Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Skin Primers Tried and Tested

When it comes to foundation, many of us girls have few qualms about spending 20, 30 or even 40 euro on a bottle of the stuff, if it's going to mean that we look like the best possible version of ourselves.  Let's face it foundation is magical and can swiftly make you feel human again when your feeling a little worse for wear. I have tried and tested numerous foundations out there and have many go-to's in my make up varying in coverage and finish. 

So why on earth do I need to use a skin primer?  Well I asked that very question and so decided I needed to see what all the fuss was about and is there any need to bother. The answer is.....Yes.  Skin primer is essentially a base that is applied before your foundation and comes in many different forms. Here are some of the reasons it's worth using one:
1. Primer avoids your make-up looking streaky.
2. It can better conceal very obvious or enlarged pores
3. Primer can better neutralise redness and blemishes.
4. Primer creates a smooth surface to apply your foundation on to.
5. Primer results in your foundation sticking better and therefore lasting longer.

Primers create a barrier between your foundation and skin, meaning that your foundation will look great for a whole lot longer. Make up artists have used the analogy of smoothing the canvas for your foundation to cling to. So now you know all reasons that a primer would be a welcome addition to your make-up bag, where do you start in finding one? Let's face it (excuse the pun) every cosmetic company seems to be churning out a primer at the moment, so what's worth picking up and which primers should be left behind. Luckily I have done a little work on this and here's what I came up with:

Perfect Primers

1. MAC Prep & Prime
    I'm a big fan of this product. It leaves your face feeling smooth and prepped for foundation 
    application. There is no real smell, it is a white liquid that glides on easily. My make-up most 
    definitely sits better when I apply this primer and undoubtedly lasts better throughout the day. 
    This little black number would be a welcome addition to any make-up bag.
    Rating: 8/10
    Price: €26

2. Bare Escentuals PrimeTime
    This is the first primer I ever used and so far is my preferred product. I really like the finish of 
    my foundation when I apply PrimeTime before hand. Similar to the MAC but this is a clear,  
    scent free gel which glides on easily and leaves your face feeling smooth and reduces the 
    appearance of blemishes or redness. Make-up lasts longer throughout the day and allows 
    you to achieve a great finish no matter what foundation you are using.
    Rating: 9/10
    Price: €25 (approx.)

3. Clarins Beauty Flash Balm
    Beauty Flash Balm has been around quite a while and is raved about by many. It aims to 
    'brighten and tighten' skin and can be used as a prep before applying foundation. I am now 
    on my second tube of the stuff and if I went back for more, believe me that's saying 
    something. The colour is a little unusual (pale orange) and there is a typical Clarins scent, but 
    all in all I am a big fan of this product. It leaves your skin feeling refreshed and moisturised 
    and your make-up does sit much better when it has been applied. A little pricier than MAC or 
    Bare Escentuals and so loses a point or two in the value department.
    Rating: 7/10
    Price: €35

4. MUA Primer
    I am a fan of MUA (Make Up Academy) products, but think it's a pity that in Ireland they 
    are only available in Superdrug stores which are very scarce. This product is a steal at just 
    €4.95 for those on a tighter budget. The second cheapest of the lot, this product is more 
    liquidy than the others. I prefer a slightly firmer gel like primer, however this clear liquid when  
    left for 2 minutes did leave my skin feeling and looking visibly smoother. My make-up sat well 
    throughout the day, but maybe not to the extent of the MAC or PrimeTime. A welcome 
    addition to my primer collection all the same and a useful and thrifty option for everyday 
    Rating: 6/10
    Price: €4.95

Pointless Primers

5. Essence 'My Base'
    Rating: 2/10
    Price: €4.79
    I always like to explore the cheaper end of the marketplace where sometimes you stumble  
    upon a real find and other times you simply find, well rubbish. This primer is 'odd' to say the 
    least. It leaves your face bright orange and leaves a very strange residue. I tried it on two 
    occasions under my foundation and actually thought it did more bad than good. It may be 
   cheap and cheerful, but will make you orange and tearful!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Chicken & Broccoli Bake

Usually Mondays spark thoughts of misery and doom, but the sunny conditions along with the promise of a looming bank holiday weekend really have brightened up yet another manic Monday. Looking forward to the week ahead and have made myself a little meal plan of magnificent munchies for dinner each day this week. I'm starting today with a delicious dinner I whipped up last night with the limited food I had left in my fridge at the end of the week. The result was just lovely, and earned two thumbs up from Molly. This dish is a perfect quick and easy family dinner that doesn't take long to pull together and is packed with flavour. It's also a nice way of incorporating some greens into a one dish wonder.

Chicken and Broccoli Bake

Serves 4

2 tablespoons of rapeseed or olive oil
1 onion (diced)
4 cloves of garlic (crished or finely chopped)
2 large chicken breasts (diced)
350g broccoli 
30g butter
30g flour
40g parmesan cheese
40g mature red cheddar
200ml milk (low fat)
salt & pepper (to season)
4 slices of bread (made into breadcrumbs) (approximately 120g)

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the chicken and sear all over. Season well with salt 
    and pepper.
2. Meanwhile quarter the broccoli and place in a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes until a bright  
    green colour. After 3 minutes remove the broccoli from the heat, drain in a colander and put 
    under the cold tap to cool for 10 seconds. This is called blanching. Set the broccoli aside.
3. When the chicken is seared on all sides, add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is 
    softened. Place the chicken mixture into a large dish or roasting tin (approximately 
    27x22cm). Arrange the broccoli around the chicken in the dish, breaking the broccoli into 
   smaller pieces if desired.
4. For the cheese sauce, add the butter to a saucepan and melt over a gentle heat. Next stir in 
    the flour and beat using a whisk until a paste is formed. Add the milk a little at a time until a 
    thick creamy looking sauce is formed, beating continuously. Finally add the cheese and 
    continue to mix until the cheese is melted. Season well with salt and pepper. If you find the 
    sauce is a little thick, add a little more milk. Add some herbs to the cheese sauce such a 
    thyme or torn basil leaves if desired.
5. Pour the cheese mixture over the chicken and broccoli and top with the breadcrumbs. Place 
    in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes.

E-D's Notes
Blanching is a process in cooking whereby a food, vegetable in this case is boiled for a certain amount of time before being removed from the heat and being plunged or placed into or under cold water to halt the cooking process. In this recipe the broccoli is blanched to prevent it becoming mushy in the dish and allows the broccoli to maintain it's texture. Asparagus is often cooked in this way as it becomes soggy very quickly during cooking.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

White Chocolate & Raspberry Cookies

After being so good all week, this morning I decided to bake something sweet for Molly and I to have with a cup of tea over the weekend. I had some condensed milk lurking in the cupboard that I was eager to use up so decided to start with one ingredient and see what I could come up with. I adore condensed milk and gross as it sounds could quite happily eat it from the tin. It's deliciously sweet and adds a lovely flavour and texture when used in baking. These cookies are the perfect combination of sweet and tart. I love eating cookies straight out of the oven with a hot chocolate or cup of tea.....weekend bliss!

White Chocolate & Raspberry Chewy Cookies

Makes 10 large cookies

110g butter (softened)
110g soft brown sugar
80ml light condensed milk
50g of good quality white chocolate (chopped)
50g raspberries (frozen)
170g self-raising flour

1. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and condensed milk until smooth.
2. Add the white chocolate and sift in the flour until the mixture comes together to form a dough.
3. Line two baking sheets and place divide the dough into approximately 10 balls, and flatten 
4. Press two to three raspberries into the top of each cookie.
5. Place in an oven at 180C for 15 minutes or until crisp at the edges.

E-D's Notes
- These chewy cookies would be just as delicious with dark chocolate pieces instead of white if 
   that's your preference.
- These cookies will keep well for 2 days if kept in an airtight container.
- Using frozen raspberries makes pushing the raspberries into the cookies dough much easier 
  and won't result in a mushy mess!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Home-Made Cajun Chicken Goujons

I've been trying to be a little healthier than usual this week, eating less sweets and more veggies and opting to head for a walk in the evenings instead of the couch. It has been more than a little difficult and I'm craving cake like no mans business! But the weekend is drawing near and no doubt I will have to afford myself a cheat day....or two! This evenings dinner was something really simple and tasty that I thought I'd share for all those of you trying to adopt a few healthy habits! I absolutely adore southern fried chicken goujons, they are my weakness. So I was trying to think of a way of making a healthier option for everyday dinners and this is what I came up with. This recipe is ridiculously easy and entails very little work and very few ingredients.

Home-Made Cajun Chicken Goujons

Serves 4

500g chicken breasts
3 slices of bread (made into breadcrumbs using a food processor)
1 teaspoon of cajun spice
1 egg (beaten)
Salt & Pepper (to season)

1. Cut the chicken into strips and set aside.
2. Place three slices of bread in a food processor to create breadcrumbs. Season well with salt 
    and pepper, add the cajun spice and mix well. 
3. Beat the egg. Dip each piece of chicken in the beaten egg, followed by the breadcrumbs.
4. Place the chicken pieces on a lightly greased baking tray and place in the oven at 180C for 
    20-25minutes or until crisp.

E-D's Notes
- I like to serve these spicy chicken goujons with home made potato wedges and some fresh 
  veggies like spinach and cauliflower.
- As a treat I sometimes serve a delicious spicy tomato relish or garlic mayo on the side for 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

E-D's Home-made Pizzas

As a child I never got the whole pizza movement. I was a boring child who ate boring food. Oh how things have changed! Back in 2006 Molly and I visited the south of Italy for the first time, exploring Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast and Rome. I fell in love instantly not only with Italy itself but also with the delicious pizzas which were loaded with fresh local ingredients. When I got home unless I was visiting the ultimate Italian restaurant in Dublin, pizza once again was underwhelming, processed and tasteless. So at the weekend, I thought to myself....why don't I make my own pizza incorporating my favourite flavours and toppings and see how it goes. The result was delicious and everyone at home was delighted at dinner time. I adapted this basic pizza dough from Mary Berry's 'Complete Cookbook' given that I'm a pizza making newbie. Making your own pizza is very rewarding and you don't end up with any toppings that your not a fan of as you can pick and choose exactly what you like. These pizzas are ideal for gatherings at home with friends as you can do all the ground work before your guests arrive, which will leave you to be the hostess with the mostess!

Home-Made Pizzas

250g strong white flour
1/2 tsp fast action yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
150ml lukewarm water

Toppings for Goats Cheese & Carmelised Onion Pizza
100g Goats cheese
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
Onion Marmalade
10 Sun-dried Tomatoes
2 Cloves of garlic (sliced)

Toppings for Cheese, Pepper & Chorizo Pizza
1 yellow pepper
Chorizo sausage (sliced)
Mozzarella cheese
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
80g sliced mushrooms
4 slices of bacon (cut into small pieces)

1. Place the strong white flour straight on to a work surface and add the yeast and salt. Create 
    a well in the middle and add the water a little at a time along with the olive oil. Bring the 
    mixture together with your hands and manipulate until it forms a smooth dough.
2. Knead the dough for 10 minutes or until smooth in appearance. Place the dough in a lightly 
    oiled large bowl and cover loosely with oiled cling film. Leave in a warm place for an hour or 
    until the dough has doubled in size. Remove from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured 
    surface for 2-3 minutes or until smooth.
3. Roll and stretch the dough until it is approximately 30-35cm in diameter and approximately 
    1cm thick. Place on a baking tray and add your toppings (as above). Bake in a preheated 
    oven at 200C (fan) for 25 minutes or until golden and crisp.

E-D's Notes
- If your guests are a little fussy in relation to pizza toppings or maybe just for a bit of a variety 
  you can also make mini pizzas using the same quantity of dough as above. Just shape the 
  mini pizzas into 7cm rounds and only cook for 12-15 minutes.
- The quantity of dough above makes enough for one large pizza, so double it if making two.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Brandy Snaps

After a very busy weekend of catching up with Molly's family and a wedding, I feel like I need it to be Friday again so I can have a rest....not such a good sign when your thinking that on a Monday evening. This evening I started my week as I meant to go on with a brisk 5K walk which ended up being a 5K shower as I got drenched....typical Irish weather! Tonight's recipe is one of my Mom's all time favourite biscuits. The first time I made them I soon realised why as they are really light, crisp and pack a boozy flavour which is oh so welcome after a hard days work on a Monday! These little snaps are quick and easy to make and are perfect served solo or as a pretty decorative addition to another tasty dessert.

Brandy Snaps

Makes 20 (approximately)

100g butter
100g demerara sugar
100g plain flour
100g golden syrup
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp brandy
1/2 tsp lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan) and line two baking trays with baking parchment.
2. In a saucepan placed over a gentle heat, combine the butter, sugar and syrup until the sugar 
    dissolves. Allow to cool slightly before adding the flour, ginger, lemon juice and brandy.
3. Place 5-6 teaspoons of the mixture on each baking tray and place in the oven, baking for 8 
    minutes. Meanwhile oil the handled of two wood spoons. Remove the baking trays from the 
    oven and allow the biscuits to firm slightly. 
4. Carefully lift the biscuits and wrap around the handle of the spoon with the rough side facing 
    out (as pictured). Once firm, slip from the wooden handle and place on a wire rack to cool 
    and firm. Repeat the process with the remaining mixture in batches.

E-D's Notes
- To make these little crisp delights even more delightful pipe some Chantilly cream into the 
- If not eating straight away be sure to keep the snaps in an airtight container where they should 
  keep for about 5 days.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Goats Cheese Tartlets

After a late celebratory birthday dinner with family this evening, followed by a 5km walk, I'm really enjoying lying on the couch watching mindless television. The week seems to be flying along and I have a wedding to look forward to at the weekend which will be a nice excuse to get dressed up and be social. Tonight's post is one of my ultimate comfort foods. When ever I eat out and see goats cheese on a menu, I'm immediately sold. I absolutely adore the taste of goats cheese and it marries so well other flavours from balsamic to onion marmalade. These tartlets comprise of a delicious cheese pastry case, filled with onion marmalade and topped with a generous slice of goats cheese. I usually serve my tartlets on a bed of spinach and rocket tossed in a balsamic glaze.....heavenly!

Goats Cheese Tartlet
with Onion Marmalade

For the pastry
175g plain flour
80g butter
20g grated cheddar
2 tbsp cold water

For the filling
100g spinach
2 tbsp balsamic
2 tbsp of virgin olive oil
160g goats cheese log (sliced)
1 portion of Onion Marmalade

For the pastry
1. Rub the butter into the flour using fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Work 
    quickly to try and keep everything cold. Next add the grated cheddar.
2. Add a little water, and using a knife, bring the mixture together until it forms a dough.
3. Place the dough in cling film and put in the fridge for 20 minutes before rolling out.
4. Roll out the pastry and place into 10 miniature tartlet tins (4 inches) as pictured, trimming the 
    edges of any excess pastry. Prick the pastry all over with a fork. Fill the pastry cases with baking 
    beans and bake in the oven at 180C for 15 minutes (this is called baking the pastry blind). 
5. Remove from the oven, remove the baking beans and return the tartlet shells to the oven for a 
    further 15 minutes or until the tartlets are crisp and golden in colour. 

The Assembly
Allow the pastry shells to cool slightly before filling with the onion marmalade and topping with the goats cheese. Return the tartlets to the oven for a further 10 minutes or until the goats cheese has melted slightly.

E-D's Notes
These tasty tartlets are perfect as a starter or as a filling and tasty lunch.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Caramel Chocolate Lovers Cake

Well I've had a few 'blog free' days as I have been busy dining out, drinking good red wine and meeting up with friends! Today is my birthday, and I got up early this morning to make myself the ultimate birthday cake. Now some may think this a little sad, or strange but I really enjoyed it. There's nothing like starting off your birthday with doing something you really love. Molly had a valid point last night when I asked him jokingly was he buying me a birthday cake. He quickly responded that whatever he bought would fall second to anything I'd make which made me laugh. From myself to.....myself I decided to make this ultimate chocolate cake topped with a super caramel frosting. I'm finishing off a great day on the couch with the ultimate treat of a tub of Blondie Brownie Ben & Jerry's....Happy Birthday to me!

Caramel Chocolate Lovers Cake

400g can of condensed milk
200g self raising flour
80g cocoa powder
2 eggs (beaten)
100g butter (melted)
1 tsp baking soda
220ml water

1. In a large bowl, mix together the melted butter, condensed milk and water using a wooden 
    spoon. Next add the beaten eggs.
2. Stir in the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa and baking soda) and mix until smooth and free of 
3. Pour the mixture into a 9 inch or 23 cm lined spring-form tin and bake in the oven at 170C for 
    45 minutes or until a skewer placed into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
4. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and placing on a wire rack.

For the caramel frosting

100g butter
160g dark brown sugar
400g icing sugar
80ml cream

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan set over a medium heat. Add the milk and brown sugar and 
    continue to heat for two minutes or until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Place the icing sugar in a large bowl. Add the caramel mixture a little at a time until the 
    desired consistency is achieved. Use a handheld mixer to whip until there are no lumps in the 
3. Slice the cake in half and coat the inside layers of the cake with frosting before sandwiching 
    together. Finally add the remaining frosting to the top of the cake.

E-D's Notes
I had a little caramel sauce left over that I didn't add to the icing sugar. So as not to waste it, I added 150ml of cream and whipped up some delicious caramel cream which I served with the cake, it certainly went down a treat in Molly's house.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Crispy Spicy Beef

Today was one of those days where I felt I really earned my money....I was super productive and was steaming through my 'To-Do' list like something out of this world. That said as a result when I got home needless to say I was wrecked and all my good intentions of going for a walk and being active went out the window. Despite how busy I was all day I was starving by about 11 O'Clock and starting dreaming about dinner. This happens to me on a regular occasion.   Tonight's post is something really simple and delicious. I picked up some really lean and tender diced beef from my butcher yesterday evening and wanted to make something a little different that I haven't made before. 

120g cornflour
350g lean diced beef
50ml soy sauce
1 tsp chinese five spice
1 large onion
4 mushrooms (diced)
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
300g straight to wok noodles
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt & Pepper to season
Parsley or basil leaves to garnish

1. Place the cornflour and five spice in a bowl. Coat the diced beef cubes (or alternatively 
    strips) in the mixture and set aside. Heat some rapeseed oil in a wok until sizzling, then add 
    the beef in batches, searing all over until golden and crisp. Once crisp, remove from heat 
    and pat with kitchen paper.
2. Next add the diced onion, mushrooms and garlic to the wok and cook until the onion is 
    softened. Return the beef to the pan, along with the chilli sauce, chilli flakes and soy sauce 
    over a medium heat and cook for 2-3 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper.
3. Finally add the noodles and cook for another 2 minutes,  mixing the noodles well through the 
    other ingredients. Serve in bowls or on a plate, topped with parsley or basil leaves. 

E-D's Notes

This dish was quick and easy to whip up this evening and was a bit of an accidental brainwave that resulted in a really delicious dinner. Molly is still going on about it which is saying something. Sometimes I enjoy the challenge of looking in the fridge and experimenting with what I have without making a trip to the supermarket when I know I really should.....sometimes magical things happen, like tonight!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

White Chocolate Lemon Streusel Bars

Back to the madness of work today and very glad to only be working a 4 day week this week in order to ease myself back in. It's not until you get back into the throws of work that you remember....ah it ain't so bad! Did a spring clean around my office and I'm feeling uber organised for the week ahead. 

Now as many of you know I love love love anything sweet. Chocolate, desserts, sweets, ice-cream....I'm there! I've always been this way, it's a problem but a tasty problem that I very much enjoy. Tonight's recipe is a recipe for the ultimate sweet tooth and is not for the faint non-sugar hearted. Two of my favourite flavours, lemon and white chocolate joining forces to create the ultimate bar. 

White Chocolate & Lemon Streusel Bars

100g white chocolate (chopped)
170g self raising flour
160g butter (softened)
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
135g rolled oats
180g brown sugar
1 tsp of finely grated lemon zest
1 can of condensed milk
120ml lemon juice

1. Mix together the butter, flour, brown sugar, oats and salt. Once well combined scoop 
    approximately 1/3 of the mixture place in a bowl and add 50g of the white chocolate, mixing 
    until well combined.
2. Add the egg to the remainder of the mixture and mix well until it resembles a batter. Place the 
    batter in a lined square 22cm tin.
3. For the filling mix together the condensed milk, lemon juice and zest and whip until light and 
    fluffy. Mix in the remaining white chocolate chips and then spoon the mixture onto the batter 
    already in the tin.
4. Finally top with the remaining butter and sugar mixture, place in the oven at 180C for 30 
    minutes or until the top is golden brown.
5. Allow to cool and then chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

E-D's Notes
- These bars make the perfect pick me up whether at coffee time in work, or an after work 
  slump with a cup of tea!
- A little goes a long way, though the quantity may not look like much, believe me when I say you 
  won't be able to eat too much of these bars at once.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Creamy Lemon Mousse

My two week long break is finally drawing to a close and I have the irksome sound of my alarm to look forward to tomorrow morning. March has come to a close and I am welcoming April with open arms in hope of a rise in the temperature outside. Ireland's coldest March since records began....no surprises there then! I had a really lovely Easter break in the west with Molly in tow, and we ate so much chocolate yesterday I don't know how we managed to save room for this delicious dessert, but we did! This creamy lemon number was a big hit with the whole family and is was the perfect finale to our Easter feast. 

Creamy Lemon Mousse

Serves 4-6

4 eggs (separated)
260g sugar
3 lemons (juice and zest)
14g powdered gelatine
75ml of water
300ml double cream
Basil or mint (to decorate)

1. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, zest and juice until well combined.
2. Prepare the gelatine by placing the water in a saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatine into the 
    water and place over a gentle heat until the powder dissolves, without stirring. Remove from 
    the heat once dissolved and set aside to cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile whip the cream into soft peaks and then stir in the gelatine.  Next fold the cream 
    into the lemon mixture.
4. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until they resemble stiff peaks. Submerge the 
    lemon mixture in a basin of ice cold water and add the stiffened egg whites, mixing until well 
5. Place the mixture into ramekins or glasses and chill for at least 2 hours. Garnish with mint or 
    basil leaves before serving. 

E-D's Notes
This dessert is incredibly easy and is perfect for dinner parties where you want to spend time with your guests and not in the kitchen all night.