New Year, New Blog Direction

Hello!Β *waves* Remember me? I used to blog here about…oh…10 years ago, about cooking and eating out and nice things like that?

No?

Well, that miiiiiight be because it’s been over a year since I actually last blogged…and before that it was 8 months since the previous blog! Oops!

In my defence though, I have been busy.

First of all, during our fabulous October 2013 holiday to Orlando, my darling boyfriend proposed to me in my favourite place in the whole world πŸ™‚

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You know what that means…A WEDDING TO PLAN!!

Then, when we got home, we welcomed this little princess into our home…our long-desired Birman!

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She’s called Saffie (Sapphire!) and she is just the best.

THEN, in December, we found out our landlord was selling our beautiful flat! So we were house-hunting once again.

We found an even more beautiful flat and moved in last April πŸ™‚

Phew! On top of this, Ben got an amazing new job, we visited his family in Cumbria, we went to Disneyland Paris and Paris for a week, attended 2 weddings aaaannddd went to the Isle of Wight for a mini break.

By the time all this had happened it was September and then wedding planning began in earnest (but that’s a post for another day!)

And now here I am, January 4th 2015 and wondering where the last year went!!

So, the new blog direction. I did consider starting a new blog to document my new adventures but then I figured this is ‘My Life In Food’ and at the moment, this is what my food life is!

My new adventure? Slimming World! I actually joined SW for the first time last January and lost 10lbs which I was chuffed with. However, job woes, the aforementioned house move and general stress meant I stopped going to group, started eating whatever I wanted, and put all the weight back on. And more. Oops!

I am going to my local group on Tuesday to start again. And this time, Ben is joining me! He wants to lose a few pounds himself so we’re going to do it together and I’m so looking forward to it! Although we aren’t getting married until next year, I would much rather get to the weight I want to be at this year, so I’m not stressing and crash dieting right before the wedding. And honestly, we’re just both so ready to lose weight, get fit, and feel generally happier about ourselves. We’re considering joining our local swimming pool and going a few times a week which I think could be fun, and I imagine we’ll be back to the nightly walks we used to do.

I’m going to document my food on here; partly to keep track of what I’m eating for myself, and partly to share recipes. One thing that struck me when I used to go to group was the amount of ladies who would describe their meals and how they were struggling to keep things exciting. I love cooking (obviously, as I have a food blog!) and I HAVE to make my food interesting and exciting otherwise I’ll just give up! I also brought dishes to the group tasting nights a couple of times and the other members couldn’t believe they were SW friendly! So I’m going to share recipes and food ideas that I’m using, to hopefully inspire my fellow slimmers πŸ™‚

I’m going to share some photos of things I cooked last year, to remind me of all the amazing food you can eat on SW!

Chicken and bacon carbonara

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SW breakfast!

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Moroccan spice blend marinated Quorn chicken, giant couscous, and roasted veggies.

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SW roast dinner – a classic!

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Roasted vegetable and tomato risotto – HEXA of cheese on top πŸ™‚

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Quern peppered steak with Quark pepper sauce, roasted potatoes, tomatoes and asparagus.

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Gammon, eggs, chips and beans. So good!

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I lost 10lbs eating all this! It didn’t even feel like a diet! I need to say motivated and stick with this, wish me luck!

My 26th Birthday (or, Why I Have The Best Boyfriend In The World, Ever)

Okay so, I know I’ve been painfully slack on the blogging front recently. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses, I’d only be lying to myself *sob*

But, actually I do have a really good reason. You see folks, in just under TWO WEEKS, myself and the boy are off on our 2nd Once In A Lifetime trip to Florida, for three WHOLE weeks!!! That is a long time. And do you know what was an even longer time? The time that elapsed from when we made the actual booking waaaaay back in May 2012 (you may remember a blog post from around this time describing said booking) to this very moment. It was like 528 days. But now it’s really, really close, REALLY close actually, and to be perfectly honest I’m struggling to get excited for posting about food when there are park hours to be checked, itineraries to finalise and Halloween costumes to complete. Oh yes, we’ll be there for Halloween πŸ˜€ We’re attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on actual All Hallows Eve which is pretty exciting and whats even more exciting, is the fact that we’re dressing up as Ariel and Eric to commemorate the occasion. Don’t worry, everyone dresses up at the party, we won’t be the only weirdo’s. We’ll actually be tiny fish in a vast sea of weirdo’s, yay!!

Anyway. So all my time has been taken up in planning and getting ridiculously excited for our holiday πŸ™‚ But here I am with an extra special post, possibly the most important post Polka Dot Kitchen has ever or will ever see, all thanks to my very lovely boy Ben.

A few weeks ago with my 26th birthday looming, Benj started teasing me. He kept saying he was getting all these exciting emails and he was getting sooooo excited but oh no, what a shame, he couldn’t share them with me. This went on and on for 2 very long weeks and then he stopped mentioning it. Aaaaand relax!

So it was my birthday yesterday and I was absolutely spoiled rotten by all my lovely friends and family πŸ™‚

First of all, my adorable parents absolutely blew it out of the water with this super cute personalised phone case:

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My whole life, summed up on the back of a phone. Slightly depressing but scarily accurate.

My best friend and Florida holiday planning partner in crime Victoria outdid herself with this trio of awesome gifts; all for my upcoming holiday πŸ™‚ So cute. Carousel of Progress absolutely is the best attraction in all of Walt Disney World, I can’t wait to go on it whilst wearing my shirt!!

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I also got a plethora of dollars from my amazing work colleagues, grandparents and brother πŸ™‚ My spending money is looking pretty healthy now, lots of Haunted Mansion merchandise and Dole Whips on my horizon!

And then it was time for Benji’s gifts. First, I was treated to a looovely gift pack of Yankee Candles, my absolute faves πŸ™‚ Such a pretty burner!

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Next up was a pretty mind-blowing leopard print knife. We had his ‘n’ hers blue and pink knives but my pink one unfortunately got thrown out at some point and I’ve been using theblue one ever since. So happy to have my own!!

Then came this beauty. My very own pasta maker!! As an unashamed Italian food obsessive, I’ve wanted a pasta maker for a very long time now. I can’t wait to make egg yolk ravioli, spinach and ricotta tortellini, five cheese ravioli with browned butter and fried sage….ooooh the possibilities are endless! Such a good gift!! Also shown are aforementioned Yankee Candles and, ooh, a random bottle of wine! Gotta be done!

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But, this was not my main present. After the excitement of the pasta makerΒ and my excited speech about all the different kinds of filled pasta I’m going to make (not unlike the above sentence) Ben produced six pink envelopes and handed them to me, saying, ‘these might be something to do with the emails.’ Exciting times indeed.

With baited breath, I opened the first envelope (they were numbered 1-6). The card read, To Libby, from Cynthia. A small postcard sized piece of paper fell out, which Ben quickly grabbed out of my hand. I looked at him quizzically.

“Do you know who Cynthia is?”

“Ummm, no I don’t think so…”

But as he handed the postcard back to me and I saw what was written at the bottom, I knew who Cynthia was! OF COURSE I KNOW WHO CYNTHIA IS!!

TFP, aka The Food Pornographer, probably the first food blog I ever read and certainly the one I have been reading the longest. The postcard was handwritten, from her to me, with a cute little message and some lovely birthday well wishes.

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Well, I was gobsmacked. I did NOT see that coming. He then handed me envelope 2 and I ripped it open with the over-the-top enthusiasm of a long-term Atkins dieter tucking into a baked potato.

When I saw the names written at the bottom I did a little squeal of excitement. Tina, Mal and Murphy!

And this adorable photo!

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I was getting a bit emotional now. I was struggling to comprehend the enormity of what he’d done and how much work had gone into this. I was also overcome with the fact that my favourite food bloggers had actually written my name. Having read these ladies’ blogs for like 5 years, I was slightly starstruck!!

And it was only going to get better!! Envelope 3 was from the totally cool and DOWNRIGHT HILARIOUS McKenzie from Grilled Cheese Social who had written me an adorable little note and told me she loved my blog!! This was almost too much. I had the food-blogger-birthday-messages sweats.

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How damn cute is that?

Next up is one of the superstars of the Disney blogging world, author of Disney Food Blog ( my number 1 source of all things Disney food-based and a site I check multiple times a day…yes, I’m too cool for school) AJ!!

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THEN things got insane. I had my fingers crossed about who could maybe, possibly be in the next 2 envelopes and they DID NOT DISAPPOINT. Envelope 5 was a lovely note with beautifully neat, teeny tiny writing and I almost knew who it was before I read the name at the bottom but surely he hadn’t managed to get her??

He had!! The sweetest, most thoughtful note ever from the amazing Angela at Oh She Glows πŸ™‚ Highlights include Angela saying she’s read my blog and thinks I’m hilarious (!!!) saying that she’s found a kindred spirit in me as she also thinks about lunch whilst eating breakfast AND the fact that she signed off with peace, love and plants. I actually love her. I was full on sniffling like a little girl at this point and Ben was pretty close himself!

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Finally, envelope 6! Could it be!? The queen mother of food blogs!?

Yep, it was! Kath Younger herself!! This card contained TWO postcards; a handwritten note and a photo of Kath with the note! I was actually besides myself with excitement. I read Kath’s blog every day when she used to post aaallll the time and now I look forward to my Saturday morning catch-up session when I read all her latest posts with my tea and toast πŸ™‚ She wrote such a sweet note and she even said at the end she hopes I get my polka dot kitchen one day soon. How nice is that.

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So after I’d re-read all the cards a million times and pounced on Ben with kisses and hugs, I asked him how he’d managed it! He said he’d just kind of had the idea, stalked the blogs from the blogroll and emailed all the ladies! Just like that haha! He was so pleased that everyone he emailed, replied back and went out of their way to help him. The blogging community really is the best.

Soooo I wish I hadn’t been so slack with my own blog lately, if I’d known all these heavy hitters were checking it out I would have made more effort!!

Oh well. One of the best presents I’ve ever had (apart from when Ben booked a surprise trip to Disneyland Paris naturally, but it would take a lot to beat that little gem!) and thank you so much Ben for organising it and all the lovely bloggers for taking the time to respond. You’ve made one beginner blogger very, very happy πŸ™‚

Thank you so much!

Potato, Spinach and Quorn Breakfast Hash

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Every so often you cook something absolutely amazing, using only the ingredients kicking about your fridge, with no prior planning or thought given to it previously. This is very unusual for me as I love the build-up to a dish creation and I often spend a lot of time thinking about how I’ll cook it and what it’ll taste like. Obsessive? Perhaps. But Polka Dot Kitchen wouldn’t exist if this didn’t happen!

A couple of Sundays ago, we woke up at a leisurely hour and dragged ourselves from our bedroom to our l0unge, to slump on the sofa just in time for Sunday Brunch. We looooove Sunday Brunch. We used to love Something For The Weekend and I was absolutely devastated when the BBC cancelled it. Like, inconsolable. Then the stars aligned and good old Channel 4 picked it up and we didn’t have to face a lifetime of Sundays without Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer talking about conservatories. Ahhh, bliss!

So this particular Sunday, we were running slightly low on breakfast supplies. And when I say low, I mean we didn’t have any milk, bread or butter. Three ingredients which pretty much top every breakfast dish ingredient list. We did pool together our change (about Β£1.47) and consider getting dressed and buying some hideously overpriced bits and bobs at the village shop but we decided NO. We Don’t Need It. I should mention, we spend pretty much all our lives saving for our Florida holidays (Floridays) the second of which is in a mere 90 days, so we are generally thrifty and always looking not to spend money. This is also the reason I haven’t been blogging as much as I used to; Florida planning is taking up all my time! We’re going for three weeks and so there are ESTA’s to do, hotel reviews to read, restaurant menus to peruse and the Disneyworld website to pore over and check I haven’t missed a single potential activity that could make our holiday EVEN BETTER. I’ll be doing a full food review on the Dibb (an awesome website for fellow Florida obsessives) and I’ll post a few on here too for those who are interested πŸ™‚

WOW can we say tangent!? Going back (again) to that Sunday, we basically didn’t want to spend any money. But I fancied a nice breakfast. We hardly ever have a cooked breakfast as I’m overly keen on toast with marmite but that day I really fancied one. So I perused our cupboards, did a quick google to see if anyone had ever put roughly these ingredients together, discovered they hadn’t so threw some oil in a pan and cracked on with it.

I started, as many recipes do, with some sliced onion. I love slicing onion like this as they take hardly any time to chop. I can’t be doing with finely chopped onion (even though that is how I prefer my onion) as it just takes soooo long and the chunks are never even anyway 😦 I fried the onion slices in a pan with some olive oil, seasoning and garlic. While that was cooking, I cubed some potatoes that, judging by the sheer size of the sprouts coming out of them, had almost become living beings. They went into the microwave for about 4 minutes for a lazy boy boil and I then added them to a new pan with some more olive oil and seasoning.

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I wanted them toΒ get all crispy and browned and I knew they wouldn’t if they were squished in the other pan with the onions. Two pans Morgan!

The onions were looking nicely browned by this time so I added in some spinach and a load more garlic. God I love garlic.

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I was feeling like this badboy needed some meat (and when I say meat, obviously I mean “meat”) so I grabbed whatever frozen Quorn delights were lurking in the bottom of the freezer, gave them a quick microwave to thaw a bit and chucked them in with the onions. We had Quorn fillets and sausages but I think most fake meat would work! Facon would work. Mmmmm.

The potatoes were now nicely browned and crisp, the onions were caramalised, the spinach was fully flavoured and the fake meat was browning away nicely. I tipped the onion/spinach/Quorn mix into the potatoes, added a tiny bit more salt and pepper and let it all come together while I cooked the eggs. I did consider adding some chopped tomatoes to the pan to moisten it all up a bit but honestly, it was so good on it’s own! But tomatoes would be nice if you wanted more of a liquidy hash.

I quickly fried two eggs and added them to the top of two hulking piles of hash. The verdict? LIFE-CHANGING. I found that the onions had flavoured the whole dish with a good, solid savoury taste and the minced garlic and super posh garlic oil (see Foodies Festival post!) had really made it all come alive. Ben actually said, and I quote, “This is the best breakfast I’ve had outside of America.” !!! Big words!! I was one smug store-cupboard chef that morning!!

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*I haven’t added amounts as it was very much just chucking whatever I had in. I will say that I probably made enough for four and between two of us…we ate it all. Just sayin’. If I make it again I will record all measurements like a proper food blogger πŸ™‚