Mini Benefit Cosmetics Haul

Recently I spotted that my trusty Bourjois Healthy Mix was actually a bit too orange on my skin and it really put me off applying foundation or any makeup at all. Was it always like that? Have I spent over a year walking around looking like I should be sitting on the shelf with the satsumas? Will it work for me when the warmer months come around and I catch a little sun? Finding the right foundation is a journey for everybody and there will always be those moments where we look back and shrug our shoulders in confusion at what we must have been thinking at the time.

After realising that I tried to cast my mind back to any other products that I had used or sampled that were not complete disasters and after a lot of thought I remembered having a sample of the Benefit Hello Flawless foundation and how it worked for me super well in terms of both coverage, application, lasting power and most importantly the shade.

So the trek to the local House of Fraser Benefit stand commenced on one of my days off from work. Going into town is something that I generally avoid if I can but when it comes to getting something like foundation or concealer they are things that are better to look at, examine and ‘feel’ in person. But then there is the issue that comes with that; being able to see other things on the shelves, having an expert trying to sell you things and that you know in the back of your mind there are other products you would like to pick up.

Beauty store booth haul

As well as picking up the Hello Flawless! in the shade “I’m Pure For Sure” I picked up a full size of the Hoola bronzer. In my mind my mini sample size of the bronzer was running super low, it has a noticeable dip and a bit of pan going on but there are also a lot of other bronzers sitting in my drawer already AND this stuff lasts so long, so that had to get added to the list of things to purchase. At that point it turned out to be three for two and it would have been rude to pass such an offer up right?

To finish off the mini shopping spree I decided to opt for a full size of the They’re Real! mascara because after using a mini size in the past I know how much it works for my already lengthy lashes to extend them further without making them overly thick and clumpy or too over the top for my usual natural looking face of makeup. The only time this mascara doesn’t work perfectly for me is if I put it on before using a makeup setting spray but over the last month or two getting into the habit of spray before mascara has been pretty easy to achieve.

What is your favourite Benefit Cosmetics product? Let me know in the comments below!

Anatomicals Face Masks*

Who doesn’t love a good face mask session right? In fact it’s one of the few beauty related things that my partner and I can do together which makes it that little bit better and more enjoyable too! Maybe those that mask together stay together?

Packet sachets of face masks by anatomicals

So recently we decided to give these Anatomical face masks a try. The packaging of all Anatomicals products is so bright, colourful and quirky that they really help to draw you in and whilst they are now found at Boots and Boots Online they come at a super affordable price point too.

After much umming and ahhing my partner went for the tropical hydrating mask that was a white mask with a hint of coconut in the scent; it looked and had that distinctive smell of suncream.

I went for the mattifying mask that turned out to be a pale blue mixture with the slightest hint of mint in the scent but only in the most mild of ways which meant there was only a little tingling to the face.

Anatomicals couple face mask selfie

Each mask recommends leaving it on for 10-15 minutes to start to dry before using a warm cloth to wipe it away. The mattifying one certainly seemed to dry faster on the face than the hydrating one but this is something that you would rather expect given their properties.

As well as drying faster the mattifying mask really helped to bring the nasties out of the pores and the effects rolled on to the next morning when I found my face to certainly not be oily at all!

My partner found the hydrating mask to be exactly that but it was not something that lasted a long time after removal. His face was noticeably fresh and glowing the next day but nothing too extreme and as the hours went by it returned to looking as it always does.

The masks being made by a cruelty free brand is also a winner in my books, though I could not find anything on their website about products being vegan or otherwise; clarity on this in the future would be fantastic.

A good piece of fun and I will certainly be looking into more products from the brand in the future. Do you have an Anatomicals favourite?

*Gifted as PR. All opinions given are our own.

Lasagne With Yoghurt

I love a lasagne with all the cheesy joy and the hearty herb flavours running through the tomato sauce base but over the years my use of cheese has become a little excessive; the cheese sauce is more just like melted cheese and the amount that gets grated on top becomes one terribly oily puddle as it cooks.

Whilst being a certain weight or a certain size isn’t something that I give too hoots about I am all about enjoying comforting food that is tasty but not excessively bad for me. Sure, there are times when nothing other than cheese on cheese with a side of cheese is going to hit the spot and that is more than okay too.

There was a time, five years ago or longer, when I used to go to Slimming World and we talked about tips and tricks to make those calorie heavy meals a little bit better and “syn-free”. That was something that was great for some people but for me it just made a lot of food feel lifeless and rather unloveable.

Lasagne with turkey mince in a tomato sauce and a yoghurt sauce instead of a cheese sauce

But a little while ago I found myself with a huge amount of natural yoghurt, a small amount of cheese and some turkey mince and found myself thinking about doing a slightly healthier lasagne. When my mental health is struggling a little bit I either gorge on all of the bad things in view or find myself trying to be that bit healthier to give my brain that extra lift of energy and nutrients against the bad thoughts.

On this particular day I found myself going for the slightly healthier option of one of my top comfort foods. It was a risk but it was one that I was surprisingly willing to take and it did not turn out too badly though the yoghurt mixture could have done with additional seasoning or perhaps some yeast extract to give the impression of cheese but the dish felt light, fresh and gave me that psychological impression of healthy and nutritious that I was needing in that moment.

The end result served up certainly looked like a normal lasagne but it did have a lot more liquid content going from the yoghurt into the tomato sauce layer rather than it being a thick and structurally sound construction. Looking at it from the serving container it was obvious this was no ordinary lasagne and I can imagine that putting a few people off.

Glass Pyrex dish of Turkey mince in tomato sauce with a yoghurt based sauce instead of a cheese sauce

This is not simply replacing a cheese sauce with natural yoghurt however. The yoghurt needs to be mixed with a beaten egg to help bind it together and give it a little bit more of a glossy sauce look after cooking. I used approximately one egg to 250g of natural yoghurt but this does not need to be perfectly precise. Inside the mixture you also need to add seasoning and any spices or herbs that you may want to run through it to compliment any flavours within the meat/tomato sauce layers as well as this will give it an added boost rather than it simply being creamy and replacing a white sauce of a lasagne.

This is not something I would consider doing every time lasagne comes to mind but it does make a nice little change sometimes and is something that I would be more likely to lean towards in the summer as a dish to go with a salad.

M&S Chocolate Bars

Sometimes there is nothing quite as comforting as sitting down with a cup of tea and a couple of squares of chocolate. It isn’t something that I often do but when I do it feels like the world around me has paused and everything is that little bit more calm and joyful.

I will admit that Marks and Spencers was never really a place that crossed my mind for chocolate but obviously in hindsight it makes a lot of sense that a store like that could pull off some quality bars. My friend kindly gifted me this quad of flavours but there is a good chance I will be taking a visit in there soon to acquire a few of their other varieties.

Flavour infused chocolate

Each of the bars has a little tasting note guide on the inside with recommendations as to what the chocolate would be paired well with. These suggestions could be a drink to sip with it or with a food item that you could layer them with or make into one incredibly yummy dessert.

The dark chocolate with raspberry had a really clear texture of tiny bits of raspberry in as well that could have resulted in the bar being rather rough but the raspberries fade away in the mouth, leaving a strong punch of flavour, to make for a joyfully soft, rich and also fruity balance.

Description of taste notes by M&S

All of these bars were an absolute delight to eat and I would recommend any of them, depending on a person’s tastes or purpose for the chocolate, especially the white chocolate and vanilla one for a soft melting warming bar or the dark chocolate with ginger and lemon to go with a cup of green tea on a quiet afternoon of relaxing on a weekend.

The ginger and lemon one was certainly my favourite because of being able to combine it with my favourite hot drink but also because the little crystallised bits within the bar gave it a soft crunch to contrast the smooth texture and delightfully rich chocolate.

I am always looking for a delightful new flavour of chocolate or brand to try out so please do leave your recommendations below. In the mean time I would highly suggest giving some of these M&S bars a try.

Products I Want To Use Up In 2018 #2

I went so classy with where to store my empties. After building up a few here and a few there I grabbed the first thing that I could see that would contain items and maintain kind of upright on the large chest of drawers; a Primark bag. It should at least last well until I become careless one day and put in a soggy container when, before you know it, there will just form a destroyed uncontrollable mess of what was once a paper bag.

At first glances it looks like I have absolutely smashed getting through things but several of these items were already in use before the start of 2018 or they were relatively small in size compared to the area of application. In fact some of the things included in my empties are not even part of the categories I mentioned wanting to succeed in on my first post of this project but given they are all beauty related I still wanted to share my thoughts on the items in question. Progress on a lot of these categories will slow down for the next month or two, I am cynically sure of it, but will then hopefully boost back up during the middle of spring.

Things I Have Finished

As I got my empties out of the fancy bag of the month I decided to quickly add up how much the products would come to in financial value and whilst part of me wishes I had not discovered it being a bag with a rough value of £50 it also made me feel good to know that my money (or the money of others if these items came to me as a gift) has not gone to waste.

Beauty product empties

  • Two Radox bubble soak bottles. These lather up well and have a gentle mild scent. They are super cheap too.
  • Five Barry M nail paints. Some of these bottles are at least five years old. Some of the products have dried up, gone gloopy and others there just isn’t actually enough left in the bottle to use. I didn’t even open the yellow one to try it out as I know from previous use it does not suit me. The ones that are okay but not for me, I will see if a friend or one of their children want them.
  • Rimmel conceal stick. I had this for way too long but managed to use it all up recently by applying it under foundation.
  • Mini of Benefit Cosmetics They’re Real mascara. This is a really enjoyable mascara for me that brings length, lift and definition to my lashes.
  • Three Body Shop hair products. These bottles are an example of me being terrible at trying something out and then moving on. The separate shampoo and conditioner for oily hair only had a couple of uses left but I had left them on the side throughout the entire time of using the ginger shampoo. I was able to finish them all off in January and now just have one shampoo and one conditioner on the go!
  • Bubbly shower gel by Lush. This is a really thick product and lathers super well so I only needed a small amount of it at the time but it does make squeezing the bottle without cracking it quite a challenge. It is probably up there as one of my favourite Lush scents as well.
  • Superdrug cucumber peel off face mask. This tube is something that I have had opened for about a year and the texture was starting to change on the last couple of applications. It helped to soothe the skin but even at the beginning it never really helped to clear the deep grime out of my face. I have another one of these tubes to work through…
  • Four body lotions/body butters. The Body Shop strawberry butter was already over half used up and I find that the strawberry products from them are always that little softer in texture so ended up using it a lot more than I do for other body butters. The other products, including two minis, were body lotions which soak into the skin super quickly and as a result I ended up using more of them on each application; I tend to use products on my feet, legs and my arms (I am 5ft8 so there is a lot of me) so the mini ones were good for a couple of uses and I did consider holding off for using them during travelling but with no plans to travel any time soon that seemed a bit of a waste. I loved the scents of every single one of these products.

Things I Have Realised

Some things have been going better than others, even where there might not be any physical empties here. A candle has been lit most days and, apart from when I need to be on the bus at 06:50 on a Sunday morning, the application of mascara most days has got underway. Applying lip balm or hand cream frequently is much more of a challenge than I expected and in fact the one in my bits and bobs bag inside my handbag has just been lugged around town and to work and back every single day of the month.

This has really got me into the habit of using a few more things up though and considering them in my daily life. It has reminded me that there are some things where a little can really go a long way (I am looking at you body scrub!) and there there really is no need to have back up items of them. But it has also highlighted to me just how much junk I leave hanging around; used cotton pads from nail varnish remover or matches that have been used that sort of thing and how I really need to get a mini bin for the bedroom to put it straight into the trash.

As well as specifically aiming to finish items off I have been taking the time to consider products I am using a little bit more, especially nail varnish, and whether the formula is okay and how I feel about the colour against my skin tone. There have been several that are too old to work with or they just do not suit me and these have landed in the goodbye pile as well; at some point in time I loved them or the colour was all the rage but now they don’t have a place in my collection and given their age and price at the time it isn’t something I feel too bad about.

Things I Am Hoping For

Making process on items is really tough and breaking bad habits to start consistently using various items is even tougher but I am hoping to carry on moving in the right direction. Progress over the next month or so might be a little slower than I would like but progress, however big or small, is better than staying still.

I am very nearly out of bubble bath and I am hoping to be able to resist purchasing any more for at least the next month whilst trying to work my way through some of my older, cheaper and/or poorly scented shower gels. This will be a challenge, especially if the shower gels help to produce some bubbles but not a lot, but in the end it will help me to move less satisfying products out of my collection to actually make room for the bubble bath to have a home!

As mentioned earlier, I have a terrible habit of leaving things hanging around (including trash) and returning everything to its home or the bin straight away is certainly something that I need to work on. Leaving things all over the place results in me opening multiple items that are essentially the same product or not remembering where I left something and neglecting it for weeks if not months on end. Nail varnishes would be the biggest example of this where I end up doing my nails in bed on an evening and leaving the bottle on my bedside table and before I know it there are ten bottles getting in the way of me putting down a glass of water.

When it comes to me purchasing things that I have run out of or need, such as deodorant, I am going to make an aim to switch to cruelty free and vegan products. Whilst I am unable to go vegan with my diet due to allergies, medication and general health issues I am able to make more conscious and thought through purchases; I acknowledge that this will not always go to plan and some brands are defined in different ways by different people that can result in confusion but trying is a good place to start right now.

What are you aiming for in February (product wise or something completely different!)?

Naked Noodle Pots

When it comes to lunch, I am terribly lazy and claim to be too busy to stop and eat something. To some extent the statement is true and especially as everybody else flocks out of their offices around the same time to queue at the microwave and get all the condiments in sight and reheating leftovers takes longer than it does to actually eat them.

There being so many people in the kitchen makes me incredibly anxious as well because my brain insists everybody is looking at me, the chubby makeup lacking figure, and judging my choice of food.

So I wanted to find something quick that meant I could dash into the kitchen and back to the office again to avoid the hoards of people and also to get back to my work on genuinely busy days. When doing the food shopping online with ASDA I discovered that the Naked Noodle pots were on offer at 75p each and they sounded like just the thing for me; allowing me to dash down, use the instant boiling water tap, grab some cutlery and return up the two flights of stairs to my desk.Multiple pots of naked noodles

Not only did they appeal because of the practical aspect of them but also because they come in at being pretty healthy, low in calories at least, and having ingredients lists that sound like they should be packed with flavour. They certainly sounded more appealing than eating a sandwich made several hours before, stuffed into a bag and never making its way to the office fridge…

The ones marked with three chili symbols to represent hot are certainly that and if you have a bit of a runny nose on the day you go to eat it you might need an extra couple of tissues at hand. They are packed with the ingredients indicated and that really comes through when it is all mixed together. I have a low tolerance to spicy food, essentially because my taste buds are wimps, so I find these a little too much whilst the medium two chili symbol is the perfect level.Naked Noodle packaging

Whilst the level of heat does vary, a lot of the base ingredients of soy sauce, chili, garlic and coriander are the same which means there is a similar undercurrent in all of them. With the odd other ingredient like lemongrass and the fact that the stock base varies with things like chicken and beef stock to help give each one some distinction; the most obviously different one in terms of flavour and appearance is certainly the Thai green curry green lidded pot.

The Thai green curry one was, without doubt, the one that I was most nervous to try but the flavours were the most impressive and well lasting to make it a really enjoyable warming to the stomach and soul lunchtime meal on a dreary Wednesday afternoon. Despite not being mind blowing in terms of flavour the Chinese chow mein one is a great pick-me-up pot that feels like a cheeky little takeaway treat but the freshness and healthiness shines through to give the brain a little calming cuddle.Quick cooking guide

 

The noodles go soft in the boiling water but still keep enough structural integrity that they are not soft or mushy by the time you delve to the bottom of the pot. This is a welcome relief as some egg noodles can tend to go to mush if left in boiling water for too long. This shows that they have taken the time to perfect the texture and experience of eating the meal as well as the flavour; so many companies focus on one thing, such as practicalities, and let other things fall by the wayside instead.

What is your favourite quick, easy but tasty meal to have when you are working a busy day in the office? Also, if you have given these a go please let me know which flavour you love the most in the comments below.

Homemade Beef Burgers

These burgers were possibly the best I ever made and, even though I have eaten many burgers whilst out and about, they compared to very few that have lodged within the memory. It wasn’t until sitting down to write this post, considering the way the burger was made and how the chips were put together, that it clicked as to what they actually remind me of and in that moment I started to shed a few tears.

Crying over a burger, at times I can see why men call us women a bit over-emotional, isn’t it incredible how food and certain cooking processes can spark a particular set of memories. The memories that came to mind with this burger is both a joyful one but also a painful one; there are certain memories that have been ruined by the exposure to truths or others opinions and your mind is torn as it tries to remove the bad and focus on the pureness of the memory and moment itself.

I can tell you are interested in what that memory is so let me fill you in. Every now and then, whenever I had the chance and my Grandad was free, I would find myself sitting at my Grandad’s kitchen table for dinner as I was staying the night at his. We used to take the dogs Jack and Bonnie, and then one day just Jack, for walks in the woods that you could get to through the fields just at the back of his garden and then we might go to the park and for a walk by the duck pond before being absolutely exhausted and flopping at the kitchen table but smiling and laughing away. His wife would cook us a real treat of homemade burgers and chips that would come in a little wicker basket with paper at the bottom and the kitchen would smell of the oil spitting out of the chip fryer. It’s the only meal I remember eating at that dining table, though I am sure we had numerous other meals too, but the smiles and laughs as well as the vision of the basket of food remains strongly in my mind.

Making burgers rarely happens in the Cooking Up A Treat household but when it does that memory always comes flooding back. Partly the brain lures me towards making them subconsciously to spark the memory in my mind and another part desperately tries to get me to avoid making them so I don’t get launched into dwelling on the past. Still, at least these burgers were tasty and cooked well!

Homemade burger and chips

Ingredients (For Four – I did this and then used half for burgers and half for meatballs)

  • 500g pack of mince. We used beef but any sort would work well.
  • A small onion, grated (yes wear eye protectors)
  • Two garlic cloves, finely grated (please keep those eye protectors on)
  • One large carrot, grated (you are going to have some tired hands)
  • Pepper, salt, oregano and curry powder
  • Two small eggs, beaten
  • Burger buns
  • Cheese, we had some leftover brie so I opted for that
  • Salad, chips, whatever you want to go with them!

Beef burger and brieMethod

  1. Put all your grated ingredients, mince, herbs and spices and the beaten egg into a large bowl. This bowl needs to be one you can get your hands into and then also sit somewhere in your fridge.
  2. Mix all those ingredients together making sure that it is all evenly combined and that the egg has distributed well across the mixture. Cover the bowl and put the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  3. Take the mixture out the fridge and split it in half. Doing this allowed me to make four burgers with one half and twelve large meatballs with the other half.
  4. Form the burgers and put them on a tray, covered, back into the fridge. Make the meatballs and put them into an airtight tub (I split them with layers of cling film to stop them sticking together) for the following day.
  5. You can either now cook the burgers on a tray or do them in a large pan on the hob. I tend to do them on the hob at a high heat to seal the burgers and then turning the heat to medium-low and cooking them for an additional 20 minutes or so (obviously check it is cooked properly and is piping hot before you serve). Make sure you carefully flip them occasionally to ensure an even cooking. Doing it this way keeps them moist and does a gentle cooking as well; I always get paranoid about drying them out on the outside but the middle still being a cold raw ball of mince!
  6. Serve. I put some cheese at the bottom and top of the bun before stacking them up but obviously go with whatever works for you.

Storage/Reheating

When storing the mixture and then the burgers and/or meatballs raw make sure that it isn’t near any cooked meats or products that are open and intended to be eaten raw. Where possible put it on the bottom of the fridge as this stops any raw juices dripping down over other things. Basically please follow basic food hygiene recommendations.

If you make these as soon as you purchase the mince you can also seal the mixture and put it into the freezer, shaped or not, so it is ready to go for another time. I find this to be great given the size of the packs of mince, especially the better value ones, and there just being a couple of us in the Cooking Up A Treat household. You can get a huge box of mince, make some burgers and meatballs to freeze and then just freeze the rest of the mince to use in a spag bol down the line; it works out cheaper than buying pre-made ones and saves on food waste too!

Once these have been cooked they can be eaten cold. You could reheat them, making sure they are piping hot, but this might dry them out and they will be lacking the same original flavour and texture so would recommend just cooking as much as you need and storing or freezing the rest for future use.

What do you love putting into your burger or meatball mixture?