The Alex Project – January

The Life

For me, January has been such a good start to 2017. I’ve squeezed lots in and feel like I’ve barely sat still. There have been big family get togethers, a cinema trip to La La Land, a games night and a doolally arts and crafts session, a night out (aht aht!) and an impromptu sleepover, and even a trip to laser quest (thankfully no eight-year-olds in sight).

This month I somehow ended up being interviewed on the radio about being a woman in engineering which was crazy but hilarious to look back on. I went to my first Goodgym session and had a weekend away at Bovey Castle in Devon (room service, afternoon tea, spa facial, big open fires and comfy sofas – the dream). I’ve also just gotten back from a trip to Bath with my Mum which was really lovely. I might write about some of these things soon – there’s too much to pack in to one post!

January - The Life

The Food

Booting this blog back up has reminded me how much I enjoy cooking and food photography. I’ve been experimenting with my camera and love love love this shot of some very yummy cookies! Continue reading

Ikea fixes that make all the difference

Moving out of home for the first time, my first rental flat was bound to be a bit sparse especially as the rooms were huge and the ceilings super tall (helloooo expensive heating bill). Until a few weeks ago, I had all of the basic furniture and a few knick-knacks from home scattered about. With a few more bits and pieces after Christmas, I ventured to the Mecca that is Ikea  to pick up a few extra things to finish it off.

I was really surprised how much of a difference they make, my flat now feels a lot more like a proper home and less like I’m camping here temporarily! Below are some of the items I picked up; let me know below what your favourite quick fixes are for making your space even homier.

Kitchen

kitchen

The kitchen is painted a dark grey which, whilst I love the colour, means it can be quite dark and the single window means it’s not the perfect place for a plant to thrive… These three succulents (basic, I know) and their pots add some freshness to the kitchen shelves and (hopefully) are unlikely to die on me!

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Cranberry, Sultana & Orange Oat Cookies – Refined Sugar Free

These cookies are very tasty, like eat-six-in-the-space-of-an-evening kind of tasty (which of course isn’t something I have ever done..). They are also super easy and use honey as a sweetener. The “To eat or not to eat” refined sugar argument isn’t something I’ve looked into a huge amount but I’m always keen to reduce the amount of processed foods I eat so hopefully it’s a start in the right direction..!

Cookie Stack

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Why we should be striving for contentment

Recently I went on a training course at work (a systems engineering short course – I live a glamorous life) and as a starter activity we were asked to call out what we believe a successful life looks like. For me, I sat there thinking of things like ‘no money worries’, ‘good health’ and ‘happiness’. The former two indeed went on the list, but the latter did not. Instead of ‘happiness’, many people called out ‘contentment’.

And this surprised me. Contentment? Isn’t that just being satisfied? Settling with what you have? Surely happiness trumps contentment? We should always be looking to improve, not just settle. Since the course and until a couple of days ago, this continued to baffle me. As someone who has gone through their own stress-filled, reclusive period in their life, I now want to be happy. I want to have a healthy work-life balance, be ambitious, laugh (a lot) and take as much enjoyment from life as possible. I want the highs. Sure, they’re going to be interspersed with lows but I want to strive for happy moments, not just settling for what I have.

And then the other morning it all made sense. I was sitting in my lounge, it was about 8.30 am and I’d been awake (annoyingly because it was the weekend) since half-five. The curtains were pulled back, the sky grey but brightening. All the side-lamps were on, some acoustic yadda-yadda playing in the background and I was sat there, in the middle of the sofa, in amongst far too many cushions and under a delightfully-tacky fluffy blanket and I felt it. Contentment. And it was just really really lovely.

Contentment

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Sweet Potato & Chorizo Soup

Today I am sharing my all time favourite soup recipe: sweet potato and chorizo. At university I essentially lived off of sweet potatoes (zap in the microwave for 10 minutes and voila!) and chorizo has been a long time family favourite, making this recipe an obvious choice for cold afternoons. This soup is super easy to make and full of flavour: sweet, smokey and spicy, delicious! I promise I am not being overly enthusiastic, I  really do love this soup and would recommend it hugely!

Sweet Potato & Chorizo Soup

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New Year

New Year’s Resolutions have never been something I’ve taken seriously. As someone of weak will-power and low self-control, drastic plans to change how I live from January 1st have never come to fruition. However, this year (as I now consider myself a full-time 9-5 working, free-to-do-whatever-I-want-at-the-weekend-ing, sofa-owning adult) I’m really hoping to set and achieve a couple of goals that might make my life happier and healthier! So here they are, written out so that I have no choice but to stick to them:

Drink more water
This one should really just be ‘drink’ because I am absolutely terrible at drinking full stop: I can easily get to the evening without drinking anything whatsoever and then I wonder why I have a horrible headache… One of the top things we should do in our daily lives is drink plenty of water: for our skin, our energy-levels and our mental wellbeing. There are lots of things out there to help: from apps (here’s a great list) to drinks bottles (HydrateM8 looks a dream!) to just keeping tally on a post-it or diary page each day. But I think what I will really need is dedication and a good memory to grab a glass!

Frost on the Grass

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Roasted Pumpkin stuffed with Honeyed Lamb

This recipe is incredible.

It’s nutty, herby, sweet and with a bit of fire i.e. all the flavours! Imagine nutty roasted pumpkin filled with sticky fragrant lamb mince and topped with crunchy pine nuts… delicious!

Roasted Pumpkin with Honeyed Lamb

A couple of weeks back, I got taken in by the crates of pumpkin outside a wholefoods shop (I’m sure I’m not the first) and spent a solid five minutes choosing which ones to buy. There were orange ones, green ones and even one that looked like the Witch of the Pumpkin World. I believe this pumpkin is a ‘Carnival Pumpkin’ and is meant to be best for roasting. It can be used as an alternative to butternut squash and I found it had lots more nutty flavour and was fractionally easier to hack away at! If you want to get all clued up on the pumpkin world, this site has a great guide.

Back to the recipe and why it is the aforementioned ‘incredible’:

  1. Firstly, you get to eat out of a pumpkin bowl: who doesn’t love that? Plus you only have one pumpkin cut to make: easy!
  2. It’s great for easy weeknight suppers or for impressing friends.
  3. The flavours are great: fennel gives it a lovely almost-refreshing taste, then there’s the nutty-ness of the pumpkin and the pine nuts, the comforting spices of cinnamon and ginger, and the sticky sweetness of the honey.
  4. It’s all cooked and served in 30 minutes with a break in the middle for washing up all of those pesky boards and knives.

All in all, if you fancy making something a little different this autumn, try out this one!
Roasted Pumpkin with Honeyed Lamb

The recipe is adapted from Winter Kitchen, I used pumpkin and added in some extra herbs and spices but if you haven’t come across this book before, you should really check it out. It’s full of tasty comfort food with lots of recipes for tarts and quiches: my favourite. Everything I’ve cooked from the book has tasted really good so yes, take a look!

Roasted Pumpkin stuffed with Honeyed Lamb

Serves 4, ready in 30 minutes. Recipe adapted from Winter Kitchen.

  • Two or three pumpkins (depending on size)
  • Rosemary, either fresh or dried
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 red chilli, finely diced
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 250ml of chicken stock
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of runny honey
  • Handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • Handful of pine nuts
  • Fresh green vegetables to serve
  1. Heat the oven to 200°C
  2. Halve and deseed the pumpkins and place on a baking tray, spray with oil and season with salt, pepper and rosemary. Cook in the oven for 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place a frying pan and a little olive oil over a low heat. Add the onion and fry gently for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and chilli to the pan and fry for another minute.
  5. Add the lamb to the pan and break up with a wooden spoon. Once it has browned off a little add the cumin, ginger, cinnamon and fennel seeds; season, stir well and leave for a further minute.
  6. Pour in the chicken stock and honey, stir well and leave to bubble away for 15 minutes or until the stock has all gone. Stir once or twice but don’t let it burn.
  7. In the last minute, add in the chopped parsley and pine nuts, turn the heat up a little, stirring well.
  8. Once the pumpkin and lamb have cooked, fill the pumpkin bowls with the lamb and serve with lots of green vegetables.