Saturday, 19 July 2014

Foodie Friday On A Saturday - Gluten Free Gower Cottage Chocolate Brownies

This post, like a lot of my Foodie Friday posts doesn't exactly fit in with my "I'm trying to lose weight" philosophy, but as you know I'm not a fan of denial, if you deny yourself something weight loss seems much more of a challenge, rather than the lifestyle change that it should be. I have three real little treats and food things that I need in my life, and cutting them out entirely would be nigh on impossible, so I go with the flow and have the occasional treat. The three things are cheese, cake and chocolate, and this post really combines the last two.

Since I was diagnosed with gluten and wheat intolerance, I've had to change my attitude entirely to cake. The majority of bought gluten and wheat free cakes and dry, mealy and pretty uninspiring. Thankfully after a lot of experimentation and dare I say it disasters, me and Mummy Lou can make various cakes that we're proud of. 

One of my biggest disappointments with commercially  available gluten free food, is the humble chocolate brownie. You buy a gluten free chocolate brownie in any supermarket or coffee shop and I can pretty much guarantee that it will be dry, and cloying with only the smallest hint of the dense fudginess that a good brownie should have. So the obvious solution when I get that brownie craving is to make my own, and I do, I've just about perfected my own blondie and brownie recipes, which I'll show you soon, but sometimes I just want to be able to buy something yummy and as good or if not better than what I can make at home, thankfully fellow blogger Kellie from BigFashionista and QVC came to my rescue, and introduced me to Gower Cottage Brownies.

Founded in 2007 Gower Cottage Brownies, is the epitome of a cottage industry. The owner Kate Jenkins started supplying a local shop with her chocolate brownies, made fresh everyday in her cottage kitchen on the beautiful Gower Peninsula in South Wales. The huge popularity of her brownies with both locals and tourists meant that an expansion was inevitable. Kate now supplies a number of retailers and establishments throughout the UK, and she also sells direct to the public via her own website and also via QVC UK.

In reality though nothing really has changed, the brownies are all still handmade,and made fresh for every order using only the finest ingredients available including local free range eggs.

After watching a QVC presentation and reading a post from Kellie I eventually took the plunge and placed an order. There are several varieties to chose from including the Original, With Walnut and With Hazelnuts, but I went for Kate's Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies.

I ordered mine via QVC but they came directly from Gower Cottage. They are  boxed, and the brownies themselves come beautifully wrapped and then wrapped in waxed paper with a tag and tied with a ribbon. I loved the fact that was no plastic packaging. Everything has been thought of perfectly your not just opening a cake box it's almost like your opening a present, all be it a beautiful chocolate, vanilla scented present!

At this point I really should be showing you a picture of the unwrapped brownies but my mum dived into them too quickly, sniffing and portioning them out!- you get 12 small sized brownies in each box x We decided to be good and only leave a couple out. They freeze really well, just wrap them up well, and either defrost at room temperature or pop them into the microwave for 20 seconds or so to defrost and serve them warm. Each box though comes with storage and freezing instructions x

Okay, I'm sorry I'm leaving you in suspense aren't I? You wanna know what they taste like, well I don't think I have words! The smell when you open the box is exactly what they taste like, rich, rich buttery chocolate, squidgy yumminess! You can really taste the quality of the ingredients that Kate uses, these gluten free ones, have only 5 ingredients, sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate and gluten free flour, and that is what you can taste. The chocolate taste is smooth and velvety and when you heat them up you can almost smell the butter.

Yes they aren't the biggest brownies I've ever seen, but they don't need to be, they are rich, dense, and squidgy but without being sickly, they hit the spot perfectly and 1 really is enough, especially if your trying to show restraint!

Unlike a lot of gluten free brownies you don't need to drench them in cream or ice cream, the slightly crisp outside melds perfectly with the soft centre, meaning they're a treat in their own right. That said a scoop of vanilla Ice cream turns them into a decadent pud, and a bit of fresh fruit add to your 5 a day. If I didn't know that these were gluten free then I wouldn't be able to tell they really are that good.

These aren't the cheapest brownie out there by any means but what your getting is quality, unlike a lot of commercial  products, they are still made with care, and you know exactly whats gone in them. Kate has won praise for her brownies from food writers, local and national media, and to be honest I'm really not surprised. I still think I make a pretty decent brownie but I'm not sure that they are a good as this. I have to say I'm now a Gower Cottage covert x You got me Kate ;)

They maybe aren't for everyday munching but for a special treat they're perfect. You can also get a box delivered to someone else, so I think they would make a great and unusual gift for any occasion.

Gower Cottage Brownies are available from their website and also from QVC UK. 12 Gluten Free Chocolate Brownies retail at around £17.99, but prices vary depending on the variety you choose. I'd also recommend that you follow Kate on twitter, she's really sweet  and so passionate about what she does and pleasing her customers, she's also a serious enabler :) If you have any questions please leave me a comment - We have 4 brownies left so I'm away to raid the freezer  :)

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

It All About Orange - My Bag Of The Moment And A Beautiful Nail Colour From Avon

If you were to ask me what my favourite colour is at the moment, I would have no hesitation in saying orange. I know it's not always the easiest colour to wear from head to foot, but I'm loving just little touches of it at the moment, not only in my clothes, but also in my jewellery and in my accessories. I own quite a bit of orange but probably my favourite orange piece at the moment is this bright orange patent bag.

Orange unfortunately isn't the easiest colour to capture on camera, but this bag is a super bright almost neon orange. Alas it was a Christmas present that my mum got me from a local independent boutique but look on any high street and I'm sure you'll find something similar. A little touch of orange really gives an outfit a summery look.

If you not brave enough to go down the clothing or accessories root then why not try an orange nail polish. I have a few in my collection, ranging from almost coral oranges to bright neon's, and one of my favourites at the moment is this newish addition from Avon.

I've probably taken around 50 pictures of this polish and this manicure and I still don't think I've got it right, it was that hard to capture, but hopefully it gives you some idea of what a summery colour this is.

Avon Nailwear Pro + in Mandarin Magic is a hot, hot, bright, rich orange (certainly brighter than it's showing here), shot through with a load of gold sparkle. I am a huge fan of the Nailwear Pro range and this polish was no different. The super wide brush makes painting a doddle and whilst the formula was slightly thicker than normal it did the job. You do need a couple of coats for full coverage but it dries pretty quick so that wasn't a great problem.

Like all orange and yellow toned colours I'd recommend you use a good based coat to prevent staining but again this shade is worth the extra effort. The orange tone shot through with the gold gives it a real summery feel, and I can imagine it would look great against tanned skin. Are you orange fan be it in nail polish or fashion accessories? Leave me a comment and let me know x

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

W7 In The Buff Natural Nudes Eye Colour Palette* - A Perfect Dupe For Urban Decay Naked 2?

I've said it before and I'll say it again but at the moment I'm having a major love in with more budget friendly makeup. I love buying and owning high end products but at the moment I'm just not feeling the need to splash the cash. In my mum's day, cheap makeup was exactly that cheap - you just didn't get the quality and you didn't get the technology but thankfully now things have changed, and a cheaper product doesn't necessarily mean a bad one.

There seems to be a bit of a trend at the moment of budget brand producing palettes, and products inspired by higher end items. I know this has caused a bit of controversy in some quarters but personally I don't see the problem. Everybody from catwalk designers, to musicians, to bloggers and make up brands get their inspiration from somewhere, so at some point in time everybody is influenced by someone else or something else. It happens and as consumers in this case we're the ones that benefit, we can buy high end or we can hopefully buy something just as good at a cheaper price.

One budget brand that have consistently produced more affordable versions of high end products is W7. I have to be honest and I've only tried a couple of things from the brand mainly nail polishes, but  I've read a lot of good things and by and large I've been impressed. Recently I was lucky enough to be sent one of their most popular products to try out - The W7 In The Buff Natural Nudes Eye Colour Palette.

You know me I'm all about the nudes, so before I received it I did a little bit of online nosing and I found out that several people had described as a pretty much perfect dupe of Urban Decay's Naked 2 Palette. So as soon as I got it I dug out Naked 2 and did a little bit of comparison work.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of difference between the two does there? I'm sure you've already either got a Naked 2 palette or seen a zillion posts on it already but in case you haven't, it's brilliant the shadows are smooth, creamy and pigmented and it's a neutral shadow lovers dream, but it retails at around £37 putting it out of the price range of a lot people. Compare that to the W7 In The Buff Palette which has a retail price of around £6.95 than you could be on to a winner, how does it perform though?

Well we'll start off with the packaging. The palette comes in a similar vintage style metal tin. It doesn't feel quite as sturdy as the Urban Decay version, and it doesn't contain a mirror, but it looks nice enough on a vanity and it does the job. It also comes with a double ended brush and sponge applicator. I would have preferred a double ended brush as oppose to the sponge end but it's not bad, and I would definitely use it.

The palette comes with 12 shadow, all of which are named which is a nice touch. The colours are almost identical to those in Naked 2, you get a nice combination of mattes and shimmers, featuring everything from matte highlighting shades, to bronzes, and golds, and shades that you could even use to create an alternative smokey eye look.

I don't think I really need to tell you this as I think it's pretty obvious from these pictures but the pigmentation is superb. All the shades feel very soft and creamy without being powdery. The matte shades in particular were a pleasant surprise. They feel very soft, and there is no chalkiness just smooth pigmented colour. All of the shades blend really well, and the wear time is pretty decent.

Basically if I'd had this palette before I'd had Naked 2, I wouldn't have bought it. There shades are almost identical, the pigmentation is easily on par, and every look with Naked 2 you can do with W7 In The Buff. Yes, it's nice to have a high end product and the packaging of  Naked 2 is definitely better quality but as often as I buy products for the packaging, it's the colours and product inside that matters. If your on a budget I would recommend this product and even if your not I can't recommend this palette highly enough. W7 In The Buff Natural Nudes Eye Colour Palette has a recommended retail of around £6.95 and is available from various outlet including the official W7 website where it retails for a slightly higher price. I've also seen for less so it's worth having a little search on the internet before you buy x

After this 100% positive W7 experience I'm definitely going to be trying more from the brand. I'm quite fancying the Honey Queen Bronzer Box, the new Make Up & Glow Bronzing Base, and the In The Nude Eye Colour Palette for starters, but if you have any recommendations I'd love to hear them. so leave me a comment and let me know what you love x

(*Press Sample)

Friday, 11 July 2014

Foodie Friday - What I Ate In June

Last month was the month when I started to take my weight loss seriously again. I'd had about a month off but June was the month when I tried to get back on track. I still had the odd treat - my life isn't about denial after all, but by and large I think I ate pretty healthily. Probably down to the weather my salad intake increased, my fruit consumption went up, I snacked better and I cooked a lot of the recipes, that helped me at the start of my journey.

Although I'm not doing Slimming World, I have found myself cooking a lot of recipes that feature on the plan. One recipe which I fell in love with is curry or chickpea dahl loaf. The original ingredients are curried rice, and chickpea dahl. I had neither and didn't fancy a trip to Tesco, so I made a variation. First of all I made a sort of baked bean dahl, I fried some garlic, and chopped onion in Fry Light, and then I added some jalapenos, some cumin, coriander and curry powder, and a can of baked beans. I then cooked it down till it was quite thick. I didn't have any curry rice, so instead I made do with a packed of golden vegetable rice, to which I added some more jalapenos and some curry powder. It was really nice and just as good as the original and dare I say it slightly cheaper to make.

I served it with some mixed vegetables and potato salad which I made with low fat salad cream, and I also served a portion with baked sweet potato, Slimming World type chips and homemade coleslaw. There really is nothing like homemade coleslaw, it's fresh and you know exactly whats gone in it. You really need a food processor or a slicer to make it but it's well worth it.

I also served some homemade coleslaw with some crustless cottage cheese quiche and some boiled Jersey potatoes.

My mums obsession with burgers also continued in June, so on a few occasions this month I tucked into a lovely veggie burger. This one was crammed full of salad, ketchup and low fat salad cream, with just a sneaky piece of Stilton.

For someone who never used to like blue cheese, I'm now a bit of a fan. My mum always seems to pick up a bit in the reduced section when she goes shopping and I can't resist. Like me my mum is a huge bargain hunter so she regularly scans the reduced sections in the supermarket for cut priced fresh food. As well as the Stilton so also spied a bag full of courgettes for less than 50p! I wasn't sure what to do but after having a little look at this website from one of QVC UK's food demonstrators, Home Economist, Simon Brown, I decided to try and make a courgette and Stilton soup. I just used my basic broccoli and Stilton recipe, and replaced the broccoli with courgette. It was really good, and it's made me wonder what other vegetables I can try, I'm definitely thinking kale or cauliflower but I'm not sure what else would work. If you have any suggestions please leave me a comment x 

It's always worth having a look in reduced sections in supermarkets especially when it comes to fruit and veg. June also saw us pick up a large ripe pineapple for less than £1. I love fresh pineapple but it's such a bind to peel and chop, so I cut the leaves off, and chopped it into large chunks and put it skin and all into my juicer. OMMMGG it was so good and so much nicer than any bought pineapple juice, you could really taste the freshness of the fruit.

I don't know whether it's down to the warmer weather or not but I seem to have put my juicing head back on and this month I've also made several Juicemaster Homemade Sherbet Lemonades. In case you don't remember it, it's just lemons, and green apples. It is so refreshing on the palette and it's really quite filling.

Despite the fact that weather is nice today and it has been for a few days now, for a lot of June , it was rainy, miserable and anything but summery, so I made a few meals to ahem warm the cockles of my heart so to speak, starting off with some more Slimming World inspired meals, including Diet Coke Quorn,

and Mushy Pea Quorn Curry.

I also made an old favourite, my Indonesian Rice With Tofu, which is a meal that I always find super quick, filling, and comforting in equal measure.

In order to get back on track, I've had to improve my snacking a bit. Obviously I've cut down on the picking and so on but when I have snacked I've tried to make better choices.

Fruit is the big one, I'm not the biggest fruit eater out there but juicing helps and so does the availability of good fresh produce and  British strawberries. I had some with a bit of Easi Yo Green Yogurt and some with a cheeky bit of evaporated milk but no sugar because they really were sweet enough.

Instead of reaching for chocolate bars  and the like, I've tried to go for slightly healthier options to help combat cravings and my sweet tooth. Poundland has proved invaluable and I've gotten slightly addicted to these yogurt covered fruit pieces and raisins

and these compressed real fruit sticks and mini raisin packs are great when your on the go or just need something sweet in a hurry. Obviously they still have a bit of sugar in them but it's definitely better than reaching for a bar of chocolate.

I've also been pretty obsessed with rice cakes, and these yogurt covered beauties from Aldi really are the one. For less than 100 calories each you getting something that tastes a lot naughtier. 

Something that I've also loved in June are these Udi's Toaster Pastries. 

Basically they're pop tarts but for those gluten and wheat free minions like me. They come in just the two flavours strawberry, and apple and cinnamon but they are really nice and filling, whether for breakfast or as a snack. They're normally about £3 a box but they are currently just £1 in Tesco.

Life isn't worth living if you cant treat yourself though and in June I did have the odd treat though including my Mum's Gluten Free Lemon Sponge Cake 

and some lovely gluten free flapjacks also made by Mummy Lou x 

The only other area where I've been bad is with my passion for coffee shops. As much as I love my coffees I June and so far in July I've been a bit obsessed with the cooler coffee shop options. I've had a couple of Starbucks Frappuccinos including the new Coconut Mocha which I loved despite not being the biggest fan of coconut, and I've also had a couple of Costa's Creamy Coolers.

Yes I know there are healthier Costa options but at times only the whipped cream will do. That said the Sticky Toffee one doesn't come with whipped cream but my favourite Raspberry and White Chocolate Creamy is back and it's totally divine. In fact I may have had another one today!

I do want to try the new Starbucks Yogurt Frappuccinos, and I also want to try some more of the Costa Ice drinks so I will definitely be making several more trips and earning my loyalty points before the summer is out.

I haven't had the best of healthy eating weeks this week in fact it's been lousy, partly down to something I will be showing you next Friday, but I've had my fun, and I've proved to myself that it is possible to have treats and eat well and still lose weight so who knows what I'll be showing you next month :)  Thanks for reading and happy cooking, and happy scoffing xx

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

June Buys And Gifts - Benefit, Barry M, Avon, Collection, Primark And More

I know I'm late with this again but in my opinion hauls are always worth waiting for. Although I was going to try and cut back on my spending a bit in June, I still have lots to show you. I haven't been very well for the last month or so and my mum has took me shopping and bought me quite a few bits to try and cheer me up, and I've picked up a few bits for myself. We'll start off with some clothes and accessories.

Basic vests from Primark - always used and a bargain at £2.00 and £2.50 each. I picked the colours to match the H&M trousers that I mentioned that I was waiting for in Mays haul, but alas the trousers went back. Despite having the same description and fabric content as my other ones, they were completely different fabric wise and fit wise :( Never mind I'm sure I have a zillion other things that I can wear them with

Next up another one of these Primark necklaces - This is my third one now, and they all feature different colours and different beads - I loved the faux pearls on this one.

It's been a little while since I bought anything from ebay, but this pastel statement necklace has been on my watch list for a while now.

I love the pastel tones, and the almost rose gold toned chain. It was just £2.59 including postage from this seller.

Next up beauty - you've already seen a couple of my June Make Up Revolution purchases (click here if you haven't)  but I bought plenty more beauty good that you haven't seen yet x

For my birthday my lovely Mummy got a years subscription to one of my favourite magazines ELLE. Alongside the subscription I received a free Benefit The Bronze Of Champions Kit.

I'm going to a full review and face of the day in an up and coming post but believe me this is the perfect kit for holidays or for the summer months.

I have to say Benefit are one of my favourite high brands, I love their packaging, their style and their products. I'm a bit of a lip balm junkie so when I saw that they were introducing tinted lip balms based on their popular skin tints - my ears pricked up.

Unfortunately my purse didn't and I couldn't really justify the £14.50 price point. Last month though I made the decision  to cancel my Birchbox subscription, I've enjoyed the boxes but to be honest I'd rather spend money on things that I really wanted. Whilst I was cancelling my account I noticed that I had a few Birchbox points to cash so I decided to order the Posiebalm Tinted Lip Balm and pay with my points.

The colour in the tube looks a little bit warmer than the original Posie Tint but the metallic packaging is to die for.

They have a gorgeous rose smell and taste, and they feel very, very moisturising on the lips but to be honest the pigmentation isn't all that. Don't get me wrong it's a nice enough balm, but the tint is so sheer, it may as well not be there at all. I'll definitely use it up and enjoy it but I'm just pleased that I didn't pay full price for it.

If you were going to spend `£14.50 on one of these then may be your money might be better spent on something else that I picked up in June.

Barry M Cor Balmy's are tinted lip balms with a SPF 15. The outside of the balm and the moisturising core contains Vitamin E, Jojoba and Shea Butter. There are 5 shades to choose from and I went for CB2 Rosie Lea, a bright pink

Like the Benefit balms you don't get full on, in your face pigmentation, these are just a tint but in this case they are actually more pigmented than the more expensive alternative. They aren't as moisturising but for the price I can deal with that.

Oh and the price? Barry M Cor Balmy retail at just £3.49 each, so your can afford to pick up a few x

As well as these two tinted balms, in June I also picked up a plain lip balm. I was in Superdrug having a nosey and I saw the new Mardi Gras range from Collection. My eyes were drawn the lip balms and after having a little sniff I picked up 1 Green Apple. These are just plain, lip balms and for just £1.99 they are worth picking up. This one has a lovely fruity fragrance and taste with notes of apple and melon.

I really need to stop buying lip products - I'm currently sorting out my lip products to put them in my new Muji drawers and the amount of balms, glosses and sticks I have is bordering on the ridiculous. In June though I added to my lipstick collection with this buy from Avon.

The Color Trend Naughty Or Nice Lipsticks are pretty special - basically you get two colours in the one bullet.

I went for the shade high society which features a pale, fuchsia pink on one side and a deep raspberry on the other.

Both shades are really pigmented and can be used individually or mixed to form new shades.

I think that these lipsticks are a fabulous idea especially for holidays or travel - you basically get two colours for the price of one. The RRP for these is about £4 but the brochures nearly always have some for of special offer on.

As well as the lipstick I also picked up a little bargain for the sale brochure - A mini purse spray of the Today fragrance.

I love this fragrance it's a really heady white floral, and the 10ml  purse spray was just £2.50. I love purse sprays and roll on fragrances and I really don't think we see enough of the them in UK.

I love perfume, and I always have quite a few on the go at once, depending on my mood, and the occasion. As you probably know I'm a compulsive magazine reader and last month there were quite a few scratch and sniffs of the new Prada fragrance. It was love as first sniff - so when I had a week of none stop of medical and hospital appointments my lovely mummy bought me a bottle.

The fragrance in question is Prada Candy Florale. I'm really not a fan of the original or to be honest any of the other Prada fragrances but this is something different. It's a combination of florals and sweet notes. I'm seriously in love. Thanks Mummy Lou xx

As well as the vest tops and necklace I also got something from Primark's beauty range. I looked around the whole store and I couldn't find my usual tea tree face wipes. So instead I picked up a duo pack of their new Oil Balancing Face Wipes with tea tree and witch hazel. I haven't tried them yet but hopefully they will be an adequate replacement.

My final out and out purchase from June, was this very cute Hello Kitty hand sanitiser spray. I got it from my local, small, independent chemist. It's alcohol free which I love as I normally find anti bacterial gels and sprays quite drying.

The final things in my June haul were all magazine freebies - The monthly magazines have really upped their game when it comes to free gifts. First up Cosmopolitan featured a free pair of sunglasses. I rely on prescription sunglasses or clip ons usually but I loved these aviators.

The next freebie was skincare and InStyle featured a free 30ml tube of REN Rosa Centifolia Hot Cloth Cleanser, with a lovely, soft white cotton flannel.

The rest of June's freebies were nail polishes - Marie Claire featured a free mini Ciate Caviar Duo. I went for the lilac one which came with Sugar Plum nail polish and Ice Queen caviar pearls.

I don't normally buy Harpers Baazar but I made in an exception in June for a free full sized Leighton Denny nail polish. I am a huge fan of the Leighton Denny range and I went for the shade Lolly Pop, a lovely pinky, coral.

Finally June / July Red came with a free full sized Mavala nail colour. Mavala polishes really don't get enough love, and I went for the shade Trinidad a bright blue to add to my little collection.

So that was it that was June's haul. If you want to find out more about anything that I bought last month, please check out my You Tube video below x Oh and just a heads up I'm wearing the raspberry side of the Avon lipstick xx

Thanks for reading and hopefully thanks for watching and if you have any questions please leave me a comment xx
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