Spaghetti with Fried Tomato and Mozzarella Balls

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I’m a pasta FIEND, but I hardly ever get to make it at home because Sunny’s not a fan (I know, what the hell did I marry???).  My absolute favourite pasta dish is Spaghetti Pomodoro, which most people would label the most boring thing on the menu – but you know what?  I love that it’s simple.  It’s pasta in its purest form and throws the focus on the quality and flavour of each ingredient.  Sweet tomato sauce, spaghetti, fresh basil and mozzarella (…the best bit!).  I love it!  It’s my go to whenever I’ve got a craving for some fresh pasta.

Last week, Sunny was away with work which meant I had a couple of days to get my pasta fix in.  I saw the idea for these fried tomato and mozzarella balls on Pinterest and just had to give them a go and see if they could level up my basic pomodoro.  I mean, deep fried mozzarella, amiright?  Yuuuuuuuuum.

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Spaghetti with Fried Tomato and Mozzarella Balls (serves 2)

Ingredients

For the balls:

  • 125g of Mozzarella Pearls
  • 220g of Cherry Tomatoes (I used about 20 piccalo tomatoes)
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • plain flour
  • 100g breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Kebab Skewer

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 200ml of Tomato Passata
  • 1 clove of Garlic, minced
  • Tomato Pits, salted
  • Fresh Chopped Basil
  • 1 tsp of Maple Syrup

To serve:

  • Chopped Basil
  • Enough Spaghetti for 2
  • (More cheese, if you’re a total glutton like me 😉 )
  1. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the pits (set them aside, they’re going to go into the sauce later!).  Fill each tomato with a mozzarella pearl and then set them aside.
  2. Heat up the vegetable oil in a deep saucepan (you’ll know it’s ready for frying when you can drop a small bit of bread into it and see it fizzle).  Batter up!  Create a bit of an assembly line with the whisked egg, flour and breadcrumbs in separate bowls.  Take one of your filled tomatoes and skewer it with one of the kebab skewers (it’ll keep everything together for the next step).  First, coat it with a little flour, then dunk it into the whisked egg, and finally coat it with breadcrumbs.  Deep fry each ball until golden brown, removing each one from the skewer as you go along.
  3. To make the sauce, heat up your olive oil in a saucepan on a medium heat.  Fry the garlic for a minute (careful not to burn it!) and then pour in both the tomato passata, pits and fresh basil. Pour in 1 tsp of Maple Syrup – sounds ridiculous, right?  But trust me, it’ll take away the acidic taste from the tomatoes. 
  4. Simmer for twenty minutes, then season and serve with the fried tomato, fresh basil, mozzarella balls and spaghetti.

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Have a magnifique week! 😉

How to Go it Alone and Survive a Party or an Event Where You Know No one

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When I first started blogging nearly four years ago, the thought of going solo to an event where I knew absolutely no one would have been enough to bring me out in hives.  I’d have had some questions before predictably deciding to skip it.  Number one: Why the HELL would I voluntarily put myself through that kind of torture?  Number two: Can I bring a friend to cling onto/hide behind? and if not, then Number three: How do I get out of this and hide out at home without looking like a total loser?  The truth is that I’d have made my excuses, metaphorically shut the curtains and hid out at home – simple as.  “If anyone calls I’m not here!!!”

We’ve all been there (I hope!); at some point we all get invited to that party of a friend of a friend – only to have the friend bail at the last minute, or get sent to a networking event to mingle with total strangers (smingle?)Shudder.  I got invited to my first event four months after I started blogging and even though I was thrilled to have been invited, I was rattled.  I’d have to go alone and worse, as I was brand spanking new to the Cardiff Blogging Scene, I wouldn’t know anyone.  Yeesh.  Thankfully, I decided to be brave and went anyway, and even though – yeah – it was a bit awkward walking into a room full of unfamiliar faces, by the end of the event they became familiar and I came away realising that – actually – I wasn’t the wallflower I thought I was.  Four years on and I pretty much go solo to all the events that I get an invite to (in fact, as this post goes live I’ll be on my way to yet another one), and even though I still get those butterflies and that urge to bail – every single time – I’ve learned to take a breath and power through it and I always end up having a good time.

So, down to the million pound question: How do you survive a party or an event when you don’t know anyone?  How do you do it without clinging to a corner scrolling on your phone or choosing to keep the dog or cat company (GUILTY)?  Here are some tricks and tips I’ve picked up over the years.

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Arrive Early

I honestly can’t think of anything worse than turning up to a party or an event when it’s in full swing.  Having to walk into a room where everyone’s already paired up and chatting away is my idea of hell, so I always – if I can – try to be the first person to arrive.  Yeah, it’s a bit lame and you risk looking over-eager, but there’s a massive upside.  If you’re the first to arrive you’ll get one on one time with the host before anyone else does (and before they’re busy) – so, you can introduce yourself, offer to help out – and, when everyone else starts arriving they’ll most likely zone in on the host too, who’ll probably introduce you.  Easy, you’re in!

Pick a Bomb Outfit (and compliment everyone else’s)

Obviously you’ll want to check the dress code, but pick an outfit that you’re not only comfortable wearing, but also one that makes you feel confident.  I always like to wear one of my weird shirts because that’s usually how other bloggers recognise me (I’m the weird shirt girl) but also because they’re striking and a bit of a conversation starter.  Also, complimenting other people’s outfits is one of the best ways to strike up a conversation – a quick, “Sorry, I just had to come over and tell you how much I love your dress/bag/shoes – where are they from?” is all it takes.

Hunt down other guests who’ve decided to go it alone

One of the best tips I’ve ever read about going it alone is to track down someone else who’s in the same boat!  There’ll always be someone shy standing alone desperate to be rescued – so why not be their knight in shining armour?  They’ll be so grateful!  And don’t stop once you’ve settled in and have found a few people to talk to – always be on the look out for someone in trouble. 🙂

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Come armed with conversation topics

Don’t be the nob who reverts to chatting about the weather when there’s nothing else to say!  Come armed with questions to ask and topics to talk about.  After moving in with a compliment conversation starter ask questions about the other person’s life and the ball will usually start rolling.  At a lot of the blogging events I’ve been to there’ll usually be someone I recognise from social media – even if I’ve never met them in real life, and that makes things so much easier! If they post pictures of their dog, I ask them questions about that cute pupper – if they recently posted pictures of themselves on holiday, I ask them about it! I always feel like a total stalker, but usually I find the other person is just so happy you’ve taken an interest in them on a personal level that it never seems to come across  as stalkerish.  Maybe it’s a blogger loop hole!

No one is staring at you

Unless you get naked, you’re golden.  After I attended my first event alone, one of the biggest things I realised about myself was that I’d much rather take a risk and be the loudest, friendliest person in the room than play it safe and be the one standing alone scrolling on their phone.  I’ve always thought of myself as this shy wallflower – an introvert to the core – and I still am; I always get nervous before throwing myself into a social situation and I actually get a social hangover if I’ve spent too much time socialising (It’s a real thing!).  But, I’ve realised that I can be social and that I enjoy being social.  The truth is that the party or event isn’t going to revolve around you, there isn’t going to be a big spotlight following you around and no one is trying to catch you out or trip you up.  No one will care if you make a mistake.  So relax!

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Don’t Drink

Okay, hear me out; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of liquid luck, but use it once and it’ll become a crutch for every event you attend thereafter.  All the early events I attended on my own, I drove to – which at the time seemed like madness because, “How the hell am I going to be able to talk to people without a bit of dutch courage!?”  But actually, being forced to stay sober meant that by the end of the night when I’d come away having had a fantastic time and met some great people, I could chalk it up to being completely myself.

Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know anyone

You mean, admit that you’re a loner!?  ARE YOU CRAZY?  Well, look.  You can either stand around and hope someone will come and rescue you, or you can take a gamble and admit that you’re vulnerable.  I’ve done it a couple of times myself when I’ve really struggled to find someone to talk to and the other person has always been absolutely lovely and introduced to their friends.  No one is ever going to turn their back on you and tell you to go away – that worst case scenario rolling around in your head doesn’t exist.

Give Yourself a Bail-out Time

Before leaving, I always give myself a deadline – a time when I’m allowed to “give up”, call it quits and leave.  Not only is it a sensible thing to do so your nearest and dearest know what time you’re likely to be heading home, but it also takes the edge off if you’re nervous.  You’ll know there’s an end in sight.  Usually you’ll find that your bail out time sneaks up way too soon and you’ll be having such a great time that you’ll end up extending it anyway! 😉

If you’re local to Cardiff, whether you’re a blogger or own a small business or just fancy mingling with some new faces then there are loads of networking events to attend.  Definitely check out The Monday Club (most of the photographs in this post were taken at their summer garden party earlier this week), The Wonders Of Events, Warrior Women and House 21.

How to Make Smoothie Bowls

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So, here’s the thing.  I’ve been absolutely, bladdy awful at getting in my five a day recently.  Truly terrible at it.  I mean, I’d say I get about half that; I’ve never had trouble sneaking a healthy portion of vegetables into my dinner, but for the rest of the day, anything goes.  Fruit just isn’t what I go for when I want a snack.  Five doughnuts, no problem.  Five (squared) custard creams, easy mate.  Five pieces of fruit?  PASS.  I’m not sure what happened, because the truth is I’ve always really loved fruit – and when I do actually make the effort, I really enjoy eating it.  But over the past couple of years – either out of laziness or bad habit – I’ve just stopped reaching for it, and I’ve really noticed a change in my skin and my energy levels because of that.

I’ve been making it my mission recently to find easy ways of sneaking in those missed portions of fruit, and I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that breakfast and the mid-afternoon munchies are when I’m more receptive to scoffing a bit of fruit instead of dipping into the old biscuit tin.  So I started making the odd smoothie bowl for breakfast as a way of rekindling my love of fruit and – d’you know what? – I’ve enjoyed making them so much that I’ve even occasionally swapped out my lunchtime egg on toast for one!  They’re easy to make, can be prepped ahead of time and there are so many different flavour combinations that it’ll be a long, long time before you get bored of scoffing them.  Oh, and did I mention that they’re pretty? 😉

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The Idea

You’ll probably have seen smoothie bowls all over either Pinterest and Instagram and shrugged them off as essentially pretty but pointless – a lot of faffing around for something designed to be inhaled first thing on a Monday morning before you fly out the door.  They’re basically a bowl of blitzed fruit (and sometimes added flax seed or protein powder), mixed with fresh yoghurt (or a dairy-free alternative) and topped with more fresh fruit, nuts and granola. But they’re not as time-consuming as they look; the blended base recipe can be prepped and whipped up the night before, or even frozen for the week ahead.  That way, all you need to do is mix it into your chosen yoghurt and then add whatever toppings you fancy.

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The Basic Base Recipe

The base recipe is simple – provided you’ve got a blender handy – and uses only a handful of ingredients.  It’s adaptable; so if you’re not a banana fan then substitute it with 80g of another fruit, and the yoghurt can be swapped out for any dairy-free alternative (personally, I love coconut yoghurt).  You can also add in protein powder and/or flax, hemp or chia seeds if that’s your jam.  Once you’ve got the base figured out, you can mix it up and get creative!  As mentioned above, it can be blitzed up the night before or on a Sunday when you’re prepping your meals for the week ahead – letting you hit snooze on your Monday morning alarm! 😉

Ingredients (serves one)

  • 1 large banana, sliced and frozen
  • 120g of your chosen fruit, chopped and frozen
  • 1 tsp runny honey, agave or maple syrup
  • 100 ml chosen yoghurt
  1. In a blender, blitz the banana, fruit and honey together on a low setting until the mixture resembles ice cream.  If you’re prepping ahead of time and plan on freezing the mixture now’s the time – just pour it into a portion size ziplock and freeze.  Just remember to pop it in the fridge to defrost slowly the night before you intend to eat it.
  2. Once you’re ready to serve up the smoothie bowl, mix in the yoghurt until smooth and combined – then add toppings.  Easy!

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Toppings

When it comes to toppings, there are so many different ways you can go – but a combination of fresh fruit, seeds and/or nuts and some kind of cereal or granola works really well – especially if you flavour-match your fresh fruit with whatever fruit you’ve put in your base recipe.  If you’re feeling particularly extra, you can even pop a couple of edible flowers on top or some grated chocolate.

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Recipe Ideas

By swapping out the base fruit and yoghurt flavour and then adding different combinations of toppings there are literally thousands of different recipes you could come up with.  But here are three I’ve been enjoying lately to get you started… 🙂

Pina Colada

  • 1 large banana, sliced and frozen
  • 120g of fresh pineapple
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • 100 ml coconut yoghurt 
  • Topped with: sliced, fresh pineapple, dessicated coconut, poppy seeds and marachino cherries.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

  • 2 large bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 100 ml toffee yoghurt
  • Topped with: sliced bananas, raspberries, pecans and raisins

Strawberry Bakewell

  • 1 large banana, sliced and frozen
  • 120g of fresh strawberries and raspberries
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • 100 ml almond yoghurt
  • Topped with: fresh strawberries, almond granola, dried cherries, white chocolate dots, poppy seeds

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Have a smoooooth(ie) week! 🙂

Bank Holiday down The Bay and around Bute Park

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It’s that time of year when practically every other weekend is a Bank Holiday – which is amazing, but sometimes I do wonder why they’re all shoved together during April, May and June rather than being spread out over the whole year.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a couple in October and November, and January? (ugh, January)  I mean, obviously they wouldn’t be for sunning yourself in a beer garden or on a beach (or down The Bay, as us Cardiff lot tend to do) – but for curling up in bed and on the sofa and watching TV and just vegging out… A Great British Bingewatch Bank Holiday.  Think about it.  Maybe I should start a petition or something…

Anyway, I didn’t spend last Bank Holiday weekend binge watching, I spent it walking nine miles around Cardiff Bay and Bute Park and back again.  The weather was absolutely beautiful and it was nice to get out and be a bit of a tourist in my hometown with my favorite people… and dog. 🙂

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You know the drill, I’ve done the barrage walk to Cardiff Bay about a zillion times.  We usually park up in Penarth Heights and then walk down the hill past the Custom House, across the barrage and into The Bay.  We always have a pitstop in Coffi Co in Mermaid Quay because they’re dog friendly and serve up the most incredible hot chocolates.  This time I went for their After Eight one… 🙂

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So, the plan was to catch the Aqua Bus from The Bay to Bute Park, but someone was too busy swigging on their hot chocolate and we missed it (naming no names, but it was me, obviously…).  So we walked there instead.  I’d always thought it was a bit of a trek, but actually, it only took about twenty minutes – and we saw a few buildings and corners of the capital that I’ve never seen before.

…Some better than others.  There’s been a massive surge in student accommodation blocks popping up in and around the town centre and – while I get that accommodation is needed – I don’t get why it has to be so damned ugly.  I mean, the new Zenith building looks straight out of the Eastern Bloc.  Who the hell in the planning department is signing off on these???

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Next we had a lovely stroll around Bute Park – which is beautiful any time of the year, but definitely at its best during the Spring and Summer when all the blossom and flowers are out and everyone’s either barbecuing or sun bathing on the lawn.

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Finally, we hopped on the Aqua Bus to head back to The Bay.  Poor Bungle was absolutely knackered; it’s the longest walk he’s done in a while!  If you’re in Cardiff then it’s definitely something to tick off your list of things to do; the boat heads down the River Taff from Bute Park and out into Cardiff Bay, finally docking up in Mermaid Quay.  It sails right past the Principality Stadium (although, I think you’d get a better view of it if you did the trip in reverse) and there’s a voice over telling you all about the history of Cardiff and the docks, as well as a few interesting facts.

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Back in The Bay we stumbled on a Welsh Armed Forced event – with the Royal Welsh band playing.  I don’t think you can claim to be a Cardiff resident until you spot their mascot – Goat Fusilier Shenkin IV – out and about!  He’s a bit of a legend.

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Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

How to Sunday Like a Pro and Prep for a Productive Week

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We’re all familiar with that old saying that “a weekend well spent brings a week of content” right?  I mean, if you haven’t seen it captioned all over on Instagram (y’know; a weekend well spent, brings a week of social media content…) then you’ll have probably heard the words muttered with a smile over weekend brunch.  I used to think that the phrase meant cramming the weekend full of activities – that if you hadn’t hiked up a mountain, gone out for brunch, been to a museum, hit the shops, gone to the cinema, spent time with the family and polished everything off with a whopping great big roast then nope, you were doing weekends wrong.  I mean, who has the energy for all that!?

Growing up, I used to absolutely HATE Sundays – and even though it’s still a whole 50% of the weekend, it always used to feel like the end of it.  It was just one big clock-watch and countdown until bedtime and giving into Monday’s looming arrival, and the back to school/back to work blues would hit me hard.  Because of that feeling, Sundays were never “well spent”; I’d resent going out somewhere or running errands because the day would just disappear, but at the same time I’d hate staying in because then it just felt like a massive waste.  I just didn’t know how to spend the time in a satisfying way.

The truth is that time “well spent” means something different to everyone.  For me, it’s all about balance, and I’ve come to realise that when we’re talking about Sundays that balance is between doing things that relax my mind and make me smile, and doing things that’ll get it into gear for the week ahead.  It’s the basics of self-care, right?  Allowing yourself to indulge in the things that not only make you happy (a big ass brunch and new shoes), but also doing the things that are necessary to function as an adult (changing the sheets and ticking things off that to do list)!

So let me give that old saying a little bit of a tweak, because I think the truth of the matter is that a Sunday well spent brings a week of intent.  People who Sunday like a pro feed off of that back to work feeling because it enables them to spend the time wisely, not only having fun but prepping for Monday’s arrival. I’m still no Sunday Pro myself, but here are a few things that I like to do to rest and prep for the week ahead… 🙂

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Have a Fancy Breakfast

During the week I’m a fast bowl of Frosties kinda girl; they’re grrrrrrrrreat to slurp down quickly on a Monday morning, but not exactly worth getting out of bed for on a lazy Sunday, right?  We can do so much better!  Sundays (and Saturdays…) are for Brunching – which is basically another way of saying “On Sundays, we fancy”.  I’m talking eggs, pancakes, french toast… A little bit of whatever you fancy and can’t be bothered/don’t have the time to make or enjoy during the week.  A slow Sunday morning is one of my favourite things!

If you’re looking for a couple of recipes to pump up your Sunday jam then check out some of my Favourite Egg Recipes here, a whole post on Fabulous French Toast here, as well as Five Lazy Breakfast Ideas here.  Breakfast food is my favourite food, in case you didn’t already know… 😉

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Do Something FUN

I guess the point with this one is to do something that sparks joy – something that you can’t do during the week – whether that’s slobbing out on the sofa and binge-watching three seasons of Alaskan Bush People (…No regrets), baking a little something-something, going out for Sunday Lunch, hiking up a mountain or going for a bike ride, filling up your ASOS shopping bag, or just taking the dog on a proper walk.  Let the good times roll before Monday rolls back around!

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Meal Plan

I started meal planning last year and honestly, it was a total game changer.  It’s helped me not only to cut down on how much I spend on the weekly food shop, but also to cut down on food waste and all that time spent faffing around trying to work out what the hell to cook for dinner every night.  These days I make just one trip to the supermarket and pick up everything I need for the week ahead.  A little bit of planning goes such a long way!

Because I do my food shop on a Monday, Sunday is the day I like to meal plan.  I check my diary for the week and see what’s happening – to see if there are any days where either myself or Sunny are out, or days that are looking crazy-busy (takeaway night!) – and then I start planning!  I jot down all the meals I plan on making over the next seven days (focusing on dinner – that’s the big one) and then I write up a shopping list. 🙂

You can read all about how to start meal planning – along with some tips and tricks – right here.

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Sunday Soak

I LOVE having a bit of a pamper-sesh on Sunday evening. Yes, it’s relaxing, and sure, it’s nice to sit and stew in some suds for an hour rather than have the ten minute shower I tend to go for during the week… but honestly, it’s kind of necessary if I want to keep myself looking (and feeling!) ship-shape and shiny.  I don’t have time to re-paint my nails during the week, or to shave my legs, or clean my makeup brushes and sit around in a hair or a face mask for an hour; so Sunday is the day where I catch up and take the time to tick off all those things that a woman’s gotta do.

You can read my step by step Sunday Soak and a see a list of my favourite products right here.

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Make a List of Goals

As well as writing up my shopping list, I also like to write a list of goals for the week ahead too.  It’s really nice waking up on a Monday armed with an attack plan!  I write down all the things I need to do by the end of the week in order of importance – as well as a list of a few selfish things that I’d quite like to do.  I also like to make some fun plans for the following weekend!  We all need a reward for hard work, right? 😉

Have a great weekend everyone, whatever you’re up to; let me know how you like to spend your Sunday in the comments below 🙂