Two whole years of blogging & a giveaway

simple cake decorating

Gin & Tonic cake post here.

Today marks A Life of Geekery’s second birthday. When I started this blog, I had no idea where it might lead. Did I think I’d film my recipes with Loyd Grossman? Hell no. See my recipes on the side of products in a supermarket? Dream land. It’s been an incredible two years and I honestly feel that without my blog to focus on, I might have gone crazy from all the medical drama that whips in and surrounds me from time to time. So thank you!

And next year? Who knows. I’ve been playing with the idea of You Tube and filming more recipes, maybe that will happen.

I wish I could send a thank you to all my regular readers, instead I’m running a giveaway to win a retro sweet hamper from All Occasion Sweet Shop. The hamper includes: Sarsaparilla Tablets, Kola Kubes, Sherbet Lemons, Pineapple Cubes, Midget Gems. Chocolate Limes, Blackcurrant & Liquorice, Haribo Hearts, Pink Millions, Blue Millions, Flying Saucers, Foam Strawberries, Parma Violets, Candy Whistles, Lovehearts, Double Lollies, Drumsticks, Sherbet Fountains & Space Dust.

If you’d like to win this whole lot of retro sweet awesomeness, just use the rafflecopter widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Mojito jellies & five garden party tips

We still have a month or so left to enjoy our gardens in reasonable temperatures this year so I thought I’d share a recipe for mojito jelly – a perfect garden party treat – along with a few tips to make party planning as stress free as possible.

MOJITO JELLY

Mason jar style shot glasses courtesy of Drinkstuff.com. Keep reading for the recipe…

One // Keep food simple and prepare as much as you can the night before to cut down on any last minute rush or stress. One pot meals like chilli con carne are great for feeding a crowd whilst ‘build your own’ options like tacos are an easy way to cater for everyones’ dietary requirements. Whatever you decide on, a good rule to follow is that unless you have enough room to seat all your guests at a table, don’t serve anything that needs cutting up. No one wants to tackle a steak whilst balancing their plate on one hand.

Two // Forget matching garden furniture. Picnic blankets, benches, dining chairs and bean bags all make perfect garden party seating. Look around the house, some indoor furniture lends it’s self perfectly; nests of tables and tray tables make great places for guests to rest drinks.

Three // Don’t be too shy to ask guests to help out or bring things. There’s always someone willing to take over the barbecue, bring along dessert or help you set up.

Four // Keep a stack of blankets, cardigans and jumpers to hand ready for the temperature drop. Even if the weather is glorious you never know what our British weather might bring, especially as night time falls. Candles and chimineas will be welcome additions and bring some cosiness as well as the opportunity to toast some marshmallows.

Five // Have a few entertainment ideas ready to boost the mood. Background music is a good start, especially if you can use something like Spotify to let your guests queue the playlist themselves. There are some great board and card games for large groups (Articulate, TabooCards Against Humanity) and if there’s children; some garden friendly games will keep them occupied, but don’t over plan.


Now, back to the subject of food. This refreshing mojito jelly recipe can easily be made alcohol free but if you’d like to add rum, you can sub in a few measures in place of some of the water.

LIME AND MINT JELLY

To make approx. 1/2 pint of jelly you’ll need:

Juice of 1 lime
8 mint leaves 
200ml water
2 tbsp sugar
6g gelatine powder
 

Using a blender, blitz the lime juice and mint until smooth.

Heat the water and sugar over a low heat until the sugar is entirely dissolved. Then sprinkle over the gelatine and whisk until combined. Stir in the mint and lime mixture then pour in to clean molds and chill.

I used these cute mason jar style shot glasses, from Drinkstuff.com. Seeing as they’re quite large for a shot glass, they’re the perfect side for mouses, cheesecakes and jellies. I love the old country style of them and I’m guessing by the popularity of mason drinks jars on Pinterest that some of you will love them too.

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Roasted Aubergine Pasta

I’ve never really been a ‘sandwiches for lunch’ kind of person. Sure, sandwiches can be pretty magnificent, but day in day out they lose their appeal quickly. This aubergine pasta recipe is something you can bulk cook, store in the fridge for a few days and enjoy hot or cold. Add this in to your lunch menu to freshen things up and put a smile on your face as you take a break.

I’m starting to learn to sit and eat my lunch with no distractions and actually take some time to myself. Spooning something mindlessly in to my mouth as I fly through emails provides zero satisfaction.  Turning ‘work mode’ off for just half an hour really makes you appreciate the food more and you’ll come back with a bit more energy for the afternoon ahead.

Sweet and flavoursome with a tomatoey tang, this roasted aubergine pasta is whipped up in around 25 minutes, with only 5 of those actually hands on.

easypasta

The basis of this recipe comes from a Nigel Slater supper in The Guardian, a dish my Uncle told me is one of his simplest ‘go to’ meals. As always, I’ve changed the recipe. Firstly, I think the addition of the onion and parmesan is very welcome here and to be honest, what dish isn’t improved by more onions? His recipe calls for eight tablespoons of oil for two servings, I understand this is to compensate for the lack of sauce, but I’ve cut that in half by simply adding more tomatoes. Olive is Nigel Slater’s oil of choice for his recipe but given that the smoke point of your average olive oil is around 190 degrees C and we’re about to cook the aubergine at a temperature higher than that, I prefer to use an oil that I know won’t be releasing volatile compounds.  This wikipedia chart is a good reference to help you decide, but I use a good quality rapeseed (canola if you’re American).

auberginepasta

To make enough for two lunches:

1 Red onion
2 Garlic cloves
1 Aubergine
140g Pasta 
300g Cherry tomatoes
4 Tbsp Rapeseed oil (or other high smoke point oil) 
 
To serve:
Parmesan
Basil
 

Begin by turning the oven on to 200 degrees Celsius. Cut the onion in half then slice in to thin wedges. Lay the onions across the base of roasting tin. Peel the garlic cloves then thinly slice and scatter over the onions.

Remove the top from the aubergine and slice in to thin rounds. Place the aubergine in a layer over the onions then add the cherry tomatoes on top. Season heavily and drizzle in the oil. Roast for around 20 minutes.

When the aubergine is half way there, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente. I prefer this dish with spaghetti but feel free to use whatever you have to hand.

Remove the roasting tray from the oven and give it a good stir through with a fork, then add the drained pasta and stir again to coat each piece.

Serve with a block of parmesan and some torn basil leaves.

This post is part of the Flexioffices‘ #liveyourlunchbreak challenge. They have offices all over London and some particularly cool offices for rent in Soho.

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Avocado & Rye Bread Toasts

This past two weeks have been ruled by final assignments for one of my degree modules. I’ve been reading, highlighting my heart out and trying to plan mammoth essays and although there’s been plenty of coffee, there hasn’t been many real breaks. It’s daft really, because I know that they boost overall productivity- it was drilled in to me in the run up to my GCSEs- and yet I still don’t take them when it matters most.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be taking part in the #liveyourlunchbreak challenge and sharing a 5 day diary with some really easy lunch time recipes that I adore, simply because I seem to have forgotten how important it is to catch a break in the middle of my day and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Almost all of my lunches are eaten at home, which gives me the privilege of a full kitchen to knock something up in, but even the smallest office kitchen tends to have a toaster, so let’s start with something you could make at work; avocado & rye bread toasts.

avocado toast

This is a tasty lunch that you can knock up in five minutes, but it’s often my breakfast, a mid day snack and sometimes even supper too. Avocado’s high oil content makes it a pretty unusual fruit but all these fats are fantastic for heart health and can actually speed up your basal metabolic rate (how many calories you burn at rest).

The only tricky part of this is catching an avocado at it’s best. They seem to jump from just right to over ripe in the blink of an eye. To stall a ripening avocado, store it in the fridge. Keep it on the counter to let it ripen more readily, or to super speed the process keep it alongside bananas.

All you need is:

A few slices of good brown bread – rye is best in my opinion
1 Avocado, mashed
A generous glug of hot sauce
 

rye bread

Slice your bread generously and toast. This is Tesco’s Rye loaf but I’ve since discovered the awesomeness that is Morrison’s pumpernickel loaf which beats it hands down. If you have a Morrison’s near you, go and try it!

Layer on the mashed avocado and season. Add some hot sauce, like Frank’s original to liven it up.

avocado toast

Eat! Take a break. Read something. Listen to some music. Have a lunch break. It certainly makes me happier when I’ve taken some time to myself in the middle of the day. Do you notice a change in your mood if you manage to take time out for lunch?

Thanks to Flexioffices for setting me the #liveyourlunchbreak challenge. They have some really cool offices for rent in Soho at the moment. Maybe one day I’ll be typing to you from somewhere like that but for now, I’m on my sofa, cup of tea in hand, a Springer Spaniel at my feet and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m looking forward to sharing tomorrow’s lunch and maybe some anecdotes from my business start up years. I don’t think we’ve ever talked about that.

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