Monday, 23 November 2015

Couch Potato Brownies...

I left my last post as it was, short and sweet, just like my little love herself.  But I just want to add a little something here first about the last few months...

I had naively thought that when I started my maternity leave I would have oodles of time to potter about doing the things I love, to craft, bake and blog, a nice little holiday from life before life went ahead and changed.  What really happened was, my days got booked up with outings and visitors, in between which I started nesting, read - crazily trying to get our rented house in order - and taking three hour long naps every day... I barely had time to complete my to do list, never mind do anything else!  Then, when Elsie arrived I was (still am probably) in such a little bubble of love and joy, hanging with my new little family... learning how to be a mama and getting to know my daughter... that nothing else really seemed to matter.  However, we've recently started to settle in to a routine, have Elsie and me, and I find my self with a little time every day to spend as I like, so when I'm not napping or half heartedly tidying, I've been finding my way back to those things I love, finding my way back here.  One last thing before the we get to the important part of this post, you know the delicious, delicious brownies, the topics I write about may (will) also be changing, there might (will) be some more mama and baby related stuff going on, after all my world does currently revolve around being a mama to a beautiful baby girl.

Now on to the chocolatey goodness...

What Catey Made Next... | Couch Potato Brownies

These brownies are the desert equivalent of a lazy Sunday afternoon after a long week.  The cozy kind when you snuggle up on your sofa, there are usually lots of blankets and pillows involved too. You watch cheesy films and trashy TV, discuss all the most important totally unimportant things and laugh so much, enjoy long luxurious naps on and off all day, and eat all the best/worse kinds of delicious and naughty snacks. It's the kind of comfortable, enjoyable day that is a bit naughty and not at all productive, but that is, despite the calories and the laziness, oh so good for the soul.  These brownies are just like that, naughty and in no way healthy, but fun, comforting and sooo delicious.  You just can't help but feel happier after eating one. Rich, gooey, filled with salted caramel, and topped with thick crunchy salty crisps (chips for my American friends) peanut buttercups and M&Ms.  They are in fact perfect for those cozy Sundays... or for Saturdays... or Fridays... or any other day really, so embrace your inner couch potato and treat you and your loved ones to a batch of yummy coziness!

What Catey Made Next... | Couch Potato Brownies

A few notes... the brownie base is my favourite recipe which can be found here, you should use the very thickest crinkle cut crisps you can find as they'll stand up better to the moist brownie, and due to the crisps these really are best eaten on the day they are made, (the next day at a push) and not that impressive if frozen, so if you are making these just for yourself (no judgement here) think about if you really want a whole tin of them!

What Catey Made Next... | Couch Potato Brownies

375g dark chocolate
375g soft butter
6 large eggs
500g caster sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract

225g plain flour

1tsp table salt

150g caramel sauce (I used a ready made one)
Good pinch of sea salt flakes
50g thick crinkle cut salty crisps crushed slightly
100g peanut butter cup pieces
100g chocolate M&Ms
100g Twix pieces

Put the oven on gas mark 4/180 degrees C and line an 11x15inch tin with baking paper.

Cut the butter in to a few lumps and break up the chocolate in to small pieces, put both in a heavy bottomed pan over a low heat to slowly melt.

Mix the eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a big jug.

When the chocolate mixture is all melted together, leave it to one side to cool for a while then stir in the egg mixture followed by the flour and table salt.

Pour just over half of the brownie mix in to the prepared tin, top with the caramel sauce, sprinkle over the sea salt flakes and half of the snack pieces then cover with blobs of the rest of the brownie and bake for between 45-60 minutes depending on your oven and how gooey you want your brownies (being pregnant at the time of making, and knowing that our oven is rubbish I went for the full 60 minutes plus an extra 10 although I would normally go around 50) remembering that they continue to cook a little even when removed from the oven.

As soon as the brownies are removed from the oven scatter over the remaining snack pieces and squash them in to the surface of the brownie.  Then use the baking paper to remove the brownie from the tin and leave to cool, before cutting in to pieces, makes 20-30 depending on how greedy you're feeling ;) Now grab that pile of blankets, a good friend or two, a TV box set and enjoy your brownies!

What Catey Made Next... | Couch Potato Brownies

Just throwing this out there, but how good would chocolate coved crisps be in this, only one extra step, OR, how about pretzels or frazzles or, OR... twigglets?!?  Yes!  Next time I make these that is happening, in fact, I might up the salt based snack profile and add more than one kind of savoury topping!

So how do you feel about salty and sweet together?  What's the oddest combination of the two that you've tried?

Hope you have a wonderful week,

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Elsie Ida May...

Introducing the new love of my life, my beautiful baby girl, Elsie Ida May.

Born in the early hours of a Thursday morning in September, she turned up early but awkwardly, she is a heart stealer, a sleep thief and a total peach.

I have so much I want to say about this little one, but I need to wait until my thoughts and feelings have settled and I can string a sentence together.  For now it's enough to say that being a mama is the best experience of my whole life, despite the exhaustion, because I'm totally and utterly head over heels in love...

Monday, 17 August 2015

30 Smoothies | 1/30 Watermelon Smooshie

What Catey Made Next... | 30 Smoothies | 1/30 Watermelon Smooshie

This is the first smoothie I threw together when I started this project, and my favourite so far.  Frozen watermelon, fresh fruit and juice, it comes out mid way between a slushie and a smoothie hence my awesome name of smooshie.  It's yummy, refreshingly cool and frosty and not overly sweet.

I cut my watermelon in to smallish pieces before I freeze it and take it out of the freezer 5 minutes or so before I start as I find that it blends more easily in my blender, but if you have a fancy one you might not need to do the prep.

Watermelon Smooshie

1 1/2 cups of frozen watermelon
1/2 cup of strawberry pieces
1/2 cup of pineapple
1/2 cup of nectarine pieces
1/2 cup of apple juice or coconut water

Throw everything in the blender until smooth and incorporated,  pour and enjoy.

What Catey Made Next... | 30 Smoothies | 1/30 Watermelon Smooshie


Two posts in one day after nothing for a fortnight is not the way I wanted August to go.  I had a schedule, plans and draft posts, but apparently the wiggler in my belly had other plans, energy draining and sleep stealing ones.  After a few days of maternity leave however, I finally feel okay, I wouldn't say I'm full of beans but I have a certain amount of motivation again and time for naps, which is as good as I'm going to get for the minute.  So hopefully I'll be around a bit more, at least for the next month, but then, who knows, this wiggler may have more plans for me!

30 Smoothies | Introduction

What Catey Made Next... | 30 Smoothies | Introduction

I'm excited today to tell you about little project I've started and a new goal I've set for myself.  I'm going create 30 smoothie recipes in 12 months.  This project almost wrote itself, I'd been wanting a food based project for sometime, and while I had other ideas that will probably get their chance in the future, as soon as we moved back in to somewhere of our very own I started chopping up fruit and throwing it in to a blender and so '30 Smoothies' was born!

30 smoothie recipes in 12 months might not seem that challenging, but being realistic I am about to have my world turned upside down and it's still 2-3 smoothies a month that I need to come up with and post about.  Now some of the ideas I want to try out, whether they are a success or not, don't seem very smoothie like to me, more shake or mocktail but the smoothie definition from wikipedia seems to be broad enough to include a lot of them, so i'm going with If it's got fruit or veg in it and I've blended it, it's a smoothie!

My main limitation in this project is probably going to be my blender, it's over 9 years old and while still going strong is not high tech or fancy, I just hope it holds up to all my experimentaion!  I also realised while trying to photograph the smoothie for my first recipe post that the photography involved with this project is also going to be a challenge as I really don't like taking photos of glass and I don't have many drinking glass options or any of the other props with me that I would usually use as they got packed for storage for some reason (pregnancy brain?!)  So it's definitely going to require me learning some more about my camera, and getting creative!

So, this project is going to be a challenge on more than one front, but I'm really excited, I really hope that you enjoy reading along about my smoothie making adventures... Wish me luck and check back later today for my first recipe.

Saturday, 1 August 2015


What Catey Made Next... | Month by Month: July
An awesome night with two of my favourite people aaaand cocktails & mocktails at Mughli, Gorgeous house warming gift from our new Greater Manchester neighbours, A work of art in buttercream form by Katja's Cakes, A Danny Gruff gig... a family friend who has just got better and better as an artist each time we've seen him, A lovely bit of 'public art' in Manchester, My hubby at Dove Cottage Nursery while on a friend's birthday day trip out to Halifax, Reading during July, One of the many smoothies that I've been enjoying this month, The most darling little fox, the first friend we've bought for our little one, Our new home, A touch of colour to brighten a grey day, Happy mail from Hey Little Magpie - project life sample kits, Afternoon tea at Davenports Tea Room - it was that good it's made it in to my top three ever, My first succulent - a house warming gift from one of my best friends who came to Catey-sit me on my first night alone in our new house - what a star, Spending the day with my mother-in-law on her birthday, Turkey and Lemon Burgers

July has been a good month, we moved in to our own place, (our little ones first home!) and started preparing for parenthood in a major way, which at first was all a bit much for me but the more the month has gone on, the more we've done, I've read, learnt and talked about with Tim, the more comfortable I've got with it all and I'm actually getting excited now, not just happy or feeling blessed, but actual excitement!

We're slowly but surely exploring our new home and have been enjoying making use of the path along the canal that takes us via a gentle hours stroll to the supermarket and a pub, (useful for a restorative drink!)  We've been enjoying having our own space again, and learning how to fit our old routines in to our new life.  And a big plus, we've been hanging out with our old friends who we live in the same village as again, after 8 years apart!

One thing that I missed the last couple of months compared to last years monthly posts is sharing some things outside of my little world that have helped make my month, so on that note...

Isn't this just the most lovely thing ever?  I remember a Joy the Baker Podcast episode that talked about complimenting people and loved what Joy and Tracy were saying then, so this is like a total reminder and a good set of rules to live by!

And finally since it's summer and I'm constantly hot I really loved reading all of the popsicle recipes and fantasizing about which of the cocktail inspired ones i'm going to make after the baby is born, (because i'll definitely have time!)

July has been good indeed, and colourful too, which is always a bonus, I hope it's been as beautiful for's to August and for those in the know... A very Happy Yorkshire Day from this Yorkshire Lass.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Books: July

What Catey Made Next... | Books: July | Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe | The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins | Wild: A Journey From Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed

I've only managed to finish three books so far this month and since I don't think that I'll finish my current read before the end of the month, I'm doing July's report a little early...

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - Wow, I really liked this book, I thought it was so so clever!  I wanted to get that out there straight away because I really didn't expect to like it at all...  Funny story - I downloaded this and another book on to my kindle at the same time and thought that I had actually started reading the other one, it took me an hour of reading to work out why the protagonist was always on the train... doh!  But I'm glad I made that mistake, because I think it would have taken me a long time to before I actually picked to read this.  I do like books that are told from different points of view, the different time lines confused me a bit at first, but in the end made sense, as it is the story from beginning to end for each person.  I thought this book would make me anxious as I'm not good with 'bad things' happening, but I because the 'bad things' are so far removed from my day to day frame of reference I was okay, looks like I've found a whole new genre that i'm willing to explore, bring on the thrillers!

Wild: A Journey From Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed - This was recommended to me by Nicole, (thank you!) however, had I known what it was about before this year (the year of reading anything and everything) and it had been recommend, I never would have read it... a book about a girl hiking?!  Nope.  But I really really enjoyed it and felt that magical feeling again, something that has been missing for a long time, that desperate desire to get lost in the pages, just to know what's going to happen, constantly thinking about the story when i'm not reading it and just being totally absorbed when I am.   It's probably a good job we moved the weekend before I finished the book so that I really had to concentrate on my commute,  had I been on my normal journey,  I would have for sure ended up on the wrong line at the wrong station!  This book made me feel like I could do anything,  if Cheryl in her unprepared way can achieve what she did on the trail with just naive determination and will power then I too can probably achieve great things.  Lovely book, true honest story with a very relatable main character.

Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe - The very thing that I loved most about her first book Love Nina, the snippets of the odd little conversations, are what I feared wouldn't be part of this book, it being a novel and all, but my fear was for nothing, this book is jammed packed with whimsical turns of phrase and quirky dialogue and set in just the perfect era to make it all seem very normal.  It's not just about the words though,  there is an engaging story in there too which is very easy to read and very funny if a little heartbreaking under the humour.  I really enjoyed this book.

I'm currently reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and I'm also still wading my way through various pregnancy/birth books... less that 8 weeks to the due date, I really think I ought to crack on!

What have you been reading this month?  Do you have any recommendations for me?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Turkey & Lemon Burgers with Bacon and Red Pepper Pesto

What Catey Made Next... | Turkey & Lemon Burgers

Summer to me is the seasonal home of salad, BBQ food and ice cream, though i'll eat any of them (especially ice cream) at anytime!  But there is something about the sunshine that makes me long for one of those warm lazy evenings sitting in the garden, smoke wafting around, sipping something cool, waiting with anticipation for a delicious juicy burger, topped with all manner of tasty things, to make it's way to my plate.  It's total nostalgia, all the happy childhood memories of family camping holidays, mingling with the memories of tipsy summer nights in my twenties, hanging out at the beach with friends, a BBQ, a beer and a campfire; but when I think of summer I think of all those magical happy nights... and burgers.

It's not often that I'll post a recipe including meat, my hubby being a vegetarian means I haven't had much practice and I'm a little scared if I'm honest, but if I do, it will probably have bacon in it, because, bacon I can handle.  It's super tasty and easy to cook, and makes everything better!  I'm also currently craving it like crazy, along with pineapple, and strangely for me spice and chilies and heat, this little one must be affecting my taste buds - I think i'm going to have a little chili lover on my hands, just like their daddy!

This recipe started out life as just a mention of turkey lemon meatballs in The Love Verb by Jane Green.  (Although there are many full recipes in the book, including this (almost) vegan quiche, unfortunately the meatballs weren't one.) When I decided that the meatballs had to become a reality and started working on the recipe, I just knew that they had to have bacon in them, (see above paragraph for reasoning.)  Other ingredients that were in earlier versions didn't all make the cut, but along with turkey and lemon (obviously,) bacon has been a constant.

The meatballs are good fried off a little, then cooked in a light tomato sauce with plenty of fresh herbs and served with pasta.  They are even better when made in to burgers and served with a slab of mozzarella, a rasher or two of bacon and this amazing red pepper pesto!  (Pesto recipe can be found here.)

What Catey Made Next... | Turkey & Lemon Burgers

For the Burgers
300g minced turkey
4 rashers of bacon, cut in to small pieces
Zest of 1 lemon
A clove of garlic minced
A good big handful of chopped mixed fresh herbs
3 sun dried tomatoes chopped in to small pieces
Half a grated courgette
1 whole egg plus 2 yolks
Good handful of breadcrumbs
Salt (optional)
Onion granules
Oil (to cook)

For the Red Pepper Pesto
Jar of Roasted red peppers
large handful of parsley
75g unsalted cashews
Garlic clove
2tbsp olive oil
50g grated Parmesan

To Serve
Soft white buns
Lettuce leaves
Beef Tomato cut in to rounds
Mozzarella cut in to rounds
Bacon cooked to your preference
Red pepper pesto

To Make the Burgers
Put everything but the salt and the oil in a bowl and squidge together thoroughly; really squeezing it between your hands to get it all to bind nicely.

Heat up a pan, fry a tiny bit off to taste and then adjust seasoning accordingly.  This is when you might want to add salt, I usually find that the bacon and the sun dried tomatoes provide enough but feel free to add it if you wish.  Make sure you fry off another taster to test the flavours.

Shape into patties, I usually end up with between 4 and 6, place on a plate covered with clingfilm, cover, and pop in the fridge for at least a few hours or even over night.

When you're ready to cook, put your oven on gas mark 4 (180 degrees C), put a frying pan over a gentle heat and add a little oil to the pan and fry each burger on either side for a few minutes to seal, then transfer to a oven dish and pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the burgers are cooked and juices run clear.  Or if you're BBQing, brush on a little oil, and hand over to the chef!

To Serve
Mix the pesto ingredients together in a food processor - you will have way too much for the burgers but it's soooo good over pasta for a quick meal.

Then build your burger as demonstrated in the GIF above - layer up the bun bottom, lettuce, tomato, burger, mozzarella, bacon, pesto, and finally bun top, and you are done!

Serve and enjoy!

What Catey Made Next... | Turkey & Lemon Burgers

This is my current favourite way of enjoying these burgers, but there are many other good things to put on the burgers: even more bacon in the form of bacon jam, chorizo, a nice thick slice of fried halloumi, a roasted garlicy portobello mushroom, sticky fried onions, pickles, olive tapenade, homemade BQQ or  tomato sauce... the list is endless and a totally opportunity for getting creative...

So, what are your favourite burger toppings?  And what are your most vivid summer food memories?

Wishing you a summer full of happy days and magical nights,

Friday, 17 July 2015

Explore North West: Two Cities

What Catey Made Next... | Explore North West: Two Cities

Colorful graffiti somewhere in Liverpool (I was a little bit lost at the time) : : The entrance to Liverpool Central Library : : Chicken and waffles at Splendid Kitchen in Manchester : : One of the many mini superlambananas that can be found around Liverpool city centre : : Tea and cake at Propertea, enjoyed with a view of Manchester Cathedral : : Albert Square in front of Manchester Town Hall during Chinese New Year : : Superstore in Manchester, an intriguing mix of bar upstairs and grocers downstairs (which has an excellent selection of bottled beers for sale) : : The clock in Liverpool Lime Street Station, for some reason I just loved this sight every evening during the winter, the brightly lit interior against the deep blue sky : : The New Yorker afternoon tea at Cuthberts Bakehouse in Liverpool, one of the very best savoury selections on any afternoon tea I've had the pleasure of sampling : : Clockwork orange graffiti I walk past on my way to work most mornings, it's tucked behind a barred gate and intrigues me greatly : : Lunch at Leaf in Liverpool, quirky, industrial, retro, with delicious food and a cracking tea menu : : The Liverpool Sailor's Home Gates, now a memorial to all sailors who have passed through the city : : Inside the Liverpool Albert Dock : : Liverpool Catholic Catherdral, quite odd looking from the outside, but truly beautiful from the inside - follow the link and take the virtual tour, remember to look up! : : Outside the Albert Dock : : The Band Names Wall of Fame outside the Cavern Club Liverpool : : The floor in Bakchich, a yummy Lebanese restaurant in Liverpool, photo taken while waiting for a chicken kebab wrap to munch while exploring Bold Street : : Honeycomb brownie and an Iggy Pop smoothie (red pepper, mango and strawberry) at Teacup in Manchester : : Blue Tit Art by Faunagraphic on Newton street in Manchester : : Streetlights outside the Walker gallery in Liverpool, love these old style lamps and was so happy to get this nice shot : : Billy Fury statue down at the Albert Dock : : Bacon and sausage pancakes (where the yum is actually inside the pancake-gah!) at Moose Coffee in Liverpool : : Wellington statue in the culture quarter Liverpool, which I can see from my office : : God made MANchester sign on Tib street, in all the time I've spent in Manchester over the years I'd never seen this until March this year... always exploring: : Manchester town hall bathed in purple light... no idea why but it's very pretty!

We were at a CAMRA beer festival in the basement of Newcastle University about 7ish years ago when I came up with the idea of moving to one of the pretty countryside towns in the hills outside Manchester - the best of all worlds, in the country, but near the city, beautiful, well placed for job opportunities, near my parents, near Tim's - ideal.  Over the years that idea was put off, changed, dreamed about, put off again, seriously discussed, and eventually became our plan.

And here we are 6 months after moving to the North West, finally living in the area we wanted to, and another step closer to that plan of a life in the hills, it feels good to be realizing our dream, and to be excited about our life here too.  I do miss the North East, and my life there, but although it will always hold a special place in my heart, life moves on and there are a lot of good things waiting for us here, I just need to get out there and discover them and enjoy what life in the North West has to offer...

In an endeavour to do this I made it one of my goals when we moved to the North West to spend one lunch time a week exploring the city I worked in.  Above is a small collection of pictures from my North West city centre explorations, mostly Liverpool, as I've had more to explore there, but with a smattering of weekend visits to Manchester too, because even though I knew Manchester pretty well before we moved, there is always more to discover no matter how well you know a place!  I really love both cities, they are so different from each other and both have their own unique qualities.

I have just loved wandering around Liverpool taking everything in, getting a little bit lost, working out where I am, slowly putting a map together in my mind.  I love it when a randomly chosen direction leads to a yummy cafe, an amazing bottled beer shop (and the perfect present for valentines day!), or a sudden appearance of a building i'd previously only admired as part of the city skyline from the train.  I always went back to work feeling invigorated and more excited about getting out there again.  I think I especially love Liverpool because it's very much mine, I discovered it myself, no one showed it to me, everywhere I know about is because I found it, which is exactly the way I felt about Newcastle when I first moved there.

But of course having people to show me round Manchester is good too, it means that you get to go to the already tried and tested places.  There is still room for exploring though, especially when it comes to food!  One of my best friends made a new years resolution to not eat in the same place twice in Manchester for the whole of 2015 and I have seriously been enjoying joining her and discovering new eateries, I've even come up with a few suggestions myself after following the EATMCR Instagram page... I'm very easily swayed by a good photo of some tasty food!

I look forward to exploring both cities further in the future, and feel lucky that I now live here and can do it anytime I want (give or take the current pregnancy exhaustion!)  So hopefully I'll have more posts about the North West to share soon.

Wishing you a happy weekend and a little time to explore,