Monday, January 26, 2015

Pancetta & Potato Hash

My stepdad used to make something he called Potato Casserole when I was growing up and of all the hundreds of people who passed in and out of our house over the years, I've never met anyone who didn't love it. A few years ago, I tasted Potato Rosti for the first time while on holiday in Switzerland and couldn't believe how similar these two dishes are. It blew my mind that on top of the world in the Swiss Alps, there were people eating effectively the same mish-mash of potato awesomeness that my family in Eastern Kentucky could be enjoying at the same time. Sure the cheese is different as is the bacon, but the sentiment and the flavors are incredibly similar. In an effort to capture the tastes of both with a bit less effort, I've put together this little recipe and it's the perfect cold weather comfort food for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

The recipe below is for 2 people as a meal, but it's easy enough to multiply should you want to make this for the whole family, however you may find that you need to either cook it in batches or get two pans on the go. The thing to remember is that you want at least 1 egg and 2 smallish medium-sized potatoes per person. That said, it's just as easy to divide and this is one of those dishes that's easy enough to warrant cooking it for one - it's perfect for nights spent snuggled up on the couch with a chick flick or a good book, a can of diet soda and maybe some chocolate or ice cream for dessert. Don't get too caught up on the measurements as these are just benchmarks… If you have more or less of any of these ingredients, it won't make or break the result as long as you have enough potatoes.

1 shallot
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium sized potatoes washed, dried & diced into 1 cm cubes (not peeled)
100g coarsely shredded Swiss cheese (I use Leerdammer or Emmental)
150g cubed pancetta
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Zest of 1 lemon & part of the juice
2 eggs
Sea salt flakes & freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Peel and very finely chop the shallot.

2. In a large frying pan or preferably a wok because it has more room for stirring, heat the oil on medium-low heat. When it warms up, add the shallot and cook gently until soft. They may brown a little, but don't worry about that.

3. When the shallot is soft, add the pancetta to the pan and increase the heat to medium. Cook while stirring until it starts to brown a bit.

4. When the pancetta starts to get faintly bronzed, throw in the lemon zest and stir it around allowing it to sizzle for a bit. Add the diced potatoes and the cayenne pepper and give it a stir. If it looks too dry in the pan, feel free to add a bit more olive oil, but not too much or it will be sizzle city.

5. Cook the mixture gently over medium or medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are browned and cooked through. This should take about 15 minutes or so.

6. Meanwhile, in a separate frying pan, fry the two eggs over easy - you want them to be cooked on both sides, but still have runny yolks. (You can poach the eggs if you prefer.)

7. When the potatoes are done, sprinkle over about half of the juice of the lemon (more if you like) and give it a stir. Add salt & freshly ground pepper to taste and top with the cheese. Cover if you have a lid or some tin foil for a few minutes and let the cheese melt.

8. Divide the cheesy potato mixture between two plates and top each with a fried egg and a good grinding of fresh black pepper and enjoy!

I love this with Heinz Baked Beans, however it also benefits from a slice or two of buttered toast if you're super hungry or want to make it stretch to feed a few more. 

Top Ten Best Dressed at the 2015 SAG Awards

I applaud the A-listers from the 2015 SAG Awards red carpet for taking some risks and looking fabulous! This is the most exciting red carpet fashion I've seen for a while. Surprisingly, some of the usual suspects aren't on this list while there are some newcomers… All of my regular girl crushes let me down… Emma, Julia, Reese… However, these starlets pleasantly surprised me - ah, a welcome change. Without further ado, here are my picks for the 10 best dressed ladies from this year's SAG Awards red carpet!

10. Laura Carmichael in Vionnet
I love how Laura Carmichael is looking a little more dangerous than usual in this off-white halter gown. She's rocking the sheer trend, single-handedly bringing back halter tops and accessorizing with major confidence. Well played!

9. Julie Bowen in Georges Hobeika
I love this sugary sweet floral frock on Julie Bowen! It reminds me of Easter, Spring and all things lovely. I particularly love it accessorized with a brown leather clutch - so unexpected for the red carpet! Wonder if she has Cadbury Cream Eggs in there? 

8. Julianna Margulies in Giambattista Valli
Looking positively royal in an architectural blue gown, Julianna Margulies nailed the SAG red carpet. I love how she downplayed the drama of her dress with a chunky bangle, simple black sandals and easy-going hair & make-up. Perfection!

7. Natalie Dormer in Naeem Khan
The contrast of Natalie Dormer's edgy looks paired with a pretty-in-pink impressionist floral print is interesting and fun - a red carpet masterpiece! And can I just say that her body is amazing? Winning!

6. Claire Danes in Marc Jacobs
Claire Danes shut it down in this olive cut-out Marc Jacobs gown. Hair, make-up, jewelry… Every detail is on-point and she looked incredible!

5. Kiera Knightley in Erdem
Kiera Knightley is redefining pregnancy style with her parade of amazing bump-friendly red carpet looks this season and she has looked amazing at every opportunity. I love the flower child hippy vibes I'm getting from this brilliant turn on the red carpet and she's never looked more beautiful. Bravo!

4. Sarah Hyland in Vera Wang
Jewels, v-neck, sheer, metalic… I feel like every amazing trend this season is happening all at once on Sarah Hyland's Vera Wang gown and I like it!

3. Rosamund Pike in Dior
I've seen Rosamund Pike on some of the worst dressed lists, but I 100% disagree. I want to wear this dress… It looks so comfy and fun! She was giving serious Carrie Bradshaw vibes on the red carpet and looking ever-so-chic. Way to take a risk Rosamund - I applaud your daring choice!

2. Rashida Jones in Emanuel Ungaro 
There are a few things I truly love in a red carpet look… A floral print is always interesting and usually unexpected, monochrome makes my heart sing and a pop of turquoise can be breathtaking! Rashida Jones has given me all three here successfully and I love this look. Her bangs & ponytail paired with super bright red lips are the perfect finish. Simple, fresh & perfect.

1. Lupita Nyong'o in Elie Saab
WOW!!! This is the Barbie Dream House of red carpet dresses! Color, monochrome, silhouette, dramatic v-neck and none of them outshine Lupita's gorgeousness… This girl knows exactly how much she can get away with and she steps right up to that line. Beautiful, bold and one for the fashion history books!

Who were your picks for best dressed at the 2015 SAG Awards? 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Skincare While You Sleep - Caudalíe Paris Vinosource Overnight Recovery Oil

Skincare is hard, especially for (lazy) busy girls! It just always feels like there's never enough time or effort and if you're like me, you think… I'll just sleep in my make-up this one time and it's fine. or It won't really matter if I skip my night cream tonight - I'll put on extra tomorrow (read never). I've been using Caudalíe Paris Vinosource Overnight Recovery Oil for a few weeks and despite the fact that it's an amazing product, what I love most about it is that it inspires me to sort out my skincare regime at night. Knowing that it's working hard while I sleep is that extra little incentive I need to take off my make-up from the day and slosh on a bit of product. The fact that it has the faint scent of a rose garden doesn't hurt either!

Since using Overnight Recovery Oil, I no longer wake up with the sense of dread I use to have upon looking at my dry, scaly skin in the morning and rushing to apply as much serum as possible to combat my winter flaky face problem. It's suggested to apply 6 drops each evening avoiding the eye area, either alone or before night cream, but I'll admit that my skin is often so dry, it soaks up too much product, so I typically use about 8 or 10 drops. I've used this product with or without moisturizer on top and while it's better with a night cream, it excels just fine on its own when I'm too busy or sleepy to bother with multiple steps. Convenience is everything these days...

Caudalíe Overnight Recovery Oil combines six 100% natural oils that go deep into the epidermis to repair damage and soothe sensitive skin. Thanks to this miracle product, I not only look forward to going to bed with a clean, moisturized face… I also wake up with one that's radiant and fresh. Game changer!

Vinosource Overnight Recovery Oil retails for £26.00 and is available via Caudalíe Paris.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Creamy Chili & Lemon Chicken With Bow-tie Pasta

The first time I made this recipe, I used rice because it's amended from another recipe that recommended rice as the starchy accompaniment. However this particular concoction came out of necessity, when I was fresh out of rice and absolutely lousy with pasta. It actually turned out to be just as delicious - perhaps a little bit better! As the old saying goes, "necessity is the mother of invention." This recipe feeds two very hungry adults or 3 very hungry children.

15g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon garlic oil
350 − 400g chicken breasts or breast fillets/chunks
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 chicken stock cube
100ml boiling water
100ml double cream
Sea salt flakes & freshly ground pepper to taste
300g farfalle pasta (bow-tie)

1. Put on a pot of water to boil with plenty of salt and a drop of oil for the pasta. When it's boiling, pour in the pasta and cook it according the packet instructions, however check it a few minutes early to be on the safe side with getting the right texture. When it's ready, reserve a cup of the pasta cooking liquid before straining and returning to the hot pan off the heat with the lid on to keep warm.

2. While the pasta is cooking, you can get started with the chicken sauce. If the chicken isn't already cubed or cut into bite-sized pieces, do this first.

3. Stir 100ml of boiling water together with 1 chicken stock cube with a small wire whisk or a fork and set aside.

4. Melt the butter and garlic oil together in a non-stick frying pan or heat-proof casserole - make sure whatever pan you use has a lid. When it's hot and combined, add the chicken and stir-fry until browned on all sides, but not yet cooked through. 

5. When the chicken is browned, stir in the lemon zest and chili flakes and let them sizzle for a second or two, stirring all the time.

6. Stir in the chicken stock and the heavy cream. Throw in a few good grinds of pepper and a pinch or two of sea salt flakes. 

7. When the sauce starts to bubble, reduce the heat and cover with a lid. Leave the sauce to simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. 

8. Once the sauce is finished, toss it with the farfalle pasta until every piece is thoroughly coated. If it's a bit dry, add the reserved pasta cooking liquid a teaspoon full at a time until the pasta is fully covered in sauce. 

9. Serve with a few grinds of fresh pepper over the top of the dish.

*If you decide to serve this dish with rice instead of pasta, you may wish for the sauce to be a bit thicker since you're not coating pasta. After the sauce finishes cooking, add a few drops of juice from the lemon you zested, stirring all the time. When the desired consistency is reached, remove the sauce from heat right away.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Willow Bag by Aurora Living

H&M Dress / Next Necklace (similar here) / Next Tights
Clarks Shoes (similar here) / Ralph Lauren Sunglasses (similar here)

After years of shunning any bags smaller than a laptop, I'm now finding myself drawn to smaller styles. Maybe it's the tiresome back aches associated with massive luggage demanded by trends of recent years, but I like to think it's also down to the improvement of technology. I no longer have a need to carry an iPad, a phone and a laptop with me at all times, which makes room in the old wardrobe for some cute, tiny bags!

I'm currently in love with the Willow Bag by Aurora Living. Worn as a clutch or with a matching adjustable strap, it's a lovely, slim, leather bag with light gold hardware that comes in five fab colors. A small, soft leather clutch, the Willow Bag features an attachment for keys, 3 card holders and a zipper pocket for organization - something I need in a bag. What I particularly love about a little clutch like this is that if you do have the need to carry more, you can just pop it into a larger bag as a wallet for day and take it for a spin on the town at night - just pop in some statement jewelry and your favorite evening lipstick before you head out the door in the morning and presto, you've got a desk-to-dinner look sorted for your after-work plans! I'm also loving the Willow Bag for travel - it won't take up much space in your suitcase, but makes the perfect clutch for fun nights out, whether they be aprés ski or seaside dinners. Convenient and chic! If you're into something a little more personal or giving this fabulous bag as a gift, Aurora Living can hand engrave the Willow Bag with up to 3 characters for an additional cost of £22. 

The Willow Bag is available online from Aurora Living. At just £59.50, it's a little luxury treat that's well worth the investment!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Color Wow Speed Dry - A Gift for Busy Beauties

No matter how hard we try, not every blow dry can be done by a professional, even with the ever-growing list of mass market dry bars popping up all over… Sometimes we are saddled with stepping up to the task ourselves, no matter how much we hate it. Personally, I love having long hair, but I got so tired of blow drying last year that I eventually took the plunge and opted for the oh-so-popular bob to save time on blow dries and get my hair in shape. Now that my hair is getting longer, I dread pulling out the blow drier… The threat of arm pain from awkwardly wielding a heavy round brush over my head usually results in hair that's nice & smooth in front and straggly in the back from simply giving up the good fight.

Luckily the fabulous folks at Color Wow know this all too well. If you feel the same, you simply must try Color Wow Speed Dry Blow Dry Spray… It's a busy girl's best friend for getting freshly washed hair dried and ready to be styled in record time. Perfect for early mornings and people with thick, long hair, Speed Dry has already saved me so much valuable time and I've only been using it for a few weeks.

In addition to speeding things along, Speed Dry also uses the heat of the blow drier to create a protective, shiny seal on color-treated hair, trapping in moisture all the while minimizing exposure to the heat, preventing both damage and color fading. It's also worth pointing out that the formula is completely alcohol-free. It sounds too good to be true, but it's not.

Color Wow Speed Dry is truly a hero product, saving busy girls' time and is available online via Color Wow, Feel Unique and Net-A-Porter.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The White Company Symons Candle

I can't live without candles - they are one of life's little luxuries and a great candle, scented or not, is one little addition to a home or office that goes a long way!

When I'm looking for candles, I keep a few things in mind. The scent is obviously very important - it has to be compatible with my tastes. Some candles are spicy while other are fruity and the scent one chooses is a very personal decision. For me, my allergies play a big role - I can't enjoy something that makes me sneeze like a crazy person. By the same token, I can't abide a stinky candle and there are loads of them on the market these days… No thanks!

Presentation is another key factor. A beautiful candle adds a personal touch a well-situated desk, makes a stark bathroom look that much more cozy, adds a little something extra to a dressing table or provides that perfect luxurious touch to a well-lived-in living room. Whether it's beautifully colorful, nicely neutral or the appropriate pop of pattern, I love a beautiful candle, especially the ones that come in jars I can keep and repurpose later as a votive holder, storage for make-up brushes or a small vase for fresh flowers.

When it comes to candles, I am the first to admit that I am a shameless equal opportunity shopper. I know there are loyal Jo Malone or Dyptique fans out there and fair play to them (I can't really blame them for their fab taste), but I buy candles everywhere and I hoard them - I just find them too hard to resist and there's no such thing as enough. I rarely pass by a low-priced candle that smells or looks lovely - only a few weeks ago I hoarded a serious amount of Febreeze candles that were half-price because they are perfect for getting food smells out of the flat and they were laced with the familiar cinnamon laced smells of my childhood Christmases... £2, no problem. I find candles at TK Maxx, the grocery store and I've even been that crazy lady who buys all of the tea lights that smell good at Poundland with no shame about the fact that I look insane rocking up to the cash register with 40 boxes of the same thing. Judge if you like, but no one has ever complained and my guests are always surprised when I tell them where that lovely smell came from. If I don't like the labels on candles I find, I peel them off and display them in plane jars. If I don't like the jars, I sometimes salvage the candle by tying a pretty ribbon around it or concealing it in a bigger jar. Unscented, but still beautiful? That's the candle I hide away for dinner party table settings where a little flicker of light will be the perfect touch, but the scent won't put guests off their food.

Though a bargain is great, there is something to be said for a special candle… The one you spent a bit of money on because it's a little luxury you treat yourself to. This is the candle you burn when you're having a relaxing, re-fueling night in with a face mask, a glass of wine and the best book ever. It's also the candle you burn when guests come over. It's the candle you savor and enjoy because it's not the norm.

The White Company Symons Candle was given to me as a Christmas gift and it's one of those special candles. At £35, this limited edition beauty is not overly expensive as far as luxury candles go, but for me it deserves respect. Housed in a beautiful, reflecting silver jar with a simple white label, the Symons Candle is like a glamorous dress that you wouldn't wear just anywhere… It adds a beautiful sense of occasion while filling the room with a cocktail of cashmere, white amber, cotton, cedar wood and peony aromas. Inspired by The White Company flagship store, it's sleek, chic and the perfect gift for pretty much anyone, or even better, yourself!

What do you look for when you're stocking up on candles for your home?

Trevor Sorbie Frizz Free Repair Mask

Winter does strange things to the hair… At least it does to my hair. I think the forced blow drying to stay warm along with heat styling, heaters and cold winds just kills my locks and I find myself doing those little extra things to preserve what's left of my shine after the damage of highlights.

While I love a good product picked up at the salon (and I really do) I sometimes find little gems in the pharmacy or even at the grocery store that do the trick nicely. High street haircare products have come a long way since I was a teenager and often times you get just a good results from something you buy at Boots or Superdrug as you get from dropping serious cash on the more professional level products.

Trevor Sorbie Frizz Free Repair Mask is a diamond of a product. It leaves my hair silky, soft, tangle-free and smooth. I have only a tiny bit of natural curl or wave and you know what that means… Not lush curls that last for days, but epic frizz! I'm always looking for products that will ease my efforts in blow drying my hair… While I tend to have a professional blow dry at least once a week, I still have to do it myself sometimes and I don't want to feel exhausted afterwards.

Trevor Sorbie Frizz Free Repair Mask boasts the active ingredient of avocado oil and it works! The product smells lovely and has a kind of elastic texture to it. I use this product by first warming it up between my hands and applying to my damp hair from root to tip. I then do a bit of a head massage to make sure it gets in all the nooks and crannies, coating every strand and leave it for a couple of minutes.

After just one use, my hair was a lot less frizzy without excessive smoothing and round brush twirling. Of course I can do those things, albeit a bit awkwardly and without the finesse of my trusty hair dresser, however who wants to fuss like that all the time? I certainly don't. Repeated use of this mask has left my hair soft and a lot more manageable. I can definitely see an improvement and I've even been getting a few compliments on my shiny locks!

Trevor Sorbie Frizz Free Repair Mask is just £5.99 and available online via Trevor Sorbie or at Boots.

Best Dressed at the 2015 Critics Choice Awards

The Critics Choice red carpet always offers an interesting mix of formal and a bit more casual. It seems that people tend to let their hair down so to speak, opting for riskier fashion choices than they do at the Globes or the Oscars. I was surprised to see quite a lot of all over black with full-on long sleeves and while I'm a huge fan of a black dress, the trend on this particular carpet was a little more Morticia Adams than I'd like. Overall the Critics Choice red carpet offered up plenty of interesting looks and these are my picks for Best Dressed…

Jennifer Aniston in Gucci

How sexy is Jennifer Aniston in this gorgeous red Gucci look? Messy waves and gold chains set it off perfectly and it's worth mentioning that it just wouldn't work the same without those fabulous pointy toe red heels peeking out under the cuffs of her trousers… Fabulous!

Leslie Mann in Reem Acra

I find Leslie Mann quite cheeky, so I think this flirty dress suits her. It's pretty, interesting and her shoes are perfection. The only thing I don't like about this look is that clutch… It doesn't match.

 Diane Kruger in Naeem Khan

Diane Kruger's Naeem Khan dress is everything and she's accessorized it perfectly. Not much to say here except that I love it… It's simply red carpet perfection.

Reese Witherspoon in Lanvin

Reese Witherspoon briefly disappointed me on the Golden Globes red carpet. There was nothing wrong with her dress, but it wasn't wow and I've come to expect the wow element from Reese. I'm glad to see she's back in this Lanvin number and nobody wears pink better than Reese Witherspoon - I mean, nobody. This look gives me hope that one of my all-time favorite red carpet ladies has something extra special up her sleeves for the Oscars red carpet… 

Who was your pick for best dressed at the Critics Choice Awards?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Shopping the Net-A-Porter Sale - Fabulous Finds Under £100

Good news! The Net-A-Porter sale is on and they have some amazing finds at incredible discounts. I won't waste too much time yammering on… You've got some shopping to do, but before you start, these are a few great finds under £100 that I spotted while browsing the sale myself! Who doesn't love a good bargain? Happy shopping!