More traffic, more followers, more satisfaction.

And what really got me inspired was having one last big attempt at getting to grips with Pinterest. Tidying up my boards, I realised that pins to my old posts just weren't especially eye-catching. They didn't tempt me in - so why would anyone else want to click on them?!

It seemed a shame to let all that old content go to waste, when actually some of it was still viable. I had a few recipe and blog tips posts that were still relevant, but desperately in need of a facelift and a little TLC.

So I picked out the ones that I thought could be recycled and spruced them up. A new pinnable picture, refreshed title pictures if they needed it, checking the image formatting and, my real bugbear, fixing up the alt tags!

It wasn't a huge amount of work. I took a brand new photo for a single post, but made do with what I had for the rest. (I wasn't going to re-do all my recipes!)

Bringing them up to standard means that I feel proud of them again. I want to share them, rather than leave them hidden away, embarrassing memories in my archive. If I get low on new content, I've got plenty of 'evergreen' posts that can be pulled out of storage and shared back into the limelight.

Updated posts I'm excited to share again!


Should I rewrite old blog posts?

I didn't rewrite the posts. Partly because it was time and effort I could spend on new posts, but also because this wasn't the biggest weakness (in my opinion, anyway). I still want my blog to reflect a journey, but I also want to maximise the potential of old content.


Do I need to update all of my old blog posts?

Now I haven't gone through all of my old posts. Some of them are pretty time-specific and I wouldn't expect them to stay current. While I personally love going back through my 'Little Things I've Loved' posts, I recognise that they simply share little snaps of my life and aren't necessarily what other people are looking for! That's why I've focused on editing posts that offer advice or instructions - such as my recipe posts.

Updating Old Blog Posts on Ginevrella Lifestyle Blog

 Seven ways to update a old blog post:

  1. Add a new first picture - this is what shows up on your blog if you have 'popular posts' or 'related posts' widgets, so make sure it's eye-catching and appealing!
  2. Add a title picture/ pinnable graphic - I like to include a big, vertical image with text that can be used when sharing your post on social media such as Pinterest or Twitter.
  3. Check the ALT TAGS on your images - writing quality alt-tags was something I got into very late on, so many of my older posts simply haven't got them! When I'm updating old content, I make sure to sort this out.
  4. Make sure the formatting works with your current blog layout. My most recent blog themes have all included code to resize my blog images to the full width of the post, but lots of my old posts have images as 'x-large' rather than original size. I've corrected this on the posts I've updated, as well as checking for extra line breaks that shouldn't be there.
  5. Correcting spelling and grammar mistakes. We're all human and we all slip up on these things now and again. But going back and rereading old posts is the perfect time to pick up any little errors.
  6. Make sure you've been using keywords in order to improve the SEO. When I started out blogging, I had no idea what SEO was - now I've learned a lot! While I said I wouldn't rewrite old posts, I did go through and made sure I included keywords where possible, for example using place names rather than just 'here/ there'.
  7. Remove any broken links. Check that the links in the post still work - otherwise remove them. It can be a huge (but worthwhile) effort doing this for your entire blog, but if you're updating the post anyway you might as well!

So, in answer to the question - should you edit your old blog posts? - I say yes! Give them a little refresh, bring them up to your current standard and enjoy having a whole heap of content ready and waiting to be shared again.

Should You Edit Old Blog Posts? Reasons to update old blog content on Ginevrella


What do you think - would you edit your old blog posts?
Jennifer
xXx


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Thursday, 21 July 2016

Baked Sweet Potato with Fig and Goat's Cheese

Baked sweet potato served with chopped fig and goats cheese

A baked potato is one of my favourite, go-to meals. Perfect for lunch or a light dinner, my standard affair is potato topped with baked beans and oozing with butter. 

I also love a bit of a sweet kick so often serve up a baked sweet potato with a little butter and a good helping of salad.

But in honour of the warmer weather, I decided to give this classic comfort a summery twist with another favourite combination - fig and goat's cheese.

Fig and goats cheese


This would make an especially nice light meal idea in later summer when figs come into season here in the UK.

Juicy, sweet figs pair beautifully with the sweetness of the baked sweet potato, while the goat's cheese gives a little savoury balance to the combination.

Best of all, it's incredibly simple to make - which is ideal for making the most of any sunshine we may get this summer!

Baked Sweet Potato with Fig and Goat's Cheese


It would also make a lovely vegetarian option at a summer barbecue or garden party if you happen to be hosting.

All you have to do is bake your potato - I like to start off with a blast in the microwave for six to eight minutes, before transferring to the oven at about 180°c for twenty to thirty minutes to crisp up. (Bigger potatoes may take longer than this). Alternatively, you can cook them on the BBQ if you're feeling particularly summery!

Baked sweet potato


Chop up figs and goats cheese in whatever quantities you fancy, then sprinkle over the top.

Fresh figs


Pop the cheese on first so that it melts deliciously into the hot potato to create yummy, cheesy perfection.

Then serve with a little side salad and dig in!

Recipe for baked sweet potato with fig and goat's cheese


What are you favourite baked potato toppings?

I've also added this yummy recipe to the #InspirationalFoodies Linky where you'll find all kinds of delicious and inspiring dishes being added!

Jennifer
xXx
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Monday, 18 July 2016

A Trip to Basildon Park

Basildon Park National Trust Property

 Another good old National Trust trip!

Once I'd have filled my summer with trips to Legoland or Thorpe Park... these days you're more likely to find me in the gardens of a stately home or country mansion. (Or er, a Croatian beach).

This month we paid a visit to Basildon Park in Berkshire, an 18th century house set in the beautiful English countryside.

Gardens at Basildon Park


Arriving just before midday, we began by exploring the wonderful gardens - beautifully looked after by the busy army of volunteers working away.

Flower Gardens at Basildon Park National Trust

This place could definitely be #gardengoals... if I actually had my own garden anyway. Future garden inspiration though?!

Purple Flowers in the gardens at Basildon Park
Blue flowers at Basildon Park There really is something special about strolling slowly through the flower beds, pausing to take in the colourful displays - and the fabulous views out over green fields in the distance.
Countryside views from Basildon Park
Berkshire countryside from the gardens at Basildon Park

Flowers over brick archway at Basildon Park
White flowers over garden arch You know, I think I could be quite happy living at Basildon Park. It's obviously a big house by actual real-life standards, but as mansions go it's feels pretty manageable. (Ok. I'll return to planet Earth now...)

The house at Basildon Park
House and Gardens at Basildon Park Having just about gotten over my daydream of owning the place, we headed inside.

I didn't take all that many photos of the inside because 

a) I was too busy just marvelling at it all
b) How does anyone take photos of rooms and do them justice? I can never fit everything in!
c) Although photography is allowed, there's just nothing very discreet about a DSLR clicking and I didn't want to disturb everyone else.

 I did get this one of the magnificient dining room - for future reference obviously. (And there I go, back into daydream land again). But actually, this room is a Downton film set I'll have you know! I was delighted to find that Basildon Park is actually one of the filming locations for my most favourite ever ever TV show, Downton Abbey. 

Basildon Park Dining Room used in Downton Abbey


You see, Basildon Park serves as the interior of Grantham House, the Crawley family's London home. So that just made me love the place even more.

Once we'd completed the house tour we made our way out - somehow resisting the scents of cream tea wafting up the staircase - and wandered back out into the bits of the garden we had yet to see.

Country gardens


The grounds seemed to be huge - and dogs on leads are welcome so maybe we'll return with Saffy - but we explored the bits round by the house, stumbling across a herd of cows and their calves.

Cows and calves in the field at Basildon Park


It was a beautiful day and Basildon Park is another place I'd highly recommend you pay a visit if you happen to be in the area :)

Basildon Park Berkshire on Ginevrella Lifestyle Blog


Have you visited Basildon Park? Or are you a Downton Abbey fan?

Jennifer
xXx





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Sunday, 17 July 2016

Little Things I've Loved This Week #31


Little Things I've Loved This Week 31 on Ginevrella


Hello everyone :)


It's not been a particularly busy week for me this time (now when did I last say that?!), but it's good to have those slower weeks now and again. A bit like last week, I've dedicated a big chunk of my time to sorting blog things. Writing posts, tidying up things here and there and putting plenty of effort into social media accounts. I'm conscious of the fact that I've not got long to go until I start work and inevitably this means less time for blogging. With this in mind, I'm putting in lots of hard work now so that it's easier to maintain when I'm busy. 

So what have I been loving over the past seven days?



Frozen banana milkshakes. Ok, I am SO late to the party with this I know, but they are so good! It's like a proper ice cream milkshake - except it's just banana and milk. ALL the goodness - yet sweet, creamy and ice cold. I've been experimenting with a few flavours (mainly chocolate based right now) and I reckon these will be a little thing I love for many more weeks.

Getting up to date with Suits. Series six is about to come out on Dave, so I finally got around to watching the last two episodes of series five. Does anyone else ever feel like watching TV is a bit of a chore? No, just me? Well fine. It's one of those things where I know I enjoy the actual activity - but I'll put it off over and over again and then realise I'm about four months behind...



Pinterest. I forgot just how much I loved this site. Since refreshing my Pinterest account this week, I've been pinning non-stop!

Grace Victory's 'Clean Eating's Dirty Secrets' documentary. If you haven't seen it yet - GO! It's on BBC iPlayer and is so worth a watch. (Honestly, don't put this one off for months). Some of the nutri-nonsense spread about on the internet is terrifying, so seeing so many people chatting about this documentary is definitely something I've loved this week. 


What have you been loving this week? 
Jennifer
xXx
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