The Perfect Dinner Party Menu

8 May 2019

Photo by Jordan Arnold on Unsplash


Have you got a dinner party on the horizon? Unsure and stressed about the menu? Worry not. I love dinner parties and want to share a few super-simple, tried-and-tested recipes with you – all of which are sure to impress your guests.

Dinner parties don’t have to be perfect. Neither do they have to be restaurant-like in quality. They don’t have to be laid out on the table like the ones featured in those dreamy restaurant interiors.

You just want your dinner menu to be appealing, pleasant, warm and stress-free – for your guests, and you, too.

If you’re organising an 11th-hour dinner party or running out of time, fret not. Making the meal doesn’t have to involve a trolley dash to your nearest supermarket.

Check out the below easy and delicious dinner party recipes to make. From barbecue scallops to no-bake cheesecake, these easy dishes are sure to wow your guests and give you ample time to spend on the important things.

STARTER

Barbecued Scallops

This scallop dish is perfect for a speedy yet impressive dinner party starter. It’s best to get the scallops from a fishmonger so they’re still in their shells. Be sure to ask them to clean them for you – and keep the shells for cooking.

If you’re grilling, use tiny beds of coarse salt to keep the scallops even.

INGREDIENTS

4 large scallops, cleaned (keep the shells)
4 tbsp butter
½ shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
1 lemon, juiced
½ a small bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped 

METHOD

Fire up the barbecue or grill to medium-high. Pop each scallop into a shell with 1 tbsp of butter and some seasoning.

Place onto the barbecue or under the grill for a few minutes until lightly scorched. Meanwhile, combine the shallot, capers, lemon juice and parsley then spoon over the scallops and serve. 

MAINS

Cajun-Stuffed Chicken with Green Beans and Potatoes

Cajun-stuffed chicken breasts are stuffed with the classic combo of onion and bell peppers – and there’s cheese in there, too. To complement all that yummy goodness inside, a little Cajun spice is sprinkled on like magic dust.

This dish is best served with runner beans and a decent helping of roast potatoes. If you don’t want to make your own roasties, opt for McCain roasts. They’re basted in the finest goose fat for a scrumptiously crispy and tasty finish.

INGREDIENTS

For the Chicken

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red and green bell pepper, diced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Grated Cheddar cheese
2 tbsp Cajun seasoning 

METHOD

Preheat oven to 170° C. Warm the oil in a large ovenproof pan. Throw in the onions and peppers for a few minutes until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat and leave to cool a little.
Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket in each chicken breast. Fill each with vegetable mixture then top with the Cheddar. Sprinkle the Cajun seasoning all over the chicken and season well with salt and pepper. 

Add chicken to pan and bake for roughly 30 minutes until cooked through.

Serve with runner beans. 

For the Potatoes

1.8kg King Edward potatoes, peeled and cut into large, even-sized pieces
250ml olive oil
Salt 

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200°C . Pop the potatoes in a large pan so they’re just covered with water. Put on the lid and bring to the boil then simmer for a few minutes. Drain and fluff up the edges by shaking in a colander. 

Pour the oil into a large roasting tin and heat on the hob. Carefully position the potatoes in one layer in the tin. Turn them so they’re evenly coated in oil and roast for 40 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. 

Drain off the oil and season with salt. Cook for a further five minutes. 

DESSERT

No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake

What beats a tasty cheesecake to serve up to hungry guests? One that involves zero baking, which is exactly what this little number is. My Easy No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake has a crunchy digestive biscuit base finished with smooth, velvety and melt-in-your-mouth chocolate. Better yet, it’s a breeze to make.

Even though it involves no baking, you still need to leave enough time to create it so it has time to set properly in the fridge. Or pop it in the freezer if you’re really short of time to speed up the process.

INGREDIENTS

Serves: 6
150g (5 oz) digestive biscuits
45g (1 1/2 oz) butter
110g (4 oz) caster sugar, divided
120ml whipping cream
150g (5 oz) dark chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons cocoa powder mixed with a little hot water
1 (200g) tub cream cheese

METHOD

Crush the digestive biscuits and mix with the melted butter and 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar. Press into a 18cm (7 in) cake tin and refrigerate. 

Whip cream until soft peak stage. Add cooled melted chocolate then the cocoa powder mix. Blend well and set aside. 

Beat the cream cheese and remaining sugar together. Fold in cream/chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly. 

Spread into tin on top of crushed biscuits. Freeze for one hour. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes then serve. 

Voila! If you’re throwing a dinner party soon and are in need of some trusty recipes then look no further than the above delicious dishes. They’re sure to get your guests’ taste buds tingling so your dinner party goes with a bang.

This is a collaborative post.

Help with juvenile idiopathic arthritis

13 March 2019



Sometimes in life we face challenges and experiences that take us out of our comfort zone and as we progress through these, frustration, tears and trials can lead us to dark places.  These dark places are hidden from the outside world as we go about our daily life, unbeknown to others, we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders.  

Going back a few months my life was plain sailing (well as much as it could be), Gee was diagnosed with autism and OCD and I had everything in hand.  As I look back over the last 7 years, we had many trips to the hospital with injuries to joints and were told there was nothing wrong with Gee, professionals assumed she had a low pain threshold.  After numerous x-rays and MRIs, in November we saw a great consultant who was not happy with all these visits and decided we should go to see the rheumatology team at Sheffield.

Since November’s visit to rheumatology  we have been inundated with appointments with the multi-disciplinary team who have diagnosed Gee with Poliarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.  Treatment started almost straight away with daily visits to the hospital for IV steroids to try and dampen down the inflammation and although this helped a little, it was felt she needed more treatment.   Needless to say the side effects of the drugs she is taking are horrendous, I feel so bad injecting her on a weekly basis with a substance that makes her feel so poorly and although we have anti-sickness medications things do not seem to be settling down at all.

Tuesdays are always a bad day as it is the day of her injection and as we lay in bed last night, she turned to me and said “if I was an animal they would put me to sleep”.  I feel so helpless, how do I make things right for her, I know for the rest of the week she will feel lethargic. I just want my daughter back and I’m beginning to wonder if the treatment is actually worth the price she is paying by suffering.  I pray for the weekend to hurry up because those are the only days she feels like doing anything.  

My blog has taken a back seat whilst all this has been happening but I would love to hear from any other parents who have or are going through this awful illness with their children.  Any tips would be greatly appreciated in helping Gee to overcome some of the barriers she is facing.

Update: we have to stop the current medication until her next review in a couple of weeks. I must say the whole team who are supporting her are amazing, very supportive and nothing is too much trouble.

So many changes in such a short space of time and all this ties in with a house move and new job. I must be mad and not to forget our new kitten Luna, she is so regal.

Roll on the warmer weather when we can get outdoors more and hopefully Gees health will have improved a little. 

Styling Your Jeans For Winter

6 January 2019

I love winter clothes and my staple item as to be a pair of well fitting jeans.  The beauty of jeans is that you can dress them up for a night out or wear them casually during the day. Teamed with a fabulous pair of heels you can create the perfect outfit for night time or they look equally as good with flats or boots for day time walks or shopping trips.

I recently found the most amazingly, comfortable and well fitting jeans I have ever purchased at JD Williams and a bargain at £29.40. The Shape and Sculpt high waisted skinny jeans are a perfect fit and made from stretchable denim, you do not feel restricted when moving around. I must admit I was a little dubious about purchasing jeans before trying them on but with JD Williams you can always exchange or return them.


Jumpers and long sleeved tops are perfect for the winter months and you can easily add accessories to give unique touches to your clothes, for example instead of wearing your top loosely over jeans try tucking it in and adding a belt to give a more defined shape, or add a scarf or costume jewellery to add colour. It is great fun experimenting with different accessories and really surprising how many different outfits you can create.  The great thing about Winter is that you can add layers using different textures and fabrics to highlight areas of interest to create the perfect silhouette.


Now I've found the best pair of jeans I just need to purchase a couple more staple items to compliment my wardrobe and to see it through to the Spring time when hopefully I can reduce the layering a little.

Whether you prefer bootcut, skinny or the more traditional fit there are so many ways to wear your jeans or to find the most appropriate pair for you.  My must do tip, is to try lots of pairs on until you the the fit most comfortable for you.



5 Ways To Improve Your Life After 50

27 December 2018


How did I arrive at my early 50's so quickly? I certainly don't feel any older in my mind, although my body may well have the telltale signs of ageing, which is inevitable. I do think we take life for granted at times, it is precious and can be taken away from you in seconds. After losing my brother in law who was in his early 30s to cancer, it was a serious wake up call. All those decisions we make in our younger years can impact our future and although we all make mistakes, I like to think that we learn from them. There is no point in dwelling on what could have been, we should focus on what lays ahead to make a brighter future for our family.

There are lots of simple ways to improve your well being and mental health as you hit the big ‘50’ enabling you to live life to the full.

1. Eat healthily – forget all those takeaways and opt for fresh foods that you can prepare yourself. With sensible planning and preparation, meal time routines can become a time to spend with loved ones. Sharing the cooking chores is a great way of spending more time together with your partner and family. Obviously the odd takeaway will not hurt you and can be a treat when you are pushed for time.

2. Travel – we love to explore new places and this will carry on in to our older years. Whether it is abroad or at home, there are lots of new destinations to discover that can help you enjoy unforgettable experiences. Travelling opens the mind, broadens your horizons and creates many happy memories.

3. Look after your health – regular health check ups with your GP can help to identify any potential health problems early on. It is never ok to ignore any niggling doubts you have in regards to your health.

4. Exercise – raises the levels of endorphins in our body which help to boost mood and decrease stress levels. Regular exercise will help you to maintain and improve your flexibility as you age. It also benefits the brain by improving blood flow and leaving you with a feel good factor.

5. Learn a new skill – we all have hobbies that we enjoy but there is bound to be something you have always wanted to do or achieve and now is the time to do it. Whether it is a qualification to enable you to advance at work or something you would like to do for pleasure, it is a fantastic way of keeping your brain active.

I never thought I would be moving in my 50’s but I am embracing the challenge this will bring. I have already been offered a new job, which I have accepted and can’t wait to start. So, with house renovations and a new job to focus on, I am ready to start this new chapter in my life. One area I definitely need to improve is my exercise levels and I will be making the most of a leisure centre that is nearby.

SunLife have produced some videos and posts interviewing individuals about their life after 50.


This is a collaborative post.
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