Monday, 31 December 2012

Vivi's Continuous Commitments

Well New Years Eve is upon us and tends to be a time when many of us take stock, reflect on the past year and decide what to keep, what to kick to the curb and what to introduce into our lives. I am a real fan of self improvement but I must admit I stifle a yawn when the New Year arrives and people reel off a list of clich├ęd intentions that they know deep down will go out of the window within a week.

Personally I believe that to constantly keep an eye on your goals is the way forward rather than annually. I would never knock anyone for a new year new you attitude but I think it puts pressure on them and by having a set of intentions that is close to your heart, that reflects what YOU want rather than what you think you should do really helps. And also throw in a bit of fun. It's all of this hardcore morbid discipline and stifling "must do's" which squeeze the fun out of life and send one heading to the nearest shop to buy a big cream cake. Every year when someone asks me what my resolutions are I always answer "to have more fun." To me that's what life should be about.

So below here are my ongoing commitments while a few new goals are chucked in there. Some food related, some not.

1. Health
Ok let's get this one over with. Weight loss and exercise are the top of the list for most people I imagine and I'm not exempt. I'm a fan of healthy eating and while 5 a day isn't a challenge for me my portion sizes of healthy meals have grown a bit too big. That's no surprise as I laugh loud, love hard and wear big accessories and lots of makeup. Less is more rarely features in my life. Previous blog posts have discussed my curves morphing into a round and while I'm all about body acceptance whatever shape one is, for me personally, my health is important to me and  keeping my curves in check while still enjoying good healthy food is the way forward with plenty of fun exercise in there. Plus I simply can't afford to replace my wardrobe, I have some gorgeous dresses there which require a Vivi/ Monroe wiggle and I refuse to let them go. As I say this is ongoing and I need exercise also for glowing skin and a happy mind. Whatever size I am I always ensure glamour at all times and work it like a moviestar.

2.Cooking
I can't tell you how many recipes I have seen and thought "I'm definitely making that." And then another recipe comes along and the same thought pops up and in the end none of them are made. Earlier this week I found a Nigella chilli jam recipe via Twitter. I committed to making it and goddam it was good.

I'm also trying to be more adventurous with fish dishes and I've been recommended a great fish monger whom I shall be visiting this week. On that note I also want to learn how to prepare a whole fish as it's a dream of mine to catch and cook a fish. I love the whole back to basics thing and being a vintage lover I know our war time sisters would have had the skills. I want them too.

On a boring note, I've made a start on sorting the Vivi pantry as I couldn't find a ruddy thing in there and it was tainting my cooking experiences. I loathe organising and admin but it got to crisis point. The pan and roasting dishes cupboard are done and the next (daunting) task is sorting the spice drawer. All random bags of spice shall be decanted and labelled to ensure a stress free cooking experience

3. New experiences
I love trying new things and one thing I've done this year has been photography. I booked Mr V and I on a couple of courses via Groupon just for the hell of it and I've found a new hobby and learned new skills (food photography is a bitch and I really need to nail this one!)  I also went on a secret vintage teaparty afternoon which was delightful and and hope to do more of them for sure! Windsurfing is next on my list
Looking ahead to 2013
4. Following My Heart
When I was little I used to always write. Whether it was stories, top 10's or profiles of my favourite things (horses and Madonna back then still on the list now) Then I grew up and became an adult and the only thing I would write were birthday cards and emails. I had a real craving to create and my writing was reborn in the form of this blog. As much as I'm thrilled if people read it I'd still do it if I had no readers as I enjoy it so much. The icing on the cake for me (I love foodie puns!) is that Vintage Life magazine are publishing a couple of my recipes. I'm so thrilled as it's my favourite magazine and a real achievement for me. I can't wait to see it and I had a wonderful photoshoot with my fave blogger Betty Bee so now have a set of great pictures that when I'm old and wrinkly can think "Gosh I was hot!" So by following my heart lovely things have happened and I've met some cool people along the way. I shall commit to keep on doing this.

5. Having More Fun
As I said earlier I say this every year. 2012 certainly has been fun for me (plus a few hardships thrown in there for good measure as that is life and I've dealt with them) I'm a believer in the law of attraction so if I focus on fun and happiness the more I shall attract. I also wish this to you all for 2013, wish you lots of luck pursuing your goals and send you lots of Vivi love from my big heart.

Vivi.x

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas Cooking

Happy Boxing Day dear reader and hope you all had the merriest of Christmases. I adore Christmas and this year really loved the chance to do more cooking especially making some naughtier and indulgent foods! So I thought I'd briefly share some of the things I enjoyed the most. It goes without saying Christmas dinner was heavenly but I imagine you get the gist hence no write up or pictures of that so thought I'd mention the less ambitious but no less delicious items in the Vivi kitchen.

1. Get Ahead Gravy
Jeez Louise - this had to be the highlight for me and I will most definitely be doing this again for futures roast dinners. It was a fair effort time wise but my Lord it was so worth it. The addition of port and cranberry sauce transformed it. It's a Jamie recipe so get it here.

2.Sausage Rolls
Mr V informs me that it's not Christmas without the above. I thought this year I would try my sort of own -that is the sausage meat not the puff pastry as I needed a bit more time to perfect the PP. I used pre made. I gave it a twist and added a smoked chipotle salsa inside the rolls, onion chutney in some and pear and apple chutney in another. That sweetness combined with the pork was to die for. My first batch were driven by sheer greed and were more of a sausage pasty. They were to die for seriously. If you fancy doing your own then I just mixed 500g pork mince with 1 rasher of streaky bacon, sage leaves, onion, garlic and salt and pepper. Easy and yummy.

3. Roast Ham
Smeared in mustard, studded with cloves and sprinkled with sugar (thank you Delia) this badboy was sugar and spice and bloody, ruddy nice. Melt in the mouth it accommodated a Christmas Eve buffet and is going in a pie with it's best mate chicken. I shall ensure that this gets a look in throughout the year and not just in the festive season.

4. Mince pie/Christmas cake ice cream
I cannot get enough of this. Forget Ben & Jerry's - this is sheer indulgence. Just mix in smashed up mince pies or add pieces of Christmas cake to vanilla ice cream and you have a dish of decadence. I used a Jamie idea of making it into a float by dissolving a few teaspoons of instant coffee and a couple of sugar lumps with hot water and pouring around the ice cream. For aesthetics serve in a vintage teacup. The choc sticks are mikados.

So there you have it some very simple and easy ways to make Christmas even more delightful. Roll on New Year  - I have a goose on order!

Vivi.x

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Why Having A Punk Rock Attitude In The Kitchen Rocks

I had a decent stint of cooking at the weekend and I was determined to experiment with an impulse buy that had been sitting in the cupboard for a while. A few weeks ago I was picking up the staples during my shop; vegetables, bread, eggs, dried juniper berries...I know - not a staple item in one's basket but I do like to buy at least one unfamiliar item to add pazazz to shopping. However I usually have a dish in mind but I had no idea where I'd start but I wanted them like most women want chocolate or shoes.

The JP's lay dormant in my cupboard until Sunday. I was looking for something new to cook. Game isn't something I've ever really dealt with and rather fancied trying it when a flash of inspiration came to me - could the JP's make their debut? Would game and the JP's be a match made in heaven? Or would it be hell? So I bought a mix of pheasant, goose, venison and pigeon and raced home to get going.

Attention! Vivi says throw away the recipe book!
I was so determined to make a really delicious game casserole but didn't really want to follow a recipe, I wanted to come up with my own but I was halted halted with thoughts of "will it work?" So I sent a tweet asking fellow foodies what they thought. No response. People were busy enjoying their weekend not fretting over game and berry combos or probably not even interested. Sometimes we're overwhelmed and saturated with cookery shows and books to the point we don't experiment. We're too busy trying to make our Jamie 15 minute meals the best ever and lose the ability to use our skills, follow our hearts and just mix it up Georges Marvellous Medicine style.

So feeling all Siouxie Sioux (and wearing Vivienne Westwood from head to toe in my mind) I just went for it. And blow me down it was blooming delicious! The sweetness of the juniper berries was a welcome presence with the rich gamey flavour of the meat. All I did was sweat down some onion, garlic, celery and carrot and set to one side. I then coated the meat in flour and browned it in the pan and re-added the veg and stirred. I added a glass of red wine and let the alcohol cook off then added about 300ml of beef stock, the juniper berries, a handful of mushrooms and 3 bay leaves. I seasoned with salt and pepper, covered with a lid and let it bubble for a couple of hours on the hob.

Gamey goodness
I served the sweet goodness with celeriac and potato mash, roast parsnip and carrot and some lovely sweet sprouts. The punk rock paid off. But I still listened to Classic fm throughout. The juxtaposition added to the anarchy in the kitchen.

Had to add a close up of the JP's!
So my call to you is throw away the recipe book, embrace your inner punk culinary godess and create something unique and special just like you.

Vivi.x

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Eat Like A Goddess

I first came across the beautiful and talented Lisa Clark in the summer when she had a guest spot on Betty Bee's blog. I completely fell in love with her writing style. When I was a teenager, magazines such as Just Seventeen were my second parents and those journo's taught me not only how to apply liquid eye liner but how to be assertive, remain individual and just, well, rock quite frankly.I actually depended on their weekly words of wisdom. LC's writing catapulted me back to those days as she writes for teen mags and I felt a lovely warm hug of words envelope me. She doesn't stop there either - she is spiritually rich which always floats my boat, she is an author and publisher, she coaches gals on writing and is the goddess and innovator of SASSYology too - I know! SASSY stands for Spiritual, Authentic, Sensual and Sensational You with the emphasis on being the mistress of your own reality which is so up my street. When she published a book earlier this year SASSY - The Go For It Girls Guide To Becoming The Mistress Of Your Destiny I was thrilled to high heaven. I'm now on my second read and I'm convinced I have taken my own goddess powers up a notch or two.
Goddess SASSY
Being a food, nutrition, eating and self esteem lover I was impressed and interested about the SASS Queen's views on the importance of eating well for overall health and not just weight. One blog post in particular talked about emotional eating which really struck me as brave, it's not easy to share such things. As well as reading the book I wanted to ask her more and almost vomited with excitement when she agreed to an intervivi-view! Rather than read about celebrity diets in trashy goss mags we should be listening to the likes of Ms (soon to be a Mrs!) Clark. I'm sure you'll be inspired getting to know this fabulous lady.

VV: I love your philosophy of enhancing the SASSY factor by nourishing the body with good food and exercise and happy that you’re empowering  sistas to make positive changes. You were really brave sharing with readers on your blog your journey to good health talking about the link between emotions and eating. Tell us what made you embark upon your journey and where are you now?

LC: I’ve always been a voluptuous/curvy/fat (delete as applicable) girl, but two years ago, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, and for the benefit of my health, I was told I had to lose weight. Now, I feel like I’m on X Factor - they love talking about the ‘journey’ don’t they?!! But my relationship with food and getting to know my emotional attachments to it has been my biggest learning, ever. In fact, I think I’m still just scratching the surface really. The thing is, once you start exploring your relationship with food, it opens up lots of ‘stuff’ about the rest of your life, in my case, I’ve found that my slightly fucked up relationship with money and worth has been intrinsically linked to my relationship with food, I mean, who knew?! So where am I at now? I’m still doing a lot o’ learning – but we seriously need to be teaching this stuff in schools, all I learned was how to make an apple pie, we should be learning about nutrition and what our body needs to fuel it efficiently…

VV: I totally agree. During your journey did you hit any stumbling blocks and how did you overcome them?

LC: Yep, most definitely…the biggest one is the fact I live with a 6ft 6 Viking so my view of portion size is slightly screwy. There’s nothing small in our world, but we’ve changed up to small plates, and the other big thing we’ve done that’s made life so much easier is that we’ve adopted an ‘eat clean’  diet, you don’t feel like you’re missing out on food!

VV: Good plan! You write books, magazine articles, coach aspiring writers and run workshops. With a busy life how do you achieve your health goals?

LC: It takes practice, that’s for sure. It’s all about the planning. The Viking and I have got pretty regimental with writing menus on the fridge for the week, ordering our grocery shop online so we’re not tempted by sweet treats and making sure I’ve always got things to snack on  - I love apple and peanut butter – yummo!

VV: I'm obsessed with the PB at the moment. Sometimes it can be scary changing habits. If someone wanted to be healthier where do you think they should start?

LC: Start really small, I think the big mistake people make is to go for a complete overhaul and that can simply be so overwhelming that you slip straight back into old habits. The same is true for going on the all or nothing diets too, if you take everything away, it makes sense that you’ll crave absolutely everything you’re no longer eating, so I’d just pick a few things like if you snack on chocolate which I used to do at least once a day, then swap it for the apple slices with peanut butter. Li’l steps for long-term results – if that’s not a saying, it totally should be.

VV: It should!You have a hot man in your life who is also your soulmate – good on you! Who does the cooking in the household?

LC: The Viking comes from a really big family so is used to cooking big portions, I am REALLY new to the cooking lark, and literally only started to follow recipes when we moved in together – the good thing is, I can only cook good-for-you food, The Viking however is all about winter comfort food like lasagne and roast dinners. He does make the most amazing home-made bread that I do indulge in the eating of at least once a month – it’s incredz!

VV: It sure sounds it! Do you have a signature SASS dish?

LC: I make an amazing eat clean Pad Thai – it’s my absolute favourite dinner. I’m also pretty good at quorn dahl too

VV: I'm drooling. God forbid you were on death row, what would your last meal be?

LC: Ohmystars…that’s so difficult…chicken korma and rice – ahhh I LOVE that…

VV: Fantasy dinner party – who would you invite? (dead or alive)

LC: Ohhhh I LOVE this question…Frida Kahlo, Nigella, Sophia Loren, Mae West, Alicia Keyes and Oprah – quite possibly the most delicious goddess circle EVER.

VV: I ADORE Oprah.And Nigella. A brief detour from the culinary – you’re a very funky looking lady. What inspires you fashion wise?

LC: I am obsess-o about 50’s/rockabilly stylin’, they dug the curve. I love leopard print, over the top accessories and shoes. I LOVE shoes.

VV: Gotta love the lep. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

LC: My nan told me any time that life gets a bit dark and sucky – my words not hers – ‘this too shall pass’ and it’s true, whatever challenge shows up, as they inevitably do, it WILL pass and you may be changed, it may have hurt, you may grow, you may have learned something new, but it does pass.

VV: Nans are so wise. What’s next for you, have you plans to write any more books or do you have other projects in the pipeline?

LC: I’m marrying the hot Viking on the 21st Dec which makes me so happy I could burst, next year I’m working with a global brand to tackle self-esteem globally, I’m launching a brand new programme called Write Your Freakin’ Heart Out working with gutsy girls to tell their stories through heart riffin’, journaling and life-living, and I’m writing a new book: The Happy Ever After of a Turned On Woman – I also plan on doing lots of kissing and shoe buying.

Gadzooks! This woman is a pure ball of feminine super hero energy isn't she? Get some yourself too and buy her book, it's fabulous. As a bonus - order from her website and you can get a signed copy and goodies or also from Amazon
A Must Read

Lastly let's all wish our SASS Queen lots of love and happiness for her future with her Viking beau.

Vivi.x

Thursday, 6 December 2012

My Veggie Week

I had to share with you my latest veg discovery. Previous blog posts have included me getting overly excited about beautiful coloured vegetables and that excitement never wanes. Apart from the nutritional benefits, I see veg in the way that others see beautiful ornaments and objets and I just wish that the rotting process didn't happen to veg as given the chance I would lovingly display them in my home alongside candles, pictures and other homewares!
Vivi Veggie Queen
Where possible I like to shop locally to support the surrounding farms and do tend to mix and match my supermarche and independent food retailer visits. I do find supermarkets a bit soulless yet I admit they are convenient and sometimes cheaper unfortunately.  I was absolutely on cloud nine last week when I popped into my local Morrisons for some foodie props for my photoshoot with Betty Bee. I thought I was going to burst with utter joy when I discovered the abundant stocks of weird and wonderful looking veggies. I made small talk with an old dear next the the blueberries just so I could show her what was eventually in my trolley as I had to share my excitement with someone. She was very polite god love her but I think she wanted to run away and hide behind the fish counter in all honesty. A little bit scared.
Check Out The Chard
There were leafy varieties of all colours especially the chard found in vibrant shades of red and yellow and a beautiful radicchio. I found mini peppers and orange and yellow tomatoes. I have an unhealthy obsession with jalepenos and have only ever had them from a jar so I was thrilled to find a fresh variety. I stumbled on a new salad leaf called mizuna which was lacey, spindly and pretty. The mushroom selection was also diverse and abundant so I filled a bag with all sorts of strange looking funghi.

 My favourite creations from the produce were a delicious and earthy mushroom and tarragon soup and last night I had the mini peppers roasted with spaghetti, chorizo and chicken. Heaven! The rest were donated to the Betty Bee Towers kitchenette and I believe a stew was made from that. I'm definitely going to go back and experiment with some other delights as there were a few things in there I hadn't even heard of so I'll look forward to another shopping trip. This time I'll try not to freak out the old dears!

Mini roasted peppers with pasta.
Vivi.x