A Week of Feasting, Celebrations and New Toys

I didn’t have much cooking to do at all this week, which was actually quite nice. I ate out. A lot. So I’ll definitely need to do two diet days and not one in the week ahead. I’ve been on the 5:2 diet for a couple of years now to help me keep my weight moderately stable and also because I genuinely believe it does me good. I think a bit of abstinence is good for the body and the mind. However, I’m not very strict with it, so if it turns out that it’s hard to do two days with just 500 calories for whatever reason, I just do one and if I’m on holiday, I don’t worry about it at all.

Anyway, after two excellent three course meals out with work this week and a Mexican Cookery class at Belfast Cookery School on Friday night at which I stuffed my face with ceviche, cheesy quesadillas and guacamole, PLUS a beautiful two course meal at Sleepy Hollow today for my lovely mum’s 70th birthday, my stomach really does need a bit of a break!

I was driving on Friday night so unfortunately was unable to partake in the complimentary Margarita. SO, I was pretty chuffed the next day to find a really cute single measure cocktail shaker in TK Maxx as I was browsing the crockery and kitchen sale section. I wasted no time in using it to make my very own margarita on Saturday night. Must buy the right glass next!

Home-made Margarita along with creations from my Mexican Cookery Class at Belfast Cookery School

The class itself was actually very good for picking up some handy tips that should stand me in good stead when my own Mexican night comes around. When we first arrived, my friend Lisa and I were a little disappointed with the menu – ceviche, tortillas, guacamole and salsa – all very simple things that each of us had made before, with the exception of the tortillas themselves. However, chef Ben Arnold (Head Chef at Home restaurant in Belfast) was very generous with his helpful tips and tricks and we both came away with a few gems to add to the full bellies! (Note to self: next time leave the car at home. Not only can you then have some of the plentiful free drink on offer, but you’ll also avoid being rear-ended by a distracted VW Golf driver on your way to the class as was the case on Friday night!)

The other exciting foodie-thing from this week was the arrival of my ice-cream maker. A beautiful baby blue piece of plastic that can (literally) churn out ice-cream and frozen yoghurt in about 15 mins flat! I wasted no time on Saturday morning in trying it out by throwing a handful of frozen berries, 50g caster sugar and half a large tub of natural yoghurt into a blender and then adding the whole lot to the ice-cream maker and look what happened! This is definitely not going to be one of those contraptions that end up tucked away at the back of the cupboard after a couple of uses – like bread machines and spiralizers. Only problem is I may have to change my diet regime to 4:3!

Frozen berry yoghurt in 10 mins flat with my new toy!

To round off the week, it was my lovely mum’s 70th birthday and my brother and I and our respective families took her for a lovely Sunday lunch at Sleepy Hollow in Newtownabbey. They kindly agreed to me bringing along a cake to help with the celebrations, so I whipped up her favourite, coffee cake, and took that along. The look on her face when they brought out the cake with its plentiful candles was priceless! I daren’t share a pic of it here I’m afraid, as she’d kill me! However, I can happily share the recipe, which was a relatively new one for me.

Coffee cake is a favourite in our house and until recently, I used Nigella’s Coffee and Walnut cake recipe from her ‘Kitchen’ book. I thought it was pretty good. I was happy with it. And then at a church event, I had a piece of someone else’s coffee cake and realised, with quite a jolt, that it was better than mine! I had to do a bit of investigating to track down the baker and then, quite shamelessly I asked if she would share her recipe, never expecting she would say yes. However, with complete generosity and barely a moment’s hesitation, she did indeed share and I was intrigued to find the only difference, apart from the finely blitzed walnuts in the sponge for Nigella’s version, was that the master baker of Whitehead (Phyllis Skelton – thank you Phyllis) used Stork margarine in hers rather than butter. I’d never even bought baking marg before, always assuming butter to be superior, but I had to admit, there was a lightness about Phyllis’s cake that I preferred. I think she also went a bit heavier on the coffee flavouring, which added to the richness and depth. Oh, and I suppose she used self-raising flour rather than plain plus baking powder/bicarb of soda. So, I hope Phyllis doesn’t mind me sharing this more widely, but I honestly believe that good cake recipes deserve to be shared and when they’re as classic and simple as this one, it would be a shame to keep it to myself.

Anyway, I’m officially about half a stone heavier this Sunday night than last thanks to all the eating out, so here’s to a day of abstinence tomorrow and that frozen mango yoghurt I’ve been thinking about making all day will have to wait another day or two….

Recipes from this post:

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