Chocolate and cherries

(And peanut butter)

It can’t be just me that loves the combination of chocolate and cherries, and over the last couple of weeks I have been baking with that theme in mind.
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I made some pb & j brownies to take to work- this was a basic brownie recipe (I used the Hummingbird book one this time), with peanut butter and cherry conserve dropped onto the batter, and swirled before baking.

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These were so good- I dare you to try making them!

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I also treated myself to a stand mixer- I have been after one for years but they are so expensive that I could not ever justify one. Since the summer I have been saving up my John Lewis vouchers, and recently they were matching a promotion elsewhere which made it just about affordable. Making icing has been a dream!

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I made a chocolate and cherry cake, as an excuse to make icing really. The recipe was based on a chocolate orange one from the brilliant CCC book, but I have adapted it enough I think.

For the cake:

100g butter

100g caster sugar

3 eggs

100g self raising flour

25g cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1-2 tbs milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:

Cherry jam

125g butter, softened

250g Sugar and Crumbs Black Forest icing sugar (or sub with plain icing sugar and cocoa powder)


Preheat oven to 170C, and line two 18cm round tins.

Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy (I did this in the mixer too!).

Add the eggs, and the vanilla, and beat well.

Stir in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder, and gently fold in. Add the milk- you want it to be of a dropping consistency.

Pour into the tins, and bake for around 20-25 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool for a bit in the tins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing, I used a packet of Sugar and Crumbs Black Forest icing sugar, which is flavoured icing sugar and cocoa.

To make the icing, beat the butter until it is fluffy (hooray, I got to use my mixer again!), then add half the icing sugar, beat again, and then add the rest of the icing sugar. The more you beat it, the paler it will become.

2015-05-16 17.34.11To assembly, spread a thin amount of the icing on one cake, and top with a generous amount of cherry jam.

Sandwich the other cake on top, and then top with the rest of the icing.

I have realised I forgot to take a photograph of the final cake! How did I manage that?

Anyway, you will just have to believe that it looked quite pretty, and tasted rather good too.

Are you a fan of pb&j, or chocolate and cherry? What is your favourite flavour combination? What is the last thing you splurged on?


Birthday cake tea!

What did I just say? Yes, you read it correctly.

You may have noticed by now that I do rather love tea. Going to Brighton is always top of my list, and now that The Bluebird Tea co have opened there, it is even better. They are like the David’s tea of the UK (I got a bit obsessed with going there in Canada). Rows of giant tins filled with loose leaf tea, tea paraphernalia, plus a tea bar where you can buy anything hot, iced or as a latte.

On holiday last summer I did rather fall in love with London Fog lattes, which are made with Earl Grey tea, vanilla and steamed milk. I have tried to recreate them at home, but not quite so successfully. However, Bluebird Tea make them (and other scrumptious tea lattes), and you can even choose almond milk! Amazing!
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You can also buy online, and after seeing an offer (possibly free postage- I can’t remember) I went for a pick and mix of teas. I only tend to have black tea once a day, and at the weekend we get out our special teapot so having a few smaller packs is ideal as we can try a few but wont have them jamming up our tea cupboard for too long.

I went for:

Birthday cake tea (Rooibos and black tea with almond and cake sprinkles)

Bonfire toffee (Black tea with caramel and apple)

Apple Strudel (rooibos with apple and cinnamon)

Totally Nutty (Black tea with almond and cinnamon)

Terry’s Tea (Black tea with cocoa nibs and orange)

And some Ear Grey creme teabags (Earl Grey+vanilla- I have some of the loose leaf tea, but this is for ease during the week)

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Now, sadly I didn’t actually have any on my birthday, but I had some last weekend, and it’s fab! Just a hint of sweetness from the sprinkles in there.

I am very much looking forward to trying the other flavours too. And of course, visiting Brighton again, and partaking in more of their freshly made drinks.

Are you a tea fan? Iced or hot?

New shoes! Don’t wear jeans to the sports shop!

So after running Brighton, we went out for dinner with my mum and dad, who then mentioned that they would like to buy me some new trainers for my birthday- I think they could see the hole appearing above my big toe!

This weekend, they picked me up and we headed to Sweatshop (did you know, by the way, that if you are a member of a UK Athletics club, you get a 10% discount there? I didn’t until this weekend, which left me frantically trying to find my card for a few minutes).

A few years ago I did the whole treadmill thing, and got a pair of Mizunos which I loved. When I replaced them, the people in the shop just told me to get the next version of the same shoe, but I never really liked them- they felt very stiff and strange. Around that time I bought some Asics trail shoes, taking a gamble (they were cheap and I wouldn’t wear them that much I thought)  and really liked them, so instead of getting fitted, I ordered some new road shoes (Asics) from Wiggle, and they turned out to be fab too. But I tried to work out which were the newer version of that shoe, and could not. I could not even work out if they were supportive/ cushioning/ something else type of shoes.

In the shop, even though I showed them my old shoes, he decided I should go on the treadmill (rolling up my jeans so he could see my ankles- not the easiest to do), first in neutral trainers (I think they were Adidas Boosts)- for three minutes, at a gentle speed, and then faster. He then showed me the video, which was really interesting (last time I don’t remember them even filming it, but that was a few years ago)- slow motion really showed my leg kicking to the side, which I have seen in race photos but can’t see myself. Anyway, I needed a shoe with some support on the inside. I tried some Brooks (back on the treadmill for another 3 minutes) which were comfy but felt like the arch in the sole was slightly too high, then another pair (I forget what), then the Asics. They felt really soft and comfy, and when he showed me the video he even drew lines on the screen to show how the alignment of my feet and knees. It was really interesting to see. Finally I tried a pair of Mizunos. To me they felt stiff (although I didn’t say anything) and after about 30 seconds he slowed down the treadmill and told me they weren’t for me. It is so clever that he could tell that right away.

In the end it was a toss up between the Brooks and Asics, and as I have loved my last two pairs of Asics it seemed sensible to go with those ones.

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It helps that they are very pretty too, although the Brooks were a lovely hot pink, so really I would have been happy with either!

I was so tired though- I must have run in total for about 15 minutes on the treadmill- I really should have worn sports clothes as the jeans and big hoodie made it very tough indeed.

On Sunday morning I was very excited to be up and out on a run, to try them out.

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Well, they were fab!

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(Just back from my run trying to work out how to take photo with sweaty fingers on the touch screen!)

And for once I was very co-ordinated- I bought this vest in H&M last weekend, and it matched my headband and shoes so well. What are the chances?

10 miles in the bag, first double figure run since Brighton, and I felt fine (apart from being very thirsty). Next weekend I am going to aim for 12 miles, then I have two weekends off (a week away), and then a 10k the following week, where I may or may not run long on the Saturday, before the half the following week. I think I will be OK for the half, especially if I do a few medium runs mid-week at some point.

But, what to do with my old trainers? I still have the old Mizunos that I loved, just in case- of what I don’t know! Do you keep old trainers and sports equipment?

Also, I am going to buy a new pair of sports headphones- I like the neckband style ones (not sure if you can see in the picture but they have a sold band around the back of your head) but they don’t do the same ones any more, and all the reviews on amazon are making my mind boggle! Any recommendations would be gratefully received.

Marathon prep and running extras

A few weeks ago I was asked to contribute to this infographic about preparing for a marathon. It was perfect timing as I had just run Brighton, so could think about what I would say to others about to do the same thing.

Marathon final-01-01I can’t seem to make it any bigger (technical IT things are not my forte) but the original is here, if you fancy a look.

I have also been sent a few running bits recently (in exchange for a mention on my blog) so here they are:

2015-04-20 19.04.36I was kindly sent this insect shield Buff, which contains insect repellent. I love the green colour of it.

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I have tried it (we have had a few windy days recently!) but I think I am more likely to use it in the winter. Even though it is “coolmax” fabric, I still found it was a bit warm to wear at this time of year. I do like that it can be worn in different ways, although I can only really wear it around my neck, or take it off and wrap it around my arm (but at least that means no carrying if I change my mind about wearing it).

2015-05-09 11.22.14I was also sent some Flexitol “Heel Magic”– as everyone knows, runners feet get a bit neglected at times. I do use footcream when I remember, but often I am in a hurry or just forget. This is great, because it is a roll on cream, so I never get it on my hands. (I have some lovely peppermint cream but it makes my hands smell strong, even after I have washed my hands). I am using it more regularly than I would a normal foot cream, which of course helps, but it does leave my feet feeling nice and soft too, but not too greasy.

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Finally, I was sent some coconut oil from Monkey Nutrition.

Of course, after going to parkrun this morning I decided to put it to use with some pancakes. I feel like I have not had pancakes in ages!

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One egg, buckwheat flour, coconut milk, plus blueberries cooked with a little coconut sugar. The coconut oil goes in the pan first, before I cook the pancake.

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I had this with a little almond yoghurt, mango, and vegan salted caramel sauce (the first time I tried this- from the same place as the vegan butterscotch sauce and it is just as delicious). Such a good breakfast.

What advice would you give to someone doing their first race? Which race do you think is really beginner friendly? 

Back on the Graze bandwagon

Hello peeps, I hope everyone is well and not getting too battered by these crazy winds.

Thanks for all your lovely birthday wishes, you are all very kind. I had a lovely weekend (love the 3 day weekend), and guess what, I share my birthday with someone very famous…. yup, David Beckham. (Oh, and apparently a princess…)

After my birthday pb at parkrun, I had a sing song in the kitchen, and made a carrot cake (from the ever faithful CCC book).

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I had no pecans so decided that some pistachios would be good for a topping. Andy’s parents popped over so they had a slice too.

We then went to Oxford for the Sunday, and then on Monday went to a wildlife park, but I will sort the photos out for that later on.

A few years ago I used to get a Graze box each fortnight- they seemed to be the first of the “treat yourself” boxes- now you can get sports ones, health ones, makeup ones etc. I used to look forward to the surprise, but the boxes used to contain two large and two small snacks, and Andy and I used to share the larger ones, which tended to mean we ended up with a big stockpile of snacks. In the end, I cancelled it, but they send me offer emails and recently I bought a couple of one off boxes to give them another go.

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The first thing I was tempted by was a Sharing Box- it contains 5 large packs of their snacks- I think each bag is meant to be 4 portions but they are generous. I have only just finished the first bag I opened (Jaffa cake, which contained orange raisins, roast hazelnuts and mini chocolate chips)- this was three weeks ago so it has lasted a long time. I quite like this way of doing it- the bags are resealable but I have portioned out a handful into a little tub (a paperchase one of course) and put it in my bag. I haven’t had some every day, but the good thing about the snacks are that they last for days in the bottom of a bag. I like the variety of snacks, and I know I could buy my own big bags of nuts and dried fruit and make my own, but I know if I do that I will get fed up with the snacks before I finish the bag. Plus, where am I going to get salted caramel milk chocolate buttons from (yup, it’s in the Track and Field bag which I might open next).

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The other one I tried was more like a traditional Graze box; individual portions, but this was a breakfast box. I think I had a buy one get one free offer, which made it better value. Plus I love granola, but don’t have it much, so if I buy a box it then goes stale…

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Again, they are pretty big portions. I cooked the porridge with almond milk, not water, and it was lovely (cherry and almond) although I should just add some flaked almond to the porridge I make myself really. The granolas have been great- I have sprinkled them on top of muesli or had with yoghurt, and again a pack has lasted me a few meals (because I don’t find it filling by itself, so would rather have a bit sprinkled on top, instead of having it as the main thing).

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This chocolate orange one was particularly good; the orange peel reminded me of a tangy marmalade. Very breakfasty. I am hoping for a few more flavours to sample for my next box.

I won’t need another sharing box for a while as it will keep me going for ages, but especially now the weather is warmer I think a few more of the breakfast boxes will be good to have a bit of variety.

Are you a fan of this type of treat boxes? I like the look of some of them, but not being into makeup and whatnot I would not tend to use those sorts of things, and with the runner boxes I think I would end up already having some of the things. I quite like with Graze that you can rate things (so I can avoid dried banana), and “bin” them if you don’t ever want to get them, but I also like that opening the box is a surprise.


PS:They always offer reward codes, and at the moment there is an offer for your 1st, 5th and 10th box free if you use my code: K4TW5253P

I think if you use it, I would get credit for money off any future boxes, but I think you have to be a new person (although I managed to get my two boxes on offer even though I used to be a customer, so if you were tempted it might be worth logging in to your account and seeing what they offer you).