Life update!

Uh oh. Naughty blogger alert. It’s been a very long time since I last blogged…an awkwardly long time, in fact. Can I just say in my defence though, a lot has happened in these last 18 months! Most importantly…

I got married!!

Actual married. In Walt Disney World, like we always dreamed, with 30 of our amazing friends and family. It was absolutely incredible and I will be doing a post shortly about the wedding itself as we’ve got all our professional photos back now, and if I’m honest I look for opportunities to share them wherever and whenever I can.

Here’s a sneak peek…

ajp_benlibby_married-2030ajp_benlibby_married-1463ajp_benlibby_married-1380ajp_benlibby_married-1325ajp_benlibby_married-1265ajp_benlibby_married-1051

Another thing that happened was losing 2 stone and reaching my Slimming World target!

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-20-58-17

It took a year and a half but I hit target August 2016 and felt incredible on my wedding day in October. Yay!

I then ate all the food during our 3 week Orlando/Bahamas honeymoon food-filled bonaza, carried on during the run up to Christmas, over Christmas, and let’s be honest, after Christmas. So I have put some back on, but it’s totes manageable and I’m getting back into the SW mindset now after a few months being a lot more leniant. Which actually felt so good and enjoyable after being so strict for so long!

So I thought to ease myself back into blogging, I’d delve back into the archives and share some more of the Slimming World meals I eat regularly. Thanks to my keen Instagram usage I’ve got many a dinner documented, so it’s just a case of remembering what it actually was. I’m also going to share some of the awesome food we ate during our Christmas 2015 trip to Orlando where we planned our wedding, and during the wedding trip itself. While it’s not Slimming World (Obviously! Can you imagine, ‘Let me just work out the syns in this table-sized platter of 30 garlic shrimp, loaded mashed potato skins and butter drenched green beans.’) it was all delicious and needs to be shared. It’s all about balance anyway – I lost weight so I could look amazing on my wedding day and eat what I wanted on my honeymoon, but I couldn’t eat like that all the time as I think I’d possibly maybe die. Or at least weigh 70 stone.

Here we go, then!

First up is this delicious tomato and basil pasta. Quorn sausages are hidden underneath, and I topped it with my HEXA cheese, chopped basil and 1 syn of balsamic glaze. Easy, simple, delicious.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-14-05-26

Curry fakeaway night! I used the Slimming World spicy tikka sauce from Iceland but it was quite thin and watery so I added some passata to thicken it up, and then a Muller light coconut yoghurt to make it more korma-esque. It was really nice after that! I used tinned mock duck and chickpeas as the protein, teamed with double carbs and a medley of speedy spinach and courgette. So good!

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-14-05-03

A classic SW breakfast! I believe this was created as a result of feeling slightly hungover one Saturday morning…oops.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-14-04-17

SW arancini with roasted cauliflower, salad and spicy tomato sauce. I make the arancini using leftover Slimming World risotto, but it would work with just leftover rice too. I shape the cold, leftover rice into balls, add a cube of reduced fat cheddar or mozarella into the centre, and then shape the ball of rice around it. I then dip them in beaten egg, and again in breadcrumbs (2 slices of wholemeal bread blitzed up makes enough for 2 people’s worth of arancini – around 8 balls if you’re doing them this size) and bake them on a tray in the oven with a bit of fry light. They go all crispy on the outside and the cheese melts and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience!

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-14-03-56

This was butternut squash and bacon carbonara. The recipe is roughly the SW carbonara with quark and eggs, but I added roasted butternut squash which not only adds a lovely sweet flavour, but also bulks out the meal and ensures you’re getting that 1/3rd speed. Basically roast cubed bnut squash for about half an hour until it’s soft and getting browned, then stir it in with the sauce (quark, eggs, garlic, bacon, seasoning) and add it all to the pasta. So good. I need to make this again!

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-14-03-38

This was a breakfast/brunch recipe that I discovered last summer and basically made every weekend for about 6 months. It’s based on one of Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 recipes – sweet potato cakes with spinach, sausace (or bacon) and a soft poached egg. I love it because it’s super easy and if you’re mega organised you can make 10 at once and freeze them, but I’m not so I didn’t. But one day I will. You just peel and cube 2 sweet pots, microwave them for 8 minutes, add chopped onion, garlic and seasoning, and shape them into patties. Dry fry them for 5 minutes or so until browned, wilt the spinach and add the chopped sausage or bacon (this can cook while you’re microwaving the sweet potato) and then poach your egg! So simple and so good – a great way of avoiding using your HEXB in the morning which is something I really struggle with as I live for toast/cereal/porridge/anything that requires a HEXB.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-14-03-13

A typical work lunch for me! The big tub is couscous with veggies in, smoked mackerel in tomato sauce, and boiled eggs. I obviously add water to the oats once at work cause ain’t nobody got time for dry oats, and I keep a tub of Nutella in my drawer to add that all important chocolate hit to my porridge.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-14-02-55

I went through a Cocoa Shreddies phase for a while and it was really good. This was a desk breakfast (deskfast?) with yoghurt, fruit and choc shot.

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-14-02-41

Until the next time! x

 

 

 

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:

1234263_10153265904325198_1520779981_n

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!!

IMG_7149

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!

IMG_7156

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!

IMG_7154

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.

IMG_7144

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!

IMG_7145

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.

IMG_7140

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!!

IMG_7141

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!

IMG_7142

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.

IMG_7148

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!

New Years Eve 2012

As mentioned last year, I’m just not a fan of New Years Eve. It annoys me. Christmas, however…now you’re talking! I love every little thing about the festive season and it always begins, for me, November 1st, not a moment later. It would begin slightly earlier but alas, Halloween is also a very big part of my life and I just can’t encroach on those fun, spooky and ghoul-filled happenings.

Ahhhh, Christmas. Decorations, fairy lights, Christmas music that I start listening to in November and get sick of by November the 12th but continue to blare out in my car nonetheless, lie-ins, family time, the Christmas Radio Times, TV specials, parties, special sparkly outfits, cinnamon candles, bucks fizz, red nail polish, gift-wrapping, the smells of mince pies baking in the oven, The Snowman, and most importantly, the endless amounts of delicious party food, cheeseboards, crisps and general nibbly bits that are happily available at every house you visit for two glorious weeks.

Christmas Eve was always my favourite day as a child, I preferred it to Christmas Day! Something about the dizzying levels of anticipation that built up throughout the day until I felt I would burst just made it the best day for me.

We had a lovely Christmas this year. Myself and Ben were lucky enough to have a good two weeks off together and then I had a few more days on my own once he went back to work. I felt seriously relaxed by the end of the break and happy that we’d seen so many of our friends and family. I was spoilt rotten this year with prezzies and we also both got so many lovely presents for our flat from our thoughtful families πŸ™‚ I’m sure many of the kitchen gadgets will be appearing on the blog over the next few months!

The only thing I don’t like about Christmas is that it seems to get shorter every year 😦 This year, by the end of Boxing Day I was seeing people’s Facebook status’s expressing their desire to take their tree’s down and ‘get the house back to normal’!! I was shocked!! Our decs stayed up til January the 6th, the day before I went back to work, and let me tell you it was a very emotional day. I think our flat looks so bare without our trees (yes, we had two trees!!) and I’ve found I’m severely lacking in ornaments now I’ve boxed all the Christmas ones! I definitely need to get some new ones. Me and Ben are also at war over our Yankee Candles; I feel cinnamon is a year-round smell as I absolutely love it, whereas Benj feels it is now time to put away the cinnamon scents and bring out the lemon/linen/general Spring like fragrances. We’ve yet to come to a compromise…

We spent New Years Eve in our lovely flat, just the two of us. I was very, very pleased we’d made this decision once the day arrived, as it was freezing cold and watching the rain fall through our windows was a lot more enjoyable than being out in it πŸ™‚

So, what was on the menu? Obviously, I wanted to cook something special, something we don’t have very often. For me, this is steak. I only ever have steak if we go out to eat and it is a bit of a treat for me. We also decided on potato dauphinoise, our absolute favourite side-dish in the history of side-dishes. Ben asked for mushroom wellington and we added tenderstem broccoli to finish off our main course. I really wanted scallops for my starter and I had the genius idea to use Linda McCartney fish-free prawns in Ben’s starter, so we could have the same thing! We opted to use a chocolate fondue kit that we’d received for Christmas as our dessert, although we silently resigned ourselves to the fact that we almost definitely wouldn’t be able to manage it, we never can!

I used my new Canon EOS 1100D to take the photos this evening and I was extremely pleased by how they came out even with my minimal photography knowledge, what a fantastic camera! Thank you Santa πŸ™‚

The makings of a perfect evening πŸ™‚

IMG_0098

No New Years Eve would be complete without a shot!

IMG_0096

And carrying on with the Disney theme, Ben used our beautiful Mickey bottle opener to crack open some cider as we began cooking.

IMG_0087

We had made the dauph earlier on in the day and as is my style, used a completely new recipe/technique in an ongoing attempt to make the perfect dauphinoise potatoes. If my memory serves me correctly, this time we:

1. Sliced the potatoes really thin (using the RocketChef…see below)

2. Boiled the cream/milk mixture til it was hot, with about 4 garlic gloves crushed in there (I’m not even joking.)

3. Started to then boil the sliced potatoes in the hot cream mixture to start them off but got impatient at the tiny amounts of potato we could boil at any one time due to the size of our saucepan, gave up and just chucked the potatoes back into the dish. So technically, 1/5 of the potatoes had been boiled for a bit in cream but the rest went in the oven raw. I also HEAVILY seasoned each layer of potato, mixed them around a bit with a wooden spoon and then heavily seasoned again. We do not like bland dauph!

I then cooked them extremely low, like 120, for 2 hours. One hour covered in foil, one without. While they were cooking, we cracked on with the rest of the dinner!

I made Ben’s mushroom wellington first of all. I panfried a washed, dried portobello mushroom with a garlic clove just to give it some flavour. I then laid the portobello mushroom on a square of ready-made puff pastry and this formed the base of the wellington. I topped it with a mixture of spinach, chopped onions and chopped mushrooms which was all sauteed together for about 20 minutes with garlic and lots of salt and pepper. Finally, I added a big spoonful of cream cheese to the top of the mushroom mixture and covered the whole thing with another square of puff pastry. It was very easy to make and I hoped that the addition of cream cheese would elevate it to something quite special. Ben loves mushrooms and he REALLY loves pastry, so he was pretty psyched.

IMG_0054

IMG_0055

Next up were our starters. Scallops in a garlic butter gratin for me, prawn-free prawns in a garlic butter for Benj! I mixed together butter, lots of crushed garlic, parsley and chilli flakes.

IMG_0058

We then realised we needed bread crumbs and we didn’t have a food processor. Enter – RocketChef!! I don’t know if anyone else has come across this little beauty but it’s a kitchen gadget from the 80’s we were kindly gifted by my Aunt, alongside a number of other exciting and very niche appliances. We’re going to have to really think about which appliances we’ll use going forward; at the moment we’ve got a whole two cupboards devoted to gadgets that I’m really not convinced we’ll ever need! But we shall see. The RocketChef, however, is a definite keeper. It’s amazing. Ben played around with the different blade options and in no time at all, we had fine breadcrumbs. We also used it later on with a different attachment to slice our potatoes!! Plus I love how catchy and just obviously 80’s the name RocketChef is. I like to pretend it was the star prize on The Price Is Right or something and we were lucky enough to win it πŸ˜€

IMG_0057

IMG_0061

I mixed the breadcrumbs in with the butter and saved a bit to top the ramekin dishes before we baked them. I then layered flash-fried scallops in one ramekin and the veggie prawns in another, dotted the butter mixture around them and the starters were done! Super easy.

With most of our prep work done, we settled down to play the Big Fat Quiz Of The Year via 4OD, pens and paper in hand.

Not before we had a bit of this:

IMG_0072

(I was dancing to Single Ladies, can you tell?)

And a bit of this:

IMG_0076

At about 9.30 after the Quiz finished (neither of us can remember who won…but I do know I did better than I have ever done!!) we wandered back into the kitchen to start final proceedings on dinner.

We roasted the broccoli and I cooked my steak, on a frying pan, 2.5 minutes on each side for medium rare. It was perfect! I used St Agur for my blue cheese sauce and at 10pm we were ready to eat. We’d eaten late on purpose as I often get really tired after a big meal and just want to sleep so if we’d have eaten at 6 I wouldn’t have seen midnight!!

We ate at our dining table with some of Ben’s favourite folk music playing and lots of lovely scented candles burning. Perfect πŸ™‚

The starter was, quite frankly, phenomenal. That much butter in a single starter should possibly be illegal but oh my god, was it amazing. The scallops had almost been poached in the butter and as a result were silky and soft. I also loved the fact that we were both eating nearly the same thing – that almost never happens!

IMG_0101

IMG_0100

IMG_0102

Then, the main event…mushroom wellington, dauphinoise potatoes and tenderstem broccoli for Benjamin.

IMG_0104

IMG_0105

The pastry was flaky and buttery, the mushroom firm and garlicy and the mushroom mixture and cream cheese helped keep it all moist and flavourful on the inside. I was ridiculously pleased with how this turned out and I’ll be whipping this bad boy out if we ever have a posh dinner party as I think it really looks the part!

IMG_0122

And, my steak. Sainsburys Taste the Difference sirloin, medium rare. With only salt and pepper as seasonings, the flavour of the beef shone through. I’ve waxed lyrical about my love affair with steak and blue cheese sauce but the combination really is divine! And the dauph? The best yet!! Cooking the potato soooo slooowwlllyyy meant we were rewarded for our patience with rich, soft, creamy potatoes and a silky smooth sauce that did not curdle, I repeat, DID NOT CURDLE! It was a miracle. And they were also lovely the following day!

IMG_0112

IMG_0111

IMG_0115

Perfectly cooked. I can’t remember which chef told me 2.5 minutes on each side for medium rare, I think it may have been Mr Ramsey, but it is the best advice. A searing hot pan too! Things got a little smokey but we are blessed with an extractor fan, a window and a large kitchen so it really wasn’t an issue.

IMG_0124

As predicted, we were way too full for dessert, I could barely manage to drag myself out of my chair and move the 3 foot to the sofa. We finished eating and clearing away at about 11.15, so there was just enough time to write out our resolutions for the coming year, reflect on the highs and lows of 2012 and grab a glass of bubbly before the countdown started. We welcomed in the New Year in our beautiful new flat, congratulating ourselves on a fantastic end to 2012 andΒ cheer’sing to 2013.

I feel so lucky to finally be living with my boy after nearly 9 years as a couple and every day I wake up and can’t believe we’re actually in here. I’m also thrilled to have such an incredible new job that has already exceeded my expectations by sending me to Bali for a week last November (still can’t believe that!!). I’m looking forward to a lot of things in 2013; first and foremost our 3 week trip to Florida in October which I just know is going to be spectacular. It’s the Happiest Place On Earth!! I’ve already started the planning spreadsheet so I’ll be spending a lot of my 2013 evenings tucked up on the sofa, Orlando guidebooks surrounding me and The Dibb on my laptop. I can’t even wait!! I’m also excited about the possibility that we may be getting a furry friend to join us in our new flat this year…I’ve wanted a kitten for so long and we are lucky enough to have found a flat that allows pets (SCORE!!) so we’ll be doing lots of research and I’ll be trying to persuade Benj that these beautiful babies make the perfect pets πŸ˜‰ We’ll probably wait til after Florida though as I wouldn’t want t0 leave her all on her lonesome for so long!

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to a fantastic 2013 πŸ™‚