Tasty Dipping Sauces That Are Sure To Go Down a Treat

As the cold weather persists, a lot of us are getting our thinking caps on when it comes to preparing a suitably warming feast. Of course, it’s not always as easy as it seems, especially when you’re living in a household of pretty specific tastes, with fussy tummies and little ones who can’t quite see the advantages of the humble brussel sprout.

There are ways around those complications though. One is opting for finger foods and light bites, which also have the added bonus of incorporating one of the culinary world’s greatest inventions – dips! Sauces and condiments of every kind grace even the most barren of pantries, but after a while you’ll likely want to push the boat out a little.

Sweet chilli delights

From hummus to beetroot and almond dip, there’s no shortage of ways to experiment. A good sweet chilli dip can get the mouth-watering without setting it ablaze and can be enjoyed with a selection of snacks such as nachos or prawn crackers. Sweet chilli flavours are also great when accompanying a larger meal – think rice, breads and potatoes.

Savour the flavour of caramelised onion

When the kids dig their heels in at your pursuit of sophistication, put together a quick, simple and tasty caramelised onion dip to encourage them away from ketchup. The little ones will delight in knowing that a caramelised onion dip is a good accompaniment to crisps, although if you want to steer them away from the snack table you can also use the same dip to accompany chicken nuggets and oven chips. The more rustic flavours befit the season well here, like McCain Simply Gorgeous or some spicy wedges.

One to please the cheese lovers

Let’s not throw cheese out of the window, either. It’s a versatile foodstuff that’s worth its weight in gold when it comes to inventive dips. A hot corn and cheese dip makes a fantastic addition to a plate of steaming sautéed potatoes, while tacos, nachos and fajitas make for a supremely tasty dish when a spicy beef queso dip gets involved.

Don’t forget the sweet treats

If you’re missing the sunshine, let some Spanish love into the kitchen with some quick and easy churros. There are some great recipes online that also make for particularly good chocolate dips, flavoured with a hint of vanilla and maple syrup for extra richness. That same chocolatey goodness can also be used to dip other treats in, including cakes or, for the health conscious, bananas.

Dips can be gluten free, too

Even the most selective of palates can’t say no to some simple snacks around the table. For those of us with friends who need gluten-free options in their diet, many brands are proving that you don’t have to have to give up flavour in either the crackers or the dips.

What’s your favourite dip?

*This is a collaborative post.

Moving Abroad – Top 5 Things I Miss About the UK

Moving abroad is never easy, no matter how wonderful the new place is, there is always something you are going to miss. Christmas and the incoming New Year’s celebration have put me in a reminiscent mood, so I’ve decided to share with you all those little things I miss about the UK.

Moving abroad is never easy, no matter how wonderful the new place is, there is always something you are going to miss. Christmas and the incoming New Year’s celebration have put me in a reminiscent mood, so I’ve decided to share with you all those little things I miss about the UK. Friends

Well, this is always the biggest downside to moving away. Years ago when I moved to the UK, I had to deal with the same dilemma, leaving all my friends behind… despite having some experience with this no one ever said that the second time round would be any easier, and it wasn’t. I miss my friends and there isn’t a lot I can do about it… yes, there are phones, Skype, emails and all the other social media updates but this simply isn’t the same as some face to face contact. I hope with time things will get better and my friends will someday make the effort to come to us, with a visit.

Car boots

This might not be a big deal for most people but I did love and still do love car boot sales. Every Sunday I would take some “me time” and spend a few hours at my local car boot sales. Sometimes I would bring home a discovered bargain but to be honest most of the time I would come back empty handed, even then I would still be happy and relaxed and fired up for a week to come. Apparently there are some car boot sales here but they only operate during the summer season so hopefully, I will get my next fix soon.

The roads! But not the traffic

Think what you want but the roads here are in places totally diabolical! I can’t even describe them with any justice, just to say it’s bad. The first thing we had to do after moving here was to get ourselves a 4×4 so we could actually move around without huge garage bills. Yes, people do use “normal” cars here but I truly have no idea how… how are they surviving with all those holes (craters) and how do they make sure their car doesn’t fall apart every time after hitting them because you just can’t miss them all! I truly do miss simple, straight and flat tarmac… sad I know! The roads here are hideous, maybe with the exception of the new motorways which are super smooth like a babies bottom and a few country roads that somehow have been dragged into the modern era but the rest…ouch. On the other hand, there is a huge silver lining… there is no traffic… that has to count for something, right? After three months of driving around everywhere, I have not once been in a traffic jam, not even a little one and that includes driving around the cities.

Lottery

I was never a huge Lotto fanatic but every now and then, like most people, I would buy a “lucky” ticket in the hope of winning the jackpot and of course while away some time dreaming about just how I would spend all of that money. Now, as I officially no longer live in the UK, I can no longer participate in the lottery. Luckily for me however, I’ve discovered Lottoland, which doesn’t put any restrictions on your address and I can still indulge myself with the occasional “lucky” ticket, or should I say slip to be precise. Yes, I no longer have the satisfaction of having my paper ticket (which actually isn’t such a bad idea as I do tend to lose things) but I am also not restricted as to what to play. Next time I am feeling lucky I might even try the US Power Ball 🙂

The ease of shopping

Discovering new things is fun, don’t get me wrong but shopping in a foreign land with no real ability to read what is stated on the label can get a bit tedious. Again, with time this will disappear or at least get a bit better but for now, I truly miss going to the store and knowing what it actually is that I have just put into my basket. My friend once told me that discovering new things, especially foods is good for us… and yes, I do agree with the sentiment but then again coming home with a bag of something you thought was caster sugar and then discovering it’s definitely not can get a bit annoying.

 

All that being said, with all these things that I miss about the UK, I still swear that we have made a good choice. I am sure with time some of these issues will fade away and other different things will come to light but such is life… it is never perfect, is it? But this is the closest we have ever got to it.

5 Facts About Cats We Bet You Didn’t Know

Cats make excellent pets. Not only are they loving and affectionate, but they are also very independent animals. They clean themselves and they don’t need to be taken outside. You can even leave the house for a few days as long as you leave enough food and water for your cat before you leave.

But before you start visiting breeding catteries in Kent, you should know all you can about cats. Chances are, there are a few things about these adorable creatures that you don’t know.

5-facts-about-cats-we-bet-you-didnt-know-aboutCats Have the Ability to Tolerate Heat

All cats come from their ancestor, the big cats. These cats were often found in deserts hundreds of years ago. Today, big cats such as lions and tigers live in Africa, where the temperatures can reach up to 120 degrees. Thanks to their ancestors, domesticated cats can tolerate high temperatures. They pant to cool themselves down. It’s just not as obvious as when a dog pants, but cats still do it. Cats can even sweat through the pads on the bottoms of their feet.

Cats are Farsighted

If you get too close in your cat’s face, he may not be able to tell that it is you. This is because cats cannot focus on anything unless it is at least a foot away from them. This is why cats have whiskers. The whiskers allow them to sense things that they cannot see clearly.

Cats Sleep A Lot

If you bring your new cat home and all he does is sleep, don’t worry. He isn’t sleeping so much because he is sick or depressed. It is normal for a cat to sleep a lot. On average, cats spend about two-thirds of their lives asleep. If your cat is napping, let him sleep, it’s normal.

Your Cat Can Fit Anywhere

If you find that your cat is able to escape from the home or from a room, it doesn’t mean that he is a magician. It just means that his body makes it possible. Cats don’t have collarbones, which means that they can squeeze out an opening the size of his head. As long as he can get his head through a tight spot, his body will get through as well. If you are trying to confine your cat to the house or to just one room, just make sure that there are no small places for him to squeeze through. Cats are very tenacious. If your cat wants to go out, he likely won’t stop until he succeeds.

You Aren’t Actually Allergic to Your Cat

Many people believe that they are allergic to cats. This is not the case. You aren’t even allergic to your cat’s fur. It is actually his dander that causes an allergic reaction. Cats produce a hormone in their saliva that can trigger allergies in humans. Because cats are constantly bathing themselves, the saliva spreads to their fur and this is what can cause your allergies. If you do have an allergy to cat dander, it doesn’t mean that you can’t own a cat. There are certain breeds of cat that are hypoallergenic. This means that even if you have a cat allergy, you won’t be allergic to these breeds.

If you are considering adopting a cat, you should be sure that you have the time to spend with him. While cats may be independent, they still need love and attention for them to be happy. If you are considering adopting, you should first do your homework and make sure that you have everything that your cat will need.

5-facts-about-cats-we-bet-you-didnt-know

Bulgaria 1O1 – Two Months On

It’s been two months since we moved to Bulgaria. A steep learning curve is being climbed but I have to admit, despite all that’s weird and different here, we are loving it!

Moving is stressful in general, now imagine moving to a foreign country without any real knowledge of the local language or even the ability to read their letters… madness, wouldn’t you say? Well, yes yet we decided to call it “an adventure”… it’s been a bit of a crazy roller-coaster but in the end, I claim it was worth it.

Bulgaria 1o1 - Expat journal from real life in rural Bulgaria... It’s been two months since we moved to Bulgaria. A steep learning curve is being climbed but I have to admit, despite all that’s weird and different here, we are loving it!

So, what’s different?

Weather, for a starter.

It’s so different to your typical English weather, Mark still can’t believe it. Last weekend we had 15C, hitting 30C in the sun… perfect summer weather one would say yet the calendar definitely shows December! We had breakfast in our cotton shirts in the garden and then BBQ’ed some goat legs for lunch and dinner later during the day. A few days later and a wake-up call, the snow hit, temperatures plummeted and now it’s stunningly beautiful and dazzlingly white everywhere. Crazy hey? It might be crazy but at the same time it’s wonderful, do you know why? Because of the sun! The sun comes to play every day. It might be 2C outside but after putting the washing on the line in the garden it is dry in a couple of hours, come on… this would never happen in the UK in December with its freezing cold rain and the almost constant gloominess from the perpetual grey skies. The sun shines here on average 300 days a year and when it does it is always accompanied by a majestic deep blue sky with the occasional scattering of little fluffy clouds.

Food!

Well, the food here is truly a wonder to behold and try! The almost total lack of supermarkets means most produce is truly local and let’s face it healthy (or at least much healthier than all that factory farmed mass produced stuff designed to the strict requirement of various superstores). The food here taste delicious, even a simple meal has so much flavour, it is pure pleasure to eat.

Prices.

Most people who have some general knowledge about Bulgaria will probably know that it’s less expensive here. Well, for the most part, this is true. Bills, which used to take a fair chunk of our income in the UK, don’t really amount to anything here. For example take the council tax, we paid over £2500 a year for a small, standard 4-bed cookie cutter house, now, it cost us less than £20 for property triple the size. Water, gas, electricity, road tax they all cost a fraction of our old bills but they are some things which cost more… Things like milk for example… if you like UHT milk, not a problem, it’s everywhere and its cheap but if you want fresh milk then you have to pay a premium for it, therefore bottled fresh milk from the store is hard to find and more expensive than in the UK but there is a way around it… you can simply take a more local approach, just like we have, and order some from a local man who just so happens to own a cow, fresh milk straight from the cow or even a goat, pasteurise it yourself at home and enjoy!

People.

People here are so unbelievably friendly! The fact that we don’t speak the same language doesn’t seem to faze them at all. They can chat to you for hours, will smile and wave when you pass them by and give you any help you need even if they have less than you… this is such a culture shock! Let’s face it in England we all have our circle of friends and associates but if a stranger knocked on your door and offered to help you fix a problem they spotted whilst passing your house how would you feel? Would you invite them in and accept them at face value, would you be cautious, maybe tinged with a sense of mistrust. In Bulgaria it is normal, a cultural thing it’s different here to what we have historically felt and thought but extremely satisfying as your faith in humanity is restored brick by brick.

We are kind of snowed in and enjoying piece of quite! Life couldn’t be better. Have a happy Saturday everyone!

A photo posted by Agata @BarkTime (@hunhun007) on

During our time here we have learnt a lot of new things. Some have said to us that we have gone backwards in time and regressed back to olden times and ways, but you know what… it’s good, and if you are of a certain age (lets’ call it middle-aged) it’s not that different to what England was like when we were kids and it makes us happy. Yes, I would probably prefer to have central heating and not have to worry about burning wood logs in my petchka to stay warm but even this has its charm especially in the evening sitting by the fire, not many can say that back home… and with time you simply get used to it.

Don’t get me wrong as I gush about living here, life here isn’t all perfect, there are quite a few things we will want to change in the years to come but for this moment I think we made the right choice. We are genuinely happy, more content and OMG so much more calm than we ever were in England. We get to enjoy daily sun, good food and unbelievably kind and friendly people every day… after all isn’t that what life should be all about?

10 Top Tips on How To Stick To Your Diet

Sticking to your diet can be tricky because you are often tempted by foods that you should not be eating. While there are tips that you can use to help you stay on track, you need to know that not all tips work for everyone. Every dieter is different, but there are some points that you should remember that could help you.

Sticking to your diet can be tricky because you are often tempted by foods that you should not be eating. While there are tips that you can use to help you stay on track, you need to know that not all tips work for everyone. Every dieter is different, but there are some points that you should remember that could help you.1. Never change your eating habits until you have learned how to motivate yourself. You should also learn how to withstand your cravings and hunger while finding out how to shape your lifestyle towards good eating habits. It is also important that you learn how to get yourself back on track if you go off your diet for a while.

2. One of the ways that you can motivate yourself is by having a list of all the reasons why you want to lose weight. Reading through this list every morning will help you remember why you are doing this and can help you through the more vulnerable parts of the day.

3. When you eat you should sit down and eat slowly. It is important that you take the time to enjoy every bite of your food. Having this routine makes it harder to fall off the wagon, binge eat or mindless snack outside of your diets allotments.

4. Think about accountability when dieting. Do you have a friend or family member you can contact every day to give a report on your diets progression? If you do not feel comfortable reporting to someone you could keep a log. Another way of remaining accountable is by weighing yourself every day to see if you are still on track.

5. Stop looking for perfect food combinations and the perfect diet because everyone is different. Eating in a healthy way allows you to lose weight while still ensuring that you can eat your favourite foods. Of course, you might still have cravings or want to eat more of your favourite food. If you feel the cravings have the food just before bed then brush your teeth and get into bed.

6. A very important tip to dieting is to change your mindset about eating and food. You have to realize that you have the choice between eating what you want when you want or choosing to get thinner. There are very few people who can have both.

7. You should also prove to yourself that hunger is not an emergency unless you have a medical condition. You can do this by skipping lunch and snacks one day. This will show you that your hunger is actually a mild inconvenience when compared to the discomfort you might feel say after surgery. The hunger will generally come and go throughout the day and it will be easy to tolerate.

8. It is important that you teach yourself what the differences are between feelings of hunger, which is the empty feeling in your stomach after not eating for hours, and cravings which is when you feel hunger in your mouth and throat. You want to be able to correctly label what you are feeling; whether it is hunger, boredom, cravings, thirst or negative emotions and learn to tolerate them without eating. A good way to do this is to have a list of distractions on hand to take your attention away.

9. Having regular meals and snack times is a good idea, having a meal plan is one of the best ways for your body to stop feeling so hungry, if you can afford it, you can try a company like Eat Clean Direct, who can set up a plan for you, and send you the meals daily. There are many people who are not able to cope without snacks whether it is between meals or just after a meal. The key is to not snack when it is not the set time.

10. You need to re-enforce the fact that “every time” matters. While it is not all about the amount of calories you take in, it is also about the habits you form. Every time you eat when you shouldn’t you are strengthening your “giving in” muscle. However, every time you stick to your plan you strengthen your resistance muscle and you are more likely to continue the habit of resisting temptation.

I hope you will find these tips useful and that they will help you on your journey to getting thinner.