Mulled Wine Recipe

mulled wine recipe
Check out that retro heater and those retro glasses.

This winter will go down as the winter of mulled wine for us. I’ve been obsessed – both with the taste and the cooking smell that fills the kitchen. If we get invited over to a mate’s for dinner, I rock up with some.  Nowhere to go? No worries, hubby and I will share a batch. Oh yes, I have all the hallmarks of a good pisshead.  I’ve tried to give up alcohol but I’ve decided life is just too short and, frankly, I won’t bother again. I’ll try my best with moderation.

The thing with mulled wine is that you don’t really need to follow a recipe. I mix it up every time using whatever cheap (but grunty) red plonk I’ve found on sale.  I’ve added bay leaves, cardamon powder, substituted mandarins for oranges, used lime instead of lemon. See? You can absolutely play around.  On the note of cheap plonk, don’t dip into your bank account for a top shelf red – think cheap.  I’ve also been playing around with the abundance of spices I have in my pantry.  I’ve even added port (boom – it’s good) and on a different day, cider: I reckon you’d have to try pretty hard to go wrong (for Pete’s sake, touch some wood if you are a kitchen disaster).

The first time I had mulled wine was when I was 19 years old, living in the UK. I spent my first Christmas in London with four Aussie mates who were house-sitting. We were left in charge of a gorgeous home on the strict understanding that we were “not to break anything”. My mate Kate whipped up a batch of mulled wine and poured the boiling hot delicious concoction into beautiful crystal wine glasses… Which instantly shattered. She did this not once, but twice: Some would say she’s not a fast learner.

What happened? We spent Boxing Day trawling High Street Kensington searching for replacement crystal wine glasses (which turned out to be a wedding present…). As good bitches, we agreed to split the cost of the replacements between us and, of course, Sod’s bloody law, we couldn’t find exact matches, so we had to buy 12 new ones to replace the whole set. I can’t remember how much we spent, but, on account of earning £4.50 per hour in retail at the time, I ate two minute noodles for about a month afterwards coz I was so skint!  Luckily I went on to live in Germany not long after: My sole experience with mulled wine was improved drastically and happier memories were lodged! (more…)

The Best Beauty Box Ever

Best beauty box ever reviewWhen I got an email from The Best Beauty Box Ever to ask me if I’d like to receive a complementary beauty box to review, I tried to play it cool, I really did…. Fail:  I was jumping with excitement and my email reply had a number of OTT exclamation marks. I actually said YES PLEASE!!!! in capital letters. I’m so uncool.  

I’ve had my Best Ever Beauty Box for nearly three weeks now and I’ve had the chance to give all of the products a jolly good test drive, Here’s my thoughts which are, as usual, honest and unbiased, albeit a bit too wordy. Sigh. 

Wait:  What the hell is a Beauty Box?

Ordinarily the concept with beauty boxes is that you sign up and, for a set fee each month, you receive a package of beauty products (which might be samples, or full sized products).  Usually you end up getting a bunch of products at a much lower cost than if you buy the products individually which can amount to a significant saving. I’ve been chomping at the bit to to try a beauty box. However I’ve been reluctant to commit on more than a one-off basis.  My reluctance also was because, often, you don’t know what products you are going to get.  But wait: The Best Beauty Box Ever is different! How so? (more…)

Cheeseball recipe – Cheeseboard on a budget!

cheeseball recipe

This cheeseball recipe is another one of those recipes that I’ve made on and off over a decade. It’s a recipe I actually got off my Aunty Lois. She’s a great cook and one day I asked her what her best recipe was. She paused and then said ‘my cheeseball’ – naturally I begged for the recipe and lucky she obliged! I can’t help myself, I’ve put my own spin on it over time. It’s become a great ‘go to’ recipe, particularly if we have people call in unexpectedly or at short notice as it’s something you can whip up without too much difficulty for nibbles: I always have cream cheese in the fridge and some salami (that’s a staple in my son’s lunchbox).  Note, in these situations I freeze the ball instead of chilling it in the fridge to speed things up.

Well, we’ve been on a reduced income since I started my new job and subsequently now work part-time, so frankly, pulling out an extravagant cheeseboard groaning with a stinky Kikorangi blue, vintage cheddar, double cream brie, cumin gouda, stuffed baby peppers and a selection of gourmet deli meats is no longer in my budget. That’s a bit of a bugger because a cheeseboard, as odd as this probably sounds for someone who loves cooking, is one of my favourite things to make, as well as eat, noting it’s not particularly conducive to being Weight Watchers friendly at the moment!  Anyway, since we’ve been on a reduced income I’ve totes ditched the cheeseboard and, instead, pulled out this old school favourite cheeseball recipe a few times as a ‘nibbley dish’. It always lands well with the punters and you can serve it up with any cracker, or even a nice loaf of ciabatta, meats, anything goes. I love it on dried apricots tucked into a slice of salami, but I’m a bit random like that.    On that note, there’s a heap of ways you can variate this recipe, be sure to check out the notes at the bottom of the recipe below.

Lastly, as the recipe below makes two balls (snigger… I’m so smutty and immature) I often keep one in the fridge (not rolled in nuts) and then stuff it into chicken breasts a few days later. I wrap the breasts in streaky bacon, pan fry them till they are golden on both sides, then bake them until the chicken is cooked. This is next level stuffed chicken breast – I promise.

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Lou’s Loves – Faves April

Lou Loves April Faves

Cough. April finished up a wee while ago…  Sorry about that!  Better late than never with my April faves blog post though, right?

Trilogy Age-Proof Nutrient Plus Firming Serum

trilogy age proof nutrient plus firming serum

Trilogy’s Age-Proof Nutrient Plus Firming Serum was an impulse purchase during Farmers Beauty Week. Usual story: My self-restraint sucks… The discount was too good to pass up.  Standing at the Trilogy stand I vaguely recalled my friend Kellie had been waxing lyrical about a product from Trilogy’s Age-Proof range, only I couldn’t remember which one. So, I got this one.   I’d heard nothing about this product, so I truly was flying blind.  

I’ve been using this bad boy morning and night (after toning and before moisturising) all over my face, neck and decolletage for about six weeks and I adore it.  Packed full of natural ingredients this is a lightweight serum that’s a nourishing pick-me-up for skin.  What ingredients? There’s natural skin brighteners like green tea, licorice and mulberry. These extracts help to even skin tone so your complexion appears more radiant.  You’ll also find  hyaluronic acid, known as nature’s ‘moisture magnet’, which is deeply moisturising and plumps the skin.  Trilogy, by the way, uses hyaluronic acid derived from a process involving the fermentation of wheat (that’s all getting a bit beyond me…).

The packaging alleges the serum will soften fine lines and wrinkles and I reckon it does just that. My face definitely looks plumper and softer when I’m wearing this, like it’s had a bit of an energy boost.  Usually when I look at my face in the mirror, stripped bare, I think “dear God”. Lately I’ve been looking in the mirror when my face is all nudie thinking that I look a little better.  Given I’m not using any new products in my beauty regime, it seems fair that this serum could be the culprit.   Importantly for me, as I wear this serum under my makeup during the day, it’s non-greasy and absorbs well. My makeup sits ‘sweet as’ on top of it.

A repeat purchase? You bettcha.  If you want a list of ingredients and the full product description, click here. 
Price: NZ$48.90 (I got it for less as it was on sale).   (more…)

Weight Watchers – Reclaiming my shrinking jeans

3 monthsfrom now (1)_editedI outed myself on Facebook as having joining Weight Watchers a  month ago on account of being a tad too curvy-licious to fit into a lot of clothes in my wardrobe and feeling, frankly, bloody miserable about my expanding waistline.  Since then I’ve had a few people message me to see how I’m getting on and to ask: Would I recommend Weight Watchers?  This is a blog post answering those questions – and more.  

Firstly,  I want you to know that I’m paying my own hard-earned cash for Weight Watchers. Therefore this is a (non-sponsored) blog post with my own opinion. Usual story: Some will disagree with me, some will think Weight Watchers is a bunch of nonsense, equally Weight Watchers evangelists may get a bit snippy with me for my constructive criticism. Cool as! We are all entitled to our own opinion: This is mine. (more…)

Autumn Salad with Spicy Chicken, Lentil and Pumpkin

Autumn Salad with Spicy Chicken, Lentil and Pumpkin
Since joining Weight Watchers three weeks ago I’ve fallen into the trap of eating more or less the same thing every night (roast chicken with a green salad) and I’m BORED.  This is really silly: There’s an abundance of recipes available through Weight Watchers, I’m usually really creative in the kitchen AND I’m working part-time now and I have ample time to cook dinner.  There’s no excuse for boring, uninspired and repetitive meals.

I made this Autumn Salad with Spicy Chicken Lentil and Pumpkin recipe this week after a being struck by a bit of inspo following browsing on the Weight Watchers member’s only section.  Also, I’d bought a GI-NORMOUS pumpkin from Countdown for $2 and this pumpkin required some serious tucking in. Anyhoo, the result was a warm, hearty, nutritious salad that was packed full of flavour, colour and was ‘viable’ in relation to Weight Watchers SmartPoints.  My hubby isn’t on Weight Watchers (skinny, active, healthy bugger) so I’m trying to up the anti on meals that don’t blow the points budget for me and meals that hubby enjoys. Hubby and I both loved this dish, we had it as a main course and, as there was only two people eating it, there was enough the next night for a repeat dinner performance (needless to say the kid didn’t eat this dish. He had ham steaks with potatoes, carrot and pineapple. Sigh).

You can funk the salad up even further by adding fried haloumi, diced feta, also some olives would also be a delicious addition!   Or even, for those not on the ‘trying to shrink bandwagon’,  chorizo would be a scrummy addition!  This recipe, if I do say so myself, is ‘friends-over-for-dinner-worthy’. On that note, I’m taking it sans chicken to my next pot luck dinner as a side salad. (more…)

$6.30?! Essence I love extreme volume mascara review – Hit or miss?

Essence i love extreme volume mascara reviewSo, there I am, at Easter, in Welly, at Farmers Cuba Street, having a debate with myself over the purchase of a $6.30 mascara. “You don’t need it. You have several new tubes of mascara already” screamed penny-pinching Lou, who is keeping a steady eye on her ASB bank balance after commencing a new part-time job (a lifestyle ‘adjustment’ is currently underway). “But it’s $6.30 you EGG!” yelled bargain-loving Lou. “You can’t buy it in Rotorua and you’ll regret it!” cautioned pragmatic, live-in-the-moment Lou.  Bargain-live-in-the-moment Lou won. I departed with a new mascara. 

So, a $6.30 mascara, hit or miss?  It must be said: I had low hopes.  I mean, seriously, I’m a mascara addict and I’ve been known to fork out close to $58 for a mascara (Lancome…. contented sigh) and declare “it’s worth every cent”. I’m a tough mascara customer. So, here’s my thoughts on the $6.30 jobbie…

Let’s back up the bus. What mascara?  What’s the brand?  The budget mascara in question is ‘I love Extreme Volume’ from European beauty giant Essence Cosmetics, which, as a brand, is a relative newcomer to NZ’s beauty shores. There was lots of mascaras on the stand and after some deliberation I narrowed my selection down to the waterproof formulas and did ‘eeny meeny miny moe’ to aid my selection.   Why waterproof? I only ever wear waterproof mascara on account of two reasons.  Firstly, I have VERY oily eyelids and I can’t abide all the smudging that used to happen with non-waterproof mascara. Secondly, being an eyelash curling addict, normal mascara straightens out my eyelashes, whilst waterproof keeps the curl in place allllll day (learning this was a game changer).

My first impressions of this mascara was “Holy shit! That’s a big mascara wand”.  No joke, this has the biggest brush of any mascara I’ve ever used. Hence there’s a word of caution: If you have small eyes or are prone to getting mascara on your nose, in your hair, in your brows, or on your teeth (I’ve seen it all), stop reading, this probably isn’t the mascara for you. Try out a different mascara from the Essence range, i.e. one with a smaller brush and report back (I haven’t tried any of the others!). If you have intermediate level-ninja mascara application skills, or are confident you are on the cusp of securing ninja status mascara skills, keep reading. (more…)

Stacked Eggplant with Roast Tomato Feta and Pesto

stacked eggplant with roast tomato feta and pesto

We headed down to Ohariu Valley in Wellington over Easter to have a long (and very overdue) with our extended family. The good news for me is that the majority of the whanau are foodies, and they have a dream kitchen, with views of the countryside that are to bloody die for. One of the first questions I’m usually  hit with when I arrive is “what shall we cook?” Oh yes: That’s one of my favourite questions…!  For Easter Sunday dinner I made these stacked eggplant with roast tomato, feta and pesto. They were supposed to be the accompaniment to a huge leg of roast lamb, but the positive feedback received would suggest that this eggplant concoction was the hero of the meal and the lamb should step aside!

I’ve made these stacked towers of goodness in the past for as a main course (with a side salad), suffice to say they always go down a treat and it’s a good dish to have up your sleeve if you are feeding vegetarians.  This is the first time time I’ve coated the eggplant with panko breadcrumbs and fried ’em, but it was a total winner and I’ll be doing it again – when I’m off Weight Watchers though! A lighter version, and how I usually do them is to simply brush the eggplant with olive oil and grill them on the BBQ. They are delicious done this lighter way, but the fried panko version was next level because of the nutty crunchy dimension!  Besides, everything tastes good fried in olive oil, eh?  Sigh…. No wonder the clothes in my wardrobe are pulling me the birdie!

Note, it looks like a long winded (read, labour intensive recipe) but I did this in stages throughout the day. Made the pesto the day before. Roasted the tomatoes – set these aside. Went for a quad bike ride. Cooked the eggplant, prettied my face up before visitors arrived. Assembled the eggplant stacks when the lamb came out of the oven and was quietly resting on the bench.  Seemed like no trouble at all…

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