Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Catch up and Butternut Squash and Butterbean Soup


Sorry Guys!! i should rename this blog the weekly soup kitchen! i will start posting more regularly again soon i promise! but for now, let me share with you THE.BEST.SOUP.IN.THE.WORLD.EVER.FACT! and a catch up from my bank holiday wknd.

It was Buddy’s stag do this wknd, so i drove him to the train station in Glasgow and dropped him and a bunch of his friends off, on the way home, there was an accident and the road was closed like all day, so after HOURS of hanging around i eventually decided to take another route, round the coast and over a ferry, i left the car on the other side, as it was too expensive to bring it over and i knew i had to return to Glasgow on Sunday to pick the boys up anyway so figured i’d take that route again.  it was a stressful day I left Glasgow at 2.30pm and arrived home at 9pm, it should have taken 2 hours!

I then spent the wknd at my parents house, being pampered and looked after, there ain’t nothing like staying at my parents every now and then for a bit of TLC!

I managed my first run on Saturday since before the Hen do (due to that toe!) it was awesome, so good to get back out there!

Sunday morning my dad and I took my dog and his dogs an early morning hike, it was a new route that i’d never been on before, it takes you through the grounds of a castle hotel and out and round a small island, it takes around 2 hours, its pretty spectacular! only a 2 minute drive from my house, Buddy and I will be doing this route soon fo sho’!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Then i set off on the drive back to Glasgow to pick up Buddy and the boys.

I took the ferry.


The drive was a pretty drive, the weather was lovely


But this did not ease my mood, i got lost, TWICE! and it took me almost 4 hours, it should have taken just over 2! this wknd was not a successful wknd in terms of travel!!

Not a happy Neen!


Things were to get worse though!

When we got home we found that the kitchen floor had sunk dramatically over the wknd, we had to investigate, what we found was NOT GOOD!

Turns out the boiler has been leaking since we put it in about 9 months ago, the floor was completely rotten under the laminate flooring, there was all sorts of fungus in at the back of the boxed in boiler, it was hideous! my kitchen was totally destroyed!

So on our Bank Holiday Monday (what was supposed to be our catch up day off together), we tore the kitchen out.

It was NOT pretty! Poor Buddy had to rip the flooring back to the bare concrete floor, it took us hours and hours! and my whole house was upside down!


We kicked off at 9am and didn’t get finished until about 10pm last night, we managed to salvage the actual kitchen units, although kitchens are not made to be pulled out and put back in, so it doesn’t quite fit right anymore! it will do till after the wedding though!  we did have to replace the insulation and all the flooring, and we have to buy new floor covering.  It looks amazing now though compared to what it did yesterday morning, there were real tears and everything!

We’ll buy the floor covering this week and get it laid at the wknd! what a traumatic day yesterday was!


BUT in amongst the carnage buddy had to put my cooker outside, so i set a couple of hours aside and left him to some of the hard manual labour and cleaned that baby to within an inch of its life, its so much easier to scrub it down when its outside!


We worked hard yesterday and got the kitchen back to a workable order in time for bed, there is still much work to be done but that will have to wait for the wknd now!

Today i made good use of our workable kitchen and made the most amazing soup ever!

I’m not very good at soups, i dont seem to have much luck, but this is beyond a doubt the best i’ve ever tasted, anywhere!

Its a bit fiddly and certainly not a throw together soup, but well worth the effort. I bought tub of microwavable Baxters Butternut Squash, Giant Butterbean and Mascarpone soup and had it for lunch yesterday mid kitchen ripping out, it was awesome so i checked out the ingredients and figured i’d try it at home but healthier! and WOW!

Butternut Squash and Butterbean Soup

1 Butternut Squash

1 Tin of Butterbeans

1 Onion

1 clove Garlic

Ground dried garlic

Chilli flakes

1/2 Red Pepper

2 Carrots

1 Potato (or 3 baby potatoes)

1 Parsnip

Fresh Sage (dried will do)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

A knob of butter

1t Vegetable Bullion (1 veg stock cube will do)

Prep your butternut squash, cut in half, deseed, score, rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, ground dried garlic and chilli flakes, bake at 190degrees for approx 1 hour.


Meanwhile, fry the onion and garlic in a little oil and butter


Once softened, add in the parsnip, 1 carrot, 1/2 of your 1/2 pepper, and potato, cook down for approx 10 minutes on a gentle heat, stirring often.


Add 1 pint of water, and the vegetable bullion, bring to the boil then allow to simmer for approx 15 minutes until the veg is soft.


While thats cooking and the Butternut Squash is baking, prep the rest of the veg, chop the other carrot, rinse the tin of butter beans and finely chop the other 1/2 of the 1/2 pepper and set aside.


Once the Veg is soft in the soup, blend with a hand blender until smooth.

Once the Butternut Squash is roasted take it out the oven and scoop out the flesh, add to the soup and blend, i worried that a whole butternut squash was too much, but it was just fine, so perceiver and go ahead and use the whole thing. 

20  22

Now blend till the soup is smooth and silky.

You should now boil the remaining veg in a separate pan, the carrots and peppers for approx 10 minutes, adding in the butterbeans for the final 3 minutes.


While the final veg is boiling heat up a non stick pan with a little oil and drop your sage leaves in till they go a bit transparent (omit this step if using dried sage), (i used twice the pictured amount)


Add the Sage to the soup, along with salt and pepper to taste, and blend a final time.


Now add in the final cooked veg, the butterbeans, the carrots and the peppers, and stir.

Et voila!  the best soup ever! it sounds more complicated than it is i promise! now run out and make it my dear bloggy friends!


Tonight i made a special dinner for buddy (he wasn’t so keen – oopsy! but i loved it and i know you will too!) Baked Acorn Squash stuffed with cauliflower/broccoli cheese, recipe coming soon!

Right then peeps i’m off to chill with buddy.

Much Love <3 <3 <3 xoxo.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Minestrone Soup


Hey there Bloggies, sorry my sporadic blogging of late, with just 8 weeks until the wedding its just manic around here, there’s just so much to do, so many things to buy and to source and find etc.  I just recruited another bridesmaid! like all sane brides to at the last minute! but honestly she’s a godsend, its so great to have someone around with brand new enthusiasm!

Remember my friend Catherine, we’ve been best friends on and off since we were 5 years old, when we find ourselves living in the same area we’re inseparable, and then we end up living in different areas and we let it slip, but then we end up in the same place again and its all like we were never apart! now her and her boyfriend live right over the road from me and Buddy, the boys get on great too which is a huge bonus! I’m so excited to have her as last minute Bridesmaid and she’s over the moon! what fun!


So anyway, between being knee deep in wedding planning, i’ve got exams coming out my ears and work is really busy! these are my terrible reasons for abandoning you so much lately! i’ll be back full time soon enough i promise!

Because of being so busy i haven’t taken pictures of anything i’ve been eating, its been mostly good, maybe a little too much at times, but too much of good stuff i promise! working out is still on hold because my torn tendons in my toe, i’m hoping to hit the streets for a gentle run this wknd though, I’ll keep you posted.

I did want to share with you my Minestrone soup recipe, its pretty basic, alot of optionals, but I love it, its easy, its filling, tasty and good for you too! I’m not a huge fan of soup, thats probably because I’m not very good at making soup, it always seems to be too thick, too thin, too strong, tasteless etc etc, but minestrone i get it right every time!

Neens Minestrone Soup

All of the measurements are guessed, it doesn’t really matter how much of what you put it, just what you have or what feels right, you cant really go wrong, i chop and change it up every time, i’ll walk you through what was in my latest batch.

1 onion - essential

2 cloves garlic - essential

5 runner beans – optional – could use french beans or peas or broad beans or cabbage etc, but i like to keep it green, a little of each is nice

1 stick celery - optional

1 tin kidney beans – essential but you could add more beans in too, haricot etc

2 t vegetable bullion - (to taste really)

1 carrot - optional

lots of tomatoes (the more the better, but a tin will do)

2 T tomato puree essential

1 potato – essential

1 cup pasta – essential, i like small pasta shapes, orzo would do, or broken up spaghetti

1 small tin of corn – optional – i didnt use this time but i did last time



chilli flakes

Fry the onion and the garlic in a little oil and a little butter (this gives it a richness in flavour that you can afford in the calories in a pot of soup) till soft


Add in the small diced potato – let it cook off for around 5 mins


add in the tomatoes, carrots, celery etc but not the green just yet


Stir well and cook for about 10 minutes


Top up with boiling water and add the kidney beans and pasta, bring to the boil.  Once its boiling, give it about 5 minutes then add your greens in, you dont want to add them sooner or they will be over cooked, let it simmer for around 10 minutes, whilst simmering, add in salt and pepper and some herbs for seasoning, i like to use, oregano/basil/mixed herbs and plenty of them! also add your stock, bullion or cubes etc, and about 1/4 t chilli flakes, all of these are “to taste”.


When your pasta and veg are cooked, allow to cool and refrigerate, this will around 5 days, or you can freeze in portions.

Dont worry about it being more like pasta sauce, than soup, i like to make this soup quite strong with seasoning and stock and herbs, chilli, tomato puree etc, then when i’m reheating i add a little water at this stage.

Perfect served with chunky wholemeal bread and a little grated cheese for melting, hmmmm hmmmm!!


I’m off to do some more wedding planning, i’m on the hunt for perfect thank you gifts for the Bridesmaids, Best Man, Mother of the Bride and Mother of the Groom, wish me luck.

If you're married already what did you buy for thank you gifts? if not do you have any suggestions of things you’d like if you were Best Man, Mother of the Bride or Groom or Bridesmaid?? I’d love to hear from you, any input helps!

Much love bloggios! <3 <3 <3 xoxo

Friday, 17 September 2010

Its just how i was brought up

“If you haven’t got anything nice/good to say don't say anything at all” was one of the resounding messages my Dad taught me growing up! i.e. if you haven’t got anything nice to say to someone don't say anything at all, and if you haven’t got anything good to say, if all you have to say is moany, don't say anything at all! Now don't get me wrong, i was certainly encouraged to talk through my problems and not to bottle things up, but i was also taught to be a nice person, to keep nasty things and comments about people to myself and small menial moans to myself, everyone has their own problems, they don't wanna hear yours! it was a good message to learn growing up, i think i have a good balance of not saying bad things about people, i don't like to bitch and i don't like to moan, but if i am floundering i will reach out for help!

So the moral of my story is, sorry for not being around this week, i haven’t had much good stuff to say so I just didn’t say anything at all!

I’ll briefly walk you through it, going back to work after the Hen sucked, you guys know i had that drama at work to deal with last week, and my first day back this week saw the sh*t hitting the fan big time, i think the worst of its now over though.

On Tuesday I opened the glass cupboard in my kitchen and a glass fell out, this was an expensive designer glass, part of a set given to us as a house warming present when we moved in here, its an almost non destructible glass, it fell right onto my Kitchen Aid, the glass smashed to a thousand pieces, into my dinner that was cooking and all over the floor, AND it chipped and gouged out 3 separate places in the beautiful almond ceramic of the Kitchen Aid, Holi Gamoli, there were instant tears, i was hysterical, don't think I've been so upset about something for a long time!! I cleaned up and remade dinner all the while bubbling about my no longer perfect 1st wedding present The Kitchen Aid, BUT fear not my lovelies, i called up Kitchen Aid on Wednesday and explained what had happened and they have ordered me a whole new brand new machine from the US, it will be in the country in 2 weeks and then they will arrange to uplift mine and replace with the new one for the measly sum of £64, I'm delighted, especially when you consider i didn't register it, and didn't have the receipt and these babies cost the best part of £400!! soooo grateful!

I’ve also been struggling to get back on the wagon this week, i think i have it under control today, i took a 2.5lb gain on the chin this week (twas worth it though for a wknd that i will truly treasure forever!), i went to the docs about my “broken toe” its not broken after all but the stiletto that went into my foot has torn through the tendons, it should take 2 – 3 weeks to heal, and finally i had a funeral to go to today, all in all a sucky week, but lets not dwell i refuse to turn the bloggy into a moaning place, hence my absence, i only explain it now because i don’t want you guys to think i abandoned you lightly!

Anywho I’m back now that's all that matters, its Friday night, I'm all tucked up in my jammies on the couch in a pink furry blanket, true happiness!

I have plans to make some soup over the wknd, some home made bread and maybe a nice healthy treat something or other, we have some prep work to do in the bedroom for the winter, we suffer from damp here so the winter months need some prepping for to make sure its not a problem, and that's about the height of it my lovelies.

Here’s the highlights of my food for the last two days: its by no means all of it, we’d be here all day if i showed you it all, but most of it has been healthy, its just that since trying to drag myself back on the wagon on Wednesday I've been eating too much, but trying to keep it a healthy content too much, i promise over the wknd i will pull it all back under control!

Bfast yesterday – strawbs, rasps, peach and red berry compote


A Pumpkin and Dark Choc Chip Muffin from the freezer, these froze and thawed perfectly!


Am snacks – a juicy sweet pear


Lunch – Home made vegetarian minestrone soup (i made on Tuesday ready for going back to work) with a little melty cheese and a cracked wheat roll


Dinner was at my mums, roast chicken, green veg and new potatoes


Bfast today was a peach, rasps, bluebs and red berry compote


And a muffin


Lunch today was more Minestroni soup, eaten in a rush before the funeral.

Another peach – these are Ah.may.zing just now so huge and juicy!


Dinner was a thin slice of cheesy homemade bread, a very small portion of chilli with a little cheese and natural yoghurt, with a side of green steamed veg and garlic/tarragon mushrooms, it was beautiful the first meal I've had since coming home that's been “just right” in every way!


So I hope your all well! and I hope i still have some lovely readers, sorry again for deserting you!

I’ll be sorting out all of your favourite recipes for posting over the wknd.

Nyt for now, much love <3 <3 <3 xoxo

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

My Hen Weekend

Hey there bloggy friends, did you miss me? sorry my recap is a couple of days later than i’d hoped, thinking back now I’m not sure how I ever thought i’d have the head to do it any sooner!

I would just like to start out by telling you I’ve finally made a decision on what to do about the spray tan v home tan for the wedding, look at my hand! i obviously touched the lid of the fake tan bottle on my palm when i was applying it and didnt notice! my whole tan was a mess actually, it looked fine until you inspected, my knuckles, my elbows, my knees, my ankles, it was patchy as hell! i did it myself as usually but for the first time i messed it up BIG time! i just cant take that risk for the wedding, so i booked a tan trial for October, i’ll keep you posted!


Right then lets get down to business, I arrived in Glasgow on Friday lunch time, met my cousin (bridesmaid – who organised the wknd) for lunch and a few glasses of wine, then she merrily toddled back to work and I merrily toddled to an online friend meet, i go onto a wedding planning/weight loss forum regularly, and this is Natalie, who i met on there, this was the first time we met in person, and we had a blast, we hit it off right away, with lots on common, we had a lovely time, and Natalie did me proud by setting me up for my hen wknd, she gave me a “sixpence for my shoe” for the wedding and treated me to an afternoon of drinking, we polished off a bottle of wine, and 2 maybe 3 cocktails! its fair to say she left me in a bit of a pickle, but certainly ready for party!! bless her!

IMG_3797 IMG_3798

After Natalie left me at around 6pm, i went to meet the girls who travelled up from England to come to my Hen wknd, Suzie in the middle, Lisa to the left (Suzie’s sister) and Erica at the top,


We had wine at the hotel before we hit the town.


We went straight for food, i had oven baked garlic mushrooms and FIERY chilli halloumi – it was everything i hoped it would be with more fire for kicks!

IMG_3814 IMG_3815

Then we partied until 3am! oopsy! i kept getting random texts from my bridesmaids telling me “take it easy Rowena – big day tomorrow” and a few hours later, “Stop now Rowena, Big day tomorrow” needless to say i took no notice! Strawberry Daiquiris and Slippery Nipples were flowing freely until 3am!

Surprisingly i woke up absolutely fine on Saturday morning, have been taking Milk Thistle and Vitamin B complex for a couple of weeks, i took about 3 lots of milk thistle over the day on Friday before we went out and more when we got home, along with a berroca, a resolve and a couple of paracetamol (oh dear – a bit of overkill! probably not, i am prone to insane hangovers which involve around 18 hours of throwing up – its the main reason why i stopped drinking – so i was pretty scared i’d suffer badly after my hen night). So all was well on Saturday.

Off we went for lunch, garlic bread, chilli beef nachos and creamy garlic mushrooms


We pottered round town for the afternoon, then got ready for the big night.

We all met up around 6.30pm


As the night wore on i was plied with more bunny ears to wear, or glow stick bracelets, shot glasses attached to bead necklesses, an L sign etc.


Dinner was awesome, in a Brazillian Restaurant, called Boteco, I had mozzarella and tomato salad with basil and balsamic reduction


Cheese and rice balls with a fiery dip


And veggie parcels with a hot and spicy dip

Everything was perfect, I love tapas, i could live off tapas!!


Yet more bunny ears, it felt like my head was being squashed under all those head bands (4 in total by this point – including my tiara – models own heh heh)


I spent the whole night smiling and laughing, i’ve never had such a good night out!

Thats my sister next to me (we look nothing alike huh!) and my BFF Catherine on the end


After the meal my sister took me to the toilet, and when we came back everyone had on a “Buddy” mask! OMG it was hilarious! I dont think i ever laughed so much in all my life!!!!

SOoooooo unexpected!


It was great (if a bit freaky) getting to spend time with Buddy on my night out though!


Then came the L sign and the shot glasses on beads!


My Bridesmaids, (coincidentally or not perhaps) they were both in Red, My sister and my cousin. My cousin was the organiser. She went above and beyond, everyone was more than a little bit jealous that she wasn’t or wont be in the future their bridesmaid!!


And i could count on my BFF to keep plying me (and herself of course) with a steady stream of cocktails!!


After Boteco we went to Arta, this really posh Cocktail bar, where Sarah (my cousin) had hired a private area for us, she had brought her laptop out and had previously recorded a video of Buddy (I’ll try and get technologically savvy enough to post that later in the week) interviewing him with questions about himself or about me, i had to answer them, if i got them right i got a prize and if i got them wrong i got a non negotiable forfeit.



I got most of them right and got prizes such as rubber gloves, vanilla body butter, a whip vouchers for foot massages and home cooked meals from Buddy etc.

IMG_3886 IMG_3887

I never laughed so much ever, the video was awesome

IMG_3888 IMG_3890

my forfeits included being autographed on a clothed part of my body, standing up and singing Sandra Dee from Grease, walking around the very posh cocktail bar with my dress tucked in my pants etc

IMG_3891 IMG_3893

You get the idea!


I think everyone fell in love in Buddy during the video, nearly everyone announced they wanted to marry him!

IMG_3896 IMG_3899

And everyone was extremely envious of the efforts Sarah went to ensure I had the most amazing night of my life.

IMG_3898 IMG_3900

I said it before and i’ll say it again, i never laughed so much! I’ve never felt so special and so loved. She really made me the centre of attention, and made me feel so special and happy all night long!


The night wore on and 1 by 1 the girls started going home, the last ones left by around 3.30am

My BFF and I (who luckily i was sharing a hotel room with) kind of sort of stayed out partying until 8am!

Oh you can pretty much always count on us tearing the place up when we’re together!


When we eventually rolled in, whilst the other girls where eating breakfast (oopsy!) i found a little surprise my Bridesmaids had left me!

I got to come home to buddy after all!


SURPRISINGLY……..I was still ok on Sunday when i arose at lunch time, I have no idea how, i mean i know i took lots of precautions with the milk thistle and VitB complex etc but i would have thought that nothing i could have done would stave off the hangover! I guess it was the adrenaline and the sheer delight at the wknd that did it!

I even made it out for lunch – not so healthy now huh!

Beef burger, and fries – hey we’re all human!!


THEN when we got home around 5pm, me and my lethal BFF decided that we were not ready to be parted JUST yet so decided a few final cocktails were in order!

We managed about 3 each before we finally burnt out!


The hang over still never caught up with me! bonus! especially since i like rarely drink alcohol these days and when i do its really 4 or 5 glasses MAX!!

The bad news in all of that is the nurse reckons I have a cracked toe, we dont *think* its broken as its not come out bruised, but she reckons its definitely cracked, so i’m kinda out the workout game for this week, I’ve to give a run a go at the wknd once we’re sure no bruising is going to come out, and see how I get on, if it hurts i’ve obviously to stop. If i’m ok with that i’ve to give Insanity a go and see how i get on! I’m totally bummed out about my toe, its swollen and numb and cold but i keep getting shooting pains up it and radiating out up my foot! a stilletoed salsa dancer stood right on the base of my toe, i nearly whipped my shoe off and beat her around a bit with it, it was soooo sore!! otherwise i’m all good!

So one more thing before I go, Ashley and Stephen over at (Never) Home Maker, published My Healthy Living Story Here, if you want to check it out. I’m sooo excited to have my story published on a big blog like theirs! thanks so much guys!!

Bronagh and Helene – I’ve got your postal addresses and your teapigs will be winging their way to you tomorrow, i hope you like them!

Coming soon: collation of recipes from my teapigs giveaway post.