Sunday, 26 February 2017

Home Made Chilli

After watching my step-sister make the best smelling chilli EVER, I followed her method to make my own. Lately I've been trying to make big dishes that will last a couple of days to help us when we're so busy so this is just perfect! I've made chilli loads of times before and used different methods but this is by far my favourite way - it's fresh, healthy and super tasty. 

800g of low fat, lean beef mince
1 green pepper
1 red onion
Cherry tomatoes - halved
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 packets of microwave brown rice (heated up before added to mix)
Chilli flakes
Chilli flavour sachet 
Mixed herbs 
2 crushed garlic cloves
Large glass of red wine

Plus garlic bread and cheese for on top!

This is a great dish to make as it's super easy and after you've cooked the mince in a pan, it's an "all in one" pot in the sauce pan before transferring it to a casserole dish. I then mix in the wine and leave it in the oven for about half an hour.

Simple, tasty and filling.. can't go wrong!

What other hearty dishes can I make that are quick and easy during this pants weather? Tweet me links!



Friday, 3 February 2017

Wedding Venue Food Taster Day

I've not done a wedding blogpost or update for a while and we've managed to do so much in the last week in organising bits and pieces for the wedding, I have this and 2 other wedding blog posts in the making.. it's been a very exciting week to say the least.

Last weekend we got to visit our beautiful wedding venue; Makeney Hall in Belper, Derbyshire, and take part in a wedding taster day where we got to sample a selection of the food (and wine!) that we can choose from on our wedding day. The suite where we will have our "evening do" was all set up beautifully where we spent the afternoon and helped us with a few ideas - we have decided to upgrade our DJ package and add these L-O-V-E LED lights which I LOVE! They're huge and look fantastic.

We were joined by a few other couples that are having their wedding at the same venue and each couple had an individual table that had been set up amazingly to make it so personal to us with a selection of information cards about each course we were trying along with others that were available to choose from on the day.

Chloe, our amaaaazing wedding planner (who was in all honestly a big part of why we chose the venue) and her team had clearly gone into SO much effort with the food cards and the set up and it didn't go unnoticed.. it made me feel so welcome and even more excited for our big day! It was great to chat to the team inbetween and after courses to give our feedback or ask questions to help us prepare for our big challenge.. food picking!

To start with I had a soup selection while Nick had herbed toast with mozzarella and vine tomatoes.. clearly he liked it that much he'd eaten most of it before I'd even had the chance to get my camera out my bag! Which I can say I understand as when I tried the teeny piece he left me (so much for going halves on them all!) I was surprised at how much I like it considering I'm not a cheese fan. The only reason we decided against having it as a starter on our wedding is that it was quite big for a starter. After that and some of the 3 soups (I was kind and shared!) and his starter, Nick was full so thought it wouldn't be the best idea. The soups were lovely and were all so different.. I was partial to the Parsnip with the Apple Croutons.. purely as the apple croutons were insane! I'm just trying to decide how brave I can be in a white dress with tomato soup!

After the starter, we became classy and sophisticated with a 'palette cleanser'.. who'd have thought! It was a gorgeous champagne flavour with a cherry compote in the bottom! I won't lie, we found it quite random having almost a pudding style course inbetween starters and mains and probably won't be adding this to our meal on the day but it was nice to try something different.

Mains.. HOLY MOLY! This is where we are now totally confused and don't know which main's to select for our wedding breakfast. Nick had pork and I went for the lamb and both were beyond amazing and absolutely perfect. Don't get Nick started about the green beans being wrapped in bacon and as for the roast potatoes... mmhmmm! What I'd give to eat either of these right now. We shared eachothers again and we really don't know which to choose for our guests but we are going to head back to the next Makeney Taster day and hopefully try the Chicken and beef before we make the final choices.. although I'm sure this will just confuse us even more. I'm not a massive roast dinner fan but I couldn't even class this is a roast dinner, it was just on a totally different level! After going to weddings and having dry chicken or boring meals at black tie events, I was quite nervous but I was definitely happy with both meals and would be happy to have either on our day.

PUDDING! I don't think I've ever seen Nick so excited about anything.. EVER. Everyone had a pudding platter (there is a fancy word rather than platter but we'll stick with platter for now as I can't remember it!) in the idea of choosing between the 3 options for their wedding day but we simply couldn't decide between the chocolate torte (which I believe Nick would leave me for if he could marry a pudding instead), the lemon posset or a delicate little shortbread biscuit with cream and strawberries... so we're having all 3 set up like the below! This will be our official pudding on our wedding day. HOW EXCITING!

Obviously we couldn't eat all this food without having something to wash it down with so we got to try a couple of different proseccos, 6 wines (yes.. 6.. and it's safe to say the team were generous with their measurements!) and even a gorgeous raspberry mojito! We have selected our favourite wines and we think we've decided to go for the raspberry mojito in the 3 large cocktail containers on our day so :)

I'm so glad we have ticked a few things off the list and the food was a massive one! Even though we've not tried all the options, I'm glad we have a couple more Taster Days to go to this year to make the final decisions but we had a fantastic day.. if you're getting married and have arranged your venue, I'd suggest asking if they set up days like this to attend as it was so helpful and gave us more of an idea on what to expect. It was great to see Chloe too and have a natter and a catch up and start the official wedding planning! Only 581 days to go.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

5 Tips To Plan A Black Tie Ball

I can't believe it's been nearly 2 months since my Black Tie ball in memory of my Sister to raise money for Bone Cancer Research Trust and When You Wish Upon A Star but I still keep looking back at the photos as it was such a fantastic night.. I still can't believe that after a year of planning it's already come and gone.

I learnt a lot in the last year.. about myself, about my friends and how to (and not to!) plan a huge event like this for 150 people! And as I have friends organising similar events as well as hopefully myself for our next event, I wanted to share what I've learnt in the last year while organising...

The whole time organising the night I was worried about speaking and what I'd say, I even tried to find hosts for the evening so I wouldn't need to speak to a room of 150 odd people.. a lot of who I didn't actually know. But do you know what, when the time came, I couldn't wait to get up there and be proud of the evening I'd arranged. Yes of course I was nervous, but once I started talking and welcoming everyone, it just flowed and every time throughout the night I had to talk (even before alcohol), I actually felt really at ease as I reminded myself that at the end of the day, everyone was there for a reason (and most people were drunk!)

No matter whether they helped just a little by inviting people, whether they rounded up raffle prizes or helped set up the venue, never forget to show your gratitude for them being by your side. I did a thank you section after the meal and invited a few people up on stage. I got my parents bottles of wine as thank you presents along with my 3 best friends who arranged raffle prizes and sold tickets and repeatedly advertised the event throughout the year. I also got 2 family friends flowers as a thank you for selling tickets. It's the little things like this that people will remember.

Giving people something they can take away is a great way of getting them to remember the night and giving them a little something as a remembrance so even if they don't win anything on the raffle or auction etc, they still go home with something special. At our ball we had a little merchandise table for both charities selling wristbands, pens, badges, teddy bears, balloons etc. They were only little things but not only does it raise money, they can take something home from the evening.

At last year's ball I was too busy running around, stressing out and fixing everything (not that there was a lot to fix) and I really didn't make the most of the evening and I didn't take the time to enjoy it so this year I knew I had to make that change. I had to take the evening as it was, and despite how emotional it could potentially be, I needed to relax and have fun, have a laugh. I'd made sure to have some bits and bobs for people to play with and add fun and laughter to the evening - these photo props on each table were ace and have popped up in so many photos on Facebook. This is one of my favourite photos of the whole night.

With worrying about everyone else and making sure everyone else has something to take away to remember the evening, it's easy to forget to make something for yourself to keep. Last year all I have is the ticket I had for the evening and that was it. This year we made a Christmas tree and had these great stars from When You Wish Upon A Star for people to write messages on for £1. It was lovely the next day reading back on everyone's messages and was a fab way of raising money and sharing memories. They're something we can keep an reread as and when we like.

The Caroline Jack Ball 2016 whooped the arse of any other event I've ever organised and was one of the best nights of my life. I learnt so much after the first year of organising the ball which helped make this year even better. I felt like I made the most of the night, I enjoyed it more and the feedback was a million times better than I could've hoped for. I hope that these little pointers help anyone organising a similar event!