Wednesday
Apr162014

Seeing Easter through a babies eyes

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to approach Easter for the first time?  I realise that each year there are people celebrating this holiday for their first time, but I am thinking back to being as we are now, but seeing Easter for the first time, with the cross, the Easter Bunny, chocolate, eggs, baby chicks, spring lambs, Mini Eggs, bonnets, daffodils and pastel colours.  

I don't really have a definite memory of my first Easter, the way I do of Christmas, but I do remember as I got older, sitting with my Gran and Great Aunts - Bell and Nancy - planning Easter celebrations.  Much thought was put into what to make, who would sit where, what china would be used.  Lists were written and battleplans drawn up.  I watched and listened, mouth smeared with chocolate absorbing all they talked about.

This year it is my nephew's first Easter, and it is really exciting.  As we watch him take in Easter for the first time, I am struck by how wonderful life is.  So full of rich moments that make magical memories.  Of opportunities for laughter and joy.  Of the chance to look at things that have become routine with new eyes, the eyes of a child.

Here he is wearing his first set of Easter Bunny Ears from Asda.  Adorable and cute as a button, he wore the ears without a second thought, and was fascinated to look at himself in the mirror with them on.

These Asda Bunny Ears are fun, and with their one size fits all, work well for adults and children, as a token gesture towards Easter dress, or to make little one's laugh as grown ups wear them.  Easter costumes, don't need to be complicated or fancy and I love how these sweet ears bring a smile to everyones face.  Everyone roared with laughter on Sunday when I walked into the kitchen cool as a cucumber but wearing the bunny ears.  It wasn't long before the little one was reaching out for them.  

As you prepare to celebrate Easter - why don't you take a moment to look around you and not see the old, but look just that little bit closer for the new.  Why don't you put on a pair of bunny ears and watch the smiles on the faces around you.

Happy Easter

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Wednesday
Apr162014

'one or two a Penny Hot Cross Bunns' - A Good Friday Breakfast

I love HOT CROSS BUNS. Just felt like I had to give my love for them a big shout out right at the beginning of this piece.

Hot Cross Buns traditionally eaten on Good Friday, are loaded with folklore, religious symbolism, history and tradition, they are also filled with fruits and rich medieval flavours like cinnamon, mixed peel, nutmeg, currants and orange.  These warming flavours melt into soft spongy yeast leavened buns, and need nothing more than a skimming of country salted butter over the jewelled crumb.

The Oxford University Dictionary's first reference to Hot Cross Buns is from 1733. When the buns in question are mentioned in the popular nursery rhyme - 

 "Good Friday comes this Month, the old woman runs, With one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns."

The Church of England believe the spices in Hot Cross Buns represent the spices Jesus body was wrapped in while in the tomb, and the cross a symbol of the crucifixation. 

In the 1500s Elizabeth I made laws restricting the sale of the buns - an edict was issued in 1592 forbidding the sale of “any spice cakes, buns, biscuits, or other spice bread except it be at burials, on Friday before Easter or at Christmas.” Sealing in law the Hot Cross Bun and Good Friday association. While a tradition supposedly from the Elizabethan times says,  Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday, will never mould, and bring luck to the household.

Marks and Spencer  make divine Hot Cross Buns, with round golden even so slightly sticky tops, opening to silky moist white rolls, delicately spiced, and packed with juicy plump fruit.  The crumb has a really buttery taste, it is soft but not squidy well aerated but with a firm texture.  When I cut into the bun it had an even distribution of fruit across each halves surface.  

Hot Cross Buns were sold warm straight from the bakers oven in days gone by - hence the name - and eating them warm, brings out the flavour of spices, and fills your kitchen or office, if you happen to be making them in work, with the scent of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.

Opening a packet of Marks and Spencer Hot Cross Buns lets the scent escape into the room, suddenly anyone who is hanging around is queuing behind you for a toasted Hot Cross Bun.  The flavours of the M&S buns linger on the palate they are not too sweet and lightly spiced.  After eating one, you might find yourself nipping back to the kitchen for another.

There has been a lot of thought put into the flavours of Marks and Spencer's Hot Cross Bun offerings this Easter, the food developers have come up with some real winners, they have created flavours which are innvoative without being disrespectful to the traditional flavours of Hot Cross Buns - cinnamon, spice and all things nice!

It is no surprise therefore that Marks and Spencer are the nation's favourite with figures a year or so ago, stating they sold just under 30% of the UK's Hot Cross Buns, in the run up to Easter.

All of the Marks and Spencer buns this year are almost crustless, slightly sticky on top, with a soft crumb and so moist they barely need butter, but well can you resist? I can't!

Apple & Cinnamon - This HCB recipe uses very juicy Turkish sultanas, raisins, Greek Vostizza currants, tangy citrus peel and delicate sweet spices, to create a bun that is a firm favourite time and time again.  Is it little wonder M&S cleverly sell a sliced loaf version of this bun throughout the year.  It's perfect for late night tea and toast.

Toffee Fudge & Belgian Chocolate - With sticky glossy tops, these buns eschew sultanas for chunks of fudge and chocolate, these HCBs are rich with flavour and sweetness, which amalgamate gently with contrast to the background of warming traditional HCB spices.  A winning combination.

Cranberry & Orange - These HCB are beautifully sticky and bejewelled with large ruby red dried cranberries, a zingy orange peel, with a scattering of pumpkin seeds adding a good nibbly texture.  These are my favourites, but then I am a cranberry fiend.

Golden Wholemeal -  With a nod to the craze for wholefoods, these buns taste light, and fluffy, with a good light spice, and a packing of golden oh so juicy sultanas.

My table this Good Friday morning will be filled with a basket of all these different flavours of Hot Cross Buns from Marks and Spencer.  There will be butter, jam and thick set honey, as well as bowls of yogurt, fruit and granola.  A real feast to set us up for a day of deep thinking.

Happy Easter everybody.

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Tuesday
Apr152014

Mango, Pomegranate, Herb and Rocket Salad

The scent of mint rises from the tub on the patio.  Fresh and fragrant, it urges me to pick it.  Hands smelling of that light tang, I carry a bundle into the kitchen. On my windowsil are pots of basil and coriander - both plants that don't like the cold, wet Northern Irish weather - their smell lingers in the air.

I pull handfuls from the pots, where the herbs mingle growing together as a jungle.  Together with the mint I hold the greenery under the facet, cold water runs through.  I roughly chop the herbs, scattering them over a large bowl of baby salad leaves and a spicey rocket.

What isn't there to love about this most ancient of fruits, its bright ruby seeds marking my knife, as I cut it in half, then leaving just a hint of pink on my lime after I slice it with the same knife.  Pomegranates are a nutrient dense, antioxidant rich fruit, which come from Iran - they are remarkably good for you.  I love the ruby red jewels which bring joy to any dish.

The easiest way to get the seeds from this beautiful fruit, is to cut it in half, then hit the back of it with a wooden spoon, or curved spatula, the seeds will fall out.  Be careful as the juice colours everything it comes into contact with, and you don't want any of the bitter white pith.  Let the seeds fall over the salad leaves.

Mango's are simply difficult to cut because of their large stone.  Cutting down either side of the stone, turn the mango over, then make a criss cross pattern in the flesh without cutting through the skin.  Then push the skin to form a little hedgehog back shape, and using your knife cut out the cubes, and drop over the salad.

Mangos are high in fibre, pectin and vitamin C, and one cup of sliced mango gives 25% of the daily needed dose of Vitamin A.

Squeeze lime juice over the salad, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil a grind on some pepper and then toss and serve.

This salad combines, fresh scented ingredients, with soft sweet mango flesh, and the crunch of pomegranate seeds.  The sweet, citrusy and light flavours are refreshing.

As one of my favourite salads I serve it frequently

Mango, Pomegranate, Herb and Rocket Salad

(serves 4-6)

Ingredients

 

  • 2 bags of mixed baby leaf salad
  • 1 bag of rocket
  • Seeds of 1 Pomegranate
  • 1 mango cut into cubes
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Bunch of mint chopped
  • Bunch of coriander chopped
  • Bunch of basil chopped
  • Freshly ground Pepper
  • Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (optional)

 

Method

 

  1. Prepare all your ingredients
  2. Toss everything together in a large bowl, including oil, lime and pepper
  3. Serve 

 

I love salad, fresh flavours, scented with herbs and this salad ticks all the boxes.  Roast meat, especially BBQ I enjoy but I hate the heaviness of roast dinners - everything cooked, and drenched in gravy.  My idea of the worst meal on earth.  

But combine this salad with its light delicate fragrant flavours with roasted meat, and you have a perfect meal.

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Monday
Apr142014

Pimped Protein Smoothie - all natural ingredients

The first time I had a protein shake, I felt appalling.  Sick, sweaty and shaky.  No folks, it wasn't a pretty picture.  Searching the list of ingredients on the powdered protein, I realised Whey (a milk derivative) was the main ingredient.  There has to be a healthier way to get protein into my system, before and after a workout, than this chemically enhanced muck, that is packed full of sugar, questionable ingredients and sends my body into reflux.

And, I have found a way, making a protein shake from scratch using ingredients naturally high in protein - peanuts, brazil nuts (also healthy fats in moderation), almond milk, matched with ingredients packed full naturally of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Bananas - filled with fibre, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A and K.

Chia Seeds - packed full of Omega 3 fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre

Green Tea - Rich in Lycopene and flavonoids, and plant-based compounds that promote health, help the body to get rid of toxins, and process fats quicker, as well as being anti-inflammatory.

A vegan protein powder without sugar or preservatives.

Smoothies are easy to digest allowing our bodies to quickly absorb the nutrients they contain. This one is a great way to start the day, or to take after a tough workout, to help muscles repair.

Pimped Protein Smoothie

(makes two medium glasses of smoothie)

Ingredients

 

  • 1-2 cups of cooled green tea (depending on the thickness of smoothie you like)
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 4 brazil nuts
  • 1 small banana chopped
  • 1 small scoop of vegan protein powder
  • Ice

 

Method

 

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender
  2. Blend until smooth
  3. If too thick add more green tea

 

How do you like to take your smoothie?

That's it for now ...

 

Nics

 

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Sunday
Apr132014

The commonality of the Creative Routine of Geniuses  

 

Well have you worked it out yet?

Take a look at the white - they are nearly all the same.

White represents sleep - sleep for these geniuses was a priority.  Just like it should be yours and mine.

Sleep - an essential part of life.  Not another meeting, or forcing work output in the wee small hours of the morning, but making sleep a priority, a non negotiable.

From sleep, all else flows.

How much sleep do you need a night, how much do you get, how much of a priority is it to you to get enough?

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

 

Thursday
Apr102014

Everyone is someone 

How did you make people feel today, how did they make you feel?

What will you do differently tomorrow?

Each of us is somebody all with access to the same respect - but do we receive it, do we give it, do we want it?

What can you do tomorrow to treat everyone you met as somebody?

This Lent I've been thinking about others, intentionally reaching out with a smile, a letter, a cup of coffee, holding a door open, saying thank you, picking up the telephone and calling rather than texting.

There are endless things you can do right now as well as tomorrow to make everyone you meet feel like somebody.

Just think about it for a sec, the power you have to change someone's day. You will never know just how much your smiles across a room means to the one you smile at, you could in fact save their life, just by smiling.

Think about that - about the power you hold and use it well.

That's it for now ...

Nics

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable

Wednesday
Apr092014

A Wall of Buttons

 

Have you ever seen a wall of buttons?  There was one at the Paul Smith Exhibtion at the Design Museum in London.  I touched it, drawn by the curious and seemingly random placement of the coloured buttons, their shapes and sizes.  As I ran my hand along it, I smiled.

That's if for now ...

 

Nics

 

Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable