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Chloe Tries || The New M&S Italian Collection

My love of a good pasta dish is no secret. I’ve recently found a couple of fab spots for dining out, but really, I love making pasta at home. It’s quick, easy and the simplest of ingredients can make a truly delicious dish.

M&S have some fab pasta deals, which I regularly keep going back for – it always pleases after a long day in the office. What’s more, it’s just £5 for fresh pasta, sauce and salad/garlic bread! And when the range is all sourced from traditional Italian family run businesses to bring authentic recipes and taste, you know it’s going to be good.

They have some fantastic new launches on their Italian collection, which I had to share. I’m slowly making my way through them – but there are so many more I need to try….

The Gorgonzola & Walnut Ravioli was delicious.

A blend of gorgonzola, ricotta, mozzarella cheese and chopped walnuts inside Italian egg pasta, it was creamy and mild, with a subtle blue cheese taste coming through after. It sure was one sophisticated, beautiful pasta.

M&S Italian Range

I’m addicted to fresh filled pasta right now. There are so many new flavours at M&S I’m excited about including the Pea & Mint Girasoli and Basil Pesto Girasoli. All of the fresh filled pasta from M&S is made in Verona, Northern Italy – so although I’m dying to go to Italy next year (for the food of course), I feel like I’m still getting to taste something pretty authentic!

There’s a new fab sauce in the range too…

…a flavoursome chunky vegetable, with smooth tomato sauce, red & yellow peppers, red onions and courgettes. It tastes rather autumnal, with chunky vegetables adding something extra to each dish too – Sometimes you need a bit more than just pasta and a creamy sauce!

M&S Italian Range

I do like shaking it up with the sauces, however I do LOVE the fresh pesto and the tomato and mascarpone which will always be my faves. I just toss through some additional veg to help with the five a day, and give some extra texture and juiciness/flavours.

The M&S pasta sauces are actually made by a small family run business in Calabria, Southern Italy! How good is it to know exactly where the products are produced, and that even the sauces are from authentic family run businesses too! They are classically made like you would at home with a soffritto base (vegetables slowly cooked in Italian extra virgin olive oil then combined with Italian tomatoes and fresh herbs, grown in the fields outside the factory) – here’s to family recipes. We all know how important and loved they are.

Salad or garlic bread…

That is the question. It all depends on the mood, and sometimes I like to do both…I just alternate between picking up salad and garlic bread, and stretch out the sides. Salad is great to add some green (which I always need with dinner), but garlic bread…mmm…now that’s what we’re talking about.

Of course there’s a new bread too…a cheese and pesto flatbread…

M&S Italian Range

It’s made using a slowly fermented dough, and is hand topped with basil pesto and mature cheddar cheese. It’s seriously delicious! So much flavour. A beautiful soft bread!

I love the garlic ciabatta sticks from the pasta deal too. Sometimes I add a little cheese, because who doesn’t like extra cheese?!

And for those super speedy meal nights…

There’s a range of ready meals. But not as you think you know them. Even the ingredients in these microwave and oven ready dishes are sourced from the same traditional businesses! So I don’t mind picking one up every now and then, when all I want to do is pop something in the microwave or oven.

There are several new meals in the range – so many delicious sounding (and looking) combos; from roasted mushroom risotto (Italian Carnaroli rice with earthy portobello mushrooms and a rich, silky true and mascarpone cream) to Crab Linguine (Italian linguine with sweet Atlantic crab, dressed with parsley and a chilli and shallot sauce and rocket). I tried the King Prawn Bucatini last weekend, and it made one fab lunch to help refuel for an afternoon of packing…

M&S Italian Range

Made with Italian pasta, marinated prawns, and chilli dressing, and finished with sweet Santarella tomatoes, it was packed with flavour, yet not overly saucy (just the way it should be). There were plenty of prawns too, which sometimes tend to be lacking in other ready meals. A great quick pick!

SUMMARY:

  • Quality: You know you’re getting good quality, and authenticity, as everything is sourced from traditional Italian family run businesses. The ones I’ve tried from the new collection so far, have all been fab – and that just adds to my usual choices (I love the filled pasta!).
  • Ease of cooking: Super simple to cook – perfect midweek meal!
  • Best bit?: Not sure I could pick. The Gorgonzola & Walnut Ravioli is SO good though!
  • Price: The pasta deal is £5 and includes a pasta, a sauce and garlic bread/salad, serving two people – bargain! The ready meals are priced between £2.75 and £4, which isn’t bad either!
  • Would I recommend trying? – YES! I tend to get this pasta at least once every two weeks! It’s super simple and always pleases – so yummy!
  • Availability: In store – I’ve found them in the larger and smaller M&S food stores so hopefully you shouldn’t struggle to get your hands on some!

What’s your fave go-to speedy, convenient meal for mid-week?

Chloe xx

*This post is in collaboration with Marks & Spencer. All views my own. 

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Lifestyle|| Dealing with Home Sickness

I think some of us never grow out of feeling homesick. We might get more used to the idea of being away from home, but you never stop missing it really. And when you feel ill or if something more major is happening, all those feelings come flooding back.

Needing to escape reality. Having your parents look after you, or be there with you just for a little while. Wanting to be in the home you class as a safe space. Somewhere nothing can get to you.

homesickness

I’ll be honest, I’ve really struggled with being homesick over the years – it’s getting easier since I now love my job, and my social life (including my chosen family away from home) but it’s been tough. I’ve been in London for over five years now, but since my little sister announced she was having a baby in Feb 2016, and with other things happening in the family last year, I think the fear of missing out on everything, being there for them all and wanting them close too got more intense. I just get homesick.

But I know I’m not the only one, and you can’t have everything you want. If I want the London life, excitement and to be near the majority of my friends, I need to stay here. So I started a number of different things to deal with my family FOMO and feeling hopeless. They have really helped me to manage it, not to feel so low about it all, and so I wanted to share in case it could help anyone else in a similar situation too. So here they are.

Dealing with home sickness

Video calls or FaceTime is invaluable these days.

You don’t just get to hear your family on the other end of the phone, feeling so far away, you can see them too now and so easily. Almost like they’re there with you. It somehow makes me feel closer to them, like I’m not really that far, and I even get to see my niece so I don’t miss out on quite as much. It sounds cliche but they really do grow up fast! Schedules can be busy, so you could even plan a video call every week to make sure you get the face-to-face time with family. My sister and I like to do a Sunday to finish the week.

Make plans to go home.

Once you’ve had your visit, plan the next one. This gives you something to look forward to and helps to feel like it’s not really long until you’re snuggled up at your parents house again, with tea being delivered every half hour – just in case you fall asleep from being so comfortable. It really does help to know when you’re going back next. You can make all those plans for what you want to do inbetween too!

Focus on the positives and what’s keeping you away from home.

Whether it’s the career you love, partner and soul mate (if you believe in that) or your group of friends, there’s got to be something rooting you to the town/city you’re in right now. Whatever it is, think how happy it makes you, what it’s adding to your life and focus on that. Your family will ALWAYS be there for you no matter what, or where you are.

Change the things which are making you unhappy elsewhere in your life.

Think about what’s making you doubt being where you are right now. Is it a crappy job, a toxic relationship, a flat you hate? Now think how you can change that. You’re in control of you own happiness. So grab it by the horns and makes some alterations. Get job hunting, hire a cleaner or set a cleaning rota, leave that relationship that’s dragging you down. It could do you wonders and totally turn your life around. Chances are, like I said before, if you’re enjoying life where you are then your homesickness shouldn’t be as prevalent.

Talk to someone about it.

Chances are, a number of your friends who also live away from home will be having similar feelings. Sometimes knowing there are others in the same boat helps. Either way, friends/partners can be there for you. They can help you look at the up side, make plans to give you something to look forward to and help you evaluate what’s making you happy and what isn’t. Don’t keep it all bottled up..share the load. These people care about you so they want you to be happy too!

I hope this helps a few of you who might be feeling the same as me. It is hard. It’s not easy to get through. But we can do it!

Do you use other techniques to manage home sickness?

Chloe xx

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Eating Out|| Pizza East, Shoreditch

Pizza and crust dips make me one happy woman. Ok, make that freshly stone baked pizza. With toppings which give something a little different. Not asking for much am I?

Recently the work girls and I headed out for Musical Bingo. But before singing your hearts out, you just have to fuel up. Lucky for us, Musical Bingo was right underneath Pizza East. One pizza spot I was dying to try. It had been on my list for too long.

Pizza East looks and feels a lot cooler than some of the recent pizza spots I’ve visited. It’s got a contemporary warehouse feel, with low hanging huge lamp shades and long sharing benches, as well as smaller tables. It has elements of the diner feel, through it’s chequered napkins, but it’s definitely somewhere a touch towards the more fancy end. You could easily do date night here.

The menu doesn’t just feature pizza.

Pizza East, Shoreditch

That one had me. It might be called Pizza East but its actually an Italian. Does that mean you HAVE to have pizza. Well, yes. But no, not really. There are also ‘wood oven’ dishes, including beef lasagne, salt baked salmon and mac and cheese – which always catches my eye as we know. There are some delicious looking veggie dishes too. One too good to ignore, we just had to order it to share before our main, alongside another dish from the small but varied starter menu.

Pizza East, Shoreditch

The pea, pecorino, mint and lemon croquettes are a must-order. They’re lightly coated and crisp, but soft and delicate in the middle. The flavour was beautiful. Almost fresh with a light cheese coming through. These were a HUGE hit around the table.

Pizza East, Shoreditch

The burnt aubergine was fantastic too. Served with rich tahini, mild and just crunchy walnuts and juicy pomegranate it was a superb mix of flavours and textures. The burnt aubergine itself was super soft, almost slow roasted.

Pizza East, Shoreditch

When I say you have to order pizza, this is why…

Pizza East, Shoreditch

All of our pizzas looked delicious. A table full of pizza is a good sight right?!

The margarita is always said to be how you can tell a good pizza place. Being one of the girls go-to orders, she was obviously placed to comment. This did not disappoint. With buffalo mozzarella, it was up there with the best in her mind.

I had the aspargus, pancetta, egg and cream. The asparagus was shaved rather than chunky, adding enough flavour and being easier to eat as a pizza topping. The pancetta was crispy, and smoky in taste – it was definitely worth having meat that night for this!

Pizza East, Shoreditch

I’d never had egg on a pizza before. It’s actually one of the reasons I picked it. The slightly runny yolk adding a fantastic touch. I loved it. Definitely something I’m going for again. I didn’t miss the tomato base at all, with the toppings combining with the cream to make one fab pizza.

Pizza East, Shoreditch

The Aubergine, tomato, scamorza, pesto and the Veal meatballs, prosciutto, cream, lemon pizzas both went down extremely well too!

There are plenty of drinks to choose from too. Parched from the heat, a diet coke hit the spot but I was eyeing up the cocktails and Aperol spritz too.

We couldn’t quite manage a dessert, and were due to head downstairs for the fun bit of the evening. However the menu did look good, and the Peanut butter & chocolate brownie parfait and Basil panna cotta with strawberries definitely nearly had me.

Summary:

  • Price: Pizzas are priced between £10 and £15. The other dishes range from £7 to £18. It is slightly more expensive than artisan pizza spots, but if you’re after a fancier location it is worth it.
  • Food: There are options other than pizza, but … you HAVE to get a pizza. Go for the pancetta and broccoli! The croquettes are a must if you’re having a starter.
  • Drinks: Plenty to choose from, including cocktails.
  • Atmosphere: An upmarket pizza diner. Contemporary warehouse. Could easily be a date night spot!
  • Wait: Do try and book. We managed to get a table we could have for an hour and a half before the reservation arrived.

Have you been to any good pizza spots I should try recently?

Chloe xx

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Fitness|| My tips for first time spin-goers and those looking to get into it

Spin classes can look daunting. Booming music so you can hardly hear. The class instructor shouting directions, to speed up, or increase resistance. The sweaty exhausted faces that leave the class.

But trust me. The feeling you get after doing one is amazing. Those endorphins pumping through your body. The elation for smashing it or just getting through.

The one thing that gets me out of bed for an early morning spin class before work. I always remind myself that I never regret it.

Time goes pretty fast too. And at least you haven’t got to think about what you’re doing next, as each next move is commanded your way.

Each class does differ, and the instructor as well as the music tracks can make or break it. However there are many core aspects and so I wanted to share some tips for those thinking about taking up spin or even those who haven’t previously enjoyed a class – some points to motivate you and get you in the right mind frame. Because you totally got this!

spin class tips

Setting up the bike – make sure your bike is comfortable to cycle on. The seat should be the right height, so you can extend you legs, but not lock them out too straight, the handle bars should be low-key to encourage the core to engage, but comfortable too, and how far the seat is set back deoends on where it’s comfortable. Arrive early and double check what feels best for you. Everyone is different.

On the note that everyone is different, ignore all others in your class unless it’s going to motivate you to work harder. Everyone has different fitness levels. We all have different maximum resistance and fitness or pain thresholds. The bikes tend to differ too – so a turn up for you might increase resistance significantly more than a turn up on someone else’s bike. Just do you.

Which brings me to…It’s your workout so push it. You should leave tired. You shouldn’t think “oh well I could have pushed harder”. But in the same way, you know how hard you can push. If you make it too easy, you’re only cheating yourself. And you’re the one who wants to see the results, whether it’s stamina, general fitness, muscle toning or weight loss. Do you. Do your best. Come away feeling proud.

If you don’t like it then try another class. All classes can differ – the instructor makes such a difference to the workout and music choice. If you don’t like one class it doesn’t mean you won’t like another! I find some really boring. And it’s the main reason I get up on a Tues and Thursday to spin before work – because the instructor is awesome!

Just listen to the music and get into your own head. Hopefully your instructor will choose to use some awesome tracks. Get into the music. Go to the beat. Even sing along in your own head – you’ll should be too breathless to sing out loud. It will help the time go faster if you try to enjoy It!

Be equipped. Remember your water to keep hydrated (essential!), and help you recover between tracks. Water will help keep you going. A towel is also really handy to wipe away the sweat. It can be super distracting otherwise.

Calories burnt obviously depends on your weight, as well as many other factors. But spin is well known for being a great calorie burner! A 45-minute spin class can have you burning in upwards of 480kcal. All the uphill stints are great for building leg muscle too! It’s a great workout.

There you have it. My top tips for those wanting to try spin, and even those who didn’t like it the one time they did! I hope you have fun!

What’s your favourite workout?

Chloe xx

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Recipe|| Paprika Roasted Sweet Potato, Wilted Kale & Hummus

I recently went to Katy Mitten’s for dinner and she made me this AMAZING roast sweet potato & chickpea salad. It was with rocket, feta, cherry tomatoes, pomegranate and avocado. We had it with a sour cream dip, cracked black pepper and I added some sriracha too. It was absolutely delicious! She doesn’t show off her cooking enough in my opinion!

Well this got me hooked (again!) on roast sweet potato. I can’t get enough of the stuff.

Pair that with my constant addiction/craving for hummus, and you already have a tasty combo in my opinion. But sometimes, you need a little more. Some extra veggies. Some additional texture. Sometimes you want it to look/feel special too. Especially if you’re having a ‘me’ day and just fancy treating yourself.

Paprika Roasted Sweet Potato, Hummus, Wilted Kale & Red Onion Recipe

Well, I had one of those days to myself. A day to do nothing but blog, eat and watch Netflix. It was well needed. Some time to sort out life stuff. Time to reflect, plan and just get used to things now (there’s been quite a few changes this past month).

So after a long run (I managed 9 miles!), I made this brunch and settled in for the afternoon. In my mind, if you add an egg, it makes it brunch. Am I right or am I right? 

I added some chilli flakes to my hummus, topped it with paprika roasted sweet potato, wilted kale and red onion, and finished it with a poached egg. It was delicious! Perfect slow Saturday (well after the run) brunch – and a good source of protein for post-workout too!

Paprika Roasted Sweet Potato, Hummus, Wilted Kale & Red Onion Recipe

Roasted sweet potato and hummus is my new fave combo! Would have been delicious with avocado too! The recipe is below.

What do you do for your lazy days? Do you treat yourself by cooking something nice or getting something in?

Chloe xx

Paprika Roasted Sweet Potato, Wilted Kale & Hummus

Could be a brunch if you add an egg 😉 

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 200 g sweet potato
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • tsp smoky paprika
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 tsp butter or margarine
  • 2 eggs (optional)
  • 80 g curly kale stem removed
  • 170 g hummus low fat
  • 1 tsp chill flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°. Line a baking tray with foil. Chop the sweet potato into small chunks. Toss in the oil, sprinkle in paprika, salt & pepper and spread over the lined baking tray. Pop in the oven for approx. 20-25 minutes until going crisp - turn halfway through cooking.

  2. Roughly chop the red onion. Fry lightly in the butter for a couple of minutes. 

  3. If you're having eggs (brunch time?), prep the eggs and start them going in the saucepan - if you're stuck on how to cook poached eggs, search poached eggs in the bar above, and check out how I do mine using cling film.

  4. Tear the kale into shreds, add to the frying pan with the red onion, cover with a lid and allow to wilt for 2 minutes. Toss and recover for another minute or so.

  5. Spread half of the hummus around the edge of each small plate. Sprinkle with chilli flakes. Pop half the kale and red onion in the middle of each plate. Top with roasted sweet potato, and finish with the egg and a sprinkle of black pepper. It's ready to serve!

Paprika Roasted Sweet Potato, Hummus, Wilted Kale & Red Onion Recipe

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