Monday, 28 September 2015

Simple dinners | Chicken fajita salad

Recipe, Mexican, Chicken, Salad, Fajita, Healthy, Simple
Recipe, Mexican, Chicken, Salad, Fajita, Healthy, Simple
I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of Mexican food – largely because it’s too spicy and carb-laden, not to mention all that cheese! My chicken fajita salad, however, is totally lush, packed full of veg and colour, plus it makes a super quick and easy meal. This recipe will serve two.

·         Two chicken breasts, diced
·         Half an onion, sliced
·         Half a red pepper, sliced
·         Half a green pepper, sliced
·         Half a sachet of Old El Paso fajita seasoning
·         One avocado, sliced
·         Quarter of a cucumber, diced
·         10 cherry tomatoes, halved
·         Two handfuls of mixed salad leaves or spinach
·         Two tortillas, grilled/toasted

·         Fry the chicken in fry light and the fajita seasoning, adding the peppers and onions according to the packet’s instructions
·         Place the tortillas on plate and build your salad, beginning with the salad leaves.
·         Add the tomatoes, cucumber and avocado
·         Top with the chicken fajita mix

We didn’t have any to hand, but I love serving this with a dollop of sour cream or natural yogurt. If you like it spicy, salsa and jalapenos are also a good option. An alternative way to serve the salad is in a giant bowl, with shards or tortilla thrown on top, like croutons. One tortilla per person is surprisingly filling!

What are your favourite Mexican recipes? Let me know if you’ll be trying this out.

Love, Lucy xx

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Degustabox | August Box

Degustabox, Subscription, Food, Drink, PBloggers, Monthly, Family
After the disappointment of my July Box not arriving at all (any other bloggers have this problem?), it seems an age since I posted a Degustabox review and it’s fair to say I was mighty excited for the arrival of this month’s box. And boy was it worth waiting for!

This month’s box contained:
·         Three sachets of Dr Oetker mug cake mix
·         A bottle of Life Tonics coconut water
·         Two packets of Ryvita
·         A packet of Bahlsen Pick Up Biscuits
·         A packet of Bahlsen Choco Leibniz biscuits
·         A packet of Barilla penne pasta
·         A jar of Barilla arrabbiata pasta sauce
·         Four (!) packets of Walker’s shortbread
·         Two Primal Pantry paleo bars
·         A can of Scheckters energy drink
·         I also got a packet of Fru Snax (which I believe were in the July Box?)
Degustabox, Subscription, Food, Drink, PBloggers, Monthly, Family
Let’s start with the drinks – the Scheckters energy drink is one that’s appeared in Degustaboxes before (International box review) and for someone that does not buy, or drink energy drinks, this one is really quite pleasant. It tastes like a fizzy pomegranate juice and is 100% natural. It’s also taurine-free. On the other hand,I love coconut water so was expecting to like Life Tonics – I received the elderberry & juniper flavour. I really wasn’t a fan; it tasted too sweet and artificial to me. Maybe I’d like one of the other flavours?
Degustabox, Subscription, Food, Drink, PBloggers, Monthly, Family
The contents card highlighted the two Barilla products as the monthly favourites. I don’t eat white pasta so can’t comment on the taste of the penne, but I’m sure it has gone down well with the rest of my family. The jar of arrabbiata sauce came in handy when we couldn’t be bothered to cook and my mum used it in place of bolognaise for a spaghetti dish, as a quick midweek meal. I found the sauce a lot better than many other shop-bought ones; it wasn’t too wet and stuck to the meat/pasta really well. It’s a good product to have in the cupboard, when you haven’t the time or energy to make your own.
Degustabox, Subscription, Food, Drink, PBloggers, Monthly, Family
Ryvitas are a real marmite product and I love them – they make the easiest working lunch as they’re so versatile. I definitely preferred the sesame ones to the black pepper and for someone that puts pepper on everything, I found these too hot! I enjoyed them with the following toppings: philli & cucumber, mozzarella & tomato, mashed avocado & chopped tomato with Serrano ham – and with hummus & crudités!
Degustabox, Subscription, Food, Drink, PBloggers, Monthly, Family
I was so pleased to finally try the Fru Snacks (in peaches and cream) because they sounded amazing in blogger reviews! The texture was similar to honeycomb or meringue and the pieces of peach and yogurt fizzed on the tongue. At 47 calories a bag, they’re sin-free snacks and helped me beat the afternoon slump at work. I’d buy these again. By a similar token, the paleo bars by Primal Pantry were good too – as a fan of 9 Bar and Nakd, I knew I’d enjoy them. I preferred the cocoa & hazelnut, to the apple & pecan. The texture is fudgy and as they contain naturally occurring sugars, they really cater to my sweet tooth, without all that other crap.
Degustabox, Subscription, Food, Drink, PBloggers, Monthly, Family
I don’t know about you, but Walker’s shortbread remind me of weekends away in nice hotels, or visiting Scotland! They’re such a traditional and popular brand, and we were treated to four varieties of their shortbread in this month’s box. You can’t beat shortbread fingers! Choco Leibniz has also featured before (Christmas box review) and you can’t beat a choccy biccie! I’d yet to try the white chocolate ones and while they’re not my favourites, they make a great afternoon treat. My mum often buys Pick Up bars in Sainsbury’s but the dark chocolate are new to the range (reverse are the best!). I love that the chocolate in the middle is so thick, but the biscuit is light and crisp, so doesn’t feel as indulgent.
Degustabox, Subscription, Food, Drink, PBloggers, Monthly, Family
And finally my month’s favourite product were the Dr Oetker mug cakes. All you need is a sachet, 60ml of milk (any kind), a mug and microwave. Within two minutes you have yourself a little sponge cake. The chocolate chip one was hit with both my brother and I (cannot believe I shared) – but the lemon one with some single cream... oh my! I really hope they extend the range to red velvet and carrot cake; a couple of my favourites!

What were your thoughts on the August box?

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Splurge vs Steal VI

If you read last month’s post, you’ll know I compared cleansing lotions – with Clarins coming out on top. It’s only right I now see which is the better toner.
Splurge – Clarins toning lotion with iris (available from - £19.50 for 200ml
Steal – Simple Kind to Skin soothing facial toner (available from - £3.29 for 200ml
Splurge – I’m a huge fan of Clarins products and believe when it comes to skincare, it’s worth paying more for a high quality product – especially when it’s one you use daily. Out of all the products I have used, the toner isn’t one of my favourites. I mean it does everything you’d expect from a toner: it removes traces of cleanser and makeup, it refreshes and brightens my skin. But for a product that is aimed at combination/oily skin, it has very little impact – particularly during the hot summer months. After a day at work, I found my face was shiny; while on holiday, the heat caused minimal breakouts and a flustered complexion. It may tick all the boxes, but it doesn’t benefit my skin type. On the plus side, it smells and good and isn’t harsh on the skin; nor does it leave a residue, like cheaper alternatives.

Steal – over the years, I’ve realised you can’t really go wrong with Simple, especially if you’re watching the pennies. I always have a selection of their everyday skincare products on my dresser, for when I’ve not ordered my high-end alternatives. The toner is one of my favourites: containing chamomile, which soothes and witch hazel, which tightens pores; the formula is non-drying and isn’t harsh. It’s suitable for all skin types, which is always a good thing – and it doesn’t irritate or sting sensitive skin either. The only negative in my opinion, is that it’s scent-free – I do like my products to be scented, even if it’s a subtle or light scent. I love to use this at night, followed by their light moisturiser.

On the basis that it does everything it claims, I have to go with Simple. It’s a solid product, that’s reasonably priced and one that I always go back to (even though I usually alternate that with high-end brands). I notice the difference to my skin when I don’t tone and this is just a good one to have on standby. It’s also a great starter product – or if you’re looking out for an alternative to your standard toner. Of all the brands I’ve tried, this is one of my favourites.

Potential saving = £16.21
My saving so far = + £35.02

Love, Lucy xx

Friday, 18 September 2015

Restaurant review | Ron Gastrobar, Amsterdam

Ron Gastrobar, Amsterdam, Fine Dining, Tapas, Review
Ron Gastrobar, Amsterdam, Fine Dining, Tapas, Review
After reading this post on Lauren’s blog back in July, little did I know that less than two months later, I’d be visiting the city of Amsterdam and dining at the beautiful Ron Gastrobar! The weather wasn’t the best on Monday, when we had booked in for lunch – despite how serene and pretty VondelPark looked – and while I’d have loved to sit outside on the rattan furniture, surrounded by brightly coloured flowers, it just wasn’t an option. The interior was lovely though and we found ourselves among businessmen, locals and even other tourists – young and old. Ron Gastrobar attracts everyone! Upon arrival, our coats were taken to the cloakroom and we were shown to our table in the middle of the restaurant – in prime view of the serving hatch, so we could see every dish created. I could not help but stare in awe.

Our waitress explained the concept of the menu to us; it’s unique in that all the dishes are the same price and of similar size. It’s almost like tapas, whereby you use a number of dishes per person; the difference is, we didn’t share! At 15 per plate, our waitress recommended between two and four dishes each (for lunch), beginning with two and ordering more as necessary. While we pondered the menu, we were brought a paper bag of freshly baked bread, a pot of the most delicious caramelised butter (I found the Dutch love it!) with bacon bits (like diced pork scratchings) and a jar of pickles. I could have easily filled up on that alone, it was all so delicious. I do have a bit of an obsession with pickles though!
Ron Gastrobar, Amsterdam, Fine Dining, Tapas, Review
Ron Gastrobar, Amsterdam, Fine Dining, Tapas, Review
Each dish was served as a course, rather than it all arriving at once and the first dish I chose was the mackerel sashimi with sesame, ginger and yuzu. I absolutely love sushi and for me, this dish was spot on. The wasabi mayo it was served with wasn’t too overpowering, but certainly added another dimension; the salmon caviar topped it off though. The mackerel itself was excellent quality and there was lots of it – the texture puts some people off, but I love it – and the crunchy topping was divine. If only I knew what it was. Executed beautifully, it tasted even better than it looked!
Ron Gastrobar, Amsterdam, Fine Dining, Tapas, Review
Jake’s first dish was the wagyu steak, topped with egg and served with beetroot crisps and sorrel cream. It was one of the dishes I would have picked, had I chosen more than two savoury plates. I did try a bit of the steak though and it was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had wagyu before but I’ve had my fair share of very good steaks.
Ron Gastrobar, Amsterdam, Fine Dining, Tapas, Review
After reading Lauren’s post, I always knew I’d be having the soft shell crab, after all, it is one of my favourites. This time, it was served with a chicken liver dumpling, which I have to admit, was a little rich for me. The flavour of it was transformed by the crab and Chinese cabbage though. The crab itself was the nicest I’ve ever had and I could have really eaten three or four of those. The dressing too, was beautiful and the crab dust (definitely not the technical term, or probably flavour?) was amazing and reminded me of the seafood dish I’d had the night before! Again, doesn’t it look beautiful?!
Ron Gastrobar, Amsterdam, Fine Dining, Tapas, Review
Jake chose the boneless ribs (of course!), following the recommendation of our waitress – they’re apparently the restaurant’s most popular dish. The ribs were piled high and there were lots of them. The meat was so tender and the sauce both sweet and sticky. The tomato chutney it was served with was extra hot though!

We decided to share a portion of fries, which came with a pot of tarragon mayonnaise. The chips were to die for and were exactly how chips should be: super crisp on the outside, then fluffy and soft in the middle. I have to admit the tarragon mayo had an acquired taste and to me, it tasted like pistachio and was quite sweet. I think I’d have much rather had a traditional mayo or even aioli. The portion size was well worth the money (5) and we couldn’t eat them all – although we did save room for dessert!
Ron Gastrobar, Amsterdam, Fine Dining, Tapas, Review
Ron Gastrobar, Amsterdam, Fine Dining, Tapas, Review
Despite looking at the menu, there was only one option: the Gastrobar Ron Surprise Egg! And it was a surprise too; even when it arrived at the table, the waitress was giving nothing away. All I could decipher was that it contained white chocolate. All the components were edible though, including the nest and while it looked spectacular, it looked even better once cracked open! The egg itself was very realistic, even complete with a runny yolk. A perfectly quenelled scoop of frozen yogurt on a bed of crushed hazelnuts finished the presentation off nicely – and the flower garnish was just so beautiful too. I do think I ate it far too quickly though, after taking numerous photos, of course – and I won’t be spoiling the surprise; you’ll have to find out for yourself!
Ron Gastrobar, Amsterdam, Fine Dining, Tapas, Review
Just as we were ready to get the bill, we were given a mini ice cream cone, which was a lovely touch. Freshly whipped raspberry froyo was topped with mini meringue and despite being tiny, it was impossible to eat the cones elegantly. I ended up wolfing mine down!

Everything about the meal was excellent: the flavours, the textures, the presentation and the service. The surroundings were so comfortable and I immediately felt relaxed – it’s definitely a place suited to a leisurely dining experience, rather than in and out as soon as possible. While the decor is quite sophisticated, with the monochrome and plush furnishings, there is a casual vibe and even the menus are printed to look like newspapers (a bit of fun, if you can read Dutch!). Even though it’s fine dining, where precision is key, I wouldn’t say it was full-on formal; there’s not a dress code and it certainly isn’t stuffy. The staff were friendly and so helpful, even giving us recommendations and talking us through the dishes. Talking of which, there are so many more I want to try – I’ll definitely be returning to Ron Gastrobar.

Love, Lucy xx