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christmas 2013: from handmade gifts to hearty grub.

just a few snaps from this christmas. this festive season has been lovely. there's been christmas bake offs at work, festive afternoon teas, my first clandenstine cake club and i even had a little go at making some handmade christmas gifts.

party canapes with pidy.

hope you're all enjoying the festive season and had a lovely christmas! this is year i was in charge of starters over at my mum's house. and since i'd been kindly sent some pidy pastry products to review, i was inspired to try out a few canapes for my family to share. it actually turned out to be like an afternoon tea style canape course which i rather liked. you could maybe try these out for new year's eve party food too! so here is what party food i made from pidy pastry (ooh that's a bit of a tongue twister!)

festive afternoon tea at harriet's secret tearoom.

Mum and I have been up to lots of festive things lately; including making a chocolate christmas wreath and going to the christmas party at the birmingham coast to coast. So to top it off, it made sense to go for a little festive afternoon tea. We headed over to Harriet's Secret Tearoom in Melton Mowbray to sample their Christmas style lunch with beautiful mismatched vintage crockery and cutlery.

Amendment: This tea room sadly doesn't exist anymore but there is a new tea room in its place - I'm yet to try.

lily o'brien's chocolates.

calling all chocolate fans! grab your christmas lists and get your chocolate quills at the ready. here's a new addition which would make the perfect present for any sweet tooth... a box of luxurious treats from lily o'brien. 

the irish based gourmet chocolatier lovingly creates an assortment of themed gift boxes, hampers, keepsakes personalised chocolate gifts and wedding favours. not to mention a pretty delicious desserts inspired collection which i was lucky enough to sample. and no wonder mary o'brien's company has won so many awards!

cinnamon spiced christmas tree brownie pops.

feeling festive yet? the amount of christmas baking i've been doing this year has certainly sent me in the right direction. armed with an abundance of chocolate, a new silicone christmas tree mould, an explosion of edible gold stars and a fist full of candy striped cake pop sticks... i set about making these cinnamon christmas tree brownies for my office festive bake off.

london christmas markets: in pictures.

this weekend i paid a little visit to the big smoke to wander around the market stalls of festive food and generally soak up the christmas spirit. we headed to southbank christmas market as well as winter wonderland at hyde park - a great opportunity to try out my camera and eat lots of lovely food. there of course were lots of gift, craft and jewellery stalls but i was of course all about the grub!

favourite thai, burton on trent.

in the search for somewhere new, a cuisine i don't normally try and somewhere i don't usually venture, i thought i'd have a little peruse on tripadvisor. although living in the midlands means all the brilliant places of london are a bit of a trek, i'm lucky enough to live in a little pie of counties. leicestershire, derbyshire, warwickshire, west midlands, staffordshire and nottinghamshire are all just a short car journey away. mmm pie. 

so long story short, i stumbled across this place which comes up as the numero uno restaurant out of 95 in burton on trent. (seriously go check out the reviews to see how much people are raving about it!) so did this become my "favourite thai"? well i can certainly see why everyone else loved it so much...

chocolate christmas wreath cake.

last weekend i went to not only my first leicester clandestine cake club but my first festive club! my mum and i made this christmas chocolate wreath cake from last christmas's women and home magazine. it has prunes and lots of golden caster sugar so is really rich and sticky; with a chocolate crème fraîche topping for even more indulgence. a great alternative to christmas pudding, yule log or fruit cake!

giveaway: have a night in on morrisons!

the first few advent calendar windows have been opened, the christmas tree has taken over the living room, you’ve pulled a random name out of a hat to spend £5 on, the christmas pudding is getting more boozy by the day and you’ve managed to mend the fairy lights… it must be december! and yet the words on everyone’s lips are “can you believe it’s already december?”

now all the christmas prep has begun, wouldn’t it be lovely to cosy up on the sofa with a mince pie in one hand and a glass of wine (or sparkling grape juice) in the other watching your fave christmas flicks? i thought so too :)

morrisons kindly got in touch to collaborate on a giveaway, to celebrate the relaunch of their tasty m kitchen range which is lovingly developed by professional chefs. their m signature all butter deep filled mince pies were just last week rated second overall in bloomberg’s annual mince pie tasting. 

making sushi at home: sushi simplicity by miyuki matsuo.

if you follow my little old blog, you'll know that i'm quite frankly sushi mad. so when i was asked if i'd like a preview of the upcoming sushi simplicity by miyuki matsuo it was a no brainer. on the shelves in early 2014, i couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy and try out some diy sushi at home! sadly i don't have a sushi belt in my house (yet) but i have to say still had lots of fun playing around with techniques colours, and flavours.

black olive, chorizo and chicken stew: a josé pizarro recipe.

what can i say... olive it! i was recently sent a variety of black and green olives to play with along with some brilliant recipes by spanish chef josé pizarro. it took me ages to pick which one to try first as i love anything with olives in. almost as much as the pun in the campaign name... there is also a cheeky little video of the recipe if you fancy cooking along with the celeb chef himself.

christmas foodie gift ideas.

i really enjoyed putting together a round up of foodie gift ideas last christmas - so thought i'd have a little research what was out there for 2013. i really think food related gifts are becoming a real trend these days as everywhere seems to have a section on their site. not that i'm complaining - i love it!

now i may be generalising here, but i'm yet to meet someone who loves baking and doesn't simultaneously love cath kidston. this floral spatula, along with a few other baking sets would make a brilliant stocking filler or secret santa for the office foodie. 

carrot peeler £9.99
this giant sharpener style carrot peeler from lakeland is absolutely brilliant! long gone are the days of peeling veg being boring. gimmicky but equally pretty useful. just don't try and fit a potato in there...

curry set £35
i've been eyeing up this curry set from next for a while. with lots of dishes that will keep warm at the table - it just screams dinner parties! i'm thinking it would be brilliant for nights of homemade tapas, chinese and morrocan tagines alike!

indoor allotment £24.95
how cute is this? i've always wanted a living herb garden in my kitchen and now thanks to prezzybox i could have one with a picket fence and everythang. but what would i put in the shed? 

custard cream biscuit tin £10
i've seen nice biscuit cushions and cupcake teapots, so why not a custard cream biscuit tin? even better, filled with custard creams :)

scizzas £19.95
another prezzybox find, can you guess what these are for? move over pizza slice, for scizzas simply snip down those pizzas in double time. 

just call me delia tea towel £10
what can i say - this tea towel is just fantastic! i found this on notonthehighstreet along with just call me nigella, just call me jamie and one which simply said "come dry with me let's dry let's dry away..."

cherizena christmas coffee £3.25
i was recently sent cherizena christmas coffee to review and can wholeheartedly recommend it for those who love christmas in a cup. read my cherizena coffee review here :)

what do you think to my foodie picks? will you be buying any for friends and family... or perhaps a treat for yourself? 

bbc good food show winter 2013.

the pastries have been baked, the juices have been squeezed, the cupcakes have been iced and the speciality spirits have been stacked with precision. not to mention the hundreds of cheese entries lovingly laid out for the world cheese awards 2013. that's right... the stalls were all set for the bbc good food show of winter 2013! i couldn't wait for my first visit, let alone my first time on the press list :) so here are a few of my favourite producers and brands from the show, as well as the food we enjoyed throughout the day.