Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe aka @bodyposipanda {book review and reflections}

It's hard to escape everyone talking about diets this time of year or people exclaiming that they need to be "good" now that Christmas is over. I don't know how many times I have to remind people that if they eat a biscuit/cookie or any other treat that they are not "bad" for doing so as they claim they are. Food should never be put into categories of good or bad because food is food.

I wasn't sure how I was going to write this blog post as it fits in my blog as I blog about food, but it's different then my normal posts. It's a review of a book and subject matter that is some what controversial. However, while I was reading it I made so many notes and thought of my own experiences when it comes to my relationship with food.

If you don't know who Megan is can I ask you a question - have you been living under a rock? She has taken instagram by storm and has recently started YouTube videos. She's bright, cheery, and not afraid to shake it in her underwear and share it on the internet. She is also brave, strong, and a survivor of anorexia.

It was interesting to read the parts on her experiences with anorexia, because it's something that has a bit of a taboo and that we the general masses don't fully comprehend. I mean why not just eat something right?

In this book Megan explains from first hand experience why it's just not that simple and I think that is very important for people to know and understand that. That a lifetime of food, exercise, and weight loss obsession is something that can't be solved by just eating something.

Also our media and fad diet industry has a lot to answer for. I mean everyone knows that, but no one pays any attention really. Megan's research and facts blew me away I had no idea how much they had to answer for. I may not be able to relate to Megan's experiences with anorexia, but I can relate to her experiences with body image. My whole life I have always had "extra" weight.

Talking about my weight with anyone, besides my sisters, comes with a lot of judgement. I mean I write a baking blog, I bake so therefore I am fat. I had someone tell me exactly that. I have to assume they assumed that I didn't eat any other food except for that which I had baked. Which was generally far from the truth as I bake to share with friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors and when I explained that I could see the disbelief in their eyes.

The thing is I should have never had to feel like I had to explain myself.  My diet, because a diet is what we eat, is really no one else's business. Nor does my love for baking define my overall diet and health; no more then my weight does.

One of the biggest things Megan gets thrown are those who say she is promoting obesity, but if you give this book a read or follow her on social media you will understand that it has nothing to do with promoting any sort of body type, but promoting people to love, accept, and embrace themselves no matter what size they are.

Because we are so much more then our body size.

I may never be comfortable enough to film myself shaking it in my underwear on social media, but I love the idea that if I ever decided too I know Megan along with other body positivity guru's and front runners would have my back.

If you are looking to grab a copy of your own click here and if you want to check out Megan's instagram click here. I'd love to know your thoughts on this please leave a comment below!!!

*I purchased my own copy of this book, all thoughts and opinions are my own further information can be found above in the contact/policy page above!

8 Places to eat in Reading Berkshire England

One one of the reasons I love being a blogger is because I am occasionally given an opportunity to check out local places to eat!

Reading, like most towns, are constantly changing and growing and 2017 saw some great new places to eat open up! Also a few staples/classics had a bit of a revamp on their menu's and I was there to check them out. Saying that I thought I would round up all the places I visited in one post to hopefully help those who are looking for somewhere new to try!

I have listed them 1-8 one being my favorite - now everyone's tastes and experiences are different so I can only go on my tastes and experiences, but I hope it helps if you are from the area or are visiting!

1. Pho Restaurant - 1 - 1a King's Rd, Reading RG1 2HG

The place I crave:
This is listed as my number one place because I have been back several times and it's the place I suggest to friends and family when we are looking for somewhere to go! I crave the rice bowl and the Vietnamese coffee they serve here. So, if you're like me and love noodles, rice, and soup give this place a visit!

2. The Real Greek - The Oracle, Bridge St, Reading RG1 2AT

The 'something' different place:
Like Pho, I have visited The Real Greek a few times since I have reviewed it. The food and atmosphere are great and if are looking for something different then the typical restaurant, you know the places that rely on burgers and fries, I couldn't recommend this place more!

3. Pavlov's Dog - 21-23 St Mary's Butts, Reading RG1 2LN

The place for fun:
This was a bit of a surprise really, having walked past it a million times in the years I have lived here, but have never go in my friend and I had a great night here. The food was typical pub food, but we couldn't fault it. My favorites were the appetisers and cocktails which is exactly what you want from a pub! Also we agreed, after playing Mario Kart on a Nintendo Game Cube, that this was a fun place to go! 

4. The Botanist - 1-5 King St, Reading RG1 2HB

The cool place: 
It is so cool in here. It's like the big sibling of restaurants - you want to hang out here and just be a part of all the things that go on here! They have musical bingo and live music and hanging kebabs! Like the last three places I have been here more then once and have to say it's worth a visit! 

5. Cau - The Oracle, Bridge Street, Reading RG1 2AQ

The place for meat lovers: 
Not to say there isn't anything for vegetarians, but really this place is all about the meat... beef more specifically. I had the best steak sandwich I have ever had. Cau's menu is a mix of food inspired by Italy, Spain and Argentina and is overall a big win for me!

6. Wrap it Up! - Unit 1, 10-14 Duke St, Reading RG1 4RU

The place for lunch: 
I say that it is the place for lunch, but these wraps are full meal in themselves so could satisfy one for dinner as well! I have only been twice, but both times the flavor combinations blew me away! If you work in town they deliver to offices and if I worked in town I would have one too many of these! 

7. Franco Manco - The Oracle, Bridge St, Reading RG1 2AT

The pizza place:
Sometimes I feel very overwhelmed at restaurants when I have too much to choose from and I found it really refreshing that they have a small menu and a special menu that changes occasionally. The quality of the pizza's is on point and they really pay attention to the details. If you go in the summer try the pesto, it's the best thing I have ever tried.

8. Walkabout - Wiston Terrace, Reading RG1 1DG

The place for a night out: 
The food here was good, I tried a kangaroo burger it was a bit gamey, but it's not the first place I would think of for food. However, it's been revamped and looks great inside and I believe would be a great place for a good night out. The cocktails and atmosphere were spot on! 

A few other places I visited the past year and worth mentioning are:
7Bone Burger - 60 St Mary's Butts, Reading RG1 2LG
Bluegrass BBQ - 15 Gun St, Reading RG1 2JR
Revolución De Cuba - 138-141 Friar St, Reading RG1 1EX

I can't wait to see what 2018 will bring to Reading! Do you have a favorite local place? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

* Each restaurant is linked to my review for more pictures and information!! -- I had been invited to review all of these places - I was not asked to give a positive review and all opinions are my own please see my contact/policy page above for more information. If you have a local place you'd like me to review email me at and I will get back to you!

Nutella Brownies

There is a hashtag that exists in the social media world that allows people to express their unpopular opinion. The hashtag is #unpopularopinion - surprise!

And once a blue moon ago I used this hashtag to express my unpopular opinion on Nutella. I don't like it. I don't like praline either or hazelnuts in general. There were others who agreed with me, but mostly I had distain! How could I not like Nutella? And I get it I mean I don't understand how people can't like peanut butter. But those people do exist! 

Then why have I made Nutella Brownies I can see you asking!! Because I have a 7 year-old who loves the stuff and if I let her would eat it every day for breakfast lunch and dinner. And since I love her so much I obliged. 

Sometimes when a new year starts I think of one word I would like to sort of vaguely define my year to come and I think oblige should be that word. Not in the binding legal way, but in the do someone a favor or assist them or meet the wants/needs of someone else. And also not in a compromising my own beliefs and values and stuff way ya know.... spreading more love one disgusting Nutella Brownie at a time!

(Note, I am only one of few who didn't like these. The said seven year old loved them, my neighbors,  and Santa enjoyed them too. And if you like Nutella then you will probably love them as well.)

Nutella Brownies

300g semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 300g mixed milk/dark chocolate)
250g salted butter
400g light brown sugar
4 large eggs
140g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
200g Nutella

Preheat oven to 180C/gas4 and line a brownie pan or an 8in square pan with parchment paper.
Very gently melt the chocolate with the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan. Just before the chocolate is completely melted, take off the heat and gently stir until it’s completely melted.
Then add the eggs one at a time to the melted chocolate mixture. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the pot and stir until just combined.
Pour into the prepared pan and dot the Nutella over the top of the brownie batter. Use a knife to swirl the Nutella through the batter. Bake in the pre-heated oven for a minimum of 35 minutes. Depending on your pan size and oven add an extra five minutes if need be. Cool before cutting into squares and sharing with loved ones or if you are a Nutella lover keeping them all for yourself!

 Just like this! 

Brownie batter is so shiny and pretty.
Then after baking they look like this: brown squares that are hard to photograph. I try. 

Fantasy Cakes: Magical recipes for fanciful bakes by Angela Romeo {book review}

When I had my copy of Fantasy Cakes arrived on my door stop my girls took it from me and were immediately book marking recipes. Recipes for their birthday's and not being able to decide on just one were booking for birthday's 2 or 3 years from now.

There was a familiar feel to the style of the book and it came as no surprise that I have one of Angela Romeo's other books that she wrote for Sainsbury's. I am happy to see she has a book that has her name on the cover!

There are the great first chapters that cover an introduction - it's always nice to know a little about the author and their work. A chapter covering equipment, then techniques & finishing touches and then as this is mostly about decorating cakes we get a chapter on the basic recipes needed.

The following chapters are divided by Fruits & Flowers where we see cakes shaped and made to look like a watermelon and beautifully decorated cakes topped with blueberries and lemons and more. Spectacular Celebrations covers all the holiday's which is when the most cake is consumed. I have no data to back up that statement, it is just an observation I have made.

Candy Land, the following chapter, is the most bookmarked with cakes that are covered in candy, chocolates, and doughnuts. The following chapter is all rainbows, mirror glazes, and fantasy cakes and it is aptly titled Psychedelic Treats.

Inspired by days going to the movies, seaside, theatre, or fair these cakes really make you feel like you are on a Magical Day Out. The last chapter is the second most book marked chapter by my girls and is titled Decadent Divas. It includes a gorgeous Sultry salted caramel cake, Pink fizz Cake, and a cake called All that shimmers.... and you would be right to guess that it is covered in gold.

This book would be great for any level of cake decorators! There are some very basic ideas that work well for beginners and some recipes that might take a bit more of experienced skill. Overall it's a beautiful and informative book.

* I was provided a copy of Fantasy Cakes: Magical recipes for fanciful bakes by Angela Romeo to review by the publisher, Ryland Peters & Small, retails at £16.99 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page above for more information.
* Sainsbury's Cake book review can be found here.
* Check out Angela Romeo's website!

Brown Sugar Cookies

In a world where only over the top food things reign, for example the trending freak shake and anything rainbow, I think basic, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth treats get over looked just because they aren't loud and in your face.

Don't get me wrong I am the first to hit that like button on something loud, big, and amazing because they are amazing. Drooling over food pictures is a daily occurrence for me. Food is a form of art and I am always impressed with the creativity of chefs and home bakers.

For some bakes there is only so much you can do to it. Cookies for example can be sandwiched or iced or be 'overloaded' with add-ins, but they will always be a cookie. And sometimes there is nothing better then a good old plain sugar cookie.

And sometimes there is something better .... a brown sugar cookie.

Brown Sugar Cookies

340g plain flour
2 tsps cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
228g butter
300g dark brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsps vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 170C/350F and line your cookie sheet(s) with grease proof paper.
Whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt together and leave aside.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat until just combined.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture at a time and mix well between each addition.
Scoop out with a large scoop and leave each mound of cookie dough about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. They don't spread much, but they will spread.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Once out of the oven leave to cool on the sheet for a couple minutes before leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Although these cookies may not be something to look at they are delicious and it is very hard to just have one! It is always fun experimenting with different sugars when baking because the results will always be different. The dark brown sugar gives these cookies a deeper flavor then regular sugar cookies.

The Artful Baker by Cenk Sönmezsoy {book review & giveaway}

This post has taken a while for me to write, because I don't know where to start. I am in love with this book. Upon first glance I thought it was going to be another one of those fancy baking books that I love to look at, but never used.

At second glance or a proper read through I knew this was going to be a book I refer to time and time again. It is beautiful and comfortable at the same time.

Most baking books the first chapter is 9 times out of 10 'cakes' but Cenk starts with Cookies and I love him for it! I love a good cookie! Followed by a chapter on Brownies and then a chapter covering Cakes, Muffins, Cheesecakes, & Meringues.

A chapter covering Tarts, Galettes, Pie, Quiche, Cobbler, & Crumble is definitely needed in a baking book as well as a chapter covering Breads & Pastries.

Although not technically baked Ice Creams, Frozen Yogurt, & Sorbets fit right in just like Confections & Drinks do. Last chapters are Jams & Jellies and Basic Recipes which are essential for any good baking book!

The author Cenk Sönmezsoy tells us in his introduction his journey to becoming an author of a popular food blog and now a book. I couldn't help but relate to him in two ways. First I didn't have memories of baking with an elder who shared their love of baking with me from a young age. It's something I discovered after I moved to the UK. Which is the second way I relate, I missed some of the treats from home and to cure some of the longing for another place I started baking the treats I missed and then I started blogging.

I think I am not the only one who might find him relatable - because even if you don't share a similar story his love of baking is the highlight of the book.

If you love baking as much as Cenk and I do enter below at a chance of winning 1 of 3 copies! If you can't wait it's available now online or at any respectable book seller!!

Just follow the instructions on the widget below. I will be checking that the winner has followed the instructions correctly; winner will be picked at random using the Rafflecopter widget below. You must be 18 years of age and have a valid address in the UK, Europe, USA, or Canada. Prize is provided by the publishers Abrams.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Artful Baker: Extraordinary Desserts From an Obsessive Home Baker
by Cenk Sönmezsoy
creator of Cafe Fernando

*I was provided a copy of The Artful Baker by Cenk Sönmezsoy to review by the publisher, Abrams, Retails at £40 and available now from your local book retailers or online! All opinions are my own, I was not given any other compensation nor was I asked to give a positive review, please see my contact/policy page above for more information.

Pumpkin Pie Swirls - cookie or pastry?

In one of my previous posts I had made a delicious pumpkin spice cake - the recipe only calls for half a can of pureed pumpkin, so not wanting to be wasteful I thought I'd use it in these delicious cookie-pastry-cross swirls/pinwheels.

Sounds a little confusing, but it's not really they are cookie like, but the dough is more pastry like. Whatever you want to call them they are sooooooo good!

It's the time of year for pumpkin. I used to think that pumpkin pie was only for Thanksgiving, but in reality pumpkins are totally a Halloween thing. So, pumpkin pie and cake and lattes are comfortable in October and November. Neither month owns the pumpkin. It even flows over into December.

Perhaps I should stop sharing my random thoughts and get to the recipe! The dough or batter or whatever you want to call it needs to spend some time in the fridge so be sure to read the recipe through and note the times!

Pumpkin Pie Swirls

270g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
225g unsalted butter
225g cream cheese
225g pumpkin puree
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
115g light brown sugar

Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and set aside. Beat the butter and cream cheese until creamy and there are no lumps. If using a free-standing mixer or hand mixer slow it down and add the flour and salt mixture little by little. Continue to mix until completely smooth. It is a sticky dough. Lay out a piece of cling film and lightly dust with flour, also lightly dust your hands and form the dough into a ball and place on the cling film tightly wrapping it up and chilling in the fridge over night.

The next day.....

Before taking the dough out of the fridge mix the pumpkin puree with all the spices and sugar.
Lay out a piece of grease proof baking paper and as the dough will still be a little sticky sprinkle a little bit of flour over the top and bottom to avoid stick-age. Then roll it all out into an oblong shape. Spread about half of the pumpkin puree mixture over the top and leave about a half an inch border. Add more filling if you need it, if you don't then don't!
Starting with the longest side towards you and using the baking paper for support start to tightly roll up the dough. Some of the filling will squish out and that's okay. Once rolled pinch the edges to avoid too much of the filling squishing out and wrap in the baking paper and then cover tightly with cling film. Place in the fridge for a minimum of

2 hours later.....

Heat the oven to 200C/400F and line your baking sheets with grease proof paper. Take the roll out of the fridge and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices. Place on the prepared baking sheets with space between the pinwheels and bake for 12-14 minutes. They should be a light golden brown in color. While the swirls are cooling make the frosting.

40g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-3 tbsp boiling water

Beat the butter, icing sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. I tend to add my icing sugar a little at a time to avoid it exploding everywhere, but to each their own. Add a tablespoon of hot water one at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. tip - to make these even more pumpkin pie like add about a tsp of cinnamon to the frosting and beat well! 

Once the swirls are cooled spread the frosting on top of each one with a spoon! Then enjoy!

These are one of those treats that ticks all the boxes - they are easy, although they take a bit of time. Also they taste good and best of all they are full of all the spices I associate with comfort and winter!

Are you feeling the pumpkin love? Check out some of my other pumpkin bakes: Spiced Pumpkin Cake; Pumpkin CupcakesPumpkin Spice M&M Cookies; Pumpkin Pie; Pumpkin Pasties (another great recipe for half a can of pumpkin puree); Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins; Pumpkin Spice Latte Meringues; Pumpkin Cake.

*recipe is adapted from a recipe in Sugar Sugar: every recipe has a story by Kimberly Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero


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