Thursday, 15 December 2016

Blogmas Day 15 | Party Food Taste Test

Now that Christmas party season is in full swing you may find yourself invited to a soirée or two or maybe you are the one hosting a festive get together at your home, if you are the latter and thinking about buying in some party food from the supermarkets but unsure which ones to get then worry not as we have taste tested a selection for you. I have chosen a number of gluten free, dairy free as well as things that aren't free from party foods from M&S, Tesco and Aldi's and we have rated them for you.

Marks & Spencer
Marks and Spencer have a fantastic range of party food such as smoked salmon bagels, mini beef wellingtons and including free from ones too like pork belly and gluten free toad in the hole and mini chicken kievs.

Duck Spring Rolls
As these aren't gluten free I never tried them but both Iga and Steff said that they didn't like the taste of these, there didn't seem to be a lot of duck inside the rolls and they both said that they wouldn't have known what the filling was if I hadn't told them. 1/5

Asian Chicken Lollipops
These are gluten/dairy free and are tasty bite sized pieces of chicken. There is a sauce to go with them but I never used it as forgot to take it out in time from the freezer. 4/5

Mini Cheeseburgers
As these obviously have gluten and dairy in them I never ate them but both Iga and Steff enjoyed these, they are perfect bite sized cheeseburgers and look so cute. The burgers weren't dry but juicy gets a 4/5

M&S Duck Spring rolls; Asian chicken lollipops; mini cheeseburgerss

Tesco have upped their game this year on their free from ranges in all departments, I did find however that it was mostly gluten free rather than dairy free party food they catered for but since most people who have one intolerance also have the other then cheesey things aren't something we can eat.

Finest Prawn & Crab Baskets
These aren't marked as being gluten/dairy free but there is nothing in the ingredients that would make them not suitable for those who can't eat it. These were fine size wise but the lemongrass in them was so overpowering that you wouldn't have known that you were eating anything fishy as it took away the taste of everything else. 2/5

Finest Mushroom Bites
These are gluten free but due to having cheese in them then obviously not dairy free but these seemed to be the party food favourites, they are small mushrooms filled with cheese and risotto rice covered in gluten free breadcrumbs and seeds. Gets a 5/5

Bit disappointed in Aldi's selection of party food to be honest as the only free from that I could find was the pigs in blankets and the peri peri chicken skewers below, everything else contained wheat.

Outdoor Bred Pigs in Blankets 
These were really tasty and meaty, not dry and full of fillers like some sausages can be so gets a 4/5

Peri Peri Chicken Skewers
These were OK, a bit dry so may have tasted better if there was a sauce to go with them.  They weren't too spicy but has enough of a kick for spice lovers. 3/5

Cherrywood Smoked Pork Belly Bites
These contain barley so not suitable if you are gluten free but they seemed to be devoured quite quickly, they do take 50 minutes to cook though so bear that in mind when you are trying to time everything to be ready.  (M&S have Pork Belly in their party range that is gluten free and tastes so good if you are looking for a free from version). 4/5

What's your favourite party food? Where do you go to buy your party food from or do you make your own?

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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Blogmas Day 13 | Dairy Free Baileys

Vegan Baileys

I used to love Baileys with its creamy whisky flavour and was a regular fixture in our house over the festive period starting on Christmas tree decorating day as it was tradition to have a glass and listen to Christmas tunes while we put up the Christmas tree. Sadly as dairy doesn't agree with me I have had to miss out on this tradition but I figured that it cant be that difficult to make as it is essentially cream, whisky, coffee and sugar. Apparently Bailey's do have a dairy free version made with almond milk but I don't think it is sold in the UK. 

I did do a quick search on Google to see if whisky is gluten free since it is made with grains and some experts seem to think that the distillation process removes the gluten from the grain meaning it is free of gluten, there are others however that don't agree with this way of thinking so I will leave it up to you whether you want to try this recipe or not. I was fine when I drank this but I suppose it depends on your levels of sensitivity, maybe start of with a glass and see how you are with it and then slowly increase the amount to see if you are suffering from any intolerance.

I've used almond milk for this recipe but you could use coconut milk instead if you prefer, there is enough for about 4 glasses but if you need to make a bigger batch then just multiply the quantities.


Whisky 50ml
Almond Milk 350ml
Vanilla Extract 1 teaspoon
Agave Nectar 4 tablespoons
Coffee 1 teaspoon dissolved in 50mls water

Add all your ingredients together either into a jug and give it a good mix or use a blender and blitz it for about a minute.
Serve with ice.

A perfect after dinner drink (even better with some chocolate)

Let me know if you give this recipe a try :)

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Monday, 12 December 2016

Blogmas Day 12 | Christmas Playlist

I'll be honest, this post is a bit of a cop out as I had all my posts scheduled up until yesterday and my plan was to do a bit of baking for some upcoming posts and have that up today but as it was my work's Christmas night out on Saturday yesterday was a write off as I spent most of it either lying down on the sofa or back in my bed.  I'm still feeling a bit rough today! 

The only thing I could think of that required minimal effort was a Christmas playlist, so here are a selection of my favourite Christmas songs.  Normal posting will resume tomorrow as I'm on holiday the rest of the week after I finish work today so have a few foodie and drink (ugh! Im totally off alcohol just now) posts lined up.

What's your favourite Christmas song?

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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Blogmas Day 11 | Spray Painted Pine Cones

After clearing out one of our cupboards recently I came across a bag of pine cones and decided to use them for a Christmas centrepiece, what I had in mind was to spray paint them in pastel pink, blue and mint colours and put them in a vase. Finding those colours of spray paint was proving quite difficult as I couldn't find them on eBay or in Hobbycraft but I then remembered that I had a can of white spray paint already and thought if I sprayed them white I could then use the cosmic shimmer paints I had to give off the same effect.

It never came out how I wanted it to! The effect was white pine cones with the faintest of colours and well, looked a bit crap if I'm being honest. I then headed to Hobbycraft and hunted high and low for decent colours of spray paint and could only find bright pink, royal blue and yellow plus these were £9 a tin so not exactly working out to be a cheap craft project! I did however find metallic gold and silver spray paints for only £2 each so settled for those instead.

As it was a cold but dry day I went outside to spray them rather than inside as no matter how much I cover the area where I am spray painting I still manage to get it over the edges. Although I just spray painted the pine cones all over you could spray with an adhesive and roll in glitter for a sparkly look or you could even dip them into paint for a thicker coating to them. Leave them overnight to dry properly and then you can use them however you want; you can put them in a vase or even a bowl, tie some twine and use them as tree decorations or even for decorating your wrapped gifts. I put my pine cones into a glass bowl with some battery powered fairy lights to give off a warm cosy feel and I think that it looks really good even if I do say so myself :)

What colours would you spray your pine cones?

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Saturday, 10 December 2016

Blogmas Day 10 | The Christmas Tag

Blogmas Christmas Tag Post

What is your favourite Christmas film?

I have got so many favourites (you can see my top ten favourites here) but Elf probably has to be my all time favourite as it still makes me laugh even though I have watched it so many times. I think the humour in the film appeals to both children and adults so it is a film for everyone to watch.

Is your Christmas tree real or a fake?

After a few years of having a real Christmas tree where we picked a tree that was far too big and we had to squeeze past it to get in and out of the living room as well as obscuring part of the tv, trying to stop our cat Ben drinking the tree water and then vomiting it all over the floor, oh and he poked his eye on the pine needles and ended up with conjunctivitis two days before Christmas; all that as well as finding the pine needles even months later made me decide on a fake tree. I bought a lovely one flocked with snow last year but that wont be going up this year and in its place a manky old one in the garage will be going up instead as it would likely get wrecked by the kittens as they climb up the tree and chew the branches!!

What refreshments did you leave out for Santa when he visited you on Christmas Eve all those years ago?

Christmas Eve I would go down to the local grocer shop with my mum or dad and we would buy a carrot for Rudolph (why is he the only one that gets the carrots, why did the others never get left any?)and a can of sweetheart stout. At bedtime I would leave out the stout, mince pie and a cigar for Santa and Rudolph would be left the carrot. Such a Scottish Santa, booze and cigars! Lol

What tops your Christmas tree?

Usually it is a vintage fairy but as I am not putting out my vintage decorations this year due to the likelihood of not having any left after the kittens have destroyed the tree I am putting up a Star instead.

Favourite Christmas memory?

This is a tough one as I have lots of memories from Christmas but I used to love going to see my Gran and Granda on Christmas morning before spending the rest of Christmas Day with my Nanna and Granda, Auntie and Uncle and Cousin. My cousin Karen used to hate prawns so I always used to eat her prawn cocktail as well as my own which meant I could hardly eat my main course as I was so full from eating the starters, this is not a problem that I have now as I can pack 'em away no problem :)

Was there a present that you asked for but Santa never brought?

Yes!!! I asked for a My Little Pony for both my Christmas and birthday for a few years and I never got one (Mum said it was because they looked cheap and nasty)in the end I got one for my 21st birthday to shut me up as I kept bringing it up every year that I was deprived of one. I found this t-shirt in Primark the other day so I just had to buy it so I can wear it round to my Mum's one day :D

What makes Christmas special to you?

Spending quality time with loved ones, eating good food, watching Christmas feel good films and giving people presents that they love.

What is your favourite Christmas song?

Fairytale of New York by Kirsty McColl & The Pogues is definitely my favourite but also Slade and Shakin' Stevens get me into the festive spirits too.

Without meaning to sound ungrateful what was your worst Christmas present ever?

It was from my ex boyfriend many years ago but I received an Animal Hospital video (as being a vet nurse he thought I would like it, er..... no it's just like watching what we do at work but on my tv at home!), a Scooter cd, I had asked for a Gameboy and got a hand held Star Wars game instead plus a tub of Pringles and 20 Malboro Lights (I used to smoke years ago) at least the last two were of some benefit to me I suppose!

I tag : Ellie - Desperately Seeking Lifestyle
Iga - Iga Berry
Pilar - Beauty and More by Pilar
Sarah - Belles Moments
Danielle - Underland to Wonderland
Claire - G is for Gingers

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Friday, 9 December 2016

Blogmas Day 9 | Dairy & Gluten Free Cheeseboard

Vegan Cheeseboard

Since I no longer eat dairy there is one thing that I miss and that is cheese, I used to love a cheeseboard at Christmas to snack on while watching festive films along with a bottle glass or two of wine with the Wensleydale and Cranberries cheese and Brie being my favourites. Now I need not miss out on a festive cheesey feast as Sainsbury's have recently started stocking cheese in their free from range, Yaaayyyy!! It is made from coconut milk rather than soya which is a plus for me as I don't like soya products and it even comes in different flavours including my favourite Wensleydale & Cranberries, Yaaayyyy again!!

Vegan Cheeseboard

I was going to make this a vegan cheeseboard but could I find any biscuits that were suitable for vegans in the supermarkets? No! If they didn't contain egg, they contained honey but I did come across one type that were egg, dairy, gluten free and didn't contain any honey and they were the Angelic Cocktail Oatcakes that I picked up in my local shop, the other crackers I used was date and walnut toasts from the Marks and Spencer's Free From range which were both gluten and dairy free but it does contain egg.

Vegan Cheeseboard
Vegan Cheeseboard

Now onto building the cheeseboard:

1 Get yourself a large surface like a wooden chopping board, slate or ceramic platter or a marble serving tray.

2 Pick your cheeses, go for a few different varieties and textures if you are having a few guests otherwise 2-3 types are enough for just the two of you. Cut up some of the cheese into bite sized pieces and arrange on your surface and put the rest of the cheese block on there too so people can cut their own later on.

3 Add in the extras, I took a couple of ramekins and filled one with olives and the other with Red Onion Marmalade (Sainsbury's also do a good one so pick that up when you are in buying your cheese), other things you could use are other chutneys, pickled onions, fresh nuts or if you eat meat you could add some charcuterie to the board as well.

4 Next place the crackers on the board, again a few different varieties and textures such as oatcakes, seeded crackers, crispbreads or toasts. You could also add in some fruits such as grapes, figs and apples or veg like celery and cucumber.

5 Decorate your board by filling in the gaps using fresh herbs, salad leaves, cranberries, pomegranate seeds or even edible flowers.

If you have small canapé plates then your guests could use them for their cheese and biscuits, otherwise napkins and cocktail sticks for sampling the cheese works just as well plus it saves on the washing up as time is short at this time of the year.

Vegan Cheeseboard

If you know of any other dairy free cheese then comment below so I can try them out, I can't find grated cheese anywhere so if you know of any then holler in my direction as I'd love to get some. If you are looking for other dairy/gluten free Christmas goodies then check out my Free From Christmas post.

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Thursday, 8 December 2016

Blogmas Day 8 | Snowman Soup

Christmas Crafts

Every year I make up a small hamper for a few of my relatives with some homemade cookies, popcorn, crisps, chocolate along with some snowman soup for them to open and enjoy on Christmas Eve. If you aren't sure what snowman soup is, it is a hot chocolate with marshmallows, chocolate and a candy cane and when it's made up it looks as though a snowman has melted in it. It is perfect for drinking on a cold winter's night while snuggled up watching a Christmas movie.

They are really easy to make and would make a fantastic stocking filler, for a work colleague along with a cute Christmas mug or in a Christmas Eve hamper.

Christmas Crafts
Christmas Crafts; Candy Canes

What you will need:

Cellophane Cones - you can buy these cheaply on eBay
Drinking Chocolate
Mini Marshmallows
Mini Rolos or Choc Chips
Candy Canes
Curling Ribbon

How to make:

Put enough drinking chocolate into a cellophane cone for 2 drinks. Twist the top of the packaging, cut the excess off and sellotape it down. Place the hot chocolate package into another cone (this prevents the hot chocolate getting mixed through everything), top up with some chocolate chips and the mini marshmallows. Twist the top of the cone and tie off using the curling ribbon. Sellotape a candy cane to the front of the cone.

Hot Chocolate Recipes
Christmas Crafts
Christmas Crafts

To turn the Snowman Soup into a delicious drink; heat up milk or hot water and spoon enough drinking chocolate for one mug and stir. Add in the choc chips and mini marshmallows then stir using the candy cane. Drink and feel festive.

Christmas Crafts; Candy Cane Hearts

Have you got a favourite flavour of hot chocolate? What toppings do you like to put on yours?

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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Blogmas Day 7 | Top Ten Christmas Films

Blogmas Blog Post Ideas

There is nothing like getting cosied up on the sofa and watching a Christmas film to make you feel all festive, there are plenty of them on TV just now that you can watch or maybe you have your own Christmas movie collection at home that you love to put on.

Here are my favourite ten films (in no particular order) that I love to watch and make me feel all warm and Christmassy inside:

No lead up to Christmas is complete without watching Elf, I watch this film every year without fail and it still makes me laugh out loud.  I'm not particularly fond of Will Ferrell films but I totally love this one and don't think I will ever tire of watching it. 

The Holiday
For a bit of Christmas comedy and romance The Holiday ticks all of the right boxes, even Mr M has this down as one of his favourite Christmas films so it's not just a chick flick.  Jude Law is looking extremely hot in this film too if you like a film with a bit of eye candy in it.

The Muppets Christmas Carol
I love watching this film on Christmas Eve while munching on mince pies and singing along with the Muppets to 'One more sleep til Christmas'  being my favourite song.  Can you believe this film is 24 years old?!

Love, Actually
Another Crimbo RomCom that has both really sad moments as well as really funny ones, from Liam Neeson's character having to deal with being a single parent after his wife's death to Hugh Grant's dance scene as the Prime Minister in Number 10.

Home Alone
Keeeeeevvvvvvviiiiinnnnnnnnnn!! Love this film, also how cute was Macauley as a kid?  I have no idea how they could manage to forget about their child as they head off on their Christmas holiday (on more than one occasion!) but but it does make a good film.

Arthur Christmas
One of my more recent Christmas film favourites, with voices from Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie and Imelda Staunton, where Arthur ensures that no child is forgotten about at Christmas when a present for Gwen is left behind.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Clark Griswold and his family show us how not to do Christmas! This is another film that even after watching many times still makes me laugh with cousin Eddie rocking up outside their home with his trailer and when they go to take their Christmas tree home.

Bad Santa
Fed up of all the feel good Christmas films that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Then this is the film for you with its chain smoking, alcoholic, thieving, sex addicted Santa Claus!

Its A Wonderful Life
The oldest film on my list as it was made 70 years ago in 1946, it is about a man who thinks that his life is no longer worth living and decides to commit suicide on Christmas Eve. He is saved by an Angel called Clarence who shows him how other people's lives would be had he never existed.

The Nightmare Before Christmas
I love Tim Burton films and this is probably my most favourite film ever! I do see this more as a Halloween film but other people see it as a Christmas one so that's why it will feature in my Halloween favourites too.

What is your favourite Christmas film?

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Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Blogmas Day 6 | Free From Christmas

With more and more people becoming dairy, gluten and wheat free you can expect to find a pretty decent range of products in the supermarket nowadays and this year I have found that they have all upped their game with their Christmas goodies. People with intolerances/allergies can now eat mince pies, Christmas cake, a huge selection of party food and now even cheese which up until a few years ago was unimaginable to think that you could enjoy versions of food that you can no longer eat

Here is what I have found in the stores' Free From sections

Dairy Free Chocolate Advent Calendar; Dairy Free Selection Box

What is Christmas without chocolate? Whether you are vegan or intolerant then there are selection boxes, advent calendars and even boxes of fancy chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth. These Marks and Spencer's Dairy Free Selection are sooo good and these little Booja Booja truffles are the most amazing chocolatey things I have ever tasted!

Sainsburys Free From Iced Mince Pies
Dairy/Gluten Free Mince Pies

Mince Pies
These iced mince pies from Sainsbury's are the best ones I have tried and they are wheat, gluten and dairy free. Also they look so pretty with their dusting of gold glitter and go lovely with some Mulled Wine or Cider. If you are just gluten free, Marks and Spencer also do a mean mince pie too.

Sainsburys Vegan Cheese; Violife Parmesan

Sainsbury's have a good range of dairy free cheese made from coconut milk with Cheddar, Cheddar style and caramelised onion, Wensleydale style and cranberries, Greek style and even garlic & herb soft cheese, all suitable for vegans. Other stores stock soya cheeses if you like those but I am not keen on soya products. If you want to find out how to do a dairy free cheeseboard I have an  upcoming post on that :).

M&S Christmas Party Food
Tesco Christmas Party Food

Party Food
For years party food was off limits as they were mostly pastried, breadcrumbed or battered with an inch of its life but now you will a larger offering of party snacks for you to devour at your festive get-together. Marks and Spencer is the winner with their selection but I've just noticed that Tesco has added a few items to their Finest range too. One thing that I have noticed though is that many of the gluten free party foods were cheese based so if you have more than one intolerance (which many do) then you can't have them either. I picked up these cocktail sausages, Asian chicken lollipops and the Yakatori chicken skewers from the M & S range, I will be doing a party food taste review post with a few other items soon.

Sainsbury's Gluten Free Pigs in Blankets

Christmas Dinner
If you are having the traditional Roast Turkey, then you will find no gluten/dairy in there but your trimmings however are loaded with them from the stuffing, gravy and sometimes even the roast potatoes have a coating on them if you buy them ready made. All the supermarkets seem to now have gluten free stuffing, pigs in blankets, you can even get gluten free croquette potatoes made by Mash Direct. If you are having Christmas pudding for dessert then both Sainsburys and Tesco have a gluten & dairy free version, I'm not a Christmas pudding lover so will have to pass on giving it the taste test.

If you have found anymore Free From Christmas products then let me know as I love to try them out or not if you think they are awful :)!

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Monday, 5 December 2016

Blogmas Day 5 | Slow Cooker Cherry Cola Ham

Ham in Cola Recipe

I know some people will screw up their face in disgust at the thought of this recipe, I mean I did this myself the first time I had heard of it but it is a recipe that totally works as it has the right combination of sweet and salty. I usually cook this overnight in the slow cooker and walking into the kitchen in the morning you will be met with the most amazing aromas. It. Smells. So. Good.

Nigella does a Ham in Coca-Cola recipe and this is my take on it, having tried both the cherry and the normal flavours of cola I'd say that the cherry version is far, far better as it adds a sweeter taste to the ham. It is a Christmas favourite in Chez Denise usually being cooked during the night of the 23rd and  ready for eating on Christmas Eve at lunch time and finished off on Boxing Day, you can eat it in sandwiches, with mash and green beans (my favourite) or chips.

What you will need

Unsmoked Gammon Joint
Cherry Coke
2 Celery Sticks
Large Onion

How to make

Slice your onion and chop the celery sticks into quarters then throw them into the slow cooker.
Remove all the packaging from the gammon joint and place into the slow cooker and top up with cherry Coke until 2/3rds of the ham is covered. I only used around 400mls of the cherry Coke in my slow cooker but it depends on how big the gammon joint is on how much liquid you will require.
Cover the slow cooker with the lid, turn on to low and let it cook for around 6-8hours overnight. You will notice that the treacle colour of the cherry Coke has now turned clear, no idea how that happens :).
If you eat the ham while still hot you will notice that it has a "pulled pork" look to it but if you allow it to cool down before cutting then you can cut into slices.

Fancy glazing your ham? Cut the yucky fatty layer off and using a knife score diamond shapes into the fat, if you have whole cloves you can poke them into each diamond shape for added Christmas effect/taste. Mix 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 teaspoon of mustard and 2 teaspoons of brown sugar into a cup or bowl, then pour over the ham and place it in a hot oven (180deg) for around 30 minutes until it starts to go golden brown.

Slow Cooker Recipes
Slow Cooker Christmas Ham
Boxing Day Recipes

I can guarantee that this will end up on your menu time and time again as I'm yet to meet someone who has made this not like it. What's a Christmas favourite food in your house?

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